Dear Sir: You are reported to have said that there is no order or disorder in the universe apart from what man himself puts there — this in spite of your well-known preoccupation with a fluid and congruent universe. Can you tell us how you reconcile this, with regard in particular to your views on God?
Dear Sarah H: I don’t recall my exact wording of that statement, but I’m certain it’s not as you recapitulate. Presumably you’re referring to my conviction that order and disorder are epistemological words, not metaphysical. By which I mean, they are products of the human brain, and nothing in nature is “disorderly” as such: It simply is. To speak of order or disorder apart from the human mind is like speaking of color to a person born without sight.
Using a slightly less elaborate analogy, I might, however, concede that nature is “congruent” in the sense that each thing in the universe, however small or large, has a specific nature and must act in accord with that nature.
In this way — and this is also known as the law of essence or identity — the universe is congruent and elegant.
Matter acts and reacts as it must. Matter does not possess will. That is why there’s really no such thing as chance.
It’s in this sense that the Nobel Prize winning doctor Christian de Duve, in his fine book Vital Dust, speaks of the universe as a “cosmic imperative.” By that he means nature does not possess volition — or, if you prefer, nature does not possess choice, as humans do.
Nature must act as it does because the identity of each thing determines how it must act. This applies as much to a bursting star as it does to a sub-microscopic particle.
As for God, I can only explain Her popularity by an atheist’s nighttime sweats.
Related: What is Beauty?