Re-reading Swinburne's thesis, I do what comes naturally, which is play devil's advocate. This is simply a way of testing arguments, I guess.

Swinburne proposes that there are three options : scientific explanation, personal explanation, or no explanation at all. Science is limited in that it cannot explain why things exist, or why they are so coincidentally ordered & unified. As he goes on to show, personal explanation - extrapolated to a supreme being - provides (amazingly) a pretty strong explanation for the nature of the universe.

But what has been playing in the back of my mind is a notion, perhaps akin to that of Eastern religion : that there might be another mode of explanation, which we could call the impersonal.

What if the ultimate characteristic of the universe of objects and things is, indeed, not chaos, but order? What if the artificial ordered creations that conscious beings (humans) produce - works of art, technology, etc. - are not so much analogous to the acts of a divine Maker, but rather simply acts of alignment, on a smaller scale, with the original, universal Order? "Conforming with the Tao", so to speak?

This also seems akin to some recent physics theory (I can't remember the name of the author) about the "algorithmic" nature of reality. The universe shuttling automatically into new formal formations.

One might then expect the philosophical alternative to a "new theism" would be a counter-movement - toward a "new Taoism", or something like that.

I don't happen to agree with this view, but I can see its appeal. I think that, aside from the "cosmological" or "design" arguments for theism, the evidence from consciousness and "personhood" weighs the scale on the side of theism, as opposed to this sort of spiritualized materialism or impersonal Way. (I do believe in "the Way", or universal law : but I also believe in the Person as its original and ultimate expression.)

(Between the unknowing of the intellect faced with God, and the following of the everlasting Way, there is probably a lot of complimentary common ground. But they are not the same. The belief that the ultimate ground of reality is impersonal is... rather impersonal, I guess.)

p.s. & I wouldn't be surprised if somebody like Swinburne could look more closely at the evidentiary logic of chaotic things and events, vs. the vast prevalence of order, and suggest that my "impersonal" explanation is simply the same as the "no explanation" option. What is the probability of a universe self-ordering itself, by chance (because if it is not by chance, then you have to accept a motivation of some kind - which brings God back into the picture)? In fact, the analogy, between conscious intention producing small-scale forms of order, on the one hand, with cosmic intentionality, on the other - ie. small-scale ordering acts as examples or replications of a universal-metaphysical act - remains pretty persuasive to me...

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