Is it good for a Universe to be governed by simple laws?

  • Clarifying the question

    Is it good for the Universe to be such that it is governed by elegant laws which are amenable to scientific investigation, rather than choatic and unintelligible?

    The property of the Universe operating in regular ways in virtue of its physical laws is called “nomic regularity.”

“Yes, after all…
  • Intuitively, it is seen as intrinsically good

    Just intuitively, it seems that an elegant law-governed world is intrinsically good.1

    1. The goodness of elegance here is intuitively recognized. For example, there is a long tradition of theologians and thinkers who find the notion of a God who ingeniously creates in such a way that requires little intervention and modification far more praiseworthy. They decry notions of a God who is a constant cosmic tinkerer, who created a great machine (the Universe) for his purposes, and yet finds it going "off-course," requiring God to intervene regularly to make compensating adjustments that could have been accounted for if he created the machine differently to begin with. There is some widely-recognized intuitive pull to their complaint, and it seems to be grounded in the intuition that a law-governed world with minimal intervention is intrinsically good and speaks well of its creator. So, all other things being equal, it is to preferred.
      >Jeremiah 33:25 -- “Thus says the LORD, 'If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established,

      Jeremiah 10:12 -- It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom; And by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens.

      Psalm 19:1 -- The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. (cf. Rom 1:19-20)
      Intuitively, the most praiseworthy God is a gardener rather than a landscaper. That is to say, it seems the most praiseworthy kind of God is one who "plants seeds," in accordance with a grand plan, setting things in motion, and intervenes minimally to direct a natural course of growth. This is as opposed to a landscaper who employs none of the foresight and only a fraction of the planning, but simply plops things into existence directly according to his vision. There is at least something more elegant and praiseworthy about the patient and skilled gardener who produces the same effect as the landscaper.
  • Accentuating the “moral arena” is good

    Accentuating or producing a Moral Arena is good. (What is a moral arena?)1 This is relevant because a moral arena requires that the world's law-like regularities operate in an ordered and predictable way.2

    1. Moral Arena = def. A community of persons with physical bodies and moral beliefs, in an environment where they can deliberate, make morally significant decisions, and set in motion courses of action which really matter for themselves and others.
    2. Insofar as a Moral Arena requires agents to be able to set a goal and choose a course of action, it requires a knowable natural order. Otherwise,

      (a) The agent could not form the intention.

      (b) The agent wouldn’t know what actions to take to bring about his intention.

      But if the world behaved chaotically in ways that prevented the discerning of natural laws which the agent could count on, the world would also preclude the agents ability to set goals, and deliberate over setting in motion courses to bring them about.

      F. R. Tennant: “[A] physical order characterized by law and regularity. … is an essential condition of the world being a theatre of moral life. Without such regularity in physical phenomena there could be no probability to guide us: no prediction, no prudence, no accumulating of ordered experience, no pursuit of premeditated ends, no formation of habit, no possibility of character or of culture. [Philosophical Theology (Cambridge, 1928), ii. 199–200.] In order to be able to make a difference in how things go in their world, creatures must be situated in an environment in which their choices lead to results which are, at least typically, of the sort the agent intends. [136.] This is in turn good for many other things. (E.g. for soul-making etc.); Rationality is good (reasoning to the truth).; Good for responsibility; You can extend your powers etc.

      Richard Swinburne: “if God is to allow us to acquire knowledge by learning from experience and above all to allow us to choose whether to acquire knowledge at all or even to allow us to have very well-justified knowledge of the consequences of our actions—knowledge which we need if we are to have a free and efficacious choice between good and bad—he needs to provide natural evils occurring in regular ways in consequence of natural processes. Or rather, he needs to do this if he is not to give us too evident an awareness of his presence.” [Providence and the Problem of Evil (Oxford, 1998), 194.]; “Embodiment in a world governed by simple laws of nature secures the goal of an initial limited repertoire of power and knowledge, and a means (by discovering those laws) for extending it. God has this reason for making a universe with simple laws of nature: to provide for embodied beings to have a limited repertoire of power and knowledge and a means of extending it.” [Providence and the Problem of Evil (Oxford, 1998), 105.]See T. J. Mawson ‘The Possibility of a Free-will Defense for the Problem of Natural Evil’, Religious Studies, 40 (2004), 23–42. The point has been made by many:
      >Bruce Reichenbach: “without regularity of sequence [in cause and effect based on a natural order], agents could not entertain rational expectations, make predictions, estimate probabilities, or calculate prudence. They would not be able to know what to expect about any course of action they would like to take. Whether or not such action would be possible, or what they would have to do to have God bring it about, whether it could occur as they planned (supposing agents could plan, which is doubtful), what the consequences would be—all this would be unknown and unknowable. Hence, agents could not know or even suppose what course of action to take to accomplish a certain rationally conceived goal. Thus, rational agents could neither propose action nor act themselves. … ‘Good’ is predicated of a moral agent when proper intentions come to fruition in right conduct: ‘bad’ when improper intentions result in wrong conduct. But since they would be unable to rationally conceive what actions to take in order to achieve certain goals, and since they could not perform the actions, a world … [without regularity] would prevent moral agents from formulating or carrying out their moral intentions. In effect, it would become impossible for agents to be moral beings.” [Evil and a Good God (Fordham University Press, 1982), 103-4.]

      Jon Roberts: The world disclosed by science made theological sense only if intelligible, law-like processes were seen as witnesses to the providential concern of a God whose will was immutable. In this connection, many Protestants placed a great deal of emphasis on the familiar claim that intelligible events enabled God’s children to interpret the cosmos. This ability afforded them intellectual gratification, a clearer apprehension of the wisdom of God, and assistance in their efforts to make their way in the world. [Darwinism and the Divine in America: Protestant Intellectuals and Organic Evolution (University of Notre Dame, 2001), 144.] (cited by Murray)

  • The enterprise of science is good

    The enterprise of (and ability to engage in) science is good. This is relevant because without an elegant regularity to the patterns of nature, doing science would be impossible.

    1. There are at least two reasons to affirm that the enterprise of science is good.
      (a) It is a great joy in and of itself. The love of science is very widespread indeed.
      (b) It draws people together: Arguably nothing in history has brought people all across the world together in cooperative efforts in the way that scientific research has. The enterprise unites humanity in a truly unique way, enhancing the moral arena by leaps and bounds (see above).
      (c) It enhances and induces worship: That is to say, a puzzle-solving investigation of the natural world is way to worship and know the creator; it yields both intellectual and spiritual satisfaction.

      George Frederick Wright: “The pleasurable sensations of the intellect, investigating and interpreting the ways of God as displayed in the creation, are likewise a part of that good included in the end for which all things were made [Studies in Science and Religion (Draper, 1882), 194.]