Wednesday, August 14, 2013

1 John 1:1-3

1 John 1:1 What was from the beginning (compare with John 1:1 and 1:14 below), what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life — 1 John 1:2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us — 1 John 1:3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (Statement of the Deity of Jesus) John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Statement of Jesus as fully human)

John 5:36

The context is that Jesus had just healed a sick man (on the Sabbath, which really bothered the pharisees for some reason - see John 5:16-18) and was being persecuted for it. This is part of what He told the pharisees...
John 5:36 “But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John (the Baptist); for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish — the very works that I do — testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me."
Even the Son of God thought it necessary to prove to people that He was who He said He was.

Matthew 12:9-14

In keeping with the theme of evidence...
Matthew 12:9 Departing from there, He (Jesus) went into their synagogue. v10 And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they (pharisees) questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” — so that they might accuse Him. v11 And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? v12 “How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” v13 Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. v14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.
Note the response of the pharisees who just saw a miracle. Odd. Very odd. The pharisees were more interested in maintaining their political power (under Roman aegis, to be sure) and following their rules (as opposed to the Law) than they were in the Truth. No amount of evidence is good enough for someone who refuses to "get it."

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Luke 7:19-22

With some context. For the next few days I'd like to cite Scripture that puts the lie to the notion that "faith" is a matter of believing without evidence, as one of the most high profile "new" atheists (Richard Dawkins) likes to say. New Testament faith (the Greek word is pistis) is actually trusting somebody to do something (like relying upon Jesus to save us) or it can also mean a body of truth that is believed on the basis of rational thought. Faith never, ever, means believing without evidence. Or like Mark Twain is alleged to have said: faith is believing something you know ain't so. Well, that ain't so.
Luke 7:20 When the men came to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, ‘Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’” Luke 7:21 At that very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind. Luke 7:22 And He answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM.
In other words, Jesus said, look at the evidence. Indeed.
p.s. Feel free to disagree or question. Happy to engage.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A recent post at uncommon descent

MathGrrl says "Thank you in advance for helping me understand CSI. Let’s do some math!"

I confess to only skimming through this thread as it seems to be pretty much a rehash of the pro-ID, or we might say pro-mind, and the anti-ID, or we might say the naturalist/materialist/physicalist - NMPist - view which claims (apparently) that the source of biological information (complex, functional, specified, or whatever) is time plus natural selection, that is to say, the laws of physics. In other words, what is the CAUSE of information?

Most every biologist I've read, even on the pro-NDT side (Mayr, Crick, Dawkins, Coyne, etc...) has no problem with the idea that there is indeed such a thing as biological information. Dawkins actually says in "River Out of Eden" on page 19 that "Life is just bytes and bytes and bytes of digital information." I quote him not to offer a "proof" of this but merely to point out that since the discovery of the structure of DNA by Crick and Watson the idea of biological information has taken on ever increasing importance in biology and is widely recognized to exist. Laying aside for the moment whether or not it can be measured to mf's or mg's satisfaction.

Just for fun, let's consider human information. The kind that is created by, well, humans. Like this post. What is the source of this information? Is it also the laws of physics as the NMPist would have us believe? Or is it mind, as I would have us believe?

If we consider the prerequisites for human information I think we can identify at least 4 or 5 depending on how you count language. Let's count the symbols and rules of language as 2. Those rules operate within the laws of reason so these rules (Being, Identity, Non-contradiction, Excluded Middle, Causality) are pre-req 3. How are the symbols arranged in order to encode a message? It seems as though they must be freely chosen. Otherwise, how to account for the fact that I am typing this instead of that? There is no POSSIBLE explanation grounded in physical law for why I am typing this instead of that which suggests the question, well then, if physics isn't doing it then what is? That's for another time. The last thing that is (at least) required is intentionality or purpose. A "scientist" might say "causality." What is it that causes these letters to appear "out here" in cyberspace? It seems that whatever it is that is freely arranging these English symbols in a (one hopes) logical fashion is also intending to do this. Otherwise, obviously, it wouldn't be done.

To recap, we need:
Symbols, rules, reason, free will, and purpose. Without these there is no human information.

So the NMPist now has to explain the existence of this information in terms of the laws of physics. If he wants to be intellectually honest, that is. After all, if NMPism means that all that exists is physical then obviously it follows that all explanations of these physical things MUST be found in the laws of physics. (Never mind for a moment the glaring - embarrassingly so - fact that these laws are also abstract and therefore beyond the reach of "science" because they cannot be sensed. I doubt that anyone has ever tasted or heard the law of gravity.)

Can the laws of physics explain any of the things on my list? No. It is not even conceptually possible since information (although encoded in a physical substrate) is not itself physical. And if it's not physical then physics can't explain it.

Let me try to illustrate with some examples.

Why does "the dog" refer to Fido and "der Hund" also refer to Fido? Can this possibly be explained by reference to the laws of physics? No. It cannot. Why does "Es regnet" mean "it's raining in German and means absolutely nothing in English? Can this be explained by reference to physical laws? No. It cannot.

If b < c, and a < b, then a < c. This is necessarily true. Not even God can make it not true. So explain that in terms of physical law. Cannot be done.

Free will cannot be explained by reference to physical law. Indeed the thorough going NMPist denies free will because everything must be explained by reference to physical LAW. We have the delicious irony of the fool denying that he has free will even as he exercises his free will to form the thought that he has none.

Intentionality cannot be explained by physics. Indeed, this is why Dawkins and the rest rail against the idea of there being real purpose or design or intentionality in the universe. Let me offer a quick modus tollens argument to show the idiocy of this line of thinking.

If I did not intend to be writing this post, I would not be writing this post. But I am writing this post. Therefore I do INTEND to be writing this post.

For me, it is not too great a step to get from human information to biological information. There HAS to be a code for information of any kind. The code is not based on any laws of physics that I've ever read about.

In fact, Yockey (2005), the physicist, says they are not. Oh heck, let me quote him. He says on page 5 that:

"The belief of mechanist-reductionists that the chemical processes in living matter do not differ in principle from those in dead matter is incorrect. There is no trace of messages determining the results of chemical reactions in inanimate matter. If genetical processes were just complicated biochemistry, the laws of mass action and thermodynamics would govern the placement of amino acids in the protein sequences." BUT THEY DON'T. OK, that last part was me, not Yockey, but that was his point.

In addition to the code there must be rules (else how did we recognize the existence of the CODE?). There must be free will (the code is not determined by the laws of physics - although - obviously - none of the chemical reactions violate the laws of physics). And purpose. Sigh. Why would there be anything at all unless someone (or SomeOne) determined that there would be? At any rate, I do not expect this will gain any traction in the anti-ID camp but every now and again one has to try.

If mg is still reading you might ask yourself what "doing math" actually means. At its essence it's manipulating symbols according to various and sundry laws. Mathematics is a language too. A universal language. So how is it that you can manipulate those symbols freely?


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A post at uncommon descent

R0bb @ 87

“First of all, it is not clear to me which of those 5 items are required by definition and which are empirically observed to be associated with “information”. Perhaps you could clear that up. If none are required by definition, then is “messages being communicated and causing other reactions” a sufficient definition of tgpeeler’s usage of the term?”

Here are the five prerequisites, as far as I can tell, for the (human) origination, communication, and reception of information.
1. symbols
2. rules (or language)
3. free will
4. intentionality or purpose
5. rules of reason

I don’t think of these as “required” by definition or empirically observed. The way I would describe this list is that the items in it are logically required AND empirically observed in ALL cases of human information.

What I mean by logically required is this. If there is no language, i.e. a set of symbols and rules, then there is no possible way to encode information. The symbols of the language may not be an alphabet. They may be pictograms or braille or sign language or musical notes or whatever. Everyone gets this. It’s impossible for any of us to even think apart from some language. It’s the way in which we formulate and frame our thoughts.
If there is no free will then there is no ability to use the language to create the information. Free will is required as I must be able to pick and choose from among the available symbols so as to arrange them in a specific order according to the rules (vocabulary, grammar, syntax) of the language so as to create information, or a message, we could also say.

If there is no intentionality or purpose (Dawkins and others deny the existence of real purpose in the universe. Therefore, his metaphysics asks us to ignore him, even as he tries mightily to convince people of the truth of his claims. I suggest that we “listen” to his metaphysics and ignore him. It’s all his thinking deserves, really.) then there is no information and no communication. We can see this with the modus tollens form of argument. If I didn’t intend to be writing this post then I wouldn’t be writing this post. But I am writing this post. Therefore, I do intend to write this post.

The rules of reason, or first principles, or laws of rational thought, whatever makes sense for you, are Identity, Non-contradiction, Excluded middle, and Sufficient causality. They are foundational, that is required, for all rational thought. All communication relies upon this principle even though the communication itself may deny these laws. For example, I can say that I do not exist but this presumes that “I” refers to me, that I do in fact exist (else how could I say that I didn’t?) and that I cannot exist and not exist. So rational thought is required for the creation of information.

In that sense, these prerequisites are logically necessary.

In the empirical sense, you will never find human communication that does not have all five of these components. Examine every book ever written. Examine every letter ever written. Examine every speech ever made. Examine every piece of software ever written. You will ALWAYS find these five elements present.

The problem that this creates for the ontological naturalist (or physicalist) is threefold.

First, none of these things on my list can be explained by reference to physical laws. So we see modus tollens again. If naturalism were true, then physics could explain everything. But physics cannot explain symbols, or rules, or free will, or intentionality, or rationality. So naturalism is false. The connection between the antecedent and the consequent is a necessary one since that’s part of the definition of naturalism – the causal closure of nature. Therefore, the conclusion is certain. It’s necessarily true. It cannot be anything but true. Ontological naturalism is FALSE.

The second problem is obvious. Since these things cannot be explained, they are merely denied.

The third problem is equally obvious. One cannot deny the existence of information (and thus language, free will, intentionality, and rationality) without using information. The claim that “information does not exist” is ludicrous on the face of it because the statement contradicts itself.

The result is this. If you subscribe to some sort of “serious” ontological naturalism (the natural, material, physical world is all there is, roughly) then you lose. Game over. You don’t have a rational or empirical leg to stand on. Come on over to the light. You will see a lot more clearly here, I promise.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Another reply in the same thread...

LT @ 54

“tgpeeler (41), You present a nice case. Let me ask, though, whether you find terms such as “past,” “cause,” and “first” in the context of the origins of the universe. Are these terms, as we are using them here, appropriate and applicable to the origins of the universe?”

First of all, thank you. Second of all, absolutely these terms are appropriate in the context of the origin of the universe. I’m curious, why anyone would think they wouldn’t be? Those are all “finite” terms and the universe is finite, ergo…

“When it comes to our universe, we have a scientific case for claiming that we can explain it without having to go outside of it. For a very high-level, 101, explanation of what I’m saying see Sean Carroll’s video at”

I watched this and I read Hawking’s book about two weeks after it came out last fall. He may be a stellar physicist but he flunks logic 101. I found Carroll’s comments to be mostly parroting what Hawking had to say so he flunks logic 101, too. I don’t have time to undo or correct all of the logical errors Carroll made in about three minutes, much less the ones Hawking made in an entire book, but I will comment on this phrase uttered by Carroll starting at 2:22 in the linked youtube video.

“The universe could just obey its own laws. It could be a natural, physical, material universe obeying the laws of physics and that can be a complete explanation of everything.”

The universe is FINITE. That means, according to the law of identity, that it began because that’s part of what finite means. And if it BEGAN, then it needs a CAUSE or EXPLANATION of its beginning, else it wouldn’t be here. But it is here. To just say that “we can explain it without having to go outside of it” without providing some rationale for that statement, some evidence, some proof, some argument, is ridiculous. On the face of it, it’s false.

To say, in the absence of any empirical evidence whatsoever, that universes can create themselves because Einstein said the net energy of the universe is zero and that the law of gravity allows them to, is utter nonsense. For one thing, as far as I’ve read, not that I track it closely, dark matter and/or dark energy comprise about 94% of the observable universe and no one really has a clue about what they are. I know for certain that the four fundamental forces have yet to be unified, the M-Theory metaphysical project not withstanding. But I’m supposed to believe that Hawking KNOWS that universes can be spontaneously created because of the laws of physics, the precursors to this natural, physical, material universe, “allow” that to happen? Ha. Sure. Not likely. Are you kidding me? Can anyone say or spell thermodynamics??

The other thing that strikes me right off the bat about this is something that the naturalists/physicalists/materialists never seem to grasp and which “we” allow to pass all too easily and often and it is this. What explanation do the laws of physics have for themselves? What explanation do the laws of physics have for the mathematical language in which they are expressed? Can either the language (the mathematics) or the physical laws be empirically detected? In other words, can they be sensed? No. They cannot. If you think they can, feel free to tell me what the Pythagorean theorem tastes like in your reply to this post.

So Hawking and Carroll cannot even rationalize the existence of the laws (and the language in which the laws are written) that they say allowed the universe, and other universes, to merely pop into existence. Think of this. That this kind of commentary purports to be scholarly, or if not scholarly, at least authoritative, is just amazing to me. That these guys are not summarily laughed off the stage only reflects the general level of ignorance of rational thinking in America, at least, and I’d probably also say the “West” in general.

“One of the arguments I’ve made to Kairos is that when going “outside” our universe, we are hard-pressed to extrapolate from the present (e.g., as you say, “things are changing in the present”) to a past as far back as the very origins of our universe.”

And why are we hard-pressed to do that? Why would you say that? I do it effortlessly all the time and so do many others out here.

“So, I think most everything that you or I could possibly say about a “first cause” would not only be uncertain, but I might wager it would be wrong (including this statement I just made). But now I’m speculating wildly, too.”

Of course you are. I am not. I am rigorously reasoning. There is a big difference. This is supposed to be a responsible conversation. That means that anything that anyone says that is logically sound is absolutely certainly true. It doesn’t matter when or where it’s said or by whom.

“I said before that we have a scientific case for the universe creating itself from nothing (I think this is close enough to the famous statement from Hawking’s recent book). I’m saying it’s a great or even a good case; I’m only asserting that there is a case. This much I think is indisputable.”

Did you actually read Hawking’s book? There’s also a case to be made that politicians are NOT lying, thieving, traitorous vermin that have destroyed the US economy but that doesn’t make it true. I’m sure some people think a “case” can be made that OJ is innocent, too. So what? I’m not interested in “cases,” I’m interested in rational arguments supported with empirical evidence. And so should you be.

“So, I have your case and I have Hawking’s case. I think the question at this point is how should reasonable people evaluate the two cases against each other (and other cases, as may be appropriate). Taking a neutral stance toward both cases, we need to know what criteria to apply in determining the quality of cases and the comparative evaluation.”

I am all for ignoring authority and going with the quality of the argument, i.e. reason and evidence.

“My intuition is that this is as far as any of us can go.”

May I sincerely and with no malice aforethought suggest that you go with reason and evidence over intuition. The argument I have presented is an exercise in pure reason, backed up with empirical evidence. The universe is finite. Therefore it needs a cause that cannot be finite. I recommend that you “get over” your speculation and intuition and start rigorously reasoning and demanding real evidence from the people who influence your thought.

p.s. And if that is not enough, please consider the claim Carroll made in the quote above. “It could be a natural, physical, material universe obeying the laws of physics and that can be a complete explanation of everything.”

Oh really? So physics can explain “everything.” I suppose, if everything means everything then I have a few questions for Carroll (and you).

Can physics explain information (or thought)? Or the necessary prerequisites for information (or thought)? – NO. (see the questions below)

Can physics explain Language (symbols and rules) – NO.

Can physics explain Free Will (the ability to manipulate symbols according to a certain set of rules – in this case English – so as to encode information, a message, into them) – NO.

Can physics explain Intentionality (the conscious, deliberate intent to communicate the message) – NO. (If I didn’t intend to say anything, I wouldn’t be writing something. But I am writing something. So I DO INTEND to say something.)

Can physics explain the Laws of Rational Thought (First Principles). Being, Identity, Non-contradiction, Excluded Middle, Sufficient Causality. Without which no coherent thinking is possible. (If 10 is less than 20 and 5 is less than 10. What do we know about the relationship between 5 and 20? Exactly, 5 < 20.) – NO.

Can physics explain mathematics? (See can physics explain Language.) – NO.

Can physics explain the Mind. That which reasons, freely chooses, and acts intentionally? – NO.

Must we go on? Physics cannot be a complete explanation of everything. Anybody with a normally functioning mind that has not been polluted with the intellectual virus of naturalism knows this. What does physics have to say about why it’s wrong to steal or murder or rape? Come on, man. You’re killing me…

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A reply to another naturalist

LT says “GEM’s argument in Item C seems to amount to COMPLEXITY, therefore NO EVOLUTION. It appears to be an argument from personal incredulity based on the idea of teleology. That is, the result of the process is really unlikely and the chances of getting to that specific result are almost infinitesimal. Yet, this is post hoc thinking, if I’ve represented GEM correctly.” (my comments to this paragraph follow)

I don’t believe you have. In fact, you couldn’t have gotten it more wrong. The argument is not “I can’t imagine how something this complex could arise by chance and time so it must not have.” The argument is “we ALWAYS find mind behind information in every aspect of life so it bears thinking about that biological information may also be caused by mind.” What, pray tell, is so difficult to comprehend about that?

A couple of problems for you are: you can not come up with one example of (human) information that does not involve language (symbols and rules), free will, rationality, intentionality, and mind. Not one. Second, there is not one example of information in the animal world that does not involve the use of symbols and rules.

If you are an intellectually “serious” (that is you strictly obey the laws of rational thought)naturalist/materialist/physicalist (in my experience there is no such animal) then you must deny the existence of free will, rationality, intentionality, and mind. Indeed, you have no explanation for language, either. You cannot, by means of physical laws, explain how symbols are arranged so as to mean something. You cannot, by means of physical laws, explain free will. You cannot, by means of physical laws, explain intentionality. In other words, the intellectually serious naturalist can’t explain Jack S. about anything that matters to human beings. Your fakery (that you can) is breathtaking.

You, who reject the very existence of everything that makes information possible, by means of information presume to inform rational, serious people that time and chance and the laws of physics can account for everything. Why can’t you see the insanity of this? You can apparently deny everything that makes information possible, while using information in order to make that denial, without your head exploding. I can’t connect to that but perhaps that’s just me.

p.s. The argument from “personal incredulity” can be perfectly valid. I’m sure you use it all the time. Let’s say I offer you a foolproof way to beat the lottery. All you have to do is give me 50% of your “certain” winnings up front. Gonna jump on that deal? Didn’t think so.

I have personally seen hundreds of thousands of books, millions, even, and probably read close to five thousand. I’ve never seen one yet that did not have an author. Therefore, I think I am perfectly justified to be incredulous when any intellectual poseur comes along and trots out the nonsense that biological information, which is orders of magnitude more complex than human generated information, can be explained by “natural” causes. What a joke. I am entitled to my incredulity. Indeed, I am forced by an overwhelming mass of evidence and the relentless authority of reason to be incredulous. When you come across one book, just one book, without an author, let me know and I’ll start paying serious attention to what you have to say. Until then, not.

Monday, November 15, 2010

On "natural selection"

Here’s the thing about ‘natural selection.’ It is just a phrase that performs some linguistic sleight of hand. It’s a meaningless phrase that means “Designer” but purports to represent a purely mechanical, that is to say, physical process, i.e. one without a designer. So ‘ns’ means that no designer designed the apparent design in a universe that contains no real design. WTF, over? Excuse my technical Marine Corps acronym. (It means “where’s the fire” or something like that, I forget.)

Of Molecules and Men, Crick, page 67.
“The crucial point is the one at which natural selection could begin to act, since from then on the system could go on improving itself.”

Act?? Improving itself?? The laws of physics do not “act” and I’d be willing to bet (a lot) that they could “care” less about improving anything.

River Out of Eden, page 98. “… The true process that has endowed wings and eyes, beaks, nesting instincts and everything else about life with the strong illusion of purposeful design is now well understood. It is Darwinian natural selection.”

So let me get this straight. In a universe of no purpose and no design, a “natural” process (living things procreate) has somehow managed to produce organisms that have the “strong illusion” of things that do not actually exist (design and purpose), by a process that is blind and purposeless. Oh yeah, I’m buying that.

The God Delusion, page 189. “natural selection has set up the perception of pain as a token of life – threatening bodily damage, and programmed us to avoid it.”

Are you kidding me? Think about what is being said here. The laws of physics “set up the perception of pain as a token of life” – what does that even mean? Somehow the laws of physics “decided” that pain was a good way to inform us that our bodies were being damaged and that it PROGRAMMED us to avoid pain?? They cannot even avoid using the language of purpose and design as they deny the existence of purpose and design.

“Throughout this book, I have emphasized that we must not think of genes as conscious, purposeful agents. Blind natural selection, however, makes them behave rather as if they were purposeful…”The Selfish Gene. p. 196.

The abuse of the law of identity is stunning. Blind ‘ns’ makes them behave ‘as if’ they were purposeful. What is this but a ludicrous assertion that defies reason? Something blind that has no purpose make things behave as if they were imbued with purpose but actually had no purpose?

“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” River Out of Eden. p. 132.

OK, so Dawkins knows that ‘ns’ is just another way to say physics. And note the lack of purpose. He says that in a universe of no purpose, what we should expect to see are complex beyond imagination creatures that are obsessed with purpose and meaning who are created by blind forces to only think that real purpose and meaning actually exist. In other words, I’m trying to get this Orwellian lingo down – in a universe of no purpose, only physics, that physics has created human beings (and everything else) that THINK that design really exists in the universe, but it really doesn’t!!! I think I’ve got it now. Where is the March Hare and the Queen of Hearts. And this is what Dawkins would expect a priori???? Pullease.

On physics… Dawkins again… from The God Delusion, page 181. “The physical stance always works in principle, because everything ultimately obeys the laws of physics.”

Did I “obey” physical laws when I chose this particular set of symbols to communicate this message? Or was something else going on? What physical law says that periods end sentences and commas act as pauses? What physical law says capitalize the first letter of a sentence plus names and proper nouns?

The Blind Watchmaker, page 5, Dawkins. “All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in a very special way.”

Dawkins “gets it.” Natural selection is just another way to say “physics.” But here’s a curious thing. I looked through the four fundamental forces of the universe currently recognized by the best physical theories and here’s what I found. Electromagnetism, gravity, nuclear weak, and nuclear strong. Hmmm. Conspicuously absent is “natural selection” as a “force” in nature. If ‘ns’ has causal power, is actually a FORCE in nature, then the physicists would know about it. But they don’t. ‘ns’ is a meaningless phrase that means that living things live and only living things reproduce. Gee. Who’d a thunk?

If ‘ns’ means that there is some sort of differential reproductive advantage then that should be measurable. But it’s not. It doesn’t mean anything other than what I just said. If something is alive, hello, it must be fit, by definition, or it wouldn’t be alive. So we say that living things are fit and that fit things are living. And we say that only the living things reproduce and somehow that, THAT, accounts for the amazing panoply of life on the planet. Dear God in heaven. How can people be so, so gullible?

It’s as if I say the champions always win the tournament and therefore the tournaments are always won by the champions! And if I say it in a breathess manner and with authority then some people might think I’m on to something. Hardly. But it “explains” the results of every tournament ever won. NO! It’s just a definition. ‘ns’ is a definition, too. It means “being alive.”

And the most obvious abuse of logic in the whole ridiculous idea of ‘ns’ is the notion that there is a “struggle for survival” in nature. Wait a minute. I thought the universe was blind and indifferent and PURPOSELESS? Why would “physics” or the “universe” care if anything survived or not? And why would anything that was accidentally animated have any intent to “survive?” Much less “care” or “struggle” to do the same??? This is just irrational on the face of it but they have gotten away with this nonsense for so long that even people who know better think that ‘natural selection’ is some kind of real force in nature.

Let me offer a counter proposal as to what is going on. There is indeed differential reproduction and there is indeed adaptation to environment but what we are witnessing when we see this is not ‘natural selection’ at work but we are seeing the intricate interplay of exquisitely designed creatures with their environment. The information already exists in the genome so the weasel changes color in the winter, for example, when environmental cues are detected and somehow responded to by the weasel. Presumably without his knowledge. I doubt that there are weasels running around Canada right now fretting about when their fur is going to change color. There is no mysterious or magical or mythical ‘ns’ going on. Here’s the ‘ns’ story: somehow a weasel had a mutation and it turned his fur white one November, just before the first snow fell, and this weasel therefore had an “advantage” and his offspring… well, this is just too ridiculous for words. Gould had a phrase for this kind of thing, borrowed from Kipling, “just so stories.”

p.s. Here’s one of my all time favorite Dawkins explanations of how birds got wings. Don’t be drinking anything while you read this as you will risk exhaling it through your sinus cavities.

The Blind Watchmaker, p.89-90.

“What use is half a wing? How did wings get their start? Many animals leap from bough to bough, and sometimes fall to the ground. Especially in a small animal, the whole body surface catches the air and assists the leap, or breaks the fall, by acting as a crude aerofoil. Any tendency to increase the ratio of surface area to weight would help, for example flaps of skin growing out in the angles of joints. From here, there is a continuous series of gradations to gliding wings, and hence to flapping wings. Obviously there are distances that could not have been jumped by the earliest animals with proto-wings (or as he earlier called them, flaps of skin, my editorial comment). Equally obviously, for any degree of smallness or crudeness of ancestral air-catching surfaces, there must be some distance, however short, which can be jumped with the flap and which cannot be jumped without the flap.

Or, if prototype wingflaps worked to break the animal’s fall, you cannot say ‘Below a certain size the flaps would have been of no use at all.’ Once again, it doesn’t matter how small and un-winglike the first wingflaps were. There must be some height, call it h, such that an animal would just break its neck if it fell from that height, but would just survive if it fell from a slightly lower height. In this critical zone, any improvement in the body surface’s ability to catch the air and break the fall, however slight that improvement, can make the difference between life and death. Natural selection will then favour slight, prototype wingflaps. When these small wingflaps have become the norm, the critical height h will become slightly greater. Now a slight further increase in the wingflaps will make the difference between life and death. And so on until we have proper wings.”

Friday, November 12, 2010

On naturalism and materialism - a post I made on UD in August (2010)

Late to the party again.

JMcL “1: If atheism is true, then so is materialism.”

I’ve always approached this in the opposite way. That is, if materialism is true, then God cannot exist and neither can souls or minds because God and minds are not matter.

If only matter exists, then everything must be subject to the laws of physics. (what else is there plus it seems to be inductively true to a virtual certainty)

After all, naturalism, materialism, and physicalism all define themselves in terms of the causal closure of nature so the laws of physics governing the behavior of matter is just part of the definition.

Atheism is a conclusion of materialism, not the other way around. In my opinion, anyway.

In fact, I’m not sure that you even need this premise for the rest of your argument to follow. Let’s see how it would play out if we turned the first premise around.

1: If materialism is true, then atheism is true. (True by definition but as we will see not needed.)

2: If materialism is true, then the mind is reducible to the chemical constituents of the brain. (This is also true by definition.)

3: If the mind is reducible to the chemical constituents of the brain, then human autonomy and consciousness are illusory because our free choices are determined by the dual forces of chance and necessity. (maybe say the laws of physics – quantum/chance, necessity/gravity) (also true by definition)

4: Human autonomy exists.

5: Therefore, the mind is not reducible to the chemical constituents of the brain.

You’ve set up modus tollens:

If materialism is true we’d have no free will. (2 and 3)

But we do have free will. (4)

Therefore, materialism is false. (conclusion of modus tollens) (5)

But this begs the question, I think. For you have still only asserted but not proven free will. Fortunately, there is a way around this.

It’s more cumbersome than the way I will use at the end but I think this will give you the missing piece.

What you need to do is link the creation of information with free will. In fact, this JUST occurred to me as a decisive argument for free will. Cool. So here’s how it goes.

In order to create information, contingency is required. (I already knew this part)

This is self-evidently true. Any algorithm based upon, say gravity, would necessarily result in a sequence of letters like aaaaaaaaaa.

Drop object.
If object falls. Type a.
If object ~falls. Type any other key at random.
Result will be aaaaaaaa.

OK. But how about chance? Say we could set up an algorithm based on quantum activity like radioactive decay. Somehow we map time of particle decay to an alphabet and every time a particle decays we type the letter that is associated with that time.

So now we are faced with insurmountable odds. Say 26 letters, a space, three punctuation marks, and ten numbers, total of 40 characters in our “alphabet.” Now, what would the odds be of getting a meaningful string of letters ten letters long? Our denominator would be 40^10 which is 10^10xlog40 or 10 x 1.6 = 16. So to get a meaningful string of letters we have 10^16 possibilities of meaningful strings. The problem here now is to put some meaningful number on the numerator and to be honest I really don’t know how to do that. I’m sure it’s a lot fewer than 10^16 but how to get it? As it turns out, we don’t need that number because we have ASSUMED that certain combinations of letters have meaning and others don’t. Why is that and how could physics account for it?

Well, we immediately see that physics cannot account for it because physics has nothing to say about our alphabet of symbols and the rules that govern the arrangement of them into words and phrases that mean something. Find a law of physics that bears on why “dog” means man’s best friend. That’s not what physics is about. Physics is about sub-atomic particles in energy fields and their interactions. Physics has nothing to say about the symbols or the rules that give meaning to certain arrangements of symbols.

So by definition physics is excluded. It’s a category mistake to even say it can. It’s tantamount to saying information is physical. We’ve seen that law cannot produce information (no contingency) and we’ve sort of seen that chance cannot do it. (Take a 100 letter string of meaningful characters and our denominator is now 10^160. Random doesn’t hack it.)

But with my mind I can effortlessly pick and choose letters and organize them in what I hope is not a completely incoherent ramble and arrange them in various ways so that I communicate my message. So what I am saying, inelegantly, I’m sure, is that free will is required to generate information. That’s the insight I just had earlier. I’ve always said that physics couldn’t do it and I’ve always said mind can do it but I’ve never said what about mind actually makes it happen and it’s FREE WILL! For if there is no free will, if there is only law, then even given an alphabet, there is no information. So that’s how I would try to work that in.

But here’s an even easier way to defeat the “isms.”

If naturalism, etc… are true, then physics can explain everything. (This is true by definition.)

But physics cannot explain language. (As we have just seen why.)

Therefore, naturalism is false.

It is not only false, it cannot be true. It MUST BE false. The only way to prove it false is to generate information by means of physical law. But physical law says nothing of symbols and rules which comprise language and which are necessary for encoding information.

This is devastating to neo-darwinism as well but it’s late. In any case, I’m sure this will offend someone’s sensibilities and I can see that tomorrow.

p.s. This doesn’t get us to theism and God but now the immaterial is on the table and any of the first cause arguments that rely on the impossibility of an infinite regress can easily prove that the First Cause is uncaused, eternal or infinite, and immaterial.

p.p.s. This is a great idea you have.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Language and Physics

Language can be reduced to physics because:
Meaning in language is merely the result of computational minds having the same dictionaries (that they built up by evolution). Symbols represent objects and that matching pattern is stored in the brain. So, the symbols "CAT" match the stored definition and thus "mammal", "purr", etc.

I don't really understand what you are saying. How do you even have a mental dictionary without language? And how do you have a language without symbols? How do you explain those symbols in terms of physical laws? The fact that the symbols "cat" "match" a connection to a certain kind of mammal is a free will, mental mental function that has nothing to do with physical law. That cannot possibly be explained by general relativity or quantum physics. Ever.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Reply to comment from Rich

"The real problem for tgpeeler is conflating abiogenesis with evolution."

Hi Rick, actually, I don't think so. Evolution cannot get going without life and the naturalist explanation of life (abiogenesis) is the one a true proponent of evolution must agree to so the argument applies equally well. It really doesn't matter if I'm talking about the origination of the information of life or any changes to that information after life began. The central issue remains information. And you can't get to information apart from mind. Physics cannot get you from quarks, leptons, and forces to English, Greek, mathematics, COBOL, or whatever. Or, as I would argue, in the case of the language of life, Mind.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

WSJ article: Man vs. God

This is a reply I wrote in a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal regarding a short essay they published by Richard Dawkins on what evolution means for God. There were two parts to the article but the other one, IMHO, didn't rise to the level of even being wrong. The text of my reply follows.

In the WSJ article where Richard Dawkins argues that evolution “leaves God with nothing to do,” I beg to differ. In this brief reply, I will show why.

Dawkins makes the typical Darwinian mistake and he is very plain about it. He says that life is produced by the laws of physics. Several times he refers to physics as the causal power that has given us life. Granted, it took a little time, but the answers to the story of life are ultimately found in the laws of physics. Or so he says, on several occasions. Dawkins also says in the article, regarding the origin and progression of life, that the answer is: “Darwinian evolution, the nonrandom survival of randomly varying coded information.” He goes on to immediately say that: “We know, as certainly as we know anything in science, that this is the process that has generated life on our own planet.” But can this possibly be true? Let’s see.

The real problem for Darwinian evolution is that it is impossible to get from matter, energy, and the laws of physics to information, and therefore life. Here’s the Cliff Notes version.

Life and information are inextricably linked. This has been known since Crick and Watson discovered the structure of DNA. Dawkins himself, in his book River Out of Eden, makes the statement that “life is just bytes and bytes and bytes of digital information.” I would argue that life is more than that but we agree that life in a very real and fascinating way is intimately wrapped up with information.

So why can’t physics explain information and therefore life? It’s pretty simple, actually. The reason is because physics cannot explain language. Language, which is the only thing that we know of that encodes, transmits, receives, and decodes information, requires two things: symbols and rules. Symbols are the representation of one thing for another and the rules are mutually agreed upon conventions for the use of those symbols. Without these two things we do not have language, and without language we do not have information. Needless to say, if we don’t have information, we don’t have life. So if physics cannot explain language it cannot explain life.

Here’s why physics cannot explain language. Physics has nothing to say about symbols, or the rules that govern their use. Using English as an example, nothing in physics tells us why “cat” means a certain kind of mammal and “act” means to do something, or something done, or a segment of a play, depending upon the context. There is no part of physics that even pretends to address these issues. In fact, the laws of physics that Dawkins worships are themselves written in the language of mathematics. One might justifiably wonder, by Whom? So it appears to me, a curious layman, that it is actually impossible for the Darwinian enterprise to explain language, therefore information, therefore life. Who would want to believe a theory like that?

So what role for God? Perhaps John the Gospel writer had it right almost 2,000 years ago when he opened his book with: “In the beginning was the Word…” Or, as we would say, Information.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hi Allan

I'll do better than publish your comment as a comment. I'll put it here so the two or three people who read this will be sure to see it. Plus, we can just discuss things here if you like. I don't have the patience for "Dawkins land." It's like dealing with people who think the earth is flat or who think the moon is closer than Chicago because they can see the moon but not Chicago. Let me know what part of evolution I "caricature." We can start there.

Alan Fox has left a new comment on your post "A post I made at Uncommon Descent":

Hi Tom

Are your questions just rhetorical, or are you looking for answers? You are unlikely to get much response from anyone other than dyed-in-the-wool creationists at UD, as ID critics get routinely weeded out.

Why not go back to Richard Dawkins' forum if you are genuinely interested in understanding evolutionary theory, rather than the caricature you portray? I would have posted at UD but I'm banned there.

I wonder if you'll approve my comment?

Friday, August 7, 2009

A post I made at Uncommon Descent

(The link is at the bottom.)

Seriously, does anyone really believe in Darwinian evolution anymore? On the one hand we posit Mind as the source of biological information and on the other hand we posit "natural selection" plus genetic mutation. How DO they stack up?

"Natural selection" (I use scare quotes deliberately) is based on at least four faulty assumptions. The first is that there is a "struggle" to survive. But the materialist philosophy which is the basis for this "science" says that there is no purpose in the universe. So how can that be? There is no purpose in the universe but somehow there is a struggle for survival. We can't have it both ways, now, can we? It's either purpose or no purpose. If you allow purpose in order for "natural selection" to work then you have to explain the existence of purpose. Which you can't do. So neither do you get it for "natural selection."

The second false assumption on which "ns" is based is that populations increase geometrically (a Malthusian myth). They don't. The planet would be overrun with critters if that were true, but we aren't, so it isn't.

The third false assumption (also a Malthusian myth) is that food supplies increase only arithmetically. Thus the false problem of the "struggle for survival" wherein the overpopulating organisms compete with each other for a diminishing food supply. Those better able to adapt, live, and those that don't, die.

What nonsense. Living things live and only living things reproduce. Wow. What insight. Being alive necessarily, by definition, means "being fit." If I'm not fit, I'm not alive. If I'm alive, I'm fit. This, THIS, is the major mechanism for the creation of biological information? ha ha chortle chortle. You must be kidding me.

The fourth faulty assumption is that it even exists. I guess I could have started with this one and saved a few words. This is what I find absolutely hilarious about "ns" as an explanation for anything (it's not). This is the idea that it has causal power in nature. That is, if it is to have explanatory power at all, "ns" must have causal power. But if "ns" has causal power, and all causal power resides in physics, then "ns" must be part of physics. No? But it isn't. Ask a physicist about "ns" being one of the forces in nature and he will laugh at you, if he bothers to do that. There are four forces in nature and "ns" isn't on that list. So my unsophisticated mind reasons like this. If physics is all that has causal power (and this is the claim of the "isms" - m'ism, n'ism, and p'ism), but "ns" isn't mentioned in any of the physics books, i.e. it is not recognized as a part of physics, then it has NO CAUSAL POWER and therefore it’s not real. It’s a myth. Oh it's "real" enough if you are reading a biology book and if you take "real" to mean that someone believes it is real. But appealing to "ns" to explain anything in biology is like appealing to Santa Claus to explain Christmas presents under the tree. How funny is that? And grownups do it all the time. Even some ID proponents make this horrible, horrible mistake. Acknowledging that “natural selection” can account for anything (“micro” evolution but not “macro” evolution). But wait, don’t organisms change? Don’t they adapt? Yes, they do. But it’s not “ns” that we see, it’s the interplay of exquisitely designed creatures with their environment. The information already exists that allows for organisms to adapt. It’s not something “magically” generated on the fly.

But wait, there's more hilarity. There are those, (I've read their books) who think that genetic mutations PLUS "ns" can account for an increase in biological information and thus new species. So that's akin to taking an essay and randomly altering selected letters, possibly rearranging or duplicating some words or sentences, and saying that will improve the essay. This is pretty cute in an odd sort of way. Kind of like watching a little kid pound on a piano and they think they're playing a symphony.

So we've missed, as usual, the real problem which is not the alteration of biological information but the ORIGIN of it. So now we're back to the crux of the problem. To explain life you must explain information. To explain information you must explain language. To explain language you must be able to explain symbols and rules. If you are a materialist, naturalist, physicalist, you ONLY have physics with which to explain anything. So how does physics come to bear on why "cat" means one thing and "act" means another? Go ahead. Tell me what laws or forces explain the use of symbols. Well, of course, none of them do and they never will. And they don’t because physics explains the material world but we are talking about the immaterial world. But the “ists” deny the existence of the immaterial world (Gods, souls, minds, laws (except physics, of course, but no moral law)). They apparently accept the existence of information but somehow it escapes their notice that information, although encoded in material substrates, is immaterial. Another logical contradiction. This from people who allegedly worship reason as they mock ID. Pretty funny stuff, you’ll agree.

The bottom line is that information always reduces to, or is explained by, Mind/mind, not matter. And naturalism, materialism, and/or physicalism, the philosophical basis for contemporary science (and much philosophy) is utter nonsense. I guess people who will believe that "ns" plus random information changes can write the biological equivalent of Shakespeare, and then some, will believe anything.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


So we're done with this. For those that have bothered to read along, my apologies for indulging this longer than I should have. Libtard refuses to seriously engage so I will not be publishing anything else he has to say. If you want to read his "response" to my last post it's in the comments. Again he fails to engage in any meaningful way. Good luck to him. Really.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

nearing the end of this ever so tedious bit on naturalism

"Why are you failing to differentiate or trying to equate ontological naturalism and methodological naturalism? That's an honest question."

Frankly, I am beginning to wonder if that's an honest question or not. I find it hard to imagine that you have actually read and considered anything I've written. My last post was obviously about ontological naturalism and not about methodological naturalism. I am trying to get you to COMMIT to a point of view, that is to take a stand behind some truth claim, whatever it may be, and BACK IT UP. Presumably with your methodological naturalism or however you would like to do it. But I will give you the benefit of the doubt and give this one last shot.

I do not equate ontological and methodological naturalism. The first is obviously ontological, that is, about what exists and the second is epistemological, that is, about what is true about what exists, including if it does exist. I perfectly understand the difference, as I have previously, and in painful detail, noted. What you apparently fail to grasp, or will not grasp, or will not even think about for more than two seconds so you could have a chance to grasp, are the following:

  • There are no privileged truth claims, scientific, religious, or otherwise. This means that EVERY truth claim ultimately stands or falls on reason applied to evidence. I have explained this time and again in this blog. I will not answer it again so don't ask me "why?"
  • Ultimately, the only way to know what is true is by the application of reason to evidence. (If you are calling this methodological naturalism then we have a point of agreement. Although that is not what methodological naturalism is, because methodological naturalism doesn't give place to the undeniable and sovereign role of reason in matters of truth.)
  • Issues of ontology must be settled epistemologically. If you get the ontology wrong, you are finished in your quest for truth. What exists is a CONCLUSION, not an assumption. Ideally, that conclusion is based on reason and evidence. One is either a materialist/physicalist/naturalist, a dualist, or an idealist. For the record, I am a dualist. I believe that both the material and abstract worlds are "real."
  • Ontological naturalism can stamp its feet all it wants but screaming ever louder "there is no God" doesn't make it any less false.
  • A commitment to ontological naturalism entails a commitment to methodological naturalism. Ontological naturalism denies the existence of anything that is "outside" of nature. This obviously includes God but less obviously includes souls or minds, mathematics, reason, moral law, economic law, physical law, law of any kind and many other things.
  • Do I really need to disabuse you of the notion that ontological naturalism is false? Just in case, I will by means of the following thought experiment. Let's define "nature" as all that exists in space/time. That is about as broad as I can make it so you should have no problem with that definition. I will also assume that it is wrong to be rude to a waiter. If this is true, then it is wrong right now. It is wrong today. Therefore, it must be wrong yesterday, since yesterday was once today. It must be wrong tomorrow, because tomorrow (Thursday) will eventually be "today" (now Wednesday). Therefore, this moral law, which says it's wrong to be rude to waiters, is independent of time. It's also wrong to be rude to waiters in Houston, New York, LA, and in Paris. If there were waiters on the moon, or on Alpha Centauri, it would be wrong to be rude to them there, too. Therefore, this moral law is also independent of location, or space. Therefore, a reasonable person, such as yourself, would deduce that this moral law exists independently, i.e. outside of space and time and therefore exists independently, i.e. outside of nature. Notwithstanding the fact that it also exists THROUGHOUT space and time. Therefore, the idea that nothing exists outside of nature, ontological naturalism, is the biggest crock of bullshit ever foisted upon an unsuspecting and unthinking public. And if being rude to a waiter doesn't do it for you, morally speaking, then substitute holocaust or polluting the environment. I'm sure there is something you think is intrinsically and always wrong.
  • A commitment to methodological naturalism (or more accurately, empiricism), while it does not entail ontological naturalism, makes no sense apart from ontological naturalism.
  • The role of reason in the search for truth is supreme (argue/reason with me about this point and you will eventually get it).
  • Reason leads inexorably to God. This is anathema to ontological naturalism. It may be permitted in some construals of methodological naturalism, but in general, it is not. Reason applied to evidence also leads inexorably to God. If all cats are mammals and Felix is a cat then Felix is a mammal. If everything that begins to exist needs a cause (true by definition) and the universe began to exist (true by reason AND evidence) then the universe needs a cause. Case closed. Now we can discuss the nature of that cause but that a cause is needed is irrefutable.
  • There is an inherent dishonesty in naturalism of any stripe. Ontological naturalism is nonsense as shown by its inability to account for anything that matters to human beings. Morality, for one, say, as we saw above.
  • Methodological naturalism has pretensions of intellectual respectability but does not explicitly acknowledge the role of reason in the quest for truth. Therefore, when reason inevitably leads to God, as it does, and for good reason, the methodolical naturalists fall back on the idea that reason is now incompetent to conclude about God because that is outside of nature. And once again they demonstrate either their intellectual degeneracy by confusing premise and conclusion or their moral degeneracy by knowingly espousing what they know to be a lie.
  • Intellectual integrity means accepting the authority of reason in matters of truth. If you do not have this then I am wasting my time and if I do not have this then so are you.
  • It's a major failing of mine, ask anybody who knows me, that I am not very patient with people who care nothing for getting at the truth. Until this last post of yours, I had thought you to be one of those who was interested. But now, I think not. I'm happy to be proven wrong, however.
  • You have two options here. Either specifically address the arguments I have made or make arguments of your own about how things are and how you know that they are. Otherwise, we're done here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

more with libtard on naturalism

"Data is just data without an explanation and reason is what provides that explanation. It’s the EXPLANATION that is key. There should be no disagreement over data. It’s all about understanding it and explaining it."

"Where does the supernatural enter into that?"

I’m going to assume that there is a genuine lack of understanding here so I’m going to go over this one more time.

First of all, this is why it is necessary to define terms up front AND to make intellectual commitments to what those terms mean. Therefore, we need to get this straight. My goal in this post is either to get you to agree with what I propose what “naturalism” and “nature” will mean for this conversation, or get you to modify it so that we have a common term, in other words, a term that we are using univocally. If you cannot, or will not, commit to what the term means, up front, and stick to it, there is no possibility of reaching a rational accord. Since, by refusing to make that intellectual commitment, you are rejecting a first principle of reason, which is Identity. A thing is what it is. And non-contradiction. If it is what it is then it is not something else. And excluded middle. It either is what it is or it is not. Being, of course, is bound up tightly with identity. In order to have an identity, something must exist. And sufficient cause. Or causality. Things don’t “just happen.” Every event, or effect, in space/time has a cause. I’ll assume that you are rational and accept these principles. If not, speak up now and we’ll be done.

That said, “nature” (according to the tenets of “naturalism”) is all that there is. This typically means the “natural world” or the “physical world” or the “material world.” It means that anything outside of “nature” is supernatural. God would be “supernatural,” for example. Or other gods, should they exist.

Perhaps this isn’t specific enough. So let’s further break it down to describe what is natural (or physical or material) in this way. Something is physical or material, i.e. part of nature, if it:
- Can be located in space/time
- Has mass and/or inertia
- Is responsive to gravity (photons have no mass but are affected by gravity)
- Is comprised of sub-atomic particles in energy fields
- Can be empirically detected
- Can be described or explained by physics or our best physical laws
- Can be used to move or heat matter (energy)
- Can be converted to energy
- Or is recognized by the methods of science (if it’s not broad enough already)
- Everything else, then, by definition, would be “supernatural,” that is, “outside of nature.”

Your task is to agree with this definition, or modify it so that you do agree, and then we’ll proceed.

Monday, May 18, 2009

More conversation with libtard (he is quoted and italicized)

"Sigh, I was afraid our discussion would come back to this, which is why I explicitly avoided directly definitions or usage of ontological and methodological naturalism in my prior comments, in which I tried to explain why I hold the position of accepting the latter while rejecting the former."

I understand this. But I my question still remains. The one doesn’t make sense unless the other is true. And ontological naturalism is about as far from being true as it is possible to be. This, the falsity of ontological naturalism, by the way, is the CONCLUSION of a sound argument that accounts for all the data. It is not an usupported a priori premise that is grimly held on to in spite of devastating arguments to the contrary.

"Methodological naturalism says: we wish to understand the truth, and the best way we have found to do that is to rely on what we observe."

This is incomplete. This is empiricism and it's not what methodological naturalism claims. It also, by definition, excludes anything apart from the natural, even where sound arguments from reason and evidence demand a conclusion of God. So there is implicitly, at least, a definition of what qualifies as "truth" in this system. Where is the role of reason in understanding the truth? Data is just data without an explanation and reason is what provides that explanation. It’s the EXPLANATION that is key. There should be no disagreement over data. It’s all about understanding it and explaining it.

"This is so profoundly true that I don't understand why you are trying to reject it? We have made observations such that the Sun is at the center of the solar system. We have made observations such that a year is 365.25 days. We have observed that tides are caused directly by the moon."

I do not reject it. I reject your characterization that observation alone is the final arbiter of truth. It’s evidence or observation, if you please, PLUS reason that gets us to the truth. And, by the way, ontological naturalism cannot account for reason.

"Consider if we had two competing explanations for tides; one said that the moon correlated very closely with tidal motion and therefore was likely inter-related or directly responsible. Or a second theory that said that periodically a god-like Neptune creature materializes in the sea, displacing water."

Consider if we had two competing explanations for the origin of the universe. One said, it beats the hell out of me but I know for sure it isn’t God or anything “supernatural.” One said, based on an exercise in pure reason PLUS multiple observations, that the universe began, therefore it had a “beginner.” Which one would you be more likely to believe?

"If there is any kind of evidence of the Neptune-like creature, that theory has some credibility. Likewise, if there is any variance in the correlation of the moon to the tides, it casts doubt on that theory. Its really just simple competition; which explanation is the most plausible in light of what we can observe? Which is to say, the "best" explanation for something is that which fits all of the known observations of the time and does not make unreasonable implications (ie. some physics theories imply that the universe only had a very tiny chance of ever existing; these theories are given less weight)."

I have no quarrel with this and if you think I do then you haven’t read me very carefully. PART of what makes a theory a good explanation is that it accounts for all the data. That is another way of saying that it must be internally consistent. It must be RATIONAL.

"All I'm saying is that when we, as rational human beings, want to explain how something works, we base it on the story that best fits the facts. If new facts emerge, we change the story to fit."

Sigh. No shit.

"Can you give a counter-example?"

Of what?

"In any case, I'd be happy to move on to discussing another point, unless you feel this particular issue requires more examination."

Only of your estimation of the value of reason in getting at the truth. I’d be interested to hear your explanation of that.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

and more on naturalism

I would just answer your comments with comments but I am afraid they will get lost if I do that.

"I do not take the position of ontological naturalism; instead I take the position of methodological naturalism. I define ontological naturalism as "nature is all there is, and all basic truths are truths of nature". I define methodological naturalism as "the best way to understand and seek knowledge is to reference natural causes and events." I differentiate between the two by stating that methodological naturalism says nothing about the supernatural other than that it is not the best way to seek knowledge."

But here's the thing. How can you presume to the second without assuming the first to be true? Otherwise you have committed yourself to saying that you don't know about how the world is, really, ontologically (what exists) BUT you are going to pretend that "the 'best' (are there other ways?) way to understand and seek knowledge (presumably of what you don't know exists) is to reference natural causes and events." And what does that mean, exactly? Is it the same thing as reason and evidence? But what if that reason and evidence points to something "supernatural"? You are still unclear about your fundamental commitments in terms of both ontology and epistemology. How can an epistemological program of methodological naturalism lead to anything "outside" of nature? And if you don't commit to ontological naturalism, then why a commitment to epistemological naturalism?