What Best Explains the Mind to World Fit?
by Paul Gould
A deep fact about the nature of our universe is the remarkable conformity of our human minds to its patterning. According to John Polkinghorne, “we live in a world whose physical fabric is endowed with transparent rational beauty.” From the large-scale structure of our universe described by cosmology to the small-scale processes described by quantum theory, our universe is characterized by a wonderful order that is expressible in concise and elegant mathematical terms. The Laws of Nature are breathtakingly simple—and suggestive—it is as if the universe is haunted by a Mind behind it all.
What best explains this mind-world conformity? It seems there are three options:
1. Naturalism (and the evolutionary story). On this story, evolutionary processes have molded our ability for thinking in ways that ensure we adequately understand the world around us, at least to the extent that is demanded by pressures for survival. This explanation falls prey, however, to the problem of “surplus intellectual
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capacity:” we are able to comprehend the microworld of quarks, gluons, and strings and the macroworld (or worlds!) of big bang cosmology to such a scale that, according to Polkinghorne, “it beggars belief that this is simply the fortunate by-product of the struggle for life.” (see also Alvin Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism).
2. Anti-realism (and the “Midas-Touch” story). On this story, human beings happen to like mathematical reasoning and so they manipulate their account of physical processes into pleasing mathematical shapes. There is no ready-made world, human minds “create” the structure of reality, and they do so using the language of mathematics. Like King Midas, everything we “touch” is magically turned, not into gold, but into an episode of our experiencing describable in mathematical language and the cold, hard rocks of logic, syntax, and form…