Class Warfare Blog

April 10, 2019

Other Ways of Knowing?

Filed under: Philosophy,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:11 am
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As I read I am often presented with the dichotomy of the material and the spiritual, of the head and the heart.

“There is a wisdom of the head and a wisdom of the heart.”
Charles Dickens

And it appears to me that this is a consequence of some simple physiological facts. The sense through which we extract the most information is our vision. This gives us the impression that “we” (homunculus, whoever is driving this vehicle, whatever) reside inside of our heads. This illusion is very strong and quite understandable. Through our vision we may attend the entire world, from near to far and small to large in quiet contemplation. This ability does not seem to be a source of passion, rather “cold” intellect.

When we experience strong emotion, for whatever reason, it tends to affect our torsos in the form of restricted breathing or the reverse, panting, or a feeling of being punched in the stomach, generally accompanied by rapid heart beats. This creates the illusion that something else resides in our torsos. Since breathing is usually quiet, as is our heartbeat, they go unnoticed until their rates are jacked up to high rates and then we can hear them, internally.

Experience in killing animals and other humans points out the importance of the heart and lungs. Break or have a finger cut off and you will survive. Take a spear thrust in a lung and you will die, slowly. Take a spear thrust in the heart and you will die quickly. A hierarchy is therefore created as to which sources of the sounds of our life are most important: life’s blood, the breath of life, etc.

Is this the source of the idea of spirituality? Does anything qualifying as spirituality even exist? What is it really? As much as I love Joe Campbell’s writing on this topic I am still wondering whether spirituality is just an illusion we have become comfortable with, much as a number of philosophers now argue that conscious thoughts are illusions, possibly even consciousness as a whole being an illusion.

That spirituality is tied to strong emotions is no surprise. Using human passion as a lever to control people’s behavior also seems a workable approach for religions. Much of my religion’s tradition was wrapped in the words and imagery of strong emotion (Jesus loves you, the Passion, Brides of Christ, etc.).

Most religions diminish the role of the “head” and emphasize the role of the “heart” (or chakras, or stomach, or . . .). This war between the head and the heart rumbles on today in discussions between religious apologists and “secularists.”

Can this discussion be resolved? I suspect not soon, but it has clearly taken a modern twist, begun I think by William James (The Varieties of Religious Experience) and continued by the likes of Daniel Dennett (Breaking the Spell, et. al.). These worthies have been applying the tools of science, especially those of biological evolution, to explain the human experience of religion (with much resistance without and within the academic community). Will any of that discussion affect ordinary folks like you and me? That remains to be seen. Possible the rise in the numbers of Americans no longer claiming association with an organized religion (the “Nones”) is a sign, maybe it is not. Please note that an organized religion is not a requirement for having religious experiences. People had these things before organized religions existed and will likely have them after. Understanding their sources is therefore important.

 

 

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April 8, 2019

Belief in Belief

I am working my way through Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett, one of my favorite philosophers. In that book he discusses “belief in belief” meaning that people exhibit the belief that believing in a god is very important but the details (which god, which way, etc.), not as much. (I always answer the question “Do you believe in god?” with “Which one?” The question “Do you believe in God?” is more often Do you believe in my god? or Do you believe in a god?) And Dennett claims that as time has gone on, more religions are requiring less belief and more professing, that is as a member of a church, you are to profess A, B, C, etc. whether you believe them or not (although they prefer you would believe them). They are requiring belief less and behavior more.

I have been thinking about this damned topic for at least 60 years and I am reaching some interesting positions, namely:

  • Since belief in belief is so important and possibly innate, we have therefore created gods by the bushel, to have foci for our beliefs.
    Joseph Campbell, another of my intellectual heroes, states “The gods are personifications of the energies that inform life—the very energies that are building the trees and moving the animals and whipping up the waves in the ocean. The very energies that are in your body are personified as gods. They are alive and well in everybody’s life. Most traditions realize this—that deities are personifications, not facts. They are metaphors. They are not references to anything you can put your finger on, or your eye on.”
  • People profess a belief in god as a social marker to proclaim “I am a good person, you can trust me.”
    This is why if you do not profess to believe in a god, you are proclaiming that you are not trustworthy (and are therefore scary, and eat babies, etc.).
  • Since people are basically confined in religious geographical regions (your religion is determined by where you were born) most people do not encounter “others” in any quantity, we are “normal” and they are not.
  • Religions have no incentive to help people understand other religions, as it might lose them dues paying members.
    In fact, they have an incentive to demonize, vilify, obfuscate, etc. those other religions. There is, therefore, very little understanding of those “other” religions or even denominations of the same religion (Protestant fundamentalists argue that Catholics are not “true Christians.”)
  • A consequence of science contradicting religious claims from antiquity, is that deities are becoming more and more vague/amorphous.
    Some of the religious-minded claim human minds cannot know their god. (How they can know their god and “all people” so well is not discussed.) Some call their god the “ground of all being” . . . WTF? This is not a drawback for the religions as the “mystery” sells well.
  • Arguing over proofs of the existence of a god or gods (one of my past preoccupations) is futile because almost everyone has their own definition and very, very few of them are well defined.
    There are more people who believe in belief than who believe in a god and the number of gods, historically, is immense. The idea of their god is so amorphous it is hard for any believer to accept that any argument you might make would apply to their god.
  • In the U.S. surveys show that American women are more religious than American men, substantially so.
    Since a simple characterization of a god as someone/something who watches over you and protects you (makes rules protecting you, etc.), this seems a logical consequence. Women are subject to more threats than are men.
  • As the science fiction/fantasy tales portray, we give gods power by believing in them.
    When people stop believing, those gods fade from memory and become “myths.” They sure as hell were not myths when people believed in them, serious actions were made at their “direction.”

As Voltaire is claimed to have said “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” “He” does not, so “we” did . . . over and over and over.

I conclude with another quote from Joseph Campbell “(T)here are only two ways to misunderstand a myth and our civilization has managed to do both. One is to think that the myth refers to a geographical or historical fact—Jesus rose from the dead, Moses got the law at the top of a mountain, that sort of thing. The other is to think that the myth refers to a supernatural fact, or an actual event, that’s going to happen in the future—the resurrection of Jesus, or the second coming. Our whole religious tradition is based upon these two misunderstandings. (. . .) It’s a terrible tragedy. These misunderstandings of our myth have caused us to lose the vocabulary of the spirit.”

I can only add that there is a benefit to this situation to those who wish to enrich themselves alone, to those who think an economic system is a competitive playground, rather than a way to enrich everyone’s lives. People who see trees as something to cut down and sell only or coal as something to dig and burn with no consequences. “It is a terrible tragedy.”

December 21, 2018

Update on Free Will

Filed under: Philosophy,Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:29 am
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Currently I am reading two books by authors with similar names neither of which I had heard before. I have already commented on Sam Pizzagati’s The Rich Do Not Always Win, an history of the early twentieth century that resulted in the largest middle class in American history. I strongly recommend this book as the rhetoric on both sides of the “wealth inequality” debate is quite illuminating.

The second book is by Michael S. Gazziniga entitled Who’s in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain. This book is fabulous as it is written by a neuroscientist, one who is taking his fellow scientists to task in the free will debate.

I have previously argued that it is far too early in the scientific investigation of free will to come to any conclusion, certainly not one with such large ramifications as whether we have free will or all of our decisions being determined by physical causes. This author provides a piece of this discussion that I had not heard before and it is a lollapalooza.

He starts with addressing free will in the context of responsibility, the primary question is “Can we hold people responsible for their decisions?” (If not our criminal justice system is far worse off than it already is.) This is enough of a foothold on free will to proceed. After going over the neurological research that seems to apply to the question he makes the following argument: consciousness is an emergent property of brains possessing enough connections. This is not a revelation, most people buy into this conclusion. He then goes on to claim that emergent properties represent a disconnect from the basic physical conditions that create the property in the first place! If this holds up, then determinism is done for, toast, kaput, won’t apply, because there are quite a few layers of emergent mental properties stacked up that the basic physical entities (atoms, molecules, DNA, genes, etc.) will not be able to get through.

He gives as an example the building of a car. A careful designer can create a car with its engine, transmission, differential, wheels, tires, electronics, etc. that will perform pretty much exactly as designed. (I have just finished reading a book on the design of the most recent iteration of the Ford GT race car. It was designed to win the 24 Hours at Le Mans race … and did. This is an example of determinism, the whole being the sum of its parts.) But … you knew that was coming, didn’t you? … but none of a car’s physical parameters, its specifications, can explain … traffic. When you take automobiles and roads, traffic shows up as an emergent property and traffic cannot be predicted from nor can it be determined by any car’s design! And if this weren’t enough, the author claims that the emergent properties affect the original vehicles through feedback. For example, this souped up race car might overheat badly in beep and creep traffic, so has to have to be modified or just garaged and not driven on normal roads. (I haven’t finished this second part of his argument but basically he argues “that the mind, which is somehow generated by the physical processes of the brain, constrains the brain.” The mind constrains the brain. Think about that. (There are many examples of this happening, but like I said I haven’t finished this part yet.)

This argument about emergent properties blocking deterministic causes seems to blow the argument of free will v. determinism out of the water with determinism the loser. We have to wait and see if it holds up.

So, what do you think? Is consciousness and therefore free will determined such that we actually have only the illusion of free will and making our own choices, or is making conscious choices an emergent ability not determined by physical inputs to our brains? (The author explains why we all have the perception of an “I” making decisions by the way, even though “I” does not exist.”

 

November 13, 2018

#10 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A week and a half or so back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #10!

  1. Purpose and Meaning. For anything to have purpose and meaning, God must exist. If Hawking is right in that the universe is all there is and there is nothing else, nothing, including his research, has any meaning or value. Meaning, value, and purpose are found only because God exists.

Now this is an argument! Step 1: Include your conclusion in your first premise. Ta da! “For anything to have purpose and meaning, God must exist.” I suggest that these people are making the fundamental error in their belief that purpose and meaning for their lives comes from without. If that is true then when someone dies, their purpose and meaning live on! How that happens is beyond me. Purpose and meaning are things that are created by humans. My argument? If humans were to disappear instantaneously, what would happen to all of our meaning and purpose? Would alien archeologists coming to investigate the remains of our civilization be able to determine what they were? (Basically I think they would conclude that city dwellers would have been obsessed with collecting dog shit in little plastic bags that they preserved in large plastic, wheeled tubs for some religious purpose as there seems to be no practical purpose for that.)

As a counter argument I offer the following from Jonathan Gamer:

The Existential Argument Against God’s Existence
(Jonathan Garner)

  1. It is a known fact that many people find their life and journey to be meaningless, purposeless, and many humans/animals find life not worth living/continuing.
    2. Premise 1 is very surprising on the hypothesis of classical theism, but not surprising on the hypothesis of indifference.
    3. The intrinsic probability of indifference is much greater than that of classical theism.
    4. Therefore, other evidence held equal, classical theism is very probably false.
    Clarification
    It is important to notice that Premise 1 isn’t so much concerned with objective values. In other words, perhaps every life really does have intrinsic value and purpose. Nevertheless, some people don’t see this.

And To Conclude …
The list’s author makes the truly astounding comment that:

“I could certainly list other reasons to believe in God’s existence. But these will suffice for now. (Stephen) Hawking was a man of great intellect. Yet, despite his great mental prowess, it is quite odd that he could never quite see the evidence for God. While he could see, he was quite blind. Hawking said that ‘religion is a fairy tale for those afraid of the dark.’ I believe John Lennox provided a stronger claim by noting that ‘atheism is a fairy tale for those afraid of the light.’”

These are not serious claims, of course, but opinions. And the comment “Yet, despite his great mental prowess (Hawking’s), it is quite odd that he could never quite see the evidence for God.” is just priceless considering the offering of the wimpy intellectual arguments of this list. The arguments were almost juvenile and certainly lacking in development even compared to the arguments available from the current crop of apologists. That a genius couldn’t see what a simpleton could, doesn’t bring the genius’s comments into dispute.

 

November 12, 2018

#9 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A week or so back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #9!

  1. Near-Death Experiences and Consciousness. This is a fascinating area of study. Gary Habermas has noted that there are over 100 medically confirmed cases of near-death experiences where people have died and reported events that happened on this side of eternity which could be corroborated by others. The events described along with experiences of meeting God and the feelings of peace add to the case for God’s existence. Most certainly near-death experiences prove that materialism is a dead philosophy.

This one is a little confusing as I do not see what “and Consciousness” serves in the header. The comments are only about near death experiences, so I will address those only.

Again, this is a matter of interpretation. I grant all such experiences are “real” in the fashion that they represent mental states that the experiencers can describe. I have problem with the interpretations, of course.

To detail just one example, Air Force pilots often undergo centrifuge experiences as part of their training. These centrifuges set the pilots up in a cockpit like environment on one end of a beam with a counterweight at the other. Then the beam is spun at high rpm to simulate the g forces that one can encounter in high speed/acceleration fighter planes. The purpose of the training is to acquaint the pilots with the symptoms of g forces so they can control their aircraft so as to not cause themselves to black out while piloting.

I have been told that when pilots in training undergo their first such training experience they are not told what they will feel as almost every single person who experiences those g forces wants to “do it again” right away. Part of the experience involves the g forces causing blood to move toward the head more slowly causing significant disorientation. This process, if carried through, results in not a “fade to black” as the term “blacked out” infers but a fade to white as the ability to process the nerve signals coming from the eyes diminishes. There is also a feeling of tremendous well being that accompanies this which explains the “I want to do it again” attitude of all of the newbies. (The brain cannot process pain signals either as it becomes starved of its energy supply.) So, vision diminishes down to white light and a feeling of peace and happiness occurs because the brain is deprived of the blood it needs to function.

As one is dying, mental functions diminish in a like fashion and one can end up seeing a “white light” and having a feeling of peace and contentment. All of this having reasonable physiological reasons for it. But people who experience these sensations and report them because they came back from their near death experience describe these as “seeing god” or “seeing heaven” or “feeling the presence of god.” All of these interpretations are just that, interpreting sensations that occurred in a way that matches the beliefs and expectations of the experiencer. (How often is it reinforced for believers that they will meet god when they die?) And, of course, people from different religious cultures have different interpretations.

So, what do these “near death experiences” prove? Well, they cannot prove anything, unless the claimants that these are proof for the belief in a god establish the process by which one enters into heaven and experiences their god. What if they find out, as many have claimed, that there is a three day waiting period before one can enter Heaven? What if their god never greets people personally but has an entire cadre of heavenly greeters who do that task for it?

Where are the details believers? How can you say these near death experiences match your beliefs when your beliefs are wishy-washy and vague in the extreme? Is there a list of 10 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife?

November 7, 2018

Sometimes You Don’t Have to Even Read the Book! Part 2

Filed under: Philosophy,Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:05 am
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Another Amazon.com posting supplies all we need to know about a book without reading it. The book is: An End to Upside Down Thinking: Dispelling the Myth That the Brain Produces Consciousness, and the Implications for Everyday Life by Mark Grober. Here’s the blurb.

Consciousness creates all material reality. Biological processes do not create consciousness. This conceptual breakthrough turns traditional scientific thinking upside down. In An End to Upside Down Thinking, Mark Gober traces his journey – he explores compelling scientific evidence from a diverse set of disciplines, ranging from psychic phenomena, to near-death experiences, to quantum physics. With cutting-edge thinkers like two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr. Ervin Laszlo, Chief Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences Dr. Dean Radin, and New York Times bestselling author Larry Dossey, MD supporting this thesis, this book will rock the scientific community and mainstream generalists interested in understanding the true nature of reality. Today’s disarray around the globe can be linked, at its core, to a fundamental misunderstanding of our reality.

This book aims to shift our collective outlook, reshaping our view of human potential and how we treat one another. The book’s implications encourage much-needed revisions in science, technology, and medicine. General readers will find comfort in the implied worldview, which will impact their happiness and everyday decisions related to business, health and politics. Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time meets Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.

Mark Gober is an author whose worldview was turned upside down in late 2016 when he was exposed to world-changing science. After researching extensively, he wrote An End to Upside Down Thinking to introduce the general public to these cutting-edge ideas – all in an effort to encourage a much-needed global shift in scientific and existential thinking. Mark is a senior member of Sherpa Technology Group, a firm that advises businesses on mergers & acquisitions and strategy. He previously worked as an investment banking analyst in New York. Mark has been quoted for his opinions on business and technology matters in Bloomberg Businessweek and elsewhere, and he has authored internationally published business articles. He graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University, where he was captain of the tennis team.

The last paragraph supplies the author’s credentials for writing a book on human consciousness. He is a neuroscientist … uh, no … he is a philosopher … uh, no. He is a business strategist! And he was captain of the tennis team! They do not state what his degree was but a short Internet search turned up “psychology, focusing on behavioral economics” as the topic. Apparently that makes sense in the context of his career choices but it didn’t seem to focus on the problem of consciousness.

So, credentials smedentials, who needs ‘em. I have opinions on all kinds of things. But I wonder how it is that this guy stumbled upon a discovery whose “implications encourage much-needed revisions in science, technology, and medicine” uncovering the “true nature of reality.” Wow!

Well, I am a bit suspicious, especially with regard to people who argue that consciousness may not be localized to the brain. Currently we have no evidence whatsoever that this is true. In fact, we do not even have a solid definition of what consciousness is. But there are myriad people lined up making this claim and they are universally religious, because if this claim is not true then there is no “spiritual realm” nothing “existing outside of space and time” and neither are there any of the other cool fantasies cooked up to save religious ideas.

In any case, the author argues that consciousness precedes the material world, so our brains don’t create consciousness, our consciousness creates our brains! Uh, so when did consciousness emerge? If we link it to humans, then we are talking about just several million years ago. So, was there a material world before that? Apparently not if consciousness is necessary to create a material world, so this is firm evidence against the hypothesis he puts forward. Oh, you say God is a consciousness which has been there since the beginning of all matter … oh, I thought so.

November 6, 2018

#6 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A few days back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #6!

  1. Science and Mathematics. Ironically, the scientific method and mathematics appeal to God’s existence. Scientists hold that the universe operates according to certain laws on a regular basis. The ability to do science itself means that human beings have been given cognitive abilities to observe the universe and, interestingly, have been placed in a position where the universe is observable. One must inadvertently appeal to the divine to even do science and mathematics. To add to this point, the beauty one finds in nature would have no real aesthetic value unless God exists.

This is several “arguments” in one. Basically, it is “we must thank God for the gifts of beauty, science, math, and the brains to perceive them.”

This is a stupid argument.

Basically this is a list of things we are in awe of and claiming a source for them all. But what about all of the other things available to us? Do we thank god for all of the ugly, nasty things? How about the diseases he created, like the Black Plague, smallpox, cancer, diabetes, syphilis, etc. And then there are those terrible predators and poisonous insects and reptiles. (Oh, my!) Must we thank “Him” for those too.

Basically, this is a hold over from Plato and his theory of absolutes and forms. We have only one teeny tiny corner of the universe to observe and these idiots want to claim that it is the best that could possibly be, so it must have been created by a god. Well, how many solar systems, galaxies, and universes have these people examined? What if we find out after all of these years that we have been relegated to a low rent slum of a planet and other gods have created far cooler planets for their believers. Argh!

This is not even an argument. There is no connection between the premises and the conclusion. The premises are, also, cherry picked.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

And this further supports the position that these people have no real connection with their god. If they did, a lame ass excuse for an argument to believe, like this one, wouldn’t rate #6 on a top ten list. A god should be able to supply much better reasons.

And, really, couldn’t the author have looked up a reasonable statement of the argument from beauty? I presume he did but he is clearly trying to wrap these arguments in modern garb to not display the fact they have been around, and been refuted, for centuries, so all of the other claptrap was needed.

Here is an actual version:

The Argument From Beauty

1. There are many beautiful things all over the world.
2. Only a god who is beautiful and unchangeable could have made these beautiful things.
3. Therefore, God exists.

Here it is refuted.

The Evolutionary Argument for Beauty

1. There are many beautiful things all over the world.
2. There once were humans who did not see the beauty in such things and they were so depressed that they didn’t live long enough to pass on their genes.
3. Therefore, only people who can see beauty still exist.
4. Therefore, a god is unnecessary as a creator of beauty.

 

 

 

November 4, 2018

#5 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A few days back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #5!

  1. Explanation for Data (Information Argument). Why is there anything at all? Even though the quantum world is a strange place, it still behaves according to certain laws. Why are there quantum particles? Quantum fields? Why do physical processes and procedures exist? One explanation: God. For any data to exist, a programmer must exist. That Programmer must be God himself.

Again, this is an old argument wrapped up in new science. (Quantum, My Precious, we hasss quantum.) This argument is based upon the question “Why is there something rather than nothing? People have been discussing this for millenia, so it is not any newer than most of the other items on this list.

Rather than delve into the specifics one can discuss around this question, such as the question can only exist in universe in which there is something, allow me to address the structure of this argument, and really many of the others.

A logical argument has the following structure:

Premises (premise 1, premise 2, etc.)
Applied logic/argumentation
Conclusion

This argument has the following structure:

Premises (premise 1, premise 2, etc.)
Opinion
Conclusion

So, the premises are stated:
1. Quantum particles exist
2. Quantum field exist
3. Even these strange particles obey “laws” or rules of behavior
4. physical processes and procedures exist

Then the opinion comes: there can be only one explanation, God

Then the argument follows, out of place in the form of a conclusion: “for any data to exist, there needs to be a programmer,” which is not in any way connected to the premises.

Obviously, “God” means the Abrahamic god, but there is nothing in the argument that says why this god is indicated (There is a hidden premise here “We all know there is but one god.”), so it could be Visnu or the Flying Spaghetti Monster for all we know.

Clearly this “argument” is completely distorted by the presupposed opinion of the arguer. I am reminded of Bertrand Russell’s opinion of Thomas Aquinas as a philosopher (in part):

“He does not, like the Platonic Socrates, set out to follow wherever the argument may lead. He is not engaged in an inquiry, the result of which it is impossible to know in advance. Before he begins to philosophize, he already knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith. If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation. The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 2, 2018

#4 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

A few days back I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #4!

  1. Necessary Being (Ontological Argument). In the end, one only has two options. Either an eternal nothingness (meaning again, “no-thing,” not even quantum particles) brought forth something from absolute nothingness, or an eternal Being brought everything that exists into being. The latter makes far more sense and actually adheres more to the scientific method than the former.

This argument is just utter nonsense. There are almost no occasions in which there are just two possibilities, for one. There is even an old Jewish saying (or so I was told) which states: “Whenever presented with a choice of two options, always take the third.” This was presented to me with the story of an elderly woman shopping for vegetables. She asks the greengrocer “How much are the tomatoes?” He replies “Two for 79 cents.” She asks “How much for just one?” He replies “40 cents.” She says “I’ll take the other one.”

To show the utter vacuity of this argument, allow me to rephrase it slightly:

  1. Unnecessary Being (Ontological Argument). In the end, one only has two options. Either an eternal nothingness (meaning again, “no-thing,” not even quantum particles) brought forth something from absolute nothingness, or an eternal Being brought everything that exists into being. The former makes far more sense and actually adheres more to the scientific method than the latter.

Ta da. Just changes two words and now it makes far more sense.

How is the formulation of an utterly fantastic and totally unique magical entity better than “we do not know,” because in truth we do not yet know how the universe came into being? From that point of beginning onward, the universe seems to be self-organizing along the lines of a small set of simple rules, thus requiring no angels or other imaginary beings keeping it going, which was part of the total scheme along with creation by a god. Most of those original claims (pillars of the earth, animating angels, heavenly spheres, etc.) have been abandoned as science has whittled away the basis for believe such things to exist. We are down to the final surly knot that is quite resistant to whittling but will succumb eventually and then we will be free of gods and superstition, if we so choose.

 

October 30, 2018

#2 of the 10 Reasons to Believe God Exists

Yesterday I covered #1 on this list, so if you need to see where this list was posted and by whom, please consult that post. Here is #2!

  1. Designed Creation (Teleological Argument). Hugh Ross has argued that there are over 180 cosmological constants in the universe so finely tuned that if they were to be changed by the nth degree, life and the universe itself would not exist. Even the theoretical multiverse would need to be designed to such a degree that it would require a designer. I believe wholeheartedly that physicists will eventually find design attributes and constants in the quantum realm if they haven’t already. Design argues for a Designer.

Once again, this is not a new argument, variants of it having been made by Plato and Aristotle and even earlier philosophers. The scientific window dressing is new and also incorrect. (Hugh Ross* was wrong! Gasp!) For one, there are not 180 “cosmological constants.” What are being referred to is a much smaller set of fundamental physical constants. When this “fine tuning” argument was first made, it inspired a number of physicists to investigate if it were true (the criticism of the conjecture and criticism of science). It turns out that a fair amount of variation in several of the parameters is not at all destructive. We also don’t know if these parameters are fundamentally linked somehow that they all influence the others to make them what they are.

The fundamental flaw in the argument is, again, the powers and identity of any claimed designer are not inferable from the design. Arguments like “God must look like us because we were made in His image” are, of course, circular. So, again, our universe could have been created by a powerful alien, like the character Q in the Star Trek franchise, for example. The creation and the design are not necessarily from the same source, either. (Outside of space and time, there may be pre-packaged “Acme Universe Creation Kits” for all we know.)

All of that aside, there is something fundamentally wrong with this argument. The argument for “the existence of God from the evidence of order, and hence design, in nature” mistakes order for design. In fact, the “intelligent design” crowd has never been able to come up with a coherent definition of “intelligent design.”

Clearly patterns abound in nature. Many mineral substances create highly ordered crystals that can be found lying around on or in the ground. Ordinary table salt (sea salt, NaCl, etc.) forms crystals shaped like little cubes. With some encouragement, those crystals can grow to be large, clear, and quite beautiful. The reason those crystals appear and grow as they do is that they are made of sodium and chloride ions (Na+ and Cl–) arranged in alternating fashion in all three cardinal directions. Well, who organizes them this way? They organize themselves by the simple attraction and repulsion of their electrical charges. Each ion has six ions of the opposite charge above and below, to the left and right, and front and back, there is another set of ions that are repulsive because they are of the same charge, but they are 40% farther away and the rule of attraction is an inverse square law, with the distance being the thing both inverse and square, so the repulsions are fully twice as weak as the attractions. If you continue to study chemistry and biology, you will quickly see that nature is self-organizing, no Organizer™ needed. The organizing principles are simple physical behaviors described by simple physical laws. Complexities arise naturally when large numbers of different atoms and molecules get involved.

So, nature is literally steeped in patterns, and along we come. Our brains are clearly designed (by evolution) to see patterns. We see patterns when they are not even there (many optical illusions are based upon this). Why? Because our survival as individuals and, hence, as a species is enhanced by this ability.

So, patterns, patterns, everywhere is the structure of our environment. But patterns and designs are two different things. The touters of the teleological argument claim that all reasonably complex patterns are actually designs. They have established no criteria for how one can tell this, basically they are claiming this “because God.” (Note that the author claims that “physicists will eventually find design attributes.” Why? Because they have not yet been found. So, if “design argues for a designer” and there are no designs yet found, what would you conclude?)  Again, they have a presupposed solution and generate a problem to fit it. If you pick up an ordinary rock, does it look “designed”? If you pick up an extraordinary natural crystal, like a gemstone, does it look designed?

The theory of evolution, on the other hand, shows over and over and over how these patterns form in living things. It also points out flaws in the patterns from nature’s use of already developed genetic instructions that were easily modified and cause what happened, but resulted in actually hazardous designs. The argument from design has no such process other than “God did it.”

* “Hugh’s unshakable confidence that God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture and nature do not, will not, and cannot contradict became his unique message. Communicating that message as broadly and clearly as possible became his mission. He scouts the frontiers of origins research to share with scientists and nonscientists alike the thrilling news of what’s being discovered and how it connects with biblical theology.” (Source: A “Just Right Universe” by Hugh Ross, Ph.D.)

It seems Dr. Ross has a bias (“do not, will not, and cannot” aren’t scientific attitudes) he is willing to share.

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