Aug 20 2013

Creationism is Not Science

“In fact, we have solid proof in our hands that evolution’s a lie: the Bible. You see, we can’t depend solely on our reasoning ability to convince skeptics. We present the evidence and do the best we can to convince people the truth of God by always pointing them to the Bible.”

The above quote is from Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, from a radio commercial to promote his creation museum. Ham also says:

“You know, many of us would love to have the final proof that evolution’s a lie; the right scientific proof will silence those opposed to biblical creation forever, right? Well, no. You see, Romans Chapter one tells us that God has revealed himself to man in nature, so there’s no excuse for denying the witness of creation.”

These quotes are very revealing in multiple ways. First they show that creationists and creationism are not monolithic – there is a range of beliefs and strategies under the “big tent” of creationism. They are all united by their opposition to evolution, and essentially agree to disagree until the great evil of evolution is vanquished. Meanwhile they are stomping on each-other’s toes.

These quotes also reveal what creationism truly is – a bible-based faith. It is not science, it is not based on evidence, reason, or critical thinking. It is based entirely on faith in one particular interpretation of the Christian bible.

Ham, here, is at least being honest in that regard. It does also come off also as a surrender – Ham and other creationists now know they are not going to win against evolution in the arena of science. There is a simple reason for this – evolution is reality and creation is mythology. The fact that life on earth is the product of organic evolution and that all life shares common ancestry has been established by a mountain of evidence and is scientifically indisputable. Fighting against the evidence in the long term is a losing strategy.

The Intelligent Design (ID) movement (like the creation science movement before it) was an attempt to make a scientific argument for creation. It utterly failed. Its paper-thin arguments have all been thoroughly and repeatedly refuted. It never gained the tiniest shred of scientific respectability.

At best ID and creation science are useful foils – examples of pseudoscience that are educational in the debunking.

Ham is taking the opposite approach, at least in this latest commercial. Rather than the pseudoscience approach, he is taking the anti-science or mystical approach. He is not trying to say that science proves creation, but rather that creation is a matter of faith for those who believe in the bible (meaning a fundamentalist literal interpretation of the bible).

Although, he is trying to have it both ways (sort of) by using confusing language. His muddied language likely represents his muddied thinking – he says the bible is “proof” and “evidence” of creation. It is neither. The bible consists of many books and many literary genres, none of which should be interpreted as accurate historical or scientific documents. At best they are a people’s interpretation of their own history through the lens of their religious belief system.

Statements in the bible can only be considered “proof” if you already accept the premise that the bible is literally and unerringly true. That, of course, requires faith. “Proof” based on faith is simply faith.

Ham’s statements, most significantly, undermine the entire campaign to have any form of creationism taught in the public schools. His statements, coming from the president of the creation museum, are yet more evidence that anti-evolution sentiments and any form of creationism are religious faith, not science.

While I do think abandoning any pretense to “creation science” and admitting creationism is faith is a move in the right direction, I don’t expect this to mean an end to the conflict with evolution.

From Ham’s website he writes, under the banner of “Evolution vs God:”

In this fallen world, the battle being fought is one of authority. Will we look to God’s Word for answers? Or will we look to man and his changing, fallible opinions as the highest authority? Nothing better exemplifies this battle than the debate over our origins. In his newest film, Evolution vs. God, Ray Comfort, founder and president of Living Waters, brings to light the way evolutionary ideas are manifestations of a deeper problem.

This frames their world-view nicely – it is not about evidence or logic, it is about authority. The debate is framed as God’s authority vs man’s authority, not in terms of logic or evidence. They set up a false dichotomy – evolution or God. I don’t know if this framing is deliberately manipulative, or if they simply cannot see past the assumptions of their own world-view.

Either way, what this means is that if we are ever going to convince creationists to reconsider their rejection of science, we are not going to do so with logic and evidence. We need to understand and confront the way they are framing the question in the first place.

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95 responses so far

95 Responses to “Creationism is Not Science”

  1. Bruce Woodwardon 20 Aug 2013 at 8:36 am

    His argument seems a bit Ham fisted.

  2. gsjursethon 20 Aug 2013 at 9:12 am

    It’s this principle of questioning authority that’s most challenging. How do you influence *that* thought process? Over and over again we attack the logic and reasoning of creationists and other religious claptrap, but this really is the core of the problem and you nailed it here: Authority.

    /geir

  3. Kawarthajonon 20 Aug 2013 at 9:44 am

    This is so foreign to me, as these kinds of ads would never appear on radio in Canada, unless it was a religious radio station (which tend to have a very short shelf life). Religion in Canada is rarely talked about openly and it is political suicide to talk openly about your belief in God (or gods) if you are running for any kind of office. Don’t get me wrong, creationism exists in Canada and so does religious fundamentalism, but it is on the fringe and not accepted by mainstream society. It is amazing to me that such prominent politicians in the US (i.e. Mitt Romney) can talk openly about their fundamentalist beliefs, and still have a chance at winning powerful elected positions in the government.

    It is interesting that some creationists have set God up against evolution/science, as if they’re in a Court room and they have to prove their case. There is no compromise, no ability to exist simultaneously. This is an aggressive/competitive approach that disturbs me. I wonder what would happen to science/evolution if the religious right ever took control of the country, as they seem to be constantly trying to do? It probably wouldn’t be good.

  4. ccbowerson 20 Aug 2013 at 11:35 am

    Kawarthajon – I think your reaction has more to do with what you surround yourself with rather than being from Canada. There are dozens and dozens of religious Canadian radio stations and this likely is where this type of commercial would be played. I live in the northestern part of the US, and my reaction to hearing such a commercial is likely not much different that your. Openness to religious expression is more regional rather than national, and I suspect in geographically large countries like US and Canada, it depends on where you live. For national elections, it is calculated risk to discuss religion as it will have different results depending on who the audience is. It is possible that Romney felt that his religious background was already a known issue, and that being open publicly allowed his to take control of the topic.

  5. Joctrelon 20 Aug 2013 at 11:40 am

    I think you’ve left out half of Ham’s argument here. And by that I don’t mean to say his argument is complete, but in order to understand how this is supposed to go against teaching evolution in the classroom, there’s an important bit that’s missing.

    See, what Ham says is that the naturalistic interpretation is just as religious. This is not just a throwaway argument (as worthless as it is, in reality), but an important pillar for creationism, and something the creationists would love to bring into any court case. They believe that creationism and evolution are equally valid ways of explaining the same physical facts and evidence.

    It looks like a retreat, but what they’re trying to do is bring their opponents with them into the metaphysical realm.

  6. Karl Withakayon 20 Aug 2013 at 12:07 pm

    “Statements in the bible can only be considered “proof” if you already accept the premise that the bible is literally and uerringly true.”

    Actually, it’s even more specific than that. You must accept the premise that the bible translation you are using and the compiled texts & manuscripts chosen to be used for that translation are all 100% accurate and true to the original texts which themselves are all literally and uerringly true.”

    Even if one believed the books of the bible were composed as the direct words of god, you’d still have the problem of the textural transmission and corruption over several millennia compounded with the problem of translation into a different language while still remaining 100% unerringly true to the text.

  7. BobbyGon 20 Aug 2013 at 1:15 pm

    “it is not about evidence or logic, it is about authority.”
    __

    This is news?

  8. Kawarthajonon 20 Aug 2013 at 3:01 pm

    ccbowers: “I think your reaction has more to do with what you surround yourself with rather than being from Canada.”

    I respectfully disagree. I do believe that there is a fundamentally different culture regarding the expression of religious beliefs in Canada as a whole, although, as I mentioned in my post, there are always exceptions.

    “There are dozens and dozens of religious Canadian radio stations and this likely is where this type of commercial would be played.”

    You are probably right. There was a religious radio station in our area for a short while, but it folded because it couldn’t get sponsors or listeners. It is my impression that most of our religious programming comes from the US, however. I could be wrong on that, though.

    “it is calculated risk to discuss religion as it will have different results depending on who the audience is”

    In Canada, it is calculated political suicide to even mention your belief in God or religion. There are fringe political parties in Canada that have a religious orientation, but they are really fringe (they only got 374 votes the last time they ran a candidate in my riding, which was in 2008, out of a total of 54,315. They haven’t run since). Even the Green Party does better in Canada. It is also political suicide to mention things like abortion and creationism in Canada. I maintain that Canada has a unique political culture when compared to the US. I’m not arguing that it is better or worse – I’m sure that in some ways it is worse, while in others it is better. It is just different and religion does not play the same role in our political landscape that it does in the US.

  9. Michael Bradyon 20 Aug 2013 at 4:34 pm

    “Even if one believed the books of the bible were composed as the direct words of god, you’d still have the problem of the textural transmission and corruption over several millennia compounded with the problem of translation into a different language while still remaining 100% unerringly true to the text.”

    Like the man said, “If the King James Version was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me!”

  10. a_haworthrobertson 20 Aug 2013 at 5:40 pm

    I do not think Ham is surrendering anything of note. (He also objected on his Facebook page to how some other bloggers previously interpreted his remarks.) He is simply saying that in the (current) absence of ‘final proof’ from science that evolution is a ‘lie’ – and such proof would not convince all evolutionists anyway – it is helpful to present what the Bible tells us (especially but not exclusively in Genesis) because the Bible is and always has been, whether we realised this or not, ‘solid proof’ that evolution is a ‘lie’.
    There has been some recent discussion of Ham’s remarks here:
    http://forums.bcseweb.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=2967&start=1410
    http://forums.bcseweb.org.uk/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=3317&p=46782#p46782

  11. malcolm.gorman@gmail.comon 20 Aug 2013 at 8:58 pm

    With all the craziness, weirdness, negative politics, mean and cruel religious attitudes and behaviors in the world … it is such a mental and emotional relief to revel in some rational thinking. The SGU escape to reality is good for mental health.

  12. tedwon 20 Aug 2013 at 9:39 pm

    The irony of a Ham’s statement, “God has revealed himself to man in nature,” is that scientists use the same pool of evidence for its conclusions. I think that the difference is that science gleans information from nature to derive theories and laws of nature that are painstakingly tested to verify and/or modify them. In contrast, Fundamentalist Christians use nature as the conclusion without properly answering the “begged” questions, 1) Is there a god? and 2) if so, is the Bible in any way reliable evidence of its god?

  13. eiskrystalon 21 Aug 2013 at 9:22 am

    Poor Ham, living in a fallen world… I’m glad instead that I live in a vibrant, beautiful world full of interesting things to discover and see.

  14. ccbowerson 21 Aug 2013 at 10:50 am

    Kawarthajon-

    It sounds like you are saying Canada is more homogenous than the US with respect to attitudes towards religion. That may be true. I also understand that Canada, as a whole, is also less religious than the US as a whole. I am curious which general area you are from in Canada. From my perspective, in the US, attitudes towards religion and religious expression is highly regional, and I think that people have an impression of the US which is a bit of a caricature.

  15. ccbowerson 21 Aug 2013 at 10:57 am

    “I do not think Ham is surrendering anything of note.”

    I agree. Just because he says this now does not prevent them from misinterpreting future “evidence” or incorrectly criticize the science that they don’t/can’t/won’t understand. There is no doubt that there approach will not change in this regard, which renders these comments by Ham nearly meaningless. YEC had mutually contradictory arguments before these comments, and will continue to have them after these comments.

  16. ccbowerson 21 Aug 2013 at 11:10 am

    * their approach.

  17. sonicon 21 Aug 2013 at 1:12 pm

    I think Ham is suggesting that no amount of evidence for creation will ever convince a skeptic.
    I believe he thinks the evidence for creation is overwhelming– the universe exists- and that if you don’t see it, it is not from lack of evidence.
    This seems to be a fairly common idea– whatever made this universe is god- so the proof of god is the existence of the universe.

    It seems reasonable to define the word ‘god’ as ‘that which created this universe’, but I’m not too sure about what that means god is. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean god is well described in the bible, though. It seems Ham goes further when he demands that the bible is the literal word of that which created this universe. But that is his premise– not his conclusion.

    I would note this– many people I talk to think that god created the universe– it seems this is a definitional situation– and saying ‘there is no evidence of god’ is saying ‘I can’t see there is a universe’.
    I believe Ham would have such a reaction– as would most everyone else I know…

    I checked the ‘intelligent design’ website. They still exist.
    In fact, recently World Scientific Publishing put out a book that contains articles from a number of the proponents of intelligent design… “Biological Information: New Perspectives”.
    Further there is a book “Darwin’s Dilemma” that is apparently selling well (NY Times best seller list) that has mixed reviews from the scientists who reviewed it.

    Also there seems to be a back-and -forth between Axe (a ‘design proponent’ who runs experiments) and Poenie (a biologist at U of Texas) about the relevance of Axe’s experimental work.
    I can appreciate the ‘please show me’ attitude Axe takes.

    Anyway– apparently intelligent design should not be referred to in the past tense.

  18. ccbowerson 21 Aug 2013 at 2:10 pm

    “…saying ‘there is no evidence of god’ is saying ‘I can’t see there is a universe’.
    I believe Ham would have such a reaction– as would most everyone else I know…”

    Not only is that logic flawed, the premise is based upon the definition you put forth. Ham and other YECs don’t use your definition of some vague creator of the universe as their god; they have a very very specific definition, which is not apparent by noticing that there is a universe.

    In other words, the existence of the universe is not even proof of the vague deist notion of a god, so using it as evidence of their very narrow idea of who this god is absurd. The fact that many people do it is not convincing. I’m sure you are aware of that logical fallacy.

  19. BillyJoe7on 21 Aug 2013 at 5:59 pm

    “It seems reasonable to define the word ‘god’ as ‘that which created this universe’”

    To me it seems completely unreasonable to define the word ‘god’ as ‘that which created this universe’. You might think that ‘something from nothing’ is a mystery (perhaps even an unsolvable mystery), but to label that mystery ‘god’ seems unreasonable. I don’t know anyone whose idea of ‘god’ contracts to that definition (but then I don’t know any deists either).

  20. tmac57on 21 Aug 2013 at 8:58 pm

    “It seems reasonable to define the word ‘god’ as ‘that which created this universe’”

    And what would be the ‘reasonable’ definition of ‘that which created god‘?

    It always,always,always comes back to first causes as far as I can comprehend.

  21. Davdoodleson 21 Aug 2013 at 9:52 pm

    The whole notion of “creation” is conveniently human-centric.

    From a zoological perspective, what set humans most strikingly apart from other living things is that we make things. We “create” stuff. Incredibly coincidentally, our deity is also a creator.

    If birds had a religion, their god would probably have squeezed out the universe from its mighty cloaca.
    .

  22. rocken1844on 21 Aug 2013 at 10:22 pm

    It seems to me that playing the authority card also illuminates another evangelical artful dodge in the matter of what they refer to as “biblical inerrancy” that is the authority they look to, the Bible, does not contain any error. When pressed on this, they reveal it is not the Bible in hand that they refer to but the “original autographs’ of the Bible are without error. This is handy because the autographs do not exist. The “authority” i.e. the autographs, are safely out of harms way. They don’t exist and therefore cannot be subject to testing or critical study.

  23. rezistnzisfutlon 22 Aug 2013 at 12:54 am

    When dealing with creationist arguments, I am often reminded of the quote by geologist Kurt Wise

    ,“If all the evidence in the universe turned against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate. Here I must stand.”

    It would seem that no amount of logic, reason, or actual physical evidence is going to convince a creationist, and for skeptics, the bible by itself doesn’t cut it. They may as well ask us to believe that Spiderman, or Hogwarts, really exist.

    At least they are now willing to admit that they aren’t going to make headway in the arena of science. That doesn’t mean that they can’t do damage, though. Most likely, they’ll redouble their efforts to undermine science and science education, and have creationism preached in its place in schools (or at least alongside it).

    As for the notion that simply looking at the world is evidence itself of a supernatural god, that has been long, soundly, and repeatedly debunked as well. Jumping to such a conclusion without evidence of the existence of a god in the first place is an argument from ignorance. Skeptics don’t operate by forming conclusions first then seeking evidence to support it. That’s why presupposing a god as a premise is the logical fallacy of begging the question.

    Until there is sufficient and compelling evidence of the existence of a supernatural god, especially one as specific as the christian god, and especially one as denoted specifically in the christian bible, there is no good reason to conclude that a supernatural god had anything to do with it.

    To the contrary, Occam’s Razor suggests that a purely naturalistic beginning is far more likely.

  24. BillyJoe7on 22 Aug 2013 at 12:56 am

    “what set humans most strikingly apart from other living things is that we make things”

    Beavers.

    You are almost always wrong, if not always wrong, when you begin your sentence “what sets humans apart from other animals is….”

  25. rezistnzisfutlon 22 Aug 2013 at 1:02 am

    Personally, I don’t have any illusions of changing a creationist’s mind, especially in a single sitting. The most we can really hope to do is to correct factual inaccuracies, defend the integrity of science, point out logical fallacies, and hopefully eventually get them to admit that they take their position purely on faith. I, for one, have much greater respect for theists who are at least honest about their beliefs, even if I don’t agree with those beliefs. Plus, usually it takes a long time for people to alter deeply held beliefs, but often that comes from having their beliefs challenged and seeds planted.

    That’s also why I think it’s incumbent on people to try to remain civil and respectful as not to alienate them. Too often I see great hostility arise, often unnecessarily and too quickly, between people who may otherwise be friends. That’s one unfortunate aspect of the internet in that it’s psychologically easier to be rude and disrespectful, via anonymity while still having a voice.

  26. Davdoodleson 22 Aug 2013 at 1:25 am

    “You are almost always wrong, if not always wrong, when you begin your sentence “what sets humans apart from other animals is….”

    Indeed, and chimps use sticks as tools to get at termites. And bees make hives, and coral makes reefs etc.

    But my point was more about how we see God in our image, not a homily to our splendid uniqueness, per se.

    If digger wasps had a religion, their god would probably have oviposited the universe into a chamber full of gigantic, paralysed spiders…
    .

  27. Bruce Woodwardon 22 Aug 2013 at 2:52 am

    “You are almost always wrong, if not always wrong, when you begin your sentence “what sets humans apart from other animals is….”

    And yet the exact same people will argue against homosexuality by saying that no other animals do it and therefore it is not “natural”. Even their internal logic does not mesh, nevermind how wrong they are in all their assumptions.

  28. madewithcarbonon 22 Aug 2013 at 3:55 am

    To me what is really puzzling is the fact that we are having this discussion at all.

    My friend Ted has a purple notebook in which he describes how the Universe was created.

    In Ted’s notebook, the Universe began last week (on Wednesday). He goes on claiming that the Universe Creator is a lilliputian but all-powerful mole he calls “Wendy”.
    Wendy The Mole is cute, but don’t mess with her. She can incinerate you with her mole-rays – which she occasionally does when angry about something.
    What makes Wendy The Mole truly angry, is if you don’t follow her rules in food and sex. Foodwise, you can’t eat anything yellow – don’t question her rules, or you will be incinerated too.

    Sexwise, Wendy the Mole commands humans not to have sex on Thursdays, which she calls “The Day thou shalt not breed, in the name of the Mole”.

    Now tell me: do you _really_ feel compelled to argue with my friend Ted about his mole?
    Do you really want to spend days or years dissecting the “logical fallacies” that “Ted’s Purple Notebook” may indeed contain?
    And do you really want to have a discussion about why it’s quite unlikely that the Universe was created last Wednesday, in three hours of work, by the capricious Wendy the Mole?

    I bet you would instead whisper nicely “Sure, Ted, your mole, of course. And you keep taking your medicines, right?”

    However, if the “Purple Book of Wendy” is called “The Bible”, then seemingly busy skeptics (including myself), are OK to spend time pointing out material and logical fallacies to its believers.
    To me, arguing with someone who thinks the world is 6000 years old, is no different than arguing with my friend Ted and his imaginary Mole.

    Why are we doing this?

    There are two explanations.
    The most obvious one, is that when billions of people take Ted and Wendy seriously, and even get tax breaks in the name of Wendy, then the Purple Notebook becomes a social phenomenon worth investigating.
    However, I don’t entirely buy this explanation. Sure enough, if it is critical to understand our history and society, I then want to learn about Wendy and his prophet.

    But in regards to the logic and the material truth of the Purple Book itself, there is nothing worth serious debunking time in there, no matter how many people believe it. Do you really want to use all the mighty Power of Reason to convince Ted that moles typically don’t create universes on Wednesdays?

    There’s a second explanation for why we spend time arguing with the believers in mighty moles.

    It’s the label: “religion”. As much as we may want to think otherwise, it’s true even for hard-nosed skeptics that religion makes mighty moles more respectable – even if the respect means “worth using the weapons of logic to argue against”.

    It is very telling, in my eyes, that fairy tales that do not make the grade to this label, are treated differently. We may consider astrology worth our ridicule, or maybe put some mild effort dismissing it as BS, but there’s no such a thing as a debate with astrologers about the inner logic of it. And there are no high-caliber intellectuals penning hefty tomes to dissect in detail the logical inconsistencies of horoscopes.

    As another example, also tribal cults do not make the grade. They are not enough “a religion” in our eyes for us to unfold the weaponry of logic.

    I don’t see a blog post of any noteworthy skeptic debunking Melanesian cargo cults, or assessing the evolution in the logic of their practitioners. Cargo cults are an anthropological curiosity or a subject of historical investigation, but nobody seems to be trying hard to debunk them.

  29. Bill Openthalton 22 Aug 2013 at 4:31 am

    Religions, like other ideologies, are a necessary component of human society. Humans need a common basis, a set of core concepts and understandings (call them axioms if you want) that underpin their society. These core concepts are assimilated by children and become the parameters used by the subconscious parts of the brain, acquiring the kind of evidence expressed by Kurt Wise or Gould’s two magisteria. The core concepts define the filters people will use when acquiring information on reality, and hence how they will perceive reality. To people with different filters, they will appear to stupidly or maliciously distort reality, but what happens is that they “honestly” perceive reality in a way that enables them to function in the society they grew up in.

    Science and skepticism are merely tools to approach the acquisition of information, and are specifically targetted at limiting the effect of the reality filters all humans have. As such, they cannot replace ideologies such as christianism or marxism. Paradoxically, they would need a set of unassailable core concepts enabling the generation of reality filters to be usable as the basis for a society (the same applies to atheism in its simplest expression).

    This is why we have the current effervescences in the “atheist/skeptical community”. As long as it was a bunch of people with a common passion (debunking myths, or challeging con artists), there was no need for an ideology. The moment it ceased being a “club”, it became necessary to add ideological elements to the mix, leading to axioms like “one cannot be religious and a scientist”, or “skeptics must be social progressives” and “atheists should be feminists”, etc.

    Incidentally, this is why folks who are “merely” skeptical are perceived as reactionary by the “skeptics” who added a “progressive” ideology, and why they cordially detest a libertarian like Shermer.

  30. Bruce Woodwardon 22 Aug 2013 at 4:50 am

    “To me what is really puzzling is the fact that we are having this discussion at all.”

    Very simply put, we do this because of the children. There are people out there who will always believe in the Purple Book, and nothing we do will change it, but there are growing minds out there who will see logic and reason before they are snared.

    We can talk about all kinds of ideology, and how it impacts society, but to me it is a very simple… I want people to not be idiots and to see the wonder of the beauty of this world without needing to believe it is all magic.

  31. Bill Openthalton 22 Aug 2013 at 5:44 am

    @ Bruce

    Believing in the Purple Book doesn’t preclude logic and reason. It just precludes logic and reason in certain areas. I see plenty of unreasonable behaviour in people who purport to be the standard bearers of reason and logic (but I’m happy to concede that this might be the result of my own filters).

    What need of yours would be fulfilled when people saw the world your way? Is your sense of wonder and beauty dimished by their belief in magic? I have spoken with people who honestly wanted to let me discover the happiness, wonder and awe their religion had brought them, and which they surmised I was lacking.

    As I see it, we want/need the people we interact with to be part of our community, and that means synchronising our social core concepts, the reflexes we acquired when discovering the society we were born into.

  32. Bruce Woodwardon 22 Aug 2013 at 7:40 am

    Bill,

    Is my sense of wonder diminished? I don’t know, that is a good question. I have never been in a situation where my world is filled with like thinking people. I know I prefer to sit and discuss the world around me with someone who is going to engage me in a meaningful discussion as opposed to “God/Mother Earth/Aliens made it.”

    I guess ultimately I am not that bothered by other people thinking stupid things, but I do care about what those to me think and how they think. My son and and his siblings he might have will definitely be brought up to think for themselves and will learn how to critically think at an early age.

    You bring up an interesting point though (indirectly)… would a completely critically thinking society be any worse or better off than the one we have today? In a search for collective sanity, do we need to have the balance of believers of all kinds out there? Not sure there is a way to test that. I am sure we all think that it would be, but I don’t think there is any evidence to prove it.

  33. BillyJoe7on 22 Aug 2013 at 8:09 am

    Maybe it’s something to do with religionists needing to impose their views on others.
    I don’t want to live in a society where my freedom is compromised by someone else’s religion.

  34. Bill Openthalton 22 Aug 2013 at 8:29 am

    @ Bruce

    I don’t think humans can have a completely critical thinking society (Vulcan :) ). Our living together is not based on rationality, but on feelings — or more accurately, subconscious modules that control our behaviour, and are perceived as feelings by the consciousness module.

    Societies (cooperating groups of people spanning several generations) are built on common principles all members are supposed to adhere to, or face exclusion. These common principles change with time, and sometimes older members are indeed marginalised because they have not “upgraded” to the latest release :) . Humans assimilate these principles, which tunes the subconscious modules. Fundamentally, this is the same mechanism other social animals have, with the addition of the faculty to “load” the rules during childhood (which is why human behaviour depends on the society they grow up in), coupled with a more or less limited ability to change them in adulthood.

    The crux of the matter is that the conscious and rational parts of the brain have a fairly limited ability to overrule the subconscious parts. When we are in a group, we match our behaviour to that of the other members (cf. hooliganism), because the fundamental behavioural pattern (not learned, this time) is to adapt one’s behaviour to that of the group. When you meet the person that matches your subconscious, partly society-induced criteria for a good mate, you fall in love, and no amount of rational or critical thrinking will make you fall out of love (though it can sometimes stop you from making a fool of yourself :) ).

    My point is that human societies are possible only because of the non-rational, non-critical parts of the human brain.

  35. Bill Openthalton 22 Aug 2013 at 9:40 am

    @ BillyJoe7

    You are a product of the secular society, where the relevant core principle is that religion is a personal choice, and so not be imposed. This implies that society will not impose a religion, and protect individuals from having a religion imposed (cf. the recent ruling against circumcision of infants in Germany).

    This of course severly limits the scope of religion, which can no longer assume its traditional role as societal glue, and forces parliaments and governments to provide moral rules all members of a secular society have to accept, as well as other elements of social cohesion such as health care, pensions, etc. The upshot is that one cannot have a secular society that is not welfare-oriented.

    We really don’t know if a secular society delivers more happiness than a religious society; after all, norms and rules are determined by humans in both cases…

  36. sonicon 22 Aug 2013 at 2:23 pm

    ccbowers-
    The notion that god is what started this universe is not from any particular religion– more like all religions. And I would agree that claiming the bible is ‘the word of god’ or that the bible gives an apt description of god does not follow.

    BillyJoe7-
    I believe nearly everyones definition of god starts with ‘that which started (or created) the universe’- although I would agree that for most it doesn’t end there.

    For many centuries the argument between deists/ theists and atheists was if the universe had a beginning, then god exists (see Aquinas).
    With the ‘big-bang’ the goalposts have moved, obviously.

    “What sets humans apart from other animals is that humans make televisions.”
    And I can give you 100′s of thousands of other examples.
    How about that?

    tmac57-
    And the usual end to the regress is to accept that god is beyond our current understanding and somehow different than what we see here.
    I’m not sure that makes it a correct argument, but I do see the logic and power of it.

    rezistnzisfutl-
    It seems you are ignorant of the arguments by Aquinas.

    madewithcarbon-
    I believe the goal is to understand people well enough to actually communicate with them.

    Bill Openthalt-
    I’m not sure religions are a necessary component of human society, although they certainly play a role now.
    But I would agree that any group will have premises in the logic that go beyond the evidence– perhaps that is the religion you refer to.
    Hummm… interesting topic.

  37. Bill Openthalton 22 Aug 2013 at 5:52 pm

    @ sonic

    Religions are ideologies, like marxism, that happen (for historical reasons) to include the belief in one or more deities. Societies need an ideology to ensure sufficient commonality between the individual members. The tenets of the ideology are integrated at the subconscious level by the members, so the society one has grown up in is feels superior to other societies.

  38. BillyJoe7on 23 Aug 2013 at 9:26 am

    sonic,

    “I believe nearly everyones definition of god starts with ‘that which started (or created) the universe’”

    Well, what you said was…
    “It seems reasonable to define the word ‘god’ as ‘that which created this universe’”

    “although I would agree that for most it doesn’t end there”
    In other words, it is not reasonable to define the word ‘god’ as ‘that which created this universe’.

    “For many centuries the argument between deists/ theists and atheists was if the universe had a beginning, then god exists (see Aquinas).
    With the ‘big-bang’ the goalposts have moved, obviously.”

    So when you said…
    “It seems reasonable to define the word ‘god’ as ‘that which created this universe’”
    …you were talking about past history? Well, who knew?

    “What sets humans apart from other animals is that humans make televisions.”

    Only a few humans can make televisions.
    Humans cannot make termite nests.
    Sonic doesn’t know how to make an argument.

    “And I can give you 100′s of thousands of other examples.
    How about that?”

    Yes, how about that?

  39. BillyJoe7on 23 Aug 2013 at 9:33 am

    Bill,

    Yet we have anti-abortion laws, laws against stem cell research, laws discriminating against homosexuals, religious feast days as public holidays, blasphemy laws…

  40. tmac57on 23 Aug 2013 at 10:04 am

    Sonic-

    And the usual end to the regress is to accept that god is beyond our current understanding and somehow different than what we see here.
    I’m not sure that makes it a correct argument, but I do see the logic and power of it.

    Fail

    There is no logic behind the notion that the proof of god lies in the complexity of life and the universe’s existence,only to punt at the ultimate question that that line of reasoning leads to with the lame ‘Well I don’t know HOW or WHY there is a god,I just know it to be true’. You call that powerful ?

    I respect the physicist’s response more: ‘I don’t know yet,but I want to see what we can learn by examining and testing nature to see what we can find out’.
    That approach has indeed proven both logical and powerful,as science is systematically unraveling the mysteries of life far,far beyond what was ever achieved by any religion.
    The religious origin explanation is merely a comforting (for some) bedtime story that is about as logical as the tooth fairy.

  41. Kawarthajonon 23 Aug 2013 at 11:10 am

    ccbowers: “It sounds like you are saying Canada is more homogenous than the US with respect to attitudes towards religion. That may be true. I also understand that Canada, as a whole, is also less religious than the US as a whole. I am curious which general area you are from in Canada. From my perspective, in the US, attitudes towards religion and religious expression is highly regional, and I think that people have an impression of the US which is a bit of a caricature.”

    I am not saying that Canada is more homogenous than the US about attitudes towards religion, just that they are much less likely to discuss it openly. There are some notable differences, however, such as the percent of people who believe in evolution (60% in Canada, vs 30% in US, according to a poll in 2012) and percentage who attend church (20% in Canada vs 41% in US).

    I am from both the East (Ontario) and the West (British Columbia) and divide my time between those Provinces.

    There is definitely some regionality in Canada, like the US, and in generall, people on the Western side of the country tend to be involved in newer churches (i.e. Pentacostal, Baptist), while the Eastern half of the country tend to be involved in more traditional Christian sects (i.e. Anglican/Catholic Churches), but that is a huge generalization. There are also huge minorities of Muslim, Sikh, Hindu and Buddist populations, mostly centered in large urban areas, like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, as well as Calgary and Ottawa. There are also a large number of Indigenous peoples, who have a diversity of beliefs. We definitely do not have much of a north-south split like the US, as the vast, vast majority of the population lives in the south.

    You may be correct that my impression of the US is a bit of a caricature, since our news is selective as to what they print about US politics. We are, however, quite tuned into federal and state politics in the US in general, as they have such a huge impact on our economy.

  42. sonicon 23 Aug 2013 at 2:21 pm

    Bill Openthalt-
    Are you describing the historical norm, or an inescapable fact of human nature?
    I’m agreeing with the basic analysis– just wondering if this behavior is inevitable.

    tmac57–
    If you run into a situation that leads to a paradox– ‘what created the creator?’, for example– it is logical to consider that some aspect of the equation is missing.
    In this case, one might consider that the end to an infinite regress is to recognize that there are things that operate outside of our current understanding and differently than how the things we do see work.

    The most famous is the ‘first cause’ argument– god is the ‘first cause’–
    If you go to the ‘naturalism’ website, you will find that everything in nature is fully caused by previous causes.
    But there must have been a first cause that couldn’t have been caused (or even influenced) by something earlier in this universe.
    So we get that god is the ‘uncaused causer’ and that this is different than what we see in ‘nature’.

    You follow?

    BillyJoe7-
    Yes, it seems reasonable to define god as ‘that which started (or created) the universe.’

  43. sonicon 23 Aug 2013 at 2:22 pm

    BillyJoe7- (Continued– I messed up- hit submit too early…)

    It is normal that words are defined historically– that is the word means what it means because that is how it has been used in the past.
    In fact, if we decide that words have no connection to the historical use of them, then how could we use them to communicate at all?
    I think you made an error in your later statement.

    Just some termites build nests. The rest of your comment seems rather non sequitur– I just wanted to clear that up about termites.

  44. BillyJoe7on 23 Aug 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Sonic,

    “It is normal that words are defined historically– that is the word means what it means because that is how it has been used in the past”

    But history is against you.
    First there were gods…the god of thunder…the sea god. Then along came God.
    And nobody’s definition of god is, or ever was, just simply ‘the creator of the universe’.

    Apart from which, your statement is simply false. To quote Ian Anderson….
    Words get written.
    Words get twisted.
    Old meanings move in the drift of time.
    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pzHxNfq8A3s&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DpzHxNfq8A3s

    “In fact, if we decide that words have no connection to the historical use of them, then how could we use them to communicate at all?”

    Except that you said “words are defined historically” not that they should have some connection to their historical use.
    But of course, as before, your statement is simply false.
    There are many words that have lost all connection to their historical use.

    “I think you made an error in your later statement.
    Just some termites build nests. The rest of your comment seems rather non sequitur– I just wanted to clear that up about termites.”

    Non sequitur. Exactly.
    That was the point I was making. Your comment was a non sequitur. Quid pro quo.
    I’m glad you caught on.

  45. BillyJoe7on 23 Aug 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Sonic,

    “everything in nature is fully caused by previous causes”

    It seems Relativity is not your only failing. (;

  46. ccbowerson 23 Aug 2013 at 7:13 pm

    Kawarthajon-

    I live only a few miles from Ontario. BTW, Ontario has about 30 Christian radio stations, although I’m not sure how much of that content comes from the U.S. Yes, I know Ontario is huge, but I assume most are concentrated near Toronto, where most of the people are. I realize that Canada as a whole has become less religious over the past few decades, and Pew research did a nice overview of the topic:

    http://www.pewforum.org/2013/06/27/canadas-changing-religious-landscape/

    “You may be correct that my impression of the US is a bit of a caricature, since our news is selective as to what they print about US politics. We are, however, quite tuned into federal and state politics in the US in general, as they have such a huge impact on our economy.”

    Even US citizens have a caricature understanding of the US, so I don’t mean to really criticize that too much. I just like nuanced statements about complex issues. I’m sure you have a much better understanding of the U.S. than most in the US have of Canada. I think the relative impact culturally, politically, and economically are the obvious reasons.

  47. TheBlackCaton 24 Aug 2013 at 9:18 am

    @ Sonic:

    You really need to do some research on the “first cause” argument. All your points have been thoroughly refuted over and over and over and over and over again.

    “If you run into a situation that leads to a paradox– ‘what created the creator?’, for example”

    There is no reason to conclude that the “first cause” and the “creator of the universe” are same thing. It could very well be that the first cause caused something that caused something else that caused something else that caused something else that caused something else that caused something else that caused something else [repeat 10^2718 times] that caused the creator of our universe to come into existence.

    “– it is logical to consider that some aspect of the equation is missing.”

    No, generally a paradox cannot be solved just by adding more components. Usually the problem is that there is a logic error somewhere or the premises are flawed. In the case o f the “first cause” argument it is both.

    “If you go to the ‘naturalism’ website, you will find that everything in nature is fully caused by previous causes.”

    No, it isn’t. Radioactive decay, for example. Also google “quantum foam” (flawed premise).

    “But there must have been a first cause that couldn’t have been caused (or even influenced) by something earlier in this universe.”

    Or things have gone on forever. There is no reason that infinite regresses are impossible, it is just asserted without basis by people making the “first cause” argument. (flawed premise)

    “So we get that god is the ‘uncaused causer’ and that this is different than what we see in ‘nature’.”

    If you argue that something can exist without a cause (which the “first cause” argument requires), there is no logical reason to conclude that this can’t be the universe itself. Even if we wrongly assume that everything in the universe needs a cause, it is a logical fallacy to conclude that the properties of parts of the universe apply to the universe as a whole. (logical error)

    As for saying it must be different than nature today, the early universe was very, very different than anything we see in nature today, so different that our current understanding of physics can’t deal with it.

  48. tmac57on 24 Aug 2013 at 11:25 am

    Sonic-

    But there must have been a first cause that couldn’t have been caused (or even influenced) by something earlier in this universe.

    And you know this how? Seems like a naked assertion no?

    Well done to TheBlackCat,you saved me a lot of time :)

  49. BillyJoe7on 24 Aug 2013 at 5:30 pm

    First Causes and Infinities.

    I’d like to concede a little ground to sonic and perhaps shift a little earth beneath TBC and tmac.
    Although we have well defined infinities in mathematics, we have yet to find any in nature. Therefore we cannot use “there was always something” as an argument against “there must have been an uncaused first cause”. TBC and tmac are merely saying that “there MAY have always been something” but I think even that is a shaky argument because, not only do we not have examples of something always existing, we also do not have a concept of how something could have always existed – we may have a concept of mathematical infinities, but we do not have a concept of how they could exist in nature.

    Quantum physics is a good argument up to a point. In the empty space of our universe, quantum objects are flittering in and out of existence “uncaused” at an enormous rate. But, the reason I put “uncaused” in scare quotes, is because quantum physics has to exist for quantum fluctuations to be possible. And, if we are making an argument that something can come from nothing, we need to explain how nothing can include quantum physics. Sure, whole new universes – whole new spacetimes – can come into existence in the empty space of our own universe but, for the first universe to come into existence, we seem to need quantum physics to pre-exist that first universe.

    In other words, I think there is still an unresolved mystery here.
    However, we cannot advance “god” as the solution to that mystery because it clearly is not. All we would be doing is swapping one mystery for an even bigger one: where did god come from”? In fact, we would be virtually back at our starting before science even arrived on the scene! So I don’t even want to use the word “god” as a label for that mystery. I would rather just ask: where did quantum physics come from?
    Some say that is asking one question too many, but I’m still a little uncomfortable with that “solution”.

  50. tmac57on 24 Aug 2013 at 8:27 pm

    BillyJoe- I appreciate what you are trying to do here,and I also like the fact that you are trying to be fair and even handed.The mark of a good skeptic.

    In my opinion (for whatever that is worth) neither explanation comports well with human understanding of cause and effect, and I do see merit in Sonic’s statement

    In this case, one might consider that the end to an infinite regress is to recognize that there are things that operate outside of our current understanding and differently than how the things we do see work.

    I am fully aware that we have no examples of infinities OR first causes (in the absolute sense) . So what are we to do? Assert that the notion of ‘God’ as the uncaused first cause as being a logical and powerful concept? Hard to justify. Assert that the universe (in some form of existence) has always existed? Also hard to justify based on what is currently known. So the most logical stance as far as I can determine is to continue on with research that builds on what we DO know,and speculate only to the degree that it is for the purposes of hypothesizing and testing,rather than throwing in the intellectual towel,and accepting a pre-scientific dogma of supernatural origin,that by definition we will never be able to comprehend,so therefore we must take it solely on faith.
    My guess is that you feel largely the same way.

  51. BillyJoe7on 25 Aug 2013 at 9:25 am

    tmac,

    You are too kind.

    But I do regard sonic as a friend.
    Which is strange because I disagree with just about everything he says. (In my opinion) he talks mostly a lot of nonsense, he thinks fringe views are as equally worthy of our time as well-considered views, and he mostly refuses to take a position.

    But you have to take a position.
    Even though you realise your decision is based on incomplete information.
    We can justifiably say: “there are no gods”, not because we have evidence that gods don’t exist, but because there is simply no evidence that they do. Quite simply, gods are unnecessary hypotheses. Enough.

    And, of course there is his (microbiologist* inspired) misunderstanding of evolution. In my opinion, the continued existence of *James Shapiro is actual proof that there is no god. (:

  52. sonicon 25 Aug 2013 at 1:20 pm

    BillyJoe7-
    Thanks.
    You state– “But you have to take a position.”
    How about the position, “I don’t know”? As in, “I don’t know how the universe got here.”

    tmac57-
    “…Assert that the universe (in some form of existence) has always existed?”
    That has been the default position historically.
    I believe it is one of the reasons Einstein altered his formulation of general relativity. And he had to change it back (his biggest mistake) when the implications of Hubble’s findings hit home.

    TheBlackCat-
    So what do you call ‘that which started this universe’?
    And how much of what goes on in this universe doesn’t have any physical explanation at all?
    And are you sure that the possibility there is no physical reason for why the universe acts as it does is an argument that god doesn’t exist?

  53. BillyJoe7on 25 Aug 2013 at 6:00 pm

    sonic,

    What a disappointment you are |:

    Nobody knows how the universe got here, but there are plenty of things we can say about it. To simply state that you don’t know how the universe got here period denies the whole two hundred year history of science. We now know what is irrelevant in our search for an answer, what the possibilities are, and in what direction the answer will lie. In short, we are much closer to the answer and it’s no longer acceptable to simply throw your hands in the air and say “I don’t know”. For example, god is a failed hypothesis. It has no explanatory power. Science has explained the complex in terms of the increasingly simple. It makes no sense to simply tack a complex entity on the end of it all because all that does is bring you back to your starting point. Except that now the question is “how did god get here”. Somehow that doesn’t seem to need an answer!

    Three more things…
    Do you actually understand the nature of Einstein’s biggest mistake because your short summary suggests that you don’t. Unless you wrote in haste.
    Similarly with your last sentence in reply to TBC.
    Can you name something that does not have and cannot have a physical explanation, because that is what you would need to posit the god explanation (which, actually, is still not an explanation even in these circumstances).

  54. Bill Openthalton 26 Aug 2013 at 6:11 am

    @ BillyJoe7

    Not all aspects of our society are fully secular, given the very religious antecedents of our civilisation. But religion as ceased to be the determining society-forming mechanism (at least in Northern Europe). It will take a long time to get rid of Christmas, especially because humans need to mark the passage of time through special occasions — but the religious content will be watered down (and this is a clearly observable process).

    @ Sonic
    In my analysis, ideology is an integral and essential part of human societies. Without ideologies, we would be small groups eking out a living in the African savannahs (OK, that’s probably an exagerration, but we certainly wouldn’t be filling up our Petri dish as we’re doing now).

  55. sonicon 26 Aug 2013 at 10:02 am

    Bill Openthalt-
    I think you are correct about people and ideologies.
    Where I live religion informs most people about other people, I believe most people see me as an agent with some form of freewill, for example.
    And that’s where some currently popular ideologies will eventually clash, I guess.
    Freewill.
    We shall see.

    BillyJoe7-
    Re- Einstein
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmological_constant

    When will the radioactive atom decay? I posit that as a question without physical answer.

    If god is ‘that which started the universe’, then how could the ‘god hypothesis’ fail?

  56. tmac57on 26 Aug 2013 at 11:19 am

    Sonic- If the universe is a ‘holographic projection in a 1 x 1 inch cube of jello’, then how could the ‘holographic jello cube universe hypothesis’ fail?

    You can construct any number of logically consistent hypotheses,but that doesn’t mean that they make any sense, advance knowledge,or have anything at all to do with reality.

  57. BillyJoe7on 26 Aug 2013 at 5:45 pm

    sonic,

    You are not engaging with the arguments, so I’m not sure it’s worth continuing.
    I asked if you understood Einstein’s biggest error and you gave me a link!
    The rest are just one liners that neither make sense nor tell us what you really think or understand about the questions being posed.
    As I said, disappointing.

    ” I believe most people see me as an agent with some form of freewill”

    Of course they do. And you, me, and all of us, act as if we have freewill. But the whole concept of freewill is incoherent. We have cause and effect. And we have randomness. Neither provide a mechanism for freewill. Decisions cannot be made out of nothing. And if they did it would be randomness, not freewill. Freewill has no feet.

    “When will the radioactive atom decay? I posit that as a question without physical answer”

    So radioactive decay is what? A supernatural event? Evidence of gods?
    Quantum physics is so well described mathematically that the outcomes of quantum experiments are the most accurately predicted of any experiments in science. You just need to run them long enough to see the predictable result emerge out of the randomness.
    There are no quantum experiments that demonstrate a non physical meddling with the outcome.
    In short, randomness is part of nature, not the basis of the supernatural. Or of freewill. Surely you can see that.

  58. Bill Openthalton 26 Aug 2013 at 7:41 pm

    @ Sonic

    Where I live religion informs most people about other people, I believe most people see me as an agent with some form of freewill, for example.

    If you accept ideologies such as marxism and christianity as “social glue”, it follows they will have a part in determining how people observe each other. The idea of “free will” originated with christian thinkers who needed to find a solution to the problem of evil, and once it became part of the social canon, people grew up accepting as self-evident, not in need of critical examination (really crazy concepts like the immaculate conception are also accepted without even a whimper).

    This does not mean there really is such a thing as the religion-originated free will. The best explanation for the process commonly experienced as free will is the conscious perceiving the conflicts between the impulses (feelings) originating in the subconscious, more specifically between the individualistic and social modules. You might feel “tempted” to steal an apple because you’re hungry, but the social module warns for the possible effects on your social standing. The resolution of the conflict can be explained as an act of free will — you have the choice between stealing and remaining honest, and the conscious module was aware of the contradictory impulses. It’s not quite what the philosophers had in mind, but humans have a marvelous talent for constructing impressive-sounding rationalisations for their behaviour.

  59. TheBlackCaton 27 Aug 2013 at 6:47 am

    @ BillyJoe7:

    “Although we have well defined infinities in mathematics, we have yet to find any in nature. Therefore we cannot use “there was always something” as an argument against “there must have been an uncaused first cause”….”

    There are three problems here:

    First, “there must have been an uncased first cause” also requires “there was always something”, it just changes what that something is.

    Second, of course we have no examples of something that has always existed, all matter in the universe came into existence a finite length of time ago. So it isn’t that infinite things are impossible, or even improbable, it is just that the configuration of our universe prevents them. However, our understanding of physics says there are many things that should last for an infinite time if given the opportunity.

    Third, I have already pointed out that it is a logical fallacy to conclude that the properties of the parts of something, say things in the universe, apply to the universe as a whole. We don’t know what sort of rules apply to the universe as a whole, but concluding that the same rules that apply to the matter in it apply is certainly wrong, since we know the laws of physics governing the early universe were radically different than anything we can see today.

    “And, if we are making an argument that something can come from nothing, we need to explain how nothing can include quantum physics. ”

    I think you misunderstood my argument. I am not claiming we can demonstrate that something came from nothing. I am simply pointing out that the premises and logic behind the first cause argument are flawed. The laws of physics aren’t a “cause”, they are a framework under which caused or uncaused events can occur.

    Anything that exists, including the first cause, must have some framework for its existence, some laws of physics even, if they are radically different from our. So positing a first cause doesn’t solve the problem of physics, since again you still have to determine where the laws the first cause operated under came from.

  60. TheBlackCaton 27 Aug 2013 at 6:56 am

    @ Sonic: pretty much ignoring everything I said, but I guess I’ll respond anyway for now

    “So what do you call ‘that which started this universe’?”

    I don’t know if there is a “that which caused the universe”, as I already explained, but if we assume there is, I would call it the “the universe’s cause”.

    One thing I would absolutely, positively, not call it is God, because it has essentially none of the properties commonly associated with God, so calling it that will only serve to confuse people about what I am talking about. I also won’t call it “canary”, because it again has pretty much none of the properties commonly associated with canaries. Words have meaning, you can’t just arbitrarily redefine words and expect to be understood.

    Of course this is why theists use the word “God”, they want to be misunderstood, they want to be able to say “first cause, therefore Jesus” without people noticing the bait-and-switch.

    “And how much of what goes on in this universe doesn’t have any physical explanation at all?”

    So far I have not seen any reason to believe any of it doesn’t.

    “And are you sure that the possibility there is no physical reason for why the universe acts as it does is an argument that god doesn’t exist?”

    I don’t think you read my argument at all. I never argued that God doesn’t exist. I argued that the “first cause” argument is fundamentally flawed in many ways and thus is not a valid argument that got does exist.

  61. TheBlackCaton 27 Aug 2013 at 7:01 am

    @ Sonic:

    “If god is ‘that which started the universe’, then how could the ‘god hypothesis’ fail?”

    If god is “that which causes lightning”, then how could the “god hypothesis” fail? If god is “that which makes water liquid”, then how could the “god hypothesis” fail? If god is “that which we use to write letters”, then how could the “god hypothesis” fail?

    You are making god real by definition. But that is a useless statement, since it tells us nothing about god, nothing about the universe, nothing about anything. “god” may just end up being some equation from string theory, for example, or loop quantum gravity, or whatever replaces modern physics. It is pointless semantic game.

  62. sonicon 27 Aug 2013 at 9:41 am

    BillyJoe7-
    I’m saying that in the world I actually currently inhabit, the word ‘god’ is used to denote ‘the maker of this universe’.
    I have no problem with that.
    Now, as to the claims about who or what that god is–
    well the claims are multitudinous and contradictory and often kinda wacky… Aren’t people something?

    But there seems to be a great deal of agreement that ‘god’ is ‘not a thing’.

    Einstein read d’Holbach. Kapeesh?

    BillOpenthalt-
    Now that I think about it, many religions suggest there is no freewill. Any religion that says god is omnipotent, for example, would posit that god knows what you will do, so any freedom to do otherwise is illusory– right? I believe Calvinism is an example of such thought.

    This question is much older than our current religions…
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/freewill/

    I have often wondered what difference it makes if I think that I am the product of ‘god’s will’ or ‘physics’ given that I have no actual choice in the matter of what I think.

    It seems many people who have no freewill expect others do.
    Why else would they get pissed when someone doesn’t ‘get it’ unless they think that person could do otherwise? Because they have no choice to do otherwise?

    What amazes me is that my silliness has been pre-determined by the big bang billions of years ago.
    Hardly seems worth the wait…

    TheBlackCat-
    Yes, I am defining god into existence. I am also confining god to a specific act (although I would allow for the possibility of other acts)– and I believe I am in agreement with the vast majority of English speaking people by using the word in that way.

    I believe by doing so, we can discuss if and what this god might be like. For example– the ‘god of lightening’ is well described by various mathematical equations.

    And I do that because I don’t want to just make up what words mean.
    (As far as I can tell, god has always been blamed for this universe).

    You are correct– there are a number of possible difficulties with a ‘first cause’ argument– each of which has its own problems, I think.
    “The laws of physics have changed,” is a possible flaw. And apparently the way the laws of physics change from time to time included a parting of the Red Sea.
    I wonder why the laws change when they do?

    And yes, it isn’t always true that what applies to the parts applies to the whole.
    So you claim ‘no god found’ by looking at the parts.
    And you fail to note that doesn’t apply to the whole.

    I’ll give you the ‘first cause’ isn’t the answer to everything– but your objections are problematic to your conclusion as well.

    You assert that ‘theists want to be misunderstood…’

    Here is a short list of people you seem to be talking about–
    Newton, Galileo, Maxwell, Martin Luther King, Bach, Pasteur.

    Would you mind picking one of those people and be specific about how that individual wanted to be misunderstood so as to pull off a ‘bait and switch’.
    Specific writings or quotations would be of value.

    Thanks.

  63. OlegShon 27 Aug 2013 at 11:37 am

    Religion has always been retracting from the science.

    Ancient Greeks believed in Zeus, Poseidon and other gods living on the Mount Olympus. When the science advanced enough even the most religious Greeks gave up they believes and nowadays Olympus gods are just a part of a mythology.

    Another example – ask someone in medieval time about an origin of lightning and thunders. Depending of the religion they would give you a different answer, but it would involve the supernatural force of a god:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightning_in_religion

    Only progress in science explained lightning and thunders as nature phenomena caused by electricity.

    Now we came to point of the life origins on Earth. I would assume it’s the last battle field for the religion, because the science has not gotten to the point of explaining that topic with sufficient evidences.

    And recent discovery of Higgs boson (God particle) is a huge step in that direction.

  64. TheBlackCaton 27 Aug 2013 at 2:56 pm

    “Yes, I am defining god into existence. I am also confining god to a specific act (although I would allow for the possibility of other acts)– and I believe I am in agreement with the vast majority of English speaking people by using the word in that way.”

    Baloney. “The vast majority of the English speaking people” mean a LOT more when they say the word “God” then just “what caused the universe to come into existence” and you know.

    Here, let’s look at the actual English definition of the word:

    God
    noun
    1. the one Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe.
    2. the Supreme Being considered with reference to a particular attribute: the God of Islam.
    3. ( lowercase ) one of several deities, especially a male deity, presiding over some portion of worldly affairs.
    4. ( often lowercase ) a supreme being according to some particular conception: the god of mercy.
    5. Christian Science. the Supreme Being, understood as Life, Truth, love, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Principle. ”

    None of those definitions are just “that which caused the universe to come into existence”. Even the first definition, the one that comes first, also says that God is a being, that God is supreme, that God is a creator (rather than just an abstract force of nature), and that God is a ruler (which implies some sort of free will).

    ““The laws of physics have changed,” is a possible flaw. And apparently the way the laws of physics change from time to time included a parting of the Red Sea.

    I wonder why the laws change when they do?”

    And here is the bait-and-switch I was talking about. How did we get from “the first cause” to “the book of Exodus is historical fact”?

    “So you claim ‘no god found’ by looking at the parts.
    And you fail to note that doesn’t apply to the whole.

    I’ll give you the ‘first cause’ isn’t the answer to everything– but your objections are problematic to your conclusion as well.”

    As I have said over and over again, I am NOT asserting that God doesn’t exist. You are either not reading what I am writing, or intentionally making up strawmen arguments.

    Please repeat after me:

    TheBlackCat is not claiming to be able to disprove God.
    TheBlackCat is not claiming to be able to disprove God.
    TheBlackCat is not claiming to be able to disprove God.
    TheBlackCat is not claiming to be able to disprove God.

    Understand now?

    “You assert that ‘theists want to be misunderstood…’”

    No, I am asserting that people using the first cause argument as an argument for their particular deity want to be misunderstood. Many theists are well aware that the first cause argument is hopelessly flawed and thus don’t use it.

  65. BillyJoe7on 27 Aug 2013 at 5:39 pm

    sonic,

    “I’m saying that in the world I actually currently inhabit, the word ‘god’ is used to denote ‘the maker of this universe’”

    I don’t believe you.
    I don’t know a single deist and yet I’m supposed to believe that your world is inhabited by them.
    Okay I suppose you win the argument. Congratulations.

  66. BillyJoe7on 27 Aug 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Freewill.

    Sonic: “It seems many people who have no freewill expect others do.
    Why else would they get pissed when someone doesn’t ‘get it’ unless they think that person could do otherwise? Because they have no choice to do otherwise”

    Really, sonic, that is a rather naive argument against freewill and you should know that by now.
    We’ve had these conversations many times before.

    A person can get pissed when someone doesn’t ‘get it’ because that is the output of their brain based on the input (via their ears) of the stupidity of the output of another person’s brain (via their vocal cords).
    And the stupidity of the output of that person’s brain can change as a result of that interaction – as a result of further input into that person’s brain, they can ‘get it’ when at first they didn’t ‘get it’.
    No freewill, just cause and effect.

    And because everyone acts as if there is freewill is not evidence of it’s actual existence.
    In fact, if there is only the illusion of freewill, the result will be exactly the same – people will believe they have freewill. That’s what we mean by the illusion of freewill.
    Everyone sees that the squares in the checkerboard illusion to be different colours.
    They are not.
    Everyone feels they have freewill.
    They don’t.

  67. BillyJoe7on 27 Aug 2013 at 6:23 pm

    …oops I meant argument FOR freewill ):

  68. The Other John Mcon 27 Aug 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Occam’s Razor makes mincemeat of First Cause argument (courtesy of Carl Sagan):

    If the universe had a first cause, then “god” (whatever that might mean) must have been it. But who caused god? We are forced to assume that something (god) had a first cause. But if we are to assume a first cause, why not just save a step, and say it was the universe, or that there was no cause?

    We can either assume there was no first cause, or even if there was, there still is no need to posit a “god” as being it, because we can save a step, thank you Occam.

  69. The Other John Mcon 27 Aug 2013 at 7:29 pm

    BJ, you are right on the money with the Illusion of Freewill. It doesn’t mean we don’t have the illusion, it just means we don’t have free will.

  70. sonicon 28 Aug 2013 at 12:51 am

    TheBlackCat-
    The assumption that there are laws for the ‘first cause’ is a form of ‘begging the question’.

    With that said,
    I agree– the first cause argument has problems. But it seems each problem in the argument leads to more difficulties for an attempt to get rid of god than not. For example- you point out that it is possible that not everything in nature is caused by previous causes. At least not ‘natural’ causes– right? You see my point– take away the need for causal closure and the usual arguments against theism fall to the wayside.

    I would suggest if the universe has causal closure, then the fact it had a beginning makes for a problem. If the universe isn’t causally closed, then there is no reason to think something outside the universe can’t be influencing it.

    And that’s the power of the argument as I understand it.

    I agree- most people think of more than ‘that which started the universe’ when they say god. But there is agreement that ‘god started the universe’ (at least it seems all god people agree to that) and there are disagreements about nearly every other thing.
    If we define god narrowly enough to be able to converse about it without going all over the place, then I think it might be possible to make headway.

    I’m thinking that in your case I could be wrong about that. But then again, I don’t know what you will say next.

    OlegSh-
    Religious beliefs have changed over time.
    Origin of the universe, origin of life, and origin of origins…
    Not sure this discussion is going away anytime soon.
    But the religious beliefs will change over time– at least if the past is any clue to the future.
    And of course this is funny because usually religious people will claim ‘eternal truth’ and anti-religious people will claim ‘religion doesn’t change’.

    BillyJoe7-
    Yes, if I ask a person, “Did god make the universe?”– I expect the answer (in most cases) will be “Yes.”
    Isn’t that what people where you live would say?

    And for goodness sake– if we agreed then we’d both be wrong.

    And yes, all my arguments about freewill are naive. And what should I do about that? Will them to change?

    The Other John Mc-
    Your argument is how one knows god isn’t like what we see here– ‘the uncaused causer’, if you will.
    Or you could say what started this universe was ‘not a thing’– which is what I think most everyone agrees with.
    I might agree with the freewill arguments if I had a choice in the matter. I guess we’ll never know.

  71. BillyJoe7on 28 Aug 2013 at 6:55 am

    Sonic,

    “TheBlackCat…you point out that it is possible that not everything in nature is caused by previous causes. At least not ‘natural’ causes– right?”

    Wrong.
    I’ve already responded to this and pointed out your error.
    But, in typical fashion, you have simply ignored that response and repeated your false assertion.
    Quantum Physics is a PHYSICAL theory.
    A true coin toss is random but, the longer the throws continue, the closer the ratio of heads to tails will approach 1. This is a physical fact. We don’t need a supernatural agent to produce this result (though we might need a supernatural agent to produce a contrary result, but good luck with your search for evidence. Hint: there ain’t any).
    Same for Schroedingers wave function.

    “You see my point– take away the need for causal closure and the usual arguments against theism fall to the wayside.”

    You don’t have a point.
    See the above.

    “I would suggest if the universe has causal closure, then the fact it had a beginning makes for a problem.”

    Nope.
    Quantum physics.

    “If the universe isn’t causally closed, then there is no reason to think something outside the universe can’t be influencing it”

    And no reason to think so.
    Hint: yep…Quantum Physics.

    “if I ask a person, “Did god make the universe?”– I expect the answer (in most cases) will be “Yes.”
    Isn’t that what people where you live would say?”

    Bait and switch.
    In case you don’t know, that is a dishonest tactic. Or a naïve one.
    You were asking how we DEFINE god.
    Now you’ve switched to talking about only one of the attributes of the gods people believe in.
    Nobody, except diests, DEFINE their god as “that which started the universe”, though most would agree that that is ONE OF THE ATTRIBUTES of their gods.

    “And yes, all my arguments about freewill are naive. And what should I do about that? Will them to change?”

    You are still making the same error.
    Your naive brain will continue to have inputs from brains that ‘get it’.
    Maybe one day those inputs will produce a non-naive output.
    Cause and effect. (;

    “I might agree with the freewill arguments if I had a CHOICE in the matter”

    Really, sonic, do you ever listen to anything.
    CAUSE AND EFFECT.

  72. ccbowerson 28 Aug 2013 at 12:27 pm

    For those with the time and inclination here is a pretty good historical overview of the topic of free will and the arguments. It is a plalist of 24 videos, each are 30 minutes long. I’ve seen most of it, and it is very well done. It is more of an overview, and he does not provide much of his own opinion on the subject. Not all of it is directly relevant to the topic, but is interesting nonetheless:

    http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL68IsTW5w0riikQc1N1xYcJ8mjGWpzPHx

  73. sonicon 28 Aug 2013 at 6:20 pm

    BillyJoe7-
    Is everything in nature caused by previous causes in nature?
    I don’t know. You tell me.

    If yes, then what started nature?
    If no, then what else is causing things?

    You seem to suggest that quantum mechanics has solved the problem of the origin of the universe.
    Really? How?

    I understand your point about attributes people believe god has. That is why I’ve tried to be consistent in how I would define the term. Sorry if I have been less than perfect on that account.
    But I’m not sure that there is anything wrong with the statement-
    “For purpose of the following discussion I would like to define the word ‘god’ to mean ‘that which started (or created) this universe’.”

    It is possible that the word itself is so emotionally charged that it is not possible for many people to actually accept that definition.
    And perhaps that is what I’m learning so far.

    If I had any choice in the matter I might argue against freewill, but since I don’t I’ll have to argue for. Go figure.

    ccbowers-
    Sorry for those last two sentences.

  74. TheBlackCaton 28 Aug 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Sorry, I am not playing this game anymore. As long as Sonic insists on lying that I claim to be able to disprove God, then there is no point continuing this discussion.

  75. BillyJoe7on 29 Aug 2013 at 5:56 am

    sonic,

    “For purpose of the following discussion I would like to define the word ‘god’ to mean ‘that which started (or created) this universe’.”

    I think it should be eminently clear by now that you cannot discuss theism by using the definition of a deist god.

    “Is everything in nature caused by previous causes in nature?”

    This is now the third time you have posed this question and it will now be the third time I’ve answered it. And, no matter how many times you ask it, the answer is not going to change….
    No.

    “I don’t know. You tell me.”

    You have no excuse now for not knowing the answer.

    “If no, then what else is causing things?”

    Do you understand how stupid that question is?
    You are asking: if there are things in nature that don’t have a cause, then what else is causing them?!!!

    “You seem to suggest that quantum mechanics has solved the problem of the origin of the universe.
    Really? How?”

    False, I have prevaricated on that question but…
    There are theories in Quantum Physics that allow the creation of space and time out of nothing.
    I have already said that, to my mind, this would mean that Quantum Physics would need to pre-exist the universe to be the reason why the universe exists. On the other hand, some physicists are of the opinion that there is no reason why nothing rather than something is more likely to be prevail. Some even suggest that there are good reasons to believe something is far more likely than nothing.
    It doesn’t quite gel with me at this point in time but, then again, I am not a physicist. And, hey, here we are, so it can’t exactly be impossible.

    “It is possible that the word itself is so emotionally charged that it is not possible for many people to actually accept that definition. And perhaps that is what I’m learning so far”

    The you have learnt nothing.
    And it’s a cheap and unworthy accusation to dismiss well thought out logical arguments as being the product of emotion.
    I have given you sound reasons why your definition is unacceptable. Please address them.

    “If I had any choice in the matter I might argue against freewill, but since I don’t I’ll have to argue for. Go figure.”

    This is now the third time you have made a fool of yourself regarding freewill.
    I have shown you twice already why your statements about freewill show a profound misunderstanding of the concept of the illusion of freewill and how it is the result of cause and effect and how it is indistinguishable in practice from freewill. And yet here you are still spouting this nonsense.
    Yes, go figure.

  76. sonicon 29 Aug 2013 at 2:30 pm

    TheBlackCat-
    Can you please tell me what I said to give you the idea that I thought you were claiming to be able to disprove the existence of god?

    I have been focused on the logic of the possibility that god exists given that the universe had a beginning. If the universe is causally closed, then a beginning is problematic– I don’t think that is a controversial statement. And if the universe is not causally closed, well… it takes the steam out of the first cause argument, but it opens the door to causes outside of the universe and that makes for a logical possibility for a god as well.

    At least that’s what I’ve been trying to say.

    If you would kindly tell me what I said to make you think I was claiming you were saying you could disprove god, then I might be able to avoid such error in the future.

    Thanks.

    BillyJoe7-
    Yes, the definition I gave is deist. I didn’t intend to make that the only possible attribute– but I thought if we defined god that way, then any other attribute could be considered a claim.
    For example– if god started the universe, then the claim ‘god is love’ goes beyond that definition. One could ask– “why do you think that which started this universe was love?”
    Now there is an answer I’d like to hear.

    So far I can see the way I went about it hasn’t been working. I’m not sure if it is due to the approach I’ve taken or if it is just hopeless. Perhaps it is my emotion that is getting in the way– sorry if it seems my statement excluded myself– I didn’t mean it to.

    Do you understand what it means to ‘beg the question’?
    If something is ‘uncaused by nature’ than we have the option that it is caused by something other than nature– right?

    As to the so called explanations of the origin of the universe– I’m thinking we can use Krauss’ book as a proxy and this review covers the situation rather well–
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/a-universe-from-nothing-by-lawrence-m-krauss.html?_r=0

    What makes you think I don’t understand the idea of the ‘illusion of freewill’?
    If I had a choice I’d say I didn’t have a choice. But since I have no choice, I’ll argue that I do have a choice.
    What about that makes you think I’m misunderstanding something about the ‘illusion of freewill’?

  77. BillyJoe7on 29 Aug 2013 at 5:42 pm

    sonic,

    “Yes, the definition I gave is deist”

    So why didn’t you admit that the first time I raised that point instead of dragging this along for three days..
    Nobody is a deist.
    So nobody’s definition of ‘god’ is ‘that which created the universe’.

    “If something is ‘uncaused by nature’ than we have the option that it is caused by something other than nature– right?”

    Well, that is not exactly what you said, but thanks for clarifying.
    In any case nature does supply uncaused events, so we don’t need to go outside the known and knowable.
    Is it an option? No, I don’t think it’s a rational option. Since we have no evidence for the existence of the supernatural, it is not rational to use supernatural explanations for things we may no yet understand. In fact, the evidence of the history of science is that we should not use ‘god of the gaps’ explanations.

    “What makes you think I don’t understand the idea of the ‘illusion of freewill’?”

    I’ve already explained that twice now. I’m not going to repeat myself again just to have you ignore it once again. Please respond to my previous explanations and prove to me that you do understand.

    “If I had a choice I’d say I didn’t have a choice. But since I have no choice, I’ll argue that I do have a choice.
    What about that makes you think I’m misunderstanding something about the ‘illusion of freewill’?”

    Your previous statements.
    On the other hand, your above statement makes no sense to me whatsoever.
    If it was a fact that you have a choice but you were of the opinion that you don’t have a choice, you would simply be wrong. If it was a fact that you don’t have a choice but you were of the opinion that you do have a choice, you would simply be wrong also.
    So what’s your point here?

    (I have a look at your link when I get time)

  78. BillyJoe7on 30 Aug 2013 at 1:02 am

    sonic,

    Regarding that link…
    That is a philosopher commenting on a book about physics by a physicist.
    That might explain why he misunderstood and, therefore, misrepresented the book.

  79. sonicon 30 Aug 2013 at 3:04 pm

    BillyJoe7-
    “Nobody is a deist,” you claim. Oh?

    Are you of the opinion that it is bad form to say “For the purpose of the following discussion I’d like to define the word ‘x’ as ‘y’”?
    Understand that every dictionary I’ve looked at included that god ‘made the universe’ as part of the definition.
    And I do think it is the major agreement about god– right? I mean– all the religions that have a god agree to that– even though they may differ on the other attributes.

    Anyway—

    “Nature does supply uncaused events…” Oh? What of the ‘many worlds’ interpretation?

    The link I gave is a perfectly good analysis of the book. You can’t point to anything wrong with the analysis, so you question the credentials of the author.
    Weak dude.

    Your argument against freewill seems to be ‘people don’t have it’ because they can effect each other through conversation…
    Ummm, one doesn’t preclude the other.

    If I had a choice, I’d choose to argue I didn’t.
    But since I have no choice, I’m forced to argue I do.

    I think it might be a form of reductio ad absurdum. Not sure. You think it is an argument for freewill?
    Interesting.

  80. BillyJoe7on 30 Aug 2013 at 6:05 pm

    sonic,

    I think the problem is that you neve seem to want to flesh out your arguments so I am always left wondering what you really think or mean. You were annoyed by my brief dismissal of the philosophers analysis of that book. On the other hand, you are pretty well treat every subject that way. Brief dismissals. One-liners. I usually try to respond by gently getting you to expand on your explanations by writing fairly detailed responses to your one-liners. But all I get back is just more brief dismissals and one-liners.

    In no way is that analysis of the book a fair representation, which you should know if you have read the book, and I assume you have read the book. His little diatribe (because you really couldn’t call it an analysis) is based on a misrepresentation of the contents of that book and that is a fact. Get out your copy of the book and simply read the introduction and conclusion and see if it bears any resemblance to what that philosopher has written.

  81. BillyJoe7on 31 Aug 2013 at 2:04 am

    Regarding deists and nothing….

    Of course there are a few deists around, but do you really want to address your arguments towards a vanishingly small percentage of the population? And, you know, there’s a big difference between the definition of a word and part of the definition of a word. I’ve been pointing this out to you for days now. But enough. You’ve had four days to get your house in order and its past saving now.

    This universe is full of uncaused events. If you want to buy into the many worlds interpretation where we get all possible outcomes then fine, I won’t argue. But there is no way to prove this interpretation is true. It’s just a way to try to make sense of our observations of the universe in which we live. But, let’s just stick with the observable fact that this universe is full of uncaused events or, if you prefer, seems for all intents and purposes to be full of uncaused events.

    But the whole point was to get something from nothing. We can’t say how that actually happened, but quantum field theory shows us how it is possible to get, not only particles from empty space, but also space and time from nothing. It does seem, as I’ve said before, that we need pre-existing laws of physics. But, if there is a multiverse, then we can start with just random/nonsense laws which, over countless generations of universes, can evolve within at least one of these universes, into laws of physics which are conducive to life. And, remember, quantum field theories that accurately predict the features of quantum particles in such a universe (ie this one), also predict the existence of a multiverse. At the very least, it doesn’t require any additional concepts. If you can have one universe, you can have two universes, or three, or four, or…..

    So, if we are not quite there, we are pretty damn close. All we need is a way for the the laws of physics to come into existence with the time and space that they produce. It might seem like lifting by the bootstraps but, compared to the lifting that needs to be done to get god into the act….
    Really, the god of the gaps is taking his last dying breaths.

  82. BillyJoe7on 31 Aug 2013 at 2:34 am

    Regarding freewill…

    “Your argument against freewill seems to be ‘people don’t have it’ because they can effect each other through conversation…”

    No. That was my attempt to show you why your argument for freewill fails. You don’t need freewill to choose to believe other than what you originally believed, you simply need input from minds that, as you say, ‘get it’. That just requires cause and effect, which we know exists as a mechanism, as opposed to freewill for which there is no mechanism.

    “one doesn’t preclude the other”

    No, but freewill lacks a mechanism. And that’s important don’t you think. Especially when there is not even a possible mechanism that we can think of by which freewill can work. Hell, it’s almost an oxymoron. In order to posit freewill, you need a mechanism, but freewill implies no mechanism, otherwies it is not ‘free’ or ‘willed’. It seems freewill is a sort of free floating nothingness. And all along we have good old cause and effect providing a perfectly workable mechanism for people ‘getting it’ when previously they didn’t.

    “If I had a choice, I’d choose to argue I didn’t”
    But since I have no choice, I’m forced to argue I do.”

    If it is a fact that you do have a choice, of couse you could choose to argue that you dont have a choice, but you would simply be wrong about that.
    If it is a fact that you don’t have a choice then, depending on the cause and effect relations inside your brain, you could end up arguing either that you do have a choice or that you don’t have a choice.
    How long do you want to play this game.

    “You think it is an argument for freewill?”

    No. I haven’t seen an argument for freewill anywhere.
    Just someone playing silly games.
    On well….

  83. sonicon 31 Aug 2013 at 2:05 pm

    BillyJoe7-
    Re: Krauss-
    The author of the review I linked to has a PhD in theoretical physics.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/a-universe-from-nothing-by-lawrence-m-krauss.html?_r=0
    You’ll have to be more specific about what you think the problems with the review are– I don’t see them. On the contrary I think it is spot on.

    You want to deny my request to use ‘god’ as ‘that which created the universe’. Fine.
    We can say ‘god’ is ‘that which created the universe– along with many other competing claims for which there is little agreement– and for that reason we will be ignoring all but the one for the current discussion.’
    Better?

    You claim the universe is filled with ‘uncaused’ events, yet you complain that ‘freewill’ has no ‘mechanism’.
    What is the ‘mechanism’ of the ‘uncaused events’ that you claim fill this universe?

    If I would make an argument for freewill-
    Since I have freewill– I will argue that I don’t.

    Aw, come on, it’s funny because it’s the only one that would actually prove the point… How else?

  84. BillyJoe7on 31 Aug 2013 at 6:10 pm

    sonic,

    What’s funny about an argument that assumes you have what you’re trying to prove and using that to conclude the opposite. In primary school we used to call that being silly buggers. A silly way to avoid a serious conversation about a subject you have no clue about.

    In this world we observe both caused events and uncaused events
    The caused events are the result of cause-and-effect. |:
    The uncaused events are probabilistic/random.
    But neither cause-and-effect nor randomness can be the basis for freewill.
    If freewill is due to cause-and-effect, it cannot be free.
    If freewill is random, it’s cannot be willed.
    So, for the umpteenth time, please show me how we can have freewill.

    If you want to discus the deist god, go right ahead. But let’s be clear about what we’re discussing. Because only a vanishingly small number of believers will be interested unless you bait with the deist and switch to the theist god. Religious apologists love this bait and switch game. By showing that god (deist god) cannot be disproved, they give you permission to believe in god (the christian version of the theistic god).

    Well, it appears that the author of that article – who is listed at the end of the article as a philosopher – does in fact also have a degree in theoretical physics. Well, then, he really has no excuse. But it seems you want me to do all the work. You simply provide a link and state “there, you see, Lawrence Krauss is wrong” because this person says so.
    Weak dude (;
    Anyway, see my next post…

  85. BillyJoe7on 31 Aug 2013 at 6:33 pm

    The following is a quote from the author of the article you linked to.
    It is disingenuous and it is wrong…

    What on earth, then, can Krauss have been thinking? Well, there is, as it happens, an interesting difference between relativistic quantum field theories and every previous serious candidate for a fundamental physical theory of the world. Every previous such theory counted material particles among the concrete, fundamental, eternally persisting elementary physical stuff of the world — and relativistic quantum field theories, interestingly and emphatically and unprecedentedly, do not. According to relativistic quantum field theories, particles are to be understood, rather, as specific arrangements of the fields. Certain ­arrangements of the fields, for instance, correspond to there being 14 particles in the universe, and certain other arrangements correspond to there being 276 particles, and certain other arrangements correspond to there being an infinite number of particles, and certain other arrangements correspond to there being no particles at all. And those last arrangements are referred to, in the jargon of quantum field theories, for obvious reasons, as “vacuum” states. Krauss seems to be thinking that these vacuum states amount to the relativistic-­quantum-field-theoretical version of there not being any physical stuff at all. And he has an argument — or thinks he does — that the laws of relativistic quantum field theories entail that vacuum states are unstable. And that, in a nutshell, is the account he proposes of why there should be something rather than nothing.

    The first bolded section is disingenuous from the point of view that the author seems to be suggesting that going from the ‘nothing’ of a few quantum particles in otherwise empty space to the ‘nothing’ of empty space is no big deal.

    The second bolded section is wrong from the point of view that Lawrence Krauss’ final ‘nothing’ is not empty space. He goes two steps further and, assuming you have read the book, I challenge you to confirm that fact and to tell me what those two further steps are.

    There a bit of homework for you in return.

  86. sonicon 01 Sep 2013 at 2:18 pm

    BillyJoe7-
    Yes, the technique of assuming what you intend to show and then pointing out an internal contradiction is a well known and invaluable tool for logical thought.
    I believe it is what is used to show the square root of two is irrational (for example).
    And yes– there is a wikipedia for it!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proof_by_contradiction
    It’s called ‘proof by contradiction’ and is a form of reductio ad absurdum as I guessed.
    Silly buggers those mathematicians.

    Given your assertions and assumptions then I would agree– there can be no freewill.
    But there are interpretations of the data that allow for freewill.
    Are you unaware of the options?

    If the universe is causally closed, then the fact of a beginning lends credence to some form of deism. If the universe is not closed, then that lends credence to theism.
    Right?

    Re: the article.

    I’m not sure that the first bolded section is disingenuous or that it implies what you say it does. I thought he was pointing out a difference between relativistic quantum field theories and other theories. And he does that rather nicely– don’t you think?

    The second bolded section does not say that Krauss is saying that ‘nothing’ is ‘empty space’.

    You use the term ‘empty space’ and the reviewer (Albert) does not.
    Perhaps you are misreading what is being said.

  87. BillyJoe7on 01 Sep 2013 at 5:31 pm

    sonic,

    Empty space is being used synonymously with vacuum state.
    That is, empty space is not actually empty. It contains energy which produces those fleeting virtual particles. This is more accurately referred to as the vacuum state.
    Nice diversion though to actually avoid answering the question…

    “Lawrence Krauss’ final ‘nothing’ is not empty space. He goes two steps further and, assuming you have read the book, I challenge you to confirm that fact and to tell me what those two further steps are.”

    Thanks for your response.

  88. BillyJoe7on 01 Sep 2013 at 5:46 pm

    Oh, BTW….

    “the technique of assuming what you intend to show and then pointing out an internal contradiction is a well known and invaluable tool for logical thought”

    You are a legend in your own mind. :D

    Of course you have done no such thing.
    In the words my friend Ian Anderson…”It’s just the nonsense that it seems”
    And I have pointed this out three times now with no response from you other than to simply repeat your nonsense.

  89. sonicon 04 Sep 2013 at 12:55 pm

    BillyJoe7-
    Sorry for the delay– no internet for a few days.
    How nice…

    What did I say about ‘freewill’ that is nonsense?
    I made two statements that could both be true at the same time.
    That’s not nonsense.

    Empty space isn’t empty?
    I do enjoy a good self-refuting statement. (I know– quantum vacuum states…) Actually I haven’t considered space ‘empty’ for some years now. Quantum foam is fairly old– isn’t it?
    And a ‘quantum vacuum state’ has little to do with ‘empty space’– right?

    Regarding the review by Albert–
    Perhaps your objection is actually handled earlier in the piece–

    “And what the fundamental laws of nature are about, and all the fundamental laws of nature are about, and all there is for the fundamental laws of nature to be about, insofar as physics has ever been able to imagine, is how that elementary stuff is arranged. The fundamental laws of nature generally take the form of rules concerning which arrangements of that stuff are physically possible and which aren’t, or rules connecting the arrangements of that elementary stuff at later times to its arrangement at earlier times, or something like that. But the laws have no bearing whatsoever on questions of where the elementary stuff came from, or of why the world should have consisted of the particular elementary stuff it does, as opposed to something else, or to nothing at all.”

    That pretty much covers the ‘laws’ and the ‘landscape’– right? At least that’s what I thought.

    As to what Krauss thinks ‘nothing’ is–
    “…surely ‘nothing’ is every bit as physical as ‘something,’ especially if it is to be defined as the ‘absence of something.’ It then behooves us to understand precisely the physical nature of both these quantities….”

    Aristotle defined ‘nothing’ as ‘what rocks dream about’. Fairly standard example…
    I guess the precise physical nature of what rocks dream about is important to the understanding of how the universe got here.
    Perhaps the words are being used to mean different things.

    If there are no laws, then there is nothing in the way of any law coming into being.

    Who could argue with that?

  90. BillyJoe7on 04 Sep 2013 at 5:27 pm

    sonic,

    The problem is that you never actually address anything I say even when I specifically address directly what you say. Mostly you simply ignore my responses and re-ask the question already answered which means that you end up talking past everything I say.

    For example, in some earlier posts, you made some silly comments about freewill. In each case, I analysed your comments showing how they’re just “the nonsense that they seem”. You made no response at the time but here you are again asking me why your comments about freewill were nonsense.

    Empty space?
    You must surely know the history of “empty space”. What scientists thought of as “empty space” turned out not to be “empty” at all. So what you call a self-refuting statement (“empty space is not empty”) is more a statement about our improved knowledge. But you know this and yet you feel the urge to make a silly statement about it.

    And it seems you still can’t fill in the blanks.
    Lawrence Krauss on nothing…
    1) space and time and particles
    2) space and time
    3) ?
    4) ?
    I assume you have read the book you are commenting on?

  91. sonicon 07 Sep 2013 at 12:14 pm

    BillyJoe7-
    Oh my– I might be screwing up terribly.
    I don’t have a copy of the book, and I know the cosmology from other sources and… heck I might be confusing things and misrepresenting the book.
    I don’t want to do that.

    Here’s the cosmology as I understand it—

    The ‘big bang’ happened.

    Space is not empty. No problem. Given space-time we get the rest.

    Our current theories are very good at predicting what will occur at time 2 given time 1. But can the theory take us back to time 0?
    This is called the “Hartle- Hawkings boundary” I think. It’s math I don’t understand, but the basic idea is that it might be possible to take the theory to time 0 without hitting a singularity (something like a division by zero).
    I think this in ‘The Grand Design”… I haven’t read that.

    Anyway– at that point the theory would take us to:

    “no time, no space, no mass, no radiation…”
    and produce this universe from the laws.

    But the ‘laws’ aren’t nothing.

    It seems possible the math will generalize to a point where there is a universe- the multiverse- in which a universe like this one will pop into existence just as a particle does in this universe.
    I think it (the mutliverse) is the set that contains all possible universes describable by string theory. Apparently there are quite a number of universes in string theory– I’ve seen 10 to the 500th as an estimate.

    Anyway– just like a particle appears out of nothing in this universe– this universe could appear out of the multiverse- popping into existence for no apparent reason.

    This is called:
    “no laws, no time, no space, no matter, no radiation…”

    How am I doing?

  92. BillyJoe7on 07 Sep 2013 at 4:25 pm

    In other words Albert misrepresented Krauss’ book.
    Which was my point.

    So we are left, as I said earlier, with trying to figure out how physical law (not the special life-generating laws of our universe because the multiverse can take care of that) can be generated along with the space and time that those laws generate. As I said, it might sound like lifting by the bootstraps but the competing hypothesis is that an intelligent being gave rise to those laws. But then we’re back to having to explain something inestimably more complex than what we were already down to using natural explanations.

    On top of that, we would have only a deist god which only a vanishingly small number of individuals believe in. So, to repeat, and to make my point, it is not reasonable to posit god as the creator of the universe.

  93. sonicon 08 Sep 2013 at 10:56 pm

    BillyJoe7-
    Regarding the Albert review–
    Here is what Victor Stenger has to say
    http://blog.talkingphilosophy.com/?p=4754

    “Krauss says that the reason there is something rather than nothing is that the quantum vacuum state is unstable.”
    and
    “The issues Albert raises are legitimate, but they can be addressed within existing physics and philosophical knowledge.”

    He says other things too… and perhaps there are legitimate arguments either way–

    Anyway– all this is tangential to my actual point–

    If my description of cosmology is somewhat acceptable to you, then I can make my point about this effort in my usual ‘silly bugger’ manner–

    The ‘multiverse’ is what ‘physicists dream about’.
    ‘Nothing’ is what ‘rocks dream about’.

    So either Krauss is mistaken in his use of the word ‘nothing’, or I’m going to have to change my opinion of rocks. Or of physicists. Or both. :-)

  94. BillyJoe7on 09 Sep 2013 at 7:32 am

    sonic,

    Nope, it is you who are mistaken about what Krauss says about “nothing”.
    Please read the book yourself and stop misquoting others and quoting others misquotes.
    You don’t even understand the quote from Victor Stenger that you have cherry picked…

    “The issues Albert raises are legitimate, but they can be addressed within existing physics and philosophical knowledge.”

    Maybe you should follow this advice from your link…

    “In fact, Krauss’s book is a good introduction to the latest in cosmology suitable for a layperson. If you, as Albert, do not find Krauss’s philosophical or theological views congenial, you should read the book anyway because these views are typical among theoretical particle physicists and cosmologists. If you want to dispute them, you should at least know where they stand.”

    Seriously, sonic, you’re embarrassing yourself by commenting on a book you haven’t read.
    And you should quit making jokes based on your misunderstanding of the arguments against freewill.

  95. sonicon 11 Sep 2013 at 9:47 am

    BillyJoe7-
    I’ve decided using the term ‘god’ is too emotionally charged and carries too much baggage. No attempt to define it specifically will be acceptable because nearly everyone has some aspect that they fill in regardless — perhaps unknowingly.
    And this is true of theists and atheists. I suppose it might work with truly agnostic types… but it seems there aren’t many of those.

    I learnt sumpthang.

    I wish you got the joke I made about ‘freewill’. I’ve tried it on others– most everyone finds it funny- perhaps my sample is biased— it seems inappropriate humor here.

    Anyway– Here’s one you might enjoy–
    “The reason I dwell on the past is I’m trying to stay optimistic.”

    I’m sorry if I offended your understanding of Krauss.

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