• William Lane Craig is either lying, or getting things very wrong.

    William Lane Craig is ubiquitous in conversations about theistic and Christian apologetics. Being the foremost modern philosopher/theologian still operating, he is often called upon or used as a source for theistic and Christian arguments, winning many debates in the process (on technique and rhetoric, in the main). I have part critiqued his Reasonable Faith book here. He does get things wrong and he is often called out on claims but does not mention such heavy criticisms in his speeches and debates. If one collected all of the criticisms of his points throughout his debating career and compiled them in one place, then one would have a pretty devastating critique. In fact, it is my contention (which I make a god deal about in may paper on the Kalam Cosmological Argument which will soon become a book) that he makes an awful lot of philosophical assumptions which he does not explain or admit to his audiences when he constructs syllogisms and logical or philosophical claims in such debates and speeches.

    The case at hand in this article concerns his claims about cosmology. Craig favours cosmology which supports his case to the point that he is very often claimed as to be cherry picking his science and, in particular, his cosmology. In fact, the Counter Apologist has a really good series on him and the Kalam, but check this one out looking into Craig’s science denialism and selective use of science:

    Anyway, back to the main point. So I was contacted by skydivephil, a partnership who have attracted considerable attention due to their brilliant videos which have taken William Lane Craig to task. The videos on animal suffering are superb, most notably this response to William Lane Craig when he tried to defend his claims in a podcast response to skydivephil:

    I was at the original debate with Stephen Law where Craig made the claims about animal suffering discussed in this video and the original one, and was gobsmacked at Craig’s claims at the time.

    Craig, for his Kalam Cosmological Argument to stand, needs this universe to have an absolute beginning since

    • 1) Everything which begins to exist has a cause for its existence
    • 2) The universe began to exist
    • C) Therefore, the universe has a cause for its existence

    So Craig needs premise 2 to be correct. As a result, he does his best to laud the science/cosmology which defends premise 2, cosmology which concludes that there was an absolute beginning. He also does his level best to debunk science which concludes that the universe was past eternal or has had successive bounces, such with some scenarios of Loop Quantum Cosmology (this may include time starting again and again – I believe there are inflationary and cyclical models of LQC – as Wilson-Eqing states, “LQC naturally gives a bouncing universe: the big bang singularity is resolved.” For those particularly adept at understanding such matters, the cyclical nature of the universe driven by LQC is reviewed here by Yongge MA in the Journal of Cosmology.). For an overview on the idea of the Big Bounce in cosmology, see the wiki entry here. See also skydivephil’s own video concerning LQC.

    One such cosmological model which defies premise 2 is Sir Roger Penrose’s Conformal Cyclic Cosmology or CCC. Penrose was himself one of the original purveyors of the Standard Model, with Hawking, which led to the conclusion that there was a singularity which defined an absolute beginning at the Big Bang. Here is the wiki entry on CCC:

    The conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC) is a cosmological model in the framework of general relativity, advanced by the theoretical physicists Roger Penrose and Vahe Gurzadyan.[1][2] [3] In CCC, the universe iterates through infinite cycles, with the future timelike infinity of each previous iteration being identified with the Big Bang singularity of the next.[4] Penrose popularized this theory in his 2010 book Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe.

    Penrose’s basic construction[5] is to connect a countable sequence of open FLRW spacetimes, each representing a big bang followed by an infinite future expansion. Penrose noticed that the past conformal boundary of one copy of FLRW spacetime can be “attached” to the future conformal boundary of another, after an appropriate conformal rescaling. In particular, each individual FLRW metric g_{ab} is multiplied by the square of a conformal factor \Omega that approaches zero at timelike infinity, effectively “squashing down” the future conformal boundary to a conformally regularhypersurface (which is spacelike if there is a positive cosmological constant, as we currently believe). The result is a new solution to Einstein’s equations, which Penrose takes to represent the entire Universe, and which is composed of a sequence of sectors that Penrose calls “aeons”.

    The significant feature of this construction for particle physics is that, since bosons obey the laws of conformally invariant quantum theory, they will behave in the same way in the rescaled aeons as in the original FLRW counterparts. (Classically, this corresponds to the fact that light cone structure is preserved under conformal rescalings.) For such particles, the boundary between aeons is not a boundary at all, but just a spacelike surface that can be passed across like any other. Fermions, on the other hand, remain confined to a given aeon. This provides a convenient solution to the black hole information paradox; according to Penrose, fermions must be irreversibly converted into radiation during black hole evaporation, to preserve the smoothness of the boundary between aeons.

    The curvature properties of Penrose’s cosmology are also highly desirable. First, the boundary between aeons satisfies the Weyl curvature hypothesis, thus providing a certain kind of low-entropy past as required by statistical mechanics and by observation. Second, Penrose has calculated that a certain amount of gravitational radiation should be preserved across the boundary between aeons. Penrose suggests this extra gravitational radiation may be enough to explain the observed cosmic acceleration without appeal to a dark energy matter field.

    As you will see in skydivephil’s video, there does seem to be empirical evidence supporting this model. Originally, such claims were met with controversy, but more recent work by researchers such as Meisner are far more robust. This is perhaps reflected here, towards the end of skydivephil’s video; I love the final claims made at the end:

    The final claim being from physicist Ted Newman who stated,

    I’m not saying I have 100% belief in Roger’s CCC. I do not have 100% belief… But if I tried to take the ratio of the most likely of all the scenarios I have ever heard that are in existence now or that I have ever heard of in the past and I take the ratio of the likelihood of Roger’s CCC over any of the others, I would say that it is a number approaching infinity [to many laughs].

    So this is a theory that does have prominent proponents.

    Craig himself is very committed to the Penrose-Hawking Standard Model which implies an absolute beginning. But Penrose has changed his mind on this. In fact, the conference referred to in the video above had an audience full of cosmologists, none of whom adhered to the Standard Model.

    What is interesting is that in response to the CCC, as laid out:

    1. in an EPAC conference paper
    2. in Penrose’s book Cycles of Time
    3. by Penrose on Unbelievable, the prominent Christian debate show on Premier Christian Radio, and which sponsored Craig’s last debate tour
    4. by Penrose in claiming there is information crossover from past aeons which are evidenced in the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation

    where Penrose repeatedly maintains past universes/aeons were chronologically prior, Craig has claimed that the model is not cyclical and that aeons are not chronologically prior with the model necessitating an absolute beginning.

    On the “Truth, Free Will and Cosmology” episode of the Reasonable Faith  podcast, Craig appears to either deliberately mislead his audience, or to be utterly wrong, in claiming:

    On Penrose cosmology, wholly apart from its physical problems. Its not clear at all that these other cycles are chronologically prior to our big bang rather it seems what is described here is more like a multiverse model in which you have twin expanding universes coming out of an origin point so that you do not have one universe chronologically prior to the other rather they both share a common beginning before which there is not anything and then you have a sort of branching or multiverse structure.

    Now the interesting point to make here is that skydivephil (Monica, here) asked Penrose in the video (at this point) about Craig’s above quote, asking whether it is correct. Watching Penrose’s almost-snort and his eyebrow’s raise tellingly should say it all. He then stated:

    That us very inaccurate. I should say that CCC is definitely not a multiverse model in the form that people put it. They have sort of parallel universes; these are sequential. It’s completely different. Not only that, you get information from one to the next.

    You can’t really get any plainer than that. Now, Sean Carroll is due to debate William Lane Craig soon, and, as a cosmologist, I hope he takes Craig to task over such claims and manoeuvres. This is a clear-cut case of Craig either lying or not knowing his cosmology. Either way, if he knows that this has been said of his claims, then it is disingenuous of him to keep repeating them.

    Perhaps to give him a little slack, he might have given himself a bit more wriggle room in a further quote. In the “Lightning Strikes Again” Question of the Week on Reasonable Faith, a questioner asks directly;

    Dear Dr. Craig,

    I came up across a new cosmological model developed by Roger Penrose called Conformal Cyclic Cosmology where he claims that when the universe reaches its ultimate destiny of maximal entropy it somehow “loses” track of time due to the absence of matter and comes into being once again through a new Big Bang. His theory argues that there is only one universe which goes through different phases or eons as he calls them. Each eon begins with a Big Bang and ends with maximal entropy, which in turn implies that entropy goes back to zero and transforms into a new big bang and so forth. A video of one of his presentations can be found here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJ-D5AUGVcI

    I am wondering if this theory is sound. If so, how does it impact the Kalam Cosmological Argument?

    Many thanks,

    George

    Craig gives the same sort of answer, this time at least giving a little more detail:

    Jim Sinclair and I are co-authoring a piece on the beginning of the universe, and Jim is interacting with Penrose’s new conformal cosmological model. Jim argues persuasively that the phases of the model are not temporally ordered as earlier and later but are instead actually two universes with a common past boundary. Penrose’s model is thus really a model of a multiverse with a beginning.

    Now Craig is trying to say that he is looking to refute the model. But on what understanding could it even remotely be seen to have the properties of a multiverse, which are concurrent universes existing? Penrose is as clear as crystal in his claims of sequential universes. I don’t think this partial elaboration remotely gets him off the hook. He should certainly expand on these claims or risk merely looking ill-equipped to say what he does about the CCC.

    In other words, Craig appears to be rather disingenuously misleading his audience. That, I am afraid, is not the sort of tactic one would want of your most prominent spokesperson, and it certainly does his case no favours. It doesn’t really matter whether the CCC is ultimately viable or not, and I am certainly in no position to declare such a thing, because it is the methodology of Craig that is being called into question, not the ultimate truth as to whether his case wins out. Craig is using dodgy, shoddy methodology, and he is misleading his audience so that it seems like his premises are sound and his conclusions valid and watertight.

    This is clearly not the case.

    Such deception, or neglect of care in his research, undermines his case because the KCA is his ubiquitous foundation in his debates. Without that second premise, his KCA is defunct.

    It is defunct.

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    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce

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    • I would love to have someone in a debate ask Craig this straight forward question, “Have you ever lied or deliberately distorted facts in order to win people over to Christ?”

      I’d love to see his answer.

    • primenumbers

      The “alternative” first premise is 1) everything that exists began to exist.
      Watch them squirm and special plead for God when you present it….

      • But God is an uncaused causer, an axiom, a brute fact.

        But the universe can’t be, of course.

        • I just wrote about god being a brute fact actually. http://www.atheismandthecity.com/2014/02/might-god-be-brute-fact-too.html

          I think the theist might have to admit that their god’s existence is as much a brute fact as the universe is.

          • Yes, though they try to dress it up in philosospeak in talking about necessary beings and ontological arguments.

            • I don’t see how any theist can justify why god exists with the eternal decision to create our universe and not any other, which his timelessness and omnipotence would make impossible. without being open to it being a brute “fact.”

          • Ha! Which is what you said!

          • Incidentally, I have often wondered, on the same logic, whether God creating necessarily, makes the universe necessary. You can’t have God on his own, thus the universe is equally necessary.

        • primenumbers

          No, God is “existence itself”, as if that actually has any meaning….

        • Luke Breuer

          To my knowledge, no serious philosopher of religion says “the universe can’t be”. Instead, he/she says that positing the universe as a brute fact explains less and predicts less than positing a necessary being. I know you like philosophy of religion; have you dug into this particular area? Maybe I’m wrong and maybe some philosophers of religion really do say the dumb thing. But if it is the case that popular folks like Craig say it, but not folks who publish in peer-reviewed journals, it would behoove you to differentiate.

          • Having a deity as a brute fact equally does not predict things. Especially when most of us consider we could do a better job! It becomes ad hoc because you end up retrofitting the actual present universe with being predicted by an axiomatic god.

            • Luke Breuer

              Having a deity as a brute fact equally does not predict things.

              Suppose the Bible really does have useful information for what constitutes human thriving, which if we were to follow, life would be a lot better. It would have made a prediction which would then be verified. But I suspect that this wouldn’t make an iota of difference with regard to your statement, here. For, you would disconnect a deity from the Bible, so that no entailments can be made (“the deity told us these things because it cares about us”). So I suspect that under your epistemology, a deity could not predict things, in principle. Is this true?

              Especially when most of us consider we could do a better job!

              I’ve mentioned this before: I am skeptical of claims like this until this ability to “do a better job” is demonstrated in reality. In the software industry, I’ve just come across way too many people who can imagine a better way to do things, when their imaginations cannot be logically reified.

              It becomes ad hoc because you end up retrofitting the actual present universe with being predicted by an axiomatic god.

              Do you disallow all such retrofitting? If so, you claim that the theist is not allowed to learn more about God and correct misconceptions by observing reality. This claim depends on certain ideas about how a deity would interact with people which seem awfully suspect.

            • Suppose the Bible really does have useful information for what constitutes human thriving, which if we were to follow, life would be a lot better.

              But it hasn’t and we haven’t and life isn’t. Which is rather my point!

              I’ve mentioned this before: I am skeptical of claims like this until this ability to “do a better job” is demonstrated in reality. In the software industry, I’ve just come across way too many people who can imagine a better way to do things, when their imaginations cannot be logically reified.

              I am well aware of this and knew you would say this. But then, there is no way of testing this. And no matter how life turns out, Christians will use this, ad hoc, to argue for evidence for Christianity.

              As I argued here:
              http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/12/26/heads-you-win-tails-i-lose-1/

              and

              somewhere else, but I can’t find it!

              Again, the predictive qualities and what we would expect to see with regard to parameters and suffering are possible and yet not plausible (to me). There is no predictiveness to me. If I was an all-loving god, and given that relationship with humans seems to be high on the agenda, I would create all those who would freely come to love me in heaven straight off the bat. No corporeal world. No suffering. In fact, I wouldn’t need to create at all, because I would actually know all the experiential knowledge of counterfactuals of creation. There would be no need to create.

              Do you disallow all such retrofitting?

              But then this somewhat invalidates its predictive power.

            • Luke Breuer

              You may want to fix your

              But it hasn’t and we haven’t and life isn’t. Which is rather my point!

              For this conversation, I do not care: what I am claiming is that even if my hypothetical obtains, it will likely not be considered evidence of God’s existence, via your epistemology. That is a very important point, for it would show me that as long as your epistemology is such, I ought not even try to show that said hypothetical obtains!

              But then, there is no way of testing this.

              Really? There’s no way that a person can show that he can make the world a distinctly better place?

              And no matter how life turns out, Christians will use this, ad hoc, to argue for evidence for Christianity.

              Why is what “Christians will use” relevant? Plenty of people make bad arguments.

              Again, the predictive qualities and what we would expect to see with regard to parameters and suffering are possible and yet not plausible (to me).

              Can you sketch out some examples of said ‘possible’? I’ll give it a shot: we know that people can take vastly different attitudes to suffering and impending death than others. Furthermore, we know that which attitudes people take can affect other people. And thus, one’s attitude can have a profound impact on reality. The way [some] Christians view suffering and impending death was a crucial part in Francis Collins becoming a Christian. To the point: some people respond to suffering by spreading it around, while others actually try to reduce the total amount of suffering. What one beliefs impacts one’s attitudes, and one’s attitudes can actually shape reality. What do you do with the fact that sometimes, beliefs create reality? I would lend some kind of truth-value, or ‘predictiveness’ to beliefs that can become reality, in comparison to beliefs that cannot.

              If I was an all-loving god, and given that relationship with humans seems to be high on the agenda, I would create all those who would freely come to love me in heaven straight off the bat. No corporeal world. No suffering.

              This reminds me of How can we mere mortals state what God SHOULD do?, and my comment:

                   (1) research into objective reality
                   (2) research into objective morality.
                   (3) thinking about what really is can be useful
                   (8) What would an omni-* deity do to maximize human thriving?
                   (9) Wrong ideas can lead to less wrong ideas.

              Indeed, there exists a website called LessWrong, with the subtitle: “A community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality.” What I propose is that thinking about (3) and (8) is valid when we do it ‘only a little bit’. That is, we only go a little ahead of our current knowledge of the state of things. It is in this kind of environment that (3) has proven to work toward the end of (1). Likewise, I claim that (8) can aid (2).

              There’s something inherently dissatisfying to prematurely ending a discussion by claiming that you would have done things in a totally different way. It reminds me of the person who put together an Ikea product, and had a whole lot of extra pieces. “Well, there’s obviously no point to those!” Arguing that because I cannot see the point to X, nobody can, and therefore X is extraneous and bad, is a very iffy argument. Contrast this to the person who tries to redeem suffering, and finds that a greater good comes out of doing this. Who is to say that greater and greater sufferings cannot be likewise conquered? Perhaps at some point in the future, we will even be able to resurrect people technologically, which is theoretically possible, given that quantum mechanics dictates that information is never lost. Then even death—perhaps the hardest evil to ‘redeem’—would be conquered. The Bible even says that it is the last enemy which will be conquered, which indicates that we need to solve the other things first. :-p

            • Really? There’s no way that a person can show that he can make the world a distinctly better place?

              No, because you would have to run a parallel world without the Bible. And you would have to take into account religious wars and persecution, slavery and whatnot, and then tease out causal values. As well as defining over what time period such testing could take place.

              Can you sketch out some examples of said ‘possible’? I’ll give it a shot: we know that people…

              I dunno, sometime I think the world would have been a better place if it were just full of small atheistic Piraha tribes. At least, if I as God, that’s what I would do….;)

              I take it you favour the moral influence understanding of atonement (crucifixion)? Essentially, though, how much beliefs impact upon the world says nothing about their truth value. Love an malaria. Both designed and created by God. Would both be predicted by such, really? If you sat down and created a perfectly chosen world, would malaria killing billions, spontaneous natural abortions by the billion, earthquakes, AIDs, terminal cancer, universe heat death etc etc be a predicted outcome? Really?

              There’s something inherently dissatisfying to prematurely ending a discussion by claiming that you would have done things in a totally different way.

              I get that, but disagree. Because otherwise we throw our hands up in moral paralysis and say, hey, it’s God’s perfect judgement. This is one of Stephen Maitzen’s points in his paper on atheism and ordinary morality. Look, straight away I defy the need for such a god to create at all. What you seem to do is lessen God’s attributes so as to allow him to do such actions. But then God becomes less godly, in the classical sense.

              I have already said that on classical theism and notions thereof, I think God would have all necessary knowledge anyway, without needing to create.Knowing all of those counterfactuals, and experientially knowing everything without experiencing it would suffice. If you DO believe heaven exists, then why not just create heaven. You would know all of the entities that WOULD go to hell, you would know the experience of that, in omniscience, so whay bother creating that suffering?

              The point is, there is no end to the suffering that could take place, since you could always argue that there might be a greater good. All 7 billion people could be punished for a billion years, and you would still be able to use that same argument.

            • Luke Breuer

              No, because you would have to run a parallel world without the Bible. And you would have to take into account religious wars and persecution, slavery and whatnot, and then tease out causal values. As well as defining over what time period such testing could take place.

              This seems far and above the standard I set. I don’t need someone to re-do history without religion or anything like that. I just want some sort of demonstration of competence when the person says, “I could have done it better than God did it.” The world is full of people who say “I could do it better!” Most of those people are idiots, as demonstrated when they are given the reins. Surely, if one has that competence, one can demonstrate one of the following?

                   (1) how the world can be made significantly better
                   (2) why (1) is impossible in our current world

              If someone cannot even make things significantly better in this world, why ought I believe him/her when he/she claims to be able to design a better world?

              Essentially, though, how much beliefs impact upon the world says nothing about their truth value.

              This cannot possibly be true. How do I know that a scientific theory is accurate? Because when I believe it, my abilities to compactly model the world and act in it are enhanced. Because the belief manifests in ways considered ‘good’. Beliefs about how the world could be have truth-values. Beliefs about whether such ‘could be’s would be considered ‘good’ by their inhabitants have truth-values. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the idea that belief-values can sometimes only be evaluated by tentative belief.

              Love an malaria. Both designed and created by God. Would both be predicted by such, really?

              Prediction is awfully hampered by Satan being on a long leash. I don’t say that it is eliminated, but there is a lot of ‘noise’ in the system; if we attempt to account for all the data points at the same time instead of [temporarily] relegating some to noise, things like the expansion of the universe may well be un-discoverable (see the noisiness of Hubble’s original data).

              If you sat down and created a perfectly chosen world, would malaria killing billions, spontaneous natural abortions by the billion, earthquakes, AIDs, terminal cancer, universe heat death etc etc be a predicted outcome? Really?

              I can comprehend why some evils are allowed: they can be redeemed toward greater goods. As I gain comprehension, new vistas are opened up for more comprehension, just like in science. So even though there are some things I don’t understand—things that seem irreducibly complex, even—I need not throw up my hands in defeat.

              Because otherwise we throw our hands up in moral paralysis and say, hey, it’s God’s perfect judgement.

              This just isn’t true: moral research is possible.

              The point is, there is no end to the suffering that could take place, since you could always argue that there might be a greater good. All 7 billion people could be punished for a billion years, and you would still be able to use that same argument.

              This also isn’t true, if I believe, as I do, that all evils can be redeemed to greater goods. Indeed, it is my task to take part in such redemption, according to my religious beliefs. God is not impressed by rationalizations of evils, he is impressed by me doing something about them, after the pattern of his son. The person who explains instead of acting is an evil person.

            • Nerdsamwich

              If all evils can be redeemed to greater goods, does it not follow that the greatest possible good can be brought about only by first maximizing all possible evil? Your rebuttal has served only to reinforce the point.

            • Luke Breuer

              You are forgetting the cost incurred by the one who causes the evil. It would always be more evil if the evil agent never repented, but it is evil to force (or design) an agent to never repent. So the only way to maximize evil is for (a) God to be evil; (b) free agents to freely choose to cause evil.

              Maybe the above wasn’t clear. My overall point is that I think you are creating a paradox with your question. I don’t think there is a way for God to maximize moral evil; that’s up to created, first-cause beings to do or not to do.

            • Nerdsamwich

              But if I, for instance, have a propensity to evil, from whence does it come, if not my all-knowing creator? In any case, that’s beside the point. The point is that your axiom of “all evil can be redeemed to greater good” can be trivially extended to justify infinite evil, since it can just be turned about to create even more infinite good.

            • Absolutely. God is morally culpable for our moral decisions, through design and foreknowledge.

              Luke tries to get around this by God not knowing freely willed decisions.

              However, he comes unstuck by not giving a coherent account of libertarian free will, and his thesis is synonymous with God making a random universe, since he doesn’t know the outcome of trillions of freely willed decisions, which means he cannot have a clue about its outcome. Thus, it can’t really be a perfect choice in any coherent way.

            • Luke Breuer

              Your propensity to evil comes from you being created to be in continual relationship with your creator, combined with your refusal to engage in that relationship (because you know better).

              You have yet to convince me that it really “can be trivially extended”. How would it? Who would do the evil and who would make them do the evil? And how would the making not be evil in and of itself? And if the causal chain terminates at God, then you’ve constructed a world that is pure evil. I mean, he could just let the evil increase ad infinitum, right? Why ever let it turn to good? You’ve created a paradox!

            • Nerdsamwich

              I tried for years to have that relationship. If anyone refused it, it wasn’t me. If I was created, then my unbelief is one of the attributes instilled in me by my creator. How could it be otherwise? And no, *I* haven’t created a paradox. The paradox lies in the logical conclusion of your stated maxim. How, indeed,would the creation of evil not be evil in and of itself? And how could anything happen against the will of that which is all-mighty? Unless your definition of “all” is very odd.

            • Luke Breuer

              I tried for years to have that relationship. If anyone refused it, it wasn’t me.

              At one point in time, I concluded exactly what you had, having done a lot of trying. It turned out that I was actually wrong. Now, this ‘personal relationship’ thing is in need of a little help. For example, see What is the history of the concept of a “personal relationship with Jesus”?

              I have been hacking away at this “relationship” idea with Andy Schueler; you may be interested in these two comments of mine. It’s very tricky, but I don’t think it’s impenetrable. But be warned: there is sausage being made. Enter at your own risk!

              And no, *I* haven’t created a paradox. The paradox lies in the logical conclusion of your stated maxim.

              Yes you have. You’ve stated an imagined result—maximized evil—and yet haven’t constructed that situation from the ground up; you haven’t shown how you’d get there. I claim that you’ve merely imagined up something logically incoherent. There is no problem with my axioms; the problem lies in your imagination. There are such things as bad questions.

            • Nerdsamwich

              You stated that all evil can become greater good, with the implication that it necessarily will, for your theodicy to have any merit. The logical extension of that statement is that more evil equals even more good. The logical conclusion is that most evil equals most good. This begins to imply that your definition of good is my definition of evil, but I think that’s an artifact of it being two in the morning. OR IS IT!?

            • Luke Breuer

              Give me a plausible scenario for how evil would be maximized. You’re the one who brought it up, you construct a plausible scenario. No waving of the your omni-wand, please.

            • Nerdsamwich

              What do you mean? Only a theist can invoke “mysterious ways”? Weren’t you the one who was elsewhere asserting that we don’t have to be able to add infinities, just take a few steps in that direction to make note of where it’s headed? I’m not the one whose theodicy supports the ever-greater propagation of ever-greater evils so that some divine alchemy might transmute them into goods. Besides, the answer is trivial: you start with the worst thing you can imagine, then you make it worse. That becomes the new baseline. Repeat until salvation, I guess. Just like theoretically counting to infinity involves doubling the biggest number you’ve got so far.

            • Luke Breuer

              Where have I invoked “mysterious ways”?

              Your idea makes no sense; at any point that the world is turned toward salvation, it could have been made a bit worse, first. Infinity is not a number; ∞ and 7 are different types of entities.

            • Nerdsamwich

              You’re the one who said we need to get to infinite suffering; I’m happy with picking an arbitrarily high amount. But, at the risk of offending your sensibilities, all this should be trivial for a being that bills itself as “all-powerful”.

            • Luke Breuer

              You’re the one who said we need to get to infinite suffering

              What, precisely did I say to give you this impression? Link + quote, please.

            • Nerdsamwich

              You keep saying, “tell me how evil could be maximized”. It sounds to me like you’re asking me to add evils until I get to a hypothetical evil limit: the greatest possible evil. Beg pardon if that’s a misconstrual. However, I continued to clarify what I meant by maximum evil. My point stands that in your proposed theodicy, any imaginable evil–say the murder-by-rape of several infants, whose corpses are then force-fed to their watching mothers–becomes a good act, since it will be turned by whatever agency into a greater good. The absurdity factor, you must admit, is pretty high, here.

            • Luke Breuer

              The only way it can be good is if the evildoer freely chose to do the evil; if the evildoer is not repentant (and repeated doing of evil makes one less likely to be repentant), he/she suffers, perhaps permanently (whether annihilated or punished forever). It is impossible to compel beings to sin and not sin yourself, and it is evil to create beings with a propensity to sin. So you are injecting the absurdity, not I. If you try and construct the system you are talking about (as I just did in part), you will see this. My axioms do not lead to absurdity, your interpretation of them does, because you’re not fully thinking through what you’re proposing.

            • Nerdsamwich

              “It is impossible to compel beings to sin and not sin yourself, and it is evil to create beings with a propensity to sin.” You have just made my point for me. It IS evil. And where does the buck stop, if not on the desk of the one ultimately in charge? Stalin is to blame for the brutality of the Soviet gulags, right? Not each individual soldier, although they did indeed help, but the guy in charge. That’s who must have the ultimate responsibility. If we are created, any blame for what our nature makes us do must accrue to the creator.

            • Luke Breuer

              The buck stops with the being who is a first-cause agent. You have three choices:

                   (1) there are no first-cause agents
                   (2) God is the only first-cause agent
                   (3) God created first-cause agents

              You apparently have chosen (2). But (2) is an awfully uneasy option, because why can’t God create other first-cause beings? So I think you’re really pushed toward (1), in which case evil is a figment of our imaginations, or (3), in which case God need not be responsible for a shred of evil.

              Now you might counter, even under (3), God is responsible for our actions. But this is a bit perverse; it’s saying that any good that might come out of first-cause agents isn’t worth the bad that might come out. I don’t think a sound argument can be made for this; ultimately, you’ll pick what you think based on emotion and past experience, not on sound, a priori principles. I don’t think there are sound, a priori principles on this one. It could go either way, in various logically possible worlds.

            • Nerdsamwich

              Whether the bad outweighs the good would have to depend on the basic impulses that drive our behavior, wouldn’t it? And who is in a position to evaluate–and choose–those? Human beings may have free will, but but we are also driven by impulses that are largely beyond our control. That would be what we mean when we refer to “human nature”. To the secularist, these impulses are vestiges of qualities once necessary to our species’ survival, but that we have largely outgrown, like the desire to overeat, or the taste for too much sugar and fat. Abrahamic religion labels these vestiges “sin” and prescribes punishments for giving in to them, but whose fault are they, really? I guess the basic question is, who determines human nature? And if that nature is, as they told me in church, sinful, whose fault is that?

            • Luke Breuer

              These are excellent questions. They are explored in incredible depth in the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism. I am a staunch Arminian, because (2) makes God the author of sin, and no Calvinist has ever argued against that to my satisfaction. For one of the better arguments on the matter, see here. I do not believe sin was necessary for God’s plan; I believe that Adam and Eve could have refused the serpent in the garden. (Whether or not Adam and Eve were real is largely immaterial to me; what matters is whether the story communicates truth for this conversation and many conversations. Was it 100% realistic? If not, we can start fuzzing and refuse to acknowledge truth-claims about e.g. human nature.)

              I think most people want to blame God and adopt (2) so that they don’t have to acknowledge their own sinfulness—the extent of it. Sinfulness can be both evil intentions but also lack of sufficiently strong good intentions. Plenty of drunk drivers didn’t intend to kill anyone! Or folks just wash their hands of this entirely and choose (1). That’s a comfortable option; nobody is to blame and nobody needs to be blamed. Nothing is wrong. It is what it is. C’est la vie!

            • Nerdsamwich

              But God claims responsibility for good and evil alike in Isaiah 45:7. Are you contradicting the Almighty?

            • Luke Breuer

              How much have you researched Isaiah 45:7 and related verses? I’m pretty busy these days, so it’s nice when the other dude will do some of the research, instead of just throwing verses out there, Whac-a-Mole style.

            • Nerdsamwich

              Unless your contention is that it somehow means the opposite of what it says on the page, then it’s about as unambiguous as it gets: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” Now, I know that many Abrahamists like to “interpret” sentences like that as somehow not meaning what they say, but come on. If it meant something else, it would say something else.

            • Luke Breuer

              You realize that all language is embedded in culture, and this is a culture over 2000 years old? Your “plain reading” is insufficient, but a long shot. If you aren’t willing to do the work and find pages like What did Isaiah intend with his unusual usage of “create” in Isaiah 45:7?, then fine. But I’d rather not spend too much time conversing with someone who doesn’t want to do a bit of work and reading like that. These issues often aren’t as simple as they are made out to be. Fundamentalists insist that everything is simple or wrong; this is terrible and has stunted human understanding of reality so much that it makes me furious/depressed.

            • Nerdsamwich

              Why use words if you don’t mean them to mean what they’re supposed to mean? It kind of defeats the purpose of language. Besides which, this bit of language is translated for the modern audience. It is the job of a translator to understand what the words mean in the context of the culture in which they were written, and convey that meaning to his intended audience. Unless you, personally, speak ancient Hebrew, you rely on translators too. If yours are so much more reliable than King James’s, which version do they publish, so I can make my quotes more accurate? If the translation is accurate enough, but the text still means something other than what it says, we are left with two options: either the Scripture is not divinely inspired, or it is, and God is being deliberately misleading. Which is your preferred poison?

            • Luke Breuer

              You seem to have little idea of how embedded language is in culture, and how hard, if not sometimes impossible, it is to translate from a culture and language and time period 2000-3000 years ago, and today. I suggest reading Metaphors We Live By and The Social Construction of Reality. At least read the Wikipedia article, cultural translation.

            • Nerdsamwich

              I say again, that is what translators are for. Their job is to translate one set of cultural cues into another. Translators do this all the time, sometimes even in the midst of a conversation. Otherwise, every American businessman who wanted to expand to Japan(or vice versa) would have to spend a couple of years in school first.

            • Luke Breuer

              Yep, and when people can’t even get basic verses right, like the following:

              So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Mt 5:23-24)

              , with ‘sacrifice’ defined:

              I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:1-2)

              , you shouldn’t expect the much more complex issues to be tackled as seriously as I think you are rightly asking for. First things first! Yeah I know, it’s sad that things are so bass-ackward, but so is the world; see Chris Hallquist’s How much you like someone is a poor predictor of their ethical behavior, and my comment, which grounds his post in the Bible thoroughly. By the way, Hallquist is an atheist.

            • Nerdsamwich

              In your first quote, the term was “gift”, not “sacrifice”. And that’s NT. Not at all what we were discussing. You know damn well the Hebrews used blood sacrifice, including that of humans at times.

            • Luke Breuer

              Multiple translations of Mt 5:23.

              But this is a tangent; let’s not stray. My point was that people won’t even obey very simple commands of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount; to expect accurate dealings with Isaiah 45:7 is probably putting the cart before the horse.

            • Nerdsamwich

              Perhaps that’s backwards. Realizing the truth, that YHWH is indeed no lily-white paragon just might make him more relatable and bring folk into a closer understanding.

            • Luke Breuer

              Robert Alter has gone into this issue in great detail, offering very wooden, literal translations of the OT, with copious commentary to set the scene for the texts. You cannot just “pick the right words”; you need a cultural context as well.

            • Luke Breuer

              If the translation is accurate enough, but the text still means something other than what it says, we are left with two options: either the Scripture is not divinely inspired, or it is, and God is being deliberately misleading.

              In case it wasn’t clear, this is the falsest of false dichotomies.

            • Nerdsamwich

              There are three options there, not two. The translation could be inadequate. In that case, someone should fix it. If the translation is adequate, then the dichotomy applies. Or words don’t mean anything.

            • Luke Breuer

              The basics of Christianity don’t require as much in-depth cultural analysis, but the more in-depth stuff does. As to why it doesn’t happen, it does, but most Christians don’t even know their Bibles that well. I recall some poll where atheists knew more about the Bible than Christians. Isaiah 45:7 is on the trickier side. The article I linked, which apparently you didn’t read (or at least gave no evidence of reading), does help you get into Isaiah 45:7 a bit. There are some really cool connections to Genesis 1 that I only just discovered by doing the work I was hoping you might be up to doing. Hermeneutics.SE and Christianity.SE are decent resources FYI. I’ve spent more time on the former than the latter.

              Be careful of merely finding a verse that seems problematic, and saying, “QED Christianity is false!” This is precisely what creationists do when they point out e.g. the alleged lack of transitional fossils, or ID advocates when they point out irreducible complexity. I don’t know if that’s what you’re doing here or not; I can certainly see your question about Isaiah 45:7 as being authentic. But just note that not all questions are good questions. Ask a scientist some day about bad questions that were dead ends.

              A great example of a series of bad questions can be found in the 1961 Nobel Prize in Chemistry speech by Melvin Calvin; see the Calvin Cycle, which is “one of the light-independent reactions used for carbon fixation” (required for photosynthesis). One of the reasons a Nobel Prize was awarded was because of the hardness of the discovery.

              Back to Isaiah 45:7. From this Hermeneutics.SE answer to the question above:

              However, Isaiah is addressing himself to a different question than the one you’re concerned with. According to Zoroastrian theology, light and darkness and good and evil are created by two separate deities who are constantly in competition with each other. The creation story in the book of Genesis is parallel in many ways to the Zoroastrian creation myth, and is also a polemic against the notion of more than one God and the notion that some of God’s creations are “evil.”

              I also suggest looking up the answerer’s blog post, Genesis 1 and Zoroastrian Creation Myth.

            • Nerdsamwich

              I’m mildly familiar with Zoroastrianism, it’s probably where Christianity got the idea of Satan. All in all, it’s a less cognitively problematic cosmology/theology than Abrahamism; their idea of divine justice is far more just, and they get to resolve the problem of evil. Too bad it’s not more common. Interestingly enough, their writings, while also quite old, are fairly straightforward.

            • Luke Breuer

              it’s a less cognitively problematic cosmology/theology than Abrahamism

              Justification?

            • Nerdsamwich

              I gave it right underneath. Their idea of divine justice is far more just, and they resolve the problem of evil by having a god of evil. And, purely aesthetically speaking, their religious symbol is fire. That is way cooler than an antiquated torture device.

            • josh

              Technically, the deity explains less since you have added the brute fact of the deity’s existence to the brute fact of the universe’s existence. (Or you substitute in the brute fact that the unexplained deity creates universes.) Occam’s razor strikes again.

          • Nerdsamwich

            How would a peer-reviewed theology journal even work? How can you falsify a theological assertion? How would a review panel justify inclusion or exclusion of any paper on other than dogmatic grounds? The entire concept just…leaves me flabbergasted.

            • Luke Breuer

              theology ≠ philosophy of religion

            • Nerdsamwich

              Philosophy is no more falsifiable than any other purely mental exercise. What criteria, other than appeal to authority, could a review board use to approve or reject a paper? And we’re not talking natural or moral philosophy, where you could at least make a gesture in the direction of something observable; this is religion.

            • Luke Breuer

              Why don’t you ask a professional philosopher of religion, or at least ask on Philosophy.SE? The rough overview is that one evaluates soundness of arguments, interestingness of them, and whether one properly represents opponents and other likely objections. Whether or not a deity is included in the argument doesn’t impact these criteria.

              You might read this bit of Polanyi on crystallography and non-falsifiability. Philosophy is in the business of constructing possible worlds that have a chance of matching ours sufficiently well. It has and still can lead to science; see Atomism for example. People generally think that deities are logically possible, and so philosophy could naturally cover this territory.

      • Luke Breuer

        I sense a Dawkins Boeing 747 argument that effectively says, “Any number of brute facts we are forced to accept is superior to positing a Yawheh-like creator-god.”

        • primenumbers

          I think the problem there lies more with the theistic notions of God which really, when fairly investigated either don’t make sense or are contradictory. We also get to hear how God is simple because he has no component pieces, but that’s a materialistic notion of complexity whereas for a supernatural being we should be using a supernatural version of complexity where it’s obvious to see that God must be infinitely supernaturally complex.

          • Luke Breuer

            I think the problem there lies more with the theistic notions of God which really, when fairly investigated either don’t make sense or are contradictory.

            I wrote the following a while ago:

            We can certainly think of moderately good, moderately wise, moderately powerful humans. Why I can’t take the limit of these things as the intensity of each attribute goes to infinity, and reach a logically coherent being, is beyond me. Perhaps it is because we try to take the limit of each attribute individually, instead of considering what happens when we increase all the attributes a bit, do it again, and again, on to infinity? It’d be like trying to first sum the positive terms of the alternating harmonic series, then the negative terms, and then adding up the two infinities at the end, instead of only summing finitely many positive terms before adding some negative terms. The sum does converge to a [finite] number if you compute it correctly. But if you don’t sum it correctly, you can’t find the limit and you might throw up your hands and declare that there is no limit. How’s this for a concrete, non-vague argument?

            The Thinker didn’t want to dig into the math, but if I recall correctly, you’ll either already know it or be able to pick it up quickly.

            We also get to hear how God is simple because he has no component pieces, but that’s a materialistic notion of complexity whereas for a supernatural being we should be using a supernatural version of complexity where it’s obvious to see that God must be infinitely supernaturally complex.

            You’re basically restating Dawkins’ Boeing 747 argument, right?

            • primenumbers

              I remember summing infinite sequences an awful long time ago. However, what you’ve done is think of a way that God’s abilities possibly could work. You could be right, but without a demonstrable God, we can never know. And as analogies go, a math sequence to God would seem to be about as weak an analogy as you can get.

              Nope, not restating his argument but addressing the typical objection to it. Once we start talking about the supernatural my statement that God is infinitely complex carries as much weight as any theologian suggesting that their God is simple. This is the fundamental issue with any discussion of the contradictory properties of God in that the theistic notion of God is ill-defined, and that wooly definition will shift as any particular point of that definition is probed.

            • Luke Breuer

              And as analogies go, a math sequence to God would seem to be about as weak an analogy as you can get.

              On what grounds can you possibly hold this? It has long been claimed that at least omniscience and omnipotence cannot go together—you can get one, or the other. I’ve demonstrated that if you aren’t careful in how you combine infinities, you’ll be unable to combine them. Where is the lack of rigor to critique? And if you think it’s so abstract as to be inapplicable, then may I suggest that this is might be a deflection from the tenuousness of the “contradictory” claim?

              the theistic notion of God is ill-defined

              Please elaborate. If you’re looking for ‘perfectly defined’, then you can go into pretty much any science laboratory and find things not perfectly defined. But perhaps you’re looking for something better than what’s out there. But what’s the best that you know of that’s out there, and why do you not consider it good enough?

            • primenumbers

              You’re analogizing from math to God. On one hand a math equation, and the other hand an omni-being. That’s such a stretch of an analogy it goes far beyond any breaking point.

              As for definition – you tell me! It’s your God not mine.

            • Luke Breuer

              We can put aside the math thing if you don’t feel the need to claim that omniscience + omnipotence = contradiction. I see no problem considering someone who is somewhat benevolent, somewhat powerful, and somewhat wise; I don’t see where the contradiction lies in taking all these attributes to infinity, simultaneously. If you don’t either, great.

              I don’t have any sort of personal systematic theology of precisely who God is. He is loving, in the sense described by 1 Cor 13, which critically involves not compelling others to do what he wants (at least rarely). He is fundamentally a creator, and we, being made in his image, are as well. Thwart a person’s ability to create and you dehumanize him/her. Jesus came to serve instead of being served, upsetting many traditional ideas of godhood. God somehow manages to combine mercy and justice, probably by treating people as they treat others (Mt 7:1-5, Ja 2:13).

              I’ll stop here, because I’m not sure where we’re going in this conversation.

            • primenumbers

              “We can put aside the math thing if you don’t feel the need to claim that omniscience + omnipotence = contradiction.” – um, that example came from you. I was just talking in general about the contradictory nature. Although you may think your math solution is plausible, I can see almost anything being a plausible explanation including the outright dissolving of contradiction being a divine property. What remains is for you to evidence your proposed solution to be an actual solution.

              “involves not compelling others to do what he wants (at least rarely)” well, it would seem that the conditional there (allowing “rare” cases) makes your statement very weak indeed, especially as anyone effected would never know they had, and thus we could never track to see if rare remains rare or is actually commonplace.

              ” He is fundamentally a creator, and we, being made in his image, are as well.” – and that raises an issue that a supernatural disembodied mind would create a supernatural universe containing similarly disembodied minds if he was creating in his image. Even if we take “in his image” very metaphorically, the key part of the image of God is supernatural, disembodied mind with omni-powers. We are the antithesis of this, and hence your statement is tricky to find a way for it to make sense.

              “God somehow manages to combine mercy and justice” – somehow indeed, especially given that perfect justice and perfect mercy are seen as contradictory.

            • Really good point about creation in image.

            • primenumbers

              And of course, I need a really good explanation why a perfect being would create at all…. Or how does a being know he has total knowledge without getting stuck in infinite spiral of knowing that he knows that he knows….. ….. everything. And how does he know that he’s not deceiving himself?

            • Luke Breuer

              How do you know when questions like these are tantamount to rejecting a theory because of something that appears to be irreducibly complex at this point in time? Sometimes, discussions like this have the underlying assumption that if even one question about God is not answered, he is contradictory and does not exist. Surely you don’t mean to hold such an assumption? Surely there can be lacunae in our current understanding of God?

            • primenumbers

              The problem being because you have your magical supernatural God, with enough time, energy and imagination you can indeed answer any proposed contradiction. And because it’s a supernatural God, there’s no way for any of us to point at actual evidence that refutes or confirms your imaginative rationalization of the apparent contradiction. It ends up being an intellectual game.

            • Luke Breuer

              I’m actually not interested in the intellectual game—at least, I tire of it very quickly. I’m much more interested in e.g. criticisms of the world as it is now, and how theism aids in this critique by providing a different way to view life. For example, humans being created in the image of a God-who-creates will be creators themselves. And yet, in America, the good little American is a consumer, not a creator. Too much creation would threaten the establishment.

              Recently, I talked to an atheist who thought it might be ok for his barber to struggle to maintain a living, instead of be cursed with more time to be intellectual, which might make him less happy than succeeding in merely feeding his family. (!) There is a strong current, even today, that there are the smart people who deserve education and opportunity to shape the future, and there are the masses, who are de facto slaves, even though they get to ‘participate’ in professional sports, buy the clothes they like, etc.

              This may surprise you, but I despite ‘Christianese’. I often get the sense that when people use it, they are in a distinctly “emperor’s new clothes”-land. Now, sometimes this is because I’m an analytical thinker and they’re intuitive, and they’re unable to explain what they mean analytically. But I don’t think it is all of the time. I need to know how claims about God mean I should look at reality differently, or should see different things in reality.

            • primenumbers

              Creators v consumers makes for a great discussion. But we create not just for enjoyment but to solve problems. We create because we are limited and live in a relatively hostile environment. As I note above, I cannot see how a perfect being with limitless power and knowledge has any driving need to do anything, as such a driving need that would fuel any desire to act would imply a lack of perfection at least as great as that desire.

            • Luke Breuer

              I was just talking in general about the contradictory nature.

              Until you give specifics about what you mean by ‘contradictory nature’, you’ve asserted nothing. I cannot advance a solution until you tell me precisely what the problem is! And if your complaint is that nobody has given a perfect definition of ‘Yahweh’, I will respond that this is impossible, just as it is impossible to give a perfect definition of how reality works, given that science is not finished. So what you’d really have to help me understand is what you think constitutes a ‘good enough’ description of God.

              well, it would seem that the conditional there (allowing “rare” cases) makes your statement very weak indeed, especially as anyone effected would never know they had, and thus we could never track to see if rare remains rare or is actually commonplace.

              Yep, it’s likely a metaphysical claim, which can only be tested by seeing whether it helps you understand reality better than the alternatives. If we are to become like God though, the ‘rarely’ is extremely important. One might even argue that the ‘rarely’ is never, and is merely a less advanced OT-understanding of God (I was specifically thinking of hardening Pharaoh’s heart, although I think there are one or two other examples).

              After writing the above, I don’t really buy your argument. If I had said ‘never’, you could still voice your objection: we wouldn’t be able to test whether it’s really ‘never’. We know enough about statistics to e.g. doubt that someone has a rare disease, and not let them be labeled this way until the other options are exhausted. The same could be the case with God rarely compelling someone to act in a certain way.

              and that raises an issue that a supernatural disembodied mind would create a supernatural universe containing similarly disembodied minds if he was creating in his image.

              Turing-complete computation (to use a model of processing information) can occur mechanically, electrically, and biologically; who is to say it cannot be done in the “disembodied mind” realm as well? If so, you’re complaining about an inconsequential aspect. “Ability to experience and increasingly understand reality” is of such a higher importance than particular physical or nonphysical makeup. The scifi arts show us that there is no problem considering communication between corporeal and noncorporeal beings; they’re usually even all considered to have emotions! The ideal is often that one is not species-ist, just as one learns not to be race-ist.

              Even if we take “in his image” very metaphorically, the key part of the image of God is supernatural, disembodied mind with omni-powers. We are the antithesis of this, and hence your statement is tricky to find a way for it to make sense.

              If we have finite minds where God has an infinite mind, why is this an ‘antithesis’? If our powers have limits while God’s has none, why is this an ‘antithesis’? Very specifically, if we are able to become arbitrarily like God—increasing in knowledge, power, goodness, etc.—then how are we an ‘antithesis’ to God?

            • primenumbers

              ” I cannot advance a solution until you tell me precisely what the problem is!” – the problem is that whatever solution you advance will be un-evidenced and hence we cannot see if God actually uses your solution or not, or perhaps a different solution, or perhaps there’s no God. It’s like the intellectual game I note in response below.

              “Yep, it’s likely a metaphysical claim, which can only be tested by seeing whether it helps you understand reality better than the alternatives.” – and even if it helps you understand things better, it’s helping a believer in God understand their God better, but says nothing to the reality of the existence of God.

              I’m not complaining that a disembodied mind cannot compute. I could go on about how an a-temporal mind makes little sense though. It would like like your Turing machine where you cannot crank the handle to move from one instruction to the next. What I’m getting at is that the natural world is so utterly different to any notion of the supernatural, that I can see no reason why a supernatural being would create a natural world, but instead create a supernatural world, and being a disembodied mind, why he wouldn’t create other disembodied minds rather than physical minds in bodies. And doubly so that we’re in his image, except in almost every conceivable way, we cannot be, even when “image” is taken metaphorically. Although we enjoy figuring out this natural reality we exist in, I see no reason why there’s no similar supernatural analogue whereby disembodied minds explore and figure out a supernatural realm.

              Limited and limitless seem like opposites to me.

            • Luke Breuer

              the problem is that whatever solution you advance will be un-evidenced

              Are you saying that this will necessarily be the case, or is it more of an argument from induction or inference to the best explanation? Sometimes I wonder whether skeptics’ epistemologies disallow them from admitting the existence of a Yahweh-like entity in principle.

              and even if it helps you understand things better, it’s helping a believer in God understand their God better, but says nothing to the reality of the existence of God.

              A pattern is coalescing from the years I’ve talked to atheists and skeptics: no matter what information comes from God, that information can be divorced from him and accepted as merely a brute fact. So evidence can always be divorced from God, and therefore it can be claimed that no evidence supports the existence of God or his interaction with the world. This returns me to my comment which sparked this discussion:

              “Any number of brute facts we are forced to accept is superior to positing a Yawheh-like creator-god.”

              How can I avoid this happening? I really think it’s an issue of epistemology, and not of ‘the evidence’. Perhaps it’s actually a teleological issue: if my purpose is to learn to increasingly model and predict the world, with the goal of shaping it to my whims, a deity only helps to the extent that it will serve my purpose. I don’t know, but I do know that too much focus on ‘the evidence’ obscures the grid through which the evidence is perceived.

              What I’m getting at is that the natural world is so utterly different to any notion of the supernatural

              Other than the supernatural realm having ‘mind’ as a fundamental building-block instead of emergent property, I’m not sure that they really are so ‘utterly different’. God is described as having emotions in the OT, with Jesus having emotions in the NT. God has desires, just like we do. God argues from the evidence (“I’m the god who brought you out of Egypt”), just like we do. God asserts that there is moral cause and effect, just like we assert there is physical cause and effect. There is a terrific amount of the Bible that is easily comprehensible. So how is this supernatural realm so ‘utterly different’?

              I can see no reason why a supernatural being would create a natural world

              Perhaps the act of creation itself is good. I again return to this comment, and will include Hubble’s original data: do you demand that I explain all the points far away from the linear fit with y-intercept = 0, before you accept that maybe the linear fit is a step in the right direction?

              Limited and limitless seem like opposites to me.

              Then I just don’t understand your point. The claim that humans can become more like God because they are capable of doing it in every way—including with no permanent kenotic blindspots—seems to assert something very real. I don’t know what your claim of ‘opposites’ actually asserts. What statements flow from it? What does it entail?

            • primenumbers

              “Are you saying that this will necessarily be the case, or is it more of an argument from induction or inference to the best explanation? ” – well, I’d think if there was evidence that your solution was indeed the actual solution that God used, then that would be presented as evidence, rather than a notion that this solution is a possible solution. On the larger issue of if what I said is necessarily the case – I could suggest that it is, or else we’d not be having this conversation.

              “no matter what information comes from God, that information can be divorced from him and accepted as merely a brute fact.” – If it can be divorced from God, it’s not information unequivocally supporting God, and could be supporting any number of other explanatory theories. Or to look at it from the other direction, the God explanation could be the answer for any theory. “therefore it can be claimed that no evidence supports the existence of God or his interaction with the world” – or it could be claimed that ALL evidence supports the existence of God, God being the explanatory answer for everything. If we’re resigned to accepting brute facts, we must pick the ones with the least explanatory power, shouldn’t we? We’d need an infinity of brute facts of limited explanatory power to equate to one God brute fact that explain everything.

              ” if my purpose is to learn to increasingly model and predict the world, with the goal of shaping it to my whims, a deity only helps to the extent that it will serve my purpose.” – good question, but tricky to answer. I don’t see the usefulness of a God belief as either evidence for or against the truth of that belief. But you’re right that a God belief could help you shape the world to your whims. But could a similar lack of belief help someone else shape the the world to their whims? Probably.

              “God is described as having emotions in the OT, with Jesus having emotions in the NT. God has desires, just like we do.” – absolutely, yet those anthropomorphic descriptions of God are apparently at odds with a perfect being and in-line with a human concept of God as a super-human with super-human abilities. To me they’re an earlier concept of God. “There is a terrific amount of the Bible that is easily comprehensible” and again, that would appear to be the human roots of the book and at odds with our more modern concepts of God. “So how is this supernatural realm so ‘utterly different’?” – almost by definition it must be different? If it allows for disembodied minds that can apply cause to nothing and produce an effect, that can exist yet be outside of space and time, to think yet not be in time etc.

              “Perhaps the act of creation itself is good.” – perhaps it is, but it seems to me that shifts the meaning of “good” away from how it is traditionally used. Perhaps we could build a reasonable moral framework around creation==good. Nice idea.

              “Then I just don’t understand your point.” – and I’m loosing in a comprehension battle with your answer. What I was getting at is on a number line, any finite number is as far away from +infinity end if the line no matter how large that finite number is. I’m obviously equating “limitless” with infinite here.

            • Luke Breuer

              This is fun. :-)

              well, I’d think if there was evidence that your solution was indeed the actual solution that God used, then that would be presented as evidence, rather than a notion that this solution is a possible solution. On the larger issue of if what I said is necessarily the case – I could suggest that it is, or else we’d not be having this conversation.

              C’mon, surely you know that different people can interpret the same information vastly differently? The only way we can really judge one person’s interpretation as better than the other’s is if one person can ‘do more with it’. We must be careful in how we define ‘do more’, because it is easy for laymen to not understand e.g. how a given advance in pure mathematics actually increases our knowledge. Nevertheless, the only way to test an interpretation as having validity is if it can be built upon—in a sense, whether or not it is alive.

              Allow me to demonstrate. If there exists an omni-god, we would expect that god to communicate with us somehow. Well, we have lots of options to pick from. One way to distinguish between them is to try out various ideas of ‘good’; one enticing form is that ‘good’ beings do not force other beings to suffer, except to the extent that said beings themselves force others to suffer (this justifies imprisoning and thereby doing evil (restricting freedom) to criminals). We generally consider using beings as a means to an end as ‘evil’, giving us more of an idea of what moral perfection must look like. We also would expect an omni-god to somehow promote the welfare of his/her/its creation. Christianity fits into such a framework quite nicely. You are welcome to fire back that you have an evolutionary explanation for it, but that doesn’t immediately make your interpretation better than mine.

              The best challenge by the skeptic, for theists, is: “Can you do anything statistically better than I can?” I think there’s a good reason that Jesus offers only love and unity as evidence that Christianity is true (Mt 5:43-48, Jn 13:34-35, Jn 17:20-23). Many Christians have failed to provide such evidence. The creation of a community of diverse individuals which can still interact with the outside world is a Very Hard Problem; if it can be done, then there is certainly something special to those who can do it. Doing this would constitute a strong form of evidence, would it not?

              If it can be divorced from God, it’s not information unequivocally supporting God, and could be supporting any number of other explanatory theories.

              I think it’s worse than this. I suspect that the information always ends up supporting an alternative explanation more strongly, based on your epistemology. Every testable evidence which I could claim comes from God existing, you would requisition to support your alternative explanation more strongly. I see it as a no-win scenario. The simulation needs reprogramming. :-p

              We’d need an infinity of brute facts of limited explanatory power to equate to one God brute fact that explain everything.

              So if it turns out that we really cannot escape “an infinity of brute facts of limited explanatory power”, would it turn out that God is equally as good of an explanation? I actually think we do need such an infinity; I would call it “infinitely-many non-recursively enumerable axioms”. Stated differently: no finite Turing machine could generate said axioms (or brute facts), even given infinite time.

              So perhaps the question is whether reality can be explained by finitely many brute facts? How would we argue to ‘finitely many’ vs. ‘infinitely many’? I propose that one reason to suppose ‘infinitely’ many is if Aristotle’s saying, “the more we know, the more we know we don’t know” remains true. That is, if statistically, every new discovery raises more questions than it answers.

              I don’t see the usefulness of a God belief as either evidence for or against the truth of that belief.

              Ahhh, but it is the reason for why we say science discovers (or approaches) truth: “It works.” And yet, this reason is not an exhaustive way to discover truth, because we are not given that all truth will help us to manipulate reality. Indeed, the Judaic as well as Christian conception of Yahweh includes as a central part that some of our desires to manipulate reality are wrong-headed! What God wants is often not what we want! Much religion involves introspection and questioning of whether we are on the best of all possible paths. Now, if we say that science is the only legitimate way of examining truth, much of this vanishes, allegedly in the vein of the emperor’s new clothes. And yet, this is a deeply suspect way to view ‘truth’!

              absolutely, yet those anthropomorphic descriptions of God are apparently at odds with a perfect being

              Why do you say this? Why is it wrong e.g. for a perfect being to be angry, or love?

              “There is a terrific amount of the Bible that is easily comprehensible” and again, that would appear to be the human roots of the book and at odds with our more modern concepts of God.

              See how you just interpreted the evidence differently? And yet, you seem almost ignorant of that, as if obviously the evidence supports your interpretation more than mine. And then you ask me for evidence!

              “So how is this supernatural realm so ‘utterly different’?” – almost by definition it must be different? If it allows for disembodied minds that can apply cause to nothing and produce an effect, that can exist yet be outside of space and time, to think yet not be in time etc.

              It is only the assumption of causal closure that makes us think that human creativity has zero aspect of bringing something into existence out of nothing. By “bringing something into existence out of nothing”, I include imposing a pattern on matter that it would so statistically insignificantly adopt without creativity that “out of nothing” really is an apt description.

              “Perhaps the act of creation itself is good.” – perhaps it is, but it seems to me that shifts the meaning of “good” away from how it is traditionally used. Perhaps we could build a reasonable moral framework around creation==good. Nice idea.

              It would probably destroy consumerism, and greatly enhance what it means to be ‘human’. I would say it would make us more like God, and that this is a good thing. :-p

              “Then I just don’t understand your point.” – and I’m loosing in a comprehension battle with your answer. What I was getting at is on a number line, any finite number is as far away from +infinity end if the line no matter how large that finite number is. I’m obviously equating “limitless” with infinite here.

              I would see Satan as the antithesis to God, not humans, though? It doesn’t seem to make sense that an opposite of a thing can become ever-more-like that thing. Satan isn’t becoming ever-more-like God; he is the opposite of God, at least in the moral realm (and one suspects that this is what matters most!).

              You aren’t really dealing with infinity in a good way; a number and ∞ are different types. On the other hand, a radio signal with infinite Fourier series can still be well-approximated with finitely many terms (there is the Gibbs phenomenon, but hopefully we can ignore that for now). As you add more terms, the approximation becomes ever-more-like the true signal. As more terms are added, the approximation can be subtracted from the true signal to yield a smaller and smaller residue. This is not possible with a number and ∞; the two cannot be subtracted, as the operation simply isn’t defined with those two types as the operands.

              It is important to differentiate between infinite description, and infinity as the limit of a divergent series. The former has infinite intricacy, while the latter is a very simple kind of infinity. I’m pretty sure that God being infinite is of the former type. What would it even mean for him to be infinite in the latter type?

            • That rather begs the question, or prompts questioning as to whether noncoporeal entities exist or are even possible.

            • Nerdsamwich

              The problem is not that there isn’t a “perfect” definition of deity, but that there isn’t even a working definition, beyond a disembodied being that possesses the attributes of being all-knowing, all-powerful, and all loving(sometimes, and for certain non-standard definitions of “love” and “all”). And even that nebulous definition is missing from many theistic arguments, such as any that end in “this we call God.” So, if you want to argue for the existence of your deity, please tell us first exactly which one we’re arguing about.

            • Luke Breuer

              God is “The greatest possible being” with the caveat of “only a little bit”. I’m using the ontological argument, not for the argument, but merely for its formulation of God. My caveat reduces to our inability to imagine infinite beings (constituted by infinitely many non-recursively enumerable axioms, for example), given that we are finite beings with finite minds. So instead we have to model God with successive approximations, always heeding Ex 20:3-6, nicely illustrated by Ceci n’est pas une pipe..

            • Nerdsamwich

              So, in your estimation, what then are the great-making qualities? You haven’t answered anything, merely buried your refusal to answer under another layer of obfuscation. I could say that a great being must be capable of great evil, if I really wanted to. The question up for debate remains: What exactly do YOU mean when you say, “God”?

            • Luke Breuer

              Admitting up-front that it is only an approximation, I would say the person of Jesus Christ, who promoted the well-being of others but not via compulsion, and not via sacrificing the well-being of some “them” group of humans (think “us vs. them”). I think the character of Jesus is pretty well fleshed out. There are multiple interpretations of him, but that’s virtually unavoidable; the Bible is very likely a Rorschach test, a la Hebrews 4:12-13. It reveals what is in your heart by how you interpret it.

              I believe God created a world where universal salvation was possible, but only by the free choices of beings to submit to the moral law that was designed into the fabric of reality. In such a scenario, one could have a utopia with no prison, where all are thriving forever. But the path to that utopia is one of self-denial and self-sacrifice, being a servant of others. Nietzsche hated this, by the way.

              Honestly, I don’t think I can give you the answer you want, because I think each of us has an idea of God which is a holistic function of what we believe to be ‘good’, and what we believe to be ‘evil’.

            • Nerdsamwich

              But why would this loving being create the conditions from which we need to be saved in the first place? Does not omnipotence include the ability to create free-willed agents who always choose rightly?

            • Luke Breuer
            • Nerdsamwich

              Do you believe in Heaven? Is there sin there?

            • Luke Breuer

              I believe in heaven, but I know extremely little about it, so that’s not going to be a fruitful discussion between us.

            • Nerdsamwich

              No one knows anything about it that’s in a position to tell us, that’s why we call them beliefs, and not knowledge. I’m just asking what you believe: is there sin in heaven?

            • Luke Breuer

              Sometimes I prefer not to talk about ideas that I’m not ready to discuss, to research, etc. So no, I’m not going to answer your question here. Randal Rauser has researched the topic extensively and written the book What on Earth Do We Know about Heaven?: 20 Questions and Answers about Life after Death; why don’t you start there? He’ll have much more to say, in more detail, than I. And he’ll have thought through it more carefully.

            • Nerdsamwich

              That’s the closest you’ve come yet to a simple, direct answer to a simple, direct question. Hats off. Let’s restructure the question, then. In your opinion, is it logically impossible for an all-powerful being to create free-willed agents that always freely choose to do the right thing? Remember, In Your Opinion, not in the opinion of an article or a book somewhere. Not Alvin Plantinga’s formulation of a weaseling around the question. I want to know what you, personally, actually think about something.

            • Luke Breuer

              I have not made progress over and above Plantinga’s “transworld depravity” argument. It’s just not that interesting of a problem to me right now. If we start to simulate worlds with ‘soulish’ beings, I will get interested in this. Until then? Our reality certainly has depravity. I’ll work with that. Enough of this “construct an idea of God that doesn’t match reality, say that this is the only reasonable version of God, and then dismiss God” crap. At least, that seems to be where you were going. If you were merely curious, then I apologize, but I do not choose to expend the extraordinary amount of time required to sate all of your curiosity.

              P.S. Yes I have thought one or two steps about “can there be sin in heaven”, but I know that if I were to present them, you’d want a third, fourth, and fifth step. That’s why I don’t present steps one and two.

            • Nerdsamwich

              You could have said several posts ago that you weren’t planning on answering.

            • Luke Breuer

              You mean like this:

              I believe in heaven, but I know extremely little about it, so that’s not going to be a fruitful discussion between us.

              ?

        • You don’t think there are any brute facts about god? I think there are. See here: Might God Be A Brute Fact Too?

          • Luke Breuer

            I should really do some reading on divine freedom before replying. The ideas you wrestle with are wrestled with by the pros, including a friend of mine in his article Understanding Omnipotence, which he wrote with respected Alexander Pruss. I don’t know whether they have good answers for your blog entry, but they probably have something to add, if you are not aware of what they’ve said. Philosophy of religion folks tend to speak more clearly and deeply than your average apologist.

            • Might it be the case that the god of classical theism is impossible?

            • Luke Breuer

              It might be. But classical physics was ‘wrong’, and yet a very useful approximation.

            • True, but classical physics was not to my knowledge logically impossible, and if it was it reinforces my point.

            • Luke Breuer

              We’ve been over your claim that God is logically impossible; you refused to look into the math I presented which shows that there can be right and wrong ways of combining infinities to get something sensible. You seem to think you’ve surveyed all the major conceptions of Yahweh (I don’t think there are that many; I doubt the variety is that large except perhaps at the extremely detailed level), and found that none of them is logically consistent. I don’t believe you have done this, at least not accurately.

              What you’re essentially claiming, by the way, is that theologians and atheists have been talking about square circles all of this time. There are two extremes of logical contradiction:

                   (I) totally contradictory (square circle)
                   (II) misconception easily fixed

              There really isn’t any way to talk about (I); it would be extremely confused discussion chock-full of contradiction. (II), on the other hand, allows for plenty of conversation, where the concept discussed is sufficiently non-contradictory to have true content. It seems obvious that most discussion of the omni-god concept has plenty of content, indicating that the omni-god concept is much closer to (II) than (I). Otherwise, it has been emperor’s new clothes, and even your articles, asking what an omni-god could do, are tantamount to asking “What could a thelvbaloon do?” But clearly you yourself think you were talking about something with more content than the made-up word I used.

            • If god’s nature is really just a misconception that’s easily fixed, we’d have found out the misconception and fixed it a long time ago. Doesn’t seem to have happened and seems to never to never will.

            • Luke Breuer

              Easily fixed? Who claims that? There is a long theological tradition of God being well beyond our ability to fully comprehend or describe. See apophatic theology for an extreme case. As to your “seems to never… will”, you have an idea of what progress ought to look like that I probably just don’t share.

            • Well Luke, I was borrowing from your choice of words. You gave 2 options and the one you advocated for was that the god paradoxes were “easily fixed” — your words, not mine. Personally, I find the “beyond our ability to fully comprehend or describe” the ultimate cop out, especially since the purpose of this whole universe is, according to most Christians, to “know” god. Well if god seems like a logical contradiction and this dilemma can’t ever be resolved, then god is just a warm fuzzy feeling you get, and is not to me anything more than an subjective emotion.

            • Luke Breuer

              I didn’t give you two choices; I gave you “two extremes”. It is often helpful to know what the extremes are, even though it’s often best to not sit at one.

              In terms of your “ultimate cop out”, there is a crucial difference between thinking that God is beyond complete knowing (except perhaps as t → ∞), and believing that he cannot be known more. The two are often conflated; this is an error.

              And finally, we seem awfully stuck on this God being a logical contradiction business. Would you care to take another whack at it, as concisely as possible?

            • I linked you to my blog post where I lay that out quite concisely, and so far I haven’t seen a response from you explaining the inconsistency. But you might say something like, “Oh that’s not the way I see God.” So can you please describe your god for us before I attempt to answer your question?

            • Luke Breuer

              After all the answering of your questions I’ve done, you won’t condense your argument into a paragraph or two?

            • Ok let me summarize it for you:

              Try answering this question, “How does a timeless god who knows everything “freely” chose to create our universe and not some other universe?”

              This question occurred to me when I was thinking about Einstein’s hypothetical question, “Did God have a choice in creating the universe?” The answer I’ve come up with is “No.” God could not have a choice in creating the universe because choices require time and states of indecision. If god is omniscient and knows everything, then he knew that he would create our universe, and not any other universe, and he knew he would create a universe and not refrain from creation. For god to have had a choice in creating the universe, he would have had to exist in some moment or in some mental state where he was unsure of whether or not he would create a universe. For this to be possible god would have to exist in time and there would have to be something god couldn’t know, namely, whether or not he’d create a universe. Such a god could not be timeless and omniscient, as the god of classical theism is described to be. And thus, the god of classical theism is not logically coherent.

              To get around this, some theists have said that god simply “exists” with the intention to create a universe eternally. William Lane Craig, for example recently said this in his debate with Lawrence Krauss last year. The problem with this idea, is that it is not enough for god to simply “exist” with the intention to create “a” universe, he’d have to exist with the intention to create “our” universe, otherwise god faces the same problem of needing time to make his decision on what universe to create and he’d also have to exist in a state of indecision prior to deciding what kind of universe he’d create. So now let’s suppose that god exists timelessly with the intention to create our universe and not any other. Now the “why” question arises. Why does god exist timelessly with the intention to create our universe and not any other universe, or no universe? It doesn’t seem possible if god exists timeless with the intention to create our universe that the creation of any other universe or no universe can happen. For if god’s mind is timelessly locked into creating our universe, no other possibilities can occur. So how is the theist going to answer the why question? It seems to me that they must come to the idea that god’s eternal state to create our universe is a brute fact, because it is logically impossible for god to have had a different intention if he exists timelessly with the intention to create our universe.

              I feel like your answer to this will be, “Oh that’s not the way I see God,” or “there’s an answer, we can’t know it.” I would urge you to seriously try and answer the questions I raise as best you can.

            • Luke Breuer

              choices require time and states of indecision.

              It’s not at all clear that time is required. You merely need a sequence of events, each which is logically predicated upon the previous one.

              If god is omniscient and knows everything

              I believe I’ve pointed out to you before that omniscience can easily mean “knowing everything that can be known”. What problems exist with the future choices of first-cause beings being not-completely-predictable?

              Why does god exist timelessly with the intention to create our universe and not any other universe, or no universe?

              The ontological argument has long held that existence is better than non-existence—I would restrict this to ‘good’ states of affairs. And so, it would be better for a good universe to exist in fact, instead of merely as an idea in God’s mind. Likewise, it would be better for bad universes to not exist in fact, which predicts that if there is a multiverse, which worlds actually exist are a strict subset of the logically possible worlds.

              It seems to me that they must come to the idea that god’s eternal state to create our universe is a brute fact

              It’s not clear that brute fact-ness can be utterly eradicated. Are you aware of the Münchhausen trilemma? If brute fact-ness cannot be eradicated, what kinds of brute facts are preferable to other kinds of brute facts, according to you?

              Your argument confuses me a bit; are you saying that God necessarily had to create our universe, because it exists? This is generally rejected, and can be explored by comparing contingent beings to necessary beings in the philosophical literature.

              “Oh that’s not the way I see God,”

              Perfectly possible, and I may have done it via my discussion of ‘omniscience’. You seem to be treating this as a bad thing, and I don’t know why. My questioning your conception of God is tantamount to my questioning the axioms of your formal system; we know the principle of “garbage in, garbage out”.

              “there’s an answer, we can’t know it.”

              Have I ever said this, in our many exchanges?

            • primenumbers

              “It’s not at all clear that time is required. You merely need a sequence of events, each which is logically predicated upon the previous one.” – isn’t that a conceptualization of time though – a series of events?

            • Luke Breuer

              If you read up on the philosophy of time, you’ll find that it’s a bit more complex than you’re making it out to be.

            • Funny you should mention that. You keep appealing to philosophy of this and that, but fail to recognise when things don’t work in your favour. Take time. Most philosophers and scientists adhere to the B Theory of time, which is the understanding of time that would invalidate your version of god! If we have a block universe, as most scientists think, then we don’t have free will, and a judgemental god is incoherent.

            • Luke Breuer

              You keep appealing to philosophy of this and that, but fail to recognise when things don’t work in your favour.

              I would appreciate specific evidences of this, because I try to deal with things that don’t work in my favor, instead of ignoring them. This makes it difficult for me to do much of anything useful with general criticisms; I am profoundly self-critical already.

              I previously skimmed your (well, written by someone else) Time, Free Will and the Block Universe. It strikes me that the author gets to ‘block universe’ by positing the complete history of random fluctuations, plus the laws of the universe, to get an invariant. But the very construction of the block universe has encoded compatibilism into it, by saying that there are no causes other than random fluctuations! There is no logical reason why one could not get spontaneous eruption of local order (SELO), not arising from {randomness, laws} alone. If one adds to the set: {randomness, laws, first-cause actions}, and builds a block universe on that, then some kind of non-compatibilist free will is reintroduced.

            • Well, it all depends on how you define free will. I am a compatibilist insofar as determinism is compatible with free will so defined, Only that is not how theists and LFWers define it.Your SELO, afaict, does not get you that rational ownership.

            • Luke Breuer

              SELO seems to defeat CFW. It presents a logical possibility that seems almost universally ignored by those who want to think of the universe as a giant machine, mechanically ticking away in a deterministic manner (pure randomness doesn’t really make it non-deterministic, as one can just add the ‘tape’ of randomness that gets ‘played’ as time rolls forward, to get our block universe back).

            • primenumbers

              So time your statement is not a conceptualization of time, but something else? Whether what philosophers or physicists think of as their model of time is more complex than a series of events or not, we can certainly conceptualize your sequence of events as being a temporal sequence and such a temporal sequence needs some form of time to be.

              Although you conceptualize your God as a disembodied mind, “to think” is to think in time. When we act, we act in time. Causality occurs in time. We cannot divorce ourselves, and our language from this temporal existence. As long as you have God thinking or acting, those words imply time, and if you insist on atemporality for God, then you need new words to describe thinking and acting without time, and a really good idea for us on how such analogues would work.

            • Luke Breuer

              I’m happy to let these things be mysteries… for the time being. :-p I just don’t see how right now, further understanding of these things would have any bearing on reality as I understand it. When there is no such connection, I have little confidence of understanding such knowledge.

            • It’s not at all clear that time is required. You merely need a sequence of events, each which is logically predicated upon the previous one.

              A sequence of mental events alone is sufficient to generate relations of earlier and later, wholly in the absence of any physical events. And if logic concludes god must create our universe, then you will agree with me that god couldn’t have refrained from creating our universe.

              I believe I’ve pointed out to you before that omniscience can easily mean “knowing everything that can be known”.

              So is it your position that god cannot know what he will do? And if so, is it logically impossible for him to know this?

              The ontological argument has long held that existence is better than non-existence—I would restrict this to ‘good’ states of affairs. And so, it would be better for a good universe to exist in fact, instead of merely as an idea in God’s mind. Likewise, it would be better for bad universes to not exist in fact, which predicts that if there is a multiverse, which worlds actually exist are a strict subset of the logically possible worlds.

              There’s a lot here. First, if existence is better than non-existence, does that apply to evil too? Second, existence is not a property. Hume made that argument centuries ago. Third, if it’s better for a good universe to exist and better for bad universes to not exist, why does our “good” universe contain so much unnecessary suffering, especially the suffering that befell non-humans before humans evolved? Fourth, you seem to be agreeing with me that our universe is necessary under the god hypothesis and god really did not have a choice in creating it.

              If brute fact-ness cannot be eradicated, what kinds of brute facts are preferable to other kinds of brute facts, according to you?

              I’m asking if there are any brute facts about god. You seem to be saying that the creation of our universe is logically necessary once one assumes the god hypothesis. Is that true? Is our universe necessary or contingent? If it is contingent, you must answer my question head on, “How does a timeless god who knows everything “freely” chose to create our universe and not some other universe?”

              By saying, “You merely need a sequence of events, each which is logically predicated upon the previous one” you are implying that our universe is logically necessary.

              Perfectly possible, and I may have done it via my discussion of ‘omniscience’.

              Remember, I’m arguing that the god of classical theism is logically impossible, so if you’ve got another god I’d of course have to redraw my assessment, but you’d have to explain your god.

              Have I ever said this, in our many exchanges?

              You’ve often invoked a plead towards the old saying, “God’s ways are higher than ours.”

            • Luke Breuer

              A sequence of mental events alone is sufficient to generate relations of earlier and later, wholly in the absence of any physical events. And if logic concludes god must create our universe, then you will agree with me that god couldn’t have refrained from creating our universe.

              I don’t see how this follows. I don’t see why time is necessary to making decisions. It seems that you’re actually offering a critique of LFW, which argues that choices are grounded in some combination of { a previous state of affairs, pure randomness }. But this is not a complete set; we can also get spontaneous eruptions of local order (SELO) that are neither well-explained by a previous state of affairs, nor by randomness. The answer to why some given SELO happened is that it was chosen by a mind. Time is not required.

              So is it your position that god cannot know what he will do? And if so, is it logically impossible for him to know this?

              Again, we’ve been over this. Either you can posit first-cause agents, in which case their choices cannot be foreknown, or you can posit agents which cannot be first causes, in which case all of their ‘choices’ can be known, for they deterministically follow from prior states. God himself would be a first-cause agent, in which case he would not foreknow everything he does. He can still have character which restricts what kinds of things he would do, but this character need not restrict him to a single course of action. Such an idea is predicated upon the ill-founded assumption that there is one best possible future.

              First, if existence is better than non-existence, does that apply to evil too? Second, existence is not a property. Hume made that argument centuries ago. Third, if it’s better for a good universe to exist and better for bad universes to not exist, why does our “good” universe contain so much unnecessary suffering, especially the suffering that befell non-humans before humans evolved? Fourth, you seem to be agreeing with me that our universe is necessary under the god hypothesis and god really did not have a choice in creating it.

              1. Did you even read what I wrote? “—I would restrict this to ‘good’ states of affairs.”

              2. No, Kant made it. And whether or not existence is a property is irrelevant to the claim that existence of good things is better than non-existence.

              3. The assumption that the suffering is unnecessary would be wrong. Our knowledge is limited but hopefully ever-growing.

              4. I believe our specific universe is partially determined by the first-cause actions of created beings, which means that how things turned out was not necessary. Second, for an agent to do what is in its nature to be called ‘necessary’ is sort of odd. Third, who is to say that it would have been worse for God to create a different world than ours, a world which is mutually contradictory with our own? To posit that it is in God’s nature to create means that he creates; to posit that it is God’s nature to do good means that his creations will manifest goodness. To add ‘necessarily’ to these… what does that accomplish? What is the point?

              I’m asking if there are any brute facts about god.

              Well, the ontological argument argues that ‘bestness’ or ‘perfection’ make the facts not-brute. That is, there is an underlying pattern to all of them.

              If it is contingent, you must answer my question head on, “How does a timeless god who knows everything “freely” chose to create our universe and not some other universe?”

              Being able to freely do something is a fundamental property of first-cause agents; your question is tantamount to asking what quarks are made of, in the world where quarks are a fundamental particle.

              Remember, I’m arguing that the god of classical theism is logically impossible, so if you’ve got another god I’d of course have to redraw my assessment, but you’d have to explain your god.

              There is no single “god of classical theism”.

              You’ve often invoked a plead towards the old saying, “God’s ways are higher than ours.”

              Examples, please. I may have said that things are currently unknowable, or that we will only perfectly understand God as t → ∞, but these are very different claims from the typical “God’s ways are higher than ours”, which attempts to put God’s ways permanently outside our kenotic reach—despite the fact that the Biblical context has God wanting evil people to adopt his ways!

            • I don’t see why time is necessary to making decisions.

              Then logical explain how a decision can be made without any notion of time existing.

              we can also get spontaneous eruptions of local order (SELO) that are neither well-explained by a previous state of affairs, nor by randomness. The answer to why some given SELO happened is that it waschosen by a mind. Time is not required.

              I don’t think SELO holds any weight. If it’s spontaneous it isn’t and cannot be free will, if a mind chose it then it isn’t really spontaneous but is rather something like random quantum probability or something deliberate. There will always be a before and an after the SELO event, hence time.

              Either you can posit first-cause agents, in which case their choices cannot be foreknown, or you can posit agents which cannot be first causes, in which case all of their ‘choices’ can be known, for they deterministically follow from prior states.

              Suppose I was watching a movie of first cause agents in action and I can know the end of the movie, then couldn’t I know the actions of the agents before they made them?

              God himself would be a first-cause agent, in which case he would not foreknow everything he does.

              Oh Ok, so you’re taking the position that god doesn’t know what he will do because it’s impossible. So how does he go from states of indecision to states of decision without time?

              1. Surely there are better worlds than the one we live in. Do you have an explanation of how a timeless being can “freely” create one universe from the other especially if their decision must stem from an eternity? Any change necessitates time so you cannot plead that god went from indecision to decision.

              2. Existence of no things is better than the existence of bad things. You still have to explain how a timeless being can choose one universe over the other, and how it cannot know its own future.

              3. Do you have a plausible theodicy to alleviate this burden from yourself?

              4. So our universe is not necessary, and that’s your position. Ok then, how could it not have existed given a timeless and omniscient god?

              Well, the ontological argument argues that ‘bestness’ or ‘perfection’ make the facts not-brute. That is, there is an underlying pattern to all of them.

              Let’s put the OA aside for now and focus on my question, “How does a timeless god who knows everything freely chose to create our universe and not some other universe?” Is it a brute fact that god willed our universe into existence? If not, then how could it have been different given god’s timeless nature? For god to have had a choice in creating the universe, he would have had to exist in some moment or in some mental state where he was unsure of whether or not he would create a universe. For this to be possible god would have to exist in time and there would have to be something god couldn’t know, namely, whether or not he’d create a universe. Such a god could not be timeless and omniscient, as the god of classical theism is described to be.

              Being able to freely do something is a fundamental property of first-cause agents; your question is tantamount to asking what quarks are made of, in the world where quarks are a fundamental particle.

              My argument is that given the nature of the classical theistic god, first cause agency is impossible. That’s why the omni-god of classical theism is logically incoherent.

              There is no single “god of classical theism”.

              There are several main attributes that this god has: timelessness, spacelessness, all knowing, all loving and all powerful.

              Examples, please.

              Didn’t we get into a big thing over your vagueness a while back?

            • Luke Breuer

              Then logical explain how a decision can be made without any notion of time existing.

              A mind freely chooses X. X is chosen. No time is required. I do posit, as a fundamental aspect of reality, mind. So if you keep asking “why, why, why”, the progression terminates in choices made by a mind. You ostensibly prefer to terminate it in pure randomness conditioned by the laws of the universe; I find that less than compelling. But time isn’t required. Computation can happen without time; all that is required is logical causation, logical relations between entities, terminating in axioms.

              I don’t think SELO holds any weight. If it’s spontaneous it isn’t and cannot be free will, if a mind chose it then it isn’t really spontaneous but is rather something like random quantum probability or something deliberate.

              See, you’re grounding everything in quantum fluctuations. Quantum fluctuations do not, statistically, well-explain SELO. If we observe SELO, then our current quantum description of reality would be incomplete. I see you are devoted to physicalism and mind not being a fundamental constituent of reality; that is fine, but you must admit that you don’t conclude that mind arises from randomness, you presume it, from the very foundations of your ontology.

              Time has nothing to do with this. It really isn’t required for this discussion to happen.

              Suppose I was watching a movie of first cause agents in action and I can know the end of the movie, then couldn’t I know the actions of the agents before they made them?

              Sure, one can enforce invariants like “the ending has to look thus and so”, without forcing the means along some specific path. Indeed, there are mathematical formulations in quantum field theory that say particles travel every path from point A to point B; the only restrictions lie in when the particle is observed. It’s weird stuff.

              So how does he go from states of indecision to states of decision without time?

              I don’t know. I don’t even know how we do it with time. I really don’t think time is an issue, here.

              1. Surely there are better worlds than the one we live in. Do you have an explanation of how a timeless being can “freely” create one universe from the other especially if their decision must stem from an eternity? Any change necessitates time so you cannot plead that god went from indecision to decision.

              2. Existence of no things is better than the existence of bad things. You still have to explain how a timeless being can choose one universe over the other, and how it cannot know its own future.

              3. Do you have a plausible theodicy to alleviate this burden from yourself?

              4. So our universe is not necessary, and that’s your position. Ok then, how could it not have existed given a timeless and omniscient god?

              1. I don’t necessarily agree that there is a better world than this one, such that God screwed up in creating this one. I think we can make this world a better one; I’m much more confident about that one. And I believe it will require bona fide free-will choices. We really do have the free choice to make it a shittier or nicer world. Often, making it a nicer world requires self-sacrifice. I don’t know how God chooses one world over another; I don’t see how this knowledge would help me better understand/navigate reality, and thus am highly of my ability to come up with an answer that would be likely to be true.

              2. I reject your first sentence. And No, I really don’t think I ‘have’ to explain these things, any more than you ‘have’ to explain abiogenesis for the theory of evolution to be the best one out there, and worth believing.

              3. My theodicy puts the burden on me to do my part in alleviating the suffering in the world. I’m not sure what else you want, here. Either enough people do enough of what is required to make the world a less shitty place (this includes counterbalancing people who continue doing evil things), or we’re screwed.

              4. Time is not required for making decisions. You’re really just attaching time to things when it needed be attached. I’ll give you an example: if God created two different universes with different spacetimes, which one did he create first? This isn’t as crazy a question as it might sound; see the various ideas of the multiverse which are bandied about by scientists. The answer cannot be based on time, at least time within any of the universes—not if they don’t interact with each other. Look, you think you’ve found a knock-down argument, but you’ve hardly explored the territory. I’ve explored it enough to know you haven’t, but not enough to give you a survey of it.

              Didn’t we get into a big thing over your vagueness a while back?

              I cannot connect ‘vagueness’ with my saying “God’s ways are higher than ours.”, in the sense that we humans have permanent kenotic blindspots. I’ve never, to my knowledge, claimed this. Might I suggest that your memory is vague and you’re making stuff up and attributing it to me? Perhaps you’re drawing from things other theists say?

            • There is a before and after the mind chooses X, therefore you haven’t escaped the problem of the necessity of time.

              During SELO is there a before and after the eruption?

              1. I don’t necessarily agree that there is a better world than this one,

              Really? have you been to Detroit? Are you telling me that there is no world in which god did not have to use millions of years of suffering to enable human beings to exist? Nonsense.

              And No, I really don’t think I ‘have’ to explain these things, any more than you ‘have’ to explain abiogenesis for the theory of evolution to be the best one out there, and worth believing.

              Would you rather exist in a state of pure torture with no hope of relief or not exist at all?

              Abiogenesis is at least explainable and scientific, and possibly testable. Your explanation for god is I don’t know, but it’s possible, just trust me. It is a logical contradiction.

              Either enough people do enough of what is required to make the world a less shitty place (this includes counterbalancing people who continue doing evil things), or we’re screwed.

              If making the world a less shitty place results in large numbers of people turning from god and embracing atheism is it still worth it in your opinion?

              if God created two different universes with different spacetimes, which one did he create first?

              No one denies two things can be created at the same time (although relativity can make that complicated). Time is absolutely required for decision making because there will always be a before and an after the decision, and a state of indecision that changes into a state of decision. All change requires time. You need to own up to this and stop avoiding the obvious.

              cannot connect ‘vagueness’ with my saying “God’s ways are higher than ours.”, in the sense that we humans have permanent kenotic blindspots.

              Is it not true that you think god’s ways are higher than ours and unknowable?

            • Luke Breuer

              There is a before and after the mind chooses X, therefore you haven’t escaped the problem of the necessity of time.

              Your conception of time does not allow thought to happen outside of our universe, doesn’t allow discussion of how universes could pop into existence from a multiverse, etc. You have a very provincial idea of time. Honestly, I’m tired of discussing it; were I really interested, I would want to engage with the philosophers and scientists who have thought deeply about it—have you done this? I just don’t see how your criticisms re: God and time are anything other than the creationist citing irreducible complexity as a defeater to belief in evolution. If you can tell me why not understanding something re: God and time ought to change how I live now, do tell me. Show me where if I only knew how something re: God and time worked, my life could be so much better. I cannot even fathom such a thing.

              Really? have you been to Detroit? Are you telling me that there is no world in which god did not have to use millions of years of suffering to enable human beings to exist? Nonsense.

              Wave, wave, wave goes the omni-wand which can pretend anything into existence, including logically impossible things. Look, you can wave all you want. I’m going to work with the world we have.

              Abiogenesis is at least explainable and scientific, and possibly testable. Your explanation for god is I don’t know, but it’s possible, just trust me. It is a logical contradiction.

              Just like you have confidence that abiogenesis will be sorted out, I have confidence that these apparent contradictions with God will be sorted out. Actually, I have confidence both will be sorted out. And until I see the problems you mention intersect real life in the hear and now, I’m going to ignore them just like most evolutionary biologists ignore abiogenesis.

              If making the world a less shitty place results in large numbers of people turning from god and embracing atheism is it still worth it in your opinion?

              Yep, but I doubt you have done anything close to establishing that as causation instead of correlation. But yes, if I had to choose between something I saw as an objectively better world, mutually exclusive with a belief in Jesus, I would abandon my belief in Jesus, as it entails the producing of an objectively better world and would thus be falsified.

              No one denies two things can be created at the same time

              If you knew the first thing about spacetime and the lack of it and how time is thought of and how to try and relate time to different multiverses, you wouldn’t say what you just have said. Look, I don’t know enough about this stuff to teach you more about how time is thought of, and I have too little interest in reading up on the stuff myself. If you want to, I’m telling you there is material you can go and read.

              Is it not true that you think god’s ways are higher than ours and unknowable?

              I’ve said this again and again, so I’ll just quote myself:

              I may have said that things are currently unknowable, or that we will only perfectly understand God as t → ∞, but these are very different claims from the typical “God’s ways are higher than ours”, which attempts to put God’s ways permanently outside our kenotic reach—despite the fact that the Biblical context has God wanting evil people to adopt his ways!

            • Your conception of time does not allow thought to happen outside of our universe, doesn’t allow discussion of how universes could pop into existence from a multiverse, etc.

              My conception of time takes into full consideration the many theories on time out there (presentism, possiblism, eternalism, metaphysical time, etc.) so yes I’ve thought deeply about it. You simply want god to do things that requires time, but without time, and hope that there’s an answer for this somewhere out there that we’ll never know, until god tells us one day perhaps after we’re dead.

              If you can tell me why not understanding something re: God and time ought to change how I live now, do tell me.

              I’m not trying to offer you something that will help your personal problems, I’m merely discussing ontology, science and theology with you. I get pleasure by discussing these things, because I’m a lover of wisdom.

              Look, you can wave all you want. I’m going to work with the world we have.

              Look, you can ignore the logical contradictions in god all you want. I’m going to work with the world we have.

              Just like you have confidence that abiogenesis will be sorted out, I have confidence that these apparent contradictions with God will be sorted out.

              Abiogenesis may be complex, but there is no contradiction in it. With god you’ve got a contradiction that you simply assert either doesn’t exist, or will be solved. Now you can believe in god if you want, but know that it is these very conundrums in theology that inspire many to jettison their belief in god altogether. I’ve been asking these same questions since I was a kid of 5 or 6 and now that I’m an adult, I see the theologians haven’t really found an answer. To me I think it’s more then just we haven’t found the answer yet. To me, there is a logical contradiction in the god of classical theism, thus I’m confident there is no answer and never will be.

              I’m going to ignore them just like most evolutionary biologists ignore abiogenesis.

              Well these are two different fields. Evolution starts after life arises, that’s why many biologists do not study abiogenesis.

              Yep, but I doubt you have done anything close to establishing that as causation instead of correlation.

              It does seem that as countries advance economically, religion declines. There is more to it than money and quality of life of course. It does seem that the trend for societies is towards secularism. We both want to live in a better world, but I think that will lead to more secularism and less religiosity.

              If you knew the first thing about spacetime and the lack of it and how time is thought of and how to try and relate time to different multiverses, you wouldn’t say what you just have said.

              I do know a thing or two about spacetime, in fact I’m fascinated by it. Spacetime or the multiverse do not deny that two things can happen at the same time. If they are in the same space locality they can be simultaneous, if they are separated by large amounts of space, then they can happen at the same time, but only subjectively so; we could never say they were simultaneous objectively. (There is a paradox called the EPR paradox that I am leaving out for simplicity)

              Look, I don’t know enough about this stuff to teach you more about how time is thought of, and I have too little interest in reading up on the stuff myself.

              If you knew the first thing about spacetime and the lack of it and how time is thought of and how to try and relate time to different multiverses, you wouldn’t say what you just have said.

            • Luke Breuer

              so yes I’ve thought deeply about it.

              My apologies, I saw nothing which evidenced that in what you’ve said previously. Whom or what have you read on the topic? I’ve only scratched the surface, myself.

              I’m not trying to offer you something that will help your personal problems, I’m merely discussing ontology, science and theology with you. I get pleasure by discussing these things, because I’m a lover of wisdom.

              Ahh, but if we can’t think of how some truth-claim would impact our interaction with reality, how on earth do we know whether it is true or not?

              Look, you can ignore the logical contradictions in god all you want.

              It seemed like light couldn’t be both particles and waves. It seemed like a contradiction. And yet people were able to work with the contradiction, and ultimately resolve it. Likewise, people seem to be able to work with current concepts of God. We’re not talking about square circles, here. Those are just nonsensical. At least some concepts of God aren’t thusly nonsensical; they can truly be talked about in meaningful ways.

              know that it is these very conundrums in theology that inspire many to jettison their belief in god altogether.

              Really? This surprises me; on what evidence base do you say this? Reality is full of conundrums; the best scientists can tolerate them and still do research, ultimately resolve some here and finding others there. This was told me by a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, so I have reason to believe that he knows what he’s talking about.

              Well these are two different fields. Evolution starts after life arises, that’s why many biologists do not study abiogenesis.

              My point is that lacking completeness of description is not a reason to discard what has been done so far. Not all lacunae are fatal. And when you’re developing a description of reality, you’re almost definitely going to either have apparent contradictions and/or lacunae. That’s just how increasing knowledge works. Both apparent contradictions and lacunae are signs that something interesting can perhaps be discovered by investigating them. Not always; sometimes some given lacuna/contradiction cannot be addressed until more understanding is gained elsewhere.

              It does seem that as countries advance economically, religion declines.

              Christianity predicted that: “It is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Or: “You cannot serve both God and money.” Christian theology has long held that prosperity has a high probability of making one think one doesn’t need God, of making one think that one can be self-sufficient. Marx thought religion was merely used to sate those who were suffering under the hands of their taskmasters. This is a degenerate form of religion, but it is not the only one.

              I am amused that secularism is so great, when so much slavery and particularly sexual slavery happen in the world. “Out of sight, out of mind.” But perhaps secularism will ultimately conquer that and produce a utopia, instead of another system of haves and have-nots, like is imagined in Blade Runner. We shall see.

              Spacetime or the multiverse do not deny that two things can happen at the same time.

              As far as I understand, as long as two universes do not interact, it is impossible, in principle, to say whether event a in universe A happened before, during, or after event b in universe B.

            • Whom or what have you read on the topic? I’ve only scratched the surface, myself.

              If you wanna learn about time you gotta research Einsteins’ theory of special relativity. That is the current paradigm of how time is scene by most scientists and philosophers today. You can also learn about time from contemporary physicists like Brian Greene, Sean Carroll, and read up on some of the philosophical implications online.

              Ahh, but if we can’t think of how some truth-claim would impact our interaction with reality, how on earth do we know whether it is true or not?

              Well Islam certainly has had an impact on our society, for better or worse (I say worse), but does impact really determine a claim’s truth? To me a truth claim is balanced on the evidence backing it up, it’s explanatory power, and the evidence (if any) against it. If it is true, yes it might yield technological benefits, but some knowledge has no practical use.

              It seemed like light couldn’t be both particles and waves. It seemed like a contradiction.

              Waves won out over particles.

              Likewise, people seem to be able to work with current concepts of God. We’re not talking about square circles, here.

              Depending on how you define god, yes it is tantamount to a square circle.

              At least some concepts of God aren’t thusly nonsensical; they can truly be talked about in meaningful ways.

              I don’t know your personal conceptualization of god, so I can’t comment until I did. When I consider god I consider varieties of the popular concepts theologians have introduced over the years. One interesting thing for an atheist like me to do is watch two theists arguing over the concept of god and take note of each of the inconsistencies they find in the other’s concept. It’s like watching Jews, Muslims and Christians debate each other.

              Reality is full of conundrums; the best scientists can tolerate them and still do research, ultimately resolve some here and finding others there.

              Yes, like the famous ladder paradox in relativity. But in science we have theory and experiment to help us in most cases, with god we’ve only god metaphysics and perhaps logic. If it seems illogical to me, and if the explanations so far do not hold up, I see no reason to believe in a deity, especially when considering all the other baggage that it comes along with.

              Both apparent contradictions and lacunae are signs that something interesting can perhaps be discovered by investigating them.

              True, but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

              Christianity predicted that: “It is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Or: “You cannot serve both God and money.”

              Which virtually all Christians conveniently ignore.

              I am amused that secularism is so great, when so much slavery and particularly sexual slavery happen in the world.

              Well don’t blame secularism on that, or the secular mindset, especially when the European (and Arabic) slave trades were carried out under the guise of an approving god.

              As far as I understand, as long as two universes do not interact, it is impossible, in principle, to say whether event a in universe A happened before, during, or after event b in universe B.

              But why must the two events have to be in separate universes? All we need are two events in the same universe.

            • Luke Breuer

              If you wanna learn about time you gotta research Einsteins’ theory of special relativity.

              To my knowledge, special relativity says nothing about two causally disconnected universes. Do you agree?

              Well Islam certainly has had an impact on our society, for better or worse (I say worse), but does impact really determine a claim’s truth?

              Impact tells you about everything which caused it.

              To me a truth claim is balanced on the evidence backing it up,

              And so if you cannot possibly trace any evidence back to how God thinks outside of time… why do you think that if I gave you some answer, you would have any way to verify it? We’d effectively be playing math games, with me trying to present a formal system of thought (no small thing) which you can successfully match up against reality. Not likely, regardless of whether such a formal system exists.

              Waves won out over particles.

              Seriously? This is false. Photons propagate as waves and interact as discretized particles. QTF still has continuous elements and discrete elements: waves and particles.

              Depending on how you define god, yes it is tantamount to a square circle.

              That’s easy: don’t define God in the square circle way.

              One interesting thing for an atheist like me to do is watch two theists arguing over the concept of god and take note of each of the inconsistencies they find in the other’s concept. It’s like watching Jews, Muslims and Christians debate each other.

              Same thing goes on with scientists when they’re talking about the bleeding edge of research. No theologian is surprised that it’s hard to pin down God. This isn’t a new discovery.

              But in science we have theory and experiment to help us in most cases, with god we’ve only god metaphysics and perhaps logic. If it seems illogical to me, and if the explanations so far do not hold up, I see no reason to believe in a deity, especially when considering all the other baggage that it comes along with.

              I see no reason to believe in a deity unless such belief can be somehow connected to experience in reality. This provides the connection whereby logic is not the only way to formulate and refine one’s idea of God. This makes apparent contradictions perfectly legitimate and non-fatal. I don’t yet understand reality fully; why the hell ought I think I can understand its creator fully? That’s insanity.

              Which virtually all Christians conveniently ignore.

              This is relevant, why? Most people are unreflective, theist or atheist.

              Well don’t blame secularism on that, or the secular mindset, especially when the European (and Arabic) slave trades were carried out under the guise of an approving god.

              It’s almost as if the connections between belief and what practices are allowed is much more complex than whether or not you believe in a deity… it’s almost as if what precisely you believe in is the thing that matters, and that belief or non-belief in a deity both can yield the same results in enough scenarios to make untangling things very tricky.

              But why must the two events have to be in separate universes? All we need are two events in the same universe.

              Because I set up that scenario, partly to see to how you understand time. To me, it seems ludicrous that you can have computation going on in either or both universes, but not outside of them. It’s an argument from ignorance: “I cannot conceive of how it would happen, therefore it does not.” I prefer to remain agnostic, unless other beliefs cause me to believe something tentatively in this realm.

            • To my knowledge, special relativity says nothing about two causally disconnected universes. Do you agree?

              It is not designed to. It is designed to explain the relationship between space and time. It has implications for a multiverse, but it is a strawman to say that relativity doesn’t address the multiverse.

              And so if you cannot possibly trace any evidence back to how God thinks outside of time… why do you think that if I gave you some answer, you would have any way to verify it?

              Well, we have no evidence of anything existing outside of time, nor do we have evidence of disembodied minds existing outside of time, that somehow have causal relationships with spacetime events (which would require time).

              Seriously? This is false. Photons propagate as waves and interact as discretized particles.

              Depends on how you interpret quantum mechanics and whether you think observation collapses the wave function or the particles of a wave exist in its own unique dimension.

              That’s easy: don’t define God in the square circle way.

              Ok give me your description of god that does not have any contradictions.

              Same thing goes on with scientists when they’re talking about the bleeding edge of research. No theologian is surprised that it’s hard to pin down God.

              Except science deals with the real world, theology deals with a subjective idea in our minds.

              I see no reason to believe in a deity unless such belief can be somehow connected to experience in reality.

              What subjective experiences exist for which one particular god (and not any other god) is the best explanation and for which biology, psychology and neuroscience have paltry answers?

              Because I set up that scenario, partly to see to how you understand time. To me, it seems ludicrous that you can have computation going on in either or both universes, but not outside of them.

              You merely asked how 2 things could happen at the same time, the multiverse has nothing to do with it. There is something called the relativity of simultaneity, which means that for any 2 events separated by space, no one can objectively say they happened at the same time. So in 2 disconnected universes, yes no one would be able to objectively say they happened at the same time. Is that good enough for you?

              It’s an argument from ignorance: “I cannot conceive of how it would happen, therefore it does not.” I prefer to remain agnostic, unless other beliefs cause me to believe something tentatively in this realm.

              The one displaying the most ignorance here on time is you. I am merely trying to answer your inquiry, I’m not trying to jump over obstacles that are contained in unstated premises in your hypotheticals.

            • Luke Breuer

              It has implications for a multiverse

              What implications does special relativity have for the multiverse? I know how it works inside universes, but not outside. In fact, I think we know remarkably little about what happens outside, such that trying to say what can and cannot happen outside with any certainty whatsoever is a remarkably dangerous task. After all, if universes pop out of X, whatever X is must be capable of something remarkable: birthing a universe like ours. Do we really want to say that X is too simple to host conscious thought?

              Well, we have no evidence of anything existing outside of time

              And yet in special circumstances, we can talk about it, based on what we do know about stuff inside time. As far as I know, those circumstances are still very special, with stuff like string theory still looking for empirical verification (I’ve heard rumors, but nothing hard and fast).

              Depends on how you interpret quantum mechanics and whether you think observation collapses the wave function or the particles of a wave exist in its own unique dimension.

              Define “particles of a wave”. I can somewhat understand Wikipedia’s “A QFT treats particles as excited states of an underlying physical field, so these are called field quanta.” Your version, I cannot; did you mean to essentially say what Wikipedia does on QFT?

              Ok give me your description of god that does not have any contradictions.

              I don’t have a full definition of God, nor do I guarantee whatever I have is free from contradictions. This is irrelevant: QFT is currently inconsistent with GR, and yet we can use both quite successfully. Contradictions in models aren’t always fatal, especially in many regimes! I suspect that if I end up running against a contradiction in my model of God that impacts whether I should do A or B in life, then I will have an opportunity to revise that model. If no revision is possible, maybe the model needs to be discarded.

              Except science deals with the real world, theology deals with a subjective idea in our minds.

              The theology I know centers on the results of the introspective senses, which you have no reason to suspect are any less objective than the extrospective senses. If sense-experience is good enough to lead to truth, all sense experience is, unless you can do more than special-plead. Hell, the measurement problem can be interpreted such that all measurements are subjective. Your wavefunction + the wavefunction of the thing being measured might be what gets you the observation you make. All observations might be intrinsically subjective! And yet this doesn’t make us unable to combine enough subjective observations to yield increasingly good approximations of objectively real things.

              What subjective experiences exist for which one particular god (and not any other god) is the best explanation and for which biology, psychology and neuroscience have paltry answers?

              You’re conflating why with how; I do not see them as contradictory. Both can exist. There are holistic ways of thinking about things and analytic ways of thinking about things. To preference one over the other is madness.

              So in 2 disconnected universes, yes no one would be able to objectively say they happened at the same time. Is that good enough for you?

              As best I understand it, the mere question of whether two events in two separate universes are simultaneous is a category mistake. There is no ‘subjective’ version; there is simply no answer.

            • What implications does special relativity have for the multiverse?

              Relativity means space and time are intertwined in to spacetime, which means a block universe. That means the multiverse would also mean eternalistic.

              Do we really want to say that X is too simple to host conscious thought?

              Conscious thought outside of time is certainly not something that makes any reasonable sense. That’s why it cannot be explained but asserted.

              Define “particles of a wave”.

              In the many worlds interpretation of QM, every state of the wave exists in its own universe. The wave is just a probability distribution of where a particle will be when measured. So it isn’t a wave like an ocean wave.

              I don’t have a full definition of God, nor do I guarantee whatever I have is free from contradictions. This is irrelevant: QFT is currently inconsistent with GR, and yet we can use both quite successfully.

              Reconciling QM with relativity is the toughest problem in science currently. But there is no contradiction, they merely describe different aspects of the universe. Once we have a valid theory of quantum gravity, we will be able to unite the two and it will unlock many mysteries of the universe.

              The theology I know centers on the results of the introspective senses, which you have no reason to suspect are any less objective than the extrospective senses.

              Doesn’t Buddhism do the same thing, and if so, isn’t it true then?

              You’re conflating why with how; I do not see them as contradictory.

              The natural science tell us how, and the strongest implication is that it is a fully natural aspect of our biological nature. That is, given naturalistic darwinian evolution, we’d expect people to have those kinds of feelings.

              As best I understand it, the mere question of whether two events in two separate universes are simultaneous is a category mistake. There is no ‘subjective’ version; there is simply no answer.

              Not sure what you’re trying to say here. Relativity means that nothing is fully objective, which makes me wonder how god can be used as an objective observer. It’s impossible.

            • Luke Breuer

              Relativity means space and time are intertwined in to spacetime, which means a block universe. That means the multiverse would also mean eternalistic.

              What does ‘eternalistic’ mean—this? And if our universe is eternalistic and the multiverse is eternalistic, why again can computation only happen in universes? Our conversation is diverging away from you justifying how you can know enough about the ‘thing’ that spawns universes to say (a) it can spawn universes; (b) it cannot support computation.

              Conscious thought outside of time is certainly not something that makes any reasonable sense. That’s why it cannot be explained but asserted.

              How can the thing that spawns universe spawn an entire universe, but not support conscious thought? That just seems ludicrous. Note here, that I do not know how those universes are spawned—that is merely posited. What you seem to say is that the requisite ‘power’ to spawn an entire universe is not sufficient to support conscious thought or computation of any sort. This is just weird. It seems like special pleading.

              In the many worlds interpretation of QM, every state of the wave exists in its own universe. The wave is just a probability distribution of where a particle will be when measured. So it isn’t a wave like an ocean wave.

              You’re using nonstandard terminology; earlier you said:

              Depends on how you interpret quantum mechanics and whether you think observation collapses the wave function or the particles of a wave exist in its own unique dimension.

              You’ve moved from “its own unique dimension” to “its own universe“. Originally, you said:

              Waves won out over particles.

              This likewise is false; the MWI is a major contender, but it has by no means ‘won out’. We cannot verify a single one of those other worlds, at least not yet. So why did you say “Waves won out over particles.”?

              But there is no contradiction, they merely describe different aspects of the universe.

              There is no contradiction until you try to work near the event horizons of black holes. Then they really do hit contradictions. This is why I said, (emphasis added)

              Contradictions in models aren’t always fatal, especially in many regimes!

              Now, we obviously know that GR and QFT are merely models of reality. But the same goes with conceptions of God: they are also models, subject to the foibles of apparent contradictions which are only exist as artifacts of the specific models being used. If you really, really want to push “but there is no contradiction”, I’ll make a similar argument for God: given any given regime, a consistent version can be presented, even if all the regimes cannot be matched up with each other yet. And I’ll say it’s not a problem that all the regimes cannot be matched up perfectly, just like it’s not a problem that QFT and GR cannot play nicely in the sandbox of black hole event horizons. We don’t need to explain everything in order to explain something—fortunately!

              Doesn’t Buddhism do the same thing, and if so, isn’t it true then?

              This is a category mistake. The fact that disparate religions can all depend largely on the introspective senses doesn’t immediately make them all true. Why would you think that?

              The natural science tell us how, and the strongest implication is that it is a fully natural aspect of our biological nature. That is, given naturalistic darwinian evolution, we’d expect people to have those kinds of feelings.

              From what I see, you fundamentally believe, on an a priori basis, that the ‘why’ is always and forever derivative from and supervenient on the ‘how’. In other words: there is no true ‘why’. This entails that mind is subsequent to matter. Perhaps this is why you think that consciousness requires a universe? But then you’ve just encoded that into your axioms. That’s boring.

              Relativity means that nothing is fully objective, which makes me wonder how god can be used as an objective observer.

              This makes me think that you don’t understand relativity. It is a true statement that the state of affairs is X in inertial frame Y. And God can apply any Lorentz transformation he needs to talk about any other inertial frame. Saying that you cannot just talk about observations, but must note what inertial frame they are referenced to, doesn’t make things ‘relative’ in the “it’s just your subjective experience”-sense, it just means an additional coordinate is required in the statement of affairs: what inertial frame you’re using.

            • What does ‘eternalistic’ mean—this?

              Yes. It means the universe never came into existence ontologically speaking. Meaning no need for a creator.

              And if our universe is eternalistic and the multiverse is eternalistic, why again can computation only happen in universes?

              Computation is a verb, verbs require time. Thinking requires time; decisions are verbs, hence they require time. That’s why the idea of a timeless mind makes no sense.

              What you seem to say is that the requisite ‘power’ to spawnan entire universe is not sufficient to support conscious thought or computation of any sort.

              What I was saying before was that it is impossible to give a reason why god exists eternally with the desire to create our universe and not any other, since an eternal desire could not have ever been different. I outline this in my post here: Might God Be A Brute Fact Too?. I would really appreciate it if you read it, as it would clarify many things to you and allow you to see where I’m coming from.

              So why did you say “Waves won out over particles.”?

              Waves are more fundamental than particles. The MWI is a level 3 multiverse, as it posits parallel universes, sometimes called other dimensions, but different than your standard level 1 or 2 multiverse.

              There is no contradiction until you try to work near the event horizons of black holes. Then they really do hit contradictions. This is why I said, (emphasis added)

              What is the contradiction? If either string theory, loop quantum gravity, or M-theory are correct the alleged contradictions will be explained. But almost all scientists say QM will win out because it’s more fundamental.

              But the same goes with conceptions of God: they are alsomodels, subject to the foibles of apparent contradictions which are only exist as artifacts of the specific models being used.

              But with science we have the ability to test theories, with god, what do we have? Is suppose all we have is logic in order to determine what god models are plausible. The god of classical theism is not logical and requires excuses like “his ways are higher than ours” to explain. I see too many contradictions and too many bad/illogical explanations for me to take theism seriously. QM is verifiable, GR is verifiable. God is conceptual, and I argue not logically coherent.

              The fact that disparate religions can all depend largely on the introspective senses doesn’t immediately make them all true. Why would you think that?

              Presumably you “know” god is real because of an immediate first hand experience of him. Right? We’ll the other believers have the same experiences and so they must “know” that their god is real too. But their god contradicts your god, sometimes by a long shot. If I grant your god true based on your subjective experience, than I have to grant that for all other theists and I’d be left with thousands of contradictory gods all being true. It is more logical to conclude that all these experiences are the product of your minds, not ontological reality.

              From what I see, you fundamentally believe, on an a priori basis, that the ‘why’ is always and forever derivative from and supervenient on the ‘how’.

              I’m saying the how has implications for the why. You answer the “why” question with your belief that god exists. And presumably if god didn’t exist, you’d have no explanation. Naturalism provides the how, and so even if god didn’t exist, we’d expect the same results given Darwinian evolution. That means the “why” question that is answered by god existing (according to you) may indeed be a false question, or at least one that has a natural answer. You’d be in a much better place if god was the only explanation.

              This makes me think that you don’t understand relativity….And God can apply any Lorentz transformation he needs to talk about any other inertial frame.

              What I was saying is that god cannot have a single objective experience of the universe given the very laws he allegedly created. All perspectives are subjective given relativity based on one’s reference frame. It is impossible to say objectively, that X happened at the same time as Y, or that X happened before Y in all cases due to the warping of spacetime from one’s simultaneity plane. So if god observed the ladder paradox, he wouldn’t be able to have an objective perspective; he’d only be able to know the different outcomes based on the two references frames (the ladder and the garage) in the scenario, just as we can. It shows you that even god is not truly objective but subjective if he exists.

            • Luke Breuer

              Yes. It means the universe never came into existence ontologically speaking. Meaning no need for a creator.

              Honestly, I could care less about Kalaam. As far as I know, there is enough uncertainty about whether the universe is eternalistic that we should really adopt an agnostic attitude.

              Computation is a verb, verbs require time.

              So when a universe pops into existence, the verb is only a verb from the perspective of the universe—the ‘outside’, the thing that ‘generated’ it didn’t actually… generate it?

              I outline this in my post here: Might God Be A Brute Fact Too?. I would really appreciate it if you read it, as it would clarify many things to you and allow you to see where I’m coming from.

              A big reason I don’t want to dig into that is that you don’t cite any other thinkers on the topic. This means it’s hard to see why you think things and what intellectual traditions you are going off of. And let’s be very clear: you didn’t think of most of this stuff yourself—none of us does. We all stand on the shoulders of giants. Can you cite yours? Something this makes easy to do is to look at where those people went in their arguments, who criticized them, whether the argument seems to be valid after the criticism, etc.

              Another reason is that non-Disqus commenting systems suck. I do a lot of commenting; the more I use crappy systems that make it hard to navigate conversations, the more time I spend futzing and the less time I spend engaging.

              Waves are more fundamental than particles. The MWI is a level 3 multiverse, as it posits parallel universes, sometimes called other dimensions, but different than your standard level 1 or 2 multiverse.

              Stop. You are writing as if the majority of physicists all agree that “Waves won out over particles.” Citation, please!

              What is the contradiction?

              See black hole complementarity, firewall (phsyics), and related issues. We simply cannot say what happens at an event horizon, because QFT and GR give conflicting answers. Good grief man, why are you so resistant to admitting that there is a contradiction in modern physical theory and that isn’t a problem? Is it because if you are forced to admit this, your case against theism is greatly weakened—for the mere pointing out of a contradiction in someone’s model of God wouldn’t be fatal?

              If either string theory, loop quantum gravity, or M-theory are correct the alleged contradictions will be explained.

              If, if, if. If I could come up with a better model of God which didn’t have the problems you are pointing out…

              But with science we have the ability to test theories, with god, what do we have? Is suppose all we have is logic in order to determine what god models are plausible.

              I reject a God who cannot be understood by examining the book of nature. You know Kalaam? It doesn’t prove Yahweh, it proves someone or even something much, much less-specified. The God in the Bible interacts with the world. So no, I don’t think “all we have is logic”. If that were the case, I would ditch my faith in an instant. I don’t do well with pure theory; I need practical connections. If I have enough of those, I can learn super fast. If I don’t, I have trouble learning at all. My brain might not be capable of constructing castles in the sky. I can do a little bit, but after a while I just flail and it gets wicked boring.

              Presumably you “know” god is real because of an immediate first hand experience of him. Right? We’ll the other believers have the same experiences and so they must “know” that their god is real too. But their god contradicts your god, sometimes by a long shot. If I grant your god true based on your subjective experience, than I have to grant that for all other theists and I’d be left with thousands of contradictory gods all being true. It is more logical to conclude that all these experiences are the product of your minds, not ontological reality.

              False dichotomy. People don’t experience things apart from simultaneously interpreting them. We know that people’s interpretations have issues in the extrospective realm. They do in the introspective realm, as well: The Unreliability of Naive Introspection. On this issue, I’d suggest reading Keith Ward’s The Case for Religion:

              “Religious experience is not really about the provision of additional secret information. It is about a personal apprehension of spiritual reality. This will be person-relative in a strong way. That is, the way in which we come to know another person depends very much on the sort of persons we are. It is well established in psychology that we project onto others the hidden, repressed, or ‘shadow’ sides of our own personalities. We might also project onto them our own ideals and desires. We see others as demons or heroes, as fantasy figures who interact with our own complex goals and fears. It is not, of course, wholly projection. Other people really exist, and we can have more or less accurate assessments of them. But to make an accurate assessment requires maturity, self-confidence, self-knowledge and sensitivity. some people have lots of these qualities, some conspicuously lack them, and some are immature, self-deceived, fearful and deeply prejudiced. If religious apprehension were like personal knowledge, one would expect that religious experiences would range form wildly fantastic projections of personal inadequacies to positive and life-enhancing transformations of personality by encounter with a wider and deeper personal reality.

              It follows that a large part of sorting out reliable religious experiences will be an assessment of the character of the experience. if they are well balanced and integrated, and if their experiences increase their wisdom, insight and sensitivity, it might be sensible to take their reports of encounters with a spiritual reality seriously. If they show a depth of insight into human problems, and an extraordinary degree of creative power; if they have powers of mental and physical healing and a profound sense of well-being; if they show compassion for the sufferings of others and delight in beauty and friendship, then their reports of a transforming awareness of spiritual reality are of significant worth. On the other hand, if they have a sharply exaggerated sense of their won importance; if they place enormous value on relatively insignificant facts; if they manipulate others and seem obsessed with particular beliefs or rituals, their reported experiences are likely to be based largely on projections of their own fragmented personalities. (90)

              If you don’t actually look into stuff like this when you talk about religious experience, you’re talking out of your butt. Now, because this is standard fare among the atheists I’ve read and talked to, I’m not going to hugely fault you. Now you are much less ignorant than they.

              This all being said, I wouldn’t say that very much of my confidence in Christianity is based on religious experience. It’s more based on the fact that when I look at reality through the lens of my [fairly orthodox] interpretation of Christianity, it makes more sense, I can do more useful things in it, etc.

              You’d be in a much better place if god was the only explanation.

              False. God-of-the-gaps is a horrible argument. It’s absolutely terrible. It cannot be true while imago dei is true. This has long been held. The Logos is knowable.

              It shows you that even god is not truly objective but subjective if he exists.

              Define ‘subjective’. Many definitions of it connote zero objective knowledge. But if I can know my intertial frame and what I observe, I have objective knowledge, for I can translate my knowledge into any frame of any observer.

            • As far as I know, there is enough uncertainty about whether the universe is eternalistic that we should really adopt an agnostic attitude.

              If so, then why not be an agnostic towards god? Or at least Yahweh?

              So when a universe pops into existence, the verb is only a verb from the perspective of the universe—the ‘outside’, the thing that ‘generated’ it didn’t actually… generate it?

              Not sure you make sense here. To reiterate: Events require change, and change requires time. How can a mind that exists outside of time “decide” what’s the best universe to create?

              A big reason I don’t want to dig into that is that you don’t cite any other thinkers on the topic.

              I cite William Lane Craig, I didn’t link a reference though. But, I did think of this myself, as I am not aware of others who’ve made the exact same argument as me. I’m sure other people have thought of this, I’m just saying I haven’t based my views directly from someone else. If you don’t like the comment system I have, then post your comments here from the post.

              Stop. You are writing as if the majority of physicists all agree that “Waves won out over particles.” Citation, please!

              http://youtu.be/bcqd3Q7X_1A?t=27m18s

              We simply cannot say what happens at an event horizon, because QFT and GR give conflicting answers. Good grief man, why are you so resistant to admitting that there is a contradiction in modern physical theory and that isn’t a problem?

              This is not the first time that science has faced an apparent contradiction. Science has a method for resolving this. Theology has nothing to test, nothing to verify, nothing like a scientific theory has. It simply has armchair logicians. If there’s a contradiction in science, it means one or more of our theories is incomplete or wrong. But the problem I’m outlining with god is different. If all of our concepts of god are wrong, then all of our religions are wrong – at least about god. The history on monotheism going back 3,000 years has then been invested in a god that makes no sense. I do think this contradiction is similar to that of the square-circle problem, something that will never be reconciled. Every single concept of god that has been invented has contradictions. You would expect such a thing to happen if it were made by fallible human beings.

              But let me ask you, is god falsifiable?

              If, if, if. If I could come up with a better model of God which didn’t have the problems you are pointing out…

              By all means Luke, I strongly urge you to devise the best understanding of god and his ontology that you can.

              I reject a God who cannot be understood by examining the book of nature.

              Then just be a deist. In my opinion, the deistic god is the only plausible model of god that I’ve ever heard. It still has the time issue, but other than that, and perhaps a few other things, it is the most reasonable view of god.

              The God in the Bible interacts with the world. So no, I don’t think “all we have is logic”.

              There simply is no evidence that god and/or supernatural agents are interacting with the world. And if you think so, the burden of proof is on you to provide evidence for such interaction. And please don’t tell me that god does it in such a way as to be indistinguishable from nature.

              People don’t experience things apart from simultaneously interpreting them.

              So all the non-Christian spiritual experiences somehow have “issues” and yours is the correct one? By what logic/evidence do you imply such things? From my perspective I hear a lot of spiritual claims being made by a wide variety of theists. They’re all different, they all lack any real objective evidence, and they all contradict each other and themselves and I’m faced with 3 prospects. 1) They’re all true; 2) One or more is true; or 3) They’re all false. Now given the background knowledge on human biology and psychology and the fact that we’d expect such behavior among humans, the most logical answer is 3.

              t’s more based on the fact that when I look at reality through the lens of my [fairly orthodox] interpretation of Christianity, it makes more sense, I can do more useful things in it, etc.

              For me, atheism allows me to see the world and make the most sense of things and offers no cognitive dissonance. All religions make no sense to me when seeing the world through its lenses.

              The Logos is knowable.

              This has caused so much confusion and wars over the centuries. A subjective feeling does not have greater explanatory power than the awesomeness of science. The god of the gaps is unfortunately resurrected all too often. Let me ask you this straight forward question. What is the purpose of the universe and of human beings?

              Define ‘subjective’.

              Being aware of other subjective perspectives does not make one objective. God still has to see the universe from a subjective perspective, in the same sense that we see it, which is relative to our reference frame. Otherwise you’ve got to somehow resolve the ladder paradox and others like it from an objective perspective, which is impossible. Only a subjective perspective can resolve it.

            • Luke Breuer

              If so, then why not be an agnostic towards god? Or at least Yahweh?

              Because I don’t base my belief in God on him thinking outside the universe. I base it in other things, such as verifiable information present in the Bible, and partially (but not too much) personal religious experience.

              Not sure you make sense here. To reiterate: Events require change, and change requires time. How can a mind that exists outside of time “decide” what’s the best universe to create?

              Why does the multiverse pop one universe into existence instead of another? Again, the multiverse ‘framework’ needs to be powerful enough to spawn entire universes. If this response of mine doesn’t make any sense, I think we’re at an impasse.

              http://youtu.be/bcqd3Q7X_1A?t=27m18s

              Yep think I’m just going to have to disagree with Carroll, until he can define ‘important’ in a rigorous fashion.

              Theology has nothing to test, nothing to verify, nothing like a scientific theory has.

              We simply disagree on this point.

              But let me ask you, is god falsifiable?

              I think that there exist sequences of introspective and extrospective sense experience which can lead you to God, and sequences which can lead you away from God. Whether you want to say ‘falsifiable’ is up to you. Michael Polanyi’s Personal Knowledge is quite relevant, here. He has a great chapter on crystallography, and argues that it isn’t really falsifiable, so much as a mathematical structure which matches parts of reality and not others. While I don’t necessarily think of God this way, I think this plays a role that is often omitted by atheists and skeptics on the internet.

              Then just be a deist.

              Nope, there is no reason I find compelling to be a deist over an atheist.

              There simply is no evidence that god and/or supernatural agents are interacting with the world. And if you think so, the burden of proof is on you to provide evidence for such interaction. And please don’t tell me that god does it in such a way as to be indistinguishable from nature.

              You are special pleading for your interpretive framework of viewing reality, such that the way you look at evidence is the right way, and the way I look at the evidence is the wrong way. I love to imagine God laughing at anyone who complains to him, “But my epistemology didn’t let me acknowledge that you exist; why didn’t you satisfy my requirements?” Now maybe I’m full of crap. I expect to hit some rock walls, physically or mentally, if I am full of crap. I expect to have desires I cannot satisfy, no matter how I try, because of falsehoods I hold. I expect it to matter if my belief in God is falsely held. Don’t you? Or does cognitive dissonance have zero mental cost and zero bad effects?

              Suppose I present psychological truth in the Bible as evidence that God was giving people hints. I predict you’ll reject that. Indeed, I predict that no matter what evidence I try and give of God’s existence, you’ll merely divorce the evidence as the set of brute facts that is preferable to believe, than this omni-max deity which is so much more complex than any set of brute facts.

              So all the non-Christian spiritual experiences somehow have “issues” and yours is the correct one?

              Mine gave me very little in the way of information, so your question kind of falls on its face. It was more just a contact with something bigger than myself and involved a major fuckton of pain, both physical and mental. Most of my non-experiential information comes from the Bible and Christian tradition.

              They’re all different, they all lack any real objective evidence, and they all contradict each other and themselves and I’m faced with 3 prospects. 1) They’re all true; 2) One or more is true; or 3) They’re all false.

              Stop being so binary in your thinking. Is a person’s interpretation of his/her sense experience either 100% true or 0% true? Of course not! There are varying levels of accuracy, depending on how good an observer that person is of that particular phenomenon.

              For me, atheism allows me to see the world and make the most sense of things and offers no cognitive dissonance. All religions make no sense to me when seeing the world through its lenses.

              Your “no sense” is more indication of binary thinking. I really think binary thinking is largely bad; it is fundamentalist and it leads bad places.

              A subjective feeling does not have greater explanatory power than the awesomeness of science.

              Define ‘subjective feeling’. Defend why my extrospective senses are more trustworthy than my introspective senses—both are inputs to my consciousness! I doubt you’ll be able to, but feel free to try.

              What is the purpose of the universe and of human beings?

              To understand God, which can roughly be split into understanding objective reality and understanding objective morality. Doing both is hella-rewarding. And by understanding who God is, we understand who we can become, if only as pale reflections. There is always more progress to be made, which can be rewarding if not frustrating at times—especially when people suck at working together.

              Being aware of other subjective perspectives does not make one objective.

              Define ‘subjective’, please. Alternatively, if God can only know things ‘subjectively’, how on earth can we know things ‘objectively’? You appear to be putting ‘objectivity’ beyond our reach—permanently!

            • I base it in other things, such as verifiable information present in the Bible, and partially (but not too much) personal religious experience.

              What verifiable evidence from the Bible exists?

              Why does the multiverse pop one universe into existence instead of another?

              I have no idea where you’re going with this, or how its relevant to our discussion. What generates universes within a multiverse? Quantum fluctuations could do it. Why one and not the other? Chance.

              Yep think I’m just going to have to disagree with Carroll, until he can define ‘important’ in a rigorous fashion.

              OK.

              I think that there exist sequences of introspective and extrospective sense experience which can lead you to God, and sequences which can lead you away from God.

              Seems like your version of god is not falsifiable.

              Nope, there is no reason I find compelling to be a deist over an atheist.

              Then what evidence you have about the physical world being interacted with a deity?

              You are special pleading for your interpretive framework of viewing reality, such that the way you look at evidence is the right way, and the way I look at the evidence is the wrong way. I love to imagine God laughing at anyone who complains to him, “But my epistemology didn’t let me acknowledge that you exist; why didn’t you satisfy my requirements?”

              I’m trying to explore the world around me as best I can with the tools I have available to me. I’m sorry if your subjective experience isn’t compelling to me as indicative of anything else existing outside your imagination. What reason do you have for why god will not prove his existence to us to set the record straight and why he prefers to cloak himself in mystery? I’ve asked this to theists before, I’m just curious of your answer.

              I expect it to matter if my belief in God is falsely held. Don’t you?

              Yes. I realized this about 5 years ago when I came to the conclusion that beliefs have consequences. It matters to me a lot if god exists, or if a religion is true. I care about knowledge a great deal. I’ve tried seeing the world from a Christian perspective and I cannot resolve many of its dilemmas.

              Suppose I present psychological truth in the Bible as evidence that God was giving people hints.

              You’d have to list and describe this “psychological truth” first. Those two words by themselves mean nothing.

              It was more just a contact with something bigger than myself and involved a major fuckton of pain, both physical and mental.

              And the spiritual experiences of Muslims, Hindus, Mormons and Jews do not involve pain? What can you provide me that validates the verdicality of your experiences from the non-Christian ones?

              Is a person’s interpretation of his/her sense experience either 100% true or 0% true?

              Why would the god of the Bible be giving non-Christians spiritual experiences that strengthen their non-Christian faith? Makes no sense. And couldn’t their religion be true and your experiences simply the result of a misinterpretation?

              Your “no sense” is more indication of binary thinking. I really think binary thinking is largely bad; it is fundamentalist and it leads bad places.

              So Christianity is only partly true? Are you prepared to say Christianity is the truth or it isn’t, or that it’s just an approximation of the truth?

              Define ‘subjective feeling’.

              Well, I’m still waiting on that objective evidence that your experiences are real, that a person of no other faith can do to the same degree as you. It’s easy to find why extra sensory perception is better than intro sensory perception, it’s verifiable. How do you distinguish your intro-sense from imagination or hallucination?

              o understand God, which can roughly be split into understanding objective reality and understanding objective morality.

              How do you know this for sure? Is it just your opinion or is this objective?

              Define ‘subjective’, please. Alternatively, if God can only know things ‘subjectively’, how on earth can we know things ‘objectively’? You appear to be putting ‘objectivity’ beyond our reach—permanently!

              Why is everything so difficult with you? Theists say god gives us the objective perspective on the universe. Right? When it comes to the nature of time, theists who are presentists say that god’s time is objective time. That means god sees the universe objectively, and we can only see it subjectively due to relativity. Well how then do you solve something like the ladder paradox with out subjectivity? That’s the only way! Thus there is no fully objective perspective on the universe. The ladder is either in the garage, or not in the garage, and it all depends on your perspective and reference frame. That’s why it’s a paradox. Am I making sense or do you not understand the science?

            • Luke Breuer

              What verifiable evidence from the Bible exists?

              Example. (You might also read the parent comment.) I can foresee some objections you might have to that as ‘verifiable evidence’, but I’ll let you present them.

              I have no idea where you’re going with this, or how its relevant to our discussion. What generates universes within a multiverse? Quantum fluctuations could do it. Why one and not the other? Chance.

              See, this just exposes your ontology: the things that most fundamentally exists are {general laws, chance}. Everything else, you believe, is built on top of them. Because you start here, you can never, ever, consider that perhaps mind is a fundamental constituent of reality. It just doesn’t compute for you. And thus, I think we’ve hit an impasse. Remember that what you think exists profoundly impacts the observations you make. I can’t find the research paper, but I recall reading that people knowledgeable about Galileo’s balls see differentially massed objects falling at the same more easily than the physically unrealistic scenario (when presented with a simulated video), while people who are naive about gravity more easily see the physically unrealistic scenario of a bigger lead ball falling appreciably faster than the smaller lead ball. Or, just watch this selective attention test. What you expect to see HUGELY influences what you’re able to see!!!

              Then what evidence you have about the physical world being interacted with a deity?

              Subtle violations of causal closure are one answer; presentiment might do this. Another answer is that positing a Judeo-Christian God makes it easier to understand reality, just like a certain math of crystal structures makes it easier to understand many crystals. You really, really need to read Quine’s Two Dogmas of Empiricism. You have strong traces of Logical Positivism in your posts, and LP is false.

              I’m sorry if your subjective experience isn’t compelling to me as indicative of anything else existing outside your imagination.

              I’m actually not sorry; my subjective experiences ought to be more compelling for me than for you. This is why stuff like freedom of religion is good with the government doing something close to the minimum to prevent people from taking unfair advantage of each other, and providing some baseline of equal opportunity to thrive. I do not think it is valid for me to extract ‘secret’ information from my private experiences and insist you change how you live based on them. I can ask you to change how you live, and give you instructions on how to be likely to have the same sort of experience. But compulsion? No.

              What reason do you have for why god will not prove his existence to us to set the record straight and why he prefers to cloak himself in mystery? I’ve asked this to theists before, I’m just curious of your answer.

              I assume you believe the is–ought gap is real; correct me if I’m wrong. This means that there is nothing God can do, short of fear or mental reprogramming, to convince you that you ought to want fundamentally different things. He can tweak your actions by showing you that B is a better route to satisfying your desires than A, but he cannot say that you should want fundamentally different things. If the is–ought gap exists. But if God knows that you will be best off if you deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Jesus, what is he to do? He can prevent some amount of ‘evidence’, but past that, the is–ought gap is insurmountable. Even miracles are irrelevant, as all they can do is give you confidence that that the agent behind them knows more science than you.

              So you tell me, given the is–ought gap, how God could “set the record straight”. If you’re set on mocking people mercilessly as a justified way to treat people, what facts would God give you to change how you behave? It is not clear that there are any. It seems possible to exert one’s will in a way to reject God’s advice. If this is possible, then there’s nothing God can do, except violate your will, to change your mind. Well, he can let you experience more and more pain & suffering. But what else can he do?

              So my answer is that we must be careful to address matters of the will, in addition to matters of the intellect. Much discussion of this matter focuses exclusively on the latter, as if the former does not exist. I believe this is a terrible mistake.

              I’ve tried seeing the world from a Christian perspective and I cannot resolve many of its dilemmas.

              Take note that denying the existence of a deity might lessen issues like the problem of evil, but I don’t think this actually fully suppresses it. Moreover, Christian provides possible answers to the problem of evil—what each of us ought to do in the face of pain and suffering—which you likely lose if you deny Christianity. So there are definite costs to declaring Christianity false. Another example is that you start denying that certain questions are useful questions to ask. This is a distinctly lossy operation. It’s as if you ‘resolve’ a dilemma by denying it exists. This is colloquially known as “sticking your head in the sand”.

              And the spiritual experiences of Muslims, Hindus, Mormons and Jews do not involve pain? What can you provide me that validates the verdicality of your experiences from the non-Christian ones?

              Look, I’ve already said things on this matter, and quoted an expert (Keith Ward), and you’re speaking as if I haven’t said much at all on it. This is tedious and I don’t want to play that game. If you really, truly want to understand possible reasons for the variety of religious experience, then dig into it and dig deeply. But I don’t want to just skim the surface forever; nothing will be learned that way.

              Why would the god of the Bible be giving non-Christians spiritual experiences that strengthen their non-Christian faith? Makes no sense. And couldn’t their religion be true and your experiences simply the result of a misinterpretation?

              This is more binary thinking. Who is to say that Islam is a complete inaccurate model of Yahweh? Indeed, Allah has much in common with Yahweh. Buddhism talks about becoming detached from things. Christianity almost says this, preferring proper attachment: first to Jesus, then to people, then to things. There is a lot of similarity! So if God reveals bits of himself to people, it’s not the case that disparate interpretations mean total contradiction. This is a very bad way to look at things. It is binary thinking and in denying nuance, it stunts understanding.

              So Christianity is only partly true? Are you prepared to say Christianity is the truth or it isn’t, or that it’s just an approximation of the truth?

              Any given instantiation of Christianity is ‘partly true’ in just the same way that any given instantiation of the scientific enterprise is ‘partly true’ in what it says about reality. I believe we can only ever approximate reality, and we can only ever approximate God. The key though, is that we can make those approximations better. We can become ‘less wrong’.

              Well, I’m still waiting on that objective evidence that your experiences are real, that a person of no other faith can do to the same degree as you.

              You will be waiting forever, for I made no such claim.

              It’s easy to find why extra sensory perception is better than intro sensory perception, it’s verifiable. How do you distinguish your intro-sense from imagination or hallucination?

              Easily: by comparing and contrasting with others’ accounts. Intersubjective agreement is evidence of objective reality.

              How do you know this for sure? Is it just your opinion or is this objective?

              I know nothing for sure except “thoughts exist”. (cogito ergo sum presupposes the ‘I’)

              Why is everything so difficult with you?

              A large reason is that you and I are coming from such different starting points that we have a good deal of trouble communicating effectively. Moreover, we will rank the importance of various things differently, perhaps very differently.

              But in this specific case, I think you’re playing fast and loose with the words ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’, and that there are philosophical errors in your thought because of that. You dislike it when I am vague, but when I ask you to define your terms, you complain about things being ‘difficult’. It is hard for me to not see this as bald-faced hypocrisy.

              Am I making sense or do you not understand the science?

              ‘relative’ != ‘subjective’, or you are equivocating with your use of ‘subjective’. This is why I asked you to define the word.

            • Is this your objective evidence?

              The fact that being an atheist or a skeptic doesn’t automatically make you more able to understand humans at a deep level is one of the things that gives me confidence in the truth of Christianity.

              What do you mean by a “deep level”? And I would say that science tells us much more about human nature than religion does. Religion gets almost everything wrong. Christianity for example gets human nature and sexuality completely wrong.

              See, this just exposes your ontology: …..Because you start here, you can never, ever, consider that perhaps mind is a fundamental constituent of reality.

              I’m sorry but I have no reason to believe a mind exists as the fundamental constituent of reality. Minds are depended on physical brains. No evidence contradicts this, physical or logical.

              What you expect to see HUGELY influences what you’re able to see!!!

              If by this you meant to say I have a confirmation bias, then I want to know what is the evidence supporting your point of view that I am overlooking?

              You really, really need to read Quine’s Two Dogmas of Empiricism. You have strong traces of Logical Positivism in your posts, and LP is false.

              You’d think that if a deity existed and wanted to arm his believers with really good evidence he exists, he’d provide you with something a lot better than “Subtle violations of causal closure.” I don’t give into LP fully although it is the most reliable epistemology that exists.

              I do not think it is valid for me to extract ‘secret’ information from my private experiences and insist you change how you live based on them.

              No one here is arguing that people should be forced to acknowledge anything. You’re attacking a strawman. I’m only talking about being convinced by reason and evidence, not by force.

              He can prevent some amount of ‘evidence’, but past that, the is–ought gap is insurmountable.

              The is-ought gap relates to morality, I’m talking about ontology. God either exists or not. God could prove his existence to everyone and that would guarantee that there’d be more Christians. So your answer makes no sense.

              Christian provides possible answers to the problem of evil—what each of us ought to do in the face of pain and suffering—which you likely lose if you deny Christianity. So there are definite costs to declaring Christianity false.

              Do you acknowledge any benefits? Christianity fails at all the answers for evil and I’ve dissected pretty much all of them so I know. I’ve tried to listen to the best theologians in the world.

              If you really, truly want to understand possible reasons for the variety of religious experience, then dig into it and dig deeply.

              I will admit that I’m no expert on religious experience, but I think I have enough knowledge about physics, biology, sociology, psychology, neuroscience, evolution, philosophy and religion to know that every religion is man made and false and that every god was created in our image.

              This is more binary thinking. Who is to say that Islam is a complete inaccurate model of Yahweh? Indeed, Allah has much in common with Yahweh. Buddhism talks about becoming detached from things. Christianity almost says this, preferring proper attachment: first to Jesus, then to people, then to things. There is a lot of similarity!

              Islam, Christianity and Judaism all share commonalities as they are all branches of the same myth. I’ve studied religion, you’re not telling me anything I don’t know. The commonality between faiths is best explained by the fact that people make up these religions and people share characteristics with one another, not that the same god is invoking these people. If god strengthens the faith of non-Christians then you’re saying he wants them to stay with their existing religion and not convert to Christianity, since strengthening one’s current religion makes it harder for them to covert.

              Any given instantiation of Christianity is ‘partly true’

              So is it possible that Jesus’ resurrection was an allegory?

              Easily: by comparing and contrasting with others’ accounts. Intersubjective agreement is evidence of objective reality.

              Then Christianity is false since hardly any two Christians agree on the same concept of god.

              You dislike it when I am vague, but when I ask you to define your terms, you complain about things being ‘difficult’. It is hard for me to not see this as bald-faced hypocrisy.

              You obviously don’t understand the science and this is causing a problem. I’m not gonna spend my time explaining relativity to you. There’s no hypocrisy on my part. In this context, subjective simply means the universe from one’s reference frame. Is that too hard to understand?

              So let me ask you this. Does god see the universe objectively in that he has his own unique reference frame that we have no access to? Or does god simply know all the subjective reference frames? In other words, does relativity effect god too? What does he see in the ladder paradox?

            • Luke Breuer

              What do you mean by a “deep level”? And I would say that science tells us much more about human nature than religion does. Religion gets almost everything wrong. Christianity for example gets human nature and sexuality completely wrong.

              Your use of ‘completely wrong’ is more binary thinking. Do you realize how much of a fundamentalist you are—in the very bad, religious sense of ‘fundamentalist’? I cannot comprehend how you think Jesus’ little spiel on log & speck is unscientific, given what we know about projection. It’s as if you find one or two things that the Bible has wrong, and declare it as “entirely wrong”. The very example I cited criticizes this “all or nothing” mentality, whereby either someone (and it applies to something as well) is either 100% right or 100% wrong. Stop this! It’s a terrible way to think!

              I’m sorry but I have no reason to believe a mind exists as the fundamental constituent of reality. Minds are depended on physical brains. No evidence contradicts this, physical or logical.

              Sigh. You just don’t seem to understand that it is possible to misread ‘the evidence’ by adopting a bad interpretive framework. I. Give. Up.

              You’d think that if a deity existed and wanted to arm his believers with really good evidence he exists, he’d provide you with something a lot better than “Subtle violations of causal closure.” I don’t give into LP fully although it is the most reliable epistemology that exists.

              I would think all sorts of things about all sorts of topics and often be wrong, so I just don’t trust your “You’d think that ____”. And as to LP, it’s just shocking you like it, given it was predicated upon a self-refuting idea.

              You’re attacking a strawman.

              Good grief man, no I’m not. You said,

              I’m sorry if your subjective experience isn’t compelling to me as indicative of anything else existing outside your imagination.

              This was you saying that possibly I think that my subjective, private experiences ought to be as compelling to you. I said no, I do not think this, I think they are more compelling for me than for you and this is how it ought to be. And you accuse me of attacking a strawman? Seriously?

              God could prove his existence to everyone and that would guarantee that there’d be more Christians. So your answer makes no sense.

              Mere assent to the existence of God is not sufficient; God does not want that. The demons believe God exists and they are still demons. You aren’t a Christian just because you vocalize, “I believe in Jesus”. Read Mt 7:21-23.

              Do you acknowledge any benefits? Christianity fails at all the answers for evil and I’ve dissected pretty much all of them so I know. I’ve tried to listen to the best theologians in the world.

              Christianity claims that evil can be redeemed, that pain and suffering can be turned to powerful goods. I have experienced this in my life. And the more I try to redeem evil, the more evil I find I can redeem. I can perform induction on this experiential evidence.

              The Christian answer to the problem of evil is that you and I are the solutions to the problem of evil, after the pattern of Jesus. If you don’t want to accept this it’s fine, but this is you willfully rejecting it, because you don’t want to pay the actually required cost to make the world a less shitty place on average, given all the people who are actively making it a shittier place (meaning you can’t just be ‘good’; you have to give more than you get to counterbalance the parasites).

              I will admit that I’m no expert on religious experience, but I think I have enough knowledge about physics, biology, sociology, psychology, neuroscience, evolution, philosophy and religion to know that every religion is man made and false and that every god was created in our image.

              Well then, I guess there’s nothing I can do to convince you; you know enough already.

              If god strengthens the faith of non-Christians then you’re saying he wants them to stay with their existing religion and not convert to Christianity, since strengthening one’s current religion makes it harder for them to covert.

              No, I’m not saying that, you are. I do not believe my argument entails it. God wants people to know him better. He wants justice and mercy (with mercy triumphing over justice) and creativity and excellence. Much of this, I believe, can be done within other religions. I think there could easily be a convergence, and I even believe that other religions can contribute to weak parts of Christianity.

              So is it possible that Jesus’ resurrection was an allegory?

              Of course it is logically possible. I am convinced it actually happened, but I’m sure there’s some way I could be convinced otherwise.

              Then Christianity is false since hardly any two Christians agree on the same concept of god.

              Do you realize why statements like this just want to make me stop responding to you?

            • cannot comprehend how you think Jesus’ little spiel on log & speck is unscientific, given what we know about projection.

              The grounding of Christian attitudes on human behavior and sin are just wrong. Plain and simple. Are there some true things within Christianity? Sure. But if you search the Bible for answers for the reasons why we are the way we are you get mostly nonsense.

              You just don’t seem to understand that it is possible to misread ‘the evidence’ by adopting a bad interpretive framework.

              I’m simply not going to adopt your fuzzy, faith based reasoning to look at this world. It leads one to adopt absurdities. That is our difference. I only hope that you remain and aspire to be a progressive theist who champions logic and evidence in addition to faith.

              And as to LP, it’s just shocking you like it, given it was predicated upon a self-refuting idea.

              LP is self refuting is you take it 100 percent. I don’t.

              This was you saying that possibly I think that my subjective, private experiences ought to be as compelling to you. I said no, I do not think this, I think they are more compelling for me than for you and this is how it ought to be. And you accuse me of attacking a strawman? Seriously?

              Yes, Here’s your strawman:

              I do not think it is valid for me to extract ‘secret’ information from my private experiences and insist you change how you live based on them. I can ask you to change how you live, and give you instructions on how to be likely to have the same sort of experience. But compulsion? No.

              No where did I say that these ideas must be insisted upon by force. It is all a matter of persuasion based on logic and evidence. No need for an Orwellian state and mind control.

              Mere assent to the existence of God is not sufficient; God does not want that.

              But if god proved Christianity was true, billions of people would convert and worship god the right way, instead of being mislead by false prophets. Would god rather have billions worshiping false gods in false religions? I think not. And even if I knew god existed, I could still reject him, the same way I can reject my parents without denying they exist. So if god proved himself, people could still voluntarily choose not to engage in a relationship with him. These reasons are why your response makes no sense.

              I have experienced this in my life. And the more I try to redeem evil, the more evil I find I can redeem. I can perform induction on this experiential evidence.

              And I once had a transcendent experience while I was attending a Hindu ceremony while I was on vacation in Asia. So I suppose I can perform induction on this experiential evidence that Hinduism and polytheism are true.

              The Christian answer to the problem of evil is that you and I are the solutions to the problem of evil, after the pattern of Jesus.

              I’m all for ridding the world of evil and suffering. I don’t think Christianity has a monopoly on this, and I’m sure you agree. I’m not talking about how we rid the world of shitty-ness for now. I’m focused on the cause of evil and suffering. That’s what I’m interested in. I also don’t think Jesus set the perfect pattern for ridding the world of evil and suffering. One must pick and choose from him.

              God wants people to know him better.

              He has a very odd way of achieving this. Essentially he just lets people make up their own versions of gods and lets it evolve. The god concepts are varied enough where I think a true convergence is unlikely. If I can get one point to you, it would be to consider that these varying god concepts are all man made, and if they were, we’d expect to see such a wide variation not only from society to society, but from individual to individual.

              Do you realize why statements like this just want to make me stop responding to you?

              Ha Ha.

            • Luke Breuer

              Ha Ha.

              If this is your serious response, we’re done. I have more comments to respond to than time; if you’re going to be disrespectful, that’s evidence that you aren’t trying as hard to understand my position as other people I’m currently in dialogue with. So I’ll just spend my time responding to them, instead. Thanks for the conversation so far.

            • At least respond to this:

              But if god proved Christianity was true, billions of people would convert and worship god the right way, instead of being mislead by false prophets. Would god rather have billions worshiping false gods in false religions? I think not. And even if I knew god existed, I could still reject him, the same way I can reject my parents without denying they exist. So if god proved himself, people could still voluntarily choose not to engage in a relationship with him. These reasons are why your response makes no sense.

            • Luke Breuer

              Your mistake is to think that mere knowledge of God’s existence would necessarily change your behavior and cause you to make the world a better place. I do not believe God values mere assent to his existence one iota. Case in point: does the fact that Satan believes God exists matter to God? I think not! I think your idea here is predicated upon a false idea that ‘faith’ is all that is required, as if ‘faith’ does not need works for it to be alive faith, vs. dead faith. Read Mt 7:21-23 and Mt 25:31-46. Your argument is predicated on trivially false premises.

              Jonathan Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God was written to people who had “faith in faith”, people who believed that the most important thing was to hold a a belief in one’s mind. No, this is false. God wants you to want what he wants!

            • “Necessarily” is the key word. It may not necessarily make me, or every single person change their behavior, but that’s not the point. The point is that many people would indeed change their behavior if they knew for sure they were practicing the wrong religion and that Christianity was the truth. It could be millions, perhaps billions.

              If god wants us to know he exists, and to live as Christians, exemplified by Christ, I fail to see why god would provide us proof he exists. Proof would dramatically increase the numbers of people living and believing as Christians. Maybe not every single person, but that’s not the point.

              And another point is that god could easily falsify atheism if he exists. And I could still reject god if I knew god existed, just as the devil does as per your example. At least all other religions would be falsified along with atheism and people wouldn’t have to bicker and kill each over who was the correct prophet and correct god.

              I don’t think it’s a “fact” that satan exists but I’ll let that one slide.

              More to the point, you say that “I do not believe God values mere assent to his existence one iota.” So do you think god cares about our actions more than that we merely believe he exists? Meaning, is a good atheist better than a bad Christian in god’s eyes?

            • Luke Breuer

              It may not necessarily make me, or every single person change their behavior, but that’s not the point. The point is that many people would indeed change their behavior if they knew for sure they were practicing the wrong religion and that Christianity was the truth. It could be millions, perhaps billions.

              You do not know this. It is the result of a model you are running in your head; I challenge you to produce falsifiable tests for your model that you can actually run, perhaps by running it on an unbiased sampling of historical events. Show your work. You are making positive claims here; the burden of proof lies on you.

              Proof would dramatically increase the numbers of people living and believing as Christians.

              You conflate knowledge with desire, time and time and time and time again. The two overlap, but are not identical and one does not [fully] determine the other.

              At least all other religions would be falsified along with atheism and people wouldn’t have to bicker and kill each over who was the correct profit and correct god.

              This exposes more false beliefs on your part. You are asserting the counterfactual:

                   (1) If God revealed himself, there would be less us vs. them, or at least less killing based on us vs. them.

              You do not have the evidence to support this. You simply do not. If you did, you’d present it. For a good analysis of this, see Keith Ward’s Is Religion Dangerous?

              More to the point, you say that “I do not believe God values mere assent to his existence one iota.” So do you think god cares about our actions more than that we merely believe he exists? Meaning, is a good atheist better than a bad Christian in god’s eyes?

              I discuss my idea of beliefs in detail on Phil.SE. Briefly, there are beliefs which lead to actions and there are beliefs we profess but do not lead to actions. I think God cares about the former category of beliefs. I think atheists can believe in the true version of Jesus without professing such belief. That is, an atheist can want what Jesus wants, without vocalizing “I believe in Jesus”. Now, it is possible to merely exhibit the ‘right behaviors’ without actually wanting the results of those behaviors; this is called ‘manipulation’ and psychopaths are especially good at it.

              So yes, I think atheists will be in the ‘good’ group discussed in Mt 25:31-46.

            • You do not know this. It is the result of a model you are running in your head; I challenge you to produce falsifiable tests for your model that you can actually run, perhaps by running it on an unbiased sampling of historical events.

              Well first, there are no examples of religions with proof. Things we have proof for, like evolution, continue to grow adherents because of the evidence. For the first time in the US, a majority of Americans accept evolution.

              That’s good evidence that when you have proof of something the numbers rise. Now if god revealed himself and proved his existence and what religion was god, I have absolutely no doubt that the number of Christians would rise. I mean, we’re talking about god literally revealing himself – the creator of the universe. There’s no way that the number of Christians wouldn’t rise. If I had proof Christianity was true, heck, I’d be a Christian. So that’s proof right there.

              You conflate knowledge with desire, time and time and time and time again. The two overlap, but are not identical and one does not [fully] determine the other.

              You simply must stick to the script that god has reasons for his divine hiddenness. Think of all those seekers who want to worship a god. There are millions of people like this. Imagine if they had proof a specific god existed. They’d convert. It’s that simple. I think the burden is on you to show how not a single person would convert to Christianity if it were proven true.

              You do not have the evidence to support this. You simply do not. If you did, you’d present it.

              It is the logical inference that if the creator of the universe revealed himself and performed verifiable miracles those fighting over god would stop. On what basis do you think that we’d kill each other to the same degree if god literally revealed himself to the world in miraculous event?

              I think God cares about the former category of beliefs. I think atheists can believe in the true version of Jesus without professing such belief. That is, an atheist can want what Jesus wants, without vocalizing “I believe in Jesus”.

              What if atheists are just good without all the silly beliefs? That was my point. Does the god you worship give a crap whether or not a person believes a certain man was the son of god? Or does god care more about works?

            • Luke Breuer

              That’s good evidence that when you have proof of something the numbers rise.

              Ahh, so you only look for evidence to confirm your ideas, not evidence to falsify them. Ok.

              You simply must stick to the script

              Yep, that’s what I do in all my comments. I’m surprised it took you so long to realize this.

              It is the logical inference

              You mean arguing from dogma?

              What if atheists are just good without all the silly beliefs?

              Then they would be. Have ye evidence?

            • Ahh, so you only look for evidence to confirm your ideas, not evidence to falsify them. Ok.

              Where is this coming from? Of course I look for evidence to falsify ideas. That’s what it means to be a critical thinker.

              Yep, that’s what I do in all my comments. I’m surprised it took you so long to realize this.

              Christians say the darndest things.

              You mean arguing from dogma?

              No dogma. I’m arguing from rational inference. The idea that god proving his existence wouldn’t have a net gaining effect on the numbers of Christians is absurd.

              Then they would be. Have ye evidence?

              Is your position that atheists are bad because they lack your supernatural beliefs?

            • Luke Breuer

              You just don’t seem to understand the is–ought gap. Or you don’t seem to think that God wants more than just intellectual assent. I don’t know; I’ve tried to discuss these ideas with you and failed, repeatedly. I don’t know what to say to advance the discussion further. And then you say stuff like this:

              Is your position that atheists are bad because they lack your supernatural beliefs?

              I honestly do not understand how you could possibly think I believe that, given all of our discussions together. It seems like you pulled it out of your stereotypes-of-Christians bag based on some weird Rorschach inkblot test or free association. It’s like we’re not even talking to each other.

              I’ll make a bald assertion: God gives each of us the relevant evidence to optimally push us to do our part in making the world a less shitty place. We have the choice to respect that evidence and act on it or ignore it in preference to our preconceived notions of how reality works (see big Systemantics quotation at the end of this comment). God does not force us to act according to his will. We have a choice. Furthermore, we all have different roles in the enterprise of making the world a less shitty place. Therefore, our very epistemologies and ontologies might differ, and that could be ok.

              Now I shall possibly-caricature you, The Thinker. You appear to think that there is a better way for God to provide evidence, such that humans would more quickly and more diligently make the world a less shitty place. The mere fact—according to you—that God does not do this is evidence of his nonexistence, or at least non-omnimax-ness. You think that if only God were to provide more evidence people, they’d wouldn’t be dicks. Or they would be smaller dicks.

              I completely disbelieve this model I’ve constructed of your argument. I think it is a giant-ass excuse to not do the things that would make the world a better place, or at least not to try as hard as is actually required to accomplish that goal. There is a passage which ends:

              Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

              You and I have been given much. I recognize the great demand on myself to use what I have been given to bless others, up to and including vast self-sacrifice. I believe that “deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me” is absolutely required for me to counterbalance the immense amount of blessing that raw circumstance of birth placed on me. I think the following section of Systemantics sheds light on ‘deny yourself’:

              All around us we see a world of paradox: deep, ironic, and intractable. A world in which the hungry nations export food; the richest nations slip into demoralizing economic recessions; the strongest nations go to war against the smallest and weakest and are unable to win; a world in which revolutions against tyrannical systems themselves become tyrannies. In human affairs, celebrities receive still more publicity because they are “well known”; men rise to high positions because of their knowledge of affairs only to find themselves cut off from the sources of their knowledge; scientists opposed to the use of scientific knowledge in warfare find themselves advising the government on how to win wars by using scientific knowledge . . . the list is endless. Ours is a world of paradox.

              Why is this? How does it come about that things turn out so differently from what common sense would expect?

              The religious person may blame it on Original Sin. The historian may cite the force of trends such as population growth and industrialization. The Sociologist offers reasons rooted in the peculiarities of human associations. Reformers blame everything on “the system” and propose new systems that would-they assert-guarantee a brave new world of Justice, peace, and abundance. Everyone, it seems, has his own idea of what the problem is and how it can be corrected. But all agree on one point-that their own System would work very well if only it were universally adopted.

              The point of view espoused in this essay is more radical and at the same time more pessimistic. Stated as succinctly as possible: the fundamental problem does not lie in any particular System but rather in Systems As Such (Das System an und fuer shich). (1)

            • You just don’t seem to understand the is–ought gap. Or you don’t seem to think that God wants more than just intellectual assent.

              I fully understand the is-ought gap, I just don’t think you’ve communicated it properly. Your version of Christianity is simply just different from many others and I have to reassess how you see it. There are too many versions of Christianity to deal with.

              I honestly do not understand how you could possibly think I believe that, given all of our discussions together.

              When you said, “Then they would be,” and then asked, “Have ye evidence?” it sounded to me like you were skeptical that atheists can be good without belief in god and you were asking for evidence. I doubted you really believed this and so I had to ask to be sure. Is there anything wrong with that?

              I’ll make a bald assertion: God gives each of us the relevant evidence to optimally push us to do our part in making the world a less shitty place.

              You know me and you have much in common. We both want to make the world a less shitty place. I don’t think Christianity necessarily has anything to do with it. Sure it can inspire to do good, but it can have the opposite effect as well. And this applies to all religions. If there are going to be large numbers of Christians in this world for some time, I do wish that they focus on the good and ignore the bad. I think we wish that of people of all faiths.

              You appear to think that there is a better way for God to provide evidence, such that humans would more quickly and more diligently make the world a less shitty place.

              If you are already in agreement with me that belief in god is not a requirement to be good and to be motivated to do good, then there isn’t much to go on with. I like to debate god’s ontology; you on the other hand like to view god in terms of what best inspires people to make the world better. Lot’s of things can inspire us to do better, including false religions. The fact that Christians are motivated to do good because of their religion says absolutely nothing about whether it is a true religion or not.

            • Luke Breuer

              There are too many versions of Christianity to deal with.

              There are, it turns out, many ways of thinking about reality completely separate from Christianity. I’ve spent over 10,000 hours talking to skeptics and atheists on the internet and I have seen quite a lot of variety. So I’ve concluded: you really have to get to know the specific person to whom you’re talking. Anything else will not do, if you are actually interested in the truth, instead of reinforcing your own beliefs about reality.

              When you said, “Then they would be,” and then asked, “Have ye evidence?” it sounded to me like you were skeptical that atheists can be good without belief in god and you were asking for evidence. I doubted you really believed this and so I had to ask to be sure. Is there anything wrong with that?

              I was snarkily channeling the atheist tendency to refuse to talk about “just bare possibilities”, without evidence. No, I believe nothing like “you have to vocalize the word ‘Jesus’ to make the world better”. And I won’t say ‘wrong’, I’ll just say that I was very, very surprised that you thought I would think that. It is a very naive idea that many Christians hold, and I would have thought that I have demonstrated that I think a bit about what I say before I say it.

              Sure it can inspire to do good, but it can have the opposite effect as well.

              What isn’t described by this statement?

              I like to debate god’s ontology

              I will debate God’s ontology if I can connect it to my experience of reality; sometimes I can, oftentimes I cannot. Remember that not all questions are good questions. Scientists perhaps know this the best; ask the wrong questions and you will stymie your progress. I think the same holds with respect to God and the information he has given us about him: if we ask the wrong questions—questions not required to do take the next few steps in life—we may just not get the answers. I prefer not spinning my wheels.

              The fact that Christians are motivated to do good because of their religion says absolutely nothing about whether it is a true religion or not.

              1. The fact that the beliefs Christians hold help them do good in the world says absolutely nothing about whether those beliefs are true.

              2. The fact that the beliefs scientists hold help them predict reality better says absolutely nothing about whether those beliefs are true.

              Do you really hold to #2 and not #1? I will point out that the beliefs in #2 are likely wrong, but we know that ‘wrong’ can lead to ‘less wrong’: science works by successive approximations of their models. And so the beliefs in #1 can go from ‘wrong’ to ‘less wrong’.

            • What can i say, your version of Christianity is certainly preferred over the fundies.

            • Luke Breuer

              I likewise prefer Massimo Pigliucci’s form of atheism over the atheism of Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, Stenger, Boghossian, Coyne, Loftus, etc. At least Pigliucci thinks critically and does his homework instead of caricaturing his opponents. He calls his own out in no uncertain terms, which they hate. Reminds me of:

              Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
                  reprove a wise man, and he will love you. (Prov 9:8)

            • Pigliucci is great, but I also like the militantism of some of the New Atheists, Its needed when it’s needed. I do like Pigliucci’s keen knowledge of philosophy. I think philosophy is needed in order to be an effective atheist.

            • Thinker,

              decisions imply time through either desiring a change in the state of affairs, or a sustenance in a state of affairs.

              Justin Schieber excellently took Craig to task on this in his denial of time in creating, and his use of the KCA in an RD some time back.

              It’s this one at about 55 mins in. Well worth listening because he asked this directly to Craig and then has at his answer.

              http://www.doubtcast.org/podcast/rd92_atheists_in_the_pulpit.mp3

            • “knowing everything that can be known”.

              What does that even mean? God just becomes a really intelligent human, then,

            • Luke Breuer

              Well, some Christian theology holds that there is nothing that is permanently outside of mankind’s kenotic grasp, should he choose to work in relationship with God. So your “really intelligent human” bit could easily be the case, nontrivially.

              It seems entirely sensical that God doesn’t know what it is like to draw a square circle, because that is not something that is knowable. Likewise, it makes sense that God can (a) create first-cause beings; (b) not know the specific actions each one will choose, even though he may know all the possible paths that could be chosen in a lifetime. If you insist that all choices of a first-cause being be knowable before the being is created, you effectively destroy the idea of ‘first-cause’. So if you want, you can have God’s omniscience triumph over his omnipotence. You’re welcome to make claims that defeat all further inquiry. I just prefer not doing that.

            • Luke we have computers that can predict human behavior that are finite and limited. I’m sure that a god who knows every state of every atom in the entire universe could predict human behavior with astonishing accuracy.

              http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081107143755.htm

              http://www.huffingtonpost.com/albertlaszlo-barabasi/bursts-can-human-behavior_b_556030.html

            • Luke Breuer

              You are starting from the premise that human behavior is deterministic; obviously people are predictable if that premise is correct. I question it.

            • I’m just saying that if technology can predict human behavior with a high rate of accuracy, then a god who knows the position of every atom and everything about you and your past and DNA and upbringing and family history should be able to predict your behavior with near perfect accuracy even if determinism is false.

            • Luke Breuer

              Alternatively, we’ve turned people into deterministic machines with the society we’ve built, where everyone needs to be a good little consumer and do as the advertisements tell him to do. It’s easy to make people very predictable: enslave them.

            • Nothing does that better than religion.

            • Luke Breuer

              I dunno, the USSR did a damn fine job of it.

            • If you ask me the Catholic church did it best. Not now of course; back when they had real power.

            • Luke Breuer

              But that’s apples & oranges; they had much more time than the USSR did.

            • “The ontological argument has long held that existence is better than non-existence”

              Eh, no it doesn’t. Or no it can’t. Schopenhauer, I think, was right in pointing out that it is invalid to compare the value of something with the value of nothing. It simply can’t have a value.You cannot say it is better to have existence than non existence.

            • Luke Breuer

              Would you care to spell out a bit more of the argument, to at least make it searchable?

            • gosh, will have to look over some old notes on a Schopenhauer-ish essay…

            • Read his essay, The Emptiness of Existence. It is slightly more nuanced than my claim, since he says existence has no intrinsic value (and neither, I guess would non-existence). In fact, he ended up saying the opposite, that non-existence was superior to existence. As he stated, “Nothing else can be stated as the aim of our existence except the knowledge that it would be better for us not to exist.”

              But the idea that you can ascribe a value to philosophical nothingness is absurd, in my view. It can neither have positive or negative value. It is value-less. As set out here: http://www.byrdnick.com/archives/4188

            • Luke Breuer

              So when someone says, “I’m glad I exist”, or “It would be better if I didn’t exist”, they are saying nonsensical things? Or when someone says, “It is better now that my pain no longer exists”, or “It is worse now that I no longer feel pleasure”, they are also nonsensical statements? Perhaps the issue here is that the agent making the valuation always exists, and as soon as the agent disappears, the valuation is also gone. Heh, I said this before having read your first paragraph.

              I started The Emptiness of Existence which begins:

              This emptiness finds its expression in the whole form of existence, in the infiniteness of Time and Space as opposed to the finiteness of the individual in both; in the flitting present as the only manner of real existence; in the dependence and relativity of all things; in constantly Becoming without Being; in continually wishing without being satisfied; in an incessant thwarting of one’s efforts, which go to make up life, until victory is won. Time, and the transitoriness of all things, are merely the form under which the will to live, which as the thing-in-itself is imperishable, has revealed to Time the futility of its efforts. Time is that by which at every moment all things become as nothing in our hands, and thereby lose all their true value.

              Good grief, that is depressing! Time destroys everything of value. Well hmmm, if that is the case, it seems easy to conceive of nothing being worth it. WP: Schopenhauer continues the theme:

              For Schopenhauer, human desire was futile, illogical, directionless, and, by extension, so was all human action in the world.

              For Schopenhauer, human desiring, “willing,” and craving cause suffering or pain.

              Is it really surprising that Schopenhauer would see it as better to not exist than exist? Contrast this to Christian theology, which considers those things of value which will last for eternity. Every truth that can be integrated into the permanent memetic DNA is of value. Every action which truly pushes us toward ‘better’ is of value. The final reality will be one where everything not of value is burned off. The matter which Schopenhauer disdains is the ‘seen’, which are distinctly less important than the unseen. We remain who we are after eating a burrito; matter is merely one language in which we can be written.

              In a sense, the very competition between the purest forms of atheism and theism seems to be whether there is anything of ultimate value, anything objective we can truly discover and build toward. Are Daniel Miessler’s squirts merely positive-derivative measurements of flotsam in the ocean of illusion, or can they be used to understand ‘better’ in the realm of value and meaning, ad infinitum?

            • Well, he was a pessimist!

            • Luke Breuer

              I summarize such people this way:

              I cannot find a way to make pain and suffering meaningful, thus they ought to go away or life isn’t worth living or something like that.

            • Nerdsamwich

              Why should existence be better than non-existence? Thins are always better in our imaginations than they are in reality. How often have you been disappointed on the long-sought fulfillment of some fantasy or goal, because you had so built it up in your mind that reality couldn’t hope to compete?

            • Luke Breuer

              Things are not better in our imagination in the cases you describe; our imagination was malfunctioning. That is hardly a good thing. In terms of existence being better than non-existence, I only believe that is true for good states of affairs, by definition. If you want to dig into this issue more, go somewhere else; I don’t find it sufficiently interesting.

            • Nerdsamwich

              Then why is it not the case that Craig’s “greatest conceivable being” is not likewise the product of a faulty imagination?

            • Luke Breuer

              It could be.

        • Andy_Schueler

          That was not the argument Dawkins used IIRC. What he said was, that if we were to accept the argument that the Universe needs an omni-creator because it is so vast and complex (which Dawkins obviously does not accept, this is only for the sake of the argument), then the exact same argument would apply to said creator God with infinitely more power, because, by definition, nothing could be more vast and complex than a being that is everywhere, knows everything and is able to do everything. The most frequent theist objection to that which I have seen was that God is all that, but still “metaphysically simple”, which was never defined and just seems to mean “well, we conceive our god as being vast and complex, but if we attach the prefix “metaphysical”, maybe we can pretend that “vast and complex” is sometimes equal to “not vast and complex” and no one will notice”.

          • primenumbers

            Yes, they claim simplicity (or total lack of complexity) for their God because their God has no component parts or other such non-reasons. But because it’s their God they can define it any way (even in non-sensical ways) they wish. This is why it’s fruitless to go down the theology rabbit hole unless you enjoy twisting people around and around….

          • Luke Breuer

            I’m not convinced that a Yahweh-like being is more complex than a multiverse where everything that can happen, does happen. At some point, you have to really ask what ‘complexity’ is. I am tempted to go with Popper here, and ask what positing Yahweh rules out. This is very tricky, because practically all of Yahweh’s promises are first and foremost claims about the mental realm. It’s almost as if the physical realm is just how signals get amplified enough so that we can see them in an undeniable fashion. (It’s easier to deny ontological status to mental illness than physical illness, for example.)

            Ultimately, simplicity cannot be the deciding factor. We don’t know what generates realities (otherwise the fine-tuning argument wouldn’t be in flux), and so Ockham’s razor just doesn’t apply to what exists, but only that modeling reality with successive approximations is the best fit to the brains we have. Instead, the guiding factor must be what helps us ‘navigate reality’, where each of us will probably have a slightly to very different idea on what constitutes ‘navigating reality’. We generally agree on the importance of being well-fed, safe, able to have good relationships, etc. But after that point, things get pretty muddy. I really liked Meaning is an Illusion, not because I agree with it, but because it really demonstrates this huge divergence in how people ‘navigate reality’ once the basics are taken care of.

            • lunaticus

              I’m really not sure how useful it is to talk about how simple or complex God might be, if we have have no empirical way of testing the predictions our ideas might make.

              That said, when I think of complexity, I think of computer and information science, where complexity is rigorously defined along the lines of “minimum description length.” Physics seems to be making fantastic progress in boiling down nature to an ever-smaller and simpler set of descriptions, analogous to a tiny function that describes a enormously complex-seeming fractal. Who knows how far down we’ll boil the universe, but I think a deterministic universe is almost certainly required to achieve this kind of simplicity. It would seem to me that the description of any agent with a theistic sort of libertarian free will [God] would never be able to be boiled down to anything less than a full 1:1 description of simply everything.

              It’s easier to deny ontological status to mental illness than physical illness, for example.

              I’d say that was only ever true because we used to have no understanding of how a physical brain works. We know better now.

              I am tempted to go with Popper here, and ask what positing Yahweh rules out. This is very tricky, because practically all of Yahweh’s promises are first and foremost claims about the mental realm.

              A couple of things: first, as I alluded to above, promises (meaning predictions?) about the mental realm really are predictions about the physical realm, and ought to be subject to falsification by looking at brains. Second, I’m not aware of anything that is definitively ruled out by positing Yahweh. It may be just my bias speaking, but theology and especially apologetics seem largely like efforts to evacuate God-claims of any predictive power in our material world, to move God out of the cross-fire of falsification in our observed world and behind a curtain of unknowability, ultimate concern, or whatever helps us navigate reality.

            • Luke Breuer

              Physics seems to be making fantastic progress in boiling down nature to an ever-smaller and simpler set of descriptions, analogous to a tiny function that describes a enormously complex-seeming fractal.

              On what basis do you believe this? I’ve read most of the way through John Barrow’s Theories of Everything, in which he casts significant doubt on what you seem to be claiming.

              I also just came across Russ Abbott’s Reductionism, emergence, and levels of abstractions, in which he criticizes reductionism. It’s short and to the point, so I’d suggest just reading it.

              The idea that we can merely build up everything based on the laws of physics is awfully questionable. It might be akin to saying that words are ‘merely’ letters and stories are ‘merely’ words, so the letters are the most fundamental things. That doesn’t really make sense; letters are actually just vehicles for meaning and communication. To say that the rules about the letters are a complete description begs quite a few questions.

              I’d say that was only ever true because we used to have no understanding of how a physical brain works. We know better now.

              I think this is rather irrelevant; the fact is that we denied something that was ontologically real. Claiming that the best we could do was deny it given what we know is the very thing I mean to debate: if your epistemology doesn’t allow you to accurately understand what is, then perhaps it is your epistemology that has the problems and not the available evidence. To the point: if you say that something doesn’t exist unless you can see the specifics/mechanism, then you’ll be handicapped in comparison to those who are willing to work in murkier waters, where things aren’t so clear.

              A couple of things: first, as I alluded to above, promises (meaning predictions?) about the mental realm really are predictions about the physical realm, and ought to be subject to falsification by looking at brains.

              I think verification/falsification can be done based on said promises (yes, I would call them ‘predictions’); whether or not they can be done in the physical realm depends on whether physicalism obtains. I’m currently reading a philosophy dissertation, Is Physicalism “Really” True?, which is pretty fascinating.

              Second, I’m not aware of anything that is definitively ruled out by positing Yahweh. It may be just my bias speaking, but theology and especially apologetics seem largely like efforts to evacuate God-claims of any predictive power in our material world, to move God out of the cross-fire of falsification in our observed world and behind a curtain of unknowability, ultimate concern, or whatever helps us navigate reality.

              I agree 100% with your “seem largely”. I have observed this myself and it frustrates me. Jesus acted in spacetime, healing people in spacetime, speaking in spacetime, loving in spacetime. If Christianity is not powerfully true, then it seems like it’s just emperor’s new clothes, with or without excellent human community, with or without a distinct power structure.

              On the other hand, I come across stuff like Meaning is an Illusion (Absurdism), and have to question whether it really is only ever an illusion. Can we construct meaning and values such that they don’t get washed away when the storms hit? (Mt 7:24-27) I think lots of religions have much to say on the matter, and I don’t think we’ve gotten anywhere near to testing whether what they have to say works. After all, human communities are the most complex systems in existence.

            • lunaticus

              On what basis do I believe that? I don’t (and didn’t) claim that a theory of everything is in hand or even possible, hence why I said, “Who knows how far down we’ll boil the universe…” And yet, three of the four forces of nature have been unified and can be expressed in a couple of lines. Slower progress is being made on Gravity, but progress nonetheless. The ideas of emergence, or higher layers of abstraction, don’t contradict my position. Whether the barrier between layers of abstraction really is a hard one, or a problem of computing power, is irrelevant. The existence of the lower, more fundamental layers are still necessary for the higher layers to exist. Emergence doesn’t imply new ontologies, let alone unobserved realms and beings beyond time and space.

              The idea that we can merely build up everything based on the laws of physics is awfully questionable. It might be akin to saying that words are ‘merely’ letters and stories are ‘merely’ words, so the letters are the most fundamental things. That doesn’t really make sense; letters are actually just vehicles for meaning and communication. To say that the rules about the letters are a complete description begs quite a few questions.

              That’s a poor analogy, and I’m not sure how you meant to apply it to the idea of a complex material universe arising out of simple, material beginnings. Sure, letters and words add up to a story, for those who arranged them that way. Are you arguing that the universe has a “story” in the same sense? I’d say any meaning we find in the universe is of our own creation, and to mistake the meaning you apply to it with some cosmic meaning, and then to infer all kinds of new ontologies, (God?), is too much of a stretch. Defining new ontologies into existence simply by way of analogy seems gratuitous. Maybe that’s not what you’re doing, but I can’t seem to make sense of your analogy any other way.

              I’d say that was only ever true because we used to have no understanding of how a physical brain works. We know better now.

              I think this is rather irrelevant; the fact is that we denied something that was ontologically real.

              I think you might have missed my point, which maybe I stated a little too succinctly. The point about mental illness is not that people ever denied something that was ontologically real, because of course people believed that there was something real going. The problem is that people, when faced with a gap in their knowledge, not merely invented unevidenced explanations to fill that gap, but invented entire ontologies! I’d say it’s similar to how people just feel there must be some cosmic meaning to life beyond the actual meaning we create, and so they invent an entire hidden reality to account for it, and then believe in it. I’m afraid I can’t sign on for such an extravagent epistemology.

              I think verification/falsification can be done based on said promises (yes, I would call them ‘predictions’); whether or not they can be done in the physical realm depends on whether physicalism obtains.

              I’m interested in how a controlled experiment could be conducted on things that exist outside of the physical realm.

              …if you say that something doesn’t exist unless you can see the specifics/mechanism, then you’ll be handicapped in comparison to those who are willing to work in murkier waters, where things aren’t so clear.

              Maybe this is an impasse, (and forgive me if this comes across as a bit glib), but what you define as a “handicap,” I would define as retaining an ability to separate fact from fiction.

            • Luke Breuer

              On what basis do I believe that? I don’t (and didn’t) claim that a theory of everything is in hand or even possible, hence why I said, “Who knows how far down we’ll boil the universe…”

              The phrase “boil the universe” indicates distilling to a finite description, as does “analogous to a tiny function that describes a enormously complex-seeming fractal”.

              The ideas of emergence, or higher layers of abstraction, don’t contradict my position.

              They contradict your position if they threaten to make the description above infinite, in the non-recursively enumerable sense. What you’re positing, or at least saying we can approach up to some point, is a [finite] Turing machine which, if fed a statistically likely input of randomness, would produce the world we see. The instant we suspect this Turing machine might be infinite in extent (thus making it not a formal Turing machine), ‘boil’ becomes greatly weakened, and Dawkins infinitely-complex God complaint dissipates.

              Emergence doesn’t imply new ontologies, let alone unobserved realms and beings beyond time and space.

              How you pick your ontology seems underdetermined by the evidence. Remember, Dawkins’ assertion is that introducing God into one’s ontology makes things worse. And yet, if this project to reduce the universe to a small Turing machine + truly random input fails, then it may be that there is no better, simpler description than the one posed by theists. The question is how to proceed given the current evidence. Some people think it points some ways, others, other ways. But why say one way is categorically ‘better’ than another? Dawkins thinks that we ought to use ‘simplicity’ as a measure, but that seems awfully a priori and dogmatic, when applied to anything other than an approximation—which is all that science produces.

              Are you arguing that the universe has a “story” in the same sense? I’d say any meaning we find in the universe is of our own creation

              Your epistemology seems unable to acknowledge the existence of any such ‘story’. I don’t entirely disagree with the bit about ‘own creation’, as long as we admit that our scientific theories are also our ‘own creation’, and yet are simultaneously constrained by this thing we call ‘reality’. There does seem to be more flexibility as to what creations we find ‘meaningful’, but we categorically do not find just any sequence of bits to be ‘meaningful’, indicating that there actually does exist discoverable structure to ‘meaning’. The ‘story’ of our universe could easily be us telling ever-bigger stories that we cause to become true. This is theologically cogent; it treats us as fundamentally creative beings.

              I’m afraid I can’t sign on for such an extravagent epistemology.

              Ok, so you’re saying that demons and such were replaced with brain-misbehaving. When I said “mental illness”, I was actually thinking of mental illnesses where people were blamed for them, not when demons were blamed for them.

              This may be a bit of an abrupt turn, but your statement here reminds me of the perennial question, “Is this all that life is?” The Christian says, “No, there is always more, for God is unfathomable yet invites you to fathom him and what he has created ever-further.” Exactly how this further-fathoming is done, I leave up to the diversity of individuals. I have no need to be an epistemological/ontological/metaphysical tyrant. If someone can actually make progress in understanding by positing demons, I’m all for it. But we want actual progress, not just-so stories that hinder progress.

              I’m interested in how a controlled experiment could be conducted on things that exist outside of the physical realm.

              Well you’d need some sort of transduction. Suppose the brain does said transduction; perhaps our scientific instruments can detect it, perhaps not. But we do have people’s self-reported introspective senses, which we ought consider no less reliable than their extrospective senses. (see The Unreliability of Naive Introspection) Physicalism doesn’t have to obtain for us to make progress. The thing that I think makes people like Sam Harris unhappy is the prospect that maybe we’d have to trust people’s self-reported experiencing instead of advancing to the point where we can utterly ignore them and merely scan their brains.

              Maybe this is an impasse, (and forgive me if this comes across as a bit glib), but what you define as a “handicap,” I would define as retaining an ability to separate fact from fiction.

              The rubber hits the road when you ask how little data a scientist can use to do Nobel Prize-winning research. The less data required, the more likely you will be the one to get the Prize. If you require too much evidence—justifying it by calling it ‘sufficient’, of course—then you won’t be the one to make the discovery.

              Stated differently, fact and fiction are indistinguishable at the very bleeding edge. The person who can distinguish in the murkiest of waters will get the worm.

            • Luke Breuer

              Your next reply is shown as “awaiting moderation”; @johnnyp76:disqus?

            • Andy_Schueler

              I’m not convinced that a Yahweh-like being is more complex than a multiverse where everything that can happen, does happen.

              That is a strawman because Dawkins wasn´t talking about an infinite multiverse or a multiverse of any other kind.

              For the rest of your comment, I cannot parse it in any way that would make it relevant for what I said.

            • Luke Breuer

              That is a strawman because Dawkins wasn´t talking about an infinite multiverse or a multiverse of any other kind.

              Dawkins most definitely believed he was providing a better alternative, and I’m pretty sure he did argue for a multiverse in his The God Delusion. Shall I grab some quotes?

              The fundamental question here, is whether Yahweh explains things as they are better than the alternatives. Simplicity is but a measure that is sometimes helpful. Ultimately, individual people will have to come up with why they prefer one explanation over the other.

            • Andy_Schueler

              …and I’m pretty sure he did argue for a multiverse in his The God Delusion. Shall I grab some quotes?

              As far as I remember, he mentioned a multiverse as a possibility and that´s it. And I´m positively certain that I would remember Dawkins arguing for a multiverse because defending a view for which there is no empirical evidence whatsoever, in a book like The God Delusion, would have been comically stupid.

              The fundamental question here, is whether Yahweh explains things as they are better than the alternatives.

              I don´t see how that is an explanation” at all, an explanation” reduced your ignorance instead of increasing it. If the both of us know the exact same amount about x, which is virtually nothing, and you say “Yahweh does x”, then you are still *exactly* as ignorant as I am about x, you have merely given your ignorance a name and a personality for reasons you can´t explain (so you effectively know less than before because you now have more to explain (x and Yahweh instead of just x) but you haven´t learned anything).
              That is all completely beside the point however – this has nothing to do with Dawkins 747 argument.

            • Luke Breuer

              As far as I remember, he mentioned a multiverse as a possibility and that´s it.

              Whether or not he thinks the multiverse is merely a possibility is irrelevant; Dawkins says that a multiverse is a better explanation than God because it is simple: just add some natural selection and you’ll eventually get a fine-tuned universe with intelligent life. He talks about it in the chapter Why There Almost Certainly is no God, p174-176 of my version, which I found via the index.

              and you say “Yahweh does x”

              I agree that this formulation of adding Yahweh in does nothing. But that’s not the only one. The Christian claims, for example, that humans can understand reality because they are made in the image of the creator of reality, with a finite mind that is analogous to the creator’s infinite mind. This is much more than “Yahweh does x”. The Christian can claim, based on his metaphysic, that there will ultimately be no permanent kenotic blindspots. The skeptic has no reason other than induction to believe this, and he/she is using a mind which can only participate in discussions like this due to an evolutionary spandrel.

              That is all completely beside the point however – this has nothing to do with Dawkins 747 argument.

              I’m not so sure. Whether or not he acknowledges this, Dawkins must establish that my ability to understand and explore reality is worse (or debatably, no better) if I believe Yahweh exists. It’s irrelevant whether things get more complex by positing Yahweh if I can still understand (and by this I exclude “just-so stories”) reality better. Oftentimes, when you find out the real story behind something, you discover that there were a lot of complexities involved which weren’t covered in e.g. eighth grade history class.

              Merely positing an intentional creator who created beings with intent promotes teleology to being first-class, instead of merely an [evolutionarily?] emergent phenomenon. Positing an intentional creator may be enough to dismantle the claim that Meaning is [necessarily] an illusion.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Dawkins says that a multiverse is a better explanation than God because it is simple: just add some natural selection and you’ll eventually get a fine-tuned universe with intelligent life. He talks about it in the chapter Why There Almost Certainly is no God, p174-176 of my version, which I found via the index.

              You were talking about the 747 argument. And that starts six pages after that on page 180.

              The Christian claims, for example, that humans can understand reality because they are made in the image of the creator of reality, with a finite mind that is analogous to the creator’s infinite mind. This is much more than “Yahweh does x”.

              This also doesn´t explain anything – you know exactly as much about how humans understand things as you did before, you simply added plenty of new mysteries like “how can something finite be analogous to something infinite?” that have zero explanatory power and are themselves also completely unexplained.

              I’m not so sure. Whether or not he acknowledges this, Dawkins must establish that my ability to understand and explore reality is worse (or debatably, no better) if I believe Yahweh exists.

              Erm… no. He doesn´t. I fail to see how this is of any relevance for what he said.

            • Luke Breuer

              You were talking about the 747 argument. And that starts six pages after that on page 180.

              Step 5.

              This also doesn´t explain anything

              The question of whether we have any permanent kenotic blindspots is a real one. The question of whether purpose and meaning are real or illusory/emergent is a real one. There are plenty of serious questions which people ask, which the supernatural address in the various forms of the supernatural. You can say that they don’t explain in the form of mechanistic, scientific explanations, but that is not the only way that people parse reality. In particular, our attempts to understand our own, deeply personal experiences do not solely rely on science. If by ‘explain’ you restrict to ‘scientifically explain’, that begs questions.

              Erm… no. He doesn´t. I fail to see how this is of any relevance for what he said.

              It is ridiculous to complain about one’s new metaphysic being ‘more complicated’ than one’s previous metaphysic, if the new one helps explain and predict more.

            • Andy_Schueler

              You can say that they don’t explain in the form of mechanistic, scientific explanations

              They don´t “explain” in any other way either. You don´t understand more with these “explanations” than someone who has no explanation at all – which means that they don´t actually are “explanations”.

            • Luke Breuer

              What other ways are there of ‘explaining’, according to you? I’d rather not play the game of “try to find out what would constitute ‘explain’ for Andy Schueler”; I’m pretty bad at guessing like that.

            • Andy_Schueler

              You are conflating “answer” with “explanation”. Imagine two people who know nothing about thunder and lightning. Both wonder about these phenomena – why they happen at some times, why they happen at all, if they mean anything, if they might happen because they did anything wrong or didn´t do something they should have done, and so on and so forth. Now, the first one says “there is a super-powerful man in the sky who makes these things”. This is an answer. It´s not an explanation. The difference is, that if it were an explanation for thunder and lightning, this man would be less ignorant about thunder and lightning than the other man who has no answer. But he is not only not less ignorant, his ignorance has increased, because he now knows exactly as much about thunder and lightning as he knew when he still had no answer at all, but now he added yet another thing to the list of things he knows nothing about – the super-powerful man in the sky who makes thunder and lightning – which also demands an explanation.
              An actual “explanation” reduces your ignorance. That doesn´t mean that an actual explanation has to be “scientific” in a strict sense of the word. An old weather proverb (for example) is not exactly “scientific” (but also not completely “unscientific” obviously) , but unlike saying that there is a super-powerful man in the sky who makes thunder and lightning, some weather proverbs actually could reduce your ignorance about the subject, even if only by a very small amount.
              In some sense, a faux “explanation” like some superman in the sky making thunder and lightning is better than nothing, because “at least you have an answer” and feel somewhat relieved and less anxious because the world makes a little more sense to you and thus becomes a little less scary – that´s how our minds work, we have a deep need for answers and a made up answer still feels better than no answer at all (that´s one of the reasons for why conspiracy theories are so incredibly successful – even if they are completely made up, at least you have an answer).
              In a different sense, this is worse than having no answer at all, because while the world might make more sense to you with such a faux explanation, you have actually learned nothing at all and became even more ignorant than you were before.

            • Luke Breuer

              An actual “explanation” reduces your ignorance.

              You’ve merely shifted the onus to the word ‘ignorance’. If Meaning is an Illusion, it is impossible to be ignorant of anything in meaning- or value-land, and thus anything which claims to shed objective light on them does not “reduce your ignorance”. The Bible obviously spends most of its time in meaning- and value-land; if you are just going to out and say those are 100% subjective and nothing could reduce one’s ‘ignorance’ of them, then I think we’re done.

              that´s how our minds work, we have a deep need for answers and a made up answer still feels better than no answer at all

              Is this true? I know it’s a really popular meme among atheists and skeptics, but I’ve never actually seen evidential support. I did start reading On Being Certain after Loftus referenced it in OTF; the book argues that certainty [about reality] is an emotion, not an intellectual result. I could see people constantly searching for patterns in the data, and becoming falsely confident that a given pattern is the pattern. But is it demonstrably true that having an answer which is not a good answer really makes people feel better?

              I would be interested in reading more about scientific exploration of your claim; I often see it in its bare form and it smells too much like an old wive’s skeptic’s tale. I can see people preferring a delusion to being aware of risk. I can see people preferring a delusion to acknowledging loss. I can see people preferring a delusion to admitting that their model of reality is wrong.

              Did you form this belief due to reading something like Shermer’s Patternicity: Finding Meaningful Patterns in Meaningless Noise? I haven’t read his book How We Believe, but I did start What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite, looking up the scientific research as it was cited. DiSalvo definitely spun a story that went beyond the evidence. I don’t really have a problem with philosophizing like this, although it would have been nice for him to state more clearly what the science really says, and how he’s going beyond it. I wonder if someone has done this for your claim about “how our minds work”?

              In a different sense, this is worse than having no answer at all, because while the world might make more sense to you with such a faux explanation, you have actually learned nothing at all and became even more ignorant than you were before.

              This is often stated, and rarely supported. First, the more I understand about reality, the more I know I don’t know; if ignorance is measured by what % of reality I know that I know, then my ignorance goes up the more I learn. Second, not every theist thinks that an answer to the why question obviates the need for an answer to the how question. Plenty of theists have tried to understand how God did things; it is not clear to me that belief in God was a liability to them.

            • Andy_Schueler

              If Meaning is an Illusion, it is impossible to be ignorant of anything in meaning- or value-land…

              “Meaning” != “Value”.

              …and thus anything which claims to shed objective light on them does not “reduce your ignorance”. The Bible obviously spends most of its time in meaning- and value-land; if you are just going to out and say those are 100% subjective and nothing could reduce one’s ‘ignorance’ of them

              I don´t say that and I don´t see how what you wrote here addresses what I said in any way.

              Is this true? I know it’s a really popular meme among atheists and skeptics, but I’ve never actually seen evidential support.

              Psychologists call this a “need for closure”. Affects all of us, but in varying degrees obviously:
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Closure_(psychology)

              Did you form this belief due to reading something like Shermer’s Patternicity: Finding Meaningful Patterns in Meaningless Noise?

              Nope.

              This is often stated, and rarely supported. First, the more I understand about reality…

              I´m not talking about things you do understand, I´m talking about things you don´t understand.

              … the more I know I don’tknow; if ignorance is measured by what % of reality I know that I know, then my ignorance goes up the more I learn.

              That is completely nonsensical. It´s like saying that the more money you have, the less money you have – a blatant self-contradiction. If you know that x exists and know nothing about it, and you also know nothing about y, not even that there is y to begin with, then understanding x and finding out that y exists without understanding y doesn´t make you “more ignorant”, it obviously makes you less ignorant, because now you know more about x and more about how much of reality there is to explain in the first place because you became aware of y.

              Second, not every theist thinks that an answer to the why question obviates the need for an answer to the how question.

              Irrelevant. Theism gives you no explanations for a how or a why, it only gives you answers.

            • Luke Breuer

              “Meaning” != “Value”.

              Hence why I said “meaning- or value-land”, underlining added this time.

              I don´t say that and I don´t see how what you wrote here addresses what I said in any way.

              You are claiming that positing a deity is only legitimate if one’s ignorance is thereby reduced. I need to know what possibly qualifies as reducing one’s ignorance. Your stance on issues like Meaning is an illusion is very relevant. If meaning is an illusion, then one cannot become less ignorant of meaning. Since a good chunk of religion is about ‘meaning’, this is terribly relevant.

              Psychologists call this a “need for closure”.

              Actually, you were positing a degenerate satisfaction of the NFCC, claiming that it works particularly well. Now, we know that there are many degenerate ways to satisfy our various desires; it is often Christians who claim that many ways people seek to satisfy desires are bad! But what you’re claiming is that this degenerate satisfaction of the NFCC works particularly well, even though it does not decrease ignorance one iota. I would like to know whether this particular aspect of the NFCC is actually true.

              An alternative to your claim being true is that the just-so stories actually serve a non-delusionary, useful role. It seems that you want to expressly deny any utilitarian role. For once we admit utility, we admit possible truthfulness. Science, after all, is considered a way to discover truth in part due to its utility. “It works.”

              That is completely nonsensical. It´s like saying that the more money you have, the less money you have – a blatant self-contradiction.

              Really? I cannot define ‘ignorance’ as “% of the truth I do not know”?

              Irrelevant. Theism gives you no explanations for a how or a why, it only gives you answers.

              It strikes me that you are claiming that ‘purpose’ is never an explanation. Is this the case? If not, it at least seems that positing purposes of a divine being never serve as an explanation. If this is the case, why?

            • Andy_Schueler

              Hence why I said “meaning- or value-land”, underlining added this time.

              You said: “If Meaning is an Illusion, it is impossible to be ignorant of anything in meaning- or value-land” – note that the first part of the sentence speaks only about “meaning” and the second suddenly introduces “value” for no apparent reason. That´s why I said “meaning” != “value”.

              You are claiming that positing a deity is only legitimate if one’s ignorance is thereby reduced.

              I don´t say that and I´m in no position to command what anyone else is allowed to posit. What I said is rather that this could only be an “explanation” if it actually reduces your ignorance.

              I need to know what possibly qualifies as reducing one’s ignorance.

              Take everything you know about x and put it in a set. Now think whether your answer to a question about x makes the set of things you know about x bigger. If it doesn´t, you have an answer, but you haven´t explained anything.

              Your stance on issues like Meaning is an illusion is very relevant. If meaning is an illusion, then one cannot become less ignorant of meaning.

              I disagree. Something being illusory doesn´t imply in any way, shape or form that one cannot become less ignorant about it. Take optical illusions for example – there´s plenty of things to understand about them.
              “Illusory” is probably a somewhat misleading word here anyway, because it implies “not real” – but an optical illusion is not “not real” in the sense that you are not actually seeing anything, and the same for meaning.

              Actually, you were positing a degenerate satisfaction of the NFCC, claiming that it works particularly well. Now, we know that there are many degenerate ways to satisfy our various desires;

              Let me interrupt you right here. I said no such thing, and I wouldn´t say it now. What I said was that it is in some sense better and in some sense worse. It´s better in the sense that it reduces your anxiety and makes the world a less scary place and it´s worse in the sense that you think you learned something while in fact you didn´t.

              But what you’re claiming is that this degenerate satisfaction of the NFCC works particularly well

              Again, I claimed no such thing and I don´t even know what this is supposed to mean in the first place – works particularly well compared to what?

              An alternative to your claim being true is that the just-so stories actually serve a non-delusionary, useful role.

              Erm… yes, this is not an alternative to my claim, I even pointed out one such “useful role” – it makes you less anxious.

              Really? I cannot define ‘ignorance’ as “% of the truth I do not know”?

              You can. But that´s not what you did. If all of reality were you and x, y and z, all of which are equally complex in nature. You are aware that x and y exist, and know nothing about them, for z, you don´t even know that it exists.
              Now you start beginning to understand x and start realizing that z exists. Saying that you are equally ignorant as before because there are still two equally complex things that you don´t understand at all is completely nonsensical – it´s like saying that z didn´t exist until you became aware of it, which means you could never become aware of it in the first place, hence: nonsensical.

              It strikes me that you are claiming that ‘purpose’ is never an explanation. Is this the case?

              I don´t know, and this is too vague for me to make a guess. What would be a candidate of a “purpose” explanation?

            • Luke Breuer

              I don´t say that and I´m in no position to command what anyone else is allowed to posit. What I said is rather that this could only be an “explanation” if it actually reduces your ignorance.

              You’re a stickler for precise formulation when I see it as unnecessary. In my view I see my statement and your second sentence equivalent.

              Take everything you know about x and put it in a set.

              While you’ve indicated that ignorance is # of facts you know instead of % that you don’t know, you’ve yet again shifted the onus to ‘know’. What constitutes knowledge? I say that is is possible that God created human beings to thrive most when they are engaging their creative impulses in certain ways, and that it is possible to know this by testimony of a trustworthy source. I’m not even sure you would consider this ‘knowledge’, even if you were to grant me the “testimony of a trustworthy source”!

              It is extremely easy for the skeptic to essentially reduce ‘knowledge’ to “that which science discovers”. I know you’ve loosened up ‘science’ to mean anything that is roughly according to the scientific method. This seems to exclude moral knowledge, value, and meaning. The Christian posits that the introspective senses are reliable in just the same way that the extrospective senses are reliable. Not supremely reliable—see The Unreliability of Naive Introspection—but reliable enough to access an objective reality. The difference between religious experience and how it is interpreted is an important distinction to maintain, just like “I think I saw” isn’t necessarily what you did see.

              “Illusory” is probably a somewhat misleading word here anyway, because it implies “not real” – but an optical illusion is not “not real” in the sense that you are not actually seeing anything, and the same for meaning.

              I don’t think your analogy is accurate; optical illusions are produced by often-correct heuristics going wrong in deterministic ways. Daniel Miessler’s illusion, on the other hand, seems to have no basis in reality other than people making shit up, ostensibly from approximately nowhere.

              I had dinner with Daniel and suggested to him that his ‘squirts [of dopamine]’ can be seen as the output of a derivative function when the value is positive. Are the only inputs to this derivative function little fictions which last a while and then no longer work, or are there better and better inputs which are better and better approximations of something objectively real? In the former case, there is nothing objectively real or even approximated by the fictions; all we do is find shit that makes us happy as long as it will. In the latter case, we can actually use our brains to discover something objectively real in the meaning-realm. Both are possibilities, and they are very, very different. If you don’t allow the latter to be called ‘knowledge’, then you eviscerate quite a lot of religion, and on questionable grounds.

              Let me interrupt you right here. I said no such thing, and I wouldn´t say it now. What I said was that it is in some sense better and in some sense worse. It´s better in the sense that it reduces your anxiety and makes the world a less scary place and it´s worse in the sense that you think you learned something while in fact you didn´t.

              My apologies. I am very used to atheists and skeptics offering thinly-veiled mocking criticism by attributing to me ‘patternicity’ and ‘agenticity’ of the specifically degenerate forms. As to “less scary place”, that is but a delusion, and delusions have a habit of screwing us over when we believe in them. See: confidence in ‘progress’ prior to WWI. It was definitely a wonderful, anxiety-reducing idea! And it probably contributed to the lack of preparation we had for WWI and WWII. It’s often Christians who posit that humans really are inherently sinful, and the skeptic who says this is a bad way of thinking about things. And then we get the terrible predictions in the Milgram experiment.

              So yes, we should focus on identifying degenerate and future-limiting/destroying satisfactions of all of our desires, including the NFCC. The skeptic criticism of degenerate agenticity and patternicity on the part of theists is one that ought to be supported, not merely asserted. But I see now that you weren’t necessarily doing this; my apologies for assuming you were.

              Again, I claimed no such thing and I don´t even know what this is supposed to mean in the first place – works particularly well compared to what?

              The NFCC can drive us to increased knowledge of the world, which I would think is obviously a good thing? If we get ‘stuck’ on just-so stories as if they truly explained, this is the NFCC working badly.

              Erm… yes, this is not an alternative to my claim, I even pointed out one such “useful role” – it makes you less anxious.

              And yet, the ‘less anxious’ in this case is based on a delusion, is it not? Or perhaps stated more correctly: there is not sufficient reason to suppose that it is not a delusion, and since the vast majority of possible explanations are wrong, the chances are this is a delusion, given that no way of verification/falsification was used.

              I don´t know, and this is too vague for me to make a guess. What would be a candidate of a “purpose” explanation?

              The purpose of pain and suffering is to teach us that things are not right and need to be (and can be!) fixed through the cooperative, creative acts of each individual. This transcends the mere evolutionary purpose of pain and suffering getting us to better propagate ourselves. Note that this is only partially founded on evidence, exists despite other evidence (seemingly gratuitous evil), and depends on belief in it to be verified (or come true). The person who disbelieves that science is possible will prevent himself from doing science, making the belief true for himself. Only if enough people believe that science is possible will it be possible.

              Surely you know that much religious belief is centered around what reality could be like, if only we believed and acted according to the dictates of that religion? Not all truth-claims can be investigated with only the present evidence, nor can they all be investigated only in labs or by examining inanimate matter. Some need to lived in order to be verified/falsified.

            • Andy_Schueler

              While you’ve indicated that ignorance is # of facts you know instead of % that you don’t know,

              You could measure it either way, I don´t care – the point you tried to raise re “% of what you don´t know” is completely illogical (see above) and if you calculate it correctly, you don´t have a point there.

              you’ve yet again shifted the onus to ‘know’. What constitutes knowledge?

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

              I say that is is possible that God created human beings to thrive most when they are engaging their creative impulses in certain ways, and that it is possible to know this by testimony of a trustworthy source. I’m not even sure you would consider this ‘knowledge’

              “Leprechauns could possibly exist” != “I know that Leprechauns do exist”. Every proposition that is logically coherent is “possible”, and trivially so. There can certainly be some knowledge involved here, you can know what people consider a “Leprechaun” to be and you can know whether the proposition that they exist is logically coherent or not (for the classical definition of what a “Leprechaun” is, the claim that they exist would not be logically coherent). But the mere assertion that x could possibly exist if x is not a self-refuting concept is not knowledge for whatever you substitute for x – its merely a rephrasing of the fact “what is logically coherent is possible”.

              It is extremely easy for the skeptic to essentially reduce ‘knowledge’ to “that which science discovers”. I know you’ve loosened up ‘science’ to mean anything that is roughly according to the scientific method. This seems to exclude moral knowledge, value, and meaning.

              There are plenty of things to know about these topics, and the exact same distinction between “answer” and “explanation” applies here as it would for a phenomenon like thunder and lightning. For the various patterns that humans show when it comes to moral reasoning or the question of what moral reasoning even is (for example), there can be actual explanations, and we have found some of them.

              I don’t think your analogy is accurate; optical illusions are produced by often-correct heuristics going wrong in deterministic ways. Daniel Miessler’s illusion, on the other hand, seems to have no basis in reality other than people making shit up, ostensibly from approximately nowhere.

              I still haven´t read what Miessler wrote (I started reading it and found it boring), if that is actually what he says, then I disagree with him and would consider it to be extremely obvious that he is wrong.

              As to “less scary place”, that is but a delusion, and delusions have a habit of screwing us over when we believe in them.

              Sometimes yes sometimes no.

              It’s often Christians who posit that humans really are inherently sinful, and the skeptic who says this is a bad way of thinking about things.

              Christians also say that humans a are “made in the image of god”. And this becomes a bad way of thinking about things because both the “inherently sinful” and the “made in the image of God” part are vague enough to mean whatever you want them to mean at any given moment and it feels like you are explaining something although nothing could possibly contradict this view – and explaining every conceivable observation is the surest sign that you are actually explaining nothing at all.

              The NFCC can drive us to increased knowledge of the world

              How? And don´t say “because it leads us to hypotheses that we can test” – this has nothing to do with what we are talking about here.

              The purpose of pain and suffering is to teach us that things are not right and need to be (and can be!) fixed through the cooperative, creative acts of each individual. This transcends the mere evolutionary purpose of pain and suffering

              I cannot parse this, what does the “transcend” refer to?
              Also, there is no such thing as an “evolutionary purpose” – only things that sound like one because teleological language is both easier to use and easier to parse for us.

              The person who disbelieves that science is possible…

              Would be clinically insane.

              Surely you know that much religious belief is centered around what realitycould be like, if only we believed and acted according to the dictates of that religion? Not all truth-claims can be investigated with only the presentevidence, nor can they all be investigated only in labs or by examining inanimate matter. Some need to lived in order to be verified/falsified.

              We already talked about this many times. And again, I fail to see how the option “christianity is made up after all” is even on the table for you.

            • Luke Breuer

              if you calculate it correctly

              Honestly, I’ve come across enough nit-pickers to cover all of my bases. Not everyone has the same idea of ‘correctly’.

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

              Seriously? I guess we can kill of that tangent if you’d like.

              “Leprechauns could possibly exist” != “I know that Leprechauns do exist”. Every proposition that is logically coherent is “possible”, and trivially so.

              And it is possible to have an epistemology which does not allow you to be convinced that Leprechauns exist, even when they do. The Star Trek TNG episode Devil’s Due explores an event very similar to Yahweh at Mt. Sinai in Deut 5 and asks whether the deity-figure ought to be trusted. Or you could have an epistemology which would have you convinced that Jesus didn’t die, or had a twin brother, despite being at his crucifixion, watching water come out of his side when speared, and seeing him three days later, alive.

              This isn’t a discussion of what is possible, this is a discussion of how you justifiably know things. What is the best epistemology to hold? I even think it might vary from person to person, just like people’s [universal] Bayesian priors might differ and be ok. But you seem so convinced that I ought not believe what I believe based on the evidence available. This is a big part of what makes me so curious to continue talking to you. I want to know why you’re so confident. If you nitpick, I’ll change that to “you’re so convinced that if you had the same evidence base as I, you would disbelieve any sort of theism”. And yes, this is a guess, my attempt to model you and take the conversation a few steps forward at a time instead of waddling one step at a time. I can not do it if you request, but it slows things down and makes them less interesting.

              For the various patterns that humans show when it comes to moral reasoning or the question of what moral reasoning even is (for example), there can be actual explanations, and we have found some of them.

              This sounds like you think there is ultimately no ‘why’, only ‘how’. The ‘why’ merely supervenes on the ‘how’. This seems more like a presupposition than a conclusion.

              I still haven´t read what Miessler wrote (I started reading it and found it boring), if that is actually what he says, then I disagree with him and would consider it to be extremely obvious that he is wrong.

              Do you find it “extremely obvious that [Absurdism] is wrong”?

              Sometimes yes sometimes no.

              If the delusion never screws you over (is falsified), how do you know it was a delusion? Let’s restrict this to delusions that meaningfully impact one’s actions and thoughts; the tooth fairy and its ilk are boring.

              Christians also say that humans a are “made in the image of god”. And this becomes a bad way of thinking about things because both the “inherently sinful” and the “made in the image of God” part are vague enough to mean whatever you want them to mean at any given moment and it feels like you are explaining something although nothing could possibly contradict this view – and explaining every conceivable observation is the surest sign that you are actually explaining nothing at all.

              The fact that you can twist to concepts to mean whatever you want does not mean that there are some interpretations which involve more twisting and some which involve less. I wrote a little script that bolds the relevant characters in the input text (I typically use Bible passages), so that I can twist the text into saying exactly what I want. But I’m not interpreting it, I’m making shit up and imposing it on the text. It’s the same when you do it at a coarser level than letter-by-letter, just harder to detect if you haven’t gone to a decent English class and learned that yes, some interpretations really are too much of a stretch.

              How? And don´t say “because it leads us to hypotheses that we can test” – this has nothing to do with what we are talking about here.

              Strictly speaking, there will be some who satisfy their NFCC in ways that lead them to leave more progeny than those who just accept delusions that don’t serve this purpose. I believe Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism claims the difference between “belief that leads to leaving more progeny” and “justified true belief” might be an unbridgeable chasm, but I don’t really buy that, and many philosophers agree.

              I cannot parse this, what does the “transcend” refer to?

              Also, there is no such thing as an “evolutionary purpose” – only things that sound like one because teleological language is both easier to use and easier to parse for us.

              How is it that we came to experience pain and suffering? Well, either as spandrels, or because they increased survival. I’d heavily side with the latter. But if this is the case, there is no promise that pain and suffering can lead to things like cathedrals and fission and antibiotics. The evolutionary ‘purpose’ of suffering has nothing to do with those things; they are spandrels. Many today think that the only purpose of suffering and pain is the evolutionary one. The Christian says that they have much more purpose, one which attacks the heart of the problem of evil. Pain and suffering have a purpose which ‘transcends’—is greater than—just helping us have more progeny.

              P.S. Yes, I’m aware of how teleological descriptions in evolution are common, and merely an approximation for something which has no purpose.

              Would be clinically insane.

              And yet many think that moral research is impossible, because you can only research something which is objectively real. Otherwise it’s just preference research. It’d be like researching how Zeus in particular controls the weather.

              We already talked about this many times. And again, I fail to see how the option “christianity is made up after all” is even on the table for you.

              My apologies, I don’t recall your thoughts on truth-claims about future possible states of being; push these far enough forward and science has remarkably little to say about them. And yet we virtually have to believe in some of them unless we’re only guiding society forward a few years at a time, instead of setting long-term goals.

              “Christianity is made up after all” is very much on the table for me. Maybe some benevolent aliens made up a religion with lots of profound truths, even telepathically transmitting them to some humans, but with the ultimate goal that humans will ‘grow up’, stop being dicks to each other, and enter the cosmic scene as responsible adults instead of petty children. (P.S. I recently found out that scientists were trying to prevent other scientists from publishing results during initial AIDS research, before HIV was found to be the culprit. Scientists were being petty when thousands if not tens of thousands of lives were on the line.)

              One of the reasons I’m on about what epistemology to use is that I’m sure that certain epistemologies really do cause you to believe in ghosts and stuff and that such beliefs hinder one’s ability to further explore reality. But I’m not convinced that the answer is a jump to something like Logical Postivism, or Evidentialism. “You ought only believe things based on sufficient evidence” is not itself based on ‘sufficient evidence’, as far as I’ve found. And so, when people like you say that the evidence ‘obviously’ points to my theistic beliefs being wrong, I ask whether one must interpret the evidence thusly, in order to avoid believing in things that hinder one’s ability to further understand reality. So far, I haven’t gotten anything close to a definitive ‘yes’. Mostly, what I ultimately get is some just-so story about how people are great a compartmentalization and cognitive dissonance and such. Those stories have no predictive power and cannot be falsified. So I keep looking.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Honestly, I’ve come across enough nit-pickers to cover all of my bases. Not everyone has the same idea of ‘correctly’.

              Dude, your calculation is based on the assumption that if you are not aware that x exists, then x actually does NOT EXIST. I don´t see this as nitpicking to point that out.

              And it is possible to have an epistemology which does not allow you to be convinced that Leprechauns exist

              Sure. Wasn´t the point though.

              What is the best epistemology to hold? I even think it might vary from person to person

              I think the same. It seems to me though that religious belief in most of the instances I´m aware of, is based on a double standard where epistemological standards that the religious person applies to every other issue are not applied to their religious beliefs.

              If you nitpick, I’ll change that to “you’re so convinced that if you had the same evidence base as I, you would disbelieve any sort of theism”.

              Based on what you told me so far, yes, absolutely.

              This sounds like you think there is ultimately no ‘why’, only ‘how’. The ‘why’ merely supervenes on the ‘how’. This seems more like a presupposition than a conclusion.

              I rather see this as an epistemological problem, I don´t say that there can be no ultimate teleological cause, I rather say that if there were, you have no method to discover it (at least none that I´m aware of).

              Do you find it “extremely obvious that [Absurdism] is wrong”?

              I don´t know, I only have a vague idea of what absurdism entails, and based on the wiki article – I haven´t read any of the relevant authors on the issue. Superficially, it does sound rather irrelevant for me, the position seems to assume that searching for intrinsic value is part of the human condition. And either I am not human or this is simply false.

              The fact that you can twist to concepts to mean whatever you want does not mean that there are some interpretations which involve more twisting and some which involve less. I wrote a little script that bolds the relevant characters in the input text (I typically use Bible passages), so that I can twist the text into saying exactly what I want. But I’m not interpreting it, I’m making shit up and imposing it on the text. It’s the same when you do it at a coarser level than letter-by-letter, just harder to detect if you haven’t gone to a decent English class and learned that yes, some interpretations really are too much of a stretch.

              How is that not completely arbitrary? I could just as well say that you are twisting the text because you don´t acknowledge that the “intrinsically sinful” and “made in the image of god” part contradict each other.

              I believe Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism claims the difference between “belief that leads to leaving more progeny” and “justified true belief” might be an unbridgeable chasm, but I don’t really buy that, and many philosophers agree.

              Platinga´s EAAN is breathtakingly stupid on every conceivable level, that this guy can repeat the EAAN for years without ever being laughed off the stage should be an embarrassment for the entire field.

              How is it that we came to experience pain and suffering? Well, either as spandrels, or because they increased survival. I’d heavily side with the latter. But if this is the case, there is no promise that pain and suffering can lead to things like cathedrals and fission and antibiotics. The evolutionary ‘purpose’ of suffering has nothing to do with those things; they are spandrels.

              Erm… if you claim they are “spandrels”, you claim that the human capacity to experience pain and pleasure evolved, at least largely, by neutral drift. Is that what you wanted to claim?

              Many today think that the only purpose of suffering and pain is the evolutionary one. The Christian says that they have much more purpose, one which attacks the heart of the problem of evil. Pain and suffering have a purpose which ‘transcends’—is greater than—just helping us have more progeny.

              So, can you explain something with this about pain that someone who does not make this assumption could not explain? If so, what are you able to explain with this.

              And yet many think that moral research is impossible, because you can only research something which is objectively real

              So there are people who believe that people like Jonathan Haidt or Steven Pinker don´t actually exist?
              Seriously?

              My apologies, I don’t recall your thoughts on truth-claims about future possible states of being; push these far enough forward and science has remarkably little to say about them. And yet we virtually have to believe in some of them unless we’re only guiding society forward a few years at a time, instead of setting long-term goals.

              Yup, so christianity can fail for a hundred years, for thousand years, for two thousand years, for ten thousand years and the option that it might have been made up like every other religion will still not be on the table.

              But I’m not convinced that the answer is a jump to something like Logical Postivism, or Evidentialism. “You ought only believe things based on sufficient evidence” is not itself based on ‘sufficient evidence’,

              Everything you believe appears to be “based on sufficient evidence” for you, else you wouldn´t believe it. Whether it is actually based on sufficient evidence (according to your own standards) or you are being misled by the multitude of cognitive biases that influence our belief forming processes, is a completely different matter.

            • Luke Breuer

              Dude, your calculation is based on the assumption that if you are not aware that x exists, then x actually does NOT EXIST. I don´t see this as nitpicking to point that out.

              It is actually pretty tricky to properly deal with the things that I do not know that I do not know. I think you are trivializing the matter. If the use of logical induction takes you near “what you do not know that you do not know”, the induction becomes unreliable.

              Sure. Wasn´t the point though.

              That’s my point: it is possible to adopt an ‘insane’ epistemology, whereby you are simply cannot ever admit that a state of affairs is ‘explanation X’, where ‘explanation X’ is a ‘better’ explanation than yours. See GK Chesterton’s The Maniac. This is the ‘type-II’ error I describe in my Intersubjectivity is Key: “thinking that you understand all of reality that could be”.

              It seems to me though that religious belief in most of the instances I´m aware of, is based on a double standard where epistemological standards that the religious person applies to every other issue are not applied to their religious beliefs.

              Ehh, most people apply double standards all over the place in their lives. If you’d like to show me how you think my religious beliefs rely on me holding double standards, you are welcome to do so. If you point out double standards in a humble person in a way he can successfully process, you bless him, for it provides a wonderful opportunity for growth. I endeavor to be such a person, although I am sure I repeatedly fail. There aren’t very many good role models out there!

              I rather see this as an epistemological problem, I don´t say that there can be no ultimate teleological cause, I rather say that if there were, you have no method to discover it (at least none that I´m aware of).

              I view purposes as being potentially-infinitely-complex axioms. I don’t know if you’ve watched the TV show Revolution, but there’s a character, Tom Neville, who is utterly Machiavellian. His purpose is to survive, and it’s not really finitely definable. But yet, a human can generally predict what he will do in a given situation. This (and many other evidences) indicates to me that we actually do have an inherent mechanism for reasoning teleologically.

              It is a mistake to think that the brain’s logical facilities are ‘better’ than e.g. the holistic facilities. Logic is only as good as its inputs, and its inputs cannot be produced by logic, because that breaks what logic is. We don’t only run Prolog in our brains, we also run fuzzy heuristics that work remarkably well. Indeed, as far as we know, they are utterly required to generate hypotheses that are sufficiently likely to be useful. I think the ability to reason teleologically exists within the ‘fuzzier’ part of our brain.

              Superficially, it does sound rather irrelevant for me, the position seems to assume that searching for intrinsic value is part of the human condition. And either I am not human or this is simply false.

              Ok, so you think there is no intrinsic value. How would you know if you’re wrong? The pseudoscientist is often convinced he/she is doing true science; is it always possible to merely give that person the right evidence to convince him/her that he/she is not doing true science? Likewise, it is not clear that mere presentation of evidence is enough to convince someone that maybe there does exist intrinsic value. By ‘intrinsic value’, I mean a way of valuing things such that all living beings can thrive, and thrive maximally. Being the most complex constraint-solving problem that probably exists, I can see why people would try, fail, try again, fail again, and then decide it is an impossible task. My opinion is that we have to work together, intersubjectively, to accomplish it. We have to trust each other, hope the best for each other, build each other up, encourage each other, etc.

              How is that not completely arbitrary?

              My point is that what constitutes ‘completely arbitrary’ is something that requires skill to decide upon. I gave an obvious example of something arbitrary; I think that what you are doing to interpret scripture is more like that example than like how one ought to do it.

              I could just as well say that you are twisting the text because you don´t acknowledge that the “intrinsically sinful” and “made in the image of god” part contradict each other.

              Then I would tell you how I think many forms of original sin which are taught today are wrong, and yet how my version still results in the same behavioral norms that are thought to flow from extant versions of original sin. Viz, human beings were never designed to operate outside of relationship with God, which for this conversation I can call “relationship with the Infinite”. An incomplete description of what this relationship looks like is continually learning on multiple fronts: knowledge about natural laws, knowledge about other people, knowledge about myself, knowledge about morality, appreciating beauty. I think that there is no upper bound to the increase of these, and that the best form of happiness comes from the increase of these things.

              Consider how much suffering occurs when people repeatedly hit a glass ceiling: they want to move further, move higher, but are blocked. Maybe the glass is not something they can taste or smell or touch (yes, a Matrix reference). Maybe the sensation is flailing around in the dark, trying to find something meaningful and failing. The Christian answer is that the person is attempting to be autonomous, instead of reaching out for God’s hand, and trusting him. This happens all the time on a human level: I’ve given advice to coworkers which would have made their lives better, but they refused to trust me, and thus suffered the consequences. They flailed at their job, had less joy in life, and got depressed at times.

              It’s not really hard to see how sin is propagated from person to person. We even have really cool science like behavioral epigenetics, which shows a novel way that parents’ behavior traits can be passed to children. Now, I have the option to resist the status quo and instead reach for something better. This can hurt because the status quo can often resist change, and exerting a strong enough force to change the status quo can take competence and wisdom beyond my ken. But it is possible to pass on wisdom.

              The above being said, there seems to be this problem that we keep repeating history. Just look at the repetition of stock market recessions. I call this the “Wisdom Propagation Problem”. If you look at the Bible, whenever you got a ‘good’ generation, an ‘evil’ generation followed in three or four generations—never more, often less. History bears this out as well. There seems to be a huge problem in teaching one’s children to be smarter and wiser than oneself. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this, and know this much: often, we pass on ‘poisoned wisdom’: wisdom that is part right part wrong, with the wrong part not always evidence. It is tantamount to passing on the ‘dogma’ learned from some body of evidence, without also passing on the evidence so that the person can get an idea of where the ‘dogma’ is valid, and where it is not.

              So anyhow, the propagation of sinfulness from generation to generation seems obvious. The fact that some people think it is ‘inherited’ is pretty irrelevant to me: that’s actually not a terrible model, all things considered. We now know that some transmission of behavior is genetic, some epigenetic, some environmental. There is an ‘inherited’ component! Now, it’s not all inherited, so the person who thinks it is 100% inherited will err. But there is a rich history of talking about exactly how original sin works, so the “100% inherited” position is not the only position which has ever been held.

              I’ll stop here. Suffice it to say that it is just too easy to see contradictions if you oversimplify.

              Platinga´s EAAN is probably the most transparently illogical syllogism I have seen in my entire life, that this guy can repeat the EAAN for years without ever being laughed off the stage should be an embarrassment for the entire field.

              The reason I don’t easily dismiss it is that he founds part of his argument on something terribly mysterious: how does a given neuronal configuration have ‘meaning’? I recently came across The Computational Theory of the Laws of Nature, which is a rigorous, theory-of-computation-based approach to the question: “If God were to give us a book of all truths, what would the book look like?” You might think that God could just pick some language, but the nature of language makes that utterly nontrivial. How do you teach the grammar? The ending is just fascinating.

              BTW I have just started reading Lakoff et al’s Metaphors We Live By and Philosophy in the Flesh. I’ve also been meaning to read some Wittgenstein. I suspect that you are oversimplifying the issues in Plantinga’s EAAN by dismissing it so quickly. This is precisely in the realm of “what we do not know that we do not know”, or worse, the realm of “what we think we know that we really do not know”.

              I´m not sure I follow, if you claim they are “spandrels”, you claim that the human capacity to experience pain and pleasure evolved, at least largely, by neutral drift. Is that what you wanted to claim?

              No, pain and pleasure promote the propagation of genes. They did not evolve so that we could do science and build cathedrals. So one might ask: do pain and pleasure have any purpose other than genetic propagation? I give a strong “yes”. My “yes” is theologically based and experientially verified. I’m under the impression that some forms of Buddhism give a strong “no” to this, on the premise that there is no greater purpose to suffering, so it must be denied existence through denying/avoiding its precursors.

              So, can you explain something with this about pain that someone who does not make this assumption could not explain?

              I’m not sure; there are infinitely many sets of axioms which can produce a given theorem. I sense the objection that while my theology can explain X, so can something non-religious. I accept that. I reject the ‘better’ valuation that inevitably follows.

              So there are people who believe that people like Jonathan Haidt or Steven Pinker don´t actually exist? Or that they do exist but their research is not only misguided but rather completely impossible, in principle.

              Seriously? Who holds such a position?

              Researching how people think morally != researching objective morality.

              Yup, so christianity can fail for a hundred years, for thousand years, for two thousand years, for ten thousand years and the option that it might have been made up like every other religion will still not be on the table – we can still try again to be “true to the Bible” for the umpteenth time and who knows, this time it might work.

              Give me something better than Christianity which serves this purpose. I’ll give you something that isn’t: the dogmatic belief in scientific ‘progress’ which was prevalent immediately prior to WWI. Fission is awesome, but it can be used for great evil as well as great good. If you think scientists are more moral than the general populace, you would be shocked to see what actually goes on. I forget if I said this to you, but when scientists were trying to discover the cause of AIDS, they were sending letters to journals telling them to not publish the results of competitors’ work. The idea that science will lead to increase in moral behavior all by itself is laughable to me.

              Everything you believe appears to be “based on sufficient evidence” for you, else you wouldn´t believe it.

              I disagree; I do not believe I’m even aware of all my beliefs. The only way I know to evaluate beliefs is to try and model what beliefs led to a given action of mine, see what results from that action, and judge the results ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and modify the beliefs accordingly. I know of no better way to act. It’s all in how one defines ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

            • Andy_Schueler

              It is actually pretty tricky to properly deal with the things that I do not know that I do not know. I think you are trivializing the matter. If the use of logical induction takes you near “what you do not know that you do not know”, the induction becomes unreliable.

              Yes, complete red herring though.

              I think the ability to reason teleologically exists within the ‘fuzzier’ part of our brain.

              Erm, yes – that is true. Undeniably true I might add.

              Ok, so you think there is no intrinsic value.

              No. I´m not looking for it (and wouldn´t know how to look for it if I wanted to).

              By ‘intrinsic value’, I mean a way of valuing things such that all living beings can thrive, and thrive maximally.

              Unless you can show that human thriving is intrinsically valuable, all you have here is something valuable to you – something valuable and meaningful from your subjective point of view, there is nothing “intrinsic” about this. There is plenty of intersubjectivity to be found when people think about meaning and values – but something being intrinsically meaningful and valuable is a completely different matter.

              My point is that what constitutes ‘completely arbitrary’ is something that requires skill to decide upon. I gave an obvious example of something arbitrary; I think that what you are doing to interpret scripture is more like that example than like how one ought to do it.

              How is this alleged skill measured? How could you show that you are more skilled at this than someone else? What is your evidence for there being an “ought” as in “ought to do it”?

              I suspect that you are oversimplifying the issues in Plantinga’s EAAN by dismissing it so quickly.

              I´m not oversimplifying anything here. Platinga´s premises for the EAAN are not merely false, they are breathtakingly moronic.

              So one might ask: do pain and pleasure have any purpose other than genetic propagation? I give a strong “yes”. My “yes” is theologically based and experientially verified.

              Experientally verified? Seriously? How does that look like?

              I’m not sure; there are infinitely many sets of axioms which can produce a given theorem. I sense the objection that while my theology can explain X,

              No. My objection would be that your theology doesn´t explain anything at all.

              Researching how people think morally != researching objective morality.

              Usually I would ask here what the “objective” is supposed to mean, but that has never led to any productive discussion. What I would point out is the following – you cannot just declare moral research to not actually be moral research because it doesn´t study the kind of morality you happen to believe in.

              Give me something better than Christianity which serves this purpose.

              What purpose?

              I disagree; I do not believe I’m evenaware of all my beliefs.

              A “belief that you are not aware of” is a square circle.

              The only way I know to evaluate beliefs

              I´m not talking about evaluating beliefs, I talked about beliefs.

    • Luke Breuer

      First, I have no special attachment to Craig. Though a [non-liberal] Christian, very little in the way of Christian apologetics makes me proud to be a Christian.

      If one collected all of the criticisms of his points throughout his debating career and compiled them in one place, then one would have a pretty devastating critique.

      I should think it would be pretty sad if this weren’t the case; if one were to collect the amount of wrongness scientists have come up with over the years, it’d also be ‘devastating’. Furthermore, if the same can be said for Craig’s opponents (normalized to how much material they produce), then this is wholly uninteresting. I should think the more interesting question is: how have his arguments changed over time? Is there a sense of actual progress, is it mostly ad hoc hypothesis generation, or something else?

      In fact, it is my contention (which I make a god deal about in may paper on the Kalam Cosmological Argument which will soon become a book) that he makes an awful lot of philosophical assumptions which he does not explain or admit to his audiences when he constructs syllogisms and logical or philosophical claims in such debates and speeches.

      It just seems that everyone does this, except perhaps professional philosophers who debate with other professional philosophers. For example, something I’ve recently discovered is that when skeptics assume that their senses are accurate enough to understand reality increasingly accurately, they generally mean only their extrospective senses and not their introspective senses, which is blatant special-pleading.

      ———

      This is just me trying to give Craig the benefit of the doubt. I cannot recall ever coming across a controversial public personality who did not have “devastating critiques” of him/her. What if enough criticizers of Craig to group together to create a unified rebuttal/critique of him? This would avoid the problem of so many people critiquing Craig that he cannot respond to them all, with those who didn’t get responded to complaining that he doesn’t have a good response. Whack-a-mole is tedious.

    • FilmDoctor

      There doesn’t seem to be any real empirical evidence for Penrose’s theory or for the multiverse theory, however you want to define or describe them. They are just theories, and pretty obtuse and hard to understand theories with convoluted rationales at that. There is, however, plenty of empirical evidence for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

      Also, neither Penrose nor Hawking can give me a reason to believe that the Holocaust was morally wrong, that Stalin was evil, or that ObamaCare or abortion are moral or immoral.There is no one naturalist or one atheist system of ethics, or guidebook to ethics, but Jews and Christians can go to the Bible to test the truth of other Jewish or Christian system of ethics. Using the Bible, I know that the Holocaust was morally wrong, that Marxism and Stalinism are evil, and that ObamaCare and abortion are immoral (ObamaCare also seems to be unworkable, especially considering recent events and recent information in the press, but that seems to be a pragmatic argument, not an ethical one).

      • Suppose god wanted to pass judgement on the Jews, and so god commanded Adolph Hitler to exterminate the Jews, just as god had commanded the Jews to exterminate the Canaanites, Amalekites and Midianites. If god commanded the Nazis to exterminate the Jews, would the holocaust then have been not only moral, but a moral obligation?

        And how do you determine Obamacare is evil using the bible?
        And how do you determine that slavery, indentured servitude, arranged marriages of older men to underage girls etc. are morally wrong when the bible says they’re OK? Or do you agree with Yahweh that they’re OK?

        Oh yeah and what’s your empirical evidence for Jesus? It better not be the Bible. That’s the claim, not the evidence.

      • Goodness, that’s a whole bunch of wrong.

        The Thinker has cleared most of it up, but I’ll have a stab.

        1) Obamacare is not immoral. ObamaCare’s goal is to give more Americans access to affordable, quality health insurance, and to reduce the growth in health care spending in the U.S. It expands the affordability, quality, and availability of private and public health insurance through consumer protections, regulations, subsidies, taxes, insurance exchanges, and other reforms. How is this immoral? Fairness and equality of access – how is this immoral? Unless immoral is defined as anything which is a part of your political worldview…

        2) They are just ‘theories’. Like Jesus being God incarnate. Like God sacrificing himself to himself to sit on his own right hand to pay for the sins of humanity, which he designed and knew would sin…

        3) “Also, neither Penrose nor Hawking can give me a reason to believe that the Holocaust was morally wrong,” Er, WTF? Do you know what their moral philosophy is? Their theories on the reality of the universe are separate from their moral philosophy. You would have to do an awful lot more work to establish the connection, and you would also need to know what their moral philosophy is. Hint, morality does not need God, even as according to the Bible itself. eg http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/12/18/god-is-a-consequentialist/ Secular deontology, virtue ethics and consequentialism have no need of God. These are the three most favoured moral philosophies.

        4) “Jews and Christians can go to the Bible to test the truth of other Jewish or Christian system of ethics” Man, this gets better. What does that mean? How can one test the truth of the ethical systems in the Bible? The slaughter if the Amelakites – test the truth of THAT moral command!!!

        5) Please show me how, in any substantive way, the destruction of the Canaanite/Amelakite/Moabite peoples as genocide was differ to the Holocaust. Hint, God commanded it vs Hitler commanded IE any horrific act can be ordered by God and you are duty bound to think it is morally perfect. That includes the slaughter of women, children and animals. Not to mention the destruction of all humans bar 8, including unborn foetuses, animals bar 2 of each kind as being morally perfect. Dang those animals, so nasty! They sure deserved that horrific death! And you have the audacity to claim Obamacare is immoral!!! When is central tenet is to make the healthcare system FAIRER! THIS is how religion fucks up your moral compass.

        6) Abortion as immoral. God LOVES abortion. http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2012/09/29/god-loves-abortion/ Anywhere up to 75% of all fertilised eggs (blastocysts, embryos, foetuses) are naturally spontaneously aborted. That’s billions over time. God designed that and could stop that.

    • FilmDoctor

      By the way, I’m skeptical of skepticism. As an epistemological stance, it seems not completely valid. In fact, when it comes to the theories of Penrose, many of you seem to be inconsistently setting your skepticism aside.

      • I did not say that I adhered to CCC. I prefer to remain agnostic until there is good enough reason to believe it on balance. Do you do the same for your religious claims? Judging by your avatar and comments, you are an exceptionally right wing nationalist conservative religious type who claims anything that does not fit into that paradigm is immoral.

        I would wager you would profit from being a little more skeptical. It is that kind of outlook for which the US gets a bad name globally. Which is unfair on the many, many reasonable Americans for whom that outlook is not representative.

    • FilmDoctor

      Craig’s reply to one of Carroll’s articles, http://www.reasonablefaith.org/sean-carrolls-reply-to-the-rf-podcast

      I found Carroll to be philosophically unlearned and rather ignorant in his debate with Hans Halvorson, including his statements about theism and ethics. He’s rather unimpressive, sorry.

      • And Craig’s deliberate lying is somehow better?

    • Void L. Walker

      I know from first hand experience that Craig is a liar. When I was 14 I went to see him speak with my family. Before his little lecture, my father engaged him in conversation. Craig told my dad that he personally believed in some variant of the multiverse theory, albeit a Yahweh’D sort. When he got up to speak, an audience member asked him what he thought about multiverse theory, to which Craig replied “That view is outside of the realm of evidence. God would not choose such a path for the cosmos”. He answered in this fashion, I would wager, to comfort the boy who asked the question (as the asker framed said question in a worrisome manner, clearly hoping that Craig did not subscribe to multiverse theory), but even so this was a direct lie to the audience. This is but one example, many others listed above in this fine post. I never liked Craig, by the way. He kinda reminds me of a certain part of the male body wearing a suit….

    • FilmDoctor

      First, the Bible never gives power to the State to run your healthcare, or to take care of the poor and needy. Instead, it supports taking care of helping your immediate family and private charity. It also supports hard work, not laziness or “mere talk.”

      Also, God warns the Jewish people in 1 Samuel 8:1-20, that big government and taxes of 10% or more leads to tyranny, servitude, and destruction. The Bible also condemns stealing and coveting your neighbor’s wife/spouse or property. Envy and covetousness are just as evil as greed.

      In the USA, the people are the Caesar, not the President. And, self-government is key. ike the Hebrews in Deuteronomy, the people appoint their leaders, but the leaders must obey the general ethics that God lays out for civil society. Aliens are also required to obey the laws, but are to be treated kindly. That doesn’t mean I have to pay for the alien’s healthcare, etc., especially the illegal alien who created and broke the law to be here.

      • Newsflash, America is a secular democracy, not a Christian state. No one has to “obey the general ethics that God lays out for civil society.” If you want to obey god, do so on your own, don’t tell me to, and don’t tell me politicians have the right to either.

        Second, you fear that taxes over 10 percent leads to servitude? Well, your god approves of servitude, In fact he approves of slavery. see Lev 25;44-46. If you want to live in a Christian state, go move to Uganda. Leave your religion out of public government. Thank you.

      • Luke Breuer

        Tell me, how well does the OT record theocracy as doing? Does the OT paint a good picture of it, that theocracy just needs to be perfected? If not, then why do you hold it up as a good example, in any way, shape or form?

      • First, the Bible never gives power to the State to run your healthcare,

        1) So what?

        2) It doesn’t give the state power to help research the cure for cancer, but it’s a good thing governments help with this!

        3) It doesn’t give the State power to do a good number of things the Republican governments have imposed, but I suppose you support them!

        Wow.

        It also supports hard work, not laziness

        OMG. Is this a Victorian ideal, that poverty is as a result of laziness? shit, even good Christians like Dr Barnardo realised this was BS and sought to change such naive minds.

        Also, God warns the Jewish people in 1 Samuel 8:1-20, that big government and taxes of 10% or more leads to tyranny, servitude, and destruction.

        Man , this is going to be fun. OK, let’s look at just where th NT is bordering on explicit socialism (just for starters):

        Enjoy.

        44 And all that believed were together, and had all things in common;
        45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

        Acts 2: 44, 45

        32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
        33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
        34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
        35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
        36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,
        37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

        Acts 4:32-37

        31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.
        32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
        33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
        34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
        35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,
        36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
        37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?
        38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?
        39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
        40 The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
        41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
        42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,
        43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
        44 They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
        45 He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
        46 Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

        Mathew 25: 31-46

        1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
        2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
        3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.
        4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
        5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
        6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.
        7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

        Romans 13:1-7

        13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.
        14 You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.

        Luke 14:13, 14

        If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.

        Matthew 19:21

        24 You cannot serve both God and Money.

        Matthew 6:24.

        n the USA, the people are the Caesar, not the President. And, self-government is key. ike the Hebrews in Deuteronomy, the people appoint their leaders, but the leaders must obey the general ethics that God lays out for civil society.

        Wrong. Your government separate church and state. Which is great. Otherwise you have to employ special pleading and cherry picking. Which is why secularism is the best process for both atheists and religionists alike.

      • josh

        “First, the Bible never gives power to the State to run your healthcare,
        or to take care of the poor and needy. Instead, it supports taking care
        of helping your immediate family and private charity. It also supports
        hard work, not laziness or “mere talk.” ”

        Actually, the Bible says that you are to abandon your family to follow Jesus. You are to give up your work (disciples quit their jobs as fishermen), sell your possessions, buy a sword and await the apocalypse. If someone sues you for your shirt you are to give them your cloak as well. Someone strikes you, turn the other cheek. And if you don’t think someone else is living up to these ‘ideals’, you are to shut your mouth and worry about yourself.

        • dadsa

          Film Doctor songs like a retard.

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    • Luke Breuer

      I have no idea why your post got held up for moderation. That’s only the second time I’ve seen it happen on Jonathan’s blog.

      My point in bringing it up was simply to say that IF complexity is a measure, then the only way to get a situation that is less complex than a non-compressable God-concept is to have a universe that is reducible to a finite set of descriptions.

      I agree 100%. But ought we believe that there is a finite set of descriptions? Does induction actually tell us this is likely? It is not at all clear that this is the case. If it is not the case—if we actually don’t know whether or not there is a finite set of descriptions, then it is not at all clear that God is ‘more complex’ than the universe.

      What Dawkins wants is a finite set of descriptions, plus a finite description of the fully sufficient mechanism of evolution, plus randomness, and get the richness that we see in reality, today. Or perhaps, what he needs is this, to get his argument off the ground. The Christian has reason to suppose that God has created a reality which lets created mankind know him, and perhaps even fully know him. But this means that reality would have to be as complex as God, would it not? And the statements of God being unfathomable give the idea that the set of descriptions is infinite.

      What is perhaps most ironic is that this argument exists in reverse, with irreducible complexity. The ID advocate says that surely things cannot be complex enough to explain this IC system. The evolutionary biologist or computer science person just trudges on, doing more research, and finding out that reality is ever more intricate and awesome. But when it comes to how intricate things actually are, Dawkins wants to say it’s actually just finite! It’s just sufficiently ‘big’ that there is nothing IC. This was a weird turn of events, for me. The ID advocate and Dawkins have something in common: they want to claim that they understand what true reality is like, and are both exceedingly arrogant in doing so.

      I’m afraid I don’t know where you get the idea that scientific achievements are somehow more valuable if they’re based on scantier data

      I’m merely saying that the person who can come up with a successful theory on the least data is the one who will be first to discover it, and the person first to discover is the one who gets the worm/prize/whatever.

      If someone had made the Higgs “announcement” while the confidence was still low and the data scanty and ambiguous, they would likely have faced more exasperated criticism than praise.

      Agreed. But when it came to e.g. discovering the expansion of the universe or the superfluidity of helium, the issues related to observing the Higgs boson just didn’t apply. That is really a fairly new phenomenon; I watched the announcement and it was really neat how they had to do all these tests to ensure that they weren’t encoding the result into the very algorithms meant to detect it. If ever you had to do proper analysis of error and the right statistical tests, it was with the 5-sigma (heh) discovery of the Higgs boson.

      These two statements contradict.

      I didn’t mean them to; consider the minimal difference between ‘indistinguishable’ and ‘there might be something there’. What exactly constitutes ‘minimal’? It’s hard to say, because the ‘perfect’ Bayesian universal prior is one that simply ‘believes’ all necessarily true things about reality, and disbelieves all necessarily false things about reality. Past that, we’re not guaranteed that a purely uninformative prior is best, because we don’t know how laws of reality are ‘generated’. Perhaps some people are born with better priors than other, such that they really do need less data to come to good beliefs. It’s not clear.

      Stated differently, what constitutes “retaining an ability to separate fact from fiction” seems necessarily a posteriori, based on the evidence, and not a priori, based on some philosophical idea of how we ought to form justified true beliefs.

      If fact is indistinguishable from fiction in the murk, or at the bleeding edge, then surely you won’t know whether the worm you think you’ve found in the murk is really a worm rather than a figment of your imagination, until you remove it from the water and hold it up to the light.

      Sure. But what does it mean to “remove it from the water and hold it up to the light”? If you just mean some empirical test of “does this seem true”, ok; I just argued that we ought to judge a posteriori. What I’m arguing is to judge things by empirical tests, not by whether some abstract conception of ‘sufficient evidence’ has been met. After all, if our risk preferences are different—if I’m willing to tolerate more risk than you—then what is ‘sufficient’ will differ, from me to you! And so on.

    • Juan Xinyi

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