William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Are We Special? New Thoughts about the Anthropic Principle — Guest Post by Bob Kurland

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Editor’s note This post first appeared at Kurland’s home site. My criticisms follow.

“Scientists are slowly waking up to an inconvenient truth – the universe looks suspiciously like a fix. The issue concerns the very laws of nature themselves. For 40 years, physicists and cosmologists have been quietly collecting examples of all too convenient ‘coincidences’ and special features in the underlying laws of the universe that seem to be necessary in order for life, and hence conscious beings, to exist. Change any one of them and the consequences would be lethal.” — Paul Davies, winner of the 1995 Templeton Prize

“It is a strange fact, incidentally, that religious apologists love the anthropic principle. For some reason that makes no sense at all, they think it supports their case. Precisely the opposite is true. The anthropic principle, like natural selection, is an alternative to the design hypothesis. It provides a rational, design-free explanation for the fact that we find ourselves in a situation propitious to our existence.” — Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

The two quotations give two different views of the Anthropic Principle, that our universe is finely tuned to support carbon-based life; it’s known in several versions ranging in acronym form from Weak Anthropic Principle (WAP), to Strong Anthropic Principle (SAP), to Christian Anthropic Principle (CAP), to Completely Ridiculous Anthropic Principle (you do the acronym).

My interest has been awakened again by conversations with an author who believes that the Anthropic Principle, as exemplified in a series of physical events and values for constants, the anthropic coincidences, strongly and quantitatively (via probability arguments) supports the proposition of a creating God.

I also believe that these anthropic coincidences help us to believe in God, but I do not believe that probability arguments, as they have been used heretofore, are valid. Rather, I take the point of view of the psalmist in Psalm 19 (KJV):

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.

Anthropic coincidences have been discussed in two other posts (here and here). I here summarize those arguments:

  • Features of the universe—e.g. space dimensionality 3; the mass/energy content of the initial universe that enabled expansion but not immediate collapse; uniformity in very early universe; size;
  • Finely tuned values for fundamental physical parameters—e.g. the mass difference between proton and neutrons that enables stability for nuclear processes; the carbon-12 excited state energy that by resonance enhances the probability of carbon-12 nucleus formation from a rare collision of three He nuclei;
  • Nature of physical laws—e.g ratio of electromagnetic force to gravitational force; inverse cube force law for gravity; quantum mechanical laws that enable chemical bonding and (see below) the special properties of water;
  • “Accidental” geo-astronomical features–e.g. tilt of the earth’s axis enabling life-friendly climate, unusually large moon shielding earth from asteroid and meteor collision.

It must be emphasized that there are many more instances of such fine tuning—parameters for which the values have to lie between narrow limits to enable a life-supporting universe, and many more examples of geo-astronomical and chemical features. Ellis specifies general conditions that must obtain for a universe to contain life as we know it.

Some Christian apologists use the anthropic coincidences as an argument for the existence of God by citing the very low probability for their occurrence; all these happening would not occur by chance. A major objection to this procedure, which Ellis remarks, is that the universe is a single datum—probability arguments are generally applied to samples from larger collections for which we have information about variability.

For example, if you’ve examined 20,000 crates of oranges and found 100 crates containing bad oranges, you’d be justified in putting a probability of 100/20,000 or .005 in finding a bad orange in the next crate. But if you’ve only come across one crate of oranges, then it’s speculation to put a probability on finding a bad orange. (But see below.)

Another error one finds is that some apologists list a string of fine tuning examples (call them a,b,c,d,…, x), and then use the argument that P(a,b,c,d, …, x) = P(a) P(b) P(c) P(d)…P(x).

This would be true if the events were independent, in other words if what happened for one event did not depend on what happened for another. Such independence will not necessarily hold. Consider, for example, the properties of water that are life-friendly: its high freezing and boiling points, high specific heat, etc., and its surface tension, low specific gravity of ice, maximum density of liquid water at 4 deg C.

These properties all depend on the very unusual capacity of protons in a H2O molecule to form strong hydrogen bonds to oxygen atoms in other H2O molecules. And that hydrogen bonding capability arises from quantum mechanics and the physical nature of electrostatic attraction. So it is one feature, not many, for which a probability should entered. And how do you assess the probability of quantum mechanics giving rise to hydrogen-bonding?

“But is it probable that probability brings certainty?” — Blaise Pascal, Pensees 496

I’m going to try a different approach, using probability as a measure of belief. (I apologize to those professional statisticians and mathematicians who will certainly be offended by my presumption.) The approach is my take on Richard Jeffrey’s Subjective Probability.

Let’s start with a different definition of probability, based on strength of belief. Consider the following examples for buying stock. You overhear a conversation between a president of a software company and a friend that he’s going to buy XYZ internet utility, expecting that the stock price will rise to $100 as a merger prospect; it’s currently at $15. You buy the stock at $15: the assigned probability is the ratio, your bet/expected gain or p=15/100 =0.15. Here’s a second example: suppose your Uncle Louie tells you he’s heard that a gold mine has struck a vein of rare earths; its stock is currently $1.50 (a penny stock) but Uncle says it’s sure to rise to $100. You’re willing to risk $1.50 (but not anything more), so you buy the stock. You’re staking a probability of 1.50/100 = 0.015 that the stock will rise to the $100 figure.

The next step is to consider conditional probability, that is how the probability of an event depends on a linked event. Let A represent the event that the stock price rises to $100. Let B represent the event that information about the possible rise of the stock is given. Then the conditional probability is denoted as p(A|B), the probability of event A given that event B occurs. Note that there is no causal relation implied here—it’s only a matter of evidence.

Now to the meat of the matter. Let F represent the event of fine-tuning for the universe; G, that God exists; N, that God does not exist (or that “Naturalism= materialism” accounts for everything). Then:

  • p(G| F ) is a probability, a degree of belief, that F logically implies G, i.e. fine-tuning is evidence for the existence of God;
  • p(N | F) is a probability that fine-tuning implies that God does not exist;
  • p(F | G) is the probability that if God exists then He can fine-tune the universe;
  • p(F | N) is the probability that a fine-tuned universe would occur in the absence of God;
  • p(G) is the probability—the degree of belief—that God exists;
  • p(N) is the probability—the degree of belief—that God does not exist.

Then straightforward manipulation gives yields:

P(G | F) / P(N | F) = [ P(G) / P(N) ] x [ P(F | G) / P(N | G)].

Numbered in order, left to right, Term 1 is a likelihood ratio for belief that fine-tuning implies the existence of God to belief that fine-tuning implies no God; Term 2 is a likelihood ratio for belief in God to belief in no God (naturalism); Term 3 is a likelihood ratio for belief that God, if He exists, would create a fine-tuned universe to support life to belief that naturalism/materialism would yield a fine-tuned universe.

Now certainly Term 3 is a number much greater than 1, even if the exact value is indeterminate. The value for Term 2 will depend on the individual—for a Christian martyr, it would be a huge number; for Richard Dawkins or Lawrence Kraus it would be a very small number.

Here’s the point: the value you impute to term 1, the likelihood ratio for belief that a fine-tuned universe is evidence for the existence of God, will be greater than 1 if you are not a hardcore atheist. If you’re agnostic—it’s a 50/50 proposition that God exists—then certainly fine tuning should convince you that God exists. If you’re an extreme atheist, then term 2 could become small enough to swamp term 3, even if the latter is very large.

So the upshot is that if you do believe in God or if you’re an agnostic, fine tuning can be evidence for God’s creating hand. If you’re an atheist–this will not be sufficient evidence. And we come again to Grace given by the Holy Spirit as the mechanism for faith.

Briggs Responds

I’m no fan of anthropic arguments. As I’ve said earlier this week, design is metaphysically necessary. The universe has to be the way it is for some reason, and that reason cannot be probability, randomness, or chance. It has to be that the cause of The Way Things Are is actual. Thus, that we see what we see at base is a metaphysical question. Since we do not know why things are the way they are, we cannot say why they could have been different. We can say that they could have been different, of course, and explain what the universe would look like under different initial conditions or laws, but since we do not know how the laws under which we live have been chosen or designed, we cannot say how they could have been designed differently. That would entail knowing the mind of the designer. The ultimate how is not a scientific question.

Likewise, I do not hold with subjective probability (here is a series explaining why). All probability is conditional, so it is a mistake to write for example “Pr(G)”. We can write Pr(G|Briggs’s accepted premises), which for me gives 1, but for the atheist gives 1. Yes, 1: probability is not subjective. Given the premises, you must accept the conclusion. Yet Pr(G|Atheist’s accepted premises) = 0. So the real questions of importance are in “accepted premises”. Are these true? Plausible? Wrong?

Also, there is no problem for probability, or logic, to discuss single events. We can say lots about this universe from the one example we have, both probabilistically and mathematically, especially considering probability only relates to incomplete knowledge, of which there is plenty. I also disagree about what “independence” means: see this article. It may be (scientifically) discovered that some “constants” had to be the way they are because of as-yet undiscovered principles. That is certainly the goal of a “final theory.”

42 Comments

  1. Briggs, thanks for publishing this. By the way, there are links in my original post to others that expand on the thesis. I agree with you, and am sorry I didn’t make that clear in the article, that different events may be linked by being aspects of a general theory, so they aren’t really independent. As I remarked about the special properties of water being due to physics dictated by quantum mechanics and electrical force laws. The special value for the excited nuclear level of carbon-12 and the mass difference between proton and neutron may be aspects of a TOE.

    With respect to P(G) being 1 or 0. I disagree. There are degrees of belief. For an agnostic, as I pointed out in the article, it’s probably closer to 1/2. Moreover, the conditionality here is implicit. P(G | X)
    where X is Revelation, Grace, reading (e.g. “who moved the stone”). The X will be different for a theist than for an atheist, and for a Christian than for a Muslim. Even for a believer, I don’t think P(G) is necessarily 1. Didn’t the man asking for Jesus’s help to cure his son say, “I believe, Lord; help Thou my unbelief”? And although there are some atheists who proclaim P(G) =0, I don’t believe that’s universal.

    By the way my example is all wet. Expectation value doesn’t come out 0. It’s corrected in the original post, to use odds and horse-racing.

  2. Ye Olde Statistician

    June 16, 2016 at 8:53 am

    The two quotations give two different views of the Anthropic Principle

    But the one is a physicist and the other only a biologist. /snark

  3. I don’t follow the derivation.
    Instead of P(G | F) / P(N | F) = [ P(G) / P(N) ] x [ P(F | G) / P(N | G)],
    I get
    P(G|F) / P(N|F) = [P(G) / P(N)] x [ P(F|G) / P(F|N) ]

  4. Fascinating! A speculation becomes possible, then probable, then likely, then almost certain, then an unassailable dogma, entirely according to the “saleability” of the ideological speculation.

    The ideological speculation to which I refer is the assumption of Materialism… that is; everything that exists is a felicitous or miserable accident of Nothing turning itself into Everything with no cause or purpose.

    I can hardly imagine that there might be a more incomprehensibly idiotic prejudice.

    Let’s filet, or bone out, this ideology.
    No. Not me. I’m too tired.

  5. “New thoughts” are inevitably a slight variation on old errors.

  6. I believe the author is describing fuzzy logic rather than probability. Each person will assign the degree of fuzziness to each proposition. Its utility is in decision making.

    The anthropic principle tells me that I cannot use logic to determine my cause of being; only that I exist (cogito ergo sum).

    [https]://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuzzy_logic

    If my creator tells me, then I have certain knowledge. If my creator does not tell me then my cause remains fuzzy and I am free to assert from a wide range of causes or invent a completely new one.

  7. Leo, you’re completely right…that was a typo.

  8. Sander van der Wal

    June 16, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    5 billion years ago there could not be an Anthropic principle, as there was no planet around where humans could shelter behind their big moon from comets. 5 billion years from now Earth will be gone again after the Sun has turned into a Red Giant.

    You do not name a principle explaining the existence of the Universe after a mayfly. It has to work for the entiere existence of the Universe itself, not for the brief period where the name givers happen to exist.

  9. The basic problem with the anthropic principle is that it puts the cart before the horse: the universe is not finely tuned to support our form of life, our form of life (along with our perceptions of it) evolved the fit the universe.

  10. “Scientists are slowly waking up to an inconvenient truth – the universe looks suspiciously like a fix.”

    No, they’re not.

    JMJ

  11. Why would an agnostic even look at the equation? It seems to me that agnosticism is just mealy-mouth atheism. After all, if a person were to say they would believe in God if there were physical evidence, does this mean that they half-way believe in God, now, and will go all the way if they could just see that evidence? It is irrational to believe in half of God? Once in the belief door, you believe. Or, maybe agnostics are just looking for some God insurance.

    I am obviously no philosopher, but the equation seems like one of those exercises in futility. I just don’t see those gradations between belief and non-belief, or God and not-God.

  12. I knew it. God exits only on Earth where mankind or life exist but not on Mars.

    We can write Pr(G|Briggs’s accepted premises), which for me gives 1, but for the atheist gives 1. Yes, 1: probability is not subjective. Given the premises, you must accept the conclusion. Yet Pr(G|Atheist’s accepted premises) = 0. So the real questions of importance are in “accepted premises”. Are these true? Plausible? Wrong?

    The probability assignment that Pr(God exists |Briggs’s accepted premises)=1 and
    Pr(G|Atheist’s accepted premises) = 0 can be said to be “not subjective” only under the assumption that Briggs’ logic is impeccable.

    If probability is to serve as a measure of ignorance or uncertainty and to be applied to real life decisions, unless there is a special definition of “not subjective”, the idea that it is not subjective doesn’t seem compatible. For instance, the subjective probability in the stock example used by Bob here in which the premise of a merger (potential) and other necessary background information are all real.

  13. Bob at 11:25
    Thank you!

  14. Ye Olde Statistician

    June 16, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    Yeah, but the notion that he is somehow breaking with Benedict is silly.

    “Creation should be thought of, not according to the model of the craftsman who makes all sorts of objects, but rather in the manner that thought is creative. And at the same time it becomes evident that being-in-movement as a whole (and not just the beginning) is creation…”
    Benedict XVI

    Being-in-movement, meaning evolution over time.

  15. Bob wrote “Why would an agnostic even look at the equation? It seems to me that agnosticism is just mealy-mouth atheism.”

    Agnostic has several meanings, so does atheist, they overlap somewhat. As commonly used, agnostic seems to mean “don’t know, don’t care” (but really asserts that it cannot be known whether there’s a God) and “atheist” tends to mean “anti-theist”, someone that is sure there is no God; not merely a lack of belief (when really it is supposed to only mean not-a-theist; but could be anything else).

    “After all, if a person were to say they would believe in God if there were physical evidence, does this mean that they half-way believe in God, now, and will go all the way if they could just see that evidence?”

    No. It is a ritual that signifies “I intend to continue behaving in a way that your God will prohibit, so I set you an impossible task. Should you happen to comply, I will then move the goal posts and set you a new impossible task.”

    “It is irrational to believe in half of God? Once in the belief door, you believe. Or, maybe agnostics are just looking for some God insurance.”

    It depends on the magnitude you assign God. If you believe fully in a God of magnitude 2, that is half of God of magnitude 4.

    Do I believe in my hand or my foot? Indeed I do. Therefore it is entirely rational to believe in the thing you know to exist, and to not know about the things you do not know to exist.

    Thus if you have heard the voice of God, then it is rational to believe that God speaks, but it is not required to believe that God moves mountains — maybe he does, maybe not.

    “I just don’t see those gradations between belief and non-belief, or God and not-God.”

    That seems to be the case with most people about most things. I believe it pertains to right-brain dominant persons that have a positive feedback mechanism. I describe the mechanism this way: If you like someone a little, then you make notice of the good things they do, and pay little heed of the bad things they do. This starts a process of elevation of esteem in your eyes; where pretty soon that person is wonderful and you simply ignore bad things about that person.

    So it is that some people you hate, and some you love; it is not possible for persons to remain in a nuanced state of objective awareness and judgment of where you are on the good-bad scale of things.

    But a left brain dominant person performs calculations and never hits either extreme; nobody is “only good”, save only a theoretical God, and nobody is “only bad”, except God’s enemy. Everyone is somewhere on the scale.

    Thus, for me, “belief” is always nuanced and measured from zero (no belief) to 1 (perfect belief; which is named “knowledge” but hasn’t stopped being belief).

    All beliefs about God must be partial beliefs for the simple reason that no human can possibly know all there is to know about God; or even to be aware of claims about God, or to sort them out into the ones I believe and the ones I do not, or the ones that are mostly correct but maybe not entirely correct.

    It is also the case that we use the word “God” rather loosely; what exactly does it mean to “believe in God”? That much is trivial; anyone can say it but what exactly any person means by it is extremely variable. You haven’t said whose God or which God you believe; or whether knowing his existence incites you to any behavior, or inhibits any behavior, or fills you with hope or dread. People swallow camels while straining at gnats.

  16. at al,
    “ratio of electromagnetic force to gravitational force”

    I’ve always had problems with statements like this that purport to compare the relative strengths of the four fundamental forces. I claim that it can not be done without specifying the exact circumstances of the comparison. For example we could compare the two forces, electric and gravitational, experienced by two protons but if we use electrons we get a different answer. There is no universal comparison because the forces act on different properties (charge and mass here). It is even trickier with an attempt to compare the strong nuclear force to gravity since here one has to specify the distance between the nucleons given the more rapid fall off of the nuclear force. One can even claim that due to the accumulative nature of gravitational attraction that it is the strongest force as seen in black holes.

    As to the anthromorphic principle I am not sure what to say. We could also note the vast number of contingent events that led to our own births. What are we to make of this? Also given that even identical twins are different people there must be an infinite number of possible people. So why us? Is there an everyone, somewhere? Has religion addressed this issue?

  17. JMJ: Are you sure?

    Josh: from your link
    “doesn’t jibe well with scientific naturalism, the powerful idea that the universe and all that’s within it can be explained without having to invoke an architect or overseer. All the evidence currently points to this conclusion, and until science reveals any hint of supernatural meddling — which it has not and likely will not – we will continue to have to accept naturalism as the ongoing scientific paradigm.”
    Isn’t that assuming the conclusion—there is no God because science says there can’t be because science is sure it can explain everything even though it can’t or at least has not? Then they say science could reveal a hint of supernatural meddling, but by definition, science can’t even acknowledge supernatural.

  18. “inverse cube force law for gravity”: I suppose that this is a typo.

  19. Thanks scotian …another senior moment to chalk up, and get ready for the nursing home.
    inverse square….
    by the way, that comparison of gravitational and electromagnetic forces is commonly used. I suppose you take two charged particles–e.g two protons–the same distance apart and compare the forces.

  20. “Since we do not know why things are the way they are, we cannot say why they could have been different. We can say that they could have been different, of course, and explain what the universe would look like under different initial conditions or laws, but since we do not know how the laws under which we live have been chosen or designed, we cannot say how they could have been designed differently. That would entail knowing the mind of the designer. The ultimate how is not a scientific question.”
    I think Briggs is right and would like to add if I may that we don’t know all that much about the universe. What we know of God is what he has revealed to Jews and Christians ,which isn’t all that much either. Just what we need to know . So making grand sweeping declarations is futile.

  21. 5 billion years ago there could not be an Anthropic principle, as there was no planet around where humans could shelter behind their big moon from comets.

    I knew it. God exits only on Earth where mankind or life exist but not on Mars.

    These statements show a fundamental lack of understanding. In our contemporary physical theories, there are around 30 dimensionless parameters (the precise number will depend on how gravity is merged together with the standard model; it may be that some of the cosmological parameters can be derived from the standard model parameters, or it may be that we will need a few extra parameters in the unified theory) which we cannot fix from theory but only measure from experiment. These include the electromagnetic coupling constant $\alpha$ (using, say, the Higgs mass as the renormalisation scale) and the ratio of the Planck mass to the Higgs mass (which is appropriate to use as it is directly related to the parameter which sets the physical length scale in the standard model) which determines the strength of gravity. Everything else in the theory is fixed by symmetry requirements and the underlying premises.

    To construct the standard model from first principles, you need to make about 4 or 5 basic assumptions (established from experiment), and add to these various symmetry laws (again established from experiment, this time up to some very small experimental error). The standard model of cosmology based on general relativity and inflation can be derived in a similar way from a slightly different set of assumptions but similar symmetry laws. This process leaves about 30 or so constants undetermined. In the theory, these constants are fixed throughout time and space: they take the same values throughout the lifetime of the universe. From the perspective of the one trying to construct possible theories from first principles, their values are undetermined; they basically serve as additional assumptions one has to feed into the construction.

    There are about 100 constraints (in the form of inequalities) to apply to these about 30 constants which are necessary if, for example, star formation, the emergence of heavier elements, various chemical properties, and so on are going to be possible in the universe we construct. The system is thus heavily over-constrained if the universe is to be capable of supporting life, or even planets and stars.

    There is no good physical reason why these constants should take the values that they do; in principle they could range from zero to some very large number (my guess is that at some point if they become too large the theories become inconsistent so this provides a natural bound on the constants — I am not an expert on the subject, though, so I could be mistaken here). So they have to be derived from philosophy. So let us call Y the various pieces of background information such as the assumptions used to construct the physical theories (which both anti-theism and theism have to accept), T represents a self-consistent theistic philosophy such that P(T|Y) \neq 0, N represents some self-consistent anti-theistic philosophy such that P(N|Y) \neq 0, and F that the physical parameters are within this small window that supports life. We then attempt to calculate from first principles the probability that the universe is fine tuned conditional upon Y and the various metaphysical theories that underlie T and N in turn. Using the observation that the universe is fine tuned and Bayes’ theorem, we then invert this to give an estimate of the probabilities for T and N given the available evidence from physics, namely Y and F.

    The claim is that P(F|TY) is very close to 1, since God set up the universe with the intention for life to be possible, and P(F|NY) is very small, since if N is true then the parameters could in principle take any value, so P(F|NY) is basically the area of the small window divided by the total possible volume in parameter space. Obviously, if there is some alternative naturalistic theory which allows $P(F|NY)$ to be large (the multi-verse is the only real option on the table, though that comes with problems of its own) then that would also have to be put into another equation.

    So what the anthropotic principle is concerned with is not the existence of life but that the laws of physics are such that life could possibly emerge. There are issues with it, chiefly that nobody really knows how to estimate the measure, M, for the parameters given various naturalistic philosophies (if alpha is the parameter, should we treat alpha, exp(-alpha), log(alpha), arctan(alpha), etc. as uniformly distributed when we divide the volume of the fine tuned window over the whole of parameter space to estimate the probability). We can’t calculate P(F|NY) but only P(F|NYM) and we don’t know where to start with M. But we can put in various sensible choices, and whichever one we use P(F|NYM) is much smaller than P(F|TYM).

    The argument concerns the values of the physical parameters, and these were same now, one second after the big bang, or after every star has burnt out, or on mars or on earth. P(F|?YM) represents the probability that the universe could in principle support life, not the probability that it does support life in any given time or place. It does not depend on the actual presence or absence of life in any given time or place.

  22. “science can’t even acknowledge supernatural.”

    Science ignores supernatural. Science will see the natural forces that God uses; giving those forces names and units of measure.

  23. Sander van der Wal

    June 17, 2016 at 10:35 am

    The Anthropic principle is that humans can exist, or, if it is just about life as we know it, that bacteria can exist. Different combinations of the fundamental parameters will result in different universes, where life as we don’t know might exist.

    Guven that our theories about how the universe works are barely good enough to explain the workings of this universe, the possibility that the same theories are good enough to theoretically explore those different universes seems too slim to me to take their results as more than speculation. Fun to do, and there’s always the change that somebody thinks of something that is verifiable, but still speculation.

  24. Sander,

    I suspect that we know far more than you realize. How do you propose building a life form (with its requirements of information storage, reproduction, growth, absorption of nutrition etc.) from just Hydrogen and Helium, given that they cannot even react with each other? Because that is one of the things that your objection requires that you do. If you can come with an idea, I’ll gladly change my mind.

  25. Sander van der Wal wrote: “The Anthropic principle is that humans can exist”

    I have a difference anthropic principle: “Humans noticed that humans exist, therefore it is possible for humans to exist.” This is a variant of “cogito ergo sum”.

    Or: I think, therefore you exist!

  26. Scotian “We could also note the vast number of contingent events that led to our own births. What are we to make of this?”

    Anything you wish. It does seem some people are intended to exist, accompanied by forces intending them to not exist, and that includes my daughter. Everyone else is not intended but might as well enjoy the walk through life.

    “So why us? Is there an everyone, somewhere? Has religion addressed this issue?”

    Several religions. Mormons in particular and almost any that preach reincarnation. It is clear (to me, anyway) that some people are “intended” and have a purpose.

    [http]://biblehub.com/jeremiah/1-5.htm

  27. In the comments offered by the Completely Ridiculous Anti-Anthropic Principle (CRAAP) lobby we are treated to a splendid example of circular rationalising.

    Assumption:
    There is no causative design of purpose for the way things are (reality) therefore reality caused itself for no reason by a mechanism that also caused itself.

    “Science” is defined as an apologetic that assumes the above and supports it. (Materialism, Naturalism, Empiricism, depending on the ideological convenience of the “assessor”).

    All possible “scientific” explanations of reality must comply with the assumption to be “valid”.

    Any observation that implies otherwise is dismissed as “religion” and automatically rejected.

    Conclusion:
    Therefore “science” “proves” that there is no causative design of purpose for the way things are (reality) and reality caused itself for no reason by a mechanism that also caused itself.

  28. Michael 2:”All beliefs about God must be partial beliefs”.

    That’s a pretty big assumption. If one believes in the existence of God, then they believe in God. Living as God wants is another matter, completely. Yes, I see belief as a binary decision with no gray areas. The different definitions of agnostics are well known, but they all come down in not believing in God. If they are concerned with MY God, then they don’t personally believe. It is a personal decision.

    So, you either believe in the existence of God, or you don’t. If you say that you would believe in God given some physical evidence, then you may term yourself an agnostic, but you still don’t believe.

    Thanks for the reply.

  29. Agnostic simply means that “you can’t know” or that it’s “unknowable”.

    If you boil it down it comes to an absurdity: “the only thing you can know is that you can’t know anything”.

  30. Bob says “That’s a pretty big assumption. If one believes in the existence of God, then he believes in God.”

    Ah, I see. Today is “Tautology Day.”

    My grandmother believed in gods. She bought some in Fiji and placed them on a small shelf in her apartment.

    Perhaps you know the story of the balloonist, who upon seeing a farmer on the ground below, called down to him, “Where am I?” and the farmer, on looking up, said, “You are in the air!”

    So perhaps when you, or anyone, merely says he accepts the existence of “god”, what he means by it is likely not what you think it means and is thus rather useless information.

  31. swordfishtrombone

    June 20, 2016 at 10:47 am

    @ Oldavid:

    In the comments offered by the Completely Religious Anti-Atheist Principle (CRAAP) lobby we are treated to a splendid example of circular rationalising.

    Assumption:
    There is a causative design of purpose for the way things are (reality) therefore reality was caused by god for no reason and god caused himself.

    “Religion” is defined as an apologetic that assumes the above and supports it. (Belief, Faith, Revelation, depending on the ideological convenience of the “assessor”).

    All possible “religious” explanations of reality must comply with the assumption to be “valid”.

    Any observation that implies otherwise is dismissed as “scientism” and automatically rejected.

    Conclusion:
    Therefore “religion” “proves” that there is a causative design of purpose for the way things are (reality) therefore reality was caused by god for no reason and god caused himself.

    😛

  32. Ye Olde Statistician

    June 20, 2016 at 11:14 am

    There is a causative design of purpose for the way things are (reality) therefore reality was caused by god for no reason and god caused himself.

    a) The uncaused cause did not cause himself. What part of ‘uncaused’ is too difficult?
    b) What the heck is ‘causative design of purpose”?
    c) That the cause of natural telos is God is difficult to prove, but it is not an assumption.

    Stipulated: most people who aren’t into logic and metaphysics simply accept the conclusions. They lack the time, skill, and/or inclination to dig deeper. Try asking the next ten people you meet to demonstrate empirically that the earth is in motion.

  33. swordfishtrombone

    June 20, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    @ YOS:

    Are you asking me or Oldavid, of whose comment mine was a parody? In case you didn’t understand, I’ll spell it out for you: I copied his comment and swapped religious and scientific terms to illustrate the circularity of the argument.

  34. Trombone,
    I don’t know who is making an argument according to your parody.

    If there is no purpose (last cause) in the apparent design then you must logically claim that the order (apparent design) caused itself for no reason since there is nothing beyond itself to cause it.

    That is absurd. It is the claim that the thing that didn’t exist caused itself to exist. That is a silly fancy that can only be sold with the specious circular “reasoning” I proposed above.

    On the other hand it is perfectly logical, and in accordance with all relevant observations, to claim that a system working consistently according to some apparently designed purpose was caused by something not itself. There can be (and obviously is) a regression of proximate causes, each cause greater than its effect, but that regression can only go back to an uncaused first cause… mostly called God… but, you see, in this argument God is not the assumption but the inevitable conclusion from pretty ordinary observations and logic.

    That, of course, is entirely incomprehensible to a product of anterior causes that likes to imagine that he is the final cause of all that he sees.

  35. Oldavid wrote “in this argument God is not the assumption but the inevitable conclusion from pretty ordinary observations and logic.”

    True but not informative. It is mere agreement to call whatever is the first cause “God”.

  36. Ye Olde Statistician

    June 20, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    It is mere agreement to call whatever is the first cause “God”.

    Not really. It’s a deduction. From the argument from motion (to start there) a great deal follows deductively. A few of these deductions are found here:
    http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2014/11/first-way-part-iv-cascades.html
    Cumulatively, these add up to something that bears a suspicious resemblance to “that which all men call God.”

    IOW, you don’t start with God in your pocket and use him to solve a hypothesis. You start with the observation that some things in the world are in motion and you deduce that there must be a prime mover and from that that this primary mover is pure actuality, that it is unique, unchanging, eternal, immaterial, all powerful, all good, etc. Put them all together and if they do not add up to God, it will do until the real thing comes along.

  37. Ye Olde Statistician wrote (in reference to my comment: “It is mere agreement to call whatever is the first cause God”)

    “Cumulatively, these add up to something that bears a suspicious resemblance to ‘that which all men call God.’ “

    Like I said 😉

  38. Ye Olde Statistician wrote “this primary mover is pure actuality, that it is unique, unchanging, eternal, immaterial, all powerful, all good”

    That’s rather a lot of extrapolation from a first cause.

    It is easy to agree on a First Cause; even the big bang theorists do that much. But it is not clear that this universe we occupy is the first such thing, or that the very first First Cause created *this* universe while retaining the assurance that however many universes preceded this one, there must be a first, and thus a First Cause. Whether that First Cause knows you exist, and cares about it, is not revealed by your deduction.

  39. Ye Olde Statistician

    June 21, 2016 at 12:30 am

    That’s rather a lot of extrapolation from a first cause.

    They’re not extrapolations. They’re deductions. For example, once you have established the the primary mover is a being of pure act, you can then go on to prove that it is unique. If there were two of them, they would have to differ in some aspect and one would possess a quality that the other lacked. But then the second would be in potency toward that lack. But a being of pure act possesses no potencies. Modus tollens. In similar fashion, you can establish that the BPA is eternal, immaterial, etc.

    You may as well say that the books of Euclid are a lot of extrapolations from five axioms and five postulates.

    It is easy to agree on a First Cause; even the big bang theorists do that much

    Except the Big Bang is not First Cause. The term “First” in that context did not mean “first in time” or “earliest,” but rather “first in logical priority.”

  40. Big Bang speculations do not argue a “first cause”. They propose a “no cause”… a “singularity” of nothing that spontaneously turns into everything for no reason.

    I can only emphasise that Big Bang expanding Universe is pure speculation not in any way connected with, or based on, deduction or induction from any observations of “what is” (reality). It is a fantasy rationalised by speculative and heavily censored claims that are neither scientific (according to a scientific method) nor logical (according to the “law of non-contradiction”).

    I am acutely (and chronically) aware that “science” is constantly re-defined to exclude metaphysics… to eliminate the necessary cause/effect and install the magical “no cause” desperately required by Empiricism/Materialism/Atheism. Of course, the metaphysical logic is an easy casualty in the installation of scientistic and mathematistic gnosis. A methodical approach (as in a Scientific Method for the physical sciences and the Scholastic Method as in the metaphysical or philosophical sciences) is immediately discarded as “too restrictive” or “too rigid” (as Ratzinger described Scholasticism).

    Freedom is not free if it can’t invent its own reality, says the Snake.

  41. Oldavid wrote “I can only emphasise that Big Bang expanding Universe is pure speculation not in any way connected with, or based on, deduction or induction from any observations of what is (reality)”

    Your mileage certainly varied!

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