Friday, October 19, 2018

Paradise on earth

Fourthly, what natural evils a world contains depends not just on the laws, but also on the initial, or boundary conditions. Thus, for example, an omnipotent being could create ex nihilo a world which had the same laws of nature as our world, and which contained human beings, but which was devoid of non-human carnivores. Or the world could be such that there was unlimited room for populations to expand, and ample natural resources to support such populations.

Because Tooley's argument is so terse, I'm not sure how he'd develop it, but the thrust of his argument appears to be tolerably clear, so I'll operate with what I take to be the implicit argument.

i) There are limits, even severe limits, on what an omnipotent being can naturally do. An omnipotent being can often circumvent natural processes to produce an outcome directly–although there are some limits on that as well–but when it comes to a world that operates according to physical cause and effect, the finite medium imposes many constraints on what's feasible consistent with natural forces and processes. 

ii) I'm struck by how often atheists who pride themselves on their commitment to hard science veer off into superficial and unbridled speculations about how nature could be different. A world with only herbivores would require so many adjustments that it's hard to imagine in detail. 

iii) What does he mean by a world with unlimited room? Does he mean something like earth scaled up to the size of Jupiter or the Sun or VY Canis Majoris? What about the Hayashi limit? 

Is it naturally possible for a celestial object that size to be a platform for an earth-like biosphere? Likewise, if you scale up the earth, consider all the adjustments to the solar system that are necessary to make earth biofriendly. 

iv) Or does he mean a planet that's still the size of earth, but where every region is hospitable? Is it naturally possible for the earth to have a uniformly hospitable climate? Don't differences in altitude and latitude entail climatic differences? Isn't there a necessary interplay between hospitable and inhospitable zones? Take the water cycle. Doesn't that require dramatic zonal contrasts? Take mountain ice caps. What about wind systems? 

v) Part of what makes the earth so interesting is the wide variety of landscapes and ecological zones. Some magnificent landscape aren't very hospitable. Take the Alps, the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, &c. Yet these are tourist attractions.

There are people who live in less hospitable regions by choice. Folks who live in Alaskan outback because they like the wild, the challenge, the out of doors. 

You have folks like George and Joy Adamson who move to the Serengeti, which is loaded with dangerous animals and diseases, because they love wild animals. They love the out of doors. Take scuba divers. Take mountain-climbers. Take astronauts. 

Tooley sounds like a risk-averse city-slicker who spends all his life in climate-controlled buildings. That's not everybody's idea of paradise. 

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