Monday, August 27, 2007

Atheist Forum Conversations 4

Here are excerpts from some of my conversations on a forum called Happy Atheist. It's really hard to edit a forum conversation to include all the relevant discussion without also including a lot of off topic banter. So there may be a line or two in reference to something not included. But I think I got the just of it here.



-skeptic griggs-

The ignostist argument is that the term God has no meaning, the uninformative tautology that God wills what He wills and "hides our ignorance behind a theological fig leaf."It is a non-explanation. But for the sake of argument, granting meaning to the term, the Occamic argument uses Occam's razor to state that it would require more assumptions - ad hoc ones- than natural explanations, which thus, are sufficient for explanation. Thus, we find natural selection does not depend on God to work and miracles are just natural phenomena- remissions and frauds. God is thus not required as an explanation, even in metaphysics. Exclamation

-me (Scrybe)-

Ok mr. skeptic pants. Let me be skeptical for a moment.

skeptic griggs wrote:

the Occamic argument uses Occam's razor



I've seen this so called razor flailed around as a club far too often. What leads you to believe that the simplest explanation is always the right one?

skeptic griggs wrote:


to state that it would require more assumptions - ad hoc ones-



Can you list them to confirm this statement, or are you just assuming? And how do you define "ad hoc"? Seems like quite a loaded term hiding a bunch of bias and assumptions.

skeptic griggs wrote:


than natural explanations, which thus, are sufficient for explanation.



Well this depends on your definition of natural. And also your definition of sufficient. That is a very subjective argument. Not very scientific at all.

skeptic griggs wrote:

Thus, we find natural selection does not depend on God to work and miracles are just natural phenomena- remissions and frauds.



How can you make any such findings without observing the entire process?

skeptic griggs wrote:


God is thus not required as an explanation,even in metaphysics.



What happened to Occam?

-skeptic griggs-

I stand with my remarks. It would take many assumtions to make God a part of any explanation. It isn't merely the simplest but the one that does not require more evidence itself as God certainy does. I state that either God is no explanation or iff he is unnecessary. We don't need a personal explanation that explains only on the basis of let their be light. I don't have to see the whole process. Scientists have enough experience with nature to show that. We do no go to Thor to give a personal explanation for the weather, nor should we go to God for any explanations. I use what is available to start an argument with.

-Willravel-

This is nothing. I once got in a 4 hour debate with an ontological fundy about some stupidly deep philosophy. By the end he was so frustrated I thought he was going to take a swing at me. I'll admit there is a bit of intellectual vanity to it, but I'd like to think that guy went home and reconsidered his position.

-SteveS-

skeptic griggs wrote:

It would take many assumtions to make God a part of any explanation. It isn't merely the simplest but the one that does not require more evidence itself as God certainy does.I state that either God is no explanation or iff he is unnecessary.



Exactly correct, IMHO. This is an observation that is probably at the heart of much atheism! I'm sort of paraphrasing this below, but I agree so strongly that I'd like to share how I read the argument.

Scrybe, Occam's razor is used to eliminate unnecessary assumptions. That's all. It's not just saying the simplest explanation for something is correct, it's getting you to trim off everything that is not needed for an explanation (imagine what would happen to pork barrel politics if congress employed the razor when making laws, hahaha!).

I think the point being made is that if you use god as an explanation for something, the only way to do so is to make all sorts of assumptions about god --- none of the assumptions we end up making are actually backed up by anything factual. So, we end up throwing heaps of assumptions into the pot by invoking god, and end up with either no real explanation or one that has a lot of superfluous baggage that we don't really need (i.e. divinely directed evolution - evolution has no need of divine direction to function as we observe).

One more thing,

Willravel wrote:

It's easy to formulate a theory around god when you presuppose his/her/it's existence.


This was a very lucid point. Kudos!



-McQ-

Scrybe wrote:

Ok mr. skeptic pants. Let me be skeptical for a moment.

skeptic griggs wrote:

the Occamic argument uses Occam's razor



I've seen this so called razor flailed around as a club far too often. What leads you to believe that the simplest explanation is always the right one?



That's not what Occam's Razor says. That is a mis-characterization of it. O.R. deals with making as few assumptions as possible when dealing with any phenomenon, eliminating those that make no difference in the observable predictions. It gets paraphrased as "All things being equal, the simplest solutions tend to be the correct ones. Not always. Don't misconstrue it.

skeptic griggs wrote:


than natural explanations, which thus, are sufficient for explanation.

Scrybe wrote:

Well this depends on your definition of natural. And also your definition of sufficient. That is a very subjective argument. Not very scientific at all.



This is easy enough to define. Why dicker over it? Just define what is meant. And trying to blur the definition of "sufficient" doesn't strengthen your position. Sufficient is also easily definable, mathematically, statistically, and logically. So do it.

skeptic griggs wrote:

Thus, we find natural selection does not depend on God to work and miracles are just natural phenomena- remissions and frauds.

Scrybe wrote:

How can you make any such findings without observing the entire process?



This may be the weakest point I've seen you make, Scrybe. It's surprising, as I've been enjoying your posts.

There is no need to observe "Entire Processes" to form hypotheses, make predictions, or craft theories. Darwin is the perfect example. He didn't even know what processes were driving his theory. Much of those processes weren't discovered until within the last 30 -60 years. Yet his theory is sound and it accurately predicted things he couldn't directly observe.

Careful on that one.

Smile

-Me (Scrybe)-

skeptic griggs wrote:

I stand with my remarks. It would take many assumtions to make God a part of any explanation.



Ok. But doesn't it take just as many or more (assumptions) to make God not a part of any explanation? What elegantly simple answer do you have to explain the something-from-nothing origin of time and space? Are you going to use Occam to just cut the question away, claiming that it doesn't matter? That's one solution I suppose. Ignoring a problem is always the simplest way to deal with it. (At least for a while.)

skeptic griggs wrote:


It isn't merely the simplest but the one that does not require more evidence
itself as God certainy does.



You are limiting the kinds of evidence that you will accept. Since you will not consider evidence that exists outside of the material universe there is no further point to this argument. Now THAT is simple!

skeptic griggs wrote:


I state that either God is no explanation or iff he is unnecessary.We don't need a personal explanation that explains only on the basis of let their be light.I don't have to see the whole process. Scientists have enough experience with nature to show that.



ORLY? So we have finally come to that point in history where science is 100% proven fact? Every scientific theory is absolutely true? We have enough experience now to know everything. Nice. I hope there are no disagreements between scientists or that may ruin your complete reliance on their data.

skeptic griggs wrote:


We do no go to Thor to give a personal explanation for the weather, nor should we go to God for any explanations. I use what is available to start an argument with.



Fair enough. And I'm not advocating "going to God" for explanations. We can and should investigate our reality with all the zest and perseverance possible. We should find all the physical explanations for every physical phenomenon. We should strive to understand our universe as well as we can. The problem, and the distinction between an atheistic and a theistic approach to this pursuit of knowledge, is that the atheistic approach limits itself to only certain kinds of knowledge, and will only accept answers that fall within it's range of acceptable criteria. This limiting factor is what will ultimately hold science back once we breach the (I believe) inevitable threshold between physics and metaphysics. I think rejecting certain kinds of knowledge a priori due to a philosophical bent is a less fruitful approach to apprehending the reality we apparently exist in.

pjkeeley wrote:


I thought this was supposed to be the 'laid back lounge'? My brain hurts.



Yes, I think the original poster may have started this thread in the wrong place. Shock

Willravel wrote:


This is nothing. I once got in a 4 hour debate with an ontological fundy about some stupidly deep philosophy. By the end he was so frustrated I thought he was going to take a swing at me.



See, I don't understand why people get so bent out of shape about this sort of thing. If having your beliefs challenged makes you angry I think that's a pretty good clue that you have more than the pursuit of truth riding on you current position. That's a good time to evaluate yourself and assess what is really important to you and why.

SteveS wrote:


It's not just saying the simplest explanation for something is correct, it's getting you to trim off everything that is not needed for an explanation



You phrased this perfectly. It shows exactly what I'm getting at. "You trim off everything that is not needed for an explanation." But of course what you consider necessary is different that what someone else might consider necessary. Therefore the user's philosophy makes Occam's razor completely malleable, allowing them to cut any which way they please. (After all, the guy it was named after was a Christian using it in the theological arena, right?) If undirected evolutionary process created us, then God is not necessary, according to the razor. (But only because we have shoved the origin of time/space/matter/energy in the closet.) But if God created us from nothing, (not actually what I believe) than the evolutionary process is unnecessary. Which is simpler? Infinite God speaks us into being instantly…. Or billions of years of random mutations building complex life forms? I don't know. All things being equal….

SteveS wrote:


if you use god as an explanation for something, the only way to do so is to make all sorts of assumptions about god



More assumptions than we make about the origin of everything? One can make all sorts of assumptions about God. That is what religion and philosophy do. But if there are two proposals for a thing, and one involves an act of God, the other a natural process, there are three options. 1. Accept that God did it. 2. Accept that it is natural. 3. Accept that God works through natural processes. (After all, if He is the creator, He's the one who designed the processes, right?) I think one problem we have is that you guys are picturing a theist's solution to anything as some sort of flash-bang miracle with special effects and maybe an echoy voice booming from the heavens. You compare that mental image with a rational, scientifically deduced proposal and the choice is simple. But that ignores the third option which is the one that makes the most sense to me. An author makes his characters do stuff by writing it down. A director makes his characters do stuff by directing them. A Creator makes His characters do stuff by the rules He created at the beginning of time. He made planets work by physical laws. He made weather work by physical laws. He made animal bodies work by physical laws. But the real beauty of this option is that it keeps the door open to other workings that exist outside of physics. The palate of colors to choose from when painting a picture of this reality is much wider when you aren't constrained to the sullen colors of materialism.

We wouldn't explain every phenomenon with a metaphysical explanation. And it makes no more sense to explain every phenomenon with a physical explanation. (Even if it makes us feel better and smarter, and more capable and in control.)

McQ wrote:


That's not what Occam's Razor says. That is a mis-characterization of it. O.R. deals with making as few assumptions as possible when dealing with any phenomenon, eliminating those that make no difference in the observable predictions. It gets paraphrased as "All things being equal, the simplest solutions tend to be the correct ones. Not always. Don't misconstrue it.



You are correct. I was responding to the way it was being used, not the way it is best used. Don't forget there is a step required to accept that Occam's razor is true. Beyond that, there is a step in ignoring your biases and using it poorly in a philosophical debate. I believe this is what skeptic did.

McQ wrote:


This is easy enough to define. Why dicker over it? Just define what is meant. And trying to blur the definition of "sufficient" doesn't strengthen your position. Sufficient is also easily definable, mathematically, statistically, and logically. So do it.




But it's not that simple. It's all in the context and its application. A kiss on the cheek is sufficient to let your wife know you like her. It's not sufficient if you intend to make a baby. The atheist position that evolution is a sufficient explanation for us is based on a host of assumptions. The biggest one being that we have inferred a process we have never observed. I agree that the evidence is strong that an evolutionary process has occurred. But it is a big assumption to state that it was not directed or designed in any way. (Though it's not an assumption at all if you automatically discount the possibility of anything existing outside of the physical universe. That pushes the assumption back a few steps, thereby handily creating an argument that you can never lose.)

So when the OP states that a process is "sufficient", you better damn well be sure I'm going to dicker over what he means by it. And what should be meant by it. And what his meaning uncovers about his a priori assumptions.

McQ wrote:

Scrybe wrote:



How can you make any such findings without observing the entire process?



This may be the weakest point I've seen you make, Scrybe. It's surprising, as I've been enjoying your posts.



LaughingHahaha! Sorry to let you down. But in my defense, I never claimed to be the sharpest knife in the drawer. And yeah, I was also not on the top of my game when I posted that. (I think I was in a hurry to get home.)

McQ wrote:


There is no need to observe "Entire Processes" to form hypotheses, make predictions, or craft theories. Darwin is the perfect example. He didn't even know what processes were driving his theory. Much of those processes weren't discovered until within the last 30 -60 years. Yet his theory is sound and it accurately predicted things he couldn't directly observe.



I agree with all of this. And I have no intention of dissing Darwin. He was a genius, and some of this predictions were uncanny. I'm also not dissing the theory of evolution. It's a great theory with most of the scientific community backing it.

My comment was not meant in the way it came across. My point is that you guys are assuming that if an evolutionary process occurred, there was no need for a design. You can not possibly know that unless you observe it. Even if you observe it, you would have to discover some mechanism for detecting "random". If you've read the freewill thread you can see that I don't see a way for freewill or randomness to exist.

So since you can't observe evolution, and you can't prove that it's random, it is an unproven theory that no direction was necessary. Therefore using Occam's razor to cut the idea as unnecessary is inappropriate.

-Willravel-

Scrybe wrote:

See, I don't understand why people get so bent out of shape about this sort of thing. If having your beliefs challenged makes you angry I think that's a pretty good clue that you have more than the pursuit of truth riding on you current position. That's a good time to evaluate yourself and assess what is really important to you and why.


Well that's one simple difference between theists and atheists that I often see. It's frustrating to have your special place in the universe challenged, especially when you can't mount a reasonable case. The Onthological argument is a very strong attempt to defend a very weak point, and a theist that hears it really wears it like armor. When that armor is cut like cheese (no, I didn't fart), it's disarming. It's disconcerting. Some theists are very good at self evaluation, but that's always in the prison cell of theism...so it only works so well. It's only when you're able to evaluate the prison cell itself that you can come close to clarity.

-SteveS-

Scrybe wrote:

What elegantly simple answer do you have to explain the something-from-nothing origin of time and space?


How can you be sure there ever was a nothing? Why is the idea that once there was nothing, then there was a universe, not an assumption? Well, then we ask, if there was nothing and then a universe because god created it, then why isn't it logical to suppose there was nothing "before" there was a god? As Carl Sagan says in Cosmos, most culture presume that a god or gods created the cosmos. The next logical question is where did god come from? If the answer is "we could never know how god came to exist", then why not skip a step and say "we could never know how the universe came to exist". If the answer is "god has always existed", why not skip a step and say "the universe has always existed". This last point is at least true in the sense that since time seems to have started with the big bang, then for all time the universe has existed.

Scrybe wrote:

But of course what you consider necessary is different that what someone else might consider necessary.


This feels Bill Clinton-esque to me - like it depends on what you mean by necessary? Necessary for practical explanation, predictive power, emotional appeal, ... ? I don't know how to answer this one --- sorry.

Scrybe wrote:

But only because we have shoved the origin of time/space/matter/energy in the closet.


Or, only because we have assumed that time/space/matter/energy had an "origin" in the conventional sense.

Scrybe wrote:

Which is simpler? Infinite God speaks us into being instantly…. Or billions of years of random mutations building complex life forms? I don't know. All things being equal….


Billions of years takes it. Why? Because billions is a whole lot less than infinity (in fact, it's infinitely less). How do you find the concept of an infinite god "simpler" than billions of years of mutations? What could be more complex than something infinite? You could never even describe it completely, because you can't enumerate infinite. And what the heck is "speaks us into being". At least we know how mutations work. How does "speaking into being" function? How did you judge that "speaking into being" is less complex than mutation?

I want to make clear in the above that I'm not using "simpler is better" as Occam's razor. I'm responding to the question of "which is simpler, all things being equal".

Hopefully this illustrates what I meant about assumptions about god.

Scrybe wrote:

More assumptions than we make about the origin of everything? One can make all sorts of assumptions about God.


Okay. My assumption about the origin of everything is that it is unexplained and that it is hard to reasonably guess what caused the "origin" of everything, if there even is a cause. Do you honestly find this a larger assumption than "God exists, and did it for some divine purpose"? Why isn't it possible that there was no origin? That things just are? I'm not necessarily arguing that, just trying to point out that the idea that existence had an "origin" is possibly only a human concept (or prejudice) that might not even make sense.

You seem emphatic that one can make all sorts of assumptions about god, well then by the same logic why can't we make assumptions about anything? Like, say, the origin of time/space/matter energy? Why is god free to endless speculation, but everyone else has to play by the rules? I'm sorry if this isn't what you meant, but it's sure how it comes across to me.

Scrybe wrote:

1. Accept that God did it. 2. Accept that it is natural. 3. Accept that God works through natural processes.


Scrybe, I certainly understand your line of thought. I hope I don't come across as so dense as to not get this. A little bit of density is inevitable, I guess Confused.

Scrybe wrote:

A Creator makes His characters do stuff by the rules He created at the beginning of time.


...and the rest of this thought...
This position is similar (I say similar, I'm not trying to paint you in a box) with deism. God wound her up and let her go. You really can't disprove this position. The problem to me is you can't really prove it either. I guess the reasons for feeling one way or another are more telling then the likelihood that either position is true. Me, I don't get the attraction of this thought. Whether god created the laws of nature or not, they work the same. I just accept that they are the way they are, the way the number "pi" is. Maybe there weren't any options. If god made the laws, well, this doesn't help me understand why things work on a practical level. You will argue that it may help on a different level, maybe an emotional level. But, honestly, it doesn't to me. Oh well - I'm not going around trying to convert anybody to atheism. Emotionally, I guess we all have to find the way that works best for each of us, on our own.

Scrybe wrote:

Even if it makes us feel better and smarter, and more capable and in control.


Better? Happier for sure, happier is better, right? Smarter? In some ways (especially compared to fundies) yes. Capable? Sure. In control? Doubtful Wink.

Scrybe wrote:

So since you can't observe evolution, and you can't prove that it's random, it is an unproven theory that no direction was necessary.


But, evolution has been observed. We know an awful lot about how it functions, and we've seen it function. Unless you mean abiogenesis (which is actually distinct from evolution). But why isn't it fair to simply retort with "did you observe god create the cosmos?".

-Me (Scrybe)-

SteveS wrote:


How can you be sure there ever was a nothing?



I can't. But I'm not trying to prove that it did. I'm trying to say that an open mind will contemplate such issues.


SteveS wrote:


This feels Bill Clinton-esque to me - like it depends on what you mean by necessary? Necessary for practical explanation, predictive power, emotional appeal, ... ? I don't know how to answer this one --- sorry.



Oooooh. That was cold. I mean it in the way Plato meant it when he asked for definitions of things. Clinton used it as a tactic to avoid a straightforward answer. I'm using it as a way to better understand your position and you understand mine.

SteveS wrote:


Or, only because we have assumed that time/space/matter/energy had an "origin" in the conventional sense.



Yes. I've said this twice now. Option 1: time/space/matter etc. always existed. Option 2: it didn't and must have come from nothing.

SteveS wrote:

Scrybe wrote:

Which is simpler? Infinite God speaks us into being instantly…. Or billions of years of random mutations building complex life forms? I don't know. All things being equal….


Billions of years takes it. Why? Because billions is a whole lot less than infinity (in fact, it's infinitely less). How do you find the concept of an infinite god "simpler" than billions of years of mutations?



I did not have sex with that woman. ... Monica Lewisnky.

Well this comes down to our perceptions of "simple" I guess, and seems far to subjective to get us anywhere.

SteveS wrote:


What could be more complex than something infinite?



Case in point: What could be any simpler than the infinite?

SteveS wrote:


Okay. My assumption about the origin of everything is that it is unexplained and that it is hard to reasonably guess what caused the "origin" of everything, if there even is a cause. Do you honestly find this a larger assumption than "God exists, and did it for some divine purpose"?



I don't know. I think both have their merits. But I think that the way we perceive reality to exist naturally leads to a conclusion that it came from somewhere. (Because we don’t have any examples of eternity to study and if we did we couldn't understand it.) For a few people it doesn't. You can interpret that as a flawed perspective or a blessing of insight. It could go either way.

SteveS wrote:


Why isn't it possible that there was no origin? That things just are?



I'm not excluding that as a possibility. I just think it is a weak one since every other 'thing' we observe has a beginning. (Including the expanding universe.)

SteveS wrote:


You seem emphatic that one can make all sorts of assumptions about god, well then by the same logic why can't we make assumptions about anything? Like, say, the origin of time/space/matter energy? Why is god free to endless speculation, but everyone else has to play by the rules? I'm sorry if this isn't what you meant, but it's sure how it comes across to me.



I'm sorry I came across to you that way. I don't demand that anyone play by any rules. If you've got another theory for the existence of the universe besides, 1: it always existed, and 2: it came from nothing… I'd love to hear it!

SteveS wrote:


This position is similar (I say similar, I'm not trying to paint you in a box) with deism. God wound her up and let her go.



Right. The assumption of Deism is that God does not intervene in nature. I don't make that assumption. It could be possible, but my experiences have convinced me otherwise.

But that's not what I was getting at with option 3. God working through natural laws does not exclude Him from working outside of them. If "God breathed into Adam" is a poetic way of saying God designed a neat process called evolution that took billions of years to turn basic chemicals into a walking, thinking, human… well cool!

SteveS wrote:


You really can't disprove this position. The problem to me is you can't really prove it either. I guess the reasons for feeling one way or another are more telling then the likelihood that either position is true.



Yes. Why people (myself included) believe what they do fascinates me.

SteveS wrote:


If god made the laws, well, this doesn't help me understand why things work on a practical level. You will argue that it may help on a different level, maybe an emotional level. But, honestly, it doesn't to me.



I think your basic assumptions about origins affect what data you find and how you interpret that data when you find it. If you are looking for a snake, and you know that all snakes crawl on the ground you are less likely to look up and see the one gliding over you with it's crazy skin-flap sail thingy. So, yeah, the way you view the laws of nature do change things on a practical level.

And I'm not basing any of my arguments on what makes us feel better at night.


SteveS wrote:


Oh well - I'm not going around trying to convert anybody to atheism. Emotionally, I guess we all have to find the way that works best for each of us, on our own.



Trying to convert people sucks. For both the converter and the convertee. Here's to not trying to convert anyone! Cheers

As for emotions. Yeah. I think they drive us all much more than we are comfortable with admitting.

SteveS wrote:


But, evolution has been observed.



No it hasn't. Bits and pieces of it have been. Reasonable conclusions have been reached concerning the theory's validity. I'm not arguing that. I'm saying that without watching the entire process from start to finish there is no way to ascertain if supernatural assistance was necessary to it.

-McQ-

Scrybe wrote:

SteveS wrote:


But, evolution has been observed.



No it hasn't. Bits and pieces of it have been. Reasonable conclusions have been reached concerning the theory's validity. I'm not arguing that. I'm saying that without watching the entire process from start to finish there is no way to ascertain if supernatural assistance was necessary to it.



Sorry, Scrybe. Gonna call you on this one. WinkEvolution most certainly has been observed, and as I stated before, even without having observed it, Darwin was able to make correct predictions regarding it and its driving force, natural selection. You argue philosophy well and I wouldn't go head to head with you on philosophy, but you need to rethink arguing this particular point. You are incorrect in saying that without watching the entire process from start to finish there is no way to ascertain if supernatural assistance was necessary. That's an erroneous assumption.

Here's just a small snippet from the "Talk Origins" Archive that states the lack of need for observation very concisely:


Even without these direct observations, it would be wrong to say that evolution hasn't been observed. Evidence isn't limited to seeing something happen before your eyes. Evolution makes predictions about what we would expect to see in the fossil record, comparative anatomy, genetic sequences, geographical distribution of species, etc., and these predictions have been verified many times over. The number of observations supporting evolution is overwhelming.

What hasn't been observed is one animal abruptly changing into a radically different one, such as a frog changing into a cow. This is not a problem for evolution because evolution doesn't propose occurrences even remotely like that. In fact, if we ever observed a frog turn into a cow, it would be very strong evidence against evolution.


Here is a link to another paper/FAQ on instances of observed speciation.
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html

Don't forget that we're not looking for an instance of a mouse changing into a giraffe. That's not speciation or evolution.

-SteveS-

Scrybe, kudos, I enjoyed your response. You laid down some really excellent thoughts here. This is one of the things that drives my "humanism" - I can recognize that I'm going to disagree with people, but still find much value in the contrary opinion. I can disagree, but be good with it. This is the part where if we were hanging out somewhere I'd gladly offer to buy you the next round of beers. I'm good with most of the response, but I'll highlight a few things.

I strongly agree with the following:

About the idea of the existence of nothing,

Scrybe wrote:

I'm trying to say that an open mind will contemplate such issues.


About conversion and emotions,

Scrybe wrote:

Trying to convert people sucks. For both the converter and the convertee. Here's to not trying to convert anyone!

As for emotions. Yeah. I think they drive us all much more than we are comfortable with admitting.



And, I strongly disagree with the following,

Scrybe wrote:

SteveS wrote:

But, evolution has been observed.


No it hasn't. Bits and pieces of it have been. Reasonable conclusions have been reached concerning the theory's validity. I'm not arguing that. I'm saying that without watching the entire process from start to finish there is no way to ascertain if supernatural assistance was necessary to it.


I think McQ has addressed this issue very satisfactorily, so I will not add to his words. But I think it's very, very reasonable to conclude that evolution does not require supernatural assistance, and I think it's very reasonable to conclude that based on the observed empirical evidence.

As an aside, I think he's also correct when he says,

McQ wrote:

You argue philosophy well and I wouldn't go head to head with you on philosophy


Eh, here I am trying to, and I really don't consider myself much of a philosopher. Oh well, how else am I going to learn? Wink

A few more things I can add to,

Bill Clinton reference,

Scrybe wrote:

Oooooh. That was cold.


LaughingI certainly didn't mean any personal insult, and I understand your answer. I'm having a hard time articulating my meaning of "necessary" as well, but I'd say what I mean by necessary is "logically sufficient". If I know that heating and cooling of filaments in light bulbs cause burn out because of the filament weakening (through lost matter, caused by the heat, and stress points by the heating/cooling), then I don't have to include a supernatural force that is responsible for snuffing out the lights in rooms when I'm not watching. The physics is "logically sufficient" to explain the phenomenon.

Scrybe wrote:

Case in point: What could be any simpler than the infinite?


The simple answer is that I disagree, I think infinity is very hard to understand, maps poorly to observable reality, and is very complex. If god has infinite understanding, for example, that seems to me like god would be very complicated. It takes billions of neurons to achieve human consciousness, so how much more complicated is god?

But, the Clinton thing is just too much fun, so I'll go with the "I did not have sex with that woman" answer. Wink

Scrybe wrote:

But I think that the way we perceive reality to exist naturally leads to a conclusion that it came from somewhere.


I think I understand this. And I basically agree, I just don't know if this is a correct way of thinking about it, or how to guess what the "from whence" part is.

Scrybe wrote:

I'm not excluding that as a possibility. I just think it is a weak one since every other 'thing' we observe has a beginning. (Including the expanding universe.)


Yeah, and, I dig this.

Scrybe wrote:

If you've got another theory for the existence of the universe besides, 1: it always existed, and 2: it came from nothing… I'd love to hear it!


Not really. Other than I don't find "coming from nothing" to be plausible. And if it came from something, where did that something come from? It seems like this question presents no acceptable answer. You end up with either an impossibility (coming from nothing) or an infinite regress (but, where did that come from? And what about the next thing, where did it come from? And so on and so on ad infinitum). I guess I just don't see god as a real answer to the regress - where did god come from? If we can accept god as always existing, why can't we accept "existence" itself as always existing? Anyway, that's how I see the problem.

Scrybe wrote:

Right. The assumption of Deism is that God does not intervene in nature. I don't make that assumption. It could be possible, but my experiences have convinced me otherwise.


Okay, and my experiences have convinced me of the opposite. (shrugs). Deism is interesting, because it's sort of like a practical atheism that still involves god. Also, I think a lot of the great enlightenment thinkers were deists - which lends historical interest to the philosophy.

Scrybe wrote:

But that's not what I was getting at with option 3. God working through natural laws does not exclude Him from working outside of them. If "God breathed into Adam" is a poetic way of saying God designed a neat process called evolution that took billions of years to turn basic chemicals into a walking, thinking, human… well cool!


Erf, I guess I still didn't get it. I knew some density was inevitable. I think I've got it now - I just still disagree about the "working outside of them" part. (shrugs again). If I'm a natural creature (as evolution and biology suggest to me that I am), then I make use of natural laws for perception. So the only way I can perceive of a god acting "outside of them" is by looking for incongruent effects in nature. And I don't think we've found any of these yet.

Scrybe wrote:

And I'm not basing any of my arguments on what makes us feel better at night.


Okay - fair enough, I got it.

I know I still have to respond to you on the YouTube thread - I'll get there. I got into a huge exchange with revsimpleton in another thread, plus I've found some of the recent science posts captivating. Biting off more than I can chew at the moment.

All for now, I'm grabbing a beer and going 10-7.

-Squid-

In response to the "observation of evolution" thing above, evolution by definition is:

Quote:

...the descent of modern organisms with modification from preexisting life-forms; strictly speaking, any change in the proportions of different genotypes in a population from one generation to the next (G-9)



Source - Audesirk, T., Audesirk, G. and Byers, B. (2002). Biology: Life on Earth. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.

This is easily demonstrated when you take an antibiotic and stop before you finish them and get sick again. What happened? The bacteria of those that are populating your body have become stronger? How? The antibiotic kills off the least resistant bacteria first and if you stop before they are all gone then those more resistant ones will reproduce and you have an entire bacterial population of resistant bacteria. Then you get to be sick all over again and take more antibiotics.

I think the problem here is the concept of "observation" in science which becomes problematic for most people. The populace isn't used to working with definitions specific to science so they have to rely on common usage of many terms and end up missing the point within the field specific view. As I wrote in the Irreducible Complexity thread:

Quote:

Observation within science does not necessarily always mean something seen by a scientist as it is happening like you would think of Jane Goodall observing her chimps at play. Observation can take more forms than just that example, a common mistake in criticisms of evolution. You need not see an entire process in its entirety to investigate its validity. You have more than one type of observation. Direct observation is not the only means of data acquisition which science utilizes, to declare such alludes to a poverty in understanding of how science works (Pennock, 1999).

The idea of observation you are holding to is more of the philosophical idea of sensory assimilation and then reasoning from that. Scientific observation is more complex than that as are the methodologies for tackling questions. This is intimated by Solomon (1998) when he states:

Quote:

It would be a mistake, however, to think of science as nothing but the gathering and testing of facts through experience.



Sources - Pennock, R. (1999). Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Solomon, R. (1998). The Big Questions: A Short Introduction to Philosophy. (5th ed.). Orlando: Harcourt Brace.

Having said that, I think most people believe that in order to substantiate beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is not supernatural guidance or something similar we'd have to sit and watch a particular lineage for millions of years. Which is quite impossible to do and very convenient for such an argument.

I've come to the point where I say believe that there is some supernatural guiding force if you must but if you wish to challenge the science involved you will need to step into that realm instead of flinging criticisms from the area of the vague, abstract and supernatural.

-Me (Scrybe)-

McQ wrote:

You argue philosophy well and I wouldn't go head to head with you on philosophy



Well, I’m sure if you put me in a room with an actual philosopher I wouldn’t fair so well. Laughing


SteveS wrote:

I think infinity is very hard to understand, maps poorly to observable reality, and is very complex. If god has infinite understanding, for example, that seems to me like god would be very complicated. It takes billions of neurons to achieve human consciousness, so how much more complicated is god?



I think our different perceptions are due to our fundamental lack of knowledge on the subject. The way I see it as "simple" is this: no moving parts, no time-line, no matter. Those concepts right there gobble up most of the complexity we observe in this reality, right? Without those it seems much simpler to me.


SteveS wrote:


I think I understand this. And I basically agree, I just don't know if this is a correct way of thinking about it, or how to guess what the "from whence" part is.



Well I don't know if it's a correct way of thinking either. I only know that I do think that way.

SteveS wrote:

I don't find "coming from nothing" to be plausible. And if it came from something, where did that something come from? It seems like this question presents no acceptable answer. You end up with either an impossibility...



Which is exactly why the God solution enters.

SteveS wrote:


(coming from nothing) or an infinite regress (but, where did that come from? And what about the next thing, where did it come from? And so on and so on ad infinitum).



It’s only infinite if you presuppose only material answers.

SteveS wrote:

I guess I just don't see god as a real answer to the regress - where did god come from? If we can accept god as always existing, why can't we accept "existence" itself as always existing? Anyway, that's how I see the problem.



And this is the fulcrum of my argument. I’m still not crystal clear on it either, which could be why I’m having to repeat it so often. (If I haven’t figured it out it’s not very reasonable for me to expect others to do it for me!) But let me try again… When you say, “Where did God come from?” that is a different sort of question than “Where did matter come from?” since God is a different sort of entity. Since the concept of God exists beyond material constraints such as matter and time, a material question is simply nullified by God’s classification. A creator God would have to exist outside of time in order to create time. So asking how He came about is not applicable.

However, the same question raises problems when applied to matter/time/the universe. Because it is material, the same solution can not be applied to it, and you are stuck in the infinite regress. Basically, God provides the only possible check to an infinite regress. (That I can think of.) We can argue over the nature of such a god, but I don’t think we can logically exclude a god from the equation without ignoring the very important question of origins.

SteveS wrote:

Deism is interesting, because it's sort of like a practical atheism that still involves god.



That is an accurate assessment.

SteveS wrote:


So the only way I can perceive of a god acting "outside of them" is by looking for incongruent effects in nature. And I don't think we've found any of these yet.



No. That’s the only way a materialist can look for a god because they have limited their options to the material realm. As I’ve said, the tools of logic, philosophy and to some extent, revelatory experience are all there gathering dust in your shed. (I’m not saying you never use logic, only that you are hesitant to use it to head down certain roads of inquiry you presuppose to be dead ends.)

Have we found material proof of a god? I’m not sure why you would expect to, unless you are under the assumption that a god would want to prove itself physically.

SteveS wrote:

Biting off more than I can chew at the moment.



Haha! I know the feeling. That's what I called my latest blog entry.


Switch to full edit form



McQ wrote:


Sorry, Scrybe. Gonna call you on this one. WinkEvolution most certainly has been observed

Squid wrote:


I think the problem here is the concept of "observation" in science which becomes problematic for most people. The populace isn't used to working with definitions specific to science so they have to rely on common usage of many terms and end up missing the point within the field specific view.



Hey, thanks for your very thoughtful and well researched feedback guys. I must have used some keywords that you picked up on. Completely my fault. It sounds like you are thinking that I’m attacking the plausibility of the evolutionary process. But my stance is that I’m not educated on the topic enough to argue for or against it. I am however, believe it or not, fully aware of the concept of observation from a scientific framework occurring before or after events of study. But again, that’s not the point I was arguing. I’m not using “definitions specific to science” because I’m not attacking any of these scientific ideas. When I say 'observe', I’m using it in the common, popular sense because that is what I mean by it. Since I’m not attempting to dismantle the theory of evolution than that should be ok, right?

What I’m saying is that we have a theory (And I’m speaking of the entire process of origins, from the big bang to the first DNA to the first single cell organism, to the first multi cellular organism, to the first occurrence of self-awareness, etc.) that explains how we came about with strictly material components. That theory may or may not be true. (As all things may or may not be true.) My only point is that since we can not directly, (not scientifically) observe the entire process, we are assuming that the material components are the only ones necessary to make the process work. I’m simply questioning that assumption, and pointing out the fact that it is one. And again, even direct observation with our natural senses might not be sufficient to delineate between natural and supernatural occurrences. And I’m not even arguing that! I personally think that God designed a perfect system for bringing about the exact kind of life that He wanted. So in that scheme, nothing is supernatural and everything is supernatural. Shock

-donkeyhoty-

Scrybe wrote:

A creator God would have to exist outside of time in order to create time

That's a big assumption. Firstly, that there is anything outside of time. And secondly, that if some entity existed outside of time that it would create something bound by time.

Food for thought, Stephen Hawking said that asking what there was before the Big Bang is like asking what's North of the North Pole.

Scrybe wrote:

When I say 'observe', I’m using it in the common, popular sense because that is what I mean by it. Since I’m not attempting to dismantle the theory of evolution than that should be ok, right?

Well...

Scrybe wrote:

What I’m saying is that we have a theory (And I’m speaking of the entire process of origins, from the big bang to the first DNA to the first single cell organism, to the first multi cellular organism, to the first occurrence of self-awareness, etc.) that explains how we came about with strictly material components. That theory may or may not be true. (As all things may or may not be true.) My only point is that since we can not directly, (not scientifically) observe the entire process, we are assuming that the material components are the only ones necessary to make the process work. I’m simply questioning that assumption, and pointing out the fact that it is one. And again, even direct observation with our natural senses might not be sufficient to delineate between natural and supernatural occurrences. And I’m not even arguing that! I personally think that God designed a perfect system for bringing about the exact kind of life that He wanted. So in that scheme, nothing is supernatural and everything is supernatural.

This is all contradictory. You say you can't make assumptions about scientific processes without fully observing them, but you can make assumptions about God without observing him.
In essence why believe the assumption of something supernaturally occurring instead of naturally occurring? It's quite a leap to go, "well, It can't be explained, as of now, so it must be an inexplicable, supernatural occurance."

Actually, Scrybe, you sound more like you should be agnostic than fully believing in a God, since as you state, "As all things may or may not be true". So, if all things may or may not be true why do you believe in the concept of a God that may or may not be true?



-McQ-

McQ wrote:



What I’m saying is that we have a theory (And I’m speaking of the entire process of origins, from the big bang to the first DNA to the first single cell organism, to the first multi cellular organism, to the first occurrence of self-awareness, etc.) that explains how we came about with strictly material components. That theory may or may not be true. (As all things may or may not be true.) My only point is that since we can not directly, (not scientifically) observe the entire process, we are assuming that the material components are the only ones necessary to make the process work. I’m simply questioning that assumption, and pointing out the fact that it is one. And again, even direct observation with our natural senses might not be sufficient to delineate between natural and supernatural occurrences. And I’m not even arguing that! I personally think that God designed a perfect system for bringing about the exact kind of life that He wanted. So in that scheme, nothing is supernatural and everything is supernatural. Shock



I think I get what you're saying, however I just want to be clear that you don't mean to include Big Bang Theory and Evolution as part of the same process.

I think too, that we're teetering here on the point of saying that nothing is real, or that reality is whatever we think it is, or isn't or what have you. I believe that is a dead end topic, as one can always fall back on unarguable points.

Lastly, I want to make sure I understand what you're saying by stating that god made a perfect system for bringing about the exact kind of life he wanted. Do you mean humans? Do you mean life now on Earth (like a snapshot of all life now)? Do you mean all life that has come and gone and evolved over 4 billion years? I really want to be clear on this so I don't assume the wrong things.



-SteveS-

First off, donkeyhoty hit on something near and dear to me,

donkeyhoty wrote:

Food for thought, Stephen Hawking said that asking what there was before the Big Bang is like asking what's North of the North Pole.


Exactly! This is what I mean when I say it's hard to know if our questions about the "origin of existence" even make sense. Other example questions I've heard are things like "what color is love?", or "what does hope smell like?". These are grammatically correct but none-the-less meaningless questions.

Scrybe wrote:

No. That’s the only way a materialists can look for a god because they have limited their options to the material realm. As I’ve said, the tools of logic, philosophy and to some extent, revelatory experience are all there gathering dust in your shed. (I’m not saying you never use logic, only that you are hesitant to use it to head down certain roads of inquiry you presuppose to be dead ends.)

Have we found material proof of a god? I’m not sure why you would expect to, unless you are under the assumption that a god would want to prove itself physically.


Scrybe, I don't think you're getting my point. Let me use an example: in one of the threads I think I remember you saying "God could easily change your DNA". Okay - if he did that, I would be able to find out. Why? Because your DNA would not match what it should with you having come from the DNA of your mother and father. If the differences were large and yet functional, then evolution would not explain them either. This is what I'm getting at by saying "incongruent effects in nature". I maybe can't watch god work, but I can see the results of his work and see that natural law does not explain the result. If god is mucking around in physical reality, why don't we find something like this?

Also, how would god hide his actions if he didn't want to be found? By altering more physical reality and changing the previous test results, or our memory of them? This point is weak because maybe Zarquon the alien from Vega 5 is doing that now --- this is like the matrix problem, you can't tell one way or another no matter what test you perform --- so why believe it's happening?

Scrybe wrote:

The way I see it as simple is this: no moving parts, no time-line, no matter. Those concepts right there gobble up most of the complexity we observe in this reality, right? Without those it seems much simpler to me.


Bah, these are just implementation details. What about functional complexity? In other words, even if god has no "moving parts", still, if he's got infinite capabilities he's got a hell of a design specification. He's very very functionally complex - infinitely so, it would seem. I'm definitely sticking with my stance on this one.

Just one more thing,

Scrybe wrote:

Since the concept of God exists beyond material constraints such as matter and time, a material question is simply nullified by God’s classification. A creator God would have to exist outside of time in order to create time. So asking how He came about is not applicable.


This reasoning causes me grief. In fact, it's why I originally wrote,

SteveS wrote:

Why is god free to endless speculation, but everyone else has to play by the rules?


It seems like you're just defining god into a safe-zone. By definition, he doesn't have to play by the same rules as everyone else. If we suggest a naturalistic explanation, we are vulnerable to rational objection (this is okay). But, if we go with god, we get a freebie (this is not okay). Also, I'd like to point out that god's "nullifying classification" is just chosen for him by human thought --- nobody has determined this from anything empirical, so the definition is at least subject to some serious doubt. Maybe god is an impossible concept - we can dream it up, but nothing like god could ever really exist.

-Me (Scrybe)-

donkeyhoty wrote:

Scrybe wrote:

A creator God would have to exist outside of time in order to create time

That's a big assumption.



I'm not sure that it is. IF there was a God, (which is the framework of this particular bubble of conversation) Who created everything including time, He could not be composed of any of those elements since He is necessary to create them. Any other ordering makes the process circular.

donkeyhoty wrote:


Firstly, that there is anything outside of time. And secondly, that if some entity existed outside of time that it would create something bound by time.



Now we have left the framework of the previous bubble of conversation. (Sorry, this is my own lingo, I don't know how else to explain the structure of our forum conversation.) It's important to me to note when we leave a concept and come to another one. Now, without the premise that there is a God, you say that it's a big leap to assume that there is anything outside of time. I don't think it is since our current understanding is that time is tied up with matter and energy, etc. And since we also have an understanding that no new matter, energy, etc. can come to exist or go away through a natural process. And we add to that our understanding that something can not come from nothing, we are left with those two alternatives: Plato's unmoved mover, or a physical system that has always existed. And an always-existing physical system is by definition infinite. But the trouble with this is that we believe that something can not come from nothing. We have "something", therefore it must have had a cause. If that cause is physical, than that cause needs a cause. And we are led on an infinite regress until we come up with some concept of an uncaused agent.

So this in not some random imagination process that comes up with a God. This is a reasoning process based on our current understanding of things. You can take apart my reasoning process and find flaws in it. That's what this conversation is all about. But I don't think you are presenting the idea of God fairly by making it out to be a whimsical fit of fantasy.

As to your second point: that it's a huge assumption that a timeless being would create a universe of time… Well, we are in a universe of time, therefore if it was created, the creator obviously created it this way. So that is not an assumption at all. This can only be seen in that light if you are looking at this as a make-believe story from scratch.

donkeyhoty wrote:


Food for thought, Stephen Hawking said that asking what there was before the Big Bang is like asking what's North of the North Pole.



This seems like a non-sequitur to me. There are two problems I find with this statement. First, many, many scientists have been working very hard and seriously to figure out what was before the big bang. (M Theory and Cosmogenesis are two such theories.) So many of his colleagues are contradicting the spirit of this statement. Secondly, his analogy is not apt. The north pole is a man made definition based on physical phenomena, and measurable by current tools. The big bang is a theory about the origin of our universe based on reverse interpolation of data collected from a very small, fixed perspective in it. It can not be measured or observed with our tools like the north pole can be. We can't move around it in four dimensions like we can with the north pole. We have ascribed this theoretical event with certain attributes that may or may not be accurate. (Don't make the same mistake you did with my evolution opinion and think I'm saying the big bang theory is untenable. I'm not.) Because the big bang is a construct of our collective reasoning, and not subject to direct observation, asking what was before is not only warranted, but practically demanded. Since when does science set boundaries for itself that it's afraid to cross? Why is this one so scary to certain people?

donkeyhoty wrote:

Scrybe wrote:

When I say 'observe', I’m using it in the common, popular sense because that is what I mean by it. Since I’m not attempting to dismantle the theory of evolution than that should be ok, right?

Well...

Scrybe wrote:

What I’m saying is that we have a theory (And I’m speaking of the entire process of origins, from the big bang to the first DNA to the first single cell organism, to the first multi cellular organism, to the first occurrence of self-awareness, etc.) that explains how we came about with strictly material components. That theory may or may not be true. (As all things may or may not be true.) My only point is that since we can not directly, (not scientifically) observe the entire process, we are assuming that the material components are the only ones necessary to make the process work. I’m simply questioning that assumption, and pointing out the fact that it is one. And again, even direct observation with our natural senses might not be sufficient to delineate between natural and supernatural occurrences. And I’m not even arguing that! I personally think that God designed a perfect system for bringing about the exact kind of life that He wanted. So in that scheme, nothing is supernatural and everything is supernatural.



This is all contradictory.



Let's see...

donkeyhoty wrote:


You say you can't make assumptions about scientific processes without fully observing them, but you can make assumptions about God without observing him.



Not exactly what I'm saying. First: of course you can make assumptions about scientific processes without fully observing them. Science couldn't exist without that. My point is that we need to be aware that they are assumptions. That every theory has many assumptions. And we need to operate within that idiom. Our attitudes as researchers should reflect that.

And I apply exactly the same criteria to investigating God. We theologians need to recognize that our theories are full of assumptions and should operate accordingly. I think it's fair to say that humans have a problem with this approach. Scientists have problems with it. Theologians have problems with it. We would all prefer to think that our premises are established without fault or weakness.

If you still see a contradiction, please persist in pointing it out to me.

donkeyhoty wrote:


In essence why believe the assumption of something supernaturally occurring instead of naturally occurring? It's quite a leap to go, "well, It can't be explained, as of now, so it must be an inexplicable, supernatural occurance."



The only reason to do so would be if a natural explanation is insufficient. Our disagreements seem to be based in our evaluation of the sufficiency of natural processes to explain our existence. You have a great implicit point, that our apprehension of natural processes is ever-growing. But I think you err in assuming that this growth will eventually achieve a 100% understanding of everything. The reason I find that untenable is that there are facets of life that are not in the jurisdiction of science and can not be fully apprehended by it. The infinite regress of origins is a prime example. No matter how many natural explanations you stack on it, you can't find closure without simply ignoring the problem as Hawking chooses, or admitting that nature can not provide the final solution.

donkeyhoty wrote:


Actually, Scrybe, you sound more like you should be agnostic than fully believing in a God, since as you state, "As all things may or may not be true". So, if all things may or may not be true why do you believe in the concept of a God that may or may not be true?



Well, I think I'm in the same boat as 100% of the rest of humanity. But I'm a bit more comfortable with admitting my state of ignorance than most people are. I believe in God because I have been convinced through my interpretive faculties that the events of my life point to a particular understanding of God. Just as you rely on your interpretive faculties to convince you of any proposition. My faculties are limited. Your faculties are limited. We could both be wrong. But we both believe certain things to be true. I hope you can join me in understanding that our beliefs are fallible.

SteveS wrote:


First off, donkeyhoty hit on something near and dear to me,

donkeyhoty wrote:


Food for thought, Stephen Hawking said that asking what there was before the Big Bang is like asking what's North of the North Pole.



Exactly! This is what I mean when I say it's hard to know if our questions about the "origin of existence" even make sense. Other example questions I've heard are things like "what color is love?", or "what does hope smell like?". These are grammatically correct but none-the-less meaningless questions.



Yes, those are meaningless. But I don't think you have made your case that "Where did everything come from?" falls into the same category.

SteveS wrote:

Scrybe wrote:


No. That’s the only way a materialists can look for a god because they have limited their options to the material realm. As I’ve said, the tools of logic, philosophy and to some extent, revelatory experience are all there gathering dust in your shed. (I’m not saying you never use logic, only that you are hesitant to use it to head down certain roads of inquiry you presuppose to be dead ends.)

Have we found material proof of a god? I’m not sure why you would expect to, unless you are under the assumption that a god would want to prove itself physically.



Scrybe, I don't think you're getting my point. Let me use an example: in one of the threads I think I remember you saying "God could easily change your DNA". Okay - if he did that, I would be able to find out. Why? Because your DNA would not match what it should with you having come from the DNA of your mother and father. If the differences were large and yet functional, then evolution would not explain them either. This is what I'm getting at by saying "incongruent effects in nature". I maybe can't watch god work, but I can see the results of his work and see that natural law does not explain the result. If god is mucking around in physical reality, why don't we find something like this?



Because a creator God would not need to go 'mucking around' in physical reality to achieve His purposes. (I'm not denying that He can or does though, I'm just not going to argue that point.) When I say God could have made any of us differently than we are, I mean back when everything was created, a timeless God would know the effects of every action in that creation process. An infinite God would have no surprises. And infinite God could have made you a Christian or Buddhist, or the elephant-man had He chosen, and it would have been 100% natural to our perceptions.

SteveS wrote:


Also, how would god hide his actions if he didn't want to be found? By altering more physical reality and changing the previous test results, or our memory of them? This point is weak because maybe Zarquon the alien from Vega 5 is doing that now --- this is like the matrix problem, you can't tell one way or another no matter what test you perform --- so why believe it's happening?



I believe our reality to be the result of a creator God because my interpretation of multiple things (Nature, relationships, philosophy, aesthetics, etc.) point that way. As opposed to aliens or a Matrix. Besides, both of those alternatives still lead to the philosophical problem of origins. Where did the aliens or the Matrix designers come from?

SteveS wrote:

Scrybe wrote:


The way I see it as simple is this: no moving parts, no time-line, no matter. Those concepts right there gobble up most of the complexity we observe in this reality, right? Without those it seems much simpler to me.



Bah, these are just implementation details. What about functional complexity? In other words, even if god has no "moving parts", still, if he's got infinite capabilities he's got a hell of a design specification. He's very very functionally complex - infinitely so, it would seem. I'm definitely sticking with my stance on this one.



Fair enough. Those are very good points. I will cede that a creator God must be infinitely complex. And so if you religiously hold to Occam's Razor with sufficient fundamentalist vigor then you can simply cut God out of the realm of possibility without qualm.

SteveS wrote:


Just one more thing,

Scrybe wrote:


Since the concept of God exists beyond material constraints such as matter and time, a material question is simply nullified by God’s classification. A creator God would have to exist outside of time in order to create time. So asking how He came about is not applicable.



This reasoning causes me grief. In fact, it's why I originally wrote,

SteveS wrote:


Why is god free to endless speculation, but everyone else has to play by the rules?



It seems like you're just defining god into a safe-zone.



Ok. But does my line of reasoning warrant such a definition or not? If so, you need to attack my line of reasoning, not my conclusion.

SteveS wrote:


By definition, he doesn't have to play by the same rules as everyone else.



I suppose that's a pretty succinct way of explaining omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, etc.

SteveS wrote:


If we suggest a naturalistic explanation, we are vulnerable to rational objection (this is okay). But, if we go with god, we get a freebie (this is not okay).



I'm hardly one to pound the drum of precedence, but I'd like to point out that it's been "ok" for the vast majority of brilliant thinkers for ages. But I think the real disagreement we have is your view that theological lines of thought are, by definition, free from critical analysis and skeptical thinking. You are overlapping the definition of the Judea-Christian God with a sphere of intellectual life. (Theology)

SteveS wrote:


Also, I'd like to point out that god's "nullifying classification" is just chosen for him by human thought --- nobody has determined this from anything empirical, so the definition is at least subject to some serious doubt. Maybe god is an impossible concept - we can dream it up, but nothing like god could ever really exist.



You are absolutely right. As fallible beings we are capable of great err in every endeavor we embark upon. Our theology must be equally suspect.

But the classification of a creator God as transcending nature does not free the concept from reason and logic. It is not arbitrary. It is the result of a line of reasoning that any philosophical speculation will inevitably encounter. It could be wrong. But simply saying what it could be is not terribly useful to the debate. Showing where the line of reasoning is flawed seems the best course of action to me.

McQ wrote:


I think I get what you're saying, however I just want to be clear that you don't mean to include Big Bang Theory and Evolution as part of the same process.



Well I did. If I erred, I only plead ignorance. Why should the two be separate in this discussion? My point was that everything that occurred before us, that lead to us, can be considered one process that we can never sit down with a bowl of popcorn and watch.

McQ wrote:


I think too, that we're teetering here on the point of saying that nothing is real, or that reality is whatever we think it is, or isn't or what have you. I believe that is a dead end topic, as one can always fall back on unarguable points.



I think teetering on that precipice is a good place to be. That's why I invited you all here. I think it is the only place where we can actually connect and find constructive ways to communicate when we have such a fundamental difference in perspective. Otherwise we end up in lame debates about whether I.D. should be taught in classrooms.

But don't worry, I'm not radical skeptic. I only use their premises keep a proper perspective on things. I don't want to go down the relativity road any more than you do.

McQ wrote:


Lastly, I want to make sure I understand what you're saying by stating that god made a perfect system for bringing about the exact kind of life he wanted. Do you mean humans? Do you mean life now on Earth (like a snapshot of all life now)? Do you mean all life that has come and gone and evolved over 4 billion years? I really want to be clear on this so I don't assume the wrong things.



I think it must be all of the above. It seems to me, logically impossible for God to create a system that goes against His wishes. (Assuming as I do that He is omniscient and omnipotent.) So whether He created our universe through the process we theorize or some other process we haven't imagined yet, or even through a magical, literal 6 day process, doesn't really matter. And every moment and every part must have been according to His will.

1 Comments:

Blogger John Smith said...

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4:29 AM  

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