Deism by way of Michio Kaku

Question from “Alex the Deist”:
This last month, there has been some news about the existence of God proved by Michio Kaku, who asserts that the universe is perfectly ordered, “it could have been chaotic”, but it is not. He says that with this we could understand the mind of God. The ultimate argument for design.

Now, I know that Kaku is agnostic or pantheistic like Einstein, and that this is poetry, but nonetheless, it has theological implications. The first is that this would practically rule out the existence of personal gods, but this I think, makes deism stronger than atheism.

Consider the following case:

The universe is ordered / design.
The universe is ordered / blind chance.

We should expect that if there is a design behind the universe, this would be ordered. But we could not expect the same of blind chance. So, order gives a higher plausibility to design than to chance.

On the other hand for example, Dennett says that we as rational beings find useful to think of things as involving a purpose, this makes easier to understand natural phenomena. Which is true, I accept that. But I think, that if we accept that; we should accept it is possible that a mind responsible for the universe exists, and that our understanding expresses cognition about it.

If we accept that this order is objective and not an invention of our minds (as I think every rational person would accept) we should be able to tell that such order expresses also some kind of objective rationality, that it is true that: we as rational beings can comprehend such order because/and it expresses rationality.

This two things being said, I think deism has an extremely greater plausibility than atheism. How do you respond to this from an atheistic frame?

Answer by SmartLX:
It’s not really news that the universe appears to be entirely ordered in some sense. The laws of physics and the fundamental constants have so far seemed universal and unchanging, with nothing behaving contrary to them. It can be said, and I agree that no one would seriously argue, that there is at least some order in the universe, which leads into the rest of your argument. Thing is, people have been arguing that the existence of order demonstrates design and therefore a god for centuries, so it hasn’t been the most successful of arguments and Kaku is unlikely to change that.

You avoid affirming the consequent (a common fallacy) by restricting yourself to a probabilistic claim that design is more likely than chance, but nevertheless there is no way to establish the absolute or relative probability of either your hypothesis or the opposite. Minds are constantly observed to create local order, yes, but so are chance and undirected determinism. Rocks are worn smooth, sunflowers and pineapples follow Fibonacci patterns, a roughly shaken container will sort its contents according to size and density. A mind is not automatically more likely to have created universal order just because the majority of order we notice is the product of minds.

With the two sides now on murky but level ground, a major difference between your hypothesis and non-deistic alternatives is that you are required to posit the prior (or timeless) existence of another extremely ordered entity for which there is no available, substantial evidence, whereas natural explanations leave open the nature of the progenitor, if any. I wouldn’t dispute that a creator god is possible as we have no means to rule it out (an agnostic atheist leaves room for any possibility), but that’s as far as it’ll go. It’s perilous to argue that one possible explanation is more likely or “stronger” because of what we “should expect” when it comes to the whole universe, because our intuition is woefully inadequate for this purpose.

10 thoughts on “Deism by way of Michio Kaku”

  1. Here is an honest question.

    Given the set of all things you define as “order” in the universe, are these values or objects or laws changeable? Meaning, if any of these changed would it drastically affect how the universe works? Would life be possible if any of these changed? Would our existence be possible if any of these changed?

    If not, then why is it surprising that we are observing and existing in an “ordered” universe, if minor deviations from this order would make our existence impossible?

  2. To Adam.

    Is interesting your question, not because of what I’m asserting, but because I must confess I don’t know the answer. It could be said many things about “fine tuning”, and name a list of constants which if changed, there would be no life. But this is beyond our epistemological grounds, which can be perfectly followed from an appeal to the (weak) anthropic principle. There is a blind spot in our epistemology, when our own existence is in the middle of the equation.

    To Smart.

    I agree with you, in that design arguments are flawed, we have a justified inductive reason to believe they all have failed. And I like your example of the rock and the hightlight about the flaws in our intuition.

    Good points.

    However, I would like to see an answer to the other part of my argument, which could be said to pose this:

    If it is conceivable such order of the universe as being part of a rationalization just for metaphorical and understanding issues, as Dennett (e.g) says, and I think we all agree, then we could be equally justified in conceiving them as an Actual* rationalization by a superior mind.

    I think this one is the main point, I would appreciate if you could give a counter-argument to it.

    Thanks to both of you.

    1. I’m terribly sorry Alex, but I’m not sure I understand your point in the new argument. Could you help me out by defining “rationalization” and also providing the Dennett quote you’re using?

      Thanks very much.

      1. Of course,

        I mean that: if we can think of things as having a purpose – just for understanding issues. Couldn’t we be saying that nature may indeed have a purpose? What is the line between a rational tool and cognition about a purpose behind the universe?
        And if we can conceive such thing as purpose as a tool for understanding, why couldn’t we say they express in fact an actual purpose?

        About Dennett’s reasoning, it is not an exact quote, and I do not have the exact paper where he wrote that, that’s why I said “for example”. I extracted this thought from the paper of Elliot Sober. This are the lines:

        «There is an important difference between a device that we use to help us think and a device that itself thinks. However, when a computer plays a decent game of chess, we may find it useful to explain and predict its behavior by thinking of it as having goals and deploying strategies (Dennett 1987b)»

        From here:

        1. It is equally possible to go about your life normally without ascribing a purpose to objects/ things/ systems. It is a question of mental habit, pure and simple. If we were to cultivate such a mental habit then your argument that our ascribing a purpose to things is perhaps an expression of our cognition of a universal mind and that purpose as a rational tool is no different from purpose in actuality will not hold.

          I am not sure that I agree with Dennett (if he said this) that ascribing purpose is a rational tool. An evolutionary habit of mind maybe, but hardly a rational tool. Unless you link rationality to that which is evolutionarily sound (and in most cases rationality is linked to that, but not always).

        2. Thanks for that Alex.

          Yes, we can conceive that nature may have a purpose, whether or not as a tool for rationalising its behaviour. We could also say that nature actually does have a purpose, because nothing really stops us from doing so; free speech and all that. However, if we say this then we are making an assertion that something we have merely established as conceivable is furthermore true, and not only is this not self-evident but there is no substantial evidence for it at all.

          So, if it assists you in your cognitions then by all means use the working hypothesis that the universe has a purpose, but never lose sight of the fact that unless you can arrive at this idea as a reasoned conclusion rather than a premise, you cannot support its likelihood.

    1. To Lukas.

      Haha, yes. That’s me.

      To Rohit:

      Yes, indeed Dennett said that. Your point is good, including evolution in the frame turns the scale to the “non-supernatural” side, and this would, undeniably be supported by parsimony more than the “supernatural” one.

  3. It is a false dichotomy to say that it is either a deity or blind chance we have to speculate. Blind chance is a meaningless statement on a cosmic scale. One cannot say the universe we have is one of multiple possibile universes and that it is blind chance that we are in this one. The flipside which states we are in a universe designed by some demiurgos is equally misguided. There is not proof or reason to believe either. Each is a reasoning born of emotional response to exististenial crisis. Kaku is at best stupid and worse perniscious and cowardly. There is no reason to even postulate a creator or a lack of creator. No matter the nuance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *