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Given Materialism, What Reason Do We Have to Trust Ourselves?

Two years ago I asked this question:  How Can We Know One Belief Selected for By Evolution is Superior to Another?

I illustrated the conundrum faced by the evolutionary materialist (EM) with this little back and forth:

Theist: You say there is no God.

EM: Yes.

Theist: Yet belief in God among many (if not most) humans persists.

EM: I cannot deny that.

Theist: How do you explain that?

EM: Religious belief is an evolutionary adaption.

Theist: But you say religious belief is false.

EM: That’s correct.

Theist: Let me get this straight. According to you, religious belief has at least two characteristics: (1) it is false; and (2) evolution selected for it.

EM [looking a little pale now, because he’s just figured out where this is going]: Correct.

Theist: You believe the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis [NDS] is true.

EM: Of course.

Theist: How do you know your belief in NDS is not another false belief that evolution has selected for?

EM: ___________________

Our materialist friends are invited to fill in the blank.

Today I was reading an essay by Alvin C. Plantinga in The Nature of Nature that bore on this topic, and I decided to go to Google to see if anyone had attempted to fill in the blank.  And I found this by someone who posts as “Robin”:

Theist: How do you know your belief in NDS is not another false belief that evolution has selected for?

EM: Because I don’t have any belief in NDS; I understand through actual study of the data and parameters how it works and, in many cases, why it works the way it does.

Barry: Our materialist friends are invited to fill in the blank.

Done and done, wanker.

I thought this response was amusing (especially the smug “wanker” at the end), because Robin does not even understand the issue raised by my post, far less how to address it.  Let me elucidate.

The Issue

I will let Dr. Plantinga set out the issue:

[Evolutionary materialist philosopher Patricia Churchland] insists that the most important thing about the human brain is that it has evolved; this means, she says, that its principal function is to enable the organism to move appropriately:

Boiled down to essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in the four F’s: feeding, fleeing, fighting and reproducing. The principal chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive . . . . Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism’s way of life and enhances the organism’s chances of survival [Churchland’s emphasis. Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost.

What Churchland means, I think, is that evolution is directly interested (so to speak) only in adaptive behavior (in a broad sense including physical functioning) not in true belief. Natural selection doesn’t care what you believe; it is interested only in how you behave. It selects for certain kinds of behavior: those that enhance fitness, which is a measure of the chances that one’s genes are widely represented in the next and subsequent generations. It doesn’t select for belief, except insofar as the latter is appropriately related to behavior . . . Churchland’s claim, I think, can perhaps be understood as a suggestion that the objective probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable, given [evolutionary] naturalism . . . is low.

Alvin C. Plantinga, Evolution Versus Naturalism, The Nature of Nature, 137

Now immediately the materialist might object that we are slicing this topic way too thinly, because while it is true that natural selection cares only about how we behave and not how we believe, our behavior necessarily follows from our beliefs.  Therefore, natural selection indirectly selects for true belief.  Not so.  As Dr. Plantinga explains, adaptive behavior and true belief are not necessarily connected at all.  He posits Paul, a prehistoric hominid who sees a hungry tiger.  Fleeing is obviously the most adaptive behavior.  But that behavior may be compelled by a large number of belief-desire pairs:

Perhaps Paul very much likes the idea of being eaten, but when he sees a tiger, always runs off looking for a better prospect, because he thinks it unlikely that the tiger he sees will eat him. This will get his body parts in the right place so far as survival is concerned, without involving much in the way of true belief . . . Or perhaps he thinks the tiger is a large, friendly, cuddly pussycat and wants to pet it; but he also believes that the best way to pet it is to run away from it . . . or perhaps he thinks the tiger is a regularly recurring illusion, and, hoping to keep his weight down, has formed the resolution to run a mile at top speed whenever presented with such an illusion; or perhaps he thinks he is about to take part in a 1600 meter race, wants to win and believes the appearance of the tiger is the starting signal; or perhaps . . . Clearly there are any number of belief-cum-desire systems that equally a given bit of behavior. (WPF 225-26)

You might object that Paul is a loon and his beliefs are ludicrous and unlikely to happen.  But that is exactly Plantinga’s point.  Even ludicrous belief, if it produces survival enhancing behavior, will be selected for, and this reinforces the point that natural selection selects for behavior, not true belief.

Plantinga also makes a point similar to that in my original post:  “Religious belief is nearly universal across the world; according to naturalists it is false, but nevertheless adaptive.”

So Robin misses the boat entirely when she dismisses the challenge of the original post with: “Because I don’t have any belief in NDS; I understand through actual study of the data and parameters how it works and, in many cases, why it works the way it does.”

Let’s examine her errors: 

Error 1:

Robin asserts she does not have any “belief in NDS” (i.e., the Neo-Darwinian Synthesis).  Nonsense.  Of course you do, and it is absurd to suggest otherwise.

You obviously misunderstood the word “belief” in the context of the post.  Wikipedia says this about “belief” in its article on epistemology:

In common speech, a statement of “belief” means that the speaker has faith (trust) that something will prove to be useful or successful— the speaker might “believe in” his favorite football team or “believe in” his dad. This is not the kind of belief addressed within epistemology. The kind dealt with simply means any cognitive content accepted as true whether or not there is sufficient proof or reason. For example, to believe that the sky is blue is to accept the proposition “The sky is blue” as true, even if one cannot see the sky. To believe is to accept as true.

In her comment Robin used “belief” in the “common speech” sense.  Obviously, I was using the word in the epistemological sense of “to accept as true.”  In that sense Robin obviously has a “belief” about the NDS.  She accepts it as true.

Error 2:

Robin says “I understand through actual study of the data . . .”

Well, that’s the question isn’t it?  The fact that you believe Darwinism is true (no matter how much you have studied) has no bearing on the question of whether your cognitive faculties are reliable in the first place.  You are essentially saying, “My cognitive faculties give me confidence that the product of my cognitive faculties (i.e, belief in the truth of Darwinism) is true.”  And that’s like saying, “You should believe I tell the truth because I am telling you that I always tell the truth.”  So your argument begs the question.

Conclusion

Reductive materialist Darwinism is irrational, because it is self-referentially incoherent.  It affirms at one and the same time two mutually exclusive propositions:  (1) A belief in reductive materialist Darwinism is a true belief; and (2) There is no way to rule out whether in any given case reductive materialist Darwinism has selected for a false belief.

So, Robin, the next time you call someone a “wanker” after you think you have just defeated their argument, you might want to find a person smarter than you (that shouldn’t be hard) and check with them  to make sure you understand the question, much less the answer to the question.

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99 Responses to Given Materialism, What Reason Do We Have to Trust Ourselves?

  1. “William Lane Craig, Evolution Versus Naturalism, The Nature of Nature, 137″

    Barry,
    I think that’s Alvin Plantinga’s paper, not William Lane Craig’s.

    Barry: My bad. Fixed. Thanks Dick.

  2. If I did not trust myself, who else would I lie to?

  3. Given materialism, there is no self to trust.

    Barry: Indeed, another reason materialism is self-referentially incoherent.

  4. Barry,

    Theists are no better off than “reductive materialist Darwinists” when it comes to this issue.

    All of us, theists and materialists alike, know that human cognition is not perfectly reliable. (If we were wrong about that fact, then that in itself would be an error, thus proving the point.)

    This means that no one, including the theist, can ever be certain that any particular thought or belief is correct.

    Even if you were to (illegitimately) assume the truth of theism, it wouldn’t help your case. Assuming the existence of a God doesn’t imply anything about the cognitive capabilities of his creatures.

    If “reductive materialist Darwinism” is true, then people can make mistakes. If theism is true, then people can also make mistakes.

    Our only recourse is to reason to the best of our ability, knowing that there is always a possibility that we are wrong.

  5. I believe this is a discussion better left to professional philosophers and psychologists.

    To me it seems poorly suited for making an argument questioning the validity of the scientifc theory of evolution. Especially since after twenty years, I still don’t know anything about ID except that ID is not in opposition to ToE, it is just the claim that magic (the effort of a mythical “designer”) is a better explanation for some signficant aspects of the evolutionary record of life. Although there are variations on the theme; some say the designer is unknown and according to Behe might even be dead by now, while others are convinced God is the designer. I don’t know if the suggested existence of multiple designers has been ruled out.

    Anyway, WRT the subject of beliefs, man’s abiltity to believe in just about anything you might conjure, it is a fact of life we are forced to admit is real.

    Beliefs may be held without any relevance at all to whether the belief is ‘true’ or ‘false’.

    That becomes clear when we consider the belief in the existence of Bigfoot. Some people believe in Bigfoot, and we understand that the belief is unrelated to the question: Is Bigfoot real, or not?

    The argument “No, religious explanations are false. Believing them is just gullibility …” makes an important point. We have to differentiate between the undeniable fact of the religious aspects of man’s mind, and the things that man may believe. Man has a great capactiy for believing: Magic, Voodo, Marxism, alien abductions, angels, miracles, Dec. 2012 end of the world; the list is endless.

    Man’s tendency to believe may well be a result of evolution; it has been suggested as a positive trait in being conducive to cooperation within a tribe or population group.

    Salesmen are exploiting man’s nature to the best of their ability. The proliferation of religious sects with the most bizarre beliefs, with leaders adopting a postion of absolute authority comes to mind.

    Suicide sects are another example.

    What would the world look like if we did not have the ability to believe?

    Sir, ICBM’s are coming this way.
    - “Nonsense.

    Another aspect of religion is the experience of a power within our mind. Hearing voices is not a modern invention, it is a phenomenon well recorded in the Bible. Is the ‘speaker’ inside a man’s mind, or not? I believe there is a power in our mind. It is also the source of dreams.

    According to th book of Job, God is the source of dreams. According to depth psychology, dreams are a product of our subconscious. I prefer to view the subconscious as the superconscious; it knows a lot more about us than our conscious self does, and is doing its best to set us straight by dreams. Messrs. Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung said something about that.

    I don’t know if it has been determined if our awareness of dreams are only a byproduct of mental processes during sleep, with our interpretation of dreams only a lucky consequence?

    The liberating effect of dreams properly interpreted is well documented. (KJV Bible, Job 33:14 – 33)

    An interesting aspect of dreams is the fact that they speak in symbols. I see a conncetion with the fact that man’s early written languages were symbolic as well. Even our alphabet is made of symbols; each symbol representing a sound.

    With all that said, I don’t doubt that a believer may die happier than a non-believer. He may die with a big grin on his face: OMG, I am on my way to heaven to see my loved ones again and we will forever live happily together.

  6. I would run longer and faster than Tiger-Paul could before I would place myself anywhere near Robin’s camp, but I was initally troubled by this one.

    I thought it reasonable to state that we can look at different types of evidence from difference sources and then on balance of probability accept this corroborating evidence as being free from cognitive error.

    But then I understood that this is too general a case to apply to the argument put forward.

    The argument applies well to materialist Darwinism because Darwinism necessarily entails subjectivity and speculation that could easily be prone to a cognitive disconnect from reality.

    So to me the argument stands and is, frankly, hilarious!

  7. Atheists are fond of defining ‘faith’ as ‘belief in the absence of evidence’. (Of course they are the gate keepers of what qualifies as valid evidence). It is ironic that their position requires belief in abiogenesis.

    thaumaturge @4

    If God exists He fully and accurately comprehends Reality.
    If God exists He is able to communicate meaningful Truth to humans.

    This is not a proof that God exists (or even that humans have received Truth), however atheists have no similar hope of epistemological confidence.

  8. Semi-related note on a recent experiment which, along with many other experiments from quantum mechanics (entanglement and teleportation), overturns the reductive materialism within the foundation of neo-Darwinian thought:

    Feynman’s double-slit experiment brought to life – March 13, 2013
    Excerpt: The precise methodology of Richard Feynman’s famous double-slit thought-experiment – a cornerstone of quantum mechanics that showed how electrons behave as both a particle and a wave – has been followed in full for the very first time.
    Although the particle-wave duality of electrons has been demonstrated in a number of different ways since Feynman popularised the idea in 1965, none of the experiments have managed to fully replicate the methodology set out in Volume 3 of Feynman’s famous Lectures on Physics.,,,
    “Previous double-slit experiments have successfully demonstrated the mysterious properties of electrons, but none have done so using Feynman’s methodology, specifically the opening and closing of both slits at will and the ability to detect electrons one at a time.,,,
    In 1965, Feynman popularised that electrons – historically thought to be particles – would actually produce the pattern of a wave in the double-split experiment.,,,
    ,,,Feynman highlighted that when electrons are fired at the wall one at a time, an interference pattern is still produced.
    http://phys.org/news/2013-03-f.....-life.html

  9. Theists are no better off than “reductive materialist Darwinists” when it comes to this issue.

    All of us, theists and materialists alike, know that human cognition is not perfectly reliable. (If we were wrong about that fact, then that in itself would be an error, thus proving the point.)

    This means that no one, including the theist, can ever be certain that any particular thought or belief is correct.

    This is a weak response. The fact that the possibility exists that we are wrong about something does not mean we have good reason to think we are. In the absence of good reason to think we are mistaken about a certain proposition, we are justified in believing it.

    Barry is saying it happens to be the case that the materialist has a good reason to think that he/she is wrong about something. Your reply sounds childish (sorry), “Well! You aren’t 100% certain about anything either, so there!”

  10. 10

    Theists are no better off than “reductive materialist Darwinists” when it comes to this issue.

    Please note how you phrase your response as if objectively valid “true statements” exist, which is only meaningful if an objective arbiter of “what is true” exist. You statements assume a theistic premise, where “what is true” is not the province of “whatever colliding molecules happen to assert is true”.

    Otherwise, if RMD (reductive materialist Darwinism) is true, there is no assumption of an objective arbiter of true statements. “Truth” can be nothing more, in essence, than “what views produce the most hardy and prolific offspring”. Theists are, in fact, “better off” when it comes to this issue, because under RMD, “true” can only mean “whatever produces the most successful, prolific offspring”. So, theism – by the RMD measure, is “true”, and materialism – which has produces and currently produces far fewer offspring – is false.

    So, under both paradigms, when evaluated logically through the premises of each paradigm, theism is true. It’s only when you steal the concept of an objective truth and a means to arbit it beyond the consequence of happenstance, colliding molecules and natural selection – which RMD cannot offer – that one can say that Theism is false.

    RMD’s cannot coherently claim that theism is false, and cannot coherently make truth claims of any sort predicated on assumption of objective truth and a means to arbit them accordingly. Which is what you do throughout your post:

    All of us, theists and materialists alike, know …

    Know .. as in, believe to be true? In the theistic-premise sense, or the RMD-premise sense? You’re again stealing a theistic concept as if it can be applied from the RMD perspective.

    that human cognition is not perfectly reliable. (If we were wrong about that fact, then that in itself would be an error, thus proving the point.)

    More assertions that cannot be held as “true” in any meaningful sense under RMD; this could just be nonsense that evolution has generated through you. You are assuming Logic is more than just whatever any individual organism has been conditioned by biology and physics through natural selection to believe it is. Under RMD, the logic you are applying has no capacity to arbit objectively true statements or conclusions. You’re stealing a concept again.

    The rest of your post is chock full of truth assertions that requires (1) objective truth to exist, and (2) you and those you argue with to have access to an objectively valid system of arbiting true statements, even if humans use that system imperfectly.

    For your post to make any sense from an RMD perspective, whenever you imply that a statement you make is “true”, what you must be referring is that it will produce more successful offspring.

    But, unfortunately, even that assessment can only be meaningfully held as true from a theistic perspective.

    IOW, RMD’s cannot claim to make true statements; they can only claim to make statements that have helped the procreation of their species. And they cannot even claim that assessment to be “true”.

  11. I want to sound a note of caution regarding this thread.

    I have some sympathy for the “materialism is self-referentially incoherent” line of argumentation. I also think this argument can be useful for pinning down materialists and making them clarify their position.

    However, I do not think the argument is a slam dunk against materialism. Further, it runs dangerously close to being a strawman.

    Here’s why:

    Most thoughtful materialists do not hold to the view that everything is just a result of unguided natural processes, end of story. Rather, they hold to the view that everything is just a result of unguided natural processes, and at some point in time the system created by such processes resulted in consciousness.* (A subset of the ‘emergence’ ideas.)

    Now, we can dispute this idea on the basis that it is preposterous, that it is probabilistically unlikely, and so on. But that just takes us back to the normal design probability calculations of how such a system came about, not whether such a system could exist, and is not germane to the question of whether a given system could result in consciousness.

    At this point someone is likely to hark back to a different thread and provide evidence that consciousness is not reducible to pure physical matter.

    But before doing so, we need to be cautious, for the following reason:

    There is a fundamental and binary question we can ask about the existence of consciousness, namely:

    Is it possible for a system to be created that results in the emergence of consciousness?

    (i) If so, then it is logically possible the materialist is correct that at some point in the course of unguided and undirected natural processes, a system was created that resulted in the emergence of consciousness. Again, we can attack this viewpoint by challenging the likelihood of a system arising from purely natural and material means, but that is the same challenge we have with any biological system, so we are not attacking a self-referential problem but just falling back on the probability calculations.

    (ii) If not, then we have a different issue. Namely, if consciousness cannot be the result of a created system, then either (a) it must have always existed, or (b) it must have come into existence in some other (largely unfathomable) way that does not involve the use of any matter.

    Thus, it is not clear to me that the religious observer is in much better shape than the materialist as to an explanation for consciousness.

    - If he asserts that God created man from physical matter and the arrangement of that physical matter is what gives rise to consciousness, he is in agreement with the materialist about (i), but just disagrees about the “how,” and the whole issue can fall back to the general inquiry regarding the likelihood of biological systems arising through purely natural processes.

    - If he asserts that God created our consciousness, but not out of matter, then he avoids (i), but places himself in a position of essentially asserting a religious/metaphysical statement that is not amenable to any dispute or falsification.

    - Perhaps the simplest explanation would be that consciousness always existed and was not created — that individual consciousness is an eternal entity of some sort. That would be the simplest explanation, but may not sit well with some religious/philosophical traditions.

    —–

    In summary, the existence of consciousness and all it entails — self-awareness, truth-seeking, truth-recognition, and so on — is an exceedingly interesting question. However, on the question of whether it can be created we are not likely in much better position to answer than the materialist. So at the end of the day the focus comes back to the likelihood of such a system arising through purely natural and material processes.

    In other words, it is not so much a question of whether the materialist position is self-referentially incoherent, but whether the materialist position holds water as to its alleged creative powers.

    —–

    * Note, I am using the word “consciousness” here because of the importance of self-consciousness or self-awareness in the truth-seeking enterprise, but don’t get hung up on this word. If you prefer “awareness” or “intelligence” or some other word, fine. The point is how whatever allows us to be conscious, to reflect, to recognize truth, etc. came about.

  12. 12
    Kantian Naturalist

    Please note how you phrase your response as if objectively valid “true statements” exist, which is only meaningful if an objective arbiter of “what is true” exist. You statements assume a theistic premise, where “what is true” is not the province of “whatever colliding molecules happen to assert is true”.

    I find that this assumption, which is much-used in our discussions here, so far from obvious as to at least call out for some sort of argument.

    Here’s the assumption I have in mind:

    The Objectivity-Needs-Arbitration (ONA) Thesis: There are objectively valid assertions if and only if there is an arbiter of such assertions.

    Why should we accept ONA? Why is ONA reasonable? Why would be unreasonable or irrational to reject ONA? Is ONA a “first principle”? What is the exact status of ONA? (Clearly, if ONA is itself an objectively valid assertion, we invite a familiar paradox — so is ONA not an objectively valid assertion?)

  13. 13

    Eric,

    It doesn’t matter how consciousness came to be; it doesn’t matter what evidence there is in regards to how it came to be, or how it operates; it doesn’t matter if it is eternal or created.

    The important fundamental part of the argument is what “truth” is, and what it means, and what must be assumed for truth claims to be made and for us to expect others to be able to meaningfully evaluate them. What does it mean to make a true statement, or to arbit a statement for its “truth” value?

    All sound arguments (that are not simply rhetorical or sophistry)and statements that imply truth-knowledge fundamentally assume that humans have a capacity to arbit true statements from false, even if they employ that capacity imperfectly.

    This assumption points to certain fundamental requirements. First, that human consciousness has the free agency required to disengage itself from material causation and the physical programming of molecular interactions and evolution; IOW, what we think cannot be sufficiently caused by blind, material forces, either lawful or by chance, or even as a property that “emerges” from blind, physical causation.

    Second, it requires that we assume there is an objective (non-arbitrary) means of evaluating the truth value of statements – otherwise, free will humans have no ruler by which to measure. If we all get to pick our own rulers, no sound arguments can be made. There is no expectation of any argument being compelling according to a universal means of arbitration. All we would have then is bullying and manipulation.

    You cannot measure a ruler with the same ruler; an evaluation system cannot evaluate itself for errors. This means we must assume there is a perfect, non-arbitrary, objective means of evaluating truth-values, even if humans employ that system imperfectly, or else all is lost. Everything becomes arbitrary – even the means by which we argue and evaluate arguments. “You’re wrong because you have long hair” becomes as valid as “You’re wrong because you’ve contradicted yourself.”

    The concepts (1)that humans have libertarian free will and (2)that an objectively valid arbiter of truth exists are necessary premises that underlie all attempts at sound arguments and are embedded in all statements that imply truth.

    Only under theism do humans have both libertarian free will and an objective means to arbit true statements from false.

  14. WJM @13:

    All the characteristics you assign to human consciousness (“. . . free agency required to disengage itself from material causation and the physical programming of molecular interactions and evolution . . .”) could just as well exist if a material system, at some level of development and complexity, somehow gives rise to consciousness. Indeed, this is the whole premise of the artificial intelligence enterprise.

    Personally I am quite skeptical that a material system can give rise to consciousness and am quite skeptical of the ultimate goals of artificial intelligence.

    That said, it is not correct to assert that the only materialist position available is that consciousness is not separate from “material causation and the physical programming of molecular interactions.” Some materialists may hold to this view in public and declare that consciousness is an illusion (although when pressed, they sometimes back away from it). But other materialists (probably the majority, I’m guessing) view consciousness as something real, but they view it as having arisen due to a certain complexity state of matter.

    The OP is relevant to the minority materialist view that consciousness, knowledge, truth are all an illusion. If everything is an illusion then, yes, it is self-refuting. But many materialists would view that as a strawman caricature. They believe in things like consciousness, knowledge, truth, love, etc. So, the question very much at issue is in fact how consciousness arises.

    The self-contradictory nature of the denial of consciousness and truth is self-evident. Where consciousness comes from is not, however, self-evident.

    If a theist asserts that God, for example, created man and endowed him with consciousness, then the question immediately arises about what we mean by being “endowed:” (i) did the consciousness arise as a result of the creation God made out of matter, (ii) was it made from some other thing than matter (strange concept, but let’s put it on the table for a moment), or (iii) was consciousness already in existence? Those are the only logical possibilities.

  15. Well, I think the notion that conscious may ‘emerge’ from a material basis is completely absurd. William Lane Craig, in short order, revealed the sheer bankruptcy that materialism (Metaphysical Naturalism) has in ever explaining many traits of consciousness.

    1. The argument from the intentionality (aboutness) of mental states implies non-physical minds (dualism), which is incompatible with naturalism
    2. The existence of meaning in language is incompatible with naturalism, Rosenberg even says that all the sentences in his own book are meaningless
    3. The existence of truth is incompatible with naturalism
    4. The argument from moral praise and blame is incompatible with naturalism
    5. Libertarian freedom (free will) is incompatible with naturalism 6. Purpose is incompatible with naturalism
    7. The enduring concept of self is incompatible with naturalism
    8. The experience of first-person subjectivity (“I”) is incompatible with naturalism

    I strongly suggest watching Dr. Craig’s following short presentation, that I have linked, to get a full feel for just how insane the metaphysical naturalist’s position actually is.

    Is Metaphysical Naturalism Viable? – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzS_CQnmoLQ

    The Mind and Materialist Superstition – Six “conditions of mind” that are irreconcilable with materialism: Michael Egnor, professor of neurosurgery at SUNY, Stony Brook
    Excerpt: Intentionality,,, Qualia,,, Persistence of Self-Identity,,, Restricted Access,,, Incorrigibility,,, Free Will,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....super.html

    Moreover, even Nagel drew this point out in his recent book that ruffled so many atheistic feathers,,,

    Nagel Asks, Is the World Really Knowable? – Joshua Youngkin – October 26, 2012
    Excerpt: science even at its best could never offer a complete picture of the world. That is, science as science will necessarily lack the vocabulary to capture and express the myriad private worlds of subjective, conscious experience. To take Nagel’s famous example, science could tell you everything you want to know about bats except what it is like to be a bat, to “see” via echolocation. Similarly, brain scientists could in principle learn every objective fact about your brain and how it works yet they wouldn’t by virtue of this knowledge know what sugar tastes like to you.
    In the final chapter of the book, Nagel sums the matter up this way:
    “In attempting to understand consciousness as a biological phenomenon, it is too easy to forget how radical is the difference between the subjective and the objective, and to fall into the error of thinking about the mental in terms taken from our ideas of physical events and processes.”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....65761.html

    It is interesting to note how Nagel’s argument broadly relates to Hawking’s claim that God was no longer needed as creator of the universe since Hawking thinks “because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing”,,,

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: Rather, the transcendent reality on which our universe depends must be something that can exhibit agency – a mind that can choose among the infinite variety of mathematical descriptions and bring into existence a reality that corresponds to a consistent subset of them. This is what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe.” Anything else invokes random miracles as an explanatory principle and spells the end of scientific rationality.,,,
    Universes do not “spontaneously create” on the basis of abstract mathematical descriptions, nor does the fantasy of a limitless multiverse trump the explanatory power of transcendent intelligent design. What Mr. Hawking’s contrary assertions show is that mathematical savants can sometimes be metaphysical simpletons. Caveat emptor.
    http://www.washingtontimes.com.....arguments/

    But besides the overwhelming strength of these philosophical arguments (Many of which William Murray and StephenB are well versed in), we also have very, very, strong empirical warrant to presuppose consciousness precedes material reality:

    The Galileo Affair and the true “Center of the Universe”
    Excerpt: 1. Consciousness either precedes all of material reality or is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality.
    2. If consciousness is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality then consciousness will be found to have no special position within material reality. Whereas conversely, if consciousness precedes material reality then consciousness will be found to have a special position within material reality.
    3. Consciousness is found to have a special, even central, position within material reality. [14]
    4. Therefore, consciousness is found to precede material reality.

    I find it extremely interesting, and strange, that quantum mechanics tells us that instantaneous quantum wave collapse to its ‘uncertain’ 3D state is centered on each individual conscious observer in the universe, whereas, 4D space-time cosmology (General Relativity) tells us each 3D point in the universe is central to the expansion of the universe. These findings of modern science are pretty much exactly what we would expect to see if this universe were indeed created, and sustained, from a higher dimension by a omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal Being who knows everything that is happening everywhere in the universe at the same time. These findings certainly seem to go to the very heart of the age old question asked of many parents by their children, “How can God hear everybody’s prayers at the same time?”,,, i.e. Why should the expansion of the universe, or the quantum wave collapse of the entire universe, even care that you or I, or anyone else, should exist? Only Theism, Christian Theism in particular, offers a rational explanation as to why you or I, or anyone else, should have such undeserved significance in such a vast universe. [15]

    Psalm 33:13-15
    The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.

    references at bottom of this page
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BHAcvrc913SgnPcDohwkPnN4kMJ9EDX-JJSkjc4AXmA/edit

    In contrast, here is a interesting quote noting just how far materialists have come in establishing empirical warrant for their position:,,

    Darwinian Psychologist David Barash Admits the Seeming Insolubility of Science’s “Hardest Problem”
    Excerpt: ‘But the hard problem of consciousness is so hard that I can’t even imagine what kind of empirical findings would satisfactorily solve it. In fact, I don’t even know what kind of discovery would get us to first base, not to mention a home run.’
    David Barash – Materialist/Atheist Darwinian Psychologist

  16. 16

    Eric @ 11 and 14: “Namely, if consciousness cannot be the result of a created system, then either (a) it must have always existed, or (b) it must have come into existence in some other (largely unfathomable) way that does not involve the use of any matter.”

    You left out a third option asserted by all honest materialists: Consciousness does not exist. It is an adaptive illusion foisted on us by our genes (I see you circled back to this at 14). “Emergence” can be dismissed out of hand. It is not an explanation; it is a confession of total ignorance trying (poorly) to disguise itself as an explanation. They might as well say, “Poof! It just happened.”

    Be that as it may, your objection (or caveat) does not really go to the point of the post. Consider Paul and his encounter with the Tiger again. Let us concede for the sake of argument that Paul is a conscious agent. We can even say his consciousness is an emergent property of his brain (for all the good that does us). The issue is not whether Paul is conscious. The issue is whether his mental faculties are reliable in the search for truth. As the OP shows, given materialism, there is no reason to believe so.

  17. WJM (13)

    The 2 premisses seem necessary indeed.
    The first one – free will – is no problem whatsoever for naturalistic emergentism. It goes like this: *poof* free will.
    The second seems more problematic. I don’t think naturalists have the belly to overcome the qualms about invoking the emergence of ‘an objective valid arbiter of truth’.

  18. 18
    William J Murray

    All the characteristics you assign to human consciousness (“. . . free agency required to disengage itself from material causation and the physical programming of molecular interactions and evolution . . .”) could just as well exist if a material system, at some level of development and complexity, somehow gives rise to consciousness. Indeed, this is the whole premise of the artificial intelligence enterprise.

    Free will cannot be caused and still be free will, regardless of how “consciousness” comes into existence. Free will must be a causeless cause.

    Similarly, the means of arbiting truth cannot be caused, or else it is whatever causes it says it is. Unless you are saying that matter can create causeless causes (a self-contradiction), then the RMD has no means by which to make a coherent argument of any sort other than by stealing theistic concepts.

  19. 19
    Kantian Naturalist

    It’s quite clear (well, to me at any rate) that selection would have favored the emergence of brains that build generally reliable cognitive representations of their environments. (I’d be shocked if Platinga or Craig would deny this, but maybe they do.)

    That being the case, the EAAN requires that “true beliefs” be something over and above generally reliable cognitive representations.

    What is that “over and above”? What do true beliefs have that generally reliable cognitive representations not have?

  20. KN as to:

    It’s quite clear (well, to me at any rate) that selection would have favored the emergence of brains that build generally reliable cognitive representations of their environments.

    Actually, from what I can tell, selection just so happens to select whatever Darwinists need to explain away:

    Why Do We Invoke Darwin? By Philip Skell
    Excerpt: The efforts mentioned there are not experimental biology; they are attempts to explain already authenticated phenomena in Darwinian terms, things like human nature. Further, Darwinian explanations for such things are often too supple: Natural selection makes humans self-centered and aggressive – except when it makes them altruistic and peaceable. Or natural selection produces virile men who eagerly spread their seed – except when it prefers men who are faithful protectors and providers. When an explanation is so supple that it can explain any behavior, it is difficult to test it experimentally, much less use it as a catalyst for scientific discovery.
    http://www.the-scientist.com/?.....e-Darwin-/

    An Early Critique of Darwin Warned of a Lower Grade of Degradation – Cornelius Hunter – December 2012
    Excerpt: And as for Darwin’s grand principle, natural selection, “what is it but a secondary consequence of supposed, or known, primary facts.” Yet Darwin had smuggled in teleological language to avoid the absurdity and make it acceptable. For Darwin had written of natural selection “as if it were done consciously by the selecting agent.” Yet again, this criticism is cogent today. Teleological language is rampant in the evolutionary literature.
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....ed-of.html

    “Natural selection does not act on anything, nor does it select (for or against), force, maximize, create, modify, shape, operate, drive, favor, maintain, push, or adjust. Natural selection does nothing…. Having natural selection select is nifty because it excuses the necessity of talking about the actual causation of natural selection. Such talk was excusable for Charles Darwin, but inexcusable for evolutionists now. Creationists have discovered our empty “natural selection” language, and the “actions” of natural selection make huge, vulnerable targets.”
    The Origin of Theoretical Population Genetics, 2001 (pp. 199-200) William Provine – Professor of Evolutionary Biology – Cornell University

    Moreover, since successful reproduction is all that really matters on a neo-Darwinian view of things, how can anything but successful reproduction ever be consistently ‘selected’ for? Any other function besides reproduction, such as sight, hearing, thinking, etc.., would be highly superfluous to the primary criteria of successfully reproducing, and should, on a Darwinian view, be discarded as so much excess baggage since it would, sooner or later, slow down successful reproduction. All the other baggage that Darwinists try to attribute to selection, besides successful reproduction, is nothing more than pipe dreams masquerading as science, and that have absolutely nothing at all to do with explaining the creation of any complex functional information!

    EXPELLED – Natural Selection And Genetic Mutations – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4036840

    “…but Natural Selection reduces genetic information and we know this from all the Genetic Population studies that we have…”
    Maciej Marian Giertych – Population Geneticist – member of the European Parliament – EXPELLED

    In a Tadpole’s Eye: Another Case of Darwinism’s Plasticity Problem – David Klinghoffer – March 1, 2013
    Excerpt: Organisms of all sorts are capable of intelligent, goal-directed, adaptive behavior that cannot possibly be accounted for on the basis of the theory of natural selection.
    *Never in the evolutionary history of human beings was there selection for “seeing” with the tongue.
    *Never in the evolutionary history of fruit flies was there selection for adaptation to an inverted visual field.
    *Never in the evolutionary history of ferrets was there selection for the brain reorganization necessary to see with the auditory cortex.
    *And never in the evolutionary history of the slime mold was there selection for solving mazes.
    Of course, the Darwinist will say that there is no need to posit past selection for plasticity. Instead, we will be invited to view plasticity as a “spandrel” — an accidental side effect of other abilities that were selected for.
    But that would be entirely ad hoc. There is absolutely no evidence to support such a claim.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....69691.html

    Moreover,, it seems that where we have the best fossil record for humans that ‘selection’ has fallen off the job of producing more complex brains in humans:

    If Modern Humans Are So Smart, Why Are Our Brains Shrinking? – January 20, 2011
    Excerpt: John Hawks is in the middle of explaining his research on human evolution when he drops a bombshell. Running down a list of changes that have occurred in our skeleton and skull since the Stone Age, the University of Wisconsin anthropologist nonchalantly adds, “And it’s also clear the brain has been shrinking.”
    “Shrinking?” I ask. “I thought it was getting larger.” The whole ascent-of-man thing.,,,
    He rattles off some dismaying numbers: Over the past 20,000 years, the average volume of the human male brain has decreased from 1,500 cubic centimeters to 1,350 cc, losing a chunk the size of a tennis ball. The female brain has shrunk by about the same proportion. “I’d call that major downsizing in an evolutionary eyeblink,” he says. “This happened in China, Europe, Africa—everywhere we look.”
    http://discovermagazine.com/20.....-shrinking

  21. Barry @16:

    “Emergence” can be dismissed out of hand. It is not an explanation; it is a confession of total ignorance trying (poorly) to disguise itself as an explanation. They might as well say, “Poof! It just happened.”

    I don’t disagree that emergence is a confession of ignorance. But I don’t think we should trick ourselves into thinking that claiming consciousness came about via some other wholly unspecific, unfathomable process, is much better, at least insofar as we are asking for an “explanation” for consciousness.

    My point is more focused. Specifically, if one takes the position that consciousness can result from a created system (e.g., God makes the human body, or God makes the spirit out of some kind of spirit matter or whatever and then puts it into the human body), then we cannot begrudge the materialist taking the same position: namely, that consciousness can result from a created system. [Note, I'm setting aside for a moment the possibility that consciousness always existed.]

    So our real beef with the materialist (and indeed, the beef you expressed in the above quote), is not so much that a created system cannot result in consciousness, but rather that there is no good reason to think that a purely natural and material process could ever produce such a system. It is preposterous. Which is essentially the same argument we can make for any other biological system characterized by complex specified information.

    As to the reliable search for truth, I think KN’s response @19 is typical for the materialist: selection would favor a reliable cognitive system. So the argument needs to home in on the details of such a system and show that there is considerable doubt as to whether selection would indeed favor such a system in specific instances.

    In summary, I think it is not quite correct to say that the materialist does not have an explanation for a reliable cognitive system. The materialist has an explanation. Two actually: (i) selection dunnit, and (ii) Stuff Happens. The key is to show that these are inadequate. Which is the same thing we do with all systems that manifest complex specified information.

    You’ve put some good thoughts on the table toward that end. And I think it is more an argument of “weight of the overall evidence” than it is an argument of “by definition the materialist story is self-contradictory.”

  22. BA @20:

    Actually, from what I can tell, selection just so happens to select whatever Darwinists need to explain away:

    Well said.

  23. WJM re 18

    I cannot phantom such a notion as a causeless cause. Did you exercise your will when you wrote “causeless cause” or did your will do it without any cause?

    Vivid

  24. Eric Anderson:
    I don’t disagree that emergence is a confession of ignorance. But I don’t think we should trick ourselves into thinking that claiming consciousness came about via some other wholly unspecific, unfathomable process, is much better, at least insofar as we are asking for an “explanation” for consciousness.

    Never have I heard a materialist argue that theists have no explanation for consciousness. This has never been an issue. And rightly so. God as starting point for the explanation for consciousness is infinitely better than an explanation of consciousness in terms of unguided material processes.

  25. 25
    William J Murray

    WJM re 18

    I cannot phantom such a notion as a causeless cause. Did you exercise your will when you wrote “causeless cause” or did your will do it without any cause?

    Vivid

    I am, at the most fundamental level, free will. Without it there is no “I”, there is just a caused thing. Looks change. The body changes. The mind changes. Personality changes. What never changes is the uncaused cause, the soul, the free will observer that chooses what to focus its will upon.

    If I say I use my free will, or employ it; it is a euphemism. For a materialist, it would be like saying “I used my brain to figure it out” .. as if “I” and “brain” are two separate things when – to a materialist – they are not.

    Whether you can fathom a causeless cause or not, existence requires it (to avoid infinite regress), action requires it (to provide sufficient cause), and any hope of finding truth requires it in the form of free will.

  26. EM: Religious belief is an evolutionary adaption.

    Gil: Which random mutations would be required to rewire a primitive simian brain for religious belief? What is the probability that they would occur and be fixed in the population, given the available probabilistic resources?

    EM: Say what?

    Gil: EM, “Junk science” is a term that is insufficient to describe your proposition. Making up stories based on a conclusion that was reached in advance is the antithesis of legitimate scientific investigation.

    Barry,

    It is with perhaps some, but very little, apology for my transparent cynicism, that I ask: How can an educated, intelligent, rational person still accept this Darwinian drivel, given the ubiquitous availability of information showing it to be irrational, self-contradictory, mathematically absurd, and consistently falsified both empirically and by everyday experience?

    I was, as no other, indoctrinated by this Darwinian nonsense for 43 years, but quickly figured it out, once presented with logic and evidence — the two great enemies of Darwinism.

  27. WJM

    Thanks for your thoughtfull response.

    “What never changes is the uncaused cause, the soul, the free will observer that chooses what to focus its will upon.”

    Not knowing your metaphysical beliefs I can only comment as it relates to mine. FWIW I think of myself as a Classical Theist so I do not think that my soul is uncaused nor my will for that matter.

    “Whether you can fathom a causeless cause or not, existence requires it (to avoid infinite regress),”

    To be frank I dont think we are capable of phantoming an uncaused cause however I agree. I think existence does require it. However we are talking about uncaused souls and wills which seem to me to be effects, effects by definition require a cause, at least thats my position. Whats yours?

    Vivid

  28. bevets:

    If God exists He fully and accurately comprehends Reality.

    That’s an unwarranted assumption. There’s nothing incoherent about a God of limited knowledge or finite reasoning power.

    If God exists He is able to communicate meaningful Truth to humans.

    Another unwarranted assumption. He might or might not have that ability. Furthermore, having the ability to communicate truth doesn’t guarantee that he’ll do so in any particular instance.

    God, if he exists, has left humans in the dark about many, many things — including some very important ones.

    This is not a proof that God exists (or even that humans have received Truth), however atheists have no similar hope of epistemological confidence.

    Evolution doesn’t guarantee the truth of any particular belief, but neither does theism.

    Yet atheistic evolutionists actually have more reason than theists to be “epistemologically confident”. Theism doesn’t say anything about our cognitive abilities. They might be wonderful, horrible, or anything in between — whatever God chooses to bestow upon us. As long as true beliefs are in general more conducive to survival than untrue beliefs, then evolution will favor the development of reliable cognitive faculties.

    So while any particular belief might be true or false, it is more likely to be true under an evolutionary scenario than under theism.

    Plantinga’s argument thus backfires on him (and on Barry), with evolutionists coming out ahead in the end.

  29. GilDodgen @26:

    . . . logic and evidence — the two great enemies of Darwinism.

    I love it!

  30. Brent:

    The fact that the possibility exists that we are wrong about something does not mean we have good reason to think we are.

    Correct. Neither evolution nor theism guarantees that every belief is true, but that doesn’t mean we should all start doubting that fish swim.

    Barry is saying it happens to be the case that the materialist has a good reason to think that he/she is wrong about something. Your reply sounds childish (sorry), “Well! You aren’t 100% certain about anything either, so there!”

    No, I’m saying something quite different, which is that theists have no more reason to trust their minds than atheistic evolutionists do. In fact, as I explained to bevets above, theists actually have less of a reason to do so.

  31. William J. Murray:

    Please note how you phrase your response as if objectively valid “true statements” exist, which is only meaningful if an objective arbiter of “what is true” exist. You statements assume a theistic premise, where “what is true” is not the province of “whatever colliding molecules happen to assert is true”.

    William,

    I’m afraid I don’t see the problem. Consider this scenarios:

    A rock is balanced precariously on the edge of a cliff, and I’m trying to decide whether I should sleep at the base of the cliff tonight.

    My “colliding molecules” may believe the rock is there, or they may not. I might be hallucinating, or I might not. However, the rock is objectively there, and this remains true whether I believe it or not.

    The objective truth of the statement “the rock is balanced on the edge of the cliff” only depends on whether the rock is in fact balanced on the edge of the cliff. Nothing else. It doesn’t depend on my state of knowledge. It also doesn’t depend on whether God exists, and I don’t see why you think it does.

  32. thaumaturge re 28

    “hat’s an unwarranted assumption. There’s nothing incoherent about a God of limited knowledge or finite reasoning power.”

    There is everything that is incoherent about a god of limited knowledge or finite reasoning power

    To borrow from Geisler. It is undeniable that something exists.No one can deny his existence without affirming it.One must exist to deny it.Whatever is undeniable is true and whatever is unaffirmable is false.

    This existenc e fits into three logical categories.impossible, possible or necessary.Since my existence is neither impossible or necessary it is possible for me not to exist.

    Becasue I exist my existence is possible and not impossible.

    Further my existence is not necessary. A ncessary existence i an existence that canot not exist.

    A necesary existenc e would be pure actuality with no potentiality whatsoever.If it had any potentiality regarding its existence it would be possible for it not to exist. But a ncessary existence can not not exist.

    A necessary existence would be changeless.whatever changes has the possibility to change but a necesssary being has no possibility whatsoever.

    A necesary existence would have to be non temporal and non spatial existence.Its being cannot change and space and time change.

    A necessary existence would have to be eternal.If it ever did not exist it would not be a ncessary existence rather a possible existence.

    A necessary existence would have to be infinite in whatever attributes it possesses. Ifit is knowing it would have to be all knowing.If powerfull all powerfull etc, etc.The reason for this is that anything that is limited has potentiality, what has potentiality is limited.

    A necessary existence mut be an uncaused being.

    God is a necessary being thereforeit is incoherent to say ”

    “here nothing incoherent about a God of limited knowledge or finite reasoning power.”

    That may be true for Zeus or Thor but not for the necessary existence we call God

    I apologize for the typos

    Vivid

  33. thaumaturge @ 4

    Assuming the existence of a God doesn’t imply anything about the cognitive capabilities of his creatures.

    Bevets @ 7

    If God exists He fully and accurately comprehends Reality.
    If God exists He is able to communicate meaningful Truth to humans.

    This is not a proof that God exists (or even that humans have received Truth), however atheists have no similar hope of epistemological confidence.

    thaumaturge @ 4

    Theism doesn’t say anything about our cognitive abilities.

    Theism is just a launching point. I will be moving on to the written propositional Truths in the Word of God and confirmation by the physical historical resurrection of Jesus.

    thaumaturge @ 4

    As long as true beliefs are in general more conducive to survival than untrue beliefs, then evolution will favor the development of reliable cognitive faculties.

    So while any particular belief might be true or false, it is more likely to be true under an evolutionary scenario than under theism.

    Your teleology is showing. Why do you assume that [all] life is more likely to survive than to go extinct? What external (non tautological) evidence to you have that fit beliefs are more likely to be True beliefs? How can you be sure one of the unknown unknowns is not fatal to your ENTIRE system of beliefs?

  34. 34
    William J Murray

    vividbleau @27:

    However we are talking about uncaused souls and wills which seem to me to be effects, effects by definition require a cause, at least thats my position. Whats yours?

    Effects do, by definition and logical necessity, require a cause. If our will is an effect – of anything, matter or God – then our will is caused, and is not independent.

    Free will, mathematics, logic, moral good – these things exist as aspects of god. If you were to say that god created a human and “gave” him free will, morality, logic, and mathematics (as simple as 1+1=2), what does that mean? Is there a place outside of god where god can create an “in the image of” being with versions of those qualities?

    Of course not. Nothing exists outside of god. All god can do is wrap a “portion” of itself up in some kind of apparent separation (which Eastern philosophies call maya, or illusion) – a body of some sort that distinguishes it and gives apparent self-identity. The “free will”, morality, mathematics, and logic that this “body” and personality have access to is not separately created; they are the very same commodities that are fundamental aspects of god. They are uncreated, causeless things.

    This is why morality is not arbitrary, even for god; god cannot change what is moral, the fundamentals of mathematics, or logical principles. These are not arbitrary even for god, and are not arbitrary in anything god is creating.

    Without these non-arbitrary, uncaused commodities, whether they are in god or humans, argument & philosophy & reason breaks down.

    So IMO, our soul isn’t “caused by god”; it is god – an aspect of god, a wave of the ocean, a child of god, a holographic “in the image of” god particle, which bears the same fundamental qualities of free will, moral good, etc.

    This is my working view on the subject, of course, to better argument and/or evidence.

  35. 35
    William J Murray

    thuamaturge @31:

    My argument is not about “what the world is” – it could be anything. The rock could actually exist; it could a hallucination; it could exist in many different states at once depending upon the nature of the observer.

    My argument is about the nature of what must be assumed in order to make sound arguments and make statements that imply true knowledge – such as the ones you make in your post. We must assume logic is a universal arbiter of truth-values. We must assume we (and those we are attempting to make a point to) have libertarian free will. We must assume both of those things – logic and free will – are uncaused, universal, non-arbitrary.

    Logic is an abstract concept that only exists in the mind; for it to be non-arbitrary and universal, it must be a fundamental aspect of universal mind. Free will cannot be caused and still be free will; the source of it must be a willful, causless cause (note: “source” is not to be confused with “cause”).

    Whether or not god exists, and whether or not all of this is a solipsistic delusion, and even if I vehemently disagree that I must assume those things, and even if I vehemently deny that logic is non-arbitrary and universal, or that free will must be libertarian; those denials, those statements – regardless of my protestations – still depend on those very assumptions.

    If you make an argument, you expect others others to be able to parse the soundness of your argument. But, parse it with what? Unless there is an unspoken agreement that the both of you are parsing it with the same device – such as logic – why should you expect the other person to even understand your argument, much less be convinced by it?

    The tool they can be using to parse the value of your argument is whether or not they can physically beat you up, or by how you look, or who your parents are, or what job you have. But no – you expect them and everyone to use the same argument arbiting device as you – a fundamental assumption that that which arbits truth is not arbitrary.

    People can deny that all they want, but any argument they make – unless rhetorical or as attempted manipulation or bullying, or some kind of irrelevant pleading – still assumes it.

  36. 36
    CentralScrutinizer

    thaumaturge @ 4 As long as true beliefs are in general more conducive to survival than untrue beliefs, then evolution will favor the development of reliable cognitive faculties.

    Of course, this statement of your is merely one more inference, being made by a Thing Under Suspicion like all the rest. Don’t you see, if materialist is true, your own reasoning is discredited. Including your statement quoted above.

    Now, it may be a true statement nonetheless. But only true by accident. Having such inferential power (to whatever degree it is “useful”) may be “favored” by “natural selection.” But how could one confidently rely on it for the Big Questions, such as the truth or falsity of materialism or theism in the first place?

    See the problem?

  37. 37
    William J Murray

    thaumaturge @ 30:

    The problem is that RMD’s not only have a faulty brain (not mind, for an RMD, don’t steal the concept), as you say, they have no presumed means by which to check and correct the output of their faulty brain; they have no presumed non-arbitrary standard by which to evaluate arguments; they have no presumed supervening capacity to evaluate evidence and argument above whatever causes them to think whatever they think with their faulty brain.

    Theists have such propositions, which are necessary for the expectation that we can supervene the faulty processes of the brain and reach true understandings. Note: I said necessary for the expectation. That doesn’t mean it isn’t hard and that it isn’t imperfect – it means we have the expectation that true statements can be parsed and agreed upon as binding. There is no reason to have this expectation unless we posit free will and a universal, non-arbitrary arbiter of truth.

    Without uncaused free will, there is no reason to argue. We’re just dogs barking at each other as our molecules command, whether we make sense or not. Without universal, non-arbitrary logic, there is no way to parse an argument as sound – there is just however the barking makes you personally feel and however it makes you react.

    That may be what the world is; there may be no god, and we might all be caused, biological automatons processing molecular interactions into voice and text and thoughts, like dogs barking or monkeys flinging feces at each other, with no universal arbiter of truth or any free will to supervene over our thoughts and behavior.

    But I’m not arguing about what the world **is**, I’m pointing out – whether you realize it or now, and whether you accept it or not – that there are assumptions that must underlie any argument where you expect someone else to be able to reach a sound conclusion about the truth-value of your argument. RMD’s deny those assumptions, but unwittingly steal them in every argument they make. Because without those assumption, there’s no reason to make an attempt at a “sound argument” in the first place.

  38. 38
    William J Murray

    I’d like to correct something I said in #35:

    We must assume we (and those we are attempting to make a point to) have libertarian free will. We must assume both of those things – logic and free will – are uncaused, universal, non-arbitrary.

    Rather, we must assume free will and logic are uncaused, and that logic is universal and non-arbitrary.

  39. vividbleau @ 32,

    Your (or Geisler’s) argument seems to boil down to this:

    1a. Necessary beings must exist (by definition).
    1b. God is a necessary being.
    1c. Therefore, God exists.

    2a. A necessary being must be all actuality, no potentiality.
    2b. A being that is limited in any way has the potential to be greater.
    2c. Therefore, a being that is limited in any way is not a necessary being.

    3a. God is a necessary being.
    3b. A being that is limited in any way is not a necessary being (from 2c).
    3c. Therefore, God is not limited in any way.

    There are several problems with this argument. Here are a few:

    1. There is nothing incoherent about a reality in which there are no necessary beings. Everything might be possible but not necessary.

    2. In such a reality, God might not exist at all, or he could be finite.

    3. There is no reason to assume that God is a necessary being.

    4. If you believe that God has libertarian free will, then your argument runs into trouble. For any choice God makes, he could have chosen otherwise (according to the libertarian view). That means he had the potential to choose otherwise. A being with potentiality is not a necessary being (from 2a), so God cannot be a necessary being.

    5. On the other hand, if you think that a) God doesn’t have free will or b) God has free will, but of the compatibilist kind, then your argument also runs into trouble. Such a being could not have chosen otherwise, which means he is limited, and by 2c, a limited being is not a necessary being.

  40. “1. There is nothing incoherent about a reality in which there are no necessary beings. Everything might be possible but not necessary.”

    I exist therefore something must exist necessarily.

    “2. In such a reality, God might not exist at all, or he could be finite.”

    A finite God would not be a neccesary existence. A finite god is no god at all just another contingent existence just like us. Whatever exists contingently would owe its existence to something else. That something else would either exist necessarily or trace its existence to a necessary existence.

    “3. There is no reason to assume that God is a necessary being.”

    There is every reason to assume that if God exists it exists necessarily.

    “4. If you believe that God has libertarian free will, then your argument runs into trouble.”

    No I dont think God has a libertarian free will.

    “5. On the other hand, if you think that a) God doesn’t have free will or b) God has free will, but of the compatibilist kind, then your argument also runs into trouble. Such a being could not have chosen otherwise, which means he is limited, and by 2c, a limited being is not a necessary being.”

    Sure it could have chosen otherwise. God is free to choose otherwise if that is what God wants to do. Nothing prevents God from choosing whatever it is He wants.There is no freedom greater than to choose what one wants to choose.

    To say God is limited because He is free to choose anything He wants is ludicrous.

    Vivid

  41. thaumaturge:

    There is nothing incoherent about a reality in which there are no necessary beings. Everything might be possible but not necessary.

    vividbleau:

    I exist therefore something must exist necessarily.

    You are a possible being, not a necessary one. Why would your non-necessary existence imply that there must be necessary beings?

    A finite God would not be a neccesary existence. A finite god is no god at all just another contingent existence just like us. Whatever exists contingently would owe its existence to something else. That something else would either exist necessarily or trace its existence to a necessary existence.

    You’re confusing “non-contingent” with “necessary”. A non-contingent being needn’t be a necessary being, and vice-versa.

    There is every reason to assume that if God exists it exists necessarily.

    You haven’t presented any such reasons.

    Sure it could have chosen otherwise. God is free to choose otherwise if that is what God wants to do. Nothing prevents God from choosing whatever it is He wants.There is no freedom greater than to choose what one wants to choose.

    Sure, God is free to choose what he wants. But he’s only free to want the things that are in accordance with his attributes. For example, if God is perfectly good, then he is incapable of choosing pure evil. It is a potentiality that he can never realize. He is limited to choosing good. Thus, by point 2c in my previous comment, he is not a necessary being.

  42. bevets:

    Theism is just a launching point. I will be moving on to the written propositional Truths in the Word of God and confirmation by the physical historical resurrection of Jesus.

    Any further arguments you make from that launching point depend on fallible human reasoning, and are therefore subject to error. No matter how many layers you add to your argument, it might be wrong, because the foundation itself is in question.

    What external (non tautological) evidence to you have that fit beliefs are more likely to be True beliefs?

    We’re surrounded by evidence. Consider my earlier example of the rock balanced on the edge of a cliff. Think of as many distinct false beliefs about that rock as you can. Then for each of those false beliefs, ask yourself whether it will tend to improve fitness or decrease it. You’ll find that the majority of false beliefs decrease fitness.

    How can you be sure one of the unknown unknowns is not fatal to your ENTIRE system of beliefs?

    I can’t be sure, but neither can you. That’s my point. Whether you are a theist or an atheist, your knowledge is finite and your reasoning is imperfect.

    Plantinga seeks to raise doubts about our cognitive faculties, assuming that evolution is true. His argument backfires, however, because the same doubts can be raised if we assume that theism is true.

  43. CentralScrutinizer:

    Of course, this statement of your is merely one more inference, being made by a Thing Under Suspicion like all the rest. Don’t you see, if materialist is true, your own reasoning is discredited. Including your statement quoted above.

    Not discredited, but under suspicion. And if theism is correct, you have exactly the same problem.

    Now, it may be a true statement nonetheless. But only true by accident. Having such inferential power (to whatever degree it is “useful”) may be “favored” by “natural selection.” But how could one confidently rely on it for the Big Questions, such as the truth or falsity of materialism or theism in the first place?

    Again, you have the same problem even if you are a theist. How does a theist know that her God-given intellect is reliable for the “Big Questions”? She doesn’t. Just like the atheist, she has to do the best she can within her limited capabilities.

  44. “You are a possible being, not a necessary one. Why would your non-necessary existence imply that there must be necessary beings?”

    There can only be one necessary being. Furthermore since I am a contingent being and it is possible for me not to exist I am left with four options. 1) An infinite regress of causes or an infinite regress of effects (take your pick)2)I am uncaused. 3)I am self caused.4)Something exists necessarily. I am open to other options you might suggest.

    “You’re confusing “non-contingent” with “necessary”. A non-contingent being needn’t be a necessary being, and vice-versa.”

    How so?

    “Sure, God is free to choose what he wants. But he’s only free to want the things that are in accordance with his attributes.”

    What you characterize as limited I characterize as freedom. What can be more free than to want and choose the things that are in accordance with ones likes and dislikes (attributes)? Your idea of freedom is actually to limit God.Your idea of freedom is that God must be free to want and choose things that are not in acoordance with His likes and dislikes.

    If someone is choosing something they dont most want to choose and not in accordance with their likes and dislikes then that means their choices are being restricted or coherced somehow and in someway, in short limited. You stand freedom on its head.

    Vivid

  45. I was, as no other, indoctrinated by this Darwinian nonsense for 43 years…

    Gil, I’ve seen you make this claim several times. I wonder how did your atheism manifest itself? Did you ever come out of the closet, or were you an atheist in private, only?

  46. @ Kantian Naturalist

    G. E. Moore seems to take issue with Kant. Are you really* convinced by Husserl’s phenomenology?

    *couldn’t resist!

  47. I see there is discussion of Barry’s post elsewhere:

    1. NS does not select for belief.

    2. Plantinga and Arrington have no evidence NS selects for “ludicrous beliefs.” The “ludicrous beliefs” that Plantinga suggests are all MORE COMPLEX than non-ludicrous beliefs, thus they waste brain power relative to simpler beliefs, and they are non-robust. Overly complex hypotheses are NOT ROBUST, that is, they do not adapt well to newly acquired data; overly complex hypotheses are less accurate in predicting data points that have not yet been observed, as any statistician can tell you. Plantinga and Arrington have no evidence NS selects for beliefs of any kind, least of all, overly complex, non-robust, “ludicrous beliefs.”

    3. NS selects for genes, which affect brain structure, which affect brain function, which affect beliefs.

    4. Some brain functions (A) seek the simplest explanation for data, for reasons of ROBUSTNESS and minimizing wasting brain energy, and other brain functions (B) don’t. The scientific method is an example of (A), religion is an example of (B).

    5. Beliefs about invisible intangible entities that do not interact with matter are of type (B), so no brain functions will cause differences in beliefs of this type to converge to a single, simplest, most robust solution. Historically, differences of opinion here will only be resolved through non-mental functions, typically force and violence. The history of religion confirms this.

    6. The belief in the primacy of reason is heresy according to the most important Christian theologians.

    Martin Luther: “Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil’s appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom … Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism… She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets.” — Martin Luther, Erlangen Edition v. 16, pp. 142-148

    link

  48. NS selects for genes? LoL! NS doesn’t select and the traits are what get selected, not the genes- didn’t evos just get done telling us that?

    Also beliefs effect behaviour, which is definitely something that can effect survival and reproduction. Meaning of course it would be part of natural selection’s domain.

  49. To Vividbleau at #32:

    Why is god necessary ?
    Why is he any more necessary than Donald Duck ?

  50. 50
    William J Murray

    Graham2:

    1. To prevent infinite regress with a causeless cause
    2. To provide a source of free will, without which we cannot hope to deliberately discern truth
    3. To provide a source of a perfect arbiter of truth, without which all arguments are subject to arbitrary and subjective conclusions.
    4. To provide a source of a perfect, objective good, without which morality cannot be anything other than subjective and arbitrary – “anything goes”
    5. To provide a reasonable explanation for the fine-tuning of the cosmos
    6. To resolve the problem quantum wave function collapse presents to the formation of a universe prior to the presence of any physical observers

    Whether you call the entity that resolves those issues god or donald duck, it’s still a necessary entity.

  51. G2:

    First, observe that we live in a credibly contingent cosmos as contingent beings. We have beginnings, and ends. There are possible worlds in which we are not.

    A necessary being is not like that.

    As a simple and non-controversial case, in no possible world — even an empty one with no physical objects in it, will we have 2 + 3 != 5. This truth has no beginning, no end, no cause, it is necessary.

    Similarly, reflect on a burning match.

    Absent any one or more of heat, fuel, oxygen or the like oxidiser, and it will not come to be or will cease. It is contingent on external causal factors that enable its existence.

    Now, conceive a being, B, that is not like that, having no external causally enabling factors that it depends on.

    It would not have a beginning, it would have no ending, it would have to be in all possible worlds.

    Which means, that if in any possible world, B is IMPOSSIBLE, it cannot be in ANY world, and also if in any possible world B would be, it is so in all possible worlds. That is, if something is a serious candidate to be a necessary being (unicorns and flying spaghetti monsters need not apply), is will either be impossible or it will be actual.

    Now, as we said to begin with the world we inhabit is credibly contingent, and in particular seems to have had a beginning. It is causally dependent on something else, then. We can trace that as deeply as we want, the whole chain of such beings is dependent on something else. If something is, and that something is contingent, then there is something else that is necessary in the sense we have.

    Used to be, 100+ years ago, it was thought to be the observed universe as a whole. Post Hubble and the 1920′s observations [multiplied by those of the 1960's], dead.

    So, the issue is not IF there is an underlying necessary being causally connected to the observed cosmos, but of what nature.

    Let’s switch for a moment.

    God, as understood, is a candidate necessary being, the root of existence; and, obviously, a serious one.

    So, the real issue is not whether God is a necessary being as conceived, but if such a God is possible. That is, atheism asserts to know that such a God is impossible, or at least implies it. Formerly, it was easy to see arguments to that end by atheists: the deductive form of the problem of evil. Post Plantinga, those have largely collapsed and disappeared and there is sometimes a pretence that such arguments were never put. Sorry, I was there, on the ground to hear them, and to have to answer them.

    So yes, within living memory, atheists commonly argued that God is an impossibility. Now that the argument used to do that collapsed, the argument seems to be switching to, why should we accept that God is a candidate necessary being at all.

    I guess in the background, there is a back-handed recognition of the force of the logical issue of necessity, and actuality.

    The obvious answer to this, is the very nature of God as conceived — root of existence, ground of being etc — immediately and strongly implies that necessity of being. And that is before we get to the longstanding traditions that definitively conceive of God in terms that entail that: eternal, immortal, etc.

    So, I read the sort of objection that is now emerging as being inadvertently revealing. That is, instead of openly acknowledging the issue that God is a serious candidate necessary being, it wants to say, you show that to me, it is your burden to prove to me — often, while I sit comfortable on selective hyperskepticism — and I refuse to see that my view implies that God as historically and commonly conceived, is an impossibility. Which translates to: I probably cannot show God to be impossible, so the best rhetorical strategy onward, is to push the burden of proof back a step, and to sit on the claimed default.

    To explicitly state that is its own refutation. At worldviews level, every tub must stand on its own bottom.

    Coming back, the real issue is what is the necessary being at the root of nature as we observe and experience it. That being will be the ground of reality and will be eternal, of whatever nature.

    In answer, I suggest that the evidence of the world of life and the fine tuning/arrangement of the cosmos in which such life exists, both point to design, as is in fact historically the dominant view of the educated across time as well as the traditional view of theism. Our time is an aberration, historically, for for some decades it was imagined that there was an adequate system that got away from having to address the root of being.

    Now, collapsing.

    That is why, this logic is back on the table and refuses to be diverted from through the usual rhetorical devices.

    KF

  52. AF:

    I am afraid it is not so easy to brush the issue aside as that, especially as one who faced the thinking of Marxists, Freudians and Behaviourists in the 70′s.

    Here is my comment on the way that such evolutionary materialist (explicit or implicit) systems repeatedly and reliably end up consistently in self referential incoherence:

    a: Evolutionary materialism argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature; from hydrogen to humans by undirected chance and necessity.

    b: Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws of chance and/or mechanical necessity acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of happenstance initial circumstances.

    (This is physicalism. This view covers both the forms where (a) the mind and the brain are seen as one and the same thing, and those where (b) somehow mind emerges from and/or “supervenes” on brain, perhaps as a result of sophisticated and complex software looping. The key point, though is as already noted: physical causal closure — the phenomena that play out across time, without residue, are in principle deducible or at least explainable up to various random statistical distributions and/or mechanical laws, from prior physical states. Such physical causal closure, clearly, implicitly discounts or even dismisses the causal effect of concept formation and reasoning then responsibly deciding, in favour of specifically physical interactions in the brain-body control loop; indeed, some mock the idea of — in their view — an “obviously” imaginary “ghost” in the meat-machine. [[There is also some evidence from simulation exercises, that accuracy of even sensory perceptions may lose out to utilitarian but inaccurate ones in an evolutionary competition. "It works" does not warrant the inference to "it is true."] )

    c: But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this meat-machine picture. So, we rapidly arrive at Crick’s claim in his The Astonishing Hypothesis (1994): what we subjectively experience as “thoughts,” “reasoning” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as the unintended by-products of the blind natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains that (as the Smith Model illustrates) serve as cybernetic controllers for our bodies.

    d: These underlying driving forces are viewed as being ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance shaped by forces of selection [["nature"] and psycho-social conditioning [["nurture"], within the framework of human culture [[i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism]. And, remember, the focal issue to such minds — notice, this is a conceptual analysis made and believed by the materialists! — is the physical causal chains in a control loop, not the internalised “mouth-noises” that may somehow sit on them and come along for the ride.

    (Save, insofar as such “mouth noises” somehow associate with or become embedded as physically instantiated signals or maybe codes in such a loop. [[How signals, languages and codes originate and function in systems in our observation of such origin -- i.e by design -- tends to be pushed to the back-burner and conveniently forgotten. So does the point that a signal or code takes its significance precisely from being an intelligently focused on, observed or chosen and significant alternative from a range of possibilities that then can guide decisive action.])

    e: For instance, Marxists commonly derided opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismissed qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? Should we not ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is little more than yet another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze? And — as we saw above — would the writings of a Crick be any more than the firing of neurons in networks in his own brain?

    f: For further instance, we may take the favourite whipping-boy of materialists: religion. Notoriously, they often hold that belief in God is not merely cognitive, conceptual error, but delusion. Borderline lunacy, in short. But, if such a patent “delusion” is so utterly widespread, even among the highly educated, then it “must” — by the principles of evolution — somehow be adaptive to survival, whether in nature or in society. And so, this would be a major illustration of the unreliability of our conceptual reasoning ability, on the assumption of evolutionary materialism.

    g: Turning the materialist dismissal of theism around, evolutionary materialism itself would be in the same leaky boat. For, the sauce for the goose is notoriously just as good a sauce for the gander, too.

    h: That is, on its own premises [[and following Dawkins in A Devil's Chaplain, 2004, p. 46], the cause of the belief system of evolutionary materialism, “must” also be reducible to forces of blind chance and mechanical necessity that are sufficiently adaptive to spread this “meme” in populations of jumped- up apes from the savannahs of East Africa scrambling for survival in a Malthusian world of struggle for existence. Reppert brings the underlying point sharply home, in commenting on the “internalised mouth-noise signals riding on the physical cause-effect chain in a cybernetic loop” view:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [[But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [[so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions. [[Emphases added. Also cf. Reppert's summary of Barefoot's argument here.]

    i: The famous geneticist and evolutionary biologist (as well as Socialist) J. B. S. Haldane made much the same point in a famous 1932 remark:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [["When I am dead," in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. (Highlight and emphases added.)]

    j: Therefore, though materialists will often try to pointedly ignore or angrily brush aside the issue, we may freely argue: if such evolutionary materialism is true, then (i) our consciousness, (ii) the “thoughts” we have, (iii) the conceptualised beliefs we hold, (iv) the reasonings we attempt based on such and (v) the “conclusions” and “choices” (a.k.a. “decisions”) we reach — without residue — must be produced and controlled by blind forces of chance happenstance and mechanical necessity that are irrelevant to “mere” ill-defined abstractions such as: purpose or truth, or even logical validity.

    (NB: The conclusions of such “arguments” may still happen to be true, by astonishingly lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” or “warranted” them. It seems that rationality itself has thus been undermined fatally on evolutionary materialistic premises. Including that of Crick et al. Through, self-reference leading to incoherence and utter inability to provide a cogent explanation of our commonplace, first-person experience of reasoning and rational warrant for beliefs, conclusions and chosen paths of action. Reduction to absurdity and explanatory failure in short.)

    k: And, if materialists then object: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must immediately note that — as the fate of Newtonian Dynamics between 1880 and 1930 shows — empirical support is not equivalent to establishing the truth of a scientific theory. For, at any time, one newly discovered countering fact can in principle overturn the hitherto most reliable of theories. (And as well, we must not lose sight of this: in science, one is relying on the legitimacy of the reasoning process to make the case that scientific evidence provides reasonable albeit provisional warrant for one’s beliefs etc. Scientific reasoning is not independent of reasoning.)

    l: Worse, in the case of origins science theories, we simply were not there to directly observe the facts of the remote past, so origins sciences are even more strongly controlled by assumptions and inferences than are operational scientific theories. So, we contrast the way that direct observations of falling apples and orbiting planets allow us to test our theories of gravity.

    Plantinga deliberately chose a patently absurd case, but the issue is not that it is absurd and that one can pretend that somehow nature and nurture will magically deliver a sound mental system, but that this sort of absurdity is a commonplace of evolutionary materialist systems once we see the self referentiality involved.

    The matter is not so easily brushed aside as you imagine, once we substitute for Paul, actual and important cases that wore the holy lab coat for decades.

    KF

  53. F/N: Of course, AF’s increasingly threadbare excuse is that he does not read what I have to say. That, sadly, speaks volumes. KF

  54. Cabal @ 5:

    I believe this is a discussion better left to professional philosophers and psychologists.

    To me it seems poorly suited for making an argument questioning the validity of the scientifc theory of evolution. Especially since after twenty years, I still don’t know anything about ID except that ID is not in opposition to ToE, it is just the claim that magic (the effort of a mythical “designer”) is a better explanation for some signficant aspects of the evolutionary record of life.

    Let’s take that apart, step by step:

    >> I believe this is a discussion better left to professional philosophers and psychologists.>>

    1 –> The history of C20 philosophy and psychology — as in schools of self referential absurdity that dominated for decades — has shown beyond doubt that the matter is too important to be left in their hands as experts to be taken on trust

    >>To me it seems poorly suited for making an argument questioning the validity of the scientifc theory of evolution.>>

    2 –> What is at stake is not the scientific theory of evolution (and for that, if empirically grounded modelling that is reliable against observational tests is a criterion, is confined to micro evolutionary variations and adaptations of already existing body plans . . . ) but the a priori imposition of evolutionary materialism a la Lewontin et al.

    3 –> It is then highly important to know that, ever since Plato in The Laws Bk X, 2350+ years ago, it was known that such reduced to undermining of the possibility of knowledge beyond radical relativism and opens the door to destructive nihilistic factions.

    4 –> And in particular it is important to know, as was outlined already, that such runs into serious difficulties explaining the origin of a credibly knowing mind, a necessary condition of science.

    >>Especially since after twenty years, I still don’t know anything about ID except that ID is not in opposition to ToE,>>

    5 –> If by theory of evolution you mean the matter of limited or universal common descent of life forms, ID is indeed not opposed to evolutionary theory, but once such theorising is loaded with ideological a priori materialism — including by the back door of redefining science as explaining natural phenomena by naturalistic causes [As the US NAS and NSTA have done and have sought to impose on education systems under threat of holding children hostage . . . as in a certain threatening letter to Kansas] — then design theory is opposed to the ideologically loaded theory of evolution.

    >> it is just the claim that magic (the effort of a mythical “designer”) is a better explanation for some signficant aspects of the evolutionary record of life.>>

    6 –> this is a deliberate strawman caricature, as it reflects knowledge of the actual definition of the focus of design theory, but twists it into a more rhetorically convenient target. This is dishonest.

    7 –> Design theory, FYI, asks and seeks to answer the question as to whether cause by design can and does leave signs that allow the process of cause by design to be reliably inferred from observation of its effects.

    8 –> the answer to this, save to the ideologically committed and/or blinded is obvious, as the post you made lets us see by virtue of being an example: functionally specific complex organisation and associated information [FSCO/I] is a commonly encountered, inductively reliable sign of design. One that can be quantified and further tested to be reliable.

    9 –> As for the further demand that design theory as a scientific investigation then produce the suspect, that too is a strawman caricature. For, we all know that we have ever so many cases of known designs where we have not got credible reason to conclude to a chief suspect. As in cold case files aplenty in many police departments, for a simple case.

    10 –> In the case of evident design of life, we have good reason per DNA and its codes and associated implementation machines etc, to infer to design. That gets us to that tweredun. That we currently do not have enough evidence on whodunit as a scientific matter, does not detract from that.

    11 –> In the case of cosmological fine tuning, the evidence points to a designer of awesome power and knowledge beyond the cosmos. Philosophy has to take over from there, especially through the logic of cause and its implication of a necessary being at the root of reality.

    12 –> But, phil is not sci. That does not mean it is useless or cannot deliver pretty strong warrant for key conclusions, if we are willing to listen.

    KF

  55. kairosfocus kindly (but inadvertently) makes my point for me:

    The matter is not so easily brushed aside as you imagine, once we substitute for Paul, actual and important cases that wore the holy lab coat for decades.

    Which means that if kairosfocus is right about theism, then our God-given minds are so unreliable that “actual and important cases” have “worn the holy lab coat” for decades before the errors were discovered.

    As I said at the beginning:

    Theists are no better off than “reductive materialist Darwinists” when it comes to this issue.

    Plantinga aims his weapon at “evolutionary naturalism” but theism ends up as collateral damage.

  56. 56
    William J Murray

    The difference between the theistic premise and the materialist one is that through the theistic premises of free will and a perfect arbiter of truth, humans have the potential to deliberately discern true statements from false.

    Under the materialistic premise, true statements cannot be deliberately discerned; they can only be uttered or believed by chance.

    While both premises leave truth-discernment open to error, only the theistic premises offers the **potential** of successful deliberate truth-discernment.

    Since all arguments presume that true statements can be deliberately discerned (potential), and that we’re all using the same (universal, absolute) arbiter of true statements (logic), one can argue all they want that there is no difference between theistic and materialist assumptions, but they are still necessarily employing theist premises to make their argument and expect it to be soundly evaluated by those reading.

  57. T: You have twisted what I said into unrecognisable pretzels. It should be clear that if we were made to be reasoning creatures, we would be capable of knowledge and would be equipped with senses and common sense to use them well, in their appropriate environment; which is what we experience empirically. Evolutionary materialism, as is shown from several actual cases that dominated in the halls of science and the academy for decades, has no such luxury. KF

  58. kairosfocus:

    T: You have twisted what I said into unrecognisable pretzels.

    Not at all. Here’s what you wrote, verbatim:

    Plantinga deliberately chose a patently absurd case, but the issue is not that it is absurd and that one can pretend that somehow nature and nurture will magically deliver a sound mental system, but that this sort of absurdity is a commonplace of evolutionary materialist systems once we see the self referentiality involved.

    The matter is not so easily brushed aside as you imagine, once we substitute for Paul, actual and important cases that wore the holy lab coat for decades.

    Yes, you made a silly error, but that’s no reason to accuse me of twisting your words.

  59. According to materialism, thoughts are produced by matter – which is itself not in the business of thinking. Matter is doing something else. The same goes for computers: ‘they’ are not thinking.
    Even if what matter does may sometimes look like thinking it will never be actually thinking. That is, it will never be an activity that is governed by the laws of reason – such as logic. It will always be an activity governed by the laws of physics – which are not designed for thinking.
    For me Searle’s Chinese Room is a perfect example of something that looks like thinking but actually is not.
    This is an important reason why ‘material thinking’ – even if it exists – is in principle unreliable. According to materialism thinking is produced by something which is not thinking.

  60. 60
    Kantian Naturalist

    Box, I bring to your attention the Churchland’s response to Searle, “Could a Machine Think?“. They argue that Searle is not entitled to the assumptions which make his thought-experiment appear convincing. In particular I point out their “Luminous Room” parody of Searle’s “Chinese Room” as a way of showing just what is wrong with Searle’s critique.

    (By the way, it must be pointed out, Searle never intended for the Chinese Room to be a critique of materialism — he intended it to be a critique of A.I. Searle is a materialist himself, insofar as he thinks that the mind is the brain. He just thinks that brains have causal powers that computer programs, being mere lists of instructions, cannot have.)

  61. KN Would you be so kind to summarize Churchland’s counterargument – if there is one – to what I have stated in post 59? BTW I’m aware of Searle’s intentions regarding the Chinese Room.

  62. 62
    Kantian Naturalist

    Box, if I have time later on I’ll post what I imagine would be Churchlands’ response to the challenge. In the meantime, by all means take a look at their article and judge its merits for yourself.

    For what’s worth, I don’t share the Churchlands’ views, but I they are worth taking very seriously — partly because their views are usually misrepresented, even grossly misrepresented, by their critics.

  63. Isn’t Churchlands’ view something like that Searle is wrong for assuming that the Chinese room will not in fact be a manifest consciousness and will not have some experience of understanding the semantics and meaning underlying its input and output exchanges of Chinese characters? Seems like a good assumption to me.

    Maybe someone in China will have to “speak” to the Chinese Room and inform it that its very being relies on an Englishman following English instructions, cranking levers and turning valves within its roomself.

  64. KN, I gather that the Churchlands are arguing that a computer can be like a brain, or can mimic a brain. I have no objection to that at all. I synchronized those two in my argument in post 59 – both are matter.
    The Churchlands work under the (weird) assumption that the brain thinks and is conscious. So they ‘prove’ that a computer thinks and is conscious when it is shown that it could work like a brain.
    In post 59 I express my problems with the assumption that the brain is thinking and is conscious.
    Do let me know if I have missed something.

  65. 65
    Kantian Naturalist

    I don’t know if the Churchlands would say that a brain thinks. I’m inclined to say that they wouldn’t put it that way.

    The problem here is that thinking, as we commonly construe it, is something that’s done with “propositions” — sentence-like units of information. But the Churchlands point out that brains don’t contain propositions. Still, it doesn’t follow from that that brains are purely syntactical. Brains can contain semantic content, just not propositional semantic content. Better, they argue, to think of brains as containing maps of local environments: brains represent their environments by mapping its objects and features.

    So the Hard Question, by my lights, is figuring out the relation between (1) the non-propositional, quasi-semantic maps through which brains represent their environments and (2) the propositionally-organized theories and languages through which persons represent their worlds.

  66. KN: I don’t know if the Churchlands would say that a brain thinks. I’m inclined to say that they wouldn’t put it that way.

    Wouldn’t that be politically correct or something? Well it is ok for them to say that a computer thinks – they say that all the time.
    ‘How does the brain achieve cognition?’ is one of the questions they ponder upon. That’s pretty close, isn’t? Or does the brain achieve cognition without thinking?

    KN: Still, it doesn’t follow from that that brains are purely syntactical. Brains can contain semantic content, (…) maps of local environments (…) non-propositional quasi-semantic maps (…) propositionally-organized theories and languages.

    The way I see it is that the brain consists of matter and inside the brain is matter. Matter is governed by the laws of physics rather than the laws of reason. BTW if there are maps of any kind in the brain it would be of no use in a naturalistic world, because there would be nobody to look at them.

  67. thaumaturge:

    You are a possible being, not a necessary one. Why would your non-necessary existence imply that there must be necessary beings?

    vividbleau:

    There can only be one necessary being.

    If a necessary being necessarily creates a second being, then the second being is also necessary.

    Furthermore since I am a contingent being and it is possible for me not to exist I am left with four options. 1) An infinite regress of causes or an infinite regress of effects (take your pick)2)I am uncaused. 3)I am self caused.4)Something exists necessarily. I am open to other options you might suggest.

    The option you are missing is that there could be a first cause which is not a necessary being.

    thaumaturge:

    You’re confusing “non-contingent” with “necessary”. A non-contingent being needn’t be a necessary being, and vice-versa.

    vividbleau:

    How so?

    I just gave examples of both. A being that is necessarily created by a necessary being is necessary but contingent. A first cause that is not necessary is non-contingent but not necessary.

    Necessity and non-contingency are not the same thing.

    thaumaturge:

    Sure, God is free to choose what he wants. But he’s only free to want the things that are in accordance with his attributes.

    vividbleau:

    What you characterize as limited I characterize as freedom. What can be more free than to want and choose the things that are in accordance with ones likes and dislikes (attributes)? Your idea of freedom is actually to limit God.Your idea of freedom is that God must be free to want and choose things that are not in acoordance with His likes and dislikes.

    No. Like you, I am a compatibilist, so I have no problem with the idea that freedom consists in doing that which is in one’s nature to do. But compatibilist free will is in fact limited, by your own criterion.

    Remember, you stated that

    A necessary existence would have to be infinite in whatever attributes it possesses. Ifit is knowing it would have to be all knowing.If powerfull all powerfull etc, etc.The reason for this is that anything that is limited has potentiality, what has potentiality is limited.

    And by that reasoning, a being that does some things has to do everything, or else it is not a necessary being. Since a good God does not do evil, he does not do everything. He therefore cannot be a necessary being by your criterion.

    P.S. Earlier in the thread, you wrote:

    I cannot phantom such a notion as a causeless cause.

    I think the word you want is “fathom”, not “phantom”.

    Anyway, since you’re a theist, don’t you think that God is a “causeless cause”?

  68. 68
    Kantian Naturalist

    Yes, they do say that brains cognize — that brain-states are cognitive states — where I hesitate, though, is about the term “thinking,” because Churchland is quite clear in holding that nothing at the neurological level corresponds to propositional attitudes. So if thinking involves propositions, then brains don’t think. (But perhaps I’m conflating the Churchland view with my own.)

    The way I see it is that the brain consists of matter and inside the brain is matter. Matter is governed by the laws of physics rather than the laws of reason.

    Yes, there’s a nice distinction at work here — what Sellars and McDowell call the distinction between “the realm of law” and “the space of reasons.” The question, of course, is whether or not this distinction can be accommodated within metaphysical naturalism.

    It seems perfectly obvious to me that it can; it seems perfectly obvious to you that it cannot. So we’re at an impasse. But I do recognize that the onus is on me to develop a theory of reason as a natural phenomenon. The reason why I think this can be done is because, on my view, rationality is just the synergy between ordinary animal mindedness and language, neither of which looks like a promising place for explanations that transcend the natural world. (Put slightly otherwise: if ordinary animal mindedness — the mindedness of a cat or dog or whatever — is a natural phenomenon, and language is a natural phenomenon, then so too is rationality.)

    BTW if there are maps of any kind in the brain it would be of no use in a naturalistic world, because there would be nobody to look at them.

    The brain doesn’t use a map; it instantiates it. More precisely: the habits of an animal are its map of its habitat because of causally-grounded relations between features of its environment and features of its brain.

    I take it that this is obviously true of, say, eagles or wolves or frogs. (Whether it’s true of, say, spiders is a really interesting question.) And of course it’s true for a great deal of human cognition, such as the kind we employ to negotiate traffic or make dinner. The Hard Question is, what’s the relation between this kind of cognition and the kind of thinking we engage in when we make or assess an inference, ascribe an inconsistency to someone, or other kinds of rational thought. Or, in my preferred idiom, the Hard Question is: how did creatures whose lives are structured by habits evolve into creatures whose lives are structured by habits and also by rules?

  69. How extremely muddled the thinking of the Churchlands is becomes apparent when they state ‘(…) no neuron in my brain under-stands English, although my whole brain does.’
    So the ‘whole brain’ understands English. If each and every neuron doesn’t understand English why would all the neurons combined suddenly understand English? Where does this – almost philosophical – ‘insight’ in the relation between the whole and the parts come from? What is the ontological status of this understanding ‘whole brain’ in Churchland’s naturalism? What kind of understanding ‘entity’ cannot be reduced to its unknowingly neurons?

  70. To WJM #50: To prevent infinite regress with a causeless cause

    First of all, I think the ’causeless cause’ stuff can be put to bed now that we know about quantum theory.

    The more troubling bit is the first part: ‘to prevent regress …’. So, if you cant explain something, you invent a spirit in the sky to tidy up the loose ends.

    The rest is just theology.

  71. Box:

    The way I see it is that the brain consists of matter and inside the brain is matter. Matter is governed by the laws of physics rather than the laws of reason.

    Human minds are obviously not governed by the laws of reason. If they were, it would be impossible for us to make logical mistakes.

    I would put it this way:

    1. All arrangements of matter merely follow the laws of physics.

    2. They always follow the laws of physics.

    3. Different arrangements of matter do different things. For example, some arrangements of matter can successfully add one number to another under certain conditions. We use such arrangements of matter inside computer chips.

    4. You could loosely say that such arrangements “follow the laws of arithmetic,” but really they just follow the laws of physics like every other arrangement of matter. If the chip has a bug, or it heats up too much, or the voltage drops too low, it will no longer add numbers correctly.

    5. A brain is an arrangement of matter that, like every other arrangement of matter, merely follows the laws of physics.

    6. You could loosely say that the brain “follows the laws of reason”, but that isn’t really correct. It follows the laws of physics. If the brain is intoxicated, or the blood glucose level drops too low, or the problem it is working on is too difficult, it may no longer reason correctly.

  72. Box:

    So the ‘whole brain’ understands English. If each and every neuron doesn’t understand English why would all the neurons combined suddenly understand English?

    My truck consists of thousands of parts. Every one of those parts is incapable, by itself, of getting me to work in the morning. Yet somehow all of them together manage to do it. How is that possible?

  73. thaumaturge: You could loosely say that the brain “follows the laws of reason”, but that isn’t really correct. It follows the laws of physics.

    Thaumaturge, we are in agreement on this.
    Let’s concede – for the sake of argument – that the brain can mimic thinking and so can give us the illusion that it follows the laws of reason. If that were the case then the brain – in fact – does no such thing, because ‘it follows the laws of physics’ – like you said.
    And this is an important reason not to trust our thoughts given materialism. Matter is in the driver seat and the bad news is that it is not thinking. We can only be fooled into believing that it does.

  74. 74
    Kantian Naturalist

    Thamaturge,

    Human minds are obviously not governed by the laws of reason. If they were, it would be impossible for us to make logical mistakes.

    A better way of putting a point here would be say that persons are not governed by rational principles in the same sense of ‘governed by’ that particles are governed by physical laws. In the latter, the physical laws tell us what a particle will or would do; in the former, the rational principles tell us what a person should assert or deny.

    It’s the “should-ness” or normativity that Box and I are interested in — he/she thinks that normativity cannot be accommodated within metaphysical naturalism, and I think that it can be.

    My truck consists of thousands of parts. Every one of those parts is incapable, by itself, of getting me to work in the morning. Yet somehow all of them together manage to do it. How is that possible?

    The analogy is not too bad, but there’s a really important disanalogy here, too. In the case of the truck and its parts, we have a theory that tells us how the different mechanical parts causally interact in order to produce a truck. (In the absence of that theoretical understanding, the truck looks like magic — and if you give the parts to someone who doesn’t understand how they fit together, a truck will not mysteriously materialize.)

    What we need, and don’t seem to have, is a theory of how the systematic interactions between neurons produce maps, such as the rules of grammar. We have pretty good theoretical understandings of how the systematic interactions between neurons produce maps of perceptual features (e.g. faces), but grammar is something else.

    The point stands, though, that if you’ve got a theory of x, your intuition that ~x loses some epistemic credibility. And if the theory of x is a really good theory, then the intuition that ~x begins to look like an appeal to ignorance.

  75. Thaumaturge (72),
    Thanks for your question. Like Kantian Naturalist I have some doubts about your analogy. I more or less answered your question in the same post (96) where you quoted from. The Churchlands did introduce some sort of whole and parts concept which strikes me as highly inappropriate within the naturalistic realm.

  76. Box,

    If you don’t like the truck analogy, let’s return to the computer chip.

    An individual transistor cannot add two 32-bit numbers. Yet if you connect enough transistors together in the right way, you obtain a circuit that can add the numbers and produce the correct result.

    To me it is no surprise that a specific arrangement of transistors can do something that an individual transistor cannot, nor that a specific arrangement of truck parts can do something that an individual crankshaft cannot. Why, then, should it be a surprise that a brain can do something (comprehend English) that an individual neuron cannot?

    You might wish to argue that since a complex network of neurons is just an arrangement of matter operating according to the laws of physics, it can only mimic the comprehension of English. It can’t really comprehend English.

    But by that reasoning, a computer chip only mimics addition. It doesn’t really add the numbers.

    Do you really want to argue that a computer cannot add two numbers?

    On the other hand, if you concede that computers can really add numbers, then what is the essential difference between addition and English comprehension that allows the former to be accomplished by “mere matter” but not the latter?

  77. Box:

    And this is an important reason not to trust our thoughts given materialism. Matter is in the driver seat and the bad news is that it is not thinking. We can only be fooled into believing that it does.

    That is tantamount to this:

    And this is an important reason not to trust our computers. Matter is in the driver seat and the bad news is that it is not doing arithmetic. We can only be fooled into believing that it does.

  78. Kantian Naturalist,

    I’m not sure why you think that grammar presents a special problem for the materialist. Computers can do grammar, and neural networks can be constructed to be Turing complete, meaning that they can do anything that computers can do — including grammar.

    We don’t yet know specifically how grammar is handled in the human brain, but the fact that it is doable using neural networks is not in question.

  79. 79
    Kantian Naturalist

    Thamaturge,

    I wasn’t denying that, in principle, neural networks can handle grammar — I was only suggesting that, unlike with faces and other perceptual domains, we don’t yet have a really good account of how they do it. However, I do think that any neural network that can handle grammar can handle logic — I don’t think the difference is all that great.

    The problem for naturalists is this: we can build devices that implement grammatical and logical rules, but (one might think) the normativity of those devices is parasitic on ours. So it doesn’t really resolve, one way or the other, whether our normativity — our capacity to recognize and respond to reasons, both epistemic and practical, arose through evolutionary processes (broadly construed) or through some mysterious, unspecified process that anti-naturalists call “design.” I’m a naturalist, so my bet is on the former, but I’m not insensitive to the problem.

    Compared to the problem of the origin of rationality — what I like to call “alogogenesis” — abiogenesis is a piece of cake.

  80. “The option you are missing is that there could be a first cause which is not a necessary being.”

    Well actually I covered that in my option “4)Something exists necessarily.” But whatever that something is it is a neccessary something. You want to propose something else other than a “being” I am hapy with that, for a materialist I consider that progress.

    “And by that reasoning, a being that does some things has to do everything, or else it is not a necessary being. Since a good God does not do evil, he does not do everything. He therefore cannot be a necessary being by your criterion.”

    I reject your reasoning that a being that does somethings has to do everything. Thats your reasoning not mine.You seem to have a very unsophisticated view of freedom and what it is to have limits. I guess for you to have no limits is to be able to do even the impossible. God can do whatever is actually possible He cannot do the impossible. I dont consider the inability to do the impossible as a limitation.

    “No. Like you, I am a compatibilist, so I have no problem with the idea that freedom consists in doing that which is in one’s nature to do. But compatibilist free will is in fact limited, by your own criterion”

    Yes it most surely is that is why the term free will is a oxymoron.I prefer free choice which I define to be the abilty to choose that which is possible for the one to choose, the one the chooser most wants to choose, given the options available at the time the choice is made.

    But as I pointed out that is what freedom of choice is. If you choose something that you dont MOST want then your choice is being restricted in some way and that is the oppositie of freedom.

    It is no limitation on God that He will not choose that which He most wants not to choose. But you say it is His attributes, likes and dislikes that limits that which He most wants to choose and most wants not to choose. But that is not a limitation. WHat would be a limitation would be in the choosing by God of something He most wants not to choose. I dont understand why this is so difficult to grasp.
    To do anthing I want that is actually possible when I want to do it in accordance with my nature speaks of an unlimitless being not a limited one.

    “If a necessary being necessarily creates a second being, then the second being is also necessary.”

    A neccessary being is a being that cannot not exist.The created being you speak of did not exist and now does. So it can not exist and therefore cannot be a second necessary being. There are other reasons as well but the fact that you even proposed this as an example leads me to suspect you would not be able to grasp the more sophisticated arguments as to why there can only be one necessary being.

    “I think the word you want is “fathom”, not “phantom”.”

    Thanks I also mispelled coerced as coherced. How did you miss that one?

    “Anyway, since you’re a theist, don’t you think that God is a “causeless cause”?

    I would say that God is uncaused. Be that it may I cant fathom an uncaused being or a causelss cause. When I try I get a charley horse between my ears. Can you fathom a causeless cause?

    Vivid

  81. T: KINDLY, ENLIGHTEN ME AS TO MY ERROR IN HIGHLIGHTING MATERIALIST SELF REFUTING SYSTEMS, ON SUBSTANCE NOT IPSE DIXIT. KF

  82. Graham2 #70

    ‘The more troubling bit is the first part: ‘to prevent regress …’. So, if you cant explain something, you invent a spirit in the sky to tidy up the loose ends.’

    Or we could could just leave God out of the equation altogether, as it’s obviously a science stopper, and just believe that it all began at the big-bang, which of course would have required a cause, which itself would have required a cause, which would have been a cause that would have required a cause, which in turn would have needed a cause of its own, which would have had to have been caused by something, which of course would have required a prior cause … Look, it’s a great game, if you have the time ;)

  83. PeterJ: There is another possibility: ‘we dont know’.

  84. Thaumaturge

    (Not banned at UD as at 9:45 pm last evening . . . )

    I would put it to you that the parts of your truck do not explain their specific functionality, and that there are vastly many more non-functional ways they could be arranged than functional ones, leading to the island of function effect that you — per indication you are KS — are so dismissive of.

    They have been intelligently arranged and coupled together, in accord with a Wicken wiring diagram, which was itself intelligently designed. Thus function is dependent on FSCO/I.

    Now, on materialistic views, the functional organisation of our brains is in need of explanation as a massively evident case of such FSCO/I, but also that needs to explain the capacity to address knowledge , warrant and logic, where for instance you know or should know of several infamous cases of microprocessors that ran into trouble on just this point. Logic gates and flip flops etc, miswired, will happily execute nonsense till there is a crash. Similarly, if they are fed with semantically incorrect software. Hence, GIGO.

    That does not yet arrive at intentionality and the like.

    And, above, I pointed to three very specific cases, with a fourth on general obseevations, of the problem of materialist systems ending reliably in self referential incoherence.

    That is what you need to address cogently and substantially rather than on ipse dixitism that looks for all the world like ideological trotting out of programmed dismissive talking points, rather than a substantial engagement.

    I have laid out why I and significantly many others think there are serious problems of self referential incoherence in evolutionary materialism. What is your substantial answer?

    KF

  85. PJ & G2:

    The fundamental challenge is that necessity of being is not an incoherent concept in itself, e.g. the truth in 2 + 3 = 5 is a case in point. So, we need to face the issue that where there is a serious candidate to be a necessary being — one that must exist in all possible worlds — it will either be impossible or possible, and if possible then it will exist in all possible worlds including the actual one(s) so, if a serious candidate necessary being is not impossible, it is actual. [Silly counter examples such as unicorns and flying spaghetti monsters are patently contingent, not good candidates.]

    God is such a serious candidate, and what is being ducked by today’s atheists is that they are really taking on the challenge of trying to show God is impossible, in a context where their favourite former argument to do that was shattered by Plantinga 40 years ago.

    In short, what G2 needs to point out to us, is how there is not a necessary mind that explains the mathematically unified order of reality, and grounds the evident fine tuned design of the observed cosmos and even of the suggested speculative multiverse. Per, such an eternal mind being IMPOSSIBLE, by virtue of incoherence or the like.

    That attempt, I would like to see.

    KF

  86. G2: We do know the relevant logic on cause and being. KF

  87. PS: IIRC, someone above suggested that quantum events are causeless. Since cause includes enabling on/off switch factors (necessary causal factors like heat, fuel, oxidiser and chain reaction for a fire) it can easily be shown that quantum phenomena and effects — note the word — are not acausal. Cf discussion here in the UD WACs for details I do not wish to play out in a thread at length. KF

  88. 88
    William J Murray

    Graham2 said:

    First of all, I think the ’causeless cause’ stuff can be put to bed now that we know about quantum theory.

    Perhaps you can explain why infinite regress is circumvented by quantum theory?

    The more troubling bit is the first part: ‘to prevent regress …’. So, if you cant explain something, you invent a spirit in the sky to tidy up the loose ends.

    No, I postulate the only rational answer to the problem of infinite regress: a causeless cause, or the “unmoved mover”. The “spirit in the sky” part is just your tired, hackneyed way of attempting to demean a sound logical premise that dates back to Aristotle.

    Perhaps if you stepped outside of the mindset of condescension towards theism that apparently prompts those kinds of dismissive characterizations (“The rest is just theology.”, you could actually understand the nature of these kinds of theistic arguments and why virtually every statement you make directly implicates theistic principles – even if you deny them.

  89. WJM: Actually, at least to Plato and probably beyond, cf here on in context. KF

  90. keiths’ sockpuppet:

    My truck consists of thousands of parts. Every one of those parts is incapable, by itself, of getting me to work in the morning. Yet somehow all of them together manage to do it. How is that possible?

    Intelligent Design. Or do you think that blind and undirected processes can put together a car from all of its parts?

  91. Graham2 #83

    “PeterJ: There is another possibility: ‘we dont know’.”

    Agreed, therefore what’s so wrong with considering ‘a spirit in the sky’, as you put it?

  92. Just to confirm that if anyone wanted to continue discussing with thaumaturge, you are welcome at the Skeptical Zone, where you qan find him posting as KeithS. You used to be able to follow the link by clicking on my name but due, no doubt, to some technical glitch, it now links back to UD. So here it is.

  93. LoL! Who would want to discuss anything with keiths? He is just another grand equivocator and strawman maker.

  94. thaumaturge (77)
    Let’s say – for the sake of argument – that thinking is as trustworthy as a computer doing calculations. We can trust the computer if the programmer of the software – natural selection – has done a good job. Which is the case if the programmer has programmed correctly for all possible kinds of calculations. But how could this be? How can the instruction manual in the Chinese Room contain all possible questions and instructions? How can we deal with new challenges on which natural selection didn’t yet select? What if we – residents of the Chinese Room – are confronted with questions on which the manual has no instructions?
    Moreover matter has been programmed to mimic thinking by something – natural selection – which doesn’t know what thinking is.
    The whole concept doesn’t seem trustworthy to me.

  95. To KF @85: a serious candidate … apparantly you have already decided what this is.

    And mathematically unified order of reality … what on earth is that ?

  96. The author’s reasoning directly implies that it doesn’t matter what the fossils look like, or what biochemical research shows, or what any evidence of any kind looks like — if evolution creates a contradiction that undermines the reliability of our reasoning powers, then we must assume evolution is false.

    The ID movement, on the other hand, is based on the idea that evidence does matter; that evidence is what refutes evolution, and confirms some sort of intentional design process.

    The author fails to realize that the conundrum of trying to verify the reliability of your own reasoning powers with those same powers is simply unsolvable. It is not caused by evolution; nor is it solved by religion. It’s just an annoying paradox that will never go away.

  97. G2:

    Did you look at the cases of say the pink unicorn or the flying spaghetti monster and wonder why they would not be serious candidates?

    An immediate reason is they are both COMPOSITE, material, extended objects. So, they have dependence on external, necessary [enabling on/off] causal factors.

    It is not just a matter of my say-so, as you would have realised if you had taken time to follow, e.g. my discussion that starts with the case of the fire tetrahedron and shows the difference between contingent and necessary beings; there is a reason for this, not just a clash over who is boss.

    No material entity composed of components [such as atoms etc] can be a serious candidate necessary being, as has been known and put on the record since time immemorial. Nothing with a beginning or that can come to an end is a serious candidate necessary being. And so forth.

    Contrast a key case, the truth asserted in the symbols 2 + 3 = 5.

    This does not depend on material components, has no beginning and cannot end. It is logically impossible for it to be false, on pain of absurdity. indeed, it is self-evident.

    Another serious candidate is what is needed to hold such truths eternally, an eternal mind.

    All that I am saying is that we have categories of potential being: impossible, possible/contingent, necessary. Something is impossible if it cannot exist in any possible world. Contingent beings may or may not exist but would exist in a possible world, perhaps the actual one we experience, perhaps an alternative. necessary beings are such that if a world is possible, they will be there.

    God, is conceived as an eternal mind, with certain properties. This is a serious candidate to be a necessary being, per the issues outlined above. To deny actuality, what is needed is to show God to be contingent [which contradicts what is meant by God . . . if a being is contingent it cannot be a serious candidate to be God] or impossible.

    The latter is the implicit task- of- warrant for a major worldview claim confronting atheists.

    And that, too is not a mere matter of my say so so that a legitimate retort is “sez who.”

    It is a matter of logic, of reason.

    But then, these days, reason seems to be at a steep discount in the marketplace of ideas.

    And so, I think Solomon, personified as Sophia [Lady Wisdom], has somewhat to say to our time:

    Prov 1:20 ????????Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
    in the markets she raises her voice;
    21 ????????at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
    at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
    22 ????????“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
    How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
    and fools hate knowledge?
    23 ????????If you turn at my reproof,1
    behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
    I will make my words known to you.
    24 ????????Because I have called and you refused to listen,
    have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
    25 ????????because you have ignored all my counsel
    and would have none of my reproof,
    26 ????????I also will laugh at your calamity;
    I will mock when terror strikes you,
    27 ????????when terror strikes you like a storm
    and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
    when distress and anguish come upon you.
    28 ????????Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
    they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
    29 ????????Because they hated knowledge
    and did not choose the fear of the LORD,
    30 ????????would have none of my counsel
    and despised all my reproof,
    31 ????????therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
    and have their fill of their own devices.
    32 ????????For the simple are killed by their turning away,
    and the complacency of fools destroys them;
    33 ????????but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
    and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” [ESV]

    A word to the wise, or to those who would be wise . . .

    KF

  98. PS: have you reflected on the way that mathematics is so eerily powerful in science and in everyday life? it can be shown that by starting with the empty set, which collects nothing but is something, we can in succession create the natural numbers per Zermelo Frankel. From this, we can construct a continuum by an infinitely deep tree of fractions (in effect infinitely deep decimal numbers or more precisely the convergent series summarised in decimal numbers etc), which will have the cardinality of the continuum. From continuum, we can use the square root of -1 to get both rotation and space via an orthogonal axis and the exponential form of complex numbers. 3-D space comes in via other roots of unity leading to the ijk system and vectors and matrices. Points in space can be seen as taking up successive positions, hence kinematics. Blend in inertia, force, momentum and energy and we are in familiar territory. So, we have a unified ex nihilo mathematical framework for physical reality. That points to the possibility of unifying mind that has so ordered reality as we experience it mathematically, as the best explanation for that. And this is before we get to the fine tuning evidence.

  99. DR:

    Nope, the fossils — and for that matter, universal common descent — are fully consistent with common design, they do not decide the matter.

    And that is before we get to the issue of show-me, there is no credible observationally warranted materialistic mechanism for OOL, and no empirically warranted materialist account of the origin of major body plans and of the required functionally specific complex organisation and associated information.

    The issue is far more basic, that evolutionary materialism is a worldview [nope it is not science or a logically necessary f=ground for science etc], one that demonstrably in principle and in relevant cases reduces to self referential absurdity in many ways.

    That is, as a matter of logic, it is self-refuting and necessarily false.

    It is therefore not a viable worldview.

    Not by “assumption” but by demonstration.

    Observe the point made by famous evolutionist J B S Haldane on this, ever so long ago now:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” ["When I am dead," in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.]

    That we have such difficulty seeing this, speaks volumes about where our civilisation has reached today.

    KF

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