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Science’s Alternative to an Intelligent Creator: the Multiverse Theory

Our universe is perfectly tailored for life. That may be the work of God or the result of our universe being one of many.

by Tim Folger

Discover

published online November 10, 2008

A sublime cosmic mystery unfolds on a mild summer afternoon in Palo Alto, California, where I’ve come to talk with the visionary physicist Andrei Linde. The day seems ordinary enough. Cyclists maneuver through traffic, and orange poppies bloom on dry brown hills near Linde’s office on the Stanford University campus. But everything here, right down to the photons lighting the scene after an eight-minute jaunt from the sun, bears witness to an extraordinary fact about the universe: Its basic properties are uncannily suited for life. Tweak the laws of physics in just about any way and—in this universe, anyway—life as we know it would not exist.

Consider just two possible changes. Atoms consist of protons, neutrons, and electrons. If those protons were just 0.2 percent more massive than they actually are, they would be unstable and would decay into simpler particles. Atoms wouldn’t exist; neither would we. If gravity were slightly more powerful, the consequences would be nearly as grave. A beefed-up gravitational force would compress stars more tightly, making them smaller, hotter, and denser. Rather than surviving for billions of years, stars would burn through their fuel in a few million years, sputtering out long before life had a chance to evolve. There are many such examples of the universe’s life-friendly properties—so many, in fact, that physicists can’t dismiss them all as mere accidents.

“We have a lot of really, really strange coincidences, and all of these coincidences are such that they make life possible,” Linde says.

Read more…

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76 Responses to Science’s Alternative to an Intelligent Creator: the Multiverse Theory

  1. I wish that guys like Linde would admit that it is faith that motivates them to research the multiverse theory. I don’t have anything against that, I just wish that they would admit that they have faith in materialism and that motivates them to act.

  2. Doesn’t occam’s razor make God the more scientific choice?

  3. “In some other universe, people there will see different laws of physics,” Linde says

    Science by decree! Just how can anyone make that declaration with a straight face?

  4. From the article: “Advocates argue that, like it or not, the multiverse may well be the only viable non­religious explanation for what is often called the “fine-tuning problem”—the baffling observation that the laws of the universe seem custom-tailored to favor the emergence of life.”

    What an absurd statement. The author expressly admits that scientists have developed the multiverse theory for precisely religious reasons.

  5. Jehu,
    I would say no, because it is not specific enough. Unless the hypothesis included details of how God created the universe it can not be scientific in my mind. Maybe strings are part of a cosmic computer, or whatever…
    Anyway, such a hypothesis would need more detail than “God did it.”

  6. BarryA,

    A very interesting acknowledgement! Science should be about following the truth, no matter the implications, even if it supports a Designer.

    It’s kind of like going to what would ordinarily be described as a murder scene. You see the man on the floor, with a knife stabbed into his back, and foreign finger prints on the handle. The investigators come investigate the scene and realize it obviously looks like a murder. They have seen other murders in other towns and cities, and this looks just like those. However, they decide that they don’t like the idea of murder in this town. From this they conclude that the only possible option, aside from murder, is that of mere chance. They figure that somewhere in the wide wonderful universe there must be instances where material objects just randomly pop into existence. This man was just unfortunate enough for this to happen to him.

    Such thinking is what lands people into ridiculous, unproved, unphilosophical, and unscientific conclusions.

    Science isn’t against religion. Science is about finding the truth, and it’s hard time it acknowledge the truth! We aren’t an accident and to suggest such is to ignore all the evidence!

  7. *edit*

    On the above post, the last sentence describing the murder victim should be read as:

    “This man was just unfortunate enough that a knife popped into existence with chemical properties that looked like fingerprints, and then just so happened to fall into his back, killing him.”

  8. Barry,

    What I would like to know is how anyone can tell that if there are other “verses” that they are any different than the one we observe.

    But anyway your premise is correct and I believe Berlinski discusses this in “The Devil’s Delusion”.

    That is “they” cannot afford to have the one universe with a distinct beginning.

  9. Please do not confuse speculative philosophy with ‘science

  10. I believe a multi verse theory means just that, an infinite number of universes in which all possibilities are possible. And one of those possibilities is an omniscient all powerful being.

    Damned either way.

  11. “Critics say it doesn’t even qualify as a scientific theory because the existence of other universes cannot be proved or disproved.”

    So multiverse is not falsifiable. Isn’t that the excuse that is used to say ID is not science. They can’t have their cake and eat it too.

  12. 12
    sagebrush gardener

    Back when I was a kid, friends of mine would occasionally indulge in certain illegal substances. Under the influence, imagination would become possibility, possibility would become certainty, and certainty would become fact. (Thus the acquaintance who checked herself into the hospital emergency room firmly believing she had swallowed her tonsils.) Sounds a lot like the reasoning promoted by some scientists today. It makes one wonder.

  13. Joseph asks: “What I would like to know is how anyone can tell that if there are other “verses” that they are any different than the one we observe.”

    The obvious answer: They cannot. If the word “universe” is defined as the cosmos we observe and can, in principle, experience, then by definition we can experience only the universe in which we live. We cannot know if there are other universes, or, if there are, what their properties are. The theory is sheer lunacy. It would have to get better to rise to the level of merely wrong instead of insidiously stupid.

    My best guess is that the we are witnessing the death throes of the materialist paradigm, and the “multi-verse” idiocy is an intellectual spasm, as it were. Alternatively (and this explanation, it would seem, would be favored if we were to apply Occam’s razor), there are a lot of really stupid albeit highly educated people out there.

  14. Just a technical curiosity. As most ID supporters, I am obviously interested in statistical arguments, and the multiverse idea seems some form of extreme statistical argument. Like in darwinian theory, the occurrence of specified order is “explained” by random noise, only this time it is the “random noise” of universe generation. The problem here could be that, as nobody knows (and probably will ever know) how many universes are being generated, a calculation of probabilistic resources is impossible.

    In other words, we would really be affirming that “anything is possible and anything will happen” in the Babel’s Library of reality.

    Well, I believe that even that kind of affirmation can (and will) be falsified, if not on empirical grounds, at least on logico-mathematical grounds, but I cannot certainly, at present, specify how.

    But there is a technical point in the above article which is interesting. Lacking other empirical evidence, the hypothesis of the multiverse seems to be at present strongly tied to theoretical considerations from string theory. The article states:

    “…the basic equations of string theory have an astronomical number of different possible solutions, perhaps as many as 101,000. Each solution represents a unique way to describe the universe…
    …Susskind, a leading proponent of that interpretation, thinks the various versions of string theory may describe different universes that are all real. He believes the anthropic principle, the multiverse, and string theory are converging to produce a coherent, if exceedingly strange, new view in which our universe is just one of a multitude—one that happened to be born with the right kind of physics for our kind of life.”

    Well, I am not a cosmologist, but I would definitely say that “perhaps as many as 101,000″ does not really sound like “an astronomical number of different possible solutions”. And if ot were true that “each solution represents a unique way to describe the universe”, which seems to be the argument from string theory, then we should have as many as 101,000 possible different universes.

    Maybe cosmologists are impressed by that (after all, universes are not bacteria), but I am not. And I think anyone familiar with UPBs, and in general with statistics, should not be. 101,000 universes are, definitely, not a big probabilistic resource. And if you want to create the CSI of observed fine-tuning from the random noise of imaginary universes with that kind of chances, well, you are certainly an optimist…

    But again, I am not a cosmologist, and if anyone here has a more specific understanding of that aspect, I would be glad to know.

  15. A multi-verse could conceivably give rise to a world just like ours, but it would be frozen in time. There would be no mechanism for new information to enter the world after it had been created. All events would have to be predetermined, down to the blinking of an eye or a fleeting thought. Even consciousness would be predetermined, as my reflection on how my fleeting thought would be. I have reflected on this long enough, otherwise I may disappear into an infinite regression. Wait. That can’t be right. Is it not a contradiction to have an infinite within an infinite?

  16. Junior Scientist:

    This multiverse theory is a bit flakey – seems to meet mystical criteria more so than scientific criteria

    Senior Scientist:

    What about the math?

    Junior Scientist:

    Not very convincing.

    Senior Scientist:

    Well, does the multiverse make our universe appear pointless and random

    Junior:

    yep

    Senior Scientist:

    And does it make the human race appear even more insignificant as an accidental by-product

    Junior Scientist:

    yep it does

    Senior Scientist:

    Well son, it looks like we got ourselves a theory !!

    ;-)

  17. Even if that crack had been designed for that function it would be a false negative.

    Try reading here first:

    http://www.designinference.com.....bility.pdf

    http://www.designinference.com.....cation.pdf

  18. —–Barry A: “The theory is sheer lunacy. It would have to get better to rise to the level of merely wrong instead of insidiously stupid.

    —–”My best guess is that the we are witnessing the death throes of the materialist paradigm, and the “multi-verse” idiocy is an intellectual spasm, as it were. Alternatively (and this explanation, it would seem, would be favored if we were to apply Occam’s razor), there are a lot of really stupid albeit highly educated people out there.”

    Barry A, I am glad someone is finally describing this theory for what it is—pure idiocy. I am beginning to think that we should pass some kind of law forbidding anyone from getting a PhD in science without learning something about philosophy and logic.

    Multi-verse theory completely destroys the rational foundations for science. If there were infinite multiple universes, then reality would be totally incomprehensible, which means that there would be no reason to think or communicate about anything. I am amazed that so many ostensibly educated people do not understand this.

    Wishful thinking has a way of perverting one’s judgment. If a man does not conform his behavior to an objective and rational standard of truth, he will eventually try to create an irrational and subjective truth conform to his behavior. That, in my judgment, is what is going on here.

  19. Digdug,

    ID theory does not directly address the multiverse concept, of which there are multiple variations. I’ve seen ID proponents debate whether it is irrelevant or not, which depends on the preferred multiverse scenario. In any case, try reading some of Dembski’s books and your first question will get answered.

  20. Stephen, why does multi-verse theory completely destroy the rational foundations for science? Why would infinite multiple universes make reality incomprehensible? We only live in this universe and its the one we can rationally understand. The idea that there may be others spinning off each moment from the quantum possibilities of this one doesn’t change the fact that we can study this one.

    So I don’t understand why you said what you did. Would you like to explain?

  21. hazel: Multi-verse advocates say only one of two things:

    [A] Infinite multiple universes came into existence out of nothing. That means that they exist for no reason. Under those circumstances, there is no reason to assume that anything at all will have a cause. That means there is no reason to study science.
    OR

    [B] There is a universe generating mechanism. Under those circumstances, they have simply begged the question to another unknown cause, which is precisely the argument they are arguing against in the first place—The unmoved mover or, if you like, God.
    Something cannot come from nothing. That is one of the first principles of right reason. Multi-verse theory is a complete intellectual madhouse.

  22. Stephen, thanks for answering though I’ll have to admit I think you are making a big unfounded leap from the things you say to the conclusions you reach. The universe we live in seems to be pretty susceptible to scientific investigation. Even if it came into existence out of nothing, either by itself or as one of many universes, that fact doesn’t stop us from figuring out how it works though science. You seem to be saying that if we can’t know the ultimate cause of the universe as a whole we can’t study the parts of it we can know, and I think that argument is wrong.

    As for a first cause, of course we have an infinite regress problem when we try to think about that. This is an unsolvable problem, because no matter what the case, whatever we find out, there will always be the question of what caused the current ultimate cause that we know about. Calling this God and asserting that God is eternal and needs no first cause doesn’t really tell us anything, and of course doesn’t justify ascribing personal, willful qualities to that cause.

  23. What all people (and science) is doing is they are trying to rationalize things they can not understand. There are plenty of things in this world that does not make sense. However, we put labels on them not go crazy, such as universe, origin, etc. What we need to do is stop holding on to theories that do not hold much water anymore (i.e. evolution) and focus on where evidence leads, not where we wish it would.

  24. hazel: If something can come from nothing, then events can occur without causes. That closes the door on science. It also closes the door on reason itself.

    You are right about infinite regress; all causes must end with a causeless cause. But it is not an unsolvable problem. A causeless cause must be an eternal, self existent being. To be self existent is to be dependent on nothing else, and to be the cause of everything else that exists.

    Since all of empirical reality is changing, and since physical laws are unchanging, the origin of those laws must be transcedent to that changing reality. If the laws and the creator of those laws were part of that changing reality, (immanence, pantheism etc) then they too would always be changing.

    To know that a being is self existent and to know that everything we see around us is not self existent is to know a lot. For one thing, it renders us immune from the irrational idea that infinite mutliple universes can explain our existence. For another, it suggests that this self existent being, like us, has an intellect and will, since the creator cannot give the creature something that it doesn’t already have.

  25. StephenB said:

    A causeless cause must be an eternal, self existent being. To be self existent is to be dependent on nothing else, and to be the cause of everything else that exists.

    If we allow for the infinite existence of something, why can’t it be the universe itself?

  26. I’m afraid I just believe that “logic” leads inevitably to all these conclusions. You include lots of assumptions in your logic that are not necessarily true.

    Here’s just one thought: how do you know that the uncaused cause doesn’t create multiple universes? Why is a larger meta-universe in which universes are created and play out their existence separate from other universes somehow incompatible with the idea of a God as the uncaused cause?

    (P.S. I don’t think the general idea is that there are “infinite” universes, just that there are many, perhaps spinning off into more universe through quantum effects. This might be a very large number of universe, but not infinite.)

  27. I am so sorry – I meant to start by writing “I’m afraid I just DON’T believe that “logic” leads …”

    I will really try to proofread my posts. (I think I am used to places where you can edit mistakes, but that’s not an excuse for doing poorly here.)

  28. —–I’m afraid I just believe that “logic” leads inevitably to all these conclusions. You include lots of assumptions in your logic that are not necessarily true.

    What assumptions might those be? I assert plainly that the principles of right reason underlie all science. One of the first is that something cannot come from nothing. Do you question that? If so, let me know and we can discuss it.

    Here are a few more beginning principles: [A] A thing cannot be and not be at the same time, [B] A thing cannot be true and false at the same time and under the same formal circumstances, and [C] The whole is always greater than any one of its parts. There are more, but you get the idea. Do you question any of them?

    We don’t reason toward these points, we reason from them. Anyone who doesn’t accept them, a growing number of people by the way, are irrational and cannot reason in the abstract. Without these metaphysical foundations, there is no science or, for that matter, no logic.

    —–“Here’s just one thought: how do you know that the uncaused cause doesn’t create multiple universes?”

    If the uncaused cause creates multiple universes, then the credit for creation should go to the uncaused cause, not the infinite multiple universes. In that case, there is no need for the multiple universes, because the only reason scientists conceived the idea in the first place was to do an end around the need for a designer. It was a response to the “anthropic principle” (the privileged planet concept), which is a derivative of the fine-tuning argument.

    —–Why is a larger meta-universe in which universes are created and play out their existence separate from other universes somehow incompatible with the idea of a God as the uncaused cause?

    If you acknowledge the designer (God, uncaused cause, unmoved mover, etc.), then there is no reason to resort to a mult-iverse to explain the design. You already have your designer.

    —–“(P.S. I don’t think the general idea is that there are “infinite” universes, just that there are many, perhaps spinning off into more universe through quantum effects. This might be a very large number of universe, but not infinite.)”

    You seem to be forgetting the reason that infinity was introduced in the first place. The idea is to provide an alternate explanation for the phenomenon of “fine tuning.” In order to avoid the obvious point that someone or something fine-tuned it, materialist scientists fall back on the concept of infinity to try to explain how one instance of a fine tuned universe can “emerge” as the inevitable result of an infinite number of chances. Mere multiple universes won’t get the job done. Do you not see the incredible desperation involved in this initiative?

  29. “If we allow for the infinite existence of something, why can’t it be the universe itself?”

    The preeminent theory in cosmology, the Big Bang theory, pretty much rules out an infinite universe.

  30. Yes, but the “meta-universe” from which our universe came might be everlasting. Earvin’s argument is solid if you just back it up one level of causation. The main point is that a common argument is that if you want to avoid the infinite regress you have to posit an eternal first cause, but there is no reason why positing an eternal non-material divine being is logically any more compelling than positing an eternal material “world” out of which come universes such as ours.

  31. Digdug: “And, if THAT’S true, then perhaps can we suppose that – if the universe had been subtly different in some way – then we organisms would still be around, merely in some different form?”

    We can suppose anything we want, but that doesn’t mean it is actually possible. When we look at our current form, we see that there are small islands of functionality with vast amounts of ocean in between. But if you really want to suppose, then at least develop your suppositions. How is your supposed universe different to ours, and how does life function in that universe? Lay it out for us. Please don’t hold back on the details.

  32. Hazel @ 32-
    Robert Jastrow commented on the Big Bang theory: “That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”

    The question is, why couldn’t natural forces (your eternal material world) have produced the universe? Because Jastrow, along with other cosmologists and scientists, knows that natural forces–all of nature–were created at the Big Bang. This is the beginning point for the entire physical universe. Time, space, and matter all came into existence at that point.

    Logic tells us that a cause cannot come after its effect, and therefore natural forces cannot account for the Big Bang. There must be something outside of nature (supernatural) to do the job.

    Even if the Big Bang theory is disproven at some point in the future, that still does not mean that the universe is eternal.

    1. The second law of thermodynamics supports the Big Bang but is not dependent on it. The fact that the universe is running out of usuable energy and heading towards disorder is not up for debate. The second law holds true even if the Big Bang is false.

    2. Einstein’s theory of general relativity. This theory, which has been well verified by observation, posits a beginning for time, matter, and space whether or not it all began with a bang.

    3. The field of geology teaches that radioactive elements decay over time into other elements. Radioactive uranium eventually becomes lead. If all the uranium atoms were infinitely old, they would all be lead by now. Are they? If the answer is no, then the earth cannot be infinitely old.

    In order for the multiverse theory to be correct, all the evidence pointing to the Big Bang (or to the beginning of the universe) must be dealt with. Simply stating that there was an eternal material world doesn’t cut it.

  33. Hi Barb. Let me make myself clearer. I’m not talking about our universe being eternal, and I’m not talking about what has happened after the Big Bang. I’m talking about whatever “world” there is out of which our universe came via Big Bang. I am talking about speculative metaphysics, not physics.

    Since we use the word “natural” to refer to causes and events in our universe, it’s hard to know what word to use here. “Supra-natural” or just “metaphysical” is perhaps better than “supernatural”, which carries the connotation of some type of being that is like a living thing but non-material. It is this assumed connotation that it must have been a being – a God – that created our universe that I am arguing against.

    All the time, space and matter we know of in our universe came into being with the Big Bang, as you say. However we can speculate that the Big Bang is a product of some “larger” meta-verse, one which possibly has analogs to the time, space and matter we know, or which possibly is of a sort utterly incomprehensible to us.

    Of course one can also speculate that a divine being consciously and willfully created the universe via the Big Bang. My point is that these are equally valid speculations logically. Whatever arguments that one can make about the need for an eternal uncaused first cause applies equally to each of them. I’m not stating that such a meta-verse exists, because we can’t know. I am arguing that the statement that a God exists who created our universe is just as unknowable, and doesn’t hold a privileged position over the idea of an eternal meta-verse.

  34. Stephen you ask what assumptions you might be making, as you claim, it seems, to be using solely the “principles of right reason.”

    Well, for one, you say that “A causeless cause must be an eternal, self existent being.

    But why must this be a “being”? As I been discussing in #32 and #35 (I think those numbers are right), the uncaused cause could also be something like the material universe we know, with principles and forces which cause universes such as ours to come into self-contained existence, or it could be something whose nature is utterly incomprehensible to us. To assume that the uncaused cause has the properties of a being is, well, just that – an assumption.

  35. You could speculate that an incomprehesible, unverifiable metaverse produced the Big Bang and, subsequently, our universe.

    Or you could follow the empiric evidence and speculate that an intelligent divine being is behind all of nature.

    I don’t have enough faith to do the former.

  36. What actual evidence for an intelligent divine creator of the universe is there? What I see are philosophical arguments with various self-fulfilling assumptions and/or specific religious arguments based on theology (which assumes the creator), but those aren’t evidence, I don’t think.

  37. “What actual evidence for an intelligent divine creator of the universe is there? What I see are philosophical arguments with various self-fulfilling assumptions and/or specific religious arguments based on theology (which assumes the creator), but those aren’t evidence, I don’t think.”

    Linus Pauling once commented that science was a search for the truth, and I agree with him. We are using philosophy to get to the truth of the matter. Philosophy in this case means finding truth through logic, evidence, and science. Something is worth believing if it’s rational, supported by evidence, and if it best explains all the data.

    We use the principles of induction and observation to investigate the possibility that there is an intelligent divine creator. We obviously can’t see God, just as we can’t see gravity; however, we can observe the effects of gravity. We can then make a rational inference to the existence of a cause.

    Are there any observable effects that seem to require some kind of pre-existing supernatural intelligence? In other words, are there effects that we can observe that point to God?

    Einstein’s theory of general relativity that I mentioned above supports a formal argument for the existence of God. This is known as the Cosmological Argument and in logical form, it goes like this:

    1. Everything that had a beginning had a cause.
    2. The universe had a beginning.
    3. Therefore, the universe had a cause.

    For an argument to be logically valid, its premises must be true. The first premise is also known as the Law of Causality, which is the fundamental principle of science. Sir Francis Bacon acknowledged this law when he stated: “True knowledge is knowledge by causes.” We have observed in our universe that things don’t happen without a cause. To deny this law is to deny rationality.

    The second premise is outlined in my post above regarding the Big Bang. There are other competing theories available as to the origin of the universe, but none as well supported as the Big Bang. Scientists predicted in 1948 that some radiation from the Big Bang would be detectable and in 1965, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discovered this background radiation. Another prediction supporting the Big Bang is that we would see variations (ripples) in the cosmic background radiation; this was confirmed in 1992 by the COBE satellite. COBE took infrared pictures of the ripples, which I believe are viewable here: http://Lambda.gsfc.nasa.gov.

    A second logical argument for the existence of a creator is the Teleological Argument, which takes into account the precision with which the universe exploded into being. The Teleological Argument goes like this:

    1. Every design had a designer.
    2. The universe has a highly complex design.
    3. Therefore, the universe had a designer.

    Part of that complex design can be described as the “Anthropic Principle”, which refers to the highly precise and interdependent environmental conditions (anthropic constants) that we observe here on earth.

    Here are five anthropic constants:
    1. Oxygen level. Oxygen comprises 21% of our atmosphere. Any higher (say, 25%) and fires would erupt spontaneously; any lower (say, 15%) and humans would suffocate.
    2. Atmospheric transparency. If our atmosphere were less transparent, not enough solar radiation would reach the earth’s surface; more transparency would lead to bombardment by solar radiation at levels lethal to humans.
    3. Gravitational interaction of the moon and earth. Too much interaction would cause tidal effects on the ocens; too little would cause climate instabilities.
    4. Carbon dioxide level. Any higher, and runaway greenhouse effects would develop; any lowwer, photosynthesis becomes impossible.
    5. Gravity. If the gravitational force were altered by 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000001 percent, the sun would not exist and neither would we.

    Hugh Ross, an astrophysicist, calculated the probability that these and other constants (122 in all) would exist today for any planet in the universe by chance (without divine design). Assuming that there are 10^22 planets in the universe, Ross estimated that there is 1 chance in 10^138.

    The kicker: there are only 10^70 atoms in the entire universe.

    In effect, Ross states that there is zero chance that any planet in the universe would have the life-supporting conditions we have, unless there is an intelligent designer behind it all.

    Taking into consideration all this, and contrasting it with the multiverse theory, I agree with physicist Paul Davies, who wrote: “One may find it easier to believe in an infinite array of universes rather than an infinite Deity, but such a belief rests on faith rather than observation.”

  38. Hi Barb. Thanks for the thorough response. I am enjoying the opportunity to discuss these issues. Here are some thoughts (which I know are similar to other posts I’ve made in another thread.)

    You start by offering the Cosmological Argument:
    “1. Everything that had a beginning had a cause.
    2. The universe had a beginning.
    3. Therefore, the universe had a cause.”

    First of all, I accept that the universe had a cause. However, that is not the issue. The issue is what is that cause? One possibility is that that cause is a divine being – a God, but that is not the only possibility. For instance, the universe could be an effect of the properties of some kind of “larger” impersonal state or dimension of which we have no knowledge. I don’t think there is any reason to think that a divine being is the logically necessary explanation.

    (Let me note for completeness that I understand the argument that ultimately we must have a cause that did not have a beginning – an uncaused cause – in order to avoid the infinite regress problem. However, again, there is no reason that eternal state has to be a being.)

    Your second argument is the Teleological Argument:

    1. Every design had a designer.
    2. The universe has a highly complex design.
    3. Therefore, the universe had a designer.

    Here my objections are more fundamental: I don’t accept the truth of the first premise: “1. Every design had a designer.” As is common with many philosophical arguments, if you embed your conclusion in your premises you can in fact erroneously appear to logically reach the desired conclusion. Let me explain here.

    Let’s start by asking what is a “design”? If design means “something that has interacting parts that work well with each other,” or something like that, then how do you know that your premise is true? If in fact the universe arose out some impersonal state of principles or some higher dimension or in some way other than being consciously and willfully designed by a divine being, then in fact the statement that every design has a designer is false. Your premise is assuming exactly what you are trying to prove, and so the Teleological Argument fails.

    And last, you write, “Taking into consideration all this, and contrasting it with the multiverse theory, …” Let me make it clear, if it isn’t already, that I am not contrasting theism to the multiverse hypothesis. I am making the separate point that whatever cause there is of our universe, it is not necessarily a divine being.

  39. A simple question: Is there any reason why, with all these universes, there can’t be an enormous number of universes *exactly* like this, with every planet in the exact same place, every person on their “earths” with the same names, living in the same houses, with the same languages, and identical thoughts, etc.
    How far can this go? And this is “science”? Oh?

  40. Hazel,

    “I am making the separate point that whatever cause there is of our universe, it is not necessarily a divine being.”

    The problem is that, even if someone were to go ahead and grant this (a divine being is possible, but not utterly necessary) for the sake of argument, the best inference still kicks over to agent/design of at least a deistic variety.

    At the end of the day, minds and design are the one thing whose existence we can be certain of – as in, we know minds exist due to introspection, we know design exists. We have considerable ideas about what minds are capable of – we can look at our technology, our history, and so on. And there is no problem in principle for design/agency being the cause on one or multiple levels behind everything we see in the universe.

    You can respond that there is no problem in principle for a mindless or utterly agent-devoid explanation for all of these things. Again, let’s cede that for the sake of argument. But we only have direct and undeniable evidence for agent-centric causes. No evidence for the alternative exists without begging the question – in fact, I’d argue that evidence for such is not even possible in principle. Any given event or state of affairs is either beyond our understanding and therefore can’t be rallied for evidence, or is within our understanding – and the very understanding of it lends some credence to a mind/agent behind it on one or more levels. The mindless ultimate is condemned to be an assumption that requires a faith leap, a larger and more counterintuitive one than the bare ‘divine/deistic agent’ explanation.

    This only gets a person a person as far as deism. And it doesn’t mean that the mindless explanation is wrong. But I suspect that it illustrates a good reason to not only take agency seriously in context, but to prefer it to the alternative regardless of what’s discovered or implied in science.

  41. Hi nullasalus. I’m glad you’re willing to acknowledge that, at least for the sake of discussion, there are alternatives to assuming a divine being is the cause of the universe.

    You then argue that, given that, the best inference is still “agency/design.” However the arguments you use are flawed in the same way that the Teleological Argument in Barb’s post is flawed. Let me explain.

    You say that “We have considerable ideas about what minds are capable of – we can look at our technology, our history, and so on.” First, I’ll point out that we know what minds AND bodies working together are capable of – we have no idea if minds without bodies exist, nor whether, if they do, they could have any causal efficacy.

    But beyond that, we also don’t know how our mind/bodies came to be – did they arise by agency or did they arise from the interaction of particles, forces and principles in our universe. This is precisely the unanswered question that is at the heart of the ID argument: ID says that life, and us, was designed.

    But we don’t know that. More importantly, we can’t use the argument that we design things as an argument that we were designed. The common argument that every thing that we know was designed had an intelligent cause (which is a form of Barb’s statement that “every design has a designer”) can’t be used as evidence that we were designed because if we weren’t designed the statement “every thing that we know was designed had an intelligent cause ” would be false.

    The same argument goes back to the cause of the universe. If the universe both came from and embodies principles which can build complex parts that interact together, including the complexities of life, then you can have “design” without a designer. The fact that the universe has created beings – us – who can create in the ways we do doesn’t mean that we were created in those same ways. That is, in my opinion, the fundamental flaw in the “every design has a designer” argument.

    This is why I disagree with you that the best inference for the cause of the universe is a being – i.e., God.

  42. nullasalus

    We have considerable ideas about what minds are capable of – we can look at our technology, our history, and so on.

    If we’re talking about the origin of the universe, then no, our minds or technology is not capable of creating self sustaining very large complex universes like the one we find ourselves in. So I don’t see how you can draw any kind of inference there.

    But I suspect that it illustrates a good reason to not only take agency seriously in context, but to prefer it to the alternative regardless of what’s discovered or implied in science.

    Is this not exactly the attitude that is railed against here? I find it mind boggling that you say there is serious evidence for ID and that it’s being supressed or ignored and then go onto say that no matter what evidence is discovered either way you won’t be prepared to change your mind over this? You ask your opponents to do something you are not willing to do yourself.

    If both you are your opponents hold this view then progress of any kind will never be made.

  43. scottrobinson,

    “If we’re talking about the origin of the universe, then no, our minds or technology is not capable of creating self sustaining very large complex universes like the one we find ourselves in. So I don’t see how you can draw any kind of inference there.”

    Our minds? Of course not, and I never claimed as much. What I said was that agency and agents is the one thing we’re certain of, that in principle they’re entirely compatible with everything we see, and that as a result of that and several other factors, it is destined to remain our best default inference. It gains inferred strength whenever we make progress in understanding our universe, or improving our technology. I’d go so far as to say it amounts to the null hypothesis based on certain fundamental truths.

    “Is this not exactly the attitude that is railed against here? I find it mind boggling that you say there is serious evidence for ID and that it’s being supressed or ignored and then go onto say that no matter what evidence is discovered either way you won’t be prepared to change your mind over this? You ask your opponents to do something you are not willing to do yourself.

    If both you are your opponents hold this view then progress of any kind will never be made.”

    You’re new around here, so let me clue you in on something: I’m not a proponent of scientific ID. In fact, I’m the resident TE-inclined skeptic who has gotten into more than one congenial argument over my view that design (either identifying, or ruling out) cannot be investigated by science, certainly not on the levels ID proponents (and, on the flipside, naturalists/atheists) believe it to be.

    So I’d have to ask, just where did I say that ‘serious evidence for ID is being suppressed or ignored’? I come at the entire question from a philosophical, metaphysical, and sure, theological point of view. I do think that certain *perspectives* are regarded with hostility by various science communities and institutions. I have great sympathy for ID’s aims, philosophical aspects, and for incidents like the Guillermo Gonzalez case and otherwise. But it really sounds like you’re attributing beliefs to me that I haven’t stated here.

    Second: Progress? What makes you think progress can be made on what are fundamentally philosophical and metaphysical perspectives? To paraphrase Van Inwagen, if any issue of that nature were ever settled, it would be the first time in the entire history of philosophy that it happened.

    God Himself could etch the words ‘GOD EXISTS’ on the surface of the moon tonight. Atheists and skeptics would be divided over whether this proves that aliens exist and have a sense of humor, that we’re in a simulated universe, that we’re engaging in mass delusion, or otherwise. Idealists, materialists, and dualists would argue about what the nature of existence is, and whose paradigm the event supports.

    So, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but: Faith is never going away. Not for atheists. Not for theists. Not for anyone. Many others on this site disagree with me, and I can understand why. But know where I, personally, am coming from on this.

  44. hazel,

    “You say that “We have considerable ideas about what minds are capable of – we can look at our technology, our history, and so on.” First, I’ll point out that we know what minds AND bodies working together are capable of – we have no idea if minds without bodies exist, nor whether, if they do, they could have any causal efficacy.”

    First – no, we don’t ‘know’ this. Berkeleyan idealists and other like-minded types would argue that we don’t have bodies in the sense you’re discussing, and some of them claim support for their position from QM. They’re in a minority position, absolutely, but given the issues in play in some fundamental areas of science, there’s ample ground to question what these ‘bodies’ are, if they do in fact exist.

    Second, if you’re attempting to get at this issue by insisting that a divine agent is necessarily immaterial, I’ll object again from a different direction: What ‘immaterial’ means. If the DA’s position to us is analogous to a programmer’s position to a program, from the program’s perspective the DA is immaterial in any and all meaningful ways.

    Either way, the only point that survives without question here is the raw mind/agent itself.

    “But beyond that, we also don’t know how our mind/bodies came to be – did they arise by agency or did they arise from the interaction of particles, forces and principles in our universe. This is precisely the unanswered question that is at the heart of the ID argument: ID says that life, and us, was designed.”

    Sorry, but no. ID says that A) It’s entirely possible that life is designed, and B) It’s entirely possible that this can be explored through science. ID proponents may believe that life is designed. They may cite science that they say strongly infers this. But ID itself is a large collection of perspectives, ideas, and approaches – and nowhere in that sum is the out-of-the-box certainty that life is designed.

    Also, the distinction you give is wrong. The vast majority of ID proponents I am aware of cede that human agents arise from ‘the interaction of particles, forces, and principles in our universe.’ The question is whether those interactions infer design of varying kinds. Yes, there are some ID proponents who may argue for special creation in the history of man. There are also some (a growing number, a promising trend) who favor front-loading or procedural unfolding of nature along teleological lines and the like.

    ID is not a ‘either evolution did it, or it did not’ enterprise. That comes up a lot.

    “But we don’t know that. More importantly, we can’t use the argument that we design things as an argument that we were designed. The common argument that every thing that we know was designed had an intelligent cause (which is a form of Barb’s statement that “every design has a designer”) can’t be used as evidence that we were designed because if we weren’t designed the statement “every thing that we know was designed had an intelligent cause ” would be false.”

    Barb is making a different argument than I am (a good one, but different) – I happily conceded some major points for the sake of argument, and am approaching this differently.

    What I’m saying is that the issue is more fundamental: we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that design exists, and that agents exist. We can point at certain things that are definitely designed. Anything we can point at where the status of design is uncertain is entirely compatible in principle with an assumption of design (with varying perspectives on how that design was implemented.) Yes, we can imagine things coming into being or events coming to pass that are fundamentally unguided/without design too. In which case we have two possible explanations – but only certain and undeniable supporting evidence for one. We can’t, in principle, get evidence for the latter.

    Again, the latter could be true. But it will never be the more satisfying explanation. It requires too much assumption, too much faith, and can never have supporting evidence in its favor.

    “The same argument goes back to the cause of the universe. If the universe both came from and embodies principles which can build complex parts that interact together, including the complexities of life, then you can have “design” without a designer. The fact that the universe has created beings – us – who can create in the ways we do doesn’t mean that we were created in those same ways. That is, in my opinion, the fundamental flaw in the “every design has a designer” argument.”

    Again, that’s not the case. You seem to be implying here that you can’t have both a divine agent and particle interactions and physical principles. That’s incorrect.

    Further, I did not deny that ‘no designer’ may well be true. I expressly said it’s possible. But when it comes to what we’re capable of inferring, what is most easily inferred given the evidence, and what kind of evidence we could ever hope to have? The DA’s strengths are superior in every way. Again, I’m talking about on the most fundamental, basic philosophical level here. Once you get into the specifics of the type Barb discusses, the difficulty increases dramatically and quickly.

    “This is why I disagree with you that the best inference for the cause of the universe is a being – i.e., God.”

    No. The best inference is an agent, a being, a “DA” (where DA indicates something more about the relation of the agent to us, and possibly some of its implied properties). This alone does not get you to God. God’s among the possibilities, and is extremely compatible with placement in such a position. But I’ve not argued that God (certainly not the God of the faith I subscribe to) is made certain by this argument. I set the bar very low – deistic agent.

  45. I am sorry this is so long but I have been traveling for weeks and have only occasionally looked at what is happening here.

    I find many of the arguments presented here to be illogical or at best missing the point. Someone once said the greatest mystery of all is existence. Why does anything exist. Someone else recently said to conceive of “nothingness” is really an exercise in futility. We cannot conceive of just what that means. Even in our universe each three dimensional coordinate seems to have something there if nothing else, a position that can be occupied by some particle or another at any given time (and one aspect of dark energy is that it seems to be uniformly spread over the universe but this is an aside and not meant to bring up a discussion of dark energy).

    In essence, lack of existence is a mystery for which our minds can not really comprehend as well as why does anything exist is also a mystery. We know there is existence but why seems to be beyond our capabilities.

    The current cliché argument against a God is the infinite regress argument of who created God. Theologians solved/dealt with this problem of the infinite regress argument against a God by postulating an eternal being without a cause. They admitted that such a being defied logic and understanding as we know it but because existence was a given, such a being had to exist. Nothing else made sense. In other words, the fact that there was existence and logic led to an illogical or unexplainable concept.

    Now the argument comes down to “do you believe in such a being?”, admitting that its existence is a mystery or “do you somehow say well it is not proven and waive it off?” and essentially say that existence is a mystery but we do not want to assent to the logic that there must be an eternal being. This seems to satisfy a lot of people but it is really a non sequitur for their core beliefs.

    Religious people generally believe this eternal being has certain characteristics and capabilities and argue amongst themselves as to the detailed nature of that being and its motives. Those who want to say they do not believe in such a being, go their merry way because they have nothing to add to the debate on the nature of the being since they essentially deny this being’s existence. That doesn’t prevent them from having philosophical discussions but they represent two separate camps.

    For those who deny or don’t believe in an eternal being that had no first cause, they have to come up with a consistent network or reasoning to justify whatever position they have. One of those anomalies that has to be covered is the incredible fine tuning of the universe we live in. Religious people don’t have to deal with this since this eternal being designed the world and as such did the fine tuning. But for those who deny the eternal being, the logic is sticky.

    Our finely tuned universe contains several basic forces or concentrations if changed by extremely little amounts would send the universe into chaos of little if any order. In fact it is hard to conceive of any other parameters that would give rise to a universe with any complex order at all. Given that there seems to be no reason that such a universe as ours should exist by chance, those who deny the eternal being have come up with some really shallow answers to address our universe’s existence. One of these is multi-verses, but this concept has some really interesting contradictions.

    Is our finely tuned universe just one of an almost infinitely large number of universes and are we just the lucky ones? This is a fatuous argument to further the objectives of those who do not accept the eternal non caused being as the creator/designer of our universe. Those who do not believe in the eternal non caused being hypothesize an almost infinite number of universes to deal with the fine tuning problem. But the almost infinite number of universes must contain a subset of almost infinite number of finely tuned universes. In this set there must exist an almost infinite sub set of these fine tuned universes that will give rise to an intelligence of immense proportions that could fathom the nature of the endless number of universes and should be able to control them. So to all practical purposes these beings/intelligences would be identical/similar in nature to the eternal being proposed by the religious people. So the multi-verse people actually propose an infinite number of God like intelligences that should be able to meddle in our existence if so inclined and must be according to the current scientific paradigm, super natural. In other words, multi-verse proponents propose not just one God but an infinite number of them.

    Anything less that an almost infinite number of such beings would be illogical. So those who propose a multi-verse existence but deny the existence of a massive intelligence are best illogical and most likely disingenuous. Either way the religious people have their God and those who deny His existence are at best trying to throw a monkey wrench into the gears.

  46. Thanks for responding, hazel.

    “First of all, I accept that the universe had a cause. However, that is not the issue. The issue is what is that cause? One possibility is that that cause is a divine being – a God, but that is not the only possibility. For instance, the universe could be an effect of the properties of some kind of “larger” impersonal state or dimension of which we have no knowledge. I don’t think there is any reason to think that a divine being is the logically necessary explanation.”

    That’s really an argument from ignorance.

    We can discover some characteristics of this first cause from the evidence presented earlier (namely, the Cosmological Argument). The first cause must be:
    - Self-existent, timless, nonspatial, and immaterial; without limits or infinite.
    - Unimaginably powerful
    - Supremely intelligent to design the universe with such precision (see the Teleological Argument)
    - Personal, in order to convert a state of nothingness into the time-space material universe.

    Those are all qualities that theists routinely ascribe to God.

    “(Let me note for completeness that I understand the argument that ultimately we must have a cause that did not have a beginning – an uncaused cause – in order to avoid the infinite regress problem. However, again, there is no reason that eternal state has to be a being.)”

    There is also no reason to posit an unknown and possibly unknowable, unseen, immaterial “force” either.

    “Your second argument is the Teleological Argument:

    1. Every design had a designer.
    2. The universe has a highly complex design.
    3. Therefore, the universe had a designer.

    Here my objections are more fundamental: I don’t accept the truth of the first premise: “1. Every design had a designer.” As is common with many philosophical arguments, if you embed your conclusion in your premises you can in fact erroneously appear to logically reach the desired conclusion. Let me explain here.”

    This reminds me of what Richard Dawkins wrote: “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” Dawkins flatly denies that human life or anything else has been designed. In other words, he refuses to allow observation to interfere with his conclusions. This is very strange for a man who believes in the supremacy of science, which is based on observation.

    If I see something that appears to be designed, hazel, it is completely logical for me to infer that, in fact, it has been designed.

    “Let’s start by asking what is a “design”? If design means “something that has interacting parts that work well with each other,” or something like that, then how do you know that your premise is true?”

    The dictionary definition of design is as follows:
    1. To conceive or fashion in the mind; invent.
    2. To formulate a plan for; devise.
    3. To plan out in systematic, usually graphic form.
    3. To create or contrive for a particular purpose or effect.
    4. To have as a goal or purpose; intend.

    That is the definition I use for design in my everyday life. The burden of proof rests on those who claim natural causes, undirected and random, can produce something akin to Mount Rushmore (which was obviously designed). I accept that natural forces caused the Rocky Mountains and the Grand Canyon; I do not accept that natural forces alone caused the universe to come into being.

    “If in fact the universe arose out some impersonal state of principles or some higher dimension or in some way other than being consciously and willfully designed by a divine being, then in fact the statement that every design has a designer is false.”

    You have absolutely no scientific or philosophical proof of this impersonal state of principles that could have created the universe. How is it that my statement is wrong when I offer proof of my arguments and you offer only arguments from ignorance?

    “Your premise is assuming exactly what you are trying to prove, and so the Teleological Argument fails.”

    Actually, it doesn’t, and many scientists have admitted as much.

    “And last, you write, “Taking into consideration all this, and contrasting it with the multiverse theory, …” Let me make it clear, if it isn’t already, that I am not contrasting theism to the multiverse hypothesis. I am making the separate point that whatever cause there is of our universe, it is not necessarily a divine being.”

    Blind allegiance to ideology, whether atheism or naturalism, is bad philosophy and bad science. Dawkins admitted that his commitment to naturalism and materialism is “…a philosophical commitment to a real explanation as opposed to a complete lack of an explanation.” Stating that an impersonal set of principles which are undetectable empirically and which may or may not exist is a complete lack of an explanation. The observational and forensic evidence points to an intelligent creator.

  47. Hi Barb. I think we are at an impasse. You think I am making an argument from ignorance and your are making an argument from logic and evidence. I, as I have been explaining, believe that you logic has flaws. Furthermore my point is not that I am right and you are wrong, but rather that neither of us can know – positing a personal God as the ground and source of the universe is no more or less valid a speculation than positing an impersonal set of laws, or for that matter just accepting that the source and ground of the universe is just as likely to be something that is neither like beings nor laws as we know them.

    You end by saying,

    “Stating that an impersonal set of principles which are undetectable empirically and which may or may not exist is a complete lack of an explanation.”

    Saying that there is a God who created the universe is equally a lack of explanation. It really explains nothing. Metaphysical beliefs are not explanations. They are speculations that we adopt for the metaphorical power they have in helping structure our understanding of things that really cannot be understood literally. Trying to prove that one’s metaphorical understandings are “true” is where the mistake is made.

  48. Hazel, I agree that we are at an impasse. My point is that if the universe and our being alive in it are accidental, then our lives can have no lasting meaning. But if our life in the universe results from design, there must be a satisfying meaning to it.

  49. But, again, accident and design are the only two mutually exclusive choices. Law is a third choice. Lawful properties analogous to the laws we find in our universe may very well be the reason we have the universe we do. Even Dembski’s filter acknowledges this trichotomy.

    Design vs. accident is a false dichotomy.

    Irrespective of other issues, do you agree that law is a third alternative to design and chance?

  50. Ouch. I have this terrible habit of leaving out the word NOT. I meant to write “But, again, accident and design are NOT the only two mutually exclusive choices.” That was probably clear from the rest of my post, but I apologize anyway.

  51. Law is a third choice. . . Design vs. accident is a false dichotomy.

    Actually, Hazel you appear to be agreeing that accident (chance) should be ruled out.

    That leaves design vs. an unknown law (i.e. blind faith)

    Now, have you ruled out design?

  52. barb
    “..if the universe and our being alive in it are accidental, then our lives can have no lasting meaning. But if our life in the universe results from design, there must be a satisfying meaning to it.”

    Some problems I have with that statement are that my life, and the lives of others, can have meaning within human society, and possibly outside it. The life of a doctor who saves the lives of patients surely has meaning to those patents?

    Postulating an intelligent origin of the universe, whilst perfectly reasonable, doesn’t necessarily give meaning to our lives unless we actually know the purpose or intent behind the creation. It could be, as one of many possible scenarios, that we are an unintended or unexpected consequence of a created universe. Equally we might be the playthings of a malevolent creator, in which case our lives have ‘meaning’ but I personally don’t like what that actually means … if you get my drift?

  53. Interesting comment, Tribune.

    Our speculations about the cause of the universe are necessarily based on analogy with experience we have here in the world, I think, although I don’t think we have any way to know whether those analogies actually carry over to whatever that cause of the universe is.

    Design as a source of the universe is based on analogy with certain aspects of the activity of human beings.

    Law as a source of the universe is based on analogy with the regularities we observe in nature, including significant portions of human beings.

    Chance as a source of the universe would be based on various ways in which law and design do not seem applicable: randomness, probability, contingency, etc.

    Chance works in conjunction with law – pure chance never appears, I don’t think, as the cause of anything.

    So, no, I don’t think pure chance could be a cause of the universe.

    However, you write, “That leaves design vs. an unknown law (i.e. blind faith).

    I don’t see entertaining law as a possible source of the universe as any more a matter of “blind faith” than entertaining design: both are based on analogy with different aspects of our experience in this world, as I explaining above.

    Why not write, “That leaves law vs. an unknown designer (i.e. blind faith)? I see plenty example of ways in which the operation of laws creates things, so it is not unreasonable to think the meta-laws of some sort created our universe.

    (And P.S., and agree heartily with Max’s last paragraph.)

  54. —-hazel: “Our speculations about the cause of the universe are necessarily based on analogy with experience we have here in the world, I think, although I don’t think we have any way to know whether those analogies actually carry over to whatever that cause of the universe is.”

    As has already been clearly indicated on other threads, once existence is assumed, reason leads us to a self-existent personal being. To review: [1] regress leads us to the causeless cause, and [2] The causeless cause must be a personal being because (a) “Principles” cannot be a part of or generate a chain of being, and (b) Impersonal eternal causes cannot choose to generate temporal events.

    You have acknowledged [1] but you have provided no answer [2] (a)(b), presumbaly because you prefer not to accept them. That is your privilege, of course, but the problem doesn’t go away.

  55. I don’t see entertaining law as a possible source of the universe as any more a matter of “blind faith” . .

    But Hazel, you’re not entertaining law as a possible source of the universe. You are entertaining an unknown law. There is no known law that explains the existence of the universe.

  56. Neither is there any known designer that explains the existence of the universe. We have parallel situations here.

    We hypothesize a designer vastly different in important ways than human beings based on analogy with human beings. Why is it less reasonable to hypothesize vastly different laws based on analogy with the laws we recognize here in this world?

  57. —-”Some problems I have with that statement are that my life, and the lives of others, can have meaning within human society, and possibly outside it. The life of a doctor who saves the lives of patients surely has meaning to those patents?”

    Barbs point would still seem to hold. As she puts it,

    ,“..if the universe and our being alive in it are accidental, then our lives can have no lasting meaning. But if our life in the universe results from design, there must be a satisfying meaning to it.”

    Meaning is not something that we can summon at will. We either have a purpose or we don’t. If we (and the universe) do have a purpose, the first priority is to find out what that purpose is. If we don’t have a purpose, then all of our creative efforts to fabricate one out of whole cloth will not help. We may take temporary solace in our life’s mission, but what is the point if it all ends up being futile. If there is no purpose, then the doctor and the patient are all in for the same fate—eternal extinction.

    Personal purpose, such as career choice, family committment, or value identification all come from the inside, but they are meaningful only in the context of an ultimate purpose. Ultimate purpose must always come from the outside. Only the creator can establish the purpose for the creature, just as only a designer of an aircraft can establish its purpose, which is to fly. If there is no creator (designer), then there is no purpose. Either we were made for something, or else we are accidents without meaning. There is no third option.

  58. Neither is there any known designer that explains the existence of the universe. We have parallel situations here.

    Are you sure you want to describe it as parallel? :-)

    I have faith in God — the belief in something unseen. Would you really want to say you have faith in an unknown law?

    And my faith is not without evidence. Granted, it’s the personal, “I saw the light” kind, but God has convinced me of His existence and reason has shown me that my view has a consistency and logical integrity.

    And this is a religious answer I’m giving you that has nothing to do with the science of ID or the study of the traits of design.

  59. Hi Tribune. Thanks for your sincere and candid response.

    You write, “I have faith in God — the belief in something unseen. Would you really want to say you have faith in an unknown law?”

    Well no, I wouldn’t say that. First of all, I am not saying that I have any certain belief about the source of the universe. My primary point is that I don’t think we can know what that source is, and my second point is that I don’t think the conclusion that that source is a being – God – is any more justified than the conclusion that that source is an impersonal set of laws. My insistence of offering this second explanation about laws is primarily to counter the argument that the ultimate cause has to be, necessarily, a being. So I wouldn’t say I have faith in unknown laws, although I would say – have said – that that explanation is more appealing to me, and more likely to be true if I had to bet, than a divine being. In general, I would rather live with uncertainty than believe something that is not true.

    Also you write, “And my faith is not without evidence. Granted, it’s the personal, “I saw the light” kind, but God has convinced me of His existence and reason has shown me that my view has a consistency and logical integrity.

    And this is a religious answer I’m giving you that has nothing to do with the science of ID or the study of the traits of design.”

    I agree that what we have been talking about has not been science – I hope no one thought that I was proposing that any of these issues could be settled by science.

    And I understand the sense of “personal evidence” that you mention feeling about your beliefs. I think these types of experiences are very important parts of human nature, although I don’t think they point to any literally true reality. I have had important religious experiences of the world as fundamentally both personal and impersonal – they had much to do with getting me interested in philosophy and religion. Ultimately, based on reason, logic and personal experience, I came to conclusion that I don’t believe in any kind of a God. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, and I understand the impetus to belief in the personally divine, but I do object to the idea that my beliefs and the consequences of having my beliefs are inferior to the theist.

  60. ,“..if the universe and our being alive in it are accidental, then our lives can have no lasting meaning. But if our life in the universe results from design, there must be a satisfying meaning to it.”

    I agree that if the human race became extinct and all memory of it was erased then our existence would lose any meaning, save for the possibility that there is, how could you put it, a ‘naturalistic’ afterlife. Our lives can certainly have lasting meaning, it’s just a question of how long the meaning lasts.

    On the second part of barb’s statement her point most certainly does not stand. There are many possible ways to ‘create’, or for things to be a result of design, but not all of them are meaningful or satisfying. Consider the garden shed, mine is full of things I created that serve no real purpose, off cuts of wood left over from various DIY projects and the like. For sure some of these things might acquire a purpose as some point in the future but they are, at the moment, purposeless by products of a purposeful creation process. If we are, in some metaphysical sense, the same as these pieces of wood then is your life purposeful and satisfying?

    Even if you were created for a purpose, is that a reason to be satisfied or comforted? If it transpired that the purpose of creating life on earth was to serve as a tasty snack for Gods pet space monster then will you thank the lord as you and your family are slowly digested? You may have been created for a purpose but God may perceive us as little more than senseless microbes.

    “Either we were made for something, or else we are accidents without meaning. There is no third option.”

    I’m not suggesting a third option; by definition if we were not made for something, by something, then we lack theological purpose. If we were not made for something that does not mean that the universe was not created. If we have a naturalistic origin then we are not entirely accidents because we are not the result of a mistake or error – accidents are typically an unintended consequence and as such require an intentional agent. We could easily have been accidentally created by God.

    Ultimately what it comes down to for me is that I am satisfied with my life, and that life has meaning and purpose for me and for others, to my daughter, my wife, friends and family. I know I personally was created on purpose because my parents intended to have children and I am the result of their intentions.

    These meanings and intents are enough to satisfy me fully, I do not require a supernatural purpose to make my life whole, therefore your assertion that MY life can’t be meaningful or have purpose without a supernatural cause is simply false – although I’m not saying that it is not true for you.

  61. Stephen, here’s some thoughts on two things you think that I have not addressed.

    You wrote above, “[2] The causeless cause must be a personal being because (a) “Principles” cannot be a part of or generate a chain of being, and (b) Impersonal eternal causes cannot choose to generate temporal events.”

    It’s standard among ID advocates to think about a trichotomy of kinds of causes: law, chance, and design. By “principles” (which you capitalized and put in quotes) I mean laws. As I said in another post, when we think about the source of the universe, we can either think of a Being who designed the universe, based on analogy with our experience with what human beings sometimes do, or we can think about a set of laws which created the universe, based on analogy with the regularities of cause and effect that we know pervade the world, including a great deal of what humans are also.

    I’m arguing that these two possibilities are equally valid, and that your insistence that a Being is the logically necessary conclusion is wrong.

    So let’s look at what you wrote above, using the word laws instead of “Principles”.

    “a) The causeless cause must be a personal being because laws cannot be a part of or generate a chain of being.”

    Obviously false. Laws are a part of and generate chains of being all the time – our whole universe verifies this fact. Lawful regularities of cause and effect are exactly what do generate chains of being in our world – one moment leads to the next following laws. By analogy, there is no reason to not accept the possibility that a set of meta-laws created our universe.

    You also wrote,

    “(b) Impersonal eternal causes cannot choose to generate temporal events.”

    If we think of those impersonal eternal causes as laws, and we understand that “choose” is therefore an inappropriate word, this sentence becomes,

    (b) Impersonal eternal laws cannot generate temporal events.”

    Why not? Laws in our world generate temporal events all the time – for instance, a rainstorm that develops, plays out, and dissipates. Why couldn’t the interplay of laws in the meta-world create universes in an analogous way?

  62. Hazel –My primary point is that I don’t think we can know what that source is, and my second point is that I don’t think the conclusion that that source is a being – God – is any more justified than the conclusion that that source is an impersonal set of laws

    BUT, is it any less justified? Remember, no existing set of laws can explain our existence.

    but I do object to the idea that my beliefs and the consequences of having my beliefs are inferior to the theist.

    I’m not one for citing Pascal’s Wager. I think God is going to be more pleased by the skeptic who honestly says “I don’t believe in you” and tries to follow Him anyway, than the phony Christian who praises him and then seduces the church secretary.

    Good and evil exist, and there is a point to our existence, and what we do has consequences.

    The biggest fools are the ones who say “God may exist, so what?”

  63. Hazel,

    While I certainly embrace ID science and argue for it often, my arguments of late have recently been solely philosophical. The trichotomy of law, chance, and design, while philosophical in origin (Plato’s laws), is solely scientific in its application. Dembski’s explanatory filter, for example, shows that an intelligent agent is the most probable explanation for functionally complex specified information. The one thing he does not do is argue on the basis of logical certainty. Even he acknowledges that he could be wrong. That is why he is credible and his adversaries are not.

    Conversely, Darwinists never consider the possibility that they could be wrong, even though the evidence indicates that they almost certainly are. That is all part of their pathology. Science can never be sure of itself. That is why it needs both the humility not to disfranchise dissenters and the wisdom provided by a sound metaphysical foundation. (Providing, of course, that the metaphysics itself has not been corrupted through the misapplication of reason [Our current situation, by the way]

    My arguments, on the other hand, are based on logical certainly. That a self-existent creator follows from the fact of existence is evident to reason. To resist that fact is tantamount to resisting the fact that 2+2=4. I have no idea whether the ID scientists or ID community in general takes this matter seriously. I only know that they should.

    —–“I’m arguing that these two possibilities (personal or impersonal) are equally valid, and that your insistence that a Being is the logically necessary conclusion is wrong.”

    You seem to be confusing the argument from design to designer with the argument from contingency to necessity. While they can be mutually reinforcing, they are not at all the same.

    —–”Laws are a part of and generate chains of being all the time – our whole universe verifies this fact. Lawful regularities of cause and effect are exactly what do generate chains of being in our world – one moment leads to the next following laws. By analogy, there is no reason to not accept the possibility that a set of meta-laws created our universe.”

    Laws are not responsible for their existence, let alone existence itself. They are simply part of existence. Again, by definition, laws don’t have the power to create. When atheists attribute creative power to laws they do the very same thing they accuse theists of doing, they attribute a human (or divine) quality to a non-human (non-Divine) phenomenon. Similarly, it is important to understand that matter comes from mind, not the other way around. Even if one believes in the fantasy that mind can come from matter, the existence of matter must still be explained by a creative act. The reason is that, again, something cannot come from nothing. While you may not realize it, you assume the reverse each time you grant to “law” the power of creation and each time you assume the presence of matter as a given. The existence of these things must be explained. You simply take them for granted. The answer to the riddle is that, once again, those things that HAVE being can only come from that which IS being. That is not a probability statement.

    I wrote: “(b) Impersonal eternal causes cannot choose to generate temporal events.”

    —–You responded: “If we think of those impersonal eternal causes as laws, and we understand that “choose” is therefore an inappropriate word, this sentence becomes,

    —–“(b) Impersonal eternal laws cannot generate temporal events.”

    —–“Why not? Laws in our world generate temporal events all the time – for instance, a rainstorm that develops, plays out, and dissipates. Why couldn’t the interplay of laws in the meta-world create universes in an analogous way?”

    You are not exactly zeroing in on the argument. If a law is eternal, then it obviously did not begin in time. An eternal law cannot wait around in a period of non-existence until it decides to exist. It either always existed or it came to exist in time. If it came to exist in time, then its existence obviously depends on something other than itself. In other words, someone had to “choose” to create it.

    Creativity is inseparable from “choice,” which is why I used the personal word choice and avoided the impersonal word “generate.” The power to create cannot be separated from the power to not create, otherwise it is not a creative act; it is a law. A law does not have the power to create, to suspend itself, to be, or (this is important) not to be.. The law of gravity cannot, for example, chose to spare someone who slips and falls. Neither can any law of ecology change or adjust its basic nature. It cannot start, stop, and restart itself. So, yes, a law (and chance) can generate a temporary rainstorm, but the laws of ecology don’t really stop. The water simply finds a new home, and the process continues. The broader point is that to attribute the creation of the universe to a “law” or “principle” is always to beg the question.

  64. Hi Stephen. I’d like to say that I have never met anyone as absolutely certain as you are that his beliefs were logically and self-evidently true. Fortunately I am not trying to convince you of anything, which would be fruitless, but you are clear and articulate and I appreciate being able to understand the position that hold.

    You think that a personal, willful mindful being must have been responsible for the universe. You reject, with all sorts of assertions based on this starting premise, that any kind of impersonal, law-like meta-reality could not have done so. Given your sense of certainty, I think going on is probably not worthwhile.

    The main difference between you and me is not theism vs. atheism, but rather certainty about one’s beliefs (you) vs. lack of certainty about things that are unknowable (me).

    I find it odd that you can write earlier about the need for science to have humility about dissenters in respect to what we can know about this world, and yet you display what appears to be a complete lack of humility about your ability to know the correct philosophical foundation for metaphysics.

    The heart of this difference between us seems to lie in our understanding of logic. (I might remind you that I have taught logic, and am fairly knowledgeable about the philosophy of the foundations of logic and mathematics.) Pure logic is an abstract tool for manipulating propositions. However, in order for logic to be applied to actual knowledge about the world, it must be populated with content – there must be actual propositions about the world to which logic can be applied. Those propositions may or may not be true, and the truth of those propositions cannot be supplied by logic itself. All logic can do is help us reason about propositions that we have decided by empirical means are true, and the truth of our logical deductions are no more certain than the truth of the starting propositions.

    Given that we do not have any direct experience with the meta-cause of the universe, we have no way to establish the truth of any beginning propositions about it. We can start with assumptions and reason from them, which is what the philosophy of metaphysics is all about, and consider what different schools of metaphysics entail. But we can’t determine which metaphysics is correct because pure logic without evidence can’t do that, and we have no evidence. We have evidence for what the world we live in is like, but we have no evidence of what is “outside” of this universe.

    I think the reason that people think pure logic can produce knowledge is because of the nature of words. When words are written down they look like well-defined things. But in our minds, words are merely centers of webs of denotation and connotation – they are hooked in nebulous ways to all sorts of other concepts. Articulating these webs of related meanings, and subjecting them to logical analysis, can feel like knowledge about the world when actually what we are getting is knowledge about our own belief system as embedded in the words we use to articulate that belief system.

    So Stephen, you do an admirable job of clearly and logically describing your metaphysical belief system, and no doubt it is important to structuring your understanding of who you are and how you fit into the world. On the other hand, others likewise can and do an admirable job of describing different metaphysical beliefs, which play a similar role in their lives.

    But these metaphysical beliefs are not “true” in the sense of accurately describing metaphysical reality, because we can’t really know what metaphysical reality is like. Your sense that logic validates and certifies your beliefs only, and not others, is both an mistake and an illusion.

  65. Hi Hazel:

    Meaning no disrespect, but, as a response to your lecture on the nature of logic, I must gently inform you that I already know what logic is, what it does, and what it cannot do. So, when you suggest that logic must contain a “proposition” as a starting point, I hasten to remind you, once again, that the proposition on the table has always been that “something exists,.” From that proposition, we can implement the reasoning process. It was to this same substantive proposition to which we applied the principle of “infinite regress” in order to arrive at the conclusion of a “causeless cause,” a conclusion, by the way, with which you agreed with wholeheartedly. It was only at the last stage of the reasoning process that prompted you decided to reject the argument. It was the final step which led to the conclusion of a self-existent being that created all the difficulties for you. So, it is a bit silly at this point to suggest that we had no raw materials (proposition) to work with in the first place. Obviously, your problem is with the conclusion that we arrived at, not with the lack of a working proposition.

    —–“Given that we do not have any direct experience with the meta-cause of the universe, we have no way to establish the truth of any beginning propositions about it. We can start with assumptions and reason from them, which is what the philosophy of metaphysics is all about, and consider what different schools of metaphysics entail. But we can’t determine which metaphysics is correct because pure logic without evidence can’t do that, and we have no evidence. We have evidence for what the world we live in is like, but we have no evidence of what is “outside” of this universe.”

    Again, with respect, I remind you that we are starting with the assumption that “something exists.” Your strawman strikes again. —–“I think the reason that people think pure logic can produce knowledge is because of the nature of words. When words are written down they look like well-defined things. But in our minds, words are merely centers of webs of denotation and connotation – they are hooked in nebulous ways to all sorts of other concepts. Articulating these webs of related meanings, and subjecting them to logical analysis, can feel like knowledge about the world when actually what we are getting is knowledge about our own belief system as embedded in the words we use to articulate that belief system.
    No one here is saying that pure logic can produce knowledge. That is the failure of the traditional ontological argument, which I am not using. Once again, your exposition on logic is unnecessary. You are subjecting this poor strawman to cruel and unusual punishment.

    —–“So Stephen, you do an admirable job of clearly and logically describing your metaphysical belief system, and no doubt it is important to structuring your understanding of who you are and how you fit into the world. On the other hand, others likewise can and do an admirable job of describing different metaphysical beliefs, which play a similar role in their lives.”
    Let’s take it once again from the top. The proposition on the table is this: IF something exists, then a self-existent creator follows. What is it about IF that you do not understand.

    —–“But these metaphysical beliefs are not “true” in the sense of accurately describing metaphysical reality, because we can’t really know what metaphysical reality is like. Your sense that logic validates and certifies your beliefs only, and not others, is both an mistake and an illusion.”
    Perhaps if I place the conclusion ahead of the premise it will help. The proposition that a self-existent creator exists is true IF, something exists. I will not go through all of the steps again because there is no reason to repeat the process. Not once have you refuted or even challenged the argument. I have, by the way, been in many of these kinds of discussions in the past, so I recognize the perennial problem for what it is. Hyperskepticism is a real cultural problem; it is contagious, and, it is irrational—as I have made clear. Atheism may constitute many things, but intellectual sophistication is not one of them.

  66. Hi Hazel:

    Post @65 is too hard to read, because the paragraphs are jumbled, so I reposted it on @66 with the necessary divisions.

    Meaning no disrespect, but, as a response to your lecture on the nature of logic, I must gently inform you that I already know what logic is, what it does, and what it cannot do. So, when you suggest that logic must contain a “proposition” as a starting point, I hasten to remind you, once again, that the proposition on the table has always been that “something exists,.” From that proposition, we can implement the reasoning process. It was to this same substantive proposition to which we applied the principle of “infinite regress” in order to arrive at the conclusion of a “causeless cause,” a conclusion, by the way, with which you agreed with wholeheartedly. It was only at the last stage of the reasoning process that prompted you decided to reject the argument. It was the final step which led to the conclusion of a self-existent being that created all the difficulties for you. So, it is a bit silly at this point to suggest that we had no raw materials (proposition) to work with in the first place. Obviously, your problem is with the conclusion that we arrived at, not with the lack of a working proposition.

    —–“Given that we do not have any direct experience with the meta-cause of the universe, we have no way to establish the truth of any beginning propositions about it. We can start with assumptions and reason from them, which is what the philosophy of metaphysics is all about, and consider what different schools of metaphysics entail. But we can’t determine which metaphysics is correct because pure logic without evidence can’t do that, and we have no evidence. We have evidence for what the world we live in is like, but we have no evidence of what is “outside” of this universe.”

    Again, with respect, I remind you that we are starting with the assumption that “something exists.” Your strawman strikes again.

    —–“I think the reason that people think pure logic can produce knowledge is because of the nature of words. When words are written down they look like well-defined things. But in our minds, words are merely centers of webs of denotation and connotation – they are hooked in nebulous ways to all sorts of other concepts. Articulating these webs of related meanings, and subjecting them to logical analysis, can feel like knowledge about the world when actually what we are getting is knowledge about our own belief system as embedded in the words we use to articulate that belief system.”

    No one here is saying that pure logic can produce knowledge. That is the failure of the traditional ontological argument, which I am not using. Once again, your exposition on logic is unnecessary. You are subjecting this poor strawman to cruel and unusual punishment.

    —–“So Stephen, you do an admirable job of clearly and logically describing your metaphysical belief system, and no doubt it is important to structuring your understanding of who you are and how you fit into the world. On the other hand, others likewise can and do an admirable job of describing different metaphysical beliefs, which play a similar role in their lives.”

    Let’s take it once again from the top. The proposition on the table is this: IF something exists, then a self-existent creator follows. What is it about IF that you do not understand.

    —–“But these metaphysical beliefs are not “true” in the sense of accurately describing metaphysical reality, because we can’t really know what metaphysical reality is like. Your sense that logic validates and certifies your beliefs only, and not others, is both an mistake and an illusion.”

    Perhaps if I place the conclusion ahead of the premise it will help. The proposition that a self-existent creator exists is true IF, something exists. I will not go through all of the steps again because there is no reason to repeat the process. Not once have you refuted or even challenged the argument. I have, by the way, been in many of these kinds of discussions in the past, so I recognize the perennial problem for what it is. Hyperskepticism is a real cultural problem; it is contagious, and, it is irrational—as I have made clear. Atheism may constitute many things, but intellectual sophistication is not one of them.

  67. Well, you think my belief that we need to live with uncertainty when there are things we can’t really know is irrational and a sign of my lack of intellectual sophistication. I think your belief that your particular belief system is backed up by unassailable logic is presumptuous and wrong.

    This dead end sounds like a good place to stop to me.

  68. I watched the whole conversation and really for some people it comes down to personal choice of what the causeless cause is, not whether we should continue to investigate and keep an open mind. Or as Hazel put it: “So I wouldn’t say I have faith in unknown laws, although I would say – have said – that that explanation is more appealing to me, and more likely to be true if I had to bet, than a divine being.” Sounds like faith rephrased to me, even though you object to that word. If you truly believed that “we need to live with uncertainty”–which is agnosticism–then you would not have a personal preference–which is atheism.

    Stephen said:

    The proposition on the table is this: IF something exists, then a self-existent creator follows.

    Very true, and I don’t see why Hazel rejects it, since a multiverse is both self-existent and “presumably” a creator in the form of spawning off new universes with varying constraints on their energetic form. So the real question is whether this “self-existent creator” has intelligence.

    So we got 2 options:

    a) a self-existent intelligent being with the capability manipulate energy (although it could be posited that this being was the original ‘verse in a limited multiverse and ‘evolved’ its intelligence out of an energetic form; whatever)

    b) an infinite or at least growing multiverse (which is necessary to generate the probabilistic resources)(when I say “growing” I mean for example that universes could be energetically degrading back to nothing but there is at least one stable self-existent universe creating new ‘verses every so often; there could only be an average of 4 ‘verses in existence at any time but since the multiverse is itself timeless it would presumably eventually create a well-tuned ‘verse like our own eventually…it’s just that the whole Star Trek multiple dimensions with multiple yous and me existing at the same time is thrown out the door)

    Both choices are “supernatural” in that its the superset of our natural universe. Both can potentially provide evidence for their existence via observable effects in our universe.

    The problem is that even if we find evidence for another universe (I know some physicists are thinking of ways to potentially test this) we have no way of knowing whether it’s an infinite multiverse. Even then a multiverse can co-exist with an intelligent self-existent being. For example, the multiverse could be endlessly spawning chaotic/non-balanced ‘verses and the intelligence shapes them. But that’s assuming we can even test this hypothesis, which many physicists admit is unlikely.

    So now we get back to considering finding effects of an intelligence, which is what ID is in a nutshell. The problem is that our own biological life could have been seeded by intelligence contained within this universe. But that’s when people say, “Who designed them/it?” Personally I reject the assertion that our universe must be homogeneous. So while we know the laws in our tiny pocket of the universe there could a sector where an “unknown law” operates and intelligence(s) could evolve.

    So how could we reject that hypothesis? Analyze whether seeding via traveling over extra-solar distances is feasible (although there will be a degree of uncertainty since this unknown intelligence may come up with something we did not). If it’s not then we’re back to looking for other forms by which an intelligence could operate.

    I believe that wraps up the conversation. We’re now back to considering the evidence on our own Earth

  69. Thanks for the feedback, Patrick.

    You write, “I watched the whole conversation and really it comes down to personal choice of what the causeless cause is. Or as Hazel put it: “So I wouldn’t say I have faith in unknown laws, although I would say – have said – that that explanation is more appealing to me, and more likely to be true if I had to bet, than a divine being.” Sounds like faith rephrased to me, even though you object to that word. If you truly believed that “we need to live with uncertainty”–which is agnosticism–then you would not have a personal preference–which is atheism.”

    I agree that this comes down to personal choice. I see myself as both an atheist and an agnostic, in the following sense. I am an atheist because I lack any positive belief in a God. I’m agnostic because I’m aware that I can’t really know what the nature of metaphysical reality is. Even though I have metaphysical preferences which make more sense to me than a belief in God, and which fit in with my overall understanding of my life, I have no strong sense that I know that I am right about any of the particulars of those preferences.

    You quote Stephen as saying, “The proposition on the table is this: IF something exists, then a self-existent creator follows,” and then you added, “Very true, and I don’t see why Hazel rejects it.” You followed this with, “The real question is whether this “self-existent creator” has intelligence.”

    Exactly. I have never argued for the proposition that our universe has no cause – the topic of the whole conversation has been about possibilities as to what that cause might be. My point has been that an intelligent, conscious, willful divine being is not the only possibility, and that a meta-verse of some sort of impersonal, lawful reality could create universes. The question of whether this “self-existent creator” has intelligence is indeed the issue.

    You conclude by saying, “We’re now back to considering the evidence on our own Earth.”

    I think this is an important point. As I have argued, these metaphysical speculations are primarily fueled by analogies with our human experience. (This is one reason I think we could be totally wrong about the cause of the universe – because it might be something totally alien to our experience. It might be all these ideas of time, cause and effect, law, being, etc. are just not relevant concepts in the meta-verse.)

    The design inference takes certain characteristics of human beings as primary and extrapolates to speculations about other intelligent agents, including a God who created the universe (and who perhaps continues to be actively present.) I have contrasted this with taking the natural laws that we find in the world as primary, and offered the extrapolation that similarly meta-processes are the cause of the universe. This is actually the central issue, I think – what is going on in our universe and on our own Earth – and this philosophical discussion about the cause of the universe is secondary.

  70. Hazel:

    I too have been watching.

    Pardon a couple of notes:

    1] Re, 69: The design inference takes certain characteristics of human beings as primary and extrapolates to speculations about other intelligent agents, including a God who created the universe

    The design inference, a methodology that extends Fisherian style statistical reasoning to situations of high contingency and observed functionally specific complexity does no such thing.

    The design inference first looks at an observed fact: some things in our world of experience show mechanically regular deterministic or stochastic patterns that can be reduced to descriptive statements that we term natural law.

    For instance, heavy objects fall through a natural regularity we characterise as gravity.

    It then contrasts that with situations where we have very high contingency: under apparently similar situations, we may have quite different outcomes.

    For instance, if the falling heavy object is a die, the uppermost face after it tumbles and settles is highly contingent.

    That sort of contingency may result in a credibly undirected outcome, or a credibly directed one. We term the first, chance, and the second intelligence or design. To discern teh two, it then applies the criterion of specified complexity: a sufficiently complex and specified outcome is far more credibly the product of intelligence than of chance. (For instance, the specification may. per Orgel 1973 on, be by virtue of configuration-based fine-tuned functionality.)

    And indeed, that is our general experience where we can directly experience or observe the causal process.

    That is, we now have a reliable induction, a “law” of experiential reality if you will — CSI, especially FSCI, is the product of intelligence. (Such is of course provisional and open to refuting counter-example, just as is the epistemic status of all other scientific laws.)

    Next, we have no good reason to confine the list of possible acting intelligences to humans. (For instance, many animals show at least limited intelligence, and extraterrestrial intelligences are at least possible. So are demons, gods, angels and even God.)

    So, we must let the circumstances tell us what the candidate intelligences credibly at work in a situation may be.

    But, that is very different from the epistemic status of — per reliable induction on signs of intelligence — accepting that intelligence is at work on observed CSI.

    2] . . . I have contrasted this with taking the natural laws that we find in the world as primary, and offered the extrapolation that similarly meta-processes are the cause of the universe.

    Boiling down, you are first implying that chance plus mechanical necessity are adequate to explain observed reality. [The directly experienced phenomenon and fact of the reasoning, communicating, acting mind, as discussed here, is sufficient to show that this is not credibly so. But, that's an aside.]

    You are in particular committed to the idea that lawlike necessity or stochastical processes characterised by law, are enough to account for the universe.
    Immediately, that raises the issue raised by Robin Collins et al: such an enormously complex and fine-tuned, functionally specific universe-generating law would be a capital instance of FSCI, crying out for a designer.

    But, more fundamentally, laws are DESCRIPTIONS that we provisionally make; what is primary is the existing objects that interact based on forces that reveal themselves through natural regularities. When we identify and describe then successfully test such a regularity, we call it a law.

    So, we must clarify our terms.

    When we do so, we come up against having to address existing objects in an observed physically existing cosmos that on the usual estimates dates to some 13.7 BYA. This leads us straight to the contingent/ necessary being point SB has been making all along.

    For, credibly, the OBSERVED universe is contingent, and had a beginning. Per rationality 101, “that which has a beginning has a cause.”

    So, we see that a contingent universe points to a non-contingent cause rooted in a necessary being.

    What are the live option candidates?

    Patrick summarises:

    . . . we got 2 options:

    a) a self-existent intelligent being with the capability manipulate energy (although it could be posited that this being was the original ‘verse in a limited multiverse and ‘evolved’ its intelligence out of an energetic form; whatever)

    b) an infinite or at least growing multiverse (which is necessary to generate the probabilistic resources) . . . .

    Both choices are “supernatural” in that its the superset of our natural universe. Both can potentially provide evidence for their existence via observable effects in our universe.

    Aptly put.

    So, what is the evidence: massive fine-tuning that forms a knife-edge balanced cosmos suitable for life. [Summary here.]

    Most interesting of all, as Patrick hints at, the speculative, methaphysical possibility of a quasi-infinite multiverse does not eliminate the force of the point. For, LOCAL FINETUNING is just as wonderful as is global; as John Leslie’s famous fly on the wall illustration shows:

    . . . the need for such explanations does not depend on any estimate of how many universes would be observer-permitting, out of the entire field of possible universes. Claiming that our universe is ‘fine tuned for observers’, we base our claim on how life’s evolution would apparently have been rendered utterly impossible by comparatively minor alterations in physical force strengths, elementary particle masses and so forth. There is no need for us to ask whether very great alterations in these affairs would have rendered it fully possible once more, let alone whether physical worlds conforming to very different laws could have been observer-permitting without being in any way fine tuned. Here it can be useful to think of a fly on a wall, surrounded by an empty region. A bullet hits the fly Two explanations suggest themselves. Perhaps many bullets are hitting the wall or perhaps a marksman fired the bullet. There is no need to ask whether distant areas of the wall, or other quite different walls, are covered with flies so that more or less any bullet striking there would have hit one. The important point is that the local area contains just the one fly.

    So, we are right back at the issue of the adequacy of explanations for the observed cosmos, including ourselves in it as intelligent beings.

    And, as linked in my first link above, chance plus necessity acting on material objects is not credibly adequate to explain the four big bangs: origin of a fine-tuned life facilitating, complex cosmos, of information-rich cell based life in it, of equally information rich body plan level biodiversity, and last but not least: of minds that are both rational and moral.

    On pain of self referential absurdity.

    But, an intelligent creator certainly is. So, we are well within our epistemic rights to think in such terms at worldview level. And, to use the explanatory filter when we think at the scientific level.

    And, to use the resulting inductive evidence on the reliable roots of signs of intelligence as we address not only scientific questions of origins of life and life forms, but also scientific questions on the origins of the universe of our experience and observation.

    G’day, all

    GEM of TKI.

  71. Even though I have metaphysical preferences which make more sense to me than a belief in God, and which fit in with my overall understanding of my life, I have no strong sense that I know that I am right about any of the particulars of those preferences.

    Hazel, when you come on this board are you seeking to challenge your understanding or affirm it?

  72. Hello GEM

    Most of what you wrote about has been covered above. However I will say that I am aware that in science laws are descriptions of the regularities we find in actual objects. The question as to whether laws can exist independent of the objects that manifest them is similar to the question as to whether a mind can exist independent of matter. These are questions, in a way, about whether Plato was right.

    I’ll submit that the theist who wants to claim that a non-material mind-like being, God, could have created the universe, needs to acknowledge that analogously laws existing in some Platonic fashion could have created the universe.

    Conversely, if one wants to stick with the in-this-world understanding of laws as descriptions of things we find in matter, then we should stick with understanding likewise that minds are descriptions of things we find in matter.

  73. Tribune, I don’t quite understand your question. I participate in internet discussions for the educational value: they are educational to me because I get to practice articulating my beliefs and because I learn things, some of which sometimes change my beliefs and sometimes which just help me understand people who think differently than I do; they are possible educational to those I discuss with for all the same reasons, and usually there are readers who also find them educational.

    Does that answer your question?

  74. Hazel

    I must repeat, before signing off: laws specify conditions under which things are observed to happen, they are dynamically inert — they do not create materials and events.

    Plato speaks of a world in which there are forms that are instantiated, not a world in which forms create themselves into imperfect instantiations. [Thence we deal with the doctrine of the demiurge and get into the world of Gnosticism.]

    For instance, reliably, when we have heat, fuel and air, we have a fire. That is a natural regularity, and it has the characteristic: LOW CONTINGENCY.

    Where we have high contingency, here, a fine tuned, highly complex, finitely old cosmos that is evidently adapted for cell-based, carbon chemistry based life, we are needing to account for the opposite: HIGH CONTINGENCY.

    That is traceable to one of two main sources, per induction on experience and the reasons why that ecpxperience makes sense. Namely, chance or agency.

    For chance, we are looking at a quasi-infinite multiverse of some form, which is inherently beyond empirical test. It is speculative metaphysics, not physics.

    Even if we find evidence of other universes, we would not be able to find evidence of a quasi-infinite cluster of such sufficient to give probabilistic resources to overcome the sort of cosmological and origin of life and life forms odds we are discussing.

    the otehr option is the directed contingency of a designing mind.

    And, as tot he notion that such minds can be physically accounted for without residue, I have already addressed that above, and in more details here.

    As to the attempt to confine inferences to mind to inferences to human minds, I excerpt from just above:

    we have no good reason to confine the list of possible acting intelligences to humans. (For instance, many animals show at least limited intelligence, and extraterrestrial intelligences are at least possible. So are demons, gods, angels and even God.)

    So, we must let the circumstances tell us what the candidate intelligences credibly at work in a situation may be.

    But, that is very different from the epistemic status of — per reliable induction on signs of intelligence — accepting that intelligence is at work on observed CSI.

    G’day all . . .

    GEM of TKI

  75. Hazel, my point was you said “I’m agnostic because I’m aware that I can’t really know what the nature of metaphysical reality is” and here you are discussing it.

    I guess you can be motivated by a desire for entertainment, but I don’t think that about you.

    There is a truth and we should seek it.

    Now, I agree that there are some things we can’t know i.e. what was the cause of the first cause, but we can know there was a cause, and we can know there is a point to all this and we can know it is imperative to find out what the point is.

  76. Hi Tribune. I appreciate your curiosity. You wrote, “Hazel, my point was you said “I’m agnostic because I’m aware that I can’t really know what the nature of metaphysical reality is” and here you are discussing it.”

    Well first of all, as I think I made clear, a main point I’ve been arguing for is precisely that we can’t know about the meta-reality behind our universe, and so those that claim it is logical to be a theist and therefore illogical to be an atheist are wrong. As an atheist, I’m interested in discussing atheism with those who have negative and often, in my opinion, incorrect thoughts about atheism.

    And, as I’ve also tried to make clear, there are non-theistic metaphysical speculations that appeal to me much more than theism, and I’m interested in describing them. Theism is so embedded in our culture that many people, even if they aren’t particularly satisfied with their theistic beliefs, don’t have any clear ideas of alternatives. I like to provide those for people to think about.

    You also write, “There is a truth and we should seek it,” and “we can know there is a point to all this and we can know it is imperative to find out what the point is.”

    I am a believer in seeking truth, although I don’t believe there is “A Truth” that we can find, nor do I believe there is necessarily a cosmic Point to the existence of the universe or to our existence in it. I believe in meaning but not Meaning. I find being a human being a remarkably challenging opportunity within which the search for truth about our external world and our internal life is a vital part.

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