Evolutionary biologist Allen MacNeill, who appears frequently in the comments sections of our posts, makes the following comment to my previous post:
Teleology must exist in any functional relationship, including those in biology. The question is not “is there teleology in biology”; no less an authority on evolutionary biology than the late Ernst Mayr (not to mention Franciso Ayala) emphatically stated “yes”! The real question (and the real focus of the dispute between EBers and IDers) is the answer to the question, “where does the teleology manifest in biology come from”? EBers such as Ernst Mayr assert that it is an emergent property of natural selection, whereas IDers assert that it comes from an “intelligent designer”. It has never been clear to me how one would distinguish between these two assertions, at least insofar as they can be empirically tested. Rather, the choice of one or the other seems to me to be a choice between competing metaphysical world views, which are not empirically verifiable by definition.
Is Allen correct?
226 Replies to “Competing Worldviews Only?”
Not only did Allen take the refreshingly frank position that teleology exist in biology (and allowed that its source is legitimately debatable) but then posits that strings of DNA sequences (which are indeed transcribed into biological products) are examples of meaningful information, and he goes further to add that meaningful information requires perception in order to exists in the first place.
I found the general admission that a teleological/non-agent explanation for the origin of biological information which he correctly states cannot be “empirically tested” to be relevant to the debate (as well as to the name-calling, political maneuvering, and certainly to the legal claims). If I remember correctly, this would make such an explanation non-scientific, or even worse, tossed into the pseudo-science category.
I disagree with him when he states that opposed to the teleological/non-agent explanation, ID posits a “non-natural” explanation in its place. I question what exactly is non-natural about what can be observed in nature by all investigators. I also question what is inherently non-natural in the thesis that an agent is required to explain those observations. In place of having discipline on what can and cannot be inferred from the evidence, science has so far been willing to gut parsimony and resort to a material property which admittedly cannot be demonstrated for anyone at all to see.
What ID must do is continue to maintain the scientific discipline demanded by the evidence, and should actively seek ways in which to strengthen that discipline. However, in the end, what this reduces to is nothing less than a non-testable emergent-property explanation, versus an observable evidence explanation. The artificial synthesis of every single molecule within biological systems will not reduce the issue one bit.
The fact that virtually the entire apparatus of science is set up as though these questions have already been answered is a disgrace to science. And to the academy as well.
I remember one recent commenter at UD said something like “emergence is not an answer to the question of where did design in biology come from, it is a restatement of the question.” When I did a search on “emergence” at UD to try to find this quote (which I have probably not reproduced very accurately) I found Niwrad’s great post of 26 October, 2009. Unfortunately I don’t know how to link to that, maybe another commenter can provide the link.
Basically “emergence” is just a transparent semantical trick to acknowledge design without acknowledging a designer.
By the way, I noticed the following Wikipedia quote in Niwrad’s post of Oct 26, 2009, referred to in my previous comment:
This sounds almost like what I’ve been saying about the SLoT, that “order can increase in an open system not because the laws of probability are suspended when the door is open, but simply because order may walk in through the door,” see my video.
Orrrr, teleology is ultimately reducible to the Arisotelian-Thomistic conception of a first cause, unmoved mover, supreme intellect and a necessary being that is ultimately good. Oh wait… that is classical theism and metaphysics, not science. Who cares though, scientism is outdated.
Ooops, Aristotelian-Thomistic or Aristotelean-Thomistic. Pick your pick.
Ah. Another assertion that is not supported by facts. And, in this case, it is just blatantly false. Yet, I would guess, that I am the only one to call you on it.
Can you tell me the ‘design’ in the emergent property of, let’s say, a sufficiently large number of particles that gives rise to temperature?
If your statement is more than a false assertion, then take all those instances where physicists talk about emergence and prove that they are actually acknowledging design. I bet a nickel that you can’t.
I meant the way it is being used here, of course, not in general.
Darwinists have always said that the design in biology is only “apparent”, not “real”. If MacNeill (and Mayr) had said “apparent teleology”, there would be nothing new or interesting about these statements, and perhaps they just forgot to add “apparent” or assumed everyone understood that is what they meant. But if they are saying there really is teleology in biology, then they are claiming that there is real design, without a designer (after all, “teleology” means purposeful doesn’t it!). Then this seems to be a simple misunderstanding of the word “design”.
Yes, of course you did.
Just like Upright Biped made a sweeping statement without any support in a different thread (where he relied on his own peculiar defninition of ‘information’).
But hey, at least in this caes you admitted it. It would be nice, though, if you would refrain from making such statements in the first place, or if you would specify what you are talking about. Too much to ask?
Here’s part of Allen’s statement:
It seems to me that if we are sincerely trying to determine whether design or natural forces are responsible for the “teleology manifest in biology”, then the question of the origins of life would be what is determinative (after all, NS can do nothing whatsoever until life itself emerges). So, the question of “teleology” reduces itself down to: whence life. But, of course, even Darwin didn’t dare suppose something came from nothing—at least in his OoS. Given what we now know—the latest figure per Cornelius Hunter’s latest post—that nearly 4,000 proteins are needed for life to emerge, then how does this fantastic level of information self-assemble? A scientist, being a scientist, would have to look for some outside causation—Fred Hoyle, a committed atheist—believed in panspermia. So, what is this outside causation? In the spirit of Thomas’ ‘proofs’, we call this outside caustion “God”. Now maybe Allen would say that theology has taken over at this point; nevertheless, it is science that leads us to this conclusion. And, at the very least, science should itself conclude that life is inexplicable. But I must say, I haven’t heard anything like that lately. Have you?
Where Mr. Arrington is wrong is that in many cases we can distinguish between some speculated, invisible “emergent process” and an intelligent agent; humans (visible, known intelligent agents) direct biological processes towards deliberate ends all the time, and have for thousands of years.
So, we empirically know that intelligent designers exist that can teleologically direct biology towards such ends and have the capacity to generate virtually unlimited meaningful information; darwinists speculate that some invivisble “emergent” force does the same thing.
Abduction based on empirical facts tells us that if we admit that there is “meaningful, teleological information” in biology, the better scientific theory, at least for now, is that ID is responsible for that teleological, meaningful information.
It’s not a metaphysical problem at all.
My recent comments on Allen MacNeill’s thoughtful post can be found here:
An old post of mine on the topic of emergence can be found here:
What I would like to know is: if Allen MacNeill is an emergentist, then what kind is he – strong or weak? Does he believe in downward causation?
PaV’s question, “Whence life?” is a good focus for future discussion. The more we learn about life, the more we realize exactly how many conditions in the cosmos and on the primordial Earth had to be “just right,” in order for life to emerge.
Skeptics are fond of criticizing ID for its reticence about the Designer. However, we do at least know what a designer is: we’ve all met lots of them. ID’s explanation of the origin of life on Earth is an intelligible one, even if some people find it uncongenial. But the strong sense I am getting these days is that the naturalistic explanation of life’s origin is utterly unintelligible.
In comment #12 vjtorley asked:
No, I do not. If I understand what vjtorley is suggesting, then “downward causation” isn’t really “emergent” at all. If “emergence” is “top down” (i.e. determinative) rather than “bottom up” (i.e. cumulative), then it isn’t emergent, it’s revelatory. That is, whenever something new seems to “emerge”, it is really isn’t. It’s simply being revealed as having always existed. According to this viewpoint, nothing new has ever happened, nothing new has ever “emerged”, and evolution is an illusion. Everything that exists now has always existed, if only in some “immanent” form.
This is, of course, merely Platonic idealism restated in “modern” terms. According to this viewpoint, all of the species (indeed, all of the individuals, regardless of their characteristics) have always existed, at least in some inchoate, “immanent” form. Their “emergence” is simply their “immanent” form becoming manifest.
This is essentially the viewpoint of Simon Conway Morris, who believes that there is essentially no historical contingency in macroevolution at all. No matter how far back in time one might “rewind the tape” (to borrow Stephen J. Gould’s metaphor), the process of macroevolution will always and inevitably result in the production of humans (and tapeworms and pond scum and everything else in the biosphere today). Taken to its logical (and absurd) extreme, this viewpoint strongly implies that not only will humans arrive at the apex of four billion years of evolution, but I will necessarily have a pastrami on seedless rye with yellow mustard and iceberg lettuce for lunch…except that’s what I had yesterday…hmm.
This worldview is extraordinarily powerful and extraordinarily pervasive, especially in the West. It gives everyone who believes in it a deep sense of belonging, of connectedness, of inevitability. I have myself been seduced by it many times in my life, especially when things seem to be going badly.
But it is clearly just what I said it was: it is a “worldview” (i.e. a coherent set of metaphysical assumptions), and is therefore not empirically verifiable. Rather, it is a set of axiomatic assumptions that presupposes certain ends, and so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that those who accept its metaphysical assumptions find “design” and “purpose” everywhere in nature.
Let me stress the word everywhere in that last sentence. According to the “top down” view of “emergence”, everything, from quarks to galactic superclusters, is “designed”, in the sense that all things are a product of pre-existing designs within which there is no limit to the degree to which events are pre-ordained. If the universe is indeed like this, there has never been, is not, and never will be anything “new”. The entire universe and everything in it is closed, once and forever, and there will never be anything “new”; indeed, there can’t be.
This worldview is the one that forms the foundation of both Platonism and neo-Platonism (of which Christianity is only a relatively minor variant). It is what Ernst Mayr refers to as “typological thinking”, and is diametrically opposed to what Mayr referred to as “population thinking”. Here is how Mayr described it:
Mayr’s version of “emergence” is “bottom up”. That is, new things are genuinely new; they are the result of a combination of random variation and deterministic processes, which together produce genuinely new (and therefore unrepeatable) phenomena. This viewpoint underlies Stephen J. Gould’s assertion that if the “tape” of macroevolution were “rewound” to the early Cambrian, what would then transpire would be fundamentally different than what happened last time.
This second viewpoint forms the metaphysical foundations of all of the biological sciences, and is the real reason why evolutionary biologists and intelligent design supporters cannot really understand each other, at any level. It is the viewpoint taken by Karl Popper in all of his historical and philosophical analyses, especially The Open Society and Its Enemies, in which the first volume is an extended attack against Plato and Platonism.
And it is the basis for all of the natural and social sciences, from physics to sociology. Even physicists have come to accept that “universal” processes have irreducibly contingent components, and as such are just as “non-typological” as biological (and especially evolutionary) processes.
But we think typologically; indeed, I would argue that our evolutionary heritage strongly predisposes us to do so. We infer agency in all things, even when such agency is entirely illusory (as in the seemingly purposeful “behavior” of falling rocks, which fall “in order to reach the ground”…at least until one learns differently). This is why it is so difficult to understand how evolution by natural selection works, and why when one finally comes to understand it (and its implications), one feels as if the foundations of reality itself have slipped.
So, which worldview is “correct”? Instead of answering this question (which may be unanswerable, at least on the basis of empirical evidence), I would rather restate what is clearly the case: the “bottom up” view of emergence (and the “population thinking” of evolutionary biologists such as Ernst Mayr) is the foundation of all of the modern natural sciences. No amount of wishful thinking can change this, nor can all of the efforts of “historical revisionists”. Yes, Newton himself may have been a “typological thinker” (although I think this is a debatable point), but no one would argue that Stephen Weinberg is.
As to my assertion that biology is teleological, let me make myself as clear as possible. Living organisms are indeed teleological. Every living organism develops according to a pre-existing plan (call it a “design” if it makes you feel better, or a “program” if you like), which is encoded into its genome. As the organism develops, the plan in its genome reacts to changes in the environment in such a way as to make the survival and reproduction of the organism as likely as possible. This process – which I have referred to as homeotelic, by analogy with homeostatic – is the basis for all living systems.
But, having said all of that, one may then ask “Is the process by which the plans come into existence itself teleological?” To this question, evolutionary biologists (including Ernst Mayr) have answered “not necessarily”. And I really mean both of those words: “not” (i.e. negation) and “necessarily” (i.e. of necessity, as in “predetermined”). The mechanisms by which evolution operates (and which have been abundantly verified by a century and a half of empirical research) do not require a pre-existing plan. As the term “bottom up” strongly implies, the mechanisms of evolution are cumulative and contingent, and therefore the outcome of the operation of those mechanisms is not “closed” (in the sense of pre-ordained).
As for the evolutionary worldview being “unintelligible”, that is indeed what it is if one assumes the Platonic/typological worldview.
However, if one assumes the evolutionary/population worldview, the situation isn’t quite the reverse. One can accept that design does indeed exist, but that it is neither universal nor necessary to get the universe we all perceive.
I’m sorry, I meant where Mr Allen is wrong, not Mr. Arrington, in post #11.
Perhaps it just needs to be pointed out that Allen gave his view what other people’s views are in post 13.
—-Allen MacNeil: “If ’emergence’ is ‘top down'(i.e. determinative) rather than ‘bottom up’ (i.e. cumulative), then it isn’t emergent, it’s revelatory.”
I would be inclined to agree although I would characterize the difference as an “unfolding” process as opposed to an “emerging” process. By definition, an unfolding process is a maturation process in which nothing can be in the effect that was not, in some way, first present in the cause. By contrast, an emerging process [if the word “emergent” means anything at all] allows for effects to occur that did not in any way exist in the cause.
If evolution unfolded according to a plan, [if all the effects are implied in the cause] that means that the finished product was inevitable, meaning that it did, so to speak, have man in mind; if evolution emerged, that is, if there was no plan, then the finished product [or ongoing product as some would have it] was a surprise, meaning that our appearance was a lucky break.
In the first case, the implied metaphysic is that something cannot come from nothing and that nothing can begin to exist without a cause, which would also include the existence of the teleology that some find in biology. In the second case, the implied metaphysic is that something, including teleology in nature, can, indeed, come from nothing and that some things may well begin to exist without a cause.
The evidence cannot help one choose one alternative over the other; it can only be interpreted in the light of the choice that has already been made. As it turns out, only the first metaphysical foundation can support science. Science is, after all, a search for causes. If something, including an emergent process, can begin to exist without a cause, then anything can begin to exist without a cause, and science is dead. That is another way of saying that an evolution that unfolds according to a plan is the only rational kind of evolution.
#14 and #14
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how it’s done..
Aside for some distracting rhetorical flourishes (“seduction” by Platonism, implied as a crutch for the weak, etc.), this post is perhaps the most thought-provoking I’ve ever read on this site — great!
How does teleology relate to a ball rolling into the bottom a basin? A teleological explanation of this would surely come into play if a mind intended the basin (e.g.) to catch the ball? But that is reasonable. I’d hardly correct my kid for saying that the ball fell to the bottom of the net because (i) I intended it to land there or (ii) the net was designed to catch it. Both are true. If I were of a religious persuasion, I might also add: (iii) another mind intended the ball to follow a quadratic trajectory when thrown. Why is this reasoning considered suspect by so many?
I do think that you are pressing a dichotomy here where none is needed. One could surely relate stable nodes in an evolving system to traditional Platonic forms without straining credulity. Far from rendering evolutionary thinking unintelligible, does it not rather provide a context for it?
stephenB in comment #17:
It’s interesting that you would choose the word “unfolding” in preference to “emerging” with reference to your version of the ID worldview. It is precisely this idea that led Darwin to avoid using the term “evolution” in most of his published works. For example, the word “evolved” is used only once, as the very last word in the main text of the Origin of Species (and appears nowhere else in that book). At the time that Darwin was writing, the term “evolution” meant just what stephenB means: the “unfolding” of a pre-arranged process, as in the “evolution” of a quantity of gas as the result of a chemical reaction.
The more recent connotation of the term “evolution” as meaning “change over time as the result of purely natural (i.e. non-teleological) processes” is the result of more recent interpretations of Darwin’s theory in which the assumption of teleology is unnecessary in the explanation of the mechanism(s) by which “descent with modification” (the term Darwin preferred to “evolution”) occurs. “Descent with modification” is simply descriptive, and does not include any reference to teleology either way, which is why Darwin preferred it over “evolution”.
StephenB followed this with:
Once again, I believe that these two definitions are based on a particular worldview, one that I have here referred to as the “Platonic” worldview. One could also refer to this worldview as “pan-determinism”, in the sense that if everything that has ever happened, is happening, and will ever happen is simply the “unfolding” of a pre-ordained “design”, then that design is all there really is in the universe. And, if one takes this viewpoint to its logical conclusion, it is quite literally the case that what you had for dinner this evening was set in place before the universe and everything in it were set in motion (by the Unmoved Mover, of course).
The “hinge phrase in stephenB’s characterization of “unfolding” is the phrase “in some way”. In what way, exactly? In such a way that there is absolutely no phenomenon, however slight, that is not the result of the pre-ordained “unfolding” plan? To me, this idea is indeed completely unintelligible, and flies in the face of both personal experience and what we now know about indeterminate processes, in physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, and…well, just about everything. Or, to borrow from Einstein, not only does God not play dice with the universe, He never plays dice.
And the “hinge” in his characterization of “emergence” is the phrase “in any way”, as this phrase, like the one I quoted above, does not allow for any determinism at all, at any level in nature, from the minimally microscopic (i.e. quarks) to the maximally macroscopic (i.e. galactic superclusters). Clearly, this viewpoint is just as “unintelligible” (shall we say “absurd”?) as the other.
Having been influenced by Aristotle’s Nichomacean ethics at an impressionable age (and having practiced rinzai Zen Buddhism for many decades – we keep practicing in the hopes that we will eventually get it right ;-)), I would prefer a “middle way”, one that allows for both determinism and for indeterminism, for teleology and for non-teleology (notice that I didn’t write “randomicity”: the words “teleological” and “random” are not antonyms, at least not in my worldview). This “middle way” seems to me to be precisely what Mayr describes when he writes about “population thinking” and about “teleonomy”.
And it also seems to be the way that the universe actually works, if quantum indeterminacy, statistical mechanics, and evolutionary biology are any guide (pun intended, of course).
equinoxe in comment #19:
Let me alter the question ever-so-slightly. Consider the scene captured in this photograph: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_CvXE.....kslide.jpg . It shows the results of a massive rockslide that blocked a major highway in Colorado earlier this month. Here’s the question: did the rocks pictured in the photograph fall in order to block the highway?
Careful: given the foregoing discussion of determinacy and indeterminacy in worldviews, your answer will either be logically consistent with your worldview or it won’t. Take a moment to think about it. I’ll wait…
I would say “no”, the rocks didn’t fall “in order to” block the highway, they simply fell, blocking the highway. The phrase “in order to” – the hallmark of all teleological explanations – adds nothing to the description of what happened, and indeed introduces a concept (i.e. teleology/purpose/intentionality) that is not necessary to explain the event depicted in the photographed.
To use the language of the natural sciences, the rockfall was caused by a combination of (probably) frost-heaving and thawing (remember, the rockfall happened in early March), the binding chemistry of granite, and the force of gravity. All of these causes are “natural” and do not include any concept of “purposefulness” or teleology.
Let’s contrast the “naturalistic” explanation of the rockfall with the example provided in comment #19, but substituting the rockfall for the falling ball:
Sounds ridiculous to me, but one often has to correct children (and sometimes adults) when they jump to such conclusions. Children often ascribe purposefulness and intentionality to phenomena in which they are both unnecessary and misleading. The same is also the case with some “primitive” cultures, and also was the case for our ancient ancestors, who saw purpose, intentionality, and deeply causal interconnectedness in everything that happened (including the way fat globules looked in the guts of freshly killed birds). We don’t think that way about most of nature now primarily because of the development of the worldview of the natural sciences, in which teleology is inferred only when absolutely necessary (and when a mechanism for the operation of such teleology can be inferred).
Let’s continue paraphrasing the example in comment #19:
Really? To me, although the situations are exactly parallel, the explanations sound utterly and completely incommensurate, and my paraphrase sounds absurd. Besides, when one is trained in the natural sciences, one learns not to bandy about the word “true”, without at least qualifying it with something like “probably” or “most likely”.
To finish up:
I leave the answer to this question as an exercise for the reader, and finish with a question of my own:
Does having a “religious persuasion” necessarily include an assumption of universal teleology?
P.S. Can you tell that Cornell is currently on spring break?
“To use the language of the natural sciences, the rockfall was caused by a combination of (probably) frost-heaving and thawing (remember, the rockfall happened in early March), the binding chemistry of granite, and the force of gravity. All of these causes are “natural” and do not include any concept of “purposefulness” or teleology. ”
For someone who talks about the influence Aristotle had on them, you sure seem to be making some odd moves here – Aristotle, not to mention Aquinas, would absolutely not oppose “natural” and “teleological” as if these terms were mutually exclusive. Indeed, formal and final causes (and teleology as well) were considered necessary to adequately describe nature itself, as well as natural operations.
As a result, they and others would dispute your claim that the description you gave was lacking teleology. You seem to imply that teleology requires an active, present, and conscious ordering towards a specific end (the rocks fell because it, or someone else, was consciously thinking ‘and these rocks shall fall so the road may be blocked’). But that’s not the case – what is required is directedness. Objects of a given material (these rocks) in a given situation (those listed) undergoing given effects (those listed) is directed towards a given result (the falling). As opposed to a Humean conception, whereby there’s no directedness in nature, and the situation you described could have led to an explosion of suddenly appearing ducks for all we know (because we’re only observing regularities, not innate directedness in nature.)
Of course, Aquinas and others may well agree that every single detail in nature is foreseen and pre-ordained by a deity. But the teleology they speak of is not Paleyan or Neo-Paleyan.
Just to add…
“We infer agency in all things, even when such agency is entirely illusory (as in the seemingly purposeful “behavior” of falling rocks, which fall “in order to reach the ground”…at least until one learns differently).”
But here’s the problem, Allen: As far as science is concerned, you don’t know that it’s “entirely illusory” to see agency in all things. You’re letting your worldview speak here, and science can hardly verify or rule out idealism, or panpsychism, or panentheism, or pandeism, or any other number of metaphysics, philosophies, and worldviews.
And frankly, this is one of the reasons ID has and deserves quite a lot of sympathy. You talk about competing worldviews that are not verifiable by definition (I wonder if this is true, or just a statement in line with your worldview), then proceed to act as if that isn’t really the case, and we know quite a lot more than we do.
I may not believe in, say, pandeism. But I know better than to argue that the mere presence of an alternate worldview, even a popular one, means it’s entirely illusory. (Unless ‘entirely illusory’ comes with qualifications that would melt it down to ‘I don’t accept it’/’I accept another worldview’, or there’s a demonstration of such on hand.)
And one last thing, so long as it’s fresh in mind.
“So, which worldview is “correct”? Instead of answering this question (which may be unanswerable, at least on the basis of empirical evidence), I would rather restate what is clearly the case: the “bottom up” view of emergence (and the “population thinking” of evolutionary biologists such as Ernst Mayr) is the foundation of all of the modern natural sciences. No amount of wishful thinking can change this, nor can all of the efforts of “historical revisionists”. Yes, Newton himself may have been a “typological thinker” (although I think this is a debatable point), but no one would argue that Stephen Weinberg is.”
Well, that places us in an interesting dilemma, even assuming a lot of these erroneous claims (Such as Simon Conway Morris’ views on evolution logically commit him – not just ‘are compatible with’, not just ‘potentially imply’, but flat out logically commit him – to hyperdeterminism.) Newton was apparently not a scientist. Nor is, it would seem, Einstein (given his thoughts on determinism.) Nor is Simon Conway Morris (indeed, Allen’s writing here implies that Simon Conway Morris does not accept or possibly understand evolution by natural selection.) Nor is anyone else who rejects the “second worldview” Allen outlines here, whatever they have done. And don’t bother trying to argue otherwise, because Allen knows that’s all historical revisionism.
That this view of science is a load is one thing, but the fact that by Allen’s own admission that determining which of the two views is correct is currently (and may forever be, at least with regard to empirical evidence) unanswerable should be a neon sign pointing at the problem with his claim. StephenB argues that certain metaphysical commitments underwrite science, such that if you reject them science as we know it is a dead project. But Allen’s claim doesn’t rise to that level – instead, he simply insists that this is the way science has historically been done, and tells you to not even bother arguing with him on this point.
Assertions like these push me more and more towards accepting the view that ID is science. If the intellectual project is going to be used and abused this way, it may as well be open season rather than relegated to the nonsense of a mere few.
—-Allen, it is not reasonable to say, on the one hand, that biology is teleological, and, on the other hand, that to say that whatever brought that teleological process about is non-teleological. The whole point of the weasel word, “teleonomy” is to abandon purpose and yet retain all of purpose’s benefits–to deny the existence of teleology and yet embrace its vital function–to claim that evolution has no direction and yet to claim that it does.
The bottom line is this: If life emerged, it arrived by accident; if life unfolded, it arrived according to plan.
To be sure, “two world views” are involved here and they are these: [A] The law of causation is non-negotiable, which is my view and [B] the Law of causation is negotiable, which, I gather is your world view.
—You write: The “hinge phrase in stephenB’s characterization of “unfolding” is the phrase “in some way”. In what way, exactly? In such a way that there is absolutely no phenomenon, however slight, that is not the result of the pre-ordained “unfolding” plan?
In the physical order, maybe so, in the psychological order, definitely not. Free will is real and even solipsists, in spite of all there protests, believe this. That is why they look both ways before crossing the street.
I could ask the reciprocal question. If evolution, or anything at all for that matter, can occur without a cause, how do you determine which events are caused and which events are not caused? It doesn’t help to say that we will sift the evidence and follow where it leads, because evidence can only be interpreted in light of the law of causality.
Like you, I subscribe to the need for a middle way—call it the paradox of predestination and free will. Reason can’t fully explain this uncomfortable marriage, but reason does, nevertheless, require it. It doesn’t follow, though, that we can dispense with causality in order to accommodate free will. If that was the case, free will or human agency could not, itself, be a cause.
Once we allow teleology a place at the table, we cannot stop until we go all the way back to a first cause. In effect, you are proposing that we start reading in the middle of the book–as if it didn’t need an opening—as if Chapters 16-30 will suffice in the absence of Chapters 1-15.
Oops, that should read, “Free will is real and even solipsists, in spite of all [their] protests, believe this. That is why they look both ways before crossing the street.
Your position is incoherent.
You agree that meaningful information requires perception as a cause.
You agree that the transcription of DNA into biological function requires meaningful information.
You then equivocate on the cause of the meaningful information which you just affirmed, and thereby deny the only causal chain that leads to your own observations.
And to hide the conflict within your own position, you suddenly step back from the evidence and throw up your hands to say “we may never know”. You do this as if washing the empty evidentiary slate on one side of the ledger will rid you of the intractable evidence on the other.
It is nothing less that the magician who says “watch this hand”.
It doesn’t work.
Allen_MacNeill @ 21:
Does having a “religious persuasion” necessarily include an assumption of universal teleology?
Being religious no, being Christian Yes.
However in my opinion I think we make the argument for purpose too complicated sometimes. maybe the rocks falling was a simple reminder as to the dangers of falling rocks.
Why does this flower or that flower exist? Well maybe because it’s just pretty? And it’s purpose is to be pretty fulfilling a created need for asthetic satisfaction. the fact that an animal eats it may be secondary to its purpose of being pretty.
Just like a poem (not all), meaning may be inferred by the reader that was never intended by the author. In order to know exactly what the authors intent was he(the author) must reveal it.
The same can be true for the lack of percieved purpose/meaning. All you see are falilng rocks, I see a blessing that no one was hurt. Was their purpose in the timing of the falling rocks? Maybe, maybe not.
Allen MacNeill (#13, #14)
Thank you for your thought-provoking post, and thank you also for clarifying your position on emergence. You might like to have a look at this paper by David Chalmers, entitled Strong and Weak Emergence (it’s a fun read), but judging from your strong disavowals of the notion that there is nothing new in the universe, I would tentatively peg you as a strong emergentist who believes that high-level facts about the world are naturally but not logically supervenient on low-level facts, and who also rejects strong downward causation. Is that right?
I’d like to address a few comments of yours:
This is a very odd comment. First, do you know of any contemporary intelligent design theorist who says that everything is pre-ordained? I’m curious.
Second, top-down causation does not entail determinism. According to what Chalmers refers to as strong downward causation, “the causal impact of a high-level phenomenon on low-level processes is not deducible even in principle from initial conditions and low-level
laws.” I believe in string downward causation, precisely because I believe in libertarian free will.
Now you might object that if there were a Deity capable of strong downward causation, then it could (at least in principle) deny its creatures libertarian free will. It could pre-determine people’s choices even when they thought they were acting freely. Well, if it were a mean Deity, an autocrat, or a cruel practical joker, then I suppose it could. (I don’t think maltheism is a coherent philosophical position anyway, so it’s no skin off my nose.) But consider the alternative. Suppose there’s no downward causation, and it’s all bottom-up. Next question: is everything determined from the bottom, including your thoughts? If so, then you’re no more free than you would be under the mean Deity. If not, then your thoughts are undetermined, but they can’t change anything down at the bottom (as you deny downward causation), so at the very most, your freedom is confined to your head. Not exactly a cheery fate. I think I’ll take my chances with the Deity. At least it might give me a break, and some genuine freedom to act.
Third, one can believe in strong downward causation by the Deity, without believing that every event in the world (or for that matter, every pattern in nature) is determined by the Deity.
Fourth, even if every event was determined in advance by the Deity, it does not follow that every event was planned in advance by the Deity.
You also wrote:
What I actually wrote in my post in #12 was that “the naturalistic explanation of life’s origin is utterly unintelligible.” I was talking about abiogenesis, not evolution.
You also appear to regard evolution skeptics as prisoners of their anthropomorphic thought patterns:
With the greatest respect, I think the remark about falling rocks is not only a caricature of teleological thinking, it’s missing the central question: how do you explain the fact that rocks always fall in the same way? You can dress it up and call it a scientific law, but that doesn’t make the puzzle go away.
The following quotes from three blog posts by the Thomist philosophy professor (and former atheist), Edward Feser convey the point more eloquently than I could do. I’d urge you to read the posts in their entirety. Even if I don’t agree with everything Dr. Feser writes, I have to say he does an excellent job of exposing what’s wrong with the contemporary scientific view of causation – and the alternative he offers is infinitely saner:
In my next post, I’ll address your remarks on Mayr and pre-existing plans.
Allen MacNeil :
Is this last statement true?
Markov chains are used to simulate evolution. These chains presume some ‘form’ present at a particular time, and then, through some mutational process (statistical), “new” forms come into existence.
Well, that’s going ‘forward’ in time. Let’s use the Markov chain simulation to go ‘backward’ in time—the mathematical structure is exactly the same. At some point an “original” genome has to be arrived at. If one pushes further back, the Markov chain breaks down because you’ve eventually enter the realm of non-viability using this process. So, there has to be some “original” genome = original ‘plan’. It is a logical necessity.
(1) You say, “bottom up”; but isn’t it really “bottom down”?
Certainly you won’t want to tell us that biological forms appeared before quarks did? And if quarks didn’t have certain properties as they came into existence (presumably right there up at the “top”)—along with all the other fine-tuned physical constants—then life itself would never have occurred. So life is really at the “bottom” of an other wise “top down” process, is it not?
(2) You say that the interplay of chance and law (= NS) is NOT “pre-ordained”. Is that completely true?
Here’s what I mean: suppose you want to set up a state lottery. You buy machines that allow purchasers to print tickets with the numbers they select—presumably chosen at random. You then sell tickets to purchasers and collect the money. Based on the number of ‘numbers’ required to be selected at random, and their range, given a sufficient amount of guesses (= tickets), it is “pre-ordained” that someone will win. This WILL happen (Do you know of any lottery in which no one has won?). So, based on a “plan”, a plan that bases itself on statistical randomness, a predetermined outcome comes out: someone will win. The only thing not “pre-ordained” is the question of “who” will win. But we do know that someone will win the lottery. Isn’t it then possible for a Designer to use a stastical approach to “pre-ordain” certain outcomes?
In another post, you talked about a “mixed” outcome, and I think the above example brings that out. However, in the above example, if there were no “law” (that is, the structure set up by the state), then nothing would have happened; that is, if you had 5 billion people selecting numbers at random, there would be no outcome. There would be an outcome ONLY if tickets were sold, and a random number selection held with the numbers selected corresponding to the choices that ticket purchasers were asked to make. Hence, “law” is first and foremost; chance is secondary. So, in the lottery of the universe and of life, who is the Lawgiver? There has to be one. Lotteries don’t just happen by themselves.
Allen MacNeill (#13)
I’d like to discuss your quote from Mayr in this post, in particular this sentence:
That sounds very nominalist, but I would argue that Mayr’s position is an over-reaction to Plato’s typology, and that a nuanced essentialism is not only perfectly compatible with Darwinism, but required by it. Some years ago, I wrote an e-book. Part of the material in that went into my thesis, but the e-book is still online. Chapter 1 (which was one of the better chapters, IMHO) dealt with definitions of life, and at one point I addressed the question: What does it mean for a living thing to have a nature? which you might like to read. I specifically comment on Mayr’s definition of a species, and argue that while it is at odds with the old typological concept of a species, it is nonetheless perfectly compatible with organisms having a nature. Some natures are “fixed, glassy essences”; others are non-rigid and fuzzy at the edges, but nevertheless real.
I should add that most of the 500-or-so species named in Aristotle’s History of Animals are actually what scientists would now classify as families. It may turn out that while the modern biological concept of a species does not mesh with Plato’s and Aristotle’s typological or morphological concept, higher-level taxons, such as the family, do in fact conform to this concept. And as I argue below, there are very good reasons to believe that the concept of a phylum is typological.
I’d also like to comment on your remarks:
1. I’ve been having a look at Dr. Michael Behe’s Edge of Evolution – in particular, pages 195-199 (“Deeper and Deeper”) where he discusses genetic regulatory networks and body plans. Unlike the biological concept of a species, the notion of a body plan, which defines a phylum, really does seem to be typological: the body plans are fundamentally different, and are controlled by genetic networks which look just like computer-logic circuits. Members of the same phylum share the same kernels, which regulate their body plans.
Would you agree that we have genuine typology here?
2. “A century and a half of empirical research” has shed a lot of light on how new species originate (a phenomenon which scientists have actually observed), but we still don’t know for sure how new higher-level taxa originate. All we know is that they do. How, for instance, does a new phylum originate? Or a class? Or even a family? That’s still a mystery. Thus we are in no position to say that these taxa “do not require a pre-existing plan” to account for their origin.
Have you read Feser’s “The Last Superstition?” If so, would you recommend it?
In comment #30 vjtorley wrote:
First, let me thank you for the link to Chalmers’ paper on emergence. It helped me to clarify my thinking quite a bit. On the basis of Chalmers’ analysis, I would say that, contra your hypothesis, I am a weak emergentist, even with respect to consciousness. To me, it seems that consciousness is analogous to the structure and function of termite nests: worker termites construct extraordinarily complex and highly functional nests using only a very short list of surprisingly simply “constructivist” rules (see Hölldobler and Wilson’s The Superorganism for details). In an analogous way, consciousness emerges from the peculiar circuitry of nervous systems that include “self-reflective” (i.e. self-regulatory) cybernetic feedback loops. Even the simplest such loop (like a thermostatically controlled HVAC room) qualifies as “conscious”, albeit at an extraordinarily low level. Ergo, consciousness is a quantitative, not qualitative phenomenon, at least at all levels above that of the simplest self-regulatory feedback circuit.
As for strong versus weak downward causation, if I understand the difference correctly, I would also classify my own understanding of “natural” causation as weak downward causation. As in the case of weak emergence, I think that termite nests (and Conways “game of life”) demonstrate how “the causal impact of the high-level phenomenon is
deducible in principle, but is nevertheless unexpected.” Once a termite mound or a Conway “puffer” has been produced, one can (at least in principle) deduce how these “emergent” phenomena can arise from lower level rules of interaction, even if one is initially “surprised” by their appearance.
vjtorley then asked:
Yes; indeed, in comment #20 I quoted stephenB as making exactly that assertion in comment #17. Furthermore, if one extends William Dembski’s concepts of “complex specified information” (CSI) and “conservation of information” to their logical extremes, it seems clear to me that he is making essentially the same assertion: that is, that “you can’t get here from there” at any level. If I understand Dr. Dembski’s hypothesis correctly (and I am of course open to correction myself), there is no “threshold effect” in the construction of CSI nor in the origin of new information. Despite assertions that there are phenomena that are “insufficiently complex” to qualify as CSI (given the so-called “universal probability bound”), it seems to me that this assertion depends on an assumption of finite time and space. If the universe were genuinely infinite in both time and space, would genuine CSI still require the intervention of an “intelligent designer”? I believe that Dr. Dembski (along with most of the ID supporters here) would answer “yes”. No matter how big or how old the universe is, you still “can’t get something (CSI) for nothing”. Or, if there is such a thing as “conservation of information”, then the size and age of the universe are irrelevant.
vj torley goes on to write:
And I believe in weak downward causation, precisely because I believe that the concept of libertarian free will is both logically incoherent and demonstrably false. I do believe in “free will”, but I believe in the “compatibilist version of it that is advocated by Daniel Dennett in Freedom Evolves. That is, “free will” is itself a learned concept, not an inherent or logically necessary one. One can have “free will”, but only if one learns what it is (primarily via demonstration and example) and one can apply it to one’s own cognition and behavior (i.e. one has sufficient behavioral “flexibility” to allow for internal behavioral modification, as described by Ainslie in Breakdown of Will).
vjtorley also clarified:
Thanks for the clarification. In other words, your position could be paraphrased as “once life (and the rules by which it operates) exists, the process of purely naturalistic evolution is sufficient to explain everything we see in biology. The only real problem is the origin of life from non-living things.”
If this is indeed your position, I would simply point out that it was Darwin’s position as well, and is the position of virtually every evolutionary biologist of whom I am aware. The problem of the OoL is not a problem for evolutionary biology, which assumes the existence of life and (in particular) the biological mechanisms which produce variation between individuals in populations, mediate inheritance of characteristics from individual to individual (usually, but not always from parents to offspring), allow for reproduction of non-identical individuals over time, and result in unequal, non-random persistence and proliferation of individuals with particular variations. The problem of the OoL is a problem for chemists and physicists, not biologists. Hence, I do not address it.
The family is now all awake and hungry, so I will address the remainder of vj’s points after I make breakfast for the “madding crowd”.
The kids are in school, I’ve restocked the groceries, and Cornell is still on break, so let’s continue:
On the concept of strong downward causation, if I understand the concept correctly (always a difficulty with me), it implies that, given a “starting” set of causal laws (i.e. at the “big bang”), <ieverything that happens is completely determined by those laws regardless of level of organization, the passage of time, and subsequent events. This means that historical contingency, such as that referenced by Stephen J. Gould and most other evolutionary biologists, is an illusion and that all events following the beginning of everything (i.e the origin of the universe and the laws that govern it) are predetermined by the initial conditions. If I understand stephenB’s comments and the metaphysical positions of Drs. Behe and Dembski, this is what the “strong downward causation” position in ID entails, as direct intervention by the author of the initial laws would be necessary to produce anything genuinely “new”.
I completely disagree, on the basis of macroevolutionary history, current theoretical physics (especially historical cosmology and quantum indeterminacy), and personal experience. Indeed, I would argue that, if one takes the “strong downward causation” position seriously, not only must one affirm that one is a classical deist (not to mention a Calvinist), one must also affirm that genuine “free will” (i.e. really “free” and not just apparently free) is also an illusion. Either the universe is “closed” (i.e. pre-determined) and everything that has happened, is happening, and ever will happen is already prefigured in its beginning, or it is “open” and historical contingency is real.
Ultimately, the difference between these two positions is where one locates contingency: either it is all “front loaded” (and I use that term deliberately) and there is no genuine contingency following the “big bang”, or it can happen at any level and at any time following the “big bang” (at least, prior to the universe going cold and dark forever). According to the “strong downward causation” position, everything that happens (up to and including the ultimate “heat death” of the universe) is determined, there is “nothing new under the sun(s)” and “free will” is an illusion.
According to the “weak downward causation” position, the initial conditions (i.e. the “big bang”) produced a set of limited and time-dependent natural laws, genuine “novelty” is always a possibility, and “free will” can exist, albeit as a “learned predisposition”.
vjtorley also asked:
I disagree; my example of falling rocks is essentially the universe in microcosm. Either the universe and everything in it and everything that happens in it from its beginning to its never-ending ending exists and happens as the result of the actions of an Agent existing outside of the universe (i.e. outside of space and time) acting “in order to” bring something into existence (e.g. ourselves), or the universe is what it is and “things just happen”. The standpoint of the natural sciences is, of course, the latter, and as someone who willingly accepts the designation as a “natural scientist”, I would paraphrase Wittgenstein (“Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darueber muss man schweigen”, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus thesis 7.0), by asserting that
As for Feser’s redefinition of Aristotelian final cause, to me it seems that Feser has simply collapsed both formal and final cause into material and efficient cause, which is essentially the same philosophical maneuver as that performed by scientists since the time of Francis Bacon. Indeed, if one takes Bacon seriously and asserts that the natural sciences are ultimately grounded in induction, then no other interpretation is possible, given the rules of inductive reasoning.
To me, it seems that Feser is simply redefining formal cause as material cause and final cause as efficient cause (or making them congruent, which is essentially the same thing). If one takes Feser seriously (and I assume that vj does), one cannot distinguish any metaphysical difference between the phrase “gravity causes rocks to fall” and “rocks fall in order to reach the ground”. Since at least the time of Newton, the former phrase sounds reasonable and the latter phrase sounds nonsensical.
In comment #32 vjtorley wrote:
It is a basic assumption of biological taxonomy that all taxonomic levels above the level of species (i.e. genera, families, orders, classes, phyla, kingdoms, and domains) are all recognized for convenience only. That is, they allow taxonomists to organize living systems hierarchically, but are not “real”. That is, they do not correspond to any underlying determinative process above the level of species.
This means, of course, that the process of speciation is the one and only process in macroevolution. That this is the case is supported by the way that evolutionary biologists refer to the origin of the higher taxa: that they begin with the same cladogenetic events that underly speciation, and then diverge over time.
To make an analogy, consider two cars traveling side by side on the same interstate highway. These two cars represent the members of a single panmictic species. If at some point the two cars take separate exits, their trajectories from that point on can diverge indefinitely, winding up in completely different places at some later point (San Francisco and New York, analogous to plants and animals). What determined the divergence between the two “higher” taxa is the separation that happened at the moment of cladogenesis/speciation. Everything that happens subsequent to that merely reinforces the divergence that began at that moment.
Ergo (and contrary to the caricature usually presented by creationists and most ID supporters, and by many otherwise intelligent evolutionary biologists), macroevolution doesn’t take immensely long periods of time at all. On the contrary, it happens almost instantaneously, at the moment that two populations (or even two individuals) become “different” from each other (which, at the level of eukaryotes, means they become reproductively isolated from each other). Everything that happens after that immediate initial divergence is simply the elaboration of the initial split.
So, species are not like Democritus’ atoms, nor are they like Plato’s eidos. They are not “uncuttable” (atemnien = “atom”), and can be subdivided down to the level of individual organisms (or even further, if those organisms are composites of smaller organisms, as in the case of lichens or siphonophores).
As for the genetic mechanisms that underly the “typological” distinctions between higher taxa (especially phyla), it should be clear based on my preceding comments that I (and most other evolutionary biologists) infer that the “kernels” (i.e. the hox regulatory hierarchies in the genomes that produce the macroscopic differences between the phyla) are themselves “built up” by a process of elaboration from much simpler genetic regulatory mechanisms going back to the origin of the eukaryotic grade. We do not observe anything like these hierarchical regulatory mechanisms in prokaryotes, whereas they are virtually universal among the taxa of the kingdom Animalia (and some protists – the protozoa – but not among either fungi or plants AFAIK). Therefore, a reasonable (and possibly testable) hypothesis is that the hierarchical genetic regulatory mechanism of animals originated among the protozoan ancestors of the kingdom Animalia, probably as a mechanism for regulating intracellular developmental processes, and then by the process of exaptation became modified into the various related mechanisms which regulate intercellular development among the animalia.
Again, this process exemplifies the “bottom up” concept which I have developed in my earlier comments in this thread.
And now I must put away the groceries that are still out in the van, and then it’s time to pick up the little dragon and his mother, and I’ve got many chapters left in Ghiselin’s Metaphysics and the Origin of Species left to pore over, so I must take my leave. Many, many sincere thanks, especially to vjtorley, for a most stimulating conversation, and for the many references cited. You have helped me clarify for myself (and I hope for you) what I think about many of these issues, and for that I am very grateful.
—-Allen MacNeill: “Yes; indeed, in comment #20 I quoted stephenB as making exactly that assertion in comment #17.”‘ [that everything is pre-ordained?”]
Incorrect, I made no such statement. My point was, [and is] that evolution, to whatever extent that it happens, unfolds according to a plan–that it has an end in mind. You simply injected determinism into the discussion and attributed it to my position. If EVERYTHING was “pre-ordained,” there could be no free will.
In keeping with my point, are you now prepared to tell me if you accept the law of causality as a non-negotiable principle for science?
That depends on what you mean by “causality”: weak, strong, bottom-up, top-down, deterministic, contingent, hard, fuzzy…please explain, so that even a dummy like me can understand.
In Allen’s post he slips in a few false premises – or at least loaded ones which skews the debate between the Neo Darwinists and IDists.
The fist thing that is falsely presented is when he writes…
“Teleology must exist in any functional relationship, including those in biology.”
This employs a totally false or at least meaningless definition of teleology because teleology by its very own necessary distinctive characteristics and nature MUST NOT “always” exist by default- and the domain of biology makes no difference. A “relationship” in biology does not equate to a design inference. For example compare biological functional complexity to human engineering- you can have a car engine which is very complexly designed and over time- due to wear and tear- things can break within in it’s structure resulting in novel relationships that are NOT the result of organized purposive “design”- or teleology at all- but just the result of law like materialistic processes of chance and 2nd law thermodynamic events.
Therefore one of the challenges of ID is looking at phenomena and determining as best as possible the distinction between aboriginal design from the structural changes that result of purely material processes after the fact.
So at the beginning this is an attempt to make the definition of teleology totally ambiguous- which is always the tactic of an opponent of a position. It is a relativistic straw man of sorts- to skew the meaning of one’s position and then hang it as being inadequate- or ambiguous.
So no- relationships in biology DO NOT have to be teleological in nature- they are either inferred to be by external empirical evidence- or are not.
So going beyond the fact that Allen set up a false dichotomy at the onset- he then fallows that up by stating his own opinion as if it was some kind of supporting evidence to his pseudo argument:
“The real question (and the real focus of the dispute between EBers and IDers) is the answer to the question, “where does the teleology manifest in biology come from”? EBers such as Ernst Mayr assert that it is an emergent property of natural selection, whereas IDers assert that it comes from an “intelligent designer”. It has never been clear to me how one would distinguish between these two assertions, at least insofar as they can be empirically tested. Rather, the choice of one or the other seems to me to be a choice between competing metaphysical world views, which are not empirically verifiable by definition.”
No Allen, you know exactly what the difference between the two scientific theories is. One infers that a subject is the result of an intelligent agent- that is that the organization of a phenomena is best explained as the result of purposely influenced events- ant NOT chance and law like events proposed by the fallen away theologian Charles Darwin.
And allow me to make it clear one more time for those who have not learned anything- Darwin was a “THEOLOGIAN”- he had NO DEGREES in the sciences but did in fact go to seminary school. So this modern materialistic naturalism is a branch of theology- or anti-theology if you like. When Allen says “EBers” that means Neo Darwinists because there are in fact evolutionary biologists like Michael Behe who accept ID are biologists but reject Materialistic Naturalism- which was Darwin’s professed brain child of theology that he interlaced with the ideas of the tree of life and sexual selection.
And so ID has defined itself VERY clearly- and it has been stated many times on this site before. IF a specified complex organized structure cannot be explained as the result of law and chance like processes then it is best understood as the result of an intelligent agent. The inference to design- or of teleology- is a natural inference that results from proper reasoning- and one that is used every day in archeology- crime scene investigations- etc.
This is not- and never really has been- a competition between purely metaphysical definitions- but between scientific explanations and investigative operations regarding the SAME empirical phenomena.
—Allen: “That depends on what you mean by “causality”: weak, strong, bottom-up, top-down, deterministic, contingent, hard, fuzzy…please explain, so that even a dummy like me can understand.”
The law of causality that I allude to may be expressed as follows: Anything that begins to exist must have a cause. I am assuming that you reject that proposition, which would mean that you hold that some things can come into existence without a cause.
For those still following this exchange, I’d like to again point out the elephant in the room re: Allen’s thoughts here.
He has said that there is currently no way, and there may never be a way, to distinguish between the two following claims:
1: What happens in nature [Putting aside, for now, the question of humans’ creations] is unplanned, unguided, without purpose.
2: What happens in nature [Again, putting the human creation question aside for now] is planned, guided, and purposeful.
He then goes on to assert that, while he knows of no way to test between these views, and thinks that there may never be a way to test between them, scientists currently by and large subscribe to 1. Therefore, if you want to do science or be a scientist, you will commit to 1.
I think it’s clear that there are two replies to this.
1) If there is no way to test between these views, then the question is irrelevant to science. One can take a hyperdeterminist view that absolutely every single event that takes place in nature is foreordained, one can take StephenB’s view that nature ‘unfolds’ yet free will still exists, one can be utterly agnostic on the question, or one can argue that nothing is foreordained or happens according to a plan/purpose. Science concerns itself with questions that can be empirically explored and potentially falsified, and since none of these views can be tested, they are irrelevant as science goes.
This would mean, however, that whenever anyone suggests the presence or lack of purpose, foresight, etc in nature, they are no longer doing science, but engaging in philosophy and metaphysics. If the majority of scientists happen to believe that nothing in nature is ultimately preordained or intended, that’s nothing more than an interesting cultural factoid. If this view seeps into their work, then it becomes necessary to scrub the excess metaphysical/philosophical speculation.
So, if 1 is embraced, it’s embraced at the cost of ridding claims of non-purposefulness, non-guidance, etc from science. Not exactly beneficial for many ID critics, since it defangs (much of) Darwin along with Dembski and company.
There’s another alternative, of course. But it’s arguably worse for the ID opponent.
2) There’s no way to test between the views – but winding metaphysical and philosophical speculation into one’s scientific work is fair game. Which means that it’s A-OK for Allen and others to continue to insist that there’s no ultimate design or intention above or behind nature – and it’s alright for Dembski, Behe and others to argue the opposite.
In other words, all of the claims that ID is not science because it’s smuggling theology, metaphysics, and/or philosophy into science die on the spot: It doesn’t matter if ID -does- smuggle in theological, metaphysical or philosophical claims, because doing so is fair game anyway. This also has the effect of making most of what Allen says here meaningless: Sure, many scientists believe that nature ultimately lacks purpose or unfolding towards a plan, etc. But other scientists believe differently. Both are ‘scientific’ views, even if one is more popular than the other right now.
Whether 1 or 2 is taken, ID advances: Either the anti-ID metaphysics of scientists are regarded as superfluous and chopped, or ID is every bit as scientific as those anti-ID metaphysics.
Probably not news to a lot of readers on this site, but I point all this out to better illustrate what I (as a sympathetic TE/Aristotilean) think ID proponents should focus on.
This thread is certainly not the first time that Allen has been in this rodeo, but I must admit, I don’t remember him ever confessing such a glaring internal conflict in his views.
He admits that meaningful information can only exist as the product of perception, then concludes that the sequences transcribed in DNA are an example of meaningful information.
He affirms the evidence that leads only to an inference to design, then denies it in a fog of words – none of which even begins to negate the affirmations he’s made.
Meanwhile, he can be found on other UD threads taking ID proponents to task for various failures of logic.
Now, Allen, let us reason together. Aristotle’s concept of being as “pure action” is nothing more than a clever response to Plato’s conception of the good as pure negation—a force of absolute resistance to the perceived deficiencies of existence.
Plato and Aristotle were divided in their concepts of being because they both believed that God was intellect in his essence. Since intellect manifests itself in philosophy as a force of resistance to the unhappiness of existence, the attempt to describe this force as a pure or transcendent power led to divided concepts of the good as pure negation and pure action.
It is no longer necessary to believe that God is intellect in his essence, however, or to replay the limitations of such a concept. The law of non-contradiction does not apply if God is not intellect. It is entirely possible for him, for example, to create the universe so that it will function on its own according to certain natural laws and yet remain free to contravene those laws according to a higher principle than intellect.
As I’m sure you know, the Bible does not tie itself up in the logical knots represented by your falling rocks example. But it’s interesting to note that you do. Is it because you prefer theory, with its totalizing force of resistance, its power to impose a sense of order on existence, to the chaos produced by a purely inductive definition of science—or for that matter to the bewildering complexity of synthetic methods like Aristotle’s?
In other words, do you find comfort in the seeming purity of theory, as is suggested by your invocation of Wittgenstein? Are you mixing philospohy and science? Or is your interest in Darwinism purely scientific?
In comment #43 stephenB clarifies (somewhat) his definition of “cause”:
Implicit in this definition is the concept of the “arrow” of time. Without the passage of time, the word “begins” has no meaning. Ergo, stephenB’s definition of “cause” is necessarily a “time bound” definition, in that it necessarily depends on the “forward” flow of time.
This becomes problematic, as time does not flow either forward or backward at the level of individual particles. It is a well-known principle of physics that individual particles can travel either “forward” or “backward” in time. Or, to be more precise, it is impossible to tell whether a particle is moving forward or backward in time when observing a single particle.
This situation changes when particles are observed in groups. That is, a universe that contains more than one moving particle (and in which those particles interact with each other) exhibits that property which we refer to as the “forward” movement (or “flow” or “progress”) of time.
Physicists have known for more than a century that the “forward” flow of time is a necessary property of a universe in which particles interact in such a way as to become more widely scattered (and therefore more “disordered”, to use the traditional terminology). This process is usually codified as the Second Law of Thermodynamics (hereinafter the 2nd Law).
To tie this to the concept of “cause” and to relate it to Aristotle’s physics and his concept of an “Unmoved Mover”, the process we refer to as “causation” depends on a universe in which time is already “flowing”. That is, it depends upon a universe that can be described by the 2nd Law.
So far, so good. But, by the same line of reasoning, if the universe itself “began”, time and causality also “began” simultaneously with it. Or, to paraphrase in words the underlying physics of space-time, prior to the “big bang” time did not “flow” and therefore causality could not have existed. To be more precise, time began to “flow” (and causality began to operate) at the moment that the universe “began”, and so properly speaking there is no flow of time before the origin of the universe as there is no “before” before that event.
This is virtually isomorphic with Aristotle’s argument for an “Unmoved Mover”, who sets the universe in motion without being in motion Himself. The Thomists identified Aristotle’s “Unmoved Mover” with the deity of the Abrahamic tradition, and so we may say that God (to use His “role” name rather than His “proper” name), by virtue of setting the universe in motion at the “big bang” is the “Uncaused Cause” of all phenomena in the universe.
However, once the universe has been set in motion, it is not clear that any further participation in the “unfolding” of the universe by its “Uncaused Cause” is necessary. Indeed, if one assumes (for the sake of argument) that the “Uncaused Cause” is indeed omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient, then no further intervention in the “unfolding” of the already “moving” universe should be necessary or expected.
This is my admittedly subjective and not-rigorously-thought-out paraphrase of classical deism of the 17th to 18th century variety. What seems to me to flow from this analysis is that, once the “first cause” (i.e. the “big bang”) has set the universe in motion, all subsequent causation derives its direction in the flow of time from the “arrow” of time created in the “beginning” of the universe itself. According to this view, macroscopic phenomena (i.e. those in which masses of interacting particles are involved) appear to be absolutely bound by the “natural” law of causation, which itself is bound inextricably into the origin and evolution of the universe itself.
So, to respond to stephenB’s assumption, I accept the proposition that one thing (and one thing only) can come into existence without a cause: the universe itself (including the “natural laws” which govern it, which in some sense “constitute” the universe). However, following the instant of its coming into existence, everything that happens from then on does indeed proceed from causes that derive from that original cause.
Once again, as to what “preceded” the “coming into existence” of the universe, it seems to me that this is a nonsensical statement: nothing “preceded” it, as there is no “earlier” time within which anything could have “preceded” it. Ergo, about the origin of the universe itself, I once again quote Wittgenstein:
To pursue the concepts in comments #41 and #47, if one accepts (as I do) that all events except the very first event (i.e. the “big bang”) are part of a causal chain of events moving forward from that initial event, one can still ask what “kind” of causes might exist:
Underlying this question is a more basic question (actually, several basic questions), most of which are also tied to the question of emergence:
1) Are causes “linear/simple/unitary” or “non-linear/complex/multiple”?
2) Are causes “top down” or “bottom up”?
3) Are causes “additive/multiplicative”, or “catastropic” (as in catastrophe/”tipping point” theory)?
4) Are causes “hard/strong” (i.e. absolutely deterministic) or “fuzzy/weak” (i.e. probabilistically deterministic)?
Without going into exhausting detail, I would say that, to me, most of the causes operating in nature (and especially biology) qualify with the latter terms in each of the four distinctions listed above. I suspect that, until the 20th century, most physicists and chemists would have disagreed, and chosen the former terms in each of the four distinctions listed. However, the overwhelming majority of physicists and chemists today accept that, even at levels of interaction “below” that of living systems, many (perhaps most) causal interactions are:
4) bottom up
This is overwhelmingly the case for biological phenomena, which are immensely more complex than the systems generally studied by physicists and chemists. Furthermore, (using the terminology developed by Chalmers ), this means that emergence is almost always “weak”. That is, when a property is observed to “emerge” from the interactions between causal processes at lower levels of analysis, such “emergence” is “surprising” (this term has rigorous statistical meaning, BTW), but not necessarily underivable from a detailed analysis of the precipitating causes.
And so, to cut a long analysis short, evolution appears to be a time-dependent process characterized by weak emergence which necessarily (i.e. “naturally”) results from non-linear, complex, multiple, catastrophic, fuzzy, and weak causal interactions. Furthermore, based on the analysis presented in my earlier comments, the causes of evolutionary emergence are not necessarily teleological, but the entities and processes that proceed from those causes are.
 Chalmers D. (2006) Strong and weak emergence. In P. Clayton and P. Davies, eds. The Re-emergence of Emergence Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
And now the Golden Hoard wants to watch “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” on my computer, so it’s time to sign off for the time being (pun intended, of course).
Lots of good thoughts, Allen. I particularly think it is important to recognize that ideas such as time and causality are related to how we as human beings, being embedded in the world, experience the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are relevant concepts when thinking about (speculating about) the larger “reality”, if any, our universe is part of.
The phrase “anything that begins to exist must have a cause” assumes a linear local causality – it takes the metaphor of the coordinate system axis as a truism about all possible realities, rather than a statement about what we have come to observe, for the most part, in the world that exists and as we as human beings experience it. It may very well be that such a statement does not apply to the metaphysical world (if there is one.)
The opening quote from you said,
“EBers such as Ernst Mayr assert that it is an emergent property of natural selection, whereas IDers assert that it comes from an “intelligent designer”. It has never been clear to me how one would distinguish between these two assertions, at least insofar as they can be empirically tested. Rather, the choice of one or the other seems to me to be a choice between competing metaphysical world views, which are not empirically verifiable by definition.”
I’m not sure that this is an either/or proposition. When we look at the world that we experience and take time, local causality, and the nature of the elementary particles and forces into account, I think we see emergent design: this universe produces organized complexity without anybody guiding the way. However, many people want to speculate on the metaphysics behind the physics (and of course, in doing so assume that there is a metaphysic behind the physics. Thinking that there is an intelligent designer (God of some sort for many) is such a speculation. However, thinking that once the universe came into existence, no further metaphysical interaction happens, is also a speculation held by many. Many different such perspectives are possible, and as you say, there are no “empiricially verifiable” ways of investigating which, if any, are true. They are, as you say, choices, and they are made for many different reasons, key ones of which are other than that of logic and evidence.
P.S. My post at 49 was in reply to Allen at 47, not 48. I very much like the points he’s made about causality in 48.
Allen, please provide one of the seemingly abundant references to support the assertion “It is a well-known principle of physics that … it is impossible to tell whether a particle is moving forward or backward in time when observing a single particle.”
Here is an example of the pseudophysics this thinking promotes http://www.newscientist.com/bl.....s-sab.html
re 51: you might google Feynman and QED. In Feynman diagrams, electrons and positrons are the same element moving in different directions in time – how you look at is a matter of choice and doesn’t affect the overall physics of the situation. QED is a theory that has been extremely well verified by experiment.
This may or may not relate to yur question, and you may or may not already be familiar with QED.
Allen MacNeil :
This is inconsistent with Darwin’s Principle of Divergence. Are you saying that Darwin was wrong?
P.S. If you fail to respond to this post, as you did to my earlier post, then I shall simply conclude that my logic is unassailable, and would encourage all readers to do the same.
Ah, this is fun.
First, Allen spent a lot of time talking about the Unmoved Mover of Aristotle and Aquinas – the divine power that originally set things into motion at some distant point in the past, thus leading to time itself and all things that have taken place since that first originating point of time.
There’s just a tiny problem with all this: Aristotle believed in an eternal universe, and Aquinas did not provide arguments for a beginning of time. In fact, Aquinas thought that to prove time had a beginning (a project he didn’t think was open to demonstration) pretty much established the existence of an eternal, timeless, divine being – aka God – and so produced his arguments with the assumption of an eternal universe. Both Aquinas and Aristotle’s argued-for “unmoved mover” and “uncaused cause” was a mover and cause evident at every moment and had application even if the universe was eternal.
Second, Allen talks about what “preceded” the “coming into existence” of the universe – but no one here talked about what “preceded” the universe. StephenB’s question was whether he agreed with the law of causation: “That which begins to exist has a cause.” And not all of causation is time-dependent – the universe arguably can ‘begin to exist’ via a cause that did not temporally precede it.
He also cracks out a Wittgenstein quote, which I’m not sure he knows the translation of since he violates it on a regular basis. He can’t be meaning that he takes an utterly agnostic (or, dear Lord, silent) view on the law of causality or the origin of the universe, because he just got finished saying that sure, he thinks the universe came into existence without a cause. But also, only the universe can have this happen. And it can only happen once, and from that point on not again.
Why? No justification provided. Maybe because no justification is possible.
PaV writes, “P.S. If you fail to respond to this post, as you did to my earlier post, then I shall simply conclude that my logic is unassailable, and would encourage all readers to do the same.”
Uh, that is a principle that you really can’t invoke. People don’t respond to lots of points for lots of reasons. Among other things, time is limited, and people choose what points they want to discuss and what people they want to discuss with.
On topic, though, Allen wrote, “This means, of course, that the process of speciation is the one and only process in macroevolution, and you wrote, “This is inconsistent with Darwin’s Principle of Divergence.”
No it isn’t, I don’t think. An analogy is the branching of the twigs on a tree. The point of branching is the speciation event – the event which differentiates two species. Further divergence as the branches grow and perhaps branch more is the continuation of the process, but is not inconsistent with the fact that the moment of divergence itself – speciation – is the critical event.
I’m sure that if you think I’m wrong, you’ll respond – otherwise I win!!! 🙂 (Just kidding)
In comment #51 idnet.com.au wrote:
Here you go:
As the article this link states, time symmetry is part of the “standard model” of particle physics:
And, before someone who actually knows something about these subjects objects, yes, it is the case that one of the four physical forces violates CPT symmetry:
However, I believe that most people familiar with the issues would agree that the weak nuclear force is not often causally invoked in evolutionary biology.
Here’s another, relating directly to T symmetry in quantum mechanics:
PaV’s questions in comment #31 both reduce to “For life to exist, natural laws must operate in particular ways. Life exists, ergo Someone must have determined that natural laws operate in those ways and not other ways (which would have made life impossible).”
I agree, but I believe that the question of “who designed the natural laws that make life possible” is not a question that can be answered using empirical methods (i.e. it cannot be answered using the methodology of the natural sciences). One can, of course, speculate virtually without limit as to the “authorship” of natural laws themselves, but such speculation remains (indeed, must remain) precisely that: speculation.
When asked a similar question about the origin of the law of universal gravitation, Newton replied:
which I take as being semantically equivalent to Wittgenstein’s assertion:
As for PaV’s comment that my failure to respond to her/his comments constitutes some kind of “proof” of her/his comments, I can only agree with Schiller:
Thanks for the extensions and qualifications of my points. I would like to link to a related article, which elaborates on the ideas that I have paraphrased, mostly from the work of Ernst Mayr:
This is a relatively new article at Wikipedia, and one that I am in the process of critiquing and editing.
nullasalus in comment #55:
(I agree, this is fun!)
With reference to Aristotle and Aquinas’ axiomatic assumption of an eternal universe (i.e. one that has no beginning, and therefore no ” original cause”), it seems to me that the concept of an eternal universe necessarily entails two corollaries:
• if “first” causes exist in a universe that is infinite in both space and time (i.e. “first” causes being causes that themselves have no preceding cause), then “first” causes can (perhaps even must) exist at any time and in any place for any reason; and
• there cannot be an original “first” cause, as such a concept is incoherent in a universe that has no beginning and is infinite in extent in both space and time.
Furthermore, I’m not certain that Aquinas assumed an eternal universe. Indeed, as such an assumption directly contradicts the creation stories in Genesis I and II, I think it more reasonable to assume that Aquinas based most of his arguments on an assumption of a universe that is finite in both space and time, as that is the “universe” described in the Bible. Ergo, it is my understanding that Aquinas’ application of his ideas of causation to an eternal universe was a “test case” of his argument for the existence of God from “first” causes, rather than the other way around.
I find it at least mildly ironic that an ID supporter would argue for a version of the doctrine of “first” (i.e. “original”) cause on the basis of a model of the universe infinite in both space and time, when most theists make exactly the opposite argument: that a universe that is finite in both space and time is one that is compatible with the hypothesis of “original design”.
Furthermore, I personally find the idea that a supernatural designer who is necessary as the origin of all (or even some) causes throughout space and time renders the whole idea of causation itself completely meaningless. If it is the case that the intervention of a supernatural designer in the origin of any “natural” causes is necessary, then there is no logical limit to what causes into which such a designer may intervene. “Anything goes”, and the supernatural designer can “cause” anything at all, including the instantaneous transformation of a falling boulder into a flying bluebird.
But, if the supernatural designer need not so intervene – that is, if the laws of nature are both necessary and sufficient to cause everything that happens following the “original cause” (i.e. the “big bang”) – then the only necessary intervention by the supernatural designer into the operation of natural laws is their establishment. Once that’s done, S/He can kick back and enjoy the show, or go do Something else…
The problem is this: The only way you can come away with thinking that Aquinas provided philosophical arguments for the temporal beginning of the universe, much less Aristotle, is by having a pretty darn shallow understanding of what either really taught and argued. That’s clear. And frankly, that’s fine – but then you shouldn’t speak as if you’re well versed in these topics. As Wittgenstein said…
“Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darueber muss man schweigen.”
But yes, Allen: Aquinas did assume an eternal universe when it came to his philosophical arguments for the Uncaused Cause. And no, it’s not reasonable to assume Aquinas “based most of his arguments on an assumption of a universe that is finite in both space and time”, what with the fact that he damn well didn’t. In fact, Aquinas also ceded that even if his arguments in this vein worked they did not alone get someone to the specifically Christian God, and that further argument and consideration was needed in that case.
Again, this isn’t exactly obscure knowledge so long as you read up on who you’re talking about.
Aquinas saw no contradiction in the notion of an eternal created universe. He thought that it was a matter of biblical revelation that the world is not eternal. He also thought that reason alone could not conclude whether the world had a temporal beginning. But even if the universe were not to have had a temporal beginning, it still would depend upon God for its very being, its existence.
So no, his arguments make no such assumption about a finite universe. In fact, he explicitly states otherwise.
What’s more, I’m not an ID supporter, though you never fail to make me reconsider that. I’m a sympathizer, precisely because of the hypocrisy so evident with most of their critics. Either way, find it ironic all you like – the issue remains that Aristotle believed in an “Uncaused Cause” and believed the universe was eternal, Aquinas’ arguments for God’s existence proceeded on the assumption that the universe was eternal in time, and even ID is utterly compatible with an eternal universe. I’d also add that Aquinas’ arguments are not properly ID arguments.
As for what you find meaningless about a divine cause that upholds and sustains creation moment to moment, considering you’ve apparently become aware of this – what, 10 minutes ago? – I’d consider Wittgenstein’s quote again. But more than that… this is coming from the guy who believes who universes can pop into existence utterly uncaused (but only universes, and only the one time)? You make a good pot for the imaginary kettle you’re criticizing.
I admit that neither cosmology nor ancient philosophy nor Scholasticism are my primary avocations, and that I have not had the time to read the original sources in their original languages. Be that as it may, I have had considerable time to study up on the metaphysical foundations of modern science (this is, of course, the title of E. A. Burtt’s book on the subject – “Ned” Burtt was an old and dear friend of mine, BTW), and have concentrated on the metaphysical foundations of the biological sciences, especially evolutionary biology. Indeed, I am writing a book on that very subject, along with a historical and philosophical examination of evolutionary biology (a ridiculously brief summary of which can be viewed here:
When we talk (and write) about causation from the standpoint of the modern natural sciences, we generally tend to omit any references to “original cause”, and simply assume that causation in nature operates the way that it appears to operate. And, whereas various physical laws (such as the Second Law of Thermodynamics) are apparently historically contingent on the history of the universe itself, we generally tend to interpret them the way they were interpreted in the late 19th century; that is, locally, rather than universally.
So, as to which model of causation most scientists use in their day-to-day work, to me it seems fair to say that most scientists use something like the Hempel/Oppenheim deductive-nomological (HODN) model, which (oddly enough) tends to omit references to causes and focuses instead on processes. And, while it is the case that most philosophers of science consider the HODN model to be insufficiently rigorous by philosophical standards, it seems to work most of the time for most scientists in most areas of scientific research. Furthermore, it has been my experience (both personally and in conversation with other scientists, both here at Cornell and elsewhere) that most scientists are not formally trained in the philosophy of science, but rather pick it up as they go along in what amounts to “on-the-job training” in standard scientific methods.
This, of course, bothers most philosophers, but what do they know…
P.S. to nullasalus: Despite your generally snide tone, I do genuinely appreciate your links to references which I can use to educate myself on the many huge (and rapidly expanding) areas of knowledge about which I am abysmally ignorant. I hope my links do the same for you, and if my tone has been as condescending as yours, I sincerely apologize and will try to do better in the future.
P.P.S “Pots calling kettles black” would seem to be a fairly concise characterization of an argument between advocates of two generally incommensurate worldviews, wouldn’t you say?
P.P.P.S. Those still following this thread might also want to read an essay on this subject here:
Be sure to read the comments as well as the OP, as they touch on some of the issues under discussion here.
The problem here is not that you and I (or any others) have ‘two generally incommensurate worldviews’. It’s that you claim that there is no way to decide (certainly not empirically) between these worldviews – and then go on to strongly imply that yours is the one that should be taught with and as science, and the other view(s) should be excluded. On the grounds that, well, that happens to be the opinion of most scientists, at least nowadays, you think.
Nothing in the actual science of evolutionary theory (as opposed to science mixed with a heavy dose of firmly adhered to philosophy) requires or compels a claim that evolution lacks (or has) teleology, or that evolutionary outcomes are ultimately unplanned (or planned), etc. And yet so much attention, masquerading as science, ends up devoted to presenting evolutionary theory as devoid of teleology, or purpose, or plan. Not “leaving the topic aside for the philosophers and metaphysicians or speculating laymen”, but actively pushing one view for reasons that have little to do with actual science. And then harshly criticizing ID proponents for injecting philosophy and/or theology into science, when the real problem is that they’re just finally playing what has been for decades a very popular game.
Let me be clear: I really don’t care if you personally believe that universes just pop into existence utterly without cause. Nor do I care if you consider nature to be without plan, purpose, or guidance. I do care when you and others present your views as science rather than philosophy / metaphysics / worldview, and when others who do pretty much the exact same thing are accused of threatening science by mixing the topics. No matter how many foreign-language quotes and delicate turns of phrase come with the attitude, it’s abusive of science and plainly hypocritical.
As for the passive-aggressive jabs, I’ll pass on that game.
Allen MacNeill (#61)
Thank you for your post. I’d just like to make a few comments.
(1) Regarding the “first” cause: “first” here does not mean chronologically first, but ontologically first – i.e. the Ultimate Explanation. Time has nothing to do with it. A universe infinite in extent in both space and time could still require an explanation for its existence, and I shall argue below that it does.
(2) Even if the universe is infinite in space and time, it does not follow logically that the First Cause has to exist inside it. That would follow only if the First Cause were itself spatio-temporal – which begs the question.
Actually, all of Aquinas’ Five Ways are utterly incompatible with the idea that the First Cause could be inside space and time, even if it were infinite in extent and duration.
The First Way argues to the existence of an essentially unchanging cause of all change – a fully actualized Prime Mover. (According to Aquinas, all change requires a cause, because when a thing changes, it acquires a property, say X. Before, it was merely able-to-be-X; now it is actually-X. However, a mere capacity cannot ground an actuality; hence no change is self-explanatory.) But anything which is in time is still changeable. Hence the Prime Mover must be outside time, if Aquinas’ First Way is sound. Hence a spatio-temporally infinite universe cannot be the Prime Mover, as it is still in time.
The Second Way argues to the existence of an essentially Uncaused Cause. But we can always ask why the universe exists, even if it is spatio-temporally infinite. For the universe has spatial, temporal, quantitative and qualitative properties, regarding which we can meaningfully ask: why does it have to be that way? Since even a spatio-temporally infinite universe is not by nature uncaused, it cannot be the essentially Uncaused Cause.
The Third Way argues to the existence of a Necessary Being whose necessity is not derived from that of any other being – i.e. a Being that is necessary in its own right. Now, a being that is capable of coming to be or ceasing to be is not necessary in its own right. But a universe that is infinite in space and time is still capable of coming to be or ceasing to be, as it has no property guaranteeing its own existence. Even if it always existed, it might not have. Hence a spatio-temporally infinite universe cannot be a Being that is necessary in its own right.
The Fourth Way (which has a rather Platonic flavor) argues to the existence of a Being which is the very paradigm of Unity, Truth and Goodness: all other beings can only possess these qualities by participating in its beauty. An infinite universe cannot be a paradigm of Unity because it is still composite: it has parts. It cannot be a paradigm of Truth because some of its parts (e.g. people) are capable of believing falsehood. And it cannot be a paradigm of goodness because some of its parts (e.g. people) are capable of evil. Hence a spatio-temporally infinite universe cannot be the Paradigm Being.
The Fifth Way argues to the existence of a Supreme Intelligence which directs things in the cosmos towards their natural ends (i.e. the effects they are naturally inclined to produce). (The underlying idea here is that anything behaving in accordance with a built-in tendency or disposition is exhibiting norm-governed behavior – which no unintelligent entity can do, unless directed by some intelligent entity.) But an infinite universe would still have certain natural ends (or tendencies) of its own, even considered as a whole, since there are laws of nature that hold everywhere throughout it. Also, time itself exhibits natural ends – e.g. a tendency towards entropy. Hence a spatio-temporally infinite universe cannot be the Supreme Intelligence.
People often talk about the “five gods” of the Five Ways: how do we know they’re all the same? That’s because they’ve never read questions 3 to 7 of Volume I of the Summa Theologica, let alone chapters 14 to 44 of Book 1 of the Summa Contra Gentiles. Actually, for Aquinas, the First Way is the backbone of the Five Ways; God’s being fully actualized (with no potential properties) is the key property that allows Aquinas to deduce that God must be simple, infinite, intelligent and good.
Personally, I think Duns Scotus’ proofs of God’s existence and attributes were more rigorous than those of Aquinas, but that’s a minor quibble.
You also write:
I’ve been studying the Five Ways since 1979. Please trust me on this one; he did. There was a special reason for this. Aquinas was formulating an argument that was meant to convince skeptical people in his day that God’s existence could be established. Had he assumed that the world had a beginning, the flaw in the argument would have been apparent from the outset, not only to skeptics but also to religious believers who held that God’s existence could only be known through faith (for there were such people in Aquinas’ day too), and who were not at all averse to tearing down fallacious arguments for God’s existence. I should add that in Aquinas’ day, most Muslim scholars (who were often more educated than their Christian counterparts) assumed the eternity of the world, following Aristotle. That was the intellectual milieu of the 13th century. Thus Aquinas held that only through faith could we know that the world had a beginning. Hence the default assumption, when he was arguing with non-believers or people of other religions, was that it had no beginning.
Finally, you argue that a supernatural Designer who has to intervene in the universe undermines the whole idea of causality, because He could make anything happen, whereas a supernatural Designer who no longer has to intervene after setting up the laws of nature and the Big Bang has no scope for whimsical behavior. The example you cite is that of a falling boulder turning into a bluebird.
(1) even a Deistic designer could make a boulder turn into a bluebird, either by fine-tuning the initial conditions of the universe to an extraordinary degree to ensure a series of precisely choreographed molecular collisions at a subseqyent date, that made the boulder break up and reassemble itself into a bluebird (think of the butterly effect), or by building certain ad hoc local laws into the fabric of the cosmos (e.g. a law that when it’s Wednesday 31 March 2010 and the time is 6:08 a.m. and the location is Boulder, Colorado, any falling boulder shall turn into a bluebird);
(2) even if there’s nothing in the cosmos that can prevent a supernatural Designer from turning a falling boulder shall turn into a bluebird, that doesn’t mean it could happen. For the supernatural Designer could still be constrained by its own nature, which ensures that it would never do anything stupid or whimsical – and Aquinas’ Fifth Way attempts to show that such a Being would in fact be Supremely Wise.
I hope that helps.
Allen, on the matter of whether you accept the “law of causality” [anything that begins to exist must have a cause], I appreciate the fact that you provided straight answer to a straight question, even if that answer was no. To begin, I must clarify what seems to be a misunderstanding:
—You wrote, “In comment #43 stephenB clarifies (somewhat) his definition of “cause” [Anything that begins to exist must have a cause].
Well, no, that was a definition of the “law of causality.” A cause is simply something that brings something else about. So, to clarify as much as possible, the law of causality simply states that, if anything begins to exist, something other than that thing had to bring it about. There is no need to get into the multi-varied textures or kinds of causality since they are irrelevant to the point, meaning I need not explicitly state that anything that begins to exist must have either a strong cause, a weak cause, or linear cause, or fuzzy cause, or deterministic cause, or top down cause, or bottom up cause—oh well, you get the drift.
Nor does the argument depend on the “forward flow” of time. If the designer created the universe, then time was created with it. Indeed, we now know that time is relative, which means, of course, that the “flow” of time is not its decisive ontological element, and even the second law of thermodynamics may well have been created as time’s complementary element. Indeed, that is precisely what I would argue. It doesn’t necessarily follow that the universe’s first cause preceded the universe temporally, especially if temporalism was, itself, a part of creation.
In any case, Aquinas did not, as I am sure you must know, believe that the created universe was eternal, since anything created cannot be eternal [another fact brought to us courtesy of the law of causality.] So, now we come to the question: If Aquinas accepted that fact that God created everything, including time, and if he believed that the universe was not eternal, why did he provide arguments justifying the proposition that an eternal universe requires a first cause? Because he was taking that position for the sake of argument–he understood that if the universe is not eternal, then THE FACT THAT IT REQUIRES A FIRST CAUSE IS SO OBVIOUS IT DOESN’T EVEN NEED TO BE ARGUED FOR. Even Hume, the father of all skeptics, confessed that he would never assert anything so ridiculous that something can come from nothing.
Nevertheless, it is the position of contemporary Darwinists that things can indeed come into existence without a cause—that something can come from nothing. That is why I asked the question in the first place, and why I knew, in advance, what your position would be. Anyone who seriously argues on behalf of “emergence” must ultimately accept the proposition that that some things can come into existence without a cause. Go down that road even once, though, and the game is over. Why cannot two things come into existence without a cause? Why not a hundred? Why not ten quadrillion? Under the circumstances, how would one differentiate those things that were really caused from those which were not and only “appear to be caused?” Why cannot all events be uncaused? Why try to track down the cause of even one thing since, in principle, it may well not have been caused at all?
There is only one way out of that logical madhouse and it begins with the first principle of science: Nothing can begin to exist without a cause. Of course, as nullasalus points out, Aquinas’ arguments are not, strictly speaking, ID arguments, though I would personally argue that they are consistent with them. Still, ID, Aquinas and Aristotle all understand a critical rule of right reason [and a prerequisite for science], which is the non-negotiable law of causality.
Since science has made it abundantly evident that the universe did, indeed, begin to exist, it is, under the circumstances, unreasonable to question the fact that some first cause had to bring it about. Even so, most evolutionary biologists, in order to avoid the implications of a first cause, abandon this vital principle of right reason [not to mention the founding principle of science] in order to ply their trade and argue on behalf of “emergence,” which is really nothing more than an attempt to posit non-causal explanations for caused events. For me, that raises important questions about civil discourse. Why discuss scientific evidence with those who dismisses reason’s rules and refuse to interpret evidence reasonably? In keeping with that point, why fuss over the finer points of differential calculus with someone who disbelieves in the laws of mathematics? Why discuss alternative causes of evolution with someone who believes that evolution needs no cause? It is far better, in my judgment, to call attention to the unreasonableness.
vjtorley in comment #68:
Again, my sincere thanks for your explanations of Aquinas’ positions. I am curious how one reconciles such positions (if one does, or even can) with the current scientific (i.e. naturalistic) model of the universe, in which the universe as we experience it (including time) has a very definite beginning, and which for all appearances will eventually decline into eternal cold and darkness.
In comment #67 nullasalus wrote:
I imply no such thing. On the contrary, when I teach evolutionary biology, I am very careful to do two things vis-a-vis the issue of teleology:
1) to point out that the science of biology does recognize the existence of design in living organisms, as expressed in Pittendrigh and Mayr’s term “teleonomy” [see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleonomy ]; and
2) to then point out that the science of biology does not require any concept of teleology to explain the origin of those teleonomic processes that are observable in living systems.
I then make a semantic distinction between these two different concepts of teleology, referring to the former as “proximate teleology” (as well as “teleonomy”) and to the latter as “ultimate teleology”.
I also make it very clear that evolutionary biology in no way “proves” either that ultimate teleology does or does not exist. However, I also make it clear that the answer to that question is neither necessary nor strictly germane to the empirical science of biology, since it cannot be decided using empirical methods. I then do not mention the subject of “ultimate teleology” again.
In other words, I present the science of biology as including the metaphysical assumption that the existence or non-existence of “ultimate teleology” is not a legitimate subject within the empirical science of biology.
As to whether or not this is the majority view among biologists, I believe that most biologists who have thought about these questions at all (sadly, only a small minority have, in my experience) either take my position or the position that evolutionary biology “proves” that “ultimate teleology” does not exist. Indeed, many biologists believe that no teleology of any kind exists anywhere in the universe (and a significant fraction who believe that also believe that even we do not “really” behave teleologically at all). So yes, I “think” that this is the majority view among biologists. Is it your contention that the opposite is the case?
In comment #67 nullasalus also wrote:
As I hope should now be clear from my comment #71, I don’t do this and am critical of evolutionary biologists and others who do, including my very dear friend and mentor, Will Provine. Indeed, if you are complaining about anyone who conflates the empirical science of biology with the metaphysics of teleology, then I to be consistent, shouldn’t you complain about those ID theorists and their supporters who do precisely the same thing? People like Michael Behe, William Dembski, Phillip Johnson, Stephen Meyer, Jonathan Wells, and virtually every commentator at this website (including, on numerous occasions, yourself)? And, just for the sake of completeness, wouldn’t it be even more of a violation of the “separation of science and metaphysics” to jump to theological conclusions on the basis of metaphysical inferences invalidly drawn from empirical research?
Re stephenB in comment #69:
First, I do indeed get your “drift” and agree that the unmodified definition of “cause” is indeed what you have written:
As for my knowledge of Aquinas’ full position on these topics, I must confess ignorance, as his works are sadly not part of the biology curriculum at Cornell (nor any science curriculum here), nor the philosophy curriculum, unless one takes one of the very few courses in philosophy of religion. So I thank you for your summary of Aquinas’ position, and agree that if one takes the same metaphysical stance as the the Angelic Doctor, one would almost certainly come to the same conclusions.
But, as I have already noted, no evolutionary biologist of whom I am aware (including Francisco Ayala, who was trained and ordained as a Dominican priest) currently takes the same metaphysical stance as Aquinas. Indeed, the majority of the biologists with whom I am acquainted (and, as a member of the biology faculty at Cornell, that number is not inconsiderable) couldn’t even say precisely who Thomas Aquinas was, much less summarize his metaphysical arguments, nor state whether or not they agreed with them. Such is the sad state of a university education today…
stephenB then goes on to assert that:
Sorry, this just isn’t the case. Perhaps it would help if you would consider the metaphysical difference between what Chalmers calls “strong” and “weak” emergence. Let me quote from his 2006 article on the difference :
Chalmers then goes on to state that:
Precisely, and so contra stephenB;s assertion, it seems to me that evolutionary biologists do not say that “that something [i.e. “emergent properties”] can come from nothing. Ergo, the remainder of stephenB’s analysis is entirely pointless, as it is based on a demonstrably false premise.
To wrap this up, I quote stephenB once more:
As I have pointed out, this is either a mistaken impression on stephenB’s part, or a deliberate obfuscation. As a person who is also dedicated to “civil discourse”, I prefer to think it is the former.
As for further discussions of the regression of causes to the origin of the universe, having already pointed out that there is no possibility of using empirical methods to investigation the “first [temporal] cause” of the universe, I am going to take Wittgenstein’s seventh thesis seriously and remain silent on the subject hereafter.
 Chalmers, D. (2006) Strong and weak emergence. In P. Clayton and P. Davies, eds. The Re-emergence of Emergence, Oxford University Press,, Oxford, UK.
To download a copy of Chalmer’s paper, click on the link to it in vjtorley’s comment #30, or click here:
Stephen writes, “Nevertheless, it is the position of contemporary Darwinists that things can indeed come into existence without a cause—that something can come from nothing. … Anyone who seriously argues on behalf of “emergence” must ultimately accept the proposition that that some things can come into existence without a cause.”
I disagree with both possible interpretations of what Stephen says. If he is talking about the existence of the universe itself (as part of the discussion of first causes that is going on), then this is a topic that has nothing to do with evolutionary biology, and of course then cannot be said to be the position of “contemporary Darwinists”
If he is talking about the general idea of emergence within this universe, then he is wrong about what emergence means, for no one thinks that emergence means happening without cause.
Since when? And, if so, why did you offer the other?
Because it seems to me that stephenB has a tendency to consider “reasonable” argument about incommensurate worldviews as “unreasonable” and “uncivil” discourse. To be specific, s/he wrote:
How would you interpret this quote?
In comment #74 Aleta wrote:
I beg to differ. In comment #69 stephenB wrote:
and then flatly stated that to do so
I posted direct and unequivocal evidence that clearly contradicts stephenB’s assertion in comment #73, but so far s/he has remained silent.
So, stephenB: Do evolutionary biologists think that “…emergence means happening without cause”? And does making an argument to the contrary, an argument clearly supported by documentary evidence, constitute a violation of “civil discourse”?
We eagerly (and patiently) await your unequivocal answer to these queries!
Sorry about the line break in comment #77; it was invisible in the WYSINWYG comment box.
I meant no one but Stephen. 🙂 My point was that he is wrong about the meaning of emergence – you and I clearly agree on that.
Pacé, Aleta; I realized right away that you meant that stephenB was mistaken about the meaning of the term “emergence”.
Ah, but apparently stephenB disagrees with us. Indeed, s/he seems to know exactly what we think and why we think it, and believes that thinking such things tempts us to engage in “uncivil discourse”.
Amazing, isn’t it, that stephenB can penetrate right into another person’s mind and not only figure out exactly what they believe (even when they themselves aren’t quite certain, or deny what stephenB is certain s/he finds there), but also know exactly why they believe what they believe, not to mention unerringly intuiting their reasons for doing so, and ferreting out their motivations for expressing their beliefs in an apparently “uncivil” manner. It must be wonderful to be so wise…
Looking back at the start of this thread, I notice that in the second comment Granville Sewell wrote, “Basically ’emergence’ is just a transparent semantical trick to acknowledge design without acknowledging a designer.”
That remark, and Stephen’s misunderstanding, helps me understand the resistance to the idea of emergence. I believe it is true that we get design without a designer, and that we get teleonomy (my new word for the day): complex products without the benefit of a guiding foresight. Almost everything in the universe emerges from the basic fundamental constituent parts of the universe in the sense that properties arise from the interactions among the parts that are not a property of those parts.
A tornado is an example: it emerges as a distinct and coherent entity with unique properties out of a collection of individual atoms which have much simpler properties and which have no intention of getting together and producing a tornado. Describing a tornado thusly is not a “semantical trick” to avoid acknowledging a designer of the tornado.
We live in a universe that has emerged from the initial conditions and from the fundamental nature of its elemental parts. The things that have emerged, from galaxies and stars to tornadoes and tadpoles, have done so without a guiding, foresightful hand.
I don’t go to your classes, and I don’t see what you teach firsthand. But frankly, your words here only further back up my point.
Let’s have a look at what your own link has to say about “teleonomy”, with my emphasis added.
The term was coined to stand in contrast with teleology, which applies to ends that are planned by an agent which can internally model/imagine various alternative futures, which enables intention, purpose and foresight. A teleonomic process, such as evolution, produces complex products without the benefit of such a guiding foresight.
Wonderful. In other words, teleonomy is an explicit denial that actual guidance exists. It denies ‘guiding foresight’, despite – by your own admission – this being a subject empirical science cannot rule on.
So you’re not taking a neutral position by a longshot. You’re teaching that any aspect of biology that appears guided actually is not. Saying all this, then saying “But, hey, maybe teleology is right after all! Moving on…” would be a con game. At best, a half-hearted attempt to appear neutral while stacking the deck.
And no, it’s not my contention that the opposite is the case among biologists. My contention is that the unverifiable, philosophical views of scientists is not an issue that should have any impact on how science is taught and communicated, and yet it does. They mistake and actively conflate their philosophy and metaphysics with their science, and then take umbrage – severe, angry umbrage – when others do the exact same thing, from the other direction.
Now, you ask if I’m being even-handed here. First of all, let me be clear. When Michael Behe argues that there are fundamental limits to what Darwinian evolution can reasonably accomplish, he’s not making a teleological argument – he’s making an empirical claim. When Dembski discusses probability bounds, he’s making a mathematical claim. In other words, not every contribution of ID proponents is itself a mixture of philosophy and science – if an ID proponent suggested horizontal gene transfer played a major role in nature, the idea would not suddenly become a philosophical affront to science because some people were suspicious of the proponent’s motives. It would still be a valid scientific conjecture.
But sometimes some ID proponents do outright suggest bringing discussion, even affirmation, of guidance and teleology in biology into science proper. You suggest I do, but I’d love to see where I’ve done that – because you only need go so far as StephenB to find that I’ve argued *against* ID, insofar as it truly does mix philosophy with science, as science proper. My view is, and has for a long time been, what I said in post #44: Either all excess metaphysics and philosophy is drained from science (in which case any discussion of teleology and philosophy, positive or negative, is rightly considered unscientific), or excess metaphysics and philosophy is legitimized as ‘scientific’ (in which case, ID proponents’ speculations are every bit as legitimate as Provine’s).
So I’m entirely consistent – again, you can find me on this very site arguing with ID proponents on this point. But I also recognize that many ID critics want to have their cake and eat it too – they want ID rapped for philosophical and theological speculation posing as science, but they want license to engage in philosophical and theological speculation of their own. They want to say on the one hand that teleology is not a subject that science can address, and on the other be able to say “there is no teleology” as a scientific statement – or at least treat anyone who says that in a vastly different way, or even turn a blind eye to it.
Teaching that there is no guiding hand that we can empirically experience and investigate is accurate, and it is this empirical investigation that science is all about.
No, it’s not accurate. “There is no guiding hand.” and “The presence or lack of a guiding hand is outside the scope of science.” are distinct claims. Teleonomy, as described on Allen’s own link, takes a stance on teleology and guidance – it denies it. Really, that’s the point of the term.
Think of it this way: If Allen, and anyone else, is serious that philosophy, metaphysics, and theology are utterly outside of the scope of science, then the following phrase is utterly valid:
“It’s entirely possible that evolution, in whole or in part, operates with guidance, foresight, and intention. It’s entirely possible for an Intelligent Designer to use natural processes such as those in evolution as a means to an end. But the existence or lack of such a Designer, or the Designer’s guidance, cannot be explored by science.”
I’d love to see which and how many ID critics would be willing to sign off on such a claim. My guess is many would sooner choke.
“It’s entirely possible that evolution, in whole or in part, operates with guidance, foresight, and intention. It’s entirely possible for an Intelligent Designer to use natural processes such as those in evolution as a means to an end. But the existence or lack of such a Designer, or the Designer’s guidance, cannot be explored by science.”
I am an ID critic and I am quite happy to sign off on this claim. My vernacular version of this is that one man’s random event is another man’s Act of God.
What I am interested in now, is to see how many ID proponents are happy to sign off on this claim.
Me, too, faded glory! Indeed, I would like to see how the author of “What every theologian should know about creation, evolution and design” [available here: http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/.....Design.php ] would respond to nullasallus’ query.
For example, take this quote from that article:
Sounds to me that the author is fine with both “strong” and “weak” emergence (remember, evolutionary biologists are also fine with “weak emergence”, but are extremely skeptical of claims for “strong emergence”).
Then there is this quote from the article:
This quote is followed several paragraphs later by this one:
This, oddly enough, is precisely my position on this question. However, this does not mean that we can’t try to find out. Indeed, whenever we don’t know something, it seems to me that the best response is “Let’s try to find out”, not something like:
– another quote from the author of the article, but in a different venue [Source: William Dembski Organisms using GAs vs. Organisms being built by GAs thread at ISCID 18. September 2002]
Yes, it is legitimate to discuss metaphysics in the context of science, but only if one makes clear that there is a difference between science and metaphysics. Ergo, if one states that the process whereby teleonomic adaptations have arisen – natural selection – is itself either purposeful or not, one should make this statement in the context of a discussion of metaphysics, not science. And this is, as I described above, exactly what I do in my biology and evolution courses.
However, to insist that there is empirical evidence either for or against the metaphysical assumption that there is design (i.e. “purpose”) guiding the process by which adaptations have originated is once again to inject metaphysics into science. But isn’t this exactly what ID is all about? Isn’t this what Dr. Behe was arguing in The Edge of Evolution, that we can find empirical evidence in science (for example, in the evolution of choloroquine resistance in the malaria trypanosome) for the metaphysical assumption of design in evolution? Seems like it to me?
If one is genuinely interested in keeping science and metaphysics strictly separate (sound familiar?), one should either never mention metaphysics in a discussion or presentation of science (in my experience, this is the usual approach taken in most science courses in higher education), or one should point out that you cannot derive the conclusions in one domain using the methodology of the other. Having done so, one should then move on to either an extended exploration of one or the other domains, but not both. This is what I do in my courses at Cornell, and what my friend and mentor, Will Provine does as well.
BTW, this quote also comes from the article cited above:
I realize that this article was originally published in 2005, but it strikes me as more than a little ironic that the author could have written this, given the events taking place in (and culminating in December of) that year.
I agree with the distinction you make, and I agree with your statement that
““It’s entirely possible that evolution, in whole or in part, operates with guidance, foresight, and intention. It’s entirely possible for an Intelligent Designer to use natural processes such as those in evolution as a means to an end. But the existence or lack of such a Designer, or the Designer’s guidance, cannot be explored by science.”
I also heartily agree with fg’s point (hi fg): “What I am interested in now, is to see how many ID proponents are happy to sign off on this claim.” Given that a central tenet of the ID movement is that ID is scientifically detectable, the statement you offer is in direct contradiction with ID.
I also agree that my short comment at 83 conflated the two issues you want to separate: it was 3:00 am and I was up with a headache trying to get tired so I could go back to sleep. However, back at 49, I wrote,
“When we look at the world that we experience and take time, local causality, and the nature of the elementary particles and forces into account, I think we see emergent design: this universe produces organized complexity without anybody guiding the way. However, many people want to speculate on the metaphysics behind the physics (and of course, in doing so assume that there is a metaphysic behind the physics. Thinking that there is an intelligent designer (God of some sort for many) is such a speculation. However, thinking that once the universe came into existence, no further metaphysical interaction happens, is also a speculation held by many. Many different such perspectives are possible, and as you [Allen] say, there are no “empiricially verifiable” ways of investigating which, if any, are true. They are, as you say, choices, and they are made for many different reasons, key ones of which are other than that of logic and evidence.”
That is, if we look at the world from the limited perspective of science, studying the material nature of the world, we see emergence without any observation of any guiding hand. However, if we look at the situation metaphysically, we see that, to use your phrase, “it’s entirely possible for an Intelligent Designer to use natural processes such as those in evolution as a means to an end.” However it’s entirely possible that quite a few other equally speculative interpretations are possible, including there being no metaphysical reality at all, and, as both you and Allen seem to agree, there are no scientific ways of investigating which, if any, of those many speculations might be true.
So, at least for this short exchange, I think I am in agreement with you.
In comment #84 nullasalus wrote:
No, it isn’t. The point to the term “teleonomy” is to lay out the criteria that must be met if one is to make a claim that a design or plan somehow guides the origin of an adaptation (i.e. a teleological process). According to Mayr’s definition of “teleonomy”, the fundamental criterion that must be met if one is to make a claim that a design or plan somehow guides the origin of an adaptation is the empirically detectable presence of a “program” that does the guiding. This is precisely what the genome and developmental machinery (and, to a much more diffuse but still very real extent, the ecological niche) of an organism constitutes. Or, to put it succinctly, if you can find the guiding program using empirical methods, then you can make the empirical claim that the adaptation is teleonomic. If you can’t, you are making a metaphysical assertion, rather than an empirically derived one.
To be as clear as possible about this: the <scientific theory of evolution as currently constituted neither affirms nor denies the existence existence of non-empirically detectable design in nature. Rather, as the <scientific theory of evolution as currently constituted includes an empirically detectable and fully mechanistic explanation for the teleology apparent in living systems, reference to any empirically undetectable and non-mechanistic explanation is simply not referenced or discussed.
And yes, I find the assertions of Richard Dawkins, Larry Moran, P. Z. Myers, and even my good friend Will Provine to the contrary to be an unfortunate (but all too common) tendency to mix science with metaphysics. Far better, it seems to me, to take T. H. Huxley’s position on such questions, and assert that one is “agnostic” on the connection between science and metaphysics [see http://aleph0.clarku.edu/huxley/CE5/Agn.html for a full explanation of Huxley’s views on this subject].
Re Aleta in comment #87:
I think our positions are almost entirely in agreement here. You seem to be asserting that, if one wishes to discuss metaphysics along with science, one should be very clear about the differences between them. I have, to the best of my ability, attempted to do so, and would end for now by pointing out that, on the basis of the foregoing, the answer to the title of this thread (i.e. “Competing Worldviews Only?”) is
I quoted the link you yourself provided re: teleonomy, and I think the description makes it clear. Once again, with my emphasis…
A teleonomic process, such as evolution, produces complex products without the benefit of such a guiding foresight.
Now, I know this is wikipedia and thus its accuracy is suspect. But it’s also not the first time I’ve encountered the term, and I think that quote accurately sums up the intended definition. ‘Teleonomy’ was brought up specifically to counter ‘teleology’ in the relevant sense. You can find Monod, Mayr and others explicitly talking about this, and how evolution disproved teleology and guidance – in other words, calling up ‘teleonomy’ and empirical science in their attack on philosophical, metaphysical and theological views they dislike.
Now, you point out that my statement is not a statement an ID proponent can properly get behind. I admit this, and have been pointing out in this thread that while I have strong ID sympathies, I’m not an ID proponent. But let’s put one idea to rest: It’s not the case that, since Darwin, we’ve had people who see design in nature conflating science and metaphysics on one side, and on the other we’ve had people who see no design in nature happily respecting the boundaries between science and metaphysics. In fact, I’d note that Moran, Dawkins, PZ, etc are only the latest in a long, long line of (design-denying) people expressly conflating these topics going back to Darwin himself.
And that long line is what should be kept in mind when it comes to Behe, Dembski and other ID proponents. Insofar as they treat design as something that can be discussed within science, they aren’t innovators – they are following a standard largely supported by design opponents. And I’ll also note that many, perhaps most of the great ‘science defenders’ are lopsided in their treatment: Behe suggests data indicates that Darwinian evolution has some empirical problems, and it’s taken as an assault on science itself. Dawkins (much as his ember has cooled) suggests that God is an empirical hypothesis, and the criticism is remarkably muted – if it happens at all.
Note that this is not an apologist defense of Behe, Dembski, etc, such that if only all those mixers of science and metaphysics would go away, so too would (or should) they. In fact, I’m positive they and others would take the tact that even if ‘design inferences’ are ruled out on domain grounds, their work still has direct and serious relevance to Darwinism – it isn’t as if no empirical critiques of such are possible. I’m pointing out that, even insofar as ID proponents do bring design into a field where it’s not the proper subject, they’re dealing with tremendous precedent.
And I’d point this out to the others who agreed with my statement: I think it’s obvious that many ID critics would disagree. In fact, I can imagine more than one saying that if design, guidance, or purpose are truly treated as topics science (much less Darwinism) cannot rule on one way or the other, the effect is of gutting Darwinism as Darwin knew it.
And gutting ID as it is currently practiced as well, right?
To return once again to the original point of this thread: debates about teleology in biology that is not demonstrably the result of an empirically detectable pre-existing “program” (i.e. the genome, developmental mechanisms, and ecological niche) are debates about metaphysics (i.e. “worldviews”) and not about the content of the empirical sciences, right? So, if clarity and logical consistency is something both sides of the EB/ID debate value (and I assume they are, if statements from representatives from both sides – statements unlike stephenB’s, which clearly assert that the opposite side does not value such things – are to be taken at face value), then partisans from both sides of this issue should make it as clear as possible when they are making metaphysical claims and when they are making claims on the basis of empirical evidence. Agreed?
Barry? (the author of the OP with which this thread began, but who has contributed nothing to the discussion since then)
William J. Murray?
Aleta, faded Glory, hrun0815, and vjtorley have already clearly stated their positions on this question, and I have already clearly stated that this has been my position for quite some time, and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future…pun intended again, of course.
And, as a test case for the agreement stated above, consider the following statements:
“There is a guiding hand in the evolution of the functional adaptations of living organisms.”
“There is no guiding hand in the evolution of the functional adaptations of living organisms.”
“There need not be a guiding hand in the evolution of the functional adaptations of living organisms.”
Which of these statements is closest in spirit to the gist of this thread, and can anyone still reading this thread come up with an even better example?
How about this:
“The answer to the question ‘Is there a guiding hand in the evolution of the functional adaptations of living organisms?’ is outside the legitimate domain of the empirical sciences?
And if your answer to this version is “yes”, what is your opinion of the actions of the pre-2005 Dover Area School Board vis-a-vis the question of “intelligent design” in biology?
—Allen MacNeill: “So, stephenB: Do evolutionary biologists think that “…emergence means happening without cause”?
Semantically, no, because they play with words and characterize emergence itself as a kind of causality–as in “emergent causality.” Logically, yes, because in spite of their semantic formulations, they do, nevertheless, abandon causality; it is simply a matter of when and where they dispense with it. Modern evolutionary biologists practice selective causality: When causality suits them, they honor it; when it gets in the way, they abandon it.
In order to accept the notion of emergence, they must always and ULTIMATELY [you will find I used that word earlier] accept the proposition that SOMETHING can come into existence without a cause, and THEY get to decide when. In your case, that would be the universe:
—At 47 you wrote:
“I accept the proposition that one thing (and one thing only) can come into existence without a cause: the universe itself (including the “natural laws” which govern it, which in some sense “constitute” the universe). However, following the instant of its coming into existence, everything that happens from then on does indeed proceed from causes that derive from that original cause.”
Why one thing only? If causality is a law, it admits of no exceptions; if it is not a law, then why honor it at all? By what standard do you affirm that “everything that happens from then on does indeed proceed from causes that derive from that original cause?” If the principle of causality is negotiable, why cannot elements of that “everything-that-happens-from-then-on” also appear without a cause? Evolutionary biologists simply pick and choose the circumstances under which they will honor the law of causality. Never mind the fact that anyone who accepts the proposition that something can come from nothing, even once, has abandoned reason.
Is it uncivil to abandon reason and enter in to dialogue with those who have not abandoned it. Maybe, maybe not. Is it uncivil to pass that unreasonableness along to the next generation in the form of a dogma? Definitely.
I think you will quickly find that many, perhaps most ID critics wish to have their cake and eat it too. In fact, that’s precisely the reason for the hypocrisy I’ve spoken of in this thread, and for the years I’ve been involved in this discussion. What critics would have to give up to be consistent in their removal of ID from ‘science’ is a price few would be willing to pay.
Personally, I’d be willing to get behind your last quote: ““The answer to the question ‘Is there a guiding hand in the evolution of the functional adaptations of living organisms?’ is outside the legitimate domain of the empirical sciences?” But I’d be willing to get behind it if all sides honored it – and that’s going to require taking to task many of those self-appointed ‘science defenders’ for their own abuse of science. I will not hold my breath.
As to what my opinion of Dover’s school board would be in the ideal, that would depend on which of their actions and given what assumptions. Is it inappropriate to discuss empirical limits of evolution (a la Behe), for example – even if talk of design inferences are removed? Is it possible for Darwinian evolution to be judged as facing problems, or even being incorrect – again, even if design inferences (or their lack) go undiscussed?
In comment #94 stephenB wrote:
Implicit in this statement is the assumption that what we refer to as a “law” cannot have exceptions. This is what metaphysicians refer to as “stipulative” definition; it stipulates, rather than “describes” the thing it defines. A definition that simply “describes” something is usually referred to as a “lexical” definition (as in “lexicon”).
So, is there a metaphysical reason that what we refer to as the “law” of causality cannot have even one exception?
Not necessarily: in the natural sciences the term “law” virtually always refers to a description that is lexical, not stipulative. For example, Newton’s “law” of gravity describes the relationship between mass and acceleration in the context of the “force” of gravity.
But, as we now know, Newton’s “law” has exceptions. Specifically, it does not apply to moving objects at velocities close to the speed of light. Under such circumstances, a new, more general “law” of gravitation, called Einstein’s “theory” of general relativity, subsumes Newton’s “law” of universal gravitation.
Ergo, it clearly is not the case that those descriptions of nature that we refer to with the term “law” have no exceptions. On the contrary, virtually every “natural” law of which I am aware has one or more exceptions. Some of these exceptions have been explained by a more general (i.e. “covering”) law (or “theory”, to use the more recent terminology), but others have not.
Furthermore, experience has shown that when an exception to a “natural” (or “scientific”) law has been discovered, the discovery has eventually pointed the way to a new, more general “covering” law that explains the original law and the exception. That is, experience has shown that the discovery of something that violates a “law” does not necessarily mean that “anything goes” from that point on.
Applying these principles to what I asserted was the single “uncaused” event in the history of the universe – the origin of the universe itself – may eventually yield to yet another, more general, cause which explains the origin of the universe along with its subsequent evolution.
It may be, for example, that there is something in the nature of space and time that requires the initiation (i.e. the “cause”) of events such as the “big bang”. Indeed, there are several such hypotheses that could explain the origin of the universe. If empirical evidence is eventually discovered that can confirm one or more of these hypotheses, then the problem of “first” (or, more properly, “original”) cause will go away. You can read about one such hypothesis here:
and download a .pdf of an explanatory article from Scientific American here:
Stephen writes, “Modern evolutionary biologists practice selective causality: When causality suits them, they honor it; when it gets in the way, they abandon it.”
I don’t believe that Stephen could supply a case of a modern evolutionary biologists claiming that something happened without a cause. Stephen, can you give an example to back up your claim?
Regarding your links:
It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning (Many Worlds in One [New York: Hill and Wang, 2006], p.176).
That quote is from Alexander Vilenkin on the subject of eternal inflation. And he’s not exactly thrilled about it in some theistic sense. I think you may be under the impression that “eternal inflation” goes both ways.
Regarding your question to StephenB: Allen, I would presume, is a modern evolutionary biologist. In the post exactly preceding yours (at 96, and earlier in this thread), Allen is pretty explicitly saying that he believes something can happen without a cause.
Does this count?
—-Aleta: “I don’t believe that Stephen could supply a case of a modern evolutionary biologists claiming that something happened without a cause. Stephen, can you give an example to back up your claim?”
You haven’t been around very long, have you? It happens so often on this site that I could provide a list of the regulars who deny it. On this very thread, Allen has already acknowledged that the universe came into existence without a cause. In dealing head on with that issue, he soars head and shoulders above most MET advocates, who resort to the tactic of describing the law of causality as circular, tautological, or otherwise meaningless. By the way, where do you stand on the issue? Do you acknowledge that nothing can begin to come into existence without a cause?
Stephen, I thought you meant something in biology. For instance, you wrote, “Modern evolutionary biologists practice selective causality: When causality suits them, they honor it; when it gets in the way, they abandon it.” Since the origin of the universe is not a subject of modern evolutionary biology, and since your sentence seemed to say that that modern evolutionary biologists abandon causality, I assumed you meant in regards to evolutionary biology. If you are referring only to the origin of the universe, then I misunderstood you.
Allen, there was nothing in my comments that could be labeled as particularly “metaphysical”. In your responses to my comments (in the discussion that lead to this thread) you went into great detail of the physical observations. These were not off-the-cuff comments.
In that conversation I stated that information is not a material thing contained within matter, but is instead an abstraction of reality which requires perception in order to exist.
You then typed out 6300 characters in 16 paragraphs giving your views on different types of information, ending with an agreement that meaningful information does indeed require perception in order to exist: “So, Shannon information, Kolomogorov information, and Orgel information need not be perceived to exist, but meaningful information does.” (my emphasis)
So I asked if the information recorded in DNA is an example of “meaningful information”
You replied in a second post of 4700 words in 17 paragraphs where you detail instances in which you think that DNA does not necessarily represent meaningful information, ending with the comment however that when we find DNA being transcribed to build the biological products within living cells, then we do indeed find meaningful information in DNA. You stated “ If the DNA sequence ACA is located in the template strand of an actively transcribed DNA sequence…then that DNA sequence does indeed contain “meaningful” information: it is encoded in one medium, is translated into another medium, and has a function in the system of which it is a part.” (my emphasis)
I am left to wonder how one can escape the observationally-based induction:
1) Meaningful information requires perception in order to exist.
2) DNA does contain meaningful information.
3) The meaningful information recorded in DNA required perception to exist.
My subsequent comments have all been based upon that conundrum (and there is not a drop of metaphysics in it).
According to nullasalus and stephenB, the origin of the universe is part of the modern theory of evolutionary biology. Curious; I have been under the impression that evolutionary biology begins with the origin of life, not the origin of the universe.
As the existence of the universe is a prerequisite for everything that has ever happened, is happening, and will happen, it is necessarily a part of everything, right? So, if one needs to explain why my son lost one the games of tic-tac-toe he played with me back in 2003, it would be absolutely necessary to ground one’s explanation in the current theory of the origin of the universe, according to the metaphysical position of nullasalus and stephenB.
“In dealing head on with that issue, he soars head and shoulders above most MET advocates, who resort to the tactic of describing the law of causality as circular, tautological, or otherwise meaningless. By the way, where do you stand on the issue? Do you acknowledge that nothing can begin to come into existence without a cause?”
Thanks for asking, as I consider that an interesting question. I believe that we live in a causally connected universe, and that each moment flows causally from the next, and has since the beginning of the universe. On the other hand, I also believe Feynman and others who state that at the most fundamental quantum level things are a matter of probability, and that each moment is not precisely determined. I am also aware that at the macroscopic level most quantum uncertainty reduces to a more standard causality due to the cumulative effects of the probabilities.
But I don’t know if there can be a “cause” as to why a certain probability manifests itself at any quantum event, and so I am not sure that concept “cause” applies to all of reality.
As to the universe, I don’t know (and I don’t think anyone can) why the universe came into existence, and why it is as it is. The universe might be a product of some cause or complex set of causes in a larger reality, but knowledge of such is forever outside of scope of understanding.
So the general answer is that I’m not sure the concept of “coming into existence via a cause” is meaningful at either the quantum level or the cosmological level of the origin of our universe, so the statement “nothing can begin to come into existence without a cause” may not even be applicable to those issues. I do believe that in our universe “things” as we commonly understand them don’t come into existence without a preceding local cause or set of causes – “poofs” don’t happen in our universe.
I also, as I think I said earlier, think the sentence “nothing can begin to come into existence without a cause” implicitly references the metaphor of the straight line, and that this is not necessarily how the metaphysical world may be. Specifically, the argument that therefore there must be a first cause that has always existed comes from embedded premises about all of reality that may not be true. I think it is a mistake to think the such logical manipulations based on abstracting from our limited perspective as human beings in this world can actually tell us anything about the larger metaphysical reality in which our universe exists, if there is one.
P.S. Upright, I think you posted on the wrong thread.
We might theoretically and empirically demonstrate natural selection could not arrive at function.
I don’t think we can directly argue that the Intelligent Designer is the cause, only circumstantially.
The question is one of empirical science, I think natural selection can be ruled out in many cases. If it can’t be ruled out based on an empirical test, then it is not falsifiable, thus it is not strictly speaking empirical science.
Some aspects of ID can be falsified in principle, and in that sense, part of it is consistent with empirical science.
Pagels, Kimura, Nei, Jukes, King, many others have laid the ground work of falsifying natural selections role in the evolution of function.
It will take another set of research to show that certain mutational mechanisms are also inadequate to create function. James Shapiro is closes to finding a “designerless” form of evolution in that he argues cells are self-creating engineers. There is some truth to that, but it can’t explain the origin of the ability of cells to self-engineer.
James Shapiro and Richard Sternberg worked together. That partnership signifies the closes that the ID and Evolution camp have ever cooperated. Those sorts of research projects could be a welcome part of science and could potentially help falsify natural selection as the primary description of evolution of function.
Aleta asked a question about evolutionary biologists and causality, I answered it. I made no attempt to link EB and cosmology. I don’t see where StephenB did – he did mentioned that in his experience EBs adhere to causality until it doesn’t suit them, but he apparently wasn’t limiting his observation to evolution.
If anything, the claim is that if you’re willing to say causality doesn’t hold (‘something can begin to exist utterly uncaused’), reason has been abandoned. Qualifying it to “Okay, some things can begin to exist utterly uncaused. But only universes! And only the one time!” doesn’t really help.
Aleta “P.S. Upright, I think you posted on the wrong thread.”
That would not be your only mistake.
Furthermore, and to be as precise as I can be at this point, I do not now assert that the universe came into existence either with or without being caused to do so. Rather, it seems to me (given what we know about the origin of the universe) that we do not know what caused it to come into existence, if indeed Something did. It is, in other words, one of a large (and apparently growing) collection of “open” questions, which is currently unanswerable.
The origin of life is another such question, and like the origin of the universe, it seems possible to me that we may never be able to obtain direct empirical evidence that would unambiguously answer the question of how these events happened. Ergo, we can either stop asking any questions, for fear of asking one for which we cannot obtain answers, or we can go on asking questions and trying to find answers, and leave those “open questions” that we cannot currently answer for posterity to address (and good luck to them).
And yes, one could argue that doing so makes me an “agnostic” (to use Huxley’s definition of that often abused term). So, I am an “agnostic” on the question of the “original cause” of the origin of the universe and the origin of life.
Therefore, going forward I will address my comments to questions about a universe that already manifestly exists, and to the evolutionary dynamics of living systems, which also already manifestly exist, and to the causes for all of those phenomena which have proceeded from those two “originating events”, and leave discussions about the origin of the universe and the origin of life on Earth to those who take pleasure in discussing issues about which I currently have no empirical evidence either way.
In other words, with respect to those things about which I cannot speak, I must remain silent.
…but didn’t I already write something like that, along about comment #59 (albeit it in German and quoted from someone else)? Having looped back to an earlier part of this debate, it seems to me that there isn’t really any point in hashing over the same points again, and so I will take my leave from this thread. My thanks to one and all for a fascinating and enlightening exchange of views. I’m sure we will meet again, and it may very well be that I might take a somewhat different position on some of these issues. That has already happened in the course of this thread, especially as the result of some friendly suggestions by vjtorley, to whom I am very grateful.
And so, until next time,
I see that I was wrong, Upright, but I don’t know why you were rude in correcting me?
Allen almost made it out of here by the magic #100.
If he hadn’t one might suspect, by that alone, that he was in love with his own writing.
Not that his 40 postings would have given any indication.
—Aleta: “Since the origin of the universe is not a subject of modern evolutionary biology, and since your sentence seemed to say that that modern evolutionary biologists abandon causality, I assumed you meant in regards to evolutionary biology.”
I mean precisely what I said. Evolutionary biologists invariably find a way to deny causality and they do it whenever and wherever it suits them. That denial may come in the form of assuming that universes can come from out of nowhere, or that mind can come from matter, or that life can come from non-life, or a number of other illogical notions. You asked for an example, so I provided the one that was handy. I could just as easily show you examples from other threads where, among other things, Darwinists insist that quantum events are uncaused. They know instinctively that if they conform their minds to the rules of right reason and honor the law of causality, the evidence would point them in the direction of design, and they would prefer not to make that journey. So, they abandon the vehicle that would take them there, namely reason.
Incidently, the corollary to the law of causality is that there can be nothing in the effect that is not present in the cause in some way. You cannot, for example, get beauty in a musical composition that has not first been conceived in the mind of the composer.
By the way, I haven’t heard from you yet on the subject under discussion. Do you believe that something can come from nothing or that something can begin to exist without a cause, or is there some reason why you do not care to weigh in on that question?
—-Allen: “According to nullasalus and stephenB, the origin of the universe is part of the modern theory of evolutionary biology.”
According to StephenB [nullasalus is more than capable of dealing with that strawman without my help], it is a perfectly valid exercise to ask an evolutionary biologist if he believes that causality is non-negotiable and that one good way to put that idea to the test is to ask him if he thinks universes can come from out of nowhere. If they deny causality where causality is obvious, or claim that the question is unanswerable, then they will certainly deny it on more subtle issues, such as in quantum events—and they do. In keeping with that point, all evolutionary biologists that I know of, think quantum events are uncaused, that mind comes from matter, and that life comes from non-life. In other words, they thrive on their denial of causality at every stage of existence.
—“As the existence of the universe is a prerequisite for everything that has ever happened, is happening, and will happen, it is necessarily a part of everything, right? So, if one needs to explain why my son lost one the games of tic-tac-toe he played with me back in 2003, it would be absolutely necessary to ground one’s explanation in the current theory of the origin of the universe, according to the metaphysical position of nullasalus and stephenB.”
Reread my above paragraph.
With the passing of Allen McNeil from any further examination on the issue, I think I will stand with PAV.
That is, unrefuted.
And since my conclusion was very obviously based directly upon Allen’s own comments, he should have immediate access to any dummheit he wishes.
Aleta, I notice that you did attempt to answer the question on causality at 103, however, your decisive three paragraphs appear to come down on both sides of the issue. With regard to quantum events, remember that unpredictablity does not equal non-causality. Also, keep in mind that if you take the position that causality may not apply in every case or even in every arena, you are practicing selective causality, which is tantamount to a denial of causality. If causality can come and go, or be and not be, it certainly cannot qualify as a law.
The problem with applying the Law of Causality to the beginning of the Universe is that a cause precedes its effect. There is no ‘before’ the beginning of the Universe, since time itself began with it, so there isn’t anything that precedes the beginning of the Universe. Trying to apply the LoC to that event takes it outside its realm of validity.
We are time-bound creatures, and not equipped to think or talk about time-less scenarios. Attempting to do so anyway invariably leads to fatal category errors and language that sounds nice but lacks actual underlying meaning.
And so, upright biped “wins” by natural selection, rather than force of argument or logic. Interesting…
I reminded myself of what Richard Dawkins said about God being a scientific hypothesis and found this quote:
‘…the presence of a creative deity in the universe is clearly a scientific hypothesis. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a more momentous hypothesis in all of science. A universe with a god would be a completely different kind of universe from one without, and it would be a scientific difference.’
I disagree with this. For one reason, why would the universe be completely different with a God or without? Can’t God create a Universe that looks exactly as if he hadn’t created it?
The other problem here is that Dawkins doesn’t give a definition of God. In fact that is an all too common problem with people who use the word ‘God’.
I think there are as many definitions of ‘God’ as there are people walking the Earth. ‘God’ is a projection of our individual uncertainties, doubts and fears onto the Universal canvas. Each person fills in this projection with detail derived from their own nature, and their exposure to the culture, background, education and life experiences they find themselves in.
And yes, I do realise that my own concept of God is also just that 🙂
Thank you, faded Glory, for reiterating the point that I made in comment #47. Once again, we have returned to restating positions (i.e. “worldviews”) we have clearly laid out previously, without agreement or resolution.
stephenB will clearly not concede on this (or any other) point, so it is literally pointless to continue pointing out that the whole point of causality points to an a priori assumption of the “forward” passage of time. So, what is the point of continuing to point out this point? Get the point?
I would, however, assume that stephenB would agree with this version of the argument:
Notice that this statement of the Catholic worldview necessarily includes a reference to the “forward” flow of time (that was the point to the emphasis added, above). But what if there is an irreconcilable discontinuity in the “forward” flow of time at the “beginning” of the universe?
In other words, the statement from Fr. Laux’s high school text that I quoted above is a statement of a particular worldview, which is at variance with the worldview that I referenced in comment #47. A particularly concise summary of this worldview was stated by Stephen Hawking. When asked what preceded the “big bang”, Hawking replied:
Now, of course, a person taking stephenB’s metaphysical position (i.e. worldview) could say that, since Hawking has “violated” the “law” of causality, then anything at all could lie north of the North Pole: potato chips, unmatched socks, Judge Crater…the list is quite literally endless. However, for the sake of parsimony, it is useful (although not strictly metaphysically valid) to stick with Hawking’s assertion and say “nothing”.
And so, once again, I have restated Wittgenstein’s Thesis 1.7. Continuing to endlessly reiterate statements of competing worldviews in this fashion seems to me to be quite literally pointless, if not a symptom of insanity (see http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/26032.html ), and so this time I really am moving on.
“And so, upright biped “wins” by natural selection, rather than force of argument or logic. Interesting…”
That was, uh, the force of your words, was it not?
Allen, you had 118 comments worth of chance to address the obvious issues which your own words raised. You did nothing, and still haven’t.
But since you’ve temporarily abandoned your 100 comment rule, please go ahead and address the two premises you spent 11,000 words and 33 paragraphs laying out – or tell me why one does not relate to the other.
First of all, you and Allen keep making this particular claim: That the law of causality, by necessity, presupposes that any cause must temporally precede effect – and therefore, when applied to the universe, the argument is that there was a moment of time before the first moment of time.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: This is not what is being argued. Being causally prior is not the same as being temporally prior – similar to how an essentially ordered series and an accidentally ordered series differ from each other, and yet they both describe an ordered series.
Allen seems to think that the word “cause” (or even “beginning”) absolutely means temporality is involved. I’ve tried to correct Allen on this. StephenB has tried. Vjtorley has tried. Allen’s response has been to quote Wittgenstein, and say he’ll not discuss the issue further. More than once. That alone is comedy.
Sometimes, a disagreement is not due to differing worldviews. Sometimes it’s due to one guy not freaking listening.
Re: God, you think God is a projection. Great. Someone else thinks God is universally recognized to exist, and all supposed atheists are merely in conscious denial or rebellion. You can come to amazing conclusions when you start psychoanalyzing people en masse.
nullasullus, I do listen but I don’t accept the claim that a cause doesn’t have to precede its effect. To me that temporal relation is inherent in the concept of cause and effect, and I can’t think of a single example of a known cause and effect where this would not be the case. The case for positing that the beginning of the Universe is an exception is just as strong or weak as the case for positing that the Law of Causality breaks down at T=0.
Bottom line is, nobody knows. It’s all in the interpretation of the data. Just like our respective notions of God. Snarkiness won’t help much.
The direct answer may be outside empirical science but a circumstantial, forensic investigation is well-within empirical science.
If we had to make inferences about intelligent acts based only on direct observation rather than forensic evidences, we would not be able to land reasonable convictions of individuals guilty of crime.
And with respect to empirical science, one does not have to presume that the Intelligent Designer is even real:
Hey Sal can you help me find the peer reviewed papers explaining the evolutionary origin of this motor that was necessary for the first life. I figure hey, evolutionists don’t have the origin of simplest cell explained but maybe they have this machine that was necessary for the first cell explained:
The ATP Synthase Enzyme – an exquisite motor necessary for first life – video
Electron transport and ATP synthesis during photosynthesis – Illustration
Was our oldest ancestor a proton-powered rock? – Oct. 2009
Excerpt: “There is no doubt that the progenitor of all life on Earth, the common ancestor, possessed DNA, RNA and proteins, a universal genetic code, ribosomes (the protein-building factories), ATP and a proton-powered enzyme for making ATP. The detailed mechanisms for reading off DNA and converting genes into proteins were also in place. In short, then, the last common ancestor of all life looks pretty much like a modern cell.”
The majority of teleology cannot come from natural selection. That has been demonstrated in evolutionary literature time and again (and that’s why the non-Selectionist school of Masotoshi Nei, NAS member, has persisted). That is why Pagels discovered speciation is mostly independent of selection, and that is why Jukes, King, and Kimura deduce most of molecular evolution (and therefore the evolution of molecular machines) are not subject to selection.
A fair empirical characterization is that the functionality is engineered by something resembling an intelligent being. Shapiro has gone so far as to argue the Intelligent Designer are the cells themselves (not a bad position). Others like Biologist John Jo McFadden argue that Future events affect the past to create functionality. He argued as much in his book Quantum Evolution but I think his Quantum theories are too optimistic.
So if one wants to avoid the designer, but still give a fair characterization, they could say, the exact mechanism is not formally known, perhaps unknowable, but this unknown agency acts like an intelligent agency, like an engineer with capabilities beyond anything we know. Isn’t that a reasonble, scientifically correct characterization.
It is far more scientifically credible than saying Natural Selection acting on Random Variation creates the appearance of function. This being refuted on empirical and theoretical grounds in the mainstream.
As far as hypothetical entities, I had one professor promote the notion of Dark Matter, another who rejected it altogether. They both can’t be right. But it seems fair to me to postulate the existence of things not yet discovered. Dirac inferred the existence anti-Matter 13 years before it was discovered. It may be we infer the existence of God before we actually meet Him one day. That seems scientifically reasonable to me, and even to Dawkins:
Back at 111, Stephen wrote, “I mean precisely what I said. Evolutionary biologists invariably find a way to deny causality and they do it whenever and wherever it suits them. That denial may come in the form of assuming that universes can come from out of nowhere, or that mind can come from matter, or that life can come from non-life, or a number of other illogical notions. You asked for an example, so I provided the one that was handy.”
Hmmm. I see. Then that takes me back to a previous point: I don’t believe you can show me an example of an evolutionary biologist stating that either life or mind arose uncaused.
Also, I’m curious what else you include in this list. Your phrase “whenever it suits them” makes me think that you consider the denial of causality quite common. Or does the universe, life, and mind exhaust the list? In particular, I’m curious whether you include evolutionary events like amphibians arising from fish or humans arising from pre-hominids as events where causality is denied?
As for quantum events, that is a different matter. I don’t think it is an “abandonment of reason” to consider that perhaps quantum events are not caused: it may very well be that the concepts of cause just doesn’t apply there. There have been other instance in the history of science where things that people thought were a simple matter of reason and logic turned out to be wrong: there is no guarantee that the logical ideas we have developed based on our experience of the world might turn out to be wrong as we learn more about the world, and there is certainly no guarantee that those ideas would apply to whatever metaphysical world that lies “beyond” our universe.
Later, at 114, you write, “With regard to quantum events, remember that unpredictablity does not equal non-causality. Also, keep in mind that if you take the position that causality may not apply in every case or even in every arena, you are practicing selective causality, which is tantamount to a denial of causality. If causality can come and go, or be and not be, it certainly cannot qualify as a law.”
First, I understand that unpredicatbility does not equal non-causality. The epistimological question of whether there is an uncaused nature in quantum events or whether we just can’t know the cause is an open question, and possibly (probably?) an unanswerable one.
As to your comment about selective causality, I agree with faded glory in 115. Many laws in science get expanded as we learn more. This is not an arbitrary decision that leads to a slippery slope of anything goes. So having questions about the nature of causality of quantum events does not overturn the principle, which I agree with, that in the world, at the macroscopic, non-quantum level, all events have causes.
Though I am far from being as eloquent of tongue and pen as MacNeill, my view of “competing worldviews” though straightforward and rather crude, has served me extremely well in discerning truth from fiction in these origins debates. In fact my resolve to adhere to my particular “crude” worldview has only strengthened in the hindsight of the trickery I’ve had to deal with from the materialist/atheist camp. My worldview is this:
The Kingdom of God vs. The Kingdom of Darkness
You seem to be making the mistake of thinking “I, Faded Glory, don’t know. Therefore, nobody knows!”
Somehow, I’m not convinced.
I suggest you actually read up on the relevant philosophy, because it’s not as if I just made up this talk of causation for yucks.
And Hume would say that no, you can’t even think of an example of *temporal* cause an effect, because you never actually witness causes – only regularities, and for all you know occassionalism is true. Walk down that road if you like – just realize you’ve abandoned reason, science, and quite possibly any knowledge of an external world in the process. Walk it alone, though, because there’s no fruitful conversation to be had with someone embracing those views.
I don’t expect you to be convinced. Allen is right, this is a fruitless exchange of views that will not meet because we start from fundamentally diferent principles – axioms, if you like.
The relevant philosophy, which I am somewhat familiar with, has been debated for millenia to no avail, no consensus has been reached. This is again because it is about axioms, unprovable starting points, and not about empirical conclusions that we can test against the reality out there.
Feel free to think you have the answers. I am convinced you don’t, because as long as your axiom is unproven, your answers that follow from it are equally unproven. The only things we can probably agree on are the findings of empirical investigation. Science, if you like. Because science works independently of which of these axioms one holds. Which, I think, gets us back to the OP and Allens views, which I wholeheartedly agree with.
And the snarkiness seems really hard to drop. Why? Do I threaten you? Are you unsure of your own views? Take a leaf out of vjtorley’s book, it is possible to debate these things without chest beating, you know.
The worldviews are not competing, they are co-existing. This is not about who is right and who is wrong. It is about exploring the space of human thought and interpretations of the reality we live in. Fascinating stuff, the tricky bit is to accept that others can have a very different outlook than ourselves, and not be too bothered about that. Exploration often yields a richer harvest than conquest.
You say that “science works”, but you seem unaware (or unconcerned) that science and rational discourse are underwritten by certain axioms – and you’re demonstrating that you consider those axioms utterly optional. Something can come from nothing. Causality is optional. Hell, it may not exist at all.
You want to have solipsist-level skepticism on the one hand, and on the other hand talk about the authority of science. It ain’t working.
What’s more, you talk about how we can “test against the reality out there”. Are you aware that whether there is or isn’t an “out there” (a material world) has itself been extensively debated? That some argue against the very existence of minds? Lots of people can question things (say, that 2+2=4) but that doesn’t give me reason to doubt certain things (say, that 2+2=4). Sometimes, people are just behaving nuts.
As for my tone, I will note that VJTorley is tremendously polite. I try to be, but I have my limits. If someone insists to me that minds don’t exist, or the universe is carried on the back of an infinite number of turtles, or that it’s reasonable to think things can pop into existence utterly uncaused, I don’t feel the need to go “Oh my. That’s a very interesting perspective, and I respect that.”
Why should I pretend lunacy is reasonable?
Because the guy who had zero problem saying “everyone who believes in God is just projecting” thinks doing otherwise is impolite?
There can be an empirical line of investigation relatively free of world view.
Independent of whether God is the Intelligent Designer we can empirically and theoretically argue whether Natural Selection in the wild can mimic the designing activities of an engineer.
To the question whether Natural Selection can create large-scale function, I think the answer is a resounding NO, but some are still unconvinced. Peer reviewed papers to that effect a getting through. High time.
Can we say something corresponds to engineering designs? Yes, that is scientifically valid. An example from the IEEE: Live Memory of the Cell
Basic Gene Grammars
There might be designs which most assuredly will fly in the face of a materialistic world-view, but can be detectable scientifically. Such designs are those being discovered by ENCODE, and if we begin to find such patterns when looking at all species in biotic realms, what will we say then.
Sternberg has already identified SINEs between mice and rats not easily consistent with mainstream views. But they are empirically observable patterns.
It’s been suggested at UD that not only are the patterns observable, they may well be exploitable by biotechnology and medical science. We won’t be able to exploit such patterns if we remain in denial that they even exist in the first place!
That is why the ID paradigm might lead to scientific advancement versus a world view that insists that DNA is uninformative junk. DNA could be a rich rosetta stone waiting to be decoded for all sorts of engineering applications. Already we have the field of bio-mimetics, but ID could take that to levels we have not seen yet.
I think it is perfectly legitimate to try, and UD is here to encourage people that want to participate in this grand exploration.
You are painting with too broad a brush. Saying that at T=0 causality breaks down does not imply that at T>0 causality is optional. Do you see that logic? I actually don’t think it is, at least not for the macro world. So no, I don’t think that organisms can pop out of nothing. I’m not a creationsist you know 😉
With regards tot the reality out there, that too is an axiom, and hopefully one we don’t disagree on – do we? If not, why bring it up as relevant?
What you consider skepticism is simply good old-fashioned empiricism. A philosophy that can’t prove itself, I hasten to add (before you do 🙂 ). So, another axiom.
See where this goes? We share a number of axioms, but not all of them. Our differences stem from this. Not from one of us being a loon. Just as Allen claimed.
To avoid confusion, my previous post was addressed to nulasullus, not to scordova.
I’d also like to add that I do think minds exist, but not as ‘things’. I see mind as a process, maybe a bit analog to traffic. Traffic exists by the grace of vehicles making up the traffic, not by itself as an independent entity. If there are no vehicles on the road, there is no traffic. Likewise, if there is no material substrate, there is no mind.
Does this view make me a lunatic?
It is reasonable to hypothesize from physical principles alone that the universe (as in the observable universe goverened by laws we recognize) does not constitute all of relevant reality. It is very reasonble that a system outside the observable universe is not bound by the laws governing the universe.
In fact, it could be argued, if the Universe is subject to being described by one gigantic Quantum Wave function, something outside the observable universe must be initiating the Quantum Field or causing the Wave function collapse. That was an inference by Tipler and Barrow. Thus something outside material reality could be a necessary part of creating material reality. That was echoed in Richard Conn Henry’s letter published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature 2005. He put it even more boldly:
Even the notion of “time” had to be created at somepoint by something not bound by time.
To assert that the observable universe is everything is Saganism (as in Carl Sagan). It is an assertion, not necessarily supported by physics.
One must be careful not to equate all of reality with the observable universe.
We can infer that there are unobservable entitities affecting the material realms. Such is the science of Quantum Cryptography where we detect the action of Intelligent Eavesdroppers whom we might not directly see.
By way of extension of ideas in Quantum Cryptography, it is reasonable to say, the existence of the physical universe is evidence that the Universal Wave Function’s behavior regresses to some Intelligent Agency.
I’ve suggested that the Intelligent Agency causing the universe may be the same Agency that created life, but that is a circumstantial claim, not a formal one.
Saying “Something can come from nothing, sure. But only in this situation, only the once, and only for this.” isn’t “logic”. It’s you just whipping out rules as you see fit – no better than “Sure, sometimes animals pop into existence uncaused. But only small, flightless birds. And only before 37000BC.” In fact, creationists (and I’m not one) are vastly more reasonable in comparison.
And there’s great humor on someone lauding empiricism while insisting something can pop into existence uncaused – one of the few things that cannot ever be recorded by sense experience.
Why did I bring it up as relevant? Because you suggested that a lack of universal agreement was proof that these questions have no certain and knowable answers. That some people can disagree with a claim and be flat-out wrong (and we can know this), you seem to have trouble believing. Perhaps you think it’s a fact that there are no facts.
But hey, what’s it matter? According to your standards, being a loon is downright impossible. No one’s ever nuts – they merely operate according to different axioms. And science and reason can get along fine with the claim that sometimes things pop into existence utterly uncaused. Because you say so.
Or perhaps it is an axiom of yours.
let me add one more thing. You said:
“Why should I pretend lunacy is reasonable?
Because the guy who had zero problem saying “everyone who believes in God is just projecting” thinks doing otherwise is impolite?”
Pretending lunacy is unreasonable is not impolite, but fairly accurate, I’d say. So we don’t disagree on that. The impolite bit is the constant allusion that someone who doesn’t accept all the same axioms you do is irrational and a lunatic.
I sense that you are offended by me expressing my understanding of what God is. I did not intend to offend you and you don’t have to be offended – it is just a different view held by a different person. I have come to that view after observing this life and reality for over half a century and to me it seems to be the most straighforward (but not the only possible) explanation of religious belief. Am I entitled to that, or not?
Your riposte that I am in denial is understandable, and I don’t take offense. It is one logical consequence from your axioms, after all.
The only issue I would have is your claim that I am in conscious denial. Let me assure you that my denial is entirely unconcious, just as I believe your projection is entirely unconscious. It is just who we are, shaped by all the factors I alluded to earlier.
—Aleta: “Hmmm. I see. Then that takes me back to a previous point: I don’t believe you can show me an example of an evolutionary biologist stating that either life or mind arose uncaused.”
The propositions that mind arises from matter, that life comes from non-life, or that information can appear without explanation all constitute the coming into existence of something without a cause? The vast majority of evolutionary biologists believe both. So, you can likely find your example by just picking one at random. Begin with Richard Dawkins and work your way down—or up, depending on your world view.
—“Also, I’m curious what else you include in this list. Your phrase “whenever it suits them” makes me think that you consider the denial of causality quite common.”
That’s right. Materialist atheists/agnostics deny causality daily, and most evolutionary biologists fall into that category.
—-“Or does the universe, life, and mind exhaust the list? In particular, I’m curious whether you include evolutionary events like amphibians arising from fish or humans arising from pre-hominids as events where causality is denied?”
No, not at all. The issue is not whether or not the process occurs but rather if the process was caused by some event or entity from the outside. In order for something to begin to exist, something from the outside that already has existence must bring that thing into existence. Of course, materialists think that things can bring themselves into existence, which is their main logical flaw. On the other hand, they sometimes honor the law of causality when it suits them. Hence, they are selective about when to accept it and apply it.
—“As for quantum events, that is a different matter.” I don’t think it is an “abandonment of reason” to consider that perhaps quantum events are not caused: it may very well be that the concepts of cause just doesn’t apply there.”
Quantum events are, indeed, different from other events, but they are not immune from the law of causality. If the law doesn’t apply there, it may not apply other places, which means there would be no way of knowing where the law really applies at all. Under the circumstances, there would be no way of knowing that anything at all is caused. I have already made that point several times. Did you miss it? Besides, the very concept of quantum events was established on the strength of the law of causality. To deny the law of causality is to deny the foundation of the reasoning that allowed the discovery of quantum theory in the first place.
—“There have been other instance in the history of science where things that people thought were a simple matter of reason and logic turned out to be wrong: there is no guarantee that the logical ideas we have developed based on our experience of the world might turn out to be wrong as we learn more about the world, and there is certainly no guarantee that those ideas would apply to whatever metaphysical world that lies “beyond” our universe.”
You are confusing science’s laws, which are changeable, with reason’s laws, which are not. Just as one can measure the changes in a growing child because the yardstick doesn’t change its standard of measurement, science’s laws can be measured and reformed precisely because reason’s yardstick is stable enough to do the measuring.
Also, we didn’t “develop” logic; we “discovered” it–if they had been socially constructed they could be socially deconstructed. If there is no guarantee that the law of causality is true or that the law of non-contradiction is true, then there is no way to do reasoned science or even engage in rational discourse. Materialist atheists and Darwinists do not understand this, which is one reason why that they have difficulty reasoning in the abstract when the subject matter is about first causes. On matters of daily living, they do not seem to have that same problem because their biases and prejudices against design do not come into play.
—“So having questions about the nature of causality of quantum events does not overturn the principle, which I agree with, that in the world, at the macroscopic, non-quantum level, all events have causes.”
If the law of causality can be questioned at the micro level, why can it not be questioned at the macro level? You cannot say that you accept the “evidence”for such things—evidence does not lead to the law of causality; evidence is interpreted in its light. The law of causality informs the evidence and not the other way around. So, the question persists: Why do you believe that all events at the macroscopic level must have causes?
Correction: Also, we didn’t “develop” [the laws of] logic; we “discovered” them–if they had been socially constructed they could be socially deconstructed.
I think I made it quite clear that the point where I think causality may well break down is T=0.
You do know that that point is a singularity where the laws of physics as we know it no longer hold, do you? It is not just any arbitrary moment in the history of the universe. So I most certainly don’t think that aknowledging the unique nature of T=0 somehow opens the floodgates to a torrent of uncaused events at T>0.
I don’t see anything particularly humourous in an empiricist thinking that the Big Bang is a unique event in the history of the Universe – after all, everything we know about it we know because of the use of empirical science.
I do not believe it is a fact there are no facts. How can you link such a viewpoint to empiricism? Do you even know what empiricism is?
You are also wrong about my standards. I do not think it is downright impossible to be a loon. Lunacy is basically denial of established reality. Having different axioms on the foundations of reality is not the same as denyng reality.
You know, I am rather disappointed about the way this conversation has developed. I thought your original point about science and metaphysics hs some validity, and I agree with you about people like Dawkins who draw unwarranted metaphysoical conclusions from science.
How and why this has descended into you assigning a phletora of incorrect positions to me I don’t know. It is almost as if you think there is only one correct metaphysics, and dissent is a sign of madness. Not a lot of philosophers would agree with you on that.
Do you have anything better to offer than erecting and tearing down strawmen?
“I think I made it quite clear that the point where I think causality may well break down is T=0.”
And I made it clear that causality only breaks down for small flightless birds before 37000 BC.
“You do know that that point is a singularity where the laws of physics as we know it no longer hold, do you? It is not just any arbitrary moment in the history of the universe.”
Gotcha. Causality only goes overboard in situations that we find confusing, say are very special, or would lead us in directions we find unpalatable.
“I do not believe it is a fact there are no facts. How can you link such a viewpoint to empiricism?”
I can’t. It’s a good thing I didn’t.
“Lunacy is basically denial of established reality. Having different axioms on the foundations of reality is not the same as denyng reality.”
And how do you know someone is denying actual reality? Make sure their axioms are consistent with their statements? Take a poll?
“How and why this has descended into you assigning a phletora of incorrect positions to me I don’t know. It is almost as if you think there is only one correct metaphysics, and dissent is a sign of madness. Not a lot of philosophers would agree with you on that.”
Look – I’m pointing out that denying causality comes at a very high price for reason, reasonable discourse, and science. You disagree, and seem to think it’s very impolite of me to use words like “absurd” when criticizing it. I’m not concerned.
If a small army of philosophers frantically insist to me that 2+2=5 (whether they say it’s reasonable given what we know of math, or that ‘science will prove in the future that this is the case’, or what have you), I’m going to have no problem saying they’re flat-out wrong. I have zero problem standing in opposition to quite a lot of people (Hell, my position on ID squares me off against most darwinists AND most ID proponents.) Truth is not determined by vote.
Tell you what: If you want to drop this, go ahead. I stand by everything I’ve said, but clearly this will go nowhere, so why waste time? It’s not like I take some pleasure from this kind of thing (I suspect StephenB enjoys it more than me, as I’ve seen him get in this fight about a dozen times now at least. Then again, that causality gets tossed that often never ceases to amaze me.) But you can stop trying to get me to treat denying causality as reasonable. I won’t, because it manifestly is not.
And just to illustrate: I don’t write off idealists, panentheists, simulation theorists, panpsychists, or others in this fashion. But there are requirements for reason that are possible to violate. Denying causality is one way to do it.
“The propositions that mind arises from matter, that life comes from non-life, or that information can appear without explanation all constitute the coming into existence of something without a cause? The vast majority of evolutionary biologists believe both. So, you can likely find your example by just picking one at random. Begin with Richard Dawkins and work your way down—or up, depending on your world view.”
Can you give me a quote, please. I don’t believe Dawkins or anyone else has said that these things happen without cause. I’m sure that the explanations that they have offered concerning cause have not satisfied you, but that is an entirely different matter than actually claiming that things happen without cause.
You write, “That’s right. Materialist atheists/agnostics deny causality daily, and most evolutionary biologists fall into that category.”
Examples please. Again, I think that you are confusing offering causes that you don’t think are correct with believing that no causes at all exist.
You write, in respect to my question about speciation: “No, not at all. The issue is not whether or not the process occurs but rather if the process was caused by some event or entity from the outside. In order for something to begin to exist, something from the outside that already has existence must bring that thing into existence. Of course, materialists think that things can bring themselves into existence, which is their main logical flaw.”
No, we think that things are brought into existence by other things. I don’t believe a tornado brings itself into existence – I believe that if came into existence as a result of a whole bunch of causes. Similarly, I don’t think that birds brought themselves into existence, or human beings. Rather things that weren’t in existence at one time emerge out of things that were already in existence. There is no denial of causality here.
You write, “Quantum events are, indeed, different from other events, but they are not immune from the law of causality. If the law doesn’t apply there, it may not apply other places, which means there would be no way of knowing where the law really applies at all. Under the circumstances, there would be no way of knowing that anything at all is caused.”
This is a black-and-white, slippery-slope anxiety that is, I think, unwarranted. We know whether the law applies by looking at the evidence, and the evidence is extremely strong that causality pervades our universe: time and time again we have found antecedent reasons for things. Just because the law might not apply at some extreme boundary conditions does not throw the whole law into jeopardy.
You write, “If the law of causality can be questioned at the micro level, why can it not be questioned at the macro level? You cannot say that you accept the “evidence”for such things—evidence does not lead to the law of causality; evidence is interpreted in its light. The law of causality informs the evidence and not the other way around.”
You can question it at the macro level, if you wish, but the evidence supports causality. I think the question of whether “the law of causality informs the evidence” or whether it’s other way around is an important question. If we in fact were creatures in a universe where in fact things just popped into existence or otherwise didn’t consistently demonstrate the regularities we associate with causality then we wouldn’t have a “law of casuality.” The logical laws we have, to the extent they can be applied to the world, are what they are in part because the word is as it is. It is certainly not the case that any law of logic forces the world to be a certain way. The laws of logic are abstractions of understandings that are embedded throughout our being and nature, and are the way they are because we live in the world that we do. There is a fit because our ability to abstract rules for understanding through logic has developed in the context of living in, and surviving in, a world that displays the kinds of regularities that it does.
Thanks for the Live memory link Sal, you got any more like that?
Thanks you for responding to my challenge. Allen, from what I can see, hasn’t.
Here you’ve stated the challenge. And then you say:
From what I understand of Darwin, it is. The image that Darwin gives us is not of a simple branching event, that of twigs on a tree. Rather, he gives us an image of twigs ‘dangling in the air’. That is, according to the Principle of Divergence, once a certain branch splits into a twig, and then that twig into another twig, what happens is that the second twig now ‘displaces’ the orginal ‘branching’ event. Ergo, you have maybe the first twig, but possibly only the second twig, with the second twig having displaces both the orginal branching event (ie. the first species) and the twig (ie. the second species). Thus we have twigs just ‘dangling in the air.’ If you doubt this, then just take a look at the ONLY illustration that is found in the Origins, the famous branching diagram. If you look at the bottom of that figure, there are no ‘branching events’; there are only ‘species’ coming out of ‘nowhere’. Alfred Wallace’s description of the Principle of Divergence is actually better than Darwin’s. And it wasn’t until Wallace enunciated this principle that Darwin was ready to ‘go public’ with his hypothesis. (Maybe Allen would like to correct me?)
Allen: [in passum]:
From Chalmers article:
“The existence of phenomena that are merely weakly emergent with respect to the domain
of physics does not have such radical consequences. The existence of unexpected phenomena in complex biological systems, for example, does not on its own threaten the completeness of the catalogue of fundamental laws found in physics. As long as the existence of these phenomena is deducible in principle from a physical specification of the world (as in the case of the cellular automaton), then no new fundamental laws or properties are needed: everything will still be a consequence of physics. So if we want to use emergence to draw conclusions about the structure of nature at the most fundamental level, it is not weak emergence but strong emergence that is relevant.”
Allen, in your post at , you stated that you see the Designer/Someone building the laws of nature into the universe. Per Chalmers statement here, this is an instance (perhaps the ONLY instance) of ‘strong emergence’. My impression, then, is that you don’t mind the Designer acting at the Beginning, but that you object—for ‘scientific reasons’—to the Designer acting later on. What I mean by objecting on the basis of ‘scientific reasons’ is that you strongly feel that any such ‘strong emergence’, per Chalmers definition, falls outside of the knowable laws of nature. It would seem to me that this reduces itself to the notion of whether it is possible, or not, for a Designer to act within, and thus supervening, the laws of nature we find in ‘time and space’ and that can be presupposed to have emerged in the beginning. Along the same line, you might simply say that should the Designer dabble in ‘strong emergence’ within ‘time and space’ (as we experience it), then science cannot describe it; that is, it falls outside the purview of science.
In the first case, to deny that the Designer is prohibited from acting after the ‘Beginning’ is to assume a Deist position. That then seems to me to be something that would only be resolved along philosophical/theological lines, and, so, is a discussion that lies outside of ‘science.’ In the latter case, this is kind of an agnostic position—an agnosticism that you more or less stated in the previous post, and an agnosticism that would imply, in your view, the impossibility of ID to assume any ‘scientific’ basis. I suppose this is how you see it. And I guess you would say (if I may allowed to put words into your mouth): “I, as an evolutionary biologist, work along the lines of ‘weak emergence’, which allows me to invoke to some degree the already knowable and existent ‘laws of nature’; whereas ID must invoke ‘strong emergence’, and hence, by definition (Chalmer’s) it is cut-off from any such known and existent ‘laws’. Hence, I can work within the realm of ‘science’, and ID cannot. Therefore, ID, per se, is “non-scientific”, and cannot be anything else.”
Thus, in your view, the entire discussion (for one reason or another) will end up lying outside the realm of science. (It ends up being very Gouldian, you might say.)
Allow me to put the last two paragraphs another way: ID says that evolutionary biologists cannot explain “macroevolution” using “microevolutionary” mechanisms. Thus, “macroevolution” is, per ID, “strongly emergent”—which, then, places itself outside of science. Evolutionary biologists, taking the ‘weakly emergent’ view, say that, although we cannot give actual mechanisms, “macroevolution” emerges from the “microevolutionary” realm, and, hence, is fully compatible with science.
If this is so, then, to use a phrase we’re familiar with, this is no other than “Darwin’s Black Box.” IDists say the “mechanism” hidden within this black box is “irreducible” to the plain laws of physics, etc. EB’s on the other hand, say, that though these “mechanisms” are hidden, yet they somehow are reducible to known laws. Stated this way, I guess we have no more than a mere standoff.
My sense is that you are essentially arguing this ‘standoff’. And you, I suppose, would argue that any ID claims, ipso facto, essentially amount to non-scientific ones.
Yet, Behe’s “Darwin’s Black Box” was written exactly to demonstrate the “irreducible” character of biological phenomena. And, increasingly, the complexity of the genetic organization of biological life grows with further experimentation upon it, with the level of complexity now reaching beyond mere “microevolutionary” mechanisms (read here “neo-Darwinian mechanisms)—a fact you openly acknowledge.
Well, doesn’t this description of today’s biological status-quo actually favor the ID position? It would seem it does. And what ID argues, it argues from a scientific standpoint. So, putting that all together, we can say: from a purely ‘scientific’ point of view (that is, from what we now know through investigation and experimentation), a Designer is a better explanation (“has more explanatory power” in the words of Steven Meyers) of biological reality than the current Darwinian one. I think I’m being objective here.
Therefore, though ID takes, let us say, a ‘strongly emergent’ position vis-à-vis macroevolution, this doesn’t, per se, make its claims non-scientific.
I think you might disagree with this statement. Nevertheless, in the end we are dealing with ‘scientific ignorance’ (black box), and if one assumes the ‘weakly emergent’ position (and it is an assumption when made in the face of ignorance, an ignorance you openly agree to in the case of the ‘Beginning’ ) this seems to me to amount to no more than accepting a ‘materialist’ point of view. Science means “knowledge”; it doesn’t mean “knowledge of only that which is reducible to the strictly material”. In assuming the ‘materialist’ point of view, one runs the risk of limiting the truly knowable.
Switching topics, to the philosophical/theological, if you have problems with a Designer interrupting the normal functioning of natural laws, then you are forced to explain such ‘miracles’ as the Shroud of Turin and the Tilma of Juan Diego. There are no ‘scientific explanations’ of them. If ‘science’ can’t explain to what to us is so ordinary—and relatively simple—that is, images on a cloth, then what confidence should we place in this ‘science’ to explain the truly extraordinary complexity of life?
Finally, Allen, as to your last remark in , please impress me first with your intelligence before making any further such comments. You’ll notice I haven’t made many posts here. Maybe there’s a reason.
Aleta in 141:
The logical laws we have, to the extent they can be applied to the world, are what they are in part because the word is as it is. It is certainly not the case that any law of logic forces the world to be a certain way. The laws of logic are abstractions of understandings that are embedded throughout our being and nature, and are the way they are because we live in the world that we do.
If you read the sentence you will understand that Aleta denies rationality and logic as a fundamental principle of the world like the ancient epicureans. In his worldview he can believe whatever he chooses because world is not necessarily logical. Irrational explanations are acceptable because that is how the world is. I choose however to hold logic and reason as one of my first priorities and thus I believe in God.
No I don’t. In fact I have repeatedly said that we observe regularities which we can understand using reason and logic. To say that “he can believe whatever he chooses because [the] world is not necessarily logical” is nonsense, and I have said nothing of the sort. I’m a bit baffled as to how you could draw this conclusion as to what I believe.
Aleta in 141:
“It is certainly not the case that any law of logic forces the world to be a certain way.”
1. The world can be irrational i.e logic doesn’t necessarily apply to our world.
2. Thus it necessarily follows that I can explain my sense perceptions any way I choose because logic doesn’t necessarily apply to them.
How else can you understand that sentence by laws of logic and what necessarily follows as a consequence?
Innerbling: Let me offer my full statement so as to put the quote you offered in context:
“The logical laws we have, to the extent they can be applied to the world, are what they are in part because the wor[l]d is as it is. It is certainly not the case that any law of logic forces the world to be a certain way. The laws of logic are abstractions of understandings that are embedded throughout our being and nature, and are the way they are because we live in the world that we do.”
Notice that I am not saying that the world is irrational, or that it doesn’t flow in an orderly and rational way. In fact, I am saying that it we have the understandings about logic that we do because the world exhibits the order it does that, both because we observe the world manifesting that order and because, as a creature that is a product of that rational world our nature manifests the world’s order: our order is a microcosm of the world’s order because we emerged out of the world.
The issue here is in which direction, so to speak, do things happen. Do the laws exist and the world follows the laws – i.e. the laws are metaphysical prescriptions that impose themselves on reality from the outside, or are the laws after-the-fact descriptions of the behavior of the world?
I believe it is the latter: the laws follow the world, the world doesn’t follows the laws. This is an age-old philosophical issue, and, in terms of the title of this thread, represents two different worldviews.
So, I believe very much that we live in an orderly and rational world, and that our ability to build orderly and rational explanations of the world is a manifestation of and a reflection of that world.
—-Aleta: “We know whether the law applies by looking at the evidence, and the evidence is extremely strong that causality pervades our universe: time and time again we have found antecedent reasons for things. Just because the law might not apply at some extreme boundary conditions does not throw the whole law into jeopardy.”
Allen has already declared that he is not sure that the universe was caused. So the law is certainly in jeopardy with him. How can you, a professed believer in a caused universe, and a doubter in the non-negotiable law of causality, assure him that the universe was, indeed, caused? If, for him and for you, a quantum event can be uncaused, why not a universe?
—“If we in fact were creatures in a universe where in fact things just popped into existence or otherwise didn’t consistently demonstrate the regularities we associate with causality then we wouldn’t have a “law of casuality.”
Right you are. If the universe was irrational, we would likely have no laws or else those laws would be inconsistent, which is another way of saying that they wouldn’t be laws. Of course, for Allen, laws have exceptions, meaning that they can both be laws and not be laws. You seem to be in that camp as well. This, of course, violates the law of non-contradiction, which is the mother of the law of causality. Here is the point, though: I know that the universe didn’t just pop into existence because the law of causality precludes it. The question is, how do you know it? We have no evidence that could help solve that riddle. We only have evidence that the universe began to exist. So, how do you conclude that it had a cause?
—“It is certainly not the case that any law of logic forces the world to be a certain way. The laws of logic are abstractions of understandings that are embedded throughout our being and nature, and are the way they are because we live in the world that we do. There is a fit because our ability to abstract rules for understanding through logic has developed in the context of living in, and surviving in, a world that displays the kinds of regularities that it does.”
Please forgive me, but this is the essence of the materialist confusion. The logic of our minds corresponds to the logic of the universe because both were caused [designed] to correspond. As I have pointed out, logic wasn’t developed, it was discovered, and even if it had “developed,” it could only comprehend a universe that had a corresponding logic that was made for it. If the universe had not been made comprehensible for human comprehension and if human minds had not been made comprehending, there would be no match. When it rains, the streets really get wet, and when we think about it, we really get the process inside of our minds. It is both an objective and a subjective reality. Darwinists do not understand the reality of these two realms. More egregiously, they think that a comprehensible universe is a coincidence [another example of denying causality, by the way] and that the comprehending mind “emerged” out of matter [yet another example of denying causation]. A corollary of the law of causation is the fact that nothing can occur in the effect that was not somehow present in the cause—something cannot come from nothing. For Materialist Darwinists, something is always coming from nothing: there was once no universe, and now there is; there once was no mind, and now there is; there was once no life, and now there is; there once was no information, and now there is. This is a good example of how Darwinists deny causality without even knowing it.
—-Can you give me a quote, please.
I have you and Allen right here. Why go anywhere else?
There once was no tornado and now there is. Does this statement deny causality?
Aleta @149. There once was no tornado and now there is. Does this statement deny causality?
No, because the effect does not constitute anything that was not first present in the cause–material conditions gave rise to a material tornado–out of matter came a material event. That is different from mind coming from matter because there is nothing in the matter that can explain it–that is, something was added in the effect [consciousness] that was not present, or even potentially present, in the cause.
But how do you know that what we experience as mind was not/is not present in matter? And how do you know that the conditions of life are not present in non-life? Obviously tornadoes are somehow “present” in the very basic nature of things that was present at the beginning of the universe, and we know this because tornadoes are here. Life and mind are also here – so on what basis do you declare that they are not “present” in the nature of matter.
You say there is nothing in matter that can explain mind. And how do you know that? And I presume you would say that there is nothing in non-life that can explain life – how do you know that?
You may believe that in fact life and mind require something special to exist (and I use the word may to mean “have permission to”), but you can’t use your belief as a reason to support the claim that they aren’t “present” in the nature of matter and energy, and then use the fact that they aren’t present to conclude that life and mind require something special.
And in particular you can’t conclude that I deny causality just because I disagree with you by believing that, indeed, life and mind can arise out of the material world.
It’s a matter of different worldviews, true, but it is not a matter of affirming or denying causality.
And in response to an earlier post of yours,
You ask, in several ways, “Here is the point, though: I know that the universe didn’t just pop into existence because the law of causality precludes it. The question is, how do you know it? We have no evidence that could help solve that riddle. We only have evidence that the universe began to exist. So, how do you conclude that it had a cause?”
I don’t know why the universe is here, and I have said that I don’t know whether our concept of cause, which is based on our understanding of how this world works, applies to how our universe came to be. If there is some larger reality from which our universe came, I have no idea whether its fundamental concepts and logic are like the fundamental concepts and logic of our world or not: the idea of cause as we know it might now even apply.
I think I have said this quite a few times.
And it’s not really a very important question to me. I start with the world as it is, and work from there. I am not so confident in the reach of my extremely limited perspective as a human being to think that I can just figure out what the nature of metaphysical reality is.
“Please forgive me, but this is the essence of the materialist confusion. The logic of our minds corresponds to the logic of the universe because both were caused [designed] to correspond.”
I’m sorry, but I don’t forgive you for considering me confused. You may think that, if you wish, but you don’t need, or get, my forgiveness for thinking so. We are just each trying to describe what we believe.
So in the sentence above you write “both were caused [designed] to correspond.” Do you mean to imply here that “caused” means the same as “designed” in all cases, or do you just mean that our understanding of the laws of logic was a specific act of design? Your sentence is not clear.
And of course, the question is, how do you know this?
“If the universe had not been made comprehensible for human comprehension and if human minds had not been made comprehending, there would be no match. When it rains, the streets really get wet, and when we think about it, we really get the process inside of our minds. It is both an objective and a subjective reality. Darwinists do not understand the reality of these two realms. More egregiously, they think that a comprehensible universe is a coincidence [another example of denying causality, by the way] and that the comprehending mind “emerged” out of matter [yet another example of denying causation].”
In my post to Innerbling at 147 I explain a bit why the logic of our minds corresponds to the logic of the world: both because we observe the world and build our understanding accordingly, and more importantly, because our nature has arisen from the very world we are observing. We are a product of the world, and our internal nature is a natural microcosm of the world which has created us.
You continue, by the way, to assert that I and others state that “emerging” implies no causation without offering any evidence that that is what we believe. That’s why I would like you to answer my question about the tornado. I do believe that there are causes behind the emergence of life and causes behind the emergence of mind. I don’t know a lot about what those causes are, but I certainly don’t think my lack of knowledge implies that I think they just “poofed” acausally into the world.
I am beginning to feel a little like Michael Corleone…
In the paper by Chalmers that I cited in comment #73, Chalmers asserts that consciousness (i.e. not the origin of the universe) is the only example of strong emergence (i.e. it is not reducible to nor explainable by the “natural” mechanisms of neurobiology). I find this interesting, as consciousness has also been implicated directly in quantum mechanics and (by some physicists, including John Wheeler) the “cause” of the “big bang”.
I’m not certain that I agree with Chalmers, but I find his assertion intriguing. Please note that Chalmers is not asserting that there is something “magical” or “supernatural” in the neurophysiology of the nervous system that produces the strongly emergent phenomenon of consciousness. Indeed, he does not speculate on what it is about nervous systems that makes it possible for them to “host” the strongly emergent phenomenon we refer to by the term “consciousness”. To me, it seems likely that consciousness emerges from a particular pattern of wiring in the nervous system, probably having to do with “self-referential feedback circuitry” (as suggested by Douglas R. Hofstadter in Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid), but that is a topic I also don’t want to get into in this thread. Maybe next time…
And, to satisfy Aleta’s request for a statement by an evolutionary biologist vis-a-vis how causality “works” in biology, click here:
By doing so, you will download a reprint of Ernst Mayr’s 1961 article from Science magazine, “Cause and Effect in Biology”, one of the most widely cited and reprinted articles from that journal.
And, before I go back to bed (I’m currently harboring a rapidly reproducing population of rhinoviridae in my nasal epithelia), I would like to slightly revise my assertion about the origin of the universe. Having thought about it a lot (thank you, stephenB, for that much at least), I would like to assert (without evidence, of course, but for the sake of logical consistency) that I believe that the “big bang” indeed was caused, but that we cannot determine what its cause was using empirical methods…at least, not yet.
BTW, Chalmers is not an evolutionary biologist. In fact, he’s not even an empirical scientist, he’s an Australian philosopher specializing in the philosophy of mind. He is Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Consciousness at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_J._Chalmers ]. But, I’m sure nullasalus and stephenB will find his views to be equally “nonsensical” and “uncivil”. After all, what rational person would wear such a hideous T-shirt?
And, before I go, a question for stephenB (and whomever else would like to respond): I agree that your arguments for logic as presented here apply to deductive logic, as presented in Aristotle’s Analytica Priora. Do you see any validity in inductive logic, as presented in Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum, or in the fields of mathematical logic commonly referred to as sentential and predicate logic? If not, why not?
And yes, I appear to be hooked, and so, to quote the governator,
I’ll be baaaaaaaak…
Aleta: But how can material give rise to that which it is dependent on for its own existence?
A transcendent cause is necessary to explain the universe:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
The Creation Of The Universe (Kalam Cosmological Argument)- Lee Strobel – William Lane Craig – video
Hugh Ross PhD. – Evidence For The Transcendent Origin Of The Universe – video
Formal Proof For The Transcendent Origin Of the Universe – William Lane Craig – video
“The prediction of the standard model that the universe began to exist remains today as secure as ever—indeed, more secure, in light of the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem and that prediction’s corroboration by the repeated and often imaginative attempts to falsify it. The person who believes that the universe began to exist remains solidly and comfortably within mainstream science.” – William Lane Craig
Inflationary spacetimes are not past-complete – Borde-Guth-Vilenkin – 2003
Excerpt: inflationary models require physics other than inflation to describe the past boundary of the inflating region of spacetime.
“It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can long longer hide behind the possibility of a past eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.” Alexander Vilenkin – Many Worlds In One – Pg. 176
And PaV, unless you missed it, I’m back, so by your criterion at least,
(or, as my kids would say, pwned)
Further note Aleta:
In conjunction with the mathematical necessity of an “Uncaused Cause” to explain the beginning of the universe, in philosophy it has been shown that,,,
“The ‘First Mover’ is necessary for change occurring at each moment.”
Michael Egnor – Aquinas’ First Way
I find this centuries old philosophical argument, for the necessity of a “First Mover” accounting for change occurring at each moment, to be validated by quantum mechanics. This is since the possibility for the universe to be considered a “closed system” of cause and effect is removed with the refutation of the “hidden variable” argument. i.e. There must be a sufficient transcendent cause (God/First Mover) to explain the quantum wave collapse to the “uncertain” 3D effect for “each moment” of the universe.
Dr. Quantum – Double Slit Experiment & Entanglement – video
Wheeler’s Classic Delayed Choice Experiment:
Excerpt: So it seems that time has nothing to do with effects of quantum mechanics. And, indeed, the original thought experiment was not based on any analysis of how particles evolve and behave over time – it was based on the mathematics. This is what the mathematics predicted for a result, and this is exactly the result obtained in the laboratory.
This following experiment highlights the centrality of consciousness in the Double Slit Experiment as to the wave collapse and refutes any “detector centered” arguments for wave collapse:
Delayed choice quantum eraser
of note; Consciousness must be INFORMED with local certainty to cause the wave to become a particle. We know from the Double Slit Experiment, with delayed erasure, that the simple fact of a detector being present is NOT sufficient to explain the wave collapse. If the detector results are erased after detection but before conscious analysis we see the wave form result instead of the particle result. This clearly establishes the centrality of consciousness to the whole experiment. i.e. The clear implication from the experiment is that consciousness is primary, and detection secondary, to the collapse of the wave function to a 3-D particle. Consciousness must precede 3-Dimensional material reality.
“It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.” Eugene Wigner (1902 -1995) laid the foundation for the theory of symmetries in quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963
Why, who makes much of a miracle? As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles, Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,,,
Walt Whitman – Miracles
Moreover, the transcendent cause must be sufficient to explain the semi-unique effect of 3D centrality witnessed by each individual observer in the universe.
The Known Universe – Dec. 2009 – very cool video (please note the centrality of the earth in the universe)
of note: The only way to “geometrically” maintain continuous 3D spherical symmetry of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, within the “3D universe”, from radically different points of observation in the universe, is for all the “higher dimensional quantum information waves” of the universe to collapse to their “uncertain” 3D particle state, universally and instantaneously, for/to each individual conscious observer in the universe. The 4-D expanding hypersphere of the space-time of relativity is grossly insufficient to maintain 3-D integrity/symmetry from radically different points of observation in the universe.
That the “mind” of a individual observer would play such an integral yet not complete “closed system role”, in the instantaneous quantum wave collapse of the universe to “3D centrality”, gives us clear evidence that our “mind” is a unique entity. A unique entity with a superior quality of existence when compared to the “uncertain 3D particles” of the “material” universe. This is clear evidence for the existence of the “higher dimensional soul” of man that supersedes any “material basis” that the soul/mind has been purported to “emerge” from by materialists. And also is compelling to the Theistic postulation of God being the “sustainer” of the universe
Quantum Measurements: Common Sense Is Not Enough, Physicists Show – July 2009
Excerpt: scientists have now proven comprehensively in an experiment for the first time that the experimentally observed phenomena cannot be described by non-contextual models with hidden variables. http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....142824.htm
I find it extremely interesting that quantum mechanics tells us that instantaneous quantum wave collapse to its “uncertain” 3-D state is centered on each individual observer in the universe, whereas, 4-D space-time cosmology tells us each 3-D point in the universe is central to the expansion of the universe. Why should the expansion of the universe, or the quantum wave collapse of the entire universe, even care that I exist?
This is obviously a very interesting congruence in science between the very large (relativity) and the very small (quantum mechanics). A congruence they seem to be having a extremely difficult time “unifying” mathematically (Einstein, Penrose).
The Physics Of The Large And Small: What Is the Bridge Between Them? Roger Penrose
Excerpt: This, (the unification of General Relativity and the laws of Quantum Mechanics), would also have practical advantages in the application of quantum ideas to subjects like biology – in which one does not have the clean distinction between a quantum system and its classical measuring apparatus that our present formalism requires. In my opinion, moreover, this revolution is needed if we are ever to make significant headway towards a genuine scientific understanding of the mysterious but very fundamental phenomena of conscious mentality.”
Yet, this “unification” between what is in essence the “infinite world of Quantum Mechanics” and the “finite world of the space-time of General Relativity” seems to be directly related to what Jesus apparently joined together with His resurrection, i.e. related to the unification of infinite God with finite man:
The Center Of The Universe Is Life – video
I have often used the example of a thunderstorm to illustrate the same kind of emergence you exemplify with a tornado. Both of these exhibit what Chalmers calls “weak emergence”, and so do not in any violate the criterion of “causality” asserted by stephenB. But if that is the case, then I would simply say the same thing about abiogenesis, the origin of the genetic code, and everything else in evolutionary biology, and, indeed, in the natural history of the universe, exempting (perhaps) consciousness. I haven’t (yet) had time to read Chalmer’s arguments for the “strong emergence” of consciousness, and so will not comment on it yet, except to say that it sounds to me (on first blush) quite similar to my argument for “meaningful information”. That is, the “meaning” of “meaningful information” is not reducible to nor derivable from the medium in which it is encoded, transmitted, and decoded.
So maybe I already agree with Chalmers. vjtorley, what do you think?
further extenuating evidence for a “mind” that is separate from the brain Aleta:
This following NDE occurred under tightly monitored conditions
The Day I Died – Part 4 of 6 – The NDE (Near Death Experience) of Pam Reynolds – video
Miracle Of Mind-Brain Recovery Following Hemispherectomies – Dr. Ben Carson – video
Removing Half of Brain Improves Young Epileptics’ Lives:
Excerpt: “We are awed by the apparent retention of memory and by the retention of the child’s personality and sense of humor,” Dr. Eileen P. G. Vining; In further comment from the neuro-surgeons in the John Hopkins study: “Despite removal of one hemisphere, the intellect of all but one of the children seems either unchanged or improved. Intellect was only affected in the one child who had remained in a coma, vigil-like state, attributable to peri-operative complications.”
Blind Woman Can See During Near Death Experience – Pim Lommel – video
Kenneth Ring and Sharon Cooper (1997) conducted a study of 31 blind people, many of who reported vision during their NDEs. 21 of these people had had an NDE while the remaining 10 had had an out-of-body experience (OBE), but no NDE. It was found that in the NDE sample, about half had been blind from birth.
Sorry, I lost my “way” in sentence 2 of comment #157 (just before “violate”).
BTW, bornagain77, the Earth is in the “center” of the universe (in the video you are so fond of linking) to in the same way that every single point on the surface of a sphere is at the “center” of that surface. If one focuses on anypoint in the universe during either its expansion or contraction, that point will appear to be at the center of the universe. The same thing is true for an inkspot on the surface of a balloon covered with inkspots. Blow the balloon up or deflate it and keep your eye on any dot, and it will be in the “center” of the “universal” expansion or contraction.
I believe that’s called “relativity”. Heard of it, perchance?
The idea that I would find Chalmers nonsensical because of his t-shirt is nothing short of inane. Clearly, it’s because of his hair.
More seriously, Chalmers is an anti-physicalist with ID sympathies. You can do a lot worse as far as rationality goes.
I wish you the best of health. I think your concerns and ideas deserve consideration and I’ve found them educational.
Good health to you, my friend.
And (surprise, surprise!) I completely agree with bornagain77 on one point: to me it seems clear that the “mind” is neither the same as, nor reducible to, the brain or any of its parts. This, of course, means that I am a “dualist”, but if so, I’m in good company: so is David J. Chalmers, Edwin Arthur Burtt, Wilder Penfield, and many of my teachers (and, later, colleagues) at Cornell.
nullasalus in comment 161:
You made me laugh out loud – his hair is, indeed, “uncivil” in the extreme.
Nice leather, though…
And just to show I can be civil at times: Get well soon. I just got over a head cold myself. And, of course, I agree with you on the mind.
sal in comment #162:
Thank you, my friend. It is nice to know that, despite all of our disagreements (Lord knows they are many), you remain in all of your interactions with me, a gentleman and a scholar.
And so, to bed…
MacNeill: You seem to think deeply about things every once in a while, so please ponder this: How do you maintain “3-D symmetry” for the entire universe from radically points of observation in the universe using only the 4-D space-time of general relativity?
It is clear that the 3-D geometric distortion visited on the problem, from radically different points of observation in the universe, is clearly far to great to be accounted for by the “expanding 4D space time” of general relativity to account for it. If you believe that quantum information wave is not universal please provide the formal mathematical proof that 4-D space-time is sufficient to maintain such centrality we witness for our position in the universe.
“It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.” Eugene Wigner (1902 -1995) laid the foundation for the theory of symmetries in quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963
What a messy post, here it is cleaned up a bit:
MacNeill: You seem to think deeply about things every once in a while, so please ponder this: How do you maintain “3-D symmetry” for the entire universe from radically different points of observation in the universe using only the 4-D space-time of general relativity?
It is clear that the 3-D geometric distortion visited on the problem, from radically different points of observation in the universe, is clearly far to great to be accounted for by the “expanding 4D space time” of general relativity. If you believe that quantum information wave collapse is not universal to each “central observer” please provide the formal mathematical proof that 4-D space-time is sufficient to maintain such 3-D symmetric centrality we witness for our “observer” position in the universe.
“It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.” Eugene Wigner (1902 -1995) laid the foundation for the theory of symmetries in quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963
I’m not sure where you got the idea that Chalmers is sympathetic to ID. He’s anything but, as this blog entry of his demonstrates:
bornagain77 quotes Eugene Wigner:
Wigner was incorrect, being unfamiliar with the concept of decoherence.
Unfortunately, you’ll find that decoherence — though completely consistent with quantum mechanics — does not support your theistic preconceptions.
That’s what I thought. The “principled” exit at the arbitrary #100 never was.
At least Sal’s a scholar again (and always, apparently).
Decoherence may not resolve the problem Wigner highlights. The matter remains open. Richard Conn Henry as recently in Nature 2005 objected to decoherence as a solution. Futhermore, Rosenblum and Kutner have published a book supportive of Wigner as recently as last year and they too argue that decoherence doesn’t solve the problem.
It is possible that Quantum Mechanics is wrong, but that is specualtive at this time. The main competitor to Quantum Mechanics would be Stochastic Electro Dynamics which oddly enough is advocated also by creationists.
—Aleta: “You say there is nothing in matter that can explain mind. And how do you know that? And I presume you would say that there is nothing in non-life that can explain life – how do you know that?”
I have already explained that the law of causality disallows more in the effect that was present in the cause. Can you imagine a symphony having more music in it than was present in the mind of the composer? It has nothing to do with belief and everything to do with causality.
—-“And in particular you can’t conclude that I deny causality just because I disagree with you by believing that, indeed, life and mind can arise out of the material world.”
I didn’t conclude that you deny causality because you disagree with me; I conclude that you deny causality because you refuse to affirm it as a non-negotiable principle.
— “I don’t know why the universe is here, and I have said that I don’t know whether our concept of cause, which is based on our understanding of how this world works, applies to how our universe came to be.”
I didn’t ask you why the universe is here. I asked you why you think that it was caused if you deny the law of causality as a law, which you clearly do.
—“If there is some larger reality from which our universe came, I have no idea whether its fundamental concepts and logic are like the fundamental concepts and logic of our world or not: the idea of cause as we know it might now even apply.”
If you question whether “the fundamental concepts of logic of our world” apply to its cause, then you are questioning the caused universe. As I said, you seem to be trying to have it both ways. [As if to say, yes, the universe was caused, nevertheless, it may not have been caused at all]
—“And it’s not really a very important question to me. I start with the world as it is, and work from there. I am not so confident in the reach of my extremely limited perspective as a human being to think that I can just figure out what the nature of metaphysical reality is.”
To understand that nothing can begin to exist without a cause is a long way from figuring out the nature of metaphysical reality. Unfortunately, you don’t seem to be able to make up your mind about whether or not you even believe in causality, except in a selective sense, which is what I stated all along and which you denied until it was no longer feasible, only to affirm it yet again.
—“I’m sorry, but I don’t forgive you for considering me confused. You may think that, if you wish, but you don’t need, or get, my forgiveness for thinking so. We are just each trying to describe what we believe.”
I will refrain from using that word again. In any case, I still don’t know what you believe about causality. Was the universe caused or not? It would really help a lot if you could say, [A] I don’t know, in which case that would be an admission that you aren’t really sure about causality, [B] Yes, it was, in which case that would be an affirmation of the law of causality, or [C] No, it was not, in which case that would be a denial of causality.
—“So in the sentence above you write “both were caused [designed] to correspond.” Do you mean to imply here that “caused” means the same as “designed” in all cases, or do you just mean that our understanding of the laws of logic was a specific act of design? Your sentence is not clear.”
No, design is just a special kind of cause. A subset, if you like, like “create.”
I wrote: “If the universe had not been made comprehensible for human comprehension and if human minds had not been made comprehending, there would be no match. When it rains, the streets really get wet, and when we think about it, we really get the process inside of our minds. It is both an objective and a subjective reality. Darwinists do not understand the reality of these two realms. More egregiously, they think that a comprehensible universe is a coincidence [another example of denying causality, by the way] and that the comprehending mind “emerged” out of matter [yet another example of denying causation].”
—“In my post to Innerbling at 147 I explain a bit why the logic of our minds corresponds to the logic of the world: both because we observe the world and build our understanding accordingly, and more importantly, because our nature has arisen from the very world we are observing. We are a product of the world, and our internal nature is a natural microcosm of the world which has created us.”
Your “explanation” does not really address the issue. How did the world itself become comprehensible? How did we become a product of the world? If “our internal nature is a natural microcosm of the world which created us,” what is the difference between the thing being comprehended [the world] and the entity doing the comprehending [us]. As a materialist, you are trying to reduce everything to one realm, which is why your pattern cannot explain the difference between the investigator and the object of the investigation. This again, is a denial of causality. In effect, you are saying that we are products of the world and that we are different enough from the world to investigate it. Thus, there is more in the effect [the investigator] than was present in the cause [the world, which was not capable of investigating itself]. Are you going to try to bridge that gap by using the word “emergence” again? Wouldn’t it be a lot less strained to simply acknowledge the obvious: A creator fashioned [another subset of cause] the world such that it can be investigated and fashioned the mind of the investigator to investigate it. Don’t you see how much more logical that scenario is?
—“I do believe that there are causes behind the emergence of life and causes behind the emergence of mind. I don’t know a lot about what those causes are, but I certainly don’t think my lack of knowledge implies that I think they just “poofed” acausally into the world.”
Why do you believe that there are causes behind the “emergence of life” and the “emergence of mind?”
I’m not claiming that decoherence is the One True Interpretation of quantum mechanics. I’m pointing out that there are other interpretations, besides Wigner’s, that are completely consistent with the equations of quantum mechanics. At least half a dozen of these interpretations assign no role to consciousness.
Wigner was wrong — consciousness is not essential to a consistent formulation of quantum mechanics.
Richard Conn Henry’s piece in Nature (which is merely an essay, not a peer-reviewed paper) reveals that he does not fully understand the concept of decoherence.
In decoherence, there is no collapse of the wavefunction, only an apparent collapse.
This is mere assertion. You could just as easily argue that the (apparent) collapse in the Renninger experiments is caused by a particle detector detecting nothing. To invoke consciousness at all, much less human consciousness, is a symptom of Henry’s interpretational bias. It does not follow from quantum mechanics itself.
pelagius, methinks you place far to much faith in decoherence:
you claim decoherence falsifies Wigner’s consciousness centered Quantum world: to quote the 1999 article you cite:
“Decoherence, in brief, describes the constant, tenuous interactions between a system or object and its environment, a set of interactions that allows concrete behaviors to emerge from the multitude of simultaneous possibilities that quantum theory allows.”
yet wikipedia, which for the most part is very anti any inference for ID whatsoever, states this about decoherence:
“But within the framework of the interpretation of quantum mechanics, decoherence cannot explain this crucial step from an apparent mixture to the existence and/or perception of single outcomes.”
Excuse me pelagius, but is this not the whole issue? To explain wave collapse? And they can’t even explain “single” outcomes”?
decoherence from all I can tell is very much like the modern synthesis of neo-Darwinian evolution, in that you have all this mathematical postulation and hyperbole of what is happening, and yet when it comes time to deliver the goods it fails for it can’t even explain the most basic “single element of the phenomena in question! (i.e. evolution can’t explain even one instance of novel functional information from a material basis) shoot pelagius, decoherence can’t even muster so much as what the “uncertain variables” of Einstein sought to explain, and yet the “uncertain variables” which at least addressed the primary issue at hand of observer centered wave collapse were dealt a fatal blow last year:
Quantum Measurements: Common Sense Is Not Enough, Physicists Show – July 2009
Excerpt: scientists have now proven comprehensively in an experiment for the first time that the experimentally observed phenomena cannot be described by non-contextual models with hidden variables. http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....142824.htm
(of note: hidden variables were postulated to remove the need for “spooky” forces, as Einstein termed them—forces that act instantaneously at great distances, thereby breaking the most cherished rule of relativity theory, that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.)
thus pelagius, seeing such profound foundational discontinuity within your explanation for why the waves collapse, I am rather comfortable with the very Theistic friendly consciousness centered quantum world! In fact after reviewing the extreme effort that went into trying to falsify Wigner’s position with “decoherence”, and yet its utter lack of explanatory power for even “single events of wave collapse” I would say I am now much more comfortable.
The Mental Universe – Richard Conn Henry – Professor of Physics John Hopkins University
Excerpt: The only reality is mind and observations, but observations are not of things. To see the Universe as it really is, we must abandon our tendency to conceptualize observations as things.,,, The Universe is immaterial — mental and spiritual. Live, and enjoy.
The Mental Universe
Never heard Brian Eno’s album Discreet Music, have you?
Thanks to pelagius for the post at 169 about Chalmers. That was interesting.
That’s yet another one of those bold assertions without any proof.
Remember, in a different thread I had challenged you to actually apply the concept of ‘function information’ as introduced by you to a biological system. You, however, first failed and then flaked out.
Can you or can you not apply functional information on any system where evolution has been observed to occur? Of course not. You just like to imply that you can.
Aleta in 147
“The issue here is in which direction, so to speak, do things happen. Do the laws exist and the world follows the laws – i.e. the laws are metaphysical prescriptions that impose themselves on reality from the outside, or are the laws after-the-fact descriptions of the behavior of the world?
I believe it is the latter: the laws follow the world, the world doesn’t follows the laws. This is an age-old philosophical issue, and, in terms of the title of this thread, represents two different worldviews.”
1. Laws of logic are always true
2. Thus sense perceptions are always logical (logical reason can be found for them)
3. Hence make a infinite set A
1. Laws of logic have been found to be true after finite x sense perceptions
2. For 1 to be true x sense perceptions are necessarily logical (your memories are even somewhat correct, you are not living in a matrix, you can perceive what is logical and what is not etc.)
3. Thus prescriptive logic has to be necessarily assumed before descriptive statements can be made
4. Hence set x is subset of A and prescriptive logic is true
So it’s clear that after the fact finding of logic is indeed impossible because prescriptive logic has to be assumed before any “finding” can even begin to take place. Thus both of the axioms are true or both are false. For anyone to be consistently rational or logical they cannot believe only in the descriptive axiom.
In comment #173 stephenB wrote:
Wrong. Some do, myself included. However, “understanding” the reality of these two realms and explaining why they exist and/or come to be are two entirely different things. In the absence of a empirically verifiable cause, stephenB’s solution seems always to be “God did it”, whereas my response is “we don’t know”. Which of these two responses is more warranted, given the evidence available?
The answer, it seems to me, is once again dependent on one’s worldview. If your worldview is grounded on the axiomatic assertion that, whenever one encounters a situation that cannot be empirically explained, then one simply asserts (without evidence) that “God did it”.
However, if your worldview is grounded on the axiomatic assertion that, whenever one encounters a situation that cannot be empirically explained one must remain silent (as Wittgenstein asserts in Thesis 1.8), then “darüber muss man schweigen“.
Once again, wrong. At least some scientists (myself included) believe that life (and, perhaps, consciousness) is a necessary outcome of the evolution of a universe with the laws that ours exhibits. Far from being a “coincidence”, a “comprehensible universe” and beings who can comprehend it may very well be inevitable, rather than coincidental.
very nicely put innerbling:
to add weight to prescriptive logic; this last part of this video has a excellent example that prescriptive logic tells “the world” what to do.
Finely Tuned Big Bang, Elvis In The Multiverse, and the Schroedinger Equation – Granville Sewell – video
BTW, this was Carl Sagan’s position on the origin of life and consciousness: that it seemed to him to be a virtually inevitable outcome of the operation of the laws of nature in our universe. This is what inspired him to set in motion all of those programs we now identify with SETI. If one thinks that life and consciousness in the universe is inevitable, one can easily set out to look for it. If one thinks that life and consciousness has only happened once, what would be the point of looking for it anywhere else?
P.S. I don’t know this about Carl Sagan from his writings, I know it from personal acquaintance.
Allen in 179
“The answer, it seems to me, is once again dependent on one’s worldview. If your worldview is grounded on the axiomatic assertion that, whenever one encounters a situation that cannot be empirically explained, then one simply asserts (without evidence) that “God did it”.”
Allen your answer to StephenB is a bit condescending or do you really believe that Christians just assert “God did it” whenever we see something we cannot explain?
For kalam’s cosmological argument for example my only options are
1. it’s true hence God exists
2. it’s false and thus reality is irrational
If false reality is necessarily irrational because any materialistic explanation can be divided into two sets A and B.
A) Matter is infinitely old and thus reality is irrational
B) Causation is false and thus reality is irrational
In comment #173 stephenB also wrote:
These three alternatives comprise a reasonably concise summary of agnosticism, theism, and atheism/materialism, at least when applied to the question of “How did X come to be?” in those cases in which X is a phenomenon that can be empirically investigated.
For example, if one asks “How did the universe come to be?”, in the absence of any empirical evidence, one could reasonably answer “I/we don’t know” (agnosticism), “God created it” (theism), or “It simply came into being on its own” (atheism/materialism), and all three answers would be warranted, depending on one’s worldview.
Notice that this question is not the same as asking “How did the universe come to have the characteristics we observe in it now (i.e. after having come into existence). Unlike the first question, that question can be answered with reference to empirically verifiable processes, and therefore one need not leave open stephenB’s three alternatives (i.e. agnostic and theistic responses would not be warranted).
However, stephenB did not ask “How did the universe come to be?”, s/he asked “Was the universe caused or not?” Despite their similar construction, these are not the same questions at all. On the contrary, asking if something has a cause is most emphatically not the same as asking what that cause was.
In other words, one can still validly assert that something had a cause, without knowing what that cause was. Indeed, I think it is stephenB’s assertion that everything that exists (whether material or immaterial) must have a cause, otherwise it would not exist. Ergo, one can assert that the universe was caused without having the faintest idea about how this came about.
To state this formally:
Major Premise: “All things that exist (whether material or immaterial) are caused.”
Minor Premise: “The universe exists.”
Conclusion: “The universe was caused.”
Notice that one can make exactly the same logical assertion about the origin of consciousness:
Major Premise: “All things that exist (whether material or immaterial) are caused.”
Minor Premise: “Consciousness exists.” [c.f. Decartes; I know that consciousness exists because I, at least, am conscious]
Conclusion: “Consciousness was caused.” 
Notice also that in neither of these cases do we have any idea of how these things came to exist, only that they were caused. To me (and thank you, stephenB, for making this clear), this is the only logically supportable conclusion to which one can come, given the axiom that “All things that exist have a cause.”
To me, while mildly interesting from an intellectual point of view, this conclusion is also trivial. It does not help us in the slightest to determine how (much less why) anything exists, which is what I perceive to be the whole point to scientific investigation. Yes, there are some questions (e.g. “How did the universe come to be?”) that are simultaneously not trivial in the sense referenced above, but also not answerable given our current state of knowledge. Under such conditions, it seems to me that the most (indeed, only) warranted answer is “We don’t know”, and as a scientist, I would immediately follow that response with “Let’s find out, if we can.”
Finally, to make it perfectly clear what I have accepted as warranted and what I have not, I do not accept as warranted the assertion that “caused” = “designed”. This, once again, is essentially an axiomatic assertion, rather than an assertion grounded in empirical investigation (except in those cases in which one can observe/has observed a designer actually doing the designing that is the “cause” of the phenomenon in question).
Yes, one can construct arguments by analogy, in which one asserts that something “appears to be designed” because it appears to be similar to those things we know are designed, but as I have pointed out on numerous occasions in the past, arguments by analogy (i.e. by “transduction”) alone have no necessary validity whatsoever. What validity they may have must be determined by some other form of argument besides simple analogy; by induction, deduction, abduction, or consilience. For more on this point, see:
 Notice that this formal treatment of the origin of consciousness says absolutely nothing about its “nature”. That is, it does not in any way answer the question of whether or not consciousness is entirely “material”, a position with which both Chalmers and I disagree.
innerbling in comment #178:
I would agree, but only when one is referring to deductive (i.e. Aristotelian, or “classical”) logic. That is, the “laws” of deductive logic are…well, perhaps “true” is not the right word. How about “valid”, in the sense that if one follows the rules of deductive logic, one’s conclusions are always valid, but they may also be obviously untrue.
For example, if one asserts as a major premise “All residents of Ithaca are liberals”, and then asserts “Allen is an Ithaca resident”, then the only valid conclusion is that “Allen is a liberal”. But I’m not: that is, the major premise is false, and so despite the fact that the minor premise follows from the major premise, and the conclusion follows from the minor premise (i.e. is deductively valid), the entire syllogism is false, as it is based upon a false major premise.
Furthermore, it should be obvious that major premises by themselves cannot be shown to be valid or invalid via deduction. To do so would be purely circular reasoning, and any conclusions derived from such reasoning are completely unwarranted.
In the context of this thread, it is also the case that major premises that are based on axiomatic worldviews are also not necessarily valid either. Simply asserting a major premise that flows from one’s worldview is no guarantee whatsoever that such a premise is indeed valid.
Ergo, for our conclusions about empirical reality to be warranted, some other form of reasoning must be used to formulate major premises. In the natural sciences, the methods used to formulate major premises are (in order of increasing confidence): induction, abduction, and consilience. And yes, according to this worldview (i.e. the worldview of the empirical/natural sciences), there is no such thing as “truth”, there is only greater or lesser degrees of confidence (usually expressed as the outcome of some form of statistical analysis).
And yes, this often leaves a person committed to the empirical method in a position of “unknowing”. Some people find this condition extremely unsettling, while others find it exciting. Which way one feels under such conditions often determines whether one becomes a scientist or not. Most scientists find uncertainty tantalizing, as it means there is more to investigate. Many non-scientists find the same uncertainty frustrating, if not frightening. Hence, at least part of C. P. Snow’s “two cultures” derives from the different experiences scientists and non-scientists have in the presence of uncertainty.
The not-quote part:
I like this. A test based upon a prediction based upon a worldview.
The results should be illuminating.
—-Allen: However, stephenB did not ask “How did the universe come to be?”, s/he asked “Was the universe caused or not?” Despite their similar construction, these are not the same questions at all. On the contrary, asking if something has a cause is most emphatically not the same as asking what that cause was.”
Exactly right. Thank you.
Allen: [Acknowledging two realms] Some do, myself included. However, “understanding” the reality of these two realms and explaining why they exist and/or come to be are two entirely different things.”
I didn’t know that you accepted two realms until I read your response to BA 77 pertaining to “dualism.” Thank you for that information.
In comment #183 innerbling wrote:
No, from the foregoing it seems to me that stephenB asserts that “God did it” whenever we observe something that has a cause…which, according to stephenB, is everything. To me, this makes the assertion “God causes everything” simultaneously very grand and also completely pointless (and certainly not explanatory, in the usual sense of that word).
stephenB in comment #189:
You’re quite welcome.
—Allen: At least some scientists (myself included) believe that life (and, perhaps, consciousness) is a necessary outcome of the evolution of a universe with the laws that ours exhibits. Far from being a “coincidence”, a “comprehensible universe” and beings who can comprehend it may very well be inevitable, rather than coincidental.”
Here I must take issue. The orderliness of the laws must be explained, and the only reasonable explanation is that orderliness comes from one who does the ordering. But even if you don’t accept previous point, the “necessary outcome” itself must be explained– that same necessary outcome, by the way, that seemed to scandalize you earlier and which prompted you to use the word “determinism” with disapproval. But, let’s move onward. Why is it necessary? Clearly, IF it was necessary, as you now suggest, it was necessary because it was set up to “unfold that way.” To pass that off to an “evolutionary process” is to beg the question for the same reason. The reality and the logic of the evolutionary process must be explained AND the power/energy that initiates/drives/sustains it must be explained.
Thus, the law of causality is not “trivial” as you suggested earlier. Once we have already established that nothing can come into existence without a cause, several logical errors that hide behind the scenes can be identified and eliminated.
Of course, one can argue fruitlessly that the Universe/time/space always existed, but we do, as you well know, have empirical evidence that such was not the case.
In comment #192 stephenB wrote:
Not quite; I would reword this as follows:
“If it was necessary, it was necessary because it was set up that way.”
In other words, the teleological qualifier “to” seems to me to be unnecessary.
When I wrote to Stephen, “You say there is nothing in matter that can explain mind. And how do you know that? And I presume you would say that there is nothing in non-life that can explain life – how do you know that?”, he replied,
“I have already explained that the law of causality disallows more in the effect that was present in the cause.”
But that doesn’t answer the question: you accept that somehow tornadoes were present in the beginning state of the universe, but that life wasn’t, but you offer no criteria or evidence to distinguish why you think as you do. Just asserting that one was present and one wasn’t when in fact both are here doesn’t establish that you are right, or even give me anything to discuss further about the situation.
As to the cause of the universe, Stephen writes, “In any case, I still don’t know what you believe about causality. Was the universe caused or not? It would really help a lot if you could say, [A] I don’t know, in which case that would be an admission that you aren’t really sure about causality, [B] Yes, it was, in which case that would be an affirmation of the law of causality, or [C] No, it was not, in which case that would be a denial of causality, and he adds other comments about being unsure of my position.
However I think I have clearly stated my position:
At 151: “I don’t know why the universe is here, and I have said that I don’t know whether our concept of cause, which is based on our understanding of how this world works, applies to how our universe came to be. If there is some larger reality from which our universe came, I have no idea whether its fundamental concepts and logic are like the fundamental concepts and logic of our world or not: the idea of cause as we know it might now even apply.”
I think that’s pretty clear. I don’t believe the law of causality is a non-negotiable principle, because, as I’ve said, “We know whether the law applies by looking at the evidence, and the evidence is extremely strong that causality pervades our universe: time and time again we have found antecedent reasons for things. Just because the law might not apply at some extreme boundary conditions does not throw the whole law into jeopardy, and I’ve said (I can’t find the quote) that I’m aware enough of the limitations of the human perspective that I think it is unwarranted to think that what I believe about this world – that causality pertains, necessarily applies to whatever metaphysical reality of which or out of which our universe exists.
So I think I’ve pretty much covered this topic – not to your satisfaction, of course.
And last, you write, “”Why do you believe that there are causes behind the “emergence of life” and the “emergence of mind?”
Because I believe that in this world the law of causality applies. 🙂
This is an ironic question: you complain that I don’t accept the law of causality because I don’t know whether it applies to the origin of the universe, and yet you complain that I do accept the law of causality when it comes to life and mind.
Which takes us back to what I think is the main issue that I started this post with:
Also, I don’t disapprove of determinism per se. On the contrary, scientists in general (and this includes me) are determinists, in that we believe that natural laws “determine” much of what we observe in the universe around us.
Rather, I find “universal” determinism (or, if you prefer “pan-determinism”) objectionable, as it asserts that everything that happens is determined, and therefore that nothing happens by chance. That some things do happen “by chance” is an integral part, not only of evolutionary biology, but of all of the branches of the natural sciences of which I am aware.
Furthermore, if some events happen “by chance”, then historical contingency is a real phenomenon, and things like Stephen J. Gould’s “rewinding the tape from the Cambrian” and not arriving inevitably with the evolution of humans (or even vertebrates) become real possibilities.
Note also that observing that some things happen “by chance” does not mean that such events are not “caused”. Clearly, whether a flipped coin turns up heads or tails is an outcome that is determined “by chance”, but nevertheless is “caused” (i.e. by flipping the coin).
I realize that some people assert that the outcome of a coin flip isn’t a good example of the operation of “chance”, but rather an example of insufficient knowledge about the dynamics of what is actually a fully determined process. That is, if one could know everything about the conditions under which the coin is flipped, one could determine precisely what the outcome of the flip was.
Ergo, please feel free to substitute the phrase “whether or not a particular radioacive nucleus will decay during a specified time interval” for “the outcome of a coin flip”. With this substitution, I believe that my overall point remains valid: that events that happen “by chance” are nonetheless “caused”.
Finally, to anticipate possible charges that I am once again being inconsistent, my assertion that some things can happen “by chance” does not conflict with my suspicion that the natural laws that we observe in operation in the universe may make the origin of life and consciousness inevitable. This is because life and consciousness are processes, and as such can be performed by any entities that fulfill the starting conditions specified in the natural laws that bring them about.
In other words, life and consciousness may be inherent outcomes of the natural evolution of a universe like ours, but life exactly like life on Earth and consciousness exactly like that which I experience is not a necessary outcome of such laws.
Indeed, I am reminded of this every time I play with my two older sons, both of whom are red-green colorblind. I am not, and so we experience the universe in ways that are not exactly commensurate. That is, our “consciousnesses” are not the same, and the differences between our conscious experience of reality is the result of a contingent historical accident of genetic inheritance.
And now my youngest son, Draco (just turned three), wants a graham cracker while he watches “The Fellowship of the Ring”, and the viruses I was fighting last night are rallying their forces for another assault on my upper respiratory tract, and so I must take my leave for now…
Aleta, you accept the law of cause and effect for every instance in the universe save for the most important one of all (the creation of the material universe itself). You do this with this play on words you stated:
“Just because the law (cause and effect) might not apply at some extreme boundary conditions (i.e. the creation of the entire material universe) does not throw the whole law into jeopardy”
which brings this verse to mind:
And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!
You seem to accept the law when it is convenient for you, within your materialistic framework, but once it is applied directly to the transcendent origin of the entire material universe itself so as to directly to the question at hand of consciousness transcending material, and the fantastic complexity that dwarfs our puny understanding in life, you back off and say “well the material universe itself might or might not have a cause”
I think Dr. Durston drives the point home well when he says you might as well go ahead and throw the entire scietific method out the window if you deny cause and effect.
Does God Exist? – Argument From The Origin Of Nature – Kirk Durston – video
I believed I’ve addressed your questions, bornagain. This is because I accept my limits, and so I’m not willing to extrapolate my beliefs based on this world to whatever world that might be beyond this world.
This is just a shot in the dark, but are you at all a fan of Robert Lanza? And I’m talking specifically here about his Biocentrism writings.
Your “materialistic beliefs” seems to be what is preventing you from extrapolating in the first place but it is in fact your materialistic belief/worldview which is being questioned in the first place. Thus this explains the extreme state of denialism that you are in for it is not easy to squarely face ones cherished worldview and admit it is grossly deficient of truth.
Why Quantum Theory Does Not Support Materialism – By Bruce L Gordon:
Excerpt: Because quantum theory is thought to provide the bedrock for our scientific understanding of physical reality, it is to this theory that the materialist inevitably appeals in support of his worldview. But having fled to science in search of a safe haven for his doctrines, the materialist instead finds that quantum theory in fact dissolves and defeats his materialist understanding of the world.
203 is addressed to Aleta:
And I don’t deny cause-and-effect: refusing to extrapolate beyond what I think are reasonable boundaries does not invalidate my acceptance of causality within the scope of this world. I see this as an act of intellectual humility.
Aleta, very interesting, It just so happens to be extremely convenient for you that this “humility” is found in you when it bears directly on the question at hand, yet for you to then resolutely demand that there is some unknown material cause for life and consciousness, then all of the sudden humility is no longer found. very convenient indeed.
Allen in 185:
“Furthermore, it should be obvious that major premises by themselves cannot be shown to be valid or invalid via deduction. To do so would be purely circular reasoning, and any conclusions derived from such reasoning are completely unwarranted.”
That is why major premises are constructed in a such a way that the major premises cannot be improved upon by further evidence i.e premises such as world is rational, 1 + 1 = 2, all bachelors are single, whatever begins to exist has a cause etc. cannot be improved with further evidence. Successful syllogism is constructed in a such a way that if anyone rejects the premises as a conclusion she also has to reject rationality.
Allen further continues:
“In the context of this thread, it is also the case that major premises that are based on axiomatic worldviews are also not necessarily valid either. Simply asserting a major premise that flows from one’s worldview is no guarantee whatsoever that such a premise is indeed valid.”
Yes I agree I am a finite being or potentially infinite being and such I cannot be certain of anything and that is why I have to have faith. At best only thing I can do is to do comparative study between worldviews i.e which worldview makes rationality possible and which doesn’t and have faith in the worldview where rationality is possible. I find it quite impossible to construct a rational worldview on atheistic or pantheistic point of view because the foundations are missing i.e. nothing is grounded on anything.
P.S I hope that you will get well soon so we can continue the interesting discussion.
Bornagain writes, ‘Your “materialistic beliefs” seems to be what is preventing you from extrapolating in the first place but it is in fact your materialistic belief/worldview which is being questioned in the first place. Thus this explains the extreme state of denialism that you are in for it is not easy to squarely face ones cherished worldview and admit it is grossly deficient of truth.”
One could say that your theistic beliefs are what make you think you can extrapolate, and conclude that God exists. Both of us have philosophical worldview. In my opinion, you make an unwarranted jump, and in your opinion I refuse to make that jump (because I think it is unwarranted). Those are decisions we chose to make.
However, I certainly don’t believe you can prove you are right, and therefore I don’t think you are justified in claiming that my worldview is “grossly deficient of truth”.
And what you call “denialism” I call realism: I’m not willing to believe things for which I think there is insufficient evidence: I would rather live with the uncertainty of not knowing than believe things that are not true, and even though I don’t know what the answer is to these questions is I feel securely comfortable in believing the answer is not “God”.
Well Aleta you state,
“I’m not willing to believe things for which I think there is insufficient evidence:”
so please provide your “sufficient” evidence that material particles exist in the first place:
Each and every sub-atomic particle in the atom, (proton, neutron, electron etc..) is subject to the laws of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is about as far away from the solid material particle, that materialism had predicted as the basis of reality, as can be had.
Uncertainty Principle – The “Non-Particle” Basis Of Reality – video and article
“Atoms are not things”
then you state:
I would rather live with the uncertainty of not knowing than believe things that are not true (i.e. God),
Simple if what you believe is absolutely true (That God is not true) just simply describe to me exactly how you derived this absolute transcendent truth from a transient material basis. Please tell me exactly to which material parameter that you will appeal in order to invalidate God and to prove God is not true?
also of note: the most solid indestructible “things” in the atom are the transcendent universal constants that have not varied one iota since the universe’s creation.
Aleta in 208
“And what you call “denialism” I call realism: I’m not willing to believe things for which I think there is insufficient evidence.”
As I already explained in my somewhat rational syllogism you cannot derive rational worldview through description only as it is not consistent. You have to believe in logic and reason before you can even to begin to make that statement without any evidence whatsoever thus even in your worldview you have to believe in “things” with insufficient evidence. Thus the entire statement is obviously inconsistent and fallacious.
Bornagain77 in 182
Thanks for the compliment and the clip. 😀
Bornagain writes, “so please provide your “sufficient” evidence that material particles exist in the first place. Each and every sub-atomic particle in the atom, (proton, neutron, electron etc..) is subject to the laws of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is about as far away from the solid material particle, that materialism had predicted as the basis of reality, as can be had.”
This is not a substantial point, BA. I accept modern knowledge about the nature of the material world, and I know full well that table are not “solid.”
More substantially, you write, “Simple if what you believe is absolutely true (That God is not true) just simply describe to me exactly how you derived this absolute transcendent truth from a transient material basis. Please tell me exactly to which material parameter that you will appeal in order to invalidate God and to prove God is not true?”
I didn’t say that I can prove that God doesn’t exist, and I never claimed to have derived any “absolute transcendent truth” – I don’t even believe in “absolute transcendent truths”. What I’ve said is that I don’t think that the existence of some transcendental being can be investigated, so it seems much more reasonable to not believe than to believe. There are jillions of things that could be true but are beyond investigation, and I don’t waste my time thinking how I could disprove them, or worrying about the effects of not believing them. There are hundreds of world religions, all sorts of new-agey beliefs, preposterous crank theories, and even some spiritual perspectives that appeal to me, but there is no way to show which, if any, are true, so I prefer to chose to limit my beliefs, and live with not knowing where that seems warranted.
Aleta in 212
“I didn’t say that I can prove that God doesn’t exist, and I never claimed to have derived any “absolute transcendent truth” – I don’t even believe in “absolute transcendent truths”.”
I am sorry but that statement is completely inane because the belief “there are no absolute transcendent truths” would be a absolute transcendent truth! Even more importantly if you really think that you cannot make truthful statements why do you even post here? To confuse?
Innerbling illustrates a key confusion in these discussions when he writes,
“Aleta in 212
“I didn’t say that I can prove that God doesn’t exist, and I never claimed to have derived any “absolute transcendent truth” – I don’t even believe in “absolute transcendent truths”.”
I am sorry but that statement is completely inane because the belief “there are no absolute transcendent truths” would be a absolute transcendent truth! Even more importantly if you really think that you cannot make truthful statements why do you even post here? To confuse?”
Any time I say I don’t believe something I don’t mean that I think I am absolutely right. My belief that “there are no absolute transcendent truths” is on the sum total of my experience and knowledge and study of the world. Like all truths about the world, in my opinion, it is tentative in the sense that new evidence could change my mind, but at this point the evidence, for me, is conclusive enough for me to choose this as a belief.
To people like Innerbling, Bornagain, and Stephen, the denial of absolute truths undercuts the notion of truth entirely because absolute truths are the foundation upon which other truths stand. But that is not the case for me: I have a different foundation for truth. To them, anything not resting on their idea of absolute truth can have no “real” validity.
So when I talk about what I believe, I am offering a perspective based on my 60 years of experience. I’ve studied religion, science, the history of science, philosophy, mathematics and other expressions of the culture of mankind, and I’ve had many significant life events (as have we all) from which to learn and grow and ponder the human condition. From all that I have reached conclusions that I offer as my beliefs, not because I am certain that each and every one is true, and not because they rest on any transcendental foundation, but because they are what, based on all the evidence and experience I have had, I currently choose as the most reasonable thing to believe.
Aleta in 214
“To people like Innerbling, Bornagain, and Stephen, the denial of absolute truths undercuts the notion of truth entirely because absolute truths are the foundation upon which other truths stand. But that is not the case for me: I have a different foundation for truth. To them, anything not resting on their idea of absolute truth can have no “real” validity.”
Like I explained to Allen I am fully aware that I am a finite being and as such I lack omniscience which would be required to know the absolute truth about something. As a finite being I believe I can only make contingent approximations of the truth values. Statement “All bachelors are single” is true as long as reality is rational if it’s not there might be a married bachelor somewhere.
As a finite being I have to have faith that I am living in a rational universe because no one can prove that universe is rational and that there exists absolute truth values which I can approximate with my finite understanding. As far as I can see the only rational worldview is a Christian one and as a consequence I am a Christian.
But I think there are other rational worldviews. We have chosen different paths.
By the way, “all bachelors are single” is true be definition. It is a statement about the agreed upon meanings of words, not the real world.
Aleta, I definitely dont agree with your logic, yet I respect your “choice” of a different path, but before you go on to something else I want to share with you something personal that severely rocked the way I looked at this world;
One Easter Sunday Sunrise Service
Here is a true story of a miracle that happened in my life in 1989.
I was living in Lancaster, California in the high desert of southern California. I was invited to go to a sunrise service, with a church called the Vineyard, for Easter. The Saturday night before the service I was going to bed around 10:00 p.m.; I had no alarm clock to get me up at 4:30 a.m., so I prayed a simple prayer, “Lord, if you want me to go to the sunrise service, could you please wake me at 4:30 am”. I went to sleep, and at exactly 4:30 a.m. my roommate tripped on a rug on his way back from the restroom and fell right on top of me in my bed. I woke up, got up, and dressed . I went down to the doughnut shop where the church was meeting, so we could drive down to the place together to our Easter sunrise service.
On the drive the sky was a clear star filled night turning to dawn. When we got to the place, of the service, the sky was still clear. Let me take a moment to tell you what the place looked like. The spot of our service was on a twenty-five yard-wide ledge which was part of a huge quarter mile deep bowl in the earth. Next to the bowl were some quarter mile high foothills. The bowl was full of giant boulders, here and there, the evidence of violent tectonic activity was everywhere, brush and trees held on wherever they could get a foothold in the earth.
As we were bringing down our musical gear from the parking lot to the ledge, clouds started to come around the foothills, building up, threatening our view of the sunrise. But, undeterred, we set up anyway. When we finally were set up, we started to sing our worship music to God. Then,…IT STARTED TO SNOW…in southern California in April…but the amazing thing about this (dry) snow is the WAY it was falling. The snow was moving in rhythm with our music!!! When we would slow down, the snow would slow down; when we sang faster, the snow fell faster; and due to the updraft from the bowl, when we would hold a note the snow would catch an updraft for that moment and hold still in front of us. This was, how shall I put it .. VERY STRANGE!! SYNCHRONICITY INDEED…Then, as we stopped singing, the snow stopped. Then, while the pastor was giving the message about Jesus triumph over death, the snow was stopped but the sky was still cloudy, When our pastor asked if anyone would like to accept Jesus as their savior, right at the very second, when people started to put their hands up to accept Jesus into their hearts, the sun broke through the clouds and started shining down on us. What a truly heartfelt moment that was. It was amazingly beautiful. The sun was shining through the trailing mist of the clouds, literally looking like a million diamonds sparkling in the sky. After the message, we sang again; As God would have it, the clouds came back again for yet one more snow dance with the music. When we finished, the snow finished. As we broke up our musical gear, the clouds broke up. And, as we drove away, the sky was perfectly clear again, just as it had been when we had arrived. Needless to say, we were all pinching ourselves to make sure we were awake and had really seen what we had seen. I’m very fond of the memory of that morning, because, best of all, my best friend, who went with me, was convinced of Gods reality, by God’s own power and not by any of the arguments I was trying to persuade him with. When you really think about it, a miracle is truly the only way to convince someone that has reservations, that all this talk going around about heaven and Jesus is, in fact, very real, indeed.
In comment #207 innerbling wrote:
This statement strikes me as both untrue and, if rigorously put into practice, bizarre to the point of absurdity. Untrue, because it is certainly not the case that all deductive syllogisms are constructed in such as way as for their conclusions to be true a priori. On the contrary, the method of constructing syllogisms and the logic upon which it based says absolutely nothing about the truth value of the content of the major premises used in such construction.
For example, there is nothing to stop me from constructing the following syllogism:
Major Premise: Evolutionary biologists are atheists.
Minor Premise: Allen MacNeill is an evolutionary biologist.
Conclusion: Allen MacNeill is an atheist.
By the rules of deductive logic, this conclusion is absolutely “true”, in that it follows logically from the major and minor premises. But, as I have stated unequivocally on many past occasions, this conclusion is absolutely false. Why? Because I am not an atheist. Now, one may respond to this assertion using any number of logically fallacious arguments. The “no true Scotsman” fallacy comes immediately to mind:
Major Premise: All true evolutionary biologists are atheists.
Minor Premise: Allen MacNeill is not an atheist.
Conclusion: Allen MacNeill is not a true evolutionary biologist.
Indeed, I have had quite a few creationists and ID supporters (and even a few evolutionary biologists) assert exactly this argument, which is not only logically fallacious but personally insulting.
Deductive statements are constructed all the time in which the “truth” of the major premises are asserted, rather than valid a priori. Indeed, several participants in this thread have constructed several of these already.
Furthermore, if the only valid syllogisms are those in which the major premises are true, then how is the truth value of such premises determined? Certainly not by the process of deductive reasoning, as it is clearly the case that a deductive syllogism can come to an “invalid” conclusion while abiding strictly by the rules of logical deduction.
Indeed, it seems to me that innerbling’s assertion that all deductive logical statements are already true a priori, as only “true” major premises may be used in constructing renders all such deductive statements both pointless and useless for the determination of actual truth, as opposed to logically deduced “truth”.
Which brings me once again to induction, abduction, and consilience as alternative means of finding validity in statements about the patterns we observe in the universe around us. Although extraordinarily powerful as means to formulating applicable (and testable) generalizations about observed objects and processes, these three forms of reasoning cannot produce the kind of absolute, incontrovertible “truth” that is produced by the application of deductive reasoning. However, as I hope is clear by now, I put virtually no store in purely deductive reasoning; indeed, I believe that the exclusive use of deductive reasoning can lead to serious error, and even monstrous evil (consider, for example, the ethical implications of the assertion of the major premise, “Aryans are the master race”).
To sum up, deductive reasoning (and deductive reasoning alone) is the only logical method for arriving at conclusions that are incontrovertibly “absolutely true”. As such, and when applied without the other three forms of logic (i.e. induction, abduction, and consilience), deduction alone can lead to both incontrovertible error and great evil.
Aleta, It is obvious that you do not grasp the essence of our discussion.
[A] I pointed out that materialists like yourself practice SELECTIVE CAUSALITY, picking and choosing which times you accept the law of cause and effect.
[B]You respond by saying that it isn’t true.
[C] So, when I follow up and ask you whether you accept causality, you respond by saying that you sometimes do, but not always.
If you cannot see the irony and the humor and in your position, you are lagging way behind in this dialogue.
—Aleta: “By the way, “all bachelors are single” is true be definition. It is a statement about the agreed upon meanings of words, not the real world.”
Yes, but the law of non-contradiction, the law of the excluded middle, and the law of causality DO apply to the real world. We already know that you reject the law of causality. Where to you stand on those other two laws from which the law of causality is derived.
Stephen, can you explain why – by what criteria and in respect to what evidence, you believe that tornadoes are “present in” the beginning state of the universe, but life is not? You assert this, but you offer nothing to back up your assertion. Can you elaborate?
Allen in 219
“This statement strikes me as both untrue and, if rigorously put into practice, bizarre to the point of absurdity. Untrue, because it is certainly not the case that all deductive syllogisms are constructed in such as way as for their conclusions to be true a priori. On the contrary, the method of constructing syllogisms and the logic upon which it based says absolutely nothing about the truth value of the content of the major premises used in such construction.”
First of all I am sorry I made a mistake when I said: Successful syllogism is constructed in a such a way that if anyone rejects the premises as a conclusion she also has to reject rationality.
Should have been: Successful syllogism is constructed in a such a way that if anyone rejects the major premises as a conclusion she also has to reject rationality. The major premises purpose is to connect the syllogism with reality.
Of course saying that: “anyone who rejects premises of all coherent logical syllogism’s is irrational” would be quite absurd thing to say as the whole syllogism may be false like the Allen’s example “all evolutionary biologist are atheists…”. However to reject the major premise of some successful logical arguments like: “all bachelors are single, whatever begins to exist has a cause, all men are mortal…” would be quite irrational. This doesn’t however mean that rejecting the other following premises is necessarily irrational. I hope that clarifies my position as I think we are in agreement in this regard.
Allen further continues:
“Which brings me once again to induction, abduction, and consilience as alternative means of finding validity in statements about the patterns we observe in the universe around us.”
I absolutely agree however induction, abduction, and consilience only work only after one has accepted the prescriptive truth that the world is rational. There is no way to prove to a person that the world is rational through induction, abduction or consilience he just has to choose to believe that it is. How would you convince a true skeptic who believes that every sense perception is uncaused?
Induced sense perceptions create a pattern = just statistical anomalies and fallacious way to
Deductions = has no relevance to reality
Consilience = I don’t believe that other people exists…
Abduction = just fallacious to begin with…
It is clear that no one can but she has to freely choose to believe that the world is rational and
after that use induction etc to gain additive evidence for her belief.
As a conclusion I certainly do not say that the only way to gain knowledge is through deductive logic. I say that the only way to gain knowledge is through faith in induction, deduction, rationality and ultimately into God. We as finite beings are never in a position where we wouldn’t need faith.
I know that threads die, and that some of the same worldview issues have moved to the “morality” thread, but I’ll note that Stephen has not discussed how he knows what was “present” in past causes, and this can emerge, and what wasn’t, and thus can’t. His whole argument against emergence lies on circular assertions.
Re #224: It remains true that assertions are much easier stated than supported with fact. So, when challenged, it’s often best to simply abandon the assertion or ignore the challenger, rather than to support the assertion with fact.
There are prime examples of this tactic on many recent threads.
I always thought something more miraculous happened to you 1977.