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Introduction

I have been asked to comment on whether the universe shows signs of having been designed. I don't see how it's possible to talk about this without having at least some vague idea of what a designer would be like. Any possible universe could be explained as the work of some sort of designer. Even a universe that is completely chaotic, without any laws or regularities at all, could be supposed to have been designed by an idiot, as Macbeth suggested.

The Question to be Answered

The question that seems to me to be worth answering, and perhaps not impossible to answer, is whether the universe shows signs of having been designed by a deity more or less like those of traditional monotheistic religions --- not necessarily a figure from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but at least some sort of personality, some intelligence, who created the universe and has some special concern with life, in particular with human life. I expect that this is not the idea of a designer held by many here. You may tell me that you are thinking of something much more abstract, some cosmic spirit of order and harmony, as Einstein did. You are certainly free to think that way, but then I don't know why you use words like “designer” or “God,” except perhaps as a form of protective coloration. It would not surprise me to find that John Polkinghorne and I agree about what are the interesting questions; where we do disagree is in the answers.

It used to be obvious that the world was designed by some sort of intelligence. What else could account for fire and rain and lightning and earthquakes? Above all, the wonderful capabilities of living things seemed to point to a creator who had a special interest in life. Today we understand most of these things in terms of physical forces acting under impersonal laws. We don't yet know the most fundamental laws, and we can't work out all the consequences of the laws we do know. The human mind remains extraordinarily difficult to understand, but so is the weather. We can't predict whether it will rain one month from today, but we do know the rules that govern the rain, even though we can't always calculate their consequences. I see nothing about the human mind any more than about the weather that stands out as beyond the hope of understanding as a consequence of impersonal laws acting over billions of years.

Contributed by: Dr. Steven Weinberg

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Cosmic Questions

Was the Universe Designed? Topic Index
No

Introduction

No Exceptions to the Natural Order
The Persistent Questions: Why?
Fine Tuning
Selection Effects
No Constructive Dialogue

Source:


Steven Weinberg

Related Media:

Steven Weinberg and John Polkinghorne: An Exchange
The Anthropic Principle
The Argument from Design
Did the Universe Have a Beginning?
Was the Universe Designed?
Are we Alone?
Interview Index
Hubble Deep Field Animation
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