Intelligent Design

Is Belief in God Reasonable?

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In a comment to a prior post vjtorley responds to Beelzebub (presumably not THE Beelzebub) with a nice cogent summary of the grounds for believing in a personal God. I think it deserves its own post, so here it is:

Beelzebub writes:

Hart presumably considers the non-contingent ground of being to be the Christian God. This in itself seems to be an unwarranted assumption. Why must existence be underwritten by a god at all, much less the specific personal God of the Christians?

vjtorley responds:

I take it that by “god” you mean a personal being of some sort. Very briefly (and please remember this is just a bare-bones outline), the main lines of argument that have been adduced for believing in a personal God are as follows:

1. Chance, Necessity or Agency?

There are only three general ways of explaining any given state of affairs: we can explain it as the outcome of chance, necessity or agency (or some combination of the above).
To explain the cosmos in terms of pure chance (e.g. the universe just popped into existence out of the blue) won’t work; pure chance explains nothing, and no-one accepts it as an explanation of anything. Even random events turn out to have some underlying explanation. For instance, the phenomenon in which subatomic virtual particles pop in and out of existence can be explained in terms of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which permits minor energy fluctuations to occur, provided that they are extremely brief.
Necessity alone cannot explain the cosmos either, for if it did, the cosmos would itself be necessary – which it is manifestly not.

Necessity plus chance won’t do the job either. For that to work, we’d have to imagine a necessary being which possesses certain probabilistic characteristics by nature – e.g. once every trillion years, it belches out a universe. The problem with this view is that probabilistic attributes are not the kind of traits that a necessary being could possess – or it wouldn’t be necessary.

That leaves agency. The universe arises from a Necessary Being, but it is neither a necessary by-product of this Being nor a fortuitous spin-off. Rather, it is the free creation of an intelligent agent – and as such, contingent, but here for a purpose. And since the Necessary Being that creates our universe possesses personal attributes, we may call it God.

2. Argument from the Immateriality of the Necessary Being

Anything material is contingent: whatever traits it has could be otherwise. Consequently, the necessary Being is immaterial.

Anything immaterial is intelligent, because its properties – and hence its modus operandi – are purely formal and not material. To be intelligent is the same as having a purely formal modus operandi (think of something performing logical or mathematical operations).
Since the necessary Being is immaterial and hence intelligent, it may be described as personal – and may thus be called God.

3. The Argument from Design

Not only is the Universe contingent; it also possesses certain properties (e.g. fine-tuning; functional complex specified information) which make it overwhelmingly probable that it is the creation of an Intelligent Designer. An Intelligent Designer of the cosmos could also be called God.

4. The Argument from the Intelligibility of the Cosmos

Paraphrasing Einstein, the most peculiar thing about the cosmos is that is it comprehensible. Actually, there is a two-fold wonder here: the fact that reality is intelligible; and the fact that we possess minds that can grasp it. (In fact, I would go so far as to say that nothing in the cosmos appears to be beyond our ken.) In the absence of a personal God, these two facts should strike us as unbelievable good luck, and as states of affairs that we have no right to count on. But if the cosmos is the creation of a Divine Mind which wants to be known by the intelligent beings in the world it has created, then we would expect these facts to be true.

Putting it another way: an Intelligence is the only thing that can guarantee that the cosmos will remain intelligible, no matter what.

5. The Argument from the Reliability of Thought

This line of argument seeks to show that a personal God is the only kind of entity that explain why I can trust the workings of my own mind. The review article by Darek Barefoot, which I linked to in #43 [of the Quote of the Day post], spells out the argument properly.

For a modern summary of the reasons for believing in a personal God, see the article, The Justification of Religious Belief by Professor Richard Swinburne.

END OF QUOTE

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608 Replies to “Is Belief in God Reasonable?

  1. 1
    Ludwig says:

    Even if one accepts vjtorley’s argument, it does not, as far as I can tell, address the second aspect of Beelzebub’s question: why “the specific personal God of the Christians?”

    Why not Allah or the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

  2. 2
    Collin says:

    Also, there is the argument from Beauty. See wikipedia article.

    Ludwig,
    Good point. But first at least it is established that there probably is a god. Then we can ask, what are His characteristics (including is it a “He”) Some make the argument for the Christian God based on the reliability of the Bible. See Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ.” I don’t fully endorse that book, but I found it very educational.
    A very thoughtful Christian philosopher is John Polkinghorne who addresses this in several well respected books. His wikipedia article is interesting. But note: he is critical of ID.

  3. 3
    beelzebub says:

    Barry wrote:

    In a comment to a prior post vjtorley responds to Beelzebub (presumably not THE Beelzebub)…

    Actually, I prefer to think of myself as THE Beelzebub. The other Beelzebub is just some old guy who happens to share my name.

    Before I respond to vjtorley, I thought I should copy a couple of relevant comments from the old thread to this one.

    jerry wrote:

    It is doesn’t have to be the Christian God. So that settles part 2 of your question. But Whoever designed the universe has to have an immense intelligence. So whether one wants to call such an intelligence God or not is a semantic question. So that settles part 1 of your question.

    I wrote:

    That sounds like another assumption. How do you know that intelligence is a prerequisite for the formation of a universe?

    By analogy, suppose that you are seeing a picture of a snowflake for the very first time. You might conclude that the beautiful and complicated object you were seeing was designed, but in fact it is not, and its formation is ultimately the result of a few simple physical laws.

    Without knowing in detail the laws (or metalaws) behind universe formation, how can you assert that intelligence is a necessary ingredient in the process?

    vjtorley responded with the comment quoted in the opening post, then followed it up with this one:

    Invoking snowflakes to dismiss ID is a surefire way to get invited to do some more reading. Suggest you start with these:

    http://www.cosmicfingerprints……dthis1.htm (very readable)

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/faq/ (especially questions 26 to 28 and question 39)

    http://www.ideacenter.org/cont…..hp/id/1114

    Now, you might object that the foregoing arguments apply only to DNA, and not to the cosmos as a whole. And the designer of DNA might not be a Cosmic Designer. Good point.

    In that case, you might like to read these articles on fine-tuning and why the multiverse is a bad explanation of this fact:

    http://home.messiah.edu/~rcollins/ft.htm

    http://home.messiah.edu/~rcollins/muv2.htm

    http://arxiv.org/ftp/astroph/…..403047.pdf

    After reading Perry Marshall’s article, I’m wondering if astronomers should look for a cosmic analog of DNA – something out there which embodies instructions for making a cosmos. My prediction for 2009 is that scientists will find it in the next 20 years.

    I’ll respond after I’ve taken some time to follow vjtorley’s links.

  4. 4
    beelzebub says:

    The first link is broken. Here it is again:

    http://www.cosmicfingerprints......dthis1.htm

  5. 5
    tribune7 says:

    Even if one accepts vjtorley’s argument, it does not, as far as I can tell, address the second aspect of Beelzebub’s question: why “the specific personal God of the Christians?”

    Well, I guess it’s because they don’t. All they do is get us on the same page as to the silliness of materialist atheism.

    Why not Allah or the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

    With regard to the FSM why would you cite a fictional entity created by Bobby Henderson in 2005 specifically to mock? Why not just cite Cthulhu? It certainly gets to the point quicker. How do you know it’s not a cruel deity that will send people to eternal torment for doing good?

    Which gets us to Allah. If you think that’s what should be worshiped I guess you better get ready to round up the homosexuals and sexual active girls and prepare to start throwing stones.

  6. 6
    rvb8 says:

    Quote 4: “Paraphrasing Einstein, the most curious thing about the cosmos is that IS IT(?) comprehensible(?).”

    Do you mean ‘IT IS comprehensible’? Is this a Freudian slip of the most classic kind, or simply an over active imagination?

  7. 7
    beelzebub says:

    vjtorley,

    For the sake of avoiding a kairosfocus-length treatise, I’ve decided to respond piecemeal rather than all at once.

    Some comments regarding your first argument, entitled “Chance, Necessity or Agency”:

    First, I note that your trichotomy contains the implicit assumption that agency is not due to chance and/or necessity.

    You write:

    Necessity alone cannot explain the cosmos either, for if it did, the cosmos would itself be necessary – which it is manifestly not.

    I think you may be equivocating on the word “necessary” here. The universe may not be necessary in the sense of “containing its own reason for being”, but that does not mean it is not necessary in the sense of “existing as a necessary consequence of something else.”

    To avoid confusion, let’s refer to these as “necessary in the first sense” and “necessary in the second sense”, respectively.

    Necessity plus chance won’t do the job either. For that to work, we’d have to imagine a necessary being which possesses certain probabilistic characteristics by nature – e.g. once every trillion years, it belches out a universe. The problem with this view is that probabilistic attributes are not the kind of traits that a necessary being could possess – or it wouldn’t be necessary.

    Why can’t a necessary entity (in the first sense) possess probabilistic attributes? And even if that were impossible, why could it not give rise to a subsidiary entity that possesses probabilistic attributes? If you think the latter is impossible, then you deny the reality of randomness in our universe. Is that your position?

    That leaves agency. The universe arises from a Necessary Being, but it is neither a necessary by-product of this Being nor a fortuitous spin-off.

    This, of course, assumes the correctness of your preceding arguments about chance and necessity. If they don’t hold, then it doesn’t follow.

  8. 8
    beelzebub says:

    Regarding your second argument, entitled “Argument from the Immateriality of the Necessary Being”:

    Anything material is contingent: whatever traits it has could be otherwise.

    This is not obvious to me. If the universe is necessary (in the second sense), this might not be true. Can you firm up your argument here?

    Anything immaterial is intelligent, because its properties – and hence its modus operandi – are purely formal and not material.

    Not true. A Platonic Form (of triangles, say) would necessarily be immaterial, but not intelligent.

    Since the necessary Being is immaterial and hence intelligent, it may be described as personal – and may thus be called God.

    This doesn’t follow if the earlier steps of your argument don’t hold.

  9. 9
    beelzebub says:

    Regarding your third argument, entitled “The Argument from Design”:

    You write:

    Not only is the Universe contingent; it also possesses certain properties (e.g. fine-tuning; functional complex specified information) which make it overwhelmingly probable that it is the creation of an Intelligent Designer.

    This presumes that you understand the process of universe formation well enough to state the degrees of freedom and assess the probabilities involved. What is the range of permissible values for the physical constants, for example, and what does the probability distribution look like? If you can’t answer such questions authoritatively, then you can’t legitimately declare that it is “overwhelmingly probable” that the universe was designed.

  10. 10
    beelzebub says:

    Regarding your fourth argument, entitled “The Argument from the Intelligibility of the Cosmos”:

    You write:

    Paraphrasing Einstein, the most peculiar thing about the cosmos is that is it comprehensible. Actually, there is a two-fold wonder here: the fact that reality is intelligible; and the fact that we possess minds that can grasp it. (In fact, I would go so far as to say that nothing in the cosmos appears to be beyond our ken.)

    That seems like unjustified hubris to me, particularly since it has already been proven that certain things are unknowable, like the value of Chaitin’s number Omega.

    In the absence of a personal God, these two facts should strike us as unbelievable good luck, and as states of affairs that we have no right to count on.

    As I noted in my previous comment, your conclusion depends on knowledge you don’t have about the process of universe formation. It also depends on knowing how likely it is for intelligence of the requisite sophistication to arise in a given universe. Without such knowledge, you can’t conclude that we are the beneficiaries of “unbelievable good luck.”

    But if the cosmos is the creation of a Divine Mind which wants to be known by the intelligent beings in the world it has created, then we would expect these facts to be true.

    If the cosmos were the creation of a Divine Mind, operating without constraints; and further if that Divine Mind wanted to be known; then I would expect the evidence to be far more compelling than it is. Do you really think a Divine Mind could do no better than this? Why isn’t his existence obvious to every sincere seeker, if it’s so important to him to be known by his creatures? And why is he content to be known by only some members of one species, when there are trillions of other creatures on earth?

  11. 11
    StephenB says:

    —-beelzebub to vjtorley: “This (fine tuned argument) presumes that you understand the process of universe formation well enough to state the degrees of freedom and assess the probabilities involved. What is the range of permissible values for the physical constants, for example, and what does the probability distribution look like? If you can’t answer such questions authoritatively, then you can’t legitimately declare that it is “overwhelmingly probable” that the universe was designed.”

    If, as you say, the probabilities involved did not constitute overwhelming evidence for a finely tuned universe, then the atheist physicists and cosmologists, all of whom do understand the probabilities involved, would fall back on your argument rather than resort to the desperate tactic of positing “infinite multiple universes” as an alternative explanation.

  12. 12
    Larry Tanner says:

    Very interesting comments on both sides of the issue. Personally, I gravitate to thinking that the theistic arguments here all suffer in their own ways as Oz-like wizardry.

    But I have another point that I hope doesn’t come across as glib. What’s the point? I mean, so what if there is or isn’t a personal god? We’re still faced with the problems of discovering the how questions of the universe(s).

    It’s a very odd thing. The more I see of the discussions, debates and snarky/clique-y back-and-forths of places like UD and Pharyngula, the more I am convinced that god is irrelevant – just another way to make the math come out right for particular problem.

  13. 13
    beelzebub says:

    Regarding your fifth argument, entitled “The Argument from the Reliability of Thought”, I find myself in substantial agreement with mauka, who wrote the following on the ‘Materialist Poofery’ thread:

    Onlookers (heh),

    The argument that KF keeps repeating is just a rehash of the “argument from reason” of Lewis and (later) Reppert.

    The question that Lewis and Reppert pose is this: If our thoughts are solely the product of our brains, how can they be trusted? After all, brains are physical systems composed ultimately of fundamental particles. Thus, the operation of the brain is just the end result of a large number of fundamental particles mindlessly obeying the laws of physics. How can this mindless process give rise to rational thought? If the underlying physics is mindless, then we have no way of guaranteeing that the resulting thoughts are rational, according to Lewis and Reppert. Thus, naturalism undercuts itself.

    The first error that KF makes is a common one on this blog: he fails to ask whether his argument undercuts his own position. Sure enough, it turns out that it does. If thinking is carried out not by the brain, but by some unknown immaterial entity, then KF has no way of guaranteeing that this immaterial entity operates reliably, and thus no way of guaranteeing that his thoughts are reliable. Oops.

    (An aside to KF: the flip side of “hyperskeptical” is “hyposkeptical”. Ponder that the next time you’re looking in a mirror.)

    Even worse for KF (and Lewis, and Reppert) is that they have no way of addressing this problem short of developing a “science of the soul” that explains how immaterial minds work and proves that they are reliable by construction. Good luck with that.

    Now think about the materialist’s position. We already know that it’s possible to construct computers that do arithmetic and logic reliably. We know that it’s possible to write reliable software to run on these computers, including sophisticated reasoning programs like the theorem provers I mentioned earlier in the thread. Thus, we know that reason can be mechanized in a properly constructed system.

    So the materialist is already far ahead of the nonmaterialist, who doesn’t know if it’s possible for any immaterial mind to operate correctly, much less the one that humans happen to get.

    At this point, we’ve shown that reliable, physically-based reasoning is possible. The next question is this: Do we have reason to believe that the brain itself is reliable in this way?

    The answer is yes. The materialist holds that the brain has been shaped by natural selection. Brains that can’t reason reliably get their owners killed. Individuals with better brains tend to survive and reproduce better than those with addled brains, so genetic changes that produce flawed thinking get weeded out of the population.

    The nonmaterialist has no corresponding selective process to appeal to. He just has to hope (pray?) that the mind he gets is reliable at the start. Yet again, the materialist has the advantage.

    Finally, note that natural selection doesn’t produce perfect brains capable of, for example, effortlessly visualizing geometry in 18 dimensions. Nor would we expect it to, as this trait would have had no value in the environment in which humans evolved. There would have been no selective pressure for it.

    Looking at the spectrum of human abilities (and flaws), we find that the mind has the kind of flaws you would expect it to have if it were the product of a long and kludgy evolutionary process.

    There is no reason for the nonmaterialist to expect the human mind to have these specific flaws if it is based on an immaterial entity.

    Once again, the materialist has the advantage.

    Conclusion: The argument that KF keeps flogging turns out, ironically, to be a disaster for his own nonmaterialist position, yet it strengthens the case of the materialist!

    To add one more point: even if your preceding arguments had demonstrated the existence of a personal god, that does not warrant the conclusion that thought is reliable. Nothing prevents a personal god from messing with our thoughts, as he supposedly did in the Garden of Eden (before Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit) and at the Tower of Babel (when he supposedly threw the builders into disarray by making them speak different languages).

  14. 14
    StephenB says:

    —-vjtorley: “Paraphrasing Einstein, the most peculiar thing about the cosmos is that is it comprehensible. Actually, there is a two-fold wonder here: the fact that reality is intelligible; and the fact that we possess minds that can grasp it. (In fact, I would go so far as to say that nothing in the cosmos appears to be beyond our ken.)”

    —–beelzebub: “As I noted in my previous comment, your conclusion depends on knowledge you don’t have about the process of universe formation. It also depends on knowing how likely it is for intelligence of the requisite sophistication to arise in a given universe. Without such knowledge, you can’t conclude that we are the beneficiaries of “unbelievable good luck.”

    —–“If the cosmos were the creation of a Divine Mind, operating without constraints; and further if that Divine Mind wanted to be known; then I would expect the evidence to be far more compelling than it is. Do you really think a Divine Mind could do no better than this? Why isn’t his existence obvious to every sincere seeker, if it’s so important to him to be known by his creatures? And why is he content to be known by only some members of one species, when there are trillions of other creatures on earth?”

    It has nothing to do with evidence and everything to do with what we already know to be the case. A rational universe by itself is something of a marvel, and a rational mind is even more of a marvel. What, then, can we say about both marvels existing simultaneously and in perfect correspondence one with the other, the logic of each matching perfectly the logic of the other? How is one to explain that correspondence? Why should they correspond at all? Put another way, how do you explain the harmony between the comprehending mind and the comprehensible nature of the universe? The only reasonable answer to that question is that something or someone set it up.

  15. 15
    beelzebub says:

    Larry Tanner writes:

    But I have another point that I hope doesn’t come across as glib. What’s the point? I mean, so what if there is or isn’t a personal god? We’re still faced with the problems of discovering the how questions of the universe(s).

    Larry,

    It’s a legitimate question.

    For a certain brand of Christian, I think the answer is obvious. To them, knowing the right answer to that question is the difference between an eternity of bliss and an eternity of cruel suffering.

    Many of us on both sides of the issue just find ultimate questions inherently interesting and fun to discuss.

    I personally have a strong interest in the nature of religious belief, and I’m curious to understand why smart theists like vjtorley believe as they do.

    Also, I was a childhood theist who abandoned theism, to my lasting benefit, after I learned to think critically. I debate this issue partly for fun, but also for the benefit of lurkers who may not have been previously exposed to cogent atheist arguments and who could benefit from questioning their theism.

  16. 16
    Winston Macchi says:

    If, as you say, the probabilities involved did not constitute overwhelming evidence for a finely tuned universe, then the atheist physicists and cosmologists, all of whom do understand the probabilities involved, would fall back on your argument rather than resort to the desperate tactic of positing “infinite multiple universes” as an alternative explanation.

    Firstly, I don’t think anyone understands the probabilities involved. For that to be the case one would have to have detailed knowledge of what the conditions were leading up to and causing the existence of the universe and have a detailed knowledge of how those conditions translate into the making of our universe. Having a theoretical understanding of what the possible values for constant X are is useless when applying it directly to our universe. For all we know, constant X could only be one of six numbers due to the conditions, what ever they may be and why, before the bang.

    Secondly, positing infinite multiple universes is a perfectly reasonable theoretical exercise. Given what we know about what exists outside our universe (nothing), it is as good a guess as any. Furthermore, I recall an article I read a couple years ago (I believe it was in Skeptic, but I could be wrong) infinite multiple universe was one of 15-20 different theoretical hypotheses made, so to claim that it is a constant fall back it reaching.

  17. 17
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    I find the Argument from Reason from Lewis and Reppert very reasonable. I don’t see any rebuttal to their argument, all I see from you is a shift to undercut an immaterial mind’s validity. Computers don’t think in the way that we do. They don’t know how to frame an issue. And if your analogy holds true, then you’ve undercut your thinking, because your thoughts don’t necessarily have to be thinking “true” thoughts, but could only be thinking thoughts that have been pre-programmed into your material, the way computers “think”. In which case there is no reason to think that your thoughts are independent of a program that you cannot control. You can’t have it both ways. You cannot, at once, stand outside the material movement of thoughts (that couldn’t have been otherwise by the laws of physics), and judge them by any objective reference or viewpoint, while your thoughts, all thoughts, are merely the product of those movements. And, lastly, the laws of logic and reason are not material. If we are to tap into them, then it seems perfectly reasonable that our thoughts would be immaterial too. Kairosfocus’s position is perfectly valid. Yours is self-defeating.

  18. 18
    beelzebub says:

    StephenB and Clive Hayden,

    In case you’re wondering, I’m not ignoring your posts. I just want to finish responding to vjtorley before I tackle them.

    vjtorley,

    You wrote:

    Invoking snowflakes to dismiss ID is a surefire way to get invited to do some more reading. Suggest you start with these…

    Judging from the reading list you provided, I think you misunderstand the rationale behind my snowflake analogy. None of the linked material addresses my point, which is this: In the same way that a snowflake appears designed unless you know the laws behind its formation, the universe may also appear designed if you don’t know the laws (or metalaws) behind its formation. Without knowing those laws or metalaws, you simply can’t say either way.

    I am an atheist not because I think the existence of God can be definitively disproven — I doubt that very much, in fact — but rather because I think the evidence for God is tenuous and unconvincing.

    To put that into the context of this argument, suppose that tomorrow morning someone in a physics lab discovers a surprising new phenomenon that seems inexplicable in light of known physics. Should she assume that God is responsible, or should she assume that there is a perfectly good naturalistic explanation and attempt to discover it? Likewise with our universe. If we don’t understand the process of universe formation well enough to derive the probabilities, why in heaven’s name (so to speak) would we assume that the probability of our universe is low, and that God must therefore exist? Shouldn’t we follow the physicist’s lead and search for a naturalistic explanation, just as she did?

    And with a nod to Ockham, shouldn’t we wait until a God entity is necessary before complicating our hypotheses with it?

  19. 19
    StephenB says:

    —-Winston Macchi: “Firstly, I don’t think anyone understands the probabilities involved. For that to be the case one would have to have detailed knowledge of what the conditions were leading up to and causing the existence of the universe and have a detailed knowledge of how those conditions translate into the making of our universe.”

    Your comment simply repeats beelzebub’s argument. The answer remains the same. If the probabilities involved were incomprehensible, then the atheist cosmologists and physicists would say so and be done with it rather than posit infinite multiple universes. The experts who are sympathetic with your world view and with beelzebub’s world view do not agree with your assessment of the fine tuning argument. Even Richard Dawkins declares it to be a daunting proposition for atheists. The people who know how to work the numbers think that the argument is persuasive enough to be a problem for them.

  20. 20
    beelzebub says:

    vjtorley writes:
    “…you might like to read these articles on fine-tuning and why the multiverse is a bad explanation of this fact…”

    vjtorley,

    I skimmed the linked papers, and it appears that only the first two (by Robin Collins, a theist and philosopher of religion at Messiah College in Pennsylvania) are critical of the multiverse concept. The third is a survey paper by physicist Paul Davies that includes arguments pro and con, but Davies concludes that despite some difficulties,

    …the multiverse idea has probably earned a permanent place in physical science, and as new physical theories are considered in the future, it is likely that their consequences for biophilicity and multiple cosmic regions will be eagerly assessed.

    Could you perhaps present what you think are the one or two strongest arguments against the multiverse?

  21. 21
    beelzebub says:

    StephenB writes:

    It has nothing to do with evidence and everything to do with what we already know to be the case. A rational universe by itself is something of a marvel, and a rational mind is even more of a marvel. What, then, can we say about both marvels existing simultaneously and in perfect correspondence one with the other, the logic of each matching perfectly the logic of the other? How is one to explain that correspondence? Why should they correspond at all? Put another way, how do you explain the harmony between the comprehending mind and the comprehensible nature of the universe? The only reasonable answer to that question is that something or someone set it up.

    By the same logic:

    Snowflakes are a marvel. They’re beautiful, intricate, and detailed. Their dendrites are symmetrical. They scream design. They’re not like anything you’d expect to arise from a few simple laws of physics. How can we explain their existence? The only reasonable answer to that question is that someone designed them.

    Except, of course, that if you understand the laws of physics and the environmental conditions in which snowflakes form, it’s obvious that they are not designed.

    The universe may be a marvel to us, but how can you claim that it is designed if you don’t know the laws and/or metalaws that governed its formation?

  22. 22
    StephenB says:

    —-beelzebub: “The universe may be a marvel to us, but how can you claim that it is designed if you don’t know the laws and/or metalaws that governed its formation.”

    You are mixing, tangling, and conflating arguments. The argument from design has nothing to do with the points that I made. Much less does it have anything to do with snowflakces. The point at issue is the harmony between the rational mind and the rational universe, and that point has nothing to do with “evidence.” What is your answer to the fact that the logic of the mind corresponds with the logic of the universe? How do you explaint the logically compatible relationship between the comprehending mind and the comprehensible nature of the universe?

  23. 23
    beelzebub says:

    StephenB writes:

    If, as you say, the probabilities involved did not constitute overwhelming evidence for a finely tuned universe, then the atheist physicists and cosmologists, all of whom do understand the probabilities involved, would fall back on your argument rather than resort to the desperate tactic of positing “infinite multiple universes” as an alternative explanation.

    It is a common theist tactic to paint the multiverse as a desperate last-ditch attempt by atheist physicists to forestall the otherwise inevitable conclusion of design. This is nonsense.

    For example, string theory predicts the multiverse, but what physicists love about it is that it predicts gravity while also subsuming the Standard Model. The multiverse is thus just a “side effect” of a theory pursued for an entirely different reason.

    Furthermore, the majority of physicists are leery of using the multiverse to explain any apparent fine-tuning, and they would much prefer an alternate explanation, as Davies writes in the paper that vjtorley linked to:

    Invoking the multiverse together with the anthropic, or biophilic, principle in an attempt to explain fine-tuning is still regarded with great suspicion, or even hostility, among physicists, although it has some notable apologists. There is consensus that such explanations should not impede searches for more satisfying explanations of the nature of the observed physical laws and parameters.

    Even the “noted apologists” referred to by Davies, such as Leonard Susskind, embrace string theory not because of the multiverse, but in spite of it. To them, its ability to explain any apparent fine-tuning is a bonus, and they accept it as such, but they don’t consider it a sufficient justification for embracing the theory, and they would prefer a simpler theory if a viable one existed.

  24. 24
    Oramus says:

    You could only make this assertion if you know the laws of physics and the envirornmental conditions were not themselves designed.

    What evidence does anyone have for the not? I think is has better prospects since its a positive claim.

    Except, of course, that if you understand the laws of physics and the environmental conditions in which snowflakes form, it’s obvious that they are not designed.

  25. 25
    beelzebub says:

    The point at issue is the harmony between the rational mind and the rational universe, and that point has nothing to do with “evidence.”

    Are you seriously saying that evidence is irrelevant to the question?

    What is your answer to the fact that the logic of the mind corresponds with the logic of the universe?

    See the comment by mauka that I quoted above, and also my forthcoming reply to Clive Hayden.

  26. 26
    StephenB says:

    —-beelzebub: “Even the “noted apologists” referred to by Davies, such as Leonard Susskind, embrace string theory not because of the multiverse, but in spite of it. To them, its ability to explain any apparent fine-tuning is a bonus, and they accept it as such, but they don’t consider it a sufficient justification for embracing the theory, and they would prefer a simpler theory if a viable one existed.”

    Life is delicate and depends on a stable source of energy, multiple chemical elements, and a capacity to join those elements together. Physical constants, such as gravitational constant, and the ratios between physical constants, fall in an extremely narrow range of values necessary to sustain life. There are dozens of these kinds of constants, and each must be compatible with the other. Any slight change in any one of the constants and the universe would be inhospitable to life. What is your argument against this scientific fact?

  27. 27
    Brent says:

    What is different from a snowflake and the fine tuning of the universe? They both alike beg the question of how and why. Just because we can explain a few laws behind there respective existence ultimately means nothing. We don’t know where the laws came from and why they should be the way they are. The question isn’t whether “natural” physical laws are, but why they are; where could they come from.

    Anyway, I always find it dumbfounding that people pompously think they understand the creation of a snowflake, or anything else for that matter, fully.

    Honestly, even the most brilliant and knowledgeable mind on earth can answer the question why but only a handful of times until he must throw up his hands and say, “I don’t know.”

    There absolutely must be an uncaused caused somewhere. It’s unavoidable.

  28. 28
    StephenB says:

    —-beelzebub: “Are you seriously saying that evidence is irrelevant to the question?”

    Yes, evidence has nothing to do with it. Do you understand the point being made? It has nothing to do with Clive’s question nor does it have anything to do with “universe formation.”Is it necessary for me to keep repeating the same words and phrases.

    The point at issue is the harmony between the rational mind and the rational universe. What is your answer to the fact that the logic of the mind corresponds with the logic of the universe? How do you explaint the logically compatible relationship between the comprehending mind and the comprehensible nature of the universe?

  29. 29
    beelzebub says:

    StephenB asks:

    Is it necessary for me to keep repeating the same words and phrases.

    No, it’s neither necessary nor helpful, but I don’t suppose that will stop you.

    If you can settle down enough to wait for my reply to Clive, which will come after my late dinner, you will see that it is relevant to the question you are asking.

  30. 30
    beelzebub says:

    Brent writes:

    There absolutely must be an uncaused caused somewhere. It’s unavoidable.

    This entire thread is about whether the uncaused cause, the ground of being, or whatever you want to call it, must be a personal god.

  31. 31
    StephenB says:

    —-beelzebub: “If you can settle down enough to wait for my reply to Clive, which will come after my late dinner, you will see that it is relevant to the question you are asking.”

    No hurry. I wasn’t trying to rush you. I understand that you are trying to answer several people. You comment about “evidence” and “universe formation” caused me to suspect that you might be misunderstanding me. Thats all.

  32. 32
    beelzebub says:

    Oramus writes:

    What evidence does anyone have for the not? I think is has better prospects since its a positive claim.

    The plausibility of a claim has nothing to do with whether it is positive or negative. “Monkeys will fly out of my butt” is a positive claim. Should I find it more plausible than its negation?

  33. 33
    Upright BiPed says:

    Beelzebub

    First, I note that your trichotomy contains the implicit assumption that agency is not due to chance and/or necessity.

    Has anyone else come to appreciate the elasticity of materialism these past few days?

    In one conversation we are told that chance and necessity are incomplete explanations because thoughts exist immaterially, and therefore the dynamic duo can’t explain everything after all. But then in the next conversation they’ve grown new powers and have now consumed agency, apparently of any kind.

    Still, there is nothing said about the actual issue at hand.

    Without any need for analogies; it is language and meaning that organizes inanimate matter into living tissue. Yet there is no evidence in the repertoire of chance or necessity that suggests either is anywhere near sufficient to explain this observable fact.

    The opposite is true instead.

    It might just be a precondition that you insist on absurdity. I read a materialist once enthusiastically saying something to that effect.

    But you can’t put agency inside chance and necessity without assuming your conclusions. Another materialist once told me that was bad science, so I don’t suggest it.

  34. 34
    beelzebub says:

    Clive Hayden writes:

    I find the Argument from Reason from Lewis and Reppert very reasonable.

    It has a certain plausibility when you first encounter it, but this dissolves upon closer examination.

    I don’t see any rebuttal to their argument, all I see from you is a shift to undercut an immaterial mind’s validity.

    Then you didn’t read mauka’s comment carefully. Perhaps you should reread it. Also, mauka’s point about how the Argument from Reason actually undercuts the non-materialist position is crucial. It means that even if the Argument from Reason were correct, the theist would be no better off than the materialist, because both would have reasons to be skeptical of their own thoughts.

    As it is, the materialist is actually better off than the theist, because he has an explanation — natural selection — that plausibly explains both the strengths and the flaws of human reason. The theist has no explanation for this curious situation other than to say “I guess God wanted it that way,” which is not an explanation at all.

    Computers don’t think in the way that we do.

    True. They don’t think like we do, at least not yet. But they do reason, as mauka’s example of theorem provers shows. Also check out this wonderful program from a group at Allen’s school, Cornell, that deduces the laws of physics from observations.

    Here’s a description from the linked article:

    In just over a day, a powerful computer program accomplished a feat that took physicists centuries to complete: extrapolating the laws of motion from a pendulum’s swings.

    Developed by Cornell researchers, the program deduced the natural laws without a shred of knowledge about physics or geometry.

    That’s some sophisticated reasoning, and together with the theorem provers and other examples of AI, it shows that reason can be physically instantiated.

    And if your analogy holds true, then you’ve undercut your thinking, because your thoughts don’t necessarily have to be thinking “true” thoughts, but could only be thinking thoughts that have been pre-programmed into your material, the way computers “think”.

    First of all, there’s no real evidence that human thoughts aren’t “programmed into our material” by a combination of genes, environment, and experience. Keep in mind that we are talking about a hugely complicated brain here, much more complicated than any computer in existence.

    Second, there’s no reason to think that our thoughts have to be false simply because they are physically instantiated. We know that computer programs can reason correctly despite being physically instantiated; why not humans?

    Third, we have a reason — natural selection — to accept that our thoughts are basically reliable, within certain limits.

    In which case there is no reason to think that your thoughts are independent of a program that you cannot control.

    You are the program, Clive. Or to put it in a way that relies less heavily on the computer metaphor, “your mind is what your brain does.”

    You cannot, at once, stand outside the material movement of thoughts (that couldn’t have been otherwise by the laws of physics), and judge them by any objective reference or viewpoint, while your thoughts, all thoughts, are merely the product of those movements.

    Likewise, if your thoughts are the product of an immaterial mind, then you also have no way of standing outside them and judging them from an objective reference point. The theist is in the same boat as the materialist. Both of them have to judge the validity of their thoughts from the inside.

    Luckily this is quite possible, and we do it all the time. If it’s not obvious to you how we do it, then ask, and I’ll explain how it works.

    And, lastly, the laws of logic and reason are not material. If we are to tap into them, then it seems perfectly reasonable that our thoughts would be immaterial too.

    Computers can do logic, and they can reason, as my examples above show. No immaterial stuff required.

  35. 35
    Oramus says:

    Beezlebub,

    It’s curious that you would not address my point. Let’s try again.

    You could only know that snowflakes are obviously not designed if you knew that the laws of physics and the environment were not designed.

    Can you show me that the laws of physics are not designed?

  36. 36
    beelzebub says:

    Upright Biped asks:

    Has anyone else come to appreciate the elasticity of materialism these past few days?

    Upright,

    Has it occurred to you that materialists, like ID supporters, might not agree on every point?

    If I contradict myself, then please point it out. But if I occasionally contradict someone else who is nominally a materialist, that is only to be expected. Logically, it means that at least one of us is wrong, but it does not invalidate materialism.

  37. 37
    beelzebub says:

    Oramus asks:

    Can you show me that the laws of physics are not designed?

    No.

    Can you show me that they are designed?

    No.

    Which position should we take by default?

    We should provisionally assume no design, for the reasons I expressed in comment #18.

  38. 38
    Oramus says:

    Beelzebub,

    Sure. There can be no such thing as a multiverse. It is an oxymoron.

    Rather, it is possible there are many dimensions within the universe. I believe 11 dimensions are what is claimed (eleven is a special number so I can go with that).

    Jesus alluded to dimensions when he said “There are many rooms in my father’s house”.

    Could you perhaps present what you think are the one or two strongest arguments against the multiverse?

  39. 39
    beelzebub says:

    Okay, folks, I’m calling it a night.

    I will be travelling tomorrow, so if I don’t respond to your new comments right away, please bear with me.

  40. 40
    Oramus says:

    Beelzebub,

    On the contrary, if evidence shows appearance of design, you must assume design, since you have no cause to reject what appears to be designed until evidence comes along to falsify the observation of design.

    How do you empirically arrive at the conclusion that what is observed is illusion?

    We should provisionally assume no design, for the reasons I expressed in comment #18.

  41. 41
    askegg says:

    StephenB ,
    The point at issue is the harmony between the rational mind and the rational universe, and that point has nothing to do with “evidence.” What is your answer to the fact that the logic of the mind corresponds with the logic of the universe? How do you explaint the logically compatible relationship between the comprehending mind and the comprehensible nature of the universe?

    You’re treating the rational mind as a separate entity to the rational universe, in my opinion without justification. The conscious mind seems to be an emergent function of the brain, which in itself is a natural consequence of the laws of nature at work. The link between physical effects on the brain and mental states is clear and forms the bases of much pharmacology – from the treatment of mental illness to drug addictions. Even the food we eat can have a obvious effect on emotional states.

    Since the mind is an emergent function of the natural world, then why should it not reflect the nature of the universe? In any case, we have many examples of minds which do not act in rational manners – we often call these people mad, lunatic, psychopaths, sociopaths, and so on. How do you account for these minds and their apparent disharmony with your rational universe?

  42. 42
    hazel says:

    What is your answer to the fact that the logic of the mind corresponds with the logic of the universe?

    My answer is that the mind has arisen out of the universe – is part of the universe – and so of course it manifests the logic inherent in the universe. How could the structure and functioning of something in in the universe not incorporate the logical nature of of the universe. I can see why the dualist has to provide an answer to this question, but for me it is a non-issue.

    And I’d like to say good job to Beezlebub, who has calmly and specifically addressed so many points.

  43. 43
    Joseph says:

    beelzebub,

    The only explanation your position can muster for the laws of nature is:

    “They just are (the way they are).”- Hawking in “A Briefer History of Time”

    I say it takes more faith to be an atheist than is does to be religious.

  44. 44
    allanius says:

    So, Beelzebub. They took your bait. You knew they would, didn’t you? Making themselves like God—it’s irresistible. Glad to see you enjoying the fruits of your temptation.

    But what is all this talk about “laws”? You of all people should know that there can’t be “laws” without a lawgiver. That’s the meaning of a fall. Nature in itself has no capacity to generate limits on its own possibilities. Or if it does, please do enlighten us with regard to the origin of this lawgiving quality.

    And don’t disappoint us by claiming that laws are inherent in matter. Are we supposed to forget that Newton ever existed? Default all the way back to Lucretius? Slight curvatures in the very nature of things? Tending to what, exactly? And for what purpose?

    As to your success: you’ve stirred up a catfight between Platonists, who believe that God is intellect in his essence, and nihilists, who want to negate God because of the manifest silliness of Platonism.

    Congratulations! You’ve just won the battle known as “Modernism.”

    Still, after the burning of Valhalla…

  45. 45
    allanius says:

    VJ—unless this is 1910, your take on the Einstein comment is exactly backward (that is, if you want to make an effective case for God).

    By citing Einstein and his faux surprise over the supposed intelligibility of the universe, you are siding with Job’s interlocutors, delimiting God in order to glorify intellect and its capacity to determine what is “good.”

    That battle has been lost. Have you forgotten poor Plato and how he was forced in the end to claim that it was not circles themselves but the metaphor of circles that represents the goodness of intellect?

    The equation of intellect with the good that began with the Greeks (or in the Garden) is dead. Good riddance. It was a waste of time from the beginning, as the divide between Plato and Aristotle and their followers made clear.

    Far better to turn Einstein’s argument around and celebrate the very fact that the universe is not intelligible. Life, light, gravity—we are no closer to obtaining certainty regarding the actual nature of these things than we ever were.

    In a postmodern age, the resistance of matter and natural laws to human understanding is a potent argument for transcendence. All other arguments depend upon axioms, which, as Beelzebub has adroitly pointed out, are built upon sand.

  46. 46
    Upright BiPed says:

    beelzebub

    Has it occurred to you that materialists, like ID supporters, might not agree on every point?

    If I contradict myself, then please point it out. But if I occasionally contradict someone else who is nominally a materialist, that is only to be expected. Logically, it means that at least one of us is wrong, but it does not invalidate materialism.

    Yes, the contradictions of materialist have been duly noted. In this case between one who teaches evolutionary biology and one who argues for materialism for fun. 🙂

    I also note that your response lacks any contradiction whatsoever with other materialists in one regard; it left off addressing the evidence in hand.

    You see, it isn’t that materialism cannot explain the immaterial – like a thought. If that were the only evidence against materialism then surely we might all simply stand forever gazing at our shoes. Instead, materialism cannot explain the material – and that’s a problem of a different sort. It invalidates materialism on its face.

    I’ll wait to see if you intend on addressing the actual issues.

  47. 47
    tribune7 says:

    allanius, if your point is that reason alone can’t take us to ultimate truth, I’ll agree with you. Reason certainly can’t make us righteous.

    OTOH, it is far more reasonable to believe that there is a creator and that this creator is good, than it is to believe that everything is by accident without ultimate purpose or that because one can’t understand it, it isn’t true– the basic positions of the materialist atheists.

  48. 48
    kairosfocus says:

    BZ:

    How’s dragon-land these days?

    Still hot, real hot?

    Oh, yes, back to business: still citing things without context? (Didn’t old Will Shakespeare say something about that?)

    [Anyway, Mauka’s objection against the argument from reason was rebutted on points in the same Materialist Poofery thread — at 193. That KF is a bit of a pedant, but he has his uses . . . and sometimes there is nothing for it but to go toe to toe, point by point. (And our side has not given up on old M either!)]

    Tut tut old boy — a far cry from the good old days leading the heavenly choirs, nuh?.

    Your old pal

    Mikey the Archie

    PS: Still sharpening up the old sword for the upcoming contest, old boy. [And the foundry angels tell me they guarantee the chains will hold. See you soon . . . ]

  49. 49
    Borne says:

    Beelzebub:

    “Why not Allah or the Flying Spaghetti Monster?”

    Allah? The god of the moon? The one that desert bandit, rapist, murderer, pillager and torturer of old spoke of to justify his own crimes? I rest my case.

    FSM? Seriously! Pasta, as a human created artifact, does not create universes (and cannot fly).

    “Actually, I prefer to think of myself as THE Beelzebub. The other Beelzebub is just some old guy who happens to share my name.”

    So how old are you? Do you precede or succeed the “old guy”?
    So you believe you’re the lord of the flies? Well that ought to encourage all to take you seriously.

    “Why can’t a necessary entity (in the first sense) possess probabilistic attributes?”

    A necessary entity is a self-sufficient entity. Thus an entity entirely self-governed and not subject to it’s own created laws of probability in a material universe. You’re trying to apply material properties to a non material entity.

    “That seems like unjustified hubris to me, particularly since it has already been proved that certain things are unknowable, like the value of Chaitin’s number Omega.”

    Many things are unknowable to the human mind. Our minds are, after all, rather tiny little things on the universal scale. So? Obviously Chaitn found that he could know that some things are unknowable!
    Your argument is a mere evasion tactic. You may as well claim that because humans are not omniscient that therefore the given argument doesn’t stand as a general principle.

    “If the cosmos were the creation of a Divine Mind, operating without constraints; and further if that Divine Mind wanted to be known; then I would expect the evidence to be far more compelling than it is.”

    This an argument from personal incredulity and in fact disappointment with the existing evidence. Yet, the evidence is overwhelming to clear thinkers and has been throughout history, hence the great majority of humans since day one have believed in a superior power. Atheists have always been and still are the tiny minority.
    As Voltaire states,

    “The atheists are for the most part impudent and misguided scholars who reason badly, and who not being able to understand the creation, the origin of evil, and other difficulties, have recourse to the hypothesis of the eternity of things and of inevitability.”

    Which describes you and your arguments quite well thus far don’t you think?

    “Do you really think a Divine Mind could do no better than this?”

    Well jeepers I’m not a divine mind. Are you a divine mind? Obviously not.
    1) A divine mind is necessarily so far beyond any human mind as to make the gap immeasurable. Thus we cannot know all the reasons why a divine mind would make the choices it does any more than an bacteria understands a space shuttle.
    2) You imply that the evidence is insufficient. But how do you know this? Because it seems so to you? How much of it have you actually seen? How much have you ignored? How much have you done everything in your power to squirm out of with endless rhetoric and sophisms?

    You sound like Dawkins who while wearing blinders constructed to ensure he cannot see, says, “I see no evidence for God”.

    “Why isn’t his existence obvious to every sincere seeker, if it’s so important to him to be known by his creatures?”

    To quote Isaiah, “Truly, You are a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, Savior!” Now why would he do that? Think it over a little more rationally Bee.

    Again, to help you out here: “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings [is] to search out a matter.” Proverbs 25:2

    “And why is he content to be known by only some members of one species, when there are trillions of other creatures on earth?”

    You are presuming things that you cannot possibly know; i.e.
    1) that no other creatures have any sense, intuition, knowledge etc. of their creator.
    2) that there is some reason non sentient creatures should be aware of their creator.
    3) that it is the fault of the creator that so few ever get to know both his existence and himself.
    4) that he is ‘content’ with the current situation.

    All of the above are incredible presumptions on your part.
    They also reveal a degree of disappointment with God. Is that why you rejected him? For psychological and emotional reasons? And not “rationality” at all as you claim?

    Put it this way:

    “If they refuse to believe Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe though one rose from the dead”

    – which btw, is exactly what you’re confirming here.

    We do indeed have a lot of evidence for the resurrection of Christ. Check out William Lane Craigs debates with atheists on this. Many are available online. The atheists consistently lose or look like ignorant, whining louts without any serious arguments beyond incredulity.

    Because the knowledge of God may be seen in them, God having made it clear to them.
    For from the first making of the world, those things of God which the eye is unable to see, that is, his eternal power and existence, are fully made clear, he having given the knowledge of them through the things which he has made, so that men have no reason for wrongdoing: Because, having the knowledge of God, they did not give glory to God as God, and did not give praise, but their minds were full of foolish things, and their hearts, being without sense, were made dark.
    Seeming to be wise, they were in fact foolish, And by them the glory of the eternal God was changed and made into the image of man who is not eternal, and of birds and beasts and things which go on the earth.
    For this reason God gave them up to the evil desires of their hearts, working shame in their bodies with one another: Because by them the true word of God was changed into that which is false, and they gave worship and honour to the thing which is made, and not to him who made it, to whom be blessing for ever. So be it.

    Obviously God considers the evidence within you (DNA, the moral sense, intelligence, reason etc.) and the evidence without you (the universal order and laws, the testimony of the ancient MSS on the resurrection of Christ, the witness of others whose lives were changed by a spiritual encounter with him, etc.) to be sufficient for his current purposes.

    You are like a child reading a book and complaining that the author does not himself appear in the pages of the book.

  50. 50
    bornagain77 says:

    Slightly off topic: Here is the formal falsification of Evolution with reflection of implications following: William A. Dembski and Robert J. Marks II “LIFE’S CONSERVATION LAW: There are no beneficial mutations in the purely random evolutionary sense that violate Genetic Entropy and this is the paper that provides the formal proof of this truth: Why Darwinian Evolution Cannot Create Biological Information – ABSTRACT: Laws of nature are universal in scope, hold with unfailing regularity, and receive support from a wide array of facts and observations. The Law of Conservation of Information (LCI) is such a law. LCI characterizes the information costs that searches incur in outperforming blind search. Searches that operate by Darwinian selection, for instance, often significantly outperform blind search. But when they do, it is because they exploit information supplied by a fitness function— information that is unavailable to blind search. Searches that have a greater probability of success than blind search do not just magically materialize. They form by some process. According to LCI, any such search-forming process must build into the search at least as much information as the search displays in raising the probability of success. More formally, LCI states that raising the probability of success of a search by a factor of q/p (> 1) incurs an information cost of at least log(q/p). LCI shows that information is a commodity that, like money, obeys strict accounting principles. This paper proves three conservation of information theorems: a function-theoretic, a measure-theoretic, and a fitness-theoretic version. These are representative of conservation of information theorems in general. Such theorems provide the theoretical underpinnings for the Law of Conservation of Information. Though not denying Darwinian evolution or even limiting its role in the history of life, the Law of Conservation of Information shows that Darwinian evolution is inherently teleological. Moreover, it shows that this teleology can be measured in precise information-theoretic terms. – http://www.evoinfo.org/Publications.html ——— This paper is extremely interesting in that for evolution to actually be true it shows that it cannot be random Darwinian Evolution and that God will have to “move within nature”, in a teleological manner, to provide the additional functional information needed to make gradual evolution of increased complexity possible, thus the theoretical underpinnings of randomness are completely removed from Darwinian ideology. Yet there are many lines of evidence pointing to the fact that Genetic Entropy is true and that no teleological processes are involved in life once a ‘Parent Kind/Species is created by God. For prime example of the evidence for the rigidity of the principle of Genetic Entropy being rigorously obeyed, it is obvious that the “Fitness Test”, against a parent species of bacteria, has not been observed to have been violated even one time, by any sub-species bacteria of a parent bacteria, thus, so far after millions of tests, conclusively demonstrating that the “optimal information” encoded onto parent bacteria has not been added to by any “teleological” methods (i.e. by God moving within nature to provide the information needed for a “gradual increase” in functional complexity). Thus the inference to Genetic Entropy, i.e. that God has not moved within nature to increase the functional information of a parent species genome once He has created the parent species, still holds as valid for the principle of Genetic Entropy. In fact to conclusively demonstrate that God has moved within nature, in a teleological manner, to provide the sub-species with additional functional information over its parent species, the “fitness test” must be passed, by the sub-species that underwent a “beneficial adaptation”, against the parent species. If the “fitness test” is passed by the sub-species, then the new molecular function which provides the more robust survivability (more fitness), for the sub-species over the parent species, must be calculated to its additional Functional Information (Fits) that it gained in the adaptation, and then be found to be greater than the 140 Fits, of functional information, that has been set by Kirk Durston as the maximum limit to what totally natural processes can be expected to generate over the entire age of the universe. This must be done to rigorously establish that natural processes did not generate the functional complexity (Fits), and to rigorously establish that teleological processes were indeed involved in the increase of Functional Complexity of the “more fit” sub-species. ——– My overwhelming intuition from Theology is this; Once God creates a parent species, the parent species is encoded with “optimal information” for the specific purpose to which God has created the “Kind/Species to exist, and God has chosen, in His infinite wisdom, to limit the extent to which He will act in nature to “evolve” the sub-species of the parent species to greater heights of functional complexity. ——- Thus I find that Genetic Entropy is in complete harmony with the formal proof of the Law Of Conservation of Information that has now been elucidated by William Dembski and Robert Marks. ——– For general outline of the “Fitness test” see this video –

    “Is Antibiotic Resistance evidence for evolution?” –
    http://www.tangle.com/view_vid.....e30ff85177

    – For outline of Kirk Durstons universal limit to Funtional Information please see these videos –

    Mathematically Defining Functional Information In Biology – Kirk Durston – short lecture – http://www.tangle.com/view_vid.....afb2a1c58a

    Full video – http://www.tangle.com/view_vid.....361e91801f
    part 2: – http://www.tangle.com/view_vid.....7f87960ff9

  51. 51
    StephenB says:

    —-Hazel: “My answer is that the mind has arisen out of the universe – is part of the universe – and so of course it manifests the logic inherent in the universe. How could the structure and functioning of something in in the universe not incorporate the logical nature of of the universe.

    That is just another “poof-there-it-is” argument.

    —-“I can see why the dualist has to provide an answer to this question, but for me it is a non-issue.”

    It is an issue for everyone. Unless the rational mind is in correspondence with the rational universe there is no rationality. Many do not understand this.

  52. 52
    beelzebub says:

    I have time for a couple of comments before I leave.

    Borne writes:

    Allah? The god of the moon? … FSM? Seriously!

    Borne,

    You’re replying to a quote that didn’t come from me. I know that all of us atheists look alike to you, but can you really not tell the difference between a beelzebub and a Ludwig?

    So how old are you? Do you precede or succeed the “old guy”?
    So you believe you’re the lord of the flies? Well that ought to encourage all to take you seriously.

    Lighten up, Borne. It’s a nom de Net.

    I asked:

    Why can’t a necessary entity (in the first sense) possess probabilistic attributes?

    You answered:

    A necessary entity is a self-sufficient entity. Thus an entity entirely self-governed and not subject to it’s own created laws of probability in a material universe. You’re trying to apply material properties to a non material entity.

    I notice that you then conveniently skipped over my next two sentences, which were:

    And even if that were impossible, why could it not give rise to a subsidiary entity that possesses probabilistic attributes? If you think the latter is impossible, then you deny the reality of randomness in our universe. Is that your position?

    What is your answer to that question?

    You wrote:

    Many things are unknowable to the human mind.

    That’s my point. vjtorley is therefore unduly optimistic to think that “nothing in the cosmos appears to be beyond our ken.”

    You may as well claim that because humans are not omniscient that therefore the given argument doesn’t stand as a general principle.

    No, because saying that we’re capable of understanding everything about the cosmos is not the same as saying that we do understand everything about it.

    I wrote:

    If the cosmos were the creation of a Divine Mind, operating without constraints; and further if that Divine Mind wanted to be known; then I would expect the evidence to be far more compelling than it is.

    You replied:

    Yet, the evidence is overwhelming to clear thinkers…

    Not to all clear thinkers, and these days, possibly not even to a majority of them.

    …and has been throughout history, hence the great majority of humans since day one have believed in a superior power. Atheists have always been and still are the tiny minority.

    And we all know that whatever the majority says must be true. Such as, for example, the majority of evolutionary biologists. Right, Borne?

    As Voltaire states,
    “The atheists are for the most part impudent and misguided scholars who reason badly, and who not being able to understand the creation, the origin of evil, and other difficulties, have recourse to the hypothesis of the eternity of things and of inevitability.”

    You should probably update your “argument”. The atheists of 2009 are not the atheists of 1770.

    I asked:

    Do you really think a Divine Mind could do no better than this?”

    You responded:

    Well jeepers I’m not a divine mind. Are you a divine mind? Obviously not.
    1) A divine mind is necessarily so far beyond any human mind as to make the gap immeasurable. Thus we cannot know all the reasons why a divine mind would make the choices it does any more than an bacteria understands a space shuttle.

    In other words, we should assume that God exists whether the evidence supports this hypothesis or not. Supporting evidence should be embraced, but conflicting evidence should be dismissed because mere humans can’t fathom the divine.

    What you’re forgetting is that we humans have nothing at our disposal other than our minds to decide these questions. We’re not born believing in the Christian God or the truth of the Bible. Each of us has to decide, using our mere human minds, whether to accept these things. Believing on the basis of someone or something else’s authority doesn’t absolve you of responsibility; you still have to decide, using your mere human mind, whether to accept that person, institution, or book as authoritative.

    If our minds are all we have to decide these issues, then the last thing we should do is to shrug our shoulders and say “who am I to question it? It must be true.” We have to question things, because in the end, nobody else can do it for us.

    Besides, if you really believe that the Divine Mind is so unfathomable, then how can you be so confident that the Bible emanates from it? Here you are quoting Scripture at me, when according to you, your mere human mind isn’t adequate to judge whether the Bible is in fact the word of God.

    I wrote:

    Why isn’t his existence obvious to every sincere seeker, if it’s so important to him to be known by his creatures?

    Your response:

    To quote Isaiah, “Truly, You are a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, Savior!” Now why would he do that? Think it over a little more rationally Bee.

    Again, to help you out here: “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings [is] to search out a matter.” Proverbs 25:2

    Well, I have “searched out the matter”, which is why I abandoned my theism. It’s not a painless process, I assure you. So again, I ask the question:

    Why isn’t his existence obvious to every sincere seeker, if it’s so important to him to be known by his creatures?

    You wrote:

    Is that why you rejected him? For psychological and emotional reasons? And not “rationality” at all as you claim?

    It’s awfully convenient to dismiss your opponent’s arguments as “emotional”. But my arguments are here in this thread, visible to everyone. If they are irrational, then demonstrate that to us.

  53. 53
    vjtorley says:

    Beelzebub

    Thank you for all your comments. When I logged on a few minutes ago, I was surprised to find that my response to a query on how we can know that there’s a personal Deity had turned into a post of its own. Thank you, Barry.

    I’ll start with your question in #20, Beelzebub.

    Could you perhaps present what you think are the one or two strongest arguments against the multiverse?

    Let me state at the outset: I don’t think that either scientists or philosophers can conclusively establish at the present time that there is no multiverse. However, I do think that the multiverse is a very poor explanation of fine-tuning, and I also think that the multiverse cannot possibly serve as an ultimate explanation of reality.

    Here are my main arguments against the multiverse as an ultimate explanation.

    Argument 1. Either the multiverse has certain distinctive physical properties of its own (meta-laws, if you like) or it has none. And if it has distinctive physical properties of its own, either it contains everything else, or it does not – in other words, every universe is embedded in a bigger one, and so on ad infinitum. So there are three possibilities: a multiverse with no properties of its own; an over-arching multiverse with its own distinctive physical properties; and an endless series of multiverses, each embedded in a bigger one, and each having its own properties.

    A multiverse with no distinctive properties of its own is by definition lawless. As such, it cannot explain anything, and it cannot preclude anything as impossible, either – which means that literally anything could happen, anywhere, at any time. As University of Waterloo chair of physics Dr. Robb Mann put it in a talk reported by journalist Denyse O’Leary on her Mindful Hack blog:

    Remember, “impossible” means “not possible according to the laws of this universe.” But there are no longer any limits to that. You don’t believe in magic? But how do you know that another universe, where magic exists, has not overlapped ours and thus created magic? Getting rid of God by arguing for a multiverse – far from advancing science – destroys science!

    Also, if you accept a lawless multiverse, then you’re really acknowledging that the universe could fall apart at any second – and the scientific enterprise along with it. So much for placing science on a stable footing!

    Our next possibility, a multiverse which has distinctive physical properties (meta-laws, if you like) and which is not part of anything bigger, invites the question: why these properties, and not some other ones? A multiverse like that would be just as contingent as our universe, which it contains. For any proposed set of meta-laws, we can always envisage them being different, or ceasing to hold, and there seems to be nothing necessitating them. (Some atheists might respond that these arbitrary meta-laws are just a “brute fact.” But if you thought that way, then you might as well stop your metaphysical enquiry at this universe, and not bother with the multiverse.)

    That leaves us with an infinite series of multiverses, each one embedded in a bigger one, like a set of Russian dolls. But that’s not a satisfying explanation either; what it means is that there is no ultimate explanation of anything – just an infinite series of explanations which pass the buck somewhere else. Now, an infinite series of conditions I could accept, but an infinite series of explanations I cannot. If you say, “A is explained by B, which is explained by C, and so on ad infinitum,” then you haven’t explained anything at all. Because none of the members of an infinite explanatory chain is self-sufficient, none of them can explain anything in its own right; each of them provides merely a derivative explanation. However, the notion of a derivative explanation is a borrowed concept, which makes no philosophical sense, unless there is something which would count as an explanation in its own right: i.e. an Ultimate Explanation.

    (If you want a physical illustration of the absurdity of an infinite regress of explanations, think of how you would react if you heard someone claim to be able to pick up iron filings with an infinite series of paper clips, without any need for a magnet at the end.)

    Argument 2. Even if the multiverse could explain the finely-tuned constants of nature, it would not explain the many additional, science-friendly features of our universe, which we would only expect to find if the universe was created for intelligent beings to do science in.

    Dr. Robin Collins provides an overview of these features in his article, Design and the Many-Worlds Hypothesis. I hope you’ll pardon the extended quote.

    Next, we will turn to the various features of the laws of nature that both suggest design and cannot be explained by any many-universes hypothesis, whether physical or metaphysical… These features of the laws are: (i) their simplicity; (ii) their beauty, harmony and elegance; (iii) their intelligibility; and (iv) what I will call their “discoverability.”

    We will begin with the simplicity of the laws. Although no adequate definition of what is meant by calling the laws of nature simple has ever been given, both scientists and philosophers almost unanimously agree that they manifest a surprising degree of simplicity. Indeed, when constructing a new law of nature in some domain, scientists routinely look for the simplest law that adequately accounts for the extant data and which meets the other constraints imposed by various background assumptions.

    Besides simplicity, there is also the beauty of the laws of nature. As Nobel prize winning theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg stresses in his book Dreams of a Final Theory (1992), beauty is widely recognized by physicists as being an important characteristic of the laws of nature, one which has served as a highly successful guide to discovering the fundamental laws of nature in the 20th century. Indeed, Weinberg devotes all of chapter six of his book to discussing and emphasizing the role that considerations of beauty have played in physics. Weinberg, who is a convinced atheist, even admits that “sometimes nature seems more beautiful than strictly necessary” (1992, p. 250)…

    As embodied in the mathematical structure of physical theory, some of these elements of beauty are: (i) simplicity with variety; (ii) proportion and harmony; (iii) symmetry; (iv) inevitability; (v) ingenuity; and (v) having an “interesting twist” or a “strangeness of proportion.”

    The above elements are largely constitutive of the so-called classical concept or type of beauty, but I will only significantly discuss that of simplicity with variety here. Simplicity with variety was the defining feature of beauty or elegance stressed by William Hogarth in his 1753 classic The Analysis of Beauty, where he famously used a line drawn around a cone to illustrate this notion. According to Hogarth, simplicity apart from variety, such as a straight line, is boring, not elegant or beautiful.

    Now, the laws of nature seem to manifest just this sort of simplicity with variety: we inhabit a world that could be characterized as a world of fundamental simplicity that gives rise to the enormous complexity needed for intelligent life. In physics, this simplicity with variety is particularly evident in the way in which whole classes of divergent physical phenomena and laws of nature are encompassed by common contingent principles of great simplicity and elegance…

    Now, this simplicity and elegance cannot be explained by many-universes hypothesis, since there is no reason to think that intelligent life could only arise in a universe with simple, elegant underlying physical principles. Certainly a somewhat orderly macroscopic world is necessary for intelligent life, but there is no reason to think this requires a simple and elegant underlying set of physical principles…

    In sum, therefore, the apparent delicate arrangement and fine-tuning of the laws of nature in order to meet a few simple, contingent, higher-level principle seem strongly to suggest design. As theoretical physicist Paul Davies notes with regard to these features of the laws of nature:

    A common reaction among physicists to remarkable discoveries of the sort discussed above is a mixture of delight at the subtlety and elegance of nature, and of stupefaction: ‘I would never have thought of doing it that way.’ If nature is so ‘clever’ it can exploit mechanism that amaze us with their ingenuity, is that not persuasive evidence for the existence of intelligent design behind the physical universe? If the world’s finest minds can unravel only with difficulty the deeper workings of nature, how could it be supposed that those workings are merely a mindless accident, a product of blind chance?….Once again, the crossword puzzle analogy is appropriate here. Uncovering the laws of physics resembles completing a crossword in a number of ways…. In the case of the crossword, it would never occur to us to suppose that the words just happened to fall into a consistent interlocking pattern by accident…” (Superforce: The Search for a Grand Unified Theory of Nature. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984, pp. 235-36)

    Another feature of the fundamental structure of the physical world that seems to suggest design is its intelligibility. As Albert Einstein once remarked, “the most unintelligible thing about the universe is that it is intelligible at all.” One aspect of this intelligibility is the fact that those human intuitions, categories and concepts we consider significant apply surprisingly well and serve as surprisingly good guides to the underlying order of things.

    The final way in which the laws of nature and the structure of physical reality suggest design is in what I will call their discoverability: that is, the laws of nature seem to be carefully arranged so that they are discoverable by beings with our level of intelligence. I believe that this feature of the laws not only suggests design, but that it fits into a larger pattern that suggests a particular providential purpose for human beings, such as that of developing a sophisticated science and technology, but I cannot argue for that here. (End of quote from Collins. Emphases mine – VJT.)

    In his article, Robin Collins carefully considers and rejects alternative explanations of the beauty of the laws of nature (viz. beauty is purely subjective; our sense of beauty is programmed into us by evolution; we have learned to regard the laws of the universe as beautiful; nature cannot be anything other than beautiful; and beauty is just a brute fact).

    In his last point, Collins talks about the discoverability of the laws of nature. One aspect of what Robin Collins is referring to here is the extraordinary correlation between habitability and measurability in our cosmos, which is discussed by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards in their book, The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery (Regnery Publishing Inc., 2004). The same conditions that give us a habitable planet also make our planet ideal for scientific measurement and discovery. In their book, Gonzalez and Richards discuss numerous physical coincidences, which suggest that our Earth is an excellent place to make the kinds of scientific measurements required to determine the age and size of the cosmos. “For some reason our Earthly location is extraordinarily well suited to allow us to peer into the heavens and discover its secrets” ( http://www.privilegedplanet.com/synopsis.php ). If we inhabited almost any other location in our galaxy, it would be impossible for us to perform these measurements. Yet there is no a priori reason why the places in the galaxy which are most suitable for life should also be ideal for making scientific observations. Not only that, but the universe possesses global features which make it possible for us to estimate its age and size. Once again, the multiverse hypothesis, taken by itself, fails to explain our good fortune in living in a universe which enables us to understand where we came from, and the conditions that made our existence possible.

    Please note that the two arguments I listed above are valid arguments against any kind of multiverse hypothesis, as an Ultimate explanation of reality. I have deliberately avoided discussing some particularly bizarre versions of the multiverse hypothesis, such as Max Tegmark’s proposal that all possible universes exist, or David Deutsch’s proposal that all parallel universes in Everett’s interpretation of quantum physics are objectively real, as I wished to show why the notion of a multiverse in general cannot work as an ultimate explanation.

    Nevertheless, I think it is quite possible that there is a finite multiverse beyond our own. One reason why I take this notion seriously is because of physicist David Deutsch’s claim that quantum computers could not work, if a multiverse did not exist.

    Belief in God certainly would not be threatened by the discovery that a multiverse existed. As Robin Collins writes in the article I cited above:

    [I]t should be stressed that theists need not be opposed to the inflationary many-universe hypothesis. Indeed, there are several reasons theists could give in support of a theistic version of it. First, as described above, the fact that so many factors in contemporary cosmology and particle physics conspire together to make the inflationary many-universe scenario viable gives theists significant reasons for taking it as a serious possibility. Second, science has progressively shown that the visible universe is vastly larger than we once thought, with a current estimate of some 300 billion galaxies with 300 billion stars per galaxy. Thus, it makes sense that this trend will continue and physical reality will be found to be much larger than a single universe. Finally, since theists have traditionally believed that God is infinite and infinitely creative, it only makes sense that creation would reflect these attributes of God, and hence that physical reality would be much larger than one universe, perhaps even infinitely larger.

    An infinitely large multiverse would not sit well with belief in the God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but Hindus and Bahais would be perfectly comfortable with this discovery. So in answer to an earlier reader’s query, here is one way in which you might decide which God is the right one: try and figure out if the cosmos is finite. My money is still on the finite dodecahedral universe, which can be experimentally tested: see http://www.evolutionpages.com/.....iverse.htm .

    Personally, I would be happy if the Big Bang turned out to be the beginning of space and time, and there were no universe outside this one. But I might be wrong. I’d like to give the last word to Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin, writing in his blog at http://www.jimmyakin.org/ (April 26, 2009):

    LISA — the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (INFO HERE) — is a set of satellites to be launched in the next decade or so. They will be placed in a massive triangular formation in space and connected by laser beams which will allow LISA to detect gravitational waves.

    This will make LISA the largest gravitational wave detector in existence, powerful enough to detect events within a microscopically small fraction of a second after the Big Bang — far closer than we’ve been able to measure before.

    Now here’s the thing . . .

    LISA is hypothetically able to find evidence that would allow scientists to distinguish between different pre-Big Bang cosmologies.

    In other words, LISA may allow us to “look” beyond the Big Bang and “see” something there. For example, LISA might detect signs that the Big Bang occurred when two of the branes postulated by brane cosmology collided with each other. Or it might reveal evidence of a parallel universe that our universe budded off of.

    Or it might reveal nothing of the kind, leaving the appearance that the Big Bang was, itself, Event One.

    If the latter is the case then the apologetic use of the Big Bang will be strengthened, just like it was strengthened when dark energy was discovered, as competing hypotheses will be made less likely.

    But the opposite could happen, too. The apologetic value of the Big Bang would be diminished if evidence emerges of a pre-Big Bang universe.

    That’s no threat to the Christian faith. The faith holds that God created the universe in the past but it does not require that the Big Bang represent the moment of creation. Christians held that there was a moment of creation for ages before the Big Bang emerged as a scientific hypothesis, and if it is later shown that the Big Bang was not the moment of creation then we can simply infer that the moment of creation was father back in time than that.

    Christian faith is more than capable of surviving any such discovery.

    However, in the short run it would shake some people up, just as it shook people up when modern paleontology and biology started to provide support for the theory of evolution.

    It certainly helped, at that time, to point out that some authors had been writing about the compatibility of evolution and the Christian faith for quite a while. This wasn’t a threat to the faith because it didn’t contradict the faith.

    The same thing is true for the idea that the Big Bang is not the moment of creation.

    I don’t know if the multiverse is real. But I do know that God is real. Nothing else makes any sense as an explanation of reality.

  54. 54
    beelzebub says:

    kairosfocus writes:

    Anyway, Mauka’s objection against the argument from reason was rebutted on points in the same Materialist Poofery thread — at 193.

    If I recall, your putative rebuttal was posted after mauka’s comments mysteriously disappeared from the blog, followed by silence.

    Since he never got a chance to reply, how about posting your arguments here so that I, at least, can attempt to respond on his behalf?

  55. 55
    hazel says:

    The opening post says,

    There are only three general ways of explaining any given state of affairs: we can explain it as the outcome of chance, necessity or agency (or some combination of the above).

    I have two comments about (one of which will be a followup to something Beezlebub said.

    1. These are three different ways of explaining events that happen in our universe, but we have no way of knowing whether they apply to the meta-universe (whatever it is) from which our universe came and/or in which our universe is embedded.

    We have these three ideas in part because we experience this universe only, and in part that is us – limited human beings existing in the space and time of this universe, who are doing the experiencing.

    That is, there may be nothing more than the three above causes that operate in our universe although there are more, or other, causes in the meta-universe; and/or there may be more causes operating in this universe but we are incapable of experiencing them.

    For instance our notion of necessary cause-and-effect arises from our experience of both time and space flowing in a locally contiguous manner – moment follows moment and point follows point: that is the only way we can experience the world. But there may be connections that are non-local (I mentioned the idea of synchronicity in respect to Taoism in another thread) that connect events in ways that don’t violate our experience of cause-and-effect and yet tie things together in ways that we can never observe.

    Furthermore, given that cause-and-effect are inextricably entangled, in our experience, with the passage of time, and given that time, at least for us, started with the Big Bang, we do not know if time and cause-and-effect are relevant concepts for the meta-universe. The whole argument that there must be an uncaused cause is based on an extrapolation from our experience in our universe, and given that the extrapolation may be invalid so may be the argument.

    In the opening post, vj wrote, “In fact, I would go so far as to say that nothing in the cosmos appears to be beyond our ken”, and Beezlebub replied, “That seems like unjustified hubris to me.”

    Particularly if by “cosmos” we mean to reference these thoughts about the nature of the cause of our universe, I strongly agree with Beezlebub. As I explain above, it is an unjustified extrapolation from our experience in our universe to thoughts about what must be about the world beyond our universe.

    2. Beezlebub said in response to the opening statement about “chance, necessity or agency” that

    I note that your trichotomy contains the implicit assumption that agency is not due to chance and/or necessity.

    I agree: given that we don’t know from where our sense of agency comes, it is premature to conclude that agency as a separate type of cause exists. This in fact is a central dispute in the issues we discuss here. Agency, like intelligence and personhood, are aspects of living things that have a long and varied past. However, the fact that we exhibit these qualities does not mean that they are a part of the essential nature of the universe or its parent meta-universe any more than seeing and breathing are.

    So extrapolating from our nature to the nature of the meta-universe is also not necessarily valid.

  56. 56
    hazel says:

    When I wrote, “The mind has arisen out of the universe – is part of the universe – and so of course it manifests the logic inherent in the universe,” Stephen replied,

    That is just another “poof-there-it-is” argument.

    No more so than invoking God, the ultimate “poof-there-it-is” argument.

  57. 57
    beelzebub says:

    Oramus writes:

    There can be no such thing as a multiverse. It is an oxymoron.

    Only if you insist on interpreting “universe” to mean “all that exists”. Cosmologists and physicists are not so inflexible.

    Jesus alluded to dimensions when he said “There are many rooms in my father’s house”.

    That’s a stretch. Besides, a room is not a dimension.

    On the contrary, if evidence shows appearance of design, you must assume design…

    One of the major points of contention in this thread is whether the universe does in fact show evidence of design. It’s not enough to say that it seems or feels designed. To claim that the universe shows evidence of design, you would have to understand the process of universe formation well enough to say what designed and undesigned universes produced by this process should look like. If you don’t understand the process, you can’t do this.

  58. 58
    beelzebub says:

    Upright Biped writes:

    Instead, materialism cannot explain the material – and that’s a problem of a different sort. It invalidates materialism on its face.

    Dualism can’t explain the immaterial — it just assumes it. So by your logic, that must invalidate dualism.

    Well done.

  59. 59
    vjtorley says:

    Beelzebub

    You write:

    (Citation from Clive Hayden)

    Computers don’t think in the way that we do.

    (Your response.)
    True. They don’t think like we do, at least not yet. But they do reason, as mauka’s example of theorem provers shows. Also check out this wonderful program from a group at Allen’s school, Cornell, that deduces the laws of physics from observations.

    Here’s a description from the linked article:

    In just over a day, a powerful computer program accomplished a feat that took physicists centuries to complete: extrapolating the laws of motion from a pendulum’s swings.

    Developed by Cornell researchers, the program deduced the natural laws without a shred of knowledge about physics or geometry.

    That’s some sophisticated reasoning, and together with the theorem provers and other examples of AI, it shows that reason can be physically instantiated…

    Computers can do logic, and they can reason, as my examples above show. No immaterial stuff required.

    Three points in response:

    1. Mechanically following an algorithm to derive a conclusion from premises is not reasoning in the true sense of the word. You can’t be said to reason unless you understand the concepts you are working with. There is no evidence that computers understand anything – and if you believe in Occam’s razor, you would have to acknowledge that it is more parsimonious to assume that they do not.

    2. There are good philosophical reasons for maintaining that computers do not have concepts, which means that they cannot reason. While they can be trained to categorize objects into groups, they fail to make the intensional distinctions that true concept-holders do. For instance, consider the concept of a closed figure with three sides. This is a distinct concept from that of a closed figure with three angles. Yet the extension of the two concepts is identical: every triangle is also a trilateral, and vice versa. No computer is capable of arguing that the concepts, while necessarily coextensional, are nevertheless distinct.

    3. Even if a computer could reason, it would still be incapable of critical reasoning. I don’t want to repeat myself ad nauseam, but if you go back to the thread at http://www.uncommondescent.com.....nce-redux/ you’ll see why I regard this capacity as important for establishing the immateriality of the intellect. In a nutshell: I regard critical reasoning as an essentially open-ended capacity, which cannot be defined in terms of a set of algorithms. Thought does not supervene upon anything. This negative hypothesis, I argued, is liberating for scientists: if we assume that critical reasoning is capable of identifying any flaw in our reasoning, then there is no physical phenomenon which is not amenable to scientific investigation.

    I would also refer you to the earlier thread http://www.uncommondescent.com.....t-poofery/ and in particular, my post at #169 and KF’s post at #193.

  60. 60
    beelzebub says:

    allanius writes:

    But what is all this talk about “laws”? You of all people should know that there can’t be “laws” without a lawgiver.

    Physical laws are not commands from on high. They are descriptions of observed regularities in the behavior of matter and energy.

    And don’t disappoint us by claiming that laws are inherent in matter.

    The laws aren’t, being merely descriptive, but the regularities are. We identify matter by these regularities. Without them, it isn’t matter at all. So of course it makes sense to say that they are inherent in matter.

  61. 61
    beelzebub says:

    vjtorley,

    Thanks for your detailed responses. I apologize, but I won’t be able to respond in kind until I have more time, either later today or tonight.

    Later, folks!

  62. 62
    Alan Fox says:

    Physical laws are not commands from on high.

    They are properties that we observe. The working hypothesis is that, for our observable universe, the properties of things we observe are consistent. Assuming that, we can build up further hypotheses. It’s just a way of rationalizing our experience.

  63. 63
    kairosfocus says:

    BZ:

    (Borrowing back from Mikey the Archie. last I heard his sword was getting real sharp . . . sharp enough to slice the legs off a fly that walks on its edge.)

    The link goes straight to the argument.

    GEM of TKI

  64. 64
    Upright BiPed says:

    beelzebub

    Upright Biped writes:

    “Instead, materialism cannot explain the material – and that’s a problem of a different sort. It invalidates materialism on its face.”

    Dualism can’t explain the immaterial — it just assumes it. So by your logic, that must invalidate dualism.

    Well done.

    Ha! Is this a drive-by response or what?

    If I remember somewhere upthread you were bathing yourself in some ointment – promoting the idea that you have arrived to provide strong responses to critical questions for the less anointed to hear. Your very presence was to have an effect, I suppose.

    Try again Skippy. I could care less to argue dualism, or any of the other treatments you juggle in order to ignore what is directly in front of you.

    Do something that you have so far failed to do – answer the evidence.

    I’m still waiting.

  65. 65
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    “Likewise, if your thoughts are the product of an immaterial mind, then you also have no way of standing outside them and judging them from an objective reference point.”

    I cannot agree with you on just about everything that you’ve written. Like I said, the theist, who assumes that the mind is separate from the material causation, can do this, for we can stand outside the material movements, we can because the mind already does this, and judges things through the laws of logic, which are not material. You can have no equation where the laws of logic are the laws of motion.

  66. 66
    dgosse says:

    Hi beelzebub

    From your “thinking” computer article;

    “In the end, we still need a scientist to look at this and say, this is interesting,” said Lipson.

    Humans are, in other words, still important.

    There is a difference between a calculating and evaluating. The computer (a product of design, BTW) is a supremely competent calculator but is incapable of evaluating the validty or value of its calculations.

    This is the flaw in the critique of Lewis as well. Lewis argument is not that our minds are infallible, his argument is that knowledge – the evaluation of data – is not explicable as a purely material function.

    The argument…

    If thinking is carried out not by the brain, but by some unknown immaterial entity, then KF has no way of guaranteeing that this immaterial entity operates reliably, and thus no way of guaranteeing that his thoughts are reliable. Oops.

    is a misstatement of the argument from reason. Cause and effect (whether at the level of sub-atomic particles or sophisticated calculating machines) cannot “know” in the same sense that the human mind “knows”. This is not a claim to infallible knowledge, it is a claim that knowledge, whether it is true knowledge or false knowledge, is a non-material function.

  67. 67
    Frost122585 says:

    and as Kurt Godel pointed out the human mind is still evolving – or can learn new things with out the help of the computer- where the computer is totally dependent on the axioms given to it by the human mind.

  68. 68
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    —-“You are the program, Clive. Or to put it in a way that relies less heavily on the computer metaphor, “your mind is what your brain does.””

    Well, you don’t know this without begging the very question at hand. You have no way out, no matter how large your prison is, it is still a prison of the brain. You would never really know that you were the program, for the program might not tell you, you would have no way of determining it. Let’s be reasonable beelzebub, we take our cues from metaphysical things, like the laws of logic and reason, morality, sentiment. Not from protons and electrons.

  69. 69
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    “But the expansion of which I speak was much more evil than all this. I have remarked that the materialist, like the madman, is in prison; in the prison of one thought. These people seemed to think it singularly inspiring to keep on saying that the prison was very large. The size of this scientific universe gave one no novelty, no relief. The cosmos went on for ever, but not in its wildest constellation could there be anything really interesting; anything, for instance, such as forgiveness or free will. The grandeur or infinity of the secret of its cosmos added nothing to it. It was like telling a prisoner in Reading gaol that he would be glad to hear that the gaol now covered half the county. The warder would have nothing to show the man except more and more long corridors of stone lit by ghastly lights and empty of all that is human. So these expanders of the universe had nothing to show us except more and more infinite corridors of space lit by ghastly suns and empty of all that is divine.

    In fairyland there had been a real law; a law that could be broken, for the definition of a law is something that can be broken. But the machinery of this cosmic prison was something that could not be broken; for we ourselves were only a part of its machinery. We were either unable to do things or we were destined to do them. The idea of the mystical condition quite disappeared; one can neither have the firmness of keeping laws nor the fun of breaking them. The largeness of this universe had nothing of that freshness and airy outbreak which we have praised in the universe of the poet. This modern universe is literally an empire; that is, it was vast, but it is not free. One went into larger and larger windowless rooms, rooms big with Babylonian perspective; but one never found the smallest window or a whisper of outer air.”

    G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

  70. 70
    Upright BiPed says:

    Clive – “Well, you don’t know this without begging the very question at hand”

    My first comment to Belzip was that he MUST assume his conclusions. He is non-responsive to such criticisms. He does tuck and roll well, however.

  71. 71
    vjtorley says:

    Beelzebub

    Perhaps I might make my meaning clearer on the immateriality of thought if I simply articulate this central point: thinking is a purely formal activity. It presupposes the possession of concepts, which are purely formal terms. It involves logical activities such as making valid inferences, and also higher-level activities, such as critically evaluating the concepts that one uses, as well as the patterns of inference used in one’s arguments. These are all formal operations.

    Computers are material devices that have been designed to simulate formal operations. Their operations have meaning, only insofar as their human designers endow them with meaning.

    Thus computers do not, strictly speaking, prove theorems, as you and mauka claim; rather, they follow an algorithm which manipulates 1’s and 0’s, and which has been designed by human beings to generate what we recognize as a proof, once we come to understand their output. The mechanical operations performed by computers save us from the trouble of having to think up the best way to derive a conclusion from a set of premises; but that does not mean that computers “discover” proofs for us. Computers generate proofs without understanding of what they are doing. The computer algorithm works because the mechanical process it follows includes physical operations which were designed by humans to correspond to the formal operations of logic. Computers do not think; but they simulate thinking very well.

    Now, ask yourself: if the computer had been incorrectly programmed, would it ever know? No – unless it also happened to possess a higher-level program-checker, created by another human designer. And if that checker had a bug in its program, the computer would have no way of knowing what was wrong.

    Here’s why materialism undermines human thought: it says that we are in the same position as the computer, except that we had no designer. On the materialist account, we don’t really perform formal operations at all; our brains just perform certain physical operations which they have been to selected to do by Nature over the past four billion years. These operations certainly promote our survival, for that is what we are: survival machines. But that fact alone does not guarantee that the mechanical operations of our brains faithfully correspond to any formal operations, such as logical patterns of inference. Our thoughts are not designed to follow the rules of logic; they have simply been selected over the past four billion years, to promote survival. All we can say is that our thought is likely to be logical in those restricted circumstances where failure to think logically would hamper our survival.

    Just as the computer in the example above could not question the validity of its own mechanical processes, except insofar as it was programmed to do so, so too human beings are in the precarious position of being unable to question many of their own thought processes, if the materialist paradigm of thought is correct.

    By now, the appeal of an immaterialist account should be obvious. When we think, we really do perform formal operations. That’s our nature, as thinking animals. And on those odd occasions when we fail to think properly, our very failures can be critiqued on formal grounds which we can readily understand.

    You argue that an immaterial mind is just as error-prone as a material one:

    Likewise, if your thoughts are the product of an immaterial mind, then you also have no way of standing outside them and judging them from an objective reference point.

    This is wrong on several counts. First, my thoughts are not the product of my mind, as they are not determined. I think; but nothing makes me do so.

    Second, on an immaterialist account, there is no built-in restriction on which thoughts of mine I can and cannot question. I can critically evaluate any thought that I think.

    Third, if a formalist account of thought is correct, then the only kinds of mistakes I can make when thinking are those of a formal nature: misapplications or misapprehensions of a rule (e.g. a pattern of inference).

    The final point I’d like to make is that there is an important distinction which the materialist account of thought cannot explain but the immaterialist can: the distinction between appearance and reality.

    Thanks to our survival skills, we are able to to see past misleading appearances, but only by relying on better indicators, which are themselves outward appearances. (Think of the subtle bodily cues that enable us to detect lying.) A “survival machine” (which is what we are on a materialist account) does not need to distinguish between appearance and reality; it just needs to identify the appropriate kind of appearance (or physical property) to suit its built-in needs.

    But the appearance-reality distinction is vital to science. Doing good science requires us to probe behind the appearances, all the time. To take an old example of Aristotle’s: the sun looks less than a foot across, but it is actually bigger than the Earth.

    So here’s my question: on a materialist account of thought, what does it mean to make a distinction between the way things seem and the way they really are? And why should we think we’d be any good at doing this?

  72. 72
    StephenB says:

    —-Hazel: “When I wrote, “The mind has arisen out of the universe – is part of the universe – and so of course it manifests the logic inherent in the universe,” Stephen replied,

    That is just another “poof-there-it-is” argument.

    —-Hazel: “No more so than invoking God, the ultimate “poof-there-it-is” argument.”

    Well, yes there is a difference. An impersonal force, principle, or law that creates the universe cannot be the source of morality, love, forgiveness, or any other quality that makes life worth living. To posit such a thing is to forfeit any notion of goodness, purpose, or meaning. That is one big trade off.

  73. 73
    vjtorley says:

    Beelzebub

    In response to your earlier comments on my first argument for a personal Deity, you wrote (#7):

    I think you may be equivocating on the word “necessary” here. The universe may not be necessary in the sense of “containing its own reason for being”, but that does not mean it is not necessary in the sense of “existing as a necessary consequence of something else.”

    ….

    Why can’t a necessary entity (in the first sense) possess probabilistic attributes? And even if that were impossible, why could it not give rise to a subsidiary entity that possesses probabilistic attributes? If you think the latter is impossible, then you deny the reality of randomness in our universe. Is that your position?

    If the universe were a necessary consequence of something else, then it would lack any contingent attributes: everything about it would be the way it has to be. This strikes me as extremely implausible: even the laws of nature appear to be contingent. Each law has an air of the ad hoc about it (recall Isidor I. Rabi’s famous comment when the muon was discovered: “Who ordered that?”), and even when they are considered as an ensemble, we can, without apparent absurdity, speculate about what would happen if they were different.

    Now, for all I know, there might conceivably be something which necessitates these laws, but I’d want to see evidence for its existence.

    As to your other question: the reason why I don’t think a necessary Being could possess probabilistic attributes is that probabilistic attributes are quantitative, and quantitative attributes are, at least on the face of it, contingent. For any given value of a quantity, one can always ask: why this value?

    As I believe the universe is the work of an agent, I do not believe in any genuine, irreducible randomness. Presumably God uses a random-number generator (maybe based on the number 97) which accounts for quantum indeterminacy; but the randomness is merely apparent. From God’s point of view, there is no randomness in the universe.

    In my second argument for a personal God (which is based on Aquinas), I was perhaps too brief when I wrote:

    Anything material is contingent: whatever traits it has could be otherwise. Consequently, the necessary Being is immaterial. Anything immaterial is intelligent, because its properties – and hence its modus operandi – are purely formal and not material. To be intelligent is the same as having a purely formal modus operandi (think of something performing logical or mathematical operations).

    I’d like to articulate my premises more clearly. The reason why I argued that that “anything material is contingent: whatever traits it has could be otherwise” is that I am assuming (as modern scientists would) that quantitative attributes are the fundamental attrinutes of material objects. Any qualitative attribute of a material object is reducible to another attribute which is quantitative (e.g. color is reducible to wavelength – yes, I know that’s a very crude oversimplification).

    Now, quantitative attributes are contingent, as I argued above. Thus material objects are contingent.

    You also wrote:

    A Platonic Form (of triangles, say) would necessarily be immaterial, but not intelligent.

    Good point. I was a little imprecise here. Instead of writing:

    Anything immaterial is intelligent…

    I should have written:

    Anything immaterial that is capable of performing an operation is intelligent, because its properties – and hence its modus operandi – are purely formal and not material.

    Platonic Forms do not cause anything to happen, either by necessity, agency or chance. Thus there is no reason to impute intelligence to them.

    I hope we can agree that anything we call intelligent must be something which is capable of causing things to happen.

    Regarding my third argument for a personal God, which is based on fine-tuning and functional complex specified information, you write:

    What is the range of permissible values for the physical constants, for example, and what does the probability distribution look like? If you can’t answer such questions authoritatively, then you can’t legitimately declare that it is “overwhelmingly probable” that the universe was designed.

    Not so. All I have to do is argue that there is a strong prima facie case for believing that the physical constants in question can vary over a much wider range than the narrow range of values which is compatible with the existence of intelligent life in the cosmos. And most physicists would agree with me. The most spectacular case in point is the cosmological constant, of which the Nobel-winning physicist (and atheist) Steven Weinberg has written of this constant:

    …[F]rom first principles one would guess that this constant is very large….

    In fact, astronomical observations show that the cosmological constant is very small, very much smaller than would have been guessed from first principles (In The New York Review of Books. Review: “A Designer Universe?” October 21, 1999.)

    My fourth argument for a personal God, from the intelligibility of the cosmos contained the side-comment:

    (In fact, I would go so far as to say that nothing in the cosmos appears to be beyond our ken.)

    Some readers attacked me for saying that, and you regarded it as “unjustified hubris.” However, the only counter-example you gave was a mathematical one, and I made no claim that we could know all mathematical truths. I was speaking of empirical phenomena, which I believe we can fully grasp – in other words, I think we can grasp all of the “natural kinds” that occur in the cosmos. I may be wrong here, but even if I am, the remainder of my argument holds true:

    Paraphrasing Einstein, the most peculiar thing about the cosmos is that is it comprehensible. Actually, there is a two-fold wonder here: the fact that reality is intelligible; and the fact that we possess minds that can grasp it… In the absence of a personal God, these two facts should strike us as unbelievable good luck, and as states of affairs that we have no right to count on.

    You respond that we don’t know the relevant probabilities to calculate the odds. I hope that my earlier remarks about the insufficiency of the multiverse, the beauty of the laws of nature, and the radical contingency (as far as we can tell) of the constants of nature – in particular the cosmological constant – show why I regard the intelligibility of the universe as (a) something of a miracle; and (b) something very fragile and utterly contingent.

    Likewise, the fact that we can understand things such as the mechanics of plague transmission, the principles that allow an aeroplane to fly, the physics of general relativity, and the nature of gold as chemical element number 79, should excite wonder. For it is surprising that our minds are up to these difficult challenges. As one science textbook I read when I was a 10-year-old child put it: “That’s not bad for an animal six feet tall.”

    You write:

    If the cosmos were the creation of a Divine Mind, operating without constraints; and further if that Divine Mind wanted to be known; then I would expect the evidence to be far more compelling than it is.

    I would disagree here. Most people throughout history have been sufficiently impressed by the order in the world to attribute it to an Intelligent Creator. Widespread skepticism is a relatively recent phenomenon; and it may well be a short-lived one.

    In any case, the arguments for God do not have to be appreciated on an academic level. All it takes to “get” them is for something to go wrong in our lives – sickness, injury, or a disaster. Then we realize just how fragile nature is, and how much we take the universe for granted. When things return to normal, most of us feel an impulse of gratitude. I think we have these feelings for a reason. What I have attempted to do here is formalize some of the intuitions that underlie these feelings.

    As regards my fifth argument for a personal God:

    You argue that natural selection sharpens thought and guarantees its reliability, but I have already argued in previous posts that the range of circumstances in which the reliability of thought is liable to hold is far narrower than we’d require to do good science, and that materialism severly undermines the reliability of human thought in general.

    Next, you ask what guarantee I have that my immaterial mind won’t fail me. Now, I readily recognize that there is no guarantee that we can think straight from one moment to the next, even if our minds are immaterial. So many things could go wrong: I could suddenly lose consciousness, forget where I was in my argument, mis-remember the premises I was arguing from, and so on.

    Of course, as I have argued above, the big advantages of having an immaterial mind over a material one are that the failures which may arise are not failures in thinking as such, but in the external circumstances without which thinking could not occur (i.e. loss of information, and/or loss of concentration). An immaterial mind will not systematically err, and that there is no inherent reason why it should not be able to think straight about anything out there in the cosmos.

    But even an immaterial mind carries no guarantee that it will think rationally. The fact that I am able to think straight does not guarantee that I will; also, unless I manage to abstract concepts from the empirical data coming to me through my senses, I will never understand anything. This is something I could easily fail to do, through sheer stupidity.

    I conclude that human acts of understanding and thinking are not self-sufficient processes; and only a Divine Mind which is by nature incapable of failing, and whose nature it is to know everything that can be known, could serve to guarantee the reliability of human thought, which is fragile and fallible.

    Finally, you write:

    To add one more point: even if your preceding arguments had demonstrated the existence of a personal god, that does not warrant the conclusion that thought is reliable. Nothing prevents a personal god from messing with our thoughts, as he supposedly did in the Garden of Eden (before Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit) and at the Tower of Babel (when he supposedly threw the builders into disarray by making them speak different languages).

    I shall confine my reply to the philosophical level. If you ask me what I mean by God, I’d say: a Being whose nature it is to know and love perfectly – i.e. know everything that can be known, and love everything as it should be loved. Knowledge and love are non-quantitative attributes – hence non-arbitrary. There seems no obvious reason why a Being that perfect knowledge and love by nature (and hence, not conditionally upon favorable external circumstances) would be contingent – after all, how could it fail? Also, knowledge and love logically go hand-in-hand. Whatever we can know, we can also love, and a Being that knew everything but loved nothing would strike me as deficient. You would expect something that had perfect knowledge to also possess perfect love, and vice versa. I would not expect a Being like that to mess with my mind.

  74. 74
    hazel says:

    re 72:

    Well first of all, I don’t agree that a non-personal cause of the universe negates any of those things about human beings, although I know you won’t agree with that.

    Second, if one is searching for truth, you don’t go looking for the explanation that accounts for things the way you want them to be accounted for. If morality, love, purpose, intelligence, etc. are characteristics of human beings but not of the universe as a whole, then so be it.

    I don’t need the universe as a whole to validate my human nature by being like my human nature. If my nature has arisen out of the universe, that’s good enough for me.

  75. 75
    Seversky says:

    It would be good intellectual exercise to discuss vjtorley’s arguments in detail but it would also be a waste of time and energy while my comments are held in moderation for so long that they have disappeared far upthread by the time they are released.

    I fully accept that the administrators of this site have the right to moderate discussion in any way that they choose but I think I am entitled to know how long this is going to continue.

    If there is no end in sight then there is no choice but to take my comments to a more tolerant and hospitable venue.

  76. 76
    Clive Hayden says:

    Seversky,

    I’ve taken you off moderation. Feel free to discuss vjtorley’s arguments in detail.

  77. 77
    hazel says:

    I’d like to thank Clive – the more full fledged participants we have (assuming they follow the civility rules), the better. I’m looking forward to what Severesky has to say.

  78. 78
    hazel says:

    vj writes at 73,

    Also, knowledge and love logically go hand-in-hand. Whatever we can know, we can also love, and a Being that knew everything but loved nothing would strike me as deficient. You would expect something that had perfect knowledge to also possess perfect love, and vice versa. I would not expect a Being like that to mess with my mind.

    This is an example, I think, of the word “logically” being mis-used to mean “meets my expectations.” Vj would expect this because he starts with the assumption of the Christian God, but to think that these two “logically go hand-in-hand” is just to embed his assumptions into whatever “logic” he might offer. He says, “You would expect something that had perfect knowledge to also possess perfect love,” but really he means he would expect that – I wouldn’t expect that even if I thought a being with perfect knowledge existed

    There is no logical reason why a being with complete knowledge of the universe would also be completely loving. It is entirely possible that such a being would look upon the vastness of the universe with bemused indifference, or detached curiosity as to what might be happening in the universe, or number of other attitudes. It is a projective personification, not logic, that leads to the expectation that an omniscient being would be necessarily also omni-loving.

  79. 79
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Vjtorley,
    All I have to do is argue that there is a strong prima facie case for believing that the physical constants in question can vary over a much wider range than the narrow range of values which is compatible with the existence of intelligent life in the cosmos.
    It is not a given that the range of values for which life can exist is narrow. This article has been referenced previously as evidence that life could devlop over a much wider range of physical constants than previously thought, up to 25% of combinations tested. 25% is not fine tuning.

  80. 80
    beelzebub says:

    Rejoining this pleasantly vigorous discussion.

    Clive Hayden wrote:

    Like I said, the theist, who assumes that the mind is separate from the material causation, can do this, for we can stand outside the material movements, we can because the mind already does this, and judges things through the laws of logic, which are not material.

    Clive,

    You missed my point, which is that neither the materialist nor the dualist can step outside of her mind to judge the validity of her thoughts from an objective reference point. We have to do this from the inside. If this is a fatal objection to materialism, as you claim, then it is also a fatal objection to dualism.

    Fortunately, as I noted earlier, there are lots of ways to check our thoughts without stepping outside of our minds. They may not be perfect, and there are no guarantees, but they work pretty well.

    You can have no equation where the laws of logic are the laws of motion.

    A properly constructed circuit can carry out logical operations just as a brain can. Indeed, logic gates, as these circuits are called, are the building blocks out of which computers are constructed. If the rules of logic were immaterial and inaccessible to “mere” matter, as you claim, then computers would not work.

  81. 81
    beelzebub says:

    Upright Biped wrote:

    Ha! Is this a drive-by response or what?

    Upright,

    You made an argument. It was wrong. I pointed out the flaw. Why waste words?

    Do something that you have so far failed to do – answer the evidence.

    That’s exactly what I did, as your own words show:

    I also note that your response lacks any contradiction whatsoever with other materialists in one regard; it left off addressing the evidence in hand.

    You see, it isn’t that materialism cannot explain the immaterial – like a thought. If that were the only evidence against materialism then surely we might all simply stand forever gazing at our shoes. Instead, materialism cannot explain the material – and that’s a problem of a different sort. It invalidates materialism on its face.

    I addressed precisely the “evidence” you asked me to, and now you complain that I haven’t.

    Some people are impossible to please.

  82. 82
    beelzebub says:

    Nakashima wrote:

    This article has been referenced previously as evidence that life could devlop over a much wider range of physical constants than previously thought, up to 25% of combinations tested. 25% is not fine tuning.

    Nakashima,

    In fairness to our opponents, it should be noted that the 25% figure applies to star formation, not to life. From the paper:

    Finally, we note that this paper has focused on the question of whether or not stars can exist in universe with alternate values of the relevant parameters. An important and more global question is whether or not these universes could also support life of some kind. Of course, such questions are made difficult by our current lack of an a priori theory of life. Nonetheless, some basic requirements can be identified (with reasonable certainty): In addition to energy sources (provided by stars), there will be additional constraints to provide the right mix of chemical elements (e.g., carbon in our universe) and a universal solvent (e.g., water). These additional requirements will place additional constraints on the allowed region(s) of parameter space.

    My earlier point remains, however: we cannot judge the probability of our own universe without knowing the range and probability distributions of the free parameters involved in universe formation.

  83. 83
    CannuckianYankee says:

    Beelzebub,

    Hello, my first time responding to one of your posts:

    Re #18: “To put that into the context of this argument, suppose that tomorrow morning someone in a physics lab discovers a surprising new phenomenon that seems inexplicable in light of known physics. Should she assume that God is responsible, or should she assume that there is a perfectly good naturalistic explanation and attempt to discover it?”

    [I hope I’m the first to have pointed this out – otherwise it would be rather redundant – have made it only as far as the above quoted post]

    Well I must ask you, Beelzebub, why make any assumptions at all? I get the impression that you think theists assume God for all questions that don’t have obvious natural explanations. This is hardly the case. I find more “naturalism-of-the-gap” assumptions than I find “God-of-the-gap” assumptions the more I debate in theism/atheism forums. A phenomenon would have to be pretty extraordinary for a reasonable theist to jump to the possibility of the supernatural. But unlike you, the theist does not rule out the supernatal in every case.

    Let’s take the above scenario you mentioned: How about if your physics researcher starts with the following: “Well, there is probably a perfectly good naturalistic explanation for this phenomenon, and that’s where I’ll start my investigation, but in the process, if I find that the evidence for this extraordinay phenomenon is naturalistically inexplicable, and more reasonably seems to point to something beyond a natural explanation, I will not rule that out either, but I will continue to investigate until all reasonable naturalistic explanations are ruled out.”

    Is this not a more reasonable approach than to begin with methodological naturalism as your first assumption?

    BTW, I believe that the above method is common among ID researchers, and it seems to be common among former atheists as well; the most famous one being Antony Flew (and yes, I spelled his first name correctly).

    I think you will find that theists ask for supernatural explanations as a possibility (not necessarily a probability) when and only when phenomenon are inexplicable by natural processes. I think the beginning of the universe is one such example, and the beginning of evolutionary processes another.

    Metaphysically, it makes more sense that a necessary first cause, such as a god and/or a designer started everything, rather than that naturalism goes on contingently ad infinitum.

    Naturalistic explanations do not deal with the absurdity of an infinite regress. Theistic explanations do. Multiverse explanations do not deal with the issue either – they are simply extensions of naturalistic assumptions. Care to discuss?

  84. 84
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    —-“A properly constructed circuit can carry out logical operations just as a brain can. Indeed, logic gates, as these circuits are called, are the building blocks out of which computers are constructed. If the rules of logic were immaterial and inaccessible to “mere” matter, as you claim, then computers would not work.”

    The information that has already been instantiated into it from people, programmers, intelligence. If it were the other way around, if computers assembled themselves and taught us the laws of logic that we had never seen before, you would have a point. But as it stands, you don’t.

  85. 85
    beelzebub says:

    Cannuckian Yankee asks:

    …why make any assumptions at all?

    Every scientist makes working assumptions. They are useful tools for guiding an investigation. Using them doesn’t mean that you’ve ruled out the possibility that they are incorrect.

    A phenomenon would have to be pretty extraordinary for a reasonable theist to jump to the possibility of the supernatural.

    The key word being “reasonable.”

    But unlike you, the theist does not rule out the supernatal in every case.

    I don’t rule out the supernatural. I just don’t invoke extraordinary explanations such as God without strong reasons for doing so.

    Is this not a more reasonable approach than to begin with methodological naturalism as your first assumption?

    You’ve assumed that I am a methodological naturalist. I’m not. I think science is competent to test supernatural hypotheses, provided that they are falsifiable.

    …Antony Flew(and yes, I spelled his first name correctly).

    Did I assert otherwise?

    I think you will find that theists ask for supernatural explanations as a possibility (not necessarily a probability) when and only when phenomenon are inexplicable by natural processes.

    More accurately, whenever they think (or hope) that certain phenomena are inexplicable by natural processes as they are currently understood. They are a little too eager to jump to this conclusion. Look at the record: not a single supernatural hypothesis has been validated in the entire history of science.

    Naturalistic explanations do not deal with the absurdity of an infinite regress. Theistic explanations do…Care to discuss?

    Sure. Theistic explanations get around the problem of an infinite regress not by demonstrating the existence of a terminating point, but by assuming one. If that’s a legitimate move for the theist, why can’t the materialist do the same? One of my points in this thread has been that it doesn’t take a god to terminate an infinite regress.

  86. 86
    beelzebub says:

    Clive writes, regarding computers and logic:

    The information that has already been instantiated into it from people, programmers, intelligence. If it were the other way around, if computers assembled themselves and taught us the laws of logic that we had never seen before, you would have a point.

    Good. It sounds like you’ve conceded that a purely physical system can “do” logic. It’s just that you claim that it can’t do so without an intelligence to design it and/or program it.

    Well, if a purely physical system can “do” logic, then it follows that humans might be purely physical systems that are capable of doing logic. It’s just that you think a designer/programmer is still required.

    In subsequent comments, I will describe how natural selection itself can fulfill the role of designer/programmer.

  87. 87
    beelzebub says:

    Regarding materialism, Clive writes:

    You have no way out, no matter how large your prison is, it is still a prison of the brain.

    And a theist has no way out, either. No matter how large your prison is, it is still a prison of the immaterial mind. People are constrained by their own natures. They show predictability even when they are trying not to.

    You would never really know that you were the program, for the program might not tell you, you would have no way of determining it.

    Same with an immaterial mind. You might not be aware of its constraints, for it might not “tell you”, but they would still be there.

    Let’s be reasonable beelzebub, we take our cues from metaphysical things, like the laws of logic and reason, morality, sentiment. Not from protons and electrons.

    You’re assuming that “taking our cues” can’t itself be a physical process.

    Clive then quotes G.K. Chesterton:

    I have remarked that the materialist, like the madman, is in prison; in the prison of one thought.

    Hardly.

    These people seemed to think it singularly inspiring to keep on saying that the prison was very large. The size of this scientific universe gave one no novelty, no relief. The cosmos went on for ever, but not in its wildest constellation could there be anything really interesting; anything, for instance, such as forgiveness or free will.

    Wow. He must have lived an impoverished life if he thought that there could be nothing interesting in all of the universe except for things like forgiveness and free will.

    And where did he get the idea that forgiveness and materialism are incompatible? Or even free will and materialism, for that matter (although that in particular is a common mistake for which he can be excused).

    It was like telling a prisoner in Reading gaol that he would be glad to hear that the gaol now covered half the county. The warder would have nothing to show the man except more and more long corridors of stone lit by ghastly lights and empty of all that is human. So these expanders of the universe had nothing to show us except more and more infinite corridors of space lit by ghastly suns and empty of all that is divine.

    What sort of a person would describe this wonderful universe of ours in those terms? Was the night sky full of nothing but “ghastly suns” for Chesterton? It’s pitiful.

    And by Chesterton’s logic, we should all feel imprisoned on earth since only a few lucky astronauts ever leave the planet.

    But the machinery of this cosmic prison was something that could not be broken; for we ourselves were only a part of its machinery. We were either unable to do things or we were destined to do them.

    Chesterton needs to read about the incoherence of agent causation. Alas, it’s too late for him to do so. Anyway, that’s a topic for another thread.

  88. 88
    beelzebub says:

    The Argument from Reason has been advanced in this thread by vjtorley and others to support the contention that if materialism is true, our faculty of reason cannot be trusted.

    As mauka described it:

    The question that Lewis and Reppert pose is this: If our thoughts are solely the product of our brains, how can they be trusted? After all, brains are physical systems composed ultimately of fundamental particles. Thus, the operation of the brain is just the end result of a large number of fundamental particles mindlessly obeying the laws of physics. How can this mindless process give rise to rational thought? If the underlying physics is mindless, then we have no way of guaranteeing that the resulting thoughts are rational, according to Lewis and Reppert. Thus, naturalism undercuts itself.

    Lewis and Reppert contend that an immaterial mind does not suffer from this limitation, and that theism is therefore coherent in a way that materialism is not.

    My response is that if the Argument from Reason is valid, then an immaterial mind is just as suspect as a material one. Furthermore, the materialist has a mechanism — natural selection — to explain why the mind is basically reliable. The theist has no explanation, and must simply assume that the mind was constructed to be reliable.

    Some theist commenters have challenged my arguments in an attempt to shift the balance back toward theism.

    In this and subsequent comments, I will make the case that

    1. We have fewer reasons to trust our thoughts if they are produced by an immaterial mind.

    2. We have more reason to trust our thoughts if they are the product of a physical brain.

    3. The strengths and flaws of our thinking are well explained by an evolutionary model, but not at all by a theistic model, where they must simply be assumed.

  89. 89
    beelzebub says:

    First, regarding the reliability of an immaterial mind:

    a. As I explained to Clive, we cannot judge the validity of our thoughts from an objective vantage point outside the mind. Thus, an immaterial mind is potentially subject to systematic error, just as a physical mind is.

    b. Assuming theism doesn’t guarantee that reason is reliable.

    c. God could have chosen to limit our reasoning abilities.

    d. God didn’t give giraffes a reliable faculty of reason. We can’t just assume that he did this for humans.

    e. The Bible itself states frequently that human reason is not trustworthy, and it gives examples of times when God deliberately confused people, hid things from them, “hardened their hearts”, etc.

    f. vjtorley concedes that “an immaterial mind carries no guarantee that it will think rationally,” and that “only a Divine Mind which is by nature incapable of failing, and whose nature it is to know everything that can be known, could serve to guarantee the reliability of human thought, which is fragile and fallible.” My point exactly. And since we can’t assume that the Divine Mind has chosen to guarantee the reliability of the immaterial mind, we can’t assume that it is free from systematic error.

    g. This argument from vjtorley doesn’t work:

    Also, knowledge and love logically go hand-in-hand. Whatever we can know, we can also love, and a Being that knew everything but loved nothing would strike me as deficient. You would expect something that had perfect knowledge to also possess perfect love, and vice versa. I would not expect a Being like that to mess with my mind.

    As hazel pointed out, this just betrays an assumption on vjtorley’s part about God’s nature. Why must perfect love go with perfect knowledge? The following argument makes just as much sense logically:

    Also, knowledge and hate logically go hand-in-hand. Whatever we can know, we can also hate, and a Being that knew everything but hated nothing would strike me as deficient. You would expect something that had perfect knowledge to also possess perfect hate, and vice versa. I would expect a Being like that to mess with my mind.

    h. The immaterial mind doesn’t benefit from natural selection. While the materialist has an explanation for the evolution of a basically reliable human intelligence, the theist has to simply take it on faith.

  90. 90
    CannuckianYankee says:

    Beelzebub: “Every scientist makes working assumptions. They are useful tools for guiding an investigation. Using them doesn’t mean that you’ve ruled out the possibility that they are incorrect.”

    True. However, you seemed to offer only one possible assumption to be correct when you stated:

    —“I am an atheist not because I think the existence of God can be definitively disproven — I doubt that very much, in fact — but rather because I think the evidence for God is tenuous and unconvincing” (your point made further also in the 2nd quote below)

    And so instead you accept unguided natural selection as the force that chose to come up with irreducibly complex biological systems out of the blue? How convincing is that?

    You know, no matter how you look at the world and biology, you need to imagine a force of some kind; natural or supernatural. Why is it so difficult to grasp that the real force we see behind nature might be something beyond nature? Don’t like to call it a god? Fine. You don’t have to, but I find it quite disengenuous for naturalists to continuously insist that their methods are so solid that a creator/god/designer/first cause, (whatever you want to call it) is out of the question.

    —“To put that into the context of this argument, suppose that tomorrow morning someone in a physics lab discovers a surprising new phenomenon that seems inexplicable in light of known physics. Should she assume that God is responsible, or should she assume that there is a perfectly good naturalistic explanation and attempt to discover it? Likewise with our universe. If we don’t understand the process of universe formation well enough to derive the probabilities, why in heaven’s name (so to speak) would we assume that the probability of our universe is low, and that God must therefore exist? Shouldn’t we follow the physicist’s lead and search for a naturalistic explanation, just as she did?”

    So I think it’s clear from the above quote that you accept only naturalistic explanations, thus counting out the possibility forthwith of any explanation that might show otherwise. You seem to think it’s reasonable, but I don’t think you fully grasp (well there are other alternatives to not grasping, but I’ll be polite) the strength of the cosmological argument.

    Look, in order for the reality of Darwinism to hit you where it counts, consider this: The only real way for evolution to be true (not assuming that some form of it might not be) is for evolution to have been occurng eternally. When I say eternally I mean an infinite amount of time. Since (according to Darwinists themselves) we see some evidence of more primative biological structures, how much more primative in the distant past can they get before we run out of negative infinite time (i.e., time in the past)? Even Darwinian evolution itself, therefore, assumes a beginning, yet most Darwinists either don’t address this issue, or they try to cover up the obvious tautology with broad and complicated arguments and “just so” stories – and assumptions of infinite alternate universes and so forth. So it is the naturalistic Darwinists who aren’t looking at the real world.

    I’m not even certain if you really grasp the problem with this infinite regress.

    I was watching a rather silly movie the other night called “IQ.” In that movie, Albert Einstein attempts to prevent his attractive neice from marrying a Psychiatrist with money, and get her to fall in love with a local auto mechanic, who’s much younger and more full of life. So he arranges several planned “sponaneous” meetings. In one scene, the young neice has finally fallen for this mechanic and they are standing in a restaurant with Mozart playing on the juke box, and the young man says “Your uncle thinks we should dance.” The neice says, “well that would be impossible, because you’re over there, and I’m over here.” (They’re standing about 7-8 feet apart at this point). She begins to explain how it would be impossible by moving about 3 1/2 feet closer to him, while explaining that this step is only half way. Then she’d have to step half way closer again, and again and again, and infinitely have a half way point between them – thus never reaching each other. When she finally reaches him and they embrace and begin their dance, the young man asks “now how did that happen?”

    It’s a silly argument really, and it’s simply a semantic trick. It sounds logical until you understand the real problem. She is addressing an abstract concept as if it has a parallel to reality, but it doesn’t. It is impossible to traverse an actual infinite, if infintes existed. Therefore, since she was able to get from where she was to where he was, she was traversing a finite space, and not an infinite. And the larger issue here is that infinites of the sort in her argument do not exist in the real material universe. They cannot. Infinity is simply an abstract concept.

    To illustrate this further, think of an infinite set of whole numbers. Now remove one number from that set. Do you end up with an infinite set minus one? No, to ask the question is absurd itself. The same could be applied to the multiverse argument. It’s really absurd to believe in multiverses. I understand naturalists doing so, because it’s all they have, but logically it doesn’t make sense. If one of the universes is destroyed, then you end up with an infinite number of universes minus one.

    And these concepts are not new, but ancient. Yes, I believe the ancients who had primative science, had more sense about the universe than modern naturalists who have advanced science.

    And this is one reason among many why the existence of necessary first cause for all that exists is more reasonable than any naturalistic explanation.

    Well, it’s getting late, and time is something I’m sure I don’t have an infinite amount of at this point. Tell me more of your thoughts on this.

  91. 91
    nullasalus says:

    beelzebub,

    My response is that if the Argument from Reason is valid, then an immaterial mind is just as suspect as a material one. Furthermore, the materialist has a mechanism — natural selection — to explain why the mind is basically reliable. The theist has no explanation, and must simply assume that the mind was constructed to be reliable.

    You’re misunderstanding both the AfR, the options available to the theist, and what orthodox evolutionary theory can provide to the atheist.

    First, what the AfR purports to show is fairly modest – namely that reason cannot be merely material (and material in this case means ‘unguided, purposeless matter bouncing around to produce whatever effect’). Wind rustling through trees is not true or false, but a statement by a rational agent can be so. What’s more, reason requires that people’s minds can be changed by the force of an argument – not because some merely material exchange is going on between two lumps of matter, and those meaningless material interactions are what are causing the appearance (and only the appearance) of a rational exchange, reflection, and persuasion to transpire.

    Second, the theist is entirely capable of arguing that evolution (among other things) has played a role in shaping their mental faculties – because the theist is able to regard evolution as not being a blind and purposeless force, but a tool used by God. Just as they can discern teleology throughout nature as a whole, or regard matter as being more than merely ‘blind, purposeless stuff knocking around’. They can, of course, also believe in a direct intervention (akin to a human designer making a reliable calculator – an example which shows that even if the exact details are unknown, the theist /does/ have a ‘mechanism’, or something very analogous to it.) Or maybe a combination.

    Third, the materialist is not able to make the same move as the theist when it comes to evolution. First because the basic problem of reason and truth is in play before any consideration of how ‘close to the truth’ our thoughts and actions are. (If almost everything we say and believe is “true”, but we say and believe it due to the meaningless, purposeless interactions of dumb matter, the AfR still applies.) The difference is that for the materialist, denying teleology (along with keeping the mechanistic depiction of matter) is paramount – but if evolution / natural selection not only reliably selects for survival, but also for “truth” or “reason”, they would be turning evolution into an explicitly teleological process (at the least, vastly more teleological than it already ‘seems’ to be – and the appearance of teleology in nature is problematic enough as is.)

    But that means that the only thing that the materialist can assert evolution really selects for is survival, and that any “truth” or “reason” the happens to be selected is so only by chance, and then only because it happens to correlate to survival. But any false beliefs or irrationality that correlate to survival are going to be selected as well! Under the materialist view, natural selection could care less either way – it’s not a guided or purposeful process. And if the materialist digs in his heels and insists that in spite of this, reason and true beliefs happen to be very highly correlated to survival, they’re reworking evolution in such a way that they’re in effect dumping their materialism.

    So no, being able to call upon natural selection is of no clear benefit to the materialist here. In fact it’s prima facie a liability, unless the understanding of evolution is reworked to promote not just survival but truth as well.

    Further, keep in mind that there are more options on the table than theism. There’s panpsychism, or pantheism, or idealism – and the argument can move to how those compare to theism.

  92. 92
    vjtorley says:

    Nakashima

    You write: “25% is not fine tuning” and cite a paper in support of your contention that life might arise in a variety of universes with different constants. As Beelzebub pointed out in #82, the paper deals with star formation, not life:

    …this paper explores the parameter space of fundamental constants that allows for the existence of stars.

    A much more telling flaw in the paper is that the constants which were allowed to vary did not include the cosmological constant, for which the fine-tuning argument is most impressive. As Nobel-winning physicist and atheist Steve Weinberg has written:

    If large and positive, the cosmological constant would act as a repulsive force that increases with distance, a force that prevents matter from clumping together in the early universe, the process that was the first step in forming galaxies and stars and planets and people. If large and negative, the cosmological constant would act as an attractive force increasing with distance, a force that would almost immediately reverse the expansion of the universe and cause it to recollapse…

    In fact, astronomical observations show that the cosmological constant is quite small, very much smaller than would have been guessed from first principles. (In The New York Review of Books. “A Designer Universe?” October 21, 1999.)

    So how fine-tuned is the cosmological constant? Accrding to Robin Collins, “The fine-tuning has been conservatively estaimted to be at least one aprt in a hundred million billion billion billion billion billion. That would be a ten followed by fifty-three zeroes. Thta’s inconceivably precise.” (Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator, pp. 163-164.)

    Yes, and before any smarty-pants jumps in, actually it would be a ten followed by 52 zeroes. That’s still pretty precise.

  93. 93
    Upright BiPed says:

    Belzip: “You made an argument. It was wrong. I pointed out the flaw. Why waste words?”

    No, instead what you’ve done is continue to address my observation that you and other materialists on UD stretch and shrink the capabilities of chance and necessity to suit your needs. That’s not the evidence against materialism and I am almost certain that you can discern the difference.

    I had hoped that we could just pursue the evidence at hand but you refuse to address it, so I’ll spell it out for you.

    This proposition is purely scientific; in fact, it’s a challenge coming from the molecular evidence itself.

    The biological sciences know (and have known for more than 50 years) that information, instructions, and language are at the core of all living things. From what we know of it so far, it is written (just like a sequence of letters) with meaning inside DNA. In other words, information creates life, and life doesn’t exist without information. That information exists in the form of genetic instructions, and those instructions are written in a language (a chemical symbol system) that conveys meaning, just like a sequence of letters conveys the meaning of the words they create.

    This fact has fatally challenged the unquestioned assumption that chance and physical law alone can account for the presence of genetic instructions. This argument is supported by the fact that the information and language found at the core of life is not dependant upon physical necessity. There is nothing in the physical laws of this Universe that says this information has to exist the way it does, in fact, as far as the physical laws of the Universe are concerned, it doesn’t even have to exist at all. In other words, there is absolutely nothing in the physical laws that makes it exists – but it exists anyway, without physical laws to explain it.

    This leaves only pure random chance to explain how these non-physically-caused instructions and language came to be written into a physical object. This is like asking random chance to explain any other written language or instructions – it simply can’t. Nowhere in the history of the Universe can science demonstrate that random chance created a language or formulated instructions in any material object whatsoever. As far as anyone knows, it’s never happened, and there is no scientific reason to believe it ever has, or ever will.

    Also, there is nothing in the combination of physical law and chance that can explain this evidence. The two acting together cannot even begin to explain the factual existence of complex algorithmic instructions written in a linear digital code. In fact, the latest data even suggest there are many codes, perhaps as many as twelve. These instructions contain the information necessary to organize inanimate matter into living tissue. This “informed” living tissue knows how to metabolize energy, process information, regulate growth, control internal functions, and record its existence in DNA.

    So then, what is at issue is that chance cannot create this information, nor the symbol system that carries it, and the physical laws of nature have nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that it exist.

    To attack the physical evidence against materialism you have to address the actual issue:

    1) Is Life the result of (functionalized by) a physically-inert symbol system of information embedded into living tissue that builds, organizes, and coordinates discreet chemical objects and activities?

    2) Chance has been observed to only operate at maximum uncertainty (this is the very definition of chance). Does any individual chance result ever lead to the next chance result not operating at maximum uncertainty?

    3) What aspect of a mechanism that only repeats maximum uncertainty is expected to not only build complex discreet objects, but to organize and coordinate those discreet objects into a complex functioning whole?

  94. 94
    allanius says:

    Admit it, boys. The Devil’s got you by the tail.

    The “argument from reason” doesn’t really work anymore because it’s too old-fashioned. And who better to exploit this weakness than Beelzebub?

    Lewis was a traditionalist who wanted to reinstate the old thought-world. So he used Reason, the glory of ages past, to expose the potential epistemological difficulties inherent in materialism, which naturally devalues reason.

    Problem is, the hippest materialists would agree with him. They’re perfectly happy to concede that all notions of reality are nothing more than constructs—including their own materialism. And who could be hipper than Beelzebub himself?

    A more fruitful approach, it seems to me, and one that does not require any axioms, is to ask the materialists to account for identity and its resistance to change.

    How is that each of us has an identity of which we ourselves have not the slightest doubt, highly differentiated from that of our fellow beings; who, after all, have roughly the same brain as ourselves, and on whom the laws of chemistry act in similar if not identical ways?

    Furthermore, why is this identity highly resistant to change? Mutability reigns supreme in the material realm—but then how is it that we always know exactly who we are when we wake up in the morning? Why is it impossible for us to wake up as someone else? What in matter per se can account for this strange fact of unconscious differentiation?

    It’s not, “I think, therefore I am”; it’s “my thinking tells me that I am.” The “I am,” it seems, takes absolute precedence to thinking and compels it to follow certain highly differentiated paths. But why? Where can we find this differential “I” in the matter of the brain? What miracle of evolution brought it into being?

    And no, gusts of hot wind from the underworld will not suffice, no matter how nauseating. If materialists want to claim that identity is a product of matter, then let them do it in the lab. After all, they’re the ones who claim to be materialists.

  95. 95
    Borne says:

    Bee: “If they are irrational, then demonstrate that to us.”
    I did and we have.

    You still use the standard atheist pretense to reason, which you are not using well at all, as an escape tactic through the use of trivial and sophistic arguments.

    All atheists think themselves rational, all while denying all rational sources of rationality. They all do this using irrational arguments like most of yours.

    You are very good at this and it completely goes over your head.

    And you’re right, todays atheists are not those of Voltaire’s day. Todays atheists can’t hold a candle to those of Voltaire’s day with regard to rational thinking or intellectual depth – yet even they were refuted many times over.

    You are just one more example of such moderns, deceived by post-modernism and a hundred other nonsensical, ill reasonings which, to the rational theist, are amazingly limpid in their lack of logic.

    Relativism cripples the mind. Darwinism even more so.

    Atheists perpetually deceive themselves and live in a world of denials of realities.
    Eternal uncaused universes;
    Pretense that no evidence to a superior intelligence underlying all of nature exists. (and that all while they use the most obviously designed faculties within themselves to do such!);
    Long and sophistic rhetorical arguments that under analysis reveal pseudo-intellectual prowess;
    Virtually all of the standard logical fallacies hiding under the new fangled guises of twisted reason.

    And all that while claiming that rationality itself is the result of non rational causes, thus cutting their own resources down into mere packs of neurons!

    Your relativism is self-refuting but you’ve found a way, through spaghetti logic, to it work!

    Example: “And we all know that whatever the majority says must be true. Such as, for example, the majority of evolutionary biologists. Right, Borne?”
    Now here is the path of wisdom! Or not. You return the argument in an effort to support yourself.
    But does it stand to reason? No.
    I kind of doubt that a comparison of what the great majority of humans have intuitively and logically discerned of nature can be compared to what a few materialists, seeking a way out to rid themselves of all deities, developed and called science over a mere 200 years. Ideas that have been controversial since day one that the majority still does not accept as fact for very obvious reasons. The key error in your return is the term “evolutionary”.
    Not all biologists believe in Darwinian fairy tales – including some evolutionary biologists – like R. Sternberg who holds 2 Phd in that field and has serious doubts of the Darwinian mechanism.

    We already know that that mechanism in insufficient. Genetic entropy and even the laws of chemistry and physics as well statistical mechanics all weigh in against it – thus leaving the ill reasoning atheists without a leg to stand on as to origins.

    You also err when you say, “Not to all clear thinkers, and these days, possibly not even to a majority of them.” The problem here is that atheists, by definition, cannot be clear thinkers – for the same reasons Voltaire gave – which have not changed in the least. The so-called New Atheism is even more handicapped than the old.

    You also state, “…we should assume that God exists whether the evidence supports this hypothesis or not”
    As has been repeated here – the evidence for the existence of a vastly superior power and intelligence underlying all nature is salient. You must start by denying this.

    Atheists are constantly telling us, when asked for any thing like evidence or proof of their (untenable) position, that one can’t prove a negative. So what do they do? They spend most of their lives trying to prove a negative to themselves and these days trying to proselytize everyone else to convince them that “there probably is no God”!? (Dawkins’ conspicuously stupid bus ads)
    Now that is just so utterly foolish.

    You spend so much time and effort trying to intellectually worm your way out of every argument presented that you can no longer see the forest for the trees. Then you mistake all that pettifoggery and argufying, for reason!

    It is not for nothing that Christ was crucified at Golgotha – “the place of the skull” – the twisting of logic of the selfish mind – will always seek to crucify God.

    Your problem has nothing to do with reason and logic, for they are all against you. Your problem is of a moral nature and based on your decisions to be your own little god.

    Maybe you should wise up and follow Flew and the many other ex-atheists here.

  96. 96
    vjtorley says:

    Hazel (#78)

    You write:

    There is no logical reason why a being with complete knowledge of the universe would also be completely loving. It is entirely possible that such a being would look upon the vastness of the universe with bemused indifference, or detached curiosity as to what might be happening in the universe, or number of other attitudes. It is a projective personification, not logic, that leads to the expectation that an omniscient being would be necessarily also omni-loving.

    Beelzebub (#89)

    In a similar vein, you write, tongue-in-cheek:

    Also, knowledge and hate logically go hand-in-hand. Whatever we can know, we can also hate, and a Being that knew everything but hated nothing would strike me as deficient. You would expect something that had perfect knowledge to also possess perfect hate, and vice versa. I would expect a Being like that to mess with my mind.

    I have two questions for both Hazel and Beelzebub.

    1. Do you accept Augustine’s view that evil is a privation? I honestly do not see how anyone could possibly believe otherwise. I’ll say more about alternative views of evil below.

    2. Do you accept that anyone who hates – or is even indifferent to – what is good, is to that extent morally deficient and hence evil?

    If your answer to both 1 and 2 is “Yes,” then my argument that God is all-loving follows. An essentially omniscient Being would have a perfect knowledge of everything that can be known. Such a Being would therefore have a greater knowledge of creatures’ goodness than anyone else. If this Being failed to love creatures on that account, it would indeed be evil (by my assumption in question 2) and hence (by my assumption in question 1) deficient.

    You might retort that an omniscient Being would know creatures’ flaws better than anyone else too, and hence hate them on that account. That may be so. But my point is that if we accept Augustine’s privative theory of evil, then good is more fundamental. No creature can be fundamentally evil; insofar as it has a nature of its own, with a range of abilities, it is good. Thus for an omniscient Being, love would be its fundamental attitude towards any creature; while its hate would be directed only at that creature’s deficiencies, at most.

    But maybe you answered “No” to question 1, because you don’t like Augustine’s view of evil as a privation. The only coherent alternative views of good and evil, as far as I can tell, are the subjectivist view that good is whatever you happen to like and evil is whatever you happen to dislike, and the Epicurean view that pleasure is good and pain is evil. These views strike me as wildly implausible. Pleasure may often be experienced on attaining some good, but to identify pleasure itself with goodness is question-begging. After all, why shouldn’t we identify pain with goodness, instead? Just what is it about pleasure that makes it good?

    For me, the reductio ad absurdum of both the subjectivist and Epicurean views is that they would render morally problematic the virtuous act of performing life-saving surgery on a one-year-old child with cancer, who is too young to understand why he/she has to undergo the pain involved in the procedure. To compound the absurdity, on neither the subjectivist nor the Epicurean account could one condemn a sadist who tortures to death a willing masochist.

    Goodness, then, is something that has to be defined in objective, rather than subjective terms. It follows that evil is also objective; yet it cannot be a positive reality, for then, what would make it evil? One might as well call it good, and call good evil. The Augustine theory that evil is a privation, or a lack of something that should be present, resolves this problem admirably.

    The main objection to the Augustinian account is that there are positive realities – headaches, twisted or wicked thoughts, mosquitoes and devastating tsunamis, to name a few – which seem indisputably evil. Yet none of these cases holds up to scrutiny. Mosquitoes and tsunamis would not be evil if they occurred on a planet devoid of sentient life; consequently, the evil associated with them does not reside in the things themselves, but in the harm they cause – i.e. the destruction of something good: human and animal life.

    Wicked thoughts are called wicked, precisely because of the underlying bad attitude that their bearer has towards the individuals he/she is thinking about. And what is wrong with this attitude is that there is a lack of respect for the dignity of each and every human person. A lack of respect is a privation, or deficiency. This is where the evil lies.

    Headaches do seem to be self-evidently evil at first blush; yet if we ask why they are bad, it is surely because of: (i) the underlying medical problem that they indicate; and also (ii) the interference and disruption to everyday activities that they entail. Curiously, some headache sufferers experience no distress and can still go about their everyday activities; their headaches are evil in the first sense only. In any case, both (i) and (ii) involve harm or damage to some good – so Augustine’s theory stands.

    I would be surprised if you answered “No” to question 2. Consider two highly intelligent adults to whom you break the news that you’ve just become a father or mother. One says “Congratulations!” The other stares at you and says: “So what’s your point?” Wouldn’t we all consider the second individual to be morally deficient?

    “Ah, but that’s because the adults are human,” I hear you reply. “Surely it’s anthropomorphic to expect a Deity to feel pleased at your becoming a parent.” No, it’s not. For a Deity knows even better than I do what a marvelous, finely wrought creature a child is. A Deity can appreciate a child’s goodness like no-one else can.

    And a Deity can also understand a parent’s joy as no-one else can. Here, I admit, I’m wading into relatively new theological waters. It has long been held that God has perfect third-person knowledge of the world, but on the classical conception of God, He is usually envisaged as not possessing first-person knowledge of how we feel, as that would be “beneath” a Deity. This detached, clinical conception of God has caused many a believer to rage against God in times of suffering.

    In a recent paper, a Christian philosopher, Professor Linda Zagzebski, has defended an account of what she calls God’s omnisubjectivity – which basically means that God fully knows how we feel. Here’s an extract:

    In this paper I describe and begin a defense of the possibility of a divine attribute I call omnisubjectivity. Omnisubjectivity is, roughly, the property of consciously grasping with perfect accuracy and completeness the first-person perspective of every conscious being. I argue that omnisubjectivity is entailed by omniscience or, at any rate, by cognitive perfection. If God is omnisubjective, that would solve two puzzles of omniscience: (1) An omniscient being ought to be able to tell the difference between the different qualia of conscious beings, and (2) An omniscient being ought to be able to tell the difference between the first person and third person perspectives on the same state of affairs. Using the model of human empathy, I argue that it is possible for a being to assume the first person perspective of another being without assuming identity with the other being or forgetting who he is. I end by briefly identifying some interesting metaphysical, moral, and theological consequences of omnisubjectivity.

    (As an aside, I suspect that popular piety would side strongly with Professor Zagzebski – and has probably done so for centuries, even if many theologians thought otherwise. However, Professor Zagzebski deserves a lot of credit for being the first thinker to defend omnisubjectivity against philosophical objections to the idea.)

    If Professor Zagzebski is right, then that clinches my case that an omniscient but indifferent being would be morally defective. Such a Being would lack empathy, and would hence be ontologically deficient. And a deficient entity could hardly serve as an Ultimate Explanation of reality.

    I conclude that the idea of a detached Deity makes no sense. It might have seemed plausible back in the eighteenth century, when most countries were governed by cruel despots who gave little consideration to the welfare of their subjects. It was all too easy to imagine then that if a king could be unmoved by the plight of his subjects, then God, the King of Kings, might be even more indifferent – especially as He had so much more work to do, taking care of the cosmos. But this line of thinking is truly anthropomorphic. The idea that God might need to put a “Do Not Disturb” sign over His desk is comical; an omniscient Being would never break into a sweat at the thought of micro-managing the cosmos. And the idea that God might be as detached from our concerns as an eighteenth century despot overlooks the salient fact that an omniscient God has perfect knowledge of the travails of each and every human heart, while the despot – mere man that he is – does not.

  97. 97
    StephenB says:

    This thread is a typical of what we find in the atheist community. It is one episode after another of ignoring the overwhelming evidence for a creator from cosmology, physics, astronomy, bio-chemistry, and biological information. It would be one thing if only one branch of science pointed to God, but when all of them together, each in concert with the other, “scream” God, the efforts to escape evidence reveal themselves for what they are—personal choices to believe what one prefers to believe in spite of the evidence.

    What adds to this Shakespearian-like comedy is the texture of the objections themselves. These folks actually believe that if they can put a sentence together in which the subject and the predicate ends with the phrase, “I’m not convinced,” that such a formulation constitutes some kind of intellectual obstacle that must be overcome. It really is incredible to witness comments which are the equivalent of saying, “whatever began exist didn’t necessarily have a cause,” or “a material universe can create immaterial minds,” or “the finely balanced parameters of physics aren’t really that finely balanced,” or “the universe may not be contingent,” or “Ockham would have dismissed dualism as an unnecessarily complicated explanation of consciousness,” and one which we often hear, “the single-cell organism may not be like a high tech factory after all,” Add to that the fact that Darwin’s scheme is crumbling, and IDs critics are seriously positing “infinite multiple universes,” and it all adds up to a kind of Shakespearian comedy. In another way, though, it is not really so funny. It is sad to watch all these people running from the evidence even as the use the word “evidence” in every other sentence.

    Oh sure, I can anticipate the response, which will be something on the order of, “you haven’t provided any ‘real’ evidence.” Never mind the fact that almost all people, at all times, and in all places inferred a creator from much less evidence than that which we have today. Never mind that Aquinas proved the existence of God almost 800 years ago, assuming for the sake of argument, and against his own beliefs, that the universe was eternal. Never mind the fact that evidence for the “big bang” amplified that same argument and provided it with even more substance. I will, therefore, say that which has to be said. Atheism is not really an intellectual position at all. It is a cry of wrath from those who resent a purposeful creator that would presume to place moral demands on his creatures, a firm resolution to reject objective morality in all its manifestations, and an intractable conviction that they should be permitted to become a law unto themselves.

  98. 98
    hazel says:

    vj writes in defense of his claim that an omniscient being must also be all-loving things like,

    Such a Being would therefore have a greater knowledge of creatures’ goodness than anyone else. If this Being failed to love creatures on that account, it would indeed be evil (by my assumption in question 2) and hence (by my assumption in question 1) deficient.
    [and]
    The only coherent alternative views of good and evil, as far as I can tell, are the subjectivist view that good is whatever you happen to like and evil is whatever you happen to dislike, and the Epicurean view that pleasure is good and pain is evil.

    I am trying to understand these types statements and arguments. My general conclusion is that they are personifications – assuming that the nature of the universe mirrors in some abstract fashion the nature of human beings as those making the arguments understand that to be.

    Since those making these arguments are Christian theists, I think it all starts with the belief, which is one at the heart of Christianity, that man was made in the image of God. Therefore, working backwards, God has perfected versions of qualities which we find in ourselves.

    It is this starting supposition with which I fundamentally disagree, and many of my other disagreements follow. I don’t believe that man has been created in the image of God, and therefore when I look out and contemplate the universe I don’t go looking for human qualities. As I have said before, I think personhood, with its attendant qualities of things like intelligence, morality, will, love, etc., is something that is not fundamental to the nature of the universe. Personhood is a local phenomena, not a global one.

    The fact that personhood is a local phenomena and not a property of the fundamental nature of the universe does not negate the value of human nature nor the complexities of exercising that nature as we navigate the human condition.

    (I know it negates these for those who believe that our beings must be attached somehow to a larger being in order to have value, but that need is not my need.)

  99. 99
    Upright BiPed says:

    Hazel “(I know it negates these for those who believe that our beings must be attached somehow to a larger being in order to have value, but that need is not my need.)”

    Yet, you depend upon it, and are secure within it, specifically because of it. Congratulations.

  100. 100
    beelzebub says:

    StephenB writes:

    It would be one thing if only one branch of science pointed to God, but when all of them together, each in concert with the other, “scream” God, the efforts to escape evidence reveal themselves for what they are—personal choices to believe what one prefers to believe in spite of the evidence.

    Funny how most of the best scientists, such as the members of the NAS, happen to be deaf to those “screams”. Who would have thought there was a correlation between scientific ability and deafness?

    Unless, of course, the screams are to be found only inside the heads of StephenB and other believers.

    This is exactly the point I was making earlier in the thread when I wrote this:

    If the cosmos were the creation of a Divine Mind, operating without constraints; and further if that Divine Mind wanted to be known; then I would expect the evidence to be far more compelling than it is. Do you really think a Divine Mind could do no better than this? Why isn’t his existence obvious to every sincere seeker, if it’s so important to him to be known by his creatures?

    The members of the NAS are among the most intelligent, curious, truth-seeking people on the planet. Do you really think a Divine Mind would be incapable of reaching them if he wanted to be known?

  101. 101
    jerry says:

    “Do you really think a Divine Mind would be incapable of reaching them if he wanted to be known?”

    Some comments are fairly stupid but this is one of the more stupid ones.

    Someone who has the capability of making the universe work is just a little bit more insightful than the average commenter here or anyone who is walking the planet today. A lot of people have thought about this and few would argue against a creator based on the argument from authority on which this comment is based. You could go back a few hundred years and you could use the same argument for the creator, that is from authority.

    Maybe the divine mind has reached us and most have rejected the communication. Are you expecting Zeus like behavior with lightning bolts coming out of the sky at every piss ant who tries to offend Him. Like He is so insecure that He needs to get His jollies off crushing little insignificant attempts to be arrogant.

    Or maybe He should send some sweet Valentines to everyone telling them what a good guy He is so that they may like Him. I am sure He needs that. Or maybe He should hold court every Friday on who has been a good boy or girl that week so He can dish out the punishment and rewards for the proper behavior.

    Maybe we could start a list of how God should behave towards us so that we can all live in harmony. Why don’t you lead that discussion.

  102. 102
    StephenB says:

    —-beelzebub: “Funny how most of the best scientists, such as the members of the NAS, happen to be deaf to those “screams”. Who would have thought there was a correlation between scientific ability and deafness?”

    But the best scientists are not deaf to those screams. The best scientists are always in the minority. This is news to you? The vast majority of scientists are dutiful little worker bees and most of them are atheist/agnostic by preference. Accordingly, most are not trailblazers; most are followers.

    Here is a fact to chew on. 95.8% of evolutionary biologists are atheist/agnostic. In keeping with their irrational grievance against the designer, and as proof of their insecurity about their own paradigm, they established an institutional “rule” called methodological naturalism do defend themselves against all the evidence contrary to their position.

    Similary, a large numbers cosmologists and astrophysicists were so scandalized by the evidence for a “big bang,” and so concerned that it suggested creator, they concocted the multiverse hypothesis to escape from the implications of their own evidence. That is not science; that is desparation.

  103. 103
    Berceuse says:

    Re: jerry at 101

    I don’t think that was entirely called for. While I’m not an atheist, and would not presume to know how God should behave, I think beezlebub has a point. I imagine it would be rather facile for God to make Himself known to His children beyond a doubt. The fact the He doesn’t may not negate His existence, but it is curious.

  104. 104
    beelzebub says:

    jerry writes:

    A lot of people have thought about this and few would argue against a creator based on the argument from authority on which this comment is based.

    It’s not an argument from authority, jerry. If it were, I’d be saying “Most NAS members don’t believe in God. Therefore God doesn’t exist.”

    What I’m actually saying is this:

    1. Most NAS members disbelieve in God.

    2. That means they didn’t hear the “screams” that StephenB hears.

    3. If God exists, that means he didn’t get his message across to them.

    4. God is claimed to be omniscient and omnipotent.

    5. That means that he is perfectly capable of getting his message across to these curious, motivated, truth-seeking folks.

    6. He didn’t. Therefore, either: a) God exists, but he isn’t able to get his message across, even to these truth-seekers; or b) God exists, but he either doesn’t want to get the message across, or he doesn’t care whether it gets across; or c) God doesn’t exist.

    Those are your logical options.

    Well, technically there’s another one. Jerry writes:

    Maybe the divine mind has reached us and most have rejected the communication.

    Right. So the very best scientists in the country also just happen to be evil truth-rejecters who are lying when they tell us that their disbelief is based on the lack of evidence for God.

    If my argument is flawed, jerry, then show me where. Is one of my assumptions wrong? Is there an illogical step in my argument? Point it out to us, please.

    Sarcastic comments about Zeus and valentines are not a rebuttal.

    You could go back a few hundred years and you could use the same argument for the creator, that is from authority.

    Maybe the divine mind has reached us and most have rejected the communication. Are you expecting Zeus like behavior with lightning bolts coming out of the sky at every piss ant who tries to offend Him. Like He is so insecure that He needs to get His jollies off crushing little insignificant attempts to be arrogant.

    Or maybe He should send some sweet Valentines to everyone telling them what a good guy He is so that they may like Him. I am sure He needs that. Or maybe He should hold court every Friday on who has been a good boy or girl that week so He can dish out the punishment and rewards for the proper behavior.

    Maybe we could start a list of how God should behave towards us so that we can all live in harmony. Why don’t you lead that discussion.

  105. 105
    hazel says:

    One of the arguments against God for me is the wide variety of religious beliefs, including those of primitive people. People invent religions and religious beliefs, for a variety of reasons I think, but I don’t think any of them are “true” in the sense of accurately describing the world beyond nature.

    I really can’t believe that there is any reason a God of the whole universe would reveal his true identity to one small portion of mankind and not the rest of mankind, and then make salvation dependent on believing that one religion. This is just not logical!

  106. 106
    beelzebub says:

    Sorry about that. Cut and paste error — everything from “You could go back a hundred years” to the end is from jerry’s comment.

  107. 107
    jerry says:

    Well stupid comments keep on coming. But there was a glimmer of intelligence before the stupidity took over and reigned again.

    Maybe everyone should think about what are the implications of how God does/should/could communicate to us. Maybe God has thought this through. I understand His IQ is at least three figures.

    In my sarcasm I am trying to point out that any direct form of communication which is what is seemed to be wanted by some (there is a model for this in Christian theology in the form of St. Thomas) may have undesirable consequences. What would the world be like if God had direct verifiable and non disputed communications with us.

    It may not be a very desirable world. There will always some who yearn for utopia or gaia but given about 3 days there most would want out. If we are in the image of God, we are not meant to be automatons. We will have choices. So such places are not meaningful worlds. So is a world where God checked in with us and signed his name in big letters a meaningful world? Doesn’t sound like it to me.

    But of course some need a Damascus experience. Maybe some of you should book the next flight to Syria.

  108. 108
    Tommy V says:

    I have written before that I cannot imagine a God of Providence that interferes and adjusts the material world. It’s just beyond my comprehension.

    But if there is a God, it seems a little silly to think that I would be able to comprehend it in the first place. Ever.

    An infinite God?

    We personify God to make him more like us but if there was a God he would be, by definition, NOT like us. Would he have consciousness in the way we understand it? Would he even exist in a material way as we understand it? Would he have a personality or make choices like we understand it? Would he have language or even communicate in a way remotely near how we understand such things?

    I think not.

    To argue whether God exist or not based on the assumption that he is just some omnipotent version of one of us in the sky somewhere seems to me to entirely miss the concept of an infinite God.

    Infinite! Beyond our comprehension. Not of our material world.

    I just think of a caveman trying to understand and comprehend the inner-workings of a F-16 Fighter.

    Increase that ignorance by 1000 and I think you get the idea of where we are as a species in our understanding of how a God might or might not exist.

    So consider me an atheist in terms of how most humans talk about God, by I am not so arrogant to think that my lack of imagination is what defines what does and does not exist in the universe.

    We’re so primitive we don’t even know what we don’t know.

  109. 109
    Adel DiBagno says:

    jerry:

    It may not be a very desirable world. There will always some who yearn for utopia or gaia but given about 3 days there most would want out. If we are in the image of God, we are not meant to be automatons. We will have choices. So such places are not meaningful worlds. So is a world where God checked in with us and signed his name in big letters a meaningful world? Doesn’t sound like it to me.

    Do you believe in heaven?

  110. 110
    Clive Hayden says:

    Adel,

    You’re no longer in moderation.

  111. 111
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    This should clear up your confusion:

    http://www.pseudobook.com/csle.....tation.pdf

  112. 112
    Nakashima says:

    Mr StephenB,
    But the best scientists are not deaf to those screams. The best scientists are always in the minority. This is news to you? The vast majority of scientists are dutiful little worker bees and most of them are atheist/agnostic by preference. Accordingly, most are not trailblazers; most are followers.

    Here is a fact to chew on. 95.8% of evolutionary biologists are atheist/agnostic. In keeping with their irrational grievance against the designer, and as proof of their insecurity about their own paradigm, they established an institutional “rule” called methodological naturalism do defend themselves against all the evidence contrary to their position.

    This line of argument is one step up from Illuminati/Black Helicopters. Are you saying that the best scientists are not in the 95.8% and are working in an institutional framework of methodological naturalism that they all reject? Are they being forced to build satellites with mind control lasers while imprisoned in a secret base on Volcano Island?

    I’m sorry, this is not up to your normal cogent level of argument, sir. If 4.2% of all scientists are not atheists, I have no reason to think that is correlated with “best” at all. Most of those 4.2% are worker bees, right?

  113. 113
    jerry says:

    “Do you believe in heaven?”

    If it is good enough for God, it is good enough for me.

  114. 114
    vjtorley says:

    Beelzebub (#88)

    In this and subsequent comments, I will make the case that

    1. We have fewer reasons to trust our thoughts if they are produced by an immaterial mind.

    2. We have more reason to trust our thoughts if they are the product of a physical brain.

    3. The strengths and flaws of our thinking are well explained by an evolutionary model, but not at all by a theistic model, where they must simply be assumed.

    I am very much looking forward to hearing from you, Beelzebub. Before we proceed any further, I would like to ask you three questions:

    1. Do you agree that the notions of truth and falsehood are irreducibly formal concepts, which cannot be cashed out in terms of success, survival and other practical goals? In other words, do you accept a non-pragmatic notion of truth, which respects “truth” as a basic category? (If you are just trying to assimilate the notion of truth to that of success, then I fear we’ll be talking past each other.)

    2. I take it that you believe that a physical device is capable of instantiating a concept like that of “truth” (or “true,” if you prefer). Do you envisage this instantiation as being some kind of structure, some kind of code, or neither of the above?

    3. Let’s suppose that there’s some code or structure, somewhere in my brain, where the concept of “true” resides. My question is: (a) what makes this code or structure a concept? and (b) what makes it the concept of “true”?

    You might be inclined to reply that computers are physical devices that use the logical operator “true,” so if they can do it, we can. However, the problem with this reply is that simply encoding a logical operator in some fashion is not the same as having a concept of that operator.

    I think nearly everyone in AI would agree that today’s computers don’t have concepts – or are you saying that they do (even the humble Commodore 64)? No-one denies that computers can digitally encode the logical operator “true,” but that’s not the same as having the concept of “true.”

    Putting it another way: supposing for argument’s sake that all computers are “aware” in some fashion, how do you know that a computer which encodes the logical operator “true” actually has the concept of “true,” and not the concept of “ice cream”? How do you know it’s not thinking of ice cream while it’s doing arithmetic?

  115. 115
    vjtorley says:

    hazel

    You wrote (#98):

    I don’t believe that man has been created in the image of God, and therefore when I look out and contemplate the universe I don’t go looking for human qualities. As I have said before, I think personhood, with its attendant qualities of things like intelligence, morality, will, love, etc., is something that is not fundamental to the nature of the universe. Personhood is a local phenomena, not a global one.

    During our last exchange of views, you articulated your philsophy of Taoism very eloquently. I understand your point that according to Taoism, the Ultimate Reality is in no way personal; hence it could not be described as loving.

    However, the question I was addressing in my post (#96) was a different one: supposing that an essentially omniscient Being exists, should we expect it to be all-loving as well? If God is not all-loving, then I would certainly agree that belief in God gives us no grounds whatsoever for trusting in the reliability of our rational deliberations. An indifferent or malevolent Deity could indeed warp our minds, as Beelzebub has pointed out.

    The point of my post was that any being capable of knowledge must also be capable of having attitudes towards what it knows – in other words, being moved by it. If it were incapable of being moved by anything, then the ascription of knowledge to such a Being would be redundant. Anything that knows, then, must be capable of feeling as well. So far as we can tell, computers don’t have attitudes and are not moved by anything; that’s another reason for saying they don’t know anything.

    Thus a Spock-like Deity that is utterly unmoved by anything it knows – even by Its knowledge of Itself – is a psychological impossibility.

  116. 116
    Seversky says:

    Clive Hayden @ 76

    Seversky,

    I’ve taken you off moderation. Feel free to discuss vjtorley’s arguments in detail.

    Thank you, Clive, I appreciate it.

  117. 117
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Vjtorley,
    However, the problem with this reply is that simply encoding a logical operator in some fashion is not the same as having a concept of that operator.

    First, lets be clear that we are properly discussing programs (software) and not hardware. You flip back and forth between trying to attribute concepts to “computers”, sometimes referncing hardware (Commodore 64) and sometimes referencing software (AI).

    For several years, it has been possible to write “reflective” software – software that is able to introspect about itself, explain its workings while it works, etc. This is nothing miraculous, it is simply taking advantage of the program/data duality and letting the program look at its own codespace and data in a carefully controlled manner.

    In any case, I fail to see why I should accept your assertion. It seems to me that you are arguing a position of Platonism, that concepts such as “true” have separate existence.

  118. 118
    beelzebub says:

    jerry writes:

    Well stupid comments keep on coming. But there was a glimmer of intelligence before the stupidity took over and reigned again.

    jerry,

    A little introspection on your part might be in order.

    In my sarcasm I am trying to point out that any direct form of communication…may have undesirable consequences. What would the world be like if God had direct verifiable and non disputed communications with us.

    It may not be a very desirable world… If we are in the image of God, we are not meant to be automatons. We will have choices.

    Clear communication wouldn’t preclude choices or make us automatons. We would still be completely free to accept or reject God.

    In fact, poor communication would actually limit freedom, because those who otherwise would have chosen to accept God are denied that opportunity for lack of a clear message.

    It makes no moral sense to punish people for failing to accept a message so poorly communicated that they sincerely thought it was false.

    But of course some need a Damascus experience.

    Perhaps some do, but most of us just want some good evidence.

  119. 119
    vjtorley says:

    Mr. Nakashima

    For several years, it has been possible to write “reflective” software – software that is able to introspect about itself, explain its workings while it works, etc. This is nothing miraculous, it is simply taking advantage of the program/data duality and letting the program look at its own codespace and data in a carefully controlled manner.

    Interesting! I would be grateful if you could recommend a good link on the basic concepts. I tried Googling “reflective software” and only got commercial links.

    You seem to be suggesting that software could be said to have concepts insofar as it can “introspect”: the program can examine itself and its own data. That’s fine, but that doesn’t explain how a program could be said to have a concept of something out there, such as a eucalyptus tree.

    It seems to me that you are arguing a position of Platonism, that concepts such as “true” have separate existence.

    I’m not a Platonist, although I’d be happy to call myself an Aristotelian of sorts. I don’t think the concept “true” exists out there somewhere, like Mount Everest. All I insist on is that the concept “true” can’t be boiled down to any other concept, such as “successful.”

    I take it you accept that certain beliefs are objectively true, while others are false. For instance, you would regard Christianity, Pastafarianism and Phlogiston theory as false, while accepting some version of Darwinism as true.

    My question is: how can a program be said to have the concept “true,” and what “fixes” the concept? That is, how could we know that a program actually has the concept of “true” and not some other concept, or no concepts at all?

  120. 120
    vjtorley says:

    Beelzebub

    It makes no moral sense to punish people for failing to accept a message so poorly communicated that they sincerely thought it was false.

    Agreed. But what makes you think that God, if He/She exists, is going to punish you? That’s based on your reading of one religion’s holy book.

  121. 121
    StephenB says:

    —-Nakashima: “This line of argument is one step up from Illuminati/Black Helicopters. Are you saying that the best scientists are not in the 95.8% and are working in an institutional framework of methodological naturalism that they all reject?

    I probably wrote that too hurriedly. It is true that 95.8% of evolutionary biologists are atheist/ agnostic, and my only point in saying that was to emphasize that they may not be the most objective observers.

    —-“Are they being forced to build satellites with mind control lasers while imprisoned in a secret base on Volcano Island?”

    That response, I must say, was not up to your usual standards.

    —-“If 4.2% of all scientists are not atheists, I have no reason to think that is correlated with “best” at all.”

    No correlation was meant. The only point is that very few evolutionary biologists would even consider the intelligent design model, regardless of the evidence.

    —- Most of those 4.2% are worker bees, right?

    Not necessarily. The worker bee scientists are the majority who really don’t advance their discipline that much. So, if they are atheist, it doesn’t mean that the best scientists are atheist. It just means that many mediocre scientists, who are not well rounded in their education, are more likely to be atheists than well rounded scientists. Keep in mind that I was responding to a comment that was not that well formulated, which means I should have taken more time.

  122. 122
    beelzebub says:

    StephenB,

    Here’s the comment to which you were responding:

    Funny how most of the best scientists, such as the members of the NAS, happen to be deaf to those “screams”. Who would have thought there was a correlation between scientific ability and deafness?

    Where did you get the idea that NAS members are “worker bee” scientists who “really don’t advance their discipline that much”?

    Becoming a NAS member is akin to being elected a fellow of the Royal Society. It’s a huge honor, and not one that is bestowed on “worker bees.”

  123. 123
    beelzebub says:

    I wrote:

    It makes no moral sense to punish people for failing to accept a message so poorly communicated that they sincerely thought it was false.

    vjtorley responded:

    Agreed. But what makes you think that God, if He/She exists, is going to punish you? That’s based on your reading of one religion’s holy book.

    I’m glad to hear that it offends your moral sensibilities too.

    Unfortunately, this morally repugnant interpretation is not just my idiosyncratic reading of the Bible. It’s the reading of a lot of Christians (including jerry, unless my impression of him is mistaken).

    Moreover, while it offends your moral sensibilities and mine, it’s based on a straightforward reading of the Christian scriptures, including verses like this one:

    Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

    John 3:18, NIV

  124. 124
    dgosse says:

    Reading this thread leaves me feeling as if I have followed Alice down the rabbit hole.

    The question under discussion is “Is Belief in God Reasonable” – the question is not “Does it offend your “moral sensibilities” to think that a god the belief in which is reasonable may punish you for not believing he/she/it exists.” (I would like to know the process through which you progress from a materialist “is” to a metaphysical “ought”)

    One could hypothesize a deity, the belief in which is reasonable, whose purposes include a morbid facination with suffering as entertainment. The fact that you would have a personal distaste for the moral qualities of that particular god wouldn’t affect the fact of his/her/its existance one iota.

    One might suggest that your interest in and judgement of the moral qualities of this hypothetical deity affirms the argument from moral obligation;

    http://www.peterkreeft.com/top.....nce.htm#14

    one of several arguments for the eistence of a deity that vjtorley did not include in his short-list.

    It appears that you believe that your hypothetical deity has a moral obligation to slap you upside the head if you fail to notice him/her/it. “Well, if only that truck driver had honked his horn a little louder and a little more often I wouldn’t have stepped into the street.”

    BTW, you still haven’t responded regarding the rather severe limitations of your “thinking” computer and the human capacity for knowledge and understanding.

  125. 125
    beelzebub says:

    I’d like to take some time now to finish presenting my case against the Argument from Reason. My apologies for the delay.

    My previous comment on this topic was an explanation of why the reliability of an immaterial mind cannot legitimately be assumed by the theist. The present comment will show that we actually have more reason to trust our thoughts if they are the product of a physical brain than if they come from an immaterial mind.

    This, of course, is exactly the opposite of what Lewis and Reppert hoped the Argument from Reason would demonstrate.

    a. The physical brain is shaped by natural selection, unlike the immaterial mind.

    b. Humans that reason well have tended to survive and reproduce better than those who don’t (whence the infamous Darwin Awards). Thus, there has been tremendous selective pressure for improved intelligence over our evolutionary history.

    c. The fossil and archaeological records provide convincing evidence of the increasing intelligence of hominids, including Homo sapiens, over time.

    d. Successful reasoning in everyday life includes logical thinking.

    e. The “higher” reaches of human thought, including science, mathematics, and philosophy, are built around core ideas and concepts that don’t differ substantially from those employed in everyday life. As Einstein put it, “The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.”

    f. Human thought is imperfect, so a key feature is our ability to double-check ourselves. We can do this by thinking things through multiple times to see if we reach the same answer, by employing distinct methods and seeing if they yield identical results, and by comparing our thoughts to those of our fellows. Nothing about this is out of reach for a physical brain, and a tendency to double-check important decisions would certainly be favored by natural selection.

    g. The ingredients above are all that is necessary to account for the capabilities of human reason, and natural selection should favor all of them. Thus, the materialist has an explanation for the reliability of reason. The theist doesn’t, and must simply assume it.

  126. 126
    beelzebub says:

    dgosse writes:

    Reading this thread leaves me feeling as if I have followed Alice down the rabbit hole.

    Me too, though I suspect our reasons differ.

    The question under discussion is “Is Belief in God Reasonable” – the question is not “Does it offend your “moral sensibilities” to think that a god the belief in which is reasonable may punish you for not believing he/she/it exists.”

    Whether it is reasonable to believe in God depends in large part on the particular God in question. This blog is populated mostly by Christians, and many (if not most) Christians believe in an omniscient and omnipotent creator God who wants us to know he’s there. My argument in comment 104 shows that it is unreasonable to believe in such a God.

    I would like to know the process through which you progress from a materialist “is” to a metaphysical “ought”.

    I don’t derive “ought” from “is”.

    One could hypothesize a deity, the belief in which is reasonable, whose purposes include a morbid facination with suffering as entertainment.

    True, and such a God actually fits the facts of our world of tsunamis, fistulas and flesh-eating bacteria better than most.

    The fact that you would have a personal distaste for the moral qualities of that particular god wouldn’t affect the fact of his/her/its existance one iota.

    Agreed, and I have never suggested otherwise.

    One might suggest that your interest in and judgement of the moral qualities of this hypothetical deity affirms the argument from moral obligation;

    That would be incorrect. See the ‘Bleak Conclusions’ thread for an extended discussion (554 comments!) of this issue. Enjoy.

    It appears that you believe that your hypothetical deity has a moral obligation to slap you upside the head if you fail to notice him/her/it.

    Not at all. My point is simply that the hypothetical God in question would make his presence known to all sincere seekers. The fact that he does not shows that a God of that type does not exist.

    BTW, you still haven’t responded regarding the rather severe limitations of your “thinking” computer and the human capacity for knowledge and understanding.

    dgosse, I’m a busy devil with souls to torment, others to tempt, a lake of fire to maintain (the gas bills are killing me!), not to mention a pack of theists on this thread who would love to kick my Satanic ass if they only could. If I don’t get to your favorite issue(s) right away, you’ll just have to be patient.

  127. 127
    beelzebub says:

    The third prong of my case against the Argument from Reason will have to wait until tomorrow.

    Goodnight, sinners.

  128. 128
    jerry says:

    “Perhaps some do, but most of us just want some good evidence.”

    Duh, how about the fine tuning of the universe? Oh I know there are an infinite number of them. How inconvenient of God to have done that so we cannot know if we are the real thing. God, that is a lot of stuff that poof into existence from nothing. Existence is just a Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah thing.

    But then there is life itself. This incredibly complicated system just pops out of nowhere in this lucky of all Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah universes. How do we explain that? Well we cannot, can we. But we can use our rational minds to make up the bestest of stories to tell our children how the Darwin fairy waved his magic hand and voila, life itself appeared out of the ribosome soup. Oh, but where did that ribosome soup come from? Duh! We will get back to you on that.

    And then there is evolution itself and the creation of incredibly complicated machines out of little teenie weenie individual parts. Why the sorcerer’s apprentice just waived that magic hand again or was it a wand and all these parts just jumped for joy and flew together to form these complicated machines. And we have no idea how this happened on this Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah planet in this Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah universe in this Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah existence. Oh, my oh my, what a wonderful way.

    Yes, you have to be stupid to believe in all these fairy tales. Incredible things just seem to happen in this little spot in the multiverse. But RFD’s can explain it all, just ask them. Duh!

    Yes, stupid is as stupid does and boy do we have that here.

  129. 129
    Oramus says:

    Beelzebub,

    May I suggest reviewing some of your assumptions.

    1). It’s not that it is important for Him to be known to His creatures. It is inevitable. There are no time constraints for Him. Therefore, He is letting the process of we discovering Him take its course.

    2) The most compelling evidence is abductive; what happens within you. God already presented Himself in the flesh and you guessed it; most didn’t believe Him when he was walking among us. Even His miracles were dismissed as some sort of magic or sorcery.

    3) What makes you believe He has not revealed Himself to the sincere? Do you consider yourself sincerely seeking God but have been left unanswered?

    Truly, it is as easy as: the kingdom of God is within you >ask and you will receive; knock and the door will be opened ~ there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.

    If the cosmos were the creation of a Divine Mind, operating without constraints; and further if that Divine Mind wanted to be known; then I would expect the evidence to be far more compelling than it is. Do you really think a Divine Mind could do no better than this? Why isn’t his existence obvious to every sincere seeker, if it’s so important to him to be known by his creatures?

  130. 130
    Oramus says:

    a. The physical brain is shaped by natural selection, unlike the immaterial mind.

    Argument from assertion.

    b. Humans that reason well have tended to survive and reproduce better than those who don’t (whence the infamous Darwin Awards). Thus, there has been tremendous selective pressure for improved intelligence over our evolutionary history.

    Argument from absurdity.

    The human population is on track to 13 Billion by 2050. Our intelligence is a direct threat to our survival. Intelligence is therefore not the product of NS, RM, ND, EVO-DEVO……..how many acronyms have I missed, by the way? They kinda feel like all those round tuits I keep in my pocket.

    c. The fossil and archaeological records provide convincing evidence of the increasing intelligence of hominids, including Homo sapiens, over time.

    Argument from assertion. Again! :~
    What you do have is inferences derived from interpretated data. Your best inference is only as strong as your weakest interpretation. Mind you, collective head bobbing does not count as strong interpretation.

    d. Successful reasoning in everyday life includes logical thinking.

    Define successful.

    If I’m not mistaken the richest in American society die at about the same average age of 78 as the least among Americans.

    Now that guy in Britain that washes cars at the age of 120 and puts back his three pints a day -Now that’s pretty successful IMB.

    e., f., and g.

    Mo’ arguments from assertion.

    I am still waiting for someone to model the evolutionary paths that created us. If we are so reasonable, logical, and intelligent, surely we can come up with a step-by-step analysis of amino acids breaking through the threshhold of inorganic existence.

    I can see it now: ‘Amino and the Acids’ doing a rendition of Jim Morrison’s “Break on through to the other side…break, break, break! Ohhhh yeeeaaaaaah…uuuuh!”

    Otherwise, whaddaya got but Yippidi-Do-Da (thank you Jerry).

  131. 131
    GCS says:

    Beelzebub, Hazel, et al.

    I have to ask you if you have a major premise concerning the existence of God? It seems to me that there are three basic possibilities:
    1 – God cannot exist;
    2 – I really do not know; or
    3 – God can exist.

    If your premise is #1 then there really is nothing to talk about. You are intelligent enough to make every argument fit that premise.

    If your premise is really #2 or #3 then I give you a challenge. Why don’t you ask God if He exists? I will guarantee you that within a relatively short time something will happen to you. When that happens you will have to make a choice, either consciously rejecting what happens or starting to search for the person behind it. The choice will be yours, but the knowledge that you had to make the choice will always be with you.

    Just honestly say, “God, show me if you exist”.

    Good luck,

    Gesualdo

  132. 132
    Berceuse says:

    GCS, I think whatever would happen to Beezlebub/Hazel, if they accepted your challenge, would be unconvincing. Something like a pen picking itself up and writing “I am here” isn’t going to happen. What would probably happen is something that can be written off as coincidence.

  133. 133
    beelzebub says:

    Gesualdo,

    Thank you for your concern.

    I think that God is logically possible, but that the evidence for his existence is scant and far from sufficient, particularly if we are talking about the personal God of the Abrahamic faiths.

    Why don’t you ask God if He exists? I will guarantee you that within a relatively short time something will happen to you.

    I guarantee that things will happen to me within a relatively short time whether or not God exists. The question is, do the things that happen signify the existence of God?

    As for asking God for solid evidence of his existence, I have done that many times. I eventually learned to stop asking when the evidence was not forthcoming. I now accept that the personal God of Christianity does not exist.

    For what it’s worth, I was raised in a Christian home and had a strong faith as a child and a young teen. My pastor even asked me to consider whether I had a calling for the ministry. I had a Mormon friend with whom I would argue religion for hours, and after one such argument I realized that it was dishonest not to apply the same critical scrutiny to my own beliefs that I was applying to his.

    I found, to my shock and dismay, that my own beliefs held up no better than his. A painful period of soul-searching followed. I felt that what I had believed so strongly had to be true, and that it was impossible that my parents, my minister, and other trusted elders had taught me something that wasn’t true. It seemed impossible that so many Christians, whose faith was so palpable, could be wrong. I thought that my doubts must be a sign of weakness in me, and I felt ashamed and guilty that I had reneged on my confirmation vows. I beseeched God for guidance and for evidence of his existence.

    But the spark of that idea — that if Christianity (or any other idea) were true, it should hold up to critical scrutiny — never left me. I realized that knowing the truth was more important than clinging to a set of comforting beliefs, and so I remained determined to examine my beliefs critically.

    The process was slow and painful, and I gave up my beliefs in stages, but in the end I concluded that atheism was the only tenable position.

    So here I am. Though the process of discarding my Christianity was painful, I have found that the search for truth is exhilarating and that life is as wonderful, interesting and joyful for me as an atheist as it was for me as a Christian. And to my relief, it’s no longer necessary to fight the evidence in order to rationalize my faith.

  134. 134
    tribune7 says:

    Beelzebub– I found, to my shock and dismay, that my own beliefs held up no better than his.

    What exactly where your beliefs?

  135. 135
    GCS says:

    Berceuse

    I do not know what the answer from God to them would be. I do know that it would be something they could reject, probably as coincidence. God will never force himself on us in such a way to override our free will.

    However, and this is the key point, it would be something they would have to consciously reject. They would know that they rejected it. They would know they made a choice.

    The same principle applies to ID. For those who are willing to see, the universe reeks of evidence of design, but those who do not wish to see it are not forced. However, they must make a conscious choice to deny the constant appearance of design.

    I suspect that it must be very frustrating to have to continually deny what you see around you.

    Gesualdo

  136. 136
    hazel says:

    Thanks for the personal story, Beezlebub – that was significant and well done. Sometimes sharing personal information about spiritual matters can be difficult – some people learn from it but other times people take advantage of one’s candor.

  137. 137
    dgosse says:

    30″ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

    31″He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”

    Luke 16:30-31

  138. 138
    Berceuse says:

    Re: 133

    Funny, as someone who grew up loving science, that’s exactly the way I feel about Darwinism.

  139. 139
    hazel says:

    I am very aware that people have internal experiences that convince them that there is a God. I have had religious experiences that were quite meaningful and affected my life a great deal. There is a great deal of literature about such experiences from a cross-cultural perspective – such experiences are a natural human phenomena.

    What they are not, however, is actual proof of such a God. When similar types of experiences happen to people in different cultures, they take on the context of that culture, which is evidence for the idea, again, that religions are human inventions that fill a need.

  140. 140
    Berceuse says:

    Why are we confusing religion with God? Huge difference.

  141. 141
    GCS says:

    Beelzebub

    Thank you for your story. I think that you have answered with your basic premise. You are an atheist, and by definition God can not exist. Therefore there is no outside power guiding the universe.

    Ultimately we can get nowhere on this argument. You are an intelligent and articulate person and so you will always be able to frame a case which will defend your basic premise. Interestingly, yours is the narrow position, precisely because your worldview requires you to reject out of hand a whole realm of possibility. Your world must have only natural things, while the world you reject has all those natural things plus the possibility of much more.

    Peace, Gesualdo

  142. 142
    GCS says:

    Hazel (139)

    I presume your basic premise is that God can not exist.

    Peace, Gesualdo

  143. 143
    vjtorley says:

    Beelzebub (#125)

    The present comment will show that we actually have more reason to trust our thoughts if they are the product of a physical brain than if they come from an immaterial mind.

    A bold undertaking! Thank you for setting forth your argument clearly on this thread.

    d. Successful reasoning in everyday life includes logical thinking.

    Note that word: successful. Our brains are pretty good at figuring out successful strategies. But science is not a strategic enterprise: it is a truth-seeking enterprise.

    To illustrate the difference, let’s recap a bit of philosophy of science. There have been some scientists and philosophers, known as instrumentalists, who have suggested that science is not really a search for truth; instead, it is merely a search for a working hypothesis which satisfactorily explains our observations and makes useful predictions. We should not pretend that the hypothesis is actually true; it’s merely useful. Over the course of time, all of our scientific hypotheses are liable to be supplanted by other, more useful hypotheses. But we shall never arrive at truth.

    One problem with this pragmatic conception of science is that it leads to a deep-seated skepticism about the nature of reality. Some scientists and philosophers who thought this way a century ago even doubted the existence of atoms: atoms were considered to be merely useful scientific constructs to explain the results of laboratory experiments by physicists such as Thomson and Rutherford. Protons and electrons were viewed as nothing more than useful fictions.

    Or take another example: the Big Bang. If you thought scientific theories were simply useful hypotheses, you wouldn’t say that the Big Bang really happened, or that the Universe was really 13.73 billion years old (give or take a bit). You’d simply say that 13.73 billion was a useful number for making testable scientific predictions about the development of the cosmos.

    And you wouldn’t say that living things really had a common ancestor. You’d say that it was useful to think of them that way – until another hypothesis came along: the tree of life gets replaced by a vine. Neither theory is true; the vine just happens to be a more useful picture than the tree.

    Now, if you’re an anti-realist (that’s the general term for people who think this way – instrumentalism is a form of scientific anti-realism) then please feel free to say so. If that’s the way you think, then of course I can see why you have no problems with our finite brains still being able to do good science.

    But I get the feeling that you’re not. You believe atoms are real, evolution is real (macro, not just micro) and the multiverse is real, don’t you?

    e. The “higher” reaches of human thought, including science, mathematics, and philosophy, are built around core ideas and concepts that don’t differ substantially from those employed in everyday life.

    Either you’re wrong or you’re right here. I could make a good case that you’re dead wrong (in which case your argument collapses): many scientific, mathematical and philosophical concepts are terribly abstruse, and can only be grasped by people who have spent years disabusing themselves of common sense concepts. Think of Schrodinger wave functions, M-theory, transfinite numbers and Turing machines, to name a few. Science, as Lewis Wolpert has remarked, flies in the face of common sense.

    But suppose that you’re right. In that case, I’d ask: what gives human beings the right to assume that concepts derived from our everyday lives can be applied to the domain of the very large (galaxies, or even multiple universes), or the very small (subatomic particles), or to very distant events occurring billions of light years away? I see two objections to the enterprise.

    First, it’s a colossal vanity on our part – a projection of the everyday concepts we use to understand our own small world onto the cosmos at large. Surely the attempt to explain everything in the cosmos in terms of these concepts is doomed to fail.

    Second, how do we know that we can trust the workings of our brains when extrapolating to very large or very small scales? They might not be made for that sort of thing. Sure, we can check and re-check our computations and our logic, as you suggest in step f of your argument. But much more dangerous to human reasoning is our propensity to form strong beliefs regarding certain matters where there is insufficient scientific evidence. We may become violently attached to certain hypotheses that we have no right to become attached to. (Think of the strong passions that discussions of global warming usually generate – and now read Patrick Walters’ paper A Climate of Belief , and you’ll see my point.) In everyday life, we’ve probably evolved strategies to guard against dangerous irrationality – but we have no such evolved defenses when we venture outside that domain. All of this should make materialists extremely tentative when doing science.

    You might say, “Well, the strategy of applying our everyday concepts to the universe at large has worked so far, so it’s a good bet.” I’d reply that in fact, it hasn’t worked too well in the past few decades – our everyday concepts of a wave and a particle break down at the quantum level, and we cannot as yet conceive of the geometry required for a general M-theory, underlying string theory. And even if this strategy had worked perfectly in the past, we would have no right to assume that it’s going to work again for new discoveries that we make in the future.

    g. The ingredients above are all that is necessary to account for the capabilities of human reason, and natural selection should favor all of them.

    I’d say that the ingredients above are fine for doing instrumentalist science, but not for investigating reality. “What works” and “what’s true” are two very different concepts.

    Beelzebub (#126)

    I can see that the problem of evil troubles you not a little. Regarding the idea that there could be a God who views morbid suffering as entertainment, you write:

    True, and such a God actually fits the facts of our world of tsunamis, fistulas and flesh-eating bacteria better than most.

    If you want an unsentimental, no-holds-barred response to the problem of evil, I suggest you try the article Tsunami and Theodicy by David Hart.

    My point is simply that the hypothetical God in question would make his presence known to all sincere seekers.

    I can’t add to the excellent advice that Oramus (#129) and GCS (#131) have given to spiritual seekers in their posts. DGosse, your link to Peter Kreeft (#124) was a pleasant surprise, too. All I will add, Beelzebub, is that you shouldn’t feel as if you have a gun (or a Divine thunderbolt) pointed at your head when searching for the answer to your questions about God. Just do your best. God understands our human limitations.

    I might add that the Catholic Church had some thoughtful and compassionate things to say about atheists at the Second Vatican Council. You might like to check out section 19 of Gaudium et Spes .

    You cited John 3:18 as evidence that the Christian God wants to fry unbelievers. But the verse simply means that “those who willfully shut out God from their hearts and try to dodge religious questions are not following the dictates of their consciences, and hence are not free of blame,” as Vatican II puts it. God does not condemn honest seekers. The following Bible verses, John 3:19-20, bear out this interpretation:

    19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

    In other words, it is lovers of evil and haters of God who stand condemned for their unbelief.

  144. 144
    jerry says:

    “Why are we confusing religion with God? Huge difference.”

    Yes, I agree wholeheartedly. To get to any of Gods of any religion, one has to travel a different path. Which is why I believe atheism is intellectually bankrupt but not deism and why I have said I have respect for Deists but not atheists.

    Though I am personally not a Deist, the path to a specific concept of God is long and varied. But to the existence of a creator is a “no brainer.”

  145. 145
    hazel says:

    Oh no – my basic premise is certainly not God that cannot exist: that would be quite presumptuous of me, especially given my belief that we can’t know the true nature of the metaphysical from which the physical has come.

    My belief – and it is a conclusion, not a premise – is that I don’t find the case for the existence of a divine being at all compelling, and that I find other ways of thinking about the metaphysical better for a variety of reasons.

  146. 146
    vjtorley says:

    Beelzebub (#133)

    I just read your personal story. Thank you for sharing. Good luck with your search, and keep being critical.

  147. 147
    StephenB says:

    —beelzebub: “Becoming a NAS member is akin to being elected a fellow of the Royal Society. It’s a huge honor, and not one that is bestowed on “worker bees.”

    The National Academy of Science is a politically correct monolith that promotes an anti-God agenda. Just as 95.8% of evolutionary biologists are atheist/agnostic, 93% of those on the NAS roster are also atheist/agnostic. So, when you tell me that its members do not respond to the overwhelming evidence for a finely tuned universe, all you are telling me is that their anti-God bias rules it out apriori. Few things could be more irrational the positing “infinite multiple universes” as a response to the argument for a “privileged planet.”

    In keeping with that point, there can be no doubt at all that the NAS is agenda driven. If you don’t believe in radical Darwinism or global warming, you are out, and I mean out. To be a member of NAS is to have confirmed your political correctness, your designated place as a member of the hive, and your official status as a dutiful little worker bee. No one in the hive will acknowledge the evidence for the “privileged planet” until the queen bee gives them permission. That is very unlikely to happen. A finely tuned universe implies a creator. Atheists need to get over that. They really do.

  148. 148
    StephenB says:

    [This comment is not directed to any one individual]

    I have learned from experience that everyone has a “good” reason for abandoning Christianity and everyone has a “real” reason.

    The good reason, formulated for public consumption, consists of one or several well-established intellectual objections that have been recyled thousands of times.

    The real reason, which often remains hidden, almost always involves some kind of personal issue. Perhaps, the disaffected Christian was mistreated by another “believer.” Just as likely, he/she may decide that conforming to an objective moral code is more trouble than it is worth. Almost never, is the “good” reason the “real” reason.

  149. 149
    hazel says:

    “Just as likely, he/she may decide that conforming to an objective moral code is more trouble than it is worth.”

    Presumptuous, insulting nonsense. How can you live with being so self-righteous, I wonder?

  150. 150
    Dave Wisker says:

    I have learned from experience that I don’t know enough people, never mind adequately understanding their inner motives, to justify making sweeping generalizations about such things.

  151. 151
    Barry Arrington says:

    hazel, re your [149]. You are judging StephenB. You are so intolerant of other people’s views. If they voice an opinion that differs from your own you call them names. You, of all people, who call over and over again for tolerance and civility are finally revealed for what you are – an intolerant bigot who judges people and views that diverge from you own. You are revealed not only for a bigot but, worse, a hypocrite. Any more name calling, Hazel the Hypocrite, and you will be put in the moderation sandbox.

  152. 152
    StephenB says:

    —-Hazel: “Presumptuous, insulting nonsense. How can you live with being so self-righteous, I wonder?”

    It isn’t nonsense. It is the truth. Try reading “Degenerate Moderns,” by E. Michael Jones. Among other things, you will learn that a person either regulates his desires to conform to the truth, or he will bend the truth to conform to his desires. Margaret Mead, the Adulterer, tried to remake the world to fit her own perverse behavior by way of her “anthropological studies” in Samoa. Karl Marx, who lived off of his relatives, constructed a world view based on the dispossession of others. Alfred Kinsey, pervert and enabler of child rapists, stacked the scientific deck to create the illusion that everyone was just as twisted as he was. Today he is honored at Indiana University as a cultural “trailblazer.

  153. 153
    StephenB says:

    —Dave Wisker: “I have learned from experience that I don’t know enough people, never mind adequately understanding their inner motives, to justify making sweeping generalizations about such things.”

    Have you ruled out the possibility that I may actually have some experience in this area? In any case, consult my post at 152.

  154. 154
    beelzebub says:

    tribune7 asks:

    What exactly where your beliefs?

    Conservative, evangelical Lutheran (Missouri Synod, for those in the know). Biblical literalism, YEC, six-day creation. Sola scriptura, and salvation by faith alone through God’s grace. Apostle’s Creed, Nicene Creed… you get the picture.

  155. 155
    beelzebub says:

    StephenB writes:

    The real reason, which often remains hidden, almost always involves some kind of personal issue. Perhaps, the disaffected Christian was mistreated by another “believer.” Just as likely, he/she may decide that conforming to an objective moral code is more trouble than it is worth. Almost never, is the “good” reason the “real” reason.

    Stephen,

    Wow. You seem genuinely threatened by the idea that people can and do reject Christianity on rational grounds.

    That same fear is apparent here:

    The National Academy of Science is a politically correct monolith that promotes an anti-God agenda… If you don’t believe in radical Darwinism or global warming, you are out, and I mean out.

    Unfortunately for your hypothesis, NAS member Phillip Skell signed the Discovery Institute’s “Dissent from Darwinism” petition, and NAS member Richard Linzen is a global warming skeptic.

    (Hat tip to olegt at AtBC.)

  156. 156
    StephenB says:

    —beelzebub: “Unfortunately for your hypothesis, NAS member Phillip Skell signed the Discovery Institute’s “Dissent from Darwinism” petition, and NAS member Richard Linzen is a global warming skeptic.”

    Unfortunately, for your exception, which is your only out, I have the rule on my side. Notice that each time I present a trend, someone else provides an exception as a challenge to my trend. It is interesting, no?

    I explain that 93% of NSA members are atheist/agnostic and beelzebub counters with one of the 7% as evidence of what—that my 93% is any less than an overwhelming majority?

  157. 157
    StephenB says:

    —beelzebub: “Wow. You seem genuinely threatened by the idea that people can and do reject Christianity on rational grounds.”

    I notice that, once again, you attempt to shift the ground. My argument focused on those who abandon Christianity, which is only a subset of all those who reject it. Nice try, though.

    While I am at it, I will add another factor to the list.

    Abandon Christianity for intellectual reasons– probably a small minority

    Abandon Christianity because of destructive relationships–probably quite a few

    Abandon Christianity in order to pursue a libertine lifestyle–probably quite a few

    Abandon Christianity after having been poorly educated in its tenets–probably quite a few.

  158. 158
    madsen says:

    hazel, re your [149]. You are judging StephenB. You are so intolerant of other people’s views. If they voice an opinion that differs from your own you call them names. You, of all people, who call over and over again for tolerance and civility are finally revealed for what you are – an intolerant bigot who judges people and views that diverge from you own. You are revealed not only for a bigot but, worse, a hypocrite. Any more name calling, Hazel the Hypocrite, and you will be put in the moderation sandbox.

    Wow—“Hazel the Hypocrite”, an “intolerant bigot”, being admonished for name calling? Now I’ve seen everything.

  159. 159
    tribune7 says:

    Beelzebub– Conservative, evangelical Lutheran (Missouri Synod, for those in the know). Biblical literalism, YEC, six-day creation. Sola scriptura, and salvation by faith alone through God’s grace. Apostle’s Creed, Nicene Creed…

    So someone pointed out to you that there were problems with literalism (how did Judas die, anyway?), and that there is some pretty solid objective evidence against YEC, and you were told that certain people are going to Hell even though they seem more basically decent that certain people who you were told are going to Heaven, so you figured the whole thing was a crock.

    And so you then figured you’d come on here and give us grief about the solid evidence that shows life and the universe to be designed 🙂

  160. 160
    Oramus says:

    Barry,

    I havta agree with Madsen on this one. Saying someone is being self-righteous is not namecalling. Now saying “you self-righteous bast!@#!”. Now, that’s grounds for the doghouse.

    I’m sure StephenB is strong enough to take it in stride. He admittedly at times presents a hard style in his posts and it will sometimes rub folks like Hazel the wrong way.

    Hey, let her vent a bit.

  161. 161
    hazel says:

    Thanks very much, Oramus. I am committed to civil discourse, but, being the imperfect human that I am, sometimes my emotions overcome my commitment to my principles. I got angry at Stephen’s post, and I vented. Perhaps I will say more, calmly, about why I got angry at a later time, but I wanted to say now that I really appreciate the support.

  162. 162
    Barry Arrington says:

    madsen is no longer with us.

  163. 163
    Dave Wisker says:

    Have you ruled out the possibility that I may actually have some experience in this area? In any case, consult my post at 152.

    So, do you think the sample size of people you know deeply enough to accurately characterize their inner motives is big enough to make your generalization?

    Have you ruled out the possibility that you are drawing conclusions from data that suffers from sampling error?

  164. 164

    vjtorley in #143:

    I find your description of what you call an “anti-realist” to be a reasonably precise description of what I was taught should be the attitude taken by any competent, well-trained scientist. My only real quibble would be the term you used: “anti-realist”. I believe that “non-realist” would be much more precise and would conform more closely to how many scientists actually think about nature.

    Here is your summary:

    “There have been some scientists and philosophers, known as instrumentalists, who have suggested that science is not really a search for truth; instead, it is merely a search for a working hypothesis which satisfactorily explains our observations and makes useful predictions. We should not pretend that the hypothesis is actually true; it’s merely useful. Over the course of time, all of our scientific hypotheses are liable to be supplanted by other, more useful hypotheses. But we shall never arrive at truth.

    This is pretty close to what I tell my students in my very first lecture, both for introductory biology and for evolution. I have never used the moniker “instrumentalist”, however, nor would I be inclined to use “anti-realist” (even if you capitalized the R in Realist). Definitions (including names that stand for definitions) that attempt to state what something is by stating what it is not are generally not very useful. Indeed, in virtually all cases of which I am aware, they are logically invalid.

    One major reason for this is that such reasoning assumes that all objects and processes consist of binary opposites, in which the affirmation of one member of a pair of opposites necessarily negates the other member of the pair (and vice-versa).

    For example, consider what many people might assume about me if I were to say (for the sake of argument) that I am not a Democrat (i.e. a member of the Democratic Party and/or voter for Democratic candidates). Does that necessarily mean that I am a Republican? Of course not; I might be a Libertarian, or a Socialist, or a Conservative, or a Liberal, or a Green, or whatever. Furthermore, it is also not the case that I am necessarily a Republican if I reject most or all of the various tenets held to constitute the core platform of the Democratic Party. Again, the negation of “Democrat” is neither “Republican” nor is it a definition of what I am.

    Under such circumstances, calling me an “anti-Democrat” (or, in the context of this thread, an “aDemocrat”) would be to assert something that is clearly not the case. By the same argument, for me to refer to myself as an “aDemocrat” would not provide you with any information at all as to what I am, and surprisingly little information as to what I am not.

    If you were to go through a detailed list of what most Democrats assert to be their positions on various political, economic, and social issues and ask me, “Do you agree with this position, yes or no?”, I honestly don’t think you could get any closer to what I am, because many if not all of those questions could not be honestly answered by a simple “yes” or “no”. It has been my experience that in almost every case when someone has asked me a question like that, my answer has been “that depends”.

    Don’t get me wrong; I’m not asserting that there are no questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. If you were to ask me “Do you want me to murder your family, yes or no?” the answer would be an absolute and emphatic “no”. However, if you were to ask me “Do you believe that killing another human being is never justified, yes or no?” I would have to say “that depends”. If, for example, someone were trying to murder my family and the only way I could prevent them from doing so were to kill that person instead, then I would definitely do so. I would probably regret the necessity of having to do so, but that would not stop me from doing so. Furthermore, if you were to ask me the same question and then give me an example of someone trying to murder somebody else’s family, my answer would be the same. I would indeed use deadly force to stop them from doing so, if I believed that it were necessary and that there were no alternative.

    So, yes, there are circumstances in which I would not only assert that there are situations in which I would apply an absolute standard of “yes” or “no”, “true” or “untrue”, “right” or “wrong”, but none of those circumstances apply to the interpretation [1] of empirical scientific results. Yes, indeed, we do not strive to determine the “truth” of our hypotheses, we only strive to improve our “confidence” (statistically defined) in the precision and usefulness of those hypotheses. That’s all you can do with generalizations that are formulated on the basis of induction.

    So, to make a short story long, when it comes to science there is no such thing as “truth”, there is only generalizations that have not yet been shown empirically to be contradicted by the evidence.

    [1] Note the emphasis on “interpretation”. Of course there are circumstances in which I would assert that carrying out certain kinds of scientific research would be “wrong” (such as, for example, performing potentially dangerous experiments using human subjects, especially if those subjects did not consent to being part of such an experiment).

  165. 165

    For those who find my assertion that “non-realist” is a good term for describing what most scientists are, please be aware that the term “realism” is used quite differently in philosophy (especially ontology) than it is in science. Classically, a “realist” (in philosophical terms) is someone who believes that the “ideal forms” (or eidos) of Plato are “real”, rather than creations of our internal mental processes. In the most extreme case (which many, but not all philosophers ascribe to Plato himself), the underlying assumption is that such “ideal forms” are more real than the actual physical representatives of those forms that we sense directly in the universe around us. This version of “realism” is often referred to as “idealism” (another word that has a very different meaning for philosophers than for most of the general public).

  166. 166

    As to the question at the head of this thread, I believe that the question “Is belief in God reasonable” is badly worded. It depends on one’s definition of “belief”, a notoriously slippery term to define. For example, given the description of what many scientists “believe” about “truth” in science, would it be accurate to say that the current “belief” among scientists that such things as atoms are what all matter is composed of is the same kind of “belief” that is being asked about in the question at the head of this thread?

    I don’t believe so ;-), because it seems that the word “belief” is used very differently in science than it is in religion. In science, “belief” generally consists of our relative confidence in the applicability and predictability of an empirically tested hypothesis (such “confidence” is often quantified numerically as the result of statistical analysis of the available data).

    In religion, “belief” generally consists of a set of assertions about the nature of transcendent reality: “… faith (i.e. religious belief) is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. (Hebrews 11:1) I recall many of my Sunday school teachers telling me (in response to some insistent, indeed impertinent questions) that one believes (i.e. has faith) in such things in spite of the evidence (i.e. the empirical evidence), rather than because of it. Perhaps my memory of those not-so-halcyon days of my childhood are mistaken, but I think not. Consider this quote from Kurt Wise, a YEC geologist and “believing Christian”:

    “Although there are scientific reasons for accepting a young earth, I am a young-age creationist because that is my understanding of the Scripture. As I shared with my professors years ago when I was in college, if all the evidence in the universe turns against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate. Here I must stand.”

    Yes, I’m sure some of the regular commentators here will immediately respond by asserting that they don’t agree, but that does not negate in any way the simple fact that some (indeed, a statistically verifiable majority) of American Christians agree with Wise in principle.

    Had the question at the head of this thread been “Does God Exist?” I think that the discussion would have gone somewhat differently. Hans Küng wasn’t afraid to ask or to answer this question, and I think it would be very revealing (and perhaps enlightening as well) to find out what people here think about that question. BTW, it’s not at all clear to me that this question is the equivalent of vjtorley’s question. Indeed, I think they are fundamentally different, and would elicit fundamentally different answers from many of the commentators here.

    For example, is it necessarily the case that someone who answered “yes” to the question “Does God exist?” would also answer “yes” to the question “Is belief in God reasonable?”

  167. 167
    beelzebub says:

    StephenB,

    It looks like this…

    If you don’t believe in radical Darwinism or global warming, you are out, and I mean out.

    …has become this:

    If you don’t believe in radical Darwinism or global warming, you are out, and I mean out, unless you are in, and then I mean in.

  168. 168
    dgosse says:

    Hi beelzebub

    Conservative, evangelical Lutheran (Missouri Synod, for those in the know). Biblical literalism, YEC, six-day creation. Sola scriptura, and salvation by faith alone through God’s grace. Apostle’s Creed, Nicene Creed… you get the picture.

    It appears we move in opposite directions. 8^> I began as an evolutionary atheist and moved to LCC (a Canadian affiliate of the Missouri Synod). It’s a funny world, isn’t it. My experience appears the opposite of yours, I don’t have to compromise my intellectual integrity to be a Christian and a tentative YEC (the jury is still out).

    For the past two decades I have been cramming on science, philosophy, logic, and theology – not to mention my too frequent trips to sites like this to check the latest arguments. I haven’t been impressed by much on the atheist side and sadly, the theistic side hasn’t fared much better. We live in decadent times.

  169. 169
    beelzebub says:

    tribune7 exercises his imagination:

    So someone pointed out to you that there were problems with literalism (how did Judas die, anyway?), and that there is some pretty solid objective evidence against YEC, and you were told that certain people are going to Hell even though they seem more basically decent that certain people who you were told are going to Heaven, so you figured the whole thing was a crock.

    No. Would you like to make up another story?

  170. 170
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Arrington,

    Other people stood up for me, so I have to stand up for other people.

    Might does not make right. Your warning to Ms Hazel made a certain amount of sense to me, but booting Mr Madsen does not. If you disagree, show where your own moderation policy supports your action.

  171. 171
    beelzebub says:

    dgosse writes:

    It appears we move in opposite directions. 8^> I began as an evolutionary atheist and moved to LCC (a Canadian affiliate of the Missouri Synod). It’s a funny world, isn’t it.

    No kidding!

  172. 172
    StephenB says:

    beelzebub:

    —-“If you don’t believe in radical Darwinism or global warming, you are out, and I mean out, unless you are in, and then I mean in.”

    To be “out” doesn’t mean to be expunged from the roster, it means to be disowned, discredited and ignored. Micheal Behe has tenure at Lehigh University, but his colleagues will not speak to him when they see him in the hallway.

    Now, on to the matter of substance. The NAS has an official position on Darwinism, an official position on global warming, 93% of its scientists are atheist/agnostic, and yes, they are avoiding clear evidence for design coming from cosmology and biology. The evidence for a fine-tuned universe really does scream, “creator!” It is about as compelling as a scientific argument can get, and is not likely to be overturned by new evidence.

  173. 173
    SpitfireIXA says:

    Beelz wrote:

    What I’m actually saying is this:

    1. Most NAS members disbelieve in God.

    This is not entirely accurate. The actual truth is:

    1. Most NAS members have publicly proclaimed a disbelief in God. (This was a poll.)

    There is a major difference between the two, considering that one’s livelihood, grant funding and reputation are on the line.

    As my D.C. Federal contracting colleagues in said about their company when Obama was elected, “We’re all Democrats now.”

  174. 174
    beelzebub says:

    Madsen seems to have been banned for pointing out a discrepancy between a moderator’s behavior and the stated moderation policy of this blog. Interestingly, I have it on good information that mauka was banned for the same reason.

  175. 175
    beelzebub says:

    SpitfireIXA,

    The survey was anonymous. The respondents risked nothing by responding honestly.

  176. 176
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Vjtorley,

    I’m just catching up to your response to my citation of the fine tuning paper.

    As you and Mr Beelzebub point out, the paper uses star formation as a proxy for life, or first approximation, if you will. This is an assumption that life, at least simple life, arises whenever and whereever some simple conditions are met. Do you feel this assumption by itself invalidates the arguement of the paper?

    You are correct that the paper does not specifically address the cosmological constant. However, your assertion that the cosmological constant is in fact fine tuned is not, I think, well supported.
    First, Weinberg is making points about “large” positive or negative values. Since the constant 10^120 times smaller than originally expected, it is not clear what Weinberg means by “large”.
    Second, Collins is a philosopher being quoted in a book of Christian apologetics. That is not a “calculation” that I would try to stand up against a peer reviewed article. I have been unable to track down a reference to the actual calculation.

    I would love to know the range of values over which the constant can vary, and still allow the universe to last ten billion years. I give that number because it seems we need at least one generation of stars to cook up the elements that will be used more the planets of the next generation. But just based on Weinberg’s language which you quoted, it doesn’t sound to me as if the actual value is particularly fine tuned.

  177. 177
    SpitfireIXA says:

    Beelz:

    Cite the poll, please. In practicality of poll methods, there’s almost no such thing as an anonymous survey taken within a discrete organization. Any unionized organization can confirm that.

    Regardless, I didn’t treat your logic progression adequately and should:

    Beelz:

    What I’m actually saying is this:

    1. Most NAS members disbelieve in God.

    This may or may not be true. For the sake of the rest, let’s say it is true.

    2. That means they didn’t hear the “screams” that StephenB hears.

    Logically, this is incomplete. Other options are: a) They heard the screams and ignored it, b) They heard the scream but kept it to themselves, living as they do in a post-modern society that demands spiritual issues be kept private.

    3. If God exists, that means he didn’t get his message across to them.

    By extension, incomplete as well.

    4. God is claimed to be omniscient and omnipotent.

    True statement.

    5. That means that he is perfectly capable of getting his message across to these curious, motivated, truth-seeking folks.

    You are generous in describing their nobility of character. As a rule humans are less than noble, in or outside of the NAS.

    Regardless, you are confusing two issues: 1) a omnipotent God’s ability to get a message across, and 2) a God ensuring or demanding the effect of his message on the other party. #1 is correct. #2 is coercion/rape.

    Which logicallty invalids…

    6. He didn’t. Therefore, either: a) God exists, but he isn’t able to get his message across, even to these truth-seekers; or b) God exists, but he either doesn’t want to get the message across, or he doesn’t care whether it gets across; or c) God doesn’t exist.

    Again, many alternates cases are missing: d) The party receiving the message is not receptive to the message, e) The party receiving the message is not making it known to his other noble, truth-seeking compadres, etc.

  178. 178
    SpitfireIXA says:

    Pardon the typos in my response. I don’t type correctly. It’s my mother’s fault.

  179. 179
    beelzebub says:

    Spitfire writes:

    Cite the poll, please.

    Published in Nature under the title Leading Scientists Still Reject God.

    In practicality of poll methods, there’s almost no such thing as an anonymous survey taken within a discrete organization. Any unionized organization can confirm that.

    It was a mail survey with anonymous responses. However, the US Postal Service is rumored to have been infiltrated by atheist Darwinists, who could have steamed open the envelopes and reported the responses to their overlords at the NAS. I wouldn’t put it past those shifty SOBs.

    Logically, this is incomplete. Other options are: a) They heard the screams and ignored it…

    I covered that when I wrote:

    Those are your logical options.

    Well, technically there’s another one. Jerry writes:

    Maybe the divine mind has reached us and most have rejected the communication.

    Right. So the very best scientists in the country also just happen to be evil truth-rejecters who are lying when they tell us that their disbelief is based on the lack of evidence for God.

    Spitfire continues:

    b) They heard the scream but kept it to themselves, living as they do in a post-modern society that demands spiritual issues be kept private.

    The survey was anonymous. They had no reason to lie.

    You are generous in describing their nobility of character. As a rule humans are less than noble, in or outside of the NAS.

    My argument doesn’t require that 100% of the respondents be honest truth-seekers.

    Regardless, you are confusing two issues: 1) a omnipotent God’s ability to get a message across, and 2) a God ensuring or demanding the effect of his message on the other party. #1 is correct. #2 is coercion/rape.

    No. My argument depends only on an omnipotent God’s ability to get the message across.

    Again, many alternates cases are missing: d) The party receiving the message is not receptive to the message…

    Like I said, I covered that.

    e) The party receiving the message is not making it known to his other noble, truth-seeking compadres, etc.

    It wasn’t a survey by the NAS. It was a survey of the NAS by outside researchers who were not NAS members and who were not sponsored by the NAS.

    The researchers, Edward Larson and Larry Witham, conclude their report with this statement:

    As we compiled our findings, the NAS issued a booklet encouraging the teaching of evolution in public schools, an ongoing source of friction between the scientific community and some conservative Christians in the United States. The booklet assures readers, “Whether God exists or not is a question about which science is neutral”. NAS president Bruce Alberts said: “There are many very outstanding members of this academy who are very religious people, people who believe in evolution, many of them biologists.” Our survey suggests otherwise. [emphasis mine]

    Before you accuse them of being members of the evil atheist conspiracy bent on distorting the evidence, be advised that both are theists, and that Witham is the author of a book so sympathetic to ID that it enraged Jeffrey Shallit, who called Witham an “ID Flack”.

    Spitfire, you seem to be vastly underestimating what it would take to invalidate my argument. Remember that most Christians think that God wants to get the message to everyone. What an omnipotent God wants, an omnipotent God gets. That means that if this God exists, then 100% of NAS members got the message that he exists.

    In other words, your counterargument only works if 100% of the self-reported atheists and agnostics were lying when they claimed not to believe in God. 100%! They all got the message. That means that every one of them knew that God exists. Therefore every single one of them lied about being an atheist or agnostic. Do you really want to make such an outrageous claim?

    Look, I know it’s upsetting to see a strong argument against the God you believe in. I’ve been there. But if you can’t find a flaw in the argument, you need to honestly face the possibility that its conclusion is correct, and that the God you believe in does not exist.

  180. 180
    beelzebub says:

    Continuing my case against the Argument from Reason, this comment will describe how the strengths and weaknesses of our thinking are explained well by an evolutionary model but not at all by a theistic model, wherein the only “explanation” is that “God did it that way for some unknown reason.”

    First, I’d like to borrow some points from mauka’s comments on the Materialist Poofery thread.

    mauka compares materialism and nonmaterialism on seven points. Here they are, with some interspersed commentary from me:

    1a. Materialists haven’t explained how consciousness can arise from a physical brain.

    1b. Nonmaterialists haven’t explained how consciousness can arise from an immaterial entity.

    Consciousness is an unsolved mystery, so neither camp can claim victory here.

    2a. We know that the brain exists, and we know that messing with the brain can affect consciousness or make it disappear altogether.

    2b. We don’t know that the putative immaterial entity exists, and if it does exist, we don’t know if it is involved with or has any effect on consciousness.

    We also know that perception, language, reason, the recognition of one’s body as one’s own, emotions, judgment, impulse control, moral intuition, and even the will itself depend on the brain (and can be disrupted if the brain is disrupted).

    We have no evidence that any of these are associated with or affected by an immaterial mind.

    3a. We know that reasoning can be mechanized, as in theorem-proving systems.

    3b. We don’t know that immaterial entities can reason.

    I covered this point earlier in the thread.

    4a. Natural selection gives the materialist a plausible basis for the reliability of brain-based reasoning.

    4b. Nonmaterialists have no plausible basis for arguing that their reason is reliable.

    That was the topic of my most recent comment on the Argument from Reason.

    5a. For the materialist, it is trivial to explain how the physical world can affect the mind through our senses. After all, the world, our sense organs, our nerves and our minds are all physical, so the interactions between them are just normal physical interactions.

    5b. The nonmaterialist has no explanation for how the physical world can bridge the gap in order to affect the immaterial mind.

    6a. Moving in the other direction, it is trivial for the materialist to explain how the mind can affect the body and through it, the world. Mind, nerve, muscle and world are all physical, so their interactions are all physical.

    6b. The nonmaterialist, however, has no explanation for how the immaterial mind can bridge the gap to influence the physical body, move the muscles and affect the physical world.

    Not only is the nonmaterialist making an extraordinary claim, without evidence, for the existence of an immaterial mind — he is also proposing a completely unknown and undetected branch of physics that explains how the immaterial mind can interact with the physical body!

    7a. Looking at the spectrum of human abilities and flaws, we find that the mind has the sorts of characteristics you would expect it to have if it were the product of a long and kludgy evolutionary process.

    7b. The nonmaterialist has no reason to expect any particular pattern of strengths and flaws in the human mind.

    Tomorrow I will describe some of the features that betray the human mind’s evolutionary origins.

  181. 181
    beelzebub says:

    Gesualdo writes:

    You are an atheist, and by definition God can not exist.

    Gesualdo,

    It’s a conclusion, not a definition.

    Ultimately we can get nowhere on this argument. You are an intelligent and articulate person and so you will always be able to frame a case which will defend your basic premise.

    Nobody can transform a falsehood into truth, no matter how intelligent or articulate. If my arguments are wrong, someone should be able to spot the flaws and point them out.

    Interestingly, yours is the narrow position, precisely because your worldview requires you to reject out of hand a whole realm of possibility. Your world must have only natural things, while the world you reject has all those natural things plus the possibility of much more.

    Gesualdo, I am not a methodological naturalist, and I have stated so clearly.

  182. 182
    beelzebub says:

    vjtorley wrote:

    I just read your personal story. Thank you for sharing. Good luck with your search, and keep being critical.

    I will.

    If I could magically convince everyone reading this thread of one and only one thing, I would not choose to persuade them of the truth of atheism or of evolution. Instead, I would persuade them of the importance of questioning one’s own beliefs ruthlessly, rigorously and honestly.

    If your beliefs are wrong, ruthless questioning may be the only way you’ll ever figure that out. If your beliefs are right, ruthless questioning will only strengthen them. Truth has no reason to fear critical scrutiny. Be wary of anyone who tells you not to question or to “lean not on thine own understanding.” It’s up to us to test the truth of what we believe. No one else can do it for us.

  183. 183
    Oramus says:

    Beelzey, messing with the brain does not make consciousness disappear. It only alters its state. You would know this if you witnessed your own consciousness.
    Do you know what eyelid movies are?

    Also, can you induce REM in a wakened state?

    This is clearly an indication that the will is separate from consciousness. Chemical interference via drugs or trauma blocks conscious pathways, forcing the will to recede into the subconscious.

    The subconscious is just as fascinating as the conscious. That is why it is important to know thyself. You won’t want to get lost so you have to learn how to recognize signposts and guard rails.

    Driving in hyperspace is trickier than on the turnpike. But it is very doable.

    We know that the brain exists, and we know that messing with the brain can affect consciousness or make it disappear altogether.

  184. 184
    Oramus says:

    This one already answered above.

    2b. We don’t know that the putative immaterial entity exists, and if it does exist, we don’t know if it is involved with or has any effect on consciousness.

  185. 185
    Oramus says:

    Reason and logic are valuable components of understanding but are inferior to experience.

    Underlying reality is a seamless continuity and cannot be broken into component parts to be examined through reason and logic.

    It can only be experienced directly through suspension of the thought process. That is why meditation is a useful tool for mental and physical health.

    3a. We know that reasoning can be mechanized, as in theorem-proving systems.

  186. 186
    tribune7 says:

    beelzebub– I found, to my shock and dismay, that my own beliefs held up no better than his.

    Your beliefs, now, seem to be that everything can be explained without recourse to design.

    This basically means you think everything can be explained by chance since the laws of nature would have had to come about by chance.

    There is no reasonable ground to hold that view.

  187. 187
    kairosfocus says:

    VJT et al:

    Great job.

    On the finetuning issue, I suggest this survey as a useful point of departure for further discussions, and this on what is meant by finetuning. (Some may find the discussion in my always linked helpful too.)

    On the basic rationality of believing in God, perhaps this discussion from my online intro to phil course will help?

    GEM of TKI

    PS: The above should also show how comments — by multiple authors — lengthen as soon as they move into dialectic level [as opposed to rhetorical level] engagement of substantial issues.

  188. 188
    SpitfireIXA says:

    Thanks for the poll source, Beelz.

    Beelz wrote:

    Published in Nature under the title Leading Scientists Still Reject God.

    It was a mail survey with anonymous responses. However, the US Postal Service is rumored to have been infiltrated by atheist Darwinists, who could have steamed open the envelopes and reported the responses to their overlords at the NAS. I wouldn’t put it past those shifty SOBs.

    That’s funny. It misunderstands the nature of group-based polls, however. Those involved know each other outside of the poll, which effects the manner in which they answer. This is no conspiracy, it’s simply a well-known effect of questioning.

    Reading the fine print of the poll, only 50% of NAS members answered the poll. So the conclusion that 90+% of NAS members reject the existence of God is invalid. It is further invalidated because only 72.2% answered in that manner. 20% answered “I don’t know.”

    So the very best scientists in the country…

    Subjective, but you can believe that if you wish. Many of the very best software developers are not Microsoft Certified.

    also just happen to be evil truth-rejecters…

    Your forced use of “evil” clearly missed my intimation in the previous thread, which is that “evil” is broadband across humanity, not concentrated in the NAS.

    …who are lying when they tell us that their disbelief is based on the lack of evidence for God.

    An invalid extension of the survey. The survey asked whether NAS members believed in God, not WHY they did so.

    Therefore, your assertion #1:

    1. Most NAS members disbelieve in God.

    …is on shaky ground. As I stated previously however, I agreed to go with it for the rest of your logic…

  189. 189
    SpitfireIXA says:

    Beelz said:

    No. My argument depends only on an omnipotent God’s ability to get the message across.

    As you yourself stated, your logic progression certainly does not depend only. Therefore, you need to revise your logic progression. It’s messy.

    As it stands now:

    1. Most NAS members disbelieve in God.

    Is shaky as per the previous thread, but accepted by myself for purpose of this progression.

    2. That means they didn’t hear the “screams” that StephenB hears.

    Logically, this is incomplete, as you have agreed.

    3. If God exists, that means he didn’t get his message across to them.

    By extension, incomplete as well, as you have agreed.

    4. God is claimed to be omniscient and omnipotent.

    True statement.

    5. That means that he is perfectly capable of getting his message across to these curious, motivated, truth-seeking folks.

    Agreed, whether we agree on such nobility of character or not.

    6. He didn’t. Therefore, either: a) God exists, but he isn’t able to get his message across, even to these truth-seekers; or b) God exists, but he either doesn’t want to get the message across, or he doesn’t care whether it gets across; or c) God doesn’t exist.

    Invalidated per statements 3-5 above.

    Again, many alternates cases are missing: d) The party receiving the message is not receptive to the message, e) The party receiving the message is not making it known to his other noble, truth-seeking compadres, etc.

    Would you like to add these? We could come to agreement on the logic progression if so. I have no trouble with the theoretical possibility of a-c.

  190. 190
    jerry says:

    Nakashima,

    Am I correct that you are claiming that the universe is not fine tuned?

    And if you are proved wrong on this would it mean that you would change your point of view on how the universe came into existence? Are you willing to make such a commitment?

  191. 191
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Jerry

    Yes, if it seemed to me that the fine tuning was somehow smuggled in to the universe via the Big Bang, that would make me ask what and how we could know anything about what that is and how it happened.

  192. 192
    beelzebub says:

    Spitfire (and other Christians reading this thread),

    If you believe in an omniscient and omnipotent God who wants every sincere truth-seeker to find him, then your God does not exist.

    Here is the argument, expressed compactly. To avoid red herrings of the sort raised by Spitfire above, I’ve rephrased it in a way that does not depend on the results of the NAS survey:

    1. Assume that the God described above actually exists.

    2. If so, then God presents evidence of his existence to everyone, and this evidence is good enough to convince any honest truth-seeker. He is, after all, omniscient and omnipotent.

    3. The only way a person can fail to believe in God is by deliberately ignoring or stubbornly refusing to believe this evidence.

    4. Therefore, every single person on the planet who claims to be an atheist or agnostic is either a) lying, b) has deliberately ignored the evidence, or c) has stubbornly refused to believe it.

    5. Unless every single one of them is being dishonest in one of those three ways, then the God described above does not exist.

    6. It’s ridiculous to claim that every self-described atheist and agnostic on the planet is being dishonest in one of those ways.

    7. Therefore, the God described above does not exist.

    This is a straightforward and compelling argument. One might say, borrowing StephenB’s terminology, that the evidence “screams” that this God does not exist.

    If you believe in this God but cannot identify a flaw in my argument, then you are choosing to believe in him despite being shown that he does not exist.

    Ponder that long and hard. Do you really want to believe in a nonexistent God?

  193. 193
    beelzebub says:

    tribune7 writes:

    Your beliefs, now, seem to be that everything can be explained without recourse to design.

    No. I believe that my beloved Honda ST1300 is designed. She’s beautifully designed, in fact.

    This basically means you think everything can be explained by chance since the laws of nature would have had to come about by chance.

    It does?

  194. 194
    SpitfireIXA says:

    Thank you, Beelz. I will accept the concession that appealing to the authority of NAS members is better left in the ditch.

    Your second logic progression is much better to work with. Since we are now talking specifically about Christianity per your desire, we can introduce Christian-specific concepts and arguments.

    Your progression:

    1. Assume an omniscient and omnipotent God who wants every sincere truth-seeker to find him.

    A not-entirely accurate statement about the Christian worldview. According to the Bible, sincere truth-seekers are rare to non-existent. That’s because sin messed us all up seriously — from Hitler to Mother Teresa.

    Therefore, the part about us “finding” God is not Christian. Christians see us “answering” when He knocks.

    2. If so, then God presents evidence of his existence to everyone, and this evidence is good enough to convince any honest truth-seeker. He is, after all, omniscient and omnipotent.

    Agreed, as long as your “convince” is voluntary.

    3. The only way a person can fail to believe in God is by deliberately ignoring or stubbornly refusing to believe this evidence.

    Agreed.

    4. Therefore, every single person on the planet who claims to be an atheist or agnostic is either a) lying, b) has deliberately ignored the evidence, or c) has stubbornly refused to believe it.

    Incomplete. d) is apathetic to it, e) is so lost that he/she does not make this decision on a concsious, intellectual level.

    5. Unless every single one of them is being dishonest in one of those three ways, then the God described above does not exist.

    There are some leaps of logic here. We are assuming that we know our list of five (no longer three) is complete, and it isn’t. But, ignoring those issues, let’s agree that this is true.

    6. It’s ridiculous to claim that every self-described atheist and agnostic on the planet is being dishonest in one of those ways.

    And, this is where the logic progression hits the wall. According to the Bible, 100% of humans are exactly that dishonest/apathetic/lost. That is the very reason for a savior. So, logically, statement #6 does not follow at all from the corrected statement #2.

    I am certainly one of those 100% who needed Him to come get me, and not wait around for me to “find” Him.

    Therefore, because statements #2 and #6 are invalid, and #4 is incomplete, I must reject statement #7, that the Christian God does not exist.

  195. 195
    SpitfireIXA says:

    Correction, statement #1 and #6 are invalid, not #2 and #6.

  196. 196
    beelzebub says:

    Spitfire writes:

    Thank you, Beelz. I will accept the concession that appealing to the authority of NAS members is better left in the ditch.

    Spitfire,

    You know perfectly well that it’s not an argument from authority. If it were, I’d be saying “Most NAS members don’t believe in God. They’re smart guys. They must be right. Therefore God doesn’t exist.”

    Please don’t succumb to the temptation to distort my position. That would be dishonest.

    Since we are now talking specifically about Christianity per your desire, we can introduce Christian-specific concepts and arguments.

    We aren’t talking only about Christianity. I addressed my comment to Christians, but the argument applies equally to anyone who believes in an omniscient and omnipotent God who wants people to know him. That includes many non-Christians.

    …the part about us “finding” God is not Christian. Christians see us “answering” when He knocks.

    The argument works with either “find” or “answer”. It makes no difference.

    Step 4 of my argument:

    4. Therefore, every single person on the planet who claims to be an atheist or agnostic is either a) lying, b) has deliberately ignored the evidence, or c) has stubbornly refused to believe it.

    Your response:

    Incomplete. d) is apathetic to it, e) is so lost that he/she does not make this decision on a concsious, intellectual level.

    Not unless you believe that people who are apathetic or lost cannot be “honest truth-seekers”, as specified in #2. And if you do, then #2 actually means

    2. If so, then God presents evidence of his existence to everyone, and this evidence is good enough to convince any honest truth-seeker except for the apathetic or the lost.

    Do you really believe that God can’t be bothered to help the lost? I don’t think a lot of Christians would agree with you on that.

    Step 6 of my argument:

    6. It’s ridiculous to claim that every self-described atheist and agnostic on the planet is being dishonest in one of those ways.

    You responded:

    And, this is where the logic progression hits the wall. According to the Bible, 100% of humans are exactly that dishonest/apathetic/lost. That is the very reason for a savior.

    That contradicts your position, for if 100% of humans were as dishonest/apathetic/lost as that, then 100% of humans would call themselves agnostics or atheists, and you’d be admitting that the evidence is not good enough to convince anyone.

    You’ve completely undermined your own counterargument. The original argument still stands.

    Look, Spitfire, I know that it’s upsetting when you begin to realize that you’ve been believing in a fiction. I’ve been there, and it’s no fun at all. My advice is to keep trying to find flaws in my argument, but be honest about it, and don’t fool yourself into thinking that my argument must be wrong simply because it’s painful to contemplate what it means if my argument is right.

    Good luck.

  197. 197
    beelzebub says:

    I mentioned in an earlier comment that even the will itself has been shown to be dependent on the brain.

    Here is some new evidence along those lines.

    Enjoy!

  198. 198
    SpitfireIXA says:

    Beelz writes:

    The argument works with either “find” or “answer”. It makes no difference.

    It makes all the world of difference. You are appealing to the nobility of man when you say “find”, which is not a Christian concept. So your argument fails at statement #1.

    Do you really believe that God can’t be bothered to help the lost?

    Non-sequitor. We’ve already established that God seeks to help the lost. You are attempting to change that to “drag the lost kicking and screaming back home.”

    I don’t think a lot of Christians would agree with you on that.

    Fellow Christians are not a Christian’s foundation of authority or truth, the Bible is. These statements are not helping you salvage your logic progression.

    That contradicts your position, for if 100% of humans were as dishonest/apathetic/lost as that, then 100% of humans would call themselves agnostics or atheists, and you’d be admitting that the evidence is not good enough to convince anyone.

    You’ve completely undermined your own counterargument. The original argument still stands.

    You missed the point of God’s need to come to us. That is why you did not see the difference between “find” and “answer”.

    Therefore, my counterargument is reinforced, showing that you do not understand the fundamental reason why #6 of your argument is invalid.

    Conclusion:

    From post 193, statements 1, 4, and 6 therefore remain invalid, resulting in statement 7 being invalid.

    If you believe that God does not exist according to Beez’s logic argument in 191, your logic is invalid according to refutation made in 193 and further.

    That’s for all the people currently being pursued by God who are reading this thread, Beelz, including you.

  199. 199
    tribune7 says:

    Beelzebub– This basically means you think everything can be explained by chance since the laws of nature would have had to come about by chance. . .It does?

    Sure. Assuming you accept the Big Bang, the laws of nature could have only come about by chance if you rule out a designer.

  200. 200
    tribune7 says:

    Do you really believe that God can’t be bothered to help the lost?

    It seems he went through some serious pain to help the lost.

  201. 201
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Vjtorley,

    If you want to follow up on reflection in software, you might start on this Wikipedia entry on Reflection in Computation.

    It is certainly difficult to debug a program’s conceptualization, whether of ‘true’ or of eucalyptus trees. If the programmer gives the program access to an ontology (like CYC), then the program could be said to have instinctual knowledge. Knowledge derived from sense impressions is going to be messier, and suffer the same problems of imperfect separation of accident and essence that we suffer from.

    FYI, other groups have attempted creating semantic networks from human artifacts such as a dictionary. They were able to parse an entire dictionary into a semantic network of thousands of terms, all defined in terms of each other. Such projects are just starting points for other work in online learning.

    More problematic are systems whose internals are not readily understandible. The best solutions of some GA and GP systems are like this – they work but we don’t know how, even though the code is right in front of us. Is that the Designer, injecting active information through the pseudo-random number generator?

  202. 202
    vjtorley says:

    Allen MacNeill

    You write:

    Yes, indeed, we do not strive to determine the “truth” of our hypotheses, we only strive to improve our “confidence” (statistically defined) in the precision and usefulness of those hypotheses. That’s all you can do with generalizations that are formulated on the basis of induction.

    So, to make a short story long, when it comes to science there is no such thing as “truth”, there is only generalizations that have not yet been shown empirically to be contradicted by the evidence.

    Thank you for your honesty. I must say I’m shocked. It seems that I’m more of an evolutionist than you are – for I believe in some tenets of evolutionary theory more strongly than you do! Case in point: I regard the statement that vertebrates share a common ancestry as being objectively true. You merely think it’s one of a set of scientific “generalizations that have not yet been shown empirically to be contradicted by the evidence.”

    On a more serious note, I can see now why my argument that a material mind could not be trusted to arrive at objective scientific truth failed to impress you. You don’t believe in that kind of scientific truth; your conception of scientific truth is a purely pragmatic one.

    I will try one time to put forward an argument for the mind’s immateriality related to the concept of truth. Presumably you at least believe in the objective truth of some metaphysical statements about God or the world, e.g. statements like “Mount Everest exists,” “The Apollo 11 moon landing really happened,” or “God is real.” That means that you at least have the concept of objective truth. On a materialist account, what does it mean to have such a concept?

    Presumably this concept must correspond to some state of my brain and central nervous system. What makes this brain state to be equivalent to a concept of truth? Indeed, how could any material state correspond to a purely formal concept?

    I would like to comment that my position is not an extreme, Platonic one, but a very middle-of-the-road one. The average person in the street believes that some statements are objectively true, and so do I. That’s all I need for my argument to work. Material entities cannot meaningfully be said to possess purely formal concepts.

  203. 203
    StephenB says:

    —beelzebub: “I mentioned in an earlier comment that even the will itself has been shown to be dependent on the brain.”

    [A] Are you saying that free will doesn’t exist? If so, then how do you explain it? If not, then why are you trying to persuade your adversaries who are not free to be persuaded and thus unable to change their minds.

    [B] Just a reminder that you have not yet presented a reasonable objection to the argument for a “finely tuned” universe and the implication of design.

    So far, you have said only that one must know how the universe was formed in order to make a reasonable probabiity estimate. That is not the case. Probability estimates can be formulated without that kind of information.

  204. 204
    vjtorley says:

    Beelzebub

    Thank you for putting forward a clear argument against God’s existence. Where it falls down is at step 3.

    3. The only way a person can fail to believe in God is by deliberately ignoring or stubbornly refusing to believe this evidence.

    Your argument assumes that all of our beliefs are on the same level, so to speak. It ignores meta-level beliefs – beliefs the nature of reality and the mind, and even about what it means to have a belief.

    God does indeed supply us with abundant evidence of His existence, in the world around us. Christians have always taught that. Normally, this evidence would cause a sincere, open-minded seeker to form a meta-level belief that God is the author of Nature. But this is “level-1” evidence.

    However, an atheist may find him/herself unable to accept this “level 1” evidence because he/she has been deceived by sophistical arguments into accepting countervailing “level 2” metaphysical beliefs, which prevent him/her from being impressed by evidence from the natural world.

    Until we undo the damage at the meta-level, appeals to the evidence for God from His handiwork, Nature, are simply not going to work.

    Case in point: Charles Darwin. His diary entries show that at an early point in his career (around the 1830s), he came to believe that determinism was true. That, and not evolution, was the fatal step. Determinism was intellectually fashionable at the time: Laplace, building on the work of Newton, had made it almost impossible for educated people to deny. As a result of his belief, Darwin came to accept, fairly early on, a materialist acount of mind. Combine that with: (a) an emotionally devastating experience of personal suffering in his life (the death of a family member), and (b) Darwin’s ability to come up with a plausible-sounding account of how living things might have arisen by natural processes, and you can see how such a man would come to lose his spiritual beliefs – as Darwin gradually did. The marvel is that he remained agnostic, without becoming an atheist.

    Now, what should God have done here? Short of writing a refutation of determinism and emblazoning it in the heavens for everyone to see, there’s not much He could have done. God made us free – which means we have the capacity to tie ourselves in intellectual knots, in all sorts of ways. Asking God to intervene on each occasion we fall into error on matters of metaphysical belief is surely a bit much; and asking Him to make our minds incapable of falling into error is simply impossible. Short of giving us the Beatific vision (Heaven) here and now, there’s no way God could do that.

    A significant number of atheists have been deceived by intellectual fads into acepting beliefs that either severely impede or even preclude them altogether from appreciating the “level-1” evidence that God has presented for His existence. To that extent, they are blameless. Sometimes even good people can be deceived by clever-sounding metaphysical arguments. That’s part of the tragedy of modern atheism.

    So my advice to atheists is to take a step back, and ask yourselves: “What kind of metaphysical beliefs do I have which make me resistant to or unimpressed by popular arguments for a Deity? Assuming for the moment that a Deity does exist, is it possible that any of these countervailing beliefs of mine could in fact be false?

    Now that’s an intellectual enterprise that only an immaterial mind could undertake.

  205. 205
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    You’re name is not fitting, by the way, because the real beelzebub believed in God. And yes, scripture is more authoritative than you are, and in scripture we find that God has made Himself manifest, so that all are without excuse. Every single person on the planet, who rejects God, is either rejecting God honestly or dishonestly. We cannot say whether it is honest or not, in general, but there is a dishonesty involved in some cases.

    “We all know there have been good men who were not Christians; men like Socrates and Confucius who had never heard of it, or men like J. S. Mill who quite honestly couldn’t believe it. Supposing Christianity to be true, these men were in a state of honest ignorance or honest error. If their intentions were as good as I suppose them to have been (for of course I can’t read their secret hearts) I hope and believe that the skill and mercy of God will remedy the evils which their ignorance, left to itself, would naturally produce both for them and for those whom they influenced. But the man who asks me, “Can’t I lead a good life without believing in Christianity?” is clearly not in the same position. If he hadn’t heard of Christianity he would not be asking this question. If, having heard of it, and having seriously considered it, he had decided that it was untrue, then once more he would not be asking the question. The man who asks this question has heard of Christianity and is by no means certain that it may not be true. He is really asking, “Need I bother about it? Mayn’t I just evade the issue, just let sleeping dogs lie, and get on with being “good”? Aren’t good intentions enough to keep me safe and blameless without knocking at that dreadful door and making sure whether there is, or isn’t someone inside?” To such a man it might be enough to reply that he is really asking to be allowed to get on with being “good” before he has done his best to discover what good means.

    But that is not the whole story. We need not inquire whether God will punish him for his cowardice and laziness; they will punish themselves. The man is shirking. He is deliberately trying not to know whether Christianity is true or false, because he foresees endless trouble if it should turn out to be true. He is like the man who deliberately “forgets” to look at the notice board because, if he did, he might find his name down for some unpleasant duty. He is like the man who won’t look at his bank account because he’s afraid of what he might find there. He is like the man who won’t go to the doctor when he first feels a mysterious pain, because he is afraid of what the doctor may tell him. The man who remains an unbeliever for such reasons is not in a state of honest error. He is in a state of dishonest error, and that dishonesty will spread through all his thoughts and actions: a certain shiftiness, a vague worry in the background, a blunting of his whole mental edge, will result. He has lost his intellectual virginity.

    Honest rejection of Christ, however mistaken, will be forgiven and healed —“Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him.” But to evade the Son of Man, to look the other way, to pretend you haven’t noticed, to become suddenly absorbed in something on the other side of the street, to leave the receiver off the telephone because it might be He who was ringing up, to leave unopened certain letters in a strange handwriting because theymight be from Him-this is a different matter. You may not be certain yet whether you ought to be a Christian; but you do know you ought to be a Man, not an ostrich, hiding its head in the sand. But still—for intellectual honour has sunk very low in our age—I hear someone whimpering on with his question, “Will it help me? Will it make me happy? Do you really think I’d be better if I became a Christian?” Well, if you must have it, my answer is “Yes.” But I don’t like giving an answer at all at this stage. Here is a door, behind which, according to some people, the secret of the universe is waiting for you. Either that’s true, or it isn’t. And if it isn’t, then what the door really conceals is simply the greatest fraud, the most colossal “sell” on record. Isn’t it obviously the job of every man (that is a man and not a rabbit) to try to find out which, and then to devote his full energies either to serving this tremendous secret or to exposing and destroying this gigantic humbug? Faced with such an issue, can you really remain wholly absorbed in your own blessed “moral development”? All right, Christianity will do you good — a great deal more good than you ever wanted or expected. And the first bit of good it will do you is to hammer into your head (you won’t enjoy that!) the fact that what you have hitherto called “good” —all that about “leading a decent life” and “being kind” isn’t quite the magnificent and all important affair you supposed. It will teach you that in fact you can’t be “good” (not for twenty-four hours) on your own moral efforts. And then it will teach you that even if you were, you still wouldn’t have achieved the purpose for which you were created. Mere morality is not the end of life. You were made for something quite different from that. J. S. Mill and Confucius (Socrates was much nearer the reality) simply didn’t know what life is about. The people who keep on asking if they can’t lead a decent life without Christ, don’t know what life is about; if they did they would know that “a decent life” is mere machinery compared with the thing we men are really made for. Morality is indispensable: but the Divine Life, which gives itself to us and which calls us to be gods, intends for us something in which morality will be swallowed up. We are to be re-made. All the rabbit in us is to disappear—the worried, conscientious, ethical rabbit as well as the cowardly and sensual rabbit. We shall bleed and squeal as the handfuls of fur come out; and then, surprisingly, we shall find underneath it all a thing we have never yet imagined: a real Man, an ageless god, a son of God, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful, and drenched in joy. “When that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.”—The idea of reaching “a good life” without Christ is based on a double error. Firstly, we cannot do it; and secondly, in setting up “a good life” as our final goal, we have missed the very point of our existence. Morality is a mountain which we cannot climb by our own efforts; and if we could we should only perish in the ice and unbreathable air of the summit, lacking those wings with which the rest of the journey has to be accomplished. For it is from there that the real ascent begins. The ropes and axes are “done away” and the rest is a matter of flying.”
    —-Man or Rabbit, C.S. Lewis

  206. 206
    Alan Fox says:

    Here is a door, behind which, according to some people, the secret of the universe is waiting for you. Either that’s true, or it isn’t. And if it isn’t, then what the door really conceals is simply the greatest fraud, the most colossal “sell” on record.

    It seems a bit harsh to suggest all those who are trying to convince us of the existence of God are fraudsters. I am prepared to accept that at least some are simply misguided.

  207. 207
    beelzebub says:

    Clive quotes C.S. Lewis:

    Honest rejection of Christ, however mistaken, will be forgiven and healed — “Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him.”

    Yet in the Gospel of John we find:

    Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

    John 3:18, NIV

    Clive,

    Who is right, C.S. Lewis or John? If you think they can be reconciled, how would you do it?

    Also, Lewis’s selective quotation of Luke is interesting. Here is the verse in context:

    I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

    Luke 12:8-10, NIV

    If someone who honestly believes that God does not exist disowns Jesus before men, will she be disowned by Jesus before the angels of God? If she blasphemes the Holy Spirit, do you think she will be forgiven, or is Luke right?

  208. 208
    beelzebub says:

    tribune7 writes:

    Assuming you accept the Big Bang, the laws of nature could have only come about by chance if you rule out a designer.

    T7,

    Don’t forget the IDer’s Holy Trinity of chance, necessity and design. Why have you ruled out necessity as a possible source of the laws of nature?

  209. 209
    beelzebub says:

    Regarding Spitfire’s contention that some atheists and agnostics have rejected God subconsciously because they are “lost”, I asked:

    Do you really believe that God can’t be bothered to help the lost?

    tribune7 replied:

    It seems he went through some serious pain to help the lost.

    Kind of pointless to get yourself nailed to a cross and then fail to get the message across to the people you’re supposed to be saving, isn’t it?

  210. 210
    jerry says:

    The stupidity continues to linger on.

    What necessitates the laws of nature? implies something do the necessitating. And “how did this thing get it just right,” says Momma Bear.

    Are we going to get the necessary dodge?

  211. 211
    beelzebub says:

    StephenB asks:

    Are you saying that free will doesn’t exist?

    No, I’m not saying that. I’m a compatibilist.

    If not, then why are you trying to persuade your adversaries who are not free to be persuaded and thus unable to change their minds.

    You meant to write “If so” rather than “If not,” I assume. In any case, you seem to believe that determinism precludes the possibility of persuasion. It doesn’t. Determinism doesn’t say that persuasion can’t work; it just says that whether it works or not is determined. Think about it.

    Just a reminder that you have not yet presented a reasonable objection to the argument for a “finely tuned” universe and the implication of design.

    Yes I have, and in considerable detail.

    So far, you have said only that one must know how the universe was formed in order to make a reasonable probabiity estimate. That is not the case. Probability estimates can be formulated without that kind of information.

    In that case they’re not estimates, they’re wild-ass guesses.

    Suppose I tell you that I’m adding up a bunch of random numbers. What is the probability that the total is equal to 666?

  212. 212
    vjtorley says:

    Mr. Nakashima

    Thanks very much for your link. I’ve just been having a link at the Web site relating to CYC ontology at http://www.cyc.com , and I must say it’s fascinating stuff.

    I came across some statements on Cyc’s knowledge pyramid, like this:

    We start with the essence of logic: True and False.
    To state relationships between True and False, for example (implies True (not False)), we add the logical connectives and, or, not, and implies, and the quantifiers forAll and thereExists. ……

    Sets in Cyc, also known as Mathematical Sets, define specific groupings of things. Unlike Collections, these things don’t necessarily have anything in common (except, of course, their membership in the set).

    Individual is the collection of all things that are not sets or collections. Individuals might be concrete or abstract, and include (among other things) physical objects, events, numbers, relations, and groups.

    Intangible Things are things that are not physical – are not made of, or encoded in, matter. These include events, like going to work, eating dinner, or shopping online. They also include ideas, like those expressed in a book or on a website.

    Agents are beings that have desires and intentions, and the ability to act on those desires and intentions.

    Actors are treated as a broad relation that holds between a given event and any existing thing that is meaningfully involved in the event. When we say that someone (or something) is an actor in an event, we’re saying that someone (or something) is somehow saliently (directly or indirectly) involved in the event during the event. (Emphases mine – VJT.)

    Now, if someone wants to tell me that Cyc can make lots of valid inferences based on its knowledge base, then I have absolutely no problem with that – especially when I read that Cyc uses around 37,000 different event types to describe what happens in the world. But if someone wants to tell me that Cyc knows what a thing is, or what an agent is, then my reaction is one of incredulity.

    Firstly, it strikes me that there are a lot of undefined terms (ontological primitives) in Cyc’s knowledge base, which (I would argue) have to be experienced before they can be said to be known. For human agents, these experiences normally arise when we interact with other agents and the world at large. Cyc has never had an experience, and it is not an agent but a knowledge base, so it cannot meaningfully be said to have any of these concepts. I’m thinking here of terms like “desire,” “physical object” and so on.

    Second, what about truth? You seems to be saying that because Cyc makes inferences and because its concept “true” is the fundamental concept regulating those inferences, therefore it has the concept of “true.” I don’t agree. For Cyc “true” is just a term that enables it to sort out the inconsistencies in a bunch of mutually contradictory sentences. That’s not the same as knowing what “true” means. (Recall Searle’s Chinese room argument.)

    I would add that truth is an ontological notion as well as a logical one. The truth is “out there.” When I say that “Mount Everest exists” is true while “Xanadu exists” is not, I’m saying something about the real world. In that respect, Cyc’s notion of “true” never gets off the ground.

    But I can see you have a comeback? you might ask: what if there were an animal with a purely material mind, which had a built-in knowledge base just like Cyc’s? Could it then be said to have the concept of “true”?

    That’s a very good question. I shall return to that in a day or so.

  213. 213
    beelzebub says:

    vjtorley asks Allen:

    Indeed, how could any material state correspond to a purely formal concept?

    vjtorley,

    I’m not sure why you find it hard to believe that physical states can correspond to formal concepts.

    Numbers are formal, for example, but they can easily be represented as marks on paper, beads on an abacus, or voltages in an integrated circuit.

    My impression, based on your earlier comments, is that the issue for you is not really correspondence or representation, but something else. I seem to recall you objecting that a physical system cannot understand a formal concept. Is that correct?

    If so, the question is precisely what you mean by the word “understand.” If you take it to mean “to have a conscious awareness of the nature or meaning of something”, then to assert that a purely physical system like the brain cannot understand a formal concept is just to assume the conclusion that materialism is false. Also, as I’ve pointed out before, nonmaterialists have no explanation of consciousness, so they cannot show how the mind can “understand” something in the conscious sense any more than the materialist can.

    If by understanding a concept you mean being able to reason with it, then physical systems are definitely able to understand, as my earlier computer-related examples show.

    Incidentally, the nonmaterialist has no explanation for how either kind of understanding takes place. Yet another reason to favor materialism over nonmaterialism.

  214. 214
    beelzebub says:

    jerry writes:

    The stupidity continues to linger on.

    May I recommend night classes at your local community college?

    What necessitates the laws of nature? implies something do the necessitating.

    Right. You seem to be assuming that no such thing is possible. Why?

    And “how did this thing get it just right,” says Momma Bear.

    We don’t know, because we don’t know what “this thing” is or how it operates. That’s the point I’ve been trying to convey to StephenB.

    Look at the random number example in my comment to him. Can you tell me what the probability is that the total is 666?

  215. 215
    StephenB says:

    —-beelzebub to Tribune 7: “Why have you ruled out necessity as a possible source of the laws of nature?”

    Because it doesn’t hold up. An impersonal law cannot be responsible for the universe or the laws that regulate it. It must be a personal creator.

    1: Premise: For all impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed, none can begin in time.

    2. Therefore: All effects that have always existed could not have begun to exist

    3. Therefore: All impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed could not have begun in time.

    4: Therefore, no effect can begin to exist if its impersonal, unchanging cause always was.

    5: Therefore: No impersonal, unchanging cause can begin to exist if its effect always was.

    6: Therefore, no impersonal, unchanging cause can exist without its effect.

    7: Therefore, no effect can exist without its impersonal, unchanging cause.

    8: Therefore, the impersonal, unchanging law cannot cause the universe to begin to exist.

    9: The universe began to exist.

    10: Therefore, a personal agent caused the universe to begin to exist.

  216. 216
    beelzebub says:

    StephenB,

    That argument fails at the very first step when it assumes that the impersonal cause must be unchanging.

    Why must such a cause be unchanging?

  217. 217
    tribune7 says:

    Beelzebub–Why have you ruled out necessity as a possible source of the laws of nature?

    For the laws of nature to exist they would have to have been violated which means they wouldn’t be a necessity.

    Why haven’t you ruled it out?

    Kind of pointless to get yourself nailed to a cross and then fail to get the message across to the people you’re supposed to be saving, isn’t it?

    Some will get the message. With regard to the others, it’s their choice. Would you rather be a slave or free to transgress the will of God?

  218. 218
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    —-“Who is right, C.S. Lewis or John? If you think they can be reconciled, how would you do it?”

    They’re both right. As you pointed out in Luke, “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven…”

    The distinction that is being made in Luke is between disowning and blasphemy. Whoever blasphemes the Holy Ghost, they are the ones that won’t be forgiven. But presumably, you don’t believe either Lewis, Luke or John. So what do you use to consider one to be right and the other wrong by comparison? What standard of truth do you appeal to here? Hmmm? And I noticed that the bulk of the argument from Lewis went completely unanswered by you, my dear beelzebub.

  219. 219
    StephenB says:

    —-beelzebub: “That argument fails at the very first step when it assumes that the impersonal cause must be unchanging.”

    Because you asked us to consider “necessity” as a possible source. Whatever caused the universe and its laws must indeed be necessary.

    Only two possibilities exist: Either the universe and its laws were brought forth by an unchanging immaterial law or else it was created by an unchaning personal agent. The first cause is, by definition, completely actualized in want of nothing. Only that which is contingent is changeable.

  220. 220
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    ———–“You meant to write “If so” rather than “If not,” I assume. In any case, you seem to believe that determinism precludes the possibility of persuasion. It doesn’t. Determinism doesn’t say that persuasion can’t work; it just says that whether it works or not is determined. Think about it.”

    I’m determined to believe that I don’t believe you. I’m determined to believe that you’re entirely mistaken. I’m determined to believe that you’re exactly right the next minute, though. I’m determined by the persuasion of determinism that you’re argument both holds up and doesn’t hold up at the same time. I’m determined to believe that you’re determined to make the argument that you made and did not make because you were fully determined, and that it wasn’t “you” after all that made the argument. You were just the portal. I guess. I don’t really know though because my determined mechanism for making determinations isn’t working at the moment. Oh here it is, the atoms came back into alignment and I’m determined again—-I think. Yes, you are rightwrong. Wait, I didn’t mean to write that. l couldn’t help myself. There is no “I”. There is only is. “I” think. Hmmmmmmm. The answer is orange and blue.

  221. 221
    StephenB says:

    Sorry, @219 should read: Only two possibilities exist: Either the universe was bought forth by an unchanging [material] law or else it was created by an inchangin personal agent.

  222. 222
    beelzebub says:

    tribune7 writes:

    For the laws of nature to exist they would have to have been violated which means they wouldn’t be a necessity.

    The existence of the laws of nature violates the laws of nature? Why isn’t somebody doing something about this outrage?

    Why haven’t you ruled it out?

    Ruled what out?

    I wrote:

    Kind of pointless to get yourself nailed to a cross and then fail to get the message across to the people you’re supposed to be saving, isn’t it?

    T7:

    Some will get the message. With regard to the others, it’s their choice.

    The point is that an omnipotent God, by definition, can get the message across to any willing recipient. That doesn’t make the recipient a slave — he’s willing, remember? If God doesn’t get the message across, then it’s either because he doesn’t exist or because he doesn’t want to get the message across. In other words, the stipulated God does not exist.

    Would you rather be a slave or free to transgress the will of God?

    Nothing about getting a message prevents anyone from choosing to flout God’s will.

  223. 223
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    —–“The point is that an omnipotent God, by definition, can get the message across to any willing recipient. That doesn’t make the recipient a slave — he’s willing, remember? If God doesn’t get the message across, then it’s either because he doesn’t exist or because he doesn’t want to get the message across. In other words, the stipulated God does not exist.”

    Or, because there’s hard-headed folks out there who won’t assent no matter how God interacts. There were folks who witnessed miracles who didn’t believe. With some folks, no amount of persuasion is enough, because, well, they’re always free to disbelieve. That is a fact, whether you “believe” it or not 🙂 I’m not a Calvinist, so I don’t believe in Irresistible Grace, which is what your whole argument hinges on.

  224. 224
    beelzebub says:

    Clive writes:

    I’m determined to believe that I don’t believe you. I’m determined to believe that you’re entirely mistaken. I’m determined to believe that you’re exactly right the next minute, though. I’m determined by the persuasion of determinism that you’re argument both holds up and doesn’t hold up at the same time. I’m determined to believe that you’re determined to make the argument that you made and did not make because you were fully determined, and that it wasn’t “you” after all that made the argument. You were just the portal. I guess. I don’t really know though because my determined mechanism for making determinations isn’t working at the moment. Oh here it is, the atoms came back into alignment and I’m determined again—-I think. Yes, you are rightwrong. Wait, I didn’t mean to write that. l couldn’t help myself. There is no “I”. There is only is. “I” think. Hmmmmmmm. The answer is orange and blue.

    Clive,

    Your acid-trip narration leads me to believe that you are confused by determinism. Don’t mistake your confusion for the incoherence of the concept itself. It can be difficult to think about determinism, but it is not incoherent.

    Do you have a particular criticism or question regarding determinism?

  225. 225
    beelzebub says:

    StephenB,

    You just “corrected” “unchaning” by replacing it with “inchangin”.

    Why not use the preview window?

  226. 226
    beelzebub says:

    StephenB wrote:

    Only two possibilities exist: Either the universe was bought forth by an unchanging [material] law or else it was created by an inchangin personal agent.

    Why not an unchanging impersonal entity?

  227. 227
    StephenB says:

    —beelzebub: “You just “corrected” “unchaning” by replacing it with “inchangin”.

    Why, I sure enough did. What do you know about that, a double typo! In any case, do you understand why the first cause must be “unchanging.” Also, do you also understand why each step in the argument follows from the other, or do I need to explain why that is the case.

  228. 228
    beelzebub says:

    Clive writes:

    Or, because there’s hard-headed folks out there who won’t assent no matter how God interacts. There were folks who witnessed miracles who didn’t believe. With some folks, no amount of persuasion is enough, because, well, they’re always free to disbelieve.

    Clive,

    You apparently missed the final three words in my sentence:

    The point is that an omnipotent God, by definition, can get the message across to any willing recipient.

  229. 229
    vividbleau says:

    “The point is that an omnipotent God, by definition, can get the message across to any willing recipient.”

    The Christian Gospel is offends many and one of the reasons is its portrayal of the spiritual condition of the unregenerate. Indeed one need only read Romans 1 through 9 to see that man left alone willl not seek God and at his and her core deny and suppress the evidence. Rather than acknowledge God man makes up his own.

    There are no honest seekers of God. No one is willing unless God works supernaturally in ones life. BTW unlike Clive I am a Calvinist.

    Vivid

  230. 230
    beelzebub says:

    StephenB asks:

    In any case, do you understand why the first cause must be “unchanging.”

    Sure, if you interpret change as reflecting a dependence on time. In that case, a changing entity becomes contingent and thus cannot be a first cause.

    However, a personal God acts in time, doing different things from moment to moment, and is therefore also a changing entity. So by the same logic, a personal God cannot be a first cause.

    You might try to evade this problem by arguing that God exists outside of time, and that any change in God is only apparent because we are viewing him from inside time. In that sense he is really unchanging when viewed from outside of time.

    However, the same argument could be made in favor of an unchanging impersonal entity as first cause. Like the personal God, this entity would exist outside of time and would be unchanging in that sense, but viewed from inside time it would appear to be changing.

    To make your argument work, Stephen, you would need to identify a feature that a personal God has that an impersonal entity lacks, and then you would need to show that without this feature, the entity could not possibly be a first cause.

  231. 231
    StephenB says:

    —beelzebub: “Why not an unchanging impersonal entity?”

    Steps 2 through 10 are designed to answer that question.

  232. 232
    tribune7 says:

    Beelzebub –Ruled what out?

    That necessity is a possible source of the laws of nature.

    Nothing about getting a message prevents anyone from choosing to flout God’s will.

    Bingo. I actually think you got that one. Everybody gets the message. It’s just a matter of choosing to heed it.

  233. 233
    vividbleau says:

    “Why not an unchanging impersonal entity?”

    I think the following is from William lane Craig.

    “If we do a conceptual analysis of what it means to be a cause of the universe a striking number of attributes of the cause of the universe can be identified.

    There are two types of explanations we can use to describe causes, a scientific one and a personal one. Scientific explanations explain a phenomena in terms of certain initial conditions and natural laws, which explain how those initial conditions evolved to produce the phenomena under consideration. By contrast, personal explanations explain things by means of an agent and that agents volition or will.

    Let me explain. Imagine you walked into your kitchen and saw the kettle boiling on the stove and you ask your wife why is it boiling? She might say “ Well, because the kinetic energy of the flame is conducted by the metal bottom of the kettle to the water, causing the water molecules to vibrate faster and faster until they are thrown off in the for of steam” That would be a scientific explanation. On the other hand she might just say “I put it on to make a cup of tea” That would be a personal explanation. Both are legitimate, but they explain the phenomena in different ways.

    This is how it relates to cosmology. There cannot be a scientific explanation of the first state of the universe. Since it is the first state, it simply cannot be explained in term of earlier initial conditions and natural laws leading up to it. So if there is an explanation of the first state of the universe, it has to be a personal explanation, that is an agent who has volition to create it. That would be the first reason that the cause of the universe must be personal.

    A second reason is that the cause of the universe transcends time and space, it cannot be a physical reality. Instead, it must be nonphysical or immaterial. There are only two types of things that can be timeless and immaterial. One would be abstract objects like numbers or mathematical entities. However abstract objects cant cause anything to happen. The second kind of immaterial reality would be a mind. A mind can cause and so it makes sense to me that the best explanation is that the universe is a product of an immaterial mind that brought it into existence.

    Finally let me give you an analogy that will help explain a third reason for why I think the evidence favors why the first cause is also personal. We all know that water freezes at zero degrees Centigrade. If the temperature were below zero degrees from eternity past, then any water that was around would be frozen from eternity past. It would be impossible for the water to just begin to freeze a finite time ago. In other words , once the sufficient conditions were met, that is, the temperature was low enough then the consequence would be that the water would automatically freeze.

    So if the universe were just a mechanical consequence that would occur whenever sufficient conditions were met, and the sufficient conditions were met eternally, then it would exist from eternity past. The effect would be co eternal with the cause.

    The question becomes how do you explain the origin of a finite universe from a timeless cause? I can think of only one explanation; that the cause of the universe is a personal agent who has freedom of will. This personal agent can create a new effect without any antecedent determining conditions. This personal agent could decide to will the universe into existence.

    The British physicist Edmund Whittaker makes a similar observation in his book “The Beginning and End of the World” He said “ There is no ground for supposing that matter and energy existed before and was suddenly galvanized into action. For what could distinguish that moment from all other moments in eternity? It is simpler to postulate creation ex nihillo.. “ ”

    Vivid

  234. 234
    StephenB says:

    —beelzebub: “Sure, if you interpret change as reflecting a dependence on time.”

    Change and time are both dependent. The first cause must be unchangeable for a lot of reasons, just as it must be eternal, self existent, and pure actuality.

  235. 235
    beelzebub says:

    vividbleau wrote:

    BTW unlike Clive I am a Calvinist.

    I gathered that from your comment.

    So in your view God chooses to save some and not others, and only after making the choice does he bestow the grace that allows the Chosen Ones to become believers. Do I have that right?

    Out of curiosity, does that strike you, personally, as fair? Would you do things that way if you had God’s power?

  236. 236
    beelzebub says:

    Change and time are both dependent. The first cause must be unchangeable for a lot of reasons, just as it must be eternal, self existent, and pure actuality.

    Fine, but you haven’t responded to my point that an unchanging impersonal entity also qualifies as a first cause. A personal God is not necessary.

  237. 237
    tribune7 says:

    Beelzebub–

    For the laws of nature to exist they would have to have been violated which means they wouldn’t be a necessity. . . .The existence of the laws of nature violates the laws of nature?

    You didn’t understand my statement. Think about it some more.

  238. 238
    vividbleau says:

    “So in your view God chooses to save some and not others.”

    Yes

    “Out of curiosity, does that strike you, personally, as fair?”

    If God were fair he would choose no one so I never want to rely on Gods fairness in these matters.

    “Would you do things that way if you had God’s power?”

    I am not God so I cant answer that question.

    Vivid

  239. 239
    StephenB says:

    —beelzebub: “Out of curiosity, does that strike you, personally, as fair? Would you do things that way if you had God’s power?”

    I doubt that vivid blue is a radical Calvinist, meaning I don’t think he holds that God predestined some to be damned. That would be unscriptural, since the Bible teaches that God wills for all men to be saved. As it turns out, your instincts are sound here and your sense of justice is vindicated. A man can lose his soul only through voluntary fault.

  240. 240
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Vjtorley,

    I’m very happy you liked discovering CYC!

    CYC is not a mind, more like a shared set of memories, or instincts. CYC has experienced as many great white sharks as I have, and in the same way – vicariously through pictures.

    You are quite right that Searle’s Chinese Room is immanent in this conversation. Whether it is CYC or a neural network program with a database of 100 billion connections and weights, something completely material could be inside that room.

  241. 241
    StephenB says:

    Well, it appears that vivid blue does disagree with me on that matter of God’s will.

  242. 242
    StephenB says:

    —beelzebub: “Fine, but you haven’t responded to my point that an unchanging impersonal entity also qualifies as a first cause. A personal God is not necessary.”

    Yes, an unchanging impersonal entity would qualify as a first cause if such a thing was possible. But, as I show in my ten points, it isn’t possible once we grant that the universe began to exist.

  243. 243
    vividbleau says:

    “I doubt that vivid blue is a radical Calvinist”

    No more radical than George Whitfield, Charles Spurgeon or J I Packer and a host of others.

    Vivid

  244. 244
    kairosfocus says:

    Vivid:

    Hi, mon.

    Long time no see.

    GEM of TKI

  245. 245
    vividbleau says:

    “Hi, mon.

    Long time no see.

    GEM of TKI”

    Hey kairos,

    Lost my password plus as a money manager my plate has been pretty full. 🙂

    Love your posts and no I dont think they are to long 🙂

    My best to you.

    Vivid

  246. 246
    beelzebub says:

    tribune7:

    You didn’t understand my statement. Think about it some more.

    Thanks, but I’ll pass. If you want to try stating your thought more clearly, I’ll take a look.

  247. 247
    beelzebub says:

    I wrote:

    Nothing about getting a message prevents anyone from choosing to flout God’s will.

    tribune7 replied:

    Bingo. I actually think you got that one. Everybody gets the message. It’s just a matter of choosing to heed it.

    Okay, but think about what “getting the message” means in the context of this argument. It means recognizing that the evidence demonstrates the existence of God.

    If you argue that everyone gets the message but that some choose not to heed it, then by implication you’re saying that every self-described atheist and agnostic knows that “the message” demonstrates God’s existence but has either talked him or herself out of believing it or is lying about not being a theist. Every single one of them.

    If you really believe that, then all I can say is “you gotta be kidding me.”

  248. 248
    kairosfocus says:

    Folks:

    A pretty useful discussion.

    (Note, too, Onlookers: We can also see how so soon as discussion moves beyond the debate-tactic loaded rhetorical quip to dialectic in dialogue, the length and depth of inputs proportionately increases on all sides.)

    Pardon a late intervention:

    Re, BZ, 208: Don’t forget the IDer’s Holy Trinity of chance, necessity and design. Why have you ruled out necessity as a possible source of the laws of nature?

    1 –> Now, back to 1970/71, a certain Mr Jacques Monod, Nobel laureate and leading Darwinist, published a certain book, “Chance and Necessity.” (Said book of course intended to account for human etc origins on C & N, not “ART” . . . i.e. Techne, intelligent, purposeful, often skilled action.)

    2 –> On deeper back-story, all the way back to Plato et al, it was immemorial in C4 – 5 BC that causal forces could be seen as tracing to accident [= chance], phusis [= lawlike natural regularity tracing to mechanical necessity], and techne [= art, i.e intelligently directed, presumably usually purposeful action].

    3 –> In short, the attempt to imply that the C/N/D trichotomy of causal forces is a [dubious] ID innovation, fails.

    4 –> Next, let us consider a simple, familiar thought exercise:

    Heavy objects tend to fall under the law-like natural regularity we call gravity. If the object is a fair die, the face that ends up on the top from the set {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6} is for practical purposes a matter of chance. [Here, created by making uncorrelated causal chains clash in a context of sensitive dependence on initial and intervening conditions. Similarly, in the old days, once could use pages in a phone book as a poor man’s resource to generate random numbers; never mind that phone numbers are assigned in a most un-random way!]

    But, if the die is loaded, or even if it is simply cast as part of a game, the results are as much a product of agency as of natural regularity and chance. Indeed, the agents in question are taking advantage of natural regularities and chance to achieve their purposes!

    5 –> this suffices to show that we can see C/N/D acting jointly in a situation, and may isolate aspects of that same situation, assigning effects to C/N/D on characteristic empirical signs. (This is of course the point of the explanatory filter [yep, pardon, this is 101 stuff . . . ], as is commonly used in statistics, in detective investigations, in management, and in day to day life, as well as science. That is the objection invited above is selectively hyperskeptical.)

    6 –> Further, we see that C/N/D are not SIMPLY or “obviously” reducible the one to the other, so it makes sense to retain the three as diverse causal factors.

    7 –> Turning to the observed laws of nature; we infer these provisionally from observations of the regularities of the world, immediately raising all sorts of issues about the correlations between our perceptions and thoughts and the reality of the external world. issues that dog materialist or radical dichotomist [ roughly, pardon Frosty: Kantian] accounts of mind and world. (Down that road, which I won’t travel just now, lies the force of the argument from reason.)

    8 –> Now, we have reason to believe that our observed cosmos is contingent, e.g. the commonly proposed Big bang cosmological origins thesis and date of some 13.7 BYA for origin of the world in which we live. that which begins to exist has a cause, and more generally, our cosmos seems to be dependent on higher ordering perinciples that regulate it, i.e we live in an ordered environment, inter alia seen in natural law.

    9 –> Now also, in cosmology and physics, there is no known super-law that forces the frame of physics to hold the finetuned values of several dozen parameters etc required on the generally accepted origins framework. E.g. the balance of charges, the strength of Gravitation, the strong or weak force, the cosmological constant [yeast bubbler term driving expansion], etc. [Cf. Discussion by Robin Collins here, and his discussion on what it means to be fine-tuned here.]

    10 –> But, even if that were not the case, we have simply moved up one level.

    [ . . . ]

  249. 249
    kairosfocus says:

    11 –> That is: IF there were a super-law (e.g. variable speed of light driving cosmic inflation etc, etc) that forced our cosmos to take up the delicate balance of factors that make it friendly to intelligent Carbon-based life and the actual formation of a solar system and home-world such as we inhabit, THEN, that super-law would show all the features of a finely set up, information-rich program driving the “universe baking factory.” (The image is from Collins.)

    12 –> So, such a super-law or grand dynamical theory of everything, would be in itself strong evidence of design of the cosmos to play out in a fashion that leads to fostering intelligent C-based life, not of ultimate self-explanatory necessity in itself.

    13 –> And, the resistance we see to the inference from a credibly contingent cosmos to a logically implied necessary being as its causal ground is of course a manifestation of the metaphysical (and, sometimes, rhetorical) level resistance to evidence that was already discussed above. (In fact, this is a main reason it took the Big Bang cosmology forty to fifty years to find general acceptance: a cosmos with a beginning makes the idea of a cosmos that was created or even big-c Created, plausible; too plausible for the comfort of those who find materialist or immanentist world-views more friendly to their inclinations.)

    14 –> now, there are various proposed candidates to be the implied necessary being, e.g. necessity of an underlying, impersonal realm of reality . .. an extension of our material order. But, once necessitating factors are present, the caused bursts forth: classically, heat + oxidiser + fuel –> fire.

    15 –> So, if necessity was the direct driver, our cosmos would be eternal. (For, a necessary being is one that has no beginning, and cannot lose its existence; its sufficient reason lies in itself.)

    16 –> but it is not, and it is evidently highly contingent, i.e we need to have recourse to one or both of the causal factors associated with high contingency: chance and/or design.

    17 –> On the former, we sometimes hear of random bubbling up of sub-cosmi on a wider cosmos, or the like. But, this does not adequately explain a fine-tuned contingent universe that is locally isolated as to life-facilitating circumstances.

    18 –> That is, while it may be logically possible, it is implausible and inferior as an explanation relative to the alternative: that which is set up and finetuned in dozens of ways that facilitate life was most likely purposefully so set up. (And here, BTW, we see the issue that in historic, C1-rooted NT based Christian theology (with onward roots in the hebraic, OT tradition) as seen in e.g Rom 1:18 – 2:15, Jn 3:19 – 21 etc, God does not force belief, but forces willful — thus intellectually and morally responsible — choice towards the truth or towards the self. That is why Paul argues that we are without excuse, relative to the degree of light we have. [Cf here Rom 2:6 – 8, 14 – 15.])

    19 –> Thus, too the principle that Paul cited from Cleanthes in Athens in AD 50 [Ac 17]: “in [God] we live and move and have our being,” i.e. “he is not far from us,” so that (in light of the disturbing and comfort-zone demolishing forces impinging on us in kairos- times 8) ) we may grope, however blindly, towards him, and find him — if we are that way inclined.

    20 –> And, in our civilisation, he has brought to bear the events of a certain Passover weekend in AD 30 or so; complete with a church that has 20 centuries of witness to him who is risen from the dead with 500+ eyewitnesses, fulfilling prophecies of up to 700 years beforehand [cf Is 52 – 53].

    21 –> A church that — never mind teh many real or imagined faults of Christendom [such faults are the common lot of men and civilisations, so the issue is not to address the in-common but the in-difference] — has in it the marks of a power beyond the mere forces of natural order and chance or chaos, and indeed a personal knowledge of the One who stands behind that power

    ______________

    So,the choice — the responsible, indeed, the accountable choice — is ours to make.

    In this, our day of kairos . . .

    GEM of TKI

  250. 250
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Here is Jesus in Jn 8 on the subject of inability to perceive otherwise evident truth, once one is committed to a misleading worldview and/or agenda:

    Jn 8:43 & 45 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say . . . because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!

    Basic logic: That which is true will logically imply only what is true. but, if we believe a falsehood is true, we will reject the real truth that corrects it, BECAUSE it contradicts what we are committed to. (So, we have a duty of critical self-reflection and humility towards the truth. It is undeniably true that error exists. . . )

    Paul adds, on the issue of worldviews warfare as a key component of spiritual warfare (and the ellipsis in the just above is on following the Arch-liar and destroyer as his children . . . ):

    2 Cor 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds,

    5[Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) . . . [Amp]

    I’d say, we have been given fair warning . . .

  251. 251
    beelzebub says:

    StephenB wrote:

    Yes, an unchanging impersonal entity would qualify as a first cause if such a thing was possible. But, as I show in my ten points, it isn’t possible once we grant that the universe began to exist.

    Except that your argument doesn’t work, for reasons that I explained in comment #230. You’re trying to argue that an unchanging impersonal first cause can’t vary its behavior over time, but if that were true than an unchanging personal God could not do so either, which would defeat theism.

    By the way, William Lane Craig makes the same mistake within the quote that Vividbleau supplied:

    Finally let me give you an analogy that will help explain a third reason for why I think the evidence favors why the first cause is also personal. We all know that water freezes at zero degrees Centigrade. If the temperature were below zero degrees from eternity past, then any water that was around would be frozen from eternity past. It would be impossible for the water to just begin to freeze a finite time ago. In other words , once the sufficient conditions were met, that is, the temperature was low enough then the consequence would be that the water would automatically freeze.

    So if the universe were just a mechanical consequence that would occur whenever sufficient conditions were met, and the sufficient conditions were met eternally, then it would exist from eternity past. The effect would be co eternal with the cause.

    His error is to think that an impersonal first cause would have to be a static set of laws operating on a static set of conditions. That’s just not true.

  252. 252
    kairosfocus says:

    Vivid:

    OUCH — money managers in this kairos have a special reason to reach out — however blindly — to God!

    God grant you WISDOM!

    (And us strategic change folks too . . . it’s easy to give clients all too plausible but ultimately destructive advice in times of forced change, i.e. in kairos. [As, I suspect those who put their trust in political messiahs and their ear-tickling false gospels here in the Caribbean and elsewhere across the world, will soon enough find out.] )

    BTW, I have been reading parts of Churchill’s six volume personal history of WW 2 and its lead-up.

    Very illuminating lessons on how democracies fail.

    Horne’s To Lose a Battle is a powerful complement, on the fall of France that resulted from their failure to heed wisdom, and resort to a house viciously and uncivilly divided against itself. (If that sounds sadly familiar, it should.)

    Astonishing how soon we forget the hard-bought lessons of history — this stuff is within my parents’ lifespan. (And my parents, thank God, are still with us!)

    GEM of TKI

    PS: thanks for the kind words. (I have had to respond to a debate tactic that is dismissive rather than responsive on the merits. But, I have to remind myself that the real reason for us to comment is the majority of 6 – 9,000 viewers per day who never comment, but are looking on. And, this thread is fairly strong empirical evidence on what has to happen all around when we move beyond talking points and loaded quips.)

  253. 253
    dgosse says:

    Hi beelzebub

    Are you having fun yet? 8^>

    Some more thoughts.

    3a. We know that reasoning can be mechanized, as in theorem-proving systems.

    3b. We don’t know that immaterial entities can reason.

    “Reason”, despite the best efforts of mathematicians and computer scientists, is not a mechanical process. A sophisticated calculating machine, or a logical algebra, may mimic the forms of reasoning, but the form cannot comprehend the product.

    The idea that human minds are ‘nothing but’ calculating machines appeared to gain traction with the rise of Newtonian mechanics and Deism. If the universe is analagous to a watch and humans are simply cogs in the machine, then machines, in priciple, should be capable of doing those things once thought to be uniquely human, such as reasoning. To date, no one has come any closer than an abacus.
    “Logic, too, also rests on assumptions that do not correspond to anything in the real world.” Nietzsche

    If your beliefs are wrong, ruthless questioning may be the only way you’ll ever figure that out. If your beliefs are right, ruthless questioning will only strengthen them. Truth has no reason to fear critical scrutiny. Be wary of anyone who tells you not to question or to “lean not on thine own understanding.” It’s up to us to test the truth of what we believe. No one else can do it for us.
    Good advice, I suggest you follow it. 8^>

    3. The only way a person can fail to believe in God is by deliberately ignoring or stubbornly refusing to believe this evidence.

    I have no problem with this statement. The corollary would be that a theist “is deliberately ignoring or stubbornly refusing to believe the evidence” for materialism.

    4. Therefore, every single person on the planet who claims to be an atheist or agnostic is either a) lying, b) has deliberately ignored the evidence, or c) has stubbornly refused to believe it.

    or d) has been misled by the dogmatic and overbearing assertions of those who are a), b), or c). One can hardly escape the ubiquitous influence of dogmatic Darwinism and its corrosive effects.

    5. Unless every single one of them is being dishonest in one of those three ways, then the God described above does not exist.

    Ditto the consequent above.

    6. It’s ridiculous to claim that every self-described atheist and agnostic on the planet is being dishonest in one of those ways.

    “Seems like
    I’m only fooling myself
    I’m playing games with my heart and soul
    I know that fooling myself
    It can be dangerous – dangerous”
    Paul Young

    Kind of pointless to get yourself nailed to a cross and then fail to get the message across to the people you’re supposed to be saving, isn’t it?

    Think about this for a minute B. It’s been 2000 years and we are still talking about that itinerant rabbi and what He did. Aproximately one third of the population of the world believe in Him.
    http://www.adherents.com/Relig.....rents.html
    Not bad for a homeless carpenter from the backwoods of Gallilee.

    No, I’m not saying that. I’m a compatibilist.

    Some person (qua agent), at some time, could have acted otherwise than she did.
    Actions are events.
    Every event has a cause.
    If an event is caused, then it is causally determined.
    If an event is an act that is causally determined, then the agent of the act could not have acted otherwise than in the way that she did.

    “My other class was under Will Provine, one of the world’s most famous atheistic theorists.[…] The class has made me a determinist who believes we cannot blame or praise anyone as there is no free will; all that we do is a result of our genetic make-up and our environment.
    […]
    To conclude, the trip was a life-changing event. My belief that free will does not exist has really changed my attitude towards people. I no longer get so angry and frustrated with people and patients, and am much more aware of the contribution I make to the environment of the people around me.[…]Thank you for giving me this opportunity.
    http://www.alumni.cornell.edu/.....ibjee.html

    […]I was even more confused when, not many days later, someone came to me and expressed his bewilderment [1 The remark to be quoted was made by F. Werner when he was a student in Princeton.] with the fact that we make a rather narrow selection when choosing the data on which we test our theories. “How do we know that, if we made a theory which focuses its attention on phenomena we disregard and disregards some of the phenomena now commanding our attention, that we could not build another theory which has little in common with the present one but which, nevertheless, explains just as many phenomena as the present theory?” It has to be admitted that we have no definite evidence that there is no such theory.
    http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc.....igner.html

  254. 254
    kairosfocus says:

    BZ:

    Please note 248 – 249, which explores the issue from a bit different angle that StephenB.

    GEM of TKI

  255. 255
    beelzebub says:

    William Lane Craig makes two other errors in the quote that vividbleau supplied.

    Craig writes:

    There cannot be a scientific explanation of the first state of the universe. Since it is the first state, it simply cannot be explained in term of earlier initial conditions and natural laws leading up to it. So if there is an explanation of the first state of the universe, it has to be a personal explanation, that is an agent who has volition to create it. That would be the first reason that the cause of the universe must be personal.

    Craig’s error is in assuming that the laws (or metalaws) governing the process must be the same as the natural laws operating within the universe. This needn’t be the case.

    Craig continues:

    A second reason is that the cause of the universe transcends time and space, it cannot be a physical reality. Instead, it must be nonphysical or immaterial. There are only two types of things that can be timeless and immaterial. One would be abstract objects like numbers or mathematical entities. However abstract objects cant cause anything to happen. The second kind of immaterial reality would be a mind. A mind can cause and so it makes sense to me that the best explanation is that the universe is a product of an immaterial mind that brought it into existence. [emphasis mine]

    The problem here is that Craig claims, without support, that abstractions and minds are the only possible timeless, immaterial things. How does he know this? Why can’t there be a third category of causally efficacious but impersonal things?

  256. 256
    kairosfocus says:

    DG:

    I think a few words on computers and their programs are indicated:

    1 –> Computers are signal processing systems, in our observation, set up by intelligent agents.

    2 –> They are tested [but they cannot be EXHAUSTIVELY tested per combinatorial explosion of config spaces] to see that they carry out certain rules and procedures specified in certain algorithms expressed in certain languages and onward as certain signals.

    3 –> For instance, a TTL or the like NAND gate is such that if its input leads hold “high” voltages [e.g. ~ 2 – 5 V] the o/p will be a low voltage [i.e. ~ 0.7 to 0 V].

    4 –> This is because in a simple form, a NAND gate has a stack of transistors in series with a load resistor tied to the 5 V rail. [the other end of the stack goes to 0 V, usually local earth potential]. the stack acts as i/p voltage controlled switches in series, so that only if all switches are “on” will the o/p (taken at the bottom of the load resistor) be at low level. (I know, TTL gates use multi-emitter transistors and totem pole o/ps etc, but we need to keep things simple.)

    5 –> Now, such a NAND gate is capable of carrying out all combinational logic functions, if we suitably organise them. Similarly, by cross-coupling two NAND gates as what is called an RS latch, i.e giving it digital feedback [the o/p’s are now used as inputs], we get an entity capable of storing information and manipulating it.

    6 –> Similarly, with such NAND devices and positive feedback involving a tuned Quartz crystal, we can get a precisely timed clock.

    7 –> Suitably combining such basic elements, we are able to create a complex device that will store information, process it in accordance with set up hard-wired rules [i.e. we have an arithmetic and logic unit], and with a clock and suitable arrays of storage [memory] and input and output ports, it will on power on go to an initialisation program [set of coded instructions that trigger a predictable sequence of operations], an thereafrter respond to onward inputs in a more or less predictable fashion.

    8 –> That is, we have a computer. (And NB such is riddled with FSCI and irreducibly complex organisation of elements.)

    9 –> Such a computer can indeed be programmed to carry out signal processing operations that fulfill rules of reasoning, but as the just above shows, that is not by virtue of its independently thinking, but by virtue of how elements that have been carefully designed, implemented and tested have been set up to work. There is no reflection, reasoning or imagination involved.

    10 –> This poses an immediate challenge to those who imagine that our minds are brain based and brain-determined computer systems that somehow organised and wrote themselves. For, on evidence of the massive contigency and fine-tuning involved in known cases of computer design and programming, the chances of that happening by chance and mechanical forces alone are negligible on the gamut of our cosmos. So, even if minds are reducible to brains (and that is highly doubtful), that would strongly point to design as the best explanation.

    11 –> BTW, in the heart of the cells in our bodies, clustering around DNA, are clear cases of digital computers that are causally foundational to the existence and origin of cell based life. This is strong evidence pointing to the design of life. (Language, logic, programs and program executing organised machinery antedate not only our minds but life as we know it. And, in all known-origin cases of complex info processing systems of any serious magnitude, a significant amount of debugging — not merely blind random trial and error — was a practical condition and constraint on getting a reliably working system. Another pointer to design.)

    12 –> It also underscores the vast QUALITATIVE difference between what computers do, and what known minded agents — ourselves — do.

    ______________

    So, those who imagine that lucky noise plus random polymers in a prebiotic soup can across time by happenstance find their way to vastly isolated islands of function in config spaces, thus become life, then onward become minded life, should look carefully to whether they are resisting correction and “evidence that does not fit” because it does not comport well with their deeply held preconceptions.

    After all, we have heard Someomne say “BECAUSE I tell the truth, you do not believe what I say . . . “

    GEM of TKI

  257. 257
    vividbleau says:

    “You’re trying to argue that an unchanging impersonal first cause can’t vary its behavior over time,but if that were true than an unchanging personal God could not do so either, which would defeat theism.”

    To the best of my knowledge no one is saying that an unchanging personal God varies its behavior over time, how could it since if such a being exists it exists eternally outside of time.

    “His error is to think that an impersonal first cause would have to be a static set of laws operating on a static set of conditions. That’s just not true.”

    If these impersonal laws are not static ( changeless) then they cannot be eternal. To change is to become something now that it was not before. If these impersonal laws are NOW what they were NOT the NOW has a beginning and the NOT has an end.

    Vivid

  258. 258
    kairosfocus says:

    BZ:

    You still need to address the issues in 248 -9.

    In particular, the issue of a super-law as programming our cosmos such that its fine-tuning for c-based life is a necessity.

    For, what is happening is that you have simply moved the fine-tuning up one level: what is it that has set up the bakery so that we get our nicely mixed and raised then baked universe, instead of one of the many closely neighbouring configs that would be radically inhospitable to life, much less intelligent life as we experience?

    And, so on.

    GEM of TKI

  259. 259
    vividbleau says:

    “God grant you WISDOM!”

    Thanks for your kind words.Thankfully he has.

    Yes we live in very interesting times. Forty years of brainwashing by our public schools have dumbed down our electorate. The politicians ( Republican and Democrats) know that by and large the our electorate are not critical thinkers. In the end we get the government we deserve.

    Economically and politicaly we are in a brand new world, throw out the old rule books

  260. 260
    vividbleau says:

    “The problem here is that Craig claims, without support, that abstractions and minds are the only possible timeless, immaterial things. How does he know this? Why can’t there be a third category of causally efficacious but impersonal things?”

    What third category would you suggest?

    Vivid

  261. 261
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: That includes programming a universe in which the laws are dynamic. (E.g. that would take in various cosmologies in which the speed of light varies with time; which has implications across a vast range of phenomena.)

  262. 262
    vividbleau says:

    “What third category would you suggest?”

    Sorry I see you suggested a third category, ignore my previus post.

    Vivid

  263. 263
    kairosfocus says:

    Vivid:

    You are right.

    (On both matters.)

    A dumbed down public that is polarised though rampant exemplars of uncivil conduct by publicised leaders, is a set up for collapse.

    [Worse, I contend that the key points on basic straight thinking can be taught to an intelligent high schooler in fifteen minutes. I have done so many times, cf here. So, why is this stuff not locked in as a basic element of all HS curricula, and basic College orientation? The answer that suggests itself, is that it does not suit SOMEONE for people to be critical thinkers.]

    GEM of TKI

    PS: This on handling media spin tactics [look at the current thread on Mr Matthews and Mr Pence . . . , is also fairly simple to learn. (I am finding out that such is resisted by major media houses, very influential international media houses.)

    PPS: At the next level, why do not all College curricula have as a common core something like this in a basic college-level thinking 101 course?

  264. 264
    beelzebub says:

    dgosse asks:

    Are you having fun yet? 8^>

    Too much fun! Even the Lord of the Flies needs to get away from Hell from time to time. Slumming with the theists is just the ticket.

    That said, I do need to tear myself away from the computer and finish packing for a trip tomorrow. I’m flying to Florida to watch next week’s space shuttle launch.

    I should have some time to comment tomorrow, either during my layover or in the evening at my hotel.

    Until then…

  265. 265
    kairosfocus says:

    PPPS: BZ suggests:

    The problem here is that Craig claims, without support, that abstractions and minds are the only possible timeless, immaterial things. How does he know this? Why can’t there be a third category of causally efficacious but impersonal things?

    Let’s see: abstractions [here, the non-material that in some ways grounds and or interacts with the material — how we can know about it] that have intentions are . . . minds. those that don’t are . . . simple abstractions.

    Sounds like a logically exhaustive enumerative listing to me.

    So, Craig’s comment seemingly makes sense, at least to me: There are only two types of things that can be timeless and immaterial. One would be abstract objects like numbers or mathematical entities. However abstract objects cant cause anything to happen. The second kind of immaterial reality would be a mind. A mind can cause

    1 –> timeless, immaterial entities are abstract, by definition. [Not concrete or tangible.]

    2 –> One class of such are simply abstract: e.g. mathematical objects such as numbers.

    3 –> Such may be categories that we may observe in/abstract from instantiations, but are causally passive. [Twoness never yet CAUSED a physical event, it is descriptive of a property of certain sets that can be one to one matched with this set {1, 2}.]

    4 –> Minds are abstract — as opposed to brains [cf above on computers] — and credibly have some causal effects per observation and experience. (Attempts to reduce minds to brains per evolutionary materialism also in our observation invariably run into specific and general self referential incoherence.)

    5 –> Minds are abstract and manifest intent, which is instantiated in actions, e.g blog posts and arguments.

    6 –> Abstract + intent = minded, abstract no intent = simply abstract.

    7 –> Simply abstract, not causally active.

    8 –> So, if there is a third category, BZ needs to cite and warrant an example. (On pain of offering an unredeemed, questionable promissory note as an invitation to evade the otherwise compelling force of an argument. [back to Jn 8 . . . ])

  266. 266
    kairosfocus says:

    BZ:

    Mikey here again. (That KF is lending me his log-in again.)

    That sword is doing real well — it is slicing flies’ legs right off when they land on it . . . (That guy from Japan who made it in on our side on living by the light truth he knew, including being sorry for his wrong as conscience pricked, and being persistent in the way of the good and the true, has done a really great job. I see why they call these folks “living treasures” over in Japan.)

    The chains are ready too. (John Newton, former wretch, says they are as good as any he has ever seen.)

    So, just let me know when you are ready to rock and roll.

    Mikey the Archie

  267. 267
    tribune7 says:

    You didn’t understand my statement. Think about it some more. . .Thanks, but I’ll pass. If you want to try stating your thought more clearly, I’ll take a look.

    Beelzebub, despite this long discussion about religion, this is still basically a science site. You should be able to understand the point at which I’m getting.

    For the laws of nature to exist they would have to have been violated which means they wouldn’t be a necessity.

    Think about it some more. Hint: what does natural law say about order.

    Remember:

    If your beliefs are wrong, ruthless questioning may be the only way you’ll ever figure that out. If your beliefs are right, ruthless questioning will only strengthen them.

  268. 268
    tribune7 says:

    bz –Okay, but think about what “getting the message” means in the context of this argument. It means recognizing that the evidence demonstrates the existence of God.

    The first part, I think, would be the recognition of good and evil, and that good isn’t winning here. God would come later.

    then by implication you’re saying that every self-described atheist and agnostic knows that “the message” demonstrates God’s existence but has either talked him or herself out of believing it or is lying about not being a theist. Every single one of them.

    I’ll grant that some of them had help being talked out of it.

    And it’s not unexpected, you know the rocky soil and the weeds and all that.

    And all of us have this tendency to want to be our own god, and want to make our own rules with regard to what is right and wrong.

    And the only to avoid falling into the trap of forgetting the real one is to continually remind yourself you are not Him. To do this you have to develop the spiritual. Pray constantly, and even occasional self-denial i.e. force yourself to read scripture, drag yourself out of bed to go to church, go out of your way to help someone in need, refrain from watching a particular TV show or visiting a particular website etc.

  269. 269
    tribune7 says:

    That which is true will logically imply only what is true. but, if we believe a falsehood is true, we will reject the real truth that corrects it, BECAUSE it contradicts what we are committed to.

    Well said, KF.

  270. 270
    StephenB says:

    —-beelzebub: “Except that your argument doesn’t work, for reasons that I explained in comment #230. You’re trying to argue that an unchanging impersonal first cause can’t vary its behavior over time, but if that were true than an unchanging personal God could not do so either, which would defeat theism.”

    We are talking about its ontological nature, not its behavior. I thought that you understood that the uncaused cause must be unchanging for the same reason that it must be necessary, eternal, self existent, and singular. It the uncaused cause could change, it would either be moving from a state of perfection to a state of imperfection, or from a state of imperfection to a state of perfection. But the uncaused cause has no need to arrive, it is already there. Further, something else would have to be changing it, which would mean that it is dependent on that which is causing the change. There are many other reasons why the uncaused cause is unchangeable.

    —-“By the way, William Lane Craig makes the same mistake within the quote that Vividbleau supplied:

    Finally let me give you an analogy that will help explain a third reason for why I think the evidence favors why the first cause is also personal. We all know that water freezes at zero degrees Centigrade. If the temperature were below zero degrees from eternity past, then any water that was around would be frozen from eternity past. It would be impossible for the water to just begin to freeze a finite time ago. In other words , once the sufficient conditions were met, that is, the temperature was low enough then the consequence would be that the water would automatically freeze.

    So if the universe were just a mechanical consequence that would occur whenever sufficient conditions were met, and the sufficient conditions were met eternally, then it would exist from eternity past. The effect would be co eternal with the cause.

    —-“His error is to think that an impersonal first cause would have to be a static set of laws operating on a static set of conditions. That’s just not true.”

    It most definitely is true. If it’s changeable, it isn’t a law. Atheists use the example of an impersonal “law,” to purchase unchangeability in the first place because they know it is necessary to have it in order to compete with the unchanging creator indicated in the cosmological argument.

  271. 271
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Kairosfocus,

    9 –> Such a computer can indeed be programmed to carry out signal processing operations that fulfill rules of reasoning, but as the just above shows, that is not by virtue of its independently thinking, but by virtue of how elements that have been carefully designed, implemented and tested have been set up to work. There is no reflection, reasoning or imagination involved.

    If you want to discuss a parallel to the mind, do not discuss the hardware, discuss the software. But please do not recapitulate the history of computing from Blaise Pascal onwards to do so.

    If I may engage you in a thought experiment, suppose I had a scanner similar to fMRI, but more detailed, with which could the architecture of the brain down to the level of synapses and the different concentrations of neurotransmitters. The output of a full brain scan is stored as a set of connections and weights.

    In this setup, I am not claiming any novelty to the choice of connections or their strength, these are entirely based upon the brain of an adult human at the time of the scan.

    The inputs from optic and auditory nerves are attached to cameras and microphones. The outputs of motor nerves are attached to models of muscles and skeleton.

    In the above thought experiment, what part of the mind has not been transferred to the new hardware platform? Please do not quibble about some piece of chemistry, assume that my scanner can capture information about anything physical.

  272. 272
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB [215], this is no more compelllng now than it was the last time you used it.

  273. 273
    kairosfocus says:

    Nakashima-San:

    Actually, I rolled both hard and soft ware into one.

    (I am after all taking up computers from the electronics-machine language end; the end where I did my most serious design, development and programming in the days of the good old 6809 of fond recall. It so happens to be the best end to deflate the idea that computers “think” or “reason” or “imagine,” or “decide” etc.)

    PROCESSING implies both, and at the machine level we are discussing, that boils down to register storage, transfer and manipulation operations carried out by registers and logic gate arrays. (Which nowadays includes that assembly code is done at a lower microcode level of instructions, in the good old fetch-decode execute loop.)

    My point is that the machine is simply that: in accordance with a purposefully organised stucture, it is processing signals — here envisioned as hi/lo voltages in interesting spatial and temporal patterns, in predictable sequences determined by inputs, memory contents and the associated stored program and data. Meaning is externally assigned, by designers and programmers who load in active information to make the machine carry out operations on patterns that yield other patterns.

    No reflective thought is involved whatever — very different from our own experience and observation of our fellow minded creatures.

    Now, you focus on a brain scan sufficiently detailed to show neural networks in action:

    1 –> No prob, mon: the brain is easily understood as the i/o front end processor for the mind, with useful storage into the bargain.

    2 –> I think you should be familiar with what is now app 8 my always linked [I had to add stuff on Weasel 86], and the discussion of Eng Derek Smith on MIMO cybernetic systems, with the two-tier controller processor architecture.

    3 –> Here, the brain-body system is regarded as a complex control loop [Dr PDS, love ya for ticking my fancy with control systems way back when. . . !], and though the interactions among such a loop’s elements are strictly physical, that does not undermine the key point: their organisation, the design of the relevant interfaces and the source of the smarts lies elsewhere, in the supervisory controller and in the originator of the whole.

    4 –> As to the issue of mind-brain interaction, I have suggested quantum level influences, following various ideas that have long been floated. (And notice, I am not at all suggesting that the system of the mind is not subject to influences going the other way from the brain-body system!)

    5 –> What I am highlighting is that signal paths and predictable cause-effect bonds — what a scan would reveal — are distinct from meanings and reasonings. (And electrical vs chemical formats makes little difference, nor the encoding of signals in frequency of synapse firing, nor the effective log compression in the signals as the Weber-Fechner law suggests [and things like how we can compress video by taking advantage of insensitivities to fine, subtle colour details etc.)

    6 –> So, all that really counts is not detectable by an instrumentation that is looking only at the material cybernetic loop.

    7 –> So, can we dismiss all the phenomena of consciousness, reflective thought, logical reasoning etc as so much ghostly, superstitious rubbish?

    8 –> Plainly, no: our awareness of the external world of experience and observation is a matter of consciousness: CONSCIOUSNESS is fact no 1, the usually unstated premise of all other facts.

    9 –> Similarly, our reasoning, conceptualising and knowing faculty is the premise of all argument. All of which at once reduces to absurdity if mind reduces to matter in motion or mere exchange of signals. (Not to mention, materialists need to account for (a) the functional status of the software in cells, (b) same for the brain considered as a neural network computer; the vast majority of which has to be preprogrammed for our brains to work to begin with from birth . . .)

    10 –> Reppert aptly summarises the resulting challenge to materialist views of mind (including mind = software):

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

    [ . . . ]

  274. 274
    kairosfocus says:

    11 –> Going further, from my own summary of the self-referential incoherence of evolutionary materialism:

    . . . [evolutionary] materialism [a worldview that often likes to wear the mantle of “science”] . . . argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

    But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance [“nature”] and psycho-social conditioning [“nurture”], within the framework of human culture [i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism].)

    12 –> So far, I am simply reporting — and cf. the reference to the electrochemical events that your scan hopes to pick up. But there are consequences of such a view:

    Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. Of course, the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” them. And, if our materialist friends then say: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must note that to demonstrate that such tests provide empirical support to their theories requires the use of the very process of reasoning which they have discredited!

    13 –> this plays out on the3 ground in representative cases — this is not just armchair theory:

    Thus, evolutionary materialism reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, immediately, that includes “Materialism.” For instance, Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?

    In the end, materialism is based on self-defeating logic . . . .

    14 –> This also carries over into disintegration of moral responsibility on such premises:

    In Law, Government, and Public Policy, the same bitter seed has shot up the idea that “Right” and “Wrong” are simply arbitrary social conventions. This has often led to the adoption of hypocritical, inconsistent, futile and self-destructive public policies.

    “Truth is dead,” so Education has become a power struggle; the victors have the right to propagandise the next generation as they please. Media power games simply extend this cynical manipulation from the school and the campus to the street, the office, the factory, the church and the home.

    Further, since family structures and rules of sexual morality are “simply accidents of history,” one is free to force society to redefine family values and principles of sexual morality to suit one’s preferences.

    15 –> Such amorality and relativism, sadly, have further, more disturbing consequences — for the value of life itself. And though it is painful to have to point it out (and i understand that many will find it hard to swallow) we need to carry on the implications, if evolutionary materialism were the truth:

    Finally, life itself is meaningless and valueless, so the weak, sick, defenceless and undesirable — for whatever reason — can simply be slaughtered, whether in the womb, in the hospital, or in the death camp.

    In short, ideas sprout roots, shoot up into all aspects of life, and have consequences in the real world . . .

    16 –> In short, A LOT is at stake on what may at first seem to be only an armchair dispute raised by anti-science fundies and fellow travellers who can be flicked off with a handy strawman attack or two [as Mr Matthews seems to have indulged himself in recently with Mr Pence].

    17 –> How does this come back tot he issue of the reasonableness of believing in God?

    ANS: – first, we are dealing with comparative worldviews, so it is legitimate to ask quesitons on major alternatives

    – second, rationality itself is a part of the issue, and assocaited with it is the things that we do by choice not chance or mechanical necessity

    – indeed, we here see some of the consequences of trying to reduce the reality of choice to such

    18 –> And, if a real mind interacting with the real world and leaving real traces that cannot plausibly be accounted for on chance and necessity without guidance is credibly real, then the question of an Ultimate Mind that is capable of creating the world is a reasonable question.

    Whether or not it is fashionable to ask such a question.

    GEM of TKI

  275. 275
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Nakahima-san — the basic idea of Stephen at 215 is that causes may be temporally antecedent to or concurrent with their effects.

    For instance so long as heat, oxidiser and fuel are together a fire exists. To start it, we or chance circumstances bring the necessary and sufficient causal factors together; fires begin, after all. (“That which has a beginning has a cause.” by extension, contingent beings need not exist,a nd if they do exist, had a beginning.)

    To fight it, we knock off one leg of the stool, as firemen know very well. (“The lack of that which is necessary is sufficient to remove an effect.” Observe this other side of contingency — contingent beings can go out of existence.)

    Thus, too: if impersonal, necessitating — lawlike — regularities are eternally acting; so would be their consequences.

    So, if the ground for the material universe is a directly necessary causal force, the consequence would be beginningless.

    Our cosmos evidently began, so we see contingent-triggering causal forces as the logical candidate, thence the random bubbling universe type cosmology or the personal designer type.

    For the former, we have to account for finetuning by accounting for the universe baking factory. That is, we have regressed he finetuning for function one step, not got rid of it.

    A likely fatal defect as the implied infinite regress emerges.

    The latter is directly comparable to what we know of ourselves as minded causal forces ourselves. So, it is a reasonable — and best explanation — to infer to necessary being as person as the ground of the observed universe.

  276. 276
    StephenB says:

    —-David Kellogg: “StephenB [215], this is no more compelllng now than it was the last time you used it.z’

    My argument at 215 is compelling, and beelzebub’s answer to it is just as ineffective now as yours was then. At least beelzebub attempted to answer it on substance, while you avoided the matter altogether with such nonsense as “the premise is only ‘tautologically true.'” Would you care to try to argue that point again?

  277. 277
    hazel says:

    Uh, I believe your judgment that the “tautological” argument is nonsense was not shared by all – it was not even established that the argument was wrong. Calling it “nonsense” glosses over a whole bunch of very reasonable points about the relationship between logic and knowledge.

  278. 278
    StephenB says:

    It was nonsense and the points were not reasonable.

  279. 279
    riddick says:

    vividbleau wrote: “BTW unlike Clive I am a Calvinist.”

    Vivid, I offer the following for your edification.

    http://www.realanswers.net/realanswers/?p=52

  280. 280
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB: “It was nonsense and the points were not reasonable.” Onlookers who check the previous discussion may conclude differently. Indeed, some may conclude that “It” in the quoted sentence above works if it refers to your own argument.

  281. 281
    vividbleau says:

    “Vivid, I offer the following for your edification.”

    Thanks

    Vivid

  282. 282
    David Kellogg says:

    To follow up on my point above, I offer a sentence from Stephen Toulmin’s Human Understanding (Princeton University Press, 1972) in which he points out the limits of Platonic thinking (such as that advocated by StephenB):

    Universal authority may be claimed for an abstract, timeless system of ‘rational standards,’ only if it has first been shown on what foundation that universal and unqualified authority rests; but no formal schema can, by itself, prove its own applicability. (p. 63)

  283. 283
    StephenB says:

    —-David Kellogg: “To follow up on my point above, I offer a sentence from Stephen Toulmin’s Human Understanding (Princeton University Press, 1972) in which he points out the limits of Platonic thinking (such as that advocated by StephenB):”

    You are doing the same thing now that you did earlier. You are attempting to discuss generic arguments in general while avoiding the argument that is on the table. In any case, this is not a “Platonic argument.” It is a straightforward argument beginning with a easily understood premise that is obviously true. In any case, this is not a “Platonic argument,” and very few onlookers will be persuaded by your continued evasion.

    1: Premise: For all impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed, none can begin in time.

    2. Therefore: All effects that have always existed could not have begun to exist

    3. Therefore: All impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed could not have begun to exist.

    4: Therefore, no effect can begin to exist if its impersonal, unchanging cause always was.

    5: Therefore: No impersonal, unchanging cause can begin to exist if its effect always was.

    6: Therefore, no impersonal, unchanging cause can exist without its effect.

    7: Therefore, no effect can exist without its impersonal, unchanging cause.

    8: Therefore, the impersonal, unchanging law cannot cause the universe to begin to exist.

    9: The universe began to exist.

    10: Therefore, a personal agent caused the universe to begin to exist.

    You have discovered that the argument works, so you are desperately trying to discredit the premise, which is obviously and undeniably true. Deal with it.

  284. 284
    David Kellogg says:

    I give up. You have proven the existence of a personal God in 10 easy steps. If everybody had your 10 steps memorized nobody would doubt anything. Philosophy is easy!

  285. 285
    StephenB says:

    —-David Kellogg: “Onlookers who check the previous discussion may conclude differently. Indeed, some may conclude that “It” in the quoted sentence above works if it refers to your own argument.”

    What the onlookers will find is a handful of atheists trying to deny a premise that is self-evidently true: Here is is again:

    For all impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed, none can begin in time.

    That formulation is true about anything. If it always existed, it cannot begin in time. Get over it. Why would you send onlookers to another site to witness your past evasion when they can observe your current evasion in real time on the same subject.

  286. 286
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB, you have claimed before to be an academic (though I can find no evidence of that — no evidence of a thesis or dissertation, at any rate). That’s as may be. In any event, as I have noted before, you are surely not a philosophy professor.

  287. 287
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB, “If it always existed, it cannot begin in time” is tautological. It’s not nonsense to point that out, and it’s no achievement to say that A=A.

  288. 288
    StephenB says:

    —David: “I give up. You have proven the existence of a personal God in 10 easy steps. If everybody had your 10 steps memorized nobody would doubt anything. Philosophy is easy!”

    Philosophy is not easy, which is why the argument requires ten steps. It a lot harder to build and argument that it is to say, “I am not convinced, show me more.”

  289. 289
    David Kellogg says:

    “Philosophy is not easy.” And yet you dismiss people who point out inconsistencies, such as that your argument assumes the existence of variables (including s “time”) that are consequences of the very thing you’re trying to prove.

  290. 290
    StephenB says:

    —-“If it always existed, it cannot begin in time” is tautological. It’s not nonsense to point that out, and it’s no achievement to say that A=A.”

    It is nonsense to suggest that it cannot be used as a legitimate premise. That is the essence of your objection isn’t it?

  291. 291
    JayM says:

    StephenB @278

    It was nonsense and the points were not reasonable.

    As someone without a dog in this fight[*], I read the previous thread and your argument was, frankly, destroyed by David Kellogg, hazel, and others.

    Attempts to define God into existence have never been particularly compelling.

    JJ

    [*] Hey, I’m the “Onlooker” you are all always addressing!

  292. 292
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “And yet you dismiss people who point out inconsistencies, such as that your argument assumes the existence of variables (including s “time”) that are consequences of the very thing you’re trying to prove.”

    Of course it does. Did you not read step 9, which reads, “The universe began to exist.[which would also include time]” The argument does not work without that assumption.

  293. 293
    Diffaxial says:

    Stephen, there is something more than a little ludicrous about your repeating your argument without modification, as though the largely unrebutted beating it received on the Shermer thread didn’t occur.

    Your premises are no less tautological, and your argument no more compelling, than the first time around.

  294. 294
    David Kellogg says:

    If Step 9 includes the beginning of time, then Step 1 (which has the universe beginning “in time”) is even worse than a tautology.

  295. 295
    David Kellogg says:

    Correction: it Step 1 excludes eternal things beginning “in time.” Step 1 is made nonsensical if time begins in Step 9. That was the point of my citing Augustine in the earlier discussion.

  296. 296
    StephenB says:

    Difaxial, my argument was not in any way rebutted. I took on six atheists pretty much by myself and they filled cyberspace with the same kind of nonsense that you are spouting now. If something always was, it cannot begin to exist. That is a truthful statement and it has implications. Deal with it.

    What is ludicrous is your attempt to deny the obvious, which you continue to do.

  297. 297
    David Kellogg says:

    “pretty much by myself.” Nice. No credit to vjtorley, who is the only reason you still have your lunch money?

  298. 298
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “Correction: it Step 1 excludes eternal things beginning “in time.” Step 1 is made nonsensical if time begins in Step 9. That was the point of my citing Augustine in the earlier discussion.”

    Of course step one excludes eternal things beginning in time. I am glad that you finally get that.

    Of course time begins in step 9. Time is not eternal so it is not subject to the limitations in the premise which have to do with impersonal, unchanging causes.

  299. 299
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB [297], with every comment you confirm that your field, whatever it is, is not philosophy.

  300. 300
    David Kellogg says:

    “I am not convinced, show me more” is a bad thing?

    “I am not convinced, show me more” is made pointless after ten steps?

    “I am not convinced, show me more” is pointless in an argument built on a single tautological premise?

  301. 301
    StephenB says:

    “Nice. No credit to vjtorley.

    I greatly value vjtorleys comments, and his contributions were invaluable. However, the last barrage of posts were all about you, Diffaxial, and Hazel insisting on getting the last word on me, regardless of the substance. One thing sure, the three of you had little more to say then than now. Also, don’t try to start a rift betwen me and one of my favorite bloggers.

  302. 302
    StephenB says:

    —-“I am not convinced, show me more” is pointless in an argument built on a single tautological premise?”

    David Kellogg: Are you ever going to address the argument or are you going to keep sniping at it mindlessly from a distance? Do you or do you not accept the truth of the premise? If [anything] always was, it cannot begin to exist. Yes or no.

    By the way, this is why the other thread lasted so long. David, Diffaxial, and Hazel would not answer that simple question.

  303. 303
    David Kellogg says:

    I accept the truth of tautological premises including that one. Your argument, however, does not follow from it.

  304. 304
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “StephenB [297], with every comment you confirm that your field, whatever it is, is not philosophy.”

    I am well grounded in philosophy, which may explain why I am not the one who is having difficulty reasoning in the abstract. If you labor under the misconception that one cannot reason on the basis of a self-evident truth, then you have been reading the wrong philosophers. So, stop with the ad hominem attacks and address the argument.

  305. 305
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “I accept the truth of tautological premises including that one. Your argument, however, does not follow from it.”

    Fair enough. Tell me which step you think does not follow from the previous step.

  306. 306
    David Kellogg says:

    If I recall, I’m supposed to burn philosophers you consider bad and read third-rate “philosophers” such as C.S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton (and perhaps Mortimer Adler).

  307. 307
    David Kellogg says:

    A few problems off the top of my head:

    1. Various assumptions built into “unchanging.”
    2. Elision of “unchanging” and “impersonal” in step 2.
    3. Contradiction of “in time” in step 1 when time begins in step 9.
    4. Assumptions about distinctcion between personal and impersonal.
    5. The whole argument uses the present universe to argue about what is required for its own cause.

  308. 308
    David Kellogg says:

    6. No argument for the personal cause except the (badly done) exclusion of an “impersonal, unchanging” cause.

  309. 309
    David Kellogg says:

    Observational aside: when is ”I am not convinced, show me more?” a reasonable or unreasonable question?

    Apparently it’s reasonable when used against someone arguing for evolution based on evidence compiled in many thousands of scientific papers, but unreasonable when used against a 10-step argument for the existence of a personal God.

  310. 310
    Diffaxial says:

    By the way, this is why the other thread lasted so long. David, Diffaxial, and Hazel would not answer that simple question.

    Your question was answered repeatedly, by many:

    400: “This is a tautology, not a ‘fact.'”

    452: “your comment that the proposition must be true because the negation results in a contradiction in terms explicitly underscores the fact that your proposition is tautologically true, only, not observationally true.

    455: “The question your statement asks is tautologically false: as you yourself say, it is a contradiction in terms. What we don’t know is whether those terms correctly model, or reference, anything in metaphysical reality.”

    457: “Hazel answered your question. He stated, ‘that which always was can begin in time’ is tautologically false. Similarly, ‘that which always was cannot begin in time’ is tautologically true. That has also been my answer. There is no other answer.

    470: “It’s not a rule, it’s a tautology. Rules are detected by exceptionless regularity (ceteris paribus), or emerge as necessities from theory. Tautologies emerge directly from the definitions of one’s terms. Your ‘rule’ is true for any ‘thing’ you insert into the sentence because your terms are defined such that it must be true. The meaning content of your tautology is reducible to those definitions. Therefore you can save yourself the foregoing the pseudo-reasoning and simply say, ‘suppose there was an X that had no beginning in time.'”

    538: “Of course we can make it a deductive conclusion by defining ‘nothing’ as “that out of which something cannot come’ or ‘something’ as “that which must come from something else.” In this case the conclusion that something cannot come from nothing is a tautological truth, based on our definitions, but now it is not grounded in evidence.”

    Your rebuttal? I can’t find it, Stephen. Indeed, you could not bring yourself to type the word “tautology” or any variant thereof on the entire thread, much less explain to us why either your premise is not tautological, or why it doesn’t matter that it is tautological.

    Sounds like now you are ready to do so. Ready, set, GO!

  311. 311
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “A few problems off the top of my head:

    1. Various assumptions built into “unchanging.”
    2. Elision of “unchanging” and “impersonal” in step 2.
    3. Contradiction of “in time” in step 1 when time begins in step 9.
    4. Assumptions about distinctcion between personal and impersonal.
    5. The whole argument uses the present universe to argue about what is required for its own ”

    More dodging. Why are you wasting so much cyberspace with your generalized assessments. I asked you which step does not follow from the previous step. I

  312. 312
    David Kellogg says:

    Steps 2-9.

  313. 313
    StephenB says:

    Diffaxial: Your rebuttal?

    There is nothing there to rebut. I am not using the fist part of the premise [always was] to prove the second part of the premise [doesn’t begin in time], so I am not using tautological reasoning. Whether the statement is or is not a tautology as a unit is no reflection on the argument that follows. What matters is whether or not the premise is true.

    In any case, you are doing the same thing you did last time. You remain silent when I ask David and everyone else if the statement is true, and after he concedes the point, then, and only then, do you appear to start questioning the premise again, which, by the way, is unassailable.

  314. 314
    David Kellogg says:

    The premise is both tautological and trivially true. It does not lead to any further step in your argument. Even basic syllogistic reasoning requires more than a single premise. I’m a bit astonished that you think this is a serious argument while claiming to be well grounded in philosophy.

  315. 315
    StephenB says:

    So, David questions steps 2 through 9. Let’s begin with step 2 today and do the rest tomorrow.

    1: Premise: For all impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed, none can begin in time.

    2. Therefore: All effects that have always existed could not have begun to exist.

    Will you accept the statement on its own independent of the premise so that we can use it as another premise? That is, will you accept the proposition that “all effects that have always existed could not have begun to exist?”

  316. 316
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “The premise is both tautological and trivially true. It does not lead to any further step in your argument. Even basic syllogistic reasoning requires more than a single premise. I’m a bit astonished that you think this is a serious argument while claiming to be well grounded in philosophy.”

    Don’t you think that it is well past time to stop talking about the argument and to address the argument. We have wasted over a hundred posts doing this in the past.

  317. 317
    David Kellogg says:

    Why address the specifics of an argument that is this badly formed?

  318. 318
    David Kellogg says:

    Strictly speaking, Step 2 is not a consequence but another tautological premise, and just as trivial as Step 1.

  319. 319
    StephenB says:

    Change Premise 1 should read For all impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed, none can begin [to exist].

  320. 320
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “Strictly speaking, Step 2 is not a consequence but another tautological premise, and just as trivial as Step 1.”

    Do you accept it as true?

  321. 321
    StephenB says:

    —-“Why address the specifics of an argument that is this badly formed?”

    Humor me.

  322. 322
    David Kellogg says:

    Premise A: All inferences about cause are made within the universe.

    Premise B: The universe is coextensive with itself.

    Conclusion: We make no inferences about the cause of the universe.

  323. 323
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB [319], I accept it as trivially true and badly phrased.

  324. 324
    David Kellogg says:

    Let me rewrite that.

    Major premise: The universe is coextensive with itself.

    Minor premise: All inferences about cause are made within the universe.

    Conclusion: We can make no inferences about the cause of the universe.

  325. 325
    StephenB says:

    OK statements 1 and 1 have been established as true [“trivially true,” for David]

    1: Premise: For all impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed, none can begin in time.

    2: Premise: All effects that have always existed could not have begun to exist

    3. Therefore: All impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed could not have begun to exist.

    Does that follow for you?

  326. 326
    David Kellogg says:

    No, 3 does not follow. Step 3 is simply a restatement of 1 (you have to decide on whether 1 is going to include “in time” or not). It does not require 2.

  327. 327
    David Kellogg says:

    Among the things that are possible effects of the universe that are implicated in StephenB’s “cause” are cause and effect themselves as well as personal and impersonal. Personal especially seems highly likely to be an artifact of the universe and not something we can reasonably assume exists before the universe itself.

    The argument has got more holes than a lace tablecloth.

  328. 328
    StephenB says:

    —David: “No, 3 does not follow. Step 3 is simply a restatement of 1 (you have to decide on whether 1 is going to include “in time” or not). It does not require 2.”

    I say it does, but we need not fuss over that. Do you accept #3 as true.

  329. 329
    StephenB says:

    Really, #3 follows from #1, but that’s OK. Is it true?

  330. 330
    Diffaxial says:

    Diffaxial: Your rebuttal?

    The rebuttal sits right before your eyes. Your argument is stillborn because premises that are tautologically true don’t establish anything beyond the definitions of the words from which the tautology is fashioned. They are empty of content that can be said to be true in the sense that they accurately describe anything outside of themselves, and therefore of content upon which an argument that claims to have a referent can be constructed.

    To establish this about the premises of an argument is as sure a rebuttal as any demonstration that a better formed premise is actually false.

    There is nothing there to rebut. I am not using the fist part of the premise [always was] to prove the second part of the premise [doesn’t begin in time], so I am not using tautological reasoning.

    As I said before, you can save yourself a great deal of empty pseudo-reasoning and simply say, “suppose there was an X that had no beginning in time.”

    That is the actual content of your first premise. When laid bare it is easy to see why you prefer the original form, because you can’t hang a proof on mere supposition. But that’s all you’ve got; any attempts to levitate your premises from “posited” to “necessarily true” results in more tautological reasoning.

  331. 331
    David Kellogg says:

    Like 1, 3 is trivially, tautologically true (true by definition).

  332. 332
    StephenB says:

    No. “It time” is a typo. It should read, “begin to exist.” Sorry.

  333. 333
    David Kellogg says:

    Diffaxial, you are right of course. That StephenB does not see this demonstrates the shallowness of his “grounding” in philosophy.

  334. 334
    StephenB says:

    1: Premise: For all impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed, none can begin to exist.

    We agree this is true

    2. All effects that have always existed could not have begun to exist

    We agree this is true

    3. Therefore: All impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed could not have begun to exist. [Follows from one]

    We agree this is true.

    4: Therefore, no effect can begin to exist if its impersonal, unchanging cause always was.

    Do we agree that step 4 follows from the above?

  335. 335
    David Kellogg says:

    I agree that 4 is another tautological statement. It does follow from any of the others, it simply is true by definition. And the definition smuggles in important qualifiers like “impersonal” and “unchanging,” and even “existence” — all of which are philosophically important nontrivial. In other words, the statements themselves continue to be trivial and tautological. Everything of philosophical interest has been smuggled in to the definitions.

  336. 336
    David Kellogg says:

    correction: “philosophically important and nontrivial.”

    Further correction: “in time” was not a typo. It was a restatement in the earlier thread based on the smackdown I gave the earlier version.

  337. 337
    David Kellogg says:

    I see from my previous comments that I got a bit caught up in the heat of it all. I’m going to act preemptively: I’ll breathe slowly, count to 10, and play nicer when I return.

  338. 338
    Nakashima says:

    Mr StephenB,

    1: Premise: For all impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed, none can begin to exist.

    We agree this is true

    No, I didn’t agree with this back in the Shermer thread, and I still do not. I thought your comments above that time had a beginning wsa going to swing you around to my point of view.

    I’m quite happy with all or most of the laws of nature being set at the Big Bang, t=0. What’s wrong with that?

  339. 339
    StephenB says:

    —David: “I see from my previous comments that I got a bit caught up in the heat of it all. I’m going to act preemptively: I’ll breathe slowly, count to 10, and play nicer when I return.”

    I will try to do the same.

  340. 340
    StephenB says:

    1: Premise: For all impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed, none can begin to exist.

    We agree this is true

    2. All effects that have always existed could not have begun to exist

    We agree this is true

    3. Therefore: All impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed could not have begun to exist. [Follows from one]

    We agree this is true.

    4: Therefore, no effect can begin to exist if its impersonal, unchanging cause always was.

    We agree that this follows, and is therefore true.

    Step 5: Therefore: No impersonal, unchanging cause can begin to exist if its effect always was.

    Can we also agree that this proposition follows from the others.

  341. 341
    David Kellogg says:

    Steps 4 and 5 are both tautological. Neither follows from anything other than their own definitions. The only nontrivial things about either statement are assumed (“impersonal,” “unchanging,” “begin to exist”).

    When you have time, you might want to deal with my [323].

  342. 342
    David Kellogg says:

    To clarify: I have not said that any of these statements follow from any other. Each one is either a premise or a restatement of a premise.

  343. 343
    StephenB says:

    1: Premise: For all impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed, none can begin to exist.

    We agree this is true

    2. All effects that have always existed could not have begun to exist

    We agree this is true

    3. Therefore: All impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed could not have begun to exist. [Follows from one]

    We agree this is true.

    4: Therefore, no effect can begin to exist if its impersonal, unchanging cause always was.

    We agree that this follows, and is therefore true.

    Step 5: Therefore: No impersonal, unchanging cause can begin to exist if its effect always was.

    We agree that this is true. [Your protest “true by definition” duly noted]

    Step 6: Therefore, no impersonal, unchanging cause can exist without its effect.

    So far, so good?

  344. 344
    David Kellogg says:

    Good? No. All my previous objections hold. Step 6 is an equally tautological and trivial premise. Everything interesting about it is smuggled in.

  345. 345
    David Kellogg says:

    With its tautology and triviality noted, I’ll grant Premise #6.

  346. 346
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “To clarify: I have not said that any of these statements follow from any other. Each one is either a premise or a restatement of a premise.”

    Since we agree that the premise is true, [or obviously true, or boringly true, or tautologically true, or (insert your own dismissive adverb] any proposition that restates it accurately will also be true.

  347. 347
    StephenB says:

    1: Premise: For all impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed, none can begin in time.

    2. Therefore: All effects that have always existed could not have begun to exist

    3. Therefore: All impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed could not have begun to exist.

    4: Therefore, no effect can begin to exist if its impersonal, unchanging cause always was.

    5: Therefore: No impersonal, unchanging cause can begin to exist if its effect always was.

    6: Therefore, no impersonal, unchanging cause can exist without its effect.

    (Accepted as “trvially” and “tautologically” true)

    7: Therefore, no effect can exist without its impersonal, unchanging cause.

    Are we OK on #7

  348. 348
    David Kellogg says:

    Obviously not. Why does an effect need an impersonal, unchanging cause? That makes no sense.

  349. 349
    David Kellogg says:

    You keep going back to the discarded version of Premise 1.

    I submit that my argument in [323] above makes all these premises nonsensical.

  350. 350
    David Kellogg says:

    Example: “For all impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed [in the universe], none can begin to exist [in the universe].”

  351. 351
    StephenB says:

    —David: “Further correction: “in time” was not a typo.”

    It really was a typo this time. Last time I used it purposefully, but you wouldn’t accept the premise so I changed it to something that you could relate to. I was trying to be flexible.

    —-“It was a restatement in the earlier thread based on the smackdown I gave the earlier version.”

    It wasn’t a “smackdown.” It was an attempt to find a premise that you would not forever evade.

    It could have used the concept of “time” in my premise just as easily, but I preferred to go with a premise that you would not fuss over unduly. Now, I like the premise phrased as [begin to exist]. I would not have revisited the “in time” phrase except as a typo, just as I said.

  352. 352
    Diffaxial says:

    Since we agree that the premise is true, [or obviously true, or boringly true, or tautologically true, or (insert your own dismissive adverb] any proposition that restates it accurately will also be true.

    Not quite. Any accurate restatement of such a proposition will also be tautologically, trivially true. Similarly, any conclusions you draw from tautologically true statements will have themselves, at best, been shown to be trivially true, only. Such conclusions are true only in the sense that they emerge from a word game that otherwise has no merit in denoting things that are true about the world, whether physical or metaphysical. Therefore “tautological” is not telling because it is dismissive; it is telling because it accurately denotes a fatal defect in your argument, to the extent that your argument purports to denote something physically or metaphysically true outside of itself.

    “Boringly true” and “obviously true” do not equate to tautologically true. Whereas many “obvious” propositions correctly pick out a feature of the world, tautologies are not “obviously” true in that sense, because their contents have no referents in the world.

  353. 353
    StephenB says:

    7: Therefore, no effect can exist without its impersonal, unchanging cause.

    —-Obviously not.

    Why does an effect need an impersonal, unchanging cause? That makes no sense.

    The phrase reads, “no effect can exist without ITS impersonal, unchanging cause.”

    Are you saying than an effect CAN exist without its impersonal, unchanging cause?

  354. 354
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “Obviously, not. Why does an effect need an impersonal, unchanging cause? That makes no sense.”

    The phrase reads, “no effect can exist without ITS impersonal, unchanging cause.”

    Are you saying than an effect CAN exist without its impersonal, unchanging cause?

  355. 355
    David Kellogg says:

    Are you saying that all effects need impersonal, unchanging causes? I doubt it.

  356. 356
    David Kellogg says:

    That is: ALL effects? Or SOME effects?

  357. 357
    StephenB says:

    —Diffaxial: “Not quite. Any accurate restatement of such a proposition will also be tautologically, trivially true. –Similarly, any conclusions you draw from tautologically true statements will have themselves, at best, been shown to be trivially true, only. Such conclusions are true only in the sense that they emerge from a word game that otherwise has no merit in denoting things that are true about the world, whether physical or metaphysical.”

    First of all, something is either true or false. Second, whether or not a truth is “trivial” depends solely on its implications and how it is to be used. Your comments are, therefore, more rhetorical than philosophical.

    Even at that, the argument does not realy solely on abstract reasoning. It also includes information about the real world at Step 9. That is why the argument works. It is based both on reason and knowledge of the real world.

  358. 358
    David Kellogg says:

    Premises 4 and 7 contradict each other.

  359. 359
    David Kellogg says:

    In premise 7, every effect needs an “impersonal, unchanging cause.” In premise 4, no effect can have an “impersonal, unchanging cause.”

  360. 360
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “Are you saying that all effects need impersonal, unchanging causes? I doubt it.”

    No, I am saying that if an effect is the result of an impersonal, unchanging cause, it cannot exist without that cause.

    The phrase reads, “no effect can exist without ITS impersonal, unchanging cause.”

    True or false.

  361. 361
    David Kellogg says:

    If you mean “no effect of an impersonal, unchanging cause can exist without that cause,” that’s also trivially, tautologically true — and I mean that philosophically, not rhetorically. Adn like the others, it follows from no previous statement but merely from its own tautological nature.

  362. 362
    David Kellogg says:

    So far you have offered seven premises that are either tautological or ill-formed (when they become well-phrased they also become tautological). The only non-trivial (in the philosophical sense) features of these premises continue to be found in terms such as “impersonal,” “changeless,” “come to exist,” “cause,” and “effect” that are both important and undefined.

  363. 363
    hazel says:

    Hey Stephen, is it also true that “for all personal, unchanging causes that have always existed, none can begin in time”?

    And, is it true that in fact “for all things of any kind whatsoever that have always existed, none can begin in time”?

    I’m curious what is special about “impersonal cause” in your premise.

  364. 364
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “In premise 7, every effect needs an “impersonal, unchanging cause.”

    Not at all. We are talking only about those effects associated with impersonal, unchanging causes.

    —-In premise 4, no effect can have an “impersonal, unchanging cause.”

    Not even close.

    Let’s quit and allow others to comment on this or something else. We are taking up too much space.

    If you will not follow up with a commentary on why my argument doesn’t work, I will not follow up with a commentary on your capacity to follow it. OK?

  365. 365
    StephenB says:

    For anyone who cares, here it is again.

    1: Premise: For all impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed, none can begin to exist.

    2. All effects that have always existed could not have begun to exist

    3. Therefore: All impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed could not have begun to exist.

    4: Therefore, no effect can begin to exist if its impersonal, unchanging cause always was.

    5: Therefore: No impersonal, unchanging cause can begin to exist if its effect always was.

    6: Therefore, no impersonal, unchanging cause can exist without its effect.

    7: Therefore, no effect can exist without its impersonal, unchanging cause.

    8: Therefore, the impersonal, unchanging law cannot cause the universe to begin to exist.

    9: The universe began to exist.

    10: Therefore, a personal agent caused the universe to begin to exist.

  366. 366
    hazel says:

    Let me be more explicit.

    Statement 1: X has always existed.

    Statement 2. X did not begin in time.

    Is there any X for which one of those statements is true and the other false?

  367. 367
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB, you wrote:

    4: . . . no effect can begin to exist if its impersonal, unchanging cause always was.

    7: . . . no effect can exist without its impersonal, unchanging cause.

    If all impersonal, unchanging causes always existed, then #4 means that no effect can have an impersonal, unchanging cause. Yet if you translate the double negative of #7 into positives, every effect needs an impersonal, unchanging cause.

    I’m following your writing, not your intentions. It’s not my fault if your premises are poorly written. If you mean something else, you should write more clearly.

  368. 368
    David Kellogg says:

    #7 would be reasonable (if trivial) you rewrote it as follows:

    no effect of an impersonal, unchanging cause can exist without that cause

    As you have written it, it’s nonsense, since it implies all effects, whether changing or unchanging.

  369. 369
    StephenB says:

    —-Hazel: “Hey Stephen, is it also true that “for all personal, unchanging causes that have always existed, none can begin in time”?

    It is true that the one unchanging personal cause cannot begin in time. On the other hand, there cannot be multiple personal unchanging causes.

    —“I’m curious what is special about “impersonal cause” in your premise.”

    It represents the atheist alternative to the personal creator, naturally. You know the drill. Atheists assert that an impersonal “law” is responsible for generating the universe. My argument shows that that this is not possible if one assumes that the universe began in time. In other words, once it is conceded that the universe “began to exist,” only a personal agent could have been responsible for it.

  370. 370
    jerry says:

    StephenB,

    I am asking a question and realize I am jumping in late and probably am not really very interested in these philosophical debates. But the idea of time brought up by Hazel’s comment was interesting.

    In some Christian theology there are angels and in some of this there is a fallen angel. And these events are independent of our universe’s existence. Were these events outside of the time associated with our universe? It is my impression that they supposedly were. If so then there is more than one time line in existence because the fallen angels imply a sequence and a beginning for these individuals.

    Now I realize this is hypothetical for some but if in fact there was the creation of angels and then one or more fell and none of this has anything to do with our universe, then is there another time line?

  371. 371
    Diffaxial says:

    First of all, something is either true or false.

    Not so.

    Tautologies cannot be “false,” in the sense that a tautological statement is contradicted by a state of affairs in the world. Tautologies do not denote states of affairs in the world. Rather, they are essentially restatements of the meanings of words. Therefore, in the sense that “true” and “false” denotes a successful or unsuccessful description of a state of affairs in the world, tautologies are neither true nor false. The negation of a tautology is a contradiction in terms – which contradictions have nothing to do with particular states of affairs in the world.

    Second, whether or not a truth is “trivial” depends solely on its implications and how it is to be used.

    Wrong again, Stephen. “Trivial” in this content does not denote the importance of the applications or implications of the tautological statement vis states of affairs in the world. It refers to the ease of determining the “truth” of the tautology, which can be ascertained using a dictionary and does not require observation or inspection of states of affairs in the world. Therefore determination of the “truth” of a tautology is a trivial matter.

  372. 372
    StephenB says:

    —David: “I’m following your writing, not your intentions. It’s not my fault if your premises are poorly written.

    I asked that we quit without commentary. But, since you insist on pushing it, I contend that you simply cannot follow the argument.

    —You write: “#7 would be reasonable (if trivial) you rewrote it as follows:”

    —-no effect of an impersonal, unchanging cause can exist without that cause.

    When I wrote, [#7] “no effect can exist without ITS impersonal, unchanging cause, I was saying exactly the same thing.” Do you not understand the possessive “its?”

    I say you are stonewalling, and I say let others decide. If you want to keep hammering away at the argument, I can keep hammering away at you. Is that what you want?

  373. 373
    hazel says:

    When I wrote, “Hey Stephen, is it also true that “for all personal, unchanging causes that have always existed, none can begin in time”?,

    Stephen responded: “It is true that the one unchanging personal cause cannot begin in time.”

    So, expanding my point: I believe your premise 1, “For all impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed, none can begin to exist,” is equally true of anything, not just impersonal unchanging causes.

    So here is my question, asked two different ways. I am hoping you will respond.

    Premise: “for all things of any kind whatsoever that have always existed, none can begin in time” Is this true or false?

    Or, equivalently

    Statement 1: X has always existed.

    Statement 2. X did not begin in time.

    Is there any X for which one of those statements is true and the other false?

  374. 374
    hazel says:

    Stephen: The following is your argument with “impersonal” replaced with “personal” throughout, and vice versa. As an exercise, at what point does this argument now break down?

    1: Premise: For all personal, unchanging causes that have always existed, none can begin to exist.

    2. All effects that have always existed could not have begun to exist

    3. Therefore: All personal, unchanging causes that have always existed could not have begun to exist.

    4: Therefore, no effect can begin to exist if its personal, unchanging cause always was.

    5: Therefore: No personal, unchanging cause can begin to exist if its effect always was.

    6: Therefore, no personal, unchanging cause can exist without its effect.

    7: Therefore, no effect can exist without its personal, unchanging cause.

    8: Therefore, the personal, unchanging law cannot cause the universe to begin to exist.

    9: The universe began to exist.

    10: Therefore, an impersonal agent caused the universe to begin to exist.

  375. 375
    hazel says:

    I will note that in Stephen’s set of 10 statements, he changes “impersonal cause” to “impersonal law” in step 8, and uses “personal agent” rather than just “personal cause.” Clearly there are a lot of unstated assumptions going on here about just exactly what properties uncaused personal causes have versus uncaused impersonal causes.

  376. 376
    David Kellogg says:

    I understand the possessive its. It’s my field. However, you are not using it correctly, as the possessive as you use it refers to any effect in the sentence. A grammatically equivalent rewrite would be “no effect can exist without that effect’s impersonal, unchanging cause.” Don’t you see how that attributes impersonal and unchanging qualities to all causes of any effect?

  377. 377
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    ———“Your acid-trip narration leads me to believe that you are confused by determinism. Don’t mistake your confusion for the incoherence of the concept itself. It can be difficult to think about determinism, but it is not incoherent. Do you have a particular criticism or question regarding determinism?”

    I have nothing, save what I’ve been determined to think, I think, I think not, you think? Determinism is difficult to think about, because I’m determined not to think about it, you think, I think, we think, determined, thoughts? I’m sorry if I seem incoherent, my determined mind is incoherent, except that no coherence exists, only determined atomic movements, which themselves have no relation to “true or “false”, but have many relations to each other like “distance” and “weight” and “speed”…….or do they? I would never know, for no “I” exists, only “is” is or ever “was” was. Confusion implies that there is something to be known outside and in relation to things considered “right” or “wrong”. But determinism only implies that there is something to be within the torrent of events and have relations between the events like “speed” and “weight” and “distance.” I would love to see the formula for the relationship between these spacial concepts even begin to give the justification for even determinism itself. Does three inches and two pounds moving at 3 miles an hour give determinism its truth? Oh, I’m sorry, it’s actually supposed to be two inches and three pounds moving at nine miles an hour that determines that we’re told that we’re determined in the first place from our material movements. I see now. Makes perfect sense.

  378. 378
    Clive Hayden says:

    beelzebub,

    —–“The point is that an omnipotent God, by definition, can get the message across to any willing recipient.”

    Of course God can. Why are you assuming that God hasn’t? He got the message across to you, you just reject it. You’re the defeater in your own argument. You have the message, and dismiss it. You’re the very example that you claim is supposed to be an impossible thing by your argument. But obviously it’s not impossible, for here you are. You can only fall back on degree. God should make it so overwhelming for me that I cannot chose anything otherwise. In which case you’re wanting more than God is willing to give, but that is not the same as saying that God has given nothing; you’re only saying that God hasn’t given enough in the way of overwhelming evidence to suit you. This is not an argument, this is a stacked deck. In the end, you yourself defeat your own argument.

  379. 379
    David Kellogg says:

    Put another way: the possessive its does not limit the kinds of effects you are talking about. Your sentence says all effects must have an impersonal, unchanging cause — which I think is not what you want to say. The sentence “no effect can exist without its imersonal, unchanging cause” is equivalent to “all effects must have an impersonal, unchanging cause.” Using the possesive its does not affect effect — that is, it does not limit limit effect to “some effects.” Syllogistically, a “no” claim means “none.” Your claim is actually a “some” claim: that is, you’re speaking of “some” effects.

    Look, you’re not being remotely rigorous even in traditional logical terms. I’m sorry if you don’t like that, but that’s the way it is.

  380. 380
    StephenB says:

    —-Hazel: “Stephen: The following is your argument with “impersonal” replaced with “personal” throughout, and vice versa. As an exercise, at what point does this argument now break down?

    Here are the big three:

    —-“6: Therefore, no personal, unchanging cause can exist without its effect.”

    That will not work. An eternal, personal, unchanging cause can indeed exist without its effect. It can choose either to produce the effect or not produce the effect. The impersonal cause, on the other hand, if it is eternal, cannot make that choice. Unlike the personal agent, it cannot exist without its effects.

    —8: Therefore, the personal, unchanging law cannot cause the universe to begin to exist.

    No. A personal, unchanging law is a contradiction in terms. If it is a personal, it is not a law; if it is a law; it is not personal. Laws cannot make choices; they cannot choose to produce effects. They do it by necessity. That is why they are called laws.

    —-10: Therefore, an impersonal agent caused the universe to begin to exist.

    Not possible for reasons already stated. An impersonal agent is a contradiction in terms.

    Also, even if you use the term “eternal, impersonal cause” or “eternal law,” #10 will still not work. An eternal impersonal “cause,” or law, cannot cause the universe to begin to exist because its effect must be eternal as well. An eternal, impersonal cause cannot exist without its effect, nor can its effect exist without it.

  381. 381
    StephenB says:

    —David: “Put another way: the possessive its does not limit the kinds of effects you are talking about. Your sentence says all effects must have an impersonal, unchanging cause — which I think is not what you want to say.”

    You might be able to make that case if #6 did not create the obvious context.

    As stated:

    6: Therefore, no personal, unchanging cause can exist without its effect.

    7: Therefore, no effect can exist without its personal, unchanging cause.

    Clearly the combination of assertions means that we are talking about only those effects that have an unchanging cause. 7 is, after all, the obserse of 6 and follows it with a “therefore, so the context should be evident and it seems redundant to belabor the obvious by using additional words. Now, if #7 was hanging out there all by itself, without context, you could make a case something like you are making.

    Suppose I were to say, [A] “No thunderstorm can exist without its wet street, and [B] no wet street can exist without its thunderstorm,” the point would be clear enough. I would not have to emphasize the point that not all streets are wet.

    Still, in the spirit of moving things along [maybe tomorrow] I will change it, with thanks, to your formulation, which is, “no effect of an impersonal, unchanging cause can exist without that cause.”

    Under the circumstances, will you accept that proposition as true?

  382. 382
    hazel says:

    Good – thanks for the answer Stephen, because it brings a couple of main issues to the forefront.

    You write, “An eternal, personal, unchanging cause can indeed exist without its effect. It can choose either to produce the effect or not produce the effect. The impersonal cause, on the other hand, if it is eternal, cannot make that choice. Unlike the personal agent, it cannot exist without its effects.”

    The first issue is choice. You believe that a personal uncaused cause has the ability to choose to act or not act, and that somehow such choices have no previous causes other than an act of will – they are effects without necessary causes.

    On the other hand, you believe that impersonal causes must immediately produce their effects – they can’t choose to delay an effect.

    I have two problems with these ideas. The first is that in this world we do not know what the true nature of choice is.

    In 7, in response to vj’s opening post, , Beezlebub wrote,

    First, I note that your trichotomy [of Chance, Necessity or Agency] contains the implicit assumption that agency is not due to chance and/or necessity.

    At 55 I responded by writing,

    Given that we don’t know from where our sense of agency comes, it is premature to conclude that agency as a separate type of cause exists. This in fact is a central dispute in the issues we discuss here. Agency, like intelligence and personhood, are aspects of living things that have a long and varied past. However, the fact that we exhibit these qualities does not mean that they are a part of the essential nature of the universe or its parent meta-universe any more than seeing and breathing are.

    So extrapolating from our nature to the nature of the meta-universe is also not necessarily valid.

    Agency may be an effect of necessity and chance, either of purely material forces or materials forces mixed with immaterial forces (such as the Tao or a universal consciousness or spirit which interacts with the material.) It is not necessarily the case that Agency (the ability to choose without any antecedent cause) is a feature of the world, and certainly not necessarily the case that unfettered pure agency is a feature of the metaphysical nature from which our universe came (or in which our universe is embedded.)

    A second, related point is that even if a particular law in a simple situation must produce its effect, a set of laws and related entities which manifest those laws can interact in very complicated ways which produce different effects at different times.

    Using our material world as an example (since argument by analogy from our world seems to be our main way of thinking about the metaphysical), consider, again, hurricanes. They are an occasional effect that arise from the complex cause-and-effect material world when conditions are just right. Similarly, the impersonal set of regularities that might exist could be such that occasionally universe arise within it.

    Of course, there is no way we can know whether this is true or not, but neither can we know whether a personal uncaused cause capable of just choosing to act truly exists.

    My point is that we can’t just “logically” conclude that a personal uncaused cause is responsible for the universe without making unverified or inaccurate assumptions about both the nature of agency and about the limits of necessity and chance can do.

    Since both of those points are in fact at the heart of the disagreement people have about ID, reaching conclusions based on the foundational assumptions of ID is begging the question.

  383. 383
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB [381], I will accept that proposition as trivially true: that is, true by definition. It doesn’t follow from the previous any more than your other statements, but that’s a different matter. (Also, to correct your analogy, the point is not whether all streets are wet, but whether all wet streets are wet by virtue of thunderstorms.)

  384. 384
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “StephenB [381], I will accept that proposition as trivially true: that is, true by definition.”

    You have been planning for quite a while a method for escaping the logic. First, you said that the definition was trivially true, when it is, in fact, a self evident truth. Then, you followed by saying that many of the later points didn’t follow, which they clearly did. Well, let’s see how you do with the last important point:

    8: Therefore, an impersonal, unchanging cause cannot cause the universe to begin to exist.

  385. 385
    StephenB says:

    —Hazel: “Agency may be an effect of necessity and chance, either of purely material forces or materials forces mixed with immaterial forces (such as the Tao or a universal consciousness or spirit which interacts with the material.)”

    OK Hazel. Make your case for the Tao. Tell me why it is reasonable to believe that an impersonal law produced the universe.

  386. 386
    StephenB says:

    —David Kellogg: Asks me do deal with his argument, so let’s examine it now.

    Premise A: All inferences about cause are made within the universe.

    Premise B: The universe is coextensive with itself.

    Conclusion: We make no inferences about the cause of the universe.

    [A] What does “within the universe mean?”

    If I have an immaterial mind, would that be “in” the physical universe even thought it would not be a physical entity.

    [B] What does the universe being “coextensive with itself mean?”

    I need help with that.

    [C] Does your conclusion mean that we do not make inferences about the cause of the universe or that we cannot make inferences about the cause of the universe?

  387. 387
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB [385], when I said the definition was trivially true, I meant that it was tautologically true, that is, true because of the form of the statement, having nothing to do with anything in the world. The later statements 2-7 (the modified 7) are premises, not conclusions drawn from the initial premise. The first few have the same logical and semantic form as the first premise: that is, they are tautological, forms of A = A.

    1. As have always existed = As did not begin. Tautology
    2. Bs have always existed = Bs did not begin. Tautology
    3. As have always existed = As did not begin. Tautology
    4. Bs did not begin if As always existed. Trivial because effects need causes.
    5. As did not begin if Bs always existed. Ditto.
    6. Badly formed.
    7. Badly formed.
    8. The what? You haven’t defined anything here.

  388. 388
    StephenB says:

    David K: @387 Incorrect.

    1=Self evident metaphysical truth

    2=Self evident metaphysical truth

    3-8 follow.

    Meanwhile, please help me out with the restatement of your Argument at 322 as restated at 386.

  389. 389
    kairosfocus says:

    Onlookers:

    First, happy Mother’s Day to all moms out there!

    Now, I think a few comments will be helpful in coming back on track, pardon. (And, Mr Kellogg et al, if that takes a bit more than a quip or two, you may freely exercise your right of scrolling by. Such is your privilege. But, onlookers will draw their own conclusions on where the balance on merits lies.)

    The overnight developments, sadly, document what has gone wrong with the intellectual currents of our civilisation.

    1 –> key observation: the triumph of rhetoric vs serious worldviews discussion on comparative difficulties hampers our ability to come to well warranted worldviews level conclusions.

    2 –> So, we need to refocus on: (i) what are the live option alternatives; (ii) what do they say or imply or assume about the world, us in it and the mind, reason, and morality etc; (ii) how do they compare on factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power [ideally, simple & elegant, not ad hoc but not simplistic either . . . ]

    3 –> In particular, we often overlook in the exchanges of the moment that evolutionary materialist views run into serious difficulties grounding the credibility of mind in knowing and reasoning, and onward choosing so also morality.

    4 –> For, if our minds and morals are wholly produced and controlled by purposeless, blind forces tracing to chance and mechanical necessity acting on matter-energy across time, then our thoughts, claims to now, reasonings, decisions and conclusions are produced and controlled in ways that are unconstrained by truth, warrant or logic. [Cf my summary in 273 – 4 above.]

    5 –> Thus, materialism is self-referentially incoherent; which we should bear in mind as we reflect on arguments raised by advocates of such systems of thought.

    6 –> By contrast, we have every reason to see that we do know credibly and reason in many cases successfully, and to recognise from the basic fact that we qurrel by appealing to mutually recognised binding standards, that we are in fact bound by core morality.

    7 –> Similarly, we must correct: tautologies are often seen as merely verbal statements of equivalence: “a bachelor is an unmarried male” or the like. So, there is a tendency to claim that self-evident truths — a very different thing — are mere tautologies, uninformative about the world in which we exist. But, this is wrong.

    8 –> To see that, we simply need to start from the fact that the claims do not write themselves. that is, they are the product of minded creatures who live in a real world and use language to describe what we experience in our thought life and the world as we encounter it.

    9 –> And to pretend that there is an impassable gulf between the life of the mind and the realities of the world outside our minds is self-referentially incoherent — to claim that we cannot cross that gulf is a claim to know about the real world, which is what is being denied.

    10 –> So, a self evident truth is one that, on understanding what is being said — as minded creatures living in the real world — we see that they are not only true but MUST be so, on pain of absurdity. (For instance, consider from Josiah Royce: Error exists. To attempt to deny is to contradict oneself. Similarly, that finite wholes are more than any of their proper parts, is self evidently so, once we reflect on parts and wholes, recognising that the one cannot be defined without reference to the other; which forces us to resort to our experience of the world and understanding of it.)

    11 –> So, when we see dismissals of the points put by SB, that they are “tautolgies,” we need to note the distinction.

    12 –> For instance, let us now consider:

    [SB:] 1: Premise: For all impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed, none can begin to exist.

    –> arguments must begin from points in common, if they are to have convincing power [not simply “preach to the choir”], so such a premise is being sought.

    –> In particular, it is commonly accepted that we live in a changing universe that credibly began to exist [e.g. in a singularity 13.7 BYA on big bang cosmology], raising the question of an underlying cause that is not contingent.

    –> So, we clarify: that which always was did not begin . . . including that which (for the sake of argument) has causal capacity but – as is stipulated by the other party — is impersonal

    –> at stake: proposed root causes of our cosmos that are of mechanical necessity as opposed to chance or personal character

    –> also, in mind is the alternative concept that there is an underlying quasi-material cosmos, that has by random chance thrown up our own sub-cosmos 13.7 BYA: if such is a chance-dominated entity, it will change; which is specifically being ruled out for this argument. (So, the argument is of restricted scope.)

    –> why: lawlike necessity is not going to vary like that, and that is what has been previously suggested as an alternative ground for the observed universe.

    2. All effects that have always existed could not have begun to exist

    –> Similarly, a clarification: if an effect always was, it did not begin

    3. Therefore: All impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed could not have begun to exist.

    –> Inference from 1, making its implications explicit

    4: Therefore, no effect can begin to exist if its impersonal, unchanging cause always was.

    –> mechanically necessarily acting causes sufficiently capable to be the ground of our observed cosmos would produce an effect as soon as and as long as they are present

    –> In the case being examined, forever.

    5: Therefore: No impersonal, unchanging cause can begin to exist if its effect always was.

    –> Flip side of the coin

    13 –> So far, we see that SB is examining the nature of a mechanically acting cause and its effects, on the observation that once and as long as mechanically necessary and causally sufficient facrtors are present, their effects will be present. (E.g. fuel, heat and oxidiser are each necessary and jointly sufficient for a fire to come into being and/or be sustained. Knock out any one leg and the fire ceases. Absent any one, and the fire does not begin.)

    14 –> Following up the logic, he now in effect asks, what happens when such a cause has the necessary and sufficient factors ALWAYS present? (ANS: on thinking about and understanding the underlying logic of cause-effect, we see that the effect would — and must — be equally always present. [Notice, how I move from a familiar example to the issue of understanding the logic behind it.])

    15 –> This has consequences: mere mechanical necessity that always was is insufficient to ground our cosmos that credibly had a beginning. (That is, we need to ground its contingency in something that can change or be diverse.)

    [ . . . ]

  390. 390
    kairosfocus says:

    16 –> So, we go on:

    6: Therefore, no impersonal, unchanging cause can exist without its effect.

    –> Follows from the above, bearing in mind that we are looking at a particular proposed class of cosmologies

    7: Therefore, no effect can exist without its impersonal, unchanging cause.

    –> Again, follows from above, in the same context of a particular proposed class of cosmologies

    8: Therefore, the impersonal, unchanging law cannot cause the universe to begin to exist.

    –> logical consequence

    9: The universe began to exist.

    –> generally credible fact claim on a large scientific observation base, circa late C20 – early C21

    10: Therefore, a personal agent caused the universe to begin to exist.

    –> I think It would have been better to here pause and address the possibility of an underlying larger quasi-material cosmos as a whole, that acts at random and has thrown out our sub-cosmos, more or less at random. (Including the implications of randomness for the laws of nature of the wider cosmos as a whole.)

    –> To do so, the issue would be now an inference to best explanation, not a logical deduction per generally accepted premises.

    –> In that context, the relevant issue is that we have to effectively posit what Collins calls a universe baking machine; one that varies parameters and/or laws at random in such a way as to “eventually” get to bubbling up our fine-tuned cosmos.

    –> Such a mechanism would boil down to a highly complex programming “super-law” and associated highly organised executing mechanism, which have to be finely tuned — the laws of nature are a complex, tightly interwoven cluster of constraints — and fed with enormous amounts of matter-energy [here generalised from our own cosmos], and enduring for in effect forever

    –> Thus, a universe bakery model with randomness simply displaces the fine-tuning challenge up one step. (and perhaps into an infinite regress . . . )

    –> Worse, if there is randomness at work in the model underlying cosmos, that strongly suggests that another “super-law” is at work: the logical implications of stochastic behaviour of changing systems, i.e. the second law of thermodynamics, statistical form — a law of probability and logic, not of particular dynamics and forms of particles.

    –> And, 2 LOT has an implication: since non-functional states credibly vastly outnumber functionally finetuned ones, there would be a strong trend to ultimate disintegration of any “bakery” that had parts that varied at random; i.e. it is highly doubtful that such a bakery could exist forever: it would most likely find itself varying into a config that would lead it to break down and stop functioning, long before it would throw out so finetuned a cosmos as ours evidently is.

    –> Neither of these is a logically impossible barrier, as per “lucky noise,” just about anything can happen in principle: e.g rocks falling at random down a hillside could just happen to fall into the form: WELCOME TO WALES by chance. (But, such resort begins to raise serious questions on plausibility.)

    –> Also, we know that there is a third well-known causal force; one that creates finetuned, functioning entities without resort to infinite regress or massive miraculous luck: purposeful intelligence.

    –> So, on best explanation: our cosmos is the product of a purposeful intelligence.

    17 –> So, we can see the force of John Leslie’s lone fly on the wall argument:

    . . . the need for such explanations does not depend on any estimate of how many universes would be observer-permitting, out of the entire field of possible universes. Claiming that our universe is ‘fine tuned for observers’, we base our claim on how life’s evolution would apparently have been rendered utterly impossible by comparatively minor alterations in physical force strengths, elementary particle masses and so forth. There is no need for us to ask whether very great alterations in these affairs would have rendered it fully possible once more, let alone whether physical worlds conforming to very different laws could have been observer-permitting without being in any way fine tuned. Here it can be useful to think of a fly on a wall, surrounded by an empty region. A bullet hits the fly Two explanations suggest themselves. Perhaps many bullets are hitting the wall or perhaps a marksman fired the bullet. There is no need to ask whether distant areas of the wall, or other quite different walls, are covered with flies so that more or less any bullet striking there would have hit one. The important point is that the local area contains just the one fly.

    ____________

    GEM of TKI

  391. 391
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Re my: it is highly doubtful that such a bakery could exist forever: it would most likely find itself varying into a config that would lead it to break down and stop functioning, long before it would throw out so finetuned a cosmos as ours evidently is.

    This is of course the heat death thesis of thermodynamics, as applied to a wider quasi-material, energy rich universe as a whole. (For, if random actions and interactions play a significant role, statistical thermodynamics considerations will apply, credibly leading to heat death.)

  392. 392
    hazel says:

    At 385, Stephen says “OK Hazel. Make your case for the Tao. Tell me why it is reasonable to believe that an impersonal law produced the universe.”

    I will comment on this.

    First of all the Tao is not “an impersonal law.” One of Stephen’s misconceptions is the idea that the alternative to a monotheistic God is a single monolithic law. One of the points I’ve made, illustrated by both the universe itself and by vastly simpler games and computer simulations, is that a system of simple constituent parts and relationships between those parts can produce a very complicated, rich and evolving world. All the times I have discussed the idea of a source of the universe different than a personal God I have had such a meta-universe in mind, not some single law whose effect is a universe.

    Secondly, the Tao is neither impersonal nor a law, any more than it is personal and able to choose. The Tao is the One – the source of all such dichotomies: it is both and neither personal and impersonal. To the extent that the Tao can be apprehended at all, it must be apprehended mystically, not analytically: the Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao.

    Which brings me to my third point. For Stephen, showing that it is “reasonable to believe” something seems to involve offering a set of logical statements that start with self-evident truths and lead logically to the conclusion. As I and others have shown, I believe, is that this method is faulty, and is really a matter of embedding his conclusions deeply into his definitions.

    So obviously my idea of how one could show that some metaphysical belief system is “reasonable” is quite different than Stephen’s, and therefore there is no way that what I might offer with satisfy him – he would want some set of logical steps comparable to what he has offered, and I think that approach itself is fundamentally flawed.

    I start with the belief that we can’t really know the nature of the meta-universe – the source from which our universe came and which possibly pervades our universe even now. There are several reasons why I believe this. First, we have no experience of anything other than this universe. Second, our experience of this universe is limited to what is available to us as human beings living, embedded in space and time, on a small planet in one galaxy and engaging in our quest for knowledge for just a few thousand years.

    Our ability to gain the extensive amount of knowledge we do have about the world is based on our ability to use language and think symbolically with language, but this ability presents us with a dilemma: we can ask more questions than we can answer. So from the beginning of modern humans (at least going back 40,000 years) people have had questions about the nature of life, what happens after death, what animates the world, why do things happen as they do in seeming meaningful but coincidental ways?

    Some of these questions we have been able to answer because they were of a kind that empirical investigation could address: we no longer think that Zeus throws lightning bolts during storms. However, other question are not of this sort, and in response to these questions, humans have created religious and metaphysical belief systems: from the most primitive tribe found to the world’s great religions, we have invented explanations for those things we really can’t explain.

    With all that said, here are some of the reasons why I think it is more reasonable to believe in some mystical Oneness like the Tao then I do a personal God.

    There are two parts – some positive reasons for the Tao and then some negative reasons for God. This will be short because I need to go do other things today, but it’s at least a sketch

    First, the basic principle that the Tao brings forth complementary duals seems to fit what I see in the world. The very nature of language moves us to see things in terms of dichotomies, and yet when we explore the world we find genuine dichotomies: matter and anti-matter, positive and negative charges, and so on.

    More importantly, I find the idea of complementary duals a good guide for living: balancing the interplay between complementary but at times competing interests and trying to be in harmony with the complexities of the world is to me a better approach than the absolutist black-and-white approach that I associate with theism.

    I also prefer Taoism better because it supports my belief that there are things we can’t really know, and that we need to avoid being overly seduced by the power of words.

    And there is the whole subject of the true nature of our consciousness and will. I think that Toaism/Buddhism has this more right than Western thought, and I base this belief in part of my own experiences delving into the nature of my experience.

    On the other hand, there are things about the beliefs of theistic religions that strike me as so extremely unlikely that they cast, in my mind, great doubt on the basic idea of a theistic God in general. I can’t believe that a personal would have singled out a small subset of human beings on this planet for special attention and privilege, I can’t believe in the whole idea of a heaven or hell, and especially the idea that where you go depends on whether you believe one thing or another about Jesus. This just all seems to small and petty and provincial to me to have a chance of being true. I much prefer ideas that could span the universe as a whole, and that would play out here no differently than they play out anyplace else in the universe.

    I also object strongly to the idea that has permeated this and other threads that theistic belief in general and Christianity in particular has some logical or evidential superiority. I like that Taoism and Buddhism are not centered on dogmatic divisiveness but rather on one experiencing for oneself the things one needs in order to live well.

    I could say much more about all of these things, and more, but at least this gives some indication of why I find it more reasonable to believe in the types of things put forth by Taoism and Buddhism than I do those put forth by Western monotheism.

  393. 393
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Kairosfocus,

    I’m sorry, but there is no force to Mr Leslie’s analogy. There is no evidence for fine tuning, only evidence against it. Mr Leslie’s analogy required a fly with empty space around it. If there are many flies, the analogy fails. If the gun is held just above the fly, the analogy fails.

    Leslie goes on to say
    Suppose it could be very firmly established that our universe’s expansion speed at very early instants had to be just right, to within one part in a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion, for there to have been any chance that observers would evolve in it; and suppose also that it could be proved that fundamental physics gave absolutely no preference to the speed in question.

    If Mr Leslie actually had evidence for such an idea, I would expect to see a footnote to it. I would expect that he would not need the word ‘suppose’ twice in the same sentence. We have in fact moved on from the time when Mr Leslie wrote that 20 years ago. We can roughly simulate what a different universe, with a different set of laws and a different amount of mass/energy would look like. The results of such simulations and calculations are evidence. Philosophers shooting at flies is not evidence.

  394. 394
    vjtorley says:

    hazel

    Thank you for your defence of Taoism.

    There seems to be a tension in your post between your assertion that “we have no experience of anything other than this universe” and your statement earlier in the same post that “To the extent that the Tao can be apprehended at all, it must be apprehended mystically,” which suggests the possibility of a mystical experience that transcends the bounds of our universe. If you are willing to allow that, then you cannot rule out a priori the possibility of someone having a mystical experience of a personal God.

    You write:

    I can’t believe that a personal would have singled out a small subset of human beings on this planet for special attention and privilege, I can’t believe in the whole idea of a heaven or hell, and especially the idea that where you go depends on whether you believe one thing or another about Jesus. This just all seems to small and petty and provincial to me to have a chance of being true.

    Three comments:

    (1) This is not an argument against a personal God. At most, it is an argument against the Abrahamic religions. Even if one did not believe in any of these religions, one could still believe in a personal God. The following options would still be on the table: Hinduism (some versions of which promote personal devotion to God); Bahaism (which teaches that God can be made known to man through manifestations that have come at various stages of human progress); Zoroastrianism (which teaches that there is one universal and transcendental God, Ahura Mazda, the one Uncreated Creator to whom all worship is ultimately directed); and belief in a personal but hidden God, who has never given a public revelation.

    (2) A benevolent God can single out whomever He/She wishes for certain privileges, so long as God does not judge unfairly those whom He/She has not singled out.

    (3) The idea that “where you go depends on whether you believe one thing or another about Jesus” is not as unreasonable as it sounds, if you allow for the possibility of people having ineffable experiences which convince them of the truth of something (as you evidently do with respect to Taoism). For if there are such experiences, then people may well be moved interiorly, by God’s grace, in ways which they cannot express in words, to believe in God’s revelation – of which Christians believe Jesus to be the culmination.

    Regarding the fate of unbelievers: there is such a thing as inculpable ignorance; God cannot punish anyone for that. I also argued in #204 above, that people may find themselves unable to believe because of their metaphysical baggage: an unquestioned background belief of theirs can prevent them from accepting the Christian revelation. I added that sometimes even good people can be deceived by clever-sounding metaphysical arguments. God knows us better than we know ourselves; we can rest assured that in such cases, God is understanding and merciful. Finally, both inculpable ignorance and intellectual confusion are very different states from wilful hardness of heart against the idea of a loving, personal God. This is a different matter, and it is seriously culpable.

    In any case, we need to recall that properly speaking, God does not send anyone to hell; the only people who go there are those who choose to. As C. S. Lewis put it, the gates of hell are bolted and barred from the inside. God is a respecter of human choices; thus God will not impose salvation upon us against our wishes. God’s respect for human freedom also explains why God does not simply annihilate people in hell; anyone who is there is spiritually hardened to such an extent that he/she would prefer living eternally without God to any other fate (including annihilation).

    Instead of worrying about Hell, let’s think about Heaven, which is what God made us for. Professor Jeffrey Barton Russell’s talk about Heaven is well worth reading. I’ll quote an extract:

    The theme today is that only God–only heaven – can fulfill our existential longing. In the Jewish and Christian traditions, heaven is not dull; it is not static; it is not monochrome. It is an endless dynamic of joy in which one is ever more one’s self as one was meant to be; one increasingly realizes one’s potential in understanding as well as love and is filled more and more with wisdom. It is the discovery, sometimes unexpected, of one’s deepest self. Humans are at their most real in heaven, resting dynamically in the glory of endless and increasing light and brilliance, joy and glory. The opposite of glory is worldly, unredeemed, alienated incompleteness, but glory is the living light of love that pulses in God and in every seeking creature. The glow of glory lights heaven; it unites creator and creatures in a circuit of love. Heaven is a festival combining perfect intensity with perfect peace. It is the home of paradox, where one flies open and free while one is hugged in the arms of the Lover Who does not fail or cease to love.

    Heaven is wherever Christ is. “Going to heaven” or, better, “being in heaven” is being in the presence of Christ, whether one encounters Christ, “sees” him, merges with him, or in a sense becomes him. One is in heaven insofar as one is “in” Christ.

    Heaven is an agape, a love feast. Whenever less than the whole world is loved, with all the creatures in it, whenever anyone or anything is excluded from love, the result is isolation and retreat from heaven. Heaven is the community of those whom God loves and who love God. All retain their personal characters, but woven together in perfect charity, so that in God’s generous embrace each person among the millions whom God loves loves each other person among the millions whom God loves.

    Who, I ask, would say no to a vision like this, unless they found it intellectually incredible? I have to say that while there can be legitimate disagreement between sincere seekers of truth as to the strength of the various arguments for a personal God, no-one has mounted even a half-way convincing philosophical demonstration that belief in a personal God does not make sense.

    I’ll have more to say about the arguments for a personal God shortly, as I have formed my own conclusions about which ones work and which ones don’t, when arguing with skeptics. However, I have to say that none of the skeptical comments I have read on this thread have weakened my faith in a personal God, or in Heaven.

  395. 395
    riddick says:

    Hazel, at #392:

    “Some of these questions we have been able to answer because they were of a kind that empirical investigation could address: we no longer think that Zeus throws lightning bolts during storms. However, other question are not of this sort, and in response to these questions, humans have created religious and metaphysical belief systems: from the most primitive tribe found to the world’s great religions, we have invented explanations for those things we really can’t explain.”

    Thank you, Hazel, for reminding me of one of my favorite books, Socrates Meets Jesus, by Peter Kreeft. In Chapter 5 (Are Miracles Unscientific?), Socrates is having a conversation with Professor Flatland after attending Flatland’s course, Science and Religion.

    Socrates: You can’t point to a single scientific discovery that disproves miracles? And yet you say science has disproved miracles?

    Flatland: It is more than any one discovery. It is the whole scientific attitude, the whole scientific climate of opinion…

    Socrates: I thought we were beyond a mere change in opinions. Aren’t we now regressing back to the silly argument that you repudiated? I thought science dealt with specific facts and proofs and and experiments and discoveries.

    Flatland: It does.

    Socrates: Then please tell me which ones have disproved miracles. To begin with, which science?

    Flatland: Science itself.

    Socrates: With a capital S?

    Flatland: Yes, if you will.

    Socrates: I do not will that. It sounds more like religion than science to me.

    Flatland: Socrates, let me try to explain. People used to believe in miracles only because they didn’t know the true scientific explanations for natural events. Now that we know them, there’s no need to believe in miracles anymore. For instance, people in your culture believed in an angry god they called Zeus who hurled down thunderbolts from the sky, didn’t they?

    Socrates: Some did, yes.

    Flatland: And that was only because they didn’t know about electrical energy. Now that we know what really makes lightning, no one believes in Zeus anymore. People used to think diseases were caused by demons, until they discovered germs. People used to think the sun was a god, until astronomy discovered that it was a gas.

    Socrates: So no one believes in the gods anymore?
    Flatland: Not those gods, the gods of natural phenomena.

    Socrates: I don’t see why not. I don’t see how your science has refuted them. I don’t see why some people couldn’t believe in both your science and our gods. For instance, take Zeus. Now if I were Zeus, I might well use electrical energy to cast down my thunderbolts. And if I were a demon, I might well use germs to cause diseases. And as for the sun…

    Flatland: Are you serious?

    Socrates: Certainly. Why not?

    Flatland: This is ridiculous, especially for you, you who are to supposed to be a rational philosopher.

    Socrates: Why?

    Flatland: We just don’t need the gods anymore to explain nature.

    Socrates: And therefore the gods do not exist? I don’t see how that logically follows.

    Flatland: Look here. Take Apollo. Apollo was an early symbol for the sun. We no longer need that symbol; we just refer to the sun itself.

    Socrates: Are you sure it wasn’t the other way round? Are you sure early man didn’t see the sun as a symbol for Apollo?

    Flatland: But we know what the sun is. It’s not a god; it’s a gas, a ball of fire.

    Socrates: Gas may be what the sun is made of. But what it is, now, that’s another question, isn’t it? If the sun were a god couldn’t his body be made of gas or fire? Perhaps what we see is not is not Apollo himself but his body, or his chariot.

    Flatland: I see. You’re using Aristotle’s distinction between formal and material causes.

    Socrates: Call it what you will, the distinction is necessary, is it not? A poem, for instance, may be made of words, but it’s made into a poem, it is a poem, and not just words, is it not? And you, Professor, are you made of flesh and bones, or are you flesh and bones?

  396. 396
    hazel says:

    Hi vj.

    You write, “hazel, thank you for your defence of Taoism.”

    I wouldn’t call what I wrote a “defense” of Taoism as much as some explanation as to why it appeals to me. “Defending” implies something that I think I made clear I don’t believe is possible – that logical or evidential arguments can help us decide which metaphysical belief system is “really true.” Metaphysical belief systems serve a different function than “stating the Truth.” Rather, they provide a personal structure for understanding some of the mysteries and dilemmas about ourself, and we judge them on their truth to us as a guide to living, not a truth about the universe.

    Which lead to …

    vj writes,

    There seems to be a tension in your post between your assertion that “we have no experience of anything other than this universe” and your statement earlier in the same post that “To the extent that the Tao can be apprehended at all, it must be apprehended mystically,” which suggests the possibility of a mystical experience that transcends the bounds of our universe. If you are willing to allow that, then you cannot rule out a priori the possibility of someone having a mystical experience of a personal God.

    Good observation, but no, I don’t believe we can have a mystical or revelatory experience of the the metaphysical nature of the universe, be it God or otherwise. What I do believe is we can have profound experiences, vastly different than our everyday experience, of how we perceive the universe: one of those can be a sense of the overwhelmingly Oneness of the world, and another can be of the nature of Personhood and our relationship to human beings as a whole. However, these are experiences in this world, not experiences of something outside this world. I don’t believe in a transcendent reality that is nevertheless capable of being experienced by us. We are grounded in this universe, and that’s it. That’s what I believe.

    When I wrote that I couldn’t believe in some particular aspects of Christianity, you replied, correctly, that “This is not an argument against a personal God. At most, it is an argument against the Abrahamic religions. Even if one did not believe in any of these religions, one could still believe in a personal God.”

    I agree with this, and I can understand people choosing to believe in such a personal God – a universal spirit or embodiment of pure consciousness, perhaps. However, as soon as people starting make assertions about the nature of such a God, I would say that crossed over the line to invented religious belief.

    Actually, I should make clear that I have a lot of respect for various aspects of religion: the emphasis on addressing the great mysteries and dilemmas of life, the community, the power of rituals to help us feel deeply, etc. are all an important part of human society. On the other hand, I support each person’s right to search for the religion of their choice, or to have no religion at all. And I personally think some metaphysical belief systems (religious and otherwise) are better than others, from my point of view (which is the only perspective I have), and am interested, obviously, in advocating for some positions and arguing against the value of others.

  397. 397
    Oramus says:

    Hazel,

    Your comment to StephenB @392 brings to mind Thomas Merton. Have you heard of him?

    He sees similaries between the mystical aspects of the Tao, Zen Budhhism, Hinduism and the mystical experiences of the Desert Fathers.

    Here’s a link if your interested:

    http://www.merton.org

  398. 398
    vjtorley says:

    The topic of this thread is “Is Belief in God Reasonable?” and in particular: are there any cogent grounds for believing in a personal God?

    Before I offer my own comments on the arguments, I’d like to observe that the worth of a theological argument depends, among other things, on whom it is directed at. If I met a person with no philosophical training, who was open to the idea of God, and who was genuinely curious about religion, but had never thought about it much, I could not do better than recommend Peter Kreeft’s Twenty Arguments for the Existence of God , taken from the Handbook of Christian Apologetics at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obi.....iciapet-20 by Peter Kreeft and Fr. Ronald Tacelli, S.J. (Intervarsity Press, 1994. Yet if I used those arguments on this thread, I am sure that their impact on skeptics would be precisely zero. Most of the skeptics posting on this thread are highly intelligent people, who are well able to spot logical gaps in argumentation.

    That does not mean Kreeft’s 20 arguments are bad arguments; it simply means that they cannot be used in their homespun, unvarnished form when engaging in intellectually rigorous philosophical debates. Most popular arguments for God are like many paintings in art galleries: in order to truly appreciate them, it is best not to stand too close to them, but to step back and absorb the big picture. They have a powerful suasive appeal for seekers of truth who have no intellectual resistance to the idea of God, but they are not compelling.

    It is a sad fact that many people do find the idea of God uncongenial, for intellectual reasons (e.g. Occam’s razor, or a prior commitment to metaphysical naturalism), or for emotional reasons (e.g. the problem of suffering, or Sartre’s dislike of being continually watched by an all-seeing Deity). Still others profess to be utterly unable to make sense of the idea of God (e.g. logical positivists). For these people, the concept of God is vacuous – “not even wrong.” Finally, there are others who believe in an Ultimate Explanation with various Godlike characteristics, but not a personal Deity (e.g. Jains and Theravada Buddhists, who profess atheism but who also believe in a universe where what goes around comes around).

    It is therefore to identify your target audience when engaging in dialogue with a non-believer. It is also important to know when to quit flogging a dead horse.

    At the beginning of this thread, I put forward five arguments for a personal Deity. I did not indicate what I thought of these arguments; I merely said that they were “the main lines of argument that have been adduced for believing in a personal God.” As it happens, I think that some of these arguments are stronger than others. Some are also a lot more useful than others when arguing with intelligent skeptics.

    So without further ado, here are my verdicts on the five arguments I put forward, as well as supplementary arguments that have been mentioned on this thread.

    1. Chance, Necessity or Agency?
    My verdict on the argument’s usefulness when arguing with intelligent skeptics: Almost zero, on its own.

    I had of course anticipated that skeptics would reject the trichotomy – people don’t like being pushed into intellectual corners – but I didn’t anticipate the line of counter-attack that they used. I had expected responses along the lines of: “How do you know there isn’t a fourth category?” Instead, the rebuttal was along the lines of: “How do you know that agency itself can’t be explained in terms of a combination of chance and necessity?” In other words, doesn’t the trichotomy itself beg the question about agency as an irreducible category?

    Responding to this objection means that a believer has to totally discredit a materialist account of mind before he/she can make a case for a personal Deity. And yet, one thing I have learned from this exchange is that discrediting a materialist account of mind is a surprisingly hard thing to do.

    2. The Immateriality of the Necessary Being

    My verdict on the argument’s usefulness when arguing with intelligent skeptics: Don’t bother.

    This argument was a kind of rehash of St. Thomas Aquinas’ argument for attributing knowledge to God. For Aqinas, “the immateriality of a thing is the reason why it is cognitive” (Summa Theologica, I, q. 14, art. 1) – an assertion that flies in the face of modern thinking. For Aquinas, it was abundantly clear that concepts, which abstract from individual particulars, could not possibly be material, as material objects and their states have an irreducible “this”-ness about them. Yet in advancing this argument, I was fully aware that skeptics had a comeback: computers are physical devices, yet they can do abstract logic. I was prepared for that: computers, as even materialists like Searle acknowledge, possess a merely derived intentionality rather than an intrinsic intentionality, which means that they don’t really have concepts that are “about” anything.

    But there was something else about the argument that made me a little leery of advancing it too forcefully: the fact that Aquinas claimed to deduce God’s intelligence from His immateriality and simplicity – as if these attributes were somehow more fundamental than God’s knowledge and love. The enterprise of rigorously arguing from “X is immaterial” to “X is intelligent” looked like a formidable undertaking – and I was not wrong.

    Almost immediately, Beelzebub raised an objection about Platonic Forms, which are immaterial but not intelligent. I tightened the argument:

    Anything immaterial that is capable of performing an operation is intelligent, because its properties – and hence its modus operandi – are purely formal and not material.

    Still, this is hardly a knockdown argument, and it probably wouldn’t convince a modern skeptic.

    3. The Argument from Design

    My verdict on the argument’s usefulness when arguing with intelligent skeptics: Forget about fine-tuning; instead, highlight the unexpected beauty of the laws of nature. Biological design certainly points to a Designer; but that Designer could be any non-terrestrial agent.

    Nakashima’s comments on this thread regarding the impossibility of estimating the probability of a universe hospitablle to life arising by chance – even given the apparent fine tuning of the cosmological constant – coupled with his refutation of physicist John Leslie’s “fly on the wall” analogy in #393, have convinced me that pointing to fine-tuning when arguing with an intelligent skeptic is like flogging a dead horse. The skeptic can indeed highlight how much we do not know.

    On the other hand, Robin Collins’ argument that even if the multiverse were real, the astonishing beauty of the laws of physics was an unexpected bonus. A priori, there is no reason why life-friendly universes should have to be beautiful; but this is precisely what we should expect if our life-friendly universe was designed by a super-intelligent Deity. In other words, physics can uncover the mind of God.

    For the details of Robin Collins’ argument from beauty, I refer readers to my post at #53 above, and to Robin Collins’ paper, Design and the ManyWorlds Hypothesis . I would also advise skeptics to carefully read Collins’ responses to common objections to his “Argument from Beauty”, before diving into the Wikipedia article on the same subject, which is rather shallow and unsophisticated.

    At the same time, I would acknowledge that beauty alone cannot take us to a personal God. One could always argue that the universe is inherently beautiful, without having to be the product of a personal Deity – I take it this is something like Hazel’s position. Essentially, this line of argument attributes a “Godlike” property (beauty) to the cosmos, but that does automatically not render the argument invalid. Still, I would find it intellectually unsatisfying if someone told me, “Beauty just is. Get used to it.” I’d still want to ask: “But why?” And I’d feel a lot more satisfied if someone asked me to believe in a Mind that just is, instead – provided I was willing to accept the notion of an immaterial mind, of course.

    But to convincingly rebut the “Beauty just is” proposal, I think we need to discover evidence that our universe was created by some sort of program, using some kind of cosmic code. I have expanded on this hypothesis on Denyse O’Leary’s Multiverse thread at http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-317249 (comment #51).

    Where did I get this crazy idea? Well, Perry Marshall’s argument that codes, unlike patterns, cann only come from a Designer (see his Atheist’s Riddle ; Intelligent Evolution Quick Guide ; and If You Can Read This, I Can Prove That God Exists ) certainly helped to crystallize my ideas, but what sparked them in the first place was the article, Astonishing Complexity of DNA Demolishes neo-Darwinism by Alex Case. The two key ideas I got out of the paper were that the coding in DNA was orders of magnitude smarter than anything we could create, and that meta-information in DNA had to be the work of an Intelligence.

    However, to prove that the cosmos has a Designer, we need to find features like these writ on the cosms at large – and probably outside space and time itself. Hence, my quest for the Holy Code.

    For the time being, the argument from the beauty of the laws of physics is highly suggestive; but much investigative work remains to be done.

    4. The Intelligibility of the Cosmos

    Paraphrasing Einstein, the most peculiar thing about the cosmos is that is it comprehensible. Actually, there is a two-fold wonder here: the fact that reality is intelligible; and the fact that we possess minds that can grasp it.

    My verdict on the argument’s usefulness when arguing with intelligent skeptics: It won’t work on someone who thinks that evolution shaped the way our minds work, and who accepts as a brute fact that the universe has the laws it has.

    Skeptics of this kind are apt to retort that if we didn’t find reality intelligible, we would probably be extinct by now, and that in any case, our mere ability to imagine universes far less mind-friendly than the one we live in doesn’t mean that they are ontologically possible – all it proves is that they are logically possible.

    The only way to rebut these objections is to show that at a deep level, discovering the beauty of the law of physics is a wholly unexpected bonus, which has nothing to do with success in hunting gazelles: a mind that evolved to do the latter should not expect to be able to accomplish the former. This boils down to the argument from the beauty of the laws of nature, which I discussed in part 3 above, as evidence of a Designer.

    5. The Argument from the Reliability of Thought

    My verdict on the argument’s usefulness when arguing with intelligent skeptics: It won’t work on someone who adheres to a purely pragmatic account of truth.

    I was shocked to discover, on reading Allen MacNeill’s post at #164, that many skeptics do just that. I really had no idea. I thought that they believed in objective truth as I do, and as, say, an Aristotelian atheist like Ayn Rand (whom I deeply respect) did. What made me assume that was the vehemence with which skeptics tend to attack ID: surely they believe, I naively thought, that it is False with a capital F. Not so: they just see it as profoundly unfruitful, because they can’t think of any good experiments to do, in order to test it. Well, I guess it’s our job to disabuse them of that notion.

    Is there anything we can do to undermine the pragmatic account of truth when reasoning with skeptics? Well, this article on Truth in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy might ba a good place to start looking. It certainly shows that pragmatism has some serious problems.

    In passing, I would also like to thank kairosfocus for this brilliant quote from Victor Reppert, which exposes the inadequacy of materialist accounts of reasoning:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

    Other comments I’d like to make

    StephenB’s argument for a personal Deity was intriguing (sorry I was out of town while the discussion was raging at its fiercest), but a really determined skeptic could deny it. What the argument demonstrates is that if a cause is necessary and sufficient for its effect, the cause can never exist with the effect, and vice versa. The fact that the universe began to exist, however, does not demonstrate that the cause ever existed without it. For instance, a skeptic could suggest that the cause might be both timeless and impersonal. If the skeptic adheres to a B-theory of time, then a timeless Necessary Cause shouldn’t cause him/her too much metaphysical discomfort.

    On the other hand, it is hard to conceive of what this timeless impersonal cause might be. As StephenB, kairosfocus and others argued, the notion that a law as such could cause anything is philosophically absurd: one might as well say that the number 2 causes things.

    On the skeptical side, much was made of the fact that most NAS members are atheists. Really, that’s making a mountain out of a molehill. We’re talking about one country (whose citizens comprise less than 5% of humanity) at one particular interval of time (the 20th and early 21st century). Who knows what things will be like in 100 years? There’s a good chance most scientists will be Muslims by then, if demographic trends continue.

    Another skeptical argument which wasted far too much philosophical ink was the possibility of an immaterial Mind’s being deceived by a malevolent Deity. But that argument works equally well against materialism: a malevolent Deity could mess with a material mind too, if it wanted. Thus the argument proves nothing either way.

    I was, however, intrigued by Beelzebub’s bold attempt to turn the tables on the immaterialists and argue that a material mind was more likely to reason correctly, as it had been shaped by natural selection, which would tend to eliminate minds prone to making mistaken inferences. That argument works perfectly well if you accept that a pragmatic theory of truth is universally valid, or even valid for most of the statements we call true; but as someone who believes that truth is objective, I’d say it covers a relatively tiny portion of scientific truths, no historical truths, no philosophical truths and no religious truths. That’s why pragmatism cuts no ice with me.

    Well, I’ve tried to be as fair as I can in my summing up. Must rush; work calls (job #2 out of 3 for today). It has been a pleasure exchanging views with you all.

  399. 399
    SpitfireIXA says:

    Would someone please post something so that I can be the 400th post?

  400. 400
    SpitfireIXA says:

    Thank you Spitfire, that was most gracious of you.

  401. 401
    SpitfireIXA says:

    Thanks for the roundup, V. One note. You said in several ways and places:

    But a really determined skeptic could deny it.

    A determined skeptic can deny anything. Ask Hume. So I don’t believe that the ability of a skeptic to deny an argument is an argument against it.

  402. 402
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Vjtorley,

    Thank you, that was an excellent summary of a very long thread, and I think you did a great job of being fair to all participants. Due to my own limitations, I did not try to participate in all aspects of the discussion.

    I agree with you that the skeptical response to your arguments 3 and 4 really boils down to the same thing. Our concept of beauty is an evolved thing, as much as any other part of our mind, so says the evo-psych crowd, especially if some aspect of beauty is a “universal”. So it is quite obvious, even necessary, that we should so much of nature beautiful, that we find symmetry beautiful, whether physical or abstract. On the other hand, industrial environments are brutalizing by definition, by their violation of everything we find beautiful in nature.
    Sadly, the physics that describes the world far from our everyday experience can fail our intuition that the correct explanation is the beautiful one. Many beautiful theories have died, and Quantum Mechanics lives! 🙂

    I hope you have felt as much reward for posing the arguments that structured this thread, as I have for participating in it. My ultimate position on the ‘meta-issue’ of these kind of arguments is something I stated in the Shermer thread. God, to really be God, has to be an axiom, not a derived theorem. Therefore arguments to the God-hood ultimately fail and should fail, for believer and skeptic alike.

    Thank you, again.

  403. 403
    kairosfocus says:

    Nakashima-San:

    Pardon, a preliminary remark; but I find your remark at 393 surprisingly disengaged from and dismissive of a key body of evidence that has been accessible to this thread. I consider that that body of evidence should have been engaged as a whole before concluding, rather than the sort of remarks I see at 393 above. [And onlookers, the Wikipedia article on finetuning is suspiciously thin on the pro-finetuning side, while making dismissive remarks about ID advocates and “other creationists.” That should tell us a lot about what is going on; esp. if we contrast Wiki’s discussion on the closely related Anthropic Principle.])

    In very brief compass:

    1 –> There is a reason why a significant number of physicists concerned with cosmology — including first rank physicists such as Sir Fred Hoyle — have taken finetuning and the related Anthropic principle[s] quite seriously as an question over the past six decades. Similarly, a part of the motivation for the commonly discussed multiverse idea has been to account for the apparent finetuning without its being “real.” (That is, on its face, the idea/assertion that there is “no evidence” is not credible. [Cf e.g. my short summary here; note the brief points on typical objections.])

    2 –> For a useful wider survey of that evidence and issues connected thereto, I — again — suggest you look at Mr Collins’ remarks here and here, the latter being on what finetuning means. (I think these are a good point of departure for a more substantial discussion that rises above the level of oh “there is a model of the fine structure constant that on =/- 25% would still allow formation of stars.” Yes, but of what type, what lifespans — i.e. how would that affect the HR framework — and in what sort of cosmos; including impacts on galaxy formation, galactic habitable zones [basically, only certain bands on fringes of spiral galaxy arms make for “good” life sites on chemicals availability and on relative stability form major stellar events] and on the lifespan of circumstellar habitable zones; thence implications for the Drake Eqn [cf UD glossary on that] and the great silence debate [linked therefrom]. [Remember, for instance the role of Fluorine as a key life element and its likely formation zone . . .])

    3 –> As to Mr Leslie [who BTW is a serious and well respected figure in this discussion], his remarks are on local isolation of our particular observed cosmos, as can be seen from his remarks as I excerpted; that there are/may be other regions of the metaphorical wall that are carpeted with flies is irrelevant to the issue of hitting the lone fly in this zone, as a hard target.

    4 –> And, since the parable is in the context of a discussion on strong – or at least respectable — evidence of multidimensional local finetuning, you cannot simply arbitrarily change the terms of the discussion to suit your preferences. (That is to set up a strawman and knock it over.)

    5 –> So, I ask first for you to do a brief review of the RANGE of issues and parameters on finetuning and their cumulative force, remembering that the issue is warrant on inference to best explanation, not deductive proof beyond doubt. That is, the terms for science in general.

    6 –> Moreover, I beg to remind us all of the serious epistemological issue Jesus raised in the exchanges recorded in Jn 8: it is possible to be so committed to a particular view of the world that we improperly dismiss and reject corrective truth on it because it differs from what we accept. [So, let us all adopt the stance of critically aware, humble open-mindedness; e.g. as advocated here. VJT above gives a good model. (Later, VJT.)]

    GEM of TKI

  404. 404
    allanius says:

    Some questions for Hazel:

    On “complementary duals”—are you familiar with Ecclesiastes and its “seasons”?

    On “black-and-white approaches”—did you know that Job deconstructs them and Romans abolishes them?

    “I support Taoism because it supports my belief that there are things we can’t really know.” Have you read Job 38? Isaiah 55:9?

    “…true nature of consciousness and will.” What is the Biblical view of these things, and how does it differ from the Tao?

    “I like that Taoism and Buddhism are not centered on dogmatic divisiveness but rather on one experiencing for oneself the things one needs in order to live well.” Have you read Proberbs? Are you familiar with the notion that “the way” is about sacrificing divisiveness (=ego) for the sake of love ? Do you know John 10:10?

    Did you know that the Bible indicates that the way to obtain knowledge of God is through love, not dogmatism? See 1 John 4:7-12, Ephesians 3:14-19.

    Were you aware that the dogmatists were the ones who killed Christ?

  405. 405
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Kairosfocus,

    I think FTA (the Fine Tuning Argument) is a great place for ID to break out into an experimental science. While Miller-Urey type experiments are also quite cheap nowadays, all you need for cosmological FTA experiments is a model and plenty of computer time.

    That would be a way to create evidence. I agree that the level of detail in current simulations of alternate universes is low. That is why I typified the work on stellar formation as a proxy, or a first approximation. By all means, I think it would be great if there was ID funding or Templeton funding for better research in this area.

    However, it has to be recognized that the FTA is something that has moved from analogy, parable, and bignum arguments into the scientific arena. So I will only be really interested in scientific evidence. Otherwise we start wandering about asking silly questions like “If the Marskman is God, what is the fly? How does the fly know the local wall is empty, and what does that mean? Perhaps the universe is really the bullet? Have you ever looked at your hand, I mean really looked at it?”

    If you don’t like how I’ve modified some of the terms of Leslie’s parable, don’t accuse me of creating a strawman. My point was that the original parable itself was a strawman, just one that played to your preferences. The true path forward is to abandon parables in favor of experiment. Do you agree with that, sir?

  406. 406
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB [388], sorry for the late response: I have had some other things to do. Also, I can’t get beyond your contention that premises 1 and 2 (most recently stated in 365) are “self-evident metaphysical truths” rather than tautologies. All I can say is that they are in fact tautologies.

    Since everything that “has always existed” did not “begin to exist” by definition — that’s what it means to have always existed — it doesn’t matter what we plug in to the formula. By your reasoning, the following would be self-evident metaphysical truths:

    * For all Gods that have always existed, none can begin to exist.
    * For all worlds that have always existed, none can begin to exist.
    * For all angels that have always existed, none can begin to exist.
    * For all ducks that have always existed, none can begin to exist.
    * For all Toyotas that have always existed, none can begin to exist.
    * For all thoughts that have always existed, none can begin to exist.
    * For all StephenB’s that have always existed, none can begin to exist.

    Each one of those sentences is tautologically true.

    I can plug any noun at all in the slot because the sentence a tautology.. That’s Philosophy 101.

    The same holds for Premise 2.

  407. 407
    David Kellogg says:

    Correction: “I can plug any noun at all in the slot because the sentence [is] a tautology.”

    Further thought: why does a tautology become a self-evident metaphysical truth when we replace “StephenB” or “pink elephant” with “cause” or “effect”?

  408. 408
    kairosfocus says:

    VJT:

    You have raised a cluster of very interesting themes, deserving of a far more serious and lengthy response than I can raise here. But, absent a more or less summary response, many onlookers would not be motivated to go further,and a survey besides gives us a broad overview that allows cumulative force to have its own impact.

    Pride of place, of course, belongs to:

    1] The issue of Skepticism

    It will not surprise you to know that I think the modern skeptical -relativist stance is in consistently radical form directly and irretrievably self-referentially incoherent. In the form we usually meet it — selective hyperskepticism — is so inconsistently applied across what one tends to accept and what one tends to reject, that it becomes in a more personal sense, self-refuting. (Cf my discussion here.)

    I think that the better balance is to seek a reasonably consistent view that compares strengths and weaknesses across live options, concluding on best current explanation, not “proof” in some idealised sense of perfect certainty. For, we may confidently know many things that we cannot prove beyond all doubt or dispute per premises acceptable to determined skeptics; and in a much broader sphere of momentous decisions, we must decide and act responsibly on the “mere” preponderance of error- and/or gap- prone evidence currently accessible to us.

    On these considerations, in our present context of discussion, I think Locke’s remarks in sect 5 the intro to his Essay on human understanding are yet telling:

    Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 – 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 – 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 – 2, Ac 17, etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 – 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly.

    So, rather than trying to persuade selectively hyperskeptical or radically skeptical skeptics, I rest content to point out the irretrievable incoherence of their view, and instead turn to speak to the reasonably informed, reasonable-minded onlooker seeking to have or hold a reasonable faith.

    2] On chance, necessity and design as observed causal factors:

    I find that something as simple as a repeatedly dropped, tumbling die that comes to rest informs us that the three factors just listed are empirically observable as interacting but distinct factors, and that they are not simply reducible the one to the other:

    i –> it reliably falls by dint of the mechanical forces of gravity, described by natural law.

    ii –> Its uppermost face is highly contingent, i.e. on observably similar initial conditions, it comes to a sharp diversity of outcomes.

    iii –> On the [reasonably] fair die case, that outcome is a matter of a predictable stochastic pattern, i.e it tends to read each of the six faces 1/6 of the time. (It is therefore reasonable to describe such as credibly undirected, stochastic contingency that follows appropriate randomness probability models, i.e chance.)

    iv –> On the loaded die case – and this too is observationally distinguishable — the contingency is credibly DIRECTED by intelligent agents, sometimes manifesting in a moderately biased frequency distribution of outputs, sometimes showing in a functionally specific, desired locking in of particular outcomes with very high relative frequency.

    v –> that functionality also shows that there is usually a context that may show that chance and natural regularities are being harnessed to serve a purpose as well.

    vi –> Thus, that C,N, and D may act, even jointly — but in ways that often can be isolated by aspects — is empirically well established.

    vii –> Just so, it is reasonable that we need not demand settlement of worldview positions before accepting that we may make such an empirical distinction on causal factors as an empirical datum to be explained by worldviews.

    viii –> Similarly, it is clear that there are empirically established, reasonably reliable — and in fact routinely used — signs of intelligence that have a good track record of distinguishing intelligent [D] from non-intelligent or mechanical and/or stochastic [C, N] causes in cases of directly known origin.

    ix –> Also, I find that since we have in effect applied two successive distinctions: hi/lo contingency, stochastic/directed contingency, which have long been observed to cover the range of empirical data, it is those who would propose a fourth category or who would reduce the one to the other two, who have the — hitherto unmet — burden of evidence and warrant.

    x –> In that context, to try to entangle worldview level decision issues that are known to partly depend on the above before accepting the reasonableness of the trichotomy, strikes me as a selectively hyperskeptical, self-refuting exercise. [E.g. we all mutually accept that the posts in this thread are credibly designed by various agents, not lucky noise!]

    3] Arguments TO (then, from) design and the intelligibility of the observed cosmos:

    As we just saw, there are frequently met conditions under which reasonable people infer that certain phenomena are designed, as their best — and often well-warranted — explanation. (The FSCI visible in the linguistic information in posts in this thread is a case in point; as are those irreducibly complex and functional systems that we call “personal computers.”)

    From such empirically well supported signs of intelligence, we may confidently infer that — since the other means of high contingency is not a probabilistically credible answer on the gamut of our observed universe [heard of any PCs being made by tornadoes passing through Dell’s junkyards in Round Rock, Texas?] — such signs point to design even in cases where we have not directly observed designers in the context.

    So, from sign, we may confidently infer to design; from design, we may infer onward to designer[s]. Then, we can construct models for possible suspects and develop onward techniques for identifying the culprit(s).

    So, we can use the empirical ladder to climb up to identifying that otherwise unknown designers were credibly at work; and even to possibly identifying the designers. All, without begging worldview questions, as we ourselves show that intelligent designers are possible in our universe. And we have no good reason to think that we exhaust the set of possibilities for such.

    In that context the astonishing correspondence between our minds and the cosmos is itself a pointer that Mind may be responsible for it.

    Just as, discovering that the DNA-RNA-ribosome-enzyme subsystem of the cell is a digital computer working using symbolic representations of information, points to such design long before we were around; indeed as the premise of observed cell based life. Similarly, to see that the observed cosmos is [locally] fine-tuned on credible cosmology models, through multiple interacting factors and components, that make the sort of life we observe possible, is suggestive of design at the cosmos-generation level.

    4] Reliability, coherence and grounding of thought, consciousness and conscience:

    We all act as though reason works, and that it matters, hugely matters. Similarly, for the binding nature of core moral principles such as fairness.

    So, when I see worldviews that cannot ground such, or are self-referentially incoherent — we all must think and all make moral judgements — I find the views in question fatally weakened.

    In the case of the idea that all truth is a matter of “it works” — succeeds empirically and/or by promoting reproductive advantage — I simply observe that these are not criteria of “saying of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not.” (Many known false models work fine, thank you. Just ask your friendly local engineer. Or, the ghosts of say Newton, Einstein and Planck on the status of classical physics circa 1680 – 1930.)

    And, so, what is advantageous in terms of power or reproductive success, is not at all equivalent to what is true either. (Plantinga has a whole argument on that, too, but the above is enough to show why to the reasonable onlooker.)

    As to the equating of mind and brain, Reppert has said something that such neurological materialists need to thing over, very, very carefully. (The ghost of Sir Francis Crick nods in post-humus agreement.)

    As to morality, it is notorious that the right and the powerful are often — sometimes, usually — found in opposition to each other. As Lord Acton said: “Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely; great men are bad men.”)

    ________________

    And, I too have to now go out for the day.

    GEM of TKI

  409. 409
    David Kellogg says:

    kairosfocus, I would gladly accept your invitation [389] to “exercise [my] right of scrolling by.” Your routine distractions about the alleged self-referential incoherence of materialism are duly noted.

    Still, to respond to the (small) part of your arguments that are relevant to StephenB’s argument, I would like to ask you about the difference between his version of premise 1 and my variations above.

    You say that a self-evident truth “is one that, on understanding what is being said — as minded creatures living in the real world — we see that they are not only true but MUST be so, on pain of absurdity.” I submit that my variations meet this criteria and are therefore self-evident truths by your own definition. It would be absurd to deny the statement “For all Toyotas that have always existed, none can begin to exist.” It is a self-evident truth.

    Agreement or disagreement will be sufficient. No need to drag in Hoyle, Lewonton, Plato’s cave, etc.

  410. 410
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Nakashima-San. Please simply follow up the links. I think you will find abundant empirical data, that I have asked you to interact with. And the empirical data also relate to origin of life, origin of body-plan biodiversity and more. The issue is not data but empistemology and worldviews, as well as the institutional politics that in rather recent decades has established materialism as the dead orthodoxy of current science; complete with heretic hunting and show trials.

  411. 411
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: As I was about to lock down. DK, i have to go, now. You will have to live with some logical consequences (as I pointed out) for a bit till I — or others — can get back to you. You do see that that which always was has no beginning. Okay, reflect on a fire that has the three legs present: air, fuel, heat. These are each necessary and are jointly sufficient to cause a fire to be. Now, ask, what IF this fire in front of us is such that the three conditions always were met. Then, that fire MUST have been always there. THAT is self evident, on pain of reduction to absurdity over what necessary and sufficient conditions are. The link to SB’s points is plain.

  412. 412
    hazel says:

    re David at 406:

    At 373, I asked Stephen the followng questions, to which he has not responded.

    So here is my question, asked two different ways. I am hoping you will respond.

    Premise: “for all things of any kind whatsoever that have always existed, none can begin in time” Is this true or false?

    Or, equivalently

    Statement 1: X has always existed.

    Statement 2. X did not begin in time.

    Is there any X for which one of those statements is true and the other false?

  413. 413
    jerry says:

    I am sorry, but I fail to see how the fine tuning argument has been turned aside. There are theories how the constants and the relationships could have been locked in by physical events happening immediately after the first moment of the Big Bang. And these theories allow for an almost infinite number or infinite number of possibilities. Also it is understood that there could be a fine range within which all these constants could exist and life could be possible. So there is an almost infinite number or infinite number of possibilities for life but as a subset of the total possibilities this subset is vanishingly small.

    So what has to be explained is this vanishingly small probability of falling in this range. Yes the probability can be estimated. And if there is only one universe then the fine tuning arguments shouts loud and clear.

    This finding has been used in an attempt to undermine the fine tuning finding argument by saying we are just mediocre after all given the near infinite or infinite number of universes that would accommodate life. And to also say that slightly different values of the constants would be even more hospitable to life and thus to use the argument from bad design to point to no design. That is why did the inept designer of the universe and all its laws screw up so badly and not make even better design.

    However, once we are into infinite numbers of universes that are hospitable to life we are into other implications that may not be so hospitable to the anti ID people.

    Each in the whole set of arguments use to prove God will always be set aside by anyone who wants to arbitrarily say they don’t work. Fine, let them employ their arbitrary arguments. We act here like it is a crisis not to convince the “know nothings” who come here raising whatever nonsense they can imagine.

    Convincing these people is a waste of time. Their only value is to see if they can raise some logical objection to what is overwhelming logic. If they say that the logic is not overwhelming, so be it. They do not represent those who we are trying to convince. The “they” in the previous sentence can be identified fairly easily by how they behave in discussions and react to arguments here.

  414. 414
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Jerry,

    Mr Kairosfocus made reference to two papers by Mr Collins. The second, while poorly formatted, does address some of the issues around estimating ranges of variability for the constants of nature.

    We have a paper under discussion which claims that 25% of simulated universes (universities?) can create stars as we know them. This is far from ‘vanishingly small’. Presumably, it is possible to attack the assumptioins of the paper, and demonstrate that with more reasonable assumptions, or a more up to date model, or more detailed simulation, this number of 25% does not hold up, and in fact falls into the ‘vanishingly small’ range, whatever that is.

    All I’m saying is that FTA is no longer philosophy, it is a matter of scientific enquiry. That’s great news for ID, because our ability to probe outside our universe has been quite limited in the past. Just write that paper! Any tool that helps us understand what might be “out there”, even in a probabilistic sense, is a new avenue for ID to create real science.

    Alternately, we could declare that all cosmologists are ID researchers, they just don’t know it. 🙂

  415. 415
    StephenB says:

    —-David Kellogg: “Also, I can’t get beyond your contention that premises 1 and 2 (most recently stated in 365) are “self-evident metaphysical truths” rather than tautologies. All I can say is that they are in fact tautologies.

    You are, and have been, falling into two errors, each of which is related to the other.

    [A] A self evident truth enjoys two advantages over a “mere tautology:” First, the subject matter is important. Second, upon intuitive refection, it is understood to be more than “tautologically true,” it is understood to be true, in fact.

    Consider the principle of non-contradiction. If a thing is true, it cannot be false. If a thing is false, it cannot be true. Therefore, a thing cannot be true and false at the same time. The same can be said of the problem of identity. A thing cannot be and not be at the same time. Again, the whole is always greater than any one of its parts. Are these statements “tautologies?” Strictly speaking, yes. Are they mere “tautologies?” Absolutely not. The entire rational enterprise depends upon them. Therefore, the premises are not trivial, meaning that we cannot just shrug them off as “trivially true.” So, we accept them unconditionally, knowing that we cannot reason in the abstract if we deny them. There are many such self evident truths, and part of the test of being a rational person is to be able to recognize them when they are presented.

    [B] Second, a self evident truth is different than a mere tautology because when we probe its implications we discover that, although the conclusion, as with all tautologies, is implied but not necessarily stated in the conclusion, the explicit statement of that conclusion is revealing when it is uncovered. We can, after all, make explicit many things that were only implied in the premise. That is what deductive reasoning does: Step by step, it makes explicit the conclusion implied in the premise. You seem to labor under the misconception that one cannot use deductive reasoning to probe the implications of a self evident truth or even a tautology. It is not a case of acquiring new information; it is a case of recognizing that which is already there.

    So, when approaching my formulation, you imported those same two errors into your analysis. First, I put forth a self evident truth that no rational person would deny, so that we could reason forward from that point. Immediately, you, Hazel, and Diffaxial, not recognizing that it was a self evident truth, insisted that it was a mere tautology, and any conclusions derived would be insignificant.

    Second, when I proceeded to unpack the premise through several multiple stages, you further insisted that I was not reasoning forward at all. On the contrary, you claimed that I was simply injecting into the process one premise after another, obviously unaware that each step had, indeed, followed from the one prior to it [consult kairosfocus’s breakdown on the process]. Indeed, you insisted that all seven steps were nothing but new premises, just as you had insisted earlier that my self evident truth was nothing but a “trivial” tautology. In other words, you [Hazel and Diffaxial] dismissed the entire reasoning process, challenging both my premise and the possibility that one can reason forward from such a premise.

  416. 416
    hazel says:

    Would you be willing to answer my questions at 412, Stephen? Doing so might clarify some things.

  417. 417
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Kellogg,

    Assume for a second that you can track a photon’s existence. Photons don’t decay. A photon that was created in the big bang has always existed. And yet, it is limited in time to the interval [0, now].

    Obviously, I’m not arguing this for every photon, but there could be photons out there in the shell of expanding light that have never interacted, been absorbed and re-emitted.

    I’m not sure if your discussion is grounded in a universe, one of whose features is a t=0 point, or if you are engaged in a consensual hallucination of the time before time, time outside of time variety. Apologies for not following closely enough to know.

  418. 418
    jerry says:

    Nakashima,

    I have no idea where the 25% figure came from but the numbers I have seen are several trillion times smaller than that and by respected cosmologists. Try reading Paul Davies for one.

  419. 419
    lars says:

    @hazel,

    Premise: “for all things of any kind whatsoever that have always existed, none can begin in time” Is this true or false?

    Or, equivalently

    Statement 1: X has always existed.

    Statement 2. X did not begin in time.

    Is there any X for which one of those statements is true and the other false?

    hazel, those two questions are not equivalent. They would be equivalent if you changed the last sentence to “Is there any X for which statement 1 is true and statement 2 is false?”

    I assume this is what you meant to say. There are obviously X’s that fit statement 2 and not statement 1, e.g. any X that has never existed.

  420. 420
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Kairosfocus,

    I’ve read the material you link to. I did not find a wealth of empirical evidence. You link to second hand quotes of Hoyle, Ross and Rees speculating. This is exactly what we have to move beyond. One says you can vary a constant by 0.2%, another says things are determined to 1:10^-37. That’s hand waving, not science.

    Please do not digress into OOL and other topics. I think it is helpful to focus, as your handle says.

  421. 421
    StephenB says:

    —Hazel: “Premise: “for all things of any kind whatsoever that have always existed, none can begin in time” Is this true or false?”

    I am not sure what to do with that question.
    If by “all things” you mean the aggregate of physical substances that make up the one universe, I would be inclined to say true. That would be a restatement of the proposition that the universe is eternal. And if the universe and all that is in it is eternal, then obviously the universe and all that is in it could not begin to exist.

    On the other hand, if you mean “multiple first causes” as things, then I would say false because there can be only one causesless cause, or one prime mover, or one, necessary, self existent being. It is impossible to have two self existent beings.

  422. 422
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Jerry,

    Please see the article referenced in comment 79 above for the source of the 25% number.

    I am personally sure this 25% number needs revision. It’s only benefit is that has solid modeling and simulation behind it, solid enough to get into the scientific literature on a controversial topic. It should be straightforward to publish a paper that criticizes this number, and gets published as mainstream science, not as pop science or apologetics.

  423. 423
    hazel says:

    Let me restate: “For anything whatsoever, if that thing has always existed it did not begin in time.”

    I was not referring to all things in the aggragate, but rather to every single thing without exception. I hope my restatement is clearer.

    And I’m not referring to causes in particular, or first causes – I am referring to anything that exists:

    “if that thing has always existed it did not begin in time.”

    True or false, and if true, self-evidently true?

  424. 424
    hazel says:

    Some responses to vj at 389:

    In regards to the trichotomy of Necessity, Chance or Agency, vj wrote,

    Instead [of positing other possible options], the rebuttal was along the lines of: “How do you know that agency itself can’t be explained in terms of a combination of chance and necessity?” In other words, doesn’t the trichotomy itself beg the question about agency as an irreducible category?

    Responding to this objection means that a believer has to totally discredit a materialist account of mind before he/she can make a case for a personal Deity. And yet, one thing I have learned from this exchange is that discrediting a materialist account of mind is a surprisingly hard thing to do.

    I think I was the person who elaborated on this objection, although it was Beezlebub who first brought it up. First, as vj says, “discrediting a materialist account of mind is a surprisingly hard thing to do.” Even though we don’t know what consciousness is, there is ever-increasing evidence that states of mind are tied to states of the physical brain. Non-materialist “accounts” aren’t really accounts that explain anything, and they run into the problem of locating the interface between the material and the material.

    However, that is not my objection. As a provisional non-materialist, I think there might be some other pervasive element of our universe – pure consciousness, a universal spirit, the Tao, or whatever, that becomes manifest in living creatures, and in a creature as complex as us manifests as self-awareness.

    This universal spirit, or whatever, does not have the property of agency – it is pervasive and diffuse, not consolidated into a person. One nice way of thinking about this is to think about the soul, and what happens when you die. In Western monotheism, the soul retains it’s individuality – you remain you in some sense, but in Buddhism your soul returns to the universal spirit, much like throwing a drop of water back into the ocean. In this metaphor, the ocean is not an agent, but rather the repository for that which, which incorporated into a physical human being, becomes part of agency.

    From the Buddhist point of view, self and the willful ego are illusions (in the sense that they don’t reflect the true nature of the universe). Learning to let go of one’s attachment to self opens one up to understanding the true nature of action. In this view, agency is not a fundamental cause, but rather an effect that manifest in living human beings.

    Also, vj writes,

    One could always argue that the universe is inherently beautiful, without having to be the product of a personal Deity – I take it this is something like Hazel’s position.

    No. In fact the first time I described the Tao on another thread, you mentioned that beauty was somehow a central concept even though I never mentioned the word. I think beauty is one of a number of important human emotions (such as awe, wonder, love, delight, etc.), but not a fundamental property. I think that mathematics is beautiful, but I don’t beauty is an inherent property of math itself, and same for the universe.

    And last, vj writes,

    That argument works perfectly well if you accept that a pragmatic theory of truth is universally valid, or even valid for most of the statements we call true; but as someone who believes that truth is objective, I’d say it covers a relatively tiny portion of scientific truths, no historical truths, no philosophical truths and no religious truths.

    I don’t get this. Of course if you think Objective Truth exists you will find pragmatic truth lacking in that it won’t provide religious or other metaphysical truths for you. But it seems to me all scientific truths are pragmatic. And I don’t know what you mean by historical truths, but if you knowledge about historical events, those too are pragmatic. All we can ever do is look at the evidence and judge as best we can from there as to how things are or how they have been – that is pragmatic truth and it seems to me to cover all but statements about metaphysical entities for which we have no empirical evidence.

  425. 425
    tgpeeler says:

    “Let me restate: “For anything whatsoever, if that thing has always existed it did not begin in time.”

    True or false, and if true, self-evidently true?”

    True. Since time began, anything that always existed did not begin (by definition) and obviously it did not begin “in time.” Whether that is self-evident or not I leave to you.

  426. 426
    StephenB says:

    —Hazel: ““if that thing has always existed it did not begin [in time.”]

    —-“True or false, and if true, self-evidently true?

    That statement would not qualify as a self-evident truth.

    On the other hand, you can make it self evidently true by changing the language and the context:

    “If that thing has always existed it did not begin [to exist].”

    That statment is self evidently true, just as surely as it is equally true that a thing cannot be and not be at the same time. Indeed, the two statments are related.

    However, if you introduce the problem of “multiple things” always existing, then we get into the problem I explained at 421. You cannot have multiple first causes always existing. There can only be one self-existent being as the first cause.

  427. 427
    David Kellogg says:

    Stephen [415], neither the principle of non-contradiction nor the statement that the whole is greater than any one of its parts is a tautology. In any event, certainly your premise (1) is not a self-evident truth like those. For one thing, we experience the referents of those statements (the principle of noncontradiction and whole/part) all the time: that is, we experience things as true or false, and we experience wholes and parts. However, we have no experience of things that have always existed or that have no beginning in time. Given that, there is no way to say whether such a statement is “true in fact” (as you put it). One is forced to deal with the form of the statement. And the form is a tautology.

  428. 428
    David Kellogg says:

    Nakashima [417], I agree that time is a problem, since time can be said to begin with the universe. One could say that the photon began “with time” rather than “in time.” I think, though, that the time problem reduces StephenB’s later propositions to absurdity, as they seek to reason before the universe using conditions (such as time and, I would argue, personal/impersonal distinctions etc.) likely created in the universe. So I’m not prepared to say it’s true “in fact,” though I would say that it’s tautologically true given the logic that StephenB appears to be using.

  429. 429
    David Kellogg says:

    “There can only be one self-existent being as the first cause.”

    Is that also “self-evident”?

  430. 430
    StephenB says:

    I also agree with tgpeeler that the proposition as expressed [in time] is a true statement. However, the tension between always existing and beginning to exist is a little more obvious and is more likely not to be vulnerable to trivial objections, except of course, from those whose disposition prompts them to reject all reasonable propositions in order to avoid their implications.

  431. 431
    hazel says:

    Thanks you Stephen. Let me see if I understand.

    In your list of 10 logical steps supposedly proving that the universe was caused by a personal cause, you start with Premise 1:

    For all impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed, none can begin in time.

    You now agree that this statement is true:

    “For anything whatsoever, if that thing has always existed it did not begin in time.”

    What this seems to mean is that in your original premise 1 there is nothing special about impersonal unchanging causes.

    That is, the definition of “always existed” includes the idea of “did not begin in time,” and thus the statement “For anything whatsoever, if that thing has always existed it did not begin in time” is true because of the definitions of the words themselves.

    It is not a statement that tells us anything specific about impersonal uncaused causes.

  432. 432
    StephenB says:

    —-David Kellogg:

    —-“There can only be one self-existent being as the first cause.”

    —-“Is that also “self-evident”?

    No. Only those who can think several moves ahead would pick up on that.

  433. 433
    StephenB says:

    —-Hazel: “You now agree that this statement is true:

    —-“For anything whatsoever, if that thing has always existed it did not begin in time.”

    Well, yes, but I wouldn’t try to reason from that principle because the word “thing” is still to murky and open to changing definitions. It isn’t solid enough or precise enough to work with. I would only be comfortable arguing from the position of my original premise:

    “For all impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed, none can begin to exist.”

    From that premise, I can prove what I want to prove. Now, vjtorley and kairosfocus are OK with my first 9 steps, [If I read them correctly] however, they would prefer that I use an “abduction” for step 10 rather than a deduction. I see no reason to do that, but I respect their opinion because they understand the principles involved. The other commentators do not understand the principles involved, which is why all the turmoil has been over my first eight steps—and the premise itself.

    We could, if you like, exclude the word “impersonal” and the statement would still be self-evidently true, but then I would simply have to introduce the word later on in the demonstration to prove what I want to prove. So why not include it in the premise?

  434. 434
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB, you’re serious? Thing is “to[o] murky” but impersonal, unchanging causes makes the statement self-evident?

  435. 435
    StephenB says:

    —David Kellogg: “For one thing, we experience the referents of those statements (the principle of noncontradiction and whole/part) all the time: that is, we experience things as true or false, and we experience wholes and parts.”

    We cannot, through experience or any other way, prove the principle of non-contradiction. We understand it to be true only because our rational minds can apprehend the truth of it. It is not a principle that we reason TO, it is a principle that we reason FROM.

  436. 436
    David Kellogg says:

    I think we understand the principle of non-contradiction because of our experiences as embodied minds. We learn about it (for example, through children’s games such as the fort/da that Freud observed). We have no rationality outside of bodily experience (see George Lakoff, Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind).

  437. 437
    StephenB says:

    —-David K: “StephenB, you’re serious? Thing is “to[o] murky” but impersonal, unchanging causes makes the statement self-evident?”

    I didn’t say that changing the words made it any more self-evident. I said that changing the words makes it more precise so that I can work with it. I can’t work with phrase, “if a ‘thing’ has always existed it did not begin to exist,” self evident though that point may be. I can work with the following phrase: “For all impersonal, unchanging causes that have always existed, none can begin to exist.”

    A self-evident truth is necessary but not sufficient for my premise. To be sufficient the self evident truth must also serve the purpose of helping me to prove what I want it to prove. That means that most self-evident truths will not be sufficient to serve that purpose. Is the difference between “necessary” and “sufficient” clear to you?

  438. 438
    Rude says:

    “We have no rationality outside of bodily experience …” We have, in fact, no experience outside of bodily experience. But what does this have to do with logico-mathematical realism?

    George Lakoff, by the way, once upon a time did good stuff on metaphor, but has become of late a doctrinaire materialist and apologist for radical politics. He and Rafael Nuñez not only have written off mathematical Platonism, in The Political Mind Lakoff argues that the radical left argues from reason, whereas conservatives argue from emotion.

  439. 439
    David Kellogg says:

    I understand the difference between necessary and sufficient fine. I find your use of the distinction . . . interesting.

    So: “thing” would be self-evident but not useful for you (and so, in your idiosyncratic usage, not “sufficient”).

    What about thoughts, worlds, angels, Gods, StephenBs, Toyota? Would substituting them also be “self-evident”?

  440. 440
    David Kellogg says:

    Rude [438], my point is not about mathematical realism. My point is that we don’t apprehend non-contradiction (or any such principle) merely through the use of reason.

  441. 441
    Clive Hayden says:

    David,

    —–“I think we understand the principle of non-contradiction because of our experiences as embodied minds. We learn about it (for example, through children’s games such as the fort/da that Freud observed). We have no rationality outside of bodily experience (see George Lakoff, Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind).”

    The alternative being disembodied minds? Like free-floating spirits? I, of course, think that we are embodied for a reason, that the mere fact of embodiment gives our mental capacity a certain meaning, such as what would occur in the physical realm, experientially important, but, basically, like elementary school. Because it was never the embodiment, itself, that taught us anything, anymore than the building determined the blueprints. The observational lessons of embodiment upon nature never comes from nature, but is a judgment passed on nature, including embodiment itself. First things first, David.

  442. 442
    StephenB says:

    —-David, quoting Lakoff:

    “I think we understand the principle of non-contradiction because of our experiences as embodied minds. We learn about it (for example, through children’s games such as the fort/da that Freud observed). We have no rationality outside of bodily experience (see George Lakoff, Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal About the Mind).”

    Is that what you call proof—rantings from a materialist atheist who thinks that rationality comes “from bodily experience.” What if I told you that I got my premise from my bodily experience, would you accept it as a self-evident truth? What did I tell you to do with those books you are reading? Burn them before they destroy you.

  443. 443
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB, I didn’t quote Lakoff, I cited him. And I have not claimed proof for my view. I am not that arrogant.

  444. 444
    David Kellogg says:

    If you read some some of those books you want me to burn, you might learn from them. Of course, you’ve got all the answers already . . .

  445. 445
    David Kellogg says:

    Clive: “The observational lessons of embodiment upon nature never comes [sic] from nature, but is [sic] a judgment passed on nature, including embodiment itself.”

    I often find your writing obscure, Clive, but this takes some kind of prize.

  446. 446
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “What about thoughts, worlds, angels, Gods, StephenBs, Toyota? Would substituting them also be “self-evident”?

    I think that you need to take some time off.

  447. 447
    StephenB says:

    —-“StephenB, I didn’t quote Lakoff, I cited him. And I have not claimed proof for my view. I am not that arrogant.

    You are not making any sense at all. I explained that we cannot prove the law of non-contradiction or any other self-evident truth. We apprehend self evident truths and reason our way forward FROM them not backwards TO them. Obviously, you wanted dispute the point, so that means you think that we can prove it, either through experience or some other way. So, you need to make up your mind whether you dispute the point or not. If you don’t dispute it, then acknowledge it; if you do dispute it, then show how it can be proven.

  448. 448
    David Kellogg says:

    “Proof.” You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  449. 449
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “Neither the principle of non-contradiction nor the statement that the whole is greater than any one of its parts is a tautology.”

    How can you say that based on your claim that there are no absolute truths? If a thing is true, then it cannot be false. Why would you not call that a tautology by your standards.

    Could I, in yout judgment, use both of those principles as a premise with which to draw a conclusion?

  450. 450
    hazel says:

    Those statements are taken as axioms in normal syllogistic logic, but that doesn’t make them “absolute truths.”

    As Nakashima has pointed out (I think it was he) you can have different logical systems where the law of non-contradiction does not hold. Just as with different geometries or different algebras, the axioms you start with determine the nature of the system, but no one system is “right” or “wrong” as long as it is internally consistent. Some systems may be more useful than others, but that gets into the whole “modeling the real world” problem, and I’ve noticed that is a topic you don’t seem to want to discuss.

  451. 451
    tgpeeler says:

    David (440) “Rude [438], my point is not about mathematical realism. My point is that we don’t apprehend non-contradiction (or any such principle) merely through the use of reason.”

    David, of course we do. In fact that is the ONLY way we can do so. When you can tell me what reason tastes like, smells like, looks like, feels like, or sounds like then I will agree with you that we empirically experience reason. Oh, and tell me where it is located in space/time, that would help. Or measure it somehow. That would be good, too. How much does it weigh? Does it respond to gravity? Have inertia? Well, you take my point, I’m sure.

    In the meantime, you might consider that reason is abstract and not part of the material world so it might make sense that part of us is immaterial or abstract and that is how we can connect to reason. Interesting stuff, no error.

  452. 452
    Atom says:

    hazel wrote:

    you can have different logical systems where the law of non-contradiction does not hold.

    Really? Yes, I guess you can, but such systems (where you can derive both A and ~A) are inconsistent (in the formal sense of the word) and within them you can prove any theorem. Which makes them useless.

    Atom

  453. 453
    StephenB says:

    —-Hazel: “Those statements are taken as axioms in normal syllogistic logic, but that doesn’t make them “absolute truths.”

    Could I, in your judgment use them as a premise for an argument? For example, could I begin a demonstration with the premise that “a thing cannot be and not be at the same time,” or “a proposition cannot be true and false at the same time,” or “the whole is always greater than any of its parts.”

  454. 454
    vividbleau says:

    “you can have different logical systems where the law of non-contradiction does not hold.”

    The people that interact with you on this board should remember this the next time you use a form of the law of non contradiction in any of your arguments. When pressed and backed into a corner all one need do is appeal to the different logical sytems where that law does not apply.

    Seriously how can any rational discourse proceed with this type of thinking?

    Vivid

  455. 455
    vjtorley says:

    Hazel (#424)

    Thank you for clearing up my misconceptions about your philosophical position and about Taoism. It seems you believe in something like a World Soul (anima mundi), which is not however an agent.

    I was however shocked to read the following passage of yours, in response to my defense of objective truth:

    Of course if you think Objective Truth exists you will find pragmatic truth lacking in that it won’t provide religious or other metaphysical truths for you. But it seems to me all scientific truths are pragmatic. And I don’t know what you mean by historical truths, but if you [mean] knowledge about historical events, those too are pragmatic. All we can ever do is look at the evidence and judge as best we can from there as to how things are or how they have been – that is pragmatic truth and it seems to me to cover all but statements about metaphysical entities for which we have no empirical evidence. [Italics mine – VJT.]

    Surely you can’t be serious? Let’s take a simple case – President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Perhaps no-one now living knows what actually happened on that day, and perhaps no-one ever will. Nevertheless, there is a proposition which can be expressed in English, which correctly describes who shot the President on that day, and also who plotted his death. That proposition (let’s call it P) is objectively true, and it will remain true for all time. It will still be true, long after the human race has departed from this Earth.

    Proposition P is true. It does not matter whether any human being now living happens to believe that proposition P is true (perhaps all of our current theories are wrong, and the truth falls in the “None of the above” category). P is true, whether anyone believes it or not. It does not even matter if anyone has ever believed P to be true. (For instance, perhaps there was a conspiracy in which the plotters deliberately made sure that they did not all know each other, so that even in 1963, no particular individual knew everyone who was involved in the assassination.) It does not even matter if no-one will ever believe P to be true – perhaps the truth will forever elude us.

    Nevertheless, P is still true. Everyone accepts that. We might have wildly different ideas about what happened on that day, but only one of these conflicting opinions (at most) can actually be right. Right?

    History is the collection of all objectively true statements about the past like P, which are amenable to historical inquiry. There are some truths we shall never know, but an historian’s task is to search for truth, nonetheless. It does not matter one whit if the truth is uncongenial to the Zeitgeist, or utterly preposterous to most educated people, or even impossible to ever establish by academic standards. The historian’s duty is still to lay the evidence before the reader, as well as the attendant uncertainties in evaluating it, and then to declare what he/she honestly believes to have truly happened – even if that means losing his/her job.

    Now, if someone were to seriously propose to me that an historian’s task was merely to formulate intellectually satisfying explanations of what happened in the past, in the light of what limited evidence we now have, then I would retort: “Then why study history? If the study of history is what you claim it to be, then we won’t find anything genuinely interesting, because history isn’t a search for truth any more – it’s just an exercise in navel-gazing. For what you find ‘intellectually satisfying’ is shaped by the built-in cognitive biases of your brain, which basically evolved for Machiavellian monkey politics and gazelle-hunting. If I study enough anthropology, I’ll even be able to predict which satisfactions you’ll find intellectually satisfying. Why, if you just give me a complete inventory of all the manuscripts and museum artifacts in the world’s museums, I’ll just feed that into my new super-computer Hal, whose databanks also hold everything we know about the human brain, and about how we think. Hal will be able to come up with an intellectually satisfying explanation of all your historical data, and thus do your history for you, without even bothering to look at an historical artifact!”

    But surely you believe that there are objectively true statements about the past, Hazel, regardless of whether anyone believes them or not. Don’t you? Doesn’t everyone?

  456. 456
    kairosfocus says:

    Folks (and esp. onlookers):

    We can see that the issues have now come down to questions posed on the evolutionary materialist side like suggesting that a thing can be and not be in the same sense at the same time. (Which is not the same as having to live in a world where error exists and since we are finite and fallible, we make errors in our works all the time, so need to be humble and seek to so delimit our works that we can be reasonably tolerant of errors. Hence, for instance the provisionality of scientific findings and the need to always check against wider and wider bodies of experience and observation. Similarly, the need to validate models, simulations, programs and databases on zones of validity before routine use.)

    Atom is quite right to point out the implications of such proposed “systems” of logic: such systems (where you can derive both A and ~A) are inconsistent (in the formal sense of the word) and within them you can prove any theorem. Which makes them useless.

    Or, as good old prof Harald Neiderriter (thanks if you are out there in retirement, watching!) ever so profoundly taught us in and introductory session in UWI’s old M 100, way back when (duly stated in Latin! “Ex falso, quodlibet”): from what is false one can deduce anything.

    A AND NOT-A, FYI, is necessarily false and destructive if embraced in our reasoning, and not just by “trivial tautology,” but by massive, undeniable experience of the world as minded creatures:

    — Are you alive and not-alive in the same sense at he same time?

    — Sane and not-sane?

    — truthful and not-truthful? [recall Ari in Metaphysics 1011b: truth says of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not.)

    — reasonable and cogent and not-reasonable and not-cogent?

    — Is that out-of control car that seems to be rushing up the street towards you there and not there at the same time?

    — Is the warning label on a bottle labelled poison true and not true in the same sense at the same time?

    — and more . . .

    Indeed, here is an apt illustration from a Bertrand Russell public lecture, as reported at Everything2:

    It is said that the famous logician Bertrand Russell was once trying to get this very point across at a public lecture when a heckler interrupted him. “So prove to me that if two plus two is five, I’m the Pope,” the heckler said.

    Russell who was apparently very good at thinking on his feet replied: “Very well, from ‘two plus two equals five’ it follows, subtracting three from each side, that two equals one. You and the Pope are two, therefore you are one.”

    So, we see the reductio ad absurdum, now plainly at absurdum.

    Sadly.

    And so, it seems that our discussion of whether belief in God is reasonable, now hinges on whether we can come to even a basic acceptance in common of what “reasonable” is.

    So far has our intellectual culture fallen.

    Sad, ever so sad.

    I can therefore only point to the judgement on our civilisation thereby revealed, calling for us to walk in a very different way, by the light of a very different Spirit:

    Eph 4:17 . . . I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

    20You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

    And so, the key part of the answer now is not so much further argument [though that is important], but prayer, joined to a secession from the en-darkened aspects of the intellectual culture of a civlisation running utterly out of control towards an obvious cliff.

    So, let us now ask:

    Grace, open our eyes!

    GEM of TKI

    _________________

    [ . . . ]

  457. 457
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Dk et al, I have already pointed out a model that allows serious reflection on the import of causally necessary and sufficient conditions.

    1 –> A fire, per massive observation, requires the presence of heart, air and fuel, to start and to sustain it.

    2 –> these three elements of the fire triangle are each necessary and jointly causally sufficient for a fire.

    3 –> From this we see that if they are present,we have a fire, and if we have a fire, they are present, running back and forth across the logical equivalence sustained by the causal facts.

    4 –> Now, imaginative and logical step: what happens if the conditions for the fire in front of us were ALWAYS there? ANS: by N & S conditions, it too would — and indeed MUST — always have been there. (This is where we assert a self-evident truth, on the mature of N & S conditions, illustrated by a case that allows us to see the concept clearly.)

    5 –> Now, we transfer to the cosmological issue.

    6 –> If our cosmos exists by dint of necessary consequence of a lawlike necessity tracing to a force that always was, then our cosmos is conditioned on certain N & S causal conditions and would equally always have been.

    7 –> But, per observation, our cosmos credibly had a beginning, and is contingent. So, it is credibly NOT the consequent of a N & S force that always was.

    8 –> That leaves us to face the possibilities for causes that are capable of high contingency outcomes: chance (which can be associated with mechanical forces of necessity) and/or design (which can make use of the other two but adds distinctive purposeful elements in the typical case of relvance).

    9 –> As has been frequently discussed, a falling tumbljng die shows how these tree may interact: mechanical forces cause it to fall. Tumbling and coming to a value can be chance or chance and design. Dice may be part of a designed game. design is discerned from evident purpose and from features that are not likely to happen by chance or mechanical necessity.

    10 –> All these are a commonplace.

    11 –> In this case, the evident finetuning of our cosmos and planet that set up our cell based life make it plausible that the best explanation is design.

    _____________

    PPS: Nakashima-San: I specifically presented a summary, with links to an onward mostly non-mathematical explanation, by a person competent to discuss such. (I suggest Davies if you want more, as has already been suggested. Similarly Barrow and Tipler is a good background reading.)

    The mathematical working out is to revert to a presentation of big bang Cosmology models based on General Theory of Relativity [with tensor calculus in full play] and associated sensitivity analysis of cosmological parameters; as well as a survey of galactic and stellar and solar system evolution models with similar mathematics issues.

    I do not think such is a reasonable requirement [noting en passant that I have found one reasonably good survey of GTR at more or less 101 level, in the online physics textbook, Motion Mountain (it uses the Schwartzchild black hole to do the trick . . amazing!) and that if one is interested there is stuff that gives a useful survey on tensors and can lead up tot he GTR and models], given that there is an obvious issue over the closely linked question of Anthropic principles, and given that several of the issues do not depend on that frame.

    E.g., the electrostatic force is long range [a great 6th former exercise is to work out the repulsion between two 1 C charges at 1 km range], and that we need proton-electron equality to 1 in 10^37 or we destabilise the gravitational force’s function, multiplied by the effect of fairly modest variations in that force’s size on stellar evo, or life forms on planets etc, are in themselves an instructive set of simple exercises.

    So is the exploration of the estimates in the Drake Eqn multiplied by the Great Silence, in light of the issues of Galactic Habitable Zones and life-friendly solar system types.

    And more.

    So, pardon a personal note, but I think it is fair comment to say that you have been a bit summary and dismissive above. (And yes, Mr Collins needs to clean up his web pages and word files, but hat does little to the substance of what he has to say.)

  458. 458
    David Kellogg says:

    tgpeeler [451], why don’t you tell me how to use reason outside a body? We can have out-of-body experiences, but you know to create them? Neurologically.

  459. 459
    Diffaxial says:

    Stephen @ 415

    A self evident truth enjoys two advantages over a “mere tautology:” First, the subject matter is important

    Tautological reasoning fails to establish facts about states of affairs in the world regardless of the magnitude of the terms embedded in that tautology.

    Your premises are tautologies. The establish nothing outside of themselves.

    Second, upon intuitive reflection, it is understood to be more than “tautologically true,” it is understood to be true, in fact.

    Then upon being stripped of tautological pseudo-conclusions (as they should), the entire basis of such assertions lies in that intuitive reflection, only.

    Again, you can save yourself a great deal of empty pseudo-reasoning and simply say, “Upon reflection, it is my intuition that there must be causes that have no beginning in time” (and so forth) and work from there.

    It remains easy to see why you prefer the original, obscurantist and tautological form of your premises. You can’t hang a “proof” upon reflective intuition, and you want your argument to be a proof, not an intuition

    Second, a self evident truth is different than a mere tautology because when we probe its implications we discover that, although the conclusion, as with all tautologies, is implied but not necessarily stated in the conclusion, the explicit statement of that conclusion is revealing when it is uncovered. We can, after all, make explicit many things that were only implied in the premise.

    In so doing you are unpacking the implications of the definitions and concepts used to formulate the tautology, not a state of affairs in the world that necessarily follows from that tautology (because no such states of affairs necessarily follow). “Upon reflection, it is my intuition that there must be causes that have no beginning in time” (and etc.) may be unpacked in the same way, and may lead to interesting reflections. But nothing is “proved” thereby.

  460. 460
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Kairosfocus,

    In the wider context of internet discussion, this is what summary and dismissive look like:

    FAIL

    I’m sorry that you can’t see that I am taking this entire discussion quite seriously. I was asked earlier if I would change some of fundamental philosophical commitments if there was results from this research that disconfirmed my beliefs. I said yes. Let me say that I doubt you are as personally engaged.

    Right now there is a fundamental asymmetry of sources. I’ve argued a position based on an article in the primary scientific literature, and on commitment to the scientific exploration. I’ve been open with the problems and falsifiability of that evidence, and I’ve repeatedly encouraged ID supporters to investigate and publish in this area.

    I have read the material you linked to. If I was not familiar with an author, I researched who they were. If Hugh Ross published a critique of these findings as a scientist, in the scientific literature, not as an apologist, in the press of his own ministry, then I would take it seriously.

    If you will bear with me in a piece of repetitious prolixity and logorrhea –
    The true path forward is to abandon parables in favor of experiment. Do you agree with that, sir?

    Can you make a clear answer to this question?

  461. 461
    hazel says:

    Hmmm: a number of misunderstandings

    To vj: once again (I have posted on this several times) we are confused because we are not clear about what we mean by “objective” truth. Objective Truth, with a capital O and capital T, has seemed to be used by some here (Stephen is one) to refer to Truths that exist somehow independently of physical reality, such as absolute moral truths. This is the type of Objective truth that I was referring to. Mundane objective truth – understandings that are arise from empirical observations such as the stick is 6 inches long, are not what I was referring to to. Science establishes objective truths of this sort, but they are also pragmatic in that they are provisional to some degree – at the very least, the stick is only 6 inches long to some degree of accuracy, the points at which the stick end can involve some definitions and decisions that are not absolutely clearcut, etc. I was not arguing that these types of objective truth don’t exist, but these are not the type of absolute Objective Truths that have been the subject of the discussion in this thread, I don’t think.

    Another point: Our descriptions of the world can never be complete, so no matter how much we might know about an event, such as who shot Kennedy, or what I did yesterday, we could never completely describe the “truth.” We always have to make judgments about what to say – what is relevant to the situation, what level of detail to state, etc. A completely true description of any event would have to encompass every iota of detail about that event, and that is not possible. The only real truth is the world itself, and we can’t comprehend that in it’s entirety: the truths we know will always be pragmatic and provisional.

    Also, you write,

    Thank you for clearing up my misconceptions about your philosophical position and about Taoism. It seems you believe in something like a World Soul (anima mundi), which is not however an agent.

    As I have tried to explain multiple times, I don’t “believe” in things like the Tao or a world soul or anything metaphysical like that in the sense of thinking that they are really true, because I don’t we can know such things. I offer these ideas both to show that there are alternatives to believing in theism that are nonetheless non-materialistic, and because I feel, for myself, that such things are more likely to be true than a personal God and they fit better with my overall perspective on the world as I experience it. But I am profoundly agnostic as to their actual truth: I would rather live with uncertainty than believe things that are not true, so I am content to not know.

    As to the law of non-contradiction, of course I accept it as fundamental tool of logical reasoning. However, and we see this over and over again in our discussions, applying it the content of any argument can be fraught with difficulties. This goes back to the issue of our logic itself has no content, and that when we apply logic to the world we introduce difficulties that go beyond logic.

    For instance, it is logically true that “Point X is either on a mountain or not on a mountain.” But applying this truth to a real point on earth will not be clearcut: it will require some definitions of what “on a mountain” means, and even then in some borderline case it will require a nominal decision.

    Another example: it is a logical true statement that “the ocean is proud or the ocean is not proud.” However this is a meaningless statement because pride is not an attribute of oceans.

    A third example: You are either on my side or you are not. Statements like this, although logically true, are divisive and do not take into account the complexity of a spectrum of possibilities. Inappropriate use of the law of non-contradiction leads to black-and-white thinking in many situations where understanding shades of grey would be better.

    So the issue, for me, is not to challenge the usefulness of logic. My point has been that logic is a tool that helps us think about the world, but logic by itself can’t tell us anything about the world. My second point is that Logic with a capital L doesn’t reside in some transcendental place as an ultimate truth. My point about alternative logics, algebra, and geometries, is that you can change the axioms and get different systems that may or may not be useful. Syllogistic logic has proven useful in most cases, but there are places, such as in quantum mechanics, where some of it’s fundamentals have not been easily applied.

    This has been hurried – I’m off to work.

  462. 462
    kairosfocus says:

    Nakashima-San:

    I can pause for a few minutes, long enough to cite Wiki on the anthropic principle (as a hostile witness making inadvertent admissions against manifest interest):

    >> In physics and cosmology, the anthropic principle is the collective name for several ways of asserting that physical and chemical theories, especially astrophysics and cosmology, need to take into account that there is life on Earth, and that one form of that life, Homo sapiens, has attained sapience. The only kind of universe humans can occupy is one that is similar to the current one.

    Originally proposed as a rule of reasoning, the term has since been extended to cover supposed “superlaws” that in various ways require the universe to support intelligent life, usually assumed to be carbon-based and occasionally asserted to be human beings. Anthropic reasoning assesses these constraints by analyzing the properties of hypothetical universes whose fundamental parameters or laws of physics differ from those of the real universe. Anthropic reasoning typically concludes that the stability of structures essential for life, from atomic nuclei to the whole universe, depends on delicate balances between different fundamental forces. These balances are believed to occur only in a tiny fraction of possible universes — so that this universe appears fine-tuned for life. Anthropic reasoning attempts to explain and quantify this fine tuning. Within the scientific community the usual approach is to invoke selection effects and to hypothesize an ensemble of alternate universes, in which case that which can be observed is subject to an anthropic bias . . . . >>

    That should suffice to show that he “appearance” of “delicate balance,” of “fine-tuning” and of the need for a universe closely “similar” to the observed one – on many constraints — has sparked a decades long discussion among the informed in the guild of cosmological scholars.

    So, I think that a substantial engagement rather than distractive, strawmannish and dismissive remarks is indicated, if there is to be serious discussion. (And, dismissive rhetoric is not confined to shouting “fail.”)

    I will cite one instance form Collins. Here, is what he summarises on the fine structure constant and several related themes, early on in one of the linked articles above:

    >> Various calculations show that the strength of each of the forces of nature must fall into a very small life-permitting region for intelligent life to exist. As our first example, consider gravity. If we increased the strength of gravity on earth a billion-fold, for instance, the force of gravity would be so great that any land-based organism anywhere near the size of human beings would be crushed. (The strength of materials depends on the electromagnetic force via the fine structure constant . . .

    [inserted NB: FSC is 1/137 and is a ratio of several electomagnetically important factors including the scale factor on the Coulomb force: electron charge, Planck’s const, the speed of light (which brings in the strength of the magnetic force through the Maxwellian relationship on the speed of E-M waves), and the permittivity of free space; of these Wiki reports Barrow, 2001: were ? to change by 4%, stellar fusion would not produce carbon, so that carbon-based life would be impossible. If ? were > 0.1, stellar fusion would be impossible and no place in the universe would be warm enough for life i.e the paper you cited on stellar formation actually narrows the range on star behaviour, but is irrelevant to the real issue on fine tuning — C-production in stars. EM force is present in nucleii, and the strong force counters it, so that the balance of the two is important in nuclear physics, relative to stability of nucleii. (E.g. That’s why as atomic no goes up, one has to feed in more and more neutrons to keep a nucleus stable.)]

    . . . which would not be affected by a change in gravity.) As astrophysicist Martin Rees notes “In an imaginary strong gravity world, even insects would need thick legs to support them, and no animals could get much larger.” (Rees, 2000, p. 30). Now, the above argument assumes that the size of the planet on which life formed would be an earth-sized planet. Could life forms of comparable intelligence to ourselves develop on a much smaller planet in such a strong-gravity world? The answer is no. A planet with a gravitational pull of a thousand times that of earth— which would make the existence of organisms of our size very improbable—would have a diameter of about 40 feet or 12 meters, once again not large enough to sustain the sort of large-scale ecosystem necessary for organisms like us to evolve. Of course, a billion-fold increase in the strength of gravity is a lot, but compared to the total range of strengths of the forces in nature (which span a range of 1040 as we saw above), this still amounts to a fine-tuning of one part in 1031.

    On the other hand, if the strong force were slightly increased the existence of complex life would be seriously inhibited, if not rendered impossible. For instance, using the latest equations and codes for stellar evolution and nucleosynthesis, Heinz Oberhummer, et al., showed that a small increase in the strong force—by as little as 1 percent—would drastically decrease, by thirty to a thousandfold, the total amount of oxygen formed in stars (Oberhummer, et. al, 2000, p. 88). Since the oxygen on planets comes from previous stars that have exploded or blown off their outer layers, this means that very little oxygen would be available for the existence of carbon-based life. At the very least, this would have a life-inhibiting effect given the many important, and seemingly irreplaceable, roles oxygen plays in living processes, such as that of being essential for water (Denton, 1998, pp. 19-47, 117-140). Other arguments can be given for the other two forces—the electromagnetic force and the weak force—being fine-tuned, but we do not have space to provide the evidence here. (See, however, my “Evidence for Fine-Tuning” in God and Design, Neil Manson (ed), Routledge, Forthcoming.)

    There are other cases of the fine-tuning of the constants of physics besides the strength of the forces, however. Probably the most widely discussed among physicists and cosmologists—and esoteric—is the fine-tuning of what is known as the cosmological constant. The cosmological constant was a term that Einstein included in his central equation of his theory of gravity—that is, general relativity—which today is thought to correspond to the energy density of empty space. A positive cosmological constant acts as a sort of antigravity, a repulsive force causing space itself to expand. If the cosmological constant had a significant positive value, space would expand so rapidly that all matter would quickly disperse, and thus galaxies, stars, and even small aggregates of matter could never form. The upshot is that it must fall exceedingly close to zero for complex life to be possible in our universe.

    Now, the fundamental theories of particle physics set a natural range of values for the cosmological constant. This natural range of values, however, is at least 1053 that is, one followed by fifty-three zeros—times the range of life-permitting values. That is, if 0 to L represent the range of life-permitting values, the theoretically possible range of values is at least 0 to 1053 L. 2 To intuitively see what this means, consider a dartboard analogy: suppose that we had a dartboard that extended across the entire visible galaxy, with a bull’s eye on the dartboard of less than an inch in diameter. The amount of fine-tuning of the cosmological constant could be compared to randomly throwing a dart at the board and landing exactly in the bull’s-eye!

    Further examples of the fine-tuning of the fundamental constants of physics can also be given, such as that of mass difference between the neutron and the proton. If, for example, the mass of the neutron were slightly increased by about one part in seven hundred, stable hydrogen burning stars would cease to exist. (Leslie, 1989, pp. 39-40, Collins, EFT, forthcoming.)

    Besides the constants of physics, however, there is also the fine-tuning of the laws. If the laws of nature were not just right, life would probably be impossible. For example, consider again the four forces of nature. If gravity did not exist, masses would not clump together to form stars or planets, and hence the existence of complex, intelligent life would be seriously inhibited, if not rendered impossible; if the electromagnetic force didn’t exist, there would be no chemistry; if the strong force didn’t exist, protons and neutrons could not bind together and hence no atoms with atomic number greater than hydrogen would exist; and if the strong force were a long-range force (like gravity and electromagnetism) instead of a short-range force that only acts between protons and neutrons in the nucleus, all matter would either almost instantaneously undergo nuclear fusion and explode or be sucked together forming a black hole. >>

    These are the sorts of factors that need to be discussed.

    GEM of TKI

  463. 463
    jerry says:

    Nakashima said,

    “I’m sorry that you can’t see that I am taking this entire discussion quite seriously. I was asked earlier if I would change some of fundamental philosophical commitments if there was results from this research that disconfirmed my beliefs. I said yes. ”

    I doubt that. The fine tuning argument is so well entrenched that few doubt it except for “??????….” deniers. There have been several books on it describing the history of the argument and documenting the studies that underly it. Here are a few

    http://www.amazon.com/Anthropi.....038;sr=8-1

    “From Wikipedia – In physics and cosmology, the anthropic principle is the collective name for several ways of asserting that physical and chemical theories, especially astrophysics and cosmology, need to take into account that there is life on Earth, and that one form of that life, Homo sapiens, has attained sapience. The only kind of universe humans can occupy is one that is similar to the current one.
    Originally proposed as a rule of reasoning, the term has since been extended to cover supposed “superlaws” that in various ways require the universe to support intelligent life, usually assumed to be carbon-based and occasionally asserted to be human beings. Anthropic reasoning assesses these constraints by analyzing the properties of hypothetical universes whose fundamental parameters or laws of physics differ from those of the real universe. Anthropic reasoning typically concludes that the stability of structures essential for life, from atomic nuclei to the whole universe, depends on delicate balances between different fundamental forces. These balances are believed to occur only in a tiny fraction of possible universes — so that this universe appears fine-tuned for life. Anthropic reasoning attempts to explain and quantify this fine tuning. Within the scientific community the usual approach is to invoke selection effects and to hypothesize an ensemble of alternate universes, in which case that which can be observed is subject to an anthropic bias.”

    http://www.amazon.com/Cosmic-J.....pd_sim_b_2

    “From Publishers Weekly – With an articulate blend of science, metaphysics and philosophy—and a dash of religion—physicist and cosmologist Davies discusses the implications of the fact that the conditions of our universe are “just right” for life to exist: a concept known as the anthropic principle. Had any of the universe’s physical laws or constants been just a bit different, life as we know it would have been impossible. In attempting to explain why this is so, Davies summarizes the current state of knowledge in cosmology and provides an accessible introduction to particle physics. He evaluates numerous explanations for the structure of our universe, such as the possibility that ours is but one of an infinite number of “multiverses,” and examines the question that inevitably arises in discussing the anthropic principle: does the design of the universe imply the existence of an intelligent designer? Davis’s own feeling is that there is likely some sort of still undefined “life principle” in the cosmos but recognizes that this “is something I feel more in my heart than in my head.” While there is much of interest, readers of Davies’s earlier book The Mind of God will be familiar with a good deal of what is presented. ”

    http://www.amazon.com/Just-Six.....pd_sim_b_3

    “Amazon official review – Just six numbers govern the shape, size, and texture of our universe. If their values were only fractionally different, we would not exist: nor, in many cases, would matter have had a chance to form. If the numbers that govern our universe were elegant–1, say, or pi, or the Golden Mean–we would simply shrug and say that the universe was an elegant mathematical puzzle. But the numbers Martin Rees discusses are far from tidy. Was the universe “tweaked” or is it one of many universes, all run by slightly different, but equally messy, rules?”

    Nakashima, there is a bright future for you denouncing these books by well known scientists. Use your irrelevant article as a start. I suggest you then overturn the carbon hunt initiated by Salpeter and Hoyle and for which Fowler got the Nobel prize. And show that carbon can indeed form in enough quantities without the strong force and electromagnetic force being finely tuned.

    It should be an interesting journey watching you climb and to finally see you too mount the steps in Norway to receive your just reward. Bravo, Nakashima. We are cheering you on. Undo it all and the world will be at your feet.

  464. 464
    StephenB says:

    Hazel, please answer. Can I use the principle of non-contradiction as a premise.

  465. 465
    StephenB says:

    David Kellogg: Pleae answer. Can I use the law of non-contradiction as a premise for an argument?

  466. 466
    StephenB says:

    Diffaxial, Please answer. Can I use the law-of non contradiction as a premise for an argument.

  467. 467
    StephenB says:

    —-Hazel: “As to the law of non-contradiction, of course I accept it as fundamental tool of logical reasoning.”

    —-Hazel: “you can have different logical systems where the law of non-contradiction does not hold.”

    Will the real Hazel please stand up.

  468. 468
    David Kellogg says:

    Sure you can. You haven’t, but you can.

  469. 469
    Rude says:

    David Kellog 440,

    … my point is not about mathematical realism. My point is that we don’t apprehend non-contradiction (or any such principle) merely through the use of reason.

    Sorry … guess I’m brash to enter this discussion when I don’t have time to read y’all’s words. But if I do understand you here then I agree. Reasoning is governed by principles which cannot themselves be derived by reason. And thus I think mathematical realism is pertinent to the argument here—y’all might want to have a look at this little essay by John Byl. I haven’t bothered to read Lakoff and Nuñez’ attempt at overthrowing two and a half millennia of mathematical realism, but it would be interesting to get the reaction of real mathematicians and physicists—anybody know of any good reviews?

  470. 470
    StephenB says:

    —-David Kellogg: “Sure you can. You haven’t, but you can.”

    Does that mean that you accept the the principle of non-contradiction as a self-evidently true statement about the real world?

  471. 471
    GCS says:

    Good Morning. Glad to see we are still going strong.

    Just my thoughts going back to the original post. It must be reasonable to believe in God, specifically the Christian God, because so many people are taking so much time and effort to refute it.

    It seems that if it was not reasonable, that would be fairly self evident, and there would be no reason to shoot it down. It appears to me that it is reasonable and the implications of that reasonableness are so profound that people have to fight against it at all costs.

    Peace, Gesualdo

  472. 472
    David Kellogg says:

    Gesualdo, I agree.

    Recently the discussion has turned toward a different question, namely, whether it is ureasonable not to believe (or to not believe) in God: that is, whether belief is the only reasonable view. I hold that it is not.

  473. 473
    David Kellogg says:

    “Does that mean that you accept the the principle of non-contradiction as a self-evidently true statement about the real world?”

    That’s not the way I talk. It certainly is not self-evident (on the grounds that the principle had to be argued for in early philosophy). It is also the case that many advances in mathematics, science, and philosophy have proceeded by thinking beyond the principle. (Imaginary numbers, Shroedinger’s cat, fuzzy logic, etc.) Whether those eventually resolve to accord with the principle at a deeper level is a moot point, as the advances were made by wilfully suspending the law for the purposes of a particular line of inquiry.

    It’s worth noting that various elements of Christian theology violate the LNC: the Trinity, the Incarnation, transubstantiation (for Catholics), etc.

  474. 474
    hazel says:

    Stephen writes, “Hazel, please answer. Can I use the principle of non-contradiction as a premise.”

    Sure. Go ahead, but see my remarks below.

    Stephen writes,

    —-Hazel: “As to the law of non-contradiction, of course I accept it as fundamental tool of logical reasoning.”

    —-Hazel: “you can have different logical systems where the law of non-contradiction does not hold.”

    Will the real Hazel please stand up.

    If you have paid attention to the various things I have said about this, I think you would understand my position (even though you disagree with it.)

    I accept standard logic – of course I do. However, as I have repeatedly pointed out, just as soon as you apply logic to real-world content (as opposed to just working within a logical system itself) you run into complexities about the way your logic models the real world, and these complexities are not reducible to merely a matter of logic. So logic is a tool, but any use of it in respect to the world has to be tested against the world.

    So people have found it useful, or at least interesting, to create different logics, starting with different axioms, to see if those logics were more useful in modeling some aspects of reality, just as people have created alternative algebras and geometries. The fact that this is possible tells us something about the nature of logic, and axiomatic systems in general, which is no one axiomatic system is the One and Only True System.

    I find it interesting that you don’t respond to these various points I and others have made about logic. Do you agree with any of the above two paragraphs.

    Also, you asked David,

    Does that mean that you accept the the principle of non-contradiction as a self-evidently true statement about the real world?

    My answer to that question is no: the principle of non-contradiction is an axiom about logic, but it is not self-evidently true about the real world. The principle of non-contradiction is a law about categories: it assumes a clearcut, unambiguous dividing line between A and not A, with no fuzziness or gradations. The real world is most assuredly not like that.

    Logic is a tool for thinking about and understanding the world, but it is necessarily limited, and sometimes, as with the law of non-contradiction, can make us think things are a certain way when they’re not.

  475. 475
    JayM says:

    GCS @471

    It must be reasonable to believe in God, specifically the Christian God, because so many people are taking so much time and effort to refute it.

    It seems that if it was not reasonable, that would be fairly self evident, and there would be no reason to shoot it down.

    It is self-evident that no one in this thread has presented a cogent argument for the existence of God, nor has anyone presented any empirical evidence. In the absence of logic or evidence, a belief cannot be said to be “reasonable” in a purely objective, technical sense.

    My faith doesn’t depend on objective, technical reasons, though, so I’m okay with that. Are you?

    JJ

  476. 476
    StephenB says:

    So, David, what is your answer to my question at 470. Is the law-of-non-contradiction merely “trivially true,” or is it really true?

    You say that I haven’t used it. Are you sure about that?

  477. 477
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB, I’d echo what hazel said above about categories, and add that the LNC is relatively true depending on the context.

    You’ve said a lot of things. Am I sure that you’ve not used the LNC ever in this thread? No. Would using the LNC make your argument work? Also no.

  478. 478
    Sotto Voce says:

    Dropping the law of non-contradiction leads to triviality only if your conception of the logical consequence relation is explosive, i.e. for all A and all B, B is a logical consequence of {A, ~A}. However, since the ’50s logicians have constructed various formal systems (and corresponding proof theories) that reject this conception of logical consequence. These systems can countenance explicit contradiction without entailing everything.

    More here.

  479. 479
    GCS says:

    David,

    Thank you. I also agree with you that it can be reasonable not to believe in God. I state that primarily because I understand that God never overwelms our absolute free will. We always can make a choice to believe or not to believe and we have powerful intellects which are able to support our decision.

    However, it seems less reasonable to deny any overall guidance (design) of the universe we live in.

    Gesualdo

  480. 480
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “My answer to that question is no: the principle of non-contradiction is an axiom about logic, but it is not self-evidently true about the real world.”

    OK. I just wanted to get that on record. So, if I say that a thing can be and not be at the same time, your answer is that we cannot really apply that principle in the real world. It is nothing but an axiom.

    Just for the record, I did apply the principle of non-contradiction in my demonstrations, but you did not recognize its form. But there is no reason to show you how and where I used it because you don’t accept it as a self-evident truth in any case.

    By the way, it would be fun watching you and Hazel defend the proposition that the world can exist and not exist at the same time because the principle of non-contradiction is only an axiom.

  481. 481
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB, you attribute Hazel’s words to me. Not that I disagree with them, but still.

    I won’t speak for hazel, but I doubt I would “defend the proposition that the world can exist and not exist at the same time.” Don’t accuse people of absurdity simply because they don’t accept your pretense of rigor.

  482. 482
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “StephenB, I’d echo what hazel said above about categories, and add that the LNC [law of non-contradiction] is relatively true depending on the context.”

    Thank you for putting that on the record. This will save us all a lot of trouble in the future.

  483. 483
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “I won’t speak for hazel, but I doubt I would “defend the proposition that the world can exist and not exist at the same time.” Don’t accuse people of absurdity simply because they don’t accept your pretense of rigor.”

    How would you explain that the world cannot exist and not exist at the same time without appealing to the law of non-contradiction as a self-evident truth?

  484. 484
    hazel says:

    Stephen writes,

    OK. I just wanted to get that on record. So, if I say that a thing can be and not be at the same time, your answer is that we cannot really apply that principle in the real world. It is nothing but an axiom.

    I did not say that. Your misunderstanding of things that I written is so extreme that I wonder whether you actually read what I write, whether you just are unable to see anything other than black-and-white distinctions, or what. I am genuinely puzzled.

    For instance I just wrote,

    I accept standard logic – of course I do. However, as I have repeatedly pointed out, just as soon as you apply logic to real-world content (as opposed to just working within a logical system itself) you run into complexities about the way your logic models the real world, and these complexities are not reducible to merely a matter of logic. So logic is a tool, but any use of it in respect to the world has to be tested against the world.

    So people have found it useful, or at least interesting, to create different logics, starting with different axioms, to see if those logics were more useful in modeling some aspects of reality, just as people have created alternative algebras and geometries. The fact that this is possible tells us something about the nature of logic, and axiomatic systems in general, which is no one axiomatic system is the One and Only True System. …

    My answer to that question is no: the principle of non-contradiction is an axiom about logic, but it is not self-evidently true about the real world. The principle of non-contradiction is a law about categories: it assumes a clearcut, unambiguous dividing line between A and not A, with no fuzziness or gradations. The real world is most assuredly not like that.

    Logic is a tool for thinking about and understanding the world, but it is necessarily limited, and sometimes, as with the law of non-contradiction, can make us think things are a certain way when they’re not.

    I very clearly did NOT say that you couldn’t apply logic in general, or the law of non-contradiction, to the real world. I said that there were complexities involved, and that we had to test our conclusions, and that the world is sometimes fuzzy, and the law of non-contradiction can sometimes mislead us. That is all extremely different than saying that you can’t apply logic to the real world.

    And I said that the LNC was an axiom, not JUST an axiom – the word “just” trivializes what I said. Axioms are core components of any logical system – it does not demean or lessen something to call it an axiom.

    Are you willing to assent that I did not say “we cannot really apply that principle [the LNC] in the real world” and that I did not say that it was “just” an axiom?

  485. 485
    David Kellogg says:

    Since nobody is arguing that the world does both exist and not exist, I don’t see the point.

  486. 486
    David Kellogg says:

    (Aside: on the other hand, people do argue that a person can be both “fully man” and “fully God,” that a single being can be three persons, and that a substance can be simultaneously bread and not-bread or wine and not-wine.)

  487. 487
    vjtorley says:

    Hazel

    Thank you for your post (#461). Just for the record, when I say objective, I mean extra-mental: to say that a statement is objectively true means that its truth in no way depends on whether anyone believes it, or ever has believed it, or ever will.

    I have nowhere asserted that “objectively true” means “independently of physical reality,” and in any case I would never say that absolute moral truths are always independent of physical reality, as many of these truths are about physical acts which may or may not be performed by embodied beings, such as ourselves.

    Judging from your last post, you accept that there are objective truths about the world. I’m glad we’re agreed on that one.

    You point out, correctly, that statements made by scientists and historians are: (i) provisional, and hence subject to revision; (ii) limited in their degree of accuracy; and (iii) incomplete. These are all perfectly valid points, and I would agree with you. I would also agree that there are many scientific and historical questions whose truth will forever elude us.

    You also point out that logic alone cannot tell us about reality, and you pointed to alternative geometries and algebras as an example. Quite so; which is precisely why I did not list mathematics as one of the fields of human inquiry which treats of objective truth, in my post at #398.

    I will however mention in passing that the law of identity (A = A) and the law of non-contradiction (Not (A-and-not-A)) are principles whose negation is impossible without destroying rational thought altogether. However, the law of excluded middle (A or not-A) does not apply for fuzzy predicates, such as “bald.” The first and third counter-examples you cite against the law of non-contradiction (Point X is either on a mounntain or it is not; You are either on my side or you are not) are in fact arguments against the law of excluded middle; while the second example reflects a simple category mistake (The ocean is proud or it is not).

    As regards the pragmatic theory of truth – I use this phrase to mean the radical notion that a statement is true if and only if it works satisfactorily, on a practical level. (That’s more or less how the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines it.) You, on the other hand, use pragmatic in a quite different sense – you equate it to “provisional”:

    Science establishes objective truths of this sort, but they are also pragmatic in that they are provisional to some degree …

    Why am I harping on the importance of objective truth? Because it has important consequences for how you view the human mind, and hence for how you view yourself. If the search for truth is merely a search for what works on a practical level, then of course an instrument (such as the human brain) which has a long track record in achieving success on a practical level (courtesy of natural selection) will be very good at finding truth.

    But if you think that truth lies outside the mind, and that scientific statements are true regardless of whether we believe them or not, and regardless of what useful consequences they might have for us – either in the laboratory or out of it – then you will begin to wonder how an organ, whose evolution was determined by the over-riding need to arrive at strategies for achieving successful consequences and avoiding dangerous ones, could possibly be trusted to discover truths that have nothing to do with consequences, dangerous or otherwise.

    I was therefore mightily surprised that a well-qualified scientist like Allen MacNeill appeared quite happy to accept the pragmatic account of truth. I characterized this account as follows in post #143:

    There have been some scientists and philosophers, known as instrumentalists, who have suggested that science is not really a search for truth; instead, it is merely a search for a working hypothesis which satisfactorily explains our observations and makes useful predictions. We should not pretend that the hypothesis is actually true; it’s merely useful. Over the course of time, all of our scientific hypotheses are liable to be supplanted by other, more useful hypotheses. But we shall never arrive at truth.

    Allen replied in #164:

    I find your description of what you call an “anti-realist” to be a reasonably precise description of what I was taught should be the attitude taken by any competent, well-trained scientist. My only real quibble would be the term you used: “anti-realist”. I believe that “non-realist” would be much more precise and would conform more closely to how many scientists actually think about nature. I have never used the moniker “instrumentalist”, however, nor would I be inclined to use “anti-realist” (even if you capitalized the R in Realist)…

    So, to make a short story long, when it comes to science there is no such thing as “truth”, there is only generalizations that have not yet been shown empirically to be contradicted by the evidence.

    Now, I suppose that one could do science in this very modest “non-realist” fashion, seeking merely to systematize our scientific observations in the most economical way, without attempting to discover “truth.” My point is that there is a huge difference between (a) trusting that our brains are able to systematize all of our observations of the cosmos, up to the present time, and (b) trusting that our brains are able to unlock the secrets of the cosmos, such as how old it is or how big it is. I might trust an organ with a proven track record in formulating successful strategies to accomplish the task described in (a) above – although even here, I’d be hesitant, as the observations in question relate to physical locations (e.g. the far reaches of space and time) that our brains have not evolved to cope with, or to make theories about. Thus even the modest theoretical task of systematizing our current astronomical observations to formulate a working hypothesis might prove too much for us, in the end.

    However, I would never trust my brain to accomplish task (b). I just can’t think of any reason why it should succeed in that enterprise. (As it happens, the currently accepted age of the cosmos – 13.73 billion years – is supported by several converging lines of evidence; but that is beside the point, which is that our brains evolved to promote human reproductive success, not truth; and it is only rarely that the two aims coincide.)

    Later, in #398, I commented on “Beelzebub’s attempt to turn the tables on the immaterialists and argue that a material mind was more likely to reason correctly, as it had been shaped by natural selection, which would tend to eliminate minds prone to making mistaken inferences.” However, I realized that Beelzebub’s argument contained a hidden philosophical assumption:

    That argument works perfectly well if you accept that a pragmatic theory of truth is universally valid, or even valid for most of the statements we call true; but as someone who believes that truth is objective, I’d say it covers a relatively tiny portion of scientific truths, no historical truths, no philosophical truths and no religious truths. That’s why pragmatism cuts no ice with me.

    You then responded (#424):

    But it seems to me all scientific truths are pragmatic. And I don’t know what you mean by historical truths, but if you mean knowledge about historical events, those too are pragmatic.

    That was the remark of yours that astonished me. I interpreted you to mean by this that history was merely the search for the “best fit” for the historical data we have – a pragmatic goal. I can see now, after reading your post in #461, that I misunderstood you. You do not deny the objectivity of history and science; all you affirm is that historical and scientific knowledge are both provisional in nature. Fair enough. Thus your position is less extreme than Allen MacNeill’s statement (#164) that “when it comes to science there is no such thing as ‘truth.'”

    However, what I am arguing is that even the enterprise of searching for objective truth (never mind finding it) is not something our brains are equipped to do, in any field of human inquiry, except where truth and reproductive success happen to coincide. Yes, our knowledge is subject to revision as new information comes in; but that won’t help us, unless we know that our revisions are taking us closer to the truth. We don’t know that. Our hypotheses might even wander further and further from the truth with time, for all we know, as the space of possible hypotheses is infinite – especially in the more speculative areas of cosmology.

    So how does an immaterial mind discover objective truth? Short answer: (a) because a benevolent Deity has designed the universe in such a way as to be comprehensible to a high degree in terms of metaphors and concepts that are drawn from our everyday experience; and (b) because said Deity has also given us immaterial minds that are able to critically examine everything we believe, so that we can avoid getting stuck in a scientific, conceptual or metaphysical rut when reasoning.

    So that, in a nutshell, is why I’m skeptical of dogmatic materialists (which I know you are not), who claim to be certain that what we call “the human mind” is really nothing but the way in which the brain evolved.

    I hope you can also see that an immaterial mind is better positioned to avoid systematic error than a material one, but that even an immaterial mind would get nowhere in its quest to understand the cosmos unless the cosmos was created by a very benevolent Deity, who wants human beings to be able to do good science.

  488. 488
    Diffaxial says:

    In my opinion, the principle of non-contradiction, and similar rules of logic, are not aptly described as a premises for any particular argument.

    Rather, it describes one foundation of a particular sort of propositional logic, one of many tools for logical reasoning. Hence while foundational to all such logical argumentation, it is itself not a premise of any particular argument.

    Rather:

    The rules of logic (including non-contradiction) and particular logical moves utilized within a logical argument stand in the same relationship that obtains between the rules of chess and particular moves within a game of chess.

    The description of the chessboard, specification of legal moves for various pieces, and the illegality of moves that place (or leave) one’s own king in check are NOT themselves moves in chess. Rather, they define and adjudicate legal moves within the game Similarly, the rules governing propositional logic are not themselves logical moves within an argument. Rather, they adjudicate which such moves are “legal.”

    To articulate a premise is to make a move a piece on the game board of logic. Upon describing the “Law of non-contradiction” as a “premise” one conflates these two levels of description, as that law is not a particular “move.”

  489. 489
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “Since nobody is arguing that the world does both exist and not exist, I don’t see the point.”

    The point is that you have no rational means of countering the argument that the world can both exist and not exist at the same time. Having denied that the law of non contradiction can be applied to the real world, you have abandoned rationality altogether. Indeed, the rule that a thing cannot be and not be [as opposed to the principle that a thing cannot be both true and false] is ALREADY a statement about the real world. Naturally, that escapes you.

  490. 490
    StephenB says:

    Diffaxial, please answer my question. Can I use the principle [a thing cannot be and not be] as a legitimate self-evident truth or not?

  491. 491
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB, this is the inevitable end-point of your arguments: to accuse your opponents of abandoning rationality. How about listening for a change?

  492. 492
    StephenB says:

    —-Hazel: “Are you willing to assent that I did not say “we cannot really apply that principle [the LNC] in the real world” and that I did not say that it was “just” an axiom?”

    Well, I don’t know. Let’s put it to the test. Can I say with authority that the universe cannot exist and not exist at the same time because the law of identity [a thing cannot be an not be] is a self evident truth? By the way the law of identity is not exactly the same thing as the law of non-contradiction. You understand that, right?

  493. 493
    hazel says:

    Stephen writes, again,

    Having denied that the law of non contradiction can be applied to the real world, you have abandoned rationality altogether.

    Nope, we didn’t say that – no one has “denied that the law of non contradiction can be applied to the real world.” See 484 above (since I’m tired of reposting the same thing over and over.)

  494. 494
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB, your refusal to listen is becoming (cough cough) self-evident.

  495. 495
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “StephenB, this is the inevitable end-point of your arguments: to accuse your opponents of abandoning rationality. How about listening for a change?”

    OK, I am listening. Can you say with authority that the world cannot exist and not exist at the same time? If you do say that, explain you you know it.

  496. 496
    StephenB says:

    495 should read, “explain how you know that.

  497. 497
    David Kellogg says:

    That’s not listening: that’s commanding. As I pointed out above, the question is irrelevant. Your comment at 489 does not make it relevant.

    Your goal at this point seems to be to show that hazel and I are irrational. This is useful mainly as a distraction away from the failure of your 10-point proof of God posted at 215.

  498. 498
    David Kellogg says:

    Dylan’s song “Maggie’s Farm” just came on the radio. StephenB reminds me of the character of Ma:

    She talks to all the servants
    about man and God and law

  499. 499
    StephenB says:

    David, Hazel, and Diffaxial:
    This is a statement about the real world. “A thing cannot be and not be at the same time.” Is this a true statement about the real world?

  500. 500
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “Your goal at this point seems to be to show that hazel and I are irrational. This is useful mainly as a distraction away from the failure of your 10-point proof of God posted at 215.”

    This is precisely about my 10 point proof at 215. Now please answer the question. Here is a statement about the real world: “A thing cannot be and not be at the same time.” Is it true or not?

  501. 501
    Rude says:

    I can identify with the agnostic but must agree with Israel’s king that only the nabal says in his innermost being that there is no God.

    As atheist Sheldon Glashow observes in The Charm of Physics, the scientist who makes a great discovery is always the one who somehow knows deep in his bones, all evidence to the contrary, that things are good. The rest simply work within the theories of the greats or serve as devil’s advocates. Belief in God, as in any respectable scientific theory, should be supported by evidence—nevertheless I think that somehow knowing “that things are good” is a gift which if you don’t have it you can’t work it up. Therefore I respect the honesty of the agnostic—at least those not so arrogant as to claim they know enough about the unknown to know that it is unknowable.

    Now—back to logico-mathematical realism—most biologists of the Darwinian stripe seem never to have heard of it, and thus their atheism evolves toward postmodernism. But physicists such as Albert Einstein or Roger Penrose who reject an agentive God still are convinced of a logico-mathematical realism that comes close to Plato’s and the Deist’s God.

    It would be interesting to hear the atheists here argue for and against Einstein’s and Penrose’s genre of atheism.

  502. 502
    StephenB says:

    —-David Kellogg: “Dylan’s song “Maggie’s Farm” just came on the radio. StephenB reminds me of the character of Ma:”

    So, we are resorting to the personal attacks again are we? Please respond to #499 and #500.

  503. 503
    StephenB says:

    Also, David, you might respond to #489 as well.

  504. 504
    Diffaxial says:

    StephenB:

    Diffaxial, please answer my question. Can I use the principle [a thing cannot be and not be] as a legitimate self-evident truth or not?

    That wasn’t your question. Your question pertained to utilizing it a a premise for your argument:

    Diffaxial, Please answer. Can I use the law-of non contradiction as a premise for an argument.

    I believe I answered that question quite clearly in 488 above.

  505. 505
    vjtorley says:

    David Kellogg:

    (Aside: on the other hand, people do argue that a person can be both “fully man” and “fully God,” that a single being can be three persons, and that a substance can be simultaneously bread and not-bread or wine and not-wine.)

    Hold on. No Christian of any stripe ever taught that “a substance can be simultaneously bread and not-bread or wine and not-wine.” For instance, the Catholic teaching is that before the priest utters the words Our Lord used in the Last Supper, the substances present on the altar are bread and wine; but after the priest says the words of Consecration, the substance present is Jesus Christ Himself, who is present physically but not spatially in the Eucharist, hidden under the appearances of bread and wine. That’s a mystery, but not a contradiction.

    What about the Trinity? It’s not absurd to assert that a single being can be three persons. I think you are confusing Christian doctrine with the bizarre teaching of John Philoponus, who taught that there are three separate divinities, Father, Son, and Spirit, who are one only in a generic sense, as having the same kind of nature (just as you, I and StephenB all possess human nature). That’s tritheism.

    Christians have developed many different analogies for the Trinity. But for me, it’s just a consequence of saying that God knows and loves Himself perfectly, and that in God, self-knowledge and self-love are necessarily personal. God the Son is God’s Word, or knowledge of Himself; God the Holy Spirit is God’s Love.

    Regarding the Incarnation: the notion that a person can be a person can be both “fully man” and “fully God” is not a contradiction. The notion that a person can be both “exclusively man” and “exclusively God” is a contradiction, but Christianity has never taught that.

  506. 506
    hazel says:

    Stephen, perhaps you could respond to some of our points rather than insisting that everyone respond to your.

    We have never said that the LNC can’t be applied to the real world, but we have pointed out places where there are complexities.

    You writes, “This is a statement about the real world. “A thing cannot be and not be at the same time.” Is this a true statement about the real world?”

    Depends on whether the “thing” is clearly defined or not. If the thing is the whole universe, then I’d say yes, this is a place where the statement accurately reflects the world. If the thing is a photon passing through a narrow slit then I’m not sure how true this is.

    But whatever the case, this just one example of the use of the LNC. “A thing cannot be a tree and not be a tree” is more complicated: while the logic is true, the statement is really about how we categorize objects and not the objects itself. For instance, you would use this statement as a starting point to saying that you were going to count the trees on an acre, but you would also have to make a lot of decisions about what counts as a tree. For each object you could declare, we’ll this is either a tree or it isn’t a tree, because it can’t be both, but there is no “logical” criteria as to what counts as a tree – that is a decision about the real world we have to make separate from the logic.

  507. 507
    JayM says:

    Rude @501

    Belief in God, as in any respectable scientific theory, should be supported by evidence—nevertheless I think that somehow knowing “that things are good” is a gift which if you don’t have it you can’t work it up.

    That same reasoning can be applied in the other direction, just as easily, though. Somehow knowing “that things are good without the need for gods” can be construed as a gift that many people don’t possess.

    JJ

  508. 508
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Jerry,

    Exactly how is this paper irrelevant? I would be satisfied with hearing how it is less relevant than a philosophic parable about a fly, a wall, a bullet, and perhaps a Marksman.

    I am in complete agreement that the results of this paper need to be refined, as in fact Adams notes at the end of the paper itself. The topic you touch on is exactly where an ID-supportive scientist might choose to focus. I see two issues.

    One is the nucleosynthesis issue. Do carbon and oxygen accumulate through helium burning? Or does some other even happen before significant amounts of these elements are synthesized?

    The other is the question of galactic structure. Our form of life relies on stars being formed near the remnants of older stars. Does this kind of clumping occur in other universes?

    We all agree, I think, that these are important and unanswered questions. They are, however, scientific questions that can be answered through a scientific methodology of model refinement and a dialectic of competing models. That’s the opportunity, to do some new science instead of relying on old speculations. Do you agree with that?

  509. 509
    StephenB says:

    —-Hazel: “Depends on whether the “thing” is clearly defined or not. If the thing is the whole universe, then I’d say yes, this is a place where the statement accurately reflects the world. If the thing is a photon passing through a narrow slit then I’m not sure how true this is.”

    OK, I just wanted to get it on record that you [Diffaxial, and David Kellogg] deny the uconditional truth of the statment, “A thing cannot be and not be at the same time.”

    This, of course, is the real reason that the three of you dismissed my argument at 215. You accept the law of identity when it suits your purpose, and you reject it when it doesn’t.

    As vjtorley pointed out [much more diplomatically than myself] …”the law of identity (A = A) and the law of non-contradiction (Not (A-and-not-A)) are principles whose negation is impossible without destroying rational thought altogether.”

  510. 510
    Clive Hayden says:

    David Kellogg,

    —–“Dylan’s song “Maggie’s Farm” just came on the radio. StephenB reminds me of the character of Ma:

    She talks to all the servants
    about man and God and law”

    Dylan’s song “Gotta Serve Somebody” just came on the radio, and David reminds me that:

    “You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk,
    You may be the head of some big TV network,
    You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame,
    You may be living in another country under another name

    But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
    You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
    Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
    But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

    And, of course, not to forget “Slow Train Coming”

    “Man’s ego is inflated, his laws are outdated, they don’t apply no more
    You can’t rely no more to be standing around waiting……..

    They say loose your inhibitions, follow your own ambitions
    They talk about a life of brotherly love, show me someone who knows how to live it
    There’s slow, slow train coming up around the bend.”

  511. 511
    StephenB says:

    —-Diffaxial: “That wasn’t your question. Your question pertained to utilizing it a a premise for your argument:”

    Your answer prompted me to ask this new question as a means of clarifying your meaning:

    Is the statement, “A thing cannot be and not be at the same time” [law of identity] a true statement about the real world?

    Are you willing to answer this follow up question?

  512. 512
    David Kellogg says:

    vjtorley [505], a mystery is a theologian’s way to avoid admitting a contradiction.

    Thanks for correcting me on transubstantiation: that makes a lot more sense now. Perfectly rational.

    All in all, like your justifications of ancient slaughter in earlier posts, your comment here shows a few of the knots theology will tie itself in. It has me veering between Mencken’s definition of theology (“explanations of the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing”) and Churchill’s description of the Soviet Union (“a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”).

  513. 513
    Clive Hayden says:

    hazel,

    —–“So people have found it useful, or at least interesting, to create different logics, starting with different axioms, to see if those logics were more useful in modeling some aspects of reality, just as people have created alternative algebras and geometries. The fact that this is possible tells us something about the nature of logic, and axiomatic systems in general, which is no one axiomatic system is the One and Only True System.”

    Excepting, of course, the axiom which you follow that claims that “no one axiomatic system is the One and Only True System.” That, at least, you’re claiming is a truism that cuts across all other truisms. In the end, you have to settle on an axiom, even if that settling means to settle on the axiom that “directs you to the conclusion that you shouldn’t settle on an axiom.” Of course, that’s contradictory, which is the axiom at hand. Or the axiom that you shouldn’t settle on just one axiom, but maybe more than one, in which case, you’re settling on something, namely, that you shouldn’t settle on one. But that axiom is itself one, maybe we could call it the guiding one, that guides you on whether you should settle on any others. But presumably, this is only “one” guiding axiom itself. So again, we might be reaching a contradiction. But if you maintain that axioms when applied to nature are not useful, that conclusion is itself an axiom that could’ve only arose out of an observation about axioms and nature, and is therefore an axiom about nature, which is the very thing that you’re skeptical about. In the end, as I said before, you cannot maintain that no axioms apply to nature, without being self-referentially incoherent. But maybe you think it perfectly fine to be self-referentially incoherent. In which case, I don’t see the point in continuing this argument.

  514. 514
    David Kellogg says:

    “This, of course, is the real reason that the three of you dismissed my argument at 215.”

    Actually, I dismissed it because it’s a lousy argument. Of course, you know what I think better than I do.

    As I pointed out (and still hold), Christianity has several doctrines that violate the law of non-contradiction.

    The appropriate answer to your question is “it depends.” This is also appropriate given that the statement as you have put it is not — despite your claim to the contrary — a statement about the real world but a mere abstract proposition (“thing” does not refer to anything in particular).

    I apologize for my ref. to Maggie’s Farm. I was reminded not of you as such but of your hectoring behavior. Maggie is different from you, obviously. For one, she’s a woman. Also, I don’t know how old you are, but Maggie is eternally 68 (but she says she’s 54).

  515. 515
    David Kellogg says:

    Correction: for “Maggie” in 514 read “Maggie’s Ma.”

  516. 516
    StephenB says:

    —-Hazel: “A thing cannot be a tree and not be a tree” is more complicated: while the logic is true, the statement is really about how we categorize objects and not the objects itself.”

    God help us all. Is this what Western Civilization has come down to? The law of identity refers specifically to the object under investigation and not to the mental processes of the investigator.

  517. 517
    StephenB says:

    David, are you going to evade the question forever?

    “A thing cannot be and not be at the same time.” Is this a true statement about the real world?

  518. 518
    David Kellogg says:

    It’s all about the decline of Western Civilization (TM). Also about those damn kids who won’t get off my lawn. They have crazy hair, and their music — just noise.

  519. 519
    David Kellogg says:

    Since it’s not any kind of statement about the real world, it can’t be a true statement about the world.

  520. 520
    StephenB says:

    —David: OK, sorry. I do indeed have your answer.

    The appropriate answer to your question is “it depends.” This is also appropriate given that the statement as you have put it is not — despite your claim to the contrary — a statement about the real world but a mere abstract proposition (”thing” does not refer to anything in particular).”

    So, you do deny the law of identity. Thank you for that disclosure.

  521. 521
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB, we’ve reached the point we did before: where you have convinced yourself of what you believed at first, that those who disagree with you are irrational. You are now free to crow about how you have won the argument because your opponents are irrational without actually dealing with any of the objections to it. The next time it comes up you will say that it was never countered when in fact you never responded to those who critiqued it beyond setting up this jejune exercise.

  522. 522
    StephenB says:

    Leonard Peikoff:

    —“To exist is to be something, as distinguished from the nothing of non-existence, it is to be an entity of a specific nature made of specific attributes. Centuries ago, the man who was—no matter what his errors—the greatest of your philosophers, has stated the formula defining the concept of existence and the rule of all knowledge: A is A. A thing is itself. You have never grasped the meaning of his statement. I am here to complete it: Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification.

    —-Whatever you choose to consider, be it an object, an attribute or an action, the law of identity remains the same. A leaf cannot be a stone at the same time, it cannot be all red and all green at the same time, it cannot freeze and burn at the same time. A is A. Or, if you wish it stated in simpler language: You cannot have your cake and eat it, too.
    Are you seeking to know what is wrong with the world? All the disasters that have wrecked your world, came from your leaders’ attempt to evade the fact that A is A. All the secret evil you dread to face within you and all the pain you have ever endured, came from your own attempt to evade the fact that A is A. The purpose of those who taught you to evade it, was to make you forget that Man is Man.

    —-A thing is—what it is; its characteristics constitute its identity. An existent apart from its characteristics, would be an existent apart from its identity, which means: a nothing, a non-existent.

  523. 523
    David Kellogg says:

    Leonard Peikoff is an even worse philosopher than his mentor Ayn Rand.

  524. 524
    StephenB says:

    —-David Kellogg: “StephenB, we’ve reached the point we did before: where you have convinced yourself of what you believed at first, that those who disagree with you are irrational. You are now free to crow about how you have won the argument because your opponents are irrational without actually dealing with any of the objections to it.

    I am happy to go on record saying that anyone who persistently denies the law of identity and the law of non contradiction is, at best, impervious to reason. Yes, I would go one step further and declare that person to be irrational.

    You said that my argument was not a good argument, but, as kairosfocus demonstrated, you could not follow it, mistakenly believing that the steps involved were all “premises.” So, as it turns out, your assessment is meaningless. Indeed, you did not even recognize that my premise was, itself, based on the law of identity, which, as it turns out, you also reject.

    In effect, you dismiss every rational argument that threatens to confirm the creator’s handiwork in nature. That is your problem, not mine.

  525. 525
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB [524], you write,

    as kairosfocus demonstrated, [i] could not follow [your argument], mistakenly believing that the steps involved were all “premises.”

    I presume you mean kairosfocus at 389 and 390. Alas, kairosfocus did not “demonstrate” anything beyond his own prolixy — which is amply demonstrated elsewhere — since his engagement with your argument mainly consisted of quoting and nodding his head. After 10 numbered points aobut his typical obsessions, he quotes premise 1 and blathers on about the big bang, bullet point bullet point, then quotes premise 2 and calls it a “clarification.” Yes: as in a restatement. Premise 3 he calls an “inference,” but does not justify that name. Indeed, by saying that 3 works by the implications of 1 explicit, he gives away the game: it’s another restatement. 4 and 5 he notes are flip sides of each other, and does not label 4 as an inference. Etc.

    The only arguments kairosfocus wins are the ones where he wears his opponent out.

  526. 526
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB, you write

    I am happy to go on record saying that anyone who persistently denies the law of identity and the law of non contradiction is, at best, impervious to reason. Yes, I would go one step further and declare that person to be irrational.

    I have not “persistently denied” either. I have asked for clarification, specificity, reasons for framing the question in particular ways, etc.

  527. 527
    Rude says:

    Jay M 507,

    That same reasoning can be applied in the other direction, just as easily, though. Somehow knowing “that things are good without the need for gods” can be construed as a gift that many people don’t possess.

    Exactly! That’s Glashow’s point, at least as I understand it. And it’s the argument I’d like to see here—between that old time atheism (which was good enough for Flew) and this postmodernist nihilism that can’t even play a good devil’s advocate.

    Is there anything in the Western logical tradition that might unite us or is it all down the toilet now?

    Anyway for those who’d like to revive a little of the old Einsteinian style atheism, why not read John Byl and then argue whether or not logico-mathematical realism can survive without theism.

    Those who cannot agree that logic is real might wish to sit this one out.

  528. 528
    Diffaxial says:

    Stephen:

    Your question keeps morphing. First it was:

    Diffaxial, Please answer. Can I use the law-of non contradiction as a premise for an argument.

    My answer to this question is found in 488. I don’t believe it is accurate to describe the law of non-contradiction as a “premise” for any given argument. Rather, it is part of the foundation of logic that enables reasoning from premises possible at all.

    To repeat my analogy, it and similar rules of logical inference are analogous to the rules of chess (“Bishops move diagonally”) rather than analogous to any given move in chess (“BQK4”). Stating a premise, OTOH, is analogous to moving a piece. And your premises are actually illegal moves, because they invoke tautological reasoning.

    Then it was,

    Diffaxial, please answer my question. Can I use the principle [a thing cannot be and not be] as a legitimate self-evident truth or not?

    Now you are asking a different question, not about non-contradiction and premises, but about whether objects can or cannot “be and not be” at the same time, and if so whether you can “use” that “principle.”

    However, this version is problematic for several reasons. Primarily, in light of the meanings of the words employed, I actually have no idea what it would mean to assert that something can simultaneously “be and not be.” This problem arises out of our understanding of the meaning of the verb “to be,” not out of any facts about objects in the world (and, again, I can’t fathom what it would mean to assert that an object both exists and doesn’t exist). Thanks to Wittgenstein, we understand that the negation of an unintelligible proposition is also unintelligible. Therefore, “a thing can be and not be” isn’t false and “a thing cannot be and not be” isn’t true; rather, both are unintelligible.

    Now it is,

    Is the statement, “A thing cannot be and not be at the same
    time” [law of identity] a true statement about the real world?

    No. See above. Given that “a thing can be and not be at the same time” is an unintelligible assertion, it’s negation is also an unintelligible assertion. Due to its unintelligibility it isn’t about anything at all. At best it is a restatement of the meaning of the verb “to be.”

  529. 529
    David Kellogg says:

    What Diffaxial said.

  530. 530
    StephenB says:

    —-David Kellogg: “I have not “persistently denied” either. I have asked for clarification, specificity, reasons for framing the question in particular ways, etc.

    I asked you very explicitly if you accept the law of identity.

    Your response was, “it depends.”

    No, it doesn’t. The law of identity is not negotiable as a standard for rationality. You can’t just pick and choose when you are going to acknowledge the law and when you are going to equivocate about it. To deny the universal application of the law is to deny that law.

    —-“This is also appropriate given that the statement as you have put it is not — despite your claim to the contrary — a statement about the real world but a mere abstract proposition (”thing” does not refer to anything in particular).”

    The law applies to any entity in the real world. You can’t escape that fact by fussing over my term, “thing.” This is just one more example of your habit of hiding behind words to avoid the substance of the debate. If I had used the word, “object,” “entity,” or some other expression, you would have used the same tactic.

    Wikipedia puts it this way: “In logic, the law of identity states that an “object” is the same as itself: A ? A.” That is a statement about “things” in the real world. It is not a statement about our method of classifying things.

  531. 531
    David Kellogg says:

    Apparently the quote StephenB proivdes above is not from Peikoff but from Rand herself, or rather, from John Galt’s speech in Rand’s excruciatingly bad novel Atlas Shrugged. (Rand, of course, qualified as a militant atheist.)

  532. 532
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB, the statement

    A thing cannot be and not be at the same time

    is not philosophically equivalent to the statement

    A = A

    If you don’t see that, I question your self-declared grounding in philosophy.

  533. 533
    David Kellogg says:

    Addendum: I will happily accept the validity of a thing’s identity with itself.

  534. 534
    StephenB says:

    Diffaxial, I suddenly realized that this may be the first time that you have ever heard of the concept, “law of identity.” Either that, or you are pretending not to know what it is.

    So, since you, like David, choose to hide behind words as a means of avoiding the issue, here is the formal definition for the Law of identity (A = A) and the law of non-contradiction (Not (A-and-not-A)).

    The former is a statement about the real world, however much you want to deny it. Do you accept these principles or don’t you?

    Just for the record, you need to know that the phrase, “a thing cannot be and not be at the same time,” has been used millions of times to describe the law, and no one that I know of ever feigned ignorance about the meaning of that statement. So, except for the atheists and atheist sympathizers on this thread, everyone else knows what the phrase means.

  535. 535
    StephenB says:

    —David: “Addendum: I will happily accept the validity of a thing’s identity with itself.”

    Well, then, will you extend this foray into the world of rational thought long enough to understand that, if it is identical with itself, then it cannot be something else at the same time. Can you also take the next big stretch and acknowledge that the law applies to “things” in the real world and not our perception of things.

  536. 536
    David Kellogg says:

    Onlookers who peruse the entry on identity at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy will see that identity is a more complex topic than StephenB’s presentation suggests. I note in particular this passage:

    no condition can be stated in a first-order language for a predicate to express identity, rather than mere indiscernibility by the resources of the language. However, in a second-order language, in which quantification over all properties (not just those for which the language contains predicates) is possible and Leibniz’s Law is therefore statable, identity can be uniquely characterised. Identity is thus not first-order, but only second-order definable.

    It is not just because some of your opponents are atheists that your position is weak.

  537. 537
    David Kellogg says:

    Sure.

  538. 538
    David Kellogg says:

    But everything does depend on the language.

  539. 539
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “A thing cannot be and not be at the same time

    —–is not philosophically equivalent to the statement

    —-A = A

    Does the word “reciprocal” have any meaning for you?

    A = A translates into A is A as well as, A cannot be not A.

  540. 540
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB, if you understand Diffaxial at 528 you might see why they’re not equivalent.

  541. 541
    Sotto Voce says:

    A = A translates into A is A as well as, A cannot be not A.

    This thread is a prime example of why so many philosophers prefer to formulate their arguments in formal languages rather than natural language. What do you mean when you say “A = A” can be translated as “A cannot be not A”? This is a very confusing (and, I suspect, confused) claim.

    In first order logic, identity is a relation between individuals. Negation, on the other hand, is a sentential operator, so the translation you propose is a category error. You move from “a = a” to “a cannot be not a”, but if a is an individual (the sort of thing that can serve as a relatum for identity), then “not a” is nonsensical.

  542. 542
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “Onlookers who peruse the entry on identity at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy will see that identity is a more complex topic than StephenB’s presentation suggests. I note in particular this passage:”

    Now, see how that works. You were just starting to get it at 533 but then you had a lapse and went googling to find a way out. Are you under the impression that that article invalidates the law of non-contradiction or the law of identity? Should I even take time out to explain the meaning of the words, “at the same time and under the same formal circumstances.” Nah. I will save that for tomorrow if anyone is still around.

  543. 543
    David Kellogg says:

    Dude, I was objecting to your vaunted translation at 532. The only reason I looked up the SEP entry was because you said (in 534) that everyone agrees with you.

  544. 544
    StephenB says:

    —-Sotta Voce: ” You move from “a = a” to “a cannot be not a”, but if a is an individual (the sort of thing that can serve as a relatum for identity), then “not a” is nonsensical.

    I will abandon the whole idea of anything “reciprocal,” so that everyone will not strain at gnats and swallow camels. A = A”. is the standard for logic. Logic is violated when you say “A not = A”. So, is that OK now.

    For crying out loud, how long is everyone going to avoid the issue. A thing cannot be and not be at the same time. OK.

  545. 545
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB quotes Wikipedia at 530 and wrongly attributes a quote from Rand at 522 — very likely by means of the Google — but I quote the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and StephenB says I “went googling to find a way out.”

    Kish mir en toches.

  546. 546
    StephenB says:

    —-“Dude, I was objecting to your vaunted translation at 532. The only reason I looked up the SEP entry was because you said (in 534) that everyone agrees with you.”

    Come to think of it, I have been far to dogmatic on this matter. It’s time for me to loosen up and confess that I have suspected all along that logic, the principle of identity, and the law non-contradiction are little more that political tools that men have used to suppress women for years. There, I have said it. My soul has been cleansed. I can’t tell you how liberating it is to finally come out of the closet.

  547. 547
    Alan Fox says:

    StephenB writes:

    A thing cannot be and not be at the same time.OK.

    Did you omit a question mark after OK? It reads as if you are just insisting.

    Could you clarify for the non-philosophers among the onlookers what you mean by “thing”. Do you mean any real thing, that is observable or detectable?

    Also, what do you mean by “be”? Do you mean “exist”, that is capable of being observed or detected?

  548. 548
    Sotto Voce says:

    I will abandon the whole idea of anything “reciprocal,” so that everyone will not strain at gnats and swallow camels. A = A”. is the standard for logic. Logic is violated when you say “A not = A”. So, is that OK now.

    Yeah, that’s fine. But I don’t see how “(For all x) ~(~(x=x))”, which is indeed a logical truth, is translatable as “A thing cannot be and not at the same time.”

    For crying out loud, how long is everyone going to avoid the issue. A thing cannot be and not be at the same time. OK.

    I will agree that for an arbitrary predicate A, the following is a logical truth: “(For all x) ~(Ax and ~Ax)”.

    However, treating existence as a predicate is a recipe for philosophical confusion (see the ontological argument), so I’m not happy with glibly replacing the arbitrary predicate A with “existence” (or “being”).

    There is another category error involved in talking about things being or not being (although I’ll admit the situation here is philosophical controversial). Existence is an operator on open sentences, not a predicate. In first order logic, one cannot say of an individual a that “a exists” or “a does not exist”.

  549. 549
    StephenB says:

    —-“StephenB quotes Wikipedia at 530 and wrongly attributes a quote from Rand at 522 — very likely by means of the Google — but I quote the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and StephenB says I “went googling to find a way out.”

    There is a difference between finding quotes to support information you already possess and seeking new information to compensate for being behind the curve. And yes, you got the sources wrong.

  550. 550
    Alan Fox says:

    In which case things always are, and nothings aren’t, surely?

  551. 551
    David Kellogg says:

    Really? The quote was from Peikoff? I think it’s from Rand.

  552. 552
    David Kellogg says:

    “There is a difference between finding quotes to support information you already possess and seeking new information to compensate for being behind the curve.”

    Yes, the difference is that in the second case, a person can learn something. That you favor confirming what you already know over learning new things is, um, unsurprising.

  553. 553
    Alan Fox says:

    The first quote is Ayn Rand.

  554. 554
    StephenB says:

    Alan Fox, thanks for weighing in, but I have been blogging too much today. I will try to check in with you tomorrow.

  555. 555
    Alan Fox says:

    The second quote is Ayn Rand, too.

  556. 556
    Alan Fox says:

    No worries, Stephen,

    Take a break. Have a day at the beach or something.

  557. 557
    David Kellogg says:

    The first two quotes are Rand; the third is Peikoff. How did I find out? The Google.

  558. 558
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “Really? The quote was from Peikoff? I think it’s from Rand.”

    That sounds right.

  559. 559
    StephenB says:

    No, my mistake. The quote was from both Peikand and Rand. I have been liberated from the law of identity. Man, this is living.

  560. 560
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB, I heard you were Australian. If that’s the case, maybe you’ll get this:

    A ? A if A = Ern Malley

  561. 561
    David Kellogg says:

    That should be a “does not equal” sign.

    French version of the same principle:
    “Je est un autre.” — Rimbaud

  562. 562
    David Kellogg says:

    StephenB, to be truly liberated, 559 should read “Peikand and Roff.”

  563. 563
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “A ? A if A = Ern Malley

    No. I am good old USA. I hate to admit it, but I don’t get it. By the way, I apologize for that remark about Googling. It wasn’t my finest hour. Too many posts in too few hours, I think. So, as my pennance, [religion talk] I am going to go Googling to find out more on Ern Malley.

  564. 564
    StephenB says:

    —-David: “StephenB, to be truly liberated, 559 should read “Peikand and Roff.”

    I can feel the chains coming off.

  565. 565
    David Kellogg says:

    Good article on Ern Malley here. Much better than the Wikipedia.

  566. 566
    StephenB says:

    Good grief I meant, “as my [penance], I will go Googling.”

  567. 567
    jerry says:

    Nakashima,

    There are still a lot of fine tuned variables in this model. It only considers 3 variables and the results have nothing to do with life only possible star formation. That is why it is irrelevant. The article has nothing to do with fine tuning as used in science and on this site.

  568. 568
    Diffaxial says:

    Wikipedia on the Law of Identity, sentence one:

    In logic, the law of identity states that an object is the same as itself: A ? A. Any reflexive relation upholds the law of identity. When discussing equality, the fact that “A is A” is a tautology.

    There’s that word again.

  569. 569
    vividbleau says:

    “The fact that this is possible tells us something about the nature of logic, and axiomatic systems in general, which is no one axiomatic system is the One and Only True System.”

    After all this back and forth its interesting to see that Hazel is logically trying to demonstrate through the LNC that no one axiomatic system is the One and Only true System.

    Vivid

  570. 570
    hazel says:

    For instance in geometry, there are three different 2-dimensional geometries depending on which version of the parallel postulate you use. No one of the systems is more true than the others, and all of them can be applied in different situations. That’s an example of what I mean in the quote you offered.

    And, I and others here don’t deny the usefulness of logic, and of course I will use the LNC and other logical tools to think and talk about things. It is Stephen who has made claims that I and others “deny that logic can be applied to reality,” but that’s not what we’ve said.

  571. 571
    vividbleau says:

    “Stephen who has made claims that I and others “deny that logic can be applied to reality,” but that’s not what we’ve said.”

    Perhaps I am mistaken but my sense is not that you deny that logic can be applied to reality rather that something like the LNC does not always apply to reality.

    Vivid

  572. 572
    David Kellogg says:

    Vivid, as I understand it, the LNC does not always apply to reality (for example, at the quantum level). As a physicist told me, “one can place an atom in an excited state inside a mirror cavity and it will evolve into a state that is a superposition of ‘atom + vacuum’ and ‘atom + photon.’ In this state the photon simultaneously exists and does not exist.” If that’s the case, then the LNC is not always true in reality, much less always self-evidently so.

  573. 573
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Vividbleau,

    What is the quantum superposition of states, except for the failure of the LNC? QM is non-intuitive but still the best description of reality that we have.

    We still haven’t gotten further than the Shermer thread. We knew from there that Mr StephenB had a personal logical system which he felt was priveleged, even when demonstrably at odds with physical reality. My participation in these discussions is limited to confirming that Mr StephenB is not comfortable arguing in a formal and axiomatic style, and appears not to accept discoveries of mathematics and physics after 1830, by my previous estimate.

  574. 574
    vividbleau says:

    “If that’s the case, then the LNC is not always true in reality, much less always self-evidently so”

    Hi David,

    IF THATS THE CASE then indeed LNC is not always true in reality, much less always self evidently so.

    I submit that whatever is going on in the quantum world, what is not going on is something coming into existence before it comes into existence. Or something coming into existence from nothing or something existing and not existing at the same time and in the same relationship.

    In order to say that something exists and does not exist at the same time and the same relationship is to abandon rationality. We can say that it appears that this is what is happening but we do not have total knowledge. Scientists are not omniscient.

    Vivid

  575. 575
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Jerry,

    On the contrary, the article is trying to establish possibilities for how life can exist. It has simply identified that long lived stars seem to be a precondition for that. Do you think stars are irrelevant to the creation of life?

    I find your criticism of the model’s simplicity encouraging. That is a scientific criticism. And it leads me to hope that you will apply the same level of critical thinking to other treatments of fine tuning. If a three variable model is too simplistic for you, than I am sure you see the uselessness of a bullet/fly/wall model, also.

  576. 576
    vividbleau says:

    “What is the quantum superposition of states, except for the failure of the LNC? QM is non-intuitive but still the best description of reality that we have.”

    I am familair with Niels Bohr’s dictum “A great truth is a truth of which the contrary is also a truth” I think before we go down th quantum path to far you should know that my position is that logic trumps empericism. So you can give me any empirical observation you care to present and if it contradicts logic I will reject it. Any observation that contradicts logic means to me that we do not know the whole story.

    Vivid

  577. 577
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Vividbleau,

    In order to say that something exists and does not exist at the same time and the same relationship is to abandon rationality. We can say that it appears that this is what is happening but we do not have total knowledge. Scientists are not omniscient.

    It seems you are arguing for a “hidden variables” interpretation of QM. Is that correct?

    What you term rationality (LNC) is nothing more than an intuition about how the world works. We have generalized it from the world of our macroscopic experience. The abstraction does not align with reality at all scales. This is not a problem of the measurements, it is a problem of the abstraction.

    Of course, it is possible to go on and have a discussion in which LNC is taken as an axiom, but all participants should be aware that they are no longer having a discussion with much relationship to reality. Which is awkward, if you are trying to prove that God exists. 😉

  578. 578
    Nakashima says:

    Mr Vividbleau,

    So you can give me any empirical observation you care to present and if it contradicts logic I will reject it.

    And yet, you seem to have typed this, so your rejection does not include rejecting consumer electronics. A wise choice. When you say “contradicts logic” which logic are we talking about? That seems to have been a major stumbling block to the discussion.

  579. 579
    vjtorley says:

    David Kellogg

    “In this state the photon simultaneously exists and does not exist.” [A physicist’s description of an experiment.]

    If that’s the case, then the LNC is not always true in reality, much less always self-evidently so. [Your comment.]

    When it comes to quantum mechanics, one should beware of dogmatism. The Wikipedia article, Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics lists no less than 17 common interpretations of quantum mechanics, and tabulates 13 of them for ease of cross-comparison. I would suggest that your physicist friend was just a tad over-confident in his/her particular interpretation of quantum mechanics.

    I can’t think of any experiment that would convince me that a thing could simultaneously exist and not exist. Assertions like that make the dogmas of theology seem eminently sane and rational by comparison.

    Materialists are fond of poking fun at religious believers for accepting mysteries, but it seems to me that their own credulity knows no bounds. Consider some of the things they’ve seriously put forward in the last few centuries:

    (1) Things can come into existence without any cause at all. (Virtual particles do, on some interpretations of quantum mechanics.)
    (2) Things can bring themselves into existence (Klingon cosmology – taken seriously by some).
    (3) Time travel is possible. (Again, taken seriously by some. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_travel .)
    (4) A thing can simultaneously exist and not exist. (You said that.)
    (5) All logical possibilities are realized somewhere. (Max Tegmark’s multiverse.)
    (6) Whenever I make a choice, the universe branches, and in the other branches, other versions of me make a different choice.
    (7) All my choices are determined by circumstances beyond my control – including my typing this now.

    And YOU’RE calling US credulous?

    By the way, if you are still inclined to accept Mencken’s definition of theology (”explanations of the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing”), then I would put it to you that you have left out the human dimension of its doctrines. If the doctrine of the Trinity makes your eyes glaze, I sugg