Sean Carroll: If you found yourself in a world where there was no evil, the commands of God were clearly laid out to all, and all people had always believed the same religion, you would take this as evidence that God existed and his religion was true. In this world we have none of these things, and so you must take their absence as evidence to the contrary.
Response: If I were trying a case and had three eyewitnesses against the defendant, I would take the third one as evidence. By Carroll’s logic, if I only have two eyewitnesses I have to take this as exculpatory.
Some absent evidence proves the opposite of what its presence would prove, but it needn’t.
Carroll 2: The universe could just be a brute fact. Just “there”.
Response: It’s fascinating to argue that the world can only be explained by physical concepts by appealing to concepts that have no application in physics. What good are brute facts in physical theory? Why is there no entry for them in the index of physics textbooks? Perhaps there is no answer to why, say, a radioactive particle decayed at a precise time T, but what this means is that radioactive decay : to precise times :: mixing cookie batter : to the precise locations of chocolate chips. The regularity and pattern is collective across events and not distributed through each particular event. One explains the process better if he drops the assumption of that sort of precision, and so the apparent “brute fact” is really antipodal to brutishness.
Again, some outcomes are unforeseeable and in this sense are without any law-like explanation, like many of the outcomes of complex systems. But even if this counts as a brute fact, physical theory does not call the universe a brute fact in this sense. THE UNIVERSE!! YOU NEVER SEE IT COMING!! At any rate, if one did mean this it is congruent with a theistic explanation. There’s no meaningful prediction of what an artist will make either, especially one with all possible skill. Either he tells us his plans or we have to wait to see what he does. So there is at least one sense of “brute fact” that describes the universe as a procession of the divine art.
As I’m not actually talking to Carroll but to a considerable number of theologians I’d add that there is something creepy and with a whiff of the demonic in this attempt to reduce the universe to the brutish and irrational, which brings to mind the cognitio nocturna of the fallen angels. There is a sense in which physics takes us closer and closer to the irrational so far as it takes us closer to matter, and so to the absence of the actuality and intelligibility, but this can be taken either as a descent into the irrational (as Carroll takes it) or as a deeper and deeper awareness of how the totality of the universe has something essential within it that refers to another for any actuality that it has. To take even the accidents of the world as irrational is always possible, but this itself is congruent with the argument Hopkins makes in Pied Beauty.