Science is often characterized as a study of cause and effect. Prior to science Aristotelian causes was the method of study, one of his four causes being the ‘final cause.’ A final cause reversed the process of cause and effect, making the effect the reason for the cause rather than the principle which modern science requires – the cause is responsible for the effect.
For example, an explanation using final causes would claim that a hammer exists so that nails can be banged into wood.
In contrast, the scientific reason for the hammer existing is because someone shaped a piece of wood, forged the head from metal and connected the two together. If the hammer is handled with skill it can be used as a tool which bangs nails into wood.
It is such a simple and widespread idea that it barely needs stating. Things do not exist for what they do; they exist because of the chain of events leading up to their creation. What is obvious to us now was not so obvious 400 years ago. Explanations of why were very often answered with the final cause answer; “things exist to perform the function they perform.”
The removal of teleology and its replacement by cause and effect is one of the most solid principles of what science does, and for the most part is desirable. But is it always desirable? As in most things, at the extremes the rules very often break down. Where a strict application of cause and effect is in most danger of breaking down is at the beginning of the universe itself.
Why? Consider how and why we are here. To get to the current moment in time in the universe’s history we can (if we had sufficient information) trace back the sequence of causes and effects back to the beginning. But what do we find at the beginning and what is the cause of the first cause? Whatever the conditions or principles are present at the first moment it is they which are responsible for all subsequent events. We can then quite legitimately pose the question, ‘Could things have been any different to the way they are now?’ We can also ask ‘Is it possible that things could have been any different to the way they are now?’
There have been a number of philosophers who have felt the need to make this point. Nietzsche’s eternal return is the view that the universe is destined to repeat over and over for all eternity. Spinoza decided ‘everything is as it is and could be no other way.’
Physicist Paul Davis points out that such a view is a valid option today. Video Here
The seed, or set of initial conditions, contain within them the blueprint for all that is going to occur and all that is going to exist. This leads us to quite a different view to the one commonly held that we are here by some pure chance or slice of good fortune. It could be that we are here because that is the only way the universe can be. We are every bit a part of the fabric of the world and every bit as important to the universe’s existence as anything else. The universe is spiritual in its essence equally as much as it is material.
It may be the case that we are the chance occurrence of large configurations of complex molecules which give off blips of thought….. But the evidence does not rule out the case of humans being of fundamental importance to existence and having been written into the blueprint of existence from the very beginning. The final cause of creation is us; the processes between the beginning and now are the causal and necessary links between the two.