December 1, 2004

87-13:


Note to Religion Editors: Public Doubts Darwin, Evolution, Poll Finds
(E&P, November 30, 2004, Editor & Publisher)

As the press considers increasing its "faith-based" reporting, one thing journalists should keep in mind is that, contrary to most assumptions, large numbers of American remain wary of evolution and continue to see God's hand fully directing the origin of the species.

"Public acceptance of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is well below the 50% mark, a fact of considerable concern to many scientists," Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of The Gallup Poll, observed today. He noted that given three alternatives, only 35% say that evolution is well-supported by evidence. [...]

Newport, in his weekly report, cited two possible reasons for these findings: Most Americans have not been regularly exposed to scientific study on these matters; or many Americans know about Darwin's theory, but feel it contradicts a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis. "Indeed, about a third of Americans are biblical literalists," he writes.


The numbers are quite a bit worse than this suggests--just 13% believe that Evolution is a Natural process. And, of course, that's because there's a third reason for skepticism: it's not well-supported by the evidence.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 1, 2004 4:12 PM
Comments

Neither is God.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 1, 2004 4:16 PM

Exactly.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 4:32 PM

True science has nothing to do with consensus or democracy.

Posted by: AML at December 1, 2004 4:48 PM

"Indeed, about a third of Americans are biblical literalists."

Which only goes to show that at least this third of Americans hasn't actually read their Bibles.

"...just 13% believe that Evolution is a Natural process."

That's a trick question. Just what did God make that isn't Natural?

"..it's not well-supported by the evidence."

So long as you're going to ignore most of it, that's an easy statement to make.

Posted by: M. Bulger at December 1, 2004 4:48 PM

Usually I don't touch this particular controversy with a ten-foot pole, but after reading his thoughts I'm not exactly wondering which side of this debate Newport is on. Jeez...

Posted by: Matt Murphy at December 1, 2004 5:06 PM

True science has nothing to do with consensus or democracy.

Well said, and the reason why science should never have tried to set itself up as a popular religion, or gotten involved in politics. I say that as a heathen who thinks Darwin is probably right.

Posted by: joe shropshire at December 1, 2004 5:12 PM

"True science has nothing to do with consensus or democracy."

Ideally, science does rely on the process of peer review - hence consensus.

How 'democracy' should come into the picture I have no idea.

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 5:13 PM

If deities should be introduced into science classes, is there a reason why they should not have to be explained scientifically? Or at least their (or His) existence proven scientifically?

Barring that, the two sides could always agree to disagree - that there are some things that science can not (yet) explain, and that on the other hand there is a way of looking at things called religion, in which the answer to everything is 'God' and 'mystery'.

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 5:25 PM

What is peer review but the democracy of an elite?

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 5:25 PM

creeper:

If science need not meet scientific criteria, as Darwinism does not, then why should religion, which makes no claim to be scientific.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 5:30 PM

"Democracy of an elite" appears to be a bit of an oxymoron to me.

The point of peer review is to weed out the loose cannons. A meritocracy is more like it, with scientists building a body of work built on persons of similar educational levels.

It's not like 'elite' is a dirty word just for the sake of it.

If you want to think of it in religious terms, doesn't organized religion follow similar patterns? Doesn't organized religion have a kind of elite - those who have advanced through the ranks, attained a certain level in the hierarchy?

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 5:35 PM

"If science need not meet scientific criteria, as Darwinism does not, then why should religion, which makes no claim to be scientific."

If you object to Darwinism in a science class room on grounds of not being proven to the last detail, then surely the alternative explanation of "God did it" should be subjected to similar criteria.

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 5:38 PM

(oh, I do so enjoy the days when OJ lets the spoon fly off this grenade here)

Posted by: John Resnick at December 1, 2004 5:46 PM

Barring that, the two sides could always agree to disagree - that there are some things that science can not (yet) explain...

Creeper : what makes you so sure that yet is the right word? Or, put it another way : on what basis do you believe that science will eventually provide a dispositive answer to every question? Do you have a scientific basis for that belief, or is there perhaps some other basis?

Posted by: joe shropshire at December 1, 2004 5:51 PM

creeper:

Absolutely. Neither belongs in a science class.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 6:01 PM

creeper:

It's democratic decision making--if enough of your peers think you're right you are, for awhile anyway.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 6:02 PM

joe:

It seems to me that the trend is that scientific advances allow us to find explanations for more and more things all the time.

"Do you have a scientific basis for that belief, or is there perhaps some other basis?"

It's not strictly speaking a scientific basis, since I'm not relying on repeatable demonstrations or peer review or somesuch. It's just my subjective perception of a trend, that's all. Though, come to think of it, if I wanted to waste a day to dredge up 'evidence', I'm guessing I could do it.

What I meant by (yet) was to make a subtle point that what science can not explain today need not be a mystery forever - which is what I would have done if I had said "there are some things that science can not explain".

The boundaries of what religion/mythology has been pulled in to explain, however, have been consistently receding. Thunder, lightning, good or bad harvests, etc.

'God' always seems to be right there as a generic plug-in for that which can not be explained in any other way. If it works for you, fine.

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 6:08 PM

"Absolutely. Neither belongs in a science class."

Then, without mentioning common ancestry, should science explain the rather obvious similarities among the primates?

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 6:11 PM

My apologies, that should've read:

Then how, without mentioning common ancestry, should science explain the rather obvious similarities among the primates?

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 6:12 PM

creeper:

Science doesn't explain any of those things, though it can offer insight into some mechanisms by which they happen.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 6:12 PM

creeper:

Yes, just before it mentions the far more significant differences.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 6:13 PM

"Indeed, about a third of Americans are biblical literalists."

Which only goes to show that at least this third of Americans hasn't actually read their Bibles.

Hmm... I wonder if a third of Americans have actually read the bible. Seriously.

What are the odds?

Are there any studies on this?

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 6:16 PM

Not sure I understand, Orrin: how does science not explain thunder, lightning, harvesting seasons?

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 6:18 PM

It's 47%. Meanwhile, .01% have read Origin of Species.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 6:18 PM

Creeper: good answer! You have faith in science, and you've admitted that forthrightly. So do I. But faith is faith, and that's always been oj's point when beating on Darwin's poor old noggin. You and I are Darwinists for the same reason my mom still says her rosary every night: it's the faith we were brought up in.

Posted by: joe shropshire at December 1, 2004 6:20 PM

47%?

Link?

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 6:21 PM

Why is there thunder and lightning?

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 6:31 PM

joe,

thank you for the kind words. It may surprise you that the faith I was raised in was Christian, of the Lutheran variety, and that apart from my just not buying the existence of God, I do believe in what remains of the 10 commandments once you take that away. Which leaves 5-8. And kinda 4. 1-3 are obviously out.

I don't require the promise of whatever pleasures await in the afterlife to make me do this; I just think it's a better way to live life, that's all.

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 6:37 PM

"Why is there thunder and lightning?"

Electric discharge between atmospheric layers and the accompanying audio-visual fireworks?

Over to you: Why does God exist?

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 6:43 PM

Take away 1 and none remain.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 6:43 PM

creeper:

No, that's "how?," a fundamentally uninteresting question. Science doesn't ask the important one: "Why?"

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 6:46 PM

OJ's question is one of philosophy, not science. There is a philosophy of science and multiple philosophies of knowledge however.

Science classes should stick to teaching the scientific method and common theories, and textbooks and teachers should be brave enough to admit what science doesn't know yet, or what areas there are dispute on scientific bases. Arguments against evolution based on scientific reasoning is valid to allow in a science class.

However, much of the creationist argument does not rest on science, it rests on some philosophy and lots of religion. It has no place in a science class. If creationists want to debate this, its best place is in a philosophy class - which isn't taught much in school unfortunately.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at December 1, 2004 7:14 PM

I took away 1. I do not believe that God exists.

2 does not remain, obviously - No other gods remain besides the one I don't believe to exist, since I believe none of them exist.

3 does not remain.

4. I believe in a day of rest, to enjoy being with my family, to prepare a nice meal and no

5. I believe in honoring my parents. I am them, and they are me. I honor them, and their parents, and for having given me life, I want to give them back as much as I can.

6. Murder is right out. It may be necessary on occasion to kill (the needs of the many outweight the needs of the few).

7. Adultery. My wife and I are celebrating our 20th anniversary next month. The furnaces of hell did not stop me from cheating on her - my love for her did.

8-10. Not stealing, not bearing false witness, not coveting your neighbor's house: I'll sign on for every one of those. Don't even need any childish threat of punishment to make me do it.

Orrin, do you seriously mean to tell me that if it were possible for the existence of God to be disproven to you, you would convert to anarchy?

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 7:14 PM

Chris, Amen to you. Agreed on all counts.

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 7:18 PM

Orrin:

"No, that's "how?," a fundamentally uninteresting question. Science doesn't ask the important one: "Why?""

Science explains, as best it can, 'how' - and it knows its task is not complete, and is working towards completing that.

Religion doesn't explain 'how'. It's all down to some kind of magic, it seems.

As to the why:

Science doesn't explain the why. It accepts that we are a small fluke of nature... a collection of molecules that is capable of wondering about the 'why'.

Religion explains the why, erm, well... excuse me?

Why? Why are we here? Because... well, why?

Okay, it tells us that some deity made us, but even though he is omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent, every time that that is disproven by actual events that contradicts exactly that, we get 'free will' rubbed in our face.

Which ever so neatly happens to coincide with the scientific view of events.

I don't think this 'God' answer settles the 'why' question by a very very long shot. Certainly not more than whatever science has provided to date. It's comforting for some, sure, but it's not an answer.

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 7:28 PM

The numbers are far different than what OJ allows.

The percentage of people who believe Evolution correctly describes the material aspects of Natural History, the number is closer to 60%, of which roughly 47% believe that God provided an invisible hand to a a greater or lesser extent.

Regarding Evolution as a valid scientific theory, I carried on a marathon discussion with OJ. It is safe to say I have never seen such profound confusion between deduction and induction, shameless circular logic, or tendentious reasoning.

If all of that was to come from anyone else, I would figure them to be comprehensively witless.

However, OJ is most certainly not witless.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 1, 2004 7:36 PM

creeper:

Who is saying "Thou"? You're saying "I", which means everyone gets their own rules.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 7:41 PM

Chris:

Darwinism fails as science and as religion.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 7:41 PM

Jeff:

It's the darndest thing: 60 - 47 = 13

we'll not rerun your argument that conmsequences mean the things that had already been observed by the time Darwin was writing.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 7:48 PM

I missed where it was explained that evolution is "not well-supported by the evidence." Seems like a pretty conclusory statement. There are volumes of evidence supporting evolution.

Posted by: Confused at December 1, 2004 7:52 PM

Jeff Guinn,

Thank you for your insights and comments, and I'd sure like to benefit from your previous debates so as not to repeat them, just to avoid running in circles. Maybe you have a link or something.

The numbers in the above post - most notably the ones contained in its title - are indeed highly suspect, and I was in the middle of composing a post re. that when I caught your post.

Regarding 'shameless circular logic', I would welcome any religious/spiritual explanation of who we are and where we are today that manages to avoid the circular argument of "science can't explain who we are/therefore there are gaps/therefore there is something mysterious and inexplicable/let's call it god/god exists/god fills in the gaps/everything is now explained, god said it was so/therefore god exists/therefore god can fill in the gaps/therefore it is silly to try to fill in the gaps when they're already filled".

Orrin, I'd sure like to see what you're basing this claim on that 47% of the American public have read the bible. Frankly, I don't buy that one for a second.

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 7:55 PM

Orrin,

"Who is saying "Thou"? You're saying "I", which means everyone gets their own rules."

Not when the 'I' agrees with the 'Thou'.

(Now if you really want to follow by the 'not your own rules' rules... how much of the Bush administration follows the 10 commandments? Who would Jesus bomb? Where did the US turn the other cheek?)

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 8:01 PM

Confused:

Not according to the leading living Darwinist:

http://www.brothersjudd.com/blog/archives/014073.html

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 8:03 PM

Orrin: "Darwinism fails as science and as religion."

Did Darwinism ever aim to be a religion? How so?

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 8:06 PM

creeper:

Yes, in that even you must acknowledge the Commander who says Thou you remain a Christian.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 8:08 PM

creeper:

I made it up, of course.

The 13% number comes from here though:

http://www.brothersjudd.com/blog/archives/018045.html

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 8:12 PM

Orrin probably overstates the proportion of Americans who believe in darwinism.

If the criterion were understands and believes, the proportion could scarcely be more than one in 20.

So what?

Even by his figures, more than twice as many people believe in astrology as believe in darwinism, but I don't see many people (though I do so some) demanding that astrology get equal time (or all the time) in science classes.

Whether darwinism is a religion or not, religion is certainly a religion, and it deserves to be taught in church and not in schools.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 1, 2004 8:13 PM

Harry:

Why should only your religion be taught in schools?

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 8:17 PM

Orrin,

so should we teach the Jewish faith, Hindu, Islam, atheism in school?

How does each of them view the creation of our world?

Hey, why not?

Incidentally, I am not in the slightest bit opposed to the idea of a comparative religion class in school.

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 8:27 PM

creeper:

Yes, that is its purpose, to justify the Universe to those who cannot accept that bad things happen:

http://www.brothersjudd.com/blog/archives/017993.html


And it succeeded in establishing one:

http://www.brothersjudd.com/blog/archives/017786.html

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 8:31 PM

creeper:

You can't require your religion then try to ban the others on a separation argument. If Darwinism is permissible then whatever religion any school board wants should be.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 8:35 PM

On what grounds is Darwinism a religion, rather than an imperfect scientific theory?

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 8:39 PM

creeper:

Because it proceeds exclusively on faith rather than on the kind of testability and falsifiability that science requires.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 8:43 PM

creeper:

It isn't a scientific or any other kind of theory, not anymore anyway. It is a historical narrative about how everything happened.

Posted by: Peter B at December 1, 2004 8:48 PM

"Because it proceeds exclusively on faith rather than on the kind of testability and falsifiability that science requires."

On what grounds then should something relying on the existence of God be allowed anywhere near a science class?

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 8:50 PM

"It isn't a scientific or any other kind of theory, not anymore anyway. It is a historical narrative about how everything happened."

Hmm... in a way, yes. I still think it's theoretical, and I still think there are gaps. It can, as far as I can tell, be seen as both a historical narrative and a scientific theory.

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 8:52 PM

Oh, oj, you are a caution.

Religion adduces no evidence--evolutionary science examines in minute detail the fossil record, DNA, the geologic record, among others.

Religion requires belief in a God--evolutionary science doesn't take a stand on the existence of God, doesn't even address the question.

Religion has a holy text--evolutionary science has early texts (as do all the sciences), but it is subject to verification. Otherwise scientists would have to believe Lamarck's theories, not Darwin's.

Religion has a moral point--evolutionary science presents evidence that may or may not shed light on morality, but has no moral point of view. Because, you know, it's science.

Religion posits positions about an immaterial world--evolutionary science is materialistic.

As you pointed out: Religion asks "why"--evolutionary science asks "how."

So stop saying they're the same class of intellectual endeavor, already. You know the're not, and it's getting a little tiresome.

Posted by: Social Scientist at December 1, 2004 8:58 PM

Orrin,

"to justify the Universe to those who cannot accept that bad things happen"

I've been an atheist for most of my life, and can freely accept that bad things happen. All over the place, most of the time.

I think the key word you're missing is this: "to justify the Universe to those who cannot accept that bad things happen" undeservedly.

That's something we all struggle with. To an atheist, the answer is: if God doesn't exist, it's up to us humans to do the best that we can do.

To a believer... well you tell me: how does the notion of bad things happen to innocent people square with the idea of an omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent god?

I have a pretty good idea what your answer's going to be.

Posted by: creeper at December 1, 2004 9:01 PM

Well, it HAS to be called a scientific theory by its proponents if they are going to win the school wars. Read the chapter in Mayr on the history of homo sapiens. Pure narrative, most of it conjectural and quite fantastic.

Do you really think the assertion that man "suddenly broke out of Africa" in all directions and spread all over the globe from there is science?

Posted by: Peter B at December 1, 2004 9:02 PM

"My wife and I are celebrating our 20th anniversary next month. The furnaces of hell did not stop me from cheating on her - my love for her did."

No God = no soul = no love.

You don't cheat on your wife because the hard wiring in your brain and your environmental conditioning prevents you from doing so. That you mistake this programming for a trancendent concept called love is merely the result of other hard wiring and conditioning.

"I believe..."

The belief in a trancendent "I" that possesses free will and makes decisions is pure mysticism unsupported by any scientific evidence.

If you are going to reject God, you can't keep all the nifty things that go with Him.


Posted by: carl at December 1, 2004 9:40 PM

Well, it HAS to be called a scientific theory by its proponents if they are going to win the school wars.

It has to be called a scientific theory because it is a scientific theory. And scientists don't dispute that--even the ones who think it's an incorrect scientific theory. It proposes a mechanism that is determinative of physical facts (albeit in a statistical model, like quantum mechanics). That IS a scientific theory.

Do you really think the assertion that man "suddenly broke out of Africa" in all directions and spread all over the globe from there is science?

It's a scientific question, sure. It will stand or fall on the basis of evidence, not on the fact that it has been asserted. It's not a question of theory, though, and isn't dispositive one way or the other about evolution.

Posted by: Social Scientist at December 1, 2004 9:46 PM

creeper:

It shouldn't be in a Science class--that's the point.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 10:07 PM

creeper:

There, you've got it! Darwin had to find something that made the bad things deserved. The unfitness of an orgaqnism justifies every bad thing in the world.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 10:09 PM

SS:

That's quite wrong--Ernst Mayr the great Darwinist is quite open about it not being science, but philosophy.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 10:13 PM

Well, if a great "Darwinist" says it, it must be true, I guess. Is that your point? That everything "Darwinists" say is true?

Or is your point that if one opinionated old coot says he believes in evolution as a religion, that that overrides evidence, reason, the beliefs of the vast majority of those in the field, and everything else?

You know, since evolutionary science is not a religion, they don't have a Pope--so no one's considered infallible. Not even the "great."

Posted by: Social Scientist at December 1, 2004 10:22 PM

SS:

And paleontology, geology and genetics are sciences. Darwinism draws conclusions about that record which are unsupported by evidence, experimentation or the like, thereby becoming a nonscience.

Darwinism posits Natural Selection in every position in existence where religion places God--indeed Nature is its god.

Darwin is the bearded prophet, his books the holy texts.

Darwinism is totally moralistic, an attempt by a troubled believer to explain evil to himself.

Darwinism posits an immaterial force that changes the material world--just as any religion does.

It doesn't much bother us believers that your side has a religion of its own, just that you invoke the notion of science as if that made it more true.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 10:24 PM

oj--

Oh, no, geology isn't a science. It contradicts Bishop Usher's estimate of the age of the Earth. Therefore, it's a religion. Apparently.

Also, the Darwin as messiah is meant with a little more seriousness than "Alanis is God," about the same as "Clapton is God."

Darwinism posits Natural Selection in every position in existence where religion places God--indeed Nature is its god.

Not at all. Does he place it in Heaven? Does he place it in the Soul? Again, you're so wrong it's almost startling.

Darwin is the bearded prophet, his books the holy texts.

Didn't you just say that 0.01% of the population had read him? Not very good for holy texts! Oh, wait, they aren't holy texts, nobody regards them as a writ, you're just waving words around.

Darwinism posits an immaterial force that changes the material world--just as any religion does.

A force, by definition, is not immaterial. But don't let that stop you--please keep telling me more about what science is.

It doesn't much bother us believers that your side has a religion of its own,

Yes, I see how little it bothers you. You've repeatedly described "Darwinism" as a foul, moral cesspool. As the basis of Naziism. You post on it repeatedly. Your impassivity is like unto a glacier.

Posted by: Social Scientist at December 1, 2004 10:53 PM

"A force, by definition, is not immaterial."

What causes objects to fall toward one another?

Posted by: carl at December 1, 2004 11:02 PM

carl--

God causes all things. I thought you knew that.

But, seriously: force is an aspect of mass in a gravitational field. It is material because it can be measured. In the same sense that energy is material. While gravity is often called a "force," it's a little unclear in its usage. "Gravity" could mean "the effect of a gravitational field" or "Isaac Newton's theory of universal gravitation." The gravitational field may cause force, the theory may only predict it.

Posted by: Social Scientist at December 1, 2004 11:13 PM

ss:

yes, what is the similar measure of Natural Selection?

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 11:21 PM

oj--

The difference in animal anatomies or genotypes over time. Natural selection has always been posited as an extremely slow process--too slow to measure in a laboratory in a lifetime, at least so far. Except at the level of microbes, where we do see it now. But for the big animals they have to make do with what is found in the fossil record.

Posted by: Social Scientist at December 1, 2004 11:42 PM

Yes, I'm well aware that there's no evidence, observation, or experimenmtation to nsupport the theory, that's what makes it faith. It's not necessarily wrong, but for now it's just a belief.

What did the microbes evolve into?

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 11:46 PM

Yes, I'm well aware that there's no evidence, observation, or experimenmtation to nsupport the theory,

Yes, you're well aware of stuff that just isn't true. And yes, I agree that by putting "yes" in front of a statement it implies that somehow what you wrote is in agreement with what I wrote.

What did the microbes evolve into?

Aryan supermen. Or new varieties of microbes. I will let you guess which.

Posted by: Social Scientist at December 2, 2004 12:07 AM

You did say "too slow to measure", no?

Ah, so in a labratory setting humans can force microbes to evolve into microbes?

So must Archimedes have felt when he went shouting "Eureka!", huh?

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 12:13 AM

Ah, so in a labratory setting humans can force microbes to evolve into microbes?

Into microbes that are more different from their ancestors than we are from chimps.

So must Archimedes have felt when he went shouting "Eureka!", huh?

Well, it's pretty strong evidence for evolution. Maybe they shouted "huzzah!" I don't know. I wasn't there.

When Newton came up with the theory of universal gravitation, I wonder if there was someone who came to him and said "sure, that apple falls to the ground due to gravity, and sure, the orbits of the planets fit very closely to the mathematical model, but gravity can't apply to the planets, because you can't hold them in your hand and drop them to the ground." Since Newton was unable to conduct experiments on the orbits of the planets, there must therefore be no evidence for gravity affecting the planets. Therefore, universal gravitation is a religion.

Posted by: Social Scientist at December 2, 2004 12:31 AM

"force is an aspect of mass in a gravitational field"

Ok, but mass and matter are not the same things.

"It is material because it can be measured."

Time can be measured also, but it is not "material".

I am already aware that the phenomena occurs and can be measured. I am also aware that the apple and the earth are both materiel. That is not the issue. You said;

"A force, by definition, is not immaterial."

I want to know what material connection exists between the apple and the earth that causes the apple to fall. Gravitons? Giant invisible rubber bands?

Or is a "force" merely a vector quantity that tends to produce an acceleration of a body in the direction of its application?

Posted by: carl at December 2, 2004 1:04 AM

"Since Newton was unable to conduct experiments on the orbits of the planets, there must therefore be no evidence for gravity affecting the planets"

Err, Newton was able to correctly predict (more or less) planetary orbits with his mathematics, but never claimed to know the why, that is, what causes gravity. In fact he thought the idea was absurd;

"....that one body may act upon another at a distance through a vacuum without the mediation of anything else, by and through which their action and force may be conveyed from one to another, is to me so great an absurdity that, I believe, no man who has in philosophic matters a competent faculty of thinking could ever fall into it."--Sir Isaac Newton (from a letter to Richard Bently).

Darwinian natural selection is exactly the opposite-- it doesn't predict how biological forms will change, but it claims to know exactly why they will.

Posted by: carl at December 2, 2004 1:25 AM

Err, Newton was able to correctly predict (more or less) planetary orbits with his mathematics

Well, it is a lot easier to get clean data on the regular motion of a few large objects moving very quickly through a near-vacuum than on the complete anatomy and genomics of trillions of creatures complexly interacting with one another in ways that differ over time.

Darwinian natural selection is exactly the opposite-- it doesn't predict how biological forms will change, but it claims to know exactly why they will.

Firstly, it predicts that they do change; this has been borne out as far as can be expected at this point. This was the big sticking point for those who insist that man is created in God's image--assuming God is unchanging.

Secondly, it's still here because no one has come up with an explanation that fits the data better.

So, carl, what's the alternative? That species don't change and God is just leaving a lot of fossil record red herrings to deceive us? Or that species change is due to some other mechanism?

Posted by: Social Scientist at December 2, 2004 2:11 AM

"You don't cheat on your wife because the hard wiring in your brain and your environmental conditioning prevents you from doing so. That you mistake this programming for a trancendent concept called love is merely the result of other hard wiring and conditioning."

I don't 'mistake' it for something called love - that is the name I give to that set of impulses in my brain.

"The belief in a trancendent "I" that possesses free will and makes decisions is pure mysticism unsupported by any scientific evidence."

I do make decisions, and I do have some form of free will, albeit in the context of being a lifeform with many hardwired impulses, instincts etc.

You, who believes in God, has no more or less free will than those who don't. Like it or not, you are still a human being, with all that that entails in terms of biological needs, instincts etc.

"If you are going to reject God, you can't keep all the nifty things that go with Him."

I've written off the afterlife, certainly. But my emotions (which, yes, are mere electro-chemical impulses in my brain) are not something that comes exclusively with a belief in a deity.

Posted by: creeper at December 2, 2004 2:57 AM

creeper:

God isn't omniscient, although it would seem that way to a human. Free will prevents it.

Nor is God benevolent, although She does have our best interests at heart. The problem is one of perspective.
For instance, humans have a survival instinct, and during a crisis, would interpret "benevolence" as: "Saving me from death".
However, to God, most carnal deaths are irrelevant, at least to the people doing the dying.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at December 2, 2004 3:50 AM

"If you are going to reject God, you can't keep all the nifty things that go with Him."

This is the kind of silliness that theism drives people to. According to theism, creeper, people like you and I don't exist. We can't be accounted for. All those good things like love, morality, etc, can only come from God, because they can't obviously come from matter, right? Matter is just particles bumping together, I can't understand how that can allow people to love each other. If people were "mere" matter, then all they would be able to do is bump each other, since that is all that "mere" matter does, right?

"God" is what we call that which we don't understand about matter.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 2, 2004 4:09 AM

creeper:

"I don't 'mistake' it for something called love - that is the name I give to that set of impulses in my brain."

I'd love to see the anniversary and birthday cards you send your wife.

Guys like you, Harry and SS are great at telling Orrin that he really doesn't believe what he says. Well, do you really expect us to believe that you walk around all day in full awareness that your realtionships with your families are built solely on genetically determined behaviours and neuro-biological impluses? Wow, the last of the great romantics! Is that how you want your kids to think you define your love for them?

SS;

"It will stand or fall on the basis of evidence, not on the fact that it has been asserted."

What doesn't? I don't know about "dispositive" but if it isn't true, natural selection is in big trouble, unless it wants to posit that man developed in different places from different ancestors at roughly the same time. That would be news.

The whole history of man in evolution is little more than the extrapolation and projection in the absence of hard evidence (or even soft evidence) of things that supposedly happen to microbes and little slimey things. As far as I can tell, the debates swirl almost entirely around what "could" have happened, not what did.

Posted by: Peter B at December 2, 2004 5:08 AM

Robert:

"God" is what we call that which we don't understand about matter.

If that isn't a statement of faith, I don't know what is.


Posted by: Peter B at December 2, 2004 5:47 AM

Harry:

"Whether darwinism is a religion or not, religion is certainly a religion, and it deserves to be taught in church and not in schools."

If you were an economics professor teaching kids about the economic causes of the rise and fall of Rome, and I came along and argued that it was really all about moral factors, I would listen if you told me I had no place in an economics class (provided your economics class addressed the limits of economics). But if you me I had no place at all in the school, I'd assume I was speaking to a defensive Philistine.

Posted by: Peter B at December 2, 2004 6:32 AM

Robert:

You're simply freeloading, not rejecting God in any meaningful sense.

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 7:31 AM

SS:

Yes, it predicts they will change, yet they don't, thus it fails.

The failure of Evolutionists to come up with a theory that works doesn't make the ones that don't work true.

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 8:26 AM

SS:

Chimps are chimps. We're human. Microbes are microbes.

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 8:37 AM

Robert, creeper,
I am simply pointing out that philosophical materialism has certain consequences, among which are the abolition of free will and trancendent emotions. There is a big difference between "I love my wife so much that I will not cheat on her" and "my neuro-biological impulses are such that I cannot cheat on my wife".

"If people were "mere" matter, then all they would be able to do is bump each other..."

Precisely, materialism reduces a man, all men, to a piece of meat that twitches when prodded. Materialism reduces the difference between a man and a cockroach to one of degree, not kind.

"You, who believes in God, has no more or less free will than those who don't."

God grants you free will whether you choose to believe in Him or not. That's why it's called "free will".

""God" is what we call that which we don't understand about matter."

Unless you are a scientist, in which case you call what you don't understand a "force". If I ask you what causes an apple to accelerate toward the earth and you reply "the force of gravity", that is pretty much the same as saying "the devil did it".

SS,

"it predicts that they do change"

People had been breeding cattle and horses and dogs and cats and sheep and goats and sundry other animals, changing their physical characteristics, for thousands of years before Darwin. We already knew that biological forms could change over time. If a theory doesn't tell you anything you don't already know, what good is it?

Posted by: carl at December 2, 2004 8:41 AM

carl--

The difference between breeding and evolution is the difference between mixing genes and the creation of de novo forms.

Posted by: Social Scientist at December 2, 2004 9:02 AM

Thank you Carl, as I was contemplating some words to add to this thread in response to Robert & creepers comments I read your post above. Well said!

Posted by: Dave W. at December 2, 2004 9:20 AM

SS:

You're tiptoeing up to a breakthrough--that is indeed the difference between breeding and evolution. Darwinism only gives us breeding, not Evolution.

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 9:25 AM

I hate to risk spoiling OJ's fun, but, good Lord, why do you people care so much?

If I posted that the stars were just painted on the sphere that surrounds the solar system, or that gravity doesn't exist, I wouldn't get outraged amateur astrophysicists posting to 100 comment threads. No one would care. When I post that I'm unconvinced that any of you exist, no one bites except Harry, and that's just good natured play because he thinks that I'm joking.

But that's just your existence. When OJ questions your faith, it's Katie, bar the door.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 2, 2004 9:27 AM

Oops, I meant to sign that "pj" not "David Cohen."

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 9:35 AM

"I am simply pointing out that philosophical materialism has certain consequences, among which are the abolition of free will and trancendent emotions."

Nonsense. Here is my take on .

"There is a big difference between "I love my wife so much that I will not cheat on her" and "my neuro-biological impulses are such that I cannot cheat on my wife"."

If you think that materialists go around spouting statements like the latter, you need to get out and talk to some real materialists, and stop talking to straw men. And the latter statement isn't even an accurate representation of materialism, in my mind. Neurons aren't destiny, there is plenty of room for freedom of action for the will.

"Precisely, materialism reduces a man, all men, to a piece of meat that twitches when prodded. Materialism reduces the difference between a man and a cockroach to one of degree, not kind."

A man is what he is, regardless of what he's made of. Transcendental feelings like love are part of the human experience, so whatever man is made of is capable of producing those feelings. Why are you so hung up on matter? What does invoking the soul or spirit add to the equation, other than giving a name to that which you can't explain through matter? The soul is just a word for "consciousness stuff". Until someone can put a gob of this stuff under a microscope and say "Aha, here is the soul", I'll continue to believe that matter is what we are.


Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 2, 2004 1:41 PM

Sorry, the link text is missing. It should read here is my take on materialism and free will

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 2, 2004 1:51 PM

Robert:

Morality requires that there be only one choice, then it's up to you whether to choose to be moral. You can insist that you've established the choices, but yoy routinely say here that you've arrived, by no little coincidence, at the one's God gave us.

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 2:11 PM

Peter, I understand you are Canadian. We Americans decided, for arbitrary political reasons, that sectarian religious arguments should be kept out of government and saved for the barber shop and the lynching bee.

No one -- specially not creeper -- says schools cannot teach about religion. We just say no government school should teach any one person's constricted theology.

That's why we have Article VI.

I wish Orrin would stop misrepresenting Mayr. He did not say darwinism was only philosophy. He wrote a 600-page argument calling for a new way of addressing the science of life, based on life's differences from non-life. He called it 'population thinking.'

Orrin may agree or disagree that Mayr made his argument sound. But it is falsehood and misrepresentation to say that Mayr admitted biology is only philosophy.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 2, 2004 2:20 PM

Harry:

Why should we teach your sect's beliefs in public schools then?

Mayr's titles are especially revealing of his recognition that Darwin is a philosophy rather than a science:

"One Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought"

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 2:24 PM

Robert: By definition, materialism means we have no free will. The two are mutually exclusive.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 2, 2004 2:51 PM

Over a hundred posts. Is this a record?

Posted by: Vince at December 2, 2004 3:38 PM

David Cohen writes: "I hate to risk spoiling OJ's fun, but, good Lord, why do you people care so much...If I posted that the stars were just painted on the sphere that surrounds the solar system, or that gravity doesn't exist, I wouldn't get outraged amateur astrophysicists posting to 100 comment threads."

There is no significant political movement afoot to deny gravity, or to teach students that stars are something other than distant suns. If the argument was about the science, no one would care; but it isn't, so many do.

Posted by: at December 2, 2004 4:21 PM

Sorry. Above comment is me, not "Anonymous." Just trying to pad the record.

Posted by: M. Bulger at December 2, 2004 4:23 PM

Vince: I think that this post is the record at 250 comments.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 2, 2004 4:28 PM

Peter B,

"I'd love to see the anniversary and birthday cards you send your wife."

I'm merely pointing out that something like 'love' can be understood on a number of different levels, all the way from what biological function it serves in propagating the species to butterflies in one's stomach on a first date.

It is possible to understand that a great painting is merely a collection of pigments stuck on a piece of fabric, but that doesn't take away from the emotional reaction on first viewing it even a little bit.

"Guys like you, Harry and SS are great at telling Orrin that he really doesn't believe what he says."

I don't think that that's what I was doing at all, and I'd appreciate it if you could point out to me where you think I did that. It was certainly not my intention.

Much as Orrin and I disagree, I do appreciate his civil approach, which makes discussion so much more interesting and pleasant.

"Well, do you really expect us to believe that you walk around all day in full awareness that your realtionships with your families are built solely on genetically determined behaviours and neuro-biological impluses? Wow, the last of the great romantics! Is that how you want your kids to think you define your love for them?"

Nonsense. Robert Duquette already addressed this above, and I second his take.

And to answer your question, no, I don't expect you to believe that at all, since that is not what I do. As Robert Duquette pointed out, you've simply created a straw man.

Posted by: creeper at December 2, 2004 4:55 PM

"No one -- specially not creeper -- says schools cannot teach about religion. We just say no government school should teach any one person's constricted theology."

Quite right. Conversely, Orrin keeps pointing out he doesn't propose putting God into science classes, merely to get Darwinism out. I don't see why science classes shouldn't merely reflect the current state of knowledge, pointing out what we don't yet know, where the uncertainties are etc.

I'm all for teaching comparative religion in schools. If this were done everywhere, I think the world would be a better place. When you think of the absurdity of, say, different kinds of Christians being at each other's throats in Northern Ireland, or fundamentalists of different monotheistic religions waging a world-wide war of sorts, it simply boggles the mind.

Posted by: creeper at December 2, 2004 5:08 PM

"By definition, materialism means we have no free will. The two are mutually exclusive."

If God has given me free will, and I choose not to believe in God, do I still have free will?

What if I believe that I am capable of free will by virtue of me being a higher life form that, while sharing some characteristics with certain animals, is also highly evolved and capable of abstract thought etc.?

Looks to me like I have just about the same free will as any devout Christian.

Posted by: creeper at December 2, 2004 5:13 PM

"By definition, materialism means we have no free will. The two are mutually exclusive."

David, here's a definition of Materialism, it mentions nothing about free will. By definition, you are wrong.

My answer to this problem is too long to post here, read the link to my blog above if you have some time to waste.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 2, 2004 5:42 PM

"I am simply pointing out that philosophical materialism has certain consequences, among which are the abolition of free will and trancendent emotions."

Why is free will contingent on believing that a deity created the universe, in the absence of any evidence to support such a thesis?

As for transcendent emotions, the word 'love' has come up in this thread a few times. There are different kinds of love, of course. To bundle them all together and say that atheists are not capable of them is oversimplifying matters to a significant degree.

Specifically, the kind of love that goes out the window when not believing in a deity is the one known as agape. It would be accurate to say that that kind of love is (AFAIK) not for atheists.

The afterlife is also right out, for obvious reasons. For atheists, it's no loss. Losing something you don't believe exists, well, you get over it.

Apart from that, non-Christians still have quite a gamut of human experience and potential available to them. Fundamentalists of all stripes may like to pretend that they own the lot, and everybody else can't even, for example, feel the emotion of love, but that's okay. You can believe that, and you can get on with your lives, and we can get on with ours.

"Precisely, materialism reduces a man, all men, to a piece of meat that twitches when prodded. Materialism reduces the difference between a man and a cockroach to one of degree, not kind."

It is a matter of degree... but that degree is pretty darn significant, like the difference between a pebble and a planet.

"God grants you free will whether you choose to believe in Him or not."

I appreciate that. I choose not to believe in Him. And I have free will. We may disagree about the reasons why I have free will, but there you go.

"That's why it's called "free will"."

I'm assuming that you're saying that it's called "free will" because it, quite simply, is "free will", not because God gave it to us.

The 'free will' aspect of this is really quite simple. We all do have 'free will'. We just happen to disagree on why we have it, based on our world view.

Unless somebody here wants to argue that we're granted free will the moment we start to believe in God, and it's taken away from us when we stop doing so...

"Unless you are a scientist, in which case you call what you don't understand a "force". If I ask you what causes an apple to accelerate toward the earth and you reply "the force of gravity", that is pretty much the same as saying "the devil did it"."

In some cases, 'force' is used as a placeholder. It is an observable phenomenon, even if we don't yet understand precisely the nuts and bolts of why it works.

However, the force of gravity is a clearly observable phenomenon that can be demonstrated by anyone at any time. The existence of the devil is not.

"People had been breeding cattle and horses and dogs and cats and sheep and goats and sundry other animals, changing their physical characteristics, for thousands of years before Darwin. We already knew that biological forms could change over time. If a theory doesn't tell you anything you don't already know, what good is it?"

Just because a theory actually spells out something that has not yet been spelled out, but that people may have been aware of on some level, does not mean that that theory is worthless.

Posted by: creeper at December 2, 2004 5:47 PM

creeper:

Yes, and God has still given it to you.

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 5:49 PM

creeper:

Fine, let Darwinism be taught in comparison to other religious beliefs.

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 5:50 PM

M:

No one believes we know much about gravity and the only thing you need to know about the stars is that they revolve around us.

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 5:55 PM

Hi Orrin,

"Yes, and God has still given it to you."

I choose to believe I had it regardless of the potential existence of God. We agree to disagree, and we're both happy.

Posted by: creeper at December 2, 2004 5:55 PM

creeper:

If what we perceive as free will is merely biochemical material processes then by definition it isn't free.

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 5:56 PM

Orrin,

Do you have free will?

Do I have free will?

Posted by: creeper at December 2, 2004 6:01 PM

creeper:

I do and I do.

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 6:02 PM

Orrin,

"If what we perceive as free will is merely biochemical material processes then by definition it isn't free."

I can see what you're getting at, but I would like to posit that, while the lower levels of our material processes (on a cellular or molecular level) are predictable to an extent, the total is far more than the sum of its parts.

A single neuron firing is a simple on/off event. A million neurons firing can be anything from someone jotting down a shopping list to composing a melody to having a beautiful dream.

Posted by: creeper at December 2, 2004 6:08 PM

"creeper: I do and I do."

All righty...

Posted by: creeper at December 2, 2004 6:09 PM

creeper:

The predictability doesn't matter. What we're talking about ios whether it's a physical/material process or whether there is an immaterial "creeper" who exercises some control, even if minimal, over his physical self.

It's becoming quite popular to argue, in effect, that there isn't, that you are nothing more than what your selfish genes--or whatever metaphor you like--force you to do. The most popular current one is that no one chooses to be homosexual, that their genes simply force them to behave a certain way. Carried to its logical conclusion this is, obviously, true as well of pedophiles, racists, serial killers, rapists, murderers, soccer fans, etc. Thus is materialism the denial of the possibility of moral accountability. It is an evil idea.

Even if it's "true" and we have no free will it is still evil. We have to act as if there were a God and we had Free Will if for nothing other than aesthetic reasons.

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 6:31 PM

Vince:

I can get 50 just by saying Darwin had halitosis. The faithful will not let blasphemy stand.

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 6:32 PM

oj--

You're tiptoeing up to a breakthrough--that is indeed the difference between breeding and evolution. Darwinism only gives us breeding, not Evolution

Wow. First evolutionary science was primarily a racist doctrine. Then it was a religion. Now it isn't even associated with evolution. The careening between contradiction, absurdity, general malice, and perversity is quite dizzying. I can't keep up. But then, I couldn't read through the whole Unabomer manifesto, either.

Posted by: Social Scientist at December 2, 2004 7:12 PM

Orrin,

on the subject of nature vs. nurture, I find it difficult to see how anyone could come down 100% on either side of this issue. Who a person is, it appears to me, is inevitably influenced by both nature and nurture.

We make thousands of decisions in our lives, and we do have free will, but that free will is not absolute. It must struggle against other influences, both external and internal.

So, FWIW, I do believe we have free will, to some extent. We also have impulses, instincts and, if you'll pardon the expression, God knows what else.

My not believing in God does not mean that I'm incapable of being a human being, as some posters here like to suggest.

"We have to act as if there were a God and we had Free Will if for nothing other than aesthetic reasons."

In a way, I agree with that, though I'm not going along with this notion of how we have to be good so we get our rewards in the afterlife.

When we die, you and I, one of us will be surprised. Actually, that's not true. If you die and find yourself faced with a shocking absence of continued life, you'll be utterly and completely dead, and hence incapable of surprise.

Conversely, if I die and find myself heading for, well, whatever, yeah - I sure will be surprised.

One more question: when you posted this -

creeper: I do and I do.

were you responding to this -

"Do you think you have free will?

Do you think I have free will?"

Because I'm finding it difficult to derive sense from your reply outside of that.

"I can get 50 just by saying Darwin had halitosis. The faithful will not let blasphemy stand."

I don't worship Darwin for the sake of it, but his theory is closest to making sense of the facts before us.

Posted by: creeper at December 2, 2004 7:25 PM

SS:

Exactly. Darwin observed breeding, not dissimilar to what humans do, in Nature and brilliantly hypothesized that it might lead to actual speciation (though why it would when our breeding experiments never had should have given him pause). It turns out he was wrong. Those who nonetheless cling to the theory do so for their own psychological, religious, moral reasons and given where the theory leads iof applied it's quite dangerous. You've made your breakthrough. Congratulations.

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 7:33 PM

creeper:

so when you exercise whatever free will you do think you have you've broken free of the material world and the physical processes that drive everything else in it?

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 7:35 PM

"What we're talking about ios whether it's a physical/material process or whether there is an immaterial "creeper" who exercises some control, even if minimal, over his physical self."

What makes you think an immaterial self has any more control over itself than a physical self? What exactly do you know of the immaterial world?

OJ, you don't need to control your atoms, you are your atoms. The atoms will is your will. There is no conflict.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 2, 2004 9:21 PM

OJ:

Way back there you said: we'll not rerun your argument that conmsequences mean the things that had already been observed by the time Darwin was writing.

We will have to rerun the argument until you understand that chronology has absolutely nothing to do with deductive consequences.

Which is what distinguishes Evolution from all other extant theories. Evolution, no matter its truth value does in fact entail many consequences arrived at by deductive reasoning. All of which, both the few known at the time, and all the rest discovered since, have been precisely what Evolutionary theory requires.

No other theory has even one such consequence.

That is what makes Evolution both disprovable and scientific.

Creeper:
What amazes me most is OJ blaming Nazism on Darwinism, even though Darwin was guilty only of redundantly describing common knowledge.

David:
I'll tell you why this subject gets so many posts, at least from my point of view.

I have never seen such a more blatant display of prevarication than what OJ musters everytime this comes up.

If you are a glutton punishment, read my last marathon go around and imagine yourself making OJ's arguments.

Can you do it without embarrassment, or feeling like you would have a shred of intellectual integrity left?

In another thread, OJ is busy trying to maintain the emergence of the Panama isthmus was 'catastrophic.'

Puhlease.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 2, 2004 9:23 PM

Creeper, great arguments. Pinning OJ down to a coherent argument is like putting a nail through Jell-O, but you're doing a fine job.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 2, 2004 9:25 PM

"the force of gravity is a clearly observable phenomenon that can be demonstrated by anyone at any time"

No. What is observable is that objects fall toward one another and we can calculate the rate at which they fall. The notion of a "force of gravity" implies that something is pushing or pulling the objects together. There is no reason to believe that this is so. The apple could simply be following a geodesic through the space/time continuum that happens to run through the center of the earth, in which case gravity is a purely geometric phenomena that needs no mysterious force to explain it.

Ultimately, science is the reduction of natural phenomena to mathematics and equations that have predictive power. When a physicist says the density of gold is 19/32 he means the ratio of the weight of any gold piece to that of a volume of water of equal size is 19 to 32. This imparts real knowledge to us by identifying a specific number, which is already in our minds, with the value of a ratio that has an existence in the world outside. What we know about gravity is that objects accelerate toward each other at a rate that is proportional to the products of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of their seperation.

When we try to go beyond those numbers however, and begin postulating "forces" and trying to create visual models that explain these relationships we are no longer involved in science, but in metaphysics. And that is the problem with Darwinism as science.

It offers no mathematical basis, it provides no predictive equations, and it posits natural selection as a metaphysical "force". It is nothing more than an historical narrative that seeks to explain the diversity of life without reference to God. The rejection of the Divinity does not make a world view scientific.

As for free will, I know I have it because I experience it--but that experience is purely subjective. I assume that other people, being creatures like myself, have a similar internal experience, but there is no objective way to prove it. I take it on faith. Men try and they succeed. The whole fabric of civilized life is a standing record of achievment, not by atoms pushed and pulled by blind, purposeless forces, but by resolute minds working toward self selected ends.

Unless you are prepared to argue that the matter that makes up the human brain is uniquely not subject to physical laws, materialism can offer no basis for the apparent decision making power humanity wields.

Posted by: carl at December 2, 2004 9:40 PM

Robert:

yes, that's the pure material view which makes us nothing but atoms and processes. Do you tell the folks you "love"that it's just a mechanical deal?

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 10:09 PM

Jeff:

Darwinism puts together things everyone already knew and then adds one possibility--that evolution was driven by a process in Nature much like the process by which men bred animals, plants, etc. within a species, as is the case for domestication, it works, it just never gets to speciation. Thus the one conmsequence his theory predicted never occurs.

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 10:11 PM

Robert: If we are entirely materialistic beings, then we can be modeled. If we can be modeled, then we don't have free will.

Before you respond, I would note that the two most common responses don't work. "Complexity" is just a way of saying that our models aren't there yet, but will be soon. Other people try to say that our brains incorporate a quantum computer capable of true randomness. This might be the only argument on which Occams' Razor cuts in favor of G-d.

Jeff: So the reason people comment so prolifically in response to these posts is because OJ refuses to get pinned down and makes disingenuous arguments?

Posted by: David Cohen at December 2, 2004 11:02 PM

Jeff & David:

I think its because OJ is just simply argumenative. The image of a wrestler comes to mind.

Posted by: Dave W. at December 3, 2004 12:17 AM

I find the idea that we humans are nothing more than materialistic beings propelled by the mix of chemical elements within our systems depressing. There has to be more to our existance, there just has to be.

Posted by: Phil at December 3, 2004 12:41 AM

"The apple could simply be following a geodesic through the space/time continuum that happens to run through the center of the earth, in which case gravity is a purely geometric phenomena that needs no mysterious force to explain it."

I'm not sure how that should explain the apple moving toward the center of the Earth... what propels it in your scenario?

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 2:56 AM

"Before you respond, I would note that the two most common responses don't work. "Complexity" is just a way of saying that our models aren't there yet, but will be soon."

... and why doesn't that work? Our brains are too complex to be modeled efficiently, not just because of their immense complexity, but also because it is difficult to replicate their organic nature, the effects of, for example, caffeine, sugar or alcohol on the metabolism.

"Other people try to say that our brains incorporate a quantum computer capable of true randomness."

I'm not sure about the quantum computer aspect, but apparent randomness is possible. The brain is not perfect like a computer, in part due to its network-like structure, and in part due to its inefficiency. Have a glass of whisky and kill some braincells. The brain as a whole continues to function around that, but since those braincells are not in some orderly queue, as if they were in a neat little wastebasket like the one on your screen, it does seem like the brain is capable of random snippets that express themselves in our being able to recall one thing instead of another, or finding yourself in one particular mood instead of another on any given morning.

"This might be the only argument on which Occams' Razor cuts in favor of G-d."

It does not require the addendum of "God waved a magic wand and made it so" to explain the complexity and organic nature of the brain, and its actions and our subjective experiences.

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 3:19 AM

Harry:

"Peter, I understand you are Canadian. We Americans decided..."

Ah, finally a progressive secularist tells me I don't understand because I'm Canadian and tries to cut me out. I thought it was just the religious right Canuckophobes around here that played that card. Harry, you have been reading too much brothersjudd if you think the debate on this one is any different up here. Believe me, you have taught us well.

creeper:

"It is possible to understand that a great painting is merely a collection of pigments stuck on a piece of fabric..."

But it isn't, is it. The reason why we react as we do is not simply because the pigment arrangement is pleasing to the senses, but because we have an immediate sense that something is being conveyed to us by another human and we marvel at the beauty and skill with which he/she does it. Have you ever looked at a great painting or listened to great music without having a sense of the author and the communication between you, of how he/she moves you. Why, when we are struck with the beauty of a piece of art for the first time, do we almost instintively ask "who did that?".

BTW, one of the reasons this subject generates so many responses is that Jeff keeps coming in fulminating about "tendentious reasoning", "shameless circular logic" (I would have thought circular logic alone was bad enough, but when it is shameful I guess that is doublebad) and "blatant displays of prevarication". I can't quite figure out why he keeps wasting time hammering away in the face of such mendacity, but we're sure glad he does because we love him so. :-)

Posted by: Peter B at December 3, 2004 6:17 AM

"The reason why we react as we do is not simply because the pigment arrangement is pleasing to the senses, but because we have an immediate sense that something is being conveyed to us by another human and we marvel at the beauty and skill with which he/she does it. Have you ever looked at a great painting or listened to great music without having a sense of the author and the communication between you, of how he/she moves you. Why, when we are struck with the beauty of a piece of art for the first time, do we almost instintively ask "who did that?".

Absolutely.

But in my view it doesn't require the existence of a deity to bring this about.

BTW, I thought of the painting as more of a metaphor to indicate that something can be more than the sum of its parts, be it a painting or what goes on inside our heads.

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 6:24 AM

"As for free will, I know I have it because I experience it--but that experience is purely subjective. I assume that other people, being creatures like myself, have a similar internal experience, but there is no objective way to prove it. I take it on faith. Men try and they succeed. The whole fabric of civilized life is a standing record of achievment, not by atoms pushed and pulled by blind, purposeless forces, but by resolute minds working toward self selected ends."

I agree with that, but I don't think it contradicts the notion of us being highly advanced lifeforms.

As for the subjective experience of free will, I too experience that. I don't care if, once you break it down to an almost molecular level, it all comes down to neurons, synapses and whatnot. I still think thoughts and experience emotions. What makes that possible on the most basic level is, most of the time, not terribly important to me. When I drive a car, I think about where I'm going, not about the minutiae of the combustion engine; when I'm typing right now, I'm thinking what thoughts I'm trying to express, not about the minutiae of how my computer shuffles electrical impulses around to make it possible for me to do this.

It is possible to see and appreciate a beautiful painting while being aware at some level that it is composed of bits of paint and, even further down, quantum particles.

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 6:26 AM

creeper:

The painting requires an artist, or it doesn't do any of those things.

Posted by: Peter B at December 3, 2004 6:28 AM

"The painting requires an artist, or it doesn't do any of those things."

Yep.

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 7:15 AM

creper:

Why is any arrangement of those atoms more beautiful than another if they're all just atoms?

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 7:26 AM

Creeper: Do you believe that, someday, humans will be able to move our consciousnesses to computers?

Posted by: David Cohen at December 3, 2004 7:44 AM

"It does not require the addendum of 'God waved a magic wand and made it so' to explain the complexity and organic nature of the brain, and its actions and our subjective experiences."

It certainly does require the active involvement of an artist to expain the complexity and organic nature of the brain, and its actions, and oursubjective expereinces. Only one with energy, intellegence, immagination and love could design and develop such creatures and such a universe. An artist waving a brush, putting paint on a canvas (or whatever) is not an addendum to the creation of a painting, he or she is essential to its creation. Without a creator we would not exist.

Posted by: Dave W. at December 3, 2004 8:13 AM

Orrin,

Off the top of my head I would suggest because they appeal to our sense of beauty, symmetry and/or proportion.

The fact that everything is just atoms in no way takes away from the world we live in and experience. You can do some pretty amazing things with atoms.

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 8:16 AM

"It certainly does require the active involvement of an artist to expain the complexity and organic nature of the brain, and its actions, and oursubjective expereinces. Only one with energy, intellegence, immagination and love could design and develop such creatures and such a universe. An artist waving a brush, putting paint on a canvas (or whatever) is not an addendum to the creation of a painting, he or she is essential to its creation. Without a creator we would not exist."

The argument defeats itself: who created the creator?

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 8:21 AM

"The brain is not perfect like the computer..."

Creeper:

You just acknowledged the divinity of the computer. Please share the tenants of your faith with us along with any rites, rituals and sacraments we need to be aware of. Thank you.

PTC (Praise the Computer)

Posted by: Phil at December 3, 2004 8:47 AM

creeper:

No the argument doesn't defeat itself, it only shows that my wisdom and understanding of such things is limited. Can you answer me how things started and what set the evolution of life into motion and what set that event into motion?

If God does exist, then you will have an opportunity to discuss these things with God face to face someday. If God does not exist, then your question is irrelevant and immaterial. If God does not exist, then most of what we say and so is meaningless and our lives of little ultimate value to anyone but ourselves.

Posted by: Dave W. at December 3, 2004 9:01 AM

creeper:

"who created the creator?"

Nice digression. How about we stick to the subject at hand. You aren't going to impress folks challenging an absolute belief in scientific rationalism by insisting they prove all their own beliefs scientifically and rationally.

Posted by: Peter B at December 3, 2004 9:08 AM

creeper:

one more observation...
it is fascinating to contemplate the fact that all things are made of atoms. I remember as a child being "wowed" when a science teacher told me that if you rubbed on a table long enough you could pile up enough atoms for the pile to be visible. While as an adult his statement is amusing, the concept is still fascinating.

Posted by: Dave W. at December 3, 2004 9:14 AM

creeper:

The acknowledgement that something has to exist prior to Creation suggests a Creator, no? There's something prior to the Big Bang.

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 9:14 AM

creeper:

"sense of beauty" "symmetry"

How about material rather than immaterial reasons?

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 9:20 AM

Robert: If we are entirely materialistic beings, then we can be modeled. If we can be modeled, then we don't have free will.

We are modeled, insurance companies and marketers do it all the time. They aren't perfect models, they can't predict what you or I will do at every instance, but at an aggregate, statistical level they are pretty good.

Before you respond, I would note that the two most common responses don't work. "Complexity" is just a way of saying that our models aren't there yet, but will be soon.

That's what they said 30 years ago about artificial intelligence and weather forecasting. You're misinterpreting what the theory of Complexity says. Models are appriximations, they apply rules to a subset of the data variables that make up a system, and they give a rough approximation of the behavior of the system, but it is based on linear thinking. If you take into account 50% of the variables, you should be able to model the system within 50% accuracy, or so. But Compexity throws those sort of assumptions out the window, tiny changes in a few variables can lead to massive changes in the behavior of the system. Don't count on human behavoir being exactly modeled anytime soon.

But you are right, in theory, that you should be able to model a physical system with a physical system. You just need a physical system that is of equal complexity and state to the system you are modeling. You'd need an exact duplicate of you to model you. You are your own model.

Other people try to say that our brains incorporate a quantum computer capable of true randomness. This might be the only argument on which Occams' Razor cuts in favor of G-d.

Is randomness really the attribute that you want to equate with freedom? So the more random a person's behavior is, the more free will he possesses? People who act that way in our society tend to get locked up in an asylum. We don't judge personal and mental advancement by randomness, but by predictability. To have an identity, to be human is to be predictable.

I understand how you are defining free will, and based on that definition, I agree with you that material beings don't have free will. But my point is that that definition of freedom, based on randomness and perfect unpredictability, is a ridiculous and non-sensical definition. It is a case of wanting to have your metaphysical cake and eating it too.

To have a will, or even a personality, implies that there is a somewhat permanent, fixed component to your being, a non-random component. A will is a fixed set of goals and desires that a being uses to direct its behavior. In order to have a discernible will, a being has to be limited, its freedom constricted. It can't act to circumstances in a purely random fashion. But based on that will, if it has the freedom to pursue actions to realize the goals of that will regardless of other physical factors and obstacles, then it is a free will.

Think of it this way. You are free to do what you want. But are you free to want what you want?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 3, 2004 11:28 AM

"Unless you are prepared to argue that the matter that makes up the human brain is uniquely not subject to physical laws, materialism can offer no basis for the apparent decision making power humanity wields."

There are two related terms for this: Appeal to Incredulity, and Conclusion from Ignorance.

They are both fallacies. The converse of a present inability to explain a material process is not a conclusion that some immaterial entity must be responsible.

Creeper is right that invoking a Creator is a self defeating argument, since all you have done is replace "Heck, I don't know" with a three letter word for Because.

Darwinism puts together things everyone already knew and then adds one possibility--that evolution was driven by a process in Nature much like the process by which men bred animals, plants, etc. within a species, as is the case for domestication, it works, it just never gets to speciation. Thus the one conmsequence his theory predicted never occurs.

Darwinism did more than that, becuase it successfully encompassed as yet unknown deductive consequences. DNA--a hundred years in the future, and its decoding further off than that-- absolutely had to a specific relationship to Linneaus' classification. No other theory has any such requirement.

Your conclusion is true only if you resort to prevarication and impose two distinct, invented, definitions for speciation at once, then follow up by imposing a yardstick nowhere present in the theory.

You are an expert at this prevarication thing, but it isn't anything to be proud of.

Jeff: So the reason people comment so prolifically in response to these posts is because OJ refuses to get pinned down and makes disingenuous arguments?

Short answer: yes. As has been shown whenever Creationism/ID's (C/ID) latest breakthrough gets posted here, no alternative theory to Evolution can withstand even a superficial examination by non-specialists. Going to a C/ID website is to wallow in tendentiousness and prevarication.

If there is a serious argument to be made for an alternative to Evolution, then by all means make it. But one of the things that makes BroJudd Industries stand out from all the others is the extraordinarily well informed and analytical responses, the like of which I haven't found anywhere.

Just because one has a particular animus to a concept does not excuse the sort of sloppy to the point of dishonest argumentation that would make MoveOn.org blush.

Posted by: at December 3, 2004 11:35 AM

Phil,

by perfect in this case I meant that, ideally, in a computer the bits and bytes are fixed and only altered in predictable ways. It was poorly phrased, but I thought it would have been clear in context.

'Perfect', in this case, was not intended to be synonymous with infallible or, as you would have it, divine.

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 11:39 AM

Peter B,

No, no digression; on the contrary, a continuation of the reasoning:

If one insists that a human being is too complex and beautiful to not have a creator, then I say the same goes for the creator, who surely must be far more complex and beautiful than its creation.

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 11:43 AM

Dave W,

"No the argument doesn't defeat itself, it only shows that my wisdom and understanding of such things is limited. Can you answer me how things started and what set the evolution of life into motion and what set that event into motion?"

No, Dave, I can not, for the same reason: my wisdom and understanding of such things is equally limited.

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 11:46 AM

Orrin,

"The acknowledgement that something has to exist prior to Creation suggests a Creator, no? There's something prior to the Big Bang."

I recall that one theory has it that the universe expands after a big bang, but eventually contracts again, returning to a compact form, then another big bang occurs, and so on. A series of 'bubbles' in time.

If 'creation' in this context is the beginning of all things, then an entity existing before this creation renders the definition meaningless - you'd simply have to move the time of creation back that much further, to a time when the creator came into being. And what came before that? And so forth...

Eternity is a mind-boggling thing for mortals to contemplate.

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 11:53 AM

creeper:

Yes, but our inability to comprehend it does not make it less true.

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 11:56 AM

Of course the Creator has a Creator.

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 11:57 AM

Anonymous:

Everyone knew there was somne means of transmitting type to the next generation. That it turns out to be genes and DNA makes no difference to the theory and was quite obviously not predicted by it. Thus no consequences followed.

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 12:00 PM

Anonymous:

"no alternative theory to Evolution can withstand even a superficial examination by non-specialists."

Is the statement of a believer, not a scientist. If a theory is wrong on its face no alternative is required in order for the scientifically minded to acknowledge its failure.

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 12:02 PM

Robert:

So you don't love anyone, you just respond to atomic processes?

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 12:03 PM

"Yes, but our inability to comprehend it does not make it less true."

True. Eternity is what it is regardless of whether we can fit it into our comprehension or not.

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 12:24 PM

So, you guys posit a brain that has all the characteristics of a being with an eternal soul, but is entirely materialistic. How convenient.

Let's put it another way: Do you think that our brains are Turing machines?

Posted by: David Cohen at December 3, 2004 12:40 PM

Creeper: The best evidence now is that their will be no Big Crunch, but rather that the Universe will keep expanding until energy death.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 3, 2004 12:42 PM

"The best evidence now is that their will be no Big Crunch, but rather that the Universe will keep expanding until energy death."

That sure would be the best evidence - but I guess we won't be around for it.

The question of God and the afterlife will be settled for any one of us long before then - when we die.

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 1:15 PM

Orrin,

""sense of beauty" "symmetry"

How about material rather than immaterial reasons?"

Why?

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 1:18 PM

Orrin,

"Of course the Creator has a Creator."

And by that logic this goes like this all the way back, I suppose? The Creator that created the Creator was himself created by another Creator, and the Creator that created the Creator that created the Creator was in turn created by yet another Creator, and the Creator that created... etc.

So how did it all start?

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 1:23 PM

It sounds like we might be exhausting this conversation's energy. Are we nearing a record thread length yet?

Won't our Sun become a red giant in about 12 billion years?

Posted by: Dave W. at December 3, 2004 1:24 PM

creeper:

Because otherwise you've conceded the entire argument?

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 1:26 PM

I didn't realize that I was arguing that our brains were incapable of thinking abstract thoughts. Quite the opposite: I am positing that even though the basic building blocks of our brains are molecules, neurons, synapses etc., in combination they are well capable of advanced thought, emotion, perception, abstraction.

Regardless of whether they were created by a deity or came about in another fashion.

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 1:32 PM

creeper:

Thoughts have to be material too, in your world.

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 1:41 PM

David,

"So, you guys posit a brain that has all the characteristics of a being with an eternal soul, but is entirely materialistic."

Which one of us guys did that? Can't find it.

"How convenient."

Because you made it up?

Let's put it another way: Do you think that our brains are Turing machines?

Nope.

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 1:41 PM

creeper:

Why would it have a start?

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 1:46 PM

Orrin,

"Thoughts have to be material too."

If you want to get right down to the level of synapses firing, sure. But the combination of them can be a memory, a feeling, an abstract thought.

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 1:47 PM

Which all have to be material too.

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 1:51 PM

"Why would it have a start?"

Indeed. So why would it have to be created by somebody or something?

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 1:52 PM

"Which all have to be material too."

As in, they can only concern themselves with thoughts of matter?

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 1:54 PM

"So, you guys posit a brain that has all the characteristics of a being with an eternal soul, but is entirely materialistic. How convenient."

David, you say that as if a being with an eternal soul was somehow a known quantity, like an engine with a carburator. No, I am positing that a brain has all the characteristics of a human being with a brain, which is entirely materialistic. Show me the evidence that suggests that the acts that we attribute to human beings, like love, blah blah, have come from a mysterious source outside of the brain. Show me a being without a brain who walks around singing love sonnets and marveling at sunsets.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 3, 2004 1:54 PM

"So you don't love anyone, you just respond to atomic processes?"

What is your hangup with atomic processes?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 3, 2004 1:57 PM

Robert:

It's a denial of the soul and of the possibility of moality.

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 2:01 PM

Robert:

We canm show you trillions of beings with brains that don't recognize beauty and don't love.

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 2:03 PM

creeper:

So beauty in and of itself is matter?

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 2:04 PM

creeper:

There's no evidence it exists.

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 2:05 PM

"Let's put it another way: Do you think that our brains are Turing machines?"

Let's put it yet another way: Do you think that our souls are random number generators?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 3, 2004 2:07 PM

Orrin,

"So beauty in and of itself is matter?"

No. Beauty is an abstract concept.

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 2:07 PM

Orrin,

"There's no evidence it exists."

There's no evidence what exists?

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 2:09 PM

"It's a denial of the soul and of the possibility of moality."

Baloney. One unsupported assertion for another.


"We canm show you trillions of beings with brains that don't recognize beauty and don't love."

That wasn't the question. Show me one being without a brain that does recognize beauty and loves.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 3, 2004 2:10 PM

creeper:

But abstract concepts are just material.

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 2:10 PM

Orrin,

"But abstract concepts are just material."

How so? Abstract concepts are intangible.

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 2:12 PM

OJ:

Anony was me. I didn't notice the swap also wiped out my info.

Everyone knew there was somne means of transmitting type to the next generation. That it turns out to be genes and DNA makes no difference to the theory and was quite obviously not predicted by it. Thus no consequences followed.

You are either prevaricating again, or are ignorant. The constraint is not upon the existence of DNA, but in what respect the variance of DNA must look like with respect to the phylogenetic tree. In no other theory is there any constraint on that variance.

So consequences very much follow. The amount of variance has to be a function of both time and relatedness. Evolutionary theory imposes severe constraints in both respects that are completely consistent with observations.

"no alternative theory to Evolution can withstand even a superficial examination by non-specialists."

Is the statement of a believer, not a scientist. If a theory is wrong on its face no alternative is required in order for the scientifically minded to acknowledge its failure.

Once again you are prevaricating. The comment has not the first thing to do with Evolutionary Theory--its conclusion confined to the ID argument presented. Every ID argument presented collapsed immediately under even superficial scrutiny, and none of that scrutiny involved anything to do with Evolutionary theory.

Even if Because were to suddenly part the clouds and say "That's it. These BroJudd threads are seriously depleting the world's supply of pixels, ID is the answer! And don't make me come back there!" the existing ID arguments would still be a bad joke.

"So you don't love anyone, you just respond to atomic processes?"

Change a few of those atomic processes so that severe paranoid schizophrenia is a result. Then ask the question again.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 3, 2004 2:15 PM

Robert:

It is the question. We know that only humans are spritual beings with souls and that humans have brains. The question is why does nothing else with a brain qualify?

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 2:17 PM

creeper:

Anything, other than thought.

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 2:18 PM

creeper:

So immaterial.

"How so? Abstract concepts are intangible.
Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 02:12 PM"

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 2:19 PM

"We know that only humans are spritual beings with souls"

We do? Can you link to a photograph of a soul? When was this discovered?? Is this breaking news?

"The question is why does nothing else with a brain qualify?"

For what? You don't think that animals love? Ever had a pet dog?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 3, 2004 2:21 PM

Jeff:

The Darwinist theory of Evolution cannot withstand even a superficial examination by non-specialists anymore than any of the others can. You guys are no wronger than anyone else, just wrong.

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 2:23 PM

Orrin,

"So immaterial."

I appreciate the wit, but not the sentiment. The fact that abstract concepts are intangible is material (in the sense of relevant) to the question at hand.

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 2:25 PM

Jeff:

"Evolutionary theory imposes severe constraints in both respects that are completely consistent with observations."

Exactly, Darwinism proceeds from and was severly constrained by what had already been observed. It started to go wrong when he made leaps into the unobserved, where all the consequences he predicted fail to come to fruition.

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 2:25 PM

Robert:

Had one. Bit me. Put him to sleep. Animals don't love.

You creep close to insight when you note that the soul is immaterial.

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 2:27 PM

creeper:

I'd think that the fact that intangible means immaterial was material.

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 2:28 PM

Creeper: As long as you don't think our brains are Turing machines, I have no problem. That is enough to preserve our humaness. I also think that that concession also implies that our brains are not entirely materialistic, but I'm not evangelical on the subject.

Robert: I don't think our brains are random number generators. I was simply preempting an argument frequently made by materialists who want to argue that materialistic need not be deterministic. As I implied, I think the argument is nuts.

The question of sole/body duality, which I suppose you would consider the question of consciousness/body duality, is fascinating. It is hard to avoid the feeling that the essential "I" is the passenger riding up behind our eyes. But we are in fact a single integrated whole, with our consciousness effecting our body and vice versa. That, e.g., hunger brings on snapishness is an important issue in any discussion of free will.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 3, 2004 2:29 PM

Orrin,

So you're saying that there's no evidence that anything other than thought exists. Would you disagree with the statement that there's no evidence that God exists?

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 2:30 PM

Orrin,

So we're agreeing, then, that abstract concepts, such as beauty, are intangible.

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 2:34 PM

creeper:

Sure, like free will and the human soul.

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 4:39 PM

creeper:

No, I would not disagree. There's no evidence that anything exists. That's why Science and Reason are subsidiary to Faith.


"Would you disagree with the statement that there's no evidence that God exists?"

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 4:41 PM

That's why it's called faith.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 3, 2004 5:26 PM

Because there's no proof. Yeah, I got that.

Can't say it does much to strengthen the case for the existence of a deity.

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 6:18 PM

Orrin,

"There's no evidence that anything exists. That's why Science ands Reason are subsidiary to Faith."

As in, first you have to have 'faith' that anything outside your skull is real?

I'll go with that. I have faith that my senses are informing me more or less correctly about the outside world with which I interact. (As opposed to, say, me sitting in a tub somewhere with electrodes stuck in my spine and dreaming all this, a la The Matrix.)

All else follows from there.

Posted by: creeper at December 3, 2004 6:21 PM

creeper:

Exactly. And once you acknowledge that everything is faith based we're just quarreling over where folks draw their own lines. Most of us include God in our faith. Some of you insist not only that there is no God but that faith in a god isn't "reasonable" and that everything is material, even though, as you've just walked yourself through, reason and materialism aren't "reasonable" either.

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 7:21 PM

creeper,

The apple doesn't need anything to propel it. It is already moving, everything is. You can't move through space without moving through time and you can't move through time without moving through space. Our perception of the universe is of a three dmensional space traveling through (or along) a unidirectional time line. In order to find anything you need three positional coordinates and you need to know when the object you are looking for is going to be there.

This is not, however, the only way to model the universe. It can be modeled as a four dimensional blended space/time continuum (only mathematically, it is not something that can be visualized) that the apple is moving through. Now, suppose that objects with mass warp or dent the continuum--the greater the mass, the bigger the dent. The earth will make a much larger dent than the apple, hence it will (so to speak) roll right over the apple's dent and noone will notice. But the apple--because it is following the shortest path through the continuum will follow the contours of the earth's dent until it actually collides with the ground. The apple appears to accelerate because its motion changes relative to the earth.

Or at least, that was the way Einstein explained it (to the best of my memory and ability to paraphrase). I only brought up gravity in the first place because SS said something silly about a force being by definition material. If you want to discuss it further feel free to e-mail me, but it is somewhat off topic and I feel a bit guilty about chewing up OJ's bandwidth on it.

If I have time tonight I will comment later on the incompatability of materialism and free-will, but I just got home from work and I need to grab some dinner and unwind a bit.

PS. OJ, thanks for hosting these discussions and having us all here. This is one of the few blogs where you can discuss, well pretty much anything, and it doesn't degenerate into name calling and foul language. I think this is due to the tone set by youself and your other contributors, and it is very refreshing.

Posted by: carl at December 3, 2004 7:42 PM

What is faith? "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." That's how the New Testament answers it. There's universal truth and applicability to these words. Whether its faith that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" or that somehow natural processes just came together and evolved (or even believe that that extra-terrestrials foundedlife here), it's all about faith.

Posted by: Dave W. at December 4, 2004 12:48 AM

Orrin,

"Everything is faith-based" only in so far as our belief that we do indeed exist in the first place is based on the 'faith' that our sensory input is not an illusion. I hope that you don't think that that is an 'unreasonable' first step.

Once we accept that as a position, we can observe certain phenomena, some of them repeatable, that allow us to draw conclusions about the world around us.

I do have a problem with equating this initial (and necessary - for any further discussion) step (which could broadly fall under the term 'faith') with the kind of 'faith' that is often used to simply fill unexplained gaps in our knowledge of the world.

Posted by: creeper at December 4, 2004 10:19 AM

carl,

What you said about the subject of gravity (how it works) was roughly how I perceived it as well. But then you said:

"I only brought up gravity in the first place because SS said something silly about a force being by definition material"

It seems to me that Einstein's explanation also concerns itself with the material, even if it is in a way that is yet difficult for us to comprehend.

Posted by: creeper at December 4, 2004 10:25 AM

creeper:

It's is unReasonable by definition.

Your trouble with other faiths is nothing more than a prejudice in favor of your own faith. The insistence that Scientific Reason, which as you say proceeds from faith, can be used to disprove faith, is obvious nonsense.

Posted by: oj at December 4, 2004 10:27 AM

Why is it unreasonable to believe that my senses are perceiving the world around me?

Posted by: creeper at December 4, 2004 11:17 AM

creeper:

As a wise man once said: ""Everything is faith-based" only in so far as our belief that we do indeed exist in the first place is based on the 'faith' that our sensory input is not an illusion."

Posted by: oj at December 4, 2004 11:21 AM

I'm sure that wise man put 'faith' in quotes there for a reason. It is a reasonable assumption to make that our senses are perceiving an outside world and communicating it to our brain.

Posted by: creeper at December 4, 2004 11:37 AM

"assumption"

Posted by: oj at December 4, 2004 11:51 AM

creeper:
It is unreasonable to presume that your faith in evolution disproves another person's faith in God.

Posted by: at December 4, 2004 11:59 AM

creeper:
Do you or do you not, as a believer in evolution, use "faith" to fill in unexplained gaps about what you do not know about the world.

Posted by: Dave W. at December 4, 2004 12:06 PM

Orrin,

"assumption"

Reasonable assumption. Given what I am perceiving, the most likely explanation is that I am indeed a humanoid biped perceiving the world around me as it more or less is (given that I am not perceiving the full spectrum even of what we can see with the help of certain technology). Other explanations are possible, but not very likely.

Posted by: creeper at December 4, 2004 12:06 PM

"given"

Posted by: oj at December 4, 2004 12:09 PM

"It is unreasonable to presume that your faith in evolution disproves another person's faith in God."

For starters, I do not presume that my faith in evolution disproves someone else's faith in God.

Keep in mind though that there are some who believe in God who can square that belief in God's existence with accepting large parts of the theory of evolution. (Evolution, for example, doesn't explain the origin of life.)

"Do you or do you not, as a believer in evolution, use "faith" to fill in unexplained gaps about what you do not know about the world."

Usually, in those instances, I fill in the phrase "I don't know".

Posted by: creeper at December 4, 2004 12:13 PM

"given"

I use this here in the context of a logical argument ("Given what I am perceiving..." - "given that I am not perceiving..."). Why did my use of that word strike you as significant in this case?

Posted by: creeper at December 4, 2004 12:16 PM

assumption, given, etc. are all statements of faith, and are quite the opposite of reasoned.

It's hardly your fault, being a child of bthe Age of Reason, but you keep retreating from your knowledge that all is faith-based to an insistence that reason is superior. In fact, reason is inferior--or perhaps you'll find it easier to accept that it is interior--to faith.

This is the central Anglospheric insight, from which everything that makes us exceptional flows:

http://www.brothersjudd.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/reviews.detail/book_id/1344/

Posted by: oj at December 4, 2004 12:38 PM

Re. assumption: Is lack of certainty the same as faith? Faith connotes lack of certainty, but lack of certainty is not necessarily synonymous with faith.

The Anglosphere has been doing exceedingly well since the dawn of the Age of Reason, whereas the Muslim world - where faith trumps reason - has been left behind.

Posted by: creeper at December 4, 2004 1:09 PM

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

According to OJ, it is the conviction of all things, seen and not seen.

Posted by: at December 4, 2004 1:11 PM

What is faith? "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." That's how the New Testament answers it. There's universal truth and applicability to these words. Whether its faith that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" or that somehow natural processes just came together and evolved (or even believe that that extra-terrestrials foundedlife here), it's all about faith.

Posted by: at December 4, 2004 1:16 PM

creeper:

You're long past being able to get the toothpaste back in that tube. The certainty you have that you exist is born of faith, not reason. The point is that it is more than sufficient. And taking existence on faith we proceed from there to other lesser matters, like what meets tests of reason, though Reason itself does not.

Posted by: oj at December 4, 2004 1:28 PM

Orrin,

"The certainty you have that you exist is born of faith, not reason."

I think, therefore I am.

See also our previous exchange:

There's no evidence it exists.

There's no evidence what exists?

Anything, other than thought.

Posted by: creeper at December 4, 2004 1:43 PM

Sorry, I hit post before typing my comments.

What is faith? "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." That's how the New Testament answers it. There's universal truth and applicability to these words. Whether its faith that "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" or that somehow natural processes just came together and evolved (or even believe that that extra-terrestrials foundedlife here), it's all about faith.

This definition of faith doesn't totally suffice. Does it allow room for everything hoped for? I think not, otherwise we would all have faith that God will grant us eternal paradise irregardless of our conduct on earth or on what we believe. Faith is subject to a reality check on the part of the believer, based on his view of reality, or "meta-reality" in the case of metaphysics.

And our take on meta-reality is an extension of our take on reality, our experience of things seen. We expect there to be some continuity between the two, at least at the level of basic principles. We don't expect bad to be good and good to be bad when we arrive there, noone imagines that the world beyond is a bizarro world.

This is where I parted company with the traditional Christian view of the next world. A world where the population of souls is split between a group that will experience eternal unremitting bliss, and a group that will experience eternal unremitting misery is just such a bizarro world. Even if you eliminate Hell, and just try to imagine human souls existing in a state of infinite bliss, it doesn't survive a serious examination.

Such a world is stasis. The infinite experience of a single emotion is timeless, there would be no sense of time, no sense of change. I would argue that there would be no sense of anything. Conscousness is an experience of change, of alternating states of pleasure, pain, boredom, wonder, excitement, calm. Our personality, our identity, our sense of existence relies on time and change. Our sense of pleasure is dependent on the existence of pain, our sense of hope requires an experience of despair. There is no consciousness without it.

Also, our sense of identity, our "me-ness" is tied up in our bodies, and the particular nature that the unique configuration that our mental neurons gives each of us. Without the body, without the limitations and quirks that our individual mane-up gives us, in what sense do we have an identity? Given there is some spirit of me that survives the destruction of my body, and given that it ascends to some state of eternal, timeless bliss, in what sense is it "me"?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 4, 2004 1:43 PM

Robert:
You ask, "...in what sense is it me?" It is the you at your imparishable and immortal finest, living in intimate oneness w/your creator. It comes, for free to anyone, by divine grace through faith.

Also, you say "...no sense of time, no sense of anything...". By faith I say, no sense of time, no sense of anything but intimate oneness w/my creator. That's bliss.

Posted by: Dave W. at December 4, 2004 3:25 PM

Robert:
One more point...
The above definition of faith from the Book of Hebrews does not allow room for everything you personally hope for, but that's not the point, for the hope spoken about is hope in everything that God has promised to those who believe in him.

Posted by: Dave W. at December 4, 2004 3:30 PM

creeper:

Note that Descartes begins with an unsupportable proposition:

"I"

Posted by: oj at December 4, 2004 4:05 PM

Robert:

What body?

Posted by: oj at December 4, 2004 4:09 PM

It is the you at your imparishable and immortal finest, living in intimate oneness w/your creator. It comes, for free to anyone, by divine grace through faith.

Dave W, that sounds appealing, but what does it mean? Again, from my sense of what it means to be me, what part of that sense survives to this blissful state? Nothing about that sense of myself is imperishable or immortal. Such an existence is as different from my current existence as my current existence is different from the existence of a virus.

By faith I say, no sense of time, no sense of anything but intimate oneness w/my creator. That's bliss.

How is that differentiable from non-existence?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 4, 2004 4:18 PM

Orrin,

Note that Descartes begins with an unsupportable proposition: "I"

Good grief.

Posted by: at December 4, 2004 5:18 PM

The previous post was by me, in case you hadn't guessed.

I know that I exist on the basis of my thoughts. I think, therefore I am. The thoughts that constitute me exist, therefore "I" am.

Do you deny or question that you exist?

Posted by: creeper at December 4, 2004 5:21 PM

creeper:

That's precisely the point: no one truly questions existence, though according to Reason we should. We are all Faith full.

Posted by: oj at December 4, 2004 5:47 PM

Robert:
The difference is that one is marked by intimate oneness w/God and the other is marked by total separation form God. The former is bliss, while the latter is non-existance.

Posted by: Dave W. at December 4, 2004 7:38 PM

creeper:
I know that I exist through faith in what I reason to be true about that I expereince and sense.

Posted by: Dave W. at December 4, 2004 7:40 PM

Dave:

Though, significantly, the materialists insist even more so that everything is one, that they share an essential oneness with all that exists.

Posted by: oj at December 4, 2004 7:40 PM

The difference is that one is marked by intimate oneness w/God and the other is marked by total separation form God. The former is bliss, while the latter is non-existance.

So scenario 1 goes like this:

Before: God exists in a timeless state of bliss and Dave W exists in a timeful state of some moments of bliss but mostly a mixed bag of happiness and misery.

After : God exists in a timeless state of bliss.

And scenario 2 goes like this:

Before: God exists in a timeless state of bliss and Dave W exists in a timeful state of some moments of bliss but mostly a mixed bag of happiness and misery.

After : God exists in a timeless state of bliss.

They look the same to me.

This is where you're trying to have your metaphysical cake and eat it too. If you are at oneness with God, then you no longer exist, there is just God. You can't unite with God unless you cease to exist as you.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 4, 2004 7:58 PM

creeper,

1. Gravity has to do with mass. Mass and matter are not the same thing. You can increase the mass of an object without adding any matter to it. Haven't you ever been in the gravitron at a county fair or carnival?

2. Einstein's theories about gravity had to do with the shape of the space/time continuum which most certainly is not material.

3. If we are going to make a game out of this, let's begin with first principles. How do you know that there is even such a thing as "matter"? I know that objects like apples or rocks or chairs are real because I can see them, feel them, smell them, taste them, and hear them go thud when they hit the ground. Can you show me pure "matter" that is not some thing? Or is "matter" just a mental abstraction that we use to explain observed phenomena? If so, how can an abstract idea have a physical existence anywhere except in our own minds?

4. If, in fact, all things are made of this "matter" stuff and hence subject to physical laws how can there be freedom of action? Neuron A fires in response to stimulus X and produces behavior L. Neuron B fires in response to stimulus Y and produces behavior R. This is the free will of a socket wrench. If I flip the selector one way it turns to the left, if I switch it the other way it turns to the right.

I know that my decision making does not occur in this manner and I am not prepared to ignore my own subjective experience merely to conform to materialist dogma.

Posted by: carl at December 4, 2004 11:15 PM

Creeper: There is a proof running around that we are most likely trapped in a computer simulation. Assuming that consciousness within a computer similuation is possible, the proof states that every world in which life develops to the point of being able to make such a computer will build many such simulations. Therefore, consciousnesses within a computer simulation will outnumber live consciousnesses.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 4, 2004 11:25 PM

David,

"There is a proof running around that we are most likely trapped in a computer simulation."

Such as?

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 3:56 AM

carl,

Thank you very much for your comments.

1. It's been a while since my high school physics, but isn't it mass that remains constant, and weight that would change in the circumstances you mention? Conversely, in a weightless environment, mass also remains the same, while weight goes to zero.

2. "Einstein's theories about gravity had to do with the shape of the space/time continuum which most certainly is not material."

I would suggest that it is, based on this definition:

"Of or concerned with the physical as distinct from the intellectual or spiritual"

Perhaps where what I said fell short was that I did not explicitly include 'time'...? In any case, my intention was to contrast it with the 'intellectual or spiritual'.

3. "How do you know that there is even such a thing as "matter"? I know that objects like apples or rocks or chairs are real because I can see them, feel them, smell them, taste them, and hear them go thud when they hit the ground."

Agreed. Though according to Orrin you don't even know that ;-)

"Can you show me pure "matter" that is not some thing?"

Such as, say, a quantum particle? I'm not sure. Certainly not with the naked eye. How good are electron microscopes?

Our senses are limited. Through scientific means and exploration, we have in some instances been able to enhance our perception, and in other instances inferred phenomena that we can not see with the naked eye (say, the expansion of the universe, or Brownian motion, which is observed indirectly/via inference).

"Or is "matter" just a mental abstraction that we use to explain observed phenomena?"

I don't know if "matter" by itself 'explains' all that much. But most things in our experience can be explained non-spiritually - and that applies to more and more things all the time. It's true that the more we know, the more we also realize how much we don't know, but our understanding of the world in scientific terms increases all the time.

Humans, as advanced life-forms, have the mental luxury to seek higher meaning to their existence. This manifests itself in belief in various deities and/or philosophies.

"If so, how can an abstract idea have a physical existence anywhere except in our own minds?"

It doesn't seem to me, generically speaking, that an abstract idea has a physical existence - otherwise it wouldn't be an abstract idea, right? Unless you want to consider the actual grey matter where that idea is stored, which does have a physical existence.

"I know that my decision making does not occur in this manner" [- of simple, predictable stimuli]

How do you know that?

As Robert put it upthread:

"You are free to do what you want. But are you free to want what you want?"

And to put it another way: are you free to want anything that doesn't fall into one of the categories of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 4:49 AM

Creeper:

It is easy to get stuck on OJ's sophistry loop here.

Christianity (unlike Islam) absolutely requires material existence; without it, the religion's every precept collapses. Absent material existence, the notions of being Fallen, or having free will, are completely worthless.

And it is one thing to accept that something outside this universe causes all that we experience and see. Attempting to prove or disprove the existence of such an entity is an empty exercise involving fatal contradictions no matter the choice.

It is another entirely to leap from the notion that this entity, Oaob (On account of because) exists, to the notion that any particular conception of Oaob bears even the tiniest resemblance to Oaob, never mind attaining Absolute Truth.

Therein lies one profound difference between religion and materialism. Religions, in claiming possession of Absolute Truth, bend Oaob to their will.

Materialism hopes, through the only religion-independent process available to us, to come to some tiny glimmer of understanding of Oaob as Oaob is, all the while knowing assertions of possessing Absolute Truth are completely empty.

To religions, the words "I don't know" are anathema (Proof: put members of various evangelical sects in a room and toss in the word "eschatology" to view competing dead certainty on the wholly unknowable.).

To a materialist, "I don't know" is inevitable.

OJ:
The Darwinist theory of Evolution cannot withstand even a superficial examination by non-specialists anymore than any of the others can. You guys are no wronger than anyone else, just wrong.

The first and surest sign of theological axe-grinding is the word Darwinist. Only those whose notion of the Theory of Evolution is frozen in amber use it.

The ToE is overdetermined by deductive consequences (none of which you can refute without resorting to equivocation having nothing to do with deduction) and is nowhere contradicted by the available evidence.

In order to deny that, you are forced, into intellectual contortions. In denying speciation has happened, you use one concept (species) to conclude that the absence of such an event during recorded human history--a yardstick nowhere in the theory--is contradictory.

Then, when faced with examples of just such a thing, you use an entirely different, and wrong, concept (Genus, possibly, although your sloppy use of terms--just what is a "major speciation," anyway?--doesn't rule out either Family or Order).

Typical, though, of what you have to do to bend Oaob to your will.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 5, 2004 5:11 AM

Jeff:

It's easier than typing out the neo-Darwinist synthesis, in itself an acknowledgment that their theory came a cropper. Everyone knows speciatoion occurred--no person who looks at Natural Selection with roigorous mind any longer believes it can produce speciation.

You read Of Moths and Men, right? What's left of Darwinism by the end?

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 8:40 AM

creeper:

You're really adopting Robert's view that simple material processes forced you to type what you just did? Isn't that a tad over-determinist?

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 8:41 AM

Orrin,

Possibly so, but at a level of complexity at which our thoughts, actions and the outcomes thereof are imperceptible to us - and therefore surprising to us.

Have you ever done anything that was truly surprising to yourself or those around you?

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 9:11 AM

"Possibly so, but at a level of complexity at which our thoughts, actions and the outcomes thereof are imperceptible to us - and therefore surprising to us."

Poorly phrased. Let's try it like this:

Possibly so, but that which is predictable and pre-determined occurs at a level of extreme simplicity while our thoughts are the combination of so many of these simple processes so that those low/basic levels are imperceptible to us - and our thoughts and the outcomes of our actions are therefore (mostly) fresh and surprising to us.

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 9:16 AM

creeper:

But nonetheless determined. You may think you decided to write that, but you're just a function of material processes. What a bleak view of life. No wonder the secular world is killing itself.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 9:21 AM

Orrin,

Yes, like I said, determined at a very low level, and at a level so complex and subject to random influences that there is, to my mind, certainly nothing terribly predictable about it. At the level of my conscious perception, I feel emotions, make decisions about my day, my life, my future. Obviously it falls into categories appropriate to my species (see Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs) - but I can understand that, and that's just fine with me. Since I am a member of my species, I derive satisfaction from fulfilling my functions.

You may think you're above it all, but again, when was the last time you (a) did something that truly surprised either yourself or those around you, or (b) stepped outside the hierarchy of needs?

I find nothing bleak about it. On the contrary, it makes my time on Earth that much more focused and enjoyable.

"No wonder the secular world is killing itself."

Examples?

I'm an atheist, and I happen to enjoy making and raising children. OTOH, there are plenty of "faith-based" killers and suicide-bombers out there.

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 9:59 AM

creeper:

Not predictable to you, but entirely determined. Everything we do surprises us, or we'd be better people.


Secular Europe is dying. Blue America is dying. etc.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 10:25 AM

But nonetheless determined. You may think you decided to write that, but you're just a function of material processes. What a bleak view of life. No wonder the secular world is killing itself.

OJ, if the implication that your actions are determined by material processes depresses you, doesn't it also depress you to say "you may think you decided to write that, but you're just a funcion of your soul". If not, why?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 5, 2004 10:32 AM

For those on the board who think that their will is so free that it cannot be modeled or predicted, ask your spouse if she agrees.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 5, 2004 10:39 AM

Your soul is free.

You're confusing predictable with determined.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 10:40 AM

Orrin,

"Not predictable to you, but entirely determined."

On such a low level as not to concern me. One could model the motion of every molecule in the ocean and see that it is entirely predictable, but why would that be of interest? I'm still looking at waves crashing on a beach and find it beautiful. In its way, their form and movement is quite predictable - but something being predictable does not make it bad. On the contrary: we perceive something truly unpredictable as appalling to the senses.

Again, can you point to anything in your life that was not determined? What, really, makes you think you stand above it?

"Secular Europe is dying. Blue America is dying."

Strong words. Keep in mind that most of the US economic and academic achievements take place in blue states.

Secular Europe is still a formidable economic power in the world, second only to the US.

Are Muslim nations dying or thriving? Are we in favor of theocracies in the middle east?

What about non-secular Africa? Thriving or just stumbling along?

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 10:42 AM

OJ, it isn't a matter of being determined or not, it is a matter whether you take ownership of the mechanism of determination. That is where the freedom part comes in. If you disown your atoms and your neurons, but they determine your behavior anyhow, then I guess you are not free.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 5, 2004 10:43 AM

What does "your soul is free" mean? Is your soul "you" or is it just some appendage of you, like your brain or your foot? What determines the actions that the physical user interface that the world knows as "OJ" carries out? Does the soul do that?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 5, 2004 10:49 AM

Well put, Robert.

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 10:49 AM

What does "your soul is free" mean? Is your soul "you" or is it just some appendage of you, like your brain or your foot? What determines the actions that the physical user interface that the world knows as "OJ" carries out? Does the soul do that?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 5, 2004 10:50 AM

Robert:

Stop for a second and read that: "ownership of the mechanism of determination." It's sublime nonsense.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 10:50 AM

What does "your soul is free" mean? Is your soul "you" or is it just some appendage of you, like your brain or your foot? What determines the actions that the physical user interface that the world knows as "OJ" carries out? Does the soul do that?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 5, 2004 10:54 AM

creeper:

Nothing is unpredictable nor beautiful nor anything else if all is determined. You've surrendered to mere existence. The secular existentialist West is in free fall for just that reason--it's quit.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 10:54 AM

Robert:

So spouses know when you lie to them, cheat on them, are going to beat them, etc. ? Then wny does it bother them?

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 10:55 AM

Come on OJ, this is the gist of the whole argument, don't cop out now. Something determines what you do, you are a determined being. The only question is, what determines your actions, is it you, or is it something other than you?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 5, 2004 10:59 AM

You read Of Moths and Men, right? What's left of Darwinism by the end?

Did you read the book? Its only conclusion is that the experiment performed wasn't capable of supporting any conclusion. As an experiment, it was a failure. Reading into it any more than that suggests you haven't read the book. And also ignores that, for reasons unknown, peppered moth populations were strongly correlated with industrial pollution.

It's easier than typing out the neo-Darwinist synthesis, in itself an acknowledgment that their theory came a cropper.

How about typing what it is really called, Theory of Evolution, or Evolution, for short. No one blanches at Theory of Relativity, after all.

I look very rigorously at Evolution and the competing theories, and have concluded it is likely a largely correct explanation of Natural History as far as it goes, and is also incomplete.

You come to a different conclusion, but your reasoning is rife with prevarication, undefined terms, tendentious reasoning, irrelevant yardsticks, quote mining, and random admixtures of deduction, induction, and circular logic.

In short, your analysis so far has been anything but rigorous.

Perhaps say precisely why Natural Selection cannot produce speciation (keeping in mind Natural Selection can only act on the variations offered.)

Robert, Creeper:
OJ is prone to appeals to incredulity, and conclusions from ignorance.

In this case, as in so many others, Oaob The Creator is as good an answer as any.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 5, 2004 11:02 AM

Robert:

Yes, that is the central question, but you're trying to have it both ways--"ownership of the mechanism of determination" is a ludicrous concept--you are determined by the material world but you control the material world?

Not that we blame you for finding your own philosophy repellant.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 11:02 AM

"So spouses know when you lie to them"

yes

"cheat on them"

yes

"are going to beat them"

yes

"Then why does it bother them?"

Because it still hurts.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 5, 2004 11:03 AM

Robert:

Why don't they just stop you if they know? Why would it hurt?

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 11:05 AM

Jeff:

So all that's left,m as you acknowledge, is the broad Theory of Evolution? That things have speciated in the history of Creation? geez, if even you've bailed on Natural Selection it's really toast.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 11:07 AM

Not that we blame you for finding your own philosophy repellant.

Jeff, he is now using the appeal to revulsion.

you are determined by the material world

That part of the material world that is me.

but you control the material world?

I control that part of the material world that is me.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 5, 2004 11:13 AM

Robert:

No, you don't, the material does. There is no "you."

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 11:16 AM

Why don't they just stop you if they know? Why would it hurt?

Are you asking why women stay married to abusive men? It's different for different women, of course, but mostly one or a combination of the following reasons:

1. They have children, and they don't feel that they can support them on their own.

2. They are pressured by relatives, religious leaders or social conventions to stay married.

3. The fear of the consequences of leaving, ie. getting killed or severely beaten, freezes them into a state of inaction.

4. They've been so demoralized by abuse that they give up hope.

So, you don't understand how living without hope can be painful?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 5, 2004 11:23 AM

Robert:

No, I mean why not just say: "you're lying to me." Why not go to where the affair is about to take place and intercede? Why doesn't George Baily stop his brother from sliding on the ice instead or rescuing him later? If people truly are predictable intercession should be easy.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 11:26 AM

No, you don't, the material does. There is no "you."

Then why do I still get pre-approved offers for credit cards?

How do you know that there is a "you"? What convinces you that you exist? You still haven't answered that question.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 5, 2004 11:30 AM

"No, you don't, the material does. There is no "you.""

Who're you talking to?

And who are you?

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 11:30 AM

Again, Orrin, can you point at anything you have done in your life where you yourself exercised true free will? Where you know you stepped outside the bounds of what was 'determined'?

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 11:33 AM

"Why not go to where the affair is about to take place and intercede? Why doesn't George Baily stop his brother from sliding on the ice instead or rescuing him later?"

What you are arguing here confirms exactly what I said earlier about our thoughts and actions being sufficiently complex to remain surprising to us and those around us, while still following a broadly determined path.

Your wife (if you're married) knows you as a certain person, knows what you're like, and can reasonably predict how you will react in certain circumstances. She may not know, for example, where you're planning on having lunch tomorrow or, if you were actively trying to deceive her, how you would be concealing an extramarital affair.

You push the argument of determinism to an absurd extreme by suggesting it makes us all perfectly capable of predicting each other's moves. Our minds and our perception are too limited for that.

Posted by: at December 5, 2004 11:40 AM

No, I mean why not just say: "you're lying to me."

People do that.

Why not go to where the affair is about to take place and intercede?

People do that, often with a gun.

Why doesn't George Baily stop his brother from sliding on the ice instead or rescuing him later?

George is a man. His sister would have stopped him if she were there. Prediction powers aren't allocated equally among the sexes.

If people truly are predictable intercession should be easy.

You're kidding, right?

People become predictable after you've known them for awhile. My wife can predict that I will forget one or more of the following before we go out in the car:

1. My wallet.
2. My glasses.
3. Lock the door.
4. Take my medications.
5. Zip my fly.

She runs down the checklist, and invariably gets a hit on one or more.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 5, 2004 11:42 AM

noname at 11:40 was me.

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 11:43 AM

creeper/Robert:

You see, of course, that morality is impossible in the world you desire? That with every action determined there can be no blame attached to anything anyone does.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 11:47 AM

creeper:

The complaint that one's idea has been pushed to the "extreme" is the acknowledgement that it breaks down on application.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 11:49 AM

Robert:

Faith, same as you. I'm just unbothered by that.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 11:49 AM

So are you saying, OJ, that randomness is the measure of a free will? Random entities are the only ones capable of being morally accountable?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 5, 2004 11:53 AM

yes, if an action is determined by other than what we think of as the actor then it can hardly be good or evil. It just is.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 11:56 AM

What do you think of as the actor?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 5, 2004 12:01 PM

A human with a soul and free will.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 12:03 PM

I've noticed a continued silence from Orrin on the subject of coming up with an example of having exercised true 'free will'.

I would therefore like to posit this:

There is no such thing as 'free will' in the way Orrin wishes it; instead, we follow a broadly deterministic path: we are born, we acquire knowledge, we seek food and shelter, we form families and other units, we seek mates, we reproduce, we care for our young and help them survive (to propagate the species), and if we are lucky, we have excess mental capacity to pursue more abstract thought, appreciate beauty, and perhaps to self-actualize.

We perceive ourselves as making choices, of deciding which path we take in life; we make mistakes; we suffer; we succeed; we feel joy - all at a level sufficiently complex and removed from the nuts and bolts of molecules and synapses to seem fresh to us, and for us to feel that we are in charge of our own lives. Which, under those circumstances, for all intents and purposes, we are.

There are some who yearn for a more pleasing explanation, since the thought of consisting of various layers of complexity (including very simple ones which, when taken in isolation, can be predictable) makes them feel not free. And so they assign to themselves the characteristic of possessing true 'free will'.

However, they are unable to provide an example that would support the existence of this.

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 12:05 PM

OJ, does the soul determine the actions of the actor?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 5, 2004 12:06 PM

Robert:

Not determine, the soul decides on the action, from an infinitude of options.

creeper:

every action is a function of our free will

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 12:08 PM

OJ,

What happens to the freedom of the soul when the mind is impaired by alcohol or drugs? What happens to the freedom of the soul when the personality is altered by brain injury?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 5, 2004 12:19 PM

Orrin,

"The complaint that one's idea has been pushed to the "extreme" is the acknowledgement that it breaks down on application."

How so? You distort the argument by claiming that people are truly and perfectly predictable. This would require each of us having a perfect model of all the molecules in our head, as well as the ability to fast-forward this model at will to see what will happen next.

Clearly none of us brought forward such an idea, nor is it an application of such, nor do any of us think it workable in the world we inhabit.

Complaining that an argument is being distorted is not the same as acknowledging that it breaks down on application.

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 12:22 PM

Robert:

Freedom is impaired, which is why drug and alcohol abuse is sinful.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 12:22 PM

"This would require each of us having a perfect model of all the molecules in our head"

should read

"This would require each of us having a perfect model of all the molecules in the world around us in our head"

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 12:23 PM

creeper:

An extreme is not a distortion but the end to which an idea leads. Your repulsion at that end does you credit.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 12:27 PM

Orrin,

"every action is a function of our free will"

Every action also happens to be determined. Or could you name an exception? Anything that truly surprised either yourself or those around you, or anything that falls outside the Hierarchy of Needs?

Otherwise, how do you know you have free will?

You say you have free will, but can not name anything you have done that indicates you having acted outside a determined structure.

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 12:29 PM

Orrin,

minor 'brain damage' occurs at levels of alcohol intake far short of abuse.

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 12:30 PM

Orrin,

Of course an extreme can be a distortion, and you claiming that if we do not have souls or what you define as 'free will', we become so predictable as to turn us all into the equivalent of the mutants in 'Minority Report' is a clear distortion, not a logical extension or application of any argument presented here.

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 12:34 PM

creeper:

Yes, we don't allow folks to drink and drive for just that reason.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 12:44 PM

creeper:

None of our actions are determined.

The idea that they are leads directly to Philip K. Dick, which you're wise enough to find repugnant.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 12:45 PM

Orrin,

"None of our actions are determined."

Can you name anything you did that truly surprised either yourself or those around you, or that falls outside the Hierarchy of Needs?

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 12:49 PM

Orrin,

"Yes, we don't allow folks to drink and drive for just that reason."

Even a single drink will kill some brain cells.

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 12:51 PM

creeper:

No, it doesn't. As with all things the key is to exercise your free will, and drink moderately:

http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/arizonaliving/articles/1130bottomline1130.html

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 12:58 PM

None of our actions are determined.

Not even by yourself? You don't determine your own actions?

Why does material impairment cause an impairment of the soul, if the soul is not material? If they physicality of the mind restricts or enables the exercise of the soul, then it sounds a lot like the soul is determined by the physical world.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 5, 2004 1:05 PM

Orrin,

I stand corrected. Cheers!

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 1:07 PM

Orrin,

I stand corrected. Cheers!

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 1:09 PM

Robert:

Exactly. They aren't determined. We decide.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 1:13 PM

creeper:

I assume by Hierarchy of Needs you mean sleeping and eating?

I drank a bottle of dog soda for a doolar one Christmas. I need to eat and drink, but not any of the things I choose to are "needs."

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 1:16 PM

Exactly. They aren't determined. We decide.

Not so fast. If you decide, then you determine your actions, so they are determined.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 5, 2004 1:34 PM

Orrin,

"I assume by Hierarchy of Needs you mean sleeping and eating?"

No, by Hierarchy of Needs I meant Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which I mentioned a couple of times upthread.

Here's one site that describes it:

http://www.xenodochy.org/ex/lists/maslow.html

Unfortunately it'll hurt your eyes a little; the web designer appears to have been colorblind.

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 1:35 PM

Robert,

"If the physicality of the mind restricts or enables the exercise of the soul, then it sounds a lot like the soul is determined by the physical world."

Good point - difficult to argue against that.

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 1:40 PM

What physicality?

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 1:43 PM

Robert:


You misunderstand what it means for something to be determined.

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04756c.htm

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 1:46 PM

Physicality is that thing that screams "pain!" when you smash your thumb with a hammer.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 5, 2004 1:47 PM

Ah, well then no--a comatose person retains their soul.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 1:49 PM

Free will is overrated.

We all exist as social animals. As Harry Eager memorably said, it makes no more sense to discuss a solitary human than a solitary ant.

Which means we exist in continual tension between self interest and group cohesion, with each person occupying some narrow space along that continuum.

And they can't really control where they fall. Generalizing from personal experience, I am powerfully motivated to avoid shame. Therefore, while OJ and Peter would automatically conclude there is there is nothing stopping me from dumping the wife and kids for a 'Vette and pneumatic bimbo, in fact, the attendant shame completely prohibits me from such a thing, even if I wanted to.

I have no control over my aversion to shame; therefore, I have no free will in that regard.

I have no free will regarding athletic ability, or intelligence, or gender, or sexual orientation.

Robert mentions alcohol abuse. What about estrogen abuse? Women at times frequently have substantially less control over their free will than at other times.

Stroke limits free will. So does schizophrenia.

In fact, a whole slew of purely material phenomena does just that.

If you step back and take a look at the limits within which you exist, you will see there is very little room for maneuver.

More than no room, but not much.

Oh, one other thing: OJ, once again, you dodge the question. You call that rigor?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 5, 2004 5:36 PM

"OJ, once again, you dodge the question. You call that rigor?"

I think he calls it exercising his free will. ;-)

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 5:57 PM

What question?

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 6:02 PM

Orrin,

I can't say for sure which question Jeff Guinn was referring to, but one question you've avoided (three times) is this one:

Can you name anything you did that truly surprised either yourself or those around you, or that falls outside Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 6:26 PM

creeper:

None of our actions are determined.

The idea that they are leads directly to Philip K. Dick, which you're wise enough to find repugnant.
Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 12:45 PM

creeper:

every action is a function of our free will
Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 12:08 PM

creeper:

I assume by Hierarchy of Needs you mean sleeping and eating?

I drank a bottle of dog soda for a doolar one Christmas. I need to eat and drink, but not any of the things I choose to are "needs."

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 6:33 PM

Orrin,

Those may have followed the questions, but they were hardly answers to the questions, were they?

1 and 2 - do you mean to tell me that everything you do truly surprises yourself or those around you and/or falls outside Maslow's Hierarchy?

The response to 3 was either based on not understanding the question or a deliberate evasion. The Hierarchy of Needs includes a lot more than sleeping and eating - see also the link I posted regarding this: http://www.xenodochy.org/ex/lists/maslow.html

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 6:42 PM

creeper:

yes.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 7:03 PM

Orrin,

rigor?

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 7:16 PM

If everything you do truly surprises yourself and those around you and/or falls outside Maslow's Hierarchy, you sure must make the local headlines a lot...

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 7:18 PM

creeper:

What time are you brushing your teeth tonight?

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 7:22 PM

Shortly before I go to bed. You?

Posted by: creeper at December 5, 2004 7:42 PM

So you don't know with any precision?

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 7:51 PM

I've been away all day, at church, buying and decorating Christmas tree, so I'll just jump in here with a mention of one of my suprising and unexpected acts of free will. Last summer I dove off a high diving board. It had been 30 years since I'd been on the high board (it was not a pleasant experience as I was 'forced' to jump by the swim instructor). The tought of doing it just popped into my mind. The decision to do it was mine. I chose to mount the board and dive into the water. I didn't remember saying on the way down, but my wife said that I loudly shouted G..o..d!" on the way down.

P.S. I have not yet chosen what I will wear tomorrow, but my wife has determined what our daughters will wear to school. I'm not sure what this means, you're free to make of it whatever you want. Good night.

Posted by: Phil at December 5, 2004 10:31 PM

Good night, Phil.

Posted by: oj at December 5, 2004 10:42 PM

"So you don't know with any precision?"

No. So?

Is this how you view determinism? That we're robots down to the level of running a line-by-line program of what we will do at 10:37 p.m., and that we're fully aware of this at 7:11 p.m.?

And that free will contrasts against this by allowing for the option to brush your teeth before or after you put on your pyjamas - or, shockingly, to give in to laziness and not bother?

You're absolutely right in that this would surely be a boring way to live; it is also, of course, a distortion of the argument, as has been pointed out to you before - aside from simply being impossible.

It goes much further even than the article on determinism you linked to earlier; you've added the notion of perfect pre-awareness of everything that will happen, and that simply isn't and can not be the case. My brain would have to have the capacity to model all the molecules in the world and to fast-forward them at will to see what constellation they will be in at 10:37 p.m. - at (precisely) what point will my children fall asleep during their bed-time story, at what point will my wife find something interesting while channel-surfing and decide to watch or not watch something for the next half-hour or pick up a book from the shelf to read before going to sleep.

Like I've argued more than once in this thread, we are talking about a highly complicated (we are talking about tens of billions of neurons in a brain, networked in three dimensions) and organic system with limited perception - not only will such a system feature fuzziness, but also considerable excess mental capacity, which leads to higher thought, abstract thought, the desire to self-actualize, etc.

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 1:01 AM

Phil,

I'm an expat living in Ireland, and around here - at this time of year - you see men stripping down to trunks and swimming in the ocean. A way of steeling the body, of keeping in shape, of keeping the senses alive with a jolt of adversity.

I'm guessing you wanted to prove something to yourself, to know you were capable of athletic behavior, to continue to feel young; it strikes me as a perfectly human desire.

Exclamations of 'God!' and 'Jesus Christ!' are all around us, all the time - not rarely right before or after human beings hurt themselves...

"P.S. I have not yet chosen what I will wear tomorrow, but my wife has determined what our daughters will wear to school. I'm not sure what this means, you're free to make of it whatever you want."

See my previous comments to Orrin. It doesn't even fall under the definition of determinism as per a link Orrin cited previously: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04756c.htm

My 100 billion neurons have not yet decided or are not yet aware whether I will have coffee at 7:35 or 7:38 a.m. - go figure.

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 1:18 AM

creeper:

Very much the point--you imagine a world entirely determined yet with so much play that your coffee driinking is entirely up in the air.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2004 7:17 AM

Orrin,

Is the world you imagine less determined?

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 8:02 AM

Orrin,

How will you spend your day today?

I'm guessing that your options of how you will spend your day fall into a fairly narrow spectrum, relatively speaking. Maybe ten, maybe a hundred things you would like to get done; you can decide the sequence, what you'd like to put off, when you'd like to have lunch, what music you'd like to listen to while you're doing whatever you happen to be doing, whom you might like to talk to, but frankly, nothing that a hundred billion neurons can't handle, and nothing that falls outside the behavior of an advanced humanoid and the range of needs that that implies.

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 8:07 AM

spectrum, like, decide, sequence, range, like, happen to be, implies...

Not much left of material determinism by the time you're done with your qualifiers. No one truly believes life to be determined. Such a life would be intolerable.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2004 8:28 AM

Orrin,

"No one truly believes life to be determined."

Sure, to the extent to which you like to imagine it, which includes reducing the concept ad absurdio, turning us into precise, omniscient and infallible computer programs. You're basically offering a strawman.

My position on our brains being a highly complex and organic system that allows for fuzziness as well as decision-making in a certain range of human needs and urges fully covers everything you or I will do today.

Disagree? Name an exception.

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 8:43 AM

creeper:

Yes, you insist on an entirely determined world except for a magic moment when Man breaks free and is no longer bound by the material forces that govern the rest of the universe.

Every decision you think you make is an exception.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2004 8:53 AM

creeper,

Running late for work, so I have to be quick--you are talking about a different effect. The earth's gravitational effect declines with distance so you can weigh less even though your mass hasn't changed. When you accelerate an object you are adding energy to it. Energy = mass(times the speed of light squared).

Posted by: carl at December 6, 2004 8:54 AM

Orrin,

Determined, but at a level entirely imperceptible to us on any level. Well, most levels. We can form certain generalizations about human behavior and certain scientific principles. But while maybe the movement of a single molecule may be predictable, throw in a few more and our minds are already incapable of predicting how they will move in advance.

We can't even predict how the molecules in a tiny petri-dish will move - other than that they will move, in our perception, at random - why should we find it predictable how the billions and billions particles in our brains will move to the extent of it being no more than a linear program, the way you insist on perceiving it?

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 9:02 AM

We can't predict, but they are obviously predictable. Human actions aren't.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2004 9:06 AM

carl,

It doesn't seem to me we're in disagreement. Thanks for your reply.

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 9:06 AM

Orrin,

"We can't predict, but they are obviously predictable."

Predictable to whom?

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 9:12 AM

To even us eventually.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2004 9:17 AM

Orrin,

But to no one right now?

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 9:18 AM

Scientific forces are no less predictable just because we can't--e was equal to mc2 before Einstein noticed it.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2004 10:43 AM

Orrin,

"Scientific forces are no less predictable just because we can't"

Predictable to whom?

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 11:36 AM

Even if you have enough faith in science to eventually be capable of modelling the movement of trillions upon trillions upon trillions of molecules not just in real time, but faster than real time (think for a moment about what that entails), then what makes you so sure that they won't be able to predict human actions and decisions down to the molecule just the same?

Are human actions predictable to us right now?

Not perfectly, but in a certain range. Chances are, your close friends or family could have made a list of maybe a hundred things that they thought you would do today, and you most likely would not have deviated from that list. You can't nail it down to a linear program of what a person will do each and every second, but even your actions are reasonably predictable.

Nothing there that can't be explained by actions orchestrated by a skull full of a hundred billion neurons and synapses.

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 11:41 AM

creeper:

Faith. Creation won't turn out to be that ugly.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2004 12:01 PM

Computers, us in a few years, more advanced alien races, extra-universal observers. The material world is mechanical, predictable, and uninteresting.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2004 12:33 PM

Orrin,

"Faith"

As in "even if you have enough faith in science"?

You proposed, on no other basis than faith, that science will eventually be able to do something that seems utterly impossible to us today - the modelling of trillions upon trillions upon trillions of molecules not just in real-time, but even faster - yet at the same time state that science will never be able to do something else that seems utterly impossible to us today - to on the basis of that capability also be able to predict human behavior with the same kind of precision.

You offer no explanation of the internal logic to your argument that makes you select one as possible and one as impossible - even though you're not that terribly unpredictable today, operating in a fairly constrained range of actions.

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 12:34 PM

science will be able to model the merely material world, not the spiritual.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2004 12:40 PM

Orrin,

"Computers, us in a few years, more advanced alien races, extra-universal observers. The material world is mechanical, predictable, and uninteresting."

To obsess about molecules is indeed uninteresting, since our perception is not at a molecular level, and we have found countless interesting things in the world we live in at the level in which we perceive it. The fact that the world happens to be constructed of minuscule particles is indeed not worth harping on for most of us most of the time. A few scientists here and there, sure, but most of us are more concerned with what we perceive at a different, more 'chunked' level.

Predictable? I think you've made it clear that it is not predictable to us or any entity that could communicate its predictions to us. Therefore, for all purposes, it is simply not predictable - at least not to the absurd level that you have insinuated several times, where I would know in advance precisely when I would brush my teeth etc.

The world is not predictable enough to bore us; we can not foretell what will happen to us with exact precision; it is, however, predictable and repetitive enough to offer us structure in our lives, and allow us to form coherent thoughts and perceptions.

There's nothing wrong with the world around us being predictable in some ways. Most things that please us in life rely on it.

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 12:47 PM

creeper:

Yes, we've established that you don't think it predictable either and would find it intolerable were it so--you're not a materialist either. No one truly is.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2004 12:56 PM

"science will be able to model the merely material world, not the spiritual."

Since the first part is no less wild a hypothetical than the second part, we'll just have to wait and see, won't we?

Say it becomes possible to model every molecule in a space the size of a house. Say the house is a biosphere, with plants and animals. Completely self-sustaining and isolated - and we would have an exact duplicate of this in a vastly powerful computer that knew at any given point exactly how each molecule was swinging, how the various quantum particles were moving etc.

The rabbits inside move in what, to us, seem like somewhat predictable moves. They eat, drink, leave little turds and make little rabbits. We can't say exactly whether they will graze over here or over yonder, but this computer would know. And it would be able to tell us that in two hours, the rabbit we call Harry would be leaving three little pellets over by the pond, and they will fall exactly in a certain constellation.

Now if we then put a human in there, we could put this argument to rest. If we record every molecule and its movement and can predict what this person will do, based on the movement of his molecules, it would mean that whatever we perceive as spiritual is a phenomenon that arises out of the complex and organic structure of our brains.

And if the person acts in unpredictable ways, then humans do have a spiritual/non-material aspect that influences/controls their behavior.

Pity this is such a wild hypothetical.

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 1:03 PM

No, it's only a pity if you don't have Faith and think the Universe could possibly be so mechanistic, but then you'd be pitiful.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2004 1:08 PM

Orrin,

"Yes, we've established that you don't think it predictable either and would find it intolerable were it so--you're not a materialist either. No one truly is."

You're oversimplifying the argument to suit your purposes:

No, the universe is not perfectly predictable at all to us, but that is due to the fact that we live in a world of complexity far beyond our perception, and even the complexity of our own brain eludes our ability to comprehend it.

It is just predictable enough and just unpredictable enough to be interesting to us. I know within a certain range what experiences to expect in my life - seasons, times of day, interaction with other people, physical sensations.

You can look at my life and say it is predictable (in that I will not be jumping through a closed window and landing on Mars) or that it is not predictable (in that I don't know whether I will be brushing my teeth at 10:48:23 p.m. or 10:48:25 p.m.). The truth is, it's kind of both, and that is certainly in keeping with us only having a limited perspective of an incredibly complex world.

You keep trying to define a material view of the universe as something that our minds can easily grasp and predict, but that is really short-changing the stupendous complexity of the universe.

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 1:18 PM

creeper:

it isn't complex. we are.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2004 1:20 PM

Orrin,

"it isn't complex. we are."

We are, but the universe isn't?

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 1:25 PM

"No, it's only a pity if you don't have Faith and think the Universe could possibly be so mechanistic, but then you'd be pitiful."

I find nothing pitiful in acknowledging the limits of knowledge. To plug in a placeholder concept that magically explains away all the gaps is simply not satisfying.

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 1:28 PM

It's all gap.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2004 1:30 PM

creeper:

No, the universe is just stuff. It never does anything admirable.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2004 1:31 PM

Orrin,

"It's all gap."

I guess if you start with questioning your own existence, that would be the case.

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 1:36 PM

To try to comprehend the universe requires a certain humility regarding our place in it. To see ourselves as the focal point of creation and then invent a supreme ruler in our own image seems to me to be rather lacking in humility.

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 1:39 PM

creeper:

No one thinks the Universe itself will turn out to be terribly complex, indeed it will be the type of thing where we smack ourselves on the forehead and wonder how we missed it. We'll never understand our place in it.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2004 3:03 PM

Orrin,

"No one thinks the Universe itself will turn out to be terribly complex, indeed it will be the type of thing where we smack ourselves on the forehead and wonder how we missed it."

Because these molecules that vex you so much do form some pretty neat and comprehensible bundles that we are able to perceive, categorize etc.

Out of stupendous complexity at low levels (consisting of much simpler elements further down) comes, in our own perception, a not too terribly complex world literally as far as our eyes can see (and our ears can hear etc.). A tree, a rock, a dog, the mailman. All neatly chunked by our brain to be comprehensible and digestible to us.

The complexity (or perhaps randomness) manifests itself in, for example, our not being able to easily understand the why of things, as well as our inability to forecast the future with complete accuracy.

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 3:36 PM

They don't vex me at all. They're incidental. We can forecast the future of most anything material.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2004 3:40 PM

Orrin,

"We can forecast the future of most anything material."

We can forecast the weather and your actions with similar accuracy.

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 4:08 PM

creeper, you appear to be so complex a being, and so focused on reason and logic that you miss understanding to any degree the simplest concept of all: GOD IS. It's the simple truth.

Posted by: Dave W. at December 6, 2004 5:53 PM

Dave,

To you I appear needlessly complex and excessively focused on steps of reasoning; to me you appear simplistically eager to plug in a concept that will comfort you, be it for the sake of not wanting to be alone in the universe, wanting to believe that we possess some kind of true free will (because the materially based kind, even though incomprehensibly complex, isn't good enough?), the notion of some kind of immortality, or perhaps some other reason.

If there is a God that we should worship, a benevolent God, an omniscient God, an omnipotent God, I have seen no evidence of that on this Earth.

If, on the other hand, God is some other word for the spark of life, a force of nature or something, then I can think of no better way to do that justice than to do our best by our peers and the world we live in; to strive to leave the world not a worse but a better place than we found it.

But as an atheist and a member of the human race, that's what I'm aiming for anyway.

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 6:32 PM

creeper:

How is Dave's concept more simplistic than yours?

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2004 6:42 PM
Simplistic: having the tendency to oversimplify an issue or a problem by ignoring complexities or complications.

Dave: "you appear to be so complex a being, and so focused on reason and logic that you miss understanding to any degree the simplest concept of all: GOD IS. It's the simple truth."

Dave is not only describing a concept that ignores complexities and complications, he even points out that it is, to his mind, the simplest concept of all. He may well have his reasons for ignoring complexities and complications, and he is certainly free to do so, but that doesn't change the fact that it is a simplistic world view.

Not that there's anything wrong with a simplistic world view or concept - I was merely pointing out that that is what it is.

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 6:54 PM

creeper:

So insisting that everything is material even though we experience much as immaterial and can not in fact prove that anything is material isn't simplistic?

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2004 7:00 PM

Orrin,

"So insisting that everything is material even though we experience much as immaterial and can not in fact prove that anything is material isn't simplistic?"

In some ways it is, and I didn't say it wasn't; for us to fit just about anything into our comprehension involves some kind of conceptual short-cut or simplification. (Plugging in 'God' as an explanation for the mysteries of the universe just happens to be quite a short-cut.)

Your question, however, was how Dave's concept was more simplistic than mine, and since Dave's concept quite clearly avoids all complication and mine includes a number of complications, his is by definition more simplistic.

And again, nothing wrong with simplistic if that is what he chooses.

(Incidentally, on what basis do you know that you experience immaterial things, but not that you experience material things?)

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 7:20 PM

Faith.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2004 7:29 PM

Orrin,

I can see how you would say that on the basis of faith you know that you experience immaterial things, but how, on the basis of faith, do you not know that you experience material things?

Posted by: creeper at December 6, 2004 7:39 PM

science will be able to model the merely material world, not the spiritual.

Whoever said that doesn't know much about information.

So insisting that everything is material even though we experience much as immaterial and can not in fact prove that anything is material isn't simplistic?

Guilty of taken as true that which is under discussion.

Faith is one thing. Converting that to Absolute Truth is something else entirely. What is simplistic is invoking Oaob at every turn.

Dave:

Okay. GOD IS. What is God? How can you look around you and conclude God is any more worthy of worship than Hitler?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 6, 2004 7:46 PM

science will be able to model the merely material world, not the spiritual.

Whoever said that doesn't know much about information.

So insisting that everything is material even though we experience much as immaterial and can not in fact prove that anything is material isn't simplistic?

Guilty of taken as true that which is under discussion.

Faith is one thing. Converting that to Absolute Truth is something else entirely. What is simplistic is invoking Oaob at every turn.

Dave:

Okay. GOD IS. What is God? How can you look around you and conclude God is any more worthy of worship than Hitler?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 6, 2004 8:08 PM

creeper:

It's only on the basis of faith that we know there is a material world.

Posted by: oj at December 6, 2004 9:43 PM

creeper, a simple conclusion does NOT equal a simplistic faith. Be careful, remember what they say about making assumptions. FYI, I have a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees, plus 16 years of expereince as an ordained minister, including advanced clinical ministry training. I've experienced too many of life's complications and complexities to have a pollyannish "'Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus" faith (though I like that hymn). Life can be a warm spring day amidst the tulips and iris'. Life can also be a cold winter blizzard, a pounding hail storm,and a suffocating mid-summer afternoon. I've walked on mountain peaks, across level plains, through barren deserts, along sandy beaches and in mucky, stagnet ponds. It is precicely through the complexities and complications of life that have concluded that God is! He exists. God is powerful, present, wise, caring and vigilant.

Posted by: at December 6, 2004 10:10 PM

creeper, a simple conclusion does NOT equal a simplistic faith. Be careful, remember what they say about making assumptions. FYI, I have a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees, plus 16 years of expereince as an ordained minister, including advanced clinical ministry training. I've experienced too many of life's complications and complexities to have a pollyannish "'Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus" faith (though I like that hymn). Life can be a warm spring day amidst the tulips and iris'. Life can also be a cold winter blizzard, a pounding hail storm,and a suffocating mid-summer afternoon. I've walked on mountain peaks, across level plains, through barren deserts, along sandy beaches and in mucky, stagnet ponds. It is precicely through the complexities and complications of life that have concluded that God is! He exists. God is powerful, present, wise, caring and vigilant.

Posted by: Dave W. at December 6, 2004 10:10 PM

"We can forecast the future of most anything material."

OJ, this shows how little you know about the physical world. If you knew a little more about the physical world, then you would know that you know very little about the physical world.

For all of the Doppler radar, weather sattelites and networks of data collection stations, we cannot predict the weather. Do you think anyone predicted that four hurricanes would hit Florida this year?

To even get close, you would need a computer that is as complex as the system it is modelling. You would need a logic gate for every particle in the system that you are modeling, that means you would need a byte of memory for every atomic and subatomic particle on the surface of the earth and in the entire atmosphere for the section of earth you are forecasting for. Not only that, you'd have to have perfect understanding of each particle's behavior in the system, and the interrelationships of each particle to each other particle who's behavior would affect it. Since the slice of sky we're working with is not a closed system, we'd have to account for the atmosphere that surrounds our slice, the action of photons and cosmic rays bombarding it from space, and the gravitational effects of the particles in the earth itself.

The theory of gravity that we work from now assumes that every particle of mass in the universe exerts a force on every other particle in the universe. So once you've added memory bytes for every particle that will affect the system, you also have to add cross references from every memory location in the system to every other memory location in the system. Multiply your memory requirements by a number approaching infinity.

Once you have that, a computer with enough memory and you've coded the subroutines for every particle's behavior, and the ability to import parameters from every particle in the system into the algoritm for every other particle in the system, then you have to set the state of each and every particle in the system to the exact state of every particle in the real world slice that you are modeling for one single moment in time. You would need to identify the chemical makeup, temperature, pressure and electrical charge of every point in the grid. You would have to locate every photon and cosmic ray, and gauge their exact velocity, direction and energy level. Once you've entered in all of these data points, then you can start your program running.

Of course, no computer architecture in the world can handle this computational task, or any computer architecture that we can even theoretically build. As I've stated before, the only system that can model the world as it is is the world as it is. The world is it's own model. Just watch it run, and you will know what it will do, only in real time - there is no look-ahead capability.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 7, 2004 12:01 AM

Robert:

That's all rather easy.

Posted by: oj at December 7, 2004 12:05 AM

If you think so, write the program. You'll make yourself rich.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 7, 2004 12:17 AM

Stephen Wolfram already did.

Posted by: oj at December 7, 2004 12:43 AM

Orrin,

How many molecules can Mathematica model in real time?

Posted by: creeper at December 7, 2004 1:03 AM

Not as many as it will be able to in a year or in ten or in a hundred. There's no doubt we can do this stuff-someone already did.

Posted by: oj at December 7, 2004 1:15 AM

Dave,

It was and is not my intention to insult you personally with the 'simplistic' label. I'm pretty certain that you are no less complex than I or anyone else; you are, after all, a human being.

I'm also sure that you had complicated experiences in your path to your current beliefs. Still, a statement like "GOD IS. It's the simple truth" is a pretty straightforward expression of a simplistic faith - by definition, since no complications are acknowledged. In and of itself it is tantamount to saying "just because".

Posted by: creeper at December 7, 2004 1:16 AM

Wolfram has done nothing of the sort. Here is a short quote from his website:

Through the mid-1980s, Wolfram continued his work on complexity, discovering a number of fundamental connections between computation and nature, and inventing such concepts as computational irreducibility.

From the link:

Much of theoretical physics has traditionally been concerned with trying to find "shortcuts" to nature. That is to say, with trying to find methods that are able to reproduce a final state of a system by knowing the initial state but without having to meticulously trace out each step from the initial to final states. The fact that we can write down a simple parabola as a path a thrown object makes in a gravitational field is an example of an instance where this might be possible. Clearly such shortcuts ought to be possible in principle if the calculation is more sophisticated than the computations the physical system itself is able to make. But consider a computer. Because a computer is itself physical system, it can determine the outcome of its evolution only by explicitly following it through. No shortcut is possible. Such computational irreducibility occurs whenever a physical system can act as a computer. In such cases, no general predictive ability is possible. Computational irreducibility implies that there is a highest level at which abstract models of physical systems can be made. Above that level, one can model only by explicit simulation.

Game, set, match!

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 7, 2004 1:20 AM

Welcome to the simulation. Which is, of course, the point--if we're just material then we're no different than the Sims.

Here's more on Wolfram:

http://www.brothersjudd.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/reviews.detail/book_id/1223/New%20Kind%20of%20.htm

Posted by: oj at December 7, 2004 1:22 AM

creeper:

Why is God is any simpler than the Universe is?

Posted by: oj at December 7, 2004 1:25 AM

Orrin,

"Not as many as it will be able to in a year or in ten or in a hundred."

No doubt, since computing improves all the time. Yet think of what would be necessary: not only would you have to be able to account for each and every particle and its exact motion and behavior, you'd also have to capture it all exactly as it is in one instance in time, then set it all in motion, and then be able to speed it up.

Stephen Wolfram did not write anything of the sort.

"There's no doubt we can do this stuff-someone already did."

Who? Where?

Posted by: creeper at December 7, 2004 1:26 AM

(Sorry, I missed Robert's update while I was typing.)

Posted by: creeper at December 7, 2004 1:29 AM

Orrin,

"Why is God is any simpler than the Universe is?"

Because if we define the universe as everything, then God is a subset of it, and therefore simpler.

Posted by: creeper at December 7, 2004 1:34 AM

Orrin,

"Welcome to the simulation."

What makes you think we're in the simulation?

Posted by: creeper at December 7, 2004 1:36 AM

On the one hand you are confident that it will be possible to someday program a simulation of the universe.

On the other hand you are confident that it is not possible to program your own behavior in the manner of an advanced Sim (a contention that your own behavior does not support, btw).

How do you square the two?

Posted by: creeper at December 7, 2004 1:49 AM

Faith.

Posted by: oj at December 7, 2004 7:14 AM


How can God be a subset of His Creation?

How does a Creation without a Creator make your theory simpler?

Posted by: oj at December 7, 2004 7:18 AM

Orrin,

"Faith."

Now how did I know you were going to say that? Not that you're predictable or anything... ;-)

Posted by: creeper at December 7, 2004 8:49 AM

Orrin,

"How does a Creation without a Creator make your theory simpler?"

I didn't say it would make the theory simpler, I said that if God were a subset of the universe, he would be simpler than the universe.

Posted by: creeper at December 7, 2004 8:53 AM

Still, Orrin:

1. You express confidence that science will advance to the point that it will actually be able to not just model the entire universe but to fast forward it to predict the future - despite this being a theoretical impossibility.

2. You say that it is (theoretically?) impossible to predict your behavior even as you posit such astounding and to us inconceivable other advances in science. You offer no theory or explanation why your behavior should be so utterly unpredictable, even while right now your behavior is already fairly predictable.


The two points don't add up to a coherent view: if science could do something so utterly astounding as to model the universe, what reason do you have to believe that you will still be able to surprise such a system - when you can't even surprise your friends and family today?

Your train of thought appears to be:

1. I am not completely predictable - nobody knows whether I will brush my teeth at 8:11 or 8:12.
2. Therefore I am unpredictable and have true free will. (even though you are pretty predictable in many ways - no more or less so than a cloud up in the sky)
3. Therefore nobody will ever be able to predict what I will do. (even though anyone that knows you can do that)
4. Therefore I am a more significant entity than a bug or a rabbit. (even though they are similarly predictable to yourself)
5. Therefore I am somehow non-material/stand above the laws of matter, even when I imagine other theoretical barriers being conquered by science. (even though we have nothing to suggest that we are more than matter - drop a rock on us or throw us in lava and we die, and there is no evidence of an afterlife)

It all comes down to: "I want to believe I'm special and more important than the matter of which I am composed; by simply believing that, I already become special in my own mind; I find this thought comforting; I can dismiss any indications to the contrary with the idea of belief/faith itself."

Your psyche creates faith; your faith creates God.

Posted by: creeper at December 7, 2004 9:14 AM

creeper:

The material world is rather basic and simple. We aren't. A rabbit is more interesting than a galaxy.

Posted by: oj at December 7, 2004 9:59 AM

Orrin,

Is a rabbit not part of the material world? Does a rabbit have a soul?

Posted by: creeper at December 7, 2004 10:01 AM

"A rabbit is more interesting than a galaxy."

A galaxy full of rabbits would be even more interesting then.

Posted by: creeper at December 7, 2004 10:05 AM

Yes, but instead there's just one place in Creation that's got anything of interest.

Posted by: oj at December 7, 2004 10:12 AM

Orrin,

"Yes, but instead there's just one place in Creation that's got anything of interest."

That would have to be the inside of your head, right? Since your thoughts are the only things you know for sure exist?

Posted by: creeper at December 7, 2004 10:35 AM

The fact that we're the only thing in the Universe that knows it even exists and that we can't be sure makes us the only matter that matters. Yes.

Posted by: oj at December 7, 2004 10:40 AM

Orrin,

"The material world is rather basic and simple. We aren't."

You can find incomplete explanations and descriptions of both 'us' and the 'material world' in textbooks. Once either description is complete, you can compare them and their relative levels of complexity.

It'll happen sometime before we can model the entire universe and forecast it.

Posted by: creeper at December 7, 2004 10:41 AM

Orrin,

"The fact that we're the only thing in the Universe that knows it even exists"

How do we know this?

Do we know for sure that a horse doesn't know it exists? Or a gorilla?

I'd call it an assumption, not a fact.

"and that we can't be sure makes us the only matter that matters. Yes."

I'll take it as, by necessity, being the first thing that matters. Beyond that, we have excess mental capacity to explore the rest of the universe as we are capable of perceiving it.

Posted by: creeper at December 7, 2004 10:49 AM

Judeo-Christianity, David Hume, the Big Bang, Fermi's Paradox, the Anthropic Principle, Darwinism, SETI, etc.--everything we know tells us we were Created, we're unique, and there's a purpose to the Universe.

Posted by: oj at December 7, 2004 10:55 AM

SETI?

SETI tells us that, from all we know, there are no intelligent, non-terrestrian lifeforms within our immediate (very immediate) cosmic vicinity. And when I say intelligent lifeforms, I actually mean a pretty minuscule subset of intelligent lifeforms, namely those capable of deciphering our signals (including possessing not just the intelligence, but also the appropriate technology) and returning a signal that we, in turn, are intelligent enough and in possession of the appropriate technology to decipher at this point in time. To this date, this can account for little more than a few dozen stars, and even if there were civilizations on the planets orbiting those stars that possessed the potential, but happened to be in the technological equivalent of where we were until roughly the twentieth century, based on SETI we wouldnít know about the existence of such an alien civilization.

And thatís just for the negligible number of planets in our immediate vicinity. Given the number of stars in any given galaxy, less than a hundred stars that have not responded to our signal allows us to deduce precisely nothing.

SETI may someday allow us to deduce that there are intelligent lifeforms on planets close to us, but we will never be able to definitively conclude from SETIís findings that there is no life anywhere else in the universe.

To bring this up in support of telling us that we were Created, weíre unique, and/or there is a purpose to the Universe would be a pretty crass example of intellectual dishonesty. Iíd prefer to give you the benefit of the doubt and believe that you made a simple and honest mistake by including this here. On the other hand, if Iím missing something here, feel free to explain.

Posted by: creeper at December 7, 2004 3:35 PM

Orrin,

could you tell me why you chose Darwinism as one of the pieces that would support your three conclusions?

Posted by: creeper at December 7, 2004 6:48 PM

It has no beginning, ends with us, and fails to explain what it puports to, thereby confirming Creation.

Posted by: oj at December 7, 2004 6:55 PM

It has no beginning,

The beginning of Darwinian evolution began sometime after the Big Bang that initiated the universe as we know it (UAWKI). It definitely has a beginning, although it would be impossible to accurately pinpoint it.

ends with us,

It hasn't ended. The Cockroach, the Ragweed and millions of other species are in the running to be there at "the end", whenever that is.

and fails to explain what it puports to,

It explains what it purports to better than any other theory.

thereby confirming Creation.

Nothing can confirm "Creation" because there is no working definition of it that lends itself to any prediction or can support any test that could confirm or deny it. Seven Day, 6000 year ago Creation is out the window based on its testable criteria.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 8, 2004 4:46 AM

Orrin,

you appear to be using 'confirm' to mean something closer to 'does not disprove'.

Posted by: creeper at December 8, 2004 9:08 AM

Re. what Dave W said earlier about the simple truth of "GOD IS". Why shouldn't the same simple acceptance apply to "THE UNIVERSE IS"?

Posted by: creeper at December 8, 2004 11:53 AM

creeper:I would agree, "THE UNIVERSE IS."

Robert: is there no working definition of "creation"? I thought you gave one, "...the big bang that initiated the universe."

Posted by: Dave W. at December 8, 2004 12:43 PM

Dave,

Wouldn't a simple acceptance of "THE UNIVERSE IS" mean that it is not necessary to look for an entity that created it?

It would be fine to believe in a creator, but the simple fact that the universe exists would then not be evidence in and of itself of a creator.

Posted by: creeper at December 8, 2004 3:22 PM

Dave,

Seems to me that the phrase "the big bang that initiated the universe" merely concerns itself with the concept of beginning, and does not imply a creator or an act of creation.

Be that as it may, since you threw this one out there as a working definition (albeit not your own), do you agree with it? If not, what would you propose as a working definition?

Posted by: creeper at December 8, 2004 3:26 PM

"It has no beginning, ends with us, and fails to explain what it puports to, thereby confirming Creation."

The technical term for that is non-sequitor.

Creeper:

There are two things OJ forgets. First, it is impossible to know the state of the universe at any given moment. Second, any simulation of the universe that was not in any way an abstraction would both be bigger, and use more energy than, the universe.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 8, 2004 4:57 PM

...

Some people just can't handle "dunno."

The question of existence is both simple, and unanswerable. Creeper, Robert, Harry, et al, are not fussed about saying "dunno."

Others demand Absolute Truth (Now, With More Powerful Capital Letters) in place of total ignorance, hence the plethora of Absolute Truths. Want to start a fight sometime, go to an Evengelical Convention and say "those Dispensationalists have it all wrong." Then run.

So they make up their particular version of Oaob, and turn total ignorance into Genesis, Virgin Birth, and Resurrection.

And, without a hint of irony, worship an Almight and Merciful God that could create the Earth out of whole cloth, yet be unable, or unwilling, to do anything about rampant maternal and infant mortality.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 8, 2004 5:12 PM

Jeff:
Are you saying that those who "demand Absolute Truth in place of total ignorance" never say "dunno"? Who are these people? What religion do they profess? How do you define "Absolute Truth" and "total ignorance"?

Posted by: Dave W. at December 8, 2004 10:21 PM

Jeff:
Are you saying that those who "demand Absolute Truth in place of total ignorance" never say "dunno"? Who are these people? What religion do they profess? How do you define "Absolute Truth" and "total ignorance"?

Posted by: Dave W. at December 8, 2004 10:21 PM

Jeff:
What religion worships the diety Oaob and do they know that they, in their total ignorance have turned to Genesis, the virgin birth and the resurrection for some reason? They sound like Roman Catholics. Are you saying that Roman Catholics are totally ignorant because they turn to Genesis, the virgin birth and the resurrection and call them Absolute Truths? Are people of religious faith still totally ignorant if they do not look to those three "truths" as Absolute Truths?

Posted by: Dave W. at December 8, 2004 10:28 PM

Jeff:
I am very sorry that the Roman Catholic church failed you. I wish that your questions and dissatisfaction w/the church hadn't lad you way from the Christian faith. That saddens me.

Posted by: Dave W. at December 8, 2004 10:45 PM

creeper:
True, the simple fact that the universe "is" isn't in and of itself evidence of a creator. I think though, that once one accepts that fact, it's only logical to ask "who or what set creative energy into motion?" among other questions about our universe and our existance in it. Science has been, and will always be unable to answer the who/what question. Why? Because that's a question of faith not science. It is by faith that all humans say "in the beginning 'x' happened." or "I dunno what happened in the beginning, but here's my theory..."

Posted by: Dave W. at December 8, 2004 11:39 PM

Dave W.

We both agree that the Universe had a start. What are the qualities that would qualify it as a "Creation"? As you stated, for the theist it is the assumption that the Universe's existence is due to the act of a personal being. But what are the testable predictions that can be made from this assumption? How can you scientifically confirm the created nature of the universe?

I think that the most important quality that would qualify the cause of the universe as a creator has to be the "personal" nature of this cause. If the cause is not recognizable as a personal being, is it fair to call it a creator? And what is meant by personal?

I think that belief/unbelief in this proposition, as you mentioned, is not the result of logical deduction so much as it is an act of pattern recognition. Your mind either recognizes the patterns you see in the world as an act of personal design, or you don't. I liken it to one of these optical illusion pictures, where there is a mass of random colors. By staring at it long enough, your mind will be able to make out a 3d image of something. Some people see the pattern, some people never do.

When I look at the Universe, I see the patterns of order that you see. I just cannot see the patterns as the act of a personal being. What do I define as personal? Something with a human personality is personal, that is the only example of a personal being that we know. The universe is far more complex, and far stranger, than anything that I could imagine that a human designer could craft.

One question that has to be answered when you say that something displays qualities of a designed artifact. What does it do? What was the purpose of the design? For human designed artifacts, we can usually recognize the purpose that it was designed for. So my question about the universe: what does it do? What is its designed purpose? If someone can explain this for me, I'd be inclined to believe that their is a designer behind the scenes, but I just don't see it.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 9, 2004 12:15 AM

Jeff,

"There are two things OJ forgets. First, it is impossible to know the state of the universe at any given moment. Second, any simulation of the universe that was not in any way an abstraction would both be bigger, and use more energy than, the universe."

Orrin appears confident that scientists will crack that barrier, but never the mysteries of his own behavior.

Posted by: creeper at December 9, 2004 5:46 AM

Dave,

thank you for your comments.

"True, the simple fact that the universe "is" isn't in and of itself evidence of a creator. I think though, that once one accepts that fact, it's only logical to ask "who or what set creative energy into motion?" among other questions about our universe and our existance in it."

How about "CREATIVE ENERGY IS"?

Alternatively, creative energy was not set in motion. A cosmic throw of the dice that happened to have resulted in us, whatever we are?

"Science has been, and will always be unable to answer the who/what question. Why? Because that's a question of faith not science. It is by faith that all humans say "in the beginning 'x' happened." or "I dunno what happened in the beginning, but here's my theory...""

Because the "who/what set the creative energy in motion" may well not have an answer. Those who insist that there be an answer very quickly discover the concept of faith - it closes the loop. Ahh, problem solved.

Posted by: creeper at December 9, 2004 5:53 AM

Robert,

"We both agree that the Universe had a start."

What if it doesn't? Inconceivable to us, but then so are many things.

Conversely, if one starts with an argument that the Universe did have a start, and then posits a Creator as having brought about that start, one has already eliminated that point in time as being the 'start' and simply moved it to an earlier time. You can see how this loops after a while.

Orrin implied upthread that there was no beginning, btw.

Posted by: creeper at December 9, 2004 9:55 AM

Dave, is there a working definition of Creation that you could propose?

Posted by: creeper at December 9, 2004 1:04 PM

Dave:

Thank you for joining in. The last thing Robert, creeper & I need is an echo chamber.

Through posting here, I am beginning to see how difficult it is to be a writer--getting ideas across both clearly and reliably is no easy trick.

For instance, my post was not in any particular way aimed at Roman Catholics, but far more inclined at Biblical & Quranic Literalists: those for whom the Text is Absolutely True Divinely Revealed Wisdom.

Those are the people for whom "dunno" is anathema. They proclaim possession of Absolute Truth, while wallowing in the same profound ignorance all the rest of us do. I in no way meant to imply religious people of whatever stripe are any more ignorant than anyone else. What I do intend to get across, though, is that some among us look at the problem of existence and say "dunno," while others instead create fairy tales masquerading as complete answers. That is wonderful as far as it goes.

Unfortunately, it often goes brutally further, whether as Aztec human sacrifice, pogroms, or OJ citing Leviticus as justification to stone adulterers, homosexuals and witches if only the darn government would get out of the way.

Which accounts for my invocation of the almighty deity, Oaob--an acronym for On Account of Because. Genesis, Virgin Birth, Resurrection, eschatology, Leviticus, Romans, ad infinitum are all manifestations of Oaob.

No matter the subject, materialists are never more than about four layers of description from dunno. And I think most religionists leaven their belief with a healthy smidgen of doubt. But far too many do not.

BTW--I was raised Episcopalean. Choir & Alter Boy. Nothing bad happened, ever. The Clergy were uniformly excellent people. But starting in my early teens, I increasingly was unable to escape the conclusion that, for me, it was an entirely empty exercise, of no more worth than an imaginary friend in the closet.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 9, 2004 9:18 PM

IN NOMINI DEI, AMEN!

Posted by: at December 10, 2004 8:51 PM

'Amen' signifies assent or approval. Wonder which part the anonymous poster was referring to.

Posted by: creeper at December 11, 2004 8:01 AM
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