George Elliss paper
combines reflections on the Anthropic Principle with the theology of William
Temple. He calls this a Christian
Anthropic Principle, which seeks to account for the particular character of
the universe in terms of the design of God who intends the evolution of
creatures endowed with <!g>free will and the ability to worship the Creator. Ellis thereby hopes to provide a synthesis
of science and theology which will take into account recent work in <!g>cosmology
and provide a better understanding of how these two fields might be
Ellis begins by
distinguishing between the patterns of understanding in science and in
theology. Still, both religion and
science can be relevant when we consider the nature of the universe and its
ultimate cause. Five approaches to such
a cause are available: random chance,
which is unsatisfactory unless one accepts reductionism; high probability as in
chaotic cosmology, which is hard to quantify; necessity (only one kind of
physics is consistent with the universe), but since the foundations of the
sciences are debatable, an argument from the unity of the sciences is far from
available; universality (all that is possible happens), but such Many Worlds
arguments are controversial and probably untestable; and design of the laws of
physics and the choice of boundary conditions.
Design requires a <!g>transcendent Designer.
The Anthropic Principle (AP)
speaks to two questions: why do we
exist at this time and place
(Weak AP), and why does the universe permit evolution and our existence at any time or place (Strong AP)? The Strong AP can be linked to <!g>quantum
mechanics through the role of the observer, but this is controversial and it
leaves unanswered the question of why quantum mechanics is necessary. Thus Ellis looks for ultimate causes beyond
the confines of science. Religion can
provide just such an approach, since it is capable of dealing with ultimate
causation without being incompatible with science.
Ellis provides a Christian
setting for the design argument by describing the essential core of New
Testament teaching based on Temples theology and his own Quaker
perspective. God is understood as
creator and sustainer, embodying justice and holiness. God is personal, revealed most perfectly in
Jesus, and active in the world today.
The Kingdom is characterized by generosity, a forgiving spirit and
loving sacrifice. The universe arose as
a voluntary choice on the part of the Creator, made because it is the only way
to attain the goal of eliciting a free response of love and sacrifice from free
This interpretation of
divine action guides Ellis in his proposal of a Christian Anthropic Principle
(CAP), combining design with divine omnipotence and transcendence. The nature, meaning and limitations of
creation are determined by the fundamental aim of Gods loving action, that of making
possible in our universe the reality of sacrificial response. Gods design, working through the laws of
physics and chemistry, allows for the evolution of such modes of life in many
places in the universe. From this
viewpoint, fine-tuning is no longer regarded as evidence for a Designer, but
rather is seen as a consequence of the complexity of aim of a Designer whose
existence we are assuming . . .
This entails five
implications for the creation process.
The universe must be orderly so that free will can function. God attains
this goal through creating and sustaining the known physical laws which allow
for the evolution of creatures with consciousness and free will. God has also given up the power to intervene
directly in nature. The existence of
free will makes pain and evil inevitable and requires that Gods providence be
impartial. Moreover, God must remain
hidden from the world, allowing for <!g>epistemic distance. God achieves both an impartial providence
and epistemic distance through the impartiality of the laws of nature. Yet revelation must be possible, so that God
can disclose to the faithful an ethical basis for life. None of this contradicts the standard
scientific understanding of the universe, but adds an extra layer of explanation
for the universe and its laws that is basically <!g>metaphysical. Finally, Ellis turns to quantum
indeterminacy to provide a basis for divine inspiration. Other forms of intervention or action are
thus excluded, including amplification by chaotic systems; these would greatly
exacerbate the problem of evil.
While Ellis has argued that
it is highly probable that life exists throughout the universe, he claims that
the number of individuals in the universe must be finite if God is to be able
to exercise care for each. If the
universe were infinite instead, it would not be possible for God to have the
requisite knowledge of the infinite number of individuals and their infinite
number of relations to one another.
Thus the <!g>SETI project is of tremendous religious significance in
testing the hypothesis of a caring creator.
CAP leads us to the
following questions: is our physical
universe the only way to achieve the divine intention? how, more precisely, is the ultimate purpose
imbedded in, and manifested by, the laws of physics? what proof can be given for CAP?
To the latter question Ellis argues that the evidence for CAP is
stronger than evidence for inflation or the quantum creation of the
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