Intelligent Design

Dr. Liddle responds to my question

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Over at the Skeptical Zone, Dr. Liddle has graciously responded to my post, A quick question for Dr. Liddle and other skeptics. I began by asking: “What is Dr. Liddle’s definition of “matter,” and why does Dr. Liddle believe that an intelligent being has to conform to that definition?”

What is matter?

In my post, I proposed seven possible definitions of matter, and in her response, Dr. Liddle gave an eclectic definition which invoked most of the criteria I had suggested. For Dr. Liddle, it is axiomatic that matter must be composed of “stuff,” although she adds that “the configuration and energy of that ‘stuff’ is also part of what I mean by ‘material.'” She also maintains that “an entity capable of intelligence and volition must have some non-zero quantity of mass-energy.” She stipulates that anything composed of matter must be spatially extended, but not necessarily within our universe, and that it must also be composed of “a great many nested parts.” Finally, she declares that matter must behave “in ways that can be predicted by laws,” where those laws are understood as “regularities that enable us to predict the world can be described mathematically, even if that math includes stochastic terms.”

That’s a fairly comprehensive definition, although I would note in passing that the criteria she uses for defining matter are a mixture of material (matter must be composed of spatially extended “stuff” associated with some quantity of “mass-energy”), formal (matter must be composed of nested parts, and it must be suitably configured) and epistemic (matter must behave in a way which is predictable, at least in a statistical sense), which invites the further question: is it the “stuff” that is ontologically basic, or its form, or the laws that it conforms to? Which is fundamental, and why? Dr. Liddle writes: “I include … configuration and energy in my definition, and these are extremely important.” She adds: “The same amount of matter (as in mass) in a different configuration and/or energy state would be a different ‘thing’ in my view, even though both ‘reduced’ to the same ‘matter’.” So it appears that for her, the most important thing about matter is its form.

Dr. Liddle mistakes me for a reductionist

Dr. Liddle continues:

As for why an intelligent being has to be a material entity, configured in a particular way, with particular energetic properties: well, I think that intelligence and volition in terrestrial animals, particularly large animals including us, is a capability that derives from the our material configurations as biological organisms with brains. In an earlier post of yours, in response to one of mine, I think you essentially agreed that “philosophical zombies” – in the sense of a physically identical being to, say, me, but without consciousness, is incoherent (forgive me if I misunderstood you). But that is certainly my position – that our capacity to think, intend, feel, perceive, act, love – are a direct consequence of our material configuration, and that a materially identical entity would necessarily have those capacities too. Conversely, I see no reason to think that an entity without that material configuration (or something comparable) could have those capabilities.

I am afraid Dr. Liddle has misunderstood the intent of my post, Zombies, duplicates, human beasts and consciousness. What I asserted in that post is that it was metaphysically impossible that there could be any beings which look and behave just like human beings, but which lack mental states of any sort. In other words, there are no zombies. I was particularly critical of the suggestion that there could be creatures that look like human beings and are capable of conversing just like a human being, but are incapable of reasoning: if this were true, it would warrant radical skepticism about other minds, and it would mean that we could never identify anything as the work of a mind. I added that I didn’t believe in duplicates either: indeed, I argued that it was metaphysically impossible that there could be any beings which look just like human beings (even if they behave differently), but which lack mental states of any sort. Finally, I asserted that it was metaphysically and nomologically possible but temporally and theologically impossible that there could be any beings which look just like human beings (even if they behave differently), and which also have lower-level mental states, but which lack the ability to reason.

Nowhere in my article, however, did I claim that the mental powers or mental states of human beings and other sentient animals were a consequence of their material configuration (as Dr. Liddle believes) or of their physical powers. What I did assert is that there are “law-like connections between physical events and lower-order mental events.” That is not the same thing as declaring that our lower-order mental capacities can be explained in terms of our physical capacities. To obtain that conclusion, you would need to assume the truth of reductionism: the view that higher-level properties are always explicable in terms of lower-level ones. But I’m not a reductionist, and I never claimed to be one.

My “top-down” view of mental states

For my part, the fact that I see the color red whenever a ripe tomato is placed before me, under normal viewing conditions, is a fundamental fact about me as a human being, and I certainly don’t think that the physical processes occurring in my brain and my environment in any way “explain” my mental experience of the color red. (To cause an event in a regular fashion is not the same thing as to explain that event.) Indeed, I find it a source of continually amazement that I can see any colors at all, under any conditions: “the vision splendid” is how I described it in my last post. Instead of embracing reductive materialism, I prefer a “top-down” explanation of my ability to undergo experiences: I think it is a fundamental fact about our universe that sentient creatures have experiences which are reliably caused by physical stimuli affecting their highly organized brains and nervous systems, and these mental states are just as fundamental a feature of the cosmos as the physical states that trigger them.

As regards our higher-level mental states, I was careful to state that there are no law-like connections between physical events and acts of the intellect and/or will – i.e. rational thoughts and rational choices. Hence there is no possibility of explaining these paradigmatically human mental states in terms of underlying physical states.

Does God have to be configured in the right way?

Even granting (for argument’s sake) that all intelligent life-forms existing in our universe – or even in the multiverse – have bodies which are configured in a very specific manner, and composed of nested parts, this would still fail to render the existence of a disembodied Deity unlikely. The reason is that at best, inductive logic is only valid within a category – and God, by His (or as Dr. Liddle would say, Her) very Nature, does not belong to any of the categories to which creatures belong. God, as the One in Whom we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28), is the very Author of all that is, upholding all things by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:17). Hence He exists on an altogether different plane of existence than ourselves: indeed, for classical theists, God is Being itself. For that reason, any attempt to reason about the nature of God, based on an inductive argument relating to all intelligent life-forms in the multiverse is as fallacious as trying to imagine what Walt Disney must have looked like, from looking at Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Goofy and Pluto Pup. It is an invalid inference.

Dr. Liddle on God and Goodness

In my post, I also asked Dr. Liddle: “If you believe God has somehow wronged us by creating a world like this one, then on what grounds do you say that?” Dr. Liddle responded:

…[W]hat I meant was that even if some incontrovertible evidence for an intentional intelligent designer of life, including human life (and I certainly don’t rule it out a priori) was to be produced (and I don’t find the ID arguments I’ve encountered so far persuasive), I don’t think that leads necessarily to the conclusion that that designer had human welfare as a high priority.

I think one could just as easily, on that evidence (i.e. that “an intentional intelligent designer” unspecified must have been involved) come to very different conclusions as to that designer’s intentions. And I find it completely circular when people argue that what is Good must be what God decrees is Good, and therefore God must be Good.

I do, in fact, believe in something, for want of a better word, I call “Good”…

I just don’t see any logical relationship between what is Good and how we came to be here.

Dr. Liddle went on to say that she did not regard the Designer as having wronged us by the mere fact of creating us, and that if she were the Designer, she would be disposed to create human beings, even in a “crooked” world where suffering was an unavoidable fact of life, because she would like someone to talk to, “and to appreciate my beautiful world.”

I would like to thank Dr. Liddle for her theological clarification. I attempted to derive the goodness of God in a recent post titled, Why the best arguments for the existence of God are not stupid, where I defended a privative concept of evil, according to which evil is not a “thing,” but a defect. I then argued that although God’s decision to create is a free one, God’s love for the creatures that He has chosen to make is simply an overflowing (or necessary consequence) of His love for Himself. On this topic, I quoted from the writings of the Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart:

God does not create like an omnipotent consumer choosing one world out of an infinity of possibilities that somehow stand outside of and apart from his own nature…

God creates the world of Jesus, the world conformed to his infinite love for his Son in the joy and light of the Spirit; he thereby also wills his goodness in all his creatures infinitely, which is to say he wills this world for eternal union with him in love, and he wills that we should become partakers of the divine nature.

There is no other world that God might have created, not because he is bound by necessity, but because he is infinitely free, and so nothing can hinder him from expressing his essential and infinite goodness perfectly, in and through the freedom of creatures created to be the fellows of his eternal Son.

That may seem obscurely phrased — it is, I know — but if one thinks through what it means to understand God as the transcendent source of all being, one must abandon the notion that God chooses to create in the way that I choose to buy blue drapes rather than red. God creates a realm of rational freedom that allows for a union between Creator and creature that is properly analogous to the Trinity’s eternal union of love; or, stated otherwise, God creates his own image in his creatures, with all that that may entail.

The emprirical evidence for God’s goodness

But where, it will be asked, is the empirical evidence that the Designer considers human welfare to be a high priority? In another, earlier post, I argued that the fine-tuning of the laws and constants of Nature, as well as their unexpected mathematical beauty – I say “unexpected” because there’s no logical connection between “mathematically elegant” and “liable to produce intelligent life” – is best explained by the hypothesis that there is an Intelligence at work in the natural world. I also explained why the multiverse doesn’t solve the fine-tuning problem, but merely pushes it up one level.

As if that were not enough, here’s an extract from a 2007 post by astrophysicist Dr. Hugh Ross:

On the Reasons To Believe website we document that the probability a randomly selected planet would possess all the characteristics intelligent life requires is less than 10-304. A recent update that will be published with my next book, Hidden Purposes: Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, puts that probability at 10-1054. In the book I wrote with Fuz Rana, Origins of Life, we describe a calculation performed by biophysicist Harold Morowitz in which he showed that if one were to break all the chemical bonds in an E. coli bacterium, the probability that it would reassemble under ideal natural conditions (in which no foreign elements or chemicals would invade and in which none of the necessary elements or chemicals would leave) would be no greater than 10-100,000,000,000. In another book I wrote with Fuz, Who Was Adam?, we describe calculations done by evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala and by astrophysicists John Barrow, Brandon Carter, and Frank Tipler for the probability that a bacterium would evolve under ideal natural conditions — given the presumption that the mechanisms for natural biological evolution are both effective and rapid. They determine that probability to be no more than 10-24,000,000.

This more recent talk by Dr. Ross, given in 2012, is also worth watching.

I’m not an astrophysicist, but I will say that attempts by materialists to undermine the Anthropic Principle by pointing to the discovery of planets on which water is capable of existing in a liquid state do not in any way address the probability of life emerging on those planets. As this article by Dr. Ross demonstrates, there’s much more to making life than forming a planet with liquid water.

What about the evil in the world?

In a follow-up post to my post on fine-tuning, I addressed the atheist’s Argument from Evil. I put forward no less than seven considerations which, taken collectively, considerably weaken the force of the Argument from Evil. I concluded that it is far from certain that God would not make a world like this one, in which injustice, confusion and senseless suffering sometimes occur. I allowed that the existence of natural evil in this world, taken as a whole, constitutes a strong prima facie argument against the existence of God, but I went on to say that since we cannot quantify the strength of this argument, we are not entitled to infer that God’s existence is even improbable, let alone impossible.

I added that in view of the much stronger evidence pointing the other way, towards a universe that was specifically designed for intelligent beings to do science in, and infer the existence of a Creator, it made more sense to believe in a God who has our interests, as an intelligent species, at heart.

A personal God?

As to whether God is loving in a personal sense: I have argued in another post that each and every person is an end-in-itself, and for God to treat a human person in an impersonal fashion would reflect a deficiency on His part; and since we know God must be free from deficiencies (since a defective Being could not serve as an Ultimate Explanation of everything, as its imperfection would have to be relative to some ideal external to and hence logically prior to itself), it therefore follows that God must be personal.

Notice that this line of argument is very different from arguing that “what is Good must be what God decrees is Good,” as Dr. Liddle asserts religious people are wont to do. All it assumes is the Kantian moral principle that persons are ends-in-themselves. I might add that while a theistic ethic which sees all persons as made in the image of a personal Creator supplies a warrant for this Kantian principle, a materialistic worldview which explains people in terms of the configurations of their constituent particles fails to provide any grounds for this exalted view of persons as the be-all and end-all of the cosmos.

Is Intelligent Design bad theology?

Finally, in another comment, Dr. Liddle added:

I think that ID, apart from being bad science (and I do think it is bad science) is also bad theology. I think “theistic evolution” makes much more sense theologically, and solves the theodicy problem very neatly. Suffering because a necessary part of existing, because a sentient intelligent loving being that cannot suffer makes no coherent sense in a natural world. I certainly don’t think evolution rules out theism, as I think I made clear.

What I would like to know is why Dr. Liddle thinks her preferred explanation of suffering (namely, that “a sentient intelligent loving being that cannot suffer makes no coherent sense in a natural world”) is in any way incompatible with Intelligent Design. The ID movement is a big tent, and I’m sure there are plenty of Intelligent Design proponents who would happily endorse Dr. Liddle’s matter-of-fact explanation – just as there are other ID advocates who would prefer to explanation suffering in terms of a cosmic Fall of our first parents and/or Satan and his angels, and still others who view suffering as part of God’s grand plan for the human race.

I hope that the foregoing exchange of views has “cleared the air” between Intelligent Design proponents and their thoughtful critics, over at the Skeptical Zone, and I would like to thank Dr. Liddle for her response.

43 Replies to “Dr. Liddle responds to my question

  1. 1
    Mapou says:

    The ideas that “matter must be composed of spatially extended “stuff”” and “of nested parts”, while seemingly true, lead to an infinite regress. IOW, both ideas are wrong right off the bat. A good definition of matter must do better than that, IMO.

  2. 2
    JGuy says:

    Mapou,

    Though not dogmatic on the following notion, that’s similar to one reason I think space and time are perhaps quantized… that is, that there is a smallest unit of each of these. I suppose that would apply to anything that is physically real (incld. matter). And that’s not to say that physical reality is explained, just that that is how it might be constructed. Even quantized, it would still need a cause to their origin, imo.

    Just a related thought question: If time was infinitely divisible and the same ‘substance’, then how does extending in some dimension through such a ‘substance’ make any sense?

  3. 3
    Mapou says:

    Jguy,

    There can be no doubt that we live in a discrete reality. The field concept of classical physics is based on continuous structures. In other words, it’s hogwash. And I don’t care how accurate special and general relativity theories are at making predictions. It’s all hogwash in my view, if for no other reason that relativity posits the existence of a physical time dimension. The irrefutable truth is that a physical time dimension would make motion impossible.

    I have concluded that neither space nor time exists physically, although they are based on the physical properties of particles. In the future, we will develop technologies that will allow us to travel instantly from anywhere to anywhere without going through the intervening positions. The relative, too, is abstract. Only the absolute exists.

  4. 4
    Joe says:

    Nice to see that keiths is still an ignorant moron on a “problem of evil and free will” spewage.

    I was under the impression that the souls who made it to Heaven were free of sin- meaning they chose not to sin here. So why would these good souls all of a sudden decide to sin in Heaven- a place where all is well and good?

    Keiths is just another cry-baby who wants to blame someone else for all of his problems. Grow up, keiths.

  5. 5
    Joe says:

    Here’s keiths’ “argument from ignorance”:

    Now consider heaven, a perfect place in which there is no evil. Do believers have free will in heaven?

    Suppose they do. In that case they are free to sin, but they choose not to – otherwise there would be sin in heaven. But if it’s possible for them to have free will and yet refrain from sinning, then why didn’t God create them that way in the first place? They would have had their free will and there would have been no evil in the world.

    That would be how we are judged- by who can help themselves and who cannot. Give people some rope- some will use it wisely while others will hang themselves. Don’t blame the rope giver.

    God could have done this, but he chose otherwise. Thus God is responsible for the evil in the world.

    Behold the reasoning of a cry-baby. “God let me do it. It’s God’s fault! I can’t help myself so it’s God’s fault.”

    Now suppose instead that there is no free will in heaven – our free wills are removed as we pass through the pearly gates, and we are thereafter unable to choose to do anything but the good. This raises an obvious question: if God is willing to deny us our free will for eternity, then why was it so important for us to have free will on earth?

    To see who is worthy of Heaven? I am pretty sure that is in most Christian teachings.

    If God is happy to have a heaven full of robots, then what is wrong with an earth full of them?

    Or you could just be totally off of your rocker, have absolutely no idea what you are talking about and you make stuff up because you are a child.

  6. 6
    vjtorley says:

    May I remind commenters that this is a civilized discussion forum. Penetrating criticisms of opponents’ viewpoints are welcome; personal insults are not. Thank you.

  7. 7
    Joe says:

    My apologies

  8. 8
  9. 9
    Joe says:

    Oh goodie, keiths has responded to my comment- well he didn’t really respond:


    I was under the impression that the souls who made it to Heaven were free of sin- meaning they chose not to sin here. So why would these good souls all of a sudden decide to sin in Heaven- a place where all is well and good?

    No, Joe. Christians believe that all of us are sinners.

    So new born babies are sinners- before they can actually do anything? My sister died when she was 3- she didn’t sin.

    But anyway, I was brought up a Christian, went to Catholic schools and I never heard of that- that Christians say all of us are sinners. And anyway it doesn’t matter what Christians say. They do not guard the gates of Heaven.

    I guess it all depends on what one calls a sin. It would be pretty tough proving someone violated God’s will unless one of the ten commandments was busted.

  10. 10
    Querius says:

    Joe,

    The Bible says,

    For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23 KJV)

    For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
    (Romans 6:22-23)

    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.For God sent NOT his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
    (John 3:16-18)

    But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.
    (Matthew 19:13-15)

    Something authoritative to consider–you can check it context if you have a Bible.

    Kind regards,

    -Q

  11. 11
    Joe says:

    Q:

    The Bible says,

    For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23 KJV)

    That was what, 2,000 yars ago? And how did the author know all have sinned? And what about after that was written?

  12. 12
    Joe says:

    So now keiths sez:

    Yes, Joe, believe it or not. It’s called “original sin”, and it’s one of Christianity’s stranger doctrines.

    Umm Jesus died and rid the world of that.

    The sad part is keiths quoted the Catholics and the quote said that. It’s as if keiths is impervious to everything that refutes his tripe.

    keiths quoted:

    402 All men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as St. Paul affirms: “By one man’s disobedience many [that is, all men] were made sinners”: “sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned….”289 The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. “Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.”290 (430, 605) (bold added)

    So once again we have keotths not knowing what he is talking about and apparently he is proud of his ignorance.

  13. 13
    Joe says:

    keiths:

    My point is to show that certain widely-held beliefs about evil, free will and God’s goodness are logically inconsistent.

    And yet I have shown that you are not logical at all. I have also shown that you aresadly mistaken in all of your premises.

  14. 14
    Joe says:

    Great- now keiths has nothing left but false accusations. He sez I am mangling Christian doctrine because Christianity says that Jesus died and original sin was wiped out. He even provided the quote!

    keiths is just upset because he can’t convince anyone, except other atheists on an agenda, that his “argument” is valid.

  15. 15
    Joe says:

    A question for all UD commentors:

    Does anyone think that keiths has a valid argument? Anyone?

  16. 16
    Joe says:

    keiths starts off with a strawman:

    Why would an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God knowingly create a world containing the evil we see all around us?

    The world we see around us, the world containing evil, was NOT created by God. The world God Created ceased to exist the minute after it was Created- that is unless nothing moved, then it would be the same.

    The world we see around us was created by us.

    That, in a nutshell, is the well-known theological “problem of evil”.

    In reality it is the well-known atheist “problem of cry-baby strawman erecting, fueled by envy and jealousy”

    So who thinks that God Created the world we see today?

    Who says that we created it from what God (or the designer) provided?

  17. 17
    Mapou says:

    My understanding is as follows.

    Physical matter is neither good nor evil in and of itself. Good and evil are spiritual concepts. God only creates physical matter. He does not create our spirits because spirits are eternal and can neither be created nor destroyed. Our spirits are our own. This is the reason that we have free will.

    P.S. It is a lie and a deception that God is omniscient and omnipotent. The Biblical scriptures do not support this belief. Besides, it is clearly illogical.

  18. 18
    vividbleau says:

    Joe

    A question for all UD commentors:

    Does anyone think that keiths has a valid argument? Anyone?

    It is obvious that KeithS has major issues he is dealing with however anyone who has deeply thought about theism in general or Christianity in particular has grappled with the issues he has brought up. I have not come to the same conclusions that he has but the questions he asks are IMO legitimate ones to be asking.

    Vivid

  19. 19
    Joe says:

    OK legit questions but not a valid argument. I agree- ask the questions but don’t act like a baby when they are answered and you don’t like it.

  20. 20
    Querius says:

    Joe @ 11 wondered

    That was what, 2,000 yars ago? And how did the author know all have sinned? And what about after that was written?

    Great questions!

    Answer to Question 1
    Rabbi Shaul/Apostle Paul commented on the revelations recorded in the Tanakh (Old Testament), as well as statements from Yeshua ha’Nazaret/Jesus of Nazareth.

    If Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah written about by the ancient prophets, then he (and they) would know the truth about God, or at least as much as we humans can comprehend, regardless of when it was written.

    – Otherwise, without some form of communication from God, we could not possibly know anything about God.

    – Otherwise, for all we know, evil is an illusion in the great evolutionary contest—those that reproduce the most in any way possible and those that kill off the competition are the winners.

    Answer to Question 2
    Unless there’s evidence to the contrary, anything written since then is a human opinion about God and no more and no less valid than anyone else’s opinion.

    Certainly there are many people who claimed various direct and contradictory revelations from God since then, resulting in various religious movements. At best all but one of them are liars, delusional, or charlatans. Jesus warned his followers about the likes of these people.

    And that’s why I chose to quote some passages from the Bible rather than present my personal opinion directly.

    -Q

  21. 21
    Joe says:

    Q- Romans 3:24-25-> Jesus died for those aforementioned sins. All those born after would be free from sin until they chose to do otherwise.

    Right?

  22. 22
    Querius says:

    Almost, Joe. To receive a gift, all you need to do is accept it from the giver. For example, what did you say and do after you received the last gift that someone gave you?

    This is kinda like that. Would you be be willing to invite God into your life?

    -Q

  23. 23

    Regarding keiths (as quoted by Joe @ 5):

    Now consider heaven, a perfect place in which there is no evil. Do believers have free will in heaven?

    Suppose they do. In that case they are free to sin, but they choose not to – otherwise there would be sin in heaven. But if it’s possible for them to have free will and yet refrain from sinning, then why didn’t God create them that way in the first place? They would have had their free will and there would have been no evil in the world.

    In all my time at UD, I’m not sure I have ever agreed with keiths on anything. Certainly not very often. And I’m not saying I agree with him or his conclusions now either.

    But . . .

    This is actually an interesting, and important, question. And it can be phrased in a slightly different way if one doesn’t like keiths’ wording: If God’s goal is to have a perfect paradise with perfect beings (the Biblical injunction “be ye therefore perfect” and so on), why not just create things perfect in the first place? Why bother making something that is clearly imperfect, just to have to go to all the trouble to whip it into shape later? Or like the old carpenter’s adage: if you don’t have time to do it right, you don’t have time to do it over.

    There are a few possibilities that should jump out immediately to the thoughtful observer, and perhaps readers can add some additional ones:

    1- God wanted to but couldn’t create perfect beings. Maybe He did the best he could, but just came up a bit short. Or maybe there is something fundamental that limits God’s ability to create perfect beings.

    2- God didn’t create us, or at least not everything about us. This could be the case in two situations.

    First, perhaps there is something about us that is beyond the physical makeup, beyond the matter and the energy of the creation. Some talk about a spirit; some talk about mind; sometimes in relation to ID we talk of “intelligence” as something beyond matter and energy. Perhaps there is something we each possess that is our own and always has been.

    Second, perhaps as a result of the particular makeup of matter and energy of our creation, the creation is endowed with something unique, something that didn’t exist prior to the creation, and something that is individual and not subject to God’s initial creative influence — namely, things like consciousness, free will, mind, intelligence.

    (Incidentally — and, yes, I realize this is offensive to some religiously-minded folks — the idea that we did not exist (in any sense) before our bodies were created and that this creative act resulted in us as we are, complete with mind, intelligence, consciousness — that idea is not wildly dissimilar to the materialist idea that out of a particular arrangement of matter these qualities “emerge.” So it seems the believer must either accept the idea that important non-material qualities can arise from a particular arrangement of the material, or there has to be something extra about us, something outside of our physical beings that was somehow tied to, or infused with, our physical bodies in the creative process.)

    3. God didn’t feel like creating us perfect, and, frankly, doesn’t care. Perhaps we are an amusement, a trial run, a side hobby, an experiment.

    4. God didn’t want to create us perfect, because there are lessons to be learned in life, ways to grow, that require an imperfect world. Further, perhaps the struggle itself is part of the learning process. Much like the child who complains about piano lessons and cries out: “Why do I have to practice over and over? I wish I could just play this stupid song perfectly without practicing!”

    Under this latter view of things, the creative act is still ongoing, the process still not finished. Perhaps we have only witnessed the first two acts of a three-part play. If that is the case it would be a little silly, even naive, of us to accuse the playwright of incompetence because at the end of Act II our world is still out of balance, the villain is still wreaking havoc, and the heroes have still not secured the long-sought-for justice.

    —–

    In summary, there are a number of potential responses to the question keiths raises, so his question certainly is not a knock-down argument against the existence of God, or religion generally, or anything of the kind.

    But it is an interesting, even an important, question, that — if sincerely asked — merits a thoughtful response and causes us to dig and to think a bit deeper.

  24. 24
    Joe says:

    Q-

    For example, what did you say and do after you received the last gift that someone gave you?

    “What the heck am I supposed to do with this thing?” and then I tossed it in my junk draw. 🙂

  25. 25
    vividbleau says:

    Hi Eric

    This is actually an interesting, and important, question.

    It is an interesting question but IMO many terms in his questions are ill defined.

    Take free will. This term gets bandied around incessantly but I consider the term to be an oxymoron. I don’t think we have free will in heaven but then again I don’t think we have it here on earth either.

    Before everyone jumps down my throat, since this is such a hot topic for the denizens that haunt this site, I do think we have “free choice” which is a much better term to use IMHO. Or “self determined” choices. I define free choice as the ability to choose whatever we most want to choose at the time the choice is made given the available options available at the time the choice is made.

    Lets take another word “omnipotence” which has been brought up. In the classical Judeo Christian thinking what does it mean to say “God is omnipotent”? Does this mean God can do anything? Of course not. There are a lot of things God cannot do. To say God is omnipotent is not to say that He can do anything rather it is to affirm He can do anything that is possible to do.

    Gotta go maybe more later , maybe not.

    BTW thanks for your comments on the other thread.

    Vivid

  26. 26
    Querius says:

    Joe,

    “What the heck am I supposed to do with this thing?” and then I tossed it in my junk draw.

    Sigh. I know what you mean. Hasn’t anyone ever given you a really GREAT gift?

    -Q

  27. 27
    Joe says:

    Q-

    Say Christianity never took hold and all memory of Jesus was lost. Would that mean that we, today, would have original sin and Jesus died for nothing?

  28. 28
    Querius says:

    Joe,

    According to accounts from history, the complete annihilation of Christians was actually attempted.

    During the initial persecutions of Christians by the Romans, the average lifespan of a person who became a Christian was reduced to a few months (I understand that the common charge against Christians was “atheism” because they didn’t believe in a multiplicity of gods). There were many counterfeits introduced then and now:

    The Greeks wanted to turn it into a philosophy, the Romans into a system, the Europeans into a culture, and the Americans into a business. You could probably add more.

    In answer to your question, many years ago the pastor of our church and some of the elders went to an Islamic middle-eastern country. Before they were detained and then expelled for talking about Jesus, they had a chance to secretly meet with many Christians there. When our pastor asked them how they came to understand God’s plan and to invite Jesus into their lives, the majority of them said that Jesus came to them in a dream or a vision.

    This was also true of one of my favorite Christians, a Sadhu in India named Sundar Singh in the early 20th century.

    -Q

  29. 29
    Joe says:

    Eric and Vividbleau-

    Every question that keiths asked has been answered ad nauseum by Christians throughtout history. He doesn’t bring up anything that hasn’t been brougfht up and brought up over and over again- and dealt with each time. He is not asking anything new.

    Again all of this has been dealt with by Christians. Heck growing up in a Christian home and going to Catholic schools I asked these questions and had them answered very satisfactorally.

    keiths is not original and he has been answered.

  30. 30
    phoodoo says:

    Is there a reason Keith doesn’t post here? Is he banned?

    What about Alan Fox, is he allowed to post here?

  31. 31
    Joe says:

    keiths has been kicked out. He has come back as several sock puppets only to get kicked out again. He does not “debate” in good faith.

    As for Alan Fox- well he doesn’t have anything of substance to say.

  32. 32
    phoodoo says:

    Joe,

    Yes, I realize Alan doesn’t have anything worthwhile to say. I only asked because he challenged me to debate him on a forum where he is not the moderator, since he has trouble separating his bias from his duties, but apparently he is not really willing to stick with his word, and discuss issues here, where a certain level of civility is maintained.

    I think it is just more affirmation of the sham that is theskepticalzone.

    Although nothing beats Jerry Coynes blog. He claims he allows opposing views, then yesterday bragged that he usually just deletes creationists posts on his blog, and asked his readers if they agreed with this. They overwhelmingly supported deleting any opposing views.

  33. 33
    phoodoo says:

    In fact Joe, I would like to start a campaign to make the University of Chicago explain why they allow a con-man to represent their university publicly.

    I mean if he is allowed to go around giving talks, as a member of their faculty, and not only insult other academics, and call into question their integrity, on top of that he operates a blog which is essentially one big lie. In the youtube video I watched recently, he says he gives the finger to all creationists, and then presents about ten completely fabricated facts about evolution.

    At what point does the University of Chicago have an obligation to see that their professors are displaying a level of truth and integrity in public. I am quite sure the University of Chicago receives plenty of government funds.

    I would like to start a topic on this site to discuss this, but I don’t know how to start new topics.

  34. 34
    jerry says:

    A couple things:

    Nobody really knows exactly what heaven is or what hell is. We have analogies of eternal bliss and we have images of eternal fire because fire seems to be the most horrific pain we can experience. So maybe we have free will in heaven and maybe it is possible to reject it once there. We just do not know. Both heaven and hell are concepts we cannot fathom.

    The so called evil or unhappiness or suffering in this world is a red herring in the whole debate. Take all the suffering in the world from the very beginning till now and somehow quantify it. Compare the so called evils from the gouging out of the eyes of a new born baby to the slighting of another person and rank them and rate them. Add it all up and it is a finite amount. Compare that to what the Christian God offers just one person and it is trivial. In Christianity the only evil is not obtaining what God offers. All else pales in comparison.

    So from a Christian perspective all this discussion of the evil that God has created or countenanced is a diversion from the real issue. It is a seemingly convincing argument but it is both an irrelevant diversion from what is the real evil and the argument falls apart on inspection. So keiths or Dr Liddle can rant all they want. They are avoiding the real issue.

    Of course this is the Christian perspective. So the argument from evil cannot be used against the Christian God. Maybe it can be used against someone else’s god but not the Christian God.

  35. 35
    Joe says:

    Jerry- You are right, again. keiths just like erecting strawman after strawman to make himself feel important.

  36. 36
    jerry says:

    So maybe we have free will in heaven and maybe it is possible to reject it once there.

    You will understand the function of the so called evil events in this world if one examines this statement. Would anyone actually exercise their free will and reject what was given to them in heaven if there was no alternative that even came close to what was being offered. Essentially free will would be a meaningless concept in such a situation. It would be a sign of irrationality to exercise it and reject heaven. Something that may not even be possible, to have an irrational decision in this situation.

    Now move to this world when we are not certain of much and must have something called faith to believe that there is place or state called heaven and that the Christian God is the true creator of the universe and has promised this state to those who lead their lives in certain ways. Can free will operate in such a scenario. Yes, because there will always be doubt about the choices to be made. One needs something called faith to make a choice in this situation. One has faith only when there is doubt. Faith differs from knowledge. One does not have faith that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, they have knowledge of that.

    Unfortunate events (suffering, death etc.) serve many purposes but one of the purposes is to create doubt. Because without that doubt there would be no free will and without free will no action would have merit. That these events have created doubt one has to look no further than Dr. Liddle and keiths. Both who said they once believed but no longer do so.

    So if one wants to look for the reason that there is the so-called evil events in this world, look to free will as an answer. For without these events the choices might be automatic and require no faith and the making of these choices would have no merit or meaning and this life would be meaningless.

    Essentially Dr. Liddle and keiths have faith that there is no such God and there is no such reward offered. They have no knowledge or certainty of this but they want others to reaffirm their particular element of faith because there is no way they can be sure. But their reasoning to get to their faith is flawed. They will need something else besides the occurrence of so called evil events.

  37. 37
    seventrees says:

    Greetings, everyone.

    Jerry, you said at 34:

    So from a Christian perspective all this discussion of the evil that God has created or countenanced is a diversion from the real issue.

    I thought of what I wrote in the thread which was before this one:
    “Jesus, who is God, suffered. So, there isn’t a God”.

    I know that some say Jesus is a myth. So…

  38. 38
    Joe says:

    Jerry- FYI- keiths has responded to you. It looks like he didn’t understand what you said, which is usual for keiths. He also quote-mines the Bible to try to refute you.

  39. 39
    jerry says:

    Joe,

    FYI- keiths has responded to you

    I am not here to debate this but am always interested in reasoned arguments. Dr. Liddle and keiths have never provided any of note. So they are just foils. When I started coming back here around last June it was for two things, to see what was being said about Meyer’s new book and to discuss the theodicy issue.

    Twenty five years ago while teaching, I had inadvertently come across the flaw in the theodicy argument though I did not know it at the time. I had never heard the term before nor the argument from evil. Also I did not know there was a debate on evolution. And only after participating in the evolution debate did I come to recognize that it was part of the argument. Which means that the anti-ID people have to use flawed arguments to support their point of view.

    I am an information junkie and listened to a discussion on religion on a Teaching Company course that said that the theodicy issues was a major issue in Christianity. I thought that it was a stupid argument for the reasons I have mentioned.

    It is interesting that nearly everyone fails to pick up on the major flaw in it including most of the commenters here. So I plug away every now and then when the concept of evil comes up. Even to the point that Barry branded me a nihilist on one thread.

  40. 40
    Joe says:

    Wadda mean you’re not going to tilt at windmills?

    But anyway I was just pointing out something that you already knew (wrt keiths). However I do like to read other people’s refutations of his rantings because usually they contain things that I missed.

  41. 41
    vividbleau says:

    Hi Jerry,

    One has faith only when there is doubt. Faith differs from knowledge. One does not have faith that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, they have knowledge of that.

    Appreciate your posts and I too found it to be absurd to be branded as a nihilist.

    Just picking at nats here so please take my comments in the spirit (friendly) I mean to give them.

    For sure faith is different from knowledge, I think it of it as the “bridge” between what we know and what we don’t know. I think we do have faith that the sun comes up tomorrow, we do not know that it will with 100% certainty. We certainly have very good evidence that it will but we can never be 100% certain.

    For without these events the choices might be automatic and require no faith and the making of these choices would have no merit…..

    I have never understood the argument that free choice is necessary in order for there to be merit or virtue. What merit or virtue is present when confronted between a choice between good or evil one is in suspense as which one to choose? I think the highest and most perfect state of the will is a state of necessity.

    The power we have to choose between good and evil, which sometimes is a struggle for us to choose good, so far from being essential to a free will is its weakness and highlights how defective our will is.

    Vivid

  42. 42

    Vivid:

    I think you must have a different understanding of free will than most. If there is a state of necessity, free will is meaningless, not “the highest and most perfect state.” It is precisely in the exercise of free will — meaning choosing between competing possibilities — that we learn, grow, develop, improve, learn to become “perfect,” as the scripture challenges.

    The fact that the weakness in our choices “highlights how defective our will is,” does not mean that choice is not essential to free will and necessity is some higher state.

  43. 43
    vividbleau says:

    Hi Eric,

    I think you must have a different understanding of free will than most

    Maybe but I am not convinced of that. If you read my post #25 you know already that I think the term “free will” is an oxymoron. Frankly, and I can only speak for myself and my worldview which I consider to be in the classical theistic Christian tradition, I am hard pressed to think of what the heck the will is free from!

    It is not free from, for lack of a better term, Gods secret will or overall plans and purposes that He has not shared with his creation. Since you used Scripture the one that comes to mind is Gen 45: 5-8. This is not to affirm that we do not resist God’s revealed will, we do, but His secret will, plans and purposes are never thwarted.

    So our will is not free from Gods will, nor is it free from the constraints of the physical world. I may will all I want to flap my arms and fly but no amount of willing will let me soar like a bird. I may will that I not drop from a ten story building without something cushioning my fall and not be harmed, etc.

    Furthermore as a Christian I believe my will is to quote Augustine “non posse non peccare” not able not to sin, so my will is not free not to sin. And finally my will is not free from me. So what the heck is my will exactly free from?

    What I think most people mean by “free will” is more accurately “free choice” I defined free choice in #25. So I am not sure that I have a different understanding of “free will” than most people do.

    It is precisely in the exercise of free will — meaning choosing between competing possibilities — that we learn, grow, develop, improve, learn to become “perfect,” as the scripture challenges.

    No argument there but that was not the point I thought I was conveying which was that there is no merit or virtue in doing what we SHOULD do. What merit or virtue is there in doing what is at a bare minimum that which we should do? What merit or virtue is in the doing of that which is our duty to do?

    The fact that the weakness in our choices “highlights how defective our will is,” does not mean that choice is not essential to free will and necessity is some higher state.

    The ability to chose what we most want at the time the choice is made given the options available at the time the choice is made is what is essential to “fee will” To make self determined choices is essential.

    Regarding necessity. Once again I am only speaking for myself and from my particular worldview and if you share a different worldview I respect that. I also recognize that if you do not share my worldview what I write will not be convincing to you. I think that if God exists God must be a necessary being and any attributes are necessary attributes. By necessity God is also the most free being and His will is the most free will. Certainly Gods will by necessity is a higher state than ours. I don’t think God is ever in suspense whether He will choose good or evil.

    Vivid

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