Friday, June 4, 2010

Does God Hide in the Gaps of Science?

Atheists often claim that God is merely a stopgap for the next scientific discovery. Science has demystified the marvels of creation one by one, forcing God out of the narrowing gap of knowledge. In spite of the frenzied efforts of theists to stop scientific progress, they argue, God is disappearing in a puff of science. 

Scientists have traced the biological chain of causation back with only one remaining frontier: the origin of life. And since they are nowhere near discovering how life could emerge from non-life, it is tempting for Christians to stake a flag of victory in that scientifically barren ground. 

But why should we peg our hopes on scientific ignorance, when an entirely different picture is emerging in the field of cosmology? Biologists may be plugging in gaps, but cosmologists are creating a mosaic that is looking a lot like the face of God. Self-described agnostic astrophysicist Robert Jastrow said in God and the Astronomers: "Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements are the same; the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy."

Compelling scientific evidence supports the Big Bang theory, which says that the universe began approximately 14 billion years ago as an infinitely dense point of pure energy that marked the beginning of time. But the laws of physics break down at this point, so scientists do not know what caused it or what came before, or if it even makes to sense to speak of "before" the beginning of time. According to Jastrow, it looks like they will never know, because "in the searing heat of that first moment, all the evidence needed for a scientific study of the cause of the great explosion was melted down and destroyed."

However, we do know that the laws and constants of the universe had to be very precisely fine-tuned for it to come into existence. Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project, said:
When you look from the perspective of a scientist at the universe, it looks as if it knew we were coming. There are 15 constants--the gravitational constant, various constants about the strong and weak nuclear force, etc.--that have precise values. If any of those constants was off by even one part in a million, or in some cases, by one part in a million million, the universe could not actually have come to the point where we see it. Matter would not have been able to coalesce, there would have been no galaxy, stars, planets or people. That's a phenomenally surprising observation. It seems almost impossible that we're here. And that does make you wonder--gosh, who was setting those constants anyway. Scientists have not been able to figure that out.  
 Jastrow confirmed this:
Suppose, for example, that the density one second after the Big Bang had been less than the critical density by one part in a million, then the elements of matter in the Universe would have flown apart too rapidly for galaxies, stars and planets to form. That means we would not be here today. Suppose, on the other hand, that the density of matter at that early time had been greater than the critical density by one part in a million; then the expanding Universe would have come to a halt and collapsed on itself too rapidly for life to evolve on any planets that formed. Again, we would not be here.
What we have here is positive scientific evidence for a Creator. This is not a God of the gaps argument, because that depends on a knowledge gap. Stephen Hawking said in A Brief History of Time: "It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us."

However, none of this constitutes proof of the existence of a God. Science cannot prove or disprove God. It is more akin to the following illustration by Canadian philosopher John Leslie: Suppose a man is sentenced to be executed by a firing squad of fifty expert marksmen. All of them fire from less than ten feet away, and yet they all miss. It is technically possible that all fifty of them would miss, but it is far more reasonable to conclude that it was intentional.

Well-known atheist and biologist, Richard Dawkins, agreed in a 2007 video that the cosmological argument for a God is the strongest:
There may be good reasons for believing in a God, and if there are any I would expect them to come from, possibly, modern physics, from cosmology, from the observation that, some people claim, the laws and constants of the universe are too finely tuned to be an accident. That would not be a wholly disreputable reason for believing in some form of supernatural deity. I think there's a very good argument against it and I developed much of my chapter four to, as I think, refuting that argument. 
So let's examine his arguments in chapter four of The God Delusion.

Dawkins made two major arguments: First, he hypothesizes that there are many universes, which he calls a "multiverse," and we just happen to be in one where the laws and constants were just right. We are like the lottery winner; regardless of the improbability of winning, someone won. Since we are here discussing this, we won. Second, he claimed that God "must be a supremely complex and improbable entity who needs an even bigger explanation than the one he is supposed to provide."

Note that Dawkins hypothesizes the existence of a multiverse. There is no evidence whatsoever that another universe than the one we occupy has ever existed. This is philosophical speculation without a shred of scientific evidence to back it up. (Scientific hypotheses that challenge the Big Bang theory in various ways are likewise merely proposals, unsupported by evidence. Stephen Hawking said of his no boundaries model: "I'd like to emphasize that this idea that time and space should be finite without boundary is just a proposal.")

Dawkins acknowledged this weakness in his multiverse hypothesis: "It is tempting to think (and many have succumbed) that to postulate a plethora of universes is a profligate luxury which should not be allowed. If we are going to permit the extravagance of a multiverse, so the argument runs, we might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb and allow a God."

And this leads him to his second argument, that God would be a complex and therefore improbable explanation. This argument fails for the following reasons: First, the scientific evidence itself points toward a God, and specifically, it is consistent with Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." The Bible teaches that God created ex nihilo--out of nothing--and the scientific data supports this. It further teaches that God created the universe at the beginning of time and that he exists outside of time. The data likewise tells us that the big bang marked the beginning of time. Arno Penzias, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who codiscovered the cosmic fireball radiation that provided strong evidence for the Big Bang theory, said: "The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five Books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole."

Second, the "complexity" of God has no bearing on the probability of his existence. There is no inherent reason why a complex entity is less likely to exist, unless it requires us to make a lot of complex assumptions, which is what Occam's Razor says. So Dawkins's multiverse hypothesis fails Occam's Razor, because it is not the simplest and most logical explanation for the data supporting the Big Bang theory. However, the biblical explanation passes Occam's Razor because it meshes neatly with the evidence, without requiring speculation or complex assumptions. Unless someone presupposes naturalism, a Creator is the most logical explanation.

Dawkins said that those who "succumb" to the "temptation" of raising the aforementioned objection to his multiverse hypothesis "have not had their consciousness raised by natural selection." That reminds me of the following quote by Jastrow:
There is a kind of religion in science; it is the religion of a person who believes there is order and harmony in the Universe. Every event can be explained in a rational way as the product of some previous event; every effect must have its cause; there is no First Cause. Einstein wrote, "The scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation."
This religious faith of the scientist is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning under conditions in which the known laws of physics are not valid, and as a product of forces or circumstances we cannot discover. When that happens, the scientist has lost control. If he really examined the implications, he would be traumatized. As usual when faced with trauma, the mind reacts by ignoring the implications--in science this is known as "refusing to speculate"--or trivializing the origin of the world by calling it the Big Bang, as if the Universe were a firecracker."
Jastrow ends his book on the following note:
At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.

119 comments:

clamflats said...

Anette, let me say right from the start that I know next to nothing about the Big Bang. The sum total of my knowledge concerning BB is contained in these sentences: “Scientist have observed that stars and galaxies appear to be moving away from one another. Because of this observation they theorize that all matter in the universe was at one time in one place. They calculate that a giant explosion occurred around 14 billion years ago.”

Because I recognize that my explanation is meager, uninformed by any formal education in cosmology, and possibly in error even to these basic facts, I don’t use BB in any theological argument. I read Dawkin’s refutation of the cosmological argument in The God Delusion but since I had no way of knowing whether he was adequately representing BB or fine-tuning I didn’t dwell on his remarks.

I want to challenge you on your knowledge of the Big Bang. How much of it do you understand? Suppose a commenter, claiming to be well versed in the subject, writes back to you saying, “Jastrow completely ignores the antifelschate quark non-ionization process which negates his entire premise that, ‘the density one second after the Big Bang had been less than the critical density by one part in a million, then the elements of matter in the Universe would have flown apart too rapidly for galaxies, stars and planets to form.’” Would you recognize that this is total BS? I’m guessing that you wouldn’t. (btw, I realize this is an unsupported assumption on my part, you could be quite learned in astrophysics. If that is the case then you can assign me any three books in the Bible to read as a penance.) Is this post an exercise of confirmation bias?

Anette Acker said...

Well, you are absolutely right that I do not know much about physics. But I have researched this particular issue over the past few months, and the science in this post is not controversial. In fact, Collins, Jastrow, Hawking, and Dawkins all agree. Dawkins isn't challenging the scientific evidence, he's trying to find a logical loophole.

Steven J. replied to me on Atheist Central, and he didn't challenge my science either. He tried to challenge my logic.

So yes, if someone said what you quoted, I would know or strongly suspect that it was total BS. So does that mean that I get to assign three books of the Bible, or do I need to be "quite learned in astrophysics"? :)

As for whether this is an exercise in confirmation bias, I quoted two agnostics who specialize in astrophysics, one Christian who has a reputation among non-believers for being very intellectually honest, and one atheist. I addressed Dawkins's arguments and told my readers exactly where to find them. So no, I don't think this was an exercise in confirmation bias.

Milo said...

Annette,

I don't disagree with you that the "miracle" of the existence of the universe is so awe inspiring that it invites belief in the existence of a deity. But by using the fine tuning of the universe and the "Big Bang" as an argument for the existence of God you are in agreement with the fact that the universe and the earth are billions and millions of years old. One can postulate that a God created the rules and laws that govern energy and matter and that He initiated the event that began our universe, but after that His job was finished. Scientist have a good idea how the different elements were formed, how stars began, and how the planets formed. God is not needed to shape our mountains or scoop out the ocean basins. He doesn't directly cause earthquakes, lightening, rain, or floods. The only other gap that seems to stump people is how did life originate if not from God. Again God is only needed (due only to our present lack of knowledge) at the very beginning of this process. Once replicating cells were present, it is pretty clear how they could evolve into the present life forms we see today.

I don't think you are a bible literalist, but the fact that the earth and universe are so old, coupled with the non-necessity of a God to directly create all that is, leads to a very different out look than the one found at Atheist Central. Although you reject deism, it seems exactly what you are arguing for.

The chief problem of deism is that it leaves so many unanswered questions, like why a creative intelligence would have no revealed purpose. In spite of the problem of evil, this universe is pretty impressive. Would a supremely high intelligence create and then simply not care? I suppose that's possible, but then he would be nothing like us, his most intelligent creatures (as far as we know), because we have an innate sense that our actions should be purposeful and life should have meaning. And most talented creators put much of themselves into their creations, so we would expect that the intelligence behind this universe would reveal himself in his creation, and particularly in his intelligent creatures.

A universe that only needs God to set it in motion does not indicate a purposeful and caring being. A close look at the world around us proves that. And please do not use the excuse of the Fall corrupting God's perfect creation. If God created butterflies then He also created mosquitos. And no, mosquitos did not originally sip nector.

I find Deism to be an unnecessary step even though it may be a simpler idea to grasp.

QED said...

Annette -

Your blog is very well written. However, I am not at all sure how what seems to be an improbability of our universe being the way it is constitutes "positive evidence" for God. There seems to be a leap in your logic at this point.

Furthermore, BB cosmology may provide more evidence against a creator. As you said, at the point of the singularity all laws of physics break down. This means that there was a state of "lawlessness" at the singularity. Paul Davies and Quintin Smith argue that ANYTHING could have come out of the singularity, which does not seem to correspond to a creator determining what is to come out. This is an inherent feature of the singularity and is not merely a lack of knowledge on our part. Thus, if God is all-powerful, it seems suspicious that "He" would will a lawless singularity into existence as the boundary to our universe.

That said, your post only deals with classical BB cosmology. Hartle and Hawking have proposed a model of the universe in which there is no boundary (i.e. no singularity). Thus, while the universe is finite in terms of the dimension of time, there is no true "beginning" so that our universe has simply emerged from an eternal 4-d hypersphere or superposition. Hartle and Hawking also calculated that there was a 95% chance of our universe emerging, uncaused, from this superposition based simply on its inherent mathematical and physical properties. They did this by assigning a wave function to the universe and calculating the probability over all possible universes. By calculating the amplitude of this wave they arrived at the probability of our universe being the one to exist, which apparently is very high.

Anette Acker said...

Milo:

I don't think you are a bible literalist, but the fact that the earth and universe are so old, coupled with the non-necessity of a God to directly create all that is, leads to a very different out look than the one found at Atheist Central. Although you reject deism, it seems exactly what you are arguing for.

That depends on what you mean by "Bible literalist." If you mean someone who believes that the Bible is inspired by God, and it flawlessly communicates his message, then yes I am. On the other hand, if you mean someone who believes that a correct interpretation is always ultra-literal, then I am not. The Bible itself claims to contain "mysteries" in the OT; i.e., deep truths that are expressed symbolically.

So in my mind, a partially symbolic interpretation of the beginning of Genesis may be more accurate than an ultra-literal one. Jesus often used symbolism to teach, and people often misinterpreted him by taking it literally (John 3:4, John 4:15, John 3:33, John 8:52, Matthew 16:5-12). He wanted them to see the symbolism. Therefore, I see no obvious reason why the correct interpretation should be presumed to be literal, particularly since the creation story contains deep theological symbolism whether or not it is also literal.

The idea of a personal God is consistent with a Creator who created according to physical laws. The best managers are those who establish efficient systems and delegate well, while staying involved. Those are not mutually exclusive ideas.

The biblical God is someone who created a very efficient system, but he is also very present with his creatures, wishing to have an intimate relationship with them. He is the Alpha and the Omega, which means that he embodies every positive attribute, even if they appear to be paradoxical.

A universe that only needs God to set it in motion does not indicate a purposeful and caring being. A close look at the world around us proves that. And please do not use the excuse of the Fall corrupting God's perfect creation. If God created butterflies then He also created mosquitos. And no, mosquitos did not originally sip nector.

I briefly discussed the problem of evil in my previous post. But stress and suffering is in one sense necessary in a world where there is corruption in human nature. We have to live in a causal universe where bad choices result in pain, because that is what shapes our souls. And what we are on the inside determines our level of happiness far more than our consequences.

Imagine if we all had the lives of child stars, who never had to experience the consequences of their choices, so they were not psychologically prepared for adulthood or for their fame to fade. Look at Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, and Lindsay Lohan, just to name a few. So if we didn't live in a causal universe where pain was possible, we would all become like that multiplied many times over.

God redeems us by his Spirit and through suffering. Suffering is like a refiner's fire, and it brings out the best in some people and embitters others. It depends on how we choose to respond.

However, as I mentioned in my previous post, this is not God's ultimate plan. Suffering is a necessary evil now to prepare us for the New Earth where there will no longer be any need for it.

So Christian doctrine is very different from the deist understanding of the intelligence that created the world. The only common ground is that both deism and Christianity acknowledges that we live in an ordered universe that runs according to predictable laws.

Anette Acker said...

And what we are on the inside determines our level of happiness far more than our consequences.

Instead of "consequences" I meant "circumstances."

The Celtic Chimp said...

The fine tuning argument always struck me as a little silly for the following reason. You can only say the universe is "fine-tuned" if it is exactly this universe you are expecting to develop. You can play around with many of the laws of physics and you would create many other universes. That most of them would likely be hostile to us is of no consequence. It is just another example of human pride. We are so special, what would be the point of a universe without us? Our minds are sooooo petty.

There was a scene in the movie Watchmen where the Dr. Manhattan character is on mars and is asking the question What is so great about life, even human life. As he puts it, he finds it an over-rated phenomenon. Looking out over the marsian landscape he asks rhetorically
"How would this be greatly improved by a parking lot or a shopping mall?"
(something like that anyway, I'm paraphraing)

Anette Acker said...

Steven J. made the following response to this post on Atheist Central:

Anette Acker said:

However, we do know that the laws and constants of the universe had to be very precisely fine-tuned for it to come into existence.

We know that there are many constants that, if individually altered by a very tiny amount, would have results incompatible with the origin and evolution of complex life (side note to YECs: a young universe where stars, planets, and galaxies were miraculously created would not need to be fine-tuned in these ways, and a YEC ought not use the fine-tuning argument). But if one could change several constants at once, one might find multiple combinations that are compatible with evolution of some sort of complex life. Scientists are not sure that the particular combination of values observed is the only combination that would work.

Actually, I'm not sure that scientists are sure that physical constants could have values other than those scientists observe. If the values they have are the only values consistent with the laws of physics -- if light couldn't possibly travel faster or slower, if the gravitational constant has a value as necessary as the sum of two plus two -- then we have the nagging question of why the universe should have to be friendly to life, but that seems vaguely like the nagging question of why there should be a Creator minded to create a universe suitable for life

So Dawkins's multiverse hypothesis fails Occam's Razor, because it is not the simplest and most logical explanation for the data supporting the Big Bang theory.

It seems to me that a multiverse is more parsimonious, or simpler, than an all-powerful Creator. Simplicity, in the sense Occam's razor calls for, involves not positing causes beyond the minimum needed to explain a phenomenon. Now, at first glance, it might seem that one God is a more minimal postulate than uncountable myriads of universes. But, after all, we already have one exemplar of a universe. Many things that exist in one exemplar, from snowflakes to mulberries to stars, exist in immense numbers. There is no obvious reason why this could not be true of the universe as well; why is it not more parsimonious to infer a huge number of finite, natural universes (a kind of thing we already know exists) than a single infinite-personal, supernatural Creator?

Note that this argument makes no appeal to complexity in the sense in which Dawkins calls God "complex" (Dawkins was noting that adaptions need explanations because they have what we may as well call "specified complexity;" if we're allowed to postulate specified complexity (in the form of a Creator) from the start, then we might as well just posit that it doesn't need explanation when we observe it in fine-tuning or complex biological adaptions.

Anette Acker said...

And I replied:

Actually, I'm not sure that scientists are sure that physical constants could have values other than those scientists observe. If the values they have are the only values consistent with the laws of physics -- if light couldn't possibly travel faster or slower, if the gravitational constant has a value as necessary as the sum of two plus two -- then we have the nagging question of why the universe should have to be friendly to life, but that seems vaguely like the nagging question of why there should be a Creator minded to create a universe suitable for life.

All right, so let's say that these are the only possible values of the laws of physics. Then this is analogous to the moral law, which raises the question of whether something is good because God decides that it should be, or whether God decides that it's good because it is objectively good. The answer is that both are true, because according to the Bible, God is the Alpha and the Omega, and the two cannot be separated. However, it is possible to break the moral law.

If you are correct about the laws and constants, then it still would have been possible for the constants to be off, and physicists have calculated what would have happened. However, like God meets the moral law perfectly, he would have perfectly fine-tuned the laws and constants of the universe.

Romans 1:20 says that creation reflects God's nature, so this argument supports the conclusion that the biblical God created the universe. The fine-tuning of the laws and constants of the universe then would mirror the moral law.

It seems to me that a multiverse is more parsimonious, or simpler, than an all-powerful Creator. Simplicity, in the sense Occam's razor calls for, involves not positing causes beyond the minimum needed to explain a phenomenon. Now, at first glance, it might seem that one God is a more minimal postulate than uncountable myriads of universes. But, after all, we already have one exemplar of a universe.

First, Occam's razor refers to the complexity of assumptions. Dawkins's multiverse is one of a potentially infinite number of hypothetical natural explanations for the Big Bang and the fine-tuning. We would have to assume that his hypothesis is correct rather than others. Why should Dawkins's speculation carry more weight than the speculation of other scientists?

Second, by your logic, we already know something about intelligence, so we can extrapolate from that just as easily as from the existence of one universe.

Third, if we look at all possible explanations (including the biblical explanation) as hypotheses, the question become which one fits the evidence best without requiring speculation. As I said to OJellO, according to three secular astrophysicists, the biblical explanation fits best.

Fourth, Occam's razor says that the explanations have to be equally likely, and if the degree of fine-tuning required is one part in a million, it doesn't seem very likely that it would happen even given a multiverse. It is more likely that an intelligence was behind it, as illustrated by the following story by philosopher Alvin Plantinga, told by Timothy Keller:

"He imagines a man dealing himself twenty straight hands of four aces in the same game of poker. As his companions reach for their six-shooters the poker player says, 'I know it looks suspicious! But what if there is an infinite succession of universes, so that for any possible distribution of poker hands, there is one universe in which this possibility is realized? We just happen to find ourselves in one where I always deal myself four aces without cheating!'" Those would almost certainly be the last words spoken by that gambler.

Anette Acker said...

OJellO said on Atheist Central:

To Steven J's post of June 4, 2010 10:23 PM I would add the following:

For an analysis of the "fine tuning" of the laws of physics that makes life possible, Google for "A Designer Universe?" by Steven Weinberg (the 1979 Nobel Prize winner in Physics).

Google "Hugh Everett III" to find that he was an American physicist who first proposed a many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics. A separate line of analysis that leads to a multiverse has been envisaged within the multi dimensional extension of string theory known as M-theory --- so you can Google on that.

So, we have two lines of analysis, theoretical to be sure, that suggests multi-verses and the Steven Weinberg "A Designer Universe?" does not support "fine-tuning" (it also has other very interesting observations in it also).

I'd suggest the the person to whom Steven J was responding has not really done her homework. Moreover, what evidence did she support for her position but very vague quotes from the Bible (e.g. Genesis)? Do vauge, nebulous statements from the Bible really have as much substance to them? I think not.

Anette Acker said...

And I replied:

OjellO:

I'd suggest the the person to whom Steven J was responding has not really done her homework. Moreover, what evidence did she support for her position but very vague quotes from the Bible (e.g. Genesis)? Do vauge, nebulous statements from the Bible really have as much substance to them? I think not.

I'm not quite sure if you're addressing me or Steven J., but I'm probably a little more qualified to explain what evidence I have to support my position, so I'll reply.

I am aware that there are physicists who dispute the fine-tuning argument, most notably Victor Stenger. Like Steven Weinberg, he is an anti-theist, and neither of them hide their contempt for religion. That doesn't mean that they are not brilliant physicists, but they are clearly biased. If someone is looking for an unbiased perspective on this subject, he or she would probably turn to someone like Hawking or Jastrow--astrophysicists who do not have a religious bias. Most physicists accept that the universe is fine-tuned for life.

In fact, Stenger doesn't really dispute it. Wikipedia quotes him as follows: "Even though life as we know it would not exist if any one of several of the constants of physics were just slightly different, [we] cannot prove that some other form of life is feasible with a different set of constants. Anyone who insists that our form of life is the only one conceivable is making a claim based on no evidence and no theory."

In other words, Stenger concedes the evidence; he simply argues that nobody can prove that it isn't possible to have some hypothetical form of life if the laws and constants were off.

As far as my evidence, let me put it this way: The question is whether there is a God. We have several hypotheses, including Dawkins's multiverse and the biblical account. (Unless we presume naturalism, we have to include that. It makes no sense to ask the question: Is there a God? if yes is not a possible answer.) The classical BB theory along with a fine-tuned universe is supported by the evidence. A multiverse and a possibility of some other form of life is pure speculation.

In other words, this would be like a murder trial where the evidence fits the prosecutor's theory perfectly and where the bullets fit the defendant's rare gun (the fine-tuning). The expert witnesses are all unbiased and well-qualified, and they support the prosecution. However, there are a couple of experts who are relatives of the defendant who make the argument that the bullets could hypothetically have belonged to another gun. If you were on the jury, how would you decide?

According to Robert Jastrow, Arno Penzias, and Stephen Hawking, the evidence fits the biblical account perfectly. Note that I didn't even mention Francis Collins, even though he is considered to be a very intellectually honest Christian. I am trying to look at this without confirmation bias, and I would recommend that anyone who is open to the truth would do the same.

Sincerely,

The Person To Whom Stephen J. Was Responding

Milo said...

There may be a world that is consistent with a Creator who created according to physical laws and who also wishes to have an intimate relationship with his creatures, but this earth isn't it.

I don't want this conversation to devolve into one about the problem of suffering. You make the claim that God works using physical laws and yet cares about us but leaves us at the mercy of those natural laws. He lets us struggle to survive but at the same time wants to prepare us for a life on a New Earth.

This world opperates as if there is no God. Show me where in the history of world that God has shown protection and caring for the human being. What tells you that there is a caring God looking after us besides the little voice in your head or the bible?

Rabbitpirate said...

This is not a God of the gaps argument, because that depends on a knowledge gap.

Sorry to disagree but of course it is a God of the gaps argument.

There is currently a gap in our knowledge regarding why the universe appears to be fine tuned. You are choosing to fill this gap in our knowledge with God.

The whole line of reasoning here is a very well written God of the gaps argument, or alternatively one big argument from ignorance.

We currently do not know what caused the big bang, what, if anything, there was before the universe or why the universe appears to be so amazingly fine tuned. In fact we may never know these things and they may remain forever beyond the realm of science to investigate.

Therefore God!

There is no evidence whatsoever that another universe than the one we occupy has ever existed.

....

So Dawkins's multiverse hypothesis fails Occam's Razor, because it is not the simplest and most logical explanation for the data supporting the Big Bang theory.


Yup, there is no evidence that other universes exist, however there is also no evidence that God exists either, in fact you say this yourself.

Science cannot prove or disprove God.

However when it comes to Occams razor you are incorrect.

The assumption of other universes is NOT a bigger assumption than the idea of a God.

We know that at least one universe exists while we have no evidence that any God of any sort exists.

As such the assumptions for a multiverse goes like this.

We know that at least one universe exists as such is it likely other universes exist as well and that we happen to live on one that is fine tuned for life?

However with the God argument it goes like this.

We have no evidence for the existence of any God or Gods existing or ever having existed, as such likely that a God is the reason that the universe appears so fine tuned for life?

The God claim introduces more new assuptions than the claim of multiple universes, even if one doesn't start from a purely naturalistic point of view.

As you correctly noted before I think we should see if there is any evidence for concluding that any being that we would call a God actually exists before we start trying to work out that Gods various properties and which religion best reflects him.

The cosmological argument is a logical argument, however that does not mean it accurately reflects reality and also says nothing about the personality of the God it is used to support.

Let's start with this simple question. What reason or evidence is there that supports the conclusion that the supernatural even exists at all?

Anette Acker said...

QED:

Your blog is very well written. However, I am not at all sure how what seems to be an improbability of our universe being the way it is constitutes "positive evidence" for God. There seems to be a leap in your logic at this point.

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your kind words.

As I pointed out in my post, there is no proof. But this is what I meant by "positive evidence": With respect to abiogenesis, it would be a gap argument to say that God could only have done it, because it depends on scientific ignorance. However, the cosmological argument depends on the fine-tuning of the laws and constants and the similarity between Genesis 1:1 and Hebrews 11:3 and the Big Bang theory. Therefore, the argument is based on scientific discoveries, not their absence. The same evidence that supports the classic BB theory and fine-tuning also supports a Creator. Although I think the evidence is compelling, it is not conclusive.

Furthermore, BB cosmology may provide more evidence against a creator. As you said, at the point of the singularity all laws of physics break down. This means that there was a state of "lawlessness" at the singularity. Paul Davies and Quintin Smith argue that ANYTHING could have come out of the singularity, which does not seem to correspond to a creator determining what is to come out. This is an inherent feature of the singularity and is not merely a lack of knowledge on our part. Thus, if God is all-powerful, it seems suspicious that "He" would will a lawless singularity into existence as the boundary to our universe.

I have to disagree with you here. It seems to me very likely that God would create order out of chaos. It seems far less likely that order would naturally emerge out of chaos.

That said, your post only deals with classical BB cosmology. Hartle and Hawking have proposed a model of the universe in which there is no boundary (i.e. no singularity). Thus, while the universe is finite in terms of the dimension of time, there is no true "beginning" so that our universe has simply emerged from an eternal 4-d hypersphere or superposition.

Stephen Hawking discusses his model of the universe in A Brief History of Time, and he stresses that it only a proposal. In other words, it is not backed by evidence. And he has to hypothesize that time is imaginary in order to avoid the universe having a beginning. It's possible that Hawking is right, but there is no evidence to support his model.

Hartle and Hawking also calculated that there was a 95% chance of our universe emerging, uncaused, from this superposition based simply on its inherent mathematical and physical properties. They did this by assigning a wave function to the universe and calculating the probability over all possible universes. By calculating the amplitude of this wave they arrived at the probability of our universe being the one to exist, which apparently is very high.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I read somewhere that for this model to work they have to assume that the universe is closed, but the evidence indicates that it's open because it is expanding even faster than the inflationary theory predicts.

Darkknight56 said...

Carl Sandburg won a Pulitzer prize for his biography of Lincoln, Lincoln: The War Years and if I wanted to prove that Lincoln actually existed I would probably start with this book. But if this was all I had would this be enough to prove Lincoln lived? A man who was born in a log cabin and rose to become the President of the United States? And not only that but he also won a civil war and kept the country together? I don't know; that's a lot to believe of a poor person who was born, as I said, in a log cabin. A little far-fetched so I would have to say that based solely on the book alone, I'd say it was unlikely so what I'd have to do is gather additional sources of proof.

I could go to the Library of Congress and look up additional material and documentation.

I could research the biographies of others who claim to have actually talked with him. Since he supposedly lived and died well over a century ago finding actual people who actually met with him i s highly unlikely so I'd have to rely on the documentation of others as well as photographes of him and any speeches he was credited with writing and giving.

I would have to go to Kentucky and Illinois as well as Washington DC to find all these forms of documentation. The more I found the stronger my case becomes for proving his existence. The evidence slowly becomes so much that to deny his existence in the face of all the evidence would be willful denial or insanity.

The other requirement is that all of these various and independent documents have to agree. If one said he was born in Nova Scotia and another said London and others said different places and if some claimed he was 5' 6" and others said he was well over 7 feet we'd either be dealing with a legend or different people each named Abraham Lincoln but maybe not the one who we think of as the 16th president.

My point is two-fold. The first is that I don't think you can prove the existence of God through science, at least not the physical sciences.

I think He could be proved through statistics, though. For example, since Christians pray for the sick then Christians in general should be a healthier and longer-lived group as a whole that those of other religions.

But mainly I think God, or Jesus in particular, could be proved through documentation which I don't believe exists. Some documentation does show that someone named Jesus Christ existed but none of the documentation claims anything about Him performing specific miracles even though thousands were witnesses to said miracles. For these reasons and others the bible alone is not sufficient proof that God or Jesus exists and after being on Ray's blog for several months I'd have to say that there is no conclusive, positive, proof God or Jesus exists.

QED said...

Annette -

You wrote:

"However, the cosmological argument depends on the fine-tuning of the laws and constants and the similarity between Genesis 1:1 and Hebrews 11:3 and the Big Bang theory. Therefore, the argument is based on scientific discoveries, not their absence. The same evidence that supports the classic BB theory and fine-tuning also supports a Creator. Although I think the evidence is compelling, it is not conclusive."
________________________________

That's the thing... I don't see how this is even evidence of a creator. Why should this count as evidence of a personal being?

You wrote:

"It seems to me very likely that God would create order out of chaos. It seems far less likely that order would naturally emerge out of chaos."
______________________________

Actually, it is a very well known fact that order can and does spontaneously arise out of chaotic systems. This is the field of study of chaos theory. You'd be surprised at the remarkable complexity and "design" that arises out of various chaotic systems.

That said, it is not just that there was chaos in the singularity, but no fingerprint whatsoever of any kind of determinism whether by God or anything else. If God meant to create a world with us in it, "He" must have been playing dice.

You wrote:

"In other words, it is not backed by evidence. "
______________________________

This simply is not true. Hawking's model is actually well supported. I'm running short on time at the moment, but I'll list some evidential backing a little later.

Also, it is a common complaint that Hawking uses imaginary time, but this is a misunderstanding. Did you get this criticism from William Lane Craig? I'll address that a little later as well.

Anette Acker said...

QED,

I'll wait until I get your evidence for Hawking's theory before I reply to your other points, but I just wanted to quickly reply to this:

Also, it is a common complaint that Hawking uses imaginary time, but this is a misunderstanding. Did you get this criticism from William Lane Craig? I'll address that a little later as well.

Actually, I got it from A Brief History of Time. Hawking himself talks about "imaginary time" with respect to his proposal toward the end of chapter eight.

Anette Acker said...

My conversation with Steven J. on Atheist Central continued as follows:

Steven J. said: Okay. Depending on how minded God was to intervene in the history and evolution of the universe, the universe could be inhabited even if it wasn't fine-tuned: an all-powerful God could cause things to happen that the laws of physics (given a particular set of constants) don't permit. Or He could create a universe in which natural origins for stars, planets, and life are possible. Are you arguing that God's nature inclines Him to set evolution in motion and work through it? Are there implications in such a view for miracles?

That's a very good question. I do believe that God works through natural laws and that it would be very consistent with his nature, as revealed in the Bible, to create by way of evolution. The natural laws themselves are his signature. But physics allows for the “uncertainty principle,” which opens the door to the possibility of miracles.

Although the laws of nature are predictable, they are not fixed. As I understand it, quantum mechanics is based on the uncertainty principle, which means that it does not rule out miracles. So if quantum mechanics and general relativity have to be combined (as Michael said) in order to study the state of lawlessness at the Big Bang, then that could very well be what physicists would see if they were to analyze a miracle. At best, physics (and science in general) can answer the “how” question. But the “why” question would remain unanswered. Maybe the “why” is that the Holy Spirit “spoke” the universe into existence, and when physicists analyze that they see what appears to be lawlessness at the big bang.

So to answer your question, I believe that natural laws are God's signature, because he created them, but they are by no means deterministic. I fully believe that God still does miracles, and quantum mechanics make it unreasonable to claim that they are impossible.

I doubt that Dawkins has much invested, emotionally or career-wise, in the multiverse; if there are a potentially infinite number of hypothetical naturalistic explanations for fine-tuning, isn't that just so much more reason to suppose that the actual explanation probably is naturalistic? You're actually going beyond Dawkins: he was limiting himself to an idea someone (cosmologists; it's not really an idea a zoologist would dream up) has actually come up with and worked out mathematically; you're pointing out that there may be very parsimonious naturalistic models that no one has thought of yet.

What I meant was that there are a lot of models, but they cannot all be correct. Even if they have been worked out mathematically, they contradict each other, and the scientists themselves admit that they are mere proposals. If there is no hard evidence to back up either, why would the multiverse model be more likely to be accurate than, for example, the cyclic universe model?

I found this explanation pertaining to Occam's razor: "For a given set of observations or data, there is always an infinite number of possible models explaining those same data." So if we look at the various explanations as hypotheses, Occam's razor would force us to eliminate those explanations that require us to multiply assumptions. The biblical explanation fits without added assumptions. It explains the fine-tuning (an intelligence), the "something from nothing" (Hebrews 11:3), and the universe having a beginning (Genesis 1:1). We don't have to add any assumptions because the explanation already fits the data.

Of course if you start with an assumption of naturalism, you will choose any explanation rather than the existence of a Creator. But this approach fails Occam's razor if the question is "Why are we here?"

Anette Acker said...

Part 2:

You aren't a creationist, much less a young-earth creationist. But a great many people who adhere to the biblical account are, and not all of them are idiots. Assuming the biblical account isn't demonstrably wrong (chronologically, geologically, and astronomically), it is open to enough interpretations that it isn't really analogous to, say, the unique stritiations produced on a bullet by a particular gun barrel. And remember: we don't know how common the gun is: it might be unique, or there might be millions of them on the street.

To the extent that I was making an argument in favor of the biblical God specifically, it was certainly not a particular interpretation of Genesis. The gun analogy simply pertained to the existence of an intelligence. In my previous blog post I made a defense for the Christian God, but in this one I merely argued that the scientific data at least points toward an intelligence, and specifically toward the God of the Bible. I analogized "the theory of the case" to the Christian God, while "the gun" simply analogizes the existence of an intelligence.

As for your point that there might be millions of the guns on the street, Stephen Hawking says the following about the multiverse hypothesis: “If [the universes] are really separate from each other, what happens in another universe can have no observable consequences in our own universe. We should therefore use the principle of economy and cut them out of the theory.” Likewise, if all the neutral expert witnesses testify that the gun is rare, the jury would not consider the possibility that there are many guns like that one. They would decide, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the gun belonged to the defendant.

Dr. Arend Hintze said...

I would argue that cosmology is not arguing for a God at all. If cosmology is understood and done strictly scientifically it will answer all the how questions, and will leave out all the why questions.

Science can answer how big a constant is or if it is derived from another one, or is there is a beautiful overarching mathematical concept that might describe all sorts of constants, but it can impossibly answer "why" these constants are there. In the strictest sense science can impossibly make a statement about God one way or the other.

Even Occam's Razor doesn't help here since it makes statements about natural causes and to assume the simpler explanation, but it is not about Supernatural phenomena. Actually science is not about supernatural things whatsoever. In fact the observation of a supernatural whatever would invalidate science directly.

One could argue the other way around, saying that the miracles that God performed were not violating the laws of physics, which would directly negate God's ability to supersede or transcend them.

You can not bring science and God in the same context without violating each others essential axioms.

Cheers Arend

Anette Acker said...

Rabbitpirate:

Sorry to disagree but of course it is a God of the gaps argument.

There is currently a gap in our knowledge regarding why the universe appears to be fine tuned. You are choosing to fill this gap in our knowledge with God.


That is not a gap argument, it is an explanation for the scientific data. Science never answers the "why" questions, only the "how" questions. So a gap argument would go like this: "How did such and such happen?" Answer: "God did it." Now it may be that the origin of life was supernatural, but if I were to say that, I would be making a gap argument.

My arguments here, on the other hand, are interpretations of the scientific data. Stephen Hawking admitted of the fine-tuning of the universe, "There are definitely theological implications." Now keep in mind that neither Hawking nor Jastrow were theists, and scientists generally don't talk about God.

Yup, there is no evidence that other universes exist, however there is also no evidence that God exists either, in fact you say this yourself.

I never said that there is no evidence that God exists; I said there is no proof. There is plenty of evidence, as I discussed in this post.

But think of it this way: There is no proof for a scientific theory either. There may be a lot of evidence for it, but never proof because something else may come along and falsify it. Likewise, there is lots of evidence for fine-tuning and the inflationary Big Bang theory, and three secular physicists say that it points to a God. But there is no proof, because as you said, it is possible that something will contradict it.

The cosmological argument is a logical argument, however that does not mean it accurately reflects reality and also says nothing about the personality of the God it is used to support.

Let's start with this simple question. What reason or evidence is there that supports the conclusion that the supernatural even exists at all?


We perceive reality through both reason and intuition. There are many things we know intuitively even if we are incapable of translating it into the language of reason. Intuition reaches further than reason, because logical thinking is challenging and not all people are capable of it. But “good instincts” can be even more beneficial than good thinking skills.

Most people believe in a God of some sort, even if they are not particularly religious. Atheists are a very small percentage of the population, and about 80% are male and a high percentage are scientists, so we can safely assume that they are more left-brain oriented than the general population. This means they probably rely more on reason than on intuition.

Atheists sometimes make the argument that there is no reason to believe in a supernatural being and compare it to the “flying spaghetti monster” like it is completely irrational. But most people, regardless of education, feel that the question, “Is there a God?” is a valid one. This is true even in our scientific age where we don’t need God in order to answer the “how” questions.

So if the cosmological question is logical, as you say, and it is also consistent with the intuitive sense most people have that a God exists, then that establishes a strong prima facie case that there is a God. However, it doesn’t answer the question of what he is like.

Ryk said...

The reason I don't buy the fine tuning argument is that it is just sophistry. It says nothing at all of value. If the universe were not capable of supporting life, then there would be none and no one would be wondering about it. The fact that we are here indicates the universe is capable of supporting life. That says nothing about creators or fine tuning. It only says that we are evidence that the universe supports life.

There is no evidence that any of the properties of the universe could have been different. Nor is there any evidence that some form of life could not exist in even greatly different conditions. While I do not buy the multiverse hypothesis it is useful as an illustration. Theoretically in another universe where the values are very different there could be life forms who absolutely believe that if their universe had different values life could not exist. In fact they could well believe that a universe exactly like ours could not possibly support life.

Now as I said I do not find this plausible, it does however perfectly illustrate my point. The only reason the universe seems fine tuned to support life is because we live and we are in it. This could be because there are no other possible values a universe could have, or because some form of life could exist in many sets of conditions and our life is simply one compatible with the prevailing conditions, or it could be that there are many possible ways a universe could be and ours just happens to be good for life and if it wren't there would be no one to wonder about it.

Any of these possibilities is more likely and relevant than fine tuning by an omnipotent being.

QED said...

Annette -

I am aware that Hawking uses the concept of imaginary time, but many seem to jump to the conclusion that this is somehow "not allowed" or is somehow to the discredit of his theory. I believe this to be a premature conclusion.

Again, I hope you'll remain patient with me. Life is quite busy for the next week, but I'd like to properly address these things as soon this week is over.

Anette Acker said...

Take your time, QED.

Anette Acker said...

darkknight56,

My point is two-fold. The first is that I don't think you can prove the existence of God through science, at least not the physical sciences.

Thank you for stopping by, darkknight56.

There is absolutely no way you can conclusively prove the existence of God. Most Christians agree with this. The major reason is because of the nature of knowledge. Even though the cosmological evidence is consistent with the biblical account and the fine-tuning of the laws and constants points toward an intelligence, someone can always come along and say, "We don't know for sure about future scientific discoveries." And that is true. The same can be said for any scientific theory, including evolution. They are never proven for that reason.

Also, I plan to do another blog post where I discuss how we often fit data into our preexisting philosophy. For example, if we presuppose naturalism, we will find a natural explanation rather than one that involves a God no matter how farfetched the natural one. The will plays a major role in terms of how honestly we look at the evidence. This is why I quoted agnostic astrophysicists like Jastrow, Hawking, and Penzias, rather than Victor Stenger and Steven Weinberg, who are both openly anti-theistic and interpret the data in light of their philosophy. However, I did quote Dawkins and address his arguments. I tried to make this as unbiased as possible.

I think He could be proved through statistics, though. For example, since Christians pray for the sick then Christians in general should be a healthier and longer-lived group as a whole that those of other religions.

These kinds of studies have been done and they have yielded conflicting results. The problem is that anyone who conducts a study like this probably has some kind of bias. As the saying goes, "If you torture statistics enough, you can make them confess to anything."

Also, there are many factors that cannot be controlled for; some are significant theologically: Did the person pray with faith? Did the person pray at all or did he/she think about lunch? Did someone pray for the people in the control group? Did the sick individual pray? These questions cannot be accurately answered. So, again, it comes down to the nature of knowledge.

The Bible teaches that faith comes when we draw near to God. He removes the "veil" from our eyes and reveals himself to us. This is called a spiritual rebirth, and it is the essence of faith.

Without it, it is impossible to really believe even if the evidence is compelling. Robert Jastrow believes that the scientific evidence is compelling, but he remains an agnostic. It is, of course, possible that he has other intellectual questions. But the intellect is not the only barrier to faith: the will and the emotions are also potential barriers. The will determines whether we are open to evidence that contradicts our philosophy.

Darkknight56 said...

Hello, Anette.

Even though the cosmological evidence is consistent with the biblical account and the fine-tuning of the laws and constants points toward an intelligence, someone can always come along and say, "We don't know for sure about future scientific discoveries." And that is true. The same can be said for any scientific theory, including evolution. They are never proven for that reason.

There is, however, a preponderance of the evidence for something. Say for the creation of the universe I have a choice between explanation A and explanation B and the preponderance of the evidence points to A over B then the only rational course of action is to accept A and reject B. Now there are situations in astronomy, for example, where several explanations currently explain a certain event. The problem is that astronomers currently don't have enough data to conclusively point to one explanation over another so the matter is currently unexplained. Once enough data comes in to point definatively to one explanation the others will all fall away.

Newton's mechanical view of gravity was used for several centuries as a way to describe how gravity worked until Einstein came along with his theory of relativity. However, for most large-scale events scientists still use Newton's view because it is simpler to use. It's a matter of using the right tool for the right job. Not all hammers are created equal

Also, I plan to do another blog post where I discuss how we often fit data into our preexisting philosophy. For example, if we presuppose naturalism...

Most of your arguments presuppose a God even though you state that there is no way to conclusively prove He exists. The rest of your discussions seem to be fitting the scientific data around the existence of God without actually showing that He does exist.

Naturalism, on the other hand, relies solely on evidence. It is not an attempt to disprove or exclude God from any explanation. Rather, one needs some sort of proof to have God be part of the explanation. If I toss a ball into the air and it comes back to me I can use force and gravity to describe how the ball travels from and back to my hand. I don't need to say that God either lifted the ball or made sure it returned to me. Now if I saw a disembodied hand lifting and returning the ball to me then we can discuss God as being part of the process.

These kinds of studies have been done and they have yielded conflicting results. The problem is that anyone who conducts a study like this probably has some kind of bias. As the saying goes, "If you torture statistics enough, you can make them confess to anything."

I can take a hammer and try to use it to beat eggs with, change a baby's diaper, try to write a letter, to plant a garden, to pound screws into a wall and to trim my cat's nails. In short there are many improper uses for a hammer but it doesn't mean it can't be properly used. One just has to learn how to properly use statistics or hammers. John Alan Paulos has several books out on how statistics (and numbers) are used badly as well as properly.

Darkknight56 said...

But the intellect is not the only barrier to faith: the will and the emotions are also potential barriers. The will determines whether we are open to evidence that contradicts our philosophy.

The intellect isn't a barrier to either faith or a belief in God but such things should be grounded in reality. People in our own culture as well as other cultures hold a great number of various beliefs from thinking that it is bad luck to break a mirror to the existence of a variety of gods, angels and demons. I choose to believe things which have some basis in reality but if someone wants to believe in the magical properties of good luck charms or that spirits live in trees I say "Fine". The problem comes when people who hold such beliefs turn around and tell those who don't believe that they are the cause of the world's ills and are immoral, according to their standard, and in general demonize non-believers. They use their beliefs in order to feel morally or otherwise superior to their fellow man. I recall how Mark W Laine wrote in a recent post on Ray's site how he looks down on non-christians and atheists.

Anette Acker said...

The reason I don't buy the fine tuning argument is that it is just sophistry. It says nothing at all of value. If the universe were not capable of supporting life, then there would be none and no one would be wondering about it. The fact that we are here indicates the universe is capable of supporting life. That says nothing about creators or fine tuning. It only says that we are evidence that the universe supports life.

Hi Ryk,

It says nothing about creators if we refuse to speculate on the question of why we are here and why the universe is so finely tuned. We could just say, "This is how it is. End of story." The question of a Creator is irrelevant.

And yet here you are on Atheist Central, on your blog, and on my blog, addressing that very question. So it can't be entirely irrelevant to you.

And if it's relevant enough for you to bring up at all, you should not be committing the fallacy of begging the question. You seem too rational for that. But you have already decided, regardless of the evidence, that there is no supernatural being. Everything has a natural origin as far as you're concerned, even though you don't find the multiverse hypothesis plausible.

You've said that you are sure that there is no God. Why are you sure of that? This is an honest question. And before you say, "Because there is no evidence," could you please read some of my prior comments in this thread so I don't have to repeat myself?

There is no evidence that any of the properties of the universe could have been different.

This is just another way of saying that it had to be fine-tuned in order for this universe to come into existence and for life to evolve. However, scientists know what would have happened if the some of the fine-tuning was off.

This is what Francis Collins says:

For about every billion pair of quarks and antiquarks, there was an extra quark. It is that tiny fraction of the initial potentiality of the entire universe that makes up the mass of the universe as we know it.

Why did this asymmetry exist? It would seem more "natural" for there to be no asymmetry. But if there had been complete symmetry between matter and antimatter, the universe would quickly have devolved into pure radiation, and people, planets, stars, and galaxies would never have come into existence.


I would have a very hard time reading that and remaining sure that there is no Creator.

Nor is there any evidence that some form of life could not exist in even greatly different conditions. While I do not buy the multiverse hypothesis it is useful as an illustration. Theoretically in another universe where the values are very different there could be life forms who absolutely believe that if their universe had different values life could not exist. In fact they could well believe that a universe exactly like ours could not possibly support life.

Well, we can hypothesize about anything, no matter how slim the chances are. This goes to the point I made to darkknight56: We cannot prove the existence of God. However, we certainly have evidence for a Creator.

I find it interesting that you reject the multiverse hypothesis while arguing in favor or the anthropic principle. Usually, the possibility of a multiverse is the basis for the anthropic principle on the cosmological level. For example, you can apply the anthropic principle to the origin of life, by saying that even though the likelihood of abiogenesis is very slim, it doesn't look quite so slim when we consider how vast the universe is. It was bound to happen somewhere, so the argument goes.

But without the multiverse hypothesis, the fine-tuning is wildly improbable. And even if you are willing to accept the possibility of a multiverse, there is absolutely no evidence for it. It is simply a way of getting around the fine-tuning problem, and maintaining belief in a wholly naturalistic origin.

Anette Acker said...

darkknight56:

There is, however, a preponderance of the evidence for something.

Bingo! And that is why it is important to look at the question of whether there is a God in the same way. It is not a matter of absolute, incontrovertible proof, but of a preponderance of the evidence.

Most of your arguments presuppose a God even though you state that there is no way to conclusively prove He exists. The rest of your discussions seem to be fitting the scientific data around the existence of God without actually showing that He does exist.

I'm not really following your logic here. How do my arguments presuppose a God? I try to meet the atheists and agnostics where they are and not assume a premise they disagree with.

Yes, it is true that I always argue in favor of Christianity. I've never decided, "I think I'll play the devil's advocate and defend atheism today." (No pun intended.)

My argument is that the scientific evidence itself points to God. If we ask, "Why are we here?" the cosmological evidence fits the biblical explanation, or at the very least, it supports the existence of a Creator.

Naturalism, on the other hand, relies solely on evidence. It is not an attempt to disprove or exclude God from any explanation. Rather, one needs some sort of proof to have God be part of the explanation.

God is already potentially a part of the explanation, at least for you. You have repeatedly said that you comment on AC because you want evidence for the existence of God. So you want to know if he exists, right? So if we ask the question, "Why are we here?" you appear to be open to the possibility that "God" is the answer.

The next step then is to examine the evidence and see if a naturalistic answer to that question makes more sense than the existence of God. That is the issue I have addressed here.

If I toss a ball into the air and it comes back to me I can use force and gravity to describe how the ball travels from and back to my hand. I don't need to say that God either lifted the ball or made sure it returned to me. Now if I saw a disembodied hand lifting and returning the ball to me then we can discuss God as being part of the process.

C.S. Lewis said:

"In all my life I have met only one person who claims to have seen a ghost. And the interesting thing about the story is that that person disbelieved in the immortal soul before she saw the ghost and still disbelieves after seeing it. She says that what she saw must have been an illusion or a trick of the nerves. And obviously she may be right. Seeing is not believing.

"For this reason, the question whether miracles occur can never be answered simply by experience. Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our senses, something seen, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted. And our senses are not infallible."

So I'm guessing that if you saw the disembodied hand in question you would have sought psychiatric help. That kind of experience would not be likely to persuade any rational person.

Anette Acker said...

The intellect isn't a barrier to either faith or a belief in God but such things should be grounded in reality.

I think I was unclear about what I meant here. Of course they should be grounded in reality. However, the intellect is a barrier to faith when people have unanswered questions. If things don't make sense it's hard to believe. Isn't that why a lot of you "deconverted" from Christianity?

However, the will also plays a role. For example, when we discuss this, do you want to arrive at the truth or do you want to refute my arguments? This is a rhetorical question that you don't have to answer. Most of us probably aren't even self-aware enough to know the answer. (And even if you are trying to arrive at the truth, debate is often a good thing.) Sometimes we just have too much invested in a particular position. So the will is a barrier to truth, and I'm talking about truth generically.

The problem comes when people who hold such beliefs turn around and tell those who don't believe that they are the cause of the world's ills and are immoral, according to their standard, and in general demonize non-believers.

Of course this is wrong. I know a lot of very caring and moral non-believers. Bigotry is always wrong.

Anette Acker said...

Celtic Chimp:

The fine tuning argument always struck me as a little silly for the following reason. You can only say the universe is "fine-tuned" if it is exactly this universe you are expecting to develop. You can play around with many of the laws of physics and you would create many other universes. That most of them would likely be hostile to us is of no consequence. It is just another example of human pride. We are so special, what would be the point of a universe without us? Our minds are sooooo petty.

That's not what astrophysicists say about the fine-tuning. If it was even slightly off, there would be no universe at all, or no planets and no life. As I quoted in my comment to Ryk, if the quarks and antiquarks had been off even slightly, the universe would have been pure radiation. But that's just one of fifteen physical constants that are balanced on a razor's edge. If the nuclear force had been off just slightly, there would have been no carbon, and therefore no life on earth. Nobody has evidence of there being a possibility of anything existing if these constants had been off. The arguments of Dawkins, Stenger, et al. are based on rhetorical speculation.

The Celtic Chimp said...

That's not what astrophysicists say about the fine-tuning. If it was even slightly off, there would be no universe at all, or no planets and no life.

Some astrophysicists say that. I'm not really sure they should be saying that though. It is simply ludicruous to think you can detemine the conditions in a universe that has differnt physics than ours. Our mathmatics and physical laws would be meaningless in an entirely different universe. By what means can they make these determinations. Too often physicists say things that are purely conjecture and they are then quoted all over the net in a kind of "science believes this" tone.

if the quarks and antiquarks had been off even slightly, the universe would have been pure radiation.
So what if the universe was just radiation? Is that not a valid condition for a universe to be in.


But that's just one of fifteen physical constants that are balanced on a razor's edge

I really feel like you completely missed my point. They are only on a razors edge if you want a life supporting universe that exactly matches ours. That we are here to discuss it guarantees that all these constants are just where they are. So what if we didn't exists or carbon didn't. Why is a universe like ours the only one that can be concieved.

If the nuclear force had been off just slightly, there would have been no carbon, and therefore no life on earth.

No carbon based life anyway. I hope I never become so presumtuous as to think that I could predict what would happen in an envionment about which I am utterly ignorant; one whose rules of existance are unknown to me. Just to be clear, I am talking about the physicists who get a little carried away with their musings here.

The fine tuning argument when you get right down to it, is nothing more than a human-centric arrogance.

Anette Acker said...

Celtic Chimp:

Some astrophysicists say that. I'm not really sure they should be saying that though.

Well, since neither you (I presume) nor I are astrophysicists, we have to rely on experts to become informed on this subject. During a trial, a jury often has to rely on expert witnesses to become educated on a subject pertaining to the case. So what kind of experts will be chosen? Those who are unbiased. If they are well-qualified and unbiased, the jury will be able to trust them and therefore will be more likely to arrive at the truth.

Since we both obviously also want to arrive at the truth in this very important matter of deciding whether there is a God, we want our experts to be unbiased as well. So whom do we choose? Agnostic Robert Jastrow and Stephen Hawking on the one hand or anti-theistic Victor Stenger and Steven Weinberg on the other? All are brilliant, but the first group consists of famous, top-tier scientists who are unbiased on the subject of religion. It seems like a simple decision.

Jastrow and Hawking arrived at the same conclusion on fine-tuning: It has strong theological implications. They understand the subject matter very well and they say that the evidence points to a God.

Too often physicists say things that are purely conjecture and they are then quoted all over the net in a kind of "science believes this" tone.

You are absolutely right about this, but the evidence for the Big Bang and fine-tuning doesn't fall into that category. It is very well established in the scientific community.

The fine tuning argument when you get right down to it, is nothing more than a human-centric arrogance.

Wow, you must be very humble if you think you are of less worth than a bunch of radiation. You said: "So what if the universe was just radiation? Is that not a valid condition for a universe to be in." You honestly don't think a universe like this is better than one that just consists of radiation, hydrogen, or helium? Or one that just collapsed in on itself?

There is no evidence that another type of universe is even possible. That is all speculation.

Anette Acker said...

Ryk,

I feel like my questions seemed too direct, like I was trying to corner you. I'm just trying to understand how you arrived at the conclusion that there is for sure no God. You come across intellectually honest, to the point where you acknowledge that the multiverse is not plausible. And you are clearly not prejudiced against Christians. I'm trying to square that with your self-identification as an anti-theist. How did you decide with such certainty that there is no God?

Ryk said...

Annette

I still fail to understand why you believe "fine tuning" points to a creator. First no one has presented any evidence that it is possiblr for the universe to be any other way. Without invoking a multiverse there is only one universe and this is the way it is. So all available evidence says that this is the only way a universe can be. We may not understand what physical laws make the universe function as it does but that in no way means those laws do not exist. Saying "if the universe were this, that or the other" is just speculating about the possibility that it could have been otherwise. This does not presuppose a creator, rather it presupposes that the universe is what it is. To say that it could have been otherwise assumes the multiverse, it assumes that there must have been some other way the universe could have been. I suppose you are speculating that minus a creator the universe is, as many Christians do, just random chance. That however is just another supposition. There is no evidence that says anything of the sort.

Physicists can and often do speculate about how the universe could have been other than it is. Some invoke the multiverse concept some invoke fine tuning. They are however just speculating. Since this universe is the only one known to exist then the only evidence is that these laws of physics are the only documented way in which a universe can function. I like speculating as much as anyone, I just don;t cinfuse speculation with evidence.

That is what most arguments saying there is evidence for a god are doing, confusing speculation for evidence.

Ryk said...

As to why I am an anti-theist, it is not so much that I have certainty there is no God, it is because I oppose religion. That is actually what anti-theism means.

I am certain there is no God. Perhaps not in an ontological sense. From a standpoint of formal logic I would concede that the possibility has not been eliminated. From a practical standpoint however I can say I know there is no god in the same way I know there are not pixies and leprechauns.

It is something for which there is no evidence, and it is also something for which there should be evidence. Therefore from a practical standpoint it can be dismissed. I am not dismissing it blindly I have in fact read many arguments for god and given it much thought. I have simply found such arguments empty.

I do believe that everything has a natural explanation, however that is less a philosophical position than an experiential one. I have not encountered anything for which there is not or could not be a natural explanation. I may not have these explanations but I have yet to encounter a phenomena for which magic is the most reasonable answer.

However it is not my certainty that there is no God that makes me an anti-theist, that is the source of my atheism. My anti theism is based on my belief that rekigion, although occasionally providing for good is a net negative to the world. It is my belief that all of the good that comes from religion could be realized just as readily through secular philosophy. It is also my belief that the harm done by religion is endemic and that religion can not exist without doing this harm. Bigotry, hatred, ignorance, abuse, and suppressing the human spirit are deliberately or not an irremovable part of religion.

Not to say these negative attributes apply to all religious people, nor do they apply to all religions in the same way, but they stem from all religions. It is my belief that religion is inherently amoral. Good is defined as whatever the religion claims god wants and since this can be anything at all, religion can justify anything at all, and often does.

Not to say that atheism offers a moral compass either, it does not. However it does not claim to. Atheism is in fact silent on any issue other than the existence of gods. For morality it is neccessary that an altruistic, and benevolent philosophy to take hold, which makes its determinations on principles derived from human experience, needs, and nature, rather than simplistic and outdated tribal taboos.

I am not saying that such a philosophy would be any more objective than religion, no moral system is objective. I am simply saying that it would be based on reason and practicality rather than divine fiat and would be less able to justify atrocities simply because "God said so"

It is my hope that as mankind matures and learns more about both nature and ourselves we will slip the leash of superstition and move past religion. I know my little blog and my personal outreach are just drops in a very big bucket towards this end but it is the way I choose to contribute.

Ryk said...

The prime fallacy of fine tuning is the common and ridiculous idea that probability to applies to events which have already occured. This is fallacious because if an event occured the probability of it occuring is automatically one hundred percent. There is no need really for anthropic principle to explain how an unlikely event occured because an event with one hundred percent likely is very probable indeed.

What is really going on when one applies probability to the past is they are saying an event seems as if it should have been improbable. That is however only a testament to the speakers ignorance. If we truly understood the properties of the universe we would very likely see a universe just like our own as being extremely likely.

We simply do not have that understanding. However making the jump from "I don't know why the universe is the way it is" all the way to "God must have done it", is unjustified.

For fine tuning to be valid it would have to be shown that our universal laws are in fact improbale, thqt has not and can not be done.

Now, could a deity be the reason our universe functions as it does? Of course, but that would have to be demonstrated. The fact that the universe is indeed what it is , does not demonstrate that hypothesis.

The Celtic Chimp said...

Well, since neither you (I presume) nor I are astrophysicists

I am not an astophysicist but have studied phsyics and astrophysics as an interested lay person for many years. I think the objections I am raising are completely passing you by. Physicists make predictions about what other universes might be like based on the physical laws and mathematics of this universe. It can be a fun exercise but ultimately cannot yield valid results. If the laws of physics themselves are different, it is simple logic that you cannot predict the conditions the universe would have using the physics of our universe. You need zero education in any scientific field to understand that.

Jastrow and Hawking arrived at the same conclusion on fine-tuning: It has strong theological implications. They understand the subject matter very well and they say that the evidence points to a God.

Holy hell but I wish physicists would restrain themselves from using the G word. The regularity with which it is misconstrued to mean some kind of intelligent entity makes it a bad choice.

This is a recent quote from Hawking
"What could define God [is thinking of God] as the embodiment of the laws of nature. However, this is not what most people would think of that God,"
"They made a human-like being with whom one can have a personal relationship. When you look at the vast size of the universe and how insignificant an accidental human life is in it, that seems most impossible."


That Stephen Hawking or anyone else draws illogical conclusions from evidence means exactly nothing. No matter what conclusion you draw about the initial conditions of the universe, invoking an unknown entity to explain it is not logical. To show you what I mean consider this possibility. Lets say that human technology advances to unimaginable heights whereby both time travel and the constuction of universes becomes possible and it turns out that we started the universe ourselves with the intention of our own creation. We might happily dismiss this idea but it would account for the fine tuning and origin of the universe. That it accounts for them, of course, offers zero, nothing, nada in the way of evidence for the idea. Ditto God.
The only thing evidenced by our inability to explain the origins of the big bang is that we can't explain the origins of the big bang. Humans have a rich history of invoking entities to explain unknown phenomenon. From lighting to disease to madness to accident. All have and in many places still so have explainations involving witches and demons etc. etc. God is no different in this regard. There is exactly the same amount of evidence that God created the universe as there is that madness is caused by demons. The only difference being that our understanding of the mechanisms of the mind have advanced futher than our understanding of the origins of the universe.

The Celtic Chimp said...

but the evidence for the Big Bang and fine-tuning doesn't fall into that category.
I agree with regard to the big bang, overwhelming evidence. "fine-tuning" is just the human-centric name given to that fact that our universe has the physical laws that it has. I'm not entirely sure that requires an explaination at all. Much like the question "Why is there something rather than nothing" The answer is simply "because there is something". If there were nothing, the question "Why is there nothing rather than something" could be asked (obviously it couldn't be but I think you'll get the meaning :P)
It is a bit like asking "Why did this coin land on heads rahter than tails" That is a valid question if you want to know about the friction and gravity etc involved in it fall but is meaningless if you are asking the question in the following sense
"What was the purpose of this coin landing on heads rather than tails"

To ask "What purpose is there in something" is just stating your a priori bias that there is a purpose.

Wow, you must be very humble if you think you are of less worth than a bunch of radiation. You said: "So what if the universe was just radiation? Is that not a valid condition for a universe to be in." You honestly don't think a universe like this is better than one that just consists of radiation, hydrogen, or helium? Or one that just collapsed in on itself?

Better, value? what have these concepts got to do with the universe? Are you suggesting that the value (to us incidentally) of a universe is what makes it more likely or plausable. In terms of value. I quite like this universe (even given how almost universally (no pun intended) hostile it is to human life.) Certain portions of the earth's surface are the only known places in an unimaginably large universe where humans would not be instantantly killed by the conditions. Despite it's rather obvious (not made for humans nature) I find the universe facinating. Truthfully though I have to admit that even where it radically different it would probably be no less facinating.

Another intersting but rarely (if ever) considered implication of fine-tuning is "What would be possible if the constants were ever so slightly different. Perhaps there are forms of life and possibilies that are grand indeed that would become possible. Like all conjecture about what would be if certain constants were changed, it is just conjecture based on a system in which all the laws are as is.

There is no evidence that another type of universe is even possible. That is all speculation.
That is quite true. You realise that if no other universes are possible, stating that this one is "fine-tuned" becomes entirely meaningless?

Apologies if the two posts above are riddled with spelling and or grammatical errors. I was in a bit of a rush :)

Darkknight56 said...

Francis Collins is an MD and a geneticist, not a cosmologist so I'm not sure what he is basing his opinion on. Other cosmologists feel hold the view of multiverses and we, through sheer chance, ended up in a universe where everything works together to support life. Dawkins is just a biologist but in his book he is echoing both cosmologists and theoretical physicists who think that not only are there multiverses but there are up to 7 additional dimensions other than the 4 we are aware of. It is their evidence, analysis, observations and mathematics that make them think that such things are possible. Gravity is a force, for example, that is 'leaking' into our dimensions from others.

When you say 'the universe was created out of nothing' we, unfortunately, get into semantics. Whereas I think you are meaning nothing nothing quantum physicists mean something nothing in that particles are constantly popping in and out all of the time, even in empty space. There is actually a very good video on Youtube regarding this if you are interested.

I think it is interesting that you start off one paragraph with "What we have here is positive scientific evidence for a Creator." but follow it in the next paragraph with "However, none of this constitutes proof of the existence of a God". Aren't evidence and proof pretty much interchangeable terms?

Jastrow thinks that we can never know what happened before the Big Bang but other scientists feel that they can peer somewhat past the Big Bang and see dimly what was there before and are working to prove this. You are trying to show that God is the First Cause of the Big Bang but it seems that science may be able to push Him back even further still.

If you look at where we were with respect to what we knew about the universe and the world around us 100 or even 200 years ago and what we know now, the jump in knowledge between now and 100 or 200 years from now will be way more incredible. Who knows what we may know about the Big Bang and the multi-verses even 50 years from now.

Anette Acker said...

Milo:

I don't want this conversation to devolve into one about the problem of suffering. You make the claim that God works using physical laws and yet cares about us but leaves us at the mercy of those natural laws. He lets us struggle to survive but at the same time wants to prepare us for a life on a New Earth.

This world opperates as if there is no God. Show me where in the history of world that God has shown protection and caring for the human being. What tells you that there is a caring God looking after us besides the little voice in your head or the bible?


Evil is part of this world, but when we belong to Christ, he takes senseless suffering and turns it around for good. He has been more real to me during times of suffering than at any other time, and other Christians say the same thing.

My husband's brother died from cancer when he was thirty-eight. He was a brilliant man with degrees from Brown, Princeton, and the University of Chicago. His personality was so much like Steven J.’s—he had the same dry sense of humor and calm disposition—but he was a Christian. He had given up a career at a prestigious law firm and taken a major pay cut to work for an environmental organization, and he was passionate about encouraging evangelical Christians to care about the environment. He had his whole life ahead of him and much to accomplish when he died, leaving a wife and a two-year-old.

The last time I saw him was a couple of months before he died, and he told me how he had never experienced God's love the way he did during his illness. God's presence was always with him, strengthening him and giving him the grace he needed.

Two weeks before he died, when he had hardly any strength left and the pain was incessant, he spent several hours at the computer composing this: "Do not fail to seize the love of God, which is available to you through the all-embracing sacrifice of Christ." He epitomized the victory we have in Christ over evil. It will never destroy our spirit.

When my daughter Ingrid was five months old, she suddenly started having uncontrollable seizures that left her disabled. The three months that she spent in various hospitals were without a doubt the hardest in my life, but I experienced the love and grace of God like never before. That experience transformed me forever, and I talk about it here.

And although I can’t justify to you why it was necessary for an infant to suffer like that, or why a good man with a wife and a two-year-old should die in excruciating pain—looking back I can make sense of what God was doing in my life. All those times on the anvil—and there were others—he shaped my mind in very specific ways. He wanted me to keep asking the hard questions, so I could help others who are asking them.

If this life is all that matters, that simply isn’t worth it. The Bible admits this: “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:15). If we belong to Christ, we can expect to suffer. But 2 Corinthians 4:17 promises: “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

This life is just a tiny speck in context of eternity. And even in this life, God has clearly revealed his goodness to me so many times that I can honestly say that to suffer for him, if it means that he can use me to help others, is the highest privilege.

Anette Acker said...

Ryk:

Physicists can and often do speculate about how the universe could have been other than it is. Some invoke the multiverse concept some invoke fine tuning. They are however just speculating. Since this universe is the only one known to exist then the only evidence is that these laws of physics are the only documented way in which a universe can function.

Then why does Dawkins essentially concede the fine-tuning in chapter four of The God Delusion? The multiverse hypothesis is a way of getting around it, because it is so wildly improbable that it could be chance. Fine-tuning is not speculation. Even most scientists with a bias will tell the truth--they'll just hide it with rhetoric.

Steven Weinberg wrote an article where he disputes some of the fine-tuning, but not all, and in the end he has to fall back on the multiverse hypothesis. If the fine-tuning was speculation, don't you think Weinberg, Dawkins, and Stenger would make that very clear? Instead, they essentially philosophize around it.

I still fail to understand why you believe "fine tuning" points to a creator. First no one has presented any evidence that it is possiblr for the universe to be any other way.

Steven J. asked me the same question, so I'll just cut and paste my answer:

All right, so let's say that these are the only possible values of the laws of physics. Then this is analogous to the moral law, which raises the question of whether something is good because God decides that it should be, or whether God decides that it's good because it is objectively good. The answer is that both are true, because according to the Bible, God is the Alpha and the Omega, and the two cannot be separated. However, it is of course possible to break the moral law.

If you are correct that the laws and constants could only be one way, then it still would have been possible for the constants to be off, and physicists have calculated what would have happened. However, like God meets the moral law perfectly, he would have perfectly fine-tuned the laws and constants of the universe.

Romans 1:20 says that God's nature is reflected in his creation, so this would just be one more argument for the Christian God.

The prime fallacy of fine tuning is the common and ridiculous idea that probability to applies to events which have already occured. This is fallacious because if an event occured the probability of it occuring is automatically one hundred percent.

You could used that logic in the context of the origin of life, but it doesn’t work on the cosmological level unless you fall back on the multiverse hypothesis. Of course probability applies to past events. If you won the lottery, it would still be possible to say what probability it was that you would have won, and it would have been extremely low. But the probability of someone winning is 100%. Still, if you were to quit your job on the probability that you would win the lottery, that would obviously be ridiculous, because you’re just one out of however many.

Likewise, if there is one universe, the likelihood that the laws and constants would be what they are is extremely slim, according to unbiased scientists. The version of the anthropic principle that you are relying on depends on the multiverse to make sense at all. And even with the multiverse hypothesis it is not a compelling argument because, as you said, the multiverse is implausible.

Anette Acker said...

I may not have these explanations but I have yet to encounter a phenomena for which magic is the most reasonable answer.

I don’t believe in magic either. I believe God created this world to function according to laws, and most of the time they are predictable and explainable. However, I do believe in miracles. Do you believe in quantum physics? It seems that quantum physics and the uncertainty principle would make miracles possible.

All science can give us is answer to the “how” questions, not the “why” questions. So if physicists were to analyze a miracle, they would probably find actual physical properties, except that they would not be deterministic. For example, that split second of lawlessness at the singularity of the big bang is very consistent with the Holy Spirit “speaking” the universe into existence, in that moment right before the laws of physics took over.

Now, could a deity be the reason our universe functions as it does? Of course, but that would have to be demonstrated. The fact that the universe is indeed what it is , does not demonstrate that hypothesis.

That’s what I’m trying to demonstrate. Science never points to God, except at the moment of creation, and that’s what one would expect if he created a brilliant system. According to unbiased astrophysicists, the big bang and the fine-tuning points to a Creator.

QED said...

Okay Annette, this should at least get us started:

According to Quintin Smith some of the supporting evidences for Hawking's theory are the density fluctuations in the cosmic background radiation, the large scale isotropy and homogeneity of the universe, an early inflationary era and by the evidence that the critical density is near to one.

Now, it is true that the Hartle-Hawking no boundary proposal suggested a closed universe, however, Hawking, with the help of Turok, has modified the argument to enable the no boundary proposal to work in the hyperbolic case also. That is, if the universe has a negative curvature.

As for imaginary time. Hartle and Hawking's approach was to make use of what is known as 'Euclideanization', which is related to the notion of a Wick Rotation applied to Minkowski space. This involves "rotating" the time coordinate t into T = it, where i is the imaginary unit. When this is done, the spatial spacetime metric transforms to

dl^2 = dT^2 + dx^2 + dy^2 + dz^2

This has a number of advantages from a mathematical point of view and far from being a fault, simply provides a mathematical framework to describe the idea that instead of a singularity providing a boundary and the beginning of our spacetime, there is instead a "rounded-off" superposition. If you would like to learn more, you can also consult Roger Penrose's work: The Road to Reality.

What bothers me about this theory is that it need not actually hold true for our universe in order to provide an argument against the existence of God. For if the Hartle-Hawking proposal is even possible it would significantly undermine classical theism, since it would allow for a possible world in which something exists apart from God (even eternally) and can spontaneously give rise to something like our universe.

Ryk said...

Essentially I am not Dawkins, or anyone else. Also I do not see myself as subordinate to anyone else intellectually. The idea that Dawkins accepts fine tuning(which is not precisely what he said) or that some supposedly unbiased physicists claim it is true is not important to me. In the case of physicists I would concede expertise but since what they are claiming is based on personal opinion not any known fact, expertise is a minor issue.

The idea that the universe could have been "off" is an extraordinary claim. It requires either that we accept the multiverse principle which I do not, or that we presuppose a creator which I also do not. To presuppose a creator in this argument is circular and therefore fallacious. You can not presuppose a creator and then use that presupposition as the basis for an argument demonstrating that creator.

If we do not assume either the multiverse or a creator we are left with only one option. The universe as it functions (however that may be) is the only way universes function. To say otherwise means you either believe the universe is a design or you believe there are many possible universes.

I know saying "what if" is a big part of human psychology but it is meaningless. If something happens it is because it is the only thing that could have happened. Any apparent uncertainty about that is simply our lack of knowledge of the variables involved. You could of course say for example "what if someone had assasinated Hitler before world war II?" However no one did, that means there was no one with the opportunity, desire and correct psychology to do so. If there had been such a person then he would have been assasinated.

The same is true for the universe. If any other sort of universe had been possible then it would exist and ours would not. Since ours exists it is the only possible one.

As to why it is the only possible one, that is not yet known and may never be, but our lack of knowledge does not mean a God did it. I concede that it also does not mean a God didn't do it but that is really not relevant.

Fine tuning is either an argument from ignorance or from arrogance. Ignorance in that they are assuming that because they lack an answer the answer must not be there, or arrogance in that they must assume that a universe that supports life must be fine tuned to do so. The first needs no explanation I think but the second might. The point of my statement is that the chemical processes that comprise what we call life are just a bi product of the physical laws of the universe. It would not be intrinsically better or worse if these chemical actions were impossible or different. Likewise it would not be intrinsically better or worse if the universe were just radiation and gas. Without life there would be no one to care. The universe being non sentient certainly would not.

Is it better for me that the universe can support life? Maybe. I like life I enjoy it I am very happy I exist, but if I did not I wouldn't be able to be concerned about it and as I said the universe could not be.

The Celtic Chimp said...

However, like God meets the moral law perfectly, he would have perfectly fine-tuned the laws and constants of the universe.

Annette, you were asked a question quite relevent to this and I'm sure you answered it. It seems crusial to me to the moral questions about God, so I would like to see your take on it, though it is a little off-topic in this thread. You say God meets the moral law perfectly (I assume then you are saying God is perfectly moral). Let's ignore that this law is one of God's own imposition and would therefore from God's point of view be entirely arbitrary. (Unless you are suggesting that morality is something beyond even God. A truth so fundamental even God must adhere to it?) When God tells his chosen people to murder their disrespectful people, to murder people who try to turn them away from him, which would include everyone in here you are debating with, homosexuals, adulterers etc. etc. When he orders that women who refuse to marry their rapist should be killed. When he commanded the muder of men, women and children. He decreed that women are 'unclean' for the high crime of having a period (simply bizarre as he is presumeably designed them that way) etc. etc. etc. The list of God's blatantly immoral commands is far to lenghty to post here but ultimately we ask
Do you beleive that these things are moral? I am indeed asking you to judge God! If you do not judge God, how would you be able to tell if you worshipping a good God or an evil one?

"Fine tuning is either an argument from ignorance or from arrogance. Ignorance in that they are assuming that because they lack an answer the answer must not be there, or arrogance in that they must assume that a universe that supports life must be fine tuned to do so. The first needs no explanation I think but the second might. The point of my statement is that the chemical processes that comprise what we call life are just a bi product of the physical laws of the universe. It would not be intrinsically better or worse if these chemical actions were impossible or different. Likewise it would not be intrinsically better or worse if the universe were just radiation and gas. Without life there would be no one to care. The universe being non sentient certainly would not."
Here here! I have always thought Hawking could stand to learn a lesson from history. He often speaks like we are on the verge of having it all figured out. I see no reason what-so-ever to beleive we are anywhere near figuring it all out. Historically, just when we seemed to be almost there, a whole other level of phsyics emerges. Why presume that quantum mechanics, or the current crop of sub-atomic particles are the limits of the universe, the well might be much much deeper still.

The Celtic Chimp said...

and I'm sure you answered it.

Should have read I'm not sure you answered it. I have a wierd habit of leaving out important words in sentances. :P

Anette Acker said...

Dr. Arend Hintze:

I would argue that cosmology is not arguing for a God at all. If cosmology is understood and done strictly scientifically it will answer all the how questions, and will leave out all the why questions.

You are absolutely right about this. Science cannot answer the "why" questions. But the "how" answers can help us answer the "why" question.

The question is, of course, "Why are we here?" and it is a philosophical question science cannot answer. However, we can look to science to answer it, and that is what I was attempting to do. The scientific evidence is far more consistent with a Creator than with any natural explanation, because those require us to speculate. However, the biblical account fits without the need to make further assumptions.

Even Occam's Razor doesn't help here since it makes statements about natural causes and to assume the simpler explanation, but it is not about Supernatural phenomena.

Actually, Wikipedia says the following about Occam's Razor: "In the philosophy of religion, Occam's razor is sometimes applied to the existence of God; if the concept of God does not help to explain the universe, it is argued, God is irrelevant and should be cut away (Schmitt 2005). It is argued to imply that, in the absence of compelling reasons to believe in God, disbelief should be preferred. Such arguments are based on the assertion that belief in God requires more complex assumptions to explain the universe than non-belief."

In this case, the existence of God explains the universe in the best way, with no additional assumptions. Therefore, Occam's Razor favors his existence.

QED said...

Annette -

You said:

"The scientific evidence is far more consistent with a Creator than with any natural explanation, because those require us to speculate. However, the biblical account fits without the need to make further assumptions."

I would say the opposite is true. Can you support your claim above?

Furthermore, it requires a whole host of further assumptions, namely:

(1) That there is such a thing as a "supernature"

(2) That this supernature is has, or even can have causal influence on nature.

(3) That there is a personal, all-powerful being as part of this supernature (which so happens to be unverifiable from our perspective).

(4) That said being actually did create anything.

(5) That this being is the God described in the Bible.

etc.

Anette Acker said...

Ryk,

Essentially I am not Dawkins, or anyone else. Also I do not see myself as subordinate to anyone else intellectually. The idea that Dawkins accepts fine tuning(which is not precisely what he said) or that some supposedly unbiased physicists claim it is true is not important to me. In the case of physicists I would concede expertise but since what they are claiming is based on personal opinion not any known fact, expertise is a minor issue.

My point was not that I expect you to agree with Dawkins on everything. I was establishing that fine-tuning is a scientific fact, not an opinion.

Dawkins is arguably the world's most famous atheist, and he's no dummy, so if fine-tuning was just an opinion, don't you think he would make that very clear? If it was just an opinion, he would just say that and not bother with the multiverse.

And scientists in general are very clear when something is just speculation. For example, when Stephen Hawking talks about his no boundary proposal in A Brief History of Time, he stresses that it is just a proposal. However, he talks about the fine-tuning as a fact. Same with Jastrow and Collins.

To presuppose a creator in this argument is circular and therefore fallacious. You can not presuppose a creator and then use that presupposition as the basis for an argument demonstrating that creator.

I never presupposed a Creator. I asked: How do we explain the fine-tuning? There are three options: First, a Creator or some sort of intelligence. Second, a multiverse, where we could apply the anthropic principle. And third, just a cosmic accident.

You have rejected option one without further consideration, you find option two "implausible" (which is the one most famous scientific atheists have to fall back on) so that leaves option three.

What you're saying is that it was an accident that for every billions pairs of quarks and antiquarks there was one extra quark. Because scientists know that it could have been off, and if it had been there would have been no planets or stars. And that's just one of the constants that had to be just right. There are many others.

Likewise it would not be intrinsically better or worse if the universe were just radiation and gas. Without life there would be no one to care. The universe being non sentient certainly would not.

You don't think the universe is intrinsically better because it contains sentient creatures to appreciate it? If you could create an intelligent living creature I would be far more impressed than if you could create radiation. But to you it's all the same?

Anette Acker said...

darkknight56:

I think it is interesting that you start off one paragraph with "What we have here is positive scientific evidence for a Creator." but follow it in the next paragraph with "However, none of this constitutes proof of the existence of a God". Aren't evidence and proof pretty much interchangeable terms?

No, they're not the same. It can mean to show or indicate or it can mean to prove. But there is plenty of evidence for the Big Bang and evolution, for example, but there is never proof of a scientific theory.

So this is evidence for a Creator in the sense that it indicates that the world was created, instead of coming into existence on its own.

Francis Collins is an MD and a geneticist, not a cosmologist so I'm not sure what he is basing his opinion on. Other cosmologists feel hold the view of multiverses and we, through sheer chance, ended up in a universe where everything works together to support life. Dawkins is just a biologist but in his book he is echoing both cosmologists and theoretical physicists who think that not only are there multiverses but there are up to 7 additional dimensions other than the 4 we are aware of. It is their evidence, analysis, observations and mathematics that make them think that such things are possible. Gravity is a force, for example, that is 'leaking' into our dimensions from others.

This is not Collins's opinion. He, Jastrow, and Hawking state it as fact. I've seen it stated elsewhere as fact. Dawkins said in a YouTube video that the fine-tuning argument was the best argument for the existence of a God, but the only way he tried to refute it in his book was by speculating about a multiverse and by arguing that God was a complex entity. He admitted that the multiverse was speculation.

I will repeat the point I made to Ryk: If the fine-tuning was just someone's opinion, why would Dawkins not just say that? And since he admitted that it was the best scientific argument for God, why didn't he come up with better ways to refute it, if they existed? He is, after all, a scientist, even thought he's not a cosmologist. Presumably he would know all the scientific facts about a matter so central to his cause.

Jastrow thinks that we can never know what happened before the Big Bang but other scientists feel that they can peer somewhat past the Big Bang and see dimly what was there before and are working to prove this. You are trying to show that God is the First Cause of the Big Bang but it seems that science may be able to push Him back even further still.

They are trying to understand what happened in that split second after the Big Bang, apparently hoping to do so by combining quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity. But even that is consistent with God creating by fiat, because quantum mechanics is based on the uncertainty principle, which could mean that the split second of lawlessness is the miracle that precipitated the laws of nature. Miracles are consistent with quantum mechanics.

As Arend pointed out, science only studies the "how," not the "why." The "how" could be lawlessness, while the "why" could be divine fiat (a miracle) that resulted in order. All of this is completely consistent with the Bible.

Anette Acker said...

QED,

That said, it is not just that there was chaos in the singularity, but no fingerprint whatsoever of any kind of determinism whether by God or anything else. If God meant to create a world with us in it, "He" must have been playing dice.

I already touched on this in my responses to others, but I don't see the absence of determinism as meaning that God played dice. In fact, if the universe was entirely deterministic, someone might argue that there was no need for God. It seems to me that the lawlessness at the singularity is consistent with God speaking the universe into existence by fiat.

Stephen Hawking said: "If God had started [the universe] off in such an incomprehensible way, why did he choose to let it evolve according to laws we could understand? The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired. It would be only natural to suppose that this order should apply not only to the laws, but also to the conditions at the boundary of space-time that specify the initial state of the universe."

There is no reason to suppose that. If God created by fiat, the laws of physics would have taken over immediately afterwards. Hawking is assuming that he would know the mind of God--that if God generally allows the laws of nature to take their course, he always does. However, if the physical properties of a miracle could be studied, they might reveal lawlessness. And the Bible makes it very clear that the moment of creation was a divine miracle. So what we see here is consistent with what the Bible teaches.

Hartle and Hawking also calculated that there was a 95% chance of our universe emerging, uncaused, from this superposition based simply on its inherent mathematical and physical properties. They did this by assigning a wave function to the universe and calculating the probability over all possible universes. By calculating the amplitude of this wave they arrived at the probability of our universe being the one to exist, which apparently is very high.

I’m going to admit that I don’t understand the physics of this, so please correct me if I’m missing the point, so I’ll understand it better. But if the HH model is correct, they would only be analyzing the “how” and not the “why.” Analyzing the mathematical and physical properties doesn’t tell us whether or not it was created. They are simply saying that the universe is 95% deterministic.

Someone may reply that the number should be 100% if God created, since he is omnipotent, and that a percentage like 95% implies that this is based on random natural forces. However, I do not think the conventional wisdom that God wills with complete inflexibility is correct. Rigid determinism is not theologically accurate. If it was, there would be no room for free will, and the Bible clearly says that there is. God is sovereign, and he certainly could have created an entirely deterministic universe. However, if the determinism can be calculated to be 95%, then that allows flexibility into the will of God, even though he is still sovereign. Such a universe is a far greater accomplishment than one that is wholly deterministic.

Anette Acker said...

"The scientific evidence is far more consistent with a Creator than with any natural explanation, because those require us to speculate. However, the biblical account fits without the need to make further assumptions."



I would say the opposite is true. Can you support your claim above?


If the question is, “Why did the universe come into existence the way it did?” we have to consider possible explanations hypotheses. We are not asking a scientific question but a philosophical one, using the science to arrive at our answer. Therefore, the existence of a supernatural creator must be one of the options. Otherwise we are assuming naturalism.

So the biblical explanation is one of the hypotheses. A multiverse is another, as is the no boundaries model, the cyclic models, etc. These are all possible explanations for the evidence. However, the naturalistic explanations include assumptions that cannot be scientifically tested.

The biblical hypothesis, on the other hand, fits without additional assumptions. (Note that the existence of the supernatural is not an assumption, it is an open question.) First, the universe had a beginning and emerged ex nihilo. Second, it was finely tuned in a way that that made it almost statistically impossible that it could happen by chance. Third, even that state of lawlessness that resulted in order is consistent with God creating by fiat. As I said before, it would make sense that the physical properties of a miracle would appear as lawlessness.

If we add all this scientific evidence together, it is consistent with the biblical hypothesis. The “how” of science adds up to the biblical “why.”

Anette Acker said...

Celtic Chimp:

Annette, you were asked a question quite relevent to this and I'm not sure you answered it. It seems crusial to me to the moral questions about God, so I would like to see your take on it, though it is a little off-topic in this thread. You say God meets the moral law perfectly (I assume then you are saying God is perfectly moral). Let's ignore that this law is one of God's own imposition and would therefore from God's point of view be entirely arbitrary. (Unless you are suggesting that morality is something beyond even God. A truth so fundamental even God must adhere to it?) When God tells his chosen people to murder their disrespectful people, to murder people who try to turn them away from him, which would include everyone in here you are debating with, homosexuals, adulterers etc. etc. When he orders that women who refuse to marry their rapist should be killed.

First, a minor point: God never ordered that women who refused to marry their rapists should be killed. This law was a way to protect women at a time when they had no rights and belonged to their fathers or husbands. In fact, Exodus says that if the father refused to give his daughter to the rapist, the rapist would still have to pay the bride price.

But let’s not get sidetracked on that, because the OT has to be interpreted in light of the NT, and I might do a blog post on that, but right now I don’t want to get into it. The NT tells us how to interpret the OT, and suffice it to say that these laws pertained to a primitive culture and God had not yet dispensed His Holy Spirit. So although those laws were ordained by God and quite progressive to that culture, they didn’t represent God’s moral law as revealed and fulfilled in Christ.

Our most accurate picture of the nature of God is through Jesus. John 12:45 says, “He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me.” Colossians 2:9 says: “For in Christ all the fullness of Deity lives in bodily form.” And Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

And Jesus embodied the moral law. I said in an earlier post that He had a transcendent morality, and that is true. People almost universally admit that Jesus personified all virtue. He combined strength and gentleness, dignity and humility, and sensitivity and power.

You and Rabbitpirate commented in the prior thread that Jesus wasn’t so holy since He drove the moneychangers out of the temple. However, as I will elaborate on in my next comment to Ryk, He had to be direct and almost harsh toward the religious hypocrites who kept people from entering the kingdom of God. Because they represented God without really belonging to God, they did (and still do) a tremendous amount of harm. So Jesus, as well as John the Baptist (John 3:7) and Stephen (Acts 7:51), gave it to them right between the eyes.

If our goal is to do as much good as possible to as many people as possible, we will generally be gentle and respectful, but sometimes a different approach is more effective. Forgive the cliché, but sometimes Jesus had to use tough love.

Rabbitpirate asked: “If I did the exact same thing under the exact same circumstances and for the exact same reasons would you say that my actions were perfectly right or would you say that my anger was a sin?”

It would depend. If Rabbitpirate was filled with the Holy Spirit, it might have been the right thing to do, because the Holy Spirit would know the hearts of the people and what kind of impact Rabbitpirate’s actions would have on them. But if he simply decided to do it because he felt a rush of anger, it would have been a sin, and he probably would have been arrested for this sin.

However, it’s a moot point, because if you read the book of Acts, you’ll see that none of the followers of Jesus overturned tables. Jesus was, after all, God, and they were defiling His house, so He demonstrated His displeasure in a memorable way. He also fulfilled a prophecy: “Zeal for Your house has consumed Me” (Psalm 69:9).

Ryk said...

Annette

I have not disputed that the universe is fine tuned for life. What I dispute is that this indicates anything. As I have said the fact that life exists is evidence that the universe supports life.

I do believe we have no way of knowing whether life could arise in some form under different conditions. It could be that our universe is in fact a very unlikely environment for life and that our carbon based life is a very unlikely development and that in a universe that were different life would be bursting forth on every planet and space rock. It is very difficult if not impossible to say what would happen if there were different laws of physics because all of our reasoning ability is based on the laws of physics which we live under.

However to say that this fine tuning is evidence of something other than itself, it would be neccessary to show that it could have been otherwise. This has not been done. Unless we accept the multiverse hypothesis or presuppose a creator, all available evidence says there is no other way the universe could be.

We can speculate of course that this, that or the other might have happened but it is pure speculation. As we have only observed one universe, and we have no reason to believe there are others then the only rational conclusion is that this is the only way a universe can be. Anything else is pure science fiction.

If as I propose this is the only way a universe can be then the fact that it is fine tuned for life says nothing at all about it other than that is the only way a universe can be. Also as we have no way to say that life requires these conditions to exist we can not even certainly say that this fine tuning even exists. At besst we can say that the universe is fine tuned for the type of life which we have observed existing in this universe, which is pretty much obvious.

As to Dawkins status, he is not a physicist or a cosmologist. His expertise on the laws of physics and fine tuning is pretty suspect. I am sure he has done his research and he is rather intelligent but those are not his areas of expertise. I will certainly defer to his expertise in biology but that is about it. Physics and Cosmology are also not my fields so I will defer expertise to Hawkings but he has not said anything on the subject other than speculation. His speculations are always interesting but unless backed by evidence are just that, speculation.

Now as to a universe that probably couldn't support life, one composed of radiation and gas that is another piece of speculation. Since we do not assume a multiverse and the universe is not simply composed of radiation and gas then based on the evidence available such a universe can not exist. If it could then it would and we would not be here discussing this. However if we presume the possibility of other universes where such a place is possible I still fail to see some objective standard by which it would be inferior to our own. Better and worse are concepts based on intelligence.

In a universe without intelligence there would be no better or worse. Only with intelligence do such concepts have meaning and if there is intelligence there is life and therefore there is a universe which supports life.

I could say that a universe with life is better than one without, (I am not sure I wish to say that but I could), however that is only because I exist in a universe with life. In a universe without life who would be saying that?

Anette Acker said...

Ryk,

However it is not my certainty that there is no God that makes me an anti-theist, that is the source of my atheism. My anti theism is based on my belief that rekigion, although occasionally providing for good is a net negative to the world. It is my belief that all of the good that comes from religion could be realized just as readily through secular philosophy. It is also my belief that the harm done by religion is endemic and that religion can not exist without doing this harm. Bigotry, hatred, ignorance, abuse, and suppressing the human spirit are deliberately or not an irremovable part of religion.

I think that any time you have a group, outspoken extremists will create spiritual and intellectual straitjackets for its members, and they will be convinced that those who disagree are at the very least dishonest, and probably evil. For example, Sam Harris publicly criticized Francis Collins just for being a Christian, saying that he couldn’t possibly be an unbiased and competent scientist. My husband has a friend who is convinced that all Republicans are racists, and he interprets everything in light of this conviction (I think he has accepted my husband as an exception, though).

But I find it far more upsetting to see bigotry, abuse, ignorance, and suppression of the human spirit among Christians than any other group, because it is the antithesis of what Jesus taught. When so-called Christians act like this, they defame Him in the worst possible way. It is the greatest threat to Christianity.

Jesus reached out with love to those who were stigmatized in every way—the lowest and most “unclean” in His society (John 4:7-26). He shattered stereotypes and taught His followers not to judge. He opposed violence of any kind (Luke 22:51). And when people rejected His message, He simply let them go without coercion or insults (Matthew 19:22). Where the Holy Spirit governs, there will be no suppression of the human spirit or straitjackets of any kind. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17).

In fact, the enemies of Jesus were the religious people you are describing. They opposed His message, lied about Him and accused Him of having an evil spirit, and they eventually crucified Him. They were the greatest threat to His message, because they appeared pious to other people, but they were far from God. The problem persists today, except now His enemies call themselves Christians.

And as I said to Celtic Chimp, Jesus is the Christian God, so He is the One we will answer to if we ignore or contradict His teachings. It is your God-given moral compass that tells you to hate the things you are describing.

You are right that if we get rid of all religion, we will also get rid of religious corruption. And if we replace all lawns with Astroturf, we won’t have to worry about weeds. And if we castrate all men, we would solve a whole host of societal problems. But most people believe that would be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Yes, there’s a certain kind of ugliness that seems unique to religious people, but much good has come from Christianity as well. And any true Christian will, by definition, be led by the Spirit of God, and so will become increasingly like Christ. Many people’s lives have been dramatically changed when they came to Christ. And you can’t deny that if people followed the teachings of Jesus it would be a net good to society. Even Mahatma Gandhi admired Jesus and tried to live by His teachings.

I’m sure you’ll agree that state atheism is not the solution to religious corruption. Look at the former Soviet Union, Cuba, and North Korea. Religious freedom is an important civil right, and even when governments quash it, they can’t suppress faith—Christians in countries that forbid religion are the most committed. And in spite of the Soviet Union’s attempt to eliminate religion, a high percentage is now religious.

Anette Acker said...

The solution to the kind of problems you are describing is more, not less of the Spirit of Christ. The more seriously Christians take their faith, the less bigoted, ignorant, and judgmental they will be. And they will respect the rights and freedoms of others. James 3:17 says: “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.” This is true Christianity, as clearly spelled out in the Bible—everything else is just a corruption.

QED said...

Hi Annette -

You brought up several pairs of ideas in your last posts to me which I would like to address.

First, let us start with what we know, at least in a broad sense. We humans exist, have the ability to reason and find ourselves in a natural reality which we have come to call 'the universe'.

Now, as humans we are also curious beings and want to know and understand the 'how' and 'why' of things (which you alluded to in your posts). And in explaining anything under question, we must give inference to the best explanation. At the moment, I cannot say which is the best explanation, but nevertheless, I would like to examine the possibilities.

In a broad overarching sense, there are only two possibilities:

(1) Naturalism

or, what I shall call

(2) Supernaturalism

Of course, the "best" explanation will be the one with the most explanatory power, while making the fewest unnecessary assumptions.

In your case, you clearly choose supernaturalism as the best explanation (a very specific kind), but here are a few critiques I have:

(a) In the form of a question(s) what is the purpose of postulating a creator? Is it really because the evidence warrants such a conclusion or is it because it is merely possible?

Most religious adherents I know (including myself) took this or that religious stance first and only after looked for logical grounds on which to believe. This suggests that it is not obvious that "the God hypothesis" is a natural conclusion to be drawn in matters of rational investigation. Instead, most religious conclusions seem to be drawn based on emotional factors (at least initially) or are perpetuated from past cultural pressures.
Of course, this doesn't make such conclusions false, but it does cast suspicion on their veracity.

(b) If someone does conclude that supernaturalism is plausible (for whatever reason), it is by no means clear what version or form should be chosen. There are many possibilities, which we might, for the sake of simplicity, place into three general categories:
(i) Pantheism
(ii) Deism
(iii) Theism
Each of these categories contain views that could be argued coherently and consistently.

This wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that you build an entire theology on what you yourself admitted was only an "open question". Even this wouldn't be so bad if that theology didn't carry claims of extreme consequences, such as going to Hell.

(c) The above also leads to another objection. That is, even if supernaturalism is reasonable, the very fact that it might be broadly reasonable is evidence against the Christian version. This goes together with the fact that naturalism is also reasonable. That is, Paul claims in the Bible that the existence of God (in the theistic category) is so obvious that everyone is without excuse. This seems demonstrably false, since this very conversation and ones like it show that other conclusions are quite rational to maintain. So, why posit a supernatural explanation when we find ourselves in a very natural reality and have no experience of supernatural things?

There is more that I would like to address, but I'll end here for now so as not to overburden this dialogue.

Ryk said...

I have said many times that I do not support state atheism or even any limits on religious freedom. If someone chose to worship their left foot I would be fine with that legally. It is through education that I would hope to eliminate religion.

I believe firmly that with proper scientific and philosophical education, religion will be abandoned. This may take time but the sooner the better. In that folk like Ray Comfort are actually an asset and that is one reason I bait him. The better illustrated the ignorance of superstition is the easier it is for education to eradicate it.

You claim that much good has come from religion and I don't entirely refute that. In primitive times it was a useful substitute for knowledge. Also in primitive times it provided authority to the thinking class as opposed to just the guy with the big club.

However those days are long over and there is no further good to be drawn from religion. Even at the time of your Christ figure religion had already outlived its usefulness. Now it is only the negatives from religion that remain and the sooner we can grow past them the better.

It seems to be well underway. The most common complaint I hear from Christians is that their children tend to abandon the faith after adulthood. Either as atheists or as token Christians. Even in America atheists and the irreligous are growing and in Europe religious belief is plummetting except unfortunately among Muslims but that is not a big concern, in a few generations they will catch up.

That is what I mean by anti-theist. You would never see me lobbying for restrictions on religious liberty or compelled atheism. I want people to voluntarily move past religion, not have it taken from them.

Ryk said...

As to living by the teachings of Jesus being good for society, I find that doubtful. I do nopt mean it would be all bad. Jesus said many useful things for a civil society. They are however crude and simple things that do not require any sort of divine omniscience to figure out.

More to the point they are not overly useful to the governing of a modern and free people. Yes loving your neighbor as your self is a noble sounding concept, but in what way does it actually apply to real life. I am not even sure it is even a good idea. As to the loving God part of Jesus teaching, that is something I am in complete opposition to. Jesus may have been very wise in terms of the people he spoke to 2000 years ago, but to modern ears he is nothing but a primitive witch doctor muttering crude philosophy. The Greeks were far more advanced in terms of philosophy than Jesus centuries before his birth.

Christianity did not become a dominant faith because its message was good it did so because it caught the fancy of the Romans who had the power to spread it forcibly throughout Europe. It continued because the Europeans, particularly through the Catholic church, then forcibly indoctrinated every primitive culture they encountered.

If we were to base a society on a philosopher I would personally choose Epicurus but there are many others to choose from who would be better than Jesus to work from.

As I said it is not that the words attributed to the Christ figure are bad, they just aren't particularly good.

Anette Acker said...

QED,

I'm writing a new blog post where I will address your general point. Maybe we can take it from there, and I'll reply to your specific arguments in the comments.

Anette Acker said...

Ryk:

You claim that much good has come from religion and I don't entirely refute that. In primitive times it was a useful substitute for knowledge.

That's not what I meant. The good that has come from Christianity is people caring for others in the way Jesus did and lives being changed. In many ways our society is based on the values taught by Jesus.

To the extent that the Bible has been "substitute for knowledge" that has never been a good thing. People have used that over the centuries to oppose scientific progress.

Yes loving your neighbor as your self is a noble sounding concept, but in what way does it actually apply to real life. I am not even sure it is even a good idea.

It is highly relevant to real life. Most importantly, it means empathy. It makes us conscious of how other people are feeling, and it enables us to put our own pride aside when we interact with them. If we love our neighbors as ourselves we will not use people for our own purposes, but we'll have their well-being in mind.

As to the loving God part of Jesus teaching, that is something I am in complete opposition to.

The more I've grown to love God, the more I see that every person bears His imprint, even those who are least like Him. It makes it impossible to hate anyone.

Also, when we love God, His Spirit lives within us, so we see other people the way He does. The commandment to love others as ourselves is contingent on the commandment to love God.

I have said many times that I do not support state atheism or even any limits on religious freedom. If someone chose to worship their left foot I would be fine with that legally. It is through education that I would hope to eliminate religion.

I did not assume that you would support state atheism, although I didn't know that you have said that many times. My point was that you don't know what a society where people have freely abandoned Christianity would be like. We know something about state atheism, but I recognize that that also involves restrictions on freedom and human rights.

As I said it is not that the words attributed to the Christ figure are bad, they just aren't particularly good.

I don't understand why you say that. If you oppose bigotry, abuse, ignorance, and suppression of the human spirit, you should be in 100% agreement with Christ. He was opposed to those things at a time when everybody was bigoted.

The people who act that way are not followers of Christ. The Bible states very clearly that we will know them by their fruit (Matthew 7:16). If they don't bear good fruit, we should dismiss everything they say, otherwise we are being fooled.

What I hear you saying is that you want to get rid of certain evils in human nature. Why then do you want to get rid of the teachings of Christ, when He stood for everything you support?

Ryk said...

Christ did not fundamentally stand for what I support. While some of his superficial teachings are fine they can easily be arrived at through non rekigious philosophy. The central point of the message of Christ however is salvation through grace. This is the part I oppose. The idea that all sins are forgiven through the sacrifice of the messiah is a wicked doctrine.

It says that those who believe need not have empathy or do any good thing their salvation is assured because they accept the sacrifice made on their behalf. They could be bigots, murderers, oppressors and child molesters and live happily in paradise. On the other hand the most kind and noble of people are doomed to hell for not accepting it. Some like Ray Comfort say that they are actually damned for their sins not for their disbelief but that is contrary to the words of Christ who said "there is no way to the father except through the son. At any rate even if this were true it is still unjust as someone who lied once as a young person would be damned but a serial rapist who repented would be rewarded.

This doctrine is the reaso Christianity can be used to justify so much evil. I know you believe that those who are saved are changed by the holy spirit and no longer are serial rapists for example. I don't however believe that I only believe that Christianity is a belief system and therefore can only be judged by its value as a philosophy and not by some mystical personality adjustment.

As a philosophy the words of Christ offer nothing of value that could not be arrived at through basic empathy and consideration.

It is my wish to see a society that draws its values from basic empathy and consideration not mythological authority.

Anette Acker said...

Hi Ryk,

Christ did not fundamentally stand for what I support.

He was fundamentally opposed to bigotry, abuse, ignorance, and suppression of the human spirit. If you oppose those things as well, you have that in common. Obviously there may be things that you support that Christ did not fundamentally stand for--atheism for one thing.

The funny thing about you, though, is that on the one hand you're an anti-theist, but on the other hand, you instinctively arrive at conclusions about how things should be that coincide with how they are according to Christian theology. You appear to be like the person described in Romans 2:14-16 (but of course I don't know you very well). Even the first comment you made on my blog about inclination leading to sin gets to the heart of the matter. Christ changes our inclinations. That's how He saves us.

I don't however believe that I only believe that Christianity is a belief system and therefore can only be judged by its value as a philosophy and not by some mystical personality adjustment.

I'm glad to know that you judge Christianity as a belief system. This is what it teaches: We are saved by faith, but that faith has the power to completely change us. This means that "Christians" who have "accepted" the sacrifice of Christ, but persist in doing evil are not saved. Christ saves us from our sins. If we remain in our sins, it is proof that we don't have faith. So we don't earn salvation by good works, but good works are evidence that we are saves.

It is, of course, possible for a serial rapist to be saved. Christ doesn't hold any of our past sins against us. But if he is saved, his life will be dramatically changed. Are you saying that there should be no chance of redemption for someone like that, even if he himself was abused or had an otherwise rough childhood?

We are saved by receiving the immortal Spirit of God, who seals us for the day of redemption. This means that we will live forever in the Paradise that God has prepared for redeemed humanity. A "good" person who rejects that gift, rejects it. If you reject a good gift, you make a poor choice. This is why the Bible often categorizes people in terms of wise and unwise, rather than good and evil. But to accept the gift, we have to acknowledge that we need it. That is, we have to see our own sinfulness.

This doctrine is the reaso Christianity can be used to justify so much evil.

Everything good can be corrupted, and the higher the good, the worse the corruption. In my mind, there is nothing worse than people who use the word of God to abuse others. I have several times almost stopped reading AC because of this type of behavior combined with blasphemy from some of the atheists.

Anette Acker said...

Can Epicurus change our wrong inclinations?

Ryk said...

Anette Acker asked:

"Can Epicurus change our wrong inclinations?"


No of course not he is dead, and even if he were alive today he would have no magical powers. For all I know he may not even have existed as history records him.

However all of the above is also true for Christ. A philosophy on the other hand can change our inclinations and I fully believe the philosophy espoused by Epicurus is infinitely better than the one put forth by Christ.

Once again you appeal to the idea that there is some sort of change that happens in Christians who are saved and that those who do bad things aren't true Christians. This is meaningless unless you believe in magic. As a non Christian it is simply a belief system that people follow, some of these people do good some do bad and there is no real imperative in the philosophy for either to be the case. As a worldview Christianity does not encourage good practices, it simply encourages worshipping Christ. Good practices are irrelevant to Christianity. Any good that does come from Christianity is incidental to the faith not because of it.

As to my thoughts on redemption I don't believe it exists in the same way you do. I don't believe there is any spiritual forgiveness, however as a philosophy the idea that forgiveness comes from anything other than acts of restitution or penance by the guilty party is a morally weak philosophy. The idea that someone can be rewarded despite having done nothing to redeem his evil while a person who has fully redeemed his failings would be tortured based on whether they believed in some substitutionary punishment that was done for them millenia ago is just silly and morally bankrupt.

That is why I call Christianity amoral there is no moral imperative attached to it. The claim of Christ changing peoples lives or behaviors is simply an assertion without evidence. It requires accepting the divinity which I do not. Judged only as a belief system christianity is lacking in any virtue.

Anette Acker said...

I apologize for taking so long to get back to you, Ryk. Hopefully you checked the email notification box so you'll find this.

However all of the above is also true for Christ.

You do not know this. This is what your intuition tells you. My intuition tells me you’re wrong. I appreciate your consistency in saying that you don't know if Epicurus existed the way history records him. I take it you believe in Jesus as an historical figure then?

Once again you appeal to the idea that there is some sort of change that happens in Christians who are saved and that those who do bad things aren't true Christians. This is meaningless unless you believe in magic.

Do you believe in the possibility of other dimensions? If so, why is the possibility of a spiritual dimension that intersects our own impossible to you? If you were to go back in time and explain that someday we would defy gravity and fly across the ocean, those people might say that they don’t believe in magic. Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s magic.

As a worldview Christianity does not encourage good practices, it simply encourages worshipping Christ. Good practices are irrelevant to Christianity. Any good that does come from Christianity is incidental to the faith not because of it.

Who do you think understands Christianity as a worldview better: you or me? Hint: It's the person who can substantiate her statements about it with Bible references, because Christianity is defined by what is written in the Bible.

Here’s what it says:

“If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth” (1 Peter 1:17). “Fear” means reverence in this context. But this clearly states that our deeds will be judged impartially.

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6). Faith is the means but love is the end, and if we do not love others it is evidence that we don’t have faith. And of course love according to the Bible is not just a feeling but the way that we relate to others. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 says: “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, etc.”

Matthew 25:31-46 gives a glimpse of Judgment Day, and it reveals that God will judge our sins of omission. That is a sobering thought but it makes sense in light of the fact that to be saved by faith is to love, and if we love other people, we will not ignore their needs.

I could quote many more passages, but suffice it to say that Christianity, as a worldview, teaches that Christ changes our heart so that we become like Him. That means we do His will. So faith is inexorably tied to good practices.

Ryk said...

Annette

Here are two quotes regarding Christianity that really matters and it is from Jesus. It states that no one may come to the father except through the son. It also states that whosoever believes in Christ shall not perish but have everlasting life. These to sum it up far better than your quotes which I was fully aware of. My point is correct in that salvation accordin g to Christianity is only about worshipping Christ and has no relevance to behavior at all hence it is amoral.

As to the historical nature of Christ I would say that there was not only one but several Jesus,Yesu,Yeshua etc. wandering around claiming to be the messiah. This seems to have been popular after the fall of the temple. I may even go so far as to concede that one of these would be messiahs was crucufied bi Pilate or some other Roman. However that does not mean that most of the story is not myth making rather than fact.

In theory you are correct that my intuition about Christ could be wrong however you have not demonstrated so. That people die is substantiated fact. That they rise from the dead is not. If you wish to propose the latter then the burden of proof is on you. My intuition is based on the well established fact that people die. Yours on the unsubstantiated assertion that dead people come back. My intuition about Christ being wrong is no more likely than my intuition about any other magical thing being wrong.

You also ask:
Do you believe in the possibility of other dimensions?
No there is no evidence that such things are anything other than fantasy or at best speculation.

If so, why is the possibility of a spiritual dimension that intersects our own impossible to you?
For the same reason given above it is speculation or fantasy, completely unsupported by evidence

If you were to go back in time and explain that someday we would defy gravity and fly across the ocean, those people might say that they don’t believe in magic.

Time travel is inherently impossible. Even if the speculation that time exists in such a fashion as to allow travel, it has been show mathematically that paradox and feedback would render such travel impossible

Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s magic.

True enough but if it can not be shown to exist, if no mechanism as to its function can be put forward and it only seems to work for people who choose to believe in it you might as well call it magic if not outright fiction. For example if I were to tell a primitive who knew nothing of aircraft that I could fly he would at first think I am crazy, if I then show him my airplane he would think it magic if I then educcate him about its functioning he would then know it is not magic but science. However if I just sat around saying that he needed to believe in the airplane and that it was invisible and I would fly as soon as he really believed. He would probably never get pas thinking I was crazy.

Ryk said...

You say:
" could quote many more passages, but suffice it to say that Christianity, as a worldview, teaches that Christ changes our heart so that we become like Him. That means we do His will. So faith is inexorably tied to good practices.

Yes I am aware that many brands of Christianity assert such a spiritual change. Others assert that it is predetermined who will be saved others seem to think that you can lose salvation through sinfulness others think that once saved always saved. It gets complicated.

I have not disputed that some brands of Christianity claim this magical personality change occurs, I dispute that it actually does occur. If it did then I could see the connection between Christianity and morality however I have seen nothing to indicate it does happen.

Anette Acker said...

Ryk,

I apologize again for taking so long to get back to you, but I was on vacation for a week. (Also, I wrote out a long response, and Blogger ate it.)

Here are two quotes regarding Christianity that really matters and it is from Jesus. It states that no one may come to the father except through the son. It also states that whosoever believes in Christ shall not perish but have everlasting life. These to sum it up far better than your quotes which I was fully aware of. My point is correct in that salvation accordin g to Christianity is only about worshipping Christ and has no relevance to behavior at all hence it is amoral.

Yes, salvation is through Christ alone, but believing in (or on) Him will result in good works; otherwise it is proof that we have not come to know Him, and therefore we are not saved. 1 John 2:3-4 says, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

Here are a few more passages: "Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience, resulting in righteousness?" (Romans 6:16).

"For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries" (Hebrews 10:26-27).

"God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth" (2 Thess. 2:13). Salvation is through sanctification, by the Spirit and faith. This is not optional.

"Faith without works is dead" (James 2:26).

"For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God"
 (Romans 8:14).

Yes I am aware that many brands of Christianity assert such a spiritual change. Others assert that it is predetermined who will be saved others seem to think that you can lose salvation through sinfulness others think that once saved always saved. It gets complicated.

You are referencing Calvinism, which also teaches that a saved Christian will undergo a spiritual change (all classical Christianity teaches that). In fact, the first argument you made about inclination is a very Calvinistic concept. Christ changes our inclinations. Charles Spurgeon (a Calvinist) said the following:

"The faith that saves is not believing certain truths, nor even believing that Jesus is a Savior; but it is resting on Him, depending on Him, lying with all your weight on Christ, as the foundation of your hope." And if we do, we will be changed.

I have not disputed that some brands of Christianity claim this magical personality change occurs, I dispute that it actually does occur. If it did then I could see the connection between Christianity and morality however I have seen nothing to indicate it does happen.

I’m sorry to hear that. But if you have not seen Christians behaving better than nonbelievers, that does not contradict the teachings of Jesus. Matthew 7:21-23 says that many professing Christians will be turned away on Judgment Day. 7:24 says that we have to put His words into practice to be saved. And Jesus says that He won’t even be the one to judge us—His words will judge us. "If anyone hears My sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (John 12:47-48).

Anette Acker said...

In the gospels, Jesus talks a lot about the kingdom of God. Living by faith means living according to His teachings like a "lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts" (2 Peter 1:19). If we ignore that, we will not be fit for the kingdom of God.

Anette Acker said...

In theory you are correct that my intuition about Christ could be wrong however you have not demonstrated so. That people die is substantiated fact. That they rise from the dead is not. If you wish to propose the latter then the burden of proof is on you. My intuition is based on the well established fact that people die. Yours on the unsubstantiated assertion that dead people come back. My intuition about Christ being wrong is no more likely than my intuition about any other magical thing being wrong.

Of course I have the burden of proof. What surprises me is that you are so sure that there is no God, and that is based almost entirely on intuition. You don't sense God's presence, and therefore you are sure there is no God. My faith is largely based on reason, but it is in part intuition, and even before I became a Christian, I believed intuitively that there was a God.

You also ask:
Do you believe in the possibility of other dimensions?
No there is no evidence that such things are anything other than fantasy or at best speculation.

If so, why is the possibility of a spiritual dimension that intersects our own impossible to you?
For the same reason given above it is speculation or fantasy, completely unsupported by evidence


I didn't ask you if you believe in these things, I asked if you believe in the possibility of these things. How can you be so sure about things you don't know anything about?

For example if I were to tell a primitive who knew nothing of aircraft that I could fly he would at first think I am crazy, if I then show him my airplane he would think it magic if I then educcate him about its functioning he would then know it is not magic but science. However if I just sat around saying that he needed to believe in the airplane and that it was invisible and I would fly as soon as he really believed. He would probably never get pas thinking I was crazy.

This is why I explain things rationally rather than telling you to just believe.

Many things about why an airplane can fly are invisible concepts that have to be understood and believed. They are abstract concepts. However, the primitive person may not believe it unless he or she saw it. This doesn't mean it's not real.

Ryk said...

In response to my answer to the question of whether I believed in the possibility of other dimensions you said the following:

I didn't ask you if you believe in these things, I asked if you believe in the possibility of these things. How can you be so sure about things you don't know anything about?

I don't know anything about leprechauns yet I am sure they do not exist. From a very specific point of logic I would have to concede that I can not truly discount the "possibility" of anything even leprechauns and other dimensions. That is however a technicality.

Even should I admit that technical possibility that gives no credibility to that possibility. I have to concede that my left arm might possibly hop off my shoulder and drag itself downtown for drinks, that does not mean it is a meaningful possibility.

I am as certain that God or other dimensions are not real for the exact same reason I discount the existence of leprechauns and fairies. There is no plausible reason to assume they exist and that which is presented without evidence may be dismissed without evidence.

There is also the principle of negative evidence. We can assume that when something happens it leaves evidence. We can through logic and observation determine what some of this evidence might be. Should that evidence not be present then it is more likely the event did not happen. Especially if there is no powitive evidence supporting the event.

This really can not be applied to any possible deity or any possible fey creature but it can be applied to the Christian God and also to leprechauns. With the Christian God it would be, assuming the Bible were accurate, true that there would be evidence of a worldwide flood. It would also be true that there would be evidemce supporting common creation instead of common descent. I am sure I can find others. These are not present.

That is what I mean when I say other dimensions whether physical, temporal, or spiritual are pure speculation and for all practical purposes do not exist.

Ryk said...

You ask
Many things about why an airplane can fly are invisible concepts that have to be understood and believed. They are abstract concepts.


Which ones are abstract concepts. Niether gravity or wind resistance are abstract and that is all that is required to demonstrate flight. I can not think of anthing about aircraft that is abstract. Secondly I did not say that something that must be seen to believed does not exist if someone has not seen it. I am saying there is no reason for someone who has not seen to believe. Someone who has not seen could ask to be shown and if he is not he is quite right to not believe.

This does not mean he could not be mistaken in not believing but he is stilk correct for not doing so. Otherwise he would find himself believing in every silly thing that anyone proposes.

Do you admit the possibility that a giant cow licked the world out of ice? How about the "multiverse" being branches of a freat tree. How about all life descending from the first tree and first midget created buy the fLying sPaghetti mOnster?

I do not because there is no evidence or logical argumentation that can successfuly support the premise. While the argumentation in favor of other dimensions is somewhat better, it has still not progressed beyond interesting speculation. The argumentation in favor of deities and other supernatural creatures is somewhat less convincing than that.

Ryk said...

I understand that the idea that your deity changes people is supported by scripture. I also understand that the "no true Scottsman fallacy" is also embodied in scripture. However something being supported by scripture does not make it true.

What I meant was that I have seen nothing to indicate such a spiritual change. I have certainly seen people changed as a result of religion. Christians, Buddhists and Wiccans. However there is nothing to indicate such changes are supernatural. They are far more plausibly do to that persons belief that religion will make them change. This is not a spiritual change but a self imposed personality change. I have experienced a similar change do to secular philosophy.

Anette Acker said...

I am as certain that God or other dimensions are not real for the exact same reason I discount the existence of leprechauns and fairies. There is no plausible reason to assume they exist and that which is presented without evidence may be dismissed without evidence.

Let's go back to the fine-tuning argument again, because I don't think we quite wrapped that up in our earlier conversation. I’ve already talked about the fine-tuning of the laws and constants in my blog posts, and just how unlikely it is that it would have happened by chance. For example, I mentioned in my most recent post that astrophysicist Michael Turner said, "The precision is as if one could throw a dart across the entire universe and hit a bulls eye one millimeter in diameter on the other side."

In spite of this, you are as certain that there is no Creator as you are that there are no fairies or leprechauns, because you see no plausible reason to assume that He exists. With all due respect, Ryk, that makes no sense to me whatsoever.

Philosopher John Leslie uses the following example: Let’s say a firing squad of fifty expert marksmen take aim at a man from a short distance and they all miss. Your response would essentially be a shrug of the shoulders—all we know is that they missed—as if you didn’t want to entertain the possibility (probability!) that they intentionally missed.

That, my friend, is special pleading. Under any other circumstances than the fine-tuning of the universe, you would say that such odds point to purposeful, intelligent action, without question or doubt.

In science, and according to Occam’s Razor, the simplest explanation is considered the most logical and most likely. Here, an intelligent Creator is the simplest and by far the most likely explanation for why the universe is as fine-tuned as it is. At the very least you cannot say that there is no evidence.

I understand that the idea that your deity changes people is supported by scripture. I also understand that the "no true Scottsman fallacy" is also embodied in scripture. However something being supported by scripture does not make it true.

I have never made the claim to non-believers that something is true because it is supported by Scripture. I do, however, correct them when they misunderstand the Bible, explain what it teaches, and answer their questions. That is not the same as saying, “The Bible says X, and therefore X is true.” However, I think the more one understands the Bible, the more it has the ring of truth.

The No True Scotsman fallacy does not apply here. There are certain objective criteria that determine whether someone is a Scotsman, and if he or she meets the criteria, that is all that matters. There are good, bad, and ugly Scotsmen—it simply doesn’t matter. A Christian, on the other hand, is a disciple of Jesus Christ, and John 15:8 says, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” In other words, if we don’t bear good fruit, we are not disciples of Jesus. This is extremely logical, and not fallacious at all, because a true Christian is led by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14), so naturally a Christian will bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

Anette Acker said...

What I meant was that I have seen nothing to indicate such a spiritual change. I have certainly seen people changed as a result of religion. Christians, Buddhists and Wiccans. However there is nothing to indicate such changes are supernatural. They are far more plausibly do to that persons belief that religion will make them change. This is not a spiritual change but a self imposed personality change. I have experienced a similar change do to secular philosophy.

To a certain extent you are right that philosophy changes us. For example, most educated people are no longer sexist or racist. So I want to republish here something I quoted on Atheist Central from an article called, Christianity: The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Women.

"In ancient Greece, a respectable woman was not allowed to leave the house unless she was accompanied by a trustworthy male escort. A wife was not permitted to eat or interact with male guests in her husband’s home; she had to retire to her woman’s quarters. Men kept their wives under lock and key, and women had the social status of a slave. Girls were not allowed to go to school, and when they grew up they were not allowed to speak in public. Women were considered inferior to men. The Greek poets equated women with evil. Remember Pandora and her box? Woman was responsible for unleashing evil on the world.

"The status of Roman women was also very low. Roman law placed a wife under the absolute control of her husband, who had ownership of her and all her possessions. He could divorce her if she went out in public without a veil. A husband had the power of life and death over his wife, just as he did his children. As with the Greeks, women were not allowed to speak in public."

But the author says the following about Jesus:

"The extremely low status that the Greek, Roman, and Jewish woman had for centuries was radically affected by the appearance of Jesus Christ. His actions and teachings raised the status of women to new heights, often to the consternation and dismay of his friends and enemies. By word and deed, he went against the ancient, taken-for-granted beliefs and practices that defined woman as socially, intellectually, and spiritually inferior.

"The humane and respectful way Jesus treated and responded to the Samaritan woman [at the well] (recorded in John 4) may not appear unusual to readers in today’s Western culture. Yet what he did was extremely unusual, even radical. He ignored the Jewish anti-Samaritan prejudices along with prevailing view that saw women as inferior beings."

And she quotes Dorothy Sayers as follows:

"Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man—there had never been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, who never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as ‘The women, God help us!’ or ‘The ladies, God bless them!’; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously, who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no ax to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unselfconscious."

Anette Acker said...

I have another quote for you pertaining to the fine-tuning of the universe. It is by Clifford Longley, in the article, “Focusing on Theism,” London Times.

“No such argument can ever be absolutely conclusive, and the anthropic fine-tuning argument stops just short of knock-down proof. For there could’ve been millions and millions of different universes created each with different settings, of the fundamental ratios and constants, so many in fact that one with the right set was eventually bound to turn up by sheer chance. We just happened to be the lucky ones. But there is no evidence for such a theory what-so-ever. On the other hand the evidence for the truth of anthropic fine-tuning argument is of such an order of certainty that in any other sphere of science we would regard it as absolutely settled. To insist otherwise is like insisting that Shakespeare was not written by Shakespeare because it might have been written by billions of monkeys sitting at billions of keyboards over billions of years. But so it might. But the sight of the scientific atheist clutching at such desperate straws has put new spring in the step of the theists. For the first time in more than a hundred years, they no longer feel the need to apologize for their beliefs. Perhaps now, they should apologize for their previous apologies.”

Anette Acker said...

With the Christian God it would be, assuming the Bible were accurate, true that there would be evidence of a worldwide flood. It would also be true that there would be evidemce supporting common creation instead of common descent. I am sure I can find others. These are not present.

I apologize for forgetting to address these important points. I do not think the Bible necessarily claims that the flood was global, and there is scientific evidence of a major regional flood at that exact time.

The water came from the "fountains of the great deep" as well as "the floodgates of the sky" (Genesis 7:11). What is this "great deep"? Other Bible passages indicate that it is the ocean. Wikipedia confirms this event:

Burckle Crater is an undersea crater likely to have been formed by a very large scale and relatively recent (c. 2800-3000 BC) comet or meteorite impact event. It is estimated to be about 30 km (18 mi) in diameter [1], hence about 25 times larger than Meteor Crater.

The comet would have struck the Indian Ocean, between Madagascar and Australia, causing a mega tsunami. According to the Bible, that, combined with torrents of rain, is exactly what happened.

The Bible doesn't necessarily say that it was a global flood. The Hebrew word used is eretz, which can mean the earth on which we stand, or the ground, or it can mean the whole earth. In the story of Joseph and the famine, the same word is used, and the context there tells us that it was a regional famine.

As for common descent, the Bible tells us clearly that God created everything from nothing at the beginning of time, but it doesn't tell us how. Did you know that Augustine, writing in the fifth century, believed that God created the "seed" of the universe at the moment of creation, and it became what it is over a long period of time? He based this interpretation entirely on the Scriptures, since this was long before the theory of evolution.

I have never had a problem with the theory of evolution from a biblical standpoint. In fact, I said the following on AC a few days ago:

"I have never had a problem with evolution because to me it seems like exactly the kind of mechanism God would use. It has His fingerprints all over it. Christians believe that the Bible is God's special revelation and creation is His general revelation, and in this sense I think evolution reflects the Bible, God's special revelation.

"First, evolution parallels the development of an unborn baby, and the Bible uses this type of parallelism all the time. That is, the same idea or symbolism will repeat itself with slight variations throughout the Bible.

"Second, evolution appears to embody a type of determinism that still allows for free will. This is what we see in the Scriptures--that God is sovereign, but He has not created robots. He has a purpose for His creation and He remains intimately involved, but He preserves its freedom.

"Third, Christian theology teaches that we are "but dust" and next to nothing, but God has chosen to make us "a little lower than God" and crown us with "glory and majesty" (Psalm 8:5). So it should humble us, but not demean us, if we originated from one-celled organisms. Our status in God's eyes is a gracious gift, not something we inherently deserve."

Anette Acker said...

In case you are wondering why I said that evolution embodies a type of determinism that allows for free will, I discuss this with Old and New Dreams (an atheist on AC) where he/she said the following:

It does show that our genes through evolution have acquired what complexity theorists call emergence. One could call this intelligent design I suppose, but it is substantially different from the intelligent design Ray believes in. Genetic code accomplishes amazing things, and anyone who studies exactly what it is capable of will have a completely changed view of the biosphere and will come to the conclusion that not only is Ray wrong showing speciation is irrefutable, but also evolution is not the blind random thing that Dawkins proposes either.

I responded:

Denis Alexander, the author of Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose? makes the same point that new discoveries in evolutionary biology indicate design rather than random chance. In other words, we are not a cosmic accident like Stephen Jay Gould believed. Gould thought that if we could wind back the tape and start over again the chances would be "vanishingly small that anything like human intelligence would grace the replay."

Alexander goes on to say, “In this respect it is interesting to see, in the recent scientific literature, challenges to Gould’s idea of an extreme contingency operating in the evolutionary process. In reality it doesn’t look like that: the mechanisms of life look highly constrained, far more than we ever realised even a decade or so ago.”

So he said that evolutionary biologists are beginning to see the same type of anthropic principle at work in evolution that we see in the fine-tuning of the universe.

Ryk said...

I find the fine tuning argument ridiculous rather than settled. It is only settled in the minds of those who, completely without evidence, believe that the universe could have been something other than it is. To do so one must either presuppose some sort of multiverse where other universes could exist, or presuppose a creator which might have created other universes but did not.

There is however no reason to presuppose either. We have empirical knowledge of only one universe, we have knowledge that it functions within certain parameters, and we have knowledge that it appears to function in an orderly fashion. So according to the evidence there is only one universe and therefore only one way a universe can behave.

To even propose that there are millions of other ways a universe could have been but wasn't you must first show that even one other sort of universe is possible and doing that is pure speculation, unless of course you have direct experience of another universe to base such a conclusion on.

I myself like to go with what can actually be shown rather than presuppose the conclusion.

Speculation about other universes can of course be an interesting intellectual excercise, and makes for some fascinating lines of inquiry. It is not however applicable to any real world conclusions.

Again it is quite simple. The evidence only shows that.

A. We know of one universe.
B. We know it behaves the way it behaves.

So the only conclusion we can accurately make is that there is only one possible way universes can be.

Ryk said...

As to the anthropic principle appearing in evolution, I would welcome that if it were actually supported solidly. In fact it would make me very happy. I am more of a Lamarkian at least philosophically. I aknowledge that Darwinism is the best explanation according to the evidence, but I dont find it very satisfying. A modicum of self organization would be very consistent with the way I see the universe from a philosophical standpoint.

Such self organization would not in any event disprove common descent or indicate any creator. That is actually what your reference indicated, that even if we could show some sort of guidance in evolution it would not need to come from an outside source but rather through an internal self organization. I have actually, when I engage in speculation, proposed that for a long time.

As to your comments about evolution and the flood, and even big bang cosmology you seem to provide natural explanations for testable biblical claims but then propose that a God did it that way. So why a God? You seem to be using a more eloquent and reasoned, but equally empty, variant of Comforts "Goddunnit" theory. If all testable claims of the Bible are shown to be false or explained naturally and the only response is "Goddunit" then there need be no God.

Big bang? "Goddunit because our Bible says the universe had a beggining"

Evolution? "Goddunnit cause our Bible says God created life"

It is simply claiming "there is no evidence, tough."

Anthropic principle as I said before can not be evidence, because as I said before you would first have to show that there is an alternative which can not be done as we have not percieved other universes. Anthropic principle by nature must presuppose either a multiverse or a creator and I presuppose neither.

Ryk said...

On to your claim that No True Scottsman does not apply to Christians because they are led by the Holy spirit and could not do unchristian things, that is pure semantics and the very definition of the fallacy. As I do not believe there is a Holy Spirit that Christians could be guided by that can not be the definition of the group. Instead Christians are simply those who claim they follow some interpretation of the Bible or another. Some do good deeds and live well, some rape and murder, they are all equally Christian.

It is like me saying all Grinches are wise, virtuous and never do wrong. If you pointed out a wicked Grinch I could just say he isn't a true Grinch because true Grinches are led by the magical Grinch fairy and couldn't do anything wrong so those wicked ones must not be true Grinches. I could then claim to be a true Grinch.

It is exactly the same because asserting the existence of a Grinch fairy has exactly the same real world evidence as the evidence for a Holy Spirit. Just words people say. You could substitute Grinch for Muslim, Hindu, Pastafarian, Freemason, Chess club member or anything else and it would make the same sense.

That is why I said that before I would except a reference of spiritual change as evidence for Christian morality, I would first have to be shown that the Holy Spirit exists and there is something to cause such a change or for Christians to be led by.

Ryk said...

As to the possibility of free will which you referenced. Before I could honestly accept it as either an argument in favor of creationism or an answer for the problem of evil I would have to be shown that it exists. I am not saying I know it does not but I have seen nothing to indicate it does.

How in fact could we know if it exists? even if we were convinced that it were, would that be because it exists and we could tell or because our heredity and environment has molded us into someone who believes in free will?

I have little confidence that free will exists and am unconcerned either way. I am as I am. If I chose to be this then I think I chose well. If I developed to be this because of my circumstances then I am pleased with the development.

If I am writing this because I chose to wonderful, If I am writing this because it is something I would do then that is fine to. It has no practical impact on my life one way or another. I know that I have the appearance of choice and I enjoy that but I don't really care if it is an illusion or not.


Really it would be the same if your God was real. An omniscient being would know in advance who was to be saved or not, and an omnipotent creator would have set things in motion knowing the outcome during the creation process. In such a case free will is decidedly unlikely and even if the contradiction between omnipotence and omiscience were somehow resolved would still be unknowable and irrelevant to the outcome which is foreknown.

Of course to a Christian this dichotomy doesn't come up much. If you accept the Bible we have free will because God says we do, but that is completely circular unless you presuppose a deity.

Ryk said...

You say:
Philosopher John Leslie uses the following example: Let’s say a firing squad of fifty expert marksmen take aim at a man from a short distance and they all miss. Your response would essentially be a shrug of the shoulders—all we know is that they missed—as if you didn’t want to entertain the possibility (probability!) that they intentionally missed"


The analogy you use is only applicable if you already accept the anthropic principle as valid, something I do not for reasons I have already explained.

As I see it the analogy is more like... A squad of men with automatic weapons are in a completely sealed room, they empty their magazines and every one of them manages to hit a wall. You claim that they only hit walls because a divine hand made them hit walls. I say it is because there is no way they possibly could not have.

That is how I view anthropic principle. Until and unless it is shown that there is some other way the universe could have been then there is no reason to suppose it was fine tuned.

As I said we only have knowledge of one universe so there is absolutely no reason to believe there is any other way universes could behave.

While I don't find speculating on other universes to be anything other than an intellectual exercise, I will engage in such an exercise and imagine there is a possibility that this universe could have had different laws.

By what evidence would you claim that some sort of life could not exist in them. If the laws are radically different from ours then so could be the life. Perhaps there could be a universe of sentient radiation, We can not discount it because we can only say what could be in the universe we observe(and only vaguely about this one). Since we can't say that life could not exist in every possible universe we can not say that the life we see in our small corner of this one is unlikely. It is simply the sort of life that happens to exist on one planet in this universe. It's theoretical likelihood is irrelevant because we have no way of judging its likelihood. Some like to assert that it is some astounding degree of improbable that life could occur by chance but they are really holding a bag of nonsense.

First they would have to show that chance was in any way involved. There is really no way to say so. I haven't seen anything, beyond certain theoretical equations regarding quantum particles that even begins to be a matter of chance. Second they would have to give some basis for comparison to show that life is unlikely. Since we have only seen a handful of planets in one tiny portion of one insignificant galaxy in one of the many possible universes they speculate about it is unimaginable to think they have any rational basis to make any claims about the likelihood of life.

Life is a chemical process, as it exists here there is no reason to say it does not exist elsewhere or that such existence is in any way unlikely. We are formed of molecules, just as water molecules exist here and form quite naturaly we can safely assume they are quite common wherever the conditions allow. In fact it is reasonable to say they exist everywhere the conditions allow. So why would this be less true for organic molecules? They are simply molecules and would therefore exist wherever the conditions allow. I doubt anyone can say with accuracy how common such conditions are.

Further simply because the only life we are aware of is composed of particular kinds of organic molecules, there is no evidence to indicate that life can not also take form in completely different sorts of molecules or in the absence of molecules or even matter.

I am not saying there are silicon based, ferrous based, or photonic life forms but I have yet to be presented with evidence that there are not. We can not even examine the nearest planets outside our solar system. It is the height of arrogance to say we "know" how likely or unlikely life is.

Anette Acker said...

Ryk,

On to your claim that No True Scottsman does not apply to Christians because they are led by the Holy spirit and could not do unchristian things, that is pure semantics and the very definition of the fallacy. As I do not believe there is a Holy Spirit that Christians could be guided by that can not be the definition of the group. Instead Christians are simply those who claim they follow some interpretation of the Bible or another. Some do good deeds and live well, some rape and murder, they are all equally Christian.

The question of whether this is fallacious and the question of whether you are persuaded that the Holy Spirit exists and changes people are two different ones. I am merely addressing the No True Scotsman fallacy. I am not trying to persuade you that the Holy Spirit actually changes Christians. I understand that there is precious little evidence of that in our society, so I certainly would not start there in trying to convince someone of the veracity of the Bible.

However, getting back to the fallacy: As I have said before, the central commandment of the Bible is to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. The NT spells out exactly what this is supposed to look like.

This is the philosophy of the Bible. So if someone leads a loveless life, he or she cannot be said to follow this philosophy, whether or not you believe in the underlying claim of the Holy Spirit. This is not a fallacious statement. It is like saying that a Marxist cannot be someone who promotes free enterprise. If a Marxist behaves in this way, I will suspect that he or she maybe started out believing in Marxism but had a change of mind without dropping the label.

Furthermore, the Bible says that the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it, so it predicts that many professing Christians have not actually found the way. It explicitly says that in Matthew 7:22-23, and this is consistent with reality. Many professing Christians are loveless, and therefore cannot be said to be followers of Christ.

Of course this does not mean we should go around judging individuals because that would go against the love commandment as well. Instead, we should encourage them to grow spiritually. However, we have to recognize the reality that people who do not live by the philosophy of Christianity (and who do not change) are not really Christians.

Anette Acker said...

As to your comments about evolution and the flood, and even big bang cosmology you seem to provide natural explanations for testable biblical claims but then propose that a God did it that way. So why a God?

You are used to thinking that there is a dichotomy between God and science (hence your frequent use of the word "magic"), but God created all the laws of nature, so they contain His fingerprints. He doesn't do magic. In fact, one of my next blog posts is going to be able how quantum physics makes it possible for God to do miracles without breaking His own laws. God does things in elegant ways and He never awkwardly breaks the laws He has put in place.

You seem to be using a more eloquent and reasoned, but equally empty, variant of Comforts "Goddunnit" theory. If all testable claims of the Bible are shown to be false or explained naturally and the only response is "Goddunit" then there need be no God.

I think you are referring to god-of-the-gaps arguments, and I don't use those. For example, it may be true that life cannot emerge from non-life (abiogenesis), but that is a gap argument. It is inserting God as an explanation where science has none. I have not done that and will not do that.

However, the fine-tuning of the universe is scientific evidence that points toward a Creator. Because of the extreme unlikelihood that it could have happened by chance, intelligent choice is the most likely explanation. This is not a gap argument.

Interestingly, Denis Alexander says the following (I've already quoted this in a comment under my most recent post, so forgive me if you've already read it):

It is intriguing to note that just as Christians have often utilized the disastrous god-of-the-gaps type arguments, as already discussed, seeking to place their argument for God in the present gaps of our scientific knowledge, so it is possible that here we have an 'atheism-of-the-gaps' type of argument in which atheists seek to support their disbelief in God based on interpretations of scientific data which appear initially plausible due to lack of knowledge about the data, but appear less believable as our understanding of the process--in this case the evolutionary process--becomes more complete.

To my mind the most recent findings from evolutionary biology are more consistent with the plan-like theistic account that the Bible reveals to us, than with an atheistic account in which the existence of such an ordered, constrained, directional history of life must always remain anomalous. There seems to be a biological anthropic principle that is parallel to the anthropic principle in physics pointing to the fine-tuning of the physical constants of the universe that are just right for life to exist. In biology it is beginning to look as if the whole system is set up in such a highly organised way that the emergence of intelligent life was inevitable.


So evolutionary scientists started out believing that we were a "cosmic accident," but as the gaps of science are filled in they are finding that design is a more likely explanation. And if science points to design, the design in turn points to a Designer.

Anette Acker said...

As I see it the analogy is more like... A squad of men with automatic weapons are in a completely sealed room, they empty their magazines and every one of them manages to hit a wall. You claim that they only hit walls because a divine hand made them hit walls. I say it is because there is no way they possibly could not have.

That is how I view anthropic principle. Until and unless it is shown that there is some other way the universe could have been then there is no reason to suppose it was fine tuned.


The whole point here is that scientists do know exactly what would have happened if the universe had not been fine-tuned in various ways. For example, Francis Collins said the following:

"For about every billion pair of quarks and antiquarks, there was an extra quark. It is that tiny fraction of the initial potentiality of the entire universe that makes up the mass of the universe as we know it.

"Why did this asymmetry exist? It would seem more "natural" for there to be no asymmetry. But if there had been complete symmetry between matter and antimatter, the universe would quickly have devolved into pure radiation, and people, planets, stars, and galaxies would never have come into existence."

I could go through the list of other physical laws and constants and say what would have happened if they were not just right, but why repeat myself? The point is that it could have been otherwise, but that means the difference between planets and no planets, life and no life, etc. We have no reason whatsoever to believe that the alternative would have been a silicon-based life form or something else.

Your analogy of the firing squad shooting at a wall fails, because it doesn't fit the facts of what scientists have found out about the fine-tuning of the universe. You are comparing it to the fact that we know with 100% certainty that someone will win a lottery, but since you're not willing to hypothesize a multiverse, you can't even go there. The probability that you will win the lottery is miniscule. And since we both agree that there is probably only one universe, the probability that the universe exists and contains planets and life is even smaller.

All your talk about the possibility of silicon-based life forms, etc. is complete speculation. And if a number of the laws and constants were off there would be no planets or the universe itself would have collapsed. Therefore, no kind of life would be possible.

Why will you not consider the possibility that a Creator is responsible? This is evidence for it, if we look at the question objectively. Your speculation about "sentient radiation," etc. completely fails Occam's Razor. You are ignoring the obvious. Why?

Were you always an atheist or do you have a religious background? If it's the latter, how did you become disillusioned?

Ryk said...

Annette you continually say that scientists know what would hapen if the universe were different or not fine tuned as you call it. I don't disagree. What you have not shown is that there is any possibility that the universe could have been different in even the slightest detail. Since there is, according to the only observed information, one universe. You must either presuppose a multiverse or a creator before it is even theoretically possible that the universe could have been different.

As you presuppose a creator it makes sense that you could imagine it creating something different. Some scientists speculate about a multiverse where there could be all sorts of universes.

However evidence only says that there is one universe.

If there is just one then there is only one structure universes take and therefore no possibility it could have been different.

As I said, if the universe were different it could be true that we would have no life or very different life. Howebver there is absolutely no evidence that it could have been different.

I actually find it very strange that you would call my statement about sentient radiation which I clearly and directly labeled speculation, out as speculation. Yet make extremely far fetched, imaginings about other possible universes. The idea of sentient radiation is of course fanciful, but far less so than the idea of other possible universes. Also it is less absurd than speculation about sentient spirits who create universes.

How on earth can the idea that there is just one universe (which we can observe) which follows natural laws(which we can also observe) and appears to have a beggining. A less simple response than an omnipotent and omniscient(a logical contradiction), spirit(something which can not be observed) created the universe. Occams razor does not favor you. In the absence of other evidence. Self creation satisfies occams razor better than divine creation simply because it does not multiply entities.

Ryk said...

Annette you continually say that scientists know what would hapen if the universe were different or not fine tuned as you call it. I don't disagree. What you have not shown is that there is any possibility that the universe could have been different in even the slightest detail. Since there is, according to the only observed information, one universe. You must either presuppose a multiverse or a creator before it is even theoretically possible that the universe could have been different.

As you presuppose a creator it makes sense that you could imagine it creating something different. Some scientists speculate about a multiverse where there could be all sorts of universes.

However evidence only says that there is one universe.

If there is just one then there is only one structure universes take and therefore no possibility it could have been different.

As I said, if the universe were different it could be true that we would have no life or very different life. Howebver there is absolutely no evidence that it could have been different.

I actually find it very strange that you would call my statement about sentient radiation which I clearly and directly labeled speculation, out as speculation. Yet make extremely far fetched, imaginings about other possible universes. The idea of sentient radiation is of course fanciful, but far less so than the idea of other possible universes. Also it is less absurd than speculation about sentient spirits who create universes.

How on earth can the idea that there is just one universe (which we can observe) which follows natural laws(which we can also observe) and appears to have a beggining. A less simple response than an omnipotent and omniscient(a logical contradiction), spirit(something which can not be observed) created the universe. Occams razor does not favor you. In the absence of other evidence. Self creation satisfies occams razor better than divine creation simply because it does not multiply entities.

Ryk said...

I do see the point you are trying yo make about no true scottsman in fact I will have to agree. If you define Christian as you did then you avoid the fallacy.

However that removes any moral authority from your religion, or at least any that is not equally available to non believers or any other faith. If a Christian is someone following a philosophy, and it is based only on that one verse you mentioned then it would be a moral as opposed to an amoral system. I do not necessarily claim it would be the most moral but it would be moral. However it would be simply another philosophy among many and not the absolute source of morality Christians often claim it is.

However all rebuttal aside I do honestly thank you for that answer, you are the first Christian who has been able make sense of that to me.

Ryk said...

I have for all practical purposes always been an atheist. My parents were technically religious, my father was methodist and my mother baptist (allthough she is now an atheist). They were not practicing Christians in any sense I did not attend church, except with school friends and we did not discuss religion.

That does not mean I was not interested, I read the Bible and discussed it with my religious Grandmother and Great Aunt. I don't recall actually ever believing it in any way, simply enjoying it. I still do for that matter. I recall the moment when I think I actually knew I was an atheist. I was about ten and was in church with a friend. By that age I had mostky stopped going, church had come to bore me, but she was cute and I had a crush.

At some point in the sermon it occured to me that these people around me actually believed this stuff.

Not intellectually I knew in my mind that they did or at least claimed to. It was an emotional epiphany, a feeling that is hard to describe. At that point I knew that I did not believe it. I never really had, treating it as just a form of mythology but I had never really given any thought to whether I believed it. It never even occured to me to wonder, but at that moment it was clear as a bell that I absolutely did not believe, and I did not belong there because the people in church did, It was a frightening feeling. A mixture of confusion, alienation, pity, even some arrogance and contempt, as I said hard to describe.

From that point on I identified as an atheist. Not openly, my dad may have not cared at all about religion but he wouldn't have tolerated atheism, niether would most people in town. So at first I was quiet about it but as I got older and began high school I became more outspoken and open, eventually not caring at all what reaction people had.

Surprisingly I found that there were a lot more non believers than I had suspected, they were just doing the same thing I had been doing and keeping it quiet.

Ryk said...

I have for all practical purposes always been an atheist. My parents were technically religious, my father was methodist and my mother baptist (allthough she is now an atheist). They were not practicing Christians in any sense I did not attend church, except with school friends and we did not discuss religion.

That does not mean I was not interested, I read the Bible and discussed it with my religious Grandmother and Great Aunt. I don't recall actually ever believing it in any way, simply enjoying it. I still do for that matter. I recall the moment when I think I actually knew I was an atheist. I was about ten and was in church with a friend. By that age I had mostky stopped going, church had come to bore me, but she was cute and I had a crush.

At some point in the sermon it occured to me that these people around me actually believed this stuff.

Not intellectually I knew in my mind that they did or at least claimed to. It was an emotional epiphany, a feeling that is hard to describe. At that point I knew that I did not believe it. I never really had, treating it as just a form of mythology but I had never really given any thought to whether I believed it. It never even occured to me to wonder, but at that moment it was clear as a bell that I absolutely did not believe, and I did not belong there because the people in church did, It was a frightening feeling. A mixture of confusion, alienation, pity, even some arrogance and contempt, as I said hard to describe.

From that point on I identified as an atheist. Not openly, my dad may have not cared at all about religion but he wouldn't have tolerated atheism, niether would most people in town. So at first I was quiet about it but as I got older and began high school I became more outspoken and open, eventually not caring at all what reaction people had.

Surprisingly I found that there were a lot more non believers than I had suspected, they were just doing the same thing I had been doing and keeping it quiet.

Ryk said...

Sorry for all of the double posts my computer is being very wierd.

Ryk said...

Also I want to reiterate a point I made in an earlier response. You continually say things about how extremely unlikely it would be for our universe to have happened by chance, as an argument for fine tuning. However I have never indicated that chance played a role in the formation of the universe. There also is no evidence that chance played a part, physics leaves very little if any room for chance. Further I am skeptical if "chance" even exists. I know there is apparent randomness associated with quantum particles, but this randomsess is equally likely to be due to our failure to understand the rules these particles follow. Furthermore there is no evidence that this apparent randomness has any tangible effect on anything.

So before I would value arguments based on the probability of something happening by chance, I would need some reason to believe it actually happened by chance as opposed to happening in accordance with universal laws.

Ryk said...

The reason I employ the word magic regarding supernatural events is as a point of emphasis. There is no rational reason to believe that "miracles" or "the will of God" are functionally different from magic except in name.

You could speculate that there is a methodology through which miracles and such could occur but it would be equally plausible to do the same with magic.

I believe niether in Gods nor magic, but I see no reason to distinguish the two. I realize it seems insulting, in fact in many cases that is part of my intent, however that is not my intent here so I will attempt to refrain in the future, unless the comparison is important to the point I am making.

Ryk said...

You ask me.

Why will you not consider the possibility that a Creator is responsible? This is evidence for it, if we look at the question objectively.

I have considered the possibility, thoroughly. I have simply found the evidence lacking and the arguments unconvincing. Your claim that there is evidence, really depends on what you call evidence. I call evidence something that can be observed. Most of the evidence for a creation are not of that sort. They are simply assertions. Often based upon observation but without any direct relationship to the observation. Fine tuning is one such argument. It is not an observation, it is speculation based on an unsupported assumption about an observation. It is functionaly equivelent to my musings about sentient radiation and silicon based life forms. It could be the case if we presuppose the possibility of other universes but the obsevations do not show.

1. That it could be so based only on the evidence we have.

2. That there is any reason to presuppose conditions under which it could be possible.

or

3. There is any reason why it must be true.

I would need one of these at least before I would call it evidence.

I am not blindly or casually dismissing a creator. I am dismissing it after much consideration and study. That is a very different thing.

Anette Acker said...

Ryk,

However that removes any moral authority from your religion, or at least any that is not equally available to non believers or any other faith. If a Christian is someone following a philosophy, and it is based only on that one verse you mentioned then it would be a moral as opposed to an amoral system. I do not necessarily claim it would be the most moral but it would be moral. However it would be simply another philosophy among many and not the absolute source of morality Christians often claim it is.

I must not have explained it very clearly. I did not mean to say that it is just a philosophy. However, it is also a philosophy. In other words, if you don't believe in the existence of the Holy Spirit, you should at the very least be able to look at the teachings of Christianity and determine that a loveless person cannot really be a Christian in the same way that a person who promotes free enterprise cannot really be a Marxist. My only point that was that it is not fallacious to say that regardless of how they self-identify, people who judge and hate others are not followers of someone who eschewed bigotry and taught a philosophy of love.

1 John 4:7 says, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love."

Of course I believe there is a God and that His love changes us, but you don't, and that's not the point here. The point is that this is Christianity in a nutshell: If we are truly born again, the love of God in our lives will be manifest.

I believe niether in Gods nor magic, but I see no reason to distinguish the two. I realize it seems insulting, in fact in many cases that is part of my intent, however that is not my intent here so I will attempt to refrain in the future, unless the comparison is important to the point I am making.

I know you are not trying to be insulting, and I did not find your comments about "magic" insulting at all--it just illuminated to me why you think that if we can point to natural processes, that means there is no need for God. I think your expectation is that God (if He exists) would have to do things in a way that resembles magic. Therefore, He could not have used a comet, in addition to torrents of rain, to cause the flood. To you, the fact that the universe functions according to natural laws means that no God exists. I think your premise is faulty, and therefore it cannot but lead to atheism. The Bible does say that God created ex nihilo (out of nothing), but only in the beginning. And the Big Bang theory is consistent with this.

I'll get to your other points later. Things are kind of busy right now.

Anette Acker said...

Ryk,

Methodist and Baptist? I thought maybe you were going to say that you used to be Muslim, since your profile page mentions Egypt.

So before I would value arguments based on the probability of something happening by chance, I would need some reason to believe it actually happened by chance as opposed to happening in accordance with universal laws.

Why do you need to believe that it happened by chance? I don't think it could have happened by chance. Getting back to the extra quark for every billion pairs of quarks and antiquarks, physicists say that if the extra quarks had been missing there would have been no matter. You don't have to translate all of that into probability.

And how did those "universal laws" get to be the way they are in the first place? You just take them for granted. And that was easy to do before physicists discovered about the precision required for those laws and constants.

Ryk said...

Annete
I am clearly failing at articulating my point clearly, so I will try in a slightly different fashion.

According to evidence there is only one universe. There could be others just as there could be Gods, but that is pure speculation, we have evidence of just one. Therefore there is only one way in which universes behave, therefore it is not possible for that one quark difference you mentioned to have occured. Ifit had been then it would have and we would not be having this discussion.

So since we can only claim knowledge of one way for a universe to be I would ask you, without presupposing either a creator or a multiverse, to explain how the only known universe could have been other than it is.

That is my problem with fine tuning as an argument, it requires the presupposition that the universe could have been different, when there is no rational reason to believe it could have. Science can say with considerable accuracy what a universe that is one quark different might be like but they can give no evidence that such a one quark difference could have happened.

As to how I think natural laws got there, I don't know, I think of them as a constant, a function of the universe. We may not know what those laws are or how they apply, we may in fact be completely wrong. Observation does tell us that we are in a universe, and it has laws. It is perfectly reasonable to assume, as we only know of one universe, that those laws are simply part of what constitutes a universe. They therefore don't need to have gotten into the universe, they are the universe. Also the universe does not actually have laws. Laws are constructs that we have made to relate to our perceptions of the universe. The universe is simply forces acting on forces in an apparently consistent fashion.

So to sum, we have a universe, it is the only one we know of, it appears to function in a consistent and orderly manner, we use our intellect to try to understand this behavior and we call some of our observations laws, we have nothing other than imagination to indicate that any other configuration of a universe, including those forces that we apply our laws to.

So I ask you, why wouldn't a universe function in an orderly fashion? Also if a universe did not function in an orderly fashion, why could an intelligence not percieve it as if it did?

Ryk said...

As to my profile listing my location as Bumfuq Egypt that is a wordplay on a phrase that I found funny. The phrase may not exist in your part of the world but where I come from it is common to refer to a small town, the middle of nowhere or an unidentified location as Bum F@#k Egypt. As I did not care to specify my location on my profile I made a little joke.

Although I travel frequently, I was born, raised, and reside in Oregon USA. I was raised in a small town but currently live in a moderately sized city, I just thought Bumfuq Egypt sounded funny. I do have an odd sense of humor.

Anette Acker said...

Hi Ryk,

I've never heard that expression, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist in my part of the world. It's not uncommon for me not to have heard an expression. :)

That is my problem with fine tuning as an argument, it requires the presupposition that the universe could have been different, when there is no rational reason to believe it could have. Science can say with considerable accuracy what a universe that is one quark different might be like but they can give no evidence that such a one quark difference could have happened.

I think you're evading the issue, Ryk, or as Robert Jastrow put it in the quote in my original post, "refusing to speculate."

Before scientists knew about the quarks, etc., it would be perfectly reasonable to say, "this is just the way the laws are." But it's hard to do that now, because a scientific gap has been filled in such a way that it points more to intelligent purpose than to anything else. It is very difficult to say that it could have been chance, which is why Dawkins has to hypothesize a multiverse. And even if there was evidence of a multiverse (which there is not), it simply pushes back the question of why there are so many universes and what caused them to exist. Plus, we don't know that given an infinite number of universes, one as finely tuned as ours could have emerged by chance. Dawkins multiplies entities and therefore fails Occam's Razor. The existence of an intelligent Creator who exists outside of time, on the other hand, passes Occam's Razor because no further assumptions have to be made. The explanation fits the scientific evidence perfectly.

But what you are essentially saying is that you will ignore the scientific evidence and say "I don't know" until it fits your worldview. You are not even speculating like Dawkins is. Does that mean that nothing would make you consider the possibility that there is a Creator?

I am by no means saying that the fine-tuning of the universe proves that there is a Creator, much less the God of the Bible, but it seems like a number of atheists simply ignore the scientific evidence that indicates a Creator, preferring instead to plead ignorance and look to possible future discoveries. Do you see how this will keep you from ever acknowledging that there is a God, even if He exists, because proof is impossible, and yet that is essentially what you demand? Nobody knows anything about future scientific discoveries, and as long as time exists, there is a future, and with it, future scientific discoveries.

Ryk said...

What I am saying is that there is no fine tuning. Or at least evidence of any. I am not ignoring evidence, I am just refusing to manufacture it. Yes I am refusing to speculate, that is a good thing when speculation would be unfounded as it is in this case. As I have repeatedly said there is not the slightest shred of evidence that the ubiverse could have been even one quark different. In fact to my understanding it could not have been because if it had been possible that is what would have happened. Possibility really does not apply to past events, unless you presuppose a multiverse. In the past there was only ever one possibility, the one that happened. Actually in the future there is also only one possibility relating to any particular process, the one that will happen. The only reason we have to discuss possibility and probability is because we do not know what that is going to be. In the past however, at least in most cases we do know what happened and therefore we know the only thing that could have happened. If anything else could have happened, it would have.

So if yu propose alternate realities in which other things could have happened then yes it could be argued that it is fortuitous that this one is so eminitely suited for our sort of life, however I do not propose such a multiverse, I only acknowledge this one and we know that since it is suitable for life then that is the only way it could have been. Since it is the only universe we know of then we have to, according to the available evidence also know that this is the only way universes can be, this will hold true until and unless we discover other universes.

As I said before I do not dismiss evidence for "creation out of hand, and certainly not blindly, I dismiss it because upon evaluation it fails the test of logic, and often science as well.

Anette Acker said...

Possibility really does not apply to past events, unless you presuppose a multiverse. In the past there was only ever one possibility, the one that happened. Actually in the future there is also only one possibility relating to any particular process, the one that will happen.

I read a comment you posted on AC where you admitted that you believe that nothing created everything. Congratulations! I'll bet you made Ray's day. :)

But you also mentioned quantum physics in your comment, which is probabilistic at its core. God does play dice. So this kind of hard determinism you seem to believe in doesn't exist.

The only reason we have to discuss possibility and probability is because we do not know what that is going to be.

No, if you bought a lottery ticket and you won, you could determine what the probability was if you knew how many tickets were sold. But of course the probability that someone would win was 100%. The question of whether you would win or someone would win are two different ones. And the person who bought 200 tickets has a different probability from the person who bought one.

As I said before I do not dismiss evidence for "creation out of hand, and certainly not blindly, I dismiss it because upon evaluation it fails the test of logic, and often science as well.

How does it fail the test of logic and science? Certainly not in this instance. If creation ex nihilo is consistent with the scientific evidence (which it is), and there are no logical inconsistencies (which there aren't) then it passes both the test of science and logic.

Anette Acker said...

BTW, I was teasing about your "nothing creating everything" comment being a feather in Ray's cap. This has been such a bone of contention between him and the atheists. But I don't think it's funny when he provokes.

Ryk said...

Consistent with science is not positive proof or even indication of truth. If it were then my off the cuff and naive quantum physics lecture to comfort would be true, for it is consistent with science and more rational than an omnipotent being. However there is no evidence that my speculation on the matter is accurate only that it is consistent with science.

For that matter I could claim that I created the universe yesterday and just made it seem as if there were billions of years of history and that too would be consistent with science.

Indication of truth would require evidentiary support.

As to quantum physics being probabalistic I am unconvinced. While it shows many apparently random factors such as uncaused causes and indeterminate states, that only shows it does not follow the laws we understand not that it follows none at all. While it is only speculation on my part that such laws exist it is equally speculative that they do not.

As to my winning the lottery, if I did then it would have been 100% probable that I would have. I would not have known that when buying the ticket but that is only my ignorance, and in my ignorance probability would have been relevant. In reality however the number was picked by me in accordance with whatever mental processes govern my decisions in such things and the winning number was picked by a machine in accordance with the physical laws that the machine is subject to. My winning was absolutely certain if all of the variables had been known. The fact that those variables are likely unknowable and uncalculateable does not change the fact that real and measurable forces were responsible for my winning the lottery not any illusion of randomness.

As a Christian it seems odd you would believe in randomness. If there were an omniscient being then there would be no randomness. All would be foreknown hence immutable, the lottery win would have been an absolute certainty not only from the time I bought the ticket but from the beginning of time. If there is randomness then there is no omniscience, hence no God. If there is no randomness then there is no fine tuning hence no need for a God.

You are being a bit misleading when you say creation is consitent with science. The true statement would be that it does not conflict with science. To be consistent there would need be evidence of this creation which can be evaluated. There is not there is only evidence that the universe may have had a beginning and the observation that your creation myth also claims a beginning. Nothing else in Christian theology corresponds with what science says about the origins of the universe in fact it badly conflicts on such things as, the order in which life emerged on earth, the placement of celestial objects, the physical parameters of the earth and the universe.

To claim that both the Bible and some cosmological theories both give the universe a beginning as evidence of the truth of the Biblical creation story is spurious.

Anette Acker said...

If it were then my off the cuff and naive quantum physics lecture to comfort would be true, for it is consistent with science and more rational than an omnipotent being.

I don't understand why you think that the idea of an omnipotent being is irrational. And what exactly do you mean by an "omnipotent being"? I've noticed that a number of non-believers have an image of what God would have to be if He exists that does not correspond to how He is.

As to quantum physics being probabalistic I am unconvinced. While it shows many apparently random factors such as uncaused causes and indeterminate states, that only shows it does not follow the laws we understand not that it follows none at all. While it is only speculation on my part that such laws exist it is equally speculative that they do not.

Do you believe the universe is completely deterministic?

As a Christian it seems odd you would believe in randomness. If there were an omniscient being then there would be no randomness. All would be foreknown hence immutable, the lottery win would have been an absolute certainty not only from the time I bought the ticket but from the beginning of time. If there is randomness then there is no omniscience, hence no God. If there is no randomness then there is no fine tuning hence no need for a God.

Yes, God knows the future. The Bible makes it very clear that He has always known who will ultimately be saved (the elect). However Revelation says that we have to "overcome" to be saved. So although God knows the outcome, we still have free will and what we do in space-time makes a real difference.

The idea of a probabilistic universe is completely consistent with Christian theology which teaches that we have free will within the parameters of God's overall sovereignty. So God then would have set up the universe in such a way that certain outcomes would be far more likely than others, but quantum mechanics as currently understood does not preclude miracles.

You are being a bit misleading when you say creation is consitent with science. The true statement would be that it does not conflict with science. To be consistent there would need be evidence of this creation which can be evaluated.

The words "consistent with" are perfectly appropriate here. The "evidence" for the purposes of determining consistency is the Bible, and we match it up with science. There's no need for additional evidence for creation.

Nothing else in Christian theology corresponds with what science says about the origins of the universe in fact it badly conflicts on such things as, the order in which life emerged on earth, the placement of celestial objects, the physical parameters of the earth and the universe.

First, the Bible does not purport to be a science textbook. It is about God's plan of redemption. I had a long conversation on AC over the past few days (at the end of the John Lennon and the Future thread) about how Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets, which means that He superseded the OT, but that the NT interprets the OT. The only thing the NT says about creation is in Hebrews 11:3, "By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible." This is the verse that tells us that God created ex nihilo, and it reinforces Genesis 1:1. However, the rest of Genesis 1 is very much like the cosmologies of the time in the ancient Near East.

Ryk said...

While your various interpretations may allow for the possibility of a God, nothing in them requires the existence of a God. If therefore there is no need to presuppose a God, why would one?

Nothing about Gods is necessary for either the functioning of a universe, the existence of one, or the understanding of one, so unless one can be shown as necesssary why should it be assumed to exist.

As to the universe being deterministic, yes I believe it is absolutely so. This is only relevant philisophically because since in practice I have no idea as to what variables are determining my choices, it is for all practical purposes the same as free will. However it is not truly free will in a philosophic sense because whatever choice I make is the only one I could have made.

As to your premise that your deity knowing the future is consistent with free will, that is only an assertion on your part and means nothing. If we were created by a being who can do anything and knows everything then there is no free will. If being omniscient it knows the eventual outcome and by being omniscient had complete control of our creation, it knew at the moment of creation what every entity ever to exist would do and created them in such a manner that they would do them. If this is not the case it is either not omniscient (it did not know the outcome at the time of creation) or not omnipotent( did not have control of what it was creating) or both.

You may say omniscience and omnipotence allow for free will in a creation but those are just words. Please provide logical argumentation under which free will is possible.

If the Bible does not purport to be a science textbook why do you select one small part the "in the beginning bit" and match it to science. It seems to me you pick those things you find consistent with science and put them forth but when something doesn't you claim that "well the Bible isn't a science textbook". Seems a bit silly to me. Either the Bibles claims about creation have relevance or they do not, picking and choosing is dishonest.

As to what can be seen from an evidentiary perspective, Genesis is as I have said and you seem to indicate as well, a creation myth. As such I see no reason to propose it has any truth. As you arguments indicate it is not impossible that it could be true, but there is nothing to indicate it need be true, or should be true.

You ask for my definition of omnipotent as if that were a subjective thing. Omnipotent means all powerful, capable of anything, although it is reasonable to preclude logical impossibilities like creating a rock it cannot lift and such. That is omnipotent. How that is not a correct interpretation of the Christian God figure seems a mystery to me. Same goes for omniscient meaning all knowing, having complete knowledge of all things, again we could preclude logical impossibilities like posing a question it could not answer. This also seems consistent with the Christian God figure as it is explained by the churches.

It is my submission that under the definitions of omnipotence, and omniscience then free will is itself a logical impossibility in a universe created by a being possesing both. It is comparable to the afforementioned unliftable rock and unanswerable question. You can of course claim this God figure is not limited by logic and that would be completely consistent with omnipotence. This does however unravel a great many other applications of apologetics which rely on the nature of God being logical as an explanation for universal logic.

Anette Acker said...

While your various interpretations may allow for the possibility of a God, nothing in them requires the existence of a God. If therefore there is no need to presuppose a God, why would one?

Nothing about Gods is necessary for either the functioning of a universe, the existence of one, or the understanding of one, so unless one can be shown as necesssary why should it be assumed to exist.


The mere fact that things can be explained by science doesn't mean that God is not necessary for the functioning of the universe. It does mean that your Magic Guy in the Sky doesn't exist, but it doesn't mean that God isn't necessary.

The Bible says that God keeps us alive. Have you ever thought about what an amazing thing life is? Science can describe a lot of things about life and living creatures, but why is there life to begin with? And what exactly is life?

What we think of as a "soul" the Hebrew Bible calls "nephesh," and it means "life" or "soul." The first time it's used is in Genesis 1:24: "Then God said, 'Let the earth bring forth living creatures [nephesh] after their kind.'" And then in Genesis 2:7: "Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being [nephesh]." So the animals were "nephesh" before we were.

Science can explain a lot about how this universe functions, but it can't explain why we are here and whether there is something beyond nature, because it can only study nature.

Atheists often compare belief in God to belief in Santa Claus and unicorns, etc. Well, kids stop believing in Santa Claus when they realize that there is a more reasonable explanation for the presents under the tree. But what if they stopped believing in Santa Claus even if there was no alternative explanation? The presents just appeared under the tree, but nobody put them there. That would be even less reasonable than believing in Santa Claus.

I will admit that your Magic Guy in the Sky is not a very good explanation for the universe we live in because there is no hint of him anywhere. It is a childish explanation, so it's not wonder you rejected it. However, atheism is no explanation at all. And I know you're going to say that it's just absence of belief, but that's like saying that some people just have an absence of belief that either Santa Claus, their parents, or anybody else put presents under their tree. All they know is that the presents are there. They have no belief one way or the other of how the presents got there, but they don't believe that anyone put them there.

IMHO, what is far more reasonable is that there is a Creator, that He created the laws of nature, and that His nature is revealed in His creation. That is, He is the Great Scientist who reveals His mind in creation as well the Great Artist who reveals His beauty, power, and majesty.

Anette Acker said...

However it is not truly free will in a philosophic sense because whatever choice I make is the only one I could have made.

That is circular reasoning. The mere fact that you made a decision doesn't mean that you didn't have free choice. In fact, your belief in a deterministic universe goes against modern science. Therefore, it is more reasonable to conclude that free will exists.

If the Bible does not purport to be a science textbook why do you select one small part the "in the beginning bit" and match it to science. It seems to me you pick those things you find consistent with science and put them forth but when something doesn't you claim that "well the Bible isn't a science textbook". Seems a bit silly to me. Either the Bibles claims about creation have relevance or they do not, picking and choosing is dishonest.

I take an honest interpretation of the Bible very seriously, and the Bible's claims about creation have great relevance. However, you are assuming that the YECs are the ones who interpret the Bible accurately. What basis do you have for that belief?

I did an analysis of Genesis 3 in the comments of my most recent post on this blog, in case you are interested. It is probably the most theologically dense chapter of the whole Bible.

Also, in Matthew 5 Jesus said that He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (the OT), but in addition to fulfilling them, He also superseded them. That is, He said, "You have heard that it was said . . . but I say to you . . ." As the second Person of the Godhead, He had the authority to do that.

So we are only bound by the NT, but the OT is also very important when we read it through the NT lens (again, see my discussion of Genesis 3). This means that it is quite accurate to say that all we have to know about the creation of the universe is expressed in Hebrews 11:3: "By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible." This is what we, as Christians, are to know by faith. The rest we can know by science. The Hebrews filled in the cosmology of the ancient Near East. We can fill in the cosmology of modern science.

You can of course claim this God figure is not limited by logic and that would be completely consistent with omnipotence. This does however unravel a great many other applications of apologetics which rely on the nature of God being logical as an explanation for universal logic.

No, I would not argue that, because He is limited by logic in the same way that He is limited by the Moral Law. If logic and objective morality means anything, God has to be limited by it. This means that your definition of omnipotence does not describe the Christian God. C. S. Lewis said: "Omnipotence means the power to do all that is intrinsically possible." This means that God cannot be holy and not holy at the same time. That is a logical impossibility. It is also a moral impossibility. He embodies the Moral Law. God has to be true to His nature. The Bible says that it is impossible for God to lie. We can extrapolate and say that God cannot be less than holy. This is both a biblically accurate and logical assertion.

Ryk said...

Excellent, if God is bound by logic then either free will does not exist or God is not omniscient.

Unless of course there is a logical argument in which free will can coexist with omniscience. Hint there is not.

Now this is not an inherent contradiction with the Bible which does not specifically claim omniscience. It only claims a vast and comprehensive knowledge which is similar but not the same. It would be consistent with the Bible(although not with any religion) to claim that there are indeed things God does not know. This would not only permit free will, and randomness, but also let God off the hook for a portion of the problem of evil. I am unaware of any religion that says this.

I am not aware of any way in which determinism conflicts with science.
I would agree that determinism is not specifically supported by science but I have not seen any mathematical proof of randomness. There are as I have said uncaused causes and indetermined states, but no one that I am aware of has positively asserted thes to be true rather than apparent randomness.

Science has a ways to go before it can state affirmitively that there are truly things that happen, apart from any agency. Even the indeterminite nature of radioactive decay can not truly be said to be random simply because we are unaware of the forces governing it in sufficient detail to make such a claim. The best that can be done is a declaration of ignorance, essentially that we have no way of determining what if anything causes an atom to decay at any given time.

As I said it is no more or less rational to claim there are no laws governing radioactive decay than to say there are. Science does not know. As everything that has been observed beyond the quantum level can be shown to procede in accordance with cause and effect I see no reason not to presume that quantum level effects do also, even if we have no knowledge of the rules governing such cause and effect.

Likewise if we take the common view that there are "uncaused causes" at the quantum level that neatly removes the necessity of God as an uncaused cause. If such things are common why attribute them to intelligence?

I do not take this view, I see all things as caused, which ironically does permit the existence of a God or Gods. It does not however require such an existence. At any rate you did not refute my premise that were the Christian God both real and as claimed omniscient, niether randomness or free will are possible.

Anette Acker said...

Excellent, if God is bound by logic then either free will does not exist or God is not omniscient.

Unless of course there is a logical argument in which free will can coexist with omniscience. Hint there is not.


Let's say you've already watched a football game, and you taped it while you watched it. So you know exactly what happened. But because you loved the game so much you decide to watch it again. You would be omniscient and also outside of time with respect to the game (you could turn it off, go to bed, and start it up again the next day).

Does that mean the players did not have the freedom to choose while they were playing? No. Your knowledge of the outcome has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not they have free will, because you have no control over them.

Some things are just hard to conceptualize; other things really are logically impossible. Scientists will never discover that 2+2=5. Nor will they ever discover that A ≠ A. However, Einstein had to shake himself of the notion that "God doesn't play dice." Quantum physics seemed illogical to him, but it is just bizarre, not logically impossible.

Anette Acker said...

Ryk, I'm so sorry! I just realized that I didn't see your comment addressed to me on AC. I might as well repost it here since I don't think anyone is still reading that old thread:

Annette Acker said:
But it can be difficult to be self-aware enough to know this, so one test is to see if you are willing to sincerely say to God, "If you are real I will surrender my life to you, but you'll have to reveal yourself to me." Your willingness or unwillingness to do that will tell you if your doubt is a matter of will or intellect.

Excellent I did this exact thing not long ago at the urging of a Christian internet friend. Tracy Wagman of the blog "Tacklebox". I did so with complete sincerity, because she and I had been discussing the premise that it is the only way to see the evidence for Gods existence. I even, in accordance to the beliefs of one of my Christian real world friends, repented and asked forgiveness for my sins and humbly begged for a relationship with Christ.

I had no resistance to doing so, atheism is not a religion, I was in no way compromising any principles and indeed would have welcomed the ability to see the evidence of your God. Sadly I got nothin', I wasn't expecting angels and trumpets, or even a personal revelation. Something as simple as being able to see the logic in the "creation proves a creator" argument, or to see the Bible as more than primitive mythology, or even to see the Christian deity as good and kind the way Christians do. I would have accepted any of this as evidence. Yet nothin'.

It seems that either A. There is no God, or B. I am not one of the elect and God has no use for me.

This led me to an interesting conclusion. According to your religion your deity already knows who is to be saved, the elect. Therefore it logically follows that I either am one or am not. I simply do not know which. Now as God is supposedly infallible he can not be mistaken about who is to be saved. Therefore if I am one of the elect then I will be saved. No amount of "hard heartedness" or whatever will prevent that. At some point prior to my death I will come to know Christ and be saved. If I am not one of the elect then nothing I do can change that. No amount of prayer or repentance will make it happen, no matter how faithful I seemed even to myself in the end I would be proven a false convert. Hence there is no reason for me to be concerned about hell, whatever happens is foreordained.

So my atheism is no bar to salvation, nor are any sins, nor is pride or anything else Ray goes on about. Either I will be or I will not be. If I am to be then any sins I may commit will be forgiven, If I am not then it matters not if I sin. Fortunately I lack belief in both Gods and sin. I simply do what is right in accordance to the values my upbringing, instincts, and environment have given me.

My life is not filled with what you would call sin, except of course those parts that directly relate to not believing, and Rays version of the thought crimes verses. According to my and most peoples standards of good person I pass. However theologically if I am of the elect I could be a cold blooded murderer and eventually before death would find belief, forgiveness and salvation. If I am not then no amount of virtue or faith will make a difference.

Anette Acker said...

I think the reason why I didn't see your comment was that I was in a hurry to get out of there. I'm really sick of AC because I think most of the people are there for the barbs and to see Christians acting stupidly. It's also really hard to have a conversation there because the threads get old so fast. So I'm taking a couple of weeks to decide if it's worth the time and effort to comment there anymore.

I had no resistance to doing so, atheism is not a religion, I was in no way compromising any principles and indeed would have welcomed the ability to see the evidence of your God. Sadly I got nothin', I wasn't expecting angels and trumpets, or even a personal revelation. Something as simple as being able to see the logic in the "creation proves a creator" argument, or to see the Bible as more than primitive mythology, or even to see the Christian deity as good and kind the way Christians do. I would have accepted any of this as evidence. Yet nothin'.

First, "creation proves a creator" is a tautology, and I don't even see the logic in it, so unless you want God to give you a blow to the head, you should not pray that He will enable you to appreciate fallacious logic. ;)

Second, how do you know that God has not answered your prayer? One thing I've learned in all the years I've been a Christian is that God never does things the way I expect, but in retrospect it always makes more sense the way He does do it. You said you weren't expecting a personal revelation, but it kind of seems like you were since you were expecting an immediate change.

This led me to an interesting conclusion. According to your religion your deity already knows who is to be saved, the elect. Therefore it logically follows that I either am one or am not. I simply do not know which. Now as God is supposedly infallible he can not be mistaken about who is to be saved. Therefore if I am one of the elect then I will be saved. No amount of "hard heartedness" or whatever will prevent that.

Before I answer this, I would like your response to the taped football game analogy.

But suffice it to say that the reason why theology can be hard to understand is because it encompasses concepts that appear contradictory but are not, on the one hand. But on the other hand, God cannot violate the rules of logic. If something is axiomatic, it simply is, and God is bound by it. He has to be.

So on the one hand, God does know who will be saved. But on the other hand, Revelation 2:7 says: "To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God." Both can be true. So it definitely matters what you do.

Ryk said...

I responded at length and it said my comment had been saved but it has not appeared. I will check back later if it has not gone through I will repost. My computer has been doing strange things lately as regards internet posting so it may not.

Anette Acker said...

Ryk,

Your comment showed up in my email, so I'll just repost it here:

I think you are relying on special pleading simply because verses of the Bible contradict. Either God knows already who is to be saved and I either am or am not one or God does not know. It can not be both. You yourself said that omnipotence is being able to do anything logically possible. Free will in the presence of foreknowledge is not logically possible.

You may be correct in that my prayer and submission had an effect to which I am unaware. If so that effect will eventually be known or it won't. Again my participation is not required. My choice to make that plea was based on my temerment, circumstances and inclinations which stem from heredity and environment. I had no idea I would make such a choice but surely I could not have made another.

Similarly if such an effect from my prayer results in my salvation then that is as your God always knew it would. If it does not that is also how your God always knew it would not. Again since God knows, assuming he is real, then he knows. If he does not know then something I do or don't do may have an impact, but that is similarly out of my control. My atheism, while supported by all sorts of evidence and argument is basically a lack of belief. As I can not, barring psychological conditioning or severe head injury alter my essential nature I can not, even though I have tried mightily, compell myself to believe that which I know is not true.

Therefore either my lack of belief will change or it won't, in either case any omniscient being would know and it is foreordained either way.

Aside from reconciling Bible verses, have you an argument in which free will and foreknowledge are compatible?

On to your football game analogy you say:"Does that mean the players did not have the freedom to choose while they were playing? No. Your knowledge of the outcome has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not they have free will, because you have no control over them.

Their lack of free will while playing was not due to my foreknowledge it was due to the fact that free will does not exist. The game was a foregone conclusion prior to ever being played. It was based on the personalities and skills of the players, vagaries of the weather, states of personal health, the players moods, perhaps even variations in the actions of subatomic particles. While it would have been impossible to calculate these variables prior to the game and foreknow the outcome that does not mean that free will played a part. The players played because their heredity, environment and temperment led them to be football players. They played the game according to their physical and mental states, performing the actions that those states led them to in response to the actions of other players and other circumstances. If time travel were possible and an observer truly replayed the game over and over it would be the same every time.

The only advantage of watching the replay is I have awareness of the outcome as I did not in the live game. The outcome of the replay is not however any more certain than the original, nor is the original any more subject to chance or free will than the replay.

Anette Acker said...

Ryk,

I'm going to quote someone else with respect to fatalism, something that I disagree with. However, I do agree that our wills are by no means absolutely free, but I'll elaborate on that later. For now, I prefer to quote this person's thoughts on the matter:

“A case in point is all those who suppose that the necessary truth of the statement “The future will be what it will be” commits us to believing that the future must be what it is going to be and it is impossible for us to divert the future from its predetermined course. They suppose that logic itself commits us to fatalism.

On analysis, their reasoning goes like this. Consider the proposition

(13) If P then P.

where P is a contingent proposition such as Aristotle’s “A sea battle will occur in the Bay of Salamis.” Since (13) is a truth of logic, and hence necessarily true, it is also true that

(14) It is necessary that if P then P.

In (14) the modal property of being necessarily true is attributed to (13), and the expression “necessary” is being used in the absolute sense to mean that there are no logically possible conditions under which (13) is false. Now (14) lends itself to being expressed by sentences such as

(15) “If P then it is necessary that P.”

and its syntactic equivalent

(16) “If P then it is impossible that not-P.”

But in (15) and (16) we have a potential source of logical confusion. On the one hand, we can think of each as merely expressing (14) in other words. And in that case nothing remotely fatalistic even seems to follow from the necessary truth with which we started. But on the other hand, we can erroneously think of (15) and (16) as attributing absolute necessity or impossibility to the consequent clause or its denial, respectively.

That’s the fallacy committed by many metaphysicians when discussing Aristotle’s problem of future contingents. Aristotle had posed the question whether, if it is true that a sea battle is going to occur in the Bay of Salamis, it follows that such a sea battle must occur, and cannot but occur. To answer “Yes” would seem to commit one to saying that the logical truth of (13), as stated in (14), entails that the future is fated and that there is nothing one can do about it. It is to suppose, as I once put it, that logical determinism–the logical truth of (13)–entails logical fatalism. But, of course, logic itself does not dictate that the proposition P, as it occurs in the consequent clause of (15) and (16) is itself “necessarily true” or that its denial, not-P, is “not possibly true” or “impossible.” These modal expressions, as they occur in the consequents of (15) and (16), should not be understood in an absolute sense, but in a consequential sense. For the proposition P, remember, is a contingent proposition and hence not necessarily true and not such that its denial is impossible. That is to say, because P–by hypothesis–is contingent, it could be false (where “could” is to be understood in the absolute sense). To suppose that P can’t be false on the basis of the infelicitously expressed sentences (15) and (16) is to confuse the consequential uses of these modal expressions with their absolute uses. It is to be guilty of The Modal Muddle. All that follows from, is entailed by, the truth of the proposition that a sea battle will occur is that it will occur, not that it “must” occur or that its nonoccurrence is “impossible.”


~ Raymond Bradley

Anette Acker said...

Aside from reconciling Bible verses, have you an argument in which free will and foreknowledge are compatible?

My taped football game analogy reconciles free will and foreknowledge. Whether or not you have foreknowledge while watching the game does not determine whether or not the players had free will when they played. This has nothing to do with what the Bible teaches.

In fact, some Christians (hyper-Calvinists) believe essentially what you do, that God has decided who will be saved and who will not, and we can do nothing about it.

Most Christians (including Calvinists) find this to be unbiblical, just like most people (Christian or not) believe that we have some degree of free will.

Uchitrakar said...

Our God of the gaps

I will begin this article with two postulates: 1) God has created this universe; 2) He has brought man in this universe with some purpose.
I am not claiming here that these two postulates are true, or that I can prove them to be true. But I want to show here that if these two postulates are true, then God will always be the God of the gaps. Anyone who will be reading this article should not forget that there is an “if” clause in the last sentence.
Now I will begin with the supposition that God has created this universe. If God has created this universe, then He could have created it in four different ways: 1) He created it in such a way that there was no necessity for Him to intervene in it after creation, 2) After creation He intervened in it, but these interventions were a bare minimum, that is, He intervened only when these were absolutely necessary. In order to clarify my point here, I will say that He intervened only when He found that without His intervention the universe would come to a standstill, 3) He created the universe in such a way that in order to keep it going He had to make very frequent interventions in it, 4) God's total intervention after creation.
If it was the purpose of God to keep mankind crippled in every possible way, then He would have adopted either the third or the fourth way while creating the universe. This is because in these two cases man, in spite of his having sufficient intelligence and reasoning power, will fail to unveil the secrets of nature, because in almost every phenomenon of nature that he will decide to study he will ultimately find that there always remains an unknown factor, for which he will have no explanation. For him the book of nature will thus remain closed for ever. But if it were God's purpose that man be master of His creation, then it is quite natural for Him that He would try to keep the book of nature as much open to him as possible, so that with the little intelligence he has been endowed with man will be able to decipher the language of nature, and with that acquired knowledge he will also be able to improve the material conditions of his life. In that case God will try to adopt the policy of maximum withdrawal from His creation. He will create the universe in such a way that without His intervention the created world will be able to unfold itself. However that does not mean that He will never intervene. He will definitely intervene when without His intervention the created world would become stagnant. In such a scenario man will be able to give an explanation of almost all physical events in scientific language. But in those cases where God has actually intervened, he will fail to do so.
So I think there is no reason for us to be ashamed of the "God of the gaps" hypothesis. Yes, if God has created the universe, and if God’s purpose was that man be master of His creation, then He would try to keep as little gap in His creation as possible. But the minimum gap that would be ultimately left can never be bridged by any sort of scientific explanation. God will also reside in that gap. Why should we be ashamed of that?
Therefore, I can conclude this article in this way: If God created this universe, and if God wanted man to be the master of His creation, then God would willingly choose to be the “God of the gaps”.
So it is quite logical that a God who will create man with some purpose will always prefer to be the God of the gaps.