History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Illusions of Agency

November 28th, 2005 · 1 Comment

Daniel Gilbert, author of The Vagaries of Religious Experience, explores the illusions of agency at Edge.org

Is God is nothing more than an attempt to explain order and good fortune by those who do not understand the mathematics of chance, the principles of self-organizing systems, or the psychology of the human mind?

The vagaries of self-organization are fully the equivalent of the theological. It seems that modern science is condemned to a strange fate: noone can grasp the subject of probability. Things that are non-random are taken as sourcing in the random, invoking the ‘self-organization’ mantra. This confusion is evident in the economic misuse of the term, and ‘economic self-oganization’ is taken as a template for evolution.
The point should be that, and perhaps the point is a lost cause in a monotheistic geographical region, ‘self-organization’ is a prime contender to explicate, not the source of order from randomness, but the source of order as such. We see naturalistic processes that produce order, and it is indeed the vagaries of religious experience that tempt us to stop short with design arguments.

Consider the eonic effect. We see an immense process of ‘self-organization’ operating over many millennia, visible in a clear non-random patterning of historical events. This isn’t randomness at work, but a directed evolutionary process that we are unable at this point to explicate. Such a phenomenon does indeed induce the illusions of agency, and it is not chance that the Israelites catching a glimpse of universal history made up myths about superagents in history.
Let us set these aside, but without invoking the ‘magic’ of chance, another illusion of agency.

It is all very well to speak about self-organization. So consider the data of the Axial Age. A stupendous derandomizing process, one that extracts itself from illusions of agency. In a word, evolution in action. Theology won’t help. But can science face the facts itself? Is ‘self-organization’ another magical wishfulfilment?

Tags: Evolution

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 A Christian Prophet // Nov 28, 2005 at 3:08 pm

    If you like the idea that God is an attempt to explain something, then how about an attempt to explain EXPERIENCES that people all over the world are having that cannot as yet be explained by science? There is a very good comment on earthly economic systems by the Holy Spirit over on The Christian Prophecy blog today. Apparently it’s not so much about physical life than about QUALITY of life.

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