Fine tuning

From the Guardian: Do we live in the best of all possible worlds?

Spread the love

The people who thought up the question probably didn’t realize that the concept could be used to argue for design in nature. After all, a mortal world cannot by definition be perfect, so if this is the best one, well …

From Oliver Burkeman at the Guardian:

“Once upon a time, it was of great survival value to be worried about everything that could go wrong,” says Johan Norberg, a Swedish historian and self-declared New Optimist whose book Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future was published just before Trump won the presidency last year. This is what makes bad news especially compelling: in our evolutionary past, it was a very good thing that your attention could be easily seized by negative information, since it might well indicate an imminent risk to your own survival. (The cave-dweller who always assumed there was a lion behind the next rock would usually be wrong – but he’d be much more likely to survive and reproduce than one who always assumed the opposite.) But that was all before newspapers, television and the internet: in these hyper-connected times, our addiction to bad news just leads us to vacuum up depressing or enraging stories from across the globe, whether they threaten us or not, and therefore to conclude that things are much worse than they are.

Really good news, on the other hand, can be a lot harder to spot – partly because it tends to occur gradually. Max Roser, an Oxford economist who spreads the New Optimist gospel via his Twitter feed, pointed out recently that a newspaper could legitimately have run the headline “NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN EXTREME POVERTY FELL BY 137,000 SINCE YESTERDAY” every day for the last 25 years. But none would have done so, because predictable daily events, by definition, aren’t newsworthy. And you’ll rarely see a headline about a bad event that failed to occur. But surely any judicious assessment of our situation ought to take into account all the wars, pandemics and natural disasters that might hypothetically have happened but didn’t?

Many people would not consider it good news that today is as good as it gets for them. Also, the New Optimists’ arguments can get a bit convoluted and conspiratorial:

“I think it might be that in a couple of years’ time, we’ll think it was a great thing that Trump won,” he says. “Because if he’d lost, and Hillary had won, she’d have been the most hated president of modern times, and then Trump and Bannon would have used that to build an alt-right media empire, create an avalanche of hatred, and then there might have been a more disciplined candidate the next time round – a real fascist, rather than someone impersonating … Trump may prove to have been the incompetent, self-absorbed person who ruins the populist brand in the United States.” This sort of counterfactual argument suffers from not being falsifiable, and in any case, it’s a long way from a position of straightforward positivity about the direction in which the world is moving. But perhaps it is the one genuinely indisputable truth on which the New Optimists and the more pessimistically minded can agree: that whatever happens, things could always, in principle, have been worse. More.

When one is six or seven steps into a counterfactual history, one should relabel the file Fiction.

See also: What becomes of science when the evidence does not matter?

9 Replies to “From the Guardian: Do we live in the best of all possible worlds?

  1. 1
    Dionisio says:

    “Do we live in the best of all possible worlds?”

    Not at all.

    This is a spiritually fallen, accursed world, because it doesn’t love its Creator and it’s written that “If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed!” [1 Corinthians 16:22 (NIV)]

    But at the end of this Age of Grace, those who have remained in Christ shall be in the best world, where “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His servants will worship Him.” [Revelation 22:3 (ESV)].

  2. 2
    polistra says:

    “Once upon a time, it was of great survival value to be worried about everything that could go wrong,”

    Huh? Worrying about everything that could go wrong is ALWAYS good for survival. Our modern problem is not that we no longer need to worry; our problem is that media intentionally feed us a billion worry points that are COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT AND FALSE. Simultaneously media force us to IGNORE fears that truly have survival value. We MUST worry about the mythical image of “global warming” and the mythical image of “Trump”, and we CAN’T worry about the army of foreign criminals and gangsters the government is shipping into our town to destroy it.

  3. 3
    mike1962 says:

    You lost me at “Guardian.”

  4. 4
    Dionisio says:

    best possible world?

    Please, help me with this:

    A recent news report from NBC News:

    http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us.....ks-n787971

    First paragraph:

    The news for tens of thousands of people forced to evacuate two Outer Banks islands of North Carolina got worse Sunday: Authorities said all that three power lines to the remote islands had been damaged and that electricity could be out of commission for as long as two weeks.

    Second statement (just the beginning):

    Authorities said all that three power lines

    Shouldn’t it read instead:

    Authorities said that all three power lines

    That’s not a comment in a discussion thread in UD. That’s a news report published by a major news organization.

    Don’t they have news editors, proofreaders, etc.?

  5. 5
    groovamos says:

    D ~ This is a spiritually fallen, accursed world, because it doesn’t love its Creator and it’s written that “If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed!”

    Wait a minute. A god that waits for you to die so that he can bring vengeance, is an easy god to love? A god that can bring down eternal damnation upon someone’s soul, is easily loved?

    You know, my dog is not spiritually fallen. Somehow my dog knows in its own way that it has a purpose. And who are we to say that my dog does not in its way sense the Divine in its existence? Thus my dog is not fallen. People who fixate on fallen creatures are probably projecting their own fallen state.

    This kind of projection reminds me of atheists who give their excuse for atheism on the cruelty of the food chain and how if they were God the world wouldn’t be that way. They would even tell you this over a steak dinner, never mind the cruelty of the killing sector behind the steak.

  6. 6

    The gift of salvation is easy to love. At least for me.

    The Creator of this world is said to embody love (for righteousness) and hate (for sin). Those who are saved from sin (salvation) are made righteous and will receive love in eternity. Those who deny salvation will die in their sin and receive wrath in eternity.

    You don’t have to like it or believe it, just as I don’t have to like or believe your worldview. We will all find out the truth soon enough.

    A human lifetime is a mere blink of existence.

  7. 7
    Dionisio says:

    groovamos @5:

    “If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed!” [1 Corinthians 16:22 (NIV)]

    Reformation Study Bible provided by Ligonier Ministries:

    These strong words, written in Paul’s own hand, assert the apostolic authority behind the whole letter. This is not a curse on unbelievers in general but on those who reject the authority of the letter (Gal. 1:8, 9; 2 Thess. 3:14, 15).

    Since God created everything, including us, He may dispose of His creation as He wishes.
    However, He has undoubtedly demonstrated agape love to us.

    Those who choose not to love Him back will only get what they want: eternal separation from their loving Creator and His amazing grace.

    Once their souls will find themselves in an eternal graceless existence it will be to late to go back.

    This spiritually lost world is the closest the God haters will be to experiencing -at least a glimpse of- God’s grace.

    But God has provided the Way to reconcile us with Him eternally. Now is the moment to repent and run to our Savior. Tomorrow could be too late.

    One day at the end of this age of Grace every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Christ is Lord. But then the greatest pleasure will be for those who gladly choose to love Him now.

  8. 8
    Dionisio says:

    @4 addendum:

    On Thursday, a construction company building a new bridge over Oregon Inlet to one of the islands accidentally drove a steel casing into a power cable, the Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative said in a statement Sunday.

    Oops!

    Couldn’t they plan in advance, do their homework, to see the potential problems with doing what they were doing thus preventing accidents?

  9. 9
    Dionisio says:

    groovamos @5:

    Did you run out of arguments?

    🙂

Leave a Reply