Intelligent Design

Materialists: Let’s Pull Out the Supports Holding Up the Scientific Project When it Suits Us

Spread the love

 I am constantly amazed by the extent to which materialists will go to prop up their metaphysics.  Like a snake that eats its own tail, they sometimes resort to “scientific” explanations that, if true, would undermine the foundation of science, i.e., the concept of “causality.” 

Consider rhampton7’s response to my prior post :  “Susskind favors a megaverse interpretation of string theory that does not need a first cause other than itself (in which case, you could describe it as a pantheist argument, but that is not what Susskind believes).”

Let’s think about that.

First, as has been pointed out many times, the assertion that a megaverse (or multiverse) exists is a religious/metaphysical assertion, not a scientific one if we use the “falsification” standard.  The only universe available on which we can perform experiments is the one in which we exist.  Therefore, it is impossible to perform an experiment that tests for the existence of other universes.  It follows that the hypothesis “Other universes exist” cannot be tested and is there not, in principle, falsifiable. 

More importantly, however, is rhapmpton7’s willingness to give up on causality altogether.  As Elizabeth Liddle frequently reminds us, “science” is about testing “predictions.”  Scientists make a prediction about the natural world (i.e., a hypothesis).  They then perform experiments to test the hypothesis.  That is science is a nutshell. 

The scientific enterprise falls if we posit natural events that do not conform to the rule of causality.  Why?  Because the predictions that are at the foundation of the scientific endeavor are based upon a fundamental assumption, i.e., that causality always holds. 

Suppose a scientist hypothesizes that the application of heat to water will cause the water to boil at 99.97 degrees Celsius at a pressure of 1 atm (i.e., 101.325 kPa).  He tests the hypothesis by applying heat to water and sure enough the water boils at 99.97 degrees Celsius at a pressure of 1 atm.  But suppose that the next scientist who performs the experiment finds that water freezes at 99.97C, and the next one finds that the application of heat has no effect whatsoever on water, and the next one finds that boiling water spontaneously pops into existence from nothing without the application of heat.  You can see that under these circumstances the temple of science crumbles into useless dust.

Again, the fundamental assumption of science:  Effects have causes and a given cause always produces the same effect.

Now along comes rhapmpton7 to suggest that when it suits us we can do away with causality altogether and an effect can be its own cause.  OK, but you can’t have it both ways.  You can have your science (in which causality always holds) or you can have your materialist metaphysics (in which you can discard causality if it suits you), but you can’t have both at the same time.

28 Replies to “Materialists: Let’s Pull Out the Supports Holding Up the Scientific Project When it Suits Us

  1. 1

    Barry,
    You are missing an important ingredient that you only hint at. Recursion.

    Should a proposed metaphysical system also contain itself? Or in Russell’s terms, should a complete bibliography of all books include itself?

    You are proposing that causality is the definition of science, and proposing an uncaused megaverse is contradictory with the purpose of science. But does science have to include the origin of science? We usually insist that theories are not things that are themselves objects that they describe, thus we do not have a “theory of theories”, they are metaphysically not material, etc.

    So if rhampton7 invokes a metaphysical beginning to his universe, it is no less and no more than saying that science is necessarily incomplete, it cannot explain non-material things, metaphysics, and origins. On the other hand, if you insist that theories must contain themselves, then where in the theory of ID (the intelligent design of material objects) is the origin of ID? Are all immaterial objects (love, hate, anger, the idea of fair play) also designed? And if so, how do we know if they are intelligently designed?

    One can get into a great deal of difficulties with recursion, which is why it needs to be applied very judiciously. But I fail to see why you pick on this aspect of multiverse theory as being the obvious contradiction. The obvious contradiction is that it is a manifestly metaphysical theory and not science at all, so it should be promoted as philosophy or perhaps religion, but not science.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: short summary Dr. Craig at Sheldonian Theater last night:

    http://johnusher.wordpress.com.....d-dawkins/

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    BA 77

    Thanks, I was waiting for that.

    I see the empty Dawkins chair possibility actualised . . . with a panel of three standing in.

    G

  4. 4
    Barry Arrington says:

    Robert,

    I am not sure we disagree. But I don’t think you understand rhampton7. You write: “So if rhampton7 invokes a metaphysical beginning to his universe, it is no less and no more than saying that science is necessarily incomplete”

    That is my point. I am fairly certain that rhampton7 does NOT believe the origin he invoked is metaphysical at all. I am pretty sure he will disagree with you when you say: “The obvious contradiction is that [multiverse theory] is a manifestly metaphysical theory and not science at all, so it should be promoted as philosophy or perhaps religion, but not science.” I am all but certain that rhampton7 believes the multiverse theory is a scientific theory, not a metaphysical theory at all. But I will let him speak for himself. He is free to tell me I have him all wrong.

  5. 5
    Blue_Savannah says:

    The law of cause and effect/first cause just KILLS atheism. For starters, without it, science would be meaningless. Why look for the cause of things unless we KNOW there IS one??? Why ascribe supernatural, God-like qualities to ‘nothingness’ or ‘materialism’ instead of to GOD???

    We ALL have faith in someone/something. Those of us who are honest accept that the scientific evidence points to an Intelligent Designer….atheists on the other hand, keep grasping for straws.

  6. 6
    rhampton7 says:

    …More importantly, however, is rhapmpton7’s willingness to give up on causality altogether.

    …Again, the fundamental assumption of science: Effects have causes and a given cause always produces the same effect.

    Its seems that Barry Arrington and kairosfocus speak from a classical notion of causality strongly linked to determinism – hence repeated references to “striking a match” and the like. But if one has even a layman’s understanding of 20th century physics, then it should be immediately apparent that such notions can no longer be definitively supported in the light of Quantum mechanics – prompting Probabilistic Causation. Indeed, philosophers and physicists have been wrestled with the problem ever since; for example David Bohm’ implicate & explicate order.

    Causal Determinism
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, substantive revision January 21, 2010

    …Indeterminist physicists and philosophers are ready to acknowledge that macroscopic repeatability is usually obtainable, where phenomena are so large-scale that quantum stochasticity gets washed out. But they would maintain that this repeatability is not to be found in experiments at the microscopic level, and also that at least some failures of repeatability (in your hard drive, or coin-flipping experiments) are genuinely due to quantum indeterminism, not just failures to isolate properly or establish identical initial conditions.

    If quantum theories were unquestionably indeterministic, and deterministic theories guaranteed repeatability of a strong form, there could conceivably be further experimental input on the question of determinism’s truth or falsity. Unfortunately, the existence of Bohmian quantum theories casts strong doubt on the former point, while chaos theory casts strong doubt on the latter.

    Causality and Determinism: Tension, or Outright Conflict?
    Carl Hoefer, October 2004

    …Fortunately or not, this debate cannot be settled using current knowledge. Are there really any true, exceptionless fundamental physical laws? If so, are they mere regularities, or necessary truths, or statements of causal powers? These questions can only be answered if or when progress in physics clarifies whether a true fundamental physics is possible for our world. In the meantime, we have good reason to suspect that if such laws do exist, and are deterministic, then genuine causation at the level of ordinary events is at best a fragile, pragmatically useful epiphenomenon.

    Also worth noting: The Oxford Handbook of Causation

  7. 7
    rhampton7 says:

    Susskind readily admits that his view of Megaverse (a Level I multiverse) is, “far from rigorous scientific fact” because the empirical data to prove his contention – or yours – is substantially lacking (at least for the moment, but possibly forever). Thus, like many other examples of multiple universes, his is necessarily a hypothesis derived from String Theory. (Which has a direct bearing on the nature of causality in light of Quantum mechanics)

    The observational evidence for a cosmological constant, for inflation, and the mathematical evidence for a string theory landscape could all evaporate. So far they show no signs of doing so, but surprises happen. It is certainly premature to declare victory and close the question…

    Ah, now we come to the heart of the matter. How do we find out? Definitive evidence of the rest of the multiverse is out of the question. My guess is that over time we will learn more about the physical basis for inflation, and much of it will come from observational data. We may find deviations from the simplest inflation models that might tell us about how inflation began. We may be able to use statistical properties of the landscape to make predictions about quantities that we have not yet measured. Anyway, I don’t grant you the conclusion that there will be no more experimental data.

    But let’s keep our focus on the question: Is the universe very large (apparently so) and diverse, or is it everywhere the same, with particles and constants uniquely determined by elegant mathematics? No one knows for sure. Both are hypotheses. It is just as hard to confirm or falsify one as the other. Recent developments have favored the former, but the question is still open. Honestly, I don’t know how it will be definitively decided. But quite frankly, I find the unique/elegant solution to be far more faith-based at the present time than the diversity solution.

  8. 8
    bornagain77 says:

    Just found this tucked away, courtesy kf:

    Bayesian considerations on the multiverse explanation of cosmic fine-tuning – V. Palonen
    Conclusions: The four most viable approaches for inference in a possible multiverse and in the presence of an observer selection effect were reviewed. Concerning the ‘assume the observation’ (AO) approach advocated by Sober, Ikeda, and Jefferys, it was shown that this kind of an observer selection effect is justified if and only if the observation is conditionally independent of the hypothesis. In the case of cosmic fine-tuning the observation would be a child of the hypothesis and the two are not independent. It follows that one should use the observation as data and not as a background condition. Hence, the AO approach for cosmic fine-tuning is incorrect.
    The self-sampling assumption approach by Bostrom was shown to be inconsistent with probability theory. Several reasons were then given for favoring the ‘this universe’ (TU) approach and main criticisms against TU were answered. A formal argument for TU was given based on our present knowledge. The main result is that even under a multiverse we should use the proposition “this universe is fine-tuned” as data, even if we do not know the ‘true index’ 14 of our universe. It follows that because multiverse hypotheses do not predict fine-tuning for this particular universe any better than a single universe hypothesis, multiverse hypotheses are not adequate explanations for fine-tuning. Conversely, our data on cosmic fine-tuning does not lend support to the multiverse hypotheses. For physics in general, irrespective of whether there really is a multiverse or not, the common-sense result of the above discussion is that we should prefer those theories which best predict (for this or any universe) the phenomena we observe in our universe.
    http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/pap.....2.4013.pdf

  9. 9
    junkdnaforlife says:

    String theory does make predictions. One major prediction being magnetic monopoles which have never been found, another being superpartner particles, (that despite the current effort at CERN) have never signaled.

    0/2

  10. 10
    JDH says:

    I just have one question for rhampton7 or any other believer in this completely ridiculous theory of the multiverse.

    I will assume that if there are infinitely many universes, then everything is eventually possible.

    So in the event I ask you, “Do you believe that evolution can completely account for all of life?” is this the universe where you say, “No”?

    Why or why not?

  11. 11
    Eocene says:

    JDH:

    “I just have one question for rhampton7 or any other believer in this completely ridiculous theory of the multiverse.”
    ====

    Maybe this scientific discipline could be given it’s own title, say, “Sliders Theory” ???
    —-

    JDH

    “So in the event I ask you, “Do you believe that evolution can completely account for all of life?” is this the universe where you say, “No”?”
    ====

    I love this. Perhaps in another one of those Universes his other self is actually the Pope of that world. Or perhaps he is that Vulcan High Priest performing that dangerous ritual proceedure called “fal tor pan” of reuniting Spock’s “Katra”(Vulcan/atheist word for soul or spirit) back into Spock’s physical body.

  12. 12
    rhampton7 says:

    completely ridiculous theory of the multiverse

    First, there is no singular multiverse theory. Second, the concept of multiple universes arises directly from Quantum theory. Third, the reason I initially referred to multiple universes was to demonstate that, within mainstream Science, the classical notion of determinism and causality in relation to the origin of the universe is seriously questioned. Please note that multiple universes are but one example. Robert Penrose, for example, has shown some evidence in support of Conformal Cyclic Cosmology. Previously I mentioned David Bohm, and there are others. Indeed there is no shortage of ideas precisely because the classical notion of cause and effect can no longer be assumed to be true. In fact, this is good reason to doubt it functions as once presumed.

    Honestly, I don’t understand what there is to argue. Is it that many ID supporters just aren’t aware that a traditional notion of causality has been cast into doubt by 20th century physics? This is undergrad stuff – really high school level (for those that are inquisitive).

    I will assume that if there are infinitely many universes, then everything is eventually possible.

    So in the event I ask you, “Do you believe that evolution can completely account for all of life?” is this the universe where you say, “No”?

    Depending on the particular concept of multiverse, the answer changes. But suffice it to say that the “laws” may differ within each pocket, membrane, et al. universe, so evolution (as defined by the laws in our universe) may not exist or may only be partially accountable. What else might explain life in these other universes? Without knowledge of the other sets of laws, we have only our imaginations and the limits of quantum mechanics as reference.

  13. 13
    JDH says:

    rhampton – Sorry that you think that I as an “ID supporter” am ignorant about “high school level physics”. However, the truth is that I know enough about the real effects of Quantum Mechanics that I don’t allow it to befuddle my thinking about real effects, and I don’t let microscopic behaviors change what I know about the classical limit and the need for consistent philosophy.

    Dr. John Hansen – Ph.D physics

  14. 14
    JDH says:

    BTW, you are technically wrong in your phrasing that –

    the concept of multiple universes arises directly from Quantum theory.

    The correct way to phrase this is the concept of a probability distribution of results follows directly from Quantum theory. The fact that some people extend the fact that there is a probability distribution for discrete events to the concept of the Multiverse is a speculation that I don’t think is well founded. Others may disagree.

  15. 15
    Barry Arrington says:

    Nice smackdown Dr. Hansen.

  16. 16
    StephenB says:

    Trying to discuss cosmology with someone who thinks that an effect can occur without a cause is like trying to discuss forensic science with someone who thinks that a murder can occur without a murderer.

  17. 17
    rhampton7 says:

    Einstein was convinced of determinism as well. Quantum phenomena like non-locality, however, requires explanation. Or are you of the opinion that cause and effect does not exist at the smallest levels of the universe?

  18. 18
    rhampton7 says:

    As I understand it, a wave function can seem like a probability distribution, but interference demonstrates that two are not in fact the same thing. This is relevant because some versions of the multiverse (ex. many-worlds interpretation) are based on wave functions.

  19. 19
    JDH says:

    rhampton7 – you can throw around terms like non-locality, causality, etc. but there is a difference between when you do it and someone like Roger Penrose or Brian Greene does. They actually know the mathematics that are behind the terms and they know that it is just that – mathematics. The problem is that for all the oddities that modern quantum mechanics throws at us, the truth is it must satisfy the classical limit.

    In other words, you must not forget that the mathematics is for the most part only a model that works in the regime it does. The mathematics is not real, its just a representation, a calculation device. The trouble begins when someone mistakes the mathematical model for the reality. Then concepts which only occur at microscopic distances get confused as if they blow right by years of experiments at the macro level and you end up theorizing about macro non-locality, time travel for large objects, and other such nonsense.

    Quantum mechanics is very interesting, and certainly underlying all of classical physics is a spectacular world of cancelled infinities, wave function collapse and the reality behind each Feynman diagram. But don’t miss the point. When you have 10^26 molecules working together, the averages don’t just mean you get somewhat predictable results. You get macro causality. Speculation about what occurred at the first 10^-35 seconds after the big bang just does not transfer to today, and can’t rescue the biologist from the conundrum of the inability of life to be spontaneously created due to the impossible improbabilities. Its fun to pretend that the mysteries of modern physics provide safe haven for the materialist seeking to explain the mystery of the generation of for example, the first cell, but it is in the end foolishness.

    We are here because of a miracle. I think that God made it miraculous to make sure that it was possible, even for a scientist, to believe in him. Even if determinism is violated at the smallest of scales, the sheer number of particles involved in any macro state demand the laws of classical physics be obeyed. Nice try, but there is just no rescue for the materialist in modern physics. Either confront the fact that OOL, evolution, and most importantly the supposed evolution of man’s consciousness are outlawed by the sheer improbability of our modern understandings, or just continue to pretend that its all possible by Darwin’s magic. Don’t look for modern physics to help you.

  20. 20
    kairosfocus says:

    Onlookers:

    In another thread, I challenged RH7 to come up with an observed case in point where as a matter of observed fact something comes from nowhere, no thing, and for no why/reason — for NOTHING literally means just that: no place, no matter, no energy no mind, no time no mind etc.

    His reply in effect was that logical plausibility to us does not mean that our views are correct.

    We may comfortably take this as an admission of no rational or empirical foundation, just that what we DO observe and find reasonable: that which has a BEGINNING or may cease from being has a cause — is inconvenient for the sort of a priori materialism and/or chaos being advocated, including universes popping up out of nothing (oops, there seems to be an implied underlying substrate when we look closer, e.g. Hawking’s appeal to gravity and its properties . . . ).

    Also, we may notice his rhetorical focus on a strawman issue: determination that an effect WILL occur.

    But, the very point of the lighted match example (which RH7 BTW does not link) is to distinguish SUFFICIENT causal conditions that assure that an event WILL occur, from NECESSARY causal factors that must be present for an effect to be ABLE to occur but which do not themselves force it to actually occur.

    Strike and burn a match half way then tilt it tip up. The fire fades out. This is because, without fuel — necessary causal factor, the fire — effect, cannot occur.

    Reliable, empirical demo of a logical point. We have ample grounds for accepting this as a feature of reality not a figment of our imaginations.

    We may comfortably dismiss RH7’s suggestions and talking points on this matter until he can produce a case where events happen or things begin without any prior sufficient or necessary causal factors.

    (And BTW, the point of the lighted match example you tried to tag as “classical” and dismiss with a talking point appeal to the Quantum physics I have yet to see serious evidence of your understanding of, is to show that there are NECESSARY not just sufficient causal factors. That necessity obtains for the actual quantum phenomena we study. E.g. (since you appealed to HS physics, I will give an example I taught), no photon of sufficient energy to overcome the work function, no photoemissive photoeffect — the case that won Einstein his Nobel Prize. Similarly, even trivially, unless the required atom is there at a given time and place [and thus, unless it had itself formed at the origin of our observed cosmos or subsequent to that], no observed RA decay of a given nuclide, etc. Point being, the causal conditions are prior to the actual science and cannot be removed by them — you must meet them to do empirical science.)

    GEM of TKI

  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    SB, Hence the significance of the matchstick challenge: we show that the logic of necessary vs sufficient causal factors is empirically reliable in our observed universe. It is not just a figment of our imaginations, it is credibly real. Similarly, the photo-emission of electrons from metal surfaces in vacuo once photons of sufficient energy are present [but not if photons have not got enough energy to overcome the work function] suffices to show the same in a quantum context that won a Nobel Prize for Einstein]. KF

  22. 22
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: In the burning match post, point 14, RH7 may read:

    14 –> Ironically, since science is so concerned with causal mechanisms, and cause-effect patterns, it is astonishing how rarely students are exposed nowadays to a reasonable 101 level discussion of the logic of cause and effect, and what it does to warrant our knowledge of mechanism claims etc!

    (And BTW, once we recognise the reality of necessary causal factors the notion that quantum mechanical events are cause-less evaporates, as they have many necessary factors, and they follow patterns of behaviour constrained by those factors. E.g. no neutron outside a nucleus, and no 10 minute half life free neutron decay is possible, i.e. starting with the almost trivial — easily overlooked – requirements for (a) a neutron, and (b) a free neutron. Physical processes (quantum or not) ALWAYS begin with antecedent causal conditions. Physics, contrary to the common talking point, is not a field in which effects happen without antecedent causes, especially once we see the subtle but vital distinction between necessary and sufficient causal factors.

    Namely:

    (i) without a necessary factor present an effect cannot happen, but

    (ii) with a sufficient cluster of causal factors — including a cluster of the necessary ones — the effect will happen.

    We may not know the sufficient sets for a given case [though we may know what is sufficient for the possibility of a probabilistically occurring, contingent effect to occur — drop a fair die and a 6 is POSSIBLE], but we usually can identify at least some of the necessary factors.)

    I would like to hear RH7’s explanation for why he spoke in terms of determinism and characterised my treatment of the matter as classical/deterministic (and by implication outdated).

  23. 23
    kairosfocus says:

    JDH:

    Well said. For those missing the point, a condition of quantum physics is that under appropriate limiting case conditions, the quantum result must reliably reduce to the classical, empirically reliable case. Otherwise, the quantum theory would be factually inadequate and falsified.

    GEM of TKI

  24. 24
    Gordon Davisson says:

    JDH:

    rhampton7 – you can throw around terms like non-locality, causality, etc. but there is a difference between when you do it and someone like Roger Penrose or Brian Greene does. They actually know the mathematics that are behind the terms and they know that it is just that – mathematics.

    I don’t know rhamoton7’s background, but I have a pretty good understanding of basic quantum mechanics. I took a year of graduate QM in college, and while I won’t claim to deeply understand e.g. the spin-statistics theorem, I do know how to analyse a pair of electrons in the singlet state just fine.

    Quantum mechanics is very interesting, and certainly underlying all of classical physics is a spectacular world of cancelled infinities, wave function collapse and the reality behind each Feynman diagram. But don’t miss the point. When you have 10^26 molecules working together, the averages don’t just mean you get somewhat predictable results. You get macro causality.

    Not exactly. Observed violations of Bell’s theorem imply that reality does not obey a well-behaved model of causality. This is not just an artifact of mathematics, it’s observed reality. It implies that when you looks at the average of 10^26 molecules, you’re seeing an illusion of well-behaved causality that is simply not a feature of the underlying reality. As a consequence, we can discard any argument that assumes that well-behaved causality as an inherent feature of reality.

    Speculation about what occurred at the first 10^-35 seconds after the big bang just does not transfer to today, and can’t rescue the biologist from the conundrum of the inability of life to be spontaneously created due to the impossible improbabilities. Its fun to pretend that the mysteries of modern physics provide safe haven for the materialist seeking to explain the mystery of the generation of for example, the first cell, but it is in the end foolishness.

    I don’t know of anyone who claims that quantum effects allow abiogenesis and evolution despite their improbability (though there probably is someone…). Evolutionists claim that abiogenesis and evolution are not improbable, and that your probability calculations are simply wrong. Quantum-style acausality might (or might not) be behind the origin of the universe (and maybe its features), but it has nothing to do with the argument about biological origins.

  25. 25
    Eugene S says:

    “We are here because of a miracle. I think that God made it miraculous to make sure that it was possible, even for a scientist, to believe in him.”

    Absolutely. That is why I think it is not possible to scientifically prove or disprove if God exists. ID or any other theory can only do what it can.

  26. 26
    Eugene S says:

    There can be infinitely many ideas but good tone in science is to sift them through Occam’s Razor to come up with a minimal set of parsimonious explanations.

  27. 27
    JDH says:

    Thanks for getting it kf. It does not really matter if there have been “Observed violations of Bell’s theorem” etc. None of these work in the macro world where the upshot is that the cause and effect are so solid as to be unquestioned.

    Could not reply to Gordon because the “Reply” button does not show up in his comment.

    Evolutionists may claim that my arguments are just wrong. That is because they have no choice but to believe in abiogenesis, and to discount the fine-tuning argument. They have an indefensible position so must look to fanciful multiverse arguments to deny the obvious.

    Look if fine-tuning was not a good argument, if real abiogenesis is probable by some argument- why all the speculation about multiverse, many worlds, etc. My experience is that people who really don’t understand what quantum mechanics is about dabble in it when they get stuck for an answer. I just don’t want to see ignorance paraded as if QM let’s evolutionists off the hook. Any of them that are honest have to admit that currently the probabilities are not on their side. Whether they like it or not.

  28. 28
    JDH says:

    Actually, rhampton7 this is a good point. The wave function is more basic than the probability distribution which comes from it. But it is still important to remember that the wave function is just a mathematical model.

Leave a Reply