Last post I discussed the first three of six essays making up the forum in the fall issue of The Philosopher’s Magazine titled Does God Exist? Today I will look at the last three essays.

Elizabeth Burns (University of London) refreshes the cosmological argument which states that if all individual things in the universe are caused, there must be a first cause, i.e. God. She notes this argument was derived by the kalam school of ninth century Arabic philosophy, modified by Aquinas, and expanded more recently by William Lane Craig. She reviews the two main counter-arguments: (1) Why does the universe require an explanation? and (2) By this line of logic, God then should also require a cause or explanation. Rather than parse the argument, Burns introduces, from the Chandogya Upanishad,  the teaching of Sushanta Sen, that God created the universe from His own nature making God both creator and physical substance of the universe.3 Periodic reabsorption and reinfusing of God’s nature leads to an ‘Oscillating Universe.’ Conceding this exact description appears contrary to current science, she extracts the pantheist or panentheistic elements suggesting a conjoining of God the World and God the Good (the latter mirroring Plato’s idea of the Good). She then pairs her cosmological argument – a complex universe must derive from progressively less complex parts to the least complex (God as the single non-complex, non-contingent) – with an ontological argument – degrees of goodness in the universe require an ‘Unsurpassable Goodness’ (also God). I doubt her argument is philosophically sound, but find its mix of science, logic, and spirituality refreshing.

Next Erik J. Wielenberg (DePauw University) takes on the moral argument for God’s existence, wherein human morality is based on the divine, and thus the nonexistence of God would permit undesirable and  unabated, self-interested behavior by man. Wielenberg does not think virtue depends on God; just as goodness is caused by things in themselves, so moral behavior is within the choice of action itself. Specifically he argues Kant is wrong in believing that since we have a duty to pursue the highest good, God is implied as only He can order the highest good. Wielenberg believes “our real moral obligation is simply to get as close to the highest good as we can.”  I have never found the moral argument to be persuasive, and Weilenberg’s reasoning seems valid to me.

Last, Neil A. Manson (University of Mississippi) reviews the modern version of the teleologic argument, that is, the universe is so finely tuned, it could not occur by chance. His position is this proof is less viable if physicists are right about the existence of a multiverse. In response to theists who protest the theory of a multiverse is untestable and simply an atheist’s refuge to deny God’s existence, he notes many physicists believe the theory of the multiverse comes directly out of our current understanding of physics and cosmology and is or will be testable in the future. For now I find the fine-tuning argument evidentiary rather than conclusive and think we must allow scientists a chance to validate the hypothesis of a multiverse. Regardless this theory seems unlikely to answer the harder question of why there is anything at all!

In conclusion five of the presenters argue against the demonstration of God while Burns is the one voice in support of divinity. This fits proportionately to the recent (non-theist) philosophical literature I have read. In my synthesis of the arguments and subjective rationale for God, I concluded that God defined simply as the origin of the universe does exist (see posts on this site 3/18. 3/20, and 3/22/19 and Table 3 in the Appendix). For the most part, the six articles in this Forum do not appear to contradict my synthesis.


1Garvey, James (editor), The Philosopher’s Magazine. Issue 86, 3rd  Quarter 2019.

2Pascal, Blaise, Pensees. The Great Books Volume 33, 1952. Page 215.

3There is an uncanny similarity of Sen’s theory to that of the ancient Jewish Sages – see July 6 2019 post this site – God and Physics.








The Philosopher’s Magazine1

“Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then without hesitation, that He is.”- Blaise Pascal.2

The Forum in the third quarter 2019 issue of The Philosopher’s Magazine is titled Does God Exist? It consists of six essays offering contemporary reformulations and refutations of common arguments or proofs for the existence of God. (See also posts date February 11, February 13, and February 15, 2019 on this site)

The first essay is an update on the ontological argument. Graham Oppy (Monash University; Melbourne, Australia) discounts traditional versions espoused by Anselm and Descartes, and investigates modern ‘modal’ versions, meaning those built around concepts of possibility, contingency, necessity, and actuality. He concludes that these versions also fail although his arguments are too complex to summarize in this brief post. It seems to me the problem with any ontological argument is a faulty premise – that anything can meet the criterion of infinity. Infinity is a concept not an actual measure as is easily confirmed by trying to imagine a number beyond which no greater number exists.

Paul Bartha (University of British Columbia) then takes on Pascal’s wager (see epigram above). He reviews the four historical responses: (1) it is parochial – would a God who accepted this be worthy of worship – and which religion’s version would be best (many-gods objection); (2) it is inauthentic – God would likely reject this reasoning; (3) it violates the ethics of belief –i.e. it is merely wishful thinking; and (4) it is mathematically suspect due to uncertainty of God’s likelihood and gains from belief.  Bartha seems to find the last of these most interesting, doing a detailed analysis knowing it may fail with respect to belief in God, but may be useful elsewhere such as in environmental decision making. I find the ‘wager’ ineffective, but believe like William James that, in formulating our life’s course, we inevitably choose a stance on God’s existence based on belief rather than certainty– and yes, no decision (agnosticism) is a choice.

Tiddy Smith addresses the ‘common consent’ argument – the theory that since a large majority – about 95%  of people (and even 80% of philosophers, i.e. the “experts”) believe there is a divine being or higher power, it is likely to be true. His refutation is that religion is manufactured (rather than arising independently in the majority) and socially reinforced. He notes the anthropology literature finds isolated hunter-gatherer groups typically do not believe in a personal God (about 15%, although 24% accept a deistic God). Rather most embrace ancestor worship or natural spirits. I find this line of reasoning flawed as the logical response is to suggest that intellectual and spiritual advancement reveal to humans the error of these naïve beliefs, an awe of the universe and its governing laws, and for many an awareness of the divine therein.

(continued next post)


“To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live, according to  its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity and trust” – Henry David Thoreau.


Last week was the one year anniversary of the first post on this site. I thought it would be a good time to take stock of our progress. The attentive reader knows that for the most part the 156 blogs have not been meandering essays, but rather the first half of a philosophy book whose mission is to methodically examine the relevant elements of the field of philosophy for assembling a meaningful life. Perhaps a review of the path I have been on will help readers determine which parts they missed or wish to review.

After a few introductory posts on defining philosophy and the site’s mission, I jumped into the Big Picture – the reduction of practical philosophy into its two major divisions:

[1] the nature of reality (9 posts covering 11/9/18-12/3/18), and

[2] personal conduct (ethics; 13 posts from 12/5/18-1/4/19).

In that analysis we found that reality and ethics are manifest at five levels or tiers, each of which requires reflection in fashioning a flourishing life.

While those two main areas remain the chief focus of a personal philosophy, we next took on the first five of seven special subjects within those areas:

[1] Good and evil (10 posts from 1/6/19 -2/6/19),

[2] The question of God (19 posts from 2/8/19- 3/27/19),

[3] Body and soul (15 posts from 4/3/19 – 5/6/19),

[4] Death and immortality (24 posts from 5/13/9- 7/5/19), and

[5] Free will, fate, and human destiny (42 posts from 7/17/19 – 10/23/19).

Along the way, I stopped to blog on some of my current reading:

[1] Fake News (12/12 and 12/14/19),

[2] The Philosopher’s Magazine (1/11/19),

[3] Before the Big Bang (2/27 and 3/1/19),

[4] We Are Not Alone (3/29 and 4/1/19),

[5] Is Life Worth Living? (5/8 and 5/10/19),

[6] God and Physics (7/8 and 7/10/19)

[7] Revolutionary Deism (7/12 and 7/14/19)

The site has had 662 visits by 499 different users from 46 different countries on six continents since its inception. The majority (57.2%) of users came directly to the site while 34.8 % came from a search engine (86.7% Google; 9.2% Bing; and 4% Yahoo) and 8% from a social media referral (80% Facebook). The most visited page was The Summum Bonum (post on 1/23/19 and Appendix Table 2 and Diagram 1). The most visited current reading was We Are Not Alone.

The book is currently about halfway complete (although the posts are probably more accurately viewed as a second draft rather than final). The next two sections are Teleology and Suffering (Grief, Pain, and Illness).

After that I will get to the heart of our subject – the four components of the meaningful or flourishing life. If space allows, I will investigate how various traditions encapsulate these four components and try to synthesize the ideal approach, at least for myself – a virtual, public, individual search for enlightenment.

I hope this quick review is compelling enough to send you back to past sections and to draw you forward as I present targeted philosophical guidance that, to my knowledge, is absent from the treasury of  existing literature.


“Fate often saves an undoomed warrior when his courage endures.”Beowulf


We have looked at the arguments for and against free will and concluded that most of us decide our will is free based on the strength of empirical and moral arguments and the weakness of the scientific evidence to the contrary. It seems inconsistent that man feels himself free while seriously entertaining notions of fate, but this is likely the majority experience. Freedom allows us to choose, but circumstances and human limitations mean outcomes feel beyond our control.  The crux of this issue for us is finding a poised approach to action and our future.

The existentialists seem to be correct that we choose our basic nature and life course, but this freedom involves two negatives – the risk of erroneous choice and the guilt of inaction. Nonetheless fortune, chance, and outside circumstances have undeniable impact on the outcomes of even free choices. Alternatively Taoism teaches that the limited action of quietism may be preferred.

The Stoics teach us that disinterested acceptance of the reality of the unfolding world imparts equanimity. The Bhagavad Gita also urges that acting without undue concern for the results allows man to exist in the world and stay connected to the ultimate reality.

At the end of the day, action based on a personal ethic of avoidance of evil and service to the good offers the safest means to exercise freedom in a manner that leads to contentment. This also fits nicely with the Hindu cycle of reincarnation and the unavoidable law of karma.

In the specific instance of salvation, some Christians may believe in predestination by the grace of the divine as trumping action in this life, but nevertheless, the same freedom, ethic, and sense of fate will emerge in life and must be accepted. The love of God should overcome the concern of one’s individual salvation and lead one to choose actions consistent with the plan of the divine.

Human destiny remains largely conjecture, but it makes sense for all of us to hope for human survival and eventual evolution to a higher form while supporting the parallel goal of preservation of other species and our home planet. If we avoid our feared self-destruction, we can nudge human destiny along with attempts at moral perfection, higher learning and intelligence, global democracy and cooperation. In this way each of us can also achieve a level of apprehension of ultimate reality via Kant’s  a priori choice for the unity of man, the unity of life, and eventually the cosmic mind.

We are ready now to take on the next critical special subject – Teleology, the ‘why’ of reality – the meaning of design. Please return for my analysis in the coming posts.


The anthropologic and biologic prediction encompasses the middle time frame of millions to hundreds of millions of years. Richard Leakey notes that the fossil record shows species become extinct or perhaps evolve to a new species over millions of years. His theory that Homo sapiens evolved to cooperate supports the short and midterm path forward – progressive integration, moral growth, increasing knowledge, and finally societal evolution. Evolved man then may become Fred Kohler’s societal organism, in which each human is dependent on the social structure.  If Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is right, mankind will become planetized. Humanity’s flourishing may lead to one significant negative – the extinction of other species and the reductions in new species unless Gaylord Simpson is correct that mankind will embrace the unity of life. Our generation’s obligation then is to advance morality, local and global integration, and respect for all living things.

The cosmological understanding of the future of the universe dominates our understanding of humanity’s long term destiny – that is beyond a billion years. Homo sapiens or our successor species will likely migrate into the galaxy over millions of centuries, bringing with them evolving or artificial intelligence. By then our descendants should be well-prepared to interact with any other intelligent species they encounter and to maximize control over the cosmic environment. Biologically we must expect the hominid tree will eventually branch into several or many new species or become mechanically hybrid. Hoyle’s shared consciousness may appear during this period permitting cooperative rather than competitive relationship. We can only guess the future of man’s descendants during the passage of later cosmological decades, but  an integrative mental capacity seems the best outcome. Perhaps the universe will develop into a single “mind” that can extend life through the Degenerate and Black Hole Ages and manufacture viable offspring universes in which future life forms can escape and continue.

The long term future of humanity dwarfs the significance of our individual lives, and of course each person’s meaning must be more immediate and tangible; that is the subject of future blogs. The importance of the current analysis is two-fold: (1) as a guide to our duty in creating the best possible destiny for man, and (2) as a component of the cosmic level of ethics.

First, our duty assumes, I believe correctly, that we have free will – human destiny will be what we choose it to be. Hopefully man will understand those duties fall into the following order of timing and importance: (1) prevention of our extinction and the extinction of other species, (2) progression towards world peace and a democratic, global federation of nations respectful of human dignity, and (3) devotion to morality (kindness), self-perfection, learning (especially scientific), and cooperation. Second whether one believes in God or not, the study and contemplation of the destiny of mankind and of the universe is one means to fulfillment of the level of ethics related to ultimate reality (see posts 12/28/18 and 12/31/18 on this site) that transcends the limits of one’s individual life.

Next time we will summarize the results of our exploration of free will, fate, and human destiny before leaving this section.


“For things will never be perfect, until human beings are perfect – which I don’t expect for quite a number of years.” – Sir Thomas More, Utopia.

In the last twenty blogs we have looked at human destiny as understood by about two dozen experts and sources covering religion, history, philosophy, science, and technology. In this blog and the next we will try to draw together the various elements into an admittedly speculative and mostly hopeful vision of humanity’s future. The reader may have noted that this subject is not found in most philosophy textbooks and wondered why I allotted so much space to it. My answer is simple – it seems to me that if we grant life is worth living, then it must offer the possibility of meaning on a larger scale than one brief life in one unmemorable time. Human destiny is the stage upon which cosmic meaning is to be found. Let’s look at what we have uncovered.

First we must return to the pessimistic possibility of man having a quite limited future – either because of self-destruction or subjugation by super-intelligent machines. While any estimate of the likelihood of these is no more than a guess, my six decades of study and experience suggest about a 50% chance of this future – especially the end of man by nuclear or biological weaponry or by climate or other terrestrial apocalypse. If I am right or close, the onus is on all of us to move the needle in changing man’s destructive tendencies by greater recognition and wisdom with respect to the risks, and active opposition to its inevitability. Our cosmic ethical duty then is prevention of man’s self-extinction.

Another pessimistic outcome is conquest by an extra-terrestrial civilization, which seems much less likely – let’s arbitrarily say no more than a 5% chance. Here human cooperation, preparation, and maturation may offer some hope.

This leaves something less than a 50% chance that humanity will survive to follow the more optimistic path our experts have outlined, in which case human destiny unfolds over roughly three time frames.

The shortest time frame is that of the theologians, historians, and philosophers encompassing the next few hundreds to thousands of years. The eschatologic bet is a long shot (likely <1%), but perhaps the nearest in time; and includes the rise of evil and its eventual defeat by good, the salvation of the chosen, and a divinely-ordered paradise. If one decides to live one’s life for this hope (which requires tremendous faith), moral perfection and service to the deity appear to be the ethical path.

Meanwhile the historian and philosopher focus on the evolution of kindness,  the rise of global democracy, the federation of nations, and the arrival of a cosmopolitan society possibly founded on a universal religion and respecting the dignity of the individual. The ultimate end is world peace, human moral perfection, the transmission of civilization, and the unity of mankind.  Each of us needs to be a proponent of these principles in order to participate in the making of this humanistic utopia.

(continued next post)


Another intriguing possibility for life might be in the atmosphere of white dwarfs. These Earth-sized bodies will maintain a steady state by feeding off dark matter for perhaps 20 cosmological decades. Their outer layer, heated from below and exposed to the radiation of low energy photons should be able to sustain chemical reactions that permit life although at a slower pace (1/500th) than on Earth.A third opportunity for life in the Degenerate Era depends on an advanced civilization creating a spherical shell around a white dwarf to intercept its radiative energy.5

In the end all stars, star remnants, and rogue planets will wane as protons and neutrons finally decay into “a diffuse sea of radiation, mostly photons and neutrinos, with a small admixture of positrons and electrons” by cosmological decade 40.6

Intelligent organic life will be impossible in the fourth age, the Black Hole Era (decades 40-100), when the only stellar-like objects are black holes and all matter has decayed. Adams and Laughlin  entertain the potential of black holes themselves becoming life-like or computer-like by virtue of their interactions across vast stretches of space and time. They estimate black hole consciousness would be 1030 slower than that in man, but viable if black holes somehow are configured like protons, electrons, and neutrons are in organic life.7 Nevertheless black holes will  evaporate eventually by virtue of quantum effects known as Hawking radiation over 10 million, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion years. The largest black holes will last the longest, but all will eventually explode creating radiation and mostly short-lived (< 1 second) heavy particles.8

In the final age, the Dark Era, only subatomic particles remain in an immense cold. While it is possible the universe will slow to a stop  known as heat death, Adams and Laughlin favor the alternative of particle annihilation continuing as long as the universe lasts, a situation called by Paul Davies, a “universe of eternal death.”9 The also offer a more optimistic future where quantum tunneling of a vacuum energy  phase transition result in a new universe with novel characteristics.

Adams and Laughlin briefly discuss the competing view of an eventual collapse of the universe known as the big crunch in some 50 billion years, which appears likely should the universe be curved or closed rather than flat. Last in considering the enigma of how our universe happens to be so finely tuned to allow galaxies, stars, planets, and life; they espouse the theory of the multiverse. wherein there are an uncountable number of universes,  and of course we find ourselves in one allowing life simply because otherwise we wouldn’t be here to ask the question. Such a multiverse might offer hope that intelligent beings can escape our future degenerate universe, perhaps by creating a new one.

Whatever the future, they note: “The most consistent characteristic of our ever-evolving universe is change…we must seize the present cosmological epoch, the present year, and even the present day. Each moment in the unfolding history of the cosmos represents a unique opportunity, a chance for greatness, an adventure to undertake.”10 Don’t waste it!


1Adams, Fred and Laughlin, Greg, The Five Ages of the Universe. The Free Press, New York, 1999. ISBN 0-684-85422-8

2Adams and Laughlin discuss the extremely unlikely event (about 1 in 100,000) of the Earth being torn out of its orbit by a passing stellar object in which case the surface becomes uninhabitable due to the opposite problem of frigid cold once Earth escapes the solar system (pages 50-53).

3Ibid. Pages 67-70.

4Ibid. Pages 94-97.

5Ibid. Pages 97-98.

6Ibid. Page 106.

7Ibid. Pages 139-150.

8Ibid. Page 149.

9Ibid. Page 168.

10Ibid. Page 205.


“This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.” – T.S. Eliot



The final area  in  our consideration of human destiny is the astrophysicist’s chronology of the future of the universe. In their 1999 book, The Five Ages of the Universe,1 which grew out of a University of Michigan ‘theme semester’ called Death, Extinction, and the Future of Humanity, Fred Adams and Greg Laughlin look out as far as 150 ‘cosmologic decades’ (that is 10150 years; the number of the cosmologic decade is n for any age of the universe of about 10n years – placing us in the 10th cosmological decade at about 10-15 billion years). They admit upfront that as they move further out in time their theory involves speculative elements, but all is based on the best science of our time.

It turns out we missed the Primoridal Era, the first 5 decades (before 10,000 years) when radiation was dominant, some lighter elements appeared, and eventually fluctuations in the density of matter led to astrophysiologic objects. Rather we live in the second age, the Stelliferous Era (the age of stars – decades 6 through 14 – which will last for about another hundred trillion years).

Our solar system will not make it out of the 10th decade (larger stars burn out more quickly). The Sun will shine for another 6 billion years, although during that time it will get brighter and make the Earth prohibitively hotter (due to a runaway greenhouse effect much as exists on Venus). In a few billion years, the additional heat will evaporate Earth’s liquid water and make organic life here impossible. Moreover towards the end of the Sun’s life, it will expand as a red giant and consume Mercury, Venus, and finally the Earth. However this allows plenty of time for a human diaspora into the remainder of the solar system, especially to a warmer and more hospitable Mars.2 To survive after the Sun’s death, humans will likely need to move to other solar systems.

Speaking of moving into the galaxy, Adams and Laughlin do some calculations on the time required to fully colonize the Milky Way. They estimate a chance galactic colonization would require about 3 trillion years, but one driven by intelligence would take only about a billion years. Since no other civilization has come in contact with us to date, we can assume either no capable intelligence has existed for that long or that such a civilization finds it impractical or at least not economically advantageous.3

Life as we know it becomes increasingly improbable in the third age, the Degenerate Era (decades 15 through 39), when stars are no more, and brown and white dwarfs dominate a colder, darker, more diffuse universe. But even then  small stars, some with planets, may form as a result of rare collisions of red dwarfs. Because of their small size these will last trillions of years allowing sufficient time for life to evolve.

(continued next post)


But what will our destiny be if AI is viewed more benignly. Some scientists like to speculate on how intelligence may evolve when it sheds mortal biology in a remote future – what John Horgan calls a ‘scientific theology.’5 J.D. Bernal speculated that while genetic engineering might be the early course, man’s consciousness may be etherealized allowing communication through space by radiation and possibly light. Hans Moravec, a robotics engineer, proposes the next step is ‘mind children’ or intelligent machines we raise and educate and then release to incredible feats. Such robots will perform the work humans have done until now, then expand into space enlarging the effective universe although under the Darwinian law of competition. He and other futurists such as Freeman Dyson imagine intelligence spreading “through the entire universe, transforming it into one great mind,”6 a virtual deity. Edward Fredkin sees a more cooperative relationship between super-intelligent machines that will develop their own science.

Frank Tipler takes this to the ultimate; the entire universe transformed into a single, all-powerful, all-knowing computer – an Omega point (a term borrowed from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin7). Such a computer could “recreate – or resurrect – everyone who had ever lived for eternal bliss.”8 Alternatively viewed, the goal of science then is “constructing Heaven.”9 But most stunning of all, Tipler suggests the Omega point constructed /will construct our universe – i.e. the past need not lead to the future from the standpoint of the universe. This mixture of science fiction and mysticism takes us as far as possible down the road of human or universal destiny.

But the end result of these speculations on technology is that the destiny of mankind (as of all human actions) will be the one we choose. As a member of humanity, the reader is one of billions of the moving parts that will participate in that future, which also means every human life has the potential for extended if not eternal meaning. Think about it.

1Kaku, Michio, The Future of Humanity, Anchor Books, New York, 2018. ISBN 978-0-525-43454-2, page 125.

2Hawking, Stephen, Brief Answers to the Big Questions, Bantam Books, New York, 2018. ISBN 9781984819192, page 188.

3Kaku, Michio, The Future of Humanity, Anchor Books, New York, 2018. ISBN 978-0-525-43454-2, page 313.

4Hawking, Stephen, Brief Answers to the Big Questions, Bantam Books, New York, 2018. ISBN 9781984819192, page 196.

5Horgan, John, The End of Science, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., Reading, Massachusetts, 1996. ISBN 0-201-62679-9, page 247.

6Ibid. Page 254.

7See my blog dated October 4 2019 on this site.

8Horgan, John, The End of Science, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., Reading, Massachusetts, 1996. ISBN 0-201-62679-9, page 257.

9Ibid. Page 258.


“We are ourselves creating our own successors. Man will become to the machine what the horse and the dog are to man” – Sam Butler, 19th century novelist. 1


Artificial intelligence (AI) is so frequently discussed nowadays that it hardly needs an introduction, but for our purposes, AI will mean machine learning (as opposed to programmed knowledge). We have all heard of the amazing feats of computers such as Deep Blue defeating world chess champion Gary Kasparov in 1996, but it is unclear if this fits our definition. Voice and facial recognition, self-driving vehicles, and the like may be simple contemporary examples of AI. But the unsettling quantum leap will be when computers can develop completely new knowledge beyond their programming or develop a will of their own, in which case in theory they could become a threat to humanity. Think of some popular science fiction movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Terminator, and I Robot. This fear is immanent enough that some leading technology pioneers are researching AI’s potential impact on humans.2  Michio Kaku believes that AI represents existential risk to humans only when machines become self-aware, which he anticipates by the end of this century “giving us time to prepare.”

Stephen Hawking offers us the following advice, “When we invented fire, we messed up repeatedly, then invented the fire extinguisher. With more powerful technology…we should instead plan ahead and aim to get things right the first time, because it may be the only chance we get. Our future is a race between the growing power of our technology and the wisdom with which we use it. Let’s make sure that wisdom wins.”4

(continued next post)