A cosmos with purpose?

By Greg Spearritt

Philip Goff, Professor of Philosophy at Durham University UK, suggests in his new book Why? The Purpose of the Universe (2023) that the notion of a purposeful cosmos can be defended not just philosophically, but scientifically. 1. The idea is, unsurprisingly, quite popular with liberal-thinking Christians.

In Our Benevolent Cosmos, John Humphreys (2021) says:

God was unmanifested energy before the Big Bang. Afterwards, God’s loving Divinity was manifested and progressively revealed through an expanding, benevolent, evolving and intelligent cosmos. All humans share their oneness in this earth with the natural, living world. We are form expressions of the Divine Power, and co-creators of the evolving cosmos. 2.

These books are positive and life-affirming, and argue for the need to ditch traditional western thinking, including much Christian doctrine, about ourselves vis-à-vis the rest of the natural world (and universe).

As I’ve noted elsewhere, however, I’m puzzled about why Christians who accept the science on evolution can persist with the idea that the Universe, even if purposeful, is benevolent. Hear the words of one Catholic contributor to The New York Times, writing in 1996 after a proclamation by Pope John Paul II endorsing the theory of evolution:

What can one say about evolution, even a spiritual theory of evolution? Pain and suffering, mindless cruelty and terror are its means of creation. Evolution’s engine is the grinding of predatory teeth upon the screaming, living flesh and bones of prey… If evolution be true, my faith has rougher seas to sail. 3.

If the Cosmos is indeed purposeful, it seems it has adopted the philosophy that the ends justify the means.

Disclaimer: views represented in SOFiA blog posts are entirely the view of the respective authors and in no way represent an official SOFiA position. They are intended to stimulate thought, rather than present a final word on any topic.

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash