Intelligent Design

Write this Day Down: Liddle and Arrington Agree (on Some Things at Least)

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EL: “why is there something rather than nothing? I do not think it can be resolved by science. But I could be wrong.”

No, you are not wrong. Science is the study of the natural world. It presupposes the existence and intelligibility of the natural world. It cannot account for the existence and intelligibility of the natural world.

EL: “I think we will find that life is not particularly unlikely, given the universe we have.”

There is no particular reason to believe this other than that it suits your metaphysical predisposition to reject ID. It is no different from saying “life is a brute fact that I can’t explain.”

EL: “fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of scientific enquiry in general, and of the motivation behind multiverse hypotheses”

The multiverse is not a scientific hypothesis. It is a metaphysical assertion. The hypothesis that any universe exists (much less multiple universes) other than the one in which we live is not testable (how could it be?) and thus not falsifiable even in principle.

I understand the motivation behind the multiverse hypothesis well enough.  Materialists understand that 13.7 billion years of monkeys pounding on typewriters are insufficient to account for even a single line of Shakespeare, much less to assemble a simple functional protein by sheer random chance.  They need infinite monkeys.  And since this universe cannot provide them with infinite monkeys, they need to conjure up more universes: Poof the multiverse.

EL quotes BKA: “The materialist answer to [why does the universe exist]: I dunno.” And then writes: “Yes indeed. But then, in a sense, so is the theological one. Even if we give the answer as “God”, that leaves a vast mystery. I dunno what God is.”

I am glad we agree about both of these assertions: (1) the materialist has no answer to why the universe exists. (2) God may be an answer, but He is a mystery. My point is not that God is an “understandable” answer to why the universe exists. My point is that God is a rational answer to why the universe exists. It is NOT rational to believe the universe is all there is, because that leads to the irrational conclusion that the universe can account for its own existence.

EL: “I would agree that the universe (in other words the reality that we know has existed since Big Bang) did not cause itself.”

Why limit the universe to the reality we know since the Big Bang? That leaves the Big Bang unaccounted for, and it is part of the reality we know (at least that is science’s current, provisional, best understanding of the reality we know).

EL: “That does not to me rule out the possibility that non-existence is an unstable state:

Absolutely false. Pure nonbeing is the most stable state imaginable.

EL: “and that things do “pop into existence” from time to time.”

Things do not pop into existence from a state of pure nonbeing. Here again, the standard equivocation of Hawking and his ilk. The quantum vacuum is not nothing.

EL: “We even have some evidence that this is true, and that “existence” is not a straightforward matter. At quantum level, “things” don’t seem to be “things” in the way that macroscopic things are things – with stability as to place and time.”

We have no evidence that things pop into existence from a state of pure nonbeing. That is a logical impossibility. Nothing comes from nothing. It is a contradiction in terms to say that something comes from nothing. It is true that “things” are different at the quantum level than at the classical level, but they are still “things.” That you can only describe them as such is all we need to know. Again, the quantum vacuum is not nothing in the sense of pure nonbeing.

EL: “The reason I stopped is that I could see no reason to assume that [], whatever it is, is the God of Love I worshipped.”

How immensely sad. I see at least five reasons: (1) the hole in his right hand; (2) the hole in his left hand; (3) the hole in his right foot; (4) the hole in his left foot; and (5) the hole in his side.

EL:  “So my current position is that life, minds, meaning, purpose even God, certainly Love, and are an emergent property of the universe, not its cause.”

Ah yes, the emergent property materialist poofery confession of ignorance disguised as an explanation.  You might as well have written “and then a miracle happened.”

Summary: EL, I am glad that we agree on so much today.

41 Replies to “Write this Day Down: Liddle and Arrington Agree (on Some Things at Least)

  1. 1
    lpadron says:

    “That does not to me rule out the possibility that non-existence is an unstable state and that things do ‘pop into existence’ from time to time.”

    If there was something to nothing it would be very hard to swallow.

  2. 2

    (response reposted from the other thread)

    Barry, thanks for your responses:

    No, you are not wrong. Science is the study of the natural world. It presupposes the existence and intelligibility of the natural world. It cannot account for the existence and intelligibility of the natural world.

    Good, I’m glad we agree on that! I take it then that you would not agree with those who complain that scientists should consider supernatural as well as natural hypotheses?

    I would certainly say, and I take it you agree, that such hypotheses are beyond the methodology of science.
    There is no particular reason to believe this other than that it suits your metaphysical predisposition to reject ID. It is no different from saying “life is a brute fact that I can’t explain.”

    I don’t “believe” it, and have no such “metaphysical disposition”. I’m not sure if you are aware, Barry, but I was a theist for 50 odd years, and a devout one. I even wrote a book about God for children, which sold quite well. I was always (still am) a “seeker”, and would like nothing better but to find that my former faith was reconcilable with my current understanding of the world. I still think of myself as a basically “religious” person, possibly in a Buddhist sense, although I am not a Buddhist.
    My hunch about life is based on two things: that on the whole, things we observe are likely to be a random sample from the totality of things, and so if we observe something once (life) it probably means it is fairly frequent (the counter argument here is of course the argument that if we weren’t here we would be unable to observe life, so it isn’t a random sample! But that is the “anthropic principle” which is normally rejected by IDists!). The other thing is that I am really quite impressed with some of the OoL research that is going on, and I think it looks promising. I will revise my view if progress ceases, but my guess (not belief is that within a few decades, possiby within my lifetime, we will have observed Darwinian-capable self-replicating systems emerging from prebiotic conditions comparable to those thought to have pertained on early earth. But, to repeat, this is a hunch only.

    The multiverse is not a scientific hypothesis. It is a metaphysical assertion. The hypothesis that any universe exists (much less multiple universes) other than the one in which we live is not testable (how could it be?) and thus not falsifiable even in principle.

    Most things in science (in a sense all) are tested indirectly. If mathematical models that include a multiverse make predictions about ours that are supported by data, then that is empirical support for that multiverse model. But without getting too abstruse, it is a direct inference from Big Bang models that the observable universe (of which we are necessarily at the dead centre) is only a tiny fraction of the total universe. So we cannot extrapolate from the conditions that pertain in our section to the conditions that pertain in the rest. If there is only a narrow band of fundamental constants that are life-friendly, then, clearly, any part of the total universe that contains observers must be parts in which those constants fall within that narrow band. But it would be extrapolating beyond the range of our data to assume that those constants pertained beyond the limits of observability. Estimate for the size the total universe are that it is about 10^23 times the size of the observable universe. To assume it all has life-friendly constants would be like assuming that the rest of the world has the same characteristics as the part you can see from your house. Then there are theories about bubble universes and such like. Again, these are theories that make predictions, and so are scientific.

    I am glad we agree about both of these assertions: (1) the materialist has no answer to why the universe exists. (2) God may be an answer, but He is a mystery. My point is not that God is an “understandable” answer to why the universe exists. My point is that God is a rational answer to why the universe exists. It is NOT rational to believe the universe is all there is, because that leads to the irrational conclusion that the universe can account for its own existence.

    Yes, it’s good to agree on something! I don’t think the materialist “dunno” is less rational than the theist’s “mystery”, though, because “the materialist” (well, in this case, me) is not saying that the universe accounts for its own existence, but that the potential for universes is inherent in the impossibility of nothing. But I’m not saying that it is a better answer, just that it is not a worse one. Or, let me put it differently: the placeholder you call “God” or “a mystery”, is, by me, just called “a mystery”. The name matters less than what we can say about what it not. I do not think it is mind, because I reluctantly concluded that it is incoherent (possibly even irrational) to consider a mind independent of a physical organism. However, far from that being a “predisposition”, when it dawned on me, it was the darkest night of my life. Fortunately, when the pieces of my metaphysics reformed, I found I still had as good a God as I’d ever had, just not one that had to bear the load of creating a universe!

    Why limit the universe to the reality we know since the Big Bang? That leaves the Big Bang unaccounted for, and it is part of the reality we know (at least that is science’s current, provisional, best understanding of the reality we know).

    I don’t. But I was referring to everything since Big Bang, including the vast non-observable part. But yes, I think that the universe(s) probably emerge(s) from some greater reality. But I’m no cosmologist. It doesn’t seem to me to be an important metaphysical question. As I’ve said, I don’t think whether or not the reason anything exist is God or not depends on how many universes there are. After all, in my young day, Steady State was still on the cards, and it didn’t dent my theism in the slightest. Even as a young (and devout!) child, I could figure out that if God is eternal, (s)he can obviously create an eternal universe.

    Absolutely false. Pure nonbeing is the most stable state imaginable.

    Well, it may be false. But some evidence suggests it is true.

    Things do not pop into existence from a state of pure nonbeing. Here again, the standard equivocation of Hawking and his ilk. The quantum vacuum is not nothing.

    (These ilks tickle me! It may well be “equivocation” but nothing is extraordinarily difficult to define. So hard not to equivocate. I haven’t yet seen a definition of “nothing” that doesn’t cover a quantum vacuum. But I’m prepared to be persuaded that there is one. tbh, I think language simply fails us when we get down to quantum stuff, and up to space-time. So many things we assume are solid existing things turn out to be pure, if well-defined, probability. If a particle can be merely a probable particle, what is that particle when its probability is low? Is it nothing? And what is space before it expands?

    It is true that “things” are different at the quantum level than at the classical level, but they are still “things.” That you can only describe them as such is all we need to know. Again, the quantum vacuum is not nothing in the sense of pure nonbeing.

    In what sense are they still “things”? In what sense is anything a “thing”? We parse the world into things, which enables us to make sense of it – we try to “carve nature at its joints”. But there are no real “joints” in nature once we look closely enough at it. What we find instead, I suggest, are systems of processes. A “solid thing” is a good model for a system of processes that, when it meets a similar system of processes at speed makes a loud bang. And that parsing system works well right down to particles. But that doesn’t mean that particle-things are like anvil-things. It means that both are systems that can be usefully considered “things”, but can also, depending on what we are interested in, be considered systems of forces and processes. And even, it seems to turns out, of probabilities.

    How immensely sad. I see at least five reasons: (1) the hole in his right hand; (2) the hole in his left hand; (3) the hole in his right foot; (4) the hole in his left foot; and (5) the hole in his side.

    Yes, it was sad, and I was very sad for quite a time. And I still have my crucifixes, and I still find the idea of the incarnation, and of the Trinity, immensely powerful. I just can’t tie it to the cause of the existence. And I’m not sad now. In many ways, I have, as I said, all the things I ever valued in my faith without actually requiring “faith”! Perhaps what I have now is better described as “trust”.

    Ah yes, the emergent property materialist poofery confession of ignorance disguised as an explanation.

    Of course I disagree with your characterisation. I think emergent properties are an extremely valuable way of understanding the world. After all, I am a systems neuroscientist, and I would make no headway unless I understood that systems have properties not possessed by their parts (and vice versa). In that sense I reject the description “reductionist”. I am the opposite – a “whole-ist”. In any case it seems to me that we are all emergentists without knowing it. We see waves crashing on the beach, and say “wow, that was an amazing wave!” But what was it? It was exactly the same water as you’ve been watching for the last half hour, possibly even lapping gently round your ankles. All “things” are emergent systems with properties not possessed by their parts. Yet their parts can be considered “things” too, and in their turn consist parts with still different properties. And so ad infinitum.

    Summary: EL, I am glad that we agree on so much today.

    Me too, Barry! Thanks.

  3. 3
    Chesterton says:

    EL:
    ” to consider a mind independent of a physical organism.”

    But you said that he scientific models are abstractions not made by energy and/or matter, then models are independents of physical organisms why not mind?
    One question an “emergent propertie” is made of energy and/or matter?

  4. 4
    Barb says:

    EL: “I haven’t yet seen a definition of “nothing” that doesn’t cover a quantum vacuum. But I’m prepared to be persuaded that there is one.”

    I’ve heard a quantum vacuum defined as a sea of energy. It can be described by physical laws. If this is the case, then where did the quantum vacuum come from? You’ve simply pushed back the issue of creation. If quantum physical laws operate within a domain that’s described by quantum physics, you can’t legitimately use quantum physics to explain the origin of that domain itself.

    You stated that you believe that things can and do pop into existence from a state of nonbeing. Where is the verifiable evidence for this? If something has a beginning, there must be something that caused it to have a beginning. In real life, we never see things coming into existence from nothing, subatomic particles included. The particles were always there, but we didn’t have the equipment to detect them. Or our understanding of physics didn’t allow us to consider that they might have existed.

    I don’t worry that while I’m away at work, a dog is going to pop into my living room, uncaused, out of a state of nonbeing, and begin chasing my cat. These things simply do not ever happen.

  5. 5

    Chesterton:

    I’m not sure I’m understanding your question, but I’m suggesting that what we call “things” are systems with properties not possessed by the parts that compose them or the things that generate them.

    So I’d say that a mind is a “thing” generated by a brain serving a body, which are in turn composed of cells (including bacteria!) But a brain and a body have different properties than cells, and a mind has different properties than a brain or a body.

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    EL; try the standard understanding of nothing, NO + THING, or non-being. a Quantum foam ever bubbling with energy and virtual particles etc is NOT nothing. Never mind verbal sleight of hand that tries to pretend otherwise. KF

  7. 7

    Barb:

    First of all, I am not any kind of an expert on fancy physics. So you may well know more about this stuff than I do. But I’ll have a shot at responding anyway:

    EL: “I haven’t yet seen a definition of “nothing” that doesn’t cover a quantum vacuum. But I’m prepared to be persuaded that there is one.”

    I’ve heard a quantum vacuum defined as a sea of energy. It can be described by physical laws. If this is the case, then where did the quantum vacuum come from? You’ve simply pushed back the issue of creation. If quantum physical laws operate within a domain that’s described by quantum physics, you can’t legitimately use quantum physics to explain the origin of that domain itself.

    Well, it is true that if “nothing” – no space, no time – is “unstable” as I put it – then it has a property, if only the property of instability, and leads us to ask: why? But equally, one could ask: why shouldn’t it? But I do agree that the question is unanswerable in anyway in which we could understand, which is why I turn to an Aquinas-like position and say: [] (my way of expressing a place holder) is the reason there is something rather than nothing. We can then start to ask: what is [] not?

    My issue is not that we can answer that question, but that we can say something about what it is not. And it seems to me that one of the things it cannot be is a mind because minds, in my view, are a result of bodies, not something added to them. But I do understand that most people here would disagree. Personally I think it’s a much more relevant question to the issue of whether there is a creator God than the issue of whether there is one universe or many, or whether the universe had a beginning, or whether life was a result if special intervention or a (planned or otherwise) result of the workings out of physics and chemistry. I think, in other words, that he issue of whether a mind could precede matter is a really important one for theism and theology – I see no problem, on the other hand, in reconciling theism with a scientifically explicable material world. tbh, as I’ve said, I think it makes more sense, but again, I accept that most here would disagree.

    You stated that you believe that things can and do pop into existence from a state of nonbeing. Where is the verifiable evidence for this? If something has a beginning, there must be something that caused it to have a beginning. In real life, we never see things coming into existence from nothing, subatomic particles included.

    Well, virtual particles sort of do. But as I was trying to say, things and processes and probabilities start to merge into each other at that scale, so whether you describe something as “popping into existence” or not seems to depend on the math. The amazing thing to me about fancy physics is that you see all these hairy looking equations and fanciful diagrams that stand for things that make no sense at all at ourclassical scale – particles moving backwards in time, popping into existence – and yet quantum physics makes empirical predictions with extraordinary accuracy.

    Hence the expression: “shut up and calculate!”

    The particles were always there, but we didn’t have the equipment to detect them. Or our understanding of physics didn’t allow us to consider that they might have existed.

    Well, that might be yet another way of putting it! Is “potential existence” the same as existence?

    I don’t worry that while I’m away at work, a dog is going to pop into my living room, uncaused, out of a state of nonbeing, and begin chasing my cat. These things simply do not ever happen.

    True, and for the same reason that nobody will ever toss 500 heads 🙂

  8. 8

    EL; try the standard understanding of nothing, NO + THING, or non-being. a Quantum foam ever bubbling with energy and virtual particles etc is NOT nothing. Never mind verbal sleight of hand that tries to pretend otherwise. KF

    I don’t think it’s a verbal sleight of hand, KF. I think it defies words completely. But I’m not making a strong case one way or another. My case is that whatever it is that is the reason for something other than nothing, and which I refer to as [], we don’t understand it. We can only try to figure out what it is not.

  9. 9
    Kantian Naturalist says:

    There’s a nice argument by Hegel to the effect that neither “being” nor “nothing” (“non-being”) are fully coherent concepts, but that both are ‘abstractions’ from the concept of becoming. Here’s the link: Being, Nothing, and Becoming. I would guess that summaries are available on-line for those who can’t take the time to learn how to read Hegelese.

  10. 10
    Axel says:

    ‘Well, it is true that if “nothing” – no space, no time – is “unstable” as I put it – then it has a property, if only the property of instability, and leads us to ask: why? But equally, one could ask: why shouldn’t it?’

    EL: No… ‘Nothing’ solely exists as a concept, potentially describable solely in terms of possessing no properties. Since it exists solely as a concept it has no autonomous properties, any properties which might be ascribed to ‘nothing’ being created self-referentially in the mind.

    Outside of the mind nothing exists even as a concept, and that includes, of course, an unstable nothingness. That’s quite weird. I hadn’t meant to say ‘nothing’ in the sense of ‘no thing’, but as a concept. However, it immediately occurred to me that, in fact, quantum mechanics indicates that to be the case, doesn’t it? No material thing even exists outside the mind, never mind concepts.

    Well.. it’s easy to talk a lot of tosh with this kind of J Alfred Prufrock kind of musing, but that’s how it seems to me. In fact, if I did a lot of it, I think I’d end up wishing I were a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

  11. 11
    kuartus says:

    Nothing=NO THING. As is, NOT ANYTHING.

    Billy:I had nothing for breakfast

    Bob: Oh, was it tasty and nutritious?

    LOL.

  12. 12
    leenibus says:

    EL: “I think we will find that life is not particularly unlikely, given the universe we have.”

    Barry Arrington: “There is no particular reason to believe this other than that it suits your metaphysical predisposition to reject ID. It is no different from saying ‘life is a brute fact that I can’t explain’.”

    Why should Intelligent Design proponents be so uncomfortable with the prospect that the Designer may have created life elsewhere? Surely ID should involve learning as much as possible about the Designer’s efforts. If the universe was created just for humans alone, then the myriad galaxies with billions of stars (not to mention non-Earth-like planets) exist merely to provide a glittering 3-D wallpaper to decorate Earth’s night sky.

    However, if the Intelligent Designer is merely a stand-in for the God of the Bible, then life in other parts of the universe would imply that humans are not the sole goal of the Creator’s efforts. Worse yet, other life forms would not fit neatly into the scheme of Fall and Redemption. I suspect that is why many ID proponents are so metaphysically predisposed to deny any possibility of alien life.

  13. 13
    Barb says:

    Dr. Liddle:

    Well, it is true that if “nothing” – no space, no time – is “unstable” as I put it – then it has a property, if only the property of instability, and leads us to ask: why? But equally, one could ask: why shouldn’t it?

    I suppose you could, but why assign properties such as instability or stability to what is literal nothingness?

    But I do agree that the question is unanswerable in anyway in which we could understand, which is why I turn to an Aquinas-like position and say: [] (my way of expressing a place holder) is the reason there is something rather than nothing. We can then start to ask: what is [] not?

    Yes, it’s basically metaphysical questioning.

    My issue is not that we can answer that question, but that we can say something about what it is not. And it seems to me that one of the things it cannot be is a mind because minds, in my view, are a result of bodies, not something added to them.

    However, if you have this quantum vacuum, this sea of energy, then you’d need something transcendent, beyond that domain of quantum physics, to explain how the domain came into being.

    But I do understand that most people here would disagree. Personally I think it’s a much more relevant question to the issue of whether there is a creator God than the issue of whether there is one universe or many, or whether the universe had a beginning, or whether life was a result if special intervention or a (planned or otherwise) result of the workings out of physics and chemistry. I think, in other words, that he issue of whether a mind could precede matter is a really important one for theism and theology – I see no problem, on the other hand, in reconciling theism with a scientifically explicable material world. tbh, as I’ve said, I think it makes more sense, but again, I accept that most here would disagree.

    Oddly enough, in looking up information about the origins of the universe, I found that nobody really defended the position of the universe coming into being out of nothingness until the 20th century, when science began confirming that the universe had a beginning (the Big Bang). Even David Hume stated that anything arising without a cause was “absurd.”

    Well, virtual particles sort of do.

    Can you clarify this? What is a virtual particle–like the Higgs Boson? Or something else entirely?

    But as I was trying to say, things and processes and probabilities start to merge into each other at that scale, so whether you describe something as “popping into existence” or not seems to depend on the math. The amazing thing to me about fancy physics is that you see all these hairy looking equations and fanciful diagrams that stand for things that make no sense at all at our classical scale – particles moving backwards in time, popping into existence – and yet quantum physics makes empirical predictions with extraordinary accuracy.

    Hence the expression: “shut up and calculate!”

    It probably does, but so do Einsteinian and Newtonian physics. Stephen Hawking proposed a “quantum gravity” model for the beginning of the universe, but it’s mostly speculative. It doesn’t represent reality. And scientists, by nature, deal in reality with verifiable results and empirical evidence.

    Well, that might be yet another way of putting it! Is “potential existence” the same as existence?

    I don’t know, but I would say no, primarily because it’s an argument from ignorance. Just because something has the potential to exist doesn’t mean that it does exist. Whereas existence is verifiable and real; we can perform experiments and see the results for ourselves.

  14. 14
    Andre says:

    The best explanation I’ve heard for nothing is Frank Turek…

    “What rocks dream of”

  15. 15
    Andre says:

    Elizabeth,

    I can’t help but deduce that your rejection of a designers seem to be because of pain and suffering, it is certainly not because you don’t see or understand design.

    Is the concept of free will and its impossibility to co exist with perfection really so hard to comprehend? If things where perfect then the universe would have been deterministic but it’s not I choose freely and because I can it is inevitable that my choices can do good or harm. To make those choices however the world we live in can not be perfect. If it was I would be unable to exercise those choices because nothing good nor bad will ever happen.

  16. 16

    I can’t help but deduce that your rejection of a designers seem to be because of pain and suffering, it is certainly not because you don’t see or understand design.

    Well, I find that an odd deduction from what I wrote! But no, that is not the reason. Remember that for 50 odd years, I was perfectly happy with the idea that the universe came about because it was intended, and because intelligent life, capable of loving the intender, was intended.

    And I never had a problem with theodicy – it seemed to me that in order to make a universe that would bring forth loving life, it would have to have rules, and obey them consistently, and that will include things like gravity, which will sometimes crush living things cruelly, and pain, which is necessary to keep us safe, but which hurts.

    And of course, if we are going to be able to choose at all, then we must be free to choose badly. So, oddly enough, I think theodicy is a bigger problem for an interventionist ID God than it is for the one I’d always believed in.

    My moment of world-shattering change came when I realised I really couldn’t make my idea of immaterial mind work – but could make the concept of a mind emergent from body-and-brain work just fine, will, choice, moral responsibility and all.

    Is the concept of free will and its impossibility to co exist with perfection really so hard to comprehend? If things where perfect then the universe would have been deterministic but it’s not I choose freely and because I can it is inevitable that my choices can do good or harm. To make those choices however the world we live in can not be perfect. If it was I would be unable to exercise those choices because nothing good nor bad will ever happen.

    I agree. I

  17. 17
    Axel says:

    Not only does ‘nothing’ not have an autonomous existence. ‘Nothing’ does not ‘have’. Period. It does not predicate, and is neither an object or a complement. Its very ‘existence’ is solely conceptual.

    During those 50 years of belief, Elizabeth, you were obviously unfamiliar with the nature of angels as pure spirits, or must have ceased to believe in them.

  18. 18
    Axel says:

    Perhaps it was a marginal belief, part of the ‘package’ you had never given serious thought to.

  19. 19

    Perhaps it would comfort you to think so, Axel, and of course, there is no way that either you, nor I, could possibly know whether the thought I have given the questions was adequately “serious”.

    Perhaps it was not.

    However, let me give you a quick religious CV:

    My first religious experience was at the age of about four. I was lying in the heather, on a still hot day, on Caldey Island, Pembrokeshire. I can date it fairly precisely because we stopped going to Tenby on holiday after I started school. The bees were humming in the thyme, and the Angelus bell (it must have been) started to chime, and the monks started singing. It seemed that everything fused into a single moment of intensity: the sun, the scent of the thyme and heather, the buzz of the bees, the bell, the chanting, the warmth of the sun. I felt at one with the universe. I never forgot it, and any pair of those sensations even now brings back the others, and that intense moment, with extraordinary presence.

    I remained a very religious child, and sang in my local church choir up to the age of 11 when I went to Quaker boarding school. I wanted to become confirmed, but my parents (and my school) disapproved. Nonetheless, I went to confirmation classes anyway, but had to drop out of the ceremony. A couple of years later I became a Quaker, but still felt the call of that bell. After I left school, I became confirmed (CoE), again to my parents’ annoyance. My mother was a keen Quaker by that time, although she had always been drawn to the catholic church, as had I (those monks, that bell….) A few years later I met my husband who was a catholic. I did not convert for our wedding, although we had a catholic wedding – I wanted to know more first. The homily was given by a presbyterian minister, an old friend of the family, and we also had a short Quaker period of silence. A year later I joined the catholic church.

    I was a regular mass attender for the following thirty plus years. I read quite a number of books on theology, and the church we went to in Oxford was Blackfriars Priory, full of Thomist scholars, whose homilies were the most amazing theological lectures. I later wrote a children’s book about Heaven which sold quite well, and was translated into several European languages.

    My mother, interestingly, also joined the catholic church, shortly after I did, and was at one time on the panel for interviewing prospective Jesuit priests. She wrote on medical ethics, and we had long discussions about it.

    That may not be “serious” enough for you, Axel, but I hope it is enough to put to bed the notion that anyone who “deconverts” from theism just hasn’t given it “serious thought”. Like many atheists, I have given it extremely serious thought, and gave up my old faith with extreme reluctance.

    The idea that atheist/materialists are desperately trying to avoid difficult questions is simply false. They often reach their position as a result of refusing to avoid the difficult questions they find their faith raises and to which their faith provides no answers.

    One reason I post here (and why I started my own site) is because I think there is deep misunderstanding, and indeed, prejudice, on both sides of the ID divide.

    I hope these posts of mine (as well as the ones others have posted recently, for example, keiths) have done something to bridge that divide. I am certainly grateful for Barry for finding some common ground.

    I’d like us to find more.

  20. 20
    Chesterton says:

    EL
    “So I’d say that a mind is a “thing” generated by a brain serving a body, which are in turn composed of cells (including bacteria!) But a brain and a body have different properties than cells, and a mind has different properties than a brain or a body.”

    After reading this, and your education background I do not understand why you do not realize that your definition of “mind” or “life” is almost the same of the aristotelean definition “mind” and “soul”.
    You call “emergence” at this “things”. This “emergences” has no mass, do not change the properties of the mass, are not energy. Then this “things” are not physical, are not material. Then the “materialistic model of reality” is wrong. “things” that are not material exists.

  21. 21

    Exactly, Chesterton. But I suggest that most people who are labelled (usually by others) as “materialists” have very similar views to mine.

    Certainly immaterial things exist. It’s just that they are generated by material things, and depend upon them for their continued existence.

  22. 22
    Joe says:

    So matter, a material thing, gave rise to energy, an immaterial thing?

  23. 23
    Chesterton says:

    EL

    “Certainly immaterial things exist. It’s just that they are generated by material things, and depend upon them for their continued existence.”

    This is an arbitrary assertion. You can´t affirm that the non maerial things are generated by the materials ones and neither his dependence to continued exixtance.
    First you cannot assert that from the scientific point because inmaterial things are untestable, you have to move outside the “science” and then you have establish the assumptions from where you are analizing the whole reality.

  24. 24

    Clearly, Joe, so-called “materialists” do not deny the existence of energy.

    Indeed the vast majority of materialists regard energy and matter as interchangeable, by means of course of Einstein’s famous equation:

    Energy = mass * the square of the velocity of light.

  25. 25

    And yes, so matter can give rise to energy.

    You may find yourself sunbathing in such energy on holiday.

  26. 26
    Andre says:

    Elizabeth

    I guess then that is where we differ. For me the immaterial control the material. Without the immaterial I suspect material can not exist.

  27. 27

    And by “immaterial” do you include energy?

    Or are you talking about something else?

    Because of course I do not deny the existence of energy, and its capacity to move matter!

  28. 28

    I do hope it is utterly clear to everyone (except Joe, and now perhaps also to him) that “materialists” accept the existence of energy!

    In fact that is one of the reasons some people prefer the term “physicalists” – to make it clear that both matter and energy are included.

  29. 29
    Andre says:

    I’m talking about the laws.

  30. 30

    OK, so could you rephrase your comment? I’m still unclear as to what you mean.

    Are you saying that for you, the immaterial has supervisory control over physical laws? That mind can bend physical laws to its will?

  31. 31

    Barb, thanks for your comments! Some of your questions I can’t answer – it’s just not my field.

    But I do have a comment about this:

    It probably does, but so do Einsteinian and Newtonian physics. Stephen Hawking proposed a “quantum gravity” model for the beginning of the universe, but it’s mostly speculative. It doesn’t represent reality. And scientists, by nature, deal in reality with verifiable results and empirical evidence.

    All scientific models are attempts to represent reality. That’s what they are for. And from those models, predictions are derived, which are tested against new empirical data. The Hartle-Hawking model may fail future tests. But that doesn’t make it a non-scientific model, although it is almost certainly an incomplete one, and may be wrong (as most models are). It is, however, in principle testable; there are also some interesting alternatives.

  32. 32
    Barb says:

    Dr. Liddle, I might agree with you about scientific models, but I’m not sure. A lot of string theory is simply speculation and mathematical equations. There’s literally no proof of these “strings” existing. They might represent reality, or they might not. I’ve been categorizing string theory and quantum mechanics (or physics) as speculative for a while, simply because they don’t seem truly testable to me. Maybe they are truly testable, but a lot of what I read seems to come directly from a Heinlein novel.

  33. 33
    keiths says:

    Barb,

    I’ve been categorizing string theory and quantum mechanics (or physics) as speculative for a while, simply because they don’t seem truly testable to me.

    Quantum mechanics is not only testable, it’s one of the best-confirmed theories in all of science.

    Precision tests of QED:

    Quantum electrodynamics (QED), a relativistic quantum field theory of electrodynamics, is among the most stringently tested theories in physics.
    The most precise and specific tests of QED consist of measurements of the electromagnetic fine structure constant, ?, in various physical systems. Checking the consistency of such measurements tests the theory.
    Tests of a theory are normally carried out by comparing experimental results to theoretical predictions. In QED, there is some subtlety in this comparison, because theoretical predictions require as input an extremely precise value of ?, which can only be obtained from another precision QED experiment. Because of this, the comparisons between theory and experiment are usually quoted as independent determinations of ?. QED is then confirmed to the extent that these measurements of ? from different physical sources agree with each other.
    The agreement found this way is to within ten parts in a billion (10?8), based on the comparison of the electron anomalous magnetic dipole moment and the Rydberg constant from atom recoil measurements as described below. This makes QED one of the most accurate physical theories constructed thus far.

    String theory is a harder nut to crack, because many of its predictions are testable only at impractically high energies. The trick is to find subtle and distinctive implications of string theory that can be observed at reachable energies. There is some hope.

  34. 34
    keiths says:

    Barb,

    I’ve been categorizing string theory and quantum mechanics (or physics) as speculative for a while, simply because they don’t seem truly testable to me.

    Quantum mechanics is not only testable, it’s one of the best-confirmed theories in all of science.

    Precision tests of QED:

    Quantum electrodynamics (QED), a relativistic quantum field theory of electrodynamics, is among the most stringently tested theories in physics.
    The most precise and specific tests of QED consist of measurements of the electromagnetic fine structure constant, ?, in various physical systems. Checking the consistency of such measurements tests the theory.
    Tests of a theory are normally carried out by comparing experimental results to theoretical predictions. In QED, there is some subtlety in this comparison, because theoretical predictions require as input an extremely precise value of ?, which can only be obtained from another precision QED experiment. Because of this, the comparisons between theory and experiment are usually quoted as independent determinations of ?. QED is then confirmed to the extent that these measurements of ? from different physical sources agree with each other.
    The agreement found this way is to within ten parts in a billion (10?8), based on the comparison of the electron anomalous magnetic dipole moment and the Rydberg constant from atom recoil measurements as described below. This makes QED one of the most accurate physical theories constructed thus far.

    String theory is a harder nut to crack, because many of its predictions are testable only at impractically high energies. The trick is to find subtle and distinctive implications of string theory that can be observed at reachable energies. There is some hope.

  35. 35
    TJ says:

    Elizabeth, you say that, “while you affirm the existence of non-material realities they arise because the material”. Is that an accurate representation of your view?

    If so doesn’t the big bang contradict that?

  36. 36

    Hi, TJ:

    I’m not quite sure where you are quoting me from. I’m saying that the mind is “non-material” in the sense that it is an emergent property of material things and processes.

    It does not “reduce” to those things and processes, because the mind is the property of the system as a whole, not of the subsystems the whole consists of.

    To take a very simple example: if you have a tiled pattern, the pattern consists entirely of tiles and grout (what’s the US term – spackle?) But it does not reduce to tiles and grout because of you dismantled it, and kept all the bits, you’d have all the material that constituted the pattern, but the pattern would be gone. In that sense, the pattern is immaterial, and is more than the tiles and grout. But that doesn’t mean that the pattern still exists after you’ve dismantled it. The pattern is an emergent property of the tiles and grout. Its existence not reduce to tiles and grout, but is entirely dependent on the continued existence of the tiles and grout.

    I’m not sure how Big Bang comes into this exactly, or contradicts it. Obviously I don’t know why or how there was a Big Bang! If I had any better idea than anyone else I’d be waiting for my Nobel!

  37. 37
    TJ says:

    Lizzie or do you prefer Elizabeth?

    I actually was paraphrasing what I thought your position was (should have made that clearer). I understand that this is your position in reference to the mind and brain. Although I’m curious of your opinion on NDE’s.

    But I guess as a way of viewing reality (this may not your position) it seems like it’s lacking due to the fact that in the big bang matter seems to arise from non-material “[]” as you like to say.

    So the non-material [] is prior to the material. To me that mildly suggestive of a reality in which non-material is prior to material.

  38. 38

    Lizzie or Elizabeth is fine 🙂

    I don’t know a lot about NDEs, but I find Susan Blackmore’s take reasonably compelling.

    I have not yet been persuaded by anecdotal accounts of impossible knowledge being acquired, and I do find it telling that actual studies involving placing odd objects on high furniture have shown no evidence of acquired knowledge of such objects.

    But then my whole take on consciousness is that we construct it “on the fly” as it were, that it is isn’t a continuous unreeling of experience.

  39. 39

    TJ:

    So the non-material [] is prior to the material. To me that mildly suggestive of a reality in which non-material is prior to material.

    Yes, I suppose. I just think we run out of language when faced with the topic of non-existence. Hence my quasi-Thomist (and I guess Wittgensteinian) stance!

  40. 40
    TJ says:

    Lizzie,

    I guess I don’t view non-material as non-existence. I mean I think the word “non-existence” would pretty much exhaust all there is to say the non-existence. I just see the two as different.

  41. 41
    Chesterton says:

    “It does not “reduce” to those things and processes, because the mind is the property of the system as a whole, not of the subsystems the whole consists of.”

    As is not a physical property you have to consider the posibility that “emergencies” are not the properties of matter but things the you can detect when related with mater.

    ” The other thing is that I am really quite impressed with some of the OoL research that is going on, and I think it looks promising.”

    Seems that after trying to put your faith in different places you ended having faith in science. I´ll pray God give you a live long enough to lose also that faith.
    As biochemist I would enjoy discussing what you find so promising in OoL, but I prefer to make you an observation. Also if this “promising” research can demostrate carefuly how from molecules that we suppose were present on the earth billions of years ago you can reach a chemical replicator,that will not be enough to solve the OoL. Because there will still remain to explain the “emergence” of life. Still there is no answer how in a replicator life “emerge”.

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