The Unbelievers: The Movie. Richard Dawkins & Lawrence Krauss On Tour

I hope those were diet pops.
I hope those were diet pops.
A camera followed two village atheists on their wanderings, spliced together some of their less tedious talks, sprinkled in a few celebrity cameos, such as one by noted scientist Woody “Obama for Dictator” Allen, and voilà a movie was made.

The Unbelievers follows evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss across the globe as they speak publicly to sold-out halls, advancing a thoughtful dialogue about the importance of science and reason in the modern world.

Incidentally, since this is a movie, it’s appropriate to comment on costume, here presented in the form of advice. Larry, it’s okay to go bald. It’s natural and scientific. People take you more seriously the more rational your hair style. And, oh my, tennis shoes?

Anyway, in the beginning of the trailer, Krauss asks Dawkins, “Richard, what’s more important in some sense. If you had a choice, which is to explain science or destroy religion?” Poor Dawkins was taken aback by this conundrum, so alas, we don’t learn his answer.

But we can guess because later Dawkins says, “Religion is not wonderful, it’s not beautiful, it gets it the way.” If he meant by this that “Some religion is not wonderful…” then his proposition is true and disputed by nobody. But if he meant, “All religion is not beautiful…” then his proposition is not just false, it is ludicrous and bespeaks of a mind (using a word of which he is fond) pig-ignorant of human history.

Dawkins, the world’s most famous atheist, and Krauss, director of the esteemed Origins Project, are dedicated to furthering the (r)evolutionary idea that science, above all else, should inform man’s understanding of the universe. [link added]

The proposition that only science should (or can) inform our understanding of the universe is itself not scientific. That man should want to understand the universe is not a scientific proposition (while the extent he does could be). That man should want to explain how things work so that he can better survive contains a moral judgment (that man should survive) which is not scientific. That man should know science to decrease pain contains a moral judgment which is not scientific. That science is better than religion for ordering a society contains moral judgments (about how to measure the well ordering of culture) which are not a scientific. The language of science, i.e. mathematics, is not scientific. Et cetera.

Besides the tedious self-congratulation common among proselytizing atheists (note the daring “(r)” in front of “evolutionary”), the movie is thus based on a fallacy, and a simple one—simple in the sense that it takes little thought to reveal, and where knowledge of it was free for the asking had the two gentlemen only asked. As to that:

Refusing to engage with those who advance divisive and extreme fundamentalist positions Dawkins and Krauss show how sometimes sensitive and provocative ideas can be discussed respectfully and with intellectual rigour.

It is well to ignore raving quibblers because responding to them wastes everybody’s time. But that’s not what the pair do. They instead cock a deaf ear to their best critics. Richard Dawkins famously won’t debate William Lane Craig, saying that because Craig is a Christian and gives God two thumbs up, even Old Testament Angry God (new cell phone app?), that therefore Craig is beneath contempt. Need the fallacy be pointed out? As a service to humanity: to say you won’t debate a man over a proposition because the man believes the proposition and you do not is not a proof the proposition is false.

Neither have Krauss or Dawkins answered the rational, deep, close arguments in, inter alia, Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition or the various reviews of their books written by their scholarly enemies (see especially Hart’s gorgeous Atheist Delusions). Instead, they spend their time answering anti-evolution rubes who write to say, “My uncle is not a monkey!” Dawkins feels he’s done a good day’s work by telling these folks, “You’re anti-science!”

Krauss thinks people are “threatened” by science. They are not, of course. They are threatened by scientism, which is very different. Scientism is dangerous because the people espousing it are not aware, or cannot acknowledge, the moral beliefs they hold are not (and cannot be) scientific. To insist they are is risks grave error and the slavish (and occasionally deadly) following of theory instead of truth.

All involved in this flick brag they follow “a purely rational approach.” Maybe that’s so, but the implication that all their religious opponents do not is false. Even a simple glance through, say, Summa Theologica proves this. That Aquinas and his followers might be wrong is a trivial truth. But it is also a truth that they might be right.

36 Comments

  1. Well those two are probably the “famous atheists” that I really have no hopes for the most. Dawkins for his cold almost autistic attitude towards things, Krauss for his wannabe-style that merely shows how much of a jackass he is.

    At least PZ Myers isn’t mentioned here, and I hope is not in the movie… about time the “sheperd of trolls” to fade out from the air waves.

    I liked Hitchens. Why the hell did he had to die? If anything, that’s proof God doesn’t exist.

  2. BTW, saying William Lame Craig is a “best critic” is hilariously sad from your part.

    No, Lane is Lame. He is the guy who proclaims the following “proof of God”:

    (1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
    (2) The universe begins to exist.
    Therefore,
    (3) The universe has a cause.

    And he says this:

    “the first premiss is so intuitively obvious, especially when applied to the universe, that probably no one in his right mind really believes it to be false.”

    Is this your example of a “best critic”? This is mind-boggingly bad for so many reasons. The arrogance of an armchair handwaving academic who pretends he can infer the very nature of the universe by the most simplistic reasoning ever, without taking to account any caveats of any problematics when dealing with what we are dealing here with (are these concepts applicable in the beggining of the universe? Are we sure our definition of “cause” is applicable here? Is time a part of the universe? How do we even know this?)

    But since philosophy isn’t constrained by physics, it’s okay I guess. IOW, as long as you keep your head beneath the sand and don’t listen to the hard working theorists who bang their heads in very difficult problems of physics about this very problem, then the problem is easy to see and solve.

    BTW, this is the kind of BS that makes people like Dawkins and Krauss seem like sane and sensible people when they say science is the way and so on. IOW, if you don’t like what these people are saying, THEN don’t defend the BS of WLC.

  3. The danger of “a purely rational approach” is that it allows you to reach morally repugnant conclusions which you then cling to as evidence of the purity of your approach. Rational isn’t always reasonable and so it is not enough.

  4. “The proposition that only science should (or can) inform our understanding of the universe is itself not scientific.”

    Steady on now: the quote was science “above all else”. Not “instead of all else” as you seem to be implying.

    “That man should want to understand the universe is not a scientific proposition (while the extent he does could be).”

    So what? Regardless of issues of atheism / religion / whatever, I think most would agree that mankind *does* want to understand the universe. The fact that this desire is or is not scientific is irrelevant: science is th *means* to understanding it best, according to the lines you quoted.

    “That man should want to explain how things work so that he can better survive contains a moral judgment (that man should survive) which is not scientific.”

    Firstly, irrelevant (as above, science = means, not end). Second, no reason was given for why mankind might want to understand the universe better.

    “The language of science, i.e. mathematics, is not scientific.”

    Is it not held to the same standards though (if not more rigid standards)? 2+2=4, here’s lots of proof, and if anyone can ever show that 2+2=5, then how is that any different from E=MC^2 vs E=MC^3?

    “Krauss thinks people are “threatened” by science. They are not, of course.”

    Really? Suppose we have 2 mutually exclusive positions:

    1. God made the universe, as per the Bible.
    2. God did not make the universe.

    Now let us suppose that proposition #1 is proven scientifically sound. Much rejoicing from Christians, maybe even from Mr Dawkins et al too, if they’re big enough men. But let us now suppose that #2 is proven scientifically sound. That must mean that a part of the Bible is wrong. And if one part can be wrong, then other parts may be wrong too. And what if the parts about how to live a moral life are also wrong?

    That, I think, is what worries so many believers WRT science. Now, I think they’re being silly: whilst there may one day be a scientific means of analysing ethics, there is certainly not one yet, and the two disciplines should be considered quite separate. Religion can tell you *how* to live your life, but science can tell you why you’re alive in the first place.

    “They are threatened by scientism, which is very different. Scientism is dangerous because the people espousing it are not aware, or cannot acknowledge, the moral beliefs they hold are not (and cannot be) scientific. To insist they are is risks grave error and the slavish (and occasionally deadly) following of theory instead of truth.”

    I don’t think Richard Dawkins has ever argued for a scientific basis to morality: he’s just repulsed by much of religious morality (or examples thereof, etc) instead. If nothing else, it’s rather hard to measure ethics. Generally, what I’ve read & seen from Dawkins on the subject of morality is more along the lines of “treat others as you’d like to be treated” and “think critically” etc. As opposed to “be fully prepared to sacrifice your son on God’s command, because obeying God is of greater moral importance than not sacrificing your son”, which is the sort of thing he despises.

  5. My fav Richard Dawkins’ performance is in South Park season 10, episodes “Go God Go” and “Go God Go XII”.

  6. Science is about showing which theories are false, and which theories are not yet shown to be false. A theory is second-best, it is always much better is one is able to prove things.

    Theories are logical constructions, and as such they are not science either. As logical constructions one can prove (using logic) that a theory is self-consistent, but it is impossible to prove that a theory is true, i.e that a theory is the correct description of (a part of) the world. It is possible to prove that a theory is false, and that happens when the world does things differently from the theory. This proof consists of comparing the outcomes from the theory and the experiments testing that theory. If things differ, then the theory is not the correct description.

    Religions are theories too. They differ from scientific theories in that the interesting bits are not testable. So yes, you might understand things because of the explanation provide by a specific religion. And no, you have no clue whether that explanation is any good. If you are happy with any explanation, fine. Changes are you have the wrong one, but if you don’t care, why should anybody else care on your behalf?

    Moral theories are also not scientific. That is fine, because one can still argue about the logical consistency of a specific moral theory. And one can still argue whether a specific moral theory that is claiming to be consistent with a specific religion, is provable consistent with that religion. And it is still fun to point out that a person (like a politician) claiming to follow a specific moral theory, is in fact not doing it.

    BTW, checking that a person is not acting according to his proclaimed moral theory is science.

  7. Falsifiability is nice, but I am really annoyed by all the people who think it is really the be all of science. No, it’s not. It’s a little part of the process. Anyone who subscribes to this blog should at least know that fact already.

  8. Luis: Can you provide a link to Craig stating what you claim he states points 1-3. Why didn’t you quote that. If he states it like you claim, he misunderstand the argument as do you. If he doesn’t, then you misunderstand the argument…. showing you to be simplistic. The cause effect relationship discussed in the Scholastic First Cause argument in this case is not backwards in time, but downwards in the immediate now. I suggest you understand the arguments before claiming to debunk them.

    Please, define science as you see it for us unenlightened ones because from where I see it. you don’t understand that either and conflate all sorts of other disciplines with what you call science. You engage in attempts at logical argumentation while calling others who do so “armchair handwaving academics”. But of course, you are grounded in SCIENCE so cannot be but correct.

    There was a time in history where leaders of society overstepped the bounds of their knowledge and applied it outside of the areas where that knowledge was applicable. They didn’t understand the error they were making. They implemented the inquisition. They were called priests.

    Today, we have “scientists” as our priests who don’t understand the limits of their knowledge and their ignorance of their ignorance.

  9. Google is your friend. He stated that case in every single debate he’s been on. And I’m really sympathetic to all the atheists in those debates who were in wtf is happening here mode “how do I refute such stupidity” afterwards. Probably why WLC alledgedly “wins” those debates.

    Now look Alan, I am *aware* the “Scholastic First Cause Argument” is more convoluted and defensible, but I never stated otherwise now did I. Also, where did I “debunk them”? I exposed what WLC said for you to see how stupid he really is. Different.

    Continuing, you are probably confusing the entries here. Where the hell did I state I am “grounded in SCIENCE” and cannot be “but correct” and all the shenanigans you are sarcastically implying? I am also curious to know how the hell you know what I know about what science is and is not, since I didn’t discuss science here apart from that little caveat about falsifiability not being the “be-all” of science. Which it isn’t.

    Today, we have “scientists” as our priests who don’t understand the limits of their knowledge and their ignorance of their ignorance.

    Priests still exist today telling us their medieval BS stories. The scientists mentioned in the OP might be talking about things they haven’t thought sufficiently through (some things they say are facepalmish at best), but at least they are not proclaiming to know to what place exactly will we go when we die and other patronizing / comforting fairy tales to make people happy and conform to their arbitrary moral rules.

  10. Luis: “. . . but at least they are not proclaiming to know to what place exactly will we go when we die and other patronizing / comforting fairy tales to make people happy and conform to their arbitrary moral rules.”

    Actually, they are proclaiming, quite loudly, to know exactly what place we will go when we die: it is called oblivion, nothingness. And they are evangelizing with every bit as much zeal as the local town preacher. And they are also proclaiming loudly to know exactly where we came from and how everything came to be, including humans and the very thoughts that they themselves proclaim as truth: it all came about through a long series of accidental particle collisions.

    Talk about fairy tales . . . !

  11. Luis,

    This is not your best hour, brother. Better to look into Craig’s arguments a little closer. And your thoughts about causation incoherent. Anyway, as you will not be surprised, the proofs (as is proofs) of Aquinas do not rely on the universe (all physical existence) coming into being in time.

    Sander,

    Many religions are theories, yes. Which is why we aim at truth, not theory.

  12. Eric, that might be the case with the aforementioned village atheists. There’s a great deal of evidence that this is the case, much unlike the fairy tale of religion though. It should be treated like the null hypothesis, to which religion ideas should be tested against. Oh wait, it’s not a scientific truth. So let’s just let them preach it will be wonderful when we die. But don’t commit suicide to fasten this paradise, for then you’ll go to hell (what.)

    This is not your best hour, brother. Better to look into Craig’s arguments a little closer

    I tell you exactly the same thing. Look at his videos. They say *EXACTLY* what I said. Deny at your peril, you’re the one being brainwashed to say that this guy is awesome. He isn’t. He’s a terrific stage performer of sheer stupid banalities. And don’t get me started when he starts to say there’s a really good amount of evidence that Jesus ressuscitated and such. What a con man.

    And your thoughts about causation incoherent

    Since when is asking questions on our concepts of causality “incoherent”? Since when is pointing out the obvious truth that in limit cases our trivial notions of how the world works might be completely out of whack is “incoherent”, since this has been precisely our experience in the scientific domain for over more than a century now?

    Anyway, as you will not be surprised, the proofs (as is proofs) of Aquinas do not rely on the universe (all physical existence) coming into being in time

    …and thus changing the very concept of causality that was so universal and without exception, conveniently after concluding by analogy and inference that the universe has to have a cause because “everything else also had”. Basically you both argue the universe is unique and not unique, in one single argument. Quite funny when coupled with the staunch defense of the law of non-contradiction and so on.

    Oh you think I’m being simplistic? Here’s a professional take on that subject matter:

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/quentin_smith/causation.html

  13. Luis
    are these concepts applicable in the beggining of the universe? Are we sure our definition of “cause” is applicable here? Is time a part of the universe? How do we even know this?

    YOS
    It’s truly saddening when the advocates of rationalism preach obscurantism. Of course, “how can we know what we can know” is another of those non-scientific philosophical questions; viz., one of epistemology.
    Time is part of the universe, since time is the measure of change in changeable being. “With the motion of beings, time began to run its course,” said Augustine. Years later, Einstein said, “Formerly, people thought that if matter disappeared from the universe, space and time would remain. Relativity declares that space and time would disappear with matter.”

    Luis
    But since philosophy isn’t constrained by physics, it’s okay I guess.

    YOS
    Why should moral philosophy be constrained by “physics”? S=½gt²; therefore, love your neighbor? Darwin is true; therefore, eugenics? Physics, otoh, is necessarily constrained by philosophy, since any physics is governed by logic and metaphysics.
    + + +
    Mark
    I think most would agree that mankind *does* want to understand the universe.

    YOS
    Historically, this has not been the case. Otherwise, natural philosophy would have flourished in all cultures rather than only in Greek antiquity, early medieval Islam, and the medieval and modern West. A useful overview can be found in Intellectual Curiosity and the Scientific Revolution: A Global Perspective, by Toby Huff.
    + + +
    “The language of science, i.e. mathematics, is not scientific.”

    Mark
    Is it not held to the same standards though (if not more rigid standards)?

    YOS
    No. Mathematics is deductive from agreed-upon axioms using logic. Natural science is inductive from empirical evidences. The value of pi, for example, is not based upon measuring a great many empirical circular objects, since the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of any such physical object will be ipso facto ratio-nal. A mathematical theorem cannot be falsified by physical data. (Nor is a mathematical calculation proof of any physical reality; although it is remarkable how well physical reality does cohere with mathematical constructs.)

    Mark
    Now let us suppose that proposition #1 [that “God made the universe, as per the Bible”] is proven scientifically sound.

    YOS
    That is simply not possible. Natural science is not competent to do so. It deals with the metrical properties of material bodies. Any scientific proposition that A causes B requires a material body on both sides of the causal arrow. The proposition is this outside its domain. Mathematics has a much better chance. 🙂

    Sander
    Religions are theories too.

    YOS
    Actually, they are not. They are binding rituals for a society, from re-ligare, “to bind again,” as Cicero noted a while back. One of the marks of scientism is the tendency to see everything as a would-be scientific hypothesis.

    Luis
    Falsifiability is nice, but I am really annoyed by all the people who think it is really the be all of science.

    YOS
    Say it, Brother Luis. Popper was explicitly interested in undermining the claim of science to privileged knowledge. He was stunningly successful in his demolition, so that today people will insist that science can never prove any proposition, only disprove them. But when Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln, introduced falsification in the 13th century he did so as part of a full scientific method, inductive as well as deductive.

  14. YOS & Luis,

    Falsifiability may not be the be all of science, but it is surely a critical component.

    A logical tautology can not be a valid scientific theory.

  15. @YOS:

    1. Regarding the understanding of the universe in history, has not a lot of that been made more difficult in the past through attempts at social control? I’m thinking primarily (though not solely) of religious control here: again it comes down to proving parts of the holy text(s) wrong – and challenging existing authorities. I suspect also that the conditions and education of the common man has also not been conducive to science for most of human history: when you can’t read or write, and your focus is on working to survive, “what are stars?” figures rather low on your list of priorities.

    2. Re maths not being scientific, fair enough – although I’m not sure that it’s impossible to disprove mathematical theorems with physical evidence (suppose I was talking about 2+2=4 apples, rather than simply 2+2=4 as purely numbers).

    3. Of course it would not be possible to prove that point scientifically (ie that god made the universe as per the bible) – it’s merely an example to showcase the different attitudes towards science between believers (or at least, many believers) and scientists (assuming they’re not too dogmatic as well of course!). In the event of my proposition occurring, a good scientist’s response should be: “cool, we’ve disproved XYZ theory!” – whereas a lot of religious people, I argue, are worried that the basis (or believed basis, for the cynical 😛 ) of their morality is under attack if the bible etc is proved partially wrong. Again, I fully realise that science cannot do what I suppose it can – it’s just a thought experiment to look at the psychology of why people feel threatened by science.

    Moving on briefly to falsifiability: I would argue that this, along with the ability to reproduce an experiment, is the foundation of science. For example, there’s no proof (that I’m aware of) that proves or disproves string theory. If I believe in it, then I am literally taking it on faith that it’s right, because I’ve got no evidence beyond some fancy equations – I would argue that accordingly, string theory is not science, and will not be science until it has experimental verification to support it. BUT, I believe in E=MC^2, because people have repeatedly proved it experimentally and tested it to destruction (literally, in the case of nuclear fission).

    Finally, I disagree with Sander that religions are theories – they are not (at least, not in the proper scientific sense of a theory, hypothesis – or law, for that matter). Rather, they tend almost always to be a combination of three factors:

    1. Creation myth – again, we all like to know where we come from. Under heavy attack from science here, because, quite understandably, the people writing these creation myths had no clue whatsoever – and I say that as someone who likes a lot of creation myths.

    2. Social control – if you don’t do as the priests say, then Big Brother Zeus will punish you. Under attack not from science per se, but critical thinking, rationality and the human desire for freedom.

    3. Moral codes of conduct – if you don’t behave, then again, Big Brother Zeus will know and may punish you. Perhaps not the best way of ensuring a well-behaved society (it is, essentially, based on fear of punishment rather than a desire to be good)… but if it makes people behave well, is it really so bad to attack it?

    I should point out, of course, that those 3 points aren’t exclusive to religion – almost any ideology will include those 3 points to a greater or lesser extent – and equally, not all religions or ideologies will use them to the same extent (or *have* used them to the same extent).

    Also, just because they are wrong (eg creation myths) or can be / have been used for bad ends (eg social control) does not mean that they must always be used in that way. This I think is my problem with people like Richard Dawkins – they are too eager, it seems, to focus purely on one side of the balance sheet, so to speak.

  16. @MattS
    Agreed. That’s why Bishop Grosseteste coupled it with induction from the quia to the propter quid. Then you made deductions from the propter quid to predict beyond the original body of obervations and checked those predictions with new observations. Any of the propter quids that failed this step were falsified. Or “modus tollens” as we said in math/philosophy.
    + + +
    @Mark
    Regarding the understanding of the universe in history, has not a lot of that been made more difficult in the past through attempts at social control?

    Not that I am aware of. Could you provide three examples?

    it comes down to proving parts of the holy text(s) wrong – and challenging existing authorities.

    That only matters if you are a literalist. It does not rightly matter to the Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic churches, and they comprise two-thirds of Christendom. The historico-literal reading is only one of four readings. As Bellarmine wrote to Foscarini:
    if there were a true demonstration that the sun was in the center of the universe …, then it would be necessary to proceed with great caution in explaining the passages of Scripture which seemed contrary, and we would rather have to say that we did not understand them than to say that something was false which has been demonstrated.

    I’m not sure that it’s impossible to disprove mathematical theorems with physical evidence (suppose I was talking about 2+2=4 apples, rather than simply 2+2=4 as purely numbers).

    Then you would be talking about an application of mathematics, and the conclusion would be applicable/inapplicable. How, for example, do we interpret “+”? It would not disprove the demonstration that 1+1=2 (which we spent several days proving in Number Theory class, lo these many years past).

    Of course it would not be possible to prove that point scientifically (ie that god made the universe as per the bible) – it’s merely an example to showcase the different attitudes towards science

    It’s actually an example that some statements are simply not scientific statement: i.e., about the metrical properties of tangible matter.

    it’s just a thought experiment to look at the psychology of why people feel threatened by science.

    IOW, it’s not scientific.

    the people writing these creation myths had no clue whatsoever

    The purpose of myth is not to provide a scientific account of matters. No one supposes that Beauty and the Beast is factual, but that does not prevent its being true.

    if you don’t do as the priests say, then Big Brother Zeus will punish you.

    You don’t seem familiar with Greek religion.

    Under attack not from science per se, but critical thinking, rationality and the human desire for freedom.

    Do not suppose that moral philosophers and theologians have never employed critical thinking and rationality. As for the human desire to pursue their appetites — which Late Moderns confuse with freedom — that is precisely why societies develop moral codes.

  17. @Sylvain
    Dark matter is what Aristotle used to call the aether. (Not to be confused with Lorenz’s luminiferous ether).

    Dark energy remains a term in an equation to make things balance, much like an epicycle. So science has not yet “discovered” it.

  18. @Luis:

    This is mind-boggingly bad for so many reasons. The arrogance of an armchair handwaving academic who pretends he can infer the very nature of the universe by the most simplistic reasoning ever, without taking to account any caveats of any problematics when dealing with what we are dealing here with (are these concepts applicable in the beggining of the universe? Are we sure our definition of “cause” is applicable here? Is time a part of the universe? How do we even know this?

    This is mind-boggingly bad, mostly because you have absolutely no idea of what you are talking about. W. L. Craig deals extensively with these and other issues. He has written several books (one with Quentin Smith, to which you approvingly link an article), has dozens of peer-reviewd papers, his defense of the Kalam argument is among the most widely discussed in the philosophy of religion, etc. and etc. If he is “stupid” and a “con-man” and all the other nasty things you said about him, then that makes you what? I will spare the audience the proper qualifications.

    note: I disagree with W. L. Craig on several important points, and while I think the Kalam works, I also think it has some important weaknesses, namely, that it does not get us to God, but to something less.

  19. @G
    Seems to me that “kalam” is a variant on the Third Way. Major: It ought to be obvious that everything that comes into being is brought into being by another. For X to “come into being” requires that X first has no being. And something that does not (yet) exist can’t do what is technically known as diddly-squat. Minor: That the universe came into being is less certain, as it is a conclusion of natural science, not a logical necessity; but the Big Bang theory has held up remarkably well so far. (Because he could not confirm that the universe had a beginning in time, Aquinas assumed in his proofs that it was eternal. Hence, his Third Way is radically different from the muslim argument.)

  20. Keep it simple. We need morality, that is why we evolved with moral instincts. Morality does not need to be perfect or absolute, just good enough to get by under the given circumstances. Morality cannot exist without some degree of intolerance, so that is not going to disappear. It would be foolish to expect or demand that. At the same time, every person can make her or his own footprints in the “moral landscape”. There is no role for science here.

  21. @G, yes I do have an idea of what I am talking about, and I’m going to ignore the rest of your ramblings for I do not see the height of a man’s worth being anything close to the amount of books and speeches they are able to regurgitate to their christian choir.

    @YOS

    It’s truly saddening when the advocates of rationalism preach obscurantism.

    Nonsense, YOS. This is about making sillogisms as if we control completely the conceptual frameworks of what is “time” and “causality”, without even noticing we are trying to applying it so to the [i]very point in space time where these concepts are called into question[/i]. And by “question” I mean the obvious, that these concepts can well degenerate (or complicate) towards something remarkably different in quantity, nature and so on within the singularity. This is bad philosophy, at best. At worst it’s a blatant lie.

    Why should moral philosophy be constrained by “physics”?

    Yeah, why would any thought be constrained by what we know about the world, when there’s so much money to be made making stuff up without such petty constraints.

    I’d also like to remind you YOS that science does not show the “universe” started with the Big Bang. Only that there was a singularity 13.7 billion years ago. That people jump to conclusions is merely human, not logical itself.

  22. YOS
    It’s truly saddening when the advocates of rationalism preach obscurantism.

    Luis
    Nonsense, YOS. This is about making sillogisms as if we control completely the conceptual frameworks of what is “time” and “causality”, without even noticing we are trying to applying it so to the
    very point in space time where these concepts are called into question. And by “question” I mean the obvious, that these concepts can well degenerate (or complicate) towards something remarkably different in quantity, nature and so on within the singularity. This is bad philosophy, at best.

    YOS rests his case.
    + + +
    YOS
    Why should moral philosophy be constrained by “physics”?

    Luis
    Yeah, why would any thought be constrained by what we know about the world…?

    YOS
    Thoughts about the workings of the physical world obviously would be. But that does not mean that moral reasoning is. It’s simply not the same domain of discourse. Thoughts about haute cuisine are not constrained by what we know about music.

    Luis
    science does not show the “universe” started with the Big Bang. Only that there was a singularity 13.7 billion years ago.

    YOS
    Yes, that’s how it started. Our thoughts in this area are constrained by what we know about the world, not making stuff up about other “universes” [sic] without such petty constraints.

  23. @Luis:

    No, you demonstrably do not have the least idea of what you are talking about. W. L. Craig wrote a book about General Relativity, what are your qualifications? Quentin Smith, which you approvingly quote, wrote a book with Craig with a discussion of cosmological arguments; maybe it did not dawned on him, a self-professed atheist, that W. L. Craig is “stupid” and a “con-man”. His defense of the Kalam is one of the most discussed arguments, in the literature — you know, those things called peer-reviewed journals — both on the con side (Grunbaum, Oppy, Smith, etc.) and the pro (Aquinas famously rejected the Kalam, but a Thomist like Oderberg defends it).

    As far as my rambling goes, in one thing you are right. Your petulant, ignorant idiotic antics in this thread is that of a caged monkey. I do not hold rational discourse with caged monkeys; rather I throw peanuts at *it*.

  24. People will sooner or later believe that God doesn’t exist, that he’s a fairy tale no different than Santa.

    @G,, you are a certified not nice person.

    edited

  25. @YOS:
    .
    1. Galileo springs immediately to mind WRT social control vs understanding of the universe. In addition, there is the issue of the language of the bible – unless you can read it yourself, you literally have to take what your priest tells you on faith, which makes it rather hard to study it yourself.
    .
    2. Of course if you’re willing to take a more metaphorical approach to scripture then it matters less if the scripture is wrong. Well, unless you take it metaphorically but worry about the people who don’t, or who might start getting ideas above their station. Whether the sun orbited the earth or vice versa probably wasn’t a big deal for the Pope in and of himself… but it probably gave him a great deal of concern if he thought of more literal Christians hearing of such things.
    .
    Essentially, it’s just politics. “If X can undermine Y and thus undermine my Y-derived authority then X is a threat”, whatever X & Y are.
    .
    3. Re application of maths – fair enough, god knows I’m no statistician 🙂 !
    .
    4. I never claimed my thought experiment was scientific, because I agree with you that, as science cannot do such a thing as prove that God made the world, it by definition cannot be. It’s a *thought* experiment for that very reason.
    .
    Suppose that for an April Fools’ Day joke, Dawkins & some astrophysicists got together & announced that they had proved that God had made the earth, and that Dawkins was off to get baptised, repent his sins, maybe even get ordained, etc etc etc. No doubt there would be much rejoicing from many religious people (at least until they cottoned on to what day it was), in no small part because science had confirmed their beliefs. It wouldn’t matter that it was all a quite unscientific joke – what matters is the psychology of the believers involved.
    .
    Now compare that to scientists saying over and over again “evolution is real”, “earth isn’t 6,000 years old”, etc. For an awful lot of religious people, this is a serious attack on their entire value system, basically because “if one bit of the bible’s wrong, what else might be wrong?” – even though the evolution of mankind or the origins of the earth should have absolutely no bearing on how you live your life.
    .
    Now, obviously there are many people out there who don’t take the bible as literally as has been suggested here: but then, my thought experiment never really considered them (although I apologise if I gave the impression that it did).
    .
    5. Beauty & the Beast *isn’t* true, unless you’re using a very unusual meaning of “true”. As a metaphor, or bundle of metaphors, it may contain a great deal of truth, but that’s not the same thing at all.
    .
    Consider instead the Christian creation myth: 7 days, Adam & Eve, etc. There is absolutely no evidence what-so-ever for it being what actually happened, nor any evidence that the people of the era (or should that be eras) involved would have known how to find out what actually happened. In fact, science all points at a very different origin of earth: the Christian creation myth is thus not true. However, as a kind of social glue, or as a metaphor etc… that’s a different matter.
    .
    6. Actually I just plucked the name Zeus out of thin air; it could have been any one of a number of gods from pantheons that yes, I am familiar with.
    .
    8. I would *never* suppose that theologians etc have never employed critical thinking etc – of course they have! But look at where it gets them WRT belief in religion. That quote – “I had no need for that hypothesis” – springs immediately to mind.
    .
    9. As for “freedom” vs “desire to pursui their appetites”… what, precisely, is the difference? I agree of course as to why moral codes (not to mention legal codes) develop, but I honestly can’t see any fundamental difference between freedom & pursuing your appetites.
    .
    To put it simply, what is freedom if you *can’t* pursue your own goals, however high or base they are? You may choose not to, whether for to selfish, legal or moral reasons… but you’re still *choosing* not to.
    .
    .
    @ Sylvain Allard: “Science has discovered god, they call it black matter and black energy.”
    .
    Dark (not black) matter is merely a means of explaining the so-far unexplained motion of distant stars, galaxies etc. It is quite popular, and is of great interest to the physicists involved, but that’s about it.
    .
    Dark (again, not black) energy is, as YOS mentions, something essentially to make equations balance. “If our understanding of XYZ is right, then it should be doing ABC, not DEF. It is doing DEF. Therefore, I hypothesise an additional variable that make it act like DEF instead of ABC. Experimental evidence for its existence will be such-and-such…”
    .
    Both these (like the Higgs boson, etc etc etc) are merely popular, high-interest topics in the field of physics, much like the luminiferous aether was, or phlogiston, or the (in)divisibility of the atom. Eventually, they’ll become a part of mainstream physics, or be proven wrong & fall by the wayside, like so many hypotheses have in the past, and the physicists will latch on to the next big thing(s).

  26. mattstat1. Galileo springs immediately to mind WRT social control vs understanding of the universe.

    Ask for three examples and get the one and only case ever adduced from 2000 years of history. Oh, well.

    However, you seem to rely on a mythic account rather than the empirical facts as known to historians. Not least, you are imposing Late Modern categories of thought onto Early Modern events.

    There was no objection to teaching geomobile hypotheses. The Jesuits were doing so at the Roman College. The objection lay in teaching it as physical fact, because at the time there was no empirical evidence that it was fact. All predictions of the heavens made by the Copernican model were duplicated or surpassed by the Tychonic model; there were no measurements possible in the mid-1600s that could have decided between them; and there were two decisive falsifications of the heliocentric models. The Copernican model contained about 20 epicycles, including a couple of notional innovations: the Moon ran on an unprecedented double epicycle, and Mercury librated idiosyncratically across the center of an epicycle! The consensus of the settled science was against the Copernican model.

    Why the agita?

    The rule applied by theologians was to read an account literally — unless there was certain knowledge to the contrary. It would not be done on a bald assertion unsupported by facts and to all appearances contradicted by known facts. Galileo wanted to be taken on faith, while the Church insisted on empirical evidence before altering the interpretation.

    “As to Copernicus, [Cardinal Bellarmino] said that he could not believe his work would be forbidden, and that the worst possibility, in his opinion, would be the insertion of a note stating that the theory was introduced to save the celestial appearances, or some similar expression, in the same way as epicycles had been introduced. With this reservation, he continued, you would be at liberty to speak freely on these matters whenever you liked… [Regarding Scriptural passages] I [Dini] answered that the Holy Scriptures might be considered in this place as simply employing our usual form of speech, but the Cardinal said that in dealing with such a question we must not be too hasty, just as it would not be right to rush into condemnation of anyone for holding the [Copernican] views which I had put before him … He told me that he intended to invite Father Grienberger to his house that he might discuss the question with him, and this very morning I have been to visit the Father, to see if there were any further news. I found that there was nothing fresh except that Father Grienberger would have been better pleased if you had first given your proofs before beginning to speak about the Holy Scriptures…”
    — Archbishop Piero Dini, Letter to Galileo, 7 March 1615

    Galileo’s insistence on interpreting Scripture made him sound rather Protestantish in the milieu of the seventeenth century. He wasn’t, and his interpretation had been mooted in the 1300s by Bishop Oresme and more currently by his friend Archbishop Dini. The problem was that he was a mathematician, not a theologian, and had no standing to make such an argument. He later wrote to Peiresc (16 March 1635), “You have read my writings, and from them you have certainly understood which was the true and real motive that caused, under the lying mask of religion, this war against me…”

    So it was not “social control vs. understanding the universe.” It was a mathematical hypothesis vs. established physics, with the Church relying on the established physics but ready to change if any proof were ever found. The empirical evidence became available in 1734 (stellar aberration), 1792 (Coriolis effects), and 1806 (stellar parallax).

    Suggested Reading:
    Crombie, A. C. Medieval and Early Modern Science, vol. II. Garden City, NU: Doubleday Anchor, 1959.
    De Santillana, Giorgio. The Crime of Galileo. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955
    Flynn, Michael F. “The Great Ptolemaic Smack-Down and Down-and-Dirty Mud-Wrassle,” Analog Science Fiction and Fact (Jan/Feb 2013), available at http://www2.fiu.edu/~blissl/Flynngs.pdf
    Rowland, Wade. Galileo’s Mistake. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2003.
    Shea, William R. & Mariano Artigas. Galileo in Rome. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

  27. Apologies to mattstat in my earlier comment. I get these comments via email and got two of them mixed up.

    + + +
    Mark
    Beauty & the Beast *isn’t* true, unless you’re using a very unusual meaning of “true”.

    YOS
    I am actually using the true meaning of “true.” Many Late Moderns confuse it with “fact.” Lukacs once said, quoting someone else whom I’ve forgotten, “Americans are always degrading truths into facts.”

    1. “Fact” comes from the participle factum est, meaning “something that has the property of having been fabricated.” Facts differ from observations in this sense that they have been accomplished, which is why the word is cognate with “feat.” This is more obvious in German, where the word if Tatsache, lit. “deed-matter.”

    2. “Truth” is an Anglo-Saxon monosyllable, and therefore regarded with disfavor and avoided whenever possible. It comes from triewð (W.Saxon), or treowð (Mercian), meaning “faithfulness.” Starting in the 1560s it began to mean “accuracy, correctness,” i.e., faithful to a standard. Truth came from “true”: triewe (W.Saxon), treowe (Mercian) “faithful, trustworthy,” from P.Gmc. *trewwjaz, “having or characterized by good faith.”

    Hence, as the Beach Boys prophesied: “Be true to your school.” The Latin translation of truth (triewð) is faith (fides). One is betrothed (be-truthed) in AS by promising to be faithful in Latin. [Be- is the old intensifier prefix, superseded in German by ge-. Hence, be-lief, meaning beloved. See Geliebte. A belief is thus a truth/faith grounded in intense love.]

    A truth that is not a fact. The truth of “Beauty and the Beast” is that sometimes one must be loved before he becomes lovable.

    A fact that is not a truth. The diameters of the stars, observed by eye and through early telescopes, measured precisely by the likes of Tycho Brahe. (They are now called Airy disks and are caused by atmospheric aberration.)

    The two main kinds of truth are Correspondence and Coherence.

    1. Correspondence. Natural science is supposed to be “true to the facts.” That is, faithful to observational and experimental results. Scientism, the belief that every proposition is a proposition in natural science, confuses “True to the facts” with “Truth = facts.”

    A novel, otoh, is supposed to be “true to life.” Cartographers use true north; metrologists specify true positioning in mechanical drawings. A bricklayer wishes to lay a true line of bricks. So the meaning of ‘faithful to a standard’ should be evident.

    Coherence. Mathematical propositions otoh are true if they logically cohere with a specified set of postulates and axioms. They need not correspond to anything, least of all to facts, although it is astonishing — Einstein called it a miracle — that they so often do. When he was developing general relativity, a friend pointed him to Riemannian geometry, which just happened to be on the mathematical shelf, and… it worked.

  28. @YOS,

    Aristotle’s aether is nothing like dark matter. Aether was found in outer space while dark matter is everywhere and in everything. Aether could not be modified while dark matter can be made into anything.

  29. I’ll give you that. The aether is more like the quantum vacuum or Einstein’s relativistic ether.
    http://hylemorphist.wordpress.com/2011/02/15/zero-point-energygroundvacuum-state-vs-real-being-vs-logical-being-vs-nothing/

    I’ve also seen the comparison to the dark matter, but the article is no longer accessible on-line.

    Aristotle’s aether:
    1. Naturally circular; has no place, motion nor rest
    2. Does not exist in time without loosening the meanings of those words
    3. Principle by which other bodies have place and are measured by a common time
    4. First physical agent cause of natural motions
    5. Called “matter” only equivocally; argues it partakes of “immateriality.”
    6. Immutable, impassive to ordinary matter, cannot be touched or pushed.
    7. Light-related phenomena have this medium as their proper subject.

    Whereas Einstein/Heisenberg ethers
    1. Curved space-time with no determinate velocity, location, or history
    2. Spatio-temporal predicates apply analogically, not univocally.
    3. Cause of the local and temporal properties of ordinary matter
    4. Determines nature of motions of ordinary matter
    5. Ambivalent about calling their respective aethers “material” or “immaterial”;
    6. Not ponderable [inertial] matter – agency of ordinary matter on it not intelligible as usual efficient causality
    7. Light-related phenomena have this medium as their proper subject.

  30. @Mark
    That quote – “I had no need for that hypothesis” – springs immediately to mind.

    YOS
    My auto mechanic “has no need” of the Darwinian hypothesis to rebuild my transmission. So what? I’m not sure why one would suppose God a scientific hypothesis in the first place, let alone one required to explain the motions of the planets. Contrary to atheists and fundamentalists, God is not a secondary cause, but a primary cause.

  31. “I’m not sure why one would suppose God a scientific hypothesis in the first place, let alone one required to explain the motions of the planets. Contrary to atheists and fundamentalists, God is not a secondary cause, but a primary cause.”
    .
    The point is, if you start employing Occam’s razor & thinking critically, you soon come to the conclusion that God – or, indeed, anything supernatural – isn’t needed for anything:
    .
    “I don’t know what causes lightning”, says someone. So, they investigate. They conduct experiments, make observations, discard bad hypotheses and so on and so forth, until they arrive at a nice god-less physical model that adequately explains what causes lightning. It may be completely wrong, but it doesn’t require anything supernatural & as an explanation, it works.
    .
    Multiply that by the thousands and millions of things science has explained, and you get either a god-of-the-ever-fewer-gaps, or no god at all.
    .
    You say that god is not a scientific hypothesis in the first place – I agree. But good critical thinking employs logic – something tied up inextricably with science and mathematics. If you run around trying to apply tools of critical thinking, with their emphasis on things you can (dis)prove, to things that you inherently can’t… yeah, that’s not going to end well. When you say “god created the universe”, or “morality comes from god” etc, and then start thinking critically… where’s the evidence? Nobody has any idea what created the universe (although ideas abound), and there are plenty of eminently sensible evolution-based hypotheses as to where morality comes from that does not require anything supernatural.
    .
    To use the Beauty & the Beast example again, it could be said to be true to an idea (ie some must be loved in order to love), even if the idea it is true to isn’t in any way factual. God I would put in a similar category. God is true / faithful to various ideas, but for His sake don’t subject Him to any really rigorous logical examination, because it won’t end well.

  32. The point is, if you start employing Occam’s razor & thinking critically, you soon come to the conclusion that God – or, indeed, anything supernatural – isn’t needed for anything

    Do you suppose that the experience of the Waldstein Sonata is entirely explained by the physics of vibrating strings and the rules of chord progression? And the pianist, or even Beethoven, “isn’t needed for anything”?

    Why, even after acknowledging that God is not a secondary cause in rivalry with other secondary causes, you persist on framing the question in that way?

    Strangely, Brother William of Ockham, OFM, did not reach your conclusion. Maybe he did not understand his own razor? (Actually, the Principle of Parsimony was well-known to the medievals.) It was actually an epistemological principle, not an ontological one. The rule is “don’t use too many variables in your model or you won’t understand your model.” A carpenter does not need dynamite to build a cabinet; but that doesn’t mean dynamites fails to exist.

    Recall Tolstoy’s famous description of a steam locomotive and what makes it run. Historian John Lukacs pointed out sardonically that Tolstoy had evidently forgotten the engineer.

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