“Other ways of knowing” purpose?

A recent panel discussion in Mexico debated the question “Does the universe have a purpose?” The speakers for the affirmative were Rabbi David Wolpe, William Lane Craig and Douglas Geivett. And for the negative Matt Ridley, Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins.

I don’t think the discussion was very good. Contributions were short and the original video is in Spanish. It’s also full of hoopla. Reminds we of an international scientific congress I attended in Mexico some time ago. All the official meetings involved many young women as decoration. And the Mexicans are certainly a very musical people. Music was everywhere.

However, I have included a video below of the short contribution made by Richard Dawkins in this discussion. It gives an idea of the issues discussed:

Prof.Richard Dawkins destroys Dr.William Lane C…, posted with vodpod

A local exchange

This debate ended up provoking me into a small exchange with some local theologically inclined philosophers (or is it philosophically inclined theologians). Well, I guess you know the futility of such exchanges but it did manage to elucidate some attitudes on the ability of science to answer questions about the universe .

It started with a claim that Dawkins should not have participated in the Mexican discussion because the issue was not scientific. (Presumably this complaint also covered Ridley and Shermer – but you know how some people can’t see past the word “Dawkins”).

This critic of science claimed: “Science can’t even put its hands on that question because it lays behind the domain of the scientific. It’s like science attempting to answer the question of whether or not the universe was intended. It has nothing to say.”

Well, charges of “scientism” followed and it was claimed that the question of purpose is a “religious and philosophical (not scientific) question.” Then came the old charge that scientists assert “science is the only valid knowledge” and reference to “other ways of knowing.” Ho hum, if I had a penny for each time these red herrings were dragged out . . . ?

Jerry Coyne (from the science perspective) and Russell Blackford (from a humanities perspective) have been discussing similar charges lately (see Keeping the humanities alive and Keeping the humanities alive – and a bit on “other ways“). I liked this comment from Russell on “other ways of knowing”:

“But this whole “other ways of knowing” is a pain in the arse. It’s a phrase that tends to be used by people who want to devalue scientific knowledge, treating it as just one more interpretation of the world, no more true than that contained in mythology, holy books, reports of mystical experiences, etc., or at least by people who want to be able to say that whatever is contained in mythology, holy books, reports of mystical experiences, etc., may be true, and that human reason cannot check up on it.”

Such discussions usually produce more heat than light, but it’s worth briefly pondering some of the issues involved.

Is “purpose” outside the science domain?

If purpose or intent have any reality they will be reflected in the details of the universe. Take the Rev Pailey’s watch on the heath. A scientific investigation of such a found artifact could reveal that it had a purpose, surely.  So a purpose or intent for the universe (which I guess implies some sort of “creator”) should surely be reflected in the structure, history and functioning of the universe – like the cogs and spring in a watch. Sure, the evidence may be equivocal. But given the excellent record the methods of science has in investigating the universe it is surely the method of choice for attempting to detect purpose or intent.

And this is what even the advocates of “intelligent design” do. They look for “evidence” in bacterial flagella, DNA, fine tuning of physical constants, etc. They don’t use “another way” – although one can of course question the way they use science.

Can science know everything?

This is a common straw man – because no-one makes that claim!

While we can agree that the modern scientific method is a very successful way of investigating and understanding the universe, objective reality, this does not deny limits – even in this area. Lets, face it – our species did not evolve to understand reality – purely to survive. Consequently objective reasoning and discovery doesn’t come easy to us – it is unnatural. Science has developed procedures that help us overcome our subjectivity, our emotional attachment to beliefs, and normal human bias and a desire to confirm that bias.  Logical reasoning and empirical evidence, testing and validation may not always produce an exact description of reality – but it is a hell of a lot better than any alternative! Or, more correctly, if and when we find effective alternatives they will be incorporated into the scientists toolbox.

And science is cumulative and self-correcting. I liked Lawrence Krauss‘s comment in his book Hiding in the Mirror:

“What is too often underappreciated about science is that almost all of the ideas it proposes turn out to be wrong.”

As I explained in  Most ideas in science are wrong!:

“It is in the nature of the scientific method that ideas, hypotheses, are proposed and most of these turn out to be wrong. And we know they are wrong because the ideas are tested in practice, by experiment, measurements and observations of reality. It is the ideas or hypotheses which survive such testing that are incorporated into scientific theory, become part of accepted scientific knowledge. Even then, of course, such knowledge is relative. New discoveries often lead to modification, or even replacement, of a scientific theory if it is proved to be inadequate.”

A corollary of this is that ideas or theories resulting from “other ways of knowing” which don’t incorporate empirical evidence, checking and verification are just as likely to be wrong. You just wouldn’t know it! (Which is, of course, very convenient for people peddling these “other ways”).

Nor do we deny epistemological limits. There may be aspects of reality which are just beyond our investigation and/or understanding because of technological limits and/or the limits of the human mind. There may be aspects of reality which just can’t be comprehended by the human mind. As Stephen Pinker said (see Science Is Culture: Conversations at the New Intersection of Science + Society):

“one expects there should be problems that the mind is incapable of grasping, simply because of the way it is put together. . . there may be limitations to the way the human brain works that make certain problems eternally paradoxical.”

But of course, being human, we are inquisitive. We shouldn’t refuse the attempt at investigation and understanding just because we recognise our possible limitations. Maybe one day we will have to just give up and admit defeat. But I suspect we are a way off that yet.

Beware of anyone who wishes to ring-fence part of reality and deny science has a right to move beyond their fence. Especially as they are usually busy peddling their own myths or faith as “explanations” for those areas. They don’t appear willing to accept limitations to their own “ways of knowing.”

What are these other ways of knowing?

I could go into the “other ways of knowing” I actually see as valid. There are plenty in the political, ethical and social spheres. Situations where science may inform but decisions are made by humans using other non-scientific reasons. Emotional, ethical and political aspects may play a determining role.

But I will leave it with this illustration from the current problem of human induced climate change using a quote from Andy Reisinger’s book Climate Change 101: An Educational Resource:

“We need to draw a clear distinction between the role of science and political decisions about how to respond to information. The IPCC reports take great care to provide policy-relevant but not policy-prescriptive evaluations of the scientific state of knowledge. Decision on whether, when, and by how much to reduce emissions, and  how to facilitate adaption, remain ultimately political decisions that can be informed  by scientific assessments such as those provided by the IPCC.”

Obviously these political decisions include ethical and social considerations.

Usually the “other ways of knowing” is an argument by default. Those using it often get confused when asked to describe their “other ways.” Suddenly this discussion diverts from objective reality of the universe to “science can’t describe love or art?”

However, I did manage to get some answers from my local protagonists and they are worth considering

Logical inference

The most sensible response was the use of “pure logic”:

“one very obvious way of acquiring knowledge that doesn’t involve any of the sciences is logical inference, either from analytic truths or from other truths that might be scientific or might not.”

I think this is an important one because it is often used by theologians  and philosophers of religion when attempting to decry science. I suspect it reflects their specific training as it displays an ignorance of the true nature and history of science. It also indicates how much theology and religious philosophy is buried in medieval philosophy.

Logical reasoning has long been used by humanity in its efforts to investigate and understand the universe. But an important component of modern science is the use of empirical evidence and our testing and validation of ideas and theory empirically.

I suggest that when theologians advocate logical inference and analytical truths as an alternative to science they are expressing a desire to remove the annoyance of empirical evidence and testing. They are attempting to return to a “stripped down” medieval version of science.

One could go into a detailed consideration  of deductive logic vs inductive logic. But here are some important considerations.

In principle deductive logic may produce the correct conclusion – if it starts with the correct premise. And logical laws are correctly followed. It’s reliance on premise makes it very conservative – you only get out what you put in. And how does one check?

Humans, being humans, automatically attempt to confirm their biases. They will choose the most convenient premise to start with. They will fudge their logical steps.  The ability to count to 3 is not a guarantee of correct logic.

How do you know if you are wrong without empirical evidence and testing?

Revelation and testimony

Yeah, right. Of course these would be great – if they worked. It would save a lot of time and expense in research if we could just consult the “holy” scripture, accept the assurance of the Pope, priests, theologians, Imams or the guy raving on the street corner.  But come off it. This method has been tested – it doesn’t work.

Instinctive religious awareness

Since when has this provided us information on how the universe functions? How chemistry works? How physics and biology work?

Would you rely on such awareness when it comes to your health and safety? Would you step aboard an airplane constructed on the basis of such “awareness.?”

Memory and intuitions

Of course we rely on our intuitions and memory in our day to day activity. That is their role, why we have evolved such abilities. But as I said above, we did not evolve to objectively investigate and understand reality. Our memories and intuitions often let us down in such endeavors.

So much of objective reality is counter-intuitive. How could it be otherwise as we have evolved in a rather limited part of reality. Our intuitive reactions let us down when we come to investigate the very small, very large or very fast.

Counting teeth

All the “other ways of knowing” our philosophical theologists have suggested ignore the question – “How do you know you are correct?” None of them include empirical evidence, checking or validation. On the contrary, they seem to avoid this step so normal in science.

In Let’s count teeth I relate a little homily from Chris Trotter’s blog (see Counting the Horses Teeth) which I think is very relevant:

“According to legend, the radical medieval theologian and poet, Peter Abelard, once confounded his teachers by subjecting their received wisdom to a simple empirical test.

His scholastic masters had been arguing about exactly how many teeth there should be in a horse’s mouth. If they applied the principles of the classical philosopher Aristotle, they arrived at one number, but, if they relied upon the observations of another ancient sage, a different total suggested itself.

Backwards and forwards the argument raged until the young Abelard, frustrated beyond endurance, rose to his feet, and, calling upon his fellow students to follow him, marched down to the marketplace, where he simply forced open the mouth of the one horse after another – and counted its teeth.”

Significantly, neither of my protagonists were willing to suggest which specific way of knowing they would use to determine purpose or intent in the universe! Or how they determined if their conclusions were correct

The old argument by default again.

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424 responses to ““Other ways of knowing” purpose?

  1. A scientific investigation of such a found artifact could reveal that it had a purpose, surely. So a purpose or intent for the universe (which I guess implies some sort of “creator”) should surely be reflected in the structure, history and functioning of the unvierse – like the cogs and spring in a watch.

    question – in your view, how do we distinguish purposed or intended structure, etc. from unpurposed or unintended structure, etc.?

    Situations where science may inform but decisions are made by humans using other non-scientific reasons. Emotional, ethical and political aspects may play a determining role.

    good.

    All the “other ways of knowing” our philosophical theologists have suggested ignore the question – “How do you know you are correct?” None of them include empirical evidence, checking or validation. On the contrary, they seem to avoid this step so normal in science.

    Firstly, if it’s an “other way of knowing” we’re talking about, then ‘checking it with the science’ wouldn’t be how it is validated.

    Secondly, ‘knowing’, as you know, is about epistemology. How can we trust our knowledge to be reliable? How can we know how ‘true’ our knowledge is? I happen to think that not only ‘objective’ things are valid ways of discovering truth, but also ‘subjective’ things. Our emotions can mislead us, but they can also confirm humane goals as well.

    Thirdly, as a Christian, I’m a strong believer in human non-omnipotence when it comes to ‘knowing’. We don’t know perfectly. Not even close. All knowledge of the physical world or spiritual realities (like purpose, value, truth, God, etc.) will always be partial. Of course, like science is not hindered by this humbling reality, neither is theology/philosophy hindered by it. Whether we’re scientists studying nature, or metaphysicians studying ‘other’ objects, we roll up our sleeves and keep going.

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  2. Dale – “how do we distinguishpurposed or intended structure, etc. fromunpurposed or unintended structure, etc.?”

    That obviously depends on the situation. Cogs and springs in a watch are a dead giveaway.

    “checking it with the science’ wouldn’t be how it is validated” – And why not? Obviously people using “other methods” have no desire to check – using whatever techniques.

    “Thirdly, as a Christian, I’m a strong believer in human non-omnipotence when it comes to ‘knowing” – Good on you Dale. Unfortunately I am often told things by self/professed Christians that imply omnipotence on their part – such as that determining a purpose is outside the domain of science? How can they be so sure?

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  3. Ken,
    on intended v. unintended structure:
    What do you mean by ‘depends on the situation’? The ‘situation’ is this universe. We can observe (with increasing detail) the structure of the universe – but how do you think we tell whether or not the universe (structured as it is) is intended or unintended?

    on ‘checking it with the science’:
    Well, you can check non-scientific knowledge against logic, for example (i.e.this metaphysical concept internally consistent?). Or against emotion (is this metaphysical goal, for example, [i.e. longer life] a goal that is harmonious with human emotions/desires?). ‘checking it against science’ is a good and necessary thing, insofar as it is possible.

    on non-omnipotence:
    The claim “determining purpose is outside the domain of science” is just like any claim – it is held with somewhere between 0 and 100% certainty.

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  4. Well, Dale, the relevance of your response is somewhere between 0 and 100%.

    And yes io course you should use “logic” to verify your “other way of knowing.” After all counting the teeth might not confirm your prejudices.

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  5. Richard Christie

    on intended v. unintended structure:

    Easy one Dale.
    We observe the artifact to see if it exhibits traits characteristic of being the product of a known and/or previously observed process undertaken by a known entity or entities.

    So we can observe an tower of mud and wood pulp in the outback and deduce it was built with purpose by termites.
    We can look at watch cogs and maker’s mark and deduce they originated in aback room in Geneva.
    We can observe a structure of a plastic compound that is produced from petro-chemical processes and assume it was not naturally occurring.

    But Dale,

    We can’t look at a banana and assume because it curves towards the mouth when we hold it that it is evidence of the intended structure of an invisible magic skyman, produced for our convenience.

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  6. I.
    (…insert heart image here…)
    that video.

    We observe the artifact to see if it exhibits traits characteristic of being the product of a known and/or previously observed process undertaken by a known entity or entities.

    Creationists don’t get it.
    They just don’t get it.
    It flies by them every single time.
    The whole creationism “Intelligent Design” thing is dumb.

    Fallacy of intelligent design-circular reasoning.

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  7. Mind you, I think we can detect intention with the modern banana, especially if we look at samples from different stages of selection. But the intention comes from the human agronomist or plant breeder. We don’t need to invent gods to explain things.

    I somehow doubt that selection for curved bananas was very intentional though. Perhaps more a convenient by-products

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  8. Ken,
    I asked a question you didn’t answer: with the example of the structure of the universe, how do you think we could distinguish between it being intended or unintended? (btw, methinks it won’t be a matter of counting teeth – rather it would be a matter of comparing the existing structure of the universe with how one imagines an intended or unintended universe would be structured. So the question becomes what is the structural difference between an intended or an unintended universe?)

    Richard,

    We observe the artifact to see if it exhibits traits characteristic of being the product of a known and/or previously observed process undertaken by a known entity or entities.

    OK, so I’ll put it to you too: given the structure of the universe, does it exhibit traits of being the product of a known/observed process of a known entity/entities? If not, what were those traits it is lacking, and what would a universe look like that did exhibit those traits?

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  9. p.s. that comfort clip is classic!

    Like

  10. OK, so I’ll put it to you too: given the structure of the universe, does it exhibit traits of being the product of a known/observed process of a known entity/entities? If not, what were those traits it is lacking, and what would a universe look like that did exhibit those traits?

    Wow.
    Creationists don’t get it.
    They really just don’t get it.
    It flies by them every single time.
    Dumb.

    You can plant an easy-to-understand video in front of their face and…it just flies right past them.

    (…wooosh…)

    Fallacy of intelligent design-circular reasoning.

    Like

  11. Richard Christie

    OK, so I’ll put it to you too: given the structure of the universe, does it exhibit traits of being the product of a known/observed process of a known entity/entities? If not, what were those traits it is lacking, and what would a universe look like that did exhibit those traits?

    No
    Indeterminable
    Unknown

    To appreciate the obvious reasons behind the answers, the clip Cedric posted is a good start.

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  12. not only is my internet not great at home, but as a rule, I generally ignore cedric’s youtube contributions

    Do I hear you saying, Richard, that telling an intended universe from an unintended universe is ‘indeterminable’? Are you saying we cannot tell? If so, then you’re disagreement is also with Ken, who said, “A scientific investigation of such a found artifact could reveal that it had a purpose, surely. So a purpose or intent for the universe (which I guess implies some sort of “creator”) should surely be reflected in the structure, history and functioning of the unvierse – like the cogs and spring in a watch.” (which was the first point in this comment thread).

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  13. Richard Christie

    Dale, Indeterminable is the answer I gave to your second question, which was dependant on the answer given to the first question.

    Read your questions, read them carefully.
    You figure it out.

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  14. i endured the video (really ‘great’ editing… no really…).

    Here’s a review:
    1) Ken says “A scientific investigation of such a found artifact could reveal that it had a purpose, surely. So a purpose or intent for the universe (which I guess implies some sort of “creator”) should surely be reflected in the structure, history and functioning of the universe”
    2) I ask, ‘really?’ how would we know when we’d seen that?
    3) Richard/Ced say (via vid) that without observing the actions of a universe-intender, we cannot tell the difference from an intended or unintended universe. to assume what an intended universe would look like is circular reasoning. (is this your point? it sounds like it is?)
    4) I say ‘well then tell Ken, coz he’s the one who said that science could reveal intent.’ It’s his opponents that have been saying that purpose/intent is outside the domain of science.

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  15. some side points:

    a) because we don’t know scientifically and observationally what an intended universe would look like (we’ve only seen this universe), design or un-design arguments (both for and against a god) are equally circular.

    b) a very key distinction is between intent and mechanism. The presence or absence of a design-producing mechanism is a distinct line of enquiry from the presence of absence of intent or purpose for the resulting design.

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  16. Richard Christie

    Yes Dale,
    To, 3) , assume that the structure of the universe fits the intent of Flying Spaghetti Monster is indeed circular reasoning.

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  17. Richard,
    But what of your disagreement with Ken? He’s saying that the structure of the universe could ‘surely’ show intent? (giving the intender a name is irrelevant at this stage)

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  18. Richard Christie

    Richard,
    But what of your disagreement with Ken? He’s saying that the structure of the universe could ‘surely’ show intent? (giving the intender a name is irrelevant at this stage)

    I think the disagreement exists only in your mind.
    Please supply the quote that that supports your claims that above is Ken’s position.

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  19. Richard. honestly – I’ve quoted him twice.

    A scientific investigation of such a found artifact could reveal that it had a purpose, surely. So a purpose or intent for the universe (which I guess implies some sort of “creator”) should surely be reflected in the structure, history and functioning of the universe – like the cogs and spring in a watch.

    Ken is making this point (I believe) to argue that the question of a purpose or intent for the universe is not ‘outside the domain of science’. But in making this argument, he raises the question I asked (and which the vid asks).

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  20. OK – I am in between mowing lawns and the opera (Boris Godunov, one of my favourites so I don’t want to miss it).

    My point about any purpose, intent (intelligent manufacture of the universe) being manifested in the nature, structure and functioning of the universe. Dale asks how this would be manifested.

    As Richard points out this is obviously unknown – we don’t have any hypothesis to start with so we can’t make predictions to test.

    So – give us a structured hypothesis, Dale. One that we can use to derive predictions. (Dale, I think you have misread me. I am not saying that purpose is reflected in the universe – far from it. I am saying that if the universe was manufactured for a purpose this fact, the nature of its manufacture, would be reflected in the universe and therefore in principle capable of being identified scientifically.)

    (As an aside – I can think of one hypothesis. Intelligent civilizations in a previous universe near to heat death undertaking to spark the formation of a new universe to effectively create a low entropy situation. That is there purpose. This hypothesis produces some predictions which we really just don’t have the technology or understanding to test for – but may in the future. However, Roger Penrose has at least produced some evidence which could confirm at least one of the predictions – evidence for a previous universe. He claims this is manifested in the detailed structure of the cosmic microwave background. Still a long way off confirming any purpose or intent though).

    The problem of religious claims of purpose is that they start with that assumption. With that as a given premise its easy to logically derive a “proof” for purpose.

    However, the normal way to acquire reliable knowledge is that we find some evidence which we can use to build a structured hypothesis. (Without such hypotheses its more honest to say “I don’t know!”).

    Now, I imagine if we follow the Rev Pailey’s ideas – what if we found some spring and cogs, obviously manufactured items, in the universe. Huge ones. Ones which seemed to be doing something. We might develop a structured hypothesis including purpose/intent on the basis of this evidence (and extra investigations we make as a result). This hypothesis could make predictions which provide a possibility of testing. Now none of these “other ways of knowing” provide for empirical observation and checking so they are obviously useless. This is a job for science.

    Now it might seem facetious to use the example of springs and cogs. But after all, in the old days, before we got used to science including empirical observation and testing, we did build models like that. We had crystalline spheres to hold the planets and stars. Angels to move them around. Etc.

    With the scientific revolution we have become used to using empirical methods and logical reasoning to build our theories and such old purpose driven models just didn’t survive. We were able to base models on the intrinsic properties of objectively existing matter/energy. Sphere were thrown away in favour of gravity, etc.

    But one could perhaps look for more realistic evidence. What about a creator’s signature in our DNA? (We know we can find these with synthetic DNA). A brand tag? One could come up with all sorts of ideas.

    Of course the lazy way to look for purpose etc. is to forget about science. To return to medieval philosophy and logic. Use one of the ways suggested by Matt and Glenn. Religious intuitions, etc. That works. You can find the purpose you want. As long as you keep away from any contact with reality. Any empirical testing, evidence or validation.

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  21. Richard Christie

    As far as I can discern Ken’s quote does not address nor contradict the full position I put forward,

    We observe the artifact to see if it exhibits traits characteristic of being the product of a known and/or previously observed process undertaken by a known entity or entities

    Ken’s quote does not address the question of a known or observed process by a known entity.

    Rather than you or I speaking for him it would be simpler if Ken simply spoke for himself over any alleged disagreement.

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  22. Richard Christie

    Rather than you or I speaking for him it would be simpler if Ken simply spoke for himself over any alleged disagreement.

    Which he did post while the above was still in the ether, i.e. cross-posted.

    Like

  23. tending lawns and taking in opera – two necessities of life!
    (btw, the watch-studying reverend’s last name is Paley)

    Dale, I think you have misread me. I am not saying that purpose is reflected in the universe – far from it. I am saying that if the universe was manufactured for a purpose this fact, the nature of its manufacture, would be reflected in the universe and therefore in principle capable of being identified scientifically.

    Let me draw attention to two words you use here: ‘purpose’ and ‘manufacture(d)’.
    Again, as I said in an earlier comment, a key distinction is between a) intent or purpose and b) the mechanism by which a purpose (or no purpose) is implemented – ‘manufacture’. This comment of yours blurs this key distinction.

    A coin toss is utterly random, but the game referee (and game participants & spectators who agree to the use of the toss to achieve a random and thus fair result) intends or purposes this to be the case. Science can establish with great accuracy the mechanisms involved in the toss (hand, gravity, coin, surface it lands on, etc.), but as for distinguishing an intentional coin toss from the accidental spilling of a tray of coins, however, that is another matter.

    what if we found some spring and cogs, obviously manufactured items, in the universe. Huge ones. Ones which seemed to be doing something. We might develop a structured hypothesis including purpose/intent on the basis of this evidence (and extra investigations we make as a result).

    Again, this begs the question of how we would know an “obviously manufactured” item. Is not every single item in the known universe “doing something”?? I think Glenn is not nearly as foolish as you make him out to be when he says (following sound thinking in doing so) that purpose or intent are not scientific questions.

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  24. OK, Dale, you are with Glenn denying any role for science on this question despite the fact that you seem to accept that it would influence the nature of the universe.

    Well, I put to you the same questions I put to Glenn and Matt.

    What “other way of knowing” specifically is being used to determine the universe has a purpose?

    What is that purpose? And

    Why specifically must science be excluded from investigating the universe in a manner which could elucidate an answer to this question?

    (The last question is particularly relevant because even most theologians from Craig to the ID people these days seem to use science (although very badly and dishonestly) to “prove” their claim of purpose. You guys seem to be the odd ones out).

    Glenn also claims that only religion and philosophy can answer the question. He refuses to justify that claim. In fact he refuses to respond sensibly to any of my questions. (Alas, a common theological technique which you guys seemed to get training in).

    He seems to be stumped.

    And Matt, again, seems to be avoiding any response.

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  25. Richard Christie

    Again we have more bafflegab and red herrings from Dale.

    You can’t conclude the existence of any intent or purpose to anything, if the entity you attribute the purpose to cannot be shown to exist. If you do, and then attempt to use such intent as evidence of the entity itself, you create the fallacy of a circular argument.

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  26. A great thing about circular arguments is that they don’t leave any loose ends.
    And you can always recycle them.
    Again and again and again.

    William Paley (July 1743 – 25 May 1805)

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  27. What “other way of knowing” …is being used to determine the universe has a purpose?

    What is that purpose?

    Why …must science be excluded from investigating the universe ..[to].. elucidate an answer to this question?

    What other ways of knowing? Anything from reason, logic, intuition, emotion, and tradition (best, when integrated together rather than in isolation from one another, as always).
    What is that purpose? Well, as a non-omniscient human, I don’t know completely. I happen to be persuaded that the universe is purposed primarily as a context for relationships (Einstein had a similar notion – something about it being obvious that we exist ‘for one another’. But it isn’t obvious scientifically, but rather to our best and most humane intuitions, traditions, emotions, ideas, etc.).
    Why cannot science help elucidate an answer to the question? Again, science needs a prior observation of an intending agent to avoid circular reasoning. When seeking an intention (or intender) of everything/universe, we cannot have an observation from nowhere/nothing/vacuum.

    …[some] use science (although very badly and dishonestly) to “prove” their claim of purpose.

    I think the language of ‘proof’ (proving either the presence or absence of purpose) via science will always be over-reaching what science can actually do.

    Now, Ken, I don’t want this point to get lost:
    You have claimed that purpose or intent can ‘surely’ be seen in the structure of the universe. I asked ‘how would we know a) an intended structure from an unintended one’, and then you say (agreeing with Richard) that this is “obviously unknown”. So what’s the point of saying that science can ‘surely’ observe purpose in the universe’s structure if you then say that we obviously don’t know what that would look like?

    Then you say that we could see purpose/intent if we saw an ‘obviously manufactured’ item. Again, how do we distinguish a ‘manufactured’ item from one that is un-manufactured? If we don’t know what the difference would look like then we cannot complain for not finding it.

    Richard, that bafflegab charge was unwarranted. Just sayin’. I’m not using any mystifying terms.

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  28. Richard Christie

    Richard, that bafflegab charge was unwarranted. Just sayin’. I’m not using any mystifying terms.
    Maybe it was too. There has been a noticeable reduction in what Cedric terms as scare quotes from you, I encourage you keep it up.

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  29. Anything from reason, logic, intuition, emotion, and tradition (best, when integrated together rather than in isolation from one another, as always).

    Unhelpful.
    Reason and logic are used in science all the time.
    Science demands more.
    Intuition?
    Mine? Yours?
    No. That won’t do. You might as well just keep it Texan and say “Going with my gut”.

    We can throw emotion into the same box of silly.
    Love with your heart, use your brain for other stuff (like looking at the universe).

    Tradition?
    Yeah, right. There’s a good idea.
    Not.
    Fiddle away on that roof.

    Throwing the word “intergration” randomly into the mix as a sort of salve will go nowhere fast.

    “Other ways of knowing” sounds so positive and optomistic.
    It’s a nice, feel-good label.
    Deepak Chopra himself would feel the vibe too on that one.

    I’ll say one thing for ropata. He never made the mistake of actually trying to explain what the hell “other ways of knowing” was supposed to actually mean.
    He very, very carefully steered well away from that mad-woman’s custard decorating the padded cell.

    What is that purpose? Well, as a non-omniscient human, I don’t know completely.

    Good answer.
    Saying “I don’t know” is often a good, honest answer.
    No harm, no foul.

    I happen to be persuaded that the universe is purposed primarily as a context for relationships…

    Well, that’s nice. Go with what your gut tells you. More power to your emotions and whatnot. Feel the vibe.

    …Einstein had a similar…

    Nope.
    Einstein gets to comment when he shows up in person.
    No name dropping the dead and making arguments from authority.
    “Notions” by famous dead people (whether falsely attributed or not) make for a piss-poor argument and will earn you nothing but contempt.
    Stop it.

    Again, science needs a prior observation of an intending agent to avoid circular reasoning.

    Yet “going with your gut” has no such pesky little restrictions.
    Circular reasoning fits right in.
    Embrace your inner fallacy.

    I think the language of ‘proof’…

    Miracle of miracles. Here we have a scare-quoted word that actually deserves a scare-quote when used in a discussion regarding Well done.

    You have claimed that purpose or intent can ‘surely’ be seen in the structure of the universe.

    Wha…?

    Again, how do we distinguish a ‘manufactured’ item from one that is un-manufactured?

    Well, you can look at the tool-marks.
    There’s a start.
    The label?
    The artificial nature of the fibres and materials used? The postion of an object can also be a dead giveaway. Archeologists do this kind of thing all the time.
    Something can look manufactured but science can help us understand if that’s really true or not.

    Bimini Road and Yonaguni are the most spectacular examples that spring to mind but there are a host of others.
    Pseudoarchaeology

    Using your intuition, emotion and tradition takes a very distant second place to real science.
    But if you want to go there then…go there.

    …everything/universe
    nowhere/nothing/vacuum.
    purpose/intent…

    Bad habits die slowly/not fast/gradually.
    Hmm.

    Like

  30. …regarding Well done.

    Typo.
    That should read…”regarding science.”

    There has been a noticeable reduction in what Cedric terms as scare quotes from you…

    Good point.
    Allow me to belatedly concur.

    Dale, please.
    Please.
    PLEASE.

    Turn over a new leaf for the sake of good English and good communication.
    Please think twice (thrice ?) about this thing you do with scare-quotes and slash characters and bracketing and the rest of it.
    Please.

    There is a host of wonderful writers enshrined in modern English literature that have successfully conveyed great thoughts without this madly irritating habit you endlessly employ.
    Please stop it.

    Write about whatever you desire.
    Gods, demons, ghosts, demonically-possessed herds of pigs, talking donkeys, talking snakes, vengeful bears and obdurate fig trees etc.
    Go for it.
    By all means.

    Just stop it with this self-referencial reinterpretation of the English language via the seldom used character keys on your keyboard.
    They add nothing.
    Bugger all.
    They don’t help.
    Really.
    They are just an annoying distraction.

    I know it’s “only the internet” but…
    (shrug)

    Neil Tyson talks about UFOs and the argument from ignorance.

    Like

  31. (three posts in a row. Apologies all ’round.) :(
    Speaking of “other ways of knowing” and creationism/ ID there’s an article that’s just come up that I think is oddly appropriate here..

    One thing I found of interest in this tempest in a theological teapot was Dembski’s comment on his treatment the local/global flood issue. He was quoted as writing…

    “In a brief section [of his book] on Genesis 4-11, I weigh in on the Flood, raising questions about its universality, without adequate study or reflection on my part,” Dembski wrote. “Before I write on this topic again, I have much exegetical, historical, and theological work to do.”

    Um, Bill? You might consider that you have much geological work to do. After all, a putative global flood is geological event and geologists have been gathering relevant data for, oh, say, three centuries or so. And this is all about the science, isn’t it?
    Link.

    The comments section are, as always, worth reading.

    Like

  32. Cedric, are not lengthy diatribes just as poor use of language as my slash/ing and ‘scar(quote)ing’? And please include ole Ken in your rants as well, as he has been known to transgress this most sacred of blogging laws.

    Like

  33. Dale this is silly:
    “Again, science needs a prior observation of an intending agent to avoid circular reasoning. When seeking an intention (or intender) of everything/universe, we cannot have an observation from nowhere/nothing/vacuum.”

    As I explained one starts with evidence to build an hypothesis. But viewing a cog or a spring (or a crystal sphere or angel) is hardly an observation from nowhere.

    Mechanisms and underlying agents are inferred in the hypothesis and the resulting predictions can be tested.

    The scientific approach is the one “way of knowing” which avoids circular reasoning when investigating reality.

    As for your “intuition, emotion, and tradition ” – give me one example where these has helped, (independently of logical reasoning and empirical observation, checking and validation – science) our investigation and understanding of the universe. One!

    They may be usefully used in making decision on a car purchase – but come off it. The universe? Objective reality? No way.

    As for deriving (vaguely) your purpose using “our best and most humane intuitions, traditions, emotions, ideas, etc.” Again come off it. Ignorance is no longer our best. We are well past this.

    Medieval theology just can’t compete with modern investigation. Either in terms of success or human satisfaction.

    And you did not reply to my question why you, Glenn and Matt should be so offside with people like Craig and the Wedge ID people – who at least give lip service to science, fine tuning, etc.

    Dale – you are jelly wrestling over my point about any intent being reflected in the universe and therefor capable of, in principle at least, being seen as evidence. I gave you a specific example – its the sort of thing that goes on all the time in human discovery. But you have to be particularly thick (or surrounded in jelly) to assume beforehand, without any hypothesis, that one can define what the evidence should be.

    Even one of the Christian sects do not propose a structure hypothesis. There are several billion gods – one for every believer. Without an hypothesis one cannot make predictions. Very handy if one wants to perpetuate myths as facts – and rake in the dosh from the gullible.

    The fact is that in the old days when intent was assumed plenty of resulting evidence (effectively predictions) was inferred. The fact is this all evaporated.

    The more we investigate the universe the less useful or realistic any concept of purpose or intent becomes. So useless that one has to resort to another way of knowing like “emotion” to discover it.

    Talk about circular reasoning.

    Like

  34. You wrote:

    All the “other ways of knowing” our philosophical theologists have suggested ignore the question – “How do you know you are correct?”

    In such discussions, I’ve had even better results from asking these other-ways-of-knowing advocates the tougher question:

    “What can you do to find out whether you’re wrong?”

    Like

  35. Ken I didn’t say that observing a cog or spring is an observation from nowhere. I’m saying that we can’t know a ‘manufactured’ cog from an unmanufactured cog. Both philosophy and M-Theory postulate an infinite (philosophy) or countless (M-Theory) number of possible worlds (philosophy) or ‘local’ universes (M-Theory). Intent or purpose (if affecting our universe at all) would cause it to have ‘this’ structure rather than ‘another’ structure. The problem is, we only have direct evidence of our universe. We can’t know what the difference would be. Every single component of our universe can be seen as either manufactured cogs or unmanufactured cogs. And whilst science uses reason, and thus can help our reasoning about purpose in the universe, it remains reason not science that is one of the tools of considering (never omniciently ‘knowing’) the purpose of the universe.

    Re ID-ists reference to fine-tuning, etc. I did answer this. I don’t think it’s wrong to infer purpose from the universe’s elegant and ordered structures. I just (as I said) think the language of ‘proof’ is unhelpful and goes beyond what science can actually do. I agree with their inference (not when they inaccurately use science, though), but not their language of ‘proof’.

    And frankly I think it’s you that is jelly-wrestling. You said we could infer purpose or intent from the structure of the universe, and when I ask how we would know – you’ve said we can’t!?

    You may have emotional reasons why you prefer the ‘other’ ways of considering (again, not omnisciently ‘knowing’) purpose and intent? You have a passion for science and that is great. And you seem to have an emotional defensive reaction when people speak of something science can’t do. I can understand this – and science is abused all over the place. But in this case, unless you can say how we would scientifically distinguish from a purposed universe and an unpurposed universe, the claim holds that purpose is not a scientific question.

    Like

  36. edit: “…emotional reasons why you dislike the ‘other’ ways of considering…”

    Like

  37. Richard Christie

    Again, science needs a prior observation of an intending agent to avoid circular reasoning.

    Ken, I thought that from Dale was reasonable, assuming he meant that you need to understand the characteristics of any creator, or manufacturer, of any artifact before you can conclude that the artifact exhibits traits of being created by it. By “understand the characteristics” science would require testable empirical evidence.

    Like

  38. Richard – I think we are saying the same thing in that one needs an hypothesis (a structured hypothetical description of a creator) to make predictions about what specific effects she would manifest in the universe. One can then go and look for them. The hypothesis gets supported or disproved.

    But I am also saying when we start from nothing, no hypothesis, we collect information, data, evidence, which can be used to build an hypothesis. We don’t need any hypothesis to start with.

    We might discover cogs and springs without any hypothesis. But once having discovered them we could use that evidence to build a structured hypothesis producing predictions which we then test.

    However, if our hypothesis is so limited it only predicts the evidence we have used to build it we have a circular argument. We have achieved nothing.

    The thing about existing god ideas is that they do not provide a structured hypothesis of an objectively existing god. Which means they are conveniently untestable.

    However, we can certainly develop structured hypotheses about god ideas – and that is where a lot of progress is being made. But these hypotheses are about the existence of the ideas in our brain – not objectively gods.

    Like

  39. I will wait for Richard & Ken to resolve this point before further comment.

    Like

  40. Dale – if you found a watch on the heath would you be unable to infer whether its cogs and springs had been manufactured or not?

    Do you not notice the conflict between “I don’t think it’s wrong to infer purpose from the universe’s elegant and ordered structures” and “unless you can say how we would scientifically distinguish from a purposed universe and an unpurposed universe, the claim holds that purpose is not a scientific question.”? Both statements are yours.

    And Ben’s question is central – “What can you do to find out whether you’re wrong?” You purposely exclude any empirical evidence, testing or validation (important components of modern science) because you don’t want to be checked. You don’t want to know. You want to rely on emotion/tradition etc. Methods which we know produces wrong answers about objective reality.

    This is jelly wrestling. I have been clear in my comments related to your question:
    “unless you can say how we would scientifically distinguish from a purposed universe and an unpurposed universe, the claim holds that purpose is not a scientific question.”

    Of course its not a scientific question because it hasn’t been put. There is no structured hypothesis (conveniently so) required to make the predictions which can be tested. And part of this jelly wrestling is that any time someone like Stenger or Dawkins considers a specific god hypothesis which they show to be wrong religionists respond by saying “Oh that is not my god”. Very convenient. Hence the term humpty-dumpty talk – theologists make words mean anything they want and change the meaning daily. Karen Armstrong is a classic example.

    Meanwhile humanity’s investigation of the universe has proceeded scientifically. We are not held back by the religionists’ humpty-dumpty talk. We investigate real evidence and in the process achieve an understanding. And the last several years of progress indicates more and more that any idea of purpose is an illusion. That we can explained things internally, from the nature of existing reality. Hence gravity and laws of motion rather than crystal spheres and motivating angels.

    Like

  41. Richard Christie

    I can’t resolve it, but here is the crux

    The god hypothesis : proposes an entity that, by definition, explains everything, which of course, includes lack of evidence.

    In some minds it wins everytime.

    Like

  42. Dale – if you found a watch on the heath would you be unable to infer whether its cogs and springs had been manufactured or not?

    Yes, but it may well have been manufactured (directly) by a purposeless, intentionless machine. Hence the distinction – yet again – between intent and mechanism. Say a watch company owner intended to produce 100 watches, and the machine produced 101. A crude analogy, perhaps, but the one watch would not be intended or purposed in the same way as the other 100.

    This is what we’re asking about the universe. Was everything we see intended to exist or does it exist without intention. Looking at the components of the universe will not point us in either direction. The purpose-less and intention-less mechanisms in the universe produce apparently purposed and ‘designed’ objects. The question is were these mechanisms and the objects they produce at all intended or purposed. Looking at the mechanisms won’t tell us either way. Evolution, for example, could be both intended or unintended.

    Do you not notice the conflict between “I don’t think it’s wrong to infer purpose from the universe’s elegant and ordered structures” and “unless you can say how we would scientifically distinguish from a purposed universe and an unpurposed universe, the claim holds that purpose is not a scientific question.”? Both statements are yours.

    There is a logical inference of purpose from the design of the universe. Science can look at the design and the biological and cosmological mechanisms involved. As such, science confirms the presence of design and describes the mechanisms involved. What science, as such, cannot do, however, is rule IN or OUT the intention of a designer or watch-maker, etc. (to use the art-artisan analogy). The logical inference is fine (even if you emotionally don’t like the language) and sound. Talking of ‘proofs’, however (either FOR or AGAINST a designer or intender) is not fine and not sound.

    Like

  43. Cedric, are not lengthy diatribes just as poor use of language as my slash/ing and ‘scar(quote)ing’?

    People indulge “in lengthy diatribes” all the time.
    Yet at least they stick to the usual 26 letters of the alphabet.

    You, however, are making up your own private humpty-dumpty language.

    And please include….

    I’ve told you before.
    Tu Quoque is poor form.
    Sloppy thinking.

    Nor is there’s no need to get snarky.
    Getting all defensive and lashing out by accusing people of diatribes and rants does not save you.
    It’s childish.
    Your use of English remains ugly and is in desperate need of reform.
    Everybody has noticed.
    It’s a compulsive, distracting habit on your part.

    Communicate.
    Don’t multilate the English language and then masturbate with it in public.
    It’s gross.

    Like

  44. Yes, but it may well have been manufactured (directly) by a purposeless, intentionless machine.

    Or a sweaty, magic football sock.
    Or Bigfoot.
    May well have been.

    Take a look at your computer.
    Sure, according to serial number on the back, it’s been manufactured by Samsung in Korea.
    But it may well have been made by a sweaty, magic football sock.
    Or Bigfoot.

    Imagine the horrified confusion of Korean factory workers, if 101 Samsung computers appeared on the assembly line instead of the regular 100.
    THERE WOULD BE TOTAL CHAOS!
    What would they do?
    That 101st computer would be freakishly alien to them.
    They would have absolutely no idea what to do with it.
    It would make no sense.
    It would be without purpose or intent.

    Science is helpless here.
    The only sensible thing that could be done is to shut down the manufacturing plant and call in a shaman to help clear up the theological mess.
    May well happen.

    Or imagine you make a cup of coffee and add a teaspoon of salt rather than sugar.
    No intent.
    No purpose.
    Science just can’t explain it.
    A salty cup of coffee.
    It’s beyond the ken of mortal man.

    What science, as such, cannot do, however, is rule IN or OUT the intention of a designer or watch-maker, etc.

    And so modern archeology and forensic science are dismissed as the childish nonsense they are.

    The purpose-less and intention-less mechanisms in the universe produce apparently purposed and ‘designed’ objects.

    Huh? Like AIDS, you mean?

    There is a logical inference of purpose from the design of the universe.

    Huh?
    Wha…?
    The universe was designed?
    How did you get there?
    Share.

    As such, science confirms the presence of design and describes the mechanisms involved.

    When did this happen?
    Somebody call the Discovery Institute. This is big.
    Very big.
    Could even be a new book in it!

    Sir David Attenborough’s view on Science & Religion – Life on Air

    Like

  45. You’re great Ced.
    No really.

    Your combo of sarcasm plus you tube is winsome.
    beaut.
    splendid.
    works a treat.

    one sentence per line.
    no more.
    Okay?

    Don’t you get it Ced?
    when
    you
    post
    long
    ranty
    comments
    people
    don’t
    want
    to
    respond
    to
    you.

    you
    just
    make
    it
    more
    annoying
    responding
    to
    others
    because
    they
    have
    to
    scroll
    for
    15
    minutes
    past
    your
    diatribes
    to
    review
    and
    quote
    less
    ranty
    and
    lengthy
    comments
    than
    yours.

    But do keep it up Cedric.
    You’ll get enthusiastic engagement from me.

    Like

  46. Richard Christie

    Your combo of sarcasm plus you tube is winsome.

    I love ‘em. Good part of the reason I come here.

    Like

  47. Don’t you get it Ced?
    when
    you
    post
    long
    ranty
    comments…

    Tu Quoque.
    (again)

    It does not help you.
    Your new-found indignation at my writing style or Ken’s writing style or somebody elses writing style is just a defensive reflex on your part.
    Your feelings are hurt.
    Nobody likes to have their writing criticised because it’s often a window into their own ego and level of education.

    All I am asking you to do is use standard English like the rest of us do around here.
    Would you expect an educated member of the public to buy a newspaper or a book written the way you normally write?
    Would you allow children to write letters in your style?

    Yet perhaps that’s unfair.
    After all, you are not a journalist or author.
    So let’s set the bar even lower.
    Have you ever read anybody else on the internet that writes the way you write?
    Anybody at all?
    Where did you pick up this execrable style that demands press-ganging every single character key on your keyboard to create new, unknown and unknowable words?
    It’s unique to you.

    What posesses you repeatedly mush/join/connect several words together when it adds nothing to meaning or clarity?
    ( I feel dirty just doing that. Even for the purposes of demonstration.)

    Scare-quotes….
    Now sometimes they are appropriate but in your merciless hands they usually end up being word-salad decorations.
    Using the word “proof” in a discussion regarding science?
    No problemo.
    That follows the convention.
    Being ironic or sarcastic over a particular word?
    Yep, that happens too. That’s seen around town all the time.
    Yet you go off and add scare-quotes for reasons known only to yourself.
    Here’s a recent example:
    Sure, if someone (wrongly) defines ‘religion’ in terms of ‘belief in a god’…

    Confusion is king.
    You’re supposed to use the English language to communicate-not obfusticate!
    Religion vs Dale’s special brand ‘religion’. (???)
    Belief in a god vs Dale’s special brand ‘belief in a god’. (???)

    You’ll get enthusiastic engagement from me.

    I know your feelings are hurt.
    Don’t expect me to loose any sleep over it.
    Grow up.
    Use English and keep your childish behaviour to yourself.
    That includes your repeat performances of “tu quoque”.
    That didn’t work before and it’s not going to work if you try it next time.
    Stop it.

    Fallacies: Appeal to Hypocrisy

    Like

  48. Ken, Richard, I look forward to your response to my last non-Cedric related comment

    Like

  49. OK – I am on a spiritual high after watching a brilliant performance of Boris Godunov by the  NY Met.

    Dale, your theological training is showing – jelly wrestling manipulation. Fortunately I don’t have to worry about that or get involved. It is a huge waste of time and demonstrates why medieval theology never got anywhere. (Mind you modern theology seems to be even worse. Have you tried to read Karen Armstrong?)

    Pascal Boyer makes the point in his latest book that the belief claims of Christianity are so ridiculous they just can’t be defended rationally. The main responses seem to be either fundamentalism (clearly restating and supporting the ridiculous claims) or “liberal Christianity” which uses humpty dumpy language to manipulate any discussion into a jelly wrestling fiasco. Karen Armstrong us a classic example. I think there is more to it but it seems a good explanation for current theological silliness.

    1: I will leave your silliness about your god manufacturing her 101st universe accidentally without intent for debate with your fellow theologians. I would have thought they would discipline you for the heresy of suggesting your god could make such a big cock up. I thought she was infallible – or is that the pope? Whatever. – it doesn’t interest me and certainly won’t change anything we currently understand, or will in the future discover, about the universe.

    2: “What science, as such, cannot do, however, is rule IN or OUT the intention of a designer or watch-maker, etc.” Well, that is very convenient, isn’t it. And very cheap. All you needed was to say the words. No logic or evidence required. I can see why theology requires so little in the way of resources.

    But you continue to ignore my point that an unstructured idea, not even an hypothesis, can’t be tested in any way. It makes no prediction. It is completely useless. Except for those in the game of deception who must avoid at all costs the testing of their claims against reality.

    But why you guys are wasting your time with such bafflegab humanity is not holding back. We now accept that we can investigate god beliefs. As an anthropological, psychological and social phenomnon. This science is currently very lively and I think it’s producing quite a good understanding. I am quite surprised at how extensive the literature is even at this relatively early stage.

    3: “Talking of ‘proofs’, however (either FOR or AGAINST a designer or intender) is not fine and not sound.” Another order from on high, eh! Did you not notice I put that word in quotes. That I was referring to the shonkey use of “science” by Craig and the Wedge ID warriors to “prove” purpose and intent?

    Like

  50. Richard Christie

    Dale I think purpose is of minor relevance. The question is whether we can detect whether the universe is created by sentient or non-sentient means.

    I’ve already put my viewpoint that until we can identify and study a sentient creator, be able to verify for his her existence, understand how the act of creation worked (or in Ken’s parlance form a testable hypothesis on the mechanism of creation) then we can’t look for evidence of that sentience or means of creation in the universe, as we don’t know what it would look like.

    At least modern cosmology has an honest go at it.

    Otherwise Cedric puts objections to your last post quite well, by and large I share them, not talking about his sometimes lengthy digressions into writing style.

    Like

  51. Richard Christie

    Dale I think purpose is of minor relevance. The question is whether we can detect whether the universe is created by sentient or non-sentient means.

    I should briefly elaborate on that. We are only talking about purpose because of the unspoken assumption that purpose is evidence of the modis operandi of sentience.

    Like

  52. Richard,
    Thanks for an appropriately brief response (and also for what I’ll take as empathy for how Cedric’s grammar obsession comes across).

    I see your comments as harmonious with what I’ve been saying – with Glenn and others – that because we cannot (you say ‘until we can’) have observational evidence of the intentional action of a universe intender, then we can’t (scientifically) distinguish an intended universe from a non-intended universe. You, myself, Glenn (and heck, even Ken, so much as he agrees with you but not his own comments at times?) appear to agree that intention-detection is not (you and Ken would say ‘currently’) a scientific question.

    I won’t add anything further until we can get some kind of relatively basic agreed understanding on this.

    Like

  53. … the intentional action of a universe intender…

    A “universe intender”?
    Now that one’s a keeper. :)

    …that intention-detection is not a scientific question.

    Yep.
    Take a butter knife, for example.
    A butter knife on your table in a five-star restaurant.
    What it’s intention?
    How can you detect it?
    Science just doesn’t have the answers.
    There’s just no way of knowing what that butter knife is intended for.

    Even worse, what if the cutlery company only wanted to make 100 butter-knives yet accidentally made 101 and it was indeed that very same 101st butter knife that ended up on your table?
    Talk about awkward.

    Like

  54. Richard Christie

    Take a butter knife, for example…
    What it’s intention?

    Cedric, that comment reminds me of a Gary Larson cartoon.
    In a garret flat are 3 characters; a spoon, a knife are seated playing poker around a table and a fork is in the corner hammering out a tune on an old piano. The caption reads;

    In the early days, living in their squalid apartment, all three shared dreams of success. In the end, however, Bob the Spoon and Ernie the Fork wound up in an old silverware drawer, and only Mack went on to fame and fortune.

    Like

  55. Quick supplement to the 101 + 1 example.

    The point was NOT that the 101st watch would look any different to the scientific eye (as if we couldn’t scientifically observe how a watch or a knife functioned). The point was that machines don’t have intentions. To the machine and the later scientific observation, the 101st watch is just like the other 100. To the watch-maker, however, the 101st watch is different in that it unintended and the 100 were intended. Whilst we can scientifically observe the design and function of the watch, we cannot scientifically know how many watches were intended by the watch company owner.

    Translate to the universe: gravity, natural law, evolution by natural selection, genetic drift, photosynthesis, etc. are mechanisms – or processes if you prefer a less mechanistic view of nature – that (like a machine) have no intentions. It might be nice if we could, but we cannot make observations from outside the universe, or know scientifically whether these mechanisms or processes and their results were intended or purposed.

    Not only do I feel like I’m repeating myself and being continually misquoted and misunderstood – I feel like I’m taking crazy pills…

    Like

  56. Richard Christie

    Quite right Dale, but it’s really not here or there, not essential to the arguments.
    Intent, purpose are just ways we can infer creation by sentient being.
    All, or most, manufactured goods that we are familiar with exhibit certain characteristics (cogs wheels used in arguments here) from which we can conclude they are manufactured. An assumption of intentional creation is reasonable for an artifact identified as manufactured . As you say, that’s not always so, but it’s certainly good evidence in support of it.

    Like

  57. Gary Larson.
    Owned all of his books at one point.
    As it happens, I remember that particular cartoon very well.

    I always liked the one with the middle-aged couple in their home-made bunker.
    The Bomb has dropped.
    Inside the home-made bunker, the walls are covered from floor to ceiling in tinned food.
    The caption reads something like “How many times did I say it, Harold? How many times? Make sure that bomb shelter has a can opener, Harold. That bomb shelter isn’t much good without a can-opener!
    ;)

    The point was NOT that the 101st…

    Then I’m sure it wasn’t.
    I’m happy to just take your word for it.

    Intelligent Design creationism went precisely nowhere fast.
    Not then, not now.
    It’s just jelly-wrestling with cumbersome analogies that don’t translate at all well to reality.
    It’s all sizzle and no steak.
    Go with your personal, private subjective emotions and traditions and intuition to discover the secrets of the universe intender…
    Come back when you have discovered something.
    The triumph of “other ways of knowing” awaits.

    Irreducible complexity cut down to size

    Like

  58. OK Richard,
    So you say that one can ‘infer’ creation from how something looks and this would be a ‘reasonable assumption’. With patterns of manufacture (i.e. we know that cogs serve a mechanical purpose) that we are known, I’d agree. But what about the universe itself? We don’t know in advance what those patterns of manufacture are – or even if ‘patterns’ or ‘manufacture’ would even be appropriate terms. Because of this, do you agree that – until we can somehow (I think it’s impossible) discover what these patterns look like – the question of the purpose of the universe is not a scientific question?

    Like

  59. Richard Christie

    The objections you raise are presicely those that I presented earlier, in my view they also demolish any so-called evidence for the god concept.
    Intent is not a matter of being an unscientific question, but one currently unanswerable by science, one reason being we don’t know the nature of the sentience harbouring intent. Nor is the question answerable by theology or any other branch of philosophy.

    Like

  60. Thanks Richard,
    Yes, and equally demolished are complaints of a so-called lack of evidence for a god concept.
    You and others often use the word ‘currently’. The hope and trust in scientific methods is commendable, however I cannot see how observations outside of the universe could ever eventually be made, so I don’t think it’s anti-science or silly to say that it’s just not a scientific question. As for theology or philosophy, I think that ‘answerable’ in the “I’m 100% – and omnisciently – certain” sense is something that no human can achieve by human methods. But I think while science cannot even get started on the question, logic & reason can. This surely is anything but intellectual suicide or fundamentalism?

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  61. Richard Christie

    I simply don’t hold with a concept of ” outside the universe”. It’s an oxymoron.

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  62. Yes, all language is inescapably metaphorical. And there is an obvious difference between merely going ‘outside’ one’s room or house or country or atmosphere or solar system, etc. and taking a walk ‘outside’ the universe! I can see the grammatical problem.

    But it nonetheless holds that all of our observations are as a part of and ‘within’ the universe. This is why the question of the purpose of the universe (within which we make all of our observations) cannot be scientific. Now, some, understandably, may want to say, “well then it’s a stupid question and nothing else can answer it dammit.” But this whole thing started with Ken reacting to Glenn/etc. saying this very thing.

    Like

  63. …with them saying that the purpose of the universe is not a scientific question.

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  64. Richard Christie

    I’m not a scientist, nor any theologian, I’m a musician. But I have problems even getting my head around scientific concepts such as “expanding universe”.

    Expanding into what? one would expect the answer to be space part of the universe?

    Take Wikipedia for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universe
    Within opening paragraphs on the current scientific viewpoint we get mutually exclusive statements:

    According to the prevailing scientific model of the universe, known as the Big Bang, the universe expanded from an extremely hot, dense phase called the Planck epoch, in which all the matter and energy of the observable universe was concentrated. Since the Planck epoch, the universe has been expanding to its present form, possibly with a brief period (less than 10−32 seconds) of cosmic inflation.

    and

    Since we cannot observe space beyond the limitations of light (or any electromagnetic radiation), it is uncertain whether the size of the universe is finite or infinite.

    very helpful.

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  65. Richard Christie

    Sorry bad editing:

    Expanding into what? one would expect the answer to be space, but isn’t space part of the universe?

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  66. But I think while science cannot even get started on the [existence of god] question, logic & reason can. This surely is anything but intellectual suicide or fundamentalism?

    It is intellectual suicide to rely *only* on logic. Logic is useful only to the extent that one’s premises are true; and the truth value of a premise cannot be tested by logic.

    The only tool we have that works for testing truth values of premises is science. If you’re placing a premise outside the reach of science, you are thereby placing it outside the reach of anyone being able to test it for truth, and logic cannot lead you anywhere useful from that premise.

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  67. Richard,
    I 137.6% agree. I have the same issues with talk of ‘multi-verses’.

    Ben,

    The only tool we have that works for testing truth values of premises is science.

    I don’t play the scientism card very often, but these words are a pretty good definition of it. Just sayin’. Not that scientism is self-evidently wrong – it is what it is. And Dawkins (following a comment I cannot remember) said, “…and if that sounds like scientism, then so much the better for scientism.”

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  68. Richard Christie

    uh oh Ben
    better replace only with best. ;)

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  69. …and Richard, I’m anything but a scientist, a mere armchair philosopher, an only budding theologian (should have Bachelors in Applied Theology by end of next year)… and am also a musician. The band I’m in (Great North) is preparing for our internationally-acclaimed (cough) tour (Auckland, Hamilton [coming Ken?] & wellington) – Dec 9-11.

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  70. Richard Christie

    Science has yet to explain why musicians never miss an opportunity to plug their next gig. :)

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  71. Dale, unfortunately I will be in Wellington those dates. So another time perhaps.

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  72. lol – fair call. Ken, the last date was in Wellington, though :)

    I’d heard about the NASA press conference earlier. Interesting! Maybe they’ve found god flying around out there :P

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  73. Flying back on the 11th, Dale.

    I have seen twitter comments from journalists who have the embargoed information. They imply it’s not about actual discovery of life.

    I guess we will know tomorrow morning. I will try towatch the press conference on NASATV (about 8am),

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  74. Dale – you repeat the claim that science cannot say anything about intent or purpose (or lack of) along with Glenn. That one must turn to religion and philosophy – but if science cannot, how can religion and philosophy. What sources of information (ways of knowing) do you have that science can’t(or that your religious “ways of knowing” operate where science cannot in this case)?

    Nothing. Nothing at all.

    Both you and Glenn raise logic. But come off it – when you reject science you are rejecting logic – an important component of science. I think that playing fast and loose with “logic” is revealing.

    What you want is medieval logic, isn’t it? You want a tame logic which ignores the progress humanity has made since those times. You and Glenn don’t want real logic and reason.

    And you want to avoid evidence – at all costs.

    But, in the process your jelly wrestling ties you up in knots.

    You make statements like “we cannot make observation from outside the universe.” This involves several items of faith. (The concept of outside the universe and the claim of not being able to see evidence). Just because you “cannot see how observations outside the universe could ever eventually be made” doesn’t make it so. (There are currently several bits of evidence in cosmology which can be speculatively explained either by a previous universe or by a currently existing neighbouring universe. Just because we cannot make contact with those universes because of restrictions on the speed of light does not mean we cannot see “fossil” evidence, etc).

    Similarly your claim that because we don’t know in advance what the “patterns of manufacturer are” it is impossible to discover these patterns. Another article of faith. No justification offered.

    I can assure you this is a common situation in research. You are asking for approval of a circular argument (knowing the answer before investigating). That never produces new knowledge.

    If your whole point is that purpose is outside the “universe” – meaning outside reality – that we cannot consider anything outside this “universe”, reality, then we have no way of gaining evidence and testing from that “outside reality” area, and no way of knowing what logic operates in this “outside reality” area. You are defining this area outside reality (well you have invented it, haven’t you) , saying we can’t get evidence from it (or from its effect on reality) and then claiming you know what logic operates their! Incredible!

    Apart from the more than cosmic arrogance what you are effectively saying is “what the hell!” The whole thing is not important. This purpose has absolutely no influence on us (because it has no influence on the universe – because you have isolated it from reality). Nor can we say anything about this “outside reality” area using logic – we have absolutely no way of knowing what logic works there. Even if we are capable of contemplating this extra-reality logic.

    What is all the fuss about?

    Mind you I suppose the conclusion that this outside reality area connot influence reality is seen as heretical. Why pray if it were so, etc.

    But if you allow for influence you allow for evidence. You cannot have it both ways.

    If your concept of a purpose for the universe has any value whatsoever, then it is a scientific question. Because if it influences reality then there will be evidence to build a structured hypothesis and to enable checking and validation.

    (Sorry about the jumble – I am trying to answer several other comments at once. My main concern is that Dale’s suggestion violate not only scientific thinking but modern philosophical thinking. They also imply a knowledge he cannot possibly have).

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  75. …when you reject science you are rejecting logic – an important component of science.

    First, I’m not ‘rejecting’ science, but talking about what it cannot do. Whilst having an amicable relationship, science and logic are not a package deal. they are overlapping things, or better yet science rests on assumptions (nature’s lawful regularity) and logic.

    does not mean we cannot see “fossil” evidence, etc

    this notion of ‘fossil’ evidence is interesting. How would we distinguish the effect of a parallel universe (whatever that is) and an intending agency!? Heck, name one of these parallel universes ‘heaven’ and let God operate from there :P

    You are asking for approval of a circular argument (knowing the answer before investigating).

    Actually quite the opposite. Without scientifc observations of universe-intending actions, science can only work in circles from our vantage point. And stop accusing me of ‘knowing’ the answer – we’re talking about non-omniscient humans here.

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  76. Dale – re your denial of a role for science:

    The point is that you claim that science cannot deal with certain questions then claim logic can. And yet logic is an important part of science! It is a package deal – you can’t separate science from logic. but science is dynamic. It uses a developing logic. Doesn’t stick with medieval logic as theology appears to. And of course empirical evidence and validation is another important component of science (even if it can’t always be used).

    We are quite used to scientific reasoning and speculation being based entirely on logical reasoning.

    So, Dale, you are now arguing that that a parallel universe could be your “heaven.” Then it seems perfectly reasonable to me that we could see “fossil” evidence of your “heaven” in our own universe (even if direct observation now is impossible because of speed of light restrictions.). As I said there is already some aspects of movement of material in our universe which can be interpreted that way (and we can’t as yet explain any other way).

    And, Dale, you are not responding to the fundamental problem. If your think this “heaven” has an influence on our reality then you are conceding the possibility for scientific investigation. it is the nature of “influence” that evidence can exist.

    If you deny the role of science, as well as denying a role for logical reasoning you deny any influence at all of your heaven on our reality. That raises two questions:

    1: Isn’t it cosmically arrogant to make claims about something which is completely impossible to know or comprehend.

    2: Isn’t such a “heaven” the most uninteresting concept in all human imagination. It has no influence possible of being discerned. it is impossible to know in any way at all. Completely uninteresting.

    Much saner to just not bother thinking of such things.

    My accusation of “knowing” the answer is your insistence and claiming a structure for reality which you have absolutely no way of knowing anything about at all. Not logically, not evidentially.

    Yet you make the claim that you know it exists, that you have some ideas about it. And you deny any role for the best methods that humanity has for investigating and understanding reality. Science – logical reasoning, empirical evidence and mapping ideas against reality.

    Now you repeat your claim “Without scientific observations of universe-intending actions, science can only work in circles from our vantage point.” I find this really naive and defamatory towards science.

    You are, in effect, wiping out all modern science which relies on inductive reasoning and inference. You will deny that science has a role in investigating and understanding electrons or quarks because we have never observed them directly. Such things can be inferred – as can purpose and lack of purpose.

    Mind you – medieval logic gets us nowhere with this.

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  77. “medieval logic”
    “you keep using that word – I do not think it means what you think it means…” (name that film).

    Ken you (deliberately!?) misrepresent me. I am pro science and not ‘wiping it away’. You really have an emotional knee-jerk reaction to this don’t you?

    And obviously you can use logic when not doing science. Mathematics, for example. Of course, ‘science’ in the broadest sense means any/all forms of scienta, knowledge. So even the tiniest percentage (.0000000000000001%) of a logical inference to a cause for the universe would constitute partial, non-omnipotent knowledge of the purpose of the universe.

    Of course science could investigate the ‘fossil evidence’ of the influence of another universe, etc. The whole point of an intended universe would be that every single component of our universe would be just this ‘fossil evidence’ of an intending agent. I’m glad you used the word ‘interpretation’ because that’s precisely what it’s about.

    1) I am not in this thread trying to prove a creator or cause or intention for the universe. I’m not making claims. You did in your post. As yet you’ve been unable to show how anyone could do what you said we could do.
    ‘Surely’ we could see purpose in the structure of the universe.
    How?
    We can’t! and Religion can’t either!
    But it was you that…
    Stop jelly wrestling!
    etc.

    As Richard mentioned above, language about the edges, size, expansion of the universe and esp. its relationship to other possible universes is pretty tentative stuff. What floors me is that you can in one breath talk easily and calmly about parallel universes affecting this one and then in another breath refuse to imagine other structures of reality!?

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  78. Dale, it’s not a matter of being pro-science or otherwise. It’s a matter of ring fencing part of reality with absolutely no justification at all. That makes it arrogant to make claims that one needs “another way of knowing” on some questions. Purely because it is unscientific to make the unwarranted claims you wish to. That is you need to deny a role for science.

    You have done absolutely nothing to disprove my assertion that any purpose or intent would in principle be reflected in aspects of our universe. Your support for the “design argument” shows that in practice you are really conceding that point.

    But you cannot support a “design argument” or any claim of purpose or otherwise without conceding science as the obvious way of investigating this via it’s effects. There is really no other genuine way. Vague talk of tradition and emotion is a con. An attempt to justify a position without any evidence or reason, is in fact in opposition to evidence and reason.

    You claim I “refuse to imagine other structures of reality.” Bugger me. That, I believe is essential in science – reality is in most features counter-intuitive. And surely you can see from debates around here that I actually enjoy scientific speculation – while not being unrealistic about it.

    Just don’t expect me to be swayed by unwarranted dogmatic claims denying science a role in the investigation of the universe. I am not that naive.

    Regarding my reference to “medieval logic” I think it is basic. The fact that anyone wishes to separate logical reasoning from science or purposely reject any role for evidence in that reasoning makes the logic medieval. I tried to illustrate this with the homily about counting teeth.

    I think this issue is fundamental to the failure of medieval philosophy and theology in any attempt to understand reality. And I think it is very noticeable that a lot of modern theology really hasn’t advanced beyond that sterile position. I have commented before on Marx’s Feurbach theses. I appreciate theologians might choose to ignore these but I think any philosopher who avoids the principle is ignoring all the philosophical progress since the medieval days of theology.

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  79. Ken,
    Just quit with the arrogant language. I’ve said nothing to warrant it. It’s not arrogant to suggest what many find as obvious – that science studies natural causes and phenomena, not any causes or phenomena that transcend our universe.

    You pair evidence and reason. They are not the same thing. Not only does evidence have to be interpreted (a point you didn’t answer), but reason can extrapolate past current evidence.

    How many modern theologians have you read? You do know the difference between a theologian and a christian with a website? I think you’ll find that most actual theologians (those who interact with scholarship) have very science friendly views.

    Ken, when you argue that science can reveal purpose in the universe, you sound like the ID-ists you so sharply critique. I’ve seen your disdain for their use of terms like ‘logical inference’ – yet you seem to now be supporting that this is possible!? But you have an anti-God bias, and only allow it for ???’s in parallel universes?

    I am making a rather precise statement and I choose my words pretty carefully (that, to any who care, is why I often hyphen-ate words to cluster together the related ideas). To use your pair of terms, I think purpose (and design) is not an evidential matter (evidence must be interpreted), but can be a reasonable inference (reason can work both before and after evidence).

    ((All of this is very respectful of science and I find it really annoying that I’m not given the benefit of the doubt. Ken, I often feel you have other people in mind when you challenge my ideas. I think this may be because I use the same words, which I can understand, but I simply ask that you give me the benefit of the doubt. Heck, it’s been long established that the best way to argue is to present the other’s ideas in their best form.))

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  80. Dale, this is what I find arrogant: “many find as obvious – that science studies natural causes and phenomena, not any causes or phenomena that transcend our universe. “

    Science is our best way of investigating what is. Period. “Natural causes and phenomena” are weasel words. As is “transcend the universe.”

    It is arrogant to ring fence in this way. And them to go on to claim that religion can fill in. Incredibly arrogant. Especially as we have many examples of the pathetic job religion does in describing reality. (Another reason to avoid evidence, I guess).

    Dale, surely you must be plagued by words like teaching to suck eggs when you point out the need the interpret evidence. Why make such an obvious claim to me? I have spent my whole life doing it. That’s why I am pointing out to you the importance of mapping ideas against reality, something religion steadfastly refuses to do. How else can one check one’s “interpretation?” How else does one find out if one’s inference is “reasonable” or not? Just by simple declaration!? Revelation!?

    We are not a rational species. The refusal to check and validate against reality is the sure way of promoting prejudice and preconceived but unwarranted ideas.

    You ask me to give you the “benefit of the doubt”. But you and Glenn have been absolutely clear. You have denied science a role in investigating and understanding parts of reality. You have declared this can only be done by philosophy and religion. Talk of emotion and tradition are clearly cons. You surely can’t mean that.

    I am not as naive as you seem to think. Of course I will defend the integrity of my views and experience when I see them treated that way. Reasonable discussion is clearly the way of handling this sort of thing – that way people learn. I certainly do.

    Giving the “benefit of the doubt” is silly. If I have got you wrong you only have to describe the problem. But I haven’t got you wrong because you continue to repeat your claims. That’s why I continue to argue against them.

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  81. Science is our best way of investigating what is. Period.

    …and the scientific evidence for that statement – none.
    Do humans have value and rights? Get scientific on studying that.
    What is the cause of natural laws? Facts and observational evidence please.

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  82. It is out of my respect for truth and science that I press the issue.

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  83. You are off at a tangent there, Glenn. Next thing you will be using the word “scientism.”

    There is a modern philosophical principle which the medieval theologians were quite oblivious to: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating!”

    But, of course? This is is the principle (elephant in the room) you and Glenn have avoided all along.

    Now apply that to modern science and to religion.

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  84. Oh no, that’s no tangent. It’s directly relevant. Go on…

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  85. I choose my words pretty carefully (that, to any who care, is why I often hyphen-ate words to cluster together the related ideas).

    Perhaps if you chose them even more carefully you wouldn’t have to hyphenate them at all? Besides, there’s still the scare-quoting and the slash marks and the bracketing and the endless drippy qualifying phrases. (though of course, I’m using that term in it’s broadest and most inclusive sense…or something.)
    Erk!

    …and the scientific evidence for that statement – none.

    Says the man typing away on his keyboard.
    (snort)

    Science works.
    It produces results.
    Your appeal to traditions and emotions and intuition in the form of the empty phrase “other ways of knowing” take a very distant second place.

    It’s not arrogant to suggest what many find as obvious…

    Many find as odvious?
    Wow.
    That settles it then.
    Do you even bother to think before you type?
    (Clang)

    It is out of my respect for truth and science that I press the issue.

    Unfortunately, your cloak of respect for science doesn’t quite cover your ham-fisted desire to preach.

    Ever since the first shaman figured out that people were irrational beings, cults have made an excellent living expoliting human gullibility.
    Political influence, social status and cold hard cash.
    Pass around the collection plate.
    The only thing that is produced in return is jello.

    The internet really is the place where religions come to die.

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  86. not wanting to be a pain, and I’m quite happy if we’re all finished here, but I do think that human equal rights is a good example of something that is based on an intuitive, traditional human judgment and doesn’t have any facts that support it.

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  87. Intuitions and “traditional human judgements” are of course not unrelated to facts. What our we making judgements if? What are our intuitions a response to?

    Nor are these things unrelated to the material facts of the human brain, it’s ability of self reflection, it’s inbuilt empathy, the relationship between motor, perception and emotional regions.

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  88. Dale, the point was not to claim that science is all-knowing. Science is not all-knowing.

    The point is that science is the only way of testing claims that has been demonstrated to work.

    You can posit other ways of knowing; but they have either not been demonstrated to work, or been demonstrated not to work.

    You can posit a class of claims which science cannot test; but there is no other way of testing those claims that has been demonstrated to work.

    In essence: science isn’t perfect, but it’s demonstrably works. That puts it far ahead of any other “way of knowing” that you’ve postulated.

    There are plenty of claims about which science cannot judge true or false. That’s not in dispute. But no other way of knowing has been shown to work for those claims either.

    If science can’t do something, that doesn’t grant a default success to anything else. Any other way of knowing can only be a contender if it works at least as reliably and demonstrably as science. Which might leave us with no way of knowing the truth about some claims. If that’s the case, I’m fine with it.

    I’m not frightened by not knowing, and I don’t see a need to put an undemonstrated and unreliable “way of knowing” in place merely to support a claim.

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  89. Ben Finney,

    There are plenty of claims about which science cannot judge true or false. That’s not in dispute.

    Actually, I’m not yet sure that Ken has concede this. He still thinks, I think (??), that a purpose or intent for the universe could be seen in it’s structure.

    Which might leave us with no way of knowing the truth about some claims. If that’s the case, I’m fine with it.

    Indeed! I don’t think we know anything perfectly – even about grass growing or gravity.

    I’m not going to bother trying to discuss how reliable ‘other ways of knowing’ might be in this tired/long thread. I have my own blog, after all. I was just responding to Ken’s post and his claim that the universe’s purpose can ‘surely’ be known in it’s structure, etc.

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  90. I’m not going to bother trying to discuss [in this thread] how reliable ‘other ways of knowing’ might be

    Fine. Then please stop making unfounded claims like “I think while science cannot even get started on the [existence-of-gods] question, logic & reason can”.

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  91. Dale, you continue to misrepresent me by quoting out of context. While I am claiming that questions like purpose of the universe or not can be investigated by collecting evidence about the universe please don’t quote the word “could” inappropriately.

    I think there is no doubt that current scientific understanding of the universe does not find any evidence of purpose or intent – because there isn’t any purpose. Quite the opposite. We are long past the days of Newton who used a god of the gaps to explain things he was unable to explain scientifically. We are also past the time of explaining things like puddles, life and evolution as purpose driven. Dennett describes how science now uses cranes rather than sky hooks to explain reality.

    I found myself agreeing with Ben’s comment completely. He seemed to be expressing the same things I have.

    I really must disagree with the tone of your statement: “I don’t think we know anything perfectly – even about grass growing or gravity.”

    While technically correct in a logical sense in practical terms it is just silly. Some things like grass growing or gravity are known so well that it would be more than stubbornly pedantic to deny them. It would be a sign of madness. The world does not have the time to wait for that degree of certainty.

    And I am always amused to hear this sort of argument from faith peddlers who make assertions with so little evidence and yet such great conviction. To then turn around and say something like that about scientific knowledge is surely dishonest on their part.

    Dale, perhaps you should do a post on your blog discussing the reliability of the “other ways of knowing” you are advocating. Currently I think they are zilch when it comes to understanding the universe. But I would like to see your justification.

    Glenn typically uses anger to manipulate such discussions and avoid answering such requests. Matt just disappears. So I am currently not impressed by self confessed theologians or philosophers of religion.

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  92. I really must disagree with the tone of your statement: “I don’t think we know anything perfectly – even about grass growing or gravity.”

    While technically correct in a logical sense in practical terms it is just silly.

    Dale continues to search for the shadow of doubt.
    To find that wiggle-room where the magic invisible sky-daddy can live safely.
    Crass intellectual dishonesty.
    I believe the technical term for it is a “deepity”.

    Whitman’s Mind: Dan Dennett on Spin & Deepity

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  93. Richard Christie

    Glenn typically uses anger to manipulate such discussions and avoid answering such requests.
    Not just that, he also edits comments of others to reinforce his own arguments.

    Despicable.

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  94. Ken,

    I think there is no doubt that current scientific understanding of the universe does not find any evidence of purpose or intent – because there isn’t any purpose.

    Current scientific understanding doesn’t find evidence FOR purpose or intent OR AGAINST purpose or intent. Nature doesn’t wear name tags with ‘purposed’ or ‘not purposed’ on them. We have to have – how many times must it be said!? – a prior idea of what a purposed (or unpurposed) nature would look like, which is what I’ve pointed out all along, and I think Richard at least agrees. You, however, have said just here that ‘there isn’t any purpose’… !!??

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  95. Dale, currently we see no evidence for purpose. (And its silly to imply that we accept gravity because of “name tags,”) None of our theories require such a component. Especially since special creation was rejected over 100 years ago.

    Of course in future we may find evidence (I am sure it won’t be name tags) and this will be accommodated in our theories. That’s the way scientific knowledge works.

    Personally I wouldn’t bet on it.

    But I still await an explanation of how these “other ways of knowing” have shown purpose. Do tradition and emotion discover name tags?

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  96. Richard Christie

    [to recognise or find purpose] We have to have – how many times must it be said!? – a prior idea of what a purposed (or unpurposed) nature would look like, which is what I’ve pointed out all along, and I think Richard at least agrees.

    I tend to agree. But that agreement does not exclude looking at reality and trying to figure out mechanisms (create and test hypotheses) to explain “the beginning” and/or any associated purpose if any. That is what science goes well.

    Dale, say for silly arguments sake, science discovers a message written in the background radiation of the universe, encoded Hebrew no less, and it says “made by Yahwe as a practical joke (or whatever) on its inhabitants.” bingo – science discovers purpose, a purpose that you, presumably, would be delighted with.

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  97. Nature doesn’t wear name tags with ‘purposed’ or ‘not purposed’ on them.
    ( double facepalm )

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  98. Ken,
    Good night – what part of my last comment made you think I was suggesting that we ‘accept’ gravity because nature wears name tags?

    And again, you way ‘currently we see no evidence of purpose’ – and I add (again!) ‘…or no evidence of purposelessness’. The evidence doesn’t point either way.

    Richard,
    That would be, not science, but reading. :)

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  99. Richard Christie

    Ah, but you needed an array of radio telescopes to read it, that’s science.

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  100. Dale, you accept gravity without tags but claim tags are required to discover purpose! Bit desperate, isn’t it?

    You are completely wrong. It’s not a matter of not knowing. It’s a matter of not requiring. Before Darwin purpose was commonly accepted via special creation. Natural selection means we no longer require purpose. No modern scientific theory requires purpose. That’s not to say we won’t in future find evidence of purpose. I personally think it is very unlikely because I just don’t think there is purpose.

    Now you claim that you have “other ways of knowing” which show purpose. Why will you not explain how? I think you have just pulled this out of the air. And you continue to make silly assertions about grass growing and gravity purely to avoid the fact that your “other ways of knowing” are just not credible.

    If you disagree please share the information with us.

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  101. Richard,
    The telescope doesn’t make it ‘science’ any more than reading glasses would – or a white coat :)

    Ken,
    Gravity is a word that describes the way we observe bodies to relate to one another, etc. A term describing what we observe. Purpose for the universe, as we’ve been saying, would not only need observation of the universe, but a prior idea of what would make it look purposed (or, again, not purposed) to help interpret what we see.

    Your taking things quite far afield by mentioning natural selection, special creation, etc. It’d be most helpful if we stick to the single question of how we could begin to know a purpose for the universe. I’m not making claims here – you have. Explain or clarify them.

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  102. No, Dale you have made claims. That “other ways of knowing” show a purpose while science can’t. Specifically emotion and tradition. That these can help us understand the universe.

    Why do you continue to avoid this wonderful opportunity to explain and justify your claim?

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  103. Ken, I’m not interested in using your blog to advance my ideas and beliefs. My blog has plenty of related posts on the issue. I want to focus on discussion of what you wrote in this post. Any indications of what I think have only been in response to your claim about the universe’s purpose being able to be seen in the structure of the universe.

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  104. The only counter-claim I make here relates to the idea that our observations of ‘the structure of the universe (including cogs, wheels, etc.) will not point to either purpose or the lack of it.

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  105. Dale, might I suggest you would be singing a different tune if the evidence supported your claim of purpose. If astronomical advances over the last 400 years had confirmed the traditional and emotional “other ways of knowing” view that our planet was at the centre of the universe. If molecular biology showed humans to be essentially different to other animals. Etc.

    Just imagine. You guys would be shouting the evidence from the treetops.

    But unfortunately for theists the universe does not show that evidence – although there are some who prefer up stick with their “other ways of knowing” and deny the facts of the universe and evolution.

    So now we get the typical theological attempts at confusion. A denial that there could ever be any evidence one way or the other. And the “other ways of knowing” smokescreen gets revealed as the Emperor with no clothes.

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  106. I’m sorry you’re confused Ken. But not only have I been consistent about my opinion, I’ve tried to focus on your statements about us seeing purpose in the universe’s structure. You not only say that it’s possible to detect purpose scientifically, but you talk as though science is past looking as if we’ve a) had the methods, b) used them, and c) found no purpose. It is this talk which I (and I’d hope Richard as well) cannot understand. Not because I’m a Christian, but genuinely I cannot understand how any scientific observations could show either purpose or purposelessness.

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  107. I thought I had spelled it out, or are you pretending to not get it?”genuinely I cannot understand how any scientific observations could show either purpose or purposelessness.”

    If scientific observations had confirmed the emotional and traditional view that we were the centre of the universe that would be evidence of purpose. We would have had some confidence in that interpretation.

    And you would be preaching that message.

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  108. Ken,
    again – do you think that scientific observation of the universe can indicate either purpose or purposelessness? From above comments, I suspect yes, and I’d like to know how.

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  109. Clearly I have said yes. If there is a purpose behind the universe one would be expect to be able, in principle, to infer that from evidence in the universe. One could then advance a structured hypotheses and, again in principle, set about testing.

    Effectively this has been done with special creation and geocentric models of the universe. These have been shown inadequate and replaced by natural selection and our standard model of the universe. Neither if these require purpose and they are well validated by reality.

    That is not to say that one might in the future advance a more sophisticated purpose-based model which gets validated by evidence. However, I think this is very unlikely. But I don’t mind acknowledging that I am often wrong.

    But I am repeating myself.

    And people claiming purpose couldn’t give a stuff about the evidence. Although they would rapidly become the strongest advocates for evidence based reason if supporting evidence were ever found. Until then they will advocate “other ways of knowing” which are realy Clayton ways of knowing. In their heart of hearts they realize this – consequently they shut up when asked to explain how emotion and tradition works.

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  110. One could then advance a structured hypotheses and, again in principle, set about testing.

    Richard, do you want to interact with this? You and I seemed to agree above that without an (I know no other words to use…) ‘extra-universe’ observation (and observation from outside the universe) of a universe-purposing phenomena, we’d not be able to even begin to formulate an empirically verifiable (and thus scientific) hypothesis.
    Effectively this has been done with special creation and geocentric models of the universe. These have been shown inadequate and replaced by natural selection and our standard model of the universe. Neither if these require purpose and they are well validated by reality.
    Special creation (a term too broad/vague – I presume you mean ‘young earth creation’?) and geocentricism were not scientific hypotheses that have been tested. They were assumptions and ideas that are in conflict with an overwhelming body of scientific evidence.

    And neither evolution nor our standard model of the universe have ruled in or out any purpose in the universe. Special creation is not in tension with any evidence against purpose (as if we’d know what that evidence even looked like), but rather is in tension with evidence of a 13.75 billion year old universe. Likewise, geocentricism is not in tension with any notions of purpose or purposelessness, but in tension with the earth’s relative position to our sun, the milky way and the rest of the universe (as far as we know it). In other words, what the hell does an old universe or the earth’s size and location in it have to do with purpose or purposelessness?

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  111. ((meant to have your quote in blockquote tag –> “Effectively this has been [...] validated by reality.”))

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  112. Richard Christie

    Getting terribly circular.
    Clearly there are at least two possiblities.

    i) The beginning of observable reality came about via a cause, perhaps external, with or without purpose and we will never be able to verify because it’s beyond observable reality.

    ii) Observable reality is self-consistent, self-generated and verifiable.

    We can make progress, via science, toward understanding case ii) .
    Case i) can never be settled, but nonetheless, that’s where religions stake their claims.

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  113. Not meaning to kiss thine arse, but that’s a helpful comment Richard – in focus and length.

    I’d only disagree with the ‘self-generated’ bit. I don’t think science can establish that (nor can it establish it being ‘other-generated’) Furthermore, I don’t see how i) and ii) (other than self-generated) have to be two different possibilities? Even if observable reality were caused by an unobservable cause, it could still be self-consistent and verifiable?

    I’ve postulated 4 options before:
    1) observable reality (O.R.) is an illusion (solipsism)
    2) O.R. is eternal – no beginning – no generation
    3) O.R. is self-caused
    4) O.R. is other-caused

    I think 4 is most logical and reasonable, but I don’t think science AS science tells us either way.

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  114. I think the circularity is a way of avoiding the obvious. The emotional and traditional “other ways of knowing” are a fraud. That don’t produce knowledge about objective reality worth squat.

    Richard – I am always suspicious of claiming something is impossible. Its true that speed of light and other restrictions mean we cannot observe the early stages of the history of the universe, or indeed how it formed and what happened before. Same way as we will never be able to observe the early stages of life, or indeed later stages like dinosaurs, on our planet. Nor can we observe the formation of our planet and solar system

    But just as we can infer stages of life from existing evidence (fossils, molecular biology) we can also infer much about the universe, its early stages, its formation and what went before from “fossil” evidence in our universe. A speculative example is Penrose’s proposal that gravitational events in a former universe are reflected in the fine structure of the cosmic microwave background of our unvierse. The CMB has provided us with a lot of “fossil” evidence about the early stages of our universe. The elemental composition of different parts of the universe have enabled us to infer what happened during the formation of the universe and how things evolved thereafter. If and when we are capable of detecting gravity waves one would expect we will have even more “fossil” evidence available.

    We can also study many of the phenomena in the laboratory. The LHC has been looking at the quark/gluon plasma thought to occur before the formation of atoms in the early stages of the universe formation. Other investigations at the LHC will attempt to verify the existence of fields thought to be involved in the actual formation mechanism.

    So, I am saying that it is common in science to infer mechanisms for actions we can no longer observe. We can base our inferences on the “fossil” evidence – and we can check any resulting hypothesis against the existing evidence. (Actually, this is also the situation in laboratory experiments much more than one would expect. Very often we cannot observe a chemical reaction but we can infer its mechanism and transitory species from measurements we make after the event).

    Modern science does that all the time and never has to postulate purpose or gods except in the most extreme speculation. We have got used to understanding reality without the need for purpose.

    However, in the old days postulation of purpose was a common inference (perhaps more an assumption – because of confounding “emotion” and “tradition”). A geocentric concept of the universe (natural and “scientific” pre-Galileo) could be used to infer a god and purpose. And an elevated position for humans. The existence of different living species led to the inference of separate, special creation, of these. Again we could infer a special role for humans.

    But science always evolves and we now know our picture of life and of the universe was wrong. So the ideas of purpose were found to be wrong as they were not verifiable. Their predictions didn’t pan out. Similarly Penrose’s ideas of evidence for a pre-existing universe could we be found not supported. For example the fine structure he observes in the CMB may be shown to be completely explained by expected statistical variations in a large data set. On the other hand more detail measurements with the newer telescopes may only provide more confidence to Penrose’s ideas.

    It is quite common for the theologically inclined to find “scientific evidence” for purpose today. Craig and the ID Wedge people continually quote the fine tuning of physical constants. They obviously disagree with Dale (but then again I think Dale has also inferred purpose in a similar way). The problem is not that they are guilty of “scientism”. They are correct that given their assumptions of gods we should see surviving evidence (especially from a divine being continually interfering in reality, answering prayers, smiting infidels, etc.) reflected in aspects of the universe – if it indeed occurred. Their problem is the opportunist, and dishonest, way they use the evidence. (A common problem when you start with a conclusions).

    Stenger has made the point that existence of the Christian/Jewish/Islamic god would be easily detected from existing evidence because of its continuing involvement. (Hence his book “The Failed Hypothesis”). He claims this is not possible for a deistic god. While not so obvious I think that even a god who goes into immediate retirement after her creation effort would still leave “fossil” evidence. Because the mechanism of formation would be different to one not involving such a deity. However, discovery of that sort of evidence probably requires a better understanding of the mechanism involved in universe formation.

    However, “natural:” mechanism (not invo9lving gods) for the creation of the unvierse are understood well enough to derive specific predictions. For example the specific proportions of H, He and Li. The fact that these predictions have been verified confirm that we currently do not need to postulate purpose to explain universe formation. That is a general conclusion in science these days.

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  115. Dale – you think option 4 is the “most logical and reasonable” because of your own desires, prejudices. This is a key problem with “logic” divorced from empirical evidence.

    You don’t base your logic on anything but your emotional and traditional desire (hence you get out what you put in to your “logic”) and you refuse to test any “logical” conclusion. You declare that science doesn’t tell you either way because you don’t want it to.

    But I bet your attitude would be different if there was clear evidence of purpose. As for example a geocentric unvierse.

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  116. Richard Christie

    The emotional and traditional “other ways of knowing” are a fraud.

    Yes, I’m with you 100%

    Richard – I am always suspicious of claiming something is impossible.

    also on this too, that’s why we can’t rule out that the magic sweaty football sock made everything. The football sock operates in a dimension totally outside our frame of reference, and it’s stealthy, doesn’t leave any trace of its activity.

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  117. Richard Christie

    except universes, it excretes them.

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  118. As luck would have it, I’ve just read a news story that relies very heavily on “other ways of knowing”.
    It’s got intuition, emotion and tradition all mixed in together…
    (Hat-tip to LGF)

    “ALBUQUERQUE – Five men face charges, mostly misdemeanors, after members of two Roswell churches got into a scuffle when followers of one church started preaching last Sunday on a sidewalk outside the other.
    Joshua De Los Santos, pastor of Old Paths Baptist Church, said his church has preached at other religious groups without the “animosity” members encountered at Church On The Move.

    “God’s word tells us to preach to every creature. … That might include some who are trapped in false religions, according to the Bible,” De Los Santos said. His church’s website says it uses only the King James Bible, believing “all other versions have Satan’s fingerprints.”

    Wow.
    Satan’s fingerprints.
    Science just can’t compete with that.

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  119. Ken,
    Again, you waste time (but what the hell, it’s your blog…) criticising me for things I’m not saying rather than discussing the points – which get lost in comments that long… Also, 4-5 people on the thread is a factor. Ken, I honestly would like to Skype you I think we’d have a much more fruitful conversation that way. Or of course that coffee if you remember me the next time you’re up in Auckland…

    Penrose’s proposal that gravitational events in a former universe are reflected in the fine structure of the cosmic microwave background of our unvierse. The CMB has provided us with a lot of “fossil” evidence about the early stages of our universe.

    Huge – HUGE difference between ‘fossil’ evidence of phenomena inside our universe, and your suggestion that we could have ‘fossil’ evidence of phenomena from ‘outside’ it (I’m aware of the problems with the word ‘outside’ – no lectures needed please). Direct observation is only possible in the present. The ‘fossil’ evidence you speak of is indirect observation – and yes, it’s hugely valuable to science. We have no observations ‘outside’ our universe, leaving us to interpret what we see. And we don’t know what ‘fossil’ evidence of purpose would look like (hint: patterns in the CMB might indeed point to some prior physical event – but do not point toward or away from purpose or intent).

    Modern science does that all the time and never has to postulate purpose or gods except in the most extreme speculation.

    Of course it hasn’t – because that’s not what science is looking for. It looks for mechanisms, not purposes. Who ever said science ‘has to’ postulate purpose?

    A geocentric concept of the universe (natural and “scientific” pre-Galileo) could be used to infer a god and purpose. And an elevated position for humans. The existence of different living species led to the inference of separate, special creation, of these. Again we could infer a special role for humans.

    Umm… don’t humanists posit an elevated position for humans? Since when has the friggin’ relative location of the earth been the make or break issue for any/all purpose in or for the universe? Ever been to a zoo? How medieval of the zookeepers to dare to boss the animals around! Even zoology – how dare we give them names in human languages! A travesty! Modern science should have delivered us from such archaic and anthropocentric delusions.

    So the ideas of purpose were found to be wrong as they were not verifiable.

    Talk about circular! Science has found no purpose. Why? Because science couldn’t verify existing ideas of purpose.

    While not so obvious I think that even a god who goes into immediate retirement after her creation effort would still leave “fossil” evidence. Because the mechanism of formation would be different to one not involving such a deity. However, discovery of that sort of evidence probably requires a better understanding of the mechanism involved in universe formation. (emphasis mine)

    Riiiiight. Because we can just go to the evidence warehouse and find universes to compare against ours. Neatly categorised in the universe room: aisle 1 – universes formulated with deistic god mechanism; aisle 2 – universes formulated with a more involved god’s mechanism; aisle 3 – universes formulated with pantheistic god’s mechanism; aisle 4 – universes formulated without a god mechanism…

    This is precisely the first question I asked you – way back in question one. I don’t think it is illogical or unreasonable to say that an unpurposed universe would look different (somehow) than a purposed universe. I just would like to hear how we’d know (scientifically) which category our universe fits into. Remember – this is the only universe we’ve got, and all scientific observations are made from within it. Go.

    However, “natural:” mechanism (not invo9lving gods) for the creation of the universe are understood well enough to derive specific predictions. For example the specific proportions of H, He and Li. The fact that these predictions have been verified confirm that we currently do not need to postulate purpose to explain universe formation.

    Oh… so now we have universe-creating mechanisms nicely categorised, and the one that created our universe – which of course, we know basically nothing about scientifically – neatly falls into the natural category. Why? Because non-natural entities must obviously be teapots or sweaty socks and we just plain don’t like tea or sporting – scientifically speaking. Or, if pressed, it’s because we’ve looked at our universe a time or two and it’s predictable. Impressive.

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  120. There is a fundamental difference in understanding reality here. It’s a reason why I don’t like using words that people bandy around. But in the interest of getting to fundamentals, here goes. I have many times defined material reality as that which objectively exists and has the ability to interact.

    More and more I am convinced that interaction is a property of existence so the second part is superfluous. It is this interaction which makes anything potentially capable of detection, study and understanding. (Surely i don’t have to repeat qualifications arising from our technological and intellectual limitations?)

    However, assuming there can be aspects of reality which don’t interact (and your concept of being outside the universe probably is what covers this) then these are the most uninteresting aspects of reality imaginable. Well actually so uninteresting as not to be imaginable.

    This describes your purpose. Because you define it as undetectable, meaning it does not interact. It has no significance.

    Sure, such a “purpose” cannot be studied by science. It can’t even be imagined so it can’t be investigated by any conscious method. It behaves exactly as if it doesn’t exist. For all intents and purposes this is exactly how it should be treated. Because in reality as you define it it doesn’t exist. And that is why we can explain (potentially) aspects of reality we investigate without postulating it. What would be the frikken point – to postulate a phenomenon which has absolutely no interaction with the rest of reality? And for that reason cannot be described or imagined (these require interaction).

    Dale, you have set up criteria which inevitably leads to bafflegab and humpty dumpy words. Inevitably. Because you are talking about nothing, which cannot be imagined let alone described. All this talk of things being outside the universe and undetectable is just part of the bafflegab because you guys then go on to talk about it as if it exists and you understand at least something about it! (Clayton’s interaction i guess). I believe that is dishonest. But it requires bastardization of language – something theologians seem to specialise in. Karen Armstrong is the classic in this.

    This discussion arose because Glenn objected to scientists being involved in a panel discussion of “Does the universe have a purpose?” saying science has nothing to say on this. Clearly he is wrong because science is making an excellent job of describing the universe without postulating purpose. Where it has done so in the past it has been proven wrong. Science has something significant to say. Purpose is not a necessary postulate as there is no evidence for it and it is not required to understand reality. At this stage.

    Now Glenn goes on to say that only religion and philosophy should comment on this question. He talks about “other ways of knowing.” Yet he won’t front up to explain these and their performance in this case. You have also talked about “other ways of knowing,” Specifically emotion and tradition. And you refuse to front up to explain.

    Dale, I don’t think you can justify your position and all this humpty dumpy theological bafflegab is an avoidance. It is the old argument by default.

    I am quite prepared to acknowledge that science cannot investigate a postulated part of reality which does not interact. To me that means it has absolutely no importance (how could it) and for all purposes can only be treated as if it didn’t exist. I am quite happy to see it that way. How else could one rationally see it?

    Yet the strange thing is that you claim emotion and tradition are ways of knowing and understanding this non-existing “purpose” (non existent because you have effectively defined it as so by denying any interaction with reality).

    If you are honest with this claim why not justify it? Why, instead attempt diversion into talking about weird “sciency” sounding things about something outside the universe being undetectable. You have absolutely no basis for those sort of stories and they just come across as dishonest.

    Instead of burbling on about such things which have no reality and are just bafflegab why not explain how your “other ways of knowing” work on this “purpose” thing? Don’t give me the excuse of wasting comment space – your comments on undetectability of things outside the universe made ad nausuem have surely been the space waster. Especially after repeated requests for your explanation.

    I am genuinely interested in explanations of your other ways of knowing. I have no interest in your thoughts on undetectable things outside the universe. That subject is surely exhausted.

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  121. I guess this is the problem with circular arguments (and long comments). However, I see, Dale, you have made the important concession:

    “I don’t think it is illogical or unreasonable to say that an unpurposed universe would look different (somehow) than a purposed universe.”

    That is exactly my point. And in principle it means that the issue is a question for science as the most effective way of detecting differences.

    As for “I just would like to hear how we’d know (scientifically) which category our universe fits into.” This is clearly beyond anything that goes into blog comments and I suggest that neither of us has sufficient mathematical comprehension to debate the real existing ideas and evidence.

    One can debate weird and wonderful ideas endlessly (and mostly ignorantly). One could look at the history of science for examples – such as geocentric universes and special creation of species. And one could look at the current situation of scientific comprehension of the universe (which doesn’t require a purpose postulate).

    But in the end your admission of a difference between a “unpurposed” and “purposed” universe is the central key. It produces an evidential situation – ideally suited to scientific investigation. In principle.

    And not at all suited to investigation by emotion or tradition.

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  122. Again, sorting through the comment and replying to key points:

    What would be the frikken point – to postulate a phenomenon which has absolutely no interaction with the rest of reality? And for that reason cannot be described or imagined (these require interaction).

    The point is that purpose itself is a metaphysical concept (please, spare me the bafflegab mantra – so easy to say ‘that’s bafflegab’ and not interact with the point being made), not yet another physical phenomena – like gravity. This is why patterns in the CMB wouldn’t reveal purpose or no purpose – because gravitation (in this universe or a ‘prior universe’) is a physical phenomena. So purpose wouldn’t be a ‘thing’ that interacts with the universe. It’s more like saying that the universe’s existence are not an accident or unintended – it was ‘meant to exist’ for some purpose.

    This discussion arose because Glenn objected to scientists being involved in a panel discussion of “Does the universe have a purpose?” saying science has nothing to say on this. Clearly he is wrong because science is making an excellent job of describing the universe without postulating purpose. Where it has done so in the past it has been proven wrong. Science has something significant to say. Purpose is not a necessary postulate as there is no evidence for it [Dale adds - 'or against it'!] and it is not required to understand reality. At this stage.

    Again – OF COURSE science can describe the physical universe without recourse to purpose! This doesn’t mean that the universe is automatically an accident. Again, who the hell here is saying that science needs to postulate purpose!?

    I am genuinely interested in explanations of your other ways of knowing. I have no interest in your thoughts on undetectable things outside the universe. That subject is surely exhausted.

    Here, you’ve emphasized (pejoratively) ‘emotion and tradition’ for the last few comments – whereas I think logic and reason are really foremost. You – predictably – claim that this means that science is involved. Which leads us back to my point that logic, reason and (physical) science are not a package deal. Science clearly uses logic and reason, but logic and reason can be and are used both before physical observation (i.e. formulation of hypotheses) and after it (consideration of what is observed). And I hasten to add that the language of cold, logical ‘proofs’ (let alone ‘scientific’ proofs) is for me most inappropriate.
    The reason I think my belief in 4) above is logical and reasonable is not because I think science, logic or reason “proves” it, but rather that the belief is not in any tension with any of them. Young earth creationism is in tension with cosmology, but not all god beliefs are so overtly tied to scientific claims. Belief in a spiritual reality who created and sustains all physical reality, however, is not in tension with any science, logic or reason.
    It is logical, reasonable and science-friendly to attribute the orderly conduct of the universe (which of course, makes science possible) to the intent of a transcendent creator. Some (you?) may say it is equally logical, reasonable and science friendly to attribute the orderly conduct of the universe to the innate properties of physical reality itself. I personally think this is circular (the self-explanatory circle – i.e. the universe’s order ‘just’ comes from the universe).
    Of course, you can (and have) say that the belief in a ‘self-existent’ God is equally circular (i.e. the God who ‘just’ is uncreated). Ultimately, all human knowledge is circular, I suspect. But I’d say that if anything is going to have the quality of self-existence it would be something like an ultimate creator rather than physical reality.
    With that, I’ve probably given more than enough words to be quoted, mocked, scorned & generally not taken seriously. Groan…

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  123. Sorry, meant to add that the key point is that when we are talking about ultimate causality or whether or not the universe (or ‘multiverse’) is self-caused or ‘other’-caused (self-existent or not, etc.), we are not doing physical science or cosmology any more. We’re doing metaphysics (literally “after” physics). We’re using logic and reason to think about what is reasonable to believe about all that we see.

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  124. I just refer back to my last comment which I think is key. You have conceded a difference between an “unpurposed” and “purposed” unvierse. Hence a job for science. Talk about metaphysics, etc., is beside the point (and ultimately meaningless. One does not detect gravity by direct observation of gravity. One infers gravity. (And that inference changes as more evidence comes in). Just as one can infer purpose or otherwise wises – from the detected evidence. (And that inference is open to reconsideration all the time).

    You seem to have given up on these other ways of knowing – emotion and tradition. Wise I think. Talk of logic and reason is not “another way of knowing.” Its part of our scientific way of knowing. Used all the time – and essential in inference from evidence.

    It is interesting, and unsurprising, that you desire to use logic and reason divorced from evidence and validation against reality. But, again, refer to my homily on counting teeth. Exclusion of evidence and reality means a reversion to a medieval “other way of knowing.” Why should one wish to ignore all the progress made by humans in epistemology? Especially as you have conceded that purpose would produce evidence. It suggests one is hiding something.

    “We’re using logic and reason to think about what is reasonable to believe about all that we see.”
    – And we know from history how wrong we have been in the past. Scientific ideas are very often wrong – we know that because we test them. Ideas developed apart from evidence are going to be wrong probably even more often. Refusal to apply empirical tools to the logic and reasoning is not “another way of knowing”. Its a way of protecting emotionally and traditionally charged beliefs against the evidence from reality. Words like “metaphysics” are the bafflegab to hide the fact.

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  125. Ken,
    The difference which I’ve agreed about – between purposed or unpurposed universes – is apparent to reason and logic, not to scientific observation (there is no evidence room full of universes to compare ours with) – hence NOT a job for ‘science’ looking at the ‘evidence’ (direct observation or ‘fossil’ evidence).

    This is precisely why your homily on ‘counting teeth’ is irrelevant. When it comes to the universe, we don’t have an evidence room full of teeth waiting to be merely counted.

    Ken,
    Whilst gravity or natural selection, which are not physical ‘things’ themselves, are nonetheless inferred from observation of physical phenomena, purpose (or the lack of it) is not the sort of animal you can just infer (or fail to infer) from looking at the world. It is by its nature a different kind of question. It’s not – again – a question of mechanism, but of intent. It’s not a matter of observation of evidence, looking at how something (i.e. the universe) looks or functions, but rather a matter of consideration of the evidence, which in the case of the universe involves imagination – imagining how an intended universe would differ from an accidental one.
    Current understanding is that the universe has enough order & regularity to do science at least. For many, this ‘makes sense’ (not “proves”) with the belief of a transcendent intention of a being that presumably intended at least for the universe to be an intelligible reality.

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  126. FWIW, I did a pic just to help for those (like me) who appreciate a visual tool. (post here)
    hope the pic imbed code works?

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  127. oops – didn’t…

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  128. Dale – do you realise how incredibly arrogant it is to declare:

    “The difference which I’ve agreed about – between purposed or unpurposed universes – is apparent to reason and logic, not to scientific observation (there is no evidence room full of universes to compare ours with) – hence NOT a job for ‘science’ looking at the ‘evidence’ (direct observation or ‘fossil’ evidence).”

    With that sort of attitude how can one discuss a question like this. This is a bald statement, no evidence or logic provided. In fact I believe it is illogical to say that there is a change in something and yet declare it out of bound for investigation or detection. Completely illogical!

    And what’s this crap: “It’s not a matter of observation of evidence, looking at how something (i.e. the universe) looks or functions, but rather a matter of consideration of the evidence.” Do I have to repeat that scientists do this all the bloody time. All the time! Consideration of evidence is a full time occupation for scientists.

    I have pointed this out several times yet you keep repeating your mistake.

    And then you have the audacity to declare regarding the facts of the universe“For many, this ‘makes sense’ (not “proves”) with the belief of a transcendent intention of a being that presumably intended at least for the universe to be an intelligible reality.”

    Well I guess it does if you allow only emotion, tradition and shonky logic. But any actual matching against reality is not permitted.

    The fact is that a geocentric universe made sense for many people in the old days and they drew a similar conclusion. The Church’s attitude towards people like Galileo was basically the same as yours – objection to him drawing scientific conclusions (using logical reasoning and observations) about how the universe is organised. They insisted on tradition, emotion and their shonky logic.

    We know how far their “other ways of knowing” got them. It took them more than 200 years to begin their backdown and 400 to acknowledge and apologise.

    So I can understand your theological stubbornness.

    I have taken on board your concession. I reject your attempted withdrawal for which you provide no justification. Nor can you.

    Once a difference is acknowledged you have accepted a role for empirical evidence, logical reasoning and testing against reality.

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  129. Ken, I’m not trying to withdraw anything.

    This is a bald statement, no evidence or logic provided. In fact I believe it is illogical to say that there is a change in something and yet declare it out of bound for investigation or detection. Completely illogical!

    Who said anything about a change? Even if a purpose for the universe changed, it would not be a physical change detected like any other physical phenomena! Have you grasped yet that purpose is not a physical phenomena!!??

    Do I have to repeat that scientists do this all the bloody time. All the time! Consideration of evidence is a full time occupation for scientists.

    Quoted without the context – Quote-mined. Immediately following this, I explain that when it comes to the question of the universe’s purpose, this “consideration of the evidence” involves imagination of things not physically observable. Whilst science may well include imagination of things not YET physically observable, it doesn’t need to bother – and cannot anyway – with imagining things not EVER possible to observe physically. The mistake is yours – by continuing to talk as though purpose is a physically observable phenomena!

    The fact is that a geocentric universe made sense for many people in the old days and they drew a similar conclusion. The Church’s attitude towards people like Galileo was basically the same as yours – objection to him drawing scientific conclusions (using logical reasoning and observations) about how the universe is organised.

    Wrong Ken! Science has, does and will continue to draw all the scientific conclusions it can via logic, reason and observation. But as for anythings not physically observable – hint: a purpose or lack of purpose behind observable reality (Richard’s term) – it hasn’t, doesn’t and won’t. The Galileo example has to do with observable reality and is thus irrelevant to our conversation about purpose.

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  130. On science not needing to postulate purpose(s) – or lack of purpose(s).
    There is a difference between the scientific task of describing the mechanisms by which nature functions – and the other-than-scientific task of considering whether or not there is an intention behind those same mechanisms.

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  131. “But as for anythings not physically observable [science] hasn’t, doesn’t and won’t [be able to draw conclusions, presumably].” - Dale. Have you ever observed gravity? A quark or an electron? And you tell me I am wrong about science!

    I am getting a bit fed up with theological lessons about how science should be done. Hardly a credible teacher.

    I think we get along very well without those lessons. Well, since we have been allowed to.

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  132. What’s theological about that comment!? Don’t dismiss it without engaging it. We indirectly observe gravity, quarks and electrons through their effects. Things moving, a strike mark on a plate, etc. This is physical phenomena. Stop pretending that purpose is a physical phenomena. And stop blaming everything on theology! Interact!

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  133. That’s right, Dale. You infer gravity, quarks, etc. through evidence not direct observation.

    The same way Rev Paley inferred purpose/intention (watchmaker) from the evidence of cogs and springs. And as you agreed a purposed world would be different to an unpurposed world. One can infer purpose or otherwise from the evidence. One can infer an intelligent watchmaker or Dawkins blind watchmaker. But ignoring the evidence and using shonkey logic is not inferring.

    The “theological”” reference is to the revelations you keep administering. Most theologians are out of their comfort zone when they lecture scientists on science but they are too arrogant to appreciate that. Fortunately these days we can just laugh at that arrogance.

    And, Dale, arrogant declarations about science are not interactions. They are insulting.

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  134. Ken,
    I’m not being arrogant, I’m having a strong opinion. And I’m certainly not giving any theological lectures.
    And who here is talking about ignoring the evidence!? Certainly not me. Sometimes I wonder who you’re talking to!

    A) The notion that a purposed universe would look different than an accidental universe…
    is miles apart from
    B) The notion that science can tell the difference.

    Paley had observed cogs made by watchmakers before – we’ve not (and never will) observed other universes made by universe-makers before.

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  135. I am getting tired of having to restate the obvious.

    The claim “that a purposed universe would look different than an accidental universe” is an important claim because difference mean evidence.

    Given evidence the notion that any “other method of knowing” can “tell the difference” if science can’t is just ridiculous. Science does evidence.

    Your “revelation” of other universes being required shows a willing refusal to understand scientific process. It’s not like painting a house and choosing a colour from swatches. But somehow you think that ignorant goatherds are more capable than modern scientists of approaching new evidence with imagination and creativity!

    Most of us ignorant non-imaginative, non-creative scientists can relate the experience of discovering something absolutely new. Something requiring us to apply our creativity, weird ideas, and sheer dreams to, as well as logical reasoning (something you seem to think we can’t do).

    And yes to be disappointed when we find the resulting ideas are wrong. But recognizing that even that is new information enabling us to be more creative. To get stuck in with better logical reasoning and fresh speculation.

    That’s how progress is made. Not by standing back, making “revelations” and declaring that evidence is not required. Ring fencing ones ideas to prevent scientific investigation.

    Sure, Dale, you have strong opinions about science. I am just suggesting that perhaps if you better appreciated the practical activity of science instead of relying on a theological distortion your opinions may not be as strong. Because you might have learned something.

    Theology and philosophy of religion is a crappy teacher of scientific process and significance. It is a bad source of opinions, let alone strong opinions.

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  136. Ken,
    who used the word “revelations”?? who. are. you. talking. to??

    The claim “that a purposed universe would look different than an accidental universe” is an important claim because difference mean evidence.

    The key point (which you refuse to acknowledge??) is that we don’t know how to interpret the evidence. Let’s say that the ‘evidence’ of a purposed universe has a pattern or appearance we’ll call P. And let’s say that the ‘evidence’ of an accidental universe has a pattern or appearance we’ll call A. (leaving aside the possibility for other universes with other purposes – or lack of purposes) It is reasonable to believe that P will not look like A. But as it stands, we don’t have the prior observations necessary to distinguish whether OUR universe is type P or type A. More than this, it is also reasonable (adding what I’ve said more recently with what I said before) to believe that P and A could have the same appearance.

    Say you’re walking underneath a rocky cliff. A rock hits you in the head. It could have been intentionally dropped by a human, accidentally dropped or just have just fallen off of other rocks. Studying the rock or the mark (or hole!) in your head won’t reveal whether or not it was on purpose, accidental or ‘natural’. The impact velocity & damage could well be the same in each case.

    Translate to the universe and purpose. We can scientifically study the velocity and damage of whatever caused the universe. But we can’t observe what caused the rock to drop. We exist ‘within’ the universe.

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  137. Not knowing how to interpret evidence has not stopped us in the past. We roll up our sleeves, get stuck into It, apply some creativity, debate the issues and produce ideas. Scientists also check those ideas, Or their predictions, against reality. Throwing away what’s wrong, Making necessary changes in ideas and testing again.

    Theologians of course have already been hold how to interpret the evidence. They start with their conclusions. Ignore what contradicts them. Misrepresent and manipulate what they feel they can use to confirm their starting conclusion. (And they justify this as “another way of knowing”. Yeah, right!)

    And dogmatic assertions don’t help us understand reality. Although they are useful for driving dissidents and heretics rewards the correct, predetermined, theological conclusion. And to attempt to ring fence parts of reality against scientific investigation.

    But I repeat myself. Again.

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  138. Ken,
    ((do you mind deleting the end of your comment – the bit that has my email and IP addy, etc.??))

    You really love to spray around the criticism to theologians, don’t you? Is that a tick? I’m not preaching theology to you here. We’re talking about the philosophy of science. What science can or cannot study..

    The universe ring-fences us. Get used to it. Not only are there not observations of other universe creations, but we cannot make predictions as our universe (the one we’re asking about) is already created. The universe exists. That’s our evidence. All we can do is interpret it.

    How about actually – gasp! – interacting with, say, my rock analogy? Nah, just rant about how much you hate theology.. Infinitely more helpful…

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  139. I believe you are spouting a theological distortion of philosophy of science. Not the genuine thing that I am used to.

    Theologians have no expertise in deciding what we can and cannot study. They certainly have an ancient interest in driving away science though.

    And they have absolutely no credibility in this area having got things so wrong for so long.

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  140. As for the rocks – as you yourself acknowledge the situation with an accidently falling rock and an intentionally thrown one would be different. The facts of the situation being different would enable, in principle, inference of accident or intention.

    A common issue in forensic science. And it would be normal for such investigators to test their conclusions empirically. And they would have the social pressure of a court hearing to endure their work was done well and any problems with it revealed.

    Sorry about the identity data getting through. I don’t know how but email from an iPod is strange.

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  141. (thanks for the erase of info)
    Ken, you’ve got the rock thing wrong. I’m saying the velocity of the impact and the damage done from both an accidental falling rock or an intentionally dropped one could be identically the SAME. Point = looking at the rock and the head wound would not reveal whether it was dropped or just fell. In the case of the universe, all we can do is look at the rock and the head. The rock did what it did already and we’ll never see it again.

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  142. Dale,

    Huge – HUGE difference between ‘fossil’ evidence of phenomena inside our universe, and your suggestion that we could have ‘fossil’ evidence of phenomena from ‘outside’ it

    Not as big as you’re making out. Note you’ve made an assumption (not a good one), that universes are independent, i.e. there is no interaction or effect of one universe on another. Your argument presumes this assumption to be true.

    You can indirectly observe one action through another, in fact we do it all the time, and they’re not all “interpretative” in the manner you suggest.

    Of course it hasn’t – because that’s not what science is looking for.

    Missing (or avoiding) the point: the point is that it’s not needed. Given it’s not needed—that the work stands on it’s own anyway—any “god” is an abstraction added on 0ver-and-above and explanation, essentially a man-made addition for whatever reason the people who added it wanted it. (Note that’s ‘wanted’, not ‘needed’; the wording is intentional.)

    Reading through the last dozen comments, your problems seem largely to hang on this one point.

    Talk about circular! Science has found no purpose. Why? Because science couldn’t verify existing ideas of purpose.

    Whatever, but you can’t start from here and argue that there is “purpose”. (Whatever = “besides the point” in this context.) See also my previous point.

    Continuing, your caricaturing “defined universes” is a red herring. If you can give an account that does not need to evoke a deity/etc, then you have a solution to your problem of describing the origin of the universe (or whatever you set your problem to be). If you can do this, insisting that their is a “god” is to add something over-and-above… etc, see my previous points.

    Ken,

    What would be the frikken point – to postulate a phenomenon which has absolutely no interaction with the rest of reality?

    This has been my thoughts on this sort of thing for quite a while! It would be the ultimate in pointless arguments as it were, one in which no-one would have any means to address or resolve.

    Dale,

    So purpose wouldn’t be a ‘thing’ that interacts with the universe.

    Sorry, but that’s silly. You’re defining ‘purpose’ as to not able to achieve anything, a contradiction in terms. If it is to be ‘purpose’, it should achieve something. It can only do that through interactions of some kind, it literally has to have an an effect at some point—an interaction—or it’d be irrelevant: Ken’s earlier point.

    My reading of this is that you so don’t (or aren’t really trying to) understand, Ken’s point and as a consequence you are talking past it.

    This doesn’t mean that the universe is automatically an accident.

    Silly argument this. Missing the point – see my earlier point about not needing additional meanings if you can already explain something without them. This does seem to me to be your central problem. (Your wording is telling by the way. ‘Automatically’ is loading the argument, and ‘accident’ is trying to make an accident/not-an-accident dichotomy which isn’t there: if something has no purpose it’s neither. It has you trying to create the thing you want, almost begging the question as it were..)

    Belief in a spiritual reality who created and sustains all physical reality, however, is not in tension with any science, logic or reason.

    Except for the elephant in the room ;-) — Effect.

    Creating a thing demands an effect. Effects result from interactions. You’re asking for interactions on the universe. If interactions are there, we can go and look for them, and test them.

    If you’re arguing there are not no effects, then your creator/etc. has no impact, and your argument is moot. (I could cheekily, but with some accuracy, say that your argument is not in tension with any science, logic or reason because it has none of all three things!)

    It is logical, reasonable and science-friendly to attribute the orderly conduct of the universe (which of course, makes science possible) to the intent of a transcendent creator.

    If you add something more than what is needed for the explanation, something you want over-and-above the explanation, see previous points.

    Religions want, or rather have, to ‘overlook’ this point, that their creations are added by themselves to suit their own wants. It’s the whole reason religions can’t really be formally justified, save for trying to (artificially) create a ‘gap’ to insert the deity/force/whatever into.

    It creates a circular trap for religious followers: they can’t understand their mistake unless they could step outside their own circular thinking, something that they can’t readily do without breaking their religious beliefs. Religions are set up the way intentionally, of course: the circular trap makes followers good sheep for the cause of the senior players, which then gets perpetuated.

    It’s clever it in it’s own way, but not helpful to the world, at least a modern world looking to progress.

    Ultimately, all human knowledge is circular, I suspect.

    With all respect, I suggest you’re not really familiar with how knowledge is created. Some knowledge are on the face of it (and only on the face of it) illogical, but are consistent with evidence.

    I’ll leave this, as this thread is already excessively long, but I think Dale you are hopeless trapped by your own inability to question that religion is not needed to “explain things”, it’s added to serve some people’s wants.

    In all your verbiage you work around this many times in different ways, but you seem quite unable to look straight at it and question it.

    (PS: Your rock argument seems a red herring. You’re introducing the false dichotomy of ‘accident’ vs. not again. Furthermore the way you have presented it (or the analogy itself) has flaws – the laws of physics can be played backwards. You don’t determine cause (not ‘purpose’, cause) from the outcome itself; you determine it from the sources of the outcome. Think of a serious crash investigator if you want. They just work the physics backwards to locate the likely cause.)

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  143. That is the trouble with thought experiments, Dale. In reality one would expect there to be manifested differences between spontaneously dislodged rocks and thrown ones.

    If all the observed parameters are consistent with spontaneous displacement then obviously a forensic investigator is justified in inferring that cause. In the absence of other evidence that would be the most parsimonious conclusion. In practice there would be other information usually. An earthquake, the presence of other rocks (a thrown rock would be isolated), etc which would help in drawing conclusions.

    If in reality the rock was actually thrown the conclusion will have been wrong. But we expect to often be wrong, even in legal cases. We just do our best. And in the scientific process because it is an ongoing one, we very often get the chance to correct our mistakes. New information could well come in in a real situation showing a discrepancy in the data and renewing a thrown hypothesis.

    But we are well aware that scientific theories are never completely correct. We expect details at the edges to change over time – and the really bad ones to be discarded.

    This is really not a problem – and it is of course infinitely better than “other ways if knowing” which don’t allow for being wrong and never undergo verification – mapping against reality.

    In some respects all our knowledge is instrumental. It has to be to be useful. But the nature of our scientific knowledge is that it helps us improve our situation, save lives etc., even while being imperfect. If we waited for perfect knowledge, for tidying up all those edges, science would be useless. We would behave like theologians discussing, and never resolving, the real estate on the head of a pin while all around were starving and dying.

    However, the debaters opposing the scientists on this panel were of course not arguing the way you argue on this thought experiment. Their position was derived from these “other ways of knowing” tradition and emotion.

    This indicates to me that investigating this question of purpose requires looking much further than astronomy and cosmology. It requires the skills of sociology, psychology, evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, etc. This is happening and is, I believe, very successful, while still in it’s early days. (After all this was in the past one of the ring fenced areas). You might have noticed I have recently read and reviewed here a couple of recent books in this area.

    So I think the question of purpose is very much a question for science – but for a wider range of sciences than normally considered.

    Purpose like gods do exist – not in objective reality but in the minds of people. That’s where it needs to be investigated,

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  144. Grant,
    Thanks for your comment – regrettably quite a tome. There is a fundamental distinction between physical causality (which indeed, another universe could have – whatever that would mean) and the kind of causality that would make our universe an intended or purposed one. ALL of your complaints about a non-interacting agent being irrelevant are based on a one-dimensional understanding of causality. And it is just as ‘circular’ to insist that there’s only one kind of cause as it might be to say that there are other kinds of causes. Heck, even in our experience we can see different kinds of causes. A friend of mine asked her boyfriend to help her with some exercises to stretch her wrist, and he ended up bruising her arm a bit. She said it was her fault for telling him what to do, but the physical cause was still her boyfriend’s. Aristotle’s four causes (material, efficient, formal, final?? from memory?) are relevant here.

    Ken/Grant,
    All analogies are imperfect, but I think the rock analogy makes more basic sense than you let on. My point was that effectively all we have is a ‘thought experiment’ when it comes to a purpose (or lack thereof) for the universe. Sure could – and might – detect material causation (i.e. gravitational effects of a parallel universe) from ‘outside’ our universe, but this – again – doesn’t rule in or rule out purpose or intent.

    Grant, you didn’t like my use of the word ‘accident’. Though I could quibble on that (‘accident’ in the philosophical sense doesn’t have the pejorative connotations). I’m quite happy to use the distinction purpose or no purpose. The points are the same.

    And finally, there is a rather important distinction to make between describing phenomena and explaining it. There can be more than one explanation for a single event – and they need not be contradictory, they can reinforce and compliment one another. The old boiling kettle analogy springs to mind. Explain the boiling kettle! expl. 1) the heat from the oven element transfers to the kettle which causes a change in the state of the water, etc., etc. expl. 2) I wanted tea.

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  145. re explanation:
    The Laplace mantra is familiar – ‘i’ve no need of that hypothesis, sir’. Trotted out all the time. But again, whilst cosmology AS cosmology certainly doesn’t need a god concept to explain (or describe, I’d say) the unvierse any more than cooking AS cooking doesn’t need it either for making meatloaf – it remains true that a described universe is not a fully explained one. The questions of (qualitative) value, (prescriptive) purpose and meaning are still open – ‘coz they simply aren’t observationally based questions – and won’t have observationally based answers.

    Please resist the temptation, Ken, to rant at theology – I’m trying to stick to the philosophy of science here. If you don’t like this understanding then engage and show philosophically why.

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  146. Well, I guess we have put the rocks to bed.

    But we do come back to you acknowledgment that a purposed unvierse would be different to an unpurposed one. Given that it is illogical to then declare that one could never find evidence of either and thus to remove science (logical reasoning and empirical testing) from the game.

    Can’t have it both ways.

    You are being flippant in your rejection of a parsimonious approach. If you reject that you must allow anything – including SFM and old socks.

    But this does raise a characterisation of the purpose approach. It seems to me that historically and currently wherever the evidence for purpose is trotted out it amounts to a “god of the gaps” approach. In effect your “evidence” is that “it remains true that a described universe is not a fully explained one”. That was Newton’s “explanation” for things he couldn’t explain materialistically. It is Behe’s explanation for his (invented) “irreducible complexity.” It is the justification from ignorance approach.

    As science has progressed and we have become more and more aware that we can understand much of what was a mystery before, we have become far more comfortable saying “I don’t know.” That is honest.

    At least scientists have. Theologians still seem to be caught in the hubris of claiming that they do know – that their god did it!

    OK – being provocative. But, Dale, when you talk about “philosophy of science” you are talking about a theological philosophy of science. Yet you refuse to “engage and show philosophically why”. My provocations are aimed at tempting the discussion into more honest channels. To get you to justify your “other ways of knowing.” And it does get rather tiring to repeatedly have to correct your mistaken concepts of science.

    I find that so many of the “theologians” I spar with are in the same boat. they rely on a philosophical interpretation of science which is not recognised by scientists. That misrepresents the scientific process.

    It offends me – so pardon me if I try to even the score with my sarcasm.

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  147. Dale,

    Your rude, dismissive, tone isn’t warranted.

    In my experience I get the sort of reply you’ve given when I’ve hit the mark on something that the person is unable to face up to: they try to dismiss me (more-or-less) out of hand rather than try understand or look at the points raised. Dismissing me with this sort of arrogance doesn’t make me wrong, or you right, it just makes you excusing what you don’t like.

    You’ve accused me of a number of things I haven’t done – I won’t deconstruct them all, as there are too many of them.

    To take just one: I never wrote that your use of ‘accident’ was pejorative—you seem to what to create a fictional version of what I wrote there—I wrote that you’re effectively begging the question with your use of it. You’re opening claims, but placing in them two states: one ‘accident’, and by implication, the other ‘not accident’. This has you setting up “cause” in your question, setting up what you want to be true in the question — begging the question.

    Consider: if you can offer an explanation that does not need ‘purpose’ or ‘not purpose’—just ‘is’ as it were—then any effort to add ‘purpose’ is adding something that is not needed for the explanation. Next will be then to question why your religion wants (not needs) to add ‘purpose’ to these explanations given if it’s not needed.

    If you want to shift goalposts to another “kind of causality” you leave undefined, fine, except in shifting goalposts you’ll have avoided my key point being your unwillingness note that religious additions are not needed for these explanations, and thence to question why religious groups try add them.

    The new “kind of causality” you refer to is another ‘gap’ you wish to create for your deity to reside in and hence (self-)justify your position. This ‘gap’ has the exactly same problems as I referred to before, to the point that in essence it’s exactly the exact same argument just under a different name.

    doesn’t rule in or rule out purpose or intent.

    You seem to be avoiding the point I offered, that it’s not that you can’t rule it in or out, but that ‘purpose’ it’s not needed for a working explanation. With that in hand, why then is your religion trying to add it. Question it.

    Until you can question why religions are adding something that is not needed, you will not be able to resolve this for yourself. All the rest of what you write is mostly a smoke screen of (pseudo-)philosophy that you’re fooling yourself with. (I’m using this phrase in the sense that Feynman referred to.)

    A key point about avoiding fooling yourself is to look to your own argument.

    Religious teaching prevents followers from questioning the core actions of the religion, so that they don’t unpick the loop.

    If you aren’t able to question why your religion is adding something that is not needed for the explanations, then you’ll never resolve this.

    What you’re not doing is asking yourself, if the explanation doesn’t need a deity/etc, why is your religion trying to add it?

    I don’t expect you to have the ability to question that, because you’d need to step outside your religion to do that, but there lies the religious lock-in: followers are taught not to question what their religion is doing, but to look to self-justifications.

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  148. Ken,
    On having it both ways:
    In this thread I’ve referred to two possibilities that are both logical.
    1) On one hand, a purposed universe could look different to an unpurposed universe – as a watch cog would look different to unmined iron ore in the earth. One is clearly been ‘fiddled with’.
    1a) however, I maintain that because ALL of our observations will be from ‘within’ our universe, we can’t observationally know if or to what degree it has been (or is currently – or will be) fiddled with. So if we say there could be a difference (like you and the ID-ists both agree), I maintain that we don’t observationally know how to tell that difference.
    2) On the other hand, a purposed universe could look exactly like an unpurposed universe – as a dropped rock looks exactly like a fallen rock. Or as a dropped coin could have been on purpose (i.e.; a coin toss – where a random result is desired for quite specific reasons), or for no purpose (dare I say an ‘accident’).
    2a) Here again, we are left with purpose not being a matter of empirical observation. The forensic investigation cannot be performed because the tide has rose and wiped away the footprints, so to speak. They’ll never be laid again. That’s not anti-science – it’s actually respecting science.

    Ken/Grant,
    ((Grant, I genuinely didn’t mean to be rude. I honestly regret it felt that way. I suspect if we were talking face to face it would be more amicable. Ken is equally firm and strong in his interactions with me and we manage. Again, sorry!))

    I have read and understand the point about you both thinking that religion ‘adds’ the unnecessary question of a God or purpose. Well, I’m not putting up theistic arguments for God here, and I think it’d be a distraction. The original post, however, raised the question of whether or not purpose is a scientific question.

    On purpose being an unnecessary ‘addition’, I repeat my distinction (which I’d humbly request interaction with) between description and explanation. Purpose is not needed to describe the universe. But what rule is there that people cannot ask about a purpose? Purpose is indeed an ‘unnecessary addition’ for cosmological descriptions of the cosmos. Purpose is also unnecessary for baking a cake. But for the perfectly valid question of whether or not the universe is here ‘on purpose’ or ‘intentioanlly’, purpose is obviously not an unnecessary concept. The boiling kettle is a simple, yet strong example of how multiple explanations can be complimentary.

    As for whether the intent for the universe would have come from a FSM an orbiting celestial teapot, a sweaty sock or a garden fairy, or some kind of supernatural entity that’s quite another matter. There’s a logical order to which questions come, and it moves from general to specific. First, is there ANY (general) intent for the universe? Only then, do you ask, what is THAT (specific) intent and/or what is the nature of the (specific) intending agency? We don’t rule the question out before we’ve begun because we don’t like where it may go… That’s not reason, but emotion.

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  149. Dale – you say: “First, is there ANY (general) intent for the universe? Only then, do you ask, what is THAT (specific) intent and/or what is the nature of the (specific) intending agency?”

    You also say that a purposed and unpurpsoed universe would show differences. However, you desire to reverse that by claiming “we don’t observationally know how to tell that difference.” This is incredibly arrogant – I repeat – given human intellectual history. We have often confronted situations where beforehand we have no knowledge of techniques or criteria – and we seem to work them out. We are an intelligent species after all.

    You are also accepting that a purpose postulate is just not necessary – “we get along quite well without it. Because we can’t tell the difference.” You are in effect saying – so what. The question is obviously not important.

    How can you agree “Purpose is indeed an ‘unnecessary addition’ for cosmological descriptions of the cosmos. “ and then compare reality to baking a cake which obviously involves an intelligent agent.

    And bloody hell you drag in “multiple explanations”(I guess you are setting us up for “quantum theology”).

    So you seem to have conceded the first question. There is no “intent for the universe?” The second question is therefore irrelevant.

    Yet, of course it isn’t to you. Your concession is not genuine becuase you claim “other ways of knowing.” But you refuse to justify those “other ways of knowing” regarding the nature of the universe.

    Really, your attempt at (theological) philosophy of science is a jelly wrestling diversion. You are trying to use the argument by default to justify your “other ways of knowing.” And it is failing.

    Why not leave science to the scientists and argue for what you really believe?

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  150. Ken, you could easily be mistaken for a logical positivist with your remarks about metaphysics. I think there are many areas where metaphysics still has a role to play. The nature of causation and the laws of physics strikes me as an obvious one; Also the debate over scientific realism and anti-realism is a big topic.

    The two leading epistemologies in philosophy (moderate foundationalism and coherence theory) both claim we can know things without evidence. I think it follows that if there are things we can know without evidence, we have valid ‘other ways of knowing’.

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  151. Ken, I’m just going to focus on one thing, for sake of clarity…

    You also say that a purposed and unpurpsoed universe would show differences. However, you desire to reverse that by claiming “we don’t observationally know how to tell that difference.” This is incredibly arrogant – I repeat – given human intellectual history. We have often confronted situations where beforehand we have no knowledge of techniques or criteria – and we seem to work them out.

    It’s offensive to claim this is arrogant! It would be arrogant if I was claiming that I’ve got observational evidence that science cannot get – but I’m not! Or if I was claiming omniscient knowledge of anything beyond evidence – or even of anything that we DO observe for that matter – but I’m not! I’m simply saying what is obvious – we’ll never make an observation (directly or indirectly) of any causes outside of our space/time/matter universe. You say “we have confronted situations… and seem to work them out” There are NO situations we’ve worked out that are anything like the ultimate macro ‘situation': the creation of our entire known universe. Get real mate!

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  152. So David, when you “know” things without evidence how do you know when you are wrong?

    And this “other way of knowing” how does it tell you if the universe has purpose? What is the process used by your method?

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  153. No, Dale, humanity has always been confronting such issues. Problems it has never confronted before. And we have resolved many of them.

    As for the formation of the universe – I say we have done an amazing job. We can understand processes right back to nano-seconds. We keep pushing that time back. We have quite a lot of speculative science to explain the actual formation process. Some of the predictions of these hypotheses are being tested currently.

    Sure there are some big hurdles. But isn’t it fun confronting them and trying to resolve them.

    This is really amazing for a species which didn’t evolve to do such things. It’s a “by-product” of our evolved nature – but a very successful one.

    You are falling back on the argument from ignorance. Denying the possibility of knowledge and understanding. Before we have even confronted such limits in our technological or intellectual capacities. I am happy to accept those limits may be there eventually but humanity has often heard these premature calls to stop attempting to understand. And fortunately we don’t, as a whole, accept such defeatist attitudes.

    I think it is you who should get real. You claim you are not “claiming omniscient knowledge of anything beyond evidence.” Well what the hell is this unwarranted claim you make about impossibility of knowing or investigating. There us no evidence to support those claims and it is pretending omniscient knowledge.

    And what do you say every Sunday when you preach? Aren’t you going beyond evidence then?

    You guys are always making such unwarranted claims, denying evidence, advancing magical thinking. And arrogantly promoting this.

    Bit cheeky to then pick on scientists who are open minded and willing to investigate. And who are capable of saying “we don’t know” when we don’t. And it is rather childish to justify ones magical stories with vague reference to “other ways of knowing.”

    Which you then refuse to justify. Instead you attempt that old theological argument by default.

    Leave science to the scientists. And instead tell us how your “other ways of knowing” works.

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  154. which I’d humbly request interaction with

    Can I humbly request you interact with what others write as they wrote it, without trying to rewrite it, please?

    It’s inside-out to get to ask someone to rework themselves to suit your position, Dale. I prefer to write plainly, partly to avoid the nonsense that making something overly complex brings. (Theology often tries to obfuscate by wrapping things in pseudo-philosophy to hide what are otherwise obvious when looked at plainly. All I am doing is refusing to cloud it, by leaving it plainly described.)

    What I described was very simple. You are trying to muddy it with unnecessary extra “philosophy”. It’s got nothing to do with philosophy in the way you keep trying to make it to be. Given that, there is no need for me to rework it that way, in fact that’d undo my point. It’s very basic. Read it as was written please.

    Trying to imposes imaginary ‘distinctions’ on what I’ve written is not addressing what I wrote, but avoiding it. Side-stepping away, etc.

    First, is there ANY (general) intent for the universe?

    Beep, beep, beep. Fallacy alert :-)

    You’re begging the question, again ;-)

    You’d do well to go back and read what I wrote without trying to re-frame it, I think. You to need to first see if you need to add ‘intent’ at all.

    We don’t rule the question out before we’ve begun because we don’t like where it may go

    Erm, that’s what you were doing to me earlier ;-)

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  155. We don’t rule the question out before we’ve begun because we don’t like where it may go… That’s not reason, but emotion.

    Let me fix that for you…

    We don’t rule the question out before we’ve begun because we don’t like where it may go… That’s not reason, but other ways of knowing.

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  156. The beliefs I am referring to are such things as beliefs about external world, beliefs in other minds, and beliefs about my own mental life (memories etc). None of these are amenable to the scientific method and we have no independent check to prove them.

    I wouldn’t even claim that this is a different way of knowing. After all, science presupposes these foundational beliefs along with logic and mathematics.

    I’m not sure what you mean by purpose. If you’re suggesting a purpose that transcends the universe, some metaphysical purpose, then it’s clear that science cannot properly inform us about this purpose. But if there is no metaphysical purpose, then one would be pretty hard pressed to assign true purpose to a universe of chance. After all, the universe certainly didn’t have to turn out this way.

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  157. Ken, it’s not defeatist. It’s just recognising what we’ll never be able to do – transcend the universe and run tests on how all things came into existence.

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  158. So David, you are advocating various “other ways of knowing” to help us understand the nature of the universe but acknowledge that there is no way of determining when you are wrong.

    Doesn’t this worry you? We know from our scientific efforts that many of our ideas are actually wrong. We know that because their predictions do not accord with reality.

    I suggest that the ideas about the universe you obtain from your “other ways of knowing” are bound to be wrong at least as often.

    And yet you can’t check them? Doesn’t seem safe to me.

    I suggest to you that science (logical reasoning and empirical observation, checking and validation) has been very successful in understanding the universe. Incredibly so.

    I don’t see any alternatives being at all effective. Especially ones which don’t allow testing and validation.

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  159. No Dale, you are not “recognizing” you are claiming. And you have no possible way of knowing. That is the arrogance.

    And we are going to ignore you. As we have in the past. Humanity has benefited from our refusal to follow such defeatist advice.

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  160. Actually I’m not advocating for “other ways of knowing”. The beliefs I gave to you were epistemologically foundational. Science presupposes these beliefs. You have got the epistemological horse before the cart.

    If I were wrong about my belief in the external world, then that would greatly worry me! It should worry you as well because this would completely undermine science.

    I know of very few philosophers who conflate logic with science. You cannot study logic by science; hence logic is a separate entity.

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  161. I don’t know where you are coming from then David. You did say “I think it follows that if there are things we can know without evidence, we have valid ‘other ways of knowing’.” But now you say you are not advocating for “other ways of knowing.” Nor can I understand your charge that I “have got the epistemological horse before the cart.”

    Logical reasoning has always been part of our tool kit for investigating and understanding reality. So I disagree with you on that. It is an integral part of science – not a separate entity. In fact these days the separation of formal logic from other aspects of science (evidence and testing) rather undermines the logic. We ate not a rational species and can’t be trusted to apply logic objectively. One has only to look at theological logic to see the problem.

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  162. You are quite correct; I did use the phrase “other ways of knowing”. However, in my second post I said these were not other ways of knowing.

    I am making quite a simple claim here: metaphysical beliefs such as belief in the external world, other minds, and that the universe wasn’t created a short time ago with an appearance of age cannot be verified scientifically. We cannot evidentially check these beliefs. Yet we think it would be irrational if we didn’t believe them. Therefore it follows that we can hold beliefs rationally without evidence. Moreover, these beliefs are epistemologically foundational so that if we were to claim any one of them false, this would have dire consequences for the rest of our belief system.

    “Logical reasoning has always been part of our tool kit for investigating and understanding reality. So I disagree with you on that. It is an integral part of science – not a separate entity. In fact these days the separation of formal logic from other aspects of science (evidence and testing) rather undermines the logic.”

    So logical reasoning is an integral part of science, and is not a separate entity, yet ‘formal logic’ is somehow separate from science, and thus undermines itself? I am happy to claim that logic is part of the scientist’s tool kit. However it’s a very big claim to say that it is science. As I have said before science presupposes logic and cannot test for it.

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  163. David,
    I’ll spare you the arse-kissing, but you’re writing is clear and sensible (wait, was that not just kissing thine arse a bit?). ;)

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  164. Dale, I disagree as I find some of Davids points a bit confusing. Eg. “I am happy to claim that logic is part of the scientist’s tool kit. However it’s a very big claim to say that it is science. “

    Who the hell is saying the latter. Modern science also involves empirical checking etc. In fact this enables one’s logic to be checked. This is my point about the emotional, subjective factors which produce shonky logic.

    So I stand by my charge of theological obsession with divorcing logical reasoning form the rest of science. Once you do that you have free reign to use any old premise you choose and make convenient mistakes in your formal logic. Because you have no way of knowing when you are wrong. In fact you refuse that test and declare yourself right. Arrogant.

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  165. David – I disagree with your claim that “We cannot providentially check these beliefs.” Referring to basic assumptions.

    I think the point is that we cannot derive these basic assumptions by a process of logic. But we use them and the fact that their use produces validated results is actually a test,

    We are therefore evidentially warranted in making these basic assumptions. If they didn’t work our science wouldn’t work.

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  166. Ken, besides the self-evidently delusional belief in any and all gods, what is a concrete example of “shonky logic” and what makes it “shonky”?

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  167. Dale, I think you will agree that the ability to count to three or put an argument into a logical structure is no guarantee of correctness. There is such a thing as “informal logic”. I think this happens a lot just because we don’t think objectively. We didn’t evolve to.

    Craig is very prone to this.

    Obviously one way bias steps in is to start with a shonky premise. Eg the common one of referencing Hawking on a singularity at the beginning of the universe. (And ignoring Hawking’s later point about that being mistaken).

    But also “leaps of logic” where one step doesn’t logically follow another or conclusions are unwarranted. This is often hidden by putting the numbers 1, 2, 3 in front of each step. It gives it a false logical endorsement.

    It’s all perfectly natural. We all do it. Because we are not rational creatures.

    Hence the importance of empirical testing in science. We very often catch ourselves out. That’s why we value it so much.

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  168. Richard Christie

    Is this thread of record length yet?

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  169. It’s not so much that we cannot derive our assumptions by logic, but that we cannot derive these assumptions from any other assumptions or evidence.
    A classic example is the evil demon scenario where a demon constructs an illusory reality in which my mind inhabits. No amount of scientific investigation will allow me to know if I am observing a real physical world, or an illusory world created by a demon. You may think this is a rather medieval example, but we can easily change the demon into the matrix or a brain in the vat type scenario. From this it logically follows that I can hold beliefs, very important ones at that, without evidence.

    It’s the truth of the premises that science can check as opposed to the validity of the argument. If you want to discredit Craig provide one of his arguments and show his bad logic. To my knowledge nearly all of Craig’s arguments are deductively valid, or inductively strong, and contains strong evidential warrant for its premises.

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  170. No David, Craig’s arguments are pro-god, so they must be illogical – because after all, we’ve been to space – more than once! – and god ain’t out there. You can posit a god that cannot be seen with our eyes all you want, but a god that isn’t visible (i.e. a physical creature like you and me – one I can pick a fight with) is terribly uninteresting to me (or at least damned frustrating). ;)

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  171. Richard Christie

    Don’t all of Craig’s arguments work for his noodliless, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, as well?
    Show me one that doesn’t.

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  172. Yes – what’s your point?

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  173. actually, before you can say ‘yes’, tell me some key attributes of the FSM? Coz the key attributes of the ’cause’ in Craig’s arguments is the attribute of having caused the universe. So yes, any ‘(insert name here)’ with the quality of universe-causing will be supported by a causal argument.

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  174. Richard,

    Is this thread of record length yet?

    Who knows, but it certainly long-winded :-)

    Dale,

    (Hope you realise the winks in my previous comment were just to lighten things up.)

    You should be asking why your religion is encouraging you to always frame the question with ‘purpose’, ‘intent’, etc., in them, instead of (first) posing the question plainly. If the the question can be addressed without additions—as has repeatedly shown to be the case with different questions of this kind over the centuries—then the additions are spurious.

    I’m under the impression you don’t want to challenge this. In that case, I can’t see how you are ever going to solve your questions. Without challenging that it seems to me that you will only beg the addition that your religion encourages you to place in the questions.

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  175. Grant,
    it was, I trust you’re aware, Ken’s post that raised the question of purpose? And as an aside, it’s not just ‘religious’ people who use purpose. All ethics and law are based on at least some teleological understanding (how things are ‘supposed’ to go – the goal for this or that [or all] thing).

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  176. You are perfectly correct, David “From this it logically follows that I can hold beliefs, very important ones at that, without evidence. “ People do that all the time. Hold beliefs without evidence.

    I don’t know why you keep pushing that piunt “we cannot derive our assumptions by logic, but that we cannot derive these assumptions from any other assumptions or evidence.” I have agreed with that.

    What I have added is that we do get these basic assumptions tested when we try to use them in the real world. Many don’t stand the test of empirical checking and if we are wise we get rid of them.

    I think we are entitled to accept those assumptions that do survive such empirical testing as having a certain degree of warrant. With the proviso that there will always be new situations where reaction with reality may prove our basic assumptions wrong (even though they have survived till then). Concepts of causality, determinism and conservation have faced such crises. Often this leads to their re-expression – but at a higher level.

    David – you ask me: “If you want to discredit Craig provide one of his arguments and show his bad logic.” And then you add “To my knowledge nearly all of Craig’s arguments are deductively valid, or inductively strong, and contains strong evidential warrant for its premises.” Here is where I think we see subjective factors producing shonky logic. It stands out like a sore thumb that Craig gets overwhelming support for his “logic” from theists. It should be clear why. He produces the desired result.

    Now, I am happy to deal with an example. Perhaps the best way is for you to post one of his syllogisms for me to dissect and consider. I could search out the three he uses ad naseaum But in the interests of speed – why don’t you suggest one.

    Alternatively I could deal with his argument from design, if you like. Although I would also be interested in his argument from morality (we discuss morality a lot here).

    I am away from my PC till Sunday so I will check to see if you have come up with anything by then. (And Dale is away to).

    If you wish you could check out a couple of my posts that are relevant to the fine tuning and cosmological arguments. (Fiddling with “fine-tuning”, Godless cosmology, Bad science, bad theology etc.)

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  177. You have said you that you agree with my statement, “We cannot derive these assumptions from any other assumptions or evidence”. Then you go on to say that we can test them when we use them in the real world. But if we cannot derive these foundational assumptions from anything else, then we cannot test for them. By testing them in the real world we are offering evidence.

    The real issue at hand is over whether you can test to see if the world we perceive is mind independent. I am going to make the quite startling claim that there is no method of discovering if the external world exists, or is in fact some kind of subjective illusion. Any scientific investigation already presupposes the existence of an external world. I can however, even though I have no independent check, rationally believe that the external world does exist; and that I am not in some clever matrix or under the power of an evil demon. Therefore nearly all of us hold beliefs that are rational without independent checks and evidence.

    As you have already had a bash at the cosmological argument and the argument from design I will put forward the modal ontological argument:

    1.It is possible that a maximally great being exists.
    2.If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
    3.If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
    4.If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
    5.If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists.
    6.Therefore, a maximally great being exists.

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  178. Richard Christie

    You made a mistake at step two, dropped a possible.
    Do you guys make a habit of using weasel arguments?

    1.It is possible that a maximally great being exists.
    2.If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being might possibly exist in some possible world.
    3.If it is possible that a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it possibly exists in every possible world.
    4.If it is possible a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it possibly exists in the actual world.
    5.If it is possible that a maximally great being possibly exists in the actual world, then possibly, a maximally great being exists.
    6.Therefore, still no conclusion regarding existence of a maximally great being can be made.

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  179. David you are confusing the question of logical derivation of a basic assumption with real world testing of models using these assumptions. And think about it if all you have is a basic assumption which is never used it’s pretty useless, isn’t it.

    Perhaps taking your example if the basic assumption that the external world really exists (bit naive as we can always find examples of the externally perceived world which don’t exist).

    But in general all but the deranged generally accept this basic assumption. Using that assumption we build models of the external world and go about living our lives in them. The fact that this in general works (excluding illusions etc) is pretty good evidence that our assumption is provisionally correct. We then confidently take that on board and carry on with life. However, when it comes to some aspects of reality we may find that assumption gives us the wrong model and we have to question it then

    Perhaps you are confusing logical deductive proof and empirical provisional evidence of a real situation.

    Regarding your example of logic (is it one of Craig’s?). I think it is silly and really a rather extreme example of shonky logic.

    I don’t know what you mean by a “maximally great being” or even “possibility” (what are the criteria). But I guess we can accept step 1. So we can accept the starting premise. (after all it’s only a “possibility”).

    But none of the subsequent steps logically follow they are all incorrect. But by putting numbers on them and making the bald assertions you have a pretense at logic. (Actually these huge illogical steps if logic are typical of Craig’s use of syllogism.)

    Really this is the silly theological “logic” which gives theology a bad name. Any and every shonky manipulation gets used to “prove” the predetermined conclusion.

    And what had been the point of that silly exercise? Will anyone’s life be improved. It is meaningless. It has no use. It’s purely a naive exercise to somehow make one feel better about primitive supernatural beliefs.

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  180. Dale,

    I trust you’re aware, Ken’s post that raised the question of purpose?

    Whatever Ken raised, when you are replying to me, you are replying to me, not Ken. Pointing at what Ken has written isn’t a defence of avoiding what I’ve written; if anything it’s admitting you are avoiding what I have written.

    I guess I should take it that you will do everything you can to avoid facing the point I raised.

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  181. Richard.
    Following the cannons of modal logic endorsed by the majority of working philosophers, if something is logically possible then it exists in some possible world. Adding extra possibilities or ‘mights’ is unnecessary as it just reiterates that the thing in question exists in some possible world.

    Ken
    Shonky logic ay? I’m very glad you accept step one, after all, this premise is the one that most philosophers wish to attack. A maximally great being would be one that has such properties as omnipotence, omniscience and moral perfection, and most importantly exists in every possible world. If this being failed to exist in one world it would not be maximally great.

    If something is logically possible then it bears no strict logical inconsistency. An example of something that’s logically impossible is a married bachelor or a square-circle. Logical possibility is actually quite broad; so we may assert such things as Dale having the body of a penguin, or even the president of the United States being a prime number. We might say the second proposition is metaphysically impossible.

    Given that you have provisionally accepted the first premise- that the idea of an omnipotent, omniscient and morally perfect being bears no strict logical inconsistency- the conclusion deductively follows.

    You (a) need to show that the first premise, that a maximally great being is possible, is logically incoherent; that is, it bears a strict logical inconsistency on par with the married bachelor (no atheist has yet to achieve this task) Or (b) show how the rest of the argument is logically incoherent. Most philosophers accept that if 1 is granted, 2-6 logically follow. It’s not good enough to just claim the argument logically fails without showing me how.

    I would also like to add that modal logic is not silly Christian logic. You will find a course in modal logic in every university that offers a philosophy degree.

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  182. Richard Christie

    David,
    I wasn’t adding extra possibilities or ‘mights’” I was maintaining the existing qualification contained in the premise.

    You dishonestly dropped that qualification.

    Note that when I correctly applied logic to the argument the process ended up back where it started.

    I suggest that you think about that, and its implications.

    I don’t care where “modal logic” is taught, the argument you presented is a FAIL.

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  183. It’s not good enough to just claim the argument logically fails without showing me how.

    Hear, hear. (and that should be the case with claims against pro-god or anti-god arguments)

    Grant, though I am going away on tour soon (only a mere 3 days, but still..), and have limited time for this thread, I didn’t mean to ‘avoid’ your point. Here’s your latest comments related to it, if I’m not mistaken…

    You should be asking why your religion is encouraging you to always frame the question with ‘purpose’, ‘intent’, etc., in them, instead of (first) posing the question plainly. If the the question can be addressed without additions—as has repeatedly shown to be the case with different questions of this kind over the centuries—then the additions are spurious.

    Again – for the descriptive task of cosmology, I’m 100% with you – no notions of purpose or intent are ever needed. That’s actually what I’ve been trying to say to Ken. But if someone asks – as nearly every human has, including the issues raised in the original post – about the purpose of the universe, then purpose is not being ‘added’ it’s just being engaged with.

    So to answer your question: why does my religion encourage me to frame the question with purpose, etc.? Well, because religion is a different way of considering reality than science. Why is the kettle boiling? Well, the boiling kettle can be ‘explained’ in two (or more) ways. And there need not be any conflict between these two ways of considering the universe – unless of course one makes conflicting claims about the other (i.e. 6,000 yr old universe, etc.).

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  184. You did add unnecessary modal terms. A single “possible’ is sufficient. You’re not going to bury the fact that if something is possible there is a possible world in which it exists by adding extra modal operators. If you think it does change the argument, I’m very interested to know how.

    Anyway, even if you did change the argument by adding an extra modal operator, you are no longer dealing with the actual actual argument I gave!

    You probably should care where it is taught, you might want to enroll in a class.

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  185. FWIW,
    The modal ontological argument is not my fave. It feels like points 2-6 are an expansion on point 1 – which is probably why so many allow for them if point 1 is granted. But more than that, theologically, I have linguistic quibbles (which have annoyed more than one person) with the idea that the ‘maximally great being’ we call God could merely ‘exist’ (in the same way a rock or suzy ‘exists’) IN – as in, inside of, the world. That sounds like mistaking the Creator for a creature – and Creator-ly ontology (being) for creaturely ontology (being). But I assume that as far as the argument goes, the phrase ‘exists in the world’ means something more like ‘is an actual being’ (in the proper sense of the word ‘actual’).

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  186. I’ve always found the cosmological argument to be simple (and thus satisfying to Ockham’s razor) and clear. See below with my annoying quibbling additions…

    1 – Whatever begins to exist has a cause (or causes).
    2 – The Universe (or should we reach for Richard’s term above ‘Observable Reality’???) began to exist.
    3 – The Universe (or ‘observable reality’) has a cause (or causes).
    [[this doesn't quite get to 'therefore my brand name god(s) did it' - but consider the following steps]]

    1 – The universe (O.R.) has a Cause (or causes) (see prior argument) distinct from itself.
    2 – This distinct Cause(s) would have utterly distinct qualities from the Universe (O.R.).
    3 – The universe (O.R.) is physical, temporal, finite, caused, etc.
    4 – The cause(s) ofo the universe (O.R.) would be non-physical, non-temporal, in-finite, un-caused, etc.

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  187. Richard Christie

    1.It is possible that a maximally great being exists.
    2.If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.

    the second half of 2) is not justified from 1) when you subsequently use it in the following

    3.If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.

    and drop the qualification, of the first half of 2)

    christ, it’s no wonder you guys believe in fairies.

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  188. Although I hesitate to drag this long thread out on another tangent, I would like to correct one error regarding possible critiques of the premises of modal-ontological arguments:

    “You (a) need to show that the first premise, that a maximally great being is possible, is logically incoherent; that is, it bears a strict logical inconsistency on par with the married bachelor [...]“

    This is incorrect, for it presumes that a priori self-consistency of a concept – i.e. freedom from a priori discoverable contradiction – is sufficient to confirm possibility of the concept as utilized in the premises of modal-ontological arguments. However, the fact of the matter is that a concept can be a priori self-consistent, but nonetheless logically impossible.

    As an example, consider the concept of a “dragoon”, which I define to be something existing in a possible world if and only if it is a dragon in this, actual world.

    Now, is this concept a priori self-consistent? Certainly yes, since there is nothing self-contradictory in my definition. After all, there is a dragoon if and only if there is a dragon in this world, and “there is a dragon” is not a priori inconsistent.

    But is it logically possible that there exists a dragoon? No, because as far as we know there do not exist any dragons in our world. However, we defined previously that it is possible that there is a dragoon if and only if there is a dragon in our world. So, given that there is no dragon in our world, it is not logically possible that there is a dragoon in any possible world.

    This is one of the cardinal mistakes of this sort of modal-ontological argument:

    You can not infer a priori possibilities from self-consistency alone. Or in other words, the old maxim of “What is conceivable is possible.” is wrong.

    Kurt Goedel’s modal-ontological argument omits this particular failure, although it falters on other grounds.

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  189. Dale

    I think you raise some good points. I tend towards being a modal fictionalist. So I’m not committed to the existence of possible worlds, rather I consider them tools in which to deal with our modal notions of possibility and necessity.

    I like you additions to the cosmological argument. I too find the cosmological argument deeply persuasive. I think scientists have dug themselves a huge hole by invoking quantum laws to explain beginning of the universe. In an interview with Alaxander Vilenkin, the major brain behind inflationary theory, he readily admitted that a realm of platonic objects might need to be invoked to explain the so-called quantum principle.

    Richard

    Ok, if you deny (1) then the whole argument fails. I admit that. If you accept (1) then I don’t quite grasp the problems you are having with (2) onwards. According to modal logic, if something is possible, then it is coherent to imagine a maximal state of affairs in which that thing exists. Bound up in the definition of a maximally great being is the idea that it exists in every possible state of affairs. If it could exist in some but not others then it wouldn’t be maximally great. So long as you accept (1) the argument deductively follows from (2)-(6).

    Iapetus

    It seems to me a trivial to assert that if something exists in the actual world it is possible. As you point out, in the case of the “dragoon” we can easily show it doesn’t exist in the actual world. Because as far as we know, no being of this sort exists in our world. To infer from this that it’s logically impossible is to grossly misunderstand logical possibility and impossibility. We can easily imagine another state of affairs, or even another universe where such a being exists.

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  190. ”It seems to me a trivial to assert that if something exists in the actual world it is possible.”

    Who ever said otherwise?

    “As you point out, in the case of the “dragoon” we can easily show it doesn’t exist in the actual world. Because as far as we know, no being of this sort exists in our world. To infer from this that it’s logically impossible is to grossly misunderstand logical possibility and impossibility. We can easily imagine another state of affairs, or even another universe where such a being exists”

    No, we can not since my definition of a dragoon stated that such a thing exists in a possible world if and only if a dragon exists in this world. I suggest re-reading what I wrote.

    As I said, it is not possible to infer logical possibility from a priori self-consistency alone. Thus, premise 1 in your argument requires auxiliary support if you want it to be rationally acceptable, especially in light of the fact that in arguments as yours, these beings are not possible unless they are necessary.

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  191. Iapetus

    So you are commited to the belief that all counterfactual conditionals are impossible?

    Also, in modal logic, if something exists in the actual world then it is classed as an actual thing, not a possible thing.

    Lastly, how did you infer the statement ” It is not possible to infer logical possibility from a priori self-consistency alone”?

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  192. “So you are committed to the belief that all counterfactual conditionals are impossible?”

    Where did you get this idea from?

    All I am doing is showing why premise 1 of your argument suffers from a great problem, since a priori self-consistency is not sufficient to guarantee logical possibility.

    ”Also, in modal logic, if something exists in the actual world then it is classed as an actual thing, not a possible thing.”

    Who ever said otherwise?

    I have absolutely no idea why you keep repeating this notion as though I had disputed it. Nothing in my dragoon example requires an existant in this world to be classed as not possible or only possible, but not actual. It seems you have trouble understanding the definition I provided. I can only repeat my suggestion to carefully re-read it.

    ”Lastly, how did you infer the statement ” It is not possible to infer logical possibility from a priori self-consistency alone”?”

    By providing a specific counter-example to this attempt. If you want to show that your case of a “maximally great being” is somehow different (or that my example is an isolated abnormality), you will have to give supportive arguments.

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  193. the cosmological argument is simpler methinks – and it doesn’t try to move from possible to actual
    (comment 200 looms near ;p)

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  194. Much as I would like to join in the discussion, I don’t have any time at the moment to catch up on the comments etc… but, I thought I would paste a link to a a video that might be a bit of a diversion from some of of the “heavy” philosophy…

    I tend to think that a lot of philosophy and philosophers overestimate the value of their own rationality, so in that vein, have a look:

    http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/schnall10/schnall10_index.html

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  195. Thanks Nick. Looks interesting and I will definitely catch up with that.

    I am away myself for a few days – but for people’s entertainment have organised to post tomorrow and important video on philosophy by Monty Python.

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  196. Richard Christie

    1.It is possible that a maximally great being exists.
    2.If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
    3.If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
    4.If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
    5.If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists.
    6.Therefore, a maximally great being exists.

    David, the argument is a fraud.

    It is sequential each stage dependent on the previous a priori
    Each stage is sub-divided into two parts: the first includes a uncertainty qualification – the phrase “if it is possible” – ; the second part drops the qualification but it is assumed operative due to the sentence syntax.

    The subsequent stage operates by taking only the second part of the previous stage and failing to restate the uncertainty term.

    Note also how stage 2) is worded in relation to the original premise, compare it to the manner i which 3) is framed in relation to 2).

    All the “argument” does is remove the uncertainty found in 1) and re frame it as 6).

    It is no accident that if the uncertainty qualification is maintained instead of being surreptitiously dropped, then the argument leads nowhere but back to its starting point.

    Restating the uncertainty term in the second part of each stage is not introducing a new level of uncertainty, to claim that it does so is dishonest. It may be slightly more clumsy in a grammatical sense but it serves to alert to the confidence trick performed when it is absent.

    Finally, and as an aside, David.
    If you really believe that the logic behind that little offering is sound, then what need do you have of any other argument to support your fantasies? Isn’t it game over?

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  197. again, the modal logic ontological argument is not my style. I much prefer the cosmological argument – outlined above. Any thoughts on it? (OK I’ll be honest, I just wanted comment 200)

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  198. Again – for the descriptive task of cosmology, I’m 100% with you – no notions of purpose or intent are ever needed. That’s actually what I’ve been trying to say to Ken. But if someone asks – as nearly every human has, including the issues raised in the original post – about the purpose of the universe, then purpose is not being ‘added’ it’s just being engaged with.

    Ironically (to me) your reply re-affirms that you either “just don’t get it” or are evading it. I’ve already explained, so I guess you just want to read it not for what I’ve written, but for what you religion asks you to do; but, then, I guess that’s to be expected.

    If the explanation doesn’t need ‘purpose’ (by whatever name), then you stop. No need then to *ever* ask the question of ‘purpose’.

    You kept framing the question with ‘purpose’ in it, never starting first without out it. That’s what your religion encourages you to do and it begs the question it seeks to answer.

    It’s nonsensical approach.

    Try remember here that I’m entitled to my own views. I consider ‘does the universe have a purpose’ a nonsensical starting point, because it asks to include something that can be complete irrelevant before investigating the problem without it, with only the things that definitely have to be considered.

    When you are solving a problem, you usually set arise things that may (completely) irrelevant, and deal with those that are definitely going to be involved first. If you get a solution without bringing in the ‘vaguely possible’, you’re done.

    If you don’t take this approach, you are forced to consider ever ‘vaguely possible’ thing from the onset, which is silly as it’d included complete nonsense. For example, if you take the approach of investigating ‘purpose’ before investigating the plain version of the question, you would be equally obliged to consider, say, whether your daughter’s lollipop had a role in the formation of the universe.

    Well, because religion is a different way of considering reality than science.

    This doesn’t answer the question, it makes an excuse, and a ‘just so’ excuse at that. (It’s also somewhat circular because it’s the same excuse you’re using in your posing the question.)

    You’re trapped in the circular logic your religion has encouraged you to use. To answer what I asked, you have to step outside your religion, which is the reason I doubted you were capable of addressing it.

    So, so finally you face the question, but offer a ‘just so’ excuse rather than address it. At least you’ve finally gotten to the point of looking at the question. Now to addressing it.

    Writing “religion is a different way of considering reality” just grants (your) religion a status that ‘just is’ that is not to be questioned. See the problem?: you are parroting a line that says ‘we are not to question this’. It’s the unquestioning answer, the one that avoids questioning why.

    You might now also ask why your religion discourages you from questioning it.

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  199. Dale, you ignore David’s responsibility to support his arguments with more than declarations and numbers. It is not my responsibility to demolish such declarations. Especially from am airport lounge.

    But an interesting difference in experience. I have often reviewed papers where I have pointed out that a logical or mathematical step has not been supported. Usually the authors then correct their text to provide the support – thus improving their paper and chance if publication. Sometimes this process has identified a mistake requiring correction.

    Apparently David and your attitude towards logic is that one can make a declaration and put a number in front of it. Then you expect it’s acceptance without support and pass responsibility to others to prove it wrong?

    No wonder medieval philosophy had to be overcome to make any progress.

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  200. Grant,
    No religion has exclusive rights to consider the question of the universe’s purpose. I’m not arguing for this or that purpose (religious or secular). The question has been framed in religiously indifferent terms. Thus I think it’s fair to say that I’ve sufficiently stepped ‘outside my religion’ into logic, philosophy, philosophy of science, etc.

    And may I suggest that you too seem to be avoiding a point I’m making? I have repeatedly agreed with you that purpose is utterly superfluous to the descriptive task of cosmology. Hello?

    As for your personal opinion that questions of purpose are nonsensical, you’re welcome to that opinion.

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  201. Ken I’ve not asked you to demolish David’s logic. I’d be interested if you or others would have a crack at my representation of the cosmological argument though? (I realise you’re away, and as of tonight no more comment from me ’till Monday)

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  202. Iapetus

    Your claim seems amounts to this: Only things that are actual are possible. This is just to misunderstand the very core of modal reasoning.

    You would have to deny all counterfactual conditionals, such as ‘if I had walked across the street blindfolded the bus would have hit me” as being an impossible statement because such a state of affairs is not actual. Or the statement “if the laws of physics had been different a fire breathing dragon might have evolved”

    “It is not possible to infer logical possibility from a priori self-consistency alone”
    Are you saying it’s not logically possible to infer logically possibility from an a priori self-consistency?

    Richard

    (3) “If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exits in every possible world.” As I have said before, the definition of a maximally great being is one who could not fail to exist in any one of the possible worlds. As Iapetus has pointed out, we are in fact positing a necessary being. The actual world is part of the set of every possible world. So, if he exists in every possible world, then he exists in the actual world.

    You need to frustrate my reasoning by showing how a maximally great being is logically incoherent. That is, argue against (1). Or you need to show how the entailment from (2)-(6) is invalid.

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  203. Richard Christie

    I’m not bothered getting sidetracked into the definitions of a maximally great being etc.
    The “logic” mechanism of the argument you presented is flawed. I’ve told you why. The argument is simply designed to convince fools and those seeking confirmation bias.

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  204. David/Richard,
    To a) attempt a clarification of Richard’s complaint, and b) show that I can critique a theistic proof (or at least a form of it), I add what I presume to be Richard’s complaints to David’s latest comments:

    the definition of a maximally great being is one who could [possibly] not fail to exist in any one of the possible worlds. As Iapetus has pointed out, we are in fact positing a [possibly] necessary being. The actual world is part of the set of every possible world. So, if he [possibly] exists in every possible world, then he [possibly] exists in the actual world.

    I’m not saying that this refutes the logic. I do think David may have a point about it being irrational to deny all ‘counterfactual conditionals’ – but just trying to help…

    So I guess, David, the cosmological argument stands :D (yes, that was a bit of a wave of the red flag…)

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  205. Dale

    I see the point Richard is making. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ready to admit this argument is a decisive proof for theism. Here is the argument presented in logical form:

    1.◊G [Premise]
    2. ◊□G → □G [S5 axiom]
    3. □G [conclusion from 1-2]

    The definition of a maximally great being is not “one who could [possibly] not fail to exist in any one of the possible worlds”; rather it is “one who could [not possibly] fail to exist in any one of the possible worlds.” They are not logically equivalent.

    As we can see in step (2), if we grant the possibility that a necessary being exists, then this entails (and I mean this in the truesst sense of the word), that this being exists in the actual world.

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  206. And may I suggest that you too seem to be avoiding a point I’m making? I have repeatedly agreed with you that purpose is utterly superfluous to the descriptive task of cosmology. Hello?

    No need for the sarcastic “Hello?”

    You already wrote this, and I replied to it. Repeating it doesn’t make you right, or me not getting it.

    Every time you keep trying to find some ‘reason not to’ face it, rather than deal with the question. I had to persist several times to get to at least look at it, it seems I might have to do that to get you to take the next step, too.

    Now. You got to the point of (finally) facing the question, but replied with a ‘just so’ answer: “So to answer your question: why does my religion encourage me to frame the question with purpose, etc.? Well, because religion is a different way of considering reality than science.”

    I replied to this, moving forwards. You in reply have decided to regress backwards to earlier points – arguing around in a circle as it were. There’s no value in that.

    I wrote:

    “Writing “religion is a different way of considering reality” just grants (your) religion a status that ‘just is’ that is not to be questioned. See the problem?: you are parroting a line that says ‘we are not to question this’. It’s the unquestioning answer, the one that avoids questioning why.”

    You might now also ask why your religion discourages you from questioning it.”

    I’d encourage you to move forwards from there.

    Trying to excuse it by going back to an earlier distraction to try point at a distinction (in your eyes) between cosmology and religious positions, is an excuse that to insist that you include ‘purpose’.

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  207. Grant,
    To be pedantic, the divide is not ‘science and religion’, but physics and metaphysics (to speak more generally – favouring no religious or irreligious view). Only metaphysics studies purpose, because purpose is a metaphysical idea.

    Affirming that “only metaphysics studies metaphysical ideas” does NOT mean that the notion being studied “is not to be questioned”. Quite the contrary – like all knowing, metaphysical knowledge is partial, incomplete, and develops as an idea is questioned and wrestled with.

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  208. “To be pedantic, the divide is not ‘science and religion’, but physics and metaphysics ”

    I couldn’t agree more here Dale. Its science vs philosophy! I think WLC was right when he said the purpose debate boils down to whether God exists.

    So long as it’s meaningful to ask whether God exists, it’s meaningful to ask if the universe has a purpose.

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  209. “Your claim seems amounts to this: Only things that are actual are possible. This is just to misunderstand the very core of modal reasoning. “

    No.

    To reiterate: My example shows that there are perfectly self-consistent concepts which are nonetheless logically impossible. This does in no way, shape or form deny the validity of counterfactuals.

    You see, one of the problems in your argument is that you are not content to stay in the realm of possibilities, but require your “maximally great being” to exist in the actual world (see steps 3 and 4). Just like my dragoon concept required for its possibility its existence as a dragon in the actual world. Thus, just like a dragoon might be self-consistent but logically impossible, a maximally great being might be self-consistent but logically impossible if it does not exist in the actual world.

    In other words, your argument in its present form colossally begs the question, in that it assumes in its first premise the very thing it is supposed to show.

    Modern proponents of modal-ontological arguments acknowledge its question-begging nature (see e.g. Plantinga’s God, Freedom and Evil or The Nature of Necessity) and merely use it to argue for the reasonableness of theism, not its truth.

    ”Are you saying it’s not logically possible to infer logically possibility from an a priori self-consistency?”

    Not in the sense that the ontological argument requires, no.

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  210. This discussion reminds me of the story in my post re the number of theeth horse have.

    You guys can talk all you like about nodal logic or whatever. The simplest thing is to count the teeth.

    It just illustrates the uselessness of “other ways of knowing” and armchair logics.

    Humanity didn’t get where we are today by turning it’s back on reality, relying on “pure logic” and “other ways of knowing.” Without the discipline of mapping against reality this sort of talk gets absolutely nowhere.

    Just my general input from a hotel lobby. Seems more sensible tonight than trying to make sense of some of the things written here.

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  211. Ken,

    I agree that these sorts of logic game are basically going nowhere and proving absolutely zilch. To me, it is solely the intellectual fun of finding the error in the reasoning process why I bother with these issues at all. I think the vast majority of believers does not adhere to a specific religion because of esoteric ontological arguments.

    Sorry for dragging the thread out onto this particular tangent.

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  212. I sympathize with Planting’s feelings about his modal argument. But for the time being I wish to play the devils (or God’s) advocate and argue that the modal argument does not beg the question. However I first wish to hear your response to this post. Plus I need sleep.

    To say ‘something existing in a possible world’ is just to say that it is possible. So the statement, ‘A dragoon is possible if and only if it is a dragon’, should be logically equivalent to your statement “A dragoon is something existing in a possible world if and only if it is a dragon in the actual world.”

    However I must confess I don’t really know what you mean by the word ‘dragoon’. Let’s put in place of Dragoon, ‘married man’. The definition of a married man is that he exists in a possible world if and only if he is a man in the actual world”. This is equivalent to saying “A married man is possible if and only if he is a man.” This sounds a little trivial.

    Does a dragoon have all the same properties as a dragon? Do you mean dragoon to be some kind of super dragon, or married dragon? Enlighten me.

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  213. Iapetus, you seem equivocate between two different statements in your first post:

    (i)“A dragon is something existing in a possible world if and only if it is a dragon in this, the actual world” With (ii) “There is a dragoon if and only if there is a dragon in this, the actual world” The problem for me is in the phrases “it is a dragon”, and “there is a dragon”. These aren’t equivalent by any means. Are you meaning the first or the second statement?

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  214. “However I must confess I don’t really know what you mean by the word ‘dragoon’. […]Does a dragoon have all the same properties as a dragon?”

    I already provided a definition, but maybe it helps if I explain it some more:

    A ”dragoon” is an entity which exists in a possible world if and only if it is a dragon in our, actual world.

    Or to say the same thing in other words, x is a dragoon in a possible world y if and only if (i) x exists in y and (ii) x exists and is a dragon in our, actual world.

    Now, you might complain that it is a strange notion to tie the existence of something in a possible world to conditions on other (in this case the actual) world(s). However, the modal-ontological argument relies on this mechanism to an even greater extent, since it requires its maximally great being to exist in every possible world in order to exist in the actual world.

    To repeat:

    The modal-ontological argument states as its first premise that a maximally great being exists at some logically possible world. Or what would be an equivalent formulation: it is logically possible that a maximally great being exists.

    Additional steps in the argument ensure that such a being is not possible unless it is necessary, i.e. if it exists then it exists in every possible world, including our actual world.

    Now, the problem here is that in order to make the first premise rationally acceptable, it is not sufficient to point to its self-consistency. As the dragoon example shows, there are concepts which are not self-contradictory but nonetheless logically impossible since the beings they define do not exist in our, actual world.

    Thus, your premise 1 already tacitly presupposes the existence of a maximally great being in our, actual world. Since this is precisely what the argument is supposed to show, it is begging the question.

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  215. off to hamilton gig now – methinks all this effort would be better spent on the cosmo argument – just sayin’ ;)

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  216. I agree Dale. David’s example seems to me completey pointless . At least the cosmological, fine tuning and moral arguments are often promoted and need to be argued against. I have seen this done elsewhere from a outely logical perspective and welcome any one here having a go. I will myself when I return but will also include scientific criticismoif some of Craig’s assumptions.

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  217. Richard Christie

    David’s example seems to me completey pointless

    Oh it’s not pointless, not by a long shot.
    It’s a dirty little semantic sleight of hand designed to sucker those clueless enough not to see through it.

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  218. Iapetus.
    You wrote: “Or to say the same thing in other words, x is a dragoon in a possible world y if and only if (i) x exists in y and (ii) x exists and is a dragon in our, actual world.”

    You have defined a dragoon only in terms of its modality. I agree, if x exists in a possible world, it exists in a possible world. If x exists in the actual world as well, it would have to have a property that x in a possible world lacked.

    For example you might say that a dragoon is a married dragon in a possible world if and only if it is a dragon in the actual world. This is quite an innocuous statement. Unless you are a modal realist you are not committed to the belief that there are in fact two existing worlds in which one thing exists in both. In fact most would say this is logically impossible unless the thing is necessary. But in that case it would exist in all possible worlds. I also think you should define clearly the difference between logical possibility and self consistency. Most philosopher take this to mean the same thing.

    You also wrote replied:
    “Additional steps in the argument ensure that such a being is not possible unless it is necessary, i.e. if it exists then it exists in every possible world, including our actual world.”
    “Thus, your premise 1 already tacitly presupposes the existence of a maximally great being in our, actual world. Since this is precisely what the argument is supposed to show, it is begging the question.”

    In formulating the modal ontological argument we have to remember that we are ascribing possibility to a statement (de dicto) as apposed to a thing (de re); namely the statement that it’s possible that a maximally great being exists. Maximal greatness is understood as the property of having ‘maximal excellence’ in every possible world.

    The additional steps reflect the logical entailment involved. According to the S5 system we get this entailment: ◊□G → □G.
    You might object that since ◊G is logically equivalent to ◊□G, I have somehow begged the question on account of ◊□G → □G: thus first premise is logically equivalent to □G. However, may I point out that logical equivalence is part and parcel of a valid deductive argument. While ◊G and ◊□G are logically equivalent, they don’t mean the same thing. I put it to you that you have confused logical entailment in a deductive argument with begging the question.

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  219. “I also think you should define clearly the difference between logical possibility and self consistency. Most philosophers take this to mean the same thing.”

    If they do they are mistaken, as the dragoon example shows.

    To reiterate:

    Self-consistency merely means that a concept is a priori consistent, i.e. no contradiction follows merely by virtue of meanings of words like in the case of a married bachelor. Or in my example, it does not matter for the a priori consistency of the proposition D: “There is a dragoon” whether there are in fact dragons.

    However, if there are no dragons, ~D, then my dragoon proposition is not logically consistent. For if there are no dragons, ~D, then it is necessary that there is no dragoon; so that in this case my dragoon proposition entails both itself (since every proposition entails itself) and its negation (every proposition entails every proposition that is necessary). Thus, entailing this contradiction makes my dragoon proposition logically inconsistent, i.e. logically impossible.

    ”In formulating the modal ontological argument […] we are ascribing possibility to a statement […] namely the statement that it’s possible that a maximally great being exists. Maximal greatness is understood as the property of having ‘maximal excellence’ in every possible world. The additional steps reflect the logical entailment involved. […]I put it to you that you have confused logical entailment in a deductive argument with begging the question.”

    In a way, every deductive argument begs the question (or is circular), in that it explicates what is already contained in its premise(s). However, in the case of y0ur argument the fact of the matter is that it ends up merely stating itself. The rational acceptability of premise 1 of your argument (which includes its logical possibility) necessarily presupposes the existence of a maximally great being in the actual world, i.e. the argument’s conclusion. And since this is not a given (and may in fact be rather doubtful), it is not sufficient to point to the self-consistency of a maximally great being.

    Or to say the same thing in other words: anyone who does not believe that a maximally great being exists in our world will not accept the premise of your argument. And since all the rest hinges on this one premise (in fact the premise is merely re-stated with the machinery of S5), the argument begs the question and will not be accepted by people who see no evidence for a maximally great being in our world.

    I think this will be my last contribution regarding the ontological argument, since I have the impression that everyone else is bored to tears by this.

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  220. Are you saying a married bachelor is logically inconsistent or self inconsistent? If a statement is self inconsistent, does that mean it is logically inconsistent? I’ve never come across this distinction between self consistency and logical possibility in my time studying philosophy.

    As you pointed out, “every deductive argument explicates what is already contained in its premises”. This argument is no different. The rational acceptability of the first premise is over whether a being is logically possible. No one is committed to its actual instantiation in the real world until they have excogitated on whether such a being is possible. If they admit that it is, then the very robust machinery of S5 will bring them to the conclusion that this being exists in the actual world.

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  221. Richard Christie

    This argument is no different. The rational acceptability of the first premise is over whether a being is logically possible. No one is committed to its actual instantiation in the real world until they have excogitated on whether such a being is possible. If they admit that it is, then the very robust machinery of S5 will bring them to the conclusion that this being exists in the actual world.

    (face palm, shakes head)

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  222. Some people have a gift of being able to understand and write philosophy.
    A gift that cuts through convoluted bafflegab and brings clarity and honesty to a philosophy discussion.

    Sadly, it’s a rare gift.

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  223. OK, one final attempt:

    “Are you saying a married bachelor is logically inconsistent or self inconsistent? If a statement is self inconsistent, does that mean it is logically inconsistent?”

    The distinction I am making is between an impossibility a priori and a posteriori.

    If a concept is self-contradictory (like a married bachelor or a square circle), the impossibility is a priori since it flows merely from the meaning of words. Or in my dragoon example, the self-consistency of a dragoon is given irrespective of whether there actually exist dragons or not. There is no a priori self-contradiction in my definition.

    In contrast, it may turn out that something is impossible a posteriori because the structure of our reality does not conform to it. Or to say it in less fancy words: it turns out that the thing I am defining does not exist in our world, which is deemed a prerequisite for its possibility. Like a dragoon is not possible since there are no dragons.

    The same holds for your maximally great being. Its definition requires that its existence is possible if and only if a being having omnipotence, omniscience, perfect goodness etc. exists in our world. Which is far from obvious. Thus, although a maximally great being is a priori possible (since not self-contradictory), it might be a posteriori (i.e. logically) impossible because it is not present in our world.

    “As you pointed out, “every deductive argument explicates what is already contained in its premises”. This argument is no different.”

    Yes it it, because unlike a usual syllogism working to spell out a “new” piece of information from various premises, the ontological argument contains merely a single premise, which is run through the S5 machinery to re-state itself.

    “The rational acceptability of the first premise is over whether a being is logically possible. No one is committed to its actual instantiation in the real world until they have excogitated on whether such a being is possible.”

    As I have tried to show you (apparently in vain), these two issues are linked in the modal-ontological argument, just like in the case of my dragoon. A maximally great being is only possible if it is necessary, which in turn means in exists in our world. Thus, only someone who is already convinced of its existence in this world will grant premise 1. Therefore the argument begs the question.

    Look, if you don’t believe some anonymous guy on the internet, what do you make of the fact that Plantinga, one of the most prominent proponents of the modal-ontological argument, agrees with me? Do you think he does not properly understand his own argument?

    And I promise that this will definitely be my last word on the modal-ontological argument.

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  224. Richard Christie

    Thus, only someone who is already convinced of its existence in this world will grant premise 1.

    I grant the first premise because it is not absolute.
    The argument no, it’s a cheap swindle, and obviously so .

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  225. This thread (may be near or at — or indeed well past) it’s use-by date.
    Two final thoughts from me:

    1) Purpose and intent (of either a universe intender or a football referee) is a metaphysical thing, and thus (contra IDists – and Ken?) cannot simply be read ‘off the page’ from a scientific analysis (i.e. design in nature or rate of spin etc. on coin toss).

    2) whilst I think the ontological argument is 6 steps where [...possibly - pun intended!] perhaps only 1 is needed, I certainly don’t think that the cosmological argument is ‘shonky [or medieval] logic’.

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  226. Dale:

    1: Your presentation of inference from evidence and checking against reality as simply “reading off the page” shows an avoidance of the real issues. Either you don’t understand the process or wush to misrepresent it.

    2: I do think the “cosmological argument” of Craig is shonky and doesn’t respect science. But we will het into this in dues course (obviously a separate post).

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  227. Ken,
    1) would you care to comment on the coin toss analogy? Do you not agree that things that ‘look’ random can be intentional? Or in other words, that the ‘inference’ is possibly not as scientific as we might think?

    2) FYI (and FWIW), I’m not interested in Craig’s use of science. The argument – which is obviously about ‘the universe’ (or ‘multiverse’) etc. – shouldn’t (and doesn’t) rely on specific interpretations (certainly not misinterpretations) of cosmology, but rather on the simple observed fact of the existence of the world.

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  228. Dale “the simple observed fact of the existence of the world” is science.
    Perhaps you should clarify as your presentation of the argument is different to Craig’s. It’s not clear what you are arguing for whereas Craig is clearly arguing for a person god. And why reject discussion of how science is used in that argument? It is very important. Surely we aren’t going to debate this before we deal with it?

    I don’t know what your coin toss analogy is. Sure – I agree that ‘inference’ is possibly not as scientific as we might think?” This is a common trick used by the Wedge people. The inference to the best explanation.

    But of course in science their is an intimate relationship with reality so that inferences are tested. And we often, very often, reject them as a result of such tests.

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  229. Ken,
    1) re: coin toss: a coin toss is both an intentional event, and a random one. The analogy should not be pushed too far – as is always the case with analogies – but the point is that even if the universe looked utterly random (I’m not saying it is, and I don’t think people do say this, given its order and intelligibility) it could still be the result of an intending agency.

    2) re cosmo argument: I gave a version a while back (here).

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  230. Yes, I have your version. But it’s not the same as Craig’s. What is your version arguing for and how does this differ from Craig’s?

    I think a coin toss itself is intentional. The result may be random, or close to it.

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  231. The a priori contradiction (self contradiction) you talk about just means logical contradiction. This is almost universally acknowledged by philosophers. Philosophers talk about physical or nomological possibility when they are referring to a posteriori possibility.

    Your definition is vacuous. It’s only defined in terms of its modal relation to another being. Worst still you continue to equivocate between (a) ‘a dragoon is logically possible if it is a dragon’; and (b) ‘a dragoon is logically possible if there is a dragon that exists in the actual world. Hence it is not clear if you are meaning a separate being or the same being (a dragon), exemplifying the property of ‘dragoonness.’ They mean very different things. In the end it matters little for both are inconsistent.

    “In contrast, it may turn out that something is impossible a posteriori because the structure of our reality does not conform to it. Or to say it in less fancy words: it turns out that the thing I am defining does not exist in our world, which is deemed a prerequisite for its possibility. Like a dragoon is not possible since there are no dragons.”

    Whatever a dragoon is it certainly does not follow that because a dragon doesn’t exist in the actual world, a dragoon could never have existed. Note that this does not have anything to do with the way ‘reality is structured’. Therefore your definition is a priori contradictory (logically contradictory) because it produces an impossible conclusion. If it turned out that your definition was logically consistent it still wouldn’t affect the ontological argument for the simple reason that you are begging the question by using a non-parallel example to show that the modal ontological argument is begging the question. ,

    “Yes it it, because unlike a usual syllogism working to spell out a “new” piece of information from various premises, the ontological argument contains merely a single premise, which is run through the S5 machinery to re-state itself.”
    Either it’s in my left hand or my right hand.
    It’s not in my left hand.
    Therefore, it’s in my right hand.
    What new information is this adding? Only that one of the disjuncts is true and the other is false. The modal ontological argument assumes its conclusions only in the sense that the conclusion deductively flows from the premise. If you have a problem with the S5 axiom then that is a different objection altogether. But why should we reject S5? Because it produces a conclusion we don’t like? This is an avenue of criticism of the modal ontological argument. One can deny S5 but they need to justify why the most useful axiom in modal logic should be abandoned.

    Plantinga believed the argument raised the rationality of theism. Therefore it’s not obvious that he thought the argument was fallacious.

    I’m happy for this to be our last communication. I’m confident you have not shown the modal argument begs the question.

    Richard and Cedric. I applaud you for adding nothing to the discussion with your intermittent ‘dive bombing’.

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  232. Ken,
    you ask what my version is arguing for: The last line of of the syllogism should be indicative –>4 – The cause(s) of the universe (O.R.) would be non-physical, non-temporal, in-finite, un-caused, etc.

    As for the coin toss: the point is that we don’t know it’s intentional from the ‘facts’. We don’t scientifically ‘observe’ the intention or purpose – we only observe a round, flat metal object being flicked or thrown, etc. And when I asked you to comment, I meant comment on how it relates to the conversation about the intention of the universe.

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  233. Dale, you mean a god, don’t you?

    Craig certainly does!

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  234. Richard Christie

    Richard and Cedric. I applaud you for adding nothing to the discussion with your intermittent ‘dive bombing’.

    David, the way I recall it is that you ran away from addressing any of the reasons I provided for the failure of the argument you presented.

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  235. It’s not a Christian, Roman, Egyptian or Hindu argument, but a generally theistic proof; so yes, “a god” or any other other cause (or causes) with those characteristics. So you’ll consider this as well as rant about Craig’s version in a separate post?

    As for this thread, any comments on the coin toss analogy “relates to the conversation about the intention of the universe”…?

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  236. Dale,

    the divide is not ‘science and religion’, but physics and metaphysics

    I didn’t write about either. You’re just putting up excuses not to engage again. You haven’t engaged with what I did write… again.

    I’ve better things to do. Seems all you can do is avoid facing it. Fine, but like I said if you don’t face those questions you won’t able to answer your own question truthfully: all you’ll have is your own excuses. (The ones you give to me to avoid facing them.)

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  237. Re the coin toss. Of course the tosser had intent and her actions are not random. The record of the results of the tosses may well be random or close to it.

    One could of course just study the results of the tossing and draw some statistical conclusions. But one could also investigate mechanisms. In this case there would be a lot of evidence to help. That is, one is not simply restricted to the data of results of each toss.

    As for investigating the universe one can check randomness of events statistically. Often one could also investigate mechanisms as for example in gene mutations.

    But we may also confront situations where try as hard as we might we can not detect evidence of mechanisms and despite this appearing counter-intuitive we are obliged to accept that.

    The decay of an unstable atom or the position/energy of an electron in an atomic orbital is like that. Despite our best efforts we cannot detect cause or mechanism and have to resort to probability. While intuitively we might hope to understand things better in the future (assuming it is not beyond us) it is not honest to introduce cause/mechanism/intent in the absence of evidence.

    This non/determinism has worried people in the past. Not so much today. And our use of probabilities without mechanisms is extremely successful. Atomic orbitals based purely on probabilities arising from wave functions produce very accurate and illuminating chemical predictions.

    It also tells us that our common sense intuition to postulate mechanisms, causes, purpose is quite unnecessary. We can get along handsomely without it. We shouldn’t intofuce it until evidence requires it, if it ever does.

    Certainly it is not honest to postulate a mechanism, cause, purpose in the absence of evidence. It is even less honest to postulate this claiming knowledge which doesn’t exist. Just because of emotion or tradition.

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  238. Ken,
    I really do wish you would word things more even-handedly. You always say ‘we don’t need to introduce purpose, etc.’ – but purpose is also not ruled out in the slightest either – so it’s also true that ‘we don’t need to deny purpose, etc.’

    Again, I’ve entirely agreed that ‘purpose’ is not needed for a scientific cosmological account of the universe. But humanity has, still does, and most likely always will ask a different kind of question about the universe. They want to know not only ‘how’ (as useful as that is) but also whether or not there might be a ‘why’ (or why’s) for life and the universe. The coin toss analogy is just a simple example of how there can be (for good reason – such as fairness and equality) intent and purpose behind ‘random’ events.

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  239. Grant, I’m sorry you found our exchange unsuitable. In addition to blogging having its limitations, I find that the number of commenters and length of time between comments (and the amount of scrolling up/down to read past comments!) doesn’t help continuity of discussion(s). If you can be bothered, feel free to rephrase or summarise your key question or comment – but I understand if you cannot be bothered.

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  240. Dale, reality is not “even-handed” and your requirement for me to be “even-handed” is an argument for ignorance rather than understanding and discovery.

    The fact is that when we don’t discover evidence for “purpose” (as in a coin tosser) no proper theory of reality can include it. Imposing “even-handedness” is just an argument for ignoring evidence and including any old story. Why should I accept your story any more than anyone elses?

    It’s not a matter of ruling out. But if our chemical theories can explain atomic orbitals so accurately as to produce and huge and successful field of understanding why should I be forced to include “purpose”, elves, fairies, gods, or whatever in such a theory.

    There may well be something else going on below the surface (hidden variables?) determining electron behaviour. But until we discover the relevant evidence how the hell can we include it in out theory? Surely humanity is not going to allow such successful knowledge to be destroyed by forcing science to include any old thing based on emotion and tradition.

    Dale, you are welcome to beleive what you like, just keep it away from me. And I will do the same.

    But requiring our knowledge to include what you wish is not going to happen.

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  241. Ken, I find it frustrating that you continue to imagine that I’m suggesting that we a) ignore evidence & b) include purpose a scientific theory! Esp. when I’ve consistently said otherwise! Who are you talking to? It certainly isn’t me. For example…

    why should I be forced to include “purpose”, elves, fairies, gods, or whatever in such a theory.

    I’m actually saying you shouldn’t!!

    Surely humanity is not going to allow such successful knowledge to be destroyed by forcing science to include any old thing…

    Who is talking about destroying current scientific knowledge!? How would suggesting that the coin toss was intended ‘destroy’ the observations and knowledge of the coin spin rate or distance to the ground or trajectory, etc.? How on earth does it ‘destroy’ any cosmological understanding to say that the universe functions as it does because of an intent or purpose!!??

    Again, when we consider the question of purpose (or no purpose), we’re not ‘adding’ to a scientific theory – and therefore not ‘destroying’ or ‘ignoring’ it – but rather we’re considering the universe in a wholly different kind of way.

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  242. A scientist isn’t adding to her work by also being a chef – she is just engaging in more than one kind of activity – and they are not contradictory.

    Now, if someone says ‘my other way of considering the universe leads me to think that the universe has only existed for 6,000 years’ – THEN that activity is in direct conflict with cosmological knowledge. But purpose or intent? No conflict at all.

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  243. Dale – you and I know that a coin toss was intended. We can actually verify that.

    But neither you or I know of any purpose or intention in the decomposition of an atom. Or the position of an electron in an atomic orbital. There is just nothing there in the way of evidence and our models work extremely well. Any attempt to introduce something for which there is no evidence, only a desire, would destroy the theories. (If you say it would not effect the model then it obviously is extremely unimportant and can be ignored).

    Yes you are considering the universe in a wholly different kind of way. You are welcome to it. I don’t think it is at all necessary, supported or helpful. Given our current level of knowledge and understanding there is no reason for me to consider the universe in your way, at all. (If there were reasons I would). Why are you so concerned about that?

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  244. True – “A scientist isn’t adding to her work by also being a chef “ and a scientist isn’t adding to her work by being religious.

    But it can be contradictory in this case. As your example of belief in a young earth ideas illustrate. This belief conflicts with scientific evidence – so how does the religious person handle that. Ignore reality in favour of a purpose driven universe (a young earth illustrating this to her) . Or accept the scientific evidence which does not include purpose, give up her young earth rubbish and try to find some other way of accommodating purpose. Perhaps she could take up knitting. That’s pretty harmless.

    Having just been debating (again!) with Matt the Church’s treatment of Galileo I am very conscious of how imposition of purpose is dangerous to science. It’s not conducive to truth.

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  245. Ken,
    Yes we can verify the coin toss’s intentionality – we can ask the game ref. We can’t however – scientifically – verify the intentionality of the universe. But you seem to agree with this point; and then rubbish anyone who dares to consider the universe’s in an other-than-purely-scientific (note: not ‘ANTI-scientific’) way. Cases of poor application of purpose don’t meant that it’s inherently problematic any more than scientific mistakes invalidate science – or over-eating invalidates eating.

    And why ask you say? Because of the desire to know, that’s why. The same impulse that drives scientific consideration also drives other-than-scientific consideration. Humanity has always, still does, and will always consider such things as purpose and meaning for life and the universe.

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  246. We all make our own purpose and meaning in life. Only some are arrogant enough to claim knowledge of a purpose for the universe. And that arrogance sometimes has frightening consequences.

    I am not rubbishing anyone here, Dale. I am happy for people to have their own beliefs as long as they don’t impose them on me or use them to dictate how the rest of us should live and what we should think. I am particularly opposed to those who use their “purpose” to interfere with humanity’s attempts to understand reality.

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  247. Ken, it’s only arrogant to claim omnipotent knowledge – of any kind. I certainly don’t know any who do. And this complaint is yet another distraction – we’re not talking about what the content of the universes’ purpose is (or isn’t), but rather we’re discussing how one can discern whether purpose or intent are present or absent. More specifically, the point is that intent and purpose can be present (or absent) in a coin-toss-like universe with seemingly random events in it (to say nothing of the apparently ordered events). Your complaints about this or that theological distraction keep you from engaging this rather simple point.

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  248. I though I had dealt with the coin tosser (love that word).

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  249. All I wish for you to agree to re: the coin toss is that (as concerns the universe) we cannot ‘ask the referee’ if the toss was intended or on purpose. The presence or absence of intent or purpose is not observable from looking at the evidence (coin: spin + trajectory, etc. | universe: random + order).

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  250. ((so far, you only seem prepared to say half of this: that purpose is not present. I’d like you to agree that the other side of the coin is true as well: that purpose is not -scientifically speaking- absent either.))

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  251. Why not? You are asking me to agree to something you don’t support – only declare. Of course we can ask a tosser if she intended to toss her coin. And why cant we use the existing evidence to infer causes? We do that all the time. And very successfully.

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  252. Dale,

    I’m sorry you found our exchange unsuitable

    I didn’t write unsuitable, wrote pointless – because you keep not engaging.

    I’m not going to be drawn back in. It seems clear that I would to have to spend a lot of time persistently trying to bring you back to the questions you avoid, and I have better things to do.

    For your own thought: If you aren’t willing to question your own religion, you can hardly ask others to question the things it proposes.

    Certainly, you’re not going to able to answer your own questions without questioning the origin of your assumptions.

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  253. Ken,
    we make observations (and yes infer purposes and intentions) from within -and about other things within- our space time ‘observable reality’. Trying to infer a purpose or intent behind ‘observable reality’ as a whole is quite a different kettle of fish. This was discussed above (albeit far above, given the length of this thread).

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  254. I am not trying to infer anything beyond an observable reality or any reality. I wouldn’t be so stupid or arrogant.

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  255. Oh, so contrary to what you’ve said before about inferring (or failing to infer) a purpose for the universe?

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  256. Well clearly you have not understood me, Dale. I think it is ridiculous to infer something outside reality. Something that doesn’t exist.

    You probably confused this with my point about how it may be possible to make inferences about another universe outside or before our universe. There are currently a couple of reports on this using details in the cosmic microwave background.

    But something outside reality! Something which has no influence on reality! To me “outside reality” means non-existence.

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  257. Ken,
    This is where Richard’s term “observable reality” is helpful. I don’t conflate ‘reality’ with ‘universe’ (or ‘multiverse’) – and we’ve certainly got (nor could have) any scientific reason to equate the uni/multi-verse with the totality of reality.

    Not only was ‘multiverse’ implicit in the original question (the purpose of the universe), but appealing to another universe, etc. or M-Theory only delays the question of purpose by one step. We’re talking about whether or not there is a purpose or intent behind ‘observable reality’ (or the uni/multi-verse).

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  258. I like “reality” better than “observable reality” which is obviously smaller. In fact till now “observable reality” has been much smaller than our universe. Even smaller if “observable” has a limited meaning.

    Reality to me means everything – most if course unknown and not observed. I can’t see how there can be existence of something outside reality. Unless we talk about dreams this way. And how can any sane person assure us that something exists outside reality and they know all about it?

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  259. Richard Christie

    In fact till now “observable reality” has been much smaller than our universe.
    hmm, that statement has to be a can of worms.
    Surely, at any given time, our universe is only as large as we observe it to be or infer it to be from the evidence. i.e. observe. All else, including divine beings, is conjecture.

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  260. I am glad you include “infer” Richard because the directly observable universe is limited by our technology and speed of light restrictions. However we do get beyond those indirectly. Beyond that still there are no doubt parts of reality we have not yet been able to indirectly observe, infer. There may be parts which will be for ever beyond us because of technological limitations or even our own intellectual limitations. And perhaps we can speculate. I see no reason though to use the word divine – in fact good reasons why we shouldn’t.

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  261. I think we all agree that we can only do scientific analysis on bits of reality that we’ve observed.
    The point is that we don’t know how far away the ‘edge’ is – or indeed if the term ‘edge’ is even fitting.

    Ken, I think your preference for ‘reality’ over ‘observable reality’ is because you have an emotional reaction to the idea of ‘unobservable reality’. I think this is because you appear to have (and I invite you to consider it) a philosophical presupposition that can be called ‘ontological monism‘: you assume that ‘reality’ has one kind of ‘ontos’ (essence/being/existence). Anyone who is a fan of the movie/book ‘the Matrix’ should know that the question ‘what is real – how do you define real’ is more disturbing and interesting than we thought.

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  262. Dale – I disagree with this “I think we all agree that we can only do scientific analysis on bits of reality that we’ve observed.” Have a look at these two papers: First Observational Tests of Eternal Inflation and Concentric circles in WMAP data may provide evidence of violent pre-Big-Bang activity.

    Of course you may be including inference in “observation.” Even so – I go further. Speculation is an important component of science. So I include string theory, for example, in scientific speculation even though it concerns reality well outside what we can observe or directly infer (at this stage).

    Dale, I think you are trying to take the philosophical piss here. My reaction to “unobservable reality” probably is related the opportunity it provides for speculation and future research. That can be exciting.

    You seem to be equating “unobservable reality” with a completely different sort of reality. Without any justification. And the very fact that it is “unobserved” gives you theistic imagination full reign. I have already called this arrogant.

    To me “unobserved” means not yet observed. This could because of current technological limitations (always changing as our technology improves). It could be because the theoretical structures have not yet been developed to enable inference (there is a feeling that our universe has fossil evidence of pre-big bang conditions or other universes. We need to develop our theory to enable detection of such evidence – as in the 2 papers I link to).

    I add to that parts of reality which may never be observed. Technology may never enable us to observe or detect evidence for some of reality. On the other hand our mental limitations may inhibit our ability to observe or understand parts of reality (we did not evolve a brain to research and understand reality – although we have been able to use it for this).

    I guess you can be described as having a philosophical presupposition that can be called ‘ontological dualism‘: you assume that ‘reality’ has two kinda of ‘ontos’ (essence/being/existence). Of course the emphasis is on assume and there is no understandable realism that the number should be restricted to 2. After all, some people are capable of holding multiple versions of reality in their head at one time.

    This leads to you reacting emotionally to the word reality. It offends you because you want to ring-fence part of reality for you gods, to keep it safe from prying eyes and accessible only by your other ways of knowing – emotion and tradition.

    I don’t see either the need for dualism or for ring-fencing.

    I agree that how we “define real is more disturbing and interesting than we thought.” Surely the history of human investigation of our surroundings has convinced us that reality is far more counter-intuitive than we could ever have imagined.

    That is why words like reality should be treated in the most abstract sense, kept well away from “common sense” and not dissected and redefined at will just because of mythical beliefs. Using such an abstract meaning inevitably leads to philosophical monism. Ring-fencing and redefining reality at ones mythical whim inevitably leads to dualism. (And why stop there?).

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  263. Thanks for the links Ken. Clearly I’ve not the time or expertise to interact with them deeply. Ken, my problem is not with M-Theory (in principle), but with your failure or hesitance to admit that eventually we have to admit that some aspects of reality just simply cannot be the subject of the natural sciences (cosmology, etc.). M-Theory only pushes the question of ultimate physical causation back one (or few thousand!?) step. This is where I’d humbly yet firmly state that whilst ‘inflation’ can be observed – eternal inflation cannot be – we simply cannot know observationally that the natural processes we observe are timeless for crying out loud!!

    And to prod this back in the direction of purpose: the point of an ‘observational wall’ is that the intending or purposing agent for our reality would be on the other side of the observational wall.

    If we can speculate and imagine other universes affecting ours (whilst being distinct our outside of ours), then why the hell should it be heretical to consider an ultimate kind of reality behind the known uni/multi-verse??

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  264. …and the ‘observational wall’ is what the coin toss analogy is about as well. Which is why it -like all analogies- breaks down; because whereas we can ask the referee if the toss was intentional, we cannot observe what lays causally beyond the first bubble-universe. Our universe is not caused by an infinite chain of bubble universes any more than it’s supported by an infinite stack of turtles.

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  265. Richard Christie

    To me “unobserved” means not yet observed.

    To me it means unobserved. How can I possibly tell if it’s there or not. Until observed or evidence exists showing its footprint I’ll happily assume it doesn’t exist, a view open to modification on new evidence.

    Not yet observed implies that it exists all the same. Careful Ken, you might find yourself arguing for the existence of fairies too ;-) , after all, aren’t they merely not yet observed.

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  266. But, Dale, why express it this way: “your failure or hesitance to admit that eventually we have to admit that some aspects of reality just simply cannot be the subject of the natural sciences (cosmology, etc.). “?

    I have said that in future we may confront our inability to investigate or understand some parts of reality. But you don’t like that. Why because you want to say this is accessible to your religion, don’t you? To your emotion and tradition.

    Well, if so, why not be honest and argue the case? Why continue to restrict our perhaps inevitable inability to understand and investigate parts of reality to just “natural sciences (cosmology, etc.).?”

    And what’s this with the “heresy” charge, Dale? No one is shutting you up on your speculations, are they. We just aren’t accepting them without better justification.

    You are the one who refuses to discuss your “other ways of knowing.” Until you do how could it be possible for you to convince anyone?

    I have absolutely no problem with the concept that we may be unable to investigate parts of reality. But my point is that if the really successful methods we have used in the past can’t do it, then I don’t think anything else can. Certainly not religion, emotion and tradition. They have been abject failures in the past.

    But you are welcome to convince me otherwise. My mind is open to your arguments. Just stop harping on the inability of science in this case – we all agree on that. We have defined it that way.

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  267. Richard – perhaps I should have added “because we have not yet found it or it doesn’t exist.”

    The old problem of not being able to prove a negative means we have to sometimes accept we can’t prove fairies don’t exist. But we are very confident they don’t – except for those who are already “away with the fairies.”

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  268. if the really successful methods we have used in the past can’t do it, then I don’t think anything else can. Certainly not religion, emotion and tradition. They have been abject failures in the past.

    Logic and reason (overlapping with, but distinct from the natural sciences) are part of the methodology for considering (not omnisciently ‘knowing’) that which lies beyond observation (whether currently unobservable or never observable).

    For example, using reason and logic alone (i.e. no observations except the obvious observation of the world itself), we can infer that if the uni/multi-verse is caused by something ‘other’ than itself, the properties of this ‘thing’ would be ‘other’ as well – so the cause of a temporal, physical, finite world would be non-temporal (eternal), non-physical (‘spiritual’??) and infinite.

    As for a name or further description of this Cause, that is a subsequent matter – and NO reason at all to halt or forbid (or discredit) this logical and reasonable consideration.

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  269. Dale, you will have to put that in plain English. I find the parentheses, quote marks and extra words confusing. It’s not clear what you mean except that you are suggesting something about detailed scientific investigation of the “multiverse” using logical reasoning. I suspect no-one thinks this is worthwhile with our current level of understanding and evidence. Beyond actually confirming the existence of other universes.

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  270. Logic and reason overlap with the natural sciences, but are distinct from them. And they are part of the methodology for considering that which lies beyond observation, whether it is currently unobservable or never observable.

    For example, using reason and logic alone, we can infer that if the universe or multiverse is caused by something other than itself, the properties of this Cause would be other as well. Logically, a Cause of a temporal, physical, finite world would be non-temporal, non-physical and infinite.

    As for naming or further describing this Cause, that is a subsequent matter – and NO reason at all to halt, forbid or discredit this logical and reasonable consideration.

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  271. I wouldn’t describe our “world” as physical and finite by any means. I am not sure about “temporal” recognizing that time is a funny old thing. Doesn’t some current theory suggest that the early universe had 4 dimension neither of which were time? And physical laws don’t seem to recognize time, or it’s direction. We seem to require a concept like entropy to make sense of our experience.

    Nor do I think that logic can be used to argue for a “cause.” Such concepts seem to be meaningless with the very small, etc. Although I think as abstract philosophical ideas they may have a place we have to be very careful about interpreting them in narrow ways. For example we might somehow save determinism in a philosophical sense but we can’t apply it directly to radioactive decay of an atom. It would have to be done at a higher philosophical level where it is relevant to probability rather than direct cause.

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  272. Nor do I think that logic can be used to argue for a “cause.” Such concepts seem to be meaningless with the very small, etc.

    Of course ‘small’ is a very relative term – I don’t follow your logic here. You say logic cannot be used to argue for a cause, but you don’t show – in logical terms – why or how?

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  273. We have to be very careful of logical arguments once we get out of the sphere of “common sense.” as I said I think there may be philosophical reasons for still using some of the concepts but only at a higher level.

    You ask me to show this in “logical terms.” But that is using a method which because of it’s limits is not appropriate. We have to use “other ways of knowing” here.

    Seriously.

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  274. Well, it squares with both science and logic to say that we certainly have no evidence whatsoever to support the notion that the universe or multiverse is infinite, un-caused, etc.

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  275. As I said – we have to be very careful about using logic outside the “common sense sphere.” Especially talking about the universe as a whole or its origins. For instance, in his “The Fabric of the Cosmos” Brian Greene says “the flat, infinitely large spatial shape is the front running contender for the large-scale structure of time.” He also describes how one can see the “big bang” as “taking place everywhere on the infinite expanse . . . it is as thought there were many big bangs, one at each point on the infinite spatial expanse.”

    Similarly “cause’ would have to be seen as a very abstract philosophical concept – not restricted to “common sense” concepts of “cause.”

    Neither science or philosophy today should be restricted to “common sense” concepts – especially when dealing with such conceptually difficult issues.

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  276. Dale,

    Clearly I’ve not the time or expertise to interact with them deeply. Ken, my problem is not with M-Theory (in principle), but with your failure or hesitance to admit that eventually we have to admit that some aspects of reality just simply cannot be the subject of the natural sciences (cosmology, etc.).

    Hold up. Right there you’re insisting on creating a space for inserting ‘purpose’, but not questioning why your religion insists on asking you to do this (then asking that others ‘must’ consider what you won’t question).

    Ken,

    The old problem of not being able to prove a negative means we have to sometimes accept we can’t prove fairies don’t exist.

    True, and one solution is to ask the question without the fairies first; if a solution works without them, then the fairies are either irrelevant or don’t exist. (For fairies, read ‘purpose’ if you’re so inclined.)

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  277. Ken,
    I humbly suggest (though firmly) that there is no (nor could there be) any observational evidence to warrant any scientific use of the word ‘infinite’. You can’t see infinity – ever.

    Grant,
    The “your religion is making you say that” card is getting a little old.

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  278. The old problem of reducing (or ring-fencing) science to visual observation. One may not see “infinity” but one may infer it. And current understandings of the universe which derive its shape lead to such an inference.

    Your statement “I humbly suggest (though firmly) that there is no (nor could there be) any observational evidence to warrant any scientific use of the word ‘infinite’ “ sounds chillingly like the words used by the inquisition in sentencing Galileo. The word “infinite” is used. It clearly has different meanings in different situations and some people prefer something like “unending.” But the time is well past when theologians can dictate what scientists are allowed to believe or suggest. Bloody hell, we don’t even allow other scientists to dictate to us.

    But, go ahead. Write a letter to Greene and tick him of for his heresy.

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  279. Ken,
    please resist the urge to assume I’m secretly attaching scriptures to my statements – I’m not. Neither am I charging Greene with ‘heresy’. I think it’s a case of what happens pretty often (and is a bit unavoidable – given the relationship of science with logic and philosophy). My humble-yet-firm words about his use of the term should be taken as an arm-chair philosopher slash casual science spectator asking a very specific question to an expert. And the best experts I know don’t mind questions.

    You say we can ‘infer’ infinity from observation!? Do tell.

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  280. OK – but see my use of scriptural terms as metaphor for a much wider problem.

    The large scale structure of space-time has been a big question which is (I think) resolved as flat. Its derived from energy/mass density and things like that. And I bet its very mathematical. The shape of the universe is often discussed on books on cosmology.

    Philosophical/logically its a dilemma (after all if we define a limit the question is always what is there outside that limit). Personally I see infinity as a useful mathematical term. When it comes to reality I prefer to think in terms of never-ending.

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  281. “Look! a pattern in the CMB! Not only do we know it is evidence of another bubble universe, but also we can ‘infer’ from this that there is a multiverse and that this multiverse is infinite and eternal. What!!?? You have questions? You must be a religious fanatic trying to kill science! Stop quoting Scripture at me! What, you must think a flying spaghetti monster created the multiverse!”

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  282. What!? So after all that it comes down to your preference to “think of reality in terms of never-ending??

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  283. Dale – ridicule and sarcasm, besides not being very clever, just reveal a prejudice.

    Those papers discuss evidence from the fine structure of the CMB data which possibly point to events in a previous universe or interaction with other universes. Of course they are not conclusive and they have the problem that patterns may inevitably occur at random in large data sets. But they are important speculations, they do raise possibilities, and they enable on-going research and testing. The data from the Plank telescope will be of much greater resolution and probably will resolve some of these issues. In time we may came to accept that we do have fossil evidence for such events – maybe they can even be researched in more detail.

    These ideas and reports are at the forefront of science (as I guess Galileo was in his time). Silly ridicule that you express does parallel the sentence of the inquisition and the Church’s assessment of the Copernican model at the time.

    Of course these speculations may turn out to be wrong (ideas in science are very often wrong – we know that. Its one of the reasons science works so well). They will be critiqued properly by those who understand such issues and have the required expertise.

    But what have you put up against such genuine attempts to understand reality?:

    “I humbly suggest (though firmly) that there is no (nor could there be) any observational evidence to warrant any scientific use of the word ‘infinite’. You can’t see infinity – ever.”

    That is unsupported dogma and should have no place in the modern approach to understanding reality.

    As for my personal preference – critique it if you wish (rather then empty ridicule). But why bother – I am hardly a player in this issue. Purely an interested observer trying to do my best to understand the exciting ideas and data that are being produced.

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  284. No Ken. That statement of mine is confirmed by every observation we’ve ever made and presumably ever will make – not that we or this world will be here forever, of course.

    I’ve made a statement about science, and an expert like Green, I assume, would welcome questions. And as for us amateurs here (in cosmology, at least), we should be able to discuss it also. My sarcastic parody, btw, was not a dig at the paper authors, but at the general assumption that anyone with questions about such things must be religiously motiviated and anti-science. For crying out loud, what the hell is wrong with asking a question or daring to suggest that we can’t observe infinity?

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  285. Of course you should question and discuss things. My point is that your statemens was a dogmatic declaration, not a question. Similarly: “That statement of mine is confirmed by every observation we’ve ever made and presumably ever will make”

    I don’t know why you should attribute to me the:

    “general assumption that anyone with questions about such things must be religiously motiviated and anti-science.”

    Questions are great and neccessary in human investigation. Dogmatic claims are not and I think they should always be opposed. Some scientists can be guilty of them but it is more a characteristic if the religious mind. The attitude towards Galileo was an important example from that time. But we still have a similar attitude from some people today.

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  286. Good night Ken – ok, let me do the work of reading for you and interpret my “dogmatic claim” into a question…

    How can we speak of ‘infinity’ if we can’t, and never will, it seems, see it? You say we can infer it, but how can we do this?

    Is that undogmatic enough for you? Do I have to pretend not to have an opinion when asking a question?

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  287. How can one talk of electrons or quarks “if we can’t, and never will, it seems, see [them]? ” Yet they are accepted and a part of a very successful standard model.

    Common issues in modern science. You probably accept electrons and quarks – even though you probably are unaware or could not follow, how they were inferred.

    Why should you insist that the universe is “finite’ if experts in this area like Brian Greene tell us “the flat, infinitely large spatial shape is the front running contender for the large-scale structure of time.”?It seems to me silly to reject that our of hand and by declaration.

    By all means present arguments for why you might disagree. I suggest that to be convincing such arguments will have to address the issues and mathematics which lead people like Greene to describe such a shape as the “front running contender.”

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  288. Ken you know full well the difference between talking about evidence for quarks/electrons and talking about evidence of eternal cosmological properties. First of all one is talking about the things themselves (sub atomic particles) and the other is talking about the duration and extent of the universe. And whilst we see with our eyes indirectly the effects of an electron. However, to say the universe is infinite and eternal is a wholly different kind of thing to say.

    Indeed, what the heck is wrong with asking Brian Greene what observational evidence there is – or even could be – for the large-scale structure of time being ‘infinitely’ large? Richard, care to chime in here on this issue of ‘infinity’ and observation?? Methinks you will agree that infinity is by definition incompatible with scientific observation?

    And any/all readers pleeeeeeze spare me the “you’re just saying that coz of your religion” crap. I’m talking about science here.

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  289. This seems to be another issue you wish to exclude science from. I personally can’t see the problem and I understand that the shape of space-time has been a fundamental problem that we would naturally wish to resolve because it helps with other issues like the future of the universe. Heat death or big crunch.

    However, you seem to think there is evidence for a finite universe that you prefer. But what is the evidence?

    It’s another of these things I don’t feel any commitment on. No skin off my nose either way. But why do you strongly prefer finite?

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  290. Scientific (and pre-scientific) oservation of our world has led to varied inferences down through the ages. The cycles of seasons and the movement of the sun and stars and planets were either thought to be eternal cycles stretching back forever, or to have been created as they are. Modern science has gained strong evidence for Big Bang (for at least ‘our’ universe – the one we’ll always know the most about, because our observations of it will always be more direct), which I’d say leans toward a finite universe – though does not prove it is finite. If there are other ‘bubble’ universes, presumably they have their own beginnings, and the foaming multiverse would itself have a beginning – a Macro-Multiverse-Bang so to speak.

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  291. Yeah, right. Of course these would be great – if they worked. It would save a lot of time and expense in research if we could just consult the “holy” scripture, accept the assurance of the Pope, priests, theologians, Imams or the guy raving on the street corner. But come off it. This method has been tested – it doesn’t work.

    Ken how do you know it has been tested? Presumably from reading books, articles etc of people who have done the tests, hearing lectures from people who have done these tests. But this all involves testimony. In fact reading scientific studies and peer review involves testimony.

    For your argument here to work you’d need to bracket any testing or evidence or studies you have not witnessed first hand and have heard about from others either in verbal and written form (testimony) and of course if you did this then you claim it had been thoroughtly tested would be unjustified.

    Moreover if testimony is unreliable and we should not trust it, then I should reject every science lecture, science textbook, science article, documentary, every thing I was ever taught in science class and so on and rely only on what I have seen and heard first hand. I put to you that if people did this science could not function. Try reading some books on the epistemology of testimony before you make sweeping comments try Coady’s book “Testimony” for example.

    In fact isn’t everyone who reads what you say on this blog reading your testimony. So I guess we should assume everything you say here is crap until it can be proven from things which I have seen myself. If what you say about testimony is correct I should reject what you say.

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  292. Who knows Dale. The dimensions of space-time involved are so extreme “common sense” arguments are just completely inadequate.

    One thing that seems pretty obvious, though, is things are much larger and stranger than we could ever have imagined. Any attempts to put boundaries on things have always failed.

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  293. Come off it Matt. You are not being honest. You will assume everything I say here is crap anyway – for your own ideological reasons, whatever the evidence. And then claim “other ways of knowing.”

    There us an important epistemological principle. Well, important to most but may be not you. That is: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Or ad Karl Marx expressed it in his Theses on Feurbach. “Philosophers have only attempted to describe the world. The point however is to change it.” (or something similar).

    We know “revelation”, etc.? doesnt work from practice. If it did work we would use it. Rather than just leave it to nutters and theologians.

    On the other hand we know that our methods of investigation using logical reasoning, empirical evidence, checking and validation against reality do work. Our experience over the last 400 years cannot be denied (much as you would like to).

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  294. Ken,
    I actually agree with you that reality (of whatever kind) always tends to surprise us. But I contend that science gives us no reason to use the word ‘infinite’ of anything we observe directly (or heck even indirectly). The surprising nature of reality should instruct us to be patient and measured in how we speak of it

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  295. Matt, welcome back.
    Long time, no see.
    So…um…How old do you think the Earth is, Matt?
    6000 years?
    :)

    10,000 years?
    :) :)

    Be daring. Be bold. Reveal all.

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  296. Tend to agree with “The surprising nature of reality should instruct us to be patient and measured in how we speak of it.”

    You should have noticed how Greene spoke of his description as “the leading contender.” It is the nature of science that our knowledge is provisional. Scientific habits of continual qualification, probabilities, etc., are well known.

    It has been you who insisted that the universe us finite, physical and temporal. I was the one arguing that you should not be so dogmatic.

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  297. Richard Christie

    Matt, welcome back.
    Long time, no see.
    So…um…How old do you think the Earth is, Matt?
    6000 years?
    :)

    10,000 years?
    :) :)

    Be daring. Be bold. Reveal all.

    Really?
    Cedric, you’re kidding us.
    Does he really believe that?
    How do you know the age of the Earth Matt?

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  298. Ken, I’m just asking a question and have an opinion – I don’t think that’s too dogmatic.
    Question: what scientific evidence can there be of ‘infinity’
    Opinion: the word ‘infinity’ is simply not needed to describe what we can observe

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  299. Richard Christie

    The way I read it the cosmological argument rests on assertion that infinity does not exist in reality.
    – is that where you are going Dale?

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  300. Richard Christie

    The way I read it the cosmological argument rests on assertion that infinity does not exist in reality.

    That is, all reality except for the sky man, he’s always been there, therefore infinite.

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  301. Richard, I think Craig attempts a “common sense” argument against “infinity” in his “cosmological argument.” Seems to me he is mainly concerned to cling to the idea of the universe having a beginning and countering any idea of an eternal universe. He therefore clings very strongly to a naive concept of the big bang and singularities. And works hard to try to discredit any concept of a multiverse, concepts of before the big bang, etc. I expect him to start a tirade against Penrose any day now similar to his recent one against Hawking.

    I personally think that the concept of a limited universe (in the widest sense) is, in “common sense” terms conceptually more difficult than an “infinite” one.

    However, Dale, as Greene points out the concept of an open infinite flat unvierse comes out of the evidence. I think that specifically related to the determining the shape of space-time.

    Of course I can’t give you details and maths – that is not my expertise. But you could easily get an idea from the flavour for the evidence form several recent books.

    OK, you have an opinion that you don’t need the word ‘infinity’ to describe what you observe. Why should you? But if you had wider horizons and wished to investigate and understand objective reality as it really exists, not just what you observe, I think you would need to adopt quite a few new words. And clearly ‘infinity’ would be one of them.

    And new concepts. Like in the investigation of counter-intuitive reality “opinion” counts for nothing.

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  302. Ken,
    OK – neither of us are cosmologists. But we can still have a conversation about it at our level. You obviously know enough about it to think that I’m quite mistaken. Tell me what you know that supports this.

    Richard,
    I can discuss a theistic argument – and I can discuss this issue of science and ‘infinity’. They are different – though related – discussions. I asked you about the second one. What do you think about ‘infinity’ and science?

    ((as for the cosmo argument – I don’t think science can tell us whether the universe is caused or uncaused – or finite or infinite. Scientific observation – to put on my amateur philosopher of science cap – will always show us ‘bodies in motion’ at whatever level: macroscopic or microscopic. How the bodies came to be in motion or for how long, etc. is just not a matter of observation, IMHO))

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  303. Really?
    Cedric, you’re kidding us.
    Does he really believe that?
    How do you know the age of the Earth Matt?

    It’s wonderful stuff.
    Let the wriggling commence.
    Maybe we will get lucky and Domonic and Stuart will show up and tell us how old the Earth is or how “it doesn’t really matter, so there!”.
    (Dale’s ok. He’s off the hook.
    Same goes for ropata.)
    Yet Matt and the rest of the dumb squad?
    Ah, wait and see… :)
    Earth: How scientists can calculate the age of the earth

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  304. Dale, I have explained I have no opinion on this. except that I understand from what Greene says that an infinite, flat open shape is the front contender for space-time. My reading leads me to believe that the shape of space time has been a choice between 3 different contenders and the flat, open one seems to fit with most recent evidence. This leads to a continual expansion of the unvierse (heat death), rather than a big crunch. All this fits with the mass/energy density of the universe. There is talk of a “video” version of a flat shape which I think may enable a closed universe.

    Personally an open infinite universe sounds more acceptable. Although a finite universe as part of a multiverse also sounds acceptable.

    But I have no philosophical/ideological commitment. I will take what’s coming.

    I do have an objection to a bald claim that the universe is finite – that is why I raised Brian Greene’s assessment of the situation.

    So why do you make this claim of a finite universe (let alone a physical one)? Do you base that on scientific considerations or theological ones?

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  305. Ken,
    I don’t fault you for giving rather vague references to ‘the evidence’ – cosmology not being your area (certainly not mine). What I’m wanting is not a reference to ‘the evidence’, but an actual example of the actual evidence (i.s. this or that expansion rate, this or that observation, etc.), and how it can justifiably be said to warrant the use of the term ‘infinite’. The only philosophical/ideological commitment that I have which is relevant here is that of reason and logic. I just cannot see how any direct (or indirect!) observation of anything could warrant the use of the word ‘infinite’ (or ‘finite’ for that matter). The evidence for a Big Bang seems to be much ‘harder’ than the theoretical speculations of M-Theory or “eternal inflation”. Not, of course, that theoretical speculation is inappropriate. That’s fine. I just eventually needs to be based on, extrapolated from, or inferred from some observation or else it’s not really science, is it? It is this observation (and the rationale for understanding it in an ‘infinite’ way) that I’m interested in – on scientific grounds alone.

    Yes, I also have strong philosophical and theological convictions, but I’m able (shock, horror) to bracket them and consider this scientific question in a scientific manner. It just seems – logically, reasonably, even scientifically – a leap of all leaps to say that ‘this’ or ‘that’ observation could support the notion of an ‘infinite’ universe or multiverse. Or a strictly finite one. How audacious would the claim be to say ‘we’ve found the edge of the universe’!!??

    I’m curious though, as well, you suggest the universe is not merely ‘physical’? What do you mean? Is not physics the over-arching scientific field? The category within which all sub-categories (geology, chemistry, biology, etc.) are found?

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  306. Physical – doesn’t include em radiation, energy or fields.

    Observations include things like red shift measurements, mass/energy densities, etc. These imply shape, shape implies closed or open. If open it can be infinite (or never ending).

    But, as I said, it’s not an issue for me.

    What scientific grounds, if any, what evidence, do you base your strong claim that the universe must be finite?

    Or are you grounds purely theological?

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  307. Richard Christie

    I just cannot see how any direct (or indirect!) observation of anything could warrant the use of the word ‘infinite’ (or ‘finite’ for that matter).

    Dale, how old is your god/

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  308. Ken,
    Thanks for attempting to clarify – I have more questions. Clearly these issues stretch human langauge, so patience is called for. I don’t follow the relation between mass/energy density, and ‘shape’. What does ‘shape’ mean and how is ‘open’ equated with ‘infinite’?

    Richard,
    “your god” – I don’t believe a God would be the sort of being that would belong to me.
    “how old” – I don’t believe that it’s logical to ask the age of a being that is thought – restricting ourselves momentarily to monotheistic traditions – to have created time (in this universe or any/all others).

    Will you just answer the question about SCIENCE and infinity? Do you not want to offend your fellow atheist?

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  309. Richard Christie

    Don’t be trite Dale, your god = the god you believe in.
    I can’t very well write god, because I don’t believe it exists.
    The rest of the answer appears suspiciously like bafflegab. Are you saying your god only exists in your thoughts?

    Sorry , I missed your question to me on Science and infinity, but just found remnants of it in 11.07 comment; I have no problem with infinity as a concept or as the possible reality for the universe (extent, time etc) .
    I don’t know enough science in the disiplines concerned to know if one can show if it exists it or not if that was the question, however I certainly know that infinity can’t be measured.

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  310. Dale – I will have to interpret your response. You don not base your claim of a finite unvierse on any evidence or science. it’s all theology. Another example of theologians intruding into a domain for which they have no expertise. This is a basic reason for the reality of a science-religion conflict.

    And you disguise that by trying to divert my question.

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  311. “your god” – I don’t believe a God would be the sort of being that would belong to me.

    What a dishonest reply.
    Shame on you.

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  312. Ken – don’t confuse my response to Richard’s explicitly theological question with my explicitly scientific discussion I’m attempting to have with you.

    Ken/Richard,
    The language of ‘measuring’ is key I think, and thanks Richard for using the word “…infinity cannot be measured…”. Ken, could you agree that because infinity cannot be measured, we cannot ever ‘know’ that the universe is infinite? Again, I admit that science doesn’t ‘prove’ it’s finite either.

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  313. Intriguing that it started with questions about ‘intent’ and has lead to ‘science and infinity’, but never a change in the, “will you answer my question Ken?”
    How far my one travel? It doesn’t look like Dale’s shifting questions can be answered.
    I’m sorry, I popped up pretty late in the day on this one (just noticed the comments raging on this post), but it gives rather interesting perception I must admit.

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  314. Dale are you backing away from your declaration that the universe is finite?

    As for measurement- don’t be silly – we don’t use tape measures. Of course you could never measure an infinite distance in a finite time.

    If the shape of the universe had turned out closed we could infer a “finite” universe in the sense that we would always return to our starting point. Just as the space on the surface of the earth is closed. We wouldn’t use a tape measure.

    We can infer a possibility of an infinite universe from an open flat shape. There is no question of return – one could keep travelling forever provided there wasn’t a mechanism creating a boundary. (I imagine that with a flat universe introduction of a boundary could be problematic).

    Another thing that results from a flat open space-time is zero net energy for the universe. This considerably helps theories for the origin of the universe as there is no requirement to violate conservation. In this case nothing does indeed come from nothing in net terms to produce a universe.

    So I can see why theologians react badly to the concept of an open flat possibly infinite time space for the universe.

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  315. re the word ‘infinity':
    I’m not arguing for scientists using the word ‘finite’ instead of ‘infinite’. I’m just saying it goes beyond measurement (and no, obviously not with a tape Ken), and observation, it goes beyond being strictly science.

    Ken, we actually didn’t need elaborate scientific theories to postulate that even our universe was possibly infinite. I certainly remember as a young boy wondering what we’d see if we could send the proverbial rocket camera faster than the speed of light out plumb the depths of the universe. We can quite easily imagine (without M-theory or eternal inflation theories) that the rocket would never get to an ‘edge’ of the universe if it was indeed infinite. For what we can’t see, we use imagination, reason and logic.

    Then came Lemaître and the Big Bang theory, confirmed (largely) by the CMB. Counter-intuitive and hard to grasp as it was (and is!), we were told that all matter, energy (same thing?), space and time result from an exploding Singularity, expanding into the universe as we know it. Again, this stretches the mind. Expanding??? Into what – non-space??

    I don’t know if M-Theory is entirely a response to observations of the life-friendly (some say ‘fine tuned’) cosmological constants, but it seems to me (happy to be corrected here) that it may be. At any rate, then came M-Theory, which seems to only have indirect and tentative evidence – in patterns in the CMB. This, too, stretches the imagination. Our space/time universe – expanding into ‘???’, is itself part of any expanding ‘froth’ of bubble universes – bubbling out into ‘???’ non-universe-occupying-non-space-in-literally-no-time…

    This is not mockery – far from it. It’s just saying that we can learn a key thing from this progression. Whether or not we think the universe or multiverse is finite or infinite, we are pretty convinced that WE are finite, and our observation of the world is finite. We don’t know how ‘far out’ we can see into the world, universe or multiverse. Whether a 10 year old looking up at the sky with the naked eye wondering about camera rockets or an expert cosmologist looking at the CBM data and hypothesizing about bubble universes, we all go past observation to imagination. Science helps to keep our imagination about the world tied to the world itself. Which is why I press to ask what actual observation we infer an infinite universe from.

    I’m all for patience, as we’ve learned heaps about the universe in the past, and will learn heaps in the future no doubt. I think the rise of rapid information sharing has caused some to latch on too quickly to the latest hints and gestures and speculations. I’m all for science working ‘as fast as it can’, but I also say patience is needed. Give it time, and it will become clearer – or at least we’ll know the questions better!

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  316. My understanding is that the modern interpretation of the “big bang singularity” is that this singularity itself is the point at which the mathematics that is used to model the universe stops working and and the equations start returning infinities . Whether this is just a problem with the mathematical tools applied, or reflects an initial point beyond which nothing exists is a moot point.

    Also, it seems as though a majority of physicists are now thinking that the former is true. For a bit of a light overview of some of the options that are being explored, have a look at this BBC Horizon “Beyond the big bang” doco: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bGx3UB-Slg .

    I was particularly interested in Roger Penrose’s new ideas and would like to learn more.

    As far as infinities are concerned, I have observed before that people struggle with these concepts. For example, our friend Glen that pops up here now and then, seems to based his whole (to me, very unlikely sounding) epistemological world view on wanting to avoid an infinite chain of justification for knowledge. His answer, define the problem the away! There are some things that are just true, and don’t require justification.

    In my own very humble opinion, I don’t see what the big problem is. We need to deal with what we find, not shy away from the evidence when it doesn’t fit our preconceptions of the way things should be. This wish for a binary true/false world is very childish and problematic. We live in a probabilistic reality where there is no 100% surety, just deal with it o.k.

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  317. There’s nothing new here, Dale.

    On the one hand you are indulging in ring-fencing again. The question of finite or infinite you claim is not a question for science. Yet science ignores you. The shape of space-time and it’s consequences has been a important question which humanity has investigated – scientifically of course. Not theologically.

    You call for imagination (an important component of science) but afraid io where that might lead you then call for patience. Yet you are surely aware of the qualified nature of scientific knowledge. A great vombination of imagination and patience. Which is why science does not make a dogmatic ruling in such questions. We are quite happy to say we font know.

    And at the same time you dogmatically declare that the universe is finite. You have “other ways if knowing”, of course. Yet you can’t justify that declaration although it is clearly because you need a space outside the universe for your infinite god.

    Great claims are made for these “other ways of knowing. They produce so much dogmatic certainty. But it is all piss and wind. No one is prepared to justify or explain these “ways of knowing.”

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  318. Thanks for the link to the video, Nick. I will chase that up.

    Roger Pentose has a new book out called “Cycles of Time” devoted to these new ideas. I have had a brief look. Fortunately he puts most of the maths in a rather long appendix. I did watch a video of a lecture he gave at the Perimeter Institute a few years back but I think he now has what he thinks is more supporting evidence from the CMB.

    I may try to get a review copy of the book. It’s pretty expensive as a hard back in NZ.

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  319. I have to agree with Nick – I fail to see why Dale’s making such a fuss about fringe science, deep in the mathematical (not “imaginary” as he suggests)… Maybe he’s indulging in the God-of-gaps?

    Looking back to the initial discussion of intention; there simply is not evidence of intention. To a casual observer, things seem to appear to have been made “to be”, but how else would you expect it? Just as with biology; species are very good at what they do because if they weren’t they would’ve been left of the palaeontologists to discuss. Largely it’s a hash job, with whatever is on hand.

    If there was intention, there would be no need to philosophical discussions of this nature because there would be no question of it. Life and the universe would be so uniformed and perfect that everything may as well sport a tag that reads, “Made by God”.

    That we discuss such things demonstrates evidence enough for no intention. Exploring fringe science and the yet to be well understood elements of the physical universe as examples for “humanity’s limitations” in relation to an omnipotent being is a done to death straw man.

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  320. I admit that last comment of mine was long-ish, so no wonder it was not engaged with. But I’m frankly tired of incessantly being told what my motivations are for my scientific questions, having my statements consistently cast as if I had delusions of being omnipotence, being asked direct theological questions, daring to respond and then tarred and feathered for doing so.

    This post was about the question of whether science can discern cosmic purpose or intention. This led (unsurprisingly) to discussion of the idea that if science could detect purpose or intention, it would need to observe the intending or purposive activity of a universe intender or purposer. This led to the question of problems with talk of ‘outside’ the universe, and discussion of M-theory, multiverse theory and ‘eternal inflation’, which I responded to with genuine questions. Unfortunately the scientific evidence has not been explained sufficiently to my poor little theologically distracted mind. We can imagine an eternal universe, but not imagine that I can talk science without quoting scripture. In this entire thread, I’ve only made theological comments when directly asked, and have consistently tried to focus things back to science and what science can or cannot tell us (i.e. purpose or infinity). It’s at a point like this where one begins to reconsider the use of their time.

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  321. But here you go again, Dale. You have already dogmatically ruled out any role for science in inferring purpose or not. And now you repeat that exclusion with the shape and extent of the universe.

    You declare a dogmatic view on purpose and extent (you claimed the universe was finite and seem unprepared to withdraw that).

    You are not focusing on science by declaring, without justification, that science is unable to investigate and resolve questions like the extent of the universe. Especially when such questions are actively researched these days. Talking about imagination and patience appear to me as judgementsl lecturing.

    Really you have got it wrong. This post was not about science. It was about the claim of “other ways of knowing” being used to answer questions you ring-fence away from science. An argument by default. No- one seems to be prepared to make a credible justification of these claims. And yet I get asked for a detailed explanation of the science involved in measuring the shape and extent of time-space. Something which is outside my expertise and has not been firmly resolved.

    There is very little I personally can add about the shape and extent of space-time. It is wasting time to pursue such details from me (there are some excellent books around). I agree continuing along such lines is a waste if time. But you are the one pushing this issue and avoiding any justification for your claim of “other ways of knowing.”

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  322. “This led (unsurprisingly) to discussion of the idea that if science could detect purpose or intention, it would need to observe the intending or purposive activity of a universe intender or purposer.”

    Um… so, what? Let’s put it this way, if “A” interacts in any way with the physical universe, then it must be testable. If “A” cannot be tested, well then it does not interact with the universe and then can be disregarded. There are not “other ways of knowing” because it must be testable.

    Don’t give me, “I can feel it”, because that’s as meaningful as saying that there’s a pink and purple 100 foot duck because I am certain of it. The same can be said about karma etc because this only occurs in retrospect, when one could argue that countless potential for streaks can occur.

    Also to argue that, “God works in mysterious way” is nothing but personification of chaos. There is no more reason to believe unknown purpose than to believe no intention at all. There is, however, plenty of examples of a lack of perfection – of the universe doing what it can with the available material / energy instead of being designed to work perfectly.

    There are as many “other ways of knowing” as there are fairies with chicken pox floating around the globe. Neither can be tested because neither interact with the physical universe, thus either don’t exist or don’t give a stuff about it. Get on with enjoying your life!

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  323. Hi Dale, you ask for observations that we can use to infer an infinite universe from. You could just as easily ask the question about anything infinite. In mathematics for example, what observation shows that the set of real numbers is infinite?

    Does this then mean that nothing can be infinite? Well, I would answer this by asking “What observation leads us to infer that the universe is finite?”. Of course, some things are quite clearly finite, and the ease of detecting finite quantities in our local environments clearly leads to a bit of cognitive angst when it comes to contemplating infinities. Cue argument from evolutionary psychology here..

    But, this is what annoys me about some philosophical arguments. How can you possibly make metaphysical arguments about the nature of reality without at least considering your own cognitive biases. In this case a negative bias against infinities.

    In other words, what use are your earthbound evolved intuitions when it comes to considering an infinite versus finite universe. Once you truly open your mind, try to ditch your cognitive baggage and adopt a neutral position regarding the issue, you might see why arguments (and evidence) about the curvature of the universe can lend some weight to forming a view about the infinite nature of the universe.

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  324. MothIncarnate,
    I hesitate to continue here, but wanted to say this:
    If ‘A’ is other than the universe, then ‘A’ would not be observable -and thus ‘testable’- in the same way as the universe is. ‘A’ would not be, therefore, considered with the same tools we use to analyse objects in our matter, energy, space, time universe. That’s not theology, per se, just logic.

    And (as above) all of those titles of those weird and wonderful beings you list are just combinations of english letters. Let us speak generally of ‘a cause for the universe’.

    A general point/reminder about blogging… I apologise if I’ve sounded overly dismissive or ‘anti’ concerning others views. I certainly feel as though the ‘tone of voice’ used against me has been consistently dismissive. I guess I’m saying I’m not interested in simply being dismissed. I’m more interested in people who have the patience and interest in ideas required to find out why and how there is a disagreement in the first place. With multiple commenters and endless related topics coming into the picture, this takes heaps of patience. And I do have limits on my time, so I guess this is me again saying that quite apart from ‘winning’ an argument (which I suspect will not happen for anyone here), the dismissive style of discourse here has me not feeling like anyone is interested in understanding the other person – i.e. me. I don’t care if you think I’m away with the fairies. But take the time to find out why we have a disagreement. Odds are if we look hard enough, we both agree in basic logic and reason – i.e. the law of non-contradiction.

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  325. Good comment Nick.
    Hint: I’m open to the idea that the universe can be imagined as infinite – have been since I was a boy. I just would like the ‘evidence’ explained to me. I’m having trouble with how ‘we can’t see the end of it’ or ‘it looks “open-ended”…’ equates to ‘it is therefore infinite’. And see above, I’m not saying that scientists should say it is finite either.

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  326. Perhaps, Dale, you should acknowledge that there is not a preconceived scientific position on the extent of the universe that science is trying to “prove.” There is no commitment to either “finite” or “infinite.” After all both of those concepts are cognitively difficult for us with our “common sense” logic.

    However, the overall shape of space-time has been an important question with consequences. Particularly regarding possible futures. The most likely shape currently is flat and open. The later implies (possibly) no limit – never-ending or “infinite”. I suspect, though, that we probably expect limits or edges to parts of the over-all universe. Most theories of universe formation or origins seem to imply a multiverse so limits or edges to individual universes seems likely.

    We also have to recognize that the shape of space-time is distorted by mass, producing gravitation effects. When these are very large the distortion could be so great that terms like beginning, cause, end, etc would be meaningless. (Our “common sense” logic just can’t handle these situations). This would be expected at the big bang and in black holes.

    I don’t think the problem here is at all about being cautious or imaginative. Science is open-minded on this question and it is clearly not simple.

    The issue here has been about limits of science, what is proper or improper for us to investigate scientifically, claimed “other ways of knowing” and their justification or lack of.

    Initially you claimed a finite universe and denied the possibility for science to determine extent. The implication was that your “other ways of knowing” gives you that answer. But you have not justified this.

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  327. I am also not an expert on cosmology, but as far as I know, the issue of a finite or infinite universe is not what you could consider a “settled issue”. It seems reasonable to me, on the balance of probabilities to hold a “working position” on this issue based on the curvature issue.

    In this case, if there was a closed curvature, then this would be strong evidence for a finite universe. As it looks like the universe is “flat”, then unless you can come up with a reason, mechanism and evidence for how/why there would be boundaries, then it seems reasonable to me to assume that it is infinite.

    Particularly when you consider that the actual accurate descriptions of the universe that we have exist not so much in our imaginations, but rather in the mathematical models. When you consider this fact, then you need to also be aware that those models do not have boundaries. You could of course modify the models to insert some sort of boundary conditions, but then you will have two similar models, one of which has some ungainly boundary conditions added to it. If the evidence matches them both, then you would go with the simpler less contrived model.

    This of course does not provide 100% certainty, but then again, I think we have clear grounds to prefer one model to the other.

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  328. Ken,
    Thanks. Your second paragraph particularly relates to many questions that arise in my mind. Indeed, if we speak of a multiverse, then surely we have to distinguish between our universe and another one. That would leave ours as having a beginning – even if it is ‘open’ and possibly infinite as regards the future as far as we call tell or see. The following diagrams come to mind:

    a truly infinite (in principle) universe would be represented as:
    (???) <<>> (???)

    whereas our ‘open’ (in one direction) universe would be:
    (???) — >>> — us — >>> (???)

    I guess part of my point is that we didn’t really need science to tell us that the universe ‘looks’ intuitively to ‘go on and on…’ To the naked eye it looks like the ‘infinite in both directions’ universe (first one above), but both big bang and M-Theory posit a beginning for our universe (and presumably each and every universe).

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  329. dang the first diagram got screwed… I’ll try non greater-than symbols:

    a truly infinite (in principle) universe would be represented as:
    ??? {{{— us —}}} ???

    whereas our ‘open’ (in one direction) universe would be:
    ??? —}}} us —}}} ???

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  330. I am not sure about this “I guess part of my point is that we didn’t really need science to tell us that the universe ‘looks’ intuitively to ‘go on and on…’ ” - Different people at different times have different intuitions. I think both attitudes may have been present amongst ancient Greek philosophers. And certain part of Bruno’s heresy was his concept of an infinite universe – and he was burned at the stake..

    Something science and empirical observation has pretty strongly told us is to beware of placing limits. It seems that less than 100 years ago we looked on our galaxy as the universe. Now we look beyond our own universe to postulate an even more extensive environment, including other universe. I am sure we will will go further yet (in fact M theory postulates something beyond multiverse).

    That is why I personally accept the concept of an unending universe which is sort of “infinite.” But I also concede that this is very much tied up with the shape of space-time. What we perceive from our small part of reality could be very unrepresentative of the rest of space-time. And that also goes for our minds. There is no guarantee that we even have the potential mental capacity to perceive such an extensive reality correctly.

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  331. Dale – another perception problem. From your diagrams it looks like you are talking about extension in time, rather than space-time – or even space. (and apparently we can’t separate them). If so we have been a cross purposes (you did use the words “temporal” as well as “finite” separately).

    As Brian Greene pointed out the big bang could have occurred in an infinite space-time. And I think there is a problem talking about time at the point of the big bang, Penrose seems to suggest that where there is not yet any matter time doesn’t really exist as a dimension. Yet he is discussing events occurring before the big bang – or at least he goes from a gravitational event in a previous universe which can leave evidence in the CMB of our universe!

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  332. “If ‘A’ is other than the universe, then ‘A’ would not be observable -and thus ‘testable’- in the same way as the universe is.”

    Other than the universe? So, does ‘A’ interact with the physical universe? If so, it causes changes that would otherwise not occur to elements of the physical universe. ‘A’ would therefore be either directly or indirectly testable.
    If it remains untestable and restricted to the realms of imagination, it is nothing short of fantasy and can be disregarded in such conversions.
    That’s logic.

    I remain certain that if there was intention / creation, the physical universe would have all the hallmarks of such; the fingerprint of meaning would be self-evident. That we discuss such is evidence enough that meaning is not evident. To assume that meaning is beyond the understanding of our species or that any one of the many messiahs that have come an gone is evidence enough is simply a cop-out.

    If there was meaning, then there would have to be a creator. If there was a creator that wished for us to worship, it would be universal – not a whole stack of contradictions and opposing ideologies. Surely, a creator is skilled enough to do this. Even if it didn’t want to be known (thus existing, but not requiring our religions) but still interacted with the physical universe, we would return to my point above; it would be either directly or indirectly testable.

    So far, the evidence is non-existent, so I think intention, meaning, God, whatever, is highly unlikely.

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  333. A very nice summary, MothIncarnate.

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  334. Richard Christie

    Pat talks about bafflegab and its “transcendence” over reason in his latest sermon.

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  335. related article here. As usual, time will provide more observation and sharpen statements currently made, etc.

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/10/101027-science-space-universe-end-of-time-multiverse-inflation/

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  336. I don’t think this is anything for us to worry about whichever way it goes.

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  337. “If it remains untestable and restricted to the realms of imagination, it is nothing short of fantasy and can be disregarded in such conversions.”
    “That’s logic.”

    Not so: what it is, however, is a form of verificationism. Since the whole enterprise of verificationism has being out rightly abandoned in analytic philosophy it is hardly worth arguing against.

    “So, does ‘A’ interact with the physical universe? If so, it causes changes that would otherwise not occur to elements of the physical universe. ‘A’ would therefore be either directly or indirectly testable.”

    This is assuming causation is only possible in a physical system and begs the question in favour of naturalism. If God exists then he is a non-physical being and therefore cannot be empirically tested for.

    As no one has refuted the modal ontological argument; insofar as providing clear reasoning as to how it begs the question, as opposed to it simply producing the conclusion from its premises as any deductive argument does, I think we can take this as evidence of God’s existence.

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  338. So, David, the argument from declaration.

    Care to explain what you mean by “non-physical”?

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  339. Richard Christie

    Ken, get with it – it goes like this. ;)

    1 David presents arguments
    2 Arguments are refuted
    3 David looks every which way except at the responses.
    4 David declares himself and his arguments the winner.

    About as sound as modal ontology.

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  340. That doesn’t make sense David.
    “If God exists then he is a non-physical being and therefore cannot be empirically tested for.”
    Does “God”, in your opinion interact with the known or in other words, physical universe? If so, your non-physical God alters the physical universe in ways that otherwise cannot be explained – ie. “miracles”. If this god does indeed interfere with it’s creation (assuming of course; as said before, if there is a God, it’s only sensible and meaningful for it to be a creator) it indeed must cause miracles – ie. physical changes that are testable.
    It doesn’t matter what “state” this god is. It doesn’t matter if empirical methods work directly, because inference or as stated above, indirect methods are just as powerful. As already stated, that we’re having this conversation tends to suggest the weakness of your arguments. This universe doesn’t tend to defy it’s own rules.
    Of course, there could be a creator god that simply created and doesn’t get involved. Pretty point, I admit, but there could. Such a god obviously doesn’t give a second thought of consciousness in it’s creation therefore and thus at best laughs at the meaninglessness our religions.
    As unlikely as this latter example must be, I must conclude that the very likelihood for any god is fleetingly slim.

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  341. Magic in the air
    It’s non-physical but there’s magic in the air
    My argument’s unrefuted,
    ’cause my ears are blocked with stupid
    therefore there’s magic in the air

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  342. lol Cedric..
    I’m still a little baffled by, “assuming causation is only possible in a physical system”.
    So not only are we to assume “god” is untestable due to it’s non-physical state but also that, what, “god’s actions”? How far done the line is this, non-physical, non-testable action, to go? Is “God” preforming a miracle on me, this very second, but I am unaware and unchanged in any way by the action? Why go to such effort, when the result is unnoticeable and when “God” apparently demands worship?

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  343. I have yet to see someone attack the first premise or the s5 axiom. Iapetus came closest. Because of this the argument stands as deductively valid.

    If miracle is taken to be the contravening of a law of nature then God does alter the physical universe. Scientific observation can pick up irregularities in nature. However, since we are good methodological naturalists in most cases the irregularity will be seen as subsumed under another more fundamental law.

    There are cases of events that defy the laws of nature to the extent, that, if the event were true, it would be unlikely a naturalist explanation could be found. In this case it would be reasonable to invoke God as an explanation. What I am seeing here is an argument from divine hiddenness: claiming that because we aren’t able to empirically test for miraculous events, or that they don’t often happen, that God probably doesn’t exist.

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  344. Richard Christie

    Magic in the air
    It’s non-physical but there’s magic in the air
    My argument’s unrefuted,
    ’cause my ears are blocked with stupid
    therefore there’s magic in the air

    Perfect, that made my day,
    simply perfect.

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  345. What I’m hearing is, “you can’t disprove a phantom, thus it exists.”
    It’s nonsense to being with.
    At best, you have an benign and impotent creator which certainly has no relation to any religion on Earth and no interest to interact with the universe. That is just as illogical. In all likelihood, there is nothing. But of course, you will continue to assert that there is one, it interacts with the physical universe and quick paradoxically, has no way, directly or inferred to be tested.
    As such, this argument is pathetic and as meaningful as demanding that you prove that I am not imagining a bright pink rhino. You defy the rules of scientific methodology and demand that science recognise the plausibility of an imagination. It’s not a win on your behalf, but simply a failing to distinguish reason from mythology.
    Science cannot say that “God” is reasonable because you’re sure of it and its non-testability. It can say, and does, that God is very unlikely based on the observation and is at best, uninterested and absent.
    As for other ways of knowing (the second time I’ve tried to nudge this back to the original point of the post), clearly there simply no other ways of knowing as it is understood and utilised in the modern world.
    Yesteryear’s societies may have “known” that the harvest was good or bad because of the gods, today, due to scientific investigation we now know for certain that this is nonsense; harvest success is the result of many interacting forces (that, by the way, interact with the universe thus have observable / testable results).
    Likewise, yesteryears societies must have known god exist because the books said so, the authority said so, some where sure it was looking out for them and others thought that they we cursed. Nowadays this knowing is not knowing at all; at best it’s hope, at worst it’s at pathetic as Pascal’s wager. Knowing is know based on the evidence which suggests, for the umpteenth time, no credible reason to worship.

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  346. What an amazing “logical proof” David! I was almost going to join you in the self congratulatory applause.

    But I got stuck at the place you claimed it us impossible logically to prove we aren’t brains in a vat. And then you went on to assert that you didn’t believe that you were. So you must have had “another way of knowing” to get past that point. Yet you weren’t prepared to tell us what that was.

    Now it seems to me that the conclusion that you aren’t a brain in a vat is a hell of a lot more useful than your little “proof” of your god. And that the “other way of knowing” is far more useful than the “logical” arguments you have been playing with.

    So tell us. How do you know you aren’t a brain in a vat?

    Help me catch up.

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  347. I think science does give us indication of the universe having come into existence at some point. I don’t particularly mind if this is couched in terms of the standard big bang model, inflationary theory, brane cosmological models etc (Although Roger Penrose has recently put a spanner in the works.) Also the existence of conscious beings who can freely act is not explainable under material causation. All evidence for God’s existence.

    “Knowing is [to] know based on the evidence”

    And how do you know this?

    I have made the startling claim that there are things we know without evidence. Philosophers have called these foundational beliefs, and others ‘properly basic beliefs’. These particular beliefs are pivotal for our whole noetic structure insofar as if we were to undermine one of them the rest of our belief structure would be severely shaken.

    Such beliefs include:

    (1) The belief in other minds; that is, belief that other beings have the same subjective qualia as I do. While other people might display all the behaviour that allows me to infer that they have the same qualitative incorrigible subjective experience, there is in fact no way for me to know that they do.

    (2) Beliefs that there is a mind independent world. We can all imagine being hooked up to a matrix, and some of us can imagine being a brain in a vat stimulated by a scientist so that the same sensory input we receive from the real world is mimicked in the laboratory. We could also become a solipsist and believe every sensory impression is just a construction of my mind.

    Belief in other minds and belief in the external world share something in common. i) They are rational to hold, and to deny them is commonly taken to be irrational. ii) We have no independent evidence or check to ascertain the truth or falsity of the beliefs in question. Therefore we all hold beliefs which are rational and require no evidence; and hence it follows that there are legitimate other ways of knowing.

    I am going to partially pre-empt an attack on ii); most likely coming from Ken and Mr. Moth, both ardent evidentialists. However 1 and 2 are open to attack and I welcome criticism (but not mere affirmations and rhetoric).

    “So tell us. How do you know you aren’t a brain in a vat?”

    I believe that I am experiencing the external world. I readily admit I cannot give you evidence for this which doesn’t presuppose the existence of an external world. Do you think I am rational for holding this belief without evidence? Can you do any better?

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  348. Yes, I can, David. And it all goes back to my quote from Marx who I think explained it well.

    But can you do better? Surely you must be able to.

    Why do you believe you are experiencing an external world? As you said you cannot logically show that. So why do you? Do you have some “other way of knowing.”?

    After all, isn’t it interesting that almost everyone you come across will agree with you. If we had no “other way of knowing” one would expect the odds to be different.

    I suggest to you that there is “another way of knowing” besides deductive logic, that you use it all the time. But for some reason you want to deny that there is any “other way of knowing.”

    You may not be willing to consciously give me evidence for your belief – but you certainly display evidence that you have it.

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  349. I’m starting to get a look into your mind… quite a strange place.

    Just like this previous state; “There are cases of events that defy the laws of nature to the extent, that, if the event were true, it would be unlikely a naturalist explanation could be found.”
    what you’ve written above makes a lot of strange assumptions that cannot be tested (ie. the quote is an off-the-hand, “oh, a friend of a friend said that his aunties cousin saw…. therefore…” statement and the recent assumes experience cannot necessarily be disproven not to be a mere fantasy).
    You cannot, for instance, conclusively disprove the existence of The Great Gazoo popping up to call everyone “dumb dumb” or that shadows do actually have a consciousness, but cleverly disguise this fact in submission, but that doesn’t mean you think either are at all credible.
    By your logic, the universe if literally congested with phantoms that cannot be known or tested. It’s simply ridiculous.
    1) Belief in other minds; all the evidence (of which there is copious amounts) suggests that others are in fact as capable of free thought and self-awareness as I am myself. Whether this is true or an absurdly elaborate hoax is irrelevant to my life or how the universe functions, therefore, Occam’s razor can be applied and I can assume it most likely that I’m not so important, therefore other minds exists freely and as completely as my own.
    2) Belief that the mind and universe are separate; I could pretty much apply the same logic as in 1). However, the mind is separate but enveloped by the experience of the universe. Placing your “cases of the natural laws of the universe being defied,” aside, in all thoroughly explored examples, the universe tends to make sense and act in a logical fashion. Pulling out the razor again to clear away a lot of needless rubbish, I’m left with the conclusion that the universe acts reasonably due not to an overwhelming hoax on my wonderful importance, but simply because It Is. I’m sure there’s a shed out there, with a bunch of potheads sprawled out on beanbags willing to entertain hypotheses over the Matrix universe. However, this is nothing short of delusions of grandeur; are any of us really that important to go to such ridiculous effort? The premise of your argument BEGINS with a fallacy.
    You simply suggest that we pick and choose which phantoms populate our personal perception of the universe. You are, of course, entitled to do so, just don’t expect me to take you seriously because you choose a certain Deity or Boogey man or The Great Gazoo over something else.
    In short you suggest that the nature of “God” is untestable, that it interacts with the universe, but we are either unable to test this interaction or assume them to be natural laws (oh, I see, God makes sure that gravitational acceleration is a constant for a given body… okay) and that it longs for our devotion and worship while remaining behind an impossible curtain? Seems to be an elaborate and fairly illogical set we have here… time for the razor me thinks…
    What’s which demonising evidence-based reasoning? “Ken and Mr. Moth [are] both ardent evidentialists…”
    Making up words to hurl mud at scientific methodology? You’re going to great lengths to protect “unknowningness” David.

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  350. Occam’s razor ought not to shave in any direction with belief in minds. While it might be simpler, in one sense, to conclude that other humans have the same sort of qualia as I do. It might also be seen as far more complex, for one would have to invoke a series of explanations of how the mental exists and interacts with a physical world. Most philosophers and many scientists take the mind to be a strong emergent property. There is a growing consensus amongst philosophers that the problem of the mind has become so intractable that there are really only two tenable positions. Hard physicalism which entails determinism or substance dualism. It’s not at all clear that what Occam’s razor should shave in this case.

    Solipsism is probably the simplest explanation; it only requires a disembodied mind. Occam’s razor in this case wouldn’t favour a physical universe. It’s important to see that Occam’s razor is fickle and chooses only the simpler hypothesis. What constitutes a simple hypothesis is often beyond the scope of the heuristic itself.

    You write: In short you suggest that the nature of “God” is untestable, that it interacts with the universe, but we are either unable to test this interaction or assume them to be natural laws”

    How are you going to test an interaction between a supernatural being and the natural world? What do you have in mind exactly? If you’re thinking along the lines of picking up weird and unexplainable causation at the subatomic level, then I don’t see your point. No one is going to be able to tell the difference between physical causation and super-physical to physical causation. At least prima facie we will assume it can be subsumed under a law we have not yet discovered. Even I, a religious person, believes this should be the case.

    If your suggesting miracles, such as miraculous healing or pillars of fire from the sky. You might be rationally entitled to think that this was caused by God. But you might have a lot of background evidence in play for such a belief. You might already believe in God, or consider certain arguments compelling for God’s existence. An atheist is entitled to claim that a pillar of fire from the sky is a freak occurrence, or if he is a regularity theorist such as David Hume and David Lewis, he can believe in any old happenings as we are not rationally entitled to draw any conclusions about future events from inductive reasoning.

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  351. It just goes to show how weak your argument is that you rely on the following and similar; “most philosophers and many scientists”, “growing consensus among philosophers”, “there are cases of events that defy the laws of nature”.
    Use references rather than random assumptions without weight.
    So, you think it is more complex to have many replicates of intelligence / self-awareness in a universe that just acts by certain laws than one being (yourself) and a complicated illusion solely to delude you? You really have numbers on yourself don’t you?
    I’ll give you a hint which philosophical position we can safely shave; both. Sure, philosophy is interesting and served us well in pre-enlightenment times, but now that the tools of scientific methodology are becoming robust enough not to need musing of a philosophical nature. It’s good to hear scientists finally accepting accessibility to morality.
    If you’re trying to knock down scientific clarity and open other ways of knowing on a philosophical basis, you’ve got a hard road back to ignorance ahead mate.
    I’ve already explained how to test the interaction of “god” with the universe indirectly; by a collection of events that occur (at whatever scale) that fail continually to be explained by any natural law of the universe. Even this wouldn’t be enough to remove doubt completely. It would certainly be helpful if, as I’ve also said previously (it doesn’t matter if I’m talking to a creationist / intelligent design advocate or a climate denialist, I’m often finding a need for repetition – they just don’t hear what they don’t want to), a “made by God” tag could be located – that is to say we were given definable and tangible proof of the existence and interaction of a deity that wishes for our worship.
    As I’ve also said, that we’re discussing is enough to demonstrate that there is not evidence of any nature (please excuse me disregarding your statement, “there are cases of events that defy the laws of nature” because you didn’t provide such wonderful examples of our lord and saviour interacting with as mere lambs). If a deity wished for worship, there would be no confusion, no division between religion – indeed the word “religion” itself would be redundant. That it’s all guess work and faith tells me that I could just as well make a religion just as devout over The Great Gazoo.
    Incidentally, I used to have a laugh by entertaining scientologists; walking in as a young man, finding out that I was terribly depressed and learning all about the wonders of Hubbard and his bunch and I tell you, a “religion” which is around a generation old now has as much conviction and devotional love for their leader as others do for whatever faith they hold close.That is a wake up call. If there was a “god” how wished for our devotion, it most certainly wouldn’t have let Scientology come into existences – that much I’m sure of.

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  352. No David – yous till haven’t got beyond the brain in a vat. You must have “another way of knowing” that you aren’t one – you are so confident.

    Why be afraid to acknowledge that you use “other ways of knowing” besides (and beyond) deductive logic??

    After all – you are now making huge claims. None of them justified or argued for. A certainly they cannot be reached by your “deductive logic.”

    For example your claim that it is impossible to “test an interaction between a supernatural being and the natural world.”

    Why say that? Come on, we need some justification.

    What do you mean by the words “supernatural” and “natural”? My appreciation of these concepts doesn’t lead me to the same conclusion you have drawn.

    And which “philosophers” do you rely on in your description of “the problem of the mind.”? And why ignore the scientific studies of this?

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  353. Moth:

    “It just goes to show how weak your argument is that you rely on the following and similar; “most philosophers and many scientists”, “growing consensus among philosophers”, “there are cases of events that defy the laws of nature”.

    I apologise for using ‘assumptions’, I’m simply following you and Ken’s lead in this. You have taken issue to my statement that the majority of philosophers and many (but not most) scientists take the mind to be a strong emergent property. This is true. Review the literature in philosophy of the mind and you will find this to be the case. It seems little use giving you leading philosophers names because you have already concluded that the only experts in the mind are scientists. I will anyway. David Chalmers, Jaegwon Kim, John Searle, and Jerry Fodder are four eminent philosophers that endorse emergent family positions. There is a growing consensus among philosophers- both atheistic and agnostic I might add- that the problem of the mind has not been solved by scientific discovery but has become an insoluble issue.

    “Sure, philosophy is interesting and served us well in pre-enlightenment times, but now that the tools of scientific methodology are becoming robust enough not to need musing of a philosophical nature.”

    Similar to Hawkins claim that philosophy is dead. Then he jumps head first into a philosophical debate about realism and anti-realism. Philosophers of all types can only roll their eyes at this point.

    “So, you think it is more complex to have many replicates of intelligence / self-awareness in a universe that just acts by certain laws than one being (yourself) and a complicated illusion solely to delude you?”

    I think the simplest explanation is that I am a disembodied mind. This is a sufficient explanation for all that I perceive. Occam’s razor would prefer this explanation. But even if I grant you that we should indeed take every other person to have the same mental experiences that I do, the heuristic would be employed precisely because we cannot ascertain by any scientific means that other people have the same qualitative experiences.

    You’re putting forward an argument for God’s hiddenness and an argument from evil. If God did exist he wouldn’t allow certain terrible things and he would make his existence verifiable. These objections have been thoroughly dealt with by theistic philosophers. I think you ought go and review their arguments.

    Better still; go to Africa, Asia, and South America. Collate data from those that believe they have witnessed miracles. I think you will be surprised at the levels of testimony to events that contravene the laws of nature. But since you think only things amenable to scientific investigation are evidence, a million testimonies won’t sway you in the slightest.

    Ken:

    It’s no problem for me that I can’t provide evidence there is a mind independent world. The fact that I can’t give you a satisfactory answer validates my argument! It follows that we know things without evidence. Now that I have admitted I have no way of justifying my belief in the external world, can you show me how you justify yours? I beg of you, try not to give evidence that presupposes there is a mind independent world; in other words avoid a circular argument.

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  354. David, you continue to distort my point. You are the one who concludes that you are unable to show you are not a brain in a vat using deductive logic. Evidence didn’t come into it.

    And it is clear that you have “other ways of knowing” because, in common with almost every other person, you don’t actually believe you are a brain in a vat. Why?

    Whether you accept it or not this is because you actually interact with reality.

    And you completely missed Hawking’s point – which I guess is at least consistent of you. Hawking’s comment is along the lines if “the king is dead, god save the king.” That is – medieval philosophy had proved itself inept in understanding reality. It was replaced by a modern philosophy incorporating modern science.

    But some impressionable first year philosophy students get carried away by silly ancient philosophical debates and don’t recognize the world has changed.

    Still waiting for your definitions of “supernatural” and “natural.”

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  355. But some impressionable first year philosophy students get carried away by silly ancient philosophical debates and don’t recognize the works has changed.

    Like…(…bubble, bubble, bubble..) what if (…cough, splutter…) there’s a god right?
    And he…exists.
    Like your hand exists.
    I mean….(…bubble, bubble, bubble…) have you ever really lo0ked at your hand? I mean, REALLY looked at it? It’s beyond the physical, man.
    So what I mean is…oh yeah…this god dude is like that but…(bubble, bubble, bubble…) more supernatural. Magic but not, y’know?

    (…profound silence fills the room…)

    I’m hungry. You got anything in the fridge, man?

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  356. Richard Christie

    Lol, probably get more sense and honesty out of an average stoner than exists within the modal ontological “proof” of god’s existence.

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  357. David,
    you didn’t answer anything.
    You simply threw my argument back at me when it clearly doesn’t fit. I’m not saying, “most scientists say this” or “most people know..”
    You’re not following my lead.
    You use this to continue asserting philosophic reasoning because you still have no logical way to answer my assertions.
    If you’re going to continue to ignore and side step my questions I’ll just have to move on. You can live in a universe that exists through a delusion implanted in the back of your head by some strange computer for the love of some non-apparent deity desiring worship while I will remain in the more reasonable reality.

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  358. Ken:
    I do interact with reality. That is the one thing no one can deny. But what reality is- i.e. a mind independent world, a solipsist illusion or a subjective reality produced by neurological stimulation- is what needs to be established. One cannot establish a particular view of reality with evidence that presupposing his own position in question. Hence any attempt to argue for one of these will inevitably be circular.

    My bigger point is that we all have ways of knowing that don’t require evidence. We all believe (most of us) in the external world even though we can provide no evidence based justification that isn’t circular. Contrary to popular belief, this problem is alive and well in modern epistemology and MANY epistemologists will grant some fundamental beliefs that don’t require evidence. This is standard epistemology Ken. I’m not spouting first year twaddle or Christian institute philosophy.

    I don’t think that was Hawkins’s point. He claimed that philosophers have not kept abreast with science, specifically physics, and are therefore unqualified to give judgments about the ultimate nature of reality. He then delves into a realist anti-realist debate which is thoroughly philosophical in nature, takes one of the most extreme anti-realist positions. Philosophers of science can only shake their heads in disbelief, but that is only after they have recovered from the unwarranted attack on their discipline.

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  359. Mothincarnate:

    My claims are based upon knowledge I have of my own discipline and the scholarly literature in philosophy of mind. I believe these claims are accurate.

    You haven’t responded to my arguments against the use of Occam’s razor. Therefore you seem to be guilty of precisely what you accuse me of doing: Ignoring and side stepping the issues.

    Richard:

    The modal ontological proof is logically valid. If its conclusion is too difficult to handle, be useful and argue against it rather than act like that small animal which belongs to Jabba the Hutt.

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  360. David, your interpretation of Hawking’s comment us completely erroneous.

    In fact many philosophers have kept abreast of science. Others have remained at the medieval level and their philosophy is dead. Humanity had to break away from that philosophy to enable the scientific revolution to occur. It is that medieval philosophy that is still being peddled by many theologians.

    So you acknowledge an interaction with reality – and that is your other way of knowing – even if you refuse to recognise it. That us why you agree with almost everyone else you are not a brain in a vat – even though you can’t derive otherwise from your deductive logic.

    We would indeed be in a sorry state if the only way of knowing we had was deductive logic.

    Real evidence doesn’t presuppose anything. If our interaction with reality didn’t work we would quickly abandon It.

    I think you yourself have got into a circular argument. You aren’t getting anywhere and you aren’t able to solve any problems.

    I think in essence you are suffering from a bit if philosophical arrogance. I find it common with those stuck at the medieval level.

    You are at a sterile dead end.

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  361. “Your interpretation of Hawking’s comment us completely erroneous”.

    Not really. Hawkins’s claim was that philosophers could no longer keep up with developments in cosmology and could no longer follow the mathematics. Therefore they were not equipped to answer questions about the fundamental nature of reality. So, it is the scientist that will answer, say, the questions about the nature of time, and will unravel the mysteries of consciousness. The philosopher and specially the metaphysician have no place in this.

    “So you acknowledge an interaction with reality – and that is your other way of knowing – even if yiu refuse to recognise it. That us why you agree with almost everyone else you are not a brain in a vat – even though you can’t derive otherwise from your deductive logic.”

    There is an unfortunate equivocation occurring in the meaning of reality. While one cannot doubt they experience ‘reality’, this reality could be produced in any number of ways “.e. a mind independent world, a solipsist illusion or a subjective reality produced by neurological stimulation”.

    My interacting with reality does not entail I interact with a mind independent world, unless one takes reality to specifically mean a mind independent world. But then this would be a circular argument! It would be equivalent to saying I know that the “reality” I perceive is an objective world because reality is an objective world.

    You continue to say, or at least hint, that my way of knowing in the external world is by deductive logic. Let me clear this up. I don’t even think deductive logic can give us evidence for one ‘reality’ hypothesis over another.

    I am claiming that without evidence, deductive logic or an independent check, we are rational to believe in the external world over the other hypothesis and that we would be irrational not to do so. Do you agree with this?

    Lastly, you find yourself in a circular position only if you require evidence for every belief you have.

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  362. David, why do you claim it is rational to believe in an external reality? Why! And why continue avoiding that question?

    Of course philosophers have no role in understanding the fundamental nature of reality. That’s not their job and it would be arrogant of them to imagine they could do this. It’s the job of science.

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  363. Richard Christie

    The modal ontological proof is logically valid.
    In your dreams David. Not the “proof” you presented anyway.
    All that argument did was drop the implicit tenet of uncertainty from its initial premise, work through a few steps hoping the reader forgets it was ever there in the first place, and then magically proclaim it never was there.

    Fairground trick for suckers.

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  364. David,
    I’m glad that you feel that your philosophy is accurate and I’m sure you do so as much as your faith in Christianity. Both, however, have nothing to do with evidence and scientific methodology, therefore nothing to do with knowing as I understand it to be – ie. the best possible interpretation of the universe and forces that act upon it.
    Your fuzzy, “no need for / possibility of credibility” doesn’t cut it for understanding. Philosophically, I could argue that ANYTHING exists – indeed Atlas could be carrying the Earth.
    Fortunately scientific methodology de-mystifies the universe, increasingly on a daily basis – people like you simply attempt to undermine this understanding with slight-of-hand nonsense, God-of-Gaps jargon and laughable philosophical “matrix” potentials. The truth of the matter is, you demonstrate that you have no basis for a reason argument because you rely on such underhanded arguments – you’re happy to argue that God exists, but ignore that using your argument, The Great Gazoo must also exist.
    I didn’t ignore your retort regarding Occam’s razor. This is the second time that, instead of approaching my argument, you have instead tried to turn my argument on me – an act of both laziness and desperation.
    I didn’t need to answer your criticism because you had return to the same philosophical potential: what is easier? This incorrect methodology. Your argument requires leaps of faith and more creation / invention.
    It both denies the collected contrary evidence and the fact that your argument is completely free devoid of evidence (again, I must disregard you magical “cases that defy the natural laws”).
    Hence, I simply moved on to say that if you continue to fail to answer anything rationally, instead to continue to fall into fuzzy pre-enlightenment musings, I will have to leave this discussion with you.
    What did you do? You continued to play mystic – not only, you also asserted that you consider it “accurate”. Clearly, you live with fairly backyards awareness.
    I wish you could meet someone living and trying to manage schizophrenia, as I have. They know damn well many things that occur to them are not real, but have no control and it gets very hard to tell the difference between the two.
    You reasoning turns this into “discussions with God / Satan / angles / ghosts”. Science is doing it’s best to understand what causes such mental disorders.
    You don’t have other ways of knowing, but other ways of avoiding reality.
    I’m leaving this discussion.

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  365. Richard:

    These few steps you speak of are part of the s5 axiom. Claiming it’s a bit of legerdemain does not undermine the most useful axiom in modal logic. You need to give philosophical reasons for why this axiom should be abandoned.

    Ken:

    I know I’m in an external world and I don’t need to provide a reason or evidence. That’s the whole point of what I’ve been saying.

    As I said before: if your epistemology requires evidence for every belief you hold you end up in a circular position and irrational position. Hence some beliefs are properly basic and require no evidence.

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  366. Richard Christie

    David, I’m not claiming it as legerdemain, I’m exposing it as legerdemain.

    and you have yet to refute the analysis.

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  367. David – of course you know you are in the real world. You interact with it all the time. Plenty of opportunity to form a model of that world in your brain – even though it may be illusory in many of its details.

    You are silly to pretend this is a matter of “properly basic belief.”

    You inability to handle such a simple question suggests to me that you are a philosophical fraud.

    Have you ever achieved anything with this sort of “philosophy.”

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  368. David doesn’t handle valid criticism very well.

    Saying “Nuh uh” won’t get you anywhere around here.
    Several people have been very patient with you and tried to explain how your thinking blows chunks.
    You just block your ears and carry on regardless…and so they either go away or just become more curt and unwilling to invest much serious time in the discussion.
    I suspect that the only reason why you are doing this is a nasty case of “lastwordism”.
    If you can get the last word and wear everybody out so that nobody cares anymore, then…you win.

    No. 73 ARGUMENT FROM EXHAUSTION (abridged)
    (1) Do you agree with the utterly trivial proposition X?
    (2) Atheist: of course.
    (3) How about the slightly modified proposition X’?
    (4) Atheist: Um, no, not really.
    (5) Good. Since we agree, how about Y? Is that true?
    (6) Atheist: No! And I didn’t agree with X’!
    (7) With the truths of these clearly established, surely you agree that Z is true as well?
    (8) Atheist: No. So far I have only agreed with X! Where is this going, anyway?
    (9) I’m glad we all agree…..
    ….
    (37) So now we have used propositions X, X’, Y, Y’, Z, Z’, P, P’, Q and Q’ to arrive at the obviously valid point R. Agreed?
    (38) Atheist: Like I said, so far I’ve only agreed with X. Where is this going?
    ….
    (81) So we now conclude from this that propositions L”, L”’ and J” are true. Agreed?
    (82) I HAVEN’T AGREED WITH ANYTHING YOU’VE SAID SINCE X! WHERE IS THIS GOING?
    ….
    (177) …and it follows that proposition HRV, SHQ” and BTU’ are all obviously valid. Agreed?
    (178) [Atheist either faints from overwork or leaves in disgust.]
    (179) Therefore, God exists.

    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/GodProof.htm

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  369. “David, I’m not claiming it as legerdemain, I’m exposing it as legerdemain.”

    You need to do one of three things to expose the modal ontological argument as a piece of legerdermain.

    1. Argue that the first premise “It’s possible a maximally great being exists” is logically impossible
    2. Show how the inference from possible to necessary by way of the s5 axiom is not a valid inference.
    3. Show that the argument begs the question.

    Your counter argument made some reference to me illicitly dropping the possible operator for a necessary operator and that this was somehow a false piece of inference. I assume that you’re attacking axiom s5 or suggesting the argument begs the question. But your comments were so vague it was hard to tell.

    Under axiom s5 the inference is valid. I have in other posts defended the argument against claims it begs the question by showing that the premises in all deductive arguments in some form or other reduce to the conclusion.

    Ken:

    So you’re essentially agreeing with me. We don’t need evidence to ‘know we are in the real world’. Hence we have a way of knowing that dosen’t requires evidence. I’m glad you got there in the end.

    Cedric:

    Re my thinking blows chunks:
    Read the first part of this post and attempt to argue from points 1 to 3.

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  370. Read the first part of this post and attempt to argue from points 1 to 3

    I have a better idea.
    Read how several people have been very patient with you and tried to explain how your thinking blows chunks.
    You just block your ears and carry on regardless…
    Focus for a change.

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  371. “Read how several people have been very patient with you and tried to explain how your thinking blows chunks.”

    Don’t worry, I’ve been following the posts.

    Do you not think points 1 to 3 are relevant?

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  372. What a wanker!!

    This is some of the most juvenile and arrogant philosophy I have ever come across. And what does it end with?: “So you’re essentially agreeing with me.”

    Well, David, life isn’t that simple and this indicates why you have never achieved anything with such rubbish.

    And you use it to prove you have an invisible friend!!

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  373. you have been asking me how I know ‘reality’ is a mind independent world. I’ve said I rationally believe in the external world and that I don’t need to give you evidence or tell how I know this. What this amounts to is: If you require evidence for every belief you end up in a vicious circular position.

    Now its your turn. How do you know you are in a mind independent reality and not some of the alternative realities?

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  374. The same way you do – by experiencing it.

    What have you managed to achieve in your life with such naive ideas?

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  375. Don’t worry, I’ve been following the posts.

    I’m not “worried”.
    (shrug)

    Seriously David, you need to just stop ignoring people.

    Blocking your ears won’t let you hear much and just frustrates people.
    It’s just immature.
    You alienate people.

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  376. Richard Christie

    David,
    Here is the salient part of my first response to your ‘proof”
    1.It is possible that a maximally great being exists.
    2.If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being might possibly exist in some possible world.
    3.If it is possible that a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it possibly exists in every possible world.
    4.If it is possible a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it possibly exists in the actual world.
    5.If it is possible that a maximally great being possibly exists in the actual world, then possibly, a maximally great being exists.
    6.Therefore, still no conclusion regarding existence of a maximally great being can be made.

    Note it leads nowhere.
    All I have done to your argument is maintain the qualification “if” from the first line/premise.
    Each step of a logical argument has to follow from the previous.
    Restating an aspect that is implicit at each stage does not violate any rule of logic despite your claim otherwise “You did add unnecessary modal terms. A single “possible’ is sufficient. “

    That’s the crux.

    Forget the bleating on about s5 or whatever it is. Use your eyes.

    You’re terrified of the reader keeping the qualification in the front of their mind as they work through the logic.

    A professional sleight-of-hand artist does the same thing, they take the viewer’s eye off the ball. Hence the perfectly apt analogy.

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  377. Richard Christie

    I’m thankful they don’t design aereoplanes using algorithms based in modal ontological logic.

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  378. There is no need to add extra possible operators. It’s irrelevant you say; it might and could, perhaps, possibly possibly possibly exist in a possible possible world. In modal logic this still amounts to saying there is a possible world in which a maximally great being exists. In other words a maximally great being is not logically contradictory.

    The inference you draw at step three is false. If a necessary being exists in some possible world, it exists in all possible worlds. Or in logical terms: ◊□G → □G. Logicians who endorse s5, which a great majority to do, will accept this inference. But you want me to forget about it. Why should I? Logicians don’t; and logic is what we are talking about after all.

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  379. In other words a maximally great being is not logically contradictory.

    So what?

    A sweaty magic football sock “is not logically contradictory”.

    Logicians don’t; and logic is what we are talking about after all.

    Oh really? Is that all we are talking about.
    Just logic?
    We’re not talking about a “god” or anything?

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  380. Ken:

    I do agree that our experience in some form influences our belief in an external world. Yet it could be in a trivial sense of a) ‘experience shows me a reality exists’; or b) this experience has produced in a belief that there is an external world. Giving a reason for why you have this belief is not required.

    If I asked you how you know that this experience is not one of the other consistent possible realities, you are not required to give evidence for why you believe in the external world hypothesis. As I have said, saying I know my experience is of an external world because I’m in an external world is viciously circular. You can legitimately retort that it’s because I ‘know’ and I don’t need to justify it.

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  381. So long as something is not logically incoherent it exists in a possible world, which is another way of saying its possible. Possible world semantics might be thought of as a tool for dealing with modal reasoning. Some philosophers endorse modal reasilm which is the view that all logically possible worlds exist as ours does. I think thats a bit over the top personally.

    What philosophers would say is, a sweaty magic football sock is not a necessary being. At least there is no reason to think it exists in every possible world (which includes the actual world too).

    A line of reasoning is to show how a necessary being might not be God, but a proposition or a number, or a law of logic that exists as a non-spatial and non-temporal abstact object. But that does raise ontological problems as it would require an infinte set of abstact objects and this doesn’t always go down well with a naturalist ontology.

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  382. yalan değilmi bu aslı nedir ?

    Like

  383. What philosophers would say is….

    Well, when one comes along we will all know for sure.
    Until then don’t expect me to take your word for it.

    …a sweaty magic football sock is not a necessary being.

    Huh?
    Why is a sweaty magic football sock “not necessary”?
    And what does “necessary” have to do with anything?

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  384. You’ve just been talking about logic this whole time, right?
    You weren’t making an argument for a “god” or anything, right?

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  385. Richard Christie

    David, I tell you what, why don’t you just run along and disseminate your watertight logical proof of god’s existence throughout the world.

    Spread it far and wide. Don’t waste your precious time trying to convince me, I’m incorrigible.

    Get a four billion of Earth’s inhabitants on-side. That target ought to be a cinch when armed with such an infallible logical argument, endorsed by so many logicians.

    Be the first, what are you waiting for?

    It’s sure to be worth a whole bunch of brownie points for you on judgment day .

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  386. Richard Christie

    yalan değilmi bu aslı nedir ?

    Sadece David yaptığı gibi düşündüğümde.

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  387. Some examples of necessary truths are: ‘all bachelors are unmarried.’ 2+2=4 ‘a triangle has three sides’. We think its a safe bet that 2+2 is going to equal 4 in any possible world. Similarly, there will never be a situation where a bachelor is married unless the very definition of bachelor changes. A sweaty magic sock isn’t a necessary because it is consistent to think it might not have existed.

    An introduction to logic will have a much better explanation of possible and necessary as used in philosophy and modal logic.

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  388. I’m to late Richard! William Lane Craig has already adopted it in his debates. Lets see how he goes with it in 2011.

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  389. A sweaty magic sock isn’t a necessary because it is consistent to think it might not have existed.

    I repeat, so what?
    How would that be any different from anything else that one might dream up after a bong hit?
    (Santa, a “god”, “special” Bigfoot?)

    You’ve just been talking about logic this whole time, right?
    Why do you avoid this question?

    You weren’t making an argument for a “god” or anything, right?
    Why do you avoid this question?

    William Lane Craig is… a moron.
    We know.
    He can only preach to the faithful and flog books to the gullible.
    It’s a gig, nothing more.
    Others have peddled Lame Craig’s hoary old chestnuts around here before.
    You are doing nothing new and your level of dishonesty is par for the course.

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  390. The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy writes about the modal ontological argument: “Say that an entity possesses “maximal excellence” if and only if it is omnipotent, omnscient, and morally perfect. Say, further, that an entity possesses “maximal greatness” if and only if it possesses maximal excellence in every possible world—that is, if and only if it is necessarily existent and necessarily maximally excellent.”

    What separates God from a contingent magic sock is that God is conceived of as a necessary being. So goes the argument: if a necessary being possibly exists, it will exist in every possible world, and so it will exist in the actual world as well (as the actual world is considered a member of the set of every possible world)

    It’s pretty evident I am arguing for God’s existence from logic. From the sound of it you don’t know anything about Craig’s standing in AngloAmerican philosophy.

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  391. “Say that an entity possesses “maximal excellence” if and only if it is omnipotent, omnscient, and morally perfect. Say, further, that an entity possesses “maximal greatness” if and only if it possesses maximal excellence in every possible world—that is, if and only if it is necessarily existent and necessarily maximally excellent.”

    By all means let’s say..and then let’s say some more…with a cherry on top.
    If, if and more ifs indeed.

    From there all you will get is idle musings endlessly prefaced with “if”.
    Nothing will magically materialise as existence for much of anything.
    Unless of course, you quietly drop the “if” somewhere along the way and hope that nobody notices. ;)

    “Say that an entity possesses “maximal excellence” if and only if it is omnipotent, omnscient, and morally perfect. Say, further, that an entity possesses “maximal greatness” if and only if it possesses maximal excellence in every possible world—that is, if and only if it is necessarily existent and necessarily maximally excellent.”

    Yep, that’s a sweaty magic football sock all right.
    It’s an uncannily accurate description.
    Oddly enough, it also is suspiciously similar to a “special” Bigfoot.

    It’s pretty evident I am arguing for God’s existence from logic.

    Then if that’s what you are doing then stop being all coy about it.
    It’s so bloody tedious.
    Evasion rots your soul (not to mention your credibility).

    This isn’t about “logic” at all.
    This is about you preaching for the existence of your brand-name “god”.

    From the sound of it you don’t know anything about Craig’s standing in AngloAmerican philosophy.

    He’s a theologian.
    I know a “philosopher” sounds more respectable (people have tried that sleight-hand here before too) but the guy just oozes bible bashing.

    Craig became a Christian at the age of sixteen, and his vocation and academic studies have reflected his commitment to Christian beliefs within the Evangelical tradition. Craig received a BA in communications from Wheaton College, Illinois in 1971 and two MA degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois, in 1975 and 1976, in philosophy of religion and church history.

    (..later…)

    His work in Christian apologetics includes critiques of evolution, new atheism, liberal theology, metaphysical naturalism, logical positivism, postmodernism, moral relativism, Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, Islam, homosexuality, and many of the ideas put forth by the Jesus Seminar.

    Craig maintains an Atlanta-based ministry called Reasonable Faith, with more than a dozen local chapters. Its website of the same name offers a variety of resources in the field of Christian apologetics, including scholarly articles, newsletters, and transcripts of debates.

    Craig is a frequent public speaker who has been participating in professional debates concerning the existence of God for over two decades

    The man’s a Ted Haggard just waiting to happen.
    He even has a steady job at Biola University. There’s a surprise, not!

    … about Craig’s standing in AngloAmerican philosophy.

    Nope. What he has “standing” in is with AngloAmerican moaning and groaning about magic sky people. Not very impressive at all.

    As for him being a moron, well yeah.
    I’d have to go for bald-faced liar and charlatan too.
    It’s not so much about the religion bit but rather him being in bed with Intelligent Design.
    Now there was a hobby horse that went precisely nowhere fast.

    Attach your reputation to that crap and you deserve nothing but scorn.

    Craig’s arguments are not new. They are just re-hashed Muslim apologetics from the 9th Century. They didn’t work very well way back then and they will work even less well on the Internet.

    Seriously, you are about the 7th Craig groupie who’s shown up here over the last couple of years with one of Craig’s arguments “cunningly” prepared. You might have just saved us all the trouble and just given us the title of the argument and where it was from. It’s not like there’s not a smorgasboard of rebuttals out there.
    It would have save us all a lot of boredom and you could have gone off and done something more interesting.

    The Internet: Where religions come to die

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  392. Cedric:
    You cannot hide your complete lack of understanding in basic principles of logic. This in itself is not bad, as you are not obliged to learn any logic if you so desire. What is bad is the fact that you think you can refute, without any idea of what you’re talking about, one of the 5 most famous arguments in philosophical history. I really suggest you take the time to read an introduction to modal logic. I don’t expect that will convince you of the argument. But you might show a little more respect in philosophical debate.

    Dr Craig has published in the Journal of philosophy, Philosophy Quarterly, Philosophical studies, philosophy, and the British Journal for philosophy of science. He undertook a PhD in philosophy at the University of Birmingham. He has published under synthesize library two books in philosophy of time, and books under routledge and Kluwer press concerning issues in metaphysics, philosophy of religion, and relativity theory.

    It’s convenient, but not expected, that you missed out these important facts. You must be a professional and well respected philosopher in order to have your papers peer reviewed by these journals, and as well as to have written books under routledge philosophy, Kluwer press and Synthesise library.

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  393. Richard Christie

    I’m with Cedric, B Russell, T Aquilas, Hulme, Kant, Gasking .

    Your proof is garbage.

    Here’s a better ontological argument :

    1. The creation of the world is the most marvelous achievement imaginable.
    2. The merit of an achievement is the product of (a) its intrinsic quality, and (b) the ability of its creator.
    3. The greater the disability (or handicap) of the creator, the more impressive the achievement.
    4. The most formidable handicap for a creator would be non-existence.
    5. Therefore if we suppose that the universe is the product of an existent creator we can conceive a greater being — namely, one who created everything while not existing.
    6. Therefore, God does not exist

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontological_argument#Criticisms_and_objections

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  394. David – you are clearly a Craig fan. But you should realize he hasn’t got universal support even in the philosophical arena. Many treat him as somewhat of a joke. (Actually most of us here are starting to treat you as a joke too – so perhaps there is a similar reason.)

    Philosophy is not a uniform subject – there are different schools of thought. It is part of the theistic dishonesty to hide their religious prejudice being the word “philosophy” and pretend they have the support of the whole profession. It is just not true.

    Craig also attempts to make inroads into science – busy correcting cosmologists. This is because he tries to use the big bang model in a way that Pope Pius was warned by Le Maitre was suicidal to faith. Craig also dishonestly uses the “fine tuning” argument.

    Supporters of Craig often refer to his “peer-reviewed” papers and mistakenly think some of these are scientific. None of his articles on scientific issues are peer reviewed. (Doesn’t stop Christian apologists using him as a “reliable” source, though. All part of the apologetics ghetto).

    Peer review in philosophy does not have the same integrity that it has in science – basically because of the fact that it is not a uniform discipline.

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  395. This is parody of the classical ontological argument which took existence to be a property of God. The argument only shows that existence is not a property of a thing. It’s actually logically invalid; hence why its a parody and not a serious argument.

    The modal ontological argument avoids taking existence as a property and is therefore immune to the parody.

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  396. Richard Christie

    “Not fair precious, what’s it got in its pocketses, not fair.”

    Now you are just a sore loser.
    That argument trumps yours every time.

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  397. Richard. Its a parody, its logically incoherent. It only shows that an ontological argument taking existence to be a property of a thing as logically incoherent.

    Doesn’t apply to the modal argument.

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  398. David – what’s this about parody. Pots and kettles.

    I certainly thought you original “logical” argument was a parody. Even though you seemed serious.

    Mind you aren’t you still stuck with not being able to understand why you are not a brain in a vat. Just because deductive logic let you down. And you refuse to recognise that you are actually using “another way of knowing.”

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  399. Richard Christie

    Doesn’t apply to the modal argument.

    Yeah maybe we’ll just go with your logic:

    A maximally great being isn’t a necessary because it is consistent to think it might not have existed.</i?

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  400. What is bad is the fact that you think you can refute, without any idea of what you’re talking about, one of the 5 most famous arguments in philosophical history.

    Da nerve of da guy. Dis argument is famous. Famous I tell ya.
    Why I augta teach youz a lesson that you’ll….

    No.
    I know it’s “famous”. It’s famously wrong.
    You might as well call it “respected” or “pretty” or “super absorbent”.
    It’s still wrong.
    It’s been refuted loads of times.
    It’s old and stale and all of the huffing and puffing makes no difference to me at all.

    But you might show a little more respect in philosophical debate.

    Respect. Must show more “respect”.
    Ah huh.
    (fart)
    Oops.
    (fart)
    Oops, sorry. Beans for breakfast. :)

    Dr Craig has published in the Journal of philosophy, Philosophy Quarterly, Philosophical studies, philosophy, and the British Journal for philosophy of science. He undertook a PhD in philosophy…

    Yes, I know.
    Yet he makes his living as a theologian and preacher.
    That’s his day job.
    Calling him a theologian doesn’t make his sound as interesting as a philosopher but it’s much more honest.
    I know you want to ignore the bible bashing but it won’t work with me.

    It’s convenient, but not expected, that you missed out these important facts.

    How are they “important”?
    Why should anybody give a flying damn?
    Your thinking still blows chunks and copy-and-pasting from Craig…does…not…help.

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  401. Cedric:
    “I know it’s “famous”. It’s famously wrong.”
    I’m still waiting for a refutation.
    “Oops, sorry. Beans for breakfast.”
    That’s a good summary of your position philosophically.
    “Yet he makes his living as a theologian and preacher.
    That’s his day job.”
    He is a theologian and a preacher. His day job is a philosopher.
    “Your thinking still blows chunks and copy-and-pasting from Craig…does…not…help.”
    The Stanford encyclopedia is not written by WLC.

    Richard:
    “A maximally great being isn’t a necessary because it is consistent to think it might not have existed.”

    The definition of a maximally great being is one which exemplifies maximal excellence in every possible world. The modal ontological argument shows us that it if we grant that this being is not logically impossible, it exists in every possible world and thus in the actual world.

    Ken:

    I’m still waiting for you to give me your reason for why you think you’re not a brain in a vat which doesn’t beg the question. You vaguely referred to knowing you existed in a mind independent world because of experience. However this is equivocal in several ways so I’m hoping you will elaborate further.

    You have also failed to respond to my claim that if your epistemology requires evidence for every belief you will end up in a vicious circle of skepticism. The two most popular epistemological theories- coherence theory and moderate foundationalism- don’t require evidence for every belief. Thus they avoid the circle of scepticism of which your own position leads.

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  402. David – you are the one who denies any way of knowing that you are not a brain in a vat – but still insist that it is irrational to think you are! But you can’t explain why. This is because you refuse to recognise the limitations of deductive logic and the advantages of “other ways of knowing.” – even though you obviously use them.

    Yes I know I am not a brain in a vat, in common with almost every other sane person, because of my experience. I interact with the real world – whatever it is. No assumptions involved. No begging the question. As part of this interaction I must, of necessity, build models in my brain. These are imperfect reflections of reality. They improve with more experience. And they enable me to get by. If I ignored those models, imagined instead I was a brain in a vat, I wouldn’t last long, would I.

    It is this “other way of knowing” which has enabled science to blossom. Of course this caused a disruption in philosophy. Philosophers wishing to arrogantly stick with their medieval philosophy have been left behind. As Hawking says this philosophy is now dead. it has been replaced by a scientific philosophy which recognises the limitations of deductive logic and the advantages of empirical experience – this “other way of knowing.”

    Now – you misrepresent me. I have never said that every belief requires evidence. Clearly it doesn’t. People have some really weird beliefs – gods, fairies, taniwha, etc. Those beliefs can be quite strong. But there is no evidence for any of them.

    In science we don’t really talk about “beliefs” or use the term loosely to describe a relatively weak easily changed conviction.

    No-one says “I believe in evolutionary science.” We say “I accept evolutionary science.”

    Belief implies prejudice, an unwillingness to consider and reconsider evidence. Science must always fight against such attitudes.

    As for me caught up in “a circle of scepticism.” What evidence do you have for that.? Are you suggesting I have not made any progress in my science or life?

    I can assure you that is not the case. But can you do the same. What has your limitation to deductive logic ever enabled you to achieve?

    Perhaps you are the one going around in circles. That trends to happen if you deny experience in favour of a brain in a vat.

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  403. I’m still waiting for a refutation.

    Liar.
    You’re not “waiting for a refutation”.
    You are ignoring the refutations.
    Big difference.
    That’s why others have ( after being very patient with you) eventually walked away in disgust.

    You are waiting for everybody to go home and then, when all is quiet and nobody is left to see, you can declare victory to yourself.
    It’s very dishonest.

    The argument you are using is old.
    It’s got dust and cobwebs on it. At it’s level of vernerabliity, it’s now just a ritual.

    The modal ontological argument shows us that it if we grant that this being is not logically impossible, it exists in every possible world and thus in the actual world.

    No it doesn’t.
    You can’t go from “not logically impossible” to “it exists”.
    Doesn’t work.
    Word games are a poor substitute for reality.

    Sweaty magic football sock and “special” Bigfoot, remember?

    The Stanford encyclopedia is not written by WLC.

    So Craig doesn’t use the argument that you are using?
    Really?

    He is a theologian and a preacher. His day job is a philosopher.

    I understand.
    Being called a theologian sucks. Nobody wants that label if they can possibly swap it out for something more respectable like a philosopher.
    Becoming a theologian has as much social value as becoming an astrologer or faith-healer.

    He is a theologian and a preacher who’s groupies like to exclusively focus on his very modest philosophical work because it makes him look better in a conversation.

    From the sound of it you don’t know anything about Craig’s standing in AngloAmerican philosophy.

    He has no standing. He’s just a bible basher. He’s even an Intelligent Design team member. The lowest of the low.

    I’m to late Richard! William Lane Craig has already adopted it in his debates.

    Yeah.
    Debates.
    With atheists.
    About his brand-name god. That’s his meal ticket.
    That’s the “standing” he has.

    Calling him a preacher and a theologian is a far more accurate and honest protrayal of him than calling him a philosopher.
    Which is why you focus entirely on the “He’s really a philosopher, honest” routine.

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  404. Richard Christie

    You speak for me also Cedric.
    I’m tired of playing with it.
    As long as David clings to his medieval arguments and dishonest word games I’ve better things to do than indulge him further.

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  405. What refutations Cedric? You haven’t made any mention of the three points of attack I gave. You’re not arguing for anything, just attacking William Lane Craig who didn’t even develop the argument. Telling me it’s false because it doesn’t work isn’t very enlightening.

    Ken:
    I readily admit I can’t explain why. That has been the crux of my whole argument. I know I exist in an external world but I don’t need to give evidence for this belief.

    You say you believe in the external world because you experience it. What justification do you have for that belief? Reality could appear exactly the same if you were a brain in a vat hooked up to the matrix. How do we arbitrate between these hypotheses? An appeal to the external world cannot solve the problem for under the other reality hypothesis our experience of reality would appear exactly the same as what we experience in the real world.

    The only avenue out of this circular position is to grant that not all true beliefs require evidence. I think this is a better alternative then skepticism which naturally follows from demanding independent evidence for every true belief.

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  406. What refutations Cedric?

    The ones you ignore on this thread.
    Duh!
    The ones that are freely available on Youtube or in your local library.
    Duh!
    Stop being so thick.

    It’s an old, old, OLD argument.
    It’s been done to death.
    It’s shows a peculiar lack of insight that you feel somehow that it’s a good idea to drag it out again as if we’ve never heard of it before.

    You’re not arguing for anything…

    I don’t need to.
    It been done, very patiently, by others before me.
    I’m just pointing out that you are a liar and evasive and your ears are blocked with stupid.

    …just attacking William Lane Craig who didn’t even develop the argument.

    Yes.
    I’m attacking him.
    He’s a theologian. As an attack, that’s a nasty one.
    Few things are more parasitic or a waste of space than a theologian.
    Pity the poor fool that flushed years of his life down the toilet studying such nonsense.
    Educated people wouldn’t even bother to wipe their arse with theology “degree”.
    Go hence and get a real education before it’s too late.

    Craig’s reputation is a joke and (for icing on the cake) he supports Intelligent Design which is a painfully well-known fraud.

    …just attacking William Lane Craig who didn’t even develop the argument.

    Never said that he “developed” anything. Craig’s standard shtick is to recycle old theological arguments from centuries ago and flog ‘em of to his fan base.
    It’s a gig.

    How many people have officially walked out on you so far?
    Count ‘em.

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  407. David , rather arrogant of you to declare that one would have exactly the same experience living in the real work or living as a brain in a vat. You don’t justify that at all and clearly your reason is dimu to childishly declare a circular argument.

    Obviously one’s experience will vary depending on ones true environment. If you wish to assert that is not so you are going to have to put done work in. But of course characteristically you hope to get by on simple assertion.

    Well, you don’t fool me. And I suspect most people are in my position on this one.

    But your motive is to “justify” a belief without evidence. Of course you don’t need evidence to have a belief – simple prejudice will suffice. But again very arrogant to claim a belief is true just because you want it to be.

    But I suppose that is modern theology for you.

    No wonder you guys never achieve anything.

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  408. I’m not claiming one would have the same experience if they were a brain in a vat or perceiving the real world. Rather I am claiming that they could have the same sensory experience. Notice Ken, my claim is only as arrogant as your counter claim that it isn’t possible.

    However this is somewhat irrelevant to my argument. I am happy to say that we may have different experiences depending on the reality hypothesis; the problem is, we have no way to arbitrate between these experiences, and so the problem re-appears. I might ask how is it that I know that these sensory impressions are of an external world and not a world created by a matrix program or even a world of my own mental impressions. I put it to you that we don’t have any independent evidence that would help us arbitrate between hypotheses.

    We are faced then with a dilemma. Nearly everyone will say they exist in an external world, and they will even claim that this is true knowledge. Upon searching for justification or evidence for this claim we find that the only evidence we have already presupposes our commitment to the hypothesis we are trying to justify. As I’ve repeatedly said, saying that I know I exist in an external world because I experience it is not independent evidence for that belief.

    The dilemma can be escaped by accepting that there are certain foundational metaphysical beliefs that do not require independent evidence for them to be rational.
    I’m surprised you believe this is modern theology. It’s modern epistemology and there are number of viable theories supported by a large body of philosophers who accept that not all beliefs require evidence in order to be justified.

    Cedric.

    Craig’s reputation is a joke amongst people who generally don’t understand philosophy. I don’t think these accusations are very worrying to him (or me for that matter) as we see it only appear from people who are philosophically illiterate.

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  409. David, you do nothing to support your claim that a brain in a vat would have the same sensory experience as an individual in an external reality. And at the same time you agree that the experiences differ??

    I believe you are just making up rules as you go along. Simple declarations are really invalid for such discussions. I have completely different experiences (including sensory) every day in the same external reality. (So do you). I am sure if I was a brain in a vat these would be different again.

    It is true that my picture of this external reality will not accord exactly with the actual reality. In effect my brain creates it’s own model of reality. But in the process of living in that reality, actually trying to change parts of it, I confront mistaken parts of that model and am able to correct them, at least by overcoming gross mistakes.

    It is this ongoing experience, often extremely precise and intelligently directed, which gives me confidence in that reality. In fact, to achieve anything like a workable model assuming a brain in a vat I have to avoid some information from my experiences, invent others, and have such a distorted model that it becomes so obviously contrived that if am not aware of the problem I would probably be deemed delusional. Well I hope I would for my own safety.

    I think your inability to countenance experience as independent evidence comes out of a weak understanding of modern epistemology. A reliance on simple deductive logic just doesn’t enable one to confront and solve the problems of the real world. One gets stuck in a mode of being unable to accept one exists in an external reality.

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  410. Craig’s reputation is a joke amongst people who generally don’t understand philosophy.

    Says who?

    I don’t think…

    No, you don’t.
    Perhaps you should start?
    Try improving your basic reading skills too.

    All you do is block your ears and and carry on regardless.
    That’s why your audience just gives up and walks away.

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  411. “David, you do nothing to support your claim that a brain in a vat would have the same sensory experience as an individual in an external reality. And at the same time you agree that the experiences differ??”

    Neither do you support the claim that we couldn’t have the same sensory experience. What is important here is that we have no way to arbitrate between different possible realities hypotheses. How do I know this experience is one I would have if my brain was in a vat? Also your espousal of anti-realism is irrelevant to the debate.

    “One gets stuck in a mode of being unable to accept one exists in an external reality.”

    This is an outcome of your position, not my own.

    Like

  412. I can read fine.

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  413. I can read fine.

    Then you’re just being deliberately dense then.

    If you could read, you’d read the multiple refutations to your hoary old arguments.

    If you could read, you’d notice that people try and try and try (very politely) to reach you…and then give up in disgust.

    Ken is just being endlessly polite. That’s the kind of person he is.
    All you are doing is repeatedly imposing on his good nature.
    Not nice.

    Talking to you about philosophy is as productive as talking to the kitchen table.

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  414. Don’t be silly Cedric. None of the refutations have been successful. Richard failed to see he was arguing against the old ontological argument and not the modal version, and Iapetus couldn’t justify his division of a priori and a posteori logical possibility. I’m waiting for Ken to show me what evidence he has for his belief in the external world in a non-circular fashion.

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  415. David, you are the only one going around in circles – and simply because you have a motive of declaring your god exists.

    You aren’t convincing anyone.

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  416. Don’t be silly Cedric. None of the refutations have been successful.

    Richard failed to…
    Iapetus couldn’t justify…
    I’m waiting for Ken to show me…

    You could keep playing that game forever. The only flaw is that you will only ever play by yourself. You are preaching to a party of one.

    No. 73 ARGUMENT FROM EXHAUSTION (abridged)
    (1) Do you agree with the utterly trivial proposition X?
    (2) Atheist: of course.
    (3) How about the slightly modified proposition X’?
    (4) Atheist: Um, no, not really.
    (5) Good. Since we agree, how about Y? Is that true?
    (6) Atheist: No! And I didn’t agree with X’!
    (7) With the truths of these clearly established, surely you agree that Z is true as well?
    (8) Atheist: No. So far I have only agreed with X! Where is this going, anyway?
    (9) I’m glad we all agree…..
    ….
    (37) So now we have used propositions X, X’, Y, Y’, Z, Z’, P, P’, Q and Q’ to arrive at the obviously valid point R. Agreed?
    (38) Atheist: Like I said, so far I’ve only agreed with X. Where is this going?
    ….
    (81) So we now conclude from this that propositions L”, L”’ and J” are true. Agreed?
    (82) I HAVEN’T AGREED WITH ANYTHING YOU’VE SAID SINCE X! WHERE IS THIS GOING?
    ….
    (177) …and it follows that proposition HRV, SHQ” and BTU’ are all obviously valid. Agreed?
    (178) [Atheist either faints from overwork or leaves in disgust.]
    (179) Therefore, God exists.

    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/GodProof.htm

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  417. If you think I’m wrong then provide some argument Cedric. I’m beginning to think you take atheism to be so self evident it requires no arguments.

    Ken:

    I’m still very interested to know how you justify your belief in the external world with evidence.

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  418. David, I don’t believe in the real world. I accept it. And so do you. Your experience confirms it. Your experience would be very different if you were a brain in a vat.

    All this spinning just so you can “justify” your god belief.

    But no one is interested, David. You are welcome to your belief. But it is rude to continue attempting to impose your beliefs on people who are bored with you.

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  419. It’s oh so tempting to continue point out the circularity in your argument again; and how you accuse me of not giving evidence for my claim that we might have the same experiences whether we were a brain in a vat or not (while you boldly assert with no evidence that they would be different experiences). But its boring so I will stop. Yet I wasn’t under the impression that interest and boredom were so closely related to truth and falsity.

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  420. But its boring so I will stop.

    Oh, so you’ve finally noticed too?

    Yet I wasn’t under the impression that interest and boredom were so closely related to truth and falsity.

    Now, now. Don’t get all sniffy on us.
    Just leave.
    Not much point in discussing “truth” if you’ve managed to bore people so much that they just walk away from you.
    You only end up talking to yourself.
    Not healthy.

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  421. Yes David, it’s a pity modern ethical standards don’t allow us to do the experiment.. We could excise your brain, put it in a vat and record your sensory experiences. Could tell us if you are aware that you no longer had an external reality.

    I have always found such experiential testing to resolve silly circular logical arguments. Mind you that’s with fellow scientists. Theologians may still resist the bleeding obvious. They ate trained to.

    Like

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