God and the Fine-Tuned UniverseMar 17, 2013
If the precise value of many physical constants had been different, the universe would not have supported life, human life, consciousness, philosophy and us.
Probably the most persuasive argument for the existence of God -- I don’t mean to philosophers and logicians, but to ordinary people -- goes something like this: All of this -- that is, a world with life, intelligence, beauty, humans, morality, etc., -- couldn’t have come about by accident. It must be due to some intelligent, powerful Being -- and that’s what God is.
The fine-tuning argument is a modern, up-to-date version of this argument. It takes off from something that serious physicists, religious or not, tend to agree on. Here’s how Freeman Dyson put it:
"There are many . . . lucky accidents in physics. Without such accidents, water could not exist as liquid, chains of carbon atoms could not form complex organic molecules, and hydrogen atoms could not form breakable bridges between molecules" (p. 251)--in short, life as we know it would be impossible.
All these things Freeman Dysan calls lucky accidents --- which include the initial distribution of matter when the Big Bang banged --- and values of some fundamental constants --- can be thought of the universe as being fine-tuned so as to allow for the emergence of life and all those other good things that come with it.
Then the argument is: Isn’t it more plausible to suppose that these things were not accidents, but happened according to a plan of some intelligent being? If I found an aquarium in your house, with water and plants and food in the just combination required to keep goldfish happy, I might reasonably infer that someone put it there because they wanted goldfish, not that it occurred by accident. Similarly (a bit) the universe has ended up with a little aquarium for humans, reason and morality, namely, our earth So isn’t it reasonable to suppose that, rather than being an accident, things were set up to allow for this development?
But such fine-tuning, in order to make life possible, requires a fine-tuner. This would have to be some Being with incredible knowledge and power. That seems to amount to God, or at least a God.
That’s basically the fine-tuning argument. We could elaborate the physics involved, and put the reasoning in the form of Bayes Theorem. But it wouldn’t change the basic idea. (Well, actually I couldn’t do this, but if you Google our guest, “Robin Collins”, you’ll find all the elaboration you want.)
I’ve seen this argument developed in the august pages of philosophy journals, and in thought pieces by eminent physicists. And I’ve heard it expressed --- very well in fact --- by a speaker at my Rotary Club. It may not be responsible, at least not yet, for a world-wide revival of religion. But it’s taken seriously by a lot of intelligent and thoughtful people.
Still, I have some problems with it.
The reasoning basically says: A life-supporting universe is intrinsically unlikely. A powerful and intelligent Creator who wanted such a universe would explain it. So the fact that we have a life-supporting universe makes it likely that there was a powerful and intelligent Creator.
So far, so good. In general, if an event happens, that makes the hypotheses that would explain it more likely. But how likely does it make them? It depends on how likely the hypothesis is independently of the event --- it’s “prior probability”--- and how likely the alternative hypotheses are.
One alternative is it was one lucky cosmic coincidence. If it hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t be here to be surprised, so maybe it shouldn’t be that surprising to us.
Another alternative is that there are a whole bunch of universes --- not just galaxies in our universe, but complete universes. Given a string of universes, one would expect the various combinations of parameters for basic physical factors to show up in endless combinations, just as one expects all of the individually unlikely combinations of hands to show up, if one plays bridge long enough. Are these hypotheses initially more or less plausible than the God hypothesis?
This depends on what would be required by the existence of such a Creator. Wouldn’t that in turn require the existence of a Creator-friendly universe, or proto-universe, with parameters set to allow for the development of such a powerful and wonderful Being, capable of setting the parameters for our universe? If so, it doesn’t seem we have gained much with the God hypothesis.
The argument will only be plausible to those who already see the existence of some such Being as not completely implausible, and not requiring a similar explanation of its existence.
I also have some doubts about what we are supposed to do with the conclusion of the argument, even if we agree with it. Philo, Hume’s spokesman in the Dialogues on Natural Religion, agrees by the end that the more likely hypothesis is that the world was created by some sort of intelligent being or beings. But he points out that this doesn’t in and of itself provide much evidence for the Christian God --- or the God of any other religion, he might have added. How do we know it was one God, and not a committee? How do we know it is benevolent, when the evidence on that issue is so mixed? It’s going to take quite an argument to get from fine-tuning to not coveting they neighbor’s wife and closing bars on Sundays and the other things some people think they know that God wants us to do.
Sunday, March 17, 2013 -- 5:00 PMI find this argument silly,
I find this argument silly, honestly. Even if I grant that it's highly improbable that the universe as we know it came into existence through random processes, it's even more highly improbable that a being capable of creating the universe exists and decided to do so (for whatever reason). That being is by definition several orders of magnitude more complex than anything it would have created, so, using the logic of the argument against randomness, that being's existence is significantly less probable.
Unless of course you already assume that being exists and are just looking for rationalizations.
It also assumes that the universe as we know it isn't based on the circumstances in which it arose and exists but rather was created to exist in our current circumstances. The universe exists as a balance of the elements that make it up, and if one were to be dramatically changed it would rebalance itself. Life as we know it is the most relevant example: it has been very adaptive, and has changed over time as its circumstance has. To hear these neo-creationists tell it, life as we know it was created for the circumstance in which it exists currently, which is exactly backwards.
All of this is a roundabout way of saying I found your show on Sunday frustrating. I'm glad you did the show and are willing to host people like Mr. Collins, but ultimately none of his defenses rose significantly above the level of philosophical rationalizations of what he wants to be true. Ultimately I don't think he presented a single argument that didn't rely on the belief in god, which lowered the level of discourse for me (as someone who does not share that assumption).
Sunday, March 17, 2013 -- 5:00 PMIn his Confessions, St.
In his Confessions, St. Augustine of Hippo posed a question: What was God doing before He created Heaven and Earth? Augustine's first answer, that God was preparing Hell for the people who delve into profundities, was obviously intended as a joke because Augustine then addressed the question seriously. Time, he proffered, was part of Creation; therefore, there was no "before."
Science too leaves us no better informed. In the Big Bang, our universe is said to have spewed out of nothing (call it a singularity, if you must). But what did it spew into? Certainly not into empty space for space came into being in the spewing out of our universe. It is just as easy to conceive a universe that is infinite in extent and eternal in time, as some eminent scientists still do.
Now, if God the Intelligent Designer exists, He is certainly more complicated than our universe and beyond our comprehension.
Sunday, March 17, 2013 -- 5:00 PM?A UNIVERSE MADE FOR HUMAN
?A UNIVERSE MADE FOR HUMAN EXISTENCE?
Wow! What conceit!
NO! AFAWK (as far as we know) there is only one, statistically almost non-existent, tiny, tiny speck of the universe that has human life, and AFAWK human consciousness only exists in a tiny, tiny portion of that speck?s life.
Science seeks a certain kind of explanation, with dramatic impact being its measure. All this talk about ?probabilities? is just fun speculation: it is the use of science jargon to produce dramatic impact, far apart from whatever the relevant facts are. But go ahead, have fun (I am all in favor of you guys having harmless fun); speculate all you want to, say, ?prove? God?s existence and his nature and his activities. But ultimately you will find that science will not serve you to get answers about God because there is no scientific explanation for God; and there doesn?t ?need? to be one for what you might think of as his ?existence,? to exist!
Philosophy is rational thinking about thought.
Philosophy (and poetry as philosophy using metaphor) employs ?endless speculation,? and associated methods, to find out stuff. Use those methods to find God.
Sunday, March 17, 2013 -- 5:00 PMBy definition God is that
By definition God is that which created the universe.
The universe is that which contains everything except God ,which in order to creat the universe, must have existed before the universe.
We are part of the universe.
If we are part of the universe and God is not how can an examination by one part of the universe of the rest of the universe disclose the existance of God.
We can only know of God if we are informed of God's existance.
Monday, March 18, 2013 -- 5:00 PMI enjoy listening to
I enjoy listening to believers try to build a reasoned proof for the existence of a god (or gods). Thank you, Robin, for sharing some of your ideas. I find the struggle for a reasoned explanation of why there must be a god, in and of itself, problematic. If there were a creator that wanted our worship it would have made its existence thoroughly (and unavoidably) clear, already. Seems to me that the best believers can do is, "it takes faith."
Monday, March 18, 2013 -- 5:00 PMThe essential flaw of the
The essential flaw of the fine-tuned unverse argument is that it relies on a sample of one. By its very name, the universe is a single data point. No pattern, be it line or curve, can be constructed or extrapolated from a single point.
BTW, the same flaw permeated Carl Sagan's numerical "proof" that the universe must be populated with billions and billions of intelligent creatures. Carl may have been right, just as the fine-tuned argument could conceivably be correct, but neither of these feel-good hypotheses is (as yet) supported by any data.
Monday, March 18, 2013 -- 5:00 PMI enjoy reading the differing
I enjoy reading the differing points of view that emerge from the topics raised on this blog. Mostly because Philoso?hy Talk remains 80% true to its primary goal: talking about all things philosophical. The 80% is my estimate---so, don't anyone get excited. Others have argued over the god issue and will, no doubt, continue to do so. The entire matter is only important, inasmuch as it affects the ways in which we interact with one another.
Expectations have such dramatic effects on who we are---or THINK we ought to be (your previous post on partisan politics illustrates this well.) I am a benign agnostic. God may exist, and if so, good for that. But, faith in anything begs affirmation. I think I'll have faith in myself. God can take care of its own affairs and those of the faithful---if that is how things really work. In accord with Bill, I have seen no data.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013 -- 5:00 PMAside from other problems
Aside from other problems like sample size pointed out above, I'm always struck by the failure of imagination that goes with fine-tuning arguments. Yes, it's true, having the Earth turn out just as it is, with precisely the values of the physical constants we have may be quite unlikely (although we certainly are not sure that those constants are in any way arbitrary rather than products of a deeper physical law). Our existence is just one outcome in the set of all possible forms of intelligent life, and we just don't know how big that set is or what it looks like. Further, when we think of the events leading to our own existence, we have to acknowledge that any long causal chain will contain lots of unlikely steps, whether it leads to an interesting outcome or not. A happy accident is just that, literally, and it shouldn't surprise us.
In biology, we used to say that all ecosystems *must* have access to sunlight as an energy source...until we discovered deep-sea thermal vents and chemosynthetic bacteria. Are we really arrogant enough to think that we have a grasp on all the possible ways life could evolve, to the point of estimating its likelihood? Again, estimating a probability (which is the essence of the fine-tuning argument) requires knowing how many of all possible outcomes satisfy the condition "contains intelligent life." My humble guess is that there's *lots* of ways to get some kind of integrated, intelligent life, even with bizarrely different laws of physics.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013 -- 5:00 PMThis planet of ours is not
This planet of ours is not perfect and there are definitely areas on this earth filled with people that are desperate, hungry, and suffering. If a God existed, why would he or she create such an imperfect planet with so many so-called religious peoples fighting and killing each other over which religion is the most peaceful ... what a waste of energy. I say ... become a skeptic and question everything - instead of becoming like a "sheep" and blindly following so-called truths from a book called the Bible. I suggest picking up a copy of a book called "Caveman Logic" and turn on your thinking caps for a change. Another good read is "Parenting Beyond Belief"
Just my humble opinions here folks.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013 -- 5:00 PMGod is simply another name
God is simply another name for the Universe and the Universe another name for One.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013 -- 5:00 PMI'm always baffled by these
I'm always baffled by these "inference to the best explanation" arguments for God. And it's always for the same reason: I never see what it is that they are supposed to buy you. I don't see anything new in the Fine Tuning Argument. Although, if you ask Laurence Krauss, the premise is no good to begin with, since (a) there isn't evidence of any special fine-tuning, (b) we have no good way of estimating the range of alternative life forms that might have existed given various alterations to some of the constants, and (c) no matter who or what came out at the end of a possibly very different cosmological process, they'd sit there just as we are, asking the same questions. [ re (c), consider: I might wonder how it could possibly have come about without divine plan that I, Steve Tighe, exist here today. Well, if any of the millions upon millions of different sperm produced by my father had met one of my mother's eggs, someone else, NOT Steve Tighe, would be sitting here (barring some tragedy earlier in their life). But, whoever that person was, SHE could surely ask the very same question, with the very same warrant. A random event, such at the particular day on which my parents conceived me, can have a unique outcome.] I'll also ignore the problem of how you get from "a creator" to anything approaching any being that might be recognizable as God. (As one of my undergrad philosophy teachers liked to say, "The universe does show evidence of design. It looks like it was, perhaps, the equivalent of an extra-terrestrial high school science project, for which the "creator" got a grade of "C+". Unfortunately, that creator, and her whole race, are now extinct.") Put aside these issues.
Let's focus on what the argument is supposed to buy us in terms of explanatory value, since that is the guise under which it's marketed. I start off with an agreed mystery about the universe: why does it have certain properties, why just those properties that are necessary for the (actual) course of life on Earth? And now I'm given enlightenment: There is a being, God, who created it to be just as it is, with just those properties. Am I happy (intellectually happy, of course. Surely there could be no other motive for offering or accepting this argument than a purely intellectual one)? Well, not yet. The agreed upon problem was explaining how the world came to have certain properties. And what is offered as a solution, to borrow from Spinoza, is to utter a name and claim that everything is thereby explained. HOW did God create the world? By what means? HOW does a being go about twiddling knobs and setting physical parameters? One old creationist answer, given by Henry Morris, went, roughly, "God created the world for purposes we can't understand using powers beyond our comprehension and forces nowhere operating in the universe today". Well, put that way, the argument collapses. One can't market something as "an explanation" which is essentially an eternal monument to inexplicability. So what more is needed? Well, I would think, some sort of idea of HOW the purported explanation is supposed to go. Eg., I believe that many living things begin from a single cell, when a sperm fertilizes an egg. In the human case, after 9 months, out pops a very complicated being, all sorts of structures, symmetries, and incredible resemblance to a miniature adult human, usually looking a lot like one of its parents. HOW does that come about? I take it the rough answer is, "that original single cell contained a complete genetic code, one half from the mother, one half from the father, which over the course of pregnancy guided development ..." etc, etc, etc. I'm not an embyologist, but I suppose one could give a real answer. Without something similar, the God Hypothesis seems to be in the situation of having 3 theoretical items, God, the act of creation (ie., setting the physical parameters, creating matter, etc.), and the universe, and providing no idea how they are supposed to go together.
Theists might draw analogies to modern science. For example, Quantum Theory is, according to those who know it best, darn near incomprehensible. Trying to explain its view of physical reality in terms amenable to commonsense is hopeless. So why shouldn't the God Hypothesis be the same? Well, (that is a long, drawn-out, half sighing, "well", by the way), yes. So if it could be shown how the God Hypothesis works to yield explanations of features of the universe as well as quantum theory yields explanations of higher level physical phenomena, theists might have a point. The problem, as should be evident, is that ANY outcome is compatible with the God Hypothesis. Creationists have always been in the (enviable?) position of knowing in advance of any evidence that their thesis is true, and therefore cheerfully able to claim apparently recalcitrant evidence as further support. (As the history of Christianity's rejection and subsequent embrace, at least by some, of evolution as part of God's plan shows.) As far as the universe goes, we don't know God's purposes, we don't know (theoretically) how anyone could set physical constants and endow matter with its fundamental properties, and we don't know what sort of powers and forces would be needed to bring it all about. And that is the crucial thing. If someone embraces an "explanation" that seems not to explain anything, while increasing the number of unexplained things to boot, I begin to suspect the main motive is something other than theoretical insight.
At the outset, I said that these sorts of arguments always baffle me. Now I can say why. Accepting a disputed premise, the fine-tuning of the universe seems to need explanation. So, we have one mystery. One problem. The God Hypothesis, far from resolving that problem, gives me at least 3: For what purpose)s) did God create the world as he did? What theoretical knowledge did God use to twiddle the knobs and set the physical features of universe? What powers are needed to do so? ("Twiddling knobs" is, of course, a metaphor. But I really have no idea, and despite reading and listening to a lot of stuff on modern physics, I have no idea what a non-metaphorical account of "setting the physical parameters of the universe" would look like, or if one is even possible.) I said "at least 3" because, of course, there is probably still going to be the problem of explaining how God exists. The old-fashioned Cosmological Argument, inferring God as the creator from the contingent existence or nature of the world, had the same problem. In place of one problem-the unexplained existence or nature of the world-we were given 2: the existence of God and the means by which God created the world. Barring answers to these, the initial problem still remained as well, ie., we would still not have an explanation for those problematic features of the world. I don't see where the Fine Tuning Argument has made any progress. It's still the same move, just in fancier dress. In the end, I'm reminded of Bertrand Russell's analogy of the pursuit of knowledge with climbing a mountain in the fog, with more and being revealed as the fog dissipates. I wonder if there aren't a lot of people who just like the fog.
PS Hi Ken!!!
Wednesday, March 20, 2013 -- 5:00 PMThe laws of physics,
The laws of physics, chemistry and logic are adequate for understanding the universe insofar as we can understand it. These laws are useless for trying to prove the existence of God, or His characteristics if He were to exist. Moral considerations do not limit our understanding of the processes that control the universe but they are crucial in trying to understand God.
In my much younger days, I set out to read the Bible from cover to cover. I got to a point where I could not conceive of a God of such callousness and cruelty as was represented therein. But the cruelty in religious traditions is nothing compared to the cruelty in nature. Consider, for example, that a few million years ago there were likely at least 8 species of hominids (and possibly as many as 16). Only one survived and became the progenitor of the human race. Why? It seems that as the head size and cranial capacity of the hominids increased, only one species was able to solve the problem of giving birth, and it did so by giving "premature" births -- at 9 months instead of the 21 that would be expected.
Cruel nature is credible; a cruel God, especially an infinitely cruel one, is not credible. Intelligent design, indeed?
Wednesday, March 20, 2013 -- 5:00 PMIt appears to me that God is
It appears to me that God is a clever invention, having been posited across a wide spectrum of societies, cultures and traditions. The "God Delusion", as described by the redoubtable Richard Dawkins, remains a well-articulated and persuasive opinion, that seems to support a common hypnosis. In an angrier rant, the late Christopher Hitchens wrote that God is Not Great, while Salman Rushdie said that the title of Hitchens' work should have been: God is Not. I do not support any position in this endless and pointless argument, because it has achieved nothing, AFAIK. And, as I see it, none of us will ever KNOW; while we live to tell about it.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013 -- 5:00 PMThe Theist argument that the
The Theist argument that the initial state of God is extremely simple is not refuted by Physics. The initial state of the Universe (at T=0) was also extremely simple. And Hot! At temperatures beyond what CERN can achieve. This state is also highly unstable (because it is also highly improbable). The Hot Big Bang Model of the Universe describes what results (the Universe today) from that improbablity. Mostly universal expansion and cooling trends. If God is the simplest state possible (infinitely simple?), then God must also be the hottest state possible (infinitely hot?). Hotter than the Universe at T=0. Since infinite states can't possibly exist (talk to a Mathemetician about this claim, preferably a Set Theorist), then God cannot possibly exist. End of Story.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013 -- 5:00 PMThe universe is not what you
The universe is not what you think it is; it is much more wonderful. I fell of a cliff while mountain climbing. My leg was broken in so many places that it was backwards, and I was going to die up there all alone. I prayed to God more deeply and totally that I had ever done in my life. After about 10 minutes I had an experience.
I saw everything around me to be of undescribable beauty, order and indestructable substance. I saw everything as God experiences it. I call it "experiencing heaven". The infinite unlimited is real. It is we who are stuck in 3 dimensions and experiencing limitations.
When I returned to ordinary consciousness my leg was perfectly, instantly and totally restored to normal. Perfect. There was never any swelling,soreness, stiffness,nor discoloration. Perfect. The experience with God only took a split second.
I am not a religious delusionary. This was real. I have had a few other experiences like this.
I cannot begin to figure out all the things you understand about the Big Band, black holes, etc. But I saw what mankind will learn when he figures it all out. I don't mean to sound arrogant, but as advanced as science it, science is still in kindergarten.
The created universe is the emanations of an infinite Source (God) Who is Spirit. The Source manifests substance. Man is given the ability to direct the energy. We also limit the possibilities and limit our own experience of a universe that really has infinite dimensions. It's hard to explain. I'm just a farmer.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013 -- 5:00 PMI am surprised by how many
I am surprised by how many posts here make highly controversial claims that are supposed to refute the fine-tuning argument without being aware that the claims are highly controversial or offering any argument for them. Most are confidently stated, with little support. In this post, I will address several of the objections raised by previous posts. I deal with most of these in articles I have written, many of which are posted on my personal website (search for Robin Collins). Here I will just give brief responses.
OBJECTION 1: God must be as complex as the Universe posted by Colin and Arvoasitis on March 18th
The first objection was raised by two posters. It is a common objection that is often promoted as a simple, fatal objection to the fine-tuning argument but is rarely argued for. The first post claimed ?That being [God] is by definition several orders of magnitude more complex than anything it would have created?; and the second claimed that ?if God the Intelligent Designer exists, He is certainly more complicated than our universe and beyond our comprehension.?
It is hard to see how the statement in the first post makes sense. A common definition of God is a being, or ground of being, that is all powerful, omniscient, perfectly good, and eternal, and that sustains everything in existence. How is it part of this definition that God is more complex than anything God could have created? That is certainly not stated in the definition I just gave. It is not like the case of unicorns, where it is part of the definition of a unicorn that it has a horn, or like the case bachelors, where part of the definition is that a bachelor is unmarried. The second post just asserts the claim without any argument backing it up, as though it is supposed to be obvious. So, neither author offered any reason for thinking God must be more complex than the universe.
Those who offer this objection would have to show that for any being to have the attributes that God has would require a high degree of underlying complexity. Consider consciousness (awareness). One might argue that from our experience with humans and other organisms, consciousness always is associated with a complex structure, namely the brain. This, however, does not give us much reason to think that consciousness NECESSARILY requires a complex, internal structure, since nothing in our CONCEPT of consciousness requires this ? and typically a connection of necessity is established by showing that the corresponding concepts must go together. If one thought that the property of being conscious was reducible to a certain complex set of interrelationships, then one would have a reason to think that of necessity it requires a complex structure to exist. No plausible analysis along these lines has yet been given, and many philosophers (both theists and atheists) have thought none can be given. In any case, it is clear that our concept of consciousness is not that of having a complex structure, since as children we knew we were conscious before we had much of an idea of what a complex structure is. So, I think it is plausible that an entity (or ground of being) could be conscious without having any internal structure, just as an electron has the property of having a negative electric charge without having any internal structure sustaining it.
The claim that God?s has unbounded awareness (i.e., God is omniscient) is also important for the claim that God has minimal internal complexity. If there were some truths God were ignorant of (but it was possible for a being to be aware of), then there would have to be some law or principle external to God, or something about God?s nature, that determined which truths God was aware of and which he/she was not aware of. That would add complexity to reality. So, I think a plausible case can be made that an unbounded consciousness need have no internal complexity. Similar things could be said about the other properties of God.
OBJECTION 2: Sample of One Objection posted by Bill on March 19
?By its very name, the universe is a single data point. No pattern, be it a line or curve, can be constructed or extrapolated from a single point.?
I never present the fine-tuning argument as a form of extrapolation. Rather, I present it as the confirmation of the God hypothesis by the existence of a fine-tuned, embodied-conscious-agent- permitting universe. Single data points in the poster?s sense CONFIRM hypotheses all the time. The existence of the cosmic microwave background radiation discovered in the 1960s was a single data point under the poster?s criterion since it is a feature of this universe, yet it strongly confirmed the big bang theory. Many other examples from science can be given. So, at least as the objection was stated, I do not see it as having much merit.
OBJECTION 3 Other Life Forms Objection posted by Duncan on March 20th
?Our existence is just one outcome in the set of all possible forms of intelligent life, and we just don't know how big that set is or what it looks like.?
The point of this objection is supposedly that we do not know enough about what kinds of intelligent life (or in my terminology, embodied conscious agents who can significantly affect each other through their choices) can exist to say whether it requires fine-tuning. This is just not true; all we have to know is that embodied conscious agents require stable, reproducible complexity. A universe in which the strong nuclear force that binds neutrons and protons together is too weak would have no atoms other than normal hydrogen. It should be obvious that highly complex entities that can significantly interact with each other cannot be made with just hydrogen ? whether in gas or liquid form ? let alone evolve; for example, we are not going to find intelligent life forms evolving in the sun?s atmosphere. As another example, if the dark energy density were not tuned to within 10^120 of its naturally occurring value (the Planck scale), then either the universe would expand so rapidly that the matter in the universe would never condense into galaxies or stars, or the universe would collapse long before it cooled sufficiently for galaxies and stars to form. In either case, stable reproducible complexity is not going to evolve ? e.g., without stars, there will not be any usable energy sources, such as the volcanic vents the author mentions. Matter would just be evenly distributed in space, such as one atom per cubic meter. I think people who raise this objection just have not carefully considered the fine-tuning evidence.
OBJECTION 4. Lack of Explanatory Value Objection posted by Steve on March 21st
Steve Tighe raised the objection that the God hypothesis does not buy us anything of explanatory value. Although often presented as an inference to the best explanation, I believe this is a bad way of presenting the argument (as I stated in my interview). One problem is that there are many different kinds of explanations, each with their own criteria for what constitutes a good explanation, with these largely depending on one?s pragmatic ends. A better way of framing the argument is either to claim that the fine-tuning data strongly confirms theism over its naturalistic contenders. The situation can be thought of as follows. Define ?elaborated theism? as the claim that God exists conjoined with claims that God does not require fine-tuning (for the type of reasons stated above) and that a universe with embodied conscious agents realizes goods that could not otherwise be realized. Before the fine-tuning evidence, many have found elaborated theism as not completely implausible, especially when compared with the contending hypothesis that the universe just happens to exist. Suppose that one is such a person. You might have doubts about the coherence of the God hypothesis (or the other two claims that are part of elaborated theism). The fine-tuning evidence will not itself give you insight into why you should find theism coherent, or make the other two conjuncts seem more plausible when considered alone. I claim, however, that it should make the naturalistic hypothesis much less plausible: not only is naturalists stuck with the inherent implausibility of claiming that the universe?s existence is a brute fact, but now they are stuck with the hugely coincidental fact that is set just right for the existence of embodied conscious agents. So, I claim, the inherent plausibility of naturalism has gone way down. Although the inherent plausibility of theism has not gone up, its plausibility IN RELATION to its major contender ? naturalism ? should significantly go up.
Thursday, March 21, 2013 -- 5:00 PMFurther thoughts on Fine
Further thoughts on Fine-Tuning.
I have to admit that I don't find the fine tuning argument all that convincing. It seems to turn on a premises -- that the fact of a life-supporting universe is in some sense improbable, given all the possible non-life supporting universes there could have been. But I don't really know how to think about the probability or improbabilty of an overall universe. I said as much during the episode. That principle says that we should reality - total reality -- to be in some sense plenitudinous. That is, we should antecedently expect that all possible ways that things "might be" will be actualized. That's not to say that the actual cannot be a limited subset of the really possible. But when only a limited subset of the really possible is actualized, it seems that we want some explanation of the limited actualization of the possible.
Not sure how big a deal that is. Wouldn't call it a hard constraint. Not sure it can be justified as any more than a human craving rather than anything like a deep metaphysical constraint. Still, although I'm not sure what to make of it, I'm not in general opposed to judicious use of something like such a principle. And I do wonder whether something like the principle of plenitude might work to generate something like the fine-tuning argument.
Go back to something I said on the show in passing, while building on a point made by John. I suspect that throughout the universe there are countless number of life-supporting planets. And probably evolution has had millions upon millions of opportunities to work its magic. If so, the plenitude principle might reasonably lead you to expect that the total collection of life forms actually evolved on some planet or other is some very large subset of the really possible life forms. If there were some putatively really possible life form that evolved no where, one might begin to wonder whether that life form was really possible. It would be incredibly "surprising" -- to use a term favored by our guest, Robin Collins -- if evolution produced elsewhere just the distribution of life forms that it has produced here. Then you probably would start to suspect that some sort of hidden hand, maybe even a divine one, was, as it were, loading the evolutionary dice.
But how does any of this bear on the fine tuning argument? Well, I already confessed not to be moved by the argument, so maybe not at all. But a couple of different points are worth making before we reach that conclusion. First, if you think there is just one actual universe, but that all manner of universes with their diverse values for the fundamental constants, etc, are really and not just logically or conceptually possible, maybe you get to the starting point of the fine-tuning argument, but in a bit of a different way than its advocates suppose. This one actuality needs explanation. Not because it is "improbable?" Again, who knows what the probabilities over universes are? Physics, as it stands, tells us NOTHING about that, by the way. You get there, rather, by the principle of plenitudinous actualization of the really possible. Actuality seems so less plenitudinous than real possibility. Of course, the principle might drive you into the arms of the multiverse because that gives you an actuality that has the same degree of plenitude as the really possible. But you can also -- it seems to me -- accept that idea that random symmetry breaking at the beak bang does just as well (and probably better) at explaining the one universe and its special character than the the fine tuning hypothesis. Only if (fundamental) reality abhors randomness would you have to deny that. But why think that?
Still, even if you reject both the multiverse and fine-tuning,and prefer random symmetry breaking, maybe you still want to reduce the plenum of a possibilities so that there isn't such a great gap between the totality of possibilities and the totality of actualities. You might do this by trying to reduce the number of independent fundamental variables to the smallest number possible -- thus limiting the set of possibilities. Not sure how far you can get with that. But it's worth a try, it would seem. You might still have more real possibilities than actualities, but the gap wouldn't be so great.
Plus it seems like the drive to reduce the number of independent fundamentals is driven more by a methodological or regulative regulative constraint. Is there really any more antecedent reason to believe that the universe is "simple" (in the sense of having a few independent fundamentals) than that it is irreducibly "complex"
Not sure what to make of any of this. But that's what doing an episode on the fine-tuning argument will get you -- more questions than answers.
Thursday, March 21, 2013 -- 5:00 PMWith all due respect, Mr
With all due respect, Mr Collins, you're being somewhat disingenuous. Your argument that the universe we live in is so complex it shows evidence of being "fine tuned" depends on the notion that complexity cannot happen through evolution and therefore must be the result of willful creation. The very meaning of your term of choice - "fine tune" - implies a conscious effort to refine something. Something simple cannot willfully create something complex - it needs to have an understanding of why what it's doing is the best choice. Water does not solve complex equations by finding it's own level, no matter how many times I give it the chance. It doesn't even know to try. In order to analyze and "fine tune", god would need to be more complex than the problems it's solving - it's a logical imperative.
That same logic (existence of a complex thing equals proof of a higher complexity creating that complex thing) falls apart when applied to your universe-creating god: The god that created this universe would have to be even more complex than the universe it created, as would the god that made him (because by your logic the only way something can achieve complexity is by being "fine tuned" by something more complex), and the same for the god that made that god, and pretty soon it's turtles all the way down. All knowing omnipotent tautological turtles.
That's my argument. I'm sure you've heard it before, and that you've given it some serious consideration. Your response (if I may paraphrase) is: Who says god has to be complex? It's an interesting hedge, and I'm glad that you're not trying to argue that the rules just don't apply to him - at least you're making an effort to adhere to logic. But then you lose me with your definition of god: "A common definition of God is a being, or ground of being, that is all powerful, omniscient, perfectly good, and eternal, and that sustains everything in existence."
Now, I'm not sure where that definition is from, or even that it is common, but for the sake of argument, let's just use that as our working definition.
I'll grant that if god were all of those things he could exist without being more complex than the universe. But if god is all of those things and only those things, what in that definition gave him the ability (or impetus) to create the universe? Nothing. What in that definition suggests that he willfully created specific things in the universe that were specifically adapted to their situation? Nothing. What in that definition establishes that god is simple, or even capable of willfully creating complex things without being more complex than the things he creates? Nothing.
Your definition is irrelevant to the question at hand and in no way establishes that something simple could willfully create something more complex than itself. Or whether god is or isn't highly complex.
So that definition is meaningless to this discussion.
Which brings us back to your question: Who says god has to be more complex than what he's created? The terms of your own logic. IF the proof of god's existence is the complexity of the universe (which couldn't exist without willful creation), THEN in order to willfully create the universe he must be more complex than all of the components of the universe combined. Because he's willfully, consciously "fine tuning" it. The fact that your argument is based on the existence of complexity but demands that the creator of such complexity isn't complex is logically incoherent. You can't have it both ways: either the complexity of the universe is proof of god's existence (and thereby proof of his higher level of complexity than the universe, the creation of which he was created for creating), or it's incidental.
Thursday, March 21, 2013 -- 5:00 PMAll indications are that the
All indications are that the observed universe has an underlying structure such that stochastic inputs ratchet evolutionary processes forward. Not only bio-evolution but also the other aspects of nature's machinery, from the formation of the chemical elements in stars and supernovae right through to the evolution of technology within the collective imagination of our species.
All of which exhibit strong directionality. A pervasive and persistent pattern which can usefully be extrapolated to predict the imminent emergence of a new, non-biological predominant cognitive entity on this planet from what is now the Internet.
Increasingly there is further recognition of the fact that stochastic inputs can (and do) drive the directionality of "life" processes in this way. An overall directionality clearly observable in the biological and other evolutionary processes which, from our traditional human perspective, we interpret as "purpose"
Jose Ignacio Pascual et al of Freie Universität Berlin have also helped fan the flame of this understanding by recently demonstrating that the stochastic motion of vibrating hydrogen molecules can be used to move a mechanical cantilever.
The interpretation of processes of this kind as a ratcheting mechanism happens to be my own preferred analogy. It does however require an underlying structure in the fabric of our universe evidence with which stochastic component interacts. And it is this which provides a rational basis for the contentious issue of fine tuning of the universe for "life"
The evidence for "fine tuning" is actually very strong. However, it in no way supports "Intelligent Design" or any other fictions arising from the superstitious myths of religions.
The physical parameters are but the tip of the iceberg. There is actually a much greater body of evidence to support fine tuning to be found in fields of science far better established than cosmology.
After all, perhaps the earliest proponent of fine-tuning was the biochemist Lawrence Henderson. In ?The Fitness of the Environment?, published in 1913, he observed that ??the whole evolutionary process, both cosmic and organic, is one, and the biologist may now rightly regard the universe in its very essence as biocentric?
Geology, biology and particularly chemistry provide many examples of ?just right? prevailing conditions that enable and, indeed, make virtually inevitable, the strong directionality we observe in evolutionary processes.
The most recent part of this evolutionary continuum is that most familiar to us and of which we have the best knowledge: The autonomous evolution of technology within the medium of the collective imagination of our species.
But the commonly held assumption that IF fine tuning is a valid phenomenon THEN it favors theism is flawed.
Because it predicated by the very common and entirely intuitive belief that it suggests a ?designer?.
But it can be very plausibly argued that, except in a very trivial sense, the concept of a ?designer? is but an anthropocentric conceit for which there is no empirical basis.
An objective examination of the history of science and technology bears this out.
To quickly put this counter-intuitive view into focus, would you not agree that the following statement has a sound basis?
We would have geometry without Euclid, calculus without Newton or Liebnitz, the camera without Johann Zahn, the cathode ray tube without JJ Thomson, relativity (and quantum mechanics) without Einstein, the digital computer without Turin, the Internet without Vinton Cerf.
The list can, of course, be extended indefinitely.
This broad evolutionary model , extending well beyond the field of biology, is outlined very informally in ?The Goldilocks Effect: What Has Serendipity Ever Done For Us?? which is a free download in e-book formats from the ?Unusual Perspectives? website.
My work in preparation "The Intricacy Generator: Pushing Chemistry Uphill" will provide a more formal and detailed treatment of this issue.
Harold G. Neuman
Thursday, March 21, 2013 -- 5:00 PMI have read and re-read the
I have read and re-read the comments generated to date (3/22/13) on this post and show. I regrettably confess learning little more than I knew before. The fine-tuning argument, if there is (or need be) one, remains illusive in utility. Some commenters spoke volumes in few words. If their viewpoints and/or positions were right or wrong, they were, at least, concise. Other submissions were lengthy, to the point of tedious---some contained nuggets of wisdom, that required careful parsing, but were worth the extra effort. As long as we have philosophy and religion, we shall have arguments about god---for all of the reasons we have had them before. Prophecy is self-fulfilling, and miracles happen for those who will it so. The testimony of Christensen is moving. I believe him.
I don't know how this works, but suspect it is something more than---god. Uh, just fine-tuning the argument...
Thursday, March 21, 2013 -- 5:00 PMI'm certain that I'm
I'm certain that I'm misreading your reply, but it seems to me to boil down to, "If you're predisposed to accept the existence of God and his authorship of the Universe, the fine-tuning argument will appeal to you. If you're not, it won't.." Did I miss something? IF, and again ,this is, per Laurence Krauss, a disputed IF, IF I accept the claim that the universe appears fine-tuned for life, it seems there are 2 possibilities. Somehow in the conditions of the Big Bang, matter acquired these properties. They are somehow inherent in the structure of physical reality itself. It might be that physicists will never be able to figure out how that might have happened. So those properties of the universe will remain unexplained. The other possibility is that some outside agency acted somehow to produce the universe with just those properties. So, eg., matter could have had many other sets of properties. I admit this to be, quite possibly, merely an autobiographical peculiarity, but I really don't see what interest such an explanation would have, UNLESS we are also given the means by which God did, or could have done, whatever he did to set those properties (and for what reasons).
Given your comments on the different types of explanations, and my ignorance of what type of explanation God is supposed to be, I guess I have no idea how to assess the claim that the (disputed) fine-tuning of the universe confirms the God hypothesis. Because I have no idea what enters into confirmation. But let me try to get at the problem I have by giving what might seem a really bad analogy. Suppose I were to say: I know what causes schizophrenia. Jupiter. (the planet, not the ancient god.) Suppose you then ask me, "how does Jupiter explain schizophrenia?" and I reply, "It just does". You ask again, trying to figure out what I'm getting at, "But what possible connection could there by between the planet Jupiter and mental illness?" And I reply, "If you're prepared to accept the effects of heavenly bodies on our psychology, you might like this explanation. If you're not, you probably won't. But that's the explanation". I would expect to be taken as not serious, or as a bit nutty. But the problem is, I don't see where the God hypothesis is fundamentally any different, except for the historical fact that more people have been raised to be sympathetic to the God hypothesis. You point to a (disputed) puzzling feature of the universe. You offer an explanation. The explanation involves no filling in of the connection between explanans and explanandum. God's existence and ability to twiddle knobs and set physical constants ARE presented as brute facts, and the connection between God and the universe is left unintelligible. So, even given your reply, I ....probably could just have restated my first comment all over again. And I will repeat, I don't see why this isn't exactly what Spinoza meant by people who utter a name and think they've explained all.
Thursday, March 21, 2013 -- 5:00 PMDon't play into an argument
Don't play into an argument that is not rational to begin with. There are no 'accidents'. That is opinionated. Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes if we don't know why, we say "god did it". This is a way of saying that we're not god, and that we don't know, yet not saying that "we don't know" as it doesn't inspire children with confidence, and it makes people want to know something which may not be worth finding out to begin with.
Friday, March 22, 2013 -- 5:00 PM"All of this --- that is, a
"All of this --- that is, a world with life, intelligence, beauty, humans, morality, etc., ---- couldn?t have come about by accident. It must be due to some intelligent, powerful Being --- and that?s what God is."
This argument has two parts, (a) that the world is a wonderful place with beauty and morality etc. and, (b) that people astonished from the beauty of the world would search for the creator of that awesomeness.
Well, (b) would not be so popular if it wasn?t for (a), don?t you think?
Let?s take a look at (a). There is not a world WITH life, life equals the world, and the world is life. We cannot define the world without life. Additionally, what we define as intelligence is our own logical and emotional function, perceived as the best way of using our natural capabilities, i.e. the brain and emotions. Who defined us humans as intelligent beings? We did. There is no other being to do so. We cannot communicate with other species to learn their opinion about us. And I?m very interested about what they have to say.
Morality is a term so flexible. It is strictly related to cultures, historical periods and nationalities. What is morality? Morality may be a way for societies to point out that people should respect the good in every man and every man should try to be the best aspect of him. But ?good? and ?best? are defined by society itself and cannot be accounted as God?s gifts to humanity. Ethics, that is the basis of morality, is a mixture of historical, political and economic factors that form the archetype of the moral man.
Nietzsche stated ?In Christianity neither morality nor religion come into contact with reality at any point.? Einstein, I think, gave the right perspective of morality directing its definition towards society, ?Morality is of the highest importance - but for us, not for God.?
The idea of the intelligent human, the moral human, is a nice story, but I think if you look around, you will see that humans are neither intelligent, nor moral. Every society creates behavioral archetypes that incorporate logical and emotional patterns and direct people to produce more, being happy about it. That?s not a miracle.
Hence, there is not much to admire in the world. I don?t say people should not be happy to be alive, but life is not a matter of happiness rather than a matter of purpose. We live in this world, because we are created by it, for the purpose of contributing to its continuity. If we accept the realistic facts of our existence, outside the society at first and then in a society that could allow for the realization of our individuality as the purpose of the existence, then the world would not be about good and bad, but about the truth.
We admire the things we cannot yet explain with our tools (i.e. science). For humans, that have created such a great idea for themselves, it is very hard to accept randomness, and so the hope of God?s existence eliminates the fear of the unknown and gives all of us a way, through religion, to be like God. That is a fact that cannot be excluded from any argument about the existence of God. The religious man tries to resemble God, follows the guidelines in order to concur His greatness. Thus, have all the answers.
Our world has many contradictions. It would be more honest for us humans, to see the world and our societies as they are and then we may see ourselves as they are. The primary question of a human being should be ?what to do with myself?? not ?why I am so magnificent??! Then maybe, the world would be a wonderful place without the need to explain why.
Friday, March 22, 2013 -- 5:00 PMFor disembodied entities
For disembodied entities peering into an external universe, it is reasonable to ask, "Why this universe?" The answer "Because God created it" raises two questions: "Why does God exist?" and "Why did God choose this universe out of an infinite set of possibilities?" These two questions have a simple, well-known answer: "Because we created God in our image."
However, the current scientific consensus is that we are not souls outside the universe; we are part of it. If we are part of the universe, it is a tautology that our existence implies that the universe is exactly as it is. It is a tautology because it simply asserts that the existence of this universe implies the existence of this universe. A tautology does not need an explanation. Cosmologists call this tautology the anthropic principle.
Friday, March 22, 2013 -- 5:00 PMReplies to Colin's and Steve
Replies to Colin's and Steve's Replies
Colin and Steve, thanks for your replies to my reply. Here is the next iteration in which I reply to some of your replies.
First, to Colin?s post:
COLIN: ?Your argument that the universe we live in is so complex it shows evidence of being "fine tuned" depends on the notion that complexity cannot happen through evolution and therefore must be the result of willful creation.?
MY REPLY: The argument has nothing to do with evolution (if you evolution by natural selection), since that kind of evolution applies to biological complexity, and this argument has to do with the universe?s needing to have the right structure for evolution to even occur. The closest thing to an evolutionary account of the fine-tuning is the many universes hypothesis, which relies on the chance production of universes and observer selection instead of natural selection. I briefly addressed this hypothesis in the interview and more in my papers on the subject.
COLIN: ?The very meaning of your term of choice - "fine tune" - implies a conscious effort to refine something. Something simple cannot willfully create something complex - it needs to have an understanding of why what it's doing is the best choice.?
MY REPLY: If God is an unbounded consciousness, then God will be aware of and therefore understand all truths, which means that God will understand what is the best choice. As I stated in my post, I do not see why an unbounded consciousness would need to be complex at all. For example, there is nothing in the notion of ?consciousness? that requires complexity. As to your point about the meaning of fine-tuning, that is the name that has been commonly given to the fact that the initial conditions of the universe and the constants of physics must be precisely set for life to occur. At least according to almost all the major thinkers in theistic tradition, God wills the universe into existence; thus, no refining is involved. Now, you might object that having the power to will something into existence is unintelligible, but agents such as us do this all the time with thoughts and images in our minds ? I will to form an image in my mind of a red beach ball and the image occurs. So, initially such a power seems intelligible, though unless one is a philosophical idealist in the case of God, the power extends to bringing about more than just mental entities. Of course, in the case of God I cannot give a further account of how God can have this power (at least in terms of some underlying mechanism), other than just postulating that God does. However, one always runs into that issue, even in scientific explanations: at some point, one must just hypothesize that mass-energy has certain powers or obeys certain laws, without being able to give a further analysis. (See my response to Steve below).
COLIN: ?The god that created this universe would have to be even more complex than the universe it created, as would the god that made him (because by your logic the only way something can achieve complexity is by being "fine-tuned" by something more complex), and the same for the god that made that god, and pretty soon it's turtles all the way down.?
MY REPLY: I never said that the only way something can achieve complexity is by being fine-tuned by something more complex. Of course, if I said that, then I would fall into the problem you elaborate. I did not even say complexity needed a further explanation or cause. Rather, I only claim that the particular type of complexity of the universe was very, very surprising under naturalism but not under theism, and thus by the likelihood principle strongly confirms theism over naturalism. Or, another way of putting it is that the fine-tuning evidence has made naturalism considerably worse off in comparison to theism than it was before the fine-tuning evidence.
COLIN: ?what in that definition gave him the ability (or impetus) to create the universe??
MY RESPONSE: That is part of the definition of all powerful (omnipotence) ? which roughly means the ability to do anything that is not self-contradictory. You might reject this idea of omnipotence or say that it requires a high level of complexity, but nothing in the concept of the ?ability to act? requires a high degree of complexity.
COLIN: ?IF the proof of god's existence is the complexity of the universe . . .?
Response: Besides what I said above, argument is not a proof (only a claim that fine-tuning provides evidence for theism) and it is not based on the complexity of the universe. For example, a random configuration of letters is highly complex (just try to reproduce it), but no one would infer to design from finding such a random configuration. The argument is rather that the fundamental parameters of physics must fall into a very narrow range of values (compared to their theoretically possible ranges) in order for life to exist. Nothing in that statement refers to complexity. Given my statement of the argument, you would have to critique it by saying that something about God must also be precisely set for God to be able to create the universe. The objection would be a good one if one conceived of God as, for example, an alien with a brain. Then, since we know brains need to be set just right to function, so would God. That, however, is not how the leading thinkers in the theistic tradition have conceived of God.
STEVE: ?I'm certain that I'm misreading your reply, but it seems to me to boil down to, ?If you're predisposed to accept the existence of God and his authorship of the Universe, the fine-tuning argument will appeal to you. If you're not, it won't..? Did I miss something??
MY RESPONSE: I think you did not state it quite correctly. The better statement is to substitute for ?if you?re predisposed to accept the existence of God? the phrase ?if you do not find the existence of God completely implausible?; the last phrase can be translated into the language of subjective or epistemi probability, as ? if you do not give God?s existence it an initial probability of zero.? If you give it a non-zero initial probability, then the fine-tuning evidence can confirm the hypothesis. What I use is the likelihood principle of confirmation theory: if the existence of a body of evidence (in this case a fine-tuned universe) is less surprising under one hypothesis (God) then under another (the naturalistic single universe hypothesis), then if confirms the one under which it is least surprising, with the confirmation being stronger the more the contrast in degree of surprise. (The degree of confirmation can be spelled out more precisely by deriving the likelihood principle from Bayes? theorem of the probability calculus, which I do in my papers on the subject.)
STEVE: ?but I really don't see what interest such an explanation would have, UNLESS we are also given the means by which God did, or could have done, whatever he did to set those properties (and for what reasons).?
MY RESPONSE: If one is using a personal agent conception of God (historically, there are other conceptions), the type of explanation being invoked is what Richard Swinburne calls a personal explanation, a kind we use all the time. If I want to explain why you drove to the store, I would invoke a reason (you wanted to get groceries) as my explanation. If you pressed me further on how a reason can bring about your body moving in the direction of the store, I would say that you are an agent ? that is, the kind of thing that has the power to act ? and that is motivated by reasons. Although perfectly acceptable in ordinary life, note that this sort of explanation does not address how you are able to respond to reasons or intend to do what you do, at least not in the sense of providing a mechanism. In the case of God, we can be given the reason (because of the value realized by the existence of conscious embodied agents), but not necessarily an analysis of how God has this power.
Even though we rely on these types of explanations all the time, you might find this explanation uninteresting in the case of God because it does not provide an account of how God (as an agent) can bring about anything or respond to reasons. But, if you do, it is because you are looking for a particular kind of explanation ? a scientific explanation ? that attempts to explain an occurrence in terms of underlying mechanisms and laws. An explanation that does not do this is usually considered scientifically uninteresting because it does not allow one to make further explanatory progress by uncovering the mechanisms or laws by which something operates. I agree that finding such underlying mechanisms or laws has been very helpful for scientific progress, and so if that kind of progress is what one is after, invoking God will likely not help. But note that is a certain type of pragmatic concern. If one is merely interested in the ultimate cause of a phenomenon ? the structure of the universe -- and is willing to take the ability of God to bring about the universe as a fundamental power that is not further analyzable, then one might very well be happy with this sort of explanation. Or if one only wants an explanation to take away the surprise of some feature occurring by invoking an hypothesis that was not just made up to explain the phenomenon in question, then the God hypothesis will also be an adequate explanation in the sense of removing the surprise that the universe has the structure it does.
As to the worry that one must accept God?s ability at this point as a power that is not further analyzable, that is the case with any explanation. For example, you can explain why water boils by appealing to the claim that water is composed of atoms and the laws regarding how atoms behave, and then attempt to explain the laws governing atoms by appeal to laws governing their components ? e.g., electrons -- and so forth. Eventually, however, unless you are willing to countenance an infinite regress of explanations, your explanation must stop and you must appeal to some brute powers or laws that you cannot further explain, but just say that is the way things are. At this bottom level, even in scientific explanations, you must just say that matter just behaves this way, without being able to provide any further connection between what is doing the explaining and the thing being explained. For example, suppose we cannot find any further account than that of general relativity of why masses attract each other. General relativity says masses attract each other because mass curves space-time, and in the absence of other forces, masses follow geodesics. If that was your ultimate explanation, you would just have to take the power of masses attracting each other as a brute given, without any further explanation. So, scientific explanations also have to accept brute powers (or at least laws) that are not further scientifically analyzable, but they just do it further down the chain. (As a side note, Newton?s theory of gravity was resisted by advocates of the mechanical philosophy for over 100 years because he did not give any account of how masses could attract each other, but just wrote down an equation for the relation between the force of attraction, the quantity of mass, and their distance apart. Eventually, scientists can to merely accept that at some point one must just invoke powers or laws without any further explanation for how the entity in question has those powers.)
All that being said, I further stress that I think casting the fine-tuning argument into an inference to the best explanation is a faulty way of proceeding, largely because one is comparing personal explanations with scientific explanations; this is like comparing apples and oranges, since if one is looking for a scientific explanation, one will never be satisfied with appealing to the powers of a personal agent. (Also, this holds in reverse. If I want to know why you went to the store, and you give me an explanation of the firing of neurons in your brain that explains the movement of your body towards the store, I would be unsatisfied: I would want to know the reason why you went to the store.) In the likelihood formulation, one avoids this whole problem of comparing explanations, As long as one allows that it might just be possible, though perhaps very unlikely, that such a being as God exists, I claim the fine-tuning evidence confirms that hypothesis.
Finally, I will address your interesting Jupiter case. I think it is relevantly disanalogous to the case of God, as you recognize it might be To make it analogous, at least three features would have to be added: (1) the occurrence of schizophrenia would have to be very, very surprising under the non-Jupiter hypothesis, but not surprising under the Jupiter hypothesis; (2) the Jupiter hypothesis would have had to have been seriously advocated before finding these that schizophrenia was very, very surprising ? say, because of purported religious experience with Jupiter and its powers; (3) one eliminated any other possible explanation other than chance. In that case, it seems to me that the occurrence of schizophrenia would confirm the Jupiter hypothesis. As another analogy, if a group claimed that there was a spirit called Groodle whose favorite number was 1346523423441765 and that the spirit was going to try bring about that the next sixteen die roles would come up with that number, and it came up on that number, I would take the Groodle hypothesis much more seriously even if I could not understand how a spirit could do such a thing. (This, of course, assumes I have eliminated any other plausible explanation, other than chance, the latter which I take to be the contrasting claim the case of the universe ? it simply came about by chance.)
Again, thanks for the taking the time to clarify your objections.
Saturday, March 23, 2013 -- 5:00 PMSo much speculation. Much of
So much speculation. Much of it based on faith. Some of it grounded in physics. We seem to have all sorts of "arguments" regarding the God issue. Someone will surely set me straight here, because this blog and its commenters is/are adept at such. I have parsed the voluminous and, mostly eloquent, writings set forth in the previous comments. There is one approach or notion I heard of, many years ago, that my parsing has not unearthed in the current discussion. The age-old explanation of an all-knowing, all-powerful capital-G god was discussed, as would be expected. Michael, the true soul that he is, said that the Universe was another name for God. Simplicity is safe and comfortable for many of us who have other things to do in our lives. I admire and cherish those who live simple lives, trying each and every day to do so myself.
Anyway, the approach/notion I referred to is this: If an all-knowing, all-powerful (G)god has created this creation, of which we are a part, then, a) where did this God come from; b) why have we, as an intelligent (now) species, been chosen to reap the beneficence of this omnipotence, and, c) do we suppose that, as Michael suggests, this God, in fact does have all-powerful dominion over the universe?
Shirley, someone will set me straight. I am counting on it.
Sunday, March 24, 2013 -- 5:00 PMI have noticed from so many
I have noticed from so many podcast, lectures and discussions involving highly-trained philosophers that their faith always supersedes their philosophical training and background when it come to talking about religion. Thus you end with apparently serious philosophical arguments hinging upon or being built upon mere assertions of little or no merit.
e.g. Robin Collins: "If you look at traditional theism, the creator first of all is thought to be necessarily existent and second, and this was long before the fine tuning, this was the plausible view, both in the West and in the East...
The creator is thought to be not only necessarily existent but have no internal complexity"
In what sense is making statements like this and then constructing a "Fine-tuning argument for God" based on such assertions "Doing Philosophy"?
Sunday, March 24, 2013 -- 5:00 PMThe Creator:
The Sun, the stars, the planets, the Earth,
The space, the air, the water, and the dirt,
The plants, the animals, the mankind too,
The Universe, Nature, the infinite, the immeasurable,
The sacred, the holy, the God, the everything,
The truth, the just,
The you, the me,
The almighty, the One,
Sunday, March 24, 2013 -- 5:00 PMTo Paul from Basel: Thanks
To Paul from Basel: Thanks for your comments. I wondered that myself, but did not frame the inquiry because I have offended before. My notion is that we ought not mix theosophy with philosophy, EVEN THOUGH they are, at most distant, first cousins. Seems to me that in these busy modern times, we occasionally eschew critical thinking. Or, we may simply lack the courage to challenge populist paradigms. Progress is inexorable, but never infallible. I still appreciate uncertainty---it keeps us humble. And, alert.
Sunday, March 24, 2013 -- 5:00 PMReply to Paul from Basil on
Reply to Paul from Basil on Doing Philosophy
Whenever one is discussing the merits or demerits of a hypothesis, one must get right what advocates of the hypothesis have considered to be part of the hypothesis. Then one can ask whether the hypothesis is confirmed by some body of data, or logically coherent, etc. I see nothing unphilosophical about reporting what theists have traditionally held as part of the God hypothesis, but just the reverse. That said, I can see how someone could misunderstand what I am doing if they did not listen carefully.
In this case, I am just reporting the kind of God the leading theologians and philosophers in the theistic tradition have believed in long before the fine-tuning evidence ?a God that does not have a great degree of complexity. To say that their God must be enormously complex and thus requires fine-tuning is just plain false, because by definition their God does not; the objection should rather be stated that the traditional conception of God is logically incoherent, since any being who created the universe would have to have an enormous complexity of the type that required fine-tuning. It is part of doing good philosophy to state arguments and objections as precisely as possible.
What difference does this distinction make? Among other things, it shows that postulating that God has little internal complexity that needs fine-tuning is not ad hoc in this context, since to be ad hoc requires that a hypothesis be made up to save a theory from refutation, which I pointed out in the interview. It also leads to a more precise framing of the fine-tuning argument. Although I said a few words about why God has been believed to have little internal complexity, in my view, no one has proved the traditional conception is logically coherent, and no one has proved that it isn?t. So, before the fine-tuning evidence, one is left with doubts about the coherence of the traditional conception of God versus doubts about the universe existing on its own without a further explanation, etc. To repeat what I stated before, I claim that the fine-tuning evidence does not introduce any new doubts about the inherent coherence or plausibility of the God hypothesis that has been traditionally held, but I argue that it does introduce new serious doubts about the plausibility of the naturalistic hypothesis that the universe just exists as a brute fact. So, given that one does not find theism initially completely implausible, its plausibility should increase for one relative to its naturalistic contender. What is unphilosophical about that line of reasoning?
Monday, March 25, 2013 -- 5:00 PMIf I were to attempt an
If I were to attempt an argument in support of fine-tuning, it would go something like this:
Some things in our universe are allowed; other things are not allowed. For example, an acorn can become an oak but it cannot become a butterfly or poet.
Some things, although not strictly impossible, are so unlikely that we would have no need to pay them no heed. For example, inert gases were thought incapable of chemical reactions until the 1960s, when a university professor was able to make helium undergo a chemical reaction under conditions of extreme temperature and pressure. I have heard no more on that subject since those heady days.
Now here is an astonishing fact. Human life depends on a multitude of almost-impossible biochemical reactions (comparable to the inert gas reactions) occurring frequently, regularly and unfailingly in every human being while temperature and pressure remain nearly constant. How is this possible?
The answer is that that there are biochemical substances, called enzymes, which power the near-impossible reactions, sometimes trillions-fold, to make life possible. The question now is this: did these enzymes evolve naturally through a series of blind accidents? Or was there some sort of plan that brought them into being? Or were they the product of divine intervention? Or, is there yet another possible explanation?
Harold G. Neuman
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 -- 5:00 PMA time machine. Yes, that
A time machine. Yes, that would be wonderful if it were possible. One might go back to the far reaches of creativity and somehow attain an epiphany on how all this began. It matters more to some of us than others, most especially when religion, philoso?hy and science are involved. So, how DID God come about anyway?
If there was nothingness when God created the heavens and everything else, where was God in the midst of all this nothingness? Or, more pointedly, how can some thing or being (God), allegedly existing before there was anything, create everything out of nothing? I'm not sorry. I prefer the equally improbable, yet infinitely more possible notion that there are things such as meaningful chance (Carl Yung, et. al.); evolution through natural selection (Charles Darwin, his predecessor, antecedents, et. al.) Everything that lives ultimately dies. That is the way of being. The notion of and belief in an all-powerful God is the human response to awareness of mortality.
The Denial of Death* is more comfortable than the acceptance of its finality.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013 -- 5:00 PMThe tight correspondence
The tight correspondence between the conditions of the universe and the structures and processes of life could be seen as either theistic fine-tuning of the universe for a very limited way that life could exist, or as evolutionary adaptation of life to the particular conditions in which it finds itself. My sense in reading the arguments of theists is that they really don't get how adaptable a replicating entity can be, whatever form it might take. We've never seen what a hydrogen-only universe with a weaker strong force looks like; who knows how life might evolve there?
I'll close with a nugget of wisdom from the deeply insightful Douglas Adams:
"This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in ? an interesting hole I find myself in ? fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!'"
Wednesday, April 3, 2013 -- 5:00 PMWasn't that Addams with two d
Wasn't that Addams with two d's? Several other thinkers respected the Hitchhikers' guy---and so, apparently, a writer of fiction corralled a number of truly smart people, while writing his own accounts of worlds beyond measure. Almost no one thinks about this. Most who did are, well, dead. Sure.
Gary M Washburn
Friday, August 7, 2015 -- 5:00 PMWhat is of interest
What is of interest philosophically is, how is it possible for something so patently real to be both anomalous and contrary to the possible systems by which we suppose we might even recognize, let alone measure and explain it? That differentiation that can only express itself in replication is not the act of any god. Matter is profane, but that is what is real in it, and us. Godot aint comin'!
Gary M Washburn
Friday, August 7, 2015 -- 5:00 PMThere are many definitions of
There are many definitions of god. The one lumbering through these discussions was invented by dogmatists as an alternative to police or military power as a means of gaining the submission of a people. That is why it is inherently messianic. And that is why it is still controversial even though countervailing evidence is overwhelming. Evidence, that is, of the pernicious origin of the god myth in question. That is, a single solitary creator and adjudicator.
Matter is a differentiation that can only express itself in replication. The enigma of this is the source, for lazy minds, of the perennial recurrence of the question of an external creator. But there are too many patent realities that the perspective of a rigid replication (divine providence) can only portray as anomaly. Too many anomalies is bad science. Call it god and it only gets worse still.
I think the puddle is on Squirnshelos, the planet of the mattresses. But Adams' name is spelled with one 'd'. And I, for one, find very little in this world that suits me. If god is responsible, to 'ell with 'im!
Gary M Washburn
Friday, August 7, 2015 -- 5:00 PMSuggested reading:
The Symbolism of Evil, by Paul Ricoeur.
Most creation myths begin in chaos and evil, not goodness and order. The patristic god emerges as the conqueror immanent to the preexisting creation. What we think of as an external creation of an omnipotent omniscient god is very much a latter day invention, since writing at least, and maybe only since the Reformation, or in response to Islam.
Friday, August 7, 2015 -- 5:00 PMI'm just going to begin with
I'm just going to begin with a snippet from my reply to Edward Feser:
Quentin Smith alludes to a similar concept?namely Hector-Neri Castaneda, Galen Strawson, David Fair, Jerrold Aronson and others? Transference definition of a cause.1 He cites Castaneda as stating that "the heart of production, or causation, seems, thus, to be transfer or transmission.?2 Smith also states the following:
"Castaneda?s full theory implies a definition that includes the nomological condition: c is a cause of e if and only if (i) there is a transfer of causity from an object O1 to an object O2 in a circumstance x, with the event c being O1?s transmission of causity and the event e being O2?s acquisition of causity; (ii) every event of the same category as c that is in a circumstance of the same category as x is conjoined with an event of the same category as e."
In the same vein as normative dispositions, if god is immaterial, how can he transfer causity to material objects? Castanda?s (ii) meets Hume?s nomological condition and my more fundamental material condition. To get around this issue, the theist would have to introduce a brand, so to speak, of causation that makes discussions like this unintelligible. To put it bluntly, it would be the invocation of nonsense to preserve nonsense.
Given this, the Fine-Tuning argument is dead in the water. Whether or not the universe is fine-tuned for life would have no bearing on whether a god is capable of creating a material universe. It's, in fact, the same objection Elizabeth of Bohemia leveled against Cartesian dualism: how can the mental interact with the physical? If one is admittedly non-physical, how can it have any effect on the physical? Likewise, if god is immaterial or as the Bible says, "spirit," how can he transfer causity to the proto-universe or interact within it now? The same objection can be raised against his purported timelessness. How can a timeless being interact within time? I'm fully aware of William Lane Craig's attempts to square this issue, but even he would admit that he has no answer.
Douglas Adams, who has already been mentioned by a few interlocutors, reverses the assumed telos of the Fine-Tuning Argument. It?s not that the universe was made for us, but rather, the universe appears this way simply because we exist. Richard Carrier also makes this reversal. He states the following:
"Similarly the ?fine tuning? of the universe?s physical constants: that would be a great proof?if it wasn?t exactly the same thing we?d see if a god didn?t exist. If there is no god, we will only ever find ourselves in a universe finely tuned (in that case, by random chance), because without a god, there is no other kind of universe that can produce us. Likewise, a universe that produced us by chance would have to be enormously vast in size and enormously old, so as to have all the room to mix countless chemicals countless times in countless places so as to have any chance of accidentally kicking up something as complex as life. And that?s exactly the universe we see: one enormously vast in size and age. A godless universe would also only produce life rarely and sparingly, and that?s also what we see: by far most of the universe is lethal to life (being a deadly radiation filled vacuum) and by far most of the matter in the universe is lethal to life (constituting stars and black holes on which no life can ever live). Again, all exactly what we?d expect of a godless universe. Not what we?d expect of a god-made one.
"Thus, we have exactly the universe we?d expect to have if there is no god. Whereas a god does not need vast trillions of star systems and billions of years to make life. He doesn?t need vast quantities of lethal space and deadly matter. Only a godless universe needs that?It also does no good to say such a random accidental universe is improbable, because the convenient existence of a marvelously ?super-omni? god is just as improbable. Either way you are assuming some amazing luck. Which leaves the evidence. And the evidence is just way more probable if there?s no god. Thus, we?re forced to choose between which lucky accident it was, and the evidence confirms the one and not the other."3
Sean Carroll states that it?s the best argument theists have because it plays by the rules. Regardless, he says it is still a ?terrible argument? and that ?it is not at all convincing.? He gives us the following reasons:
"First, I am by no means convinced that there is a fine-tuning problem. It is certainly true that if you change the parameters of nature, our local conditions that we observe around us would change by a lot. I grant that quickly. I do not grant that therefore life could not exist. I will start granting that once someone tells me the conditions under which life can exist. What is the definition of life, for example. If it?s just information processing, thinking, or something like that, there?s a huge panoply of possibilities. They sound very science fiction-y, but then again, you?re the one who?s changing the parameters of the universe; the results are going to sound like they come from a science fiction novel. Sadly, we just don't know whether life could exist if the conditions of our universe were very different because we only see the universe that we see.
"Secondly, God doesn?t need to fine-tune anything. We talk about the parameters of physics and cosmology?the mass of the electron, the strength of gravity?and we say if they weren?t the numbers that they were then life itself could not exist. That really underestimates God by a lot, which is surprising from theists I think. In theism, life is not purely physical?it?s not purely a collection of atoms doing things like it is in naturalism. I would think that no matter what the atoms were doing God could still create life. God doesn?t care what the mass of the electron is, he can do what he wants. The only framework in which you can honestly say that the physical parameters of the universe must take on certain values in order for life to exist is naturalism.
"The third point is that the fine-tunings that you think are there might go away once you understand the universe better. They might only be apparent. There?s a famous example that theists like to give or even cosmologists who haven?t thought about it enough?that the expansion rate of the early universe is tuned to within one part in ten to the sixtieth. That?s the naive estimate, back of the envelope, pencil and paper you would do. But in this case you can do better. You can go into the equations of General Relativity and there is a correct, rigorous derivation of the probability. And when you ask the same question using the correct equations, you find that the probability is one. All but a set of measure zero of early universe cosmologies have the right expansion rate to live for a long time and allow life to exist. I can?t say that all parameters fit into that paradigm, but until we know the answer we can?t claim that they?re definitely finely-tuned
"Number four, there?s an obvious and easy naturalistic explanation in the form of the cosmological multiverse. People like to worry about the multiverse; it sounds extravagant. I think the multiverse is amazingly simple. It is not a theory; it is the prediction of physical theories that are themselves quite elegant, small, and self-contained that create universe after universes. There?s no reason, no right that we have, to expect that the whole entire universe looks like the conditions we have right now. But more importantly, if you take the multiverse as your starting point, you can make predictions. We live in an ensemble and we should be able to predict the likelihoods that the conditions around us take different forms. So in cosmology papers dealing with the multiverse you see graphs..that try to predict the density of dark matter given other conditions in the multiverse. You do not see [such] graphs?in the theological papers trying to give God credit for explaining the fine-tuning because theism isn?t well defined.
"Fifth and most importantly, theism fails as an explanation. Even if you think the universe is finely-tuned and you don?t think that naturalism can solve it, theism certainly does not solve it. If you thought it did, if you played the game honestly, what you would say is, 'here is the universe I expect to exist under theism; I will compare it to the data and see if it fits.? What kind of universe would we expect? And I claim that over and over again the universe we expect matches the predictions of naturalism, not theism. So the amount of tuning?if you thought the physical parameters of our universe were tuned in order to allow life to exist?you would expect enough tuning but not too much. Under naturalism a physical mechanism could far over-tune by an incredibly large amount that has nothing to do with the existence of life, and that is exactly what we observe. For example, the entropy of the early universe is much, much, much, much lower than it needs to be to allow for life. You would expect under theism that the particles and parameters of particle physics would be enough to allow life to exist and have some structure that was designed for some reason; whereas under naturalism, you?d expect them to be kind of random and a mess. Guess what? They are kind of random and a mess. You would expect under theism life to play a special role in the universe; under naturalism you?d expect life to be very insignificant. I hope I don?t need to tell you, life is very insignificant as far as the universe is concerned."
I think the scholarship I've briefly presented thoroughly thrashes the Fine-Tuning Argument. Like all apologetic arguments, it simply doesn't make a case for theism. The Fine-Tuning Argument harbors an implicit God of the Gaps Argument. Since it can't be demonstrated that god operates within the universe, i.e., performs miracles, heals amputees, and so on, the theist must retreat into dubious metaphysics and outmoded arguments that have neither convinced atheists nor demonstrated a conclusive case for theism.
Philosophy Talk simply shouldn't air any of these arguments. Even philosophers of religion are moving beyond these outdated arguments. The land has been thoroughly treaded and any discussion of these arguments is retrograde. Christianity is false and its god does not exist, and we are better of for it. Let's discuss actual human problems; let's discuss real philosophical puzzles. If a god exists, I doubt it cares about our failed attempts to grasp its nature and our even greater failure to formulate religious principles that don't involve bullying, casting out, and even murdering non-believers and adherents of other religions. God talk is obviously divisive and ultimately, unnecessary. A god that cares so much about being accepted would do what's necessary to convince people that it exists. A god that works mysteriously or one who refuses to do parlor tricks is no different to my mind than atheism. Yet this is precisely the sort of deity this argument defends: one that started the universe, props it up, and is indifferent to our plights. It is a waste of time to rehearse and rehash these arguments. Our time is better spent on the human condition and the problems we face. Let us move on together.
1 Hector-Neri Castaneda, ?Causes, Causity, and Energy,?, in Midwest Studies in Philosophy IX, eds. P. French et al (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984); Galen Strawson, ?Realism and Causation?, The Philosophical Quarterly 37 (1987), pp. 253-77; David Fair, ?Causation and the Flow of Energy?, Erkenntnis 14 (1979), pp. 219-50; Jerrold Aronson,?The Legacy of Hume?s Analysis of Causation" Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 7 (1971), pp. 135-36.
2 Hector-Neri Castaneda, "Causes, Causity, and Energy,?, in Midwest Studies in Philosophy IX, eds. P. French et al (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), p.22
3 ?Design Arguments for the Existence of God?. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
4 Richard Carrier, ?Richard Carrier Interview?. The Best Schools
Gary M Washburn
Saturday, August 8, 2015 -- 5:00 PMI wonder if the Adams remark
I wonder if the Adams remark includes the planet with its tongue sticking out?
Nomology? If ever there was a term meant to beg the question, this is it! And yet, its user seems to think it helps prove the reverse. For an argument from immanence the remarks above are riddled with implications of transcendence. I think it might be time to go back to Aristotle, as much a I despise the man. He had a broader range of causality with ample scope for the theist's view. I still think the best argument against them (and, alas, against Rey) is the lost referent. The most scathing critique of any philosophy is that it does not really know what it refers to. But what do we do when reference collapses? Punt? Resort to flumpuffery like "nomology"? Where do we get the idea that the "mental" is not of the same order of being as the "physical"? How is it we keep clinging to distinctions like this long after the meaning of them is clearly flown the coop? Rey would replace god by a thinking machine, but I suggest this is no better a solution. It just substitutes one set of disappearing referents for another. If knwoing what we are talking about is the first order of business, this discussion evaporates in a puff of fuzzy logic. I think there is an argument rather like this somewhere in the Guide, where mankind gets run over by proving blue is green, or something like that.
Don't Panic! (Please imagine this written "in large friendly letters".
Saturday, August 8, 2015 -- 5:00 PMI take issue with the premise
I take issue with the premise. I have seen arguments from better physicists than I that life similar to ours were possible in families of universes possessing possible physical constants whose ratios obey the right constraints. For example, if the strong force were stronger and so fusion 'hotter', there would still be ranges of the electromagnetic and gravitational constants that would permit stable stars.
To me, the 'problem' seems to reduce to a retrospective fallacy akin to the one that states that since the odds of winding-up with your Best Belovèd were so long, Fate must have been involved---the reality being that you very likelybwould have wound-up with a different person who would have been your Best Belovèd, maybe a little less or a little more suitable, maybe even much more or less...but half of that relationship would have been the same....
Saturday, August 8, 2015 -- 5:00 PMGary demonstrating an
Gary demonstrating an ignorcio elenchi. I hope it makes you feel better to think you've addressed anything I presented. You took issue with one term that, in the end, isn't all that important in my rebuttal. Humean nomology is reduced to my more fundamental material condition. The most pivotal question being, how can an immaterial being (god) transfer causity to a material object (the universe)? It's the same question that plagued Cartesian dualism: how does the mental interact with the physical (pace Elizabeth of Bohemia)? On the Fine-Tuning and Cosmological Arguments, that god is immaterial is an assumption that's held by any theist. Any Cartesian dualist would say the same of mental substance.
I argue further that material objects interact via their dispositions and this manifests as causation, e.g. the fragility of glass interacts with the solidity of a floor, and in most cases, this results in the shattering of the former. What material dispositions can an immaterial being have? None. God does not meet the material condition and therefore would not have caustic power assuming he existed. I also presented scholarship that addresses problems with the Fine-Tuning Argument. The theist is obligated to present an unintelligible brand of causation to argue in favor of god creating the universe; it would be the invocation of nonsense to preserve nonsense.
So you've addressed nothing. Thank you for being a typical religious apologist who declares a victory he has not earned. You forfeited the game before it was played.
Saturday, August 8, 2015 -- 5:00 PMThe Religion of Explanation
The Religion of Explanation
What we are really talking about is not the belief in God, but the belief in explanation (i.e., causation). Let?s say you think things are ?fine tuned? (I don?t by the way; the constant killing by the most ?finely tuned? species could be said to be its natural condition). However you describe ?finely tuned? is simply the way things are. You don?t need to explain how things got that way, nor do you need to be bullied by non-believers into coming up with an explanation. As Dr.Ismael once asked John, ?Why do you think everything needs an explanation??
Coming up with all kinds of mental calisthenics and making up your own definitions of ?terms,? proves only that your real religion is not God-based, but is a belief (i.e., apart from rational or scientific evidence) that ?everything? has an explanation, and if one isn?t obvious, make one up that appeals (I say, ?dramatic.? What could be a more dramatic scene than a being with a long white beard, who lives in the sky and who sends lightening bolts or a new sofa to those who pray to him? Or the guy who started it all, is all-knowing, all-powerful, and still runs the show?)
I have to admit (I think Einstein said something like ?Whatever is improbable, probably isn?t [probable].?), if the counter to divine fine-tuning is a million years of completely random mutation which transfers a mud hole with an apple in it that gets hit by lightening, eventually into the human eye/brain structure, it seems like almost as bad an explanation. In fact, it is only an acceptable explanation to most people when you add in non-existent causative-sounding anthropomorphisms like ?survival of the fittest,? and ?adaptation.?
Of course there is another God (other than the one with the white beard, or some variation on that idea, believed in by 95% of the people (now, there is a ?probability? case for you)). And that is the God which is simply a reference, based on a human need to do so, to a consciousness outside one?s own. Usually done for confirmation of what one, or one?s group, thinks is right or good. And that for all kinds of additional reasons: again, drama, explanation, wonder, community, empowerment?others.
In both God cases, there is no real probative question of ?existence.? It is just one more useless sidetrack into looking for ?explanations? where none is necessary. Anyway, does love ?exist??
Gary M Washburn
Saturday, August 8, 2015 -- 5:00 PMRey,
My physics instructor once asked the class why the shelf in the fridge knows the difference between the empty and the full jug of milk even when we might not? Explain this and I will buy your view that you are a materialist. I suspect, however, that you are not at all. My complaint against you is that you are not a materialist at all, but merely replacing one dogmatic immaterialsim with another. You are a dualist, needing to appeal to undefined distinctions that blind-side the reader with scholarly sounding babble. I'd like to know where Hume uses the term nomology to describe his own view, which is more a psychology than a logical positivism such as that. The fact is that matter has more tricks than "nomology" can explain. Anomalies mean something, and just because there is no place for them in the logic of such distinctions as mind and matter does not mean they can be dismissed out of hand. Logic cannot close the trap, nor can epistemology explain how we can infer anything from experience, and so we bounce between the incomplete convictions each of these inspire in us, and fail to recognize that what is anomalous to one is contrary to the other and this conjoined anomaly and contrariety supplies the hints we need to begin to do philosophy, though we almost invariably get suckered into one over the other, or abandon responsibility altogether by appealing to mythic models. But even myth is not as you describe, it is a concoction of ideologues such as yourself whose only saving grace is a naive faith in their terms and intentions. In point of fact, I am not so naive, nor committed any more to theism than to the presumption of a completed system of rational explanation, as if the material world were any more the product of a transcendental logic or "nomology" than a transcendental creator. In other words, I am saying you are not the materialist you seem to claim to be, nor as much as I am.
As to multiple universes. We must remember that this notion entails the multiplication of universes, produced as variations to this one. Odd (isn't it?) that ours is not the product of variance to another, nor merely one of many unrelated universes? I wonder, what is the collective mass of this propagation of universes? I suppose the law of conservation of matter/energy is thrown out too? When we drill down into the smallest parts of time we find indeterminacies that can only be mathematized in probability calculus. Even further and even that calculus fails. The dilemma is that anomaly eludes "nomology". But if anomaly is contrarion, it completes the trajectory between the empirical and the rational.
Oh, love does exist. But it is not what you think it is. The problem with evolutionary theories is that they invariably ignore the input of the organism in its own development. Random change is not enough. The living thing must avail of the abilities that change imparts in it, or it has no effect. That is, we reject or welcome change. Either is an act of loss, and only through a response, not its own, responsible (in any sense, even the most counterintuitive sense) of the worth of that loss completes that act. That response is love. The explanation lies in that that welcoming loss that instills that responsibility creates all. It is very much immanent to this world!
Sunday, August 9, 2015 -- 5:00 PMHume?s secondary conditions
Hume?s secondary conditions (temporal and spatio-temporal) are only met when the material condition is met. Hume has a third condition that is also satisfied by the material condition. Hume?s nomological condition states that every object like the cause always produces something like the effect. It?s a generalization principle that invokes laws of nature. Every law of nature, however, is reducible to a material object. Gravity is an attractive force that is proportional to the mass of an object. Like electromagnetism, it is manifested in a field capable of acting on physical objects. Without material objects, gravity wouldn?t emerge?at least not in any discernible sense.
This settles your question about the shelf "knowing" the difference between a full jug and an empty jug. There are forces in nature, each reducible to physical objects. Acknowledging these does not make me a dualist nor serves as an abandonment of physicalism. To be clear, I'm a reductive physicalist, which roughly means that all that exists is either physical or reducible to the physical, e.g., consciousness is reducible to the brain, its anatomy, and its function--which, as is made clear by autism, schizophrenia, and so on, is reducible to neuro-anatomy. Assigning a position to me is red herring; you're trying to make it easier to respond to me because from the looks of it, you can't respond adequately--hence the accusations of blind-siding people with philosophical jargon, i.e., "scholarly sounding babble." If you're uncomfortable with philosophical jargon, you're obviously in the wrong place. Again, your focus on nomology doesn't address my point, since I pretty much mention that condition in passing. Hume's conditions for causation reduce to my material condition. There are no causes, which aren't either material or reducible to the material. God, being immaterial, does not satisfy the Humean conditions and my more basic condition for a cause. Hence, it is a brand of causation that's unintelligible.
Given this, your talk of the anomaly (whatever that means) is moot. Like your previous response, it addresses nothing. If I'm to be blunt, you're quite naive to be entering philosophical terrain with little understanding of the topic. It's obvious you're convinced by the argument. I'm not and I've explained my reasons as succinctly as possible, and hitherto, you've said nothing that addresses my simple question: how can an immaterial god transfer causity to a material object? Given my condition, which stems from reductive physicalism, this simply isn't possible. This is to say nothing about the type of "object" the universe is. The multiverse isn't necessary to explain this universe since there are myriad self-contained models. The universe is not an ordinary object like a table or chair; it's a conglomerate of objects, and as Quentin Smith argues, it could have self-assembled, so to speak.
For whoever's interested:
Gary M Washburn
Sunday, August 9, 2015 -- 5:00 PMIt's called the electro
It's called the electro-motive force. Matter doesn't actually contact other matter, it reaches proximity, encounters the electro-motive force, and either rebounds or achieves equilibrium. But the actual encounter of electron to electron is complex and probabilistic, not a direct and simple action and reaction. Aristotle lists four causalities: efficient, formal, material, final. You seem to collapse this to just the efficient cause. Plato, as I recently mentioned in another thread, gives a wonderful explanation of why this is inadequate, (Phaedo, 96a and following). Gravity needs matter because it is matter, like light needs photons. I mean, I'm just not seeing this knowledge you claim, nor why I should be daunted by your insults. Do you really mean to tell me you don't know what "anomaly" means? It's data that doesn't fit the thesis. Hume is nowhere so arrogant as to suggest the habit of thought is truth. He just says that coherent repetitions just naturally retrench as expectation and supposition of knowledge, not knowledge in fact. If nothing contradicts the habitual way of thinking this means we get by in the world but do not learn anything, not that we are metaphisically correct. There's a ghost from the past! But it seems to me you are opening a back door for metaphysics to return. If you take a close look at Kant's square of opposition, you will see that a formal contradiction requires a quantifier. An opposition of the form A is B or A is not B is not a formal contradiction, it is a contrariety. But what even Kant didn't recognize was that the qualifier is the crucial part, and modern formal logic quite literally excludes this altogether, making a hash of its pretensions to rigor. It fell to Heidegger to realize the central role of the quality "being". But he veered off into a role rather like the scientist in the movie Help. But the resolution comes in a dynamic, not of act and reaction, but of act and response (quite another kettle of fish!) of what begins as anomaly (the act of loss) but becomes contrary (the response of love) to the law that would read it as outside its thesis. So you see, I'm actually a reasoned development of Hume's view, rather more substantively so than you appear to be.
Sunday, August 9, 2015 -- 5:00 PMAnd yet again, none of this
And yet again, none of this addresses what I'm saying. Your focus on Hume is misplaced. I mention him in passing and you go on to stroke your ego with some knowledge of ancient Greek philosophers (none of whom were mentioned by me) and an ill advised lesson in predicate logic. I know what an anomaly is, but as I stated, it's a moot point, since again, it's ignoracio elenchi. You haven't addressed my points at all. Even if we trade my conditions for Hume's or for Aristotle's, we still do not arrive at an immaterial efficient cause or material cause. A final cause is not always required, since teleology is not always required. To believe so is to engage in agency detection. A storm, for example, has no telos.
It is you and other religious folk who collapse teleology and causality. They may cross paths, but the two are not to be conflated. As you've done from the start, you've straw manned my position, since I don't collapse Aristotle's four causes to an efficient cause. I didn't even mention Aristotelean metaphysics. I've worked from a Humean framework and showed how his three conditions are reducible to my material condition. This still does not mean that there can't be any efficient causes at all. I've not implied that anywhere. I've argued quite clearly that god can be neither the efficient nor material cause since he's immaterial, and thus, cannot transfer causity to a material object--let alone a material conglomerate like the universe. You've dodged my question repeatedly, put words in my mouth, and have tried at every turn to frustrate me with one red herring after another. I will no longer respond to your vacuity; you're not responding to anything I've written.
Gary M Washburn
Monday, August 10, 2015 -- 5:00 PMRey,
Well, that's natural enough, since you haven't responded yet. You say Hume is irrelevant and then cite him again. You claim empiricism, but posit rationalism. I did tell you that I am a materialist, but somehow you read religiosity into this. Just because I object to the imperious claims of reductivists and positivists does not mean I am a theist. It's as if, if I am not a dogmatic rationalist, I must be a dogmatic deist. I explained to you that causality cannot be reduced to the simplicity of Newtonian mechanics, but I'm the one who's missing the point? I think you're missing your own point, really. But the real issue is how do we become persuaded of what overthrows our dearest conceits? My view is that "god talk" is only persuasive as a form of covert social violence, a little like racism or Reaganomics. But you seem to me to be engaging in something similar. My offering the issue of the dramatic interplay between anomaly and contrariety is intended as a rigorous solution to the rational conflict inherent in material causality and as the resolution of the enigmatic recurrence of "god talk", it is not moot. (By the way, the "moot" is a protected and protective mode of learning the arts of adjudication and legislation, it is not impertinent or irrelevant simply because it holds the final decision in abeyance until these skills are mastered. It's a kind of courtesy, you see.)
I'm sorry if you are frustrated, but you are not making yourself clear at all. You do not seem to recognized that the mode of material causality, I suppose you mean mechanical interactions, do not explain a lot and are far from being a complete explanation of material phenomena. I tried to explain to you where your notion of causality comes from but you ignore this, as others have ignored my explanation of where "god talk" comes from. But if the power of persuasion is a kind of covert social violence, can there be anything emancipating in what brings us to change our minds? And can we be the moment of this through each other? Or is persuasion always violence? If so, only a god can save us. But I think not, and in that event, no god can. But we can, if we can only learn the art of persuasion emancipated us in the moment of the changed mind. I insist this is not immaterial, because I am a materialist. The human mind is material. But, as I said earlier, matter has lots of tricks your causality does not account for. The implacable reaction is the nature of the mechanical. when we fabricate machines or interpret events mechanically we reduce matter to that mode. Dead matter cannot come to life. But there is life, and there is mind, and there is ample proof that mechanics does not explain this. This does not support theism because the resolution to the enigma of it is the drama of loss and love, anomaly and contrariety, and the gods suffer neither. The existence of life and mind prove there is no god, not the reverse. But since you mean not to respond, I guess you will not see your way through to the explanation of this. Insist on dogma, if you will. The fundamental law of meaning is that the act of it needs its response free. God would never allow this, of course. But neither do you, with your half-baked causality.
Gary M Washburn
Monday, August 10, 2015 -- 5:00 PM~~He is not good,
~~He is not good,
simply has been strong.
It has simply been
on our side.
When they brought us here,
they brought in train.
On their belts,
"Gott mit uns".
"God is with us."
Now, who says
who is not?
Maybe it is.
Is there another explanation?
What we see here?
His power ...
His majesty, its strength.
All these things, but
He is still God ...
but not our God.
It has become ...
That is what
happened to the pact.
He has made a new
deal with others.
We are now entering
to the gas chambers.
for not complying
with the agreement,
for breaking your
covenant with us.
Every day 6,000 people were
taken to the gas chambers here.
I thought I was going to
calling and called my son.
Lucky you are.
He is not ready.
Do this for me.
Please look at me.
I can be me.
I am young,
might be useful.
How can they be
to them and not me? Please
not my job.
I think you're reading
checked the cards.
Now that God is guilty,
From God On Trial, 2008 BBC movie.
Harold G. Neuman
Thursday, August 13, 2015 -- 5:00 PMThis God thing seems
This God thing seems infinitely bigger than any of us and I suppose the fine tuning argument is as good as any, inasmuch as arguments abound and likely always (and in all ways) shall. Is God all that we make It out to be? I do not know. Is God beyond the scope of philosophy and the rational mind? So it would seem. But I am of the notion that Pascal was at least on to something when he made his celebrated wager, even though, as stated by Einstein, God does not play dice. Here again though we should ask: did Einstein know for sure? What if, in truth, God DOES play dice? I mean, if we look around, we can see the evidence almost everyday. Hmmm. This has been an enduring topic on this blog, as well it should. It is probably THE enigma of the ages. I do have one final comment, in the form of a burning question: Can anyone who believes unflinchingly in God also, at the same instant, be counted as a philosopher? That is my personal enigma.
Gary M Washburn
Thursday, August 13, 2015 -- 5:00 PMWhen you say "god is" "god
When you say "god is" "god does" god says" "god would" "god can", where in the world are you getting this from? It aint reasoning, that's definite.