Dec 16 2013

The Logic of God

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255 responses so far

255 Responses to “The Logic of God”

  1. mufion 16 Dec 2013 at 10:00 am

    Ultimately all morality is subjective in that it derives from value judgments which are necessarily human.

    The problem with this statement is that it appears to reduce morality to that of individual taste, whereas morality traditionally has social, cultural, and legal dimensions that, say, my taste for chocolate hardly approaches.

    We need a better term to communicate non-absolute morality (e.g. non-absolutism, intersubjectivity, transperspectivism, incremental objectivity, etc.) – one that isn’t so vulnerable to the charge (often by dogmatic theists) of moral relativism.

  2. Kawarthajonon 16 Dec 2013 at 10:07 am

    Happy Festivus everyone!

  3. gordieon 16 Dec 2013 at 10:37 am

    Objective moral values as a concept can only be confirmed when the aliens invite us to join their equivalent of Star Fleet!
    I’d love to hear Craig debate the difference between objective moral values and commonly subjective moral values. I’ve heard a few of his debates and there should be a drinking game based on them. Whenever he says:

    -it has to be option a or option b, there’s no other options
    -the vast majority of scholars agree that…
    -you don’t believe in killing children do you…(any emotional argument)

    you take a shot. You’d be very drunk at the end. Why he’s a regarded as a top apologist I’ve no idea.

  4. Jerry in Coloradoon 16 Dec 2013 at 10:38 am

    Excellent summary, Steven.

    But one thought:
    “Even if we do accept the premise that our universe had a beginning, this may simply be embedded in a deeper physical reality, something to do with quantum fluctuations in space-time, or something equally incomprehensible.” This leaves a lot of possibilities.

    But lends no support to reasons 2,3,4, or 5. Merry Xmas everyone.

  5. LittleBoyBrewon 16 Dec 2013 at 11:10 am

    Ah yes, Mr. William Lane Craig, who has expressed the sentiment that, when considering the slaughter if innocent Canaanite children, we should feel sorry for the poor Jewish soldiers who were traumatized by carrying out the will of their righteous god.

    That explains all that is wrong with faith.

  6. pdeboeron 16 Dec 2013 at 11:19 am

    Are there not other religions that offer other explanations of the origins of the universe? Are there not other religions that say that Jesus was not the son of God and did not do all the things said in the new testament?

    Is this so much a “gift” to atheists as propaganda for Christianity?

    This is not a secular God argument and in that case is subject to all the criticism of the bible.

  7. The Other John Mcon 16 Dec 2013 at 11:23 am

    The fine-tuning argument drives me nuts! Saying something like “gravity is finely tuned, ergo God exists” is like saying “the number pi is exact to infinite decimal places, ergo God exists”…we cannot conclude anything metaphysical from the observation that physical constants have specific values.

  8. Hosson 16 Dec 2013 at 12:03 pm

    I’m just glad Craig didn’t use his “Jesus’s empty tomb” argument, which I think is easily his dumbest argument.

    It’s a shame to see someone as smart as Craig continually refusing to accept a valid deconstruction of his fallacious arguments.

    I dislike Craig because of his smug rejection of logic, his smug proselytizing of fallacious reasoning, and his smugness in general.

  9. practiCal fMRIon 16 Dec 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Nice deconstruction. Some thoughts/questions:

    Re. #2, aren’t Craig’s first two explanations totally backwards? It was my understanding that (a) the universe exists precisely because some laws make it physically necessary – just as angular momentum and gravity make “sunrise” physically necessary – and also that the chance of live existing is one, because it does. Now, the reasons for the physical necessity are intriguing indeed, and start to overlap with Craig’s #1 in his arguments. We prefer to determine why the laws of physics are what they are. And as for chance, perhaps if you were a deity randomly creating universes and assessing each one for its probability for creating life then you’d be surprised when you succeed, but again for all we know there have been many previous universes for which the recipe was imperfect and no life arose. Again, we start to overlap on Craig’s first point.

    (In a similar vein, I would be (very marginally) interested to know whether Craig thinks that life exists only on this planet or elsewhere in this (current) universe. And if he concedes the possibility of life elsewhere, how he reconciles this with no mention of where we can look for it in the Bible. There can’t be an omission, can there?)

    Re. #3, as others have indicated, the definition of what is moral is all-important. Craig is using an anthropocentric view. Things get very complicated indeed if we lump duties with moral values. Many social insects would then seem to qualify as the most pious species on the planet! Humans got some catchin’ up to do!

    Re. #5, where to start? If all that is required is personal knowledge and experience then there are many mental illnesses that suggest the existence of all manner of phenomena. And what about aboriginal peoples who are just as convinced that their spirits keep the sun coming up, the flowers blooming, etc.? Do we reject their personal experiences just because we consider them abnormal in a literal statistical sense? Will Craig have reduced the basis for his position to a head count? If so, let’s follow this logic. When there was only a handful of Christians – Jesus and his disciples – then why should their experience have been considered more correct than those of the mentally ill who existed at the same time, or of all the aboriginal peoples? So his argument looks like post hoc justification for a majority view. And we know from many instances in history that the majority view can be wrong. Flat earth, anyone?

  10. elmer mccurdyon 16 Dec 2013 at 12:50 pm

    For God’s sake stop citing Hitchens. He was scum.

  11. LittleBoyBrewon 16 Dec 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Nothing like a little unsolicited ad hominem, elmer.

  12. superdaveon 16 Dec 2013 at 1:41 pm

    I was expecting Craig to use some logic, but these are actively offensive to anyone who isn’t a Christian.

  13. superdaveon 16 Dec 2013 at 1:42 pm

    sorry that was supposed to say “bad logic”

  14. Enzoon 16 Dec 2013 at 2:54 pm

    I was really hoping Craig’s article was going to contain some thought provoking arguments. Alas, I was dismayed at the poor showing. It seems that the people who buy this type of reasoning are just employing a lazy faith heuristic, cursorily reading and nodding along because it confirms their viewpoint. Go to directly to god, do not pass thinking.

  15. BillyJoe7on 16 Dec 2013 at 4:14 pm

    “For God’s sake stop citing Hitchens. He was scum”

    Care to flesh out your argument a bit, little fella.
    Here, refer to this for a refutation of any argument you may have against the late great Christopher Hitchens:

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4KBx4vvlbZ8&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D4KBx4vvlbZ8

    And back on you regarding http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=scum ;)

  16. elmer mccurdyon 16 Dec 2013 at 5:46 pm

    If you want to argue against religious faith, it might not be a good idea to repeatedly cite someone who placed his faith in Bush and Cheney.

    I’m so very very happy he’s dead.

  17. rezistnzisfutlon 16 Dec 2013 at 5:52 pm

    Seems like the overriding premise is the preconception that a supernatural deity exists, and it is the abrahamic god of the christian bible. This seems to permeate pretty much all of his arguments, which is, of course, the presupposition argument. Of course, it goes without saying that it’s begging the question fallacy, and most of his arguments are arguments from ignorance.

    As far as the historical Jesus, I have yet to see compelling evidence. I realize it doesn’t really matter if there was a historical Jesus, but making claims about factual reality can, and should, be challenged. If they cannot even demonstrate that a historical Jesus exists first, then any other claims cannot even be addressed. This goes to the deeper question of God arguments – if one cannot demonstrate that God even exists, then all other claims are superfluous at best.

    Keeping in mind that nearly all biblical scholars are christians, many of whom are priests or pastors who have gone through seminary, so they, too, start with the preconception that the bible is true and that Jesus existed and search for evidence from there to support this. Even IF the claim that the majority of historians accept that Jesus the person actually existed, one could point to this as the reason why (putting aside examining the actual evidence, for which there is none).

    WLC has made a career out of trying to “logic” God into existence. I’ve read “Reasonable Faith” (or as much of it as I could stomach, some parts were just too painful to read) and it is so rife with logical fallacies and presuppositions that pretty much all of his arguments were invalidated by them. I think he’s well aware of logical fallacies, as he alludes to them often in his book, but he is either unaware of his own use of them, or hopes the reader won’t notice.

  18. rezistnzisfutlon 16 Dec 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Elmer, your personal opinion of Hitchens aside, you do realize it’s ad hominems are logical fallacies? To paraphrase ,”Hitchen’s arguments are incorrect because he placed his faith in Bush and Cheney”. Obviously, putting one’s “faith” in Bush and Cheney, even if that were true, says nothing about the validity of one’s arguments.

    I’m not sure why you bring up Hitchens anyway as Dr. Novella never brought him up, at least here. Perhaps in the past, but your bringing it up here is tantamount to a red herring. Plus, you didn’t seem to make any point or argument with it. I suppose you’re assuming anyone here would agree with you that Hitchens was scum?

  19. elmer mccurdyon 16 Dec 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Yes, he did. Right at the beginning. I tend to assume reasonable people will know all the reasons he was scum at this point. The religious stuff doesn’t matter, at all.

  20. Hosson 16 Dec 2013 at 6:08 pm

    elmer

    “If you want to argue against religious faith, it might not be a good idea to repeatedly cite someone who placed his faith in Bush and Cheney.”

    Red herring.

    I’m pretty sure the arguments Hitchens used against religion stand on their own and has nothing to do with his position on the wars in the middle east.

    If you don’t like Hitchens, that’s fine, but don’t use fallacious reasoning to communicate your dislike.

  21. elmer mccurdyon 16 Dec 2013 at 6:12 pm

    Last comment: it’s just that, as I’ve said, it’s something he’s done repeatedly. Good ol’ Hitch. Makes me want to vomit. But good luck on persuading people.

    Carry on with your circle jerk, all.

  22. Sastraon 16 Dec 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Since the universe, like everything else, could not have merely popped into being without a cause, there must exist a transcendent reality beyond time and space that brought the universe into existence.

    Although you did a good job pointing out that this is debatable, the assertion Craig makes immediately following it is even more so:

    This entity must therefore be enormously powerful. Only a transcendent, unembodied mind suitably fits that description.

    Whoa, there’s a leap. It’s also basically the entire jist of his argument, since quantum vacuum fluctuations or asymmetry in the super strings or anything other than an Unbodied Mind blows his entire thesis away. Whatever “caused” the universe — or whatever “supports” or “holds together” the universe — has simply got to be like a mind in some critical sense. It’s conscious and/or aware and/or intentional and/or moral- or- morally sensitive or it’s simply NOT going to qualify as anyone’s version of God. And how does Craig get to this?

    Minds choose. That’s it.

    But what we know of “minds” makes it very problematic to first rip them out of the context of our experience, then take away all their history of development and mechanisms for behavior, then remove the context in which they make sense … and finally assume a single one of them is the primary Reality, the very first thing, simple and in need of no explanation and yet capable of doing everything and anything using it’s “mind power” even though it is “transcendent” and outside of space and time. Right. There is so much fail in there it’s hard to know where to start.

    And yet this is the part that Craig expects will just glide down easily and lead us into belief. Unless you’re already a dualist who believes in ESP, PK, and transcendent spiritual realms, it won’t make sense or feel familiar or even satisfy the criteria of an explanation. We get minds from a Mind Source. A Power Mind Force. Ah. Right. Just the way we get our morals from a Moral Source, which is moral in moral energy essence as is mandated by its moral nature of morality-giving power force. There you go. All explained.

    And — the BEST explanation, too.

    Clears everything up.

  23. rezistnzisfutlon 16 Dec 2013 at 6:50 pm

    If you want to call pointing out your logical fallacies and fallacious reasoning a “circle jerk”, go right ahead, puerile as it may be. I suppose since logic tends to be static and most of us here value logic, I suppose it may seem like a “circle jerk” to someone who doesn’t value it. However, what are we being “circle jerk” about in your mind, logic, or Hitchens? Logic for sure is highly valued on this forum. Many thought and words by Hitchens as well. Hitchens the person, well, there may be varying opinions on that, but those are opinions.

    Which leads me to this point: all you’ve really done is given your unsolicited, and frankly irrelevant to this discussion, opinion. In other words, you’ve made no point or argument, but just given an irrelevant opinion.

  24. Davdoodleson 16 Dec 2013 at 7:37 pm

    1. God provides the best explanation of the origin of the universe.

    Or, to put it another way, “god is in the gaps”.

    2. God provides the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe.

    Ditto

    3. God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties.

    Or, to put it another way, “the best explanation for why I’m not going berzerk right now is because a supernatural entity is stopping me”.

    4. God provides the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

    Or, to put it another way, “god is the best explanation for the son of god”.

    5. God can be personally known and experienced.

    Or, to put it another way, “the best explanation for the voices in my head is that a supernatural entity is talking to me”.
    .

  25. Hosson 16 Dec 2013 at 7:46 pm

    Elmer
    “But good luck on persuading people.”
    What are you talking about? I really don’t know what you are referring to.

    “Carry on with your circle jerk, all.”
    I hope you know there are problems associated with extrapolating from single data points(in this case, aka personal experience).

  26. elmer mccurdyon 16 Dec 2013 at 9:07 pm

    I happen to be an atheist, but I haven’t taken part in the debate, aside from the usual reason that I really don’t like you people, because I think it’s completely trivial except insofar as it and some of Dr. Novella’s earlier posts try to rehabilitate Hitchens, on account of all the death and suffering that he helped promote. Honestly if you cite the guy again and again, you should at least be a little bit apologetic about it. For example, you could say, “I prefer Christopher Hitchens’ take (and, yes, I do realize that he was utterly evil, but never mind, I’m going to quote him anyway):”

  27. rezistnzisfutlon 16 Dec 2013 at 10:31 pm

    Elmer, you make many assumptions of us and continue to push your opinionated qualifications of Hitchens. For one, many, if not most, atheists do not regard Hitchens as “evil”. That’s a very strong label. Furthermore, his arguments stand on their own merits, so in reality one’s personal opinion about him as a person is irrelevant. What we’re trying to do is not apologize for Hitchens, but to point out your logical fallacy of red herring in this conversation, and ad hominem about Hitchens (ie, “Hitchens’ argument is wrong because he’s an evil person” as well as “This discussion is wrong because you cite the evil Hitchens in other, unrelated threads.”).

    You being an atheist does not speak to your critical thinking skills or skepticism. As far as I can tell, you haven’t displayed much proficiency in either.

    If you wish to make a relevant point about the discussion on “The Logic Of God”, especially if it somehow relates to Hitchens, then we’re all ears. Otherwise, as long as you continue to utilize logical fallacies on a skeptical forum, we’ll continue to point them out to you.

  28. Will Nitschkeon 16 Dec 2013 at 11:04 pm

    Not a bad article Steve, but then again you’ve picked an easy enough target to debunk. But you seem to have introduced a somewhat juvenile false dichotomy, with those who accept “faith” as rejecters of reason and atheists as rationalists. Humanity is complex and faith is best expressed as a continuum. Every claim must be evaluated on its merits, which is difficult. People have faith in religion, or various flavours of the ecological movement, or of progressive politics, or of “science in general”, or of authority, or of countless other things. No one here is exempt from ignorance.

  29. evhantheinfidelon 17 Dec 2013 at 1:21 am

    Will, Steve was merely using the definition of faith that those “of faith” use (doubtless in different words). I also think you’re reading into it too much if you see the false dichotomy, because it was never explicitly stated, and would contradict much of what the Dr. has said previously. However, I think it’s worth pointing out that the rational position to come to on the specific topic of God is the agnostic atheist. Sure, a person of faith can be otherwise rational, but so could a homeopath be about all other topics than their holy cow.

  30. ConspicuousCarlon 17 Dec 2013 at 4:23 am

    elmer mccurdyon 16 Dec 2013 at 5:46 pm

    If you want to argue against religious faith, it might not be a good idea to repeatedly cite someone who placed his faith in Bush and Cheney.

    An absurd and dishonest straw man. Nobody takes you seriously on that statement.

  31. BillyJoe7on 17 Dec 2013 at 7:30 am

    “I really don’t like you people”

    Oh, elmer.
    Really?
    On the other hand, we love you like a son.
    Yes we do.
    Because here you are again, entertaining us from the basement of your mommy’s house with your little foot stamping on the floor and your cute little mouth shrieking a full octave too high.

    (:

  32. BillyJoe7on 17 Dec 2013 at 7:34 am

    “a somewhat juvenile false dichotomy”

    A false dichotomy between a theist and an atheist?
    Whatever do you mean?

  33. delphi_oteon 17 Dec 2013 at 7:45 am

    The argument from first cause (Craig’s first argument) gets way more credit than it deserves. It is flagrantly intellectually dishonest. Basically, it is the following syllogism.

    1) everything that exists needs a cause
    2) the universe exists
    3) therefore an uncaused being exists that caused the universe

    They violate the first premise immediately. That is flagrant intellectual dishonesty. Such an argument should be denigrated and ridiculed, and the people who use it should be scorned.

  34. tmac57on 17 Dec 2013 at 10:31 am

    delphi_ote- Absolutely on the mark! This seems so obvious that I cannot understand why those making that argument continue to use it. It would be much more honest to just say “I believe in god because that’s what I choose to believe” rather than trying to justify god’s existence into being through twisted logic. Intellectually dishonest is rightly used in that context.

  35. Hausdorffon 17 Dec 2013 at 10:36 am

    Nice take down. As is typically the case, WLCs arguments are terrible. It is truly puzzling that he is so popular.

  36. roadfoodon 17 Dec 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Like every other “logical proof” of God’s existence that I’ve ever read, it is just so clear that the author started out with “I know God exists” and then went to “therefore it must be logical provable” and then found (more accurately made up) the proof. I know this will never happen, but just once I’d like to see a true believer honestly start from the premise that God may or may not exist, and then try to find verifiable evidence for the former.

    My favorite fallacy in Mr. Craig’s article is this: “Since the universe, like everything else, could not have merely popped into being without a cause, there must exist a transcendent reality beyond time and space that brought the universe into existence. This entity must therefore be enormously powerful.”

    He just silently switched from “transcendent reality” to “entity”. That’s a pretty glaring omission of logic for someone purporting to be making a logical argument.

    Now, if Mr. Craig could justify that switch, give us a logical foundation for why this “transcendent reality” must be an entity, could not be an unintelligent property or force, I could at least give him credit for making a logically connected and consistent argument, rather than just making stuff up.

  37. Will Nitschkeon 17 Dec 2013 at 4:18 pm

    @evhantheinfidelon

    “Will, Steve was merely using the definition of faith that those “of faith” use (doubtless in different words). I also think you’re reading into it too much if you see the false dichotomy…”

    Steve’s quote:

    “Faith is the surrender of the mind, it’s the surrender of reason, it’s the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other animals. It’s our need to believe and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. … Out of all the virtues, all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated”

    All of us have faith in different things. Most self declared ‘sceptics’ have faith in science – and a lot of science is at best junk, or their preferred political or social ideology.

  38. Hosson 17 Dec 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Will

    “All of us have faith in different things. Most self declared ‘sceptics’ have faith in science – and a lot of science is at best junk, or their preferred political or social ideology.”

    Why are you equating axioms with faith? It seems to serve no purpose except for blurring the major distinctions between the two. One is logically necessary, while the other is logically flawed.(One of many differences)

    Don’t make a false comparisons using ambiguous language to camouflage the logical error.

  39. catplanet24on 17 Dec 2013 at 5:34 pm

    WLC <>

    Dr. Novella
    <>

    While I ultimately agree with Dr. Novella about evidence concerning the existence of “God”, I don’t think his answer to argument #3 is adequate.

    WLC never stated one HAS to believe in objective morality; his point is that if you do, you have to explain how you do so without a god. Certainly, a great number of rank and file atheists dispute the notion of objective morality, but a large number of atheists (including a large number of atheist philosophers) do assert morality is objective. To paraphrase atheist philosopher Massimo Pigliucci, if you dispute morality is objective, concepts like moral progress or asserting FGM in certain cultures is “wrong” are no longer available to you.

    Obviously, I think the objections of WLC (and atheist moral relativists in general) can be answered, but that would take a little more time. (See the Craig debate against atheist ethical philosopher Shelly Kagan on youtube to learn more. Some have stated this was Craig’s worst debate, so I’m many of you will like it. Just pay close attention how philosphers use terms like “objective”.)

  40. catplanet24on 17 Dec 2013 at 5:37 pm

    For some reason, the quotes below were left out of the beginning of my post above:

    WLC says “Even atheists recognize that some things, for example, the Holocaust, are objectively evil. But if atheism is true, what basis is there for the objectivity of the moral values we affirm?”

    Dr Novella says
    “He is essentially saying that objective morality exists because God gives it to us, and the existence of objective morality proves God exists. “

  41. Hosson 17 Dec 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Here is a decent blog article by Massimo Pigliucci on faith and reason.

    http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2009/04/faith-and-reason.html

  42. rezistnzisfutlon 17 Dec 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Will,

    I think you’re committing an equivocation fallacy. The “faith” you’re attributing to skeptics is a trust and confidence in science – it’s well deserved because, quite simply, science works. We can also, at any time, review the evidence, and we know that science is based on physical evidence (for the most part, and as with any human endeavor, science isn’t always done perfectly). Religious faith, on the other hand, the kind of faith Dr. Novella is referring to, is the belief in something without evidence. The word “faith”, obviously, has multiple definitions, and our “faith” in science is not the same as someone’s religious faith.

    Anyone who has any understanding of science knows that science isn’t perfect, doesn’t have all the answers, and not all studies are equal. It takes a skeptical eye and critical thinking skills to evaluate evidence that studies present. We do put some trust in experts in fields we aren’t trained in, but again, that trust is generally deserved, especially when it comes to matters of consensus.

    While some ideologues misuse science and misunderstand it, that’s not typically the stance of skeptics. We tend to follow where the scientific evidence leads, not search for evidence that fits our ideology. That’s what religious people and ideologues do.

  43. Will Nitschkeon 17 Dec 2013 at 8:34 pm

    @rezistnzisfutl

    I’m not making an “equivocation fallacy”. I’m pointing out an “equivocation fallacy”. Most religious people doesn’t claim their religious understanding is perfect. Unless you want to indulge in silly caricatures, of course. Or focus on extremists.

    Your idealogical position seems to be that self declared sceptics are smarter than other types of people because other types have ‘religious faith’ whereas “sceptics” do not. Instead, sceptics have faith in “consensus” and so on. Which is a more ideologically sound kind of faith. BTW, “consensus” is a rule of thumb at best. The claim is: if a large group of academics believe X and have believed X for a very long time, then X is likely to be true than not true. But that doesn’t make it true. You’re still engaging in faith, whatever alternate words you come up with.

  44. Will Nitschkeon 17 Dec 2013 at 8:36 pm

    @Hoss

    “Why are you equating axioms with faith? It seems to serve no purpose except for blurring the major distinctions between the two. One is logically necessary, while the other is logically flawed.(One of many differences)
    Don’t make a false comparisons using ambiguous language to camouflage the logical error.”

    There are no axioms in life, only mathematics.

    Aren’t you the one engaging ambiguity? The point I’m making is fairly clear. It’s just not popular to those who feel they are intellectually superior to those they wish to criticise.

  45. Hosson 17 Dec 2013 at 9:28 pm

    “There are no axioms in life, only mathematics.”

    Sounds like you’re not familiar with mathematical axioms.
    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axiom

    “Aren’t you the one engaging ambiguity? The point I’m making is fairly clear. It’s just not popular to those who feel they are intellectually superior to those they wish to criticise.”

    How about you stop with the coy personal attacks and actually address the logical arguments being made.

  46. Will Nitschkeon 17 Dec 2013 at 9:43 pm

    @Hoss

    Unless you write something interesting I won’t read your posts. But your posts illustrate the point I’m making. You invoke a magical wand called an “axiom” that can apparently decide complex matters of truthiness. This is to be distinguished from “religious faith”. Because religious people have faith, which is bad. Axioms, are, however, good. Presumably their magic doesn’t work, but your magic does. Of course, it’s all nonsense of the same form. Which was my original point. And BTW, I am critical of people who feel they are intellectually superior to those they criticise but may turn out to be dumber or at least not any smarter. You shouldn’t take that as a personal affront, unless you consider yourself one of those elite superior minds that felt slighted.

  47. rezistnzisfutlon 17 Dec 2013 at 10:05 pm

    Your idealogical position seems to be that self declared sceptics are smarter than other types of people because other types have ‘religious faith’ whereas “sceptics” do not. Instead, sceptics have faith in “consensus” and so on.

    This illustrates my point. For one, we don’t hold an ideological position – we go where the evidence leads, which is pretty much the opposite of ideology. For another, where you are committing the equivocation fallacy is in the claim that a skeptic’s “faith” in science is no different than that of a religious person’s, in that our “faith” is in the consensus, etc..

    As I tried to explain before, the primary difference between religious faith and trust and confidence in science and a scientific consensus is the physical, verifiable, tangible evidence science produces. Furthermore, the proof is in the pudding – science works, and there’s no denying it. Religious faith, on the other hand, is putting faith in something that has no evidence.

    So, the “faith” you attempt to ascribe to skeptics is not the same faith a religious person holds. It’s arguable that “faith” is an appropriate term to use, and one that theists often claim those who place trust and confidence in science use because they want to make it look like science and skepticism are just another form of religion, which belies a fundamental misunderstanding of science. I expect this is done in order to reduce the importance of science and inflate the value of one’s own religious belief.

    I don’t think anyone here is claiming they are smarter than religious people. For one, I used to be religious and I don’t claim to be more intelligent (maybe more educated and experienced, but not more intelligent). There are many religious people who are in the genius category and more intelligent than I am. The difference is that skeptics have learned to utilize critical thinking skills to evaluate factual claims such as the existence of a god.

    Again, I expect it’s claimed that skeptics think they are smarter than others in order to make them appear arrogant and condescending. This is clearly untrue. What is arrogant is proclaiming with certainty the existence of something that has no evidence for existence (in other words, expecting to just take someone’s word for it) and thinking that that position is favorable to an all-powerful, all-knowing deity.

  48. Will Nitschkeon 17 Dec 2013 at 10:20 pm

    @rezistnzisfutl

    You’re missing the point with your by-the-numbers discussion of why amateur skeptics are smarter than other types of people. We appeal to evidence where we have evidence. We appeal to facts, where we have facts. But evidence is subject to interpretation and there are no such things as “brute facts”. Facts require frames of reference.

    Critical thinking skills will not help you answer the question, is there a God? Or was the universe designed? (Although it will help you avoid a lot of silly mistakes.) Because to answer such questions, you need more than logic. You need understanding.

    My general observation is that amateur skeptics are just as dumb as religious people, but dumb about different sorts of things. In fact, let’s generalise that rule to apply it to everyone.

    There is no difference between a believer and an amateur skeptic if one declares the universe was designed and the other declares it wasn’t. But let’s not go over old turf. My original point was that the religious person has religious faith in what he believes, and the amateur skeptic has ‘good’ faith in what scientists tend to believe. But the value of the faith of the believer or the skeptic, is very much determined by the question being asked. If you’re asking the big questions, you’re not on firm ground. And if you think your ground is firmer, that’s an idealogical conviction, not a logical conclusion.

  49. Davdoodleson 18 Dec 2013 at 2:50 am

    @Will: “I’m not making an “equivocation fallacy”. I’m pointing out an “equivocation fallacy”. Most religious people doesn’t claim their religious understanding is perfect.”

    Nor do scientists or scientific skeptics. But that’s not the point.

    Religious folk claim, on no demonstrable evidence, a high level of certainty that whatever ‘god’ their preferred religion worships, exists. As a matter of literal fact.

    Scientists, in contrast, try to tease out from what can be seen, measured and repeatably tested, information about this world that we are in. And they do so in a way that is designed to remove as much ambiguity, wishful thinking and hubris as possible from their humble endeavors.

    Or, to put it another way, science does what religions (and their fellow travelers the CAM industry) refuse to do: test their hypotheses and abandon what is bullshit.
    .

  50. Will Nitschkeon 18 Dec 2013 at 3:35 am

    @Davdoodles

    What has your post got to do with my pointing out that faith is a continuum, not an absolute?

    Like most religious people, amateur skeptics express high degrees of certainty about all sorts of things that are deeply uncertain.

    When Steve wrote -

    “Actually physicists debate whether or not our universe had a beginning. This cannot be taken as an uncontroversial premise. Stephen Hawking argued that our universe may be temporally finite yet unbound, just as it is spacially finite but unbound.”

    He is essentially indulging in gibberish. Our best scientific theories about the origins of the universe suggest a big bang style event. Either you deal with the best evidence or you don’t. Steve wants to indulge in some speculation because he doesn’t want to find anything that the religious person might be asserting as plausible. Notice how easy it is for reason, logic and evidence to get tossed aside?

  51. The Other John Mcon 18 Dec 2013 at 7:49 am

    Indulging in gibberish? Maybe you should take that up with Hawking, Will. Or try looking up what that means, it ain’t gibberish.

    What is an amateur versus a professional skeptic?

    “My original point was that the religious person has religious faith in what he believes, and the amateur skeptic has ‘good’ faith in what scientists tend to believe. But the value of the faith of the believer or the skeptic, is very much determined by the question being asked. If you’re asking the big questions, you’re not on firm ground. And if you think your ground is firmer, that’s an idealogical conviction, not a logical conclusion.”

    So a scientist or skeptic that is making no grand claims but instead calling “bullsh!t”, and pointing out that there is no firm ground for wild unsubstantiated claims, this is an ideological conviction? No, it is the opposite. Your position, as you have described it, sounds more like nihilism than anything else.

  52. The Other John Mcon 18 Dec 2013 at 8:13 am

    This conversation reminds me of an interesting question I read recently (I think it was Sam Harris who posed it):

    How do you convince someone that something is true using logic, reason, and evidence, if that person doesn’t value logic, reason, or evidence? Some people just don’t care, aren’t interested, and/or aren’t swayed in the slightest by these things. Sharing some basic philosophical assumptions seems critical to having a useful conversation or debate. Otherwise we are talking past eachother.

    Will, people have repeatedly pointed out that having “faith” in an invisible sky monster that supposedly created the universe and loves us and doesn’t like gay marriage is different, in every way imaginable, from having “faith” in science. You want to claim faith is a continuum, fine, but in reality the separation is so vast between the two modes of thinking that it is just plain silly to treat them as roughly the same thing, just slightly different in practice.

    Science is two things that go well together: a body of knowledge, and a way of thinking (rationally, critically, logically, etc.). Faith is simply a way of thinking (and much different one), with no accompanying body of knowledge. This is why they are different.

  53. Steven Novellaon 18 Dec 2013 at 8:41 am

    Will – I have never taken the position that skeptics are smarter than religious people. In my writing I consistently advocate for:
    - Neuropsychological humility. Everyone has a flawed brain subject to bias, distorted memory, and misperception.
    - I specifically point out that we are all human – with these same failings
    - What I advocate for is a process (not a belief)
    - That process includes critical thinking, reliance on objective evidence, use of valid logic and philosophy, scientific methods, and balancing independent thought with respect for hard-won scientific consensus.
    - This is a very different process than that which results in religious faith, which is based upon authority and tradition, perhaps revealed knowledge, and subjective experience.

    So – you are starting with a straw man that my regular readers immediately see through.
    You then move on to a false equivalency that entirely misses the scientific skeptical message.

    Put briefly – I am not saying that some people are better than others. I am saying that some methods of seeking knowledge and understanding are better than others (some are valid and some are not).

    Regarding my comment about the universe having a beginning – seriously, read Stephen Hawking if you want an accessible overview. My only point is – this is not an uncontroversial premise. But – even if we take it as a given, the argument is still invalid. Therefore I did not have to point out that the premise cannot be taken for granted. Meanwhile you appear to confidently speculate about my motivations, which really just reveal your own motivated reasoning.

  54. Steven Novellaon 18 Dec 2013 at 11:44 am

    catplanet – I did not want to get into a full discussion of “objective” morality, which is why I linked to my prior extensive discussions of it.

    Craig is playing on ambiguity in the word “objective”. He is saying – OK, we know the holocaust was objectively wrong, and ultimate objective morality can only come from God, therefore God exists.

    But you can derive philosophically “objective” morality from first principles using valid philosophical arguments (as per Massimo). Which makes it as objective as we can get.

    In any case – this does not add up to “God exists.” Craig consistently uses premises that are distorted or cannot be assumed, and makes unjustified leaps of logic.

  55. Bronze Dogon 18 Dec 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Sastra:

    But what we know of “minds” makes it very problematic to first rip them out of the context of our experience, then take away all their history of development and mechanisms for behavior, then remove the context in which they make sense … and finally assume a single one of them is the primary Reality, the very first thing, simple and in need of no explanation and yet capable of doing everything and anything using it’s “mind power” even though it is “transcendent” and outside of space and time. Right. There is so much fail in there it’s hard to know where to start.

    It’s the traditional bio/anthrocentrism. They put a human-like mind as the necessary foundation of the universe for the purpose of creating human minds. The universe and gods thus exist to bring us about. Just like fate intervened to bring Calvin of Calvin & Hobbes’ ancestors together for countless generations to specifically produce him so that he could watch Looney Toons. Aren’t we special?

    Meanwhile, we generally see humanity as an unintended product. I think we’re a really interesting unintended product, but I admit there’s biological, neurological, and cultural biases influencing my perspective. A lot of that comes from the fact that I have the capacity to form a perspective in the first place.

    Regarding Hitchens: I don’t like him, so I’ll preferentially cite or quote other atheists over him. But a cogent argument is a cogent argument, even if it does come from a person some of us have strong political disagreements with.

    Will Nitschke:

    We appeal to evidence where we have evidence. We appeal to facts, where we have facts. But evidence is subject to interpretation and there are no such things as “brute facts”. Facts require frames of reference.

    Like the observable universe, you mean? We perform experiments and measure the results. We form hypotheses and theories that make testable predictions and see which ones most reliably come true. We also use those theories to predict what evidence we expect to find and go looking for it. If the predictions come out wrong, we modify the explanation to fit the experimental results or the new evidence.

    Critical thinking skills will not help you answer the question, is there a God? Or was the universe designed? (Although it will help you avoid a lot of silly mistakes.) Because to answer such questions, you need more than logic. You need understanding.

    This sounds like an appeal to Other Ways of Knowing. As for the question of gods, I’d first start with the question “what is a god?” Without a coherent answer to that question, it’s kind of pointless to ask if one exists. Since there’s no widespread consensus on the definition, it’s reckless to assume I know what’s being proposed when arguing with a random stranger on the internet.

    If you’re asking the big questions, you’re not on firm ground. And if you think your ground is firmer, that’s an idealogical conviction, not a logical conclusion.

    Says who? This assertion itself sounds like ideologically motivated special pleading to me, throwing up arbitrary brick walls against honest inquiry into certain subjects because you find it uncomfortable or inconvenient. I’m sure many of yesterday’s unanswerable “big questions” have their answers taught in grade school today.

  56. rezistnzisfutlon 18 Dec 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Critical thinking skills will not help you answer the question, is there a God? Or was the universe designed? (Although it will help you avoid a lot of silly mistakes.) Because to answer such questions, you need more than logic. You need understanding.

    This is special pleading. You’re right in that critical thinking skills aren’t useful in answering such a question as “is there a god” because there is nothing to critically evaluate. It’s not even philosophically valid because there is nothing to to base a discussion on. The best anyone can hope to do is speculate, because there is nothing else to base anything on when it comes to that question. In other words, it’s unfalsifiable and no conclusion can be drawn.

    The same goes with “was the universe designed?”. Considering that there is no good reason to base any sort of conclusion about an intelligent designer, and all the evidence DOES point to purely naturalistic origins, speculations about a designer are fruitless and unanswerable.

    The fact that everything we do know about the universe is naturalistic, and that there is no evidence of anything outside the natural universe, the honest conclusion is that by far the most likely explanation is a purely naturalistic origin.

    Where critical thinking skill do help us is when factual claims are made. You make a factual claim that the universe was created by your christian god of the bible. We can then critically evaluate that claim. If all you have is your word and the word of some of the authors of an ancient book (all of whom were true believers who began with the same conclusion themselves), then that’s not much to hang your hat on.

    And that’s where we can say that skepticism and critical thinking are superior to faith claims in their utility, because, quite succinctly, it’s foolish to simply accept something based solely on the word of individuals who cannot, or refuse to, back up their claims, especially if those claims are extraordinary in nature.

    What “understanding” are you referring to? One can “understand” what’s written in the bible. One can “understand” scientific concepts like Theory of Relativity or Bernoulli’s Principle. How does understanding increase the probability of a factual claim?

  57. rezistnzisfutlon 18 Dec 2013 at 2:48 pm

    I’ve never heard of an amateur skeptic. A skeptic is a skeptic. If there is a distinction between “amateur” and “professional” skeptics, why would we generalize them?

    You say that there is no difference between a believer who declares the universe was created and an “amateur skeptic” who declares it wasn’t. This is a strawman because a skeptic won’t make such a declaration. What they will say is that there’s no evidence for a created universe so there’s no reason to believe it was created, and every reason to conclude that it had purely naturalistic origins. Since a skeptic isn’t making a gnostic claim, this is false equivalency.

    The reason that skeptics value scientific explanations over religious ones is that the scientific ones are able to provide physical evidence that can be verified and observed for oneself, and the religious person cannot. This is what separates religious faith from “faith” in science as a tool and body of knowledge, and why you continue to commit the equivocation fallacy.

    We can trust that science works and that the body of knowledge has value because we can view the evidence for ourselves. We know science works because it’s responsible for nearly all innovation, technology, and progress. Religion provides none of this.

    Let me spell it out for you:

    A) Religious faith – belief in something in spite of the lack of evidence.

    B) Faith in science – trust and confidence in the tools and knowledge of science because it works, produces tangible results that are repeatable and verifiable, and has actual physical evidence that can be independently examined.

    I don’t like to resort to dictionary definitions, but just to further illustrate my point of equivocation, there are several definitions of the word “faith”, and you are attempting to use one definition of the word “faith” to apply to two different scenarios inappropriately.

    1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.
    2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
    3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
    4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
    5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.

    -http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/faith

    There are problems with these definitions, but the point should be clear. An equivocation fallacy is such that one inappropriately uses the incorrect definition of a word that has multiple meanings and applies that to a specific outcome, which is what you’re doing. We have faith in science because it works and because of the evidence, you have faith in your religious beliefs because of, well, nothing.

  58. Davdoodleson 18 Dec 2013 at 5:08 pm

    “An equivocation fallacy is such that one inappropriately uses the incorrect definition of a word that has multiple meanings and applies that to a specific outcome, which is what you’re doing. We have faith in science because it works and because of the evidence, you have faith in your religious beliefs because of, well, nothing.”

    Exactly. There is no “continuum” as Will suggests, it is in fact almost the opposite, a dichotomy.

    People trust (or “have faith in”, if we wish to indulge Will’s word games) science because it works. In turn, it works because it uses the scientific method, which requires abandoning dead ends and producing replicable, observable results.

    Religion (and here I generalise and speak only of Bible-centric religions) does none of that whatsoever. It is not a relative of science, just a little further this-way-or-that along a spectrum of thought based on what need be observed and what can be acceptably imputed. It is science’s polar opposite.

    This is hardly controversial. Anyone who knows their Bible (and its surprising how little most christians seem know of it) will be familiar with John 20:24-29. The parable of doubting Thomas (as it is commonly known) is unambiguous – those who believe in god without evidence are superior to those who require evidence.
    .

  59. Will Nitschkeon 18 Dec 2013 at 5:16 pm

    @The Other John Mc

    According to your characterisation you are either a Believer or a Nihilist. That is to say, if you don’t believe (have faith) you must reject everything. Can’t the question simply be left open? The common trait of the Believer is they are deeply uncomfortable with uncertainty. The common trait of the skeptic is to appeal to ‘science’ in order to address that uncertainty; how is that less self delusional for the big philosophical questions?

    The conceit I am pointing to is best illustrated using your own words -

    “..but in reality the separation is so vast between the two modes of thinking that it is just plain silly to treat them as roughly the same thing, just slightly different in practice…”

    That’s not what I wrote, but leaving that aside, the idea that there is a vast gap between ‘Believers’ and (for want of a better word) ‘Knowers’ is no more than swagger. A list of readily quotable logical fallacies tucked under your arm doesn’t make you smarter. Nor do incantation words such as ‘axioms’ or ‘logic’. You may want to believe that the gap between you and the religious (or the general population) is vast, but it’s no more than outrecuidance.

  60. Davdoodleson 18 Dec 2013 at 6:26 pm

    “You may want to believe that the gap between you and the religious (or the general population) is vast, but it’s no more than outrecuidance.”

    Again, as has been stated clearly on a number of occasions, nobody taking issue with your argument is asserting that any person is better, or smarter, or special in any way, than another.

    What is being asserted is that there are two WAYS OF THINKING about the universe, its contents, how it all works, and its causes (if any).

    One way relies, as a starting proposition, on a safe, humble and demonstrable presumption that the human brain is an imperfect object for sorting out what is correct and incorrect. In order to mitigate the impact of inevitable incorrect conclusions, it adopts the scientific method. And it works, by and large.

    The other way starts from an utterly un-supported, proposition that we are special, that we were created for some purpose, by a hitherto-unobserved sentient entity which exists in no hitherto-identified location. It then speculates wildly, and always self-servingly, from that point.

    It is clear where the outrecuidance resides.

    Cool word, by the way :)
    .

  61. Steven Novellaon 18 Dec 2013 at 6:39 pm

    Right – the skeptical position is one of ultimate humility. It is based on doubt.

    The opposite of Belief, by the way, is doubt, not knowing.

    I will quote myself:

    “What do you think science is? There’s nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. Which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic?”

  62. ccbowerson 18 Dec 2013 at 6:47 pm

    “That’s not what I wrote, but leaving that aside, the idea that there is a vast gap between ‘Believers’ and (for want of a better word) ‘Knowers’ is no more than swagger.”

    Will – You have repeatedly misrepresenting arguments that others are making by conflating the ways of thinking with categories of people (e.g. confusing arguments against belief and faith with arguments against believers). The reality is that individuals and groups are more complex, and it more meaningful to discuss ways of seeking knowlege that have been shown to work (science and philosophy) versus ways of seeking knowledge that don’t (those that rely on logical fallacies such as authority and tradition).

    You keep going back to labels of groups and then using equivocation to create a false equivalence. After all of your words, I still wonder what meaningful point you are trying to make.

  63. Will Nitschkeon 18 Dec 2013 at 7:11 pm

    @Steven Novella

    “So – you are starting with a straw man that my regular readers immediately see through.
    You then move on to a false equivalency that entirely misses the scientific skeptical message.”

    Your regular followers aren’t upset by me stating a straw man, but because I’m pointing out they aren’t smarter than those individual they think they are smarter than. To claim I’m stating there is a equivalency is, however, an actual straw man, as I stated faith is a continuum not an all or nothing proposition. (I.e., scientific knowledge is “disguised” faith or some nonsense like that.)

    If we want to get nitpickety about straw men I have nowhere stated that all methods of deriving useful knowledge are equivalent. I’m hardly a relativist. What I am pointing out is that there are *NO* methods available to anyone for answering big philosophical questions such as: Is there a beginning to the universe? Was the universe designed? What is consciousness? And so on.

    It’s easy enough to de-construct claims of certainty made by a religious individual but it’s a step too far to replace them with alternatives that are on the same shaky ground. I.e., if Hawking knows the answer then he can show us the maths. If he doesn’t, and he doesn’t, he can speculate in the same vein as the religious absolutest. The second game sounds more sciency, but it’s all just the same sort of conjecture.

    (It’s a nitpickety point, but it’s a fool’s errand to point out flaws in another’s argument by replacing them with your own flawed speculations, because you feel you need to offer a counter explanation that contradicts anything the religious believer might currently claim as true.)

  64. Davdoodleson 18 Dec 2013 at 7:41 pm

    “Your regular followers aren’t upset by me stating a straw man, but because I’m pointing out they aren’t smarter than those individual they think they are smarter than.”

    I don’t think “upset” is the right word.

    It is, however, somewhat jarring to see you repeatedly making a baseless assertion about other writers’ beliefs, despite repeated confirmation that nobody here holds that belief.

    It’s frankly getting a little weird.
    .

  65. ccbowerson 18 Dec 2013 at 7:56 pm

    “To claim I’m stating there is a equivalency is, however, an actual straw man…”

    Later you say:

    “…it’s a step too far to replace them with alternatives that are on the same shaky ground.”

    and

    “The second game sounds more sciency, but it’s all just the same sort of conjecture.”

    Not false equivalence? Yeah. OK.

    You are doing just that and you apprently can’t recognize it. Notice that you use the word ‘same’ both times which is as blatant as it gets. You are also making use of the nirvana fallacy. As if not having the answers to certain questions at a given time implies a fatal flaw in a given process. With some of your questions (e.g. the beginning of the universe) you may be confusing the unanswered with the unanswerable. Unless you have special knowledge with regards to that question, that is a currently unanswered question, but, so what? At various points in the past we hadn’t figured out all sorts of things that we do know now, so to judge based upon the content of our current knowledge is not helpful.

    Looking at the progress obtained with different methods is the way to evaluate the merits of different methods of acquiring knowledge, and that’s where science distinguishes itself

  66. Hosson 18 Dec 2013 at 8:04 pm

    Will

    An experiment(I’m curious how this will turn out)

    “Your regular followers aren’t upset by me stating a straw man, but because I’m pointing out they aren’t smarter than those individual they think they are smarter than.” – Will Nitschke

    -

    “Right – the skeptical position is one of ultimate humility. It is based on doubt.” – Steven Novella

    “Again, as has been stated clearly on a number of occasions, nobody taking issue with your argument is asserting that any person is better, or smarter, or special in any way, than another.” – Davdoodles

    “Put briefly – I am not saying that some people are better than others. I am saying that some methods of seeking knowledge and understanding are better than others (some are valid and some are not).” – Steven Novella

    “Will – I have never taken the position that skeptics are smarter than religious people.” – Steven Novella

    “I don’t think anyone here is claiming they are smarter than religious people. For one, I used to be religious and I don’t claim to be more intelligent (maybe more educated and experienced, but not more intelligent). There are many religious people who are in the genius category and more intelligent than I am. The difference is that skeptics have learned to utilize critical thinking skills to evaluate factual claims such as the existence of a god.” – rezistnzisfutlon

    “Again, I expect it’s claimed that skeptics think they are smarter than others in order to make them appear arrogant and condescending.”- rezistnzisfutlon

    Why keep saying the samething after being contradicted?

  67. Hosson 18 Dec 2013 at 8:29 pm

    Science “Faith”
    Conditional
    Proportions belief to evidence
    Method for self correction based on evidence
    “Speculation” of how the universe works based on evidence

    Religious Faith
    Unconditional
    No evidence/ rejects contradictory evidence
    Method of self correction not based on evidence
    Speculation of how the world is, not based on evidence

    Science “faith” is “speculation” tethered to emperical evidence. Religious faith is pure speculation.

  68. Steven Novellaon 19 Dec 2013 at 7:14 am

    Will – Religious faith and acceptance of science as a valid method are not even on the same spectrum – that is why your position is incorrect. And you keep repeating the “skeptics are smarter” charge – can you support that assertion with any text?

    You are essentially declaring certain questions off limits to scientific inquiry, but you do not justify this.

    Scientists can explore questions such as consciousness and the ultimate origins and fate of our universe. These are not easy, to be sure. But they are absolutely amenable to exploration, and this does not amount to any kind of “faith.”

    Hawking does, in fact, propose a specific mathematical reason for saying that we can model space-time in such a way that the universe is temporally finite but unbound. This still includes a big bang, by the way. My point in bringing this up was to point out that Craig was taking as a premise something he clearly does not understand.

  69. tmac57on 19 Dec 2013 at 10:42 am

    Concerning the idea that there is no way for science to answer the big philosophical questions,I am quite sure that almost every well established thing that we now know about the earth,physics in general,our solar system,space,galaxies,and the universe,were once seemingly ‘unanswerable questions’ as well.
    First century and older civilizations could not have even dreamed of the Hubble telescope,or the Curiosity rover on Mars,or that we would even know that Mars is just another planet like Earth.Assuming that we don’t destroy ourselves first,or descend into widespread belief in myth while abandoning the carefully worked out base of knowledge that science,critical thought,and yes,philosophy have created,I think we have a good chance of unraveling a great many more mysteries,and who knows,maybe even the biggest one of all.But if we stop at God did it,we won’t go anywhere,which is what held back civilization for many centuries.We should once and forever abandon that pre-scientific way of trying to truly understand our world,and leave it to people for them to use as they wish for their own private lives.

  70. Will Nitschkeon 20 Dec 2013 at 12:15 am

    @ Steven Novella

    “Religious faith and acceptance of science as a valid method are not even on the same spectrum…”

    So if you believe a scientific ‘truth’ that is later debunked, replaced, or in some way modified, this is not in the same ballpark as that of the religious believer? The religious believer accepts claim X because he has derived it from an authority he trusts, i.e., a sacred text, religious leader, historical sage, etc. He may have no direct knowledge of the subject but has faith in the pronouncement. This faith may or may not be absolute. (Some later type of exegesis may motive the believer to change his belief, and this can happen more readily than some might expect. A common technique is to decide that something that was previously viewed as literal is now metaphorical.)

    The amateur skeptic accepts claim X because he has derived it from an authority he trusts, a journal article, a report commissioned by government and issued by the Royal Society, or a famous scientist of the past. Or he can appeal to something almost completely worthless, such as ‘consensus’. (Depending on your definition, the accumulated opinions of experts who don’t actually know the solution to a problem or question.) Later, the position turns out to be wrong in part or completely, which tends to happen a lot, at least for currently interesting questions. Nonetheless, the skeptic has held his belief in ‘good’ faith.

    Your claim is that the two scenarios are qualitatively different. However, you are making an assertion, not an argument. What I am pointing out is that both the Believer and the Skeptic hold a certain belief, both in error, and both dependent on the same sort of thing. The Skeptic has better methods (for what they are worth, when it comes to tough problems) and the smarter ones will better qualify that belief. But the skeptic cannot dispense with relying on faith any more than the religious person.

    As for lose ends: I am not asserting that certain questions are off limits to scientific inquiry. If I don’t have a rope, I can’t climb a cliff. I’m not telling people not to try to climb the cliff. But until someone shows up with a rope, nobody is going to get very far. And if you insist on making the attempt, I might get sarcastic.

    Hawking’s proposal is probably not much more informed than yours or mine, or Craig’s. You might prefer philosophising from a physicist rather than a religious believer, but it’s been my observation that some of the dumbest philosophy I’ve read has come from the minds of physicists and mathematicians. Although they have certainly not cornered the market.

  71. Will Nitschkeon 20 Dec 2013 at 5:16 am

    A couple of general comments. It’s probably more productive to read the lines than read between the lines, so to speak. If you don’t understand what I wrote, seek clarification, rather than attack strawmen. These comments I’ve ignored.

    It’s one thing to profess humility, quite another to actually live by that standard. One commenter is “quit sure” that science will answer the big philosophical questions. Based on what…? None have been answered yet. Isn’t that a faith based assertion?

    Let’s not get fixated on who is smarter than who. This is more about hubris than smarts. The commenters here can’t have it both ways. You can’t profess humility while simultaneously refusing to concede that the mind of the skeptic is subject to the same sort of errors made by the religious. Steve described it as the skeptic existing on a different (mental?) ‘spectrum’ to that of the religious. Whatever that may mean. Others have declared that they have ‘axioms’ that protect them from folly, and so on. So the narrative is, “oh yes we are humble so we’re not like the religious who are not humble. We don’t make *their* mistakes. Except of course, I’ve run into far too many skeptics who hold faith based beliefs concerning politics, economics, ecology, the list is rather long. Understanding a few logical fallacies won’t protect you. If you want to believe X, you’re going to believe X, and you’ll fight hard to preserve the plausibility of X. That’s human nature.

  72. BillyJoe7on 20 Dec 2013 at 7:38 am

    Well, Will, I think you should climb down off that pedestal you’ve climbed yourself up on.
    You’re now starting to look distinctly, instead of just faintly, ridiculous.
    Is that an ad hominem? Yes it is.
    Is that an ad hominem fallacy. Nope.

  73. Steven Novellaon 20 Dec 2013 at 9:44 am

    Will – you continue to base your arguments on loosely defining words and shifting definitions as you go. This is a tactic we are all very familiar with. You are deceiving no one but yourself.

    Scientific skepticism is about approaching knowledge with humility and systematic doubt.
    Religious faith is about accepting belief without knowledge or evidence, based upon authority and tradition. It is the opposite of doubt.

    Science has a proven track record. Calling that “faith” in order to make a false analogy to religion is just muddied thinking.

    The very fact that you state, “if you believe a scientific ‘truth’” shows that you do not understand our position or the difference between science and faith.

    Science is not about belief or truth. It is about using valid methods, evaluating the evidence, and arriving at models which account for and predict the evidence. We tentatively accept models that work, with degrees of confidence. Meanwhile scientists look for, even hope for, flaws in the model which point the way to new testable ideas.

    Having confidence in a model that has a proven track record of successful predictions is in no way akin to religious faith, no matter how many times you assert it.

    Similarly, equating modern cosmology and theoretical physics to philosophy does not make it so. And you still completely miss my point. There are still too many unknowns about the origin of the universe to use a definitive “beginning” allegedly from “nothing” as a premise for an argument about God. You have somehow twisted this into me having “faith” in the philosophizing of a physicist. You are drowning in your own narrative

  74. tmac57on 20 Dec 2013 at 11:59 am

    Will,your repeated equivocation between the ways of knowing (and errors in) science versus religion are so blindly off the mark as others here have tried to explain to you,that it is clear that you either do not take on board what we say,or maybe you don’t understand what is being said. Who knows,but it is also clear that you aren’t on the same page with everyone else here. But your line of argument reminded me of this from Issac Azimov in his essay ‘The Relativity of Wrong’:

    The young man then quoted with approval what Socrates had said on learning that the Delphic oracle had proclaimed him the wisest man in Greece. “If I am the wisest man,” said Socrates, “it is because I alone know that I know nothing.” The implication was that I was very foolish because I knew a great deal.
    Alas, none of this was new to me. (There is very little that is new to me; I wish my corresponders would realize this.) This particular thesis was addressed to me a quarter of a century ago by John Campbell, who specialized in irritating me. He also told me that all theories are proven wrong in time.
    My answer to him was, “John, when people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”
    The basic trouble, you see, is that people think that “right” and “wrong” are absolute; that everything that isn’t perfectly and completely right is totally and equally wrong.
    However, I don’t think that’s so. It seems to me that right and wrong are fuzzy concepts, and I will devote this essay to an explanation of why I think so.

    That is the essence of the piece,but to get the full context you really should read it in it’s entirety:

    http://hermiene.net/essays-trans/relativity_of_wrong.html

  75. Mlemaon 22 Dec 2013 at 5:19 am

    For me, it’s important to differentiate between religion, on the one hand, and on the other hand: the acknowledgement of (or belief in, if you wish) everything that is knowable to humans still remaining a subset of what might or may exist. Science is about continuing to expand what is knowable – therefore a vital part of being human. But we are ourselves always a subset of knowable reality. I’m probably not explaining that well, but it’s the reason why I see no conflict between essential faith and science. It was a Jesuit priest who postulated the big bang. He made no assertions as to its relevance to the existence of God. Nor did he postulate that there was nothing more to learn about the origin of the universe.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lema%C3%AEtre

    Dr. Novella thinks that faith is an over-rated virtue. Perhaps it is. I don’t know how to know whether it is or not. In Christianity, the bigger sinner is not the one who denies God’s existence, but the one who mischaracterizes God for his own purposes.

  76. Mlemaon 22 Dec 2013 at 5:40 am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhtaXzu2kto

    “I don’t know why you always have to be judging me, because I only believe in science…”

  77. BillyJoe7on 22 Dec 2013 at 7:40 am

    Mlema,

    Lemaitre was a wise person, much wiser than his pope, because, of course, now we have the inflationary universe/quantum foam/multiverse which, although not proven, are natural extensions of present cosmological theory which explains what we do know.

    But, you have to be joking, faith and science are in direct conflict in nearly every sense.
    But Essential Faith? What on earth can you mean?
    It’s Christmas and I’m willing to cut a little slack, but that sounds like a deepity to me.

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Deepity

  78. Bronze Dogon 22 Dec 2013 at 3:04 pm

    To reinforce the record, no, I don’t think atheists or skeptics are smarter. Being intelligent and using reason are two different things. There are plenty of perfectly intelligent people who construct elaborate, fallacious rationalizations for irrational beliefs. There are also plenty of skeptics of unexceptional intelligence who know how to spot a house of cards and yank out the foundational fallacies. By the same token, being more “educated” or better-read in a subject isn’t a surefire way to be right, either.

    A few months back, I tripped up a theist trying to make a first cause argument because I wanted him to explain what he meant by “necessary,” “contingent,” and such. I think it was an Aristotelian system of causality or something he was working under, and was demanding that my fellow skeptics and I grant him the first link his argument before moving onto the more familiar ground. I wanted him to dumb it down for me since I can’t well grant him something if I don’t know what he’s asking for. What I got was a link to a few definitions that didn’t clear things up followed by anger and confusion when I asked questions testing my interpretation of the definition. I wasn’t playing dumb on that occasion, but in his case, it seemed to me that his education/reading was more indoctrination, preventing him from questioning his premises. He wanted to build up from what he thought was a common foundation, but I was willing to question even that.

    Atheists, skeptics, and scientifically minded people recognize that we’ve all got a lot of irrational baggage and premises waiting to be questioned. We try to remain humbly self-aware so we don’t get stuck in the common pitfalls of self-deception as often. The whole reason we get into debates like this is because that self-awareness can be taught in the form of critical thinking. Many of us are ex-theists who don’t want to see others making the same mistakes we did. We aren’t a superior race, we’re people, both ordinary and exceptional, who’ve learned a particular, useful approach to asking and answering questions. While there’s invariably skeptics and atheists who just like to pat themselves on the back (Every self-identified group of people have those sorts), many of us want to teach critical thought because we sincerely think it will do the world a lot of good.

  79. BillyJoe7on 22 Dec 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Bronze Dog,

    At sixteen I was a theist (devout catholic) and a believer in the paranormal (in particular, levitation).

    Two years later I was an atheist and sceptic, though I wouldn’t have recognised those terms at the time. Knowledge is what changed it for me. Reading outside my area of influence. I have often wondered why knowledgeable people (like WLC, for instance) still cling to faith. The only reasons I can think of is that they were either more deeply indoctrinated and, therefore, remain imprisoned by their past; or their dire life circumstances are such that they have a deep need to believe. Most converts would be in this category. Fear of death and annihilation is probably another explanation. None of these things applied to me and, hence, I was able to escape the clutches of religion and blind faith.

    I have never looked back.

    I would empathise with those who have been so affected, except for the fact that they do not appear to be in need of any help. In fact, most are under the delusion that it’s people like me who need help. Most of the people I know are religious and I have no problem with them. I don’t even mind if they try to convert me. Even the smug ones. Sort of amusing in a way, since I’ve actually been there. But I draw the line at religious people who try to force their views on others (ie via threats or legislation).

    The most amusing thing is when religious people try to rationalise away awkward scientific facts. WLC is a prime example. I suppose you’ve heard his justification for the slaughter of children as depicted in the bible. Crazy stuff. It’s hard to believe that he doesn’t have moments of doubt. No doubt he has trained his mind to stay rigidly on track. Same with the paranormal and people like DC. The rambling word salad and verbal diarrhoea. Surely he must know, on a deep level, that it’s all nonsense.

    “Essential Faith”, though? That’s a new one on me. But I wait with amusement at an explication. (:
    (Sorry, Mlema, I know it’s Christmas, but I can’t help myself)

  80. Will Nitschkeon 22 Dec 2013 at 6:31 pm

    @Steven Novella

    “Will – you continue to base your arguments on loosely defining words and shifting definitions as you go.”

    Unless something interesting is written, this post will most likely conclude my remarks on this topic.

    Steve, the point I’m making is clear. (Vaguely claiming that my reasoning is poor is no more than a lazy style of ad hominem.)

    I’m also making a modest point. Let’s recap because you’re sidestepping it. Professing humility is not the same thing as being humble. There are countless ways the amateur skeptic falls into the same traps as the religious believer. Such as beginning with a conclusion and working backwards to select evidence. Or engaging in logically fallacious modes of thinking for emotive reasons or out of ignorance. Or by interpreting evidence incorrectly. Or by drawing conclusions from insufficient evidence (also called ‘speculating’). And for all kinds of sociological reasons such as group think. The biggest and most common of all is to rely on authority, specially in areas of research that are poorly understood. Skeptics seldom declare, “we don’t know” or “I don’t know”. They choose a consensus position or the most ‘plausible’ theory or hypothesis from a long list, which they hold mentally as ‘true’ until subject to future revision. This doesn’t always happen, but it happens routinely. And as I’ve already pointed out, that’s the same mode of thought employed by the religious believer. And all this, of course, only scratches the surface.

    The mind of the sceptic is not qualitatively different from the mind of the religious. That’s not even a slightly controversial statement to make, because both groups share the same biology and much of the same environment. But a religion is focused not on acquiring new information, but on social stability, cohesion and the mental states of its followers. (It’s actual intention is to resist new information for as along as possible.) But I would speculate that a religion focused on acquiring new information would make the same sorts of discoveries as secular academics. The only differences would be in their manner of theological or philosophical interpretation. Carl Sagan once described the process of scientific discovery as a type of worship. (And no, he didn’t carelessly choose the wrong word. He made that point quite deliberately.)

    And finally, there is nothing written above, especially so in the comments section, that gives me much hope that I might be wrong. The illogic and anger on display, the attempts to pay lip service to ‘higher principles’ while simultaneously dissing them, is better evidence of the point I’m making, than anything I could write on this topic. You know, a true skeptic would have replied, “Will, what a bunch of boring and unremarkable statements you’ve made… The non religious, even and especially skeptics, can fall into the same mental traps? Of course! Science is evolving and a lot of claims of scientific certainty made today will look foolish in the near future. This is something we’ve got to constantly guard against, especially if it comes from within our own ranks.” But no, nothing like that. Instead, lots of mumbling about how the skeptic is incapable of thinking the thoughts of the religious. How the *method* puts one on a different mental “spectrum” to those dumb or poor people who lack the *method*. To borrow a phrase from the Believer, God help us.

  81. JJ Borgmanon 22 Dec 2013 at 10:54 pm

    The logic of god. All you have is a complaint. About method? Your “modest” point? Okay, I’ll say it: you are boring. Heard it.

  82. BillyJoe7on 23 Dec 2013 at 2:38 am

    Oh. Sweet. Jesus.

    But I’m happy to have my impressions of Will Nitschke confirmed.

    He IS boring. Not saying anything worth reading. Just typing words arranged into sentences and paragraphs. Over and over. The same “message”. Boring. Boring. Boring. And he’s incapable of seeing this. Because he’s gotten himself up there on his self appointed pedestal looking down on all of us. But he’s just a little fella playing in the dirt. Not even cute (couldn’t he at least have been cute!). Nope. Pass him by, nothing to see here.

    So, off you go Will…with your pedestal and your feelings of self importance…

    Christmas has to be better than this

  83. Bronze Dogon 24 Dec 2013 at 2:53 pm

    There are countless ways the amateur skeptic falls into the same traps as the religious believer. Such as beginning with a conclusion and working backwards to select evidence. Or engaging in logically fallacious modes of thinking for emotive reasons or out of ignorance. Or by interpreting evidence incorrectly. Or by drawing conclusions from insufficient evidence (also called ‘speculating’). And for all kinds of sociological reasons such as group think. The biggest and most common of all is to rely on authority, specially in areas of research that are poorly understood.

    Where, specifically, has this been done in this thread?

    Skeptics seldom declare, “we don’t know” or “I don’t know”. They choose a consensus position or the most ‘plausible’ theory or hypothesis from a long list, which they hold mentally as ‘true’ until subject to future revision.

    This is just bullshit. I’ve often had to drill the point into theists heads that “I don’t know” is a legitimate answer and not an automatic victory for their god. It’s up to them to convince me that their god answer is true. It’s common in any thread about the origin of the universe, where the typical skeptical position is essentially, “I don’t know, and neither do you.” We do have a set of untested hypotheses we think are plausible because they’re based on the science we know, but no definitive answer. We often bring them up because theists commonly assert implicitly or explicitly that there’s no other possible answer than the one they have.

    The problem for theists is that the gods they conjure up to create the universe are ineffective as explanations. It amounts to “a wizard did it!” No predictions to test. no mechanisms to examine. No avenues to dig deeper. Brick wall. Trekkie question: “How do the Heisenberg compensators in the transporter work?” Answer: “They work just fine, thank you.”

    And what’s wrong with tentatively trusting in a plausible hypothesis that doesn’t affect our everyday lives until the evidence calls for a revision, rejection, or new formulation? That’s rational and open-minded. Gods and their believers, however, typically demand profound effects on our everyday lives that aren’t justified on the available evidence.

  84. pnyikoson 07 Jan 2014 at 10:55 pm

    Yes, Craig overplayed his hand. If he had been more modest he might have achieved a standoff with atheism.

    Take point 1. Many atheists were (and a few still are) upset with the Big Bang theory because it undermined the default assumption of many atheists that our universe has already existed; Hoyle even tried strenuously to defeat Big Bang theory with his Steady State universe.

    After all, most people are uncomfortable with the idea that the universe popped into existence with no explanation of how that could have happened. Hawking first tried one way of getting around it in A Brief History of Time and then in a completely different way with a book he co-authored with Mlodinow, but neither of these ideas has been subjected to peer review. Hawking has become a popularizer of his own pet conjectures like the paleontologist Bakker, and when one finally looks at the heart of his conjectures, there is no attempt to justify them; they are axioms like “because positive and negative energy balance each other, the universe can and does create itself.”

    Even if we do accept the premise that our universe had a beginning, this may simply be embedded in a deeper physical reality, something to do with quantum fluctuations in space-time, or something equally incomprehensible.

    This is Theoretical Physics of the Gaps, one of several atheistic counterparts of God of the Gaps.
    Standoff.

  85. BillyJoe7on 08 Jan 2014 at 12:32 am

    pnyikos,

    I’ve got no idea why an atheist would be more comfortable with a universe that always existed than with a universe that just popped into existence. Or why an atheist would be upset by the Big Bang theory. The BB theory was a triumph of science. How could the universe pop into existence? Well, we’re not sure, but quantum particles flit in and out of existence all the time, so that’s a start.

    On the other hand, there is also Inflationary theory that successfully explains many observable facts about our universe. A natural consequence of Inflationary theory is the multiverse which, in turn, implies that the universe (or multiverse in this case) could have always existed.

    Which is it? We’re not sure at this point in time.

    “This is Theoretical Physics of the Gaps, one of several atheistic counterparts to God of the Gaps”

    Your analogy is false.
    (See above)

  86. rezistnzisfutlon 08 Jan 2014 at 3:20 am

    pnyikos,

    I challenge you to find one atheist, especially here, who is in any way “upset” about the Big Bang Theory. Most of us here are skeptics first and atheists second, meaning that our atheism is a result of our skepticism. What this means is that, as skeptics, we go where the evidence leads, and if the evidence is weak, lacking, or inconclusive, we withhold making any conclusions.

    Big Bang Theory, as well as relational explanations for the beginning of the universe, is based on observable physical phenomena. That’s why we can postulate on other aspects of it, including what may have happened previous to it.

    What we don’t know yet, we state that we don’t know. We don’t have to have an explanation for it. What that does compel us to do is try to find out what happened, but we’re not going to circumvent the requirement for sound evidence and the scientific method. That means we accept the possibility that we may never know.

    The quotation you cite is NOT a “physics of the gaps”, that’s absurd. It’s a mere explanation of what may need to occur in order to further investigate and understand what happened. It isn’t even physics, nor is it an attempt to hypothesize what happened. It seems that you’re misunderstanding the quote.

    Furthermore, cosmology and atheism aren’t the same thing, as you seem to suggest. BBT is NOT an atheistic explanation, it’s a scientific one. Science has no stance on supernatural or religious concepts beyond what it offers as physical evidence. The most science can do is to determine whether religious claims about the physical world are true (such as the Great Flood, or miracles).

    At this point, we have every reason to believe that the universe had a purely naturalistic beginning, and no reason to believe that there is a theism or intelligence behind it. So, the scientific explanations, even the scientific hypotheses and conjectures, are far more likely than religious ones because of this. At least in science we get honest answers free of logical fallacies (see argument from ignorance and begging the question fallacies), namely that, in the absence of evidence, we simply don’t know.

  87. ccbowerson 08 Jan 2014 at 9:29 pm

    “This is Theoretical Physics of the Gaps, one of several atheistic counterparts of God of the Gaps.
    Standoff.”

    You may have found this quote impressive when you typed it, but it really shows a lack of understanding of what makes a “god of the gaps” argument a fallacious one. When there is a ‘gap’ in understanding of something in the natural world, and a person uses that ‘gap’ as evidence for a god’s existence (or as an example of his/her impact on the universe), that is the ‘god of the gaps’ argument.

    This is a fallacious argument because there have always been yet unexplained phenomenon and will likely will always be (yet to be explained, not necessary unexplainable), but it does not follow to conclude ‘therefore, god.’ Using this argument today is as flawed as a person using it 2000 years ago when they saw magnetism.

    To carry this analogy to theoretical physics doesn’t even make sense. So to apply your analogy… Atheists are using a ‘gap’ in the understanding in theoretical physics, as evidence for the existence of theoretical physics? huh?

    No, that is not what they are doing. It doesn’t make sense because your analogy is not apt. Applying science to the gaps is a way to further understanding, which is completely different

  88. pnyikoson 08 Jan 2014 at 9:47 pm

    Yes, BillyJoe7, the Big Bang theory was a triumph of science, as is inflationary theory, but their empirically grounded information has to do about the initial stages of the universe and says nothing about what went before.

    Where do you get the idea that the multiverse is a natural consequence of inflationary theory? Isn’t this just another speculation, like some of the “many worlds” speculations of quantum theorists?

    Empirically established quantum effects take place inside our universe, and depend upon the conditions therein. We can of course speculate that the Big Bang was due to a colossal quantum effect in a multiverse, but that’s the stuff of science fiction at the present time.

    Perhaps what you write has a sounder theoretical underpinning than the words “something to do with quantum fluctuations in space-time, or something equally incomprehensible” but then it no longer deserves the label “Theoretical Physics of the Gaps” like these words I quoted from Novella’s initial post, and to which they referred.

  89. pnyikoson 08 Jan 2014 at 10:03 pm

    ccbowers, let’s not quibble about semantics. You could substitute “Atheism of the Gaps” for “Theoretical Physics of the Gaps” but I prefer to be specific because there are other, similar ways of trying to achieve the same aim.

    The aim is being secure in the old Laplace formula “I had no need of that hypothesis” by putting one’s faith in “something incomprehensible, but physical” as an explanation of our ca. 13by universe popping into existence.

    I’ve used “_____________of the Gaps” labels in other contexts where the ultimate aim is the same. For instance, lots of atheists brush off all difficulties of abiogenesis with forumlas like the following:

    Extrapolator of the Gaps: “Evolution of organisms has been shown to produce amazing things such as ourselves in highly un-random ways. Doubtless, biochemical evolution is capable of such things by a similar process.”

    Exaptor of the Gaps “The ____________[enzyme, structure, system] you are skeptical about was exapted from another, which was exapted from another, …”

    …but no attempt is made, in my experience, to describe the function[s] of the conjectured things that were exapted.

  90. pnyikoson 08 Jan 2014 at 10:39 pm

    I’ll have more to say before long about the three comments I have received so far, but it’s getting late and I want to close today with a look at the second of Craig’s assertions:

    There are three competing explanations of this remarkable fine-tuning: physical necessity, chance, or design. The first two are highly implausible, given the independence of the fundamental constants and quantities from nature’s laws and the desperate maneuvers needed to save the hypothesis of chance. That leaves design as the best explanation.

    He not only overstates the case again, but his wording of the alteratives is too abstract. The three main concrete alternatives are:

    1. Our young [~ 13by] cosmos is all there is or was or ever will be.

    2. There is an infinity of universes, with every conceivable (and every inconceivable but consistent) set of basic constants.

    3. Our universe has a supernatural, enormously intelligent and powerful creator.

    Now, atheists who have no problem whatsoever with a universe popping into existence with no apparent reason might feel quite happy with 1. or see no reason to prefer 2. over 1.

    I on the other hand am of a similar opinion as Martin Rees, the Royal Astronomer of England and a Professor at Cambridge University, who wrote:

    “These six numbers constitute a recipe for a universe. Moreover, the
    outcome is sensitive to their values: if any one of them were to be
    untuned , there would be no stars and no life. Is this tuning just a
    brute fact, a coincidence? Or is it the providence of a benign
    Creator? I take the view that it is neither. An infinity of other
    universes may well exist where the numbers are different.

    “Most would be stillborn or sterile. We could only have emerged (and
    therefore we naturally now find ourselves) in a universe with the
    right combination. This realization offers a radically new
    perspective on our universe, on our place in it, and on the nature of
    physical laws.

    “It is astonishing that an expanding universe, whose starting point is
    so simple that it can specified by just a few numbers, can evolve
    (if these numbers are suitable tuned ) into our intricately
    structured cosmos.”
    http://www.ichthus.info/BigBang/Docs/Just6num.pdf

    To my way of thinking, it is just too staggering a stroke of luck for our young universe to be as in alternative 1, and the choice of 2. over 1. is a no-brainer.

    But what about 3? I think the choice between 2. and 3. is more a matter of personal opinion than something one can confidently assert, either in the theistic direction as Craig does or an atheistic direction. Rees does not confidently assert it in the passage above.

    [By the way, I have deliberately used a wording of Carl Sagan in 1., who used them in the first sentence of his book Cosmos but to give him the benefit of the doubt, I think he was just using it to define the word "cosmos".]

    [Variations on 1. and 2. exist, of course, but only a staggeringly big number, not some piddly little number like Hawking's 10^500 (or is it 2^500? I forget) can really do justice to the ratio of "garbage universes" to just one hospitable to life, IMO.]

  91. Bruceon 09 Jan 2014 at 4:10 am

    pnyikos,

    “You could substitute “Atheism of the Gaps” for “Theoretical Physics of the Gaps” but I prefer to be specific because there are other, similar ways of trying to achieve the same aim.”

    Until we have more information we can only speculate, but it is MUCH more likely something physical created the universe as opposed to something godly. A skeptical athiest does not look at the moment before the big bang and say “It must have been a ‘supernatural, enormously intelligent and powerful creator’.” They look at it and say “This is an interesting gap in our knowledge, we do not understand it yet, but we will not assume anything without sound evidence or theoretical backing.”

    Some skeptics are Thiests and quite comfortable with it, if someone chooses to call what we don’t know god, then I have no quibble with them, but they cannot claim that their arguments are as sound as those who claim there is no god as the evidence for god simply does not exist and is pure conjecture.

  92. pnyikoson 09 Jan 2014 at 5:28 pm

    it is MUCH more likely something physical created the universe as opposed to something godly.

    How do you define “physical”? If you want to avoid an infinite regress, you may need to assume the “something physical” operated under somewhat different physical laws than ours.

    That would be quite reasonable, but if you haven’t a clue as to what those physical laws could conceivably be, you are no better off than those who believe the (physical) houses of the zodiac influence our behavior. Nor can you fully justify the statement which I am quoting above.

    Here is a broad interpretation of “physical” that I think to be the best bet that theism has of being true. Given an infinite number of universes as described in alternative 2. in my preceding post, perhaps there is one in which the physical laws are far more conducive to the evolution of superhuman beings than ours are. Perhaps some superintellilgent and beings that arose naturally have powers that include being able to reach into lesser universes, such as ours, and manipulate the basic constants of the universe while it is still very close to the big bang. Perhaps some could even do it before the big bang, while the universe is still a just a black hole in their far grander universe.

    Would that meet your description of “physical”?

    They look at it and say, “This is an interesting gap in our knowledge, we do not understand it yet, but we will not assume anything without sound evidence or theoretical backing.”

    It will be interesting to see who will turn out to be one of these open minded skeptics. Would you include a Christian who doesn’t assume the existence of a supernatural creator, but merely believes in the existence of one and tries to argue for it?

  93. pnyikoson 09 Jan 2014 at 5:57 pm

    I see I need to be very careful with the spelling of html commands. The last paragraph of my preceding post is due to me, not Bruce. This next is due to rezistnzisfutl:

    I challenge you to find one atheist, especially here, who is in any way “upset” about the Big Bang Theory.”

    “here” includes such a small and perhaps unrepresentative sample of atheists that I think it best just to look at the big outside world.

    Behe has mentioned a number of such people in his Kitzmiller v. Dover testimony. Since I am a bit short on time, I will instead repeat something he wrote elsewhere.

    “For example, in 1989, John Maddox, the editor of Nature … published a very
    peculiar editorial titled “Down with the Big Bang.” He wrote:

    Apart from being philosophically unacceptable, the Big Bang is an over-simple view of how the Universe began, and it is unlikely to survive the decade ahead … Creationists…seeking support for their opinions have ample justification in the Big Bang.

    –M. Behe, “The Modern Intelligent Design Hypothesis,” Philosophia Christi Series 2,
    vol. 3, no. 1 (2001), pp. 165-179, reprinted in Darwinism Under the Microscope,” J.P. Gills
    and T. Woodward eds, Carisma House, 2002, pp. 131-150.
    He gives Nature 2 340 (1989): 425 as the reference for Maddox’s words.

  94. BillyJoe7on 09 Jan 2014 at 9:16 pm

    pnyikos,

    You speak with presumed authority on a subject where you seem to have a few obvious gaps.
    Of course the multiverse is a natural extension of inflationary theory.
    Does the “bubble universe” ring a bell?

    And I said that quantum particles flitting in and out of existence is a start to answering the question of how we can get something from nothing (when “nothing” means no space, no time, no particles). Given quantum theory, we can get space, time, and particles where no space, time, and particles existed before. But we have to explain where “quantum theory” comes from. But that’s only if you have a bias towards “nothing”. Isn’t it possible that “something” is the natural state of affairs, and that it’s “nothing” that needs an explanation. And, then, only if you are postulating that “something” came from “nothing”. If you are postulating an ever existing universe, then there is no “nothing” to explain.

    I agree with you about preferring a multiverse or bubble universe instead of only one, but only if the cosmological constants could, in fact, be any value instead of just one (or a few) values. And, since no one has actually proven that this is the case, then a single universe could turn out to be not so vanishingly improbable. But, his is a choice between a multiverse and a created universe a matter of personal opinion? The “creator” is an unnecessary hypothesis. I hope you can see that. Or an hypothesis on a 400 year failed search for supporting evidence.

    As a minor point, I will point out that infinities are mathematical constructs and do exist in reality. So I would say that, “in a multiverse, the number of universes tends towards infinity” rather than “the multiverse contains an infinite number of universes”.

  95. rezistnzisfutlon 10 Jan 2014 at 12:37 am

    Billyjoe,

    I would go as far as saying that the notion of a “creator” doesn’t even meet the qualifications for hypothesis status. Hypotheses require evidence to form and test against. There simply is no evidence to indicate a creator was in any way involved. There isn’t even a null hypothesis. There isn’t even an abstract math that indicates the presence of a creator.

    One also cannot “logic” a deity into existence like WLC tries to do. Apologists like him operate under the supposition that god exists, and work their way out from there. Of course, this is begging the question which then leads to an argument from ignorance.

    pnyikos, you’re seriously going to cite Behe is a source on atheism? Anyway, for one, you’re conflating the science of cosmology with atheism – they are two mutually exclusive concepts. One does not have to be an atheist to accept cosmology. When the Big Bang Theory was initially proposed, there was a lot of resistance to it by the scientific community until the evidence panned out. That’s how science works. It had nothing to do with atheism. There are still critics of BBT within the physics community. Maybe they strongly object to it. So what? Your analysis is still wrong, and dishonest.

    One of the tactics creationists and other ideologues use is to try to catch people in aha moments. They look for any outliers, and if none exist, will make things up. There is nothing honest about this.

    I would suggest that you consider the difference between a scientist being critical of a piece of science and what an atheist is, as it appears you’re quite confused about it.

    Overall, what you’re failing to grasp is that there is no EVIDENCE that a creator ever existed. You may as well say that a magical dragon created the universe. It’s just making something up. And no, doing so is not on par with the science. What we have in science is backed up by actual physical, verifiable evidence, theories being constructed to explain the evidence. Religion does not. Science doesn’t try to “fill the gaps” like religion does when no evidence is provided, It just says that we don’t know.

    And that’s another problem – since religious people THINK they already know what happens, that tends to stymie investigation. If you think you have the answer, then there’s no need to make further inquiries. Even when science is relatively certain of a conclusion based on evidence, it’s provisional, going under the assumption that new data will eventually be found that may change the science.

    Sorry, but religion is not on par with science, science isn’t the same as religion, and atheism and scientists aren’t one and the same.

  96. pnyikoson 10 Jan 2014 at 10:49 am

    I would go as far as saying that the notion of a “creator” doesn’t even meet the qualifications for hypothesis status. Hypotheses require evidence to form and test against. There simply is no evidence to indicate a creator was in any way involved.

    There is also no evidence that a universe popping into existence has a cause that is amenable to scientific analysis or empirical evidence. The playing field is level, despite some philosophical (not scientific) sleight of hand by Hawking, Mlodinow, and Krauss.

    Science doesn’t try to “fill the gaps” like religion does when no evidence is provided, It just says that we don’t know.

    Science is an abstraction, and doesn’t use the royal “we”. Scientists in real life do not behave in this way where ultimate questions like the cause of our universe is concerned.

    Here is a statement that a blogger made a week ago in a forum indirectly connected with this one, which no one has challenged or even replied to; I’d like to see anyone here try and challenge it.

    “I think that you and I should have a discussion about Lawrence Krauss and his new book. Larry pretends to have shown that the universe arose from “nothing, nothing, nothing–nothing at all” (apologies to Archibald MacLeish). But wait! The “nothing” from which he started is not the nothing of MacLeish, but rather the quantum vacuum. If you have read anything at all about these matters, you would know that the quantum vacuum (i.e., lowest energy state) is, in fact, not the absolute void, the source of the aching question of “why is there something rather than nothing?”, but rather a plenum in which opposites balance. So now, despite the title of Larry’s book, we have “A Universe from a Plenum.” That’s interesting.

    “Another thing that I question is Krauss’s cosmic triangle, which is his proof that space is flat (and therefore that net cosmic energy is zero). Does the current picture of the cosmic background radiation really give us this triangle? Before drawing this conclusion, I think Krauss would have to take sample photographs of the background radiation at distant points in the universe. Since that is not possible now, we have some time to wait.”

    Finally, let me remind people of a statement attributed to Einstein, to the following effect, “The most incomprehensible feature of our universe is that it is comprehensible.” But there is no reason to think that any cause of our universe is similarly comprehensible, and a great stroke of luck that our universe is so simple and orderly that it is comprehensible to the degree that it is.

  97. pnyikoson 10 Jan 2014 at 11:20 am

    You speak with presumed authority on a subject where you seem to have a few obvious gaps. Of course the multiverse is a natural extension of inflationary theory.
    Does the “bubble universe” ring a bell?

    I note the backpedal “a natural extension of” after the presumed authority of “a natural consequence of”.

    Sure, I’ve known about the speculation that bubble universes pinch off a conjectured multiverse for decades now, and that ours arose that way. I even alluded to it in my second post of yesterday, when I talked about conjectural superhuman entities reaching into black holes in that kind of multiverse.

    But I also suggested that this multiverse has physical laws different from ours, and if the multiverse speculation is correct, one of them is that its black holes apparently do not evaporate from quantum effects the way ours do, because our universe doesn’t seem to be mysteriously losing mass.

    That evaporation, by the way, is one of the pieces of science for which Hawking is rightly praised. This was peer reviewed, unlike his popular science books which mix philosophy and baseless axioms with true science. In this he is very much like Stephen Meyer.

    But back to the connection between inflationary theory and the multiverse. To what features of the multiverse do you attribute the start of the inflationary period and its end?

    I agree with you about preferring a multiverse or bubble universe instead of only one, but only if the cosmological constants could, in fact, be any value instead of just one (or a few) values.

    Is there any reason at all for limiting the values cosmological constants assume? Indeed, is there any reason for assuming that a universe must have the cosmological constants ours does? Why can’t there be a universe in which no two stable positively charged particles are exactly of the same mass and charge, unlike our universe in which there are only two masses and one charge [of the proton and the positron]? Then one of the constants of which Martin Rees wrote actually becomes meaningless:

    • The cosmos is so vast because there is one crucially important huge number N in nature,
    equal to 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.
    This number measures the strength of the
    electrical forces that hold atoms together, divided by the force of gravity between them. If N had
    a few less zeros, only a short-lived miniature universe could exist: no creatures could grow larger
    than insects, and there would be no time for biological evolution.

    http://www.ichthus.info/BigBang/Docs/Just6num.pdf

  98. pnyikoson 10 Jan 2014 at 11:30 am

    pnyikos, you’re seriously going to cite Behe is a source on atheism? Anyway, for one, you’re conflating the science of cosmology with atheism – they are two mutually exclusive concepts.

    Wrong on both counts.

    I’m citing Behe as a source on certain atheists. Unless you can show that his quote is misleading as to the attitude of John Maddox, editor of the prestigious scientific journal, you are indulging in a blatant argumentum ad hominem.

    I never conflated cosmology with atheism, and there is no reason to even suspect that I am trying to do that. You on the other hand seem to be conflating atheism with atheists, and may even be conflating science with scientists–see my other reply to you this morning.

    You need to clean up your act.

  99. Hosson 10 Jan 2014 at 12:31 pm

    pnyikos

    “This is Theoretical Physics of the Gaps, one of several atheistic counterparts of God of the Gaps.”

    You tend to label scientific hypothesis and theories as atheistic when they encroach on your understanding of god.

    I really don’t understand(in the sense that it is completely irrational) your opposition to the scientific inquiry of natural phenomena. You seem to only bash hypothesis and theories that attempt at explaining natural phenomena that you attribute to god.

    http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2013/12/27/ask-ethan-17-the-burden-of-proof/
    This blog posting should help clear up some of the misconceptions you have about the scientific method.

    On a side note, it would be immoral and cruel for any god to punish non-believers when there is no evidence for that god’s existence – especially since non-belief is the only logically justifiable position.

  100. pnyikoson 10 Jan 2014 at 4:57 pm

    You tend to label scientific hypothesis and theories as atheistic.

    No, I tend to label the USE of speculation about the existence of undescribed or grossly under-described physical entities as attempts to create some sort of default assumption of atheism. Here, you conflate this speculation with “scientific hypotheses and theories.”

    I really don’t understand(in the sense that it is completely irrational) your opposition to the scientific inquiry of natural phenomena.

    I really don’t understand the tendency of people here to attribute things to me that I never even hinted at. You in particular seem to be ignoring the very first sentence in my very first post here, the very one from which you have quoted, where I speak of a “standoff.” That is all I have ever argued for here, and you are conflating me with people who have a completely different agenda all through your post.

    This will probably be my last post here until Monday. I think we could all benefit from a long weekend in which to get some perspective on what has been said and what has not been said on this hundred-post webpage.

  101. BillyJoe7on 10 Jan 2014 at 5:02 pm

    Pnyikos,

    I think we need to pin things down, if this discussion is to go any further.

    I will tell you what I think the state of play is regarding “something from nothing” vs “the eternal multiverse”. I would like you to respond to that. Also, you haven’t stated that you are a theist or deist, so I think you should declare yourself at this point. At the very least, you are putting the case for the reasonableness of the god hypothesis. So I would like you to point out where you think gods fit into the picture. Please tell us in a short succinct paragraph what exactly you are trying to say, because I do not have a clear picture of where you are coming from.

    Scientists have demonstrated that a particle can “pop” into existence where there was no particle at all. On it’s own, this is a remarkable fact. Scientists can also trace this universe back to a time and space that is vanishingly small. That is also a remarkable fact. Furthermore, based on quantum and cosmological theories that describe what we observe in this universe, it can be shown how time and space can arise where there was no time and no space. So now we have particles, space, and time where there were no particles, space, and time. We essentially have the theoretical basis for “something from nothing”. You might challenge that this “nothing” is not “nothing” because you need the specific laws of physics of this universe in order to produce this particular universe.

    But, if we have one concrete example of a universe (this one), it does not require any additional concepts to have two universes, or three universes, or even an almost infinite number of universes all arising completely independently of each other. They could all have different laws of physics and we find ourselves in one conducive to the evolution of intelligent life. On the other hand we can hypothesise a multiverse, based on Inflation theory which, itself, grew out of the observable facts of our universe. This multiverse is “natural extension” or a “natural consequence” or the “theoretical working out” of inflation theory (does that cover your concerns?) Our universe is just one of an almost infinite number of universes that comprise the multiverse, all with different laws of physics, only one of which requires laws of physics conducive to intelligent life. This multiverse could have always existed, hence not requiring any “popping” into existence from “absolutely nothing”.

    Finally, there is no logical or philosophical reason why “nothing” is preferred to “something”. In other words, there is no reason why “nothing” should be the default position and, therefore, that “something” requires an explanation as the question “how did something arise from nothing?” implies. The default position could just as reasonably be “something”, in which case it is “nothing” that would require an explanation. Lawrence Krauss, in his book “A Universe from Nothing” shows how we can get a universe from essentially nothing and that, beyond that, the question about what constitutes “nothing” can become meaningless, especially when “nothing” is not necessarily the default position. You may agree or disagree, but it is, I think, an interesting point of view.

    So, pnyikos, where do you see god in this scenario and what is your justification for your god hypothesis. Or if god is merely an assumption, please justify your god assumption. Seems to me that the god hypothesis is false hypothesis (see rezistnzisfutl’s post) and that the god assumption is unnecessary. Ockhams razor and all that.

  102. Bronze Dogon 11 Jan 2014 at 11:51 am

    I’ve never met an atheist who was made uncomfortable with the Big Bang. I think the only reason Creationists assume atheists are uncomfortable with the Big Bang was because they themselves were uncomfortable with the steady state hypothesis that used to be the popular competing hypothesis. Steady state took away a point of creation they could work with. I guess they reason that if the Big Bang has a beginning point, it must make us uncomfortable to have such a point because they think we’re more concerned about their god’s standing than we are about scientific fact.

    Unfortunately for theists, as said earlier, most of us are skeptics first and atheists second. I am not afraid to say I don’t know what, if anything, caused the Big Bang. I’ve heard various ideas floating out there, but they’re treated appropriately as untested hypotheses when I look around. Some of us might be rooting for a favorite when everything else is equal, but we recognize that our wishful thinking isn’t evidence in itself.

    In any case, these cosmological hypotheses are simpler than whipping up a magical man who seems designed to appeal to the wishful thinking of certain humans, rather than explain anything, predict what it will do, or what evidence we will find in the future. Intelligence is a complicated thing and positing a non-human intelligence involves adding new entities without demonstrating why they’re all necessary to explain the phenomenon. So Occam’s Razor shaves it off.

    Additionally, people have been positing magical human-like entities as explanations for centuries, from rain gods who like watching people dance the “right” way, to fairies who arrange mushrooms in circles, to gray aliens who steal left socks from your dryer. This mode of hypothesis generation doesn’t have a good track record. It’s seductive because we have hyperactive agency detection. Sensing predators and detecting plots from our fellow humans keeps us alive. A false positive is generally less dangerous than a false negative, so we’re likely to see agency when there is none. Because that tendency has so often gotten in the way of discovering the cause of natural events, we need a heightened burden of proof before we believe something is the product of intelligence when humans aren’t easily invoked as an explanation.

    On top of all that, one thing I try to point whenever the topic comes up: What do you mean by “god”? It’s a nonsense word to me since I see no consensus except those enforced by bloodshed and discrimination, rather than evidence and logic. I also ask about “supernatural,” “non-physical,” “spiritual,” and other such words. I’m not fond of statements that declare that science can or can’t examine the supernatural or whatever because I consider the assertion incoherent until those terms are defined.

  103. steve12on 11 Jan 2014 at 11:52 am

    Wow. I didn’t think someone could use that many words to show that they don’t understand the concept of God of the Gaps.

    Or at least after word 10,000 you think you would get it.

  104. tmac57on 11 Jan 2014 at 7:37 pm

    Just recently I have been listening to some atheist podcasts that take calls from listeners,and I have noticed a trend concerning the theists that call in. While some are calling in just to have an honest debate,there seems to be more often a kind of sneak attack going on,where they start with one premise that might be marginally reasonable,and then suddenly shift the goal posts in a dishonest way,and of course,they always get caught out,because the hosts are all too familiar with those sneaky arguments.
    But the thing that does not seem to register with the ones trying to use those tactics,is that they are undermining their own cause,by showing that an honest debate can’t succeed,so they must fallback on being cagey and intellectually dishonest,which I’m sure there must be some biblical passage that probably would prohibit such. ;)

  105. ccbowerson 12 Jan 2014 at 11:41 am

    “I didn’t think someone could use that many words to show that they don’t understand the concept of God of the Gaps.”
    steve12

    When I pointed out this out several days ago, his response was:

    “ccbowers, let’s not quibble about semantics”

    Semantics = meaning of his statements. In other words, let’s not argue about the content of his argument, which demonstrated his lack of understanding, but let’s continue arguing anyways.

    No thanks

  106. Davdoodleson 12 Jan 2014 at 9:03 pm

    Holy jumping jeepers, you folk have more patience than biblical patience-exhibitor Job.

    Wordy or not, sophisticated-sounding or not, piffle is still piffle.

    #ccbowers: “Semantics = meaning of his statements. In other words, let’s not argue about the content of his argument, which demonstrated his lack of understanding, but let’s continue arguing anyways.”

    #BillyJoe7: “At the very least, you are putting the case for the reasonableness of the god hypothesis. So I would like you to point out where you think gods fit into the picture. Please tell us in a short succinct paragraph what exactly you are trying to say, because I do not have a clear picture of where you are coming from.”

    Precisely. Unless and until the poster supplies suitably unqualified definition of what s/he is actually asserting, and sticks to those definitions, sensible argument is useless.

    However, as always (and I do mean always), clarity will not be forthcoming. Theistic argument does not, indeed cannot, survive the bright light of day and a stationary set of goalposts.

    And theists know it.
    .

  107. Bruceon 13 Jan 2014 at 3:53 am

    “Holy jumping jeepers, you folk have more patience than biblical patience-exhibitor Job.”

    Yup!

    To me just about everything he said was “just sayin’!”

  108. pnyikoson 13 Jan 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Wow. I didn’t think someone could use that many words to show that they don’t understand the concept of God of the Gaps.

    You mistook my intent, steve12, but I guess it’s my fault for trying to humor ccbowers in his extremely narrow definition of “god of the gaps.”

    Or at least after word 10,000 you think you would get it.

    Is this supposed to be a humorous exaggeration of the number of words I used in reply to ccbowers?

    Or is it supposed to be a description of the 0 (ZERO) words I’ve read on the definition ccbowers used before I actually read his words? I can’t even recall seeing, before that, the word string “god of the gaps” with the word “fallacy” tacked on at the end.

    In other forums dominated by atheists/skeptics, a much broader usage of “god of the gaps”, usually synonymous with the derisive comment, “goddidit”, is in general use. It works this way: a theist (usually a creationist) says or suggests that the best explanation for this or that fact is intelligent design, and this comment is given the label “goddidit” or “god of the gaps.” You can read an especially blatant example of that here:

    https://groups.google.com/forum/#!original/talk.origins/K-dwYLIcXSw/tQtJ8yYoyToJ

    In this example, the target of this labeling, Dembski, did not try to claim this or that problem with evolutionary theory was evidence of a god’s existence. At most, he was hinting that the feature in question was probably due to intelligent design, and not natural processes.

    Privately, he probably believed that the intelligent designer was the Christian God in which he believes, but that is not part of the methodology of ID.

  109. ccbowerson 13 Jan 2014 at 2:26 pm

    “I guess it’s my fault for trying to humor ccbowers in his extremely narrow definition of ‘god of the gaps.’ ”

    I see… so you misuse a term. I explain what that term means and what it implies in your analogy, and your conclusion is that I am using a ‘narrow’ definition, because it doesn’t include your incorrect use of the term. Yes, definitions should be sufficiently narrow to not be incorrect. Sorry for that constraint.

    Sarcasm aside, this is important if we are to have meaningful discussions. If your use of the term is different than the understood meaning by others, we are discussing a misunderstanding. We have enough obstacles for communication, such that we should at least avoid that one.

  110. Hosson 13 Jan 2014 at 2:32 pm

    “God of the gaps is a type of theological perspective in which gaps in scientific knowledge are taken to be evidence or proof of God’s existence. The term was invented by Christian theologians not to discredit theism but rather to point out the fallacy of relying on teleological arguments for God’s existence.[1] Some use the phrase to refer to a form of the argument from ignorance fallacy.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_the_gaps

    “Argument from ignorance (Latin: argumentum ad ignorantiam), also known as appeal to ignorance (in which ignorance stands for “lack of evidence to the contrary”), is a fallacy in informal logic. It asserts that a proposition is true because it has not yet been proven false (or vice versa). This represents a type of false dichotomy in that it excludes a third option, which is that there is insufficient investigation and therefore insufficient information to prove the proposition satisfactorily to be either true or false. Nor does it allow the admission that the choices may in fact not be two (true or false), but may be as many as four, (1) true, (2) false, (3) unknown between true or false, and (4) being unknowable (among the first three).[2] In debates, appeals to ignorance are sometimes used to shift the burden of proof.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance

    Maybe now that you know the definition of these words, you’ll now have the ability to see how the best arguments for the existence of god contain these fallacies. But in the very least, I hope this helps clear up a slight communication problem with you’re having.

    You still need to respond to billyjoe to clear up the confusion your ambiguity has caused – mainly because I’m working under the assumption that you are a theist, and I’m unsure if I’m right or wrong.

  111. pnyikoson 13 Jan 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Also, you haven’t stated that you are a theist or deist, so I think you should declare yourself at this point. At the very least, you are putting the case for the reasonableness of the god hypothesis.

    I stand for an agnostic world-view, as opposed to the extreme skepticism of theism shown by most people here, and the extreme skepticism of atheism shown by the likes of William Lane Craig.

    My personal beliefs have gone through many (and, since the age of 19, very great) oscillations, ranging from Christianity (usually Roman Catholicism) to what many would here call atheism.

    Seems to me that the god hypothesis is false hypothesis (see rezistnzisfutl’s post)

    HIs posts are a perfect example of the extreme skepticism of which I speak. He simply alleges that there is “no evidence” for a creator. While you were a Roman Catholic, did you not learn that for anyone but a martyr to be declared a saint in the last two centuries, at least one miracle attributed to the “intercession” of that person needs to be verified? Most such alleged miracles are cures, such as the one attributed to the intercession of John Paul II that is being used to declare him a saint. It was investigated by medical and legal panels which, in every such case of canonization, have to pronounce the cures “inexplicable by modern medical knowledge.”

    Now, we can make all kinds of objections to these “findings”, and I’ve done that many times with respect to alleged miracles, but to arbitrarily decree that there is “no evidence” is an example of extreme skepticism.

    Have you read I Corinthians 15 recently, by the way? Do you think it is a forgery written after the death of Saul of Tarsus, a.k.a. St. Paul? Or an example of what a con artist he was? The way it reads, he is staking the entire reputation of “The Way,” as it was then called, on the resurrection of Jesus.

  112. pnyikoson 13 Jan 2014 at 4:42 pm

    “God of the gaps is a type of theological perspective in which gaps in scientific knowledge are taken to be evidence or proof of God’s existence. The term was invented by Christian theologians not to discredit theism but rather to point out the fallacy of relying on teleological arguments for God’s existence.[1] Some use the phrase to refer to a form of the argument from ignorance fallacy.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_the_gaps

    You are only giving ONE of the uses of “God of the Gaps,” and the entry goes on to give others, including statements that agree perfectly with the usages I have been familiar with heretofore.

    And it’s not really justified, either: [1] just takes me to an encyclopedia title without identifying a single alleged Christian theologian, let alone how it was argued that relying on what are labeled “teleological arguments” are across-the-board fallacious.

    Paul Tillich, for example, is often erroneously referred to as a “Christian theologian” but he was a knee-jerk materialist and atheist who redefined God as “whatever one takes seriously, without reservation.”

    The Wiki entry cites a book by Dawkins, but gives no quotes or page numbers nor even the title of the chapter
    involved. This book is “The God Delusion” and on p. 125 Dawkins writes: ” Creationists eagerly seek a gap in present-day knowledge or understanding. If an apparent gap is found, it is assumed that God, by default, must fill it.”

    This is exactly how “God of the Gaps” was usually used in all the other forums, and all the books in which I have seen it–”goddidit”.

    But like I said–let’s not quibble about semantics. I’m willing to adopt, for purposes of this blog, the definition which a handful of participants here insist on being the only correct one.

    But note this: ccbowers accused me of is what he was actually doing–using a definition to avoid dealing with the issues I raise:

    In other words, let’s not argue about the content of his argument, which demonstrated his lack of understanding, but let’s continue arguing anyways.

    Is “which demonstrated his lack of understanding,” supposed to refer to some substantive issue, or is it a case of begging the question as to there being only ONE correct usage of “god of the gaps”?

  113. Davdoodleson 13 Jan 2014 at 4:55 pm

    “HIs posts are a perfect example of the extreme skepticism of which I speak. He simply alleges that there is “no evidence” for a creator.”

    So a perfectly sensible position, based on the available evidence, is “extreme” in your view?

    You mentioned purported “miracles”, presumably in support of an argument that there is evidence for the existence of god.

    Given that these wonder-works are said to be “inexplicable by modern medical knowledge”, can you:

    (i) explain why no purported miracle has ever caused the scientific consensus to conclude that anything scientifically interesting, let alone a supernatural entity or effect, was involved?
    (ii) explain how (even accepting your test of “inexplicability”), a simple lack of current medical knowledge is evidence that the supernatural was involved?
    (iii) explain the effect of the recent relapse of the allegedly miraculously cured nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, on the credibility of the “medical and legal panels” involved in the beatification of Pope John Paul?
    .

  114. pnyikoson 13 Jan 2014 at 10:58 pm

    BillyJoe7, you write:

    On the other hand we can hypothesise a multiverse, based on Inflation theory which, itself, grew out of the observable facts of our universe. This multiverse is “natural extension” or a “natural consequence” or the “theoretical working out” of inflation theory (does that cover your concerns?)

    No, because you are saying three different things, and you haven’t backed any of them up. In fact, you haven’t even answered my question about what features of the multiverse are supposed to account for the beginning of the (hyper)inflationary period, and which the end.

    This weekend, following my own advice, I looked through all the posts made here so far, and when I got to yours, I decided it was up to me to make sense of the multiverse/inflation theory connection. So I did some intensive reading, and this is the picture that emerged.

    As I understand it, the most popular theory of (hyper)inflation is that “the visible universe” is only a minuscule (and getting exponentially more minuscule) fraction of our whole universe, called by some (including yourself) “the multiverse” and by others, more precisely, “a Level 1 multiverse”. This “multiverse” had its beginnings in what may still be called the Big Bang (even though it does not conform to what inflation theorists now call “the Big Bang theory”).

    In the first 10^-43 or so second, this multiverse was in the form of a “false vacuum”, a state emormously and potentially infinitely productive of matter and energy, and unstable enough so that matter/energy started being produced almost immediately. The energy in turn caused this minuscule universe to expand exponentially, and one part of it settled down after a few million years to constitute our more leisurely expanding “visible universe”. It almost surely was NOT the first such part to settle down, and there will be infinitely many more to come, produced at an exponentially increasing rate.

    Our universe is just one of an almost infinite number of universes that comprise the multiverse, all with different laws of physics, only one of which requires laws of physics conducive to intelligent life.

    Funny, earlier you were suggesting that there might be only a few different values of the basic constants of any universe. I’ve seen many other atheists voice this speculation to counter any claim that our little “visible universe” cannot be the only one [as I said, it just seems to be too staggering a stroke of luck that the only universe is so conducive to life].

    And indeed, even if our visible universe is only one of a colossal number of “island universes” [1] in a Level 1 multiverse as described above, there seems to be little reason for there to be more than a limited number of different ways the basic constituents of matter and energy can condense out of pieces of the “false vacuum”. Hawking and Mlodinow only opt for ca. 10^500 because they say that this is the number of distinct solutions to the Feynman equations.

    [1] The term “island universe” is an obsolete synonym for “galaxy.” I like the idea of changing its meaning to “a coherent piece of our universe such as what is called `our visible universe,’ that is at present disconnected from any similar pieces that may exist.”

    I prefer “island universe” to the prosaic “Hubble volume” and prefer to reserve the term “bubble universe” to mean something “birthed” by a “fecund universe” such as I described when you first brought up bubble universes:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fecund_universes#Fecund_universes

    Fecund universes are a kind of Level 2 multiiverse. For more about the “Level n” terminology see:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiverse

    The following book is supposed to give a thorough description of the various multiverse concepts:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hidden_Reality:_Parallel_Universes_and_the_Deep_Laws_of_the_Cosmos

    When I gave the three main alternatives in connection with fine-tuning, I was talking about what is called “the Level 4 multiverse,” or “the ultimate multiverse”. (” The ultimate multiverse contains every mathematically possible universe under different laws of physics.”)

  115. rezistnzisfutlon 14 Jan 2014 at 2:13 am

    pnykos,

    When I mentioned “no evidence”, this goes to the heart of skepticism (incidentally, there is no such thing as “extreme skepticism” – there is either skepticism, or no skepticism, it’s not some spectrum like a political stance or ideology like you seem to regard it. Skepticism is a tool and process of thinking that helps evaluate claims and eliminates bias and logical fallacies. One of the primary misunderstandings of pretty much all of your posts is what skepticism is in the first place, which after all of the attempts to explain it to you, is bordering on denialism rather than mere misunderstanding).

    For instance, you use miracles of examples of “evidence” that people have given over the years, in terms of vetting individuals throughout history for sainthood that supposedly performed at least one miracle that somehow defies modern science. This is not evidence, but belief. For one, there is no way to actually corroborate whether the event took place, much less whether the event was truly a miracle (what is the definition of a miracle in the first place?). Miracles, by definition, would defy scientific explanation, but the rub is that there is no evidence for the miracle in the first place.

    See, you seem to put a lot of stock in what believers have claimed in the past and present. To a a skeptic, this does not qualify as evidence. That’s why I, and others, dismiss most theistic claims of divinity, miracles, and the supernatural and historical claims listed in the bible (and other religious texts) because none of them withstand rigorous scrutiny. The bible cannot be relied upon by itself as evidence, nor can third-hand accounts recorded in antiquity that cannot be corroborated by any other means, whether via independent contemporary accounts (which is also unreliable) or any sort of physical evidence.

    In other words, there is nothing to hand one’s hat on when it comes to theistic claims. So, my “extreme skepticism” point stands in that there is no evidence for theistic claims. Claims by themselves do not constitute evidence.

  116. rezistnzisfutlon 14 Jan 2014 at 2:48 am

    “Extreme skepticism” is, in effect, a claim for special pleading. Apologists don’t want to have the same scrutiny, burden of proof, and standards of evidence, as these things weaken their claims. It also helps to create strawmen about skeptics and skepticism, that it is little more than another religion or ideology, so that theistic claims are given more weight than they’re due, something akin to false equivalence similar to “teaching the controversy”. We’re also seeing this now with the false equivalence of “god of the gaps” and “science of the gaps”, which doesn’t make any sense really.

    The problem with nearly all religious apologists is their inherent intellectual dishonesty. They try to leverage science in such a way that seemingly supports their theistic claims, doing the same with logic and even philosophy, but in doing so only end up mangling these things out of recognition. There simply is no way of reconciling their faith and beliefs with logic, reason, and science, not until they can come up with actual physical, verifiable evidence.

    The only honest position a theist can hold is that their beliefs are entirely based on faith, and that there is no way they can prove to anybody what they believe is actually true.

  117. BillyJoe7on 14 Jan 2014 at 5:07 am

    pnyikos,

    I’m glad you’re now up to date on multiverses. But my brief outline is sufficient, I think, to make the point that there is no need for god hypotheses. I think you must agree because, despite my clear invitation, you passed on showing me where we might find the influence of any god.

    You say you have an agnostic world view, but you did not explain what you meant by an agnostic world view or how you justify holding such a view. You talk about the extremes of the sceptical world view of certain posters here and the extremes of the religious world view of people such as WLC, so I suppose you feel you occupy the superior middle ground. But what reasons do you have for occupying the middle ground?

    In a sense, it is scepticism (belief commensurate with the evidence) that occupies the superior middle ground between the extreme of faith (believing without evidence) and the extreme of cynicism (disbelieving without evidence). But, in fact, scepticism is so superior to both that it is not even on the continuum. Surely you agree. Go where the evidence leads.

    So I would like to know…
    - what do you mean by your agnostic world view?
    - how do you justify it?
    - where is the evidence for the influences of gods in cosmology?

  118. Mlemaon 14 Jan 2014 at 5:59 am

    BillyJoe,

    agnosticism means you don’t know. The justification is: there is no way to know.
    To me, it’s the only rational response to the God question.

    “where is the evidence for the influences of gods in cosmology?”

    What kind of evidence would you accept as influence of a god?

  119. rezistnzisfutlon 14 Jan 2014 at 6:16 am

    What kind of evidence would you accept as influence of a god?

    That’s actually a good question, and for myself the answer is, I’m not sure. What I do think is, if it’s a god worthy of being a god, he/she/it would know what it would take to convince me it’s a god. If there was any evidence of an intelligence behind creation, it would A) have to be extraordinary, and B) not be just advanced aliens that are every bit as naturalistic as we are (of course, that goes to what the definition of “god” is to a person. However, as unlikely as it may be that superadvanced aliens created things, the notion of an an omniscient, omnipotent, loving creator of the universe is far more unlikely, and even moreso that it’s the god of a specific religion).

    Most skeptical atheists are also agnostic. While it’s intellectually dishonest to claim with 100% certainty there is no god, atheists don’t believe because of the extreme unlikelihood of such a being, especially considering there is currently no evidence for one. Atheism and agnosticism aren’t mutually exclusive.

  120. rezistnzisfutlon 14 Jan 2014 at 6:26 am

    Billyjoe,

    In a sense, it is scepticism (belief commensurate with the evidence) that occupies the superior middle ground between the extreme of faith (believing without evidence) and the extreme of cynicism (disbelieving without evidence)

    I’m not sure how “disbelieving without evidence” constitutes an extreme. Why would anyone believe something, especially something highly extraordinary and unlikely, without evidence? Belief isn’t a knowledge claim, it’s an expression of credulity (or lack thereof). Perhaps you mean gnosticism?

    You state that skepticism is “belief commensurate with the evidence”. If there is no evidence for a claim, especially for a highly improbable claim that would defy what we do know, wouldn’t it be the skeptical position to not believe?

  121. pnyikoson 14 Jan 2014 at 8:11 am

    Bronze Dog, as you may know from my long post on multiverses last night, the same thing applies to “multiverse” as you said about “god”:

    On top of all that, one thing I try to point whenever the topic comes up: What do you mean by “god”? It’s a nonsense word to me since I see no consensus except those enforced by bloodshed and discrimination, rather than evidence and logic. I also ask about “supernatural,” “non-physical,” “spiritual,” and other such words. I’m not fond of statements that declare that science can or can’t examine the supernatural or whatever because I consider the assertion incoherent until those terms are defined.

    People do shift around a lot as to the meanings of these things, but as long as it is acknowledged that they have multiple meanings, clarity can come fairly easily. BillyJoe, for instance, said one thing about “the multiverse” that is appropriate to the Level 4 multiverse, “the ultimate multiverse” while his earlier claim that “the multiverse” is something that follows naturally from inflation theory refers only to a Level 1 multiverse, the one in which our visible universe is what I call an “island universe.”

    Perhaps, for purposes of clarity, we could (temporarily at any rate) use “god” to mean “a designer of our universe or at least a part of it, and not subject to the physical laws of our visible universe.”

    Would you like to propose a working definition of “multiverse” that we can use?

  122. ccbowerson 14 Jan 2014 at 8:25 am

    “If there is no evidence for a claim, especially for a highly improbable claim that would defy what we do know, wouldn’t it be the skeptical position to not believe?”

    rezistnzisfutl- I think we are misunderstanding eachother due to language. When BJ says disbelieving without evidence, I took him to mean something like: ‘disbelieve without consulting the evidence,’ as opposed to ‘ not believing because of a lack of evidence.’

    pnyikos- You seem to be making an argument to moderation, but only have vague references to extremism. Who here is making extreme statements (be specific), and what specifically is wrong with those statements? Without specifics, they come across as a method to argue a false equivalence between a theistic position and some vague ‘extreme’ atheism that no one here is taking. What is this latter category (however you want to describe it), and who is promoting that view here, as you assert?

  123. rezistnzisfutlon 14 Jan 2014 at 8:30 am

    ccbowers,

    Ah, yes, that is a good point and likely what he meant. Thanks for the clarification, I was a little puzzled about that coming from BJ. In that case, I fully agree.

  124. rezistnzisfutlon 14 Jan 2014 at 8:57 am

    Perhaps, for purposes of clarity, we could (temporarily at any rate) use “god” to mean “a designer of our universe or at least a part of it, and not subject to the physical laws of our visible universe.”

    Thanks for including a definition for this discussion, assuming others are willing to use it as well. I’d like to briefly examine that statement.

    What I’ve been getting at all along is that, due to a lack of evidence, there simply is no reason to conclude, or even hypothesize, that there is a designer of the universe. While anyone with intellectual honesty will admit that it’s POSSIBLE, the likelihood of it is remote due to the extraordinariness of the claim. Positing such a possibility is little more than a motivated reasoning or a gross misinterpretation of what data we do have (ie, fine-tuning, irreducible complexity, or any number of ID arguments that have been long debunked). What I find disingenuous about these arguments is that they’re thinly veiled attempts to put a foot in the door in order to insert a religious belief. But, we haven’t gotten that far yet because you have yet to demonstrate the viability of a creator hypothesis.

    Then there is a matter of this being not being subject to the physical laws of the universe, which places this being squarely in the realm of the supernatural and metaphysics, and is definitely an extraordinary claim. This is definitely outside of science because one cannot test something that isn’t physical.