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David Berlinski and The Devil’s Delusion

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David Berlinski is my favorite secular Jew and quintessential iconoclast. How could one not adore a guy who is a mathematician, no advocate of any religion, a Darwin skeptic, and phenomenally eloquent in both English and French, with a great penchant for ironic humor?

His latest opus is The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions, due out in April.

Militant atheism is on the rise. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens have dominated bestseller lists with books denigrating religious belief as dangerous foolishness. And these authors are merely the leading edge of a far larger movement–one that now includes much of the scientific community.

“The attack on traditional religious thought,” writes David Berlinski in The Devil’s Delusion, “marks the consolidation in our time of science as the single system of belief in which rational men and women might place their faith, and if not their faith, then certainly their devotion.”

A secular Jew, Berlinski nonetheless delivers a biting defense of religious thought. An acclaimed author who has spent his career writing about mathematics and the sciences, he turns the scientific community’s cherished skepticism back on itself, daring to ask and answer some rather embarrassing questions:

Has anyone provided a proof of God’s inexistence?
Not even close.

Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here?
Not even close.

Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life?
Not even close.

Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought?
Close enough.

Has rationalism in moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral?
Not close enough.

Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good?
Not even close to being close.

Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy of thought and opinion within the sciences?
Close enough.

Does anything in the sciences or in their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational?
Not even ballpark.

Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt?
Dead on.

Berlinski does not dismiss the achievements of western science. The great physical theories, he observes, are among the treasures of the human race. But they do nothing to answer the questions that religion asks, and they fail to offer a coherent description of the cosmos or the methods by which it might be investigated.

This brilliant, incisive, and funny book explores the limits of science and the pretensions of those who insist it can be–indeed must be–the ultimate touchstone for understanding our world and ourselves.

58 Replies to “David Berlinski and The Devil’s Delusion

  1. 1
    chuckhumphry says:

    I cannot wait to get my hands on Berlinski book! I’ve always enjoyed reading his thoughts on ID science; the overarching message of his work is that complexity cannot arise out of simplicity.

  2. 2
    mattghg says:

    Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought?
    Close enough.

    […]

    Has secularism in the terrible twentieth century been a force for good?
    Not even close to being close.”

    *Chuckle*

  3. 3
    gpuccio says:

    I am really looking forward too. Berlinsky is pure intellectual joy, and supreme fun.

    I believe this will be the best item in the “Delusions” series, although the second one, the “Dawkins delusion” was absolutely not bad. That shows how sometimes a series started bad can really improve as it goes on…

  4. 4
    StuartHarris says:

    Berlinski’s book will surely be great. So far, the best book in the “Delusions series” I’ve read has been The Irrational Atheist by Vox Day. He neatly takes apart the modern atheists one by one. I haven’t seen any discussion yet at UD on Day’s book.

  5. 5
    JAB says:

    Has anyone provided a proof of God’s inexistence?
    Not even close.

    I believe this is a negative proof, and if so, it is a logical fallacy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_proof After all, no one has provided a proof of Satan so perhaps he doesn’t exist, either. Closer to home, no one has provided a proof that leprechauns, unicorns, and ice-cream factories on Jupiter’s moons don’t exist, so perhaps we should make room for those things in our textbooks as well.

    Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life?
    Not even close.

    If the universe is fine-tuned for life, then why is life in the universe so rare?

  6. 6
    PannenbergOmega says:

    JAB, I don’t think you understand.

    “If the universe is fine-tuned for life, then why is life in the universe so rare?”

    This is what the Judeo-Christian tradition (and Islamic) has been saying for centuries. That God created the earth and humanity as unique. He could have created a universe full of life ala Star Trek, and maybe He did. But a unique earth actually supports the Biblical tradition.

    Didn’t you ever go to Sunday School?

  7. 7
    PannenbergOmega says:

    “There are in Darwin’s scheme no biotic laws, no Bauplan as in German natural philosophy, no special creation, no elan vital, no divine guidance or transcendental forces. The theory functions simply as a description of matter in one of its modes, and living creatures are said to be something that the gods of law indifferently sanction and allow.”

    – David Berlinski, The Deniable Darwin

  8. 8
    Daniel King says:

    Natural philosophy, kissin’ cousin to natural theology.

  9. 9
    GilDodgen says:

    Has anyone provided a proof of God’s inexistence?
    Not even close.

    I believe this is a negative proof, and if so, it is a logical fallacy.

    But this is the claim of some of the “new atheists” like Richard Dawkins, that science has demonstrated that God does not exist.

    If the universe is fine-tuned for life, then why is life in the universe so rare?

    The universe must be precisely as it is for life to exist. The abundance of life in it is completely irrelevant.

  10. 10
    JPCollado says:

    JAB wrote:

    “no one has provided a proof that leprechauns, unicorns, and ice-cream factories on Jupiter’s moons don’t exist”

    Mr. (or Ms.) JAB,

    Are there people living today that believe in such things? Are you saying that such beliefs are comparable to well-defined and historically established religions like Judaism or Christianity?

  11. 11
    JPCollado says:

    JAB wrote:

    [Berlinski]- Has anyone provided a proof of God’s inexistence? Not even close

    I believe this is a negative proof, and if so, it is a logical fallacy.”

    In reality, there is no fallacy being committed. In order for there to be a logical error, Berlinski would have to antecedently assert the existence of God as part of the argument. Since Berlinski is neither affirming nor denying theism, his logical construct (by way of a question) is perfectly valid.

  12. 12

    (9) Gil I agree.

    If life were to be shown to be common as the extrasolar planets we’ve found and flow naturally from natural evolution of planets and star formation, we’d be hearing about how blasted easy it is to have life pop into existence.

    So far as we know it IS rare and thus the universe is therefore not finely tuned?

    Yeah–you can’t have this contradiction pie both ways.

    Now having said that, there IS an answer to this Swinburn/Craig/Ross notion of the fine tunedness of the Cosmos: The oddsmakers don’t get the math. While we might have been different if the continents were still a big clump, if no moon orbited the earth to make tidal action, and if the planet were encrusted in ice, this does not mean we’d not be here whatsoever. Just different. A new theory is that life itself may have origins not in some “warm little pond” but layers of ice, after all.

    AS to negative proofs: We’ll it IS invalid to say that something cannot be DISPROVED. You can’t do this, any more than I can’t DISPROVE the existence of Ramathar, the Great Dragon of fire in my garage. Maybe he has myriad ways of hiding himself and dosen’t need to eat but every few thousand years. The apparitions and ghosts and specters and UFO’s you hear about on late night radio suffer this same lack of storytime fun supported by hard evidence.

  13. 13
    PannenbergOmega says:

    Hi Daniel King,

    If you are interested in learning more about German natural philosophy. I believe Friedrich Schelling and Goethe were it’s main advocates.

    “Bauplan” translated from German into English means “body plan”. German Natural Philosophy proposes that, though organisms on the surface appear different, there is really a general body plan or blueprint at the core level.

    Interesting stuff.

  14. 14
    PannenbergOmega says:

    Isn’t that what happened during the Cambrian Information Explosion?

    New “Bauplan” came into existence?

  15. 15
    SteveB says:

    Hi JAB,

    OK, you scored a point, albeit a trivial one. The original quote should have said something like, “Have the sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life on earth?” So yes, in spite of Carl Sagan’s confident predictions and SETI’s diligent searching, I agree; life is indeed rare.

    And yet, this misses the larger point. I commend to you the book Just Six Numbers, written by Martin Rees, who has all the right secular credentials. The book discusses 6 basic physical constants and details the fantastic tolerances that must be in place for life as we know it to exist. The interesting thing is that none of Rees’ facts are in dispute. It’s the interpretation that varies.

    I myself am inclined to conclude that such precision exists for a reason, and that precision engineering of a unified system producing a specific functional result suggests a damn smart engineer. Doesn’t prove it, but the inference seems reasonable to me.

    Before you scoff, consider the “scientific” alternative, represented by the Library Journal reviewer on Amazon, who says in part: “Rees suggests that these numbers were set shortly after the big bang and could well have been different. Indeed, there may be a multitude of other universes, forever inaccessible to us, in which they are different. Thus, with a huge choice of possible universes, one must exist that could support intelligent beings who can observe and question.”

    Notice that:
    -the numbers “could have been different”–although there is no way of knowing this,
    -there “may be a multitude of other universes”–for which there is not one shred of actual evidence,
    -the alleged other universes are “forever inaccessible to us”–making use of any of the tools that science usually employs impossible, and
    -the conclusion of “a huge choice of possible universes” hangs on its own without any supporting data whatsoever.

    And these guys claim that such WAGs are actually science. It’d be laughable if it weren’t so sad.

  16. 16
    Daniel King says:

    Not exactly. That’s the geologic epoch in which the relevant fossils have been found. When did those Baupläne come into existence? Possibly even earlier…

  17. 17
    PannenbergOmega says:

    So what you are saying is that the Bauplan of the Cambrian evolved from earlier life?

  18. 18
    Dembskian says:

    Daniel King

    Isn’t what you are describing Darwinism?

  19. 19
    bFast says:

    Daniel King, “That’s the geologic epoch in which the relevant fossils have been found. When did those Baupläne come into existence?”

    How could we know if the conjecture that the cambrian exposion of the phyla actually happened then, or only became visible then? We look at the record of pre-cambrian fossils. Precambran fossils actually do exist. A small multi-cellular animal has been located in the precambrian. It is not a member of any existing philum however. A lot of “the cambrian stuff isn’t there but other stuff is there so the picture is in focus” has been found. The logical conclusion? The phila that we know all came into existance during a 5 million year long period in the early cambrian.

    Alas “That’s the geologic epoch in which the relevant fossils have been found” is wishful thinking on the darwinist’s part. After all, Darwin was convince that prior to the cambrian, the earth had to be “teaming with life”. Well, it wasn’t. And it wasn’t just because we don’t have a clear image of the pre-cambrian. The modern phila didn’t exist back then — plain and simple.

  20. 20
    Daniel King says:

    Alas “That’s the geologic epoch in which the relevant fossils have been found” is wishful thinking on the darwinist’s part. After all, Darwin was convince that prior to the cambrian, the earth had to be “teaming with life”. Well, it wasn’t. And it wasn’t just because we don’t have a clear image of the pre-cambrian. The modern phila didn’t exist back then — plain and simple.

    Alas.

    If we don’t have a clear image of the pre-cambrian (or whatever), then how do you know what you claim to know?

  21. 21
    Dembskian says:

    Alas.

    Daniel King. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

  22. 22
    jjcassidy says:

    JAB: “I believe this is a negative proof, and if so, it is a logical fallacy.”

    JPCollado: “In reality, there is no fallacy being committed. In order for there to be a logical error, Berlinski would have to antecedently assert the existence of God as part of the argument. Since Berlinski is neither affirming nor denying theism, his logical construct (by way of a question) is perfectly valid.”

    JP,

    It’s amazing that people can link a site like Wikipedia, and not even read what it says and assess how well it applies. I think it’s part of the same mentality that wrote this page which gets linked to as it is in someway authoritative. The annoying thing is that this is simply a form of Argumentum ad Ignorantium. Why it is that we need to have fallacies eternally renamed by those who haven’t studied enough logic to know the name is beyond me!

    Compare the “fallacies”:
    an example of negative proof is:
    “X is true because there is no proof that X is false.”
    Now the page “refers” to the page on Ignorantium, which gives this example:
    “You can’t prove God doesn’t exist, so God exists”.

    That’s why there is no surprise in finding that the poster that links Wikipedia as an authority that doesn’t even know the field well enough to know that those fallacies already have names, can’t even assess whether Berlinski’s point is “God is true”.

    What Berlinski is essentially questioning is how you can speak on authority from Science when there is no proof. If you just throw the “Negative proof” flag or even “Ignorantium” flag, then you don’t understand the issue.

    I love how you said that no fallacy was committed, I have been beating this drum for years and years. All it has to do is *sound* something like a fallacy, and out comes the yellow flag (reference to American Football, if anybody’s wondering).

  23. 23
    bFast says:

    Daniel King:

    If we don’t have a clear image of the pre-cambrian (or whatever), then how do you know what you claim to know?

    We DO!

  24. 24
    Dembskian says:

    bFast. You and I both know you’re right and D King is wrong.

    I guess we should just take a deep breath, and move on.

  25. 25
    Frost122585 says:

    Jab said-

    “Has anyone provided a proof of God’s inexistence?
    Not even close.

    I believe this is a negative proof, and if so, it is a logical fallacy.”

    No, A negative proof is not a logical fallacy. Think of one of the greatest proofs of all time “Godel’s proof of mathematical axiomatic incompletness.”

    What the wikipedia article is tlaking about is impossbility- Yet logic is incapable of of proving ANYTHING as being 100% possible or 100% impossible! — as a consequence of mathematical incompleteness logic will always be incomplete as well-

    Thus the point that you need to grasp here is not about “impossiblity”- sicience does not need to prove God imipossible just merely “improbable” or “irrational.” Sadly for Dawkins and the rest of the crowed, science has, if taken in all of its entirty, shown the belife in a God or designer if you like- to be quite rational and probable- more rational and probable than any other explanation/s to date.

    What Berlinski was speaking to is what dembski correctly calls “scientific superflousness.” – menaing that if science can explain everyhting without a God or designer then the usefulness ofthe concept dissapears.

    No, nothing can prove ANYTHING, negative or postive beyound any shadow of a possible doubt- but the point is science isnt even close to making these concepts archaic or superflous – thought it demands that we fallow its negative-proof based anti-faith… blindly.

  26. 26
    Mapou says:

    Frost122585: Yet logic is incapable of of proving ANYTHING as being 100% possible or 100% impossible!

    Is there a proof for this statement or is it the only exception to the rule? 🙂

    I love self-referential statements. I mean, how do you prove that a logical system is incomplete if the proof is itself part of the system?

  27. 27

    […] Lastly, there is a book coming out this April called “The Devil’s Delusion” by the eloquent and witty (and non-religious) David Berlinski. I think I’ve seen the cover picture, and it seems like it may be the kind of thing that is attractive to crowds that would otherwise never touch the thing (cool looking and not something you would expect on a book defending things associated with religion and probably religion itself). For a good summary of the book and what it’s about, click here. […]

  28. 28
    Upright BiPed says:

    I hate to just repeat what has already been said…..but….I CAN”T WAIT FOR THIS BOOK!

  29. 29
    Dembskian says:

    My two favorite religious Jews are Ben Stein and Jesus of Nazareth. 🙂

  30. 30
    Frost122585 says:

    Mapou says

    “Is there a proof for this statement or is it the only exception to the rule?

    I love self-referential statements. I mean, how do you prove that a logical system is incomplete if the proof is itself part of the system?”

    This is not an exception the rule because it could be disproven- Godel’s theorm may be one day- but until then it is logical to go where the most solid reasoning takes you especially when intution (which cant be tested) points in that direction as well.

    How do we know what 2+2 is, or what it means? First we need to define 2- then we need to define 1- then perhaps 1/2-

    In the end it is all based upon axiomatic concepts that originate in side of the intuition-

    These cannot be touched unless they are formalized in such a way to sway ones inutions through formal logic-

    Godel did this with incompleteness and until some one refutes this, to beleive contray is simply an inuitive belief-
    Or what wittenstein would call “that which cannot be spoken.”

  31. 31
    Frost122585 says:

    To understand why logic is deficient one must first understand what logic essentially is. Logic is the attempt to formalize intuitive reasoning- to make it concrete. Yet the intuition is limited and reason is only the natural mode by which we connect the data to form an understanding.

    Logic therefore is always the end product of a series of events within the manifold. Therefore it does not and cannot contain all of the information that it required to design it. Logic is like a computer program that is burnt onto a disk- as soon as it is copied from the mind onto the cd it looses its precise original form and it changes from the sum total of all of the parts it took to construct it into a synthetic construction of those constituencies.

    A MUSICAL SONG THAT IS INSCRIBED ONTO A CD IS NOT THE FULLNESS OF THE EXPIERENCE THE ARTISTS HAD WHEN DESIGNING IT.

    Formal reason therefore always takes a new shape from that which it was originally conceived- thus the logic that is played with the new reasoning has not addressed that reasoning in the fullness of its claim. If the logic could address this newly born reasoning it would have something to say about the information that was lost when the reasoning became formal- yet the logic has no information, knowledge or proof of the meta-reasoning of this lost information inherent in it unless it can be understood apriori.

    If the manifold can understand the full nature of the formalization of the reasoning from its constituent parts apriori then it should not exist in the first place because it will have nothing purposive or useful to say about the logical proof to begin with except that the proof is true— making the proof unnecessary because the logical consequence of the meta-reasoning was already inherent in the rational faculties of the manifold. One therefore is forced to concede the reality that the apriori faculties of reason are universal and that they would thus only merely have to come into contact with the data or meta-reasoning that the logical proof was deduced from to immediately reach the truism or tautology. Thus the idea that logic is complete with all of the parts it requires to exist in the first place is improbable unless of course the bodies doing the reasoning process possess infinite clairvoyance.

    The intuitive bottom line is that we cannot always- in fact usually- understand how one came to their formal reasoning because we cant read their minds- more over we cant experience their thoughts exactly as they did in the same order etc- in fact often we don’t even know how we came to the concepts we have such as the concept of the number 2- and so there will always be an informational loss in the mathematical and physical sense and usually this amounts to major differences in the meaning of the logical proof- and thus an incompleteness of all things as they unify into the manifold- logic cannot deliver a 100% proof but it can give us a very- very strong inference.

  32. 32
    Mapou says:

    Frost122585: Godel did this with incompleteness and until some one refutes this, to beleive contray is simply an inuitive belief-
    Or what wittenstein would call “that which cannot be spoken.”

    Remember that Godel was the brilliant logician who, 59 years ago, announced to the world that Einstein’s general theory of relativity allows time travel to the past via “closed time-like curves.”

    Of course, nobody dared to explain to poor ailing Kurt that nothing can move at all in Einstein’s spacetime. Heck, nobody said anything to Einstein (Godel’s best friend at Princeton) either, except Sir Karl Popper (of falsifiability fame). The impossibility of motion in spacetime is the reason that Sir Karl called spacetime “Einstein’s block universe in which nothing happens”. He was very, very clever in the way he framed it though, so as not to offend too many people.

    You just gotta love Popper. He somehow managed to tell his friend Einstein and spacetime/time-travel fanatics everywhere that they were all full of it, without them even realizing that they were being made fun of. 😀

    So much for the often repeated myth that mass causes spacetime to curve, which, in turn, causes masses to gravitate, i.e., to follow their geodesics in spacetime.

    (See Popper’s ‘Conjectures and Refutations’. It’s worth a read. Or do a Google search for ‘Einstein’s block universe’.)

    As for Godel’s famous incompleteness theorem, I would not buy it with somebody else’s nickel. Sorry.

  33. 33
    Jason Rennie says:

    Sounds like an interesting read. Although I think I disagree with this statement.

    “Militant atheism is on the rise. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens have dominated bestseller lists with books denigrating religious belief as dangerous foolishness”

    I’m not sure this is true. I’m actually inclined to think that “militant atheism” is in decline rather than on the rise. Its tone is getting increasingly shrill and irrational. This is not the behavior of an idea that is in ascendancy, it is the behavior of an idea in decline and on the defensive.

    50 or 100 years ago, i’d agree, on the rise, but today, not so much.

  34. 34
    JPCollado says:

    Yeah jjcassidy, I totally agree.

    And the ironic thing about this whole thing is that Berlinski, as a non-theist, will not make a positive argument in favor of a position he does not believe in, because to do so will be contrary to reason itself and one’s own conscience.

    Another thing to have in mind is that of all of the classical arguments postulated by respectable theists I know of not one ever using ‘negative proof’ as part of the arsenal for debating the existence of God.

  35. 35
    Dembskian says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Berlinski taking up some theistic/deistic position. Like Anthony Flew.

    Maybe he already has. Can’t wait to read the book!

  36. 36
    Frost122585 says:

    Mapou, thanks so much for that interesting take or Popper and his view of Einsteinian space time and his theory of gravity as it pertains to general relativity- I am going to study this problem and then get back to you-

    But you really probably ought to give Gödel his due for incompleteness-

    What he said was that conceptually there a major problems with LOGIC since there are paradoxes- then since mathematical logic was designed to make intuitive math formal and hence perfectly verifiable- all he had to do was show that the system used (the logic) was inadequate in one case and then he could claim incompleteness for all logical axiomatically deduced systems because if the perfect system was not perfect in every case then it might not be perfect in any case- which brings back the question of intuition-

    And the physics of the universe are simply that when we are dealing with intuition the chance of connecting it to a formal system that is universally true and has self contained verifiability- is intuitively and yet surprisingly logically – not.

    It was Wittgenstein’s saying that “That which we cannot speak of we must remain silent” and Wittgenstein’s belief that “philosophy is ultimately the critique of language” that brought Gödel to the realization that “The more I think about language the more amazed I am that anyone can understand what someone else is saying.”

    Gödel was also a Platonist being that he believed in the ultimate truth of mathematics existing in reality- to such an extent that one time he met a young aspiring astrophysicists and asked him what he was studying and when the physicist said “physical sciences Gödel replied “I don’t believe in physics.”

    This superb intuition led Gödel to try late in his life to prove that the laws of physics are apriori! I have often thought about this – how using just ink on a page can we feel and understand an authors thoughts and feelings?

    I have often thought that maybe all knowledge might be partly written on our DNA so that at some point the intuitions become unlocked and part of the consciousness- if DNA is encrypted with this form of conceptual information that is read by our consciousness – then that would be a clear maker of design- also the concept of the spirit might be what allows us that personal almost psychic connection with “dead physical” information.

    Gödel was also a skeptic of evolution one time saying “I don’t believe in evolution and neither did Stalin and he was a smart man” – of course Gödel when he was living in New Jersey at Princeton voted for Eisenhower and so was no fan of Stalin but he was implying cleverly that even the self declared irreligious left– that can think– have problems with Darwinism.

    Of course we need to keep in mind here that Gödel was ultimately declared nuts having many trips to the mental hospital for inpatient therapy-

    In the end he thought that people were poising his food because he knew too much and the secret society was out to get rid of him for his enlightenment and exposure to secret knowledge. He died of starvation because he wouldn’t eat because of his paranoia.

  37. 37
    Dembskian says:

    Wasn’t Stalin a Lemarkian or something?

  38. 38
    Dembskian says:

    This is interesting. http://creationontheweb.com/content/view/5626/

    J.I. Packer likes the movie.

  39. 39
    Dembskian says:

    *Lamarckian*

    Whooops. That is embarrassing!

  40. 40
    Dembskian says:

    Poor Gödel.

    Alot of times the most brilliant of us, are the ones that suffer the most.
    Perhaps because they are so far removed from what we commonly regard as normal. Actually Berlinski treats Godel and Alan Turing (another eccentric) sympathetically.

    Check out William James Sidis. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_James_Sidis

  41. 41
    Mapou says:

    Frost122585,

    One of the reasons that I doubt the validity of Gödel’s theorem is that it is self-referential. You cannot use logic to prove the incompleteness of a logical system because the proof is itself part of the system. I have serious reservations about other aspects of the theorem but I think that this is sufficient to nullify it, in my view. I realize that my opinion on the matter does not amount to beans but hey, that’s all I’ve got. 🙂

    As an aside, it is known that Gödel was a lot less confident about the correctness of his famous theorem than most people think. As far as his mental illness is concerned, there are rumors in the conspiracy mill that he was indeed being poisoned in order to keep him from revealing what he really thought of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Apparently, after announcing that spacetime allows time travel to the past, Gödel quickly came to the same conclusion as Popper, i.e., that spacetime is a block universe that precludes change altogether. I read about this a while ago. I’ll see if I can find some references.

  42. 42
    Frost122585 says:

    Mapou,

    You cannot use logic to prove the incompleteness of a logical system because the proof is itself part of the system. I have serious reservations about other aspects of the theorem but I think that this is sufficient to nullify it, in my view.

    I think that you misunderstand what the theorem said. It did not disprove logic within itself- it created a mathematical logical contradiction- this intuitively undermines the perfection of logic as a tool or system by which all things can be completely understood-

    It basically said that there are serious problems with the ultimate truth of logic- that it contains within its system irrationality- or that logic as the ultimate verification system was a failure- and since math already was a failure for being based largely upon intuition- Gödel claims the proof of incompleteness of arithmetic –

    Now his theorem is 100 (inductivly speaking 99.9%) certian to be correct with the rules of logic- yet as i stated in the beginning-this contradiction nonetheless showed that formalistic reasoning (as we know it) is incapable of capturing axiomatic truth because it is deficient in its ability to capture all truth or come to consistent truth- which leaves open the door to the question of how can we trust anything it says-

    One is forced then to come to one of two conclusions- either logic is flawed and incomplete as Gödel believed and showed- or logical paradoxes are something that we must just accept- either was the proof stands as correct in its arithmetic and axioms as it fallows all of the rules of formal logic- the conclusion that one draws about reality from his proof is personal and intuitive but the paradox remains.

    It makes sense to me because I feel that God would never allow man to understand everything completely or perfectly through some formal system- the universe physically seems so diverse and man so different that I cant imagine a formal system that would be capable of capturing all truths. Yet, the bible claims that the truth of all things would one day be revealed-

    “Everything which has been hidden will eventually be brought into the light.”

    The only question then becomes whether that knowledge will be intuitive or formal- Or if those words then loose their independent meaning.

  43. 43
    Frost122585 says:

    Also i hope that you can find some information on Gode’s doubts of his theory- id be interested- and i cant find a decent link explaing the philosophy behind Popper’s objection to relativity– im also very interested about this as well.

  44. 44
    Frost122585 says:

    Also I though that i might one up your view on incompleteness-

    “You cannot use logic to prove the incompleteness of a logical system because the proof is itself part of the system.”

    Can you prove this within a logical system- if so how? 😉

    If you can please publish it – for you will be forever famous.

  45. 45
    PannenbergOmega says:

    Dave Berlinski (can I call him Dave?), seems to be a fan of Godel.

    I wonder if DB is a closet Platonist?

  46. 46
    Mapou says:

    Frost122585,

    All I am saying is that one cannot use a logical system to prove that the system cannot be trusted because anything you claim within that system becomes suspect, including the “proof” that the system cannot be trusted. Self-reference is the main problem with Gödel’s theorem. This should be obvious, no? I mean, one does not need to be a rocket scientist to get it, does one? 🙂

    I would go into it a lot more but I’m really burned out on Gödel. All I will add is that I believe that Gödel is to logic what Darwin is to the origin of species. Any criticism of their ideas is frowned upon by the self-appointed cognoscenti.

    One should also note that Gödel’s theorem has not contributed anything to the advance of science and technology (that I know of). I fail to see why it is considered to be such an important contribution to science. I smell a fish and a hidden agenda in there somewhere.

    As far as Popper’s objection is concerned, let me say again that Popper was very careful to phrase his criticism so as not to make it appear like he was directly criticizing Einstein. Nobody can criticise Einstein and command respect within the spacetime physics community (or get knighted, as Popper was). Here’s a quote from his “Conjectures and Refutations”.

    At the same time I realized that such myths may be developed, and become testable; that historically speaking all — or very nearly all — scientific theories originate from myths, and that a myth may contain important anticipations of scientific theories. Examples are Empedocles’ theory of evolution by trial and error, or Parmenides’ myth of the unchanging block universe in which nothing ever happens and which, if we add another dimension, becomes Einstein’s block universe (in which, too, nothing ever happens, since everything is, four-dimensionally speaking, determined and laid down from the beginning). I thus felt that if a theory is found to be non-scientific, or “metaphysical” (as we might say), it is not thereby found to be unimportant, or insignificant, or “meaningless,” or “nonsensical.” But it cannot claim to be backed by empirical evidence in the scientific sense — although it may easily be, in some genetic sense, the “result of observation.”

    Nobody can read this and accuse Popper of saying that Einstein’s spacetime is nonsensical. However, if you are willing to read between the lines, that’s exactly what Popper is saying:

    If we did exist in spacetime, as Einstein clearly claimed, then nothing could move or change. However, since we observe that things do in fact change, then it follows that spacetime is no better than a myth: bodies do not follow a trajectory in spacetime and they do not curve spacetime and spacetime does not affect the motion of bodies. In other words, all the geometrical interpretations of gravity are just crackpot nonsense and GR is just so much Ptolemaic epicycles devoid of any real physics.

    Better yet, anybody (e.g., Stephen Hawking (black holes), Kip Thorne (wormholes), Carl Sagan, John Kramer, David Deutsch (infinite universes and quantum computing), etc…) who claims that they understand GR and that GR does not forbid time travel is a crackpot and a liar in my book, not worthy of being taken seriously. 😀

  47. 47
    PannenbergOmega says:

    Have you guys ever heard the song ‘Dark Horse’ by George Harrison? That is the ANTHEM of these brave heroes of ID!

    I can’t imagine, the pain they suffer through for their ideas. G-d bless these men.

  48. 48
    PannenbergOmega says:

    Lord help me, I’m a Calvinist.
    The very fact that you are looking at this website, is an indication that the Lord, our G-d, is working in you.

    G-d bless ALL OF YOU.

  49. 49
    Frost122585 says:

    “All I am saying is that one cannot use a logical system to prove that the system cannot be trusted because anything you claim within that system becomes suspect, including the “proof” that the system cannot be trusted. Self-reference is the main problem with Gödel’s theorem. This should be obvious, no? I mean, one does not need to be a rocket scientist to get it, does one?

    Ok, im not having any problem understanding your criticism of Gödel- even though I am not a rocket scientist.

    To say that if one finds a contradiction in a system that it cannot be representative of the character of that system is moot and superfluous because it would be no different than saying that if the system is always on the mark and verifiable it cannot be taken seriously because it is always good and has no flaws so how can we trust a system that cant be wrong or proven wrong? Would that make any sense? No.

    In other words the character of the system is… the character of the system. And Gödel proved that logic and arithmetic is incomplete- through his theorem

    As I said before one can take the Wittgenstein view and say that all he did was form a useless paradox that was little more than a trick of the mind- (as you seem to elude to in your point about its contributions to science and philosophy) that is the theorem “said nothing” that makes any sense.

    But I think that the concept of “the set of all sets that do not contain themselves” is a big conceptual problem for logic and hence I maintain that logic is incomplete and more importantly “flawed” as a tool to represent and understand reality as it actually is- formally.

    But you i think are seeing past the point of Gödel’s proof-

    You seem very smart Mapou and i think that your view has a certain` degree of truth to it- i also share your frustration with the intolerance of the orthodoxy in entertaining new ideas- and i want you to know that that is why I have entertained your’s though i certainly disagree with your interpretation, rejection and view of Gödel- yet, I do not dismiss it. In the end your sensibilities could be right- but not for the present.

    On the Popper critique check this out…

    http://elm.eeng.dcu.ie/~tkpw/t.....0000000000

    Here the author, who is a lawyer… talks about the verifications of Einstein’s theories and explains why he think the experiments were either misinterpreted or neglected the scrutiny they deserved.

    I find his critique of Relativity to be very plausible based on the logic he evokes- yet like conspiracy theories I would need to hear the debunker of the debunker before I could accept that a perfectly rational theory (as even popper admits) that is accepted by almost everyone, is somehow very mistaken and wrong—

    The critique is very god but my intuition tells me that if these charges were true Einstein would have been killed along time ago- I for one don’t think of Einstein as one of the elitist intellectual useful idiots and therefore i think they would have destroyed him if he was wrong.

    Darwin on the other hand who is fully accepted by this crowed — since I first read of his theory in 9th grade biology- thought that it made no sense. How could all of this just happen by chance- what guided it- what started it … Etc ..etc

    So Einstein, gets the pass from me for now- but thank you a lot for bringing to light this interesting critique of his theory- that I had never before read or heard of.

  50. 50
    Mapou says:

    I am sorry that I cannot find a reference to an article I read a long time ago in which Gödel is said to have lamented over the probability that his famous theorem was a mere illusion of his deranged mind. He apparently was agreeing with Wittgenstein’s criticism.

    The way I see it, if Gödel was right, then any self-contained system, including the universe in which we exist, is either incomplete or inconsistent. Somehow, I find that very hard to accept. It seems to me that Gödel’s theorem is a very clever way for the denialists to claim that there is no such thing as absolute truth in reality. The ancient serpent is a very subtle beast indeed. And an accomplished liar, no doubt.

    At any rate, I glanced over the link (thanks) about Popper and Einstein (I’ll read it in full later). I would like to comment on something that I find odd in it. Popper is given as an Einstein admirer who publically complimented Einstein on the falsifiability (testability) of relativity. However, in an earlier book “Objective Knowledge” (1966), Popper wrote the following in a paragraph titled “Realism and Subjectivism in Physics”:

    There was also another intrusion of the subject, or of the observer, when Einstein brought in the observer in a number of imaginary thought experiments intended to elucidate relativity; but this is a field from which the observer was exorcised, slowly but steadily, by Einstein himself.

    I think that Popper’s supposed admiration for Einstein was not as solid as many would suppose. Sir Karl had a clever way of taking oblique pot shots at his “friend” and getting away with it. 😀

    As you can see, I am very skeptical of big science and I take everything that comes out of it with a grain of salt. I find so many things wrong with organized science that I marvel that the entire house of cards in the air that it has built itself over the years has not come crumbling down years ago.

    I’ll conclude with one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite critics of big science:

    And a more detailed analysis of successful moves in the game of science (‘successful’ from the point of view of the scientists themselves) shows indeed that there is a wide range of freedom that demands a multiplicity of ideas and permits the application of democratic procedures (ballot-discussion-vote) but that is actually closed by power politics and propaganda. This is where the fairy-tale of a special method assumes its decisive function. It conceals the freedom of decision which creative scientists and the general public have even inside the most rigid and the most advanced parts of science by a recitation of ‘objective’ criteria and it thus protects the big-shots (Nobel Prize winners; heads of laboratories, of organizations such as the AMA, of special schools; ‘educators’; etc.) from the masses (laymen; experts in non-scientific fields; experts in other fields of science): only those citizens count who were subjected to the pressures of scientific institutions (they have undergone a long process of education), who succumbed to these pressures (they have passed their examinations), and who are now firmly convinced of the truth of the fairy-tale. This is how scientists have deceived themselves and everyone else about their business, but without any real disadvantage: they have more money, more authority, more sex appeal than they deserve, and the most stupid procedures and the most laughable results in their domain are surrounded with an aura of excellence. It is time to cut them down in size, and to give them a more modest position in society.

    From ‘Against Method’ by Paul Feyerabend

    Sorry for the long post.

  51. 51
    Mapou says:

    Frost122585: To say that if one finds a contradiction in a system that it cannot be representative of the character of that system is moot and superfluous because it would be no different than saying that if the system is always on the mark and verifiable it cannot be taken seriously because it is always good and has no flaws so how can we trust a system that cant be wrong or proven wrong? Would that make any sense? No.

    No. Sorry.

  52. 52
    Frost122585 says:

    What I was trying to say in the above quote is that if the system- logic or arithmetic- did not have contradictions or paradoxes in its formation and was universally deemed “true” – then how can we say that it is true? If, by your own standards you cant have self reference? How can we deduce logic and arithmetic to be complete ever- if that completeness comes from within the system- that is if the system’s results are understood to show completeness.

    “You cannot use logic to prove the incompleteness of a logical system because the proof is itself part of the system.

    Then how logically can you prove completeness of a logical system?

    If you cant use logic at all to critique the formation of the system- and that means that logic is inherently illogical. If it is inherently illogical then there is no logical reasoning by your standards to dismiss incompleteness- because there are no formal rules, ruling it out.

    By your same mode of reasoning you would not be able to conclude the completeness of any system since its completeness comes from within the system itself. You are just eliminating the possibility of incompleteness apriori. That’s Your intuition and your prerogative but I fee like you are the one acting like the elitist intellectual elitists dismissing a real logical proof based dimply upon personal sense and feelings. It seems to me under your system of thinking – that if logic cant be used to critique itself – it can never be logically complete at all- your meta-reasoning, not mine.

    It makes a lot more sense to me to just let the logical system stand on its own two feet and see where it takes us- and if no contradiction in paradox occurs – then its completeness is intact. But as we know Godel has proved otherwise.

    There is no line of reasoning to me that would constitute the law- that you cant use logic to prove its own incompleteness.

    The only argument you use to undermine his flawless logic is that by proving logic incomplete one then has to consider his proof incomplete and therefore —> “dismiss it.” But one should not logically dismiss it because the sensible way and ironically “logical” way to deal with it is to allow one to “have doubt” about “the completeness” of his theorem. This resultant thinking constitutes the point that he was trying to make. That “man is not the measure of all things” but that in fact arithmetic was a reality of its own separate from the confines of human formal control and domination. Platonism.

    Maybe one day logic will be fixed by some anti-Gödel- in a logically critical way that logically excludes the possibility of incompleteness.

    I have said all that I want to say on this issue unless you surprise me with some well argued and new- but I want to end on the note of why I think his theorem is very important and good…

    Gödel’s incompleteness is to me liberating- and to me supports theism because it puts man in his place as the paradigm of al animals with a intuitive soul but not the “complete” master of all things. This never destroyed logic. It would be quite sad to wake up one day and find out that man has the ability to know all- it would say that life is as it is to man – which to me is quite a let down from the hopes of a larger more ideal reality that is not simply beyond ours but interacts within it. The theorem to me merely put logic it in its place, allowing us to exist with logic but also with a sense of something more- the human soul and the divine will of God- which we can not formally know in cold and physically concrete terms but are meant to fully understand.

    But not yet.

    One a side note- I wonder what ever happened to “Kariosfocus” and his “always linked”. I would have loved to seen his view on all of this. But I havent seen him on here in a long time.

  53. 53
    Frost122585 says:

    Just as quantum theory is intuition’s graveyard, incompleteness is logic’s.

  54. 54
    Mapou says:

    By your same mode of reasoning you would not be able to conclude the completeness of any system since its completeness comes from within the system itself. You are just eliminating the possibility of incompleteness apriori.

    The way I see, there is only one such system and that is reality. If it exists, it is complete and consistent. Otherwise it could not exist. Existant is synonymous with logical, in my opinion. So, it suffices to deduce the logical basis of reality and use that as our logical system. I realize that this is a partially baked idea that needs a more formal description but that’s all I’ve got at this time.

    Just as quantum theory is intuition’s graveyard, incompleteness is logic’s.

    You can rest assured that QT has just as much to be desired as spacetime physics. Having said that, let me add that, of all scientific theories, I like QT the most, flaws and all. At least, it is based on particles, properties and interactions. And it is not just a math theory a la Newton or Einstein with their fictitious and illogical spaces and spacetimes.

  55. 55
    Frost122585 says:

    I’m sorry I am still finishing some books on Gödel and could not help but post another comment to your last response-

    “The way I see, there is only one such system and that is reality. If it exists, it is complete and consistent. Otherwise it could not exist.”

    You make no sense in your statement above. Reality is not a formal system that is beyond reproach or ironies or paradoxes. If it was you would have to deduce its rules and structure of course and prove that opinion. But those rules and structures have to be consistent if they are to be understood as truly representing your consistent reality. How can we know if a system is consistent and complete– Critique it with logic. If a paradox exists (which it does in logic) then you have to come to one of two conclusions- either

    A. Reality in its completeness contains paradoxes and therefore logic as commonly understood is forever incomplete or inconsistent-

    or

    B. The paradox is the result of a flaw in the logical system or that the logical system is primitive and could be replaced by a better one that is logically sound and impervious to those paradoxes and capable of representing reality as it is according to your intuition.

    “Existent is synonymous with logical.”

    No it is not. Things can exist that are not logical. Logic has to do with understanding reality. Existence has to do with reality itself. I see a clear problem here of equating the ontological with the epistemological.

    Do you mean that objective reality is complete? Because if so I see know reason to dispute this intuition and I largely share it- But Gödel’s critique of logic is a critique of the limits of the mind to formally express itself. And the formal expressions of the mind is not representative of all objective reality itself. Reality as a whole is very likely complete- but certainly things in reality are not- for example an unfinished English essay or a bike that is not yet put together- thus all things are not complete- so why would logic (defined as the mental system we use to formalize reason) not be included in this class of things?

    Logic IS one of those things from the formalistic perspective- and in Gödel’s second theorem he translates that into arithmetic and shows it to be incomplete.

    If one cannot prove the inconsistency of a formal system from within itself then where would or even could one go about doing so?

    To say that nothing can be incomplete is false- and intuitively obviously false- and to rule it out for logical systems is simply a metaphysical bias apriori.

    The best argument against Gödel’s proof is that since it undermines logic and it is at the same time logical- one comes to the inescapable skepticism of it— How can it be trusted if it is incomplete by its own virtue?

    But you see you cannot logically critique the system on that basis unless you commit to the theorems truth to begin with. That is to say that since it undermines logic you have to admit that it did undermine logic. In other words to beg the question proves the point. His incompleteness may be incomplete- but it is just as complete as anything else that formal system can produce- thus one must by that token throw out all of the propositions and proofs (including his) based upon their incompleteness- Yet there is no good logical reason to justify keeping them all except Gödel’s just because Gödel destroyed all of logic’s persuit for perfection- even if his theory does infact commit suicide AFTER the homicide has already been committed.

  56. 56
    Frost122585 says:

    “The set of all sets that are not members of themselves” is a paradoxical logical construction that can be formalized within any formal logical system. The only question that reamins is what does it really tell us. Yes every system will produce true and provably unprovable propositions- this is just the nature of reason- we CAN create formal paradoxes that have real meaning.

    So the real question is “what does this say about logical reasoning and its back bone intution?

    Maybe our ability to create sets (which almost all mathematics and all of logic is built upon) – is a form of incompleteness? That is what I take his proof to mean for the larger philosophical question and its exponents.

    We cant group everything together and make useful proposiitons out of such a concept. As soon as we begin ot group we begin to break reality up- so that we can draw lines and so it has meaning. The concept of all things being “1 is equal to 1” is a virtually useless thought by itsef. So unless we are speaking of infinity- and all things- there will remain logical and arithmatical incompleteness. and that seems very logical to me.

  57. 57
    Frost122585 says:

    Oh yeah and as for the propper topic of this page-

    I’m definetly buying the book. Berlinski is one of my favorite authors — Incidently his contribution to Uncommon Descent as the last chapter of the book- his paper titled “The Deniable Darwin” was my favorite piece in the book. I especially liked his question and answer responces at the end of the paper to all of the usual God hating suspects – such as Dawkins, Dennet and Scott.

    and as for anyone who doesnt know about this treasure chest of wisdome I find it appropriate to post for anyone wondering what the book will read like-

    http://www.discovery.org/scrip.....Posts=true

    enjoy everyone.

  58. 58

    […] David Berlinski and The Devil's Delusion | Uncommon DescentDavid Berlinski is my favorite secular Jew and quintessential iconoclast. How could one not adore a guy who is a mathematician, … […]

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