God, Chance and Necessity is a book I wish I had read in my early twenties, at the same time when I was immersing myself in Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene and popular scientific accounts of cosmological theories, such as Brian Green’s The Elegant Universe.
Keith Ward argues against the materialism advocated by the aforementioned books, but mostly focuses his response to Dawkins’s books and to Peter Atkins’s Creation Revisited.
Ward defines materialism as saying “that the only things that exist are material things in space. There is no purpose or meaning in the universe. Scientific principles are the only proper forms of explanation.” Dawkins and Atkins are firm believers in materialism, which leads them to state that God is superfluous. I was also a strongly believer in materialism, so much so that it brought me to have strong arguments against my mum’s spiritual perspective.
Conversely, the theistic hypothesis is “the idea of just one basis of all possible finite beings, which originates all other realities for good reasons, and realises the highest compossible set of values in itself.”
The great, and for me surprising, qualities of God, Chance & Necessity, is that it firstly elucidates that materialism is not a scientific theory, but a metaphysical hypothesis, and therefore should be treated as such and compared to other metaphysical hypotheses. Secondly, that the current understanding of cosmology and of the evolution of complex, and conscious, life leaves much room for metaphysical explanations of why things turned out as they are. Thirdly, that the pure materialistic hypothesis yields a very low probability for the current state of affairs on this universe. Consequently, Ward argues that we should consider the theistic hypothesis as a better one, since it makes the emergence of conscious life almost a necessity.
Personally, I think that while science is the best tool we have to investigate and understand how things work, it will never gives a satisfactory account of why things exist and work in the way they do. Furthermore, I do not agree with who says that there is no point in trying to find answers to “why” questions, since we would never be able to confirm or refute them. As human beings, we constantly ask ourselves why things happen, and constantly interpret in a teleological way events and actions, especially of fellow humans. It is not possible to altogether avoid forming a metaphysical hypothesis of why the universe exists and why it developed conscious intelligence that asks these sorts of questions.
God, Chance & Necessity, gave me a more sophisticated framework to discuss and analyse answers to these questions, and I’m now more inclined to accept the theistic hypothesis as a valid one, and perhaps a very good one.
As I normally do, I will wear the theistic hypothesis for some time, testing it against my other beliefs, and like some piece of clothing, I will see whether it fits well or must be discarded in favour of something better. What this could be, I have now not the slightest clue.