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Discussion 8 to Meditation 797
Intention as the prime driving force made a lot of intuitive sense

by: Will Petillo

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I’ve been having trouble sustaining motivation to write lately (a shame, because I was just starting to write halfway readable sci-fi) so I’ve been getting around that by sticking to the short-article form on this site and only posting articles that I can write in one sitting.  Unfortunately, this hastiness inevitably leads to some sloppy writing.  This time I’ll try to unpack some of the assumptions and skipped-over inferences I was working with earlier.  I’m hoping this doesn’t backfire and make my argument even more confusing, but we’ll see...

Far from being innately mental, there are specific physical descriptions of how gods created the Earth through every creation myth I've been able to find

Yes, early creation myths may have described what it looked like when their gods supposedly created the world, but even so the world is still ultimately created as the result of intention.  That is, what builds and continues to drive the world is not anything like the blind processes of physics or natural selection, but rather actors—be they mysterious, human-like, or something else.  And what drives these actors is not a complex bunch of neurons sending signals to each other (or some analogous physical, reductionist system), but their minds...or “souls”...or something not described at all.  OK, so maybe calling gods “innately mental” was a bit of a hasty characterization, but nevertheless it is mind that shapes matter (even if it happens to use a material body) in religion rather than exclusively the other way around.

This idea of intention as the prime driving force behind things made a lot of intuitive sense and in ancient times there wasn’t much reason to question it.  Now that science has demonstrated enough cases in which non-mysterious, reductionist, entirely physical explanations effectively describe how things work to find a strong enough pattern to suggest that this is how everything works, it is up to religion to demonstrate that there are at least some exceptions.  Taking a closer look at the excerpt of Marcellino’s book, I think there is reason to believe that he is taking the approach I describe, or something like it.  In the excerpt, he says things like: “spiritual nature and physical nature (physics) are two different kinds of realities with a different set of properties and laws governing them.”  I don’t see this as necessarily inconsistent with his goal of presenting “an overall proof of the existence of God from the perspectives of science, logic and direct observations of how nature operates".  For science to work, it simply has to work with things that are observable and be able to take good, objective notes.  Being observable is necessary because if something can’t be observed in any way, then one has no reason to suppose it exists at all.  Just because something is “spiritual” and not “physical”, however, does not mean it can’t be observed.  For example, even if you can’t see and measure a soul (or god, or magicalness, or whatever) directly, you can still infer its existence if it has effects on the world and those effects are best described in “spiritual” terms.

Marcinello’s basic argument, as I read it, seems to be:

  1. Observation: The universe exists.
  2. Premise: Everything needs to have some sort of explanation.
  3. Conclusion: Therefore, the existence of the universe needs to be explained somehow.
  4. Premise: There are two types of explanations, physical and spiritual.
  5. (False) Observation: Because of “Thermodynamics”, entirely physical explanations for the universe’s existence fall apart under scrutiny.
  6. (Unknown basis) Spiritual explanations, for some reason explained later in the book, don’t have such problems.
  7. Conclusion: Therefore, there must be a spiritual explanation for the existence of the universe.
    (Digression: substitute “gaps in the fossil record” for “Thermodynamics” and “humanity” for “the universe” in #5 and you have the basic structure of the argument for Intelligent Design)

If Marcinello really does attempt to use science and direct observation in the rest of his book, the kind of methods for proving magic I described in my previous post would be very useful in justifying steps 6 and 7 above and it is possible that he uses them.  Or, maybe he relies entirely on “logic” and mucks about with words.  Most likely he takes open questions in science (e.g. if the “Big Bang” theory is true, what was going on before that?”) and then says, “Hey look!  Science can’t explain this!  Therefore God must be responsible!”  I really don’t know how his argument ultimately plays out.  This is why I said I “haven’t read Marcellino” in my previous discussion.  What I meant there was not that I never looked at even the free excerpt (I had), but simply that I hadn’t read the whole book.  I feel it is kinda necessary to read (or skim) all or at least most of a book before definitively dismissing it because only looking at an excerpt leaves a significant chance of taking something out of context, making some other false assumption about it, not hearing a potentially mind-changing argument or bit of data, and so on.

-Cheers, Will