Acceptance Of The "Accidental" In Atheistic Explan

If God does not exist, this post, here and now, is being created by sheer accident.

Let me explain:

(1) It is widely believed that the world as we know it and experience it, at the bottom level, runs on “automatic pilot”—in the sense that everything: biology, birth, death, love, hate, morality, and so on are determined to have the properties that they in fact have due to the chance collocations of physical energy in the form of up quarks, down quarks, and electrons blindly controlled by gluons, photons, and gravitons (with indirect support from the weak nuclear force, through the enabling of fusion reactions within the Sun to sustain life).

(2) These forces operate continuously “in the dark”–beyond the power of human will. If consciousness is determined by the actions of the physical brain, and if the physical brain is causally maintained by it’s biological and external physical environment working together, then our consciousness and the manifestations of that consciousness are constantly being created and determined by blind, unknowing physical processes going on around us all the time.

(3) Thus, my decision to eat, sleep, go for a run, refuse to call my ex-girlfriend, etc. are actually controlled and determined by the physical world around me, which in turn influences the electronic machine of my brain. My choice and decisions are continuously created by accident—they are the result of continuous mechanically contrived accidents–in the sense that the machine(s) that give rise to my choices were created and are created without intention or knowledge of what is created by unconscious phenomena: physical entities that have no idea what they are currently doing.

(4) The term: “accident” is typically taken to mean “mistake” (a human convention). Yet it is defined in the dictionary as “the absence of intention”. In the physical world (if God does not exist), the entire universe runs by this simple principle of “the absence of intention”, such that what emerges (galaxies, planets, flowers, mountains, the human brain) comes about by balance of forces that luckily possessed the potential to form the relevant objects, should atoms luckily find the relative proximity and work statistically through their various fields to achieve the end product of flowers or brains.

The question arises, then: If God does not exist and the atheists things right, then what nature of accidental universe exist?

(a) Physical predeterminism? A state wherein the past determines the future, and does so by an unknown mechanism that ensures that the universe unfolds with only one outcome?

In this scenario, the death of John Lennon by the hands of Mark David Chapman in 1980 was “preordained” by the physical “trajectory” of our physics----even at the time of the Big Bang. The causal pathway of our particular universe inevitably leads to all events that in fact occur, with no chance of divergence due to an unknown mechanism that works in a maze-like way to prevent particles in spacetime to interact in any other way than that which the “maze” constricts.

(Be careful now: anyone who denies physical predeterminism might have to face the notion that the 2nd law of thermodynamics functions as a loose “maze” in and of itself—in the sense that those microstates that yield maximum entropy are the most likely. This constrains what comes about in a very loose way, yet it is a collocative constraint nonetheless)

(b) Open-ended collocative chance? A state of the universe wherein the laws of physics (mediated by fundamental particles) can automatically form anything possible within interactive ability?

For example, might a giant Rubik’s cube the size of the earth have formed rather than the planet Earth itself, due to molecular luck of the draw? By this reasoning, life need not have emerged at all, despite favorable environment.

Needless, to say, the notion of accidentalness in an atheistic universe, particularly continuous accidentalness in human consciousness and choice, is something not to be ashamed of.

An admittance of the fact that our actions and intentions are what they are because they were unintentional (yet mechanically potentialized) creations of a prepared (in the sense that all of our choices are prepared beforehand within the structure of neurons) yet unconscious physical machine (the brain) operating in concert with it’s physical environment goes a long way in avoiding the common logical disconnect that commonly occurs between a belief that consciousness is constrained to determination of it’s existence by brain processes, and the notion of free will.

Just a thought,

Jay M. Brewer

[An Easy-To-Read Comic Book depicting a hypothesis of what was going on within the mind of Jesus Christ while dying upon the cross—you’ll NEVER feel the same after reading this stuff!]

I think you are begging the question when you assume that something that arises through accidental causes cannot act out of intention.

Reply to Existentialist:

Not at all.

If God does not exist humans have “intention” through the mechanisms granted them by blind and unknowing atoms. This “intention” is itself accidentally contrived—given that our subjective perception of intention is believed to only exist if a physical process in the brain occurs.

I was making the point that our acts of intention must be accidentally contrived by the physical mechanism that makes the intention necessary.

For example, in order for a decision to go to the grocery store to exist:

(1) Neural process x must operate.

(2) Neural process x is accidentally produced (“accident” meaning absence of intention and is not to be confused with “mistake” when it comes to physical processes of the universe) in the sense that neural process x is an autonomous incident of the operation of the human brain and the rest of the universe, as the brain is causally interacting with the physical body in which it resides and the environment surrounding the physical “house” in which it operates.

(3) For an unknown reason, if neural process x should happen to occur, a decision or choice to go to the grocery store emerges.

(Important note: There is no guarantee that it will until it does—unless one subscribes to a physical “deus ex machina”—or a physical deterministic constraint that controls the interaction of the universe’s particles to ensure, for example, that John Lennon is physically predetermined to be killed by Mark David Chapman as a future outcome from the initial condition of the Big Bang—and that this unknown physical constraint ensures that no outcome other than the death of John Lennon at the time, place, and manner is physically possible)

(4) The cerebrum of the human brain of the individual in question in this sense is “prepared” in terms of the choices that it contains (even if the preparedness in question is a “johnny-on-the-spot” preparedness–in the sense that according to certain theories of neural evolution the “correct” neural process forms “just in time” to enable the existence of a particular choice).

Thus a choice to visit the grocery store, to go out on a date, or to kill----must be present beforehand within one’s neurons, waiting for the relevant biochemical process to accidentally cause the neural circuit to fire—given a causal relationship between the relevant circuit and the biological and physical environment that enables the existence of our “choices”.

Thus something that arises through accidental causes can act out of intention, yet that intention is accidentally produced by external forces acting on the individual (unabled to be controlled by the individual) on a continuous basis.

Jay M. Brewer

'If God does not exist, this post, here and now, is being created by sheer accident."

I think you should write,

“…The conditions in which this post will be created came about by sheer accident.”

And few would argue. It seems your opening sentence is misleading and not true to your arguments.

The universe is beyond God / no-God dualities.

There are beings in the universe infinitely more powerful than the combined force of every supposed earth miracle in every human holybook ever written.

The creative capacity for infinite mutable change in the universe is non-isolated to any individual or group of centers. Ex: a human and a super being and an inanimate object can all potentially create, given situation.

Because most theology is a reductionism, it is nearly an insult to the unlimitedness of all realities, but atheism is simply neutral.

To Existentialist:

I admit that my opening statement has a lot more fanfare. But is it deliberately misleading? No.

The statements:

(a) “The conditions in which this post will be created came about by sheer accident.”


(b) “If God does not exist, this post, here and now, is being created by sheer accident.”

------are in effect stating the same thing.

However, (a) could be mistakingly inferred to imply a historical accident working as the “ancestor” of a thread post in the future, such that the Big Bang and chemical abiogenesis resulting in the first life cell are accidental primordial conditions that carry the potential to make our posting in this thread possible in the future.

Thus (a) could be inferred to imply: “this post exists because of the Big Bang and abiogenesis into the first self-replicating cell…once these things happened, the rest is history…”

Statement (b) implies a second-by-second operational accidentalness (this word is in the dictionary, believe me)—in the sense that our posting exists due to a second-by-second operation within our brains, independent of our knowledge and control, supposedly automated by unconscious and blind forces of nature accidentally “doing their thing”—which results in our intention and choice to post in this thread.

However, (a) is taken in this discussion to mean the same as (b).

Admittedly, one can concede that (a) is not as “loaded” and begging for argument as (b).

Jay M. Brewer

To Dan:

I can’t argue against your post. Two individuals making the same non-empircial assertions concerning the nature of reality—without empirical circumstances working out to support one rather than the other—is, once again, a matter of two blind men feeling the side of an elephant and calling it a tree.

Jay M. Brewer

Something has bothered me about your idea since I first read it, and I couldn’t put my finger on it until now. In fact I struggled with my first two responses becuase I failed to realize what it was. (there was acctually much more to both of them which I deleted becuase i was unsatisfied)

Here is what is wrong with your idea. It is based on a misinterpitation of the word accident. You stick to the definition “something that happens with out intention” while that may hold true, it does not encompass all things that happen without intention. (e.g. An apple could be defined as something that is red, yet not all things that are red are apples) Alright now an example of something that happens without intention but could cleary not be classified an accident would be an reaction. Anything from natural phenomena, to chemical reactions, to involuntary mental or psychical activity could hardly be called accident.

Another note; while looking through dictionaries, I did find your definiton of accident, as a second meaning in one entry, though it was by far not the prefered definition. The most common definitions were “mishap” followed by “chance or luck” but the definiton I that I think most fitting for the modern venacular is “an event that happens unexpectedly, without deliberate plan or cause.”

Lastly it is my opinion that the words accident and intention, can only be applied holisticly to cognitive beings and that internal and external processes are exempt.

You are right to point out that the process of consciousness can ultimately be reduced to “physical energy in the form of quarks [etc.]”, but your characterisation beyond that point is inaccurate for two reasons:

  1. Consciousness may necessarily be reducible to processes occurring on the quantum level and all explanations of consciousness must therefore necessarily be constructed in reliance of the laws that govern these processes, but in describing and understanding structures that dwarf the scale of these quantum particles many trillions of times over, quantum mechanics is useless as an explanatory tool. Everything may be made of quarks, but the way these quarks are assembled - according to physical laws - create a complexity that is not best understood at this quantum level.

For instance, three quarks brought together as a proton have quite different proprties to the quarks individually. Many protons and electrons brought together in the form of an atom have quite different properties to the protons and electrons individually. Many atoms brought together in the form of a molecule have quite different properties to the atoms individually. Many molecules brought together in the form of amino acids have quite different properties to the molecules individually. Many amino acids brought together in the form of a protein have quite different properties to the individual amino acids. Many proteins brought together in the form of an internal organ have quite different properties to the proteins individually. We wouldn’t best explain, say, the operation of the liver on the level of quarks (or even the level of proteins for that matter) so why should it be different for the brain?

  1. I’m not sure about your use of the phrase “chance collocations” here. If “chance” merely means “without teleological foresight” then you are correct - the brain is the product of natural processes, not design. If by “chance” you mean that the structure of the brain (on any level: quarks, atoms, proteins - whatever level you like) is the result of “randomness” in the sense that any given outcome is no greater than any other outcome, then you are dead wrong. There is a “random” component in the evolution of biological structures - this is “genetic mutation” (although even genetic mutation is governed by physical laws, so the determinist could convincingly argue that genuine randomness doesn’t exist here either) - but the rest of it is governed by the ruthless vetting process known as “natural selection”. The viability of genes and the biological structures they create removes the “chance” element altogether and can result in structures of incredible complexity, including - as relevent to this thread - the human brain. There is a very good reason for the particular “collocations of physcial energy” in the brain and it has nothing to do with chance.

Have to run now, more to come later.

To Existentialist:

The point that I was trying to put across is that if this is indeed a godless universe, then all processes, including reactions, human affairs and choices, and everything else are the products of unconscious forces acting without intention and knowledge of what they are accidentally bringing about on a second-by-second basis. This is all.

It doesn’t matter if there is a forcibly balanced mechanism at work yielding robust systems that withstand the test of time and environment, the processes intrinsically at work even within robust mechanisms operate “in the dark”.

It is an exotic use of the term: “accident”, and I can see how it is more appropriately termed within human convention.

To jp: I wouldn’t rely on hard assertions concerning the nature of reality. One can argue that we cannot know with certainty (according to Chalmers, “certainty” is an epistemic status whereby one is able to rule out all other counterpossibilities) that the universe is not governed by design that is indistinguishable from a lack thereof.

We only possess a generic virtual reality perception that we intuitively regard as “reality” (with the believe that by sheer luck of the draw our brains are structured as it is, and function as it does, that it yields a rough facsimile of mind-independent external reality). It gives us the perception of forces at work in terms of those forces responsible for abiogenesis yielding the first self-replicating cell and so on, yet we have no insight into the intrinsic essence of these forces.

My use of the phrase: “chance collocation” is borrowed from Bertrand Russell’s assertion that life is nothing more than “a chance collocation of atoms”, meaning that love, hate, morality, choice, and so on are explained (if one assumes that God does not exist or that there is no intelligent power behind the world) by the chance “leggo-block” assembly of nonconscious entities (atoms, etc.) that accidentally formed the relevant concepts.

Just a thought,

Jay M. Brewer

My position isn’t that it is not possible for the universe to be a product of design, but rather that it is not probable. I do not claim epistemic “certainty” about anything, but I would still argue that some claims are demostrably more “certain” than others. In this case, the fact that the universe appears undesigned - with no evidence to the contrary - gives me cause to belive that my “certainty” in the non-design of the universe is well founded.

On the other hand, saying that we can’t pragmatically dismiss the veracity of a claim - even when all available evidence contradicts it - leaves us with a very fragile epistemological foundation. If the mere fact that something is “possible” means that we cannot treat it as false (at least provisionally) then we are going to have trouble forming a cogent system from which we can derive any “truth” about the world at all. This may be your point here - that any claim to truth from empirical observation is an inherent folly - but I would like to see you adopt that epistemic standard as a universal maxim and still develop a philosophy from it that is at all workable.

Luck has nothing to do with it (natural selection will obviously favour senses that faithfully render the environment in which the organism finds itself) and I would argue that our senses present us with far more than a “rough facsimilie” of “external reality”. We know that our senses are hardly precise (we have tools that can tell us about our world in far more detail than our naked senses ever could) but we also know that they give us a fairly accurate rendering of our immediate environment - which explains why we rarely trip over chairs, or saunter casually over burning coals. Beyond lapsing into the logic of Cartesian solipsism, you’d have a hard time arguing the existence of a wide disconnect between noumenal reality and phenomenal reality as we experience it.

Intrinsic essense? What does this mean?

In the Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn makes the point that theories which posit the concept of an “intrinsic essense” are generally found wanting (not least because the invocation of an “instrinsic essense” doesn’t actually explain anything). Scientists used to believe that combustion was an “intrinsic essense” of matter (Plogiston Theory): they were wrong. Scientists used to believe that gravity was an “intrinsic essense” of matter: they were wrong. Scientists used to believe that animus was an “intrinsic essense” of living things: they were wrong.

Broadly speaking, I don’t think that the phrase “intrinsic essense” has much currency. All is contingent: we can only define the property of objects by their relationship to other objects. To this extent, we cannot comprehnsibly describe any object as having an “intrinsic essense”, because the properties of that object are contingent upon the properties of the objects that act upon it and so on and so forth. There is no property of any object that is fixed, permanent or not entirely dependent on the state of the environment that interacts with it.

Firstly, the creation of consciousness from non-conscious atoms is no more problematic than the creation of a square, red block of lego from atoms that are neither square nor red. Complexity of organisation gives rise to structures that have properties that are not “intrinsic” to the constituent parts in isolation (this was the point I was trying to make in my first post). Secondly - as I have already said - “chance” has very little to do with the construction of the human brain.

Besides, if there was a problem here then invoking of a God would hardly provide a solution to it. All you’re doing is deferring the problem of the origin of consciousness onto another entity. Let me ask an honest question: would you consider the origin of this god’s consciousness to be accidental? If not, what is its origin?


I suppose one man’s perception of absence of design is another man’s perception of design. One could argue that what seems to be absence of design is actually design acting in exotic ways. The bible states that God deliberately created the universe in a “futile and decaying manner” in order to do a “makeover” of the universe. For the fun of it? Who knows.

I perceive design. But, to belabor our different psychological perceptions of observed processes of the world (that instigate either perception of design or perception of it’s absence) in this manner would lead us into an infinite regress of the Homer Simpson-like “uh huh, nuh-uh” argument.

I would love to digress on this point.

Natural selection is a mechanical process (physical objects possessing the appropriate physical structure—allowing certain possible interactions with other physical objects—that effect changes upon each other down a particular causal pathway of mechanically potential outcomes). Natural “selection” is a blind and unknowing physical outcome, with no prevision or intention as to what it “accidentally” gives rise to. It’s mechanical luck of the draw, given the existence of mechanical alternatives available to the same systems involved.

The “luck” that I am referring to is not magical fortuity but the " mechanical luck" invoked when a given mechanical process occurs (independent of human intention and human intervention)—given that alternative mechanical possibilites are possible to the mechanism at hand: energy input into a mechanical system capable of a disparate number of possible reactions to the input in it’s formulation of output yields a system that can produce both x and y given the same impingment by the environment, yet “selects” one or the other depending upon the “pinball machine” effect of physical determination.

Atoms of disparate elements forming molecular compounds that then form DNA and self-replicating cells seem to have not been mechanically bound to form DNA and self-replicating cells—there were other possibilites (presumably) present.

That is, presumably atoms, even if creating an environment ripe for the production of life, could have combined within that environment to form things other than life. The emergence of particular phenomena in the world—when other phenomena could have potentially existed in it’s place (had the physical circumstances been different)----is the sort of “luck” to which I am referring. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Our sensory perception, reason, logic, and our “fairly accurate rendering of our immediate environment” are ultimately virtual reality perceptions that occur (according to common acceptance) due to the fact electrical flow occurs to certain regions of a physical object (the brain).

We do not trip over chairs, or saunter casually over burning coals, due to the fact that this is all an aspect and result of the nature of the virtual reality in which we live and walk–with such coordination granted by the machine of the brain. Further electrical stimulation of the relevant mechanism causes it’s subjective product to believe that the simulation is a facsimile of a mind-independent objective reality (another concept created by the mechanism).

The “disconnect” between nuomenal reality (nice term of Kant’s —I’ve always favored it) and phenomenal reality arises from the fact that our phenomenal reality can’t be demonstrated to have properties in such a way that it makes it an absolute necessity that our consciousness must be a facsimile of the nuomenal—and “greater certainty” (if one invokes “degrees of certainty”) does nothing to change this fact (if it is a fact).

To quote:

“When the possibility of “The Matrix” is raised, a question immediately follows. ‘How do I know that I am not in a matrix?’ After all, there could be a brain in a vat structured exactly like my brain, hooked up to a matrix, with experiences indistinguishable from those I am having now. From the inside, there is no way to tell for sure that I am not in the situation of the brain in a vat. So it seems that there is no way to know for sure that I am not in a matrix.”

" The Matrix Hypothesis is one that we should take seriously. As Nick Bostom has suggested, it is not out of the question that in the history of the universe, technology will evolve that will allow beings to create computer simulations of entire worlds. There may well be vast numbers of such computer simulations, compared to just one real world. If so, there may well be many more beings who are in a matrix than beings who are not. Given all this, one might infer that it is more likely that we are in a matrix than that we are not. Whether this is right or not, it certainly seems that we cannot be certain that we are not in a matrix."

—David J. Chalmers, Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Consciousness Studies, Arizona University,The Matrix as Metaphysics

We have no idea what’s going on behind our virtual reality simulation of a world. Our brains do indeed grant us “degrees” of certainty with some being “more certain given the evidence” than others, yet this “more powerful certainty” is simply another aspect of the simulation that is our conscious existence. The objective reality behind it disrespects the so-called “revelatory” powers of this “greater certainty”. There is no right or wrong in our having less of a hold on what might be going on behind the perceptual curtain…if we cannot trust the simulation to tell us a little about what’s going on—why, that’s just the way things are.

All of our “reason” and “logic” are derived from the rules and experiences that are contained “on the inside”—within the virtual reality itself. They may or may not apply (except only in a fortuitously fundamental way) to the “outside”.

We can rely upon “reason” and “common sense” to insist upon the existence of a mind-independent physical realism, yet this “reason” and “common sense” simply exists (according to pertinent belief) due to the pre-existence of certain cellular structures in the cerebral cortex that become electrically stimulated and yield the experience of “reason” and “common sense”.

The brain happens to be structured the way that it is, and functions as it does, in such a way that it yields a virtual reality subjective experience (or so it is believed) as well as cognitive “insistences” (reason, logic, common sense, etc.) that (due to the particular structure and function of the relevant mechanism—our brain) gives rise to a conviction that this virtual reality “somehow must be” a facsimile of an “outer” reality. We can only believe (have faith) that this is so…our “reason” cannot “reveal” that it is undeniably so–and it can’t really make it “more probably so” than a belief in the opposite.


[i]"I don’t know whether the Computational Hypothesis is correct. But again, I don’t know that it is false. The hypothesis is coherent, if speculative, and I cannot conclusively rule it out.

Similarly, if the Computational Hypothesis is true, there are still tables and chairs, and macroscopic reality still exists. It just turns out that their fundamental reality is a little different from what we thought."[/i]

David J. Chalmers, The Matrix as Metaphysics

As fars as the “non-problem” of non-conscious atoms giving rise to subjective experience: this is the core of the famous mind-body problem, in which non-physical conscious experience is somehow created by physical atoms that happen to form into a functioning brain.

According to David Chalmers, unless one adopts the Type-A materialism of Daniel Dennett (which states that consciousness is “nothing but” the neural functions said to give rise to phenomenal states, and that purely phenomenal states are “illusions”), the mind-body problem exists and it is at the foundation of the philosophy of consciousness itself.

Your observation that “complexity of organisation gives rise to structures that have propeties that are not “intrinsic” to the constituent parts in isolation” works fine when you are talking about houses, cars, and engines (and biology): it is a given of collocative mechanics—the world is a leggo-block menagerie of up quarks, down quarks, and electrons.

However (unless you are a Type-A materialist) consciousness does not fit easily within this picture of the world, as it is the only non-physical phenomenon believed to exist (within contemporary atheistic views of the world), and the brain seems to be the only physical object in the universe capable of deriving the only non-physical entity that exists.

(Which conversely is believed to magically cease to exist when the brain ceases to function).

Last but not least, the kind of mechanical “chance” that I am invoking has everything to do with the construction and operation of the human brain, given that other mechanical options are available. Why did I have thought x at time b—when I could have had thought y instead in the same space and time? Why did my neurons fire that way rather than the other at the particular time?

This mechanical “selection” or mechanical “chance” (when a particular action results given that another action could have taken it’s place) is the type of “luck” or “chance” that I invoke when referring to the operations of an atheistic universe.

[Unless of course, there is an inscrutable mechanical constraint that determines that atoms must interact down only one causal pathway, leading to only one future outcome: under this “a line of dominoes-falling-within-a-tight-maze hypothesis”—the death of John Lennon, for example, is “physically predetermined” even from the time of the Big Bang, and so is the origin of life and the construction of the human brain.

Invoking God would hardly provide a solution to the mind/body problem, and I would be deferring the problem of consciousness-origin to another entity. That’s true. But given that I believe that God exists (and am caused to believe that God exists by my neurons)–then the God option is available to me, if not to those who do not believe.

To answer your last question: general conceptions of God hold that God has no origin, in the sense that a humanoid complex consciousness can, like physical energy according to the first law of thermodynamics—simply happen to exist without a beginning, and that there is no “existence-law” or “existence-principle” that prevents this from happening.

Keep up the good work, you’re an interesting challenge.

Jay M. Brewer

(Featuring a shocking cartoon depicting what was going on within the mind of Jesus Christ while dying upon the cross)

To Existentialist:

After much thought, I’ve decided to tentatively concede to your rebukes to my use of the term: “accident”.

If you read the above post to JP (or not) I still tend to think that the “accidentalness” that I invoke pertains to both the secondary meaning of “absence of intention” (although I am willing to suspend this as to weak for any practical use)…and “mechanical accident” in the sense that mechanical alternatives were available given the same hypothetical input into a mechanism.

For example: if neuron a fires giving rise to the thought: “I’m late for work”----one could argue that this is a mechanical accident of the brain operating down a particular causal pathway when it could have easily moved down another—possible within the neural circuitry living in the same neighborhood: the relevant neural process could have transmitted down a neighboring neural circuit within the cerebrum giving rise to forgettfulness concerning the need to go to work and yielding the thought: “I’m going to the movies”.

At any rate, good posts of yours.

Jay M. Brewer