It was only a few moments ago that I overheard a couple having something of a heated argument. Of course, this is neither here nor there in regard to the subject at hand. Nonetheless, this was the context in which I heard the latest manifestation of the statement mentioned in the post’s title.
This post (at least for the present moment) does not have at its intent to serve as a full on philosophical argument against such statements. However, it does serve to lay down an initial thought that would serve as the foundation to one as such.
The young man, in the middle of his tirade, claimed that “The ‘Universe’ is trying to tell me…” and, of course, the young female claimed “But perhaps the ‘Universe’ is trying to say…” From past experience, I know that this was not a mere figure of speech, but coincides with their Weltanschauung, or worldview. Even so, I believe it remains silly.
For instance, one might ask “What is the universe?”
I would argue that I look at something in front of me, say this chair to my right. Clearly, this is at least part of such a universe. Does this chair say anything at all? Of course not. It is a “collocation of atoms” possessing the form of a chair. But it does not “say” anything simply because only personal agents say anything. Does this beg the question? Perhaps.
But if one cannot put forth an actual example of a non-personal, or non-sentiant, existing thing that “speaks” or “guides,” then I will assume the stronger premise to be that only personal agents say or speak in any meaningful sense of the terms.**
Now, suppose I pair two of these chairs together. Even still, though I add a chair to the mix, they still do not say anything, or lead me to do anything – two chairs are just as much an impersonal agent (that is, non-personal) than one chair. Suppose, for good measure, I had another chair, perhaps a pile of dirt, a corn cob, and a rabbit pellet. I am not sure how adding other material, non-personal existing things, would provide this new pile of stuff with the ability to “speak or guide.” I imagine that we could add more and more to our pile; all the existing things, collocation of atoms with whatever form they possess, until we have added all of that which is the universe. If small piles of things within the universe do not seem to have the ability to speak, lead, guide, etc. why should one believe that by increasing that pile (with all existing things that compose the universe) would provide any more reason to believe that that would have the ability to “speak, lead, guide,” etc.?
One might answer that this larger pile includes human-beings, and other advanced primates, that do have the ability to speak, lead, guide, etc. Sure it would. But that would only be admitting that is personal agents that possess such an ability. Or, one might charge that I am committing something like the fallacy of composition; that which makes up (the parts) of the universe may not be personal agents, but that does not entail that the Universe, as a whole, may not be greater than the sum of its parts – this could open the possibility that the universe as a whole is personal. However, I just do not see that this objection would work either. Sure, there are times that the fallacy of composition does, and should, apply (all of the parts of the elephant are light. Therefore, the elephant, as a whole, must be light – is surely false). But just how would the fallacy be appropriate or applicable here, in regard to the universe, without it being mere assertion? One would have to draw some some sort of logical connection discounting any relation between the apparently essential abilities of non-personal agents and personal agents. In other words, if we are simply claiming that it is the nature of non-personal ‘things’ to be non-personal, (and from all that we actually observe, that seems to be more than justified) then it is not fallacious to say that “Adding more of them together will still not produce something contrary to its nature; or contrary to what it is.” For example, if every part of the elephant is gray, then the whole elephant is gray – and if every existing thing that exists, a non-personal collocation of atoms possessing some form, is piled together (or simply left where they are at the moment for all practical purposes) it would seem to remain the case that the universe just is a non-personal collocation of atoms (or pile of them), as well. But again, if ten chairs, rocks, mountains, and frog terds do not have the ability to “speak, lead, or guide,” then why would a trillion of them, collectively, be able to do so?
I would argue that this just is what the universe is, logically speaking, minus some sort of equivocation.
And if this is true, then it would therefore be nonsense to claim that “the Universe” is trying to “tell you” anything at all. The “Universe” just doesn’t say (or lead) anything – just because of what it is. It would just not be that kind of thing. If and only if personal agents and sentient beings do as much, and the universe is not one of them, then clearly the universe does not say, lead, guide any person.
Or, possible bad news for “Universe” devotees… What if the Universe is trying to tell you something – but it is actually this:
Lastly, almost all of the most scientifically credible, and even stronger philosophical, positions affirm that the universe actually came into being.That is, the universe did not exist, and then the universe came to exist. If that is true, then why ought I listen to “the Universe” as opposed to whatever it was that brought it forth?
But it does seem possible that God, if theism is correct, being an actual personal agent and all, could lead, speak, or guide – which seems to be what they actually want without wanting.
Well, kiss my grits. That seems a bit more intuitive.
** One might say that he “hears the Universe speak even if you do not.” Fine. But I do not. And until I “hear” or “feel” anything beside a person, or sentient being do as much, I “feel” justified in keeping the premise.