Book review

Why I’m Unconvinced By Penrose’s Entropy/Anthropic Argument

There are a number of “constants” used in physics, such as the speed of light, the Planck constant, elementary charge and so forth. Some of these constants are bare, meaning they do not have a dependency on other constants, and some are derived from other constants, like vacuum permittivity (which is an exact formula of the speed of light and vacuum permeability, the latter being dependent on the definition of ampere).

Now these constants appear in certain formulas, and these formulas are derived by arguments, the lists of premises of which are very long and contain both observation and (ultimately) metaphysical premises. For instance, all use math, which is not observational. The constants “fall out” of these formulas, and are estimated via experiment. Their values are not deduced directly as, say, the value of π is in mathematics (there are many formulas for calculating the value of π, all based on argument).

If in any of these physics formulas a constant’s value can be derived, it is no long really a constant, but an assumed true (given the prior argument) value.

Though experiment can assist in estimating constants, conditional on the arguments which imply the constants’ existence, what follows is nobody knows why these constants take the values they do (nobody knows why π takes the value it does, either, though we can compute its value). Since constants are not derived, it could be that they are not real, in the sense they are not really part of the universe; it may be that they are estimating or summarizing groups of effects, that because the formulas which imply them might be incomplete, the constants are only parameterizations, in the same sense of probability models, or of encapsulating more fundamental processes as yet unknown. Or it could be they are real, in which case their values might be deduced. But it’s only “might” because it does not follow that we will ever know the right and true premises which lead to their deduction.

If the constants are only parameterizations, then arguments based on “choosing” constants, as is Penrose’s anthropic-like entropy argument, rely on false premises.

But, like most physicists do, I think the constants are real: they are the Way Things Are. And that means they were caused to be the way they are. They were made to take the values they did. The question then becomes why these values and not others.

It turns out, physicists like Penrose say, that assuming the arguments in which the constants appear are true, that if the certain values of these constants were to vary in only a minuscule way, the universe would look far different than it does now, even to the extent that life like us could not possibly exist. These non-life-universe arguments appear sound, remembering they are all conditional on assumed physical theory.

It turns out that only an exceedingly narrow range of the standard constants allow a universe anything like this one. Using an entropy argument well summarized in Robert Spitzer’s New Proofs for the Existence of God (pp 52-59; we’ll be going through this whole book), Penrose shows the creation of the constants had to have the “accuracy of one part in 1010123“, which is mighty precise! (In case your browser does not render that math, it’s 10 to the 10 to the 123rd power.)

This argument is not only premised on assumed physical theory, which is uncontroversial, but it also assumes there was a choice possible in the value of the constants.

There is no way to know or prove this choice existed, even for God. It could be, do not forget, that one or more of the values of the constants might be deducible, we just yet do not know how. We might some day discover how. In that case, we will have proven this constant had to have this particular value, with no choice about it. Penrose’s number would be reduced by some amount for each new deduction. If we could deduce all the constants, then it would appear the universe was inevitable, under Penrose’s interpretation.

But this is all doing it the hard way. That the universe exists at all, rather than nothing, is sufficient proof of the existence of God.

One possible line of escape, used by some and also summarized by Spitzer, is to assume all the “universes” which had the “allowable” values of constants really do or did exist; thus, they say, solving the choice problem. Or quantum mechanical arguments imply the constants are chosen “randomly”.

It should be obvious these are fallacies. The same unproven premise is there, that the constants could be different than they are, that a choice was possible. If a choice was possible, there had to be a chooser, or some simpler, more basic mechanism that led to the particular values.

But then what accounts for this constant chooser? It could be God directly, or other more fundamental still physical processes. If the latter, these had to come from somewhere: they could not have come from nothing.

Every path taken by these arguments leads to the same origin, which is Ultimate Chooser, the real true and sole reason the way things are are The Way Things Are. The nature of nature has to have an explanation, and that explanation can never, not ever, be nothing. The explanation has to be something outside nature, and the only candidate for that is God.

Incidentally, I do not agree with any probabilistic argument used to prove God’s existence, e.g. this one from Swineburn.

46 replies »

1. grodrigues says:

@Briggs:

“nobody knows why ? takes the value it does, either, though we can compute its value”

There is an ambiguity on “why” here. pi necessarily has the value it has (pi is *not* like the constants in physics), and the existing argument(s) show what it is and that is the answer to the “why question”. What else could count as an answer to “why ? takes the value it does”?

Note that this is not inconsistent with holding as I do (and you also) that everything that exists, insofar as it exists, is dependent on God — and I do not think that pi, or mathematical objects, are substances anyway, but that is another discussion, and probably you do not either.

2. Briggs says:

grodrigues,

Good point on the ambiguity, and, no, I do not think π is a substance. I’m merely making epistemological statements.

3. swordfishtrombone says:

“That the universe exists at all, rather than nothing, is sufficient proof of the existence of God.”

No, it isn’t. All it proves is that something exists.

“The nature of nature has to have an explanation, and that explanation can never, not ever, be nothing.”

The ‘nature of nature’ doesn’t have to have an explanation and if the explanation is ‘god’, that doesn’t explain anything anyway – you’re just using ‘god’ as another word for ‘explanation’. What is the explanation for god?

4. Gary says:

…nobody knows why ? takes the value it does…
I was told that pi takes its value from its definition as the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle. Nobody can say exactly what the value is, but that’s another discussion. The larger point is that the natural universe “defines” it’s constants. Who made the definitions is, of course, super-natural.

5. Peter Johanson says:

@swordfishtrombone
That’s why I posted the Sagan Video.
Same argument.

6. imnobody00 says:

“The ‘nature of nature’ doesn’t have to have an explanation and if the explanation is ‘god’, that doesn’t explain anything anyway – you’re just using ‘god’ as another word for ‘explanation’. What is the explanation for god”

Well, a very inept fallacy that has been answered before. We can discuss if God is the explanation of the Universe (there are arguments that prove this in a convincing manner). But this does not mean that, to prove that a explanation is true, you must find out the explanation of the explanation.

Some time ago, an artifact was discovered in the desert with marks indicating the phases of the moon. People correctly reached the conclusion that this artifact was made by humans. This does not mean that we have an explanation about who these humans were and how they lived in the desert. We don’t know anything about these humans but the conclusion that the artifact was made by humans is sound and solid.

If, to know an explanation, we had to know the explanation of the explanation, then, by logic, we had to know the explanation of the explanation of the explanation, and the explanation of the explanation of the explanation of the explanation and so on and so forth.

Science would be impossible. To know some thing, we would have to know everything. But science progresses with partial knowledge (and the same is true in philosophy or history).

When Newton discovered gravity, he was amazed that a force could operate at distance. It seemed a ghost thing. Now imagine and old swordfishtrombone telling Newton: “Well, Mr. Newton, you say that the explanation of the movements of the planets is gravity. But what is the explanation of gravity, Mr. Newton? You don’t have any explanation for gravity. Then you haven’t explained anything”

The problem with the Internet is that inept arguments are repeated once and again, when they have been answered longtime ago. In addition to this, they are repeated as if there were valid arguments by people that have the Dunning-Kruger effect (look it up).

The chain of explanation goes like this. Why A? Because B. Why B? Because C. Why C? Because D…. and so on and so forth.

At the end of the day, every worldview ends up with something that it is unexplained because the chain of explanations cannot be infinite (this would need a more detailed exposition). In atheist worldviews, it is a quantum vacuum or the multiverse or something like that. In theist worldviews, it is God. The only disputation is to know what unexplained explanation is the more adequate, the one that has more evidence by its side. Quantum vacuum or multiverse are contingent and ordered by laws of nature so they don’t do good unexplained explanations. But there are books about that and a combox is not enough.

7. imnobody00 says:

By the way, Sagan was very inept in philosophy and history (although a good divulgator of astronomy and cosmology). Their opinions about Thomist philosophy are really silly and he thought he could dismiss the entire discipline with a sentence (read “The Last Superstition” for more detail). Some of the historical events he narrated did not happen the way he thought. I don’t get the cult this guy has among atheists. I know atheist thinkers who are more solid and less ignorant.

I remember the opening of its Cosmos series and book: “The Universe is everything that existed, exists or will exist” (or something like that). A philosophical statement disguised as science. He did not provide any proof or argument. It was “proof by assertion”: because I say so.

When you discussed this claim with Sagan’s admirers, they didn’t give any proof either but only sarcasm (the preferred weapon of the atheist, who lacks in arguments). “Don’t you believe in ghosts and fairy tales, do you? Of course, the Universe is the only thing that exists”

Fast forward some decades. The second edition of Cosmos says that there is a multiverse. So it seems that the statement was false and the Universe was not everything. And all this sarcasm proved nothing.

Historians of the future will tell the tale of the multiverse in a amusing manner, like a joke and like a proof of people blinded by ideology. Ok, we have been lectured by atheists for centuries, telling that “they only go where the evidence leads them”, that they assess explanations by “the Occam’s razor”: the simplest explanation is the preferable (for example, Laplace said this to Napoleon).

Then the fine-tuning of the Universe is discovered. And these same atheists rush to invent a gazillion of universes with no proof only to avoid reaching the conclusion of an intelligent design of the Universe. Where is Occam’s law? Nowhere to be found. Where is “We go where the evidence lead us”? Where is the evidence for the multiverse? No evidence for the multiverse only the irrational urge to flee an explanation they don’t like.

(By the way, the multiverse would have ordered laws, so it doesn’t solve the need of intelligence design).

8. grodrigues says:

@imnobody00:

“At the end of the day, every worldview ends up with something that it is unexplained because the chain of explanations cannot be infinite (this would need a more detailed exposition). In atheist worldviews, it is a quantum vacuum or the multiverse or something like that. In theist worldviews, it is God.”

This is false for theist views — and by “theist views”, I mean classical, orthodox theism in the broad tradition from Plato to Leibniz. You may disagree with their arguments (which quite obviously you do not know), but they will all insist that there are no brute facts and therefore God is *not* “something that it is unexplained”.

9. Eric Slattery says:

I’m surprised Fibonaci sequence/Golden Ratio wasn’t talked about as well.

10. DAV says:

you’re just using ‘god’ as “… another word for ‘explanation’. What is the explanation for god”

Well, a very inept fallacy that has been answered before.

No. The point is that substituting one word for another accomplishes nothing.

11. Ken says:

Interesting logic flow that reaches a conclusion in conflict with the starting premise; quoting:

“… I think the constants are real: they are the Way Things Are. And that means they were caused to be the way they are.
This argument … also assumes there was a choice possible in the value of the constants.
There is no way to know or prove this choice existed, even for God. … It could be, do not forget, that one or more of the values of the constants might be deducible, we just yet do not know how. We might some day discover how. In that case, we will have proven this constant had to have this particular value, with no choice about it.”

Doesn’t the concession that the possibility of there sometimes being no choice for some constants necessarily have to concede that, equally maybe, there’s no choice all the time — that things are the way they are because that’s how they are.

12. Ken says:

If we postulate the existence of God, the very next question ought to be, “Which God?”

So-called “Christians” hold all manner of doctrines on that point — mutually exclusive, irreconcilably conflicting, doctrines. In this sea of opposing “truths” how is the actual “truth” to be identified? How are all the heresies going to be identified and tossed aside?

Since it was philosophers that created that mess, seems to me that it won’t be philosophers who will sort it out.

13. Ken says:

As Carl Sagan noted (video link above, 1st note), arguing that a ‘first mover’ must be an eternal God sidesteps a more fundamental question never addressed, much less resolved:

Why not an eternal inanimate universe; why must it be that the eternal is sentient?

We know enough about nature to know it moves on its own, subatomic particles to magnets, to star births & deaths we observe. Why is it so hard to accept that things, the way they are, are such that there is no need for a sentient ‘first mover’?

14. Fr. John Rickert, FSSP says:

imnobody00 says: “The chain of explanation goes like this. Why A? Because B. Why B? Because C. Why C? Because D…. and so on and so forth.”

I like to visualize this point in this way: Write “A” on a board with a question mark above it. Then write “B” on the board with an arrow to “A” and move the question mark so that is now above “B.” Then write “C” on the board with an arrow to “B” and move the question mark so that it is now above “C.” It is true that the question mark takes on a meaning specific to the item it is over, but what becomes clear is that we have not -answered- the question but only -transferred- it; we have traded in one question for another. And thus one can take this question mark and move it up, down, all around, but it remains unanswered. I think that it is more reasonable to say that indeed the question(s) can be answered, and that the Being Who is the answer must be such that this question cannot arise in regard to this Being. The manifest contingency of objects in our universe makes it clear that they cannot account for their own being; i.e., the question mark applies to them. But it cannot apply to God. God not only is not caused; God is not causable; and anything that is causable cannot be God.

15. Fr. John Rickert, FSSP says:

Ken —

With apologies to those who are tired of hearing me say this, have a look at “The Reductionist Delusion” on YouTube or gloria.tv It is a provably inadequate theory.

16. Frederic says:

All I know for sure is God was a builder who defied the void with
creation. As Jose Marti once said there are but two camps those who love
and build and those who hate and destroy.

17. DG says:

“Incidentally, I do not agree with any probabilistic argument used to prove God’s existence” – Briggs

Is there an example of an argument for theism that isn’t probabilistic? Would Aquinas’ 5th proof or his version of the design argument work better?

18. Well, constants can be relative things. It could be the particulars of the known universe that demand the constants. If there are other universes, made up a little differently, then maybe there the speed of light may also be different, etc. We don’t know. The existence of constants doesn’t tell us anything. Why they are what they are is the question, and “God said so” would be a willfully ignorant answer.

JMJ

19. Ye Olde Statistician says:

If we postulate the existence of God, the very next question ought to be, “Which God?”

In classical theology, we do not postulate the existence of God. We postulate the existence of motion in the world, or of the ordering of essential causes, or of contingent existence, or of the lawfulness of nature, and other suchlike things. From each we deduce the existence of God (or, more precisely, of the divine. Medieval Latin did not distinguish Deus from deus.) From this, by a series of further deductions, one can obtain a clearer picture of what this god is like and the cumulative impact is that it must be God, as we understand it.

Why not an eternal inanimate universe; why must it be that the eternal is sentient?

It needn’t be. Something may be eternal without the ability to sense things.

Recall that in his classical exposition of the proofs of God’s existence, Aquinas assumed secundum argumentum that the “universe” was eternal. (He know of no proof in philosophy for a begining in time. And it was Christian doctrine that this universe was inanimate, and not suffused with dryads, nymphs, and other “powers and principalities” that had held their predecessors in superstitious dread.

We know enough about nature to know it moves on its own

So Phooey on Science? We waste our time looking for causes?

And what do you mean when you say “nature” moves rather than that “material bodies” move? Those bodies which do move on their own are those we call “alive” and I am reluctant to return to the superstitious world of paganism and a living universe full of dryads and sprites.

That things in the world are in motion was well-known, and served as the minor premise of Aquinas’ first way argument. And what he (and Aristotle) showed was that a world of mobiles requires grounding in something that is immobile.

20. Andrew says:

“Gravity” is an interesting example.

We notice that massive bodies tend to pull towards each other.

We posit the existence of a force that makes this happen, and call it “gravity”. We note that if we make certain assumptions about the nature of this force (inverse square of distance, proportional to mass, …) then it fits with our observations of orbital mechanics and several other things.

Engineers using this force model discover that things work as they predict.

But note that we have *modelled* gravity, but not *explained* it. The behaviour seen in the world matches the model, and we can use the model to make reliable predictions. We know *what*, but have no idea *how*. It could be legions of immaterial pixies pulling, or that reality is actually a computer simulation and all mass is virtual. I don’t believe either of these to be true, but it’s an interesting exercise to consider what evidence would disprove them.

*Why*, as in the teleology of gravity, is a whole additional problem. And it must eventually end in the domain of philosophy – science can handle applied teleology (Y must happen in order to enable X), but not true teleology.

21. “It should be obvious these are fallacies. The same unproven premise is there, that the constants could be different than they are, that a choice was possible. If a choice was possible, there had to be a chooser, or some simpler, more basic mechanism that led to the particular values.”

I guess it’s not obvious to me. Of the multitudes of existing universes, a minute portion would support life. We would have to find ourselves in one of those, the same way a fish would find himself in one of Earth’s bodies of water. We don’t assume that some great power chose which pond the fish lives in.

22. Ye Olde Statistician says:

What multitude of existing universes would that be? Where are they? If they are material bodies, where is the empirical evidence for their existence? If they are immaterial bodies, do they qualify as angels?

23. DAV says:

we deduce the existence of God

The properties of luminiferous
aether were also deduced.

24. Ye Olde Statistician says:

we deduce the existence of God
The properties of luminiferous aether were also deduced.

But not from basic premises and not by valid syllogisms. The relativistic ether that Einstein put in its place was more satisfactory; but neither was Lorenz’ version anything at all like the true aether. The aether, as described by Aristotle was much more like what we now call “dark matter” in its properties.

25. DAV says:

But not from basic premises and not by valid syllogisms

Whatever. The idea behind aether was a presumed necessity for a medium to carry a light wave. Why? Because a wave without a medium was unimaginable because one had never been observed. A basic fallacy: absence of evidence is evidence of absence. This is no different than Aquinas’s Prime Mover. Deduction can be misleading particularly when the conclusions and assumptions can’t be independently verified. GIGO.

26. Ye Olde Statistician says:

Ludwik Kostro, Einstein and the Ether, provides an account of the actual history of Lorenz’s aether.

Certainly, if light were a wave, then there must be something that is waving. But the unsupported assumption was that light is a wave.

27. DAV says:

But the unsupported assumption was that light is a wave.

Oddly your rebuttal is that I picked the wrong assumption which, of course, doesn’t change our refute my argument.

28. Ye Olde Statistician says:

Oddly your rebuttal is that I picked the wrong assumption which, of course, doesn’t change our refute my argument.

I wrote:
“In classical theology, we do not postulate the existence of God. We postulate the existence of motion in the world [or something] From [this] we deduce the existence of [something beyond nature] …[B]y a series of further deductions, one can obtain a clearer picture of what this god is like and the cumulative impact is that it must be God, as we understand it.

The properties of luminiferous aether were also deduced.

But deduction leads to true conclusions only when argued from certain premises via valid syllogisms. I pointed out that this was not the case for Lorenz’s ether.

Whatever

You claimed further:
Because a wave without a medium was unimaginable because one had never been observed.

This is a claim, not an argument.

One may as well say that
“a married bachelor unimaginable because onr has never been observed.”
There might be something more to it than that.

But in fact, this was not the reason for the aether. It was postulated because “nature abhors a vacuum,” and therefore space must be filled with something. Some people call this something the aether (the “always-running”) because all matter seems to be in motion, but we now prefer to call it “dark matter.” Lorenz tried to recruit this to another purpose that does not seem to have worked out. (But who knows. You can conduct an experiment similar to Michelson-Morley to “prove” that the Earth is not rotating.)

You have also stated that:
A basic fallacy: absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

So the lack of evidence for God is not evidence for the absence of God? Oh, wait. You also said: Deduction can be misleading particularly when the conclusions and assumptions can’t be independently verified. For example, you cannot verify independently that the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter is an irrational number. (How can a ratio be ir-ratio-nal?) Then the nature of pi is questionable.

However, a logical fallacy does not mean the argument is incorrect. After all, natural science is based on the formal fallacy of asserting the consequent — Hume’s “problem of induction” — yet it seems to hold up fairly well.

29. DAV says:

deduction leads to true conclusions only when argued from certain premises via valid syllogism. I pointed out that this was not the case for Lorenz’s ether

Thank you for stating my point.

How do we know that about aether? Through a negative result otherwise we would still be going on about light waves traveling thru aether.

But what if the conclusions and assumptions weren’t testable? We would never know the conclusions weren’t true (as you say).

you cannot verify independently that the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter is an irrational number.

Math is standalone. There is no need for independent verification because mathematical conclusions don’t necessarily correspond to anything outside of mathematics.

Are you saying this is also true regarding the ramblings about the properties of God?

30. Ye Olde Statistician says:

a) They are not necessarily “ramblings” any more than the “ramblings” about ether/dark matter or phlogiston/oxygen.

b) The three great realms of human inquiry are physics, mathematics, and metaphysics. Each has its own methods, but their conclusions are not isolated from one another. The conclusions of mathematics, for example, have an intruiging habit of winding up entirely appropriate for application to physics, almost as if God really had “ordered the world by number, weight, and measure.” Newton’s breakthrough work on universal gravitation was titled Principia mathematica. He derived his theory the old fashioned way — via Euclidean geometry. And modern theoretical physics is almost entirely advanced mathematics. Even my own master’s thesis, which dealt with the topology of function spaces, about as abstracted and stand-alone as you can get, I was informed a few years ago has popped up in the architecture of computer systems.

c)
i)The physics abstracts from material (physical) bodies by induction to general theories. But the nature of induction is such that these theories are only tentative and might be falsified by new evidentia naturalis.
ii) Mathematics abstracts from ideal bodies by deduction to general theorems. The nature of deduction is that these theorems are known with certainty, given the axioms and postulates employed.
iii) Metaphysics abstracts from material bodies by deduction to general principles regarding being as such. The nature of deduction bestows a degree of certainty that induction does not; but the employment of empirical premises adds a degree of uncertainty. So the results may be held with more certainty than in physics, but with less than in mathematics.
http://realphysics.blogspot.com/2006/10/degrees-of-abstraction.html

31. swordfishtrombone says:

@ YOS:

“The three great realms of human inquiry are physics, mathematics, and metaphysics.”

The way that you list and later describe these items tries to create the impression that they’re on an equal footing, which is clearly false. Physics and mathematics support each other and their combined success has fueled our modern understanding of the universe and our technological progress.

Metaphysics has told us how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, and that a god who exists is greater than one who doesn’t exist so he must exist. (So I’m told. Maybe someone was pulling my leg with that last one?)

32. swordfishtrombone says:

@ imnobody00:

“Then the fine-tuning of the Universe is discovered. And these same atheists rush to invent a gazillion of universes with no proof only to avoid reaching the conclusion of an intelligent design of the Universe. Where is Occam’s law? Nowhere to be found. Where is “We go where the evidence lead us”? Where is the evidence for the multiverse? No evidence for the multiverse only the irrational urge to flee an explanation they don’t like.”

1. Not all scientists are atheists. Example: Big Bang theory. (Not the TV show.)

2. Fine-tuning has numerous possible explanations, not just the ‘multiverse’. Incidentally, if the universe is fine-tuned for life, why is almost all of it uninhabitable and why would god need to create a universe which requires fine-tuning anyway? Why couldn’t he just create a Garden of Eden universe consisting of a small flat Earth with an atmosphere and some back-projected stars?

3. Scientists do not develop theories to avoid “the conclusion of an intelligent design”, but to explain observations.

4. The lack of a scientific explanation doesn’t automatically mean ‘god dunnit’. There could be other explanations (assuming that ‘god’ is an explanation anyway, not just a word substitution) or no explanation.

5. ‘Occam’s law’ isn’t a law, but having said that, an ensemble of universes encompassing every possibility would be simpler than any one individual universe.

6. Scientists don’t ‘like’ the explanation ‘god dunnit’ because it has no explanatory power, shuts off further enquiry and has been wrong 100% of the times it has been used to date.

33. Ye Olde Statistician says:

The way that you list and later describe these items tries to create the impression that they’re on an equal footing, which is clearly false.

Clearly not equal. Mathematical conclusions are certain in a way that physical conclusions can never be, to cite once example. And it is hard to imagine physics at all without accepting the ontological principle that stuff exists. This cannot be proven in physics, since the very methods and tools of physics presuppose that stuff exists in the first place. The same goes for metaphysical concepts like motion. Physics can tell us about different kinds of motion, or how one kind is converted into another kind, but it cannot tell us what motion is. Likewise, “energy,” which in physical terms ends up being circular. And where would folks be in the sciences without metaphysical principles like Ockham’s Razor?

It’s the fish-and-water problem. We are so accustomed to certain metaphysical suppositions that we barely notice them. The problem is, as Midgley pointed out, “People who refuse to have anything to do with philosophy have become enslaved to outdated forms of it.”

Metaphysics has told us how many angels can dance on the head of a pin

When and where did it tell us this? Citation, please?

and that a god who exists is greater than one who doesn’t exist so he must exist.

To exist is surely greater than not to exist. Whether the conclusion follows is debatable. Anselm posited a proof, but the basic assumptions are now so alien to our way of thinking that the argument makes little sense to us. Aquinas rejected Anselm’s argument and seemed to regard it as a bit of bootstrapping. Being an existentialist, Aquinas first established that Pure Act was Existence Itself, and contingent being required necessary being for its grounding. Quite obviously Existence must exist or nothing else can. Anselm’s argument has been “refuted” repeatedly, but refuses to die. It’s most recent expression (AFAIK) in modal symbolic logic was by Kurt Gödel, who achieved some fame in the logical structure of mathematics.

34. Ye Olde Statistician says:

2. if the universe is fine-tuned for life, why is almost all of it uninhabitable…?

If an automobile is designed for transportation why is almost all of it not rolling the wheels?

Current scientific theory holds that if the universe were much smaller than it is, then expansion would have dissipated it long before stars could have formed to forge the higher elements. If it were much larger that is it, it would have collapsed gravitationally, again long before stars could fuse the necessary elements. IOW, it is as big as a universe must be in order to produce at least one inhabited world.

4. The lack of a scientific explanation doesn’t automatically mean ‘god dunnit’.

Indeed not; but you are simply repeated medieval Catholic thinking:

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.

Albertus Magnus: In studying nature we have not to inquire how God the Creator may, as He freely wills, use His creatures to work miracles and thereby show forth His power; we have rather to inquire what Nature with its immanent causes can naturally bring to pass.”

Thomas Aquinas:[N]ature is nothing but a certain kind of art, i.e., the divine art, impressed upon things, by which these things are moved to a determinate end. It is as if the shipbuilder were able to give to timbers that by which they would move themselves to take the form of a ship.

assuming that ‘god’ is an explanation anyway, not just a word substitution

Late Moderns do not make the necessary distinctions among kinds of causes and explanations. They think all explanations are or must be physics explanations. Hence, the necessary distinction between primary and secondary causation, primary and secondary movers, and so on.

Lawrence Gage: 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.

5. ‘Occam’s law’ isn’t a law, but having said that, an ensemble of universes encompassing every possibility would be simpler than any one individual universe.

Except that is not what Ockham’s metaphysical principle was all about. He said you should not multiply entities without necessity. In this case, multiplying “universes.” (Indicating a lack of clarity on what “universe” means.) But his intention was epistemological, not ontological. Reality, he said, could be as complex as God wished, but we would not understand it. Our models must be kept simple so that we can understand them. It was a warning against, as we would say today, overly complex computer models. Don’t have too many terms in your equations.

6. Scientists don’t ‘like’ the explanation ‘god dunnit’ because it has no explanatory power, shuts off further enquiry and has been wrong 100% of the times it has been used to date.

Actually, it hasn’t been useful. It has not been wrong. God, as understood, is the source of all the laws of nature that are being discovered and applied. One can draw an analogy with Frank Whittle who, while he does not explain how a jet engine works, does explain that a jet engine works. You may measure all the dimensions of an engine, measure the rate of feed, the rpms of the turbine, the alloy of the blades, and everything else accessible to the scientific art on that engine; and none of it will yield Frank Whittle as a variable in the equation.

35. Briggs says:

YOS has quoted us a primary physics ‘Gage’ Theory.

(Forgive me.)

36. DAV says:

The three great realms of human inquiry are physics, mathematics, and metaphysics. …

You avoided showing how the premises and syllogisms used in metaphysics have any validity or even how we could ever know instead of maintaining a belief they are so.

The conclusions of mathematics, for example, have an intruiging habit of winding up entirely appropriate for application to physics

Pen and paper also have the intriguing habit of being entirely appropriate for expressing things like the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence. You don’t really think the world is a mathematical construct or the Constitution is just a pile of paper, do you?

They are not necessarily “ramblings” any more than the “ramblings” about [X, Y, or Z]

Sorry, until X, Y, or Z can be (and are) tested, they remain curious ramblings with no detectable effect — as useful as counting angels on the head of a pin.

37. Ye Olde Statistician says:

DAV
Your repetition of an earlier comment simply serves to emphasize your commitment to one kind of knowledge. Mathematics is to be interpreted in DAVic terms in terms of its utility to the physics. This is along the lines of the Scientific Revolution, which re-imagined Science as for the purpose of inventing profitable devices; the conquest and domination of Nature rather than for the contemplation of her truth and beauty.

how the premises and syllogisms used in metaphysics have any validity

Premises do not have “validity.” Only arguments have validity. Premises are true or false.

Syllogisms like modus ponens or modus tollens have validity because when the premises are true, the conclusions are true. You could construct truth tables and see for yourself. Ditto for principles like Identity and Noncontradiction, Demorgan’s Law, et al.
cf. https://www.amazon.com/SYMBOLIC-LOGIC-002324980-IRVING-COPI/dp/B009EDY9RO/ref=mt_hardcover?_encoding=UTF8&me=

Pen and paper also have the intriguing habit of being entirely appropriate for expressing things like the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence.

The analogy mathematics:physics::pen/paper:magna carta is faulty. The relationship is not the same. As Einstein noted, there is something in the physics that reflects the order of mathematics in a way that is more profound than, say, alphabetical order. In fact, the privileging of mathematics as the language of discourse in natural science was one of the six pillars of the Scientific Revolution.

You don’t really think the world is a mathematical construct or the Constitution is just a pile of paper, do you?

Of course not. I said that mathematics and physics were two distinct ways of gaining knowledge, not that one subsumes the other. Even if physics is sometimes useful in gaining knowledge of mathematics, we cannot conclude that mathematics is entirely “about” the physical world.

I am surprised to read such an anti-materialist statement from you, however good an Aristotelian point of view it reflects. In a sense, you are arguing that the “soul” of the constitution can survive the death of whatever physical “body” it is written upon. That the constitution is more than just its material parts, but also includes formal parts simply reflect the hylomorphic matter+form relationship of all synolons.

as useful as counting angels on the head of a pin.

You still have not told us when, where, and by whom these angels were ever counted. Although rejecting Mathematics and Metaphysics as distinct kinds of knowledge, you seem to accept Myth as a kind of knowledge.

38. DAV says:

You still have not told us when, where, and by whom these angels were ever counted. … you seem to accept Myth as a kind of knowledge.

Are you truly that literal-minded? Also, for the record, that was the first time I mentioned counting angels. What do you mean by “still”?

Premises do not have “validity.” Only arguments have validity. Premises are true or false.

I obviously meant verifiable, i.e., true. I’m not interested in your pigeonholing. Try reading what’s intended for a change.

Speaking of “still”, I see you still avoid showing how the conclusions of metaphysics have any significance even though untestable. Things that are untestable have no detectable effect; therefore no impact; therefore no relevance.

The analogy mathematics:physics::pen/paper:magna carta is faulty. The relationship is not the same

Both are tools for expression. In physics, mathematics is a tool used for expressing models.

More literal-mindedness from you Likely for the purpose of further avoidance by using lengthy comment about minor points.

39. Ye Olde Statistician says:

for the record, that was the first time I mentioned counting angels. What do you mean by “still”?

You’re right. It was swordfishtrombone who first mentioned that hoary old legend. I should pay more attention to who writes which comment rather than to the comments themselves. Curious, though that both of you latched on to very same old chestnut. (Those who praise the “verifiable” might try to verify that metaphysicians actually did debate such a thing.)

Premises do not have “validity.” Only arguments have validity. Premises are true or false.

I obviously meant verifiable, i.e., true. … Try reading what’s intended for a change.

Sorry, I can only read what is actually written. What you call “pigeonholing,” I call “definitions.” Can you test or verify the proposition that “verifiable”=”true”? If so, “true to what”? Surely, more is needed than that a proposition be verifiable. Shouldn’t it be verified? (The difference between potency (-able) and act (-ed).

Things that are untestable have no detectable effect; therefore no impact; therefore no relevance.

Like multiverses and cosmic strings,But how do you “test” the irrationality of pi? I ask because I am curious what you mean by “test.” If you mean “test by empirical means” you cut off all of mathematics (and a chunk of cutting edge physics) and are simply insisting that all “truth” be the truth of physics; i.e., scientism. If testing properly includes evidentia potissima so as to include mathematics, you automatically pull in a big chunk of metaphyscis.

I would say that any number of metaphysical principles and conclusions have proven useful over the years: Popper’s “falsification” (which is merely modus tollens), Ockham’s Razor (which one may find in Aristotle), indeed, the very idea of Truth, whether Truth of Correspndence or Truth of Coherence, is a metaphysical concept (though under assault these days from a determined Left). Then there is the ontological conclusion on Being/Existence that there is a physical reality independent of the human mind. (Whole cultures have bought into the reality-is-an-illusion thingie.) Without this bit of metaphysics, it is hard to imagine the physics. The idea that the universe is “ordered by number, weight, and measure” certainly had an effect on Western efforts to grasp the universe by numbering, weighing, and measuring Stuff. And so on. Even the idea that testing and verification can determine the truth of a proposition.

Just as a fish is said not to notice water, you may fail to notice the metaphysical foundations of our world simply because you take them so much for granted.

The analogy mathematics:physics::pen/paper:magna carta is faulty. The relationship is not the same

Both are tools for expression. In physics, mathematics is a tool used for expressing models.

The tool for expressing Magna Carta Libertatum was (medieval) Latin, not pinion-and-parchment. It could of course, be translated into Norman — likely it was composed in Norman and translated into Latin — or even into Middle English (though it’s unlikely the barons spoke any English at the time). That is, Latin:Magna carta::Mathematics:the Physics. It’s irrelevant on what substrate the Latin — or the math! — was written.

Analogic has rules no less than deductive and inductive logics; but they stopped teaching it in schools quite some time back because girls scored lower on the standardized tests in this area.

More literal-mindedness from you Likely for the purpose of further avoidance by using lengthy comment about minor points.

But more likely to avoid misunderstanding and faulty reasoning.

40. swordfishtrombone says:

@ YOS: (Re: How many angels can dance on the head of a pin.)

“Those who praise the “verifiable” might try to verify that metaphysicians actually did debate such a thing.” And: “When and where did it tell us this? Citation, please? ”

LOL, I just knew you were going to say that! I did some research before using that line, so I understand the facts perfectly well. I used it because it’s a well-known cliche. Whether that specific debate occurred or not is completely irrelevant, it’s a bit like complaining that Kirk never actually said “Beam me up, Scotty!”. Equally pointless topics were debated by metaphysicians, like whether heaven contains animal poo. (According to Google.)

41. swordfishtrombone says:

@ YOS:

(Me) If the universe us fine-tuned for life, why is almost all of it uninhabitable?

(You) If an automobile is designed for transportation why is almost all of it not rolling the wheels?

Arghhh! Even for you that’s an exceedingly weak analogy.

1. Almost all a car is there for some reason connected with transportation – seatbelts, petrol tank, sat nav, etc – not to mention the engine. If there were obviously superflous parts, they’d have been left out by the manufacturers to save money.

2. Just to be really pedantic, the inhabitable surface of the Earth is smaller than the whole universe by a factor which must be many orders of magnitude greater than the difference between the wheels of a car and a whole car.

In any case, the point is: Why can’t god make a universe which is 100% inhabitable? It appears that he’s not only limited by logic and mathematics but by physics as well.

42. Ye Olde Statistician says:

Equally pointless topics were debated by metaphysicians, like whether heaven contains animal poo. (According to Google.)

According to Google? Well, that settles that. To what actual debate were they referring? Surely, there were people in the Middle Ages, call him Tubahelopis, who would raise foolish objections that would then demand an answer.

I have taken logic courses and you would be amazed to learn that some of the items we debated were whether a frammin is a jimjam. We faced such weighty questions as a) all loopahs are jimjam and b) a frammin is a loopah; so… I can imagine a future Voltaire, all full of himself, using this schoolbook exercise to mock the whole discipline of logic; as indeed the Hegelians do.

OTOH, whether “place” is the same as “space” may actually be a meaningful question. I once had occasion to hold up a pen on a SF con panel and ask everyone to concentrate their thoughts on it. How many thoughts do you suppose could dwell on the point of a pen?

If there were obviously superflous parts, they’d have been left out by the manufacturers to save money.

Like the radio, air conditioning, upholstery, doors, door handles, trunks, et al. Not to mention the scrap metal and trimmings in the factories, and so on. Less obviously: the brakes, etc. See Miles, Value Analysis and Engineering for discussion of the distinctions among Main Basic Function, Secondary Basic Functions, Support Functions, Auxiliary Functions, Harmful Functions, and so on. That’s even on capitalist products, where efficiency is a primary value. Efficiency need not be a value at all. Living things generally are “wasteful.” Think of how many sperm are expelled to make a single person, or dandelion seeds to make a single flower. “If it takes so many seeds to make a dandelion, we could expect a universe to be left over after making an earth.”

Perhaps it is not “efficient.” But what empirical evidence can you cite that shows efficiency to be a primary value outside of human artifacts? And in what measure does it apply to works of art?

As to whether being testable is the determinator of truth, consider the episode in Don Quixote in the inn, when one party contends that certain stories should be condemned because they are events that never happened. (A very Hume-an argument!) At the end of the debate, the people in the inn decide they will read a story – and they choose the “Curious tale” of Ambrosio. Ambrosio marries a woman but desires to have a perfect knowledge of her fidelity, and so tries to talk his friend into trying to seduce her. Predictably, the whole affair turns out badly. But it’s striking to note that Ambrosio is simply appealing to the modern criterion of knowledge. You don’t know anything about the world until you test. Ambrosio can’t just sit around and wait for some circumstance to prove that his wife loves him – this would be laziness or even presumption. He must submit her claims to critique and test just like any other hypothesis. Love must be taken as just another hypothesis, that is, a kind of ignorance that needs to look to make experiments.
https://thomism.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/quixote-and-the-modern-world/

+++
But along the lines of the topic of the OP, consider
The ugliness of a finely-tuned universe
https://thomism.wordpress.com/page/2/?s=universe

43. swordfishtrombone says:

@ YOS:

You take everything I write totally literally (Like my reference to Google) but allow yourself virtually unlimited poetic licence, bringing in whatever obscure 1,600 year-old metaphysical references, tenuous analogies and literature you deem fit.

Have you ever thought of explaining your position in the simplest possible terms, rather than the most complex and long-winded? If you have something important to say, why disguise it so heavily?

44. Ye Olde Statistician says:

Well, Mr. Bone, if I cannot respond to what you have actually written, to what should I respond?

I suppose you would complain if I pointed out that Don Quixote is neither 1600 years old nor a metaphysical text, but rather a novel, widely considered the first of the new, modern form of writing.

I have learned the hard way that I can no longer take as granted the common store of Western civilization in my comments and must clarify meanings and contexts lest they be read in the light of post-modern pop culture and attitudes. But then I am being long-winded. The alternative is to be misconstrued.