Who Dunnit?

David Cowles

Oct 4, 2022

“Was it Colonel Mustard in the Conservatory with the Wrench? Or…”

Ever play the game of Clue? Who dunnit? Was it Colonel Mustard in the

conservatory with the wrench? Or Professor Plum in the library with the

candlestick? There are 324 potential combinations of suspects (6), weapons (6),

and venues (9); and all 324 possible combinations (6 x 6 x 9) are equally probable.

Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to reduce 324 potentialities down to

one actuality.

The game of Cosmology is a greatly simplified version of Clue. You have no

opponents! You play the game alone, and you play until you win… or give up

trying. Bora-boring! Why is it then that the world’s best minds (carbon or silicon)

have been playing Cosmology for at least the last 10,000 years (and probably for

many tens of thousands of years before that)? Shoot, it even tops Dungeons and Dragons.

“Why are things the way they are?” It seems we can’t help but ask this question.

Apparently, M. Descartes, Sum ergo quaero (I am, therefore I seek). But when we do seek to unravel this mystery, it appears that the range of possible solutions is

unexpectedly narrow. Consider the following two possibilities:

#1 Whatever happens, happens! No further explanation is necessary or even

possible. Happening is happenstance!

Sidebar #1: This does not mean that events must occur randomly. Causality

and/or other forms of correlation could characterize certain subdomains

(‘societies’ or even ‘epochs’ in the terminology of Alfred North Whitehead); also,

events themselves have the capacity to form societies and epochs, but any such

subdomains would have to be situated in a meta-domain, and the ultimate meta-

domain would have to be happenstance.

#2 Whatever happens, happens as a result of will (extrinsic or intrinsic).

Extrinsic will: things happen according to plan or as directed ad hoc. Note: plan

and ad hoc are only distinct in a spatiotemporal context. Otherwise, they are


Intrinsic will: things happen according to their own free will in the context of a

specific actual world.

Sidebar #2: All things (events) are causa sui, but not all things are causa sui ex


Sidebar #3: Freedom in the absence of an actual world is happenstance (above). It

is the relevant presence of an actual world that enables an event to proceed

according to will rather than chance. Will react to world!

Amazingly, certain very popular conceptions turn out to be just sub-versions of

the two models above:

  • Whatever happens, happens as a result of the initial conditions of the Universe (Big Bang). If initial conditions are the result of happenstance, then see #1 above. If initial conditions result from will, then see #2.

  • Whatever happens, happens as a result of things that happened in the past (causality). If ‘things in the past’ occurred by happenstance, then see #1 above. If ‘things in the past’ occurred by will, then see #2 above.

  • Whatever happens, happens in the service of a particular future (teleology). If ‘things in the future’ occur by happenstance, then see #1 above. If ‘things in the future’ occurred by will, then see #2 above.

So, it turns out that we’re saying something pretty big here! Any cosmological

model that relies on efficient causation (so-called cause and effect) or final

causation (purpose, meaning) is merely a sub-version of either model #1

(happenstance) or model #2 (will) above.

So, your universe comes with a choice of flavors, but just three flavors (don’t want

to spoil you):

· Vanilla (happenstance)

· Chocolate (extrinsic will: God?)

· Strawberry (intrinsic will: freedom!)

So, pretty simple, right? Ok, but maybe not quite so simple! Have you considered

the possibility of a hybrid model: Some events just happen; some events are

willed extrinsically; and some events are willed intrinsically.

There’s nothing intrinsically – pun intended – wrong with a hybrid model; it

doesn’t undermine anything we’ve said above. On the contrary, we just extended

our models’ reach… as long as you can figure out what goes where, i.e., how the

different domains interact. Good luck with that.


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