By Mathew Goldstein
The video of Sean Carroll’s Oxford-Cambridge lecture titled “God is not a good theory” is almost one hour long. I recommend taking the time to watch the entire video. However, for the benefit of people without an hour to spare I will summarize his argument for you.
He starts with a definition of theory as an idea about the universe that may be true or false. For almost all believers, god qualifies as a theory. However, god is not a precisely specified theory, and this is one of the substantial problems with the theory of god.
Concepts of god
can be placed into at least three categories: Passive, Active, and Emergent. A passive god, as conceived by arm chair philosophers, is justified as fulfilling some requirement for making logical sense of our universe, such as the first cause, the unmoved mover
, and a necessary being
. This a passive conception because this god is not intervening to change any physical laws. An active conception of god is that of a creator and ruler who cares about human life, communicates to humans about proper human conduct, performs miracles, grounds morality, organizes an after life. The active god has an empirically observable presence and is justified accordingly. An emergent conception defines god as synonymous with love, the universe, the laws of nature, feelings of awe/transcendence. An emergent god is justified as serving a rhetorical function.
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