Friday, July 20, 2012

Intelligent Design and Christology

Or, what does Jesus mean when he says he is the Truth?

In John 14:6 Jesus identifies himself with the truth.  Is Jesus saying he is a truth, one of many truths?  Is he saying that he is leading us to an ultimate truth?  Or, is Jesus literally saying that he is the ultimate truth?

Interestingly, Intelligent Design seems to shed some light on this question.  While Intelligent Design itself cannot logically imply the existence of God, it is consistent with atheism, after all:
that doesn't preclude Intelligent Design from still painting an interesting picture of what the true nature of reality may be.

To arrive at this picture requires a bit of upfront brushwork.  For this post, I'm assuming the reader is already familiar with the basics of Intelligent Design theory, most importantly the definition of complex specified information (CSI).

Furthermore, I'll assume the reader is familiar with the basic implications has for the nature of reality, that there must be at least four different kinds of entities: chance, necessity, CSI, designers.

So now that you've swallowed the red pill, it's time to show you how deep this rabbit hole really goes.

Let's revisit our fourfold picture of reality.  Logically, CSI entails that information cannot explain itself, without resulting in a contradiction, so there must be a fourth entity that is neither CSI, chance, nor necessity.  I will call this entity a designer.  That is about as far as mere logic can take us.  Now let us start bringing empirical data into the picture.

From observation, it is clear that there is more than one designer in the world (unless you happen to be a solipist).  But, where did all these designers come from?  It is also clear that we designers cannot create other designers, even though we give birth to new designers.  We have a hand in a process, but as far as we can tell, the only thing we can create is CSI, which is merely a reconfiguration of existing things.  Since designers are beyond CSI, that means we cannot create designers.

Again, where did all these designers come from?  Well, linguistically at least, there is a difference between a designer and a creator.  A designer makes use of existing materials to create CSI.  And that is creation, to an extent.  But, such creation requires already existing substances, so it is not creation proper, as in the actual creation of substances and entities.

Now our picture is developing a hole.  We have many substances and entities, but no known means of bringing such things into existence.  Surely they do not pop into existence arbitrarily either.  We now have a gigantic explanatory gap.  It looks like the logic of ID combined with the empirical data takes us beyond even designers, as we now see a need for a fifth entity.  There must be a fifth entity that can create, and not merely create CSI, but create the very substances that CSI is embodied within, and the very designers that are creating CSI.

Thus, this fifth entity must be a creator, and a creator in the proper sense in that the creator can bring into being substance itself.  What an intriguing development, to say the least!  But, this creator is not the same as a capital 'C' Creator, such as a god, demiurge, or what have you.  Or, at least the logic here does not entail such a being, though it is getting closer.  We are still a long way from the beings described in the Bible, Koran, and other such religious texts.

However, we do know some things about this creator.  Most importantly, this creator logically precedes chance and necessity.  So, this creator cannot be the gods of the Homeric myths from which our Western culture originated.  The gods of Homer and Hesiod all came from chaos.  But, according to intelligent design, the creator logically cannot come from chaos, since chaos is another name for chance, and the logical progression has already placed the creator at a much prior position to chance.  The creator, in turn, also logically precedes CSI and designers.  If we were to construct a causal chain with all our elements, the creator would have to be at the start of it all.

Another important thing we know, and here is where we start seeing Christological implications, is that such a creator does not introduce an explanatory gap like the designers did.  We designers cannot explain ourselves.  We all seem to come into being at some point.  Logically, something that only contingently exists, i.e. did not exist at one point in time and did exist at another point in time, does not suffice as an explanation for itself.  Otherwise, it might just pop out of existence again, and perhaps pop into existence again a bit later.  Perhaps at the quantum level things work like this, but at our everyday macroscopic level, we don't tend to think things pop in and out of existence without some kind of more fundamental explanation than mere randomness.  Thus, we designers introduce another explanation problem because we cannot create substances.

Notice how this problem disappears with the fifth entity, the creator.  The creator's unique ability is that it can create substances.  All the previous entities in the hierarchy were substances.  In fact, another name for things and entities is substance.  What does this mean?  Why, the creator is itself also a substance.  Logically, this means creators can create creators, and consequently no new explanatory gap is introduced.

Since the explanatory gap disappears with the creator, yet existed with all the other substances in our list, this means the creator is the most fundamental kind of being in our list.  And once we've arrived at the creator, our list appears to be complete.  Of course, we can always imagine even more exotic kinds of entities, but if we did we'd be risking our necks to Dr. Ockham's vicious razor.  As Einstein's famous dictum goes, we've simplified as much as possible, without over simplifying, contrary to how the disciples of chance and necessity reductionism tend to oversimplifying.

At this point, we've established the creator is both the initial being in the causal chain, and the creator completes our list of causal explanations.  Another way we could say this is that the creator is the explanation for everything.   What would we say if we'd discovered the explanation for everything?  I think it'd be fair to say we'd discovered the fundamental truth that explained everything we know.

Now, say you were to meet the creator on the street, and you asked the creator who it is, how could the creator most succinctly identify itself?  Well, the creator would say it is the fundamental truth.  In other words the creator would say "I am The Truth".

Perhaps this is what Jesus meant?