A Rationalist Approaches Christianity

I am privately linking from here (below) a new essay about Christian religious epistemology, 20,700 words (if you can believe that). Here is the first paragraph:

The purpose of this discussion is to determine whether I should—whether it is rationally justified to—conduct a systematic study of natural and revealed religion, in order to decide whether I can in good conscience declare myself to be a Christian.

The question I examine is not whether Christian belief is (or can be made) rational. That is a very big question. Instead, I examine something more preliminary: Whether a person in my present position could explore Christian belief rationally despite some admitted biases, whether on various bases a peremptory judgment may be made against Christianity, what a rational procedure of exploring it might look like, whether such a procedure is consistent with my long-standing methodological skepticism, and finally, if so, whether I should in fact give up that skepticism. Inter alia I do explore what underlay and initially kindled my recent interest, and later also I share what specific (mostly philosophical) lines of thinking I have explored that gave me hope that a rational Christian belief might be possible.

The essay is here (210K, password protected); I have given some people the password. If you don't have the password but want access, send me an email at larry (at) sanger (dot) io.

I will probably post a later version of the essay here on this blog after I get feedback.

Please add your comments on the essay here, below!


Not all ways of changing the world are good

Not all ways of changing the world are good.
Some edges you don’t go over, ever.
Some edgelords are the enemy.
Some rebellion is shockingly evil.
Sometimes, wearing the clothes of the devil means you’re the goddamn Devil.

Getting To Know Aleister Crowley, The Wickedest Man In The World

Some actions and people are objectively evil—the enemy.
Not everything in life is a game.
Some appalling outrages are dead serious.
We do not laugh.
If the trappings of evil are fun and “cool,” then some fun and cool things are evil.
Evil people are often smiling, charismatic liars who love nothing so much as fun and cool.

The face of evil is seductive.
Many good people can easily be taken in.
If only they saw into the minds of their seducers.
They would be shocked—outraged—appalled—sickened.
Power corrupts because the powerful wield corruption with a smile.
It looks fun and innocent—at first.

What a Drag: Corrupting the Innocent at Children’s ...

The innocent, especially rebellious youth, are most easily taken in by the games the corrupt play.
They can’t conceive of how utterly monstrous the hearts of their smiling “friends” can be.
They think evil in front of their eyes is impossible; it is only a childhood fairy tale.

Evil people—they exist—hide their evil often even from themselves.
They are enlightened, not evil.
They are beyond good and evil.
They are winners at life, the better sort—not corrupt.
Don’t be so naive, they say.
All life is a joyous struggle, and I—I am merely winning the fight.

Come join me, I will show you how to win, they say.
It’s fun. It's cool.
I’ll take you places where the rich people and cool kids are.
Don’t be shocked, you baby.
That’s how the world works.
Money and sex are what make the world go around.
Ha! You didn’t know—now you do, they say.


Why God Might Exist: A Dialogue Concerning Unnatural Religion

Modern religious skeptics often declare that the reason they are atheists is that there is no good evidence for the existence of God. It is as if they were mere dispassionate judges, and no one has yet submitted adequate reasons to adopt a belief in God to them—the immaculate Tribunal of Reason, of course. Such self-described rationalists vehemently deny making the claim that God does not exist, and thus they reject the notion that they must have positive arguments for the conclusion that God does not exist.((If they are sincere, then I would call them 'agnostic' and not 'atheist'. Most self-identified activist atheists—i.e., aggressive "New Atheist" types—think 'atheist' means simply 'one who lacks a belief in a god', and that 'agnostic atheist' is not a contradiction, but this is neither the common usage, nor was it ever my usage, of these terms. Fortunately, this semantic dispute does not matter much to the present discussion.)) If their supposedly rational stance were sullied by a positive declaration that God does not exist, then they would have to have positive arguments for that declaration.

New Atheists. Submit your arguments to their Tribunal of Reason. They're better than you.

So, naturally, they want to avoid such a commitment. This seems reasonable. After all, it is among the canons of rational skepticism, if anything is, that we avoid unnecessary commitments. The modern skeptical view is that both the existence and the nonexistence of God are just such unnecessary commitments.

The Supposed Absurdity of God

As I was reflecting about my own lack of belief, it occurred to me that one of the most persuasive arguments against God—certainly one that I personally have taken very seriously—is a Humean argument,((David Hume makes a similar argument in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.)) as follows.

Absurd or no?

Whatever else the Judeo-Christian God is supposed to be, he is supposed to be a soul, albeit a very great and important soul.((For the sake of this argument, I am setting aside any doubts about what souls are and whether they exist.)) Now, the only way we have of conceptualizing what souls are is by comparing them to minds. And while we have plenty of experience of our thoughts interacting with our bodies to create stuff like houses and cakes, we have absolutely no experience whatsoever of a mind-like entity creating an entire universe ex nihilo (from nothing) without the use of a body. Especially to the 21st century scientific mind, increasingly well understood as it is by neuroscience, the idea that something like this lump of grey matter might, just by an exertion of thought, cause a universe to pop into existence is not just unsupported and hard to conceive of, it is just ridiculous.

Now, you do not have to conclude from that argument, "Therefore, God does not exist." But if the above is your earnest reasoning, then surely that is the conclusion you come to.((Well, not necessarily. You could take credo quia absurdum est seriously.)) And as I think very carefully about my own past mental states, it occurs to me that that is how I have thought about the matter, although I did not want to admit it to myself. I wanted to avoid drawing the conclusion that God does not exist in order to avoid a rational and rhetorical burden of proof, but in all honesty I reflect that I did, in fact, draw that conclusion. I was never sure, of course: I take my methodological skepticism seriously. But look here, if by definition 'God' refers to a soul that created the universe, if the only way we have of understanding that basic claim is by analogy to our own human minds, and if it is absurd to suppose any such thing might create solid matter with mere thought, then that absurdity definitely suggests that God does not exist. So no such whole-universe-creating soul exists.

Still does not appeal to me. (Tertullian did not say this.)

As an argument for the conclusion that God does not exist, this is not a deductively valid argument (it is an argument by analogy, after all), but it is inductively strong and very persuasive to me. That is, this argument is by itself a persuasive reason, maybe the very most important reason, that I personally could not take theism seriously. Minds do not create matter, and certainly not ex nihilo. I often went a step further, by way of hedging: if there is a God, then I have no idea what sort of thing God could be.

World-Building Tech Might Exist. So God Might Exist.

Recently, I have been re-examining arguments on all sides in the philosophy of religion. As I thought again about the argument above, it suddenly occurred to me that I had since more or less refuted it. How?

A couple of years ago on this blog, I did a bit of speculative philosophy. Modern technology, I wrote, would have looked like magic to people long ago. It is not hard for us to imagine a Matrix-type AI system that constructs the very world we seem to live in, some centuries from now. Now, I wrote in that blog post, let us extrapolate even further:

Mr. Anderson, a creation of a super-intelligent AI.

We literally cannot imagine what scientific discovery and technological innovation will make available to us after 500 or 1000 years. Now let’s suppose there are advanced civilizations in the galaxy that have been around for a million years.

Isn’t it now hackneyed to observe that life on Earth could be a failed project of some super-advanced alien schoolchild?((A suggestion again from Hume's Dialogues.)) After all, we already are experimenting with genetic engineering, a field that is ridiculously young. As we unlock the secrets of life, who’s to say we will not be able to engineer entirely different types of life, every bit as complex as the life we find on Earth, and to merge with our inventions?

...

But what if there is some alien race that has evolved past where we are now for millions of years. Imagine that there is a billion-year-old superbeing. Is such a being possible? Consider the invention, computability, genetic engineering, and technological marvels we’re witnessing today. Many sober heads think the advent of AI may usher in the Singularity within a few decades. What happens a millions years after that? Could the being or beings that evolve create moons? Planets? Suns? Galaxies? Universes?

Now, I do not claim to be able to draw any positive conclusions about the universe from this sort of argument, though some bolder people do.((Most famously, Elon Musk says that we are probably living in a simulation, i.e., something like The Matrix is not just possible, it is probably true.)) But it occurred to me that maybe there is a good answer to the atheistic argument above. To wit:

As it turns out, our souls—our minds, anyway—individually or collectively, in the distant future, might be able to create a universe. If we can cleverly conceive and take seriously the possibility that some ultra-futuristic humans, or human-AI hybrids, might create planets, stars, galaxies, and ultimately universes, then it is possible that God—a "great soul" and creator of the universe—exists. The suggestion that such a powerful "mind" exists is not absurd.

A lot of people seem to think so. I'm still thinking about the one, and that is enough.

Is the Existence of God Still Absurd?

I can imagine the atheist responding, "But God is supposed to be unlike a futuristic Matrix-creating AI; he does not create machines that fool us into believing that we are living in a real universe instead of a simulation. He creates the universe itself, the real deal. Moreover, he is supposed to do this ex nihilo, which no one says we do."

This atheistic response does not take the argument seriously. We are to imagine a billion years of technological advancement, with the assistance of an AI accelerating discovery even beyond present levels, which are historically outrageous. We can imagine future engineers tapping into the levers of planet-building as in Niven's Ringworld and Dyson spheres. We can imagine more than that even. Moreover, we are already engineering brain prostheses, and theorizing how we might upload our brains into computer systems. It seems possible that some future mental structure—no longer neural, but still mental or soul-like—might create a universe with a thought. We cannot rule this out as absurd.

Cosmic Megastructures - Could We Build a Ringworld?
Ringworld

"Ah," says the atheist, "but you are still imagining creation happening within an already-existent universe. You are not imagining the creation of an entirely new universe ex nihilo. You have never addressed the absurdity of that."

True.

But I notice that the atheist is retrenching to a much weaker position.((At this point, if I wanted to get into the weeds of abstract philosophical theology, I could talk about creation of a contingent, dependent universe ex nihilo by a necessary, independent being, but that would be a distraction, and I want to focus on the argument at hand.)) Initially, my (Humean) argument persuaded me that a universe-creating mind was absurd, yet here I find myself quite able to take seriously the suggestion that future human minds might be able to create universes with a thought. I am not saying that I think such a wild science fiction story probable, only that it seems conceivable just by extrapolating from the technological advancements we have seen so far. The only thing I continue to find puzzling is the idea of creation ex nihilo. And that is not exactly absurd, but only a difficult problem; after all, physicists do not have any clear cause for the original state of things that gave rise to the Big Bang.

But even on that point, though, I have a sobering realization: one of the denizens of a future human-created universe might well look back at the initial state of that universe and wonder how it was created ex nihilo. The builder of that artificial universe might hand down messages that he is the creator of all. The denizens would be in precisely the same situation with regard to their artificial universe as we are with regard to our (hopefully) real universe.

I am not suggesting that we are living in a simulation or an artificial universe. I am only suggesting that if we can cheerfully conceive of such possibilities without shouting "absurd!", then it should be much easier for us to cheerfully conceive of a universe-creating God.

If world-building technology might exist someday, God might exist today. And frankly, this rejection of my earlier Humean argument gives me more reason to re-examine other arguments about God.

If this book discusses natural religion, this blog post must discuss unnatural religion.


On Attitudes Toward Evil

As I have been thinking in recent months both about different religions—but especially Christianity—and about evil in general, it strikes me suddenly that how different worldviews regard evil is deeply important. This is especially important to me now because of the stunning and sickening amounts of evidence that has emerged that many, not just a few, of our supposed "elites" have been involved in one of the very most evil of human activities, the enslavement and rape of children.

Secular Western Society

It has always been my view that evil, properly so called, is a real and horrible thing, though I did not until recently formulate any clear idea about what it was. But I knew my position was not the intellectually fashionable one, looking at most "sophisticated" modern art and culture, as well as the discourse about evil. The fashionable view seems to be that, while activities traditionally regarded as evil might be abhorrent, there is a certain degree of rebel "cool" and authenticity about them—even about destructive crime. Thus, somehow, The Godfather films, about murderous thugs, are regarded as the pinnacle of sophistication. The callousness of a film like Natural Born Killers is ignored while its edginess is celebrated. The music of criminal gangs literally celebrates crime and is regarded as the trendsetter of cool. So, surely, it is sickeningly appropriate that some of our most admired leaders in politics, science, and entertainment would be close partners and friends with Jeffrey Epstein, a child trafficker.

Of course, most of us are, or claim to be, sickened and shocked by such behavior, and if we happen to enjoy entertainment that seems to elevate evil, we say it is just fantasy. Rarely do we ask ourselves why we find depictions of evil so exciting, attractive, and sophisticated. Similarly, we tend to look at entertainment that elevates honesty and goodness as insipid, boring, and vulgar—or perhaps that is just how the entertainment that Hollywood produces turns out. Movie villains are always the interesting, complex characters; heroes are always dull and flat.

But what should we think about evil? If we put the question seriously, secular scientists and scholars assure us that evil does not really exist. Their views, though doubtless presented as the height of sophistication—because only intellectual sophistication could explain why someone might take such a bizarre stance—strike me as themselves merely naive, if not positively corrupt and dishonest. But more on that anon.

I mention the views of modern, secular Western society toward evil, because I want to compare them to some ancient and religious views of evil. I will save the Judeo-Christian tradition for last.

Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism, and Manichaeism

These ancient views embrace the notion that there are two different forces at work within the universe (and by extension within human society), one good and benign, and another evil and malevolent. Thus the view is, in general, called dualism (not of mind and body, but of good and evil as cosmic forces). The struggle between these two cosmic principles is at least part of what leads to suffering.

Now, I am not a historian or religious scholar, so I cannot speak on this with any authority, but it seems to me the key motive behind such dualism is not merely to explain the existence of suffering. It is, also, to explain the evil tendencies within us. If there is a noble struggle, it is the struggle to purify one's soul of the evil in which we are enmeshed. But the power, ultimately, is more or less balanced and not all on one side as in Christianity.

Hinduism

Hinduism predates the aforementioned religions, and it has similarly dualistic notions, but instead of there being two opposing (and specifically personified) forces, it is typically said that there are good and evil in all of the Hindu deities and in all of us, although the gods are generally held to be good and there are supposed to be evil demons opposed to them. The admixture of evil, or bad karma (behavior), in human life is why one of the key requirements of dharma (law) was to live unselfishly and to ritually purify ourselves (not unlike in the Old Testament Jewish tradition).

Buddhism

Compared to Hinduism, Buddhism's stance on evil is relatively simple: while it is crucial that we avoid bad karma, as with Hinduism, the truly enlightened view, which we will have if we achieve nirvana, is the elimination of ego and the illusions of the world. As with Hinduism, this is inherently complex and confusing. But the idea seems to be that evil exists and matters for purposes of weighing up your karma, but it does not really exist if you have achieved nirvana. Since nirvana is a higher, more enlightened state, it seems that Buddhists hold that evil does not really, in fact, exist.

For both Hinduism and Buddism, it is because we are inevitably mixed up with evil throughout our lives that we end up being reincarnated instead of being liberated.

The New Age Movement

While the so-called New Age movement is very diverse in outlook and it is hard to generalize accurately, one of the most common strands one finds in it is gnostic dualism—the rejection of an all-good, monotheistic divinity—via "theosophy." But unlike ancient dualists, New Agers believe that good and evil, though they appear to be at odds, do not really exist, because they are subjective creations of the human spirit. In the New Age of Aquarius, such old ideas will pass away as we all attain some sort of enlightenment, possibly to realize that we are all part of a single universal soul or spirit.

There is something seriously wrong about the notion that evil does not exist because it is a mere construct of unenlightened people; that is a positively pernicious idea that only Buddhism avows. Again, this is not my area of study and so I am only guessing, but the notion that evil seems to be so only due to an unenlightened perspective is not apt to be comforting, in the long run, to those who have suffered from monstrous human evil. Indeed, this strikes me as the sort of doctrine that abusive cults might use to blind their followers to the injustice done in the name of "enlightenment."

The Judeo-Christian Tradition and its Difference

While cognate ethical concepts are to be found across all or most religions, the Judeo-Christian tradition truly stands out in one particular: there is, in fact, one thing in the universe that is utterly pure and holy, namely God, and we fall short of God's purity, which is why it is essential that we be redeemed.

While Jews and Christians traditionally believe in demons, who can be one cause of evil, we fallible humans do not need their help. Evil lives in us due to "original sin," which can be understood as the doctrine simply that we, all of us, inevitably do choose to do something sinful before too long. In this this realistic moral assessment of human fallibility, Judaism and Christianity are much the same as most other religions.

Again, where this tradition differs, however, is in the notion that above us there is an utterly good God. This God does indeed desire for us to live humbly, fairly, and compassionately; most religions are concerned for us to do that. But the God of the Bible (in both testaments) in addition says that the only way we can have a chance at a life made holy is not through any sort of "enlightenment" in the next world, not through not by fighting off opposing forces by which we are inevitably contaminated, not by being joined to a world soul, but—while remaining a separate individual in this world—through the redeeming grace of God. That means that God basically forgives your sins, but only if you have subjected your sinful will to his. God is willing to as it were wipe your sins clean if you are sincerely willing to be made an agent of his (pure, all-loving) will.

Now here's the question: Is the notion of "saving grace," as I have quickly and roughly explained it, a difference that might actually matter?

I think so. All of these other religions have human beings mixed in with evil forces which they cannot properly fight; ultimately, in an enlightened state, the evil on Earth is held not to exist, or not to matter. That seems to imply that it is a matter of perspective—as certain New Agers put it most straightforwardly—that there is, in fact, truly evil in the world.

The Judeo-Christian view is that evil certainly does exist and it absolutely does matter. It is not obviated by a shift in perspective according to which we are one with the universe. We remain individuals throughout. We must, quite individually, take responsibility for our evil, period. But with the help of God, i.e., if we (again individually) enter into a certain kind of relationship with God, then our evil is forgiven or redeemed.

Secular Western Society Redux

If you now want to review what I said about the cynical views of secular Western society toward evil, you will find they have more in common with non-Christian religions than with Christianity. Like dualistic views, Hinduism, and New Age philosophies, we live in an inevitably messy world and are thrown upon our own resources, at least in this world. But, again like Buddhism and New Age philosophies, evil does not really exist according to a more enlightened (scientific, scholarly) views.

What do you think? What have I missed?


Why I Have Not Been a Christian, and Why That Might Change

A Personal History of My Nonbelief

I think I lost the faith I was raised in (Lutheran) when I was 16, a few years after the family stopped going regularly to church. That was when I first started studying philosophy more seriously. To be specific, I stopped being Christian because I stopped believing in God.

A methodological skeptic

I had no particularly special reason to reject belief in God, back then; it was just heaved overboard with virtually all my deepest beliefs when I went through a process of systematic doubt, one not unlike Descartes'. Before I had read Descartes, I decided that it was extremely important that I have the Truth, with a capital T, in all its depth and complexity. So I decided that the only way to arrive at that would be to systematically study philosophy and to begin by ejecting all my beliefs, a stance called methodological skepticism. The belief in God was, of course, one of these, although I think I had already started to doubt a year or two before the philosophy bug bit me.

The reason I desperately wanted the Truth and went through what was an intellectually and even to some extent emotionally wrenching period for some years, in my late teens, is that I had come to understand that the truth about how to live and how to think about the world was actually extremely important. One example I gave myself was some people I knew who had gotten deeply into drugs. I knew (because they told me) that they thought drugs were really cool, that they could expand your consciousness, man. But I watched as several of those people descended into what looked to me like a brain-dead stupor and even crime. It occurred to me that their former beliefs about drugs turned out to be not just false, but quite dangerously false. I then extrapolated from that example to many other life situations. In this way I clued myself in to an idea that I think many adults never do learn—that errors in our thinking that have consequential impact on our lives tend to be systematic and deep. They tend to be about important, broad matters, often aptly described as "philosophical" even if a person knows nothing about philosophy.

Veritas

This is not to say I had no thoughts whatsoever about proving the existence of God. It was obvious enough that belief in the existence of God was, to be sure, one of those extremely consequential beliefs, with systematic, deep impact on our lives—enabling, as it does, an acceptance of various kinds of (theistic) religion and everything that entails. But none of the arguments I encountered seemed adequate. For example, I seem to remember criticizing the cosmological argument, that the universe must have had a beginning and that there must be some explanation of that beginning that was outside of time. Well, doesn't that mean there might have to be some explanation of this entity that exists outside of time? What does it mean, anyway, to exist outside of time? Sounded like potential nonsense, and I did not want to accept anything that I did not quite clearly understand. And perhaps the universe always has existed and that there was indeed a cause of the Big Bang in some unknowable state prior to it.

My formal study of philosophy in college and then grad school (lasting from 1986 until 2000) did not change my skepticism. I remember a student at Ohio State coming up to me around 1995 and asking what my response to the fine-tuning argument was, and I had to concede that I didn't have a response off hand, and that it was certainly among one of the strongest arguments for the existence of God. In fact, I was much struck by this fact, at the time, and it made me wonder if perhaps I was not giving theism short shrift after all. Later on, in 2003-5, I taught philosophy of religion a few times at Ohio State, and learned about the arguments in more depth. I was able to explain the arguments both for and against the existence of God with enough plausibility that the class was evenly divided on the question, at the end of the term, of whether I myself was a believer, an agnostic, or an atheist. I never did tell them that I was an agnostic, in fact.

Might exist

How I Might Become a Christian

It is 2020. Has anything changed? Well, yes. I find myself taking theism in general and Christianity in particular much more seriously these days. I notice, of course, that this runs directly counter to my old methodological skepticism, which has not really changed, in general. So let me explain a few things I now believe about Christianity, and why I might make an exception to my skepticism for it.

The first thing I want to point out is that, now that I am older and more experienced, the dangers of false belief—i.e., the moral hazards to me, personally—do not seem to be nearly as pronounced as they might have been when I was younger and relatively naive. My experience of life means that, even if I do accept something quite incorrect, I am less likely to get involved in something life-ruining at this stage in my life.

Was He a zealot?

Besides, in the case of Christianity, decades of experience have brought no great and deep insights into anything that I would call dangers associated with Christian religious practice. This isn't to say zealotry and radicalism don't exist, which of course they do; it is just that I know that I am very unlikely to get involved with them. This is true of the most sincere believers I know. They are, quite simply, extremely pleasant people to be around, and they are, far from being crazy, some of the most sane and grounded people I know. It is also quite plausible that it is their faith that has grounded them. They take morality seriously, as something they should act on. They understand and live by the notion of Christian humility and charity, the combination of which make them perfectly docile.

Meanwhile, the more I have learned about the psychology and practices of both atheism and left-wing thinking, generally speaking, the more I am forced to admit that no small amount of my own nonbelief might have been rooted in not just general skepticism but also in propaganda. In short, modern Western society, especially in academic and intellectual circles, is deeply hostile to Christianity, so that it simply has not been given a fair shake. I don't just mean that Christians have been made to look like bigoted fools—though indeed they have been so slandered—I mean the best side of the religion has been systematically hidden. It has not been shown to the best advantage.

I'd like to read a few books like this

In practice, this has meant that I have not been exposed to the best versions of the arguments for God and Christianity, I have not really understood the Bible (and also did not grasp that there was something quite interesting to understand), and I have been largely ignorant of the details of Christian apologetics. In a society more sympathetic to Christianity, those possessed of the more compelling arguments for God would receive a more frequent hearing, I would have studied the Bible properly at some point (I am reading it all the way through for the first time now), and I would be more thoroughly familiar with apologetics as its elements would be both commonly studied and "in the air."

I am not ready to call myself a Christian because I am not ready to declare and defend a belief in God. But, privately and publicly, I have been re-examining many of the, to me quite familiar, arguments for the existence of God, and I have come to a new perspective on several of them.

Reflections on Philosophy of Religion

Any one argument for the existence of God is not particularly persuasive, but taken together, they are more so. If you take the various specific conclusions of specific arguments as data, then "A personal God with whom it is possible to have a personal relationship" becomes an explanation of the set of them, and thus the conclusion of an argument to the best explanation (also called an abductive argument). In other words:

  1. Probably, there is something outside of space and time that explains why there is something rather than nothing.
  2. Natural laws and constants seem fine-tuned for the existence of matter and the rise of life.
  3. We have experience only of minds producing such timeless or abstract things as natural laws and constants.
  4. The only explanation we seem to be able to come up with for why there are these natural laws and constants is that they are aimed at, or have a purpose or function of, the origin of the universe and ultimately of the life we see around us.
  5. Any such purpose would seem to be benevolent and to suggest rules for us, insofar as it allows us to live well, if we live in accordance with our nature and circumstances on earth.

I hear he had some arguments for God

Individually, conclusions like 1-5 look relatively weak, but they are, nevertheless, in need of some explanation or response. (Perhaps I could add to this list.) We can respond critically to each of them, indeed, which is what I have been doing for decades. But an idea I never have really taken seriously, until quite recently, is that we can explain them all together by reference to an eternal, non-extended mind-like entity, originating not only the universe but the laws according to which it runs, which entity has purposes and even benevolence toward life. Thus all of the various "arguments for the existence of God," or several of them anyway, become so much data, or explananda, for a single overarching argument to the best explanation, the explanans being the ordinary notion of a personal God.

I'm not sure precisely what to make of this argument—not that I haven't had thoughts about that. I might elaborate those thoughts later.

Said he believed anyway, go figure

Anyway, to get from there to Christianity, it is necessary to move well beyond what philosophers call "natural religion," i.e., conclusions you can arrive at without any "revealed religion." Why should the God of the Bible (called variously Yahweh/Jehovah, the LORD, and Jesus) be identified with the entity posited as an explanation of 1-5? I'm working on an answer to that as well. It's not simple.

For one thing, it requires that one grapple with the idea of the soul or spirit, of a mental entity independent of any body. While I have always thought it to be beyond doubt that there are mental experiences and hence minds in some sense, the notion of a mind independent of any body (so, a soul) has always seemed puzzling to me. Frankly, one of the stronger arguments for souls is near-death experiences, a reported phenomenon I have never been able to rule out.

But this would mean I would have to re-evaluate the physicalism I have long adhered to, when it comes to philosophy of mind. I have thought that the mind is a property of the body, and the thing that makes it seem to be so completely different from anything material is quite the same as what makes the problem of universals so puzzling: what are properties, anyway? I'm not quite sure I can see my way clear to abandoning that rather elegant solution. But I can admit that, even if (as Hume emphasizes) I cannot introspect a self independent of any passing thoughts or feelings, I do seem to have a sense of a self. I always thought of that as being my body (so that my thoughts are properties occurring to me, a body). But I suppose now that there is something rather absurd about that suggestion. I mean, look, when I say that I'm happy or sad, thoughtful or confused, virtuous or weak, am I referring to my body (such as my brain)? Surely what I mean—and this is an important point, since the whole argument turns on what I am introspecting—is something quite different from my body. Which part of my body is happy? My mouth, which smiles? No. My head? Don't be silly. My entire body without any differentiation? That does not make sense. My brain? That seems more plausible, but I'm not thinking about my brain, surely, when I say I am happy. No, it's my self I mean, which is something I have a definite sense of and which is different both from my body and from any particular idea or feeling I have.

Well, it's possible.

This probably doesn't quite entail that I have a soul, much less that I have an immortal soul. Anyway, I'll leave that there for now.

In any case, if I am going to take all of these things seriously, and consider embracing a belief in God, let alone in Christianity, then I admit that I would have to abandon my methodological skepticism. And I am not really sure I want to do that, as it seems to me it has served me well.


Irish Session Tune Tutorial

I play Irish-style fiddle—though I'm not really Irish to speak of, my Dad listened to this music and played it a bit when I was growing up, so I got to like it and was motivated to learn it when I was in grad school, and I've played ever since.

Anyway, while practicing recently, it occurred to me that I might just broadcast my practice sessions and some beginners might benefit. (I have taught fiddle, lo, about 20 years ago.) This ended up turning into some recordings of session tunes—and here you go.

I will be adding to this list as I make new videos. Single jigs/slides and slip jigs still to come, at least.

Reels

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B565e3vj8O0
Sally Gardens - slow 1:31 faster 3:14 The Silver Spear - slow 5:02 faster 6:51 The Sligo Maid - slow 8:26 faster 10:10 The Merry Blacksmith - slow 11:48 faster 13:42 The Flowers of Edinburgh - slow 15:19 faster 17:13 The Wind that Shakes the Barley - slow 18:52 faster 19:48 Ships Are Sailing - slow 20:42 faster 21:54 Dick Gossip - slow 23:38 faster 25:10 The High Reel - slow 26:49 faster 28:40 St. Anne's Reel - slow 30:31 faster 32:03 O'Brien's - slow 33:52 faster 35:26

The strings were brand new so sounded a little weak I guess. The audio sometimes cut out, also, due to the bad streaming. Later videos in this series are recorded in advance so shouldn't have this problem.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HU2niw6tsfc
Father Kelly's #1 - slow 0:30 faster 3:22 The Musical Priest - slow 2:13 faster 4:40 Humors of Tulla - slow 6:06 faster 6:46 The Providence - slow 7:42 faster 9:01 The Wise Maid - slow 10:26 faster 11:49 The Maid Behind the Bar - slow 13:20 faster 14:35 The Banshee (a.k.a. McMahon's) - slow 16:12 faster 17:33 O'Rourke's (a.k.a. The Wild Irishman) - slow 19:00 faster 19:44 Jackie Coleman's - slow 20:38 faster 22:01 The Bucks of Oranmore - slow 23:54 faster 26:03

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7L5WYwxsV-Q
The Ash Plant - slow 0:09 faster 1:34 John Brennan - slow 3:10 faster 4:44 Down the Broom - slow 6:29 faster 8:04 Stony Steps - slow 9:34 faster 10:36 Gravel Walks - slow 11:59 faster 13:57 The Foxhunter's Reel - slow 15:48 faster 17:52

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HziWa6FlFVA
The Green Fields of America - slow 0:19 fast 1:33 The Star of Munster - slow 3:02 fast 4:40 The High Road to Linton - slow 6:28 fast 7:55 Julia Delaney - slow 9:29 fast 10:51 The Drunken Landlady - slow 12:25 fast 13:45 Gregg's Pipes - slow 15:10 fast 16:16 Cooley's Reel - slow 17:28 fast 18:49 The Mountain Road - slow 20:18 fast 21:46

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOeB8WtKIiU
The Silver Spire - slow 0:18 fast 1:54 Martin Wynne's #1 - slow 3:29 fast 4:47 The Pigeon on the Gate - slow 6:32 fast 7:49 The Chicago Reel - slow 9:24 fast 10:43 The Golden Keyboard - slow 12:11 fast 13:28 Martin Wynne's #2 - slow 15:10 fast 16:24 Jenny's Chickens - slow 18:15 fast 19:43

Hornpipes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JIsNmKZVL0
Walsh's Hornpipe - slow 0:33 fast 1:45 The Rights of Man - slow 3:38 fast 5:18 Tim the Turncoat - slow 8:01 fast 9:03 The Liverpool Hornpipe - slow 11:06 fast 12:15 The Home Ruler - slow 14:16 fast 16:59 Kitty's Wedding - slow 15:37 fast 19:07 Harvest Home - slow 21:13 fast The Boys of Bluehill - slow 23:12 fast 24:57 The Cuckoo's Nest - slow 29:30 fast 31:07

Polkas

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=je_BntF5J_c
The Ballydesmond Polka - slow 0:41 fast 5:50 Denis Murphy's - slow 2:38 fast 6:51 John Ryan's - slow 4:15 fast 7:48 Egan's - slow 9:17 fast 13:32 Peggy Ryan's Fancy - slow 10:36 fast 14:22 Bill Sullivan's - slow 11:46 fast 15:13 Denis Murphy's (a different one) - slow 16:21 fast 17:19

Double Jigs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlN9C7lYFjI
Tripping Up the Stairs - slow 0:42 fast 3:39 Father O'Flynn - slow 2:17 fast 4:42 The Kesh Jig - slow 6:23 fast 10:09 Morrison's - slow 7:41 fast 11:12 The Banshee - slow 8:57 fast 12:11 The Maid at the Spinning Reel - slow 13:56 fast 15:56 The Frost Is All Over - slow 18:33 fast 19:34 Smash the Windows - slow 21:08 fast 22:05 Haste to the Wedding - slow 23:13 fast 24:32 The Cliffs of Moher - slow 26:04 fast 27:17

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvasHsvWdAI
Langstrom's Pony - slow 0:36 fast 3:10 The Lark in the Morning - slow 5:42 fast 8:09 The Old Favorite - slow 10:48 fast 12:02 Willie Coleman's - slow 14:14 fast 15:16 The Shores of Lough Gowna - slow 16:49 fast 17:52 The Humors of Glendart - slow 19:05 fast 19:54 Sixpenny Money - slow 21:22 fast 22:10

https://youtu.be/3uq50G-rg94
Behind the Haystack - slow 0:37 fast 4:48 Merrily Kiss the Quaker - slow 2:47 fast 6:15 Out on the Ocean (The Portroe Jig) - slow 8:01 fast 9:06 The Ship in Full Sail - slow 10:35 fast 11:40 The Hag with the Money - slow 13:14 fast 14:54 The Connaughtman's Rambles - slow 16:37 fast 18:51 Paddy Clancy's - slow 17:46 fast 19:50 Sorry, I think my tuning was off a bit.


How I'm Reading the Bible in 90 Days

The Bible is easily the most influential book of Western literature. If you haven't read any part of it at all, you aren't educated, period. But, for that matter, if you haven't read it all the way through, then again you still have a massive hole in your education. That's what I told myself last month, deciding once and for all to fill in that hole.

I guess I'm still an agnostic, but let's just say I'm newly curious. I might explain why later on, but for now suffice it to say that for many years I was not particularly curious about the possible truth of monotheism or Christianity in particular—and now I am.

So last month I decided to start reading the Bible all the way through. While I had read quite a bit of it when I was a kid, then a chunk (25%?) again to my boys over the last decade as part of their homeschooling, I never did read the entire thing cover to cover. Maybe more importantly, I never really did understand it. Now that I am reading it, I am understanding Christian (and Jewish) theology much better than I used to.

Even with great care, the big problem about reading the Bible is understanding it, because it is a difficult text. I don't care if you are super-smart and have read lots of difficult texts; if you haven't read the Bible in particular, then you won't understand it without a lot of help, period.

For such a truly ancient book, the Bible is actually quite an amazing piece of literature, history, theology, and philosophy, if you didn't know. Not for nothing has it dominated and shaped Western civilization. Not for nothing did most the greatest minds of Western civilization (most philosophers other great minds such as Sir Isaac Newton) admired it for millennia. It may be confusing and confounding, but it is not stupid. It makes a lot more sense and is much more consistent than many atheists and agnostics believe. I am not declaring here that it is the Truth, but I am declaring that it is far more coherent and intelligent—again, properly understood—than many people in our modern, secular culture know. They think it's stupid; the reason they think so is that they don't understand it. Period. The significance of the Bible text is complex, layered, and deep. But you can't understand that significance without reading it, studying it, and getting help (see below) with your study.

As I first post this, I've done 30 days of my Bible-in-90-days plan, and I've been clued in to some modern discoveries, ideas, and tricks for doing this. I thought I'd share them, if for no other reason than to memorialize this for myself in case I want to do it again sometime:

  • You don't have to use a printed book to read the Bible. I'm using several apps concurrently. This is lighter, easier, and comes with audio and multimedia built in.
  • Top Bible apps? I have reviewed a lot of Bible apps fairly closely. At present (this could easily change), there are five stand-outs, all iPhone apps since I don't use Android: YouVersion's Bible app, Tecarta Bible, Bible Hub, Logos, and BLB (Blue Letter). None of these is perfect (they should contact me and I'll tell them how to improve). What do these excel at?
    • YouVersion's "Bible" app: The plethora of great reading plans (see below), the audio versions, and good but not perfect UX (design/ease of use), especially when it comes to switching between translations. Unfortunately, no commentaries available.
    • Tecarta Bible: Excellent (still not absolutely perfect) UX, good audio versions, free built-in commentaries. You might want to buy a commentary, and if so, I'd recommend doing it through this one because of the design (and they have dozens available, pretty cheaply too).
      Note: As reading hubs, the above two are the best I've found so far.
    • Bible Hub: While the design (it's an app wrapper for a website) might be off-putting, they've got massive numbers of free commentaries that have become my go-to place for second opinions. The amount of free study/scholarly resources packed onto the website is amazing and as far as I can tell, superior to any other app's by far. Just for example, check out this array of free commentaries on one Bible verse. So, that's in the app. If only they would improve their appalling UX...
      Note: The above three are the ones I've been using on a daily basis for the last two weeks or so.
    • Logos: Lots of free resources, particularly the Faithlife Study Bible and online dictionary. The UX is "clever" but actually clunky, so I don't use it much; I can see how some might like it. Especially good for word study and serious Bible scholarship.
    • BLB (Blue Letter): tap a version, get a bunch of resources including, again, a bunch of commentaries. Bible Hub is probably better. Good for word study.
    • So in general, I am currently using YouVersion for the reading plan, actual reading, and audio; Tecarta Bible as my "go-to" commentary; and others for backup commentaries. I also use a Bible dictionary app and a backup Bible atlas map when the commentaries fail me.
  • Here, let me try. If anyone reading this wants to pay me to plan out an open source, collaborative Bible study app from the ground up, I am willing to do so for a fee (gotta eat). If well-coded and my UX/design recommendations were followed, it suspect would blow all others out of the water. Gee, that doesn't sound like Christian humility, does it? Well, let's just say I find these apps frustrating, as useful as they are, and that it is easy for me to imagine how to improve them by using the best ideas from all.
  • Listen to an audio version while you read. Maybe this is a matter of taste, but I find that if the text is coming in through the ears as well as the eyes, I'm able to focus and understand better. But be sure you pick a decent audio version. There are a lot of clunkers, it seems to me. A lot of "dramatizations" in which the voice actors actually try to act out different parts leave much to be desired. I ended up preferring the deep British voice (free) that goes with the KJV in the YouVersion. No nonsense, no strenuous attempt to interpret the text or "do voices." But it does read expressively, and not blandly, as many other (free) audio Bibles do.
  • Play with app reading settings. Your overall experience may be changed significantly, maybe even profoundly, by changing any one of these variables in your app, so play around with these:
    • Bible version/translation: KJV for literality and purism, NASB for (maybe) scholarly accuracy, ERV ("Easy-to-Read Version") for ease of reading, etc.
    • Go-to reading app. You might prefer one I haven't listed. Go with the one that's easiest for you to use.
    • Go-to commentary. Do try several. Some are free, and some other feature-rich ones are quite cheap (less than $10) if you purchase through the app.
    • Go-to sets of reference (maps and Bible dictionary). Super important if you actually want to understand what's going on, which you should, because your commentaries won't always answer your questions properly. Keep trying until you get a set of reference materials that always answer your questions satisfactorily.
    • The speaking voice. I keep coming back to that deep-voiced British guy after trying out others. Frankly, I can't stand the ones who lamely try to act out parts and get them totally wrong.
    • Reading plan, if you use one, which I recommend (see below).
    • Font style, font size, and background (white or black). Yeah, those things make a difference too.
  • Making sense, important. But back to strategies I'm following. In general, do make a real effort to understand the hard vocabulary as well as the person, tribe, and placenames. If you don't, then yeah, it's going to be merely puzzling and look like ancient nonsense to you. If you do, a lot of things start falling into place. Individually it may not matter whether Og or Abimelech was a king, priest, or general, or whether he came from came from Shechem, Moab, or Bashan, but attention to the full set of these details will help the whole to come together much more coherently.
  • Translation switching: for vocabulary. Pick a literal translation (I use the KJV) and stick with it. This can be harder to read but it will get you closer to the original thoughts than versions that are basically just rewritings. I gathered from a few different reliable sources that Bible scholars also like the NASB (North American Standard Bible). Still, I look at other, easier versions when I have trouble with the actual vocabulary of a verse (YouVersion's Bible app is great for this: just tap on a verse, then tap "Compare"). This can be faster than consulting a commentary, if your issue is just about vocabulary.
  • Study Bible: for proper nouns. While switching back and forth between versions can help you puzzle out some archaic vocabulary, the person, tribe, and placenames require other kinds of resources to make sense of. The most efficient way to make sense of this is to use a study Bible (that's what I do, anyway), especially one that comes with many detailed maps integrated just where they are needed (ESV Study Bible is what I use in no small part for the maps). But no study Bible seems to be complete, so the more the better. A Bible dictionary/encyclopedia will often help answer more general questions the commentaries don't cover (like "Who was Abimelech again?").
  • Intros: background for theology, culture, history, archaeology, etc. If you're not familiar with the Good Book, you can't just read the thing straight through. Especially if it's your first time reading the Bible, you definitely will not understand it if you don't have the assistance of not just commentaries, but also introductions or lectures. Book introductions (e.g., an introduction to the book of Genesis) or video lectures (which cover similar information) are essential to understanding the theology of the Bible above all, which is kind of the whole point, but also the narrative structure, which is important if you want to make sense of what you're reading. I've been reading my study Bible's text introductions sometimes, and always also watching short YouTube videos.
  • Study the general concepts. Sometimes you'll notice certain concepts coming up again and again without much introduction or explanation, things like covenant, sacrifice, various angelic beings, redemption, forgiveness, etc. When you come across these and you really have no idea what they really mean, look them up and read several paragraphs about them, at least. If you don't have at least some rough understanding of those (and quite a few other) concepts it is absolutely certain that you will not understand the Bible. Many of those concepts are very unfamiliar to modern, largely amoral, secular minds, and require special explanation.
  • Reading the Bible in 90 days is doable and is a good idea. There are lots of "reading plans" built into several Bible apps, including the top two listed above. Again, YouVersion's Bible app has the biggest selection that I found and their reading plan feature is very well designed. Now, most whole-Bible reading plans are for 365 days, but that struck me as being too slow. For one thing, as with any body of knowledge (think especially of foreign languages), the more you jam it all in together in a relatively short space of time, the more mental connections you will make and the better understanding you will have. So I experimentally tried out the 90 day plan, and worked my way up to doing all of a day's work in one day. I think requires something like 90-120 minutes per day—maybe sometimes more. This includes consulting resources such as commentaries.
  • On "The Bible Project." So a seminary professor and a writer got together with a team of dozens to produce some quite well-made, opinionated, extremely informative videos about not just every book of the Bible, but how to read it and various Biblical concepts. These videos are part of a daily orienting "devotional" that goes along with the reading plan I chose. I'm not 100% sure I trust the theology of these videos (er, so do they really think the seraphim are flying snakes, like the pagan Egyptian critters?), but they sure are handy in how they encapsulate a lot of information briefly. I'm checking out other video series as well, anyway.
  • Do searches on critical questions. Naturally, if you're the least bit curious, you'll have hard and critical questions. Why does God seem to be so, um, harsh in the Old Testament? What really do the Israelites have to atone for? What's the point of all the sacrifices? Is there any real reason to take the history of the Gospel story seriously? Etc. Use your search engine of choice to look up the answers. You might or might not be convinced by the answers (I'm afraid I'm not, in some cases), but if you don't know how intelligent, well-informed, and committed believers answer such questions—and especially if you assume that they have no answers to such questions, because they're not smart enough to think of the questions or take them seriously—then again, I guarantee you simply won't understand what's going on when you read the Bible.
  • Do not zone out and let the words wash over you. Look, maybe you don't need to understand everything in the greatest detail, as a serious scholar does, but if you let a verse pass you by and you can say to yourself, "Wait, what did I just read, and what did it mean?" and you don't know, then you're not really reading. You're sort of pretending to read. Don't do that. If you let whole sections, chapters, or books go past you when you're on autopilot, I guarantee you'll miss something important. The only time when you can safely skip something is when you're going through "the begats," the repetitive details of sacrificing (but going through one of the repetitions seems necessary), the word descriptions of boundaries of the territories of the twelve tribes, and other such things that are best regarded as reference information inserted into what is otherwise a narrative.
  • I walk and read. I happen to pace through my whole house as I read, getting my hourly walking minutes in (something I do for health) and my reading time in. By the end of the day I've finished my day's reading. If not, I do another half-hour's reading after the kids are in bed, no problem. Maybe you can read while on the train, or while on the treadmill, or whatever.

There are of course many other things I am not doing (or, not so much) and that at a future date I might recommend: Bible study groups, both online and in face-to-face; getting help from an actual human being (always a good idea); doing a course on the whole Bible concurrently with reading (something I started on The Great Courses Plus, since we have a subscription, but found was too much of a commitment to do along with 60-90 minutes of daily reading).

Anyway, there you have a catalog of strategies I've followed the last few weeks. Since I'm far from being an expert on any of these subjects, I submit these just as ideas, and maybe more experienced people will be able to give me more ideas as well.

UPDATE: I finished in 100 days, and then immediately started re-reading it in 365 days.


Launching Sanger Consulting

I'm announcing an Internet consulting business. Learn more at a new website:

> sanger.io <

I've consulted briefly with many companies over the years. Nobody seems disappointed.

The thing that I can do possibly better than anyone is to give a complete analytical review of your site(s) and app(s), identifying issues and areas of improvement, put in my recommended priority order to fix. I am very fast at producing pages and pages of such feedback—high density, high impact.

I am also quite interested in conceiving and architecting new websites from the ground up, something I have a lot of experience doing.

There are many different types of projects I could get interested in. Generally speaking, I accept jobs that I think will potentially have an important benefit to humanity. Life is too short for anything else.


Bold Predictions for the 2020s

Yeah, who knows what will really happen? But here are my predictions (i.e., wild guesses).

  • The Jeffrey Epstein estate and Ghislaine Maxwell cases, as well as the Biden Ukraine case, and some as-yet-lesser-known cases, will rock the entire Western world for several years. Donald Trump will not be among those indicted, but he will continue to be smack dab in the middle of it all. The Clintons and the Bidens will be among those indicted. We will discover that the world has largely been run by literal, not figurative, criminal cartels of one kind or another.
  • Several of the people ultimately punished in these cases will be Democratic politicians and celebrities, as well as once-respected Establishment Republicans. This will cause a crisis in American politics as we find that "Americanism" was maligned as "populism" and that we actually like Americanism. But exactly how that will play out remains to be seen. The country will not break up. Democracy and what has been called the "American civil religion" will be renewed, as we will look back on 1992-2020 (at least) with horror and as a near-miss at a second civil war.
  • As more and more people learn about the utter decadence of certain of our "elites," and that our mass media has been systematically manipulated by cultural architects (so to speak) for decades, there will be a massive exodus away from traditional media and a massive resurgence of traditional Christianity in the West.
  • Donald Trump will be re-elected in 2020. Sorry. Hard to see past 2020, because the political situation in the country will probably look very different by 2024.
  • The massive recent revelations about Facebook, Google, and others are a slow-moving avalanche threatening to bury these companies. A few will not survive the decade. Even bigger revelations (not least of which are the associations with Epstein and Epstein-style networks) and massive new movements will overwhelm their economic power base.
  • New Internet companies, more committed to privacy and free speech, will offer open source solutions integrated tightly with old-fashioned decentralized networks and open data standards. We will see, just for example, a massive new decentralized encyclopedia network that connects all existing encyclopedias in a centerless, leaderless way, and makes it easy for people to go head-to-head with existing offerings via their own blogs.
  • The popularity of personal servers (like my Synology NAS) will grow steadily, until even grandma knows about them as a better alternative to Dropbox. The software these servers run will become every bit as good as cloud-based apps offered by, e.g., Google (such as Docs, Sheets, and Drive). "Rolling your own" will happen a lot more by the decade's end, because the software for doing so will be much more powerful.
  • We will probably not see general AI this decade, unless this has been developed secretly—i.e., unless giant corporations and, more likely, military programs have made much more progress than we knew about. We will likely see some massive new technological breakthrough on the order of the invention of the personal compute. Possibly a medical breakthrough. Of course, some technologies that are already well-developed but not in mass use will come into mass use, such as commercial space travel and ever-more integrated "smart" devices (that will be run via your own NAS rather than via a cloud server).
  • We will all get ten years older. Both of my boys will become adults. I will start enjoying more free time. I might actually publish a book sometime this decade, but don't hold your breath.


On the "God of the Gaps"

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

If God exists, he knows all the physical explanations of all the phenomena. From his point of view, there is no "God of the gaps."

Hence our inability to explain something about the world is no reason to infer that God makes human-style arbitrary choices. In other words, for example, God's mechanism for creating life would be evolution, of course. Where there are inexplicable-seeming leaps, surely God would know of the explanation. But our ignorance is no argument for theism in itself, of course, any more than any scientific fillings-in of erstwhile gaps in our knowledge is an argument for atheism or scientific materialism.

Even if we had a perfect scientific explanation of everything from the Big Bang, to the universal constants, to the origin of life, to every last evolutionary gap, one might still feel impelled to the conclusion that the explanations themselves seem to be guided by purposes. It is not the random-seeming things in the universe that might reveal divinity, but the awe-inspiringly ordered and comprehensible things.

It is not the random-seeming things in the universe that might reveal divinity, but the awe-inspiringly ordered and comprehensible things.

If we could not state what these purposes were, then this would seem to be mere superstition. But scientists become theists because God's purposes seem clear: the universal constants permit the existence of spacetime and the coalescence of matter, and in particular stars and planets; certain unlikely chemical facts (we don't understand them all) are absolutely necessary in order for life to exist; certain incredible evolutionary leaps seem designed to lead life on earth ever onward to greater awareness and knowledge, culminating in man.

It is not the gaps in explanation that would lead one to infer God from the cosmos, if one were inclined to make that inference. It is the fact that the insanely particular natural laws and constants we have discovered indeed have resulted in such a splendid cosmos.

It seems indeed so splendid that the specific laws and constants that explain it all appear to reveal a mind with purposes. That, surely, is the thought that has driven so many people to accept the design argument—not that divine intervention is necessary to fill in the current gaps in our explanations.

The Ancient of Days by William Blake