Intelligent Design

Faith vs. Fact: Jerry Coyne’s flawed epistemology

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The first thing that needs to be said about Professor Jerry Coyne’s new book, Faith vs. Fact, is that it gets right to the heart of the matter, in addressing the central conflict between science (or as I would say, scientism) and religion. Coyne views the conflict as an epistemic one: as he recently put it, “It’s a conflict between how you justify, or how you have confidence in, what you believe – or what you know.” Scientists accept hypotheses as true only after a rigorous process of testing, while most ordinary people (especially religious believers) would maintain that there are at least some beliefs which are warranted without any need for further testing on our part – for example, self-evident metaphysical truths (“Nothing comes to be without a cause”), observations which are supported by a sufficiently large number of eyewitnesses (“500 people saw the risen Jesus, so that settles it”), artistic judgments (“Beethoven was a better musician than Brahms”), moral judgments (“Adultery is wrong”), and certain intuitively obvious facts about human nature (“Children do best when raised by a mother and a father”), or about individuals whom we know very well (“My wife loves me”). Professor Coyne, on the other hand, would deny that any of these claims can be judged to be obviously true. First, Coyne doesn’t view artistic and moral judgments as statements about what is objectively true; rather, they simply express our own preferences (which may be shared by nearly everyone, but which are still preferences). Second, Coyne rejects metaphysical assertions on the grounds that they are too vague to be judged true or false: for instance, the claim that nothing comes to be without a cause assumes that we already know what a “thing” is, and what a “cause” is. Finally, Coyne would regard eyewitness reports, generalizations about human nature, and intuitive judgments about a particular individual as propositions which may well be true, but which cannot be known to be true until they are properly confirmed by rigorous testing. In the meantime, we should believe them only provisionally, if we believe them at all.

In today’s post, I will be defending the “folk” theory of truth, which is adopted by nearly everyone who isn’t a scientist. I’ll be arguing that Coyne overlooks a vital distinction: he is right to demand that we subject our beliefs to testing, but wrong to maintain that we cannot know them to be true until they have been tested. The lay intuition that we can immediately apprehend the truth of certain kinds of statements without needing to test them is correct. However, it turns out that these statements are not only abundantly confirmed by everyday experience, but also capable of being verified or falsified by further testing. Hence Professor Coyne’s attempt to show that belief in these statements is unwarranted fails.

This post will not be a book review of Professor Coyne’s Faith vs. Fact – a book from which I have only read brief excerpts – but rather, a critical analysis of the arguments Coyne advances in his book, and which he has defended elsewhere (see for instance here, here, here, here, here and here).

Professor Coyne’s flawed definition of faith

In a talk given to the James Randi Foundation in 2013, titled, Fighting the Fakers, Professor Coyne defined what he meant by religious faith:

3:11
And by faith, I’m going to use a definition – I mean, Mark Twain’s definition is, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so” – but I’ll use a little bit more sophisticated definition from the philosopher Walter Kaufmann: “[Faith is] intense, confident belief that is not based on evidence sufficient to command assent from every reasonable person” – i.e. faith is believing in things for which there is no good evidence, no evidence, or counter-evidence.

11:11
I’ll use Dan Dennett’s definition of religion: it’s “a social system whose participants avow belief in a supernatural agent whose approval is to be sought.” Now I know this doesn’t characterize everything we say is religion, but it does characterize the Abrahamic religions, which is mainly what I’m going to be talking about today. There are two aspects of religion which are important to my talk: first of all, it usually comes with a feeling that you have a personal relationship with a supernatural agent, and second, it usually comes – unlike science – with a code of conduct, which is the way that you’re supposed to believe, or the way that you should believe and behave.

12:40
Religion has a different methodology from science in finding out what’s true, and it’s basically based, as I said before, on faith: dogma, authority, revelation, and what makes you feel good. And again, this is encompassed in two statements from the New Testament: “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” [Hebrews 11:1]. The assurance of things hoped for means: you find out what you want to find out. [Coyne also displayed a quote from John 20:29: “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou has seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.“]

Professor Coyne repeated his faulty definition of faith in a recent appearance on the TV show The Agenda with Steve Paikin, to promote his new book, Faith vs. Fact. In the course of the interview, Coyne he disparaged the “faith that religious people have, which is basically, … described in Hebrews as the assurance of things you have not seen, the confidence in things that you don’t have any evidence for” (8:45).

What the Bible really says about faith

The problem with Coyne’s statement is that Hebrews doesn’t say that. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (New International Version). However, the letter goes on to praise people of faith (such as Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham) because they “did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth” (Hebrews 11:13, italics mine). Hebrews 11:39 adds: “These [people] were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.”

Two points need to be borne in mind here. First, these individuals genuinely believed that they had actually talked with God: according to the Bible, He actually spoke to them, and promised them a reward if they remained steadfast. For Noah, the reward was the everlasting covenant between God and Noah’s descendants; for Abraham, it was the promise that his descendants would one day be a great nation, as numerous as the stars visible in the night sky. Now, Professor Coyne may think it is unwise for someone to trust a Voice that appears to come from Heaven – after all, it might turn out to be a delusion. But at least it is evidence, for the person who hears it. Other people who didn’t hear the voice would be justified in ignoring this kind of evidence. However, if the voice made a very striking prediction (relayed by the person claiming to hear it) which was subsequently publicly confirmed, then it might be perfectly reasonable for these people to change their minds, and place their trust in the individual claiming to hear the mysterious voice.

Second, the author of Hebrews says that the people of faith whom it praises did actually see the things that they were promised, even if it was only “from a distance” (Hebrews 11:13). They saw these things, but they didn’t receive the benefits of them, during their lifetimes. In other words, they had foresight of what was to come. And that foresight, based on the evidence of a promise from God, is what the author of Hebrews praises as “faith.” It’s a very different thing from mere “wishful thinking” based on no evidence whatsoever.

The same applies to Jesus’ statement to Thomas in John 20:29: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” In the very next verse, the author of John’s Gospel goes on to explain why he wrote an account of Jesus’ life, highlighting the best attested signs and wonders worked by Jesus:

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Thus the first supernatural sign recorded in John’s gospel – Jesus changing water into wine – is declared to have taken place at a wedding in Cana, to which Jesus’ disciples had also been invited (John 2:1-2, 11): in other words, it was publicly witnessed. The same goes for the feeding of the five thousand, narrated in John 6.

And in John 19:35, which records a marvelous sign (blood and water) that occurred after Jesus’ side was pierced by a Roman soldier following His death, the author states:

35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.

In other words, the author of John’s Gospel expected his readers to believe in Jesus only on the strength of reliable, eyewitness testimony, where the eyewitnesses would have been known to the first readers of the gospel.

Indeed, the Bible is full of examples of people asking God for a sign, so that they could know that it was He Who was addressing them. Look at the story of Gideon in the book of Judges, the classic story of asking for a sign. “Show me a sign, that this is really you speaking to me” (Judges 6:17).

In 2 Kings 20:8, King Hezekiah asks Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the Lord will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the Lord on the third day from now?” God tells Hezekiah that He will make a shadow go ten steps backwards – something that no natural force could do.

In Isaiah 7:11, Isaiah says to King Ahaz: “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” The sign was intended to confirm Isaiah’s prophesy that the kings of Aram and Israel would not destroy Judah, as they had threatened to do: instead, the Lord would send the Assyrians to punish them and lay their lands to waste. King Ahaz demurred, saying that he would not put the Lord to the test, but Isaiah rebuked him for trying God’s patience (Isaiah 7:13) and insisted that Judah’s deliverance would come very soon.

And if we go back to the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), we can see that it is full of signs. God gives Noah the sign of the rainbow. He gives Abraham a sign, by making an outlandish prediction that his elderly wife Sarah would conceive and bear a son. He gives Moses the sign of the burning bush. He gives Pharaoh numerous signs to manifest His power and convince him that he should let the Israelites depart from Egypt. In the desert, He gives the wandering Israelites the sign of a mysterious food that they can gather from the ground: edible manna which is deposited on the ground on every day of the week, except the Sabbath. And to guide the Israelites through the desert, God gives them the sign of the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.

These divine manifestations give the lie to Coyne’s absurd claim that the God of the Bible expects us to believe without evidence. Indeed, the Bible itself tells us: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). The advice given in Deuteronomy 18:21-22 is even more explicit:

21 You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.

The real question that Coyne needs to address, then, is not, “Is it reasonable to believe supernatural claims without evidence?”, but rather: “Should we credit a supernatural claim purely on the strength of sufficiently striking evidence, or, should we credit a supernatural claim only after scientists can reproduce the effects under laboratory conditions?

Coyne himself admits that evidence for the supernatural doesn’t need to be scientifically replicable – it just needs to be public and very striking

In a 2012 post, Professor Coyne described the evidence that he would accept for the existence of a divine being, and for the truth of Christianity, in a post titled, Shermer and I disagree on the “supernatural” (November 8, 2012):

I’ve previously described the kind of evidence that I’d provisionally accept for a divine being, including messages written in our DNA or in a pattern of stars, the reappearance of Jesus on earth in a way that is well documented and convincing to scientists, along with the ability of this returned Jesus to do things like heal amputees. Alternatively, maybe only the prayers of Catholics get answered, and the prayers of Muslims, Jews, and other Christians, don’t.

Yes, maybe aliens could do that, and maybe it would be an alien trick to imitate Jesus (combined with an advanced technology that could regrow limbs), but so what? I see no problem with provisionally calling such a being “God” — particularly if it comports with traditional religious belief — until proven otherwise. What I can say is “this looks like God, but we should try to find out more. In the meantime, I’ll provisionally accept it.” That, of course, depends on there being a plethora of evidence. As we all know, there isn’t.

It is worth noting here that many of the items of evidence that would convince Coyne are incapable of being replicated – e.g. a message in the stars. If Coyne would be prepared to believe in God on the strength of a message which made a striking claim that proved to be correct, then how can he fault religious believers who credit the supernatural on the basis of similar evidence?

Indeed, Coyne himself admits, in another post titled, Ken Ham vs. Dawkins: On the nature of science and physical law (February 25, 2015), that scientific claims do not need to be replicable – they just need to be sufficiently striking:

…[O]f course many scientific contentions and hypotheses are “historical,” yet that doesn’t make them any less scientific. For if historical contentions can be tested, or can make predictions that can be examined, then they fall under the rubric of real science. For evolution, these include the prediction that humans evolved in Africa (first made by Darwin in 1871, not verified until the 1920s); that birds evolved from dinosaurs and whales from land-dwelling animals (predicted ages ago, verified in the last 30 years); that the first “real” organisms were simple ones, and only later did more complex ones evolve (the first organisms we see in the fossil record, about 3.5 billion years ago, are cyanobacteria), and so on.

Evolution is further “scientific” in that it alone, among all competing theories (especially [Ken] Ham’s creationism), is able to make sense of previously puzzling data. (I call this “making sense” notion “retrodictions”.) Such retrodictions include the explanation of biogeographic patterns like the absence of endemic mammals on oceanic islands, of vestigial organs like the tiny, useless hindlimbs on early fossil whales, and of embryological observations like the transitory hindlimb buds in dolphins. I discuss all of this in WEIT, so I won’t reprise it here.

The point is that if a hypothesis can be tested and supported using historical data, and competing hypothesis rejected, then that is a scientific endeavor.

It follows from Coyne’s own reasoning in the above passage that scientific evidence for the supernatural does not need to be replicable in a laboratory; nor does it even need to predict the future. Rather, what is needed is a sufficiently striking claim about the past, present or future, which can be publicly verified.

Are religious believers too gullible?

Now Coyne might reply that religious believers have never presented such striking evidence for the supernatural. But it is certainly true that they have attempted to do so, on many occasions. I presume that Professor Coyne is familiar with the classic works of eighteenth and nineteenth century Christian apologists, some of which are quite short and highly readable (see Dr. Timothy McGrew’s online library here). Or if Coyne wants something more recent, I could refer him to Drs. Timothy and Lydia McGrew’s online article, The Argument from Miracles: A Cumulative Case for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. What the authors attempt to demonstrate is that there is “a small set of salient public facts” that strongly supports belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Taking into account only the eyewitness testimony of the women at the tomb of Jesus, his twelve apostles and St. Paul, they calculate that the facts in question are 10^44 times more likely to have occurred, on the assumption that the Resurrection of Jesus actually happened, than that on the assumption that it did not. However, their argument makes no attempt to calculate the prior probability of a man rising from the dead – a subject which I shall revisit below. Dr. Lydia McGrew was subsequently interviewed by Luke Muehlhauser of Common Sense Atheism, and the McGrews have also responded to criticisms of their argument by New Atheist Dr. Richard Carrier. Finally, I should mention that in two very recent posts of mine which were written in response to Professor Larry Moran (see here and here), I have also discussed miraculous evidence for the supernatural, in considerable detail, focusing on the levitations of St. Joseph of Cupertino, which are extremely well-documented and which took place on at least 1,500 occasions in thee seventeenth century.

Presented with this evidence, some skeptics may grant that any naturalistic explanation for these bizarre sightings will be a far-fetched and highly improbable one, but they will also maintain that a highly improbable naturalistic explanation is preferable to an even more improbable supernaturalistic one. Coyne, however, does not take this tack: he’s prepared to allow that if the evidence for the supernatural were overwhelming enough, he would be prepared to accept it. Coyne is an intelligent skeptic: he realizes that naturalism is a provisional hypothesis, which scientists adopt because it has worked successfully in the past. To claim that the probability of a supernaturalistic explanation is zero (or infinitesimal, which is effectively the same thing) is to beg the question: we simply don’t know that. What’s more, given that the number of law-governed, natural events we have observed during the course of human history is finite, it follows that the prior probability of supernaturalism (given our background knowledge of Nature) will always be measurably greater than zero. Additionally, it needs to be borne in mind that the evidence for naturalism is cumulative: as more and more law-governed events are observed, the antecedent probability that the next event we observe will fall outside the laws of Nature steadily declines, since it is inversely proportional to the number of observed law-governed events, N. (Readers who are familiar with Laplace’s famous sunrise argument will grasp the point I’m making here.) Now, I have argued elsewhere that the maximum possible number of law-governed events that could have been observed by humans over the course of history is about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, or 10 to the power of 21, so the antecedent probability of supernaturalism cannot be lower than 1 in 10^21. However, the probability that a bizarre sighting (e.g. of a levitation, or a resurrection) is a hallucination will decrease geometrically, as the number of independent witnesses increases: it will equal the probability that a given witness is seeing things, raised to the power of N, where N is the number of eyewitnesses. It follows that even the prior improbability of a miracle can be overcome by the testimony of a sufficient number of independent eyewitnesses: as the mathematician Charles Babbage showed in Chapter 10 and Chapter 13 of his Ninth Bridgewater Treatise. For a sufficiently large number of eyewitnesses, the probability that they are all hallucinating will fall below any threshold that we set, such as the 1 in 10^21 threshold that I set above. As Babbage put it: “provided we assume that independent witnesses can be found of whose testimony it can be stated that it is more probable that it is true than that it is false, we can always assign a number of witnesses which will, according to Hume’s argument, prove the truth of a miracle.

Now, a skeptic might reply that the foregoing argument treats the probability that witness A and witness B will hallucinate as independent occurrences, when there may in fact be a common explanation for why these eyewitnesses are all seeing things – e.g. a local magnetic disturbance which is affecting everyone’s brains. The skeptic might also contend that this far-fetched naturalistic explanation is more antecedently probable than a supernaturalistic explanation. But if the kind of bizarre naturalistic occurrence posited by the skeptic has never occurred before in the history of the cosmos, then on purely Bayesian grounds, it is just as improbable as a supernaturalistic explanation. And if the bizarre natural occurrence posited by the skeptic presupposes a confluence of highly improbable events X, Y and Z, then the calculated probability of those events occurring in tandem may turn out to be even lower than the 1 in 10^21 threshold that we assigned to a supernatural event. I conclude that skeptical arguments aiming to show that belief in miraculous occurrences is unwarranted on probabilistic grounds are without merit.

Professor Coyne could still object that even if there were striking evidence for the supernatural (such as the evidence I presented above), the vast majority of believers have never personally encountered it: instead, they believe on the basis of secondhand testimony from other individuals who claim to have seen this evidence. That may be so. But trusting the testimony of other human beings is something that we do all the time. Scientists do it, too. I’m quite sure that if a dozen Nobel Laureates were to tell Coyne that they’d just found a message inscribed in the DNA of every human being, he’d believe them, without bothering to check it out for himself. In short: there is nothing irrational in a person believing a supernatural claim on the basis of what appears to be reliable human testimony, so long as they are prepared to give up their belief should the testimony turn out to be false or highly dubious.

Lastly, Coyne might argue that it could never be rational to place credence in miraculous evidence for the supernatural, where the eyewitnesses to this evidence are all dead and there are no contemporaneous documents. The earliest confirmed fragment of the Gospels is the Rylands papyrus, dating from 125 A.D., which over 90 years after Jesus’ death, and the earliest complete manuscript dates from 250 A.D. which is more than two centuries after the Resurrection is supposed to have taken place. With the Old Testament (or Tanach), the gap between the miracles recorded and their commitment to writing is even greater: several centuries. Is it not the height of credulity, Coyne might argue, to base one’s faith on such meager evidence? However, a simple thought experiment is sufficient to rebut this argument.

Let us imagine that scientists around the world managed to find a striking prediction (about a future event) that was recorded in the DNA of every human being, and which later turned out to be correct, and suppose also that many of these scientists subsequently wrote articles in scientific journals discussing the significance of this evidence, and tentatively concluding that the message must have had a supernatural origin, since the message’s author must have been able to predict people’s choices. And now suppose that over the course of time, the original scientific journals reporting this discovery were lost, but that the articles from those journals had fortunately been copied into some electronic medium – or for that matter, microfiche (I know, I’m showing my age, here). Suppose finally that a nuclear war then took place, and that in the ensuing chaos, the transmission of knowledge was massively disrupted, but that several electronic (or microfiche) copies of the original journal articles were still available in various locations around the world, and that these copies were passed down to future generations. Would it be reasonable for historians of the future, piecing the evidence together, to conclude that since the copies could be found in many different places around the planet, the likelihood of them having been forged by a single group of conspirators was astronomically low, and that therefore, the events they recorded must have actually taken place, and that scientists in a previous century had indeed found persuasive evidence for the existence of a supernatural being? I submit that it would be perfectly reasonable to draw this conclusion, if the weight of the historical evidence were strong enough to support it.

In his recent appearance on the TV show The Agenda with Steve Paikin, where he talked about his new book, Faith vs. Fact, Professor Coyne took another side-swipe at religious faith when he remarked that “faith is not a way of knowing anything” (19:07). He added:

18:35
…I think the underlying problem is the notion of faith as a virtue, in America. If I were to characterize the difference between science and religion, I would say: in religion, faith is a virtue; in science, it’s a vice.

These remarks betray a fundamental confusion on Coyne’s part, about the epistemic status of faith. It is of course perfectly true that merely believing in something doesn’t give you the right to say you know it. Knowledge requires evidence, and belief is not evidence. But Coyne is profoundly mistaken when he characterizes faith as mere belief, or believing in something because you want it to be true. As we have seen, Biblical faith is belief grounded in visible signs, which one has personally witnessed, or which have been witnessed by persons of unimpeachable integrity. That’s not an epistemic vice; it’s an epistemic virtue. Under such circumstances, it is refusal to believe which constitutes a vice: either the vice of obstinacy, or of totally unreasonable hyper-skepticism.

To sum up: Professor Coyne himself would have to agree that the epistemic differences between himself and religious believers are differences of degree rather than kind. Coyne personally does not believe that the miraculous evidence presented for the supernatural is suasive, let alone compelling; however, the problem here is not the kind of evidence presented in support of supernatural claims, but rather, the meager quantity of such evidence, as Coyne views it.

Why, then, do different religions disagree?

On many occasions, Coyne has cited the lack of agreement – or even convergence – between the world’s different religions as evidence that there is no rational basis for their claims, and hence that they cannot offer us another way of knowing. For instance, In a talk given to the James Randi Foundation in 2013, titled, Fighting the Fakers, Coyne remarked, “I don’t think religion has found out anything in the 20,000 years that it’s been going” (4:08). And in an appearance on the TV show The Agenda with Steve Paikin, where he discussed his new book, Faith vs. Fact, Coyne declared:

8:55
We have faith in science because the methods that we use have produced results, whereas the religious ways of knowing, as you know, because every religion has a different set of truths that they hold, and they’re all in conflict with one another, and they haven’t arrived at any universal or generally accepted truths about Nature.

Now, I have pointed out in a previous post that there is in fact a high degree of agreement about morality among the world’s different religions, and that over the course of time, most religions tend to converge in their judgment that a particular practice (e.g. slavery) is wrong. I also pointed out that there is much more agreement among religious believers regarding the nature of God than there was, say, 2,000 or 3,000 years ago, when polytheism and various forms of cosmic dualism (Manichaeism) were widely accepted: half the world’s population is now Jewish, Christian or Muslim, and Hinduism is also monotheistic (or at least, henotheistic): while it acknowledges the reality of lesser gods, it recognizes only one Supreme Being or Reality.

But if Coyne wants to know why the world’s religions disagree, then I would suggest that it’s because they all have subtly different epistemic standards. For Judaism, it’s the Kuzari Principle, which Rabbi David Gottlieb defines as follows: “for an event which if it had occurred would have left behind enormous, easily available evidence of its occurrence, and didn’t occur, you can’t get people to believe in it.” Rabbi Gottlieb applies this principle to an alleged historical occurrence: God’s revelation of Himself to the entire Israelite people at Mount Sinai. As the Rabbi puts it, “there are two possibilities: Either the event took place or it was made up. But it cannot be made up since people will not believe in an event whose necessary evidence is missing.” Ergo, it must have happened.

For Christianity, the epistemic principle invoked is that one should accept a miracle claim if it is the best explanation of facts which are multiply attested by independent, early sources. The Christian philosopher William Lane Craig argues that since Jesus’ burial, the discovery of His empty tomb, and His post-mortem appearances to His disciples (which convinced them of His resurrection) are all historically well-attested facts, we should accept the best explanation of those facts: that Jesus rose from the dead. Christians then go on to argue that if Jesus rose from the dead, then His message must have been from God.

The best argument for Islam has been summarized by Christian apologist (and former atheist) David Wood as follows: “if you can’t write something as good as a chapter of the Qur’an, you should quit doubting and accept it as the divine word of Allah.” In syllogistic form: (1) If unbelievers can’t produce something comparable to a chapter of the Qur’an, then it must be from God. (2) Unbelievers can’t produce something equivalent to a chapter of the Qur’an. Therefore (3): the Qur’an must be from God. The question of whether Islam is true therefore boils down to whether the allegedly sublime passages in the Qur’an could have been written by a human author, without Divine assistance.

For its part, Buddhism makes no supernatural claims: it declares that its Four Noble Truths can be discovered through introspection alone. However, it assumes that the universe is governed by the law of karma – what goes around comes around – which in turn implies that we will never escape from the wheel of birth and rebirth until we free ourselves from selfish thoughts, words and deeds. Hinduism, like Buddhism, asserts the reality of karma and of the wheel of rebirth, but it grounds these claims in an underlying metaphysic which Buddhism rejects as egocentric, but whose denial Hindus would regard as utterly incoherent: it is I who am condemned to be reincarnated if I perform evil deeds which merit bad karma. Thus a Hindu would argue that belief in a soul or essential “self” is the only way to explain the fact of karma, while a Buddhist would reply that it is precisely this belief which is the cause of our spiritual woes.

A Jain, on the other hand, conceives of the action of karma in wholly mechanistic terms: it does not require the action of a conscious agent in order to achieve its result. Thus Jainism is atheistic: on its conception of karma, there is no need for a creator God to ensure that evildoers get their just deserts. However, it goes on to add that each person who attains enlightenment will achieve infinite knowledge – which is why it might perhaps be better described as transtheistic, rather than atheistic. Finally, I should mention that Jainism rejects all forms of dogmatism, and its followers often appeal to the parable of the blind men and an elephant to show that no-one can possibly have a complete an all-embracing view of reality.

Despite its non-dogmatism, Jainism has attracted a fair amount of criticism from the very beginning. Hindu polemicists rejected the Jain conception of karma on the grounds that no blind, impersonal process could ever ensure that everyone gets their just deserts; only an intelligent, supernatural agent could ever bring that about. For their part, Buddhists strenuously objected to the Jain assertion that one can violate karma even by actions which are performed unintentionally, such as accidentally crushing a sentient creature. According to Buddhists, it is one’s intentions, and the attitudes of mind and heart accompanying one’s actions, which determine their moral character.

I won’t attempt to articulate the epistemic basis of Confucianism, as its teachings are primarily ethical in character, and only secondarily religious. Confucian precepts rest on cultivating an attitude of respect for others – especially one’s parents, teachers and elders – and adhering to the Silver (if not the Golden) Rule in one’s everyday conduct: don’t do to other people what you would not like to have done to you. For Confucius, the objective basis for these ethical claims lay in the cosmic order itself: to behave unethically is to violate the order of Nature.

How are we to adjudicate between the competing epistemic principles underlying each of the world’s major religions? I would argue that Hinduism is the most logical of the religions arising in India, due to its recognition that no impersonal process could ever guarantee that everyone gets their just deserts; however, it fails to provide any grounds for believing that we actually live in a universe where people do get their just deserts. Among the Abrahamic religions, Judaism has the highest epistemic bar with its insistence that only national revelation should be deemed creditworthy; while the claim of Islam that the style of the Qur’an is inimitable appears to be empirically false, as Christian apologist (and former atheist) David Wood has convincingly argued. The evidence for the claims of Christianity would certainly be much more compelling if the Resurrection had been witnessed by the entire Jewish people living in the time of Jesus; nevertheless, the number of witnesses (500, according to St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15) is large enough to warrant belief in their veracity, on Bayesian probabilistic grounds. I conclude, then, that Judaism and Christianity appear to be the most rational of the world’s religions, although there is something to be said for Hinduism as well.

Professor Coyne’s lax definition of science

In a talk given to the James Randi Foundation in 2013, titled, Fighting the Fakers, Professor Coyne defined what he meant by faith and what he meant by a scientific fact:

9:55
I think of science not as a body of facts but as a methodology for investigating the universe – a methodology that relies on doubt, replication, being subject to the review of your peers, logic, reason and prediction. Science is just basically a methodology to get the best guess about what’s going on in the universe. And I think that if you construe science broadly, then even things like plumbing or auto mechanics can be seen as science. I mean, when your mechanic is fixing your car, he or she goes about that perfectly scientifically. And when your plumber finds a leak, [he or she does that] perfectly scientifically, using principles of hydraulics and gravity, and things like that. Science’s conclusions are always tentative, although some are more tentative than others; our truths are always provisional. But it’s a methodology. And the best way to describe this methodology, which has been exquisitely honed during the past two centuries, is by Richard Feynmann, who said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.” Now you’ve seen lots of that over the past couple of days [at this skeptics’ conference]. So you have to be very careful about that. Science is a very exquisitely honed body of practices to keep you from fooling yourself – to keep you from finding out what you want to find out. This of course is the exact opposite of religion, which encourages you to find out what you want to find out.

13:55
A scientific fact is something which is so blatantly true that you would be foolish to reject it. That’s what we scientists regard as a scientific fact.

Professor Coyne also discussed the nature of science in an appearance on the TV show The Agenda with Steve Paikin, promoting his new book, Faith vs. Fact. In the course of the interview, Coyne remarked:

6:26
…[A]s you become a scientist, as you learn to instill in your psyche the habits of doubt, of questioning, of demanding evidence for what you believe, you basically give up the “childish things” that represent the supernatural and the divine.

I’d also like to recall Coyne’s remarks on the historical sciences, which I quoted above:

…[O]f course many scientific contentions and hypotheses are “historical,” yet that doesn’t make them any less scientific. For if historical contentions can be tested, or can make predictions that can be examined, then they fall under the rubric of real science.

Let’s return to Coyne’s definition of science: “a methodology that relies on doubt, replication, being subject to the review of your peers, logic, reason and prediction.” We saw above that Coyne himself admits that replication is not an essential feature of science; rather, what matters is that a scientific hypothesis should make striking predictions (about what happened in the past or will happen in the future), which are testable and publicly falsifiable. However, a definition of science which makes testable predictions its hallmark feature is too broad for Coyne’s purposes, for it could encompass religion as well – which would negate Coyne’s central thesis that science offers us a reliable way of knowing, while religion does not. After all, Deuteronomy 18:22 explicitly admonishes us to test prophesies: “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken.” And while many religious claims – e.g. about what will happen when we die – are untestable on this side of eternity, a believer might argue that they could be falsified in the hereafter: if, for instance, we were to discover after our deaths that reincarnation is true, that would falsify Christianity and lend support to Hinduism, Buddhism and/or Jainism.

Coyne might reply that even if religious claims are testable in the grand scheme of things, religion does not possess the other marks of science: religion does not resort to logic, reason, doubt and peer review. Again, this is simply not the case: St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica is rigorously logical, and its author addresses every question – including the question of whether God exists – by marshaling all the arguments he is aware of which seem to contradict the conclusion that he argues for, before proceeding to refute those arguments. Doubt is part and parcel of Aquinas’ approach to philosophy. As for peer review: once again, has Coyne never heard of ecumenical councils, where proposed theological formulations are subjected to open and at times fierce debate, before being finally adopted by a vote?

If testable predictions, logic, debate and doubt aren’t enough to distinguish science from religion, then it seems that science’s subject matter must be what makes it distinct from religion: science deals with empirical phenomena, while religion deals with the transcendent. But it is noteworthy that Coyne himself rejects this view: he asserts that many religious statements are empirically falsifiable, and he even claims in his posts that some (e.g. the dogma that humanity is descended from a single couple, Adam and Eve) have already been falsified. Coyne also contends that science could provide at least tentative evidence for the existence of a transcendent, supernatural Deity, if the Deity left visible signs of its existence.

The upshot of all this is that Coyne’s attempt to draw a sharp line between science and religion fails, and that his definition of science is too broad to do the job. This is an embarrassing result – to put it mildly – for an author who is currently hawking a book which confidently declares that science and religion are completely different in their respective ways of sorting out what’s true from what’s false.

What we can learn about human nature from studying ethics, art and literature

In Professor Coyne’s view, the study of ethics, art and literature, while interesting, yields no new knowledge of the human condition. Science, for its part, can tell us about everything there is, even if it cannot tell us what ought to be the case. As Coyne put it in an appearance on the TV show The Agenda with Steve Paikin, where he discussed his new book, Faith vs. Fact:

16:12
I for one have no problem with saying that science can’t tell us anything about what’s right and what’s wrong; it can tell us what is. There are a few people that disagree with me, like Alex Rosenberg, but by and large, we can’t do that. As far as the arts and literature [are concerned], I’m a big fan of art and literature and music. My contention is that they can’t tell what’s true about the real world; I mean, you can’t learn anything about the nature of the cosmos by reading War and Peace, but you can immerse yourself in the fellow feeling of humans and stuff like that, so, you know, “scientism” is just a way that religious people try to denigrate science.

17:10
…[W]hat I call science broadly construed, … is not just the activities of professional scientists, but the kind of science an auto mechanic uses when he tries to find out where the short is in your car, or a plumber: the combination of reason and empirical investigation and testing, and things like that. Is there anything we can learn about the universe beyond that notion of science broadly construed? And my answer was no, I couldn’t think of anything. And I posed this question to professors of English literature as well: “Can you tell me anything that we can learn about the real world, that’s verifiable from literature alone, from music alone, from art alone?” And I could never find a yes answer.

A few comments are in order here. First, Coyne seems to be denying that science is capable of making value judgments of any sort: in his own words, science can only tell us what is. Coyne seems to be suggesting that when you call something “good,” all you mean is that it’s something you like. This view, known among philosophers as emotivism, was put forward by A. J. Ayer around eighty years ago in his work Language, Truth and Logic (1936) and subsequently developed by C. L. Stevenson (although the Scottish philosopher David Hume had previously suggested something similar). However, the problem with emotivism is that it leads to absurd implications: if a good X is simply an X that you happen to like, then a good argument is simply an argument that you like, which means that there are no objectively bad arguments. Likewise, a good experiment is simply an experiment that you happen to like. Such a view would be profoundly destructive of science itself – and also of Coyne’s thesis that science offers us a reliable way of knowing. Science must, then, be capable of making at least some normative pronouncements.

Perhaps Coyne might respond that science is capable of making stipulative norms – e.g. “This is the way that science should be done” or “This is the way that an argument should be evaluated” – but not objective norms about how things in the real world should act, or about how we should evaluate the things we observe. This would imply that we can criticize illogical arguments or poorly performed experiments without thereby committing ourselves to making value judgments about the world. But it would also have the undesirable consequence of reducing science to a mere game: to play the game right, you have to play it this way. It would leave us with no guarantee that following the scientific method will tell us anything about the external world, or that it will actually succeed in “carving Nature at its joints,” as the philosopher Plato put it in his Phaedrus (265d-266a). And even if one attempts to find consolation in the fact that the scientific endeavor has succeeded so far, Coyne offers us no reason to believe that it will continue to work. All we can say is that if it ever stops working, we’ll know about it soon enough. I have discussed the problem of induction at further length in my 2013 post, Does scientific knowledge presuppose God? A reply to Carroll, Coyne, Dawkins and Loftus (November 23, 2013), where I defended the view that only by postulating the existence of a personal God Who wants His existence to be known can we render scientific inferences about the future rational.

A second problem with Professor Coyne’s argument is that it construes moral statements as expressions of subjective preference – either one’s own, or that of the community to which one belongs. But if that were the case, then the statement, “Scientists should not cheat when conducting experiments” is also merely a statement of preference (albeit a widely shared one). For science to work as an enterprise, however, it needs to be something much stronger than that. In any case, the assertion that all of our ordinary moral utterances can be boiled down to expressions of preference is wildly implausible. For example, when someone declares, “We should not repay evil with evil,” they are not expressing a preference, whether individual or social; they are uttering what they believe to be a universal norm or standard, to which we must all conform if we are to qualify as virtuous. And normally, when we talk about morality, that is what we do. Likewise, the people who believe in gay marriage aren’t merely saying that most people in our society happen to support it, and that therefore it should be legal. Rather, they fervently believe that in any society, people should be free to marry whomever they like: on their account, it’s a universal human right.

In his book, Faith vs. Fact, Coyne argues that morality must be subjective, on the grounds that (a) different cultures have different standards of morality, and (b) it is impossible to derive an “ought” from an “is.” The first argument is easily disposed of: in his best-selling book, The Abolition of Man, academic and Christian apologist C. S. Lewis argued forcefully that there is in fact a set of objective values that have been shared, with relatively minor differences, by every culture: “the traditional moralities of East and West, the Christian, the Pagan, and the Jew.” Lewis referred to this common morality as the Tao, and in his appendix to The Abolition of Man, Lewis listed a number of basic values that he saw as parts of the Tao, supported by quotations from different cultures from around the world. I should also point out that as cultures come into contact with one another, it frequently happens that conflicts between these cultures on moral issues are resolved through dialogue. For instance, infanticide was common two thousand years ago and is still practiced in parts of the world today; but no-one defends the practice any more. The same goes for slavery.

Coyne makes a valid philosophical point when he observes that one cannot derive an “ought” from an “is.” But an Aristotelian moralist would argue that there is no need for us to derive “oughts” in this way; they are simply built into the fabric of reality. In other words, they are part-and-parcel of the essences of things. To be a thing of a certain kind means to have a built-in goal, or telos. What the Aristotelian would claim is that moral “oughts” can be derived from those biological and psychological and sociological “oughts” which define human nature. It is a fact, for instance, that newborn babies need milk; that each human being has an inquiring mind which is capable of being taught through instruction in his/her mother tongue; and that humans thrive in societies where they can live and work together. From these simple statements we can draw moral inferences: for example, that depriving babies of milk is morally wrong because it stunts their growth, that denying children an education is also wrong because it stunts their intellects; and that attempting to destroy a human society is fundamentally immoral, since it jeopardizes the conditions required for humans to thrive. Why, one might ask, did Coyne never even consider this Aristotelian response? The only answer I can think of is that it is foreign to his whole way of thinking as a Darwinian biologist who rejects teleology of any kind, and who regards talk of “essences” as quaint. In short: Coyne’s skeptical conclusions about morality are driven by his a priori rejection of teleology and his anti-essentialism, for which he offers no justification. (The fact that species evolve over time need not undermine belief in essences, if we define “essences” as clusters to characteristics found in a population of organisms, which tend to remain stable over long periods of time. At any given point in time, living things can be classified into different kinds, even if each of these kinds changes very slowly over the course of time.)

A third problem with Coyne’s view is that it would not only render science incapable of making moral judgments; it is would also render it incapable of making aesthetic judgments. Beauty, on this view, is purely subjective. However, in practice, scientists themselves (especially physicists) often reject theories simply because they are not beautiful.

In his 1753 classic The Analysis of Beauty, William Hogarth argued that simplicity with variety is the defining feature of beauty, as illustrated by a line drawn around a cone. Hogarth claimed that simplicity apart from variety, as illustrated by a straight line, is boring, not elegant or beautiful. On Hogarth’s definition, beauty is something objective, but it takes a mind to recognize and appreciate it.

And in practice, we find that there is a surprising degree of agreement among human beings regarding judgments about beauty. To take an example dear to Coyne’s heart: nearly everyone would agree that the Beatles’ album Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is a better album than Rubber Soul, although opinions might differ as to whether it is better than Magical Mystery Tour (my personal favorite). And while the Rolling Stones are greatly to be admired for their long musical career, I think it’s fair to say, with the benefit of 50 years of hindsight, that their 1968 album Beggars Banquet wasn’t as good as Sergeant Pepper, although it did have some pretty good songs (notably “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Street Fighting Man”).

Fourth, it is simply not true that art and literature cannot teach us about the human condition, as Coyne contends. I would invite skeptics to read Ryan Holiday’s thoughtful article, 24 Books You’ve Probably Never Heard Of But Will Change Your Life, over at Thought Catalog, or Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster’s article, 9 Things you can learn from ‘Hamlet’.

I would contend that literature can teach us many things about the human condition, which science can only test very indirectly, if at all. Consider the following excerpt from Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech:

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of? (Act 3, Scene 1, lines 71-84).

The alert reader will notice that all of the reasons put forward by Hamlet to justify suicide – “Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely, The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay, The insolence of office, and the spurns That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,” – have to do with what other people think about you. Note the marked contrast with the deterministic model of human action favored by Coyne, which envisages us as being acted upon by opposing forces which pull us this way and that, and as “choosing” whatever the strongest of these forces impels us towards. A scientist adopting such a view might locate the causes of suicide in unpleasant external circumstances such as poverty, loneliness or emotional abuse. It would never occur to the scientist that the causes of suicide may be more closely tied to internal factors, such as what I think other people think of me. These are the factors that drive people to take their own lives, according to Shakespeare. And I am inclined to think he is right: suicide rates in poor regions, such as Latin America, are often lower than in rich countries (especially in Asia).

Another problem with this deterministic model of human action is that it is utterly incapable of quantifying the relative “strengths” of other people’s competing opinions of oneself: for instance, will I take my own life if my best friend esteems me as an admirable fellow, while my boss thinks I am an unreliable good-for-nothing? Thus even if social scientists could devise an experiment to show that suicide rates are more related to internal than external factors, their model would be unable to make any concrete predictions about situations which would push someone over the edge.

Hamlet also declares in his soliloquy that fear of adverse consequences in the hereafter can deter people from suicide. On this point, Shakespeare is surely correct, and the secular historian William Lecky, in his History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne, acknowledges as much: he writes that “Direct and deliberate suicide, which occupies so prominent a place in the moral history of antiquity, almost absolutely disappeared within the Church” (p. 50) due to its “very emphatic condemnation of suicide” (p. 43), and he adds that Christian “doctrines concerning its penal nature and concerning the future destinies of the soul” (p. 45) also had a deterrent effect, while “the hope of future happiness, which casts a ray of light upon the darkest calamities of life,” (p. 45) provided protection against despair. This may explain why suicide rates tend to be high in countries where unbelief is high – a finding which would not have surprised Shakespeare in the least.

Good literature, then, can yield valid insights into human nature which science is poorly equipped to test. For Coyne to suggest that we should not place any credence in these insights until they have been confirmed by laboratory experiments is simply risible. Sensible people don’t wait for scientific confirmation of truths which they can perceive at once, upon reading a work by a great author, such as Shakespeare.

In defense of intuition

The final source of knowledge that I would like to defend in this post is intuition. Intuitions may be either general (relating to human nature) or particular (relating to this or that individual).

I’ll discuss general intuitions first. It is true that there are certain beliefs that each of us has about human nature which subsequently turn out to be empirically false. Someone living in the 1950s may have believed, for instance, that the well-being of children would invariably suffer if their mothers went out to work. Longitudinal studies by scientists may discredit many of our widely held assumptions about human nature. But that does not mean that intuition cannot yield genuine knowledge of human nature; all it shows is that human intuition (like the scientific method) is fallible: we all make mistakes sometimes. It would be a fallacy to argue that because an alleged source of knowledge is fallible, it is therefore incapable of yielding knowledge. The philosophical fallacy here is the assumption that “knowledge” presupposes absolute certainty. We do not need a scientist to tell us that a child who loses their mother at a young age will suffer a massive psychological trauma. And we should not need a scientist to tell us that children would not thrive in a society modeled along the lines of Plato’s Republic, in which parenting was communally shared. It should be obvious to any thinking person that children do best if they are brought up by two married parents – even if they sometimes do well under alternative family arrangements. Scientific studies confirm this intuition; but the point I wish to make here is that we should not need scientists to tell us what we already know.

The same goes for particular intuitions about individuals whom we know very well. Once again, these intuitions are fallible: sometimes a spouse is shocked to discover that their partner is cheating on them. Nevertheless, in the ordinary course of events, our intuitions about people whom we know very well tend to be reliable. We do not (and should not) need a scientist to tell us that someone whom we know very well is trustworthy, or that someone in our family loves us. These judgments that we make about particular individuals are intuitive rather than scientific: often we may be quite certain of them, even though we are unable to articulate the grounds for our certainty.

On previous occasions (see here and here), Professor Coyne has acknowledged that people make these intuitive judgments, but has argued that they are nonetheless scientifically testable. For instance, the behavior of your spouse over the course of time can lend strong evidential support to the hypothesis that they love you. If we construe “science” in the broad sense of forming and holding one’s beliefs on the basis of evidence that a reasonable person would accept, then the hypothesis that my spouse loves me is a scientific one, after all. In Coyne’s own words: “Truth isn’t truth, even if it’s suggested by intuition, until it gets science’s stamp of approval.”

But what Coyne overlooks here is that even if statements like “My spouse loves me” are testable, we typically come to believe in their truth long before we have subjected them to systematic testing. Coyne’s view of knowledge would imply that my initial certitude that my spouse loves me is misplaced, because it has not been confirmed by the right kind of evidence. My strong assurance that my wife loves me may not be epistemically justified until years afterwards, when I can point to evidence of her love that an impartial observer would deem to be adequate. If Coyne is right, then, most of us (at one time or another) hold beliefs about people who are near and dear to us which are fundamentally irrational. That, I have to say, strikes me as a very arrogant claim.

The flaw in Coyne’s argument lies in his demand for evidence that would satisfy a reasonable outsider. (Coyne has on previous occasions highly praised John Loftus’ “Outsider Test for Faith,” which proposes this requirement as a way of distinguishing legitimate religious claims from bogus ones.) Coyne’s demand is a perfectly sensible one, where the claims in question relate to the external world, which any observer can go and investigate for themselves. But where the claims in question relate to what another person thinks and feels about you, then surely the best person to assess those claims is you, yourself. For someone to refuse to believe that their own spouse loves them until a fair-minded outsider concurs with their judgment on this matter would constitute a craven lack of confidence in their own cognitive abilities.

It is perfectly reasonable, then, for you to rely on your own intuition, and no other person’s, when forming assessments about what other people think and feel about you.

Can we know a priori metaphysical truths?

One corollary of Coyne’s account of knowledge is that since all knowledge comes to us through the senses, there can be no knowledge which is independent of the senses – and hence no a priori metaphysical truths. Coyne is half right here: Aristotle declared that “nothing is found in the intellect which was not found first in the senses,” and Aquinas echoed his sentiment. But an Aristotlean metaphysician would argue that there are certain truths which we can know, given the mere fact that we live in a world where science is possible. Perhaps the most basic of these is the truth that there must be things (or entities, or substances) of some sort, which fall into fairly well-defined categories (“essences”) which are characterized by certain distinguishing properties. If this were not the case, there would be no “scientific enterprise” as such. Science, in other words, presupposes an essentialism of some sort. Exactly what these essences may be is of course an open question: in the domain of physics, it seems that fields are the fundamental realities; and in chemistry, the periodic table of elements accords very well with essentialistic thinking. Biology is thought to be a field of science which eschews essences, but Professor Coyne has written: “My — and most biologists’ — notion of species are groups that cannot exchange genes because of evolved, genetically-based barriers to gene flow.” And again, in another post, Coyne writes:

…[I]t’s not that biologist haven’t looked for hybrid species: in many groups we have, and simply haven’t found them. There are several thousand species of the fruit fly Drosophila, for example — it’s probably the most heavily-studied group of animals on Earth, at least from a genetic point of view. And not a single species is a hybrid between two others. Indeed, we have only a half-dozen or so cases of any interspecific hybrids at all being seen in the wild, and almost all of those are not only one-offs, but the animals are completely sterile (and hence evolutionary dead ends that cannot produce new species).

I have to say that sounds pretty essentialistic to me, even if we allow that these essences can change gradually, over the course of time.

The metaphysical insight that nothing comes to be without a cause (also known as the principle of causality) has taken a beating in recent decades, with the discovery of particles that pop into existence (and rapidly disappear) within the quantum vacuum. However, it is worth bearing in mind what physicist David Albert wrote, in his evisceration of Lawrence Krauss’s best-seller, A Universe from Nothing:

Relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical vacuum states — no less than giraffes or refrigerators or solar systems — are particular arrangements of elementary physical stuff. The true relativistic-quantum-field-­theoretical equivalent to there not being any physical stuff at all isn’t this or that particular arrangement of the fields — what it is (obviously, and ineluctably, and on the contrary) is the simple absence of the fields! The fact that some arrangements of fields happen to correspond to the existence of particles and some don’t is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that some of the possible arrangements of my fingers happen to correspond to the existence of a fist and some don’t. And the fact that particles can pop in and out of existence, over time, as those fields rearrange themselves, is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that fists can pop in and out of existence, over time, as my fingers rearrange themselves. And none of these poppings — if you look at them aright — amount to anything even remotely in the neighborhood of a creation from nothing.

Coyne might object that David Albert’s defense of the principle of causality does not make it metaphysically necessary; at most, it merely renders it plausible, and in the end, it is still science’s job to adjudicate whether or not it is true. However, it can be argued that causality, too, is a presupposition of there being any kind of science at all. As we have seen, things belong to various kinds, which are characterized by essential properties. However, individual entities have many properties which are non-essential, including their location in space and time, their size and their duration. While a scientist might take the essential properties of a given kind as a fact which admits of no further explanation, the situation is quite otherwise when it comes to non-essential properties. For these properties are contingent states of affairs. And if contingent states of affairs do not fall within the purview of science, then I can only ask: what does?

A thing’s coming-to-be at a particular point in space and time is not an essential property that it possesses because it is the kind of thing it is – after all, other things of the same kind arose at different times. So for any particular entity, it is scientifically legitimate to ask: why did it come to be, here and now? No science which is worthy of the name can afford to ignore this question.

Conclusion

In his book, Faith vs. Fact, Coyne emerges as a stalwart defender of the claim that the scientific method offers the only sure route to knowledge about anything, and that we should not place any credence in other methods which are said to arrive at knowledge – especially the method of relying on faith. In this essay, I have argued that religious people do not simply rely on faith; they have their own epistemic criteria for sifting true from false claims, and many religions also encourage rigorous testing of those claims, as well as open intellectual debate on religious matters. I have also defended the claim that ethics can make factual assertions about the world, that we can make aesthetic judgments which are objectively grounded, and that we can learn something about the human condition which science is incapable of teaching us, by studying the great works of literature. Finally, I have argued that intuition is a valid source of knowledge about human nature in general and also about people whom we know very well.

I conclude, then, that Professor Coyne’s attempts to discredit other sources of knowledge fails, and that there indeed “more things in heaven and on earth” than Coyne’s science will ever reveal.

162 Replies to “Faith vs. Fact: Jerry Coyne’s flawed epistemology

  1. 1
    humbled says:

    Nice review and defense, thanks.

    Coyne serves as an example of how long term exposure to his brand of atheism rots the brain and a persons ability to think critically. The man has clearly lost the plot. His work tells us that he is a troubled and confused man. I find it difficult to read his rants / work without face palming or feeling embarrassed for him on account of how utterly ridiculous and flawed his understanding / arguments are.

    He has a small and equally confused group of followers. It is to them he caters too I suppose.

  2. 2
    Seqenenre says:

    @humbled
    For a humbled guy/girl (I guess guy) you are not very humble.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    “that “You”, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing.”
    Francis Crick – “The Astonishing Hypothesis” 1994

    Jerry Coyne’s epistemology, as well as every materialistic atheist’s epistemology, is flawed at a much deeper level than even the deep flaws you have revealed Dr. Torley.

    According to Jerry Coyne’s epistemology, which is based in materialism, there really is no person named Jerry Coyne to argue for the truthfulness of whatever proposition ‘he’ may believe. In Coyne’s materialism, there is only a neuronal illusion named Jerry Coyne who, (whoever that who is), is under the delusion that his opinions, (if were possible for illusions to have opinions), matter.

    The Confidence of Jerry Coyne – January 6, 2014
    Excerpt: But then halfway through this peroration, we have as an aside the confession that yes, okay, it’s quite possible given materialist premises that “our sense of self is a neuronal illusion.” At which point the entire edifice suddenly looks terribly wobbly — because who, exactly, is doing all of this forging and shaping and purpose-creating if Jerry Coyne, as I understand him (and I assume he understands himself) quite possibly does not actually exist at all? The theme of his argument is the crucial importance of human agency under eliminative materialism, but if under materialist premises the actual agent is quite possibly a fiction, then who exactly is this I who “reads” and “learns” and “teaches,” and why in the universe’s name should my illusory self believe Coyne’s bold proclamation that his illusory self’s purposes are somehow “real” and worthy of devotion and pursuit? (Let alone that they’re morally significant: But more on that below.) Prometheus cannot be at once unbound and unreal; the human will cannot be simultaneously triumphant and imaginary.
    http://douthat.blogs.nytimes.c.....oyne/?_r=0

    Many leading atheists themselves, (whoever ‘themselves’ are in atheistic materialism), besides Coyne admit that it is impossible for them to live consistently within their worldview:

    [Nancy Pearcey] When Reality Clashes with Your Atheistic Worldview – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0Kpn3HBMiQ

    Darwin’s Robots: When Evolutionary Materialists Admit that Their Own Worldview Fails – Nancy Pearcey – April 23, 2015
    Excerpt: Even materialists often admit that, in practice, it is impossible for humans to live any other way. One philosopher jokes that if people deny free will, then when ordering at a restaurant they should say, “Just bring me whatever the laws of nature have determined I will get.”
    An especially clear example is Galen Strawson, a philosopher who states with great bravado, “The impossibility of free will … can be proved with complete certainty.” Yet in an interview, Strawson admits that, in practice, no one accepts his deterministic view. “To be honest, I can’t really accept it myself,” he says. “I can’t really live with this fact from day to day. Can you, really?”,,,
    In What Science Offers the Humanities, Edward Slingerland, identifies himself as an unabashed materialist and reductionist. Slingerland argues that Darwinian materialism leads logically to the conclusion that humans are robots — that our sense of having a will or self or consciousness is an illusion. Yet, he admits, it is an illusion we find impossible to shake. No one “can help acting like and at some level really feeling that he or she is free.” We are “constitutionally incapable of experiencing ourselves and other conspecifics [humans] as robots.”
    One section in his book is even titled “We Are Robots Designed Not to Believe That We Are Robots.”,,,
    When I teach these concepts in the classroom, an example my students find especially poignant is Flesh and Machines by Rodney Brooks, professor emeritus at MIT. Brooks writes that a human being is nothing but a machine — a “big bag of skin full of biomolecules” interacting by the laws of physics and chemistry. In ordinary life, of course, it is difficult to actually see people that way. But, he says, “When I look at my children, I can, when I force myself, … see that they are machines.”
    Is that how he treats them, though? Of course not: “That is not how I treat them…. I interact with them on an entirely different level. They have my unconditional love, the furthest one might be able to get from rational analysis.” Certainly if what counts as “rational” is a materialist worldview in which humans are machines, then loving your children is irrational. It has no basis
    within Brooks’s worldview. It sticks out of his box.
    How does he reconcile such a heart-wrenching cognitive dissonance? He doesn’t. Brooks ends by saying, “I maintain two sets of inconsistent beliefs.” He has given up on any attempt to reconcile his theory with his experience. He has abandoned all hope for a unified, logically consistent worldview.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....95451.html

    To be Captain Obvious for a moment, if it is impossible for ‘you’ to live as if your worldview were true then that is powerful evidence that your worldview is in fact not true!

    Existential Argument against Atheism – November 1, 2013 by Jason Petersen
    1. If a worldview is true then you should be able to live consistently with that worldview.
    2. Atheists are unable to live consistently with their worldview.
    3. If you can’t live consistently with an atheist worldview then the worldview does not reflect reality.
    4. If a worldview does not reflect reality then that worldview is a delusion.
    5. If atheism is a delusion then atheism cannot be true.
    Conclusion: Atheism is false.
    http://answersforhope.com/exis.....t-atheism/

    Moreover, since science demands rationality in order to be viable as a coherent method for gathering knowledge about the world, and since rationality requires personal agents with the free will necessary to make rational decisions, then, or course, it is impossible for materialism to truly be a ‘scientific’ worldview:

    Sam Harris’s Free Will: The Medial Pre-Frontal Cortex Did It – Martin Cothran – November 9, 2012
    Excerpt: There is something ironic about the position of thinkers like Harris on issues like this: they claim that their position is the result of the irresistible necessity of logic (in fact, they pride themselves on their logic). Their belief is the consequent, in a ground/consequent relation between their evidence and their conclusion. But their very stated position is that any mental state — including their position on this issue — is the effect of a physical, not logical cause.
    By their own logic, it isn’t logic that demands their assent to the claim that free will is an illusion, but the prior chemical state of their brains. The only condition under which we could possibly find their argument convincing is if they are not true. The claim that free will is an illusion requires the possibility that minds have the freedom to assent to a logical argument, a freedom denied by the claim itself. It is an assent that must, in order to remain logical and not physiological, presume a perspective outside the physical order.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....66221.html

    (1) rationality implies a thinker in control of thoughts.
    (2) under materialism a thinker is an effect caused by processes in the brain.
    (3) in order for materialism to ground rationality a thinker (an effect) must control processes in the brain (a cause). (1)&(2)
    (4) no effect can control its cause.
    Therefore materialism cannot ground rationality.
    per Box UD

    In the following article, Dr. Nelson ties the ‘personal agent’ argument into intelligent design:

    Do You Like SETI? Fine, Then Let’s Dump Methodological Naturalism – Paul Nelson – September 24, 2014
    Excerpt: “Epistemology — how we know — and ontology — what exists — are both affected by methodological naturalism (MN). If we say, “We cannot know that a mind caused x,” laying down an epistemological boundary defined by MN, then our ontology comprising real causes for x won’t include minds.
    MN entails an ontology in which minds are the consequence of physics, and thus, can only be placeholders for a more detailed causal account in which physics is the only (ultimate) actor. You didn’t write your email to me. Physics did, and informed you of that event after the fact.
    “That’s crazy,” you reply, “I certainly did write my email.” Okay, then — to what does the pronoun “I” in that sentence refer?
    Your personal agency; your mind. Are you supernatural?,,,
    You are certainly an intelligent cause, however, and your intelligence does not collapse into physics. (If it does collapse — i.e., can be reduced without explanatory loss — we haven’t the faintest idea how, which amounts to the same thing.) To explain the effects you bring about in the world — such as your email, a real pattern — we must refer to you as a unique agent.,,,
    some feature of “intelligence” must be irreducible to physics, because otherwise we’re back to physics versus physics, and there’s nothing for SETI to look for.”,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....90071.html

    And although Dr. Nelson alluded to writing an e-mail, (i.e. creating information), to tie his ‘personal agent’ argument into intelligent design, Dr. Nelson’s ‘personal agent’ argument can easily be amended to any action that ‘you’, as a personal agent, choose to take:

    “You didn’t write your email to me. Physics did, and informed the illusion of you of that event after the fact.”

    “You didn’t open the door. Physics did, and informed the illusion of you of that event after the fact.”

    “You didn’t raise your hand. Physics did, and informed the illusion you of that event after the fact.”

    “You didn’t etc.. etc.. etc… Physics did, and informed the illusion of you of that event after the fact.”

    Dr. Craig Hazen, in the following video at the 12:26 minute mark, relates how he performed, for an audience full of academics at a college, a ‘miracle’ simply by raising his arm,,

    The Intersection of Science and Religion – Craig Hazen, PhD – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?f.....qlE#t=746s

    What should be needless to say, if raising your arm is enough to refute your supposedly ‘scientific’ worldview of materialism, then perhaps it is time for you to seriously consider getting a new scientific worldview?

    As to providing a alternate, ‘rational’, scientific worldview to materialism, might I suggest the worldview that gave birth to modern science in the first place? i.e. The Judeo-Christian worldview!

    Science and Theism: Concord, not Conflict* – Robert C. Koons
    IV. The Dependency of Science Upon Theism (Page 21)
    Excerpt: Far from undermining the credibility of theism, the remarkable success of science in modern times is a remarkable confirmation of the truth of theism. It was from the perspective of Judeo-Christian theism—and from the perspective alone—that it was predictable that science would have succeeded as it has. Without the faith in the rational intelligibility of the world and the divine vocation of human beings to master it, modern science would never have been possible, and, even today, the continued rationality of the enterprise of science depends on convictions that can be reasonably grounded only in theistic metaphysics.
    http://www.robkoons.net/media/.....ffd524.pdf

    Of supplemental note:

    Dr. Torley, here is a book edited by Dr Koons that may interest you personally

    The Waning of Materialism Edited by Robert C. Koons and George Bealer
    Description: Twenty-three philosophers examine the doctrine of materialism and find it wanting. The case against materialism comprises arguments from conscious experience, from the unity and identity of the person, from intentionality, mental causation, and knowledge. The contributors include leaders in the fields of philosophy of mind, metaphysics, ontology, and epistemology, who respond ably to the most recent versions and defenses of materialism. The modal arguments of Kripke and Chalmers, Jackson’s knowledge argument, Kim’s exclusion problem, and Burge’s anti-individualism all play a part in the building of a powerful cumulative case against the materialist research program. Several papers address the implications of contemporary brain and cognitive research (the psychophysics of color perception, blindsight, and the effects of commissurotomies), adding a posteriori arguments to the classical a priori critique of reductionism. All of the current versions of materialism–reductive and non-reductive, functionalist, eliminativist, and new wave materialism–come under sustained and trenchant attack.
    http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/.....0199556199

  4. 4
    KevNick says:

    The most embarrassing is the fact that Coyne uses both terms faith and religion interchangeably as if they were the same…. I’m not sure if he does it deliberately to confuse the reader or if he really can’t see the difference….

    In any case, Coyne contradicts himself so many times, and his rants are so sightless that I utterly think the man has very serious problems….

    Who in the right frame of mind would go on national television and made a fool of himself without the slightest sign of embarrassment or shame?

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    VJT:

    Quite interesting and well researched as usual.

    I would note on defining faith in Heb 11, that perhaps several vv down gives a more clear statement:

    Heb 11:1 Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, [a]the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].

    2 For by [faith—[b]trust and holy fervor born of faith] the men of old had divine testimony borne to them and obtained a good report . . . .

    6 But without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out]. [AMP]

    The Amplified, of course, draws out underlying Gk and linked considerations.

    Faith starts from the conviction of the reality and character of God then reaches out in trust and diligence, being answered by what Pascal famously called “Fire.”

    His poem on his encounter with God on Nov 23 1654, is revealing:

    Fire
    ‘God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob,’ not of philosophers and scholars.
    Certainty, certainty, heartfelt, joy, peace.
    God of Jesus Christ.
    God of Jesus Christ.
    My God and your God.
    ‘Thy God shall be my God.’
    The world forgotten, and everything except God.
    He can only be found by the ways taught in the Gospels.
    Greatness of the human soul.
    ‘O righteous Father, the world had not known thee, but I have known thee.’
    Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
    I have cut myself off from him.
    They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters.
    ‘My God wilt thou forsake me?’
    Let me not be cut off from him for ever!
    And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.’
    Jesus Christ.
    Jesus Christ.
    I have cut myself off from him, shunned him, denied him, crucified him.
    Let me never be cut off from him!
    He can only be kept by the ways taught in the Gospel.
    Sweet and total renunciation.
    Total submission to Jesus Christ and my director.
    Everlasting joy in return for one day’s effort on earth.
    I will not forget thy word. Amen.

    Now, I would suggest to the skeptic that for one who has had transforming encounter with God, that reality trumps skeptical doubts; even as one will not take seriously the notion that his mother is a zombie without a real person there — which BTW is a problem for evolutionary materialist scientism, it undermines the conscious, responsibly free self. [–> I add, I see BA77 has already taken this up.] And that is the situation of literally millions across the years, with impacts on lives, communities and the course of history being plain enough, just try Wilberforce and Wesley to see how that impact plays out across time with enough distance to evaluate. Indeed, the NT itself pivots on that.

    And, I find it unreasonable and hyperskeptical to deride and dismiss significant eyewitness testimony and eyewitness lifetime record of such, which is what the NT addresses.

    Similarly, I find 2 Tim 3 illuminating on the inheritance of a faith tradition in a family-community context as Paul discusses Timothy’s faith:

    2 Tim 3:10 Now you have closely observed and diligently followed my teaching, conduct, purpose in life, faith, patience, love, steadfastness,

    11 Persecutions, sufferings—such as occurred to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra, persecutions I endured, but out of them all the Lord delivered me.

    12 Indeed all who delight in piety and are determined to live a devoted and godly life in Christ Jesus will meet with persecution [will be made to suffer because of their religious stand].

    13 But wicked men and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and leading astray others and being deceived and led astray themselves.

    14 But as for you, continue to hold to the things that you have learned and of which you are convinced [–> the word here is that for rhetorical proof, effectively, in context soundly arrived at conviction not mere manipulation], knowing from whom you learned [them],

    15 And how from your childhood you have had a knowledge of and been acquainted with the sacred Writings, which are able to instruct you and give you the understanding for salvation which comes through faith in Christ Jesus [through the [b]leaning of the entire human personality on God in Christ Jesus in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness].

    16 Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action),

    17 So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.

    In short, it is not unreasonable to live on sound convictions rooted in living community and reasonable record.

    Going beyond, I suggest that once one looks at the roots of worldviews (and especially the issue of infinite regress vs circularity vs finitely remote first plausibles accepted in light of comparative difficulties), one cannot reason without faith commitments. And, such can be a responsible, reasonable faith.

    The attempt to suggest that there is a war between “Science” and inevitably irrational “Faith” is based on a strawman caricature. One that also evades the inherently self-referentially incoherent nature of evolutionary materialist scientism. (More later DV.)

    KF

  6. 6
    Virgil Cain says:

    Obviously Coyne is confused as he thinks his position is science, it isn’t it is faith, and that properly assessing the evidence is faith.

    It is a waste of time trying to reason with people like Coyne.

  7. 7
    Mung says:

    “It’s a conflict between how you justify, or how you have confidence in, what you believe – or what you know.”

    For him, perhaps. But that is not how it has to be for everyone. When Coyne understands this then perhaps he can actually be objective.

    Not only that, but the claim that sciences tells us how we can know things or what we ought to believe is itself deeply philosophical – and itself flawed.

    It should not be without wonder that many people reject a view that is self-refuting. People who give logic a place in how they reason about things, that is.

    I recently posted something from Thomas Reid over at TSZ:

    “For before men can reason together, they must agree in first principles; and it is impossible to reason with a man who has no principles in common with you.” Thomas Reid wrote, “There are, therefore, common principles, which are the foundation of all reasoning, and of all science. Such common principles seldom admit of direct proof, nor do they need it. Men need not to be taught them; for they are such as all men of common understanding know; or such, at least, as they give a ready assent to, as soon as they are proposed and understood. Such principles, when we have occasion to use them in science, are called axioms.”

    What are these first principles and how does science lead us to the knowledge of them? Or has Coyne put the cart before the horse? Or is he trying to turn science into philosophy?

  8. 8
    EugeneS says:

    If Jerry Coyne is in disagreement with Christ, I remain with Christ. Even if Coyne lays out his stupid argument without a flaw. Call me whatever you want, but I personally know Christ enough not to give a pin to Mr Coyne. In the whole of the Greek Areopagus at the time there were only a handful of people who treated St Paul seriously. What shall I say about the rest? Pride and willful blindness get in the way of many. I personally don’t even care what the likes of Coyne say.

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    Here is a pertinent quote from Coyne

    “What you’re doing is simply instantiating a self: the program run by your neurons which you feel is “you.””
    Jerry Coyne
    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/eagleton-on-baggini-on-free-will/

    Can some atheist please tell me exactly who this ‘you’ is that is doing the ‘instantiating’, and who is this ‘you’ that feels like you?

  10. 10
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: Why I Am a Christian (David Wood, Former Atheist) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DakEcY7Z5GU

  11. 11
    Mung says:

    On faith, I like the view that faith itself is evidence. So what we have is a conflict over what constitutes evidence and science cannot answer that question.

    Coyne’s opinion is just his own subjective opinion. When he provides some evidence that his own personal subjective opinions are scientifically objectively true (good luck with that Jerry) then perhaps he will be worth taking seriously.

  12. 12
  13. 13

    It is a bad mistake to reconstrue “faith” as evidence based, by signs from God. That is undermining the faith part in faith, which is throwing faith out.

    Jerry Coyne like all the other atheists is against subjectivity (opinion) altogether, he competes objectivity against subjectivity to the complete destruction of it. It is then terribly bad form to respond with arguing that faith is some sort of objective evidence based pursuit.

    When Coyne says to accept “preferences” of people, then he is allowing what his philosophy does not allow. “Preferences” do not figure in his philosophy, only facts figure in his philosophy. They are not an integrated part of his philosophy, it is just added separately for appearances, in total contradiction to the mainstay of his philosophy. And if push comes to shove, we will find that in Coyne’s philosophy “preferences” get shoved.

    Coyne regards the existence of love as fact, so as that when somebody says “the painting is beautiful”, then for Coyne this is a statement of fact about love for the way the painting looks existing in the brain. So the opinion that the painting is beautiful, is construed as a statement of fact. Opinion = fact, opinion is destroyed.

    Creationism should be regarded as a generic philosophy which underlays all reasoning, as alike materialism is now regarded much. But only creationism validates both fact and opinion, only creationism can validate faith and preference, as separate and distinct from fact which it also validates.

    1 Creator
    2 chooses
    3 existence is a matter of opinion

    1 creation
    2 chosen
    3 existence is a matter of fact

    choosing = to make a possibility, which is in the future, the present or not
    opinion = the result of choosing about who or what it is that chooses
    fact = (evidence forcing to produce) a model (of what is evidenced)

    How these categories work is for example; the soul chooses over the body and brain. The soul is in the creator category, because it chooses, therefore the existence of the soul is a matter of opinion. Therefore the conclusion the soul exists is equally valid to the conclusion the soul does not exist, just as well the painting is ugly and the painting is beautiful are equally valid conclusions.

    Facts are simply copying. The book about the moon containing the facts about it, are a 1 to 1 copy of the actual moon, to a world of words, pictures and mathematics.

    That is how preference, faith, opinion, fact, evidence, are all genuinely accepted in one integrated conceptual scheme.

  14. 14
    Seversky says:

    bornagain77 @ 3

    To be Captain Obvious for a moment, if it is impossible for ‘you’ to live as if your worldview were true then that is powerful evidence that your worldview is in fact not true!

    Existential Argument against Atheism – November 1, 2013 by Jason Petersen
    1. If a worldview is true then you should be able to live consistently with that worldview.
    2. Atheists are unable to live consistently with their worldview.
    3. If you can’t live consistently with an atheist worldview then the worldview does not reflect reality.
    4. If a worldview does not reflect reality then that worldview is a delusion.
    5. If atheism is a delusion then atheism cannot be true.
    Conclusion: Atheism is false.
    http://answersforhope.com/exis…..t-atheism/

    Says who?

    That silly argument falls flat on its face because premiss 2 is flat-out wrong.

  15. 15
    EugeneS says:

    Mung #11:

    On faith, I like the view that faith itself is evidence.

    Leaving aside the hard question of what constitutes genuine faith (not that it cannot be answered but it is a different question here), I agree.

    But on top of that, I don’t even see a conflict (of course on condition that science should mind its own business and remain what it is, i.e. a tool). Once one agrees that science cannot ground axiology but instead is grounded by it, there is no conflict whatever.

    And BTW thanks for another interesting link. I actually bought Rosen’s ‘Life Itself’ book you recommended. A very good read.

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky, in context it is evolutionary materialist scientism that is on the table and it is manifest that such is utterly, irretrievably incoherent. Starting with letting grand delusion loose in human thought, undermining conscious, responsible rational freedom and more. As Coyne’s remarks above abundantly demonstrate by way of example. KF

  17. 17
    bornagain77 says:

    Seversky ‘you’ ask:

    “Says who?”

    Exactly! Now we are finally getting somewhere.

    There is no ‘who’ within materialism to do the asking. There is, according to Coyne, only a neuronal illusion, i.e. a ‘program run by your neurons which ‘you’ feel is “you.”’

    Even leading atheistic thinkers admit they cannot live consistently within their stated worldview:

    [Nancy Pearcey] When Reality Clashes with Your Atheistic Worldview – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0Kpn3HBMiQ

    Moreover, to the extent a atheistic materialist is able to live consistently within his stated worldview, he would be psychopathic:

    The Heretic – Who is Thomas Nagel and why are so many of his fellow academics condemning him? – March 25, 2013
    Excerpt:,,,Fortunately, materialism is never translated into life as it’s lived. As colleagues and friends, husbands and mothers, wives and fathers, sons and daughters, materialists never put their money where their mouth is. Nobody thinks his daughter is just molecules in motion and nothing but; nobody thinks the Holocaust was evil, but only in a relative, provisional sense. A materialist who lived his life according to his professed convictions—understanding himself to have no moral agency at all, seeing his friends and enemies and family as genetically determined robots—wouldn’t just be a materialist: He’d be a psychopath.
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/.....tml?page=3

    This psychopathic characteristic inherent to the atheistic philosophy is born out empirically in that people who do not believe in free will and a soul are found to be more psychopathic than people who do believe in free will and a soul:

    (Materialistic) Scientists say free will probably doesn’t exist, but urge: “Don’t stop believing!” -2010
    Excerpt: Studies found people who were told there is no such thing as free will were more likely to cheat under experimental conditions. “One of the most striking findings to emerge recently in the science of free will is that when people believe—or are led to believe—that free will is just an illusion, they tend to become more antisocial.” For example, in an experiment involving money, some participants were randomly assigned to what was called a determinism condition:
    They were asked to read statements such as, “A belief in free will contradicts the known fact that the universe is governed by lawful principles of science.” Those participants stole more money than those who had been randomly assigned to read statements from what was called a free-will condition–who had read statements such as, “Avoiding temptation requires that I exert my free will.”
    http://blogs.scientificamerica.....believing/

    The (moral) value of believing in free will (several studies):
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-565274

    Anthony Jack, Why Don’t Psychopaths Believe in Dualism? – video – 14:30 minute mark
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?l.....zOk#t=862s

    A scientific case for conceptual dualism: The problem of consciousness and the opposing domains hypothesis. – Anthony I. Jack – 2013
    Excerpt page 18: we predicted that psychopaths would not be able to perceive the problem of consciousness.,,
    In a series of five experiments (Jack, in preparation), we found a highly replicable and robust negative correlation (r~-0.34) between belief in dualism and the primary psychopathic trait of callous affect7.
    Page 24: Clearly these findings fit well with the hypothesis (Robbins and Jack, 2006) that psychopaths can’t see the problem of consciousness8. Taking these finding together with other work on dehumanization and the anti-social effects of denying the soul and free will, they present a powerful picture. When we see persons, that is, when we see others as fellow humans, then our percept is of something essentially non-physical nature. This feature of our psychology appears to be relevant to a number of other philosophical issues, including the tension between utilitarian principles and deontological concerns about harming persons (Jack et al., accepted), the question of whether God exists (Jack et al., under review-b), and the problem of free will9.

    Here is a dramatic personal testimony of that psychopathic characteristic inherent to atheism:

    Why I Am a Christian (David Wood, Former Atheist) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DakEcY7Z5GU

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    BA77, excellent. Keep ’em coming. KF

  19. 19
    daveS says:

    KF,

    BA77, excellent. Keep ’em coming. KF

    You cannot be serious. Do you think BA77’s post actually rebuts Seversky’s objection?

  20. 20
    bornagain77 says:

    daveS, and why are ‘you’, an atheist who must deny agent causality to stay consistent within your Darwinian worldview, addressing kf as if he is really a person who has the free will to freely choose the most rational of options?

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter”.
    J. B. S. Haldane [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.

    Physicalism and Reason – May 2013
    Summary: So we find ourselves affirming two contradictory propositions:
    1. Everything is governed by cause-and-effect.
    2. Our brains can process and be changed by ground-consequent logical relationships.
    To achieve consistency, we must either deny that everything is governed by cause-and-effect, and open our worldviews to something beyond physicalism, or we must deny that our brains are influenced by ground-consequence reasoning, and abandon the idea that we are rational creatures.
    Ask yourself: are humans like falling dominoes, entirely subject to natural law, or may we stand up and walk in the direction that reason shows us?
    http://www.reasonsforgod.org/2.....nd-reason/

    “One absolutely central inconsistency ruins [the popular scientific philosophy]. The whole picture professes to depend on inferences from observed facts. Unless inference is valid, the whole picture disappears… unless Reason is an absolute, all is in ruins. Yet those who ask me to believe this world picture also ask me to believe that Reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of mindless matter at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming. Here is flat contradiction. They ask me at the same moment to accept a conclusion and to discredit the only testimony on which that conclusion can be based.”
    —C.S. Lewis, Is Theology Poetry (aka the Argument from Reason)

    Remembering Arthur Balfour, Friend of Science and Friendly Opponent to Atheist Bertrand Russell
    Mike Keas – November 20, 2014
    Excerpt: Balfour understood the anti-rational implications of naturalism (and Darwinism). He argued that the assumptions of naturalism (including in its Darwinian manifestation) lead to conclusions about the origin of rationality that undermine rationality itself, and thus undermine any alleged scientific support for naturalism. In contrast, theism — including the idea that humans bear the divine image — grounds human rationality quite well.
    The following is from Balfour’s The Foundations of Belief, pages 279-283.
    “Consider the following propositions, selected from the naturalistic creed or deduced from it:
    (i.) My beliefs, insofar as they are the result of reasoning at all, are founded on premises produced in the last resort by the collision of atoms.
    (ii.) Atoms, having no prejudices in favour of truth, are as likely to turn out wrong premises as right ones; nay, more likely, inasmuch as truth is single and error manifold.
    (iii.) My premises, therefore, in the first place, and my conclusions in the second, are certainly untrustworthy, and probably false. Their falsity, moreover, is of a kind which cannot be remedied; since any attempt to correct it must start from premises not suffering under the same defect. But no such premises exist.
    (iv.) Therefore, again, my opinion about the original causes which produced my premises, as it is an inference from them, partakes of their weakness; so that I cannot either securely doubt my own certainties or be certain about my own doubts.
    This is scepticism indeed; scepticism which is forced by its own inner nature to be sceptical even about itself;,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....91361.html

    Do the New Atheists Own the Market on Reason? – On the terms of the New Atheists, the very concept of rationality becomes nonsensical – By R. Scott Smith, May 03, 2012
    Excerpt: If atheistic evolution by NS were true, we’d be in a beginningless series of interpretations, without any knowledge. Yet, we do know many things. So, naturalism & atheistic evolution by NS are false — non-physical essences exist. But, what’s their best explanation? Being non-physical, it can’t be evolution by NS. Plus, we use our experiences, form concepts and beliefs, and even modify or reject them. Yet, if we’re just physical beings, how could we interact with and use these non-physical things? Perhaps we have non-physical souls too. In all, it seems likely the best explanation for these non-physical things is that there exists a Creator after all.
    http://www.patheos.com/Evangel.....#038;max=1

    ” Hawking’s entire argument is built upon theism. He is, as Cornelius Van Til put it, like the child who must climb up onto his father’s lap into order to slap his face.
    Take that part about the “human mind” for example. Under atheism there is no such thing as a mind. There is no such thing as understanding and no such thing as truth. All (Stephen) Hawking is left with is a box, called a skull, which contains a bunch of molecules.
    Hawking needs God in order to deny Him.”
    – Cornelius Hunter –
    Photo
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-H-kj.....0/rob4.jpg

  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    DS:

    Start from BA77’s citation of Nagel, in light of the IS-OUGHT gap challenge, and from the highlighting of Coyne’s claims. Not to mention Nancy Pearcey’s remarks.

    Evolutionary materialist, scientistic atheism (the kind in view) does in fact run into serious, multiply demonstrable and admitted self-referential incoherence; both intellectually and morally. BA77 is simply collecting some of it.

    BA77 is often under-appreciated but frequently provides good food for thought.

    KF

  22. 22
    daveS says:

    BA77,

    daveS, and why are ‘you’, an atheist who must deny agent causality to stay consistent within your Darwinian worldview, addressing kf as if he is really a person who has the free will to freely choose the most rational of options?

    I’m just an atheist. I don’t have to deny agent causality, and by the way, I don’t deny the existence of free will. I’m not sure what this has to do with Darwin or evolutionary biology in general, by the way, so there’s no need to bring “Darwinism” into the discussion.

    I would really like to see what KF thinks of the “existential argument against atheism”, though.

  23. 23
    Axel says:

    I don’t even think BA77 is under-appreciated, KF. My impression, for what it’s worth, is that BA77 has an enormous following of silent lurkers, scientists and lay people, who greatly appreciate his eclectic synthesis of converging data on the truth of Christianity – certainly theism, with a likely contingent of Moslem believers, as well. But we’ll learn one day soon, no doubt.

  24. 24
    bornagain77 says:

    “I’m just an atheist. I don’t have to deny agent causality, and by the way, I don’t deny the existence of free will.”

    consistency is definitely not your strong suit!

    “I’m not sure what this has to do with Darwin or evolutionary biology in general, by the way, so there’s no need to bring “Darwinism” into the discussion.”

    neo-Darwinism, particularly the physicalism/materialism that undergirds Darwinian thought, makes several core claims. Two of those core claims of neo-Darwinism are that information and consciousness are ’emergent’ from a material basis. If you cannot see the relevance of that, ‘you’, whoever ‘you’ are, are, IMHO, being willfully blind!

    ‘But the hard problem of consciousness is so hard that I can’t even imagine what kind of empirical findings would satisfactorily solve it. In fact, I don’t even know what kind of discovery would get us to first base, not to mention a home run.’
    David Barash – Materialist/Atheist Darwinian Psychologist

    “We have so much confidence in our materialist assumptions (which are assumptions, not facts) that something like free will is denied in principle. Maybe it doesn’t exist, but I don’t really know that. Either way, it doesn’t matter because if free will and consciousness are just an illusion, they are the most seamless illusions ever created. Film maker James Cameron wishes he had special effects that good.”
    Matthew D. Lieberman – neuroscientist – materialist – UCLA professor

    There is simply no direct evidence that anything material is capable of generating consciousness. As Rutgers University philosopher Jerry Fodor says,

    “Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious. Nobody even knows what it would be like to have the slightest idea about how anything material could be conscious. So much for the philosophy of consciousness. Regardless of our knowledge of the structure of the brain, no one has any idea how the brain could possibly generate conscious experience.”
    http://www.merkawah.nl/public_.....gwrepr.pdf

    Sentient robots? Not possible if you do the maths – 13 May 2014
    Over the past decade, Giulio Tononi at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his colleagues have developed a mathematical framework for consciousness that has become one of the most influential theories in the field. According to their model, the ability to integrate information is a key property of consciousness. ,,,
    But there is a catch, argues Phil Maguire at the National University of Ireland in Maynooth. He points to a computational device called the XOR logic gate, which involves two inputs, A and B. The output of the gate is “1” if A and B are the same and “0” if A and B are different. In this scenario, it is impossible to predict the output based on A or B alone – you need both.
    Crucially, this type of integration requires loss of information, says Maguire: “You have put in two bits, and you get one out. If the brain integrated information in this fashion, it would have to be continuously haemorrhaging information.”,,,
    Based on this definition, Maguire and his team have shown mathematically that computers can’t handle any process that integrates information completely. If you accept that consciousness is based on total integration, then computers can’t be conscious.
    http://www.newscientist.com/ar.....3LD5ChuqCe

  25. 25
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Evolutionary materialist, scientistic atheism (the kind in view) does in fact run into serious, multiply demonstrable and admitted self-referential incoherence; both intellectually and morally.

    Thanks for the reply. I don’t consider myself an “evolutionary materialist scientistic atheist”, so I can’t address that position’s in/coherence myself. However, I don’t believe that all atheists necessarily must be more inconsistent than Christians (or anyone else), as the author implies.

  26. 26
    bornagain77 says:

    “,,,”I” don’t believe”””

    again whom is the mythical “I” you keep referring to?

  27. 27
    daveS says:

    BA77,

    consistency is definitely not your strong suit!

    No inconsistency on my part. Please, if you want to carry on a discussion, refrain from posting all these irrelevant links which refer to positions that I don’t hold.

    Edit:

    again whom is the mythical “I” you keep referring to?

    Sigh. There’s no reason you can say “I” but I can’t.

  28. 28
    bornagain77 says:

    “refrain from posting all these irrelevant links which refer to positions that I don’t hold.”

    Since my ‘irrelevant links’ had to do with the materialistic/atheistic belief that consciousness is ’emergent from a material basis, and since it is a position that you claim you don’t hold, then you must hold consciousness, i.e. your subjective sense of self, is NOT ’emergent’ from a material basis? So where does your subjective sense of self, i.e. your consciousness, come from then?

    i.e. Welcome to Theism!

  29. 29

    Atheists reject agency, because agency cannot be evidenced. Atheists demand evidence for the soul or spirit of a man, or else they don’t believe it exists. Atheists don’t do subjectivity, they only do objectivity.

    The reason agency cannot be evidenced, is because per definition agency is free, because it chooses. Facts are obtained by evidence forcing to a conclusion, resulting in a 1 to 1 model of what is evidenced. A book containing the facts about the moon is a forced model of what the moon is actually made out of.

    So facts require force, while agency requires freedom, these 2 don’t match. Therefore it is logically impossible to get any facts whatsoever about agency.

    But this isn’t a problem because we simply have subjectivity to deal with that. Expression of emotion, with free will, forming an opinion about what the agency of a decision is.

    But no atheist will ever accept subjectivity is valid, because their entire emotional life is based on regarding good and evil as fact. Atheists conceive of choosing as sorting out the best result using the facts about good and evil as sorting criteria. This means that every time they made a decision, then by the definition of choosing that they use, they did the best, and their ego get’s a boost. And when they did not do the best, then by definition they did not choose it, it was an accident. You can never get an atheist loose from their ego-boosting habit.

    Atheists are incapable of rational discourse about decisionmaking, subjectivity, and so on. They are good for making theory in terms of cause and effect, but that is all what they are good for, and it is useless to try to engage with them on the other subjects.

  30. 30
  31. 31
    daveS says:

    “refrain from posting all these irrelevant links which refer to positions that I don’t hold.”

    Since my ‘irrelevant links’ had to do with the materialistic/atheistic belief that consciousness is ’emergent from a material basis, and since it is a position that you claim you don’t hold, then you must hold consciousness, i.e. your subject sense of self, is NOT ’emergent’ from a material basis? So where does you sense of self, i.e. consciousness, come from then?

    I have no idea whether consciousness emerges from a material basis or not. In fact, my understanding of this “material basis” itself is pretty sketchy. For example: Where is the quantum theory of gravity? What’s up with quark confinement? Do dark matter and dark energy exist? (These are rhetorical questions, obviously, since they’re unsolved—no need to reply to them).

    Simply positing the existence of a god isn’t going to help me understand where consciousness comes from.

  32. 32

    You are already embarked in life, regardless that you don’t have the facts about how consciousness works. And for living you require knowledge about decisions, and it has already been provided to you naturally, the knowledge inherent in common discourse says how it works. We can see as fact the words you choose to write, but who you are as making those decisions turn out the way they do, is a matter of opinion. Smug, selfsatisfied, despairing, emotionless, that is my opinion of who you are, your spirit which chooses the words. Like all atheists, you are no good at subjectivity.

  33. 33
    bornagain77 says:

    A Short Survey Of Quantum Mechanics and Consciousness
    Excerpt: Putting all the lines of evidence together the argument for God from consciousness can now be framed like this:
    1. Consciousness either preceded all of material reality or is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality.
    2. If consciousness is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality then consciousness will be found to have no special position within material reality. Whereas conversely, if consciousness precedes material reality then consciousness will be found to have a special position within material reality.
    3. Consciousness is found to have a special, even central, position within material reality.
    4. Therefore, consciousness is found to precede material reality.
    Four intersecting lines of experimental evidence from quantum mechanics that shows that consciousness precedes material reality (Wigner’s Quantum Symmetries, Wheeler’s Delayed Choice, Leggett’s Inequalities, Quantum Zeno effect)
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1uLcJUgLm1vwFyjwcbwuYP0bK6k8mXy-of990HudzduI/edit

  34. 34
    Silver Asiatic says:

    daveS

    Simply positing the existence of a god isn’t going to help me understand where consciousness comes from.

    True enough because the mere existence of a god doesn’t tell you much. However, it is an essential starting point for greater understanding.

    If you accept the premise, then you can understand more about where consciousness comes from.

    Premise: “A god exists”.

    Now, hypothetically, you accept that. “Yes, a god exists”.

    As above, the premise alone says nothing much. However, you have a new starting point to investigate. Your world view would include a god.

    At that point, you could investigate everything you could about a divine order — and consult those who have studied. learned about and taught about this topic considerably.

    On that path, some answers about consciousness can be found also.

  35. 35
    daveS says:

    BA77,

    It’s been pointed out to you you’re just smuggling the concept of consciousness into these discussions. For example, if you look at the wikipedia page for the Quantum Zeno effect, you will not find “conscious” or “consciousness” anywhere.

  36. 36
    daveS says:

    Silver Asiatic,

    Maybe so. On the other hand, I do already have quite a bit of contact with religion, attending church regularly and being married to a theist, so I do frequently reflect on how things would differ if I believed there was a god. That’s about as close as I could get, short of accepting your premise, but I don’t believe it’s possible to “will myself” into that position without genuine belief.

  37. 37
    kairosfocus says:

    DS:

    Atheism is a component of a worldview, and we have now unavoidably embarked on deep philosophical waters.

    In this case, we must address, strictly, the claim to know — have warranted, credibly true belief to a point where to reject the knowledge claim would be irresponsible (by being irrational etc) — there is no God. Is such an accurate description of your view or is it more that you doubt or think you and likely others do not have knowledge of God . . . that is, that we face an epistemic challenge?

    As it is possible to have no articulate overall worldview, a picture would be helpful.

    But, what do you think it would require to have knowledge or at least a reasonable belief, that there is or may credibly be a God?

    I now direct you here, to an earlier discussion at UD, especially regarding the moral-rational and modal ontological issues. But, I suspect you may find the earlier remarks and videos a useful stopping off point.

    If you want a broader discussion on worldviews, try here on in context.

    Later, I think I will look at some of the issues raised above.

    KF

  38. 38
    Silver Asiatic says:

    daveS

    Maybe so. On the other hand, I do already have quite a bit of contact with religion, attending church regularly and being married to a theist, so I do frequently reflect on how things would differ if I believed there was a god. That’s about as close as I could get, short of accepting your premise, but I don’t believe it’s possible to “will myself” into that position without genuine belief.

    Understood and it’s good to hear in many ways. But it’s not merely willing oneself to accept the premise on faith alone. I’m suggesting that it’s worth investigating if the premise is true also. If God exists and provides guidance for your life, and provides truthful knowledge about things that science cannot evaluate — then that has major significance.

    Some faith is already required for your current position. You rightly know that a lot remains unexplained from the materialist position. I’ll suggest that there’s a lot more to the theistic view than merely an assertion that “a god exists” also, even though much remains unknown.

    Getting an understanding about God, even without belief, is a potential path for knowledge.

    I don’t think anyone can confidently decide that God doesn’t exist without, at least, trying to find God – not just intellectually, but through spiritual practice of prayer and trying to see if God is actually communicating in some way.

    Are the stories of Jesus in the new testament true?

    It would seem that there’s quite a lot that would have to be explained away if absolutely all the record of supernatural occurrence there was false.

    And this can give us greater insights on the origin of consciousness – and ultimately the meaning and purpose of human life (which would not exist without consciousness).

  39. 39
    Mung says:

    VJT of course gets right to the point. Jerry Coyne does have a flawed epistemology. He doesn’t know how he can know or even that he can know. But somehow he knows that faith is unacceptable.

    Can Jerry’s scientism teach him how to be rational?

  40. 40
    bornagain77 says:

    “if you look at the wikipedia page,,,”

    AH yes wikipedia, where the truth goes to die,,,

    Wikipedia: where truth dies online – April 2014
    Excerpt: Wikipedia has been a massive success but has always had immense flaws, the greatest one being that nothing it publishes can be trusted. This, you might think, is a pretty big flaw. There are over 21 million editors with varying degrees of competence and honesty. Rogue editors abound and do not restrict themselves to supposedly controversial topics,,,
    Sock puppets are a big problem for Wikipedia because so many of its editors are anonymous. This makes it almost impossible to verify bona fide users. Wikipedia literally has no idea who many of its editors are. ,,,
    One columnist for The Times has likened Wikipedia’s reliance on consensus ahead of accuracy to an interminable political meeting with the end result dominated by the loudest and most persistent voices. Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist writing for an online publication, Edge, described Wikipedia as a ‘hive mind’ that is ‘for the most part stupid and boring’.
    http://www.spiked-online.com/n.....2KB0Vc9iSq

    Wikipedia’s Tyranny of the Unemployed – David Klinghoffer – June 24, 2012
    Excerpt: PLoS One has a highly technical study out of editing patterns on Wikipedia. This is of special interest to us because Wikipedia’s articles on anything to do with intelligent design are replete with errors and lies, which the online encyclopedia’s volunteer editors are vigilant about maintaining against all efforts to set the record straight.
    You simply can never outlast these folks. They have nothing better to do with their time and will always erase your attempted correction and reinstate the bogus claim, with lightning speed over and over again.
    ,,, on Wikipedia, “fact” is established by the party with the free time that’s required to wear down everyone else and exhaust them into submission. The search for truth (on Wikipedia) yields to a tyranny of the unemployed.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....61281.html

    Even Wikipedia itself says that Wikipedia is not a credible source for information due to the fact ‘anyone can edit the information given at any time’ i.e. censorship:

    Wikipedia: Academic use
    Excerpt: Wikipedia is not considered a credible source. Wikipedia is increasingly used by people in the academic community, from freshman students to professors, as an easily accessible tertiary source for information about anything and everything. However, citation of Wikipedia in research papers may be considered unacceptable, because Wikipedia is not considered a credible or authoritative source.[1][2]
    This is especially true considering anyone can edit the information given at any time.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W.....ademic_use

  41. 41
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, if you wish, you may want to contact me through the web page my UD handle links to. KF

  42. 42
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Coyne rejects metaphysical assertions on the grounds that they are too vague to be judged true or false.

    Science could not exist without metaphysical assertions. There would be no way for Coyne to express the view above in the absence of metaphysical claims.

  43. 43
    daveS says:

    KF,

    I don’t claim to know that no god exists, but rather I just have never seen any evidence I have found convincing. Practically speaking, I behave as if there is no god.

    But, what do you think it would require to have knowledge or at least a reasonable belief, that there is or may credibly be a God?

    That’s a good question. Some examples: Very obvious signs, miracles or wonders, perhaps personal revelation, my friends suddenly being raptured. I do admit that maybe a god wouldn’t want to do such things in the present time, which could make it difficult for him/her to demonstrate his/her existence.

    I must admit that abstruse logical arguments such as this do next to nothing for me. Maybe it has something to do with my early years being spent on a farm in a rural setting. 🙂

  44. 44
    kairosfocus says:

    DS:

    RE EAAA:

    Existential Argument against Atheism – November 1, 2013 by Jason Petersen

    1. If a worldview is true then you should be able to live consistently with that worldview.

    2. Atheists are unable to live consistently with their worldview.

    3. If you can’t live consistently with an atheist worldview then the worldview does not reflect reality.

    4. If a worldview does not reflect reality then that worldview is a delusion.

    5. If atheism is a delusion then atheism cannot be true.

    Conclusion: Atheism is false.

    First, truth and reality: truth says of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not. Material inaccuracy to reality is another way of saying that a worldview is materially false.

    If a worldview is true it is accurate to reality and you will be able to live in the real world by its light. Where, a worldview is in simple terms an overall perspective on core reality.

    Obviously, if it is materially and irretrievably false it will be seriously at odds with reality and one will be forever in a state of open or veiled cognitive dissonance in trying to live by it. Often, one will have to borrow things from other views (often, as available in the culture) to patch holes, and may have to use such to anchor down in resistance to the natural pull of one’s worldview. This is above and beyond the normal struggles of being finite, fallible, morally struggling and the like; man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards saith the Preacher of old.

    Here, you may want to look at my discussion and diagrams that outline Francis Schaeffer’s thought on this as adapted:

    http://nicenesystheol.blogspot.....ml#u2xfrmn

    Now, the core of the argument above, is that atheism (in context evolutionary materialist scientism with its associated atheism) is drastically out of alignment with reality. That is, it is factually inadequate, incoherent and grossly lacking in explanatory power. Truth is, once examined, that is hard to deny — never mind the institutional dominance, lab coats and claimed cornering the market on rationality.

    But the issue is broader, and there are other varieties of atheism.

    So, the issue is going to pivot on the reasonableness and possibility of the existence of God, tied to the nature of the roots of reality(and linked issues on the reality of our being responsibly free rational, self-aware, self-moved beings).

    Let me do some clipping from the earlier thread in response to AS:

    _____________

    >>1: A world, patently exists.

    2: Nothing, denotes just that, non-being.

    3: A genuine nothing, can have no causal capacity.

    4: If ever there were an utter nothing, that is exactly what would forever obtain.

    5: But, per 1, we and a world exist, so there was always something.

    6: This raises the issue of modes of being, first possible vs impossible.

    7: A possible being would exist if a relevant state of affairs were realised, e.g. heat + fuel + oxidiser + chain rxn –> fire (a causal process, showing fire to depend on external enabling factors)

    Fire_tetrahedron

    8: An impossible being such as a square circle has contradictory core characteristics and cannot be in any possible world. (Worlds being patently possible as one is actual.)

    9: Of possible beings, we see contingent ones, e.g. fires. This also highlights that if something begins, there are circumstances under which it may not be, and so, it is contingent and is caused as the fire illustrates.

    10: Our observed cosmos had a beginning and is caused. This implies a deeper root of being, as necessarily, something always was.

    11: Another possible mode of being is a necessary being. To see such, consider a candidate being that has no dependence on external, on/off enabling factors.

    12: Such (if actual) has no beginning and cannot end, it is either impossible or actual and would exist in any possible world. For instance, a square circle is impossible,
    One and the same object cannot be circular and square in the same sense and place at the same time

    One and the same object
    cannot be circular and
    square in the same
    sense and place at the same time

    . . . but there is no possible world in which twoness does not exist.

    13: To see such, begin with the set that collects nothing and proceed:

    { } –> 0

    {0} –> 1

    {0, 1} –> 2

    Etc.

    14: We thus see on analysis of being, that we have possible vs impossible and of possible beings, contingent vs necessary.

    15: Also, that of serious candidate necessary beings, they will either be impossible or actual in any possible world. That’s the only way they can be, they have to be in the [world-]substructure in some way so that once a world can exist they are there necessarily.

    16: Something like a flying spaghetti monster or the like, is contingent [here, not least as composed of parts and materials], and is not a serious candidate. (Cf also the discussions in the linked thread for other parodies and why they fail.)

    Flying Spaghetti Monster Creation of Adam

    17: By contrast, God is a serious candidate necessary being, The Eternal Root of being. Where, a necessary being root of reality is the best class of candidates to always have been.

    18: The choice, as discussed in the already linked, is between God as impossible or as actual. Where, there is no good reason to see God as impossible, or not a serious candidate to be a necessary being, or to be contingent, etc.

    19: So, to deny God is to imply and to need to shoulder the burden of showing God impossible. [U/D April 4, 2015: We can for illustrative instance cf. a form of Godel’s argument, demonstrated to be valid:]

    godel_ont_valid

    20: Moreover, we find ourselves under moral government, to be under OUGHT.

    21: This, post the valid part of Hume’s guillotine argument (on pain of the absurdity of ultimate amorality and might/manipulation makes ‘right’) implies that there is a world foundational IS that properly bears the weight of OUGHT.

    22: Across many centuries of debates, there is only one serious candidate: the inherently good, eternal creator God, a necessary and maximally great being worthy of loyalty, respect, service through doing the good and even worship.

    23: Where in this course of argument, no recourse has been had to specifically religious experiences or testimony of same, or to religious traditions; we here have what has been called the God of the philosophers, with more than adequate reason to accept his reality such that it is not delusional or immature to be a theist or to adhere to ethical theism.

    24: Where, ironically, we here see exposed, precisely the emotional appeal and hostility of too many who reject and dismiss the reality of God (and of our being under moral government) without adequate reason.>>
    ______________

    In short, the atheist is basically facing the issue of arguing that a root necessary being who is inherently good and maximally great is impossible. Likewise, he faces the choice that our sense of being under binding, ruling force of ought is delusional, letting loose grand delusion in our thought world. Which undermines the credibility of thought.

    God, if he is anything would answer to the necessary being root of reality and would be maximally great. Where we really do need a necessary being root to escape the consequence that if ever there were an utter nothing such would forever obtain.

    And the usual parodies just simply are not serious candidate necessary beings.

    So, what best explains the roots of reality in the world we share?

    KF

  45. 45
    daveS says:

    Silver Asiatic,

    Thanks for the thoughts. I certainly will continue to ponder these matters.

  46. 46
    daveS says:

    BA77,

    “if you look at the wikipedia page,,,”

    AH yes wikipedia, where the truth goes to die,,,

    If you can find a source showing how consciousness is involved with the quantum Zeno effect, I’d like to see it.

    In the meantime, check out these comments on a question (unfortunately closed) on Stack Exchange.

  47. 47
    bornagain77 says:

    “If you can find a source showing how consciousness is involved with the quantum Zeno effect, I’d like to see it.”

    Quantum Zeno effect
    “It has been experimentally confirmed,, that unstable particles will not decay, or will decay less rapidly, if they are observed. Somehow, observation changes the quantum system. We’re talking pure observation, not interacting with the system in any way.”
    Douglas Ell – Counting to God – pg. 189 – 2014 – Douglas Ell graduated early from MIT, where he double majored in math and physics. He then obtained a masters in theoretical mathematics from the University of Maryland. After graduating from law school, magna cum laude, he became a prominent attorney.

  48. 48

    Quite reasonably the zeno effect was thought to be involved in consciousness, but where the old interpretation splits between a quantum system and an observer, the new interpretation splits between quantum system and vacuum. Any change in E or p will collapse the superposition without requiring an observer.

    I won’t explain what E or p is because I don’t know what they are, and besides it is irrellevant to the issues.

    The issue is contained in common discourse, and the issue is how subjectivity works. Ideas about God as a neccessary being are wrong, as well as ideas about measuring God are wrong, or else subjectivity is wrong.

    It is perfectly valid to express a feeling of complete and utter spiritual emptiness for yourself, and for the entire universe. That you don’t see any spirit in yourself, nor in others, nor for the universe at large, nor in the spiritual domain entirely. To regard it all as worthless and empty. That is subjectivity, and expressions of emptiness are common enough. Nothing wrong with that logically, although it’s completely immoral by any reasonable judgement.

  49. 49
    daveS says:

    BA77,

    Quantum Zeno effect
    “It has been experimentally confirmed,, that unstable particles will not decay, or will decay less rapidly, if they are observed. Somehow, observation changes the quantum system. We’re talking pure observation, not interacting with the system in any way.”

    Edited: Sorry, I see you did give a citation. I will check it asap.

    Edit x 2: I won’t be able to get a copy at my local library unfortunately. Does Ell mention consciousness anywhere?

    From the wiki page on the quantum Zeno effect: “In the context of this effect, an ‘observation’ can simply be the absorption of a particle, without an observer in any conventional sense.”

  50. 50
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Thanks for the reply at #44. I will read it more carefully later today.

  51. 51
    Silver Asiatic says:

    daveS – it sounds like you’re doing the best you can with it. As for signs or indicators – it can be effective to look for those at the personal level. Connections, coincidences, the stray word that carries meaning … it’s a search for clues. Eventually, you may get to this: “If you’re really there …”
    It certainly has for me. But I’ll also say it’s nothing as obvious as friends being raptured. For reasons that can become clearer over time, evidence usually arises as “a still quiet voice”.

    I Kings 19:11-13, NIV. “The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?'”

  52. 52
    daveS says:

    BA77,

    I also wonder what Ell means by this:

    Somehow, observation changes the quantum system. We’re talking pure observation, not interacting with the system in any way.

    Observing particles without interacting with them in any way is impossible under QM, is it not?

  53. 53
    Mung says:

    There just isn’t going to be any Christians flying up through the sky. Heaven just isn’t “up there.”

    The only good thing about the modern “rapture theory” is that it has a shelf date.

  54. 54
    Mung says:

    daveS: Observing particles without interacting with them in any way is impossible under QM, is it not?

    I’m no cyclist, but that’s my understanding too. It’s known as the measurement problem. No measurement no observation. Any measuring device/instrument is by definition not a part of the system.

  55. 55
    bornagain77 says:

    Interaction free measurements:

    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.,,, Physicists shy away from the truth because the truth is so alien to everyday physics. A common way to evade the mental universe is to invoke “decoherence” – the notion that “the physical environment” is sufficient to create reality, independent of the human mind. Yet the idea that any irreversible act of amplification is necessary to collapse the wave function is known to be wrong: in “Renninger-type” experiments, the wave function is collapsed simply by your human mind seeing nothing. The universe is entirely mental,,,, The Universe is immaterial — mental and spiritual. Live, and enjoy.
    http://henry.pha.jhu.edu/The.mental.universe.pdf

    The Renninger Negative Result Experiment – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3uzSlh_CV0

    Elitzur–Vaidman bomb tester
    Excerpt: In 1994, Anton Zeilinger, Paul Kwiat, Harald Weinfurter, and Thomas Herzog actually performed an equivalent of the above experiment, proving interaction-free measurements are indeed possible.[2] In 1996, Kwiat et al. devised a method, using a sequence of polarising devices, that efficiently increases the yield rate to a level arbitrarily close to one.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E.....xperiments

    Experimental Realization of Interaction-Free Measurement – Paul G. Kwiat; H. Weinfurter, T. Herzog, A. Zeilinger, and M. Kasevich – 1994
    http://www.univie.ac.at/qfp/pu.....994-08.pdf

    Interaction-Free Measurement – 1995
    http://archive.is/AjexE

    Realization of an interaction-free measurement – 1996
    http://bg.bilkent.edu.tr/jc/to.....rement.pdf

  56. 56
    bornagain77 says:

    of related note:

    The following video clearly demonstrates that “decoherence” does not solve the measurement problem:

    The Measurement Problem in quantum mechanics – (Inspiring Philosophy) – 2014 video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qB7d5V71vUE

    of related interest

    Does Quantum Physics Make it Easier to Believe in God? Stephen M. Barr – July 10, 2012
    Excerpt: Couldn’t an inanimate physical device (say, a Geiger counter) carry out a “measurement” (minus the ‘observer’ in quantum mechanics)? That would run into the very problem pointed out by von Neumann: If the “observer” were just a purely physical entity, such as a Geiger counter, one could in principle write down a bigger wavefunction that described not only the thing being measured but also the observer. And, when calculated with the Schrödinger equation, that bigger wave function would not jump! Again: as long as only purely physical entities are involved, they are governed by an equation that says that the probabilities don’t jump.
    That’s why, when Peierls was asked whether a machine could be an “observer,” he said no, explaining that “the quantum mechanical description is in terms of knowledge, and knowledge requires somebody who knows.” Not a purely physical thing, but a mind.
    https://www.bigquestionsonline.com/content/does-quantum-physics-make-it-easier-believe-god

  57. 57
    vjtorley says:

    Hi bornagain77 and kairosfocus,

    Thank you both very much for your kind comments. I was very interested to hear about the new book “The Waning of Materialism,” bornagain77. I also enjoyed reading your thoughts on faith, evidence, Hebrews 11 and 2 Timothy 3, kairosfocus. Thank you once again.

  58. 58
    daveS says:

    BA77,

    Elitzur–Vaidman bomb tester
    Excerpt: In 1994, Anton Zeilinger, Paul Kwiat, Harald Weinfurter, and Thomas Herzog actually performed an equivalent of the above experiment, proving interaction-free measurements are indeed possible.[2] In 1996, Kwiat et al. devised a method, using a sequence of polarising devices, that efficiently increases the yield rate to a level arbitrarily close to one.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elitzur%E2%80%93Vaidman_bomb-testing_problem

    Ah, good ol’ Wikipedia. Thanks for the reference.

  59. 59
    bornagain77 says:

    daveS claims:

    “It’s been pointed out to you you’re just smuggling the concept of consciousness into these discussions.”

    Contrary to what daveS believes, I’m not smuggling anything. Consciousness is the prerequisite of all prerequisites.

    “Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.”
    (Schroedinger, Erwin. 1984. “General Scientific and Popular Papers,” in Collected Papers, Vol. 4. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences. Friedr. Vieweg & Sohn, Braunschweig/Wiesbaden. p. 334.)

    “No, I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
    Max Planck (1858–1947), the primary originator of quantum theory, The Observer, London, January 25, 1931

    “As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”
    Max Planck – The primary originator of quantum theory – Das Wesen der Materie [The Nature of Matter], speech at Florence, Italy (1944)

    “In any philosophy of reality that is not ultimately self-defeating or internally contradictory, mind – unlabeled as anything else, matter or spiritual – must be primary. What is “matter” and what is “conceptual” and what is “spiritual” can only be organized from mind. Mind controls what is perceived, how it is perceived, and how those percepts are labeled and organized. Mind must be postulated as the unobserved observer, the uncaused cause simply to avoid a self-negating, self-conflicting worldview. It is the necessary postulate of all necessary postulates, because nothing else can come first. To say anything else comes first requires mind to consider and argue that case and then believe it to be true, demonstrating that without mind, you could not believe that mind is not primary in the first place.”
    – William J. Murray

    In fact, if anyone is doing any ‘smuggling’ in these debates on consciousness versus materialism it is the Darwinian materialist not the Theist.
    The Darwinian materialist ‘smuggles’ his a priori bias against consciousness and/or God by using his skepticism in a highly selective and biased fashion against God and/or consciousness.

    For prime example, of this elicit smuggling of selective skepticism by atheists, is none other than Charles Darwin’s own ‘Horrid Doubt’

    “But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”
    Charles Darwin

    Contrary to popular opinion, Charles Darwin’s infamous ‘horrid doubt’ was used in a hyper-selective fashion. Nancy Pearcey goes over the fallacious nature in which Charles Darwin employed his ‘horrid doubt’ here:

    Why Evolutionary Theory Cannot Survive Itself – Nancy Pearcey – March 8, 2015
    Excerpt: Darwin’s Selective Skepticism
    People are sometimes under the impression that Darwin himself recognized the problem. They typically cite Darwin’s famous “horrid doubt” passage where he questions whether the human mind can be trustworthy if it is a product of evolution: “With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy.”
    But, of course, Darwin’s theory itself was a “conviction of man’s mind.” So why should it be “at all trustworthy”?
    Surprisingly, however, Darwin never confronted this internal contradiction in this theory. Why not? Because he expressed his “horrid doubt” selectively — only when considering the case for a Creator.
    From time to time, Darwin admitted that he still found the idea of God persuasive. He once confessed his “inward conviction … that the Universe is not the result of chance.” It was in the next sentence that he expressed his “horrid doubt.” So the “conviction” he mistrusted was his lingering conviction that the universe is not the result of chance.
    In another passage Darwin admitted, “I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man.” Again, however, he immediately veered off into skepticism: “But then arises the doubt — can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animal, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions?”
    That is, can it be trusted when it draws “grand conclusions” about a First Cause? Perhaps the concept of God is merely an instinct programmed into us by natural selection, Darwin added, like a monkey’s “instinctive fear and hatred of a snake.”
    In short, it was on occasions when Darwin’s mind led him to a theistic conclusion that he dismissed the mind as untrustworthy. He failed to recognize that, to be logically consistent, he needed to apply the same skepticism to his own theory.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....94171.html

    podcast – Is Human Reason Reliable? Interview with Nancy Pearcey (Darwin’s ‘horrid doubt’)
    http://www.discovery.org/multi.....y-pearcey/

    If Charles Darwin would have been a bit more unbiased in how he used his skepticism, he would have realized that his theory winds up in epistemological failure and thus undercuts itself:
    This epistemological failure inherent within Darwinism is made evident by Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism (EAAN)

    Why Evolutionary Theory Cannot Survive Itself – Nancy Pearcey – March 8, 2015
    Excerpt: Steven Pinker writes, “Our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth. Sometimes the truth is adaptive, but sometimes it is not.” The upshot is that survival is no guarantee of truth. If survival is the only standard, we can never know which ideas are true and which are adaptive but false.
    To make the dilemma even more puzzling, evolutionists tell us that natural selection has produced all sorts of false concepts in the human mind. Many evolutionary materialists maintain that free will is an illusion, consciousness is an illusion, even our sense of self is an illusion — and that all these false ideas were selected for their survival value.
    So how can we know whether the theory of evolution itself is one of those false ideas? The theory undercuts itself.,,,
    Of course, the atheist pursuing his research has no choice but to rely on rationality, just as everyone else does. The point is that he has no philosophical basis for doing so. Only those who affirm a rational Creator have a basis for trusting human rationality.
    The reason so few atheists and materialists seem to recognize the problem is that, like Darwin, they apply their skepticism selectively. They apply it to undercut only ideas they reject, especially ideas about God. They make a tacit exception for their own worldview commitments.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....94171.html

    Why No One (Can) Believe Atheism/Naturalism to be True (Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism) – video
    Excerpt: “Since we are creatures of natural selection, we cannot totally trust our senses. Evolution only passes on traits that help a species survive, and not concerned with preserving traits that tell a species what is actually true about life.”
    Richard Dawkins – quoted from “The God Delusion”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4QFsKevTXs

    Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism by Alvin Plantinga – video
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL80CAECC36901BCEE

    “Refuting Naturalism by Citing our own Consciousness” Dr. Alvin Plantinga – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r34AIo-xBh8

    Here is empirical confirmation, via computer simulation, for Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism:

    Quote: “In evolutionary games we put truth (simulated true perception) on the stage and it dies. And in genetic algorithms it (simulated true perception) never gets on the stage”
    Donald Hoffman PhD. – Consciousness and The Interface Theory of Perception – 7:19 to 9:20 minute mark – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=dqDP34a-epI#t=439

    Of related note, this epistemological failure inherent within atheistic materialism not only applies to Darwinism, but extends to the atheist’s multiverse conjectures as well:

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: What is worse, multiplying without limit the opportunities for any event to happen in the context of a multiverse – where it is alleged that anything can spontaneously jump into existence without cause – produces a situation in which no absurdity is beyond the pale.
    For instance, we find multiverse cosmologists debating the “Boltzmann Brain” problem: In the most “reasonable” models for a multiverse, it is immeasurably more likely that our consciousness is associated with a brain that has spontaneously fluctuated into existence in the quantum vacuum than it is that we have parents and exist in an orderly universe with a 13.7 billion-year history. This is absurd. The multiverse hypothesis is therefore falsified because it renders false what we know to be true about ourselves. Clearly, embracing the multiverse idea entails a nihilistic irrationality that destroys the very possibility of science.
    Universes do not “spontaneously create” on the basis of abstract mathematical descriptions, nor does the fantasy of a limitless multiverse trump the explanatory power of transcendent intelligent design. What Mr. Hawking’s contrary assertions show is that mathematical savants can sometimes be metaphysical simpletons. Caveat emptor.
    per Washington times

    The Absurdity of Inflation, String Theory and The Multiverse – Dr. Bruce Gordon – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ff_sNyGNSko

    Here is the last power-point slide of the preceding video:

    The End Of Materialism?
    * In the multiverse, anything can happen for no reason at all.
    * In other words, the materialist is forced to believe in random miracles as a explanatory principle.
    * In a Theistic universe, nothing happens without a reason. Miracles are therefore intelligently directed deviations from divinely maintained regularities, and are thus expressions of rational purpose.
    * Scientific materialism is (therefore) epistemically self defeating: it makes scientific rationality impossible.

    A Matter of Considerable Gravity: On the Purported Detection of Gravitational Waves and Cosmic Inflation – Bruce Gordon – April 4, 2014
    Excerpt: Thirdly, at least two paradoxes result from the inflationary multiverse proposal that suggest our place in such a multiverse must be very special: the “Boltzmann Brain Paradox” and the “Youngness Paradox.” In brief, if the inflationary mechanism is autonomously operative in a way that generates a multiverse, then with probability indistinguishable from one (i.e., virtual necessity) the typical observer in such a multiverse is an evanescent thermal fluctuation with memories of a past that never existed (a Boltzmann brain) rather than an observer of the sort we take ourselves to be. Alternatively, by a second measure, post-inflationary universes should overwhelmingly have just been formed, which means that our existence in an old universe like our own has a probability that is effectively zero (i.e., it’s nigh impossible). So if our universe existed as part of such a multiverse, it would not be at all typical, but rather infinitely improbable (fine-tuned) with respect to its age and compatibility with stable life-forms.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....84001.html

  60. 60
    bornagain77 says:

    daveS, I do hold wikipedia good for many subjects, but as far as anything to do with ID, or any overt evidence for God, there is clearly a severe atheistic bias in wiki’s editing practices.

    i.e. tyranny of the unemployed atheistic internet troll living in his mother’s basement!

  61. 61
    daveS says:

    BA77,

    Contrary to what daveS believes, I’m not smuggling anything. Consciousness is the prerequisite of all prerequisites.

    I simply asked for evidence that consciousness is involved in the quantum Zeno effect, but none seems to be forthcoming.

    The information on the Elitzur-Vaidman bomb detector is fascinating, so I thank you for that.

    Looking through the quotes you just posted, certainly Schroedinger and Planck are always worth reading. The stuff on Darwin and evolution is completely irrelevant. And now you’re quoting William J. Murray?? Anyway, thanks for the discussion.

  62. 62
    daveS says:

    Silver Asiatic,

    daveS – it sounds like you’re doing the best you can with it. As for signs or indicators – it can be effective to look for those at the personal level. Connections, coincidences, the stray word that carries meaning … it’s a search for clues. Eventually, you may get to this: “If you’re really there …”
    It certainly has for me. But I’ll also say it’s nothing as obvious as friends being raptured. For reasons that can become clearer over time, evidence usually arises as “a still quiet voice”.

    Thanks, I appreciate you sharing your experience.

  63. 63
    bornagain77 says:

    daveS, you seem to think your atheistic opinion matters to me.

    News flash, it does not!

    In fact you have absolutely no credibility with me!

    i.e. If you told me that my mother loves me, I would have to go check two outside sources just to make sure it was true! 🙂

    William J. Murray has far more integrity, and wisdom, than you have ever displayed on UD.

    Moreover, I list the articles for unbiased readers not for you. I gave up on you being honest towards the evidence a long time ago

    Since you are now issuing smears and personal opinions, as if I should care what your biased personal opinion is, I am done with you.

    i.e. dog, tail, chase, etc.. etc..

    I have much better things to do tonight.

  64. 64
    Querius says:

    bornagain77,

    Contrary to what daveS believes, I’m not smuggling anything. Consciousness is the prerequisite of all prerequisites.

    Indeed.

    I’m always astounded how people can still ignore quantum mechanics after it’s been repeatedly confirmed by direct experimental evidence beyond all doubt. That observation collapses wave functions rather than becoming entangled by it demonstrates a fundamental difference between an act of a conscious entity, and everything else between (a Von Neumann chain).

    However, the obvious implications of these experiments are so repulsive and so completely unacceptable to some people, that they will go to any lengths to find ways of denying reality and science by concocting the most flagrant violations of parsimony to escape, or as DaveS as chosen to do, simply pretend it doesn’t exist, instead clinging to the flotsam of materialism.

    What’s become clear is that some form of entanglement with the physical human brain is involved in the collapse of wave functions. This blows open the doors of the existence of mind separate from and superior to the physical body.

    The reaction to this likelihood reminds me of the opening of the Ark of the Covenant by the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark. 😮

    -Q

  65. 65
    Axel says:

    ‘Quantum Zeno effect
    “It has been experimentally confirmed,, that unstable particles will not decay, or will decay less rapidly, if they are observed. Somehow, observation changes the quantum system. We’re talking pure observation, not interacting with the system in any way.”’

    BA77, that can only predicate a third party, and specifically a personal, all-powerful God – in whom we live and move and have our being: Planck’s matrix of all matter.

  66. 66
    daveS says:

    Querius,

    I’m always astounded how people can still ignore quantum mechanics after it’s been repeatedly confirmed by direct experimental evidence beyond all doubt. That observation collapses wave functions rather than becoming entangled by it demonstrates a fundamental difference between an act of a conscious entity, and everything else between (a Von Neumann chain).

    For record, I don’t ignore or reject QM. BA77 is the one who is advocating for the minority viewpoint that consciousness is involved in the collapse of the wave function.

    However, the obvious implications of these experiments are so repulsive and so completely unacceptable to some people, that they will go to any lengths to find ways of denying reality and science by concocting the most flagrant violations of parsimony to escape, or as DaveS as chosen to do, simply pretend it doesn’t exist, instead clinging to the flotsam of materialism.

    Not clinging to materialism at all. I simply asked for evidence that the quantum Zeno effect is somehow related to consciousness.

  67. 67
    Querius says:

    One can read in any number of places, including Wikipedia that

    The quantum Zeno effect (also known as the Turing paradox) is a situation in which an unstable particle, if observed continuously, will never decay. One can “freeze” the evolution of the system by measuring it frequently enough in its known initial state.

    This has been experimentally confirmed:

    http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0104035v1

    You’re welcome, of course. 🙂

    -Q

  68. 68
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Re: your #44, it seems Seversky and I both disagree with premise #2 (at least) in Jason Petersen’s argument against atheism. Does this ontological argument relate to this premise?

    I don’t want to repeat the earlier thread in which this was first posted, but one question about the argument itself: Is “twoness” supposed to be an example of a necessary being?

  69. 69
    daveS says:

    Querius,

    I understand that the quantum Zeno effect has been experimentally observed. The question is whether consciousness is involved.

  70. 70
    Querius says:

    Gee, I wonder. Do you think you can observe anything when you’re unconscious? 😉

    -Q

  71. 71
    daveS says:

    Querius,

    Gee, I wonder. Do you think you can observe anything when you’re unconscious?

    I can’t, but instruments used to perform the observation can. From the wiki article again:

    In the context of this effect, an “observation” can simply be the absorption of a particle, without an observer in any conventional sense.

    Here’s an image showing observations by a nonconscious entity from a very famous experiment.

  72. 72
    Seversky says:

    kairosfocus @ 16

    Seversky, in context it is evolutionary materialist scientism that is on the table and it is manifest that such is utterly, irretrievably incoherent. Starting with letting grand delusion loose in human thought, undermining conscious, responsible rational freedom and more. As Coyne’s remarks above abundantly demonstrate by way of example. KF

    Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor shares your view of materialism As I pointed out in another thread, it appears that he – and you – are oblivious to the absurdity of that position. Here is a doctor condemning the “worldview” on which his entire medical career is based. As I wrote before, when he goes into a brain to operate, he doesn’t close his eyes and rely on some mystical Force to guide his hands – at least, I certainly hope he doesn’t. Instead, he draws on a detailed knowledge of the physiology and functioning of the physical brain. In other words, he depends absolutely on a materialistic account of that organ in order to operate on it. For him to reject the very understanding that makes his work possible and saves lives is the height of absurdity.

    The computer you use to post your comments, the electricity that powers it, the relationship between the phenomena of electricity and magnetism, the knowledge of the materials used to make that computer are all derived from a materialistic account of the world. In fact, all of the science and technology that we take for granted ultimately has a materialistic foundation. Even BA77’s beloved quantum phenomena are the behavior of material reality at a sub-atomic scale. Quantum theory is at root a materialistic theory. The refusal of people to acknowledge what is staring them in the face is exasperating to say the least.

    As for atheism, I can assure you that I can defend it as a fully coherent view, Pearcey, Nagel et al notwithstanding. I intend to comment point by point on your post at 44 shortly.

  73. 73
    Querius says:

    DaveS,

    Are you referring to Tonomura’s 1989 double-slit experiment?

    -Q

  74. 74
    daveS says:

    Querius,

    Yes, that’s right.

  75. 75
    Querius says:

    Please check your sources, DaveS.

    Tonomura’s 1989 experiment demonstrated double-slit diffraction with single electrons—that electrons weren’t interacting with each other to produce the interference pattern. His experiment did NOT demonstrate the disappearance of the interference pattern when an observer tries to determine which slit the electron passed though, much less doing so without an observer.

    Measuring mechanisms become involved in a “Von Neumann chain,” themselves becoming indeterminate until an observer collapses the wave function in a sort of chain reaction. This is where some people try to escape the idea that the observer is collapsing wave functions by proposing an interpretation that our *entire universe* replicates itself at each possibility instead!

    Generating trillions and trillions of universes a second ex nihilo doesn’t seem like a very parsimonious solution if you ask me. In contrast, God only needed to create one. 😉

    -Q

  76. 76
    daveS says:

    Querius,

    Please check your sources, DaveS.

    Tonomura’s 1989 experiment demonstrated double-slit diffraction with single electrons—that electrons weren’t interacting with each other to produce the interference pattern. His experiment did NOT demonstrate the disappearance of the interference pattern when an observer tries to determine which slit the electron passed though, much less doing so without an observer.

    Of course. How did I imply otherwise?

    In any case, you seem to also favor the “consciousness collapses the wave function” interpretation, which as I stated before, is a minority viewpoint.

  77. 77
    kairosfocus says:

    DS:

    You have embarked on deep worldview and metaphysics waters, pardon how this forces consideration of things not normally much considered in our day.

    Forgive the challenge, it is necessary once so much doubt and skepticism have been infused into us, as an antidote. (For most ordinary people who have not been immersed in a context of skeptical indoctrination, it suffices to look around and sense from the evident design, grandeur and artistry of the world without and the import of mind and conscience within that our world and we in it come from the handiwork of a creator of good character. Likewise, experience of answer to prayer and the testimony of others around regarding transforming encounter with God would be enough to induce a sense that God is and is a rewarder of such as earnestly seek him. Where, the historically anchored circumstances of Jesus of Nazareth become a capstone, e.g. cf. the video here — have you viewed as yet, if not please do so. But, plainly, such does not obtain. I must invite you to also view this video of the parable of Plato’s Cave and ponder how the circumstances of the denizens and the shadow-shows put on for their “benefit” come to be — and who profits thereby. Ponder then this probably directly responsive remark by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: Matt 6: 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! . . .” [There were ten Gk-speaking Gentile Towns in the neighbourhood of Galilee, and a Gk Theatre was in Sepphoris, next to Capernaum.])

    In that context, the example of a fire and the fire tetrahedron illustrate contingency of being and causal factors. By contrast two-ness [strictly, the number two and its underlying properties] is shown to be a necessary component of the substructure of any world. These illustrate possible being in contingent and necessary forms,as contrasted with how the impossible case of the square circle is a case of non being. In this case, as core characteristics stand in mutual contradiction, no being can take the identity of both circularity and squarishness in the same space, time and circumstances . . . of course it is a common wastepaper basket design to taper from a square top to a circular base.

    With these in mind we may readily understand enough on modes of being to see why nothingness or non-being can have no causal powers. So, were there ever an utter nothing (not space-time, not matter-energy, not mind . . . ) nothing would forever obtain.

    As there now credibly is a world, equally credibly, something always has: necessary being is the root of actuality.

    This means the core issue is over what is the best candidate necessary being at the root of reality.

    That is the context in which our experience of being under the binding government of OUGHT, as testified to by core rights and correlative mutual duties, and on pain of letting grand delusion loose in our thought life on attempted denial, comes to the fore.

    Yes, we are dealing with a cumulative case that acts as the mutually reinforcing strands of a rope: thin, short, weak fibres twisted together and counter-twisted at successive levels yields a long, strong, stable rope that has these properties much more than the individual components. By utter contrast with a simple deductive chain which is notoriously no stronger than its weakest link.

    (This means that a cluster of mutually reinforcing arguments in a cumulative case is not a proof but can deliver well warranted, morally certain, credibly true and trustworthy, reliable belief. That is, knowledge that invites and requires reasonable faith. This approach, again, is but poorly understood and is also little appreciated in our day.)

    OUGHTNESS is a pivotal part of our self-aware conscious inner life, and must be grounded. Post Hume et al, that can only come in at the roots of reality. We seek therefore an IS that inherently also grounds OUGHT at the necessary being root of reality.

    There is, after centuries of debates, but one serious candidate: the inherently good Creator-God, a necessary and maximally great being worthy of ultimate loyalty and of our reasonable service by doing the good (however stumblingly, but persistently) in accordance with our evident nature.

    You will see that such is deeply, densely packed: the God of the Philosophers, who bears more than a passing resemblance to the God studied in the Biblically rooted Judaeo-Christian prophetic-theological tradition.

    It is no accident that Dionysius the Areopagite became first Bishop of Athens and that the same street passing by Acropolis, Agora and Mars Hill, starts as named after the Apostle then conyinues named after the Bishop. The apostle laughed out of court by most of the Areopagus Council and doubtless the onlooking audience at length prevailed as more sober minds pondered the force of his case at the length of decades and generations.

    I am confident the same will obtain in coming decades, but our civilisation has let the wolves in the gates and we will now have to pay an awful, awful price. One that is liable to be far worse than that induced by the marches of folly leading up to 1914 and 1939. For those, in 1831 already the German, Jewish-Christian writer, Heinrich Heine warned in his eerily prophetic Religion and Philosophy in Germany:

    Christianity — and that is its greatest merit — has somewhat mitigated that brutal German love of war, but it could not destroy it. Should that subduing talisman, the cross, be shattered [–> the Swastika, visually, is a twisted, broken cross . . .], the frenzied madness of the ancient warriors, that insane Berserk rage of which Nordic bards have spoken and sung so often, will once more burst into flame. …

    The old stone gods will then rise from long ruins and rub the dust of a thousand years from their eyes, and Thor will leap to life with his giant hammer and smash the Gothic cathedrals. …

    … Do not smile at my advice — the advice of a dreamer who warns you against Kantians, Fichteans, and philosophers of nature. Do not smile at the visionary who anticipates the same revolution in the realm of the visible as has taken place in the spiritual. Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder. German thunder … comes rolling somewhat slowly, but … its crash … will be unlike anything before in the history of the world. …

    At that uproar the eagles of the air will drop dead [–> cf. air warfare, symbol of the USA], and lions in farthest Africa [–> the lion is a key symbol of Britain, cf. also the North African campaigns] will draw in their tails and slink away. … A play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll.

    Those who refuse to heed the lessons of history doom themselves to repeat its worst chapters. Chapters, dearly bought at the price of blood and tears.

    KF

  78. 78
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky (and attn DS):

    No, the points I have summarised above can hardly be brushed aside as the absurd ravings of a few odd bloggists out there. As, you full well know or should know.

    First, evolutionary materialist scientism is hardly the basis for Science, medicine, engineering and technology, save in the minds of those caught up in the sort of a priori materialism that Lewontin so clearly exemplified. Instead, modern science is a systematic application of inductive thought in our world and is rooted rather in the work of men who understood themselves to be thinking God’s creative and sustaining thoughts after him, hence the term . . . laws of nature. This is for instance manifest in Newton’s General Scholium to Principia. Yes, in recent days much of science has been held ideological hostage to evolutionary materialist scientism, but that scientism is irretrievably, inherently self-referentially incoherent intellectually and so undermines responsible freedom that it is also morally bankrupt.

    J B S Haldane (a founder of the Neo-Darwinian synthesis) at the turn of the 1930’s:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.

    Sir Francis Crick in his 1994 The Astonishig Hypothesis:

    . . . that “You”, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing.

    Prof William Provine in his 1998 U Tenn — note the location i/l/o the 1925 failed promotional stunt gone amiss in Dayton — Darwin Day keynote address:

    Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . .

    The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . .

    Pardon us for the thought-crime of taking such seriously.

    Reppert’s response is worth noting as it exposes the folly of trying to reduce rational, responsibly free reflection to blindly mechanical computation on neural tissue serving as hardware:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [[But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [[so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

    Nancy Pearcey’s reply is also well worth citing:

    A major way to test a philosophy or worldview is to ask: Is it logically consistent? Internal contradictions are fatal to any worldview because contradictory statements are necessarily false. “This circle is square” is contradictory, so it has to be false. An especially damaging form of contradiction is self-referential absurdity — which means a theory sets up a definition of truth that it itself fails to meet. Therefore it refutes itself . . . .

    An example of self-referential absurdity is a theory called evolutionary epistemology, a naturalistic approach that applies evolution to the process of knowing. The theory proposes that the human mind is a product of natural selection. The implication is that the ideas in our minds were selected for their survival value, not for their truth-value.

    But what if we apply that theory to itself? Then it, too, was selected for survival, not truth — which discredits its own claim to truth. Evolutionary epistemology commits suicide.

    Astonishingly, many prominent thinkers have embraced the theory without detecting the logical contradiction. Philosopher John Gray writes, “If Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true,… the human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth.” What is the contradiction in that statement?

    Gray has essentially said, if Darwin’s theory is true, then it “serves evolutionary success, not truth.” In other words, if Darwin’s theory is true, then it is not true.

    Self-referential absurdity is akin to the well-known liar’s paradox: “This statement is a lie.” If the statement is true, then (as it says) it is not true, but a lie.

    Another example comes from Francis Crick. In The Astonishing Hypothesis, he writes, “Our highly developed brains, after all, were not evolved under the pressure of discovering scientific truths but only to enable us to be clever enough to survive.” But that means Crick’s own theory is not a “scientific truth.” Applied to itself, the theory commits suicide.

    Of course, the sheer pressure to survive is likely to produce some correct ideas. A zebra that thinks lions are friendly will not live long. But false ideas may be useful for survival. Evolutionists admit as much: Eric Baum says, “Sometimes you are more likely to survive and propagate if you believe a falsehood than if you believe the truth.” Steven Pinker writes, “Our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth. Sometimes the truth is adaptive, but sometimes it is not.” The upshot is that survival is no guarantee of truth. If survival is the only standard, we can never know which ideas are true and which are adaptive but false.

    To make the dilemma even more puzzling, evolutionists tell us that natural selection has produced all sorts of false concepts in the human mind. Many evolutionary materialists maintain that free will is an illusion, consciousness is an illusion, even our sense of self is an illusion — and that all these false ideas were selected for their survival value.
    So how can we know whether the theory of evolution itself is one of those false ideas? The theory undercuts itself.

    A few thinkers, to their credit, recognize the problem. Literary critic Leon Wieseltier writes, “If reason is a product of natural selection, then how much confidence can we have in a rational argument for natural selection? … Evolutionary biology cannot invoke the power of reason even as it destroys it.”

    On a similar note, philosopher Thomas Nagel asks, “Is the [evolutionary] hypothesis really compatible with the continued confidence in reason as a source of knowledge?” His answer is no: “I have to be able to believe … that I follow the rules of logic because they are correct — not merely because I am biologically programmed to do so.” Hence, “insofar as the evolutionary hypothesis itself depends on reason, it would be self-undermining.”

    No, this is not a matter of a few stray bloggists barking out in the wilderness.

    As for:

    The computer you use to post your comments, the electricity that powers it, the relationship between the phenomena of electricity and magnetism, the knowledge of the materials used to make that computer are all derived from a materialistic account of the world.

    . . . such is a patently false bold assertion.

    Faraday, Babbage, Pascal, Kelvin and Maxwell as well as Planck were Christians, just to speak to foundational thought behind the fields you list by implication. It simply is not the case that evolutionary materialism is a necessary foundation for Sci-Tech, all you have done is to repeat an ill-founded ideological talking point.

    Evolutionary materialist scientism reduces all to matter-energy interacting by blindly mechanical necessity and chance across space-time, ending up trying to reduce responsible, rational freedom to such blind forces and factors working by nature and nurture. Consequently, it readily tends to self-referentially undermine the responsible, rational, freedom of thought, decision and action required for credible reasoning, knowing and deciding. This directly leads to self-refutation and self-falsification.

    That needs to be seriously faced and addressed soberly, which is what the above outlines.

    From that, we learn to start afresh on a surer footing, taking our conscious, responsible freedom seriously as fact no 1 of our existence as rational creatures.

    KF

  79. 79
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Newton in the General Scholium to Principia:

    _____________

    >>. . . This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. And if the fixed stars are the centres of other like systems, these, being formed by the like wise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One; especially since the light of the fixed stars is of the same nature with the light of the sun, and from every system light passes into all the other systems: and lest the systems of the fixed stars should, by their gravity, fall on each other mutually, he hath placed those systems at immense distances one from another.

    This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God pantokrator , or Universal Ruler; for God is a relative word, and has a respect to servants; and Deity is the dominion of God not over his own body, as those imagine who fancy God to be the soul of the world, but over servants. The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect; but a being, however perfect, without dominion, cannot be said to be Lord God; for we say, my God, your God, the God of Israel, the God of Gods, and Lord of Lords; but we do not say, my Eternal, your Eternal, the Eternal of Israel, the Eternal of Gods; we do not say, my Infinite, or my Perfect: these are titles which have no respect to servants. The word God usually signifies Lord; but every lord is not a God. It is the dominion of a spiritual being which constitutes a God: a true, supreme, or imaginary dominion makes a true, supreme, or imaginary God. And from his true dominion it follows that the true God is a living, intelligent, and powerful Being; and, from his other perfections, that he is supreme, or most perfect. He is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient; that is, his duration reaches from eternity to eternity; his presence from infinity to infinity; he governs all things, and knows all things that are or can be done. He is not eternity or infinity, but eternal and infinite; he is not duration or space, but he endures and is present. He endures for ever, and is every where present; and by existing always and every where, he constitutes duration and space. Since every particle of space is always, and every indivisible moment of duration is every where, certainly the Maker and Lord of all things cannot be never and no where. Every soul that has perception is, though in different times and in different organs of sense and motion, still the same indivisible person. There are given successive parts in duration, co-existent puts in space, but neither the one nor the other in the person of a man, or his thinking principle; and much less can they be found in the thinking substance of God. Every man, so far as he is a thing that has perception, is one and the same man during his whole life, in all and each of his organs of sense. God is the same God, always and every where. He is omnipresent not virtually only, but also substantially; for virtue cannot subsist without substance. In him are all things contained and moved [i.e. cites Ac 17, where Paul evidently cites Cleanthes]; yet neither affects the other: God suffers nothing from the motion of bodies; bodies find no resistance from the omnipresence of God. It is allowed by all that the Supreme God exists necessarily; and by the same necessity he exists always, and every where. [i.e accepts the cosmological argument to God.] . . . [.]

    We know him only by his most wise and excellent contrivances of things, and final cause [i.e from his designs]: we admire him for his perfections; but we reverence and adore him on account of his dominion: for we adore him as his servants; and a god without dominion, providence, and final causes, is nothing else but Fate and Nature. Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and every where, could produce no variety of things. [i.e necessity does not produce contingency] All that diversity of natural things which we find suited to different times and places could arise from nothing but the ideas and will of a Being necessarily existing. [That is, implicitly rejects chance, Plato’s third alternative and explicitly infers to the Designer of the Cosmos.] But, by way of allegory, God is said to see, to speak, to laugh, to love, to hate, to desire, to give, to receive, to rejoice, to be angry, to fight, to frame, to work, to build; for all our notions of God are taken from. the ways of mankind by a certain similitude, which, though not perfect, has some likeness, however. And thus much concerning God; to discourse of whom from the appearances of things, does certainly belong to Natural Philosophy.>>
    _____________

    FTR

    KF

  80. 80
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Pardon, memory. Sepphoris was next to Nazareth and is several miles from Capernaum. KF

  81. 81

    The only thing quantum theory proves relevant to consciousness or mind, is the accuracy of the common term “could have”. It proves the existence of options NOT chosen, thereby proving that freedom is real, and that decisions are made in the universe.

    QUANTUM COMPUTER SOLVES PROBLEM, WITHOUT RUNNING (2006)
    http://news.illinois.edu/news/06/0222quantum.html

    Mind and consciousness refer to sophisticated ways of choosing. They fall within science, the existence of them is fact. But the mathematics about choosing functions without reference to what it is that makes a decision turn out the way it does. How the choosing is organized, what the available options are, and the result and consequences, are part of science, but not what it is that makes any decision turn out the way it does.

    There exactly is the line between science and religion, between objectivity and subjectivity, between fact and opinion. And all who cross that line, by stating facts about what it is that makes a decision turn out the way it does, engage in pseudoscience.

    For example if natural selection theory is interpreted as stating as fact that organisms like to live. That they struggle for survival, because they love living, that we can measure love as agency of a decision. That is social darwinism, pseudoscience.

  82. 82
    bornagain77 says:

    mohammadnursyamsu, thanks for the reference:

    Quantum computer solves problem, without running – 2006
    Excerpt: Sometimes called interaction-free measurement, quantum interrogation is a technique that makes use of wave-particle duality (in this case, of photons) to search a region of space without actually entering that region of space.
    Utilizing two coupled optical interferometers, nested within a third, Kwiat’s team succeeded in counterfactually searching a four-element database using Grover’s quantum search algorithm.
    “By placing our photon in a quantum superposition of running and not running the search algorithm, we obtained information about the answer even when the photon did not run the search algorithm,” said graduate student Onur Hosten, lead author of the Nature paper. “We also showed theoretically how to obtain the answer without ever running the algorithm, by using a ‘chained Zeno’ effect.”
    Through clever use of beam splitters and both constructive and destructive interference, the researchers can put each photon in a superposition of taking two paths. Although a photon can occupy multiple places simultaneously, it can only make an actual appearance at one location. Its presence defines its path, and that can, in a very strange way, negate the need for the search algorithm to run.
    “In a sense, it is the possibility that the algorithm could run which prevents the algorithm from running,” Kwiat said. “That is at the heart of quantum interrogation schemes, and to my mind, quantum mechanics doesn’t get any more mysterious than this.”,,,
    http://news.illinois.edu/news/06/0222quantum.html

    of related interest:

    Interaction-free measurements by quantum Zeno stabilization of ultracold atoms – 14 April 2015
    Excerpt: In our experiments, we employ an ultracold gas in an unstable spin configuration, which can undergo a rapid decay. The object—realized by a laser beam—prevents this decay because of the indirect quantum Zeno effect and thus, its presence can be detected without interacting with a single atom.
    http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2.....S-20150415

  83. 83
    Silver Asiatic says:

    mohammadnursyamsu

    For example if natural selection theory is interpreted as stating as fact that organisms like to live. That they struggle for survival, because they love living, that we can measure love as agency of a decision. That is social darwinism, pseudoscience.

    There’s no materialist explanation for why organisms struggle for survival. There’s no reason why life is preferable to death. Chemicals do not love living. There is no purpose in that worldview, so no reason to prefer anything. If life is accidental, then there’s no reason for a struggle to sustain it.
    A glacier doesn’t struggle to survive. It moves by physical forces. A lava flow is the same.

  84. 84
    Zachriel says:

    Silver Asiatic: If life is accidental, then there’s no reason for a struggle to sustain it.

    ‘Struggle’ is a bit of a metaphor. There is no necessity that the organism has “to make strenuous or violent efforts in the face of difficulties or opposition”. An organism may live a perfectly placid life, and still be evolutionarily successful. Some organisms will tend to leave more offspring due to heritable differences. That process is called natural selection.

  85. 85
    daveS says:

    BA77,

    Thanks for the highlighted. I was not aware of IFM before. I still maintain that those who believe that consciousness is involved in the quantum Zeno effect or in the collapse of the wave function in general are in the minority as David McKee stated on the Stack Exchange site that I linked to.

  86. 86
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Z

    Some organisms will tend to leave more offspring due to heritable differences. That process is called natural selection.

    Some tend to leave more offspring due to environmental changes. Some leave more offspring because others leave less. Some leave too many offspring and become extinct as a result. Some leave less offspring and out-survive others that leave more. Some leave no offspring and have existed since the first living cell. Non-living organisms do not need to leave offspring at all.

  87. 87
    Popperian says:

    In today’s post, I will be defending the “folk” theory of truth, which is adopted by nearly everyone who isn’t a scientist. I’ll be arguing that Coyne overlooks a vital distinction: he is right to demand that we subject our beliefs to testing, but wrong to maintain that we cannot know them to be true until they have been tested. The lay intuition that we can immediately apprehend the truth of certain kinds of statements without needing to test them is correct.

    To quote Popper from Objective Knowledge, (who, by the way, wasn’t a scientist)..

    “The common-sense theory of knowledge mistakenly took it for granted that there was only one kind of knowledge – knowledge possessed by some knowing subject”.

    If knowledge is information that plays a causal role in it being retained / preserved when embedded in a storage medium, then Coyne’s epistemology is not flawed in the sense you’re implying. Popper’s epistemology is that knowledge takes the form of guesses controlled by criticism. As such, what we believe or even expect is disconnected from whether knowledge actually solves the problem it is propertied to solve. It is objective in the sense that it does not depend on a knowing person.

    To say that any particular ideas are self-evident is to say that particular idea is somehow obvious. But, I would suggest that is mistaken. Rather, they represent ideas that we currently have no good criticism of.

    For example, one might say the idea that we actually have reasonably accurate memories of reality is self-evident, despite the fact that we cannot positively prove this. However, I would suggest that we accept this idea because we currently lack good criticism of it. Tomorrow, aliens could appear in orbit and share with us a technology that let’s us generate and implant false memories. At which point, we would have criticism of the idea that all of our memories are reasonable accurate. Even then, the question becomes, how can any such memory be completely false? What would those memories consist of if not fragments of reality as a starting point? So, even if we retain the idea in a weaker sense we do so because of the amount of criticism it has received successfully.

    So, you’re mistaken in the sense that ideas we accept have not been tested. They go though a barrage of tests, many of which we’re not even consciously aware of. In science, they just happen to take the form of empirical observations.

    However, it turns out that these statements are not only abundantly confirmed by everyday experience, but also capable of being verified or falsified by further testing. Hence Professor Coyne’s attempt to show that belief in these statements is unwarranted fails.

    The problem with confirmation via experience is that experiences are themselves theory laden. Reason always has its way first.

    To use an example, sit outside in the early morning with a mirror and video camera facing east. Look at the eastern sky. What do you experience? The sun rising. Look into the mirror. What do you experience? The sun rising. Look into the camera’s LCD preview display while it’s recording. What do you experience? The sun rising. Later in the day, play back the recording on your TV. What do you experience? The sun rising. Do we consider all of those experiences as the sun having risen four times in 24 hours,? No, we do not. That’s because what experiences are considered repetition is based on explanatory theories, such as optics, geometry, photons, video recording, etc. And the same can be said about a cloudy morning. Those same theories tell us that sun is rising behind the clouds, rather than representing instance of the sun not rising at all. Reason always has its way first.

    So, I would agree that the heart of the matter is based in epistemology. While it’s true that experience a means of testing ideas, they are not basic or self-evident merely because we experience them “as is” as indicted in the “folk” theory of truth. Because we never actually experience anything “as is”.

    The earth appeared flat, until we came up with a theory that suggesting it was not. We then devised methods of testing that theory and adopted the idea long before anyone left the ground.

    It is worth noting here that many of the items of evidence that would convince Coyne are incapable of being replicated – e.g. a message in the stars.

    It’s unclear why this is the case from what you wrote. If I leave a message, does it necessary disappear after the recipient has read it?

    Notably absent from your list of things that can be tested by experience is the idea that “Nothing comes to be without a cause”. However, it’s unclear how this could be tested by experience.

    The problem with this idea is that you’re appealing to induction in subtle ways. This can take the form of “The future will resemble the past’, ‘the distant resembles the near,’ ‘the unseen resembles the seen’ and so on. But it doesn’t. What was the clinching evidence that space-time is curved? It was a photograph, not of space-time, but of an eclipse, with a dot there rather than there.

    Nor did Einstein merely relabel Newton’s laws of motion. He suggested something significantly different was happening in reality. Yet, for the most part, what we experience in our daily lives has not changed. That’s possible because the unseen doesn’t resemble the seen.

  88. 88
    kairosfocus says:

    Popperian, there is no good reason to reject that knowledge (in the soft sense) can be understood as warranted, credibly true belief, where the warrant implies a certain degree of moral certainty. KF

    PS: Self evidence is not obviousness, it means that once one genuinely understands a claim X one will further understand that it must be true on pain of patent absurdity. The understanding may be hard to come by, especially in cases where clinging to absurdities leads to misunderstandings or warps judgement etc.

  89. 89
    daveS says:

    KF at #77,

    The issues you raise are important, but I’m most interested at the moment in Jason Petersen’s argument, specifically the premise “atheists are unable to live consistently with their worldview” that Seversky objected to. Do you believe that it’s true? I don’t, and I’m guessing the issue is that Mr. Petersen doesn’t understand what the world looks like from an atheist point of view, which is a common problem in these discussions.

  90. 90
    Zachriel says:

    Silver Asiatic: Some tend to leave more offspring due to environmental changes. Some leave more offspring because others leave less. Some leave too many offspring and become extinct as a result. Some leave less offspring and out-survive others that leave more. Some leave no offspring and have existed since the first living cell. Non-living organisms do not need to leave offspring at all.

    And when a comet slams into their habitat, they may not leave any offspring at all. But when they leave more offspring due to heritable difference, we call this process natural selection.

  91. 91
    Virgil Cain says:

    The variance has to be happenstance or else it isn’t natural selection.

  92. 92
    Zachriel says:

    Virgil Cain: The variance has to be happenstance or else it isn’t natural selection.

    The variation just has to exist from whatever source. Nor is ongoing mutation required for natural selection to work. Much of evolution concerns existing variations, not new mutations. In addition, endosymbiosis is hardly happenstance, but the ensemble is subject to natural selection like any other variation.

  93. 93
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, for the relevant class of atheists, evolutionary materialists, as already explained, Petersen is right. You can start with there being a coherent unified person capable of responsible freedom and rationality. The reasons for that conclusion are abundant and abundantly plain. Probably the most recent eminent atheists to bring such out in public are Nagel and Rosenhouse. But the snippets above point to much the same self-referential incoherence. KF

  94. 94
    Virgil Cain says:

    Zachriel:

    The variation just has to exist from whatever source.

    Its existence has to be an accident, error or mistake.

    Nor is ongoing mutation required for natural selection to work.

    Irrelevant.

    In addition, endosymbiosis is hardly happenstance,

    Sure it is. Do you think organisms purposely engulf another just to have it live inside and provide some help to it? Really?

  95. 95
    Mung says:

    If knowledge is information that plays a causal role in it being retained / preserved when embedded in a storage medium, then Coyne’s epistemology is not flawed in the sense you’re implying.

    Where did the knowledge come from to create the storage medium?

    Where did the knowledge come from to store the information in the storage medium?

    Where did the knowledge come from to retrieve the information from the storage medium?

    Where did the knowledge come from to create the system necessary for the storage of information to be able to have any effect on the retention of that information?

    Knowledge is not facts.

    01000001 01000010 01000011 01000100

    If you know what that means, that’s knowledge.

  96. 96
    daveS says:

    KF,

    DS, for the relevant class of atheists, evolutionary materialists, as already explained, Petersen is right.

    If his argument therefore doesn’t apply to me, I guess I have no complaints, or at least will let the evolutionary materialists take it from here.

  97. 97
    Mung says:

    daveS: I’m guessing the issue is that Mr. Petersen doesn’t understand what the world looks like from an atheist point of view, which is a common problem in these discussions.

    I think the issue is that atheists don’t understand what the world looks like from an atheist point of view.

  98. 98
    daveS says:

    Mung,

    I think the issue is that atheists don’t understand what the world looks like from an atheist point of view.

    Can you support that?

    Here are three quotes I pulled off of UD which illustrate how poorly some theists understand atheism.

    If I were an atheist, I would suck the marrow out of every bit of life that I could. Giving to the needy? NAH. Exploiting anyone for any purpose that suits me? YEAH. If showing “concern” for someone else benefited me, then maybe I would think about it. However, I would just as soon squash a baby like a bug, if it inconvenienced me.

    But many atheists, thanks to the likes of Dawkins, Hitchens, Myers and Dennett, truly do not believe in any meaning or purpose to existence. And morality is only something they do when they want to do it, not when they don’t want to do it. I have met them face to face and conversed with them online. Most of them are basically depressed. And then you have the atheists who haven’t given much thought to the matter. They just believe that this life is all you get and that you really can get away with murder: and should do so when it suits! They don’t really care about the difference between right and wrong. They are just very, very selfish. And, in the absence of life’s comforts, such people can be very, very dangerous.

    Hey REC, I can imagine it can be pretty dog gone depressing believing that you came from pond scum. So here is a song to cheer you up:

    Life Got You Down? Just Remember You Got Opposable Thumbs! – music video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_s8y9a12saU

  99. 99
    Zachriel says:

    Virgil Cain: Do you think organisms purposely engulf another just to have it live inside and provide some help to it?

    Yes. Euglena engulfing algae is such an intermediate form.

  100. 100
    JimFit says:

    DaveS

    You said

    who is advocating for the minority viewpoint that consciousness is involved in the collapse of the wave function.

    55% of the scientists accept that the observer plays a fundamental role in the application of the formalism but plays no distinguished physical role

    page 7

    http://arxiv.org/pdf/1301.1069.pdf

    But then we see that only 6% say that the observer plays a distinguished physical role….how is that possible?

    This video at 8:18 answers this question

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qB7d5V71vUE&list=PL1mr9ZTZb3TViAqtowpvZy5PZpn-MoSK_&index=3

  101. 101
    daveS says:

    Thanks, JimFit, I ran across that 6% number yesterday, but didn’t post it because the sample size was fairly small (33). Nevertheless, it’s consistent with what David McKee posted on Stack Exchange.

    I’ll leave the question of whether the 55% vs 6% numbers do in fact indicate metaphysical prejudice to the physicists to debate.

  102. 102

    It’s clear that qm shows freedom is real, and Coyne does not accept freedom is real, therefore Coyne does not accept qm.

    You Don’t Have Free Will
    http://chronicle.com/article/Jerry-A-Coyne/131165/

    And once we have established the fundamental fact that freedom is real, we may then wildly speculate on it’s relevance in the universe. What is this freedom doing in the universe?

    Very obviously, the organisms can be chosen to be the way they are, that is what freedom can do. They always appeared to be chosen as a whole, and freedom being found, then nobody can deny it is legitemate to hypothesize that they are chosen as a whole.

    The DNA system can model the physical universe, just like a computersimuation can. There exists a DNA world in which a representation of an organism can be chosen, as a whole. A 3D representation. This representation of the organism then guides developement of the physical organism to adulthood.

    In the future it should be possible to translate the signal from DNA directly to a computer video signal, to look inside the DNA world on a computerscreen.

    Or so to say, science which describes things in terms of how it is chosen is the future of science. And religion will then make opinion on the agency of those decisions that are found.

  103. 103
    Virgil Cain says:

    Zachriel:

    Euglena engulfing algae is such an intermediate form.

    If it is on purpose then it isn’t natural selection. Try to focus on the actual argument.

  104. 104
    Mung says:

    Virgil, it was an accident.

  105. 105
    Virgil Cain says:

    A happy accident.

  106. 106
    Mung says:

    daveS, all you have to do is read atheist literature to find confessions that they live their lives as if all the things they deny are real are in fact real.

    For example:

    [Edward] Slingerland [who argues “that humans are robots—that our sense of having a will or self or consciousness is an illusion”] writes, “At an important and ineradicable level, the idea of my daughter as merely a complex robot carrying my genes into the next generation is both bizarre and repugnant to me.” Such a reductionistic view “inspires in us a kind of emotional resistance and even revulsion.”

    Indeed, he writes, if you do not feel that revulsion, something is wrong with you: “There may well be individuals who lack this sense, and who can quite easily and thoroughly conceive of themselves and other people in purely instrumental, mechanistic terms, but we label such people ‘psychopaths,’ and quite rightly try to identify them and put them away somewhere to protect the rest of us.”

  107. 107
    daveS says:

    Mung,

    Let’s do a comparison.

    Slingerhand, the atheist: the idea of my daughter as merely a complex robot carrying my genes into the next generation is both bizarre and repugnant to me.

    Quote #1 above, the theist attempting to play the role of an atheist: However, I would just as soon squash a baby like a bug, if it inconvenienced me.

    Notice any difference?

  108. 108
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, Slingerland is stating quite directly that he cannot live consistent with the view of the human being made plausible by his evolutionary materialism, and on exactly the point that has been discussed: the mannishness of man . . . we are not walking zombies but are credibly responsibly free and at least sometines rational agents. In short, he finds what he likely imagines “Science” has demonstrated, absurd. This is exactly the problem being discussed under the point 2 you have called in question. In short, evolutionary materialism is irretrievably bankrupt as a worldview, but is propped up by the fact that it wears a lab coat in our day. But in fact, we are not locked up to such a view. KF

  109. 109
    daveS says:

    KF,

    I have never read Slingerhand’s stuff, but if he does actually believe his daughter is merely a complex robot, etc., I would agree with you.

    In that case, I would have serious differences with him.

    However, that’s beside the point I made earlier in #98: The author of quote #1 does not understand that atheists could find squashing children bizarre and repugnant (which both Slingerhand and I do).

  110. 110
    Popperian says:

    Didn’t God supposedly make meaning where none existed before? Why didn’t God look at the void and despair at the meaningless of it all?

    Why must we be any different? Why must God’s meaning, should he exist, be the only meaning that can exist?

    I just don’t get it.

  111. 111
    Popperian says:

    @mung

    Where did the knowledge come from to create the storage medium?

    Storage mediums like DNA started as simpler chemical systems which had minimal abstract replicator functionality. The knowledge of how to build brains grew via variation and selection.

    Where did the knowledge come from to store the information in the storage medium?

    The ability to store information is a storage medium is, well, implied in your first question. That’s what it means to know how which transformations of matter are required to adopt raw materials into storage medium. Implementations are vastly different, just as computers can be made out of vacuum tubes, cogs or transistors, but the principle is the same

    Where did the knowledge come from to retrieve the information from the storage medium?

    Retrieval is part of what it means to be an abstract replicator. That is, retrieval is part of the process of being copied in a reasonably accurate manner. For more information, see this paper on the constructor theory of life

    Where did the knowledge come from to create the system necessary for the storage of information to be able to have any effect on the retention of that information?

    The information plays a causal role in its being retained. So, by virtue of solving a problem (regardless if anyone consciously aware of it), that knowledge is itself the knowledge you’re referring to. It is knowledge because it plays a causal role in it begin retained or copied.

  112. 112

    Subjectivity is an inherently creationist concept. Somebody who denies creationsm doesn’t do subjectivity.

    When an atheist says that “squashing kids is repugnant”, then he is just calculating based on the supposed facts of good and evil, and the calculation then shows “repugnance” as an optimal answer.

    Atheism is just one of many different manifestations of original sin, to regard good and evil as fact. Thereby atheists conceive of choosing as sorting out the best result, using the knowledge of good and evil as sorting criteria. The result of the sorting algorithm is forced, given the data to sort, and the sorting criteria.

    This is why Coyne denies people have free will, disregarding the humongous amount of evidence that they do. He is hooked on regarding good and evil as fact. To conceive of choosing that way provides him an ego boost. Every single time he made a decision then by the definition of choosing that he uses, he did the best. And if he did not do the best, then the definition of choosing says he didn’t choose it, therefore it must have been accident. Atheism has got nothing to do with science or evidence, it is just based on this ego-boosting habit.

  113. 113
    kairosfocus says:

    Popper:

    M: Where did the knowledge come from to create the storage medium?

    P: Storage mediums like DNA started as simpler chemical systems which had minimal abstract replicator functionality. The knowledge of how to build brains grew via variation and selection.

    In short you wish to idiosyncratically redefine knowledge away from the act of knowing.

    Apart from the empirically unwarranted speculations posed as if they were facts, that is a patent absurdity.

    Functionally specific complex organisation is not knowledge, it is in our observation on trillions of cases in point, only seen to come about by design rooted in intelligence, skill and knowledge. But then there comes your next step, no no you reject inductive generalisation, including inference to best empirically warranted explanation of a credible cause.

    This is a case where to highlight is to expose, and it should be sufficient to simply point out.

    KF

  114. 114
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Popperian

    Didn’t God supposedly make meaning where none existed before?

    Meaning is not constrained to a location or place. Where there is existence, there is meaning.

    Why didn’t God look at the void and despair at the meaningless of it all?

    As above, because the void has existence (boundaries), and thus potential (in this case, potential to be filled). Where there’s potential there’s possibility and hope. God communicates meaning as being the source of contingent existence. Where there’s any kind of being, there is goodness – and goodness exists on a hierarchy of value, the top of which is God.

    Why must God’s meaning, should he exist, be the only meaning that can exist?

    God’s is the ultimate meaning, and there can only be one of those.

  115. 115
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Popperian

    Mung: Where did the knowledge come from to create the storage medium?

    P: Storage mediums like DNA started as simpler chemical systems which had minimal abstract replicator functionality. The knowledge of how to build brains grew via variation and selection.

    There might be a step missing here.
    The knowledge came from somewhere. You indicate that it “grew” by variation, but growing comes after the origin.
    You mention ‘chemical systems’. Do they possess knowledge?

  116. 116
    Mung says:

    What Science Offers the Humanities: Integrating Body and Culture

    daveS, yes, better when it comes from the horse’s mouth.

    I can provide more quotes like the one from Slingerland.

    The pattern is people who tell us what is the case [or what “science” tells us is the case], and then admit they don’t live their lives that way.

    If you believe X, you would do Y, is I think far less convincing, especially when people don’t do Y.

    otoh, you say X, but you do Y, and in doing Y you act as if NOT X, is more effective.

  117. 117
    Mung says:

    Popperian: knowledge is information that plays a causal role in it being retained / preserved when embedded in a storage medium.

    Mung: Where did the knowledge come from to create the storage medium?

    Popperian: Storage mediums like DNA started as simpler chemical systems which had minimal abstract replicator functionality. The knowledge of how to build brains grew via variation and selection.

    Are you saying that it requires no knowledge to create an information storage/retrieval system in which stored information can play a causal role in its retention/preservation?

    You see such systems “poofing” into existence all the time without any cause or knowledge of how to bring about that effect?

    I think you’re begging the question of where knowledge comes from.

    DNA is just a molecule. Something has to happen to make it a molecule that stores, specifically, information. Not to mention all the other issues I raised.

  118. 118
    Upright BiPed says:

    Storage mediums like DNA started as simpler chemical systems which had minimal abstract replicator functionality.

    Mung, help me out here.

    Is “poof” a good explanation because its “not easily varied”, or because it “stands up to criticism”?

    🙂

  119. 119
    Mung says:

    Well, I think what we have here is a clear case of backwards causation. “Poof” is from the perspective of a thinking brain seeking understanding. I should have said foop! Foop can happen as if by magic, whereas poof requires intent and can only come about by invisible god or gods.

  120. 120
    Popperian says:

    @Mung

    Are you saying that it requires no knowledge to create an information storage/retrieval system in which stored information can play a causal role in its retention/preservation?

    I’m saying that the knowledge of how to build complex, natural storage mediums, like brains, was genuinely created via variation and selection. For example, simpler organisms do not have complex nervous systems. New knowledge was created that indicates what transformations of matter are required to adapt raw materials to build them. As for the first replicators, they were very simple and would not meet the criteria of being well adapted to perform the task of replication. Again, see the paper I referenced, which provides a definition of what it means for something to have the appearance of design. These early replicators would likely be quickly overrun by our current, complex environment. But the environment at the time wasn’t complex as it is today.

    You see such systems “poofing” into existence all the time without any cause or knowledge of how to bring about that effect?

    You seem to have confused cases of knowledge having genuinely been created with knowledge “poofing” into existence.

    I think you’re begging the question of where knowledge comes from.

    Then feel free to point out where I’m begging the question, Please be specific.

    DNA is just a molecule. Something has to happen to make it a molecule that stores, specifically, information. Not to mention all the other issues I raised.

    Are you suggesting design must be somehow encoded in the laws of physics that make accurate replication possible? Otherwise, I’m not sure what you mean.

  121. 121
    Upright BiPed says:

    Yup. That makes perfect sense.

  122. 122
    Querius says:

    What truly astonishes me is the eager acceptance of the multi-worlds interpretation of QM, which requires trillions and trillions and trillions of near copies of our entire universe to be magically generated *every second* as a perfectly acceptable alternative to a God who only needed to create one.

    The violation of Occam’s razor could not conceivably be more profound.

    Similarly, the multi-verse requires a similarly enormous violation of Occam’s razor to dodge the astonishing fine-tuning of eleven known constants in our universe.

    The faith in the existence of multi worlds and the multi-verse is unsupported by even the tiniest grain of tangible evidence defies all reason, all logic, and all mathematical knowledge. It’s the equivalent of finding the 10 commandments and John 3:16-21 carved into Pluto, and then ascribing it to differential erosion.

    I can imagine people standing before God in their final judgment that determines their ultimate destiny insisting that God had provided them no evidence, when the truth is that no evidence would ever have been sufficient for them.

    I can see why Sundar Singh suggested that God never sends anyone to hell. They beg for it—they demand it!

    -Q

  123. 123
    goodusername says:

    Querius,

    What truly astonishes me is the eager acceptance of the multi-worlds interpretation of QM, which requires trillions and trillions and trillions of near copies of our entire universe to be magically generated *every second* as a perfectly acceptable alternative to a God who only needed to create one.

    You’re astonished at the eager acceptance of the many-worlds interpretation? Odd, I don’t know if I’ve actually seen anyone who accepts the idea. When I hear about the idea, it’s almost always as a historical curiosity. Even the times when I’ve seen a relatively postive presentation of the idea, I don’t think the presenter actually accepted the idea. It’s like hearing someone talk about how neat Ptolemy’s model of the solar system was, or Brahe’s system.

    I’ve always been puzzled that the idea hasn’t received more serious consideration. Is the many-worlds interpretation harder to believe than superpositions and collapsing wave functions?

    If both ideas were presented for the first time side-by-side today, I don’t know if the many-worlds interpretation would sound that much crazier than the Copenhagen interpretation.
    We’ve grown up with the idea that the cat is both dead and alive at the same that (at least to a certain extent) we have gotten used to the idea.

    Tegmark has an interesting take on the application of Occam’s razor to the multiverse and many-worlds interpretation here:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiverse#Criticism

  124. 124
    bornagain77 says:

    “Odd, I don’t know if I’ve actually seen anyone who accepts the idea.”

    page 8 – Everett’s many worlds – 18%
    http://arxiv.org/pdf/1301.1069.pdf

    A Critique of the Many Worlds Interpretation – (Inspiring Philosophy – 2014) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_42skzOHjtA&list=UU5qDet6sa6rODi7t6wfpg8g

    Is Shor’s algorithm a demonstration of the many worlds interpretation?
    Excerpt: David Deutsch is very fond of pointing out Shor’s integer factorization algorithm is a demonstration of the many worlds interpretation. As he often asked, where else did all the exponentially many combinations happen?
    Are there any other alternative interpretations of quantum mechanics which can explain Shor’s algorithm, and the Deutsch-Jozsa and Simon’s algorithm?
    ,,, this argument is totally wrong for a simple reason: the real Universe – our Universe – is a quantum system, not a classical system. So it is normal for quantum systems in a single Universe to behave just like the quantum computer running Shor’s algorithm. On the contrary, if we only use the classical computers, we exponentially slow down the computer relatively to what it could do. In this sense, Deutsch’s “argument” shows that the many-worlds interpretation is just another psychological aid for the people who can’t resist to incorrectly think about our world as being a classical world of a sort.,,,
    There is one more lethal conceptual problem with the “many worlds” explanation of the Shor’s algorithm’s speed: the whole quantum computer’s calculation has to proceed in a completely coherent way and you’re not allowed to imagine that the world splits into “many worlds” as long as things are coherent i.e. before the qubits are measured. Only when the measurement is completed – e.g. at the end of the Shor’s algorithm calculation – you’re allowed to imagine that the worlds split. But it’s too late because by that moment, the whole calculation has already been done in a single (quantum) world, without any help from the parallel worlds.
    (Many more excellent answers are on the site)
    http://physics.stackexchange.c.....rpretation

    Deutsch also claims that the ‘particle interfering with itself’ is another proof for many worlds, but the notion that particles interfere with themselves in the double slit was proven to be wrong by Henry Stapp when he was a Jr. in college:

    A Conversation with Henry Stapp, Ryan Cochrane – March 2014
    Excerpt: As a junior in college, at the University of Michigan, (around 1950), I carried out, during Easter vacation a double-slit experiment where the photons were, on average, 1 km apart, and verified that effect was not due (to) different photons interfering with one another.
    Henry Stapp – Physicist
    http://social-epistemology.com.....-cochrane/

    If anyone is interested in how Dr. Stapp accomplished the preceding experiment, I e-mailed him and this was his response,

    The experiment was meant only to inform myself, and there was never any thought of publication, although I saved for many years the glass slides with the two photographic images, one below the other, of the two double-slit patterns.
    The U of M optics lab featured a double slit experiment. My modified version was not very ingenious: the lab had some calibrated color filters. I merely placed a stack of filters between the light source and the rest of the experiment, so that, using the stated absorption coefficients of the filters, the light was attenuated to an intensity that amounted to an average distance of 1km between photons, whose coherence length was supposed to be about a meter.
    The run lasted ten days. The two interference patterns, one just above the other, were, to my eye, indistinguishable. The “crazy” quantum mechanical prediction was apparently correct! Something very, very interesting was afoot.
    – Henry Stapp – Physicist

    Of related interest to that double slit falsification of the many world’s interpretation is this following double slit experiment which found consciousness to be integral to it:

    Consciousness and the double-slit interference pattern: six experiments – Radin – 2012
    Abstract: A double-slit optical system was used to test the possible role of consciousness in the collapse of the quantum wavefunction. The ratio of the interference pattern’s double-slit spectral power to its single-slit spectral power was predicted to decrease when attention was focused toward the double slit as compared to away from it. Each test session consisted of 40 counterbalanced attention-toward and attention-away epochs, where each epoch lasted between 15 and 30 s(seconds). Data contributed by 137 people in six experiments, involving a total of 250 test sessions, indicate that on average the spectral ratio decreased as predicted (z = -4:36, p = 6•10^-6). Another 250 control sessions conducted without observers present tested hardware, software, and analytical procedures for potential artifacts; none were identified (z = 0:43, p = 0:67). Variables including temperature, vibration, and signal drift were also tested, and no spurious influences were identified. By contrast, factors associated with consciousness, such as meditation experience, electrocortical markers of focused attention, and psychological factors including openness and absorption, significantly correlated in predicted ways with perturbations in the double-slit interference pattern. The results appear to be consistent with a consciousness-related interpretation of the quantum measurement problem.
    http://www.deanradin.com/paper.....0final.pdf

    Psychophysical interactions with a double-slit interference pattern
    Dean Radin, Leena Michel, James Johnston, and Arnaud Delorme – December 2013
    Abstract: Previously reported experiments suggested that interference patterns generated by a double-slit optical system were perturbed by a psychophysical (i.e., mind–matter) interaction. Three new experiments were conducted to further investigate this phenomenon. The first study consisted of 50 half-hour test sessions where participants concentrated their attention-toward or -away from a double-slit system located 3 m away. The spectral magnitude and phase associated with the double-slit component of the interference pattern were compared between the two attention conditions, and the combined results provided evidence for an interaction,,,. One hundred control sessions using the same equipment, protocol and analysis, but without participants present, showed no effect,,,.
    The second experiment used a duplicate double-slit system and similar test protocol, but it was conducted over the Internet by streaming data to participants’ web browsers. Some 685 people from six continents contributed 2089 experimental sessions. Results were similar to those observed in the first experiment, but smaller in magnitude,,,. Data from 2303 control sessions, conducted automatically every 2 h using the same equipment but without observers showed no effect. Distance between participants and the optical system, ranging from 1 km to 18,000 km, showed no correlation with experimental effect size. The third experiment used a newly designed double-slit system, a revised test protocol, and a simpler method of statistical analysis. Twenty sessions contributed by 10 participants successfully replicated the interaction effect observed in the first two studies.
    http://deanradin.com/evidence/.....ys2013.pdf

  125. 125
    Popperian says:

    I wrote:

    Didn’t God supposedly make meaning where none existed before?

    Silver:

    Meaning is not constrained to a location or place. Where there is existence, there is meaning.

    “Where none existed before” doesn’t refer to locality, but the absence of something. It refers to the idea that God created everything ex nihilo. It’s unclear how something that does not exist yet can have a meaning.

    I wrote:

    Why didn’t God look at the void and despair at the meaningless of it all?

    Silver:

    As above, because the void has existence (boundaries), and thus potential (in this case, potential to be filled). Where there’s potential there’s possibility and hope.

    So, God found meaning in the void, that he didn’t create? Or did he create that too? How does the void have boundaries?

    And, if there is hope in potential, why do we need God to give meaning given that our lives have potential? Again, it’s unclear why we’re bound to despair and cannot create meaning if none would have existed without God.

    Silver:

    God communicates meaning as being the source of contingent existence. Where there’s any kind of being, there is goodness – and goodness exists on a hierarchy of value, the top of which is God.

    At this point, you seem to have drifted into presenting a definition of meaning, rather than presenting God as playing a hard to vary functional role in meaning. God is meaning, like God is knowledge.

    I wrote:

    Why must God’s meaning, should he exist, be the only meaning that can exist?

    Silver:

    God’s is the ultimate meaning, and there can only be one of those.

    This seems to be an example of the idea that the unseen resembles the seen. God, which is unseen, resembles the seen in that he is also a person, just infinitely better. God is a father, like we are, but heavenly. Following that idea, couldn’t God have an equally powerful brother? I don’t see why not. Apparently, it’s not because, well, that’s not canon.

    Again, it seems to me that, like with knowledge, God doesn’t play a hard to vary role in meaning. Nor is it clear what ultimate about it. Well, that is, beyond the fact that we should supposedly be in despair if it were absent. But that’s like saying we cannot have knowledge without some ultimate justifier of that knowledge. If I think there is no ultimate justification for knowledge, then I must be a disappointed justifiationist, which thinks that everyone is subjective and relative. But that’s a false dichotomy.

  126. 126
    Querius says:

    bornagain77 @ 124,

    Fascinating references as usual.

    Thanks for posting these!

    -Q

  127. 127
    JimFit says:

    This article is semi relative

    Does the multiverse explain the fine tuning of the cosmological constant?

    http://blankonthemap.blogspot......gical.html

    Born’s law cannot be derived from the Many Worlds Interpretation and that kills Many Worlds Interpretation.

    The Multiverse is just a bunch of evolving universes, so it’s not timeless. If by a multiverse one effectively means one big universe with a lot of regions it still demands a beginning! Most models of inflation predict eternal inflation, meaning not that there wasn’t a beginning, but that in some regions of the universe, inflation continues forever towards the future.

  128. 128
    kairosfocus says:

    Popperian,

    You have brushed aside a key observation from Avi Sion, which brings to bear some basic Thomas Reid type common sense instead of prioritising hyperskepticism on knowledge and trying to dismiss the whole province of inductive reasoning as a crucial basis for empirically grounded and credible/reliable albeit inevitably defeasible knowledge:

    We might . . . ask – can there be a world without any ‘uniformities’? A world of universal difference, with no two things the same in any respect whatever is unthinkable. Why? Because to so characterize the world would itself be an appeal to uniformity. A uniformly non-uniform world is a contradiction in terms.

    Therefore, we must admit some uniformity to exist in the world.

    The world need not be uniform throughout, for the principle of uniformity to apply. It suffices that some uniformity occurs.

    Given this degree of uniformity, however small, we logically can and must talk about generalization and particularization. There happens to be some ‘uniformities’; therefore, we have to take them into consideration in our construction of knowledge. The principle of uniformity is thus not a wacky notion, as Hume seems to imply . . . .

    The uniformity principle is not a generalization of generalization; it is not a statement guilty of circularity, as some critics contend. So what is it? Simply this: when we come upon some uniformity in our experience or thought, we may readily assume that uniformity to continue onward until and unless we find some evidence or reason that sets a limit to it. Why? Because in such case the assumption of uniformity already has a basis, whereas the contrary assumption of difference has not or not yet been found to have any. The generalization has some justification; whereas the particularization has none at all, it is an arbitrary assertion.

    It cannot be argued that we may equally assume the contrary assumption (i.e. the proposed particularization) on the basis that in past events of induction other contrary assumptions have turned out to be true (i.e. for which experiences or reasons have indeed been adduced) – for the simple reason that such a generalization from diverse past inductions is formally excluded by the fact that we know of many cases [[of inferred generalisations; try: “we can make mistakes in inductive generalisation . . . “] that have not been found worthy of particularization to date . . . .

    If we follow such sober inductive logic, devoid of irrational acts, we can be confident to have the best available conclusions in the present context of knowledge. We generalize when the facts allow it, and particularize when the facts necessitate it. We do not particularize out of context, or generalize against the evidence or when this would give rise to contradictions . . .[[Logical and Spiritual Reflections, BK I Hume’s Problems with Induction, Ch 2 The principle of induction.]

    That said, I am also concerned that by cutting across a second thread like this, you are in danger of side-tracking from a pivotal focus.

    KF

  129. 129
    bornagain77 says:

    JimFit you might be interested in this. At the 8:15 minute mark of the following video, Dawkins is set straight by Weinberg himself on the 1 in 10^120 Cosmological Constant:

    Quote:
    “I don’t think one should underestimate the fix we’re in.”
    Steven Weinberg – as stated to Richard Dawkins at the 8:15 minute mark of the following video in regards to the 1 in 10^120 Cosmological Constant

    Leonard Susskind – Richard Dawkins and Steven Weinberg – 1 in 10^120 Cosmological Constant points to intelligent design – video
    https://youtu.be/z4E_bT4ecgk?t=495

  130. 130
    JimFit says:

    Thanks BA77 i will check it later 🙂

  131. 131

    Many, or all of the cosmological constants cannot be otherwise than they are, except they could also not be, and then there wouldn’t be much of anything. Mathematically the structure of the universe is ordered around zero, and the constants are a forced part of that ordering. If we construe mathematics as ordered around zero, then we can find the exact values of the universal constants in the mathematics, without having to measure them in the physical universe.

    Theists proving God exists is one and the same thing with atheists saying they can measure love in the brain. It is asserting statements of fact about what are categoricaly matters of opinion. It is exactly the same thing as proving as scientific fact that the painting is beautiful.

    This is all just one big conspiracy of atheists and theists against subjectivity if you ask me. Creationism is the only philosophy which validates both objectivity and subjectivity in fundamental categories, the creator category for opinion, and the creation category for fact.

    Both God and the soul are in the creator category. The soul chooses, and choosing is the mechanism of creation, so it creates. Are we to find “constants” in a human life to prove the existence of the human soul, just as well we are to look for constants in the universe to prove God exists? It is nonsense, logic dictates that it is a matter of opinion.

  132. 132
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Popperian

    “Where none existed before” doesn’t refer to locality, but the absence of something. It refers to the idea that God created everything ex nihilo.

    Trying to assign categories of time to God is difficult. “Where none existed yet” means a sequence of time. But God created time “from eternity”. It’s the same with meaning. “Ex nihilo” means from “nothing created” not from “non being” – since creation is “ex Deus” actually, not from nothing. God is the source of existence since God is the fullness of existence. There is no potential being in God but only complete, actual being. So, all meaning existed already, before anything was created.

    It’s unclear how something that does not exist yet can have a meaning.

    In the same way you’d have a plan in your mind before the plan came into being — meaning can exist before the thing.

    Meaning is an immaterial quality – it’s not a physical property of a thing. Where do immaterial qualities come from? In the materialist view, there are no immaterial entitites and beyond that, there is no meaning.

    So, God found meaning in the void, that he didn’t create? Or did he create that too? How does the void have boundaries?

    The void is a necessary aspect of creation. God created the possibility of potential being and contingent being. The void is potential being. It had to be created. The boundaries of the void are the difference between God and the void. The void is a created thing bounded by God. Within the created void (nihilo) God brought being. The void has meaning as having potential for creation.

    And, if there is hope in potential, why do we need God to give meaning given that our lives have potential?

    There is hope in potential being because potential can be made actual. The closer we grow towards God, the more our potential is actualized. We become fuller. Our flaws and defects as human persons are where there’s an absence of goodness. Goodness in its fullness is God. God is the fullness of being. So, where being is complete, full, and actualized (not merely potential) there is the greatest amount of goodness.

    We have hope because God gave us potential for goodness. We fulfill that potential by growing closer to God (becoming more like God) through moral and spiritual growth.
    That’s the meaning that is embedded in human life.

    Again, it’s unclear why we’re bound to despair and cannot create meaning if none would have existed without God.

    There are a lot of answers here. Meaning points to something ultimate. It is oriented towards “the purpose of creation”. A human will despair because it is not possible to know one’s meaning and purpose without knowing the meaning and purpose one was created for.

    True, a person can create some temporal meaning “My purpose in life is to set the record for hot dog eating”. But in the end, ultimately, that it meaningless since any possible thing could be the temporal meaning, and that even includes non-meaning. “My purpose in life is to do nothing, or to die or commit suicide or to blow up buildings and kill people”. All of those are equivalent without the presence of God.

    We were created for a purpose. So, purpose and meaning has its source in creation.

    At this point, you seem to have drifted into presenting a definition of meaning, rather than presenting God as playing a hard to vary functional role in meaning. God is meaning, like God is knowledge.

    As above, a thing is created for a purpose. It has meaning through that. What is the meaning of an ocean or a rock or a tree? Humans can assign meaning to those things, but not having created them will never know if that is the real meaning of such things. What is the meaning of Shakespeare’s Hamlet? There are many clues. We can find certain meanings in the play. But if we could ask the creator we would know what was intended. The meaning was built into the play by the author. God plays the hard to vary role of embedding meaning into creation and into human life.

    This seems to be an example of the idea that the unseen resembles the seen. God, which is unseen, resembles the seen in that he is also a person, just infinitely better. God is a father, like we are, but heavenly.

    God is not entirely unseen. We have significant evidence about what God is like.

    Following that idea, couldn’t God have an equally powerful brother? I don’t see why not. Apparently, it’s not because, well, that’s not canon.

    No, it’s not merely canon or a faith statement. It’s based on the nature of God and being. Tracing the source of all being to God we have a self-existent being. As above, this is the fulness of existence. Why? Because where would being or existence come from if God didn’t possess it? It can’t come from nothing.

    To claim two equally powerful gods there would be some sort of sharing of power. Neither god would explain itself or the other. If one god created the other, then they wouldn’t be equally powerful. If they were ‘brothers’ then they came from parents. If one came first, then they wouldn’t be equal. If they co-existed, then neither would be all powerful (and therefore neither would be God). They couldn’t be equal because each would have knowledge that the other didn’t have (each would know about himself in a way that the other didn’t know).

    For those reasons (and more) there cannot be two eternal, infinite, all powerful, omni-present beings. The fulness of being can only be possessed in a single entity — not shared (otherwise it wouldn’t be the fulness of being in either of the ‘brothers’).

    That’s why we talk about ultimate meaning or first cause (not causes). Ultimate refers only to one — a single source for full actualization of being or reality.

    Nor is it clear what ultimate about it. Well, that is, beyond the fact that we should supposedly be in despair if it were absent.

    Meaning and purpose are teleological – that is ‘goal oriented’. So, meaning is direction to a goal.
    We are in despair without God because we do not know if we are traveling to a goal at all. We could be going entirely in the wrong direction, or no direction at all. If we miss the goal, there is nothing but loss. If we know the goal and travel towards it, that is hope and joy.

    But that’s like saying we cannot have knowledge without some ultimate justifier of that knowledge. If I think there is no ultimate justification for knowledge, then I must be a disappointed justifiationist, which thinks that everyone is subjective and relative. But that’s a false dichotomy.

    As I said above, you can certainly have many temporal meanings without ultimate justification. But in the end, those temporal meanings resolve themselves to meaninglessness.

    Its the same with knowledge. Without any hierarchy of value and without an ultimate justification of the value of the knowledge, all knowledge is equally trivial. Beyond that, without ultimate justification, false knowledge is equivalent to true.

    That’s an additional problem. Without ultimate meaning, illusions have the same value as reality ultimately. Only with God, the source of true being and reality, can we value the difference between illusion and truth.

  133. 133
    Silver Asiatic says:

    mohammadnursyamsu

    Many, or all of the cosmological constants cannot be otherwise than they are, except they could also not be, and then there wouldn’t be much of anything.

    It’s a question of why the universe has these characteristics. Random “not much of anything” doesn’t order itself into mathematical precisions. What did the ordering? Where did the symmetries come from?

    One could say “that’s just the way it is” but that’s not an answer and the remarkable fine-tuning that even atheist cosmologists have recognized remains unexplained.

    It is exactly the same thing as proving as scientific fact that the painting is beautiful.

    Cosmological constants and fine tuning is fact-based analysis, not mere subjective opinion.

    Are we to find “constants” in a human life to prove the existence of the human soul, just as well we are to look for constants in the universe to prove God exists?

    We look at a universal moral sense, purpose, rationality, religious understanding, grasp of life after death, infinite joy, perfection — all of those are ‘constants’ that point to the existence of the soul.

  134. 134
    Popperian says:

    What truly astonishes me is the eager acceptance of the multi-worlds interpretation of QM, which requires trillions and trillions and trillions of near copies of our entire universe to be magically generated *every second* as a perfectly acceptable alternative to a God who only needed to create one.

    The idea that new universes are being created as branches off any current branch was only part of the early theory. Rather, each universe starts out as an equivalent to each other and begin diverging after the big bang. In addition, some universes merge due to events that occur within them that make them equivalent again. However, no new universes are added or removed in the process.

    A better understanding would be, there is a greater multiverse in which there is more than just what we would call classical universes. Why should we accept it? Because the multiverse is what you get should you take the mathematics of quantum mechanics seriously as a description of reality. Specially, when you write out the equations, what you are describing are multiple histories that interact with each other. And, if we take that seriously as an explanation for how the world works, it must also apply not only to the experiment, but to the lab, the experimenters, etc.

    To elaborate, good science fiction stories are hard to come by. Take the common scenario where a passenger on a space ship is somehow “phase-shifted” (by, say, a transporter accident) so that they are “out of phase” with the reset of the crew. The rest of the plot revolves around the phase-shifted person somehow being returned to normal space. The problem with these scenarios is that, should you try to take them seriously, what prevents phase-shifted person falling though the floor into space? Stepping on the same floor as the rest of the crew would cause it to vibrate and create sound waves that could be heard. What air is the phase-shifted person breathing if not that of the crew? If it’s the same air then the phase-shifted person could simply speak to them. IOW, it couldn’t be that just the person is phase-shifted, but they must exist in an entire parallel universe with it’s own ship, air, etc. So, while these scenarios are entertaining, they are logically inconsistent.

    Anticipating the response, note that I’m not suggesting that we have to take science fiction stories seriously as how reality works. However, I am pointing out that if one takes QM seriously as an explanation for how the world works, then we are left with the parallel universes of the MWI. Nothing in the wave function formula itself says that observers are somehow immune to the same effects as the photons in the experiment. In fact, suggesting they are complicates the theory.

    In the MWI does not violate Occam’s razor because each universe is an emergent property of the multiverse that behaves classically. Objects are solid because of the interaction between those universes at the atomic scale. It’s the least complicated explanation for QM.

    In addition, the entire field of quantum computation was developed as a way to test the MWI of QM. If a quantum algorithm can factor a number 10^300 times faster than a classical algorithm, where are all those computations being performed if not in 10^300 similar universes in which the same number is being factored?

    This should not be confused with the cosmological multiverse, in which there are an ensemble of universes that do not interact with each other. This multiverse is proposed to explain why unusual configurations of matter exist in our universe. The premise is that, in most universes those configurations do not exist. There are significant problems with this theory, which I won’t get into here, but I wanted to clarify the difference as one of the references to criticism on Wikipedia was referring to this other kind of multiverse. (It’s unclear how you can criticize something you do not understand)

  135. 135
    bornagain77 says:

    JimFit, here is the entire quote:

    “I don’t think one should underestimate the fix we are in. That in the end we will not be able to explain the world. That we will have some set of laws of nature (that) we will not be able to derive them on the grounds simply of mathematical consistency. Because we can already think of mathematically consistent laws that don’t describe the world as we know it. And we will always be left with a question ‘why are the laws nature what they are rather than some other laws?’. And I don’t see any way out of that.
    The fact that the constants of nature are suitable for life, which is clearly true, we observe,,,”
    (Weinberg then comments on the multiverse conjecture of atheists)
    “No one has constructed a theory in which that is true. I mean,, the (multiverse) theory would be speculative, but we don’t even have a theory in which that speculation is mathematically realized. But it is a possibility.”
    Steven Weinberg – as stated to Richard Dawkins at the 8:15 minute mark of the following video
    Leonard Susskind – Richard Dawkins and Steven Weinberg – 1 in 10^120 Cosmological Constant points to intelligent design – video
    https://youtu.be/z4E_bT4ecgk?t=495

    a few Related notes:

    Kurt Gödel – Incompleteness Theorem
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/8462821/

    The Limits Of Reason – Gregory Chaitin – 2006
    Excerpt: Unlike Gödel’s approach, mine is based on measuring information and showing that some mathematical facts cannot be compressed into a theory because they are too complicated. This new approach suggests that what Gödel discovered was just the tip of the iceberg: an infinite number of true mathematical theorems exist that cannot be proved from any finite system of axioms.
    http://www.umcs.maine.edu/~chaitin/sciamer3.pdf

    Conservation of information, evolution, etc – Sept. 30, 2014
    Excerpt: Kurt Gödel’s logical objection to Darwinian evolution:
    “The formation in geological time of the human body by the laws of physics (or any other laws of similar nature), starting from a random distribution of elementary particles and the field is as unlikely as the separation of the atmosphere into its components. The complexity of the living things has to be present within the material [from which they are derived] or in the laws [governing their formation].”
    As quoted in H. Wang. “On `computabilism’ and physicalism: Some Problems.” in Nature’s Imagination, J. Cornwall, Ed, pp.161-189, Oxford University Press (1995).
    Gödel’s argument is that if evolution is unfolding from an initial state by mathematical laws of physics, it cannot generate any information not inherent from the start – and in his view, neither the primaeval environment nor the laws are information-rich enough. ,,,,,
    More recently this led him (Dembski) to postulate a Law of Conservation of Information, or actually to consolidate the idea, first put forward by Nobel-prizewinner Peter Medawar in the 1980s. Medawar had shown, as others before him, that in mathematical and computational operations, no new information can be created, but new findings are always implicit in the original starting points – laws and axioms.
    http://potiphar.jongarvey.co.u.....ution-etc/

    Evolutionary Computing: The Invisible Hand of Intelligence – June 17, 2015
    Excerpt: William Dembski and Robert Marks have shown that no evolutionary algorithm is superior to blind search — unless information is added from an intelligent cause, which means it is not, in the Darwinian sense, an evolutionary algorithm after all. This mathematically proven law, based on the accepted No Free Lunch Theorems, seems to be lost on the champions of evolutionary computing. Researchers keep confusing an evolutionary algorithm (a form of artificial selection) with “natural evolution.” ,,,
    Marks and Dembski account for the invisible hand required in evolutionary computing. The Lab’s website states, “The principal theme of the lab’s research is teasing apart the respective roles of internally generated and externally applied information in the performance of evolutionary systems.” So yes, systems can evolve, but when they appear to solve a problem (such as generating complex specified information or reaching a sufficiently narrow predefined target), intelligence can be shown to be active. Any internally generated information is conserved or degraded by the law of Conservation of Information.,,,
    What Marks and Dembski prove is as scientifically valid and relevant as Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem in mathematics. You can’t prove a system of mathematics from within the system, and you can’t derive an information-rich pattern from within the pattern.,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....96931.html

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: ,,,The physical universe is causally incomplete and therefore neither self-originating nor self-sustaining. The world of space, time, matter and energy is dependent on a reality that transcends space, time, matter and energy.
    This transcendent reality cannot merely be a Platonic realm of mathematical descriptions, for such things are causally inert abstract entities that do not affect the material world,,,
    Rather, the transcendent reality on which our universe depends must be something that can exhibit agency – a mind that can choose among the infinite variety of mathematical descriptions and bring into existence a reality that corresponds to a consistent subset of them. This is what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe.” Anything else invokes random miracles as an explanatory principle and spells the end of scientific rationality.,,,
    Universes do not “spontaneously create” on the basis of abstract mathematical descriptions, nor does the fantasy of a limitless multiverse trump the explanatory power of transcendent intelligent design. What Mr. Hawking’s contrary assertions show is that mathematical savants can sometimes be metaphysical simpletons. Caveat emptor.
    http://www.washingtontimes.com.....arguments/

  136. 136
    bornagain77 says:

    Popperian:

    Your claims were already dealt with
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-572249

  137. 137
    harry says:

    Popperian

    I’m saying that the knowledge of how to build complex, natural storage mediums, like brains, was genuinely created via variation and selection. For example, simpler organisms do not have complex nervous systems. New knowledge was created that indicates what transformations of matter are required to adapt raw materials to build them.

    Knowledge requires a “knower.” Without one, all that can be is just unknowing stuff behaving as it must according to the laws of physics, which are no more than our observations of where that behavior is consistent. But before we were around to know those consistencies, there weren’t even laws of physics, there was just stuff with consistent behavior. If that stuff was ever going to do anything besides eventually reach its most likely state, which wasn’t a DNA digital information storage device, much less a brain, and certainly not a “knower,” then either the consistencies in its behavior had to have been brilliantly designed such that “knowers” would inevitably come about, or an ultimate Knower intervened after the stuff existed (Who must have been responsible for the existence of the stuff in the first place) and arranged some of it such that energy could be harnessed constructively in order for some of that stuff to reach very unlikely states, including the most unlikely of states: other “knowers.”

    I think it was the latter. I think He intentionally designed the stuff such that we would eventually discover that it was virtually impossible for it to have been mindlessly and accidentally configured such that life was even a possibility (1 chance in 10^10^123). I think He then intervened in natural history and created life such that it was a singular, spectacular exception to the states matter arrives at without intelligent intervention, according to its universally consistent behavior. He did that so we could be sure He was there. He accomplished His task. There is no excuse for denying He is there.

  138. 138
    Upright BiPed says:

    Storage mediums like DNA started as simpler chemical systems which had minimal abstract replicator functionality … I’m saying that the knowledge of how to build complex, natural storage mediums, like brains, was genuinely created via variation and selection … feel free to point out where I’m begging the question

    The physical effect you require for your explanation of a complex storage system (i.e. variation and selection in an organization that contributes to its perpetuity) requires a complex storage system. It’s a real problem for you. (If A requires B for A to exist, then A cannot be the source of B). The problem is made worse by the fact that the material conditions of such systems were understood as a logically necessity more than half a century ago, and were then confirmed by experiment.

    You would profit by asking yourself what is physically required for variation and selection in a system that contributes to its perpetuity. Until you are prepared to do that, you would at least profit by distinguishing between assumptions and demonstrated facts. If you did, you would probably stop making this argument.

  139. 139

    There is nothing “mere” about opinion. Facts are not superior to opinions, they are different.

    Clear and unequivocal acceptance of the validity of subjectivity is required, besides objectivity, as in the 2 categories of creationist philosophy, creator and creation, opinion and fact.

  140. 140
    Silver Asiatic says:

    mohammadnursyamsu

    There is nothing “mere” about opinion. Facts are not superior to opinions, they are different.

    Existence is superior to non-existence. Truth is superior to falsehood. Goodness is superior to evil.

    Subjective opinions have the potential to be false or evil. Facts do not.

    If subjective opinion had equivalent value to fact, then truth would equal falsehood, and rationality would not be possible.

  141. 141
    Axel says:

    Rubbish, mohammadnursyamush. Belief in theism is as certainly well-founded as facts. Indeed, concern facts.

    You have to believe you will be alive in few seconds time to bother to write posts online – or do anything. Even boiling an egg would be a long-term project. But it is a virtually certain fact.

    We live our lives on such a basis, and that is only a matter of secular faith! Through the Christian faith, which you were pleased to cast as Creationism in true reductionist manner, some of our saints are often informed by the Holy Spirit in a manner that is more overtly supernatural; for example, Saint (Padre) Pio could have told you just about anything about yourself, including what you have in your pocket, assuming it were germane to your confessional visit?

  142. 142
    KevNick says:

    Coyne is dangerous not because of what he represents. He’s a growing audience. No doubt about it. It is more what people would like to hear. I know a few people who refused to hear…. the truth.

  143. 143

    ….saying the painting is beautiful is equally logically valid to saying the painting is ugly. That is how subjectivity works.

    The logic of subjectivity is to choose about what the agency of a decision is, resulting in an opinion. Therefore requiring at least 2 valid answers, for any opinion, either of which can be chosen.

    Like love and hate, God and the soul are also referred to in terms of agency of decisions, and therefore logic dictates that the existence of them is a matter of opinion. Which means the conclusion that God and the soul do not exist is just as well logically valid.

    And otherwise you can just as well join the atheists in denying freedom is real and relevant, asserting you can measure love in the brain, and that choosing means to sort out the best result using the facts about good and evil as sorting criteria.

  144. 144
    Silver Asiatic says:

    mohammadnursyamsu

    Like love and hate, God and the soul are also referred to in terms of agency of decisions, and therefore logic dictates that the existence of them is a matter of opinion. Which means the conclusion that God and the soul do not exist is just as well logically valid.

    And otherwise you can just as well join the atheists in denying freedom is real and relevant, asserting you can measure love in the brain, and that choosing means to sort out the best result using the facts about good and evil as sorting criteria.

    The reason I don’t join the atheists in denying freedom or in asserting that love is a physical process alone is because the agency of my decision is not subjective. I evaluate the data, look at the facts and arrive at the most reasonable conclusion.

    If these questions were simply a matter of subjective opinion, then there would be no rational basis to reject the atheist proposals. I would, necessarily, join the atheists because I would have no rational argument against those points.

    This site has an abundance of logical, non-subjective arguments against atheistic materialism.

    In arriving at a conclusion, we weigh the factual evidence. The final decision on whether God exists or not is an abductive argument. It is fact-based, not subjective. It’s not 2+2=4 but more like this:

    Fact: As far as we know, only X can produce Mind.
    Fact: Mind exists.
    Inference: Therefore, X probably exists

    That’s not subjective. It’s a conclusion based on an analysis of facts.
    This opinion:

    “There is no possiblity that X exists” – would be a subjective opinion that is not supported by the facts, and would thus be illogical.

    The existence of God is not like a question of whether something is beautiful or not.

    God is “the necessary being”. Very serious arguments have to be raised in order to conclude that God does not exist. There’s a long philosophical history on this question. It’s certainly not just subjective opinion like whether a person likes chocolate or vanilla ice cream better.

    Even the question of beauty in a painting is not purely subjective. A person who claims that all the works of Botticelli are ugly would have to explain that somehow. On what basis are they ugly? Once that discussion occurs, it’s not subjective but logic and fact based — unless the person is totally ignorant or mentally disordered.

  145. 145

    Creationism can only provide evidence for how things are chosen. It is simply a matter of logic that no fact whatsoever can be attained about the agency of any decision. This is why the mathematics which describes how things are chosen functions without reference to agency.

    It is the strength of creationism that it validates both objectivity and subjectivity in distinct categories. No other philosophy can do this. Atheism, materialism, physicalism, scientism, etc. they all don’t provide a proper place for subjectivity.

    With creationism there are 100 percent accurate facts in the creation category, without artificially imposed doubt about it, like in postmodernism or skepticism.

    And there is full room for expression of emotion, forming an opinion, in relation to the creator category.

  146. 146
    Silver Asiatic says:

    mohammadnursyamsu

    Creationism can only provide evidence for how things are chosen.

    You may be right – I just don’t follow it.
    Could you explain more, please – with some examples?

    What evidence does Creationism provide for how things are chosen? What things have been chosen and what not chosen? What are the different ways that God can choose things?

  147. 147

    One can make hypothesis about DNA being formed by many independent decisions, or hypothesis about DNA being chosen as a whole. All of which theories would fall within the creationism paradigm.

    The evidence points to that development of an organism to adulthood follows from a representation of the organism in the DNA system. Meaning an actual 3D representation, and not just the simple fact that the information for the developed adult organism is contained within the DNA.

    The mathematical ordering of the DNA system is the same as that of the physical universe. There are 4 bases CATG, and in physics there are 4 parameters of mass, time, space and charge. There are 64 triplet codons, and in physics 64 elements of Dirac algebra. There is the double stranded DNA, double helix, and in physics there is the fermion+vacuum spin 1/2 * 2, double helix. There are 20 amino acids, and in physics there are 20 elements of the fermionic + vacuum structure. etc.

    So the DNA system having the same mathematical ordering as the universe, means it functions similar to a 3D computersimulation. And in this DNA world representations of fully functonal adult organisms can be chosen as a whole, at present as well as in some far past.

    That’s the sort of intelligent design theory I support, besides I support theory on first creation of organisms, which is a different issue.

    But actually I mostly only care for the validation of subjectivity inherent in creationism, and not that much for the objective part. Because having people in society, and government, who reject subjectivity, I find to be horrific!

  148. 148
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Thanks for the explanation. That was helpful.

  149. 149
    Seversky says:

    kairosfocus @ 44

    First, truth and reality: truth says of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not. Material inaccuracy to reality is another way of saying that a worldview is materially false.

    Truth can mean different things. It can refer to the actual nature of the reality we live within or it can refer to the extent to which our descriptions and explanations of that reality correspond to what we observe. They may be true, they maybe false, mostly they are probably a bit of both.

    If a worldview is true it is accurate to reality and you will be able to live in the real world by its light. Where, a worldview is in simple terms an overall perspective on core reality.

    I am wary of the term “worldview” as it seems to be rather vague and it often seems to be used to stereotype a group with which you disagree. It seems to me that individual human personalities are portmanteau of often quite different views and beliefs. For example, I will describe myself as an a/mat (atheist/materialist) which means, by the “worldviews” of many people here, I should be rabidly pro-abortion. Yet I am opposed to abortion on the grounds that I believe the right to life should cover the whole of an individual’s existence from conception to casket. I think stereotypical thinking is a serious problem.

    Now, the core of the argument above, is that atheism (in context evolutionary materialist scientism with its associated atheism) is drastically out of alignment with reality. That is, it is factually inadequate, incoherent and grossly lacking in explanatory power. Truth is, once examined, that is hard to deny — never mind the institutional dominance, lab coats and claimed cornering the market on rationality.

    And, as I pointed out previously, the materialistic view of the world has been so successful in so many fields that to deny it is a form of purblind absurdity. It may be that there is more to this Universe that just material reality but the track record of materialism is going to take some beating.

    Let me do some clipping from the earlier thread in response to AS:

    _____________

    >>1: A world, patently exists.

    2: Nothing, denotes just that, non-being.

    3: A genuine nothing, can have no causal capacity.

    4: If ever there were an utter nothing, that is exactly what would forever obtain.

    Agreed.

    5: But, per 1, we and a world exist, so there was always something.

    6: This raises the issue of modes of being, first possible vs impossible.

    No, an impossible mode of being is not a mode of being that can be opposed to an possible mode of being except as a logical category. A possible mode of being is something that can – and possibly does – exist. An impossible mode of being cannot possibly exist by definition. It is non-existent, nothing. To think of an impossible mode of being as being a mode of being is akin to thinking of death as a form of living.

    10: Our observed cosmos had a beginning and is caused. This implies a deeper root of being, as necessarily, something always was.

    The problem with that is that something that has always existed is not necessarily caused. The Christian God, by definition, must have always existed.

    11: Another possible mode of being is a necessary being. To see such, consider a candidate being that has no dependence on external, on/off enabling factors.

    And as such, a necessary being can have no needs, no dependencies that cannot be met from internal resources. An eternal and necessary God, for example, would have no need to create beings with who he could form a loving relationship nor a Universe to house them.

    17: By contrast, God is a serious candidate necessary being, The Eternal Root of being. Where, a necessary being root of reality is the best class of candidates to always have been.

    The problem with a necessary being as the source of existence is that simply pushes the ultimate question back one stage because we can always ask about the origin of that being. Declaring that such a necessary being needs no explanation sounds too much like trying to close off further discussion by fiat.

    18: The choice, as discussed in the already linked, is between God as impossible or as actual. Where, there is no good reason to see God as impossible, or not a serious candidate to be a necessary being, or to be contingent, etc.

    No, for me, the choice is between finite and infinite, with none of the answers offered so far being satisfactory. It is still, as Darwin said, a mystery.

    19: So, to deny God is to imply and to need to shoulder the burden of showing God impossible. [U/D April 4, 2015: We can for illustrative instance cf. a form of Godel’s argument, demonstrated to be valid:]

    No, the burden of proof is presumed to rest with the claimant. If I were to assert categorically that God is impossible then, as you say, it would be for me to support that claim with arguments and evidence. If, on the other hand, I say that it is still a mystery – that I don’t know – but you proclaim that God is the one and only answer then the burden of supporting that claim rests with you.

    20: Moreover, we find ourselves under moral government, to be under OUGHT.

    Yes, self-imposed moral government. If you look at the function of moral codes, they are essentially guidelines which regulate the ways in which people behave towards one another in society. In that sense, they are social conventions. For a man marooned alone on a desert island, for example, injunctions against killing or theft are simply irrelevant.

    21: This, post the valid part of Hume’s guillotine argument (on pain of the absurdity of ultimate amorality and might/manipulation makes ‘right’) implies that there is a world foundational IS that properly bears the weight of OUGHT.

    You cannot evade Hume’s guillotine that easily. There is no logical way to derive ‘ought’ from ‘is’. Does the fact that, in nature, animals kill each other for food mean that we should do the same? Does the observation that, in nature, whole species can be wiped out by others when they lose the competition for survival, mean that we are therefore entitled to do the same? I say no, it doesn’t, but if I want a moral justification for that view then I need to work a lot harder than simply asserting that it is God’s will and there’s an end to it. That, essentially, is just another form of might is right.

    22: Across many centuries of debates, there is only one serious candidate: the inherently good, eternal creator God, a necessary and maximally great being worthy of loyalty, respect, service through doing the good and even worship.

    Over the millennia there have been many religions and many candidate gods and I’m sure, for each of them, their followers thought they were a serious candidate for worship.

    Ironically, we here see exposed, precisely the emotional appeal and hostility of too many who reject and dismiss the reality of God (and of our being under moral government) without adequate reason.

    If there is irony, it is in the claim by Christians that their God is goodness itself and the source and grounding for morality when some of the oldest stories in their scriptures testify to a deity who routinely ignored what we would now consider moral imperatives and who committed, either directly or through proxies, acts that we would now judge to be atrocities.

    In short, the atheist is basically facing the issue of arguing that a root necessary being who is inherently good and maximally great is impossible. Likewise, he faces the choice that our sense of being under binding, ruling force of ought is delusional, letting loose grand delusion in our thought world. Which undermines the credibility of thought.

    No, as before, if you believe that God is the ultimate explanation for all that there is then it is for you to try and persuade me. If I simply say that I don’t know the answer then there is nothing for me to prove.

    Nor does atheism lead inexorably to the belief that conscious experience is a delusion. It would only be that if models or simulations are held to be delusions. In my view we live in an internal ‘model’. It is a subjective model or simulation of an objective reality that exists beyond us. It is not a “Matrix” type simulation because it tries to correspond to observed reality, it is an approximation to reality not a fiction. Yes, it is incomplete and imperfect in may ways and, although it means we cannot trust it absolutely, it doesn’t mean either that it is wholly unreliable or a delusion.

    As for this sort of thing:

    “In any philosophy of reality that is not ultimately self-defeating or internally contradictory, mind – unlabeled as anything else, matter or spiritual – must be primary. What is “matter” and what is “conceptual” and what is “spiritual” can only be organized from mind. Mind controls what is perceived, how it is perceived, and how those percepts are labeled and organized. Mind must be postulated as the unobserved observer, the uncaused cause simply to avoid a self-negating, self-conflicting worldview. It is the necessary postulate of all necessary postulates, because nothing else can come first. To say anything else comes first requires mind to consider and argue that case and then believe it to be true, demonstrating that without mind, you could not believe that mind is not primary in the first place.”
    – William J. Murray

    Yes, we perceive and experience external reality through the conscious mind. It is primary in that sense because it is us. But primary before anything else? Think what that says. It’s the same nonsense that BA77 keeps harping on about. The mind is consciousness, but conscious means to be conscious of something. If the conscious mind precedes all reality then what is it being conscious of? It is the same paradox as exists in BA77’s version of the observer effect in quantum physics. If there is nothing there to be observed and nothing happens to the something that isn’t there until we observe it, then just what the hell is being observed in the first place?

    Why Evolutionary Theory Cannot Survive Itself – Nancy Pearcey – March 8, 2015
    Excerpt: Steven Pinker writes, “Our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth. Sometimes the truth is adaptive, but sometimes it is not.” The upshot is that survival is no guarantee of truth. If survival is the only standard, we can never know which ideas are true and which are adaptive but false.

    If I think that a hungry tiger is just a big, friendly kitty who wants to play and someone else thinks it is an extremely dangerous predator that wants to eat one of us, guess which belief is more likely to be true and guess who’s more likely to survive? It’s nonsense to try and separate survival and truth value. Survival in a dangerous environment depends on an account of that is as accurate as possible. Yes, you can envisage false beliefs that might incidentally benefit survival but overall the truer the belief the better.

    And that being the case, why wouldn’t such a mind, that tends to survive because it forms truer beliefs than others, be able to apply itself to metaphysical questions? No, it may not be absolutely reliable or accurate in its explanations and conclusions but what else is? What else is there?

    To make the dilemma even more puzzling, evolutionists tell us that natural selection has produced all sorts of false concepts in the human mind. Many evolutionary materialists maintain that free will is an illusion, consciousness is an illusion, even our sense of self is an illusion — and that all these false ideas were selected for their survival value.
    So how can we know whether the theory of evolution itself is one of those false ideas? The theory undercuts itself.,,,

    Some philosophers argue that free will and consciousness are illusions because there are well-known problems with both concepts. How do we tell whether or not evolution or any other explanation about the world is true or not? See if it hangs together logically and compare it with what we see.

    Of course, the atheist pursuing his research has no choice but to rely on rationality, just as everyone else does. The point is that he has no philosophical basis for doing so. Only those who affirm a rational Creator have a basis for trusting human rationality.

    Is it rational to believe in the existence of a God based on a compilation of stories written over hundreds of years, many of which cannot be verified, some of which describe phenomena which are at odds with what we observe to day and which are riddled with discrepancies and contradictions?

    The reason so few atheists and materialists seem to recognize the problem is that, like Darwin, they apply their skepticism selectively. They apply it to undercut only ideas they reject, especially ideas about God. They make a tacit exception for their own worldview commitments.

    And one of the reasons why believers fail give due weight to the problems with their belief systems is the flip side of hyperskepticism, hypercredulity.
    We are all limited, fallible, ignorant beings. We do the best we can with what we have and what we are. Perhaps there are far greater intelligent beings out there or even in here.

    As an a/mat (atheist/materialist) I cannot say that there is no God. I cannot say for certain there is no transcendent mind or domain of existence beyond what we can observe. All I can say is that I’m not aware of any persuasive evidence for such things so I see no reason to believe in them.

    Can I construct a moral code by which I think people could and should live, without reference to the god of any faith? Yes, I can. So can you.

  150. 150

    No atheists really can’t construct a morality without reference at least to the human spirit, and the spirit of the law, and such.

    Atheists have no sense to attribute goodness and evil to the spirit of a man choosing, because there is no evidence for this spirit.

    So then atheists inevitably attribute goodness and evil to measurable things like acts, or genes, or psychological mechanisms etc. No matter what, the goodness and evil will inevitably be equated with a factually measurable material thing or process, because that is all there is according to them. Racism, sexism, and all the rest of it then becomes endemic.

    Morality only works around a subjectively acknowledged spiritual thing like a feeling, an emotion, or proper spirit. Atheists will always construct morality around measurable things, like maximum production output, or maximum consumption.

  151. 151
    kairosfocus says:

    Sev,

    the pivotal issue is there at the outset of your response:

    [KF, paraphrasing Aristotle:] First, truth and reality: truth says of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not. [ –> Cf Metaphysics 1011b] Material inaccuracy to reality is another way of saying that a worldview is materially false.

    [Sev:] Truth can mean different things. It can refer to the actual nature of the reality we live within or it can refer to the extent to which our descriptions and explanations of that reality correspond to what we observe. They may be true, they maybe false, mostly they are probably a bit of both.

    In short, you are blurring truth and error, but imply that there is in fact a distinction.

    After that, everything naturally goes downhill.

    And BTW, a worldview is a well known apt term for one’s fundamental perspective on the world.

    AmHD:

    world·view (wûrld?vyo?o?)
    n.
    1. The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.
    2. A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group. In both senses also called Weltanschauung.
    [Translation of German Weltanschauung.]
    American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

    Worldviews typically blend truth and error and a major project of philosophy is analysis of worldview alternatives on comparative difficulties.

    And that is the province of thought that is on the table, so speaking of worldviews is entirely in order and not a matter for dismissive rhetoric and projection of suspect motive by raising imaginary motives.

    More later.

    KF

  152. 152
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky:

    Following up:

    1] success of materialistic scientism:

    You conflate success of science with success of the worldview of evolutionary materialist scientism. But as pointed out the founding and growth of modern science owes much to the Judaeo-Christian ethical theistic worldview.

    Evolutionary materialism by contrast stumbles fatally starting with accounting for responsible rational freedom, due to its monist, matter-focussed character that forces it to explain reality on matter and energy interacting by blind mechanical forces and/or chance. So, Reppert is quite correct to note:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [[But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [[so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

    Rational contemplation and responsible choice simply are not reducible to blindly mechanical computation on a material substrate, perhaps with some chance effects.

    In that context the tendency to allow science to gobble up knowledge or serious knowledge also fails, as it is in fact a case of crossing over into philosophy unrecognised. Lewontin’s blunder of wanting hoi polloi to see science as the only begetter of truth is a classic, self referentially incoherent example.

    So, no, talking points withstanding, materialism and scientism though dressed up in a borrowed lab coat are a worldviews failure.

    2: possible vs impossible being

    You quibble on phrasing. My point was and is that impossible beings such as square circles have contradictions among core proposed characteristics and cannot be instantiated in actuality.

    Which, of course is also a bridge to the classic laws of thought.

    3: >>something that has always existed is not necessarily caused. The Christian God, by definition, must have always existed>>

    Necessary being is not contingent and is not caused at all.

    The point is, we live in an actual world which is credibly contingent [complete with strong evidence of a beginning . . . crying out for a cause], in a context where as you agreed if utter non-being [= nothing] ever was, such would forever obtain. So, something always was, the question is, candidates.

    Where also, necessary being can be seen to be something so embedded in requisites of a world that once a world is possible it would be a part of its roots. For example, no world can exist where two-ness is not an aspect of its being. Consequently, such must exist in our actual world.

    This points to necessary being at the root of reality.

    And, God (God of the philosophers actually, this is not anchored to a theistic tradition or its scriptures etc as such) is definitely a serious candidate to be such a root of reality.

    And such a being would be independent, not motivated by needs or appetites as such, a giver not a taker.

    4: >>The problem with a necessary being as the source of existence is that simply pushes the ultimate question back one stage because we can always ask about the origin of that being. Declaring that such a necessary being needs no explanation sounds too much like trying to close off further discussion by fiat.>>

    This has the matter backwards.

    The issue is that a contingent world is rooted in a source that must not be contingent, is necessary once a going concern world exists. Which last is patently so.

    So, yes, we confront an ultimate and self-existent, self-sufficient reality; a case of the buck genuinely stops here.

    Wanting to go further back is in fact to suggest that we are not yet at the root.

    And that brings us to causal chain alternatives: infinite regress, circularity, an ultimate. Self cause in terms of origin boils down to something from nothing. Infinite regress of discrete causal steps and entities becomes even mathematically absurd as well as a spectacular case of multiplying explanatory entities without necessity.

    The candidate to beat is unified, necessary root of being where a going concern world demands a root of being.

    And here, we are looking at a characteristic comparative difficulties challenge: pick which option yields the least onward issues, but all main candidates must be present and addressed on pain of begging questions.

    Which, BTW, answers to your hinted at locking out of further questions.

    5: God as serious NB candidate, impossible vs actual

    KF: >>The choice, as discussed in the already linked, is between God as impossible or as actual. Where, there is no good reason to see God as impossible, or not a serious candidate to be a necessary being, or to be contingent, etc.>> vs:

    Sev: >>No, for me, the choice is between finite and infinite, with none of the answers offered so far being satisfactory. It is still, as Darwin said, a mystery.>>

    This, regrettably, is snipped out of context and put at cross purposes. The strawman caricature effect is striking.

    The issue is that notoriously, God is a serious candidate necessary being root of reality. Where, for any serious candidate necessary being, the question is whether the candidate is impossible as a square circle is impossible.

    The real issues are:

    (i) is God actually not a serious candidate NB? Patently, yes.

    (ii) on answering i that God is a serious candidate, is that candidate impossible of being?

    Fifty years ago, it was quite commonly argued by atheists that the God conceived of under ethical theism is incoherent, on the problem of evil deductive form turned into a stock set of talking points. But, Plantinga’s free will defense has shattered that argument (now typically silently dropped without acknowledgement of that history, as above) and has tamed the inductive form, leaving the existential form to be a matter for pastoral counselling and healing from pain and trauma.

    So, the issue is, God as conceived in ethical theistic philosophy is a serious candidate necessary being as root of reality and objectors do not have any currently credible reason to hold such impossible.

    That points to God as best current and prospective explanation of the roots of reality.

    Appeal to finite vs infinite and mysteries does not effectively answer this.

    Nor, is it good enough to then suggest that a burden of warrant has not been adequately taken up.

    Further to this, as my old gramps used to say, every tub must stand on its own bottom. Evolutionary materialist scientism (which embeds a particular form of atheism) is a worldview that needs to justify itself and it needs in particular to ground its rejection of God as best candidate NB root of reality.

    As fair comment, with all due respect, appeal to mysteries and arrogating the benefit of default to selectively hyperskeptical dismissiveness does not make the grade.

    6: On moral government:

    [KF:] Moreover, we find ourselves under moral government, to be under OUGHT.

    [Sev:] Yes, self-imposed moral government. If you look at the function of moral codes, they are essentially guidelines which regulate the ways in which people behave towards one another in society. In that sense, they are social conventions. For a man marooned alone on a desert island, for example, injunctions against killing or theft are simply irrelevant.

    Nope, we find ourselves facing that old voice of conscience, and we find ourselves expecting to be respected as fundamentally equal and of quasi-infinite value.

    The issue is, is this delusional?

    If so, grand delusion is let loose in our inner life, creating self-referential discrediting of responsible, rational freedom. On which implicit premise even this argument pivots.

    And the notion of society or self determining ought and ought not, patently, comes down to the absurd and destructive nihilist credo that might and manipulation make ‘right.’

    (Where also, a Robinson Crusoe claims property by dint of discovery and necessity. Thou shalt not kill also includes, thyself.)

    We have little choice but to recognise the moral government of ought and the challenge it entails, that given the IS-OUGHT gap, and the need for grounding, we are looking at a world-foundational IS that grounds OUGHT.

    For which, I repeat, after centuries, there is still just one serious candidate: the inherently good creator-God, a necessary and maximally great being worthy of ultimate loyalty and reasonable service by doing the good in accordance with our evident nature.

    That is, the only way to bridge the IS-OUGHT gap, pace Hume’s current successors, is through there being an inherently good root of reality. So, credibly, the best explanation for finding ourselves facing conscience, justice, rights and the moral worth of people etc is that the NB at root of reality — an IS — is also inherently the root of OUGHT.

    A careful examination will reveal that: those who cling to the concept of such a gap being unbridgeable actually simply imply that they have no alternative candidate that they are willing to accept, having for whatever reasons and motives, rejected the inherently good Creator God at the heart of ethical theism.

    In short, such implicitly agree they cannot find an alternative, but are not willing to acknowledge the one that is actually seriously on the table.

    Okay, time has run on and I will have to come back.

    KF

  153. 153
    Mung says:

    You cannot evade Hume’s guillotine that easily. There is no logical way to derive ‘ought’ from ‘is’.

    The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy and Other Essays

  154. 154
    Seversky says:

    mohammadnursyamsu @ 150

    No atheists really can’t construct a morality without reference at least to the human spirit, and the spirit of the law, and such.

    For an atheist, the “spirit” is rather like The Force in Star Wars, it’s a nice idea but there’s no reason to think such a thing exists. It’s also such a nebulous, ill-defined concept that it has little explanatory power. What do you mean by “spirit”? What can you show me that might persuade me it exists?

    And people can – and have down the ages – constructed various moralities. Most, it is true, were derived from religious beliefs but not – and this is crucial – the same religion.

    So then atheists inevitably attribute goodness and evil to measurable things like acts, or genes, or psychological mechanisms etc. No matter what, the goodness and evil will inevitably be equated with a factually measurable material thing or process, because that is all there is according to them. Racism, sexism, and all the rest of it then becomes endemic.

    In a sense, yes, atheists take a pragmatic view of morality. What purpose does it serve? What is the rationale behind the prescriptions and proscriptions? Who benefits and why?

    Need I point out that racism and, more so, sexism were – and to some extent still are – embodied in some religions.

    Morality only works around a subjectively acknowledged spiritual thing like a feeling, an emotion, or proper spirit. Atheists will always construct morality around measurable things, like maximum production output, or maximum consumption.

    As an atheist, I have no problem with the idea that what are to me acceptable moral positions are ultimately founded on empathy, on the Golden Rule. I believe that the overwhelming majority of people have many interests in common and that moral codes are a means of trying to ensure that people respect the interests of others just as they would expect their own interests to be so respected by others.

  155. 155

    Atheists don’t do subjectivity, they only do objectivity. They have a probem with anything they cannot measure, or at least measure in principle. They call that ridiculous and fantasy. Empathy, happiness, and such are not measurable. But for atheists who do consider them to be measurable, as electrochemical processes in the brain, they then seek to make those electrochemical processes occur, it then becomes rational to use drugs.

  156. 156
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky:

    Further following up:

    7: All those religions and their gods, traditions etc . . .

    I have not been talking about religions but worldviews and their roots, and more importantly about key issues and where they point.

    I know you would rather get into anti-religion talking points and appeals, and tried to dismiss the worldviews issue, but that issue is one that cannot be ducked. We cannot but have a metaphysics, the issue is whether it is a carefully considered one.

    And, it remains that the IS-OUGHT gap is a challenge that has to be addressed. There is a serious candidate on the table, as a worldviews matter, antecedent to any particular religious tradition . . . as was discussed. Indeed, such is part of the basis on which one would consider what may be sound regarding a religious tradition such as the Judaeo-Christian one that contributed so much to our civilisation.

    8: >> if you believe that God is the ultimate explanation for all that there is then it is for you to try and persuade me. If I simply say that I don’t know the answer then there is nothing for me to prove.>>

    Nope, again a failing at the bar of the each tub must stand on its own bottom principle. Evolutionary materialist scientism (and its track record) does not get a default or a free pass.

    The underlying question remains, that the root of reality and of a reality in which we find ourselves under moral government must be cogently addressed.

    There is something on the table. What do you hold in your hand?

    9: Living in the Matrix? Re:

    Nor does atheism lead inexorably to the belief that conscious experience is a delusion. It would only be that if models or simulations are held to be delusions. In my view we live in an internal ‘model’. It is a subjective model or simulation of an objective reality that exists beyond us. It is not a “Matrix” type simulation because it tries to correspond to observed reality, it is an approximation to reality not a fiction. Yes, it is incomplete and imperfect in may ways and, although it means we cannot trust it absolutely, it doesn’t mean either that it is wholly unreliable or a delusion.

    Easy to say, harder to deliver on on evolutionary materialist premises.

    Nancy Pearcy’s remarks on evolutionary epistemology, which is grounded in that framework, in her recent Finding Truth, are a significant rejoinder:

    A major way to test a philosophy or worldview is to ask: Is it logically consistent? Internal contradictions are fatal to any worldview because contradictory statements are necessarily false. “This circle is square” is contradictory, so it has to be false. An especially damaging form of contradiction is self-referential absurdity — which means a theory sets up a definition of truth that it itself fails to meet. Therefore it refutes itself . . . .

    An example of self-referential absurdity is a theory called evolutionary epistemology, a naturalistic approach that applies evolution to the process of knowing. The theory proposes that the human mind is a product of natural selection. The implication is that the ideas in our minds were selected for their survival value, not for their truth-value.

    But what if we apply that theory to itself? Then it, too, was selected for survival, not truth — which discredits its own claim to truth. Evolutionary epistemology commits suicide.

    Astonishingly, many prominent thinkers have embraced the theory without detecting the logical contradiction. Philosopher John Gray writes, “If Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true,… the human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth.” What is the contradiction in that statement?

    Gray has essentially said, if Darwin’s theory is true, then it “serves evolutionary success, not truth.” In other words, if Darwin’s theory is true, then it is not true.

    Self-referential absurdity is akin to the well-known liar’s paradox: “This statement is a lie.” If the statement is true, then (as it says) it is not true, but a lie.

    Another example comes from Francis Crick. In The Astonishing Hypothesis, he writes, “Our highly developed brains, after all, were not evolved under the pressure of discovering scientific truths but only to enable us to be clever enough to survive.” But that means Crick’s own theory is not a “scientific truth.” Applied to itself, the theory commits suicide.

    Of course, the sheer pressure to survive is likely to produce some correct ideas. A zebra that thinks lions are friendly will not live long. But false ideas may be useful for survival. Evolutionists admit as much: Eric Baum says, “Sometimes you are more likely to survive and propagate if you believe a falsehood than if you believe the truth.” Steven Pinker writes, “Our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth. Sometimes the truth is adaptive, but sometimes it is not.” The upshot is that survival is no guarantee of truth. If survival is the only standard, we can never know which ideas are true and which are adaptive but false.

    To make the dilemma even more puzzling, evolutionists tell us that natural selection has produced all sorts of false concepts in the human mind. Many evolutionary materialists maintain that free will is an illusion, consciousness is an illusion, even our sense of self is an illusion — and that all these false ideas were selected for their survival value.
    So how can we know whether the theory of evolution itself is one of those false ideas? The theory undercuts itself.

    A few thinkers, to their credit, recognize the problem. Literary critic Leon Wieseltier writes, “If reason is a product of natural selection, then how much confidence can we have in a rational argument for natural selection? … Evolutionary biology cannot invoke the power of reason even as it destroys it.”

    On a similar note, philosopher Thomas Nagel asks, “Is the [evolutionary] hypothesis really compatible with the continued confidence in reason as a source of knowledge?” His answer is no: “I have to be able to believe … that I follow the rules of logic because they are correct — not merely because I am biologically programmed to do so.” Hence, “insofar as the evolutionary hypothesis itself depends on reason, it would be self-undermining.”

    That, and a lot more like that, are what you have to answer to.

    That is the sort of context of issues that long ago drove J B S Haldane to write:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [[“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.]

    Self-falsification by self-referential incoherence is a serious issue that demands a sound answer.

    10: >>one of the reasons why believers fail give due weight to the problems with their belief systems is the flip side of hyperskepticism, hypercredulity.>>

    Empty turnabout talking point.

    The main issue remains on the table, and every tub must stand on its own bottom. This implicates both the roots of reality, and the answer to the IS-OUGHT gap and the grounding of OUGHT in a reality-root IS. I suggest you again see 44 above, in light of the responses to attempted rebuttal points.

    KF

  157. 157
    Ray Martinez says:

    Just like to make a few observations about Jerry Coyne and his new book:

    1. Biblical faith is based on fact or the truth of God’s word.

    2. The truth of God’s word has direct correspondence with reality.

    3. Case in point: The Bible says life, past and present, is created; millions of diverse persons see design in nature (previous two points receive support).

    4. Bible-believing Christians aren’t against science; rather, we are against Darwinism or evolution, and the pro-Atheist interpretive philosophies known as Materialism or Naturalism.

    5. Prior to the rise of Darwinism (1859-1872) science accepted independent creation of “each species” (1) and design in nature (first three points receive more support).

    6. Only Atheists, as one could expect, deny the observation of design.

    7. Since, in their minds, no God exists, Atheists MUST believe in the concept of evolution to explain species.

    Ray

    Reference:

    1. Darwin “On The Origin of Species” 1859:6; London: John Murray.

  158. 158
    Querius says:

    Great posts, Kairosfocus and Ray Martinez!

    Regarding Seversky’s appeal to materialism:

    For an atheist, the “spirit” is rather like The Force in Star Wars, it’s a nice idea but there’s no reason to think such a thing exists. It’s also such a nebulous, ill-defined concept that it has little explanatory power. What do you mean by “spirit”? What can you show me that might persuade me it exists?

    And thus there’s also no reason to believe that any human qualities exist either:

    Truth – how much does it weigh in milligrams?
    Justice – what is its length in millimeters?
    Mercy – Does it have spin or color?
    Kindness – what is it temperature in centigrade?
    Curiosity – what is its force in newtons?

    Of course, it’s polite and rather quaint to pretend they exist, but in reality individuals and society are controlled only with the threat and execution of force, social or physical.

    One individual lives and reproduces, the other one doesn’t. Who cares? One ethnic group annihilates another. So what? People suffer and starve. Why not? It reduces the environmental burden, fertilizes the earth, and leaves more for the rest of us. Are there any immoral medical experiments? Arguably yes—the ones that aren’t being performed on someone else for my benefit. There’s no scientific evidence to believe otherwise.

    God help us.

    -Q

  159. 159
    Seversky says:

    mohammadnursyamsu @ 155

    Atheists don’t do subjectivity, they only do objectivity. They have a probem with anything they cannot measure, or at least measure in principle. They call that ridiculous and fantasy. Empathy, happiness, and such are not measurable. But for atheists who do consider them to be measurable, as electrochemical processes in the brain, they then seek to make those electrochemical processes occur, it then becomes rational to use drugs.

    I think you are confusing atheism and materialism. There’s nothing about the lack of belief in a god that necessarily entails a denial of subjective experience. There’s actually nothing in materialism that entails such a denial. The problem is how that experience arises in and from the physical brain, in other words the hard problem of consciousness. That’s still very much a mystery.

  160. 160
    Seversky says:

    Querius @ 158

    And thus there’s also no reason to believe that any human qualities exist either:

    Truth – how much does it weigh in milligrams?
    Justice – what is its length in millimeters?
    Mercy – Does it have spin or color?
    Kindness – what is it temperature in centigrade?
    Curiosity – what is its force in newtons?

    Of course, it’s polite and rather quaint to pretend they exist, but in reality individuals and society are controlled only with the threat and execution of force, social or physical.

    I pointed out the the notion of spirit is a bit fuzzy but in one version it seems to be envisaged as something like a soul, an objective entity which can be part of a human being but can also exist separately.

    Truth, justice, mercy, kindness and curiosity are, like morality, mental concepts. It’s all in the mind. No mind, no truth, justice, mercy, kindness, etc.

    One individual lives and reproduces, the other one doesn’t. Who cares? One ethnic group annihilates another. So what? People suffer and starve. Why not? It reduces the environmental burden, fertilizes the earth, and leaves more for the rest of us. Are there any immoral medical experiments? Arguably yes—the ones that aren’t being performed on someone else for my benefit. There’s no scientific evidence to believe otherwise.

    If no one else cares whether we live or die then maybe we should? Why not?

    If, on the other hand, you believe that there is an afterlife which will be much better than this one – as long as you keep your nose clean, then why are you hanging around here?

    Are there any immoral medical experiments? Yes, whatever we decide amongst ourselves is immoral. What, you think God is the only one who can work these things out? What do you think He gave you a brain for, if not to use it?

  161. 161

    There is no mystery in the sense that we already talk in subjective terms in common discourse. Subjectivity is an inherently creationist concept. The rules for subjectivity are that the conclusion must be chosen, and that the conclusion must be about the agency of a decision. When those rules are met, then you have a logically valid opinion, as distinct from a fact.

    So when in common discourse somebody says “the painting is beautiful”, then that deconstructs to choosing between ugly and beautiful, choosing beautiful. So the first rule for an opinion is met. And beautiful deconstructs to a love for the way the painting looks. This love is then doing the choosing, choosing the word beautiful. It is about agency of a decision, so the second rule for validating an opinion is met.

    The existence of this love is then categorically a matter of opinion, as distinct from matters of fact. That is why it is not material but spiritual. The love chooses over the material, in this case it chooses the material word beautiful, the spiritual chooses the way the material turns out.

    And in reality atheism and materialism are a rejection of subjectivity not just as it is in religion, but as it is in common discourse as well. Common discourse has to be regarded as a scientific hypothesis. And the hypothesis states that material can turn out several different ways, and that the agency of any decision is a matter of opinion.

  162. 162
    Querius says:

    Seversky @ 160,

    Good, you came to a logical conclusion without any quaint pretenses or objections.

    If no one else cares whether we live or die then maybe we should? Why not?

    Most others do care, but for atheists it’s pretty much arbitrary—you can if you like, but certainly not for any sentimental reasons.

    If, on the other hand, you believe that there is an afterlife which will be much better than this one – as long as you keep your nose clean, then why are you hanging around here?

    Actually, it’s NOT about keeping your nose clean. All our noses are dirty. The world, both individually and corporately (as an ecosystem) is infected and dying. But the Creator made a huge effort to rescue those who are willing, and a choice for those who are not.

    We live in what appears to be some sort of simulation, a sandbox, that now acts as a sorting mechanism that honors your choices. As long as your heart beats, you can make the choice. But the consequences either way are eternal.

    Note that the simulation is set up to cancel out intellect, leaving choice entirely to your will. What do you really want?

    So far, your choice is crystal clear.

    -Q

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