William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

You Are Who You Think You Are: Hart’s The Experience of God, Part III

I think this may be Descartes, but I might not be real

Read Part I, Part II.

Stand by for news!

You’re not going to believe this, but I swear it’s true. It’s one of those things that’s so psychedelically stratospherically hyper-dimensionally grotesque that you will think old Briggs is trying to pull a large wet one over you. Gross! But I do not lie. Ready? There exists a large and growing segment of academia filled with earnest moralists whose sole purpose is to prove they do not exist.

Contradictory? Well, contradiction is the Marxist way. (Did he say Marxist? What a distraction! Never mind!)

Anyway, it’s true. “We do not exist,” say these academics. “We are illusions.” Well, so what. Intellectuals, and academics in particular (have you seen the puerile fantasies leaked from Women’s “studies” departments?), so often say loopy things which have no connection to reality that it’s considered boorish to remark on them. And what do you expect? Insensibility and illogicality is the natural result of too much free time married to a reward system which favors “transgressions” of sanity and tradition.

What makes this novel aberration worth discussing is that these academics say you, dear reader, that you don’t exist either. And they’re determined to get you to believe it. Why? Three reasons. First is that all people are natural proselytizers. Second, the non-existent academics believe that once you, like them, don’t exist, then the world will be a better place.

Third and most important, their belief in non-self-hood is deduced from Theory. Theory! As a paleskinned man from the north once wrote: The love of theory is the root of all evil. So beguiling and beautiful is this theory that nothing, not even the obvious and contradictory fact of their existence, can talk them out of it. These fellows would rather give up rationality itself rather than cast aspersions on their beloved.

Theoretically speaking

The theory is materialism. Our bodies, and even the bodies of academics, are made of physical stuff, material. Hart says, “Absolutely central to the mechanistic vision of reality is the principle that material forces are inherently mindless, intrinsically devoid of purpose, and therefore only adventitiously and accidentally directed toward any ends.”

Think of it this way. No, wait, You cannot direct yourself, or intend yourself, to think of anything. Not if you don’t exist as mental being. What happens instead is this. A coherent, contiguous block of flesh, entirely governed by deterministic physical laws, is in some state, a huge configuration of nerves, muscle, chemicals, and so forth all in one place at some instant. As the next moment ticks by, the whole mess enters another configuration, the transition precisely and unsentiently determined by mindless physical and chemical equations.

The moments flow, and if you stand back a bit and squint you can see the contiguous mass move in such a way that it appears as if the mass were directed by some intelligence. The actions are thus like motion pictures, which are really individual lifeless snapshots, or configurations if you will, that only simulate vitality when viewed in quick succession. This imitation vitality in human beings is called consciousness, the picture which results from accumulating billions and billions of tiny blind forces. Now whatever consciousness exactly is, materialism dogmatically—I mean without proof, for this metaphysical view is impossible to prove—insists there is no you, no “soul” or god guiding your actions, except maybe, and only a scant maybe at that, there is some remote and powerful demiurge who set the whole thing in motion at some timeless past and who now sits pondering whatever it is demiurge’s ponder.

Human beings do not have intellects or wills, therefore “they” do not really exist, though it can seem like they do to lesser people, folks with shallow brain pans. “bitter clingers”, God-fearers, those sort of creatures. But after you ascend the Slope of Enlightenment, it’s easy to see belief in the existence of selves is a silly fantasy. So far the only brave mountain climbers are those possessing superior neural configurations, such as those who listen to NPR. But this is going to change once word of the Theory reaches in the valley and dehumanization begins in earnest. Then will life on earth be terrific? Boy! (See this video.)

They’re coming to take me away

Well, this is nuts. This is full-tilt bat-guano bug-eyed tinfoil-hat insane. Hart calls it “fanaticism”, a word which he says “is not opprobrious, but merely descriptive.” It isn’t imbecility because, as I hinted, it just one more in an endless stream of crackbrained lunacies created by the very intelligent. Nitwits could not think up the perfervid dreams foisted on us by geniuses. Rousseau wasn’t an idiot and neither were Marx, Keynes…ah, you fill out the rest. This list proves love is stronger than reason.

Ordinary sanity demands that when an observation contradicts a theory, the theory has to go. Sorry baby, here I think therefore here I am: materialism is therefore dead meat with no chance of a resurrection. Desire says the opposite. Desire says keep whichever is prettier. All it takes is ten minutes reading any history book to know that observation will never win any beauty contests. So theories rage and bewitch and captivate and cause their lovers to suffer unbearable mental torments as they posit ever-greater epicycles which might, hope beyond all hope, keep the theory alive.

Now as for the many disproofs and counter demonstrations, I don’t here give a damn. Read Hart’s book. All attempts to prove how materialism can show we don’t exist—whether it be epiphenomenalism, emergence, quantum mechanics, experiments which purport to show that our bodies make decisions before we do, whatever—Hart tackles sweetly and decisively. He has a generous nature and is patient, though sometimes he piles on extra-flowery words (he missed his calling as a poet). I am not patient. The observation that I exist, that I feel, that I am must, as logic demands, be enough. It is more than enough.

Since I and since you have the observations that I am and you are, we know in advance that whatever new “proof” somebody offers that we do not exist must be fallacious. The only trick is in seeing where the fallacy lies. There is a certain amount of fun in this and it’s a good way to pass the time if you have to take a train ride and have forgotten your Sudoku. But you can spend your energy more profitably. However, since most of us are geeks and love puzzles for the sake of puzzles, the best resource besides Hart (well, better, in this aspect) is Edward Feser who for example disemboweled, dissected, and destroyed Alex Rosenberg’s eliminative materialism (in Rosenberg’s The Atheist’s Guide to Reality) so thoroughly that…well, put it this way. It was like walking into one of Upton Sinclair’s abattoirs. Brrr.

Time better spent

Still, here we are. We exist. We think, love, feel, worry, know right from wrong, deny good and embrace evil, direct our thoughts this way then that. And we also have brains which are made of meat and subject to physics and which are, at least to some extent, necessary for us to accomplish all these curious mental actions. So how do we reconcile what we know of physical determinism and the obvious fact of our (mostly free) mental selves?

Nobody knows.

Bummer. Not the answer which endears you to theory lovers. Tough luck on them.

What’s the real trouble? Comes from several directions. Take causality, a principle which is surely misunderstood by most academics. There are four kinds of “cause”, a word I put in scare quotes to signal an unfortunate circumstance. Even after you learn the four kinds of cause, because you were brought up knowing only one, each time you see cause you still, even in your new knowledge, tend to think of the old definition. This is natural. It’s for this reason that only under the most extreme duress should a word change definition. But we are under duress, so be on your guard.

The four causes are formal, material, efficient, and final (many sites discuss this more completely; an example). The formal cause deals with the form of a thing. The material is what the thing is made of. The efficient is what moderns ordinarily think cause is, the thing that brings the change about. But the most neglected and fascinating is the final cause, the “goal” or direction of the change; what a thing is for. Materialism (or naturalism) insists there are no final causes, no directedness, no thing is ever for anything. Why, the only reason it seems things have purposes is because we imagine they do, we over-interpret “blind” happenstances as being coherent. But if this is so, then there are “we”s, intelligences directing our thoughts for or toward objects and creating these images. If there are illusions, there must be intelligences. Oops.

So, somehow, and nobody yet has a clear idea yet how, and we being finite fractured figures we may never have a clear idea how, our minds are in connection with the material that is also us, and our minds direct and cause this material to move about. That sounds suspiciously like dualism, which maybe it is, though just how dualism can be true isn’t known. But then maybe the real problem is with the initial separation of mental and material reality. Maybe they aren’t different, but aspects of the same underlying whole of reality. This skirts dangerously close to idealism, which is the opposite mistake materialism makes, and which says all is thought, including the rocks on which you might stub your toe.

The separation of mind and matter as different is a modern invention anyway (thank you, Descartes!), a move medieval and ancients scholars would find baffling. Why fix what isn’t broke? Hart:

[I]t makes perfect sense that so many ancients and mediaeval [alternate spelling sic] philosophers took it as a given that the ideal dimensions of things, their intrinsic intelligibility, was not only a real property of their existence but in some sense was identical with existence itself. What, however, is an idea other than the product of a mind? What is a concept other than the expressions of a rational intentionality? And how, therefore, could being be pure intelligibility if it were not also pure intelligence—the mind of God, so to speak?

God is not “some discrete being somewhere out there”, rather “he is himself the logical order of all reality, the ground both of the subjective rationality of mind and the objective rationality of being”, facts assumed by all great religious traditions (Harts lists the variants).

“God explains the existence of the universe despite its ontological contingency, which is something that no form of naturalism can do; but God also explains the transparency of the universe to consciousness…and the intentional power of the mind”. So how does God bring this about? How about something like this?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Next and last time, Bliss.

35 Comments

  1. Don’t know if I should be commenting on a banned site! 🙂

    “insists there is no you, no “soul” or god guiding your actions” You’re describing left-wing radical liberals here, right?

    Other than some bizarre mental exercise designed to make people look “smart”, the argument about whether or not we are “real” is irrelevent. We are what we are. If we don’t exist, we think we do and behave accordingly. I have had people tell me that if I believe hard enough, I can jump off a building and not get injured or dead. I asked for a demonstration first, but no takers yet. Same for the mind games about whether we “live in a holodeck”, Star Trek style. How would we know? It doesn’t matter. Using our “non-existence” to prove anything is irrelevant. We know only what we know, nothing more. We can’t know if it’s a holodeck or we’re a dream some alien is having or we are indeed “real” and a stand-alone reality. Personally, I think maybe we should stop funding these imaginative people and see if their “non-existence” keeps them from starving. I’m sure non-existent people don’t need to eat.

  2. Descartes: Je pense, donc je suis

  3. Well Briggs, I might actually agree with you except that I don’t really know what you are trying to say. Are you debating the cartoon video that you have linked to or the arguments of real people? For example here is a video of Pinker on free will.

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VQxJi0COTBo

    It doesn’t seem all that different than the position you present in this statement “So, somehow, and nobody yet has a clear idea yet how, and we being finite fractured figures we may never have a clear idea how, our minds are in connection with the material that is also us, and our minds direct and cause this material to move about.” or this one “But then maybe the real problem is with the initial separation of mental and material reality. Maybe they aren’t different, but aspects of the same underlying whole of reality.” So please tell us exactly where your position differs from the materialists and please quote the words of real people.

    I have read Feser and I still check out his website on a regular basis. His arguments may very well be solid but I have trouble understanding exactly what he is trying to say. Maybe my mind is just not made for deep philosophical discussion.

  4. Not all atheists are marxist, in fact Voltaire wasn’t a marxist either. So Briggs, your attempt for framing is futile. Liberals in the Netherlands are free market advocates, Thorbecke is their great example who with a constitution reform ended absolute monarchy in the netherlands.

  5. Oh and still the god of the jews does not follow from the theory, in fact this god is falsified by it.

  6. So am I stating the obvious or am I only one that thought of this when I saw your title.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYKIcnj1MJY

  7. Dang, how do I get that to just go in as a link?

  8. @Hans–isn’t it remarkable in this day and age that some will still trot forward the Marcion heresy, even though it has been disproved by the patristic sages (Tertullian amongs others). And isn’t it also remarkable that anti-Judaism (I won’t call it anti-semitism) is put forward using the prop of pseudo-philosophical arguments?

  9. That was fun as a nice light read over morning coffee.

    But surely reading Hart’s explanation of why what he thinks other people think is wrong is about as entertaining as reading a book of solved Sudoku puzzles (where it looks suspiciously as if some of the clues have been rubbed out and overwritten).

    If you want entertainment at the level of actually solving the puzzles yourself then you should be reading the work of those who say they do not exist (if indeed such people do exist).

  10. John M,

    Use the html a tag. Auto YouTube links seem to embed.

  11. It’s for this reason that only under the most extreme duress should a word change definition.

    You mean like taking a normal English keyword such as “thing” and reserving it to mean a Specific Thing? This, I think, has a “for” cause and that is to induce duress plus provide loads of fun in the opportunity to digress and chortle over any non-PC usage.

    Speaking of “for” causes, when I pointed to a visible comet, the kid next door asked “what are comets for?”

  12. If there are illusions, there must be intelligences.

    Now doesn’t that depend a lot on the definition of illusion and intelligence? Seems to me, a failed thermostat might create the illusion for the furnace that the temperature is in either the ON region or OFF region. No much intelligence in this.

  13. Briggs,

    Are you suggesting some connection between logic and the notion of God?

    “he is himself the logical order of all reality, the ground both of the subjective rationality of mind and the objective rationality of being”,

    Is it an article of faith that there is logical order to all of reality? Why is it that reality must yield to analysis ? (it would be nice and convenient for us if it did)

    I don’t see how the materialists disprove the notion of God, but I don’t see how one proves the claim that there is logical order to all of reality either. Looking at how scientists behave, when they find some paradoxes they promptly get to work trying to figure out how to resolve the paradoxes, instead of taking that as evidence that there is no logical order to reality. So basically, I’m having trouble thinking about fanatic atheist scientists who rely purely on evidence to ground their beliefs …

  14. Bob Kurland, thanks for the Marcion reference. Indeed Marcion was clever, he noticed the similarity between the immoral god of the old testamernt and the immoral greek gods. Luckily for Marcion we know now that virtually the complete old testament has been made up. So all that remains is the deistic Marcionic god, and that god is amoral not immoral. As for the son, ever noticed the huge overlap between Jesus and Hercules worship?
    BTW I like Jews and Greeks, just not their immoral gods.

  15. Hans, Marcion was a Gnostic, and you know what they were like! But all anti-materialists, so maybe there’s an unsuspected link here! Could we use Marcion against Dawkins?

  16. Oh, and some of my best friends are anti-Judaites.

  17. Nullius in Verba

    March 9, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    ““Absolutely central to the mechanistic vision of reality is the principle that material forces are inherently mindless, intrinsically devoid of purpose, and therefore only adventitiously and accidentally directed toward any ends.””

    Straw man. Absolutely central to the mechanistic vision of reality is that all matter is intrinsically capable of intelligence, knowledge, awareness, meaning, purpose, etc. It’s all computation. Even cogs and wheels are capable of it.

    The problem is that people still have a fundamentally vitalist intuition, (though some might deny it). They think that without that ‘living spark’ that matter is dead and meaningless. But it’s an impoverished and incorrect view of what matter really is, and is capable of (or more precisely, what the laws of mechanics are capable of). They say – incorrectly – that matter is not capable of that, and so there must be something else; but are then unable to pin down or identify what this ‘something else’ might be, and they can thus invoke a ‘God of the Gaps’ to ‘explain’ it. The fallacy is that there doesn’t *need* to be anything else. A purely mechanical universe is – however hard it might be for them to imagine it – far richer than they can imagine, and capable of all that and more.

    But it was an amusing essay, anyway. 🙂

  18. yo, nullius, could you tell me in a simple way what is matter? I’ve never got a satisfactory explanation, either in my freshman physics class at Caltech or from Schwinger’s advanced QM course. Of course Aristotle has a good definition, but that’s ultimately leaves some unanswered questions.

  19. Materialists (or scientismists–a neologism to get a term different from scientists) may be able to answer some (but not all) of the “how” questions, but they can’t answer any of the “why” questions. So they say such “why” questions are meaningless. That’s a cop-out.

  20. Nullius in Verba

    March 9, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    “could you tell me in a simple way what is matter?”

    No. Not simply. It’s an excellent question, but it depends what aspect of ‘what is matter?’ you mean. See Feynman’s clip on ‘magnets’ for an explanation of the issue.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MO0r930Sn_8

  21. “….God is not “some discrete being somewhere out there”, rather “he is himself the logical order of all reality, the ground both of the subjective rationality of mind and the objective rationality of being”,”

    Is this Hart?

  22. Ye Olde Statisician

    March 10, 2014 at 12:15 am

    Absolutely central to the mechanistic vision of reality is that all matter is intrinsically capable of intelligence, knowledge, awareness, meaning, purpose, etc. It’s all computation. Even cogs and wheels are capable of it.

    The problem is that people still have a fundamentally vitalist intuition, (though some might deny it). They think that without that ‘living spark’ that matter is dead and meaningless.

    Heh. The notion of “dead matter” came in with the moderns, specifically from Galileo, Descartes, Hume, Bacon, and that crowd. It was the medieval Thomists who thought of matter as being charged with essences and intrinsic powers! And the ancient Greeks who considered the entire cosmos as being somehow “alive.”
    + + +
    Scientists animated by the purpose of proving that they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study.
    — A.N.Whitehead, The Function of Reason (1929), Beacon Books, 1958, p. 16

    Eliminative materialism is explicitly endorsed by Rosenberg, the Churchlands, et al. Many more do not realize that they do so because they have not thought through the implications of materialism. So they say things like there is no free will, not realizing the full import.

    Among those saying you don’t “really” exist are
    Prof. Patrick Haggard
    A Mindless Machine Tries to Convince Us We Are Mindless Machines http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2010/10/mindless-machine-tries-to-convince-us.html

    Jerry Coyne
    Humanism in Danger!
    http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2012/01/humanism-in-danger.html

    Sam Harris
    Attack of the Brain Atoms
    http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2011/06/attack-of-brain-atoms.html

  23. Ye Olde Statisician

    March 10, 2014 at 12:17 am

    when I pointed to a visible comet, the kid next door asked “what are comets for?

    So, what did you tell him?

  24. Makes a change from worrying about the problem of evil (which Rabbi Kaplan said is itself a sin) so for that we should be grateful. Which reminds me of a song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rROGCfI1OIk

  25. Nullius in Verba

    March 10, 2014 at 1:46 am

    “Heh. The notion of “dead matter” came in with the moderns, specifically from Galileo, Descartes, Hume, Bacon, and that crowd. It was the medieval Thomists who thought of matter as being charged with essences and intrinsic powers!”

    The only power it needs is motion, in response to the motion of other matter. I’ve not heard that Galileo etc. ever denied that.

    “Among those saying you don’t “really” exist are”

    I just had a quick glance, and those all appear to be complaining about articles denying “free will”, which is very different from saying “you don’t exist”. (Incidentally, did the persistent mis-spelling of ‘Libet’ have some point? I wondered if it was some joke I’d missed.)

    As for eliminative materialism, it depends of what sort. There are, I am sure, some forms that could be said to deny the ‘self’ entirely, as opposed to lesser notions such as that there might be a sequence of selves or a committee of selves who take turns, but who share a common internal narrative and so think of themselves as all one.

    That things inside our heads are not as they *appear* to be to us is quite likely, and at the least isn’t a crazy notion. That there is *nothing* inside our heads, is.

    You complain sometimes of critics presenting your highly subtle philosophical positions in crude and inaccurate terms and then ridiculing them. And I think that’s fair enough; people often do. So I can hardly make any complaint when you return the favour. And it was, as I said, an amusing essay. But I hope nobody will run away with the idea that it’s all true! 🙂

  26. Nullius, thanks for the reference to Feynmann’s video on magnetism. If you follow scientism, and believe that everything can be explained by scientific theory, for which a cornerstone is quantum mechanics, then you may be ultimately stopped in giving explanations. Wasn’t it Feynman (winner of the Nobel Prize for his theoretical work in quantum electrodynamics) who said “no one understands quantum mechanics” or, in a possibly apocryphal remark, “if you meet someone who tells you he understands quantum mechanics, he’s a liar”. So my question about materialists or scientismists explaining what matter might be still stands, I believe.

  27. when I pointed to a visible comet, the kid next door asked “what are comets for?
    So, what did you tell him?

    It’s there to look at.

  28. RE: “They’re Coming to Take Me Away”

    Hear: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXZMZ-XvvzI

  29. Ye Olde Statisician

    March 10, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    It’s there to look at.

    Not bad, though it does not quite capture the meaning of final cause. Probably the best you could do with a kid. Of the three kinds of finality — termination, perfection, and intention — termination is the one that applies most properly to inanimate bodies.

  30. Nullius in Verba

    March 10, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    “If you follow scientism, and believe that everything can be explained by scientific theory”

    I don’t know about that. You may be thinking of Naturalism.

    There are two varieties. Metaphysical Naturalism holds that everything follows a finite set of fixed rules, and that the universe at every stage is entirely the product of those rules. Methodological Naturalism holds that only Naturalistic rules are reliably knowable, and therefore one should assume and only seek out Naturalistic explanations for things. Methodological Naturalism doesn’t insist that Metaphysical Naturalism is necessarily true, only that if it isn’t we can never know anything for sure.

    However, while Metaphysical Naturalism might be argued to claim that everything *can* in principle be explained in scientific terms, it doesn’t claim that everything *has* been explained. More importantly, it claims that any non-Natural explanations are *wrong*. So it’s attitude is that while there are questions it cannot answer and might never be able to, *neither can anyone else*.

    And this is where it disagrees with religion, which delights in finding things science cannot explain and then offering their own explanations. Of course, from the scientist’s point of view “God did it” and “Because God said so” aren’t actually explanations. They could just as easily be applied to the exact opposite. They enable no predictions. They provide no deeper understanding. They offer no proof or tests of evidence. For all we know, they could be pure fiction.

    So my question would be: what mechanism does the Bible offer to unify quantum mechanics and general relativity? The creator of the universe could surely answer the question, and it’s the sort of evidence scientists would be forced to take seriously, which supposedly is what he wants. So did he predict the question and include some equations somewhere? (Somewhere in ‘Numbers’ perhaps? 🙂 ) Or perhaps you could pray for some?

    I know of only one divinely-inspired scripture that contains the sort of deep mathematical knowledge that one might expect of an actual ‘creator of the universe’, and it ain’t the Judeo-Christian one! So before pointing out the mote in science’s eye, with questions it has no answer to, it might be as well the address the beam in religion’s first. 🙂

  31. My question would be: what mechanism does Metaphysical Naturalism offer to unify all the known laws of physics, and if it has none yet, what evidence is there that it is even consistent? Similarly, what evidence does Methodological Naturalism have that disproves the existence of God, and if it has none, why does it reject God?

  32. Nullius in Verba

    March 11, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    “what mechanism does Metaphysical Naturalism offer to unify all the known laws of physics, and if it has none yet, what evidence is there that it is even consistent?”

    Nobody knows how to unify all the laws of physics – Meta-N is the belief that they are *unifiable*, not that we know how it works.

    What evidence is there that *what* is consistent? Meta-N? The known laws of physics? Or the proposed unification mechanism?

    If you’re asking for reasons for believing in MN, the answer is that billions of observations and phenomena have already been fitted into its framework, and many of the rules so discovered are such as to have such a general scope and are so tightly interrelated that it is very hard to see how there could be any exceptions without a more general breakdown. It’s like double-entry book-keeping: take a penny out of a single account anywhere in a multinational conglomerate, and the totals at every level company wide will be a penny out. Any imbalance is permanent, and propagates far and wide.

    “Similarly, what evidence does Methodological Naturalism have that disproves the existence of God, and if it has none, why does it reject God?”

    It depends what God you’re talking about. What are the properties of God that we are supposed to look for evidence of? Take the God Zeus, for example, who resides in thunder clouds throwing bolts of lightning. Well, we can fly airplanes through thunder clouds and have a look. If Zeus exists, we ought to see him there. Looking and not finding him is evidence against.

    In science, we make predictions based on each hypothesis, identify cases where the predictions differ, go and look, and reject those hypotheses that get it wrong. That’s what constitutes ‘evidence’, and is how we learn and make progress. But in order to do so, we need to make predictions, which means the phenomena have to follow knowable rules – i.e. be ‘Natural’. The ‘Supernatural’ is when things don’t – when it happens on the whim of some agency, or arbitrarily. And that destroys our ability to predict or explain. Whatever outcome you observe, the supernatural explanation cannot be eliminated because *any* outcome can be ascribed to be at the whim of the deity. If the litmus turns red, it’s because God (or the litmus paper fairy) made it turn red. If it turns blue it’s because God made it turn blue. The same explanation works for everything. (Worse, *every* supernatural explanation works for everything – and we can come up with arbitrary supernatural explanations ad infinitum.) And since evidence only arises when explanations make *different* predictions, there cannot, in principle, be any evidence for a supernatural cause.

    That does not imply that there aren’t any supernatural causes, only that we can’t have any evidence of any. Methodological Naturalism therefore rejects such explanations as a waste of time. They block progress.

    So to produce evidence for the existence of God, you need to be able to make definite predictions that differ from the atheist alternative hypothesis (and all the alternative theist hypotheses, too). For example, seeing Zeus in his thundercloud, or randomized double-blind trials on the efficacy of prayer or sacrifices in bringing good luck or good weather. If rain dances can reliably produce rain, we can test that. If it rains no more often with the dance than without, we can reject it. If you look in the cloud and find a bloke with a hammer, you reject Zeus and take it as evidence for Thor instead. If the author of this book created the universe, then he ought to get the physics right. If the book gets the physics wrong, or discusses the creation without mentioning it, that’s evidence against.

    Thus, for *specific* Deities, lots of tests can be devised. The unspecific ones are a more difficult case, though. There are the Gods that have no observable consequences – where all the predictions are exactly the same whether God did it or didn’t. And there are Gods that have observable consequences only when they feel like it, and in particular, only when nobody is testing them.

    The specific Deities are rejected because the tests have been done and the predictions have all failed. The non-specific ones are rejected on the grounds of Methodological Naturalism – not because there’s any evidence against them, but because there *cannot* be any evidence for what you cannot pin down to making a definite prediction.

  33. Sorry Briggs, you’re mostly wrong from the start. There aren’t three reasons, there’s only one. And it isn’t any of the three you give.

    If we don’t exist (i.e., if we don’t have free will), then we can screw all the co-eds we want to and it’s not wrong.

    Well, some of these academics don’t want to screw the co-eds because they’ve inherited some lingering morality from their misogynistic moralizing parents. This means they won’t have to tell their co-ed-screwing colleagues to stop it.

  34. Nullius, how do you know that the theories of quantum mechanics and general relativity can be unified? They are, after all, only theories. String or M-theory (M standing for Muddle) proposes to unify them, but that’s only mathematical metaphysics, which is not science, since it is not empirically verifiable. By the way, lots of things “predicted” by religion are empirically verifiable, although not reproducible as in a scientific test. And who would have expected some shepherd on the hills of Judea to comprehend the tensor field equations of general relativity? God speaks to us in languages and terms we can understand, and that understanding changes in time.

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