The Most Popular Argument for God: “There Must Be a God, Because I Don’t Know How Things Work.”

by Luke Muehlhauser on January 7, 2011 in Funny,Video

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{ 129 comments… read them below or add one }

Zeb January 7, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Bill O’Reilly is a joke and this may be literally the worst argument for theism I have ever heard, but there’s a little grain in there interests me. It’s the “never a miscommunication” bit. I realize this may be already answered by science, and if so I’d like to know the answer. Imagine a universe composed only of two electrons starting at rest relative to each other, a certain small enough distance apart that the electromagnetic force dominates their dynamics. They each accelerate equally away from a point midway between them. My question is, how does each electron know that it must move, that it is not in fact in a universe composed of one lone electron? Or perhaps, how does the space between them know that it needs to increase just so? My understanding is that the answer is that each electron has a field of forces that affect anything within that field. But again, as I understand it forces are carried by particles – so how do the force bearing particles ‘know’ to move out from the electron with a certain velocity, and how does the other electron know when it has been ‘hit’ by a force bearing particle, and what to do in response? I apologize that my understanding of physics is limited to some high school classes and Steven Hawking’s books, but it seems to me that no matter how far down you go with fundamental physics, you will come up to this question. Basically the question is, How do the constituent parts of the universe, whatever they are, hang together? Why no miscommunications, or rather, what communicates the properties of the parts to each other so that they are a coherent universe? I’d be embarrassed to use this as an argument for theism, but I have to admit that I can’t think of any answer other than a mind conceiving of, knowing, and perhaps willing the parts to be as they are and connect to each other as they do, and so I personally do count it as evidence for my own theism.

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Adito January 7, 2011 at 8:28 pm

a universe composed only of two electrons starting at rest relative to each other, a certain small enough distance apart that the electromagnetic force dominates their dynamics. They each accelerate equally away from a point midway between them.

If they are at rest and nothing else exists in the universe then how could they possible move?

The rest of your post concerns causality which is a very complicated subject and I don’t know nearly enough about it to answer your question. However, I don’t see any reason to say something like “I don’t know how causes work but I do know how intentions work so maybe things are caused by intentions and the only God’s intentions could cause everything in the universe.” If we don’t know how causes work then we can’t say what’s necessary for them. In other words saying that intentions are necessary for one thing to cause another is totally groundless.

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Hermes January 7, 2011 at 8:31 pm

FWIW, Bill O’Reilly isn’t a moron. He’s a Harvard graduate. I would argue that he’s unethical, though.

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Zeb January 7, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Bill O’Reilly is not a moron, but he plays one on TV.

If they are at rest and nothing else exists in the universe then how could they possible move?

When I say they start at rest, I just mean that at t=o they have 0 velocity relative to each other. I assume that at all t>0 (at least until they get so far apart that gravity overcomes the electromagnetic force) the electromagnetic force pushes them apart. If you were asking a philosophical question rather than a physical question, I don’t know what you’re getting at.

I guess the rest of my comment could be boiled down to causality, though I was thinking of it in terms of informational connectivity. I would have said that the appearance of causality is evidence of informational connectivity, in that informational connectivity is a necessary condition for causation. But those probably are the just same thing, at least on a naturalistic view. Anyway, I’m not just saying that I don’t know how causality works, I’m saying that material causality as I understand what it is supposed to mean is literally inconceivable to me, whereas mental cognition and intention are conceivable (even though I don’t really know how they work). I’m not saying that that proves that mind is a necessary condition of a coherent universe. But if I have evidence A (the appearance of causal relationships) implying B (informational connectivity among parts of the universe), and I know of only two proposed explanations of B: C (a general phenomenon of material causation) and D (mind), and I find C inconceivable and D conceivable, why should that not count in favor of my believing D, to be weighed along with all other considerations for and against? Like I said, I would not use it to try to convince someone else to believe in god, not just because it feels silly but because I don’t find it convincing myself; however it does sway me in the god direction, and that seems reasonable to me until I can find an explanation of material causation that works for me. And frankly I am much more interested in finding that explanation than in developing this as an argument for theism. I find this subject super fascinating, so if anyone has any answers or idea, please share.

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Michael January 7, 2011 at 10:10 pm

A few thoughts on Zeb’s question.
First, I don’t think you have a coherent model of “mind” or “intention” and certainly not of how either of those amorphous things function or interact with anything.
Second, the scenario of “nothing” existing except 2 electrons is incoherent. Electrons are things which exist in spacetime and/or a quantum vacuum and/or as part of a physics which includes other leptons which are types of fermions which are distinct from bosons like photons. I have no idea what a reality in which “only” 2 electrons exist could be like. What would make those things electrons in that reality, how could they be electrons without a spacetime/quantum field in which they could be, how could they interact except through the existence of “other” things like the electroweak force, gravity, photons, and what happened to the anti-electrons in your scenario?
Third, the question of how particles interact is a deep and difficult one. It will be answered by better models of reality than we already have. I am about 99.99% though that those models will NOT include “disembodied souls and intellects” or “Thor, Sekhmet, and Jesus.”

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Luke Muehlhauser January 7, 2011 at 10:49 pm

“Bill O’Reilly is not a moron, but he plays one on TV.”

What’s it called when something gives you a “rolling” laugh out loud? An RLOL? Yeah, I had one of those.

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Mike Gantt January 8, 2011 at 3:06 am

Actually, a good argument would be “There must be a God, because the smartest people in the world don’t know how things work.”

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M. January 8, 2011 at 3:09 am

Just a couple of general, banal comments on Zeb’s talkback, and without involving myself in the most intricate issues of causality and intentionality.

I. Our lack of understanding is ostensibly appeased by the acceptance that there is a God that knows and directs everything and that Chaos does not, after all, govern the world. But God adds no explanatory value to our misunderstanding. We do not, and apparently cannot, understand how God functions, being an essence categorically distinct from us – as the Bible itself writes: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord” (Isiah 55:8). I understand the proposition: “Pete moved the cheese from the counter to the table”. I do not understand the proposition (if it is one): “God moved the cheese from the counter to the table”. I understand less the proposition (if it is one): “God controls the tides” or “God created the world”. How does that explain the oscillation of the tides or the existence of the world?

II. Science is a “work in progress”. The fact that science is not able to explain every phenomenon in the world does not undermine its veracity. First, it does not claim to have all the answers, as in contradistinction to religions. Second, its realm is limited and defined – it does not investigate anything that cannot “enter the lab”. Third, it is all the better that science does not have all the answers, for if it had I would be out of a job and the human existence would be rather dull.

I would like to conclude by stating that it is vastly better to remain with good, potent questions and not remain with poor and deficient answers.

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Martin January 8, 2011 at 6:15 am

I think Zeb makes a good point.

There is actually a core philosophical argument in Bill’s comment about tides: the idea that we live in a rational universe that follows logic and regularity, and hence there must be a rational underpinning behind it all.

It doesn’t convince me, but I can see how someone could make that argument without sounding stupid the way Bill does. It’s possible that that’s what he was trying to get at.

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Luke Muehlhauser January 8, 2011 at 6:42 am

Mike Gantt,

You’re kidding, right?

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Mike Gantt January 8, 2011 at 6:57 am

Mike Gantt,You’re kidding, right?  (Quote)

No. What makes you think so?

To save time, I’ll go ahead and explain that I’m not saying that “the smartest people in the world don’t know how anything works,” nor am I even saying “because the smartest people in the world don’t know how everything works.” Rather I am saying “because the smartest people in the world don’t know how the most important things work.” Like love, sacrifice, and nobility. If they did, their lives would be paragons of virtue.

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Hermes January 8, 2011 at 8:20 am

Mike Gantt, no gods seem to convince humans to understand love, sacrifice, and nobility. Instead, quite a few of the most pious that call on and promote gods seem to be horrible human beings — no paragons of virtue — while despite the gods we humans love and sacrifice for each other on a regular basis.

But, getting back to the point, it’s still not an argument that works in your favor. It’s an argument for a gap proving an assertion, and it doesn’t work.

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woodchuck64 January 8, 2011 at 8:24 am

Mike Gantt,

Rather I am saying “because the smartest people in the world don’t know how the most important things work.” Like love, sacrifice, and nobility. If they did, their lives would be paragons of virtue.

Historically, love, sacrifice, and nobility are exercised with respect to the group one identifies with. Thus, a Muslim warrior amply displays love, sacrifice and nobility by thrusting his sword into a soldier of the Crusades, who in turn displays great love, sacrifice and nobility by hacking off the Muslim’s head with his dying breath. Evolution explains these strangely conflicting ideals as part of group selection and competition, while religion tends to blindly insist that only their side truly experiences love, sacrifice and nobility. A God becomes a difficult explanation, in my opinion, if love, sacrifice and nobility are truly experienced by both sides in the act of destroying one another; but this is happening all over the world today in numerous conflicts, religious or not.

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Mike Gantt January 8, 2011 at 8:26 am

@Hermes

When you say, “Instead, quite a few of the most pious that call on and promote gods seem to be horrible human beings — no paragons of virtue —,” I concur, which is why I would much rather be neighbors with a moral atheist than an immoral theist.

As for your assessment of my argument as weak, I can live with that because the center of my faith is in the historicity of Jesus Christ as described in the New Testament and prophesied in the Old Testament.

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Hermes January 8, 2011 at 8:35 am

Mike, I won’t go beyond the scope of this article as to address your last paragraph would take us on a wild ride through many unrelated details. I’ll just leave it at I disagree but not necessarily for the reasons that are usually promoted.

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Mike Gantt January 8, 2011 at 9:40 am

@Hermes

Fair enough.

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Mike Gantt January 8, 2011 at 9:52 am

Mike Gantt,Historically, love, sacrifice, and nobility are exercised with respect to the group one identifies with. Thus, a Muslim warrior amply displays love, sacrifice and nobility by thrusting his sword into a soldier of the Crusades, who in turn displays great love, sacrifice and nobility by hacking off the Muslim’s head with his dying breath. Evolution explains these strangely conflicting ideals as part of group selection and competition, while religion tends to blindly insist that only their side truly experiences love, sacrifice and nobility. A God becomes a difficult explanation, in my opinion, if love, sacrifice and nobility are truly experienced by both sides in the act of destroying one another; but this is happening all over the world today in numerous conflicts, religious or not.  (Quote)

@woodchuck64

I appreciate your succinct and eloquent expression of the difficulty you have reconciling the existence of a Creator with the things you see in life, but just because you can’t reconcile them doesn’t mean no one can reconcile them, and just because you can’t reconcile them now doesn’t mean you won’t ever be able to reconcile them. In any case, you reinforce my original point: there are things we deem important that even the smartest of us can’t understand. If there’s no God, why do we think things are important that we don’t understand? (Just food for thought, not a challenge or an argument.)

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J. K. Jones January 8, 2011 at 9:52 am

I am not sure what O’Riley meant, but there is an argument there. A Christian can explain the basic uniformity of nature, that is that nature behaves the same way day after day. It can be explained because an unchanging, intelligent and powerful God designed the universe to be uniform and knowable.

How does a non-theist explain this?

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Rob January 8, 2011 at 10:01 am

I am not sure what O’Riley meant, but there is an argument there.A Christian can explain the basic uniformity of nature, that is that nature behaves the same way day after day.It can be explained because an unchanging, intelligent and powerful God designed the universe to be uniform and knowable.How does a non-theist explain this?  

So you believe that God is unchanging , consistent, and uniform? How do you explain that? What thing outside of God keeps God the way he is? Meta-God? It does you no good to just say “that is God’s nature”, as then I could just say the same thing about the nature of nature.

Yes, Billo made an argument. It’s just a really fucking stupid argument.

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J. K. Jones January 8, 2011 at 10:33 am

Why postulate another MetaGod to uphold God? Why multiply explanations beyond what is necessary?

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PDH January 8, 2011 at 10:59 am

J. K. Jones wrote,

I am not sure what O’Riley meant, but there is an argument there.A Christian can explain the basic uniformity of nature, that is that nature behaves the same way day after day.It can be explained because an unchanging, intelligent and powerful God designed the universe to be uniform and knowable.How does a non-theist explain this?  

Naturalists draw inferences from the discoveries of science to the kind of universe that we think we’re living in. We don’t have fixed beliefs. If you went back in time a hundred years and started talking to the naturalists of the day about dark matter and Higgs Bosons they wouldn’t know what you were talking about. That doesn’t mean that the Higgs Boson is supernatural until someone discovers it.

The simplest explanations of the evidence will tend to take the form of regular natural laws. Consider two theories: evolution and beaverlution.

Beaverlution is exactly the same as evolution except that in the year 2021 everyone turns into beavers. So, the evidence for beaverlution is exactly the same as the evidence for evolution and we won’t be able to disprove it for another decade. Now ask yourself, did we evolve from earlier creatures or beavolve?

There are a number of reasons that naturalists might prefer evolution to beaverlution but one perfectly fine reason is that beaverlution is more complicated. Beaverlutionists have to believe in all the same things that evolutionists believe in, plus some other stuff. A model that says that the natural laws will stay the same will be simpler than one that says they will stay the same until 2021 and then everyone will turn into beavers. This is because of the conjunction fallacy.

If some new evidence comes along that can be more easily accounted for by beaverlution than evolution (such as everybody turning into beavers in 2021) then we’ll switch to the new theory. But that evidence isn’t available right now.

So that is why naturalism tends to look like it does. We’re not telling the universe what it is, we’re asking it and this is the reply we got. We find ourselves in a universe that appears to be mechanical, not one that appears to be governed by a benevolent, all powerful being.

If you think a further explanation than brute existence is necessary and you want to go deeper than that, well some people speculate that the universe is actually an abstract mathematical structure upon which our descriptions of the natural laws are merely isomorphic. See this Max Tegmark paper, for example: http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0704/0704.0646v2.pdf

I like that idea. But the take-home point is this:

Theists believe that everything in the universe including its natural laws are ultimately the expression of a person, who they call God. Naturalists believe that everything in the universe including persons are ultimately the expression of natural laws. We are doing a very good job of explaining how life reduces to non-living things but theists are not doing a very good job of explaining how natural laws reduce to a person.

If the laws really were the expressions of a person then why are they not being suspended by supernatural agents in unpredictable ways all the time? Uniformity is exactly what I would not expect to find if God was running the show. If, OTOH, you believe in a God who behaves in a way that is indistinguishable from natural laws then why even bother with him?

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cl January 8, 2011 at 11:06 am

Not much to add on O’Reilly for me, although, I think it’s pretty easy to come up with a variation of his argument that works. If I desire to be intellectually satisfied, I need an explanation of how and/or why things are the way they are.

A) God is orderly and rational;

B) The universe is orderly and rational;

C) The universe is orderly and rational because an orderly and rational God ordained it thus.

This isn’t intended as an argument for God’s existence. Rather, it simply demonstrates that an orderly and rational God is a sufficient explanation for an orderly and rational universe. As Zeb poignantly asks, how does the atheist explain this? I find Rob’s attempt – that nature is orderly and rational because that is nature’s nature – wholly unpersuasive. To argue thus is essentially circular and tautological. It’s no explanation at all, whereas what I’ve proffered is. Asking a variant of “who designed the designer” does not mitigate the fact of an explanation given, and – as J. K. Jones correctly points out – violates the principle of parsimony.

Hermes,

I would argue that he’s unethical, though.

Yet, you “applaud AA for being the bad guys so as to spread a broader message on TV and over the internet.” You seem to imply that the end – generating press – justifies the means – making a false claim under the guise of telling the truth. How is that ethical?

Rob,

It does you no good to just say “that is God’s nature”, as then I could just say the same thing about the nature of nature.

…then:

Yes, Billo made an argument. It’s just a really fucking stupid argument.

To use an overused phrase: irony meter broken.

PDH,

We find ourselves in a universe that appears to be mechanical, not one that appears to be governed by a benevolent, all powerful being.

Why couldn’t a benevolent, all-powerful being create a universe that appears to be mechanical?

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woodchuck64 January 8, 2011 at 11:11 am

Mike Gantt,

I appreciate your succinct and eloquent expression of the difficulty you have reconciling the existence of a Creator with the things you see in life, but just because you can’t reconcile them doesn’t mean no one can reconcile them, and just because you can’t reconcile them now doesn’t mean you won’t ever be able to reconcile them.

True. But until someone does reconcile the difficulties, I’ll go with evolution as providing a better explanation for the way we humans are. If a better explanation involving a Creator comes along, I would certainly be open to it.

If there’s no God, why do we think things are important that we don’t understand?

Since we don’t have all knowledge of reality at any given time, there will always be things we don’t understand. However, what is clear is that we have the ability to collect knowledge about ourselves, our history, and the history and origin of life over time and gradually understand the things that are important to us. It seems to me this process can proceed without God just as easily as with.

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PDH January 8, 2011 at 11:22 am

cl, I never said he couldn’t.

But supernaturalists of that sort have to believe in everything that naturalists believe in, plus some other stuff. So, I reject it for many of the same reasons I reject beaverlution.

I have no expectation that reality will take certain forms. Reality can be as big and as complex and as weird as it likes. I’m simply looking for the best explanation that fits the facts. I don’t want one that is too small because then there is something that is not being explained and I don’t want one that is too big because the probability of X and Y is lower than the probability of X on its own.

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Mike Gantt January 8, 2011 at 11:30 am

@woodchuck64

“True. But until someone does reconcile the difficulties, I’ll go with evolution as providing a better explanation for the way we humans are. If a better explanation involving a Creator comes along, I would certainly be open to it.”

I like the way you ended that.

“”Since we don’t have all knowledge of reality at any given time, there will always be things we don’t understand. However, what is clear is that we have the ability to collect knowledge about ourselves, our history, and the history and origin of life over time and gradually understand the things that are important to us. It seems to me this process can proceed without God just as easily as with.”

Yes it can, except that excluding God from the knowledge collection reduces the productivity of the process, limiting the quality and quantity of the answers we find. (Please note that I said “God” and not “religion.”)

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cl January 8, 2011 at 11:49 am

PDH,

I’m simply looking for the best explanation that fits the facts. I don’t want one that is too small because then there is something that is not being explained and I don’t want one that is too big because the probability of X and Y is lower than the probability of X on its own.

Nicely put, and I tend to abide by those criteria myself. I see physicalism and naturalism too small. Although, I’d need to see your math if you wish to persuade me that the probability of “God and nature” is lower than the probability of “just nature.”

But supernaturalists of that sort have to believe in everything that naturalists believe in, plus some other stuff.

I find that argument unacceptable. If God exists – or angels or demons or pink unicorns for that matter – each are simply a part of nature [defined as the set of all that exists]. I don’t see a need or reason to create separate ontological categories. In my opinion, that violates the principle of parsimony you allude to.

Naturalists believe that everything in the universe including persons are ultimately the expression of natural laws.

Yet, “natural laws” don’t exist. The phrase is simply a language convention we use to describe the uniformity we observe. So, to argue that the universe is an “expression” of “natural laws” is absurd.

We are doing a very good job of explaining how life reduces to non-living things but theists are not doing a very good job of explaining how natural laws reduce to a person.

That’s your opinion, entirely. In my opinion – and I’m taking your previously proffered paper as an example – an abstract mathematical structure reduces to a person quite well: as far as we know, only persons do mathematics, so, that a person created the universe is in accord with previous observation while respecting the principle of parsimony.

If the laws really were the expressions of a person then why are they not being suspended by supernatural agents in unpredictable ways all the time?

I find your question imprecise. There’s no need for the clause “all the time.” Further, I – and many others – have observed states of affairs that are fully consistent with “the laws” being suspended / violated / vitiated / etc. If you haven’t, and you’re interested, see The Video Game Incident on my own blog. Also, I find Anomalous Mental Phenomena III & IV quite persuasive.

woodchuck64,

…until someone does reconcile the difficulties, I’ll go with evolution as providing a better explanation for the way we humans are. If a better explanation involving a Creator comes along, I would certainly be open to it.

No offense, but this strikes me as an open doorway to the argument from ignorance, in that you presume X correct because Y has not demonstrated to your liking. On the other hand, I see nothing wrong with simply opting for what one believes to be the best explanation, so, I’m not too sure – but I’m certainly not trying to provoke or “troll” you as our host has misled people to believe.

Further, evolution cannot explain existence. It can only explain the variety of life.

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PDH January 8, 2011 at 12:23 pm

PDH,
I find that argument unacceptable. If God exists – or angels or demons or pink unicorns for that matter – each are simply a part of nature [defined as the set of all that exists]. I don’t see a need or reason to create separate ontological categories. In my opinion, that violates the principle of parsimony you allude to.

I agree that naturalism and supernaturalism are not real ontological categories. I acknowledged this is in my first post and attempted to explain where that perception comes from and why naturalism ‘takes the forms that it does’. What I mean by this is why do our explanations of reality tend to be expressed as natural laws such as the laws of thermodynamics? Why do we not say, ‘a person beyond space and time causes energy to be conserved?’

My explanation for this is that it is simpler to say ‘energy is conserved.’ If something has happened a trillion times in a row, a model that says it will continue to happen will be simpler than one that says ‘it will happen a trillion times in a row and then turn into a beaver.’

Because of this naturalistic explanations will tend to take the form that they do and there is the perception that there are these two distinct ontological categories of natural and supernatural things. It is no surprise to me that many of the things people typically put in the supernatural category (elves, fairies, gods etc.) are all extravagantly complex (and that is the complexity of the explanation I am talking about, not metaphysical complexity). It is because we do live in a world where nature is uniform so these explanations are all too big. Thus, their defenders have to protect them from falsification by asserting that they are in separate magisteria. You then end up with the reverse problem of an explanation being much too vague to answer anything (‘and then a miracle occurred,’ to borrow Daniel Dennett’s phrase).

A person is the most complex thing that we know of. The human brain has billions of neurons, trillions of synapses. Every cell in our body has its own human genome project. All of this information would have to be included in a scientific model if we were going to use it make predictions about nature. We would have to know about culture because that has a huge effect on behaviour. We would have to know about environment, history, psychology etc. We would have to know what a person has recently been drinking because a drunk person behaves differently from a sober person. The information contained by a model that was based on personal agents would be staggering.

And God is a personal being. He also has some of our attributes but to an infinite degree. Where we have knowledge, God has all the knowledge that there is. Where we have power, God is all powerful etc. Once something becomes infinitely complex it can’t really get much worse than that.

To explain a person in terms of a super-person is to go from the obscure to the even more obscure. The unknown to the unknowable. It is the exact opposite of explaining things. I don’t see anything that warrants that massive leap even if you think current theories are inadequate. We don’t need an explanation anywhere near that big.

To go for something more deistic is to redefine God as an entity who for some reason behaves exactly like a set of laws. It’s hard to see what the difference between God and the MUH is at that point since they’re essentially equivalent. But I will say that to the extent that it increases the complexity of the explanation without adding anything useful, it can be dismissed. Perhaps, the MUH is surplus to requirements, as well. I offer that only for those theists (and atheists) who think that these ultimate questions need answering. Some people will regard them as nonsense questions and they may have a point.

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MauricXe January 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm

cl, are you claiming that Hermes must himself be ethical, either in part or in whole, to call someone else unethical? The comment seems out of place. You might have a bone to pick with him about the comment but it certainly doesn’t belong here.

As Zeb poignantly asks, how does the atheist explain this? I find Rob’s attempt – that nature is orderly and rational because that is nature’s nature – wholly unpersuasive. To argue thus is essentially circular and tautological.

It’s unpersuasive if you are looking for some sort of agent.

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cl January 8, 2011 at 1:32 pm

PDH,

I’m going to address MauricXe first. I hope you don’t mind.

MauricXe,

cl, are you claiming that Hermes must himself be ethical, either in part or in whole, to call someone else unethical?

No, but thanks for asking. I’m not claiming anything. I asked Hermes to explain how it is ethical to support the making of false claims in order to generate press. Of course, this presumes that Hermes thinks such is ethical, but I’m going on the good faith assumption that Hermes doesn’t willfully make unethical claims.

You might have a bone to pick with him about the comment but it certainly doesn’t belong here.

I appreciate your concern, but, who made you the arbiter of what belongs where?

It’s unpersuasive if you are looking for some sort of agent.

Can you elaborate on that a bit?

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MauricXe January 8, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Haha well I’m not the arbiter of anything on this blog. I just don’t see how your reply to Hermes is relevant to what Hermes posted.

Well the argument that he gave is persuasive to me; as much as a “short” non-technical answer can be. I wouldn’t expect that to be the case for someone that has a tendency to include a designer in the order of the universe. What I’m getting at is that it’s subjective.

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Rob January 8, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Jones said:

“Why postulate another MetaGod to uphold God? Why multiply explanations beyond what is necessary?”

Bingo!

The universe is as it is. Why postulate Zeus to uphold it? If we need something outside the universe to uphold it, then we must need a Meta-Upholder to uphold the upholder.

Oh wait, you say. The Upholder is special, you say. It is the one thing that exists on it’s on. It does not need an upholder.

Will the special pleading and god-of-the gaps nonsense ever end?

You asked what keeps the universe behaving the way it does. I have no idea. And neither do you. Stop pretending that you know things you don’t.

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J. K. Jones January 8, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Rob,

But the universe changes all the time. It cannot be the unchanging ground of the uniformity of nature. What keeps it regular from day to day? Nothing we find in a chaning universe.

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Hermes January 8, 2011 at 5:29 pm

[ tips hat to MauricXe ]

Rob: Will the special pleading and god-of-the gaps nonsense ever end?

Yet, Yahweh/Jesus is special! Gods like them don’t fall out the sky every day, you know!

[ *thud* ]

Ignore that! It’s nothing! Move along!

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Hermes January 8, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Rob,But the universe changes all the time.It cannot be the unchanging ground of the uniformity of nature.What keeps it regular from day to day?Nothing we find in a chaning universe.  

Sounds like Platonism.

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J. K. Jones January 8, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Hermes, was Plato always wrong?

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Patrick January 8, 2011 at 5:39 pm

I am imagining the imaginary inhabits of an imaginary chaotic universe. The theist in that universe is now arguing that the laws of physics change moment by moment, and what could be the source of such changes but god? Obviously, he continues, a universe which was constant and mechanistic and exactly like a machine would be evidence against the existence of an all powerful will that can alter the cosmos at its slightest whim, while the constant flux of the universe could only be driven by a mind.

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Rob January 8, 2011 at 5:43 pm

Jones,

The universe is as it is. I don’t know why.

It is silly to plug god into the gaps of your ignorance. You are just pretending to know something you don’t.

It’s an interesting question though, and physicists are working on it.

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Rob January 8, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Jones,

And riffing on Patrick’s comment . . .

It may very well be the case that the laws of physics change as the universe evolves. We have been observing for a very very short time. Suppose in a million years we observe that the speed of light is slowly changing.

What then? Would you argue that the non-uniformity of nature is evidence for God? That only a divine mind could account for the speed of light changing?

If so, then you would be arguing that X is evidence for God, and also not-X is evidence for God.

I hope you can see how silly this all is.

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J. K. Jones January 8, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Patrick, if everything in the universe was in a state of flux there would be no theists or atheists to have an argument. Our persons require some consistency and organization.

Rob, the theories propounded by physics have already changed / evolved. That in no way shows the universe to be un-uniform.

All of your hypothetical ideas about how I would argue in a universe which does not exist are strange.

Besides, we need logic to even discuss all of this, and I bet you all have no justification for unchanging, non-physical laws like the laws of logic either. Until you do, you are engaging in ‘science of the gaps,’ assuming a naturalistic answer to questions that have not been answered yet.

God makes more sense. He designed the universe to be knowable and us to be able to know it. There is no competing, compelling alternative.

It is not a ‘god of the gaps’ argument. I am arguing from what is to what must be.

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Hermes January 8, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Hermes, was Plato always wrong?  

Always? No. Did I say he way? On forms? Yep. I’ll say he was wrong about forms.

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Hermes January 8, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Bah…I have to remember to double check before posting.

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Rob January 8, 2011 at 6:38 pm

“I am arguing from what is to what must be.”

Jones,

Why must the uniformity of nature have an upholder? What principle are you using to get you to that conclusion?

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J. K. Jones January 8, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Rob, consistency is a hall-mark of design. Design requires a designer.

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Rob January 8, 2011 at 6:56 pm

Jones,

Is God consistent?

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Hermes January 8, 2011 at 7:46 pm

[ grabs popcorn and relaxes ]

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Rob January 8, 2011 at 9:34 pm

cl said:

“I find Rob’s attempt – that nature is orderly and rational because that is nature’s nature – wholly unpersuasive.”

Nice that you took my comment out of context. I said that if it is legitimate to just assert that it is the nature of God to be consistent, then likewise it would be just as legitimate to assert that it is the nature of nature to be consistent.

I do not think it is legitimate to answer the question that way, however. It is a question that I do not have an answer to. It is a question that may in principle not have an answer.

Certainly “god did it” is an idiotic answer, as it always is.

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cl January 8, 2011 at 10:47 pm

PDH,

What I mean by this is why do our explanations of reality tend to be expressed as natural laws such as the laws of thermodynamics?

It is my opinion that this is because God is a rational and orderly lawgiver, one who doesn’t play dice.

Why do we not say, ‘a person beyond space and time causes energy to be conserved?’

Your use of “we” is loaded. I do say that a person beyond space and time causes energy to be conserved, as did the person who came up with that “law.” Science is literally overflowing with people who believed and said exactly what you claim “we” don’t say, so I would be more careful with “we.”

To explain a person in terms of a super-person is to go from the obscure to the even more obscure. The unknown to the unknowable. It is the exact opposite of explaining things.

I disagree. To explain a rational and orderly universe as the handiwork of a rational and orderly God is a very consistent and sensible explanation. In the same way, an automobile is a rational and orderly entity, and it is perfectly acceptable to explain an automobile as the handiwork of a rational and orderly creator.

We don’t need an explanation anywhere near that big.

You’re loading your use of “we” again. Regarding physicalism, I don’t need an explanation anywhere near that small. I need one that can account for all the evidence.

MauricXe,

I just don’t see how your reply to Hermes is relevant to what Hermes posted.

Hermes claims O’Reilly is unethical. Hermes also applauds AA for being the bad guys so as to spread a broader message on TV and over the internet. Do you honestly not see the relevance?

Well the argument that he gave is persuasive to me; as much as a “short” non-technical answer can be. I wouldn’t expect that to be the case for someone that has a tendency to include a designer in the order of the universe.

Thanks for clarifying. I have said tendency, yet, my answer is very short and non-technical: God did it.

What I’m getting at is that it’s subjective.

What does the “it’ in that sentence refer to?

Rob,

I said that if it is legitimate to just assert that it is the nature of God to be consistent, then likewise it would be just as legitimate to assert that it is the nature of nature to be consistent.

No you didn’t. You said,

So you believe that God is unchanging , consistent, and uniform? How do you explain that? What thing outside of God keeps God the way he is? Meta-God? It does you no good to just say “that is God’s nature”, as then I could just say the same thing about the nature of nature.

I didn’t take anything out of context.

I do not think it is legitimate to answer the question that way, however.

Did I say you did? No. I simply indulged in the irony of you call O’Reilly’s argument “stupid,” then offering a stupider argument yourself. The argument doesn’t become “not stupid” simply because you mentioned it hypothetically.

It is a question that may in principle not have an answer.

If atheism is true, I might agree to that. I’ve been pondering how I would answer the question if I were an atheist — to no avail.

Certainly “god did it” is an idiotic answer, as it always is.

Nonsense. That a rational and orderly God created a rational and orderly universe is a perfectly consistent answer.

The universe is as it is. Why postulate Zeus to uphold it? If we need something outside the universe to uphold it, then we must need a Meta-Upholder to uphold the upholder.

Oh wait, you say. The Upholder is special, you say. It is the one thing that exists on it’s on. It does not need an upholder.

Will the special pleading and god-of-the gaps nonsense ever end? [to J. K. Jones]

From SkepticWiki:

Special Pleading is a formal logical fallacy where a participant introduces details by alleging a need to take in special considerations without proper criticism of the considerations. The most general structure of this argument runs something like the following:

1. Person A accepts standard(s) S and applies them to others in circumtance(s) C.

2. Person A is in circumstance(s) C.

3. Therefore A is exempt from S.

This is a fallacy because s/he claiming that he is exempt from certain principles or standards yet s/he provides no good reason for his exemption.

Consider:

1) That which begins to exist [circumstance C] requires a transition from potency to act [standard S];

2) God is an eternal entity.

An eternal entity is not in circumstance C, so, to claim that an eternal entity is exempt from S is not special pleading. Good reason has been provided: an eternal entity does not begin to exist. Of course, you’re perfectly welcome to deny that eternal entities can exist, but that’s a different discussion entirely.

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Rob January 8, 2011 at 11:01 pm

cl,

You misrepresented my position. Knock it off.

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Hermes January 8, 2011 at 11:04 pm

Cl, you do not address what people actually write and I see little chance that you will act honestly in the future.

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Ralph January 9, 2011 at 7:11 am

God is an eternal entity.An eternal entity is not in circumstance C, so, to claim that an eternal entity is exempt from S is not special pleading. Good reason has been provided: an eternal entity does not begin to exist. Of course, you’re perfectly welcome to deny that eternal entities can exist, but that’s a different discussion entirely.

One could claim that the metaverse is an eternal entity and one would still be in a much better position than you are because the existence of a metaverse is potentially testable and also because we know that this universe exists and started out in a timeless singularity – the existence of the metaverse would only require the leap of extrapolation. Your position is in no more made up than if someone claims that the reason the universe is orderly is because an eternal leprechaun created it to be that way.

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MauricXe January 9, 2011 at 7:19 am

No, I don’t see the relevance. It doesn’t begin to refute the claim that Bill O’reily is unethical. Is there something else you are waiting to say after Hermes answers your question? Tbh, I don’t care to argue this point any longer; it’s not the most interesting thing you are arguing right now.

it = the persuasion of the argument.

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PDH January 9, 2011 at 7:50 am

cl,

It is my opinion that this is because God is a rational and orderly lawgiver, one who doesn’t play dice.

It is my opinion that naturalists, in their commitment to believing the simplest explanation of the discoveries of science, have arrived at the conclusion that the universe is orderly, purely because that is the simplest most accurate description of the universe.

Plainly, it is simpler to believe that there is an orderly universe than it is to believe that there is an orderly God and an orderly universe.

Your use of “we” is loaded. I do say that a person beyond space and time causes energy to be conserved, as did the person who came up with that “law.” Science is literally overflowing with people who believed and said exactly what you claim “we” don’t say, so I would be more careful with “we.”

‘We’ refers to people who care about things like consistency. For obvious reasons, I wasn’t referring to all the people who have ever existed. If you want to exclude yourself from that category, you’re free to do so. There are, of course, people who disagree on certain issues – especially in historical times when atheism was discouraged much more forcefully – but if those people do agree on the basic principles of rationality and their positions can be shown to be inconsistent with those principles then one or the other must be wrong.

I disagree. To explain a rational and orderly universe as the handiwork of a rational and orderly God is a very consistent and sensible explanation. In the same way, an automobile is a rational and orderly entity, and it is perfectly acceptable to explain an automobile as the handiwork of a rational and orderly creator.

Of course, if I asked you who designed the designer, you would object to that argument. Well, asking what is the nature of nature is an equivalent fallacy. The fallacy is begging the question. Theists do not believe that God was designed and many naturalists do not believe that natural laws have to be explained in terms of meta-laws. If the universe is tenseless and uncreated it could be reasonably argued that that is where the buck stops. The universe doesn’t need to explain itself. If it was created by a personal being then that being may have his reasons but that is not what most naturalists believe.

Now, if you insist on going further, naturalists have answers for that, too. The MUH explains what a natural law actually is and why we have these laws rather than others. The universe that we see around us is exactly what we would expect to see if the MUH is true.

This goes back to a point that I missed in your last post to me:

That’s your opinion, entirely. In my opinion – and I’m taking your previously proffered paper as an example – an abstract mathematical structure reduces to a person quite well: as far as we know, only persons do mathematics, so, that a person created the universe is in accord with previous observation while respecting the principle of parsimony.

Actually, persons are not the only things capable of doing maths. Computers are the obvious counter example.

Now, your position on maths is fine – that is one reasonable interpretation – but obviously you are begging the question against proponents of the MUH as they regard mathematical objects as being real. The concepts are conceptual, of course, but they believe that there is a referent there, as well. That mathematical structures exist whether anyone imagines them or not.

Consider a mathematical structure that is so complex that it has conscious entities within it. Those entities would be none the wiser. They would see precisely what we see and marvel at the regularity of their universe (remember, a tenseless universe does not need to be ‘computed’ in order for its inhabitants to perceive a flow of time). The MUH proposes that this is, in fact, the case. That we are living in such a universe.

You’re loading your use of “we” again. Regarding physicalism, I don’t need an explanation anywhere near that small. I need one that can account for all the evidence.

What evidence is not being accounted for? Is this evidence really so staggering that there are no simpler explanations than God did it? I find that difficult to believe.

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Hermes January 9, 2011 at 7:54 am

MauricXe, I thank you for your good comments. To be clear, I have no plans to give Cl a response. I trust anyone who is curious to determine for themselves what my words meant and if I was in error.

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Rob January 9, 2011 at 8:03 am

I will summarize and be done with this.

If the theist cannot account for why god is consistent, then the theist is in no position to criticizes the naturalist for being unable to account for the consistency of natural laws.

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Reginald Selkirk January 9, 2011 at 8:25 am

FWIW, Bill O’Reilly isn’t a moron. He’s a Harvard graduate.

False dichotomy.

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Hermes January 9, 2011 at 8:27 am

[ tips hat to Reginald ]

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woodchuck64 January 9, 2011 at 8:27 am

cl,

No offense, but this strikes me as an open doorway to the argument from ignorance, in that you presume X correct because Y has not demonstrated to your liking. On the other hand, I see nothing wrong with simply opting for what one believes to be the best explanation, so, I’m not too sure – but I’m certainly not trying to provoke or “troll” you as our host has misled people to believe.

As with many things in science, insufficient investigation of X is always an option so my belief is (or should be) provisional. But I do believe sufficient investigation of X (evolution as an explanation for certain human behaviors) has occurred to escape the argument-from-ignorance fallacy. My form of the argument is: X is correct because X has been provisionally shown to be correct ; not: X is correct because Y (God as an explanation for certain human behaviors) has not been proven. However, if Y is proven, X becomes less likely to be correct.

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Reginald Selkirk January 9, 2011 at 8:31 am

… historicity of Jesus Christ as described in the New Testament and prophesied in the Old Testament.

The Age of Reason, part three: Examination of the Prophecies
by Thomas Paine

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Kaelik January 9, 2011 at 8:44 am

… historicity of Jesus Christ as described in the New Testament and prophesied in the Old Testament.The Age of Reason, part three: Examination of the Prophecies
by Thomas Paine  

I think the statement “historicity of Jesus Christ as described in the New Testament” is the more obviously and devastatingly false assertion in that pair.

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Mike Gantt January 9, 2011 at 8:44 am

… historicity of Jesus Christ as described in the New Testament and prophesied in the Old Testament.The Age of Reason, part three: Examination of the Propheciesby Thomas Paine  (Quote)

@ Reginald Selkirk
Thanks for the resource. However, I was already aware that my statement was not universally accepted. That, in and of itself, though, does not disprove the statement, nor does it lessen my conviction of its truth.

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Mike Gantt January 9, 2011 at 8:52 am

I think the statement “historicity of Jesus Christ as described in the New Testament” is the more obviously and devastatingly false assertion in that pair.  (Quote)

@Kaelik
I am not surpised that someone would make this statement you have made, for I have found it to be a prevailing urban myth. Whenever it is heard or read, wise heads nod in agreement with nary a challenge to its validity…and certainly no proof offered to sustain it. It’s one of those things that educated people “just know.”

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MauricXe January 9, 2011 at 11:17 am

Gotcha.

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Kaelik January 9, 2011 at 12:18 pm

@Kaelik
I am not surpised that someone would make this statement you have made, for I have found it to be a prevailing urban myth.Whenever it is heard or read, wise heads nod in agreement with nary a challenge to its validity…and certainly no proof offered to sustain it.It’s one of those things that educated people “just know.”  

Funny you should say that. Since you presented exactly zero evidence for your assertion, and the only evidence that you have for the “historicity of Jesus Christ” is that there exists one single heavily non contemporary manuscript that claims he did some things. I on the other hand, have a wealth of analysis of why exactly there is little reason to believe that claim.

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Kaelik January 9, 2011 at 12:20 pm

A Wealth of analysis that for some reason won’t appear in a link in the post because this place has the most fucked up html coding ever.

So instead, click on my name in this post for that analysis.

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Mike Gantt January 9, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Funny you should say that. Since you presented exactly zero evidence for your assertion, and the only evidence that you have for the “historicity of Jesus Christ” is that there exists one single heavily non contemporary manuscript that claims he did some things. I on the other hand, have a wealth of analysis of why exactly there is little reason to believe that claim.  (Quote)

@Kaelik
I didn’t accompany my assertion with evidence because the 27 documents written by His contemporaries have long since been submitted into the record.

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Mike Gantt January 9, 2011 at 1:01 pm

A Wealth of analysis that for some reason won’t appear in a link in the post because this place has the most fucked up html coding ever.So instead, click on my name in this post for that analysis.  (Quote)

@Kaelik
I have seen “Choking on the Camel” before and wasn’t impressed. Because of your recommendation, however, I read farther this time. I still wasn’t impressed. His comparison to George Washington sets up a false standard. Jesus was of no reputation and from an outlying province of a mighty empire. We’re supposed to have the same records for him as for the first president of our own country founded less that 300 years ago? Has the author not read the New Testament? Jesus’ country didn’t want to exalt Him; they wanted to eliminate Him and the memory of Him. This “analysis” would impress only those who already accepted its conclusion or who knew too few facts about the documents he was trying to discredit. The writer overstates his evidence and mistates the scholarly record (even where scholars agree with his conclusion). I wish I didn’t have to be so dismissive but this is a “Wealth of Propaganda.”

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Kaelik January 9, 2011 at 1:02 pm

@Kaelik
I didn’t accompany my assertion with evidence because the 27 documents written by His contemporaries have long since been submitted into the record.  

Asserting something does not make it so. You won’t even find an actual biblical scholar, Christian or otherwise, who will assert that any of the new testament comes from the “contemporaries” of Jesus, with the exception of Paul, a man who admits in the text that he never met Jesus.

Your assertions are not only false, but so antireality that you reject what every single biblical scholar will tell you about the gospels.

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Mike Gantt January 9, 2011 at 1:04 pm

@Kaelik
You have been seriously misinformed about biblical scholarship.

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Kaelik January 9, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Maybe you should read it before you dismiss it in the future. Just a friendly suggestion.

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Luke Muehlhauser January 9, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Flame on, citizens. Flame on.

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Hermes January 9, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Mike Gantt, if you are saying that Kaelik was wrong when he wrote …

You won’t even find an actual biblical scholar, Christian or otherwise, who will assert that any of the new testament comes from the “contemporaries” of Jesus, with the exception of Paul, a man who admits in the text that he never met Jesus.

… I would be very interested in you providing references that demonstrate otherwise. Note that I’m not asking for a quote from someone but actual evidence that does not rely on an individual opinion focused only on the conclusion.

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Rob January 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Gantt,

Or more narrowly: who wrote the Gospel of John and when was it written? Thanks.

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Mike Gantt January 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Mike Gantt, if you are saying that Kaelik was wrong when he wrote …… I would be very interested in you providing references that demonstrate otherwise. Note that I’m not asking for a quote from someone but actual evidence that does not rely on an individual opinion focused only on the conclusion.  (Quote)

The evidence you seek is practically ubiquitous. Most conservative scholars work in the evangelical Christian environment, so you can easily check their book stores, seminaries, web sites and so on. Whether in these circles or others you will not have a problem finding biblical scholars who believe that contemporaries of Jesus wrote New Testament documents.

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Mike Gantt January 9, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Gantt,Or more narrowly: who wrote the Gospel of John and when was it written? Thanks.  (Quote)

The apostle John, brother of James (sons of Zebedee), sometime after Christ’s resurrection but before John’s death (probably closer to the latter than the former).

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Mike Gantt January 9, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Maybe you should read it before you dismiss it in the future. Just a friendly suggestion.  (Quote)

When I first sampled it, I was only unimpressed. It was only after reading farther (at your suggestion) that I became dismissive.

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Rob January 9, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Why do you think the apostle John wrote the Gospel of John?

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Mike Gantt January 9, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Why do you think the apostle John wrote the Gospel of John?  (Quote)

1. It has had his name on it since antiquity.
2. He testifies in the gospel of being particular close to Jesus and gives accounts which would require this (the other gospels bearing witness that Peter, James, and John did constitute a sort of inner circle of the twelve).
3. Its writing style is similar to the other books that bear His name.
4. Extrabiblical history indicates that he lived longer than the other apostles, which might explain the different approach he used with his gospel.
4. Arguments that he wasn’t the one who wrote it have not been impressive.

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Rob January 9, 2011 at 2:18 pm

What language do you think the apostle John would write in?

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Mike Gantt January 9, 2011 at 2:26 pm

What language do you think the apostle John would write in?  (Quote)

We don’t have the original New Testament documents. The oldest copies we have are Greek. I don’t have an opinion on whether what he originally wrote was translated into Greek, or he learned Greek sometime during his life, or he told his story to a scribe who wrote it down in Greek. Any of those seem possible and none negate his authorship.

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Rob January 9, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Do you agree that Jesus, if he existed, spoke Aramaic?

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Zeb January 9, 2011 at 3:51 pm

I may have missed some good comments that addressed my question in the first comment in all the boring tit for tat that has consumed this thread, but I have answered for myself why the informational connectivity of parts of the universe is not good evidence for the existence of a mind that contains the universe. I was simply failing to apply the B theory of time, which I subscribe to. On B theory I can think of the universe as one object that is continuous across both time and space. There is no problem about how two electrons separated by space “know” about the presence of each other and “know” to move away from a point midway between them at some certain speed. Rather, that universe simply is a pair of particles that are one distance apart if you look at it at t=0, and if you scan the universe across time, those particles move away from each other in a similar way to how the two lines in the letter V move away from each other if you scan it from bottom to top. Anybody see any problems with this solution to the problem? It does run me right into the problem of contingency, and that I find to be a conclusive argument for God, but with B theory I don’t think I see the need for God to make or keep particles interacting with each other.

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Rob January 9, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Zeb,

The theist can always claim that God is necessary to uphold the universe, whether A theory or B theory obtains.

It seems to me these ultimate metaphysical questions can go on forever, on theism or naturalism.

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Mike Gantt January 9, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Do you agree that Jesus, if he existed, spoke Aramaic?  (Quote)

@Rob
I have no reason to disagree with it.

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Rob January 9, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Gantt,

In the 3rd chapter of John, the author relates an exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus that involves an double entendre, a misunderstanding by Nicodemus, and a clarification by Jesus. This conversation makes sense in Greek.

But this conversation could not have occurred in Aramaic. It just would not make any sense at all, as the double meaning is not possible in the language Jesus actually spoke.

Obviously, this story is a fabrication by a Greek speaker. The conversation never occurred. There can be no witness to an impossible conversation. The apostle John did not write the Gospel of John. We have no idea who wrote this book. A book so central to Christian theology.

Your religion has big problems.

Look into it on your own.

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Mike Gantt January 9, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Gantt,In the 3rd chapter of John, the author relates an exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus that involves an double entendre, a misunderstanding by Nicodemus, and a clarification by Jesus. This conversation makes sense in Greek.But this conversation could not have occurred in Aramaic. It just would not make any sense at all, as the double meaning is not possible in the language Jesus actually spoke.Obviously, this story is a fabrication by a Greek speaker. The conversation never occurred. There can be no witness to an impossible conversation. The apostle John did not write the Gospel of John. We have no idea who wrote this book. A book so central to Christian theology.Your religion has big problems.Look into it on your own.  (Quote)

@Rob
1. You have asserted a problem that you have neither described nor defended. Am I supposed to take your word for it that Nicodemus could not have misunderstood Jesus in Aramaic? People are able to misunderstand Jesus in every language.
2. Even if you can’t understand how the misunderstanding could have occurred in Aramaic, you have omitted the possibility that the conversation took place in Hebrew, as two Jewish rabbis deeply knowledgeable about the Torah, and talking about the Torah, might do.
3. Even if you had thoroughly examined both possibilities, and still couldn’t resolve it in your own mind, you’d still have only that point of confusion to weigh against the preponderance of evidence for John’s authorship. To throw out his authorship attested by other credible factors (which I listed for you) and declare authoritatively that no one can know who wrote the gospel of John on the basis of your textual uncertainty of one passage is unwarranted.
4. That you would go farther and use what influence you have to encourage others to throw it out is even less justified.

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Rob January 9, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Gantt,

The conversation could not have occurred in Hebrew either. Do your best to put your presuppositions aside, look at the evidence, and come to the most reasonable conclusion.

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Hermes January 9, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Mike Gantt: The evidence you seek is practically ubiquitous.

Wow! Fantastic. Let me first thank you for your time and consideration. I feel like a dummy if this is true as I have yet to stumble upon a single example in the past 20 years of asking for these types of details. You are exactly the type of knowledgeable individual that I have been asking for and to engage on this specific issue for much of that time.

Can you have mercy on me and provide a single reference that uses a source document?

I’m not asking for every little detail of every book of the NT to be tediously documented. I’d actually like to avoid that so that I can set myself right on this. I really do want to know what is actually true regardless of my current ideas or biases.

To be clear;

I am asking for a single example with a single original document to substantiate it.

Oh, if you could, please choose one from the many that seem to be available that most convinces you and is prominent enough as to have a reasonable level of scrutiny by the scholarly community. This way I can do my own research later and possibly find more references on my own while not asking you to do any additional work to substantiate your claim.

Thank you. Your assistance in substantiating your claim is greatly appreciated!

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Kaelik January 9, 2011 at 5:30 pm

you’d still have only that point of confusion to weigh against the preponderance of evidence for John’s authorship.

You have no preponderance of evidence.

You have:

1. Since 150 CE, it has been called John, a not uncommon name, though the chances of it being mis attributed intentionally or not to the John of the Gospels is more likely than it being a different John who authored it.
2. In the book who’s authenticity is under question, it claims that he is close to Jesus (or more accurately, that the story is derived from the testimony of someone close to Jesus). Also there are accounts that would either require being very close to Jesus, or making them up. We have conclusive evidence that some of these are made up: Re, double entendres in Greek.
3. His “writing style” is similar to other books allegedly written by John. In a different language. Neither of which you know or have ever read.
4. “Extrabiblical history indicates that he lived longer than the other apostles, which might explain the different approach he used with his gospel.” Or you know, it might be that it was written by someone with a different theological agenda, which might explain why it flatly contradicts all the other books. What exactly consitutes this extrabiblical evidence again? That John was written after the Synoptics, and so of course John must have lives longer?

That is not a preponderance. That is sufficient that one guy making some shit up could have created all that evidence by accident.

4 is just straight up rationalization of why John is so different, with no indication whatsoever that it has anything to do with who authored the text.

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Kaelik January 9, 2011 at 5:32 pm

3) Should read:

3. His “writing style” is similar to other books allegedly written by John, which are in a different language, and all of which are written by a professed illiterate, in two different languages, neither of which you know how to read.

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Reginald Selkirk January 10, 2011 at 6:53 am

Mike Gantt: 3. Its writing style is similar to the other books that bear His name.

I hope by that you do not mean the Book of Revelation. Whoever wrote the book of Revelation, traditionally identified as John of Patmos, is certainly not the same person who wrote the Gospel of John.

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Mike Gantt January 10, 2011 at 7:01 am

Mike Gantt: 3. Its writing style is similar to the other books that bear His name.I hope by that you do not mean the Book of Revelation. Whoever wrote the book of Revelation, traditionally identified as John of Patmos, is certainly not the same person who wrote the Gospel of John.  (Quote)

@Reginald Selkirk
Why do you believe that?

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Mike Gantt January 10, 2011 at 7:05 am

3) Should read:3. His “writing style” is similar to other books allegedly written by John, which are in a different language, and all of which are written by a professed illiterate, in two different languages, neither of which you know how to read.  (Quote)

@Kaelik
1. Where does John profess to be illiterate? (I hope it wasn’t in writing.)
2. Is Rob a credentialed expert in the linguistics of ancient Aramaic and Hebrew…oh, and in biblical textual criticism as well?

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Reginald Selkirk January 10, 2011 at 7:21 am

Why do you believe that?

Because a new Testament scholar (who happens to be a believer) told me that the writing style and the literacy in the Greek language are vastly different between the two documents. John of Patmos was much less smooth in his Greek.

Wikipedia sez

The author, named John, has traditionally been identified with John the Apostle, to whom the Gospel of John is also attributed. Historical-critical scholars, however, conclude that the author did not also write the Gospel of John.[3][4]

3) Bart D. Ehrman wrote that “it can be stated without reservation that whoever wrote the Gospel did not write this book.” Ehrman 2004, p. 467ff

4) “Although ancient traditions attributed to the Apostle John the Fourth Gospel, the Book of Revelation, and the three Epistles of John, modern scholars believe that he wrote none of them.” Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible (Palo Alto: Mayfield, 1985) p. 355

Which brings me to a question for those who have studied the topic longer and deeper than I: In addition to the Gospel of John, there are also several epistles with that name: 1 John, 2 John, 3 John. Are these thought to be from the same author or not?

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Mike Gantt January 10, 2011 at 7:23 am

Hermes

@Hermes
Kailik had said “You won’t even find an actual biblical scholar, Christian or otherwise, who will assert that any of the new testament comes from the “contemporaries” of Jesus, with the exception of Paul, a man who admits in the text that he never met Jesus.” I told him that he was seriously misinformed about biblical scholarship on this subject, and then gave him a means to correct his impression.” If you want “a single example with a single original document to substantiate it,” just go to the sources I referenced. They are much more likely to have what you’re looking for than I am.

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Mike Gantt January 10, 2011 at 7:30 am

@Kaelik
1. On what basis do you establish these probabilities?
2. We’ve already exchanged views on this.
3. How do you know that I do not know Aramaic or Hebrew?
4. You seem strongly opposed to the idea that that the apostle John wrote the gospel that bears his name. I think it would be unproductively argumentative for us to continue this line. Maybe we can productively exchange on some other issue in the future.

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Hermes January 10, 2011 at 7:56 am

Mike Gantt, thank you again for your time and expertise.

I want to be clear. I’m looking for something that you uniquely are able to provide and that I can not guess at.

I am looking for your own insight into what is most convincing to you personally, and I thought it would be an easy thing for you to use your experience to pick the diamond out of the rough.

I can’t get your experience by looking through everything myself, though after that single example it may grease the wheels and allow me to go off and discover everything else on my own. It should be a hoot to learn what I currently am entirely ignorant of! Thank you once again!

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Mike Gantt January 10, 2011 at 8:07 am

Mike Gantt, thank you again for your time and expertise.I want to be clear. I’m looking for something that you uniquely are able to provide and that I can not guess at. I am looking for your own insight into what is most convincing to you personally, and I thought it would be an easy thing for you to use your experience to pick the diamond out of the rough.I can’t get your experience by looking through everything myself, though after that single example it may grease the wheels and allow me to go off and discover everything else on my own. It should be a hoot to learn what I currently am entirely ignorant of! Thank you once again!  (Quote)

@Hermes
I can’t tell where your sarcasm stops (if it ever stops) and where your curiosity begins (if it ever begins). (Printed communication is so easy to misunderstand.) Therefore, assuming there’s something you really think I uniquely have, please rephrase your question. If I understand it, I’ll try to answer it. If it was all sarcasm, just go “ha ha” and I’ll get the joke.

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Mike Gantt January 10, 2011 at 8:26 am

@Reginald Selkirk

Thank you for that informative and clear answer! I don’t agree with your conclusion, obviously, but I respect how you came to it and how you were forthright about how you came to it.

I am not familiar with Harris but I am with Ehrman, whom I trust on some things but not others. As you probably know, biblical scholars exists across a spectrum from conservative to liberal. Ehrman sits on the liberal side. Though I disagree with evangelicals on a number of issues (e.g. everyone goes to heaven, no one should go to church, judgment applies to everyone equally, everyone should repent, there is no benefit to “being a Christian,” and more), I generally lean on conservative biblical scholars when I need one. Although there are varying shades of liberal and conservative, belief or unbelief in apostolic authorship of the New Testament documents is almost a litmus test for whether one is considered conservative or liberal in this regard (I say “almost” because, for example, even liberal scholars will usually acknowledge that Paul wrote at least some of the letters attributed to him, and even conservative scholars have yielded on the authorship of Revelation).

Therefore, no matter what stance one wants to take on the New Testament, there is almost always a scholar available who will lend his imprimatur to it.

The letters of John issue, therefore, will go down between us according to the prior script.

You are a good man.

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Hermes January 10, 2011 at 8:34 am

Not sarcasm. I really do not want to continue to be wrong.

Yet, I’m highly skeptical since what you have claimed is contrary to what I’ve found for the past few decades.

Now, you said that the “The evidence you seek is practically ubiquitous.”. If it is, and you know what convinces you personally the most, then you can demonstrate a single item and I will be grateful.

In what way will I be grateful?

I will personally go to every atheist and religion related forum that I’ve visited in the past 4 years and I will publicly retract my comments that there was no such evidence. I will from that point on also challenge anyone that I encounter who goes against the evidence — online or off.

I can’t be any more sincere than that on this issue. Can you help me help you?

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Steven January 10, 2011 at 8:41 am

Why is the universe logical and rational? Uh, hello? Isn’t it because whatever the universe happens to be and the laws that govern it is called “logic”? If we threw a rubber ball at the wall and the way electrons were structured (or whatever) made it fall straight to the ground no matter how hard you threw it, we would call it “illogical” to think of a rubber ball bouncing straight back to our hands if we threw it with enough force. I don’t think any explanation is required as to why the world is “logical”, but we can wonder why a God who could create whatever sort of logic he pleased (as that is pretty much what this argument asserts, and now we have a God outside of the scope of logic, which is in itself highly improbable, unknowable, and complicated (after all, if God is outside of logic, he can make rape bad, rape humans, and still be good, and other illogical stuff)), decided to have logic include big exploding stars and asteroids threatening to obliterate Earth while supposedly forming logic and reason out of benevolence to humanity.

@ Mike Gant

You said:
“I appreciate your succinct and eloquent expression of the difficulty you have reconciling the existence of a Creator with the things you see in life, but just because you can’t reconcile them doesn’t mean no one can reconcile them, and just because you can’t reconcile them now doesn’t mean you won’t ever be able to reconcile them. In any case, you reinforce my original point: there are things we deem important that even the smartest of us can’t understand. If there’s no God, why do we think things are important that we don’t understand? (Just food for thought, not a challenge or an argument.)”

Response:
Don’t you think your post is woefully misguided? Look:

“I appreciate your succinct and eloquent expression of the difficulty you have reconciling the existence of things we consider important but can’t explain, but just because you can’t reconcile them doesn’t mean no one can reconcile them, and just because you can’t reconcile them now doesn’t mean you won’t ever be able to reconcile them.”

If you apply your own logic to your own arguments, you’ll find why your argument is–and forgive how harsh it will sound–hilarious, especially what you’re saying before presenting. At any rate, your argument is something of a non-sequitur. “Humans consider love important. There is no explanation for this (not true, but whatever), therefore, a disembodied mind must exist.”

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Mike Gantt January 10, 2011 at 8:45 am

@Hermes
Ah, now I understand what happened.

My words “The evidence you seek is practically ubiquitous,” were in ultimate response to Kaelik’s statement, “You won’t even find an actual biblical scholar, Christian or otherwise, who will assert that any of the new testament comes from the “contemporaries” of Jesus, with the exception of Paul, a man who admits in the text that he never met Jesus.” Thus I was saying that “evidence that there are actual biblical scholars who will assert apostolic authorship of the New Testament” is practically ubiquitous. And I gave specific means for finding it, though it was probably unnecessary.

I do not say that evidence for apostolic authorship of the New Testament is practically ubiquitous or that evidence for the resurrection for Jesus Christ is practically ubiquitous. I believe the evidence for each is sufficient, but it would be gross overstatement or actually illogical to say it was practically ubiquitous.

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Steven January 10, 2011 at 8:50 am

Rob, consistency is a hall-mark of design.Design requires a designer.  

The only way you know design exists is because you can compare it against nature. Fallacious argument since now your point of comparison is gone, no?

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Hermes January 10, 2011 at 9:36 am

Got it. I thought you had something that was not in contention (?) and thus easy to review without layers of explanations. Thanks for your time.

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Reginald Selkirk January 10, 2011 at 12:57 pm

All this about the universe being rational – I don’t think so. Maybe that’s because I’ve studied quantum mechanics. The most you might claim is consistent.

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Steven January 10, 2011 at 3:51 pm

All this about the universe being rational – I don’t think so. Maybe that’s because I’ve studied quantum mechanics. The most you might claim is consistent.  

Hell, even if it was fully “rational”, it isn’t proof of God. It just means that humans are prone to think that because everything they do has a reason, everything that is a part of nature must also have a specific reason too. I see no reason to say “Why did the tornado hit Arkansas?” in terms of personal causation unless we can actually connect a tornado to being caused by the will of someone.

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clamat January 11, 2011 at 4:15 pm

@Mike Gantt

You said: “[C]onsistency is a hall-mark of design.”

So what? It does not necessarily follow that “Everything that is consistent was designed.” Which you need to get to “the universe is consistent, therefore designed, therefore a Designer.”

“Redness is a hall-mark of fire hydrants. Therefore, everything that is red is a fire hydrant.”

The most you can say is if it is not consistent, it wasn’t designed.

(And I’m not sure the extent to which this is true. A Jackson Pollack painting was designed, but is it consistent? Educate me, Art Historians.)

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Mike Gantt January 11, 2011 at 4:36 pm

@Mike GanttYou said: “[C]onsistency is a hall-mark of design.”So what? It does not necessarily follow that “Everything that is consistent was designed.” Which you need to get to “the universe is consistent, therefore designed, therefore a Designer.”“Redness is a hall-mark of fire hydrants. Therefore, everything that is red is a fire hydrant.”The most you can say is if it is not consistent, it wasn’t designed.(And I’m not sure the extent to which this is true. A Jackson Pollack painting was designed, but is it consistent? Educate me, Art Historians.)  (Quote)

@clamat
That wasn’t me who said that.

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clamat January 11, 2011 at 6:20 pm

@Mike Gantt

Crap. Normally I’m pretty good about keeping my quotes straight. My apologies.

J.K. Jones, it appears my comment should have been directed to you.

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Rob January 11, 2011 at 6:45 pm

clamat,

Jones went MIA when he endorsed a principle which entailed his God being designed by a meta-God. Cognitive dissonance produces varied reactions. I call his the ostrich effect.

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J. K. Jones January 11, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Rob,

Yes, God is consistent.

No, God is not caused by a Meta-God. You cannot go on explaining things infinitely. Meta-God requires a Meta-Meta-God who requires a Meta-Meta-Meta-God, etc. An infinite regression of finite causes such as that is impossible.

PDH,

“Plainly, it is simpler to believe that there is an orderly universe than it is to believe that there is an orderly God and an orderly universe. “

This does not answer the question why is the universe orderly. You are dodging the argument.

Steven,

“The only way you know design exists is because you can compare it against nature. Fallacious argument since now your point of comparison is gone, no?”

We know by analogy what design is when we see it.

Steven,

“All this about the universe being rational – I don’t think so.”

I’m sorry, I don’t understand you. The universe is un-rational and illogical, so your comments make no sense;-).

Clamat,

“…It does not necessarily follow that “Everything that is consistent was designed.””

Consistency is not the only reason to think that the universe was designed. Atheists always want to ‘divide and conquer’ the theistic arguments one at a time. You have to also account for the antropic principle, information content of DNA, information processing in RNA DNA sequencing, etc.

Rob,

“Jones went MIA when he endorsed a principle which entailed his God being designed by a meta-God. Cognitive dissonance produces varied reactions. I call his the ostrich effect.”

I have a few other things to do in life than argue on this blog. My leaving off for a while has no bearing on the state of my mind.

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Rob January 11, 2011 at 8:25 pm

So, consistency is the hallmark of design? And design requires a designer? And your God is consistent? Yet it does not need a designer?

How that is not special pleading?

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clamat January 11, 2011 at 8:53 pm

@J.K. Jones

Yes, we’ll keep taking down your arguments one at a time. And you won’t acknowledge that we’ve taken one down, and instead will throw out something else you hope will stick.

I assume that since you led with the “consistency” argument, you believe it to be your strongest one. But you now apparently agree that consistency doesn’t necessarily mean design (if it does, you’re hoisted on Rob’s petard, take your pick), and the only thing one is justified in saying is “no consistency, no design.”

O.K., so, the anthropic principle. There are several versions; can you state what you believe the anthropic principle to be?

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clamat January 12, 2011 at 10:23 am

@J.K. Jones

To refine the “consistency” point a bit:

The Universe demonstrates consistency. The question is, “Does this consistency demonstrate design?”

To answer this question in the affirmative the following proposition must be established: “The only things that demonstrate consistency are designed things.” But this proposition hasn’t been established.

You said: Consistency is not the only reason to think that the universe was designed.(emphasis mine)

No. Consistency gives us no reason to think the universe was designed.

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Rob January 12, 2011 at 10:34 am

clamat,

I like the cut of your jib. I think I can expand on how consistencey does not require design. Suppose we flip a perfectly random coin. The more flips we make, a certain pattern emerges. First, the ratio of heads to tails trends closer and closer to 0.5. But something else too. The absolute difference between heads and tails will trend higher and higher.

I doubt even a theist would want to maintain that this sort of emergent pattern is designed. I suspect, as argued by Bertrand Russell somewhere, that the consistency we observe in nature is in fact what falls out from randomness on a grand scale.

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PDH January 12, 2011 at 12:01 pm

J.K. Jones,

“This does not answer the question why is the universe orderly. You are dodging the argument.”

The line you quoted was not intended as my explanation for why the universe was orderly. It was (a small part of) an attempt to explain to you what the naturalist’s position actually is so that you can stop begging the question against us.

The MUH is about as close to the kind of metaphysics you’re after that I’m going to get. Most naturalists think the question is just inapplicable, similar to ‘who designed the designer?’ They have a point.

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clamat January 12, 2011 at 3:22 pm

@Rob

Thanks. Back at you.

Nifty example, but I have to think/read about this one some more. My initial question is whether the coin-toss pattern is a result of true randomness.

A coin is designed (!) in such a way that only two results are possible. If it were possible to toss a coin and get “heads,” “tails,” “dinosaur,” “Q,” “bleen,” etc., what would it mean if a pattern nevertheless emerged?

What is the universe in this example, the coin, or the pattern? Similarly (perhaps), is Russell saying that the “pattern” of consistency emerges within a universe that is random, or that a “consistent” universe emerged from an infinity of possible universes, chosen at random?

All food for thought — but more G-D reading I have to do!

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Rob January 12, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Let me dig a bit and find where BR said something like this. The coin flip example is my own attempt to make sense of what he said (or maybe I stole it, meh). As I recall, what we call natural laws, or laws of physics I guess, are regularities that emerge from something at bottom which is random.

That randomness has patternicity is non-controversial. John Paulos discusses this at length in Innumeracy. Divide a class in half. Ask half the class to flip a coin 100 times and write down the results. Ask the other half to pretend to flip a coin and write down the result. Paulos can at a glance divide up the true flip lists from the pretend ones: the pretend ones lack the long strings of heads and long strings of tails we see in a truly random list.

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Rob January 12, 2011 at 3:56 pm

It’s from “Why I am Not a Christian”:

Then there is a very common argument from natural law. That was a favorite argument all through the eighteenth century, especially under the influence of Sir Isaac Newton and his cosmogony. People observed the planets going around the sun according to the law of gravitation, and they thought that God had given a behest to these planets to move in that particular fashion, and that was why they did so. That was, of course, a convenient and simple explanation that saved them the trouble of looking any further for explanations of the law of gravitation. Nowadays we explain the law of gravitation in a somewhat complicated fashion that Einstein has introduced. I do not propose to give you a lecture on the law of gravitation, as interpreted by Einstein, because that again would take some time; at any rate, you no longer have the sort of natural law that you had in the Newtonian system, where, for some reason that nobody could understand, nature behaved in a uniform fashion. We now find that a great many things we thought were natural laws are really human conventions. You know that even in the remotest depths of stellar space there are still three feet to a yard. That is, no doubt, a very remarkable fact, but you would hardly call it a law of nature. And a great many things that have been regarded as laws of nature are of that kind. On the other hand, where you can get down to any knowledge of what atoms actually do, you will find they are much less subject to law than people thought, and that the laws at which you arrive are statistical averages of just the sort that would emerge from chance. There is, as we all know, a law that if you throw dice you will get double sixes only about once in thirty-six times, and we do not regard that as evidence that the fall of the dice is regulated by design; on the contrary, if the double sixes came every time we should think that there was design. The laws of nature are of that sort as regards a great many of them. They are statistical averages such as would emerge from the laws of chance; and that makes this whole business of natural law much less impressive than it formerly was. Quite apart from that, which represents the momentary state of science that may change tomorrow, the whole idea that natural laws imply a lawgiver is due to a confusion between natural and human laws.

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J. K. Jones January 13, 2011 at 6:03 am

I have several problems with the discussion above. I’ll point out two:
A coin is designed, by an imperfect designer. It’s designed to have random flips, but it does not and never does. As a cited experiment notes, coins develop a pattern if they are flipped enough times.

It has been my experience that, with rare exception, physical things that are designed to perform a purpose do not follow chance models. I find when I use industrial statistics that most man-made processes do not follow the normal curve in their outputs. They are largest extreme value or smallest extreme value. We are trying to hit a target. If the normal curve comes up, it is usually because the process is not controlled. It is behaving as if it has not been designed. The major difference between our worlds is that I study designed things, pure scientists do not.

By analogy, things that are consistent are designed.

Everything physical in the universe is changing, except the laws of logic and mathematics. But you must explain those laws. I am arguing that naturalistic explanations are not intellectually satisfying.

The idea that another universe behaves in another way would, according to your epistemology, have to be proven by empirical observation. Please provide said empirical evidence by producing and / or exploring another universe so we can know how it operates.

I can just as easily say that if you were placed in another universe, you would use the same rules of logic to understand it.

The argument I am using is not a stand-alone argument. It does not have to be. I responded to the idea that God does not need a designer by a form of the cosmological argument: the impossibility of the infinite regress. I responded to the notion that the universe behaves a certain way ‘just because’ by stating that the universe changes in some ways but not in others (another form of the cosmological argument).

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J. K. Jones January 13, 2011 at 6:05 am

I said “Everything physical in the universe is changing…” I should have said “Things in our universe change. I am aware the speed of light seems to be a constant.

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J. K. Jones January 13, 2011 at 6:08 am

cl

cl, I bow to your expertise. I will go to your blog for some ‘schooling.’

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J. K. Jones January 13, 2011 at 6:10 am

cl,

You said:

“If I desire to be intellectually satisfied, I need an explanation of how and/or why things are the way they are.

A) God is orderly and rational;

B) The universe is orderly and rational;

C) The universe is orderly and rational because an orderly and rational God ordained it thus.

This isn’t intended as an argument for God’s existence. Rather, it simply demonstrates that an orderly and rational God is a sufficient explanation for an orderly and rational universe. As Zeb poignantly asks, how does the atheist explain this? I find Rob’s attempt – that nature is orderly and rational because that is nature’s nature – wholly unpersuasive. To argue thus is essentially circular and tautological. It’s no explanation at all, whereas what I’ve proffered is. Asking a variant of “who designed the designer” does not mitigate the fact of an explanation given, and – as J. K. Jones correctly points out – violates the principle of parsimony.”

We agree that the argument I am using is not a stand-alone argument.

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clamat January 13, 2011 at 11:04 am

@J.K. Jones

physical things that are designed to perform a purpose do not follow chance models…by analogy, things that are consistent are designed

No. A bajillion times.

It’s not a matter of your “experience.” It’s a matter of valid reasoning. To repeat: The fact that all designed things have a certain characteristic does not necessarily mean all things that have this characteristic are designed. Not all red things are fire hydrants.

I’m guessing you’re an engineer? Engineers seem to represent a disproportionate number of the folks who promote “design” arguments. Not surprising, I suppose, considering. I’m calling the phenomenon Presuppositional Engineering Design Bias. Or something. But the methods you’ve identified weren’t used (at least, as you’ve described them) to determine whether something was designed, they described things you already knew were designed. But we don’t already know the universe was designed. Indeed, it’s the question we’re trying to answer.

Nor is it a matter of “stand alone” arguments. The infinite regress problem is built in to your argument. To reach the conclusion “God designed the Universe” you first must establish that “consistency demands design.” If you establish this, and assert that “God is consistent,” then you must address the infinite regress problem, if you are to reach your desired conclusion.

And the way you address the problem is indeed blatant special pleading. “Consistency demands design. Period. Except in this one case.” You arbitrarily except God from your own rules because if you didn’t, well, your conclusion – God Designed the Universe — wouldn’t be justified. And since you presuppose your conclusion to be justified, well, then the exception has to be true! And around and around and around…

(And speaking of exceptions: You acknowledge exceptions to the general rule that designed things don’t follow chance models. So some designed things do follow chance models? Then how do we distinguish between designed things and un-designed things? How do these “exceptions” affect your argument?)

In sum, and to repeat: Consistency gives us no reason think the universe was designed.

You willfully misunderstand Rob’s coin-flip problem, again likely because you are (I assume) an engineer. In the problem the coin is defined to be perfectly random. Obviously, no such coin actually exists. But it’s a thought problem, not an engineering problem. In thought problems, perfectly random coins can exist. So, how do you address this thought, not engineering, problem?

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clamat January 13, 2011 at 11:31 am

@J.K. Jones

You and cl have both said something to the effect that the answer to the question of why things are the way they are must be “intellectually satisfying.”

Why are things the way they are?

A flood destroys both my house and yours. Why the flood, we ask. Because too much rain. Why rain? Because condensation of water. Why water? Because hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Why atoms? And on and on and on. Every question leads inexorably to the Ultimate Why?

What is the Answer to the Ultimate Why?

Me/Naturalists: Sheesh, I have no idea. There may not even be an Answer. If there is an Answer, I’m pretty sure it’s going to take a lot more work to figure out. Maybe my googleplex-great-grandchildren will be gifted with it, but I’m fairly certain I’m going to die not knowing.

You/Theists: God. Boy, that’s satisfying!

But…Why God?

You insist we bear the burden of explaining the laws of logic and mathematics. But how are you exempt? Why did an omnipotent God create the laws of logic and mathematics he did? Why did he create laws of logic and mathematic at all? Why did God make terrestrial biology dependant on water? Why did He compose water of hydrogen and oxygen? Why did He create a universe comprised of atoms? Why did he create a universe with spatial and temporal dimensions that function the way they do? Why did He create a universe in the first place?

You simply have no answer to these questions, at least none that aren’t based entirely on the idle speculations of the theology of your preferred faith, whatever that may be.

Your Answer – and the Answer of all theists — boils down to this:

Because.

I understand why this might be emotionally satisfying. But intellectually satisfying? Hardly.

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J. K. Jones January 13, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Clamat,

“It’s not a matter of your “experience.” It’s a matter of valid reasoning.”
Whatever happened to the notion that we learn things empirically?
Please give some examples of things that do not change in our universe.

“…how do we distinguish between designed things and un-designed things…”
Consistency. Striving toward a purpose. The presence of information. The presence of information processing. Beauty. There are probably some other things that I can’t think of at the moment.

“…“Consistency demands design. Period. Except in this one case.” You arbitrarily except God from your own rules because if you didn’t, well, your conclusion – God Designed the Universe — wouldn’t be justified. And since you presuppose your conclusion to be justified, well, then the exception has to be true! And around and around and around…”

Do you acknowledge that the impossibility of an infinite regress solves the issue of whether God’s consistency requires a Meta-God? You have not even addressed that argument, so you have not demonstrated special pleading.

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J. K. Jones January 13, 2011 at 12:27 pm

clamat,
“What is the Answer to the Ultimate Why? Me/Naturalists: Sheesh, I have no idea.”

That is why I say that the universe has no over-arching purpose if we accept the atheist worldview. The ultimate why cannot be answered in that framework. There is no ultimate why in that view of the world.

“ Why did an omnipotent God create the laws of logic and mathematics he did? Why did he create laws of logic and mathematic at all? Why did God make terrestrial biology dependant on water? Why did He compose water of hydrogen and oxygen? Why did He create a universe comprised of atoms? Why did he create a universe with spatial and temporal dimensions that function the way they do? Why did He create a universe in the first place?”

Why do I have to answer all of those questions when you do not? All you have to say is “I have no idea.” Then that is all I have to do.

“…the idle speculations of the theology of your preferred faith, whatever that may be.”

There are clear and good reasons to accept that the Bible as interpreted by the Christian faith is filled with answers to several of those questions. I would suggest http://www.4truth.net as a good place to start on those.

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J. K. Jones January 13, 2011 at 12:31 pm

By the way, clamat, if you want to now whether I am an engineer, all you have to do is click through to my blog. I have one, and I have some personal information on it.

Do you have your own internet presence?

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clamat January 13, 2011 at 1:36 pm

@J.K. Jones

Engineer! Knew it! :-)

No, I don’t have a web presence.

As an initial matter, I think you’re confusing arguments that I made with someone else’s. I don’t recall advancing an argument based on “change.”

Of course knowledge may be gained empirically. And I can imagine all sorts of empirical evidence that would convince me the universe was designed. My favorite example: It is discovered that the periods of all the pulsars of the Universe spell out in Morse Code the message “I am the Lord thy God.”

But you don’t have this kind of evidence. And in the context of the question at issue — Was the Universe Designed?— the empirical experiences you describe get you nowhere.

To determine whether an object is designed or not, you compare its characteristics against both those of things you know were designed and those you know were not.

However: (A) You don’t know this universe was designed; (B) You don’t have any experience with a universe you know was not designed. By pointing to empirical evidence of things you already know were designed to reach the conclusion “consistency means design” you commit a logical error. “All A things exhibit characteristic B,” does not mean “The presence of characteristic B necessarily means its an A thing.”

The rest of your examples are more of the same. The presence of information just means that information is present. Is there a natural law of Beauty I’m unaware of? Is the Universe “striving toward a purpose”? What is it? Look up Entropy and Heat Death (though you’ll likely ignore this point and say “but that means that the Universe had a beginning!”).

As for the other logical issue: Infinite regress is a problem for you, not for me. It’s entirely possible that this universe is one in an infinite series. Is that concept hard to wrap one’s mind around? Absolutely. Impossible? Nope. Similarly, you could avoid the regress by saying the present God is just one of an infinite series of Gods. But you don’t want to. So you say it’s impossible and stop the regress arbitrarily at one, by special pleading.

(Similarly: Which “Christian faith”? Is it the one that states the value of pi is “3”? Seems to me there are a whole lot of interpretations, many of them hostile to each other. No, you’ll have to trust I’ve read the Bible plenty. I have no need to read any more.)

All of this squishiness is a function of the theist’s emotional inability to accept a distressing possibility: There Is no Ultimate Answer.

Of course there’s an Ultimate Why. All human beings ask it incessantly. It’s just that atheists answer it honestly, i.e., I Don’t Know. Theists kid themselves into thinking the answer is “God.”

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cl January 18, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Flame on, citizens. Flame on.  

LOL! This place is burning. Too hot for me to even be around lately… will return when things cool down.

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