Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

The End of “Seeing Through”


jurassicmac has more to say in response to my “Gravity Does Not Account for Itself.”  He writes:

I never said that gravity accounted for itself. Gravity explains the motion of the planets. In that same way, the laws of the universe that make evolution possible don’t account for themselves; but they do explain the current state of life. By your reasoning, it seems as if we could never ‘explain’ anything if we could always push the question back a step and say ‘Well, you can’t explain your explanation!’

Just so.  In his great “Abolition of Man” C.S. Lewis wrote:

But you cannot go on ‘explaining away’ forever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to ‘see through’ first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see.

Jurassicmac does not seem to comprehend that explanations must come to an end, and at the end of explanations is . . .  There are two answers to this question.  (1) I don’t know; or (2) God.

Jurassicmac, I like your post #2, it is quite good and I believe you are right that the universe is a life making machine, but there is one line of inquiry to which the answer is God, and that is, "Whence existence?" avocationist
Born Again- I believe you have misunderstood Neil, when he said that matter is not listening to laws. He did not mean it disobeys or has a choice. Rather, I think he was trying to express that things do what they do because of their intrinsic properties, and that when we humans see consistent patterns like that, we try to describe the phenomena with laws. But those laws do not perfectly comprehend, and sometimes are in need of updates as our understanding improves. In that way the laws are a human construct, because they express an imperfect understanding of what we observe. avocationist
It seems like there had to be some kind of Adam and Eve and somehow they were responsible for bringing death and sin into the world. Am I right to take it that you are a YEC?
Collin #21
I certainly respect your opinion, but I am not sure how you reconcile one point with evolution: the doctrine of the fall of man and the atonement of Christ.
Excellent question. I'll start with two observations: 1) How to handle the historicity of the fall is not a question unique to the Christian who accepts evolution; it is a question that is posed by Old-Earth-Creationism as well. Anyone who accepts that the Earth is more than 60 centuries old must concede that there was, in fact, much death and suffering before mankind was around, and therefore death and suffering cannot be a 'result' of man's sin. If you are a young earth creationist, you don't have this problem, but at this point, the antiquity of the Earth is a fact if anything is. So with that being said, the fact that humans have a 'sin' nature is undeniable. 'Sin nature' is often used interchangeably with 'human nature': "Sure he's selfish sometimes; that's our sin nature." vs. "Sure he's selfish sometimes; that's human nature." So the most important aspect of Genesis is that we act in a certain way, not how we came to be that way. The author of Genesis didn't even know the moon wasn't a source of light, let alone the fact that humans share a common ancestor with every other creature. 2) If you haven't read Barry's excellent post "Is "Christian Darwinist" an Oxymoron," I recommend you do. He makes the (unarguable, I think) point that being a Christian is contingent on two, and only two things: Believing that Jesus was raised from the dead by God, and confessing him as Lord. (Romans 10) How communion works (transubstantiation or not) is a side issue. Whether or not Jonah was swallowed by a fish is a side issue. The process God used to bring humanity about is a side issue. And importantly, the mechanics of how Jesus' death and resurrection benefits us is also a side issue. You use the word 'atonement' as if it means just one thing. Are you referring to the Penal Substitution theory of atonement? If so, I don't subscribe to that. Are you referring to the Ransom theory of atonement? The Recapitulation theory? The Moral Influence theory? The Mystical theory? The Satisfaction theory? The Christus Victor theory? See a pattern there? The theories about how the death and resurrection benefit are just that: theories. But the takeaway point is this: You don't have to know how Jesus saved you in order to be saved. Theologians down through the ages have taken stabs at the mechanics. Perhaps one has figured it out, or perhaps no one has. My bet is that if evolution is true, incorporating it into theology will yield more accurate theology, not less accurate theology. Denise O'Leary and Jerry Coyne disagree with me. jurassicmac
BA:… explanations must come to an end, and at the end of explanations is . . . There are two answers to this question. (1) I don’t know; or (2) God.” Or, it put Lewis’ point about “seeing through” and the end of explanations in slightly different terms -- all our rational knowledge is built upon a foundation of non-rational knowledge (that is, using the word properly, intuitive knowledge). We can rationally push explanation back and back and back, we can reason/explain that ‘Z’ is true because ‘Y’ is true because ‘X’ is true; but soon or late we must always come to “I know ‘this’ is true because I know ‘this’ is true.” And these intuitive truths lead or point always ultimately to God. When one denies God, and tries to opt for the “I don’t know” response as the ultimate grounding of all knowledge, then one has actually denied the very possibility of human knowledge. Ilion
jurrassicmac, I certainly respect your opinion, but I am not sure how you reconcile one point with evolution: the doctrine of the fall of man and the atonement of Christ. If there was no fall of man, then why would Christ overcome the fall by His sacrifice? It seems like there had to be some kind of Adam and Even and somehow they were responsible for bringing death and sin into the world. Collin
Neil you state: 'The law of gravity is a human construct.' Will you be willing to demonstrate this 'merely human construct' of gravity by stepping out of a plane with no parachute??? As for the rest of your rationalizations, they are merely you stating your preferred metaphysics in order to avoid facing the reality of the evidence head on, and I really have not the time nor inclination to talk you out of the delusions you have chosen to believe in, for it would most likely be fruitless of me to try to dissuade you from what you WANT to be true, since it is clear you will not fairly judge the evidence. bornagain77
bornagain77 (#16):
Please OH please tell me one place in the universe where the law of gravity is disobeyed by material particles ‘not listening’ to it.
The law of gravity is a human construct. We have had several versions (Aristotle's, Newton's, Einstein's, for example) and they disagree with one another. The phenomenon of gravity is independent of humans. The law of gravity is what we construct in order to account for the phenomenon of gravity. That there have been contradictory versions ought to be evidence enough that the law is a human construct, and that humans are imperfect in their attempts to construct such laws. The phenomenon of gravity is human independent. But it is not a law, and it is not in a form such that material particles can be said to obey or disobey it. If you want to claim that the law of gravity is evidence for God, then you are raising humans to the status of God. If you are really only arguing that the phenomenon of gravity is evidence for God, then you will have a lot of work to do to fill in the huge gaps in that argument. As for your "materialistic conjectures" (in #17), I'm not sure that we really know what we mean by "material." If "material" means "that which matters," then we should all be materialists though we will doubtless disagree about "material." I would tend to count quantum events as material events. Neil Rickert
Neil, QM is a far away from materialistic conjectures as can be had. i.e. most people consider defying time and space to be a supernatural and even 'miraculous' event, I know I certainly do, for you act as if the blatant disregard for time and space witnessed in QM is 'hunky dory' with materialism is no less that proof positive evidence that you prefer to make up you own illusions as to how reality ought to be constructed to accord with your atheistic/materialistic framework, than for you to face reality head on and give glory to almighty God who created and sustains this universe! bornagain77
Neil you state: 'Material just does as material does, and it is not listening to the laws of physics.' OH REALLY Neil???? Please OH please tell me one place in the universe where the law of gravity is disobeyed by material particles 'not listening' to it. Or better yet please tell me one place in the universe where the material particles are 'not listening' to entropy. Perhaps you mind allows you such disconnect so as to harbor a delusional atheistic metaphysics but my mind affords me no such luxury at such profound 'escapism' from reality. bornagain77
bornagain77 (#13):
The laws of physics are ‘logical information’ that directly dictates how ‘material’ will act in this universe on a universal scale.
Material just does as material does, and it is not listening to the laws of physics. The laws of physics do not dictate anything; they are simply part of our attempt to account for the way that material is observed to behave. And even then, the evidence from QM seems to suggest that the observed behavior of material is mostly statistical (strong statistical trends, as distinct from exact rule following). Neil Rickert
NR: Please cf here. kairosfocus
Neil, I am not implying the laws of physics are metaphysical. The laws of physics are 'logical information' that directly dictates how 'material' will act in this universe on a universal scale. Materialism originally laid no claim for 'transcendent information' to have such dominance and Theism certainly did postulate as such, most famously in John 1:1. For you to say that this OBVIOUS fact neither supports nor opposes materialism or atheism is simply ludicrous. Another fact that argues very strongly that I am not arguing from a metaphysical standpoint, but am indeed arguing from a empirical standpoint is that 'transcendent information' (as in completely free ans transcendent of any time-space, matter-energy, considerations) is shown to be its own completely unique entity in quantum teleportation and entanglement experiments, especially with the refutation of the hidden variable argument of Einstein (EPR). i.e. exactly what is instantaneously entangling the particles if it is not indeed transcendent information especially now that the materialistic conjecture of hidden variables (local realism) is falsified? You see Neil materialism/atheism simply is absurd as to explaining what we now know to be true. bornagain77
I did say that the laws of physics do not account for themselves, and you have said nothing to rebut that.
Why would I rebut that? I never disagreed with it. Who's distorting who? I never said nor implied that the laws do account for themselves. I said:
“You [i.e., Barry] seem to think [the Universe] needs constant tinkering and outside supervision to do its job correctly”
to which you responded:
I don’t know why you say this. I never said nor implied it. Apparently you do not understand my post, because your entire comment is a gross distortion of my post.
If I distorted your position, It was unintentional, and I apologize. So, am I mistaken in thinking that your position is that natural causes are not sufficient to explain the origin and diversification of life? That in order for life to have arisen, there must have been divine intervention at some point? Please correct my misunderstanding of your position, if there is one. jurassicmac
bornagain77 (#10)
since the ‘laws of physics’ are transcendent
I'm not sure what you mean by "transcendent" there, but I think you are implying that they are metaphysical. I have already disagreed with that. In case you didn't understand my previous comment, it had the implication that the laws of physics neither support nor oppose materialism or atheism. Neil Rickert
jurassicmac “You [i.e., Barry] seem to think [the Universe] needs constant tinkering and outside supervision to do its job correctly” I don’t know why you say this. I never said nor implied it. Apparently you do not understand my post, because your entire comment is a gross distortion of my post. Of course there are secondary causes. I never said there were not. I did say that the laws of physics do not account for themselves, and you have said nothing to rebut that. Barry Arrington
Neil and andrew, since the 'laws of physics' are transcendent, and dominate, of any known material basis, exactly how is this, in any way, support for the classic view of atheistic materialism? The fact that they are transcendent and dominate as such is literally evidence that naturally falls in line with Theism, as 'naturally' defined, and is completely contrary the the atheistic/materialistic worldview. The point is SO OBVIOUS that Sir Isaac Newton stated this in Principia: "This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being. … This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called “Lord God” ??????????? [pantokratòr], or “Universal Ruler”… The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect." Sir Isaac Newton - Quoted from what many consider the greatest science masterpiece of all time, "Principia" bornagain77
If the universe is ‘one big life making machine’ why did Stephen Meyer write “Signature In The Cell”?:
That's not really an objection. What if I asked: If the earth really is a solid mass of rock with a molten iron core, why did Raymond Bernard write "The Hollow Earth"? or If each kind of animal were created separately, why did Charles Darwin write "The Origin of Species"? You seem to be considering Stephen Meyer inspired. "Meyer said it, I believe it, that settles it!" jurassicmac
andrewjg (#3)
The laws of physics are often held as evidence that there is no God
And then there are those who make the "fine tuning" argument, and hold that the laws of physics are evidence that there is a God. Both groups are probably taking the laws of physics to be metaphysical, and I disagree with that. I don't see the laws of physics as providing evidence either way. Neil Rickert
further note: The main problem, for the secular model of neo-Darwinian evolution to overcome, is that no one has ever seen purely material processes generate functional information. The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity: David L. Abel - Null Hypothesis For Information Generation - 2009 To focus the scientific community’s attention on its own tendencies toward overzealous metaphysical imagination bordering on “wish-fulfillment,” we propose the following readily falsifiable null hypothesis, and invite rigorous experimental attempts to falsify it: "Physicodynamics cannot spontaneously traverse The Cybernetic Cut: physicodynamics alone cannot organize itself into formally functional systems requiring algorithmic optimization, computational halting, and circuit integration." A single exception of non trivial, unaided spontaneous optimization of formal function by truly natural process would falsify this null hypothesis. http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/pdf Can We Falsify Any Of The Following Null Hypothesis (For Information Generation) 1) Mathematical Logic 2) Algorithmic Optimization 3) Cybernetic Programming 4) Computational Halting 5) Integrated Circuits 6) Organization (e.g. homeostatic optimization far from equilibrium) 7) Material Symbol Systems (e.g. genetics) 8) Any Goal Oriented bona fide system 9) Language 10) Formal function of any kind 11) Utilitarian work http://mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/ag The GS (genetic selection) Principle – David L. Abel – 2009 Excerpt: Stunningly, information has been shown not to increase in the coding regions of DNA with evolution. Mutations do not produce increased information. Mira et al (65) showed that the amount of coding in DNA actually decreases with evolution of bacterial genomes, not increases. This paper parallels Petrov’s papers starting with (66) showing a net DNA loss with Drosophila evolution (67). Konopka (68) found strong evidence against the contention of Subba Rao et al (69, 70) that information increases with mutations. The information content of the coding regions in DNA does not tend to increase with evolution as hypothesized. Konopka also found Shannon complexity not to be a suitable indicator of evolutionary progress over a wide range of evolving genes. Konopka’s work applies Shannon theory to known functional text. Kok et al. (71) also found that information does not increase in DNA with evolution. As with Konopka, this finding is in the context of the change in mere Shannon uncertainty. The latter is a far more forgiving definition of information than that required for prescriptive information (PI) (21, 22, 33, 72). It is all the more significant that mutations do not program increased PI. Prescriptive information either instructs or directly produces formal function. No increase in Shannon or Prescriptive information occurs in duplication. What the above papers show is that not even variation of the duplication produces new information, not even Shannon “information.” http://www.scitopics.com/The_GS_Principle_The_Genetic_Selection_Principle.html http://www.us.net/life/index.htm Dr. Don Johnson explains the difference between Shannon Information and Prescriptive Information, as well as explaining 'the cybernetic cut', in this following Podcast: Programming of Life - Dr. Donald Johnson interviewed by Casey Luskin - audio podcast http://www.idthefuture.com/2010/11/programming_of_life.html "Information is information, not matter or energy. No materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day." Norbert Weiner - MIT Mathematician - Father of Cybernetics While neo-Darwinian evolution has no evidence that material processes can generate functional prescriptive information, Intelligent Design does have 'proof of principle' that information can 'locally' violate the second law and generate potential energy: Maxwell's demon demonstration turns information into energy - November 2010 Excerpt: Until now, demonstrating the conversion of information to energy has been elusive, but University of Tokyo physicist Masaki Sano and colleagues have succeeded in demonstrating it in a nano-scale experiment. In a paper published in Nature Physics they describe how they coaxed a Brownian particle to travel upwards on a "spiral-staircase-like" potential energy created by an electric field solely on the basis of information on its location. As the particle traveled up the staircase it gained energy from moving to an area of higher potential, and the team was able to measure precisely how much energy had been converted from information. http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-11-maxwell-demon-energy.html "The manuals needed for building the entire space shuttle and all its components and all its support systems would be truly enormous! Yet the specified complexity (information) of even the simplest form of life - a bacterium - is arguably as great as that of the space shuttle." J.C. Sanford - Geneticist - Genetic Entropy and the Mystery Of the Genome 'The information content of a simple cell had been estimated as around 10^12 bits, comparable to about a hundred million pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica." Carl Sagan, "Life" in Encyclopedia Britannica: Macropaedia (1974 ed.), pp. 893-894 of note: The 10^12 bits of information number for a bacterium is derived from entropic considerations, which is, due to the tightly integrated relationship between information and entropy, considered the most accurate measure of the transcendent information present in a 'simple' life form. For calculations please see the following site: Molecular Biophysics – Information theory. Relation between information and entropy: http://www.astroscu.unam.mx/~angel/tsb/molecular.htm bornagain77
If the universe is 'one big life making machine' why did Stephen Meyer write "Signature In The Cell"?: What DNA Has to Tell Us About the Origins of Life http://www.newoxfordreview.org/reviews.jsp?did=1010-scambray DID LIFE START BY CHANCE? Excerpt: Molecular biophysicist, Horold Morowitz (Yale University), calculated the odds of life beginning under natural conditions (spontaneous generation). He calculated, if one were to take the simplest living cell and break every chemical bond within it, the odds that the cell would reassemble under ideal natural conditions (the best possible chemical environment) would be one chance in 10^100,000,000,000. You will have probably have trouble imagining a number so large, so Hugh Ross provides us with the following example. If all the matter in the Universe was converted into building blocks of life, and if assembly of these building blocks were attempted once a microsecond for the entire age of the universe. Then instead of the odds being 1 in 10^100,000,000,000, they would be 1 in 10^99,999,999,916 (also of note: 1 with 100 billion zeros following would fill approx. 20,000 encyclopedias) http://members.tripod.com/~Black_J/chance.html and Jurassicmac, if, 'the laws of the universe that make evolution possible don’t account for themselves; but they do explain the current state of life.' ... Please do tell of these ‘laws of the universe’ that operate completely contrary to the second law of thermodynamics, and Conservation of Information, so as to ‘make evolution possible: Roger Penrose discusses initial entropy of the universe. – video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhGdVMBk6Zo The Physics of the Small and Large: What is the Bridge Between Them? Roger Penrose Excerpt: “The time-asymmetry is fundamentally connected to with the Second Law of Thermodynamics: indeed, the extraordinarily special nature (to a greater precision than about 1 in 10^10^123, in terms of phase-space volume) can be identified as the “source” of the Second Law (Entropy).” This 1 in 10^10^123 number, for the time-asymmetry of the initial state of the ‘ordered entropy’ for the universe, also lends strong support for ‘highly specified infinite information’ creating the universe since; “Gain in entropy always means loss of information, and nothing more.” Gilbert Newton Lewis Thermodynamic Argument Against Evolution – Thomas Kindell – video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4168488 Evolution Vs. Thermodynamics – Open System Refutation – Thomas Kindell – video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4143014 “there are no known violations of the second law of thermodynamics. Ordinarily the second law is stated for isolated systems, but the second law applies equally well to open systems.” John Ross, Chemical and Engineering News, 7 July 1980 “…the quantity of entropy generated locally cannot be negative irrespective of whether the system is isolated or not.” Arnold Sommerfel, Thermodynamics And Statistical Mechanics, p.155 “Bertalanffy (1968) called the relation between irreversible thermodynamics and information theory one of the most fundamental unsolved problems in biology.” Charles J. Smith – Biosystems, Vol.1, p259. “The laws of probability apply to open as well as closed systems.” Granville Sewell – Professor Of Mathematics – University Of Texas El Paso Can “ANYTHING” Happen in an Open System? – Granville Sewell PhD. Math Excerpt: If we found evidence that DNA, auto parts, computer chips, and books entered through the Earth’s atmosphere at some time in the past, then perhaps the appearance of humans, cars, computers, and encyclopedias on a previously barren planet could be explained without postulating a violation of the second law here (it would have been violated somewhere else!). Can Anything Happen In A Open System – Granville Sewell PhD. Math – video http://www.math.utep.edu/Faculty/sewell/articles/thermo.htm Evolution's Thermodynamic Failure - Granville Sewell (Professor of Mathematics - Texas University - El Paso) http://www.spectator.org/dsp_article.asp?art_id=9128 Information and entropy – top-down or bottom-up development in living systems? A.C. McINTOSH Excerpt: It is proposed in conclusion that it is the non-material information (transcendent to the matter and energy) that is actually itself constraining the local thermodynamics to be in ordered disequilibrium and with specified raised free energy levels necessary for the molecular and cellular machinery to operate. http://journals.witpress.com/pages/papers.asp?iID=47&in=4&vn=4&jID=19 Though material processes have NEVER shown the ability to produce ANY functional information whatsoever (Abel - Null Hypothesis), Darwinists are adamant that material processes produced more information, of a higher complexity than man can produce, than is contained in all the libraries of the world: “a one-celled bacterium, e. coli, is estimated to contain the equivalent of 100 million pages of Encyclopedia Britannica. Expressed in information in science jargon, this would be the same as 10^12 bits of information. In comparison, the total writings from classical Greek Civilization is only 10^9 bits, and the largest libraries in the world – The British Museum, Oxford Bodleian Library, New York Public Library, Harvard Widenier Library, and the Moscow Lenin Library – have about 10 million volumes or 10^12 bits.” – R. C. Wysong https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/darwinism/media-mum-about-deranged-darwinist-gunman/#comment-363647 bornagain77
jurassicmac (#2), I noticed with interest that you described the universe as "one big life making machine." I wonder if you have read Dr. Rob Sheldon's article, The Front Loading Fiction, which explains why this way of thi nking about the universe is no longer scientifically tenable? vjtorley
Nice comment from Jurassimac. At a very least if you find something for which there is no explanation there are many answers: (1) I don’t know (2) Christian God (3) Brahma ... (n) some little known God of an undiscovered race in Papua New Guinea markf
Neil Rickert The laws of physics are often held as evidence that there is no God, that they somehow show causation. The point is they don't and never can they just are. When you accept that ultimately the laws just are and that science can never show the first cause then very likely you reach the conclusion there is a God. andrewjg
But Barry, the ID vs Evolution debate isn't about the ultimate explanation for things, it's about proximate explanation. In case I didn't make it clear before, I am a Christian; I have been for essentially my entire life. I was a young earth creationist and IDist for most of that time, but after pursuing the subject for several years I have come to the conclusion that evolution by way of natural selection is an adequate explanation for the current diversity of life. I could be wrong. Evolution isn't the area of my expertise. But I don't see how this conflicts with the core of Christianity anymore than believing that germs cause disease does. You and I probably have no disagreement about the ultimate cause of the universe. i disagree completely that explanations boil down to either "I don't know," or "God", and I must say I don't like how you've phrased that statement. As Christians, we're often (rightly) accused of saying "I don't know, therefore God." The two aren't mutually exclusive. In the past, many questions were 'answered' in this manner prematurely: "What causes thunder? God. Why does it rain? God. Where did the moon come from? God. How did humans get here? God." In all of those questions, the answer "God" is perfectly accurate on one level, but, perfectly unsatisfactory as an explanation on another level. Saying "God did it," doesn't explain anything when we're concerned with gaining practical knowledge about the universe. Answering the question "Why does it rain" with "Because God wills it" is no more or less correct than answering the question "Why does it rain," with "Because the atmospheric conditions were right." In that same way Answering the question "Why are we here," with "Because God willed it" is no more, or less correct than saying "Because evolutionary conditions were right." But the former answers are unsatisfactory as explanations. I mean, as a Christian, technically any question can have "God" as the answer. Why is there mail in my mailbox? God's will. Why does my iPhone drop calls when I touch the side? God's will. Why do we now have life in great diversity on Earth, when once there was none? God's will. It seems to me that the universe is one great big life making machine. I'd wager that you agree to some degree. Where we disagree is on how that machine works. You seem to think it needs constant tinkering and outside supervision to do its job correctly; I think it works fine as designed. But that doesn't make me any less of a Christian than disbelieving in transubstantiation does. This is where I agree with you, and disagree with Denise; It is an argument of proximate causes, and has absolutely nothing to do with the core of Christianity. jurassicmac
I'll applaud jurassicmac for some good comments in the prior threads. I sometimes say (though nobody seems to agree with me) that explanations don't actually explain. The law of gravity doesn't explain gravity. But it does explain to us how we can most effectively interact with gravity. I don't see a problem of "explanations must come to an end." The "explanations" are not metaphysics, they are simply the details of how we deal with observed phenomena. I get the impression that many scientists do take scientific theories to be revealing metaphysical truth. That's the real mistake, as I see it. We ought to accept science for what it is, an account of how we can best interact with nature. Neil Rickert

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