The New God Argument begins with the assumption that we, our human civilization here on Earth, probably will not go extinct before becoming an advanced civilization. This is the faith position, and we will refer back to it a few times as we proceed with the argument.
The faith position does not require any particular perspective regarding the amount of time it might take for us to become an advanced civilization. It could happen within coming decades or across the span of eons. Either possibility, or any of the infinite possibilities between them, is sufficient for the faith position. Moreover, from the outset, the faith position does not require any particular understanding of what we must do to be considered an advanced civilization. Perhaps we'll cure cancer or end hunger. Maybe we'll voyage to the stars. Any of these possibilities or any set of many other possibilities is sufficient for the faith position. As we go along, we'll introduce some assumptions about what we probably would do as an advanced civilization, but your imagination is the best starting point. Consider the future of our civilization as you think it should be. Imagine a future worthy of your trust. Assume we can and probably will eventually become such a civilization, no matter how long it takes, so long as we work at it. That is the faith position.
Of course, while embracing the probability of desirable futures, we should not ignore the possibility of undesirable futures. Complacency may prove quite as dangerous as hopelessness, and both are risks we should seek to mitigate. Thus, we intend our formulation of the faith position, that we probably will not go extinct before becoming an advanced civilization, to convey an optimal balance between trust in desirable futures and recognition of attending risks. Consider, for example, the attitude we should take if we were to discover that a large asteroid is headed directly at Earth and will destroy all life on the planet when it hits us in five years. While some of us may languish in despair and others may passively await a chance or supernatural remedy, most of would naturally take up the faith position and begin planning for and building a means of destroying or displacing the asteroid, even while feeling anxious or simultaneously hoping for a lucky break or supernatural assistance.
Remark that the faith position is valuable beyond the scope of the argument we're presenting. There is a kind of truth that depends on intentional creation. For example, it may not be true that the materials at your dock are organized into the form of a ship, but with some trust in and work toward such a possibility, you just might make it true. Most of us have a similar perspective regarding the future of our civilization. Maybe it will be horrible, but we'll trust in and work toward a wonderful future because we think it could make the difference. Some will argue that the optimism of the faith position is not realistic, as demonstrated by the many occasions when our experience differs from our preference. To the extent we lack power, unassisted optimism may not be realistic. However, to the extent we have power, optimism certainly is realistic, as we use our power to create the experience we prefer. Moreover, since we don't infallibly know the full extent of our power, even cautious optimism beyond our certain knowledge is wise. For example, you may or may not have what it takes to persuade someone to love you, but you have a better chance if you're optimistic enough to make the phone call ...
As announced, Joey and I will present the New God Argument at the Sunstone symposium in Salt Lake City on Saturday. The session has already received attention from bloggers and symposium attendees, as well as Mormon and Christian apologetics web sites. We expect the presentation to be well attended. If you're planning to attend, or trying to decide whether to attend, read up on the following ideas and come prepared to consider the rest of the argument.
Great Filter Argument
King Follett Discourse