Saturday, January 18, 2014

John D Barrow on God and Astronomy

A redated post. Barrow's essay is here. 

Cambridge mathematician finds God in astronomy. I think there are overtones of the argument from reason in this discussion, such as the following:

There are some who say that because we use our minds to appreciate the order and complexity of the Universe around us, there is nothing more to that order than what is imposed by the human mind. That is a serious misjudgment.

Were it true, then we would expect to find our greatest and most reliable understanding of the world in the everyday events for which millions of years of natural selection have sharpened our wits and prepared our senses. And when we look towards the outer space of galaxies and black holes, or into the inner space of quarks and electrons, we should expect to find few resonances between our minds and the ways of these worlds. Natural selection requires no understanding of quarks and black holes for our survival and multiplication.

And yet, we find these expectations turned upon their heads. The most precise and reliable knowledge we have about anything in the Universe is of events in a binary star system more than 3,000 light years from our planet and in the sub-atomic world of electrons and light rays, where we are accurate to better than nine decimal places.

And curiously, our greatest uncertainties all relate to the local problems of understanding ourselves - human societies, human behaviour, and human minds - all the things that really matter for human survival.

81 comments:

42 said...

Barrow is referring to 'The Unreasonbale Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Physical Sciences' - an observation made by Einstein, Wigner and Hamming

see

http://home.btconnect.com/scimah/unreasonableeffectiveness.htm

This seems to point to the human mind being 'participatory' in the ordering of the universe, either by being made in the image of God, or being involved anthropically in the actualisation of the Universe (Wheeler's Participatory Anthropic Principle)

Gregory said...

I think this is a very insightful connection between Barrow's thought and the "argument from reason".

If the universe is conceived to act solely by way of non-rational, physical processes, then how is it that "mind" has sprung up from those very non-rational processes themselves? And what's more, if we grant that the universe just appeared, inexplicably, from a primordial singularity---which proceeded to evolve in upward complexity---then it's clear that "rationality" isn't even a necessary component to the Darwinian process; quite so, since "rationality" didn't appear until 14-15 billion years after the "fact". And 99.9 % of the physical universe, that we can observe today, doesn't even operate by way of "rationality"...as we typically define that word. Instead, the known universe is observed to operate by repetitive patterns; which are due to---as scientist and philosophers tell us---some underlying laws or subset of laws.....at least, that's what scientific realists will say.

The upshot (i.e. the "big picture") of all this is that, by purely Evolutionary standards, "reason" is merely a superfluous byproduct of recent organic development. The universe does not care whether she has any observers; does not care whether our minds are correctly disposed to shape and interpret empirical data through some synthetic a priori category of thought (Kant); whether we are a blank slate that needs empirical data to furnish the mind with a stock of impressions and correlate ideas (Locke and Hume); does not care whether mathematics is an unreasonably effective tool for scientific theorizing or not (Einstein); does not even care whether anyone believes she evolved or not (Darwin); in other words, human activity stands as major defeater of naturalistic/atheistic ontology.

Interestingly, naturalism and atheism represent the strongest form of "magical thinking" possible...an unparalleled sort of alchemy. It's not less "magical" than the theistic story, but more so; because it involves magic without any magician at all.
Using words like "law", "regularity", "sub-atomic particles", "relative motion", "neurological states", etc., doesn't remove the "magic" of the universe....they only act as a smoke and mirror trick so that you and I will think that the universe isn't that way (i.e. that the universe is just "natural").

Chesterton's analysis of this--though slightly different than mine--is brilliant.

See here:

http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/chesterton/everlasting/part1c1.htm

The Anthropic Cosmological Principle is coherent....but only if it argues that the "source" of the cosmic singularity is---in some sense---rational and personal.

legodesi said...

That bit is more than interesting to me. I'm bewildered at how some members of the scientific community ignore the great dissonance between our rational capacity and the survival utility from which it was supposed to have evolved. On a Discovery Channel program, scientists talked about how life could be if the human race suddenly disappeared. They gave a moment's consideration of the possibilty of there being another being rationally comparable to the human race. One scientist remarked that human beings evolved to attain their rational capacities by such a freak "accident" that a re-occurence is so unlikely we can assume it won't happen.

I wish they would stop playing pretend.

Steven Carr said...

I wonder how we managed to find chess endgames where we know that there is a forced mate for White in 243 moves, or other positions where there is a mutual zugzwang, such that whoever moves gets mated over 100 moves later.

I guess God must have invented chess, as our minds have not been formed by natural selection to play chess and get that sort of knowledge.

Doctor Logic said...

I'm bewildered at how some members of the scientific community ignore the great dissonance between our rational capacity and the survival utility from which it was supposed to have evolved.

There is a niche for species that can survive when environments change rapidly. More rapidly than a population can evolve through genetics. In these situations, true rationality is a survival advantage.

Humans are not better adapted to rivers than crocodiles. Not better adapted to the Arctic than foxes, seals or polar bears. But no species of large animal is better adapted than humans to living in all these environments, or to migrating from one environment to the other, or surviving changes to local environments. And humans can use their rationality to alter their environment, e.g., by building shelters, tools, clothes, irrigation, etc. Rationality means being adapted to adapting!

So the idea that evolution would just spoof rationality is simply wrong. It will only tend to do that when the truth of the belief has no bearing on the value of the belief.

If I evolve to have the belief that I shouldn't go near the river because of crocodiles, that will help in Africa, but hurt my survival chances in temperate climates. Spoofing provides no real adaptive advantage to being human. I might as well have a genetic predisposition to avoid rivers. On the other hand, if I evolve true rational abilities with respect to testable claims, that helps me at rivers everywhere (even where there are no crocodiles), helps me in the tundra, in the jungle, etc.

On the other hand, if I evolve to think that fighting for my tribe to the death will earn me a place in the afterlife (unverifiable), that belief may have survival value, even if the belief is actually false.

So a hard look at evolutionary psychology isn't going to do religion any favors. It's the intuitive beliefs about unverifiable stuff that get clobbered. Rational belief about testable claims provides a true survival utility.

Doctor Logic said...

The upshot (i.e. the "big picture") of all this is that, by purely Evolutionary standards, "reason" is merely a superfluous byproduct of recent organic development.

So are lungs. So what?

Rationality is superfluous to the universe, but like lungs, it provides survival utility to species that possess it.

in other words, human activity stands as major defeater of naturalistic/atheistic ontology.

Huh? I think you skipped a few steps.

Is God only allowed to produce life-bearing universes? Why shouldn't God create all possible universes? Why are we in this universe instead of another?

Theism has no answer to these question without at least as much fine-tuning as physicists apply. The difference is that the physicists always get predictions in return for their fine-tuning, whereas theists get zilch.

Ilíon said...

Legodesi: "I wish they would stop playing pretend."

They can't. Pretend, and Magick, is how they hide from God.

Ilíon said...

What-a-fool: "... I guess God must have invented chess, as our minds have not been formed by natural selection to play chess and get that sort of knowledge."

The intellectually dishonest fool *refuses* even to understand that he himself is undercutting his own (necessary) position.

Papalinton said...

Dr Logic
Couldn't have said it better myself. Indeed I don't think I could have elicited a clearer explanation on the notion of rationality if I tried. In many ways it underscores the deficiencies in the Argument from reason.

Great stuff.

Saints and Sceptics said...

It's not that McAtheists miss the point: it's that they're so smug about their inability to grasp an argument.
Quite amusing, really.
We'd similar thoughts on this topic Vic.

http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/the-argument-from-maths-in-seven-quick-points/

Graham

Papalinton said...

"It's not that McAtheists miss the point: it's that they're so smug about their inability to grasp an argument."

Curious that the McDonalds' archetype should be bandied about as illustrative of atheists missing the point. McDonalds President and Chief of Operations Don Thompson is one of the most vocal of Christian homophobes on the planet.

But then christian supernaturalists are apt to indiscriminate pillorying.

Saints and Sceptics said...

To be clear:

Christians are more likely to be intolerant because there's a Christian homophobe who works at McDonald's.



Not much you can say to that....

im-skeptical said...

Saints and Sceptics,

So you present a naturalist description of the universe: "Things behave according to the laws of physics! Isn't that amazing?" Then you conclude it must be because of God. But as a Christian, you don't believe in the mathematical regularity of the universe. You believe in miraculous events like corpses getting up and walking, water transforming into wine, etc. And that's your real rationale for belief, I suspect. Isn't your position a bit confused? Aren't you trying to have it both ways?

BenYachov said...

>So you present a naturalist description of the universe: "Things behave according to the laws of physics! Isn't that amazing?"

A Naturalist description of the Universe would be to state rather plainly that nothing beyond nature, natural properties and natural events exists.

You are obviously equivocating between describing a regularity of nature(i.e. presenting a merely natural phenomena) vs presenting a naturalist description.

Would it cause you to bleed out your extremities if you just got off your butt to learn some philosophy?

BenYachov said...

>Is God only allowed to produce life-bearing universes?

God can make what he wants.

>Why shouldn't God create all possible universes? Why are we in this universe instead of another?

God is not obligated to create one type of universe or any universes at all.

>Theism has no answer to these question without at least as much fine-tuning as physicists apply. The difference is that the physicists always get predictions in return for their fine-tuning, whereas theists get zilch.

Save it for the Theistic Personalists and other slaves of Paley.

Doctor Logic said...

BenYachov,

"God is not obligated to create one type of universe or any universes at all."

PRECISELY! How you can say things like this and be oblivious to the consequences is amazing.

Suppose I have two decks of cards. One is a standard deck of playing cards. The other is an "Anything" deck of cards that can have anything printed on the face side, including pictures of animals, blanks, pictures of cars, standard playing card faces, or an infinity of alternatives. You draw a card from a deck at random, and find it is the standard 5 of clubs. Is that as likely from the Anything deck as from the standard deck?

NO. IT. ISN'T.

If you don't understand probability, then stop talking about what's likely or what you think the evidence means. The theory compatible with anything is always going to lose out to a theory that relatively compatible with just the few things that are actually observed. This is why the supernatural will ALWAYS lose in any rational analysis.

God is the Anything deck. He's not obligated to print anything in particular on the cards. That's why any rational agent will, a priori, split the probability of finding any particular card among all theistic alternatives.

While finding a 5 of clubs is not impossible (God could do that), one would be completely irrational to reason that:
1) God can print anything on the cards,
2) Reductionism can only print a tiny subset of God's possibilities (i.e., the 52 standard card faces),
3) The top card is revealed to be one of the 52 standard card faces consistent with reductionism,
4) That this discovery has no bearing on the likelihood of God's existence.

Karl Grant said...

Dr. Logic,

Suppose I have two decks of cards. One is a standard deck of playing cards. The other is an "Anything" deck of cards that can have anything printed on the face side, including pictures of animals, blanks, pictures of cars, standard playing card faces, or an infinity of alternatives. You draw a card from a deck at random, and find it is the standard 5 of clubs. Is that as likely from the Anything deck as from the standard deck?

Uh no. If both decks have cards with standard playing card faces on them it doesn't matter if one deck has cards with pictures of cars on them. What matters for probability purposes is the total number of cards in each deck and how many cards bearing the Five of Clubs are in each deck. If both decks each have 52 cards in them and the Five of Clubs appears in both decks once then you have a 1-in-52 chance of acquiring Five of Clubs in either deck. Animals, blanks and pictures of cars are nothing more than a red herring. And who is it here who doesn't understand probability?

Now for you to actually get this argument off the ground you would first have to postulate the number of potential worlds God could create versus the number of potential worlds purely natural mechanisms could create; which you haven't even come close to doing so.

grodrigues said...

@Doctor Logic:

"If you don't understand probability, then stop talking about what's likely or what you think the evidence means."

Apply this to yourself as your pseudo-argument was already thouroughly debunked.

Doctor Logic said...

Karl,

Christian apologists love to speak out of both sides of their mouth on this issue. On one side they say atheists are wrong for assuming any kind of probability distribution for the kinds of worlds God would create. Whenever an atheist says "God probably wouldn't do this" we're accused of putting words in God's mouth. This is clearly irrational on its face. But the irrationality grows worse with Christian hypocrisy. Christians argue that explicability, fine-tuning, and other patterns are expected under theism but not under reductive physics. Not only is this latter claim false, but it's completely inconsistent with the criticisms made against atheists.

If probability distributions cannot be discussed at all with regard to what God would do (and I can't even imagine what it means to say this since ignorance is a distribution), then don't make statements that purport to connect God with any observation of any kind. That would be inconsistent. If an observation is more likely under theism than non-theism, then you're assuming some sort of probability distribution.

Doctor Logic said...

drodrigues,

Er, no, it wasn't.

grodrigues said...

@Doctor Logic:

Er, yes it was. I am not going to rehash an old thread, but I can dig up the reference if you want it.

Karl Grant said...

Dr. Logic,

Christian apologists love to speak out of both sides of their mouth on this issue. On one side they say atheists are wrong for assuming any kind of probability distribution for the kinds of worlds God would create.

Really? First, how does this excuse the fact that you fucked up just now? If you know anything about probability you would have known the probability of getting a certain card in each deck is dependent on the total number of cards in each deck versus the total number of cards you want in the respective decks. What is printed on the rest of the cards is inconsequential. Deck One might be an "Anything" deck but if it only consisted of 42 cards-as opposed to the standard 52 card deck-and half of the cards (21) where the Five of Clubs then the probability of getting a Five of Clubs in the "Anything" deck is considerably higher than the standard deck (1-in-2 versus 1-in-52) regardless of the fact that three cards in the "Anything" deck have a Ford F-150, a Chevy Silverado 1500 and Ram 1500 printed on them. But you did not supply that relevant information (total number of cards in each deck versus total number of desired cards in each deck) in your example. Instead you supplied completely irrelevant information (can have anything printed on the face side, including pictures of animals, blanks, pictures of cars, standard playing card faces) and acted like that was the deciding factor. Care to explain why?

Second, why should you, a person who rejects Christianity, be hindered by what Christians say? By all means, let's see your idea of a number of possible worlds God (omnipotent being) could create versus random chance through natural mechanisms (considering how some naturalists posit a potentially unlimited multi-verse to get around the fine tuning problem good luck there). Give us a hard number for both (like 380,000,000 versus 240,000,000) and give us your reasons for both those numbers. Of course, if your previous example of probability generation (Suppose I have two decks of cards. One is a standard deck of playing cards. The other is an "Anything" deck of cards ) is anything to go by this should be entertaining.

Whenever an atheist says "God probably wouldn't do this" we're accused of putting words in God's mouth. This is clearly irrational on its face. But the irrationality grows worse with Christian hypocrisy. Christians argue that explicability, fine-tuning, and other patterns are expected under theism but not under reductive physics. Not only is this latter claim false, but it's completely inconsistent with the criticisms made against atheists.

All that talk about comparing the actions of intelligent, self-aware beings to completely random events went in one ear and out the other, didn't it? Tell me Dr. Logic, do you decide every decision in your life via a coin toss?

BenYachov said...

DL

Quit while you are ahead Gnu.

Grod and Karl have likely forgotten more Math theory then your or I have learned in our sorry lives.

Ilíon said...

How cool is this?

Everyone's favorite illogician decides that he's going to bang on the Little Drummer Boy (*) with the stick of his unsupportable atheistic/materialistic assumptions – including the main one, which is that there are no such things as agents, and certainly no substantive difference between so-called agents and strings of random events -- and he flubs it so blatantly badly that even Karl Grant is able to give him more cowbell.


(*) that's Son-of-Confusion, who is forever banging on the drum of the false dichotomy he asserts exists between the Biblical (i.e. Judeo-Christian) understanding of God, which he likes to denigrate as “Personal Theism”, and Aquinas’ understanding of God, which he likes to set up as being something called “Classical Theism”, as though Aquinas were something other than a Christian.

Doctor Logic said...

Sorry, Karl, you're the one that fucked up.

It's pretty obvious what I was saying all along, and you're simply putting up a smokescreen.

If you make a decks of cards corresponding to reductionism and decks of cards corresponding to theism, you know roughly what they will look like. The number of options available to theism is far, far greater, and its deck far larger. You can just refer back to past conversations if you're confused.

The thing that makes your comment doubly ridiculous is that you suggest the theistic deck could have 42 cards, 21 of which are 5 of clubs. That would be a highly predictive theistic model, would it not?

As soon as you start saying God would make more of one type of card than another, you're making positive predictions about God. If you don't want to predict anything about God, then divide the odds among all the possible outcomes. If you don't understand this, you don't understand probability. To put more probability in one kind of world rather than another, to make a non-uniform distribution, is to make a positive statement about what God would do.

So, to sum up, yes, you can make our world more likely under theism if you claim that God is much more LIKELY to make our kind of world rather than another. Of course, if you do this, please show your justification.

Second, why should you, a person who rejects Christianity, be hindered by what Christians say?

In what way am I hindered? You're the ones who are hindered by your own hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty. That was my point. Yours is the dying worldview.

All that talk about comparing the actions of intelligent, self-aware beings to completely random events went in one ear and out the other, didn't it?

Are you saying, for example, that neither marketing companies nor the NSA can use statistics to say anything about likely human behavior? It sounds that way.

And I love the way you pretend you know something about probability, but you then say that probability is something that only applies to fundamentally random events. Really? Ever heard of roulette? Blackjack?

Probability does not require that there be any ontological randomness in the thing being modeled. We can use probability on roulette, but do you really think roulette is significantly governed by chance at the physical level? Roulette exists as a game because the players are merely ignorant of certain details. It doesn't matter whether or not the details exist to be known. It doesn't matter whether we're playing roulette in a classical or quantum universe. The odds-making works the same way as long as we are ignorant of certain details. Probability is a map of our ignorance as much as it is a map of our knowledge.

Even if theism entails only a single possible world, and even if reductionism entails only a single possible world, we can still (and indeed, must) apply probability theory if we are to say which of the two worlds we are actually living in.

You cannot sensibly say "I believe God made the world, but I don't think it's more probable."

You cannot sensibly say "I believe my mother loves me, but I don't think it's more probable."

Papalinton said...

Dr Logic
Your great failing as it is mine, is that we use reason and logic as the basis of discourse. We fail to understand the pathology of supernatural thought processes. Rather than going 'back to basics' we need to go 'forward to fundamentals'.

And one of the fundamental premises of theistic thought is best represented in the time-worn but robust epithet:

Religion begat ignorance, that begat ignorance, that begat ignorance, that begat ignorance .....
It is as if a perpetual motion machine. But as we know, like all perpetual motion machines, they are but figments of the imagination and even a figment lurches towards entropy.

The elegance of your argument is lost in the theistic swill that sloshes athwartship in the labyrinthine recesses in the minds of ignorance-begatting noddy-heads.

But the elegance remains.

Karl Grant said...

Dr. Logic,

Smokescreen? No Dr. Logic, the only thing you did was tell us that you had two decks of cards (Suppose I have two decks of cards). You told us what kind of cards are in each deck (One is a standard deck of playing cards. The other is an "Anything" deck of cards that can have anything printed on the face side, including pictures of animals, blanks, pictures of cars, standard playing card faces...) Then you asked us to draw a card from a deck at random, and asked us would which deck it be more likely our Five of Clubs came from . What you didn't tell us was the respective number of cards in each deck and how many times the Five of Clubs appears in each deck (may I remind you you labeled one deck Anything as far as compensation, which means it could have more than one card of the same type in it and it could have more or less total cards then a standard deck). In other words, the things we need to calculate probability. If presented with that same problem in real life, most statisticians would say they don't have enough information to make an accurate probably distribution. But hey this ain't the first time you have failed to think through your examples.

If you make a decks of cards corresponding to reductionism and decks of cards corresponding to theism

Ah, so you admit one deck of cards is bigger than the other in your example. Of course, we're still ain't hearing anything remotely like hard numbers from you, just vague assertions.

The thing that makes your comment doubly ridiculous is that you suggest the theistic deck could have 42 cards, 21 of which are 5 of clubs. That would be a highly predictive theistic model, would it not?

Ah yes, why would anybody suggest an intelligent designer, like say a graphic designer, would be predisposed to making more than one copy of a specific product or variations of a specific product (like using dark purple instead of black ink for the Five of Clubs or more than one type of playing card)? Truly it insane to suggest such a thing as there is obviously no examples of such in the real world.

If you don't want to predict anything about God, then divide the odds among all the possible outcomes.

On the contrary, I specifically asked you to provide your predictions about the possible number of worlds God would create versus the possible number of worlds under reductionist naturalism. I asked you for concrete numbers, not vague assertions like The number of options available to theism is far, far greater (which is all you have done every time when you have trotted out this asinine excuse for a argument), and your reasons for those numbers. Come on Dr. Logic, show us how improbable God is as opposed to reductionism.

In what way am I hindered? You're the ones who are hindered by your own hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty. That was my point. Yours is the dying worldview.

Oh that's rich. Dying worldview? Christianity is the world's largest religion, comprising 33% of the world's population with well over two billion adherents and a yearly growth rate of 1.4%. Atheism, meanwhile, only comprises 2.01% of the world's population and, to use Wiki's exact words, is on a global decline due to continuing steady increases in religiosity in China, which harbors the majority of atheists and non-religious people, and Eastern Europe which has had significant changes in religiosity after the fall of communism. So which one exactly is a dying breed?

You know for somebody who goes on and on about Bayes Theorm and probability, you show a remarkable tendency to live in the world of your personal fantasies as opposed to the world of concrete facts and hard numbers.

Karl Grant said...

Are you saying, for example, that neither marketing companies nor the NSA can use statistics to say anything about likely human behavior?

No, what marketing companies do is compare trends among various demographics like white male teenagers as opposed to middle-aged black women. What you are doing is trying to turn an intelligent designer (and all that implies) into a random number generator and put it up against your idea of the number of possible worlds created by pure natural processes.

And I love the way you pretend you know something about probability, but you then say that probability is something that only applies to fundamentally random events.

I have said you are trying to treat something (God) that has intelligence and purpose like a random dice throw. So why don't you point out where I said probability only applies to fundamentally random events? And while you're at it, why don't you list the definition of strawmen?

Doctor Logic said...

Ah yes, why would anybody suggest an intelligent designer, like say a graphic designer, would be predisposed to making more than one copy of a specific product or variations of a specific product (like using dark purple instead of black ink for the Five of Clubs or more than one type of playing card)? Truly it insane to suggest such a thing as there is obviously no examples of such in the real world.

What things? Let's suppose God does indeed like one particular thing. Which thing? Well, unless you're specific, IT DOESN'T CHANGE THE ODDS!!!!

I have a 20-sided die that is loaded. What is the probability of rolling a 1? Of rolling a 2? Of rolling any particular value? Of course, the odds are 1/20 as far as we are concerned because we don't know which side is loaded! The 4 could be the loaded side as easily as the 20.

You're just saying that God could be like a loaded die. Sure, if God exists, I would be surprised if she had no proclivities, and was not effectively loaded. But, if you were actually thinking critically, you would see that this changes nothing at all from our perspective unless you make a specific claim about those proclivities.

What you are doing is trying to turn an intelligent designer (and all that implies) into a random number generator and put it up against your idea of the number of possible worlds created by pure natural processes.

What I am saying is independent of the metaphysics of God.

Karl, imagine you walk up to my ice cream stand, and ask to buy an ice cream. There are three flavors on offer. Would you like chocolate, vanilla or strawberry ice cream?

No matter what the metaphysics of Karl's decision-making, I don't know what you'll pick. It doesn't matter whether you have already decided or will decide 10 seconds from now. I don't know what you have chosen (or what you will choose). I'm simply not privy to that information. Consequently, I have to say that. from my perspective, there is a 33.3% chance of you choosing any particular flavor. (Assuming I have no demographic data as to base rate of preferences.)

Why don't you get this? Why are you playing games to avoid this obvious conclusion?

Doctor Logic said...

Karl,

As for specific numbers, we've been through this before. For every world with our apparent reductive physicalism, we can imagine the following theistic/design variations:

1) God could have made the species genetically unrelated (or not).
2) God could have made some species indestructible by physical means (or not).
3) God could have made some species operate on non-physical principles (or not).
4) Could have made some species massively discontinuous with respect to biological construction (or not)
5) Could have made species in factories instead of using internal reproduction (or not)
6) God could have rearranged stars to spell out messages for us (or not).
7) God could have talked to us directly (or not).
8) God could have given us magic (or not).
9) God could have written the germ theory of disease and general relativity in scriptures (or not).
10) God could have made human memory non-physical (or not).
11) God could have dispensed with the central nervous system (or not)
12) God could have resurrected people in violation of physics (or not)
13) God could have massively accelerated development of life inconsistent with physics (or not)
14) God could have massively accelerated cosmic development inconsistent with physics (or not)

We can likely find hundreds more of these. We just need to think of things we believe are impossible with reductive physics. Each one introduces a factor of 2 against theism and/or design. If we had a list of 100, we would be at 10^30 theistic design variations for each reductive physical variation.

You can imagine physicalist worlds with these features, but not reductive ones with our apparent cosmic history.

These odds may be overstated (or understated), but unless you think that God can't design things beyond the reach of reductive physicalism, the odds will always favor reductive physicalism. The more capable and unspecified your God, the more your theory loses.

Crude said...

For every world with our apparent reductive physicalism, we can imagine the following theistic/design variations:

And for just about every 'non-reductive-physicalism' example you give, you can have a non-theistic world which implements the same.

1) God could have made the species genetically unrelated (or not).

And that could have happened without God as well.

2) God could have made some species indestructible by physical means (or not).

Ditto.

3) God could have made some species operate on non-physical principles (or not).

Ditto. And at this point it's worth pointing out that it's vacuous to make reference to 'non-physical principles' for hypothetical worlds of the sort you're talking about. They'd just be principles different than our own. What makes them non-physical?

4) Could have made some species massively discontinuous with respect to biological construction (or not)

Ditto.

Really - on and on and on we go. The only exceptions would be ones like 'God talked to us directly', but transplant 'talked with' to 'seeming to talk to us' and the same result obtains.

We just need to think of things we believe are impossible with reductive physics. Each one introduces a factor of 2 against theism and/or design.

Not at all, especially since 'reductive physics' is itself subsumed under design. And that's before realizing that the success of 'reductive physics' is drastically limited.

The short of it is - the calculations you're trying to do, can't be done. They are, at absolute best, ridiculously clumsy translations of intuitions and axioms into mathematical language. It's a like that interview where Dawkins explains he regards God as 99.9% likely (or some other close number) as failing to exist, and when he's asked why not 95% or 92%, he stammers.

I think the key problem is right here.

If an observation is more likely under theism than non-theism, then you're assuming some sort of probability distribution.

I don't think this is true, at least the way you're translating it. You're taking 'I believe X is more likely given what we know and assume rather than Y' and translating that into 'I believe in a set of calculable numbers one can assign to these claims that follow a strict mathematical formula'. That's pretty easy to deny.

Crude said...

Another quick comment.

12) God could have resurrected people in violation of physics (or not)
13) God could have massively accelerated development of life inconsistent with physics (or not)
14) God could have massively accelerated cosmic development inconsistent with physics (or not)


These are deceptive examples, and I'll explain why.

If laws of nature are descriptive, then 'massively accelerated' anything, or resurrected people - if these things take place - are trivially "consistent with physics". They couldn't fail to be! At most, they'd complicate an idealized description of physics - but complications aren't violations.

If laws of nature are prescriptive, then we're down to asking what's 'enforcing' these laws - and if we're led back to God, then it no longer makes sense to talk about inconsistencies with physics again.

Anyway, the short of it is that the 'God versus reductionism' comparison is invalid. If you're going to go with the 'anything that's logically possible, and quite possibly even things that aren't logically possible, gets shoved into the calculation' view of the matter, then for any !God empirical result, you can have a God empirical result. In other words - if we're using THAT broad of a definition of God and gods - then yes, God is the 'anything deck'. But !God is yet another 'anything deck'.

And this is before we start talking about decks containing other decks. Don't try to import strict and certain math formulae where it not only doesn't belong, but it simply doesn't work.

Karl Grant said...

Dr. Logical,

What things? Let's suppose God does indeed like one particular thing. Which thing? Well, unless you're specific, IT DOESN'T CHANGE THE ODDS!!!!

So you are saying that an intelligent self-aware agent having a predisposition to making a certain product does not increase the odds of said intelligent self-aware agent making said product? Speaking of marketing companies, if you had a job at one and said what you just said in front of management you would be fired.

I have a 20-sided die that is loaded. What is the probability of rolling a 1? Of rolling a 2? Of rolling any particular value?

Still trying to treat the actions of intelligent self-aware beings like a random event? I'll repeat my question: do you, or anybody you know for that matter, makes every important decision in their life according to the outcome of random coin toss or dice throw?

No matter what the metaphysics of Karl's decision-making, I don't know what you'll pick. It doesn't matter whether you have already decided or will decide 10 seconds from now. I don't know what you have chosen (or what you will choose)...(Assuming I have no demographic data as to base rate of preferences.)

Ah there is the little weasel words. Guess what Dr. Illogical, if Christianity is true God has communicated with humanity multiple times and records of such communication exists (i.e., the Bible). Also, since Christianity states that humanity is born in God's image we have the potential to extrapolate some of God's characteristics (i.e., demographic data). But you don't want to do that. Instead, you want to ignore characteristics and intent of God discussed in the Bible and theological traditions and treat God as a completely random entity while at the same time treating naturalism outcomes (of which we have just barely begun to scratch the surface of this universe's mysteries) as a completely known entity. And then you accuse other people of intellectual dishonesty.

As for specific numbers, we've been through this before. For every world with our apparent reductive physicalism, we can imagine the following theistic/design variations:

And as Crude pointed out a great deal of your examples are possible under a purely naturalistic system.

We just need to think of things we believe are impossible with reductive physics.

And how do you know what is possible and impossible by reductive physics? A hundred and fifty years ago physics was dominated by Newtonian Mechanics, than Einstein's Theory of Relativity came and knocked that off its perch. Now Quantum Mechanics has come along and it and Einstein's Theory don't mesh too damn good (in fact, one of the biggest problems facing physics today is both QM and ETR have been proven to be accurate but are not basically compatible). Physics is an evolving subject so I am rather curious as how you think you can a priori rule things out as being outside the scope of physics.

im-skeptical said...

"one of the biggest problems facing physics today is both QM and ETR have been proven to be accurate but are not basically compatible"

And you gained this in-depth understanding of physics by taking a few programming classes at the local community college?

Karl Grant said...

I'm Skeptical,

And you gained this in-depth understanding of physics by taking a few programming classes at the local community college

Is that the best you can come up with as a come back? How pathetic. But hey, if you want to go down this route to try and save Dr. Logical your gonna end up torpedoing quite a few skeptics in the process. Old Randi is a high school drop-out after all. Why should anybody listen to him on subjects concerning physics? Furthermore, why should anybody listen to a wash-upped plagarist Australian ex-gym teacher on these subjects?

Doctor Logic said...

Crude,

And for just about every 'non-reductive-physicalism' example you give, you can have a non-theistic world which implements the same.

So what?

This isn't a battle between physicalism and theism. It's a battle between the kind of reductive physicalism described by our theories, and non-reductive physicalism or theism.

Yes, for every physical world we can imagine God having designed, we could postulate a non-theistic counterpart in which the existence of those objects is a brute fact. But I'm just as happy to rule out those worlds as the theistic ones on precisely the same grounds!

We could be living in a universe in which gravity shapes cosmic history until t = February 1st 2014 on our calendar, when gravity disappears. But we think that's unlikely. Why do you think that is?

We could be living in that sort of physical world in which a T-Rex will suddenly materialize in my living room, but, again, we don't think that's probable. Why?

A common principle of rational inference underlies every single one of our expectations. Give it up and you cannot say any event is likely or unlikely.

Our best physical theories predict more worlds like the one we see (by proportion to their total possible worlds expected after the current observation) than do alternative theories which allow more possibilities (like materializing T-Rexes).

In fact, the actions of a completely unspecified God look exactly like the non-reductive, anything-goes physicalism you describe, and that's why (as you say) they look the same in terms of probability and inference.

Not at all, especially since 'reductive physics' is itself subsumed under design.

Our world is subsumed under the T-Rex will pop into existence in your bedroom physicalism. So why do you think this makes any difference?

We don't know exactly how improbable it is that a T-Rex will materialize in your bedroom today. Is it one in a billion? Trillion? Googleplex? Would you say that this imprecision implies it's not improbable that a T-Rex will appear in your bedroom?

Doctor Logic said...

Karl,

You've refused to look at the issue, yet again. Please try harder.

I have a 20-sided die that is loaded. What is the probability of rolling a 1? Of rolling a 2? Of rolling any particular value?

Still trying to treat the actions of intelligent self-aware beings like a random event?


It's not ontologically random, Karl. The die could be deterministic. The 20-sided die could have a rational soul controlling it for all I care. It does not matter one jot.

Unless I know its SPECIFIC tendencies or its SPECIFIC microphysics (or, in the case of a soul, omniscient foreknowledge of what decision it will make), the outcome is random TO ME.

From my perspective, from my position of ignorance of its microstates, mechanism, or free deciding (whatever metaphysical gibberish you want, it matters not), I don't know what the outcome will be, and I have no more reason to think a 20 will appear than a 10.

OBVIOUSLY, if I was omniscient, I would know that only one outcome was possible, and in that case I would have no need of probability.

If you cannot understand the difference between epistemic and ontological randomness, I suggest you give up at this point.

The point I am making is about epistemic randomness. It's a reflection of the reasoner's ignorance of the object, not about the object's ontological randomness.

Do you get it?

It doesn't matter how Karl functions, I am entitled to (and, indeed, must) use probability to describe my confidence in any particular ice cream choice by Karl. It doesn't matter why I don't know which action Karl would take. Perhaps I lack the information to needed to predict Karl's choice, or perhaps even Karl cannot say ahead of time. Probability still works because it describes what I know (or don't know) about Karl's decision. 33/33/33

Karl Grant said...

Dr. Logic,

You've refused to look at the issue, yet again. Please try harder.

No, I have looked at the issue. I have discussed it at length. You just stick your fingers in your ears and keep repeating the same old shit like a broken record.

It's not ontologically random, Karl. The die could be deterministic. The 20-sided die could have a rational soul controlling it for all I care. It does not matter one jot.

Unless I know its SPECIFIC tendencies or its SPECIFIC microphysics (or, in the case of a soul, omniscient foreknowledge of what decision it will make), the outcome is random TO ME.


No dumbass. If you know the die has a rational force controlling it you know it is not random. It doesn't matter if you know it's specific tendencies or not, it's specific microphysics or not; the minute you know it has intelligence directing its action you know the outcome is not random. What you don't have is enough information to make an accurate probability distribution of the die's actions, but instead of saying that you want to make a random probability distribution anyway, that you know from the get-go is not representative of reality and is very likely wrong, and act like that gives you carte blanche to ignore or belittle contrary viewpoints you don't like. In fact, your next two statements undercut the point you're trying to make here:

If you cannot understand the difference between epistemic and ontological randomness, I suggest you give up at this point.


The point I am making is about epistemic randomness. It's a reflection of the reasoner's ignorance of the object, not about the object's ontological randomness.


The first time I had the misfortune to see this asinine argument I lectured on this very subject. Let's repeat what I said:

Probability is what happens when knowledge is incomplete. Knowledge varies from person to person. If both these statements are true than one person is not obligated to accept another's probability distribution based on differences in knowledge. So why you think this entire piece-of-shit argument proves anything beyond the fact that you personally find God's existence improbable (big fucking surprise coming from an atheist) or why we are under any obligation to accept your probability distributions is beyond me. If theologians can reason out God's intentions and goals, why should they treat him as random entity just to please your sorry ass?

Now is that too hard to understand Dr. Shit-for-Brains or do I need to spell it out for you?

It doesn't matter how Karl functions, I am entitled to (and, indeed, must) use probability to describe my confidence in any particular ice cream choice by Karl. It doesn't matter why I don't know which action Karl would take. Perhaps I lack the information to needed to predict Karl's choice, or perhaps even Karl cannot say ahead of time. Probability still works because it describes what I know (or don't know) about Karl's decision. 33/33/33

First, why should I accept that probability distribution? I know my own mind and that I am gonna pick vanilla. Say Crude is a friend of mind and he knows my tastes, knows that I love vanilla ice cream, knows that I sometimes eat chocolate and knows that I never eat strawberry. Why should he accept your 33/33/33 ratio? So I will repeat myself: why do you think this entire piece-of-shit argument proves anything beyond the fact that you personally find God's existence improbable? And why should we accept your probability distribution?

im-skeptical said...

Karl,

"Old Randi is a high school drop-out after all. Why should anybody listen to him on subjects concerning physics?"

That's a very good question. I guess you should listen to him to the extent that he knows what he's talking about. I believe that Randi knows far more about science than you do. He happens to be well accomplished and highly respected. When you say that quantum physics are not compatible, you're telling us all that you really don't know what you're talking about.

im-skeptical said...

not compatible with relativity, I mean.

Papalinton said...

Dr Reppert must despair each time he reads comments of the likes of Crude and Karl. They are not the comments of a rational mind, rather they epitomise the gush from a burst water main indiscriminately flushing out wherever the water will fall.

But little does Karl and Crude understand that physics can predict with a reasonable degree of accuracy where that water might fall through the application of fractal geometry. And unbeknown to them, because they timorously refrain from reading up on the science, for fear of turning the world of medieval Classical Scholasticism on its head, even their burst water main irrationality it seems will eventually be explained in terms of the neuroscience.

But I'm not holding my breath that they will self-educate on this stuff. They now look to the indeterminacy of Quantum Mechanics and its as-yet-unexplained relationship with ETR to squirrel away their precious god from scrutiny.

It is a sorry sight to witness such obstructionist attitudes simply because they wish to protect their particular parochial imaginary paradigm from being exposed as an epistemic fraud.

Doctor Logic said...

Karl,

I talk about epistemic randomness, i.e. the seeming randomness that is derived from a lack of evidence, and I provide an example in which I don't know which flavor ice cream you will choose (even if you do already know). And you respond by saying that you know you will pick vanilla, so my distribution out not be random?!! Seriously?!

Karl, I'm thinking of a particular number, either 1, 2 or 3. What is the probability (FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE) that I picked the number 1? Picked 2? Picked 3?

Of course, the percentages from my perspective are either 100/0/0, or 0/100/0, or 0/0/100. My distribution, given my complete information, is not uniform. But I am not asking you for the distribution according to my perspective, but the distribution you ought to choose. I don't understand why this is so difficult for you.

Similarly, in the ice cream example, I'm not asking you for YOUR probability distribution (which is one of 100/0/0, 0/100/0, 0/0/100) or God's probability distribution. I'm asking you what my distribution ought to be, given my lack of information about your choice.

This is really basic stuff, Karl. It's how even simplest games are played.

Slot machines are not ontologically random. They're simple, deterministic state machines. If we could see inside the machine and its programming, we could tell exactly what numbers would come up next. Does that mean that players should not use uniform distributions when they place bets? This is what you are arguing for. You are arguing that because it is not ontologically random for the machine, nor epistemically random from the perspective of the machine, that, therefore, it is not random from the perspective of the player.

If you can't grasp this idea, then there's no point in responding to you any further.

My argument is about how we should rationally, epistemically assess the probability of God's actions, making no assumptions about God, and independent of the God's-eye distribution.

If we make no assumptions whatsoever about the metaphysics of God, we're forced to say that no particular theistic world is more probable than any another, from OUR perspective (obviously NOT God's perspective, if God actually exists!).

One more way of looking at it. We can imagine a large number of conceivable worlds, each one containing a God making different choices. Perhaps only zero or one of these worlds is actual. Also, not every God of which we can conceive can actually exist logically or metaphysically. However, we don't have any more information to go on. So, unless you're going to justify which divine choices are impossible (i.e., say what God would or would not do), or specify a particular God, then what epistemic right do you have to say God #15467865 is any more or less probable than God #876523652? If you cannot say that one world is more probably than another, then, from your perspective, you must accord them equal likelihood.

Karl Grant said...

I'm Skeptical,

I guess you should listen to him to the extent that he knows what he's talking about. I believe that Randi knows far more about science than you do.

Oh this is fucking rich. First you say my science knowledge is lacking because I took classes at a technical college before transferring to a regular university. Now you are saying the guy who dropped out of high-school and became a stage magician knows more about science and mathematics than a guy who actually went to college and has a degree in computer sciences. What is the term for somebody who speaks out of both sides of their mouth? Oh yes, hypocrite.

And the only reason you believe he knows more about science than I do is because he supports your ideological worldview. If Randi was Christian and publicly supported Christianity you would be at the vanguard of those saying Look! Look! How dare a high school drop-out Christian dumbass speak about science! Theists are stupid!

When you say that quantum physics are not compatible (with relativity), you're telling us all that you really don't know what you're talking about.

Really? Well then you might want to tell that to:

Standford University and Dr. Sten Odenwald (Raytheon STX) of the NASA Education and Public Outreach program. Quantum mechanics is incompatible with general relativity because in quantum field theory, forces act locally through the exchange of well-defined quanta.

And John H. Schwarz of the Department of Physics, Math and Astronomy at Caltech: The results described above constitute quite an achievement for one century, but it leaves us with one fundamental contradiction that still needs to be resolved. General relativity and quantum field theory are incompatible.

Or maybe you want to talk to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Dr. Alfredo Macías: The aim of this work is to review the concepts of time in quantum field theory and general relativity to show their incompatibility. We prove that the absolute character of Newtonian time is present in quantum mechanics and also partially in quantum field theories which consider the Minkowski metric as the background spacetime.

I can go on for quite some time with scholarly links here. CERN (heard of that?) and Oxford University, Institute of Physics, Sri Lanka,, etc... Hell, even your buddy Paps had the fucking common sense to Google it before replying hence this line: They now look to the indeterminacy of Quantum Mechanics and its as-yet-unexplained relationship with ETR to squirrel away their precious god from scrutiny. But not you, idiot.

Karl Grant said...

Dr. Logic,

And you respond by saying that you know you will pick vanilla, so my distribution out not be random?!! Seriously?!

Let's see, you know I am not gonna pick the fucking ice cream at random, even if you don't know my personal tastes. Yet you still want to treat it like it's a random occurrence as opposed to just admitting you don't have enough information to make an accurate probability distribution. I think it is rather telling that you want to create a probability distribution you know is wrong in order to hold on to your cherished preconceived notions rather than admit you don't have the necessary information to accurately assess the probability at this time.

But I am not asking you for the distribution according to my perspective, but the distribution you ought to choose. I don't understand why this is so difficult for you.

Wrong, you are asking me to set up a probability distribution according to your rules and one that benefits you; not one I would pick based on my personal knowledge and past experience. Otherwise, you wouldn't be demanding we make no assumptions about God (no matter how well thought out, rationally inferred and based on strong philosophy and theology) while at the same time ignoring major problems (and gaps of knowledge) in modern physics.

Does that mean that players should not use uniform distributions when they place bets? This is what you are arguing for. You are arguing that because it is not ontologically random for the machine, nor epistemically random from the perspective of the machine, that, therefore, it is not random from the perspective of the player.

You obviously don't deal a lot with professional gamblers. None of them just puts their money in a slot machine or just tosses it at random on the roulette wheel. They know mechanism is not random, so they watch it for a while to see if tends to gravitate to a certain set of numbers. They watch and try to gauge the speed it turns at, how quickly it comes to a stop. What they don't do is go "Oh, this machine obviously might be predisposed to behave a certain way but I am gonna treat it like it is completely random! One hundred on black 36, it is as good as any other number!" What you are saying is anathema to a gambler.

My argument is about how we should rationally, epistemically assess the probability of God's actions, making no assumptions about God, and independent of the God's-eye distribution.

In other words, throw centuries, no millennia, of theological and philosophical debate and inquiry about the existence of God and the characteristics of God out the window in order to accommodate your stupid ass and stack the deck in favor of your ideological worldview while at the same time you are making assumptions left and right about naturalism. Why should we? In fact, your entire 'killer' argument is predicated on a logical fallacy: argument from ignorance. Take a look at your examples:

Ignore the fact nobody buys food from vendor completely at random. Do not try figure out what the customer is looking for and accommodate him. Treat it as a random occurrence; generate a probability distribution you know is wrong and has no relationship reality and go by that. (if you worked in retail with this mindset you would be fired and blacklisted)

Ignore the fact the slot machine is not really random. Don't try and figure out how the rpms, how fast it slows down. Treat it like a random occurrence, just put money in and pull the lever whenever feel like it! (stay out of casinos, you would lose your ass)

Throw out thousands of years of philosophy and theology about God's characteristics! Treat it like a random dice throw!

In each case you want us to ignore existing knowledge and treat something that we all know is not random like a random occurrence. How stupid can you get?

Crude said...

DL,

This isn't a battle between physicalism and theism. It's a battle between the kind of reductive physicalism described by our theories, and non-reductive physicalism or theism.

See, that's precisely where you're wrong.

This is 'a battle' between theism and atheism. Your entire point of reference in the argument is flat out wrong - it's like comparing atheism to mormonism, then arguing that such and such physicalist explanations in the world each count as a point in favor of mormonism because 'atheism is the Anything Card'. I think you'd see pretty easily why that comparison wouldn't work.

And this is all before pointing out that it's not as if we live in a world that is obviously and thoroughly 'reductively physicalist' anyway.

But the point is - again - all your odds talk fails to begin with, because your point of comparison is illegitimate. The comparison is between atheism and theism. Stop treating 'reductive physicalism' like, basically, a competing agent. It simply is not.

Yes, for every physical world we can imagine God having designed, we could postulate a non-theistic counterpart in which the existence of those objects is a brute fact. But I'm just as happy to rule out those worlds as the theistic ones on precisely the same grounds!

So, you rule out every world that God designed, and every world that God didn't design. I have some bad news about the world you think exists, DL...

In fact, the actions of a completely unspecified God look exactly like the non-reductive, anything-goes physicalism you describe, and that's why (as you say) they look the same in terms of probability and inference.

That's not what I said at all. You are the one dealing with the absolutely unbounded definition of 'God' here - that was your decision to work with. And that 'God' is compatible not just with non-reductive physicalism, but reductive physicalism, immaterialism, and everything else.

Our world is subsumed under the T-Rex will pop into existence in your bedroom physicalism. So why do you think this makes any difference?

Because it illustrates why your odds talk fails. You're saying 'We're seeing this world, but GOD could have made a googletillion other worlds! But REDUCTIVE PHYSICALISM would have made a world pretty much like this!' And it doesn't matter - again, even before getting into the point that 'reductive physicalism' is argued to be a failure to understand our world as is - because it's not an alternative to 'worlds God would make'. It's yet another, by your standards.

We don't know exactly how improbable it is that a T-Rex will materialize in your bedroom today. Is it one in a billion? Trillion? Googleplex? Would you say that this imprecision implies it's not improbable that a T-Rex will appear in your bedroom?

Frankly, I think most people - when asked - would just strongly feel that such a thing wouldn't happen, and when prompted would have trouble justifying why they think that. They certainly wouldn't start doing a fake 'well here's the math formula' dance unless they were crazy or had one of the more common strains of Aspergers.

Again: 'Worlds God/god(s) would create, with G/g being any intelligent and powerful being with any set of desires and intentions' is a humongous class. But so is 'Worlds that just exist brutely without G/g's creative input'! You've got two Anything decks. Your complaint seems to be 'But according to how I reason about things, if what you're saying is true then I can't decide whether God's existence is unlikely or not!'

Indeed. Perhaps that's a flaw with how you reason. Or maybe not, and you should shift yourself from 'God doesn't exist' to 'I really don't know if God exists'. I mean, that outcome is a live possibility, right?

im-skeptical said...

Karl,

Before you go spouting more about what you don't understand, I know you can find quotes on Google, but the reality is that both the theory of quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity provide accurate descriptions of phenomena we observe in our world, but they don't cover the same ground. It's not like theism vs. atheism, where you have two incompatible theories and they can't both be true.

What's missing is a more complete understand of how to bridge between them - something that would be called a unifying theory. This is what Linton stated correctly, and you don't seem to understand. Saying that relativity displaced Newtonian mechanics, and that similarly, quantum mechanics displaces relativity is just plain wrong. Relativity actually extends Newtonian mechanics, and quantum mechanics co-exists with relativity.

Karl Grant said...

but the reality is that both the theory of quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity provide accurate descriptions of phenomena we observe in our world, but they don't cover the same ground.

Technically true and practically false. From one of the links:

Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity describes gravity and thus the world at large, quantum physics describes the world of atoms and elementary particles. Both theories work extremely well within their own boundaries; however, they break down, as currently formulated, in certain extreme regions, at extremely tiny distances, the so-called Planck scale, for example. Space and time thus have no meaning in black holes or, most notably, during the Big Bang.

Daniele Oriti from the Albert Einstein Institute uses a fluid to illustrate this situation: “We can describe the behavior of flowing water with the long-known classical theory of hydrodynamics. But if we advance to smaller and smaller scales and eventually come across individual atoms, it no longer applies. Then we need quantum physics.”


Or in layman's terms, quantum mechanics describes the behavior and composition of the small parts that make up the larger bodies that Einstein's Theory of Relativity affect. Not being able to reconcile them is a pretty damn big deal; kind of like not being able to connect your brake pedal with your brake pads in a car.

What's missing is a more complete understand of how to bridge between them - something that would be called a unifying theory.

No shit Skeppy, several of the works I linked to talked about that. Schawrz's paper, for example, states in the first paragraph:

Many theorical physicists are convinced that superstring theory will provide the answer.

And in the third paragraph:

In such theories the short-distance behaviour of interactions is so singular that it is not possible to carry out meaningful calculations. By replacing point-like particles with one-dimensional extended strings, as the fundamental objects, superstring theory overcomes the problem of non-renormalizability.

But, of course, you don't actually read works your opponents cite. Now science may one day posit a unified field theory or a variant of the string theory that reconciles QM and ETR or they might never; either way they don't have it now and as of our current understanding they remain incompatible. So in other words our knowledge of this universe's physics is still very much incomplete which in turn limits our ability to estimate with any degree of accuracy the number of possible worlds reductive physics could create.

Unless, of course, you are saying we can take the existence of something that has not been empirically proven (in this case unifying theory for QM and ETR) for granted in which case you undermine Dr. Logical (Mr. we shouldn't make assumptions about things we can't prove) and quite a few other atheist soundbites. After all, what is to stop us from extrapolating from other things we strongly expect to exist but not have been empirically proven? I don't think you really want to go down that rabbit-hole.

Saying that relativity displaced Newtonian mechanics, and that similarly, quantum mechanics displaces relativity is just plain wrong. Relativity actually extends Newtonian mechanics, and quantum mechanics co-exists with relativity.

Wrong Skeppy, Newtonian Mechanics and the Theory of Relativity differ on several key points; the least of which is that Newtonian Mechanics views velocity of light as relative to the observer while in the theory of relativity velocity of light is an absolute constant. At the same time Newtonian Mechanics views Mass, Length and Time as absolutes. In the ETR they are relative. Oh, and you might want to go and bitch to Wikipedia about this since they list the Theory of Relativity as having superseded (a synonym for displaced) Newton's system.

im-skeptical said...

"Oh, and you might want to go and bitch to Wikipedia about this since they list the Theory of Relativity as having superseded (a synonym for displaced) Newton's system."

I don't need to go to Wikipedia like you do, because I have an understanding about relativity theory that you don't. I understand the relationship between them, and how the equations of relativity reduce to precisely the same as those of classical mechanics in the limit as velocity or energy approach zero. This implies that there's nothing wrong with classical mechanics until we go beyond the realm of ordinary human experience, and then we need an extended theory to explain the observed phenomena. While I would agree with the term 'supersede', the term 'displace' is wrong. It is amusing to hear dilettantes spouting about how Newton had it all wrong. He didn't. His theory was incomplete, just as relativity is also incomplete.

Karl Grant said...

I'm Skeptical,

I don't need to go to Wikipedia like you do

Shall I provide links to your previous posts where you reference Wikipedia? Such posts are not hard to find.

While I would agree with the term 'supersede', the term 'displace' is wrong.

Really? Well let's go look at the the definition of supersede:

transitive verb: to take the place of (someone or something that is old, no longer useful, etc.) : to replace (someone or something)

1 a: to cause to be set aside
b : to force out of use as inferior
2: to take the place or position of
3: to displace in favor of another (uh-oh)

Synonyms:

cut out, displace (uh-oh again), displant, relieve, substitute, replace, supplant

Now lets take a look at the the definition of displace:

transitive verb: to take the job or position of (someone or something); to force (people or animals) to leave the area where they live; to remove (someone) from a job or position

So basically when you say you agree with term 'supersede' but the term 'displace' is wrong you are saying: I agree with it replacing it but to take it's place is wrong. I agree that Einstein's Theory of Relativity took the place of Newtonian Mechanics but saying Einstein's Theory of Relativity took the place of Newtonian Mechanics is wrong.

....

Skeppy, when you act like you can't pass a fucking first grade English test people don't tend to take proclamations like because I have an understanding about relativity theory that you don't very seriously. You know, Crude and I have told you multiple times to quit bullshitting because you are not very good at it.

His theory was incomplete, just as relativity is also incomplete.

Which is part of the point I am trying to make. Dr. Logic acts like he can predict the possible worlds reductive physics can create with a real degree of accuracy but this is not possible to generate a reasonably accurate probability distribution with our incomplete knowledge of physics. So good of you to back me up here.

grodrigues said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
grodrigues said...

"I don't need to go to Wikipedia like you do, because I have an understanding about relativity theory that you don't."

While it is true that the limit as c -> infinity reproduces classical mechanics, Karl Grant is precisely right. The fact that this limit reproduces classical mechanics does *not* mean what im-skeptical thinks it does, e.g. "that there's nothing wrong with classical mechanics". Classical mechanics for example, gives the wrong predictions in say the anomalous precession of the perihelion of Mercury or the values of light deflection around the sun, so yes, it was displaced by General Relativity. Not only are the theoretical structures of both incompatible in many and fundamental ways, they are saying quite different and inconsistent things about the structure of reality. Etc. and etc.

But hey, it is entertaining reading im-skeptical talk about "dilettantes" and his superior understanding of physics, so I will just watch from the peanut gallery.

im-skeptical said...

grod,

"While it is true that the limit as c -> infinity reproduces classical mechanics"

Not true. c is the speed of light. it doesn't approach infinity.

You're obviously one of those dilettantes too.

Dan Gillson said...

In physics, the C in E=MC^2 refers to the speed of light. In calculus, the C in the phrase, the limit as C ->infinity refers to the finite sequence.

Dan Gillson said...

GRod was referring to calculus, not to the speed of light.

im-skeptical said...

The 'c' in Einstein's equations is the 'c' of physics.

Karl Grant said...

The 'c' in Einstein's equations is the 'c' of physics.

Uh, no. In thermodynamics, which is a branch of physics, a big C in the equations stands for Celsius and a little c stands for the specific heat capacity. There are other examples. Also to have a truly advanced understanding of physics requires an advanced understanding of math since mathematics forms the foundation of physics, so if you really did have an advance understanding of physics you would have recognized that calculus equation; especially if you wanted to deal with the theory of relativity. Dan had no trouble recognizing it as such.

You know, I am starting to think your claim to having an engineering degree is a bunch of bullshit.

im-skeptical said...

grodrigues has no idea what he's talking about.

"While it is true that the limit as c -> infinity reproduces classical mechanics, Karl Grant is precisely right."

He is certainly referring to Einstein's relativity here (in reference to my earlier remark), but he has it wrong.

Dan seems to be confused as well.

"In calculus, the C in the phrase, the limit as C ->infinity refers to the finite sequence."

There is no standard symbol 'C' in calculus that has a fixed meaning that I'm aware of.

And finally, little Karl with his Wikipedia at the ready to find anything he can to refute what I have said.

" so if you really did have an advance understanding of physics you would have recognized that calculus equation"

What calculus equation was that, Karl? I must have missed it, but perhaps you can point it out to me. For someone who has no clue what you are saying, you sure do act like you know it all. Why don't you explain to me what principle in thermodynamics governs the phase change of water? Why don't you give me an example of a finite sequence where C -> infinity and explain the meaning of C in that example?

You know, I am starting to think your claim to having a brain is a bunch of bullshit.

Dan Gillson said...

Dan isn't confused because he has taken advanced mathematics. He can easily recognize concepts from calculus, like that of a limit. The 'c' is an arbitrary designator for the finite sequence. Grod could've said 'n' or 'x' instead of 'c', and either would've designated the finite sequence.

im-skeptical said...

But he was referring to what I had already said. He was talking about Einstein's relativity, not about finite sequences in calculus, which would make no sense at all in the context.

grodrigues said...

"grodrigues has no idea what he's talking about."

There is in fact a step I forgot to add: the gravitational effects must be weak, so what I have written is that the limit with c -> infinity of special relativity is classical mechanics. First reference I picked up: Rindler, "Introduction to Special Relativity", pg. 19:

"The Lorentz transformation replaces the older Galilean transformation, to which it nevertheless approximates when v/c is small. This accounts for the high accuracy of Newtonian mechanics—invariant under the Galilean transformation—in describing a large domain of nature, Note also that the two transformations become the same if we let с formally tend to infinity."

The point really, is not that the speed of light -> infinity, but rather that no signal can travel faster than c, and that by letting c -> infinity we are lifting the cap and back at the classical regime.

The direct computation of the Newtonian classical limit of General Relativity is a standard exercise; for example, see here. The ingredients are basically: (1) assume weak gravitational fields so that the metric g can be expanded around the Minkowski metric and the second order correction terms (that involve the curvature tensor) can be neglected and (2) the velocities are small compared to the speed of light, so that the ratio v / c is small.

These limits are "formal" because while physicists do them with no qualms whatsoever, to give a precise mathematical formulation of these statements is a non-trivial task -- See J. Ehlers, "The Newtonian limit of general relativity", in "Classical mechanics and relativity: relationship and consistency", ed. G. Ferrarese.

These types of classical limits, where a physical theory recovers classical mechanics when some free parameter (e.g. a fundamental constant) tends to some value (usually 0 or infinity), are everywhere in physics. For example, one way to say that QM reproduces Classical Mechanics is to say that the semi-classical limit of QM with the Planck's constant h -> 0 recovers classical mechanics.

But enough of educating ineducable idiots.

Dan Gillson said...

Could you reproduce that for me at the level of "Physics for Poets"? Thanks.

im-skeptical said...

"to which it nevertheless approximates when v/c is small."

Of course, if you actually did know what you were talking about, you would understand that it meas v -> 0, not c -> infinity.

But enough of educating ineducable idiots.

im-skeptical said...

As a strictly mathematical construct, you can let c -> infinity, as you found it in your book, in which case, the ratio of v/c tends to zero. As a description of physical reality, of course we know that c is invariant, so it can't approach infinity. Instead, velocity must be small to make the ratio small, and the equation then reduces to classical mechanics.

Karl Grant said...

I'm Skeptical,

He is certainly referring to Einstein's relativity here (in reference to my earlier remark), but he has it wrong.

Dan seems to be confused as well.


So your response is pretty much to stick your fingers in your ears and scream NO, IT'S NOT!!! I must say I am so impressed; I have not seen debating skills of this level since my five-year old cousin threw temper-tantrum at the last family reunion. Considering how when you where cornered over double-standards on using blog posts as evidence you bragged about not wanting to take a nap when your mom told you to when you were five and acted like this somehow made you special and unique this is none too surprising. But who knows, maybe in a few years you can advance to grade-school level knowledge and argumentation. Stranger things have happened.

And finally, little Karl with his Wikipedia at the ready to find anything he can to refute what I have said.

I am gonna follow Crude's example and bookmark that comment. When the next time you or your buddy Paps reference Wikipedia (I give it two weeks, tops) I am gonna shove it back down your throat. Sound good, yes?

But I do have to apologize Skeppy, the Illuminati Conspiracy Theory website you like to use as a reference so much doesn't talk too much about physics so I can't use it as a general reference for these discussions. I'm sincerely sorry about that.

What calculus equation was that, Karl?

Dan has already explained this too you, so has Grod. I see no reason to do it a third time.

Why don't you explain to me what principle in thermodynamics governs the phase change of water?

Well I thought about using Wikipedia as a point of reference here as the first sentence says Water heating is a thermodynamic process that uses an energy source to heat water above its initial temperature. But since you are on an anti-Wiki kick (which is hypocritical as you have used Wiki as a reference source multiple times before this discussion thread and will do so again once you think this thread has become out-of-sight, out-of-mind) so I tried to look for some article that would pass your ideological vetting process. So far that has proven impossible as every scholarly article I have found on this subject has made you look like an even bigger liar and idiot and will therefore trigger a knee-jerk dismissal from you.

Oh by the way Skeppy, here is a little quote from Abraham Lincoln for you: Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

But I doubt you would take his advice since he was Republican and therefore THE ENEMY!!! Speaking of which, when are you gonna fire on Fort Sumter?

im-skeptical said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
im-skeptical said...

Getting back to what kicked off this little excursion, it means that Newton's equations have not been "set aside", as Karl asserts. Rather, they are alive and well, and they continue to survive inside Einstein's equations, which extend them rather than set then aside, and grod concedes this (the limit as c -> infinity reproduces classical mechanics). In this regard they have been superseded by Einstein's equations, but not "set aside". Of course, since Karl is in no position to argue about this, he chooses to quibble about the definition of 'supersede'.

But still, grod disagrees, quoting from a book that discusses a different implication of Einstein's equations, as if that were the only implication. As an engineer, I understand that when we deal with things that are within the realm of ordinary human experience (as long as the ratio v/c is small), we can rely with confidence on the validity of Newton's classical mechanics. If grod doesn't recognize the truth of this, I have to question whether he understands it, or whether he is just quoting from a book.

Karl, on the other hand, understands none of this. In answer to my questions, about finite series: "Dan has already explained this too you". Show me the equation, Karl. You haven't answered my question. About boiling as as explained by the principles of thermodynamics: "every scholarly article I have found on this subject has made you look like an even bigger liar and idiot and will therefore trigger a knee-jerk dismissal from you." In other words, "I couldn't find anything other than one sentence that has 'water', 'heat', and 'thermodynamic' together." But thermodynamics is about energy and entropy, and how heat transfers between bodies, not about phase changes, and that explains why you couldn't find it in Wikipedia.

Here's a word of advice for you: Listen to what Lincoln said.

Karl Grant said...

I'm Skeptical,

Rather, they are alive and well, and they continue to survive inside Einstein's equations, which extend them rather than set then aside, and grod concedes this (the limit as c -> infinity reproduces classical mechanics).

No Skeppy, I have already explained how the ETR and Newtonian Mechanics differ completely in their stance towards Velocity of Light, Mass, Length and Time. Grod has elaborated on further differences. To say they are the same thing because they produce similar results below a certain level is like saying a diesel engine and a nuclear reactor are the same thing because they are both used to power ships.


In this regard they have been superseded by Einstein's equations, but not "set aside". Of course, since Karl is in no position to argue about this, he chooses to quibble about the definition of 'supersede'.

Quibble? You keep using the word supersede while arguing Newtonian Mechanics has not been "set aside" even though very definition of the word is to set aside and replace. That either shows a complete lack of reading comprehension or the arrogant refusal of an egotistical dumbass who can't admit when he is wrong. Though in this case it is probably indicative of both.

In other words, "I couldn't find anything other than one sentence that has 'water', 'heat', and 'thermodynamic' together."

Let's see, a few posts up I referenced a half-dozen or so scholarly articles from major universities and research institutes showing how quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity are incompatible. You stuck your fingers ears and double-down on your stupid claim. You are also on record of saying, more than once and to more than one person Maybe I do have it all wrong but you will never convince me of that.

But thermodynamics is about energy and entropy, and how they transfer between bodies, not about phase changes, and that explains why you couldn't find it in Wikipedia.

Seriously? Alright Skeppy, here is a little tidbit to prove to you that I have more scholarly sources on thermodynamics and water at my disposal. Here is an article by physicist Andrew Jones explaining thermodynamics and boiling water:

Thermodynamics is the study of heat transfer and the changes that result from it.

The basic effect of heat transfer is that the particles of one substance collide with the particles of another substance. The more energetic substance will typically lose internal energy (i.e. "cool down") while the less energetic substance will gain internal energy (i.e. "heat up").
The most blatant effect of this in our day-to-day life is a phase transition, where a substance changes from one state of matter to another, such as ice melting from a solid to a liquid as it absorbs heat. The water contains more internal energy (i.e. the water molecules are moving around faster) than in the ice.

In addition, many substances go through either thermal expansion or thermal contraction as they gain and lose internal energy. Water (and other liquids) often expands as it freezes, which anyone who has put a drink with a cap in the freezer for too long has discovered.


Now may I interest you in some more rope to hang yourself with again (i.e., you want me to cite another source, I would be more than happy to)?

Here's a word of advice for you: Listen to what Lincoln said.

Still copying other people's insults? What's the matter Skeppy, does trying to think of real good sarcastic comeback make your brain hurt too much?

BenYachov said...

Skept

I doubt I know one tenth the science or math Karl, Grod, or Dan know. Indeed a tenth is being overly generous to myself.

But I can admit it.

Is this the hill you want to die on? You don't know what your are talking about so own up to it.

BenYachov said...

Unfortunately this is another negative social effect of Gnu Atheism(religious fundamentalism has a similar problem but I won't get into that now).

Gnus who profess to believe in Science yet seem oblivious to the fact they might encounter believers who have a great deal more professional knowledge of the subject then they themselves.

BenYachov's Law -Reasoning is a learned skill. Just because you deny god(s) doesn't automatically make you rational.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"which extend them rather than set then aside, and grod concedes this (the limit as c -> infinity reproduces classical mechanics)"

No, that is not what I "concede" as I already said it. But even if it were, according to you I am "one of those dilettantes" that have "no idea what [he's] I'm talking about". If regarding this matter, I do not know what I am talking about when disagreeing with you, I surely do not know what I am talking about when agreeing with you. In fact, in answer to the procedure of taking the "limit as c -> infinity" your response was "Not true. c is the speed of light. it doesn't approach infinity." In response to "While it is true that the limit as c -> infinity reproduces classical mechanics, Karl Grant is precisely right." you said and I quote "He is certainly referring to Einstein's relativity here (in reference to my earlier remark), but he has it wrong." And Dan is seemingly confused as well. Do you take consolation in the fact that I am "conceding" your point even if I have "it wrong" and am saying things that are "not true"? Why, it almost looks like you couldn't care less about Science or Truth, and only want to score a debating point.

And as Karl Grant said, I realize that you are unschooled, a bore and witless, but could you at least spare us the schoolyard antics of repeating *word for word* the invectives thrown at you? Maybe, for inspiration, read Burton's "Anatomy of Melancholy", one of the, if not the masterpiece of invective and abuse in the English language?

Dan Gillson said...

Dan was confused because he hopped into a conversation without having the appropriate context. Sorry. I'm pleading haste again. (The haste is compounded by the fact that I've been following these threads from my phone.)

im-skeptical said...

grodrigues,

Let me apologize for calling you a diletante. The fact is, I don't know how much you understand and how much you don't. Allow me to say a few words in my defense.

When you speak up in one of these discussions with me, it is always to denounce or take issue with something I have said, never to offer any useful information.

In this case, you said a few words with no context about the speed of light approaching infinity, and I interpreted that to mean that you didn't realize that the speed of light is constant. Of course, what you said is mathematically correct (I agree, and this could have been grounds for fruitful discussion), but then you went on to say that I didn't understand what I was saying. And you refuse to admit that there might be even a grain of truth in what I say. But I know I'm not wrong about this. I didn't make this stuff up. When the ratio v/c is practically zero, it boils down to classical mechanics, and that's why we engineers are perfectly justified in using Newton's equations in a wide variety of circumstances, and that's why they still teach classical mechanics in freshman physics. Are you seriously disputing the truth of this?

Your problem is that you can't bring yourself to admit that anything I say might be true. This has happened before. I'd be happy to listen if you wanted to show me the mistake in my argument, but that's not your game. Rather than trying to come to terms on disputed issues, you just stick to your guns and start hurling insults and epithets.

For the record, I would love to see more actual discussion and debate about disputed issues. People don't have to agree, but they should be able to express their beliefs without all this abusive treatment. It affects my behavior, too. And for that, I'm sorry.

im-skeptical said...

A note for Karl:

My statement about thermodynamics and phase change was incorrect. You were finally able to pull up the right kind of article to show that phase change is indeed a topic area within thermodynamics, and thereby show that what I said was wrong. Please keep it up.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"When the ratio v/c is practically zero, it boils down to classical mechanics, and that's why we engineers are perfectly justified in using Newton's equations in a wide variety of circumstances, and that's why they still teach classical mechanics in freshman physics. Are you seriously disputing the truth of this?"

Where did I disputed that? In God's name, where? I said as much myself (hint: something about the Newtonian limit). This is the sad irony of it all: you complain about a non-existent disagreement, do not address what I am disagreeing with, say I have no idea what I am talking about, show that you have no idea what you are talking about, and then plead for "actual discussion and debate about" disagreements. Right. As far as the rest of your defense, the less said the better.

im-skeptical said...

You sure were disagreeing with something. I guess it was something that I didn't say. I get that all the time.

Karl Grant said...

My statement about thermodynamics and phase change was incorrect. You were finally able to pull up the right kind of article to show that phase change is indeed a topic area within thermodynamics, and thereby show that what I said was wrong. Please keep it up.

My, my, you actually admitted you fucked up. Is there a blue moon in the sky tonight? But here is the thing Skeppy, the fact that water heating involves thermodynamics is a very basic science (indeed, if I recall correctly I learned it in 9th grade physics) and it ain't too damn hard to find information about what actually triggers a phase change in water.

The fact that you didn't know that, but at the same time you accuse me of not knowing what I am talking about when speaking about thermodynamics and water heating shows considerable arrogance and cock-sureness on your part. It would have taken you less than five minutes to look that information up. Five minutes worth of work that would have prevented you from looking like a liar, a fraud and an utter damn fool. Yet for some reason, you didn't feel the need to fact check. That shows considerable intellectual laziness on your part.

And the fact that you couldn't get something so damn basic right about physics doesn't speak well of your ability to grasp advanced physics like the interactions between QM and the ETR. Now you want to continue that discussion? I'm game if you are.

im-skeptical said...

Karl,

I'm glad you got all that off your chest. Now listen, you little twit. You still can't correctly describe what I misstated. And it wasn't until I gave you the correct words to Google for that you were able to find an article that was relevant to the question at hand. Think about that for a moment, will you?

You may have Ben Yachov fooled, but you don't fool me for a second.

Karl Grant said...

You still can't correctly describe what I misstated.

On what? Thermodynamics and water heating? I believe that was But thermodynamics is about energy and entropy, and how heat transfers between bodies, not about phase changes. Heat transfer is what triggers the phase change. On the use of the term displace and supersede? That was While I would agree with the term 'supersede', the term 'displace' is wrong. Two words are synonyms and one is actually used in the definition of the other. On the relationship between Newtonian Mechanics and Einstein's Theory of Relativity? That was Relativity actually extends Newtonian mechanics, and quantum mechanics co-exists with relativity/ Nope, ETR and Newtonian Mechanics have radically different views on Mass, Time, etc...

So wrong, I have correctly described what you have "misstated" (I think bullshitted would be a more accurate term).

And it wasn't until I gave you the correct words to Google for that you were able to find an article that was relevant to the question at hand. Think about that for a moment, will you?

Is this your idea of a joke? You are saying now that even in your major errors you managed to prove my position was correct and that must count for something? How pathetic and egotistical can you be when you are trying to take credit for the other guy proving you wrong?

And I hate to burst your little bubble but you did not provide me the correct words to Google. Remember, I explicitly said ... I tried to look for some article that would pass your ideological vetting process. So far that has proven impossible as every scholarly article I have found on this subject has made you look like an even bigger liar and idiot and will therefore trigger a knee-jerk dismissal from you.

I made it very clear that I had other articles to reference. You obviously thought I was bluffing and you had me cornered because in your next post you said In other words, "I couldn't find anything other than one sentence that has 'water', 'heat', and 'thermodynamic' together." But thermodynamics is about energy and entropy, and how heat transfers between bodies, not about phase changes, and that explains why you couldn't find it in Wikipedia.

This is where you said you "supplied" me with the search terms; in a mocking response to the very idea that I had or could find sources to prove you wrong. But then it turned out I wasn't bluffing and now here you are trying to mitigate some of the damage to your street, sorry, blogging cred. Or do you not think people will notice that I said I had other scientific articles that made you look like a damn fool before you mentioned term 'phase change'?

You may have Ben Yachov fooled, but you don't fool me for a second.

Well, it is kind of hard to change someone's opinion of me when they got their head stuck up their own ass, I'll grant you that. Very hard to communicate when they can't see and hear because of their own shit, you know?

Ilíon said...

grodrigues "... But enough of educating ineducable idiots."

This doubtless comes across as a quibble, but it is not: it gets, in fact, to the heart of the intractability of these “discussions”.

Because of his refusal to be corrected on this matter of ‘science’ – which is a function of his refusal to learn *anything* that might call into question his commitment to God-hatred -- you refer to ‘I-pretend-to-be-an-educable-seeker-of-truth’ as “an idiot”. But, it is clear that you don’t actually mean ‘idiot’, for you are simultaneously making a moral judgment-and-condemnation of I-pretend’s behavior and, ultimately, his mindset.

And actual idiot cannot help being an idiot: if he cannot grasp something or other, it is no one’s fault, and his failure to understand is certainly not due to a willful refusal on his part to understand (ha may desperately wish to understand).

But, in the case of I-pretend, what you are saying about him (*) is that he *refuses* to understand certain matters (a broad range, in his case); *refuses* to see the errors in his reasoning, no matter how carefully and patiently it is pointed out to him;*refuses* to see that certain of his key assumptions are at best highly questionable, and frequently demonstrably false. In short, you are saying that I-pretend is an intellectually dishonest person – or, to put it into one word, a fool.

Now, if you (grodrigues, personally, and the reader in general) take to heart what I’ve written here, especially if you start using the phrase ‘intellectually dishonest’, you may certainly call down upon yourself the wrath of the “nice” people … but you’ll also find a bit of inner peace, for having come to the understanding that certain persons (**) have no desire to engage in honest discussion, you’re less likely to become frustrated with them, and less likely to strike out at them in combined frustration and anger (***).


(*) obviously, I agree, which is why I mock him.

(**) and one learns to identify them fairly quickly

(***) this refusal on the part of so many here to understand (and state) that some regulars here are intellectually dishonest about a broad range of issues, while some others are more focused in their intellectual dishonesty, explains why when you (plural-and-general) *do* state it, it’s always in a spirit of anger, borne of frustration, merging into hatred; that is, why it’s always an unedifying cat-fight or even pile-on.

Doctor Logic said...

Crude,

Yes, for every physical world we can imagine God having designed, we could postulate a non-theistic counterpart in which the existence of those objects is a brute fact. But I'm just as happy to rule out those worlds as the theistic ones on precisely the same grounds!

So, you rule out every world that God designed, and every world that God didn't design. I have some bad news about the world you think exists, DL...


Let's talk physics.

T1 = Unspecified physics dominates, anything can happen. Any boundary conditions are possible (e.g., dinosaurs materializing in living rooms). This represents a view of complete ignorance about physical laws because it is agnostic towards all of them equally. Things aren't expected to "fall to Earth" since gravity is not assumed, etc.

T2 = Our current reductive picture of physical, biological science. (The Standard Model, our current best theory of gravity, our models of genetic and biological processes.)

T1 is consistent with T2, as far as our data is concerned. But T1 is also consistent with ~T2. We could be in that most peculiar of law-free (T1) universes which looks exactly like T2 operating for 13.7 billion years. Obviously, most of the possible worlds consistent with T1 don't look anything like T2. We could suppose, however, that we've been tricked by an exceedingly unfortunate set of experimental coincidences in to thinking there are laws of physics that look like T2.

So, tell me, why do we have confidence in T2 rather than T1?

I'm not asking you about the problem of induction. I'm asking you about why, given that we think inductive inference is rational, that we think T2 more probable than T1.

Do you think it has anything to do with the fact that T1 spreads it's likelihood distribution across far more possibilities, and thus spreads its share of probability more thinly over T2-like worlds than does T2 itself?

Doctor Logic said...

Crude,

This is 'a battle' between theism and atheism.

No, it isn't. It's about weak and unspecific theories against strong, predictive ones. A weakly theistic theory and a weak non-theistic theory are both weaker than a strong physical theory or a strong theistic theory. In reality, we have a strong physical theory, and unless you're willing to make a strong theistic theory that isn't trivial, you're going to get clobbered by rational inference.

Let's turn the analogy around.

--------

Imagine a theistic world in which, for all recorded history, God has been visible, and God has quickly rewarded good behavior and quickly penalized bad behavior. If someone does something bad, we expect God to quickly penalize them because the theory that God quickly dishes-out cosmic justice is the one that fits the data better.

If someone claimed that they had been punished for doing something good, we would have great doubt about their story. Yes, God *could* change course at any time (just like laws of physics could conceivably change in our own universe). It's possible that our theory of God in this fictitious universe is wrong, or that God doesn't actually exist and that we live in a bizarre physical world that has just happened to look like a cosmically-just theistic world. But as far as we can infer from the evidence, it is so rare for God to deviate from his behavior that it's far more likely the person's story is somehow mistaken.

Suppose that in this fictitious world, an atheist comes to us claiming that the world is actually just physical, and that there's really no such thing as cosmic justice. We then press him for details. He says that the physical laws are completely indiscernible, and he can make no predictions. He says there are obscure reports from people who claim to have been punished for doing good or rewarded for doing bad, so it's not even clear that the world implements God's cosmic justice everywhere anyway.

You and I would agree that the obvious response is to say that if some unspecified physicalism were true, there are lots *more* ways the world could be. (And the same is true for an unspecified theism.) We would both argue that the data supports the standard theistic theory much better than generic theism or generic physicalism.

In this fictitious world, there are lots more ways life could have been like if we did not live in a world governed by a God who dished out quick justice.

If the atheist's physicalism isn't precise enough to predict anything except to parrot back observations AFTER they are made, then the theory isn't explaining anything.

Things would be different for the atheist if he could show that unguided physical laws MUST end up looking like quick cosmic justice and divine appearances, and show that theistic worlds would probably look different.

-----

Crude, as long as you emphasize the unlimited ability and unpredictability (indiscernible nature) of God, you're going to lose. It would be like me singing the praises of a physics that lacks any specified physical laws. Sure, such a physics *can* do anything, but that's why we think it's improbable or non-explanatory, and why, instead, we believe physical laws are likely to guide future events. I cannot explain something by saying "it was physics" anymore than someone can make a god-of-the-gaps argument. It does no work at all.