Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Scientific Pantheism"-contradiction in terms, and a form of PanDeism in actuality.

 "Scientific Pantheism". If you've paid attention to the New Atheist movement, and read some of their polemics you will have noticed this view and label plugged and promoted by many of these Atheists. Evolutionary Biologist and Atheist polemicist Richard Dawkins in his book "The God Delusion" dubs it as "sexed up atheism" and puts many famous Agnostic and Deist thinkers under it's heading, such as Albert Einstein for one example. Just what is "Scientific Pantheism"?

 Scientific Pantheism is a new movement of people dubbing themselves Pantheists and using the term God as a metaphor for the mathematically precise logically ordered natural laws that govern the universe. Many of them consider themselves exactly what Dawkins called them- 'sex up atheists". Romantic atheists. And these "Scientific Pantheists" even have webpages masquerading as PanTHEISM.
But are they Atheists? Are they Pantheists{certainly ACTUAL Pantheists would strongly disagree that they are} And does their label make sense? I will argue in this article that Scientific Pantheism is self-contradictory and that in actuality it is a form of Deism{or a sub-type of PanDeism}, not Atheism nor Pantheism.

 Let me define a few terms/concepts first:

 Theism: Strong 100% certain unquestioning belief, based on faith and personal revelation{which may or may not include institutional dogmatic religions} in a personal gods or gods that is anthropocentric{human centered}, interventionist, and in most cases anthropomorphic{human like/ a person}. It comes in many sub-categories, from simple theism, to monotheism, to polytheism, henotheism, pantheism & panentheism, and so on. It also is plagued by things such as the philosophical so-called problem of evil/suffering as well as usually{not always} by dualistic thinking and false dichotemies{pantheism and panentheism are'nt neccaserily}. Agnostic-Theism cannot logically work since theism by defnition requires that the god or gods be personally revealed and worshipped by faith. To question at all would mean one has not had a personal theistic god or gods revealed to them, and hence they are not a theist at all, there can logically be no degrees of it, because eeither he/she or they have personally reevaled themselves or they have'nt, if they have'nt there is no logic in beeing theistic at all.

 Deism: Belief, generally based in reason, that the laws and nature of the universe imply or indicate the existence, or probable existence, of a non-personal, non-interventionist, non-anthropomorphic & non-anthropocentric calculating & creative{ie: "intelligent" if one wishes to use that term} force, one may choose to call "God" for conventions sake. God is not a name or even proper title for it, just a conventional term used, for some deists like a metaphor for the force that goversn the logical, mathematically precise, law-like nature of the cosmos. The first cause, the prime mover, the fine tuner, or even just the summation of  the laws and/or the over-arching law that governs the universe{which may have pre-existed our known time/space universe before the big bang, may have pre-existed or even been the so-called "singularity"; or may even be the laws or law themselves/itself- a Natural God or "Natures God". "God" as a non-person metaphor for this logical law-like nature of our universe}. Deism has a few sub-ceategories as it has evolved over time since the term was invented.. From MonoDeism{or simply "Deism"}, to PanDeism and PanenDeism. Deists may logically be Agnostic in degrees, unlike theists, because the God of deism is not eprsonal nor revealed, the belief in it is arrived at or "leaned towards" by reason,logic, and observation of the natural universe and by philosophizing, thus one can logically lean towards some degree of probability that it exists without being certain{unlike with theism}. Thus, given what Theism is, and what deism is, a deist can also be logically Anti-heistic{or opposed theism and revelation and/or revealed religion}. Deists can also be STRONG Deists, making their beleif faith-based[I also often argue that STRONG Atheism is faith-based}- theer is no way one can logically say they know that strongly one way or the other whatever the universe is deistic or atheistic. middle road Agnosticism right between Atheism and Deism is logically the objective de-fault{though atheisst and deists; soft or strong, will hold their view to be their subjective de-fault}. In Deisms, the Deus{or God} is not good nor evil. Good and evil, luight and dark, male/female, and all false binaries or dichotemies or dualisms are mere biased value judgements or aesthetic judgements, not what the universe actually is. Thus God is'nt any or even a combo of these, but beyond such limited biased value/aesthetic judgements. God is not good nor evil, light nor dark, male nor female,etc. God just IS. Thus philosophical problems such as the so-called "problem of evil/suffering" are of no consequence to Deism or the existence of the Deus, given that they are merely tainted by our value judgements and aesthetics judgements as one animal species on one planet{and so on for other creatures/animals that exist or may exists elsewhere}.

 It is pertinant to interject here on the fact that though deistic ideas before the arrival of the term and philosophy of "Deism" in the 17-1th century would've fallen under "theisms" umbrella and when it first came about was synonymous with theism or a liberal form of theism. Deism was a radically different vision of the divine from theism from the very get go, and hence over  time has evolved and become it's own unique umbrella category of belief with it;s own set of sub-categories. This nature of deism could be seen from the early days in the fact that it's adherents or promoters were often charged by atheists with beeing of the theists camp and by theists of beeing of the atheists camp, as a type of the others. And yet some others in both camps tried to claim deism and deists as part of their own tradition or camp; these issues persist to this day unfortuantely. It is logically neccasery to seperate Deism from both. Yes Deists believe in God, but the deists view of god is radically different from that of the theists, deists and theists agree on one point, that of belief in a Creator or Emantor of some sort{God}. The fundamental distinction between theism and deism is that theism envisions a god or many gods who are persons, personal, and interventionist- all which require either collective and/or individual direct "revelation", and also often anthropomrophism & anthropocentrism; whereas the god envisioned by the deists is the opposite of all the above, non-personal/interventionist and not a "person" and non-anthopomorphic/centric.
 In practical actuality Deists have more common points of view or methodology with Atheists and Agnostics. Deism could be said be a marriage or combo of or the child of the uniting of all the most logical aspects of theism, atheism, and agnosticism Yet, it is neither. It is and remains distinctly it's own unique category, as seen by it's history and nature and what others have gleened from it.
Thsi all I mention in order to make it clear that Deism, as I define it, and as I can see the only way of logically dooing so, as it's own unique category, not a form of theism or atheism.

 Atheism: belief theer is no god{STRONG Atheism}, or lack of belief in god or gods{SOFT/Agnostic-Atheism}.

 Agnosticism= "without knowledge". Agnsostic as a term can be applied to any question, concept ior context. But since the term in usually used by people in connection with the god question and by those defining themselves as Agnostic regarding the question{ie: those right between atheism and deism}, for sake of argument I shall here define it as "uncertainty about god; whether to be atheist or deist; thus picking the right between and saying 'I DON'T KNOW' period, nor do you"{a refusal to take a leaning towards atheism or deism until either ir proven or shown to be MUCH more probable, to be personally convinced in one direction or the other}.

 PanTheism: The belief the universe is synonymous with God, but not JUST so, but with beeing a "personal", revelatory god. the universe is a concious personal deity of which we and everythign are part of. PanTheism, beeing a theism requires this "personal" and 'revelation" aspect to be PanTHEISM.
 Thus "Scientific PanTHEISM" as a term and concept is incoherent and self-contradictory. The question is then, are sci-pans atheists? or something else?

 PanDeism/PanenDeism: first one= the belief{to one degree or another} that a individual conciousness pre-existed csomos and essentially annhilated itself{or possibly "emanated"} and became cosmos, a now unconcious natural god of sorts experiencing individual non-existence, all information and all conciosuness in the cosmos now beeing it.
Second one= The belief{to one degree or another} that the Universe is part of a non-personal, non-revealed, non-humanlike/centered "God" but not the whole of it.
 PANDEISM{and PanenDeism} can also include the belief that the universe simply is synonymous with a non-personal, non-anthropomorphic/centric, non-interventionist Natural God; and the idea that an individual concious/self-aware force pre-existed cosmos is not neccaserily needed for the equation of beeing PanDeism or PanenDeism{or at least PanDeism anyhow}. That God is merely information, that God is the summation of the governing natural laws and/or the over-arching law governing. These laws are percieved to be limited in number, mathematically precise, rational or logical, comprehensible or undertandable by reason and logic{kinda like how the scientific method and enterprise by neccesity is based on the idea that the universe is rationally comprehendable and the laws are thus; if they are not, if they are not logically natured/ordered and comphrenensible than of what "objective" use/reality is the scientific enterprise/method?}, and also that even these laws likely are governed by some over-arching law as yet not understood; even in the case of the big bang, we only know what was only milliseconds afer the fact, the exact moment of it or the "before"{if I may use that term, as time came into existence with space; at least time as WE know/undertand in OUR universe- the only one we do know of thus far} we don't know anything beyond that. What sparked it? What was the singularity exactly? Did our unvierse come from quantum vaccum? Did it bubble off of a multiverse? Did it always exist but simply happen to be going through an infinite series of expasions and retractions/oscillations? No matter what theory wins out in the end{if any} it is logic to presume that the vaccum, the multiverse, the oscillating one universe, whatever, is eternally governed by some set of laws or by an over-arching law.

 Thus, the existence of natural laws and governing law is logically probable as an inherent part of all that exists, and those laws if given time can be logically comphrehended and understood by rational, sentient, evolved creatures{if they ahppen to exist; if they did'nt, the laws themselves would still exist and wouylsd still be of a certain order and law-like nature}. PanDeism/PanenDeism are not "creationist", but at the very most "Ematationism", our universe emanated from something, be it a quantuum vacum, multiverse, itself oscillating/expanding and contracting or remolding/shaping itself,etc.

 So, the universe is governed by these mathematically precise, logical, comprehensible forces that are law-like, or by laws, and likely be some over-arching law. Because these laws seemingly are of such nature and are seemingly creative and calculating...we could combine those two concepts as "intelligence". "Intelligence" does not mean "human-like"or "human centered" anymore than suggesting that computers, supercomputers, A.I., non-human animals, units of information, etc, are in some sense "intelligence".

 These are points that the so-called "scientific pantheism" would tend to agree on, hence why they are so awe-struck as to use metaphors like "god",etc. But if they are atheists, they would simply just accept the intricate law-like nature of the unvierse as awe-striking but not use that metahpor, they'd just be atheists. I suspect some are simply atheists. Why use that metaphor if the universe is NOT logically/rationally mathematically precisely ordered by said laws & logically comprehensible? If it's just absurd, than why use these metaphors?
So, if so-called "Scientific Pantheists" are bsing their label and their views on these very facts of non-personal, non-anthropomorphic/centric, non-inteventionist, creative and calculating forces or natural laws that are yet rationally/logically, mathematically precise, comprehensible natural laws, and are so awe-struck by these laws and/or the theorized over-arching law governing them. they are actually Deists, to be precise a form of PanDeists/PanDeism. Because Scientific Pantheists rational views and romanticism are identical to that of many PanDeists/PanenDeists. PanDeism and PanenDeism are not contratctory to themsleves{nor evidence and logic}, whereas Scientific PanTHEISM is self-contradictory as a term.

In conclusion, it is my contention that Scientific Pantheists are a form of PanDeist{or possibly PanenDeist}, but they are NOT "PanTHEISTs" at all. Some may be Atheists, and should probably just be consistent and call themselves that, even to use the term "God" as a metaphor for the laws of the universe disqualifies one from beeing "Atheist".

So Scientific Pantheists, I invite you to be what you are and to choose a label for your views that is more self-consistent, such as PanDeism.
; )


  1. Good points, but I think you may need to research pantheism more. There is a lot of misinformation out there that can confuse people easily, but as I understand it, pantheists believe everything is made of the same thing: matter (rather than spirits). There are variations within it, but all pantheists have in common a strong reverence and respect for nature and the universe. Check several sites on pantheism before you make claims to their beliefs. Other than that, a good discussion.

  2. You have completely misunderstood and/or misrepresented Scientific Pantheism, and your description of what Pantheism is in general in inaccurate.
    Pantheists regard the Universe as their "Higher power." Scientific Pantheists do not believe the Universe has a consciousness of it own nor that there is any conscious being that created it.
    As far as facts go, it agrees 100% with science and is quite compatible with atheism.
    Deism assumes a conscious creator and is therefore by most definitions a form of theism - as Dawkins puts it "watered-down theism."
    Paul Harrison