William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Don’t Panic, But Intelligent Design Is Trivially True (Breathe, Breathe…)

1200px-Electric_City_Akihabara_Pachinko

What I mean by intelligent design (which is perhaps not what you mean by it) is that All There Is, along with the Way Things Are, which describes the means by which All There Is changes, had to come about by something, and that this Something could not have been Nothing. Nothing is the complete absence of anything. By anything I mean any thing you can think of, or even thought itself, or any thing anybody could possibly think of. Why there is Something, and not Nothing, can only be because of intelligent design, which is to say, because of a purposeful act, the creation of a being of infinite power and intelligence, which is say, by God’s design.

This is the ancient and only satisfactory philosophical answer to the question “Why is there Something rather than Nothing?” The proper answer is always “Because God.” False answers have been many, and in our decadent era “Because Science” is accepted, but this is silly. Science cannot explain any of its precepts; Science only works with what already exists, either material or mathematical, and says what happens downstream. On where the material and mathematics came from, Science is mute or a fool.

Science will say, “Things are, and things are the way they are, because randomness”. But there is no such thing as randomness: it does not exist, and never did exist. And anyway, even if per impossible randomness existed, it has to work on something. Randomness could not have created itself. Or Science will say, “Thing are, and things are the way they are, because of these particular things and ways”, such as vacuums and “eternal inflation”. This proves Science has a short memory and is prone to fallacy, because, of course, the vacuum and inflation cannot explain themselves.

Many are keen to disparage intelligent design, and of course there are many versions of this term, some of which may lend themselves to disparagement, but the reason for the tendency is plain enough. Detractors think that by disproving intelligent design, which is trivially true, they will have won a victory for Science and against God. The old story of the fallacy from desire.

 

Well, here we are. We men, I mean. And we had to have got here somehow. God, being responsible for creation, had to have known we would show up. Meaning our appearance is not an accident: we must have been planned. Further, we’re different than any other creature in existence. We’re made of blood and bone, which is similar to other material things, but we possess a rational soul, which is not. That rational soul gives us free will (disagreeing with this is agreeing), which makes how we interact with the rest of creation different than how anything else interacts with it.

Now All There Is undergoes constant change guided by the Way Things Are, the latter being just as much a part of designed creation as All There Is. Somehow the Way Things Are brought about the life we see about us out of All There Is, and it even brought those parts of us that are material. Our non-material natures, our rational souls, cannot have been subject to physical forces, for the obvious tautological reason. Therefore our rational souls could not have came about—evolved, if you will—in the same way slime molds came about. Once again, it follow trivially that our rational souls must have been intelligently designed.

What about the rest of (if you will) creation? That must have been designed, too, in the following analogical sense (if I’m going to be misquoted, it’s going to be here).

You’re asked to design a carnival game for kids, a sort of junior wooden pachinko device. Ball goes in at the top, rolls down a board hitting posts along the way, bouncing to and fro, finally coming to rest in one of four slots at the bottom, A, B, C, and D, which, although it’s not part of the analogy, correspond to certain prizes.

Before the ball is dropped nobody really knows which of the slots will have the ball. All sorts of things will cause the ball to land where it does, from the friction of the ball, board, and posts, the bounciness of and wear on the ball itself, the humidity and temperature of the air, even the gravitational field; and many more things comprising the Way Things Are operating on All There Is (the machine and its environment).

Nobody can track all these causes, yet they must be there, because otherwise how would the ball get where it’s going? One thing is clear, the ball can only land A, B, C or D. It cannot land E nor F nor any other letter because these slots do not exist by design.

Evolution is just like that. However changes occur to an organism, whatever mechanism causes genes to shift, the eventual organism must “land” in, and be caused to land in, some slot, or biological niche if you like. Viable organisms are like the slots of the pachinko game, and non-viable ones—the beasts that cannot live because their genes will not produce a living being in a particular environment—are like the slots that aren’t there.

No scientist knows, and more importantly no scientist can know, that the slots we see weren’t designed, weren’t planned for. And the same is true for the slots we don’t see. The reason is simple: whether the slots were designed is not a scientific question, but a philosophical one. Science can tell us what we’ll see given a set of rules (the Way Things Are), but science, as we learned, must be mute on the big question: why these rules?

Therefore, intelligent design is trivially true.

72 Comments

  1. I think a big part of the problem that people have with Intelligent Design is they believe that it says way more than it actually does. There are a number of different blogs, Christian and secular, that I read and invariably when they discuss Intelligent Design it is against its caricature that they argue. Its caricature is the “God of the gaps” argument but in virtually none of its literature is that appeal ever made. It frustrates me to no end to read blogs like the Biologos blog. They go off on Intelligent Design and what they argue barely resembles that which I have read on the subject. In fact, much of the content Uncommon Descent is correcting what ID’s opponents claim ID is.

    Meyers argues that the basic premise of ID is looking at certain phenomena and asking the question of if we have seen this phenomena occur randomly. Can it occur randomly? If the walls are so high that the existing explanation cannot explain it we need to then look to see where we have seen this type of phenomena before. There are many of these that we see only when an intelligent agent is involved. And not only that, but these phenomena bear the marks of an immaterial agent. Information transmission, software design, error correction, etc. Coming from a software background, error correction in the cell is tremendously interesting to me.

    If there are gaps that ID proponents argue it is gaps in protein function, similar to the Pachinko machine you described, which cannot be bridged. You cannot smooth your way between function because you have non-function in between. And if non-function is in between, how can function evolve unless directed by something intending to get it there. A ball cannot roll from one hill to another unless it is pushed to the top.

    To say that Intelligent Design is trivially correct is 100% true because Intelligent Design, at its base, only makes a trivial claim. It is effectively a revolt against the randomness required by the naturalists because randomness does not have sufficient explanatory powers. But you can completely hold to Evolution and still hold to Intelligent Design. The two are not mutually exclusive. The only true conflict between Intelligent Design and Evolution is that Evolution uses randomness in its explanation. ID says that randomness cannot account for what we see, and what we see has only been observed when an intelligent agent is involved.

    Now, clearly, there may be individuals who go beyond and take ID and run with it. But the ID tent includes people who are special creationists and people who are agnostic about God’s existence. Its detractors often, incorrectly, critique the young earth creationists (of whom there are very few in ID), apply it to everyone, and then claim victory.

  2. For a refresher of the Way Things Are, read POWER, SEX, SUICIDE: MITOCHONDRIA AND THE ORIGIN OF LIFE then THE VITAL QUESTION: ENERGY, EVOLUTION AND THE ORIGIN OF COMPLEX LIFE both by Nick Lane, 2006 and 2015, respectitve.

  3. respectively.

  4. swordfishtrombone

    August 4, 2016 at 8:31 am

    The answer “Because god” in response to the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” explains nothing, it’s like saying ‘Because magic’. It’s not really a ‘why’ answer, it’s just a label. I might as well ask: Why god? The answer, presumably, is that god is defined as something which ‘just exists’ but one might as well say the universe ‘just exists’ – which is exactly what I think, by the way.

    I’d also have to ask why, if the universe is ‘designed’ by god, are there such things as cancer, birth defects or nipples for men?

  5. swordfishtrombone

    August 4, 2016 at 8:45 am

    @ Kevin:

    Your redefined ID sounds exactly the same as plain old common-or-garden ID to me, just another god-of-the-gaps argument.

  6. swordfishtrombone: “I’d also have to ask why, if the universe is ‘designed’ by god, are there such things as cancer, birth defects or nipples for men?” God is smarter than you are.

  7. The Intelligent Design (ID) movement, while evoking a God of power and might, a designer God, actually belittles God, makes her/him too small and paltry.

    Proponents of intelligent design improperly blurred the lines between science and faith to make their case that certain forms of biological life are too complex to have evolved through Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. If the model proposed by Darwin is held to be inadequate, one should look for another model. But it is not correct methodology to stray from the field of science pretending to do science. Our scientific understanding of the universe, untainted by religious considerations, provides for those who believe in God a marvelous opportunity to reflect upon their beliefs. Science and religion are totally separate human pursuits. Science is completely neutral with respect to theistic or atheistic implications which may be drawn from scientific results. The chasm between religious faith and scientific research is falsely created. Religious believers must move away from the notion of a dictator God or a designer God, a Newtonian God who made the universe as a watch that ticks along regularly. God in his infinite freedom continuously creates a world that reflects that freedom at all levels of the evolutionary process to greater and greater complexity; He is not continually intervening.

    There appears to exist a nagging fear in the Church that a universe, which science has established as evolving for 13.7 billion years since the Big Bang and in which life, beginning in its most primitive forms at about 12 billion years from the Big Bang, evolved through a process of random genetic mutations and natural selection, escapes God’s dominion. That fear is groundless. Science is completely neutral with respect to philosophical or theological implications that may be drawn from its conclusions. Those conclusions are always subject to improvement. That is why science is such an interesting adventure and scientists curiously interesting creatures. But for someone to deny the best of today’s science on religious grounds is to live in that groundless fear just mentioned.

  8. @swordfishtrombone, it’s odd how I got my “redefined ID” directly from Stephen Meyer’s book Darwin’s Doubt. It is not god-of-the-gaps. The god-of-the-gaps argument states that there are gaps of knowledge that we have and that God fills the gaps. Intelligent Design states that we do have actually the knowledge and the result of the knowledge we have leads us to a conclusion of a designer in some fashion.

  9. Sherri, how much smarter? A thousand times? A billion? Infinitely? Does God think? About what? Why those thoughts and not others? Randomness?

  10. Ye Olde Statistician

    August 4, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    The answer “Because god” in response to the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” explains nothing, it’s like saying ‘Because magic’.

    a) Magic is to achieve effects by manipulating the occult (hidden) properties of matter. This is at the other end of the scale from science, which tries to achieve effects by manipulating the manifest properties of matter. That is, magic and science are strictly within the natural world.
    b) The answer is not “because god.” It is “because God.” There is a difference, like the difference between polish and Polish or between impalas and an Impala.

    The answer, presumably, is that god is defined as something which ‘just exists’ but one might as well say the universe ‘just exists’

    a) God is not defined that way. The always-existing is something deduced from previous theorems.
    b) Which item in the universe ‘just exists’? Flowers? Stars? Hydrogen atoms? But, no. Each of these has a reason for being, and the “universe” is simply the collection of all those things.

    to make their case that certain forms of biological life are too complex to have evolved through Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

    As I understand it, it is not a matter of “too” complex, but rather of a certain kind of complexity, one that is not reducible to small incremental steps, and which therefore cannot be achieved by the traditional mechanism of “random” mutations followed by natural “selection.”

    Of course, if that were the case, the conclusion would not be “a designer,” but rather “not random.”

    However, ID too buys into the Modern notion of dead matter that must be moved from the outside. Comparing the flagellum to a mousetrap is incorrect: a flagellum grows organically from a seed; i.e., it is not assembled from disparate parts that otherwise have no natural motion to come together and trap mice. An organism is not an artifact.

    What ID proponents fall into is giving the idea that God can only work in the same mode as natural causes. In reality God’s ways of operating far transcend natural causes, including human ways. Whereas humans make new things by pushing around matter that already exists, God creates, that is, He brings something from nothing. The fact that there is a natural order at all is His work. Human making relies on a pre-existing order, but God is responsible for the entire order that pervades his creations, including the possibility of generating further order.
    — Lawrence Gage

    .

    evolved through a process of random genetic mutations and natural selection

    It is entirely plausible that evolution does not take place through the Darwinian mechanism. For example, the recent appearance of antibiotic-resistant bacteria was not due to fortuitous mutations that just happened to provide immunity to a wide range of modern synthetic chemicals, but to an entirely different mechanism. And the Mediterranean wall lizards did not develop an entire new organ to digest plant matter in the space of twenty years by a slow, steady accumulation of small changes that just happened to coincide with their transplantation to a vegetated island.

    IOW, evolutions can be sudden, massive, and focused. If it was only “random” [sic] mutations followed by natural selection, there has not been enough time.

    Aquinas, in his “Fifth Way,” did not argue to a designer from the unlikeliness of some things. He argued from the common course of nature, from the fact that nature is lawful. In Modern lingo, he argued from the existence of Laws of Nature. As such, Darwin’s laws (to the extent that they might be scientific laws at all) would simply be more evidence in support of God-the-designer.

    God in his infinite freedom continuously creates a world that reflects that freedom at all levels of the evolutionary process… He is not continually intervening.

    Certainly not in the sense of “fine-tuning” or “tweaking” or stepping in to make adjustments because he looked upon all that he had created and saw that it was not good.

    I’d also have to ask why, if the universe is ‘designed’ by god, are there such things as cancer, birth defects or nipples for men?

    You may be thinking of “designs” as an engineer sitting at a drafting table rather than as in “I have designs on that piece of chocolate cake.” Besides, as someone just said, “God in his infinite freedom continuously creates a world that reflects that freedom at all levels.”

    Then we find this fascinating anticipation:

    It is therefore causally that Scripture has said that earth brought forth the crops and trees, in the sense that it received the power of bringing them forth. In the earth from the beginning, in what I might call the roots of time, God created what was to be in times to come.
    On the literal meanings of Genesis, Book V Ch. 4:11

    To which Aquinas concurred:

    Nature is nothing but the plan of some art, namely a divine one, put into things themselves, by which those things move towards a concrete end: as if the man who builds up a ship could give to the pieces of wood that they could move by themselves to produce the form of the ship.
    — Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Physics II.8, lecture 14, no. 268

    specifically, in this case:

    Species, also, that are new, if any such appear, existed beforehand in various active powers; so that animals, and perhaps even new species of animals, are produced by putrefaction by the power which the stars and elements received at the beginning.
    — Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica, Part I Q73 A1 reply3

    Substitute “mutations” for “putrefaction” and “natural selection” for the powers of the stars and elements, and what does that sound like?

  11. Frazer’s ‘Golden Bough’ points out that Man’s relationship with his surroundings progresses from Magic, through Religion, to Science.

    Clarke’s Third Law, stated another way, points out that Science, Magic and Religion are one continuum, and only capable of arbitrary seperation by considering a specific culture at a specific moment in time…

  12. @Ken, the ID movement does not invoke God at all. In fact, ID proponents go out of their way to not invoke God for the specific reason that science cannot point to a being outside of the material universe. To do that with science would be to use science beyond its capabilities. What ID does, instead, is provide evidence for a designer of some kind (note, not a creator). The identity of that designer, so long as it is outside of the material universe, is not asserted because science can only speak to the measurable, material world. Determining the identity of the designer is the responsibility of other disciplines.

  13. swordfishtrombone: I am curious. How does science explain why men have nipples?

  14. Sander van der Wal

    August 4, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    God Creating things all the time has the downside that the universe will contain more and more stuff over time. Because stuff attracts other stuff, this effect can be observerd, by the universe expansion decellerating over time.

    Priblem is, we see exactly the opposite, the universe is expanding faster and faster over time.

    So, God is not Creating a lot of stuff. He might Create tiny bits of stuff, or only do it in a few places, but that takes the convinciveness of the argument away, as you have to explain why. Like, why fiddle with a couple of bacteria while there’s plenty of room to do interesting, and probably even Intelligent, stuff between the galaxy superclusters?

  15. Briggs, I think you’re using the term “Intelligent Design” (ID) in a sense different than that which its advocates (e.g. the folks in The Discovery Institute) have in mind. You’re arguing that an Intelligence (notice the upper case) set up the Universe. Rather, as I understand it, they argue that ID is a valid scientific theory which proposes that specific biochemical species–molecules and molecular assemblies–were separately instituted by the designer, rather than proceeding (sp?) from a general framework of laws. I don’t think ID, as set forth by those in the Discovery Institute, is science, because it does not make falsifiable predictions from a theory. And it does not say anything–give any general mechanism–for how such piece by piece creations were initiated.
    The only instance of ID type science that I’m aware of was Fred Hoyle’s prediction of the excited carbon-12 nuclear energy level that enabled the resonance enhanced three-alpha formation of C-12 from the triple collision of 3 alpha particles.
    I agree with Aquinas (and you and YOS?) that there is a First Cause. One doesn’t have to agree with ID as a LEGO assembly; Paul Davies puts it better than I could:
    “…the hypothesis of an intelligent designer applied to the laws of nature is far superior than the designer …who violates the laws of nature from time to time by working miracles in evolutionary history. Design-by-laws is incomparably more intelligent than design-by-miracles.”
    Paul Davies, The Cosmic Jackpot: Why our universe is just right for life.” p.200)
    If I could modify the type I would bold-face “intelligent designer”

  16. Being trivially true, does it follow that naturalism (or some other worldview) is trivially false?

    What does it mean to be trivially true or false rather than just true or false?

  17. Ye Olde Statistician

    August 4, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    I agree with Aquinas (and you and YOS?) that there is a First Cause.

    But way too many folks think this means first-in-time, which it does not. That’s why I like to say Primary Cause or something like it, to distinguish it from all secondary causes, i.e., causes in nature.

  18. Like intelligent designer?

  19. What does this look like: <b>intelligent designer</b>?

  20. Yeah. That’s how you bold-face “intelligent designer”.

  21. Sander: Why would God be creating things all the time?

  22. Sheri: Because if he stopped, there would be nothing (again).

  23. I don’t get why Sander thinks there would be more and more stuff, though.

  24. Ye Olde Statistician

    August 4, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    Because Sander thinks of creation as making stuff in time, rather than as creatio continuo, the act of sustaining things in existence. A decent imagery for this is the statue of Atlas holding the earth on his back. He’s not creating new or additional worlds, but sustaining one in existence.
    https://www.pdcnet.org/pdc/bvdb.nsf/purchase?openform&fp=acpq&id=acpq_2011_0085_0002_0237_0267

  25. swordfishtrombone

    August 4, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    @ Sheri: (in response to ‘nipples for men’ as an example of bad design) “God is smarter than you are.”

    If he’s smarter than me, how come I can easily spot his mistakes? This is especially the case when you consider that scientific explanations of the universe have to be consistent, but god wouldn’t have to be – he could just as easily create men without nipples. The fact that no apparently ‘designed’ items appear to exist is more evidence that god doesn’t exist or that he’s tried very hard to make the universe look natural rather than designed.

    @ Sheri: “How does science explain why men have nipples?”

    Something to attach nipple clamps to? But seriously, I assume it’s something to do with economy?

  26. swordfishtrombone

    August 4, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    @ YOS: “… sustaining things in existence”

    Where does this nutty idea come from? There’s no reason to suppose that there’s any necessity to ‘sustain things in existence’. In any case, if god exists outside of time, he’s already created the whole universe including all time – how can he then stop sustaining something which already exists from start to finish?

  27. intelligent designer
    Thank you acricketchirps for initiating me into a piece of the arcane of html “language”(?)…I guess it’s not too late for an old dog (86.4) to learn new tricks.

  28. Sander–do you suppose the “laws” of physics (such as we understand them) exist of themselves? Or, rather should one believe “and God said ‘Let there be light!”. I’d much rather, knowing the physics I know (which is not a lot), believe the latter as metaphor.

  29. Ye Olde Statistician

    August 4, 2016 at 10:47 pm

    scientific explanations of the universe have to be consistent, but god wouldn’t have to be

    Perhaps a god would not be consistent, but God would be, as IIRC Adelard of Bath noted long ago. He has always been thought to be faithful to his word. In fact, that’s why the whole science thingie blossomed in Christendom rather than elsewhere: the idea of a God who was faithful to his promises.

    Where does this nutty idea [creatio continuo] come from? There’s no reason to suppose that there’s any necessity to ‘sustain things in existence’.

    Why do you think that? In the sciences, we have to assume Existence, so science can say nothing about the nature of Being. Name one material being whose existence is its essence. If not, then something outside itself must be giving it existence at every moment. (Try to envision it from God’s block-universe POV: Every instant is simultaneously present, so that his act of creation is from our time-bound POV continuous and on-going.

  30. Intelligent Design is purely philosophical concept. It is not a scientific anything, because it can not be observed nor measured nor tested, etc. It is no more or less scientific than Design Intelligent, the name I just now coined for stream-of-consciousness sorts. As well, we lack a question, a problem, an issue at hand. It seems to do no productive or necessary thing to assume. What do you do with the ostensible knowledge of ID? What would be the good of it? What new way of looking at things would it offer? It seems only to be an apologetic for superstition.

    JMJ

  31. Ye Olde Statistician

    August 5, 2016 at 12:03 am

    Intelligent Design is purely philosophical concept. It is not a scientific anything

    Exactly. There are limits to what Science can investigate.

  32. YOS,
    “In the sciences, we have to assume Existence”

    Then the frequent statements that sciences have shown that the universe was created 13.7 billion year ago–the Big Bang theory–are these statements unjustified?

  33. Bob Kurland,
    “Design-by-laws is incomparably more intelligent than design-by-miracles.”

    Shouldn’t the word “intelligent” be replaced by “seemly”?
    But why shouldn’t God design-by-miracles if He so chooses?

    “I don’t think ID, is science, because it does not make falsifiable predictions from a theory”

    Does Darwinian evolution make falsifiable predictions? Does string theory and quantum gravities do?
    You can not fit all sciences into the straitjacket of physics.

  34. swordfishtrombone

    August 5, 2016 at 6:19 am

    @ YOS: (In response to: No need for sustaining things in existence) “Why do you think that?”

    Because there’s no evidence that it takes any effort or energy to sustain the universe. The total energy content of it is reckoned to be zero. If it were necessary for god to keep it running, that would be yet another piece of bad design. First nipples for men, now having to keep the entire universe running 24/7.

    “Name one material being whose existence is its essence. If not, then something outside itself must be giving it existence at every moment.”

    Taking the definitions of ‘existence’ and ‘essence’ from the Catholic Encyclopedia, this translates into:

    “Name one material being whose [that whereby the essence is an actuality in the line of being] is its [a thing is what it is (or) that which is expressed by its definition].” I’m not sure what that means and neither, I suspect, is anyone else. Everything in the universe would appear to be a viable candidate for inclusion in both categories. How about any subatomic particle?

  35. swordfishtrombone

    August 5, 2016 at 6:40 am

    @ YOS:

    a) “Magic is […] strictly within the natural world” You’ve been reading too much Harry Potter! Magic, like god, doesn’t exist. My analogy of ‘because magic’ being equal to ‘because god’ (because neither explain anything) stands.

    b) “The answer is not “because god.” It is “because God.” There is a difference, like the difference between polish and Polish or between impalas and an Impala.”

    I used to use ‘God’ (partly out of a misplaced sense of respect) but switched to ‘god’ when I realised that ‘God’ is the wrong term to use for just any god, or for the general idea of a god. I know I’m right because I looked it up on the Internet, which is never wrong.

  36. acricketchirps: Please explain. God’s creations are not self-sustaining? That’s not what I have read or been told. Nor have I been told that God sustains creation, as YOS states, unless he meant God allows the creation to develop and grow with some maintenance. Others are wondering about this too, I see.

    swordfishtrombone: Dumb people often spot “mistakes” that are not there. 🙂

    As for your scientific explanation, science has no answer either, so that was a “dumb” example—proves that science lacks answers just as much as religion does. That adds to my original statement—next time be smart enough to pick something science does believe it explains (“believes”, since science has been wrong SOOOO many times).

    JMJ: Evolution can only be observed, so it’s much like circumstantial evidence. It can never actually be proven other than things change and seem to change in a direction science calls “natural selection” and which curiously, humans are no longer part of, but live outside of. Natural selection is defined as whatever happens, not a specific process. You are correct that ID is philosophical. If, however, you believe science can tell us where we came from, that is only possible with a time-machine. All others are circumstantial evidence and individual interpretations thereof. If you admit we have no idea where the Big Bang came from and we believe in it because it’s the best of explanation of what we see but could change tomorrow with additional evidence, then you can call yourself free of superstition in this case. (Assuming I am correctly interpreting your use of superstition as “whatever JMJ doesn’t believe in” metaphysically, rather than any actual definition.)

    Mactoul: Yes! Evolution lacks falsifiable predictions! So is it science in the pure sense? I don’t think so. If one defines science as being “falsifiable”, that removes a large part of what people call “science”. It allows a lot of things JMJ would probably call superstition and leaves no clear-cut definition of what is science, but hey…….

  37. My input, above, is a summary of quotes from Fr. George Coyne, former director of the Vatican Observatory and head of the observatory’s research group which is based at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. Since January 2012, he has served as McDevitt Chair of Religious Philosophy at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, NY; with a remark by Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna, Italy, also slipped in.

    http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2006/02/george-coyne-sc.html

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/11/21/id_vatican_not_science/

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/religion/2005-11-18-vaticanastronomer_x.htm

    https://ncse.com/news/2006/02/intelligent-design-belittles-god-says-vatican-astronomer-00938

  38. Ye Olde Statistician

    August 5, 2016 at 10:53 am

    @ YOS: “Why do you think that [there is no need to sustain things in existence]?”

    ‘Trombone: Because there’s no evidence that it takes any effort or energy to sustain the universe.

    Why do you suppose that if there is a provident God, he would act as if he were a material cause? Beings within the material world make effects by moving existing matter around; but God does not make, God creates. This is conjoining an essence with an act of existence. That’s not the same thing as lifting a pendulum or triggering a chemical reaction. It’s not even the same kind of thing.

    If it were necessary for god to keep it running, that would be yet another piece of bad design. First nipples for men, now having to keep the entire universe running 24/7.

    But God is outside the universe, so no ‘effort’ or ‘work’ is required, nor does he exist in time, so it’s not even 24/7. All times are present in God
    YOS: “Name one material being whose existence is its essence. If not, then something outside itself must be giving it existence at every moment.”
    ‘Trombone: I’m not sure what that means and neither, I suspect, is anyone else. Everything in the universe would appear to be a viable candidate for inclusion in both categories. How about any subatomic particle?
    Heisenberg doubted that subatomic particles even had objective existence:
    “[T]he atoms or elementary particles themselves are not real; they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of things or facts.” — Werner Heisenberg
    The contrast Heisenberg drew between “real” and “possible” should be familiar by now to readers of this blog. It is Aristotle’s distinction between potency and act.

    The distinction between essence and existence can be illustrated with the unicorn. Everyone grasps its essence: a horselike creature with a horn in the middle of its forehead that is extremely violent except in the presence of a virgin (in whose lap it will lay its head in repose). But, surprise, surprise, a unicorn does not actually exist. That is, its essence has not been joined to an act of existence.

    Any existant (i.e., any being) possesses both an essence (what it is) and (obviously) an existence (that it is). But that doesn’t mean it is self-existing. There is nothing in the nature (essence) of, say, a sodium atom that necessitates its being. (Indeed, if the Standard Model is correct, once upon a time there were no actual sodium atoms.)

    The element sodium is a soft, silver-white, highly reactive alkali metal. It does not cavort naked au naturale, but snuggles with oxygen in feldspars and sodalite, with chlorine in rock salt, etc. It “reacts vigorously” with water. When burned in a flame or in a sodium vapor lamp it shines with a strong yellow light. And so on. Collectively, these effects limn the nature or essence of sodium.

    But whence come these properties? Not from the matter of which sodium is made. Those parts — protons, electron, ‘neutrons’ — are the same parts that comprise other materials of radically different properties. It is rather the number and arrangement of those parts, i.e., its substantial form or essence. “The organization or formal arrangement of these components, and not the components themselves, makes sodium be what it is. … None of the electrons in the sodium atom acts simply as an electron. Rather, each functions as a part of sodium.”

    But there is nothing in this decription that necessitates that the thing described actually exists. Hence, essence and existence are distinct in material being. A being whose essence is to exist means it would necessarily exist. It would be Existence Itself. If it could talk, it would call itself “I AM.” I don’t think a subatomic particle can do that.

    Hope this helps.

  39. Ye Olde Statistician

    August 5, 2016 at 11:05 am

    YOS: “In the sciences, we have to assume Existence”

    Mactoul: Then the frequent statements that sciences have shown that the universe was created 13.7 billion year ago–the Big Bang theory–are these statements unjustified?

    The age of the universe predicated from Father Lemaitre’s “big bang” theory, and indeed the theory itself, are based on measurements of existence. In order to measure existence, you have to assume existence in the first place. There is no way that physical science can demonstrate physical existence, since all of its methods are predicated on that physical existence to begin with. Neither can Euclidean geometry prove the postulates of Euclidean geometry. No science can prove its own assumptions.

  40. Mactoul, you’re quite wrong about evolution not making falsifiable predictions:
    for example, you won’t find primate remains in sedimentary rocks more than 1 billion years old; you will find similarities in proteins and DNA composition that correspond to morphology similarities. If you’re talking about the neo-Darwinian model for evolution, that’s another story, which I needn’t bother to defend.
    With respect to string theory and, to a lesser extent, quantum gravitics, they are not science; they are mathematical metaphysics. See Peter Woit’s “Not Even Wrong” for a critique of string theory as science. It is crucial that science involves testable predictions; otherwise it is another discipline.
    It is sad, but true that many of the comments about science in this blog seem to be made by people who have not engaged in its practice nor, it seems, have they read any works about the history or philosophy of science.

  41. Sheri: While I don’t like the word ‘sustaining’, I (to a certain extent) (self)sustain my life and health. I don’t sustain that I am even a tiny bit. So (to answer your question), no.

  42. Sander van der Wal

    August 5, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    @Sheri

    this is what Briggs is implying. As he should be because he gets into trouble otherwise. Consider, if humans evolved naturally then the changes in the DNA that occured were existing molecules being pushed around, and things being pushed around is not Creation.

    So, for Creation of something to happen at a point in time in the universe, it must be different for existing stuff being pushed around. Which makes it measurable, as the effects of the Creating can not be seen before that time (no humans around) and can definetively seen after that time (trains, planes and automobiles with humans in them). Even if the Creating ‘happened’ outside of time, you still can see the effects after a given time and not before that given time. Of all Creating happened before the universe got started, and that means that during the lifetime you do not see the effects of something being Created. Which means that in a universe everythings is stuff being pushed around.

    @Bob Kurland

    In the universe things happen, and one can call a description of what happens a law of nature.

  43. Ye Olde Statistician

    August 5, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    Of all Creating happened before the universe got started

    True enough in a poetical sense; but don’t forget that time itself is a consequence of material existence, and there cannot be a “before” time was created.

  44. Briggs,

    FYI.

    Our world is subject to Purposive Design.

    Evolution is a scientific fairy tale.

  45. Purposively, I meant to write.

  46. Why did you mean to write an adverb to modify a noun, Jim?

  47. acricketchirps —

    To satisfy my tin ear 🙂

  48. Wonderful discourse on ‘essence vs existence’ — kind of like:

    “Well, I don’t really think that the end can be assessed as of itself as being the end because what does the end feel like? It’s like saying when you try to extrapolate the end of the universe, you say, if the universe is indeed infinite, then how – what does that mean? How far is all the way, and then if it stops, what’s stopping it, and what’s behind what’s stopping it? So, what’s the end, you know, is my question to you.”
    – David St. Hubbins, lead guitarist in Spinal Tap, from the comedy movie

  49. acricketchirps: I don’t understand what “I don’t sustain that I am even a tiny bit” means. I view God as a parent, who produced children, let them grow up, and now they live in a world that fulfills all their physical needs. God is there for their emotional/spiritual needs. I guess that could count as sustaining.

    Sander: I kind of understand. Isn’t that kind of what the laws of physics says—matter is neither created nor destroyed? Am I any where close to what you mean?

    As for filling the universe, which I think you mentioned, if the universe is infinite it can never be filled. So the universe is finite but expanding To where? Then we get into that scifi/philosophy thing about what is there outside the universe, don’t we? (If it wasn’t Sander, whomever made the statement can chime in and correct me.)

  50. “No science can prove its own assumptions.”

    What happens when one strives to mix reality with philosophy & faith is unwittingly making such ridiculously inane remarks as the above (holds true even if by “assumptions” one meant “postulates”), or, willfully misleading remarks as above.

    Example: Everything is made from the following elements: earth, air fire and water. Science self-corrected on that one, and it does routinely on numerous “assumptions.”

    Here would come the rebuttal, but why wait — ‘disproving something’ isn’t the same as ‘proving it.’ True…and if one is trying to undermine “science” (as so regularly of late occurs on this blog, such as a very recent post by a guest author that calls scientists “weiner dogs”), then this sort nit-picking is the thing to expect.

    But, such a rebuttal isn’t true, for example many sub-assumptions of just the Theory of Relativity HAVE been proven. As have many assumptions (or postulates) in many areas of ‘science’ (or ‘physics’, etc.).

    The statement about science’s inability to prove its own assumptions is just plain wrong.

    The very essence of science is the formulation of “assumptions” (theories) and then building on them thru experimentation, the collection of facts, and then revising those assumptions accordingly. Very often enough bona fide proof IS generated. Also very often proof is elusive but so much evidence supporting the theory is produced that the theory is accepted as “fact”.

    A type of “fact” that, within the community of credible scientists, remains open to refutation.

    That is something that cannot be said for any community (minor exceptions aside) of religious believers — that, in the face of objective evidence to the contrary they’ll reject a religious/philosophical doctrine and adjust their faith accordingly… Nope, they attack the source of objective evidence, or, when forced, try to pretend they were right all along (or as close to that as possible).

    Here’s a wonderful example of that by the retired former director of the Vatican’s Observatory: http://faculty.washington.edu/ewebb/Rome/Coyne.pdf

    The Church’s Most Recent Attempt to Dispel the Galileo Myth, by George V. Coyne, S.J.

  51. Ken: Thou dost protest too much. Science can prove some of it’s assumptions, yes, but it cannot in any way prove it is the best way to view the world. That is a value judgement and science cannot make value judgments. It speaks to facts.

    “That is something that cannot be said for any community (minor exceptions aside) of religious believers — that, in the face of objective evidence to the contrary they’ll reject a religious/philosophical doctrine and adjust their faith accordingly… Nope, they attack the source of objective evidence, or, when forced, try to pretend they were right all along (or as close to that as possible).” Seems to me that is precisely what you are doing with objections here to parts of science—ignoring all evidence that there are serious problems within the discipline and attacking anyone who says dares point them out.

    As for religion versus science, as far as I can see, they are two very different things but not mutually exclusive. Yet you seem very certain that science and the belief therein immediately excludes all religion. It doesn’t work that way. Some people try that, but misuse of something is not proof that the “something” is wrong. It’s just being misused. The same is true of religion—it should not contradict that which is known to be true. The problem comes in what is “known” and what is “believed to be true” in science. Self-correcting may or may not occur in science. Try having a rational discussion with a climate change believer. Many suffer from the same problem you claim for religion—they dance all around the flaws and pretend everything is a-okay, or try to jail those that disagree. Science and religion are looking very similar in many cases.

  52. Ye Olde Statistician

    August 5, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    The very essence of science is the formulation of “assumptions” (theories) and then building on them thru experimentation, the collection of facts, and then revising those assumptions accordingly.

    You are confusing the formation of physical theories with the underlying assumptions. Perhaps I should have said “basic” assumptions. For example: that an objective physical world exists; that measurement and test will provide the insight needed; that nature can be modeled with mathematics; that natural laws are the same in all times and places, and so on. You are talking about physical conditions and results.

    Euclid’s Fifth Postulate has the look and feel of a theorem. It just didn’t read like the other four postulates. So much skull-sweat was spend trying to prove #5 using only #1-4. Not only did it not work, but it turned out provable that it could not.

    For example: physics assumes that the empirical world actually exists. But physics cannot prove this, since the methods of physics include the use of empirical data, which assumes what is to be demonstrated.

    You can prove or disprove a basic assumption behind a science — but only by using another science. For example, you cannot show the consistency of arithmetic using arithmetic; but you can do so using algebra. (But then you cannot prove the consistency of algebra.) Riemann did away with Euclid’s #5; but in consequence one is no longer doing Euclidean geometry.

    Example: Everything is made from the following elements: earth, air fire and water. Science self-corrected on that one, and it does routinely on numerous “assumptions.”

    You forgot the Fifth Element, the “quint essence,” a/k/a the aether (or “always-running”).

    I’m pretty sure that was a theory, not an assumption. It was put forward to explain the different kinds of matter encountered.
    –Earth (solid) was associated with the cube, since it is the only regular figure that tessellates Euclidean space. This is why the Earth if solid but it crumbles when picked up.
    –Water (liquid) is icosahedral because it flows out of your hand when picked up, as if it is made of tiny little balls.
    –Air (gas) is octahedral. Its minuscule components are so smooth that one can barely feel it.
    –Fire (plasma) is tetrahedral. Fire feels painful because of its sharp corners.
    –Aether (dark matter, quantum vacuum). Plato obscurely remarks of the dodecahedron that, “…the god used [it] for arranging the constellations on the whole heaven.”

    As far as I know, solid-liquid-gas-plasma-(and maybe dark matter) remain the basic states of matter. The explanations for them are not the same any more, but that’s the nature of the beast. (Or did you think that the Greek word ????????? (“element”) back then meant the same thing as the English word does now?)

    if one is trying to undermine “science”

    One would take the approach of the academic left and shade on the idea of causation, the reliability of the senses, and other basics. There are two complementary principles: look for the power structure, and do not indulge in fantasies of “objective truth.” You want to understand why astronomers refer to certain phenomena as “black holes”? Look to the astronomers’ bosses’ skin color and forsake any notion that this may somehow have to do with the intrinsic properties of the phenomena in question. [Uriah Kriegel] Science is therefore a tool of capitalists or of male domination. Etc. etc. That’s far more subversive than some folks waving Bibles largely because one is taken seriously in the academy and the other never will be.

    The Church’s Most Recent Attempt to Dispel the Galileo Myth

    Dispelling myths is generally a good thing, where ‘myth’ is taken in the modern sense. But there are those who hold to them so fiercely that they will reject any empirical evidence to the contrary.

  53. swordfishtrombone

    August 6, 2016 at 8:44 am

    @ Sheri: “As for your scientific explanation, science has no answer either, so that was a “dumb” example”

    I would let this lie but you’re being a pain and pushing your ‘science doesn’t know’ (therefore god?) rubbish again. I refer you to this explanation by Professor Andrew M. Simmons:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-do-men-have-nipples/

    (Spoiler Alert!)

    As you probably won’t read it, I’ll give you the answer: Men have nipples because women do.

  54. swordfishtrombone: I did read it and learned that bothersome questions in evolution are answered by “It is just still there” which is virtually the same as “God put them there”. It’s a convenient trash bin for everything there is no answer to and pretty much supports my belief that evolution is based on whatever matters to the theory is “necessary” and whatever is not is discarded or written off as “non-essential”. It’s as cobbled together as religion is. Since hind sight is 20/20, can evolution tell us if men will lose the nipples eventually. No. It cannot not. It cannot because it can’t predict. It can only backcast. So while it’s a clever explanation and I appreciate your actually posting the link, it still says “science doesn’t know why but we can guess”.

    This is actually reminiscent of what children do when cornered about a broken vase. They look around the room and if the window is open, they try the “wind broke it” answer. If there’s a cat in the household, “the cat did it”. If there’s a sibling, “Derek did it”. Whatever is handy becomes the explanation. That’s not science.

    It would seem from the explanation that all creatures were hermaphroditic at the beginning, including men and women. For reasons unknown (enter magic here), the two split and the offspring had half the genes from each, which only the “useful” ones remained or the ones that do no harm. (Women’s hair must have been harmful in some way, because men remain hairy all over.) Again, the explanation simply says “What happened, happened.” There is no explanation of why it happened. It’s just chance and that chance is always used to explain any inconvenient facts. A theory based on chance is not science. It’s pretty much the same as religion, relying on convenient use of data and exclusion of all other data, with little predictive value. What I want to know is where in the theory is there a formula or a law that governs evoution other than “natural selection” which is shorthand for “whatever is still left”, not a definition at all and not proof of the theory.

    The explanation for men’s nipples is not as convoluted as the one for metamorphosis. This is why I reject evolution as an all encompassing theory in science. It has too many holes. Parts are observable, parts are cobbled together, etc. Science clings to it and comes out fighting like a hyped-up cock rooster if any one dare question it, in part because it was the answer that would “eliminate God”. In the process, they created their own religion and faith and defend it blindly and angrily. Much like global warming, there’s no rational discussion of evolution—it’s all or nothing, you’re for us or you’re anti-science. Again, that’s not science.

  55. swordfishtrombone

    August 6, 2016 at 9:42 am

    @ YOS: “None of the electrons in the sodium atom acts simply as an electron”

    No, all the electrons in a sodium atom act simply as electrons. I’m not sure what this has to do with existence v essence though. Let’s rewind back to your original argument:

    @ YOS: “Name one material being whose existence is its essence. If not, then something outside itself must be giving it existence at every moment.”

    Now I get it. Why would anything need to have ‘existence’ as its ‘essence’ just to exist? Things only need to have the property of existence to exist. Or to not have the property on non-existence…

    @ YOS: “A being whose essence is to exist means it would necessarily exist.”

    Oh noes, not the cosmological argument again – run away!

    How about: The essence of ‘nothing’ is for it to not exist, therefore everything exists.

  56. swordfishtrombone

    August 6, 2016 at 9:50 am

    Paul Davies [via @Bob Kurland] “the hypothesis of an intelligent designer applied to the laws of nature is far superior than the designer […] who violates the laws of nature from time to time by working miracles in evolutionary history”

    Acording to that logic, far more superior still is the hypothesis of no designer at all.

  57. Ye Olde Statistician

    August 6, 2016 at 10:15 am

    @ YOS: “None of the electrons in the sodium atom acts simply as an electron”

    No, all the electrons in a sodium atom act simply as electrons.

    Do you mean that, being negatively charged, they are drawn into the positively charged nucleus? Or that they zoom in rectilinear motion and get called “beta particles”? The physicist who made the comment you find off-putting was making a point about formal causes, or as we say today: ’emergent properties.’ It means that an electron that is part of an atom behaves as a part of that atom and not as a simple free electron.

    I’m not sure what this has to do with existence v essence

    I was illustrating what was essential about a sodium atom.

    Why would anything need to have ‘existence’ as its ‘essence’ just to exist?

    It doesn’t. It only needs an act of existence. But what is it that actualizes its existence? It can’t be itself because if it only potentially existed it couldn’t do diddly-squat, since “it” wouldn’t exist. Only something already actual could give it existence.

    @ YOS: “A being whose essence is to exist means it would necessarily exist.”

    Oh noes, not the cosmological argument again – run away!

    I’m not making a cosmological argument here, only illustrating that the essence of a thing is not the same as its existence. There are things like unicorns whose essence we grasp, but which do not in fact exist. (Anything that does exist must have an essence, otherwise we couldn’t grasp it at all.)

    How about: The essence of ‘nothing’ is for it to not exist, therefore everything exists.

    Even unicorns? By your account, there is no need for evolution! Everything exists! None need to come into being, and so there is no need to explain the origin of species.

    (“Nothing” does not have an essence because it does not exist as such. Every thing is some thing, and so has an essential nature.)

  58. Intelligent Design bears a striking resemblence to Natural Selection. The only difference is “nature” becomes the designer. And viola! Gaia is born.

  59. Swordfishtrombone:
    “Acording to that logic, far more superior still is the hypothesis of no designer at all.”

    Really??? What’s the logic, premises, etc? That’s a statement that reflects a matter of opinion, not logic.
    Logic seems to be used by theists, not by atheists–atheists have opinions, unsupported by evidence.

  60. YOS,
    “an electron that is part of an atom behaves as a part of that atom and not as a simple free electron. ”

    A bound electron is identical to a free electron. There are NO emergent properties here. A true emergence would be where the properties of the whole happen to be unpredictable from properties of the part.
    But given, the properties of electrons and nucleons, one can, in principle, compute all the properties of the sodium atom. No emergence.

  61. Ye Olde Statistician

    August 8, 2016 at 9:14 am

    A bound electron is identical to a free electron.

    So a free electron is also bound to an orbital shell? I always thought beta radiation, for so an electron is called when it bolts for freedom, went in straight lines.

  62. Sheri: Yes, God is our Father, but He is our Father who is conceiving us at every single moment in time, and, we hope, into eternity when time is done.

  63. swordfishtrombone

    August 8, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    @ Sheri:

    “What I want to know is where in the theory is there a formula or a law that governs evolution other than “natural selection” which is shorthand for “whatever is still left”, not a definition at all and not proof of the theory.”

    I’m not sure what you’re asking for. Creatures that survive to mate pass on their genes, those that don’t don’t. What would prevent evolution from happening given those facts?

  64. swordfishtrombone

    August 8, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    @ Bob Kurland:

    “Really??? What’s the logic, premises, etc? That’s a statement that reflects a matter of opinion, not logic. Logic seems to be used by theists, not by atheists–atheists have opinions, unsupported by evidence.”

    Oh dear. The term ‘logic’ in my argument refers to Paul Davies’s ‘logic’, not my own. I considered using ‘thinking’ instead but went with ‘logic’ because ‘according to that logic’ seemed to make more sense and is a more commonly used phrase. When someone says “according to that logic”, they’re usually pointing out that the ‘logic’ under discussion isn’t actually very logical and that’s what I was trying to achieve.

    The ‘logical’ reasoning used by Paul Davies in the quote you provided is that A is ‘far superior’ to B, with no reasons given. From that (and from my reading of other books by Paul Davies) I conclude that his preference is based on aesthetic reasons: Tinkering with constants is ‘far superior’ to tinkering with evolution because it’s simpler and more elegant. My extrapolation of that ‘logic’ to an even simpler and even more elegant no-designer situation is eminently sensible.

    You say that atheists have no evidence but we don’t need any! It’s the god-bothering side which needs evidence but they don’t have any, which is why they fall back on logic.

  65. swordfishtrombone: First, your assumption that anyone who questions evolution is pushing religion is getting old and tiresome. No belief in God is necessary to understand why evolution is a theory that can never be proven.

    I stated that “natural selection” is a backcasting theory only whose “explanations” lack predictive value. Therefore, it lacks the qualities of a useful scientific theory. I don’t see why that’s so hard to understand. Evolution is like a circumstantial case in court—you can get a conviction on the circumstantial evidence, but years later DNA can overturn it. Or you just assume the person was guilty and never really know. It’s a matter of certainty. You cannot prove the theory but it’s the only theory out there that is secular, so science uses it. You can show that animals change in response to their environment, but again, predictability of the end result is very low. Scientists get very angry over this, but I suspect it’s because they see evolution as eliminating God. Otherwise, I see no reason for the indignation. It’s not like global warming where billions are involved. Why is it so hard to admit this is a hindsight theory that cannot be proven short of a time machine taking someone back to the beginning? It works for now, but it has many holes.

  66. YOS,
    There are not two species of electrons that are called free electrons and bound electrons. Bound electrons are electrons had happen to be bound to a nucleon.
    Free electrons are electrons that happen to be not bound to any nucleon.

    But this is not the question I wished to discuss with you. Given your point that science assumes existence (with which I entirely agree, by the way), what do you say to the cosmologists and others (including theists) that say
    that Big Bang theory describes the creation of the universe from an initial singularity? And thus we can know the precise age of the universe?

    I myself prefer Fr Jaki’s view that this view is wrong and Big Bang says nothing about any creation of the universe. Physics theories are about correlation of one material configuration with another. They can not describe where the configurations come from.

  67. Ye Olde Statistician

    August 9, 2016 at 1:56 am

    There are not two species of electrons that are called free electrons and bound electrons.

    I never said so. I said that an electron bound in an atom behaves differently. It behaves as a part of the larger whole. It is top-down causation: the whole governs the acts of its parts just as the parts inform the acts of the whole.

    what do you say to the cosmologists and others (including theists) that say
    that Big Bang theory describes the creation of the universe

    I agree with Fr. Lemaitre, who originated the theory. It marks the beginning of the space-time manifold but it is not a moment of creation. Creation is the joining of an essence to an act of existence. It does not move things around. If the “universe” did indeed originate from a singularity (and the singularity does not merely mark the point at which the model breaks down) then it is obviously not a moment of creation, since the singularity is not nothing. It is a singularity.

    Secondly, time is contingent on the existence of matter, so there is no “moment” of creation. Too many folks confuse creation with the first term in a series of events; but creation is first in a logical order, not necessarily a temporal order.

    Jaki is hep to the jive, too.

  68. YOS,
    In one sense, the bound electron behaves differently than the free electron but in another sense it does not. In all cases, it responds via the electromagnetic interaction to its surroundings.

    There is no mysterious “top-down” causation. You have electron, a nucleon and their electromagnetic coupling. Where is the “top-down” causation here?

    Regarding Big Bang, I find following statement in a book that aims to demonstate theism via science:
    “Scientists now believe that the universe–the very fabric of space-time-is expanding from a cataclysmic explosion that happened about 13.7 billion years ago which is known as the Big Bang”

    Now , is this statement scientifically justified? At least he does not speak of creation of universe or spacetime.
    I don’t think Big Bang can even claim to “mark the beginning of the space-time manifold” for again physics requires a space-time manifold to be a physics of. Physics must have things (otherwise what is this physics of)
    and things mean space-time.

  69. YOS,
    Theist abuse of the Big Bang theory are all too common. In one place, I find the statement
    “When scientists use the classical laws of physics to determine how the Big Bang started, they encounter what is called a “singularity” , a point where the laws of physics seem to break down, and a transcendent God is theoretically needed to start the universe.”

  70. Ye Olde Statistician

    August 9, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    [the electron] responds via the electromagnetic interaction to its surroundings.

    Exactly.

    There is no mysterious “top-down” causation.

    Nothing “mysterious” about it. See “surroundings,” above. Parts that are joined together in a “thing” behave as part of the whole. That is, they are governed or modulated by their surroundings and connections. This is sometimes called “holistic”, sometimes “emergent.”

    You have electron, a nucleon and their electromagnetic coupling. Where is the “top-down” causation here?

    From the “coupling.”

    Regarding Big Bang, I find following statement in a book that aims to demonstate theism via science:
    “Scientists now believe that the universe–the very fabric of space-time-is expanding from a cataclysmic explosion that happened about 13.7 billion years ago which is known as the Big Bang” Now , is this statement scientifically justified?

    Of course not. The Big Bang — a term mockingly applied to the theory by Fred Hoyle for atheistic reasons — was not an “explosion.” Into what was it exploding? Not some void in which the “singularity” was floating. Space and time are a consequence of matter. You simply cannot demonstrate a metaphysical conclusion from physics, since the former is logically prior (meta) to the latter.

    I don’t think Big Bang can even claim to “mark the beginning of the space-time manifold” for again physics requires a space-time manifold to be a physics of. Physics must have things and things mean space-time.

    That brings up the medieval theory of the intension and remission of forms and the related issue of first and last moments. Naturally, the space-time manifold (a mathematical abstraction like the “block universe”) is coterminous with the existence of matter.

    Theist abuse of the Big Bang theory are all too common. In one place, I find the statement
    “When scientists use the classical laws of physics to determine how the Big Bang started, they encounter what is called a “singularity” , a point where the laws of physics seem to break down, and a transcendent God is theoretically needed to start the universe.”

    Such abuses are common among atheists as well, not only abusing the poor Big Bang but other scientific and quasi-scientific theories. This has led some folks to even deny causation in order to avoid what they think is the conclusion! That is, they swallow whole the scientistic belief that it all comes down to physics in the end, so they cannot imagine God acting in any other way than as a physical efficient cause, in competition with other efficient causes. As if the toppling of a row of dominoes could only be explained by a First Domino. But in fact, the arrangement of the dominos in the order they possess was not done by a super-powered Domino in Spandex tights, but by some entity outside the order of dominoes.

    This sort of thinking is very 19th cent. and was not the mainstream in earlier times.

    (12th cent.) William of Conches: [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.
    Dragmatikon

    (13th cent.) Thomas Aquinas: Nature is nothing but the plan of some art, namely a divine one, put into things themselves, by which those things move towards a concrete end: as if the man who builds up a ship could give to the pieces of wood that they could move by themselves to produce the form of the ship.
    Commentary on Physics II.8, lecture 14, no. 268

    (14th cent.) Nichole d’ Oresme: I propose here… to show the causes of some effects which seem to be marvels and to show that the effects occur naturally… There is no reason to take recourse to the heavens [astrology], the last refuge of the weak, or to demons, or to our glorious God, as if he would produce these effects directly…
    De causa mirabilium

    (20th cent.) Christoph Cardinal Schönborn: Scientists are most welcome to “explain everything they need to without appeal to God;” indeed, I hope all the readers of First Things would join me in strenuously objecting if God is ever invoked in the course of normal scientific explanation!
    Letters, First Things, Aug/Sep 2007

  71. swordfishtrombone

    August 10, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    @ swordfishtrombone: “The essence of ‘nothing’ is for it to not exist, therefore everything exists.”

    @ YOS: “Even unicorns? By your account, there is no need for evolution!”

    By ‘everything’, I mean ‘everything logically and/or physically possible and self-consistent’. It occurred to me that you might latch onto ‘everything’ in that manner, but I hoped you wouldn’t lower yourself to use such a cheap tactic 🙂

    @ YOS: “”Nothing” does not have an essence because it does not exist as such. Every thing is some thing, and so has an essential nature.”

    I don’t think it makes any difference whether ‘nothing’ has an essence or not in my account – all it has to do is not exist.

  72. swordfishtrombone

    August 10, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    @ Kevin:

    “@swordfishtrombone, it’s odd how I got my “redefined ID” directly from Stephen Meyer’s book Darwin’s Doubt. It is not god-of-the-gaps. The god-of-the-gaps argument states that there are gaps of knowledge that we have and that God fills the gaps. Intelligent Design states that we do have actually the knowledge and the result of the knowledge we have leads us to a conclusion of a designer in some fashion.”

    Stephen Meyer is just rearranging words to obsfucate the fact that this is a god-of-the-gaps argument. There isn’t a gap only because ‘we have knowledge’ but our understanding of it is wrong (according to Meyer) which makes it a gap in our knowledge.

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