Philosopher foresees future “worship” of a conscious universe

by | Apr 25, 2024 | Consciousness, Consciousness Theories, Nature of God, Philosophy, Spirituality, Story Ideas | 0 comments

March/April 2024

Is secular science and philosophy trying to find a middle ground between religion and atheism? Philosopher Philip Goff suggests just that in an interview with Scottish newspaper The Herald.

Goff is a leading proponent of panpsychism — the theory that everything in the universe, from elementary particles to galaxies — possesses some form of consciousness. In this article, he discusses cosmopsychism, which could be considered an extravagant, or elevated, form of panpsychism. Cosmopsychism is the idea that the universe as a whole is “a conscious mind with its own goals”.

This is a notch closer to the tenet of idealism, the philosophical orientation that posits that consciousness is primary (i.e. precedes matter) and not just a fundamental element in all things.

According to the British philosopher, the proof is the fascinating fine-tuning of the universe, which has given rise to intelligent life. If, for example, the nuclear force or the mass of an electron had been just the tiniest bit different, the universe would have been merely a chaotic soup rather than the immensely organised abundance of everything that it actually is.

“Once you pass a certain point of improbability, it’s no longer rational to say it’s a fluke”, he said.

His argument against a religious god, on the other hand, is the existence of suffering. Hence the need for a middle ground.

“Perhaps new worship practices will emerge as society takes both the fine-tuning that rules out atheism, and suffering that rules out God, seriously”, Goff said.

Cosmopsychism clearly approaches spiritual descriptions of life and the universe. Philip Goff notes that people in the West are “trained” to be skeptical of anything that smacks of religion and don’t often consider their own “secular bias”.

However, as it is presented in the article, the theory mainly deals with the physical universe. There is no mention of the quasi-spiritual quantum world, nor the possibility that there might be a purpose for what we perceive as evil and suffering.

Spiritual traditions other than – and much older than – Abrahamic religions offer some beautiful indicators of the nature of reality, based on experience and phenomenology rather than cognition.

After the interview, journalist Neil Mackay is left wondering, “If the universe is conscious, and if that consciousness did indeed set the conditions for life, then who – or what – created the universe?”

More on Goff’s philosophy can be found on his website and books on consciousness and meaning.

Anders Bolling

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