A Brief Reply to Wes Widner

by Luke Muehlhauser on February 11, 2011 in General Atheism

Episode 4 of my Why Christianity is False podcast was a reply to Wes Widner’s Christian apologetics essay “Coherent, Consistent, Livable.” Wes has now replied to my podcast episode with a rebuttal in five parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

The quickest way for me to do this is point-by-point, so here goes…

Miracles and magic

Wes says I confuse miracles for magic. He gives the following definitions:

  • Biblically, miracles are performed by God for the specific purpose of making Him known.
  • Magic is mysterious, meaning the observer is not privy as to the origin or purpose, if any, of the event in question.

I have never seen those definitions in any dictionary.

But more importantly, one does not win an argument by moving definitions around. So let’s go back to the context:

  1. Wes said that naturalism is incoherent because it “[fails] to explain how something can come from nothing.”
  2. I replied that many things are unexplained, but this isn’t evidence for God, nor evidence against naturalism. The Greeks’ ignorance of lightning was not evidence for Zeus. As I put it: “When we don’t know something, the conclusion is not ‘Therefore, we know it is magic’ (from Zeus or from Jesus). When we don’t know something, the conclusion is ‘We don’t know.’”
  3. Wes said that I confused was confusing “magic” with “miracle.”

You’ll notice that point 3 says nothing about the debate happening in points 1 and 2. But let’s consider it as an aside.

The way I use the term magic is not its only use, of course, but it is a very common one: the control of natural events by supernatural means, supernatural power over natural forces, the use of special powers to do what would normally be impossible, special power that can make supposedly impossible things happen, the power to make things happen by supernatural means, supernatural control of physical forces, any art that invokes supernatural powers, that which produce effects through supernatural beings.

Assuming we aren’t talking about a stage magician, I suspect this is what most people mean by “magic.” And on this usage, Wes’ concept of miracle is merely a subtype of magic.

B Theory of Time

Next, Wes writes:

I know Luke has an affinity for the B theory of time which is the view that past, present, and future are merely illusions, but it seems to me that condemning a worldview for being incoherent based on premises that it does not ascribe to is intellectually dishonest.

Huh? Wes seems to be saying that I claimed Christianity was incoherent because it is incompatible with the B Theory of Time, which (his version of) Christianity does not adhere to. But I said no such thing. Nothing in the arguments against Christianity in my article mention or assume the truth of the B Theory of time. Who is being intellectually dishonest, now?

Christianity and Science

Next, Wes writes:

It was also the uniquely Christian belief in a logical and consistent creator which gave the founders of the modern science, like Newton and Bacon the idea that they could observe natural phenomenon and discover how the world works. If they had held to a view of magic, that contingent entities could spontaneously pop into existence uncaused out of nothing, then it is doubtful they, or anyone with a similar view, would have ever thought it wise to examine the world around them for regular and repeatable patterns.

I can’t see what part of my article this comment is supposed to relate to. But even taken as an aside, it is rather misleading about the connection between religion and science.

Naturalism and the Cause of the Universe

Next, Wes writes:

Per naturalism, the universe, which we know is contingent and therefore had a cause, came into existence without any cause and from nothing.

What? The universe is contingent and therefore came into being from nothing per naturalism??? “Per” means “according to.” The above statement is just false.

Methinks somebody has been getting most of their education about naturalism from William Lane Craig rather than from, uh, naturalists.

Skipping ahead

Wes’ response to me is so confused and amateurish that I have no motivation to continue replying to it. Let me conclude by juxtaposing a quote from my article with the conclusion of Wes’ “rebuttal”:

Me:

When we don’t know something, the conclusion is not ‘Therefore, we know it is magic’ (from Zeus or from Jesus). When we don’t know something, the conclusion is ‘We don’t know.’

Wes:

…here is specifically what I’ll need to have in order to seriously question my beliefs

  1. I need a good explanation of how the world came to exist
  2. I need to know how I, a cognitive being, came to exist in this world
  3. I need to know why I should trust my epistemic faculties, including my mind, to provide me with true information
  4. I need a good accounting of things I hold to be intrinsically to be true, like altruism and self-sacrifice
  5. I need to know why I or anything I do matters, especially in view of our universe’s impending heat-death

Talk about missing the point!

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{ 247 comments… read them below or add one }

Cristian February 11, 2011 at 4:40 am

Naturalism and Christianity are two separate sets of dots with their own rules about how to coherently and consistently connect the dots. Chances are that rules from one set will be false, incoherent and inconsistent to the other set.

Naturalism has its own rules and definition of proof. If anything miraculous happens it will first be tested against of currently known laws of Physics. It all doesn’t match, new laws are added, perhaps even the law that something doesn’t obey a mathematically expressible and predictive law. But it will never accept a super-natural agent.

If the existence of the Universe is not seen as the result of an ex nihilo creation, than any kind of manifestation of that creator in this world will not be seen, interpreted and accepted as a miracle.

Like someone said: “If to someone the existence is not a miracle, than nothing is.”

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Lorkas February 11, 2011 at 4:56 am

On the contrary, scientists are perfectly happy to accept the existence of any force or entity, so long as there is evidence for said entity. The problem doesn’t come when this entity is proposed (aside from untestable definitions of the word “God”, of course), it comes when the evidence fails to support its existence (or, at times, flatly contradicts what we would expect to see given the proposed entity).

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Tristan D. Vick February 11, 2011 at 5:11 am

Someone might want to inform our Christian friend that, as per the impending heat death of the universe, this implies God is a “god of destruction” and that his intent was not to create life, but rather, that life is a side effect of his desire to have it destroyed.

That is, assuming such a thing as God exists at all.

Which, as an aside, is why I always have found William Lane Craig’s theology a bit strained. He automatically assumes God is a creator God, and therefore this God’s will is to see life, and thus created the universe. But entropy sort of disproves this idea that God’s intention is to “create” insofar as creating is merely a means to enact entropy and see total annihilation of all life, matter, and energy. If you ask me, that’s a huge FAIL.

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Beelzebub February 11, 2011 at 5:15 am

Every time I read debates like this (not to denigrate either side) I continue to return to the opinion that they’re generated by not taking a wide enough view of naturalism and on ill founded definitions. The idea that there was something before the big bang, even if it violated natural law as we now know it, to me is still “naturalism.” If things that are prior, or outside nature, like multiverses, can still be called natural, then what is supernatural? It seems the most coherent definition would be something that can never be understood. But something that can never be understood is something that has no effect on us at all. For us, living beings, “supernatural” has no real meaning, and those who are dead are “living” in the afterlife, so what relevance would it have for them either? Very confusing. If someone can supply a cogent, coherent definition for “supernatural,” I’d really love to hear it.

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Cristian February 11, 2011 at 5:40 am

On the contrary, scientists are perfectly happy to accept the existence of any force or entity, so long as there is evidence for said entity. The problem doesn’t come when this entity is proposed (aside from untestable definitions of the word “God”, of course), it comes when the evidence fails to support its existence (or, at times, flatly contradicts what we would expect to see given the proposed entity).  

Lorkas, I’ve asked people on Quora about the kind of evidence that is required. They basically required something very tangible, verifiable and predictive, as we require for theory confirmations in science.

Naturalism limits the field of what’s plausible and what’s not. So if you want Jesus to resurrect each year, in front of everyone, so they could see it and believe, you’re ignoring two things:

1. The psychological effect that would have on people. After a few dozens of times, most will say ‘Yeah, right, like it didn’t happen before.’.

2. Faith in God is not enough. Faith is just the start of a long journey. People that say that they go to heaven ‘just because’ they believe are wrong and hypocrites. Christianity is founded on these three virtues: faith, hope and love, the biggest of which is love. Those that ignore, partially or completely one of these, are partially or not at all christians.

The entire matter and problem has to be seen as a whole, Physics and Anthropology and Psychology. God, if He exists, had to find the best solution what would work for all people, throughout the entire history. Not just for you, for me, for modernity, antiquity.

His choice was to be that evident, that present in Nature and people’s conscience, so that all these plus our free will and reasoning would finally make him obvious and present.

My criterion is that the answer to the fundamental questions has to be found within a life time (because it concerns one’s life and death, and eventually the life after death) and that answer has to work for everyone. Not only for scientists or simple people or XXIth century.

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Cristian February 11, 2011 at 5:47 am

Someone might want to inform our Christian friend that, as per the impending heat death of the universe, this implies God is a “god of destruction” and that his intent was not to create life, but rather, that life is a side effect of his desire to have it destroyed.

Tristan, in Christian theology’s view, the Universe was created for the man and not viceversa. Thus, if men have fallen, the Universe obeys that, too. The universe is part of the language God uses to talk with people. If people’s understanding lowers, the language will too.

Obviously, your angle of view is different so that’s why you see Universe creation as being a FAIL. How would you do it, by the way, if you were to create an Universe?

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josef johann February 11, 2011 at 5:48 am

Great stuff, but I think you can do without the “Who is being intellectually dishonest, now?” quip at the end of your B Theory of Time section. It’s just as possible that Wes is embarrassingly bad at keeping track of the relevant points in the conversation.

It’s a fact that, I think, speaks more loudly when you let it speak for itself.

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bossmanham February 11, 2011 at 6:29 am

Of course the theist doesn’t usually ascribe the term “magic” to acts of God, but graciousness in dialog isn’t something we should strive for, is it? Of course on naturalism, what we have with the beginning of the universe (not to mention the existence of mind, morality, and the value of the human person) is worse than magic, as WLC says, because with magic at least we have the magician. With naturalism, we have nothing, and then poof, the material universe exists with all of its moral intricacies!!!

I say if you want an at base incoherent position, look at naturalism.

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Paul February 11, 2011 at 6:50 am

God, if He exists, had to find the best solution what would work for all people, throughoutthe entire history. Not just for you, for me, for modernity, antiquity.
His choice was to be that evident, that present in Nature and people’s conscience, so that all these plus our free will and reasoning would finally make him obvious and present.

I’m glad you didn’t include the Bible in this list, because its irrelevancies and omissions and of course its contradictions fail miserably compared to what a loving, omnipotent God could have inspired.

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RedKing February 11, 2011 at 7:09 am

If things that are prior, or outside nature, like multiverses, can still be called natural, then what is supernatural?It seems the most coherent definition would be something that can never be understood.But something that can never be understood is something that has no effect on us at all.For us, living beings, “supernatural” has no real meaning, and those who are dead are “living” in the afterlife, so what relevance would it have for them either?Very confusing.If someone can supply a cogent, coherent definition for “supernatural,” I’d really love to hear it.  

I’ve struggled with this as well. It seems to me that if a supernatural realm existed, it would still have to follow some sort of regularities, even if those regularities are completely different than the ones we are used to.

For example, if God exists, then the following is true: “When Gods wills X, X will occur.” If ghosts exist, and can appear when they want to, then “ghosts can materialize when they so desire.”

But theists often talk about the supernatural as if it is somehow beyond regularities and descriptions. And when asked for evidence of the supernatural, they’ll accuse others of having a “bias against the supernatural,” as Cristian seems to have done when he says that naturalists will “never accept a super-natural agent.”

For this reason, I’m inclined to think that the natural/supernatural distinction is a red herring. If something exists, then it exists. If you want me to accept that something in particular exists, then demonstrate its existence. End of story.

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Cristian February 11, 2011 at 7:09 am

I’m glad you didn’t include the Bible in this list, because its irrelevancies and omissions and of course its contradictions fail miserably compared to what a loving, omnipotent God could have inspired.  

My personal belief is that the Bible is the result of people acknowledging the presence of God and the result of their relationship with Him.

‘Contradictions’ is a fuzzy term because it implies a set of rules and axioms about how one statement’s value of true results from another.

IF (my capitalization) God exists and IF the Bible is a sacred text, than I presume that it will be hard to understand, at least at first reading. Just like I need to read a lot of math and quantum mechanics before I understand the paradox of duality of light, the same way one will only understand a sacred text as one gets closer to the Divinity behind that text. And at the beginning, a lot of contradictions wil come to mind.

And please bear in mind that the Bible is actually a collection of books. And among other things, those books draw a line of progression in understanding of God. One could easily see the huge differences between the Old and the New Testament.

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Tony Hoffman February 11, 2011 at 7:21 am

“If someone can supply a cogent, coherent definition for “supernatural,” I’d really love to hear it.”

I have found that that is a request that theists avoid as if it were radioactive. So far, the preferred ploy seems to be, “Well, what do YOU define as supernatural?” Um, I don’t. That’s the point of the question, methinks.

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Cristian February 11, 2011 at 7:27 am

But theists often talk about the supernatural as if it is somehow beyond regularities and descriptions.

If you want me to accept that something in particular exists, then demonstrate its existence. End of story.  

I guess that supernatural refers to either “what’s not nature, material” or to what created and conserves nature into being. After the first definition, angels, as non-material beings, would be super-natural, after the second only God can be see as super-natural and His acts/interaction with the creation. Creation ex nihilo would be supernatural. Defying the laws of nature (like walking on water, turning water into wine, etc. ) would be supernatural.

For me is either the Nature exists by itself or something/someone created it ex nihilo. The fact that I am a person with will and free thinking and reasoning, makes be *believe* the second part of the alternative. Specially given the events throughout the history that imply the existence of such supernatural being.

It may seem a weakness, but I don’t require proof for that. I take it as a given. I dismiss naturalism, but, accepting the existence of that being, I try to find out the best version of what comes after.

What would that ‘demonstration’ look like. Do you have a clear picture about it?

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Bill Snedden February 11, 2011 at 7:36 am

@bossmanham:

I say if you want an at base incoherent position, look at naturalism.

Rubbish. Of course, given that your idea of “naturalism” is this: “With naturalism, we have nothing, and then poof, the material universe exists with all of its moral intricacies!!!” it’s not surprising that you should think so.

Newsflash: that’s not “naturalism”. Naturalism doesn’t postulate “nothing and then poof”. Naturalism postulates that existence has always existed; while the BB was certainly the beginning of our contingent universe, the context of existence out of which the BB arose has always existed and will always exist.

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Chuck February 11, 2011 at 7:38 am

Well stated Luke.

Cristian you said the existential necessities for a Christian are faith, hope and love with love being paramount. Can an apostate Christian still practice these values? For example, faith in critical thinking’s ability to incrementally reveal nuanced meta-ethics that offer sustainable practice, hope that the apostate’s mental faculties will provide the risibility to discern the evidence from faith, and love in the pursuit and application of these moral conclusions? If so, whither supernatural belief in unseen factors that demand distinguishing prejudice as the arbiter of a moral good (e.g. Belief in Jesus Christ as the revealed form of God to animate said faith, hope and love)?

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Chuck February 11, 2011 at 7:39 am

Just posting so I can follow the thread.

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PDH February 11, 2011 at 7:53 am

Cristian wrote,

I guess that supernatural refers to either “what’s not nature, material” or to what created and conserves nature into being. After the first definition, angels, as non-material beings, would be super-natural, after the second only God can be see as super-natural and His acts/interaction with the creation. Creation ex nihilo would be supernatural. Defying the laws of nature (like walking on water, turning water into wine, etc. ) would be supernatural.
For me is either the Nature exists by itself or something/someone created it ex nihilo. The fact that I am a person with will and free thinking and reasoning, makes be *believe* the second part of the alternative. Specially given the events throughout the history that imply the existence of such supernatural being.
It may seem a weakness, but I don’t require proof for that. I take it as a given. I dismiss naturalism, but, accepting the existence of that being, I try to find out the best version of what comes after.

Right, well there’s your problem because that is a massive straw-man argument.

If angels were discovered we would just say that angels were natural. If there was something ‘outside of nature’ I would simply say that nature was bigger than we thought it was. It’s a word for the sum total of all that is, was and will ever be. Gods included.

Naturalism has the appearance that it does because of the historical fact that no such things have been discovered. You can call your beliefs supernatural if you want but I’m going to treat them in the exactly the same way I treat everything else.

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Chuck February 11, 2011 at 8:04 am

I am reading Brian Greene’s book on string theory right now and often get lost in the technical arguments but my emotional experience in reading this has helped me understand the basis for my prior super-naturalism. I’d sum up my former super-natural epistemic commitments thus, “An impatience with the incremental discoveries science provides and a need for an answer to my observations pleasing to my intuition.” I don’t know if that works as a definition for super-natural theory but it seems to have been the basis of my prior affinity for super-natural explanations. I struggled with math and science in high school so I looked for a competing theory for life that could obviate those fields. Super-naturalism sufficed.

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RedKing February 11, 2011 at 8:44 am

Cristian,

Thanks for the response.

“I guess that supernatural refers to either ‘what’s not nature, material’ or to what created and conserves nature into being.”

Let’s say I believed in blork. You ask me what blork is, and I tell you that blork is not a number. You still have no idea what a blork is.

So I still don’t know what you mean when you say that “supernatural” means “not natural.” I suppose I should have asked what you mean by “natural,” since, to me, “nature” would include things like the realm where angels exist or the spirits of the dead. It might not be a part of nature we can access, and we might not be able to describe it using current laws, but it would still have regularities that could be observed (in this case, by the angels and God).

The rest of your definition is somewhat more helpful. We’re calling angels and God supernatural. Okay, then. But you also call angels immaterial, which (if they existed) I wouldn’t. They would have to be made of something, even if it’s not protons, electrons, or quarks. What is it? Even if your answer is that angels are made of “spirit,” I wouldn’t call that immaterial; I’d say that their material is “spirit” (whatever that is).

See what I mean about the supernatural/natural divide being a red herring? Because I really don’t care whether you call it supernatural or not. I care about whether it exists or not.

For me is either the Nature exists by itself or something/someone created it ex nihilo.

But the “something/someone” would have its own nature that needs to be accounted for, which is why I would call it part of “nature.”

“The fact that I am a person with will and free thinking and reasoning, makes be *believe* the second part of the alternative.

Our mental capacities like reasoning and thinking do certainly seem amazing. What about them leads you to conclude that God exists?

“Specially given the events throughout the history that imply the existence of such supernatural being. “

Events like…?

It may seem a weakness, but I don’t require proof for that. I take it as a given.

Well, hell, I should have read this first. Am I understanding you correctly that you just assume God exists? Or did you mean something else? And, yes, if you care about whether your beliefs are true, it is a weakness if you don’t have some method to determine whether they’re true.

What would that ‘demonstration’ look like. Do you have a clear picture about it?

For the most part, no, but that’s because I find most people’s pictures of God to be unclear and/or unfalsifiable.

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Cristian February 11, 2011 at 8:47 am

Cristian you said the existential necessities for a Christian are faith, hope and love with love being paramount.Can an apostate Christian still practice these values?

Chuck, we use those terms for many things and forms of those things. In the context of Christianity, these defined strictly in relationship with God. Even, for instance, our love for others is or should be shaped by God’s love for us.

We are free to put our faith and hope in anything. The main purpose of our struggle is find the right path, the right direction, whatever that would be for all humans.

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Chuck February 11, 2011 at 8:57 am

Cristian thanks for the response.

My point is that I have found that my life has become more joyful and meaningful in relation to my wife, co-workers and family since I have given up on the supernatural prerequisites of those terms and have instead transferred them to the practice of critical thinking. This joy and meaning has become deeper especially in the areas of moral theory and ethics.

I was a Christian and pursued the practice of the essentials of faith, hope and love but found they were animated in attempts to convert non-believers to my belief rather than accepting the limitations of my knowledge in ascertaining moral theories alien to my theology.

I will amend my question, can an apostate Christian practice faith, hope and love in a meaningful way that opens up a meta-ethic more inclusive and sustainable than the one Christianity demands? If so then whither super-naturalism? If not, please explain. Thanks.

Chuck, we use those terms for many things and forms of those things. In the context of Christianity, these defined strictly in relationship with God. Even, for instance, our love for others is or should be shaped by God’s love for us.
We are free to put our faith and hope in anything. The main purpose of our struggle is find the right path, the right direction, whatever that would be for all humans.  

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Cristian February 11, 2011 at 9:12 am

@RedKing

The central point, the cornerstone, of the whole talk is creation ex nihilo and existence. If something/someone has the power to create something else out of nothing (metaphysical nothingness, not Hawking nothing), than the creation will not have the power itself to create something ex nihilo, nor will it be able to fully and completely understand its creator. The creation is limited by its nature. By definition God can not create a God, identical in nature and power. God by its definition is self-existent, it was not created.

The discussion on the table is wether such being exists outside Nature, or the Nature is that being that exists by itself.

One can tell what God is or would be, but only up to a point. This is called positive knowledge. Beyond it you can go only with negative statements. God is not X, because if out limitations. We can not comprehend the nature of being that is able to create something ex nihilo, since we cant do that ourselves. There’s something, a gap, between us and God.

The notion of ‘nature’ is also important here, and the distinction here. We are partially, at least, made of protons, just like rocks, but something differentiate us. Reasoning for instance. It’s arguable if reasoning is a property of our body, as a complex organization of protons /neutrons/electrons, or of something else (soul). Soul would give us a separate condition and, hence, a different nature.

Angels, since they have no material body, they have a different nature, non-material, but still a nature with its properties and regularities.

God has in turn a different nature from humans, or inanimate mater or angels.

I assume that God exists just because there’s only two options. Either God as uncreated creator agent, or nature exists by itself. Humans ability to reason and understand the laws of nature, and the existence of those laws, plus the feeling of wonder we have for the world as it is, feeling which goes beyond the mathematical descriptions of nature (beautiful nonetheless), all these make me accept the first option. That’s not the end of the story, that’s not a definition for God, that’s not all.

I must also confess that all that I’m saying I learned from the Parents of the Church. The first millennia is filled with very deep and interesting literature in Christian theology. And since they made sense to me, they cleared and shaped my view on the topic.

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Tony Hoffman February 11, 2011 at 9:23 am

Cristian: “One can tell what God is or would be, but only up to a point. This is called positive knowledge.”

Positive knowledge like…?

Cristian: “Angels, since they have no material body, they have a different nature, non-material, but still a nature with its properties and regularities. ”

And those natures have what properties?

Cristian: “God has in turn a different nature from humans, or inanimate mater or angels.”

And God’s nature is like what?

Cristian: “Humans ability to reason and understand the laws of nature, and the existence of those laws, plus the feeling of wonder we have for the world as it is, feeling which goes beyond the mathematical descriptions of nature (beautiful nonetheless), all these make me accept the first option. That’s not the end of the story, that’s not a definition for God, that’s not all. ”

You sound more like a pantheist than a Christian. Take that as a compliment.

You might want to consider the sense of awe, wonder, and satisfaction that men like Spinoza, Darwin, Einstein, and Feynman found in their fleeting comprehension of an existence without a montheistic God. You seem like you might find yourself equally satisfied with that worldview, and you’d be able to ditch the cognitive dissonance that’s otherwise required.

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Cristian February 11, 2011 at 9:25 am

I will amend my question, can an apostate Christian practice faith, hope and love in a meaningful way that opens up a meta-ethic more inclusive and sustainable than the one Christianity demands? If so then whither super-naturalism? If not, please explain. Thanks.

There are many forms of Christianity out there, Chuck. I’m not sure to which one you referring. Unfortunately they are very different from one another, and have different understanding about how a true christian should live.

I personally hate “I was saved, let me convince others to be too” attitude. It’s very typical to the neo-protestant denominations, and their theology is very different from Catholique or Orthodox (the one I live in) views. Orthodoxy, for instance, if very little characterized by convincing others.

I personally would rather not convert anyone, but mere justify my belief if asked. My personal desire is to make Orthodox views known to those that are critique to Christianity. I know that there’s little time to read, so I think that I can help here.

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Paul February 11, 2011 at 9:27 am

My personal belief is that the Bible is the result of people acknowledging the presence of God and the result of their relationship with Him.
‘Contradictions’ is a fuzzy term because it implies a set of rules and axioms about how one statement’s value of true results from another.
IF (my capitalization) God exists and IF the Bible is a sacred text, than I presume that it will be hard to understand, at least at first reading.Just like I need to read a lot of math and quantum mechanics before I understand the paradox of duality of light, the same way one will only understand a sacred text as one gets closer to the Divinity behind that text. And at the beginning, a lot of contradictions wil come to mind.
And please bear in mind that the Bible is actually a collection of books. And among other things, those books draw a line of progression in understanding of God. One could easily see the huge differences between the Old and the New Testament.  

I could respond, but I think it’s a little off-topic, the thread is moving in another direction anyway, perhaps we can talk about the Bible another time.

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Cristian February 11, 2011 at 9:32 am

You might want to consider the sense of awe, wonder, and satisfaction that men like Spinoza, Darwin, Einstein, and Feynman found in their fleeting comprehension of an existence without a montheistic God.

Tony, is not the satisfaction I’m really going for. But rather, a drop of hope that I will survive this life. Orthodox Christianity offers me the framework of understanding the world, Nature and people, that also assures me that there’s something else beyond this life. Naturalism doesn’t.

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Tony Hoffman February 11, 2011 at 9:44 am

Cristian: “Orthodox Christianity offers me the framework of understanding the world, Nature and people, that also assures me that there’s something else beyond this life.”

Okay, if it’s life after death you’re really looking for, agreed that naturalism isn’t promising that. But then you give the appearance of not investigating reality, but looking for the worldview that best flatters your hopes.

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cl February 11, 2011 at 9:46 am

Luke,

Wes says I confuse miracles for magic. He gives the following definitions: 1) Biblically, miracles are performed by God for the specific purpose of making Him known. 2) Magic is mysterious, meaning the observer is not privy as to the origin or purpose, if any, of the event in question. I have never seen those definitions in any dictionary.

From Dictionary.com:

Miracle: an event that is contrary to the established laws of nature and attributed to a supernatural cause…

Magic: the art of producing a desired effect or result through the use of incantation or various other techniques that presumably assure human control of supernatural agencies or the forces of nature.

It seems to me those are essentially in line with Wes’ definitions. The key distinction is “human control” in the latter. Considering the apostolic miracles as an example, they did not come about through human control, and the apostles did not take credit for them. In fact, the apostles themselves made this same distinction between miracles and magic [cf. Simon Magnus, Acts 8:9-24]. This is a minor point, of course, and included primarily as a set-up for this:

But more importantly, one does not win an argument by moving definitions around.

You might want to rethink that. On this blog and in your podcast, I’ve seen many a victory feigned on moving the definitions of moral terms around. Further, you use this strategy in this post, right here:

And on this usage, Wes’ concept of miracle is merely a subtype of magic.

See? You just “won” by moving definitions around!

I replied that many things are unexplained, but this isn’t evidence for God, nor evidence against naturalism.

While I can’t speak for Wes, as a theist, I don’t argue “existence is unexplained, therefore God.” Unless that is actually what Wes argues, you’re essentially attacking a strawman there, and I know for a fact this is not your first admonition thus.

Nothing in the arguments against Christianity in my article mention or assume the truth of the B Theory of time.

There, I agree with you, although, I think you jump to the conclusion that Wes is being intellectually dishonest. As josef johann implies, that’s presumptuous on your part. He may well have just not comprehended what you said, or inferred incorrectly.

It was also the uniquely Christian belief in a logical and consistent creator which gave the founders of the modern science, like Newton and Bacon the idea that they could observe natural phenomenon and discover how the world works. If they had held to a view of magic, that contingent entities could spontaneously pop into existence uncaused out of nothing, then it is doubtful they, or anyone with a similar view, would have ever thought it wise to examine the world around them for regular and repeatable patterns. [Wes]

I can’t see what part of my article this comment is supposed to relate to.

Again, while I can’t speak for Wes, I imagine that this is in response to your “magic” claim. I believe he’s trying to further parse out the distinction between the “miracles” he believes in, and the “magic” you ascribe to him.

What? The universe is contingent and therefore had a cause per naturalism???

You act awfully surprised, but that makes perfect sense to me. The study of causality is a pillar of naturalistic science; perhaps even the cornerstone. As for your closing comments, in all honesty, it seems to me that your response is the more “amateurish” one. Instead of really tackling Wes’ rebuttals, you throw out shoddy responses in haste, many of which are one- or two-liners, then attack Wes’ rebuttal as “amateurish.” I mean, here you are, still attacking this strawman:

When we don’t know something, the conclusion is not ‘Therefore, we know it is magic’ (from Zeus or from Jesus). When we don’t know something, the conclusion is ‘We don’t know.

Pretty amateurish, IMHO.

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Chuck February 11, 2011 at 9:47 am

There are many forms of Christianity out there, Chuck. I’m not sure to which one you referring. Unfortunately they are very different from one another, and have different understanding about how a true christian should live.

Thanks Cristian, you make my point here. The diversity of Christian ideas and their incompatibility in purpose seems to indicate that religion is a cultural accretion and has little to do with cosmological causes or the nature of reality. I can accept your religion if you choose to share it within a Jamesian pragmatism – it is an idea that gives your life meaning but not a collection of anything meaningful when attempting to understand reality. In fact, I can pick and choose from it at will with no offense to help better behave with others.

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Chuck February 11, 2011 at 9:53 am

Pretty amateurish, IMHO. cl(Quote)

I don’t know, sitting on the sidelines and criticizing another person’s efforts seems like the definition of amateur. Kind of reminds me of my over-weight relatives bitching about the local football team’s ineptitude.

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Cristian February 11, 2011 at 9:58 am

The diversity of Christian ideas and their incompatibility in purpose seems to indicate that religion is a cultural accretion and has little to do with cosmological causes or the nature of reality.

I personally see it a sign that humans can corrupt or invent religions driven by different kinds of interests. Protestantism, for instance, started as an opposition to the Catholique church. The separation between the Catholique and Eastern Orthodox churches is again a complex history of political and personals frictions between the leaders of the time.

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Cristian February 11, 2011 at 10:03 am

But then you give the appearance of not investigating reality, but looking for the worldview that best flatters your hopes.

I’m not sure what you mean by ‘reality investigation’, but I think I am still doing that. I am constantly trying to better understand and become a better me. It’s just that I chose the framework within I do all that. The search is not ended, the questions are not gone. On the contrary. I am still very far, far away from Heaven.

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Cristian February 11, 2011 at 10:05 am

By the way, guys. Thanks so much for such an interesting conversation. I personally just wanted to make a note. :) Thank you!

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nonchai February 11, 2011 at 10:05 am

@wes widner:

Pleas tell me how GOD can come from nothing.

What is the principle by which a theistic god gets to exist – or have “always” existed in some logically necessary way ?

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Tony Hoffman February 11, 2011 at 10:08 am

CL: “While I can’t speak for Wes, as a theist, I don’t argue “existence is unexplained, therefore God.” Unless that is actually what Wes argues, you’re essentially attacking a strawman there, and I know for a fact this is not your first admonition thus.”

Yawn. So much scolding. So little… I mean, no substance.

I think you jump to the conclusion that Wes is being intellectually dishonest. As josef johann implies, that’s presumptuous on your part. He may well have just not comprehended what you said, or inferred incorrectly.

What an asinine thing to say. A charge of intellectual dishonesty (first leveled by Wes, btw), is necessarily presumptuous — it assumes to know something about and how the other thinks. It’s these kind of picayune and misplaced criticisms that make your comments seem so often shrill and off-topic.

Luke: “When we don’t know something, the conclusion is not ‘Therefore, we know it is magic’ (from Zeus or from Jesus). When we don’t know something, the conclusion is ‘We don’t know.”
CL: “Pretty amateurish, IMHO.”

Ooh, don’t throw me in that amateur patch, then, Brer Fox!

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Chuck February 11, 2011 at 10:14 am

I personally see it a sign that humans can corrupt or invent religions driven by different kinds of interests. Protestantism, for instance, started as an opposition to the Catholique church. The separation between the Catholique and Eastern Orthodox churches is again a complex history of political and personals frictions between the leaders of the time.

I agree that humans invent religions and that is probably the source of religious diversity. I think you’d struggle to present a method to validate the “rightness” of your particular theory of Christianity. Religious belief seems to allow for emotional comfort for the believer but when it gets down to defining its terms in a systematic way it invites only tangential and contradictory explanation. This is unlike science which demands harmonization of theory if a theory is too be valid in its description of reality. Even string theory leads to M-theory as a response to the five different super-string calculations before it can even be considered real. The diversity of string theory seems to falsify its truth but the diversity of the Christianities only galvanizes the believers in a particular version to assert that they are correct and all others aren’t. I see this type of privileged thinking akin to one’s taste in music or literature and nothing more than genre appreciation born from the complex brain chemicals that make our personality. The conclusions these religious genres draw on the nature of reality seem no better in defining it then Puck’s speech on love declaring “what fools these mortals be.”

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cl February 11, 2011 at 10:16 am

Man, it sure didn’t take long for the haters to get their feathers ruffled!

Chuck,

I don’t know, sitting on the sidelines and criticizing another person’s efforts seems like the definition of amateur.

Does that include yourself? Answer honestly.

Tony Hoffman,

Yawn. So much scolding. So little… I mean, no substance.

Ah, the irony. Beautiful, Tony… great job.

A charge of intellectual dishonesty (first leveled by Wes, btw), is necessarily presumptuous — it assumes to know something about and how the other thinks.

So you agree with me that charges of intellectual dishonesty are presumptuous? Does that make your criticism “picayune and misplaced?”

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Steven R. February 11, 2011 at 10:24 am

So uh, Wes’s response to his five questions is “Because of God!”? How, ah…silly.

Well Wes, let’s try and answer your questions with something a little better…

1. I need a good explanation of how the world came to exist

Response: I was watching a small documentary on Stephen Hawkings the other day and he theorized that the opposite of a black hole could be what would create matter and time. By the way, God is not a good explanation. I bet you think “The universe came from nothing” is a bad explanation. But when you say “God created the universe (or all matter, or what have you)” what you’re really saying is “The universe came from nothing” just adding “God did it” to the start. See? It’s just egregious logic.

2. I need to know how I, a cognitive being, came to exist in this world

Response: Well Wes, consider Luke’s point for a second. An Ancient Greek could ask “I need to know how lightning, an enigmatic phenomenon, came to exist in this world” and then, when naturalism can’t answer this with “Well, that’s Zeus! And I’m providing an argument that is logically valid for this!” Would you be convinced? Of course not. Now, scientists have proven that the conditions of early Earth were just right to get some molecules to start reproducing. Via evolution, they became more complex. Now add billions of years, and viola!

3. I need to know why I should trust my epistemic faculties, including my mind, to provide me with true information
Response: Uh, how does God help here? How do you know God isn’t tricking your mind into thinking taht you have true information when in fact he’s just playing a joke on you? Or doing it for his own amusement? How is God evn connected to the validity of the information you process? This wouldn’t be the Transcendental Argument that got debunked by Evolutionary Theory, now would it?

4. I need a good accounting of things I hold to be intrinsically to be true, like altruism and self-sacrifice
Response: I’m not even sure how God helps here either. Uh…how does God account for altruism and self-sacrifice? You do know the Euthypro Dilemma and that there has been no adequate response to it, right?

5. I need to know why I or anything I do matters, especially in view of our universe’s impending heat-death

Response: So, uh…how does your life gain meaning because God exists again? If your hammer gained consciousness and started hammering nails and building things, would they all be meaningless because you, the creator of the hammer, didn’t want it? Would its life only be meaningful if you told it to do those things? I fail to see how the action gains “meaning” whether or not you agree. Either the action of building things has intrinsic meaning out of itself, or all meaning is subjective, and thus, the hammer doing what it feels is meaningful is meaningful because he himself thinks it and it doesn’t matter if the creator disagrees (say, it wants the hammer to just go on a box where it will be forgotten). Moreover, I’d argue that you feel the same way. If God decided that the meaning in your life was to brutally torture you, gauge your eyes out and then throw you in a black hole, would that make your life meaningful? Would that make loving your family, enjoying art and music, etc. meaningless because God, your supposed creator said that all of that was not why he created you? Please, you’re just projecting your own conception of meaning unto another being and then claiming that’s the only way you gain meaning.

—-

to Cl:

“Miracle: an event that is contrary to the established laws of nature and attributed to a supernatural cause…” how is that even on par with Wes’ defintion??? He said it must be mysterious and from an unknown origin. That’s very different from either definition of magic you gave.

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Chuck February 11, 2011 at 10:24 am

Does that include yourself? Answer honestly.

I’m having a conversation with Cristian about his beliefs.

My criticism of you amounts to a wife telling her drunk spouse to get his lazy ass off the couch and get some exercise (rather than running his mouth on why the quarterback sucks.)

You haven’t contributed anything except one long rant that looks to sharpen your resentments (and status).

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Steven R. February 11, 2011 at 10:30 am

Man, it sure didn’t take long for the haters to get their feathers ruffled!Chuck,Does that include yourself? Answer honestly.Tony Hoffman,Ah, the irony. Beautiful, Tony… great job.So you agree with me that charges of intellectual dishonesty are presumptuous? Does that make your criticism “picayune and misplaced?”  (Quote)

For someone who usually claims to be above ad hominem attacks (no, Chuck didn’t imply you were obese, but you did), you sure are coming pretty close to explicitly making one.

But have you even considered why you’re getting so many “hater” comments? Luke didn’t shift definitions around. He merely clarified what definition of magic he was using and then put it within context of what he said. Wes, on the other hand, completely redefined a word and applied this radical redefinition to Luke’s comments to render them incoherent. That’s what shifting definitions around is, not saying clarifying what you said because a word was taken out of context or redefined.

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JS Allen February 11, 2011 at 10:44 am

Luke, pick on someone your own size.

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Steven R. February 11, 2011 at 10:55 am

Lorkas, I’ve asked people on Quora about the kind of evidence that is required. They basically required something very tangible, verifiable and predictive, as we require for theory confirmations in science. Naturalism limits the field of what’s plausible and what’s not.

Yep. I don’t see the problem. If you want to show that something else is plausible, be my guest, provide something with adequate explanatory, predictive and verifiable powers. I see the complaining about naturalism’s restrictions as a toddler complaining that we’ve ruled out invisible pink caterpillars as the reason why all the cookies are gone. Yeah, we got rid of absurd propositions that radically contradict prior experiences and are unfalsifiable.

So if you want Jesus to resurrect each year, in front of everyone, so they could see it and believe, you’re ignoring two things:1. The psychological effect that would have on people. After a few dozens of times, most will say ‘Yeah, right, like it didn’t happen before.’.

Then that’s god’s fault for creating us with such a psyche. And…yeah, you’re not really doing anything here. “God didn’t provide more conclusive evidence for his existence because if he abused it, knowing the human psyche would tire after so many occurances of the same event, it’s better that we have no evidence at all!” So uh, why bother even leaving the Gospels behind?

2. Faith in God is not enough. Faith is just the start of a long journey. People that say that they go to heaven ‘just because’ they believe are wrong and hypocrites. Christianity is founded on these three virtues: faith, hope and love, the biggest of which is love. Those that ignore, partially or completely one of these, are partially or not at all christians.

Oh boy. Please define “faith”. If it’s the usual “belief without evidence”, calling it a virtue is akin to revelling in your own ignorance. And actually, those people who say that they believe just because they believe in Jesus do have a point, as that’s what Jesus say. You could, I suppose, define belief as involving *gasp* actions that show faith, hope and love and then play the cynical game of “Christinaity is not based around works but faith!” while conveniently leaving out the part that faith involves works.

Okay, pre-emptive ranting aside, it would at least give us reasons to consider faith, hope and love in God, which is something that, given the severe lack of evidence for the Christian God, is something I don’t even begin to consider.

The entire matter and problem has to be seen as a whole, Physics and Anthropology and Psychology. God, if He exists, had to find the best solution what would work for all people, throughout the entire history. Not just for you, for me, for modernity, antiquity. His choice was to be that evident, that present in Nature and people’s conscience, so that all these plus our free will and reasoning would finally make him obvious and present. My criterion is that the answer to the fundamental questions has to be found within a life time (because it concerns one’s life and death, and eventually the life after death) and that answer has to work for everyone. Not only for scientists or simple people or XXIth century.  (Quote)

Uh…so you’re telling me the best an all-knowing, all-powerful and supremely powerful being can come up with for convincing people is….I have no idea, you didn’t provide any proof and I fail to see how this really poses a problem for God. IF anything, we have higher standards than our ancestors, so if WE are convinced, then so would they. That and God could could simply change the proof of his existence to match the standards of the era. So yeah, not a convincing argument at all.

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Steven R. February 11, 2011 at 10:57 am

*those who say they’ll go to heaven just because they believe in Jesus do have a point. Sorry about that.

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Steven R. February 11, 2011 at 11:04 am

For someone who usually claims to be above ad hominem attacks (no, Chuck didn’t imply you were obese, but you did), you sure are coming pretty close to explicitly making one.nbsp; (Quote)

Oh, crap, crap, crap! Nevermind, sorry you did no such thing. When I read the part you quoted and then asked, “does this apply to you?” I could’ve sworn the sentence had the “obese relatives” in it, hence my annoyance at you since it seemed like a very immature taunt. Feel free to grill me for accusing you of something you didn’t do, my sincerest apologies for not reading exactly what you quoted and posted.

Damn, now I feel really bad about that comment.

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Zeb February 11, 2011 at 11:12 am

Tony

I have found that that is a request that theists avoid as if it were radioactive. So far, the preferred ploy seems to be, “Well, what do YOU define as supernatural?” Um, I don’t. That’s the point of the question, methinks.  

I agree; I don’t believe in anything supernatural, because I don’t know what that means. Sure I believe in angels, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, immortal souls, grace, sin, and miracles, but those are all just as natural as energy and matter in God’s creation. So I guess I am a a naturalist.

But seriously, anyone who focuses on the burden of proof, or worse yet, the burden of definition, is showing that he is more interested in combat than conversation. And since one does not often find people arguing for “the supernatural,” but rather for particular entities or phenomena that have been socially deemed supernatural; and one often does find atheists, ‘naturalists,’ skeptics, and/or rationalists responding by saying that they reject those particular and all other “supernatural” things, I don’t see why you should refuse to at least participate in clarifying a term widely used to separate beliefs. Certainly anyone who calls himself a “naturalist” ought to be interested in delineating what it is he that doesn’t believe in, since no naturalist can define their set of beliefs positively until all science is complete. Richard Carrier, who claims to reject all “supernatural” things, has done a great job finding a common link between all things generally thought of as “supernatural,” and basically he says that they are all thought to exhibit “irreducible mind.” That seems exactly right to me, and since I do believe in irreducible mind I am willing to take on the epithet “supernaturalist” even though I think irreducible mind is natural.

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JS Allen February 11, 2011 at 11:21 am

@bbelzebub, @RedKing, @PDH – You might be interested in Dostoyevsky on Miracles. Also, John D at “Philosophical Disquisitions” has covered this exact topic over the past week, in a series of posts. Here is part 3 on miracles (he hasn’t updated the index post yet). It’s very well-written, and comprehensive.

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LNC February 11, 2011 at 11:30 am

Luke, I think that your response is a bit unfair and somewhat misleading. First in regard to magic, it seems that the definitions that you provided imply that the user of magic is invoking the supernatural, but God is not invoking some separate supernatural source, he is the supernatural source. So, it seems somewhat misleading to say that this is magic. Now, maybe you are simply assuming naturalism as a default position, but then you would need to establish naturalism as a default position, not just assume that it is. However, to do this, it would seem that you would need to disprove the supernatural. The bottom line is that to equate God’s actions with magic is simply mistaken and misleading.

Regarding the universe being contingent, are you saying that the universe is not contingent or that the contingency of the universe is not a view of naturalism? Certainly, you can’t be suggesting the former as that would seem to be special pleading in regard to the universe in relation to the particulars within the universe, which are contingent.

You: “When we don’t know something, the conclusion is not ‘Therefore, we know it is magic’ (from Zeus or from Jesus). When we don’t know something, the conclusion is ‘We don’t know.”

If you have no rational basis to justify your atheism, shouldn’t you rename your sight, “Common Sense Agnosticism”? It seems that you have a number of crucial questions for which you have no adequate basis to ground atheism.

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Hendy February 11, 2011 at 11:49 am

Per naturalism, the universe, which we know is contingent and therefore had a cause, came into existence without any cause and from nothing.

What? The universe is contingent and therefore had a cause per naturalism???

Luke, I take it to mean this:
- Per naturalism, the universe [] came into existence without any cause and from nothing.
- []the universe, which we know is contingent and therefore had a cause

So he’s basically just saying: naturalism is wrong because it supposes something (no cause, from nothing) which we already know to be false (universe = contingent, therefore caused).

It just seemed like you took the sentence to read:
- Per naturalism, the universe is contingent and therefore has a cause

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Chuck February 11, 2011 at 11:55 am

Everyone knows that Xenu implanted stories of Jesus into the Thetans after he blew them up and before they attached to our beings. Cross the bridge Christians and you will see that your belief in God is nothing more than overt to keep you from becoming clear.

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PDH February 11, 2011 at 12:15 pm

LNC wrote,

Luke, I think that your response is a bit unfair and somewhat misleading.First in regard to magic, it seems that the definitions that you provided imply that the user of magic is invoking the supernatural, but God is not invoking some separate supernatural source, he is the supernatural source.So, it seems somewhat misleading to say that this is magic.Now, maybe you are simply assuming naturalism as a default position, but then you would need to establish naturalism as a default position, not just assume that it is.However, to do this, it would seem that you would need to disprove the supernatural.The bottom line is that to equate God’s actions with magic is simply mistaken and misleading.

The bottom line is that the words we use are irrelevant. Luke clearly defined his position and nothing you have said here undermines that. You can call it ‘Peggy Sue’ if you want. The point stands.

There are many simpler and more probable explanations that decrease the mysteriousness of a phenomena rather than increase it. These must be exhausted before resorting to an explanation as terrible as ‘God did it.’

That has nothing to do with assuming naturalism. You can see my thoughts on that in my previous post. I don’t see any need to divide the world up and into ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ things. There are just things and we want the best explanation of them we can find.

If your keys go missing, one explanation is that a ghost took them. That’s a possibility, it can’t be disproved. But before you get the Mystery Machine out you might want to check behind the sofa first. This is what we are advocating.

Regarding the universe being contingent, are you saying that the universe is not contingent or that the contingency of the universe is not a view of naturalism?Certainly, you can’t be suggesting the former as that would seem to be special pleading in regard to the universe in relation to the particulars within the universe, which are contingent.

But it wouldn’t be special pleading to say that God is not contingent, right? Your beliefs are special.

You:“When we don’t know something, the conclusion is not ‘Therefore, we know it is magic’ (from Zeus or from Jesus). When we don’t know something, the conclusion is ‘We don’t know.”If you have no rational basis to justify your atheism, shouldn’t you rename your sight, “Common Sense Agnosticism”?It seems that you have a number of crucial questions for which you have no adequate basis to ground atheism.

I may not know the winner of last year’s Crufts Dog Show but I can be pretty sure it wasn’t Dolly the Sheep. Likewise, one may not know how the universe began and yet be sure that it wasn’t created by a God.

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Colin February 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm

This guy (Wes) is clearly an unbelievable asshole and retard. Even for a Christian apologist. While it may be easy to win arguments against him, I think you’ve taken on far more intimidating opponents (if Christianity can be said to bear any) than his ilk.

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PDH February 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm

JS Allen wrote,

@bbelzebub, @RedKing, @PDH – You might be interested in Dostoyevsky on Miracles.Also, John D at “Philosophical Disquisitions” has covered this exact topic over the past week, in a series of posts.Here is part 3 on miracles (he hasn’t updated the index post yet).It’s very well-written, and comprehensive.  

Just saw this. Thanks for the link. You’re right, it’s very relevant.

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Colin February 11, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Probably the best example of his retardation was earlier, when he listed all the religions/worldviews which supposedly disavowed the law of non-contradiction. I was as aghast as you as this blatant (or retarded) misrepresentation.

God, people are fucking idiots.

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Colin February 11, 2011 at 1:01 pm

One thing that struck me in his list of 5 was the conundrum he posed regarding our cognitive faculties. This is an issue that comes up all the time and is typically posed by theists as a problem for non-theists. While I’m sure you’ve dealt with this issue in detail (though off the top of my head I don’t remember exactly where or when), the most obvious response that comes to mind is the fact that he is using his cognitive faculties to reason that there must be a transcendent cause and assurance of their reliability. Of course, to come to that conclusion one must already assume their basic integrity. On his accounting, though, this is entirely without ground. It’s circular. A naturalist has no less reason to trust his mind’s reliability than a theist since both do this A PRIORI.

I suppose what he’s speaking of is the backward rationalization or justification of why this is so, and that God provides the best explanation. That may be so (it probably isn’t), but the point is that it’s UNAVOIDABLE to use our minds in order to reason ABOUT our minds. Really, this is actually an argument against anyone (like a presuppositionalist or anyone else who emphasizes the noetic effects of sin) who would claim that we cannot reason properly about the world apart from embracing a biblical worldview first. Well, how the hell does one come to the conclusion that a biblical worldview is correct? By using his or her mind, of course! So everyone – atheist or theist – uses reason, whether rightly or wrongly. You cannot, simply cannot, “begin” with the Bible or any other complex system of thought. You have to reason your way TO it. And doing that involves relying on (and assuming the intrisic reliability of) one’s cognitive faculties.

It’s a completely sophomoric confusion of terms to put the Bible or even a particular worldview in the same category of “first principles in reasoning” AS reason and thought itself. One is unavoidable and necessary, the other avoidable (the specific contents of one’s worldview, anyway) and contingent. And yet I see Christians do this all the time. Of course we can look back after the fact (through cognitive science, if we want to be particularly accurate and careful) and analyze the how, what, and why of our mechanisms for thought. But to do this presupposes thought. The fundamental reliability of our cognitive faculties (flawed though they are) is the only thing that is (and must be) truly presupposed. Not the detailed contents of any worldview.

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cl February 11, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Steven R.,

“Miracle: an event that is contrary to the established laws of nature and attributed to a supernatural cause” how is that even on par with Wes’ defintion??? He said it must be mysterious and from an unknown origin. That’s very different from either definition of magic you gave.

Well, that seems like a genuine question, at least. Minor gripe first: You say “either definition of magic” as if I gave more than one, but I gave precisely one. The salient point: we cannot–by either Wes’ definition of “magic” or mine–attribute the creation of the universe thus, because both definitions require human intervention. So, Luke attacks a strawman on two fronts [that Christians infer "Goddidit" from lack of knowledge being the second]. Personally, I prefer tight logic to rhetorical persuasion, but that’s just me.

For someone who usually claims to be above ad hominem attacks (no, Chuck didn’t imply you were obese, but you did), you sure are coming pretty close to explicitly making one.

Blatantly false. I am simply poking fun at Chuck and Tony Hoffman for trollish commentary and inconsistency. I have not leveled any accusations against their character, whatsoever. Chuck implied I was obese? What thread are you reading? Methinks you’re confused with my post on MITRW #11, where I cite the lack of justification for Alonzo’s condemnation of parents of obese children. [...reads further down the thread...]

Feel free to grill me for accusing you of something you didn’t do, my sincerest apologies for not reading exactly what you quoted and posted. Damn, now I feel really bad about that comment.

No worries, Steven R. Things like this happen when you don’t slow down and double-check. We all make mistakes. However, while I harbor no ill will towards you, whatsoever, I do think this mistake is quite revealing. It seems to me that, rather than address any of my actual criticisms, you’re grasping at straws in haste. Why not just try to have a reasonable discussion? I assure you I’m more than interested in those types of things.

But have you even considered why you’re getting so many “hater” comments?

It’s a fact of psychology that people–especially insecure people–often react unfavorably to strong criticism. I’ve seen this tendency intensify when the strong criticism comes from a theist to an atheist, and I suspect this is partly because many atheists fancy themselves on the intellectual highground. As an aside, have you ever wondered why I get even more “lover” comments, and many of those from established authorities in these matters? Or, were you just cherrypicking?

[Luke] merely clarified what definition of magic he was using and then put it within context of what he said.

That’s not my complaint, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Reread my original comment, and if the complaint is unclear, I’ll be happy to continue, especially if you wish to drop the fluff.

Chuck,

I’m having a conversation with Cristian about his beliefs.

Correct. You also took the time to criticize me from the sidelines, ironically after equating that strategy with one being amateur. So, aren’t you being amateur by your own definition? Again, answer honestly.

You haven’t contributed anything except one long rant that looks to sharpen your resentments (and status).

Ah, I see: now you’re a mindreader who somehow uses “magic” to attain knowledge of my motives. That’s a load of nonsense, Chuck. I offered my contributions, and I assure you there is substance therein. In fact, many other commenters are echoing my contributions, yet, for some mysterious reason, you don’t attack them. Think about that, then, if you have an intelligent rebuttal to anything I’ve said, I’m all ears. Otherwise, you’re just running your mouth on why you think the quarterback sucks. Kapish?

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Chris W February 11, 2011 at 1:12 pm

The phrase “spanked like a foolish child” comes to mind. Where have I heard that before? ;)

I enjoyed this takedown and the other “Why Christianity Is False” posts, though at first I agreed with JS Allen, that Luke should pick on someone his own size. But there is too much of this weak pop-apologetic stuff on the net that gets passed around among the faithful without serious critique. So the gap needs to be filled, even if it’s a bit like shooting fish in a barrell.

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Chuck February 11, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Ah, I see: now you’re a mindreader who somehow uses “magic” to attain knowledge of my motives. That’s a load of nonsense, Chuck. I offered my contributions, and I assure you there is substance therein. In fact, many other commenters are echoing my contributions, yet, for some mysterious reason, you don’t attack them. Think about that, then, if you have an intelligent rebuttal to anything I’ve said, I’m all ears. Otherwise, you’re just running your mouth on why you think the quarterback sucks. Kapish?

Sorry CL, you are exhibiting behavior that is combative but not competitive. So thinking of yourself as a player and not a spectator is silly. Pot-shots referencing Luke’s past performance in regards to his post seems like player-hating (e.g. “You might want to rethink that. On this blog and in your podcast, I’ve seen many a victory feigned on moving the definitions of moral terms around. “). Luke is a player, you are an arrogant spectator so please don’t offend my intelligence by inferring you two are in the same category. He spent time forming responses to the truth of Christianity, recording a podcast to disseminate these and responded to his critic on this blog. You chirp up in defense of Wes and in the process call someone who has far exceeded you on the subject “amateur”.

Now, your usual next move is to rant in a circular fashion saying my criticism of you is null because it represents the criticism I made of you but that only holds if one determines that you are of the same status as the blog author. I don’t.

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Chuck February 11, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Blatantly false. I am simply poking fun at Chuck and Tony Hoffman for trollish commentary and inconsistency. I have not leveled any accusations against their character, whatsoever. Chuck implied I was obese? What thread are you reading? Methinks you’re confused with my post on MITRW #11, where I cite the lack of justification for Alonzo’s condemnation of parents of obese children. [...reads further down the thread...]

My reference to obesity is a metaphor. I’m using the athletic capabilities of a couch potato criticizing the performance of an elite athlete as illustration of your tone CL in calling out Luke as “amateur”. I would not have taken shots at you if you would have chosen to not act in a co-dependent fashion regarding Wes and jump up like his body-guard to attempt insult towards Luke. If you would have simply stated a belief then I’d have not commented but I have a pet peeve against insulting critics who use indignation as an argumentative tactic. Maybe its because I had a lazy no-good drunk as a Dad who had all the answers to the world’s problems while he got lit sucking down beers at the kitchen table. Your tone (and your ideas) remind me of him.

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Luke Muehlhauser February 11, 2011 at 2:16 pm

> See? You just “won” by moving definitions around!

No. I wasn’t trying to ‘win.’ I was explaining my use of the terms, to demonstrate that on my (very common) use of the terms, miracles and magic aren’t mutually exclusive. I wasn’t trying to show that Wes’ definitions were “wrong” and thus I “won.”

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Luke Muehlhauser February 11, 2011 at 2:20 pm

JS Allen,

The good news is that the last apologetics essay in the series is by Matthew Flannagan.

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cl February 11, 2011 at 3:51 pm

Chuck,

You haven’t answered my question: aren’t you being amateur by your own definition? Man up and answer, dang-nabbit!

Sorry CL, you are exhibiting behavior that is combative but not competitive.

Oh cry me a river! Luke calls Wes “amateurish,” and you say nothing. I state my belief that Luke is being “amateurish,” and subsequently stoke your ire, driving you into a frenzy. Who engaged the combat here, Chuck? I wasn’t even speaking to you. You were the one who piped up and did exactly what you accused me of.

Pot-shots referencing Luke’s past performance in regards to his post seems like player-hating (e.g. “You might want to rethink that. On this blog and in your podcast, I’ve seen many a victory feigned on moving the definitions of moral terms around.”).

Oh, so sorry that my criticism of Luke offended you. Geez, I guess when moral terms are redefined unconventionally I’m supposed to just sit back and keep my mouth quiet.

Luke is a player, you are an arrogant spectator so please don’t offend my intelligence by inferring you two are in the same category. He spent time forming responses to the truth of Christianity, recording a podcast to disseminate these and responded to his critic on this blog. You chirp up in defense of Wes and in the process call someone who has far exceeded you on the subject “amateur”.

Guess what buddy? I began writing about (a)theism while Luke was still a wee Christian lad. A solid decade before! Not that it matters, but, since you seem fond of making comparisons between people you know next to nothing about, I thought I’d give a little. As far as me not being a “player,” well… how many published books does Luke have? I’ve got two,and a third in the works. I mean real books, too, as in books with ISBN numbers sold in stores like Barnes & Noble, not “e-books.” Alas, you’ll have to take that on faith, because I like to keep a low profile and I’m not into self-promotion. I fully anticipate that you won’t believe. Then again, doubt is par for the atheist’s course, isn’t it?

I’m using the athletic capabilities of a couch potato criticizing the performance of an elite athlete…

So, anybody with a popular blog and an “e-book” is an “elite athlete?” BWAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!! Hilarious. To each their own, I suppose, but I certainly don’t share your standards. Luke’s got some skill, and I compliment him when and where I think it is due, but, truth be told, you’ve got it backwards: I’ve been a professional writer [read: paid, published, produced Guild member] for over a decade. Again, not that it matters, but since you’re trying to downplay somebody you know nothing about, I thought I’d defend myself just a little. You might take that as “arrogant,” too, but, there’s not much I can do about that.

I would not have taken shots at you if you would have chosen to not act in a co-dependent fashion regarding Wes and jump up like his body-guard to attempt insult towards Luke.

Funny how myopic your vision is. Where I saw fit, I took Luke’s side. Where I saw fit, I took Wes’ side. That’s called being objective, Chuck, and I suggest you take a dip into those waters. Again, I did not “attempt to insult” Luke. I gave my honest opinion: I believe his “brief rebuttal” to Wes is amateurish. Why does that get your undies in such a wad? Luke said the same exact thing about Wes, and you didn’t say a thing. Are you infatuated with Luke or something? Do you like his haircut?

If you would have simply stated a belief then I’d have not commented…

Uh, hello… I did state a belief: my belief that Luke’s “rebuttal” was amateurish. You flew off the handle anyways, so, make sense here.

Maybe its because I had a lazy no-good drunk as a Dad who had all the answers to the world’s problems while he got lit sucking down beers at the kitchen table. Your tone (and your ideas) remind me of him.

Hey buddy, sorry about your troubled past, and indeed, most of us have one, but don’t take your screwed-up childhood out on me. You’re obviously given to emotion here, and that’s about as far from rational as you can get.

At any rate, again, now that you’ve got your digs in, vented, whined, etc., do you have anything intelligent or rational to add to this discussion, or not?

Luke,

I wasn’t trying to ‘win.’ I was explaining my use of the terms, to demonstrate that on my (very common) use of the terms, miracles and magic aren’t mutually exclusive.

You said:

And on this usage, Wes’ concept of miracle is merely a subtype of magic.

IOW, you moved definitions around to, ahem, sustain your point… dare I say, win, when instead, you should simply acknowledge the difference between magic and miracle.

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Steven R. February 11, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Steven R.,
Well, that seems like a genuine question, at least. Minor gripe first: You say “either definition of magic” as if I gave more than one, but I gave precisely one.

Forgive the poor quality of the comment. The computer I was on was lagging and it took 35 seconds to type a sentence on this blog’s comment box, so I had to open a Word Document to type a comment and why I got stuff mixed up. *Hopefully* Now that I’m at home my comments wont confuse you.

Alright, what I meant to say neither definition you provide is quite on par with what Wes gave (in the case of a miracle, it is a huge redefinition).

The salient point: we cannot–by either Wes’ definition of “magic” or mine–attribute the creation of the universe thus, because both definitions require human intervention. So, Luke attacks a strawman on two fronts [that Christians infer "Goddidit" from lack of knowledge being the second]. Personally, I prefer tight logic to rhetorical persuasion, but that’s just me.

The definition of magic you provided seemed to be straggling the line between the definition Luke gave and one closer to Wes. However, because there is a very common definition of magic that doesn’t directly involve humans or knowing the source of this magic, and because this definition is very clearly the one meant given the context of the article, I don’t think that that definition is warranted. Not only that, but it’s a stretch making that definition of magic fit Wes’s, so it just seems like a needless obfuscation of the matter.

I also tend to dislike dictionary definitions when it comes to discussing this sort of thing because they don’t take the time to differentiate between a human and a person. Some definitions of “person” and “personality” involve the word “humanity” (which has previously been a pain in the ass when discussing the topic of abortion, where I tried to differentiate a person from a human only to have a definition of person ) but it is quite obvious that when we say “God is a personal agent” we do not mean, “God is a human” so I don’t think Luke is in any way guilty of wrongfully manipulating words. I think Wes (and to a lesser extent you) should have not taken this definition of “magic” within the context of what Luke wrote. I also get the sense that Wes didn’t even try to understand what Luke wrote, given how he sets up numerous strawman arguments, as Luke points out.

Blatantly false. I am simply poking fun at Chuck and Tony Hoffman for trollish commentary and inconsistency. I have not leveled any accusations against their character, whatsoever. Chuck implied I was obese? What thread are you reading? Methinks you’re confused with my post on MITRW #11, where I cite the lack of justification for Alonzo’s condemnation of parents of obese children. [...reads further down the thread...]

Once again, my sincerest apologies for that. Thankfully I caught it before you got to reply, in which case you’d have every reason to accuse me of blatantly lying…

No worries, Steven R. Things like this happen when you don’t slow down and double-check. We all make mistakes. However, while I harbor no ill will towards you, whatsoever, I do think this mistake is quite revealing. It seems to me that, rather than address any of my actual criticisms, you’re grasping at straws in haste. Why not just try to have a reasonable discussion? I assure you I’m more than interested in those types of things.

No, it wasn’t that I was grasping at straws or looking for a reason to accuse you. I sincerely thought that when you asked your question, it was implied that you were asking him if he was obese in a taunting manner, which would, I think we would all agree, be a sign of not wanting to be a part of a reasonable discussion. I did address one of your criticisms and it was only *after* I completely misunderstood the intent of your post that I didn’t address what you wrote in one paragraph (though in my second paragraph I do offer another “substantial” criticism of what you wrote, if we ignore the first sentence of the paragraph :P). So, at least to regain some of my dignity after that, I do point that I didn’t just go “Oh, there’s a Cl post, let’s attack Cl!”, it was just the result of time constraints and stress (was during a class and was waiting for a friend to finish his part of a major project…that and a really laggy computer which made reading the comments a chore).

It’s a fact of psychology that people–especially insecure people–often react unfavorably to strong criticism. I’ve seen this tendency intensify when the strong criticism comes from a theist to an atheist, and I suspect this is partly because many atheists fancy themselves on the intellectual highground. As an aside, have you ever wondered why I get even more “lover” comments, and many of those from established authorities in these matters? Or, were you just cherrypicking?

Heh, coupled with the comment I thought was poking fun of someone for no reason, I thought it was warranted to say that (that is, you’re getting hate because you attacked people and then misunderstood Luke’s post). Of course, it just looks stupid now, so please ignore that. I now remain silent on the issue of your “haters.”

That’s not my complaint, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Reread my original comment, and if the complaint is unclear, I’ll be happy to continue, especially if you wish to drop the fluff.

I’ve re-read it but it still seems as if you’re getting it wrong. It was Wes who got these odd definitions which hardly fit what Luke was saying and Luke clarifying what he meant (and citing dictionaries that show that he didn’t use a word in a very odd manner to the point that his criticisms was incoherent or at least hard to comprehend) isn’t redefining words to “win”.

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Chuck February 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm

CL
The lady doth protest too much methinks

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Tony Hoffman February 11, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Chuck,

Thanks for this:

Everyone knows that Xenu implanted stories of Jesus into the Thetans after he blew them up and before they attached to our beings. Cross the bridge Christians and you will see that your belief in God is nothing more than overt to keep you from becoming clear.

I don’t know if everybody recognized your point, but I got a kick out of it.

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cl February 11, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Steven R.,

Not only that, but it’s a stretch making that definition of magic fit Wes’s, so it just seems like a needless obfuscation of the matter.

May I politely suggest that you’re missing the forest for the trees here? I wasn’t interested in making an exact match between the definitions. The comparison of definitions was a set-up for a larger point. Widmer wrote,

Luke also seems to confuse miracles with magic and then proceeds to whale on a straw man.

Widmer is entirely correct. Speaking for myself, Widmer, and the many other Christians like us, we do not throw up our arms and say, “We don’t understand how the universe got here, therefore, magic!” Luke’s claim is a preposterously amateurish attack on a strawman [that's right, Chuck, I said it again, so grab a Kleenex].

I also tend to dislike dictionary definitions when it comes to discussing this sort of thing because they don’t take the time to differentiate between a human and a person.

I’m with you. That’s why I think Luke’s “I’ve never seen those definitions in a dictionary” was needless obfuscation.

I think Wes (and to a lesser extent you) should have not taken this definition of “magic” within the context of what Luke wrote.

You’re entitled to your opinion. I believe that Luke should have respected the difference between miracle and magic, as used by his opponent, and refrained from attacking a strawman.

I also get the sense that Wes didn’t even try to understand what Luke wrote, given how he sets up numerous strawman arguments, as Luke points out.

It seems to me that some of Wes’ replies were in haste, yes. However, Wes also made some strong points, and I think it was equally amateurish for Luke to respond to them in haste. What’s good for the goose must be good for the gander, and quite honestly, I see Luke as more guilty of attacking straw than Wes. I already explained why.

Once again, my sincerest apologies for that. Thankfully I caught it before you got to reply, in which case you’d have every reason to accuse me of blatantly lying…

No worries, and, even if I hadn’t caught it before you replied, I would never accuse you of “blatantly lying,” on the same exact logic I criticized Luke for: we can’t reliably know the motives of another, especially on internet discussion. Accusations of “intellectual dishonesty” are a low to which I hope I never get caught stooping.

No, it wasn’t that I was grasping at straws or looking for a reason to accuse you.

To be clear, I don’t recall once implying you were “looking for a reason to accuse me.” I do believe you were “grasping at straws in haste,” though, meaning only that you were eschewing the debate for the side stuff, and that without slowing down to double-check. Whatever though; it’s water under the bridge. Onward?

I sincerely thought that when you asked your question, it was implied that you were asking him if he was obese in a taunting manner, which would, I think we would all agree, be a sign of not wanting to be a part of a reasonable discussion.

Actually, I would disagree to that. Even if I had taunted Chuck thus, that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in reasonable discussion. Taunting and the desire for reasonable discussion are not mutually exclusive.

So, at least to regain some of my dignity after that, I do point that I didn’t just go “Oh, there’s a Cl post, let’s attack Cl!”

Honestly, I never got the impression that was all you were out to do. I had already remarked that your first question to me seemed genuine–unlike Chuck, who has not yet offered a single point of relevance. I apologize if some of my irritation with him carried through to you. Like I said, no ill will, whatsoever.

I now remain silent on the issue of your “haters.”

Fair enough. If only they would remain silent on the object of their adoration!

I’ve re-read it but it still seems as if you’re getting it wrong.

Wouldn’t be the first time I got something wrong, so… [...re-reads the pertinent articles...] I still believe my claim stands: Widmer wrote,

Luke also seems to confuse miracles with magic and then proceeds to whale on a straw man.

Widmer is entirely correct. Speaking for myself, Widmer, and the many other Christians and Aristotleians like us, we do not throw up our arms and say, “We don’t understand how the universe got here, therefore, magic!” Luke’s made a misstep, plain and simple.

Chuck,

The lady doth protest too much methinks

Didn’t you get the memo? Luke accused Wes of being “amateur,” which is exactly what you’ve attempted to crucify me for. So, does that apply to Luke and yourself, too? Answer honestly!

Tony Hoffman,

I don’t know if everybody recognized your point, but I got a kick out of it. [to Chuck]

I got a kick out of that, too.

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Tony Hoffman February 11, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Zeb: I agree; I don’t believe in anything supernatural, because I don’t know what that means. Sure I believe in angels, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, immortal souls, grace, sin, and miracles, but those are all just as natural as energy and matter in God’s creation. So I guess I am a a naturalist.

LOL. No, you are not a naturalist, who explicitly suspends belief in the things you list. The reason why you cannot claim to be naturalist is, that unlike energy and matter, angels, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, immortal souls, and miracles have so far failed any kind of meaningful detection. They appear to be fanciful, not real.

So, no, you have not avoid the problem by misidentifying yourself with naturalism. In order to correctly categorize your list of fanciful things as belonging to the natural world, you must show how their existence can be, in some way, meaningful. Doing that, I will gladly join you.

Zeb: But seriously, anyone who focuses on the burden of proof, or worse yet, the burden of definition, is showing that he is more interested in combat than conversation.

That’s silly thing to say. I’ve found that I can let the conversation go on WAY longer if I pretend that the burden of proof is shared and that I should be the one who defines something that I don’t think exist.

Zeb: …since I do believe in irreducible mind I am willing to take on the epithet “supernaturalist” even though I think irreducible mind is natural.

So (confusion above notwithstanding) at least you do get around to something that fits a description of the supernatural. We can argue about that some other day, but like I said before, that puts you way ahead of most people I talk to who would say they believe in the supernatural.

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Chuck February 11, 2011 at 4:59 pm

I don’t know if everybody recognized your point, but I got a kick out of it.

Well Tony if these folks would just get with LRH and stop all this out-tech then they’d understand what it means to be human.

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Chuck February 11, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Didn’t you get the memo? Luke accused Wes of being “amateur,” which is exactly what you’ve attempted to crucify me for. So, does that apply to Luke and yourself, too? Answer honestly!

I’m not the one posturing as a genre critic of Luke’s blog – you are. I’m perfectly comfortable admitting my amateur status and have never pretended to be otherwise. I mean, you are the person of letters with an e-book and all. You should be above labeling people amateurish.

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mopey February 11, 2011 at 5:14 pm

In reading Wes Widner’s rebuttable directly, I’m not sure that he intends his footnote to the word “miracles” to serve as a definition for the word. In a broad sense, a footnote is an additional comment [as to a main statement] — usually located at the bottom of the [respective] page.

Wes Widner wrote:
Biblically, miracles are performed by God for the specific purpose of making Him known.

It seems to me that there is not any attempt to define the word “miracles” in this footnote. The sentence references a source book, and what this book says about who performs miracles, and why this person performs them. It is as if the meaning of the word “miracles” is presumed to already be understood by the reader, or that a definition of the word is not the purpose of the sentence. If you disagree, assume that the word “miracles” is the definiendum, and then indicate which word(s) are the definiens and what sort of definition is accomplished (lexical, theoretical, persuasive, etc). Does Wes’ sentence really assign a meaning to the word “miracles” ?

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Chuck February 11, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Miracles are in the same category as Thetans. A theological construct to give structure to a systemized belief which can’t be refuted due to their privileged status.

Now, Christians, stop advancing the work of Lord Xenu and get into some tech.

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Rob February 11, 2011 at 5:49 pm

The always insightful and hilarious Robert Price discusses miracles and the childish magical thinking of Christians during the January 2nd Bible Geek staring at 18:45.

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Luke Muehlhauser February 11, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Chuck,

Yes.

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Ralph February 11, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Why do you insist on feeding that troll cl? He has demonstrated time and again that he is an amateur hack who wouldn’t recognize a valid argument when it bites him and only comes here to shit on posts because of his insecurities about his own beliefs. I repeat: Stop feeding that troll!

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Rob February 11, 2011 at 7:57 pm

I echo Ralph’s assessment of cl. Not only is he unable to follow a logical argument, but he relentlessly quote mines his interlocutor uncharitably. I’m not sure if he does the latter out of spite or because he’s just that stupid. Regardless, engaging with him is a waste of time.

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Chuck February 11, 2011 at 8:07 pm

I think cl is a woman. Her response to me listing her credentials is good insight into her level of security. It is sad really.

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Ralph February 11, 2011 at 8:11 pm

I echo Ralph’s assessment of cl. Not only is he unable to follow a logical argument, but he relentlessly quote mines his interlocutor uncharitably. I’m not sure if he does the latter out of spite or because he’s just that stupid.   (Quote)

WORD on the quote mining.

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Eric February 12, 2011 at 12:55 am

From Merriam-Webster :
Magic … 2a : an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source
Honestly, if Christians haven’t figured out this is the definition of Magic we speak of, then honestly. there is no hope.

I’ve challenged cl a few times. It’s not all that hard. Usually his comments are so amateurish, it takes very little thought to respond. It just can be very tedious. You just have to be willing to explain things to him “barney style.” Its good practice for conversations with Theists of the sort. We can get so wrapped up in sophisticated argument that we forget how to argue with the incredibly amateurish and unsophisticated arguments we see from theists everyday.

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Duke York February 12, 2011 at 4:07 am

Widmer is entirely correct. Speaking for myself, Widmer, and the many other Christians like us, we do not throw up our arms and say, “We don’t understand how the universe got here, therefore, magic!”

Yes. Christians throw up their arms and say:

“We don’t understand how the universe got here, therefore, my invisible friend did it!”

Yes, yes. That’s much more rational.

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Luke Muehlhauser February 12, 2011 at 7:24 am

Duke York,

I’m tempted to start calling it “the Bill-O argument” after Bill O’Reilly.

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Zeb February 12, 2011 at 8:03 am

. The reason why you cannot claim to be naturalist is, that unlike energy and matter, angels, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, immortal souls, and miracles have so far failed any kind of meaningful detection. They appear to be fanciful, not real.

So, the person who believes in multiple universes or the mathematical universe or string theory is also barred from calling himself a naturalist? No, they are not. “[Having] so far failed any kind of meaningful detection” might be your personal definition of non-natural (supernatural?), but it does not match up with the popular or philosophical usages. My point is that “supernatural” is a common concept, and anyone interested in clarifying and evaluating concepts (ie any philsophical inquirer) will be interested in helping figure out what people mean by it. And I’d say that naturalists, who must define their world-view by what they reject (that is to say, the non-natural, which may be synonymous with the supernatural), should have more interested in defining what it is they reject than anyone who believes in anything commonly referred to as the supernatural. For the one who believes in something “supernatural,” the “supernatural” is in fact natural to reality as the believe it to be. And indeed the naturalist Richard Carrier as taken it upon himself to define more precisely what it is that he as a naturalist rejects, so that his position is more clear and that which is rejects can be more clearly argued against. And it’s not “all things that have so far failed meaningful demonstration”, because science is not complete yet, and things that may be indemonstrable, like other universes, can still fit in a naturalist’s picture of reality. As I said, I would not have described myself as a supernaturalist, because everything I believe in is natural (if I’m right about reality, which I must believe that I am). But I think Carrier’s definition does map pretty well to how “supernatural” is used generally (not particularly be “supernaturalists”) and so I accept that in the common parlance I am a “supernaturalist.”

But again, I can’t see any reason for even talking about “burdens” in any conversation unless you are more interested in winning than reaching mutual understanding. Especially the burden of definition for a commonly used word. Here’s to atheists like Carrier who want to increase understanding rather than score points.

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Chuck February 12, 2011 at 8:13 am

So, the person who believes in multiple universes or the mathematical universe or string theory is also barred from calling himself a naturalist? No, they are not.

That is because theoretical physicists humble themselves to experimental physics and seek natural predictions to their theories (e.g. the spin of the graviton). Your willingness to cite this to support your privileged superstition indicates classical apologetics and a misrepresentation of string theory. You equivocate in categories to use as explication for your wishful thinking as naturalism by using string theory as equal to angels because string theory remains inconclusive due to the fact it hasn’t been validated on anything more than post-diction rather than prediction. What prediction are you willing to make to validate the natural reality of your belief angels exist? How independent will you allow the modeled experiments? Thus far, you say you wish them to be true so therefore they are true.

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Zeb February 12, 2011 at 8:33 am

I think you are missing my point Chuck. I don’t call myself a naturalist. I was yanking Tony’s chain because he said that whoever posits the supernatural has the burden of meaningfully defining the term, not just proving the existence of supernatural things. But since “supernatural” things are natural if they are real, I don’t think theists or astrologers or whatever have a special burden of defining supernatural. After all it is only on naturalism that the supernatural is not natural. But, since supernatural is a commonly used word/concept in our society everyone has the burden of trying to clarify what it means, and anyone like naturalists who defines their position in relationship to the supernatural, or anyone having conversations about such things, has a special interest in clarifying the concept.

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Chuck February 12, 2011 at 9:07 am

I think you are missing my point Chuck.

No, I don’t think so. Your point fails. Tony’s contention stands if you wish to use string theory as an analogue to your superstition. Theoretical physicists arguing for string theory as a unified theory between general relativity and quantum mechanics have yet to offer a predictive experiment satisfying to its natural “realness”.

String theory is not “supernatural” in the way your belief in angels is and theoretical physicists are working their ass off in defining its meaning. They do exactly as Tony says a supernaturalist must if they are going to be taken seriously as being part of the natural world.

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Zeb February 12, 2011 at 9:39 am

We are not talking about “realness,” we are talking about “naturalness” vs “supernaturalness.” We’re talking about who should endeavor to clarify the meaning of common concepts, and why. But now that you are calling my belief in angels “supernatural,” please tell us what you mean that that.

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Paul February 12, 2011 at 9:56 am

So, the person who believes in multiple universes or the mathematical universe or string theory is also barred from calling himself a naturalist?No, they are not.

Scientists do not “believe in” multiple universes or string theory in the sense that they hold that multiple universes exist but they don’t have sufficient evidence for that conclusion. Those ideas are working hypotheses that would explain some things once sufficient evidence is acquired. They only “hold” those ideas in the sense that they might suspect their truth. Scientists are working on getting verifiable evidence for those hypotheses. That’s methodological naturalism.

Who’s working on verifiable evidence for angels?

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Zeb February 12, 2011 at 10:18 am

Scientists do not “believe in”

A) Who said they do?
B) How do you know they don’t?
C) What’s this have to do with whether anything is natural or supernatural?

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Chuck February 12, 2011 at 10:49 am

A. You did Zeb by comparing the naturalism of angels to the naturalism of string theory
B Read Brian Green’s book “The Elegant Universe”
C Help us understand your point

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Zeb February 12, 2011 at 11:04 am

A)I did not say that “scientists” believe in string theory or multiple universes, I referred to people who do and yet get themselves or get called naturalists. I know there are such people, and I’d bet anything that there are scientists among them. But it would be foolish for anyone to refer to “scientists” as a monolithic group and to ascribe beliefs to them.

B) Brian Green shows that no scientists believe in string theory or multi-universes? I doubt it. But that’s beside the point; the point is, there are people who believe in those things, some of whom consider themselves naturalists, and none of whom are called supernaturalists based on those particular beliefs.

C)My point is that “supernatural” is a term/concept commonly used by all kinds of people regardless of their beliefs (including you!), and anyone interested in clarify concepts or conversing about these subjects should be interested in participating in clarifying what “supernatural” is.

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Paul February 12, 2011 at 11:11 am

A) Who said they do?

What’s your point? Why does who said this matter?

B) How do you know they don’t?

My implication was not some statistic about what scientists believe, but, rather, an explanation of how science and methodological naturalism, properly construed, should proceed. Forgive me for using “scientists” as an informal stand-in for “science.” I should have known better.

C) What’s this have to do with whether anything is natural or supernatural?  

See my answer to B above.
It explains

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Paul February 12, 2011 at 11:11 am

Oops, delete “It explains” above.

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Tony Hoffman February 12, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Me: “The reason why you cannot claim to be naturalist is, that unlike energy and matter, angels, Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, immortal souls, and miracles have so far failed any kind of meaningful detection. They appear to be fanciful, not real.”

Zeb: So, the person who believes in multiple universes or the mathematical universe or string theory is also barred from calling himself a naturalist? No, they are not.”

If the person believes that the things you mention exist but cannot be detected, I don’t think they are naturalists. This seems uncontroversial. 

“[Having] so far failed any kind of meaningful detection” might be your personal definition of non-natural (supernatural?), but it does not match up with the popular or philosophical usages. 

I am a naturalist, which by definition means that I don’t think the supernatural exists. Why do you keep insisting that I define something that I do not think exists? Is it reasonable for a New Ager to ask you how you define the healing power of crystals? A scientologist to ask you to present your non-idiosyncratic definition of dianetics? Please answer this question.

My point is that “supernatural” is a common concept, and anyone interested in clarifying and evaluating concepts (ie any philsophical inquirer) will be interested in helping figure out what people mean by it.

No. Concepts are worthy of clarification when they are coherent and meaningful. I have no interest in a philosophical inquiry into the definition of something that is not coherent and meaningful. I suspect neither do you; we just differ on our assessment of the value of the term “supernatural.”

And I’d say that naturalists, who must define their world-view by what they reject (that is to say, the non-natural, which may be synonymous with the supernatural), should have more interested in defining what it is they reject than anyone who believes in anything commonly referred to as the supernatural. 

No again. Naturalism is a positive claim; naturalism is not asupernaturalism, for instance. As such, it is not required to explain what it is it rejects, only what it is. To be clear, you appear to be dodging the only issue that would make this conversation interesting, which would be to demonstrate that naturalism should include the existence of angels and demons, etc. 

For the one who believes in something “supernatural,” the “supernatural” is in fact natural to reality as the believe it to be. 

Yes, I understand that. Do you understand that I think that the things supernaturalists claim to exist do not, and that I find their claims to be meaningless? The problem isn’t our disagreement, you see, it’s the failure of those making claims for the supernatural (including you) to explain how it is a supernatural entity’s existence is meaningful. I don’t care if they think supernaturalism is as natural as breathing, I care that their claims be meaningful.

And indeed the naturalist Richard Carrier as taken it upon himself to define more precisely what it is that he as a naturalist rejects, so that his position is more clear and that which is rejects can be more clearly argued against. And it’s not “all things that have so far failed meaningful demonstration”, because science is not complete yet, and things that may be indemonstrable, like other universes, can still fit in a naturalist’s picture of reality.

And I pretty much agree with Carrier. Are you under the impression that the two of us disagree? Because if so that’s probably a simple misunderstanding. 

As I said, I would not have described myself as a supernaturalist, because everything I believe in is natural (if I’m right about reality, which I must believe that I am). But I think Carrier’s definition does map pretty well to how “supernatural” is used generally (not particularly be “supernaturalists”) and so I accept that in the common parlance I am a “supernaturalist.”

Yes, and I agree that in the common parlance you would be considered a supernaturalist, and I understand that you think the term is somehow inappropriate. But in order to persuade me that I am wrong about naturalism, you would need to demonstrate to me how it is supernatural entities exist in a meaningful way.

But again, I can’t see any reason for even talking about “burdens” in any conversation unless you are more interested in winning than reaching mutual understanding. Especially the burden of definition for a commonly used word.

It appears to me that you are tossing a gratuitous slander in my direction while shirking your responsibilities in an argument. I think I have explained why above.

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Zeb February 12, 2011 at 3:17 pm

A) Who said they do?

What’s your point? Why does who said this matter?

Well, you quoted me saying, “the person who believes in multiple universes…” and replied with “Scientists don’t believe in…” I guess you were just setting up your point, not really countering what I said? If so, then never mind my question.

B) How do you know they don’t?

My implication was not some statistic about what scientists believe, but, rather, an explanation of how science and methodological naturalism, properly construed, should proceed. Forgive me for using “scientists” as an informal stand-in for “science.” I should have known better.

I’d like to see how a rewrite of your paragraph would go without referring to scientists.

I think it is important to note that we are talking about philosophical naturalism, not methodological naturalism. Anyone can practice methodological naturalism, no matter what her beliefs. Indeed most religious scientists do. And I don’t think naturalists are bound to accept all and only those beliefs confirmed by sufficient evidence. Based on Luke’s summaries, it sounds like Eliazor Yudkowsky believes in multiple universes even though by definition he can never observe evidence for them. Yet I think he would and should be called a naturalist, or at the very least that his belief in multiple universes cannot be considered a belief in the supernatural. But remember, we’re just talking about terminology; multiple universes might be an outlandish and absurd belief (or not, I don’t care), but they just wouldn’t be called supernatural. Nevertheless, talking about methodological naturalism might be a good way for us to clarify what is “natural” and what is “supernatural.” What is it that methodological necessarily rejects? You tell me if you know.

I think there might be two kinds of things that methodological naturalists necessarily cannot discover, and the method rejects only one of them. The first kind is things that necessarily cannot be discovered by our application of the method, such as other universes. Methodological naturalism cannot reveal other universes to us, but that does not mean the method cannot reveal them to observers with different epistemic positions or capabilities, and so other universes are not ruled out of philosophical naturalism. The other kind is things that by their nature necessarily cannot be revealed by methodological naturalism. These, I think, would be supernatural things, and I cannot think of anything in this category except irreducible mind. There are two reasons that I don’t think methodological naturalism could reveal irreducible mind even if it exists. The first is that I don’t know how you prove a negative; we might not yet know how to reduce some example of a mental thing to non-mental processes, but how would we know that we never could? The second is that to the extent that things exhibiting mental properties follow rules or behave predictably, we will be able to come up with a mechanistic model for them. To the extent that they don’t follow rules or behave predictably, they will appear to be random.

C) What’s this have to do with whether anything is natural or supernatural?  

See my answer to B above.

I don’t get it.

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Zeb February 12, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Darn the blockquotes, I hope you can tell which parts were quotes and which were my responses.

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Paul February 12, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Zeb, let’s back up a sec. We’re getting into unnecessary areas. Whether it’s scientists or science isn’t the crucial point, see below.

You said

“So, the person who believes in multiple universes or the mathematical universe or string theory is also barred from calling himself a naturalist? No, they are not.”

My reply is that science does not – yet – accept multiple universes and string theory. Those are hypothesis without sufficient evidence to adopt.

Naturalism and science withholds acceptance of a hypothesis until there is sufficient and verifiable evidence. So if you believe in – that is, actually adopt as true in multiple universes and string theory, you’re not holding to proper scientific principles (given today’s evidence) nor naturalism. There’s not enough evidence yet.

But the real problem with your formulation is that proper science and naturalism doesn’t “believe” anything (understanding “believe” to mean “adopt without sufficient evidence). There’s only hypotheses and facts sufficiently verified to adopt because of evidence.

Where’s the evidence that’s sufficient to accept angels as fact? One book? See the difference?

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Chuck February 12, 2011 at 4:36 pm

I don’t think it matters to debate Zeb further. Someone like him who conflates metaphysical naturalism with physicalism is not worth conversing with.

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Zeb February 12, 2011 at 5:46 pm

I don’t think it matters to debate Zeb further.Someone like him who conflates metaphysical naturalism with physicalism is not worth conversing with.  

When and how did I do that, and what does that have to do with the subject at hand?

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Chuck February 12, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Zeb, refresh yourself on the meaning of metaphysical naturalism, it’s use of mathematical modeling and your reference to string theory and multiverses.

Then you can get back to me.

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Zeb February 12, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Tony

If the person believes that the things you mention exist but cannot be detected, I don’t think they are naturalists. This seems uncontroversial. 

Is that right? It may be, most of what I know about naturalism I have picked up from this blog. But if so I am surprised that someone who believes in multiple universes, which by definition cannot be detected, someone like Eliazor Yudkowsky, is disqualified from being a naturalist.

I am a naturalist, which by definition means that I don’t think the supernatural exists. Why do you keep insisting that I define something that I do not think exists? Is it reasonable for a New Ager to ask you how you define the healing power of crystals? A scientologist to ask you to present your non-idiosyncratic definition of dianetics? Please answer this question.

So the definition of naturalist includes reference to the supernatural, but “supernatural” does not have a definition as far as you know or care? How do you know you don’t believe in it if you don’t know what it is? I don’t insist you do anything, but I suggest you should participate in clarifying the meaning of “supernatural” because you cannot refrain from referring to it in these kinds of conversations, because apparently your refer to it in the definition of your world view, and because it is a commonly used concept that anyone with an interest in understanding human thought or elevating conversation would want to help clarify.

The hypothetical questions you posed would not be reasonable, and they are not analogous. Analogous would be if I don’t believe in science, asking me what this “science” is that I don’t believe in, or if I don’t believe in morality, suggesting I participate in clearly identifying what people mean by that before I finally dismiss is. These are big, general, commonly referenced concepts rather than specific doctrinal questions. As “supernatural” is. Carrier, who doesn’t believe in the supernatural, took up the challenge, and I think succeeded. Luke, who was a moral nonrealist, continued to pursue the challenge of meaningfully defining “morality,” and not only did so but did so in a way that turned him into a realist. You’ve chosen a very laborious way of saying, “I give up and I’m not having this conversation.”

you appear to be dodging the only issue that would make this conversation interesting,
which would be to demonstrate that naturalism should include the existence of angels and demons, etc.

That’s a different conversation! This conversation, which you started, is about whether “supernatural” has a coherent meaning.

And I pretty much agree with Carrier. Are you under the impression that the two of us disagree?

If you agree with Carrier, then what’s the problem? You have a working definition of “supernatural” that makes it a meaningful term – one which you could kindly share with theists or other supernaturalists who don’t can’t provide a good definition on request. Are you using an idiosyncratic definition of meaningful? Anyway, it appears that you do disagree with Carrier about the value of investigating ideas that you don’t currently agree with.

It appears to me that you are tossing a gratuitous slander in my direction while shirking your responsibilities in an argument.

It’s not gratuitous, it’s well earned. What responsibilities am I shirking in this conversation?

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Zeb February 12, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Paul

My reply is that science does not – yet – accept multiple universes and string theory. Those are hypothesis without sufficient evidence to adopt.

I agree, except that I strongly dislike attributing active verbs to abstract concepts – it causes all kinds of trouble in all kinds of subjects. So let’s say that multiple universes and string theory have not been scientifically validated by humans yet, if you will.

But the real problem with your formulation is that proper science and naturalism doesn’t “believe” anything (understanding “believe” to mean “adopt without sufficient evidence). There’s only hypotheses and facts sufficiently verified to adopt because of evidence.

For one thing, maybe I should have put an emoticon or something after my brief reference to naturalism to show that it was in jest, because my point was really not to talk about that world view, but about the meaning of “supernatural.” Sorry if that has caused genuine confusion. If we can de-personify your statement, I would disagree if you mean to say that narualists the people, not the abstraction, don’t believe in things, even things not yet validated by science. Some certainly do (and on the everyday level all do), and I’m sure you won’t pull a no-true-Scotsman on me there. My point was not to say that belief in angels and belief in multiple universes are equivalent, and therefor equally admissible as naturalism, because neither have been scientifically verified. Just the opposite, I have tried to repeat that multiple universes are not supernatural, even though that have not and cannot be scientifically verifed by us, while angels are supernatural even if they can be scientifically verified*. And so, one who believes in multiple universes can be a true naturalist, I would say, and one who believes in angels cannot.

Where’s the evidence that’s sufficient to accept angels as fact? One book? See the difference?  

Oh yeah, it’s a big difference, and I don’t mean to suggest that belief in angels is on the same footing as belief in things which have been scientifically verified. And, again, not even in the same category as some things which cannot be scientifically verified.

*[Though I do think the "irreducible mind" aspect of angels itself could never be scientifically verified, which I, following Carrier, propose is what really makes them supernatural.]

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Zeb February 12, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Zeb, refresh yourself on the meaning of metaphysical naturalism, it’s use of mathematical modeling and your reference to string theory and multiverses.Then you can get back to me.  

If that’s your attitude, why waste everyone’s time by feigning interest in conversation?

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Steven R. February 12, 2011 at 8:03 pm

To Luke:

It seems that the Bill-O Argument for God has managed to convince a Theist that God doesn’t exist. I was talking to a friend of mine who had been disillusioned with religion and it’s conclusions but he was still swayed by the F-T Argument. When I pointed out that it was no different than Bill-O’s logic, he realized how silly the argument is.

Its good practice for conversations with Theists of the sort. We can get so wrapped up in sophisticated argument that we forget how to argue with the incredibly amateurish and unsophisticated arguments we see from theists everyday.  

Speaking of horrible arguments (and this is just for comedic relief), I remember having an “argument” with a Theist who claimed that “natural disasters are for the greater good because if they didn’t occur, overpopulation would ensue and lead to death” (I know, not even the premise makes sense) but when I pointed out that if an omnipotent God existed, he need not limit life to the space of the Earth and to it’s limits on how many crops, etc. grow, he then said “in a Christian world-view, death isn’t a bad thing.” Needless to say, I had fun pointing out that if that’s the case, the death from overpopulation wouldn’t be a problem since death isn’t a bad thing. Unfortunately, he responded by asking ME to provide evidence for my claim that overpopulation leads to death, even after it was HIS logic and conclusion which led him to say overpopulation leads to death.

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Luke Muehlhauser February 12, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Steven R.,

That’s good news!

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Chuck February 13, 2011 at 6:21 am

If that’s your attitude, why waste everyone’s time by feigning interest in conversation?  

What attitude? You misrepresent metaphysical naturalism by confusing it with physicalism, admit your study of naturalism consists of reading this board and then demand that naturalists give a working definition of supernaturalism based on conclusions you draw from examples derived from your misunderstanding of metaphysical naturalism. I’m simply pointing out (as a favor to you) your need for further study of metaphysical naturalism before defining products of it. Physicalism is different than metaphysical naturalism. There are many web-sites on the Internet that can help you see your misunderstanding. I suggest you better understand the opposite terms to your philosophical views before you demand the adherents of those views give definition to your world-view. It is only charitable that you not misrepresent metaphysical naturalism as a means for you making a case for supernaturalism.

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Tony Hoffman February 13, 2011 at 7:52 am

Me: If the person believes that the things you mention exist but cannot be detected, I don’t think they are naturalists. This seems uncontroversial. 

Zeb: Is that right? It may be, most of what I know about naturalism I have picked up from this blog. But if so I am surprised that someone who believes in multiple universes, which by definition cannot be detected, someone like Eliazor Yudkowsky, is disqualified from being a naturalist.

I probably shouldn’t be talking about multiple universes, because I don’t know very much about what the concept entails. What I meant to say is that naturalists have no reason to include those things which have no empirical effect on reality. Regarding multiple universes, it seems to me  that  one could  argue that an alternate universe could be a project of naturalism in that a) it posits another example of something we know exists (a universe is a natural thing), and b) it could possibly be detected / has an effect on our universe. So I need  to at least modify/clarify my statement above in that way.

Me: I am a naturalist, which by definition means that I don’t think the supernatural exists. Why do you keep insisting that I define something that I do not think exists? Is it reasonable for a New Ager to ask you how you define the healing power of crystals? A scientologist to ask you to present your non-idiosyncratic definition of dianetics? Please answer this question.

Zeb: So the definition of naturalist includes reference to the supernatural, but “supernatural” does not have a definition as far as you know or care? How do you know you don’t believe in it if you don’t know what it is? I don’t insist you do anything, but I suggest you should participate in clarifying the meaning of “supernatural” because you cannot refrain from referring to it in these kinds of conversations, because apparently your refer to it in the definition of your world view, and because it is a commonly used concept that anyone with an interest in understanding human thought or elevating conversation would want to help clarify.

I don’t think I made myself clear then; I thought that you would understand the loose definition of naturalism in my head (always a mistake), which I would phrase as: “The view that those things that we can detect empirically, that provide evidence for their existence, that have a meaningful effect on our universe, are all that exists.” This definition doesn’t refer to supernatural agents in order to be meaningful, and I don’t refer to supernatural agents in order to define naturalism. So, your objection above remains invalid to me.

Zeb: The hypothetical questions you posed would not be reasonable, and they are not analogous. Analogous would be if I don’t believe in science, asking me what this “science” is that I don’t believe in, or if I don’t believe in morality, suggesting I participate in clearly identifying what people mean by that before I finally dismiss is. These are big, general, commonly referenced concepts rather than specific doctrinal questions. 

You appear to be special  pleading above.

Me: …you appear to be dodging the only issue that would make this conversation interesting,
which would be to demonstrate that naturalism should include the existence of angels and demons, etc.

Zeb: That’s a different conversation! This conversation, which you started, is about whether “supernatural” has a coherent meaning.

And the coherence of the definition is directly tied to what it is that makes the thing exist. The two things appear to be two sides of the same coin.

If you agree with Carrier, then what’s the problem? You have a working definition of “supernatural” that makes it a meaningful term – one which you could kindly share with theists or other supernaturalists who don’t can’t provide a good definition on request. Are you using an idiosyncratic definition of meaningful? 

You appear to be misinterpreting Carrier’s attempt to make another claimant’s ill-defined term meaningful with an obligation to do so. I agree that Carrier is doing a service, although I think he is simply offering one more way in which supernatural claims fail (and in order to fail, the claim must be at least coherent). We are talking about a claim by you (that the term supernatural is a meaningless distinction because angels and demons exist in a meaningful way, the same way that rocks and apples do). Those of us who are naturalists disagree, and thus it is your  obligation to demonstrate your claim. 

 Zeb: What responsibilities am I shirking in this conversation?

See my last two sentences above.

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LNC February 13, 2011 at 3:59 pm

PDH wrote,

The bottom line is that the words we use are irrelevant. Luke clearly defined his position and nothing you have said here undermines that. You can call it ‘Peggy Sue’ if you want. The point stands.
There are many simpler and more probable explanations that decrease the mysteriousness of a phenomena rather than increase it. These must be exhausted before resorting to an explanation as terrible as ‘God did it.’
That has nothing to do with assuming naturalism. You can see my thoughts on that in my previous post. I don’t see any need to divide the world up and into ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ things. There are just things and we want the best explanation of them we can find.
If your keys go missing, one explanation is that a ghost took them. That’s a possibility, it can’t be disproved. But before you get the Mystery Machine out you might want to check behind the sofa first. This is what we are advocating.

I would hope that you would provide these “simpler and more probable explanations” before simply hand-waving against the supernatural. If we can show that a phenomenon or a event goes beyond the bounds of natural explanation and that is more plausibly explained by the supernatural, then it is justified in concluding that it is a supernatural event or phenomenon. Before concluding that “God did it” is a terrible explanation, you must at least provide some plausible explanation for the event or phenomenon to show it to be a “terrible explanation.” All you have done is make a baseless assertion at this point.
Your thoughts on the previous post were not very helpful as they didn’t give any basis for assuming that one should default to a naturalistic explanation, you have got to give some reason for discounting the possibility of a supernatural one – a better one than “we just don’t see it.” Maybe the reason that you don’t see it is that you have a priori excluded that explanation from your possible universe.

But it wouldn’t be special pleading to say that God is not contingent, right? Your beliefs are special.

No you wouldn’t as God, by definition is a necessary being. I don’t make the definition, it is what it is. The question then is whether such a being exists. I don’t see why, by the way, it is special pleading to say that an immaterial being must be contingent. What is it about the nature of an immaterial spirit being that would necessitate contingency? On the other hand, matter is contingent both by definition and by empirical experience. The universe, which accounts for all material reality, had a beginning and therefore, is contingent in nature, lest you know of a self-caused material entity or a uncaused material entity that began to exist? In other words, if all that exists materially within the universe is contingent, why should the universe itself not also be contingent? What would it be about the nature of the universe as a whole that would be materially different to allow it to escape contingency?

I may not know the winner of last year’s Crufts Dog Show but I can be pretty sure it wasn’t Dolly the Sheep. Likewise, one may not know how the universe began and yet be sure that it wasn’t created by a God.

How do you know that? Do you have an alternative explanation for how all matter, space, and time came into being either uncaused or self-caused? Or, do you have another explanation the removes God from the picture; some other immaterial reality that is the cause of the universe? In order to say that God did not create the universe, you have to know what did, so I will be interested in hearing your theory.

LNC

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PDH February 13, 2011 at 6:07 pm

LNC wrote,

I would hope that you would provide these “simpler and more probable explanations” before simply hand-waving against the supernatural.If we can show that a phenomenon or a event goes beyond the bounds of natural explanation and that is more plausibly explained by the supernatural, then it is justified in concluding that it is a supernatural event or phenomenon.Before concluding that “God did it” is a terrible explanation, you must at least provide some plausible explanation for the event or phenomenon to show it to be a “terrible explanation.”All you have done is make a baseless assertion at this point.

Your thoughts on the previous post were not very helpful as they didn’t give any basis for assuming that one should default to a naturalistic explanation, you have got to give some reason for discounting the possibility of a supernatural one – a better one than “we just don’t see it.”Maybe the reason that you don’t see it is that you have a priori excluded that explanation from your possible universe.

You’re all over the place, here. I said explicitly that I don’t assume a naturalistic explanation. It’s right there in the text you quoted. What I want is simply a good explanation.

Suppose I opened up a cookery book and read the following instructions:

Step 1: Take out your ingredients.
Step 2: And then a miracle occurs.
Step 3: Voila!

This is how I feel when I open the bible. I’m promised an explanation for how the universe began but all I get is, ‘an unknown entity, with unknown attributes did it through unknown means for unknown reasons and then a miracle occurred.’

Well, I’m sorry but that’s not an explanation. An explanation takes something that we didn’t understand before and then makes it so that we do understand it, now. Theism doesn’t take us from an unknown to the known, it takes us from the unknown to another unknown. It doesn’t explain anything whatsoever.

I don’t care whether an explanation gets called natural or supernatural. I don’t think these are real ontological categories at all. But I will judge it by the same criteria of testability, explanatory scope, parsimony etc. that I use to judge other explanations. And, I’m sorry to be the one to inform you of this, but ‘Magic Man Dunnit,’ is a dreadful explanation.

No you wouldn’t as God, by definition is a necessary being.I don’t make the definition, it is what it is.The question then is whether such a being exists.I don’t see why, by the way, it is special pleading to say that an immaterial being must be contingent.What is it about the nature of an immaterial spirit being that would necessitate contingency?On the other hand, matter is contingent both by definition and by empirical experience.The universe, which accounts for all material reality, had a beginning and therefore, is contingent in nature, lest you know of a self-caused material entity or a uncaused material entity that began to exist?In other words, if all that exists materially within the universe is contingent, why should the universe itself not also be contingent?What would it be about the nature of the universe as a whole that would be materially different to allow it to escape contingency?

Oh, I see, so you can provide a successful ontological argument, can you? One that doesn’t rely on ‘defining’ things into existence?

Because obviously you can’t just say that God is necessary and expect me to agree. That would be begging the question. You have to show that this is the case.

Otherwise, all you’ve done is identified interesting mysteries. You haven’t solved those mysteries.

How do you know that?Do you have an alternative explanation for how all matter, space, and time came into being either uncaused or self-caused?Or, do you have another explanation the removes God from the picture; some other immaterial reality that is the cause of the universe?In order to say that God did not create the universe, you have to know what did, so I will be interested in hearing your theory.

This is just comical. I have to have my own theory in order to show that your theory is wrong? Why? Why do I need to know who won last year’s Crufts in order to say that it was not a deceased sheep clone?

I need only show that theistic explanations fail. There’s no need whatsoever for me to personally explain the origins of the universe. Sorry.

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Steven R. February 13, 2011 at 7:14 pm

No you wouldn’t as God, by definition is a necessary being.I don’t make the definition, it is what it is.The question then is whether such a being exists.I don’t see why, by the way, it is special pleading to say that an immaterial being must be contingent.What is it about the nature of an immaterial spirit being that would necessitate contingency?On the other hand, matter is contingent both by definition and by empirical experience.The universe, which accounts for all material reality, had a beginning and therefore, is contingent in nature, lest you know of a self-caused material entity or a uncaused material entity that began to exist?In other words, if all that exists materially within the universe is contingent, why should the universe itself not also be contingent?What would it be about the nature of the universe as a whole that would be materially different to allow it to escape contingency?
How do you know that?Do you have an alternative explanation for how all matter, space, and time came into being either uncaused or self-caused?Or, do you have another explanation the removes God from the picture; some other immaterial reality that is the cause of the universe?In order to say that God did not create the universe, you have to know what did, so I will be interested in hearing your theory.LNC  

I now have to ask you this: your premises seem to exclude the idea that the universe came from nothing. I now ask you to explain how God helps solve the problem. All you’re doing is saying “God made something come from nothing” but the problem still remains! You haven’t explained anything, you’ve just…well, added God into the equation for no discernible reason.

Oh, and there’s also the Fallacy of Composition. Ex: Since all things are made out of atoms, and human eyes can’t see atoms, can you please tell me what makes humans exempt from being so small that they can’t be seen by the eye?

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LNC February 14, 2011 at 10:52 am

PDH wrote,

You’re all over the place, here. I said explicitly that I don’t assume a naturalistic explanation. It’s right there in the text you quoted. What I want is simply a good explanation.

Come on, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say, as you do here, that you don’t assume naturalism when in a previous response to Cristian you wrote:

If angels were discovered we would just say that angels were natural. If there was something ‘outside of nature’ I would simply say that nature was bigger than we thought it was. It’s a word for the sum total of all that is, was and will ever be. Gods included.
Naturalism has the appearance that it does because of the historical fact that no such things have been discovered. You can call your beliefs supernatural if you want but I’m going to treat them in the exactly the same way I treat everything else.

If that is not assuming naturalism, then I don’t know what is. You are merely redefining supernatural events by expanding the scope of what is called naturalism. You are creating a naturalism-of-the-gaps explanation. To say that what you want is a good explanation, while saying that we should resort to the “terrible goddidit explanation is no different than to assume naturalism. Let’s at least be honest about about our views.

Suppose I opened up a cookery book and read the following instructions:
Step 1: Take out your ingredients.
Step 2: And then a miracle occurs.
Step 3: Voila!
This is how I feel when I open the bible. I’m promised an explanation for how the universe began but all I get is, ‘an unknown entity, with unknown attributes did it through unknown means for unknown reasons and then a miracle occurred.’
Well, I’m sorry but that’s not an explanation. An explanation takes something that we didn’t understand before and then makes it so that we do understand it, now. Theism doesn’t take us from an unknown to the known, it takes us from the unknown to another unknown. It doesn’t explain anything whatsoever.
I don’t care whether an explanation gets called natural or supernatural. I don’t think these are real ontological categories at all. But I will judge it by the same criteria of testability, explanatory scope, parsimony etc. that I use to judge other explanations. And, I’m sorry to be the one to inform you of this, but ‘Magic Man Dunnit,’ is a dreadful explanation.

Maybe you could give your explanation about how the universe came into existence? I asked you that before, but you have not provided your best explanation as to how something could come from nothing. You can’t just shoot down other views and not provide an alternative and better explanation. Often I think that materialists want us just to hold out hope that physical laws will change or somehow show us a loophole to justify the belief that something could come from nothing. However, as a wise physicist once said, “there’s no free lunch, someone’s got to pay.”

However, you present a straw man argument for the theistic explanation and then knock it down. That’s easy to do, but it’s not an honest treatment of the view either. I don’t propose an unknown entity, I propose God who is well known. In fact, the majority of people living or who have lived throughout history have claimed to know him or at least to know of him. So, continue to argue against the “Magic Man” but know that you are really arguing against the “Straw Man” and that is what’s truly dreadful.

Oh, I see, so you can provide a successful ontological argument, can you? One that doesn’t rely on ‘defining’ things into existence?
Because obviously you can’t just say that God is necessary and expect me to agree. That would be begging the question. You have to show that this is the case.
Otherwise, all you’ve done is identified interesting mysteries. You haven’t solved those mysteries.

I like Plantinga’s treatment, but there are others who have done good work as well. You may also want to check out the work of Alexander Pruss (do a search for ‘ontological argument’ at prosblogion.ektopos.com). I think these two should give you some good stuff to chew on. BTW, it is not begging the question to state that God is a necessary being, that is definitional as I explained in my last post, the next step is to show that a necessary being could and does exist. That is not assumed in the definition any more than to say that a unicorn is a horse-like creature with a single horn in the middle of its head and wings on its back assumes that unicorns actually exist. Once defined, we can then go out to examine as to whether such a creature exists. It is through other arguments (ontological, cosmological, teleological, moral and others in which we argue for the existence of such a being).

This is just comical. I have to have my own theory in order to show that your theory is wrong? Why? Why do I need to know who won last year’s Crufts in order to say that it was not a deceased sheep clone?
I need only show that theistic explanations fail. There’s no need whatsoever for me to personally explain the origins of the universe. Sorry.

First, you haven’t given any argument against the existence of God, you have simply made empty assertions against the supernatural. Second, you have two alternatives in disproving my theory: 1) show my explanation to be impossible, or at least, implausible (which you haven’t); 2) provide a better explanation (which you haven’t). So, the bottom line is that all you have done is hand-waving, not real argumentation against my view or in support of yours. So, I will take you at your word that you need to show that the theistic explanation fails to make your case. I’ll look forward to what you have to say.

LNC

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Tony Hoffman February 14, 2011 at 11:01 am

LNC,

Invisible unicorns control all events so that we remain ignorant of their existence. That is my explanation for why things are as they are.

Please, according to your stipulations, 1) show my explanation to be impossible, or at least implausible; 2) provide a better explanation.

Lastly, explain how your demonstration above cannot be used against your own claims without resorting to special pleading.

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LNC February 14, 2011 at 11:07 am

I now have to ask you this: your premises seem to exclude the idea that the universe came from nothing. I now ask you to explain how God helps solve the problem. All you’re doing is saying “God made something come from nothing” but the problem still remains! You haven’t explained anything, you’ve just…well, added God into the equation for no discernible reason.Oh, and there’s also the Fallacy of Composition. Ex: Since all things are made out of atoms, and human eyes can’t see atoms, can you please tell me what makes humans exempt from being so small that they can’t be seen by the eye?  

I’m not sure I follow you. By saying that God created the universe, I’m not arguing that something came from nothing, I’m arguing that the universe was created by God, who is something. In essence, something (the universe) came from something (God). The problem is that you are confusing the argument. The universe is contingent as is all matter, God is immaterial and therefore not subject to contingency in that regard. In fact, I see no reason that God would have to be contingent. The reason that God is necessary is that you cannot have an infinite series of contingent events with no necessary beginning point. That leads to logical absurdities. Beside that, we know that the universe (all matter, space, and time) had a beginning at the Big Bang, so we aren’t arguing for an infinite series of past events, we’re arguing as to how this past finite series of temporal events started. Options: A) caused by something or someone else (immaterial in nature); B) self-caused; C) uncaused. Options B & C are logically problematic, if not completely illogical. So we’re really arguing as to the nature of option A.

As for your challenge of the fallacy of composition, first let me correct your premise. All supra-atomic structures are made up if atoms (subatomic particles are material in nature, but not made up of atoms). You make a second error in that an eye is a particular thing and when you break down the parts to atoms it is no longer an eye, but rather a separate set of atoms. So, I’m not sure what point you are trying to make with this argument. Maybe you could clarify.

LNC

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LNC February 14, 2011 at 12:29 pm

LNC,
Invisible unicorns control all events so that we remain ignorant of their existence. That is my explanation for why things are as they are.Please, according to your stipulations, 1) show my explanation to be impossible, or at least implausible; 2) provide a better explanation.Lastly, explain how your demonstration above cannot be used against your own claims without resorting to special pleading.  

Ah, that’s not hard to do as your explanation does not contain the explanatory scope necessary to account for all of reality. First, we have no evidence of said unicorns and so the basis of your explanation is by your own accounting, implausible. How do you know about these unicorns of which, by your definition, we are ignorant?

I never claimed that God cannot be known or that we must remain ignorant of him. Quite the opposite. He has made himself known repeatedly, even taking on human flesh to live among us.

The problem here again, is that you are picking on straw man arguments to try to defeat theism, when all you end up doing is defeating the straw man.

LNC

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Chuck February 14, 2011 at 12:32 pm

The problem here again, is that you are picking on straw man arguments to try to defeat theism, when all you end up doing is defeating the straw man.

And a practicing OT VIII Scientologist would simply say that you are locked into the space opera brain-washing of Xenu.

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Paul February 14, 2011 at 12:34 pm

You can’t just shoot down other views and not provide an alternative and better explanation.

Yes, I exactly can! If I don’t have an alternative explanation to one that has non-sufficient evidence for it, I say, “I don’t know.”

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LNC February 14, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Yes, I exactly can!If I don’t have an alternative explanation to one that has non-sufficient evidence for it, I say, “I don’t know.”  

Ah, but there’s the problem, you’ve done neither. You’ve not shot down the theistic explanation, nor have you provided an alternative explanation.

LNC

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Paul February 14, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Ah, but there’s the problem, you’ve done neither.You’ve not shot down the theistic explanation, nor have you provided an alternative explanation.LNC  

I’m speaking generally. In general, one need not have an alternative hypothesis in order to show that another hypothesis is not sufficiently supported. That’s all I’m saying.

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LNC February 14, 2011 at 12:58 pm

But Luke, reading fiction is the ultimate way to feel what it’s like to be ‘inside’ another person!  

OK, in general I would agree. Still, in the long run it doesn’t leave a person off the hook to provide an explanation fitting with one’s worldview.

LNC

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bossmanham February 14, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Newsflash: that’s not “naturalism”. Naturalism doesn’t postulate “nothing and then poof”. Naturalism postulates that existence has always existed; while the BB was certainly the beginning of our contingent universe, the context of existence out of which the BB arose has always existed and will always exist

Then naturalism is not only incoherent, but it ignores many much evidence that it says is it’s sole purview into knowledge. Can someone say it with me…sta-hoo-pid!

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Steven R. February 14, 2011 at 2:39 pm

I’m not sure I follow you.By saying that God created the universe, I’m not arguing that something came from nothing, I’m arguing that the universe was created by God, who is something.In essence, something (the universe) came from something (God).The problem is that you are confusing the argument.The universe is contingent as is all matter, God is immaterial and therefore not subject to contingency in that regard.In fact, I see no reason that God would have to be contingent.The reason that God is necessary is that you cannot have an infinite series of contingent events with no necessary beginning point.That leads to logical absurdities. Beside that, we know that the universe (all matter, space, and time) had a beginning at the Big Bang, so we aren’t arguing for an infinite series of past events, we’re arguing as to how this past finite series of temporal events started.Options: A) caused by something or someone else (immaterial in nature); B) self-caused; C) uncaused.Options B & C are logically problematic, if not completely illogical.So we’re really arguing as to the nature of option A.

No, you misunderstood my objection. God may be something but you haven’t actually explained how he created the universe. Because no physical matter existed, God created physical matter out of nothing.

I’ll explain this way: you come home and see a cake made out of flour in the kitchen. You ask yourself how that is since you ran out of flour and due to an importation problem, no flour has reached your town in years and nobody has seen it at all. Surprised, you question how the cake got there. Could the cake have come out of nothing? No, you say, everything created has a cause. Therefore, your wife, Martha, made the cake! But wait, where did she get the flour? You ask her if she found any flour and she said no. Now we’re back in the same rut. Even with Martha (something) we still have the problem that we have no explanation for where the flour came from. You’re no better off saying “The flour came from nowhere” than “Martha made the flour come from nowhere.” It’s still “matter came from nothing.”

Now, if you manage to find some thing that God could have used to create the universe, then what becomes necessary is that thing God used, not God himself. In fact, we can just about cut God from the equation. Maybe no we need some transcendental things, but not God.

As for your challenge of the fallacy of composition, first let me correct your premise.All supra-atomic structures are made up if atoms (subatomic particles are material in nature, but not made up of atoms).You make a second error in that an eye is a particular thing and when you break down the parts to atoms it is no longer an eye, but rather a separate set of atoms.So, I’m not sure what point you are trying to make with this argument.Maybe you could clarify.LNC  

*Sigh* I was just illustrating the fallacy of composition…you missed the point…again.

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Steven R. February 14, 2011 at 2:42 pm

It’s still “matter came from nothing.”

Alright, I’ll rephrase that: “it’s still matter was created from nothing” even if God was responsible for the creation. God does nothing. Instead of “matter was created from nothing” we just tacked on “God did it” to it and say we’ve explained something. It’s silly.

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Tony Hoffman February 14, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Me: “Invisible unicorns control all events so that we remain ignorant of their existence. That is my explanation for why things are as they are.Please, according to your stipulations, 1) show my explanation to be impossible, or at least implausible; 2) provide a better explanation.Lastly, explain how your demonstration above cannot be used against your own claims without resorting to special pleading.  

LNC: “Ah, that’s not hard to do as your explanation does not contain the explanatory scope necessary to account for all of reality. First, we have no evidence of said unicorns and so the basis of your explanation is by your own accounting, implausible. How do you know about these unicorns of which, by your definition, we are ignorant?

And, strike one for LNC! Nope, by my own accounting, a lack of evidence of invisible unicorns who control all events so that we are not aware of their existence is evidence for said unicorns. So, you see, you have not shown their existence to be implausible at all. The less we observe of these invisible unicorns who control all events so as to conceal their existence, I’m thinking, the more plausible their existence becomes.

So, by your own measure, it appears that we are surrounded by invisible unicorns who control all events so as to conceal their existence. Care to use your standards for another try to distinguish them from your belief? Specifically, show the invisible unicorns who control all events so as to conceal their existence  to be impossible or implausible, or provide  a better  explanation (as you stipulated), in a way that does not amount to special pleading.

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LNC February 14, 2011 at 6:04 pm

No, you misunderstood my objection. God may be something but you haven’t actually explained how he created the universe. Because no physical matter existed, God created physical matter out of nothing.
I’ll explain this way: you come home and see a cake made out of flour in the kitchen. You ask yourself how that is since you ran out of flour and due to an importation problem, no flour has reached your town in years and nobody has seen it at all. Surprised, you question how the cake got there. Could the cake have come out of nothing? No, you say, everything created has a cause. Therefore, your wife, Martha, made the cake! But wait, where did she get the flour? You ask her if she found any flour and she said no. Now we’re back in the same rut. Even with Martha (something) we still have the problem that we have no explanation for where the flour came from. You’re no better off saying “The flour came from nowhere” than “Martha made the flour come from nowhere.” It’s still “matter came from nothing.”
Now, if you manage to find some thing that God could have used to create the universe, then what becomes necessary is that thing God used, not God himself. In fact, we can just about cut God from the equation. Maybe no we need some transcendental things, but not God.

I’m not sure what kind of detail you are looking for and why it is necessary to produce such detail. The Bible says that God spoke it into existence and apparently he has the power to do so. The words he used are captured in the Hebrew portion of the Bible if you are interested; however, it is not as if the words contained any power, it is God who contains the power. But you make my point, it makes no sense to say that the flour came from nowhere, it had to come from something or someone. We don’t just assume that it popped into existence out of nothing or that it caused itself to come into being. We look for the agent, the cause.

You are simply trying to come up with a less parsimonious explanation by trying to figure out what God used to create the universe, you are multiplying causes unnecessarily. God alone is the cause.

*Sigh* I was just illustrating the fallacy of composition…you missed the point…again..

Apparently so, but what was your point in illustrating a fallacy that was not committed on my part? Maybe tis you who missed the point.

LNC

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LNC February 14, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Alright, I’ll rephrase that: “it’s still matter was created from nothing” even if God was responsible for the creation. God does nothing. Instead of “matter was created from nothing” we just tacked on “God did it” to it and say we’ve explained something. It’s silly.  

So, are you saying that matter simply popped into existence uncaused? Maybe I’m still not following you, but that is what you seem to be suggesting. But then you say that even if God created from nothing he does nothing? How do you figure that? You need to explain a little more clearly.

LNC

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Steven R. February 14, 2011 at 6:39 pm

I’m not sure what kind of detail you are looking for and why it is necessary to produce such detail.The Bible says that God spoke it into existence and apparently he has the power to do so.The words he used are captured in the Hebrew portion of the Bible if you are interested; however, it is not as if the words contained any power, it is God who contains the power.

Right. So all matter came from words? That’s supposed to make any more sense than all matter came from nothing? When was the last time anyone experienced anything being created, let alone something coming into existence because of words?

But you make my point, it makes no sense to say that the flour came from nowhere, it had to come from something or someone.

…No, you missed the point. It’s that even if we add a personal agent, we still don’t solve the problem of where the flour came from. That’s the actual problem, and adding Martha into the equation does nothing to help. To put your response into context: “Well, maybe Martha said some words and then the flour came into existence!” That’s…not explaining anything and neither is the idea that God created all matter ex nihilo. The problem is, most Theists say, well saying that matter was created for nothing makes no sense, but you know what makes sense? God creating matter from nothing! It’s pointless.

We don’t just assume that it popped into existence out of nothing or that it caused itself to come into being.We look for the agent, the cause.You are simply trying to come up with a less parsimonious explanation by trying to figure out what God used to create the universe, you are multiplying causes unnecessarily.God alone is the cause.
Apparently so, but what was your point in illustrating a fallacy that was not committed on my part?Maybe tis you who missed the point.LNC  

How do you not commit the Fallacy of Composition? You’re saying that because all of the things within the universe have a cause, the universe must have a cause. That’s fallacious logic (even if the universe does have a cause). Then you go on to say that everything created has a cause, even though we’ve never seen anything created (though we have seen things come from nothing, thanks to quantum mechanics) so you can’t even use a priori logic to justify yourself…and then there’s my objection, that you’re saying that matter being created from nothing makes no sense but most Theists think God created matter ex nihilo, or from nothing. The argument is extremely flawed.

And, actually, it appears as if a “reverse black hole” could indeed have created the universe from nothing. So it just may be a possibility. At any rate, if you believe creation ex nihilo like most Theists, what you’re really saying is “I believe that the universe popped into existence from nothing, just that God did it” which is no different than saying “I believe that flour popped into existence, just Martha did it”. It doesn’t help.

—-

To all reading this:

Does my point about the flour make sense? I’m not sure if I’m not being clear or if it’s just LNC not getting my point. Feedback appreciated.

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Tony Hoffman February 14, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Steven R,

You make perfect sense. And LNC is special pleading. Plain as day.

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LNC February 14, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Right. So all matter came from words? That’s supposed to make any more sense than all matter came from nothing? When was the last time anyone experienced anything being created, let alone something coming into existence because of words?

No, matter came from God who used words. Yes, it makes much more sense than matter coming from nothing. In fact, I challenge you to make a philosophical case for the idea of something material coming from nothing without resorting to special pleading. It cannot be done. I gave a talk that didn’t exist prior to my giving it. Therefore something (my speech) came into being by my speaking words. It happens all the time. Commands cause actions that didn’t exist prior to the giving of them.

…No, you missed the point. It’s that even if we add a personal agent, we still don’t solve the problem of where the flour came from. That’s the actual problem, and adding Martha into the equation does nothing to help. To put your response into context: “Well, maybe Martha said some words and then the flour came into existence!” That’s…not explaining anything and neither is the idea that God created all matter ex nihilo. The problem is, most Theists say, well saying that matter was created for nothing makes no sense, but you know what makes sense? God creating matter from nothing! It’s pointless.

You continue to claim that I missed your point when your point is shown to be fallacious or to prove the opposite of what you hoped it would. I don’t think that the problem is that I missed your point, I think the problem is that you made your point badly. We do solve the problem if the agent has the ability to create the flour. Now, in your case, the agents may not have had that power, so we must look to agency beyond them. However, in the case of the universe, God does have the power, so we needn’t look beyond him. You assert that claiming that God created matter ex nihilo is not an explanation, but you haven’t given reason why. Your scenario does not make your case as it begs the question in your favor, but that is not the same as making the case that God is not powerful enough to create ex nihilo. You also are conflating two different concepts, something coming into existence by nothing and from nothing versus something coming into existence by something and from nothing. Can you see the difference? One comes into existence by nothing and the other by something. Those are two different concepts. One results in causality being in tact, the other violates causality. Do you have a reason why the universe is a case for special pleading in violation of causality?

How do you not commit the Fallacy of Composition? You’re saying that because all of the things within the universe have a cause, the universe must have a cause. That’s fallacious logic (even if the universe does have a cause). Then you go on to say that everything created has a cause, even though we’ve never seen anything created (though we have seen things come from nothing, thanks to quantum mechanics) so you can’t even use a priori logic to justify yourself…and then there’s my objection, that you’re saying that matter being created from nothing makes no sense but most Theists think God created matter ex nihilo, or from nothing. The argument is extremely flawed.
And, actually, it appears as if a “reverse black hole” could indeed have created the universe from nothing. So it just may be a possibility. At any rate, if you believe creation ex nihilo like most Theists, what you’re really saying is “I believe that the universe popped into existence from nothing, just that God did it” which is no different than saying “I believe that flour popped into existence, just Martha did it”. It doesn’t help.

I don’t believe I stated my argument in that way, therefore, you have assumed a composition error that I didn’t commit, as I said before. I am saying that contingent things have require a cause, the universe is a contingent thing and science has already given plenty of evidence for that. The Big Bang is the beginning of the universe. Everything that has a beginning has a cause. Therefore, the universe requires a cause. Now, if you believe that the universe is a special case that escapes causality, then the burden of proof is on you, not me. The fallacy here is not a composition error, but special pleading on your case. For, if you claim that the universe is either not contingent or, being contingent, simply popped into existence uncaused, then that is a clear case of special pleading.

I never said that everything created has a cause, those were words that you and others attributed to me, but I never said that. I said that everything that comes into existence has a cause, that is a more precise way of stating it without begging the question. Are you telling me that you have never seen anything created? What about your post, did it exist before you thought it and typed it? Did it have a cause, or did it just appear ex nihilo? Regarding quantum mechanics, you are mistaken, even quanta come into existence from a quantum energy vacuum, so technically, they are not coming into existence out of nothing.

Again, there is a difference between matter coming into existence by nothing and out of nothing from matter coming into existence by something (or someone), out of nothing. I’ve made that point already, so I won’t belabor it any more. The only reason that the argument may seem flawed is due to your misunderstanding and misrepresentation of it.

Reverse black holes assume that energy existed prior to the Big Bang singularity. We have no evidence, nor could we ever have empirical evidence of such existence since we cannot measure anything prior to Plank time. Yet, we can, through other postulates, come to the conclusion that matter, space, and time came into existence with the Big Bang singularity.

LNC

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LNC February 14, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Steven R,You make perfect sense. And LNC is special pleading. Plain as day.  

Would you care to make your case to back this assertion? I believe you have confused me with Steven who I have shown was special pleading. In fact, he wasn’t even accusing me of special pleading, it was I who was claiming that of him, with evidence to back the claim, by the way.

LNC

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Steven R. February 14, 2011 at 9:40 pm

No, matter came from God who used words.Yes, it makes much more sense than matter coming from nothing.In fact, I challenge you to make a philosophical case for the idea of something material coming from nothing without resorting to special pleading. It cannot be done.I gave a talk that didn’t exist prior to my giving it.Therefore something (my speech) came into being by my speaking words.It happens all the time.Commands cause actions that didn’t exist prior to the giving of them.

All your talk did was transform energy, not “create” anything in the real sense of the word. Your definitions are way off. What do you mean by a “philosophical” case? We already know from quantum mechanics that things CAN come from nothing in a vacuum. There. Not only that, but it is YOU who has to prove that nothing has restrictive properties which prevent something from coming into existence. Otherwise, it is plausible, if odd.

You continue to claim that I missed your point when your point is shown to be fallacious or to prove the opposite of what you hoped it would.

…You didn’t show it to be fallacious. All you’ve done is say it “matter cannot be created from nothing” without proving such an assertion. You can’t just say something is fallacious without explaining it.

I don’t think that the problem is that I missed your point, I think the problem is that you made your point badly.We do solve the problem if the agent has the ability to create the flour.Now, in your case, the agents may not have had that power, so we must look to agency beyond them.

>< With the Cosmological Argument, all you do is say "well, because we've run out of options, we'll just say God somehow has the power to create the universe" so it's no different than saying "well, I have no idea how the flour got here, so I'll just say that Martha had the power" and in both instances, we can draw the same arguments to justify these assertions.

However, in the case of the universe, God does have the power, so we needn’t look beyond him.

Do you even understand how the argument works? You don’t say “God has the power” right off the bat, you deduct that God has the power because there are no other options. This would make the assertion “Martha was the one who made created the flour” just as valid as the God assertion–because deductively, there’s nothing else to do! That is, you don’t know what powers God has, you just deduct he has the power to create the universe.

You assert that claiming that God created matter ex nihilo is not an explanation, but you haven’t given reason why.

What?? I explained why! It’s because you’re saying that logically speaking, “matter cannot be created from nothing” but by positing God, all you’re saying is “matter was created from nothing” even if God did it! IF it is logically impossible for matter to be created from nothing, then God doesn’t explain a darn thing. On the other hand, if it is possible for matter to be created from nothing, your deductive argument fails. That’s what I was trying to illustrate with the flour example. Simply because we have something (in my example, Martha) it doesn’t mean that we’ve removed the problem that we’re still saying that flour came from nothing.

Your scenario does not make your case as it begs the question in your favor, but that is not the same as making the case that God is not powerful enough to create ex nihilo.

No, I am not begging the question, I’m providing an example to illustrate why tacking “Personal Agent X” did it doesn’t help when we have no idea how it occurred in the first place.

You also are conflating two different concepts, something coming into existence by nothing and from nothing versus something coming into existence by something and from nothing.Can you see the difference?

The question is, can you see that even though God is something, you’re still saying creation itself was caused by nothing being turned into matter? That’s what creation Ex Nihilo is. You’re just getting confused by the language. Yes, God is something, but that doesn’t take away the fact that creation Ex Nihilo is something coming from nothing. Once again, let’s go back to Martha.

There is no way to make flour. We then say, Martha created it. But how? Oh, from nothing. In scenario one we have:

“Flour appeared from nothing” in the other “Flour appeared from nothing because of Martha.” In both instances, nothing generated flour, and thus, if it is logically impossible for flour to appear from nothing, then Martha cannot do the other. Yes, Martha is something, but it’s not the something we’re trying to explain. We’re explaining the flour, which came from no other material thing.

One comes into existence by nothing and the other by something.Those are two differentconcepts.One results in causality being in tact, the other violates causality.Do you have a reason why the universe is a case for special pleading in violation of causality?

Refer to thing above. You’re just confusing what the “something” is. We’re talking about how the universe came about, and creation ex nihilo still says, matter was created from nothing.

I don’t believe I stated my argument in that way, therefore, you have assumed a composition error that I didn’t commit, as I said before.I am saying that contingent things have require a cause, the universe is a contingent thing and science has already given plenty of evidence for that.The Big Bang is the beginning of the universe.Everything that has a beginning has a cause.Therefore, the universe requires a cause.Now, if you believe that the universe is a special case that escapes causality, then the burden of proof is on you, not me.The fallacy here is not a composition error, but special pleading on your case.

I’ve spent enough time here to dig through your comments, but you did say something like “everything in the universe is contingent. Why shouldn’t this be the case for the universe?” That’s the fallacy! I said the basis of your argument is fallacious, even if the conclusion you reach is correct. It doesn’t matter if you’re right in the Big Bang being the cause, how you arrived at that conclusion was fallacious, and thus, the basis of your argument is false. Does that mean that God didn’t create the universe? No, just because the basis of your argument is false doesn’t mean that God didn’t create the universe. Same concept.

For, if you claim that the universe is either not contingent or, being contingent, simply popped into existence uncaused, then that is a clear case of special pleading.I never said that everything created has a cause, those were words that you and others attributed to me, but I never said that.I said that everything that comes into existence has a cause, that is a more precise way of stating it without begging the question.

I believe that this statement has more complications. I gotta re-read Luke’s articles on the Kalam. You should too. But okay, you said something a little different. Doesn’t really change my criticism.

Are you telling me that you have never seen anything created?What about your post, did it exist before you thought it and typed it?Did it have a cause, or did it just appear ex nihilo?

That isn’t “created” in the real sense of the word. Have you read up on the Laws of Conservation of Energy, Electricity, et. al? Computers don’t create comments, they just transfer electricity, magnetic fields and other junk that I don’t know about and convert them into meaningful things for us humans. My comment is no more created than the popcorn after it was put in the microwave.

Regarding quantum mechanics, you are mistaken, even quanta come into existence from a quantum energy vacuum, so technically, they are not coming into existence out of nothing.

That’s completely irrelevant. All that means is that once there is something, you need some other conditions to replicate nothingness. But once nothing IS replicated, things do come from nothing. As one person commenting on the argument wrote, “it doesn’t matter, something still came from nothing,” and thus, your objection is just obfuscating the matter. There’s no technically about it…

Again, there is a difference between matter coming into existence by nothing and out of nothing from matter coming into existence by something (or someone), out of nothing.I’ve made that point already, so I won’t belabor it any more.The only reason that the argument may seem flawed is due to your misunderstanding and misrepresentation of it.

…Yeah, I don’t think so. Not to be excessively aggressive, but you’re the one who still thinks comments are “created” and that we’ve ever experienced things beginning to exist.

Reverse black holes assume that energy existed prior to the Big Bang singularity.We have no evidence, nor could we ever have empirical evidence of such existence since we cannot measure anything prior to Plank time.Yet, we can, through other postulates, come to the conclusion that matter, space, and time came into existence with the Big Bang singularity.
LNC  

Eh, reverse black holes would explain how all matter came about, something like the Big Bang, so you seem to misunderstand what they are. They aren’t replacing the Big Bang, quite the contrary, they are explaining where all the matter for it came from. Not only that, but none of your objections to reverse black holes are relevant. Just like we assume that energy still exists, with the Cosmological Argument, we assume disembodied minds exists.

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Tony Hoffman February 15, 2011 at 7:13 am

LNC: Would you care to make your case to back this assertion? I believe you have confused me with Steven who I have shown was special pleading. In fact, he wasn’t even accusing me of special pleading, it was I who was claiming that of him, with evidence to back the claim, by the way.

You haven’t responded to my last comment to you (February 14, 5:03), so unless you do that, no, I don’t care to respond to any of your questions.

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Duke York February 15, 2011 at 9:19 am

God does have the power, so we needn’t look beyond him

And how do we know that this “God” has the power?

Because a character with the same name appears in an ancient and claims to be all powerful, despite not acting all powerful.

Really, just because you can articulate the sentence “My invisible friend can do anything” doesn’t mean you’ve proven that your invisible friend can actually do anything, or even that your invisible friend exists.

Duke

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Chuck February 15, 2011 at 9:21 am

I feel so sad for theists who insist that the biblical god has the power to create the world because it is so obvious they are in need of extended auditing to clear themselves from the thetans occupying their body who are still confused by Xenu’s space opera brain-washing.

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LNC February 16, 2011 at 11:17 am
All your talk did was transform energy, not “create” anything in the real sense of the word. Your definitions are way off. What do you mean by a “philosophical” case? We already know from quantum mechanics that things CAN come from nothing in a vacuum. There. Not only that, but it is YOU who has to prove that nothing has restrictive properties which prevent something from coming into existence. Otherwise, it is plausible, if odd.

You said that you have never seen anything created, which is false. I gave you an example of something that was created. It matters not in this case what was created or how, it fulfills the claim that something was created. My post was created, it did not exist until I typed it and submitted it. There you are, examples of things created. Now, if you are referring to energy being created, we don’t see that within our universe as it would be a violation of the 1LOT; however, that doesn’t mean that energy and matter weren’t created when the universe came into being. Borde, Vilenkin, and Guth have already given evidence that the universe is not past eternal, it had a beginning. Hawkings’ work confirmed that. Regarding quantum, you fail to realize that the vacuum is filled with quantum energy, so technically, the quantum event is not coming from nothing. I think you are misinformed in your understanding of quantum physics. Do you understand what “nothing” means? It means “no thing.” There is no property where no thing exists. There is no plausibility of existence where there is no existence. There are no odds that nothing will become something if given enough time. That is philosophically silly, but a silliness that many people seem to be desperately glomming onto. The problem is that people like Hawkings and others are redefining nothing to actually mean just a little bit of something. Yet, to do so only pushes the question back one step as that something still requires explanation. I think this is one of the main critiques of his new book.

…You didn’t show it to be fallacious. All you’ve done is say it “matter cannot be created from nothing” without proving such an assertion. You can’t just say something is fallacious without explaining it.

Try a violation of causation. Nothing is creating something from nothing. Seems like a pretty clear violation to me.

>< With the Cosmological Argument, all you do is say "well, because we've run out of options, we'll just say God somehow has the power to create the universe" so it's no different than saying "well, I have no idea how the flour got here, so I'll just say that Martha had the power" and in both instances, we can draw the same arguments to justify these assertions.

False. You need to get familiar with the cosmological argument. It argues nothing of the kind. Let me state it clearly: 1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause. 2) The universe began to exist. 3) Therefore, the universe has a cause. If you care to actually critique this argument by showing either premise to be false or that the conclusion does not logically follow from the two premises, I’d be happy to discuss that. However, straw man arguments won’t be addressed.

Do you even understand how the argument works? You don’t say “God has the power” right off the bat, you deduct that God has the power because there are no other options. This would make the assertion “Martha was the one who made created the flour” just as valid as the God assertion–because deductively, there’s nothing else to do! That is, you don’t know what powers God has, you just deduct he has the power to create the universe.

One does not have to draw the conclusion that God has the power only when all other options are exhausted. One can look at other evidence to draw that conclusion. God has demonstrated that he has the power through miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament, including the raising of Jesus from the dead. So yes, we do know what power God has.

What?? I explained why! It’s because you’re saying that logically speaking, “matter cannot be created from nothing” but by positing God, all you’re saying is “matter was created from nothing” even if God did it! IF it is logically impossible for matter to be created from nothing, then God doesn’t explain a darn thing. On the other hand, if it is possible for matter to be created from nothing, your deductive argument fails. That’s what I was trying to illustrate with the flour example. Simply because we have something (in my example, Martha) it doesn’t mean that we’ve removed the problem that we’re still saying that flour came from nothing.

Are you reading my posts? I said that matter cannot be created by nothing from nothing – the argument that you would have to be making. I didn’t say that matter could not be created out of nothing by something, namely God. There is no logical problem with that conclusion, whereas, your position is logically problematic. I have explained this clearly and repeatedly and yet, you seem to have ignored that. You are either willfully misrepresenting what I’m saying or you are not understanding what I am saying. Which is it? You must show that matter can be created from nothing and by nothing for your logic to carry, unfortunately, that has been shown to be a fallacious concept. Here’s a problem for you. What is nothing times nothing? What if you keep multiplying nothing by itself? The answer is that you end up with nothing as the concept is fallacious. You cannot multiply no-things, nor can you add, subtract, or divide. Does that make it clearer for you?

No, I am not begging the question, I’m providing an example to illustrate why tacking “Personal Agent X” did it doesn’t help when we have no idea how it occurred in the first place.

Are you saying that we need to know how something happened before we know that it was caused by an agent? Sorry, but that is not how things are done in the real world. For example, a detective doesn’t have to know all the details of how a murder was committed to know that it was murder. An archeologist doesn’t have to know how an artifact was created to know that an agent created it. We can detect agency without knowing all of the details as to how the agent did what was done.

The question is, can you see that even though God is something, you’re still saying creation itself was caused by nothing being turned into matter? That’s what creation Ex Nihilo is. You’re just getting confused by the language. Yes, God is something, but that doesn’t take away the fact that creation Ex Nihilo is something coming from nothing. Once again, let’s go back to Martha.
There is no way to make flour. We then say, Martha created it. But how? Oh, from nothing. In scenario one we have:
“Flour appeared from nothing” in the other “Flour appeared from nothing because of Martha.” In both instances, nothing generated flour, and thus, if it is logically impossible for flour to appear from nothing, then Martha cannot do the other. Yes, Martha is something, but it’s not the something we’re trying to explain. We’re explaining the flour, which came from no other material thing.

You simply want to keep denying the obvious. As I have said repeatedly, God creating out of nothing is not the same as something coming into existence from nothing by nothing. Your scenario is irrelevant as it is not equivalent to the case at hand and it is only confusing you. If the flour is there we know that it didn’t just pop into existence, don’t we? We know that things don’t just pop into existence uncaused, can we agree on that? So, somehow the flour got into Martha’s kitchen through agency. We also know that universes don’t just pop into existence uncaused. They must have a cause as well. I’m not sure why this concept is so difficult for you to accept, unless it is because it runs counter to your worldview and therefore, you don’t want to accept the obvious.

Refer to thing above. You’re just confusing what the “something” is. We’re talking about how the universe came about, and creation ex nihilo still says, matter was created from nothing.

No, it is actually you who are confusing the concept of “something” and “nothing.” Your posts above prove that point. Yes, creation ex nihilo says that matter was create “out of” nothing, but that doesn’t mean that it was created “by nothing.” I hope that idea sinks in soon with you, I grow weary of repeating myself on this most basic of points.

I’ve spent enough time here to dig through your comments, but you did say something like “everything in the universe is contingent. Why shouldn’t this be the case for the universe?” That’s the fallacy! I said the basis of your argument is fallacious, even if the conclusion you reach is correct. It doesn’t matter if you’re right in the Big Bang being the cause, how you arrived at that conclusion was fallacious, and thus, the basis of your argument is false. Does that mean that God didn’t create the universe? No, just because the basis of your argument is false doesn’t mean that God didn’t create the universe. Same concept.

What I said was that Luke’s view would seem to be special pleading in regard to the universe in relation to the particulars within the universe, which are contingent. However, that is not based upon a composition argument as much as it is by the fact that matter is contingent rather than necessary in nature. Now, if you would like to give evidence to show that matter could be necessary in nature, I would be happy to discuss this; however, if you are arguing that I based my argument on composition, that is wrong and without basis. I will assume that you properly understand the difference between necessity and contingency. I am glad, however, that you recognize that the conclusion of the argument is correct, however, I never argued this as a basis for arguing that God created the universe, let me say that it does indicate the the universe was created by a personal agent who is immaterial, powerful, and wise. Sounds like God to me, but if you have alternatives that would fit that description, I’m willing to hear and discuss them.

I believe that this statement has more complications. I gotta re-read Luke’s articles on the Kalam. You should too. But okay, you said something a little different. Doesn’t really change my criticism.

To say that my statement has complications without knowing what they are is a fideistic statement, not a statement of fact. I am well aware of the Kalam argument and the critiques of it. I don’t believe the critiques hold up under examination.

That isn’t “created” in the real sense of the word. Have you read up on the Laws of Conservation of Energy, Electricity, et. al? Computers don’t create comments, they just transfer electricity, magnetic fields and other junk that I don’t know about and convert them into meaningful things for us humans. My comment is no more created than the popcorn after it was put in the microwave.

Merriam Webster: Create: to bring into existence. Dictionary.com: Create: to cause to come into being, as something unique that wouldnot naturally evolve or that is not made by ordinary processes. It seems that the way that I have used the word “create” is in keeping with both of these definitions. I am familiar with the law of conservation of energy, electricity, etc. Was there something in particular that you wanted to reference in regard to them? I never said that computers create comments, I said that an agent (me, in this case) creates a comment using a computer (in this case), but it is the agent on which I am focusing, the computer is simply the efficient cause, but I am the final cause of the comment posted. Are you familiar with Aristotle’s four causes (material, formal, efficient, and final)? You may want to become so if you are not as you are confusing the different types of causes here.

That’s completely irrelevant. All that means is that once there is something, you need some other conditions to replicate nothingness. But once nothing IS replicated, things do come from nothing. As one person commenting on the argument wrote, “it doesn’t matter, something still came from nothing,” and thus, your objection is just obfuscating the matter. There’s no technically about it…

I don’t think you are as familiar with quantum mechanics as you pretend to be. You have completely misrepresented the concept here. You also may want to read up on philosophy as you are confused about the concept of nothing. Maybe start with the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy online. Nothingness is not represented by conditions, but rather the lack thereof.

…Yeah, I don’t think so. Not to be excessively aggressive, but you’re the one who still thinks comments are “created” and that we’ve ever experienced things beginning to exist.

That’s all you have to say in your defense? You conflate two concepts, it is pointed out and you answer, “Yeah, I don’t think so”? Sorry, but now you are being clearly disingenuous. If you cannot be honest about being wrong when it has clearly been pointed out, you are becoming a waste of my time to interact with.

Eh, reverse black holes would explain how all matter came about, something like the Big Bang, so you seem to misunderstand what they are. They aren’t replacing the Big Bang, quite the contrary, they are explaining where all the matter for it came from. Not only that, but none of your objections to reverse black holes are relevant. Just like we assume that energy still exists, with the Cosmological Argument, we assume disembodied minds exists.

Eh, reverse black holes contain energy. Are you arguing that energy has always existed? That it has somehow overcome the entropy problem? Or, are you saying that entropy only applies within our universe? Sorry, but I have no evidence to support such an outlandish theory and neither do you. We don’t assume that energy still exists, we can actually measure that. However, we don’t have any way to show that energy has always existed and ways of showing that it could not have always existed given our knowledge of physical laws. So, how do you come to this understanding?

LNC

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LNC February 16, 2011 at 11:27 am

And, strike one for LNC! Nope, by my own accounting, a lack of evidence of invisible unicorns who control all events so that we are not aware of their existence is evidence for said unicorns. So, you see, you have not shown their existence to be implausible at all. The less we observe of these invisible unicorns who control all events so as to conceal their existence, I’m thinking, the more plausible their existence becomes.So, by your own measure, it appears that we are surrounded by invisible unicorns who control all events so as to conceal their existence. Care to use your standards for another try to distinguish them from your belief? Specifically, show the invisible unicorns who control all events so as to conceal their existence  to be impossible or implausible, or provide  a better  explanation (as you stipulated), in a way that does not amount to special pleading.  

Sorry that I missed this earlier. The notification for this message went into my junk mail folder (nothing personal!)

Great, well that means that simply means that you cannot argue against the existence of God based upon a lack of empirical evidence on your part. As for invisible unicorns, be my guest and believe away. I don’t believe that it will affect my life one way or the other. Still, that is not how I argue for God’s existence, so it is a non sequitur.

LNC

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Tony Hoffman February 16, 2011 at 11:47 am

LNC, previously you wrote that in order to disprove your argument for the existence of God, one must “1) show my explanation to be impossible, or at least, implausible (which you haven’t); 2) provide a better explanation:”

Those are your stipulations, not mine. Then I pointed out that, under those criteria, I could make an argument for the existence of invisible unicorns who control all events so as to hide their existence.

In response, you wrote: “ Still, that is not how I argue for God’s existence, so it is a non sequitur.”

How are your rules for the argument of God’s existence a non-sequitur to your own argument?

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LNC February 16, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Duke wrote:

And how do we know that this “God” has the power?Because a character with the same name appears in an ancientand claims to be all powerful, despite not acting all powerful.
Really, just because you can articulate the sentence “My invisible friend can do anything” doesn’t mean you’ve proven that your invisible friend can actually do anything, or even that your invisible friend exists.
Duke  

Using arguments like Kalam, we can conclude that the universe had a creator. We can also conclude that the creator was immaterial as that creator was responsible for the existence of the material world. The creator was powerful as the universe is immense. The creator was personal as the universe has a finite existence and therefore the creator would have had to will it into existence. The creator is wise as the universe shows tremendous exactness in its design. Just from these features alone we can make a good case for God and the God that is like the God described in the Bible.

We can rule out the god to whom you referred from ancient literature as incapable of creating such a universe.

We use logic to arrive at proper conclusions not mere assertions of invisible friends as you seem to infer.

LNC

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LNC February 16, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Chuck wrote,

I feel so sad for theists who insist that the biblical god has the power to create the world because it is so obvious they are in need of extended auditing to clear themselves from the thetans occupying their body who are still confused by Xenu’s space opera brain-washing.  

What the heck are you talking about? Maybe you need to lay off the late night sci-fi?

LNC

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Steven R. February 16, 2011 at 3:46 pm

You said that you have never seen anything created, which is false.I gave you an example of something that was created.It matters not in this case what was created or how, it fulfills the claim that something was created.My post was created, it did not exist until I typed it and submitted it.There you are, examples of things created.Now, if you are referring to energy being created, we don’t see that within our universe as it would be a violation of the 1LOT; however, that doesn’t mean that energy and matter weren’t created when the universe came into being.Borde, Vilenkin, and Guth have already given evidence that the universe is not past eternal, it had a beginning.Hawkings’ work confirmed that.Regarding quantum, you fail to realize that the vacuum is filled with quantum energy, so technically, the quantum event is not coming from nothing.I think you are misinformed in your understanding of quantum physics.Do you understand what “nothing” means?It means “no thing.”There is no property where no thing exists.There is no plausibility of existence where there is no existence.There are no odds that nothing will become something if given enough time.That is philosophically silly, but a silliness that many people seem to be desperately glomming onto.The problem is that people like Hawkings and others are redefining nothing to actually mean just a little bit of something.Yet, to do so only pushes the question back one step as that something still requires explanation.I think this is one of the main critiques of his new book.
Try a violation of causation.Nothing is creating something from nothing.Seems like a pretty clear violation to me.
False.You need to get familiar with the cosmological argument.It argues nothing of the kind.Let me state it clearly: 1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause. 2) The universe began to exist. 3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.If you care to actually critique this argument by showing either premise to be false or that the conclusion does not logically follow from the two premises, I’d be happy to discuss that.However, straw man arguments won’t be addressed.
One does not have to draw the conclusion that God has the power only when all other options are exhausted.One can look at other evidence to draw that conclusion.God has demonstrated that he has the power through miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament, including the raising of Jesus from the dead.So yes, we do know what power God has.
Are you reading my posts?I said that matter cannot be created by nothing from nothing – the argument that you would have to be making.I didn’t say that matter could not be created out of nothing by something, namely God.There is no logical problem with that conclusion, whereas, your position is logically problematic. I have explained this clearly and repeatedly and yet, you seem to have ignored that.You are either willfully misrepresenting what I’m saying oryou are not understanding what I am saying.Which is it?You must show that matter can be created from nothing and by nothing for your logic to carry, unfortunately, that has been shown to be a fallacious concept.Here’s a problem for you.What is nothing times nothing?What if you keep multiplying nothing by itself?The answer is that you end up with nothing as the concept is fallacious.You cannot multiply no-things, nor can you add, subtract, or divide.Does that make it clearer for you?
Are you saying that we need to know how something happened before we know that it was caused by an agent?Sorry, but that is not how things are done in the real world.For example, a detective doesn’t have to know all the details of how a murder was committed to know that it was murder.An archeologist doesn’t have to know how an artifact was created to know that an agent created it.We can detect agency without knowing all of the details as to how the agent did what was done.
You simply want to keep denying the obvious.As I have said repeatedly, God creating out of nothing is not the same as something coming into existence from nothing by nothing.Your scenario is irrelevant as it is not equivalent to the case at hand and it is only confusing you.If the flour is there we know that it didn’t just pop into existence, don’t we?We know that things don’t just pop into existence uncaused, can we agree on that?So, somehow the flour got into Martha’s kitchen through agency.We also know that universes don’t just pop into existence uncaused.They must have a cause as well.I’m not sure why this concept is so difficult for you to accept, unless it is because it runs counter to your worldview and therefore, you don’t want to accept the obvious.
No, it is actually you who are confusing the concept of “something” and “nothing.”Your posts above prove that point.Yes, creation ex nihilo says that matter was create “out of” nothing, but that doesn’t mean that it was created “by nothing.”I hope that idea sinks in soon with you, I grow weary of repeating myself on this most basic of points.
What I said was that Luke’s view would seem to be special pleading in regard to the universe in relation to the particulars within the universe, which are contingent.However, that is not based upon a composition argument as much as it is by the fact that matter is contingent rather than necessary in nature.Now, if you would like to give evidence to show that matter could be necessary in nature, I would be happy to discuss this; however, if you are arguing that I based my argument on composition, that is wrong and without basis.I will assume that you properly understand the difference between necessity and contingency.I am glad, however, that you recognize that the conclusion of the argument is correct, however, I never argued this as a basis for arguing that God created the universe, let me say that it does indicate the the universe was created by a personal agent who is immaterial, powerful, and wise.Sounds like God to me, but if you have alternatives that would fit that description, I’m willing to hear and discuss them.
To say that my statement has complications without knowing what they are is a fideistic statement, not a statement of fact.I am well aware of the Kalam argument and the critiques of it.I don’t believe the critiques hold up under examination.
Merriam Webster: Create: to bring into existence.Dictionary.com: Create: to cause to come into being, as something unique that wouldnot naturally evolve or that is not made by ordinary processes.It seems that the way that I have used the word “create” is in keeping with both of these definitions.I am familiar with the law of conservation of energy, electricity, etc.Was there something in particular that you wanted to reference in regard to them?I never said that computers create comments, I said that an agent (me, in this case) creates a comment using a computer (in this case), but it is the agent on which I am focusing, the computer is simply the efficient cause, but I am the final cause of the comment posted.Are you familiar with Aristotle’s four causes (material, formal, efficient, and final)?You may want to become so if you are not as you are confusing the different types of causes here.
I don’t think you are as familiar with quantum mechanics as you pretend to be.You have completely misrepresented the concept here.You also may want to read up on philosophy as you are confused about the concept of nothing.Maybe start with the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy online.Nothingness is not represented by conditions, but rather the lack thereof.
That’s all you have to say in your defense?You conflate two concepts, it is pointed out and you answer, “Yeah, I don’t think so”?Sorry, but now you are being clearly disingenuous.If you cannot be honest about being wrong when it has clearly been pointed out, you are becoming a waste of my time to interact with.
Eh, reverse black holes contain energy.Are you arguing that energy has always existed?That it has somehow overcome the entropy problem?Or, are you saying that entropy only applies within our universe?Sorry, but I have no evidence to support such an outlandish theory and neither do you.We don’t assume that energy still exists, we can actually measure that.However, we don’t have any way to show that energy has always existed and ways of showing that it could not have always existed given our knowledge of physical laws.So, how do you come to this understanding?LNC  

I’ll be happy to answer point by point if you go back and make this readable (you messed up with your quotations somewhere). A quick skim shows you’re just making the same points though, so maybe I can leave it at this:

1. Dictionary definitions do not work when we’re talking about philosophical creation. Any decent high school science teacher will tell you that we don’t actually experience the creation of anything, merely new combinations of energy, electric fields, magnetic fields, so on so forth. This is because although to us it seems as if something is created, in reality, we are already making use of energy that has been there.

2. No, it is YOU who has to understand that cosmological argument. I get it, everything that begins to exist has a cause. Yeah, yeah, but you said that this applies to all material things, so, you are asking for what caused material things to exist. Okay, so here’s my objection: you say that nothing cannot create material objects, but God doesn’t solve this because creation ex nihilo is saying nothing was used to create material objects. That’s what ex nihilo means. Nothing—>material objects. So if creation ex nihilo is not possible, adding God doesn’t help, even if he is something. If creation ex nihilo is possible, then I fail to see the problem with saying that the materials for the universe came ex nihilo. It’s the same thing I’ve said before, you’re getting your terminology mixed up. Yes, God is something, but just like Martha, just because Martha is something, it doesn’t make much sense to say that “Martha created flour from nothing” because that is still saying the flour came from nothing. Key phrase: “flour from nothing”. Key phrase: “universe from nothing”. Tacking on God to it doesn’t change that.

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CHuck February 16, 2011 at 5:56 pm

What the heck are you talking about? Maybe you need to lay off the late night sci-fi?

Now LNC don’t be a religious bigot out of ignorance towards a competing cosmology.

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LNC February 16, 2011 at 8:05 pm

LNC, previously you wrote that in order to disprove your argument for the existence of God, one must “1) show my explanation to be impossible, or at least, implausible (which you haven’t); 2) provide a better explanation:”Those are your stipulations, not mine. Then I pointed out that, under those criteria, I could make an argument for the existence of invisible unicorns who control all events so as to hide their existence.In response, you wrote: “ Still, that is not how I argue for God’s existence, so it is a non sequitur.”How are your rules for the argument of God’s existence a non-sequitur to your own argument?  

The problem is that you pose a scenario that doesn’t equal the argument for God that I give. I don’t propose, as you did, that we are trying to prove that something we cannot have any evidence for doesn’t exist, as was the case with your fictitious unicorns. I believe that there is good evidence that God exists. That is why your example and argument was a non-sequitur, it does not follow from my argument. So, you are mistaken by saying that I am arguing against myself, it is you who have built a false argument and it is against that that I put my objection. I gave arguments that propose a positive and falsifiable case for God’s existence. You propose a scenario where it is non-falsifiable. There is a clear and distinguishable difference in the cases we put forth.

LNC

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LNC February 16, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Now LNC don’t be a religious bigot out of ignorance towards a competing cosmology.  

I assume that you are speaking of Scientology, but I’m not sure what that has to do with arguments that I am making. Scientology is based upon a work of fiction by the late L. Ron Hubbard. Did you want me to debunk a work of fiction? What will we discuss next, the metaphysical reality of Star Trek? Actually, I find Star Trek to be a much more interesting discussion that Scientology, especially The Next Generation series. Much better philosophical interplay going on in TNG than with LRH.

LNC

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Chuck February 17, 2011 at 6:08 am

assume that you are speaking of Scientology, but I’m not sure what that has to do with arguments that I am making. Scientology is based upon a work of fiction by the late L. Ron Hubbard. Did you want me to debunk a work of fiction? What will we discuss next, the metaphysical reality of Star Trek? Actually, I find Star Trek to be a much more interesting discussion that Scientology, especially The Next Generation series. Much better philosophical interplay going on in TNG than with LRH.

LRH warned against SPs like you who believe the Space Opera Xenu implanted on your Thetans is history. I hope we can meet and I can audit you so your overts wrapped in your religious certainty can be expelled.

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Steven R. February 17, 2011 at 8:21 am

The problem is that you pose a scenario that doesn’t equal the argument for God that I give.I don’t propose, as you did, that we are trying to prove that something we cannot have any evidence for doesn’t exist, as was the case with your fictitious unicorns.I believe that there is good evidence that God exists.That is why your example and argument was a non-sequitur, it does not follow from my argument.So, you are mistaken by saying that I am arguing against myself, it is you who have built a false argument and it is against that that I put my objection.I gave arguments that propose a positive and falsifiable case for God’s existence.You propose a scenario where it is non-falsifiable.There is a clear and distinguishable difference in the cases we put forth.LNC  

He didn’t say his argument was comparable to yours, but that some words you previously defined and some standards you previously set would validate his argument that unicorns control everything.

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LNC February 17, 2011 at 8:24 am

LRH warned against SPs like you who believe the Space Opera Xenu implanted on your Thetans is history.I hope we can meet and I can audit you so your overts wrapped in your religious certainty can be expelled.  

I’m have a strong suspicion that LRH’s understanding has changed significantly since January 24, 1986. I do find it interesting that you are concerned with an air of religious certainty that I have a problem with the certainty of my views. Maybe it is time for a self-audit? Let me know what you find out.

LNC

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LNC February 17, 2011 at 8:28 am

He didn’t say his argument was comparable to yours, but that some words you previously defined and some standards you previously set would validate his argument that unicorns control everything.  

Aren’t you saying the same thing that you are denying? That the words used would validate his argument and show mine not to show what I claim it did? That sounds like he is trying to compare his argument to mine in order to invalidate mine to me. The problem is that in doing so, he must have an equivalent argument, which he does not. It is where the arguments diverge that his argument fails to carry the point he is trying to make.

LNC

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Chuck February 17, 2011 at 8:33 am

I’m have a strong suspicion that LRH’s understanding has changed significantly since January 24, 1986. I do find it interesting that you are concerned with an air of religious certainty that I have a problem with the certainty of my views. Maybe it is time for a self-audit? Let me know what you find out.

Ah yes, I understand this ploy. The tech at OT IV anticipates it. Now, why do you feel ancient stories Xenu brainwashed your Thetan with are history when modern science has falisfied these as history (e.g. Finklestein and Biblical History)? I’d say the narrative offered by LRH is much more viable than your ANE superstition.

Or to put it more simply why can your dismissal of the proper cosmology within KSW be considered valid when corollary dismissal of your biblicists’ fundamentalism isn’t?

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LNC February 17, 2011 at 8:44 am

Ah yes, I understand this ploy.The tech at OT IV anticipates it.Now, why do you feel ancient stories Xenu brainwashed your Thetan with are history when modern science has falisfied these as history (e.g. Finklestein and Biblical History)?I’d say the narrative offered by LRH is much more viable than your ANE superstition.Or to put it more simply why can your dismissal of the proper cosmology within KSW be considered valid when corollary dismissal of your biblicists’ fundamentalism isn’t?  

Why don’t you give me a brief synopsis of the KSW cosmology. I must admit that I have not read deeply enough into Scientology to be familiar. Enlighten me, please.

LNC

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Chuck February 17, 2011 at 8:47 am

Why don’t you give me a brief synopsis of the KSW cosmology. I must admit that I have not read deeply enough into Scientology to be familiar. Enlighten me, please.

Well like your Kalaam, it must be investigated and wrestled with in the first person to be full felt. There are many resources available. You just need put aside your cultural conditioning and moving toward clear my friend. It is time to become free.

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Tony Hoffman February 17, 2011 at 8:58 am

LNC: The problem is that you pose a scenario that doesn’t equal the argument for God that I give. I don’t propose, as you did, that we are trying to prove that something we cannot have any evidence for doesn’t exist, as was the case with your fictitious unicorns.

I didn’t say we can’t have any evidence for said unicorns, I said that we wouldn’t expect to find any, because of how they are defined.

LNC: I believe that there is good evidence that God exists. That is why your example and argument was a non-sequitur, it does not follow from my argument.

At the time I pointed out the standard you said you were applying to your argument, you had given no evidence.

LNC: So, you are mistaken by saying that I am arguing against myself, it is you who have built a false argument and it is against that that I put my objection.

I applied the standard you proposed to an alternate set of beliefs. It is up to you to distinguish the beliefs (without resorting to special pleading, of course). It appears that your response is to drop your earlier standards, and to stake your claim on evidence.

LNC: I gave arguments that propose a positive and falsifiable case for God’s existence. You propose a scenario where it is non-falsifiable. There is a clear and distinguishable difference in the cases we put forth.

I missed that (seriously). What is the positive and falsifiable argument you have given for God’s existence?

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LNC February 17, 2011 at 10:16 am

I didn’t say we can’t have any evidence for said unicorns, I said that we wouldn’t expect to find any, because of how they are defined.

Right, and there is the breakdown between our arguments. I never argued that we wouldn’t expect to find evidence for God and his existence, rather, I believe we can.

At the time I pointed out the standard you said you were applying to your argument, you had given no evidence.

Still, you assumed that I couldn’t didn’t you. That is why we have been looping around in this circle. Still, it is a common assumption among skeptics, and a tactical mistake on their parts.

I applied the standard you proposed to an alternate set of beliefs. It is up to you to distinguish the beliefs (without resorting to special pleading, of course). It appears that your response is to drop your earlier standards, and to stake your claim on evidence.

You did so with the mistaken assumption that no evidence can be put forth for God’s existence. I don’t drop the earlier standard as I believe that God’s existence is a falsifiable idea. Therefore, it still rests with the skeptic to show that that evidence is impossible or implausible. Otherwise, the skeptic has staked his believes on faith alone. I have provided the evidential arguments used to show that it is reasonable to believe that God exists, more reasonable that the contradictory belief.

I missed that (seriously). What is the positive and falsifiable argument you have given for God’s existence?

Some of those arguments include the Kalam cosmological argument, the teleological argument, the argument from morality, the argument from the resurrection of Jesus, just to name a few of my favorites. However, there are many others as well.

LNC

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Tony Hoffman February 17, 2011 at 10:23 am

Me: “I missed that (seriously). What is the positive and falsifiable argument you have given for God’s existence?

LNC: “Some of those arguments include the Kalam cosmological argument, the teleological argument, the argument from morality, the argument from the resurrection of Jesus, just to name a few of my favorites. However, there are many others as well.”

Rubbish. Please look up the definition of falsifiable. Then tell me how you think it is possible to test for God’s existence from the arguments you listed.

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LNC February 17, 2011 at 10:24 am

Well like your Kalaam, it must be investigated and wrestled with in the first person to be full felt.There are many resources available.You just need put aside your cultural conditioning and moving toward clear my friend.It is time to become free.  

Ah, and just how have you overcome the Kalam argument? How have you achieved this “freedom”? I have done a fair bit of reading on the topic and so far, it has stood up to the test. I have also watched many debates on the topic with some of the leading philosophers and cosmologists and there again, it has stood up. But, maybe you have come across some information I’ve missed, so I will look forward to what you have to say.

LNC

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LNC February 17, 2011 at 10:37 am

Rubbish. Please look up the definition of falsifiable. Then tell me how you think it is possible to test for God’s existence from the arguments you listed.  

Tony, I’m very familiar with the definition of falsifiable. Here are some ways to prove God’s existence falsifiable. One, provide evidence that the universe was not created and has no teleology; two, provide evidence that all existence can be accounted for by physics; three, provide evidence that Jesus either didn’t exist or didn’t rise from the dead; four, show that morality can be both objective and naturalized. There, you have four ways of falsifying theism. BTW, you should know this as Luke and others spend a great deal of time and effort to debunk theism on this site.

LNC

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Tony Hoffman February 17, 2011 at 10:46 am

LNC: Tony, I’m very familiar with the definition of falsifiable. Here are some ways to prove God’s existence falsifiable. One, provide evidence that the universe was not created and has no teleology; two, provide evidence that all existence can be accounted for by physics; three, provide evidence that Jesus either didn’t exist or didn’t rise from the dead; four, show that morality can be both objective and naturalized. There, you have four ways of falsifying theism. BTW, you should know this as Luke and others spend a great deal of time and effort to debunk theism on this site.

Um, no, that was remarkably amateurish. The above has nothing to do with the definition of falsifiable, which basically means capable of being tested. What you have given me is a list that repeats 4 ways to argue the fallacy of the argument from ignorance. I believe that trying to explain that to you will be a very a dull way for me to spend my free intellectual time.

You have shown yourself unprepared or unwilling to argue your position. I am done here. Cheers.

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Chuck February 17, 2011 at 10:47 am

Ah, and just how have you overcome the Kalam argument?

It is affirmation of the consequent when it ascribes causative “beginning” to a pre-temporal reality.

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Chuck February 17, 2011 at 10:49 am

Tony, I’m very familiar with the definition of falsifiable. Here are some ways to prove God’s existence falsifiable. One, provide evidence that the universe was not created and has no teleology; two, provide evidence that all existence can be accounted for by physics; three, provide evidence that Jesus either didn’t exist or didn’t rise from the dead; four, show that morality can be both objective and naturalized. There, you have four ways of falsifying theism. BTW, you should know this as Luke and others spend a great deal of time and effort to debunk theism on this site.

If you are familiar with falsifiability then why do you offer up examples of hypotheses that question beg by privileging your preferred conclusion with special pleading?

These aren’t hypotheses.

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LNC February 17, 2011 at 11:12 am

Um, no, that was remarkably amateurish. The above has nothing to do with the definition of falsifiable, which basically means capable of being tested. What you have given me is a list that repeats 4 ways to argue the fallacy of the argument from ignorance. I believe that trying to explain that to you will be a very a dull way for me to spend my free intellectual time.You have shown yourself unprepared or unwilling to argue your position. I am done here. Cheers.  

I have not set out to give you a dissertation on what falsifiability is since I would assume that you know the foundation of the argument. I have given you methods, which if successful, would render the argument false. A theory is falsifiable when conditions can be shown where the argument can be shown to be false either logically or through empirical evidence to the contrary.

From Wikipedia: Falsifiability or refutability is the logical possibility that an assertion could be shown false by a particular observation or physical experiment. That something is “falsifiable” does not mean it is false; rather, it means that if the statement were false, then its falsehood could be demonstrated.

I have given you some methods by which each of these arguments could be proven false empirically, as they are logically valid arguments. So, to prove the argument false, one must prove one or more of the premises false. Now, maybe you have a different definition of “test” than I have, so please, if you haven’t quit the conversation, please tell me what your standard is so we can “test” your definition. That may be where the problem lies.

LNC

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Steven R. February 17, 2011 at 11:13 am

Ah, and just how have you overcome the Kalam argument?How have you achieved this “freedom”?I have done a fair bit of reading on the topic and so far, it hasstood up to the test.I have also watched many debates on the topic with some of the leading philosophers and cosmologists and there again, it has stood up.But, maybe you have come across some information I’ve missed, so I will look forward to what you have to say.LNC  

You don’t even understand the Kalam Argument based on your comments (ex: arguing that we “create” anything when we talk) and failure to understand what creation ex nihilo is (for the last time, creation ex nihilo is defined as “creation out of nothing”) . Even your definition of nothingness makes the Kalam Argument fail. If nothing has no conditions, then there is no property of nothing that restricts the creation of matter. In fact, even Craig’s attempt to avoid this “at time t nothing exist” implies the condition of time, so, again, your own comments invalidate the argument.

Tony, I’m very familiar with the definition of falsifiable.Here are some ways to prove God’s existence falsifiable.One, provide evidence that the universe was not created and has no teleology; two, provide evidence that all existence can be accounted for by physics; three, provide evidence that Jesus either didn’t exist or didn’t rise from the dead; four, show that morality can be both objective and naturalized.There, you have four ways of falsifying theism.BTW, you should know this as Luke and others spend a great deal of time and effort to debunk theism on this site.LNC  

…None of those falsify Theism (and falsifying Christianity doesn’t even come close to falsifying Theism). They may falsify certain roles a Theistic God can play, but that’s about it. Not only that, but they hardly prove Theism. They’re such poor explanations, we can easily substitute “The Unicorn from Dimension X” to any of these and have an explanation no better than “A transcendent disembodied mind which controls all aspects of the universe” and have these arguments work equally well.

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LNC February 17, 2011 at 11:31 am

It is affirmation of the consequent when it ascribes causative “beginning” to a pre-temporal reality.  

You are mistaken on this. The fallacy is:
If P, then Q
Q
Therefore, P

However, the Kalam states:
If P, then Q
P
Therefore, Q

See the difference?

LNC

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Chuck February 17, 2011 at 11:44 am

Begin can only have meaning AFTER the Big Bang since our understanding of space-time started there, causality outside of space time is meaningless unless you wish to define the genesis of space time by its consequence.

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Tony Hoffman February 17, 2011 at 12:17 pm

I have given you some methods by which each of these arguments could be proven false empirically, as they are logically valid arguments. So, to prove the argument false, one must prove one or more of the premises false. Now, maybe you have a different definition of “test” than I have, so please, if you haven’t quit the conversation, please tell me what your standard is so we can “test” your definition. That may be where the problem lies.

No, I don’t think you adequately understand the terms you use. Much of what you write sounds like gibberish to me — is English your first language?

For one, logical validity doesn’t make something testable, as your first sentence seems top say above. And it’s insufficient to say that something is falsifiable while not explaining what the test is that could be tried. If you declare that God’s existence if falsifiable (which it is obviously not), then you need to demonstrate how it is that you have constructed a hypothesis whereby your premises can be tested. You can’t just wave your hand and declare such a thing without explaining the test itself.

This is middle school science simple, btw. I shouldn’t have to explain something this basic to someone who wants to argue for something as complex as the existence of God.

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Chuck February 17, 2011 at 12:28 pm

LNC needs to stop subscribing to Reasonable Faith and study this book http://www.amazon.com/Rulebook-Arguments-Anthony-Weston/dp/0872205525

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Tony Hoffman February 17, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Chuck, thanks — I just ordered that book (used, cheap, great). I have little kids in the house, and this looks like a good thing to make them do a book report on or something. Plus, I’m sure I’ll learn something in there as well.

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Chuck February 17, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Thank Luke,

He’s the one who suggested it to me.

I like it.

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LNC February 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm

If you are familiar with falsifiability then why do you offer up examples of hypotheses that question beg by privileging your preferred conclusion with special pleading?These aren’t hypotheses.  

I’m confused, are they or are they not hypotheses? You seem to be suggesting both. Please give me more than empty assertion that you have evidence of question-begging, I don’t see it. The arguments that I gave are logically sound and have been debated, however, no one has ever even hinted at such a claim, so I will look forward to your defense of the accusation.

LNC

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Chuck February 17, 2011 at 4:45 pm

I think you’ve provided examples of hyptheses but they are bad examples and misrepresent the valid form for the reasons Tony has already pointed out. My criticisms seem self explanatory.

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Steven R. February 17, 2011 at 5:53 pm

I’m confused, are they or are they not hypotheses?You seem to be suggesting both.Please give me more than empty assertion that you have evidence of question-begging, I don’t see it.The arguments that I gave are logically sound and have been debated, however, no one has ever even hinted at such a claim, so I will look forward to your defense of the accusation.LNC  

No, I don’t think that the argument from morals is valid at all. You’re arguing that objective morals exist and then posit that God, a personal agent, determines their existence. But this is actually a subjective moral system as whatever God deems to be correct would be a moral, which is no different than Mary or Luke saying that “X is wrong”. It’s 100% subjective. It’s called the Euthyphro Dilemma. You can’t have it both ways LNC, either morals are objective, in which case they exist independently of any personal agent or they are subjective.

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Luke Muehlhauser February 17, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Quite a dialogue here…

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LNC February 17, 2011 at 5:55 pm

You don’t even understand the Kalam Argument based on your comments (ex: arguing that we “create” anything when we talk) and failure to understand what creation ex nihilo is (for the last time, creation ex nihilo is defined as “creation out of nothing”) . Even your definition of nothingness makes the Kalam Argument fail. If nothing has no conditions, then there is no property of nothing that restricts the creation of matter. In fact, even Craig’s attempt to avoid this “at time t nothing exist” implies the condition of time, so, again, your own comments invalidate the argument.

You simply are narrowly defining the word “create” to suit your purposes. You are very creative with your use (misuse) of logic. By your definition we should be seeing vacuums produce all sorts of colorful effects as they are extremely limited in properties, yet we don’t. If you took a job and they offered to pay you nothing, would that excite you or depress you. I mean, there would be no restriction on the amount of material stuff that you could produce with that sort of generous income, now wouldn’t there? I mean, think of the things you could do being paid nothing! Think of the places you could go and the things you could see! There would be no limitations, no restrictions! Where in the world do you get the idea that Craig argues that at time t nothing exists? If time exists, then matter exists too as they both come into existence concurrently. I thought you said it was I who didn’t understand Kalam and here you are misrepresenting it.

Let me quote from Craig’s book Time and Eternity which I happen to have in my bookcase, “To claim that time would exist without the universe in virtue of the beginning of the world seems to postulate a sort of backward causation: The occurrence of the first event causes time to exist not only with the event but also before it. But on a tensed theory of time, such retrocausation is metaphysically impossible, for it amounts to something’s being caused by nothing, since at the time of the effect the retro-cause in no sense exists.” (p. 236) Again, Craig does away with your idea that time exists sans the universe and your idea that something can come from nothing.

…None of those falsify Theism (and falsifying Christianity doesn’t even come close to falsifying Theism). They may falsify certain roles a Theistic God can play, but that’s about it. Not only that, but they hardly prove Theism. They’re such poor explanations, we can easily substitute “The Unicorn from Dimension X” to any of these and have an explanation no better than “A transcendent disembodied mind which controls all aspects of the universe” and have these arguments work equally well.

So, what you are saying is that you can prove that existence is limited to material reality and God could still exist within that reality? You are saying that the universe could create itself and that matter could be past eternal and that doesn’t defeat the existence of God? Your argument is that morality could exist objectively and be naturalized and that too wouldn’t rule out God? You need to contact Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and all of the other atheists who are wasting their time trying to disprove God’s existence using these arguments. They will be disappointed, I’m sure, when you inform them that they have devoted their lives to a lost cause. However, you still want to stick with your faulty comparison of the mythical and indiscernible unicorns…my how you either misunderstand or misrepresent the arguments (or both).

LNC

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LNC February 17, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Begin can only have meaning AFTER the Big Bang since our understanding of space-time started there, causality outside of space time is meaningless unless you wish to define the genesis of space time by its consequence.  

Sorry, but that is incorrect as I’ve already shown with the quote from Craig’s book. Begin coincides with the Big Bang. Causality coincides with the beginning of the universe even though the cause existed apart from the universe.

LNC

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LNC February 17, 2011 at 6:17 pm

No, I don’t think you adequately understand the terms you use. Much of what you write sounds like gibberish to me — is English your first language?
For one, logical validity doesn’t make something testable, as your first sentence seems top say above. And it’s insufficient to say that something is falsifiable while not explaining what the test is that could be tried. If you declare that God’s existence if falsifiable (which it is obviously not), then you need to demonstrate how it is that you have constructed a hypothesis whereby your premises can be tested. You can’t just wave your hand and declare such a thing without explaining the test itself.
This is middle school science simple, btw. I shouldn’t have to explain something this basic to someone who wants to argue for something as complex as the existence of God.

You need to define what you mean by testable, because if you believe that logic cannot be tested you have a very narrow definition for the term. Yes, as a matter of fact, we can test logic for validity. A deductive argument is either logically valid or it is not. That is testable. The premises are either valid or they are not, that is testable. Have you formally studied logic?

I’m sorry if I am speaking over your head, I don’t mean to be, but if what I am writing appears to you as gibberish, I’m afraid that maybe I have. You see, what I have given you are clearly testable ideas, yet you fail to grasp that. Might it be that you are not familiar with the arguments I have presented? Clearly if you were, you would know that they are testable. Is the principle of causality testable? Absolutely. Is the idea of teleology and fine tuning testable? It is all over the scientific literature. Maybe you can start with someone like Paul Davies and his book Cosmic Jackpot, it is filled with information about how finely tuned the universe is for advanced life. Clearly these ideas are falsifiable. Go back and reread my posts carefully, I’ve already given the tests in them.

You say it is middle school science and yet you don’t seem to understand the concepts presented, what gives? Are you only about ad hominem arguments and not about giving valid rebuttals to arguments?

LNC

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LNC February 17, 2011 at 6:20 pm

I think you’ve provided examples of hyptheses but they are bad examples and misrepresent the valid form for the reasons Tony has already pointed out.My criticisms seem self explanatory.  

You have to do better than to post vague responses to my arguments. It shows that you are not really engaging with the thread, but simply posting a “does not, does to” type of reply. I’m going to have to skip these types of posts going forward for the sake of time and stick with the ones that have actual attempts at arguments.

LNC

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Tony Hoffman February 17, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Yeah, LNC, you must be over my head. I suppose I will have struggle to get along without access to your thinking.

Like I said before, cheers.

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LNC February 17, 2011 at 6:26 pm

No, I don’t think that the argument from morals is valid at all. You’re arguing that objective morals exist and then posit that God, a personal agent, determines their existence. But this is actually a subjective moral system as whatever God deems to be correct would be a moral, which is no different than Mary or Luke saying that “X is wrong”. It’s 100% subjective. It’s called the Euthyphro Dilemma. You can’t have it both ways LNC, either morals are objective, in which case they exist independently of any personal agent or they are subjective.  

The Euthyphro dilemma was answered long ago by splitting the horns of the dilemma in this way. Morals do not exist as brute facts independent of God, nor are they merely the whimsical decree of God, they are grounded in his unchanging nature and are thereby, objectively grounded.

Now, your challenge, should you decide to accept it, will be to ground morality objectively and authoritatively apart from God. I’ve thrown this challenge out to materialists and atheists in the past and haven’t found any who has answered the challenge effectively. I will look forward to your attempt should you feel up to the challenge.

LNC

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Tony Hoffman February 17, 2011 at 6:34 pm

The Euthyphro dilemma was answered long ago by splitting the horns of the dilemma in this way.  Morals do not exist as brute facts independent of God, nor are they merely the whimsical decree of God, they are grounded in his unchanging nature and are thereby, objectively grounded.

Ha. Thanks for underlining the status of your thinking for us. That does a better job than any reply I could think of.

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Steven R. February 17, 2011 at 8:10 pm

The Euthyphro dilemma was answered long ago by splitting the horns of the dilemma in this way .Morals do not exist as brute facts independent of God, nor are they merely the whimsical decree of God, they are grounded in his unchanging nature and are thereby, objectively grounded.

0_0 No…that’s not objective at all. It doesn’t matter that they don’t change. If my culture says it’s okay to kill Jews no matter what, and that standard never changes, is it objective? Not at all. It’s still based on the nature of someone and that’s still subjective. Like Luke says, if a giant alien who nobody could challenge came and just declared that killing all humans was good and he never changed his position, would that make killing all humans an objective moral value? No, not at all.

Furthermore, there is another problem. How do we know that God’s nature is good? Either there’s some independent standards by which to judge God’s nature, or we are just arbitrarily declaring that God’s nature is good, which is still grounded upon subjective analysis.

Lastly, I have yet to hear an argument that connects objective morals with God. All I hear is appeals to authority. “X numbers of philosophers agree!” …that or things that just make me reword the Euthyphro Dilemma like this “answer” does.

Now, your challenge, should you decide to accept it, will be to ground morality objectively and authoritatively apart from God.I’ve thrown this challenge out to materialists and atheists in the past and haven’t found any who has answered the challenge effectively.I will look forward to your attempt should you feel up to the challenge.LNC  

You haven’t even connected objective morals to God, just asserted that it’s true without justification, so, as far as I’m concerned, there is no such challenge. I also don’t even believe objective moral values do exist, so I see no reason to prove something I don’t believe in. Now, if you’re asking for what type of moral system I believe in, I give this example:

In physics, only heat exists. That, however, doesn’t mean that “hot” and “cold” temperatures don’t exist. They do, but subjectively. Does this mean that we can’t determine that “0 degrees is too cold for any human” to be a true statement? Of course not, just because it’s subjective in nature doesn’t undermine the truth in that sentence. It isn’t an objective fact like “this object has a mass of 20 grams” but we can still work with it. Similarly, works of art are extremely subjective, yet we can still draw some general guidelines to guide us in finding meaning in it (ex: cultural value, social significance, how it makes you personally feel) and expressing it with others. From there, while we may indeed come into conflict on certain areas, we can rule out stuff like “a stick figure that was drawn five minutes before the art show without the intention of challenging artistic norms” as art to be appreciated and thought of, even if these standards are subjective in nature. There are grey areas, but just like the stick figure, raping a child would be unacceptable, no matter how you slice it. Not objectively grounded, but still something we can work with. I’m no philosopher of morality and I have only a very limited view of it.

You should also read Luke’s posts about desirism. Very interesting stuff on how you can get objective values without God (or if not objective, at least the same as the morality espoused in the Bible, which certainly isn’t objective…and stuff we can work with).

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LNC February 17, 2011 at 8:53 pm

0_0 No…that’s not objective at all. It doesn’t matter that they don’t change. If my culture says it’s okay to kill Jews no matter what, and that standard never changes, is it objective? Not at all. It’s still based on the nature of someone and that’s still subjective. Like Luke says, if a giant alien who nobody could challenge came and just declared that killing all humans was good and he never changed his position, would that make killing all humans an objective moral value? No, not at all.

Furthermore, there is another problem. How do we know that God’s nature is good? Either there’s some independent standards by which to judge God’s nature, or we are just arbitrarily declaring that God’s nature is good, which is still grounded upon subjective analysis.

Lastly, I have yet to hear an argument that connects objective morals with God. All I hear is appeals to authority. “X numbers of philosophers agree!” …that or things that just make me reword the Euthyphro Dilemma like this “answer” does.

You have asked and answered your own question. However, in regard to God, morals would be subjective as God is not a subject within the system and his nature, in which morals are grounded cannot change. We, the subjects can change our minds, so grounding morality with anything we say or think would be subjective. The same would be true if morals were simply the decree of God (as Muslims believe) but were not grounded in anything unchanging (as Allah can change his mind about morals). The same is true of Luke’s hypothetical giant alien. However, that is not the claim with the Judeo-Christian understanding on the ontological grounding of morality. Again, they are grounded in God’s immutable nature and therefore are objectively grounded.

As for your second objection, that is a shift into the epistemological question, which should be handled as a separate discussion. For now, let’s stick to the ontological question of grounding objective morality. The bottom line is that there need not be an independent standard of what is good as Plato thought, we would have no moral obligation to abide by brute facts floating (metaphorically) around in the universe.

As for your third point, the ontological question would tie morality with God. What you may be confusing together is whether morals are objective in the first place. However, I have never heard the argument made that morals are tied to God because a certain number of philosophers agree that they are. Yet, the Euthyphro dilemma is only asked anymore by the uninformed or the blatantly obstinate; it has been dealt with such that it is no longer a valid dilemma. All one has to do is show that it is logically possible to solve the dilemma and that has been done as I have explained.

You haven’t even connected objective morals to God, just asserted that it’s true without justification, so, as far as I’m concerned, there is no such challenge. I also don’t even believe objective moral values do exist, so I see no reason to prove something I don’t believe in. Now, if you’re asking for what type of moral system I believe in, I give this example:

In physics, only heat exists. That, however, doesn’t mean that “hot” and “cold” temperatures don’t exist. They do, but subjectively. Does this mean that we can’t determine that “0 degrees is too cold for any human” to be a true statement? Of course not, just because it’s subjective in nature doesn’t undermine the truth in that sentence. It isn’t an objective fact like “this object has a mass of 20 grams” but we can still work with it. Similarly, works of art are extremely subjective, yet we can still draw some general guidelines to guide us in finding meaning in it (ex: cultural value, social significance, how it makes you personally feel) and expressing it with others. From there, while we may indeed come into conflict on certain areas, we can rule out stuff like “a stick figure that was drawn five minutes before the art show without the intention of challenging artistic norms” as art to be appreciated and thought of, even if these standards are subjective in nature. There are grey areas, but just like the stick figure, raping a child would be unacceptable, no matter how you slice it. Not objectively grounded, but still something we can work with. I’m no philosopher of morality and I have only a very limited view of it.

You should also read Luke’s posts about desirism. Very interesting stuff on how you can get objective values without God (or if not objective, at least the same as the morality espoused in the Bible, which certainly isn’t objective…and stuff we can work with).

What I have given is a way that morals could be objectively grounded. They are either objective in nature or they don’t exist. Most people agree that morals really do exist. That things like torturing babies for fun is always wrong. From there, one must give an account as to how morals could be objectively grounded. I have given a valid argument as to how they could be. As I said, if you don’t agree with that argument, you have two choices: 1) give a valid alternative, or 2) abandon the belief that morals exist. The fallacy of today is that morals can exist subjectively, but philosophically, that is equivalent to saying that they don’t exist.
Now, you take the view, according to your statement, that morals do not exist. So, by your reckoning, it is OK to rape little children, murder, steal, etc. Is that correct?

In regard to your temperature discussion, you confuse our subjective feel of temperature and the actual physical effects of excessive heat or the lack of heat. If a person was completely paralyzed and could not feel the effects of excess heat or lack of heat, it would still have a detrimental effect on the body. So, the subjective phenomena that you describe is really a side issue. There is an objective fact that certain physical temperatures will have an adverse effect on the human body, whether that body can feel the effects or not. That is where it becomes objective. Still, at this point you are jumping into the epistemological question when we should be focusing on the ontological question.

Regarding desirism or desire utilitarianism, it is still a subjective system in nature. We may say that the thing desired has value, but that value is what we place upon it in that system. Values and desires are subjective in nature and no two people have objectively the same desires or place the same value upon external objects. Who is the arbiter in that system when one person values something highly (say, life) and another person considers it of little value (other than his/her own). Utilitarianism has had many problems throughout history and this version of it suffers the same problems in that it is very individualistic in nature. What creates the desires within us and how do we judge one person’s desires against another’s, especially when they come into conflict? I don’t see this solving any problems, but it does seem to have the same problems that utilitarian ethics have had since the times of Bentham and Mill.

LNC

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Steven R. February 17, 2011 at 9:04 pm

You simply are narrowly defining the word “create” to suit your purposes.

Haha, no, I am using the word “create” in the real sense of the word. In our universe, no energy is created or destroyed. What this means to us is that nothing we witness is created in the actual sense of the word, it’s just a transfer from one form of energy to another. Have you even taken a basic course on Physics? I don’t mean to insult, but I learned this stuff in 8th Grade, if not in 6th.

You are very creative with your use (misuse) of logic.

Er…no, but you are creative with what it means to actually create something…and with words creating all matter.

By your definition we should be seeing vacuums produce all sorts of colorful effects as they are extremely limited in properties, yet we don’t.

What?? I pointed out that a vacuum replicates nothing and that the only thing those prior conditions show is that once there is something, you need specific conditions to replicate nothingness, thus that objection completely misses the point. I’m not sure where you’re getting these “colorful effects”. Besides, we really don’t quite understand the conditions prior to the Big Bang so it seems too premature to pass any judgment on how things occurred, though since leading Cosmologists have offered various examples that could account for the creation of matter that don’t involve God, it seems folly to take the Kalam Argument as something conclusive.

If you took a job and they offered to pay you nothing, would that excite you or depress you.I mean, there would be no restriction on the amount of material stuff that you could produce with that sort of generous income, now wouldn’t there?I mean, think of the things you could do being paid nothing!Think of the places you could go and the things you could see!

…Let’s use your example. I have no income and yet I buy something. You object. You can’t buy something with nothing. I then say, “oh, you misunderstand philosophy. You see, I am something so I am not violating the laws of casualty.” Yes, I may be something, but with no income, that still doesn’t solve the problem of how I bought something with nothing, now does it? Similarly, if creation ex-nihilo is incoherent, then any and all cosmological arguments fail. That’s been my point all along.

There would be no limitations, no restrictions!Where in the world do you get the idea that Craig argues that at time t nothing exists?If time exists, then matter exists too as they both come into existence concurrently.I thought you said it was I who didn’t understand Kalam and here you are misrepresenting it.Let me quote from Craig’s book Time and Eternity which I happen to have in my bookcase, “To claim that time would exist without the universe in virtue of the beginning of the world seems to postulate a sort of backward causation: The occurrence of the first event causes time to exist not only with the event but also before it. But on a tensed theory of time, such retrocausation is metaphysically impossible, for it amounts to something’s being caused by nothing, since at the time of the effect the retro-cause in no sense exists.” (p. 236)Again, Craig does away with your idea that time exists sans the universe and your idea that something can come from nothing.

Haha, well, you seem to think that Craig doesn’t flip-flop from position to position when it is rhetorically convenient, but I’m afraid that’s just not the case. When Craig tries to prove the first premise of the Kalam Argument, he appeals to the following definition of nothing given by Thomas Aquinas:

“(iv) If, at a given time, there was nothing at all (apart from time itself), then at no later time could anything begin to exist.”

But, as you note, this conflicts with an earlier assertion he made to back up other parts of the KCA. Once again, if nothing doesn’t have any restrictive properties (and that definition I cited from Thomas Aquinas is a definition which gives nothing restrictive properties), then premise 1 fails and we can’t actually deduct anything since we can’t rule out nothing (and then there’s the problem I’ve been pointing out).

So, what you are saying is that you can prove that existence is limited to material reality and God could still exist within that reality?You are saying that the universe could create itself and that matter could be past eternal and that doesn’t defeat the existence of God?Your argument is that morality could exist objectively and be naturalized and that too wouldn’t rule out God?You need to contact Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and all of the other atheists who are wasting their time trying to disprove God’s existence using these arguments.They will be disappointed, I’m sure, when you inform them that they have devoted their lives to a lost cause.However, you still want to stick with your faulty comparison of the mythical and indiscernible unicorns…my how you either misunderstand or misrepresent the arguments (or both).LNC  

Not sure what prompted that tirade, but what I was saying is that we can easily change God and for any other unfalsifiable hypothesis and have it work equally well. The Unicorn From Dimension X exemplifies this. Any design in the world? Accounted for by the Unicorn, of course! This is to draw out a greater flaw with th God hypothesis: it doesn’t eliminate anything and it can’t differentiate itself from other hypothesis that also are careful enough to be unfalsifiable. If morals or whatever can be just as perfectly accounted for by trans-dimensional unicorns as well as disembodied minds, as that one famous movie line goes, “Houston, we’ve got a problem.”

Luke, since you’ve been checking in on this discussion, can you please tell me what you think of my objection (as typified by my example of the flour and now, buying things)? Any feedback would be welcome (I understand you don’t have the time for any in-depth response or anything) but just…does it make sense and general impressions. Tony already said it made sense but any other input is much appreciated.

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Steven R. February 17, 2011 at 9:36 pm

You have asked and answered your own question.However, in regard to God, morals would be subjective as God is not a subject within the system and his nature, in which morals are grounded cannot change.We, the subjects can change our minds, so grounding morality with anything we say or think would be subjective.The same would be true if morals were simply the decree of God (as Muslims believe) but were not grounded in anything unchanging (as Allah can change his mind about morals).The same is true of Luke’s hypothetical giant alien.However, that is not the claim with the Judeo-Christian understanding on the ontological grounding of morality.Again, they are grounded in God’s immutable nature and therefore are objectively grounded.

Wow…where to begin with this…

1. No, you are still grounding morals on a being’s nature. You confuse unchanging with objective, and I’m afraid that’s not the case. Temperature, for example, may change, but it is still a thing that exists objectively. Not only that, but suppose we say that a certain nature is good. Even if a being where to later change his or her nature, we already defined the previous nature as being good and it would remain unchanging since every other nature has now been defined as unchanging. Is that objective? Nope. And it’s still chosen arbitrarily.

2. Suppose the Alien has an unchanging nature. That is, he will always be malevolent. Does that make his desire to kill all human beings an objective moral? Of course not, that’s because grounding morals on what someone believes or what nature they have is hardly objective at all.

3. If we put the alien outside the system of morals, would it make it objective? Again, no, that is still quite an arbitrary declaration.

4. If God is not a subject within his system, does that mean that morality does not apply to him? If so, how can a being that can’t be either good or bad have it’s nature called good? Not only that, but if the best type of good can be achieved without morals, then what are their use?

I think your position raises waaaay more problems than it solves, and it’s still subjective.

As for your second objection, that is a shift into the epistemological question, which should be handled as a separate discussion.For now, let’s stick to the ontological question of grounding objective morality.

No, it is quite relevant because you said you split the dilemma by the horns when in reality, you just made me reword the original problem.

The bottom line is that there need not be an independent standard of what is good as Plato thought, we would have no moral obligation to abide by brute facts floating (metaphorically) around in the universe

Uh yes, because otherwise, if we had two unchanging natures with two contradicting positions, we’d have no way of determining which is good and bad. Not only that, but we still have no idea whether God’s nature is good or bad, all we know it’s immutable. Whoop-de-doo.

.As for your third point, the ontological question would tie morality with God.What you may be confusing together is whether morals are objective in the first place.However, I have never heard the argument made that morals are tied to God because a certain number of philosophers agree that they are.

I thought you said you watched WLC debates. That’s how he makes the jump from 1. Objective morals do exist to 2. Without God, there are no objective morals.

Yet, the Euthyphro dilemma is only asked anymore by the uninformed or the blatantly obstinate; it has been dealt with such that it is no longer a valid dilemma.All one has to do is show that it is logically possible to solve the dilemma and that has been done as I have explained.

Which you haven’t. You’ve shown that there may be an immutable nature (you haven’t actually proved the existence of said nature, so it seems that any attempt to prove that said nature does exist would make your argument circular) but not that we should think that this is something that to determine good from.

My question to you is, if God’s immutable nature was that all Jews should be gassed and Hitler should rise into power, would that be a basis of objective morals?

What I have given is a way that morals could be objectively grounded.They are either objective in nature or they don’t exist. Most people agree that morals really do exist.That things like torturing babies for fun is always wrong.

Most people agree that morals really do exist? Okay, who cares? Proof that they exist please. By the way, if torturing babies for fun is always wrong, doesn’t that make God a culprit because he allows people to torture babies for fun (most people would also agree that anyone who can prevent a baby from being tortured for fun but does nothing is equally guilty)? Now, if you argue that allowing people to torture babies leads to some greater good, then it is not the case that “torturing babies for fun is always wrong” as we have now stated “torturing babies for fun is always wrong, unless it leads to some greater good.” This also illustrates a failing with your view of objective morals being immutable. It would seem that to justify God’s inaction, certain actions may be wrong depending on the circumstances (whether or not they bring about a greater good).

Now, I will say, if you define objective morals as unchanging moral views, then I agree, God does provide objective values. But as I pointed out, grounding morals upon any nature would be the same, and if an agent changes his or her nature, his nature would be defined as evil and the agent merely changed from a good to bad nature.

From there, one must give an account as to how morals could be objectively grounded.I have given a valid argument as to how they could be.

1. Your only reason for trying to prove that objective morals do exist is that people feel like they exist. That’s stupid. If that’s how you’re going to go about proving things, just say “It feels like if God exists” and sit back and let people laugh at you for such an egregious argument.

2. It depends on what you mean by objective. If you mean unchanging, sure, but again, this doesn’t really do much of anything.

As I said, if you don’t agree with that argument, you have two choices: 1) give a valid alternative, or 2) abandon the belief that morals exist.The fallacy of today is that morals can exist subjectively, but philosophically, that is equivalent to saying that they don’t exist.

No, that is like saying that they are up to a person’s interpretation. Does the taste of chocolate not exist because people may say it tastes good, bad or godawful? No, they do exist, but in a different sense. There’s no way of saying which is right and I suppose you can argue that such morals are useless, but that’s about it.

BTW, intuitively speaking, people will tell you that milk past its expiration date tastes bad. According to you, this would be more than enough of a compelling reason to come up with “objective tastes”. It’s laughable logic, to be sure.

Now, you take the view, according to your statement, that morals do not exist.So, by your reckoning, it is OK to rape little children, murder, steal, etc.Is that correct?

Dude, what’s up with quoting Craig word by word? Like seriously (and forgive how colloquial I am being here, but this is getting really absurd), would you mind writing your own actual ideas instead of regurgitating what someone else said?

Appeal to consequences, sir. That’s a well known fallacy and I already stated how I believe morals to work. It may be right or wrong, but this sort of question doesn’t prove or raise a valid objection.

In regard to your temperature discussion, you confuse our subjective feel of temperature and the actual physical effects of excessive heat or the lack of heat.If a person was completely paralyzed and could not feel the effects of excess heat or lack of heat, it would still have a detrimental effect on the body.So, the subjective phenomena that you describe is really a side issue.There is an objective fact that certain physical temperatures will have an adverse effect on the human body, whether that body can feel the effects or not.That is where it becomes objective.

I spy with my little eye a contradiction. Each body will suffer different side-effects at different temperatures. Sure, at some temperature, all bodies will inevitably be harmed, but I reckon that there is a different response to different temperatures by the body. It seems that the temperature at which each body will begin to suffer from adverse side-effects is not “immutable” but different for each person. I guess immutability is not a pre-requisite for objectivity.

Furthermore, if we can detect some sort of direct relationship between committing an action and some effect on the body, you say it would be objective. Fine, but do we need God to see the adverse effects of temperature on our body? No, so it seems that things can be objective without God. Also notice has this has nothing to do with the nature of that person’s personality, but with their body. Lastly, if there is no such connection as there is between temperature and effects on the body when it comes to morals, but only to our states of mind, then morals are not objective.

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Chuck February 18, 2011 at 6:11 am

LNC,

I will see your WLC and match it with Chauncey Wright, the Socrates of Cambridge. Wright, writing in 1866 on the rhetorical nature of Agassiz’s “science” of polygenism states what seems to be an apt criticism of your thinking in deference to the Christian Evangelist Craig pretending cosmological inquiry, “(miraculous) theory of creation covers ignorance with a word pretending knowledge and feigning reverence. To admit a miracle when one isn’t necessary seems to be one of those works of supererogation which have survived the Protestant Reformation.” He says this because Darwinian adaptation through natural selection proved to be a more descriptive theory of bio-diversity than Agassiz assertions that all species were distinct, created by God and then wiped away by periodic glacial movement. Agassiz was famous in his time and thought by many devout thinkers to be correct since he invoked intelligent creation rather than chance mutation as a theory of diversity. He was also hated by many Christians because he considered Native Americans and Blacks as distinct species to Whites thus obviating a literal Genesis. We remember Darwin however and there are not many disciples of Agassiz fielding experiments on glacial movement in Brazil today. Also, Wright frames what seems the proper attitude towards observed phenomenon we see as real yet fail to define absolute origination, “Of what we may call cosmical weather, in the inter-stellar spaces, little is known. Of the general cosmical effects of the opposing actions of heat and gravitations, the great dispersive and concentrative principles of the universe, we can at present only form vague conjectures; but that these two principles are the agents of vast counter-movements in the formation and destruction of worlds, always operative in the never-ending cycles and in infinite time, seems to us be by far the most rational supposition which we can form concerning the matter.” Wright offers later thinkers an invitation to the same curiosity he entertained which helped lead him to understand the world in which we live whereas you, and William Lane Craig, answer mysteries with a mystery and ask us to conclude it is the truth despite the open questions that remain. One offers intellectual liberty while the other feigns reverence to perform ideological tyranny. It is sad really you can be so sure of unknown properties and their origins where other people still wrestle with ideas that offer intelligence.

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Steven R. February 18, 2011 at 9:01 am

I forgot to add yesterday:

1. You say it is objectively wrong to kill babies (well, torture, but intuitively speaking, I don’t think people will object to “killing” either), yet God commands (whoops, there goes that nature thing) the Israelis to kill everyone of a tribe (forgot their name), babies included.

2. The Bible is rife with God giving commands, some of which are changed later on (ex: No eating shellfish and later on, Peter’s revelation that it is okay to eat it).

Point is, even if your points about objective morality hold up, they aren’t applicable to the Christian God.

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LNC February 18, 2011 at 12:26 pm

You simply are narrowly defining the word “create” to suit your purposes.

Haha, no, I am using the word “create” in the real sense of the word. In our universe, no energy is created or destroyed. What this means to us is that nothing we witness is created in the actual sense of the word, it’s just a transfer from one form of energy to another. Have you even taken a basic course on Physics? I don’t mean to insult, but I learned this stuff in 8th Grade, if not in 6th.

I’ve already cited two dictionary sources that are in agreement with the way that I use the term. Yours is a narrower definition that fits with the point that you seem to want to make, but it doesn’t fit with the broader meaning of the word, so your point hasn’t carried. If you believe that energy has to be created in order to create anything, you are not using the word to its fullest meaning. It has nothing to do with physics or the law of conservation of energy (yes, I am familiar with physics), it has to do with the use of the word create.

Er…no, but you are creative with what it means to actually create something…and with words creating all matter.

Apparently, so are both Merriam Webster and Dictionary.com as they both cite my meaning as their first definition.

What?? I pointed out that a vacuum replicates nothing and that the only thing those prior conditions show is that once there is something, you need specific conditions to replicate nothingness, thus that objection completely misses the point. I’m not sure where you’re getting these “colorful effects”. Besides, we really don’t quite understand the conditions prior to the Big Bang so it seems too premature to pass any judgment on how things occurred, though since leading Cosmologists have offered various examples that could account for the creation of matter that don’t involve God, it seems folly to take the Kalam Argument as something conclusive.

Your words were: “If nothing has no conditions, then there is no property of nothing that restricts the creation of matter.” Are you now backtracking on that idea? You are really confused about the concept of nothingness as you seem to think that some conditions can recreate it. You say that you are studied in physics, yet you seem to forget that energy moves toward entropy and given enough time we will reach a state of complete entropy. So, if we have an infinite past, why have we not reached a state of complete entropy? You also have the philosophical difficulty of actualizing an infinite and the logical problems that result. So, though we don’t know what existed prior to the Big Bang, we can make some safe inferences about what did not. Borde, Vilenkin, and Guth did work to show that the universe could not be eternal into the past and I’m not aware that their findings have been overturned.

…Let’s use your example. I have no income and yet I buy something. You object. You can’t buy something with nothing. I then say, “oh, you misunderstand philosophy. You see, I am something so I am not violating the laws of casualty.” Yes, I may be something, but with no income, that still doesn’t solve the problem of how I bought something with nothing, now does it? Similarly, if creation ex-nihilo is incoherent, then any and all cosmological arguments fail. That’s been my point all along.

Sorry, but you are still left with the problem of explaining why something exists rather than nothing at all (see Leibniz). Second, you would be left to explain how matter could be past eternal (violation of basic physics). Third, God is, by definition, omnipotent and able to produce matter out of nothing, while we are neither omnipotent nor able to produce something from nothing. So, you cannot escape from the problem of explaining existence, nor does your objection hold in the case of God.

Haha, well, you seem to think that Craig doesn’t flip-flop from position to position when it is rhetorically convenient, but I’m afraid that’s just not the case. When Craig tries to prove the first premise of the Kalam Argument, he appeals to the following definition of nothing given by Thomas Aquinas:
“(iv) If, at a given time, there was nothing at all (apart from time itself), then at no later time could anything begin to exist.”
But, as you note, this conflicts with an earlier assertion he made to back up other parts of the KCA. Once again, if nothing doesn’t have any restrictive properties (and that definition I cited from Thomas Aquinas is a definition which gives nothing restrictive properties), then premise 1 fails and we can’t actually deduct anything since we can’t rule out nothing (and then there’s the problem I’ve been pointing out).

Did you have a reference for the above assertion? It always helps to check context. I’ve done a search to try to confirm his use of this, which I have never heard him use, and I am very familiar with his views on this. He is not inconsistent as you claim, just read his books or read his articles from his website and you will find that out. I think that if this quote is attributed to anything that Craig has written, and I have not found it, then you have probably taken it out of context. However, since you didn’t cite a source reference, I suspect it didn’t come from Craig’s writings at all. You don’t know Craig if you believe he flip flops, that is something I’ve never heard anyone accuse him of. Maybe you should actually read his books, Time and Eternity or Creation Out of Nothing so you understand his views before falsely asserting these ideas.

Not sure what prompted that tirade, but what I was saying is that we can easily change God and for any other unfalsifiable hypothesis and have it work equally well. The Unicorn From Dimension X exemplifies this. Any design in the world? Accounted for by the Unicorn, of course! This is to draw out a greater flaw with th God hypothesis: it doesn’t eliminate anything and it can’t differentiate itself from other hypothesis that also are careful enough to be unfalsifiable. If morals or whatever can be just as perfectly accounted for by trans-dimensional unicorns as well as disembodied minds, as that one famous movie line goes, “Houston, we’ve got a problem.”

Yet, apart from your little unicorn story, you haven’t explained anything. You don’t tell me whether the universe is self-caused, temporal but uncaused, or past eternal. You don’t tell me how your imaginary unicorns are causal in nature, but then you couldn’t since they are completely undetectable. Sure, we can posit anything we like if we never have to defend our position. However, that is not my claim in regard to God. I have given several ways to falsify the hypothesis, none of which you have engaged. You simply resort to your invisible unicorns. I find that interesting as atheists are always quick to assert that God is just some invisible sky daddy, yet when presented with ways to falsify the God hypothesis, they rarely want to engage. Atheists rarely want to take on the burden of defending their own explanation for existence, fine tuning, objective morality, consciousness, intentionality, reason, etc. It is usually just an exercise of erecting straw men, knocking them down, and then gloating about how smart they are to have done so. Really, take some initiative to at least attempt to come up with a plausible alternative explanation. As you have said, the invisible unicorns are not plausible, so that doesn’t work for you. What you will need is an explanation that has explanatory scope and power. It must account for all phenomena and each phenomenon. Let’s hear one.

LNC

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Steven R. February 18, 2011 at 4:19 pm

I am shocked at how you consistently fail to grasp basic points and what I am arguing. Alright, this is my last response before I throw my hands up in despair:

You simply are narrowly defining the word “create” to suit your purposes.

No, I am using the word “create” in the real sense of the word, not as the transfer of energy which occurs within the universe. How is this hard to understand? It’s 8th Grade curriculum.

I’ve already cited two dictionary sources that are in agreement with the way that I use the term.

Forgive my language, but who the fuck uses a regular dictionary when dealing with the scientific and philosophical aspects of a term?

Yours is a narrower definition that fits with the point that you seem to want to make, but it doesn’t fit with the broader meaning of the word, so your point hasn’t carried.

No, my definition is what creates mean. Scientifically speaking, nothing within the universe is created. This is not up to debate, it is a fact.

If you believe that energy has to be created in order to create anything, you are not using the word to its fullest meaning.

???

It has nothing to do with physics or the law of conservation of energy (yes, I am familiar with physics), it has to do with the use of the word create.

Apparently you aren’t familiar with physics or you wouldn’t be saying this crap.

Apparently, so are both Merriam Webster and Dictionary.com as they both cite my meaning as their first definition.

A rather colloquial definition that doesn’t take into consideration physics…

Your words were: “If nothing has no conditions, then there is no property of nothing that restricts the creation of matter.”Are you now backtracking on that idea? You are really confused about the concept of nothingness as you seem to think that some conditions can recreate it.

You say that you are studied in physics

Stop putting words in my mouth. I said I learned about the conservation of energy when I was in 8th grade, I have no idea how such a basic course of physics implies that I am “studied in physics”. You also said that I had “claimed to be knowledgeable of quantum mechanics” which is outright false, I don’t know much of anything about it and I would never make the claim that I know anything about it.

You know what? I’m not even going to bother to respond to the rest of your comment. Come back when you’re willing to have an actual discussion, realize that Merriam-Webster is not a good source for this sort of discussion, understand that nothing is created within our universe, and you learn not to put words in your “opponents” mouth with the intent of discrediting them. This is just ridiculous.

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Steven R. February 18, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Goddamn it, I just had to screw the blockquote again:

You say that you are studied in physics

Stop putting words in my mouth. I said I learned about the conservation of energy when I was in 8th grade, I have no idea how such a basic course of physics implies that I am “studied in physics”. You also said that I had “claimed to be knowledgeable of quantum mechanics” which is outright false, I don’t know much of anything about it and I would never make the claim that I know anything about it.

You know what? I’m not even going to bother to respond to the rest of your comment. Come back when you’re willing to have an actual discussion, realize that Merriam-Webster is not a good source for this sort of discussion, understand that nothing is created within our universe, and you learn not to put words in your “opponents” mouth with the intent of discrediting them. This is just ridiculous.

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clamat February 18, 2011 at 5:53 pm

@LNC

I’ll pick up the gauntlet from Steven R. for a bit.

You said: However, that is not my claim in regard to God. I have given several ways to falsify the [God] hypothesis

As far as I can tell, they are these:

One, provide evidence that the universe was not created and has no teleology; two, provide evidence that all existence can be accounted for by physics; three, provide evidence that Jesus either didn’t exist or didn’t rise from the dead; four, show that morality can be both objective and naturalized.

How would any of these falsify the God hypothesis?

One: Provide evidence the universe was not created and has no teleology.

I’ll admit that I’m not sure what you mean by “has no teleology,” but I don’t think it matters. Even if we produce evidence the universe was not created and “has no teleology,” can’t the committed theist simply respond “God just wants it to look like the universe was not created and has no teleology. That’s part of his plan. You haven’t disproved God.” Isn’t this proof subject to the “false history” theory some young-Earth creationists advance to dismiss the evidence provided by paleontology?

Put another way: What could possibly constitute conclusive evidence that the universe was not created? Isn’t “can’t prove a negative” perfectly applicable here?

Two: Provide evidence that all existence can be accounted for by physics.

See One, above. Tomorrow the world’s physicists unanimously endorse the newly-discovered Theory of Everything. The day after tomorrow all of the world’s committed theists, Bill O’Reilly at their head, will say “Even if you’re right, How’d the Theory of Everything get there? You can’t explain that! God obviously wrote the Theory of Everything into the Fabric of the Universe. You can’t prove he didn’t.” And they would be correct.

Three: Provide evidence that Jesus either didn’t exist or didn’t rise from the dead.

Woof. So many problems with this one. First, proving something about Jesus might falsify one very particular god, but it wouldn’t falsify “God” generally. Also, what would constitute “proof” that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead? The only thing I can think of would be if we found a corpse the DNA of which matches Jesus’. O.K., Great! Now all we have to do is find the verified sample of Jesus’ DNA…

Four: Show that morality can be both objective and naturalized.

See One, above. Theist: “So morality appears to be both objective and naturalized. That’s how God designed it. Praise God!”

I’m not saying it would be reasonable to say something like this, or that you personally wouldn’t accept the evidence you propose as satisfactory, but I don’t think it would falsify the God hypothesis.

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LNC February 18, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Wow…where to begin with this…
1. No, you are still grounding morals on a being’s nature. You confuse unchanging with objective, and I’m afraid that’s not the case. Temperature, for example, may change, but it is still a thing that exists objectively. Not only that, but suppose we say that a certain nature is good. Even if a being where to later change his or her nature, we already defined the previous nature as being good and it would remain unchanging since every other nature has now been defined as unchanging. Is that objective? Nope. And it’s still chosen arbitrarily.
2. Suppose the Alien has an unchanging nature. That is, he will always be malevolent. Does that make his desire to kill all human beings an objective moral? Of course not, that’s because grounding morals on what someone believes or what nature they have is hardly objective at all.
3. If we put the alien outside the system of morals, would it make it objective? Again, no, that is still quite an arbitrary declaration.
4. If God is not a subject within his system, does that mean that morality does not apply to him? If so, how can a being that can’t be either good or bad have it’s nature called good? Not only that, but if the best type of good can be achieved without morals, then what are their use?
I think your position raises waaaay more problems than it solves, and it’s still subjective.

1. Right. That nature, however, is eternal, transcendent and unchanging and, therefore, provides objective grounding. I am not saying that just because they are unchanging, they are objective. I’m saying that one aspect that makes them objective is that they are unchangeable, and that is a necessary condition. I’m not sure that you properly understand the concept of “objective” based upon your objections as you have provided no valid argument to show that morals grounded in God’s eternal, transcendent, and unchanging nature make them subjective. Subjective in what nature? How? In regard to temperature, you are simply equivocating on the use of the term objective. If a certain nature is good and that nature changes, than the change would then account for what is good as it is still according to the nature of that thing that good is defined. If you say the nature in a certain state is what defines good, then that is an external standard that you would now have to ground. It is either the things nature, no matter what that nature is that defines good, or it is an external standard that does. You can’t have it both ways. You are confusing two concepts here.
2. If morality were grounded in that alien and the nature of that alien was to kill, then yes, killing would be considered good and people would think it was good. If the alien transcended the human population, was unchangeable, and eternal (i.e., didn’t make up his morality at some finite point in the past), then we could say that that would be an objective standard. Aren’t we glad that God is not like that? Maybe, however, you need to define what you mean when you consider the term objective. I would be curious how you would define it.
3. If the alien defined morality, the alien could not be put outside the system of morals. That would contradict that idea and put moral standards outside of the alien. Can you not see that if morality is defined by a nature that is eternal and unchangeable, it is not arbitrary? How would it be arbitrary? In the case of God, he has not arbitrarily determined his nature. He cannot act contrary to his nature. His nature is eternal and not something that was created at some finite point in the past. What is arbitrary about this scenario?
4. God cannot act contrary to his nature, that is definitional to the concept. So, to say that morals do not apply to God is like saying that humanity does not apply to humans. Humanity is our nature and we cannot just put it aside and become something else (a dog, a chair, or any other thing). We can act differently (like a dog, for example), but that doesn’t make us non-human. If morality is part of God’s nature, it applies to him in the sense that it is the way he acts “naturally” (according to his nature). But does it impose an external standard on him? No, because he cannot act otherwise. Again, you are not thinking correctly about this concept. They are good questions, but they also show that you have not yet understood it correctly, so hopefully this response will help clear that up. If you can’t see that what I have provided is an objective standard, then we have more philosophical work to do.

No, it is quite relevant because you said you split the dilemma by the horns when in reality, you just made me reword the original problem.

I didn’t say it was irrelevant, just that it should be handled as a separate question. It is important to resolve the ontological question (do objective morals really exist?) before we delve into the epistemological question (what are they and how do we know?). If morals do not exist, the second question is then irrelevant. However, it is my contention that morals do exist as an objective standard and that God is the only way to ground objective morals. In regard to splitting the horns of Euthyphro, that is commonly understood to be resolved as I have already presented it in an earlier post. I’m not sure what you mean by saying you had to reword the problem. The problem was laid out clearly by Plato long ago, I don’t think it needs rewording.

Uh yes, because otherwise, if we had two unchanging natures with two contradicting positions, we’d have no way of determining which is good and bad. Not only that, but we still have no idea whether God’s nature is good or bad, all we know it’s immutable. Whoop-de-doo.

First, let’s clarify that we are not merely speaking of unchanging natures as immutable means unchangeable. There is a distinction between unchanging and unchangeable. Could you show that there are or could be two unchangeable natures without being unparsimonious? It seems unnecessary to posit such a thing. You also fail to see that if a being is the standard of good, then his nature determines what is good. Good is not, as Plato like to believe, some brute fact that exists in the world. As I said before, if it were, we would have no obligation to live by it. We know more about God’s nature than that it is immutable, we also know that it is eternal and transcendent, which are also necessary concepts to ground objectivity.

I thought you said you watched WLC debates. That’s how he makes the jump from 1. Objective morals do exist to 2. Without God, there are no objective morals.

Yes I have watched most of Craig’s debates and no he does not make that point. He says that we know intuitively that certain things are wrong, for example, that it is always wrong to torture babies for fun. However, he never appeals to popularity to defend any position regarding morality. BTW, the moral argument goes as follows. 1) If objective moral values exist, then God exists. 2) Objective moral values do exist. 3) Therefore, God exists. Point 1 is defended in that the only way to ground objective moral values is in God’s nature and you have shown no evidence to the contrary on that point thus far. Point 2 is grounded by our intuitive knowledge that certain acts are always wrong (a point that even Richard Dawkins has conceded in a weak moment after one of his debates). Point 3 follows from 1 & 2. No appeal to popularity in that argument or the defense of points 1 & 2.

Which you haven’t. You’ve shown that there may be an immutable nature (you haven’t actually proved the existence of said nature, so it seems that any attempt to prove that said nature does exist would make your argument circular) but not that we should think that this is something that to determine good from.
My question to you is, if God’s immutable nature was that all Jews should be gassed and Hitler should rise into power, would that be a basis of objective morals?

God is by definition immutable. The question is whether God exists which the moral argument gives evidence to support. You have given no evidence of circularity in this argument – there is none. You have simply again built a straw man argument to knock down, but I would rather that you engage in the actual argument for a change.

It was not God’s will that Jews be gassed; however, your asking that question gives evidence that you believe that certain acts are objectively wrong (i.e. genocide), my question is, if God doesn’t ground that concept objectively, who or what does? If it is not grounded objectively, then it wasn’t really wrong, it is only a concept that may make us feel uncomfortable, but apart from the existence of an objective moral standard, we cannot say that it was wrong, I mean really wrong as opposed to having an opinion that it ought not to have been done.

Most people agree that morals really do exist? Okay, who cares? Proof that they exist please. By the way, if torturing babies for fun is always wrong, doesn’t that make God a culprit because he allows people to torture babies for fun (most people would also agree that anyone who can prevent a baby from being tortured for fun but does nothing is equally guilty)? Now, if you argue that allowing people to torture babies leads to some greater good, then it is not the case that “torturing babies for fun is always wrong” as we have now stated “torturing babies for fun is always wrong, unless it leads to some greater good.” This also illustrates a failing with your view of objective morals being immutable. It would seem that to justify God’s inaction, certain actions may be wrong depending on the circumstances (whether or not they bring about a greater good).
Now, I will say, if you define objective morals as unchanging moral views, then I agree, God does provide objective values. But as I pointed out, grounding morals upon any nature would be the same, and if an agent changes his or her nature, his nature would be defined as evil and the agent merely changed from a good to bad nature.

Yes, most people agree that morals really do exist. Why, do you believe otherwise? Why would God be responsible for what his creation, made up of free creatures, does? Suppose you have adult children who you have raised to live morally, but go off as adults and live debauched lives. Are you responsible for their actions? Could we say that you allowed your children to live such a lifestyle and hold you responsible? I am not a hard determinist, I believe that God allows his people to make free choices, even though some are going to result in evil and pain. It’s nice of you to take the effort to try to defeat the greater good argument, but I don’t remember making it.

1. Your only reason for trying to prove that objective morals do exist is that people feel like they exist. That’s stupid. If that’s how you’re going to go about proving things, just say “It feels like if God exists” and sit back and let people laugh at you for such an egregious argument.
2. It depends on what you mean by objective. If you mean unchanging, sure, but again, this doesn’t really do much of anything.

No, I don’t argue that they exist because people feel that they exist, yet another straw man argument on your part. Objective means that they (morals) are true independent of whether people (the subjects) believe they are true.

No, that is like saying that they are up to a person’s interpretation. Does the taste of chocolate not exist because people may say it tastes good, bad or godawful? No, they do exist, but in a different sense. There’s no way of saying which is right and I suppose you can argue that such morals are useless, but that’s about it.
BTW, intuitively speaking, people will tell you that milk past its expiration date tastes bad. According to you, this would be more than enough of a compelling reason to come up with “objective tastes”. It’s laughable logic, to be sure.

If they exist, then you must be able to ground them objectively apart from God. How do you do that? Again, you are confusing epistemology with ontology. I don’t want to jump to the second question until we resolve the first.

Dude, what’s up with quoting Craig word by word? Like seriously (and forgive how colloquial I am being here, but this is getting really absurd), would you mind writing your own actual ideas instead of regurgitating what someone else said?
Appeal to consequences, sir. That’s a well known fallacy and I already stated how I believe morals to work. It may be right or wrong, but this sort of question doesn’t prove or raise a valid objection.

Dude, where did I quote him word for word? Really, what you have written, I have read from Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and many atheist websites, so I wouldn’t go thinking that your objections are original. We all derive our ideas from prior thinkers, so don’t think that you are coming up with unique and fresh concepts.

What are you talking about, appeal to consequences? I’m simply asking whether you really believe what you are espousing. If you believe that morality is subjective, then rape, murder, child molestation and any other act are no different in moral nature to generosity, benevolence, charity, or any other act. There is no objective difference between one and the other, right? BTW, appeal to consequences says that an idea is false because of the supposed consequences that would ensue. I, on the other hand, simply asked a question to find out whether you really believe what you espouse. See the difference? I never said that belief in subjective morals would necessarily lead to these behaviors, those behaviors already exist. The question is, do you believe those behaviors have not objective oughtness to them? In other words, are they morally neutral behaviors in your eyes as a moral non-realist? That is not committing the fallacy of appeal to consequences.

I spy with my little eye a contradiction. Each body will suffer different side-effects at different temperatures. Sure, at some temperature, all bodies will inevitably be harmed, but I reckon that there is a different response to different temperatures by the body. It seems that the temperature at which each body will begin to suffer from adverse side-effects is not “immutable” but different for each person. I guess immutability is not a pre-requisite for objectivity.
Furthermore, if we can detect some sort of direct relationship between committing an action and some effect on the body, you say it would be objective. Fine, but do we need God to see the adverse effects of temperature on our body? No, so it seems that things can be objective without God. Also notice has this has nothing to do with the nature of that person’s personality, but with their body. Lastly, if there is no such connection as there is between temperature and effects on the body when it comes to morals, but only to our states of mind, then morals are not objective.

But, you realize that excessive temperatures in either direction cause harm to the body, right? Still, this is to equivocate on the use of the term objective. It is objectively the case (meaning that it is true whether I believe it or not) that excessive temperatures for prolonged periods of time will cause physical harm to an exposed live human body. We can agree on that. Sure, the temperature will vary by a few degrees and the time of exposure will vary by a few minutes based upon the composition of the body (i.e., amount of body fat, type of skin, etc.), but the principle still objectively holds. Your little eye was picking up on another straw man argument, not on an actual contradiction. So yes, immutability is still intact.

I gave no part of a definition that said that God had to see something for it to be objective, another straw man. Your whole argument is built on straw, it is irrelevant to the conversation in so many ways. In fact, it is so flawed that you are best to abandon it before you confuse the conversation any more with it. Again, objective means that something is true independent of whether anyone believes it to be so. It is an objective fact that objects dropped in a vacuum fall at the same rate of speed. I can deny it, I can choose not to believe it, I can remain agnostic about it, but it is true independent of my beliefs or anyone else’s belief, it is an objective fact. Morals are either objective facts or they do not exist, there is no such thing as subjective morals, those are called opinions and are no more important than my opinion of what is the best ice cream. It may be important and true for me, but it doesn’t mean it is true for anyone else, nor does it carry any oughtness to it. No one is obligated to buy my favorite ice cream because it is my favorite. In fact, if there was an ice cream flavor that appealed to 99% of the population, it wouldn’t mean that the other 1% have an obligation to buy that ice cream flavor. The same is true of morals. Even if 99% of society held the opinion that murder was wrong, it wouldn’t oblige the other 1% to act according to that popularly held belief. There is no oughtness to opinions.

LNC

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LNC February 18, 2011 at 7:36 pm

I forgot to add yesterday:
1. You say it is objectively wrong to kill babies (well, torture, but intuitively speaking, I don’t think people will object to “killing” either), yet God commands (whoops, there goes that nature thing) the Israelis to kill everyone of a tribe (forgot their name), babies included.
2. The Bible is rife with God giving commands, some of which are changed later on (ex: No eating shellfish and later on, Peter’s revelation that it is okay to eat it).
Point is, even if your points about objective morality hold up, they aren’t applicable to the Christian God.

I will be happy to argue this case with you as soon as we come to some consensus on the grounding for morals. If morals are not objective in nature, then this discussion is irrelevant. You are merely expressing your opinion and nothing more. So, let’s solve the first question before jumping on in our discussion.

LNC

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LNC February 18, 2011 at 8:09 pm

I will see your WLC and match it with Chauncey Wright, the Socrates of Cambridge. Wright, writing in 1866 on the rhetorical nature of Agassiz’s “science” of polygenism states what seems to be an apt criticism of your thinking in deference to the Christian Evangelist Craig pretending cosmological inquiry, “(miraculous) theory of creation covers ignorance with a word pretending knowledge and feigning reverence. To admit a miracle when one isn’t necessary seems to be one of those works of supererogation which have survived the Protestant Reformation.” He says this because Darwinian adaptation through natural selection proved to be a more descriptive theory of bio-diversity than Agassiz assertions that all species were distinct, created by God and then wiped away by periodic glacial movement.

Chuck, thanks for bringing this into the conversation. First, this argument is not relevant to the discussion as it is dealing with Darwinian evolution (change over time) rather than the question of the origin of the universe (something to which Darwinian, or even neo-Darwinian evolution does not apply). Second, Craig is agnostic about evolution. He believes that it could be fit into a Christian worldview as people like Francis Collins, the former head of the human genome project, have done. One must explain the existence of the universe and the existence of the conditions making Earth suitable to higher life forms, before one even has a basis on which to argue evolution. However, the reason that Collins is a theistic evolutionist is that he sees certain aspects of evolution that could not be explained by chance, natural selection, and time alone. Do you have a naturalistic explanation as to why anything exists rather than nothing at all? How about for the existence of the universe, do you have a completely naturalistic explanation for that?

Agassiz was famous in his time and thought by many devout thinkers to be correct since he invoked intelligent creation rather than chance mutation as a theory of diversity. He was also hated by many Christians because he considered Native Americans and Blacks as distinct species to Whites thus obviating a literal Genesis. We remember Darwin however and there are not many disciples of Agassiz fielding experiments on glacial movement in Brazil today. Also, Wright frames what seems the proper attitude towards observed phenomenon we see as real yet fail to define absolute origination, “Of what we may call cosmical weather, in the inter-stellar spaces, little is known. Of the general cosmical effects of the opposing actions of heat and gravitations, the great dispersive and concentrative principles of the universe, we can at present only form vague conjectures; but that these two principles are the agents of vast counter-movements in the formation and destruction of worlds, always operative in the never-ending cycles and in infinite time, seems to us be by far the most rational supposition which we can form concerning the matter.” Wright offers later thinkers an invitation to the same curiosity he entertained which helped lead him to understand the world in which we live whereas you, and William Lane Craig, answer mysteries with a mystery and ask us to conclude it is the truth despite the open questions that remain. One offers intellectual liberty while the other feigns reverence to perform ideological tyranny. It is sad really you can be so sure of unknown properties and their origins where other people still wrestle with ideas that offer intelligence.

I can see why his views would be unpopular, but they weren’t unique views to him. Many evolutionists, including Darwin himself, had similar views about the races. Many don’t know that the full title of Darwin’s famous tome was “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” Evolution inspired the likes of Margaret Sanger (the founder of Planned Parenthood) to advocate eugenics and euthanasia to reduce the population of blacks and other less desirable races in her eyes.

I don’t think the idea of infinite time is a rational one. For example, how long would it take to arrive at today given past infinity? Answer, an infinite amount of time. Yet, time goes on, which means that we have not crossed an infinite amount of time, yet here we are at this moment in time, so obviously we’ve spanned an infinite amount of time, but wait, time still goes on, so we have not spanned an infinite amount of time. See the problem? The second problem, as I have mentioned in other posts is the entropy problem. We have a finite amount of energy in the universe, yet, given an infinite amount of time, we should be at a state of maximal entropy, but we’re not. That means that the universe is not infinitely old. But, you will say, we’re not the only universe. Ah, but that simply pushes the problem back either one or a series of steps as there must be a meta-universe, which itself should be at entropy, but it apparently is not either as we would be a part of that meta universe. The other problem is that we have no, and will never have any empirical observable data for any universe but our own, so the belief in multiple universes is a metaphysical, not a scientific belief. You are doing no better than to answer a mystery with a mystery either with this view, if that is what you hold to, and I assume you do if you believe what you wrote. I on the other hand, only argue based upon what we do know, not on speculative multiple universes that we do not know. So, I appreciate your concern, but you may want to turn your concern inward as you are holding to a view that is exactly the mysterious position that you seem to eschew in others.

LNC

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LNC February 18, 2011 at 8:43 pm

I am shocked at how you consistently fail to grasp basic points and what I am arguing. Alright, this is my last response before I throw my hands up in despair:
No, I am using the word “create” in the real sense of the word, not as the transfer of energy which occurs within the universe. How is this hard to understand? It’s 8th Grade curriculum.
Forgive my language, but who the fuck uses a regular dictionary when dealing with the scientific and philosophical aspects of a term?
No, my definition is what creates mean. Scientifically speaking, nothing within the universe is created. This is not up to debate, it is a fact.
No, my definition is what creates mean. Scientifically speaking, nothing within the universe is created. This is not up to debate, it is a fact.

Steven, please spare me the faux shock. If you would simply be honest in the fact that the word “create” can be used in ways that don’t pertain to the origination of matter and energy, then we could both avoid the degradation into the use of off-color language. If the word is not used as it is listed as the first definition of both dictionaries I cited, then you might have a point, but the fact is, you are beating your head against the wall in the effort to prove that your narrowed the definition of the word to suit your needs is the only real use of the term and that is a losing effort. You can’t fight against facts, they are stubbornly persistent. You can claim it is 8th grade curriculum all you want, but you will have to convince the editors of every dictionary in the English language that your narrow use of the term is the normative use, and good luck with that one.

Please cite one source, scientific or otherwise, in which your use of the term is the first definition of the term. For example, Science-Dictionary.com defines create as: to make or produce something (sounds like my usage of the term). OK, how about Babylon.com which pulls from multiple science dictionaries, how do they define create? Produce, make (again, sounds like the definition I gave). Now, if you have another source that defines it according to your narrower usage as a first definition, please reference the source.

Stop putting words in my mouth. I said I learned about the conservation of energy when I was in 8th grade, I have no idea how such a basic course of physics implies that I am “studied in physics”. You also said that I had “claimed to be knowledgeable of quantum mechanics” which is outright false, I don’t know much of anything about it and I would never make the claim that I know anything about it.

You know what? I’m not even going to bother to respond to the rest of your comment. Come back when you’re willing to have an actual discussion, realize that Merriam-Webster is not a good source for this sort of discussion, understand that nothing is created within our universe, and you learn not to put words in your “opponents” mouth with the intent of discrediting them. This is just ridiculous.

You put yourself over as someone who knew physics and implied that I didn’t (your words were: Have you even taken a basic course on Physics? I don’t mean to insult, but I learned this stuff in 8th Grade, if not in 6th.) Seems that you were implying that you had a greater grasp of physics than me. You put yourself across as one who was studied in physics, sorry if I misunderstood your intentions. Regarding quantum mechanics, you said on 2/14 at 9:40 p.m., “We already know from quantum mechanics that things CAN come from nothing in a vacuum.” Were you speaking from a position of ignorance or knowledge when you made this claim? Your claim seemed to be pretty certain, even capitalizing the word CAN. I’m just going by your own statements, I have nothing else by which to make assessments of you.

I tell you what, if you can produce a legitimate (recognized and official) source that lists your definition for create as its primary definition, I will give up M-W, and other sources and go by your definition in future discussion. However, every source that I have found lists my understanding as the primary definition. The fact is, I have yet to find one source that even gives your narrow definition as one of the options. Yes, it is ridiculous that you continue to fight a losing cause in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It is time to admit that you are wrong, not so that I can be right, but so that we can have an honest discussion.

LNC

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LNC February 18, 2011 at 9:08 pm

As far as I can tell, they are these:
One, provide evidence that the universe was not created and has no teleology; two, provide evidence that all existence can be accounted for by physics; three, provide evidence that Jesus either didn’t exist or didn’t rise from the dead; four, show that morality can be both objective and naturalized.
How would any of these falsify the God hypothesis?

If the universe was completely naturalized, there would be no need or no place for God.

One: Provide evidence the universe was not created and has no teleology.
I’ll admit that I’m not sure what you mean by “has no teleology,” but I don’t think it matters. Even if we produce evidence the universe was not created and “has no teleology,” can’t the committed theist simply respond “God just wants it to look like the universe was not created and has no teleology. That’s part of his plan. You haven’t disproved God.” Isn’t this proof subject to the “false history” theory some young-Earth creationists advance to dismiss the evidence provided by paleontology?
Put another way: What could possibly constitute conclusive evidence that the universe was not created? Isn’t “can’t prove a negative” perfectly applicable here?

By teleology, I mean purposeful design. For example, when we look at the constants of the universe, they are finely tuned in such a way as that they cannot be explained by chance or necessity, that would leave design as the best explanation. If this argument was the sole argument, one might be able to use the fall-back position that God wanted it to appear to be random; however, this argument is not used in isolation from the rest, but rather as a piece of a cumulative case for God’s existence. In regard to the “false history” argument, that is not my position nor, do I think, a valid objection, so I will leave that one alone.

What could provide conclusive evidence that the universe is the product of natural processes (let’s argue a positive case rather than a negative one) is to show that it is either: a) eternal and uncreated (which would include any multiverse hypotheses as many are based upon an eternal meta-universe); b) temporal, yet uncreated (i.e. popped into existence uncaused); c) self-caused. Also, one would have to show that the constants are either: a) the product of chance; or, b) the product of law or necessity. Both of these conditions have to be met to show that the universe is completely the result of natural processes.

Two: Provide evidence that all existence can be accounted for by physics.
See One, above. Tomorrow the world’s physicists unanimously endorse the newly-discovered Theory of Everything. The day after tomorrow all of the world’s committed theists, Bill O’Reilly at their head, will say “Even if you’re right, How’d the Theory of Everything get there? You can’t explain that! God obviously wrote the Theory of Everything into the Fabric of the Universe. You can’t prove he didn’t.” And they would be correct.

See, that is why scientists are striving to find the TOE. This is why the LHC was built near Geneva, Switzerland, to find the Higgs boson particle as a step in that direction. You don’t understand the TOE, it would eliminate the question of additional explanations, at least, that’s the hope of those in its pursuit. Will it, if it is ever discovered (which, by the way, not all scientists believe will be achieved)? We’ll have to wait and see if that day ever materializes. However, if all laws and constants can be naturalized, it will put a great dent in belief in God.

Three: Provide evidence that Jesus either didn’t exist or didn’t rise from the dead.
Woof. So many problems with this one. First, proving something about Jesus might falsify one very particular god, but it wouldn’t falsify “God” generally. Also, what would constitute “proof” that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead? The only thing I can think of would be if we found a corpse the DNA of which matches Jesus’. O.K., Great! Now all we have to do is find the verified sample of Jesus’ DNA…

It would falsify the Judeo-Christian God, which is the largest contingent of theists in the world. There are plenty of people who are making it their life’s mission to disprove the resurrection, so I will have you look to their works for that answer. It has nothing to do with DNA as we don’t have a sample to compare against. It has to do with the historical accounts and their veracity, for one thing.

Four: Show that morality can be both objective and naturalized.
See One, above. Theist: “So morality appears to be both objective and naturalized. That’s how God designed it. Praise God!”
I’m not saying it would be reasonable to say something like this, or that you personally wouldn’t accept the evidence you propose as satisfactory, but I don’t think it would falsify the God hypothesis.

No, that is not how it would come down. If objective morality could be naturalized, then that puts a huge and insurmountable obstacle in the way of theism. I would say that it would shake theism to the very core. Again, each of these would present a cumulative case against God, just as each of these are pieces of a cumulative case for God’s existence. What I’m saying is that if you do like an attorney in the court room and take the opposing side’s case apart, the verdict will go against them. The same goes here, if the case is destroyed, then sure, there might be a few that hold on anyway, but many would fall away with the lack of evidence. However, the same should be the case for the atheist who claims to take a rational stance. I challenge the atheist to present a compelling, rational, and evidential case for your views. Don’t just believe by faith alone.

LNC

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clamat February 20, 2011 at 9:08 pm

@LNC

It appears Steven R. was right, and you are confused about what it means to “falsify” a hypothesis. It doesn’t mean to show that one “cumulative case” is more or less persuasive than another. (I urge you to Google “falsifiability” for further explanation.) To falsify the God hypothesis would be to specify an “X” that, if demonstrated, would mean the God hypothesis cannot be true. None of your examples specify an “X” that, if demonstrated, would mean the God hypothesis cannot be true.

Disproving the resurrection wouldn’t falsify the God of billions of non-Christian theists, so it wouldn’t falsify the God hypothesis. For evidence against design to falsify the God hypothesis, design must be a necessary component of every case for God’s existence. It’s not. Similar to the design argument, your arguments regarding morality are part of a “cumulative” case. Further, as I’ve already pointed out, proving natural morality would not disprove a God who created the universe to operate according to natural moralistic principles, so satisify his Larger Plan. The same goes for the TOE, which you tacitly acknowledge: Putting a “great dent in belief in God” is not the same thing as falsifying the God hypothesis.

You have not identified any way to falsify the God hypothesis. This doesn’t mean it’s not true, just that it can’t be falsified.

As for your “cumulative case”…

You said: [I]f you do like an attorney in the court room and take the opposing side’s case apart, the verdict will go against them…I challenge the atheist to present a compelling, rational, and evidential case for your views.

Interesting you would use this analogy; I happen to be a trial attorney. Here’s the first draft of my closing argument for atheism/naturalism. (To all you pedants out there: Yes, I’m aware they are not one and the same. Just pipe down.):

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury;

You understand the cases being presented by both sides. Your duty is to weigh the evidence supporting each case, and determine whether that evidence satisfies the respective burdens of proof.

[dramatic pause]

We all agree that the Natural exists. When we look outward from the tiny little space we occupy, the Natural appears to be…well…pretty much everything. The Natural stretches out in space and in time as far as we have the ability to measure. Every element of our existence appears to be built on the natural, from clay bricks down to charm quarks. From our daily bread to our nightly dreams, the immediate explanations of virtually all of our experiences appear to be Natural. Indeed, the progress of Man is measured by the ever-increasing set of things for which once we did not know the Natural cause, but now do. This includes the “intangible” qualities that define us as people. For example, its appearing more and more that love really is a matter of chemistry.

In short, the Natural exists on a scope so brain-boggling that we humans, in the infancy of our species, are only just beginning to understand how very little we know about it. The evidence supporting the case for the Natural is so ubiquitous, so omnipresent, that only a madman would deny it, and it satisfies any standard of proof.

But some among us claim there is something “beyond” or “outside” or “other” than the Natural. And not only this. These people claim that this thing is actually greater than the Natural. Super-natural. Even more amazing, some people claim this Supernatural expects the people living on this lonely speck of dust in a backwater of the universe to live our lives in very specific ways, and will inflict all sorts of punishments on us if we don’t.

On its face, this is a pretty amazing claim, isn’t it? Doesn’t it demand an extraordinarily high burden of proof? I mean, if you, ladies and gentlemen, were sitting in a criminal case you would be told you could convict only if the evidence showed “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the accused was guilty. Some call this the standard of “moral certainty.” It’s a very high standard. But surely this claim of the Supernatural– which some people think would convict every single one of us of a crime — demands an even greater standard of proof?

So what evidence do the Supernaturalists offer to satisfy their burden?

They don’t offer any evidence of the Supernatural that can be directly seen, heard, tasted, smelled, touched, or measured in any way. Indeed you’ve heard expert testimony that it’s not possible to measure the Supernatural scientifically because it is Supernatural. This isn’t evidence; it’s an explanation for why there is no evidence. Ladies and gentlemen, doesn’t it sound just a little too convenient to you?

They can’t say where the Supernatural exists; they can’t point it out on a map. They claim that the Supernatural “created” and affects the Natural, but don’t offer any evidence of a mechanism or how the process actually works. Lots of times, they don’t even really say what it is, and instead say what it is not, using words like “immaterial” and “timeless.” Do you actually understand what these words mean, ladies and gentlemen, because I sure don’t. Whatever they mean, one thing is clear: They are not evidence.

So, I ask you again – where is their evidence? Saying “You don’t know capital-E Everything” over and over again is not evidence. Saying “but it’s possible” over and over again isn’t evidence. Saying “but I’d really, really like it to be true” over and over again is not evidence.

The closest they come is to offer “philosophic” evidence. Now, we lawyers are accused all the time of speaking unclearly on purpose, of using jargon and big words to confuse things and make juries see things that aren’t there. And, ladies and gentlemen, I must admit, sometimes we’re guilty. But don’t the Supernaturalists take the cake? I mean, you remember the witnesses say things like “the impossibility of an actual infinite” and “irreducible complexity,” right? This sounded awful smart, I admit, but I ask you again, do those things actually mean anything to you? Is this evidence?

I submit to you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that it is not. I submit the Supernaturalists have not offered any evidence at all, and simply want you to take it on their say-so. To take it on faith. Don’t let them get away with it.

Thank you.

(And thank you, Luke, for letting me indulge myself.)

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Chuck February 21, 2011 at 10:27 am

Damn clamat,

That is some good writing. Thank you. Practically Paine-like. Good stuff. I might need to copy and paste and post to my blog as an example of how critical thinking can subvert the supernaturalist’s assertion they have “evidence” to support their superstitions. Good stuff.

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Chuck February 21, 2011 at 10:57 am
LNC February 21, 2011 at 11:27 am

It appears Steven R. was right, and you are confused about what it means to “falsify” a hypothesis. It doesn’t mean to show that one “cumulative case” is more or less persuasive than another. (I urge you to Google “falsifiability” for further explanation.) To falsify the God hypothesis would be to specify an “X” that, if demonstrated, would mean the God hypothesis cannot be true. None of your examples specify an “X” that, if demonstrated, would mean the God hypothesis cannot be true.

Hey clamat, thanks for your lengthy and impassioned response. Of course, I did Google falsify before my post and again before this post and I don’t see anything that would negate what I said, nor did you cite any references to make your case. Here’s another problem for your view, Richard Dawkins holds that what he calls, “The God Hypothesis” (see, his chapter in The God Delusion) as a falsifiable hypothesis. In fact, it was one of the reasons he wrote the book. And what’s more, it is the tact that others like Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Chris Hitchens and many other atheists and skeptics have been attempting to do in their various books. The question is whether they are deceived or deceiving their readers? Clearly what Dawkins’ attempts to do in TGD is to build a cumulative counter case to the cumulative case built as evidence for God’s existence. In fact, he wants to go further and try to prove that theists are actually deluded/delusional, thus the title. I’ve read the book and found his presentation of the Christian arguments to often be straw man arguments rather than the actual arguments that Christians present. As for your change in the definition from “is not true” or is “false” to “cannot be true”, I wonder where you come up with that? I don’t believe that Popper or anyone else has ever held such a high standard for falsifiability. In fact, such a standard would place many, if not most, scientific theories outside of the realm of falsifiability.

Disproving the resurrection wouldn’t falsify the God of billions of non-Christian theists, so it wouldn’t falsify the God hypothesis. For evidence against design to falsify the God hypothesis, design must be a necessary component of every case for God’s existence. It’s not. Similar to the design argument, your arguments regarding morality are part of a “cumulative” case. Further, as I’ve already pointed out, proving natural morality would not disprove a God who created the universe to operate according to natural moralistic principles, so satisify his Larger Plan. The same goes for the TOE, which you tacitly acknowledge: Putting a “great dent in belief in God” is not the same thing as falsifying the God hypothesis.

I don’t argue for those types of understanding of God and, apparently, the top atheists don’t seem as concerned about writing or debating against these understandings either. They focus their efforts on the Judeo-Christian understanding of God and to falsify the resurrection, would equate to falsifying God’s existence. Maybe those religious traditions don’t have a falsifiable hypothesis, but Christianity does and that is what we are discussing here, at least what I’m focusing on. I’ll make you a deal, I won’t hold any fall back positions in regard to God’s existence (i.e., say that if the case for the Christian understanding of God is falsified, that it still doesn’t necessarily prove that God doesn’t exist) if you will agree to stick with the main arguments that I have presented. I believe that the case is strong enough for the God of the Bible, that I believe that it, by its nature, falsifies all other understandings of God. I also believe that parsimony would have us not multiply gods beyond necessity and, given my understanding of God as presented in the Bible, he is sufficient on his own.

You have not identified any way to falsify the God hypothesis. This doesn’t mean it’s not true, just that it can’t be falsified.

Again, I would refer you to the vast number of books that have been published in the last five years that would prove otherwise. They attempt to refute the very arguments that I have discussed in earlier posts. I would also refer you to the many debates on God’s existence held between theists and non-theists that debate these arguments. Apparently, the likes of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Vic Stenger, Austin Dacey, Quentin Smith, and many others think that the issue is still viable to debate and possible to falsify

As for your “cumulative case”…

You said: [I]f you do like an attorney in the court room and take the opposing side’s case apart, the verdict will go against them…I challenge the atheist to present a compelling, rational, and evidential case for your views.

Interesting you would use this analogy; I happen to be a trial attorney. Here’s the first draft of my closing argument for atheism/naturalism. (To all you pedants out there: Yes, I’m aware they are not one and the same. Just pipe down.):

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury;

You understand the cases being presented by both sides. Your duty is to weigh the evidence supporting each case, and determine whether that evidence satisfies the respective burdens of proof.

[dramatic pause]

We all agree that the Natural exists. When we look outward from the tiny little space we occupy, the Natural appears to be…well…pretty much everything. The Natural stretches out in space and in time as far as we have the ability to measure. Every element of our existence appears to be built on the natural, from clay bricks down to charm quarks. From our daily bread to our nightly dreams, the immediate explanations of virtually all of our experiences appear to be Natural. Indeed, the progress of Man is measured by the ever-increasing set of things for which once we did not know the Natural cause, but now do. This includes the “intangible” qualities that define us as people. For example, its appearing more and more that love really is a matter of chemistry.
In short, the Natural exists on a scope so brain-boggling that we humans, in the infancy of our species, are only just beginning to understand how very little we know about it. The evidence supporting the case for the Natural is so ubiquitous, so omnipresent, that only a madman would deny it, and it satisfies any standard of proof.

But some among us claim there is something “beyond” or “outside” or “other” than the Natural. And not only this. These people claim that this thing is actually greaterthan the Natural. Super-natural. Even more amazing, some people claim this Supernatural expects the people living on this lonely speck of dust in a backwater of the universe to live our lives in very specific ways, and will inflict all sorts of punishments on us if we don’t.

On its face, this is a pretty amazing claim, isn’t it? Doesn’t it demand an extraordinarily high burden of proof? I mean, if you, ladies and gentlemen, were sitting in a criminal case you would be told you could convict only if the evidence showed “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the accused was guilty. Some call this the standard of “moral certainty.” It’s a very high standard. But surely this claim of the Supernatural– which some people think would convict every single one of us of a crime — demands an even greater standard of proof?

So what evidence do the Supernaturalists offer to satisfy their burden?

They don’t offer any evidence of the Supernatural that can be directly seen, heard, tasted, smelled, touched, or measured in any way. Indeed you’ve heard expert testimony that it’s not possible to measure the Supernatural scientifically because it is Supernatural. This isn’t evidence; it’s an explanation for why there is no evidence. Ladies and gentlemen, doesn’t it sound just a little too convenient to you?

They can’t say where the Supernatural exists; they can’t point it out on a map. They claim that the Supernatural “created” and affects the Natural, but don’t offer any evidence of a mechanism or how the process actually works. Lots of times, they don’t even really say what it is, and instead say what it is not, using words like “immaterial” and “timeless.” Do you actually understand what these words mean, ladies and gentlemen, because I sure don’t. Whatever they mean, one thing is clear: They are not evidence.

So, I ask you again – where is their evidence? Saying “You don’t know capital-E Everything” over and over again is not evidence. Saying “but it’s possible” over and over again isn’t evidence. Saying “but I’d really, really like it to be true” over and over again is not evidence.

The closest they come is to offer “philosophic” evidence. Now, we lawyers are accused all the time of speaking unclearly on purpose, of using jargon and big words to confuse things and make juries see things that aren’t there. And, ladies and gentlemen, I must admit, sometimes we’re guilty. But don’t the Supernaturalists take the cake? I mean, you remember the witnesses say things like “the impossibility of an actual infinite” and “irreducible complexity,” right? This sounded awful smart, I admit, but I ask you again, do those things actually mean anything to you? Is this evidence?

I submit to you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that it is not. I submit the Supernaturalists have not offered any evidence at all, and simply want you to take it on their say-so. To take it on faith. Don’t let them get away with it.

Thank you.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury. My distinguished colleague presented many of his thoughts to you; thoughts that expressed that all of reality was made up of natural, that is, material substances, right down to the charm quark. He would have you believe that nothing immaterial exists because we cannot see it, feel it, smell it, taste it, touch it, measure it, or weigh it. For as the kangaroo said in Horton Hears a Who, “If you can’t see, hear, or feel something, it doesn’t exist!”

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury. How many of you saw the thoughts that my distinguished colleague presented to you? Did any of you taste the thoughts he conveyed? Touch? How much did his thoughts weigh? What about the thought 2+2=4, how what is that made of? Do you think that if you had the most powerful microscope or telescope, you would ever be able to see a thought?

Yes, we can see brains, we can see the molecules that make up the brain, we may some day be able to see that atomic parts of the brain, but we will never see a thought. We will never see an intention. We will never see an idea. In other words, just because we can’t see something, it doesn’t mean, as the kangaroo found out in Horton’s story, that it doesn’t exist.

The fact is that the universe didn’t always exist and now it does. Should we say that it just popped into existence uncaused? What else do we know that is uncaused? Nothing. Should we say it caused itself? Again, that seems to be logically problematic as it would have to exist to cause its existence, but it doesn’t exist otherwise it wouldn’t have to cause its existence. Really, what my colleague would have you believe is worse than magic. He wants you to believe that the rabbit came out of the hat, but without the hat, without the magician, it just popped into existence. As Maria sang in the Sound of Music, “Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever will.”

We have a universe that consists of all matter, space, and time. Everything we see is contained within it. But that universe didn’t always exist. We can’t say that matter was the cause, because that would be to argue that matter caused its own existence, but we’ve already ruled that out. We have no basis to say it just popped into existence as that is worse than magic as we have said. It seems that the best explanation is that it was caused by something or someone who is immaterial (as matter didn’t exist), eternal (to avoid the what created the cause problem), personal (because the cause would have had to start time and will the universe into existence), powerful (as the universe is immense), and wise (as the universe is finely tuned for higher life to exist) – that sounds like a very good description of God. Thank you.

LNC

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clamat February 21, 2011 at 11:42 am

Wow, thanks Chuck. I really appreciate it. It was fun to write, and I think it’s a fair assessment of the weakness of the supernaturalist/theist side of the debate. Of course, I don’t kid myself that folks of LNC’s ilk will find it the least bit persuasive. Pity.

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Chuck February 21, 2011 at 11:43 am

Wow, thanks Chuck. I really appreciate it.It was fun to write, and I think it’s a fair assessment of the weakness of the supernaturalist/theist side of the debate.Of course, I don’t kid myself that folks of LNC’s ilk will find it the least bit persuasive.Pity.  

His inability to argue in rebuttal to you without creating a strawman is evidence to the insufficiency of the supernatural compulsion.

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LNC February 21, 2011 at 12:00 pm

His inability to argue in rebuttal to you without creating a strawman is evidence to the insufficiency of the supernatural compulsion.  

Chuck, I must have missed where anyone has ever shown that I have made a straw man argument. Could you point out where I might have done that?

Thanks,

LNC

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Paul February 21, 2011 at 12:03 pm

LNC, you’re completely ignoring the point made earlier that we are increasingly able to show that things like love, thoughts, etc., are ultimately material.

The thought that I ate an apple is in my brain as a collection of neurons firing (very roughly). I indicate that collection of neurons firing with the following symbols: “I ate an apple.”

There is no need to postulate an existence to thoughts beyond the material.

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Paul February 21, 2011 at 12:19 pm

It seems that the best explanation is that it was caused by something or someone who is immaterial (as matter didn’t exist), eternal (to avoid the what created the cause problem), personal (because the cause would have had to start time and will the universe into existence), powerful (as the universe is immense), and wise (as the universe is finely tuned for higher life to exist) – that sounds like a very good description of God. Thank you.LNC  

Here’s the crucial point: there is no positive evidence for your explanation. You’re saying that, because we have no evidence otherwise, here’s an idea I’ve thought up, it answers the question, so it must be true. At best, you have a hypothesis. But to move from a hypothesis to a proper conclusion, you need actual evidence beyond a lack of evidence for competing hypotheses.

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Tony Hoffman February 21, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Guys, I’m still subscribed to this, so I got these last exchanges. I think that the discussion pretty much ended when LNC demonstrated that he has no idea what the term “falsifiable” means . After that, it pretty much went like one of those cases where a party decides to fire his lawyer and represent himself — kind of funny and compelling in a spectacle way, but not really that informational.

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LNC February 21, 2011 at 12:26 pm

LNC, you’re completely ignoring the point made earlier that we are increasingly able to show that things like love, thoughts, etc., are ultimately material.The thought that I ate an apple is in my brain as a collection of neurons firing (very roughly).I indicate that collection of neurons firing with the following symbols: “I ate an apple.”There is no need to postulate an existence to thoughts beyond the material.  

Paul, please do tell me how you are able to show that thoughts are material. I’m eagerly awaiting this response. No, neurons firing do not equal thoughts. Neurons firing equals neurons firing. Thoughts are not the same as neurons firing, I’m sorry. When you say, “I ate an apple.” please explain who the “I” was physically. How is there a unification of identity with the multiplicity of firing neurons and the various sense data coming in. Where is all of that information coming together and how is the experience unified into an “I” that is able to have that experience? How are you the same Paul now that wrote the post at 12:03 p.m.?

When you say that love has been reduced to the physical what does that mean? In fact, how does anything have meaning and not just syntax? Where does meaning reside? Is meaning in the brain or in the thing experienced? How do the two match up? I’m sorry my friend, but this is my area of study and you are not being accurate with your statements. The problem of consciousness and intentionality, despite what you might hear from various materialists, has not been solved. In fact, I don’t see that chasm growing smaller as you seem to assert. There are glaring problems with the materialist accounting of these phenomena.

LNC

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Chuck February 21, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Chuck, I must have missed where anyone has ever shown that I have made a straw man argument.Could you point out where I might have done that?Thanks,LNC  

Well invoking Dr. Seuss as a proof text about what is real is what is seen to frame clamat’s point ignores his real argument that intelligence of mankind has been made by identifying natural causes not defining what is real is what is seen.

Also, unless the jury had their eyes closed, were blind, or did not understand a metaphoric sense of “see” then observing clamat’s argument does not support your idea his ideas couldn’t be “seen”.

Look we all get that you someone who believes the Christian superstition to be true and have a real love for William Lane Craig but your points are not convincing. Maybe you’ve stayed in this conversation as long as you have because you have doubts. I’d suggest you put some mental energy into investigating those doubts if you have them.

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Chuck February 21, 2011 at 12:34 pm

When you say that love has been reduced to the physical what does that mean?

Nobody said this. Another example of your strawman strategy. Get it. You don’t dialogue with honest but reinterpret ideas to fit your pre-ordained theology.

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Chuck February 21, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Guys, I’m still subscribed to this, so I got these last exchanges. I think that the discussion pretty much ended when LNC demonstrated that he has no idea what the term “falsifiable” means . After that, it pretty much went like one of those cases where a party decides to fire his lawyer and represent himself — kind of funny and compelling in a spectacle way, but not really that informational.  

I agree with you Tony. He is a fool (a lawyer who hires himself as representation has a fool for a client).

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clamat February 21, 2011 at 1:04 pm

@Tony Hoffman

I think that the discussion pretty much ended when LNC demonstrated that he has no idea what the term “falsifiable” means.

Agreed, but I had the fleeting hope that I could explain it to him. Alas, like many theists his compulsion to believe makes him incapable of conceding even the most minor point.

Agreed on the “spectacle” part, too, which is why I thanked Luke for letting me take up space on a ramble. But the “closing argument” notion had been rattling around in my brain for a while, and LNC’s “attorney” line gave me a lead-in I couldn’t pass up. Similarly, I had written most of the following before your post came up, so rather than just delete it…

@LNC

You use a tactic common to theists: You tell me my definition of falsifiability is wrong, but don’t actually offer one of your own. Name-dropping Popper doesn’t count. My definition may or may not be precisely correct, but because it’s the only one offered, it stands.

You claimed: “I have given several ways to falsify the [God] hypothesis.” In supporting this claim you made statements such as: “It would put a great dent in belief in God” and “it would shake theism to the very core.” How silly of me to think you were not treating theism and the God hypothesis generally,. While your personal, idiosyncratic “Judeo-Christian” “type of understanding” of God may indeed be falsifiable (though I’d bet dollars to doughnuts it’s not), I must respectfully decline your gracious invitation to discuss it.

Richard Dawkins holds that what he calls, “The God Hypothesis” (see, his chapter in The God Delusion) as a falsifiable hypothesis.

Yeah, I’ve read TGD. Unlike you, however, I don’t have a sacred text. To the extent Dawkins thinks the general form of the God hypothesis is falsifiable, he’s wrong too.

I believe that the case is strong enough for the God of the Bible, that I believe that it, by its nature, falsifies all other understandings of God.

In the context of this conversation, i.e., evidence, I don’t give the proverbial rat’s ass what you believe. I care about what you can show. I care about your evidence for God. You haven’t provided a single bit of it. All you’ve done is what I predicted you would do: “Naturalists can’t explain Everything, ergo God.”

We will never see a thought. We will never see an intention. We will never see an idea.

Sez you.

No, neurons firing do not equal thoughts.

Sez you.

The fact is that the universe didn’t always exist[.]

Sez you.

The smart kids at M.I.T., Berkeley and Stanfu…I mean, Stanford…are still hammering all of this out. Even if you are proven correct, I studiously didn’t say “universe,” I said Natural. Acknowledging that we don’t know the Natural cause does not constitute evidence of a Supernatural cause. It’s not evidence for theism.

Your “evidence” is one big Argument from Ignorance, and your God is He of the Gaps. Of course, I don’t expect you to entertain this notion for a millisecond, so we’re done for now, LNC. But I thank you for your time.

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clamat February 21, 2011 at 1:10 pm

@Chuck

He is a fool (a lawyer who hires himself as representation has a fool for a client).

Hey, I resemble that remark! :-)

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clamat February 21, 2011 at 1:10 pm

@Chuck

He is a fool (a lawyer who hires himself as representation has a fool for a client).

Hey, I resemble that remark! :-)

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Paul February 21, 2011 at 1:12 pm

.No, neurons firing do not equal thoughts.Neurons firing equals neurons firing.Thoughts are not the same as neurons firing, I’m sorry.

I have no time for a complete reply, but I can say this now:

Please read what I wrote more carefully. I said that I was *naming* a group of neurons firing as a thought. I didn’t say they “equal[ed]” – especially in some ontological sense – thoughts. Materialism works if we consider that a thought is merely a name for some neurons firing. Your problem is one of reification.

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LNC February 21, 2011 at 1:16 pm

Guys, I’m still subscribed to this, so I got these last exchanges. I think that the discussion pretty much ended when LNC demonstrated that he has no idea what the term “falsifiable” means . After that, it pretty much went like one of those cases where a party decides to fire his lawyer and represent himself — kind of funny and compelling in a spectacle way, but not really that informational.  

Tony, did we go around about the word “create” and didn’t I show you repeatedly that your definition was too narrow. You challenged me by saying that you were using a scientific usage, but then I showed you a definition from a science dictionary to show you were wrong even there. Now you want to go around on this term? Really, please give me some solid evidence that I have handled the concept incorrectly.

LNC

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Tony Hoffman February 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Tony, did we go around about the word “create” and didn’t I show you repeatedly that your definition was too narrow.

No. It appears you remain confused about many things.

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LNC February 21, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Here’s the crucial point: there is no positive evidence for your explanation.You’re saying that, because we have no evidence otherwise, here’s an idea I’ve thought up, it answers the question, so it must be true.At best, you have a hypothesis.But to move from a hypothesis to a proper conclusion, you need actual evidence beyond a lack of evidence for competing hypotheses.  

What is your definition of positive evidence? I have given a number of arguments that provide evidence for God’s existence. I haven’t seen many responses and no one has responded to all of the arguments. Some have argued against fine tuning, but I’ve given evidence that it exists. I have given evidence for the origin of the universe and all I have heard in response is speculation that has no empirical support and has philosophical problems. As for the existence of objective morality, no one has given a valid alternative for naturalizing it. No one has touched the argument for the resurrection. Paul tried to argue that consciousness is reducible to neurons, but that is clearly false as it doesn’t account for phenomena like intentionality, the self, qualia, knowledge, etc.

Clearly you have your facts confused as I have given positive arguments for God’s existence and those arguments have not been defeated.

LNC

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Paul February 21, 2011 at 1:33 pm

LNC, your arguments all reduce to “we don’t know what the answer is to X, so it must be Y.” If that’s not the case, please illuminate with specifics.

Fine tuning is a perfect example. The argument reduces to, “we don’t know how these constants were so finely tuned, so it must be God.”

Negative evidence: “no other animal but a bear is around, so it must have been the bear that ate this meat.”

Positive evidence: “here is a video of a bear eating this meat.”

Note that the presence of the positive evidence isn’t saying that the conclusion from the negative evidence is necessarily wrong. It’s just that the negative evidence is not sufficient to draw the conclusion, whereas the positive evidence is. It’s certainly enough for a hypothesis, but not the conclusion.

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LNC February 21, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Well invoking Dr. Seuss as a proof text about what is real is what is seen to frame clamat’s point ignores his real argument that intelligence of mankind has been made by identifying natural causes not defining what is real is what is seen.Also, unless the jury had their eyes closed, were blind, or did not understand a metaphoric sense of “see” then observing clamat’s argument does not support your idea his ideas couldn’t be “seen”.Look we all get that you someone who believes the Christian superstition to be true and have a real love for William Lane Craig but your points are not convincing.Maybe you’ve stayed in this conversation as long as you have because you have doubts.I’d suggest you put some mental energy into investigating those doubts if you have them.  

Actually, what Dr. Seuss shows is that the concept of logical positivism is a silly concept. That’s why it was defeated as an idea long ago. My children know better than to say that if you can’t see something, it doesn’t exist. My friend is a physicist and he shoots neutrinos from Fermi Lab to Canada underground. The only way that they can measure their arrival is to bathe them in barium bath (so they can track the barium). Neutrinos cannot be tracked or measured, yet they do exist. In fact, there are plenty of particles that we know exist because of their interaction, but not because we can directly observe them. Dark energy makes up the greatest mass of the universe, but we cannot directly observe it. Some scientists even question its existence. Please spare me the lecturing and the insults. Your believe that all that exists is the material world is a faith statement on your part. You have no way of positively proving that belief..

LNC

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LNC February 21, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Nobody said this.Another example of your strawman strategy.Get it.You don’t dialogue with honest but reinterpret ideas to fit your pre-ordained theology.  

Check out Paul’s comment at 12:03 p.m., “LNC, you’re completely ignoring the point made earlier that we are increasingly able to show that things like love, thoughts, etc., are ultimately material.”

Oops, apparently you aren’t reading the thread.

LNC

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Chuck February 21, 2011 at 2:07 pm

My children know better than to say that if you can’t see something, it doesn’t exist.

Yes, I agree this is a stupid argument. It wasn’t the basis of the post you tried to refute. It is however the basis of the strawman you constructed to tear down however in defense of your God belief.

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Chuck February 21, 2011 at 2:10 pm

“LNC, you’re completely ignoring the point made earlier that we are increasingly able to show that things like love, thoughts, etc., are ultimately material.”

Yes, Paul said love was MATERIAL you changed the language to say he argued love was merely PHYSICAL which altered his point to satisfy your preferred conclusion. You don’t deal with the ideas we present but rather change terms and equivocate to advance your defense of faith. This of course is the province of the Christian apologist and the snake-oil salesman but is not proper practice of a thinker. Be careful LNC your need to project your superstitious compulsion as real borders on the neurotic.

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clamat February 21, 2011 at 2:16 pm

@LNC

All right, since Chuck apparently can’t resist either, I’ll throw out one more.

Neutrinos cannot be tracked or measured[.]

Ummm…didn’t you immediately previously say “they can measure their arrival”? So which is it, can they be measured or not?

Of course they can be measured. This is exactly the point. Where’s the Barium Bath for God? I’d love to see the data from your Godometer.

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Chuck February 21, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Your believe that all that exists is the material world is a faith statement on your part. You have no way of positively proving that belief..

How do you know I “believe” (sic) this? If you would drop the Christian apologist pose for a second and consider the arguments made here instead of pretending to be William Lane Craig then you might understand what some of us are trying to say. I will put it in plain terms. Your belief in the Christian myth works for you somehow and therefore you’ve come to rationalize its doctrines as fact without justifying any objective method for validating these facts outside of assertions to their facts. What you are demonstrating (at best) is Jamesian pragmatism but, at least William James would not concede that a belief that works for a person is evidence of a physical law. He would only say that one need not determining the reality of a belief for it to work for the individual. If you want to believe in a cosmic over-seer and/or carpenter to make your existence have meaning then fine but to assert it is anything more than argument from ignorance (without conceding pragmatism) is to venture into a stultifying intellectual arrogance. It is sad and it is insulting.

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LNC February 21, 2011 at 2:29 pm

You use a tactic common to theists: You tell me my definition of falsifiability is wrong, but don’t actually offer one of your own. Name-dropping Popper doesn’t count. My definition may or may not be precisely correct, but because it’s the only one offered, it stands.

You technically didn’t give a definition, what you did say is that falsifiability must demonstrate that something cannot be true. However, you have given no evidence to back up that claim and I have shown that even Popper, who the concept is generally credited, didn’t even hold such a standard. I have also showed that this level of evidence would take other scientific theories off the table. For example, can you show that evolution is a falsifiable theory such that you could show that it could not be true (scientifically)? I doubt that you could, so there goes evolution. You could add the Big Bang theory, dark matter, and many other scientific theories. In other words, what little definition you did give, is false.

You claimed: “I have given several ways to falsify the [God] hypothesis.” In supporting this claim you made statements such as: “It would put a great dent in belief in God” and “it would shake theism to the very core.” How silly of me to think you were not treating theism and the God hypothesis generally,. While your personal, idiosyncratic “Judeo-Christian” “type of understanding” of God may indeed be falsifiable (though I’d bet dollars to doughnuts it’s not), I must respectfully decline your gracious invitation to discuss it.

Richard Dawkins holds that what he calls, “The God Hypothesis” (see, his chapter in The God Delusion) as a falsifiable hypothesis.
Yeah, I’ve read TGD. Unlike you, however, I don’t have a sacred text. To the extent Dawkins thinks the general form of the God hypothesis is falsifiable, he’s wrong too.

Oh good, I’m glad to hear that you think that Richard Dawkins is wrong, at least we agree on something. I assume you think the same of Dennett, Harris, Hitchens and the others. I will take you up, let you choose whether it is dollars, donuts, or both.

I believe that the case is strong enough for the God of the Bible, that I believe that it, by its nature, falsifies all other understandings of God.
In the context of this conversation, i.e., evidence, I don’t give the proverbial rat’s ass what you believe. I care about what you can show. I care about your evidence forGod. You haven’t provided a single bit of it. All you’ve done is what I predicted you would do: “Naturalists can’t explain Everything, ergo God.”

We will never see a thought. We will never see an intention. We will never see an idea.
Sez you.
No, neurons firing do not equal thoughts.
Sez you.
The fact is that the universe didn’t always exist[.]
Sez you.

The smart kids at M.I.T., Berkeley and Stanfu…I mean, Stanford…are still hammering all of this out. Even if you are proven correct, I studiously didn’t say “universe,” I said Natural. Acknowledging that we don’t know the Natural cause does not constitute evidence of a Supernatural cause. It’s not evidence for theism.

Your “evidence” is one big Argument from Ignorance, and your God is He of the Gaps. Of course, I don’t expect you to entertain this notion for a millisecond, so we’re done for now, LNC. But I thank you for your time.

Come on now, you aren’t reading the thread closely enough. I have given several arguments that you haven’t even taken the time or effort to address. Please address those arguments before making these fallacious and clearly false claims. Now, you made the claim that all that exists is the natural world, a positive claim by all accounts. Can you provide any positive evidence that reality is limited to the natural world, or is that simply your belief?

Until we see a thought, you will keep believing…
Until we prove that neuron firings equal thoughts, you will keep believing…
Until you can prove that something material existed prior to the universe, you will keep believing…

I thought you required positive evidence for your beliefs and now you are backtracking.

Yes, the kids at these schools are still hammering away at these questions, but that is different than having the evidence or even knowing that they will eventually solve these problems. That is what is known as scientism of the gaps. The difference between my argument and yours is that I’ve presented several positive arguments (not God of the gaps arguments as you claim) based upon what we know of the universe (it had a beginning), fine-tuning (not explainable by law or chance), objective morality (not naturalized or even naturalizable), the resurrection (not explainable by natural processes). What arguments have you given? Well, let’s see…there’s um…and…well, really, you haven’t given any. So, as much as you might criticize my arguments, the only one you have given is that all that we know is natural (which is question begging) and all that exists is natural (also question begging and without evidence). Maybe you could now try to make a positive case for naturalism other than, someday we’ll have it all explained, you’ll see. My faith is not that strong.

LNC

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LNC February 21, 2011 at 2:35 pm

No. It appears you remain confused about many things.  

Ah, that’s right, it was Steven R. with whom I had that lovely discussion, sorry for the confusion. However, you still haven’t given any evidence for your assertion about falsifiability.

LNC

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clamat February 21, 2011 at 2:43 pm

In other words, what little definition you did give, is false.

In other words, you still fail to offer your own.

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clamat February 21, 2011 at 2:53 pm

I thought you required positive evidence for your beliefs.

Yep. However, contrary to the humongous Strawman you want to attribute to me, I’ve never once claimed “all that exists is natural.” Rather my claim has been there is no evidence of the Supernatural. Here’s the positive evidence supporting this claim:

[A]ll that we know is natural.” – LNC, 02.21.11

Apparently you don’t disagree with this, so good, we’re in agreement. There is no evidence of the Supernatural.

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clamat February 21, 2011 at 2:57 pm

@LNC

I’m glad to hear that you think that Richard Dawkins is wrong, at least we agree on something.

Umm…but I was saying Dawkins is wrong to the extent he says the general God hypothesis is falsifiable. So now apparently you concede the general God hypothesis is not falsifiable?

You are very confused.

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Chuck February 21, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Yes, the kids at these schools are still hammering away at these questions, but that is different than having the evidence or even knowing that they will eventually solve these problems. That is what is known as scientism of the gaps. The difference between my argument and yours is that I’ve presented several positive arguments (not God of the gaps arguments as you claim) based upon what we know of the universe (it had a beginning), fine-tuning (not explainable by law or chance), objective morality (not naturalized or even naturalizable), the resurrection (not explainable by natural processes). What arguments have you given? Well, let’s see…there’s um…and…well, really, you haven’t given any. So, as much as you might criticize my arguments, the only one you have given is that all that we know is natural (which is question begging) and all that exists is natural (also question begging and without evidence). Maybe you could now try to make a positive case for naturalism other than, someday we’ll have it all explained, you’ll see. My faith is not that strong.

Ergo, our scientific knowledge of nature is provisional and incremental QED Jesus.

This is an example of what we mean Argument from Ignorance LNC.

Also, “scientism of the gaps” is a ridiculous phrase and empty rhetoric. A respect for the scientific method celebrates gaps in knowledge because that allows an individual to practice curiosity in pursuit of intelligence. “God of the gaps” is simply an appeal to authority when you don’t have the guts or imagination to find out how things work.

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clamat February 21, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Until we see a thought, you will keep believing…
Until we prove that neuron firings equal thoughts, you will keep believing…
Until you can prove that something material existed prior to the universe, you will keep believing

I’d reformulate this:

Even if we show you a thought, you will keep believing.
Even if we prove that neuron firings equal thoughts, you will keep believing.
Even if we prove that something material existed prior to the universe, you will keep believing.
Even if we prove the Theory of Everything, you will keep believing.

Because the God hypothesis is unfalsifiable, and you are desperate to believe.

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LNC February 21, 2011 at 5:29 pm

I have no time for a complete reply, but I can say this now:Please read what I wrote more carefully.I said that I was *naming* a group of neurons firing as a thought.I didn’t say they “equal[ed]” – especially in some ontological sense – thoughts. Materialism works if we consider that a thought is merely a name for some neurons firing.Your problem is one of reification.  

Paul, let me repost what you said exactly so we are both reading the same words:

LNC, you’re completely ignoring the point made earlier that we are increasingly able to show that things like love, thoughts, etc., are ultimately material.The thought that I ate an apple is in my brain as a collection of neurons firing (very roughly).I indicate that collection of neurons firing with the following symbols: “I ate an apple.”There is no need to postulate an existence to thoughts beyond the material.

So, I’m not sure what distinction you are making between a though being a group of neurons firing and my statement that they equal a thought. If a group of neurons firing is a thought what is the difference between what you are saying and how I phrased it? You are simply saying that it is as if we had thoughts, but seem to be saying that we really don’t have thoughts. Maybe you could explain more when you get more time. I will wait to hear that before responding in greater detail. However, I hope you will detail issues like consciousness, intentionality, the self, etc. in your reply.

LNC

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Paul February 21, 2011 at 6:00 pm

So, I’m not sure what distinction you are making between a though being a group of neurons firing and my statement that they equal a thought. If a group of neurons firing is a thought what is the difference between what you are saying and how I phrased it? You are simply saying that it is as if we had thoughts, but seem to be saying that we really don’t have thoughts

I only made a distinction on the basis that you didn’t think that neurons could be a thought. If you agree that it’s useful that we look at thoughts as merely neurons firing, then neurons do “equal” thoughts, in the sense that we decide to call what happens when such and such neurons fire “thoughts.” There’s nothing to prevent us from doing so, it is not an empirical statement, it’s merely linguistic. This is founded on the idea that there isn’t anything else there in a thought besides neurons, but you can’t refute that merely by refuting linguistics, which is basically what you did when you said “No, neurons can’t be thoughts.”

I contend we don’t really have thoughts if, by thoughts, you imply some extra-material reality. I contend we have thoughts, and by thoughts, I mean what happens when neurons fire.

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LNC February 21, 2011 at 6:52 pm

LNC, your arguments all reduce to “we don’t know what the answer is to X, so it must be Y.” If that’s not the case, please illuminate with specifics.

Fine tuning is a perfect example. The argument reduces to, “we don’t know how these constants were so finely tuned, so it must be God.”

Negative evidence: “no other animal but a bear is around, so it must have been the bear that ate this meat.”

Positive evidence: “here is a video of a bear eating this meat.”

Note that the presence of the positive evidence isn’t saying that the conclusion from the negative evidence is necessarily wrong. It’s just that the negative evidence is not sufficient to draw the conclusion, whereas the positive evidence is. It’s certainly enough for a hypothesis, but not the conclusion. 

LNC, your arguments all reduce to “we don’t know what the answer is to X, so it must be Y.” If that’s not the case, please illuminate with specifics.
Fine tuning is a perfect example. The argument reduces to, “we don’t know how these constants were so finely tuned, so it must be God.”
Negative evidence: “no other animal but a bear is around, so it must have been the bear that ate this meat.”
Positive evidence: “here is a video of a bear eating this meat.”
Note that the presence of the positive evidence isn’t saying that the conclusion from the negative evidence is necessarily wrong. It’s just that the negative evidence is not sufficient to draw the conclusion, whereas the positive evidence is. It’s certainly enough for a hypothesis, but not the conclusion.

Paul, your response simply begs the question for naturalism and really doesn’t show that you understand my arguments at all. My arguments are based upon what we do know, not on what we don’t know. For example, we know that the universe, all matter, space, and time, had a beginning. Given that all matter, space, and time had a beginning, the cause must be immaterial based upon basic logical deduction. We know that the universe is finely tuned and that that fine tuning is not based on law or chance. We know that morality is objective in nature and that objectivity cannot be derived via natural processes.

You show your lack of understanding in the way that you explain the fine tuning argument. That is not how I present the argument. We know that they are not a result of law and chance and that only leaves one option. You again are simply trying to beg the question by appealing to a straw man presentation of the argument. Besides, we eliminate possible explanations all the time, but that doesn’t mean that this is the wrong way to find the right solution.

So, rather than continuing to throw up straw men, why not deal with the argument as I have presented it.

LNC

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LNC February 21, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Yes, I agree this is a stupid argument.It wasn’t the basis of the post you tried to refute.It is however the basis of the strawman you constructed to tear down however in defense of your God belief.  

Chuck, are you really reading my posts before you respond to them. The reason that I added the comment I did is that the other poster was indicating that we know that nature exists because we can see it. Here is what he posted:

They don’t offer any evidence of the Supernatural that can be directly seen, heard, tasted, smelled, touched, or measured in any way. Indeed you’ve heard expert testimony that it’s not possible to measure the Supernatural scientifically because it is Supernatural.

So, apparently, if something can’t be seen, heard, tasted, smelled, touched, or measured in some way, it doesn’t exist! That sounds an awful lot like the kangaroo in Horton. When I saw this seen in the theaters for the first time I laughed out loud at this line (probably the only person in the theater laughing at this line) because I thought of the many atheists, materialists, and skeptics that I had encountered over the years who had said the same thing to me. The kangaroo was a representation of atheism in the movie (or in this case, aWhoism). So Chuck, there is no straw man to my argument, only a faulty standard set up by the atheist and the kangaroo. Horton knew better and so do I.

LNC

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LNC February 21, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Yes, Paul said love was MATERIAL you changed the language to say he argued love was merely PHYSICAL which altered his point to satisfy your preferred conclusion.You don’t deal with the ideas we present but rather change terms and equivocate to advance your defense of faith.This of course is the province of the Christian apologist and the snake-oil salesman but is not proper practice of a thinker.Be careful LNC your need to project your superstitious compulsion as real borders on the neurotic.  

You seem to be finely splitting terms. By physical I meant material as material is physical in nature. Although, the term physical can have different meanings, so I guess I should be more precise about my terms. The rest of your complaint is mere blather as I did present arguments, that if you would have read them closely, you would have found presented arguments against the material nature of these phenomena. However, instead of engaging with the actual argument, you instead choose to pick nits over words and call names.

Would you care to deal with my actual arguments now?

LNC

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LNC February 21, 2011 at 7:18 pm

@LNCAll right, since Chuck apparently can’t resist either, I’ll throw out one more.Neutrinos cannot be tracked or measured[.]Ummm…didn’t you immediately previously say “they can measure their arrival”? So which is it, can they be measured or not?Of course they can be measured.This is exactly the point.Where’s the Barium Bath for God?I’d love to see the data from your Godometer.  

They cannot be measured directly, but only through effect as they are bathed in a barium bath (as I mentioned), so it is the barium that is actually being directly detected, but it is assumed that there is a neutrino attached.

The point is that we cannot see, feel, taste, touch, smell, or weigh neutrinos, so we simply look at the effect of them, or in this case, the barium in which they are bathed. neutrinos pass through solid objects which is why they are fired underground and cannot be directly detected. We cannot directly detect dark matter either, but we know it exists by the effects it has on ordinary matter.

So, when we look at effects like the universe, fine tuning, objective morality, etc., we look to the cause. We know that the causes are not material as matter didn’t exist sans the universe, but then I have explained this before a number of times, so I won’t repeat myself. All that to say that when we cannot measure something directly, we can still detect its existence via the effects that it has on other things, events, etc. We don’t always have to measure something directly to know it exists.

LNC

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LNC February 21, 2011 at 7:24 pm

In other words, what little definition you did give, is false.

Falsifiability is the idea that a theory or hypothesis has the potential to be proven false via inductive or deductive evidence or arguments. It is different from verificationism (which has since been all but abandoned) in that this theory says that a theory or hypothesis must be empirically verifiable to fit with science. However, there are also critics of falsification as a general rule as well.

LNC

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LNC February 21, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Yep.However, contrary to the humongous Strawman you want to attribute to me, I’ve never once claimed “all that exists is natural.”Rather my claim has been there is no evidence of the Supernatural.

Here is what you said: “We all agree that the Natural exists. When we look outward from the tiny little space we occupy, the Natural appears to be…well…pretty much everything.” So, if it is pretty much everything, does that mean that it is not everything? If not, what would you put outside of the natural? If you can identify somethings that would reside outside of the natural, I will amend my statement.

Here’s the positive evidence supporting this claim:“[A]ll that we know is natural.” – LNC, 02.21.11Apparently you don’t disagree with this, so good, we’re in agreement.There is no evidence of the Supernatural.  

Nice, you take my words out of context and then make it look like we agree! Fantastic! What a way to try to make it look like we agree. Unfortunately for you, it is too easy to check these out and debunk them. So, let me put it back in context to show that you are being fraudulent with your argumentation.

LNC: So, as much as you might criticize my arguments, the only one you have given is that all that we know is natural (which is question begging) and all that exists is natural (also question begging and without evidence).

And still, you haven’t given a positive argument for naturalism! You merely assume that it is, in your words, “pretty much everything.” I’ll be interested in hearing what might fall outside of that “pretty much everything,” in anything.

LNC

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LNC February 21, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Umm…but I was saying Dawkins is wrong to the extent he says the general God hypothesis is falsifiable.So now apparently you concede the general God hypothesis is not falsifiable?You are very confused.  

Man, you don’t have a sense of humor do you? Did I say that we agree about this point? No, I said we agree that Dawkins is wrong. You read the rest into it. But let’s not get into a long discussion on this one. I just adding some levity, but it seems to have missed the mark.

LNC

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LNC February 21, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Ergo, our scientific knowledge of nature is provisional and incremental QED Jesus.

I would agree that our knowledge of nature is provisional; however, where do you get a QED for Jesus? In what way? If your argument is that the miracles are simply yet to be explained, that is a non sequitur at best and scientism of the gaps at worst.

This is an example of what we mean Argument from Ignorance LNC.

Also, “scientism of the gaps” is a ridiculous phrase and empty rhetoric. A respect for the scientific method celebrates gaps in knowledge because that allows an individual to practice curiosity in pursuit of intelligence. “God of the gaps” is simply an appeal to authority when you don’t have the guts or imagination to find out how things work.

Sorry, but when you say that we have gaps that science will some day fill in that is a clear example of scientism. You cannot demonstrate that statement scientifically, it is a faith statement in the guise of science. Here is the definition of scientism, in case you are unfamiliar with the term: “According to scientism, empirical science is the only source of our knowledge of the world (strong scientism) or, more moderately, the best source of rational belief about the way things are (weak scientism).” (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy). So to say that we will fill in all gaps of knowledge that we have today via science is scientism. If you believe it to be mere rhetoric, your quibble is not with me, I’m only using the word as it is commonly understood.

BTW, many of the greatest discoveries throughout history were made by Christians, so to say that Christians are afraid of discoveries is simply an ahistorical accusation. You also seem to lack an understanding of my arguments as well as the meaning of logical fallacies such as appeal to authority. I don’t remember even doing that, nor did you cite any example. As to the God of the gaps assertion, again, a lack of understanding of my argument as I don’t appeal to gaps in knowledge, but to what we know.

LNC

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Paul February 21, 2011 at 8:17 pm

For example, we know that the universe, all matter, space, and time, had a beginning.Given that all matter, space, and time had a beginning, the cause must be immaterial based upon basic logical deduction.

Would you care to make that logical deduction explicit?

We know that . . . fine tuning is not based on law or chance.

How do we know it’s not based on law? The reason why my question is pertinent relates directly to negative evidence. Did you catch the negative in your assertion?

We know that morality is objective in nature and that objectivity cannot be derived via natural processes.

That morality is objective is news to me.

We know that they are not a result of law and chance and that only leaves one option.You again are simply trying to beg the question by appealing to a straw man presentation of the argument.Besides, we eliminate possible explanations all the time, but that doesn’t mean that this is the wrong way to find the right solution.
LNC  

So what’s the pertinent difference between my example about a bear eating meat and your idea about eliminating possible explanations?

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LNC February 21, 2011 at 8:19 pm

I’d reformulate this:Even if we show you a thought, you will keep believing.
Even if we prove that neuron firings equal thoughts, you will keep believing.
Even if we prove that something material existed prior to the universe, you will keep believing.
Even if we prove the Theory of Everything, you will keep believing.Because the God hypothesis is unfalsifiable, and you are desperate to believe.  

You won’t know that until you can show me a thought, or that a neuron firing could equal a thought, or the solved TOE, will you. I know you put your faith in the future discovery of these things, but it is faith nonetheless until or if they become reality. Yet, you can keep asserting that the God hypothesis is non-falsifiable, but it doesn’t make it any truer with the continued asserting of it. Maybe you could start a campaign to get atheists to stop buying the books out there that are trying to do so. Maybe you could go on Dawkins’ forum and tell the atheists there that they are wasting their time. Maybe you could start here. But no, you keep responding to my posts trying to show me that my arguments for the existence of God are false.

LNC

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LNC February 21, 2011 at 8:31 pm

I only made a distinction on the basis that you didn’t think that neurons could be a thought.If you agree that it’s useful that we look at thoughts as merely neurons firing, then neurons do “equal” thoughts, in the sense that we decide to call what happens when such and such neurons fire “thoughts.”There’s nothing to prevent us from doing so, it is not an empirical statement, it’s merely linguistic.This is founded on the idea that there isn’t anything else there in a thought besides neurons, but you can’t refute that merely by refuting linguistics, which is basically what you did when you said “No, neurons can’t be thoughts.”I contend we don’t really have thoughts if, by thoughts, you imply some extra-material reality.I contend we have thoughts, and by thoughts, I mean what happens when neurons fire.  

I don’t think that neurons firing is the same as a thought. IOW, thoughts are not equal to neurons firing. How is it an empirical statement? Where’s the evidence for that? For example, many thoughts are intentional (of or about other things), in what way is a neuron firing intentional? When is a neuron firing ever about or of another thing? Where do semantics reside in the neuron network? How are neuron firings pulled together into a unified way that gives me the believe that I am a unified self? How is it that I am the same self that existed 10 years ago or 10 minutes ago if I am merely the product of neurons firing? Why don’t we have a bundling problem in which all of our disparate perceptions are never pulled together? There are a host of problems with this concept that thoughts are merely the firing of neurons. You get into a lot of reductionist problems taking this tact.

LNC

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LNC February 21, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Would you care to make that logical deduction explicit?

1. If all matter, space, and time came into existence, then it is the effect of an immaterial cause.
2. All matter, space, and time came into existence.
3. Therefore, it was the effect of an immaterial cause.

One is based upon the fact that we either have material reality or immaterial reality, we know of no other types. If the universe consist of all material reality (hence the term, universe), then it cannot be its own cause. We also know that effects have causes and the universe is an effect, therefore it has a cause.

We also know, via the work of cosmology, that the universe had a beginning. (See the work of Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin).

The conclusion logically follows from the premises and the argument is logically sound (i.e., doesn’t beg the question).

How do we know it’s not based on law?The reason why my question is pertinent relates directly to negative evidence.Did you catch the negative in your assertion?
That morality is objective is news to me.
So what’s the pertinent difference between my example about a bear eating meat and your idea about eliminating possible explanations?  

We know through scientific investigation that there is no law with our given physics that could account for the parameters of the universe that are finely tuned for advanced life. That is a positive claim to your negative question.

You don’t believe that morality is objective? By making that claim, you are saying that morality is not real, but only opinion. Is that your claim? Are you willing to accept all that goes with such a claim?

You really haven’t advanced your case, nor harmed my case.

LNC

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Paul February 21, 2011 at 8:54 pm

I don’t think that neurons firing is the same as a thought.IOW, thoughts are not equal to neurons firing.How is it an empirical statement?

Every time I try to explain this, I see you getting wrapped up in unnecessarily semantics. So forgive me if I try to cut through the specifics of our recent exchange and get to the heart of the matter.

A neuron is intentional when it produces in an organism behavior that seeks and end, like when an organism move toward water and then drinks the water. There are neurons in the organism’s brain that are firing and which eventually wind up moving muscles that take the organism to the water to slake thirst. That’s all intentionality has to be.

Semantics reside in a neural network when an organism capable of speech moves its lips and vocal cords and vocalizes. For instance, an organism that can talk says “Give me some water, I’m thirsty” and another organism gives me some water and the first one drinks it. The semantics of that interaction functioned perfectly well without anything immaterial necessarily. Organism A had a desire, moved it’s mouth and vocal cords in such a way to increase the likelihood that organism B would give A some water; B, for its own reasons, responded to A in the way that A predicted. Semantics doesn’t need to be or mean anything more than that.

A neuron is about something when an organism uses it that way. Being about something doesn’t need to mean anything more than that.

And, actually, you are not the same self. You are certainly not the same self as you were when you were six months old. The differences far outweigh the similarities. You can trace the progression from the you when you were six months old to the you that you are now, but so what?

Not sure what the bundling problem is.

By the way, I’m not going to have a lot of time soon to respond, work is calling me.

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Paul February 21, 2011 at 9:11 pm

1. If all matter, space, and time came into existence, then it is the effect of an immaterial cause.
2. All matter, space, and time came into existence.
3. Therefore, it was the effect of an immaterial cause.

One is based upon the fact that we either have material reality or immaterial reality, we know of no other types.If the universe consist of all material reality (hence the term, universe), then it cannot be its own cause.

Why can’t the universe be its own cause? You’re making the following argument (again, from negative evidence):

Every crow I’ve seen is black.
Therefore, all crows are black.
Until, that is, the white crow shows up.

Compare to

Every material thing I’ve seen has a cause.
Therefore, all material things, including a very unique one, the universe, has a cause.
Until, that is, we find a material thing that doesn’t have a cause.

We also know that effects have causes and the universe is an effect, therefore it has a cause.

You’re trying to define an empirical fact into existence. The entire universe is an effect unlike any other, so it may be a different type of effect, or not an effect at all. We don’t know yet.

We know through scientific investigation that there is no law with our given physics that could account for the parameters of the universe that are finely tuned for advanced life.

What about your big qualifier, “with our given physics?” Again, we don’t know yet for sure, but that doesn’t mean we can make a hypothesis an established conclusion.

That is a positive claim to your negative question.

It exactly, absolutely is not. Can you not even see the negative in your sentence?!
“There is no law . . . . ”
Again, your saying what isn’t there. Now, we can argue if negative claims are proper are not, but please take off your blinders about when you do make a negative claim.

You don’t believe that morality is objective?

I made no claim about morality. I merely said that I wasn’t aware that the morality had been established to be objective. I’m not even sure that the idea is coherent.
I think the topic or objective morality is too big for the large substance of our conversation already.

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clamat February 21, 2011 at 9:58 pm

@LNC

Falsifiability is the idea that a theory or hypothesis has the potential to be proven false via inductive or deductive evidence or arguments.

Jesus, finally.

The hypotheses ‘there is a God” and “God created the universe” are not falsifiable under this definition, for all the reasons I gave above. In short, God could be hiding. There is no inductive or deductive evidence that could prove he is not.

All right, since you’ve been hyperventilating over your rock-solid “positive,” evidence-based arguments, I’ll give them a nod before I go.

You assume fine tuning demands an explanation. I can show it doesn’t in exactly four words: anthropic principle, life chauvinism.

Even if it did demand an explanation, you a haven’t come close to showing the explanation can’t be a natural one. The closest you come is to repeat over and over “we know that the causes are not material as matter didn’t exist sans the universe.” But this isn’t the question. Assuming arguendo what you assert is true, this is not the same thing as saying “we know the causes are not natural.” You simply haven’t established that “fine tuning” can’t have a natural cause. Nobody has. You certainly haven’t measured the effect of God on fine tuning. We don’t yet know the cause of fine tuning. We may never know, but that doesn’t mean “God did it.”

Similarly, even if this universe had a “beginning” this doesn’t mean the cause is supernatural. The very scientists on whom you rest your case disagree with you:

“Theologians have often welcomed any evidence for the beginning of the universe, regarding it as evidence for the existence of God … So what do we make of a proof that the beginning is unavoidable? Is it a proof of the existence of God? This view would be far too simplistic. Anyone who attempts to understand the origin of the universe should be prepared to address its logical paradoxes. In this regard, the theorem that I proved with my colleagues does not give much of an advantage to the theologian over the scientist.”

– Alexander Vilenkin (for further discussion see http://debunkingwlc.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/borde-guth-vilenkin/)

objective morality is an effect of the universe? What the…? I think murder and stealing are just great. There, you haven’t established that morality is objective. We’d like it to be, but it’s not. This is just terrible.

As is the resurrection. You have exactly one piece of evidence for it: A 2000 year-old oft-translated book that contains a few contradictory passages based on double- and triple hearsay. Ludicrous.

Here is what you said: “We all agree that the Natural exists. When we look outward from the tiny little space we occupy, the Natural appears to be…well…pretty much everything.” So, if it is pretty much everything, does that mean that it is not everything? If not, what would you put outside of the natural? If you can identify somethings that would reside outside of the natural, I will amend my statement.

What in the world are you babbling about? I can’t identify anything that appears to fall outside the natural. That’s the point, and you understand it perfectly well because neither can you. Your continued statements that I haven’t presented a positive case for naturalism are either delusional or willfully disingenuous.

Put it this way: Are you saying you don’t agree the Natural exists?

Do you disagree that, of the things we actually can see, as as far as we can see, for billions of light-years, it all appears natural? Do you disagree that, of the things we actually can detect, from photons, to sound waves, to heat, to molecules, to atoms, to quarks, it all appears natural, all the way down? Do you disagree that event by event, task by task, the totality of your life’s instants appear to have natural causes?

To repeat: You are slippery, disingenuous, incoherent, and abuse your minimal understanding of science. But you know what’s unforgiveable?

Abusing Dr. Seuss. That’s unforgiveable.

The title of the book is “Horton Hears a Who.” Not “Horton Doesn’t See, Hear, Taste, Feel, or Measure in any Way a Who, Yet Remains a Devout Whoist.”

Alternatively: Well, I suppose there is as much evidence for your God as there is for Whoville. A book talks about it, after all!

I really am done with you. Feel free to crow your victory. I leave the “verdict” to any neutrals who may still be watching.

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LNC February 22, 2011 at 10:57 am

Every time I try to explain this, I see you getting wrapped up in unnecessarily semantics. So forgive me if I try to cut through the specifics of our recent exchange and get to the heart of the matter.

Sorry about that, but it seems that semantics are quite important, aren’t they? But let’s do move on…

A neuron is intentional when it produces in an organism behavior that seeks and end, like when an organism move toward water and then drinks the water. There are neurons in the organism’s brain that are firing and which eventually wind up moving muscles that take the organism to the water to slake thirst. That’s all intentionality has to be.

Here is where semantics become very important as there are two ways that the word “intentionality” is used. The problem stems back to non-English speakers like Brentano and Husserl who were the ones who first coined the term for this usage. Unlike the common understanding of the word, the use of the word in philosophy of mind refers to having thoughts directed toward their objects (thoughts of and about other things). So, in this understanding of the word I would say that neurons are not intentional. In fact, I would say in the common understanding of the word, neurons are not intentional either. Neurons do not have mental content of their own and that is required for either usage of the term.

Now, maybe you are saying that they “act as if” they were intentional, but that is completely different and it is simply ascribing intentionality to a non-intentional entity. This is the play that Daniel Dennett makes and I think that it fails on many accounts. First, a neuron, or even a group of neurons would never have the whole pictures of x signal is received, therefore, y response is required. Those neurons would be so distributed throughout the brain that it would require a system to bring them together. A system to unite all of the qualia (sensations) through time and at a given time, something like a self. Second, intentionality does not reside in the physics of our bodies. There is no central meaner within neurons, nor a central doer. Third, if all were physical, there would no unity over time as the physical part of us is always changing. So, I think you have oversimplified your explanation and left out some key elements that you have not explained by neurons firing.

Semantics reside in a neural network when an organism capable of speech moves its lips and vocal cords and vocalizes. For instance, an organism that can talk says “Give me some water, I’m thirsty” and another organism gives me some water and the first one drinks it. The semantics of that interaction functioned perfectly well without anything immaterial necessarily. Organism A had a desire, moved it’s mouth and vocal cords in such a way to increase the likelihood that organism B would give A some water; B, for its own reasons, responded to A in the way that A predicted. Semantics doesn’t need to be or mean anything more than that.

The organism is emitting sounds from a cavity by running air over vocal cords. Why does that become words that have meaning? What is it about neurons that translates syntax into semantics? How is it that different organisms can have semantic relationships? For example, my computer processes syntax, but it doesn’t reflect on the semantics of the syntax that it has taken in or spit out. It doesn’t disagree with anything that I type into it or the data that it takes in from the Internet. It doesn’t self reflect.

Now you may argue that once its circuitry gets to a certain point consciousness can emerge. I think for the reasons mentioned above about intentionality, the enduring self, and for many others, I am highly dubious of that occurring. As much as we like to think that Data from Star Trek will become a reality some day, I have serious doubts.

A neuron is about something when an organism uses it that way. Being about something doesn’t need to mean anything more than that.

And, actually, you are not the same self. You are certainly not the same self as you were when you were six months old. The differences far outweigh the similarities. You can trace the progression from the you when you were six months old to the you that you are now, but so what?
Not sure what the bundling problem is.

Here you are shifting the intentionality back to the organism, not to the neuron. The neuron does not have intentionality in that scenario, the organism does. But what has shifted such that an organism can have intentionality when the neurons themselves cannot? You mistakenly say it is “being about,” when, in fact, intentionality is having thoughts that are of or about their object, and that is something that neurons cannot do or have.

Yes, I am the same self that I was when I was six months old, I’m just older now, but still the same person. Are you saying that when someone changes, they become a new self, a new person? Wow, that would really put the criminal justice system in a bind. All the defendant would have to do would be to grow a beard, cut his/her hair, dye it, put on some weight or lose some weight, and voilà, they’re a new person and off the hook for the crime. One of my co-workers just sliced off part of his finger, does that make him a new person?

You have basically described the bundling problem with your example. Hume argued: “we are never intimately conscious of anything but a particular perception; man is a bundle or collection of different perceptions which succeed one another with an inconceivable rapidity and are in perpetual flux and movement”. However, we have this perception of ourselves as a persistent unity through time. We don’t experience, as Dennett would argue, that there are various parts of our brain competing for consciousness, a type of what he calls, Fame of the Brain. The idea leads to all sorts of problems, some of which I described above.

By the way, I’m not going to have a lot of time soon to respond, work is calling me.

I understand, I have limited time myself. Good to think through these ideas with you.

LNC

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LNC February 22, 2011 at 11:23 am

Why can’t the universe be its own cause? You’re making the following argument (again, from negative evidence):
Every crow I’ve seen is black.
Therefore, all crows are black.
Until, that is, the white crow shows up.
Compare to
Every material thing I’ve seen has a cause.
Therefore, all material things, including a very unique one, the universe, has a cause.
Until, that is, we find a material thing that doesn’t have a cause.

I don’t believe I have made that argument. That is the composition fallacy and I don’t make that mistake. Here is why nothing can be its own cause, it is an o ontological problem (the being of something). How can a thing be its own cause? As I have already explained, to cause its own existence it would have to pre-exist itself. It would have to exist to be the cause of its own existence, but if it already exists, why would it need to cause its existence? Because it doesn’t exist, but then how could it cause its own existence. And on and on I could go.

Now, do you want to deny the law of causality? If so, then be prepared to toss all of scientific investigation out the window – if causality is dead, science is dead. Or, do you want to special plead and say that the universe is an example of violation of causality? Causality is a foundational logical principle, it is a first principle of scientific investigation. I wouldn’t be too quick to throw it under the bus to try to prove your materialistic worldview.

You’re trying to define an empirical fact into existence. The entire universe is an effect unlike any other, so it may be a different type of effect, or not an effect at all. We don’t know yet.

That is an appeal to scientism of the gaps. Science does not, nor can it afford to operate on such an assumption. Again, you are threatening to throw scientific investigation under the bus. But really, all you are doing is, as I mentioned, special pleading based upon your materialistic presuppositions.

What about your big qualifier, “with our given physics?” Again, we don’t know yet for sure, but that doesn’t mean we can make a hypothesis an established conclusion.

Oh, so now you want to propose a whole new physics? I can only go based upon what we have. You want to appeal to what we don’t know. Who is appealing to the gaps now? Again, this is just an appeal to scientism on you part.

It exactly, absolutely is not. Can you not even see the negative in your sentence?!
“There is no law . . . . ”
Again, your saying what isn’t there. Now, we can argue if negative claims are proper are not, but please take off your blinders about when you do make a negative claim.

OK, all the laws that we know about show us that the parameters of the universe are not the result of these laws or chance. Now, surely you aren’t going to say that because I said “not the result” that I have made a negative claim. However, if you do, then you have to show me why such a claim is a problem. Please take off your rose colored glasses when you make claims that we don’t know, but… You don’t have a crystal ball, so what you are doing is wishful thinking, or making a faith statement, but with no basis for your faith.

I made no claim about morality. I merely said that I wasn’t aware that the morality had been established to be objective. I’m not even sure that the idea is coherent.
I think the topic or objective morality is too big for the large substance of our conversation already.

Really, you don’t believe that morality exists? Because, by saying that morality is not objective or not even a coherent idea, that is what you are claiming. It is a simple concept. It is either objective, or it doesn’t exist. But then, I’m sure that you lock you car doors when you leave it in a public place. Worse yet, I’m sure you would report a theft from your car to the police. Why, because you want the thief caught and prosecuted, because it is wrong to steal.

LNC

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LNC February 23, 2011 at 10:23 am

Here’s the crucial point: there is no positive evidence for your explanation.You’re saying that, because we have no evidence otherwise, here’s an idea I’ve thought up, it answers the question, so it must be true.At best, you have a hypothesis.But to move from a hypothesis to a proper conclusion, you need actual evidence beyond a lack of evidence for competing hypotheses.  

You are making a blatant appeal to ignorance. We don’t know, therefore, it may exist. You are the one that has to make a positive case for existence beyond our universe, that is not my responsibility. We can only empirically prove that your universe exists. We have no empirical evidence for any physical reality beyond our universe. To posit some physical existence beyond our universe is a metaphysical assertion that is often based upon a materialistic presupposition. A way to attempt to counter the fine tuning problem. I don’t have the burden of proof to carry in this argument, it is the burden of the person who asserts existence beyond our empirical knowledge that bears that burden.

Here’s what we do know. The universe is past finite. The universe makes up all know physical reality. If the universe makes up all known physical reality and it is past finite, then the best explanation for its existence is an immaterial cause. If you wish to argue otherwise, please provide evidence for your assertions. An appeal to ignorance will not carry the burden of proof.

LNC

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Paul February 23, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Here’s the crucial point: there is no positive evidence for your explanation.You’re saying that, because we have no evidence otherwise, here’s an idea I’ve thought up, it answers the question, so it must be true.At best, you have a hypothesis.But to move from a hypothesis to a proper conclusion, you need actual evidence beyond a lack of evidence for competing hypotheses.

You are making a blatant appeal to ignorance.We don’t know, therefore, it may exist.You are the one that has to make a positive case for existence beyond our universe, that is not my responsibility.

I am flabbergasted and stunned that you can find anything in the above quote of mine in which I make a claim about existence beyond our universe. Why do have to make a positive case for something I am not making a claim about?

I don’t have the burden of proof to carry in this argument, it is the burden of the person who asserts existence beyond our empirical knowledge that bears that burden.

Where did I make that assertion?

The main point, though, is that all of your response has nothing to do with the specifics of my quote above.

Do you agree that, at best, you only have a hypothesis (I expect you understand the context there)?

Do you agree about positive evidence for a hypothesis as opposed to a lack of evidence for a competing hypothesis somehow counting as evidence?

The universe is past finite. . . . .

We have no empirical evidence of how something (like the universe) along with time can come into existence at the same time. So to make any conclusion based on what we know, when we don’t have any empirical evidence, seems risky.

My conclusion: we don’t know.

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LNC February 23, 2011 at 8:13 pm

The hypotheses ‘there is a God” and “God created the universe” are not falsifiable under this definition, for all the reasons I gave above. In short, God could be hiding. There is no inductive or deductive evidence that could prove he is not.

That is not part of my hypothesis, so you are arguing a straw man. If you are going to address my case, you have to address my case, rather than adding your own premises and then knocking the argument down. I make no such claims about God and it is my argument that I believe we are supposed to be addressing.

All right, since you’ve been hyperventilating over your rock-solid “positive,” evidence-based arguments, I’ll give them a nod before I go.
You assume fine tuning demands an explanation. I can show it doesn’t in exactly four words: anthropic principle, life chauvinism.
Even if it did demand an explanation, you a haven’t come close to showing the explanation can’t be a natural one. The closest you come is to repeat over and over “we know that the causes are not material as matter didn’t exist sans the universe.” But this isn’t the question. Assuming arguendo what you assert is true, this is not the same thing as saying “we know the causes are not natural.” You simply haven’t established that “fine tuning” can’t have a natural cause. Nobody has. You certainly haven’t measured the effect of God on fine tuning. We don’t yet know the cause of fine tuning. We may never know, but that doesn’t mean “God did it.”

I’ve been breathing normally, thanks for the concern. That’s it? You think that throwing those four words/two terms is going to make me start hyperventilating? I credit you with reading Luke’s blog carefully as he has laid out both of these arguments in detail. I don’t give you any credit for reading these posts with a skeptical eye. Third, you get docked for conflating my arguments together and ending up confused. You have conflated the cosmological argument with the teleological argument which explains why you think that I have presented a faulty case for fine tuning. However, to keep matters straight, I have never argued that because matter didn’t exist sans the universe that that has anything to do with fine tuning. It does have everything to do with the fact that the universe does not have a material cause. What I did say about fine tuning is that it cannot be explained by law or chance. For example, we have no explanation for the interaction of the four fundamental forces (strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force, gravitation, and electromagnetism). Without that and many other explanations, we know that law is not the explanation of fine tuning. Second, when you have factors such as the cosmological constant that is fine tuned to 10^120 and the low entropy condition at 10^10^123, those are beyond chance occurrences, and those are just two of many factors tuned to provide for a life permitting universe.

Now, you present two possible explanations for why we experience fine tuning. First, the anthropic principle. When I read Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, I laughed out loud when I read his treatment of this explanation. First, it does not explain fine tuning, it simply says that it must be so because we are here to see it. But that still leaves it up to chance and that possibility has been eliminated. What is far more likely is that no life, nor even a universe would have developed. It should have all collapsed in on itself soon after the Big Bang. This attempt at an explanation is not an explanation at all, but simply begs the question. The life chauvinism is a straw man. The argument doesn’t make the case that life is highly improbable and requires an explanation. The argument is that the fine tuning of the universe (which is not in question, even by Richard Dawkins who assumes it in TGD), requires an explanation. The explanations are either law, chance, or design. Law and chance are excluded by evidence, therefore, design is the best explanation. Now, if you would like to give evidence for law or chance, that would be a way to counter this argument, but simply throwing up this straw man or the question begging anthropic principle, won’t do it.

Similarly, even if this universe had a “beginning” this doesn’t mean the cause is supernatural. The very scientists on whom you rest your case disagree with you:
“Theologians have often welcomed any evidence for the beginning of the universe, regarding it as evidence for the existence of God … So what do we make of a proof that the beginning is unavoidable? Is it a proof of the existence of God? This view would be far too simplistic. Anyone who attempts to understand the origin of the universe should be prepared to address its logical paradoxes. In this regard, the theorem that I proved with my colleagues does not give much of an advantage to the theologian over the scientist.”
– Alexander Vilenkin (for further discussion seehttp://debunkingwlc.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/borde-guth-vilenkin/).

In regard to Vilenkin’s quote, I am not surprised that he would make such an argument as he is an atheist. Second, the article that you posted has false claims. It says that the BVG research shows that nearly all universes require a beginning which is blatantly false. I have read that report many times and that claim is not made. In fact, the research does not even deal with that question. It asks whether our universe could be past-eternal and concludes that it could not. So, whoever wrote that article was being a bit deceptive. I do find the quote within the article to be interesting, Vilenkin is asked whether the BVG research still is valid in that the universe had a beginning and says, “yes.” He then goes on to say if we get into “subtleties” then “there are ways to get around having a beginning, but then you are forced to have something nearly as special as a beginning.” So, we give up the beginning, but we need something just as “special,” it doesn’t sound like he has really gained anything with this move and has probably jettisoned a lot to get there. I watched that talk online and will have to go back and find out what the context of this statement is. I do remember that those who argued against Guth and Vilenkin on that panel for the standard model, presented a much more convincing case.

objective morality is an effect of the universe? What the…? I think murder and stealing are just great. There, you haven’t established that morality is objective.
We’d like it to be, but it’s not. This is just terrible.

That doesn’t make your case, sorry. And, I will believe you when you are robbed and don’t report it to the police and don’t seek insurance to reimburse you. It’s easy to say on a blog post and harder to live out in reality. If you were the husband of the reporter that was brutally gang raped in Egypt, I think you would not consider it to be an act on par with Mother Teresa feeding the poor in Calcutta.

As is the resurrection. You have exactly one piece of evidence for it: A 2000 year-old oft-translated book that contains a few contradictory passages based on double- and triple hearsay. Ludicrous.

Wrong again my friend. You apparently are not well versed in Bible history. You see, it was not always a single book and was not written by a single person. Just because it has since been gathered together and published under one cover doesn’t mean it has always been that way. You don’t even have your facts straight about what is within the covers. I might suggest that you take a course in the history and interpretation of the text before making these oft repeated and always incorrect assertions. Matthew, apostle and eyewitness; Mark, companion and close associate of Peter and eyewitness; Luke, historian (maybe the only who may not have been a direct eyewitness); John, the closest of Jesus’ apostles and eyewitness.

What in the world are you babbling about? I can’t identify anything that appears to fall outside the natural. That’s the point, and you understand it perfectly well because neither can you. Your continued statements that I haven’t presented a positive case for naturalism are either delusional or willfully disingenuous. Put it this way: Are you saying you don’t agree the Natural exists?

Do you disagree that, of the things we actually can see, as as far as we can see, for billions of light-years, it all appears natural? Do you disagree that, of the things we actually can detect, from photons, to sound waves, to heat, to molecules, to atoms, to quarks, it all appears natural, all the way down? Do you disagree that event by event, task by task, the totality of your life’s instants appear to have natural causes?

To repeat: You are slippery, disingenuous, incoherent, and abuse your minimal understanding of science. But you know what’s unforgiveable?
Abusing Dr. Seuss. That’s unforgiveable. The title of the book is “Horton Hears a Who.” Not “Horton Doesn’t See, Hear, Taste, Feel, or Measure in any Way a Who, Yet Remains a Devout Whoist.”
Alternatively: Well, I suppose there is as much evidence for your God as there is for Whoville. A book talks about it, after all!
I really am done with you. Feel free to crow your victory. I leave the “verdict” to any neutrals who may still be watching.

Ah, so you think that quoting your own words back to you is babble. Sorry about that. I cannot explain the existence of the universe via natural processes and neither can you. I cannot explain fine tuning via natural processes and neither can you. I cannot explain the existence of objective morality via natural processes and neither can you. I cannot explain consciousness and intentionality via natural processes and neither can you. I could go on. However, I never questioned whether the natural exists, that is just silly. BTW, why do you capitalize the word “natural”?

Even if all that we could see what natural, it does not follow that all that exists is natural, that is a non-sequitur. You would have to give additional proof that all that exists is natural. And really, calling names is not helping you to advance your case. I’ve always considered it the last desperate attempt of a person who has run out of arguments.

Hey, I’m not the one who wrote the story or the screenplay for Horton, I’m simply reporting what is there. Yes, Horton heard the who, but the kangaroo could not, and given that fact, she was an unbeliever and an anti-believer. She not only didn’t want to believe herself, but she wanted to stop anyone who might want to believe (sounds like many of the new atheists). So, you have either missed the obvious point, or you are purposefully twisting the point I clearly made because it doesn’t fit with your worldview.

LNC

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LNC February 23, 2011 at 8:33 pm

I am flabbergasted and stunned that you can find anything in the above quote of mine in which I make a claim about existence beyond our universe. Why do have to make a positive case for something I am not making a claim about?

Where did I make that assertion?
The main point, though, is that all of your response has nothing to do with the specifics of my quote above.
Do you agree that, at best, you only have a hypothesis (I expect you understand the context there)?
Do you agree about positive evidence for a hypothesis as opposed to a lack of evidence for a competing hypothesis somehow counting as evidence?

We have no empirical evidence of how something (like the universe) along with time can come into existence at the same time. So to make any conclusion based on what we know, when we don’t have any empirical evidence, seems risky.
My conclusion: we don’t know.

Point taken. However, are you open to immaterial existence beyond the universe? I think I was reading too much into that post based upon previous posts, so I will look forward to your answer to that question.

I have already stated that God’s existence can be posed as an hypothesis. I believe that it is a testable hypothesis and a falsifiable one at that. I believe the same about the Big Bang theory, evolution, and many other theories and hypotheses that we hold. I have already given positive evidence, not negative evidence. The Kalam, teleological, and moral arguments are positive arguments for God’s existence, as is the argument for the resurrection and many others that I haven’t presented.

To say that we don’t have empirical evidence for the Big Bang is a bit of a stretch. We have evidence for the expansion of the universe, we have cosmic microwave background radiation and other pieces of evidence that point us to the Big Bang. Now, do we have empirical evidence in the form of eyewitness testimony? No, but then we don’t have that for evolution and other scientific theories either. I’m not sure what type of empirical evidence you would be referring to when you say we don’t have this type of evidence, so maybe you could clarify that. We do make conclusions on the evidence that we have, not on what we don’t know. So, when scientists like Borde, Vilenkin, Guth, Hawking and others say that the universe and time itself came into existence, it is based upon scientific data, not on mere speculation. You conclude that we don’t know, but that seems awfully naive based upon what we do know. I base my conclusions upon what we do know, not on what we don’t. Somewhere in there, you seem to be holding to a philosophical naturalism and I would like to know on what you base that?

LNC

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sam December 2, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Tristan, in Christian theology’s view, the Universe was created for the man and not viceversa. Thus, if men have fallen, the Universe obeys that, too. The universe is part of the language God uses to talk with people. If people’s understanding lowers, the language will too.

Interesting. This implies, referencing the Fall in Genesis, a specific temporal sequence of events. yhwh designs creation and it is Good. Man, of his own free will, disobeys & falls. Subsequently in response, yhwh ‘lowers’ his language after man’s understanding lowers. This includes initiating painful childbirth, toiling for crops, and the eventual heat death of the universe.

How does a xian reconcile this sequence of events with their ‘fine-tuning’ argument, which acknowledges that the eventual heat death of the universe is already fine-tuned within the initial cosmological constants of the universe, well before any ‘fall’ of man?

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