Friday, August 12, 2011

Murphy's Law

The old rule of Murphy’s Law is that “anything that can go wrong, does.” I don’t know who Murphy was, or why he made that a law. I mean, what a jerk, am I right? But in any case, that is simply taken to be a humorous bit. After all, no one really thinks that every thing that can go wrong does, and therefore everything that does not go wrong really could not have gone wrong in the first place. That would be silly.

Further, Murphy’s Law, taken as a serious philosophical and/or metaphysical claim about the universe and reality, is unable to justify itself. In essence, the claim is that by logical necessity, everything that holds a contingent chance of going wrong will in fact actually end up going wrong. This law cannot itself be contingent, since then it would be wrong sometimes (or all the time, if the law were correct, paradoxically). If the law were wrong sometimes, then it is not the case that “anything that can go wrong, does.” If the law is necessarily true, we have no reason to think it is. For we see events that seemingly could go “wrong” all the time that are in fact ultimately successful; a basketball shot, a military operation, a conversation with a friend, a drive through a neighborhood. There’s simply no reason to think the Law is correct over and against the fact that these successful operations could have gone wrong (indeed, if the law is correct, then anything that is successful could not possibly have gone wrong).

Now what’s the point? The application is that in naturalism one commits himself to the idea that there really is only one possible world. Perhaps a naturalist would claim he does not do this, but really everything is predetermined by nature and physics; chemical reactions are what cause everything. Because of this, there really wasn’t any other way reality could be (just as a precisely-aligned set of dominoes cannot really do anything other than fall). This, however, is wildly counterintuitive. What the claim is making is that there is no possible world in which I woke up this morning at 7:01 am rather than 7:00; there is no possible world in which I first look left when walking out my door and then right rather than vice versa. It seems well within our power to do these actions, but not only are we not going to do them, we cannot. The claim is that it is logically impossible for us to perform these actions.

This is good enough for me to reject naturalism altogether. However, simply because naturalism is false, it does not follow necessarily that atheism is false. This should be said: how many atheists do you know who openly deny God but admit the supernatural? This is what would be required. I’ll stick with God, for whom we have been given ample evidence!
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