Neil Tyson Debunks Nearly All Theology in 9 Minutes

by Luke Muehlhauser on March 1, 2010 in Funny,Video

Okay, so obviously my title is not to be taken seriously, but here’s the point:

  • Arguments for the existence of God are almost exclusively arguments from ignorance. (Or, as they call them now, “arguments to the best explanation,” except that unlike scientists, theologians give no account of how God is the best explanation.)
  • Religious belief usually relies on personal experience instead of public evidence anyway, ignoring the fact that personal experience is extremely unreliable.

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{ 83 comments… read them below or add one }

Sabio Lantz March 1, 2010 at 12:42 am

“Optical Illusions = Brain Failure ” !
That was fantastic

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Conversational Atheist March 1, 2010 at 1:09 am

No way… I just posted my very first YouTube video that is very much along the same lines:

Supernatural guesses consistently fail

Coincidence?

Probably… although…

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Rhys March 1, 2010 at 1:11 am

LOL!

Oh man I laughed so hard I’ve got a stomach ache now :D

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Jake de Backer March 1, 2010 at 2:19 am

I always appreciate what that man has to say as it’s usually something perspicuously insightful and intellectually edifying but I fucking hate his delivery. He’s always yelling, screaming, frantically moving about. I much prefer listening to people like Harris, Dawkins or Hitchens. They are commensurately passionate about these topics, and are often as much or more clever in their criticisms, but they’re not giving me anxiety while I listen to them. They have calm, mellifluous deliveries which make listening for 45 mins or even a few hours much more pleasant.

Here’s to Neil choking down a handful of xanax before his next speaking engagement,
J.

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Haecceitas March 1, 2010 at 5:29 am

You’re confusing religious belief, theology, and philosophy of religion. Religious beliefs may be often based on personal experinece, but this isn’t true of theology or philosophy of religion. Theologians may not spend much time trying to give accounts of how God is the best explanation, but theologians aren’t primarily concerned with the question of God’s existence in the first place (often they take it for granted). This question falls within the domain of philosophy of religion. And many philosophers of religion do give some kind of an account of how God can be postulated to explain things.

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vision March 1, 2010 at 5:42 am

@Jake de Backer

I actually really like his delivery! (Though I must admit that it seemed to scare that kid off :D)

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OrdinaryClay March 1, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Science uses arguments to the best explanation. The explanations for the Cambrian Explosion are arguments based on the best explanation. Explanations for mass extinctions are arguments based on the best explanation. It would be a mistake to malign a valid form of reasoning because Theologians and Philosophers exercise the same reasoning when appropriate. It would be a serious misunderstanding of the reasoning form to equate such an argument to an argument from ignorance.

The Teleological argument is hardly an argument from ignorance. It is our knowledge gained through long and deep scientific explorations that have led us to the quandary of *why*. Introducing into the set of possible solutions the idea of the supernatural is reasonable because what we are trying to explain is the total natural world.

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OrdinaryClay March 1, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Personal testimony is a valid form of evidence. Like all evidence it has to be evaluated appropriately. Our legal system and historiography use testimonial evidence for very good reason. It goes with out saying that all testimony is not equal, but it would be irrational to neglect a completely legitimate form of evidence because atheists don’t like it.

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Reginald Selkirk March 1, 2010 at 1:20 pm

OrdinaryClay: Science uses arguments to the best explanation… It would be a mistake to malign a valid form of reasoning because Theologians and Philosophers exercise the same reasoning when appropriate. It would be a serious misunderstanding of the reasoning form to equate such an argument to an argument from ignorance.

Here’s a subtle hint: when theologians or philosophers of religion say they are reasoning to the best explanation, they are lying. It is entirely obvious that when someone like James Spiegel says he is reasoning to the best explanation, he has not put in the necessary work. Instead, he has started with his conclusion and then constructed a path of arguments which will land him there.

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Conor Gilliland March 1, 2010 at 2:11 pm

What is an atheistic view (or your atheistic view) about how we know that we have truth producing faculties at all? Why shouldn’t we suppose that our trust in science is the product of a “brain failure”?

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Hermes March 1, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Conor Gilliland: What is an atheistic view (or your atheistic view) about how we know that we have truth producing faculties at all?  

Because the alternative is nonsensical; solipsism.

(This goes for everyone, not just atheists. Well, except for solipsists who deserve derision and to be asked why they don’t owe me a billion $ USD.)

Conor Gilliland: Why shouldn’t we suppose that our trust in science is the product of a “brain failure”?  

So, are you saying that you personally reject the sciences as a means for understanding reality?

If you are, then that’s a really amazing statement.

If you are not saying that, but are saying that there should be some humility involved in the sciences, then I’m curious how you think this is not being done presently.

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ildi March 1, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Conor Gilliland: What is an atheistic view (or your atheistic view) about how we know that we have truth producing faculties at all?Why shouldn’t we suppose that our trust in science is the product of a “brain failure”?  

Science

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lukeprog March 1, 2010 at 2:45 pm

OrdinaryClay,

I know science uses arguments to the best explanation. That’s what I said. The difference is that theology uses them without giving any reason to think that ‘God did it’ is the best explanation. In contrast, scientific theories offer things like explanatory scope, predictive novelty, testability, ontological economy, etc.

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ildi March 1, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Jake de Backer: I always appreciate what that man has to say as it’s usually something perspicuously insightful and intellectually edifying but I fucking hate his delivery.He’s always yelling, screaming, frantically moving about.I much prefer listening to people like Harris, Dawkins or Hitchens.They are commensurately passionate about these topics, and are often as much or more clever in their criticisms, but they’re not giving me anxiety while I listen to them.They have calm, mellifluous deliveries which make listening for 45 mins or even a few hours much more pleasant.Here’s to Neil choking down a handful of xanax before his next speaking engagement,
J.  

Oh, man, you are so wrong! Neil is the American response to that reserved, public-school accent. Checkmate, Dawkins and Hitchens!

Actually, I love them all, but I really, really love NdGT. My guess is that what many people consider rude and arrogant about Dawkins is that ‘top-of-the-heap’ air about him that many educated Brits still seem to have, even though their empire is the dust of history.

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lukeprog March 1, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Conor,

Because we test shit in a variety of way and work very hard to overcome our known brain failures.

‘God did it’ won’t solve our epistemological problems, either.

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lukeprog March 1, 2010 at 2:59 pm

ildi,

That is an excellent reply.

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Rob March 1, 2010 at 3:06 pm

“Why shouldn’t we suppose that our trust in science is the product of a “brain failure”?”

Ever used a cell phone? What about a computer? Ever eaten food produced by modern scientific farming methods? Ever used an internal combustion engine? Ever ridden in an airplane?

I’m appealing to a common ground of shared human experience.

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Conor Gilliland March 1, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Hermes, you said, “Because the alternative is nonsensical; solipsism.”

This doesn’t really deal with the difficulty. Just because you may not like the alternative, doesn’t mean the alternative isn’t the case. The world may in fact be nonsensical. I’m interested in understanding why you believe that the ideas in our mind, (scientific or not – ildi) correspond to the reality beyond our mind, if there is such a thing.

ildi, you said, “Science”

You’ve begged the question. Science is a human invention, based on human reason. But if the human brain, and thereby human reason, doesn’t correspond to reality, then even our best science is nonsense.

Luke, you said, “Because we test shit in a variety of way and work very hard to overcome our known brain failures.

‘God did it’ won’t solve our epistemological problems, either.”

Again, you’ve assumed what I’m hoping naturalism can explain, namely that our faculties are reliable. It doesn’t matter how many ways we measure (your aptly chosen word) shit, or how hard we work to overcome brain failures. If our reason is corrupt, or never worked to begin with, then even our “known brain failures” are the products of brain failures, and it would not matter how hard we worked to overcome them.

If God did create the universe which he understands and can make sense of, as most creators can understand their creations, and he created us in his image, in our ability to use reason to understand, then we would have a good reason to suppose that our faculties are at least mostly reliable. So it does actually get us out of this particular epistemological problem.

Let’s bracket his existence for now, and address the issue that the Christian does in fact seem to have a good (epistemic) reason for supposing she has reliable faculties. That is to say, her belief that she has reliable faculties is supported by her belief in being created in the image of God. Does the naturalist have any beliefs that would support their belief in reliable faculties? Keep in mind, even one counter-example or possible world scenario could render the argument invalid.

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Rhys Wilkins March 1, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Connor,

Not necessarily. Your experience of God and the properly basic truth of Christianity could be all part of the solipsistic nightmare. Christianity does nothing to assuage our fears about being a brain in a vat.

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Conversational Atheist March 1, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Conor Gilliland: Science is a human invention, based on human reason. But if the human brain, and thereby human reason, doesn’t correspond to reality, then even our best science is nonsense.

I accept.

If the human brain doesn’t correspond to reality, then our best science is nonsense.

However, it is not the case that “our best science is nonsense”.
Therefore, it is not true that “the human brain doesn’t correspond to reality”.

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Conversational Atheist March 2, 2010 at 12:14 am

Conor Gilliland, Maybe you were arguing for something stronger? How can our senses tell us anything about external reality at all? As Rhys pointed out, “brain-in-a-vat” style skepticism cuts down any theism you care to posit as nicely as whatever else you want to cut down to size.

Maybe you don’t mean to go that far — but if our senses can tell us something about what seems to be external reality — it’s rather obvious to mention that our brains are not in general reliable.

Scientists, for example, don’t trust their thoughts automatically, they are constantly testing assumptions and implications. Human minds and brains were not evolved to understand things on a microscope — much less atomic scale.

But consider: atomic bombs weren’t made by blind trial and error. It wasn’t that someone accidentally set off an atomic bomb, and people said, ooo, let’s figure out how that happened!

To oversimplify a bit: A guy looked at what others had done for the working model of the conditions and results of nuclear reactions, and then went on a long causal chain walk — well, if this is right, and we had enough of A, then B would happen… and that means Z would happen, and that means that there would be an enormous explosion releasing an amount of destructive energy never before seen in human history that could flatten an entire city, like Hiroshima. He managed to convince people to fund his (and many others) ideas because they thought he was onto something.

Was the guy onto something?

If you can trust your senses to tell you that an atom bomb explosion releases a lot of energy, then yeah, the guy was onto something. Would your brain have figured out nukes? No, probably not. Are the ideas innate — do we trust our first inclinations about atomic and nuclear physics? No. In fact, small scale physics will go against almost every intuition that you hold about the world, but it works.

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Conor Gilliland March 2, 2010 at 2:35 am

CA,
Your syllogism, while valid, is not sound on a naturalistic worldview. Your second premise has no support. The inference doesn’t follow. The second premise would have support on a created-in-the-image-of-a-rational-God worldview.

Furthermore, I’m not appealing to brain-in-a-vat skepticism. I’m simply saying that theists have a reason to suppose their faculties are reliable (i.e. truth-producing), and I’m trying to find out if naturalists have a reason to suppose that their faculties are (at least probably) truth-producing.

You’ve appealed to a “if-it-works” standard. But what does it mean to “work”? Presumably, you mean to say your theory of reliable faculties is that we can accurately predict what will happen, therefore our predicting mechanism works well. However, our predictions, whether about physics, chemistry, or biology only work well within the context of the mechanism itself, which is the very subject of the reliability we are trying to demonstrate.

Let me put it in terms of possible worlds. There is no possible world where God creates beings in his image and they do not have mostly reliable faculties. The nature of God and the nature of being in his image necessitate this conclusion.

However, I can think of innumerable possible worlds where just because something has worked in the past it doesn’t work the next time. Hence, Stephen Hawking says, “Any physical theory is always provisional, in the sense that it is only a hypothesis: you can never prove it. No matter ow many times the results of experiments agree with some theory, you can never be sure that the next time the result will not contradict the theory.”

And so, given the impossibility that any scientific physical theory will prove that the same phenomena will occur the next time it’s tested, we can imagine a whole host of possible worlds where the next time Pete shoots his basketball it just floats upward. Similarly, I can imagine a possible world where the next time Jack puts a pot of water on the stove, the water freezes instead of boils.

So you see, you standard of “it works” doesn’t get us the grounding we need to support the belief that we have truth-producing faculties. You briefly mentioned evolution saying, “our brains were not evolved to understand things on a microscope.” Evolution would seem the default for a naturalist, but remember our brains weren’t evolved to produce truth either – they were evolved (if anything) to survive. And so again, I can imagine a whole slew of possible worlds where our faculties cause us to survive on false beliefs, that is to say, never reliably producing true beliefs such as beliefs in electrons, atoms, or evolution for example.

So we are still looking for that naturalistic grounding for reliable faculties.

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Hermes March 2, 2010 at 3:46 am

Conor Gilliland: Furthermore, I’m not appealing to brain-in-a-vat skepticism. I’m simply saying that theists have a reason to suppose their faculties are reliable (i.e. truth-producing), and I’m trying to find out if naturalists have a reason to suppose that their faculties are (at least probably) truth-producing.

I’ve heard those claims before, and they all boil down to assertions.

Naturalism isn’t required to fully addressed your original comments, or to discard the Christian assertion that some unreal realm or force is required to make reality.

You’ve got to show actual support for your assertions beyond that you can’t see any other method for how things actually are and that your conception of deities is the perfect fit for the hole you’ve made up yourself. If you don’t, the assertions remain just that; bare and without any support beyond your own insistence.

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Rob March 2, 2010 at 4:13 am

The EAAN is the second worst idea of the twentieth century.

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OrdinaryClay March 2, 2010 at 4:39 am

lukeprog,

I disagree. There are good reasons to believe the supernatural was causal. Theists are not making any claim that God is a scientific explanation. So evaluating a supernatural cause based on the same criteria as a natural cause would be illegitimate. All we need be able to do is 1) distinguish supernatural and natural causes, and 2) eliminate natural causes as either impossible or highly unlikely.

Regarding 1), We are interested in two characteristics of events. Are they detectable and are they predictable. Natural events are either detectable and predictable or predictable but not detectable. A supernatural event caused by a free will agent is detectable and not-predictable. I’m using predictable in the sense that the event would not even be subject to a consistent statistical analysis of its behavior. The Teleological Argument(TA) makes the case that the event, creation of the universe, is detectable, but not predictable.

Regarding 2), the current best science says there are no natural causes that can explain the improbable state of the universe. This is the basis of the TA. Could this change, sure, but the fact that it *may* change does not mean that you don’t stay with your current best explanation. The very nature of best explanations is that you allow yourself the ability to reevaluate based on the evidence, which I’m always willing to do.

A theist allows both the natural and the supernatural as an explanation. A materialist artificially restricts the set to natural causes. This presupposition seems particularly odd given that what we are trying to explain is the creation of the same thing used to provide the explanation.

With respect to your criteria, a supernatural cause with free will …
1) obviously provides explanatory scope as it explains the universe,
2) provides predictive novelty since we have no reason for there to be something rather then nothing,
3) allows for testability because the best explanation can change any time based on the experimental underpinnings of our understanding of the universe,
4) provides ontological economy because I can maintain God is simple just as fervently as you can claim God is complex.

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Rob March 2, 2010 at 5:08 am

Conor Gilliland: I can imagine a whole slew of possible worlds where our faculties cause us to survive on false beliefs, that is to say, never reliably producing true beliefs such as beliefs in electrons, atoms, or evolution for example.So we are still looking for that naturalistic grounding for reliable faculties.  

And I can imagine a world where an overlord lurking in the background magically made people believe non-sense. But my imagination is no guide to reality. Why do you think yours is?

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lukeprog March 2, 2010 at 6:16 am

Conor,

Perhaps one day I’ll get around to discussing the EAAN, but for right now suffice it to say naturalists do NOT assume our senses our reliable. That’s precisely why we invented science, and why science works. When you fly in a plane, do you want to fly in a plane designed by 100 years of hard-fought science by hundreds of scientists, or in a plane designed by divine revelation or carefully considered human perception? Science works.

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lukeprog March 2, 2010 at 6:19 am

OrdinaryClay,

“All we need be able to do is 1) distinguish supernatural and natural causes, and 2) eliminate natural causes as either impossible or highly unlikely.”

Rewind 1000 years. Known natural causes for lightning are impossible or highly unlikely. Therefore, Zeus did it.

Brilliant!

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OrdinaryClay March 2, 2010 at 6:39 am

lukeprog,

First, as I stated in my post, best explanations can be modified based on further input. Pointing out that *some* best explanation changed does not in any way refute *all* best explanations. That would be silly, and I’m sure you agree.

Second, let’s continue with your analogy regarding lightening and Zeus. Does your claim actually generalize my claim? I don’t think so. Let’s compare lightening analysis 1000yrs ago with cosmology today. The base of knowledge supporting the intellectual effort is orders of magnitude greater today. The collection of technology used in experimentation is far, far more sophisticated today. The pool of highly motivated and very intelligent minds working on the problem is much larger today. People were far more satisfied 1000yrs ago to accept any explanation as opposed to the empirically verifiable one. Today we have an academia filled with brilliant minds who find the notion of a supernatural cause very disconcerting.

If your goal is to truly find the best explanation then you can not ignore the context in which the best explanation exists.

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drj March 2, 2010 at 7:21 am

Conor:

If we are supposed to believe in a truth valuing God, I think the level and nature of false belief in the world poses some pretty significant problems for the idea. I think it might even pose problems as significant as the problems of evil and suffering. A truth loving God would presumably want to minimize falsehood, yet nearly everything we know is probably false on some level. The best you might be able to say is that he’s outfitted us with enough truth to gain salvation – but that obviously isn’t much, and it seems a little strange for that to be the case. God values truth… except when He doesnt.

So, just like the actual world tends to cast into doubt the existence of a God who would want to minimize suffering or evil, so does the world cast into doubt the idea that there is a truth-loving God, who would presumably, want to minimize false belief.

Naturalism, on the other hand, is pretty darn good at making sense of the way our brains work and why we hold the many false beliefs and misconceptions that we do. We are mired with any number of false-belief-producing cognitive biases that theism really can’t explain adequately at all, except to exclaim “Sin did it!”. That looks pretty ad-hoc from where I sit.

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lukeprog March 2, 2010 at 7:34 am

OrdinaryClay,

You can always find something disanalogous in any analogy. That’s why it’s an analogy instead of an identical scenario. The question is: Does the disanalogy matter?

Our understanding of what might causes lightning was much greater in 1500 than it was in 300 BCE. And yet we definitely could not explain lightning in 1500. Did this mean that ‘Zeus did it’ or ‘Yahweh did it’ was a good explanation in 1500?

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OrdinaryClay March 2, 2010 at 7:59 am

lukeprog,

Agreed, dis-analogous aspects can be found in any analogy, but all analogies must have “touch points” on which the analogy rests. What I found were dis-analogous aspects that were key to the analogy.

Your question can be answered from a 16th century mind or a 21st century mind. In the former case the answer may have been yes. I don’t know exactly the state of lightening knowledge in 1500. I doubt it was very high given that the notion of charge and electric current were not understood at the time. maybe so, though. Given the latter mind set then the answer is no.

I think your are missing the point, though. The subject was whether the reasoning power of a best explanation can be used in the case of a supernatural explanation. I maintain it can. You maintain it can not, and your only objection so far seems to be that a best explanation can change, no? If so I don’t understand how that is possibly a sustainable argument for your position.

If your objection is that you are highly confident that science will, in fact, discover a completely materialistic explanation for why the universe has the appearance of an improbable state conducive to life then I think you need to change your argument to better fit this line of reasoning, no?

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Hermes March 2, 2010 at 9:09 am

[ I missed this earlier ... ]

Conor Gilliland: Hermes, you said, “Because the alternative is nonsensical; solipsism.”

This doesn’t really deal with the difficulty. Just because you may not like the alternative, doesn’t mean the alternative isn’t the case. The world may in fact be nonsensical. I’m interested in understanding why you believe that the ideas in our mind, (scientific or not – ildi) correspond to the reality beyond our mind, if there is such a thing.

This has nothing to do with my wishes at all. If reality is nonsensical, then there’s nothing to discuss and the conversation dies as it is by definition incoherent.

As such, there’s no reason to take your comment (repeated below) as anything but a version of solipsism, no matter how nuanced;

Conor Gilliland: What is an atheistic view (or your atheistic view) about how we know that we have truth producing faculties at all?

These and your other comments presuppose a conclusion that is not supported by evidence in reality, but instead is asserted.

Luke’s comment sums it up;

lukeprog: ‘God did it’ won’t solve our epistemological problems, either.

If you disagree, then it’s your claim that needs support, not the sciences. Not the naturalists. Not even my plumber before he works on a pipe. No claims but yours. If you have a better grasp of reality, you can demonstrate it to show your grasp is superior. If you can not, or will not, then it doesn’t really matter what your claims are.

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Conor Gilliland March 2, 2010 at 10:50 am

DRJ, that is an interesting point. However, it assumes that God’s only purpose in creating us was to save us. Before the Fall, there was no need for salvation, therefore there would have been no need for “saving” true propositions. But, before the fall, we were still in the image of God in our ability to understand (among other things) and we may properly assume that then, too, we had mostly truth producing mechanisms. Knowing, and loving, and relating to someone is going to require that we have mostly reliable faculties in all areas of our understanding, not just those areas concerned with salvation. But that was an interesting argument, I like it. Again, naturalism is only good at making sense of the way our brains work IF our brains work, which is precisely the belief in which we are trying to justify.

Luke, I look forward to that discussion. But for now, nothing has been sufficed. “Senses” is no the same as “faculties.” We are arguing about how we are epistemically justified in believing that our faculties are reliable. Your, and others’, argument so far has gone like this:

1. Science works
2. Therefore our faculties are reliable

This is just a fallacy. It presupposes precisely what we are trying to demonstrate! Namely that our faculties are reliable. Science only gets off the ground if we have epistemic warrant for believing that our reason, perceptions, and memories are mostly reliable.

Appeal to evolution as a mechanism that yields mostly truth producing faculties might fare better, but it too would suffer from innumerable possible world scenarios where non-truth producing faculties satisfy the demands of evolution (i.e. survival).

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lukeprog March 2, 2010 at 11:29 am

Conor,

I keep saying that our faculties are, in MANY ways, not reliable. Why do you keep saying that I assert the opposite?

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drj March 2, 2010 at 11:48 am

Conor:

Interesting take. But wasn’t the human state before the fall precisely the opposite of knowing? It was the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge that they were forbidden to eat, after all – and in their naive state, Eve’s and Adam’s truth detecting faculties failed them, causing them to be deceived rather trivially. Then they “acquired knowledge of good and evil” – the story actually makes it sound like their truth detecting faculties were enhanced *after* the fall.

In any case, I’m not really sure how our pre-fall state is supposed to be relevant. We aren’t pre-fall now and God’s aim seems to be our salvation, where true belief doesn’t seem to have priority. So even if you say that we might have working some truth producing vestiges left over from our pre-fall state, there is no guarantee that this is true. So I think you have to then admit that, as Plantinga says on naturalism, that the likelihood of any particular given belief being true is low or inscrutable.

So I do not think that the burden of justification that Plantinga et al demands from naturalism has at all been met by Christian theism. Just how are we to determine the scrutability of the truth of a belief, knowing that Christian theism is true? According to Plantinga, even our sensus divinatus can be broken and deceived.

Appeal to evolution as a mechanism that yields mostly truth producing faculties might fare better, but it too would suffer from innumerable possible world scenarios where non-truth producing faculties satisfy the demands of evolution (i.e. survival).

I’m not so sure its that clear-cut. I don’t think its at all obvious that there are large quantities of false belief that would be more advantageous for survival, such that we cannot responsibly generalize that accurate beliefs tend to provide greater survival value.

So I’m perfectly content to say that accurate beliefs will tend to aid survival, much more than inaccurate belief. This can get pretty complicated as we examine things closely, but I think it can work. If you want to offer up some concrete examples where you think this wouldnt hold, lets try them out.

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Conor Gilliland March 2, 2010 at 11:58 am

Luke,

I thought you were trying to equivocate “senses” with “faculties,” saying that our reason was reliable but that our perceptions were not. But if that’s not what you were saying, and you are saying that our faculties are not reliable (including our reason) then you have no reason to suppose that naturalism is true.

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Hermes March 2, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Conor Gilliland: Your, and others’, argument so far has gone like this:

1. Science works
2. Therefore our faculties are reliable

No, it’s not. I’m usually very clear about this, so let me be explicit this time as well;

* The sciences
* naturalism
* biology
* … what or whoever

… are your bugaboos. If you reject them, fine. I don’t need them, yet it seems a bit nutty that you would reject anything that is well demonstrated in reality. That rejection, though, does not add any support for your presuppositions, so why harp on them or even mention them first? If your case eventually demonstrates that those are invalid methods of understanding reality, then you still have to support your case in a positive manner regardless of those other issues.

If you want to support your case — and that case seems to include the Christian/Jewish/Muslim idea of the garden of eden and the whole story from that — then you have to show whatever you suppose is so is a credible position for others to take as well.

I suggest strongly that you narrow your claims down to a minimum and not bring up issues like Biblical Genesis stories that your listeners aren’t going to presuppose have any merit first, or attacking things that are not core to your positive argument.

In short: Don’t get ahead of yourself.

If your case requires these other issues, then you’re really not going to get very far in explaining it to anyone except by asserting that you are correct.

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Rob March 2, 2010 at 4:00 pm

In multiple passages in the Bible, Yahweh is described as being a deceiver. He inserts false beliefs into people’s heads. So the Bible believing Christian is faced with an insurmountable skeptical problem. Any or all of her beliefs could be false, and she has no conceivable method to correct the problem. If an all-powerful being wills that you believe falsely, then you will believe falsely.

A naturalist, who does not believe in invisible super-beings that insert false beliefs, has no such worries.

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Hermes March 2, 2010 at 6:27 pm

Rob, Rob, Rob … you silly silly boy. Don’t you understand that Yahweh/Jesus really *loves* them and is just looking out for their best interests.

Sure, he did some bad things in the past, and there’s that Hell thing, but this time he swears that he’ll never do it again. He even said ‘Sorry baby, just come back, I swear I love you!’ He wouldn’t lie again, especially when he keeps showing up to talk with them directly!

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Rob March 2, 2010 at 7:23 pm

I really like that SPAG concept, although you could take it too far. I doubt all Calvinists are psychopaths, but the god they admire and worship certainly is.

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Hermes March 2, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Agreed. That said, SPAG works incredibly well as a porthole into what many specific Christians think regardless of the religious beliefs their individual sect actually prescribes.

It’s a good way to make sense of someone who says such nonsense as “God wouldn’t do that!” (whatever “that” happens to be) when at the same time their religious texts have quite a few stories about their deity doing what they say (as individuals) it doesn’t do.

This is entirely understandable when talking to a normal self-described Christian who isn’t well informed about their own religious texts. They have a conscience and automatically excise out any nasty bits if they hear them at all, or they insert in their own ideas about what is good. Unfortunately, this normal human impulse and ability to know what is right and what is wrong is mis-attributed as something coming from Christianity, making it difficult to get those types of Christians to acknowledge where they should be complemented for their own moral insights.

SPAG gets really glaring when talking to ‘sophisticated Christians’ who attempt to give a description of an idealized generic deity and then slide in Yahweh as if the two are identical.

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lukeprog March 2, 2010 at 11:23 pm

Some people are so in want of a strong leader, they’ll follow even a psychopath like Patton… I mean, Yahweh.

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svenjamin March 3, 2010 at 7:41 pm

I’m late to the party, but I’ll throw my opinion in anyway:

I am under the impression that Christians generally claim that our cognitive faculties are corrupted by sin, and that is why we should put aside ‘mere’ reason and ‘have faith.’ But let’s ignore Augustinian thought for a second, and suppose that the Christian god exists and has granted me valid reasoning abilities. Well, these reasoning abilities have led me to conclude that God doesn’t exist and the Bible is part tribal patriarchal mythology and part apocalyptic sentiments from a period of social and cultural upheaval. So either God does not exist, or he exists and has given me faulty reasoning faculties.

On the other hand, consider naturalism. Not the only alternative, I suppose, but the primary option on the table. Our faculties are demonstrably unreliable, as Luke stated several times. Logic and science are the ways we have finally developed for coping with this shortcoming. We don’t trust them because our faculties are reliable, we employ them precisely because together they form a systematic method for attempting to discern what is actually the case.

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lukeprog March 3, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Interesting, svenjamin.

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OrdinaryClay March 4, 2010 at 4:09 am

svenjamin

Your first paragraph is the problem of evil rephrased,i.e. it is God’s fault. The common Theological answers are well documented and can be found by a casual google.

Your position is setting up a false choice. Our flawed reasoning faculties could rationally lead us to believe in both science and God, which is what happened in my case.

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Hermes March 4, 2010 at 5:44 am

OrdinaryClay: Your position is setting up a false choice. Our flawed reasoning faculties could rationally lead us to believe in both science and God, which is what happened in my case.

How do you know that your flawed reasoning is being guided by a god and not another entity?

Using your presuppositions, you can’t tell me and I can’t investigate. We are back at you asserting special knowledge.

Point being: You posit a category of “supernaturalism” that is not demonstrated to me to be containing anything. It is incoherent even before we start to talk about specifics like a still undefined set of deities. The only way to discuss those things is with what we’ve got.

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OrdinaryClay March 4, 2010 at 6:35 am

Hermes,

I’m not sure if you are questioning human reasoning or supernaturalism. I’ll assume the latter given your comment following “Point being”. If you look in my previous post above I defined supernaturalism in a coherent way. You may disagree, but it certainly is coherent.

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svenjamin March 4, 2010 at 9:08 am

OrdinaryClay: svenjaminYour first paragraph is the problem of evil rephrased,i.e. it is God’s fault. The common Theological answers are well documented and can be found by a casual google.Your position is setting up a false choice. Our flawed reasoning faculties could rationally lead us to believe in both science and God, which is what happened in my case.  

It most certainly is not the problem of evil, and the common theological answers to that, which I don’t accept anyway, do not apply.

The issue I am posing is that assuming Christian theism provides grounds for believing in reliability of our reason leads to a contradiction. Therefore, Christian theism does not in itself provide grounds for believing in the reliability of our reasoning. The conclusion isn’t even “God does not exist”, so how can it possibly be the problem of evil?

Here:
(1) If God exists, then human reasoning leads to true beliefs.
(2) God exists.
(3) Therefore, Human reasoning leads to true beliefs.
(4) Humans reason to contradictory beliefs (e.g. beliefs about God)
(5) Since (3) and (4) contradict, either one or both are false.
(6) Since (4) is definitely true, (3) must be false.
(7) So (1) or (2) is false. That is, Either God does not exist, or God’s existence does not imply that human reasoning leads to true beliefs.

(4) or (5) are the points which the theist should challenge. I would like to spend time evaluating that line of attack, but I have to prove the Third Isomorphism Theorem for Groups by this afternoon.

The point of all of this is not to show that God doesn’t exist, but that the theist is not in a better epistemic position.

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Hermes March 4, 2010 at 9:27 am

OrdinaryClay, I’m actually addressing both, but for time I’ll narrow it down to the second part.

Yes, I noticed your description. I looked it over and then basically ignored it for a few reasons, many that I admit are a little uncommon in these conversations but that seem to function just fine.

Since you brought it up, I’ll now list a few of them, but I was happy to suppress the impulse to comment on your earlier post entirely so as not to get into a long and tedious conversation about abstractions that usually have no mutually identifiable and coherent referents. (The above comments are meant broadly, not narrowly.)

‘The best laid plans’, as it were. Oh, well.

The primary reason that I’m not interested in your description is that I’m not interested in *any* division between things labeled ‘natural’ and things labeled ‘supernatural’. This is not a snub to your description specifically, but is my general point of view.

In short; I’m not a naturalist, so I see no reason to defend that turf.

That said, if a description of reality can be categorized as ‘natural’ then that just shows that category has potential merit as a method to explain reality in other ways. I don’t see that in the case of ‘supernatural’, but maybe it’s only because those who are proponents of ‘supernatural’ are doing a bad job of showing how that category applies to reality. Note that the above summary should be read very broadly. I’m not using specialized words and really don’t give a damn about ‘natural’ or it’s doppelganger. I’m not tying this to some statistical analysis requiring multiple data points, either, though if that works there’s no reason to snub that just to the pressure off of ‘supernatural’ explanations. To repeat what I noted earlier in a slightly different way; Each category has or does not have merit based on how well it applies to reality.

I’m interested in actual. I’m interested in what is real.

If what you can show as real turns out to be categorizable as ‘supernatural’ (when that becomes a coherent concept), I’m not opposed to that. Yet, I don’t see the reason for a division of reality beyond a historic artifact that should have died off decades ago without a murmur. As such, it’s mostly like an arbitrary game of sorting stones into piles — ‘big and red this’, ‘small and blue that’, ‘supernatural this’, ‘natural that’ — and then spending all our time arguing over who has the best abstract sorting categories.

The terms ‘material’/'materialist’ can also be plugged into the above in place of ‘natural’/'naturalist’ with few if any modifications.

With that in mind, in the same spirit as before; I’m not a materialist, so I see no need to defend that turf.

I’m also not interested in ‘free will’ as that’s an endless hole of nonsense as well. Why? If we have it, we have it. If we don’t, we have no ‘choice’. If it’s somewhere in between, why bring it up as an abstract concept that is frequently argued to be an absolute, leading to strawmen and constant refinement and a repeat of the whole ‘naturalist’/'supernaturalist’ cheer leading.

I realize you might not agree with what I said in part or in whole, but I think it is supported by evidence we can agree on in general if not for specific narrow cases where ‘supernatural’ may be the best explanation if ‘supernatural’ can be fleshed out as a coherent concept that has some semblance to the words previous multiple vague or dogmatic meanings.

If the word you’re intending to define isn’t a reasonable refinement of previous uses of the word ‘supernatural’, then why not call it something else and reduce unintended confusion? Maybe like the example of ‘words for types of snow’ that Eskimos are said to use, you are biting off too large a hunk by using a single word that is already heavily burdened? Maybe specific narrowly defined words backed by examples in reality will start to build a skeleton for your beast?

Better yet, why not just start with a pile of examples. This is a trivial thing for a ‘naturalist’ or ‘materialist’ to do. Can you do something similar as a proponent of ‘supernaturalism’ or whatever subset label you want to use instead to describe what you have identified as a ‘part’ of reality?

* * *

With that out of the way, on to your #1 & #2…

Your #1 is not falsifiable and is roughly equivalent to background noise.

To plug that hole, you bring in #2, but that isn’t any different from other claims for ‘supernatural’ events in the past that turn out to have mundane explanations and evidence for those explanations. If we have to wait to see if another explanation has more merit, then what you’ve basically said is that the goalposts aren’t just movable but are blocked off by plywood; forever preventing any conclusions to be reached because some answer will always be ‘I don’t know’ and thus might as well be categorized as this ‘supernatural’ situation/object/action/… .

* * *

The list at the bottom of your explanation is also a bit strange. Specifically, #2. Who says that? I’d like a name of someone who has a credible chance of taking that tired strawman position and backing it with something from reality.

The rest would double the length of this reply, but I’ve said enough for now.

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OrdinaryClay March 4, 2010 at 9:36 am

svenjamin,

I need more clarification to avoid our cross talking.

svenjamin:
(1) If God exists, then human reasoning leads to true beliefs.

What do you base this implication on? Why would God’s existence have anything to do with our ability to find truth?

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svenjamin March 4, 2010 at 9:44 am

Ordinary Clay,

No problem, but I’m not sure I could say I am basing the (1) on anything. It’s assumed for the purposes of the argument. The whole point is to show that (1) or (2) must be false. To that end, I suppose both (1) and (2) to get the contradiction. If you don’t accept (1) to begin with, then you by default accept the conclusion of my argument.

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OrdinaryClay March 4, 2010 at 9:55 am

Hermes,

I need more information.

HermesThe primary reason that I’m not interested in your description is that I’m not interested in *any* division between things labeled ‘natural’ and things labeled ’supernatural’.This is not a snub to your description specifically, but is my general point of view.In short; I’m not a naturalist,

Do you accept divisions between things labeled “natural”?

* * *With that out of the way, on to your #1 & #2…
Your #1 is not falsifiable and is roughly equivalent to background noise.

What is it you think is not falsifiable? I see nothing that is not falsifiable.

situation/object/action/… .* * *The list at the bottom of your explanation is also a bit strange.Specifically, #2.Who says that?I’d like a name of someone who has a credible chance of taking that tired strawman position and backing it with something from reality.The rest would double the length of this reply, but I’ve said enough for now.  

The list was lukeprog’s.

What strawman are you referring to?

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OrdinaryClay March 4, 2010 at 9:59 am

svenjamin,

Okay.

Maybe I should move on to your “better epistemic position” comment at the end of your post, then. Because maybe that is where the hinge point is.

What exactly do you view as the epistemic position of an atheist and a Christian? Clearly, we both have the same cognitive abilities. We have before us the same evidence. So our position with respect to finding the truth is the same. The only difference is in our free will choices.

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Hermes March 4, 2010 at 10:33 am

OrdinaryClay: Do you accept divisions between things labeled “natural”?

I covered that in multiple places in my reply. Here’s one;

Hermes: Yet, I don’t see the reason for a division of reality beyond a historic artifact that should have died off decades ago without a murmur. As such, it’s mostly like an arbitrary game of sorting stones into piles — ‘big and red this’, ’small and blue that’, ’supernatural this’, ‘natural that’ — and then spending all our time arguing over who has the best abstract sorting categories.

Here’s another;

Hermes: That said, if a description of reality can be categorized as ‘natural’ then that just shows that category has potential merit as a method to explain reality in other ways. I don’t see that in the case of ’supernatural’, but maybe it’s only because those who are proponents of ’supernatural’ are doing a bad job of showing how that category applies to reality. Note that the above summary should be read very broadly. I’m not using specialized words and really don’t give a damn about ‘natural’ or it’s doppelganger. I’m not tying this to some statistical analysis requiring multiple data points, either, though if that works there’s no reason to snub that just to the pressure off of ’supernatural’ explanations. To repeat what I noted earlier in a slightly different way; Each category has or does not have merit based on how well it applies to reality.

I’m sure I mention it a few times more as well.

If you have any more specific questions along those lines, please take a look at my reply again and then ask.

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Hermes March 4, 2010 at 10:36 am

OrdinaryClay: What is it you think is not falsifiable? I see nothing that is not falsifiable.

I’m not seeing how it could be with any reliability. Maybe I’m not understanding your #1 properly. Can you give an example of how it could be falsified?

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Hermes March 4, 2010 at 10:48 am

OrdinaryClay: The list was lukeprog’s.

Really? Where from? I don’t see this …

OrdinaryClay: 2) provides predictive novelty since we have no reason for there to be something rather then nothing,

… anywhere on this site except in your previous post.

OrdinaryClay: What strawman are you referring to?

Simple. Do you have a name of someone who has the position that ‘nothing’ is a possibility? Someone who isn’t a creationist specifically or someone who is at a minimum not speaking as a theist. Anyone who does not self-describe themselves as a theist of some sort would be better.

Point being: Nobody I know of makes claim about ‘something vs. nothing’ and advocates the ‘nothing part’. Everything after “since” is not needed.

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OrdinaryClay March 4, 2010 at 10:50 am

Hermes:
I covered that in multiple places in my reply.Here’s one;
Here’s another;
I’m sure I mention it a few times more as well.If you have any more specific questions along those lines, please take a look at my reply again and then ask.  

Hermes: “Yet, I don’t see the reason for a division of reality beyond a historic artifact that should have died off decades ago without a murmur”
Hermes: “That said, if a description of reality can be categorized as ‘natural’ then that just shows that category has potential merit as a method to explain reality in other ways. ‘
So you do and you don’t?

I think you do. The only possible rational position is to accept categorization within the natural world. It is indefensible not to. I’ll guarantee you live your life happily categorizing all the reality around.

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Hermes March 4, 2010 at 10:50 am

OrdinaryClay, I await your reassessment and comments on my earlier lengthy reply. Hopefully we will not spend too much time on any side issues.

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OrdinaryClay March 4, 2010 at 10:51 am

Hermes:
I’m not seeing how it could be with any reliability.Maybe I’m not understanding your #1 properly.Can you give an example of how it could be falsified?  

What text did I type in that you call “#1″?

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Hermes March 4, 2010 at 10:54 am

OrdinaryClay: I think you do.

We’ve got a mind reader. Can you actually reply to my comments and not presuppose a diametrically opposite view that I don’t hold?

If that is not possible for you, then I take it that you have no reply to what I actually did say and that you are looking for a polemic response or an ‘out’ from responding to my earlier reply.

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Hermes March 4, 2010 at 10:56 am

OrdinaryClay: What text did I type in that you call “#1″?

OrdinaryClay: All we need be able to do is 1) distinguish supernatural and natural causes, and 2) eliminate natural causes as either impossible or highly unlikely.

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OrdinaryClay March 4, 2010 at 11:04 am

Hermes:
Really?Where from?I don’t see this …

… anywhere on this site except in your previous post.

Simple.Do you have a name of someone who has the position that ‘nothing’ is a possibility?Someone who isn’t a creationist specifically or someone who is at a minimum not speaking as a theist.Anyone who does not self-describe themselves as a theist of some sort would be better.Point being: Nobody I know of makes claim about ’something vs. nothing’ and advocates the ‘nothing part’.Everything after “since” is not needed.  

comment-33963

Cosmology

Whether they advocate something is irrelevant – Allan Guth. We are dealing with science.

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Hermes March 4, 2010 at 11:42 am

OrdinaryClay: Cosmology

Whether they advocate something is irrelevant – Allan Guth. We are dealing with science.

Do you have a partial quote and a link that I can check the context for?

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Hermes March 4, 2010 at 11:54 am

OrdinaryClay: comment-33963

This …

lukeprog: OrdinaryClay,

I know science uses arguments to the best explanation. That’s what I said. The difference is that theology uses them without giving any reason to think that ‘God did it’ is the best explanation. In contrast, scientific theories offer things like explanatory scope, predictive novelty, testability, ontological economy, etc.

… doesn’t match this;

OrdinaryClay: 2) provides predictive novelty since we have no reason for there to be something rather then nothing,

Note: Emphasis added to above quote. This was the main concern, not the first part as noted when I wrote “Nobody I know of makes claim about ’something vs. nothing’ and advocates the ‘nothing part’.Everything after “since” is not needed.”

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Hermes March 4, 2010 at 12:25 pm

OrdinaryClay, I’m looking for an Allan Guth quote or reference that supports ‘something rather than nothing’ and I can’t find anything. So far, I’ve checked Wiki and read his entry plus the one on Inflation Cosmology, but found no hits or something hinting at a similar idea. It seems like his focus is on early cosmology post big bang, and not anything earlier.

Maybe the problem is the word “universe”?

When I see ‘the universe’ I take it as not necessarily equal to ‘everything’ or ‘the only instance of this universe’. Cosmologists specifically claim to know only back to the observable light horizon and nothing further. All else is informed speculation. The Atlas collider might give some important details to test out different ideas posited by various cosmologists but that lack sufficient support on a scientific basis.

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Hermes March 4, 2010 at 12:49 pm

As an aside, I am open to a credible guess on the state of ‘everything’ and/or how ‘this instance of the universe’ started, but it must not contradict what people (including but not limited to cosmologists) know without you providing a reasonable justification for the exception.

These exceptions can be based in logic or evidence or any other reasonable field as long as they are not entirely devoid of appreciation of what is generally accepted in some important fields and is corroborated by (or not unreasonably contradicted by) by some other field.

Note that none of these have to be naturalist/materialist/scientific/… . While this is the case, the less tied to religious dogmas or other presuppositions, the better, as we should be discussing common ground if any exists.

For example, it is possible that the deists are correct and an uninvolved deity did kick of the universe as we see it. That does not contradict reality. Yet, beyond that claim, there are no reasons to suppose that is more probable than the contrary claim of the pantheists that the universe (and possibly ‘everything’) is a deity. If there were some other field — disinterested with the claims of the deists and pantheists — that made a complementary explanation to what one or both of them propose, that would nudge the more parsimonious one towards probability even if only slightly. The can’t both, of course, be right as they are contradictory.

This is a much lower bar then what Luke proposed in his list, though if given two ideas the more credible idea would cover his list as well.

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Hermes March 4, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Found Alan Guth giving a talk on Inflationary Cosmology;

Inflationary Cosmology Guth ONE TWO (of eight)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQUqRJJ24GQ

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Hermes March 4, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Hmmm… Dr. Guth’s talk didn’t reveal any possibilities though I can see how ‘unbalanced equations’ can seem like a contradiction of the 1st law of thermodynamics, yet his detailed explanations show that not to be the case. In one situation he talked about getting energy from a collapse of a bubble because of the differences between gravity ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ of the bubble, yet even that is take care of.

He did mention a few ‘miracles’ but I took that for the equivalent of ‘there be dragons here’. He mentioned specifically that he was not an advocate of ‘supernatural’ explanations, though I’m not counting that as being against your ‘supernatural’ as I consider that still largely in the process of being coherently defined.

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Hermes March 5, 2010 at 3:58 am

OrdinaryClay, anytime you’re ready.

I stand by my comments, yet if you show me that I’m mistaken I consider that a win for both of us and I will retract them and admit you have a better grasp on reality.

What say you?

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OrdinaryClay March 5, 2010 at 4:14 am

Hermes:
I’m not seeing how it could be with any reliability.Maybe I’m not understanding your #1 properly.Can you give an example of how it could be falsified?  

I wrote: “1) distinguish supernatural and natural causes,”

As I wrote above, using the following criteria: Detectable,Predictable; Undetectable,Predictable; Detectable,Unpredictable.

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OrdinaryClay March 5, 2010 at 4:18 am

Hermes:
We’ve got a mind reader.Can you actually reply to my comments and not presuppose a diametrically opposite view that I don’t hold?If that is not possible for you, then I take it that you have no reply to what I actually did say and that you are looking for a polemic response or an ‘out’ from responding to my earlier reply.  

Actually, I did reply. Your words were contradictory with regard to my original question as to whether you categorized the natural world. There is no mind reading required. It is a necessary requirement of our mind to categorize the natural world.

Just because a response is not unnecessarily verbose does not mean it is not a reply. I don’t measure truth, wisdom or value by word count.

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OrdinaryClay March 5, 2010 at 4:30 am

Hermes:
This …
… doesn’t match this;Note: Emphasis added to above quote.This was the main concern, not the first part as noted when I wrote “Nobody I know of makes claim about ’something vs. nothing’ and advocates the ‘nothing part’.Everything after “since” is not needed.”  

From Guth’s web page: “Is it possible, then, that inflation is also eternal into the past? Recently Guth has worked with Alex Vilenkin (Tufts) and Arvind Borde (Southampton College) to show that the inflating region of spacetime must have a past boundary, and that some new physics, perhaps a quantum theory of creation, would be needed to understand it.”

The prevailing belief among all cosmologists is that there was a beginning of the universe, and that the universe is not only “something”, but everything. The complement of everything is nothing.

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OrdinaryClay March 5, 2010 at 4:41 am

Hermes: It seems like his focus is on early cosmology post big bang, and not anything earlier.Maybe the problem is the word “universe”?When I see ‘the universe’ I take it as not necessarily equal to ‘everything’ or ‘the only instance of this universe’.Cosmologists specifically claim to know only back to the observable light horizon and nothing further.All else is informed speculation.The Atlas collider might give some important details to test out different ideas posited by various cosmologists but that lack sufficient support on a scientific basis.  

Current empirical science says our universe is everything. Any other position is speculation at the moment. This may change with future discoveries, but at the moment that is the state of science.

They can only observe the current universe out to the distance that light could travele from since the beginning of the universe – about 13,7 bya.

They can only extrapolate the behavior of the singularity back to about the Planck Epoch.

The Large Hadron Collider is the collider that will be used to, hopefully, shed more light on very high energy physics, which again hopefully will allow us to determine earlier behaviors.

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OrdinaryClay March 5, 2010 at 4:47 am

Hermes: OrdinaryClay, anytime you’re ready.I stand by my comments, yet if you show me that I’m mistaken I consider that a win for both of us and I will retract them and admit you have a better grasp on reality.What say you?  

I don’t seek a “win”. My goal is to find the truth for all of us. I want nothing less. I’m a devout Christian who is convinced it is rational to believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Thanks for your gracious consideration of my position.

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Hermes March 5, 2010 at 5:04 am

OrdinaryClay: Current empirical science says our universe is everything. Any other position is speculation at the moment. This may change with future discoveries, but at the moment that is the state of science.

Are you saying that you accept science and only science for this discussion?

If this is not the case, please clarify your actual position.

I’ll wait for a reply.

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OrdinaryClay March 5, 2010 at 5:10 am

I accept all forms of evidence, which is, IMO, best categorized using empirical, probabilistic, testimonial and logical. I also accept explanations, based on evidence, from both the natural and the supernatural. As I stated earlier I believe the natural and the supernatural can be distinguished.

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Hermes March 5, 2010 at 5:39 am

OrdinaryClay: As I stated earlier I believe the natural and the supernatural can be distinguished.

Then do so. Give an example. An unambiguous one.

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OrdinaryClay March 5, 2010 at 5:52 am

Hermes:
Then do so.Give an example.An unambiguous one.  

I did:

I wrote: “1) distinguish supernatural and natural causes,”
As I wrote above, using the following criteria: Detectable,Predictable; Undetectable,Predictable; Detectable,Unpredictable.

That is unambiguous. If you’re leading to the atheist mantra “prove it’, which translated means “I accept nothing but empirical evidence”, then please just say that.

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Hermes March 5, 2010 at 5:57 am

OrdinaryClay: That is unambiguous.

But it’s not an example or unambiguous. It’s an abstract definition. A naturalist can give a dozen examples in a minute, and you probably can as well, increasing their credibility and the naturalism category as a useful division of reality in my eyes. What do you have? Just an example.

OrdinaryClay: If you’re leading to the atheist mantra

Yeah, I’m not really real and I don’t mean what I say. I’m just jerking you around and am an archetypal devil worshiping baby eating atheist. Why not just answer the question directly instead of attempting to read my mind?

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Hermes March 5, 2010 at 6:17 am

OrdinaryClay:
From Guth’s web page: “Is it possible, then, that inflation is also eternal into the past? Recently Guth has worked with Alex Vilenkin (Tufts) and Arvind Borde (Southampton College) to show that the inflating region of spacetime must have a past boundary, and that some new physics, perhaps a quantum theory of creation, would be needed to understand it.”The prevailing belief among all cosmologists is that there was a beginning of the universe, and that the universe is not only “something”, but everything. The complement of everything is nothing.  

The question I asked was very simple. *Who says* that the alternatives are ‘something or nothing’? If there is nobody who says that, then excise that part of your comment as it is not appropriate;

OrdinaryClay: 2) provides predictive novelty since we have no reason for there to be something rather then nothing,

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OrdinaryClay March 5, 2010 at 6:18 am

Hermes:
But it’s not an example or unambiguous.It’s an abstract definition.A naturalist can give a dozen examples in a minute, and you probably can as well, increasing their credibility and the naturalism category as a useful division of reality in my eyes.What do you have?Just an example.
Yeah, I’m not really real and I don’t mean what I say.I’m just jerking you around and am an archetypal devil worshiping baby eating atheist.Why not just answer the question directly instead of attempting to read my mind?  

My definition is unambiguous. Your question is vague. An example of what? A definition, a natural event, a supernatural event. Given your insinuation regarding natural categories I assume now what you really mean is … give me an example of a supernatural event. Creation of the universe is an example. It is detectable, obviously, but it is unpredictable in occurrence.

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Hermes March 5, 2010 at 6:57 am

Got it. I took you seriously. Mea culpa.

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