Intelligent Design

Is God a good theory? A response to Sean Carroll (Part Three)

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In my final post on Dr. Sean Carroll’s video, Is God a Good Theory?, I’d like to respond to his claim that the occurrence of (i) injustice, (ii) senseless suffering and (iii) moral and intellectual confusion in our world, make the existence of God very unlikely.

In his video lecture, after discussing the problem for theists posed by the low but non-zero entropy of the early universe (a problem I addressed in my previous post), Dr. Carroll goes on to point out that there are other arguments suggesting that the probability of God’s existence is low, given the kind of universe we observe. In each case, Carroll presents some data, and argues that the probability of this data given the existence of God is very low.

The first argument relates to the fact that we live in a world where frequently, justice does not prevail. Often evildoers get away with their crimes, while innocent people suffer. On the face of it, this is difficult to reconcile with the hypothesis of a perfectly just Deity.

Second, there is the problem of random suffering (e.g. natural disasters): people and sentient animals are often killed as a result of apparently random events, and for no apparent reason. An oft-cited example in the philosophical literature is the death of a fawn (pictured above, courtesy of Wikipedia) in a forest fire. Once again, this is not what we would expect to see if we lived in a universe governed by a benevolent God.

Finally, there is what Carroll calls the problem of ambiguous instructions: if God really wants to talk to us, as Jews, Christians, Muslims and Hindus allege, then why doesn’t God explain himself to us in a clear and unambiguous fashion, in some Holy Scripture?

Dr. Carroll then turns the tables on religious believers who might be inclined to rationalize away the three problems listed above. He invites his audience to imagine a world with clear and unambiguous spiritual instructions, no random suffering, and total justice. He then poses a simple question: would would we count such a beautiful world as evidence against God’s existence? Surely not: indeed, it would be very strong evidence for the existence of God. Carroll then argues that by the same token, we should be prepared to count a world exhibiting the opposite features (ambiguous Scriptures, random suffering and rampant injustice) as evidence against the existence of God.

Dr. Carroll examines two ways in which religious believers might attempt to evade the force of his arguments, and salvage the apparently low probability of the data we observe, if there is a God. Carroll argues that both of these attempts actually count against the likelihood of there being a God.

First, one might argue that God is deliberately elusive: He does not like to leave His fingerprints around the cosmos. Instead, He prefers to obey the laws of physics. Carroll grants that this solution is theoretically possible, but then he argues that if one embraces this solution, then one is effectively removing the usefulness of God – and hence the need to posit Him. Also, one can no longer make predictions of what God can do.

The second solution is to resort to vagueness: one might deny we are capable of having any reliable expectations of what God would and wouldn’t do. Fine, says Carroll; but in that case, such a believer cannot consistently appeal to the fine-tuning of the cosmos as an argument for God, since we don’t know what kind of cosmos He’d make.

The Argument from Evil, Random Suffering and Ambiguous Messages from God: What Dr. Carroll gets right

Before I attempt to rebut Dr. Carroll’s arguments from injustice, senseless suffering and the absence of clear messages from God, I’d like to acknowledge that the existence of all these evils does indeed constitute prima facie evidence against the existence of God. If I had nothing but this evidence in front of me, when assessing the question of God’s existence, then I’d be an atheist, too.

I would also agree with Dr. Carroll that the two ways (which he criticizes) of evading the force of his argument, don’t work. A God Who is deliberately elusive might as well not be there, and a God Whose intentions are so vague as to be utterly inscrutable is a God Whose existence can never be rationally demonstrated. It is impossible to construct a valid argument for God’s existence without making some minimal assumptions about what God would and wouldn’t do.

Why I reject the “macho theist solution” to the problem of evil

There are some religious believers, whom I shall refer to as “macho theists,” who attempt to evade the problem of evil by distinguishing God’s goodness from what we commonly call kindness or “niceness.” A nice person doesn’t do mean things to others. Instead, a nice person helps people and animals in distress, because she is easily moved by suffering. God, they say, is good, but He isn’t “nice”: to suppose that God is “nice,” they argue, is anthropomorphic and sentimental.

Macho theists contend that God is good, but they insist that God’s goodness is a very different thing from ours. God doesn’t feel pain at the suffering and death of creatures, because He is perfect; consequently, it would be wrong to ascribe Him sympathy. Additionally, macho theists argue that God has no obligations to creatures – for who could possibly enforce these obligations against an omnipotent Being? Hence the notion that God has any obligation to rescue creatures that are in distress is absurd. God is not obliged to do anything.

I don’t buy the “macho theist” defense. Let’s consider obligations first. God can certainly make promises: that’s one thing on which religious believers of all stripes agree. But what is a promise, if not an obligation? Specifically, a promise is an obligation voluntarily undertaken, in which you solemnly declare that you will do something for some individual. I conclude, then, that if God were to make a promise to any person, He would be obliged to honor that promise.

In addition to promises, there are other obligations which God can be said to have, purely by virtue of His relationship to us. Consider this question: is God obliged not to lie to us? Surely the answer is: yes. It might be objected that God, being perfect, could never lie anyway (Titus 1:2). That’s true, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that God, as our Creator, has an obligation not to deceive us. No Father would do that; and God is our Father and Creator (Malachi 2:10).

Is God morally obliged not to annihilate us? Could God, with perfect justice, create a race of intelligent beings who are capable of knowing their Creator, personally reveal Himself to those creatures, and then just snuff them out? It might be said that a morally perfect God wouldn’t do that anyway, and that is of course true. But it’s also true to say that no Father would destroy His children like that. That sounds like an obligation to me. (How far down the scale of sentient beings this obligation would extend is a big question, which I don’t intend to address here.)

Nor do I buy the “macho theist” argument that because God cannot feel our suffering, we cannot call Him “kind” or “nice.” In the philosophical tradition of classical theism (which most Jews, Christians and Muslims would accept, as well as many theists of no particular religion), God is held to be a Being Who knows and loves perfectly: indeed, God is love. And as St. Paul tells us, “Love is patient, love is kind… It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13: 4, 7, New International Version). In short: a loving Creator would certainly wish for His creatures not to suffer needlessly, even if He cannot feel their pain Himself, being perfect.

I conclude that the “macho theist” defense fails to weaken the force of the atheist’s Argument from Evil.

Why the Argument from Evil is neither a certain nor a probable argument against the existence of God

Dr. Carroll asks how a good God could possibly create or even permit the existence of an evil world like ours, in which justice is denied, people’s minds are confused, and so many people and sentient animals suffer so needlessly. The short answer is: I don’t know. I could speculate about some possible answers to Carroll’s question, but it would be a waste of time: atheists are very good at picking apart theodicies (which isn’t surprising, as they’ve been doing it for the past 2,300 years), and I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to rationalize the evil in the world – for unlike certain religious believers who think that everything happens for a reason, I would agree with the atheist that a lot of evils that take place in the world happen for no good reason. The Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart, in his now-famous essay, Tsunami and Theodicy, argues passionately that a lot of suffering makes no sense, and that religious people’s attempts to make sense of it are “vacuous cant.” Bad things happen in our world, which are utterly contrary to what God intends, “and so we are permitted to hate these things with a perfect hatred.”

So instead of trying to explain why evil happens in this post, what I’d like to do is point out a few flaws in the Argument from Evil.

First, the argument implicitly assumes a static model of evil: there is evil, and there is God, and we are asked how the existence of the two can be reconciled. But the world is a changing place. What we need to ask, then, is whether the changes occurring in the world comport with what we’d expect of a morally good Deity: is the world gradually getting better, over the course of time? Is evil being beaten back, in some cosmic war of attrition? And to answer that question, we’d need to know a lot more about the world than we know now.

Second, the Argument from Evil assumes that God can get the job of removing evil done in no time at all. Maybe He can’t. “Of course He can!” retorts the atheist. “After all, He’s God, isn’t he? Isn’t He supposed to be omnipotent? What would be easier than for Him to command evil to disappear? He could just wave His magic wand, and it would all go away!” The fallacy of this kind of reasoning is that it confuses picturability with possibility. I can mentally picture a winged horse; but that doesn’t make it possible (to see why, ask yourself: how, exactly, would it fly?) Conversely, there are some genuine possibilities in the world which we seem to have trouble picturing (think of quantum mechanics, for instance; or think of a 999-sided figure). Possibility is a concept, and an image is not a concept. Likewise, just because we can mentally picture an omnipotent being instantly abolishing evil by Divine fiat (“Let there be no more suffering!”), that doesn’t mean it’s possible in the real world. Maybe it’s not that simple, even for God. Maybe the task of freeing the world from evil necessarily takes quite some time.

Third, the Argument from Evil assumes that God’s obligation to prevent His creatures from suffering – or at least, from undergoing senseless suffering – is an absolute one, and that nothing takes precedence over it. I have to say I find this assumption doubtful. Is there nothing in all the world more important than the prevention of suffering? A utilitarian might say yes. But I would answer that there’s much more to life than pleasure and pain, even in the life of an animal: for instance, the thriving of that animal, as a result of the free and untrammeled exercise of its faculties (or what Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson refers to as funktionslust in his book, When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Life of Animals). A world without suffering might be a world in which animals live emaciated lives – a world where they never get hurt, but never live life to the full, either. Would that be a better world? You tell me.

Having said that, I would readily agree that there is much suffering in the animal world that serves no useful purpose, either directly or indirectly. Behaviors such as infanticide, cannibalism and killing other animals for sport, are found in some species of animals living today. What “higher end” do they serve? None.

Fourth, the Argument from Evil assumes that the only relevant duty that God might have vis-à-vis His creatures is the duty to prevent them from suffering, when there’s no good reason for them to do so. But if God has other kinds of duties towards creatures as well, then we have to at least consider the possibility that God’s obligation to perform these duties might prevent Him from removing pointless evils from the world, all at once. Perhaps it would be bad for us in some other way, if He were to do that – perhaps even worse than it is now. Or perhaps removing all of these pointless evils would, at the same time, prevent the realization of some very important good that God wants to bring about, for our sakes, or even some good which He has some obligation to bring about.

Fifth, the argument assumes that God’s obligations vis-à-vis creatures are determined purely by their nature, as sentient and/or sapient beings. The argument fails to consider the possibility that God might have extra duties towards us that He assumed voluntarily, at some point in the past – perhaps because we asked Him to do so. Making a promise is an example of such a voluntary obligation. Perhaps at some point very early on in our prehistory, our rebellious ancestors grew tired of God always watching over us like the attentive parent of a young child, and said, “Enough! We don’t need a cosmic nanny protecting us from evil night and day! Leave us alone to figure it out for ourselves! Even if we have to suffer and die, we’d still prefer that to You hovering over us all the time!” And perhaps God reluctantly complied with their wishes, and promised to refrain from continually saving us. If God made such a promise, then His hands would be tied, to some degree.

Sixth, the Argument from Evil assumes that the only morally significant beings who exist in the cosmos are God and the sentient human and animal life-forms that we see all around us. But that’s a ridiculously narrow view. If there is a God, then He could have made rank upon rank of beings superior to ourselves, whom we know nothing about, because they’re invisible to us. Call them angels or advanced aliens, if you wish: frankly, I don’t care. The point I wish to make is that if there is a God, then it’s highly unlikely that we are the greatest beings in creation – which means that when deciding what God should and shouldn’t do, we also need to factor in God’s obligations vis-à-vis these higher intelligences.

Why might that ameliorate the problem of evil? Perhaps God delegated certain responsibilities for looking after the lower orders of creation (including ourselves and other sentient animals) to these higher beings. (Think about it. It would be rather odd if, having endowed them with such wisdom, He gave them absolutely nothing in creation to oversee, wouldn’t it?) And now suppose that some of these intelligences turned out to be either too lazy to continually keep the world’s evils in check, or too inept to do the job properly. Or suppose that some of them turned out to be positively evil characters, intent on wreaking harm. The natural world would soon become “unweeded garden” filled with “things rank and gross in nature”, as Hamlet put it. It might look utterly unlike the world God originally planned. So what’s God to do, when He sees the damage that these higher intelligences have wrought, and the suffering His lower creatures (animals and humans) have inherited as a result? Having delegated some responsibilities for overseeing creation to these higher beings, should God intervene at once and fix up the mess they’ve caused? Or should He wait a while?

Seventh, and most importantly, the Argument from Evil assumes that an omniscient God knows what His creatures would and wouldn’t choose to do, before they’ve made their choices, and for that matter, before He’s even decided to make them! Thus one often hears atheists say things like: “Why did God make the Devil in the first place, if He knew the Devil was going to rebel?” or “Why didn’t God kill Adolf Hitler as a child?” But when you come to think about it, the notion that God’s knowledge of our choices is logically (and not just temporally) prior to our act of making those choices, really doesn’t make any sense, if sapient beings possess libertarian free will. In that case, God’s knowledge of His creatures’ choices would be (at least logically, if not temporally) posterior to His act of creating them, and also logically posterior to our act of making those choices. All God would know “prior” to His act of making an intelligent being with free will, would be what that creature might get up to – that is, the choices it could make. But is God morally obliged to refrain from creating a sapient creature, simply because it might abuse its capacity for good and evil, and wreak untold havoc upon the world? I think not, for if He were, then He’d be obliged to create a world without libertarian free will. And how many of us would want that?

I conclude that the problem of evil is a pressing problem only in relatively simple cosmos, in which we human beings are the most important beings in existence. But if there is a God, the cosmos may not be like that at all. The presence of other agents with libertarian free will in the cosmos, who are much greater than ourselves, complicates the picture: we can no longer say with confidence what God should and shouldn’t do in such a cosmos, when it comes to removing evil.

I have put forward seven considerations which weaken the force of the atheist’s Argument from Evil. I submit that in view of these considerations, we can no longer say that it is certain that God would not make a world in which injustice, confusion and senseless suffering occur.

Can the atheist even claim that the existence of evil in the world renders the existence of God improbable? No, because probabilities are by their very nature quantifiable. Above, I put forward seven considerations which, when taken collectively, mitigate the Argument from Evil. The atheist might find these mitigating considerations rather implausible, but she would have to concede that they are nonetheless possible. But unless the atheist can establish some upper bound for the probability of these mitigating factors (e.g. the probability that this factor applies is less than or equal to 0.1), then it becomes impossible to calculate the likelihood that God would not make a world containing evils such as injustice, confusion and senseless suffering. And in that case, we cannot even say that the Argument from Evil renders God’s existence improbable, let alone impossible.

In his video lecture, Dr. Carroll argued that the probability of our finding ourselves in a world filled with injustice, senseless suffering, and moral and intellectual confusion, given the existence of God, is very low. But he didn’t say how low, so his statement amounts to nothing more than an assertion on his part.

What remains, then? I think all of us would concede that the Argument from Evil packs a powerful emotional punch. I think it’s fair to say, too, that none of us would expect God to make a world containing as much evil as it does. What we can say, then, is that the existence of evil in the world, taken as a whole, constitutes a strong prima facie argument against the existence of God. But that’s all we can say. We cannot quantify the strength of this argument; and neither can we call it a certain argument.

Is libertarian free will possible?

Several times, when attempting to rebut the Argument from Evil, I appealed to the concept of libertarian free will. Of course, I realize that there are some people who think that the very notion of libertarian free will makes no sense. Free choices are said to be intentional: that is, they occur for a reason, since the agent performing the act has some goal in mind. At the same time, free choices cannot be determined by their causal antecedents, or they wouldn’t be free: a person performing an action freely must always have the power to do otherwise. To some people, though, the notion of an action’s having a reason without its having a determining cause sounds rather odd. Why might that be?

One very common argument against the existence of libertarian free will is that our choices are events that take place in the world, and if an event is determined by its antecedent causes, then it is not free; but if it is not determined, then its occurrence is merely random, and a random event, being unintentional, is no more “free” than an event whose occurrence is determined. However, I believe that this argument begs the question.

It is true that if we examine events on the microscopic scale, such as the movement of an individual particle, they appear to be the sorts of occurrences that could only be either determined or random, and neither possibility seems compatible with our notion of libertarian freedom. (What would the movement of a particle “acting for a reason” look like?) But all that tells us is that a free choice cannot be identified with a microscopic event. Instead, we should conceive of a free choice as an event occurring on a higher, macroscopic level. What the proponents of free will are claiming is that free choices are macro-level events which influence micro-level events without violating the law of energy conservation or the laws of quantum physics. When I make a choice, I don’t push the neurons in my brain around, so there’s no violation of the law of conservation of energy. Instead, I make a macro-level selection, which hs the effect of excluding (or ruling out) the possibility of certain microscopic quantum states in the brain. This doesn’t violate quantum randomness, because a selection can be non-random at the macro level, but random at the micro level. The following two rows of digits will serve to illustrate my point.

1 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 1
0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 1

The above two rows of digits were created by a random number generator. Now suppose I impose the macro requirement: keep the columns whose sum equals 1, and discard the rest. I now have:

1 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 0

Each row is still random, but I have imposed a non-random macro-level constraint from above. That’s how I believe my will works when I make a choice.

Why the Argument from Evil is Basically an Argument from Incredulity

In my post, Is God a good theory? A response to Sean Carroll (Part One), I distinguished eight different categories of objective arguments one might make for or against the existence of God, and I ranked them in decreasing order of strength. In the eighth (and weakest) category, I included arguments which appeal to powerful prima facie evidence for and against the existence of God. As we saw, the problem with these arguments is that they all suffer from a vital weakness: they are unquantifiable. If one has an argument against the existence of God, but if at the same time, one has no way of quantifying the weight we should attach to that evidence, then it would be very foolish to place much credence in an argument appealing to such evidence.

In short, the argument from evil is properly described as an argument from incredulity, to use a phrase coined by Professor Richard Dawkins. And as Professor Dawkins is fond of pointing out ad nauseam, the mere fact that we cannot imagine an explanation for some occurrence does not render that occurrence impossible, or even improbable. Hence the mere fact that we cannot presently imagine how senseless evil could possibly occur in a world made by God does not suffice to render such an occurrence unlikely.

So, how strong is the argument from evil?

Now, let us suppose that we had a rationally certain argument for the existence of God, and a mere prima facie argument against the existence of God. What would a rational person believe, in such a situation? Surely it would be rational for us to set the latter argument aside, and embrace theism, despite our inability to resolve the problem of evil.

In my earlier post, Does scientific knowledge presuppose God? A reply to Carroll, Coyne, Dawkins and Loftus (November 23, 2013), I presented what I believe is a powerful transcendental argument for the existence of God. As we have seen, transcendental argument is the fourth-strongest kind of argument on the eight-point scale I proposed in my post, Is God a good theory? A response to Sean Carroll (Part One). In my subsequent post, Is God a good theory? A response to Sean Carroll (Part Two), I also defended the fine-tuning argument, which is an abductive argument, which is the fifth-strongest kind of argument on my eight-point scale. Finally, in Part One of my response to Dr. Carroll, I also defended the Kalam Cosmological argument, which is an argument of the sixth-strongest variety, since it is based on a scientific rationality norm. All of these arguments can be regarded as rationally certain, although some of them are more certain than others. However, the argument from evil, against the existence of God, is, as we have seen, a rhetorical argument from incredulity. And arguments from incredulity, as I’ve shown, occupy the eighth and bottom rung on our eight-point scale: they are not even probable, let alone certain. I conclude that for a person to let themselves be swayed by the argument from evil after contemplating the transcendental, fine-tuning and Kalam cosmological arguments for God’s existence which I have defended above, would be the height of folly. God is real, the puzzle of evil notwithstanding.

23 Replies to “Is God a good theory? A response to Sean Carroll (Part Three)

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. Torley, as to this sentence from your article:

    One very common argument against the existence of libertarian free will is that our choices are events that take place in the world, and if an event is determined by its antecedent causes, then it is not free;

    It is important to note that quantum mechanics now shows us that our free will choices do not ‘take place in the world’ but that free will is an ‘influence’ that comes from outside of space-time:

    What Does Quantum Physics Have to Do with Free Will? – By Antoine Suarez – July 22, 2013
    Excerpt: What is more, recent experiments are bringing to light that the experimenter’s free will and consciousness should be considered axioms (founding principles) of standard quantum physics theory. So for instance, in experiments involving “entanglement” (the phenomenon Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”), to conclude that quantum correlations of two particles are nonlocal (i.e. cannot be explained by signals traveling at velocity less than or equal to the speed of light), it is crucial to assume that the experimenter can make free choices, and is not constrained in what orientation he/she sets the measuring devices.
    To understand these implications it is crucial to be aware that quantum physics is not only a description of the material and visible world around us, but also speaks about non-material influences coming from outside the space-time.,,,
    https://www.bigquestionsonline.com/content/what-does-quantum-physics-have-do-free-will

    Free will and nonlocality at detection: Basic principles of quantum physics – Antoine Suarez – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhMrrmlTXl4

    The most dramatic illustration of this outside of space and time ‘free will’ influence, that I have seen thus far, is the following experiment:

    Here’s a recent variation of Wheeler’s Delayed Choice experiment, which highlights the ability of the conscious observer to effect ‘spooky action into the past’. In the following experiment, the claim that past material states determine future conscious choices (determinism) is directly falsified by the fact that present conscious choices are effecting past material states:

    Quantum physics mimics spooky action into the past – April 23, 2012
    Excerpt: The authors experimentally realized a “Gedankenexperiment” called “delayed-choice entanglement swapping”, formulated by Asher Peres in the year 2000. Two pairs of entangled photons are produced, and one photon from each pair is sent to a party called Victor. Of the two remaining photons, one photon is sent to the party Alice and one is sent to the party Bob. Victor can now choose between two kinds of measurements. If he decides to measure his two photons in a way such that they are forced to be in an entangled state, then also Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair becomes entangled. If Victor chooses to measure his particles individually, Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair ends up in a separable state. Modern quantum optics technology allowed the team to delay Victor’s choice and measurement with respect to the measurements which Alice and Bob perform on their photons. “We found that whether Alice’s and Bob’s photons are entangled and show quantum correlations or are separable and show classical correlations can be decided after they have been measured”, explains Xiao-song Ma, lead author of the study.
    According to the famous words of Albert Einstein, the effects of quantum entanglement appear as “spooky action at a distance”. The recent experiment has gone one remarkable step further. “Within a naïve classical world view, quantum mechanics can even mimic an influence of future actions on past events”, says Anton Zeilinger.
    http://phys.org/news/2012-04-q.....ction.html

    In other words, if my conscious choices really are just merely the result of whatever state the material particles in my brain happen to be in in the past (deterministic) (or even ‘randomness’ of the present) then how in blue blazes are my choices instantaneously effecting the state of material particles into the past?,,, The preceding experiment is simply completely inexplicable to the atheist’s materialistic worldview. I consider the preceding experimental evidence to be a vast improvement over the traditional ‘uncertainty’ argument for free will, from quantum mechanics, that had been used for decades to undermine the deterministic belief of materialists. That ‘old’ argument is highlighted here:

    Why Quantum Physics (Uncertainty) Ends the Free Will Debate – Michio Kaku – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFLR5vNKiSw

    Moreover, consciousness is not reducible to ‘in the world’ material states. No less than the atheist Thomas Nagel has argued as such:

    Mind and Cosmos – Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False – Thomas Nagel
    Excerpt: If materialism cannot accommodate consciousness and other mind-related aspects of reality, then we must abandon a purely materialist understanding of nature in general, extending to biology, evolutionary theory, and cosmology. Since minds are features of biological systems that have developed through evolution, the standard materialist version of evolutionary biology is fundamentally incomplete. And the cosmological history that led to the origin of life and the coming into existence of the conditions for evolution cannot be a merely materialist history.
    http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/pro.....9919758.do

    And indeed a ‘purely materialist understanding of reality’ is found to be completely inadequate to explain such things in quantum mechanics as Leggett’s Inequality:

    Quantum physics says goodbye to reality – Apr 20, 2007
    Excerpt: They found that, just as in the realizations of Bell’s thought experiment, Leggett’s inequality is violated – thus stressing the quantum-mechanical assertion that reality does not exist when we’re not observing it. “Our study shows that ‘just’ giving up the concept of locality would not be enough to obtain a more complete description of quantum mechanics,” Aspelmeyer told Physics Web. “You would also have to give up certain intuitive features of realism.”
    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/27640

    Quantum Physics – (material reality does not exist until we look at it) – Dr. Quantum video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1ezNvpFcJU

    If you have trouble accepting the implications of the preceding video, don’t feel alone, Nobel prize winner Anthony Leggett, who developed Leggett’s inequality to try to prove that an objective material reality exists when we are not looking at it, still does not believe the results of the experiment that he himself was integral in devising, even though the inequality was violated by a stunning 80 orders of magnitude. He seems to have done this simply because the results contradicted the ‘realism’ he believes in (realism is the notion that an objective material reality exists apart from our conscious observation of it).

    A team of physicists in Vienna has devised experiments that may answer one of the enduring riddles of science: Do we create the world just by looking at it? – 2008
    Excerpt: In mid-2007 Fedrizzi found that the new realism model was violated by 80 orders of magnitude; the group was even more assured that quantum mechanics was correct.
    Leggett agrees with Zeilinger that realism is wrong in quantum mechanics, but when I asked him whether he now believes in the theory, he answered only “no” before demurring, “I’m in a small minority with that point of view and I wouldn’t stake my life on it.” For Leggett there are still enough loopholes to disbelieve. I asked him what could finally change his mind about quantum mechanics. Without hesitation, he said sending humans into space as detectors to test the theory.,,,

    (to which Anton Zeilinger responded)

    When I mentioned this to Prof. Zeilinger he said, “That will happen someday. There is no doubt in my mind. It is just a question of technology.” Alessandro Fedrizzi had already shown me a prototype of a realism experiment he is hoping to send up in a satellite. It’s a heavy, metallic slab the size of a dinner plate.
    http://seedmagazine.com/conten....._tests/P3/

    There are several other lines of evidence from quantum mechanics, such as Leggett’s, supporting this following argument. Due to advances in quantum mechanics, the argument for God from consciousness can 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/1G_Fi50ljF5w_XyJHfmSIZsOcPFhgoAZ3PRc_ktY8cFo/edit

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Of supplemental note: This following video, although the girl in the video was written off as hopelessly retarded by almost everyone who saw here except her loving father, reveals that there was/is indeed a gentle intelligence, a “me”, a “soul’, within the girl that was/is trapped within her body. And that that “me” was/is unable to express herself properly to others because of her neurological disorder.

    Severely Handicapped Girl Suddenly Expresses Intelligence At Age 11 – very moving video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNZVV4Ciccg

    Verse and Music:

    1 Samuel 16:7
    ,,,For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

    Evanescence – My Heart Is Broken – music video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1QGnq9jUU0

  3. 3
    coldcoffee says:

    It is sad that we have to argue with so called rationalists that God exists.I can’t understand why a simple truth is beyond their understanding. Why can’t they see the marvels of the universe and understand that no force,no amount of randomness and no amount of time can ever create any thing even remotely similar to the universe?

  4. 4
    Alan Fox says:

    Why can’t they see the marvels of the universe and understand that no force,no amount of randomness and no amount of time can ever create any thing even remotely similar to the universe?

    Perhaps we are born that way. Perhaps we just “can’t hear the music of the spheres”.* I used to get very frustrated when discussing issues with people who took a different view on some issue. Now, I am relaxed about a plurality of view, so long as there is an acceptance of “live and let live”. It is the tendency of some (and worrying if it is someone with real power and influence) to be so certain of their own view that they can impose it on others.

    * paraphrasing The late J. A. Davison!

  5. 5
    lpadron says:

    I’ve always been a bit stumped with objections to God’s existence based on death and suffering. First, how does the atheist know that life is better than death and how is that proved? And second, given their view how is suffering an “evil”?

  6. 6

    coldcoffee:

    Free will allows people to believe or not believe anything – including denying what is obvious.

  7. 7

    vjtorley,

    A wonderful series of posts & a great argument!

    The argument from evil has always been of special interest to me, since it was outrage about evil that in part led me to a period of atheistic materialism. Why would a good god allow evil to exist and harm so many, and cause so much suffering?

    After returning to theism, I realize my concept of an “omnipotent” god was childish in nature. Omnipotence in this case means god can do anything that can be done; even god cannot make 1+1=3, nor can god make 4-sided triangles.

    God cannot create a physically ordered and lawful world populated by individuated, sentient beings with meaningful free will and disallow the potential for evil and suffering.

    I think a world without evil and suffering is possible, but that is not this world. It is also my view that it was necessarily my choice to come here from that other world.

  8. 8
    smordecai says:

    I love to be forced to think and as a human I need some prodding to do so. I can imagine a “perfect” world with no evil. I can also see how lazy we would be in such a world. There would be little if any growth or improvement. So, perhaps God had good reason for placing the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” in the garden. Just maybe my ancestors thought of the problem of the existence of evil and the reason God permits it. And why he gave us freedom to choose. We all definitely need challenges. What a boring existence if there were no challenges! And, isn’t it interesting that this existence seems to provide an infinite challenge to our intellect and no end in sight.

  9. 9

    Hi Dr. Torley, I grant that from the theistic perspective or worldview the argument from evil might appear like an argument from incredulity. But you must also grant that that is not how all philosophers view it from their perspectives.

    Assuming everything arose directly and solely out of nothing else but one Being’s infinite power, knowledge and goodness, etc. what room was there for “evil” to arise? Everything came directly and solely out of this Being. This Being by definition is also IN all things. So how can “evil” arise? There’s no room for “evil” to arise if you begin with such a Being, since “nothing can come from nothing” there was never any “evil” in the first place, nor any “room” for it to arise. Can a perfectly and infinitely good God even imagine “evil?”

    And speaking of the “free will” defense of “evil,” if the “will to choose evil” is defined as a great gift that has been bestowed on humans, an incredibly marvelous thing to possess, why doesn’t this infinitely good Being have the ability to choose evil? I guess this allegedly “perfect” Being lacks something that is great to have, since this Being is not “free” to choose anything but “good.”

    Also, if the argument from evil is flawed, so are THEODICIES, leaving us where, strictly philosophically speaking?

    There are a limited number of “theodicies,” in fact most can be broken down into one of four basic kinds:

    1) “Greater Good” Theodicies. God has a cunning plan that cannot fail, so even if we can’t figure it out who are we to lack faith in it, or in Him? We’ll discuss that more below.

    2) “Soul Making” Theodicies. God is using evil like an oyster uses a grain of sand, to create a pearl. We’ll discuss that more below

    3) Natural Law Theodicies God can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. And he can’t build a planet that circulates important minerals without including continental drift and deadly earthquakes. And you can’t circulate the air and distribute heat in the atmosphere without creating deadly tornadoes and hurricanes. An endless list of things God can’t do without creatures suffering or dying, sometimes in massive natural disasters, famines, plagues, or even after a lifetime of suffering.

    4) Free Will Theodicies. God wants creatures to love him freely, so he gives us the power to do both good and evil.

    But for every theodicy there are simply more rational questions that come to mind.
    ___________________________

    1) “Greater Good” Theodicies.

    Rebuttal: This is not a rational defense but an assertion that rational discussion will not challenge that person’s belief system. It is to accept blindly the spectrum of suffering “for some greater good,” from minor daily suffering and loses to major ones like mass deaths of animals and people, even if they are deeply troubling, even if one cannot offer rational reasons why God would do or even allow such things.

    People employing such a blind assertion are also likely to comfort themself with the belief that the only “truly bad thing” that can happen to anyone is for them to NOT become a Christian. (Of course rival religions and cults assert the same thing, namely that the only “truly bad thing” that can happen to a person is for them not to love and believe in _insert name of deity, favorite religion, denomination, sect or cult, here_.)

    Such a theodicy of blind assertion also resembles the thinking of a spouse who is too afraid to even question whether or not their marriage partner may be mistreating them. Consider these lines that abusive spouses use to assert control over their marriage partners: “You better not even think about leaving me.” “You better not even think about questioning me, my purposes, reasons. ” “I know best.” “Don’t listen to anyone who doesn’t understand what we have.” “You’re nothing without me.” “I’m only doing this because I LOVE you.” “You’re not worthy of my love.” “You don’t deserve me.” “You’ll never find anyone as good as me.” “You’re a terrible person and you need me to be better.” “You brought this upon yourself.” Religions that threaten damnation and assert God’s inscrutability whenever questions arise involving suffering and evil, function in ways that are similar to how and why an abused spouse convinces themself to not ask questions and instead remain in an abusive relationship. Relying on this form of theodicy is more like being trapped by a brain-washing mechanism based on fear, rather than providing an explanation for evil, pain.

    Also, if “the greater good” consists in becoming a specific type of truly believing Christian (as opposed to “untrue Christians” or believers in other religions or no religion at all), then it does not look like this cosmos was designed in order to achieve “the greater good.” In fact if the “greater good” is defined as just stated, and if eternal damnation is the “lesser good,” then it appears more like this cosmos is simply a web in which God might catch souls for hell. Just consider the fact that we live relatively short lives, a couple decades long, limited further by one’s geographical place of birth and the culture into which one is born, so we have limited personal and cultural experiences, limited educations, limited time for study, and limited vision as to what lay on the other side of the metaphysical curtain, as well as living in a world containing a plethora of holy books and an even greater number of books containing rival interpretations of them. And one must add to such “less than good” circumstances the countless non-religious obligations one must expend time fulfilling daily just to survive — in a world already clouded and crowded with ignorance, waves of emotion, headaches, backaches, toothaches, strains, scrapes, breaks, cuts, rashes, burns, bruises, PMS, fatigue, hunger, odors, molds, colds, yeast, parasites, viruses, cancers, genetic defects, blindness, deafness, paralysis, mental illness, ugliness, ignorance, miscommunications, embarrassments, unrequited love, dashed hopes, boredom, hard labor, repetitious labor, accidents, wars, PTSD, old age, senility, fires, floods, earthquakes, typhoons, tornadoes, hurricanes and volcanoes. Knowing all such limitations and the full spectrum of suffering and ignorance, I don’t see what rational sense it makes to claim that anyone, after they are dead, deserves “eternal punishment” as well.
    ___________________________

    2) “Soul Making” Theodicies.

    Rebuttal: Soul making? What about all the things in this life and world that harden people’s hearts or destroy people’s souls? I mentioned some of them above. At best one could argue that this world appears just as good at destroying (or damning souls) as making (or saving) them. This world is practically a net in which Jehovah catches souls for hell with its ignorance, confusion, fears, endless holy writings and endless bickering over their interpretation, and with all of the other things mentioned above, the suffering and pains, with humans tossed on seas of emotion and cultural prejudice as well.

    And I left something out of my list above, namely religions that claim you must believe (or be damned) even though you can’t see what you’re supposed to believe in. You can’t hear or touch it. We don’t get to see what Adam saw when he allegedly walked with God in the garden, or get to see what doubting Thomas saw when Jesus made a special trip back to the apostles just to prove his resurrection to that one doubter. We don’t get to see heaven or hell either. Or Mohammed riding his horse to heaven. Or Joseph Smith’s alleged golden plates. And not seeing is proclaimed a virtue in the Gospel of John. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Virtue for some maybe, but certainly a curse for those with inquiring minds.
    ___________________________

    3) Natural Law Theodicies.

    Rebuttal: According to the Bible God can create heaven, apparently a place with no earthquakes where souls can supposedly grow and flourish forever. He can also create a Garden of Eden with a tree of eternal life in its midst that seemed safe and peaceful enough. But according to “natural law theodicies” God HAD to create an earth and cosmos like this one in which we “flourish” only on the trembling skin of one tiny planet, a third of whose surface areas is comprised of deserts or parched lands. See also this parody, a list of reasons Why We Believe in a Designer

    Which reminds me of a joke. A man was having a pair of pants made by a Jewish tailor. But the man grew impatient over how long it was taking the tailor to finish them. The man complained, “It only took God six days to make the world, but it’s taken you over a month to make the pair of pants I ordered.” The tailor held out the man’s pair of pants with pride and said: “Dat may be so, but take a look at the world . . . den take a look at dees pants!”

    Which reminds me of another joke. A preacher was visiting a farm and said to the farmer, “God’s been mighty good to your fields, Mr. Farmer.” “Yes,” the Farmer replied, “But you should have seen how He treated them when I wasn’t around.”

    Did God design the sawtoothed grain beetle, angoumois grain moths, Mediterranean flour moths, scale insects, cabbage worms, corn earworms, corn rootworms, cutworms, tomato fruitworms, etc., that destroy 30% of U.S. food crops by devouring leaves, fruits, grain, and also by spreading fungal and bacterial plant rots as well? Are we supposed to praise the Lord for designing such insects whose proliferation leads to human starvation?

    Did God design the bacteria that infect the food we eat? Even prayed over leftovers from Thanksgiving Day? Microgram for microgram, the poisons produced by some bacteria in our food are more potent than all other known poisons on earth. It is estimated that one tenth of an ounce of the toxin produced by bacteria causing botulism would be more than enough to kill everyone in the city of New York; and a 12-ounce glassful would be enough to kill all 5.9 billion human beings on the face of the Earth. (The same goes for the toxin that causes tetanus.) Is that God’s handiwork?
    ___________________________

    4) Free Will Theodicies.

    Rebuttal: Christian theologians continue to dispute how “free” the human will is. Some believe God knows the end from the beginning. But if God has such knowledge then everything must happen the way God knows it will. Therefore the doctrine of God’s foreknowledge and the idea of libertarian free will have been at odds with one another for millennia, and theologians continue to debate how “free” human “will” is.

    Another dispute among theologians is how to reconcile the Christian doctrine of human depravity with libertarian free will. Both Luther and Calvin concluded that “after the fall ‘freewill’ is just a word.”

    Opposed to the view of Luther and Calvin are Unitarian Christians who view “free will” as going hand in hand with eternal salvation rather than eternal damnation. Universalists point out that God has an infinite mind and infinite powers of persuasion at His disposal (and God is everywhere and in everything, at the core of everyone’s being, “In Him we live and move and have our being,” per Paul), therefore if God wants everyone to fall in love with the same things or believe the same things, and those things are the only true things, then there is no way a finite creature can resist God’s infinite will and infinite powers of persuasion eternally. Therefore, Unitarians think the only logical view that someone who believes in a personal loving infinite God can hold is universalism. God has said that He will have “all” come to Him. Is any heart so dark (and without the slightest flaw or crack) such that the light of Christ could never penetrate it? Does not emptiness abhor a vacuum (neither does any such vacuum truly exist since God is in all things)? Hence every “heart” must eventually come to acknowledge the only solid and substantial truth that is. The early Christian father Origin appears to have argued in a similar fashion.

    Also, the damnationist Christian portrays God as teaching, “If you don’t freely love me, you will suffer for all eternity,” which is like saying, “Choose whatever you want to eat for dinner, just keep in mind that if you eat anything else but the green beans you will be puking it up so violently for all eternity that you will never be granted another choice.” (A similar damnationist perspective is used by rival denominations and religions that compete with each other for souls.) How free is a choice that is coerced via mental whips and chains (threats of eternal suffering, i.e., if you don’t love and believe specific things)?

    If “free will” is of such grand importance to God, will there be free will in heaven such that people could still experience temptation there and even sin there? If not, then what types of circumstances has God set up to ensure that heaven’s inhabitants will always be more tempted to choose good rather than evil? And why didn’t he set up those circumstances right from the start?

    Aside from the theological controversies above, has it been demonstrated that free will exists? There does not appear to be a way to demonstrate the existence of libertarian free will experimentally since we cannot place ourselves in the same exact time, place, and mental state in which we first made each of our “free” decisions to see if we might choose otherwise. Even if we could run such an experiment, going back in time and space, repeating a scenario multiple times, to show that people CAN make a different choice under the exact same circumstances, it would not demonstrate that the different decision was “better informed,” only that it was a “different decision” from the one previously “willed.” Of what use then would it be to have “free will?” It’s more to the point to be able to make “better-informed decisions” than “free” ones. To make the former you have to be connected with the cosmos, not free of it — you have to collect and analyze input from as wide a spectrum of the cosmos as possible, like a computer. Therefore, building a machine that collects ever-widening amounts of data and continues to subject them to comparative analysis would be of greater value than creating a machine or human that is disconnected from this cosmos and arriving at decisions “freely.”

  10. 10
    Graham2 says:

    I repeat myself, but doesnt UD have better things to do than waste time on the jesus stuff ? How about some reports of ID ‘reasearch’ ?

  11. 11
    vjtorley says:

    Graham2,

    Most of the popular (and theological) objections to Intelligent Design relate to the problem of evil. In some people’s minds, that seems to outweigh the evidence for design. Posts like this one are intended to remove people’s intellectual obstacles to accepting Intelligent Design. Finally, my post made no mention of Jesus Christ, as the topic of Dr. Sean Carroll’s video was “Is God a Good Theory?” A discussion of Christianity would have been off-topic.

  12. 12
    StephenB says:

    Edward Babinski;

    Assuming everything arose directly and solely out of nothing else but one Being’s infinite power, knowledge and goodness, etc. what room was there for “evil” to arise? Everything came directly and solely out of this Being. This Being by definition is also IN all things. So how can “evil” arise? There’s no room for “evil” to arise if you begin with such a Being, since “nothing can come from nothing” there was never any “evil” in the first place, nor any “room” for it to arise. Can a perfectly and infinitely good God even imagine “evil?”

    If God designed the physical universe and its laws for a specific purpose, either directly or through a secondary process, then that same God is responsible for the outcome of that design insofar as He is the only causal agent involved and insofar as the effect (nature) must obey those laws. After man arrives, however, another causal agent capable of frustrating the intent of that design has entered the picture. Now, one of the effects of God’s total creative effort, namely man’s faculty of free will, suddenly has a distinct causal power of is own, which, when misused, will result in evil [call it Original sin].

    From this Christian perspective, man’s human nature (and perhaps nature itself) would be adversely affected and God’s design would be compromised. Thus, the evil and its effects would be coming not from God but from God’s creatures. Though God creates and sustains their power to think, will, and act through His immanent presence, He would not be responsible for those same actions, which come from moral agents that—unlike nature—are free either to follow or frustrate the intent of the original design by disobeying the natural moral law.

  13. 13
    StephenB says:

    …”by obeying [or disobeying] the natural moral law.”

  14. 14
    Graham2 says:

    In other words: theology, which seems to consume so much time on this blog. But ID isnt religious, oh no.

  15. 15
    StephenB says:

    EB:

    Christian theologians continue to dispute how “free” the human will is. Some believe God knows the end from the beginning. But if God has such knowledge then everything must happen the way God knows it will. Therefore the doctrine of God’s foreknowledge and the idea of libertarian free will have been at odds with one another for millennia, and theologians continue to debate how “free” human “will” is.

    To know what someone will do is not to cause the action or interfere with its intent.

  16. 16
    StephenB says:

    Graham2:

    In other words: theology, which seems to consume so much time on this blog. But ID isnt religious, oh no.

    LOL. I just did a quick survey. Of the most recent 100 posts, only 5 were about religion. For the most most part, those few were responses to atheists who ignore ID’s scientific arguments and cannot stop talking about God, whom they claim not to believe in. As a general rule, the proportion is much lower even than that 5%. But thank you for playing.

  17. 17
    vjtorley says:

    Hi EdwardTBabinski,

    Thanks for a long and thoughtful post. I’d like to address some of your key remarks.

    Assuming everything arose directly and solely out of nothing else but one Being’s infinite power, knowledge and goodness, etc. what room was there for “evil” to arise? Everything came directly and solely out of this Being. This Being by definition is also IN all things. So how can “evil” arise? There’s no room for “evil” to arise if you begin with such a Being, since “nothing can come from nothing” there was never any “evil” in the first place, nor any “room” for it to arise. Can a perfectly and infinitely good God even imagine “evil?”

    Answer: the problem disappears if we adopt the Augustinian view that evil is a privation, not a thing. To some people, however, pain appears to be both an evil and a positive reality. I would answer that pain is a simply biological signal that the organism is in a situation in which it should not be. That’s the real problem. The real theological question, then, is: given the existence of God, how can finite and fallible beings arise? That’s an interesting question, but it concerns the metaphysics of creation rather than the problem of evil as such.

    And speaking of the “free will” defense of “evil,” if the “will to choose evil” is defined as a great gift that has been bestowed on humans, an incredibly marvelous thing to possess, why doesn’t this infinitely good Being have the ability to choose evil?

    The capacity to choose between good and evil would be an imperfection in an Infinite Being. In us, on the other hand, it’s part of our nature that we should possess this capacity, as rational beings. (God is intelligent but not rational; He does not need to “figure out” how to attain His ends.) According to traditional Christian teaching, however, when a human being at the end of their life makes a final choice in favor of an Infinite Good (God), Who is their final end, then that choice is irrevocable. Hence Christian theologians commonly teach that the blessed in Heaven are not free to “turn their faces away from” the Beatific Vision. Ditto for the angels.

    There are a limited number of “theodicies,” in fact most can be broken down into one of four basic kinds…

    That’s one reason why the problem of evil fails to qualify as a logically compelling argument. What needs to be shown is that these are the only four possible options.

    According to the Bible God can create heaven, apparently a place with no earthquakes where souls can supposedly grow and flourish forever. He can also create a Garden of Eden with a tree of eternal life in its midst that seemed safe and peaceful enough. But according to “natural law theodicies” God HAD to create an earth and cosmos like this one in which we “flourish” only on the trembling skin of one tiny planet, a third of whose surface areas is comprised of deserts or parched lands.

    Even if God can make a perfect world, that does not show that He can make a perfect world in which humans freely choose goodness over evil. In a world where humans have this capacity, some scope for evil – both natural and moral – will always exist. The only question is: how much evil?

    Did God design the sawtoothed grain beetle, angoumois grain moths, Mediterranean flour moths, scale insects, cabbage worms, corn earworms, corn rootworms, cutworms, tomato fruitworms, etc., that destroy 30% of U.S. food crops by devouring leaves, fruits, grain, and also by spreading fungal and bacterial plant rots as well? Are we supposed to praise the Lord for designing such insects whose proliferation leads to human starvation?

    Did God design the bacteria that infect the food we eat?

    My question would be: do these creatures serve some useful ecological function in any ecosystem? If they do, then they are well-designed for that ecosystem. If they don’t, then their continued existence is a mystery. A more telling theological objection would relate to organisms that appear designed specifically to torment human beings, and no other animal – or for that matter, organisms (e.g. parasites) that appear designed specifically to cause pain to their host animal, as opposed to thriving at the animal’s expense (which might serve to keep animal populations within ecologically sustainable limits). I might add that ID researchers such as Professor Michael Behe are still working on the question of where the “edge of evolution” falls. It seems that each family of animals was probably designed; whether every species was is another matter. Also, the question of what constitutes a species is a tricky one. Dr. Branko Kozulic has recently proposed that the hundreds of unique singleton proteins and genes that characterize most species are what ultimately defines a species – which is a different definition from the common biological concept of a species. To what extent the two concepts track each other remains to be seen (e.g. what about cichlids, and also ring species)?

    If “free will” is of such grand importance to God, will there be free will in heaven such that people could still experience temptation there and even sin there? If not, then what types of circumstances has God set up to ensure that heaven’s inhabitants will always be more tempted to choose good rather than evil? And why didn’t he set up those circumstances right from the start?

    As I wrote above, Christian theologians commonly teach that the blessed in Heaven will not be able to sin. They have attained the end for which they were created in the first place. Moreover, they have attained that end in a characteristically human fashion, by exercising their God-given powers of reason and free choice. Had they been created with a “built-in” orientation towards that end, with their wills “locked on” to God from the very beginning, then one could argue that they would have had no human personalities of their own. (Hence the traditional teaching of Christianity is that Jesus Christ, Who was indeed impeccable, had a human nature but was not a human person – rather, He was a Divine person.)

    Aside from the theological controversies above, has it been demonstrated that free will exists? There does not appear to be a way to demonstrate the existence of libertarian free will experimentally since we cannot place ourselves in the same exact time, place, and mental state in which we first made each of our “free” decisions to see if we might choose otherwise.

    Granting that libertarian free will is difficult or even impossible to experimentally verify, it does not follow that libertarian free will does not exist. For most people, it appears to be a “given” of introspection. And while introspection is not infallible, there’s no plausible model developed by scientists which would enable them to predict our choices on a systematic basis. A few funny experiments with button-pressing establish nothing, as they relate only to liberty of spontaneity rather than liberty of choice. The existence of two options (left or right button) is not what characterizes the exercises free will; there must also be either two competing ends, or two competing ways of attaining the same end.

    Therefore, building a machine that collects ever-widening amounts of data and continues to subject them to comparative analysis would be of greater value than creating a machine or human that is disconnected from this cosmos and arriving at decisions “freely.”

    As machines don’t have a “good of their own” or telos , they cannot even be described as alive, and as they lack concepts (being able to store information and form an internal representation of their environment, but unable to comprehend its meaning), and in particular any concept of “self” as an autonomous agent, then they cannot properly be said to reason either. Hence “free will” would be of no use to such machines; it’s better that their behavior be pre-programmed. We, on the other hand, possess formal concepts as well as the concept of ourselves and other minds; hence reason and free will are great boons to us.

    I hope that addresses some of your questions.

  18. 18
    Graham2 says:

    SB: If you are looking at the title, then most dont mention god, but once you look inside, its jesus all the way. Anything remotely connected to morality for eg is soaked in it.

  19. 19
    StephenB says:

    G2, discussions about morality are in a minority of the threads. Most discussions are about science. Also, you have changed the subject from “ID being about” religion,” which was your original theme, to the relationship between morality and religion, which is a totally different thing. I don’t think I want to chase your moving target.

  20. 20
    niwrad says:

    Graham2

    In other words: theology, which seems to consume so much time on this blog. But ID isnt religious, oh no.

    Personally I am a religious IDer, I don’t deny that. As IDer I have always tried to discover the causes. If one searches for causes for enough time, it is likely he arrives to the First Cause. This is the reason sometimes in my posts and comments I deal with metaphysics and theology. I suppose that others at UD have similar stories.

    Anyway I see, after all, that you seem to like staying with us (and we like to stay with you). This means that you too like this sort of arguments a little. By experience, I warn you: if you persist enough time of your life in these interests (instead of football and pop music) it is likely your path will be a large spiral, which at the beginning seems to be a straight line, but after some time begins to bend, and at the end will intellectually finish directly into a Center, which is God itself. I have warned you. Don’t complain with me after.

  21. 21
    jerry says:

    but once you look inside, its jesus all the way. Anything remotely connected to morality for eg is soaked in it.

    I agree to some extent.

    If one wants to examine the number of comments on this site, the majority of them are on philosophical and religious issues primarily driven by objectors to ID leading to their obligatory responses by the pro-ID people. The objections to ID have always been of a religious or philosophical nature, hence the focus on these issues by most of the comments.

    The number of posts are primarily on science which generate much fewer comments. Except for a couple of the frequent anti-ID commenters who continue to make the same inane comments that you cannot calculate CSI or our theory of evolution is overwhelmingly supported there is little they can provide that is based on science to support their positions. In the area of science the anti-ID people just drum up stuff that is neither meaningful or of consequence. They are mainly seeking “gotcha” comments.

    For this OP which is the third on Sean Carroll’s thesis, we have a well respected physicist who essentially provide babble and it is then taken seriously by other scientists. This physicist is trying to eliminate God as a hypothesis but does it with nonsense. He is introducing religion into the debate. While not directed at us specifically, we are responding to a so called man of science who has wandered out of his domain of knowledge. Are we not to respond in some way. But when we do we will enter a murky world.

    The ID/anti-ID debate is mainly “your theory” is bad, therefore my theory is right. A lot of ID is based on undermining the ability of natural processes to do anything of significance in terms of life or the universe. And it is science all the way down that is employed. (Notice there is little ID cares about in cosmology because cosmology seems to follow the laws of nature and seems supported by science.)

    But life does not follow any laws of nature we know about. A lot of the defense of the naturalistic life approach is that no sensible God would do it this way. Why do they take such an approach? The answer is they have no science that can explain life. Hence, religious and philosophical comments are all the anti-ID people have.

  22. 22
    jerry says:

    Dr. Torley,

    This thread has disappeared from the first page and generated few comments even when it was stuck at the top. The theodicy issue is one that I have investigated for over 20 years after I first heard about it.

    To state it briefly, If God is all good and if God is all powerful, how could he allow “evil?” But evil exists so either God is not all good or all powerful or neither. Or as the atheists say, is non existent.

    My solution to this is that “evil” does not exist or what we say is evil is not really evil in any metaphysical sense. I got shouted down a few weeks ago when I suggested such a thing in light of the “torturing children” idea that is so often presented here. It seems to appear every week. But I maintain that this may be the answer and the complete reasoning for it may be impossible to understand given that we are very finite and God is infinite. But we can understand bits and pieces of it.

    I haven’t the time at this moment as we are in the process of a family “decorate the Christmas Tree” event and it is a day of fun. But I will return to this thread to discuss my thoughts again.

    One of the first things before discussing evil is to define it. A couple have tried it a few weeks back but I doubt there was any consensus. It has some of the problems that the term “information” has. It is too broad a word and can mean a lot of different things.

  23. 23
    jerry says:

    Dr. Torley,

    I have to disagree with a lot of what you are saying in this OP, though not with the overall conclusion.

    God is not limited in what He can do about bad things happening. He will not intervene when an entity with a free will decides to do something that is bad to another person but He certainly could. He could prevent the negative thing happening if He so chooses. He could certainly prevent the bad things that happen from what is known as natural or non moral evil such as an earthquake or tsunami. So any arguments based on His inability to do so are a non-starter.

    I believe the answer lies elsewhere and I have more than once mentioned that there are different things which people will classify as evil and that evil is a fairly squishy term with no good definition. It tends to be applied to what people think is unpleasant especially to those events in which the unpleasantness is in the extreme such as death, severe injury or pain, or severe loss of normal functions or abilities or a way of life. For a laundry list of supposed evil things, see what happened to Job. Death, pestilence, poverty, disease etc. These are all classified as non moral evils.

    God could prevent such occurrences if He chose to do so. Why doesn’t He? So the answer to the so called problem of evil lies elsewhere. My personal preference is a quote by Alexander Pope

    ‘All partial evil, universal good’.

    This is from John Hick’s book, Evil and the God of Love

    http://www.amazon.com/Evil-God.....hicks+evil

    This essentially says that everything people are classifying as evil is of finite consequence, including death, while the potential good is unlimited. With the Christian God, we have the promise of eternal salvation which will trump any finite bad occurrence no matter the intensity. It obviously trumps death.

    But it still does not say why bad things have to happen as they certainly do. This is a much more complicated argument and essentially is one that leads to another fine tuning, not of the universe, but of the world we live in and its purpose. Is it also fine tuned?

    Leibniz used an expression, the “best of all possible worlds.” For this he was severely mocked by Voltaire in Candide and people dismissed this concept at ludicrous. It is obviously not the best possible world that we as finite creatures can imagine because of all the obvious things that go wrong in the world. For example, it influenced Darwin greatly after he lost his daughter, Annie.

    But is it an inferior world for God’s purpose? We would have to understand God’s intentions not our temporal worldly wishes to understand what is meant by “best.” From Hick’s book

    the philosophical view that the universe forms an ultimate harmonious unity, suggests the theodicy that evil is only apparent and would be recognized as good if we could but see it in its full cosmic context

    So what is the good that we cannot see? We can speculate and some say it is anathema to even seek an answer or to question God.

    In a lecture on the book of Job by Michael Sugrue, he makes the point that we are closer to a slug or worm than we are to God and that the slug has a better understanding of us that we do of God. But maybe we can get some vague understanding. We should certainly try but we can never presume to really understand God.

    Sean Carroll is full of himself but he is very limited in his understanding of things. He is essentially an ignorant man, one very gifted in certain areas of physics but limited elsewhere. He hides behind a pleasant appearance and disposition but has shown that he is anything but this when he must try to deal with his obsessions. And atheism is one of his obsessions and he has tried to become a prominent player in advancing this bankrupt philosophy. In doing so he has revealed his limitations and lack of knowledge and his true attitudes.

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