William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Summary Against Modern Thought: What Scientific Errors Tell Us Of God

This may be proved in three ways. The first...

This may be proved in three ways. The first…

See the first post in this series for an explanation and guide of our tour of Summa Contra Gentiles. All posts are under the category SAMT.

Previous post.

We’re still in the throat-clearing stage of Book II. Merry Christmas. Although it may be obvious, by “knowledge of creatures” Aquinas means what we call Science. The Bible demands we do good science, as will be seen.

Chapter 3 The the knowledge of the nature of creaturs avails for refuting errors against God (alternate translation)

[1] THE consideration of creatures is likewise necessary not only for the building up of faith, but also for the destruction of errors. For errors about creatures sometimes lead one astray from the truth of faith, in so far as they disagree with true knowledge of God. This happens in several ways.

[2] First, because through ignorance of the nature of creatures men are sometimes so far misled as to deem that which can but derive its being from something else, to be the first cause and God, for they think that nothing exists besides visible creatures. Such were those who thought that any kind of body was God: of whom it is said (Wis. xiii. 2): Who…have imagined either the fire, or the wind, or the swift air, or the circle of the stars, or the great water, or the sun and moon to be the gods.

Notes Ellipsis original (here and below). Interesting that the book of Wisdom is expurgated among protesting Christians. (Of what they are still protesting is a mystery to most.)

[3] Secondly, because they ascribe to certain creatures that which belongs to God alone. This also results from error about creatures: for one does not ascribe to a thing that which is incompatible with its nature, unless one is ignorant of its nature: for instance if we were to ascribe three feet to a man. Now that which belongs to God alone is incompatible with the nature of a creature: even as that which belongs to man alone is incompatible with another thing’s nature. Hence the foregoing error arises from ignorance of the creature’s nature. Against this error it is said (Wis. xiv. 21): They gave the incommunicable name to stones and wood. Into this error fell those who ascribe the creation of things, or the knowledge of the future, or the working of miracles to causes other than God.

Notes & Update See the correction by YOS below, which is on the money as usual. The main point is scientific and of broad consequence: “one does not ascribe to a thing that which is incompatible with its nature, unless one is ignorant of its nature”. As Thomas himself was, in a very minor way. But as our culture is, in a growing and major way.

[4] Thirdly, because something is withdrawn from the divine power in its working on creatures, through ignorance of the creature’s nature. This is evidenced in those who ascribe to things a twofold principle, and in those who aver that things proceed from God, not by the divine will, but by natural necessity, and in those who withdraw either all or some things from divine providence, or who deny that it can work outside the ordinary course of things. For all these are derogatory to the divine power. Against these it is said (Job xxii. 17): Who…looked upon the Almighty as if He could do nothing, and (Wis. xii. 17): Thou showest Thy power, when men will not believe Thee to be absolute in power.

Notes Back to science here, or what science has forgotten. God is the primary or first cause of every change. I mean every as in every, without exception. Nothing happens without God. Even your sins. Scary, no?

[5] Fourthly. Man, who is led by faith to God as his last end, through ignoring the natures of things, and consequently the order of his place in the universe, thinks himself to be beneath certain creatures above whom he is placed: as evidenced in those who subject man’s will to the stars, and against these it is said (Jerem. x. 2): Be not afraid of the signs of heaven, which the heathens fear; also in those who deem the angels to be the creators of souls, and human souls to be mortal; and in those who hold any like opinions derogatory to the dignity of man.

Notes Astrology is not as popular as once was. Except in the sense that certain persons would screen folks not for their birth signs but for their “genes.”

[6] Accordingly it is clear that the opinion is false of those who asserted that it mattered not to the truth of faith what opinions one holds about creatures, so long as one has right opinion about God, as Augustine relates in his book De Origine Animae: since error concerning creatures by subjecting the human mind to causes other than God amounts to a false opinion about God, and misleads the minds of men from God, to Whom faith strives to lead them.

Notes What’s this? We’re back at science yet again! And Saint Thomas is saying science is important. We should get it right! Scientific errors lead us away from God. Science does itself a momentous disservice considering only physics and not metaphysics. Metaphysical knowledge is surer than mere scientific knowledge. That means if there are any “incompatibilities” between science and God, it means scientists have slipped up somewhere. Being that scientists are human, this should come as no surprise. But yet it does.

[7] Wherefore Scripture threatens punishment to those who err about creatures, as to unbelievers, in the words of the psalm: Because they have not understood the works of the Lord and the operations of His hands, Thou shalt destroy them, and shalt not build them up; and (Wis. ii. 21): These things they thought and were deceived, and further on: They esteemed not the honour of holy souls.

Notes Even scripture is in favor of doing good science.

88 Comments

  1. Sander van der Wal

    December 27, 2015 at 10:24 am

    what a peculiar argument. Consider the observation that spiral galaxies need significantly more mass to explain their rotation speed than what can be deduced from their luminosity. We know about baryonic matter so this argument states that it must be either the barionic matter to provide all the mass, or God holding spiral galaxies together. One cannot invent new kinds of matter (one that doesn’t emit light) to explain the discrepancy, and then look for ways to disprove that hypothesis.

  2. I believe that this is chapter 3. You also mislabeled chapter 2 last week. You have three chapter ones.

    “Of what they are still protesting is a mystery to most.” Play nice.

    “Wherefore Scripture threatens punishment to those who err about creatures, as to unbelievers, in the words of the psalm …”

    This does not sound like support of science at all, but a threat of perdition to those who deviate from approved knowledge. At best it proposes drastic punishment for the standard trial and error methods of inquiry. Who would do science under these conditions?

  3. By “creatures” I believe that T.A. means that which is created, not just animals.
    Also, “those who aver that things proceed from God, not by the divine will, but by natural necessity”
    is the most common heresy of some of those who profess scientism, i.e. those who are deists but not theists.

  4. “That means if there are any incompatibilities between science and God, it means scientists have slipped up somewhere. Being that scientists are human, this should come as no surprise.”

    Unfortunately, the situation is not that simple. Except in the case that God has spoken directly to you, and you know with certainty that it was God and not his enemy, everything you know about God came from the hand or mouth of some other person. The same is true of all science except that which you have conducted yourself. Consequently the actual conflict is holy person versus science person and you’ll have to use a bit of your own intellect to discern the true bits and the false bits.

  5. Ye Olde Statistician

    December 27, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    Your enemies have struck again! Thomas wrote: si homini attribueretur habere tres pedes, which means “if to man it were attributed to have three feet.” That is, in addition to the left foot and right foot, a third foot. It has not to do with being short.
    +++
    spiral galaxies need significantly more mass to explain their rotation speed

    Unless there are other causes of motion in addition to gravity, such as electromagnetism.
    +++

    …a threat of perdition to those who deviate from approved knowledge.

    The text says nothing about “approved” knowledge; nor for that matter about “knowledge.” It does chide those who have “not understood” (non intellexerunt) rather than those who have “not known” (non sciverunt). This is why knowledge and understanding are two distinct intellective virtues. (Wisdom is the third.) Note, too, that it is in the perfective tense -erunt.

  6. Briggs

    December 27, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    YOS,

    Oh dear. What a sad blunder. Thanks for the correction!

    Scotian,

    As far as a threat of perdition to those who deviate from approved knowledge, yes. Lyseno, global warming, evolution (as disproof of God). Just try deviating and see what happens to your career. The other error slipped in my by tireless enemies has been fixed, too.

  7. “Just try deviating and see what happens to your career.”

    Francis Collins’ career seems to be doing fine. Last I checked this evangelical Christian was still head of the NIH. But this sure makes a convenient excuse!

  8. Briggs

    December 27, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    Lee,

    But what exactly does Collins dispute? I don’t see anything in the standard list. He’s not even against, in any public way at any rate, abortion.

  9. He disputes that evolution is a disproof of God. He says that it is part of God’s plan. He has publicly spoken against abortion and has suggested that if life has a beginning then it must be at the moment of conception. Nobody cares.

  10. Briggs

    December 27, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    Lee,

    He says abortion laws should not be changed, which is supportive. I find different answers to his belief on the point at which life begins (Wiki). He, like the Catholic Church, has no difficulty with evolution as such, though we may argue over the mechanisms. There are some versions of “intelligent design” that are also compatible with evolution as such, and we don’t really know his opinion on these, only that he doesn’t favor ID.

    Nah, this is not a heretic. Let’s ask him about global warming.

  11. “…Saint Thomas is saying science is important. We should get it right! Scientific errors lead us away from God. Science does itself a momentous disservice considering only physics and not metaphysics. Metaphysical knowledge is surer than mere scientific knowledge. That means if there are any “incompatibilities” between science and God, it means scientists have slipped up somewhere. Being that scientists are human, this should come as no surprise.”

    You obviously have no idea why science works the way it does, and why it has been such an overwhelmingly successful enterprise for the last approx. 400 years. It is precisely BECAUSE science ignores ‘metaphysics’ that it has been so overwhelmingly successful as a method of inquiry, why it has been right more often – FAR more often – than it has been wrong, and why we are even capable of having this discussion in the first place (prayer and belief in God did nothing for the development of computers and the internet).

    Look, take the advice of Stephen J. Gould, who gave us very good reasons to adopt his concept of ‘non-overlapping magisteria’ so far as the relationship between the sciences and all the rest (i.e. the junk we call theology, metaphysics, and bad philosophy) goes. The two simply do not mix, we should never – EVER – consider ‘God’ to be a viable hypothesis, for it explains precisely nothing.

    “…if there are any “incompatibilities” between science and God, it means scientists have slipped up somewhere.”

    Really? You think? You might not just be a little… gee, I don’t know, BIASED perhaps? If you like Medieval thinking so much, then I would suggest you stop using modern-day technology, ALL of which is based upon Godless science, to spread your message. Use word of mouth, the way they did back in the olden days. Ride a horse. Walk. Never catch a plane again, never drive a car. Don’t use the internet, get rid of your mobile phone and email address. If you don’t then you might just be perceived as being a hypocrite.

    Science works because it gives us a reasonably accurate picture of what is actually real, out in the world beyond our subjective sense perceptions and cognitive biases. There has been measurable progress within science, both in the practice of it and in its practical applications (i.e. technology), neither of which can be said for theology or metaphysics. They have stood perfectly still, as your mention of Aquinas makes abundantly clear.

  12. Briggs

    December 27, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    Peter A,

    Very well, prove to us, using absolutely no metaphysical arguments, that science can completely ignore metaphysics. If you don’t fall into a vortex of infinite regress, report back to us.

  13. Peter A, one of the things I’ve learned, reading philosophy of science after 50 years working in physics, is that science cannot explain itself, cannot explain why it works, or to quote Eugene Wigner, it cannot explain “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics” in the hard science.

    And to quote another physicist, Pierre Duhem,
    “If the aim of physical theories is to explain experimental laws, theoretical physics is not an autonomous science; it is subordinate to metaphysics.”

    You might find some interesting reading in the philosophy of science.

  14. Moving the Goalposts and No True Scotsman masterfully combined in one rather predictable reply. Nice!

  15. I believe I understand those who think that metaphysics must be prior (in our systems of thought, not just on the bookshelf) to physics, but it turns out that sensible reality doesn’t care what metaphysical conclusions you think you’ve reached. The belief that you must subsume physics to metaphysics is probably why there have been so many incorrect statements here, by Dr. Briggs and others, about the measurement process in quantum mechanics.

  16. Lee Phillips, I wonder if you consider Bernard d’Espagnat, a philosopher/physicist who participated in the Aspect experiments, or John Wheeler, Eugene Wigner, John von Neumann, some of those who have made “many incorrect statements” about the measurement process in quantum mechanics. If you do, then I’ll be able to weight your assertions appropriately.

  17. @Lee Phillips:

    “I believe I understand those who think that metaphysics must be prior (in our systems of thought, not just on the bookshelf) to physics, but it turns out that sensible reality doesn’t care what metaphysical conclusions you think you’ve reached.”

    If by “sensible reality doesn’t care” you mean reality is what it is, independent of our beliefs, then why single out metaphysics?

    “The belief that you must subsume physics to metaphysics is probably why there have been so many incorrect statements here, by Dr. Briggs and others, about the measurement process in quantum mechanics.”

    The belief is not an unqualified “you must subsume physics to metaphysics” but “you must subsume physics to metaphysics on metaphysical matters” which is no more objectionable than you must subsume physics to mathematics in mathematical matters. And FWIW, my experience is exactly the reverse. It is precisely those that think they can toss metaphysics aside, that go on and make a metaphysics of their method and badly misunderstand quantum mechanics. To be fair, it is almost always the case they do not understand quantum mechanics, metaphysics or no metaphysics.

  18. Ye Olde Statistician

    December 28, 2015 at 7:13 am

    …science works [and] has been such an overwhelmingly successful enterprise for the last approx. 400 years … precisely BECAUSE science ignores ‘metaphysics’

    You may be confusing science with engineering and technology. In many cases the technology came first and the scientific explanation came later. China, for example, had a successful high technology but never developed a concept of science.

    Besides, a great many folks can be successful at their trade without paying much attention to the underlying justifications. It’s a matter of having the time, skills, and inclination to investigate. That does not mean the metaphysical foundations are not there. It only means you do not know what they are.

    prayer and belief in God did nothing for the development of computers and the internet

    One of the markers of scientism is that its devotees assume that all other human endeavors are failed efforts to do natural philosopjy. One ought to credit business, industry, and tinkering for such things, starting with manual computers like the abacus, or even with metaphysical questions like “what exactly is a computer?”

    we should never – EVER – consider ‘God’ to be a viable hypothesis, for it explains precisely nothing.

    This is absolutely correct. Not every thing is a scientific “hypothesis.” It’s those danged medievals again:

    [They say] “We do not know how this is, but we know that God can do it.” You poor fools! God can make a cow out of a tree, but has He ever done so? Therefore show some reason why a thing is so, or cease to hold that it is so.
    — William of Conches (12th cent.)

    In studying nature we have not to inquire how God the Creator may, as He freely wills, use His creatures to work miracles and thereby show forth His power; we have rather to inquire what Nature with its immanent causes can naturally bring to pass.
    — St. Albertus Magnus, De vegetabilibus et plantis (13th cent.)

    Who do you suppose formulated the distinction between primary and secondary causation and limited natural philosophy to the latter?

    If you like Medieval thinking so much, then I would suggest you stop using modern-day technology, ALL of which is based upon Godless science, to spread your message.

    Science is not Godless. And what do you suppose medieval technology was based on? Perhaps you should eschew windmills, plows, sternpost rudders, eyeglasses, printing presses, and other medieval innovations.

    Use word of mouth, the way they did back in the olden days.

    You complain about ignorance of science. How do you feel about ignorance of history? Are your citations of more modern engineering feats a subtle way of denying the accumulatibe nature of engineering? Do you really suppose it reasonable to demand that some earlier epoch possess cell phones?

    theology or metaphysics… have stood perfectly still, as your mention of Aquinas makes abundantly clear.

    When you get things right, why should you change? The Pythagorean Theorem and the irrationality of SQRT(2) have not changed, either. Br. Guy, the Vatican astronomer, notes that he has two books above his desk from school days: One is his physics textbook — Br. Guy is a physicist and first demonstrated the possibiltiy that Europa may have a liquid ocean under its ice — the other is his Bible. “Fifty years later,” he notes, “one of those books is out of date.”

    Another way of saying ‘science is continually updating itself’ is to say that ‘it is congenitally wrong.’ When two Jesuit priests first measured the acceleration due to gravity, they obtained a wrong answer — but one within the margin of precision for 17th century instruments. But there is a difference between tangible facts and physical theories (or indeed, between both and mathematical laws).

    Many scientists today go so far as to include physical theories within metaphysics. The only things that “actually” exists in the “real” world, for example, are falling bodies (and they are falling only relative to the observer). Theories about gravitational “forces” or the models that have replaced them are theories to explain the motion. They are not correct. Theory does not rise to the level of metaphysics, but we can note that the medieval Chinsese disregarded theory entirely and relies entirely on facts (and rules of thumb derived from the facts). Thus, they built impressive engineering achievements — but they believed the universe was a flat blanket with China in the center of it.

  19. Ye Olde Statistician

    December 28, 2015 at 7:20 am

    No True Scotsman

    A. Fish breathe through gills, not lungs.
    R. But Whales are fish and they breath through lungs!
    A. Whales are not fish!
    R. Ah, the No True Fish fallacy!

    Perhaps this indicates why one should not ignore at least that branch of metaphysics called Logic.

  20. It is strange the way that science has shifted rather drifted into a position where it is popular to make a person choose between the two. It strikes me that it is rather arrogant.
    It is preposterous, insulting and ignorant of reality. The fact that there ARE nobel prize winners on both sides ought to be a big clue in this debate.

    Certainly science can be done without any sort of faith in a God. How far and where that will take science forward is another matter.

    “science can be done” That’s about all they all agree on axiomatically. Is John wrong?

    Lennox, like the above post, speaks refreshingly on this topic in the few lectures I’ve heard, Including during his debates with the Icy Richard Dawkins. How positive Lennox’s disposition, how very generous minded that man is. Why is it the scientist who are of the atheist bent that find this type of talk about metaphysics such a threat? I mean surely those who don’t believe aren’t about to change their mind so why the dismay.

    My own view is that faith assists the person in any industry and science is no different. I’m not speaking just about hopefulness.

    The scientist who sees his thoughts more scientifically pure in fending off the bigger questions are in deficit. They are neglecting an important part of their mind.

    John Lennox:
    “A Convergent Dichotomy John Lennox on the Axioms & Implications of Science”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTOfsKEO2dY

  21. Sander van der Wal

    December 28, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    Science and Theism are in conflict because Theists state that Science can only study secondary causes, while for scientists there is no such distinction. Scientist won’t stop studying if they find a First Cause, which is not the God of the Theists.

    And Scientist must at some point have exhausted studying all secondary causes. This is after all the fundamental Theist position, there is no infinite regress of causes. The buck stops somewhere, with God.

  22. Ye Olde Statistician

    December 28, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    Science and Theism are in conflict because Theists state that Science can only study secondary causes, while for scientists there is no such distinction.

    Of course not. Primary causation is beyond the methods of natural science and so it is not useful for the technicians to make such distinctions. They must take primary causation for granted. To conduct natural science, one must first of all have natures. To study physics, one must first of all have motions. To study biology, one must first of all have life.

    Scientist won’t stop studying if they find a First Cause, which is not the God of the Theists.

    Scientists won’t find a Primary Cause, since it is not in their bailiwick. And no matter how often it is pointed out to the contrary, it seems there will still be people who confuse “First” Cause with first-in-time or first-in-sequence.

    It is also curious how anyone could have gotten this far in Dr. Briggs’ explication of Contra gentiles and still make that tired old claim that First Cause is not the God of the Theists.

  23. “Very well, prove to us, using absolutely no metaphysical arguments, that science can completely ignore metaphysics. If you don’t fall into a vortex of infinite regress, report back to us.” – Briggs

    I can’t give you a ‘proof’, but I can demonstrate easily enough why metaphysical presuppositions (especially medieval ones) are simply not needed for the successful application of scientific methodology. I have often come across the claim made by various theologians and others (ex. John Lennox, William Lane Craig, Edward Feser) that there are a number of unstated metaphysical assumptions that underlie the practice of science, but this just isn’t the case, because the discoveries that are made are accomplished in spite of, not because of, any such presuppositions. In other words, whatever philosophical, religious, or other beliefs that one may already have as a scientist are simply ignored in favour of observation, testing, and corroboration of the hypotheses that are put forward to account for whatever given phenomenon that one wishes to explain, and a priori beliefs (like a belief in the existence of objective reality) are simply not needed to accomplish this.
    In fact, the fewer philosophical prejudices that one has, the better. Even the belief that many put forward as ‘proof’ that scientists need a philosophical foundation in order to do what they do (i.e. a belief in the law-like nature and consistency of the cosmos) isn’t required, simply because a) the laws of nature that were, and are, discovered (ex. gravitation), can be unearthed by anyone who has the requisite training – even agnostics can be good scientists 🙂 – and b) there is much that has been discovered about nature that points to randomness and chaos being the rule, rather than the exception to how things actually are.
    If you go out into the world with certain expectations then, due to among other things (confirmation bias is a good example), you will almost certainly find what you seek. The trick is to be as impartial to any possible results as one can be, but if you already have a prior commitment to (for example) Aristotle and/or Aquinas, then this intellectual baggage will merely be yet another one of those things that need to be properly dealt with in order for one to see what is actually there, as opposed to what one would wish were there.

  24. “You may be confusing science with engineering and technology. In many cases the technology came first and the scientific explanation came later. China, for example, had a successful high technology but never developed a concept of science.” – YOS

    Yes, engineering and technology did exist prior to the early 17th century, and progress was made within these areas in spite of the absence of what we would today call ‘science’, but can the same truly be said for the ideas of Plato and Aquinas? Speculation based upon little more than logic, intuition and ‘common sense’ often would get us absolutely nowhere, simply because it is so intuitively obvious and logical to believe that which just isn’t true. For example, it was intuitively obvious for longer than anyone can guess that the Earth really was the centre of the cosmos, and that the sun orbited it rather than the other way around. Pure thinking, on its own, isn’t enough. We also need experimentation, testing, corroboration et cetera (in other words, science).

  25. “Peter A, one of the things I’ve learned, reading philosophy of science after 50 years working in physics, is that science cannot explain itself, cannot explain why it works, or to quote Eugene Wigner, it cannot explain “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics” in the hard science.” – Bob Kurland

    Claim A: ‘Science cannot explain itself’
    I don’t think it needs to explain itself, since it is merely the method that we as a species have stumbled upon to give us the best tool we have when it comes to dealing with reality as it actually is. An explanation for science itself would require something above and beyond it, but then one would have to find a way to explain this special something in turn, which would in turn require… an infinite regression of explanations.
    Yes, I know – the ultimate, non-contingent circuit breaker of the infinite regression problem is ‘God’. Well, this answer for me just isn’t satisfactory, because (among other reasons) there is no conceivable way to discover anything at all about this ‘God’, up to and including whether or not it even exists in the first place; that is, whether or not there are any attributes that are self-contradictory and inconsistent, thus ruling out the possibility of its existence. We do not even have any way to satisfactorily define this idea in the first place in a manner that meets the needs of all, or the majority, of those who profess to believe in it.

    Claim B: ‘…cannot explain why it works’
    It works because, after God knows how many millennia we attempted to find out about the true nature of reality using other methods (ex. religion, metaphysics, astrology…) which clearly do not work, we finally came upon a procedure that actually does the trick. It was trial and error. There’s nothing supernatural or mysterious about it.

    Claim C: ‘the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics’
    I’m not so sure there really is anything ‘unreasonable’ about it, but I’ll have to go back to the original Wigner paper that made this specific claim. It shouldn’t be too hard to find. I’m not a mathematician, so I just cannot at this stage determine whether or not there really is anything of substance to this.

  26. Ye Olde Statistician

    December 29, 2015 at 9:18 am

    Yes, engineering and technology did exist prior to the early 17th century, and progress was made within these areas in spite of the absence of what we would today call ‘science’

    That makes it difficult to assert the paradigm that the Greeks invented science and then the medievals forgot all about it until the Renaissance came and everyone woke up and took a bath. At least assert the myth with a straight face.

    The nature of the 17th cent. scientific revolution was to subordinate the study of nature to the production of useful (and profitable) products. Hence, the flood of useful products in the years since: strategic bombers, airliners, medicines, nerve gasses, etc.

    For example, it was intuitively obvious for longer than anyone can guess that the Earth really was the centre of the cosmos, and that the sun orbited it rather than the other way around. Pure thinking, on its own, isn’t enough.

    It was not “intuitively” obvious. It was a straightforward conclusion from observed data. Intuition is self-examination, not world-examination. This was backed up by various experiments. For example, if the world was rotating toward the east with a diurnal motion, there should be a consistent headwind out of the east. But if you face alternately east and north, you will notice no particular difference in the force of the winds, which may come from any direction. Further, if the earth rotated, arrows shot straight up should fall west of the archer, since the earth would move east in the interim. If the earth revolved around the sun, there should be parallax among the fixed stars, but none can be observed. And so on.

    These experiences can be countered — and the medievals did counter many of them — but this requires pure thinking, what Galileo called “the work of the intellect.” One must come up with notions like “inertia,” “force,” etc. For example, Jean Buridan de Bethune and his student Nicole d’Oresme pointed out, based on Witelo’s principle of relativity, that the sensible motion of the stellar sphere would be the same whether the earth rotated or the heavens revolved. And the mathematical elegance and simplicity of the Rudolphine Tables led to the acceptance of Kepler’s model well in advance of any empirical demonstration that the model was physically real. That is: it was accepted on intuitional grounds.

    Of the six or seven models that were in play in 1600, the experimenting, testing, and corroboration supported the settled science of the geostationary models. Geomobility survived (there were about ten Copernicans in the world at this time) because the instrumentalist philosophy held that a mathematical model only had to make correct predictions; it did not have to be physically real. This began to change when the telescope revealed the planets to be physical bodies like the earth and astronomy began to migrate from the math department to the physics department. Very soon Harriot, Lembo, Fabricius, Marius, Galileo, and others discovered that Venus had phases, and the Ptolemaic and Gilbertian models were dropped in favor of the Tychonic and Ursine models. IOW, folks in Chrisitian Europe dropped Ptolemy pretty much as soon as it was physically possible to make the observations that falsified it. (The shift from the Tychonic/Ursine model to the Keplerian model was because of its computational elegance — it eliminated the epicycles. The empirical observations that confirmed it were not available until the 18th and early 19th century.

    the best tool we have when it comes to dealing with reality as it actually is.

    Actually, we have defined “reality” as that which is revealed by that tool; as Heisenberg took note:
    “What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.” (Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science)

    there is no conceivable way to discover anything at all about this ‘God’, up to and including whether or not it even exists in the first place

    I take it you have not followed Briggs’ discussion of Contra gentiles, in which a great deal was discovered. But of course, you probably mean “discover” in an empirical sense. But one does not “discover” truth, beauty, and mathematical theorems by experimentating, etc.

    We do not even have any way to satisfactorily define this idea in the first place in a manner that meets the needs of all, or the majority, of those who profess to believe in it.

    One of the failures of Modern philosophy, as evinced here, is the supposition that you must start with definitions and axioms. Existentialists like Aquinas started with common experience and from it deduced the existence of some being that was the ground/principle/source of all being and, after deducing a number of qualities of this being, found that it was equivalent to that which they had called God. (IOW, God was not a hypothesis put forward to explain motion, but rather a deduction from the fact of motion.

    we finally came upon a procedure that actually does the trick. It was trial and error. There’s nothing supernatural or mysterious about it.

    If you believe that the scientific method is no more than trial and error, you do no understand the nature of Modern science. The method is derived from Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics and Prior Analytics and was fused by Grosseteste in medieval England as “composition and reduction.” This was taught to Galileo by the Jesuits at Padua as the “demonstrative regress.”

    much that has been discovered about nature … points to randomness and chaos being the rule, rather than the exception to how things actually are.

    Now you have the metaphysical problem of determining how “randomness” entails order. Especially since “randomness” is not a thing, but a term that means “there are many causes affecting this phenomenon, no one of which is dominant, and our methods are not up to determining what those causes are.” But even that field most often pointed to with the bony finger of randomness — quantum mechanics — is extremely law-bound. There are quantum mechanical formulas that work out to extreme fineness.

  27. All people are religious. What remains is to discover any particular person’s “god”.

    Peter A. writes “I don’t think it [science] needs to explain itself”

    Whereas a system that exists to explain things ought also to be able to explain itself. There’s also a symmetry problem; if you think religion needs an explanation, then so does science, for they serve, at least in part, the same purpose — explaining what exists and how it came to exist.

    A parallel in the computer world is whether a computer language can “compile itself”. For instance, C compilers are written in C, they compile new versions of themselves. The very first C compiler was necessarily written in something else, probably assembly language, and the first assembler was written in machine language (an ordeal to be sure).

    But many languages cannot compile themselves. I cannot imagine COBOL compiling a new COBOL compiler. Such languages require a “creator” language. So did the first “C” but all subsequent “C” simply use the predecessor “C”.

    “it is merely the method that we as a species have stumbled upon to give us the best tool we have when it comes to dealing with reality as it actually is.”

    Whoah, too many “we”. There’s 7 billion humans NOT stumbling on whatever you think is this “tool” despite stumbling upon reality as each thinks it is.

    “An explanation for science itself would require something above and beyond it”

    Why? I can explain it quite easily. Strange that you cannot. Science is the study of what exists. The purpose of studying what exists is to improve my life by leveraging to better purpose anything that exists.

    “the ultimate, non-contingent circuit breaker of the infinite regression problem is ‘God’.”

    Or turtles. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turtles_all_the_way_down

    “Well, this answer for me just isn’t satisfactory”

    Well there you go. I do not promise you happiness or satisfaction. I seek my own and you seek yours.

    “because (among other reasons) there is no conceivable way to discover anything at all about this ‘God’, up to and including whether or not it even exists in the first place”

    Suppose you were a fish, and you believed in “water”. You are trying to persuade your friend, who is of course also a fish, about this thing you call “water”. Ponder that for a while. The problem is that you are immersed in the thing you are trying to explain, and therefore it doesn’t have a name of its own because you cannot point to it. You are in it!

    “that is, whether or not there are any attributes that are self-contradictory and inconsistent, thus ruling out the possibility of its existence.”

    You can rule out the existence in Newtonian space of any deity that violates Newtonian space rules. That would be your personal judgment of course since other people impute magical properties to a being that can enter Newtonian space without actually being constrained by it.

    A deity that does not violate, either by choice or constraint, natural observations of Newtonian space may well still be “God” but you seem to have defined the word as a thing that cannot exist. Well if you define it that way, then it cannot exist, for you have defined it to be the thing that cannot exist.

    But if I define deity as, at least in part, the substance of the thing he caused to exist, it is like water to fish — everywhere present and thus not perceptible most of the time.

    If a fish leaps out of water, then he has stepped aside and can discern the existence of, and properties of, the thing he has been immersed in his entire life. So it is with heat — one must experience cold to appreciate heat. Otherwise “heat” doesn’t even have a name!

    “We do not even have any way to satisfactorily define this idea in the first place in a manner that meets the needs of all, or the majority, of those who profess to believe in it.”

    We? How many of you are in there! I have no problem defining this idea for me. I start with: I exist (Cogito ergo sum). Everything I sense probably exists and I ought to treat such observations as certain acknowledging the possibility it might not be completely certain. I acknowledge the existence of things I do not sense, and I acknowledge things I sense but do not perceive because of immersion in the thing.

    As with a fish out of water, or cold revealing heat (and vice versa), so does the enemy of God reveal God, and vice versa; and more particularly, he can reveal himself to me, and has done so.

    You seem to seek supernatural as evidence of God; but why do you think that? God is the author of nature; how and why would he violate his own laws by which he created nature? He is in the laws themselves; they are his product, the evidence of his existence.

    Or not. Your mileage seems to vary.

  28. Peter A. writes (among other things) “discoveries that are made are accomplished in spite of, not because of, any such presuppositions.”

    Presuppositions always exist. Science is the process of casting out the bad suppositions. The motivation for doing this is metaphysical in a sense. Explain:

    Billions of dollars were spent, and are still being spent, to prove the existence of a Higgs Boson. There’s a huge “presupposition” that such a thing exists and is worth spending billions of dollars to prove or disprove it. But the price of corn does not seem to depend on deciding between Standard Model vs String Theory. It’s someone’s expensive hobby.

    “In other words, whatever philosophical, religious, or other beliefs that one may already have as a scientist are simply ignored in favour of observation, testing, and corroboration of the hypotheses that are put forward to account for whatever given phenomenon that one wishes to explain”

    Why does one “wish to explain”? I had a pet snake, it wished for very little. Strange that you seem to have more wishes. Where do they come from?

    Where do these hypotheses come from that are then to be tested? They are guesses arrived inductively but selectively from the biases and prejudices of the scientists. Robert Altemeyer researched religious beliefs, but so sure is he of the non-existence of God, that his surveys of reasons for belief do not include “God introduced himself to me” in any variant. All of his survey questions involve believe in another human’s claims and the most important, but possibly rare, option isn’t even on his list. His prejudice produced a faulty survey!

    Same with Lewandowsky. So sure is he of the behavior of “skeptics” he doesn’t actually need to survey skeptics. He believes he is right so strongly he surveys the readers of Skeptical Science and gets some non-representative results as you can imagine.

    “In fact, the fewer philosophical prejudices that one has, the better.”

    A computer has none whatsoever. It also wants nothing and thus will not, by its own volition “do science”. Everyone doing science does so for a reason, a personal motivation, a need, a philosophy, a religion!

    If you are going to do a proper induction, you must include all possibilities. That’s usually impossible so you filter the possibilities to ones you consider likely and that is where your personal prejudice includes and excludes possibilities.

    “a) the laws of nature that were, and are, discovered (ex. gravitation), can be unearthed by anyone who has the requisite training”

    This is true of religion as well (ie, the laws of God, which are pretty much also the laws of nature or more particularly the reason for nature). The “requisite training” includes what to expect and how to know when you have found it. For Christians, as an example, you have a seed. Is it the seed of good fruit? You probably don’t know; and for this discussion I will assert that you don’t know. The test (“training”) is to plant the seed and see what happens. If you get good fruit, the seed itself was “good” and having noted its appearance, when you see similar seeds you can then deduce they will become good fruit when planted. So it is with a religion; if it makes people better, then it is a good religion. But what is the control group? There might not be one in which case it is difficult or impossible to know whether the religion was “good”. You might complain that some Christians you know are dishonest, cheaters, or whatever — without being able to know what those persons would be like if they had no religion at all. Did it make them better? Probably. Not good enough to earn your approval, but better than they would otherwise have been.

    Your argument is somewhat circular. If you have been trained to discover gravity, you will discover gravity, for that is the name you will give to whatever you discover, for you have been trained to do so.

    “b) there is much that has been discovered about nature that points to randomness and chaos being the rule, rather than the exception to how things actually are.”

    And yet the discoverer of randomness is not himself random, and his purpose in studying randomness is not itself a random choice. The Earth is not random, the solar system is not random; each follows certain rules strictly. With sufficient computing power the entire universe could be pre-computed before it ever existed; Mormons believe that it was exactly so; designed first and then instantiated as designed.

    “If you go out into the world with certain expectations then, due to among other things (confirmation bias is a good example), you will almost certainly find what you seek.”

    Global warming is an obvious example. A corrollary is that you will not find what you do not seek. Robert Altemeyer is not going to find God because he expects not to find God; whatever evidences that exist will simply not be attributed to God whereas I might well do exactly that.

    “The trick is to be as impartial to any possible results as one can be”

    Unfortunately, that requires to judge one’s own bias and try to compensate; but you might overcompensate and produce New England style white guilt and political correctness as a result. That’s okay so long as you confine your corrections to yourself, but New Englanders tend to use the word “we” as if everyone else shares their guilt and biases.

    In the logical exercises elsewhere I show that induction cannot answer any question by itself:

    You observe “3”. How did you get a 3?

    You guess 1 + 2 = 3. Or maybe 1 * 3 = 3. If you guessed either, your preconceptions include the unstated requirement to deal in natural numbers (positive non-zero integers) and simple arithmetic.

    But you want to be Objective! Remove preconceptions! Suddenly you are faced with an infinite realm of possibilities of how you got “3”, including that maybe you don’t actually have “3” it only seems to be a 3; and the 3 is a mental construction, a container for a concept that to you might not be the same as it is to someone else.

    A mathematician likely places nothing special about 3, it is a point on a number line. But to a child, “3” is a natural number, 3 cookies, three *something* and cannot exist by itself; there cannot be a “3” without three things.

  29. Ye Olde Statistician

    December 29, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    a system that exists to explain things ought also to be able to explain itself.

    Actually, no system can demonstrate its own axioms. Natural science, for example, cannot explain material existence because the methodology of natural science presupposes material existence up front. It can, however, explain how material existence behaves, given that you have it. In a similar manner, you cannot use arithmetic to demonstrate the ZF axioms or Euclidean geometry to demonstrate Euclid’s postulates. E.g., ZF cannot prove the Axiom of Choice (AC), which is why AC is included as an axiom. Even then, there will be true statements within the discourse that cannot be proven within the discourse. A fascinating example is the Continuum Hypothesis, which cannot be proven within any mathematics based on ZF+AC set theory. But curiously, if you start with ZF+CH, you can prove AC, which suggests that CH is more prior than AC. To the extent that physics is mathematized, the incompleteness principle applies there, as well: there might be a Theory of Everything, as Jaki said, but you can never know of you have it. Later, Gell-Mann and Hawking came on board.

    Science is the study of what exists.

    According to Bacon, Descartes, and the other Revolutionaries, Science is the study of the measurable and controllable aspects of material existence.

    But to a child, “3” is a natural number, 3 cookies, three *something* and cannot exist by itself; there cannot be a “3” without three things.

    Correct. The only things that have material existence are this cookie, that cookie, and the other cookie. But “3” is an abstraction created by pure thought.

  30. @YOS:

    “But curiously, if you start with ZF+CH, you can prove AC, which suggests that CH is more prior than AC.”

    Minor nitpick: the implication is true for GCH (the generalized continuum hypothesis) not CH.

  31. “That makes it difficult to assert the paradigm that the Greeks invented science and then the medievals forgot all about it until the Renaissance came and everyone woke up and took a bath. At least assert the myth with a straight face.” – YOS

    What on Earth are you talking about? The Greeks (most of them anyway) disdained actually testing the myriad ideas they came up with, it being considered by them to be beneath their standing in life to do so. Experimentation, which as I understand it was equated by the Greeks with manual labour, was something that in their opinion ‘intellectuals’ did not taint themselves with. A few notable exceptions come to mind (ex. Eratosthenes, Archimedes), but they seemed to be under the, rather quaint, illusion that life’s big issues could be dealt with just by thinking about them, and which is why for so long people really believed in the ‘common sense’ view that two objects will take differing spans of time to reach the ground from a common height if their weights differ.

    “Presuppositions always exist. Science is the process of casting out the bad suppositions. The motivation for doing this is metaphysical in a sense.” – Michael the Second

    Yes, they exist, but that doesn’t therefore mean that we should allow them to interfere with our efforts to find out what is actually true. The motivation for ‘doing science’ need not be metaphysical, although of course it can be. For example, someone may just like physics for its own sake, because it’s interesting.

    “Billions of dollars were spent, and are still being spent, to prove the existence of a Higgs Boson. There’s a huge “presupposition” that such a thing exists and is worth spending billions of dollars to prove or disprove it. But the price of corn does not seem to depend on deciding between Standard Model vs String Theory. It’s someone’s expensive hobby.” – Michael the Second

    A hobby?! No, the search for the Higgs was conducted because a) there were good theoretical reasons to search for it, and b) once found it would help to solidify the theoretical framework that had been built up based upon its existence. In that sense, sure, you can call it a ‘presupposition’, but unless there were good reasons to pursue the search for it I don’t think such time and money as was invested in the search would have been. I mean, if someone were to approach you and claim that he/she had good reasons to think the Earth was hollow, but needed funding to finance an expedition to the centre of the planet, would you give that person(s) a single dollar? I wouldn’t.

    “Where do these hypotheses come from that are then to be tested? They are guesses arrived inductively but selectively from the biases and prejudices of the scientists. Robert Altemeyer researched religious beliefs, but so sure is he of the non-existence of God, that his surveys of reasons for belief do not include “God introduced himself to me” in any variant. All of his survey questions involve believe in another human’s claims and the most important, but possibly rare, option isn’t even on his list. His prejudice produced a faulty survey!” – Michael 2

    Guesses, biases and prejudices? No, no, no, no, NO! That’s not the way it works – at all.
    Of course it may be entirely possible that a particular scientist – say, like Richard Dawkins – may have an aversion to a certain idea (like ‘God’), but even if that is the case, if the concept in question is at all reasonable, testable, verifiable and otherwise within the bounds of experience and experiment, then it wouldn’t matter if 97% of scientists didn’t believe in… whatever. ‘God’ though is NOT a testable idea, it is not a scientific concept but a philosophical one. ‘Global warming’, on the other hand, can easily be checked, and even though we at this point in time have a 97% acceptance of this idea (according to some), that fact, in and of itself, is completely irrelevant. So even though the belief in global warming is rather misguided, as an idea it does however remain one that we can actually confirm or discredit. How can anyone do the same for something that is timeless, immaterial, transcendent, omnipotent…? Impossible.

    “Same with Lewandowsky. So sure is he of the behavior of “skeptics” he doesn’t actually need to survey skeptics. He believes he is right so strongly he surveys the readers of Skeptical Science and gets some non-representative results as you can imagine.” – Michael 2

    Ok, I’m not sure what your point was here. I’m not a “skeptic” either, just for the record.

    “A computer has none (i.e. philosophical prejudices) whatsoever. It also wants nothing and thus will not, by its own volition “do science”. Everyone doing science does so for a reason, a personal motivation, a need, a philosophy, a religion!” – Michael 2

    Yes, we have our reasons, but none of those reasons need have anything to do with religion or philosophy. Take me, for example. I am interested in physics. I am not a physicist myself (for reasons too complex to go into here), but I like it as a subject, and would do it for no money at all if I had the chance. I just don’t see where ‘religion’ even enters into it. Perhaps you should explain what you mean by your use of this word, because at the moment you are just confusing me. You seem to be equating religion with ‘personal motivation’, but why?

    This response is getting a bit long, so I will continue below.

  32. “This is true (i.e. like the laws of nature) of religion as well (ie, the laws of God, which are pretty much also the laws of nature or more particularly the reason for nature).” – Michael 2

    …and let me guess. It’s true of one religion in particular, that religion being the only true one – Christianity! Nope, wrong. If this were true, then people across the globe would gravitate toward only one religion, they would reach similar conclusions regarding god, they would not be trying to kill each other over the correct interpretation of their favoured religious text. Science and religion are nothing like each other.

    “Your argument is somewhat circular. If you have been trained to discover gravity, you will discover gravity, for that is the name you will give to whatever you discover, for you have been trained to do so.” – Michael 2

    If you have been trained to discover God, you will discover god, for that is the name you will give to whatever you discover, for you have been trained to do so. Hmmm… you see, all you have to do is just change one word here, and the accusation is flung straight back at you.

    “And yet the discoverer of randomness is not himself random, and his purpose in studying randomness is not itself a random choice. The Earth is not random, the solar system is not random; each follows certain rules strictly. With sufficient computing power the entire universe could be pre-computed before it ever existed…” – Michael 2

    No, there is no conceivable computer that could ever do what you suggest here and, what’s more, your claim that strict determinism applies to systems like our solar system is true, but… well, there is just so much that simply cannot be determined to infinite accuracy, by us. There is, for example, the no-so-little issue of the three (or ‘n’) body problem that has been around since Newton’s day. You may also want to ‘google’ the following: Godel, incompleteness theorems.

    “Unfortunately, that requires to judge one’s own bias and try to compensate; but you might overcompensate and produce New England style white guilt and political correctness as a result. That’s okay so long as you confine your corrections to yourself, but New Englanders tend to use the word “we” as if everyone else shares their guilt and biases.” – Michael 2

    I have NO idea why you would say something like this. I don’t live in New England, I don’t have ‘white guilt’ (does it come in other colours?), and I have no idea why you would go off like this on such an obscure tangent. In my search for the truth (yes, there is only one) I do my best to remain impartial. Hell, I’ve even gone over to Jerry Coyne’s site, which is writhing with angry atheists, and tried to make a case for God (and ended up getting myself banned, because he doesn’t like dissent from the party line). All I care about is what is true, not what makes me feel good. Humanity is not the centre of creation, although people like to believe this because it reinforces their own high opinion of themselves.

    “When you get things right, why should you change? The Pythagorean Theorem and the irrationality of SQRT(2) have not changed, either. Br. Guy, the Vatican astronomer, notes that he has two books above his desk from school days: One is his physics textbook — Br. Guy is a physicist and first demonstrated the possibiltiy that Europa may have a liquid ocean under its ice — the other is his Bible. “Fifty years later,” he notes, “one of those books is out of date.” ” – YOS

    Yes, the book that is out of date is the Bible. You mention the square root of two, but did you know (surely you must have) that the Bible states not once, but twice (1 Kings, Ch. 7 and 2 Chronicles 4:2 – yes, I will admit I had to look them up to find out exactly where) that pi is exactly three?

    “It was not “intuitively” obvious. It was a straightforward conclusion from observed data. Intuition is self-examination, not world-examination. This was backed up by various experiments. For example, if the world was rotating toward the east with a diurnal motion, there should be a consistent headwind out of the east. But if you face alternately east and north, you will notice no particular difference in the force of the winds, which may come from any direction. Further, if the earth rotated, arrows shot straight up should fall west of the archer, since the earth would move east in the interim. If the earth revolved around the sun, there should be parallax among the fixed stars, but none can be observed.” – YOS

    Okay, I’ll concede this one. First-person perspective observation can lead one to erroneously conclude something that isn’t true (like in the example given), but you go on to give the example of shooting an arrow into the air, and that it would show a particular bias in direction if the Earth rotated, but the actual rate of rotation is so slow compared to the speed of an arrow that no, you actually would not expect to observe this. Was it the Coriolis effect you had in mind here when you mentioned “headwinds out of the East”? What determines the direction of the wind has more to do with local (as opposed to global) environmental conditions than anything else, which is why (for example) the U.S. is experiencing so many horrendous twisters at the moment. Apparently, people also believe that there is a difference in the rotation of water going down a sink, toilet, drain and so on, with the water going clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, and counter-clockwise in the Southern (or maybe vice-versa – I always forget which), when in fact nothing of the kind happens. It’s a myth. I’ve seen water go down both ways, in the same sink.

    “A deity that does not violate, either by choice or constraint, natural observations of Newtonian space may well still be “God” but you seem to have defined the word as a thing that cannot exist. Well if you define it that way, then it cannot exist, for you have defined it to be the thing that cannot exist.” – Michael 2

    Well, if that’s the case then perhaps you could give me your own definition of God. One of the problems with the entire concept is that virtually everyone – including atheists – has their own understanding of what God is. The fact that almost no one can constructively agree on what the word even means to begin with must surely tell you there is something seriously wrong with the idea in the first place.

    In the logical exercises elsewhere I show that induction cannot answer any question by itself:

    “You observe “3”. How did you get a 3?
    You guess 1 + 2 = 3. Or maybe 1 * 3 = 3. If you guessed either, your preconceptions include the unstated requirement to deal in natural numbers (positive non-zero integers) and simple arithmetic.
    But you want to be Objective! Remove preconceptions! Suddenly you are faced with an infinite realm of possibilities of how you got “3”, including that maybe you don’t actually have “3” it only seems to be a 3; and the 3 is a mental construction, a container for a concept that to you might not be the same as it is to someone else.” – Michael 2

    Michael, we accept the rules of arithmetic because a) they work, and b) they reflect an underlying reality about nature. I would go further and say that they work precisely because they reflect that underlying nature. It is one more reason, among many others, to accept the (yes, philosophical) notion that objective reality really does exist in the sense that even if there were no one here to observe it it would still be here.
    Yes, I can truthfully say that I believe in the existence of objective reality, for it makes a whole lot of sense to do so, and no sense whatsoever to deny it. That is a philosophical position, one that, strictly speaking, I could dispense with if I were to, for example, search for the Higgs boson which was mentioned before. After all, it could be argued that the consistency of the laws of nature is not enough evidence, in and of itself, for the belief in reality, and that perhaps we are just sentient pawns in some super-geek’s virtual reality kingdom, like in the computer game ‘Sim City’.

  33. Peter A. continues and so do I. He writes: “Yes, they [suppositions] exist, but that doesn’t therefore mean that we should allow them to interfere with our efforts to find out what is actually true.”

    Actually, I am trying to convey that it is those suppositions that motivate the efforts in the first place.

    “The motivation for ‘doing science’ need not be metaphysical, although of course it can be. For example, someone may just like physics for its own sake, because it’s interesting.”

    Of course. But what makes it “interesting”? That’s the metaphysical part. It cannot be measured. It creates itself.

    “A hobby?! No, the search for the Higgs was conducted because a) there were good theoretical reasons to search for it, and b) once found it would help to solidify the theoretical framework that had been built up based upon its existence.”

    Nope. Expensive hobby. You enumerate some excuses for doing this, but not the reason. The reason is very simple — it’s fun! Fun with a big budget! Many gleaming gadgets; LED’s galore and who doesn’t love a superconducting magnet?

    Instead of theoretical reasons; try theoretical excuses. When I want a remote reading infrared thermometer or some other gadget, I’ll come up with “good theoretical reasons” after I have decided to get the gadget anyway, and so do you.

    For millions of years hominids have been perfectly happy to not find Higgs bosons or any other kind of boson!

    “In that sense, sure, you can call it a ‘presupposition’, but unless there were good reasons to pursue the search for it I don’t think such time and money as was invested in the search would have been.”

    Good excuses are needed but that isn’t and wasn’t the primary motivator. Somewhere, somewhen, a person wanted to find bosons. It is a hunger, a need, born deep in a persons subconscious! The excuses exist to pry loose OPM (other People’s Money).

    “I mean, if someone were to approach you and claim that he/she had good reasons to think the Earth was hollow, but needed funding to finance an expedition to the centre of the planet, would you give that person(s) a single dollar? I wouldn’t.”

    Um, you will not be personally asked. Did anyone ask you to fund the Large Hadron Collider? Probably not. The search for Dark Matter is highly speculative. While doubtful as to success, the advances in science and the “workfare” keeping scientists and universities employed is certainly better than just feeding all those intellectuals at a soup kitchen getting absolutely nothing.

    Now then, having said all that I accept that Homo Sapiens must eventually leave Earth or become extinct, and taking the next step in physics is necessary. But the motivation is emotional; a instinctive desire for Homo Sapiens to exist. If my desire for continuation of Homo Sapiens did not exist, then my desire for solving the dispute between Standard Model versus String Theory disappears and with that, the LHC will never have existed or a great many other things. They are hobbies motivated by emotion but guided by reason.

    “Guesses, biases and prejudices? No, no, no, no, NO! That’s not the way it works – at all.”

    Your mileage obviously varies. Induction requires guessing.

    “if the concept in question is at all reasonable, testable, verifiable and otherwise within the bounds of experience and experiment, then it wouldn’t matter if 97% of scientists didn’t believe in… whatever.”

    Easy to say, difficult to do. Nearly all scientists were opposed to continental drift. But you see, how is the solution within the realm of experience and experiment? It isn’t. Same with global warming.

    “God is NOT a testable idea, it is not a scientific concept but a philosophical one.”

    It is whatever you wish it to be, since you define the word for you and I define the word for me. I do not define “God” as a philosophical concept and science is that which can be tested; and it appears your idea of God cannot be tested. Neither can mine, actually, if he does not feel like being tested today. He’s not a battery that you can stick with voltmeter probes.

    “Global warming, on the other hand, can easily be checked”

    No, it cannot, for “global warming”, like God, means what you want it to mean and might not be what I think it means. The globe is actually cooling still from its formative years, delayed by radioactive decay which keeps it warmer than it ought to be.

    What is scientific would be a series of reliable measurements where you live and express a trend (if any), or for more accuracy perhaps a chart.

    But what does it mean? By itself, nothing!

    “and even though we at this point in time have a 97% acceptance of this idea, that fact, in and of itself, is completely irrelevant.”

    For a great many people the existence of a consensus is the most persuasive factoid of all. Even if the 97 percent is really just 2 percent, you eliminate the disputants until you have 97 percent. You could easily eliminate the remaining 3 (72 out of 75 of 3500 or so respondents to a survey asked of 10,000 or so) and have 100 percent consensus.

    “So even though the belief in global warming is rather misguided, as an idea it does however remain one that we can actually confirm or discredit.”

    No, actually, *we* cannot. You can confirm whether or not, in your opinion, your town is experiencing, on average and over a limited sampling period always starting at 1970, “warming”. (avoid the dust-bowl days of 1930 because compared to that you get cooling)

    Global warming has no meaning until you give it meaning. I am interested in your meaning. Does it mean an average temperature reading every day at the same time at every intersection of whole degrees latitude and longitude? That might mean something but that data does not exist. The data is heavily skewed to actual sampling stations.

    What is warming? Is it temperature or heat? Do you appreciate the difference? The earth could “cool” and “warm” at the same time if heat moves from atmosphere, where a little heat produces a lot of temperature, into the oceans, where a lot of heat produces a small change in temperature? So it matters a lot what exactly you mean by “warming” and “global”. Is it meaningful to let a “hot spot” in the Sahara skew the average, even though nobody lives there? What matters is what changes where people live!

    “How can anyone do the same for something that is timeless, immaterial, transcendent, omnipotent…? Impossible.”

    Well there’s a hint about your definition of God. My definition is not like yours, which is unsurprising since most arguments involve a “straw-god” that wasn’t proposed in the first place, not by me anyway.

    But I’ll play this game. I will suppose you are alive. Can you prove it to me? I will suggest that you cannot because:

    1. Any proof that exists might not come from you.
    2. I cannot prove anyone exists, but I can act as if they do as that is a practical choice and not a proof.
    3. Prove that you are alive; a thing that requires to define “alive”. Good luck with that one.

    Extrapolate that to God. What proof can there possibly be? None, but not for the reasons you suppose! The problem is the “straw god” nature of your belief. You defined God and until you see something that cannot be seen, and cannot make a thing too heavy to move (the omnipotency dilemma), you won’t believe he’s God. For all I know he visited you today and had lunch with you. For all I know he had lunch with *me*. Would I know it? Probably not. So what’s he supposed to do? Hi Peter, I’m God! Yeah, right.

    “Ok, I’m not sure what your point was here [Lewandowsky].”

    Well, I appreciate your admission. It was a bit of shorthand trying to keep a lengthy comment manageable. This phase of discussion is still exploring presupposition and how it colors science. Lewandowsky is a very good example as it is clear he has strong opinions about skeptics and deniers and sees his research as a weapon rather than science. You need not take my word for it; just read a typical blog entry on his website. It is riddled with contempt for his opponents. He is highly motivated and biased and so is his cohort, all of whom seem to revolve around the English crown but at some distance (Australia, Scotland, Canada).

    “Yes, we have our reasons, but none of those reasons need have anything to do with religion or philosophy. Take me, for example. I am interested in physics. I am not a physicist myself but I like it as a subject, and would do it for no money at all if I had the chance.”

    I define religion as that set of values you believe and conform your life to; elements of non-testability, ephemeral and subjective are parts of it. An example is “Mac vs PC”. Both now use the exact same Intel processor chips, disk drives and so on; but the marketing of these computers is emotional (for Mac; right brain dominant) and business/rational (for PC, left brain dominant). Arguments are endless and are nearly identical to arguments between Mormons and Baptists.

    Philosophy is pretty much the same thing but painted with rationality or at least excuses. You can just believe in your religion and walk away from argument; but if you are going to be a philosopher then you must argue.

    “You seem to be equating religion with ‘personal motivation’, but why?”

    It is circular or mutually reinforcing. Your religion shapes your personal motivation; but your personal motivation is what shaped your choice of religion. All people have both. Atheism is a religion; it is defined, it is a thing a person can be, it has beliefs and properties of its own. Many religions have no god but they are still religions because they define behavior, right and wrong, morality, ethics.

  34. Peter, I failed to address your interest in physics.

    I propose, and proposed above, that all interests are expressions of your survival instinct, highly filtered of course. What is physics? It is knowledge of how things work. Is that good for humanity? Indeed it is. So, over a very long time, hominids with an interest in how things work succeed in making things; those that do not, well, they are still swinging in trees.

    Other hominids were needed that were interested in how to grow food. Their descendents are many. Those that still hunt food exist, but they are few.

    Some day descendents of humans that for whatever reason wanted to venture into space will survive those that remained on Earth and were wiped out by the next asteroid. Until then, wanting to fly into space isn’t much of an existential advantage.

    As you can see, underlying all this is variety, ultimately the more adaptable species survived all disasters thrown at it.

    So any behavior system you see probably has a good reason for existing; not perhaps right this moment; but in the past or in the future. Nearly all humans have religion. Obviously it serves a vital social function. Give it some thought.

  35. “I take it you have not followed Briggs’ discussion of Contra gentiles, in which a great deal was discovered. But of course, you probably mean “discover” in an empirical sense. But one does not “discover” truth, beauty, and mathematical theorems by experimentating, etc.” – YOS

    Yes, I mean discover in an empirical sense. Is there any other way? I would argue, no, there isn’t. You mention truth, and I would also argue that, absent confirmation, we simply have no way to determine whether or not a proposition (ex. ‘God exists’) is true or false. ‘Beauty’ doesn’t exist in any way that is objective, and therefore doesn’t exist full stop. It’s entirely subjective, and what you may think of as being ‘beautiful’ I may see as being ugly, or vice versa. Some have claimed that the Parthenon is ‘beautiful’, but I just see a pile of rubble. The same has been said of the so-called Golden Ratio, but I just can’t see any intrinsic ‘beauty’ there either. It’s interesting, sure, but beautiful? The music of Bach is like fingernails on a blackboard for me, and I would rather listen to crickets chirping, or a lawn mower. As for mathematical theorems, I’m not much of a mathematician so I will refrain from commenting.

    “Suppose you were a fish, and you believed in “water”. You are trying to persuade your friend, who is of course also a fish, about this thing you call “water”. Ponder that for a while. The problem is that you are immersed in the thing you are trying to explain, and therefore it doesn’t have a name of its own because you cannot point to it. You are in it!” – Michael 2

    Your hypothetical fish (assuming they are intelligent as well) could point to water currents, salinity, temperature differentials, the boundary where the water meets the sky and beyond which these fish cannot go, and the strange correlation that exists between the depth of the water and the type of recognisable life (to the fish) that exists at each these levels. They could also notice the extent to which the light from the sun, which they would not understand, became progressively dimmer the deeper they went, and no doubt they would consider it to be imperative to find out what this strange light was (no, don’t compare it to God now!).
    In other words, the water here could be to the fish what dark matter and energy are to us. Apparently, it is everywhere, we can’t see or directly detect it, we don’t know of what it is made, and yet… we know that it is there even if we don’t know why, or even what it really is in the first place.

    “Actually, no system can demonstrate its own axioms. Natural science, for example, cannot explain material existence because the methodology of natural science presupposes material existence up front. It can, however, explain how material existence behaves, given that you have it.” – YOS

    Yes, it explains what is already here, and that is what it is actually for. Philosophical questions, although one may consider such questions to be interesting or important, are not within its scope, and this was one of the reasons why I responded to this article in the first place. The fact that science ignores questions about ultimate meaning, purpose, God and so on is one of its strengths, not weaknesses, but the author of the aforementioned article (W. Briggs) seems to be under the impression that science is therefore somehow deficient.

  36. “For a great many people the existence of a consensus is the most persuasive factoid of all. Even if the 97 percent is really just 2 percent, you eliminate the disputants until you have 97 percent. You could easily eliminate the remaining 3 (72 out of 75 of 3500 or so respondents to a survey asked of 10,000 or so) and have 100 percent consensus.” – Michael 2

    Yes, you are unfortunately right when you point out that for many people a ‘consensus’ is what really matters. I have never been able to understand this mentality, because it is glaringly obvious (to me, anyway) that reality is what it is regardless of what you may decide to believe about it, or how many will agree with your views. Consensus is what one aims for in politics, not science, and it should NEVER be the determining factor when it comes to what one considers to be right, or true.
    Anyway, let’s not talk about ‘global warming’, I’m sick to death of hearing about it.

  37. Peter continues, and so do I. “…and let me guess. It’s true of one religion in particular, that religion being the only true one – Christianity!”

    A reasonable guess given our probable cultural heritages. But Christianity is way too diverse to be useful. A specific Christian religion is likely to be closest to what I consider truth. Arguing its identity seems to exceed my privilege on this blog so I won’t.

    “If this were true, then people across the globe would gravitate toward only one religion, they would reach similar conclusions regarding god, they would not be trying to kill each other over the correct interpretation of their favoured religious text. Science and religion are nothing like each other.”

    I once thought as you now think; someday you will think as I now think. But that’s not how it works. PC will never displace Mac, and Mac will never displace PC. People are wired differently and quite a few of them are perfectly willing to extinct you and your entire genotype to make room for their own.

    Science is religion is science; but the distinctive property of science is that it is confined to the realm of the testable, not that everyone bothers to test all scientific claims. How exactly were you planning on testing climate sensitivity? I have a doubt it can be done, that is why the IPCC gives a rather broad range.

    But is “religion” all that untestable? No; it is about as testable as AGW. Let one society obey the ten commandments, let another violate them but try to compare societies that, except for that difference, are similar. Evaluate the results and try to compensate or eliminate confounders.

    I have no doubt that you will find “religion” provides strong social glue that aligns members of society; that the benefits of socialism cannot be achieved without religion. That part of religion is scientific; it can be tested, it can be experimented and repeated. God need not exist and in Buddhism doesn’t exist.

    “If you have been trained to discover God, you will discover god, for that is the name you will give to whatever you discover, for you have been trained to do so.”

    By Jove, I think you’ve got it! The extension of this is to recognize how silly it is to argue about the existence of God when the vastly weightier questions remain unanswered — does he, or does he not, care that you wear a white shirt every 7th day and should you make others wear white shirts?

    “No, there is no conceivable computer that could ever do what you suggest here”

    My point exactly. The computer cannot virtualize everything because it is part of the thing being virtualized; creating infinite recursion. That means it is impossible to be perfectly deterministic, and you are not going to be deterministic, then at some point you must make a guess, a summary, an assumption.

    “I have NO idea why you would say something like this.”

    It was a memetic probe. If I can discern certain things about you this will go more quickly.

    “I don’t live in New England, I don’t have ‘white guilt’ (does it come in other colours?)”

    White guilt comes only in white and seems to exist only in New England. It is a response to Critical Race Theory. I don’t accept CRT nor its induction of guilt. I have had lively arguments with my black woman PhD sociology professor. Incredibly I still got an “A” but the rest of the class weren’t very impressive. This old white guy was the only man in the room that had ever heard of the Nubian and Ethiopian empires and half the class was black. They didn’t know their history. I did. I explained their ancestors would have been executed were it not for the option of selling to Portuguese slavers and taken to America. Their children’s children can now attend university and come up with bizarre race-based theories thanks, not intentionally of course, to that quirk of history. The descendents of the “winners” of those interminable African wars are still there and not doing so well. A tiny bit of gratitude would seem appropriate.

    “I have no idea why you would go off like this on such an obscure tangent.”

    It is a strategy or tactic designed to explore ideas while avoiding excessive baggage which happens when tangents are predictable. People usually have “baggage”, POTL (People Of The Left) seem to have a LOT of baggage. Having a discussion is difficult because of the baggage. Strange and irrelevant tangents avoids the baggage.

    “In my search for the truth I do my best to remain impartial. Hell, I’ve even gone over to Jerry Coyne’s site, which is writhing with angry atheists, and tried to make a case for God”

    Sounds exciting! I wonder if that’s where I posted many years ago, stirred up a real hornets nest. It’s fun while it lasts but as you have seen, blogs tend to not allow serious, lively, contentious arguments for any length of time.

    I do not try for impartiality; a thing I consider impossible and possibly a fool’s errand. I accept that the adversarial system of justice in the United States is actually pretty good for this sort of thing; I *want* partiality, but you pit one side against the other, it would be better for me not to be either side; so I suppose in that sense I also seek impartiality in the role of “judge”, but I will step in and help either side if they are poorly represented and thus it is not a fair argument.

    “Humanity is not the centre of creation, although people like to believe this because it reinforces their own high opinion of themselves.”

    It is simpler than that. Humans think of themselves because of the “anthropic principle.” Humans that do not think of themselves much are not likely to compete, breed and alter their environments to make it better for themselves. But whoever created humans, created us this way for a reason and to disrespect that reason is to disrespect the creator.

    “Yes, the book that is out of date is the Bible.”

    Um, do you have an expiration date for any of the books in the bible? The bible itself isn’t really a book that can have a single expiration date. How exactly would you refresh, say, Genesis?

    “did you know that the Bible states not once, but twice (1 Kings, Ch. 7 and 2 Chronicles 4:2 – yes, I will admit I had to look them up to find out exactly where) that pi is exactly three?”

    Ah, the old “swallowing camels while straining at gnats” argument. I do not see this as defining the value of Pi. I see it as describing the approximate dimensions of a big shallow washbasin.

    “First-person perspective observation can lead one to erroneously conclude something that isn’t true”

    But is practically true, that is to say, for practical purposes. If it is only theoretically false, what difference does it make?

    “What determines the direction of the wind has more to do with local (as opposed to global) environmental conditions than anything else”

    Not that, either. Prevailing winds are given direction by Earth’s spin, but their existence is the convergence of the three great bands of atmosphere in each of northern and southern hemisphere. Hot, moist air rises at the equator producing a suction. It rises and spreads out, the northern part heads north but picks up rotational velocity because of the reduction in radius from the axis of spin; namely it ends up blowing northeast. It comes down around latitude 35 or so, very dry having lost its moisture on the ascent.

    Or something like that.

    “Well, if that’s the case then perhaps you could give me your own definition of God. One of the problems with the entire concept is that virtually everyone – including atheists – has their own understanding of what God is.”

    Yes, you see the problem clearly. It is impossible to argue the existence, or non-existence, of God when the word itself has more flavors than Baskin-Robbins has ice cream.

    So I use the word in a variety of ways. The most particular of those ways includes seeing my soul and revealing me to me. Nobody else can do that. It also includes knowledge that is real, objective. I was driving home in Maryland when a voice between my ears, my own voice, but no echo in the car so there wasn’t a sound; just a gestalt, an awareness that a voice had just spoken, telling me to turn around, I was needed and who needed me. So I went there and his daughter had just been in an automobile accident. There’s a lot more to that story but it is real. To me, God and religion is rather a lot like the Star Wars “force”. There’s a lot more than just “God” in this realm.

    “The fact that almost no one can constructively agree on what the word even means to begin with must surely tell you there is something seriously wrong with the idea in the first place.”

    No, it does not tell me that. What it tells me is that God is being opposed by the effective strategy of creating noise. To find a submarine in the sea, use FFT, remove the noise and keep the correlated signal. You can do that with “God” because of his property of consistency where his enemy has no such constraint. The bible is filled with noise and so is human experience.

    To effectively remove noise you must do as you are already doing, and that’s admit everything so that your noise canceller works correctly. If you have a dilemma, you can let both horns of the dilemma be eliminated (unless recreated somewhere else). So the question of whether an omnipotent God can create something too big for him to move is answered by removing “omnipotent” (or adjusting its meaning somewhat) and the dilemma vanishes. I have never argued for the existence of an omni-everything, invisible, immaterial, everywhere-but-nowhere God. But there is most certainly something that transcends what my camera photographs and my voltmeter measures; it is intelligent, willful, and generall benevolent by its measure, not mine.

    “Michael, we accept the rules of arithmetic because a) they work, and b) they reflect an underlying reality about nature.”

    They don’t reflect it, they are assigned to it. If I have two apples, and I add another apple, how many do I have? Three. But the apples don’t care about the other apples; the fact or perception or appreciation of “three” exists solely in my mind. It is not a property of the apples, it is a product of my mind.

    “It is one more reason, among many others, to accept the (yes, philosophical) notion that objective reality really does exist in the sense that even if there were no one here to observe it it would still be here.”

    But that’s a tautology; reality is defined as that which remains in the absence of an observer. As a tautology it isn’t all that useful; it becomes useful when you point to something and say “that is real”, at which point you have assigned the property of “real” (persistence) to the object.

    “Yes, I can truthfully say that I believe in the existence of objective reality”

    So do I; but proving it is probably impossible, and to a large extent the topic of discussion is proof; not well-founded belief.

  38. Peter A. “Beauty doesn’t exist in any way that is objective, and therefore doesn’t exist full stop. It’s entirely subjective, and what you may think of as being ‘beautiful’ I may see as being ugly, or vice versa.”

    You appear to be confusing realms or scope. Beauty exists, but it exists in a mind. That is its realm. That is where it exists, consequently, as you point out, the assignment of “beautiful” is per-person; I may assign the property of beautiful to a thing you do not.

    But it exists if I cause it to exist. To me it exists. Whether it exists to you is not relevant to its power to motivate my behavior; however, if should not assume that it is to you what it is to me. Its existence is not guaranteed outside the mind that instantiated it.

    Some have claimed that the Parthenon is ‘beautiful’, but I just see a pile of rubble. The same has been said of the so-called Golden Ratio, but I just can’t see any intrinsic ‘beauty’ there either.

  39. Ye Olde Statistician

    December 31, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    “That makes it difficult to assert the paradigm that the Greeks invented science
    What on Earth are you talking about?

    A common Internet thought cliche, although it predates the Internet.
    http://www.nobeliefs.com/images/DarkAges.gif
    Experimentation was typically avoided not because it involved labor — the philosopher could always order a slave to perform the labor — but because the philosopher desired to know the natural behavior of things and an experiment involved contriving artificial conditions. These might result in “violent” (meaning “non-natural”) motions that would obscure the true nature of reality. As for Archimedes.

    “Archimedes possessed such a lofty spirit, so profound a soul, and such a wealth of scientific theory, that although his inventions had won for him a name and fame for superhuman sagacity, he would not consent to leave behind him any treatise on this subject, but regarding the work of an engineer and every art that ministers to the needs of life as ignoble and vulgar, he devoted his earnest efforts only to those studies the subtlety and charm of which are not affected by the claims of necessity.”
    — Plutarch, Life of Marcellus, 17.

    Christianity had been founded by a carpenter and spread by fishermen, tent-makers, and other “blue-collar” types. Thus, the Christians could not disdain work with the hands as the pagans had.

    Science is not equivalent to the experimental method. What experiments did Darwin perform? For that matter, what about string theory and multiverses? The two-stroke motion of science consists of the Posterior Analytics, by which through careful observation of nature, the philosopher collects quia. The through the “work of the intellect” — i.e., “thinking about them” — he devises a reason or propter quid that explains them. What distinguishes the Modern from the Medieval is that the Medieval was challened to come up with multiple theories and weigh them against one another, assessing their respective merits until only one remains. Then he applies the Prior Analytics and deduces from the propter quid new quia that were not involved in developing the theory in the first place.

    The “work of the intellect” (negotiatio intellectus) is an induction (original sense). The philosopher considers all possible reasons for the quia and rejects all but one for cause. For example: Aristotle considered all possible geometric shapes for the Moon and determined that only a sphere could account for the pattern of phases.

    people really believed in the ‘common sense’ view that two objects will take differing spans of time to reach the ground from a common height if their weights differ.

    Actually, they do; but the difference for motion in air is insensible. It’s been pointed out that Aristotle’s physics is actually correct for motion in a fluid, where resistance of the plenum is a significant factor.

    To put it more briefly: the evolution of science is not a binary thing. It’s analog, not digital. The ancient Greeks did little in the way of experimentation because they were building the foundations of scientific inquiry, not steam engines or motor cars. They were interested in “what is motion?” more so in measuring and controlling motion. First things first. Secondly, they were dealing with common observations. No experiments were needed when you could simply observe nature. Observations of the results of an experiment produced a new word: “fact,” which means “something made, something done.” It is cognate with “feat” or “deed.” It began to take on its modern usage only in the 1630s.

    find out what is actually true.

    “True” means “faithful.” That’s why a couple will “pledge their troth,” becoming “be-trothed.” It is the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of the Latinate “Faith.” Hence, something cannot be “true” simpliciter. It must be true to something. That’s a why a novel is said to be “true to life” and natural science is to be “true to the facts.”

    The problem is the underdetermination of scientific theories. Through any finite set of facts you can always draw multiple theories. For example, the Copenhagen, many-worlds, standing wave, and transactional theories of quantum mechanics are all true to the facts observed (depending on how one interprets the Afshar experiment). The asteroid impact theory and the massive vulcanism theory are both true to the elevated iridium levels at the K/T boundary. The Keplerian model and the Tychonic/Ursine models were both true to the movements of the planets and stars up until 1727, when Bradley discovered stellar aberration. http://cseligman.com/text/history/bradley.htm

    The motivation for ‘doing science’ need not be metaphysical… someone may just like physics for its own sake, because it’s interesting.

    And of course truth and beauty are not metaphysical?

    a) there were good theoretical reasons to search for it, and b) once found it would help to solidify the theoretical framework that had been built up based upon its existence.

    IOW they had applied pure thought to it.

    Yes, the book that is out of date is the Bible. You mention the square root of two, but did you know (surely you must have) that the Bible states not once, but twice (1 Kings, Ch. 7 and 2 Chronicles 4:2 – yes, I will admit I had to look them up to find out exactly where) that pi is exactly three?

    Br. Guy — who is a physicist — said it was his physics text that was out of date. Nothing in the Bible takes a mathematical stance on the value of pi. It is tendentious to suppose that the measurements given for Solomon’s bowl were precise and measured in compatible ways as if the bowl were a) perfectly circular and b) had a lip of zero thickness.

    First-person perspective observation can lead one to erroneously conclude something that isn’t true … shooting an arrow into the air … “headwinds out of the East”? What determines the direction of the wind has more to do with local … conditions etc.

    The reasons you give are not the reasons why those two objections fail. In the 14th century, Nicholas of Oresme suggested (correctly) that the air and the earth share a common motion to begin with and we do not feel an overwhelming headwind from the east because the atmosphere is also moving east at the same speed. The same applies to the arrow which, even “at rest” is hurtling east at mind-boggling speeds. This “common motion” could not be demonstrated with the conceptual tools available at the time, and you cannot save one unproven hypothesis by introducing a second unproven hypothesis. They had only just invented terms for velocity and acceleration, after all; and Oresme had invented the + sign from a scribal shorthand for “et”. Demonstrating that the earth moves is not easy; and many folks today simply take it as a matter of faith. They would be unable to provide the empirical evidence to demonstrate it.

    Yes, I mean discover in an empirical sense. Is there any other way? I would argue, no, there isn’t.

    So much for mathematics.

    You mention truth, and I would also argue that, absent confirmation, we simply have no way to determine whether or not a proposition … is true or false.

    What do you mean “true” and “false”? These terms presuppose the metaphysical existence of Truth. What empirical confirmation is there to confirm the truth that “SQRT(2)” is irrational?

    ‘Beauty’ doesn’t exist in any way that is objective, and therefore doesn’t exist full stop. It’s entirely subjective

    This is a distortion of the principles of the Scientific Revolution. Galileo, Hume, Descartes, and others expanded on the Aristotelian concept of the “proper” and “common” sensibles in order to narrow the scope of the natural sciences to precisely those aspects of experience that could be handled with the new mathematized methods. The Late Modern devotee of scientism confuses this restriction on the methodology to a restriction on reality. That the methods of natural science do not apply to qualities that reside in the observing subject does not mean that those qualities do not exist. That is like a person whose only tool is a hammer insisting that the universe consists only of nails.

    Aristotle wrote that “to be beautiful, a living creature, and every whole made up of parts, must … present a certain order in its arrangement of parts” (The Poetics). And “The chief forms of beauty are order and symmetry and definiteness, which the mathematical sciences demonstrate in a special degree” (The Metaphysics).

    Some have claimed that the Parthenon is ‘beautiful’, but I just see a pile of rubble. … I just can’t see any intrinsic ‘beauty’ [in the Golden Ratio] either. … The music of Bach is like fingernails on a blackboard for me [sic!]… As for mathematical theorems, I’m not much of a mathematician so I will refrain from commenting.

    And a color-blind observer will not be able to appreciate art, either. But it may be a mistake to equate the untutored tastes of a particular person with an aspect of the world itself. This may be why so much of Late Modern and Post Modern art and music is ugly.

    Note that if beauty actually does exist in the thing, the fact that a phillistine observer fails to apprehend and appreciate it does not make it not beautiful any more than the inability of people to sense radio waves means that they do not exist.

    “Beauty doesn’t exist in any way that is objective, and therefore doesn’t exist full stop.

    The fallacy is to suppose that only those aspects of reality that are amenable to the scientific method have existence. This is why Heisenberg wrote that physics doesn’t show us reality but only reality as exposed to our method of inquiry.

  40. ” Some have claimed that the Parthenon is ‘beautiful’, but I just see a pile of rubble. … I just can’t see any intrinsic ‘beauty’ [in the Golden Ratio] either. … The music of Bach is like fingernails on a blackboard for me [sic!]… As for mathematical theorems, I’m not much of a mathematician so I will refrain from commenting.” – me

    “And a color-blind observer will not be able to appreciate art, either. But it may be a mistake to equate the untutored tastes of a particular person with an aspect of the world itself. This may be why so much of Late Modern and Post Modern art and music is ugly.” – YOS response

    I detect bias based upon snobbery here. Whether or not I have (in your opinion) “untutored tastes” is totally beside the point. The – perfectly valid – point I was making was that the perception of beauty is entirely subjective, and no amount of “tutoring” will change what is, at rock bottom, appreciation based upon the type of person that one turned out to be. Your comment that modern music and art is “ugly” is your opinion only. Upon what do you base this, purely subjective, assessment?

    “The music of Bach is like fingernails on a blackboard for me [sic!]”

    Sic? Really? Why?

  41. “Note that if beauty actually does exist in the thing, the fact that a phillistine observer fails to apprehend and appreciate it does not make it not beautiful any more than the inability of people to sense radio waves means that they do not exist.” – YOS

    Comparing a nebulous notion like beauty to radio waves is just idiotic. Radio waves can be detected, by anyone, regardless of whether or not they believe in the existence of them, or whether or not they believe the concept to be at all useful. Can beauty be measured? If so, how?

    The Philistines did not deserve the reputation among snobs they ended up with. They were actually quite sophisticated, quite cultured, but the genocidal Israelites didn’t like them, and so they maligned their reputation in their dreadful scriptures.

  42. “Galileo, Hume, Descartes, and others expanded on the Aristotelian concept of the “proper” and “common” sensibles in order to narrow the scope of the natural sciences to precisely those aspects of experience that could be handled with the new mathematized methods. The Late Modern devotee of scientism confuses this restriction on the methodology to a restriction on reality. That the methods of natural science do not apply to qualities that reside in the observing subject does not mean that those qualities do not exist. That is like a person whose only tool is a hammer insisting that the universe consists only of nails.” – YOS

    There may be more to reality than the “devotee of scientism” can find by working within the limits imposed by his/her favoured methodology, but if there is nothing we can say about a particular idea/concept/phenomenon due to its inability to be understood via any method that we have at our disposal that actually works, then what are we to do? Shall we just make things up?
    Even if God (or the gods – strange how Christians never consider the possibility of there being more than one) exists, we can say nothing at all about this God if He (sic) resides in some kind of alternative reality that we have no access to. For example, how can anyone possibly know there is only one god? Where is the evidence? (By ‘evidence’ I don’t mean anything that Aristotle or Aquinas cooked up when they had too much time on their hands, and when they thought what they were coming up with was actually profound).

    “Aristotle wrote that “to be beautiful, a living creature, and every whole made up of parts, must … present a certain order in its arrangement of parts” (The Poetics). And “The chief forms of beauty are order and symmetry and definiteness, which the mathematical sciences demonstrate in a special degree” (The Metaphysics).” – YOS

    The first word that came to mind when I read this was the word ‘vague’. There is no precision here. I understand symmetry, but how can the concept of symmetry be used to support the notion that beauty is objectively real? All I see here is Aristotle expressing a personal view, an aesthetic bias, not an objective fact.

  43. “So much for mathematics (in response to my claim that facts about the world can only be discovered empirically).” – YOS

    I don’t understand this particular objection of yours, because mathematics actually had its origins in early attempts by mankind to make sense of the world they lived in. The earliest civilisations developed number systems in response to needs (ex. commerce, dividing property, constructing buildings) they had at the time. It was very practical, which was the reason why geometry and basic arithmetic were the first to be developed.

  44. Ye Olde Statistician

    January 2, 2016 at 11:39 am

    the perception of beauty is entirely subjective

    The perception of anything is subjective.* But you cannot perceive beauty unless there is beauty to perceive.
    *from Latin percipere “obtain, gather, seize entirely, take possession of,” also, figuratively, “to grasp with the mind, learn, comprehend,” literally “to take entirely,” from per “thoroughly” + capere “to grasp, take.”

    no amount of “tutoring” will change what is, at rock bottom, appreciation based upon the type of person that one turned out to be.

    Whether or not one “appreciates” the beauty of a thing has nothing to do with whether a thing is beautiful. The triumph of the individual will — “your” truth and “my” truth and all that — is a Late Modern elitist notion, one which may of us have dutifully absorbed — often in the guise of “thinking for myself.” This often involves no actual thought, but only visceral reactions; e.g., that sounds like fingernails on a blackboard, eeuuw!.

    Your comment that modern music and art is “ugly” is your opinion only. Upon what do you base this, purely subjective, assessment?

    Have you ever tried to listen to Cage? His 4’33” consists of four minutes and 33 seconds of silence. Now that may be an interesting argument regarding the nature of music, but it is not itself musical. Perhaps we can argue that silence is beautiful, but c’mon. The Late Modern and Post Modern elites were so terrified of creating kitsch or doggerel or cliche that they deliberately intellectualized their work to make it inaccessible to the common herd. (This was part of a broader trend of artists seeking admission to the intelligentsia.)

    In comparison, Richard Strauss was a master: he arranged dissonance and irregular rhythms in very effective ways. (See Ein Heldenleben, e.g.) Much of “modern” painting is pleasantly decorative and can hang in one’s living room with no ill effect, but it often lacks art: that is, the deliberate arrangement of the parts to an effect. The chief forms of beauty are order, symmetry, and definiteness. So the chief aspects of the ugly are disorder, asymmetry, and inchoateness.

    “The music of Bach is like fingernails on a blackboard for me [sic!]”
    Sic? Really? Why?

    Because I have heard fingernails on blackboards when I was a kid, and I have heard Bach when I was old enough to understand him. The two are not objectively similar. But then you have already said that you do not have mathematics, so that may be a factor in your inability to appreciate the Baroque masters. (Btw, Bach is not to my taste, either. I much prefer Mozart. In fact, I was involved in a long-running debate in undergrad days with a friend over the relative merits of the two. We agreed to each write a short piece on the same theme, allegedly in the style of our respective paragons with the instructor to be the judge; but he never finished his.)

    However, I do not confuse “my taste” with beauty as such. (Nor, for that matter, “prettiness” with “beauty.”)

    There are some additional thoughts here:
    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/09/art-and-meta-art.html

  45. Ye Olde Statistician

    January 2, 2016 at 11:53 am

    Radio waves can be detected, by anyone

    I am sitting here at the table and I can detect no such thing. I think you may need a special device. That is why, prior to Marconi and that crowd, folks were unable to appreciate radio waves.

    The Philistines did not deserve the reputation among snobs they ended up with.

    Indeed, perhaps not. For bronze age barbarians they were likely no worse than most. But the English term in lower case — “philistine” rather then “Philistine” — simply means “a person deficient in liberal culture.” It was coined in 1827 by Carlyle, and popularized by him and Matthew Arnold. It stemmed from German Philister which did refer to the Philistines, but passed over into German student slang (supposedly first in Jena, late 17c.) as a term for “townies,” and hence, by extension, “any uncultured person.”

    the genocidal Israelites

    Oh, those Jews!

  46. Ye Olde Statistician

    January 2, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    All I see here is Aristotle expressing a personal view, an aesthetic bias, not an objective fact.

    Of course you don’t. You simply go along with the Late Modern elitist notion that there is no such thing as Truth, Beauty, and the rest.

    how can anyone possibly know there is only one god? Where is the evidence?

    Where is the evidence for the irrationality of SQRT(2)? Until you accept logic and reason, there is little point in explaining the demonstration. It’s basically the same form as a demonstration of uniqueness in mathematics: assume there are two (or more) and conclude to a reduction.

  47. Peter, imagining that he has stumbled on some great revelations, writes:

    “Even if God (or the gods – strange how Christians never consider the possibility of there being more than one) exists, we can say nothing at all about this God if He resides in some kind of alternative reality that we have no access to. For example, how can anyone possibly know there is only one god? Where is the evidence?”

    Christianity expressly declares awareness of the possibility: http://biblehub.com/1_corinthians/8-5.htm but these others are not relevant to that Christian’s morality and salvation. They are just “out there” somewhere.

    It is also implicit in Genesis. “let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech”
    Maybe he’s a Democrat and uses “us” and “we” to mean himself just as you do. http://biblehub.com/genesis/11-7.htm

    Or: “And God said, Let us make man in our image”
    http://biblehub.com/genesis/1-26.htm

    Now then, as to how you can know there’s only one God, you define it that way. Out of all these ethereal beings, one is supreme (hence, “supreme being”), and gets the God title.

    Simple, no?

    “There may be more to reality than the devotee of scientism can find by working within the limits imposed by his/her favoured methodology…then what are we to do? Shall we just make things up?”

    There is no “we”. Whatever you discover or believe exists, which you declare to others, will probably be indistinguishable from invention and fiction. However, if many people discover the same thing, and are sufficiently independent of each other, that increases the believability of a claim.

    In the early days of the age of exploration, essentially all discoveries were mere claims and the believability rested entirely on the credibility of the discoveror. Sometimes the explorer brought back artifacts, but they could have been “made in China”.

    “The first word that came to mind when I read this was the word ‘vague’. There is no precision here.”

    That is the nature of the beast. Numerical precision belongs to mathematics. What is the precision of a cloud? It has none; and changes dynamically and rapidly. Strictly speaking “a cloud” does not exist; that is a word invented by humans to describe a visible phenomenon that is itself just the transient visible portion of a much larger phenomenon. The air moving through a cloud condenses moisture, becoming visible, then evaporates as that particular mass of air exits the other side. The only thing stationary is an appearance; the air itself and its entrained water moves through the cloud which is easily observed in time-lapse movie photography.

    “I understand symmetry, but how can the concept of symmetry be used to support the notion that beauty is objectively real?”

    Nearly all living things, vertebrates in particular, have bilateral symmetry. When you are seeking a mate you include in your selection process a strong preference for symmetry, because that is an indication of health, or at least absence of deformity.

    Beauty is a word that describes the subliminal effect in the brain upon seeing things that have good survival values (beautiful countryside) or reproductive values. Symmetry is an important part, so is color, scent and so on.

    “All I see here is Aristotle expressing a personal view, an aesthetic bias, not an objective fact.”

    Aristotle and 7 billion other people including you. All of your views are your personal views. How can “aesthetic bias” itself be an objective fact?

    You handle intangibles just fine without accepting that these intangibles are actually facts. Is there such a thing as “vague”? Yes. “Aesthetic bias”? That, too. “Objective fact”? Well, I think “fact” implies objectivity so it isn’t really necessary to qualify fact as to being objective, but while such things probably exist, I can think of no way to prove it.

  48. Ye Olde Statistician

    January 2, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    “So much for mathematics (in response to my claim that facts about the world can only be discovered empirically).”
    I don’t understand this particular objection of yours

    Provide the empirical evidence that SQRT(2) is irrational. That seems simple enough. I won’t ask for empirical evidence that a closed, bounded Hausdorff space is compact.

    That mathematics can be applied to practical matters is stipulated. At issue is whether mathematical truths can be determined by empirical evidences. They cannot be. Mathematics is not a natural science inducing falsifiable theories from empirical facts. It deduces theorems from a priori axioms. Naturally, you can have this apple and that apple and the other apple, but “3” as such is super-natural. If I were to place the aforesaid apples on a table, there would not be four things on the table: this apple, that apple, the other apple, and “3.”

    Because “3” has no size, location, weight, etc., it is by Galileo, Hume, et al., a completely subjective entity. That is, there may be three apples, but there is no “3” in a physical, materialistic sense.

  49. Ye Olde Statistician

    January 2, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    Now then, as to how you can know there’s only one God, you define it that way. Out of all these ethereal beings, one is supreme (hence, “supreme being”), and gets the God title.
    Simple, no?

    Simple, but wrong. God is not conceived as “a being among beings.” The term “supreme being” is to be understood in an analogous sense. He is not the most super-duper of a bunch of lesser deities, with a snazzier Spandex suit and cape. He is Being itself; i.e., supreme in being.

    There is only one such being because if there were two, it would lead to a logical contradiction.

  50. Peter, arguing with his own inventions, and in response to “any more than the inability of people to sense radio waves means that they do not exist.”
    writes: “Comparing a nebulous notion like beauty to radio waves is just idiotic. Radio waves can be detected, by anyone, regardless of whether or not they believe in the existence of them, or whether or not they believe the concept to be at all useful.”

    No, they (radio waves) cannot be detected by everyone. The exceptions are some people with metal tooth fillings. YOU do not detect radio waves; an instrument detects radio waves and you must have faith that it is reporting what you have been told it is detecting.

    Suppose someone believed radio waves do not exist. How would you convince that person otherwise (never mind why it is important). If I faced that task, a good demonstration would be a trusted friend of that person, walkie talkies, and then demonstrate what it takes to facilitate radio communication versus blocking that communication. Along the way you can also demonstrate polarization and other electromagnetic principles.

  51. Ye Olde Statistician writes “Simple, but wrong. God is not conceived as a being among beings.”

    And yet I have just conceived it so. 99 percent of the time I admire your amazing breadth and depth of your understanding; where you trip over the tiny stone is assuming things are global that are not actually global. The exact nature of God is not “settled science”.

    Out of necessity each church decides such matters. Catholics are not permitted to conceive of God as a being among beings but that was a decision made in council. Mormons, conversely, see God as the head of a family of which Jesus is the first born. Mormons are somewhat unique in that outlook.

    Lutherans meanwhile remain undecided about all that and more.

    “There is only one such being because if there were two, it would lead to a logical contradiction.”

    I am interested in that logical contradiction and how it is any more contradictory than Jesus (God) praying to God (not Jesus).

    “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect”. What happens to a person that accomplishes this? Jesus didn’t even appoint that level of perfection to himself, not at that moment in time anyway.

    It all boils down to what you believe is the purpose of creation and human life. But that’s a long and complicated topic by itself.

    Other factors to be considered is the war in heaven; Lucifer, things like that. Where did he come from? Clearly there is more in heaven than just “God”.

  52. With regard to “purpose” of life and creation, my thoughts on that crystallized when I was in Alaska courtesy of the US Navy. After watching all kinds of life it struck me that one thing was common to all life — they make more of their own kind. That also is the command given to Adam and Eve. If that pattern, created by God, is universal, then what is HE doing? Yep, the same thing. It explains, to me, pretty much everything.

  53. Ye Olde Statistician

    January 2, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    “Simple, but wrong. God is not conceived as a being among beings.”
    And yet I have just conceived it so.

    No, what you have is something more like the pagan deities than the ground of all being. Probably, you relied on your imagination rather than your intellect.

    The exact nature of God is not “settled science”.

    It’s not “science” at all, at least in the modern usage of that term.

    Out of necessity each church decides such matters. Catholics are not permitted to conceive of God as a being among beings but that was a decision made in council.

    The councils of the entire Church, which is why our Orthodox brethren teach the same ideas about God. That covers about two-thirds of self-professed modern Christians and a vastly higher number of Christians across the ages. Meanwhile, there are the Jews and muslims, as well as certain schools of Hindu thought who have the same concept. Even when they admit of other gods, as the Hindus do, or call them angels or djinn, they still recognize that there must be a source of being that lies behind them. Hence, the Brahma, for example.

    Mormons, conversely, see God as the head of a family of which Jesus is the first born.

    Well, they are not known for incisive theology. They consider God to be an exalted man, native to another planet, for example; and God is a divinity that came into being when three gods, called Father, Son, and Holy Spirit decided to fuse in perfect harmony. The Father has a wife and so on as you have indicated. This is vastly different from the Christian tradition, as well as her Jewish and muslim cousins. It’s like confusing a philistine (someone unappreciative of the arts) with a Philistine (an invader of the Levant in the archaic dark age). Not just different concepts, but concepts of different things.

    There is some discussion of this here:
    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/12/christians-muslims-and-reference-of-god.html
    although the initial focus is on muslims, the Mormons come in for some comment as well.

    “There is only one such being because if there were two, it would lead to a logical contradiction.”
    I am interested in that logical contradiction

    Not too interested, evidently, since Briggs covered it in this series several months ago.

    To start: do you understand modus tollens? It goes like this:
    1. If P, then Q
    2. Q is false.
    3. Therefore: P is false.

    If so, we can proceed if you are serious.

  54. Ye Olde Statistician wrote “Probably, you relied on your imagination rather than your intellect.”

    I use both. My comments are mine derived from my own thinking which is itself a combination of intellect and imagination.

    I am delighted to learn that some of my ideas have names and have been described by philosophers. I am not a credentialed philosopher; just someone that spent many nights in the Navy waiting for aircraft to return from patrol, plenty of time to read and think about things. I have a pretty good B.S. detector and many philosophers, psychologists and especially sociologists are pretty high on that index. They know what they know because they created what they know. Now that’s some imagination!

    “Not too interested [in logical contradiction], evidently, since Briggs covered it in this series several months ago.”

    Then I shall review Briggs from “several months ago”. I have not time to read all of the posts on every interesting blog and this one has recently caught my attention and interest primarily as a consequence of his global warming commentary.

    “To start: do you understand modus tollens? It goes like this: 1. If P, then Q. 2. Q is false. 3. Therefore: P is false.”

    Atheists use this form of logic quite frequently. If P (God exists; is omnipotent and benevolent) then Q (people would live in peace, babies would not die and so on). Q is false. Therefore P is false.

    Since the truth of Q is easily observed, and the logic is simple and correct, there’s a problem with P. Hence a great many churches and religions trying to solve this dilemma or that.

    “If so, we can proceed if you are serious.”

    I leave that up to you. I am the Borg except that I am not trying to assimilate you, just your knowledge added to my own.

  55. YOS writes “They consider God to be an exalted man, native to another planet, for example; and God is a divinity that came into being when three gods, called Father, Son, and Holy Spirit decided to fuse in perfect harmony. The Father has a wife and so on as you have indicated. This is vastly different from the Christian tradition.”

    Close enough not to argue the nits, and I suspect some Mormons believe exactly as you have described, and some do not.

    There is no theology in Mormonism about where God came from or lives now. In its early days many Mormons speculated variously on these topics, sometimes with good reasons but extrapolated beyond reasonable conclusion. Rather a lot of it seems to be Sumerian in origin, and that’s fine with me since Sumeria was a lot closer temporally to the creation than I am. If I remember right, Abraham was from Sumeria, a southern province called Ur.

    God does not “fuse” nor is he a fused being. “God” is a title and who bears it at any mention in scripture isn’t always clear. Genesis is quite clear that “they” are more than one but starting with the Fall of Adam, he was cast out of the presence of God (the father) but not God (JHVH) who would be born as Jesus, of Mary, and accomplish the redemption.

    Consider:

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

    Who is the word? Jesus. He was with God (the father) and he was god (the son). God is a title, not a person. Once the redemption was complete, God the Father was once again approachable by humans and Jesus takes his place at the right hand of God.

    To whom was Jesus praying? His father. Whose voice came out of heaven when he was baptized? That of his Father. Paul saw in vision the resurrected Jesus *and* God the Father.

    I’ll take the simple explanation most any day.

    Consider: “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.”
    http://biblehub.com/john/5-19.htm

    This makes no sense whatsoever if the Father and the Son are the same person. The son mirrors the father, after observing what the Father did. Now maybe he was speaking of mortal men and mortal sons, but his parables were always true on the surface and also as to hidden meaning.

    What does it mean? To a Mormon it means a mortal man, Jesus, ascended to heaven and sits on the right hand of God (the father). If he can do it, so can you and I; upon completing the commandment to be ye therefore perfect. Not perhaps in this life but there you go. It is what parents DO. If God wanted millions or billions of two-legged pets, he could have simply wished them into existence and there we’d be, perfect from the start. He appears to have done exactly that with a few special beasts at his throne. We aren’t that special; our path requires some pain, some learning, some experience.

    We have been redeemed but to what purpose? To be like him, to be perfect, even as our Father in Heaven is perfect, for that is the commandment.

    I write this not for the sake of argumentation, but if you are going to disrespect my beliefs, at least get them correct. I am not in perfect alignment with anyone’s philosophy or religion so I won’t hold it against you if you occasionally assume I believe something I don’t; more often you will assume I believe something that is correctly assumed.

  56. Turtles all the way down…

    Consider: “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.”

    If that is to be taken literally true, then the atonement itself is a thing the Father did. This is not Mormon theology but this argument was made by Joseph Smith. It illustrates the danger of “wresting scripture”; maybe it can be taken literally, maybe not so literally.

  57. Ye Olde Statistician

    January 3, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    “Probably, you relied on your imagination rather than your intellect.”
    I use both.

    Certainly every act of the intellect is accompanied by an act of the imagination, but the contrary does not hold. All animals exercise imagination: they form images, remember them, and manipulate them — and the images need not be visual: they may form olfactory images, for example, as a bloodhound does. But notice that imagination always deals with things of the senses. The intellect, otoh, deals with abstractions, even when abstracted from sensible particulars. For example: “red” (as distinct from a red thing) or “3” (as distinct from this, that, and the other). You can conceive of a thousand-sided polygon, but you cannot perceive one as distinct from a 998-sided polygon.

    That is, imagination is a sensory power, often called the “inner senses”, while intellect is rational power.

    Atheists use this form of logic quite frequently. If P (God exists; is omnipotent and benevolent) then Q (people would live in peace, babies would not die and so on). Q is false. Therefore P is false.

    Atheists use logic? Who knew? But a syllogism must be materially correct, not simply formally correct. That’s why we distinguish between formal fallacies and material fallacies — or between form and matter in general. The material problem is that one must actually establish that P really does entail Q, not simply assert it. Atheists also rely too much on imagination and not enough on intellect.

    The demonstration that there can be only one God (as opposed to many gods) runs as follows. For simplicity, accept that earlier reasoning has established from the experience of change in the world that there must exist something unchanging and unchangeable that is the source of all change. Let’s call that a Being of Pure Act (BPA). (If there were any potency in it, it would not be unchangeable; therefore, it must be purely actual.)

    Now, suppose sec. arg. that there were two BPAs, call them X and Y. If they are distinct, then one (say X) would possess a power or attribute that the other (Y) lacks. (If it did not, then they would not be two.) For example, X might be here while Y is there. But then Y would be in potency to being “here”, contrary to assumption. (And X would be in potency to being there.) Thus, they cannot be BPAs. Thus, there cannot be two BPAs. (That there must be one has already been established in a prior syllogism.) We can now say the BPA.

    Proceeding from this point, we can establish all sorts of other attributes. The BPA is: not made of matter, is eternal (i.e., not “made” at all), etc., etc. These attributes add up to what was traditionally referred to as “God.”

    In particular, it is the primary cause of all powers. Since a thing cannot give what it does not have, there must be something in it that is analogous to these powers. It is thus all-powerful (full of all powers). Among the powers seen in the world are those of intellect and will, so there must be something in God that is like intellect and will. The product of intellect is a conception and concepts are expressed in words. Hence, in the act of God knowing himself, the knower is called the Father and the known, the Word. (This conception is analogous to biological conception, and so the Word is also called the Son, but there is nothing biological about God.) But since there can be only one BPA, these two homeostases must be “begotten, not made” one in being.

    Similar reasoning regarding the will leads us to the Spirit, or Love/Desire for the product of the intellect, which proceeds from the Father (and since Father and Word are one, from the Son as well).

    These of course are bare bones.

  58. “Where is the evidence for the irrationality of SQRT(2)? Until you accept logic and reason, there is little point in explaining the demonstration. It’s basically the same form as a demonstration of uniqueness in mathematics: assume there are two (or more) and conclude to a reduction.” – YOS

    “…little point in explaining the demonstration”, because I apparently don’t accept logic and reason. This is a cop-out, because demonstrating the irrationality of the square root of two isn’t anything like attempting to demonstrate the existence of god(s). We understand that numbers are an aspect of our shared reality, but ‘god’ is apparently something that people ‘feel’, ‘know intuitively’, or must have ‘faith in’, and cannot be demonstrated. How convenient! Where is the ‘logic and reason’ when many, even those who consider themselves to be above the rabble and regard themselves as being philosophically ‘sophisticated’, resort to arguments that shouldn’t convince anyone? For example, I’ve been told that I must have a predisposition, an openness to God, before I can denounce or otherwise judge the idea, even though no one would apply this particular standard to anything else, like flying saucers or the Loch Ness monster.

    Yes, I accept logic and reason, which is the primary reason I reject gods. You seem to think there is a good reason to suppose there is only one god. Well, go ahead – prove there is only one god, but if this is too hard for you then provide evidence for the claim, or at least present a convincing case for why I shouldn’t believe in six gods, or fifty.

    “Of course you don’t. You simply go along with the Late Modern elitist notion that there is no such thing as Truth, Beauty, and the rest.” – YOS

    No, I accept the idea of absolute truth. Beauty doesn’t exist. One may say that something (or someone) is ‘beautiful’, but that’s just a subjective assessment based entirely upon personal prejudice and preference. Many Muslims have over the centuries made the claim that it was the beauty of the Quran in the original Arabic that convinced them it was inspired by God. Would you agree with this assessment of theirs, or are the approximately 1.2 thousand million Muslims living in the world today misguided? Do you believe the Quran to be beautiful? Yes? No? If not, why not? Can you explain this without having to resort to the truth that this appreciation of theirs is not an aspect of anything that exists within objective reality? The same can, and should be, said of the Bible. Apparently, the King James Version is the most ‘beautiful’. Is it? Even though I have read it, I wouldn’t know, because it did absolutely nothing for me. It was actually quite boring and repetitive.

    “…Late Modern elitist…” – YOS

    You know absolutely nothing about me, but you think it’s appropriate to call me this for simply questioning, and raising objections to, beliefs that far too many people just take for granted.

  59. “Simple, but wrong. God is not conceived as “a being among beings.” The term “supreme being” is to be understood in an analogous sense. He is not the most super-duper of a bunch of lesser deities, with a snazzier Spandex suit and cape. He is Being itself; i.e., supreme in being.

    There is only one such being because if there were two, it would lead to a logical contradiction.” – YOS

    Ah, here is an answer. I missed it before.

    So, G/god isn’t a being among many others, for that would make this god just one more ‘thing’ among many other such things, and we can’t have that, now can we. God is ‘being ITSELF’, and we know this because… ?

    How do you know what you assert here? To be (i.e. to exist) isn’t something that anything can ‘have’, like dimensionality or colour. It isn’t an aspect of existence, it is existence. We say that something is, that it exists, because it has attributes, limits, and other defining characteristics that we can point to and describe. Can the same be said of God, a ‘being’ that is apparently without limits, invisible and otherwise insensible, and transcends reality itself?

  60. “Atheists use logic? Who knew? But a syllogism must be materially correct, not simply formally correct. That’s why we distinguish between formal fallacies and material fallacies — or between form and matter in general. The material problem is that one must actually establish that P really does entail Q, not simply assert it. Atheists also rely too much on imagination and not enough on intellect.” – YOS

    Yes, atheists use logic. Some of them don’t do it very well, but that’s another debate. Your accusation that they rely too much on imagination needs to be justified here.

    “The demonstration that there can be only one God (as opposed to many gods) runs as follows. For simplicity, accept that earlier reasoning has established from the experience of change in the world that there must exist something unchanging and unchangeable that is the source of all change. Let’s call that a Being of Pure Act (BPA). (If there were any potency in it, it would not be unchangeable; therefore, it must be purely actual.)” – YOS

    From the experience of change in the world, and taking nothing else into consideration than this bare fact of existence, one would – actually MUST – conclude that there cannot possibly be something that can escape the inexorable passage of time.
    “…the source of all change” – You’re assuming, without any reason to do so, that there can only ever be one source, one agency for change, but why? Your ‘BPA’, I believe, doesn’t even come close to addressing this deficiency, and the reasons for this should be too obvious for me to even bother mentioning.

    This is really, really weak. There are unjustified assertions galore, faulty premises, weak argumentation.
    Time to go!

  61. Peter A. writes (among other things) “We understand that numbers are an aspect of our shared reality, but ‘god’ is apparently something that people ‘feel’, ‘know intuitively’, or must have ‘faith in’, and cannot be demonstrated. How convenient!”

    It is rather inconvenient, actually; but pretty much what I expect. I cannot produce my best friend on demand. He will present himself at his convenience to persons he deems worth his time to visit. This idea that God is available to be produced on demand is absurd; for such a thing that could be produced on demand must necessarily therefore be subservient to me, rather than the other way round.

    “Yes, I accept logic and reason, which is the primary reason I reject gods.”

    It is the primary reason I *do* accept God (without trying very hard to explain what I mean by the word). I have here presented a few of those reasons which logic compels me to accept the existence of “God” (or at least something in that realm; might as well call it God).

    As you have seen, arguments between and among believers dwarf arguments between atheists (which are few) and believers (which are many, but highly varied).

  62. Ye Olde Statistician wrote (among other things): “But a syllogism must be materially correct, not simply formally correct…one must actually establish that P really does entail Q, not simply assert it.”

    It is not the atheist arguing that God is omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_evil

    The two paragraphs on Mormon’s response to the problem or question of evil is unusually (for Wikipedia) succinct and well written.

    I had intended to write more but the C-in-C is demanding some attention.

  63. Ye Olde Statistician

    January 4, 2016 at 10:48 am

    From the experience of change in the world, and taking nothing else into consideration than this bare fact of existence, one would – actually MUST – conclude that there cannot possibly be something that can escape the inexorable passage of time.

    Prove it. You are relying again on animal imagination. You cannot imagine anything that can escape “the inexorable passage of time” simply because you have no experience of any material thing that does so. But that the internal angles of a plane triangle sum to 180 degrees is immune to the passage of time. It remains true forever. It was true before it was discovered, and would remain true even if there were no material triangles in the universe. The truth of the proposition does not decay over time. Similarly, the proposition that “Snow is white” is independent of the existence of snow or of any white thing or of the English language. So too combinations of proposition, such as that “All men are mortal” and “Socrates is a man” entail that “Socrates is mortal.”

  64. Ye Olde Statistician

    January 4, 2016 at 11:03 am

    demonstrating the irrationality of the square root of two isn’t anything like attempting to demonstrate the existence of god(s).

    They are alike in that “empirical evidence” is not used as it is in the physics. That is why Physics, Mathematics, and Metaphysics are three distinct realms of knowledge. Physics begins with empirical experience about real bodies and uses induction to build theories that explain them. Mathematics begins with postulates regarding ideal bodies and uses deduction to conclude to theorems. That is why the conclusions of the Physics are only tentatively true while those of mathematics are absolutely true (given the postulates, of course). Metaphysics begins with empirical experience and uses deduction to conclude to determinations about being as such. Thus, Metaphysics is like Mathematics in using deduction. It is also like the Physics in that it starts from experience — but they go in different directions: Physics tries to explain the causes of motion while Metaphysics tries to explain what motion is.

    We understand that numbers are an aspect of our shared reality

    This cannot be if you only accept empirical determinations. Objective existence is when a thing has extension, weight, position, and other common sensibles. You can point to this apple, that apple, and the other apple and hold them in your hands, but you cannot point to “3” and hold it in your hands.

    but ‘god’ is apparently something that people ‘feel’, ‘know intuitively’, or must have ‘faith in’, and cannot be demonstrated.

    Actually, many people have demonstrated the existence of God. (I cannot answer for ‘god,’ since that is a different concept, like Impala and impala or Polish and polish.) Demonstrations for God have been provided by Aristotle, Plato, Plotinus, Maimonides, ibn Rushd, ibn Sinna, Jayanta Bhatta, Udayana, Annambhatta, Aquinas, Leibnitz, Goedel, et al. “Love” is also something that people ‘feel,’ ‘know intuitively,’ and must have ‘faith in.’ It can be shown forth, but not demonstrated in a scientific sense. “Faith” is from Latin fides. It has the same meaning as Saxon triewð, which is triewe (“faithful”) with the abstract noun -ith suffix. That is why two people in love pledge their “troth” (become “be-trothed”) to remain faithful to each other. Hence, the meaning-cluster of faith, truth, trust. You have faith in something or someone because you feel you can trust it.

    no one would apply this particular standard to anything else, like flying saucers or the Loch Ness monster.

    But surely you cannot argue against Nessie without some understanding of what Nessie is supposed to be! If I were to assert that aoileach capall exists, surely your first questions would be to ask what the heck aoileach capall is supposed to be!

    Well, go ahead – prove there is only one god

    There might be six gods or fifty. The logical proof is that there can be only one God. The concept signified by the Modern English word “God” is not the same as that signified by “god.” Even the Hindus make this distinction between their hundreds of gods and the God that underlies them all. As for the determination that if God exists he must be unique, that was already provided.

    I accept the idea of absolute truth.

    You are behind the times, amigo. There is now supposed to be “your truth” and “my truth,” “womyn’s truth” and all the rest. Nietzsche would weep at your acceptance of this medieval Catholic doctrine. The truth of whether Wellington won the battle of Waterloo can be left as an exercise for the reader.

    Beauty doesn’t exist. …that’s just a subjective assessment based entirely upon personal prejudice and preference.

    Assessment of what? There must be something in the thing in virtue of which you assess it as beautiful. The existence of beauty is independent of and prior to the assessment of any particular thing as “beautiful.” Sometimes one simply cannot see the beauty in something, as in the parable of Beauty and the Beast. But that does not mean the beauty wasn’t there. Besides, Aristotle gave criteria for the assessment of beauty, mentioned somewhere up above. The convertibility of the transcendentals means that the Good, the True, and the Beautiful are one and the same.

    Do you believe the Quran to be beautiful? Yes? No? If not, why not?

    I do not read classical Arabic and so do not have the ears to pass judgement. But I am willing to accept the judgement of those who are fluent. For the same reason I cannot judge the beauty of a six-legged essay in the old Ming examinations, but I can grasp the criteria by which they were judged: the balance, symmetry, and order of the ideograms presented in the essay.

    I think you are confusing “beauty” with “things I find appealing.”

    So, G/god isn’t a being among many others, for that would make this god just one more ‘thing’ among many other such things, and we can’t have that, now can we.

    Your reasoning is deficient. You are confusing the premise with the conclusion. Also, this does not apply to gods, who can be as plentiful as you please. If you study the chain of reasoning somewhere above, you will see that “we can’t have that” was not among the premises. Uniqueness was the necessary conclusion from potency and act.

    God is ‘being ITSELF’, and we know this because… ?

    Because of Aquinas’ “third way,” sometimes called the proof from contingency. It stems from the ordinary distinction between essence and existence. Essence, or the substantial nature of a thing, is what makes a thing that particular thing. But we may grasp the essence of something that does not exist; as in the case of unicorns or the Loch Ness Monster. Therefore, for something to actually exist (as opposed to potentially exist) it must have an act of existence. Through a chain of deductions, you can conclude from contingent being to the existence of a necessary being, one whose essence just is “to exist.” Hence, “Existence Itself” or “I AM” or some other signifier. This was covered by Briggs earlier in this series.

    To be (i.e. to exist) isn’t something that anything can ‘have’, like dimensionality or colour.

    This amount to an assertion that nothing exists. Certainly, this envelope beside me has existence, while unicorns do not.

    We say that something is, that it exists, because it has attributes, limits, and other defining characteristics that we can point to and describe.

    This is called “begging the question” or “circular reasoning.” You are defining existence to mean “material existence” and then concluding that nothing immaterial can exist. So much for God. So much too for Cantorian infinities (which are likewise “without limits, invisible and otherwise insensible” and transcendent).

    “…Late Modern elitist…”
    You know absolutely nothing about me, but you think it’s appropriate to call me this for simply questioning, and raising objections to, beliefs that far too many people just take for granted.

    It was suggested that I was an elitist because I held that Beauty was an absolute. I simply point out that the Late Modern elites derogate the entire concept of Beauty pretty much along the lines you have espoused. You are not among them because you question or raise objections. In fact, you seem to be reacting to the objections I have raised to the beliefs that far too many people just take for granted in the twilight of the Modern Age: viz., that beauty is simply a subjective matter of taste.

  65. Ye Olde Statistician

    January 4, 2016 at 11:13 am

    It is not the atheist arguing that God is omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent.

    But how does this necessarily entail that “people would live in peace, babies would not die and so on”? You cannot propose a barbara syllogism and blandly state that P entails Q. You have to show that P really does entail Q. This is not the same as simply establishing P.

    The two paragraphs you mention portray Mormonism as a sort of revived paganism, with the Old Pagan concept of God. Are you sure that is accurate?

  66. Ye Olde Statistician wrote “But how does this necessarily entail that “people would live in peace, babies would not die and so on”? You cannot propose a barbara syllogism and blandly state that P entails Q. You have to show that P really does entail Q. This is not the same as simply establishing P.”

    Well, it isn’t actually my argument; I merely recognize its existence. Perhaps Peter A. would speak for atheists at this point.

    Obviously you can define “benevolent” any way you wish, omnipotent has nuances, omniscient has nuances, and certain people collectively have spent over a thousand years refining those nuances until some people ask what the definition of “is” is.

    However, if you were to propose it I would agree that the strict liability definition or nuance of benevolence seems to be a straw-man argument made by atheists rather than a serious proposal by theists. I approach it from the other direction, whatever God does is “benevolent” and if a thing seems not to be benevolent, perhaps my understanding of benevolent needs refining.

    It is also the case that religions (and science!) tend to have special meanings for ordinary words; in the case of Catholicism I have a feeling that “essence” and “substance” have very nuanced meanings not exactly obvious.

    “The two paragraphs you mention portray Mormonism as a sort of revived paganism, with the Old Pagan concept of God. Are you sure that is accurate?”

    It is close enough for government work 🙂

    No doubt I bring my own prejudice to the task. I haven’t had time to explore the First Cause thing entirely; but I have a sense that the immovable, unchangeable cause of all other changes is probably not what I mean by “God”.

  67. Ye Olde Statistician

    January 4, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    Well, it isn’t actually my argument; I merely recognize its existence.

    You cited it in such a way as to derogate the use of modus tollens as a logical argument:
    YOS: “To start: do you understand modus tollens? It goes like this: 1. If P, then Q. 2. Q is false. 3. Therefore: P is false.”
    Michael 2: Atheists use this form of logic quite frequently. etc.

    certain people collectively have spent over a thousand years refining those nuances until some people ask what the definition of “is” is.

    That question was asked a long time ago:
    “In what sense is it asserted that all things ‘are’ one? For ‘is’ is used in many senses.”
    — Aristotle, The Physics, Book I, Part 2

    This can be illustrated easily with two syllogisms in modus ponens:
    1. All men are mortal
    2. Socrates is a man
    3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal
    compared to
    1. Green is an electromagnetic wave
    2. Grass is green
    3. Therefore, Grass is an electromagnetic wave.

    Clearly “Grass is green” in a very different way than “Socrates is a man”. In fact, it reflects the difference between an accident and an essence. The distinction is not in Greek, Latin, or English. Russian, in the present imperfective, does not even have the word “is.”

    I have a feeling that “essence” and “substance” have very nuanced meanings not exactly obvious.

    Nothing nuancey about them. A substance (or ousia) is simply a “thing” in the world, such as Fido, as opposed to a “heap,” such as a sand pile. It is a unified whole that subsists in itself and not in another. What makes Fido a unified whole rather than a “heap” of organs and tissues, is its substantial form, or essence.

    Now, Fido is a primary substance, but we may also predicate of Fido a secondary substance; viz., “dog.” Notice the contrary is not true. We can say Fido ? {X|X is a dog} but we cannot say dog ? {X|X is a Fido}.
    We can escalate from “dog” to further “secondary” substances: to “animal” to “living thing” and so on. For a Platonist, this equates to becoming more and more real; but to an Aristotelian, the primary substance, the empirically experienced thing is more real and the higher kinds (or genera) are simply predicated of it. You can imagine the specific Fido but you cannot imagine the generic “dog” as such. You will inevitably imagine at least a particular breed of dog. It gets worse if you try to imagine “animal,” etc. (Aside: This is another illustration of the difference between imagination and conception.)

    Fido may have other forms than his own essence and the generic essence of “dog.” He may also be “brown.” But Fido “is” brown in a very different way than he “is” a dog. He is essentially a dog, but accidentally brown. That is, brown is not itself a substance. “There is no brown without a brown thing,” in this case, the thing or substance called Fido. (BTW: please distinguish between Fido and the name “Fido.” The latter can and has been used to reference many different dogs as well as the Flight Dynamics Officer in NASA Mission Control.)

    That is, substance differs from the other nine Categories (quantity, quality, relation, location, etc.) in that it underlies all the others. Hence, sub-stantia, “that which stands under.” When we grasp the essence of a substance, we are said to “understand” it.

    [The Categories are the highest kinds. Fido may generalize to dog, animal, etc., but tops out at substance. Fido may also generalize to “brown” to “color” and eventually to “quality.” The Categories are:
    (1) substance; (2) quantity; (3) quality; (4) relatives; (5) somewhere; (6) sometime; (7) being in a position; (8) having; (9) acting; and (10) being acted upon.
    classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/categories.html]

    Hope this helps.

  68. I was in too much of a hurry to respond, and ended up messing up my reply. Yes, the plane triangle angle sum of 180 can withstand the passage of time, the concept of the triangle transcends actual instances of it in the material world, and as long as our universe exists there will be geometry, and therefore triangles.

    We have very good reasons to accept the existence of triangles, and in spite of the mistake I made in my previous post (i.e. “…there cannot possibly be something that can escape the inexorable passage of time”) I think it safe to say that the evidence for God (or gods) is nowhere close to being as complete as it is for them, especially when one acknowledges the fact that the evidence for God is practically zero. I’ve seen triangles, but I’ve never seen any gods, and I don’t think I should just accept the testimony of those who claim they have, if only because people – even a vast, overwhelming majority of them – can still be wrong about something they are absolutely certain of. The existence of flying saucer reports in the hundreds of thousands is evidence enough for that.

    I guess we will just have to agree to disagree on this one, because I really don’t think either one of us will become the opposite to what we are at the moment as a result of this dialogue.

  69. My daughter prayed to God that a certain boy would fall in love with her. He didn’t, therefore God does not exist.

    That is pretty much the extent of her logic.

    She accepts the possibility of a God existing that doesn’t cause boys to fall in love with her but she sees no utility in such a thing.

    So it is with a unchanging, timeless, shapeless, omni-everything BPA First Cause thing. It’s nice that a first cause existed as otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation; but is that a thing to pray to? No, for it serves no purpose.

    You pray for change.

  70. Peter A. writes “as long as our universe exists there will be geometry, and therefore triangles.”

    As long as intellect exists to define the word. If no mathematician exists, can a triangle exist? Probably not; for a triangle is a triangle because that is what we call a shape, and a shape is a shape because we choose to label any solid conformation of substance, or even imagination, such.

    “We have very good reasons to accept the existence of triangles”

    Indeed, it would be absurd to name a thing that does not exist, not even in an imaginary sense (dragon or unicorn for instance).

    Triangles exist because someone instantiated that name for a concept. The concept exists the moment someone contemplates its existence, and then perhaps gives it a name.

    “especially when one acknowledges the fact that the evidence for God is practically zero.”

    But I don’t acknowledge it. The evidence for God is everywhere; you and I are immersed in it, the same as a fish in water. By the same token, it would be almost impossible for a fish in water to prove the existence of water to another fish — why? Because it has no NAME. What you are immersed in your entire life you generally cannot sense, and if you cannot sense it you won’t name it.

    The point I make, and this is about the fourth time on just this thread I am making the same point, is that the perception of existence is required for a thing to get a name, but what is named is the perception, not the thing itself, which might not actually be a “thing” as such.

    What is an apple? It is a collection of things — skin, the meat of the fruit, the stem, its color, scent, taste. size and maybe other things; each of which also has a name. So the word “apple” is really an aggregate and can be rather variable so we have adjectives for different kinds of apples.

    “I’ve seen triangles, but I’ve never seen any gods”

    How would you know?

    Clearly you have defined “God” in your mind in a manner that guarantees this result. Many churches and religions define God as expressly not visible, not changeable, cannot interact with normal matter since doing so would change the matter and of course itself as otherwise it isn’t an interaction.

    It is very easy to believe in that kind of God because he might be “Dark Matter” which is theorized to exist in vast quantity but cannot be detected.

    But suppose God can take any form, or more likely inhabit anything without actually taking on any form necessarily; suppose he can do that concurrently and simultaneously, you get the evangelical Christian estimation that God is “in everything” and formless. In that case, you have seen God every day of your life most likely and simply don’t realize or appreciate it.

    Now then I don’t actually believe all that; it is too fuzzy and while possibly existing is something that can be largely ignored. I believe in a considerably more anthropomorphic God, one in which man is created in the image of him and that works both ways. He is the father of Jesus, Jesus is the son of God. Says so right in the bible.

    But what about the “in everything” thing? Well that’s easy; besides the person of God, who I might have met but I’m not sure who exactly it was and it probably doesn’t matter anyway, there’s a force that emanates from God and that is very widespread but not uniform. If it was uniform I would not know of its existence. But it is not uniform; it is less present or absent in wicked places, stronger in holy places but particularly noticeable in living things, including trees. Holy places in an otherwise wicked city create little “bubbles” that are rather sharply defined; in Oakland I noticed such a thing with a transition zone of about a quarter of an inch thick. I noticed the same thing at Warrenton Virginia; coming out of the mountains (holy) to a huge dome over Washington DC where I don’t feel any of this force; the demarcation is rather sharp. So abrupt was it that on entering Warrenton I turned around, went back up the road a small distance and tried it again to confirm this phenomenon was anchored to the ground.

    So, while I have not met God or seen him, I have seen and experienced phenomenon that I attribute to indicate his existence. This is the same as detecting a black hole (astronomy) by its gravitational effects on nearby stars. The black hole itself cannot be seen or directly detected by any means.

    “I don’t think I should just accept the testimony of those who claim they have”

    There is no should. This is a thing you choose based on a personal calculation of cost and benefit. The task would seem utterly hopeless but I believe each person, or at least some persons, have a “key” implanted in them before they were born, and this key helps you identify your God if and when the time comes. This is easily within the power of even less-than-omni-everything gods to make it possible to discern good from evil; for if there is a god, there is also (likely) an anti-god, and if either exists, then very likely a continuum of such things exists, and you are on that continuum and so am I and a great many other things.

    “I really don’t think either one of us will become the opposite to what we are at the moment as a result of this dialogue.”

    You will become refined in your thinking, just as I become refined in my thinking, as you express your thinking. Changing to your own opposite is unlikely and if it takes so little as an internet conversation to do that then your foundation seems weak. So what I expect is that you will refine your definition of “God”, perhaps accept that while you can easily NOT believe that definition (and I probably don’t believe in that kind either), other kinds of things are not excluded, probably exist, but whether it is worth your time to figure it out is for you to decide.

    YOS will assure you that my God is not his God, that my God is no god at all; and yet, mine is one I can pray to and change his mind in some small manner, change the course of my future. I have met mine; not in person because he is light itself and takes whatever form is useful, including no form at all. He is not timeless and unchanging; Jesus in particular was a spirit, then became man, was crucified and died — how many gods die? Note the dramatic difference in Old Testament (letter of the law) versus New Testament (spirit of the law).

    In other words, and to conclude, the “cost versus benefit” calculation about my god is favorable; it costs me little and the benefit is enormous, not just in the next life but this life. The cost is easy or hard; a broken heart and a contrite spirit, humility in other words, and it is in the humble moments that you obtain benefit — instruction and information that can be and often is life changing; sometimes very particular and immediate, as for instance the time the voice said, “change lanes now” and I changed lanes and immediately avoided a head-on collision with a drunken driver coming at high speed over a slight hill by the Aloha Stadium. Thank you, voice!

    I also believe that God, having your personal “key”, can easily convince you of his existence were it expedient to do so. Since he hasn’t, it isn’t.

  71. Ye Olde Statistician

    January 5, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    I’ve seen triangles, but I’ve never seen any gods

    Actually, you have seen objects that were more or less triangular, but chances are that the sides were not perfectly straight, or perhaps the corners were not completely closed. The theorems about plane triangles would be true even if no roughly triangular objects ever existed, if even the universe never existed and there was never a mind to think about them.

    The Greek gods were nature deities. Poseidon was not an old man with a trident who lived under the sea and caused earthquakes and tsunamis. Poseidon was the sea and the sea was Poseidon. You can actually see the god from dockside.

    Now, if the Judaeo-Christian God existed, we would expect to see certain evidences:
    1. An objective universe would exist.
    2. The natures of existing things would be capable of acting directly upon one another by secondary causation.
    3. These actions would be rationally ordered (i.e., there would be “laws” of nature)
    4. It would be ordered “by number, weight, and measure.”
    5. That order would be accessible in large measure to human reason, esp. by numbering, weighing, and measuring.
    Much of the above can be “seen.”

  72. Ye Olde Statistician

    January 5, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Many churches and religions define God as expressly not visible, not changeable, cannot interact with normal matter since doing so would change the matter and of course itself as otherwise it isn’t an interaction.

    “Interact”? So your god is like Poseidon? A thing in the world? What makes you think God is an object in physics, subordinate to physical laws? God acts; he does not inter-act. God may act on matter — ultimately by bringing matter into existence — but matter does not act on God. Consider this analogy: a cat walks across the room in order to drink some milk from a saucer. The first mover (of that particular act) is the saucer of milk. The cat would not have moved in that particular instance unless the saucer had been there. But it is also an unmoved mover: that the cat is crossing the room does not in turn act upon the saucer. (Upon reaching the saucer, the cat will act upon it, but this is the act of lapping milk, not the act of crossing the room.)

    So even in ordinary life we see instances where A acts on B but B does not act on A.

    Also, just as the first few theorems in Euclid do not prove everything about plane triangular figures, neither does the Prime Mover argument (and its siblings) demonstrate everything about God. In fact, not everything can be demonstrated, just as in mathematics not every true proposition can be proven. That is why revelation is needed. Some answers have to be in the back of the book. That the Godhead seems remote to folks like yourself is perhaps one reason why he sent his Word to dwell among us.

    God is not a cosmic vending machine, where you insert a prayer and — hey, presto! — out comes a benefit. Not all prayers are prayers of petition. There are prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of praise, etc. Although the Modern American does tend to think of things in a ‘what’s in it for me’ fashion.

  73. Ye Olde Statistician “So your god is like Poseidon?”

    He is if he wishes to be. But as Poseidon is poorly defined it is not a very helpful acknowledgment.

    I have already described my impression of God, making no claim that that is what he is, but is what I am permitted to see; a being of light itself that sees through my soul as if I were made of glass, a being that sees only other light, only good. Darkness cannot exist in its presence, neither can dark thoughts. He can take on any form; the bible mentions that he disguised himself and walked among his disciples and they did not recognize him. But in his glory he is a light brighter than any star and to actually present himself to a human would probably vaporize said human instantly.

    I believe you are conflating several roles or even persons into a single entity; I am glad I don’t face that complexity filled with dilemmas: Justice versus Mercy, Good versus Evil.

    “A thing in the world? What makes you think God is an object in physics, subordinate to physical laws?”

    I have no idea. At some risk of infinite recursion I would ask what makes you think that I think what I think you think I think; simpler would be your assumption of what you think I ought to be thinking assuming I am totally compliant with what you think is my religious dogma; but there almost isn’t one even within my branch of Christianity.

    Short version: God obeys his own laws. It is irrelevant in practice whether he must obey those laws or can choose not to obey them, for his choice is to obey the laws he makes. That is honor.

    It is a peculiarity of humanity to measure heirarchy by what laws you must obey, that is to say, using your own words, “subordinated to”. If I choose to always tell the truth; am I subordinate to the law of truth? Not really, for I have chosen it, and yet, if I were to choose otherwise, then I am not a man of honor. If I am a man of honor, then I will never choose dishonor and the question of whether I have chosen thusly because I am subordinate to the law, or merely honoring and obeying the law that I myself created, cannot be known.

    That’s almost as nebulous as orthodox Christianity so I’ll try a different approach.

    IF I choose to travel to San Francisco, that is my free will choice, the “first act”. Once I have made that choice, other choices come into play but they are limited and I must obey one of those choices; I am subordinated to those choices because of my first choice.

    So if the First Act of God is to choose to be “God”, then all other choices are subordinated to that First Choice, and at that point, God himself must obey the remainder of the choices in order to fulfill his first choice.

    He cannot suddenly choose to disobey one of his own laws AND keep his First Choice; but the First Choice takes precedence over all other choices! Therefore, the option of disobeying lesser choices does not exist; he is indeed subordinate to a great many things.

    There is in my religion a saying, “I, the Lord, Am Bound When Ye Do What I Say” meaning if we obey his commandments, He must deliver his side of the bargain; redemption and/or salvation for instance. What kind of God is not bound? You die and at the pearly gates are greeted by Saint Peter who says, “Just kidding! You go to hell. The rules changed just last week!”

    When Jesus said, “let this cup pass from me, but not as I will” — he subordinated himself to God. But some say he was God. So which is it? The entire creation would have been voided if Jesus did not subordinate himself to a law that came into existence concurrently with existence itself, more or less.

    C.S. Lewis explores the hierarchy of laws in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”. God is always subordinate to the First Law, but not necessarily to any other. The Witch tricks a boy into violating a law and his penalty is to be enslaved to her. But Aslan the lion, a metaphor for Jesus, knows a higher law that the witch does not; but it requires his mortal life — but not his immortal life that the witch appears not to know about or consider.

    God knows all of the laws, having made all of them; and the First Choice isn’t really a law but it is what set all other laws in motion. But they exist in a hierarchy which means it is okay to violate a lesser law to obey a greater law. The pharisees often tried to trick Jesus into disobeying a law, and he did! But he always obeyed the greater law when a choice was presented to him.

    Was Jesus subordinate to law? Not necessarily; it was his choice to subordinate himself to ALL law that gave him the power to redeem mankind. In subordination is superordination; in humility is strength; sounds like a lot of doublespeak, no?

    If I follow that pattern clearly established by God and Jesus; the implication is that God is the *most humble* being of them all; living every moment for billions of years with one purpose in mind, to care for his creation. He doesn’t play video games. He is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for as many billions of years as the universe is old.

    “God acts; he does not inter-act.”

    That’s sad. He interacts with me just fine. Rarely, but it’s there and when its there it is like nothing else on Earth.

    “Consider this analogy: a cat walks across the room in order to drink some milk from a saucer. The first mover (of that particular act) is the saucer of milk.”

    No. The first mover was the cat’s decision, and that was moved by the operation of its limbic nervous system, which came about because of the cats parents, and their parents back to the First Cat.

    The saucer of milk might not actually be a saucer of milk, but something the cat accepts as being a saucer of milk. It is not a magnet that pulls the cat. The volition to go to it is entirely up to the cat.

    “The cat would not have moved in that particular instance unless the saucer had been there.”

    So there’s a condition that the cat considers, but it is not a magnet with its own force, volition or culpability; acting on one cat but not another cat; for if you have had many cats, you know they do not all do anything at the same time; the saucer is not the mover. Each cat is its own mover which is part of their appeal.

    “That is why revelation is needed. Some answers have to be in the back of the book.”

    I do not see a connection between these two sentence yet you imply there is a connection. Revelation is from God to a human being, usually via the Second Comforter (Holy Ghost). Revelation is needed when the answers are NOT in the back (or the front) of the book.

    Consider the election of a pope. Why is there an election? God ought to simply declare who is to be his voice on Earth, and that assumes the existence of only one such voice when it is likely that God could speak to every human on Earth concurrently and simultaneously were it expedient to do so.

    The answer seems obvious — there’s an election because revelation is not involved; inspiration perhaps, but not revelation. We might have different understandings of what these words mean. To me, revelation is specific and clear; “Thus saith the Lord” kind of thing. Inspiration, typically a function of the Second Comforter, leads people into making wise choices but using their own intelligence and experience so that God does not have to TELL everyone what to do every moment of their lives. However, God is not the only force capable to inspire a human mind; the enemy of God can also do this and is why a dozen “inspired” people won’t get the same answer but hopefully a majority *will*.

    I know by personal experience both of these (and more).

    Muslims deny revelation after Mohammad. So do nearly all Christians except that the last revelator was John (at least in the order of the KJV; I think other apostles came after Revelation but that’s simply the order of presentation in the KJV of the New Testament).

    I accept that only apostles ever spoke authoritatively for Jesus in a binding sort of way. God can speak to anyone he wants but what he tells ME is not binding on you or anyone else because I am not an apostle or prophet.

    “That the Godhead seems remote to folks like yourself is perhaps one reason why he sent his Word to dwell among us.”

    That’s a bit fuzzy. The Godhead *is* remote; spatially, temporally, spiritually and a few more such measures.

    It is not clear what you mean by “us”. If you are speaking of Jesus, he was sent to live among a few Jews about 2,000 years ago. He wasn’t the Godhead. He was and is the Redeemer. That’s his role. It is not clear from the bible that he personally visited gentiles. I have found some indication that he did actually travel the world as legends exist far and wide; such as the god of peace in Hawaii, “Lono”, and of course the bearded god that was supposed to return to the Aztecs and they mistook Cortez for that god, or at least some of them did and consequently didn’t slaughter him and his crew the moment his boats came ashore. The Japanese have some interesting legends as well.

    “God is not a cosmic vending machine”

    There you go deciding again what God is and what he is not. If he wishes to be a cosmic vending machine then by golly he is a cosmic vending machine.

    “…where you insert a prayer and — hey, presto! — out comes a benefit.”

    Your mileage obviously varies. It works pretty well for me. The secret of success is first asking what he would likely grant in the first place, and then asking for that. Some things he just does not do and one of those things is meddle with your free agency. You must choose your path. So praying for girlfriends and boyfriends usually does not work. Praying to be shown the way to be worthy for one will almost always work, but the means by which you are made worthy might be a difficult path.

    “Not all prayers are prayers of petition. There are prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of praise, etc.”

    Indeed. I have a doubt about their effectiveness; it is like when someone that has no idea what is a good photograph praises one of my photos. My instinct is to question his motives. On the other hand, ingratitude I take to be a serious sin; one ought always to acknowledge God in every thing even if he didn’t actually provide that particular benefit or thing you wish to praise.

    So my praise or thanksgiving tends toward things I can actually sincerely express; gratitude for his existence for starters. I learn in the book of Job that humility is what God wishes to see. Nothing I can do compares to what God can do or has done (impressive list in Job), but I can do one thing — humble myself and acknowledge that I have needs without laying out a “shopping list” per se, but acknowledging specific areas of need showing that I have thought about it and perhaps came up with a plan, what does God (or the Second Comforter) think about it? That makes it a simple yea/nay kind of inspiration very easy for him and reliable for me.

    “Although the Modern American does tend to think of things in a ‘what’s in it for me’ fashion.”

    As does Ogg the caveman and every human in between. In what way do you differ?

  74. YOS writes “Hope this helps.” (in reference to the Categories and their explanations).

    Yes, it is a lot to chew on. It helps to know what you mean by words that have meanings not in common use but which do have carefully considered meanings.

    My father tried some of that on me several decades ago, I think he is what is called a “nominalist”. Hmm, maybe a realist. He spoke quite a bit about the “perfect chair” next to which all practical chairs are compared as to chair-ness. This perfect chair would exist even if no actual chairs had ever been built. That seems odd to me. More likely someone built something to sit on, someone else said, “What is that?” and the first person said, “It is a chair” and forever after that is what it was called, plus anything like it within some fuzzy boundary. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/chair (see etymology) from Ancient Greek ??????? ?(kathédra),

    I might be a conceptualist: “Conceptualists hold a position intermediate between nominalism and realism, saying that universals exist only within the mind and have no external or substantial reality.”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nominalism

    Modified somewhat. Universals might exist but I cannot know it; only the Universal (God) can know it but then it is in his mind and thus is still mental rather than having its own existence independent of any thinker.

    What I “know” is what has been instantiated in my mind. Whether it is instantiated in yours, or if so was it the same as mine, I cannot know. Some concepts exist only in the mind, such as the number “three”, but they exist, because they can be manipulated, considered, argued, expressed and so on.

    A dog is a dog not because it is a dog, but because I call it a dog based on a few recognition points that may vary considerably from the recognition points that you use to identify something as a dog. By itself, it is not a dog, it isn’t anything at all until someone says what it is.

    To be sure, calling a dog a dog has not changed it; but now it has a name and can be added to a class (mammal) which itself can be added to a class (animal) and so on. No subordination is implied; this ordering also exists only in a human mind. One is not superior to the other; the ordering itself is an abstraction for human convenience.

    Using set theory (more or less), Fido is in set “dog” but Fido is not a set; it is a member of a set. dogs: {wolfhound, sheepdog, collie,…} is a set of members or instances of “dog”, where dog has properties (but not set!) [mammal, fur, social pack behavior, communicates by barking, trainable,…]

    If I were writing a computer program I would identify the properties of dog by the word “dog” and the set of instance of dogs would be “dogs[]”.

    Wiki: “Some resemblance nominalists will concede that the resemblance relation is itself a universal, but is the only universal necessary.”

    Yes, that seems reasonable. That which resembles a dog probably is a dog, with the aggregated properties of all dogs witnessed revealing the existence and nature of “dog-ness” without perhaps also revealing the perfect dog (which is, IMO, a Border Collie).

    It is not clear to me why so many philosophers argue about so many things when in common experience 7 billion people probably know what is a “dog” without much complexity.

    “An apple and a ruby are both red, for example, and their common redness results from sharing a universal. If they are both red at the same time, the universal, red, must be in two places at once. This makes universals quite different from individuals; and it makes them controversial.”

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/universa/

    I think the authors exaggerate the controversy except among hobbyists looking for an interesting and insoluble controversy.

    “if redness and greenness are not real entities, how could our apple be colored at all? Without its distinctive qualities, an apple wouldn’t even be an apple.” (same source)

    I hope nobody is being paid to worry about stuff like that, but if they are, I hope I am not the payer.

    I believe the apple is not colored. It obtains “color” the moment it hits my brain, and because I am somewhat different in color sensitivity, it is nearly certain that what I see is not what you see. The specific color therefore isn’t a property of the apple, but of the beholder. However, since most people behold it the same way it usually doesn’t matter whether you assign “color” as the act of perceiving or a natural property of the apple itself. But it helps (in my opinion) to recognize that all labels are human simply because of the anthropic principle; it takes a human to ask these kinds of questions in the first place, so there cannot be a situation where no human exists and yet the question still exists as to what color is the apple.

  75. “Honey is called sweet because it contains sweetness; the body is called white because it contains whiteness; and so in all other cases.”
    http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/categories.2.2.html

    This is perhaps the most significant difference between his theory and my experience. Honey does not contain sweetness; it contains polysaccharides which my mind intereprets as “sweet” but yours might not; sweetness is not a property or “differentia” of honey except as experienced by, apparently, most people.

    And so on.

    But he sorts himself out: “What is meant is that these said qualities are capable of producing an ‘affection’ in the way of perception. For sweetness has the power of affecting the sense of taste; heat, that of touch; and so it is with the rest of these qualities.”

    But even here, admitting he has no idea what causes sweetness, it is the polysaccharide that affects the taste buds which in turn is interpreted as sweet.

    “Thus such conditions are called affections, not qualities.”

    It appears he uses “qualities” to denote properties of a thing (a substance), and “affections” to perceptions, how a person is affected by a property of a thing.

    The utility of knowing the way Aristotle used these words is that contemporary writers and for a very long time thereafter, maybe a thousand years or more, used him as an authority on these things and thus the writings of others, such as Plato, can be better informed by having some knowledge of Aristotle’s explanations of these things. So, while pretty thick and using words in non-modern ways, it is still useful and I appreciate you pointing it out to me.

  76. Ye Olde Statistician

    January 6, 2016 at 9:02 am

    God obeys his own laws. It is irrelevant in practice whether he must obey those laws or can choose not to obey them, for his choice is to obey the laws he makes.

    So say the muslims; but occasionalism has pitfalls.

    God obeys his own laws. It is irrelevant in practice whether he must obey those laws or can choose not to obey them, for his choice is to obey the laws he makes.

    So if God is author of the law of gravity, then he must obey that law and fall down? However, I am not entirely sure that the physics of inanimate material bodies applies to God.

    If you mean the moral law, the mistake lies in thinking that the Good is something distinct from the God.

    [the saucer of milk] is not a magnet that pulls the cat.

    Of course not. It is a final cause, not an efficient cause.

    Naturally, there are a number of stages in the efficient cause of the cat’s movement: neurons firing, nerves transmitting, muscles contracting, and so on. But the fact remains that the saucer of milk (or perhaps what the cat perceives as a saucer of milk) is what initiated the motion of the cat, and it did so without being moved itself. It does not recoil even slightly as the cat begins to move toward it. Hence, it is an unmoved mover. There is action, but no interaction.

    Consider the election of a pope. Why is there an election?

    To pick a new pope. However, in Alexandria, the Coptic Christians pick their pope by lot, not election.

    “Although the Modern American does tend to think of things in a ‘what’s in it for me’ fashion.”

    As does Ogg the caveman and every human in between. In what way do you differ?

    On occasion, and by the grace of God, it think about what’s in it for someone else. This is called “love,” which Modern Americans often confuse with sexual attraction.

  77. Ye Olde Statistician writes “So say the muslims; but occasionalism has pitfalls.”

    My opinion of Muslims has just improved. I have no idea what is occasionalism; something to add to my list of words that probably has hidden nuances of meaning.

    “So if God is author of the law of gravity, then he must obey that law and fall down?”

    It is unclear if God is the author of the law of gravity or simply the author of the universe which evolved its own laws and God saw that it was good. It is also unclear if “down” has any significance to God. There is no “down”, gravity is mutual attraction between bodies of a certain kind of matter and remains quite a bit of uncertainty about exactly what it is and how it works.

    It seems that Jesus obeyed the law of gravity and did not require weighted boots to keep him on the ground.

    Whether this is a “must” is a topic I have already addressed. Perhaps you could re-read that part. Whether God possesses laws that supersede gravity is another topic I have already addressed. Re-read that one, too. After all, rockets violate the law of gravity quite regularly, but it is not a violation; it is obedience to a superior law and there’s a price to pay (“work”) to do it. The most superior laws I suspect exist and I have no knowledge of them.

    “However, I am not entirely sure that the physics of inanimate material bodies applies to God.”

    I am fairly sure they do not apply to God since I do not consider him an inanimate material body.

    “If you mean the moral law, the mistake lies in thinking that the Good is something distinct from the God.”

    If you have been reading my commentary, which increasingly seems unlikely, you may remember I have already made this observation. It is no accident that “Good” *is* “God”, for god is pronounced good (in Norwegian, if I remember right). God provides the universal definition of good. What God does is good by definition and for a guide to good, observe what God does.

    “Of course not. It is a final cause, not an efficient cause.”

    Say what? The saucer of milk is not any kind of cause. I can see mischief in your thinking; it is transference of guilt onto something else that has no capacity to assume culpability. Eve is not guilty; she did not choose her behavior — the apple itself caused Eve to eat it. With all of the “causes” surrounding you I wonder how you choose from among them. Not only is there a saucer of milk, ten thousand things are laying around, each some sort of “cause”. This has become no longer merely straining at gnats, there’s a swarm of them, each a “cause”.

    “But the fact remains that the saucer of milk (or perhaps what the cat perceives as a saucer of milk) is what initiated the motion of the cat, and it did so without being moved itself.”

    Nope. I cannot seem to make my mind go there, not even as an exercise in trying to perceive this odd way of looking at things. You’d get along famously with my father who has a similar way about him. Maybe you ARE him.

    “the Coptic Christians pick their pope by lot, not election.”

    I like it. It eliminates campaigning. Presumably they believe God will arrange the lots to come out the way He wants it to come out. He could just say who he wants next but no one seems to do it that way.

    Me: In what way do you differ?

    You: “On occasion, and by the grace of God, it think about what’s in it for someone else. This is called “love,” which Modern Americans often confuse with sexual attraction.”

    No doubt; but Modern Americans did not invent the word, eros, for it.

    But I note that you avoided answering how you differ in this regard.

  78. Ye Olde Statistician

    January 6, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    It is unclear if God is the author of the law of gravity or simply the author of the universe which evolved its own laws

    More and more, your god sounds like some old pagan deity.

    It seems that Jesus obeyed the law of gravity and did not require weighted boots to keep him on the ground.

    According to traditional Christian doctrine, Jesus was fully man as well as fully God.

    After all, rockets violate the law of gravity quite regularly

    They do no such thing. You do not understand physics.

    It is no accident that “Good” *is* “God”, for god is pronounced good (in Norwegian, if I remember right)

    There are far better reasons than a linguistic coincidence in a minor language. The congruence does not hold in Syriac, Greek, Latin, French, Russian, etc.

    The saucer of milk is not any kind of cause.

    Of course it is; but like many Moderns, you conflate cause with efficient causes. There are four kinds: material, formal, efficient, and final.
    1. material: what is X made of?
    2. formal: what makes it an X?
    3. efficient: what made the X?
    4. formal: what is X made for?
    The first two explain the being of X; the latter two address its becoming.

    Modern Americans did not invent the word, eros

    Indeed, and perhaps not having the word makes it difficult to make the distinction in their minds between eros, philos, and agape.

    Eve is not guilty; she did not choose her behavior — the apple itself caused Eve to eat it.

    Why did she not eat something else, then? You are still thinking of the saucer of milk as an efficient cause. Perhaps you are confusing purpose with motive? Every motion is a motion toward some end. She did not eat at random. She ate the forbidden fruit in particular.
    Cf. also the difference between rational creatures and non-rational creatures.

  79. I just couldn’t resist the temptation to comment, once again, in response to the following claim made by YOS:

    “Now, if the Judaeo-Christian God existed, we would expect to see certain evidences:
    1. An objective universe would exist.
    2. The natures of existing things would be capable of acting directly upon one another by secondary causation.
    3. These actions would be rationally ordered (i.e., there would be “laws” of nature)
    4. It would be ordered “by number, weight, and measure.”
    5. That order would be accessible in large measure to human reason, esp. by numbering, weighing, and measuring.
    Much of the above can be “seen.””

    YOS, take out the phrase “Judeo-Christian” in the above and you might actually have a valid point. Your assumption that God must be of the Judeo-Christian variety is a totally unjustified leap of faith on your part. I can perfectly understand why someone may be an agnostic, pantheist or deist, because these people make very few claims about God, but Jews and Christians go way, way beyond mere affirmation of God’s existence, and that’s the problem: they assert what they could not possibly know.

  80. Ye Olde Statistician “More and more, your god sounds like some old pagan deity.”

    Immeasurably old. The benefit of “pagan” is that an omnipotent, benevolent God will be known by all humans everywhere but perhaps described in ways appropriate for each age and culture.

    What is less likely to be accurate is modern Christian doctrine contaminated by politics, power and prestige.

    “According to traditional Christian doctrine, Jesus was fully man as well as fully God.”

    Another TCD bites the dust!

    Jesus advised his followers to be them perfect even as his father, who was still in heaven was perfect.

    You have repeatedly expressed criticism of “Modern Americans” as if that is a recognizable class of person and that it means something, more anyway than being alive and American!

    “Why did she [Eve] not eat something else, then?”

    I have no idea. That’s the way the story is written. She was invited to eat of all the fruit in the garden but so far as I can remember there is no mention of what she had for breakfast.

    “She did not eat at random. She ate the forbidden fruit in particular.”

    So it seems. It is why the story exists.

  81. Peter A., playing whack-a-mole with YOS, wrote a few things that you can see just above 🙂

    “Christians go way, way beyond mere affirmation of God’s existence, and that’s the problem: they assert what they could not possibly know.”

    You were doing fine up until that point.

    What God tells me or reveals to me is is a thing I know with certainty. It is not for you to say what I cannot know. You can say almost the same, changing only a word: They assert what they could not possibly prove. I cannot prove to you what I know with certainty (much less proving to you things I do not know with certainty).

    As to YOS; it is a strange world where saucers move cats rather than the other way round and if you can number things by weights and measures you have just proven the existence of God.

    As for me, you can plainly see I get no respect from Catholics *or* atheists. I might as well look forward to Valhalla.

  82. Ye Olde Statistician

    January 7, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    take out the phrase “Judeo-Christian” in the above and you might actually have a valid point. Your assumption that God must be of the Judeo-Christian variety is a totally unjustified leap of faith on your part.

    What I wrote was IF the Judeao-Christian God existed. That is, I posed it as a hypothetical and asked in good scientific fashion what consequences we might expect IF the hypothesis were true. According to Carnap’s version of positivism:
    M. P?{Q1 and Q2 and… Qn}
    m. AND {Q1 and Q2 and… Qk}
    THEREFORE P is “probably” true with p=k/n
    Of course, positivism is hooey, but it is much favored in Certain Quarters. Among classical theists, God is not a hypothesis, but a logical conclusion.

    For example, consider China:

    “It was not that there was no order in nature for the Chinese, but rather that it was not an order ordained by a rational personal being, and hence there was no conviction that rational personal beings would be able to spell out in their lesser earthly languages the divine code of laws which he had decreed aforetime. The Taoists, indeed, would have scorned such an idea as being too naïve for the subtlety and complexity of the universe as they intuited it.”
    — Needham, Joseph, Science and Civilisation in China. 1 Introductory Orientations. Cambridge University Press (1954).

    IOW, #5 was off the table in their theistic worldview. Further, their belief in the eternal cycles meant that the sages directed their researched toward determining the current location on the cosmic cycle rather than on cause and effect. Whatever happens has happened before, innumerable times. There is no reason for it; it is just time for it to happen (again).

    Similarly, the muslim belief in occasionalism entailed that so-called “laws of nature” reduced to mere “habits of God.”

    “…our opponent claims that the agent of the burning is the fire exclusively; this is a natural, not a voluntary agent, and cannot abstain from what is in its nature when it is brought into contact with a receptive substratum. This we deny, saying: The agent of the burning is God, through His creating the black in the cotton and the disconnexion of its parts, and it is God who made the cotton burn and made it ashes either through the intermediation of angels or without intermediation. For fire is a dead body which has no action, and what is the proof that it is the agent? Indeed, the philosophers have no other proof than the observation of the occurrence of the burning, when there is contact with fire, but observation proves only a simultaneity, not a causation, and, in reality, there is no other cause but God.”
    — al-Ghazali, The Incoherence of Philosophy

    IOW, consequence #2 is not entailed in muslim theology.

    As for the pagans, a multitude of whimsical gods working at cross-purposes was not commensurate with belief in a rational order. A few Greeks went down that path, but they were the Greeks like Plato or Aristotle, who postulated a God behind the gods who imposed order on them.

  83. “What I wrote was IF the Judeao-Christian God existed.” – YOS

    Yes, but it wouldn’t require the existence of a specifically Judeo-Christian God for what follows in your list to be true. Any old God would (almost) certainly do, even the Islamic one, Sol Invictus, and the one that Akhenaten worshipped. What I’m trying to say is that there is nothing at all special about the Judeo-Christian god, it is just like any other.

    “What God tells me or reveals to me is is a thing I know with certainty.” – Michael

    Which raises the question as to how it is that you know that what you are receiving actually is from God, and not something else.

  84. Peter A. “Which raises the question as to how it is that you know that what you are receiving actually is from God, and not something else.”

    What is it with you and YOS that you don’t read, or remember, my words? You have the order backwards. I define what I receive as being from God or credited to God although the actual agent could be almost anything operating as an agent of God. This I have explained more than once.

    What I have learned about God is what God (or his angels, agents or other appointed representatives) have revealed; combined with my own thinking and observing. My God is not yours. Yours probably does not exist, a thing you have already figured out.

    When you say, “Not something else”, I invite your imagination. What do you suppose advised me to “change lanes now” to avoid a head-on collision? What do you suppose advised me to turn around and go render assistance to a man whose daughter had just been in an automobile accident? I will be happy if you acknowledge that something exists that ties people together, for that is almost conspicuously obvious.

    Nor is it just people. I have had a peculiar influence on birds, owls and eagles in particular. Sometimes ravens. It works both ways. They have an influence on me. but that’s a different story for a different day.

  85. Ye Olde Statistician

    January 8, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    Yes, but it wouldn’t require the existence of a specifically Judeo-Christian God for what follows in your list to be true.

    That is the weakness of the scientific approach. There are always multiple theories that can account for the same set of facts.

    Any old God would (almost) certainly do, even the Islamic one

    Actually, no. As indicated earlier, the Islamic view of God precludes the possibility of secondary causation (item #2 on the list). Similarly, the Chinese view precludes #5. Further, in many cases, the existence of the world is not a consequence of the gods, who are supposed to have merely re-arranged a pre-existing matter into a world: e.g., from the body of a dead giant. One of the consequences IF those gods existed would be that the universe is itself an organic being and that the stars are “alive, divine, and influential in human affairs.” The Judeao-Christian God, otoh, entails that the heavens are “just another created thing,” and there are no dryads in the tree, no nymphs in the springs.

    Sol Invictus, and the one that Akhenaten worshipped.

    Aurelian made a public cult of sun-worship when he reunited the empire but I don’t know that there was any particular theology. That is, the Sun was not credited with any particular acts of creation, only with being awesome and hot.

  86. “What is it with you and YOS that you don’t read, or remember, my words?” – Michael

    Sorry 🙁

    “What do you suppose advised me to turn around and go render assistance to a man whose daughter had just been in an automobile accident? I will be happy if you acknowledge that something exists that ties people together, for that is almost conspicuously obvious.” – Michael

    I have no idea, because I wasn’t there. I do know this however: if I had been in your position I probably would not have come to anyone’s rescue, because I’m just not like that. Most people probably like to think they would at least make an effort to save someone, especially if there was little or no risk to their own life in doing so, but no one really knows how they will behave until they are actually confronted by such a situation.

    Something that exists that ties people together. Can I assume you don’t mean our natural gregariousness and reliance upon other members of our species in order for our societies to even function in the first place? I don’t understand the point you are trying to make here, and this isn’t stubborness on my part – I really don’t understand.

    “When you say, “Not something else”, I invite your imagination.” – Michael

    Yes, imagination, that’s a good example. The main problem with unverifiable personal experiences is the lack of corroboration, which for the person concerned may not be such an issue, but for those that he/she tries to convince of the reality of the event in question is an insurmountable problem. I’ve never had anything like what you have recounted here happen to me, and this is one of the many reasons why I don’t believe in God. I’ve never experienced anything that I could point to and wonder, “Is this a message intended for me, from some higher power?”

    “That is the weakness of the scientific approach.” – YOS

    There is no other viable approach that I am aware of. Nothing else works as well as THE method does. The fact that it cannot tell us everything we may wish to know, that it cannot answer literally every conceivable question that one may ask, isn’t in my view a weakness. It’s a strength, because it separates the proverbial wheat from the chaff. For example, the question “Is our shared reality nothing more than a sophisticated, computer-generated fantasy (like in that film ‘The Matrix’)?” cannot be answered by science, but then I would argue that the question itself is flawed, and the assumptions that underlie it unjustified (for instance, one could legitimately ask whether those who have created our world are themselves actually real, or whether they are just one level higher in the hierarchy of ‘realities’ that exist. Infinite regression quickly results from such wild speculation, and this is one of the reasons we should reject this hypothesis from the very beginning).

    “There are always multiple theories that can account for the same set of facts.” – YOS

    Yes, and via a process of elimination we narrow down the number of potential explanations that can account for whatever it is that one wishes to account for. I don’t see a problem here, because this is the way investigations work. Just ask any detective.

    “My God is not yours. Yours probably does not exist, a thing you have already figured out.” – Michael 2

    There’s no “probably” about it. For over 30 years I tried to find evidence, a reason – any reason – to believe there may be what most people call ‘God’, but I came up with precisely nothing. The arguments of theistic philosophers were, on a superficial level, convincing, but then I examined the details more closely and realised they didn’t have a case. God doesn’t exist. That’s a fact. I realise that now, and no longer waste my precious time on this Earth trying to find something that just isn’t there. ‘God’ is an idea the human race would be much better off without, and all the evidence for this claim I need can be summed up in two words – Islamic State.

  87. Peter A. writes “The main problem with unverifiable personal experiences is the lack of corroboration, which for the person concerned may not be such an issue, but for those that he/she tries to convince of the reality of the event in question is an insurmountable problem.”

    The insurmountability works both ways; your inability to persuade me of the nonexistence of God stems from the same problem, and yet, it isn’t exactly symmetrical. To prove the non-existence of a thing, one must define a thing, and then search all possible hiding places of the thing, only then can it be said with certainty to not exist.

    But that thing can easily prove itself by presenting itself to a witness. Of course, the proof is valid only for that witness and cannot usually be shared.

    Furthermore, what is witnessed may well not be confirming to any of several other people’s claims. Do my experiences confirm the existence of YOS’ God? Almost certainly not. It confirms the existence of my God (to be more precise, it defines or creates my foundation of understanding, on which can be added claims whose veracity may vary).

    “I’ve never had anything like what you have recounted here happen to me, and this is one of the many reasons why I don’t believe in God.”

    If I knew you were pedantic (precise in language) I would note that “don’t believe in God” is quite different from “believing there is no God”. I honor those persons that, having no reason to believe in a God, therefore do not; for that is a logical conclusion. It is not logical to conclude that no God exists, especially when no definition is provided of what exactly you believe does not exist.

    (Re: YOS and scientific method inapplicable to religion) “There is no other viable approach that I am aware of. Nothing else works as well as THE method does.”

    The scientific method is limited in scope or application. It uses instruments made of electromagnetic particles (atoms, etc) to detect other electromagnetic particles. That is pretty much all there is to it. Neutrinos are incredibly difficult to detect and can be detected only because occasionally one will interact with an atom of our detector. “Dark Matter” is considered possibly undetectable because it simply doesn’t interact except at gravity and for that you need a lot of it. Dark Matter appears not to be “particles” that can impart kinetic energy.

    “For example, the question ‘Is our shared reality nothing more than a sophisticated, computer-generated fantasy?’ cannot be answered by science.”

    Similar questions exist in religion and are just as useless. As you have proposed, the practical solution is to ignore the question and proceed as if things are what they seem to be.

    “via a process of elimination we narrow down the number of potential explanations that can account for whatever it is that one wishes to account for.”

    A great many scientific and religious claims can be eliminated by this process. An omni-everything, benevolent God that keeps humans as pets almost certainly does not exist (I treat it as *certain* for my own purposes) but some other kinds of god are not ruled out.

    “For over 30 years I tried to find evidence, a reason – any reason – to believe there may be what most people call ‘God’, but I came up with precisely nothing.”

    Whereas for me the reason and evidence presented itself with no search by me. But not my brother, sister, father, mother. Wife yes. Her story is more dramatic than mine.

    I suppose I should mention that while I wasn’t looking for God, my mind at such times was in a state seeking answers to Life, the Universe and Everything and thus amenable to being instructed by what is and not cluttered by thousands of conflicted claims made by other people. I think sometimes it takes a type of “key” to open the door. I’m a bit familiar with Carl Jung as to archetypes although I seem to treat the word different. I have learned a lot about God by studying what he has done. The master is revealed by his pottery, or something like that. But his actual existence, and that the pottery did not make itself, is a thing he must announce for himself by himself, and for me he did, and for you evidently not.

    I’ll admit to some puzzlement how a church can exist that expressly disclaims that anyone can know God by revelation and must believe this one or that one based on ancient words that might, in their day, have been the equivalent of a fictional drama.

    “God is an idea the human race would be much better off without”

    Now you go screwing up some good logical reasoning with a bit of emotional non-science. The Darwinian interpretation is trivially simple — all advanced cultures got that way because of religion. Religion is the glue of society all the way back to Gobekli Tepi. Rosseau speaks on it somewhat as pertains to Social Contract.

    A society must have a common set of ethics and moral laws; and the source of that ethic must transcend any particular human authority. There doesn’t need to be a God in actuality; but there had better be a belief; but a belief in a complete fiction cannot forever be maintained. It takes a few people that know there’s a God to build and maintain the social belief system.

    But with so few people actually having encountered some aspect of God, quite a lot of variability is inevitable.

    So that is why I said that your God does not exist, whereas mine exists. Plain to see my God is not all that demanding you know he exists; for that is the trivial thing — the hard thing is what comes after that! What does he want and what is he offering?

    Well, what he wants is for us, his human creation, to serve each other. He doesn’t want to be involved in your daily affairs.

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