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Disappointed with Shermer

From EXPELLED Dr Caroline Crocker.

“Recently I attended a lecture by Michael Shermer at the UCSD Biological Science Symposium (4/2/09). His title was, “Why Darwin Matters,” but his topic was mostly religion. He started by defining science as “looking for natural explanations for natural phenomena” and said that his purpose was to “debunk the junk and expose sloppy thinking.”

We were all subjected to an evening of slapstick comedy, cheap laughs, and the demolition of straw men.

His characterization of ID was that the theory says, 1) If something looks designed, 2) We can’t think how it was designed naturally, 3) Therefore we assert that it was designed supernaturally. (God of the gaps.) Okay everyone, laugh away at the stupid ID theorists.

I was astonished at how a convinced Darwinist, who complains about mixing science and religion, spent most of his time at the Biological Science Symposium talking about religion.”

Get the full text here.

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746 Responses to Disappointed with Shermer

  1. 1

    “Sciensuality”? Is this related to “sensuality”? If so, count me in! That goes for the two beers too!

    On a more serious note, can you reference where atheism has been legally defined as a religion?

  2. Shermer doesn’t have anything to offer beyond slapstick and cheap laughs.

    He is just another clueless tool.

  3. tragic mishap:

    On a more serious note, can you reference where atheism has been legally defined as a religion?

    Probaby due to the obvious “worship mode” atheists have for Father Time and Mother Nature.

    It takes quite a bit of faith to be an atheist…

  4. 5

    Thanks id.net. That is pleasantly surprising. I will use this.

  5. 6

    Joseph:

    Generally I’ve always argued that atheism is a religion. Religion is a set of beliefs about ultimate reality. That is, I think, the best definition.

  6. tragic mishap @6

    Generally I’ve always argued that atheism is a religion.

    Have you also always argued that bald is a hair color? ;-)

    (I don’t mean that to sound snide, I’ve just always liked that explanation of atheism.)

    Religion is a set of beliefs about ultimate reality. That is, I think, the best definition.

    That’s not bad, but it doesn’t apply to “weak” atheism, the lack of belief in a god or gods. I have two friends who hold to this view, without making any positive claims about reality.

    “Strong” atheism, the belief that there are definitely no gods, does of course fit your definition.

    JJ

  7. You would think the atheists would be embarrassed by their performances. That is the amazing thing about this whole debate, the inanity of their arguments. They operate on bogus information, use false logic and then take glee at how dumb the ID or those who are religious people are.

    Shermer was on record not too long ago about the power of natural selection in the evolution debate. Apparently the evolutionary biologists forgot to tell him that NS was a weak force that had almost nothing to do with the evolution debate. We get the same tired arguments here. I subscribe to the John Davison assessment that they are prescribed.

    Yes as Joseph said, it takes quite a bit of faith to be an atheist, blind faith that does not recognize the science that is available to them.

  8. I was censored because I agreed with Shermers characterization of ID???

    Wow… this is certainly an open forum.

  9. jerry,

    Apparently the evolutionary biologists forgot to tell him that NS was a weak force that had almost nothing to do with the evolution debate

    without natural (including sexual) selection, there is no evolution. how can this be considered a weak force?

  10. Tragic mishap says, “Generally I’ve always argued that atheism is a religion. Religion is a set of beliefs about ultimate reality. That is, I think, the best definition.”

    Wikipedia says,

    A religion is an organized approach to human spirituality which usually encompasses a set of narratives, symbols, beliefs and practices, often with a supernatural or transcendent quality, that give meaning to the practitioner’s experiences of life through reference to a higher power or truth.[1] It may be expressed through prayer, ritual, meditation, music and art, among other things. It may focus on specific supernatural, metaphysical, and moral claims about reality (the cosmos, and human nature) which may yield a set of religious laws, ethics, and a particular lifestyle. Religion also encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and religious experience.

    Dictionary.com says,

    a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

    I think these two definitions are similar to most definitions of religion that you would find. Saying that “Religion is a set of beliefs about ultimate reality” is a definition of religion is incorrect. Beliefs about ultimate reality are philosophical, but not necessarily religious.

  11. eintown,

    Shermer holds a mischaracterization of ID.

    Therefor anyone agreeing with him also holds that mischaracterization.

    Now you understand the moderation policy.

    It is close to impossible to have a discussion with people who choose willfull mischaracterization of the alternative PoV.

  12. religion:

    3. personal beliefs or values: a set of strongly-held beliefs, values, and attitudes that somebody lives by

    religion:

    4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

    religion

    4. single-minded devotion to or zealous conviction regarding anything.

    Atheism fits those three definitions.

    Do you want more?

  13. Joseph @12

    eintown,

    Shermer holds a mischaracterization of ID.

    Therefor anyone agreeing with him also holds that mischaracterization.

    Now you understand the moderation policy.

    The result of stating a mischaracterization in a forum that respects the principles of free and open discussion is that one or more participants will correct the misunderstanding, leading to greater understanding for everyone.

    The response to eintown’s post suggests that the censor responsible wasn’t capable of refuting it.

    It is close to impossible to have a discussion with people who choose willfull mischaracterization of the alternative PoV.

    I agree. People who repeatedly assert that modern evolutionary theory makes no predictions certainly fall into this category.

    JJ

  14. Where did you get those?

    It seems that those definitions could apply to political beliefs, a belief in vegetarianism, a belief in the free market system, or all sorts of other things that no one would claim were religious.

  15. It seems that those definitions could apply to political beliefs,

    Consider Chris Matthews and the rest of MSNBC, and Obama :-)

  16. Hazel,

    Some vegetarians as well as politicians hit the near religious. So absorbed in their moral codes and prescribed way of living that describing them as religious would be close to hitting the mark. Honestly the differences between, say, Richard Dawkins and a religious zealot are not much, aside from their differences in world views. Richard Dawkins is like a preacher who speaks on behalf of the supreme beings known as Chance, Natural Selection and Random Variation. Heck, he goes off and preaches about the reasons behind humankind’s existence (basically, that we have no reason to exist). Whether it be from a specific “religion” or from atheism, both try and do the same thing: accurately describe reality.

    Even if one wanted to say that atheism isn’t technically a religion I would be hard pressed to say whether that really makes any difference whatsoever. In reality, their world views can cause just as much grief as any religion can. Think of the mass murders of hundreds of thousands and/or millions during the Crusades in the name of Jesus. Then think of the multiple millions killed by Hitler and/or Stalin in the name of the “higher race” and/or the will of “nature” (as Hitler himself put it within his Mein Kampf).* The results are more or less the same, regardless of religion or lack of religion. Whatever you want to call it, when zeal turns into anything other than the wish to help others it always corrupts, regardless of religious/non-religious beliefs.

    * From Hitler’s Mein Kampf: “If nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with the stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race should intermingle with an inferior one; because in such cases all her efforts, throughout hundreds of thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile.”

  17. Defining religion as anything that someone zealously believes in dilutes the meaning to the point of making it useful.

    Are Rush Limbaugh’s politics a religion – he is certainly zealous about living by them.

    It just doesn’t work to expand the definition of a word so broadly that it doesn’t make the distinctions it needs to make. When one says he wants to study religion, he certainly doesn’t mean all the things covered by Joseph’s “definitions”.

  18. hazel,

    I just provided the definitions.

    If you want to know the source just click on each word “religion” in my comment above.

    That is just a start.

  19. I see, and I see that you posted the 3rd or 4th definitions. Do you agree that if we accepted as primary the definitions of religion that you offer that any strongly held belief that people live by, such as Rush Limbaugh’s political perspective, or a belief that expressing oneself through art is the most important goal in life, or any number of other things, would all be considered religious beliefs? Does that seem reasonable to you?

  20. Hazel, there’s a thorough discussion of “religion” as defined by U.S. courts here:

    http://tinyurl.com/cboo55

  21. Uh, that’s by John Calvert, and I already know that I disagree with him about this, and I’m pretty sure he is wrong in respect to what the courts actually say.

  22. Why was my post deleted, this is what I wrote:

    -What is bad about that lecture?

    -I agree with the 3 step characterization of ID. Its appeals to the unknown, as does ID.

    -Obviously in a talk about evo/ID religion would enter.

    Why was the post deleted??

    Your post implies that you either did not read Dr Crocker’s opinion paper, or that you did not follow her logic. Please re read her paper. Your agreement with the three step description of ID shows you have not read any ID books. This forum is to serve the ID community, not to express uninformed opinions. idnet

  23. Uh, that’s by John Calvert, and I already know that I disagree with him about this, and I’m pretty sure he is wrong in respect to what the courts actually say.

    Typical. Dismiss it without reading it. Please try not to work up a sweat with your shadow boxing here, Hazel.

  24. I’ve read that article before, and more like it, so I didn’t dismiss it without reading it.

    If you would like to post one of the main points of the article and discuss it, I’d be glad to. However, it’s not my job to go dissect an article you posted. Let me know a good point you think Calvert makes and then we can continue the discussion.

  25. 27
    AmerikanInKananaskis

    I despise Michael Shermer.

  26. Joeseph said:

    religion:
    3. personal beliefs or values: a set of strongly-held beliefs, values, and attitudes that somebody lives by
    religion:

    4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

    religion

    4. single-minded devotion to or zealous conviction regarding anything.

    Atheism fits those three definitions.

    Similarly,

    An automobile:

    1. is a powered vehicle used to transport people.

    2. Employs wheels, tires and brakes.

    3. Can be steered, and employes signals and lighting to alert other drivers to changes in speed and direction.

    A motorcycle fits these definitions. Therefore a motorcycle is an automobile.

  27. “Its appeals to the unknown,”

    That what Darwinism does. The deity of Darwinism is “Deep Time.” And no one has ever seen its hand in evolution but it “must” be there.

  28. By the way a motorcycle is an automobile. It is auto controlled and mobile. I have seen three wheeled automobile and 18 wheeled automobiles.

  29. If you would like to post one of the main points of the article and discuss it, I’d be glad to.

    Hazel, the document is only six pages long, and I doubt I could do a better job of condensing the argument than Calvert already has.

    Page seven is a synopsis of U.S. court findings. Maybe it wouldn’t entail too much heavy lifting for you to peruse just that page. Even that progression, though, needs to be digested in the aggregate.

    I’m not a lawyer, but it looks to me like he’s made a good case for a functional definition of “religion.” Namely, that it “includes sets of beliefs about the cause, nature and purpose of life rather than just belief in the supernatural.”

  30. There’s been quite a bit of discussion of the definition of the word “religion” so far. It might be helpful if we elaborate about what we mean by “atheism”. For me, it simply means lack of belief in a god. I don’t accept that an atheistic viewpoint necessarily involves any faith whatsoever.

    Faith involves believing something about which there is a degree of uncertainty. Agnosticism is the beliefthat certainty is not possible. Atheism believes that there is no God. Even Dawkins says that this belief is uncertain, and thus it does involve faith. idnet

  31. eintown,

    The theory of evolution appeals to the unknown.

    And it is the unknown which gives the ToE its appeal.

    Nevermind. Jerry beat me to it.

  32. Madsen, a lot of what we’re discussing here seems to hang on the definitions, doesn’t it?

    Here are some 500-year-old words in response to the question, “What is it to have a god?”

    “A god is that to which we look for all good, and in which we find refuge in every time of need…As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol…That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God.” (Martin Luther, Large Catechism (explanation of the first commandment).

    Certainly this is a very broad (and old) definition of “god.” And note that it seems to be a functional definition…

  33. I don’t accept that an atheistic viewpoint necessarily involves any faith whatsoever.

    How about faith that:

    1. There is no ultimate judgment for wrongdoing, even though by nature we daily assume that there is some standard of good and evil to which we all have an obligation to adhere;
    2. That natural processes can produce complex, purposeful systems that all our daily experience tells us should be the result of intelligence and will. Else why did Francis Crick say that scientists must constantly remind themselves that nature is not actually designed?
    3. That matter is eternal, even though that makes no sense to our minds.

  34. Hi Lutepise,

    Yes, I think definitions are very critical in this discussion. Regarding the statement of Martin Luther that you quoted, my wife and family are the only things that I can identify to which my “heart clings and entrusts itself”, so I guess they would be my god(s) under this very broad definition.

  35. Hi russ,

    I should have clarified that I was talking particularly about a “weak atheist” position, perhaps even bordering on agnosticism. Concerning the propositions you enumerated, in fact I don’t feel I have any strong evidence confirming any of them to a high degree of certainty, but by the same token, I don’t know that they are false statements either. I’m referring to #1 and 2 especially; I don’t take any position on #3, and don’t see how it’s connected to atheism.

  36. Hi lutepisc.

    I don’t have too much trouble with the idea that religion “includes sets of beliefs about the cause, nature and purpose of life rather than just belief in the supernatural.” That is very different than the overly broad definitions Joseph offered, such as a deeply held belief about anything.

    Also, I note that in some cases the courts have held Secular Humanism (with capital letters) is a religion. However, I’ll also note that Secular Humanism is not the same as atheism.

    Atheism is not a “set of beliefs about the cause, nature and purpose of life.” It’s just a belief that whatever the cause, nature and purpose of life is, it doesn’t come from a God. For instance, a Taoist is an atheist because Taoism does not believe in a personal God, but that doesn’t make a Taoist a Secular Humanist.

    I liked the Wikipedia definition I quoted above:

    A religion is an organized approach to human spirituality which usually encompasses a set of narratives, symbols, beliefs and practices, often with a supernatural or transcendent quality, that give meaning to the practitioner’s experiences of life through reference to a higher power or truth.

    Religions involve an organized approach, which implies a group of people, that share not only beliefs but also “narratives, symbols and practices.” Also, the definition states that religion “often” refers to a “supernatural or transcendent” “higher power or truth.” That is, a religion need not belief in supernatural beings – it might, as Taoism does, believe in a transcendent quality, or as some Neo-Platonisms do, a higher truth.

    So in this sense, a Unitarian Universalist group, which might have a lot of people who identity with the tenets of secular humanism, qualifies as a religion, I imagine. However, an individual who happens to accept many of the tenets of secular humanism but doesn’t belong to any group is no more a Secular Humanist than I am a Christian because I believe in the Golden Rule.

    So in short, atheism is not a religion. Atheists may consider themselves members of a religion (UU or Taoism, for instance) or they may not consider themselves part of any religion. But whatever the case, atheism itself is not a “set of beliefs about the cause, nature and purpose of life.” Atheists may, or may not, have beliefs about those things, but those beliefs are in addition to their atheism, which is merely a lack of belief, and atheists may, or may not, consider themselves, in belief and action, as members of a non-theistic religion.

  37. 39

    How about faith that:

    1. There is no ultimate judgment for wrongdoing…

    Doesn’t this shift the question from a definition of religion to a definition of faith? Is everything I don’t believe in an example of faith?
    This reminds me of the attempts to demarcate science to exclude ID. Is it possible to have a single definition of religion that keeps the right stuff in and leaves the rest out?

  38. I’ve heard Ken Miller lecture…he does the same thing…*lots* of slapstick comedy…*very* little science.

    He’s lecturing here in KS at Kansas State University again Wed and Thurs of this week. I’m passing this time around. I’ve heard his miscontrued nonsense one too many times. He never changes his tune even when he’s corrected umpteen times. Disgusting…

  39. Atheism is a belief system.

    Religions are belief systems.

    So the question is are all belief systems also religions?

  40. Most talks on ID are like Shermer’s and infer that there is no real intellectual substance to ID theory. Some anti evolution lectures imply the same of evolution. I hope that on this site we have more profound discussions about the intellectual substance of both ID and evolutionary theory.

  41. Joseph @40

    Atheism is a belief system.

    So-called “strong” atheism (“There are no gods.”) is a belief system.

    “Weak” atheism is simply lack of belief in gods, so it is lack of a belief system.

    JJ

  42. How can lack of belief in something be a belief system?

    I don’t believe in UFO’s – is that a belief system?

    I don’t believe in ghosts – is that a belief system?

    I don’t believe in reincarnation, levitation, leprechauns, Santa Claus, the healing powers of magentism, and dozens of other things.

    Do those, singularly or collectively, constitute a belief system?

    This doesn’t make sense. Beliefs are what you do believe, not what you don’t

    One might want to know what I do believe, and thus find out something about my belief system, but finding out what I don’t believe in (God, UFO’s, ghosts, etc.) does not tell you what my belief system is.

  43. hazel
    04/06/2009
    3:25 pm

    How can lack of belief in something be a belief system? I guess in the same way not collecting stamps is a hobby, or bald is a hair colour.

  44. Oops messed up tags!

  45. One of my favorite hobbies is not collecting stamps. :)

  46. Hazel, thank you for your considered response. I’m glad we’re a little closer to agreeing.

    You wrote

    Also, I note that in some cases the courts have held Secular Humanism (with capital letters) is a religion. However, I’ll also note that Secular Humanism is not the same as atheism.

    True, but moot, as the courts have also defined Atheism, Freethinking and even “Unbelief” as “religions,” although not consistently. Calvert writes, “the Supreme Court in Seeger and Welsh recognized that the defining characteristic of a religion is belief about a matter of ultimate concern that occupies in the life of its possessor a place parallel to that of a belief in God. Hence, an Atheist’s belief that life is a natural cause occurrence is just as religious as a theistic belief that life is a creation.”

    One point I thought was especially noteworthy was that if the “free exercise” clause of the first amendment applies “to each of us, be he Jew or Agnostic, Christian or Atheist, Buddhist or Freethinker,” then so does the “establishment clause” of the same amendment. In other words, quoting a federal judge, those who “enjoy the preferred position guaranteed to them by the free exercise clause. …. are clearly not entitled to the advantages given by the first amendment while avoiding the apparent disadvantages. The rose cannot be had without the thorn.” [Malnak v. Yogi, 592 F.2d 197, 212-3 (3rd Cir 1979)]

  47. 49

    The connotation of religion is one of multiple people sharing a belief or the lack thereof.
    Take any crazy off-the-wall thing one person believes, and add a hundred more people. Now it’s an eccentric but tolerated religion.
    The government, however, might be less able to make such a distinction. You can’t deny someone their own personal religion just because no one else joins.
    Do I have to believe it, or just say that I do?
    Can it govern only my behavior and include no belief system at all?

    It’s not like science where there are some rules. As soon as you define religion, someone can invent one that sits on the other side of the line.

  48. hazel

    What we do not believe in, results from what we do believe in.

    If we do not believe in God, then we do believe that there is no designer behind the cosmos or life. So we also believe that life can and did arise as the product of random, undirected material processes. If you are certain about this, please direct us to the facts that lead you to that certainty. If you are uncertain about that then why are you not agnostic?

  49. 51

    #46

    …because she believes after all.

  50. Joseph:

    38
    Joseph
    04/06/2009
    3:13 pm
    Atheism is a belief system.

    Religions are belief systems.

    So the question is are all belief systems also religions?

    Democracy is a system of government.

    Monarchy is a system of government.

    So the question is are all governments also monarchies?

  51. Diffaial,

    A system is a collection/ group of things working together.

  52. hazel:

    I don’t believe in UFO’s – is that a belief system?

    And yet there is more evidence for those than universal common descent.

    I don’t believe in ghosts – is that a belief system?

    And yet there is more evidence for those than universal common descent.

    Atheists do believe that everything is reducible to matter, energy, chance and necessity.

    They nworship Father Time and Mother nature.

    Just because they do it covertly does not mean they don’t do it.

  53. While I think it’s good to share our own views with each other, it’s not so helpful to lecture others on their alleged covert beliefs or practices.

  54. to Diffaxial – good point, although Joseph did ask a question, not make a statement.

    And the answer to Joseph’s question is “No, all belief systems are not religions.”

  55. When I wrote, “I don’t believe in UFO’s – is that a belief system?”,

    Joseph wrote,

    And yet there is more evidence for those than universal common descent.

    Wow, what a non-sequiter. We were discussing whether atheism is a religion. Universal common descent was not the topic of conversation at all.

    So, Joseph, is not believing in UFO’s a belief system? Is not believing that little green men occasionally abduct humans a belief system? Is not collecting stamps a hobby?

  56. A Comparison/Contrast between the Christian religion and the Darwinist religion.

    BELIEF

    Christianity——“With God, all things are possible.”

    Darwinism——-“Through naturalistic processes, all things are possible.”

    SACRIFICE;

    Christianity——–Christ offered up at the altar of Calvary for the sake of man’s salvation

    Darwinism——Babies offered up at the altar of abortion for the sake of free love

    MORALITY

    Christianity——-The Ten Commandments, Sermon on the Mount, and the Beatitudes.

    Darwinism——-Moral relativism and political correctness,

    POLITICS

    Christianity——Personal freedom grounded in the natural moral law.

    Darwinism——Tyranny grounded in the morality of the state.

    OBJECT OF WORSHIP

    Christianity——–God

    Darwinism——–Self

  57. idnet.au writes,

    If we do not believe in God, then we do believe that there is no designer behind the cosmos or life. So we also believe that life can and did arise as the product of random, undirected material processes. If you are certain about this, please direct us to the facts that lead you to that certainty. If you are uncertain about that then why are you not agnostic.

    You are quite wrong to think that just because you know I don’t believe in God that you know what I do believe. Your assumption that because I don’t believe in God means that I believe that “life can and did arise as the product of random, undirected material processes” is based on a false dichotomy that these are the only two, mutually exclusive possibilities, and they are not. (And, by the way, you have also misrepresented the materialist position.)

    To be more clear: theism and materialism are not an exclusive dichotomy. I’m a atheist because I don’t believe in God, but I at least lean towards non-materialism – I just don’t think the non-material is likely to be a willful divine entity. I don’t think anyone can be certain about any of this. I accept the possibility that a personal God exists, but taken everything I can into account, I don’t find enough reason to believe that such a God does exist: other explanations make more sense to me and seem more likely.

    Saying I’m an atheist just means I don’t believe in God. It doesn’t tell you much about what I do believe, and it certainly doesn’t tell you if I am a materialist or not.

  58. StephenB,

    Yikes—is that list your own work?

  59. All,
    Just listen to Ravi Zaccharias he has a good read on the social situation pertaining to the decline of reasoning, etc.

    http://www.oneplace.com/minist.....ple_Think/

    Don’t be turned off just because he’s a christian. He makes sense if you’ll just take the time to listen to him. It actually pertains to the ID discussion.
    Specifically listen to Saturday April 4ths broadcast.

    Jonathan

  60. 62

    Saying I’m an atheist just means I don’t believe in God. It doesn’t tell you much about what I do believe, and it certainly doesn’t tell you if I am a materialist or not.

    Hazel, as it is generally understood, there are three causes in the universe: Chance, Necessity, and Agency.

    In the context of causal mechanisms, can you elaborate on what you do believe?

  61. Joseph said:

    A system is a collection/ group of things working together.

    That doesn’t change anything. The following has the same form as your earlier question:

    - Horses are animals.

    - Cows are animals.

    - So the question is are all animals cows?

    Hazel said:

    The answer to Joseph’s question is “No, all belief systems are not religions.”

    What you mean is “No, not all belief systems are religions.” (Some belief systems are religions, some are not.)

  62. —–madsen: “Yikes—is that list (@58) your own work?”

    Yes, thanks for asking.

  63. Thanks for the correction, Diffaxial. I could have also written: not every belief system is a religion, or some belief system are not religions, or as you say, “Some belief systems are religions, some are not.”

    Belief systems are a larger set that includes religions: all religions are belief systems, but not all belief systems are religions.

  64. This is starting to look a bit like one of Ray Comfort’s “everything from nothing” threads…

    I like what Hazel says @59 and its very similar to my own viewpoint. I don’t believe in god(s) either and find evidence lacking that a god (or gods for that matter) was/is responsible for the creation and/or design of the Universe. Or at least I don’t accept that all of the god(s) put forward to date are responsible..so for now at least I would put myself in the atheist camp.

    And like Hazel that does not mean I believe that “life can and did arise as the product of random, undirected material processes. ” For myself the best answer is “I don’t know” – so I guess you could say I’m agnostic on the subject. Perhaps science (which after all is still a fledgling discipline in terms of our history) will be able to shed more light on this in the next few decades. Perhaps we’ll never know.

  65. hazel:

    You say:

    “You are quite wrong to think that just because you know I don’t believe in God that you know what I do believe.”

    It’s strange, but that was exactly the point I was raising in a posI was preparing for this thread. But for a mistake I lost the text before posting, and discouraged I did not rewrite it.

    But I am glad that you made the point for me. An atheist shoud not be judged for what he does not nelieve in, but rather for what he does believe. There are different types of “atheists”.

    Unfortunately, the most common type today is the one I likw least: The “scientistic” atheist, who is not aware that his position is first of all a philosophical choice, and thinks that he has the absolute truth because his truth comes from “science” (not true science, but his own concept of science), and that all who entertain a different view are… what can we say? IDiots?

    Hazel, I know you are not that way. I do appreciate your interventions here. They are reasonable and interesting and tolerant, even when I have different ideas.

    But sometimes our ideas are not so different…

  66. JTaylor:

    I appreciate your position too. “I don’t know” is always a very good point of view. I would like to hear that more often.

  67. Unfortunately, the most common type today is the one I likw least: The “scientistic” atheist, who is not aware that his position is first of all a philosophical choice, and thinks that he has the absolute truth because his truth comes from “science” (not true science, but his own concept of science), and that all who entertain a different view are… what can we say? IDiots?

    GPuccio: Thanks for making this distinction. It is easy to lump all atheists in with this “standard anti-ID” type atheist, which we should not do.

    I have a friend who is this type. Last week I gave him a DVD of “Unlocking the Mystery of Life” and he found it compelling and convincing, but emphasized in the most passionate terms that he still believed that all religions are bunk. Oh, and it was he who brought up religion, not I. I just showed him an ID video!

  68. —-Hazel: “I’m a atheist because I don’t believe in God, but I at least lean towards non-materialism -I just don’t think the non-material is likely to be a willful divine entity.”

    If we grant the atheist his/her one decisive and illogical assumption (something can come from nothing), then all things become possible. Under those circumstances, anything at all can come from nothing including non-matter. Angels could appear out of the void, God could emerge from empty space, and the laws of cause and effect could create themselves. That is why atheism is not, and could never be, a rational position, as Anthony Flew discovered when he opened himself up to the principles of right reason and the testimony of the evidence. Once one assumes existence, the fact of a self existent creator is an inescapable conclusion for all those who reason properly. That is another way of saying that something cannot come from nothing.

  69. Stephen, you and I have discussed this before, and reached a dead-end, which is where I think I will let things stand.

  70. 72

    StephenB,

    That is why atheism is not, and could never be, a rational position, as Anthony Flew discovered when he opened himself up to the principles of right reason and the testimony of the evidence. Once one assumes existence, the fact of a self existent creator is an inescapable conclusion for all those who reason properly.

    I’m not an atheist myself, but I can’t support this view. First, there are varieties of atheism: most atheists I know are what might be called “agnostic-leaning.” That is, few people will say they know there’s no God (which is kind of presumptuous), but most atheists will say that nothing indicates to them that there is one.

    Second, the idea that those who “reason properly” will come to monotheism runs counter to history, since people reasoning sufficiently for all sorts of purposes have come to a wide variety of views on the existence or non-existence of God or gods. It seems presumptuous to say that all of those who came to different views had faulty reasoning, but that your reasoning is “proper” — especially when nothing of practical consequence hinges on it. (I don’t say nothing of eternal consequence, but I mean things that have a testable effect in the world.)

  71. Sorry, Hazel, but the argument is air tight. If there are contingent beings, then there must be a necessary (self existent) Being. Atheism has no rational answer for that point except to try to downplay its significance, or, as is its habit, suppress it.

  72. David Kellogg: ….”I am not an atheist myself.”……

    There you go again telling me what you are not and neglecting to tell me what you are? Once again, I have to wonder why you are leaving out that information. If what you “are not” is relevant, that what you “are” is relevant.

    —-”Second, the idea that those who “reason properly” will come to monotheism runs counter to history, since people reasoning sufficiently for all sorts of purposes have come to a wide variety of views on the existence or non-existence of God or gods.”

    In fact, that is not the case. You seem to labor under the misconception that famous people are immune from making huge logical errors. (Remember Bertrand Russell’s spectacularly mindless question, “Who made God,” which is tantamount to saying “who caused the uncaused cause.” Once one assumes the fact that contingent beings exist, a necessary being follows as a matter of logical certainty. If you question this fact, you are free to present your counter arguments.

    —–“It seems presumptuous to say that all of those who came to different views had faulty reasoning, but that your reasoning is “proper” — especially when nothing of practical consequence hinges on it. (I don’t say nothing of eternal consequence, but I mean things that have a testable effect in the world.)”

    Why is it presumptuous to call attention to bad logic, such as the irrational notion that something can come from nothing?

  73. Hazel/JTaylor, if I may, why would you describe your world views in negative terms?

    Why not just say you are an MN (methodological naturalist);something like that? Would that not explain your world view in more direct, positive terms?

    It seems stressing what you don’t believe always begs the question “what then DO you believe? Is this not the accusation made by proponents of evolution against IDists (that they can only muster criticisms of ND, but offer no positive claims for ID)?

    These seems IMHO a great contradiction in atheist/ND logic.

    Atheism is not a “set of beliefs about the cause, nature and purpose of life.” It’s just a belief that whatever the cause, nature and purpose of life is, it doesn’t come from a God. For instance, a Taoist is an atheist because Taoism does not believe in a personal God, but that doesn’t make a Taoist a Secular Humanist.

  74. StephenB,

    If there are contingent beings, then there must be a necessary (self existent) Being.

    Ok, I’ll bite. Why does this follow?

  75. Upright BiPed asks,

    Hazel, as it is generally understood, there are three causes in the universe: Chance, Necessity, and Agency.

    In the context of causal mechanisms, can you elaborate on what you do believe?

    Thanks for asking – I appreciate that.

    I know it is common in ID philosophy to assert that “there are three causes in the universe: Chance, Necessity, and Agency” (or Design, as is more common.) I have however don’t that trichotomy is true.

    First of all, I don’t know (and neither does anyone else, in my opinion) what the metaphysical background of the universe is, if there is one. We see chance and necessity from the vantage point of being creatures embedded in space and time – we see causal connections as one moment moves to the next. But we have no idea if that is all there is – there may be creative forces which, while not personal or aware, work across time and space to bring variation into the world.

    I mention Taoism both because I like what I know of it and because it presents a stark contrast – on the other end of a spectrum, so to speak – to theism. In Taoism two principles, the Creative and the Receptive, interplay throughout all of existence to bring new things into existence – to bring about a “restless multiplicity” that rests upon the stillness of the underlying One. The Creative and the Receptive are principles, forces that transcend space and time, not persons who consciously choose – not agents who consciously design.

    Let me make it clear that I’m not saying that I “believe” Taoism is true, because (and this is a tenet of Taoism), I don’t think we can know whether it is true or not. But as a metaphor of what might be true, it seems to fit the world as I see it, and serves for me as a better guide to understanding that theism does.

    The Taoist idea is that the creative and the receptive, working together within the material world, do design, but they design without forethought or purpose. What looks with hindsight like foresight and purpose can emerge – does emerge – out of the world, but the forces themselves don’t cause that emergence with foresight and purpose. To the Taoist, the world is a web that has no weaver.

    I know that a main ID argument is that we see ourselves design with purpose and foresight, and therefore when we see design in the world we ought to attribute it to a similar intelligent agency.

    But I think that argument begs the question. I personally do not know what the true nature of my sense of agency is. Given what I know, and believe, about how I am embedded in the physical and biological world, I feel that what I call intelligence and agency is an emergent property of the world: intelligence and agency come out of the world, but the world need not have intelligence and agency itself to make that happen, much in the same way as solar systems, for instance, emerge in the world because of much more basic interactions among things that themselves do not directly exhibit the properties of a solar system.

    There – that’s some of what I believe.

  76. Oramus writes,

    Hazel/JTaylor, if I may, why would you describe your world views in negative terms?

    Why not just say you are an MN (methodological naturalist);something like that? Would that not explain your world view in more direct, positive terms?

    Well, first of all, it is others (such as many on this forum) that define me negatively by stressing what I don’t believe. When I go about my business every day, doing things based on what I do believe in, I never think about not believing in God. It’s only when I go places like this where the topic comes up that what I don’t believe becomes pertinent.

    Methodological naturalism (MN) is also not a phrase that I would use to describe my world view, and it’s also not particularly related to what we are talking about.

  77. 79

    StephenB [74], I merely mentioned my not being an atheist in order to clarify that I wasn’t defending my own views but the possible rationality of others.
    Also, I wasn’t talking about “famous people,” and I’m not sure where you got that idea.

    Your argument about contingent beings implying a perfect being is a version of what is called the “cosmological arugment. The form you use is the argument of a famous person — Leibniz — and originates with him (though it borrows heavily from Aristotle and Plato). Russell’s claim, which you deride, is in part a response to Leibniz. Indeed, Leibniz’s argument does not follow “as a logical certainty,” at least in the views of several fine philosophers, including Hume, Kant, and Russell himself.

    Leibniz seems to have posed the cosmological argument in the form he did because earlier forms didn’t hold up. In other words, Leibniz himself felt that the argument had been formed weakly in previous philosophy. But in that case, if the Leibniz version of a cosmological argument is the test of rationality, then nobody was rational before Leibniz!

    Even some who like the cosmological argument, like Richard Swinburne, think it doesn’t work deductively — that is, as a “matter of logical certainty” — and have sought to reframe it in inductive terms.

    David

  78. 80

    StephenB, your [58] should be paired with illustrations by Jack Chick.

  79. Hazel:

    I’m a atheist because I don’t believe in God, but I at least lean towards non-materialism – I just don’t think the non-material is likely to be a willful divine entity [italics mine - V.J.T.].

    I’m a theist myself, but I would actually agree with your assertion that such an entity does not exist. What you reject (rightly) is the notion of a Being that can do anything it wants, for any reason. Such a capricious Deity would indeed be fundamentally amoral, and unable to serve as a basis for moral values. The mathematician Paul Erdos had a nickname for such a deity: the Supreme Fascist (SF).

    That’s the kind of Deity you get if you make the fatal mistake of defining God as a being of unlimited power, as if omnipotence were God’s primary attribute. It’s not. The God that most people around the world believe in is a different sort of Deity.

    If I were asked what I meant by God, I would say: a fully integrated (and hence self-sufficient) Being, whose nature it is to know and love perfectly. Such a Being cannot fail to know anything that can be known, and love anything that should be loved. And if you asked me where God’s power came from, I would say: from God’s knowledge and love. That’s what keeps the cosmos in existence – including you and me and everyone else.

    There is a sense in which God can do anything God wants: no-one can stop God from doing anything. However, there is no question of God being able to want anything and everything. Because God is essentially good, God could never want to torture an innocent child, for instance.

    People often ask, “Which God should I believe in?” The question might make sense if they were asking about little, small-g “gods,” but that’s not what we’re talking about here. The number of religions that teach the existence of a big-G, universal God is very small: Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. In addition, there are “bare theists” (such as I used to be for many years) who believe in a God, but don’t accept the tenets of any revealed religion. So that gives you five avenues to explore – a manageable number. Even more encouraging, the first three religions believe in the same God anyway, even if they teach some different things about this God. And if anyone thinks a Muslim would look askance at the kind of Deity I proposed above, I might remind them that every chapter of the Koran begins: “In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.” (That’s from the English translation at http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/.....lKora.html .)

    But why believe in God, anyway? That’s a topic for my next post.

  80. David Kellogg, madsen and hazel:

    You have all asked why we should believe in a necessary Being. It might interest you to know that the cosmological argument is in pretty good shape these days, and is buttressed by some very rigorous philosophy. I refer you to the following links, courtesy of Associate Professor Robert C. Koons:

    http://www.leaderu.com/offices.....cture.html

    http://www.arn.org/docs/koons/cosmo.pdf

    http://www.leaderu.com/offices.....sible.html

    The first is probably the easiest to follow; the second addresses the personality of God as well as God’s necessity.

    Hazel:

    Thanks for your post (#77) on Taoism. You write:

    The Taoist idea is that the creative and the receptive, working together within the material world, do design, but they design without forethought or purpose. What looks with hindsight like foresight and purpose can emerge – does emerge – out of the world, but the forces themselves don’t cause that emergence with foresight and purpose. To the Taoist, the world is a web that has no weaver.

    Taoism is indeed a beautiful religion, but it has one fatal flaw, in my book: it’s ultimately a loveless account of the world. Love is not fundamental to the Taoist account: it’s just one of those things that emerges from the nameless Tao, like intelligence and will.

    Taoism can certainly offer believers a sense of mystery and perhaps even a kind of serenity. But that is not the same sense of purpose and personal identity that believers get from a faith in personal God.

    For my part, I don’t think love can be “boiled down” to anything else. It is basic.

  81. vjtorley,

    Thanks for the links, along with the interesting and thoughtful posts.

  82. Orasmus writes

    Hazel/JTaylor, if I may, why would you describe your world views in negative terms?

    Why not just say you are an MN (methodological naturalist);something like that? Would that not explain your world view in more direct, positive terms?”

    Well, for a start atheism is only a part of my worldview and doesn’t define everything that I am by a long way. I suppose we need a definition like atheism because we live in a world where a large majority have some belief in a god or supernatural agency. Of course if nobody had god beliefs then it probably wouldn’t be necessary to be identified as an atheist!

    But I do agree that there are probably a lot of positive attributes an atheist could use to describe themselves – the problem is though they would likely all be different! Some would be secular humanists, some might be Unitarians, some might even be Buddhists, perhaps some might even be Raelians! (and in the UK quite a few might be Anglicans…) Some would be democrats, republicans or libertarians. It’s probably a long list. So I think atheists do certainly have positive beliefs, but they aren’t all necessarily ones they have in common. And some like to belong to organizations, but many (like myself) do not (most of the atheists I know are not “joiners”…)

    As to calling ourselves methodological naturalists…I suppose that would fit for some, but again not necessarily for all. And besides wouldn’t some theists or deists also call themselves methodological naturalists?

  83. —-David Kellogg: “I merely mentioned my not being an atheist in order to clarify that I wasn’t defending my own views but the possible rationality of others.”

    Can you point me to an instance on this blog in which you defended a theist against an atheist, or an ID advocate against a Darwinst, or a Christian against a materialist?

    —-David Kellogg: “Your argument about contingent beings implying a perfect being is a version of what is called the “cosmological arugment.”

    I didn’t need to be told that, thanks. I purposely chose only one of at least five arguments in order to give you a chance to make your argument against it. Would you have preferred that I added the arguments from motion, causation, degrees of perfection etc. so you have have three of four more to dodge?

    —-David Kellogg: “Indeed, Leibniz’s argument does not follow “as a logical certainty,” at least in the views of several fine philosophers, including Hume, Kant, and Russell himself.”

    I am not using Leibnitz argument, so I don’t know why you would bring that up. In any case, as I pointed out, all these men (Hume, Kant, Russell) made serious logical errors, and yes, you are appealing to them on the strength of their fame.

    I notice, for example, that you completely dodged the point about Russell and his question, “Who made God.” Are you prepared to take that up now? The question persists. Do you have an argument and can you articulate it? All the objections to the contingency/necessity argument have been answered, and all have been found wanting.

    Again, if you have a case to make, make it, but don’t appeal to the authority of Hume, Kant, and Russell. Consult “Little Errors in the Beginning,” by Mortimer J. Adler if you are interested in learning about the error.

    —-”Even some who like the cosmological argument, like Richard Swinburne, think it doesn’t work deductively — that is, as a “matter of logical certainty” — and have sought to reframe it in inductive terms.”

    Still more name dropping will not help. Do you have an argument?

  84. —-David Kellogg: “StephenB, your [58] should be paired with illustrations by Jack Chick.”

    Do you have anything of substance to say about that post, or is that your best shot? Which of my five points would you like to take up?

  85. 87

    Hazel,

    I asked the question. You gave the answer. It goes without saying that you are free to believe whatever you wish.

    However, it does not follow that IDists who are dedicated to understanding empirical evidence (using the rationale of science) should then stand the wrath of atheist who’s defense of their own belief challenges what is virtually uncontested empirical knowledge. I am speaking here about you making airy speculations about a yet unknown cause. It would seem that the import of observation, testability, and parsimony are on a sliding scale, as needed.

    And then to have atheist tell us that “whatever” the cause is, “it doesn’t come from a God.” Well, apparently in this we can be certain. The knowledge we actually do have (such as knowing that a conventional language is at the heart of the instruction set that creates life) can simply be damned. It’s a minor price to pay for the personal certainties required by the majority position, or so it seems.

    It is interesting though, you’ve been on this board for days happily arguing at the very edges of the slightest details in ID. This seems a rather stark contrast to the speculation and hazy logic you’ve used to support your own beliefs.

    In any case, thanks for your answer.

  86. StephenB

    You say that you are not using Leibniz’s argument. Perhaps you could explain why you believe that

    “Once one assumes the fact that contingent beings exist, a necessary being follows as a matter of logical certainty.”

    I apologise if you have done so already – but I could not see the explanation anywhere above.

  87. StephenB said:

    Do you have anything of substance to say about that post, or is that your best shot? Which of my five points would you like to take up?

    I think before more can be said of a substantial nature I’d like to see StephenB back up his assertions against “Darwinists” (and not just anecdotal evidence). They seem sensationalistic to me and unless there is solid evidence to back up the claims they are probably best disregarded as being purely polemic in nature with no merit. It is making a claim that all “Darwinists” (if such a body could even be clearly identified) all share similar or identical moral, religious, and political views. I don’t see any grounds for this (or in fact any possibility that such claims could even be easily verified).

  88. Mr StephenB,

    I really don’t understand the logical necessity of your statement “if there are contingent beings, there must be a necessary being”.
    It isn’t a tautology, something like a theorem in set theory. I can divide the universal set into two mutually exclusive parts, A and not-A. Just because A contains at least one object does not imply that not-A contains at least one object.
    So it seems to depend on the semantics of the terms, contingent and necessary. Skipping a few steps, I’m content to say we are all contingent on the mass/energy that began expanding in the Big Bang. Somewhere in that chain of existence back to the Big Bang things stopped being alive and became just atoms and photons and stuffs. Somewhere beings became contingent on stuffs, not other beings.
    I suppose you could say I am being too narrow and just make the argument broadly about existence. But that also just runs us back to the Big Bang. So at least for our universe there is a necessary being – the Big Bang. But I can imagine other universes where that is not the case.
    Anyway, I don’t think you are trying to argue for the logical necessity of the Big Bang. I think you are trying to argue that the Big Bang itself is contingent on something else. What is the evidence for that contingency? Until there is evidence to the contrary, the necessary thing we can all agree on is the Big Bang. “The buck stops here” as President Truman used to say.

  89. Nakashima: You have always been, and are, at this moment, dependent for your existence on beings and things outside you. Among other things, you depend on the air you breathe. To be dependent in this way is to be contingent.

    But not everything can be like this. If that was the case, everything without exception would have to be given existence, but, under those circumstances, there would be nothing capable of giving it. So there must be something that does not exist conditionally; something which exists in itself (a necessary, self-existent being). What it takes for this thing to exist could only be this thing itself.

    Unlike changing matter, there would be no distinction between what this thing is and that fact that it exists. That means that the collection of beings changing in space and time cannot be such a thing. Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist cannot be identical with the universe itself or with a part of the universe.

  90. —-JTaylor: “I think before more can be said of a substantial nature I’d like to see StephenB back up his assertions against “Darwinists” (and not just anecdotal evidence).”

    Which assertion did you have in mind? Do I get to pick one or will you do the honor?

  91. Mark, see an abbreviated version of the argument at 91.

  92. Atheists worship Father Time and Mother Nature.

    Sure they can lie and say “we do not” but to them lying doesn’t have any consequences.

    Their belief is that Father Time and Mother Nature are all that is required.

    IOW it isn’t what they don’t believe, it is what they do believe.

    Atheism is a belief system which also has objects of worship- iow it is a religion.

  93. hazel:

    So, Joseph, is not believing in UFO’s a belief system?

    Believing that all the evidence for them is bunk is a belief system.

  94. With apologies to The Princess Bride:

    Vizzini (Joseph): “Believing that all the evidence for them is bunk is a BELIEF SYSTEM.

    Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  95. Umm “belief system” is TWO words.

    And I am sure you don’t know what they mean.

  96. 98

    StephenB [85], you write:

    Can you point me to an instance on this blog in which you defended a theist against an atheist, or an ID advocate against a Darwinst, or a Christian against a materialist?

    I don’t know. I do know that if I’d said nothing about my faith here, I wouldn’t have to deal with your cartoon Inquisition.

    Anyway, the notion that a Christian has to be pro-ID or anti-evolution is ridiculous, so I don’t see why I should need to defend an ID advocate. Further, the Christians on this blog don’t need their faith defended. Or attacked.

    My life is bigger than this blog. If establishing my spiritual bona fides for you means posting critiques of ID on this blog, I’m sorry; I don’t know what to do but laugh.

    I gave your post more credit than it deserved by calling it an argument. In fact, you have not made an argument. You have made a number of assertions.

    For the record, I think that the cosmological argument is a pretty good one as such things go. However, we do not come to believe (or disbelieve) on rational grounds alone, ever. All so-called logical arguments for — or against — the existence of God are finally insufficient to compel anything. Both believers and non-believers act from a mixture of rationality and other factors. My belief in God is not compelled logically. Neither is the atheist’s unbelief.

    You are following Leibniz in the sense that you’re arguing in precisely the terms Leibniz formulated. Leibniz does it better, though.

    Honestly, I don’t know why you’re so concerned with figuring me out theologically. I’m not being coy, I just don’t get it.

  97. “Most talks on ID are like Shermer’s and infer that there is no real intellectual substance to ID theory. Some anti evolution lectures imply the same of evolution. I hope that on this site we have more profound discussions about the intellectual substance of both ID and evolutionary theory.”

    Could I suggest that people here go to http://www.teach12.com and ask them (as I have) to add an ID course to their lectures. Sure they have a bit of stuff in the Philosophy or science course, but it is minimal and not very balanced imo. Perhaps Bill Dembski could do 24 lectures on ID!!! Yes please Bill!!!

  98. Mr StephenB,

    Thank you for expanding the one sentence to three paragraphs, but I think the one sentence version was clearer.
    I’m not sure why you say things like “existence is given”. Where is the evidence of that? Existence just is. I’m contingent on lots of stuffs across space and time, but spacetime itself is just this little jewel, a multi-dimensional thing that doesn’t need to be embedded in a higher dimensional thing, or a thing of the same dimensions, just bigger.

  99. Mr. Nakashima,

    “Until there is evidence to the contrary, the necessary thing we can all agree on is the Big Bang. “The buck stops here” as President Truman used to say.”

    Can we agree on it? I’m not so sure personally. And if there is a “big bang” why do you assert there is not cause?

    Or are you simply asserting there is no evidence of intelligent causation?

    You cannot prove the negative can you? Without any evidence?

    Therefore, intelligence can be a cause submitted in theoretical constructs of laws and physics, front loading, etc.

    I’m not saying design theorist or cosmologist have proven intelligence caused the big bang. But you cannot rule it out.

    Lack of evidence works both ways as to cause of Big Bang.

    Darwinist OOL researchers have still not falsified the Law of Biogenesis. Life begets life.

  100. “existence is given”

    Where is the evidence of that?

    Existence just is.

    A profound haiku :-)

  101. Dr Crocker,

    I looked up the whole symposium program. They had Orr, Grant and Lenski programmed against each other! Which did you get to hear?

  102. David writes,

    All so-called logical arguments for — or against — the existence of God are finally insufficient to compel anything. Both believers and non-believers act from a mixture of rationality and other factors.

    I strongly agree with the first sentence, but have something to add to the second. Logic in and of itself cannot tell us anything about the world. Certain components of a logical proposition have to be taken to represent parts of the world for the logic to actually be about the world, and the question of whether the logical components adequately represent the real world is itself not a logical issue – it’s an empirical world.

    So logical arguments about entities that are in fact unknowable cannot be tested. You can play with words about such things as God and ultimate causes and contingent and necessary beings, but if we don’t know whether the concepts the words are meant to represent are in fact as we think they are, then our logical manipulations can’t be held to compel belief about the world.

  103. Mr DATCG,

    You are correct, I don’t rule out discovering evidence of causation of the Big Bang, whether intelligent or not. I merely objected to asserting causation without evidence.

  104. 106

    Tribune7 [102], I’ll see your haiku and raise you a blank verse sonnet sequence. It’s relevant because Descartes’s proof of God is treated in part 4b. (The poem actually is a kind of “translation” of Descartes’s “Discourse on Method.” It moves through all six sections. I split section 4 into two because there’s too much in Descartes there to be distilled into 14 lines.)

  105. Oops – in 104, it should say,

    Certain components of a logical proposition have to be taken to represent parts of the world for the logic to actually be about the world, and the question of whether the logical components adequately represent the real world is itself not a logical issue – it’s an empirical issue.

  106. Ms Hazel,

    Yes, this was the pattern of my response also. It’s not a tautology, a pure logical truth. It’s a statement about all possible worlds and in particular our world. As such it will stand or fall on evidence. The argument itself merely motivates a research program in cosmology. Does that Templeton group fund this sort of thing?

  107. 109

    hazel, your comments [104, corrected in 107] are very interesting. StephenB’s dismissal of Bertrand Russell alongside your thoughtful comments sent me back to Russell’s lively and polemical History of Western Philosophy, where he writes (page 199):

    The Greeks in general attached more importance to deduction as a source of knowledge than modern philosophers do. In this respect, Aristotle was less at fault than Plato; he repeatedly admitted the importance of induction, and he devoted considerable attention to the questoin: how do we know the first premisses from which deduction must start? Nevertheless, he, like other Greeks, gave undue prominence to deduction in his theory of knowledge. . . . [Induction] has less cogency than a deduction, and yields only a probability, not a certainty; but on the other hand it gives new knowledge, which deduction does not. All the important inferences outside logic and pure mathematics are inductive, not deductive; the only exceptions are law and theology, each of which derives its first principles from an unquestionable text, viz. the statute books or the scriptures. (Emphasis added)

  108. —–Nakashima: “I’m not sure why you say things like “existence is given”. Where is the evidence of that? Existence just is.”

    You began your inquiry with this statement:

    —-”I really don’t understand the logical necessity of your statement “if there are contingent beings, there must be a necessary being”.

    In other words, you wanted to know how [b] follow from [a]?

    Now, after I stretch out a little bit and explain why [b] follows from[a], you have a problem with [a].

    They call that moving the goal posts.

    In any case, lets deal with your evolving objection about the premise. Are you now suggesting that we pursue a line of reasoning that begins with the assumption that we do not exist.

  109. Thanks Nakashima.

    You write, “The argument itself merely motivates a research program in cosmology.”

    No, I think the argument motivates a research program in metaphysics – but such a program is beyond our empirical reach.

    We come to have metaphysical beliefs, and we use metaphysical beliefs, in ways that are different than our beliefs about the physical world. In both cases, logic is a tool, although different in the two cases, as the metaphysical beliefs, to the extent that they can be tested at all, are tested in different ways than our beliefs about the physical world.

  110. Some contributors have pointed out (correctly) that the arguments for the existence of God are not logically compelling, and have concluded (incorrectly) that we cannot know whether God exists, and that logic cannot tell us anything about reality.

    I should mention in passing that the cosmological argument is not a purely logical one: it relies on both logic and our experiential knowledge of certain basic facts about the world (e.g. that things come to be and pass away).

    Let us return to the objection that the arguments for God’s existence are not compelling, so we cannot know if God is real. The unexamined premise in the foregoing objections to the cosmological argument is that knowledge must be certain and incontrovertible, or else it is not truly knowledge. I have to say that this claim is simply wrong, and it is precisely here that Leibniz and the rationalist philosophers erred. In aiming for absolute certitude, they were aiming too high. There are many things we can properly claim to know in everyday life, yet most of them cannot be established with this degree of certitude.

    Our law courts operate with a concept of “certain beyond reasonable doubt.” So my question is: why should we not invoke a similar standard of evidence in matters pertaining to religious belief?

  111. gpuccio @ 67

    An atheist shoud not be judged for what he does not nelieve in, but rather for what he does believe. There are different types of “atheists”.

    If I were still Christian, I would refer to Matthew 7:1-2

    7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
    7:2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

    Since I am no longer Christian I will simply observe that atheism is no more than a lack of belief in a god. That is all. It does not entail believing in something else as an alternative.

    This is not to say that there have not been atheistic “belief systems” that are functionally equivalent to religions. The reverence for the works of Marx and Lenin felt by communists or the worship of leaders like Chairman Mao or Kim Jong-il bear all the hallmarks of a faith except perhaps for a belief in a supreme being.

    However, for those who proclaim themselves Christian, such a declaration necessarily affirms a belief in – and worship of – God and his physical manifestation on Earth in the person of Jesus Christ. But being an atheist does not mean someone is automatically some other kind of ‘ist’ as well, like a fascist or communist or socialist.

    It can be argued, however, that we have to believe in something. Sooner or later, we have to decide whether certain types of behavior are acceptable or unacceptable in a civilized society. In my view, the guidelines that regulate how we act towards one another arise naturally from our common interests as human beings. It would not be surprising therefore to find at least the most basic of them incorporated in the moral codes of most of the world’s religions. Atheists could justify abiding by those codes on the grounds of social stability and security. They would have no need of any Divine Authority to provide some sort of ultimate warrant or sanction for such a commitment. Like anyone else capable of rational thought, they can work out the advantages and disadvantages for themselves.

  112. I happily conceded above that the arguments for God’s existence are not logically compelling, but suggested that they were nonetheless certain beyond reasonable doubt. I’m sure some contributors might be wondering how this could be so. I’d like to draw readers’ attention to an interesting little book, dating from 1887, which explicates the distinction between these concepts. The book is entitled “The Existence of God: A Dialogue In Three Chapters” by Richard F. Clarke, S.J., Formerly Fellow and Tutor of St. John’s College, Oxford. The entire book can be read online at http://www2.nd.edu/Departments.....xt/eog.htm . Chapter 1, “The Proof from Reason,” contains a fascinating commentary on the argument from design, its strengths and limitations, as viewed by its ablest exponents 122 years ago (or 28 years after The Origin of Species was published in 1859, and 16 years after The Descent of Man in 1871). Later in the chapter, Fr. Clarke goes on to discuss the cosmological argument, which he considers more conclusive than the design argument. But before addressing either of these arguments, the theist in his dialogue makes the following point:

    First of all, I ask you to bear in mind the difference between a sufficient argument and a resistless argument, between one which is convincing and one which is compelling. In the one case you can manage to find some evasion, in the other you cannot; in the one case you deserve indeed to be called wrong-headed if you do not assent to the argument, but in the other to be called a simple fool. Thus the argument for the reality of early Kings of Rome is a convincing argument, but yet some ingenious people regard them as myths; whereas the arguments for the existence of the City of Pekin are resistless, and any one who said that it was but a fable of geographers would be looked upon as having one of the lobes of his brain affected, even though on all other matters he might be very sensible and prudent. The arguments for the existence of God are convincing, not compelling arguments. You can always find what our professor in theology called an effugium, some way of backing out, which saves you from absolutely contradicting yourself or running counter to obvious common sense.

  113. Some contributors have pointed out (correctly) that the arguments for the existence of God are not logically compelling

    Anthony Flew used to say things like that.

  114. The following sums up the materialistic anti-ID position:

    If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents – the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts – i.e., of Materialism and Astronomy – are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true?

    I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents.

    It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk-jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.–CS Lewis

  115. Atheism is a belief system which also has objects of worship- iow it is a religion.

    Atheism is not a religion just like theism is not a religion. The only reason that people are debating this is because the federal judiciary has undermined the law and basic distinctions rooted in language in order to increase its own power. After all, we’ve come to the point that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution itself could be declared unconstitutional for promoting theism. Note that theism is not a religion, nor is it a church, nor is it the federal establishment of one sect of theists over another. Theists should not try to argue that atheism is a religion. It is not a religion, nor is it a church, etc. Instead they should deal with the original problem, a judiciary that is capable of pulling decisions out of its own penumbras in order to further evolve its power.

    The judiciary is likely to be deeply prejudiced and biased against ID because in order to increase its own power it must reject the limitations of design rooted in text and the capacity to adapt that was written into the original design of the body politic.

    The main interest of the federal judiciary is its own power and prestige as it separates itself from the body politic:

    Like the character of an individual, the legitimacy of the Court must be earned over time. So, indeed, must be the character of a Nation of people who aspire to live according to the rule of law. Their belief in themselves as such a people is not readily separable from their understanding of the Court invested with the authority to decide their constitutional cases and speak before all others for their constitutional ideals.
    112 S. Ct. 2816 (1992) (emphasis added) Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey

    As contrasted to the main interest of those who designed the constitution of the body politic:

    To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions is a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.
    (Letter from Thomas Jefferson to William Charles Jarvis (Sept. 28,1820) in 15 The Writings of Thomas Jefferson 276, 277(Andrew A. Lipscomb & Albert Ellery Bergh eds., 1904) )

    I had rather ask an enlargement of power from the nation, where it is found necessary, than to assume it by a construction which would make our powers boundless. Our peculiar security is in possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction . . . . I confess, then, I think it important, in the present case, . . . to set an example against broad construction by appealing for new power to the people.
    (Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Wilson Cary Nicholas (Sept. 7, 1803), in 8 THE WRITINGS OF THOMAS JEFFERSON 247-28 (Paul L. Ford ed., 1897)

    You can debate the definition of “religion” all you like. You may even come to some correct conclusions about the meanings of words and so on. It matters little, the federal will set precedents which will further its power. Evolutionary views which turn language into hypothetical goo further its power while IDing the symbols and signs typical to design limits its power, therefore judges will tend to find ID “unconstitutional” no matter what the law and Constitution actually say.

  116. —-David: “Honestly, I don’t know why you’re so concerned with figuring me out theologically. I’m not being coy, I just don’t get it.”

    Nothing personal, really, but ID critics seldom say anything about what they believe or what they mean, but they speak expansively about what they do not believe and what they do not mean. That puts them in the very convenient position of always being the scrutinizer and never being the one who is scrutinized. I am not willing to grant them that luxury.

    —-”Anyway, the notion that a Christian has to be pro-ID or anti-evolution is ridiculous, so I don’t see why I should need to defend an ID advocate. Further, the Christians on this blog don’t need their faith defended. Or attacked.”

    I simply pointed out that for someone who claims to be a non-atheist, you certainly provide a great deal of consolation for atheists and none for their adversaries.

    —-”I gave your post more credit than it deserved by calling it an argument. In fact, you have not made an argument. You have made a number of assertions.”

    It wasn’t an argument; it was a description, and an apt one. I feel no need to use only one tool in my toolbox.
    -
    —”For the record, I think that the cosmological argument is a pretty good one as such things go.”

    To have said that earlier would have been to avoid all this fuss.

    —-” However, we do not come to believe (or disbelieve) on rational grounds alone, ever.”

    Agreed.

    —-” All so-called logical arguments for — or against — the existence of God are finally insufficient to compel anything.”

    The point is that theism is reasonable and atheism is unreasonable.

    —-”You are following Leibniz in the sense that you’re arguing in precisely the terms Leibniz formulated. Leibniz does it better, though.”

    I am following Aquinas, who is much, much better than Leibnitz and myself put together and multiplied by ten.

  117. But anyway-

    Science Asks Three Basic Questions:

    1- What’s there?

    The astronaut picking up rocks on the moon, the nuclear physicist bombarding atoms, the marine biologist describing a newly discovered species, the paleontologist digging in promising strata, are all seeking to find out, “What’s there?”

    2-How does it work?

    A geologist comparing the effects of time on moon rocks to the effects of time on earth rocks, the nuclear physicist observing the behavior of particles, the marine biologist observing whales swimming, and the paleontologist studying the locomotion of an extinct dinosaur, “How does it work?”

    3-How did it come to be this way?

    Each of these scientists tries to reconstruct the histories of their objects of study. Whether these objects are rocks, elementary particles, marine organisms, or fossils, scientists are asking, “How did it come to be this way?”

    The motives of IDists are clear- we want to know the truth, i.e. the reality, behind our existence.

    If that reality, i.e. the evidence, leads us to the metaphysical then so be it. We explain the evidence and we don’t have to explain the metaphysical to do so.

    The DESIGN exists in the physical world and as such is open to empirical testing.

    ID is about the DESIGN.

  118. to upright biped at 87

    You asked a question about my beliefs, which I answered with some thought and detail. It seems like you responded with some rudeness, which I don’t think I deserved.

    With that said, you wrote,

    However, it does not follow that IDists who are dedicated to understanding empirical evidence (using the rationale of science) should then stand the wrath of atheist who’s defense of their own belief challenges what is virtually uncontested empirical knowledge. I am speaking here about you making airy speculations about a yet unknown cause. It would seem that the import of observation, testability, and parsimony are on a sliding scale, as needed.

    And then to have atheist tell us that “whatever” the cause is, “it doesn’t come from a God.” Well, apparently in this we can be certain. The knowledge we actually do have (such as knowing that a conventional language is at the heart of the instruction set that creates life) can simply be damned. It’s a minor price to pay for the personal certainties required by the majority position, or so it seems.

    Hmmm. First of all, do I read your last sentences correctly? You appear to be saying that atheism is the majority position. That is surely wrong – surveys routinely find that 15% or so of Americans describe themselves as atheist or agnostic about God. Theism is without a doubt the majority position in the U.S.

    Also, there is nothing “wrathful” about anything I’ve said, and I have not spoken about any certainties. It is you who seems certain of what you call “virtually uncontested empirical knowledge.”

    Also, you say that I am “making airy speculations about a yet unknown cause.” I agree, but my opinion is that God is an equally “airy speculation.” As I said in 111 above, we all choose which “airy” metaphysical “speculations” to “believe in” for different reasons, and for me the probable existence of a divine being seems both less likely and less useful to me than belief in other types of metaphysical concepts.

    And last, you write,

    It is interesting though, you’ve been on this board for days happily arguing at the very edges of the slightest details in ID. This seems a rather stark contrast to the speculation and hazy logic you’ve used to support your own beliefs.

    I’ve been arguing about the logic of a computer program. That hasn’t had anything to do with ID, in my opinion. And that discussion wasn’t about metaphysics – it was about very specific details in math and logic. Those are two very different things – I would expect a stark contrast between a metaphysical discussion and a discussion about how a computer program works.

    =============================

    to vjtorley at 82.

    Thanks for your response. Here are some comments:

    You write,

    Taoism is indeed a beautiful religion, but it has one fatal flaw, in my book: it’s ultimately a loveless account of the world. Love is not fundamental to the Taoist account: it’s just one of those things that emerges from the nameless Tao, like intelligence and will.

    Taoism can certainly offer believers a sense of mystery and perhaps even a kind of serenity. But that is not the same sense of purpose and personal identity that believers get from a faith in personal God.

    For my part, I don’t think love can be “boiled down” to anything else. It is basic.

    I agree that Taoism does not make love a central concept, and frankly, that seems to me to be one of the things about it that makes it more “right” than theism. I think that love, like intelligence, will, compassion, etc., arise as emergent qualities in human beings, but I don’t see that love is a quality that pervades the vast expanses of the universe or the many physical phenomena within it. Love is central to our nature as human beings, but that doesn’t mean it is a central quality of the Tao.

    I understand that “a faith in a personal God” can give “a sense of purpose and personal identity” that Taoism cannot. But I choose my beliefs on how accurately I think they metaphysically represent my understanding of the world, not on how well they bolster my sense of self. In fact, throughout the Eastern religions there is an emphasis on reducing the importance of both one’s personal identity and acting for the satisfaction of the ego.

  119. “why should we not invoke a similar standard of evidence in matters pertaining to religious belief?”

    This is an attempt to use reason and there is little reason in this thread so when some is attempted the response will be psychic babble. This whole discussion is a little like “Through the Looking Glass.” People invoke the “ying and the yang,” the “this and the that,” or the “Mama and the Papas” or whatever amuses them at the moment.

    ID trots out science and reason and this is what we get as criticism. Are they also applying these same fantasies and musings to the origin of life and species. That would go well with the journals. We will have a new direction to look forward to for just so stories.

    What a joke. This begins with the bogus presentation of Shermer and diverts off into amorphous dribble. The real question is who is Tweedledum and and who is Tweedledee?

  120. AmerikanInKananaskis says, “I despise Michael Shermer.”

    But Bill Dembski says, Michael Shermer is a mensch!

    mensch: A person of integrity and honor.

  121. “psychic babble” – that’s a good one! :)

    I definitely don’t belief in psychic babble – is that a belief system?

    I also like the respectful way in which the core concepts of a religion older than Christianity is likened to “the Mamas and the Papas” – the Receptive (yin) being the Mamas and the Creative (yang) being the Papas, I presume.

  122. On a more serious note, please explain to me why the idea of the complementary duality of yin and yang as the fundamental metaphysical forces in the world is more “amorphous dribble” than God and Satan, or heaven and hell, or other similar concepts in Christianity. By what criteria is one amorphous dribble and the other not?

  123. Nakashima:

    I’d like to clear up a misunderstanding you seem to evince relating to the cosmological argument. There are two cosmological arguments: the kalam cosmological argument (which seeks to prove that time had a beginning, and that only a timeless Being can explain the cosmos) and the modal cosmological argument (which makes no claim about the cosmos having a beginning, and attempts to argue for a Necessary Being).

    I’m a fan of the second cosmological argument; but I have my doubts about the first. In any case, what you should know is that both St. Thomas Aquinas and Leibniz were concerned with the second argument, not the first. This is a vital point, for two reasons.

    (1) The kinds of causes they had in mind were not temporally prior to their effects. (Indeed, it is a myth to say that causes have to precede their effects: think of a kettle which is heated by a flame on a hot stove. Here, cause and effect are simultaneous.)

    Aquinas was interested in effects which are essentially dependent on explanatory causes. He recognized that effects cannot be essentially dependent on events occurring earlier in time. For example, I would not be here now were it not for my parents having procreated me at some earlier point in time; and my parents would not exist without their parents having procreated them; yet none of these procreative acts can explain the fact that I exist now. To explain my current existence, I need to invoke other, more fundamental states of affairs, such as there being air and a solid floor in the room where I am sitting. These are not earlier events; they are true as I speak. And these in turn depend on still more fundamental states of affairs, such as the laws of nature, which are also true as I speak. If these laws were a tiny bit different, I certainly would not be here now.

    So if you want to object to the modal cosmological argument, please do not go back in time to the Big Bang, as the causes being considered by this argument are not earlier events, but more fundamental events. Rather, where you should stop is at the fundamental laws of nature, and ask: why do I need to go further? Why not take the laws of nature as explanatorily basic?

    (2) The reason why the laws of nature may not be taken as basic has nothing to do with whether they had a beginning in time; rather, the point is that they are wholly contingent, and it is therefore appropriate ro ask why they are the way they are.

    It would be an historical anachronism to ponder how Aquinas (1225-1274) would have responded to the question, “Why not take the laws of nature as explanatorily basic?”, as these laws had not yet been mathematically formulated in the thirteenth century. However, Leibniz, who was a contemporary of Newton’s, would have had a ready answer. He would have pointed out that everything in the cosmos – including its fundamental laws and the structure of spacetime itself – is wholly contingent. Nothing in the cosmos has to be the way it is; everything in the world around us could be different.

    The axiom that that every wholly contingent fact has a cause is crucial to the argument put forward by Professor Robert Koons in his 1996 paper, “A New Look at the Cosmological Argument,” at http://www.arn.org/docs/koons/cosmo.pdf , which I cited above. Koons admits readily that this axiom (axiom number 7 in his argument) is not a logically compelling one, but maintains that it is perfectly reasonable nonetheless, and that it would be unreasonable and anti-scientific to deny it:

    The evidence for Axiom 7 is essentially empirical. Every success of common sense and science in reconstructing the causal antecedents of particular events and classes of events provides confirmation of Axiom 7….

    [I]t is hard to see why the abundant success of empirical science in finding causes for contingent facts does not provide overwhelming empirical support for the generalization to all contingent facts…

    [T]the denial of the universality of causation as a descriptive generalization constitutes a very radical form of skepticism. All of our knowledge about the past, in history, law and natural science, depends on our inferring causes of present facts (traces, memories, records). Without the conviction that all (or nearly all) of these have causes, all of our reconstructions of the past (and therefore, nearly all of our knowledge of the present) would be groundless.

    True, you may say, but even if there is a Necessary Being, why should it be a personal agent? This is the Achilles heel of the cosmological argument in its classic formulation. I would argue that to adequately meet this objection, we need to dig deeper, and get to the core of the various a posteriori arguments for God’s existence (i.e. arguments based on experience, and not reason alone). That core was expressed by Bernard Lonergan, S.J., as follows:

    “If the real is completely intelligible, God exists. But the real is completely intelligible. Therefore, God exists.”

    (There is an interesting article about Lonergan’s argument at this site: http://www.rojka.sk/integrity.html .)

    The most amazing thing about our fragile, contingent universe, as Einstein remarked, is that it is comprehensible – or intelligible, as Lonergan would say. It is amenable to scientific investigation; and we can understand it.

    The point that I would make here is that only an Intelligent Being (i.e. an agent) can serve to guarantee that the universe is, and continues to be, intelligible, instead of dissolving into a buzzing, blooming mess. Unless we suppose that such a Being exists, science becomes a very precarious enterprise, liable to fail at any minute.

    The supposition that there is a personal, intelligent Being who upholds the cosmos, who makes it possible for us to know and understand the cosmos, and who wishes to be known by us, is not a “science stopper” as ID critics charge; rather, it is a science enabler.

    Lastly, the criticism that an Intelligent Being of any sort has to be complex and therefore contingent (and hence not the Necessary Being) relies on a generalization from a very limited sample of intelligent beings: human beings. There is nothing about the act of knowing, or of having a concept, which necessitates the possession of separable parts. Intelligent beings don’t have to be contingent.

  124. Mr StephenB,

    In discussing the logical necessity of of a necessary being, given the existence of a contingent being, I don’t think the goal posts of our discussion have moved.
    Let me be clearer. You write about contingent entities But not everything can be like this. The possibility of closed timelike curves belies this assertion.In the case of CTCs, the chain of contingent events is like a snake swallowing its tail.
    I will certainly grant that we don’t know if CTCs exist in our universe, but their possibility means that a necessary being, even one as simple as the Big Bang, is not a logical necessity.

  125. Actually the Mama’s and the Papa’s have a great philosophy. Maybe we can weave it in with the inscrutable wisdom of the East.

    We have the yin

    “You gotta go where you wanna go
    Do what you wanna do
    With whoever you wanna do it with”

    and the yang

    “I’m in with the in crowd;
    I go where the in crowd goes.
    I’m in with the in crowd;
    And I know what the in crowd knows.
    Any time of the year, don’t you hear?
    Dressin? fine; makin? time.
    We breeze up and down the street;
    We get respect from the people we meet.
    They make way day or night;
    They know the in crowd is out of sight.
    I’m in with the in crowd”

    And then the ding a ling

    “Got a feelin’ that you’re playin’ some game with me babe
    Got a feelin’ that you just can’t see
    If you’re entertainin’ any thought that you’re gainin’
    By causin’ me all of this pain and makin’ me blue
    The joke’s on you”

  126. http://www.gutenberg.org/files....._Orthodoxy

    Hazel,
    Although not a tight explanation of why one worldview is more amorphous than another, The Romance of Orthodoxy found in Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is a great essay on why pantheism and Buddhism are not as coherent as Christianity. You mentioned that “Love is central to our nature as human beings,” but I would suggest that love loses its meaning in the taoist, or Buddhist framework (yes, I am lumping them together for now, part of my congenital inability to care about writing precisely about some things.) Sorry, but you’ll have to cut and paste the link.

    I offer the reference to show you and perhaps remind others of the engaging GKC.

  127. Hazel:

    Thank you for your post (119). You write:

    I think that love, like intelligence, will, compassion, etc., arise as emergent qualities in human beings, but I don’t see that love is a quality that pervades the vast expanses of the universe or the many physical phenomena within it. Love is central to our nature as human beings, but that doesn’t mean it is a central quality of the Tao.

    I understand that “a faith in a personal God” can give “a sense of purpose and personal identity” that Taoism cannot. But I choose my beliefs on how accurately I think they metaphysically represent my understanding of the world, not on how well they bolster my sense of self.

    I take your point that a religious belief does not become rational simply because it makes us feel better. But methinks you do the cosmos a grave injustice by characterizing it as loveless. For we can love the beauty of nature, wherever we find it. Even after a disaster in which thousands die, the world still looks maddeningly beautiful.

    The fact that the world is bigger than we are should not disturb us; and the fact that it cannot love us back should not bother us. The mere fact that it can be loved by us as something beautiful, no matter how badly it is “misbehaving” (from our anthropocentric perspective) should excite our wonder. And the additional fact that even at its craziest, the world remains knowable and amenable to scientific investigation should prompt our suspicion that it is the work of a Mind.

    For if we do not make such a supposition, we have no logical refuge from total skepticism regarding the future, or regarding the reliability of our reasoning in matters removed from the practical and the here-and-now.

    If I were not a theist, I would be far more mistrustful of the cosmos, and of the workings of my own mind, than most atheists are. Like the ancient Gauls, I would be perpetually worried about whether the sky was going to fall on my head; and I would also believe myself to be mentally incompetent on all matters, except for pressing questions like “Where’s lunch?” That would at least be a modest position to take, in the light of the evidence.

    Atheists cannot explain why science works, as an enterprise. Their confidence in science is a gigantic leap of faith.

  128. 130

    Tim, another perspective is provided by Marcus Borg in his essay “Jesus and Buddhism: A Christian View.” It’s not really about historic Christianity but about the person of Jesus and the different ways within Christian tradition of understanding him. I’ll say right away that lots of people wouldn’t view Borg as a Christian, but that’s ok.

  129. @ Hazel (and probably others)

    I’ve found all the thoughts presented thus far to be quite interesting. Just thought I’d add my opinion as to why there is so much disagreement. I think the problem lies in the misuse of words. I’ll try to illustrate this:

    Suppose I tell you I’m thinking of a number, “x,” giving you only that the number is between 1 and 1 000 000. You state that the answer is five. Suppose someone else, James, believes that the answer is not five. Harry suggests that it is impossible to know what number I’m thinking of, and thus refuses to give an answer. It follows then that:

    1) Your belief would represent theism.

    2) James’ belief represents atheism. “I do not know the answer, but I know the answer is not five”

    3) Harry’s belief represents agnosticism.

    Now neither theism nor atheism constitutes religious belief. If I were to start building temples to the glory of the number “5,” then that would be another story. I think Joseph’s question is an interesting one to consider further:

    “So the question is are all belief systems also religions?”

    If the answer is no, then you have to ask, “if not all belief systems are religions, then when does a belief system become a religion?” Theism and atheism are broad categories. Religions fall within those broad categories. So Christianity is a theistic religion.

    Atheism is not inherently a religion, but atheism is as broad a category as theism is. So the question then is, “when does atheistic belief become a religion?”

    Now the three bears of atheism (as Plantinga lovingly calls them) are putting forward specific epistemological claims, and claims about the cosmos. Dawkins even has a revised “ten commandments” in the God Delusion. I’ve heard more and more people referring to a “new atheist movement.” What is this? Who are these people, and how are they uniting in disbelief? What is the atheist creed? How does one join? (I’ve asked many atheists this, and have gotten no answer)

    It is clear that there is a group of atheists who have become very vocal. They are making specific claims, and setting certain objectives. They’re even raising money for advertisements on buses. They have not identified themselves as Dawkinians, Darwinists, Secular Humanists, Harrisians, Dennites or anything else. They have identified themselves as atheists. Therein lies the problem in my opinion.

  130. Mr. Kellogg,

    I responded once before, but it has not posted. Now that I have had a chance to revisit Mr. Borg’s essay, things have only gotten worse.

    I found aspects of Mr. Borg’s essay to be dogmatic, unpersuasive, unconvincing, ponderous, at times incoherent, vague, tedious, trivial . . .

    Seriously, were you kidding around? Sending me on a snipe hunt? What? . . .

  131. Mr Tim,

    Thank you for the link! Before I have only read his detective stories.
    His prose is quite fun to read. It just rolls along, sparkling like a stream in the moonlight. And then you realize that he has disposed of an argument from Herbert Spencer simply by slandering him in the eyes of his own audience, by lumping him in with Irish Unionists. I sure the snake in the garden could do a quite passable GKC impression.
    I would agree with GKC’s main thesis in that chapter, that Christianity and Buddhism don’t share some important theology. But I don’t see your argument there, that Christianity is more coherent. Both traditions are riven with sectarianism.

  132. 134

    Hmm. Sorry about that Tim. I wouldn’t think that a fan of Chesterton would be opposed to dogmatism. :-) My own views are closer to Borg’s, which would make me a heretic in Chesterton’s eyes.

  133. —-Nakashima: “Let me be clearer. You write about contingent entities “But not everything can be like this.”

    —-”The possibility of closed timelike curves belies this assertion.In the case of CTCs, the chain of contingent events is like a snake swallowing its tail.”

    The statement was not “everything must be like this” (contingent) but “not everything can be like this,” which is the case. Not everything can be contingent, otherwise there would be no non-contingent, self-existent being to give being to everything else. You are arguing correctly that there are, or may be, contingent things that we do not know about, but that doesn’t change the need for a necessary being. While all things in the universe “have” being, their existence depends on that which “is” being. There is no way around this.

    Also, don’t forget that there are many other complementary arguments about the existence of a creator which complement the contingency/necessity argument, including, but not limited to, the argument from motion, from design, from efficient causality, and gradation of being. In many cases, indeed, in most cases, inductive reasoning must be used in conjuction with deductive reasoning. The argument is not that the existence of a self-existent creator can be arrived at through “deductive logic.” The argument is that it can be arrived at through the use of reason, which indeed it can.

    —-”I will certainly grant that we don’t know if CTCs exist in our universe, but their possibility means that a necessary being, even one as simple as the Big Bang, is not a logical necessity.”

    The “big bang” is not a logical necessity; it is rather a contingent event which depends on a necessary being. The universe did not have to be.

  134. 136

    Hazel,

    …you responded with some rudeness, which I don’t think I deserved.

    Rudeness? Not hardly.
    There is no need to conflate rudeness with simple directness, and please, don’t feign having thin skin. You, in the shoes of an atheist, challenge the observable evidence that strongly infers volitional agency, and then back up your suspicions of that evidence with nothing less than wild-eyed speculation about phenomena that are not observable, and have no inferential trail that leads us to them. It’s unbecoming of the majority of your thoughtful posts on UD.

    You appear to be saying that atheism is the majority position. That is surely wrong…

    I am almost certain that we are on an Intelligent Design website. I am further sure that we are having a discussion about the conclusions of science, scientists, and their institutions. Surely you knew this as well, didn’t you?

    …there is nothing “wrathful” about anything I’ve said

    Perhaps. But, I would direct you to my previous paragraph, and simply ask if you are also not aware of the general tone given to the idea of volitional agency as first cause within scientific circles?

    …and I have not spoken about any certainties.

    If I quoted you as saying “…whatever the cause, nature and purpose of life is, it doesn’t come from a God” would you say that this expresses a certain level of certainty? If not, then please tell me how it doesn’t express certainty.

    It is you who seems certain of what you call “virtually uncontested empirical knowledge.”

    This is in reference to my “certainty” that there are only three causes known to mankind. On this point you are correct, I will freely admit to drawing a certain level of certainty from several thousand years of observations by the innumerable philosophers, theologians, scientists, and laymen that have lived prior to my short stay.

    Also, you say that I am “making airy speculations about a yet unknown cause.” I agree, but my opinion is that God is an equally “airy speculation.

    I am glad you agree, but let’s try to be consistent here. I am not the one suggesting that a plausible inference to an unknown cause can be made simply by a (scientifically unsubstantiated) decision to ignore the (scientifically observable) inferences to agency.

    …the probable existence of a divine being seems both less likely and less useful to me than belief in other types of metaphysical concepts.

    So, I can further infer that your decision to ignore the observable evidence for agency is not actually based on the evidence itself, but is rather a personal decision. That is fine, as I have never set out to convince anyone to believe in a supernatural being. As I said in my first response; you are free to personally believe whatever you wish. I simply assert that the pretense of ignoring agency is neither enlightened nor scientific. Your comments have been helpful in that regard.

  135. 137

    Borg:

    I do not see the understanding of Jesus’ death as a sacrifice for sin as going back to Jesus himself, but as one of several post-Easter metaphors interpreting the meaning of his death…
    Moreover, in its first-century context, the sacrificial understanding of Jesus’ death was a radically subversive metaphor.

    It’s not hard to tell that Christianity was intended as both a belief system and a way of life based upon divine wisdom. Borg has sucked away every ounce of its meaning and replaced it with the speculation of historians.
    Who would die for a “subversive metaphor?”
    Christianity glorifies God. When Borg sticks a pin in it and places it under glass, he only elevates himself.
    Sorry, that was a bit of a rant.

  136. Moderator Clive:

    jerry’s mockery of Taoism is despicable. What happens if someone refers to prominent ID author Jonathan Wells, who believes that the second coming of Christ is realized in Sun Myung Moon, as a Moonie?

    As Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

  137. His characterization of ID was that the theory says, 1) If something looks designed, 2) We can’t think how it was designed naturally, 3) Therefore we assert that it was designed supernaturally. (God of the gaps.) Okay everyone, laugh away at the stupid ID theorists.

    That’s a good summary of ID theory, I don’t know why it should be objectionable. There’s some mathematical and philosophical artifice to support each of the 3 steps, but Shermer displays his usual skill here in conveying the essence of complex arguments in an accessible way.

    (1) Summarizes the irreducable complexity and complex specified information claims. Irreducible complexity is only detected by inspection, as is CSI, lacking any application to signal analysis. In fact, Shermer is being too charitable when he says “looks like,” since ID has yet to develop an experimental basis to test the validity and utility of either IC or CSI.

    (2) Summarizes the entirely philosophical supposition that “chance, necessity, and agency” are indeed mutually exclusive and exhaustive.

    (3) Shermer might have made a small misrepresentation here, depending on whether you consider directed panspermia “supernatural.” In any case, since ID proponents nearly universally believe the designer was a supernatural being (i.e. the God of Abraham), how could Dr. Crocker object to the one characterization that she surely accepts?

    ID unapologetically asks that metaphysical hypotheses be considered, and that metaphysical arguments be given equal consideration to materialist (read: empirical) arguments. You can hardly complain if Shermer resorts to philosophical, or even theological, arguments to show how ID fails as an explanation for the origin and history of life on earth.

    You haven’t left him much choice, frankly. I’d love to see an intelligent design research program that digs for fossils to support ID, or scours the genome for evidence of the sort of manipulation that a designer might leave.

    ID’s biggest failure as a scientific endeavor is that its hypothesis fits equally well with evolotion or the spontaneous origin of life as it does with traditional young earth creationism. A designer omniscient enough to know every possible viable genome and powerful enough to manipulate those physical systems could just as easily have done it with one miracle at the instant of creation.

    The only reason ID should want to undermine evolution at all is to subject science to religious scrutiny (although the unintended consequence will surely be to subject religion to scientific scrutiny). No surprise Shermer spent time talking about religion, given ID’s dangerous implications for believers and non-believers alike.

  138. daveBHis characterization of ID was that the theory says, 1) If something looks designed, 2) We can’t think how it was designed naturally, 3) Therefore we assert that it was designed supernaturally. (God of the gaps.) Okay everyone, laugh away at the stupid ID theorists. That’s a good summary of ID theory, I don’t know why it should be objectionable.

    It would be great summary, except that he manages to get everything wrong to such a degree it makes him (and his defenders, no offense daveB) look incredibly stupid.

    A better summary would be designed things have exclusive traits. If those traits exist, the object is designed. It is impossible to identify the designer through this method.

  139. to vjtorley

    You write,

    But methinks you do the cosmos a grave injustice by characterizing it as loveless. For we can love the beauty of nature, wherever we find it. Even after a disaster in which thousands die, the world still looks maddeningly beautiful.

    The fact that the world is bigger than we are should not disturb us; and the fact that it cannot love us back should not bother us. The mere fact that it can be loved by us as something beautiful, no matter how badly it is “misbehaving” (from our anthropocentric perspective) should excite our wonder.

    Absolutely – I agree. Our feelings of love and wonder and awe for the universe as a whole and many parts of it, including especially those of our family, friends and community, are critical and essential parts of us. We are not loveless, and a universe that produces us can not be said to be loveless. I didn’t say anything denying this, I don’t think.

    What I said was, channeling a philosophical Taoist view, is that love is not a central, core aspect of the universe. The key idea of Taoism is that all things exist as aspects of a complementary duality, and thus personal loving, compassionate engagement with the world is balanced by a vast impersonal indifference that characterizes the physical universe.

    Then you write,

    And the additional fact that even at its craziest, the world remains knowable and amenable to scientific investigation should prompt our suspicion that it is the work of a Mind.

    For if we do not make such a supposition, we have no logical refuge from total skepticism regarding the future, or regarding the reliability of our reasoning in matters removed from the practical and the here-and-now.

    I don’t agree with this – neither that the knowability of the world implies the work of a mind nor that denying that implies serious, fundamental doubts about the reliability of our reasoning.

    These are big topics, and to my mind, the biggest misconceptions about what atheism (including that of the Toaist variety) entails.

    Atheists cannot explain why science works, as an enterprise. Their confidence in science is a gigantic leap of faith.

    I have confidence in science because

    a. the observations of the physical world which are the starting points of science are ones that we can all share – science is a communal enterprise based on common empirical experience

    b. we can test our conclusions by further observations of the world.

    I don’t see how a belief in God is at all necessary for this enterprise to go on.

    As to why science works, or as to the broader questions as to how knowing creatures with minds exist in a world that itself has no Mind, I again can see that, like love and will and intelligence are a product of the universe – the universe produces many things that which have characteristics that need not be characteristics of the core nature of the universe.

    The Taoist view in that the Creative force acts upon the physical world (the Receptive) and out of this interplay the “restless multiplicity” (a phrase I like and used yesterday) of things such as planets and rocks and minds and love arises.

    I’d like to make it clear that Taoism sees this interplay as being a broader thing than the causal chains of events available to our understanding as creatures embedded in time and space. In Jung’s Introduction to the I Ching, he says,

    This assumption [that the I Ching works] involves a certain curious principle that I have termed synchronicity,[2] a concept that formulates a point of view diametrically opposed to that of causality. Since the latter is a merely statistical truth and not absolute, it is a sort of working hypothesis of how events evolve one out of another, whereas synchronicity takes the coincidence of events in space and time as meaning something more than mere chance, namely, a peculiar interdependence of objective events among themselves as well as with the subjective (psychic) states of the observer or observers.

    … Just as causality describes the sequence of events, so synchronicity to the Chinese mind deals with the coincidence of events. The causal point of view tells us a dramatic story about how D came into existence: it took its origin from C, which existed before D, and C in its turn had a father, B, etc. The synchronistic view on the other hand tries to produce an equally meaningful picture of coincidence. How does it happen that A’, B’, C’, D’, etc., appear all in the same moment and in the same place? It happens in the first place because the physical events A’ and B’ are of the same quality as the psychic events C’ and D’, and further because all are the exponents of one and the same momentary situation. The situation is assumed to represent a legible or understandable picture.

    Leaving out speculations about whether the I Ching can “really” represent a situation by a hexagram, what I find interesting is that synchronicity, as described by Jung, means that events that are not connected causally and appear to come together by chance are in fact part of a bigger “event” that transcends the world as we can know it empirically. This bigger picture isn’t being created by a conscious Mind but rather by a larger set of principles acting on the world across time and space. Much as the laws of causality create the physical world that we can know empirically, the laws of the Tao – the interplay of the Creative and the Receptive and all the other complementary duals structure events that grow and develop without the need for any controlling Mind.

    Note well that I am not arguing that I know this is true, but I am arguing that it is as plausible as a philosophy that believes a Mind – God – must be behind the creative existence we see before us.

    And it makes more sense to me than belief in such a God.

  140. Sal Gal,

    Thank you for helping us again at ID. The issue is over the origin of the universe and so far I have not seen anyone who supports atheism make a valid claim here to the non intelligent origin of the universe which is an essential element of atheism. If anyone thinks that Taoism is the way to such a claim then I believe they are deluded. I am not knocking Taoism but it has nothing to do with how the universe arose.

    You may say that the origin of the university has not been discussed but any discussion of atheism here at UD always involves that implicit assumption in the discussion. Maybe you will be able to latch on to that.

  141. —-DaveB: “ID unapologetically asks that metaphysical hypotheses be considered, and that metaphysical arguments be given equal consideration to materialist (read: empirical) arguments.”

    I can’t wait to hear from you about which “metaphysical” arguments ID science is using. Please don’t disappoint me on this one, and please don’t be vague. I trust that if you catch some ID advocate reading the Gospel at a church service some Sunday morning that you will not characterize that activity as an example of an ID scientist proposing a formal hypothesis—or will you?

  142. Mr. Kellogg,
    Re: dogmatic ok, touche ;) even though GKC is far too fun, personable and engaging to be just dogmatic!

    Mr. Nakashima

    GKC, in Orthodoxy:

    If I may put it so, [Mrs. Besant] does not tell us to love our neighbours; she tells us to be our neighbours. That is Mrs. Besant’s thoughtful and suggestive description of the religion in which all men must find themselves in agreement. And I never heard of any suggestion in my life with which I more violently disagree. I want to love my neighbour not because he is I, but precisely because he is not I. I want to adore the world, not as one likes a looking-glass, because it is one’s self, but as one loves a woman, because she is entirely different. If souls are separate love is possible. If souls are united love is obviously impossible. A man may be said loosely to love himself, but he can hardly fall in love with himself, or, if he does, it must be a monotonous courtship. If the world is full of real selves, they can be really unselfish selves. But upon Mrs. Besant’s principle the whole cosmos is only one enormously selfish person.

    It is just here that Buddhism is on the side of modern pantheism and immanence. And it is just here that Christianity is on the side of humanity and liberty and love. Love desires personality; therefore love desires division.”

    I find the preceding to be utterly coherent and an indictment of love (as I understand love) being real if Buddhism is real. Now, your job is either to convince me that the preceding isn’t coherent or that love isn’t real. I am not actually challenging you to do that in this forum; I find such arguments to be boring and am certain others would also. In fact, I am a little embarrassed to have dragged myself in this far.

    Any chance to quote GKC and I just can’t help it.

    Oh by the way Mr. Kellogg, speaking of heretics, Chesterton’s book, Heretics, is fantastic. Although slightly dated, it offers a great framework by which I can understand many movements in thought today. No offense, but I am not sure Chesterton would consider you a heretic — perhaps many heretics, but not one :)

  143. Mr StephenB,
    While all things in the universe “have” being, their existence depends on that which “is” being. There is no way around this.
    Well, this restates your opening position even less clearly than before. You haven’t brought evidence (as opposed to arguments) that I AM THAT I AM is more of a necessity than IT IS THAT IT IS.

  144. tribune7 @ 140

    A better summary would be designed things have exclusive traits. If those traits exist, the object is designed. It is impossible to identify the designer through this method.

    In my view, an even better summary would be that the Intelligent Design movement proposes that all instances of design, regardless of the nature of the designer, share traits which can be used to distinguish reliably between that which is designed and that which is not.

    It should be noted, however, that this proposal relies on the assumption that there exist undesigned phenomena from which designed phenomena can be separated. In the case of a Universe which is entirely the handiwork of a Creator, every aspect of that world would bear the imprint of design. There would be nothing undesigned for any Filter to remove.

    As for the identity of the Designer, if it is the same as the Christian God or First Cause, then there is little we can say about it at present other than it must be a being knowledgeable and powerful enough to create all we observe. If, however, the Designer is a lesser being, responsible for some – but not all – of what we observe, then we can infer something about its nature by what it can and cannot do. In either case, the nature of the Designer is a fit subject for scientific investigation and should not be excluded arbitrarily.

  145. Nakashima writes,

    You haven’t brought evidence (as opposed to arguments) that I AM THAT I AM is more of a necessity than IT IS THAT IT IS.</blockquote)

    Very good way of putting this. There is no argument for the first cause being personal that doesn’t apply equally to the first cause being impersonal.

  146. Nakashima writes,

    You haven’t brought evidence (as opposed to arguments) that I AM THAT I AM is more of a necessity than IT IS THAT IT IS.

    Very good way of putting this. There is no argument for the first cause being personal that doesn’t apply equally to the first cause being impersonal.

  147. So what I want to know is…If evolution is true how long would it have to take to evolve into so many different forms of reproduction? We have mammals, fish, birds, microorganisms, insects, plants, amphibians all reproducing differently, whether it’s human-like reproduction, pollenation as with plants, spawning as with fish, etc??? Some species have been known to change their gender for the purpose of reproduction if I’m not mistaken. What was the first creature to not divide through mitosis? And there would have had to be an evolutionary process that led to 2 genders in order to continue the species. If 2 creatures of the same species and of opposite genders did not evolve within the same time frame wouldn’t it be reasonable to think the one lone creature and thus the species die due to the lack of ability to reproduce?

    Just a thought.

  148. 150

    hazel,

    “Very good way of putting this. There is no argument for the first cause being personal that doesn’t apply equally to the first cause being impersonal.”

    Well, that’s actually not true. If the universe’s first cause was impersonal–just a mere relation between impersonal entities–then the relationship between the impersonal force and the universe would necessitate that the universe would have been around for as long as the relationship between them has been around. This would mean that an impersonal force and the universe’s existence would be infinite into the past, and of course we know that the universe is not infinitely old. And neither will an oscillating universe assuage the difficulty, for that is only pushing the question back, and we also know that in a closed system there is not enough energy to account for an infinitely oscillating universe. And I Am that I Am is obviously different than It Is That It Is–namely, personality.

  149. Mr Tim,

    Certainly GKC is himself coherent, I thought you were saying that he explains that Christianity is more coherent than Buddhism. In the quote you cited, he mostly attacking Besantism, the position of this lady.

  150. —-Nakashima: “Well, this restates your opening position even less clearly than before. You haven’t brought evidence (as opposed to arguments) that I AM THAT I AM is more of a necessity than IT IS THAT IT IS.”

    Nakashima: (In care of hazel). Try to focus on the argument.

    [a] Not everything can be contingent, otherwise there would be no non-contingent, self-existent being to give being to everything else.

    [b] This is a philosophical argument, not a scientific argument, so no scientific evidence is called for. That you are asking for “evidence” proves conclusively that you don’t have a clue about what has been said.

    Please address the point I am making and not the one you wish I had made.

  151. Mr Clive,

    I sem to be having a hard time getting my point across that the IT in IT IS THAT IT IS is the universe itself, not some other thing. All the evidence we have right now is that the universe exists, not that anything created it.
    The time dimension does not need to be infinite in both directions. Time starts at the Big Bang, there is no t-1, just as there is no 91st degree of latitude on Earth. (This is Stephen Hawking’s analogy.) With no time dimension, our linguistic and mathematical ability to talk about ’cause’ fails. “The cause of the Big Bang” doesn’t denote anything.
    At least that is all we have evidence of, today.

  152. Nakashima–

    I sem to be having a hard time getting my point across that the IT in IT IS THAT IT IS is the universe itself, not some other thing

    You are getting metaphysical. It almost sounds like you are trying to quote Exodus 3:14

    All the evidence we have right now is that the universe exists,

    All the evidence for what? The existence of the universe? You seem to be saying that all the evidence we have right now for the existence of the universe is the existence of the universe, which is kind of a pointless thing to say.

    The universe exists and this leads to questions such as where did it come from and why is it here. Those questions cannot be answered by science. A better bet is Exodus 3:14.

  153. Mr Tribune7,

    Yes, I think the association is made a little more forcefully in a previous comment. I was thinking about this verse because of the discussion of GKC’s chapter. In it he talks about the divine call to Christ and Buddha coming from a voice in the sky, and remarks “where else would it come from, the coal-cellar?”
    Quite amusing, since GKC seems to be trying very hard to pretend the Jewish religion never existed. I’m sure GKC had heard of Moses at some point in his education, and Samuel also, but the details of their call seem to have slipped his mind.

    Yes, the fact that the only evidence we have for anything existing is for the universe existing is very boring. It was ridiculous of me to say something so obvious, I apologize. Evidence for something outside the the universe existing – I’m sure it will be front page news when it happens.

  154. Nakashima, I’m fairly informal. Feel free to call me Trib.

    Evidence for something outside the the universe existing – I’m sure it will be front page news when it happens.

    Evidence , my friend, is more often than not sworn testimony, and plenty exists for Jesus who is certainly outside the universe.

    Now, if you are looking for material proof of something outside the universe that’s going to have to come in the form of personal experience, which you will then only find yourself able to share as testimony.

  155. Mr StephenB,

    I have to disagree with you. The world has progressed past Aquinas and Leibnitz in its treatment of these issues. General Relativity theorists have been grappling with these issues of whether the universe is completely causal or not since the early 20th Century. A CTC is a ring of contingent events without a necessary cause. As to whether the whole universe could be inside a CTC, I don’t know. The lack of logical necessity that we have been discussing rests on the possibility of even the smallest CTC existing.

  156. Mr Trib,

    I’m sorry but sometimes formality is more comfortable than informality. If others feel differently, all I can say is “What a wonderful diversity of culture and opinion there is in the world!”

    If these rules of evidence are relevant to our discussion, I am really surprised no one has brought a court case to settle all these arguments. I wonder why it hasn’t happened yet?

  157. If these rules of evidence are relevant to our discussion, I am really surprised no one has brought a court case to settle all these arguments. I wonder why it hasn’t happened yet?

    When the court asks the witnesses to put their hand on the Bible and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help them God, the matter is pretty well settled in courtrooms :-)

  158. Mr. Nakashima, You are using the word “contingent” in a scientific way as a means of describing physical causes and their effect. The philosophical argument that deals with that subject matter is the argument from [efficient causality.] The philosophical argument that I am using is the argument from [contingency to necessity]. You are confusing the two. We, at least I, am not talking about causal chains (or philosophical or scientific problems with causal chains) I am talking about philosophical contingency, which is a way of describing things that “need not have existed,” or things that “depend on something else for their existence.”

    I don’t want to be unkind, but you do not yet understand the argument that you are trying to argue against. Otherwise, you would not speak of “evidence” or outdated philosophers, neither of which has anything to do with the fact that a self-existent, “non-dependent” creator is the only rational explanation for “dependent” creatures. The principles of right reason are not time sensitive, meaning that they cannot become obsolete. Something cannot come from nothing. That principle has always has been true, is true now, and always will be true. Anyone who does not accept that fact cannot sustain a reasoned argument for very long.

  159. 161

    “Anyone who does not accept that fact cannot sustain a reasoned argument for very long.”

    ‘Tis true, Mr. Nakashima. That’s why no-one who is not a theist is rational.

  160. 162

    …or they can offer an explanation where something does indeed come from nothing.

  161. Mr. Nakashima, you write:

    Time starts at the Big Bang, there is no t-1, just as there is no 91st degree of latitude on Earth. (This is Stephen Hawking’s analogy.) With no time dimension, our linguistic and mathematical ability to talk about ’cause’ fails. “The cause of the Big Bang” doesn’t denote anything…

    The world has progressed past Aquinas and Leibniz in its treatment of these issues. General Relativity theorists have been grappling with these issues of whether the universe is completely causal or not since the early 20th Century. A CTC is a ring of contingent events without a necessary cause.

    Just to clarify: Aquinas actually assumed, for the sake of argument, that the world had no beginning, in his famous Five Ways of reasoning to God’s existence. His point was that even if we make this assumption, the universe would still require a necessary cause.

    It is true that Aquinas hadn’t heard of closed timelike curves (CTCs). However, I don’t think he would have been fazed by them, had someone explained them to him. He could still point out that the events occurring in a CTC are contingent – they don’t have to be the way they are. That’s because the laws describing the cosmos don’t have to be the way they are. The laws of the universe are radically contingent, and as such they demand an explanation.

    Stephen Hawking’s famous “North Pole” analogy only works against the kalam cosmological argument, which treats causes as temporally prior to their effects. As I pointed out in an earlier post, the modal cosmological argument doesn’t regard these kinds of causes as very interesting, because they are merely conditions for an event’s occurring. They are accidental requirements, in that had they not occurred, the event would not have occurred, but they don’t explain the existence of the event itself. The modal cosmological argument deals with states of affairs that genuinely explain an event’s occurrence, rather than mere conditions for that event’s occurrence.

    Finally, beware of what you wish for. Do you really want a universe that contains a CTC – even a tiny one? “If CTCs exist, their existence would seem to imply at least the theoretical possibility of making a time machine, as well as raising the spectre of the grandfather paradox” (Wikipedia).

    However uncongenial you might find a universe which needs to be upheld by God, you will have to admit that the grandfather paradox is far more uncongenial.

  162. Mr StephenB,

    In my very first post on this topic I laid out my position that your argument for logical necessity was not one based on logic or the principles of right reason. Rather it was based on the content of semantic categories. Our understanding of the content of the semantic marker ‘causality’ has changed and become richer over the years. I don’t fault Aquinas for not being Einstein or Hawking, nor having the benefit of their knowledge. But please, we do have the benefit of their knowledge!
    I’m actually quite uninterested in word games at the level of the Red Queen. I thought you were also. If you want to attach real world meanings to your thoughts on causality and contingency, be prepared to discuss things undream’t of in the philosophy of Aquinas.
    If you look through a telescope at Mercury, you are directly experiencing the skewed causality of General Relativity. From there to a CTC is a matter of degree, not kind. Do you accept that space might be curved, globally, and is certainly curved, locally, anywhere there is mass?
    If an axiom of theory A is a theorem of theory B, then B is the more powerful theory, because what A assumes, B can prove. Your posts show repeatedly that you hold causality as an axiom of a philosophical theory. I invite you to move on to a scientific theory where causality is a theorem, not an axiom.

  163. Mr Vjtorley,

    Thank you for pointing out this distinction between kalam and modal arguments. As you can guess, I am completely unschooled in Western philosophy. If the kalam argument assumes that causes temporally precede their effects, is there another argument that allows them to follow their effects?
    If Aquinas did assume time was unbounded in both directions (I trust you on this) then the Big Bang might be a bit of a rude shock the first time he heard of it. But I agree he was a smart guy and would have been able to adjust his thinking to the facts.
    So what is this modal argument? If we take a really simple event like a photon being absorbed by an electron, or a mass beginning to orbit another mass, how can we tell the difference between the accidents and the genuine explanations?

  164. Hazel:

    Thank you for your post at 141. Now I think I understand your position better. What you are putting forward (as a working hypothesis) is the notion of a universe which has certain built-in properties (complementarity, synchronicity and emergence) which enable minds such as our own to appear, and know and love, from time to time. The flip side of all this is that these personal acts have to be balanced out by other mindless, impersonal occurrences which also take place in this cosmos; nevertheless, everything is inter-connected in a mysterious way, because it is part of a “bigger event”.

    Your cosmos has three very nice properties (complementarity, synchronicity and emergence) which most materialistic atheists of a scientific bent do not ascribe to it. My question is: if you are right, then (a) what makes the cosmos so nice in the first place, and (b) what keeps it nice? For I can imagine a boring cosmos which lacks these mysterious properties: the clockwork cosmos of the atheist Laplace, for instance.

    What I’m getting at is that your cosmos, or “bigger event” if you want to call it that is still contingent: it doesn’t have to be this nice.

    Now, you might try the tu quoque, and ask: “Well, what keeps God good? Aren’t you vulnerable to the same problem?” But there is a difference. I began with the notion of a perfectly integrated (and hence self-sufficient) Being whose nature is to know and love perfectly. Such a Being would cease to exist (which is impossible) if it stopped being good.

    Your universe, on the other hand, has certain specific properties – laws, hidden connections and so on – about which I can ask: why are they this way, and not some other way? Their contingency is what leaps out at me. While your universe has some (fortuitous) psychic properties, allowing us to emerge, it is still physicalistic as a whole, for it is governed by its own mysterious laws. What I’m saying is that any set of laws is bound to be ad hoc.

    Knowledge and love lack this specificity, because they are non-modal verbs. If I say that some being knows or loves, I have said nothing about how it does so, or even whether there is a “how.” If God is defined purely in terms of knowledge and love, then God does not have any arbitrary properties. That’s why God is not an ad hoc explanation of the world, whereas any physicalistic explanation of the world cannot shake off its “ad hoc-ery.”

    Later, you write:

    I have confidence in science because:

    a. the observations of the physical world which are the starting points of science are ones that we can all share – science is a communal enterprise based on common empirical experience;

    b. we can test our conclusions by further observations of the world.

    I’d like to ask: how do you handle the problem of induction? What guarantees that your universe will continue to behave itself, in a science-friendly way? Professor Koons uses the hypothesis of the multiverse to illustrate the magnitude of the problem:

    Now take any well-established scientific generalization. Among the universes that agree with all of our observations up to this point in time, the number that go on to break this generalization is far greater than the number that go on to respect it. [What Koons has in mind here is that things can go wrong in many more ways than they can go right: the sky might suddenly turn green, or things might start falling up, or I could turn into a duck and start quacking - you get the picture. - V.J.T.] The objective probability that every generalization we have observed extends no farther than our observations is infinitely close to one. [Thus a fair-minded scientist would have to conclude that the success of science has been one long string of lucky accidents, and that there is no reason for it to continue. - V.J.T.] Thus, relying on induction in such a cosmos is demonstrably futile.

    If even a multiverse can’t help you with the problem of induction, then what can? I conclude that the ancient Gauls were quite right to fear that the sky would fall on their heads tomorrow. In the absence of God, such a fear would be perfectly reasonable.

    As regards the reliability of scientific reasoning: you cite the commonality of our empirical experience, and our ability to test our theories as a warrant for science. But what I’m more worried about is: how do we know that we’re even asking the right questions in the first place? How do we know that our science is not full of huge, gaping logical flaws that we’ve never noticed? That’s what I mean when I say that an atheist has no good reason to simply assume the reliability of our speculative reasoning. For there are 101 ways in which it could go off the rails in matters speculative – and we’d never know.

    But if I believe that our minds were made to work properly, and that our Maker made us capable of identifying and correcting any flaws in our reasoning, then I no longer have to worry about the legitimacy of the scientific enterprise.

  165. Mr. Nakashima:

    Thank you for your post. Regarding the cosmological argument, you ask:

    So what is this modal argument?

    I think you must have missed my post at #82 above. I suggest you check out this link:

    http://www.leaderu.com/offices.....cture.html

    and then this one, for a more rigorous, mathematical exposition, which thoroughly answers all objections:

    http://www.arn.org/docs/koons/cosmo.pdf .

    You also write:

    If Aquinas did assume time was unbounded in both directions (I trust you on this) then the Big Bang might be a bit of a rude shock the first time he heard of it.

    When I wrote that Aquinas assumed for the sake of argument that the world was eternal, what I meant was this. As a Christian, Aquinas believed that the cosmos had a beginning. Thus he would have been quite happy to hear about the Big Bang. However, in Aquinas’ day, Arab civilization (which was much more sophisticated than Europe in the thirteenth century) followed Aristotle in asserting that the world was eternal. Aristotle didn’t know any better, and who could blame him for that?

    Thus in arguing for God’s existence, Aquinas could not therefore begin with the premise that the universe had a beginning. Thirteenth-century atheists would have laughed in his face. What he argued was: let’s suppose you’re right, and the universe is eternal. Even so, it still requires a Necessary Being to explain it.

    Finally, you write:

    If we take a really simple event like a photon being absorbed by an electron, or a mass beginning to orbit another mass, how can we tell the difference between the accidents and the genuine explanations?

    The explanations are the states of affairs that account for the occurrence of an event as such. In the case of a photon’s being absorbed by an electron, if we suppose for simplicity that the photon is a merely virtual one, then the relevant explanation is the underlying law: delta-E * delta-t >= h/2*pi (which can be derived from the Heisenberg principle).

    There is of course no causal explanation for why this random event occurred here and now, but there is a physical, quantum mechanical constraint (the law I cited above) which limits the size and duration of the tiny energy fluctuations that can occur in our universe. Causes do not have to be sufficient for their effects; nor do events have to be necessitated by their causes.

  166. So what is Shermer doing to counter the “sloppy thinking” rife in atheist arguments? For example, the advantage they take in the legal realms have nothing to do with their narrow ablative definition they stipulate so often in argument.

    It seems that our case law contrasts “secular intent” with “religious intent”, so it would be hard to see where those gremlins called “secular religions” come from. Yet, SR is the just the parry that Hitchens, Dawkins and other use to distance themselves from the major historical atheist regimes that actually have a record.

    They argue that there is nothing mandated by atheism that would require a totalitarian Marxist state. But they don’t argue that, given that definition, the slice of the “secular intent” pie “mandated” by atheism is ~0.0%. Thus “secular intent” and “religious intent” have even more overlap, as there is no clearly mandated intent of atheism.

    Yet atheists use these legal sophistries daily to repeal the right of the people to petition the government.

    Apparently aggregate behavior of atheists can only come from strictly mandated extrapolations–which are entirely absent–thus there should be no aggregate behavior, if the entire thing isn’t a big fat red herring. If they have an aggregate behavior, and it is not mandated by the central lack in atheism, then whatever that is is on equal footing to Stalinism with regard to atheism.

    Where is the legal concern about unnecessary entanglement with “secular religions” if “secular religions” have been the biggest killing machines on wheels? “Mass graves” kind of almost goes hand in hand with the concept. How, solid is this concept? And how can we be sure that it is not some sort of pathetic special pleading?

  167. Mr. Nakashima:

    In order to make a given argument, the arguer must define his terms and explain their relevance to the argument. If the one listening to the argument refuses to accept those terms and definitions, then the arguer is powerless to make his point. As I tried to point out, my terms “necessary being” and “contingent being” mean something very specific in philosophy. They mean the same thing now that they meant 800 years ago. You seem to be taking the position that I may not use those terms or make my argument based on those terms because science has, in many ways, changed the way we think about causation.

    When I say that the creator contains “within himself” the principle of “being,” I am making a significant philosophical statement. I am saying that this same creator depends on nothing for his existence. That is another way of saying that he is “necessary,” that he “must” exist, that he “cannot not exist.”
    In like fashion, when I say that the same creator “gives being” to his creatures, I am making another significant philosophical statement, which leads to the following argument: Since all created things “have” being (as opposed the Creator that “is” being), they must receive that “being” from the one who “is” being itself (self-existent) because there is no place else to get it. Put another way, this self-existent creator, who “is” being, must exist, because there is no other way that creatures can “have” being.

    The concepts of “being” or “existence” cannot readily be linked to curved space, Einstein, CTCs, theories, axioms, or any other term that you may care to bring into the discussion. I grant the reality of all those things even as I declare them to be irrelevant to my point. Again, and I say this with all due respect, you do not seem to be attending to what is being said. It is one thing to say that you disagree with the argument, but it is quite another to dismiss it, ignore it, or refuse me the right to make it using my own terms, especially since those terms are well understood by all those who discuss such things. You have pointed out to another blogger that you are unfamiliar with Western Philosophy. Could this be the problem?

  168. —-David Kellogg: “‘Tis true, Mr. Nakashima. That’s why no-one who is not a theist is rational.”

    True enough. Anyone who thinks that something can come from nothing is not a rational person. One could make the same statement about anyone who questions the principle of non-contradiction or the notion that the whole is greater than any one of its parts.

  169. 171

    Nakashima,

    “I sem to be having a hard time getting my point across that the IT in IT IS THAT IT IS is the universe itself, not some other thing. All the evidence we have right now is that the universe exists, not that anything created it.”

    The universe had a definite beginning in its existence. The universe couldn’t have been it’s own cause, because things that don’t yet exist cannot be the cause of their existence. Therefore, something else had to be the first cause. That first cause had to be personal, because an impersonal causal beginning would necessitate that the universe began to exist as long ago as the relationship existed. This is a logical argument, based on the evidence that we do have.

  170. StephenB #169

    As I tried to point out, my terms “necessary being” and “contingent being” mean something very specific in philosophy.

    I think you are being hard on the excellent Nakashima. These terms are not very specific. They have been used over the centuries with various shades of meaning, in many different languages and completely different contexts.

    Perhaps you can give some examples of exactly what you mean by “necessary”, “contingent” and “dependent on”?

  171. vjtorley @ 166

    As regards the reliability of scientific reasoning: you cite the commonality of our empirical experience, and our ability to test our theories as a warrant for science. But what I’m more worried about is: how do we know that we’re even asking the right questions in the first place? How do we know that our science is not full of huge, gaping logical flaws that we’ve never noticed? That’s what I mean when I say that an atheist has no good reason to simply assume the reliability of our speculative reasoning. For there are 101 ways in which it could go off the rails in matters speculative – and we’d never know.

    I would be wary about using the word “never”.

    The problem we face as a species in trying to understand the world we see around us is that, if we cannot rely on divine revelation to meet all our epistemological needs, we are going to have to try and work it out for ourselves.

    Plainly, the existing religious texts cannot help. The Bible, for example, does not include something equivalent to a diagnostic and therapeutic manual for the identification and treatment of all the illnesses to which the human body is prone. The Koran does not contain the blueprints and operating principles of combustion engines or cell phones. The Bhagavad Gita does not explain how to build and program computers.

    All this hard-won knowledge – and much more – we have had to gather for ourselves. Agreed, it is a far from perfect process. There have been many false starts, fruitless detours and dead-ends along the way. But the fact is we have made progress, it is something we have done for ourselves and that – admittedly limited – success is a good enough reason for us to continue what we are doing until we find it no longer works.

    I think, however, you raise pertinent questions when you ask how do we know that our science is not full of gaping holes, how do we know that we are asking the right questions in the first place? The simple answer is that we do not. But we have to start somewhere – it doesn’t really matter where – study what we see, concoct some sort of an explanation, test it and take it from there, where we take it being dependent on the results.

    The ongoing discussion about the cosmological argument is a case in point. We observe a world which is apparently the product of long chains of cause and effect which stretch back into the mists of time. An infinite causal chain, however, is felt to be unacceptable for reasons already given. It is argued that the only conceivable alternative is an uncaused First Cause, even though that also has problems. Given that the two candidate answers are equally unsatisfactory, albeit for different reasons, could the solution be, as you have suggested, that we are asking the wrong questions?

    Certainly the evidence we have gathered so far points towards our Universe having some sort of beginning but, as Nakashima has pointed out, if we think circular rather than linear we can have a causal chain which has no beginning. While it may not be the correct solution it does, at least, represent an attempt to get round the present impasse by ‘thinking outside the box’.

    As an agnostic atheist my view is that it is perfectly acceptable to say that we simply don’t know. I find the concept of an infinite causal chain unsatisfactory although I do not see a Universe that was designed to satisfy my personal needs. An uncaused First Cause is equally unsatisfactory because it sounds too much like special pleading and an attempt to cut off all further debate by fiat.

  172. 174

    tribune7,

    You said:

    1. Designed things have exclusive traits.
    2. If those traits exist, the object is designed.
    3. It is impossible to identify the designer through this method.

    Before we take a look at this, let me say that I have no objection whatsoever to someone who concludes ID as a matter of personal interpretation of certain features of the world. We all interpret the world in some way or another and none of us should be taken to task for that. My concern is with the claim that ID in its current formulation is a scientific theory or enterprise, a claim that I don’t think is warranted given the formulation of ID and the type of work and results flowing from it.

    With that said, let’s look at the three statements.

    ‘Designed things have unique traits’. A lot has been written about CSI as a theoretical concept, but frankly I have seen very little in terms of practical application. Where are the scientific publications containing measured or computed CSI of various ‘things’? Dembski’s formulation of the concept is now more than 10 years old, so what is holding back a scientific research programme to collect and inventorise the CSI of a wide range of object classes, establishing the concept as a practical and scientifically useful application? There is very little, and even the CSI of often mentioned examples such as the bacterial flagellum has not been rigorously computed and presented for peer review.

    I have my own thoughts about why that is, but surely we can agree that this looks like a problem in terms of the scientific merits of the concept?

    ‘If those traits exist, the object is designed.’ Here we run the risk of logical fallacy. By defining the traits as ‘exclusive’ the argument becomes a tautology. That aside, this is of course the claim that needs investigation and confirmation. At this point the argument usually goes into analogs from human design. Even if we would grant that there is a valid method to detect human design, what is the rationale for extending that method to deal with things that are emphatically not human designs, and whose causal history is unknown and precisely the issue under investigation? Once more, I have no issue with that leap as a matter of personal subjective interpretation, but surely reasoning by analogy is insufficient to elevate a concept from speculation to scientific hypothesis?

    ‘It is impossible to identify the designer through this method’. I think that leaves the design inference hanging in mid-air. Consider that a scientific hypothesis needs to lead to testable predictions. What predictions necessarily follow from the assertion ‘this object is designed’ if we don’t qualify it in any other way? Expanding it to ‘this object is intelligently designed’ does not help much because adding the label ‘intelligent’
    still does not lead to specific predictions.

    Just try it with the bacterial flagellum: ‘the bacterial flagellum is intelligently designed, therefore we predict “this particular feature Y”. We can now go and research nature to see if “Y” is as predicted.’

    I have no idea what “Y” could possibly logically and necessarily follow from the hypothesis. Why? Because the intelligent design is not constrained in any way here, so we can’t lay out a logical pathway from our hypothesis to a necessarily following observation. Frankly, I think this is the killer for the scientific status of the ID inference.

  173. StephenB (70) “If we grant the atheist his/her one decisive and illogical assumption (something can come from nothing), then all things become possible. Under those circumstances, anything at all can come from nothing including non-matter. Angels could appear out of the void, God could emerge from empty space, and the laws of cause and effect could create themselves. That is why atheism is not, and could never be, a rational position, as Anthony Flew discovered when he opened himself up to the principles of right reason and the testimony of the evidence. Once one assumes existence, the fact of a self existent creator is an inescapable conclusion for all those who reason properly. That is another way of saying that something cannot come from nothing.”

    Amazing! According to quantum mechanics, subatomic particles are continuously appearing out of nothing and then vanishing, therefore according to you, “… anything at all can come from nothing including non-matter. Angels could appear out of the void, God could emerge from empty space, and the laws of cause and effect could create themselves.”

    Sorry to pop your folk philosophy, but cosmologists currently believe that the big bang may have at least two possible causes:

    A) An event like above, where a subatomic particle pops up out of nowhere, except it has enough mass to keep existing instead of vanishing back into nothingness. Not only that, but it can apparently expand and gather mass indefinitely by doing some sort of balancing act between gravitational energy and the “ordinary” energy and mass of the universe.

    B) A piece of an eternal metaverse may “tear off” and begin an expansion that eventually forms an entire different universe, cut off from the original. Interestingly, some astronomers are now saying that we may actually be inside a piece that is tearing itself off from the old universe. They say that the recently discovered accelleration of the expansion of the universe that is attributed to a mysterious “dark energy” may actually be the expansion that will form a new universe.

    There may well be more possibilities that I can’t think of at the moment or that nobody has discovered yet.

    Note that neither of the possibilities above allows for angels to appear out of the void or any kind of a god to pop into existence.

    Moreover, whatever caused the Big Bang, it was a very LOW information event. Once you get a microsecond or two into the big bang, you’re dealing with nothing but energy and a very small handfull of physical laws. In fact, you probably only have one law that splits into gravitation, electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces. We know from lab experiments that electromagnitism and the weak atomic force merge into an “electro-weak” force at high energies and it’s a good bet that the other two merge at still higher energies.

    What this all spells out is, “NO GOD REQUIRED.”

    But it gets worse. There are lots of definitions for the God of the Jews, Christians and Muslims, but lets stick to the simplest: God, if he exists, is an intelligent being, at least as smart as any human.

    The problem for theism is that we’ve learned a lot about what consciousness is in the last century or so: it’s information. Lots of information. Lots of pieces of information laid out in precise order and working with and on each other. Millions of bits of information.

    You say that God just exists. Well, what are the odds that anything containing megabits of precisely interacting information “just exists”?

    The kid who asks, “Who made God?” is asking exactly that question and several thousand years of theology haven’t provided an answer. I don’t think they ever will.

  174. Excellent summary, faded_glory. Also, I look forward to responding to vjtorley at 166 – hopefully I will have time this morning.

  175. fg,you have thought long and hard about this, which is good, and it looks like you gave it your best shot at reasoning away my short comment.

    ID is not a tautology but a theory hence it makes a definitive claim that is falsifiable.

    The claim “designed things have exclusive traits and if those traits exist, the object is designed” isn’t there to stop investigation but to show the theory’s utility — or lack of.

    You seem to think designed things don’t have exclusive traits. If you can demonstrate this objectively you falsify ID.

    What predictions necessarily follow from the assertion ‘this object is designed’

    Predictions don’t, questions do. And you would not have been able to ask those questions unless a determination of design was made. Don’t you find that valuable?

  176. faded_glory:

    It is impossible to identify the designer through this method’. I think that leaves the design inference hanging in mid-air.

    Why? Without direct observation or designer input, the ONLY possible way to make any determination about the designer(s) is by studying the design in question.

    Stonehenge discovered determined to be designed and only after investigations have we come to the knowledge we now have about it.

    You also complain about CSI.

    But where are YOUR rigorous definitions pertaining to evolution?

    YOU don’t have anything to compare with CSI.

    The best you can say is “it evolved”.

    IOW you beyotch about ID but just look at YOUR position!

  177. fg, to avoid a discussion about tautologies, I’ll shorten my description.

    1. Designed things have exclusive traits that are observable.
    2. It is impossible to identify the designer using ID methodology.

    Now, if you read carefully, I’m not saying it is impossible to identify the designer.

  178. ID is about the DESIGN.

    The designer(s)’s identity is a separate question.

    For example the theory of evolution depends on the existence of living organisms but does not try to answer the question about their origins- even though the OoL directly impacts all subsequent evolution.

  179. faded_glory:

    Just try it with the bacterial flagellum: ‘the bacterial flagellum is intelligently designed, therefore we predict “this particular feature Y”. We can now go and research nature to see if “Y” is as predicted.’

    the bacterial flagellum is intelligently designed, therefore we predict it will be irreducibly complex and contain CSI.

  180. 182

    It is worth mentioning that terms like contingent and non-contingent are categories — that is, mental frameworks? Are they really eternal, or are they themselves contingent? Or is my calling them contingent just another kind of limitation? In other words, how do we know that the contingent / non-contingent distiction is the right one? Even if you buy it, it might just be the best one Western philosophy has yet imagined.

    One of the reasons I am suspicious of philosophy is its belief (which is questioned even in philosophy) that the mental constructs of puny people can provide answers to foundational questions. Wittgenstein was on to something when he said many of the questions of philosophy were nonsense. As he concluded the Tractatus, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

  181. 183

    Joseph, I am happy to accept that ID does not consider the identity of the designer as part of its remit, if that is what you are saying. I am simply flagging that, in my view, this causes problems for the predictive nature of the theory. Can you give an example of a prediction along the lines of what I suggested in my post:

    ‘The bacterial flagellum is intelligently designed, therefore we predict this particular feature “Y”. We can now go and research nature to see if “Y” is as predicted.’

    Can you suggest what ‘Y’ might be?

    You also say that I complain about CSI. I merely make the observation that is hasn’t really been taken up by the scientific community and even after 10 years we haven’t seen much of a research programme developed to use the concept in actual biological work. If I am wrong, please correct me. If I am right, wouldn’t you agree that this state of affairs detracts from the claim that ID is a scientific enterprise?

  182. 184

    Joseph said:

    ‘the bacterial flagellum is intelligently designed, therefore we predict it will be irreducibly complex and contain CSI.’

    Are you serious? You use CSI to determine that the flagellum is intelligently designed, and therefore you predict that the flagellum will contain CSI? Mmm, not really sure how to react to this…

  183. faded_glory:

    I merely make the observation that is hasn’t really been taken up by the scientific community and even after 10 years we haven’t seen much of a research programme developed to use the concept in actual biological work.

    And what does this “scientific community” have in all their years of research?

    ‘the bacterial flagellum is intelligently designed, therefore we predict it will be irreducibly complex and contain CSI.’

    You use CSI to determine that the flagellum is intelligently designed, and therefore you predict that the flagellum will contain CSI?

    ID predicts we will be able to detect signs of agency involvement.

    CSI and IC are indicators of designer/ agency involvement.

  184. Now if you want to refute the premise that the bacterial flagellum was designed just demonstrate that an accumulation of genetic accidents can account for it.

    But how would you test that premise?

    The bacterial flagellum arose via an acumulation of genetic accidents therefor we predict it would _________.

  185. 187

    tribune7:

    “You seem to think designed things don’t have exclusive traits. If you can demonstrate this objectively you falsify ID.”

    I think we have different views on what falsification means in the scientific context. It is not sufficient to say ‘I propose A’, and then to challenge others to demonstrate ‘non-A’. Rather, the burden is on he who proposes ‘A’ to clarify via what experiments or observations ‘A’ can potentially be falsified. The way to do this is by providing testable hypotheses that logically and necessarily flow from ‘A’.

    I can’t think of testable hypotheses that flow from the proposition ‘designed things have exclusive traits’. You can’t say ‘just find a non-designed thing that has such traits’ because how would we know that that particular thing was not, in fact, designed as well?

    What you really need is a logical and necessary prediction that follows from the proposition. And, as you say:

    “Predictions don’t, questions do. And you would not have been able to ask those questions unless a determination of design was made. Don’t you find that valuable?”

    Remember, I am only talking about the claim that ID theory is a scientific one. Questions flowing from propositions that are not in principle falsifiable are not scientifically useful, no matter how interesting and valuable we may find them on a personal level.

  186. 188

    Joseph said:

    “Now if you want to refute the premise that the bacterial flagellum was designed just demonstrate that an accumulation of genetic accidents can account for it.”

    Read my reply to tribune7 just above. Falsification in science means that experiments or observations that logically and necessarily follow from the theory turn out to be incorrect. You can’t just say ‘I am right until you prove me wrong’. Nobody can do anything with such proposals.

    So once again, what observations or experiments flow logically and necessarily from ID that could potentially demonstrate the theory to be incorrect?

  187. “One of the reasons I am suspicious of philosophy is its belief (which is questioned even in philosophy) that the mental constructs of puny people can provide answers to foundational questions.”

    I agree with this – although I would modify it by saying I am suspicious of a certain type of philosophy. In his later work Wittgenstein points out that the meaning of language (and this includes maths) is tied to the context in which it is used. Words like “contingent” and “necessary” have real uses when for example applied to day to day problems .. e.g. “did the bridge necessarily collapse given the unusual weather”. Philosophers take these terms and methods which are grounded in every day use and apply them to questions and situations which are totally beyond our comprehension and come up with elaborate conclusions. There is no way of proving that these conclusions make sense because there is no possibility of empirical verification. What you end up with is an elaborate and quite enjoyable word game – but I am not going to decide how to live my life based on it.

  188. faded_glory:

    Falsification in science means that experiments or observations that logically and necessarily follow from the theory turn out to be incorrect.

    And if someone conducts an experiment which demonstrated the bacterial flagellum can arise via an accumulation of genetic acidents the design inference for it is refuted.

    But if we find out that the structure is truly IC and contains CSI that adds to the design inference.

    Your turn:

    If the bacterial flagellum arose via an acumulation of genetic accidents we predict it would _________.

  189. 191

    “Questions flowing from propositions that are not in principle falsifiable are not scientifically useful, no matter how interesting and valuable we may find them on a personal level.”

    IOW, in the face of a scientific threat to materialism, institutional process trumps knowledge and the number of words that can be used to justify the institution over the knowledge is large indeed.

    The capabilities of stand-alone chaos, complexity, self-ordered states, natural attractors, fractals, drunken walks, complex adaptive systems, and other subjects of non linear dynamic models are often inflated. Scientific mechanism must be provided for how purely physicodynamic phenomena can program decision nodes, optimize algorithms, set configurable switches so as to achieve integrated circuits, achieve computational halting, and organize otherwise unrelated chemical reactions into a protometabolism. To focus the scientific community’s attention on its own tendencies toward overzealous metaphysical imagination bordering on “wish-fulfillment,” we propose the following readily falsifiable null hypothesis, and invite rigorous experimental attempts to falsify it:

    “Physicodynamics cannot spontaneously traverse The Cybernetic Cut [9]: physicodynamics alone cannot organize itself into formally functional systems requiring algorithmic optimization, computational halting, and circuit integration.”

    A single exception of non trivial, unaided spontaneous optimization of formal function by truly natural process would falsify this null hypothesis.

  190. 192

    David Kellogg:

    One of the reasons I am suspicious of philosophy is its belief (which is questioned even in philosophy) that the mental constructs of puny people can provide answers to foundational questions.

    I agree.
    Socrates taught that man has an immortal soul, but that isn’t a conclusion that one can reach by reasoning on the available evidence.
    Maybe I’m way too cynical, but is it possible that some of these people got way too wrapped up in how smart they thought they were, everyone believed them, and then history enshrined them?

  191. —-David Kellogg: “It is worth mentioning that terms like contingent and non-contingent are categories — that is, mental frameworks? Are they really eternal, or are they themselves contingent?”

    The words are definitions of realities that exist outside the human mind.

  192. —-Mark Frank: “I think you are being hard on the excellent Nakashima. These terms are not very specific.”

    Sometimes the word “necessary” is used as an alternative to the word, “sufficient.” Other times it is used as an alternative to the word, “contingent.” This is neither newsworthy nor relevant. Once the context and the contrasts are made clear, there should be no difficulty in understanding the meanings being used.

  193. 195

    So, Scott are you going to join David in calling for an end to ideological materialism in the service of science to the public, and a return to an appropriate agnosticism on questions of first cause?

    What will the two of you be calling your movement?

  194. 196

    Upright BiPed, I’m not sure I can read past the snark in your comment. When scientists speak of first cause, they aren’t doing science. That seems clear enough. Can you point to an example of a scientist who claims to be doing science by speaking about first cause?

  195. #192 StephenB

    “Once the context and the contrasts are made clear, there should be no difficulty in understanding the meanings being used.”

    Well in that case it should be easy to describe exactly what you mean in this context and give a couple of examples.

    To put some flesh on my concern. When we say something is necessarily true that is necessary relative to a context. According to the rules of chess you cannot put your opponent in checkmate on your first move. That is necessarily true given our common understanding of chess. Of course, if you are prepared to flout or bend the rules then it is possible. Similarly, an orbiting body will necessarily eventually return to earth. This is true given our knowledge of physics. Given an alternative universe where the rules of physics are different then it is not necessarily true.

    What is the context when you talk about God necessarily existing?

  196. 198

    Upright BiPed said:

    “A single exception of non trivial, unaided spontaneous optimization of formal function by truly natural process would falsify this null hypothesis.”

    Apart from the scientifically rather vapid null hypothesis (‘X can not cause Z’, instead of ‘Y can cause Z’), the problem with the proposed falsification is obvious: How could it ever be established that any particular process is ‘unaided’ and ‘truly natural’ if no constraints whatsoever are placed on the designer, and the possibility that he could be invisble, immaterial and remarkably powerful is not discounted?

    Inquiring minds would want to know.

  197. David Kellogg:

    When scientists speak of first cause, they aren’t doing science.

    So when scientists ask the question “how did X come to be this way?” they aren’t doing science?

    Strange.

  198. faded_glory:

    How could it ever be established that any particular process is ‘unaided’ and ‘truly natural’ if no constraints whatsoever are placed on the designer, and the possibility that he could be invisble, immaterial and remarkably powerful is not discounted?

    the same way it has been done throughout history:

    Remove the requirement for a designer by showing tat nature, operating freely can account for it.

  199. Faded Glory — “You seem to think designed things don’t have exclusive traits. If you can demonstrate this objectively you falsify ID.” . . .I think we have different views on what falsification means in the scientific context.

    And you, my friend, have the wrong one :-)

    It is not sufficient to say ‘I propose A’, and then to challenge others to demonstrate ‘non-A’.

    It’s more than sufficient. One black swan proves all swans aren’t white. That means the claim all swans are white is falsifiable. That means the claim “these traits are exclusive to designed objects” is falsifiable.

    If I think something is true it’s not up to me to disprove it. If you think something is false, however, you have an obligation to show why, and if you can’t well. . .

    And I really do wish that the spell-checker would stop showing falsifiable as being spelled incorrectly.

  200. —-David Kellogg: “One of the reasons I am suspicious of philosophy is its belief (which is questioned even in philosophy) that the mental constructs of puny people can provide answers to foundational questions.”

    Perhaps you are down on philosophy because you have been subjected to bad philosophy and isolated from good philosophy.

    So, what is good philosophy?

    We have known the answer to that for hundreds maybe thousands of years:

    [A] We have rational minds, we live in a rational universe, and there is a correspondence between the two. Sadly, postmodernist philosophy, by denying that correspondence, renders itself irrational. Many on this blog have fallen prey to this faddish way of thinking and it shows up in their inability to reason in the abstract.

    [B] We come to know by way of the intellect and through sense experience. This theory of knowledge is called “epistemological realism.” As long as we deny sense experience and rely solely on intellect [rationalism] or deny intellect and rely solely on sense experience [empiricism] we swim aimlessly in a sea of anti-intellectualism.

    [C] Metaphysical dualism is the natural metaphysics of the human mind and of the world. We are the investigator (subject) and the world is that which we are investigating (object). If we continue to pretend that the world is a product of our mind, or that reality should adjust to us rather than the other way around, we will surely perish in our own solipsism.

  201. 203

    StephenB, thanks, but I’m pretty sure I’ve read enough of what you call “good” philosophy to know my way around. I may even have read as much as you!

  202. Mr StephenB,

    The words are definitions of realities that exist outside the human mind.

    Wow! For a word like “blog”, did this external reality always exist, or did it only come into existence recently? If a word has multiple definitioins is there some kind of Platonic multi-verse out there? What about French? This is an exciting subject and I know absolutely nothing about it.

  203. 205

    Joseph said:

    “Remove the requirement for a designer by showing tat nature, operating freely can account for it.”

    I’m sorry, I have no clear idea what you mean by ‘nature operating freely’. How can we establish if an observed process is ‘nature operating freely’ or if it involves an invisible, immaterial and remarkably powerful intelligence?

  204. —-Mark Frank: “What is the context when you talk about God necessarily existing?”

    The argument is that IF we exist as “contingent” beings, (dependent on something or someone outside ourselves AND that we need not have existed), then a “necessary”,(cannot not exist) self existent (depends on nothing or no one else) creator is required.

  205. 207

    Upright Biped:

    So, Scott are you going to join David in calling for an end to ideological materialism in the service of science to the public, and a return to an appropriate agnosticism on questions of first cause?

    I’m not an ideological materialist (yes, I had to look that up) although I’m not calling for the end of anything.
    I’m also not agnostic on questions of first cause.
    I don’t mean to paint this too black and white, because it’s not. But I see in science an attempt to draw conclusions from evidence, but in philosophy I see a lot of talk and people quoting each other and disagreeing with each other with little or no empirical basis.
    Maybe science needs philosophy like biology needs evolution.
    Philosophy and religion overlap, at least in appearance. That’s why philosophy cannot be applied to religi
    (No name for the movement yet. I have to think carefully in case it’s around for hundreds of years.)

  206. —-David Kellogg: “StephenB, thanks, but I’m pretty sure I’ve read enough of what you call “good” philosophy to know my way around. I may even have read as much as you!”

    In that case, I am hopeful that you will return to good philosophy.

  207. 209

    …That’s why philosophy cannot be applied to religious beliefs without replacing them. (Got cut off.)

  208. 210

    Joseph, “how did X come to be this way?” is probably a question of proximate rather than first cause. Answering that question may or may not be in the realm of science, depending on what X is and the methods applied to arrive at an answer.

  209. 211

    tribune7 said:

    “the claim “these traits are exclusive to designed objects” is falsifiable.”

    I disagree with this, for reasons I already mentioned. Say the claim is that High CSI is exclusive to designed objects. How would we conclusively establish that a particular counterexample is not designed? Keep in mind that the designer is totally unconstrained and could be at work without being detected. You really need to address this objection by presenting a practical, valid scenario.

    tribune7:
    “If I think something is true it’s not up to me to disprove it. If you think something is false, however, you have an obligation to show why, and if you can’t well. . . ”

    Falsifiability in science is not about you disproving your own theory. It is about you telling us what observation and/or experimental outcome follows logically and necessarily from your theory so that anyone can go and check that observation or experiment, thereby showing your theory to be supported or to be false.

  210. 212

    David: “When scientists speak of first cause, they aren’t doing science.”

    So when scientists claim that life began by a process of chance and necessity alone, they are not doing science.

    “Seems clear enough”.

  211. “Remove the requirement for a designer by showing tat nature, operating freely can account for it.”

    I’m sorry, I have no clear idea what you mean by ‘nature operating freely’.

    Then yours is an issue of knowledge.

    No problem Del Ratzsch wrote Nature, Design and Science: The Status of Design in Natural Science so that you could empower yourself.

    I have it is a required reading book for anyone interested in this debate:

    Recommended Literature Pertaining to Intelligent Design

    How can we establish if an observed process is ‘nature operating freely’ or if it involves an invisible, immaterial and remarkably powerful intelligence?

    Most likely the same way we have determined that lightning is not the anger of the gods.

    Behe also responds

    One last charge must be met: Orr maintains that the theory of intelligent design is not falsifiable. He’s wrong. To falsify design theory a scientist need only experimentally demonstrate that a bacterial flagellum, or any other comparably complex system, could arise by natural selection. If that happened I would conclude that neither flagella nor any system of similar or lesser complexity had to have been designed. In short, biochemical design would be neatly disproved.- Dr Behe in 1997

  212. David Kellogg:

    Joseph, “how did X come to be this way?” is probably a question of proximate rather than first cause.

    Probably?

    One question is your ‘first cause’ the same as the ‘ultimate cause’?

    Answering that question may or may not be in the realm of science, depending on what X is and the methods applied to arrive at an answer.

    Then you should not have stated:

    When scientists speak of first cause, they aren’t doing science.

    Because according what you just said they could be doing science, it just depends.

    It is Spring so the flip-flops are in fashion…

  213. Mr Hayden,

    I just noticed that your comment has a white background, so I assume you are an important person here. My apologies for not responding earlier.
    # It is a good thing we are not in Japan, because white is associated with death in Japanese culture.

    The universe had a definite beginning in its existence.
    Yes! It is always pleasant to begin by agreeing.

    The universe couldn’t have been it’s own cause, because things that don’t yet exist cannot be the cause of their existence.
    Yes, this is where the difficulties start. Words like ‘yet’ and ’cause’ are meaningful to us, because we are experiencing the timelike dimension of spacetime in a particular way. I don’t know of any evidence that our universe is embedded in another, higher dimensional space with exactly one timelike dimension. Without such evidence, we simply have to stop using words that imply temporal relations. We certainly should not assert them to be true descriptions.

    Therefore, something else had to be the first cause.
    While I would prefer to just state that existence does not imply causation (consider virtual particles in the vacuum), let me go further. I am going to assume that your argument is that the universe is embedded in another real object, an object that is at least like our own in having one timelike dimension. Is that correct?

    That first cause had to be personal, because an impersonal causal beginning would necessitate that the universe began to exist as long ago as the relationship existed.
    I admit I do not know what to make of this implication. I have some vague notions of what person means, here on Earth. I don’t know how or why I should attach any of these notions to this object, absent any evidence even of its existence. I don’t know why impersonality implies such a thing but personality does not.

    This is a logical argument, based on the evidence that we do have.
    It is indeed pleasant to end on a note of agreement.

  214. 216

    Yes, “first cause” in philosophy typically means what you call “ultimate cause.” Your question was vaguely worded. The answer (my answer, at least) is that science is not about ultimate causes.

    So, again: when scientists speak of first cause, they aren’t doing science. When they speak of proximate cause, they may or may not be doing science.

  215. 217

    Faded,

    “…the scientifically rather vapid null hypothesis (’X can not cause Z’, instead of ‘Y can cause Z’)”

    You describe this as vapid. Try this instead:

    X has never been observed causing Z, and Z has never been observed without the input of Y. Therefore, only X may the proposed as the cause of Z.

  216. 218

    DK,

    No need to parse meaning in the face of context.

    “So, again: when scientists speak of first cause, they aren’t doing science.”

    So as I said before: when scientists claim that life began by a process of chance and necessity alone, they are not doing science.

  217. Joseph @188

    If the bacterial flagellum arose via an acumulation of genetic accidents we predict it would _________.

    Evolutionary theory predicts that the flagella would not be irreducibly complex.

    It also predicts that there would be intermediate forms (not to mention different types). See http://ncseweb.org/news/2006/0.....logy-00989 (link anchor not working here).

    Further, evolutionary theory predicts that the proteins making up a particular type of flagella would form stepwise from existing, homologous proteins already in the bacteria.

    What unique, positive, testable predictions does your version of ID theory make about the flagella?

    JJ

  218. 220

    Upright Biped, there is no developed science of abiogenesis. If there were such a science, the answers it provided would still be proximate and provisional, like all science. A developed science of abiogenesis would provide a plausible account of how life on Earth could have arisen materially. But that would still seem to be a proximate answer. Such an account certainly wouldn’t have anything to say about ultimate meaning, or purpose, or being.

  219. David Kellogg:

    So, again: when scientists speak of first cause, they aren’t doing science.

    I say that is an unfair and unwarranted limitation to science and scientists.

    “How the universe came to be the way it is?” should always be on the science table because it matters a great deal to how we explore it.

  220. Speaking of abiogenesis, it’s a bit funny that it used to bother me. Now I simply see it as, if abiogenesis can truly happen, an example of intelligent coding literally built into the fabric of existence, or in this case, the universe. If, when amino acids were to align in a specified order, created specific function proteins, all that says to me is that such a specified, functioning order is literally built into the universe. Honestly, the fact that cells can even exist speaks of intelligence built into the universe, whether or not cells could arise via non-life or not.

    That’s my philosophical take on it anyway. :D

  221. Re #204

    StephenB

    I have not explained the issue very well. I can read the words of your argument. The question is what they mean!

    Let me try and expand on what I mean by context. You talk of something “necessarily” existing. Whenever the word “necessarily” is used there is an explicit or implied “if clause”. For example,

    If you accept the rules of chess then necessarily you cannot get checkmate in one move.

    If you accept Newton’s laws of motion then necessarily every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

    If you accept the laws of logic then necessarily P and not P cannot both be true

    My question is – what is the corresponding “if clause” when you say a creator necessarily exists. What are the rules that are broken if it doesn’t? Is it the laws of logic? I cannot see which laws are broken.

  222. Faded Glory Say the claim is that High CSI is exclusive to designed objects. How would we conclusively establish that a particular counterexample is not designed?

    You would find an object with high CSI — say a book by an unknown author and unknown publisher — and using this methodology that you create, demonstrate how it came about by chance and the laws of physics.

  223. 225

    Joseph,

    If you won’t clarify what you mean by ‘nature operating freely’ there is not much point using the phrase in our discussions.

    Behe’s objection:

    “To falsify design theory a scientist need only experimentally demonstrate that a bacterial flagellum, or any other comparably complex system, could arise by natural selection. If that happened I would conclude that neither flagella nor any system of similar or lesser complexity had to have been designed. In short, biochemical design would be neatly disproved.”

    This has the same weakness I pointed out before. If at any time I would show such a complex system, the ID proponent could simply say ‘but how do you know the designer was not at work here?’. And obviously I could not know this because the designer is unconstrained, invisible, immaterial and remarkably powerful. Which brings us straight back to square one, and round and round we go in circles.

    Let me illustrate the problem in another way.

    I present a new theory that holds ‘all green trees are green because they contain the X factor’. I claim this to be a scientific theory.

    You come along and say ‘hold on, for this to be scientific it must be falsifiable, in principle. What is this X factor?’. I respond ‘I can’t say anything about the X factor except that it causes green trees to be green. My theory cannot address anything else about the X factor. It may be invisible, immaterial, very powerful. Oh, and you can simply falsify my theory by showing me a green tree that does not contain the X factor.’

    So you go away and come back a little later with a green tree, and you say ‘Ha, here is one without the X factor. Your theory has been falsified’.

    You can guess what I will say next, right?

    ‘No, not at all, this tree obviously does contain the X factor – look, it is green after all so it must!’

    Do you see what a shell game this is, and how this has nothing to do with falsification in the scientific sense?

  224. 226

    Joseph also said:

    “Most likely the same way we have determined that lightning is not the anger of the gods.”

    This is actually an interesting point. If a person gets struck by lightning and dies, would you say that God had nothing to do with this?

  225. 227

    DK,

    “…there is no developed science of abiogenesis. If there were such a science, the answers it provided would still be proximate and provisional, like all science.”

    No one in ID is asking for science to do away with future knowledge. However, from an institutional standpoint, the conclusions are already in – there will be no talk of any artifacts of agency. Agency (and any artifacts of it) will be removed from the lexicon of known causal mechanisms regarding the cause of life. Despite the arguments either way, is this or is this not correct?

    (…please don’t make me spend the next hour posting quote after quote after quote from scientists making the exact claim that only material causes are at the edifice of life)

    “A developed science of abiogenesis would provide a plausible account of how life on Earth could have arisen materially.”

    This, of course, is the answer to my question. The fact that the artifacts of agency are purely material (and therefore open to science) doesn’t matter, does it?

  226. 228

    tribune7 said:

    “(How would we conclusively establish that a particular counterexample is not designed)

    You would find an object with high CSI — say a book by an unknown author and unknown publisher — and using this methodology that you create, demonstrate how it came about by chance and the laws of physics.”

    But this is not a good example. We all know that books are written by people so clearly a book is not a suitable counterexample when the question is about unknown origins.

    Do you actually think there could be a counterexample of a high CSI object that has a truly unknown origin, yet might potentially be accepted as falsifying ID? I really struggle to think of anything, to be honest. I believe that as long as the object’s origin is unknown there will always be the loophole of the invisible, immaterial and powerful designer at work. Am I wrong?

  227. 229

    Upright BiPed says:

    “X has never been observed causing Z, and Z has never been observed without the input of Y. Therefore, only X may the proposed as the cause of Z.”

    I see what you are doing here. Cynical, what?

    Actually, I am not worried about someone proposing Y instead of X, I am worried about a potential logical impossibility of ever disproving, even in principle, that Y is always required for Z. I think that may largely depend on what we mean by Y.

  228. Without such evidence, we simply have to stop using words that imply temporal relations…

    Well, when are you going to stop?

  229. Faded Glory

    Do you actually think there could be a counterexample of a high CSI object that has a truly unknown origin, yet might potentially be accepted as falsifying ID

    Are you telling me it is foolish to think that objects exhibiting CSI can come about by chance and the laws of physics?

    I believe that as long as the object’s origin is unknown there will always be the loophole of the invisible, immaterial and powerful designer at work.

    This is an important point. What you write is correct. You can falsify ID and still have faith in God. In fact, there are those who express a belief in God yet reject ID.

    But ID is a method. It can be falsified. And it has nothing to do with God.

  230. 232

    faded_Glory:

    So you go away and come back a little later with a green tree, and you say ‘Ha, here is one without the X factor. Your theory has been falsified’.

    Perhaps a more accurate analogy would be an observable case in which something other than the X factor makes the tree green.
    And the X factor isn’t something entirely unknown; it’s a green dye, known to turn things green. The unknown factors are who applied it to the tree, and how.

  231. 233

    tribune7 said:

    “Are you telling me it is foolish to think that objects exhibiting CSI can come about by chance and the laws of physics?”

    No, I’m asking you: ‘Do you actually think there could be a counterexample of a high CSI object that has a truly unknown origin, yet might potentially be accepted as falsifying ID?’

    Do you think there could be such a thing, or not? This matters, you know.

    tribune7 also said:

    “This is an important point. What you write is correct. You can falsify ID and still have faith in God. In fact, there are those who express a belief in God yet reject ID.”

    On this we agree.

    tribune7 then said:

    “But ID is a method. It can be falsified. And it has nothing to do with God.”

    We still haven’t agreed on a viable way to falsify ID. I didn’t bring up God.

  232. faded_glory:

    If you won’t clarify what you mean by ‘nature operating freely’ there is not much point using the phrase in our discussions.

    And if you are not prepared for a discussion don’t join in.

    Also the only weakness to what Behe said is your inability to produce such an experiment.

    If a person gets struck by lightning and dies, would you say that God had nothing to do with this?

    Yes.

    And as far as “unknown origins” goes, well that is the nature of science.

    We make the best inference we can given our current state of knowledge knowing that future research can either confirm or refute that inference.

  233. faded_glory:

    We still haven’t agreed on a viable way to falsify ID.

    What is wrong with the methododlogy used throughout history?

    Please be specific.

  234. Mark, fair enough. Thanks for the precision.

    Using your formulation, I would use the reciprocal of the argument, i.e.
    If the creator doesn’t confer “being” then the creature cannot have “being.”

  235. 237

    Joseph says:

    “And if you are not prepared for a discussion don’t join in.”

    Well, thank you for your warm welcome… I guess…

    Joseph then said:

    “Also the only weakness to what Behe said is your inability to produce such an experiment.”

    Indeed, and I think the problem lies with the unspecified nature of the designer, meaning that he (she? it?) can never be excluded, therefore making experiments a waste of time.

    Joseph also said:

    “(If a person gets struck by lightning and dies, would you say that God had nothing to do with this?)

    Yes.”

    How do you know this?

    Joseph finally said:
    “What is wrong with the methododlogy used throughout history?”

    Let me get this clear. You are saying that ID was invoked for all sorts of things in the past, yet it was replaced by non-ID explanations as our knowledge of the world increased?

    How does this differentiate ID from superstition?

    Seriously though, how does one eliminate an unspecified, immaterial, remarkably powerful designer from any natural phenomenon? I don’t think it can be done.

  236. faded_glory:

    Indeed, and I think the problem lies with the unspecified nature of the designer, meaning that he (she? it?) can never be excluded, therefore making experiments a waste of time.

    That is your problem. However reality demonstrates otherwise.

    You are saying that ID was invoked for all sorts of things in the past, yet it was replaced by non-ID explanations as our knowledge of the world increased?

    Not all sorts. And in many more cases the design inference has been upheld.

    Again that is the nature of science.

    So what is your problem?

    Seriously though, how does one eliminate an unspecified, immaterial, remarkably powerful designer from any natural phenomenon?

    So you are saying that your position is not testable.

    Thank you.

  237. “(If a person gets struck by lightning and dies, would you say that God had nothing to do with this?)

    Yes.

    How do you know this?

    There is no reason to envoke “God”.

    I also seriously doubt that “God” would require a bolt of lightning to kill someone.

    However if said bolt of lightning came from an absolutely clear and calm sky, I would change my opinion.

  238. No, I’m asking you: ‘Do you actually think there could be a counterexample of a high CSI object that has a truly unknown origin, yet might potentially be accepted as falsifying ID?’

    Sure.

    Now, is it foolish to think that objects exhibiting CSI can come about by chance and the laws of physics?”

    How would it be possible to falsify a claim that such an object came about by chance and the laws of physics?

  239. 241

    Joseph said:

    “So you are saying that your position is not testable.”

    My position? What is my position?

    What I am after, here, is to understand if the ID inference can rightly claim to be scientific. I am searching for a clear and practical falsification method. As for all scientific theories, this should logically and necessarily flow from the predictions of the theory. Not the schoolground variety of ‘I’m right until you prove me wrong’.

    I haven’t heard much, so far, and I think this is mainly because of the unspecified nature of the designer. If you can’t tell what (s)he is, what (s)he did, when, where or how – if (s)he could be present without being detectable – how on earth can you ever hope to falsify the proposition that (s)he was there?

    Still looking…

  240. faded_glory:

    I haven’t heard much, so far, and I think this is mainly because of the unspecified nature of the designer.

    ID is about the DESIGN not the designER.

    You don’t seem to be able to grasp that simple fact.

    How do we know their were people who could build Stonehenge?

    We observed the remains of the structure and deduced that nature, operating freely, could NOT have done it. AND it has specificity.

    If you can’t tell what (s)he is, what (s)he did, when, where or how – if (s)he could be present without being detectable – how on earth can you ever hope to falsify the proposition that (s)he was there?

    Umm THAT is what SCIENCE is for- to help us answer those questions.

    As for detection- the design is the detectable part.

    How do we know if someone was murdered or suffered a natural death?

    Investigation.

    Ya see if we didn’t observe IC nor CSI then there wouldn’t be any reason to infer ID.

    If we observed IC and CSI but also observed them coming from something other than an agency there wouldn’t be any reason to infer ID.

    We exist and there is only one reality behind that existence.

    The way to falsify ID is the SAME way the design inference has been falsified throughout history.

    That you refuse to understand that is YOUR problem, not mine.

  241. And faded_glory,

    If you were REALLY interested you would read the books I listed and THEN ask questions.

    But to come here unprepared exposes the fact that you really are not interested.

  242. I’ve been following this discussion with interest, but staying silent because I am not well versed in the philosophical traditions and arguments being invoked on both sides of the above theological discussion.

    But as more or less an agnostic I need some guidance.

    StephenB, for example states the following:

    When I say that the creator contains “within himself” the principle of “being,” I am making a significant philosophical statement. I am saying that this same creator depends on nothing for his existence. That is another way of saying that he is “necessary,” that he “must” exist, that he “cannot not exist.”

    By means of this and several similar arguments Stephen concludes that God must exist, and that anyone who doubts that is not a rational person.

    I am skeptical of the apparent decisiveness of this sort of argument for the following reason:

    What is given is that we are here and capable of creating utterances and statements such as invoked by Stephen. What is to be demonstrated is whether or not we live in a universe that was authored by God.

    Presumably, it would be possible to utter these ostensibly decisive statements in a universe that is actually devoid of God. In that instance, although the logic of the argument is unchanged, it would be apparent from some remove to be mistaken, nevertheless.

    The question then becomes, by what means is it decidable in which sort of universe we are uttering these “decisive” arguments?

    A similar objection could be raised vis a logical argument that putatively decisively proved, by means of reasoning from premises, that there is NO God.

    Any help?

  243. 245

    tribune7 said:

    “(Do you actually think there could be a counterexample of a high CSI object that has a truly unknown origin, yet might potentially be accepted as falsifying ID?)

    Sure.’

    That is good. Can you help me out a bit more? What kind of object could that be? Where might we possibly find one?

    tribune7 said:

    “Now, is it foolish to think that objects exhibiting CSI can come about by chance and the laws of physics?”

    How would it be possible to falsify a claim that such an object came about by chance and the laws of physics?”

    CSI is a thorny subject. I have used it here by way of common language. I observed earlier that CSI hasn’t had a lot of traction in science in the 10 years since it was presented by Dembski. Although I think I understand the general concept of CSI, I don’t understand how it can actually be measured or computed on biological objects and I haven’t seen a lot of reference to such efforts either.

    But perhaps that is not so important.

    Is it foolish to believe that objects with high CSI can come about by the laws of chance and physics?

    Another thorny subject. First of all this suggest a dichotomy between laws and chance on the one hand, and something else (intelligence, I suppose) on the other. Is this dichotomy real? Is intelligence qualitatively different from law + chance? I don’t think anybody really knows.

    Then, is law + chance, or intelligence, a causal force? I have always felt uneasy about this. To me law and chance, and probably intelligence as well, are descriptors, labels we assign to certain processes. I don’t actually think they can be reified and invoked as causes in their own right. Not many natural scientists would be happy with studies that concluded ‘and the cause for this phenomenon is law + chance’. I have certainly never seen a study like that.

    Natural science looks for causal mechanisms, for processes that explain in some detail how observed phenomena originated. It is not looking for the metaphysical nature of such causes. Chemistry and physics are the basic building blocks of our explanations, not laws, chance or intelligence.

    This is where I am coming from, and why I sense some strangeness about the whole ID effort. I can’t put my finger on it but somehow it feels very different from what we do in natural sciences. Hence my questions about the falsifiability. Am I having a scientific discussion or a metaphysical one? Not clear to me.

  244. 246

    Joseph, I definitely grasp the fact that ID is about the design and not about the designer. What you don’t seem to grasp is that this limitation (self-imposed or not) causes some real problems for the scientific status of ID. Bluster alone won’t wash this away.

  245. 247

    faded_Glory:

    how on earth can you ever hope to falsify the proposition that (s)he was there?

    I don’t believe the existence of designer is the central proposition of ID. It’s a corollary.
    The underlying premise, that intelligence is a detectable cause, is falsifiable. But the corollary is not falsifiable.

  246. —-faded glory: We all know that books are written by people so clearly a book is not a suitable counterexample when the question is about unknown origins.

    What if you visited the planet Mars and saw the following characters formed on the ground surface:

    “Faded glory, who has been grounded in postmodernist philosophy, hyper-subjectivism, and hyperskepticism, labors under the misconception that a design inference requires prior knowledge of the design event and assumes the designer must be known in order to draw an inference to design.”

    Would you attribute that message to naturalistic forces.

  247. faded_glory:

    What you don’t seem to grasp is that this limitation (self-imposed or not) causes some real problems for the scientific status of ID.

    What you fail to grasp is that limitation is grounded in reality.

    The reality being that we do NOT have to know the designer(s) BEFORE we can make a design inference.

    As a matter of fact in the absence of direct observation or designer input, the ONLY possible way to make ANY scientific determination about the designer(s) or the specific process(es) used, is by studying the design in question.

    People who fail to grasp that just ain’t worth wasting the time talking to.

    And when a leading IDist who is also a scientist states what it will take to falsify ID and you respond with “no it won’t” it just makes you seem like a little whiny baby.

    Is that the image you are going for?

  248. YouTube has an October 2006 debate between Michael Shermer and Jonathan Wells that was originally aired on CSPAN.

    Here’s the link for those interested: Shermer vs Wells

    Perhaps I’m biased, but I thought Wells handled his business quite well, including addressing a couple of absurd questions from Darwin-worshipers during the Q&A with the audience.

  249. 251

    The level of game playing disguised as enlightened discourse is off the charts.

    David Abel (et al) asks for a single non-trivial observation of C+N creating an integrated circuit or organizing a single algorithm (those phenomena repeatedly observed at the molecular level of living tissue); providing a single refutation of the central ID theme – and just look at the reaction.

    There has never been -to my knowledge- a single ID critic on this website that will actually address the front and center of this question.

    Not even one.

    I think this explains things very well, certainly more than critics wished. No wonder this website is the bane of the opposition.

  250. Re #233

    StephenB

    Am I the “Mark” you referring to in this comment? And, if so, are you responding to my comment #220?

    If so, I cannot see how your response answers my question or in what sense it is the “reciprocal” of my argument.

    But maybe you were responding to some other comment???

  251. 253

    StephenB said:

    “What if you visited the planet Mars and saw the following characters formed on the ground surface:

    “Faded glory, who has been grounded in postmodernist philosophy, hyper-subjectivism, and hyperskepticism, labors under the misconception that a design inference requires prior knowledge of the design event and assumes the designer must be known in order to draw an inference to design.”

    Would you attribute that message to naturalistic forces.”

    No. I would attribute it to a person who can’t be bothered to read and understand other people’s positions before sneering at them in an uncalled for outburst of rudeness. It would not convey the slightest information about intelligence.

  252. Faded Glory–

    I observed earlier that CSI hasn’t had a lot of traction in science in the 10 years since it was presented by Dembski.

    It’s doing fine with science. It’s not doing so well in the politics that infest the institutions that speak for the scientific establishment.

    Natural science looks for causal mechanisms,

    Natural science looks to describe nature. Sometimes this involves casual mechanisms. Sometimes it doesn’t. You’re not suggesting taxonomy is not a science are you?

    (Do you actually think there could be a counterexample of a high CSI object that has a truly unknown origin, yet might potentially be accepted as falsifying ID?) . . .Sure.’ . . .That is good. Can you help me out a bit more? What kind of object could that be?

    An electromagnetic signal from space that perfectly translates to a C+ “hello world” program that you determine happened via chance and law, which you then duplicate using your the Nobel prize-winning method you are now working on.

    How would it be possible to falsify a claim that such an object came about by chance and the laws of physics?” . . .CSI is a thorny subject. I have used it here by way of common language . . . Although I think I understand the general concept of CSI, I don’t understand how it can actually be measured or computed on biological objects

    When did I stipulate that it had to be a biological object? Would you be interested in learning how it can be computed on biological objects.

  253. —Mark: “If so, I cannot see how your response answers my question or in what sense it is the “reciprocal” of my argument.”

    You were not making an argument; you were questioning my argument. So, my response was the reciprocal of my argument.

    Originally you asked,

    —–”What is the context when you talk about God necessarily existing?”

    So, I provided the context in this way:

    “The argument is that IF we exist as “contingent” beings, (dependent on something or someone outside ourselves AND that we need not have existed), then a “necessary”,(cannot not exist) self existent (depends on nothing or no one else) creator is required.”

    I thought that my answer was quite clear, but then you followed up with this:

    —-”My question is – what is the corresponding “if clause” when you say a creator necessarily exists. What are the rules that are broken if it doesn’t? Is it the laws of logic? I cannot see which laws are broken.”

    So, I provided a reciprocal version of MY argument:

    “If the creator doesn’t confer “being” then the creature cannot have “being.”

    Translation: To say that the creature can have being without a creator to confer it is illogical. The creature must get its being from some source, and that source can only be some entity that “is” being. If the creator merely “had” being it would be just another dependent creature.

    Or, if that is too cumbersome, just do it in a less formal way:

    If the creator doesn’t create, the creature can’t exist. Something cannot come from nothing.

  254. 256

    I wrote:

    when scientists speak of first cause, they aren’t doing science.

    Joseph [218] responded:

    I say that is an unfair and unwarranted limitation to science and scientists.

    “How [did] the universe [s]came[/s] [come] to be the way it is?” should always be on the science table because it matters a great deal to how we explore it.

    (Correction so it’s an actual question.)

    The question you pose is not a question of first cause. A first cause question might be “How did the universe come to be at all?” or “Why is there a universe instead of no universe?”

  255. 257

    faded,

    In your first comment on this board, you said:

    My concern is with the claim that ID in its current formulation is a scientific theory or enterprise, a claim that I don’t think is warranted given the formulation of ID and the type of work and results flowing from it

    This is not a new position. From the very start the honorguard have been trying to get ID extinguished as “science”. And for all the hand waving about the integrity of the scientific process, the real reason has always been the same – the quesions raised by ID advocates are a real and valid scientific threat to materialist ideologues and their institutions.

    So this is your “concern” is it?

    Specifically, what ID literature have you read?

  256. David Kellogg:

    The question you pose is not a question of first cause.

    At the very least it involves first cause.

    The argument is something like:

    If the universe had a beginning it had a (first) cause.

    The universe had a beginning.

    Therefor…

    And that first cause matters a great deal to “how did the universe come to be the way it is?”.

    But thanks for restructuring my pose. I almost forget what I am dealing with when trying to have a discussion with you.

  257. prose….

  258. 260

    I am sorry to say that I get the distinct feeling that I have overstayed my welcome here. As I said earlier I have no objection to the ID inference whatsoever, although I don’t share it myself. I do have doubts about the claims that the ID inference is scientific and I tried to explore this issue by talking to some of you.

    The responses I am getting now are becoming more and more hostile and I can’t say I am particulary enjoying this. StephenB came out of nowhere with a nasty attack presuming a lot about my background. Joseph now insists that I buy a bunch of books before he wants to converse with me and calls me names for wanting to discuss a statement made by Behe. Upright Biped openly questions my motives for posting here in the first place.

    I thought we were getting somewhere in my conversation with tribune7 but he too now seems to have gone hostile and responds in a frankly silly way to my questions about falsifiability.

    Guys, as far as I can tell I have been polite and civil and focused on arguments. If that makes you uncomfortable to the point where you have to go all personal on me I think it is best if I leave.

    Have a good day,

    fG

  259. That’s a shame, faded Glory.

    Try Telic Thoughts. Allen MacNeill posts there, and his comments are usually worth reading.

  260. 262

    Faded,

    I posted the conclusion of a peer-reviewed paper that investigates the scientifically observable evidence of volitional agency in nucleic sequencing.

    You described it as “vapid” and then misrepresented the the hypothesis to suit your own argument.

    Sorry I didn’t roll over for ya.

  261. faded_glory:

    Joseph now insists that I buy a bunch of books before he wants to converse with me and calls me names for wanting to discuss a statement made by Behe.

    I say you should come to a discussion prepared.

    Reading those books- at least the first one- would go a long way to preparing you for a discussion about science and ID.

    Also you didn’t want to discuss Behe’s comment. You just hand-waved it away.

    But anyway when I wanted to find out about evolution I did not go to blogs for information.

    I read textbooks and books on the topic written by evolutionists- scientists who allegedly know about the subject.

    I bought their books or I got them from a library.

    That is just the way it is.

    Deal with it.

  262. Well, I’ve been out all day and lots has gone on. In browsing the posts, I find at 241 some thoughts by Diffaxial that I like, and are a different way of saying something I said previously. Diffaxial wrote,

    StephenB, for example states the following:

    When I say that the creator contains “within himself” the principle of “being,” I am making a significant philosophical statement. I am saying that this same creator depends on nothing for his existence. That is another way of saying that he is “necessary,” that he “must” exist, that he “cannot not exist.”

    By means of this and several similar arguments Stephen concludes that God must exist, and that anyone who doubts that is not a rational person.

    I am skeptical of the apparent decisiveness of this sort of argument for the following reason:

    What is given is that we are here and capable of creating utterances and statements such as invoked by Stephen. What is to be demonstrated is whether or not we live in a universe that was authored by God.

    Presumably, it would be possible to utter these ostensibly decisive statements in a universe that is actually devoid of God. In that instance, although the logic of the argument is unchanged, it would be apparent from some remove to be mistaken, nevertheless.

    The question then becomes, by what means is it decidable in which sort of universe we are uttering these “decisive” arguments?

    A similar objection could be raised vis a logical argument that putatively decisively proved, by means of reasoning from premises, that there is NO God.

    This is good. The arguments for God being presented derive their seeming logicality from the fact that they are based on concepts for which we have assumed exactly the properties that make our logic appear valid.

    But we have no way of actually testing whether those entities exist with the properties we assume they have. Logic without a valid referent – one which is accessible by something other than logic – can’t tell us anything other than what is internally embedded in the logical system itself.

    So reasoning about God as we think he must be, and thinking that we know what properties he must have, is only reasoning about our concept of God, which doesn’t prove at all whether God exists or not.

    Here is a specific example. There has been lots of talk about a first cause, and about how you can’t have an infinite regression of causes so there must be an uncaused cause, etc.

    How causation is an idea that we have developed by being in this physical world, watching time go by and observing the local effects of various entities within time. Cause and effect is an idea based on our human experience.

    Now do we know that this idea of cause even applies to God, or whatever other metaphysical realm there might be (if there is one)? We don’t. If there is a God etc., it is unlikely that we could even comprehend how God interacts with/pervades the world (or whatever he/it does): to think that our understanding of cause and effect is applicable to him is misguided, I think.

    So, to summarize, brute logic, without any evidence that God is as we conceive him, cannot prove anything about God.

    And, I might add, to try and think one has succeeded is an act of hubris.

  263. Faded Glory

    I thought we were getting somewhere in my conversation with tribune7 but he too now seems to have gone hostile and responds in a frankly silly way to my questions about falsifiability.

    There was nothing hostile in my intent. In fact, my dialogue, I thought, was respectful and quite patient.

    There is nothing wrong with you not agreeing with us but your inability to understand our position seemed almost willful.

    With regard to falsifiability, it seems you want us to falsify ID before you accept that it can be falsifiable.

    That’s not what Popper meant with regard to scientific falsifiability.

  264. —-faded glory: “No. I would attribute it to a person who can’t be bothered to read and understand other people’s positions before sneering at them in an uncalled for outburst of rudeness. It would not convey the slightest information about intelligence.”

    That really was a bit on the rude side. I wish it had not happened, but fortunately I did not write that post. I know that it has my blogger name on it, but let me assure you that it happened solely as a result of natural forces. I don’t understand why you would attribute it to anything else. As you pointed out, agency cannot be detected from those kinds of patterns. I just wish things hadn’t turned out the way they did.

  265. 267

    Upright Biped, you write:

    No wonder this website is the bane of the opposition.

    By “the opposition” do you mean the evolutionary biology community? I’d bet the vast majority of evolutionary biologists are unaware that this website exists.

    A few people on the evolutionary side of things do pay attention of course. Some of these (like me) are interested in the site for cultural or scholarly reasons. Others are here because of a polemical interest in defending evolution. Still others may be here for the snark. :-) But I bet most people in evolutionary biology have never heard of this site.

  266. —–Diffaxial: “I’ve been following this discussion with interest, but staying silent because I am not well versed in the philosophical traditions and arguments being invoked on both sides of the above theological discussion.”

    Prudence is always a good thing.

    ——“By means of this and several similar arguments Stephen concludes that God must exist, and that anyone who doubts that is not a rational person.”

    I said that anyone who thinks something can come from nothing is irrational, which is obviously the case. If something can come from nothing, then anything is possible and nothing is predicable or even comprehensible. That should be clear.

    ——“I am skeptical of the apparent decisiveness of this sort of argument for the following reason:

    ——-“What is given is that we are here and capable of creating utterances and statements such as invoked by Stephen. What is to be demonstrated is whether or not we live in a universe that was authored by God.”

    That is what was demonstrated. Would you care to take up the argument directly, or do you feel that alluding to it indirectly is the best way to refute it.

    —–“Presumably, it would be possible to utter these ostensibly decisive statements in a universe that is actually devoid of God. In that instance, although the logic of the argument is unchanged, it would be apparent from some remove to be mistaken, nevertheless.”

    Well, no, it wouldn’t’ be possible to utter decisive statements in a universe that is devoid of a God that confers being on the one doing the uttering.

    ——“The question then becomes, by what means is it decidable in which sort of universe we are uttering these “decisive” arguments?”

    That question would have no relevance at all.

    ——“A similar objection could be raised vis a logical argument that putatively decisively proved, by means of reasoning from premises, that there is NO God.”

    One can raise objections all day long. The point is to provide a logical demonstration.

  267. —–Hazel. “The arguments for God being presented derive their seeming logicality from the fact that they are based on concepts for which we have assumed exactly the properties that make our logic appear valid.”

    No, they do not assume anything. They begin with facts in evidence or an assumption consistent with facts in evidence. You would be correct if you were referring to the “ontological” argument for God’s existence. The “cosmological arguments” are different.

    ——“But we have no way of actually testing whether those entities exist with the properties we assume they have. Logic without a valid referent – one which is accessible by something other than logic – can’t tell us anything other than what is internally embedded in the logical system itself.”

    You are correct in saying that logic alone can do nothing, but the logic in my demonstration is not alone. It begins with the observable fact of demonstrable contingent beings or assumptions consistent with those facts.

    ——“So reasoning about God as we think he must be, and thinking that we know what properties he must have, is only reasoning about our concept of God, which doesn’t prove at all whether God exists or not.”

    Yes it does. It doesn’t prove God’s attributes, of course, but it most certainly proves his existence. There is nothing new about any of this. Just as the argument from motion leads to the Prime Mover [Aristotle], the argument from contingency leads to a self-existent being.

    —–“Here is a specific example. There has been lots of talk about a first cause, and about how you can’t have an infinite regression of causes so there must be an uncaused cause, etc.

    ——“How causation is an idea that we have developed by being in this physical world, watching time go by and observing the local effects of various entities within time. Cause and effect is an idea based on our human experience.”

    We discovered causation and infinite regress; we did not invent it.

    —–“Now do we know that this idea of cause even applies to God, or whatever other metaphysical realm there might be (if there is one)? We don’t. If there is a God etc., it is unlikely that we could even comprehend how God interacts with/pervades the world (or whatever he/it does): to think that our understanding of cause and effect is applicable to him is misguided, I think.’”

    We can come to this knowledge through reason, provided that we allow reason to function. Logic is derivative not fundamental. We must assume going in that certain things are true, such as the principle that a thing cannot be and not be, that a thing cannot be both true and false, that something cannot come from nothing, and that the whole is greater than any one of its parts. Deny any of these and other first principles, (which cannot be proven) and the whole rational enterprise collapses. To be irrational is simply to deny any of these and other first principles on which logic is built. Atheists enter the arena believing that something can come from nothing, which is why their logic always falls apart.

    —–“So, to summarize, brute logic, without any evidence that God is as we conceive him, cannot prove anything about God.

    Brute logic alone is helpless, but logic in conjunction with observable facts can tell us a great deal. If we begin, for example, with the fact of motion [Aristotle] we can reason our way to the first mover. If we begin with the observation that some things are dependent, we can reason our way to a self-existent creator, as was clear in my example. Logic with observable facts is not brute logic.

    —–And, I might add, to try and think one has succeeded is an act of hubris.

    You need to consult with Aristotle, Aquinas, Chesterton, Lewis, and others, you really do.

  268. The point is that a “logical demonstration” just proves that you have constructed concepts which, in an internally consistent way, reinforce and support each other. Logic doesn’t force reality to be one way or another.

    Perhaps you would like to respond to my points about the limitations of logic?

  269. If faded glory cares to return, I will prove to him, in the most delicate way possible, that ID is science by using one of the posts that irritated him.

  270. Stephen, I see that you were responding to my points about logic while I was writing my post at 270, so our posts crossed each other in transit.

    You write,

    Brute logic alone is helpless, but logic in conjunction with observable facts can tell us a great deal. If we begin, for example, with the fact of motion [Aristotle] we can reason our way to the first mover. If we begin with the observation that some things are dependent, we can reason our way to a self-existent creator, as was clear in my example. Logic with observable facts is not brute logic.

    I’m glad you agree that brute logic is helpless without reference to observable facts.

    But the facts you observe are observed in this universe by us, finite beings in space and time. You have no reason to believe that those facts necessarily apply to whatever larger metaphysical world this universe is embedded in, and you have no way of observing or comprehending what the nature and features of that larger metaphysical world is.

    For instance, just because causation functions as it does in our world, when seen from our limited perspective, doesn’t mean that causation like that, or analogous to that, operates in the metaphysical world. I know that we can’t really comprehend how things could be different, but of the two options – recognizing that we can’t know or doing as you are doing and thinking we can extrapolate with certainty from our human perspective – I prefer to recognize that we can’t know.

    Also, you write,

    You need to consult with Aristotle, Aquinas, Chesterton, Lewis, and others, you really do.

    All philosophers who believe as you do. There are other philosophers who agree with me.

    But I’m not appealing to authority – I’m appealing to argument, and I think I have valid points.

  271. Stephen, here’s another way of saying this:

    You agree that brute logic without reference to observable facts is helpless.

    All the observable facts that you can point to are within this universe, but you are reaching conclusions about things that are outside this universe.

    What observable facts from outside this universe can you point to be the references for your logic?

  272. —-Hazel: “The point is that a “logical demonstration” just proves that you have constructed concepts which, in an internally consistent way, reinforce and support each other. Logic doesn’t force reality to be one way or another.”

    Logic doesn’t force reality, but it can reveal something about it under some circumstances.

    —-”Perhaps you would like to respond to my points about the limitations of logic?”

    Again, I did respond in considerable detail. I went out of my way to explain that observed facts play a role and I provided several demonstrations [Aristotle, prime mover etc]. Do you want two more examples. Here goes: If I observe that the streets are wet, I can reason my way to the fact that it must be raining. Similarly, if its raining, I can conclude that the streets are wet. It is not enough to speak of the principles of logic. You must be able to apply them in context and in real life situations.

  273. 275

    As I see it, in terms of syllogistic logic, the argument may be valid. But even if it is, we don’t know enough to know if it’s sound. That is, we don’t know enough about the universe as a totality to know if it’s contingent or not.

  274. Yes you did respond – my post asking you to crossed in transit with your post responding, as I explained in 272.

  275. Stephen writes,

    It is not enough to speak of the principles of logic. You must be able to apply them in context and in real life situations.

    Absolutely.

    What real life experience do you have outside the universe?

  276. Responsive to StephenB’s reply above, I offer the the following slight modification/clarification of my question:

    StephenB:

    When I say that the creator contains “within himself” the principle of “being,” I am making a significant philosophical statement. I am saying that this same creator depends on nothing for his existence. That is another way of saying that he is “necessary,” that he “must” exist, that he “cannot not exist.”

    By means of this and several similar arguments Stephen concludes that God must exist, that the existence of God has been proved.

    Stephen then asserts “that is what has been demonstrated.” Perhaps to his satisfaction, but some here agree, others disagree, and still others (such as myself) are unconvinced that the arguments presented are (or can be) dispositive in either direction. Hence, like it or not, the proposition “The existence of God has been proved (or disproved)” remains in dispute.

    Do the arguments cited by Stephen do the work claimed for them?

    As I said before, one may observe that it may be possible to utter these ostensibly decisive statements in a universe that is actually devoid of God. In that instance, although the logic of the argument is unchanged, it would be apparent from some remove that these “decisive” arguments are mistaken, nevertheless.

    Stephen replied:

    Well, no, it wouldn’t’ be possible to utter decisive statements in a universe that is devoid of a God that confers being on the one doing the uttering.

    Unfortunately, this rejoinder introduced a clause (“that confers being on the one doing the uttering”) that assumes Stephen’s conclusion, namely that an entity uttering these arguments for the existence of God requires God to confer being upon it. However, I may assert that it is possible to utter these decisive statements in a universe in which no God confers being at all. If you wish to reject that, you have acquired the burden of demonstrating that it is not possible for your above decisive arguments to be uttered in a universe devoid of God, without the use those arguments themselves to accomplish that demonstration. To do so, e.g. to employ those arguments for this purpose, introduces an unsatisfactory paradox of self-reference and would again assume your central conclusions.

    So the question remains: Given that the articulation of these arguments themselves cannot resolve the question, by what means is it decidable in which sort of universe we are uttering these “decisive” arguments?”

  277. hazel

    I think your comments above (#264) were very much to the point: they address the nub of the matter.

    I would completely agree with your statement that “brute logic, without any evidence that God is as we conceive him, cannot prove anything about God.” That’s why the ontological argument (which tries to prove the existence of God from the mental concept of God as the greatest conceivable Being) never gets off the ground. Logic alone cannot take us to God.

    However, it would be a mistake to conclude (as many modern philosophers, notably Hume, have done) that our concepts have to be given to us, on a plate as it were, from experience. For if that were true, they would have no universal applicability. The concept of “gold,” for instance, applies to all pieces of gold, at all times and places. Experience is of the here-and-now; experience alone cannot give us universal concepts. The mind must do the work of abstracting these concepts from the individual objects that fall under a common concept. Usually, forming a proper concept of what something is (i.e. its essence, or proper definition) will involve a lot of painstaking sifting and weighing of evidence, as one carefully examines individuals which appear to be of the same sort and tries to identify their essential properties. Case in point: fool’s gold looks like gold, but it is not. And although white gold doesn’t look like ordinary gold, it nevertheless is real gold. It was only in the past few decades that we nailed down the essence of gold, through good old scientific investigation: gold is element number 79.

    (And in the biological realm, it gets even more challenging: although the “essences” or “species” we are talking about, such as the concept of a horse, are valid categories or natural kinds, they nevertheless change slowly over the course of time, as horses evolve. The concept of a horse as a “natural kind” still makes sense, because there is one biological developmental program, unifying the disparate properies that horses have in common, and governing the unfolding of these properties as horses develop from horse embryos. Of course, the program may change slightly over millions of years – but that’s another story.)

    My point is that if you thought that concepts had to be given to you from experience (as Hume did), then you would indeed be perfectly justified in saying that they can have no applicability beyond experience – in which case, all our talk about God is meaningless.

    If, however, you acknowledge that the mind takes a more active role in abstracting concepts from the world of experience, then you might be open to the notion that these abstracted concepts, properly applied, could lead us to a realm beyond that of everyday experience.

    How so? Well, some of our concepts are meta-concepts: they don’t merely apply to categories in the natural world, but to our intellectual acts of understanding the different kinds of things existing in the world. For instance, we can talk about the concept of a concept: we all know what a concept is, because we have them. And because we often endeavor (and occasionally succeed, after a long process of scientific investigation) to understand things in the world, and to know what they really are, we can construct concepts of what it means to understand something, to know what it is, and so on.

    We often try to explain events going on in the world – changes, for instance. We see a change, and we ask: “What caused that?” We’re not happy until we’ve found an explanation – even if it merely happens to be a statistical one, as in the cases of radioactive decay and virtual particles popping in and out of existence.

    We also come across states of affairs in the world that strike us as odd, and we say to ourselves, “That doesn’t have to be that way. It could be some other way.” States of affairs of this sort strike us as contingent: they could be otherwise. So we look for an explanation. We’d be lacking in scientific curiosity if we didn’t. And usually we manage to find an explanation. If we fail, we don’t give up: we keep looking, confident that there must be one, somewhere.

    Given our success in finding answers to questions of this sort, we can then construct the meta-concept of a cause (anything that directly or indirectly helps make some change or state of affairs happen) and the deeper meta-concept of an explanation (anything that enables us to properly understand some change or state of affairs). Science itself might be viewed as one long, unending search for explanations.

    Now, let’s look at the meta-concepts “cause” and “explanation.” Certainly we can apply these meta-concepts to objects in our experience – as when we look for the cause(s) of a state of affairs, or endeavor to find a proper scientific explanation for it – but is there anything in the meta-concepts “cause” and “explanation” which limits them to being physical objects that we encounter in our everyday experience? No, there is not. They are open-ended concepts – we form these concepts as a result of our quest to know and understand the world, but they are not descriptions of states of affairs in the world, unlike lower-level concepts such as the concept of “red” or the concept of “gold.”

    Thus there is no reason in principle why our quest for an explanation of events occurring in the domain of our experience should not lead us to postulate entities lying beyond our experience – if no other explanation will suffice.

    That is where the cosmological argument comes in. We see contingent states of affairs everywhere in the world, and we try to explain them, but to our frustration, every explanation we come up with still strikes us as intellectually unsatisfying. We now know that the universe conforms to certain regularities or laws of nature, but then we can still ask why the laws have to be that way. In fact, everything about the universe strikes us as contingent: it could have been otherwise.

    Where do we go from here? Back in the thirteenth century, Aquinas was not aware of the mathematical formulations that we call “laws of nature,” but he was perceptive enough to realize that you can’t have an infinite regress of explanations. An infinite regress of explanations is no explanation at all. All explanations need to start somewhere. Aquinas did allow that you can have an infinite regress of conditions, or per accidens causes, as he called them: A wouldn’t exist without B, which wouldn’t exist C, and so on ad infinitum. But conditions don’t have to explain anything, so that doesn’t have any relevance in our quest for explanations. It doesn’t matter how many ancestors I had in the past; even if there were an infinite number of them, they don’t explain what keeps me in existence now, and only two of them (my parents) can even explain my coming into existence exactly 48 years ago – yes, it’s my birthday.

    (Back in the 4th century B.C., Aristotle also realized that an infinite regress of explanations was impossible, but he was mainly talking about an infinite regress of purposes when striving for some goal – doing A for the sake of B, which is done for the sake of C, and so on ad infinitum. An action performed for the sake of an infinite regress of goals, none of which is sought for its own sake, would indeed be senseless; to act rationally, you need a goal which is sought for its own sake.)

    Now, some medieval philosophers – Ockham for instance – didn’t like Aquinas’ insistence that an infinite regress of explanations was impossible. They suggested that for all we know, it might be possible. Personally, my metaphysical gut instincts are with Aquinas here, so I’m happy enough with his version of the cosmological argument (with a few minor modifications). Anyway, in the early 18th century, the philosopher Leibniz came up with a further development of the cosmological argument which cut the impasse: instead of focusing on one contingent state of affairs happening in the world, and trying to find an explanation for it – which leads us to either an unsatisfying infinite regress or an Uncaused Cause – we can take a short-cut, and look at the whole universe itself, which is contingent, and ask: what explains it? Leibniz’s point was that the cosmos itself is utterly contingent. Science is the search for explanations of contingent states of affairs. Very well then: shouldn’t we try to explain the cosmos itself as the creation of a Necessary Being?

    I should observe in passing that Leibniz’s rationalism was a little extreme: he thought we could look for a sufficient explanation for everything, and he thought that God was logically necessary in the same way that 2 + 2 = 4 is logically necessary. Aquinas never taught either of those things, and modern-day theistic philosophers also agree that we don’t need Leibniz’s Principle of Sufficient Reason to justify any argument for God. It is enough to argue that: (a) every wholly contingent state of affairs must have a cause; (b) the universe itself is wholly contingent, including its laws; therefore (c) the universe has an Uncaused Cause.

    (By the way, for those readers who have asked what “necessary” means when applied to God, it need not mean “logically necessary” in the sense that 2 + 2 = 4. It can simply mean: could not be otherwise, and could never have been otherwise. In this sense, God, as a Being, is necessary, even if God’s free actions, such as creating the world, are contingent. We might then ask why God made this world, but that would take us into the realm of theodicy. All I will say in passing is that a contingent act does not have to be an irratioanl, whimsical one. Explaining the world’s existence by positing an act of choice of God’s part is much more informative than invoking mere chance – or even a combination of chance and quirky scientific laws that just “happen” to hold everywhere in the cosmos.)

    Hume didn’t like the argument I sketched above for an Uncaused Cause, for several reasons which you’ve mentioned, Hazel. His biggest single objection was that concepts are derived from experience, and so can never take us outside the domain of our experience. Now, if concepts were like sensory impressions, or even if they were associations of assorted impressions, as Hume thought, this argument would be perfectly correct; but as we have seen above, they are not; they are intellectual abstractions which we derive from experience, but in principle, there is nothing limiting them (or at least, our meta-concepts, such as “cause”) to the domain of experience. Thus we can legitimately enquire whether the world had a cause.

    Hume had other objections. “Why look for an explanation of the whole? Isn’t it enough to look for an explanation of each part of the whole, and when we’ve done that, is there anything more to say?” (That’s the tenor of what he said; I’m not quoting his exact words.) Well, that might be appropriate if the world were like an inter-locking set, whose parts explained each other. It seems to me that you envisage the cosmos in similar terms, Hazel, when you talk of complementarity and synchronicity.

    But the problem is that the whole set has certain global properties which still strike us as contingent, and hence in need of an explanation. The laws of nature hold true throughout the entire cosmos, for instance. They are true everywhere, and they seem to be true at all times as well, so they apply to all of spacetime. We can still ask: why these laws? Why not some other ones?

    And even if the universe is embedded in a larger multiverse, we can ask: what laws govern it, and why do we have those laws? And why do they keep applying, instead of breaking down? That’s why the multiverse is no help. Nor are circular time-loops (Klingon cosmology) any help: for the loop itself is still contingent. It could have been otherwise. It could have been a different sort of loop.

    Hazel, your universe is red, blue and green: it has complementarity, synchronicity and emergence. Some scientists believe in a green-only universe, in which there is emergence (mind supervening on matter), but no mysterious Taoist complementarity or Jungian synchronicity. Other scientists (behaviorists and eliminative materialists) are still more dour, refusing to countenance even emergence. They insist that mental states are not real: there are no beliefs or desires, just physical states of affairs, and our popular talk of beliefs and desires is just folk psychology. Their universe is gray. So here’s my question: if the universe is red, blue and green as you say it is, that’s a very fortuitous state of affairs. It could have been otherwise; and we can all imagine it to have been otherwise. Your lucky universe still cries out for an explanation.

    Now, we could just limit the scientific enterprise to explanations that can observe, test, and agree upon – i.e. empirical ones. But even if we chose to define science in those narrow terms, as Hume and many other philosophers thought we should, that does not stop the restless human mind from looking at the cosmos as a whole and asking: what explains its existence?

    (I haven’t said anything about Kant’s famous objections to the cosmological argument. I’ll just remark here that Kant wrongly viewed the cosmological argument as being vulnerable to the same criticism as the ontological argument, which tries to argue for God’s existence based on the mere concept of God, independently of experience. This is an illegitimate endeavor, as Kant – and before him, Aquinas and Gaunilo – pointed out. However, as we have seen, the cosmological argument takes experience as its starting point; it is an argument of a very different sort.)

    To sum up: you can put science in a box if you like, for methodological reasons, but you can’t put metaphysics in a box. For some of our concepts (as I argued above) are “out of the box.” And these are the concepts that we can apply to God – open-ended concepts like cause, explanation, knowledge, understanding, love, and so on. By contrast, physicalistic concepts – even groovy ones like synchronicity and complementarity – keep us in the box; that’s why they’re intellectually stultifying if they’re invoked to limit the scope of human enquiry.

    I would argue that science itself is profoundly enriched if scientists are free to indulge in a little bit of theological speculation, now and then. Einstein was no orthodox believer – his God was the God of Spinoza. Nevetheless, he often used to ask if God had any choice in making the cosmos the way it is. That helped spur research into fine-tuning, which is still continuing.

    In biology, it might seem like a “cheat” to some scientists, if we invoke a Designer to acount for some features of the natural world. Time will tell if the features proposed in recent literature (complex, specified information) are valid ones or not, but the argument from design is, without a doubt, incomparably more refined than it was back in the eighties, when I started studying philosophy. In any case, my point is that the question of whether life was designed is an entirely legitimate one – even if we imagine the Designer to have been supernatural, and not some advanced race of aliens. You can do science with speculation like that: what you should try to do is out-smart the Deity, by coming up with a rival pathway to obtaining CSI, and cry “Eureka!” only when you have succeeded. If, as you press on in your scientific quest, the problems of generating CSI seem to mount as time passes, and the contrast between artifacts containing CSI and natural objects lacking it only seem to become more pronounced, then you might rationally decide to abandon the futile quest to generate CSI, and focus instead on what nature can do: the “edge of evolution,” if there is one.

    Hazel, you write that “[i]f there is a God etc., it is unlikely that we could even comprehend how God interacts with/pervades the world” and I agree with you here. But we don’t have to, in order to talk meaningfully of God. All we need is for the notion of an interaction to make sense; and that in turn requires that the notion of a cause makes sense, when applied to God, as I have argued it does. The “how” of God’s causation will always elude us; but we can certainly ask “when,” “where,” “what with,” and perhaps even “why?” The first three are questions that science could shed light on.

    God is not a science-stopper. God is a science-starter and a science-enabler. And to do good science, is in the end, to know the mind of God, in our own small way.

  278. —–Hazel: “But the facts you observe are observed in this universe by us, finite beings in space and time. You have no reason to believe that those facts necessarily apply to whatever larger metaphysical world this universe is embedded in, and you have no way of observing or comprehending what the nature and features of that larger metaphysical world is.”

    The principles of right reason do not change with extension. Otherwise science would never have discovered the big bang, much less would they have concluded that it represented a beginning in time.

    —–For instance, just because causation functions as it does in our world, when seen from our limited perspective, doesn’t mean that causation like that, or analogous to that, operates in the metaphysical world.

    Whatever gave you that idea? They do indeed apply. Metaphysics provides the rational foundation for science. Read “The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science,” by Burtt. It is the metaphysical truths that make science comprehensible.

    —–“ I know that we can’t really comprehend how things could be different, but of the two options – recognizing that we can’t know or doing as you are doing and thinking we can extrapolate with certainty from our human perspective – I prefer to recognize that we can’t know.”

    Yes, I know. You prefer to believe that our rational minds do not correspond to the rational universe, which is the essence of post-modernism. The point you keep missing is this: The metaphysical principles upon which rationality depends must be assumed and believed prior to the investigation. To be sure, we cannot prove them. However, if we don’t accept them, rationality collapses. That is the part you don’t seem to understand.

    When I say that atheists are irrational, I don’t mean to suggest that they have a low IQ. What I am saying is that their skepticism is founded on a rejection of the metaphysical principles that underlie rationality and logic. They are not irrational because they don’t have the capacity to think; they are irrational because they refuse to accept the conditions that making thinking possible. That is exactly what atheism and hyperskepticism do.

    You go on and on about logic, but you reject its foundations. Why do you think a “reductio ad absurdum works”: It is because we assume [IN ADVANCE ] that a thing cannot be true and false at the same time. The logic is not foundational; it is derivative. If you say that there is no correspondence between the intellect and the real world, which is what you and other postmodernists say, then you are, without realizing it, rejecting the metaphysical truths that make logic what it is. Why do you think I hit atheists, agnostics, and skeptics so hard?

    —-“There are other philosophers who agree with me.”

    Can you name a philosopher that thinks that Aristotle’s prime mover argument is invalid?

    —-”But I’m not appealing to authority – I’m appealing to argument, and I think I have valid points.”

    The only valid point that you made did not apply to my demonstration. Your point was that logic alone can do nothing, which is not a controversial statement. It was only after I provided several examples that you came to understand that I wasn’t simply using “brute logic,” otherwise you would not have used that term.

    Do me a favor. Forget about your postmodernism/ subjectivism/ relativism for a while and read something different. Get out of your comfort zone and begin with G K Chesterton and pay very close attention to what he is saying.

  279. 281

    What a wonderful post (@279), vjtorley. I very much enjoyed it. You brake down the topic at hand rather thoroughly (and happy birthday!).

  280. vjtorley @279. Very nice!

  281. Vjtorley #279
    That is an excellent essay. Like all good essays it helps me see where I disagree. My essential problem is that philosophers use these concepts such as “explanation”, “necessary”, “contingent” in such broad contexts that they become meaningless. The concepts are being applied in situations so totally beyond our ken that they become word games. This is surely what Wittgenstein meant when he talked of our intelligence being bewitched by language.

    I will give two examples.

    1) “You can’t have an infinite regress of explanations”.

    Explanation is such a very broad concept. It is almost any answer to the question “why”. For example, if I ask why Neil Armstrong landed on the moon in 1969 – the answer could be anything from “the space race” to some details about how the lunar module worked to Newton’s laws of physics. Without a context the question is meaningless. If you take “explanation” in a very broad sense then you can have an infinite number of explanations for any event (I would also argue that you can have an infinite regress of such explanations – but I don’t want to make this comment too long). But once you start this kind of conversation the concept has been stretched to breaking point.

    2) You refer to God being necessary and kindly explain that this is not a logical necessity.

    But all talk of necessity is again relative to some context. In a game of chess it is necessary for pawns to move forwards. Of course it is physically quite possible to move them backwards. When sending a man to the moon it is necessary that the rocket conform to Newton’s laws (to a reasonable standard of approximation). But it is logically possible that the lunar module is instantly transported without any force being applied. Unless it is clear what laws you are referring to, the concept of necessity gets a sort of wheel spin – it has nothing to engage with. The ultimate set of laws is the laws of logic – but you explicitly say that God does not exist necessarily in this sense. And of course you are right.

  282. David Kellogg:

    But I bet most people in evolutionary biology have never heard of this site.

    And I bet those people can’t support the claims of their position.

    If they could we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

  283. —–Diffixial: However, I may assert that it is possible to utter these decisive statements in a universe in which no God confers being at all. If you wish to reject that, you have acquired the burden of demonstrating that it is not possible for your above decisive arguments to be uttered in a universe devoid of God, without the use those arguments themselves to accomplish that demonstration. To do so, e.g. to employ those arguments for this purpose, introduces an unsatisfactory paradox of self-reference and would again assume your central conclusions.”

    To say that one may “utter a decisive statement” in a Godless universe is the equivalent of saying that one may exist in a Godless universe, since one must exist in order to utter the statements. So, why not just say that we don’t need God for our existence. Why all the extra added attractions? What am I missing here?

    In any case, the burden of proof is on you. If you believe that creatures can have being without a creator to confer being on them, you need to provide a logical argument for that proposition.

  284. vjtorley @279. Very nice!

    Megadittos.

  285. Hazel —

    What observable facts from outside this universe can you point to be the references for your logic?

    Sometimes it takes a Damascus Road experience, Hazel. If you should get one, don’t turn your back on it.

  286. 288

    tribune7 [287], I think that’s right. I don’t know how to put this in a way that doesn’t sound odd, because in my view philosophy simply can’t get us there. But here goes: personal experience may provide the context in which (to recycle something I said above) the cosmological argument seems both valid (which I have already stipulated) and sound. But it will be sound only for those who have such a transformative experience.

    If such an experience allows a person to fit the peg of faith into the hole of philosophy, it does so by changing the shape of the hole.

    Or maybe the peg. I’m not sure.

  287. But it will be sound only for those who have such a transformative experience.

    David, I don’t really disagree with this. But if you have a society, in which the authorities say “everything is by accident” “purpose is self-determined” “eat, drink and be merry” “obey” and “never, never, seek there” fewer people will find such an experience.

  288. 290

    tribune7 [289], yes. But (putting aside the conflation of moral and descriptive statements, or whether “the authorities” say any or all of those statements) the world is what it is. Further, there’s a strong tradition in most religions, Christianity included, that it’s a messed-up world and that people shouldn’t expect otherwise.

  289. Mr Vjtorley,

    Tanjobi omedeto!
    #Happy Birthday in Japanese! :)

    What a nice essay. Thank you for taking time on your birthday to think of other people, and make the effort to explain your ideas. I think everyone appreciates your patience.
    I have been reading the Koons website that you recommended to me, but your essay here is also an excellent summary.

    I haven’t commented before about infinite regress, but you devote some space to it. I was thinking that, as you say, our gut feelings aren’t really aligned with such arguments. But we should have learned from the development of quantum mechanics in the last century how little we can trust our gut instincts when exploring the very deep nature of the world.

    Let’s take the example of pi, the famous number. There are many definitions of this number. One is an infinite series, which I won’t even try to type here! So, is this infinite series an ‘explanation’ of pi? I don’t admit to thinking through this example very carefully, but I am trying to suggest that we are now more comfortable discussing infinite series of objects than were the ancients. Does anyone know if Liebnitz applies his calculus ideas to these philosophical questions?

    We can, as you say, entertain concepts such as ’cause’ or ‘explanation’, and apply them to concepts, not just experiences. For example, we can think about the explanation of cause. But rather than project these concepts to an existence outside of ourselves, and indeed, outside the universe, I think we have to grapple with the case where the causes and explanations are inside our skulls. The cause of explanation is that creating a causal model of the world is a survival trait. And there are things we explain badly, such as optical illusions.

    You make a point about the universe having global properties. Just to be clear, there are global properties, such as an inverse-square law of a force, that are necessarily that way. A 3+1 spacetime must have such laws. Other properties, such as ‘c’, the speed of light in the vacuum, do seem to be global in space and time, and yet arbitrary. This is where various fine tuning arguments have landed.

    So I agree that a science of our concepts is an exciting subject, though I think it is more fruitfully thought of as the sum of our evolution, our development, and our learning. I don’t think the essence of ‘blog’ is out there somewhere, eternal.

    Again, happy birthday and many more to you.

  290. Nakashima-san

    So, is this infinite series an ‘explanation’ of pi?

    What came before the Big Bang? There is a limit to reason and ultimately everything is a matter of faith.

  291. Mr Tribune7,

    Are these Damascus Road experiences different from what others report from eating mushrooms? If I need to share a similar brain chemistry before an argument convinces me, it isn’t so strong, ne?

  292. And another, maybe final, point with the thread approaching 300.

    Paul had a profound experience on the Damascus Road.

    Others to whom he witnessed, however, did not yet many still found themselves believing.

  293. Are these Damascus Road experiences different from what others report from eating mushrooms

    Yes, Nakashima-san.

  294. Mr Tribune7,

    What is at latitude 91N? I agree that such questions are beyond reason. If my son told me Santa Claus lived at 91N, I would have to take it on faith.

  295. Mr Tribune7,

    Where can I read about the differences?

  296. StephenB writes, “So, why not just say that we don’t need God for our existence.”

    Uh, that is exactly what I have been saying.

    God is not the only plausible hypothesis for the existence of the universe, and we have no means for testing which plausible hypothesis, if any, is true. (My belief is that we are probably incapable of even conceiving of the correct hypothesis.)

    So, yes, we don’t need God for our existence.

    I’m glad that’s cleared up! :)

  297. Nakashima-san

    If my son told me Santa Claus lived at 91N, I would have to take it on faith.

    You can’t investigate what’s at 91N??

    Where can I read about the differences?

    There is life outside books :-)

    Magic Mushroom Trip Report

    The Conversion of Paul ( a pretty good summary at Wiki

  298. Hazel, please read what is written.

    —-Diffixial wrote: “As I said before, one may observe that it may be possible to utter these ostensibly decisive statements in a universe that is actually devoid of God. In that instance, although the logic of the argument is unchanged, it would be apparent from some remove that these “decisive” arguments are mistaken, nevertheless.”

    So, quite naturally, I explained that it would be much simpler to untangle that mess and just assert the typical atheist line that creatures don’t need creators.

    And now you write:

    —–”Uh, this is what I have been saying all along.”

    I know very well what you have been saying. I wasn’t addressing you, I was addressing the person who made the statement. Please, please read for context.

    You write further:

    —-”So, yes, we don’t need God for our existence.

    —–”I’m glad that’s cleared up!”

    It’s not a good idea to talk an idea to death when that idea is the result of a misapprehension.

    The problem is not that others don’t know what you are saying. The problem is that you don’t know what others are saying

  299. No, I understand what you are saying, and I think you are wrong.

    And I knew that you were addressing Diffaxial, but it is quite common in internet discussions for one to comment on posts addressed to others.

  300. 302

    I have no idea if “Damascus Road” experiences are different from experiences triggered as hallucinogenic mushrooms. I think there’s probably a wide range of both kinds of experiences, and both kinds are open to trust and doubt.

  301. 303

    correction: triggered by

  302. 304

    David Kellogg,

    “I have no idea if “Damascus Road” experiences are different from experiences triggered as hallucinogenic mushrooms. I think there’s probably a wide range of both kinds of experiences, and both kinds are open to trust and doubt.”

    The difference would be whether someone were on psychotropic drugs, or not. And if we say that any ol’ situation can produce such an effect, then we get self-referentially incoherent, for your conclusion above would be subject to the same doubt and trust. In other words, there cannot be a total skepticism about our minds and whether they are naturally or by the aid of mushrooms producing hallucinations, for we would have no other standard by which to compare even our “lucid” comparisons.

  303. 305

    Clive, I’m not talking about everyday experiences. I’m talking about transformative religious experiences, using “Damascus road” as a shorthand for that. Such experiences are by definition outside the norm, and they often resemble being drunk or on drugs. Consider one of my favorite verses, Acts 2:15:

    These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning!

    The Christian environmentalist, novelist, and poet Wendell Berry has pointed out that psychodelic mushrooms, marijuana, tobacco, alcohol all have early uses in religious ritual (the communion in the case of Christianity).

  304. 306

    Perhaps Ms. O’Leary agrees with me that drug experiences and transformative spiritual experiences may be connected. There may even be a biochemical commonality. From The Spiritual Brain, page 338:

    Various lines of evidence have demonstrated that entheogens — psychedelic drugs used in a spiritual context . . . — can lead to genuine states of unitive consciousness. . . . .

    The Spiritual Brain doesn’t seem to discuss dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a naturally occurring hallucinogen.

  305. Earlier (269) Stephen agreed that “Brute logic alone is helpless, but logic in conjunction with observable facts can tell us a great deal.”

    I responded by pointing out that the only observable facts we have are inside this universe, so it is a mistake to think that logic can tell us anything about whatever metaphysical “reality” is outside this universe because we don’t have any observations of what is outside the universe.

    Stephen, at 280, replied

    The principles of right reason do not change with extension. Otherwise science would never have discovered the big bang, much less would they have concluded that it represented a beginning in time.

    The Big Bang is within this universe, and we can gather evidence about it and thus reason logically about it.

    But Stephen have avoided the issue has avoided the issue: even if the “principles of right reason do not change with extension,” their use can’t be extended to what is outside the universe because, as we agreed, without some observable facts, logic is helpless.

    So Stephen’s remark about the Big Bang reinforces my point, but does not challenge it.

  306. Mr Tribune7,

    Those are some fascinating accounts of experiences from eating mushrooms. Aside from the visual effects, some people report incredibly profound religious experiences.

    I apologize if anyone thought I was implying that Paul’s experience was a result of eating mushrooms. I was not. I was asking if other people could access valid and strong religious experiences with the help of natural substances. But even so, to me these experiences are interior to an individual, and at least today, we have no way of sharing them directly with each other.

  307. —-”Hazel: “And I knew that you were addressing Diffaxial, but it is quite common in internet discussions for one to comment on posts addressed to others.”

    It is not common to try to hold one person (me) accountable for something someone else (Diffaxial) says.

  308. 310

    I thought hazel was just trying to chime in on a free-flowing conversation (earlier parts of which hazel had participated in). People do the same with me all the time. It’s no big deal.

  309. I was asking if other people could access valid and strong religious experiences with the help of natural substances.

    The point with Paul is that you don’t have to (and you really ought not to look to drugs to have one).

    One of the differences I was going to point out between Paul and the Magic Mushroom Trip Reporters was the latter are inane, self-indulgent young people waxing profound about inconsequential matters using poor grammar.

    Paul, otoh, was an intelligent man with worldly success whose experience would cause him to give up all status, and who would go on to have a greater effect on history than just about anybody who had ever lived, some say even more so than the Lord, Himself.

    And the point I was originally making way back is that some people need an intense religious experience (Paul) but others don’t (those to whom he witnessed).

  310. —-Hazel: “Earlier (269) Stephen agreed that “Brute logic alone is helpless, but logic in conjunction with observable facts can tell us a great deal.”

    —–“I responded by pointing out that the only observable facts we have are inside this universe, so it is a mistake to think that logic can tell us anything about whatever metaphysical “reality” is outside this universe because we don’t have any observations of what is outside the universe.”

    Hazel first labored under the misapprehension that the cosmological argument uses only “brute logic,” confusing it with the ontological argument. When I informed her that the cosmological argument does not rely solely on brute logic, that it also takes observation into account, she continued to use the term “brute logic” anyway, indicating that she was not in any way following the argument. I can only wonder if she get’s it now.

    ——But Stephen have avoided the issue has avoided the issue: even if the “principles of right reason do not change with extension,” their use can’t be extended to what is outside the universe because, as we agreed, without some observable facts, logic is helpless.

    Not only did I not avoid the issue, I tried on several occasions to explain the critical point at issue: To say that the principles of right reason do not change with extension is to say that they do not change when we move from physics to metaphysics. Indeed, the principles from conducting logical investigations in the physical realm come from the metaphysical realm.

    —–Hazel: “So Stephen’s remark about the Big Bang reinforces my point, but does not challenge it.”

    No, it doesn’t. To confirm my point, all I need to do is ask a simple question: Is it not true that science’s discovery of the big bang was quickly followed by the assumption that the universe “began in time.” Did not the atheists in the scientific community go ballistic when they heard this, knowing that it pointed the finger straight to a creator? You didn’t hear them saying logic stops at creation’s door.

  311. —-David Kellogg: “I thought hazel was just trying to chime in on a free-flowing conversation (earlier parts of which hazel had participated in). People do the same with me all the time. It’s no big deal.”

    You are misrepresenting what happened (accidently? purposely?)Chiming in on a conversation is not the same thing as attributing the words of person [a] to person [b] and then trying to gain mileage out of the misunderstanding.

  312. 314

    But StephenB (and sorry if I’m interrupting here), the statement that “the principles from conducting logical investigations in the physical realm come from the metaphysical realm” presumes the existence of a metaphysical realm. Isn’t that part of what’s at issue?

    I continue to think your argument may be formally valid but not necessarily sound (in that we don’t enough information to know, for example, that the universe itself is contingent).

  313. 315

    StephenB, I didn’t see where hazel represented Diffaxial’s words as your own. If that happened, then you have a point I suppose. I usually attribute such mistakes, when they occur, to careless writing. I’d suggest correcting and moving on. A person who gets too sensitive about such things is likely to start accusing everybody of “selective hyperskepticism” etc.

  314. 316

    StephenB, I think I understand. I’ll lay out my view with apologizes in advance for the length. It’s a very minor issue, but it takes some explaining.

    hazel quoted you as saying “So, why not just say that we don’t need God for our existence.” In fact, those words are yours [in 285], but you were responding to, and, in a sense, parodying Diffixial’s point of view, right? Well, that makes for a complicated tonal issue.

    Are you saying hazel should have attributed those words to Diffixial? Obviously not, since the words are yours. Should hazel have attributed the position those words represent to Diffixial? That may be reasonable, but the words are yours, and they’re highly quotable. The question becomes: how can hazel quote you but refer to Diffixial?

    This is a common issue when a writer seeks to represent the position of someone they disagree with. It’s easy to represent the conversation a little flatly, taking out the nuance of what happened and maybe allowing readers to misunderstand. As a college writing professor, I see this kind of thing frequently. But if hazel made an error, it is a slight one — one of losing the tone while correctly attributing the quote.

    hazel wrote:

    StephenB writes, “So, why not just say that we don’t need God for our existence.”

    Technically true, but you have a (small) point. It might have been better for hazel to write:

    StephenB summarizes Diffixial as asking, “So, why not just say that we don’t need God for our existence.”

    That’s worth a minor markdown on hazel’s grade, but it’s small potatoes.

  315. Stephen, in 309, says,

    It is not common to try to hold one person (me) accountable for something someone else (Diffaxial) says.

    There is possibly some confusion here. Stephen, you wrote in 285,

    To say that one may “utter a decisive statement” in a Godless universe is the equivalent of saying that one may exist in a Godless universe, since one must exist in order to utter the statements. So, why not just say that we don’t need God for our existence. Why all the extra added attractions? What am I missing here?

    The words “why not just say that we don’t need God for our existence” were your words, not Diffaxials. I was responding to your statement “Why all the added attractions” by pointing out, simply, that you are right – we can just skip all the arguments and say that God is not a necessary hypothesis for existence.

    I quoted you, and was responding to you, even though it was Diffaxial that you were addressing.

    But I did not hold you accountable for something Diffaxial said – I responded to what you said.

  316. And thanks, David. I think I work pretty hard to provide context and make it clear who and what I am addressing – in fact, writing posts that do that well is both one of my goals and one of my interests in even participating in internet discussions.

  317. Mark Frank (#283)

    Thank you for taking the trouble to clarify your philosophical differences with me. I’ve been thinking carefully about your comments, as they contain a number of valid metaphysical insights.

    You point out that explanation is always relative to some context. Here, I would like to make a distinction. First, an explanation is a context: indeed, the whole point of an explanation is to provide a context for the event it explains. Second, an explanation is typically only a partial one: the context is limited, and can only be understood relative to some set of background assumptions. These background assumptions may be widely shared, which is why people living in the same culture often don’t feel the need to articulate them.

    We may feel no need to question these assumptions. They may reflect a social status quo – “It’s always been done that way” – or the regularities in the natural world (laws of nature) which we commonly take for granted. In ordinary life, our explanations typically stop at the point where everyone nods their heads and understands: “I know what you mean.”

    But the whole point of the cosmological argument is to shake us out of this metaphysical complacency, and start questioning the everyday assumptions which we take for granted. For no matter what regular state of affairs we encounter in the natural or human world, we can always ask why it occurs, if we wish. Search as we will, we can find no reason why it has to be that way, and we can always imagine such a state of affairs ceasing to exist. For the laws of nature are radically contingent, and human affairs even more so. And as such, they are precarious: even though they may hold sway now, they are liable to break down, at any time in the future.

    We have seen that partial explanations are metaphysically inadequate, as they ignore the wider context. But we also saw that even when we viewed nature as a totality, contingency reigned supreme: we found no trace of necessity anywhere.

    My contention is that there must exist an ultimate and fully adequate explanation for every event – a kind of universal context, if you like – and that this context, which I call God, is an Agent, whose necessity arises from God’s inner dynamic of knowing and loving. God’s essential acts of self-knowledge and self-love are what makes God necessary.

    Now, let’s look at the example you cite: Neil Armstrong landing on the moon in 1969. This is a rather “messy” example, as what we actually have here are at least three events, occurring on various levels, which happen to coincide at a particular point in space and time. Thus we have: (i) purposeful decisions made by an agent (Neil Armstrong) working the other astronauts in the Apollo 11 crew. We also have: (ii) a human artifact (the lunar module) which had to function correctly under harsh lunar conditions. And of course, there are: (iii) the laws of physics, which had to continue to hold, as they always have done. For each of these events, we can legitimately demand an explanation, and in the end we have to come back to God.

    Let’s start with (i). The space race partially explains the human endeavor, but I’m sure many children living in the 1960s must have asked their parents why the USA and USSR were competing for control of space in the first place. Now, it would be tempting to go back in time, and talk about how the Soviet Union arose in the first place, but that kind of historical explanation would be wrong-headed, in my opinion, and it would also be unsatisfying, for it does nothing but beget an endless stream of further historical questions. Past occurrences explain nothing, except insofar as the events they gave rise to continue to obtain now. Parents of children living in the 1960s would have been wiser to cut to the chase, and explain the space race as the product of a battle of competing ideologies (democracy and communism), which were themselves based on different conceptions of human good (individualism versus Statism), which were themselves based on different conceptions of the human person (a libertarian agent versus a spark of living matter governed by chemical, biological and sociological laws). During the 1960s, the two superpowers adhering to these respective were locked in a struggle for domination of the world, and of space as well.

    But even here, we cannot stop. After all, why DO people – and societies – have different concepts of the human person in the first place? And we cannot answer this question in biological or neurological terms. The reason has to do with our nature as rational animals, who struggle to make sense of the world around them: in other words, it goes back to how we think, and what enables us to think in the first place. The religious explanation is that we have been created with an intellect that is able to seek out truth, but is not programmed to discover it; hence we often stumble into error, and embrace mistaken ideas of who we are and what is good for us. In other words, God gave us free will, and the space race during the 1960s was a political manifestation of that. That’s the ultimate context for the human decision to land a man on the moon.

    Now let’s look at (ii): the mechanical workings of the lunar module. The module is an artifact, designed to work under harsh lunar conditions by scientists who took the trouble to investigate the moon before sending people there, and also by engineers who designed a mechanical device that could operate under these conditions. They would have also had to factor in glitches that may have occurred: for example, what if there was more dust on the moon than scientists expected? (Back in the 1960s, there was some anxiety that the lunar module might get bogged down.) In any case, the engineers would have had to perform lots of experiments, under laboratory conditions designed to replicate those on the moon (no atmosphere, weaker gravity, and so on) before they could be reasonably confident that their module would perform as it was meant to, and would not break down.

    What is the unexamined background assumption here? It is that laboratory experiments are possible in the first place, and that natural conditions obtaining at one point in space and time (the moon, in 1969) can be replicated at another point (Earth, in 1968). In other words, science works. And the point of the cosmological argument is that science cannot explain what science presupposes. Science cannot explain why the universe “behaves itself” in such a way as to make experiments possible. The very possibility of performing experiments makes no sense unless the world is intelligible to our minds; and nothing in Nature guarantees that it should be so.

    Now, what could possibly serve as a guarantee of that? Only some Intelligence that keeps the cosmos in being, and whose nature it is to know and love perfectly – in other words, an essentially rational, mind-friendly Personal Being, and not a capricious entity.

    The same considerations hold for event (iii): the fact that the laws of physics continue to hold. The scientists who sent men to the moon were thoroughly conversant with the laws of physics, which they assumed would hold in space, because for centuries, they had observed celestial bodies moving in accordance with these laws. But in reality, there is no such guarantee that these laws will continue to hold, unless they are seen as the workings of an essentially rational Cosmic Intelligence, who designed the universe.

    As regards the possibility of an infinite number of explanantions of event: well, there may be an infinite number of perspectives on one event, I grant, and hence an indefinitely large number of partial explanations, depending on what one wants to include in or exclude ifrom one’s explanation. However, none of the foregoing points shows there can be an infinite regress of partial explanations, each situated inside a larget one like a set of Russian dolls. Explanations have to stop somewhere, and as I ahve argued, there can only be one ultimate explanation: God.

    And now to your other point of substance, Mark: that necessity is always relative to some context. That was a profound insight. If God is necessary, He must be necessary relative to the contexts of the operations that he necessarily performs: knowing and loving. These are metaphysically inseparable, in a Being whose nature it is to know and love perfectly. Such a Being cannot know without loving, and cannot love without knowing. Thus the doctrine of the Trinity, as expounded by Augustine, may have quite a lot to tell us about the necessity of God.

    At any rate, the answer lies in the inner life of God: knowing and loving. Got to go to work now. Hope that helps.

  318. Stephen, earlier you said that 1) logic without some anchor in observable facts was helpless.

    Now, at 312, you say,

    To say that the principles of right reason do not change with extension is to say that they do not change when we move from physics to metaphysics.

    My first reaction to this is to point out that even if the “principles of right reason … do not change when we move from physics to metaphysics,” the fact that we can observe the physical and not the metaphysical means that logic about the physical can have substance and logic about the metaphysical can not. Logic about what we might think the metaphysical is can have internal logical consistency, and it can function as a useful tool in our life, but it can’t really be about the metaphysical in the sense of making claims that the metaphysical really is one way or another, because we have no observations of the metaphysical to ground and test our claims.

    Now I know you don’t agree, and the next sentence in your post reminds me of why. You wrote,

    Indeed, the principles from conducting logical investigations in the physical realm come from the metaphysical realm.

    You believe that we can indeed “observe the metaphysical,” I think (correct me if I am misrepresenting your position) because you believe that reason actually comes from the metaphysical – that we can indeed access objectively certain truths.

    On that point we fundamentally disagree, but it does help explain, to me at least, the differences between us here on this issue of logic.

  319. Hi vjtorley.

    I’ve skipped over replying to some of your posts recently, but I’ve appreciated reading them. Let me jump back in, close perhaps to where we left off many posts ago.

    You write,

    For no matter what regular state of affairs we encounter in the natural or human world, we can always ask why it occurs, if we wish. Search as we will, we can find no reason why it has to be that way, and we can always imagine such a state of affairs ceasing to exist.

    I absolutely agree, and feel that this is a vital point for people to understand. There will always be a limit to human knowledge because no matter how deeply we find explanations, we will always be able to ask but why is it like that? Even if we dig deeper, that fundamental question will always remain at the limit of wherever our understanding is at that time.

    But then you write,

    My contention is that there must exist an ultimate and fully adequate explanation for every event – a kind of universal context, if you like – and that this context, which I call God, is an Agent, whose necessity arises from God’s inner dynamic of knowing and loving. God’s essential acts of self-knowledge and self-love are what makes God necessary.

    This is a huge jump. It would one thing, to me, for you to profess that for you, belief in a personal loving God as the ultimate explanation is your resolution to the problem. It is quite another thing to claim that there must be “an ultimate and fully adequate explanation for every event,” and it is a even further step to claim that God, as a knowing and loving agent, is necessary.

    As I have been arguing, there are other plausible explanations that function as the universal context, and there is not any logical or empirical way of deciding which, if any, are true.

    Furthermore, there in fact may not be “an ultimate and fully adequate explanation for every event,” at least for human beings, and maybe ultimately. The possibility exists that the whole of existence, of which our universe is a part, is like a fractal set, and that no matter how deep you go there is always more there that is as rich (and in need of explanation) as that which came before.

  320. Hazel, I will begin with a compliment. I congratulate you for being up front with your atheism and for taking the heat (at least the head I apply) associated with it. You would be surprised (well, maybe not) how many begin (and sustain) their correspondences by telling me what they are “not.”
    So, I respect you for your forthrightness in that area. Further, I have decided to lower my voice a little bit and be a little more patient, and a little more congenial.

    OK, on the matter of logic:

    —-”Now I know you don’t agree, and the next sentence in your post reminds me of why. You wrote,”

    Indeed, the principles from conducting logical investigations in the physical realm come from the metaphysical realm.

    —-”You believe that we can indeed “observe the metaphysical,”

    Well no, I wouldn’t say we can observe them, [since they are non-material] but we can know them, or in some cases we can accept them as given [law of non-contradiction etc]

    —-”I think (corree if I am misrepresenting your position) because you believe that reason actually comes from the metaphysical – that we can indeed access objectively certain truths.”

    I speak only of the foundations, but yes, we can access objectively certain truths if, and only if, we accept the foundational principles. Let’s take the law of non-contradiction again–we cannot reason our way to it; we reason our way from it. If we don’t accept it as given, we can’t reason at all. So, in a way, we have to begin with faith.

    I look forward to your response, and I promise not to jump all over it. Welcome to the new me (until I fall off the wagon).

  321. —David: “StephenB, I think I understand. I’ll lay out my view with apologizes in advance for the length. It’s a very minor issue, but it takes some explaining.”

    David, no need. In fact, I would like to start over in a manner of speaking. As I told Hazel, I am committed to increasing my patience and improving my tone. To put it in non-material terms, my conscience is speaking to me and telling me to be kinder.

  322. StephenB:

    To say that one may “utter a decisive statement” in a Godless universe is the equivalent of saying that one may exist in a Godless universe, since one must exist in order to utter the statements. So, why not just say that we don’t need God for our existence. Why all the extra added attractions? What am I missing here?

    The import of my observation is not that it demonstrates or asserts that God doesn’t exist. Rather, it asserts that your proofs of God’s existence don’t succeed, your claims notwithstanding. (Similar proofs that purport to demonstrate the non-existence of God by means of reasoning from definitions similarly fail.)

    The outcome, then, is that with regard to the question of “does God exist” we are left with “We don’t know,” at least with respect to these particular arguments.

    In any case, the burden of proof is on you. If you believe that creatures can have being without a creator to confer being on them, you need to provide a logical argument for that proposition.

    Again, the conclusion of my argument is not that “creatures can have being without a creator.” Rather, the conclusion is that arguments of the kind you are making, and similar arguments purporting to establish the reverse, all fail. Hence I don’t offer one.

    Hence my agnosticism.

  323. I pretty thoroughly agree with Diffaxial on this, and I think he has said it well.

  324. —-Diffaxial: “The outcome, then, is that with regard to the question of “does God exist” we are left with “We don’t know,” at least with respect to these particular arguments.”

    You are, of course, entitled to your opinion. Several on this blog have disagreed with my formulation, but no one has yet addressed it except to dismiss it from a distance. I have to believe the reason for that is that if they examined it closely with an open mind, they would find it persuasive and, for some reason, they prefer to believe it doesn’t work. A well reasoned argument is a little harder to refute when one actually gets into the details, which is why, in my judgment, so many avoid them.

  325. Hazel:

    Thank you for your response. You write:

    It would one thing, to me, for you to profess that for you, belief in a personal loving God as the ultimate explanation is your resolution to the problem. It is quite another thing to claim that there must be “an ultimate and fully adequate explanation for every event,” and it is an even further step to claim that God, as a knowing and loving agent, is necessary.

    In response to your first point: the alternative which you posit, that “no matter how deep you go there is always more” in the universe, relies on a spatial metaphor for its plausibility, as well as the fact that as finite beings living in a universe which (for all we know) may be infinite in size, there could always be more to discover.

    However, explanations don’t go “down.” We talk about “digging deeper,” but the real question is: does the explanation answer the question, without begging a further one? And during the 48 years in which I have inhabited this world, I have yet to find a physicalistic explanation of any event which was not question-begging in precisely this fashion.

    The “huge leap” I make to a God whose nature it is to know and love perfectly is actually a bit of mental “reverse engineering,” so to speak. Suppose there were a satisfactory answer to our demand for explanations. What would it be like? In particular, what could it possibly do, that could serve to explain occurrences in the world?

    No physical action of any sort fits the bill: as we have seen, physical actions assume the existence of seemingly arbitary background laws. More to the point, no physical action could serve to guarantee that the universe will always remain intelligible to the human mind, and not dissolve into a buzzing, blooming mess. Only an Intelligence can guarantee intelligibility. That’s the crux of my argument for a Mind behind the cosmos. And it must be a pretty stable mind, too, not the mind of a whimsical Zeus, but of a Being who cannot fail to know perfectly, to love what it knows, and to act in accordance with its perfect knowledge.

    The alternative, of course, is to say that nothing holds our cosmos up, metaphysically: it rests upon nothing, and for all we know, its interactions may fall apart at any moment. That’s a lonely but courageous view, and I suppose Jean-Paul Sartre would have applauded it. One can suppose that the universe has no ultimate explanation. My only question is: why would you want to look a gift horse in the mouth? Theists have an explanation which could make sense of the world: why would anyone want to reject it?

    Finally, I should add that accepting God does not mean that there are no more questions to answer. It just means that there is a solid, coherent metaphysical framework in which to ground one’s questions. A theist may also look forward to an never-ending scientific quest, if that is what she wants.

  326. Just to add to the compliments here…

    Vjtorley, your gift of explaining aristotilean and thomistic thought is considerable, and I’m glad to see more and more people as of late making reference to the classic theistic arguments. StephenB as well has been really providing some great posts here. I’m sure I’ve missed others.

  327. On metaphysical observations:

    I can induce REM activity. I shut off sensory input. Yet I am still conscious. I am still aware. I can remember the experience.

    Question: Can I say the description of that experience is my observation of that experience?

    If so, then if more than one person can experience REM consciously, and the descriptions are the same, can we not say the comparisons are a test of those observations>?

    Further, can we not formulate conclusions based on the comparative analysis results?

  328. Vjtorley

    On explanation

    I like what Hazel wrote about explanation so I will pick on your response to her (#327). You write: “Only an Intelligence can guarantee intelligibility” and later “The alternative, of course, is to say that nothing holds our cosmos up, metaphysically”. I am not sure what you mean by “guarantee” and “hold up” – they are metaphors for something else which is not defined – but let’s leave that for the moment. I want to point out

    1) It is not clear to me that only an intelligence can guarantee intelligibility. That just seems to be an assertion.

    2) There is at least one other alternative – simply that there are limits to what we can understand, just as there are limits to what a dog can understand. By definition we can never describe what it is we can’t understand. But when we find we have no satisfactory explanation for something it may well be a sign that we have reached those limits. Just as my dog will never get a satisfactory explanation of why we throw perfectly good food into a plastic bin (to avoid him getting fat).

    On necessity

    In #319 You wrote:

    “If God is necessary, He must be necessary relative to the contexts of the operations that he necessarily performs: knowing and loving.”

    When I talked about necessity being relative to a context I tried to explain that this context was the laws which would need to be broken if the necessary event did not happen. So the context for a necessary chess move is the rules of chess. The context for every action necessarily having a reaction is the laws of physics. I don’t see how “knowing and loving” provide a set of laws. What is it that prevents God from not existing? You have said it is not the laws of logic or maths. So what is it?

  329. Let me add my thanks to vjtorley for the time and effort he has clearly invested in composing the essays in this thread. I would also like to reply but my submissions are now being held in the moderation queue and, in some cases, being rejected so there is little point in entering a lengthy comment if there is no reasonable expectation of it being allowed through.


  330. Apparently the evolutionary biologists forgot to tell him that NS was a weak force that had almost nothing to do with the evolution debate. We get the same tired arguments here. I subscribe to the John Davison assessment that they are prescribed.

    That’s right. NS is a conservative force that only removes extremities and has nothing to do with creative evolution.

    There is also no doubt that professor Davison is a profound opponent of darwinism.
    I appreciate his Evolutionary manifesto more than Behe’s Black box. John Davison has been banned from several forums and is often criticised for his crude words. But that’s the only way you can sometimes deal with your fanatical opponents. Call to remebrance crude words of Martin Luther against medieval church or those words of great Giordano Bruno where he called Oxford’s ptolemaist doctors as pigs.
    It is not good idea letting neodarwinists poisoning us with their polite sleek words. Sometimes it is necessary to use such crude words like in the reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R.....n_Cossacks

    As a supporter of professor John Davison I agree with his uncompromising stance against darwinists and their helpers.

  331. 333

    tribune7, I don’t think dismissing drug takers as “self-indulgent young people” (is that always true?) and praising Paul’s intellect (not at issue) is really relevant. Apples and oranges: self-indulgent young people may have highly developed intellects, and less sophisticated intellects may have transformative religious experiences. (Anyone who has visited a charismatic church knows such experiences are possible among a wide range of folks.)

    I thought we were getting toward an interesting possibility: that transformative religious experiences and drug-induced hallucinations may be biochemically (that is, materially) similar. If so, the question of what to trust remains.

  332. I don’t think dismissing drug takers as “self-indulgent young people” (is that always true?)

    The Magic Mushroom Trip Reporters certainly seem to be.

    self-indulgent young people may have highly developed intellects, and less sophisticated intellects may have transformative religious experiences.

    After which, they will stop taking recreational drugs :-)

    I thought we were getting toward an interesting possibility: that transformative religious experiences and drug-induced hallucinations may be biochemically (that is, materially) similar.

    What seems to be overlooked is the rational aspect of a religious conversion i.e. “hey, this is true”.

    I won’t argue that data input can’t create biochemical changes — perhaps even the thoughts you choose to think can change the physical makeup of your brain and body — but I think that means we should just be careful as to what data we choose to input into ourselves.

  333. 335

    “we should just be careful as to what data we choose to input into ourselves.”

    Yes, of course: but the data of transformative religious experiences is often opposed to common sense. How is the person who has a spiritual vision able to determine whether it’s not chemically produced? The body produces its own hallucinogens.

  334. —–Mark: “ [1) It is not clear to me that only an intelligence can guarantee intelligibility. That just seems to be an assertion.

    It is a basic fact of logic that something cannot come from nothing. Two corollaries follow: [A] One cannot give what one does not have and [B] One cannot receive something that was not given.

  335. Just to recap, both of hazel’s arguments have been completely refuted:

    [A] The cosmological argument, unlike the ontological argument, does not simply appeal to “brute logic,” so that one has been done away with.

    [B] The discovery of the big bang led scientists (and everyone else) to understand that creation began in time and implied a creator, which refutes the objection that logic stops at creation’s door.

  336. Yes, of course: but the data of transformative religious experiences is often opposed to common sense.

    Usually it isn’t. Very few involve voices and blindness.

    And if one should, say, find oneself subject to something a bit miraculous, it would take stubborn and hard-hearted opposition to reason to deny the miraculous nature of such an event.

  337. StephenB @ 335

    It is a basic fact of logic that something cannot come from nothing. Two corollaries follow: [A] One cannot give what one does not have and [B] One cannot receive something that was not given.

    “Something” and “nothing” are two conceptual categories defined to be mutually exclusive. Anything that is anything is included in “something”. What remains, which must logically be not-something, is assigned to the “nothing” category.

    But it is far from clear that “nothing” can exist as such in reality. Outer space, for example, used to be thought of as empty but we now know that, although it is relatively thinly populated with matter and energy, it is far from being a complete void.

    Perhaps “something” may appear to to emerge from “nothing” because the “nothing” is a domain whose properties are as yet undetectable or even unimaginable by us.

    This does not get us out of the Infinite Causal Chain/First Cause impasse, I agree, but I would again refer to Nakashima’s suggestion that the problem may arise because we are not thinking outside the conceptual box, that there are solutions like closed timelike curves (CTCs) which get around rather than break the deadlock.

  338. to vjtorley at 327:

    You write,

    In response to your first point: the alternative which you posit, that “no matter how deep you go there is always more” in the universe, relies on a spatial metaphor for its plausibility, as well as the fact that as finite beings living in a universe which (for all we know) may be infinite in size, there could always be more to discover.

    However, explanations don’t go “down.” We talk about “digging deeper,” but the real question is: does the explanation answer the question, without begging a further one? And during the 48 years in which I have inhabited this world, I have yet to find a physicalistic explanation of any event which was not question-begging in precisely this fashion.

    Just because I used a physical metaphor (I am assuming you are referring to a fractal set) doesn’t mean I am saying that all levels of explanation are necessarily physicalistic. I am saying, as Mark Frank says, that there will always be limits to our understanding because, as you said, no matter what we learn, there will always be the question – why are thing like that?

    And I don’t see how believing in a God of whatever conception solves the problem, because the same questions remains – why is it like that? I know all these arguments that attempt to logically show that there is a way out of this (first cause arguments, etc.), but as I am discussing with Stephen, I don’t think they are compelling.

    You also write, “Only an Intelligence can guarantee intelligibility.” I also agree with Mark Frank that this is not necessarily true. We obviously live in a universe where the type of intelligence we have (which is limited) is possible, and we have discovered that this is an orderly universe: its elements and forces have fundamental properties which make things happen, including human beings. But it begs the question – assumes the conclusion – to believe that because the universe can produce a creature with human intelligence that the universe must have intelligence.

    to Stephen:

    Thanks Stephen, both for the complement and the remarks about conduct at 322. I try (and sometimes fail) to maintain a congenial tone because I think that leads to better discussion, which I think is what people find most satisfying and useful.

    And, as to my atheism, it is definitely one of my goals to be upfront about that (at least here on the anonymous internet) because I don’t think atheism is an inferior position to other belief systems and I want to learn how to advocate for that view with the public.

    When I wrote, “You believe that we can indeed “observe the metaphysical,” you replied,

    Well no, I wouldn’t say we can observe them, [since they are non-material] but we can know them, or in some cases we can accept them as given [law of non-contradiction etc] …

    I speak only of the foundations, but yes, we can access objectively certain truths if, and only if, we accept the foundational principles.

    I understand the distinction between observing and knowing, but I don’t think that changes our fundamental disagreement about the nature of that knowing of what you call objective certain truths.

    Then, at 335, you write,

    Just to recap, both of hazel’s arguments have been completely refuted:

    [A] The cosmological argument, unlike the ontological argument, does not simply appeal to “brute logic,” so that one has been done away with.

    [B] The discovery of the big bang led scientists (and everyone else) to understand that creation began in time and implied a creator, which refutes the objection that logic stops at creation’s door.

    First, I don’t see how B is relevant. Saying that the fact that our universe had a beginning implies a creator makes exactly the mistake we are discussing – we can’t know what is beyond our universe, and we have no way of knowing what brought our universe into existence. Stephen repeated invokes “something can’t come from nothing,” but we have no idea what kind of “something” might be the cause of our universe – the hypothesis that it is a personal, willful intelligent creator is just one possible hypothesis, none of which are testable.

    Also, explain to me how the cosmological argument appeals to more than just brute logic? If the Big Bang is the observable fact that it references, then I think I have answered that objection above.

  339. It is a basic fact of logic that something cannot come from nothing.

    I am not aware that this is in any logic text books.

    If there is one lesson we should learn from the physics of the last 150 years it is that what appears to be obviously true may not be. I imagine that in 1800 many people would say that these are obviously true (they might even describe them as basic facts of logic):

    If two objects are moving with velocity v1 and v2 relative to an observer then their velocity relative to each other is v1 – v2 (using vector arithmetic).

    Nothing can be two places at the same time.

    The sum of the angles of a triangle is 180 degrees.

    All of these are now known only to be true under certain conditions.

  340. 342

    So, in the defense of the current explanation of life, something did indeed come from nothing.

  341. Good points, Mark.

    For instance, where do virtual particles come from? Do they come from nothing and go back into nothing, or is there a different kind of something from which they come that appears like nothing to us?

    I don’t want this discussion to veer off into quantum physics – I just want to highlight that a statement that “something cannot come from nothing”, if it is to have any empirical force as opposed to just tautological truth, depends on whatever referents we attach to the words “something”, “nothing” and “comes”, and as we explore the world we find those words aren’t as clearcut as we might think. We have to make some decisions about what they mean, and those decisions, and those meanings, involve more than pure logic itself.

  342. StephenB @ 336

    Just to recap, both of hazel’s arguments have been completely refuted:

    Let us take a closer look:

    [A] The cosmological argument, unlike the ontological argument, does not simply appeal to “brute logic,” so that one has been done away with.

    Hazel wrote @ 264:

    So, to summarize, brute logic, without any evidence that God is as we conceive him, cannot prove anything about God.

    That, to me, is an unexceptionable argument. All Hazel is saying is that, while we can speculate about the existence and nature of God and construct rationales to support various concepts of such a deity, it is only evidence that can actually decide between them. I see nothing to refute that position.

    [B] The discovery of the big bang led scientists (and everyone else) to understand that creation began in time and implied a creator, which refutes the objection that logic stops at creation’s door.

    My impression is that, while some scientists commented on the fact that the Big Bang theory allowed believers to claim that it was evidence for their belief in a special creation event, it was a matter of casual concern for them rather than a serious scientific objection.

    The fact is the Big Bang theory allows the possibility of a Creator it does not compel us to accept it.

    The cosmological argument is just that, an argument. It rests on the observation that everything in the known world has a beginning and infers that the Universe as a whole must therefore have had a beginning. But this is an inductive rather than a deductive argument. We have no reason to believe that what we can observe is everything that there is. The conclusion is suggested but not compelled by the premises.

    The argument also rests on dissatisfaction with the concept of an infinite causal chain. The problem with that is that we have no reason to think that the Universe was arranged to be aesthetically pleasing to us. It may just be the way it is whether we like it or not.

  343. Mr StephenB,

    Several times you have mentioned the principles of right reason. Without asking you (and others) to always be my kind schoolmaster in the area of Western Philosophy, can you explain briefly what these are, or where I can find a list of them? I have tried to Google and search for this phrase. I am led to a book by Thomas Hobbes, and another by Henry Leonard. Your help would be appreciated, in order to follow and perhaps participate further.

    ps – Happy Easter to those so inclined!

  344. 346

    Nakashima [341], I too was struck by the term “right reason.” I believe it’s a term used in ethics and moral philosophy. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy does not have an entry for “right reason” but mentions it in discussions of medieval philosophers such as Duns Scotus and William of Ockham. Ockham seems to associate “right reason” with moral decision-making.

  345. Mark, vector arithmatic or, for that matter, quantum mechanics has nothing at all to do with the principle that something cannot come from nothing. Where something comes from is of a different texture than what it can do. That is like saying that the uncertainly principle or quantum mechanics invalidate causation. They don’t.

    In any case, forget about that one. Let’s try two more:

    [A] A thing cannot be and not be at the same time

    [B] A proposition cannot be true and false at the same time.

    Agree–Disagree.

  346. Agree. What’s next.

  347. David, it will likely not be possible to google information about the “principles of right reason” inasmuch as that is my phrase for describing the necessary conditions for reasoning in the abstract.

  348. #343

    [A] A thing cannot be and not be at the same time

    [B] A proposition cannot be true and false at the same time.

    I am not sure if I agree without a bit of context. Is Schrodinger’s cat dead or not?

    However, I am interested to know where you would take the argument if I agreed.

  349. 351

    Ah. I thought you were using “right reason” in some standard sense.

  350. More explicitly: agree that those are rules of logic. Specific “things” and propositions have to be examined to see if they are meaningful in the real world.

    One can say that God can not be and not be at the same time, but that says nothing about whether this something – God – actually exists or not.

    Similarly, “all wangles are snuffles” cannot be both true or false, but whether it is meaningful, and whether its truth or falsity can be determined, is another question.

  351. 353

    Question: How do we know that the universe itself is contingent? I don’t think the Big Bang closes this question. (My dim memory of Hawking’s Brief History of Time suggests that other answers are possible.)

  352. —-hazel: “One can say that God can not be and not be at the same time………”

    Think that one over for a while without my intervention.

  353. —–David: “Question: How do we know that the universe itself is contingent?”

    Now that, as they say, is a very, very good question. I’ll ask you to think that one over as well.

  354. —-Mark:

    I am not sure if I agree without a bit of context. [a thing cannot be and not be at the same time] Is Schrodinger’s cat dead or not?

    Here is something to think over. Is death the same thing as annihilation?

  355. Mr StephenB,

    OK, I accept what you are saying, but I am disappointed. Since your argument relies on what these principles are, it would be helpful to have them explicit for other participants.

    To your questions [A] and [B]:

    [A] Disagree

    [B] Agree in some logical systems, disagree in others.

    With the right choice of axioms, you can prove anything. The only interesting question is which set of axioms most closely approximates the real world. Yes, I do hold in abeyance the statement that the real world is completely lawful in more than a statistical sense.

    Here’s an example. Let’s say I am using the real world to do math. Godel’s theorem says there are theorems which are true in an axiomatic system, but not proveable in that system. I think that this means the world can be in states that we cannot explain.

  356. Slightly poor sentence because I wrote “can not” instead of “cannot.”

    Try this: The proposition “God exists” cannot be both true and false at the same time, but neither can the proposition “Wangles exist.” The logical validity of the statements about the propositions tell us nothing about whether God or wangles do exist, or how to go about finding out if they do.

  357. 359

    David Kellogg,

    “Yes, of course: but the data of transformative religious experiences is often opposed to common sense. How is the person who has a spiritual vision able to determine whether it’s not chemically produced? The body produces its own hallucinogens.”

    No, religious experience is not at all opposed to common sense. It is common sense that makes common sense out of the religious experience. Your statement about the body producing hallucinations is exactly what I was trying to get you to avoid saying in my earlier comment, because it will become self-refuting for you to make the claim that the body tricks the mind, and that we know not when. For by your stance, the body is the mind–unless you believe in a spirit separate from the body. But if we never knew when anything that we observe was not the result of a bodily hallucinatory trick on our mind, then that would also apply to your conclusions in any case whatsoever, not just the fantastic or exquisite. We can have no total skepticism of having an objective perspective, for that would also apply to ourselves, and make the very conclusion “The body produces its own hallucinogens” subject to the same fault and doubt as the hallucinations are supposed to imply. In other words, you would have to have special pleading that your own conclusion are valid, while saying that others have no such ability of discernment regarding reality.

  358. —-Hazel: “Try this: The proposition “God exists” cannot be both true and false at the same time, but neither can the proposition “Wangles exist.”

    Right. I am not arguing for God’s existence, which is another matter. In any case, we agree that the “proposition” that God exists and cannot exist cannot be maintained.

    Here is what I am after. In philosophy, and in science, one way to prove a proposition is to assume its opposite to show where it takes you, as in “reductio ad absurdum,” [philosophy][logic] and the “null hyposthesis” [science]. Do you know on which principle both of these reasoning techniques depend? In other words, do you know what it is that must be true in order that these to approaches to be valid or reasonable?

  359. [B] A proposition cannot be true and false at the same time.

    Agree–Disagree.

    Agree. But this does not exhaust the possibilities. A grammatically well formed proposition can nevertheless present many pitfalls.

    To cite one notorious example: “The present king of France is bald.”

    Many of the problems evident in a discussion such as this arise from grammatically and logically well-formed statements that nevertheless present ambiguous meaning in the same way. They can be deployed for the purpose of conceptual legerdemain, and need be handled with care.

  360. I am very familiar with proof by contradiction, Stephen.

    A good example is the proof that the square root of 2 is irrational.

    Carry on.

  361. 363

    Clive, I’m not saying religious experience as such is opposed to common sense. Certain religious experiences are, however, including miracles, visions, angelic appearances, prophecies etc. In the Bible, a number of crucial events fit these descriptions. A Bible stripped of such events would be considerably shorter and perhaps less interesting. Moreover, several books (for example Ezekiel, Revelation, a great deal of Isaiah) report visionary experiences that have no resemblance at all to common sense. It is not an accident that such books have been greatly loved by writers who were themselves subject to visions (Blake, Allen Ginsberg).

    I’m not arguing that we can never trust our senses. I’m claiming that radically transformative religious experiences may be a lot like intoxication.

  362. —-”Hazel: “I am very familiar with proof by contradiction, Stephen.”

    Yes, I am sure that you are. But, again, here is the question: Do you know why it is valid? What must be true for that proof by contradiction to be a proof and not just a wild guess.

  363. Near the top of this thread there was some discussion of US case law on whether atheism was a religion, as if that were dispositive. In the same spirit, due US rules of evidence accept “I saw in a vision of God that X…” is credible evidence? I’m going to guess not. I’m just trying to get back to the point that personal witness about the reality of something beyond the physical universe is difficult to accept in a scientific discussion.

  364. Mr StephenB,

    Law of the Excluded Middle?

  365. Stephen, I’m not sure that we need this “leading me on” approach. I have taught proof by contradiction. I could easily offer several such proofs in mathematics. I can’t even imagine how someone would confuse proof by contradiction with a wild guess.

    So why don’t you just make your point, please?

  366. —-Mr. Nakashima: “Law of the Excluded Middle?”

    Bless you Mr. Nakashima for hitting the target and shining your bright light on this thread!!!

  367. There are a few principles of right reason that we use to do scientific research, initiate rational discourse, and perform the act of ratiocination. Put another way, they are the rules of thought, or, if you like, the foundational principles on which we establish premises and draw conclusions. These principles are non-negotiable, meaning that if you disavow any one of them, or even hesitate to accept them, you have abandoned the reasoning process and descended into irrationality.

    Here are ten of the most important principles of right reason:

    Truth exists

    Truth can be known

    Higher truths illuminate lower truths [physics>>chemistry>>>biology]

    Metaphysical truths are consistent with scientific truths [unity of truth]

    Something cannot come from nothing.

    We have rational minds, we live in a rational universe, and there is a correspondence between the two

    A proposition cannot be true and false at the same time [and under the same formal circumstances [law of non-contradiction]

    A thing cannot be and not be at the same time [related to but not identical to the above]

    The law of the excluded middle.

    The whole is greater than any of its parts.

    None of these principles have ever been proven or, as far as I know, can be proven. They must be taken on faith. That means that individuals [and societies] must CHOOSE to accept them or reject them, and therefore choose to be reasonable or unreasonable. Take away any one of them and the entire rational enterprise collapses. So, when I say that Darwinists, skeptics, atheists, or agnostics are irrational, I don’t mean to say that they have low IQs. Some of them have very high IQs. Many of those who have been debating with me the last few days are quite intelligent. That is not the issue. The point is that, for one reason or another, they have chosen irrationality over rationality. I am, therefore, arguing against that choice and nothing more

    In the final analysis, it is impossible to reason with anyone who can’t accept the tools and principles of right reason just as surely as it is impossible to build a house with anyone who refuses to use hammers, nails, and boards. Imagine the carpenter’s helper informing the carpenter that he will not help build the house until the carpenter can prove to him that hammers, nails, and boards exist. What then, if in the middle of the carpenter’s presentation, his helper, believing that the existence of the carpenter tools has not been proven, begins to enquire about the existential “meaning” of hammers or “limitations” of boards, or the “linguistic context” through which we comprehend of nails? Will they ever get there house built? What if this anti-intellectual movement begins in the academy, imbeds itself into the consciousness of the students, and finally trickles down into the culture itself? What if many who have been steeped in postmodern, subjectivist, relativist nonsense, come here to debate?

    Does it make sense to engage hyperskeptics in long winded discussions about abstruse scientific realities? It seems more fruitful to find out why that person chooses not to believe in truth in the first place. What good is evidence for those who don’t believe that evidence leads to truth or that there is any truth to be lead to?

  368. 370

    ‘Tis a very pretty picture you have painted, StephenB. It has precious little to do with science, though. As philosophy, it’s cartoonish and a little hollow.

  369. Both Hazel (#337) and Mark Frank (#330) ask some very penetrating questions, which I’ll do my best to address in this post.

    Mark Frank

    Regarding my key argument (see #327) for God’s possessing intelligence, you write:

    It is not clear to me that only an intelligence can guarantee intelligibility. That just seems to be an assertion.

    My point here is that the very possibility of human thought is itself an everyday miracle. It is a miracle that we can think straight about anything at all – in fact, it is a double miracle, for it requires two surprising things to happen.

    First, the universe has to go on “behaving itself” by continuing to be comprehensible (i.e. amenable to scientific investigation) from one moment to the next, instead of breaking down into a buzzing, blooming, unintelligible mess. The fact that the universe continues to behave so nicely is a (very pleasant) surprise.

    Second, human minds have to go on being able to think straight, in this cosmos. I’m not talking about any particular individual’s mind here: what I have in mind is the scientific enterprise as a whole. We all assume that it will be possible for at least someone on this planet to think straight and engage in rational debate – as we are now doing on this thread – tomorrow, but from what we know of the cosmos, we have absolutely no grounds for believing this. The fact that our expectations are routinely met is another pleasant surprise.

    So my question is: if there were something that was unconditionally able (i.e. able all by itself) to ensure that the miracle of human thought could continue in the future, what would that Something have to be?

    Now, thought aims at truth. Physical processes don’t aim at truth, as such. Insofar as they aim at anything, they can only be said to aim at either success or survival. That’s how evolution happens. I can therefore assume that evolution has given me a brain that will enable me to meet most of the threats I’ll encounter during this life – e.g. the threat of starvation, or the threat of an approaching object moving at high speed. What I cannot assume is that simply because I evolved to meet these challenges, I am therefore able to think straight about theoretical matters. Without a reliable capacity for theoretical thought, we cannot do science at all – let alone debate metaphysics, bioethics or theology.

    Science is inescapably theoretical. If you have any doubts about this, I suggest you look at the Website http://www.climatedebatedaily.com and try to follow the ins and outs of the scientific debate on global warming. You need a good head for reasoning to follow those arguments. And you need a good head to spot the pitfalls in reasoning on both sides of the debate, to be able to critique the methodologies used, and to critically assess the plausibility of rival explanations for the temperature trends we have observed in the past few hundred years. At times we get caught in a logical fallacy when we argue, due to our cognitive “blind spots”, but we seem to possess an uncanny capacity to take a step back and critically assess where we went wrong, and try to avoid these blind spots in the future. My question is: what makes us able to do that? What makes us able to think critically?

    Here’s my answer. If thought aims at truth, then the only kind of Entity that is able to unconditionally ensure that we can continue in our quest for truth is a Being that possesses all truth by its very nature. For we could not rely on any other kind of Being: it, too would be all too fallible, or liable to break down, as we are, so we would be back at square one.

    So we are driven to postulate a Being whose nature it is to know everything that can be known – all truths, in all possible areas of enquiry. For if even a single area of enquiry lay outside its ken, then: (a) it would be no help to us when we were engaged in investigating that field; and (b) it would suffer from an ad hoc limitation – “can know everything except X” – prompting us to ask, “Why is it like that?” Such a Being would be contingent, and hence itself in need of explanation. An Ultimate explanation of reality cannot possess any ad hoc properties.

    Hazel

    Thank you for your thoughtful response. You wrote:

    I am saying, as Mark Frank says, that there will always be limits to our understanding because, as you said, no matter what we learn, there will always be the question – why are things like that?

    And I don’t see how believing in a God of whatever conception solves the problem, because the same questions remains – why is it like that?

    I agree with you and Mark Frank that there will always be limits to our understanding; for instance, I shall never be able to understand even my own mind, let alone the mind of God. But that does not mean that there are limits to human enquiry.

    The philosopher Germain Grisez, in his book “Beyond the New Theism,” – to which I am greatly indebted for its rich metaphysical insights and its cogent theological argumentation – articulated a principle of human enquiry which makes pretty good sense to me: we should keep asking questions until we reach a point where it makes absolutely no sense to ask any more questions. Following that principle, I endeavored to explain the existence of the natural world, and the miracle of human thought, by pushing onwards with the question, “If it doesn’t have to be that way, then why is it like that?” I didn’t stop at some point in the empirical realm (e.g. the laws of nature) because the concepts I was employing (e.g. “cause,” “explanation”) are not empirical ones, as I argued above. In my quest, I was driven to postulate a Being whose nature it is to know everything that can be known, as an Ultimate Explanation of contingent reality, even though I have absolutely no understanding of how God can know everything by His own nature. Thus my finite mind can reach God through pushing human enquiry as far as any enquiry could possibly go – i.e. to an Ultimate Explanation- but my mind can never hope to understand God.

    Now, I have argued above that if God exists, God must be a Being whose nature it is to know everything that can be known – i.e. all truths. If you then ask me, “Why is God like that?”, I can only answer, “Well, if God wasn’t like that, then God would not be an Ultimate Explanation – in other words, God wouldn’t be God.”

    Contrast this with the question I asked you earlier, Hazel: why is your universe red, blue and green? In other words, why does it exhibit the fortuitous traits of complementarity, synchronicity and emergence, which you ascribe to it? Now, if your answer were to parallel the answer I gave above regarding God, you would have to say: “Well, if it didn’t have those traits, then it wouldn’t be a universe.” But as I argued above, that’s just not true: we can easily suppose that the universe might lack some or all of these lovely properties. Moreover, the properties seem to be separable from one another: we can imagine a red universe, or a blue one, or a green one, or a red-blue one, or a red-green one, or a blue-green one.

    Compare this with the definition of God: a Being whose nature it is to know everything that can be known and to love everything that should be loved. Is there anything ad hoc here? No. As I argued above, “know” and “love” are non-modal verbs: they tell us nothing about how the knowing and lovingare accomplished, so they are completely open-ended, and as such, suitable verbs for ascription to a Deity.

    In addition, the scope of God’s knowing and loving is universal: everything. Once again, there are no arbitrary, ad hoc limitations which would provoke a human enquirer to ask: “But why does God have to be like that?”.

    Finally, the number of defining attributes I ascribe to God is just two: knowledge and love. Of course, God can be said to have many other attributes, such as incorporeality, omnipresence and omnipotence, but I picked these two because I believe they explain all the other attributes God has. Now, is there anything ad hoc in my selection of these two? No. The reason is that perfect knowledge and love necessarily go hand-in-hand: you cannot separate the two. Perfect love presupposes perfect knowledge; and complete knowledge of something necessarily begets a perfectly appropriate love of that being.

    Perfect knowledge and perfect love differ from Yin and Yang in that the nexus between the two is essential, not accidental. They don’t just happen to go together; they must accompany one another, and cannot even be imagined to exist apart from one another, as Yin and Yang can be imagined to do. (Also, in everyday experience, Yin and Yang often seem to be separated.)

    You might object that there are some human beings who are knowledgeable but unloving, but their knowledge is finite, fragmented and of the wrong sort: factual, third-person knowledge, as opposed to the first-person knowledge of how someone feels. Many people wrongly suppose that God does not possess first-person knowledge of the human condition. However, in a recent paper entitled “Omnisubjectivity” at http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/Z/.....isubj3.doc , Professor Linda Zagzebski mounts a convincing case that an omniscient God must fully know how we feel, and (in my opinion) successfully rebuts theological objections to the propriety of God’s having that kind of knowledge of our innermost feelings – including the feelings of bad people. You might like to read it, Hazel, and see what you think.

    Anyway, I hope I have addressed your question, “Why is God like that?” and shown how it is different from my question, “Why is the universe like that?”

    Mark Frank

    When I talked about necessity being relative to a context I tried to explain that this context was the laws which would need to be broken if the necessary event did not happen. So the context for a necessary chess move is the rules of chess. The context for every action necessarily having a reaction is the laws of physics. I don’t see how “knowing and loving” provide a set of laws. What is it that prevents God from not existing? You have said it is not the laws of logic or maths. So what is it?

    Your question, “What is it that prevents God from not existing?” has three possible meanings.

    (1) It might mean, “Why does God exist at all?” – i.e. “Why isn’t there nothing at all in existence – not even God?”

    (2) Or it might mean, “What keeps God in existence?” – i.e. “What keeps God ticking, so to speak?”

    (3) Or it might mean, “Why doesn’t God cease to exist?” – in other words, “What prevents God from dropping out of existence?”

    The third question is easy to answer. If God keeps the universe in existence, then God must transcend the limitations of space and time. Thus there can be no question of God ceasing to exist tomorrow, for instance.

    By the way, it doesn’t matter whether you happen to regard God as atemporal [outside time] or omnitemporal [existing at all points in time] – in either case, there can be no question of God ceasing to exist tomorrow.

    Additionally, because God is an Ultimate Explanation that grounds the being of everything else, God does not depend on anything else. Nothing, then, could conceivably destroy God.

    Could God destroy Himself? No. For to do that, God would have to hate Himself. But if God’s nature is to know and love perfectly, then God cannot do that.

    We’ve established that nothing can destroy God – not even God. Let’s turn to the second question now: what (positively speaking) keeps God in existence? What keeps God “humming along”, as it were? This is where your metaphysical insight that necessity is relative comes into play, Mark. You object, “I don’t see how ‘knowing and loving’ provide a set of laws.”

    Now, if you mean a set of laws governing the cosmos, then I would respectfully disagree. Actually, I think that perfect ‘knowing and loving’ DOES provide a set (or a range of possible sets) of laws, as far as the worlds which God can create are concerned. For there are certain logically possible worlds that an omniscient, omnibenevolent Being cannot create: hostile worlds in which the evolution of intelligent life is physically impossible; clumsily designed worlds in which intelligent life is too fragile, requiring continual Deus ex machina interventions to prevent their intelligent beings from accidentally destroying themselves – “Whoops! The chain reaction is going to destroy our planet in 8 seconds!”; deterministic worlds which leave no room for libertarian freedom; and perfect-from-day-one worlds which leave no room for a choice between good and evil on the part of their agents. If, in addition, we suppose that God wanted to design the best robust world, among those worlds that allow intelligent life, libertarian freedom and a choice of good or evil, then the range of possible laws of nature that God could have designed for the cosmos might turn out to be very limited indeed. Given the built-in constraints on what God can do which I mentioned above, our world might turn out to be the best possible world, as far as its laws go – or at least, the fundamental laws (for I’m inclined to think that malevolent intelligences may have tinkered with some of the higher-level laws of nature, but that God had no choice but to allow them to do that, as it would have meant “cramping their style”).

    On the other hand, if you mean a set of laws governing God, then all I can do is point to God’s nature. Now, I agreed with your point in an earlier post that necessity is relative to something; and I believe I met this objection by replying that God is inherently relational. God relates to Himself in a way that characterises His very nature: God is that Being whose nature it is to know and love perfectly. In other words, necessarily, God knows Himself and loves Himself. Of course, we have no hope of comprehending such an act of self-knowledge and self-love, but at least we can appreciate that there is a self-perpetuating dynamic in the “interior life” of God. That is what keeps God “humming along”: love. God’s love perpetuates itself: being perfectly good, God cannot help but keep loving Himself. And as I argued above, perfect knowledge and perfect love go hand-in-hand: they are inseparable, so God is inherently self-relational.

    Let’s go back to the first question: why is there anything at all, even God? We may grant that God, if He exists, cannot fail to exist. We may also grant that God’s existence is self-perpetuating. But doesn’t it seem kind of lucky that God exists at all? What if He didn’t?

    The flip answer to that is: well, we wouldn’t be here to ask the question! But that’s not really an answer. In answering this question, I’d like to return to a point Hazel made earlier, in #338, about the words “something” and “nothing”: “those words aren’t as clearcut as we might think.” We assume that the existence of absolutely nothing is conceivable, but that’s only because we define “nothing” as an absence of all beings, and then mentally visualize it as a blank slate. However, the very term “being” is a profoundly mysterious one: what exactly are we affirming when we affirm that something exists? Try writing that sentence in first-order predicate calculus and you’ll see the problem. You can say that something exists which is F (where F is some predicate), but you cannot simply say that something exists. So my response to the question of “Why isn’t there nothing?” is: “It might not even make sense to suppose that nothing exists.”

    There’s another reason for being skeptical of the legitimacy of supposing that nothing might exist. If nothing exists, then nothing is intelligible. Can we mentally entertain that possibility? I don’t think so.

    I said earlier that I saw no need to ascribe logical necessity to God; but that’s because logical necessity is a rather shallow form of necessity, in my book. God’s necessity springs from His inner dynamic of knowing and loving: in other words, from His own nature. That to me is a more profound form of necessity.

    Finally, I realize that the notion of God as a being whose nature it is to know and love perfectly might seem to a little “magical”: we’re used to ascribing knowledge and love only to embodied beings wpossessing a complex physical structure, so that talk of “a non-bodily act of knowledge” strikes us as “cheating.” But we’ve got it the wrong way round: in reality, embodied beings can only be said to know by virtue of their being able to integrate information stored in disparate spatial locations (e.g. different regions of the brain). God doesn’t need to integrate anything; He doesn’t have separable parts. And God doesn’t need to store any information, either: what He knows either follows from His nature (necessary truths about Himself) or it follows from His relationship to the world (contingent truths about the world).

  370. 372

    That was cheap of me: apologies. Let me just point out that most of what StephenB list as axioms have been questioned in serious philosophy, most of them for centuries. Even the law of non-contradiction, probably the most philosophically ‘solid’ item on Stephen’s list, has been rigorously complicated by a number of philosophers recently, most notably Graham Priest. A nuanced view of the LNC can be found in The Law of Non-Contradiction: New Philosophical Essays, edited by Priest et al. (Oxford UP, 2004).

    If to argue about the LNC is to fall into irrationality, what are we to do about Aristotle, who argued for the LNC in the first place?

  371. —David Kellogg: ‘Tis a very pretty picture you have painted, StephenB. It has precious little to do with science, though. As philosophy, it’s cartoonish and a little hollow.

    That’s a little facile don’t you think. You seem to take an awful lot for granted. What exactly is your understanding of the metaphysical foundations for science or, if you can, describe the relationship between metaphysics and science? Please be as expansive as you can since you appear to have an opinion on the matter.

    With regard to the “cartoonishness,” a favorite denigration of yours that gets a bit overused when nothing of substance is forthcoming, there are times when concrete metaphors define points in ways that exposition of abstract principles cannot. One thing I have learned is that if someone knows what they are talking about, they can make the point in a variety ways. On the other hand, those who don’t are reduced to kibbitzing from a small corner of the room.

    In any case, if you don’t like the concrete example, then focus on the points, which are clear enough. Please provide your counter vision, fill up this thread with your wisdom and tell me where I am wrong.

  372. —-David: “If to argue about the LNC is to fall into irrationality, what are we to do about Aristotle, who argued for the LNC in the first place?”

    Do you even read what is written. I wrote that to argue AGAINST LNC is to fall into irrationality. You are really getting off the reservation. I guess my attempts at congeniality turned out to be a waste of time. So be it.

  373. —-David Kellogg: “Even the law of non-contradiction, probably the most philosophically ’solid’ item on Stephen’s list, has been rigorously complicated by a number of philosophers recently, most notably Graham Priest.”

    Yes, and there is a good reason why many of them complicate it. They, like you, would prefer not to believe it so that they can bend truth any way they like. In any case, aren’t you the same person who proposed to offer a nuanced view of Christianity by sending us to a Gnostic? Please!

  374. Mr. Nakashima,

    Thank you for wishing me happy birthday (#291). Sorry for not getting back to you earlier.

    Regarding pi: the sequence may be infinite, but the formula generating pi is easy for a finite mind to understand:

    (4/1) – (4/3) + (4/5) – (4/7) + (4/9) – (4/11) … (the Gregory-Leibniz series, originally discovered by Madhava of Sangamagrama circa 1400).

    No infinite regress of explanations here! But even for the case of a number with no such “compression formula,” we don’t speak of an infinite regress of explanations, because none of the digits in the sequence explain the others, anyway.

    Thus even mathematics can offer us no analogue of an infinite regress of explanations; all we have is an infinite sequence, which I’m perfectly happy with, anyway.

    You also write that inverse square laws emerge automatically from the three-dimensional structure of space. Maybe so; but what guarantees that space is three-dimensional? I’m sure you’re well aware that it need not be. You also acknowledged that the constants of nature (such as c) don’t have to have the values they do, either. Which brings me back to my point: the laws of nature are radically contingent, no matter how far we go in physics. They cry out for an explanation.

    I think both you and Hazel have raised the subject of virtual particles. All I will say here is that their popping into and out of existence is governed by a law which limits the size and duration of random energy fluctuations of the vacuum.

    Also, it would be a mistake to view the vacuum as nothing. If it still has mathematical properties, then it must be something. In that case, it does not constitute an exception to the principle that nothing comes from nothing (ex nihilo nihilo fit).

    I hope that helps.

  375. 377

    StephenB, you did not say merely that to argue against LNC is to fall into irrationality: you wrote that “if you disavow any one of them, or even hesitate to accept them, you have abandoned the reasoning process and descended into irrationality.” To argue for the LNC, as Aristotle did, is to assume the rationality of your opponents (who may doubt it). If those people had “abandoned the reasoning process and descended into rationality,” Aristotle would not have engaged them in argument.

    I do tend to say your views are cartoonish, yes. I’d prefer not to. I only do so because you keep drawing cartoons. Also, I’d wager you call your opponents irrational far more than I call mine cartoonish.

  376. Stephen, I don’t know where you got your list of “right reason” principles, but there are of varying sorts, and, as David said, subject to debate to various degrees.

    For instance, one of my main points is that not all truths can be known. What ever the “true” nature is of of whatever metaphysical world our universe is a part of (if indeed that is so), can not be known. Asserting that “all truth can be known” is a fundamental principle of reason is false.

    Also you say that “Metaphysical truths are consistent with scientific truths [unity of truth].” This assumes that we can even know the truth about the metaphysical world, and I don’t think that is true. Again, I don’t think this statement of yours is anywhere like the few laws of logic that you include in your list.

    And you write, as you often have, “We have rational minds, we live in a rational universe, and there is a correspondence between the two.”

    This also is not a “law of right reason,” but rather a testable conclusion that has been born out by experience. And of course, I’m not sure whether “rational” is the correct word to apply to some of modern physics, in that some of the results are extremely counter to common sense and impossible for us to truly comprehend.

    And last you write,

    Does it make sense to engage hyperskeptics in long winded discussions about abstruse scientific realities? It seems more fruitful to find out why that person chooses not to believe in truth in the first place. What good is evidence for those who don’t believe that evidence leads to truth or that there is any truth to be lead to?

    I am not a “hyperskeptic.” I believe that we can learn a great deal about the world – that there is truth and that evidence can lead us to it. I also am not cynical about the urge to engage in metaphysics, including religious beliefs. However, I do believe that metaphysics does not give us truths in the same way that empirical study does: that metaphysics and religion are true in different ways and serve different functions than empirically-based truths do. This does not make me a post-modern hyperskeptic.

  377. Re #371 vjtorley

    Thank you for a long response. It is alway hard to draw a line under these debates but I think this is the right time to do it. Our ways of thinking and using language are so different that I think it would take too long to find any common ground on which to conduct a debate.

    Maybe Hazel will continue to respond. If so, I will read with interest.

  378. David K,

    To argue against irrational people is to encounter various degrees of irrationality in an attempt to raise the level of rational discourse. If Aristotle’s dialogue partners were not aware of the principle of non-contradiction, then they were not being irrational even as he argued against them to teach it. They would have been irrational only to the extent that they would have rejected it after hearing about it.

    To be ignorant is not necessarily to be irrational. Irrationality is a function of either choosing to remain ignorant or of lacking the capacity to reason. At no other time in history have so many been so lacking in the capacity to follow throught from the beginning of a thought to the end. They don’t think that truth exists, so naturally, they don’t bother to exercise their intellectual muscles with sufficient exertion to arrive at it. Why make a rigorous effort and sacrifice to go on journey when there is no destination at the other end of the effort. That is why moral relativism renders otherwise intelligent people dull of mind.

    With regard to your assessment of my “cartoons,” I shrug that off as lack of imagination from one who has yet to learn how to dramatize a subtle point with descriptive metaphors. Most academics, of which I am one, are texbooks wired for sound. They couldn’t make themselves interesting if their life depended on it. They think intelligence is synonymous with boring. Let me assure you that it is not.

  379. I’m inclined to agree with Mark.

    While I appreciate vjtorley’s approach to discussion, I find the jump to all these conclusions about God as logically necessary to be so full of self-fulfilling assertions that I don’t know where to start.

    That is, if you believe in God, then you can in fact believe in all these things that vj says. But if you don’t believe in God, and see no reason to, then all the assertions about God’s nature, etc. have no weight, and are not compelling. I appreciate that his belief system is well thought out, and that he can express it well, but it is still one such belief system among several plausible ones about things that we can’t really know. I just can’t accept the jump to “God must be the explanation” (and I know this somewhat flippantly dismisses the depth of vj’s thought), so I really can’t say much about all the rest of the details.

  380. 382

    StephenB, you’re an academic? Me too. I take it you’re not a philosophy professor. :-)

    You’re right that “cartoon” was unimaginative: it’s my boilerplate for what I find overly simplistic in your formulations. I try to write carefully here, but I’m also working pretty fast; I’ll be happy to admit that my most imaginative writing is not here.

    Frankly I’m surprised to meet an academic so cocksure about both the truth of his views and the irrationality of pretty much all of his opponents. But that’s the relativist in me, I suppose.

    A minor point: you write, “aren’t you the same person who proposed to offer a nuanced view of Christianity by sending us to a Gnostic?” That is not what I said. Someone else quoted a Gnostic text and got jumped on as an ignoramus. I merely pointed out that extra-Biblical texts are taken seriously by serious historians of the period — not as reflecting the truth about Jesus, but as reflecting some of the early traditions that grew up around Jesus. I was not defending the texts theologically. I believe you pointed out in response that some New Testament writers were writing against Gnostic heresies. I didn’t respond at the time, but I’ll say now: you’re right. Among the things that suggests is that Gnostic traditions about Jesus arose pretty early — early enough to merit response in New Testament texts.

  381. Nakashima — I’m just trying to get back to the point that personal witness about the reality of something beyond the physical universe is difficult to accept in a scientific discussion.

    Tell that to the multiverse crowd :-)

  382. —–“Hazel: “For instance, one of my main points is that not all truths can be known. What ever the “true” nature is of of whatever metaphysical world our universe is a part of (if indeed that is so), can not be known. Asserting that “all truth can be known” is a fundamental principle of reason is false.”

    Sorry, but that is a little strawmanish. No one ever said that that all truths can be known.

    —–“Also you say that “Metaphysical truths are consistent with scientific truths [unity of truth].” This assumes that we can even know the truth about the metaphysical world, and I don’t think that is true. Again, I don’t think this statement of yours is anywhere like the few laws of logic that you include in your list.”

    Again, with respect, (how am I doing with my sensitivity [I just went off the wagon with David], if science can present us with one truth while philosophy presents us with a contradictory truth, the universe is not a rational place. I am amazed at how few people understand this. Please hear me once again. I did not present “laws of logic.” I presented the rational foundations that make logic possible. Logic’s laws are based on those foundations.

    ——“And you write, as you often have, “We have rational minds, we live in a rational universe, and there is a correspondence between the two.”

    ——“This also is not a “law of right reason,” but rather a testable conclusion that has been born out by experience. And of course, I’m not sure whether “rational” is the correct word to apply to some of modern physics, in that some of the results are extremely counter to common sense and impossible for us to truly comprehend.”

    Once again, [how’s my behavior so far], it is not possible to test the rational principles which must be assumed and believed IN ADVANCE of the reasoning process. I distinctly remember saying that these foundations CANNOT BE PROVEN.

    —-“I am not a “hyperskeptic.” I believe that we can learn a great deal about the world – that there is truth and that evidence can lead us to it. I also am not cynical about the urge to engage in metaphysics, including religious beliefs. However, I do believe that metaphysics does not give us truths in the same way that empirical study does: that metaphysics and religion are true in different ways and serve different functions than empirically-based truths do. This does not make me a post-modern hyperskeptic.”

    The definition of a hyperskeptic is one who believes that there is no correspondence between the rational mind and the rational universe. [Formally, that would be someone who believes that the images in the mind cannot apprehend the corresponding universals outside the mind.----Kantianism]] No one is saying that metaphysics give us truths the same way that empirical study does. What happens is this: metaphysics and science provide us with two ASPECTS of the SAME TRUTH. That by the way is one of the principles alluded to earlier [Unity of truth]. It does not provide us with competing truths that would contradict each other. If you believe what is in this paragraph, then you are not a hyper-skeptic. If you don’t believe it, then you are. Since you don’t believe in the unity of truth, I would, indeed, tend to classify you as a hyperskeptic.

  383. You write, “The definition of a hyperskeptic is one who believes that there is no correspondence between the rational mind and the rational universe.”

    Then I am not a hyperskeptic. I have different opinions than you do about why the universe is rational and why our mind can build correspondences with it, but I certainly think we can know lots of things about the universe we live in.

    But, to summarize, and to perhaps wrap this discussion up, I don’t believe that we can know as much as you believe we can know, and with such certainty. As with vjtorley, you make jumps that I consider unwarranted in your thinking.

    We may just to have to, once again, leave things at that point.

  384. 386

    StephenB,

    You didn’t go off the wagon with me. I’m fine with your tone. On the other hand, I may have gone off the wagon with you. If so, my apologies.

    –David

  385. David, Happy Easter. I promise to continue working at curbing my lower nature.

  386. Hazel, happy Easter. I hope you have the best weekend yet.

  387. Mr StephenB,

    Thank you for listing out at least some of the rules you call principles of right reason. Also, now I know that if I hear you call someone, or myself, irrational, that I will understand this to be by your private definition of the term.

    On the building of houses, I thought there was some limitation on building the Tabernacle with respect to the tools used. And we also have Inuit who might saw blocks of ice to lay them up as an igloo, or prairie dwellers doing the same with sod. The point of these examples is that just as hammer, nails and boards are not necesary to all houses, so too your principles of right reason are not necessary to all rational thought.

    You have something close to an axiomatic system. If it works for you, fine. I don’t know whether it allows you to reason to a contradiction or not. I do ask you to admit that there are other axiomatic systems of logic, and it is non-obvious which system of logic actually holds the closest correspndence to the real world.

    We are all familiar with Euclid’s geometry. Triangles sum to 180 degrees. As soon as we started surveying large areas with precision instruments it became clear that Euclid’s geometry did not apply to the surface of the Earth. General Relativity tells us that it doesn’t hold near any significant mass. We still teach it for historical and pedagogical reasons, but not because we think it represents a model of reality.

    So to me, the most interesting thing to discuss first is whether you claim that your system of right reason is closer to represnting the physical world than all other systems. That is a better model, and makes better predictions. Do you make these claims?

    BTW, I apologize if I seem to argumentative, or desiring of drawing people into an argument on their holiday.

  388. On another thread, Stephen made a remark that I am going to respond to over here because this is where the topic is germane to me.

    Stephen wrote,

    I have noticed in some of my own debates that Darwinists tend to avoid the really hard questions by reframing the issue and laboring incessantly over the less challenging questions.

    Under the circumstances, I recommend two standards for moderation and deletion, each designed to balance the other:

    [A] Remove from the thread anyone who [repeatedly] practices the sin of verbal abuse.

    [B] Remove from the thread anyone who [repeatedly] tempts the verbal abusers to sin by refusing to answer their questions.

    I find suggestion B very inappropriate, for two reasons. One, we are responsible for our own actions, and our sins: foisting responsibility on those who tempt us is the wrong thing to do, and for those to whom this applies, unChristian.

    Secondly, who is to decide who is ducking the hard questions, and who is not. Stephen always claims victory by invoking his visions of what constitutes “right reason” and the power of logic. I have made a quite a few points about the limitations of logic in response to Stephen, and he, in my opinion routinely avoids my points and returns to repeating what he has said before. Who is tempting who here?

    For instance, a number of people have brought up some things from modern physics that challenge the ability of logic, and words in general, to capture the nature of the world as we are finding it. You dismissed those points as “abstruse scientific realities”, and immediately returned to your comfortable position by saying, “It seems more fruitful to find out why that person chooses not to believe in truth in the first place.”

    Well, no, maybe it would be more fruitful to think about some of the issues raised by modern physics even if it forces us to rethink some of our ideas about truth.

    Similarly, when I point out that the fact that the Big Bang pointed to a beginning didn’t necessarily mean that a personal creator was responsible, you likewise retreat to talking about “necessary beings” rather than even being willing to think about the possibility of our universe being a product of some larger impersonal metaphysic reality.

    So in my opinion you refuse to answer some hard questions just as much as you think others refuse to answer what you think are hard questions.

    I know that we are not going to settle this issue between us. I point it out to highlight the fact that the moderation policy you mention would be an unsupportable, subjective morass. Let people argue and let the onlookers sort it out.

  389. —-Hazel: “ One, we are responsible for our own actions, and our sins: foisting responsibility on those who tempt us is the wrong thing to do, and for those to whom this applies, unChristian.”

    Don’t get too upset over metaphors. I didn’t mean “sin” literally in that context. I was, in some sense, trying to sympathize with John Davison so he would settle down and dispense with his heavy handed eruptions. I am now beginning to understand that nothing will persuade him to mellow, so I will probably never bring it up again. Still, no one mentioned you personally, so you would have been better off to leave it alone. Since you didn’t, here we go:

    ……”I have made a quite a few points about the limitations of logic in response to Stephen, and he, in my opinion routinely avoids my points and returns to repeating what he has said before. Who is tempting who here?”

    All you allusions were strawmen. As I pointed out over and over again, logic by itself is not the same as logic supported with observation. You made it clear that you have not yet mastered your own subject matter by suggesting that I was using “brute logic,” when I was, in fact, using logic with observation. In point of fact, you confused the “ontological argument” [brute logic”] with the “cosmological argument,” [logic with observation].

    ——“For instance, a number of people have brought up some things from modern physics that challenge the ability of logic, and words in general, to capture the nature of the world as we are finding it. You dismissed those points as “abstruse scientific realities”, and immediately returned to your comfortable position by saying, “It seems more fruitful to find out why that person chooses not to believe in truth in the first place.”

    I am aware of the scientific arguments being used, and, as I pointed out, none of these things have anything to do with contingency and necessity in the context that they were being used. They, and you, were confusing scientific contingency with philosophical contingency.

    —–“Similarly, when I point out that the fact that the Big Bang pointed to a beginning didn’t necessarily mean that a personal creator was responsible, you likewise retreat to talking about “necessary beings” rather than even being willing to think about the possibility of our universe being a product of some larger impersonal metaphysic reality.”

    You didn’t bring up the big bang, I did. The point was to disabuse you of the notion that metaphysical realities are somehow in conflict with physical realities. Unity of truth is a big deal. In other words, no scientist agrees with your misguided idea that the rules of logic end at creation’s door. In fact, atheist astronomers were, at the outset, upset about irrefutable evidence for the big bang and even resorted to “damage control” because it suggested that the universe began in time and, by extension, implied a creator. You really did evade that issue. In point of fact, you are mistaken about some of your ideas concerning logic as is obvious from this example and from your confusion over the ontological vs. cosmological argument. Sorry to hit you with that again, but this latest correspondence is your idea, not mine.

    —–“I know that we are not going to settle this issue between us. I point it out to highlight the fact that the moderation policy you mention would be an unsupportable, subjective morass. Let people argue and let the onlookers sort it out.”

    I think I can live with that.

  390. I appreciate your efforts with John. However, since you, and others, have made the claim before, and in respect to me personally, that those of us who are in disagreement with you always run away when we can’t answer the tough questions, I felt it was reasonable to respond.

    And it was not my goal to start our discussion all over again, but rather to point out the subjective nature of judgments about who is and who isn’t working to answer questions. Giving answers one doesn’t agree with is different than not giving answers. That was my point.

  391. I’d just like to wish everyone a Happy Easter. Mark Frank, Hazel and Mr. Nakashima, it has been a pleasure exchanging ideas with you. I’m glad our discussion was a courteous and civilized one. I’d also like to thank any other contributors who left comments for me, including StephenB, HouseStreetRoom, tribune7, Seversky and anyone else whom I might have overlooked. A Happy Easter to you all!

  392. Thanks vj – I hope you have an enjoyable and meaningful day tomorrow.

  393. Now, for this cosmological argument.

    I’ve been thinking about the issues he thinks I’m not addressing, and in particularly why he thinks I’m confusing “the “ontological argument” [brute logic”] with the “cosmological argument,” [logic with observation].”

    Since one principle of good discussion is to make sure one understands the other person’s position, here is a summary of what I think Stephen is thinking. Maybe he’ll correct me if I’m wrong.

    1) The cosmological argument claims, briefly, that all contingent things (which have, among other things, a beginning) must have a cause.

    2) Since we have, through observation, reached the conclusion that the universe had a beginning at the Big Bang, the universe must have a cause.

    3) Also since we can’t have an infinite regression of causes, there must be a point where we reach an uncaused cause.

    4) From here, through other arguments, Stephen concludes that God is the cause of the universe.

    Now I will accept points 1) through 3). It is 4) I reject.

    Stephen and I have agreed that brute logic by itself cannot bring knowledge about the content of its propositions: as he just said in 391, “As I pointed out over and over again, logic by itself is not the same as logic supported with observation. You made it clear that you have not yet mastered your own subject matter by suggesting that I was using “brute logic,” when I was, in fact, using logic with observation.”

    What I will point out is that what we have observed pertains to the effect, not the cause From the observation of the Big Bang, an effect, we infer according to 1) above that it is a cause. However, since the Big Bang is the at the limit of the reach of our observations, we can have no observational content for any further logic about the nature of that cause. Any further speculations about the nature of the cause of the universe gets us right back to “brute logic” without observation.

    Among other things, we have no idea as to whether the next cause in the chain – the cause of the universe, is in fact the uncaused cause. It is entirely possible, logically, that our universe exists in a “world” where “things” (of a wholly incomprehensible nature to us) produce universes in a way analogous to the way the things in our universe produce galaxies, solar systems, and planets.

    Of course, such a case would push the uncaused cause problem further back, but lacking observational content, investigating that question remains out of reach.

    I’d like to clear up one other point. Stephen says, “no scientist agrees with your misguided idea that the rules of logic end at creation’s door.”

    I’m not sure what I might have said to make Stephen think that, but I find it ambiguous, so I would like to make clear what I do and do not think.

    I think the that rules of logic apply to all our thinking about what the metaphysical world might be like, but, as we have no observational experience of that metaphysical world our propositions about that metaphysical world are will always reman speculations: there is no way to investigate which metaphysical speculations, if any, are true.

    On the other hand, I do think that it is possible that things we think are so true, based on observation in our world, that we consider them as “logically true,” may in fact not be true in whatever “world” that produced our universe. In particular, the fact that every effect has a cause, which presupposes a temporal continuity, might not apply at some metaphysical level. We can’t really comprehend how that might be, but that shouldn’t surprise us: I feel pretty certain that whatever the nature of the metaphysical world that produced our universe, it is beyond our comprehension and our imagination.

  394. —–Hazel: “What I will point out is that what we have observed pertains to the effect, not the cause From the observation of the Big Bang, an effect, we infer according to 1) above that it is a cause. However, since the Big Bang is the at the limit of the reach of our observations, we can have no observational content for any further logic about the nature of that cause. Any further speculations about the nature of the cause of the universe gets us right back to “brute logic” without observation.”

    We may be getting closer to a meeting of the minds. We are talking about the big bang as an effect, which is why I raised the issue in the first place. Reasoning from the big bang, logic tells us that the universe began in time and that it had a cause other than itself. From there, we can reason our way to the causeless cause, though we can never know anything about that cause’s “attributes.” In other words, we cannot reason our way to the “God of the bible.” We can only reason our way to a causeless cause, which most people will recognize as God, and which others may not, but that’s about it. In terms of thinking strategy, reason does not limit us to inductive or deductive logic alone. We can use them in tandem.

    —–“Among other things, we have no idea as to whether the next cause in the chain – the cause of the universe, is in fact the uncaused cause.

    That’s right, we don’t. The only thing we know for sure is that there is a next cause. The causeless cause may be further on down the line. Logic does not suggest that the causeless cause is the direct cause of the universe, only that is at the end of the chain wherever that is, which COULD be the very next cause but may not necessarily be.

    —–In the first case, we are talking about It is entirely possible, logically, that our universe exists in a “world” where “things” (of a wholly incomprehensible nature to us) produce universes in a way analogous to the way the things in our universe produce galaxies, solar systems, and planets.

    I am not getting your meaning here.

    —–Of course, such a case would push the uncaused cause problem further back, but lacking observational content, investigating that question remains out of reach.

    Precisely, which is why it is futile and irrelevant to raise the issue in the first place. We don’t need to “investigate” the reality of a causeless cause to know it is a causeless cause. The causeless cause is a philosophical concept, not a scientific one. We don’t investigate philosophical concepts because they don’t lend themselves to measurement or observation. We can, in fact, begin with science and end with philosophy. That is how we get from the big bang to the causeless cause. Science alone cannot reveal a causeless cause as such because it does not deal with the nature of existence, only about the ways things behave. Perhaps that has been where the hang up is.

    —–“I think the that rules of logic apply to all our thinking about what the metaphysical world might be like “but, as we have no observational experience of that metaphysical world our propositions about that metaphysical world are will always reman speculations: there is no way to investigate which metaphysical speculations, if any, are true.”

    We have just made a proposition about the metaphysical world. There is a causeless cause. That is not a speculation, it is a logical conclusion. One which you just agreed to a paragraph or so ago.

    ——On the other hand, I do think that it is possible that things we think are so true, based on observation in our world, that we consider them as “logically true,” may in fact not be true in whatever “world” that produced our universe.

    I am not clear on your meaning here.

    —–“In particular, the fact that every effect has a cause, which presupposes a temporal continuity, might not apply at some metaphysical level.

    You are talking about efficient causality and causeless causes, which is fine, but remember, my original argument was of a different texture. I was arguing from contingency to necessity. The two arguments are related but not exactly the same. Indeed, each can help confirm the other.

    —–We can’t really comprehend how that might be, but that shouldn’t surprise us: I feel pretty certain that whatever the nature of the metaphysical world that produced our universe, it is beyond our comprehension and our imagination.”

    No doubt it is. There is no way we can reason our way to the “attributes” of the causeless cause, we can only reason our way to its ”existence.” Existence is a totally different matter than essence.

    Well, how did I do? Was I civil?

  395. 397

    David Kellogg,

    Thomas Reid is called The Common Sense philospher. He would, of course, disagree with your assessment of what common sense can and cannot do. G. K. Chesterton is called the Common Sense Apostle. He would, of course, disagree with your assessment of what common sense can and cannot do. Miracles are only discernable by common sense, common sense applied to events that diverge from the normal behaviours of nature. If common sense didn’t already know normal patterns of Nature, then no Miracle could be detected. You have to have a standard before you can know if there is a variation. This is so obvious that it amounts to common sense itself. True Prophecies are only seen to be prophecies when they come true, which is the obvious common sense rule of detecting if the events that were prophecied came to pass by making a comparison between the events. Obvious again. All of your examples have this in common: common sense is a necessary predicate at evaluating the event itself and making the determination that the event was what it was. You remove common sense, and you will not be able to discern a vision from everyday sight, or a miracle from any event in nature, or a prophecy from any other statement, or an angel as opposed to anything else. Your claim demands an impossibility. The opposite is true, common cold light of day sense is the only way we can make sense out of these things.

  396. Thanks Stephen, it looks like we have at least some agreement.

    You write,

    From there [the Big Bang], we can reason our way to the causeless cause, though we can never know anything about that cause’s “attributes.” In other words, we cannot reason our way to the “God of the bible.” We can only reason our way to a causeless cause, which most people will recognize as God, and which others may not, but that’s about it.

    Yes. While “most people” may recognize the causeless cause as God, that conclusion is not logically necessay, and others may make other conclusions. That is really about all I have been trying to establish.

    Also, you write,

    That’s right, we don’t. The only thing we know for sure is that there is a next cause. The causeless cause may be further on down the line. Logic does not suggest that the causeless cause is the direct cause of the universe, only that is at the end of the chain wherever that is, which COULD be the very next cause but may not necessarily be.

    Again, I agree, and I am glad this is clear.

    And you close with,

    Well, how did I do? Was I civil?

    Yes, indeed, and I appreciate it.

    To me, civility is important in itself, but the more important reason for it is that it furthers discussion. You and I are now clearer, perhaps, about what each of us thinks than we might have been in a more combative discussion.

    Sometimes it is a reasonable goal of a discussion between people who disagree with each other for each to try and change the other person’s mind fairly immediately. We are trying to argue our case so that a decision can be made.

    But other discussions, such as most on the internet, should not be of that form, I think. My goal is to articulate, as best I can, my arguments, and to help the person I am discussing with to articulate their arguments as best they can – to get all the cards on the table. Doing so hones both my understanding and my skill in presenting my case. Learning well what the other person thinks helps me learn better what I think. I discuss to learn at least as much as I discuss to convince.

    In good discussions, minds do change at times, but often not immediately – the effect of the conversation takes time to happen. Civility also furthers this. If someone feels continually challenged, defenses are raised, and in such cases one is very unlikely to feel that one can change one’s mind because too much emotion is invested in the battle. Lowering the emotional tension by being civil increases the chances of both parties learning from the other person.

  397. I see difficulties in StephenB’s formulation of the cosmological argument that arise due to equivocation on question of whether the “contingency” of observed entities is established by observation or by philosophical definition. The result of that equivocation is ambiguity regarding whether his argument has an observational basis, or resorts to “brute logic” only (which he agrees cannot be conclusive). As I read Stephen’s posts here, he tries to have it both ways: when he wants to avoid being characterized as having employed brute logic he invokes “logic supported with observation” (the observation that there are entities that are contingent); when he wishes to insulate himself from critiques that reference the limitations of induction from observations, he withdraws contingency and its consequences into the realm of unassailable philsophical definition.

    Some examples. In the following passages Stephen insists that his argument differs from the exercise of logic because it is also grounded in observation:

    Hazel first labored under the misapprehension that the cosmological argument uses only “brute logic,” confusing it with the ontological argument. When I informed her that the cosmological argument does not rely solely on brute logic, that it also takes observation into account, she continued to use the term “brute logic” anyway, indicating that she was not in any way following the argument. I can only wonder if she get’s it now.

    As I pointed out over and over again, logic by itself is not the same as logic supported with observation. You made it clear that you have not yet mastered your own subject matter by suggesting that I was using “brute logic,” when I was, in fact, using logic with observation. In point of fact, you confused the “ontological argument” [brute logic”] with the “cosmological argument,” [logic with observation].

    They begin with facts in evidence or an assumption consistent with facts in evidence. You would be correct if you were referring to the “ontological” argument for God’s existence. The “cosmological arguments” are different.

    I went out of my way to explain that observed facts play a role and I provided several demonstrations…If I observe that the streets are wet, I can reason my way to the fact that it must be raining. Similarly, if its raining, I can conclude that the streets are wet. It is not enough to speak of the principles of logic. You must be able to apply them in context and in real life situations.

    The last of these make it clear that Stephen in these passages intends “observation” in a sense continuous with scientific observation: observations that collect “facts in evidence” such wet streets and the presence of rain, or the necessity of breathing for life. He clearly asserts in these passages that it is the amalgam of logic and observation in this sense that characterize his cosmological argument, distinguishing it from the ontological argument. Similarly, the sort of contingency that may be established by means of such observations is contingency in the ordinary and scientific senses, not the more rarified philosophical contingency he elsewhere evokes.

    However, Stephen simultaneously labors mightily to insulate his argument from empirical or scientific scrutiny by claiming for his definition of contingency a “philosophical” rather than scientific status. He does so in response to critiques based upon the limitations of inductive reasoning, such as that mounted by Seversky:

    The cosmological argument is just that, an argument. It rests on the observation that everything in the known world has a beginning and infers that the Universe as a whole must therefore have had a beginning. But this is an inductive rather than a deductive argument. We have no reason to believe that what we can observe is everything that there is. The conclusion is suggested but not compelled by the premises.

    In response (or sometimes preemptively) Stephen has asserted the following, almost always with a dismissive tone:

    I, am not talking about causal chains (or philosophical or scientific problems with causal chains) I am talking about philosophical contingency, which is a way of describing things that “need not have existed,” or things that “depend on something else for their existence.” …. They, and you, were confusing scientific contingency with philosophical contingency.

    It may be repeating here that the relationship between rain and wet streets, or breathing and living, exemplify ordinary causal chains, and hence contingency in a manner consistent with the scientific sense of contingency, not the more rarefied “philosophical contingency” he claims in the passage above. These are the examples through which he anchors the cosmological argument to “observation.” Yet elsewhere he works very hard to insulate himself from arguments that request evidence:

    This is a philosophical argument, not a scientific argument, so no scientific evidence is called for. That you are asking for “evidence” proves conclusively that you don’t have a clue about what has been said.

    I am talking about philosophical contingency, which is a way of describing things that “need not have existed,” or things that “depend on something else for their existence.”

    Mr. Nakashima, You are using the word “contingent” in a scientific way as a means of describing physical causes and their effect. The philosophical argument that deals with that subject matter is the argument from [efficient causality.] The philosophical argument that I am using is the argument from [contingency to necessity]. You are confusing the two.

    I argue that it is Stephen who is equivocating on scientific versus philosophical contingency, perhaps unwittingly. In some passages contingency is something that is “observed” in the same way as wet streets and breathing are observed – enabling him to claim that his argument is not mere brute logic. In others it is “observed” only in a philosophical sense (sometimes “defined” in that sense), making it clear that he means something that is discontinuous from scientific observation and induction from those observations – enabling him to claim for his conclusions an “ironclad” logical and rational status.

    At the very least, Stephen, your argument will be more clear and hence strengthened if you disambiguate your definitions of “contingent” and “observed,” such that contingency either is or isn’t something that is observable in a sense that is continuous with the scientific sense of “observe.” However, I anticipate that you will find yourself confronting the horns of a dilemma: should you adopt contingency in the sense that is continuous with ordinary and scientific observation, you must then grapple with objections that cite problems with induction from such observations to the unobserved. If you adopt contingency in the philosophical sense, you will need new examples demonstrating that such contingency is “observed” (rain and wet roads won’t do), or leave yourself open to the charge that, because you are reasoning from definitions only, your argument is merely one of brute logic, after all.

    Nevertheless, by doing so you may go some distance to providing a response to my original question: “Given that the articulation of these arguments themselves cannot resolve the question, by what means is it decidable in which sort of universe we are uttering these ‘decisive’ arguments?”

    Absent that clarifiation, I think hazel’s objection stands unanswered:

    So logical arguments about entities that are in fact unknowable cannot be tested. You can play with words about such things as God and ultimate causes and contingent and necessary beings, but if we don’t know whether the concepts the words are meant to represent are in fact as we think they are, then our logical manipulations can’t be held to compel belief about the world.

  398. “It may be repeating here that…” should read, “It may be worth repeating here that…”

  399. Very good, and thanks.

    [/cheerleading]

  400. Diffaxial:
    —–The last of these make it clear that Stephen in these passages intends “observation” in a sense continuous with scientific observation: observations that collect “facts in evidence” such wet streets and the presence of rain, or the necessity of breathing for life. He clearly asserts in these passages that it is the amalgam of logic and observation in this sense that characterize his cosmological argument, distinguishing it from the ontological argument. Similarly, the sort of contingency that may be established by means of such observations is contingency in the ordinary and scientific senses, not the more rarified philosophical contingency he elsewhere evokes.

    Contingency has nothing to do with observation.

    —–“The cosmological argument is just that, an argument. It rests on the observation that everything in the known world has a beginning and infers that the Universe as a whole must therefore have had a beginning. But this is an inductive rather than a deductive argument. We have no reason to believe that what we can observe is everything that there is. The conclusion is suggested but not compelled by the premises.”

    One cannot observe that everything in the world has a beginning; one must reason to that conclusion. Beginnings are not observed; they are inferred.

    ——“It may be repeating here that the relationship between rain and wet streets, or breathing and living, exemplify ordinary causal chains, and hence contingency in a manner consistent with the scientific sense of contingency, not the more rarefied “philosophical contingency” he claims in the passage above. These are the examples through which he anchors the cosmological argument to “observation.” Yet elsewhere he works very hard to insulate himself from arguments that request evidence:”

    That isn’t really what is happening. In effect, you are taking the context of the answer to one objection and conflating it with the context of an answer to another objection. That doesn’t work.

    —–“Nevertheless, by doing so you may go some distance to providing a response to my original question: “Given that the articulation of these arguments themselves cannot resolve the question, by what means is it decidable in which sort of universe we are uttering these ‘decisive’ arguments?”

    I can’t respond to the question because I don’t know what you mean. If you can rewrite it or if anyone else can explain what you mean, I will respond to it.

    —-So logical arguments about entities that are in fact unknowable cannot be tested. You can play with words about such things as God and ultimate causes and contingent and necessary beings, but if we don’t know whether the concepts the words are meant to represent are in fact as we think they are, then our logical manipulations can’t be held to compel belief about the world.

    I have an idea. I will take you through the steps of the three most important arguments (partially copied from another source) and you and Hazel can pick one. That way we will not be all over the map. The only condition is that we cannot move to a later one until we have completed the analysis of the earlier one. Fair enough.

    The First Way: Argument from Motion

    1. Our senses prove that some things are in motion.
    2. Things move when potential motion becomes actual motion.
    3. Only an actual motion can convert a potential motion into an actual motion.
    4. Nothing can be at once in both actuality and potentiality in the same respect (i.e., if both actual and potential, it is actual in one respect and potential in another).
    5. Therefore nothing can move itself.
    6. Therefore each thing in motion is moved by something else.
    7. The sequence of motion cannot extend ad infinitum.
    8. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

    The Second Way: Argument from Efficient Causes
    1. We perceive a series of efficient causes of things in the world.
    2. Nothing exists prior to itself.
    3. Therefore nothing is the efficient cause of itself.
    4. If a previous efficient cause does not exist, neither does the thing that results.
    5. Therefore if the first thing in a series does not exist, nothing in the series exists.
    6. The series of efficient causes cannot extend ad infinitum into the past, for then there would be no things existing now.
    7. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.

    The Third Way: Argument from Possibility and Necessity (Reductio argument)
    1. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, that come into being and go out of being i.e., contingent beings.
    2. Assume that every being is a contingent being.
    3. For each contingent being, there is a time it does not exist.
    4. Therefore it is impossible for these always to exist.
    5. Therefore there could have been a time when no things existed.
    6. Therefore at that time there would have been nothing to bring the currently existing contingent beings into existence.
    7. Therefore, nothing would be in existence now.
    8. We have reached an absurd result from assuming that every being is a contingent being.
    9. Therefore not every being is a contingent being.
    10. Therefore some being exists of its own necessity, and does not receive its existence from another being, but rather causes them. This all men speak of as God.

  401. Hazel, after all this time, it is clear that shortcuts will not work. I should have done this three hundred posts ago. Note my response at the end of Diffaxial. Three of the most important arguments are listed step by step. If you care to, raise your specific objections to any step in one of the arguments, perhaps the third argument. Tell my why one step does not follow from the other.

  402. I’m going out for a while, but I can easily point to an error in the last step of each argument: not all people speak of the uncaused cause et al as God, because that implies all sort of attributes that go beyond merely pointing to an uncaused cause et al.

    For instance, I may call the uncaused cause the Tao, which in my understanding is very different than what you mean by God.

    I believe that above you agreed that we can use the argument about uncaused causes to conclude that the universe had a cause, but that we can go no further in ascribing attributes to that cause. Therefore concluding that “this all men speak of as God” is wrong.

  403. StephenB:

    Contingency has nothing to do with observation.

    If not, what in your argument does?

  404. StephenB,

    This thread is an interesting experiment. I have read almost none of it but was one of those who helped steer the discussion to atheism to see where it might go. A day before this went up, I made the comment on another thread that atheism was intellectual bankrupt. Hazel was upset at such a comment so when this thread went up and there were a few comments on Shermer’s atheism, I pointed out that Shermer who is an atheist and a big believer in natural selection was an embarrassment to their cause because he or atheists couldn’t defend it. I emphasized the atheist on purpose to see what would happen.

    Hazel took the bait and here we are 400 comments later and atheism is still intellectually bankrupt. Maybe you could summarize what went on some time since I never intend to read it. Poor Shermer and his inept non sequitur performance never had a chance. Maybe idnet.com.au could post it again and limit comments to Shermer.

    The anti ID people can be baited in interesting ways. I think the nonsense over the Weasel software is approaching 800 comments on various threads.

    The real question is will this thread approach the record of the Chimp thread from a year ago. I am sure Hazel will give it her best shot.

  405. Thanks for contributing, Jerry. :)

  406. Jerry, I will condense everything so that you, Diffaxial, and Hazel can all follow together:

    I will simply argue from the standpoint of reason without making any distinctions between philosophy and science, since such distinctions are not necessary if we stop talking about such formal terms as philosophical “contingency.”

    Hazel now agrees that an uncaused cause is responsible for the universe. She also understands that multiple universes simply beg the question about the ultimate cause. She is trying to say that the uncaused cause can be “impersonal,” as in the “Tao,” or some other such undefined entity.

    So, the only task left is to show that the uncaused cause must be personal, which is not hard to do for anyone who can follow the agument. Since you are here, I ask you to help Diffaxial and Hazel follow it. I will trust you as arbiter, if you disagree, with the analysis, no hard feelings. In any case, I don’t understand what there is to disagree about.

    First, we understand that the uncaused cause must be changeless and timeless, since both time and space came into existence at the time of the big bang. That means that a timeless, changeless, transcendent cause, created time and space.

    Second, and this is key, the creator cannot be an impersonal “tao.” It must be personal. here’s why:

    A changeless, timeless, impersonal cause cannot exist without its effects. If a changeless, impersonal condition for the effects is timeless, then the effects must be timeless as well. We know, for example, that water freezes below O degrees C. If the temperature was below zero from all eternity, it would be impossible for the water to BEGIN to freeze.

    The only way that water could BEGIN to freeze a finite time ago is if a personal agent chooses to create a NEW effect without any prior determining conditions. The Tao assumes that both the causes and the effects are infinite and is therefore compatible only with a timeless universe.

    As soon as you agree that the universe began in time, you are committed to a personal causeless cause.

    Not that hard is it?

  407. StephenB:

    There is no way we can reason our way to the “attributes” of the causeless cause, we can only reason our way to its ”existence.” Existence is a totally different matter than essence.

    His evil twin:

    …the creator cannot be an impersonal “tao.” It must be personal. Here’s why…As soon as you agree that the universe began in time, you are committed to a personal causeless cause.

  408. 410

    StephenB, Happy Easter!

    I must say, What you have provided in [408] does not really “condense everything” but rather restates a part of your case.

    I don’t know why you now want to avoid a term like “contingent,” since it was important to you before. Indeed, you introduced it. In [73], you said that an argument using contingency was “airtight.” You repeated that argument in [74]: “Once one assumes the fact that contingent beings exist, a necessary being follows as a matter of logical certainty.” In [85], you wrote “All the objections to the contingency/necessity argument have been answered, and all have been found wanting.” You repeated the terms in [91], said in [135] that “there is no way around” the contingency argument, and in [152] repeated it again, this time noting that no scientific evidence is needed for it to hold. In [160] you again restrict the term to philosophy rather than science, and in [169] you claim that this meaning is both specific and stable. In [193] you claim that the term defines an external reality (but apparently not an empirical one, since it’s outside of science). You refine the definitions in [194] and [206]. In [355] you asked me to “think over” the question of whether the universe itself is contingent, which you said was a “very, very good question.” In [396], you actually criticize hazel for moving from the contingency argument to the “causeless cause” argument. In [402], you say that contingency has nothing to do with observation and repeat the argument from contingency, this time as one of three arguments.

    Whatever the merits of your latest post, it sure doesn’t condense even what you have said earlier.

  409. Diffaxil, your nonsense is starting to wear a little thin. Do you know what an “attribute” is, as in “Christian God who loves his creatures,” or “loving God who makes sacrifices,” or “a compassionate God who is “over and above” things and “in” things, or a “Jealous God who wants no other God’s competing for adoration,” or an “incarnate God who becomes enfleshed,” or a God-man who rises from the dead?”

    I am distinguishing between an impersonal creator and a personal creator, and I have simplified the argument so that three people can analyze it, assuming that all three people are capable of discursive reasoning.

  410. 412

    jerry [406], “the nonsense over the Weasel software is approaching 800 comments on various threads.” First, about 400 of those comments are probably by kairosfocus, and they are probably the longest ones too. Who is being baited exactly?

    Second, I don’t think anybody on the evolutionary side thinks Weasel is that big a deal. However, ID folks have spent years trying to refute it, misunderstading it repatedly along the way. Apparently they think refuting Weasel will provide a great blow against evolutionary.

  411. 413

    Stephen, personal vs. impersonal is not an attribute? Really?

  412. David Kellogg,

    I told kairosfocus that he was being baited over nonsense. That is one of the few comments I made. The latching or non latching is a silly non issue so why did anyone continue on about it.

    “I don’t think anybody on the evolutionary side thinks Weasel is that big a deal”

    You cannot be serious on this. Why not say “whatever” at comment #2 and call it a day.

    Both sides get baited easily. You are one of the easiest persons to bait since you are a blue sky/grey sky guy a lot. If I say blue sky, you say grey sky. If I say grey sky, you say blue sky.

    I provided the Monash site and you immediately misquoted me. There is a syndrome for this, something like hitting your knee with a round pointed metal object.

  413. David, I provided a step by step analysis of three arguments in 402. I asked everyone to look at each step and find a flaw. Hazel is on board with every step except the last step, so that is where we are. In the spirit of bringing this matter to an end, I have provided the neatest, terse, argument I can muster to simplify things. It may not perfectly summarize what went on before, but it contains very few words. I thought that you would understand that the big bang means that the universe began in time and is, therefore, contingent by definition. If you don’t understand that, then you don’t understand that. In any case, I am not going to explain to you and Diffaxial why your perceptions of inconsistency on my part are misguided. Objections in one context call for different answers than objections in another context, and I have no intention, at this late date, of trying to justify my multi-contextual responses and explain why they are part of a larger whole. The time for sniping is over, and the time for arguing or not arguing has arrived.

    The latest proposition is on the table, and that is the only one I will entertain. (Unless someone has an objection to one of the earlier steps at 402) which I may or may not addresss. In any case, anyone who doubts the validity of the causeless cause has been left behind, and I am not going back to get them. We have moved on to impersonal first cause vs. personal first cause.

  414. —-David: “Stephen, personal vs. impersonal is not an attribute? Really?”

    Not necessarily. Mortimer Adler, for example, has argued that we can prove that God exists but we cannot prove his attributes.

    The point is to distinguish between the God’s “existence” and God’s “essence.” The former can be proven through reason while the latter cannot. Do you like that formulation better that attribute vs. non-attribute? If so, then go with it. The whole point of saying that reason cannot take us to God’s “attributes” was to clarify the point that we cannot prove the God of the Bible through reason. Do you have anything to say about the argument that is on the table? I have dropped most of the technical terms so that critics cannot feign confusion.

  415. Hi Stephen.

    Let me clear up a few asides before I address the main issue.

    First, back at 408, your saying that “I will trust you [Jerry] as arbiter” is a bit like having the fox guard the henhouse. Jerry has declared that atheism is intellectually bankrupt, and he hasn’t read this thread. He is already in your camp whether you provide a good argument, or any argument at all, so I, at least, am not very interested in what Jerry thinks about this discussion.

    Second, in reference to your three arguments at 402, in 415 you say, “Hazel is on board with every step except the last step, so that is where we are.”

    That’s probably a little strong, because all I have said in response so far is, at 404,

    I can easily point to an error in the last step of each argument: not all people speak of the uncaused cause et al as God, because that implies all sort of attributes that go beyond merely pointing to an uncaused cause et al.

    But I am accepting the argument that every contingent thing has a cause, that the universe came into existence at a point so it must have a cause, and that somewhere in the chain of causes reaching backward from the beginning of the universe there has been an uncaused cause.

    Now you have added an additional argument tacked on to the end of all the other arguments that you have summarized in 402: that the uncaused cause has to be personal.

    At this point you fall right back into the problem we had earlier: as you have agreed, brute logic without reference to observation is helpless.

    Since we have no observations of what is on the other side of the Big Bang, or of the uncaused cause wherever it might be in the series, saying things like “the uncaused cause must be changeless and timeless, since both time and space came into existence at the time of the big bang.” and “a changeless, timeless, impersonal cause cannot exist without its effects” are all just bald assertions. We really have no idea what space and time are in respect to the metaphysical world from which our universe came, or whether those concepts makes sense. Similarly, we really have no idea whether the concepts of personal and impersonal apply to that metaphysical world.

    The irony here, as Diffaxial pointed out in 409, is that even though you have stated,

    There is no way we can reason our way to the “attributes” of the causeless cause, we can only reason our way to its ”existence.” Existence is a totally different matter than essence.

    you are now trying to reason your way to the attributes of the causeless cause.

    And this can’t be done – brute logic (which includes making up concepts that include their conclusion within the premise) can create many different logical systems – of which God and the Tao are two – but without reference to some observations with which to test the validity of those system, they remain conceptual models only.

    So I don’t think you’ve added anything to your arguments at 402, and I think my objections at 404 stand: the uncaused cause argument does not lead to the conclusion that the universe must be the product of a personal uncaused cause.

    So as I wrote earlier and Diffaxial quoted, I still think this is true:

    So logical arguments about entities that are in fact unknowable cannot be tested. You can play with words about such things as God and ultimate causes and contingent and necessary beings, but if we don’t know whether the concepts the words are meant to represent are in fact as we think they are, then our logical manipulations can’t be held to compel belief about the world.

  416. 418

    StephenB, at first blush, I’d say all of the arguments fail at the conclusion, because that conclusion (“this all men speak of as God” and variants thereof) is just flatly wrong. Second, all the arguments assume that the laws of the universe work the same way before the universe that they do now. However, to take (for example) the laws of motion, the universe creates the conditions under which those laws operate. There is also the Newtonian understanding that, within our universe, only changes in motion come from forces, not motion itself. Why begin with stillness? One could take the position of Lucretius that motion (what Lucretius calls “falling”) is eternal.

    On the argument from cause, I go with the Humean objection that causation is inductive rather than logical, which I find compelling and which your own language implies (“We perceive a series of efficient causes of things in the world”).

    The reductio argument fails because it assumes that the universe itself is contingent.

  417. StephenB

    Diffaxil, your nonsense is starting to wear a little thin.

    You stated:

    There is no way we can reason our way to the “attributes” of the causeless cause, we can only reason our way to its ”existence.”

    Your specialized sense of “attributes” not withstanding, your argument to a personal (versus impersonal) God – which you describe as “key” – clearly asserts surplus meaning beyond simple existence, and is in contradiction to the second clause of your statement above regardless of the meaning attached to “attribute” in first. You are now arguing to “key” predicates beyond the predicate of existence.

    (Unless you want to argue that “we can only reason our way to its ‘existence’” is simultaneously true and not true, although I thought such reasoning had a bad reputation around here :)

    Other nonsense:

    You have repeatedly insisted that the cosmological argument you present differs from the use of brute logic because it has both observational and logical components. You have derided others for failing to observe that distinction:

    When I informed her that the cosmological argument does not rely solely on brute logic, that it also takes observation into account, she continued to use the term “brute logic” anyway, indicating that she was not in any way following the argument.

    So, where is the observational component? There aren’t many candidates:

    If there are contingent beings, then there must be a necessary (self existent) Being.

    I don’t see room for an observational component in the logical consequence that follows “then” in the statement above (either in this abbreviated or other more developed presentations of the argument.) Therefore it seemed natural to discover it in your assertion regarding contingent beings. But you say observation has nothing to do with contingency, either.

    So what IS the observational component that compels us to distinguish it from exercises in pure logic?

  418. —-Diffaxial: “So what IS the observational component that compels us to distinguish it from exercises in pure logic?”

    The observational component is in the apprehension of the physical universe and its qualities. Pure logic is a function of trying to reason from a premise without benefit of an observed fact, as in the “ontological argument,” which attempts to speculate how things must be as opposed to some versions of the cosmological argument which begin with an observation.

    Now, once again, do you have anything to say about the argument on the table or are you going to keep evading it?

  419. David, we are at precisely at that last step in one of the arguemts. We are at the point of distinguishing the impersonal first cause (Hazel’s Tao) vs. the personal first cause (That which all men know as God[ in terms of existence, not essence]. That is the argument on the table.

    If you want to go back to 402, which deals with the preliminary steps, I will only answer points that refer to specifically numbered steps and claims about why they do not logically follow from the one before.) Beyond that, we are past the point of discussing cosmological arguments in gerneral, at least I am past that point.

  420. One argument on the table is that you have stated that

    There is no way we can reason our way to the “attributes” of the causeless cause, we can only reason our way to its ”existence.” Existence is a totally different matter than essence,

    and then you have tried to reason your way to attributes of the causeless cause.

    Can you explain this seeming contradiction?

  421. Hazel, We can reason our way to God’s existence, but we cannot reason our way to his essence or his attributes, except insofar as they are reflected as an intelligent creator. By observing the universe and reasoning our way back, we cannot conclude that God is loving, caring, Christian-like, Muslim-like, Trinitarian, Jealous about false Gods, or any other such qualities. We can only infer his existence and his power to create. The point is that we can get to “existence” (including personhood) but we can’t get beyond that.

    Now, do you have anything to say about the argument that is on the table which was designed especially for you and your assertion that the causeless cause can be impersonal.

  422. “… except insofar as they are reflected as an intelligent creator.”

    And how did that get into the argument – where did the “except” come from.

    You’re just falling back on “brute logic” again. First we have “no attributes” and now we have “except this one attribute.”

    I don’t think this works, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned.

    Maybe it’s time, once again, to stop.

  423. Hazel, over the last 20 or so posts, several of you have attempted to trip me up by hearkening back to old terms, hoping that I wouldn’t have an answer. As I have made clear, I do have answers and I can explain and have explained any point I have been asked regarding any possible confusion over my terms. The time has come, however, when someone has to stop challenging me and start answering my challenges. That time has come. As it turns out, I have designed only one, and it was custom made for you at 408. I have even provided a concrete example of the abstract point being made. As far as I can tell, there is no potential for using semantic dodges, which may explain why no one wants to address it. The ball is in your court.

  424. Your argument in 408 is all ad hoc, and doesn’t address the issue that you can’t know that what you are saying is true because you have no observations upon which to ground your logic, which is an objection you are not trying to address and have not addressed.

    Let’s just toss the ball off the court and go do something else.

  425. StephenB:

    The observational component is in the apprehension of the physical universe and its qualities.

    “The universe and its qualities” encompasses every possible observation, past present and future. Therefore it is fair to ask, “which observed qualities?” Another way to ask this would be to ask: can you suggest an observation of any universe in which observation (by any entity capable of observation) is possible at all, or of qualities of a universe in which observation is possible at all, from which your argument would NOT follow? Seems to me that, absent such potentially dispositive observations, observation plays no real role in your argument, and the cosmological argument boils down to, “We’re here, so there must be a God.”

    Further, what I am asking is, “what premise and/or assertion is established by means of this observation?”

    Do you have anything to say about the argument on the table or are you going to keep evading it?

    Yes. Vis the cosmological argument, I continue to maintain that you equivocate on the definition of “contingent,” sometimes invoking ordinary contingency and sometimes invoking philosophical contingency. It appears to me that you invoke ordinary contingency when you want to claim “observation,” and philosophical contingency when you wish to claim ironclad logical conclusions. Further, until you describe the observations and resulting assertions/premises that arise from them and undergird your argument, it appears to me that your cosmological argument doesn’t differ in kind from the ontological one, and does no more than move logical furniture, your assertions to the contrary notwithstanding. This is because I suspect that your “observations” return only what would obtain in the instance of any entity in any universe giving consideration to any such question, and hence only give the appearance of contributing content while actually failing to do so. Subtracting that component, we are left with logical moves only.

    Perhaps I’m wrong: you can show that I am wrong by stating something like, “we observe _______, therefore…(the assertion/premise that arises from that observation)” Observation that would follow given any entity in any universe capable of asking a question need not apply.

    Otherwise, I for one remain unconvinced that observation plays the role that you claim for it.

  426. —-Hazel: “And how did that get into the argument – where did the “except” come from.”

    It has always been there. We can argue from observation to the existence of a personal creator, not just an impersonal blob. But we cannot go beyond that. I have made that point several times. One blogger attempted to call “personhood” an “attribute,” so the “except” was put in there for his sake. Anyway, that is old news because you have already acknowledged the causeless cause anyway, so the only thing left to show is that we can also prove the personhood, which is the point at 408.

  427. Do you have anything to say about the argument?

    —-Diffaxial: “Yes. Vis the cosmological argument, I continue to maintain that you equivocate on the definition of “contingent,” sometimes invoking ordinary contingency and sometimes invoking philosophical contingency>

    Which is why I designed a new argument that does not permit you to use that as a semantic dodge. “Contingency” has left the building due to popular demand.

    The question is, do you have anything to say about the specific argument at 408, not your perception of a generic cosmological argument?

  428. —-Diffaxial: “Otherwise, I for one remain unconvinced that observation plays the role that you claim for it.”

    If, after all this time, you do not accept the fact that logic plus observation yields more knowledge than brute logic, then I don’t believe that I can reach you in any way.

  429. If, after all this time, you do not accept the fact that logic plus observation yields more knowledge than brute logic, then I don’t believe that I can reach you in any way.

    Of course I acknowledge this in the abstract. What I don’t see is that your presentation of the cosmological theory accomplishes that. Your (non)responses go no distance to persuading me that it does.

    But I’m off to other things. Anon.

  430. And your argument at 408 fails for the very reasons we have been discussing – you can’t apply brute logic without observation to this uncaused cause, and you can’t observe the uncaused cause. Analogies from within this universe don’t give us any traction, because we don’t know that what is outside this universe is like what is in it.

    That’s my answer. The details of your answer at 408 are just unfounded assertions – there is no way that I can argue against them because you have defined all the terms to mean, and signify, what you want them to mean, and there is no observational evidence that we can look at to see if your definitions and meanings validly reference anything.

    Your argument is just all words – brute logic and definitions which contain their own conclusions.

    I think there is probably no need for me to say this again (although I understand that I’ve said that before, and still came back for another round.)

  431. Happy Easter, Hazel, frustrations and all. I offer the same wishes to Diffaxial and David.

  432. Thanks – as I said to vj earlier, I hope you have had an enjoyable and meaningful day.

  433. Hey, thanks, Stephen. You too.

  434. StephenB,

    Thanks for the synopsis. I stay away from philosophy because it takes too much effort to understand and has always been too squishy for me. Though I love Plato and Socrates.

    Let me know when anyone can explain first) why there is existence and second) why the existence is so exquisitely finely tuned. Would such a result be due to an impersonal force whatever that is or to an intelligence who can make choices. How does an impersonal force find the right combination of laws for our universe. I can understand how an intelligence could But an impersonal force?

  435. Mr StephenB,

    Wow, this discussion moves very fast sometimes! I wish I could adjust the width of the text field on this web page to reduce the scrolling up and down.

    I’m sorry to repeat myself, or ask you to repeat yourself, but did you answer my question earlier about the principles of right reason that you outlined for us? I was asking you if you thought this set of principles described the universe better than any other set of such principles.

    Thank you. I’m sorry I have not participated more regularly in this discussion. As I said much earlier, I’m very uninterested in word games. If you want to construct an argument from Motion, make sure it can handle multiple reference frames, and photons. “Common Sense” is helpless to explain the universe, which is “stranger than we can imagine.”

  436. Mr. Nakashima: No, I don’t think that the principles I listed at 369 explain the universe at all. They have more to do with the foundational principles for logic, without which, one cannot reason properly. They tell us nothing at all about the universe, they simply provide the foundational principles for logic itself.

  437. —Hazel: “The details of your answer at 408 are just unfounded assertions – there is no way that I can argue against them because you have defined all the terms to mean, and signify, what you want them to mean, and there is no observational evidence that we can look at to see if your definitions and meanings validly reference anything.”

    That isn’t true. Any competent logician could examine the last three paragraphs at 408, especially the point about ice beginning to freeze. You simply cannot or will not engage the argument. I have no way of knowing which is the case, but I do know that it is one or the other. Sorry, but that’s the way it is.

  438. I gave engaged the argument. Logic based on observations in this universe do not necessarily carry over to whatever is outside this universe because we have no observations to use to test whether that carryover happens.

    That is engaging the argument.

  439. No, it is not engaging the argumemt. You provided your general opinion about arguments in general. You did not engage the arguemt that was provided. A logician should know that the general is not synonymous with the specific. A logician should also know that any if/then proposition can be evaluated.

  440. If your argument is faulty in general, I don’t see how one could engage it specifically.

  441. A logician would know that the way to engage a faulty argument is to expose the fault.

    My opening gambit was stated in this way:

    “A changeless, timeless, impersonal cause cannot exist without its effects. If a changeless, impersonal condition for the effects is timeless, then the effects must be timeless as well.”

    That is a straight if/then proposition and the concrete example which follows, makes it crystal clear.

    The temperature of -O degrees C is the CAUSE of frozen water. If, therefore, the temperature [the changeless timeless cause] was present from all eternity, that is, if it was always -O degrees, then the water was ALWAYS FROZEN. Under the circumstances, it would be impossible for the water to BEGIN to freeze.

    We can, therefore, conclude that the only way the water could BEGIN to freeze a finite time ago, is if a personal agent chooses to create a new effect.

    That argument is both analyzable and logically compelling.

  442. You write, “A changeless, timeless, impersonal cause cannot exist without its effects.”

    Please explain to me how you know this is true.

    The conclusion of a conditional is true only if the hypothesis is true. Your hypothesis makes a claim about the necessary nature of metaphysical reality.

    But you have no observational way to show that what you claim is true. Your hypothesis is an unsupported assertion whose truth can not be ascertained, and thus the rest of the conditional is meaningless.

    Furthermore, your example about water is not relevant, because you don’t know that conclusions based on how this world work carry over to the metaphysical world. This is a point that you are not responding to.

    You can’t prove that “”A changeless, timeless, impersonal cause cannot exist without its effects” by offering an analogy: analogies aren’t proofs. An analogy can suggest a line of investigation, but until the investigation validates the correspondence we don’t know whether it is a valid analogy or not.

  443. A changeless, timeless, impersonal cause cannot exist without its effects. If a changeless, impersonal condition for the effects is timeless, then the effects must be timeless as well.

    That’s just talk. Reasoning of this kind is completely uninteresting to me, because it shows no promise of increasing our knowledge of the world. Nor do increases of relevant knowledge of the world (such as in advances in cosmology) seem to impinge in the least upon these scholastic exercises. Given that, you should be deeply suspicious that such assertions are in fact entirely devoid of real meaning.

  444. —-Hazel: “But you have no observational way to show that what you claim is true. Your hypothesis is an unsupported assertion whose truth can not be ascertained, and thus the rest of the conditional is meaningless.”

    Not at all. Everyone knows that that which always was cannot begin. It is a coctradiction in terms, which is the point that makes the argument work. Do you deny that that which always was cannot begin in time?

  445. —-Diffaxial: “That’s just talk. Reasoning of this kind is completely uninteresting to me, because it shows no promise of increasing our knowledge of the world.”

    Do you deny the fact that that which always was cannot begin in time?

  446. We aren’t discussing whether there is uncaused cause – we are discussing whether that cause must necessarily be personal. You are making assertions about what an impersonal uncaused cause is capable of doing, and my claim is that you don’t know, and can’t know, whether those claims are true.

    What you are doing is just ascribing attributes to an impersonal uncaused cause based on your belief that a personal uncaused cause is necessary and therefore an impersonal uncaused cause must be deficient.

    But, as I said, you don’t really know this, and can’t. You are once again thinking you can obtain knowledge by brute logic.

  447. Do you deny the fact that that which always was cannot begin in time?

    This is a tautology, not a “fact.”

  448. Hazel, Diffaxial, I asked you both a very simple question to which there is a very simple answer. Can that which always was begin in time? Please stop stalling and answer the question. There are only three possible answers, Yes, no, or I don’t know.

  449. Your question is in response to hazel’s comment that “you have no observational way to show that what you claim is true.”

    Your reply: “Not at all. Everyone knows that that which always was cannot begin. It is a contradiction in terms, which is the point that makes the argument work” does not describe an observation. It describes a tautology. It no more requires observation than my assertion that to assert “all circles are round” requires observations of circles.

    Indeed, your comment that the proposition .must be true because the negation results in a contradiction in terms explicitly underscores the fact that your proposition is tautologically true, only, not observationally true.

    Therefore the answer to your question does not satisfy hazel’s request for observations that support your argument.

  450. (The above was posted by an accidental hit of return before the post was ready for prime time. A bit raggedy, but it will have to do.)

  451. Diffaxial, my question hasn’t changed. Can that which always was begin in time?

  452. Can a circle be square?

  453. Stephen, I could as easily ask you to stop stalling and answer this question: do you have any observations which support your belief that in the metaphysical world which caused our universe “time”, whatever it may be, exists in the form your definitions claim it does?

    I don’t think it furthers the conversation, and certainly not the civility, to accuse us of stalling when you also are not addressing our questions.

    The question your statement asks is tautologically false: as you yourself say, it is a contradiction in terms. What we don’t know is whether those terms correctly model, or reference, anything in metaphysical reality. For all we know, the concept of time may in fact be meaningless in the metaphysical world which caused our universe, and the question of whether something had no beginning in time or did have a beginning in time may be no more an meaningful question than asking if God is green or not.

    And, to return to the question at hand – at least my question at hand: given the assumption that there is an uncaused cause someplace (although maybe not as the direct cause of our universe), what observations support your claim that this cause must be personal and not impersonal?

    (And I’ll point out that is it possible that this dichotomy is also a category error: how do we know that being personal or impersonal is a category that would apply to the uncaused cause – this may be no more relevant than wondering what color the uncaused cause is. Both time and personhood are attributes of this universe, but we have no observations to justify believing these concepts carry over to the uncaused cause. This also a point that I keep making and you keep not addressing.)

  454. Hazel, I have no trouble answering your questions, and have never hesitated to do so. The easy answer to your question is that I have no observations in this case because none are needed. Sometimes, “brute logic” works just fine to answer a great many questions, other times it doesn’t. Everything depends on context and the quesions being asked.

    What is so comical about this exchange is that I had to inform you about the very points that you are harping on. It wasn’t until I informed you about the importance of “observation” in some logical contexts that you abanonded your monotonic discourse on the limitations of “brute logic.” So, please stop with the lectures. Observation has absolutely nothing to do with the current question that I am posing. If you were a logician you would know that. Nor does it have anything to do with an uncaused cause or anything like that. I have abandoned those categories because I don’t need them to make my point.

    Once again I ask the question: Can that which always was begin in time? If you cannot or will not answer it, I promise you that I can find someone else who can and will.

  455. Hazel answered your question. He stated, “that which always was can begin in time” is tautologically false. Similarly, “that which always was cannot begin in time” is tautologically true. That has also been my answer. There is no other answer.

  456. I already answered that. The answer is no because the terms “always was” and “began in time” are contradictory terms – a point that you emphasized. The facts that the terms are logically contradictory doesn’t tell us anything about whether these concepts correctly model metaphysical reality, which is unknowable.

    I’ll also point out that you once agreed that brute force without observation is helpless, and now you say,

    Sometimes, “brute logic” works just fine to answer a great many questions, other times it doesn’t. Everything depends on context and the quesions being asked.

    Seems like you’ve changed your mind.

    Brute logic works to answer questions within logical systems: given a few axioms we can prove that the square root of 2 is irrational, or that if through a point in a plane there is only one line parallel to a given line then triangles have 180°. But if our statements are about the world, physical or metaphysical, then they need content based on observations of those worlds, and their results need to be tested against further observations. That the context and those are the kinds of questions brute logic can and cannot answer.

    The nature of the uncaused cause is not a purely logical question, and therefore brute logic cannot enlighten us about it.

    Also, you write,

    It wasn’t until I informed you about the importance of “observation” in some logical contexts that you abanonded your monotonic discourse on the limitations of “brute logic.”

    You first mentioned that brute logic needed observations in 269: “Brute logic alone is helpless, but logic in conjunction with observable facts can tell us a great deal.”

    However, this was in response to my post at 264, where I had said,

    But we have no way of actually testing whether those entities exist with the properties we assume they have. Logic without a valid referent – one which is accessible by something other than logic – can’t tell us anything other than what is internally embedded in the logical system itself. … So, to summarize, brute logic, without any evidence that God is as we conceive him, cannot prove anything about God.

    Clearly I brought up the need for observation, without using that exact word, before you said what you did about that need.

    I was not engaged in a “monotonic discourse on the limits of brute logic.” I was stating to you exactly what you later agreed with: that logic with evidence – observations – and the ability to test our conclusions with further observations, is helpless in respect to giving us knowledge about the world.

  457. Oops – tags are wrong on the last portion of 458.

    Also, you write,

    It wasn’t until I informed you about the importance of “observation” in some logical contexts that you abanonded your monotonic discourse on the limitations of “brute logic.”

    You first mentioned that brute logic needed observations in 269: “Brute logic alone is helpless, but logic in conjunction with observable facts can tell us a great deal.”

    However, this was in response to my post at 264, where I had said,

    But we have no way of actually testing whether those entities exist with the properties we assume they have. Logic without a valid referent – one which is accessible by something other than logic – can’t tell us anything other than what is internally embedded in the logical system itself. … So, to summarize, brute logic, without any evidence that God is as we conceive him, cannot prove anything about God.

    Clearly I brought up the need for observation, without using that exact word, before you said what you did about that need.

    I was not engaged in a “monotonic discourse on the limits of brute logic.” I was stating to you exactly what you later agreed with: that logic with evidence – observations – and the ability to test our conclusions with further observations, is helpless in respect to giving us knowledge about the world.

  458. Arrggg. I am so sloppy. The last sentence above should be

    “I was stating to you exactly what you later agreed with: that logic without evidence – observations – and the ability to test our conclusions with further observations, is helpless in respect to giving us knowledge about the world.”

    I commonly leave out the “not” part of sentences. My mind hears things I want to say but my fingers just don’t get it.

  459. Mr StephenB,

    You write

    Truth exists

    Truth can be known

    Higher truths illuminate lower truths [physics>>chemistry>>>biology]

    Metaphysical truths are consistent with scientific truths [unity of truth]

    Something cannot come from nothing.

    We have rational minds, we live in a rational universe, and there is a correspondence between the two

    A proposition cannot be true and false at the same time [and under the same formal circumstances [law of non-contradiction]

    A thing cannot be and not be at the same time [related to but not identical to the above]

    The law of the excluded middle.

    The whole is greater than any of its parts.

    T3-6 seem to be about the universe, but now you are telling me your principles of right reason are not meant to explain the universe at all?

    I will continue reading this thread, and if the conversation loops back around to the subject of reality, I will try to rejoin.

  460. Enough of this. The answer to the question is “no,” just as hazel has finally answered, bless her heart. If a thing always was, it cannot begin in time. Does it matter what that thing was? No. Whatever it is that always was cannot begin in time.

    Does this same rule apply to a physical law? Yes. If the temperature –0 degrees centrigrade, [the law hat causes water to freeze] always was, then it cannot begin in time. Whatever always was cannot begin in time. Can there ever be a time that –0 degrees began to freeze water? No. Can there ever be a time that water began to freeze at –0 degrees centrigrade? No. If water began to freeze at –0 degrees centrigrade, then the law that caused it to happen would also have to begin in time. Therefore, neither the law nor its effect can begin in time. A timeless law cannot exist without its effect.

    How, then, if the law always was, could the effect begin in time? Only if some personal agent chose to change the conditions, or if a personal agent created the conditions in the first place.

    Can an impersonal law [called the Tao] that always was begin in time? No. Can its alleged effect, the universe begin in time? No. If the cause always was, then the effect always was. A timeless law cannot exist without its effects.

    Now finally we introduce our “observation,” without which we cannot complete our argument. Have we observed the big bang? Yes. Does that mean that the universe began in time? Yes. Could it have been generated by a impersonal Tao that always was. No. If the eternal Tao caused the universe, the universe, its cause, would have had to be eternal as well. The eternal cause must always be associated with its eternal effect. Thus, only a personal agent could have chosen to cause the universe to begin in time.

  461. Mr. Nakashima: Yes, you are very perceptive. Sometimes, epistemology [how we know things] and metaphysics [how things are] do seem to overlap.

    I think that you are right. After all, If we have [A] Rational minds, [B] We live in a rational universe, and [C] there is a correspondence between the two, then we have added information about the real world to our information about logic. We are saying that our minds are in contact with the real world. Very good.

    Also, to say that the higher sciences illuminate lower sciences is to say something about the world. You are correct. I should not have said that ALL my statements applied solely to the laws of logic. Excellent!

    Most people approach the universe from some kind of metaphysical orientation. Here are five of the most prominent orientations in rather simplified form, although there are many more.

    [A] “Moderate dualism,” or “theistic dualism” suggests that ultimate reality consists of a spiritual realm and a material realm. In the spirit realm such things exist as God, angels, souls, minds, and other non material realities. In the material world, such things exist as time, space, matter, and energy. This is the world view held by Theists. God exists in the spiritual realm and created beings that are material [nature], spiritual [angels] and a composite of spirit and matter [humans.] This is the view that I hold.

    [B] “Monism” suggests that ultimate reality consists of one realm only. “Materialists, for example, are monists, meaning that they reject non-material entities and hold that nothing exists but matter. This is the typical metaphysical foundation for Darwinists and atheists. For them, God and angles don’t exist and humans are bodies without souls. This is the view held by most of the people I debate with on this blog.

    [C] In other times, monists took held the opposite view, [Radical Idealism] holding that matter is an illusion and that spirit is all there is. Monism need not necessarily mean materialism.

    [D] There is yet a third kind of monism called Pantheism. Unlike theistic dualism, which holds that God created the universe, monistic “Pantheism” teaches that God and the universe are indistinguishable, meaning that they are basically the same thing. As a general rule, pantheism lends itself to eastern religions while theistic dualism lends itself to eastern religions.

    [E] Deism characterizes the world view that God exists, but that, after creation, he decided not to intervene and left the world, its laws, and its inhabitants all alone. In this sense, it represents the other extreme to pantheism, with moderate dualism situated somewhere in the middle. For Deists, [and Muslims] God is “above” things [transcendent only] , for Christians, God is both above and in things [transcendent and immanent], and for pantheists, God is only “in” things [immanent].

  462. @462. That should read, “have we observed “evidence” for a big bang?

  463. All sophistry, Stephen. You are assuming that if the uncaused cause is impersonal, it is like a natural law, and YOU DON”T KNOW THAT!

    You ascribe qualities to God that support your belief in God and qualities to other types of explanations that support your belief that they are deficient without any evidence that you are right.

    I’ve made my points numerous times, and seen numerous examples of what I consider your faulty mode of reasoning. The value of continued discussion is probably small at this point.

  464. Hazel, you simply do not follow the argument. If you don’t believe me, check it out with a logician.

  465. 467

    StephenB, do you really think most logicians would agree with you?

  466. Stephen, you simply don’t understand that one can create logically valid arguments that are meaningless – that are just self-referential without telling us anything about the world.

  467. How, then, if the law always was, could the effect begin in time? Only if some personal agent chose to change the conditions, or if a personal agent created the conditions in the first place.

    Place a radium atom in a completely isolated location. For a while nothing will happen, and then it will decay with no apparent external cause. Isn’t this a case of a law that “always was” (or at least, was since close to the beginning of the universe) producing an effect that “begins in time”? Do you contend that spontaneous radioactive decay cannot be explained without postulating some personal agent who decides when the atom will decay?

  468. Stephen:

    If a thing always was, it cannot begin in time. Does it matter what that thing was? No. Whatever it is that always was cannot begin in time…Does this same rule apply to a physical law?

    It’s not a rule, it’s a tautology. Rules are detected by exceptionless regularity (ceteris paribus), or emerge as necessities from theory. Tautologies emerge directly from the definitions of one’s terms. Your “rule” is true for any “thing” you insert into the sentence because your terms are defined such that it must be true. The meaning content of your tautology is reducible to those definitions. Therefore you can save yourself the foregoing the pseudo-reasoning and simply say, “suppose there was an X that had no beginning in time.”

    Does this same rule apply to a physical law? Yes…

    Can an impersonal law [called the Tao] that always was begin in time? No.

    Woops. Since these boil down to no more than,

    “suppose a physical law that cannot begin in time”

    “suppose an impersonal law [called the Tao] that cannot begin in time”

    you give no reason why I CAN insert an unchanging physical law into slot A of your rule, but not an unchanging principle of the Tao into the same slot.

    A timeless law cannot exist without its effects.

    While we’re inventing BOTH inherently unobservable (because pre-bang), timeless, impersonal laws AND similar timeless personal agents, and inventing them out of thin air, why not postulate the law “Then nothing. Then something. Then nothing. Then something. (Repeat without end),” a law that had no beginning (because it always was, which proves it had no beginning). Many impersonal, lawful physical phenomena oscillate. If you don’t like my law, what observation can disconfirm it? What observation distinguishes the consequences of my law from the actions of a personal agent?

    Have we observed the big bang? Yes. Does that mean that the universe began in time? Yes.

    The Big Bang describes not the universe beginning in time, but the origins of time itself (among other things) . Therefore your argument as formulated has no observational basis, as the big bang is the one event that cannot exemplify the beginning of something in time.

    You’re just moving logical deck chairs about, Stephen.

  469. Nice last line.

  470. 472

    Diffaxial, yes, but give StephenB a break: “moving logical deck chairs about” is the essence of deductive reasoning. Since its conclusions are always contained in its premises, even good deductive reasoning can never bring new knowledge.

  471. 473

    Diffaxial

    “Many impersonal, lawful physical phenomena oscillate. If you don’t like my law, what observation can disconfirm it?”

    Entropy.

    “why not postulate the law “Then nothing. Then something. Then nothing. Then something. (Repeat without end),””

    Why postulate that? And secondly, what StephenB is postulating is a timeless law, not a series of events as you just described.

    “What observation distinguishes the consequences of my law from the actions of a personal agent?”

    The fact that the origin being impersonal would necessitate that the mere relationship between the impersonal force and the origin of the universe would be sufficient to bring about the Big Bang. This would mean that the impetus that caused the origin of the universe would’ve been around for as long as the impersonal relationship had existed. This would mean that there would be an inifitely old universe, for there couldn’t be a time when the impersonal force’s relationship that caused the origin, wasn’t there. But instead, we have a particular time when the universe began. And if you’d like to give me your tautology that the universe created time, (tautology in the respect of being redundant), I’m well aware of this. But, the alternative is an infinitely old universe, which would be the logical conclusion of an impersonal force’s responsibility for the universe’s origin. And Stepehen’s logical deck chairs are a place that I could hang out in and spend some time, because I happen to like logic.

  472. 474

    David Kellogg,

    “StephenB, do you really think most logicians would agree with you?”

    I know you didn’t ask me David, but I think they definitely would agree with him. He’s one of the most philosophically sophisticated commenters that contributes to this blog.

  473. 475

    hazel,

    “Stephen, you simply don’t understand that one can create logically valid arguments that are meaningless – that are just self-referential without telling us anything about the world.”

    There is a difference between logically valid arguments and sound arguments. Logically valid but unsound arguments have a faulty premise or premises. Logically sound arguments have true premises and the conclusion logically follows. If you’re interested in painting StephenB’s arguments as logically valid but unsound–that is, from following from faulty premises–then show what those premises are that are faulty.

  474. 476

    Clive, two comments:

    First, I raised the soundness/validity issue some time ago, and StephenB has never taken it up. It seems to me that, even if his arguments are valid, the burden of soundness is on him, and leads back to the questions raised about the frame of observation and the limits of claims made about the origin of the universe from within the universe. In other words, there is no reason to think the premises either sound or unsound.

    Second, as to logic. StephenB seems to use a form of Aristotelian (syllogistic) reasoning, possibly influenced by Mortimer Adler (a fine popularizer of philosophy but not in the ranks of the great modern philosophers).

    I think almost all contemporary logical philosophers would dispute Stephen’s arguments. One reason for this is that Aristotelian logic has been supplanted in analytic philosophy by Frege and the advances he made possible. (That’s Anglo-American philosophy; a different sort of development happened in continential philosophy, though StephenB would no doubt be even less enamored of that!). As Frege showed, in Aristotelian logic, a great deal is obscured by the grammar of ordinary language. Some other stuff is made possible (see J.L. Austin) but not in the field of logic. In post-Aristotelian logic, arguments about God tend to be outside the realm of logic: where I would say they belong.

  475. I asked what observations can disconfirm my postulated oscillating law.

    Clive responds “entropy.”

    But time is one of the terms inherent to the definition of entropy (decrease of order over time, etc.). Hence it cannot possibly have application prior to the advent of time.

    Why postulate that? And secondly, what StephenB is postulating is a timeless law, not a series of events as you just described.

    I postulate it to demonstrate that, because unconstrained in principle by observation, we can define/invent “laws” and “agents” alike, as we please, and draw logical consequences from them ’till the cows come home. When all is said and done we know nothing more than when we started.

    I asked, “What observation distinguishes the consequences of my law from the actions of a personal agent.” Clive responds,

    The fact that the origin being impersonal would necessitate that the mere relationship between the impersonal force and the origin of the universe would be sufficient to bring about the Big Bang.

    This is simply bald assertion, and doesn’t flow from “necessity.” I have baldly asserted a force that contradicts the necessity of conclusion. As I said, my postulated force oscillates – and that oscillation had no beginning. Moreover, my force (by definition) does not give rise to the big bang while in one of its two postulated states. Only upon assuming the opposite value does the bang issue forth. Moreover, I also pull from my hat the fact that my force may remain in a state of “nothing” for periods beyond time before (inevitably, impersonally) assuming the state “something.” Hence it stands in relationship to the universe without giving rise to that universe – until it does, in fact, give rise to it. Exactly in the same sense that your preferred personal agent does not issue forth a universe, until it does. And it postulates series of events only in the same sense that your postulate of an agent does likewise.

    Of course this is all nonsense. But no more so than Stephen’s assertions.

  476. Clive Hayden, thanks for your comments. I believe this is an absolutely critical discussion that all reasonable people must confront, and I think you have considered the matter carefully and with due discipline. I appreciate the fact that you have taken the trouble to think this thing out. In a way, we are saying the same thing, which is very, very interesting to me.

  477. 479

    Clarification: Gottlob Frege was of course German, but the analytic philosophy in which the analysis of formal logic has developed is mostly (though not exclusively) Anglo-American.

  478. On the matter of soundness and validity. Validity is just another word for internal consistency, and I gather everyone, having been brought in kicking and screaming, has finally come on board and confessed that the argument is valid, which it is. Now, on the question of soundness, if the premise is not sound or unreasonable, you should be able to zero in on the problem and expose it. In essence, you are attacking the argument from a distance, saying “you can’t do this,” “you broke this or that law,” or “no fair doing that,” without actually specifying where, in your judgment, things break down. So far, all I have heard is sour grapes.

    Now, I must tell you that I tested all of you not that long ago concerning your knowledge about the foundations for logic. I asked you as a group to identify that which we must believe and assume in order to safely conclude that logic can work for us. After waiting long enough to satisfy myself that you couldn’t answer the question, I was about to end the suspense for you, but Nakashima, bless his heart, chimed in, “Is it the law of non-contradiction? Of course, he was right. So, you all flunked that test. It is too late to tell me now that you knew it all along. Indeed, I have asked several of you on more that on occasion if you believe that a thing can be true and false at the same time. Your answers have not been consoling. So, I have good reason to believe that some of you either [a] cannot reason in the abstract or [b] have abandoned reason altogether, or [c] are so heavily invested in secularism, you can’t bring yourself to follow arguments and evidential elements wherever they lead. I choose [c].

    In truth, most of you have flunked the many quiet tests that I have administered all along. I asked you plainly, “can a thing that always was begin in time?” It took days to finally get a sulky answer from Hazel, and the remainder of you strenuously avoided the question. So, I am not interested in your high and mighty lectures on the laws of logic. I am in interested in knowing if you can apply the principles that you claim to know. At this point, I have serious doubts about that. There is one sure mark of an amateur: give him a problem to solve and he will launch into a lecture on the theory of problem solving.

    Now, I am going to present to you another test. What are my premises? Identity them and provide a critique. What are the steps in the argument and why does each step work or not work? Why does the conclusion follow or not follow from the premises? Suffice it to say, David, Diffaxial, Hazel, a textbook lecture on the finer parts of logic will not do nor will cheap shots about my so-called “nonsense.” There has been plenty of nonsense on this thread and it has not been coming from me. If, as I suspect, some of you no longer believe in the foundations of logic, then you really ought to bow out. If you don’t believe that rational discourse is grounded in anything, then you shouldn’t be discoursing.

  479. 481

    Diffaxial,

    Consider this bit of sober wisdom from C. S. Lewis,

    “The laws of physics, I understand, decree that when one billiards ball (A) sets another billiards ball (B) in motion, the momentum lost by A exactly equals the momentum gained by B. This is a Law. That is, this is the pattern to which the movement of the two billiards balls must conform. Provided, of course, that something sets ball A in motion. And here comes the snag. The Law won’t set it in motion. It is usually a man with a cue who does that. But a man with a cue would send us back to free-will, so let us assume that it was lying on a table in a liner and that what set it in motion was a lurch of the ship. In that case it was not the law which produced the movement; it was a wave. And that wave, though it certainly moved according to the laws of physics, was not moved by them. it was shoved by other waves, and by winds, and so forth. And however far you traced the story back you would never find the laws of Nature causing anything.

    The dazzlingly obvious conclusion now arose in my mind: in the whole history of the universe, the laws of Nature have never produced a single event. They are the pattern to which every event must conform, provided only that it can be induced to happen. But how do you get it to do that? How do you get a move on? The laws of Nature can give you no help there. All events obey them, . . . The laws are the pattern to which events conform: the source of events must be sought elsewhere.

    This may be put in the form that the laws of Nature explain everything except the source of events. But this is rather a formidable exception. The laws, in one sense, cover the whole of reality except — well, except that continuous cataract of real events which makes up the actual universe. They explain everything except what we should ordinarily call ‘everything’. The only thing they omit is — the whole universe. . . .

    The smallest event, then, if we face the fact that it occurs (instead of concentrating on the pattern into which, if it can be persuaded to occur, it must fit), leads us back to a mystery which lies outside natural science.”
    ~The Laws of Nature, from his collection of essays called God in the Dock.

    Your oscillating universe model just pushes the question of causation back a bit further, it doesn’t answer it. And secondly, there is only enough energy in our universe to postulate about 100 oscillations of the universe, not infinite. And thirdly, there are reasons apart from entropy to reject an infinitely old oscillating universe, namely, that an infinite cannot be traversed, thus we could never come to be in the here and now.

  480. 482

    David,

    Please show me the faulty premises, and don’t skirt the issue by raising differing opinions of logic. Analytic philosophy is not an answer to any of his premises being wrong. Syllogisms are valid and sound. This style of argumentation is called Bulverism by C.S. Lewis, where you do not take up what a man has said, rather you try to explain on other grounds how he got to be so silly. But the argument is just where it was, unanswered.

  481. 483

    Clive, which premises? StephenB has offered several versions of these arguments. I laid out objections to some of his premises in [418], but Stephen then refused to to discuss any versions of his argument but one [408]. Moreover, he’s never put the arguments in syllogistic form (the closest he came was 402). Finally, it’s not the case that “syllogisms are valid and sound.” Some syllogisms may be valid but not sound, some may be sound but not valid, and some may be neither.

  482. 484

    Clive, I only brought up formal logic because you and StephenB seem agreed that his arguments are more or less perfect and would be accepted by contemporary logicians. I mentioned the state of logic in philosophy only to note that this conclusion is (cough cough) optimistic.

  483. 485

    David,

    It’s these things, these rabbit trails, like “the state of logic in philosophy” that seem to be evasive maneuvers quite honestly. This argument that is being propounded by StephenB is embraced by current logicians. Now, can we get back to the actual argument please?

  484. 486

    David,

    “Finally, it’s not the case that “syllogisms are valid and sound.” Some syllogisms may be valid but not sound, some may be sound but not valid, and some may be neither.”

    And some are, of course, both valid and sound. The “form” of a syllogism is valid and sound itself. You were denouncing the form itself, not the particular aspects of validity or soundness within it. Let’s be clear in what we’re saying from comment to comment, please.

  485. 487

    Clive, I disagree: I’m pretty sure most logicians today find arguments about God to be logically nonsensical. Theologians don’t, obviously, but that’s one reason theologians are not logicians. :-) You and StephenB obviously disagree with me, sharing as you do a very high opinion of StephenB’s arguments. So I repeat: which premises? I’ve objected to some, but StephenB won’t talk about those because they’re not in 408.

  486. 488

    I was not denouncing the form of the syllogism. I mentioned that the form is limited, as it leads to no new knowledge, but that is noncontroversial.

  487. —-David Kellogg: “Clive, which premises? StephenB has offered several versions of these arguments. I laid out objections to some of his premises in [418], but Stephen then refused to to discuss any versions of his argument but one [408]. Moreover, he’s never put the arguments in syllogistic form (the closest he came was 402). Finally, it’s not the case that “syllogisms are valid and sound.” Some syllogisms may be valid but not sound, some may be sound but not valid, and some may be neither.

    Well, this is interesting. About fifty posts ago, I abandoned all hope that I could reach anyone with classically framed premises and arguments, however valid and meaningful they might be, so I dropped all the terms and completely reformulated the approach @462 so there could be no question about what was being argued or the terms that were being used.

    Meanwhile, Clive asks you about your response to this new formulation @462, and you promptly hearken back to the pre462 conditions. To paraphrase the warden in “Cool Hand Luke,” what we have here is a failure to communicate.” Or, maybe its just an old fashioned evasion? Nah.

  488. 490

    David,

    I know you would like to assume that theologians are not logicians, but that is simply not the case. Nor is it the case that theologians are not professional philosophers, such as Richard Swinburn and Kieth Ward and William Lane Craig etc. There is coherence, if you can believe it :D. You’re the one that has the issue with StephenB’s argument, so you tell me which premise it is that is giving you difficulty. And no, logicians today do not find arguments about God to be nonsensical.

  489. —-David: “I was not denouncing the form of the syllogism. I mentioned that the form is limited, as it leads to no new knowledge, but that is noncontroversial.”

    Did you hear my recent lecture about those who are asked to solve a problem and immediately launch into a discussion on the theory of problem solving. If you want a replay of it, you will find it at 480.

  490. 492

    StephenB, [462] seems just plain silly to me, and not worth answering. Pick your logic: if you’re going to argue by analogy, your arguments cannot be ironclad.

  491. 493

    StephenB, I read your lecture, but the meaning was overwhelmed by the smugness. I don’t need your “lectures,” thanks, as you’ve shown no superiority of reasoning of philosophical knowledge.

    Further, I wasn’t being evasive: I objected to [402] fairly quickly, but you had decided by that time to abandon those terms. You’re the one acting like a moving target.

  492. 494

    correction [493]: “you’ve shown no superiority of reasoning or philosophical knowledge.”

  493. 495

    Perhapa I was a bit harsh, and [462] does not reason by analogy. In which case, congratulations! StephenB has proven the existence of a personal God by means of a thermometer.

  494. —-David: “So I repeat: which premises? I’ve objected to some, but StephenB won’t talk about those because they’re not in 408.”

    The only substantive objection I remember was your proclivity to challenge the statement that the universe is “contingent.” I had defined contingent several times prior to that as meaning, “need not exist,” and “dependent on something else.”

    Since then, I pointed out to you that the big bang proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the universe is contingent. I could have also proved it philosophically, but I gathered that if evidence for the big bang didn’t warm you up to the proposition that something cannot come from nothing, appealing to arguments about the relationship of ontological elements would really leave you cold.

    Meanwhile, there is another argument on the table at, let’s see, oh yes, 462.

  495. —-”David: “StephenB, [462] seems just plain silly to me, and not worth answering. Pick your logic: if you’re going to argue by analogy, your arguments cannot be ironclad.”

    Inasmuch as you have not yet stepped up to the challenge of analyzing it, you would have no way of knowing would you?

  496. David Kellogg

    Wow, this discussion is still going? I see you’ve raised the bar with your post (#476), where you called for an analytically rigorous presentation of the cosmological argument. I would certainly agree with your comment that Frege’s logic represents a great advance over Aristotle in its clarity.

    Some time ago I pointed out to readers that there IS an analytically rigorous, up-to-date presentation of the cosmological argument at this Website:

    http://www.arn.org/docs/koons/cosmo.pdf

    (“A New Look at the Cosmological Argument” by Dr. Robert Koons. In American Philosophical Quarterly 34 (April, 1997): 171-192.)

    I quote from a paragraph by the author:

    I will follow closely the classical argument from contingency, with its origins in Aristotle’s Metaphysics Lambda 6 and developed by the falsafa movement of Arabic philosophy (al-Farabi and Ibn Sina). My argument closely resembles Maimonides’ fourth proof and Aquinas’ Second and Third Ways. The argument is rigorously empirical in character: I nowhere make claims to a priori knowledge (other than of the rules of classical logic). There is no claim of great originality to the argument presented here. What is original is the use of three logical resources that were not available to the classical authors: (1) mereology (the calculus of individuals – essentially a variant of Cantorian set theory adapted to aggregates of concrete things), (2) modern modal logic , and (3) nonmonotonic logic (the theory of defeasible reasoning). I lay out a successful defeasible argument for the existence of a necessary First Cause and discuss briefly its relevance to natural theology.

    Is this paper rigorous enough for you, David? It does at least attempt to demonstrate the existence of a necessary Being which is not essentially located in space in time, and is not essentially a body.

    However, Koons’ subsequent argument for a personal God is an analogical one, which he does not attempt to formalize, but which can easily be formalized, using some basic logical notation.

    Let & denote: and.
    Let – denote: not.
    Let = denote: is identical to.
    Let -> denote: if-then.
    Let ^x denote: for all x.
    Let $x denote: there exists x.
    Let a denote the name of our spatio-temporal universe (which can be considered as an individual).
    Let Cxy denote: x is a cause of y.
    Let Oxy denote: x is wholly distinct from y. (x and y have no parts in common.)
    Let Tx denote: x has specified teleological properties. (Koons, who was writing in 1997, hedges his bets here as to what exactly these properties are – ID proponents could say CSI if they like.)
    Let Ix denote: x is intelligent.

    Assumptions:
    1. (^x)(Tx -> ($y)(Cyx & Iy & Oyx)).
    (Every individual with specified teleological properties has an intelligent cause which is distinct from it.)

    2. Ta.
    (Our spatio-temporal universe has specified teleological properties.)

    Thus
    3. ($y)(Cya & Iy & Oya)
    (There exists a cause of our spatio-temporal universe which is intelligent and distinct from it.)

    Premise 1. is of course critical; Koons thinks it is highly plausible, given firstly, that he has already established:

    4. ($y)(Cya & Oya)
    (our universe had a cause which is wholly distinct from it),

    and given secondly, that we already know:

    2. Ta
    (our universe has specified teleological properties – think of fine tuning);

    and finally, given the following premise which Koons thinks is true by definition of “intelligent”:

    5. (^x)(^y)(^z)((Tx & (Hy & Cyx & ((Hz & -(z=y)) -> -Czx))) -> Iy)
    (if an object has specified teleological properties and only one human maker, then that human maker must be intelligent).

    Thus at this point, Koons’ argument is a suasive one. It is not strictly demonstrative.

    ————————————

    To assess StephenB’s argument in #408, we need to add some more notation:

    Let Px denote: x is a personal agent.
    Let Qx denote: x is temporally limited in duration (has a beginning).
    Let individual b denote: the cause of the cosmos. (Here assumed to be some sort of individual.)
    Let L denote: possibly.
    Let M denote: necessarily.

    All sides in this debate agree that
    6. ($y)(Cya & Oya & -Qy)
    (our universe had a timeless cause which is wholly distinct from it).

    Thus
    7. Cba & Oba & -Qb
    by Existential Instantiation.

    For argument’s sake, let us assume:
    8. -Pb.
    (The cause of the universe is impersonal.)

    Stephen B contends that this premise is self-evidently true:
    9. M(^x)(^y)((-Px & -Qx & Cxy) -> -Qy)
    (The underlying premise being assumed here is that an impersonal cause is sufficient for its effect; hence it can never exist without it.)

    It follows that:
    10. M(^x)((-Px & -Qx & Cxa) -> -Qa) by Universal Instantiation.

    It follows that:
    11. M((-Pb & -Qb & Cba) -> -Qa) by Universal Instantiation.

    But we know
    12. Qa
    (The universe had a beginning.)

    Thus by Modus Tollens:
    13. -(-Pb & -Qb & Cba), or:

    14. Pb v Qb v -Cba
    (The cause of the universe is either personal, or located in time, or not the cause of the universe.)

    But we know
    15. Cba, from 7.
    (The cause of the universe is indeed its cause.)

    We also know -Qb from 7.
    (The cause of the universe is not located in time.)

    Thus we conclude that Pb (the cause of the universe is personal).

    Note: Throughout this argument, I had to treat the cause of the cosmos (which we called b above) as if it were a single individual.

    This is just intended as a springboard to get the discussion going. Feel free to refine the notation and/or arguments as you wish.

  497. I agree with 493, and disagree with Stephen’s characterization of how this discussion has gone. But what else is new?

  498. —-David: “StephenB, I read your lecture, but the meaning was overwhelmed by the smugness. I don’t need your “lectures,” thanks, as you’ve shown no superiority of reasoning of philosophical knowledge.”

    Yes, do you get the point? No one likes to be lectured. So, when someone issues a challenge, don’t lecture, step up.

  499. I forgot to translate these three premises of StephenB’s argument into plain English:

    9. M(^x)(^y)((-Px & -Qx & Cxy) -> -Qy)
    (Necessarily, if an impersonal individual with no temporal beginning causes an effect, that effect also has no temporal beginning.)

    It follows that:
    10. M(^x)((-Px & -Qx & Cxa) -> -Qa) by Universal Instantiation.
    (Necessarily, if an impersonal individual with no temporal beginning causes the universe, the universe also has no temporal beginning.)

    It follows that:
    11. M((-Pb & -Qb & Cba) -> -Qa) by Universal Instantiation.
    (Necessarily, if the cause of the universe is impersonal and has no temporal beginning, the universe also has no temporal beginning.)

    The rest of the argument is easy to follow.

  500. vjtorley @498: Incredible!

    —-”This is just intended as a springboard to get the discussion going. Feel free to refine the notation and/or arguments as you wish.”

    That is like Jerry Lee Lewis saying to Chuck Berry after his performance, “follow that killer.”

  501. 503

    vjtorley [498], thanks for pointing me to Koons. I missed that before. And thanks for the restatement both of Koons and of StephenB. I’ll take a close look at both the paper and your summary of StephenB and get back to you. (You may or may not recall that way back in 98 I wrote that “the cosmological argument is a pretty good one as such things go” but that I, who believe in God, do not find it logically compelling.)

  502. Clive:

    Your oscillating universe model just pushes the question of causation back a bit further, it doesn’t answer it. And secondly, there is only enough energy in our universe to postulate about 100 oscillations of the universe, not infinite. And thirdly, there are reasons apart from entropy to reject an infinitely old oscillating universe, namely, that an infinite cannot be traversed, thus we could never come to be in the here and now.

    This remark (and the Lewis quote) rather dazzlingly misses the point of my “oscillating law” illustration. I’m not advocating the oscillating law as an alternative – in fact, I invented it as I wrote that post this morning for the purposes of illustration. What it illustrates is the emptiness of Stephen’s assertions about what is “necessary” of impersonal versus personal timeless causes, etc. His assertions have no more basis in either logic or necessity than does my oscillating law. Nor can he, or you, describe an observation that will enable us to decide between oscillating law, unchanging impersonal law, or the actions of an agent. Declaimations that he, or you, have proven that personal agency is responsible are just that -declaimations. The pedantic, arrogant tone that has recently crept in doesn’t help.

  503. Diffaxial: vjtorley just played a symphony at 498 and 501, the concert is over.

  504. 506

    Diffaxial,

    Oh I see, you brought in an illustration to show us that all illustrations are wrong, or at least, cannot be known. This is tantamount to saying that the unknown cannot be known. But surely, we cannot know that the unknown cannot be known, for if we say that, we are saying that we at least know that it cannot be known, and surely, this is a contradiction. “We do not know enough about the unknown to know that it is unknowable.”~G.K. Chesterton.

  505. 507

    StephenB [505], vjtorley’s translation into more rigorous terms is impressive. That “the concert is over,” however, is not necessarily true. Recall that you were mightily pleased with your own far less rigorous formulations earlier.

  506. StephenB:

    Diffaxial: vjtorley just played a symphony at 498 and 501, the concert is over.

    The first measure of that work:

    Assumption: Every individual with specified teleological properties has an intelligent cause which is distinct from it.

    Starting with an assumption that utters a significant portion of your conclusion doesn’t promise a compelling composition.

  507. vj writes,

    (Necessarily, if an impersonal individual with no temporal beginning causes an effect, that effect also has no temporal beginning.)

    Writing this in logical symbolism makes it no less an unwarranted problem.

    Theists have no problem with God, who has no beginning, causing an effect that has a beginning, but you’ve decided without any evidence, just based on your own biases, that an impersonal cause can’t do this.

    Wrapping it all up in symbolic logic does not get around the central flaw in all these formulations.

  508. And furthermore, my guess, which I have stated I think, is that whatever this uncaused cause is, the personal/impersonal dichotomy arises from it but is not central to it.

    But I’m a Taoist, so what do I know? :)

    (Not really – I just like the philosophy.)

  509. Mr Vjtorley,

    Thank you for that translation of the argument.

    While I have excepted myself a few times from the discussion, my early participation was exactly a disagreement with the assumption in 6. I’m also suspect of Premise 1, as it strikes me as far too much assuming what we would like to prove. As well, all the objections to the reasonableness of applying categories that we barely understand inside the universe to any entity outside the universe, which have been raised previously.

    Did someone say ‘brute logic proves nothing’?

    Let Ix denote: x is intelligent.

    Let me substitute

    Let Ix denote: If x is Human, x is intelligent, if x is not Human, x is sadistic.

    The conclusion now reads
    Thus
    3. ($y)(Cya & Iy & Oya)
    (There exists a cause of our spatio-temporal universe which is intelligent and human or sadistic and distinct from it.)

    Are we still happy?

    What other things besides humans can be makers of objects with specific teleological properties? Are they all “intelligent”? The generalization of 5 makes it clear that our vision of God is created by looking in the mirror first.

    Yes, by Mr StephenB’s definitions given earlier I am some brand of monist, but willing to revise given evidence to the contrary.

  510. Clive:

    Oh I see, you brought in an illustration to show us that all illustrations are wrong, or at least, cannot be known.

    I described a proposition similar to that proffered by StephenB that has definitional (and tautological) status similar to his. It is similarly, in principle, not amenable to observational test. I requested some means to decide which of these propositions is to be preferred, but to date I’ve received one obviously defective response (“entropy”). I offer it to underscore the fact that propositions of this kind, because undecidable (regardless of logical manipulation), yield no real knowledge.

    This is tantamount to saying that the unknown cannot be known.

    That doesn’t follow. There are many unknowns that may ultimately be known. The community of scientists, for example, has devised powerful means of rendering certain classes of the unknown known, and standards of provisional justification for those knowledge claims, standards that typically include the use of replicable observation. However, I do believe that unknowns of the class we are discussing will remain unknown, at least by the means we have been discussing.

    This is why I identified myself as “agnostic” in my first post.

  511. 513

    FYI, I’m reading Koons carefully, as well as a similar argument by Gale and Pruss (“A New Cosmological Argument.” Religious Studies 35 (1999), 461–76), and a recent argument against such views (Graham Oppy, “Cosmological Arguments,” Nous 43:1 (2009) 31–48). StephenB’s declaration notwithstanding, the fat lady has yet to sing: I want to take some time to assess these arguments in what appear to be their most rigorous contemporary form.

  512. David Kellogg

    I’m glad to hear that you’re following up the cosmological argument. Graham Oppy is perhaps the leading contemporary critic of this argument. You might also like to have a look at “Defeasible Reasoning, Special Pleading and the Cosmological Argument” by Robert Koons, at
    http://www.leaderu.com/offices.....sible.html .
    In this article, Koons replies to Oppy’s criticisms of his argument.

    If you need to do a bit of background reading on the cosmological argument, then I’d suggest this site:

    http://www.leaderu.com/offices.....cture.html

    Mr. Nakashima

    You constructed a rival argument, as follows. Instead of

    1. (^x)(Tx -> ($y)(Cyx & Iy & Oyx)).
    (Every individual with specified teleological properties has an intelligent cause which is distinct from it.)

    you suggested

    1′. (^x)(Tx -> ($y)(Cyx & I’y & Oyx)).
    (Every individual with specified teleological properties has an intelligent, sadistic cause which is distinct from it, where I’y means y is intelligent and sadistic.)

    This yielded a conclusion

    Thus
    3′. ($y)(Cya & Iy & Oya)
    (There exists a cause of our spatio-temporal universe which is intelligent and sadistic and distinct from it.)

    The problem with this counterargument is that 1′ is not even remotely plausible. It imakes sense to believe that an object with specific teleological properties has an intelligent cause, but why would you want to say that cause was sadistic? You might as well say it was green with purple spots. It’s an ad hoc complication.

    Hazel:

    I see that you query premise 9:

    9. M(^x)(^y)((-Px & -Qx & Cxy) -> -Qy)
    (Necessarily, if an impersonal individual with no temporal beginning causes an effect, that effect also has no temporal beginning.)

    I think I now understand where you are coming from. You are saying that time is a subjective illusion on our part, and that what appears to be a flow of discrete, successive events which are separate from the underlying laws that explain them is in fact nothing but the necessary unfolding of a program embodied in the cosmos itself. Hence the problem of why things have a beginning in time is a pseudo-problem: the underlying laws are indeed a sufficient cause for their existence, but they only appear at a particular stage in the program. The program itself may be envisaged as endless or as cyclic. The important thing is that events are pre-programmed, and that time is a subjective illusion.

    Now, your view is an old and respected one. You could even give it an Einsteinian twist, if you like. There’s just one small problem with this view: you have no freedom.

  513. Mr. Nakashima

    While I have excepted myself a few times from the discussion, my early participation was exactly a disagreement with the assumption in 6.

    Premise 6. was as follows:

    6. ($y)(Cya & Oya & -Qy)
    (our universe had a timeless cause which is wholly distinct from it).

    I assumed that we were all agreed about the existence of some sort of timeless cause of the cosmos, but not about the question of what this timeless cause might be. If you want a rigorous proof of 6., you can find it in Koons’ article at http://www.arn.org/docs/koons/cosmo.pdf . Professor Koons puts it far better than I could.

    Hazel

    Theists have no problem with God, who has no beginning, causing an effect that has a beginning, but you’ve decided without any evidence, just based on your own biases, that an impersonal cause can’t do this.

    As my preceding post makes clear, the real difference between the two cases is that while a personal agent who makes free choices (even if they are timeless ones) might be able to cause the beginning of the cosmos in a way that respects the freedom of the creatures that exist within it, there is no way known for an impersonal cause to do this. For if the impersonal cause’s generation of the cosmos is an act of necessity dictated by its built-in program, then we are no more free than we would be in Newton’s clockwork universe.

    If on the other hand, the impersonal cause’s generation of the cosmos is a random act, then that is no better for us: purely random acts are not free either, and cosmic randomness per se does not enable free choices on our part.

    It is difficult to see what other alternatives you could posit.

    Meanwhile, I’ll try to re-formulate my earlier transcendental argument for God’s personal agency (simplified from Bernard Lonergan’s key insight that the universe is intelligible) in mathematically rigorous logical notation, but that’ll take a bit of time.

  514. Vjtorley:

    As my preceding post makes clear, the real difference between the two cases is that while a personal agent who makes free choices (even if they are timeless ones) might be able to cause the beginning of the cosmos in a way that respects the freedom of the creatures that exist within it, there is no way known for an impersonal cause to do this. For if the impersonal cause’s generation of the cosmos is an act of necessity dictated by its built-in program, then we are no more free than we would be in Newton’s clockwork universe.

    If on the other hand, the impersonal cause’s generation of the cosmos is a random act, then that is no better for us: purely random acts are not free either, and cosmic randomness per se does not enable free choices on our part.

    It is difficult to see what other alternatives you could posit.

    But here you have completely abandoned the standard of putative “logical necessity” articulated above, and have instead chosen one model over the other in light of the supposed consequences of each model in the domain of personal freedom. This is a tacit admission that there is at least one other model that is logically permissible (why not more?), demonstrating that the claim of logical necessity for your original model is a mistaken claim. It also suggests that you are advocating one model over the other not because it is demonstrably true, but because it has consequences you prefer.

  515. Re #515

    Is this the most comments for single post on UD?

    You write:

    assumed that we were all agreed about the existence of some sort of timeless cause of the cosmos, but not about the question of what this timeless cause might be. If you want a rigorous proof of 6., you can find it in Koons’ article at http://www.arn.org/docs/koons/cosmo.pdf . Professor Koons puts it far better than I could.

    I don’t accept 6 and as far as I can see Prof. Koons is quite open that he does not offer a rigorous proof. The best he can offer is excellent empirical evidence that justifies accepting “every non-necessary effect has a cause” as the default position.

    I am not convinced that there is such strong empirical evidence. Is there a cause for the emission of a radioactive particle at a particular moment?

    Even if there is empirical evidence, the big bang is so strange and extreme that we cannot assume that what we commonly observe of events around us also applies to this event. Modern physics has routinely shown that assumptions founded on what we observe from day to day in our own scale of time and space may not apply to extremes.

  516. —-Diffaxial to vjtorley: “This is just intended as a springboard to get the discussion going. Feel free to refine the notation and/or arguments as you wish.”

    No, it is intended as a good-will exercise of complete intellectual honesty in the face of an ideology, which embraces an iron clad “no concession policy.”

    In any case, the trade-offs indicated here is no surprise to those who take logic seriously. One cannot reason at all unless one assumes, AS GIVEN that certain truths already exist. I covered that much earlier and, of course, most of you ignored the point. Indeed, several of you are prepared NOT to accept the proposition that a thing cannot be both truth and false at the same time [and under the same formal circumstances unless someone can prove it to you, which of course cannot be done. We dcn’t reason our way TO these things we reason our way FROM them. Any one who disputes the point cannnot reason his/her way through a paper bag, which explains most of the responses on this thread.

  517. 519 Last paragraph “the trade off indicated”

  518. Mr Mark Frank,

    Thank you for pointing out that Koons is open on this point and others to the lack of iron clad reasoning on his own part, and appeal to ‘statistical’ argumentation based on our own experience. Also, while he tries to answer objections based on quantum mechanics, he is silent on the relevance of special and general relativity, which is to me an amazing lacuna for someone presenting a ‘cosmological’ argument.

    What physics is wont to call a ‘singularity’ is exactly where common sense notions of time and cause break down. The Big Bang is such a singularity. Applying reasoning based on a time dimension to the singularity is applying a model outside its area of applicability, like applying the argument of CS Lewis quoted above to photons. Nothing causes a photon to move. It moves by definition.

    You ask if this is the longest thread on UD. My own experience here is limited, but the “Simulation Wars” thread is longer, I think. But this thread is a great example of civil discourse in the face of disagreement. Thank you to everyone for the human kindness and respect being shown all around! :)

  519. —-Mark Frank: “I don’t accept 6 and as far as I can see Prof. Koons is quite open that he does not offer a rigorous proof.”

    What Prof Koons is trying to say is that surely we can all agree on the fact that something cannot come from nothing, since IF THAT ISN’T TRUE, no rationality is possible in the first place. Of course, Prof. Koons has not experienced some of the commentators on this thread.

  520. Correction of 518. I originally attributed the wrong quote to Diffaxial: However the same answer applies.

    —-Diffaxial to vjtorley: “But here you have completely abandoned the standard of putative “logical necessity” articulated above, and have instead chosen one model over the other in light of the supposed consequences of each model in the domain of personal freedom.”

    No, it is intended as a good-will exercise of complete intellectual honesty in the face of an ideology, which embraces an iron clad “no concession policy.”

    In any case, the trade-offs indicated here is no surprise to those who take logic seriously. One cannot reason at all unless one assumes, AS GIVEN that certain truths already exist. I covered that much earlier and, of course, most of you ignored the point. Indeed, several of you are prepared NOT to accept the proposition that a thing cannot be both truth and false at the same time [and under the same formal circumstances unless someone can prove it to you, which of course cannot be done. We dcn’t reason our way TO these things we reason our way FROM them. Any one who disputes the point cannnot reason his/her way through a paper bag, which explains most of the responses on this thread.

  521. StephenB

    Indeed, several of you are prepared NOT to accept the proposition that a thing cannot be both truth and false at the same time…

    I agreed with this statement. I added that grammatically well formed propositions (which cannot be both true and false) can nevertheless present many obstacles to determining their truth value, the history of discussion surrounding “the present king of France is bald” providing a vivid example.

  522. Mr Vjtorley,

    Yes, my suggestion was arbitrary, though some would argue not implausible. It was offered for two purposes. One, to show that the formal argument was just a program like any computer program that depended completely on its inputs, and was susceptible to GIGO. Two, to show that the generalization by Koons in 5 has no basis at all. Koons says

    The fact that a set of facts has been ordered to some purpose is empirically
    verifiable and does not logically entail (although it may suggest) the existence of any personal intentionality. A teleological law is simply a projectible, empirical
    generalization, which can be used to explain a set of facts by reference to their
    common effects (not their causes). Teleological generalizations do not compete with or contradict causal laws: instead, they partly supervene on them (in the case of certain anthropic generalizations, they entirely supervene on causal
    laws). This supervenience of the teleological on the causal does not make the teleological reducible to the causal, nor any less real or less explanatory than the causal.
    For the sake of this argument, let us presume that we have discovered such teleological generalizations at the level of the cosmos, such as: all physical constants and Big Bang conditions are such as to make possible complex life forms. The cosmos, so characterized, is the effect of the First Cause. We attribute intelligence to human beings because of the teleological generalizations that characterize the actions of normal human beings. Since the effects of the First Cause are strongly analogous to the effects of human action in exactly this respect, we have the strongest possible reason for attributing to God something analogous to intelligence.

    Please excuse the long quote, but you can see for yourself in it that Koons, by phrases like “may suggest”, “for the sake of argument”, and “strongly analogous to” is most definitely not preparing the “strongest possible reason” to attribute what humans call intelligence to the imputed First Cause. As if there were a clear and agreed upon definition of intelligence.

    If our agrument about God is rooted in analogies from our own attributes, it is no wonder that God happens to be personal, intelligent, and have a mind it knows but others cannot. How very human of God! Of course, when Cthulhu reasons about God using the same procedure, God looks remarkably like Cthulhu.

  523. Stephen writes,

    We dcn’t reason our way TO these things we reason our way FROM them. Any one who disputes the point cannnot reason his/her way through a paper bag, which explains most of the responses on this thread.

    Your condescending, smug arrogance on these matters is not appreciated. You have not cornered the market on knowledge or the ability to reason. I don’t know what you hope to gain by insulting those who disagree with you, but I can assure you that respect is not a likely result.

  524. 526

    Preemptive rebuttal to haze: That you think StephenB has not cornered the market on reason shows that you have abandoned the reasoning process entirely. :-)

  525. 527

    I’m still carefully reading the papers. Meanwhile, we can create a shorter version of StephenB’s claims by varying a well-known quote from Richard Dawkins:

    It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution a personal god, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).

    StephenB, is that about right?

  526. Since we are discussing Koons’ paper, I’d like to raise some points about his objections to a large (perhaps infinite) number of universes. Koons objects to a “junky cosmos” as bad science and against Occam’s Razor.

    I don’t see this to be the case. Stephen Wolfram argues strongly in “A New Kind Of Science” that there are some kind scientific discoveries that can only proceed by simulation. It is impossible to reason about the properties of a CA, you just have to run it.

    Indeed, in his exploration of all 256 1-dimensional CAs, he was doing exactly what Koons says is so unlikely – creating every possible universe (CA, in this case), running it forwards a certain number of time steps, and seeing if anything looked interesting. In this way he discovered Rule 110, which is a universal Turing machine.

    John Conway, in creating his famous CA the Game of Life, also had to experiment with the rules before arriving at the ‘laws of nature’ for that CA. Life (the CA) is a very fine tuned universe, and no one remembers all the other universes Conway created, then swept off his Go board when they weren’t doing anything interesting.

    Edward Fredkin argues the same for our universe in his Digital Mechanics book.

    So if Koons would like to proceed by analogy to human creators, the human creators of universes with laws work by exhaustion and enumeration, creating many and keeping one. The junky cosmos starts to look ‘reasonable’! :)

  527. David Kellogg:

    As usual, you confuse rational conviction with irrational arrogance.

    I know it is generally a waste of time to ask my adversaries for a rational defense of anything, since the only thing they have to offer is an irrational defense for their misguided hyperskepticism but, in any case, here goes. Do you have anything at all substantive to say about the proposition that we reason our way FROM self evident truths, which is the substance of my rational conviction, or do you simply resent the fact that someone is willing to state without equivocation that which is obvious to all rational people?

  528. Please, let us avoid ad hominem statements. Mr StephenB has already admitted he has a private definition of rationality. No one should take offense if it doesn’t include them.

  529. I have this vague feeling we’ve discussed this before: the laws of logic work within logical systems, but logical systems themselves don’t produce knowledge.

    To get knowledge about the world, you have to build a model whereby the components of the logical system represent observable components of the world, and then after you have reasoned about those components, you have to go back and test whether your logical conclusions actually match the world.

    If they don’t, something is most likely wrong about the model (unless you actually made a logical mistake), and so you have to refine your model and try again.

    Logic is a tool for manipulating abstract concepts, but if the concepts don’t accurately map the entities which they represent, you can have valid logic and yet no knowledge, or even meaning.

    Is there anything here you disagree with, Stephen?

  530. —-David Kellogg: “It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in [evolution] a personal god, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).”

    —Is that about right StephenB

    I would say that anyone who thinks that something can come from nothing is probably emotionally invested in secularism and, as a result, seriously reduced in their intellectual capacity. [Perhaps, in the spirit of political correcness, we might say, "rationally challenged."]

    Beyond that, I will leave the language of “ignorant,” “stupid,” “wicked,” or “insane,” to Darwinists like Dawkins, from whom your quote was generated, and whose anti-theistic, chance driven Darwinism, except for its honest expressions of atheism, is probably more attractive to you than any formulation ever devised by a theist.

  531. —-Hazel: “I have this vague feeling we’ve discussed this before: the laws of logic work within logical systems, but logical systems themselves don’t produce knowledge.”

    Again, I don’t want lectures. I want you to characterize, describe, or explain the rational foundations for logic. I you don’t know, then just say so. I don’t give people a hard time for saying that “don’t know.” I do, however, give people a hard time for pretending to know something that they don’t.

  532. I’d say this discussion has jumped the shark. Recognizing the scent of futility, wafting our way on the breeze of ad hominem assertions such as “it is generally a waste of time to ask my adversaries for a rational defense of anything” and “emotional investment in secularism results in reduced intellectual capacity,” it’s time to change the channel.

    (That wagon isn’t so easy for Stephen.)

    Click.

  533. I accept the rules of logic. I am sure we disagree about where they come from, but that disagreement is precisely the big topic that we are discussing.

    And if you don’t want lectures you might try not giving them.

    And do you agree with my description of how logic works in conjunction with testable models to produce knowledge?

  534. Re #521 StephenB

    “What Prof Koons is trying to say is that surely we can all agree on the fact that something cannot come from nothing, since IF THAT ISN’T TRUE, no rationality is possible in the first place.”

    Where does he say that? The closest I can find in the paper is where he says that the empirical evidence for the axiom is so great we should treat it as the default position.

  535. —-Hazel: “I accept the rules of logic.”

    I didn’t ask you if you accept them. I asked you if you know anything about their foundation.

  536. At 536, Mark Frank writes of Koons:

    The closest I can find in the paper is where he says that the empirical evidence for the axiom is so great we should treat it as the default position.

    That’s important. Early people did not know that things could not just “appear” out of nothing, it wasn’t until a few hundred years ago that they knew that things like flies didn’t just spontaneously generate, and special creationists to this day believe that creation ex nihilo rather than common descent accounts for the distinctions between species.

    So the conclusion that something cannot come from nothing is actually an inductive conclusion about how this world works, and our success in finding the somethings out of which other somethings come has made it the “default position”.

    Of course we can make it a deductive conclusion by defining “nothing” as “that out of which something cannot come” or “something” as “that which must come from something else.” In this case the conclusion that something cannot come from nothing is a tautological truth, based on our definitions, but now it is not grounded in evidence.

    The difference between these two cases is the heart of the running disagreement between the two major camps in this discussion, and specifically between Stephen and me.

  537. —-Mark Frank: “Where does he say that? The closest I can find in the paper is where he says that the empirical evidence for the axiom is so great we should treat it as the default position.”

    Koon’s exceedingly mild disclaimer was a polite way of saying that we ought to go with his proposition, and that it is a waste of time to consider the alternative without any good reasons, for which there are none. Much less should the alternative be used as an objection against a rational universe of causes and effects or as an excuse to think that something can come from nothing. I just thought I would do a little translating for the hyperskeptics. It’s a small risk, I’ll grant you.

  538. —-Hazel: “That’s important. Early people did not know that things could not just “appear” out of nothing,”

    Things don’t appear out of nothing; they appear out of the unknown. To not know that is to not know a lot.

  539. —-Hazel: Of course we can make it a deductive conclusion by defining “nothing” as “that out of which something cannot come” or “something” as “that which must come from something else.” In this case the conclusion that something cannot come from nothing is a tautological truth, based on our definitions, but now it is not grounded in evidence.”

    That isn’t the way things work, but I can’t explain it to you until you provide the prior information that I asked you about, namely your account of the foundations of logic.

  540. Stephen, you wrote, “I didn’t ask you if you accept them. I asked you if you know anything about their foundation.”

    But I had already written, “I am sure we disagree about where they come from, but that disagreement is precisely the big topic that we are discussing.”

    That is my answer to your question. If you’d like to write a little essay on the foundations of logic, then please do so, but my guess is that my disagreement with your thoughts would be just another example of the same more fundamental disagreements that separate us.

  541. 543

    StephenB writes, “Koon’s exceedingly mild disclaimer was a polite way of saying that we ought to go with his proposition, and that it is a waste of time to consider the alternative without any good reasons, for which there are none.”

    Maybe. But maybe Koon doesn’t want to claim too much, since he’s had a tendency to hyperbole in the past. (He memorably said that Dr. Dembski was “the Isaac Newton of information theory,” a claim that would come as a surprise to information theory.)

    I’m still working through the papers and will have a response in a bit.

  542. 544

    Whoops: Koons not Koon.

  543. —Hazel: “That is my answer to your question. If you’d like to write a little essay on the foundations of logic, then please do so, but my guess is that my disagreement with your thoughts would be just another example of the same more fundamental disagreements that separate us.

    It is less about disagreeing and more about learning. Both science and logic depend on assumptions about rationality. Two big ones are as follows:

    Assumption: Something cannot come from nothing—-the foundation of the principle of cause and effect.

    Assumption: The law of non-contradiction——one of several foundations for logic.

    These are not the only ones, but, presumably, you get the drift.

    We reason FROM these assumptions TO other things. I thought I would point that out, since most of you, at one time or another, have told me that there is no “evidence” for these assumptions, which reflects a startling level of cluelessness.

    The assumptions cannot be proven; they must be accepted even before the discussion begins. To deny them is to abandon reason itself. They are NOT “deductions” or “inductions” or “abductions,” or any other reasoning tool. They are the rational foundation, or the building blocks for the reasoning tools.

    So, when someone tells me that [A] I need to provide evidence for these assumptions, they are also telling me that [B] they have CHOSEN not to accept them [C} they think that they can be proven, and [D] they don’t understand their role as foundational to the whole enterprise.

    That’s a lot not to know. So, when I indicate that my adversaries militate against reason, I am not saying that they have low IQ’s. The point is that they have CHOSEN to be irrational by virtue of the fact that they reject the foundations for science and logic. I will be a little more respectful when they show some sign of life with respect to the matters.

  544. StephenB:

    Assumption: Something cannot come from nothing—-the foundation of the principle of cause and effect.

    Pardon my ignorance, but what exactly is the principle of cause and effect? Are you a determinist?

  545. —-Rob: “Pardon my ignorance, but what exactly is the principle of cause and effect? Are you a determinist?”

    No. Good night all.

  546. Interesting point, R0b.

    Thinking about a post of vj’s this morning, I ask: Is an act of free will an example of something coming from nothing, is it an example of the result of lawful cause-and-effect, or is it an example of something coming from an unknown something (which can’t be nothing because we know, logically, that something can’t come from nothing? Hmmmm. :)

  547. StephenB, I find your principles of right reason to be, um, unique. Is there any literature that expounds on this particular set of principles, which you claim all rational people accept?

  548. —-Rob: “StephenB, I find your principles of right reason to be, um, unique. Is there any literature that expounds on this particular set of principles, which you claim all rational people accept?”

    No, I don’t get my knowledge from one book. Which one of the principles are you having a problem with?

  549. Better yet, list all the principles that you have a problem with.

  550. I’ve got to say – you all are at 550+ posts now, with quite a share of those being a collective all-offense, no-defense (as in, offering no alternative) against what vjtorley and StephenB have laid out, both in terms of a foundation for reason, and a rational explanation of contingencies themselves.

    Since cheerleading is abundant in this thread, I’m happy to chime in with – throughout that one-sided onslaught, VJ and StephenB are not only still standing thanks to their arguments, but so far the best argument against them is an appeal to the Great Unknown and inklings of, oddly, a fideistic approach to reason and related topics. ‘Anything but your answer!’ seems to be the rallying cry here.

    If this is a sample of the great leap forward in rationality that was supposed to bury theism as a reasonable (even vastly preferable, in terms of argument and reasoning) option in the modern world, I’ve gotta say – the New Atheists are in even worse shape than I thought.

  551. 553

    nullasalus [552], you must be reading a different thread — or perhaps you’re saying this just because you’re on StephenB’s side.

    StephenB’s first comment [58] offered no argument but a remarkably simplistic comparison/contrast of “the Christian religion and the Darwinist religion.” The current debate began at [70], with StephenB’s attack on hazel’s carefully stated and provisional atheism as irrational. He said there that “atheism is not, and could never be, a rational position.” Here he offered the proposition that “Once one assumes existence, the fact of a self existent creator is an inescapable conclusion for all those who reason properly.”

    This has been, in my view, the subject of the ensuing debate. The argument has never been one for atheism. It has only been about StephenB’s remarkably arrogant contention that only theists are rational.

    Now, vjtorley is a different story. He offers interesting, carefully reasoned arguments for his view. I don’t think he’s called anybody else irrational though, so I don’t know if he shares StephenB’s rather extreme view on this point.

  552. nullasalas: Thanks for the kind words. Dare I say that its nice to hear the voice of reason. Oops, someone among those who think something can come from nothing, might take that the wrong way. You know how I hate to offend people.

  553. Nah, Dave, I’m reading this exact same thread, and I stand by my words. And I say it after quietly watching this play out for quite a while now.

    I didn’t say the discussion has ever been one -for- atheism. In fact, I pointed out it’s been all-offense to VJ and StephenB’s defense. Besides, next to no one offers arguments in favor of atheism – in fact the modern, New Atheist trend is to avoid the very challenge like the plague. Even panpsychism fares better as a claim to argue positively for.

    And yes, I see the repeated complaints about StephenB’s tone and what a mean guy he is. As someone who has personally engaged in long debate with StephenB before (he can attest to as much), all I can say is – who cares? Why bring it up to me, especially when I made no praise (or denunciation) of anyone’s tone?

    Call StephenB’s (or even VJTorley’s, for that matter) views extreme if you wish. I’m just piping up to say how amused I am at the state of the argument after a very long, devoted, outnumbered offense. Sure, I’m sympathetic to Thomistic and Aristotilean arguments. And hell, the diplomat in me probably wouldn’t go as far as StephenB is. But you don’t need to go as far as he does to bury the New Atheist take on theism anyway.

    Guess we’ll see if this discussion will reach 600+, and if it will devolve to ‘Well, at least admit it’s possible atheism isn’t totally irrational, you meanie! C’mon, be a sport!’

  554. 556

    Well, this has been an interesting exercise. I have read not only Koons’s article “A New Look at the Cosmological Argument” but also a number of other recent texts, both for and against the cosmological argument, to get a sense of how the argument is being made. My sense of the history is that the cosmological argument was more or less dead but has been revived in recent decades by William Lane Craig and a few others.

    Caveats: I’m not a philosopher, and my knowledge of this kind of logical notation is amateurish (though I’d be willing to test my knowedge against opponents other than vjtorley).

    I’ll talk about Koons (which I read first) in this comment, and I’ll follow up on some other issues later. First, I would like to say that this whole discussion has tended to weaken rather than strengthen what faith I have. (Must not be much of a faith then, I can hear some of you saying, and that may be true. But there you go.) I’ve been especially affected by the high stakes StephenB assigns to these arguments, along with his increasingly shrill insistance that his is the only rational view on the issue. Having read a number of what are represented as the best cosmological arguments available, I’m not that impressed. They arguments can be persuasive to some but are not necessarily persuasive to all, or to all reasonable people. StephenB’s forceful assertion that they must be persuasive to all reasonable people seems to me like desperation.

    Now, my take on Koons. Koons is relatively clear. One of the advantages of stating things in formal terms is that the assumptions can be clearly identified. (This is what vjtorley did above. Contrary to StephenB’s assertion, and consistent with vjtorley’s, that really was the beginning and not the end of a kind of discussion, because we could finally clarify what was being asserted.)

    A potential disadvantage of such formalization is that it may offer the illusion that things in philosophy have the precision of mathematics. I would say they don’t have that precision. Referring to a “lemma” in philosophy is an area where formalization offers more than it gives. A lemma in mathematics carries considerable force; calling such a proposition a “lemma” is to bask in the borrowed glory of mathematics. because we’re never going to rid ourselves of conceptual issues, and the cosmologial argument easily shifts between conceptual and logical grounds.

    So: is there anything to take issue with? I’d say yes. First, Koons defines the universe as “the aggregate of all wholly contingent facts” (sec 6.2). I don’t think we know enough about the universe to define it in such a way. Further, that definition smuggles contingency into a definition of the universe in a way that makes a conclusion that the universe is contingent seem necessary when it is not.

    In the same section, Koons offers Lemma 3: “If there are any contingent facts, C is a wholly contingent fact.” Now, I’m not sure I follow this argument completely, but it does seem that Koons reaches this conclusion by the fallacy of the heap. (It also rests on his definition earlier, to which I objected.)

    I also object to Lemma 4, “If there are any contingent facts, C has a cause.” This continues the problem of the heap, and it also does not define “cause” sufficiently. C could have many causes, and the cause or causes could merely be antecedent conditions leading to the creation of the universe as we know it.

    I find section 8.2, “Isn’t causation valid only for the phenomenal world?” wanting. Here Koons replies to an argument of Kant. I don’t fully get that debate, but the discussion opens a hole. Koons says that Kant’s objection

    is not relevant to an argument like mine that rigorously appeals only to empirical, a posteriori arguments. I am not claiming that the axioms of causality I am appealing to are known by us prior to their application to the world of experience. Instead, I appeal to our success in finding causal explanations as empirical evidence for these generalizations.

    The statement implicitly supports something hazel and I have tried (and failed) to get across to StephenB: that is, cause is an inference that is limited to the universe in which we live. Even accepting dubious notions of what it means for the universe to be caused, to require a cause for anything presumes that those making the claim live in the universe we now inhabit (hence the appeal to empricism). Since any pre-existent cause was not limited to the operations of its laws, and since causality is among those laws, it seems to me we’re at an impasse.

    So, anyway, that’s the report of my first, naive pass through Koons. I have some other objections as well, but this note is long enough. I’ll follow up with some comments on other cosmological arguments as well as some critiques I had not anticipated.

  555. nullasalus

    I’ve gotta say – the New Atheists are in even worse shape than I thought…Besides, next to no one offers arguments in favor of atheism – in fact the modern, New Atheist trend is to avoid the very challenge like the plague.

    If memory serves, among major participants, David has identified himself as a theist, I checked in as an agnostic whose argument throughout has been that neither proofs nor disproofs of the existence of God of this kind can succeed, and hazel self-identifies as an atheist. So your reading of the significance of the discussion vis the “new atheists” seems a wee bit off kilter.

    Whether Stephen and VJ’s arguments are still standing should be left to less partisan judges than the participants here.

  556. Diffaxial,

    I’m not a ‘participant’ in this conversation in any real sense, but I thought I’d chime in as a passive observer (And yes, I’m as biased as anyone else). What’s more, no participant here has to be an NA for this exchange not to bode well for them in my view – but then, c’mon. Lately there’s no shortage of atheists (and certainly agnostics) who think the NA’s are a lost cause.

    Like I said, what mostly caught my eye is the all-defense, outnumbered state of VJ and StephenB, and their performance. Everyone on the offense here could be theists (It’s not like every theist agrees with each other, you know) and the result would be the same for me.

    Either way, it was just a compliment and some observation. Let’s see if this can hit the 600+ mark.

  557. 559

    A note on vjtorley’s comment [498]. What parts do I disagree with?

    1. Every individual with specified teleological properties has an intelligent cause which is distinct from it. A number of terms are loose or undefined (individual, specified teleological properties, intelligent cause). Further, the complex form of the claim suggests that it arrives at the end point of an argument. Why make it an assumption?

    2. our universe has specified teleological propertiesI don’t think this fine tuning claim works, but that would take another set of posts.

    3. There exists a cause of our spatio-temporal universe which is intelligent and distinct from it. Besides making “our spatio-temporal universe” an individual, it shifts “intelligent” to another part of the syntax (significantly?) it’s hard to tell. If Premise 1 is debatable, then 3 does not follow.

    4. our universe had a cause which is wholly distinct from it. Koons has not establihsed this.

  558. David Kellogg:

    I will try to be more diplomatic….again!

    Those of us who claim that the universe is contingent have provided very good reasons for holding that view. Philosophically, we know that universes don’t create themselves. Scientifically, we know that this universe began in time. Further, everything around us, everything we know about, and everything we interact with in the universe is contingent. What is the universe, after all, except everything around us on a very large scale? Further still, we have to explain not only how the universe came into being but also how it continues to exist. Those are four very good reasons for insisting that the universe is contingent AND that it had an antecedent cause. As I understand your comments, you have no counter argument except to say that we don’t know enough. Excuse me, but that is not a strong answer.

    On the matter of extending logic beyond creation’s door, I have made these points before but I will frame them a little differently..

    [A] When atheist scientists discovered evidence for the big bang, they became very upset and had to be dragged in kicking and screaming before they could accept the finding. Why was that? It was because it showed first of all that the universe began in time and second that the universe was contingent and third that it pointed toward an antecedent cause. Do you think they were consoled with the hope that causation stopped at creation’s door? The record shows that they were not. They understood all too well what it meant.

    [B] We need not worry about whether science and metaphysics embrace the same principles of cause and effect because metaphysics PROVIDED those principles in the first place. It was the Christian notion that God created a rational universe that launched the scientific enterprise and it was the early scientists conviction that they were “thinking God’s thoughts after him,” that prompted them to follow through in spite of all their early discouragements. If you had told them that the laws of cause and effect are irrelevant to the cause of the universe, they would not have been open to that proposition. The more we learn about science, the more reason we have to believe in a first cause. More evidence may be found in the work, “The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science,” by Burtt.

    On other matters: Kant’s objection is relevant only to the ontological argument. It doesn’t invalidate the cosmological argument in any way. That is all Koon was saying. I could take fifteen paragraphs to make the point and add a lot of symbols, but that is what it all adds up to.

    ——“Even accepting dubious notions of what it means for the universe to be caused, to require a cause for anything presumes that those making the claim live in the universe we now inhabit (hence the appeal to empricism). Since any pre-existent cause was not limited to the operations of its laws, and since causality is among those laws, it seems to me we’re at an impasse.”

    There is nothing dubious about the fact that something cannot come from nothing. It is about as basic as things can get.

    Here is the way it appears to me: You, Diffaxial, and Hazel are simply repeating the same answer to every question regardless of the evidence or reasons provided. Either the terms are too loose or “I don’t think it works” or “that doesn’t follow.” Frankly, it doesn’t take much mental exertion to say, “I’m not convinced,” time after time after time.

  559. I’ve been reading comments posted in the last 24 hours or so. But before I continue, I’d like to address one comment by David Kellogg that leapt out at me, so to speak:

    First, I would like to say that this whole discussion has tended to weaken rather than strengthen what faith I have… Having read a number of what are represented as the best cosmological arguments available, I’m not that impressed. These arguments can be persuasive to some but are not necessarily persuasive to all, or to all reasonable people.

    What I am claiming here is that it is possible for human beings to know that God exists, by using our reason. Knowledge, however, does not imply certitude. Knowledge does not require that one has an airtight argument for one’s conclusion, either. And knowledge does not have to be based on a set of indubitable premises. Indeed, we may properly be said to know many things that we cannot argue coherently for at all.

    So my advice to David Kellogg is this: even if you do not like the cosmological argument, do not despair. The metaphysical grounds for belief in God are notoriously difficult to articulate, and we are fortunate to be living at a time in history when theistic philosophers have had the time and intellectual resources to devote themselves to formulating arguments for God’s existence. But you must never make the mistake of replacing your inner metaphysical compass for some philosopher’s system of metaphysics. For whoever he/she is, that philosopher is probably wrong on some or all points. It would be a terrible intellectual sin to base one’s faith in God on Aristotelian or Thomist metaphysics, impressive as these systems are. At all costs, you need to hang on to your fundamental intuitions about reality, especially the ones that make thinking possible.

    So here’s my gut intuition. What strikes me most about the enterprise of thinking is that it is both dizzyingly ambitious and terrifyingly fragile. It strikes me as nothing less than a miracle that we can think straight about any topic we care to address and understand the world as well as we do, and it also strikes me as a miracle that the world “behaves itself” in such a way that allows us to rationally investigate it – and yet, when we ask what guarantees either of these facts, we can find no answer in the world. If I were an atheist, I’d be constantly expecting my mind, and/or the world, to break down at any moment. After all, what’s to stop either of them from doing so? The appeal of belief in a Personal, Self-Sufficient Agent who maintains the world in existence is that it lays these metaphysical anxieties to rest. As a matter of practical necessity, I have to believe that my mind continually “works,” and that the world continually “works” – or I couldn’t live at all. And yet when I examine the world, I find nothing to ground this belief. Provided that the concept of a self-sufficient all-knowing and all-loving God makes sense, – and as far as I can tell, it seems to – this concept of God makes faith in human rationality and the ongoing success of the scientific enterprise reasonable, despite their fragility. Our minds might be liable to break down; but God’s is not.

    Hold onto gut instincts like these, and you won’t lose your way. It’s easy to get lost in the fog of argumentation, but correct metaphysical insights are required to make a good argument in the first place, especially in speculative matters like God’s existence. We all need to cultivate our insights – for we lose them at our peril.

    Now, what alternatives do non-theists have to offer us? It has been proposed by Hazel and others that events in the world which appear contingent to us are in fact not so; and that the world might have arisen 13.7 billion years ago as a product of Necessity, working in Nature in its own mysterious way. As I understand Hazel, she seems to be proposing that the cosmos could be the output of a timeless underlying program, operating according to timeless principles that we call laws or cosmic connections. Events may appear to us to unfold in time, but the program itself is beyond time. The problem with this view, as I pointed out, is that human reasoning takes place in time. If the events which accompany or go to make up our rational deliberations – and it is irrelevant here whether we regard them as higher-level or lower-level events – take place within time, and all events unfolding within time are the outcome of a Natural Necessity which transcends time (and space), then we have two undesirable consequences: our own rational deliberations are not free, and we have no grounds for believing that they are true, except when they pertain to purely practical matters.

    Diffaxial accuses me of “advocating one model over the other not because it is demonstrably true, but because it has consequences you prefer.” Not so. I’m advocating the God-model over the Natural Necessity model because it offers me a universe where I can think straight and think freely. Show me that the Natural Necessity model does that, and I’ll be impressed. Science itself would not be possible as an enterprise unless we could think straight and think freely; consequently, any hypothesis which entails that we do neither is profoundly anti-scientific. Naturalism is just that. Any self-respecting scientist should shun naturalism like the plague, for it is toxic to pure and unfettered theoretical enquiry.

    Hazel asks:

    Is an act of free will an example of something coming from nothing, is it an example of the result of lawful cause-and-effect, or is it an example of something coming from an unknown something (which can’t be nothing because we know, logically, that something can’t come from nothing?)

    You might like to check out these very interesting links on freedom:

    http://www.informationphilosop.....om/cogito/

    http://www.informationphilosop.....inism.html

    http://www.informationphilosop.....ments.html

    Free choices have causes, but they are not determining causes, as Professor Koons points out in the article I cited above, at http://www.arn.org/docs/koons/cosmo.pdf .

    A great deal of ink has been spilt on this post, on the subject of whether something can come from nothing. My question for the skeptics is: how “nude” is your “nothing”? If your “nothing” excludes even underlying laws of a statistical nature (such as those of quantum mechanics, which permit tiny energy fluctuations for a period which depends on the size of the fluctuation), then what you are saying is that something can just pop into existence with no underlying rhyme or reason, and likewise disappear with no rhyme or reason. In other words, what you’re saying is that naked singularities are real (as opposed to closed ones, such as you’d find inside a black hole). Anything can happen, literally. If naked singularities are real, then couches, books or even perfect replicas of me could just appear out of nowhere. But if that’s what you think, then I don’t think many scientists would agree with you. If you think that belief in naked singularities is more rational than belief in God, well, all I can say is: good luck!

    If on the other hand you acknowledge that the appearance of something from nothing requires at least some kind of underlying law – even one of a statistical nature – then I don’t find your position troubling. All I would ask you to do is to dare to question those laws, and ask what lies beyond them.

    “But this is something that we have no right to do,” I hear you reply. “We may only look for causes in the realm of experience, and not beyond it.” David Kellogg, who champions this line of thinking, contends that “cause is an inference that is limited to the universe in which we live… Since any pre-existent cause was not limited to the operations of its laws, and since causality is among those laws, it seems to me we’re at an impasse.”

    A point of clarification here: “law”, “cause” and “explanation” are all quite different metaphysical notions, and we should not confuse them. A law is a regularity covering a class of events. We should expect any laws we uncover to apply only to our own cosmos – i.e. the world of our own experience. After all, they’re just descriptions, nothing more. They simply describe what regularly happens.

    However, a cause is anything that directly or indirectly helps make some change or state of affairs happen, while an explanation is anything that enables us to properly understand some change or state of affairs – i.e. serves to render it intelligible. In an earlier post(#279), I described “cause” and “explanation” as meta-concepts, and pointed out that “explanation” is metaphysically even deeper than “cause.” These meta-concepts are not impressions formed from experience; nor are they mere regular associations between two or more classes of events occurring together in our experience. If they were, then the debate about the true cause of global warming would be meaningless: any event that correlated well with the warming observed could just as well be called its cause as any other. “Cause” is a metphysical notion that requires us to abstract from experience; it describes something we cannot merely observe. The notion of an “explanation” serves to render intelligible the nexus between cause and effect – which is why scientists attempt to construct models of how global warming works. My point is: in order to understand the world, we need to invoke these meta-concepts, whose scope is not inherently limited to the world, as the notion of “law” is. We should indeed confine our talk of “laws” to the cosmos we live in; but there is no reason why we must do the same with causation and explanation, especially when the cosmos fails to explain its own ability to stay together, and to produce creatures that can reason reliably about it.

    So I ask the empiricists: do you feel no inclination, then, to enquire as to why our human reasoning works so well, despite its apparent liability to break down at any moment? Do you feel no inclination to enquire as to how the world “hangs together” and “behaves itself” so well, despite its apparent liability to fall apart at any moment? Are you really prepared to shrug your shoulders and say, “Well, nature just works. The mind just works. Don’t ask why”? Whatever happened to your sense of curiosity?

    Mark Frank

    You object to my characterizing Koons’ argument as a “rigorous proof”:

    I don’t accept #6 [the proposition that our universe has a timeless cause which is wholly distinct from it - VJT] and as far as I can see Prof. Koons is quite open that he does not offer a rigorous proof. The best he can offer is excellent empirical evidence that justifies accepting “every non-necessary effect has a cause” as the default position.

    “Proof” was an ill-advised word on my part; I should have spoken more clearly. However, Koons certainly makes considerable claims for the status of his argument. He writes in section 5.1:

    [O]ur experience warrants adopting the causal principle as a default or defeasible rule. This means that in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we may infer, about any wholly contingent fact, that it has a cause.

    That, however, is all that is needed for the cosmologically argument to be rationally compelling.

    Perhaps that’s what I should have said in the first place.

    David Kellogg

    You write:

    First, Koons defines the universe as “the aggregate of all wholly contingent facts” (sec 6.2). I don’t think we know enough about the universe to define it in such a way.

    Actually, he doesn’t say that. He does say at the beginning of section 6, “I would go so far as to say that every physical fact is contingent,” but he doesn’t define the universe as the aggregate of all contingent facts (although at the end of part 6 he tentatively identifies it with this aggregate). Instead, what Koons does is define a class C of all wholly contingent facts in Definition 2 of part 6.2. He argues that such a class must exist, on the basis that there is at least one contingent fact in our world. That’s a pretty modest assumption. He then argues, using the principle that every wholly contingent fact has a cause, that C has a Necessary cause which in no way overlaps with it, and in section 7, he goes on to argue that the Necessary cause cannot be an aggregate (else it would be contingent), or have any basic attributes that are contingent, or possess any quantifiable attributes such as dimensions (or once again, it would be contingent) or be located in space and time (or its location, which is a basic attribute of any object, would be a contingent fact). Only then does Koons conclude that the Necessary Cause cannot be a physical object.

    You object that “C could have many causes.” I suggest you re-read section 7, where Koons argues that if the Necessary Cause were a collection of multiple entities who were capable of being separated from each other, it would be contingent and hence not necessary. In other words, if God includes multiple entities, then they are inseparable – in which case, I’d be inclined to call them one entity.

    I should add that if you don’t like Koons arguing from the aggregate to a Necessary Cause, he offers an alternative argument in his lecture notes at http://www.leaderu.com/offices.....cture.html , where he provides (in lecture 10) a revised version of his cosmological argument, which starts with the sum of all the wholly contingent causes of a single contingent fact, and then show that this sum requires a necessary cause.

    You also object to Koons’ treatment of Kant’s objection, “Isn’t causation valid only for the phenomenal world?” I suggest you re-read section 5.2, where Koons argues that the denial of the universality of causation (every wholly contingent fact has a cause) has an unacceptable conseuqence: radical skepticism about the future (the old problem of induction – i.e. will the sun rise tomorrow).

    Mr. Nakashima

    You write:

    Since we are discussing Koons’ paper, I’d like to raise some points about his objections to a large (perhaps infinite) number of universes. Koons objects to a “junky cosmos” as bad science and against Occam’s Razor.

    I don’t see this to be the case.

    You make some valid points in your post, and the book you link to looks very interesting indeed! I haven’t read much of it yet, but liked Friedkin’s assertion that we should be able to understand everything! I should add that I have no problem with God’s creating extra universes for His own purposes – or even for ours (I believe Max Deutsch argues that high-level computing could not work without them).

    On a more serious note, however, Koons’ real point against the junky cosmos is that even if there is one, it doesn’t solve the problem of induction: since there are infinitely many more ways in which the universe can “go wrong” in the future than the number of ways in which it can go right, it makes no rational sense (if we additionally posit that there is no God) to expect the laws of nature to continue to hold tomorrow, as our universe will probably be one of the unlucky ones, despite its lucky track record to date. Anything could happen.

    As far as I can tell, no-one has answered Koons on that vital point.

    Well, that’s enough for today.

  560. What I am claiming here is that it is possible for human beings to know that God exists, by using our reason. Knowledge, however, does not imply certitude. Knowledge does not require that one has an airtight argument for one’s conclusion, either. And knowledge does not have to be based on a set of indubitable premises. Indeed, we may properly be said to know many things that we cannot argue coherently for at all…he appeal of belief in a Personal, Self-Sufficient Agent who maintains the world in existence is that it lays these metaphysical anxieties to rest….Hold onto gut instincts like these, and you won’t lose your way. (etc.)

    Here, and throughout this post, you are in full retreat from the assertion that has been at issue for the most of this thread. All the while you and yours are deep in self-congratulations for your great victory.
    Lets be clear: You and Stephen have repeatedly claimed that your conclusions follow virtually axiomatically from your premises, and Stephen in particular has attributed our unwillingness to walk his garden path of pre-laid, putatively air-tight logical steps to irrationality, unintelligence, or the inability to understand the most basic principles of logic. The core of virtually all of our responses and assertions has been to argue that this sort of axiomatic certitude does not follow in his domain. Now you agree. This is progress.

    Diffaxial accuses me of “advocating one model over the other not because it is demonstrably true, but because it has consequences you prefer.” Not so. I’m advocating the God-model over the Natural Necessity model because it offers me a universe where I can think straight and think freely

    Yes I do. And not only does this post further exemplify advocacy motivated by preferences for consequences (in spades), as well as admit gut feelings and inarticulable metaphysical intuitions into the fray (can a “moral compass” be far behind?), it articulates yet another, ellaborately dubious set of preferred consequences. Your argument that science and rationality would not be possible in the absence of God does no more than beg a great many questions.

  561. 563

    Thanks to StephenB and vjtorely for their responses.

    StephenB [560], your four reasons for insisting that the universe itself is contingent are not bad, but they are not compelling. Reason 1 (“Philosophically, we know that universes don’t create themselves”) fails for the reasons I have mentioned before — we don’t know much at all about “universes.” We are entirely within the frame of reference of a particular universe. Reason 2 (“Scientifically, we know that this universe began in time”) is irrelevant, since the cause of this universe could be a previous universe or a Big Crunch or several other possibilities. Reason 3 (“everything around us, everything we know about, and everything we interact with in the universe is contingent. What is the universe, after all, except everything around us on a very large scale?”) exhibits the Fallacy of Composition. Reason 4 (“we have to explain not only how the universe came into being but also how it continues to exist”) — huh? Maybe you have to explain that, but it doesn’t bother me in the least.

    vjtorley [561]: thanks for your expressions of concern. I’m actually fine. It does depress me to see people hang a belief in God on the very thin peg of philosophical argument.

    As for the difficulty of thinking, I agree, though I would not privilege philosophical thinking above other forms. (In fact, I would say that in an important sense philosophy is preceded by rhetoric, though rhetoric does not “ground” philosophy. But that’s another debate.) I think StephenB (and to lesser degree you) should abandon the pretense that you’re teaching your opponents how to think.

    To your specific responses. Koons’s identification of the universe with “the aggregate of all wholly contingent facts” may seem to be a conclusion rather than a premise, but that’s because it amounts to a circular definition. Further, his use of the term “contingent” is slippery, and his argument that a cause for this aggregate must be wholly different from the cause(s) for any part of it is a consequence of this slipperiness. You suggest that I “re-read section 5.2, where Koons argues that the denial of the universality of causation (every wholly contingent fact has a cause) has an unacceptable conseuqence: radical skepticism about the future (the old problem of induction – i.e. will the sun rise tomorrow).” I have read that section and arguments like it, and I find such jerimiads about the slippery slope for skepticism hollow (such arguments have been eviscerated by any number of relativist philosophers).

    Diffaxial [462], you ask “can a “moral compass” be far behind?” Too late! vjtorley: “you must never make the mistake of replacing your inner metaphysical compass for some philosopher’s system of metaphysics.” vjtorley also says: “If I were an atheist, I’d be constantly expecting my mind, and/or the world, to break down at any moment. After all, what’s to stop either of them from doing so?” There are answers to those questions — reasoned defenses of the sufficiency of our knowledge from a materialist framework — but those are not the focus of the current debate.

  562. Mr Vjtorley,

    Thank you for your lengthy post. I’m glad you found the book interesting! I read it several years ago and I thought it was quite enjoyable as well.

    However, if we could return to some of my criticisms of Koons’ paper, I would like your opinion. It seems that in your recent post also, you make frequent appeals to common sense, to our experience as a guide. I think this is exposing one of the most fundamental problems of the argument so far.

    We know very well that the universe, at extremes, does not behave at all like our intuition based on our common sense experience. Quantum mechanics, special relativity, general relativity, Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem is a good list to start with. And while evolution does give us good reason to think that our minds contain good models of the universe (for common values of our ancestor’s experiences), evolution does not warrant the same for the extremes.

    We still suffer from optical illusions, even after 500 million years of eye evolution. Our mental architecture is quite hapazard, and it is vastly suprising at times that we reason as well as we do.

    But at the same time, I am not worried that the world will end tomorrow. Perhaps I don’t know this absolutely, but we’ve never seen a change in the values of the laws, constants or dimensionality of the universe on any scale that would warrant such a fear. And I’m not going to worry that God will stop thinking the universe into continued existence if I haven’t got any clear evidence of God in the first place.

  563. I’m not having time to keep up here, but I am putting together some thoughts for a longer response.

    But I’d like to say that this objection about worrying about whether the universe will keep on keeping on seems silly to me. We have extremely ample evidence that the world keeps functioning moment to moment as it has done in the moments before, and therefore that continuing in existence is one of the properties of the universe irrespective of how it came into existence.

    The idea that God is a necessary requirement for upholding existence (if indeed anyone is arguing that) seems even more unlikely than some of the other “necessities” that are being argued here.

    So I agree completely with Nakashima when he says,

    And I’m not going to worry that God will stop thinking the universe into continued existence if I haven’t got any clear evidence of God in the first place.

  564. StephenB:

    No, I don’t get my knowledge from one book. Which one of the principles are you having a problem with?

    For starters, can you tell me what book you got the principle “something cannot come from nothing” from? If I need to accept it in order to be rational, I’d like to read up on exactly what it means. And does the book explain the logic by which “something can come from nothing” entails that anything is possible? It seems to me that I can envision a self-consistent reality in which some things can come from nothing but other things cannot, and therefore not everything is possible.

  565. 567

    Three minor thoughts on the issue of contingency.

    First, we have all tended to mingle the cosmological and first cause arguments in this thread, but that may be significant, suggesting that they are entangled philosophically as well.

    Second, as I said earlier, I don’t see what logically compels a person to think that the universe itself is contingent. I have read cases for this, including Koons, but every one extrapolates from parts to whole and moves (implicitly or explicitly) outside the only frame of reference we have. Others (such as Stephen Hawking) have argued that the universe may not be contingent, that “space and time together might form a finite, four-dimensional space without singularities or boundaries, like the surface of the earth but with more dimensions” (A Brief History of Time, page 173). Hawking goes on: “[I]f the universe is completely self-contained, with no singularities or boundaries, and completely described by a unified theory, that has profound implications for the role of God as creator” (174). Hawking is suggesting that the universe may well be what we have been calling non-contingent. Now, I don’t think we do or maybe will ever know enough to know this, but the possibility that the universe is noncontingent does not seem unreasonable. If that is the case, the contingency of the universe need not be the only reasonable conclusion.

    Third, I don’t see why the cause (or causes) for a contingent universe must be noncontingent. Again, this is not my belief; I’m talking about the strength of the argument. (I tend to think philosophical arguments about God are inherently presumptuous.) I strongly agree with StephenB [560] when he notes that “everything around us, everything we know about, and everything we interact with in the universe is contingent.” Quite. Given that every bit of our experience is contingent, why can’t everything be just contingent?

  566. David Kellogg:

    Thanks for the response. In commenting on my last post you did, perhaps unintentionally, leave out some of my arguments.

    Let’s discuss quickly those that you did.

    —–On the maStephenB [560], your four reasons for insisting that the universe itself is contingent are not bad, but they are not compelling.

    ——Reason 1 (”Philosophically, we know that universes don’t create themselves”) fails for the reasons I have mentioned before — we don’t know much at all about “universes.” We are entirely within the frame of reference of a particular universe.”

    If no universe can create itself, then our universe did not create itself. If a universe can create itself, anything can create itself at any time. Your clone and my clone can just pop into existence. A steel wall can suddenly appear in front of your car as you are driving at sixty miles an hour. Once you dispense with the idea that everything has an explanation, anything goes, and reason has left the building, or as I have stated with infamy, irrationality enters the building. If you like, call it the reciprocal of the principle that something cannot come from nothing.

    Let me make a quick comment about epistemology. Our knowledge is not solely a product of sense impressions. [Pardon the lecture mode] Indeed, we know a great many things that we cannot prove by way of measurement or observation.. I know for example that you are human, just as I am. If I met you, I would experience that which is unique about you with my senses, [i.e. the color of your hair, your features etc] and I would also come to know your humanity with my intellect [the universal, that which we have in common]. Many of the things that we know with our intellect must be assigned to that realm of universals. We can’t just shrug then off on the grounds that they cannot be proven by science.

    Many of these points I have stressed, perhaps in ways that some deem insufferable, but only as a means of trying to break through what I perceive to be, perhaps unfairly, an in penetrable and ideological wall. To believe that our knowledge ends with sense experience is to end the debate right then and there. That means that we cannot perceive any objective universals that correspond with subjective images in our minds. Well, that is just another way of saying that we cannot know anything at all about the real world. Naturally, if we can’t know anything at all about the real world, then we cannot know anything about contingent universes or necessary causes or any other such thing. In essence, I think that this point is the 800 pound elephant in the room–Kantian skepticism. WE are not really arguing about metaphysics at all, we are arguing about epistemology. To accept Kantianism is to choose not to accept the testimony of our own minds. From my perspective, that is where you seem to be.

    You also seem perplexed by my comment that the universe must not only come into being but must also be sustained. Would you ask that question about your own body or someone else’s? Would you say to a newborn baby, for example, “Well, you’ve made it pal, good luck.” Not only do we have to be brought into existence, we must have water, air, optimum temperature, etc.” Why do you assume that universes need not be sustained? Clearly, all living human beings are contingent, why would you think that contingency suddenly becomes less of an issue at the level of the universe where more things than ever are in need of continuing to exist? Indeed, if the universe is winding down, as many claim is the case, does that no scream “contingency?”

    Again, you can take any reasoned argument and say, “Sorry, I am not convinced.” Still, in the light of all that has been presented, however, it seems pretty hollow.

    On the matter of extending logic beyond creation’s door, I have made several points that continue to go unanswered. Here are two:

    [A] When atheist scientists discovered evidence for the big bang, they became very upset and had to be dragged in kicking and screaming before they could accept the finding. Why was that? It was because it showed first of all that the universe began in time and second that the universe was contingent and third that it pointed toward an antecedent cause. Do you think they were consoled with the hope that causation stopped at creation’s door? The record shows that they were not. They understood all too well what it meant.

    So, I put it to you. Why did these scientists all assume that causation was not limited to the universe that they had hoped was self contained and in no need of a creator? Why were the atheists upset? We know for a fact that they were.

    [B] We need not worry about whether science and metaphysics embrace the same principles of cause and effect because metaphysics PROVIDED those principles in the first place. It was the Christian notion that God created a rational universe that launched the scientific enterprise and it was the early scientists conviction that they were “thinking God’s thoughts after him,” that prompted them to follow through in spite of all their early discouragements. If you had told them that the laws of cause and effect are irrelevant to the cause of the universe, they would not have been open to that proposition. The more we learn about science, the more reason we have to believe in a first cause. I recommend, “The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science,” by Burtt.

    This point has been left untouched, so, in the interests of fair dialogue, I raise it again, because the problem persists. How do you say that [A] has nothing to do with [B] when [A] comes from [B].

  567. Diffaxial

    Referring to my previous post (#561), you write:

    Here, and throughout this post, you are in full retreat from the assertion that has been at issue for the most of this thread…
    Let’s be clear: You and Stephen have repeatedly claimed that your conclusions follow virtually axiomatically from your premises.

    With the greatest respect, I suggest that you read my posts a little more carefully. I did indeed maintain in my previous post (#561)that knowledge does not require certainty, indubitable premises or airtight argumentation. I also asserted that metaphysical intuitions about reality are more certain than any system of philosophy – even my beloved Aristotelian/Thomist system. I recommended to David Kellogg that he hang on to those metaphysical intuitions, no matter what. And I would say all of those things again.

    I also said that we were truly fortunate to be living at a time in history when theistic philosophers have had the time and intellectual resources to devote themselves to formulating arguments for God’s existence. And they’re pretty good arguments, I might add (see my comments below, where I praise the intellectual cogency of Koons’ Uncaused Cause argument).

    So why do I elevate metaphysical intuition above all these arguments? For two reasons. First, reliance on argumentation alone is smug and elitist. It implies that the vast majority of people who have ever lived have had no rational grounds for belief in God – in other words, they were “stupid, stupid, stupid!” (that’s a quote from a John Grisham novel, in case you’re wondering). You can have good reasons for believing something, even if you can’t articulate why.

    Second, as someone who has studied the arguments, I know they’re much more intellectually refined now than when they were first formulated. I do not regard the arguments in their present form as the best possible articulation of the grounds for belief in God. They will be further refined in the future – and it will be our metaphysical intuitions, which we are always trying to articulate more clearly, that help improve them.

    In the same post (#561), I approvingly quoted Koons’ assertion that the cosmological argument is rationally compelling. I conceded to Mark Frank that the phrase “rigorous proof” (which I carelessly tossed off in #515) might be the wrong term to use to describe the argument – the term “proof,” after all, has connotations of indubitability in popular parlance. But I added that Koons’ cosmological argument for an Uncaused Cause was a pretty cogent one – the only premises it assumed that an atheist might quibble with were the occurrence of one contingent fact (pretty hard to argue with that!) and the principle that every wholly contingent fact has a cause (you can argue with that, but if you do, you end up with radical skepticism about the future, which places science itself in jeopardy).

    Now compare this with what I wrote way back in post #112, on the subject of certainty:

    Let us return to the objection that the arguments for God’s existence are not compelling, so we cannot know if God is real. The unexamined premise in the foregoing objections to the cosmological argument is that knowledge must be certain and incontrovertible, or else it is not truly knowledge. I have to say that this claim is simply wrong, and it is precisely here that Leibniz and the rationalist philosophers erred. In aiming for absolute certitude, they were aiming too high. There are many things we can properly claim to know in everyday life, yet most of them cannot be established with this degree of certitude.

    Our law courts operate with a concept of “certain beyond reasonable doubt.” So my question is: why should we not invoke a similar standard of evidence in matters pertaining to religious belief?

    Is this what you call a “full retreat”??!! On the contrary, I would say that I have maintained a remarkably consistent line, throughout this post.

    I have also made it clear that while the argument to an Uncaused Cause is rationally compelling (provided you accept the principle that every wholly contingent event has a cause), the argument that God is a Personal Agent rests on the critical insight that only an Intelligent Agent can guarantee that the universe will remain intelligible to the human mind – in other words, that both thought and the laws of nature will not break down. The force of this point would strike any reasonable person with an open mind; but nowhere did I use the term “compelling” to describe this step in the argument.

    In your post above, you object to this line of argument as question-begging and “motivated by preferences for consequences”, and you objected to my statement that “I’m advocating the God-model over the Natural Necessity model because it offers me a universe where I can think straight and think freely”:

    Your argument that science and rationality would not be possible in the absence of God does no more than beg a great many questions.

    Let me be clear: mere preferences have nothing to do with my opting for theism. My decision is prompted by something far more basic than that: a striving for sanity. The logical consequences of disbelief in God are that the laws of nature could break down at any moment, that our rational deliberations are not free, and our rational deliberations are not trustworthy, except when they pertain to purely practical matters. Believing all that would be enough to drive any normal person round the twist, as I have repeatedly stated on this thread.

    So here’s my challenge for you, Diffaxial:

    EITHER (a) declare plainly that you are prepared to accept these crazy consequences, and that science is therefore a vastly over-rated enterprise…

    OR (b) show us why belief in induction, the laws of nature and the validity of human reasoning in theoretical matters (including scientific theories) is warranted even for a dyed-in-the-wool atheist.

    We’re waiting! Which is it, (a) or (b)?

    Mark Frank

    I have used the term “metaphysical compass” in my post above (#561) but I nowhere spoke of a moral one, as Diffaxial predicted that I would. I would be grateful if you would kindly refrain from putting assertions into my mouth that I have not made on this thread.

    You acccuse Koons of being slippery in his definition of “contingent.” Not so. Here is what he has to say on the subject of contingency, in section 6.1:

    In saying that a fact is contingent, I am saying much more than merely that the corresponding proposition is neither logically true nor logically false. A contingent fact is one that is actual but could have been non-actual, where the relevant notion of possibility is that of broadly metaphysical possibility. Broadly metaphysical possibility is the fundamental form of possibility, of which all other kinds (physical, historical, legal, etc.) are qualifications or restrictions.

    He then goes on to argue that attempts by logical positivists to reduce metaphysical possibility to mere logical possibility have failed.

    Nowhere else does Koons offer a definition of “contingent,” so I have to treat your claim of a slipperiness on Koons’ part with some skepticism.

    Koons kindly offers a concrete illustration of exactly what he has in mind by “contingent” at the beginning of section 6:

    Besides the logical principles presented above, the cosmological argument depends on only one factual premise: that there exists a contingent fact. For example, suppose there are an odd number of molecules in my pencil at the present moment: surely there could have been an even number. A single contingent fact of this kind is all that I need, although I believe that nearly every fact with which we are acquainted is contingent. I would go so far as to say that every physical fact is contingent [italics mine - VJT].

    So far from being slippery, Koons takes great pains here to distinguish his own metaphysical beliefs from the more much modest premises he requires for his cosmological argument to work.

    You also accuse Koons of a “circular definition” in his identification of the universe with the aggregate of wholly contingent facts. I repeat: there is no such definition in the whole of Koons’ article. Rather, Koons argues in Corollary 5 of section 7 that no measurable attribute can be had by necessity. Here is the critical passage:

    Any attribute that is measurable participates in the structure of the more and the less. The more and the less constitute a continuous spectrum. Consequently, it seems reasonable to assume that for any measurable attribute A, where A consists in having determinable D to degree MU, and any being x that has A, there is some degree EPSILON such that it is possible for x to have D to degree MU minus EPSILON or MU + EPSILON. Therefore, no measurable attribute can be had by necessity. [italics mine - VJT].

    Koons is not saying: I can imagine the quantity having a different value; therefore it’s contingent. Rather, he’s saying: IF you maintain that some measurable quantity is not contingent, then you have to maintain that it can’t possess any other value – not even one which differs by even the tiniest amount. Koons finds this implausible – and so do I.

    Koons goes on to argue that God is not essentially located in space and time (and hence not a physical object), on the grounds that if God were essentially located in space and time, then the location of God (or at least, God’s parts) would be contingent. Once again, the point is the same as the one made above in connection with quantities: to maintain the contrary is to maintain (most implausibly) that God’s physical location could not vary by even a micrometer to the left or right.

    Later in section 7, Koons alludes to reasons for treating the entire cosmos as wholly contingent: in treating of the teleological argument, he discusses the possibility (which he raises purely for the sake of argument) that “all physical constants and Big Bang conditions” may be such as to permit complex life forms. I’ve had a lot of experience in reading philosophical articles, so I think I can see what he is getting at here. He’s simply working from the commonly accepted scientific premise that every basic fact about the world is quantifiable and measurable. The reference to “constants and Big Bang conditions” should make that clear. But Koons has already argued in section 7 above that quantifiable attributes are wholly contingent: to maintain otherwise entails that they cannot possess even slightly different values – even, say, different by 0.000000000001%, which is implausible.

    Now we can see where Koons is coming from, in section 8.1, where he speaks of the world as a wholly contingent fact, and in section 8.6, where he asserts that “the cosmos itself is a wholly contingent fact.” The world is quantifiable; that’s why it’s contingent.

    In short, the charge of circularity is misplaced. Koons’ article requires careful reading in places to follow his train of thought; but it is nowhere circular.

    In a previous post, you also accused Koons of committing the fallacy of composition. Now look. The guy is a professor of philosophy. Accusing a professor of philosophy of committing the fallacy of composition is like accusing your dentist of not knowing the difference between a molar and a canine. And the accusation is all the more implausible when he addresses the very charge you make in his article (section 8.6).

    Finally, you quote and attempt to refute the central assertion I have made throughout this thread, that disbelief in God has fatal consequences for human reasoning on theoretical matters (including science itself):

    vjtorley also says: “If I were an atheist, I’d be constantly expecting my mind, and/or the world, to break down at any moment. After all, what’s to stop either of them from doing so?” There are answers to those questions — reasoned defenses of the sufficiency of our knowledge from a materialist framework — but those are not the focus of the current debate…

    I find such jeremiads about the slippery slope for skepticism hollow (such arguments have been eviscerated by any number of relativist philosophers).

    References, please? Throughout this thread, I have been very generous with my links to articles of interest; I suggest you direct me to one of these enlightened relativists. (Perhaps they’d care to enlighten Alvin Plantinga, too!)

    For the point I’m making is a simple one: notwithstanding the fact that the sun has risen every morning for the past 4.54 billion years, we have no reason to believe that it will rise tomorrow, if we reject belief in God. Koons highlights one reason to distrust induction, for those who happen to believe in the multiverse:

    [T]he simplicity and regularity of natural law is … an artifact of observer selection…

    …Among the universes that agree with all of our observations up to this point in time, the number that go on to break this generalization is far greater than the number that continue to respect it.

    Additionally, I would say that the very notion that nature is “reliable” rests upon an anthropmorphism: that Nature is a creaure of settled habits, and that it is trustworthy. But nature has no habits, settled or otherwise; and it cannot keep its word.

    Until now, I have been very kind to the skeptics on this thread, by letting them get away with their talk of “natural necessity” – be it of the laws of nature or the Tao, or what have you. But now I have to ask: what do you mean by necessity? What makes anything necessary, on your scheme of things? Necessity is, after all, a metaphysical notion: how do you acquire this notion in the first place (a genuine puzzle if you are of a Humean bent) and what warrants the ascription of necessity, on your scheme?

    Justify yourselves!

    Mr. Nakashima

    You ask what “intelligence” means, when ascribed to God. There are any number of good definitions that might appeal to you; as a first approximation, I could say that anything which can create a code for storing information is intelligent. (You might be tempted to reply that computers could be programmed to do that, and I would reply, “That’s one reason why they’re not intelligent; the other being the fact that they’re not even alive.”)

    But if you like, I’ll offer you this definition: a Being is intelligent if it is capable of faithfully sending and transmitting messages on request, using a code(s) that it has created.

    On this definition, a liar is intelligent: even if he/she is never faithful, he/she is capable of being such. The ascription of fidelity to a computer, on the other hand, makes no sense: computers can neither keep nor break their word.

    As the foregoing definition employs formal rather than empirical terms, which have the additional merit of being familiar to people in IT circles, I don’t see any problem with applying it to God.

  568. Stephen B

    We are not really arguing about metaphysics at all, we are arguing about epistemology.

    Spot on!

  569. —– David: “I don’t see why the cause (or causes) for a contingent universe must be noncontingent.”

    —–“Again, this is not my belief; I’m talking about the strength of the argument.”

    I am very confused by those two statements in the same correspondence. What exactly do you “believe” about the matter irrespective of the strength of the argument? If, as you say in your second statement, you don’t believe what is in your first statement, what is it exactly that you do believe on this matter.

    —–“(I tend to think philosophical arguments about God are inherently presumptuous.) I strongly agree with StephenB [560] when he notes that “everything around us, everything we know about, and everything we interact with in the universe is contingent.” Quite. Given that every bit of our experience is contingent, why can’t everything be just contingent?”

    Please take a position on this. Earlier you disagreed with Koon’s assumption that the universe is contingent. Now, in order to reduce all of reality to contingency, you assume that the universe may be contingent?

    Are you trying to say that you agree with me on all matters except for the level of certitude involved? In other words, are you saying that, beyond a reasonable doubt, we can reason that the universe is contingent and that it requires a necessary first cause, but I cannot go all the way with StephenB, who says it “must” be so?” Is that what you are saying? If so, let’s compromise the point and end the thread. Can we both say that, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” a contingent universe indicates a necessary first cause.

  570. Just to reiterate – for me positing a first uncaused cause (although not necessarily the immediate cause of our universe) has not been the question, The issue has been the claim that logically, or even beyond a reasonable doubt, that first cause has to be a personal first cause, with attributes such as will and foresight. That is the point that I don’t believe is true – that we necessarily know that the uncaused cause is like that.

  571. Mr Vjtorley,

    That is an interesting definition of intelligence, but not the one that Koons seems to be using in his paper. I’m still having a hard time following the inference from 5 that a non-human maker of objects with arbitrary specific teleological properties must be intelligent.

  572. 574

    David Kellogg,

    “I tend to think philosophical arguments about God are inherently presumptuous.”

    I’m curious, David, how do you gain any knowledge of the God that you believe in? Is it directly from some holy writ? or is it from somewhere else?

  573. 575

    So many things to respond to! I can’t possibly take them all up. I’ll say something about the specifics as time permits.

    A quick correction: in [569], the second part of vjtorley’s response is to me, not Mark Frank.

    Clive [574], I’d define my experience of God in more or less mystical terms. I don’t think I have much in the way of knowledge of God (though I thought I did when I was a more traditional Christian). I do have a kind of sacred experience. Is there enough for you to mock in that?

  574. vj writes, at 569,

    For the point I’m making is a simple one: notwithstanding the fact that the sun has risen every morning for the past 4.54 billion years, we have no reason to believe that it will rise tomorrow, if we reject belief in God.

    The fact that it has risen day after day for centuries doesn’t count as a reason?

    And how does belief in God change the picture? I would find it much easier to believe that God might decide for the sun not to come up tomorrow (if I believed in God) than I would to believe all the laws of physics etc. will somehow fail by sunrise tomorrow.

    By this same reasoning, I have no reason to believe that a dropped ball will fall next time I drop one, which I find a untenable proposition.

    I know that a theistic belief is that God not only created the universe but that he upholds it, including all of it that we see as lawful behavior in nature, continually by his will. But this is a large statement of faith, and not at all a necessary conclusion.

    Perhaps I am misunderstanding you, but if you are really saying that one who doesn’t believe in God has no reason to believe that the universe will go on as it has been going, then I think you are really wrong.

    vj writes, as part of an explanation,

    Koons highlights one reason to distrust induction, for those who happen to believe in the multiverse: “[T]he simplicity and regularity of natural law is … an artifact of observer selection……Among the universes that agree with all of our observations up to this point in time, the number that go on to break this generalization is far greater than the number that continue to respect it.

    I don’t follow this. Multiverses have nothing to do with this. This is the universe we observe, and we observe some regularities so, well, regularly, that to doubt that they will continue would be irrational.

    vj writes,

    Additionally, I would say that the very notion that nature is “reliable” rests upon an anthropmorphism: that Nature is a creaure of settled habits, and that it is trustworthy. But nature has no habits, settled or otherwise; and it cannot keep its word.

    Again, backwards, to me. Human beings are quite whimsical and untrustworthy – habits are one small tool for keeping ourselves in check. I don’t see human habits as a good metaphor for nature. On the other hand, God is an anthropomorphism – a projection of a particular view of human beings upon the world. God as a willful being could cause the sun to stand still or the ball to drop, but as an atheist I don’t consider that a possibility, so I am confident, to a very high degree of probability, that neither of those will happen

    Last, vj writes,

    Until now, I have been very kind to the skeptics on this thread, by letting them get away with their talk of “natural necessity” – be it of the laws of nature or the Tao, or what have you.

    I did a search and found that you are the only person here who has used the phrase “natural necessity”, so I am not sure what you are referring to here.

    I have not been arguing that any particular view of the world is “necessary”, or that any part or attribute of the universe is necessary. I have been arguing that the claim that any rational person will find the arguments for God necessarily and logically compelling, is wrong.

  575. 577

    David,

    I appreciate your answer. I’m not trying to be mocking. I do, however, wonder why you think that you have less knowledge of God now as by comparison to when you were a Christian. What are you using as your basis of comparison between your current lack of knowledge and your (as it seemed to you at the time) more thorough knowledge when you were a more traditional Christian? I’m also curious about your sacred experience. But if you don’t want to expound on your experience, I understand and respect that.

  576. 578

    Clive [577], I don’t mind. I still consider myself a Christian. However, if a time machine allowed my evangelical self of twenty-five years ago to confront myself today, the 1984 self would pronounce the 2009 self a non-Christian. He would make that pronouncement, in part, based on his presumed knowledge of God.

    It’s hard to talk about such a gradual shift in terms that translate to other people. I will say that, while many things pushed me away from traditional faith, a serious engagement with poetry (as student, scholar, and writer) kept me from abandoning spirituality entirely. Among the things poetry values are mystery, contradiction, story, relationship, language — all things that the person of Jesus values in the synoptic gospels. These are also crushed by traditional philosophy and theology (“Desire under the boot-heel of the mind,” as I put it in one poem). So maybe “mystical” isn’t the right way to describe my faith experience but “poetic” or even “literary.”

  577. Vjtorley #569

    I think you have confused me with some other person. Most of what you write does not relate to anything I have written. For example, I have not made any comments about morality in this thread or accusing Koons of being slippery.

    However, I would like to pick up on the issue of what is meant by necessary and contingent. I do think there is an important problem with the definition of necessary versus contingent in Koons’ paper and throughout the Cosmological argument generally. No one who is presenting the argument seems to be able to define “necessary” any more than “metaphysically necessary” as though that were clear. You write that metaphysical possibility is the fundamental form of possibility – but that hardly clarifies what you mean.

    Later on you challenge someone (I don’t think it is me)

    “what do you mean by necessity? What makes anything necessary, on your scheme of things”

    My answer to this is the same as I have written elsewhere. ‘Necessary’ and ‘contingent’ are words that only make sense relative to some kind of constraint which may be stated explicitly or implied. So when Koon quotes the example of the number of molecules in a pencil being odd it really does not help. The “could have” makes no sense unless you add some context. It might mean there is no law of nature preventing an even number of molecules or that the production process is just as likely to lead to an even number as an odd number. On the other hand if the pencil is part of an experiment which sorts pencils into those with odd and even numbers of molecules – then this statement might be false.

    I don’t believe in any absolute metaphysical kind of necessity. And that’s why I struggle with the whole cosmological argument.

  578. —-David Kellogg: “I still consider myself a Christian.”

    One of the most important elements of Christianity is is reasonableness. Romans 1:20 and Psalm 19 point out that God’s handiwork has been made manifest so that all can detect it and that none are without excuse. For better or worse, you hold the opposite point of view. In your judgment not only does nature not prove God’s existence, it doesn’t even need God at all. So, if you are identifying with Christinity, it must be solely a matter of fideistic sentiment, because there would not seem to be any meeting of the minds between yourself and your God.

  579. 581

    David,

    You know, C. S. Lewis was a literary man who also wrote poetry, though his prose is considered much better than his poetry. But the point is that he loved it too, and saw things, even in his philosophy in literary terms. I’m reading a book right now called The Bright Shadow of Reality: Spiritual Longing of C. S. Lewis by Corbin Scott Cornell, who, when he wrote the book, was a professor of English at the University of Florida. It deals with the subject of a particular kind of longing, called sehnsucht in the German, which is the word Lewis used. This was a common theme in Lewis’s writings, and whether you agree or disagree with the theological implications that such a longing may have, it is at least very interesting to consider this sort of longing for its own sake, because it is very mysterious. And the book that I mention deals with this theme as it is presented in literature. What makes me think of this is your line “Desire under the boot-heel of the mind.” The Desire you mention might be the sehnsucht type, that almost eludes any explanation by the mind.

    Also, Chesterton was a poet and literary man. What preserves mystery, to me, in nature at large, is the chapter The Ethics of Elfland, from his book Orthodoxy. If you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend it.

  580. 582

    Clive, one more side note: If I seemed annoyed or expecting to be mocked, it’s because there’s a lot in the attitude on this thread that exemplifies what drove me away from traditional faith in the first place.

    What basically has me ticked off is a pattern of false dialogue that dismisses the experience or perspective of others as invalid. Indeed, that pattern on this thread seems actually intended to produce such dismissal: a series of baiting questions are offered which set the terms of debate so that the opponent is labeled as either irrational or nonresponsive. The pattern was exactly the same in earlier discussions of relativism.

    I have not and will not argue against theism, but the idea that a person who does not accept a fairly abstract argument in favor of theism must be irrational strikes me as both absurd and arrogant. That is what I have been arguing against. My positive claim is that lots of people have good enough reasons to believe or disbelieve a whole host of things. In discussing the existence of God, rationality is not and has never been at stake.

  581. 583

    Quoting myself now: “If I seemed annoyed or expecting to be mocked, it’s because there’s a lot in the attitude on this thread that exemplifies what drove me away from traditional faith in the first place.”

    Case in point: 580.

  582. 584

    Life lesson: every time I say anything about myself here, I regret it.

  583. 585

    David,

    Here are some links if you want to follow up on the aspects of my last comment.

    Sehnsucht in Wiki:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sehnsucht

    The Bright Shadow of Reality: Spiritual Longing of C. S. Lewis:
    http://www.amazon.com/Bright-S.....0802846270

    Orthodoxy, Chapter 4, “The Ethics of Elfland”:
    http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mwar.....rtho14.txt

  584. In the final analysis, David, Diffaxial, Hazel, and Mark are Kantian skeptics. They do not believe that we can reason our way to truth, because they don’t believe there is any truth toward which reason can strive. So, naturally, it follows just as day follows night, that they will not believe that we can reason our way to God. They propose a journey without a destination. They don’t understand that their orientation to the life of the mind makes no sense, nevertheless, it makes no sense.

    A while back, I listed several [my own formulations, mostly] principles of right reason. The first two were as follows: [A] Truth exists, and [B] we can know truth. If you don’t believe in these principles then your gift of reason (and it is a gift) is of no use to you. Indeed, it is a curse because it has nowhere to go except to leap out and then retire back into your own mind, having looked for something worthwhile to do and having found nothing.

  585. Mr David Kellogg,

    Please don’t regret it. I honor and respect your courage.

  586. Mr StephenB,

    Do you accept that truth is contingent on the set of axioms you choose? Do you accept that for any set of axioms strong enough to build arithmetic, there will be unprovable truths? Do you accept that even axioms as fundamental as the law of non-contradiction may be deleted, and the resulting system of logic still be useful?

  587. 589

    Nakashima, thanks. I’ll try not to regret it. In general, I find my failure even to elicit an acknowledgment of the other’s rationality (my larger hope) depressing beyond measure.

  588. 590

    David,

    Have you any experience with sehnsucht? Did you follow up on any of those links? I find this sort of thing to be intensely interesting.

  589. —–David:

    —–“If I seemed annoyed or expecting to be mocked, it’s because there’s a lot in the attitude on this thread that exemplifies what drove me away from traditional faith in the first place.”

    —-”Life lesson: every time I say anything about myself here, I regret it.”

    What is there to regret? I often raise the point about Romans 1 and Psalm 19 with all the “Christian Darwinists” who come here and tell me that they have reconciled their faith with their “science,” even as they subordinate the former to the latter. So, you are not the first person who has been asked that question. Also, we have discussed your orientation to Christianity in the past in the context of your allusions to heterodox theologians.

    Self disclosure is not all that unusual here. I am a Catholic Christian and I often have to endure slanderous attacks against my own church right here on this site, but I don’t complain. I just make my case amd expose the errors. I don’t even mind if someone suggests that my faith influences my judgment and my arguments. Of course they do. That is why I often ask others what informs their philosophy. There are no totally disinterested, objective, above it all people. There are only those who are fair and unfair. Indeed, the only people I trust are the ones who know their own biases and prejudies and make allowances for them. When someone tells me that everything they believe is a function of their scientific investigations, I hide the kids (and I don’t have any kids).

  590. David Kellogg,

    I have a couple of comments relevant to your post #582.

    First, I think StephenB (in 580) made a valid point. The Bible does say that disbelief in a creator is inexcusable. There may be some other interpretations that I’m not familiar with (I’m not an expert), but that scripture does seem fairly clear. I’m not saying that Christianity is right, but it seems that belief in a creator that has made him/her/itself known is fundamental to being a Christian.

    Second, I would not presume to question your rationality. This is just anectodal, but the most deeply spiritual and rational person I know is at best agnostic, borderline athiestic, and definitely anti-relgion. Based on personal experience, I can’t question a persons rationality based on one (albeit important) decision. For most of my life I’ve considered myself to be Christian, but ID (particularly some pro-ID, but non-Christian, posters on this site) has made me consider some other possibilities. Objectivity is another matter. Frankly, I don’t believe that an objective person can dismiss the ideas supported by ID. Maybe my perspective is skewed. Well, certainly my perspective is skewed, but about 20 years ago I made an honest attempt to see things from the non ID perspective. I read books (recommended to my by athiests that I respect) that support the non-ID perspective. None of it was remotely convincing. More recently (maybe a year ago) I read some of Richard Dawkins books that conflict with ID. I honestly felt embarrassed for the people that support the non-ID perspective.

    Anyway, for what its worth, I respect the courage you’ve shown. You’ve done two things that are difficult. You’ve posted anti-ID comments on a pro-ID site, and you’ve identified yourself as a Christian. Both of those actions take courage.

    I don’t agree with you, but based on what I’ve seen (admittedly not much), I think you’re one of the good guys.

  591. David, I have taken a thousand times more heat for saying that skeptics are irrational than you will ever experience for embracing Christianity, which is quite popular here. My statement is controversial; yours in not. Get real.

  592. Mr Clive Hayden,

    If this thread is going to continue, is it possible for you to create a new opening post? Perhaps Mr Vjtorley’s excellent formalization would be appropriate as a new starting point.

    Thank you.

  593. —-Nakashima: “Do you accept that truth is contingent on the set of axioms you choose?”

    No. In think that truths come in a hierarchy. Some truths illuminate other truths and some truths are more important than others.

    Consider the same point analyzed from three POSSIBLE perspectives, scientific, philosophical, and theological. Assume all three are true for the sake of argument:

    Example 1: Scientific truth [provisional fact] Earth revolves around the sun. It’s true, but it has no meaning. (Fact without meaning)

    Example2: Philosophical truth. Earth revolves around sun to indicate the universe is designed, possibly for a purpose. {Fact with meaning, but without significance.)

    Example3: Theological truth. Earth revolves around sun to indicate that the universe is designed, the purpose of which was to create a moral universe in which individuals work out their eternal destiny. (Fact with meaning and significance.)

    Notice that, in this case, the theological truth illuminates the philosophical truth, which in turn, illuminates the scientific truth. The higher truths matter more that then lower truths, but they are all aspects of the same truth.

    Of course, monists will not likely accept the upper two layers of truth, whereas theists most likely would.

  594. 596

    David,

    I never implied that you were not a grown man and a scholar. I never said you “need” a reading list. It’s called a discussion, an exchange of ideas for goodness sakes. But here’s one thing you do apparently need–to stop being so defensive when there is no offense, otherwise your shadowboxing an opponent that doesn’t exist my man. I’m sincer