The Brighter principle: a parable

Greg Brighter was obsessed with finding a unifying theory that would explain the cosmos. Surely there must be one principle that would allow him to explain all other principles based on it. He would argue that mathematically there was a higher dimensional level that could explain all the postulated particles and their behavior better than any preceding theory.

As he worked through the writings of other philosophers, however, he noticed arguments for how finely tuned the universe was to allow the existence of life. The exact figures for the improbabilities of a chance explanation varied, but even at the minimum figures seemed almost impossible. Could this fine tuning point to some meaning in the universe? He might explain the current universe or even its principles as mathematically necessary, but even if that were so, the outcome was so improbably fortuitous he had to wonder at why this necessity was itself necessary.

Further, some suggested that it was difficult to explain self-replicating DNA based on chance. Experts regarding information content noted the problem with complex information systems deriving from random arrangements with low information content. Billions of years ago the universe had a lot of hydrogen and helium, but still insufficient carbon for bonding into larger molecules and cool planetary surfaces on which life could form. Some reckoned that the information content in the universe at that time was only 1080, based on the estimated number of particles in the universe; yet subsequently a simple bacterium had an information content of perhaps 1010,000. DNA was millions of times more complex than human-constructed sentences, which we ordinarily attribute to at least a little bit of intelligence; Stephen Jay Gould had rightly doubted there could be any miracle claim today as miraculous as DNA. The fairly sudden explosion of more complex forms over a few million years during the Cambrian explosion also offered a matter for consideration.

It almost looked as if an intelligence had designed the principles of the universe—and an intelligence benevolent toward the existence of life, even eventually sentient life, and ultimately life capable of abstract reasoning, such as that of Brighter himself.

He noticed that many other thinkers offerered an alternative to this scenario. Perhaps there were a virtually infinite number of universes, and this just happened to be the one where life could form. A universe one could imagine might be a possible universe; this would not make it a real universe, but it seemed possible nevertheless. Yet Ockham’s Razor, a basic principle of logic, suggested that the simplest solution was the best, and a single principle was more plausible than an infinite number of universes. If the data could be explained either way, therefore, the single principle was better. Indeed, if there were infinite universes, he would still want a single principle to explain why all these universes existed in such a way that one led to the existence of sentient life, especially life as intelligent as Dr. Brigher. Besides, he was looking for a single principle, so it was better for his own career to get to this single principle as efficiently as possible!

But Brighter wanted to make sure that no one thought this intelligent and benevolent principle he was espousing should be called God. This was not just to keep his view from being dismissed as some Medieval dogmatism, but also a matter of reason. After all, why would a god choose to work through long and sometimes random processes? Granted, Brighter knew of some theists who recognized that the universe was billions of years old, but this still did not make sense to Brighter on the hypothesis of a god. Why wouldn’t this god create everything perfectly and in an instant? Surely, Voltaire was surely right to criticize Leibnitz for thinking that the present universe was the best of all possible worlds. Brighter could not imagine an infinite god who would consider that reasonable, knowing that Brighter himself must be brighter than such a god would be.

So Brighter simply deemed his discovery a basic principle, which he named after himself, the Brighter Principle. The idea caught on, and soon teachers were disabusing their foolish theistic students, showing them that existence, even sentient existence, could not point to a god. Rather, it was easily explained, as all people current on contemporary thought knew, simply by the Brighter Principle.

Let those who have ears hear (cf. Rom 1:19-23)

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