Sorry, I lost interest in our last conversation and just thought it was more important for Sam to understand why creationism was off-key.
***H: "...the minimum path is the best approximation of God's nature."... "Over time the world tends to good as God's actions are continually felt in the world."... "God will unify the world and bring lasting peace." L: Aren't you begging the question? Where is Occam's Razor in your rationale here? Could it not be that most people are inherently good, and that no God is neccesary for the existence of this natural progression we might casually label, "goodness's triumph over evil"?***
Human cultural evolution is an extension of 14 billion years of galactic, stellar, planetary, and biological evolution. I look into that history and I see emergence of unbelievable complexity that I think randomness alone cannot explain. I have terrible luck at Vegas, and if randomness was really that successful then I feel that my trips to Vegas should have brought me fortune and fame. No such luck.
***H:"For example, it is almost meaningless to talk about electrons as part of an atomic model unless we accept that electrons do in fact exist -at least for all practical purposes." L: I can function fine without tying "meaning" into everything (or anything) around me. And it's a fair bet I'm not the only one who thinks this way. Indeed, I think the reason many of us require "meaning" is because (1) we get to know the world around us in a very holistic way before we are taught to break things down into reductionist concepts, and (2) we have only very recently (in evolutionary terms) begun to quantify things around us. It's natural to be uncomfortable not knowing "the whole picture." I see this explanation as much more satisfactory than attaching "God," spirituality, or some other irrational standard to my view of life.***
Granted that you think this way, but first let's realize that your thoughts are part of a philosophical paradigm called materialism. What I'm saying is that your materialist paradigm is not a satisfactory picture. It not only ignores the human need for spiritual meaning (because of reasons such as (1) and (2)), but it fails to account for the order in nature. The basis for the order (according to materialism) is at root a random order, and I think this account is asking a bit too much from the Vegas casinos.
***H: "...a unifying paradigm that summarizes all the worthy principles in life in some unified manner... is what religion accomplishes." L: Not quite. It could be argued that some Eastern religions attempt to accomplish this, but so far none has succeeded... and Western religious are so exclusionary and inflexible that this lofty "accomplishment" is a virtual impossibility.***
I didn't say religion was finished. Religion has a long way to go to provide a fuller account of the most important principles for meaning in life. Religion has many priorities. One major priority is to satisfy the disillusionment of death and separation from loved ones. Other important priorities is to provide a coherent picture of the world that satisfies our scientific notions of the day (i.e., our metaphysics must accompany science to some satisfying extent), answer perplexing philosophical problems (e.g., why evil exists), provide an accessment of what is morally acceptable for humans, etc. With these many priorities it is natural for religions to evolve with many different solutions to these priorities. Evolution of religion is a constant struggle for humans to acquire religious beliefs that meet these priorities better than previous religious views. No religion is an island, and therefore religion is constantly being affected by other religions, science, philosophy, societal changes, economics, etc.
As humans continue to evolve (hopefully not destroying ourselves or attempting to do so), we hopefully will gradually optimize our religions to account for most of the major introductions being forced upon us (e.g., mass contact of societies with each other, scientific progress, higher education standards, etc).
I see this as part of the divine process that started at the big bang and is on-going even today. We are only witnessing a snap shot of the ongoing evolution, but over the generations this evolution will gradually create new structures and provide new opportunities for creation as it continues to evolve - such as higher intelligence and higher conscious beings. At some point I believe the creation will reach the end destination or end process (what that is I cannot say), and the purpose of creation will be reached. In any case, that's what I believe to be the case.
Warm regards, Harv