Friday, May 23, 2014

Does science presuppose God?

Vincent Torley replies to Carroll, Coyne, Dawkins and Loftus.

38 comments:

Mike Robinson said...

Indeed it does.

Bilbo said...

Chapter 9 of Alvin Plantinga's book, Where the Conflict Really Lies; Science, Religion, and Naturalism, makes a very strong case, to my mind, for a very deep concord between Science and Theism, and that we should be surprised that Science is possible given Naturalism. In my opinion, it's the best chapter in his book. If it were up to me, I would make it the first chapter and retitle the book, Where the Concord Lies.

Papalinton said...

Only to theists.

Victor Reppert said...

That's trivially true. No one is going to say "Sure, science presupposes God, but since there's no God, science is illegitimate and unjustified."

Victor Reppert said...

This is the sort of comment that leads one to think that you are always going to be talking past the theists on this site. It sounds good from the standpoint of gnus, but it contributes nothing even from the standpoint of someone who is neutral.

Ilíon said...

"It sounds good from the standpoint of gnus, but it contributes nothing even from the standpoint of someone who is neutral."

This was never in doubt.

unkleE said...

I've got to say, as a theist, that I thought that Torley's argument started out well, but the longer it went, the less it convinced me. John Loftus's arguments were weak, and he shows this clearly. But it was downhill from there.

The arguments about the sun doing something else other than rise every morning seemed very weak to me, and rather silly. We understand gravity, inertia, nuclear physics, Newton's laws of motion, etc, and we can reasonably confidently predict what the sun will do in the next 24 hours and, really, probably the next 24 million years. Yes, there is some doubt (the earth could be hit by a giant meteorite and knocked off orbit) but we can probably reasonably well estimate the probability of that.

In fact, in a fit of playful madness, I once tried to estimate the probability of the sun not rising tomorrow and I found it to be very small. Perhaps I fell into one of Torley's logical traps, but I still think the probability is small.

I still think the basic argument is correct, but this attempt to strengthen it seemed to me to only undermine it, I'm sorry to say.

im-skeptical said...


"Does science presuppose God?"

No, but Torley certainly does (as do all theists - before they begin to consider any logical argument).

B. Prokop said...

I don't know whether science "presupposes" God, but I do know that I was out observing last night and saw His handiwork all around me. (Spectacular views of Saturn - the rings are "wide open" to our view right now. Beautiful beyond words.)

amorbis said...

This sounds suspiciously similar to the kinds of arguments that Thomists put out for why abandoning Aristotelianism was a bad move. That is, the claim that abandoning Aristotelianism was the cause of all (or at least most) of our modern philosophical problems (in this case, the problem of induction), and that returning to a worldview based on essences and purposes (formal and final causes) is the only way to dissolve these "artificial" problems. Torley comes extremely close to making this exact argument; the only difference is that he simply invokes God rather than full-blown Thomism.

Papalinton said...

"This is the sort of comment that leads one to think that you are always going to be talking past the theists on this site. It sounds good from the standpoint of gnus, but it contributes nothing even from the standpoint of someone who is neutral."

Interesting comment, in a couple of ways. First; what is said about talking past theists is a correct observation. Not for the fact of talking past them, but rather because science, a throughly naturalistic enterprise, unapologetically centred on the premise of methodological naturalism as the investigative modus operandi, is anathema to those that imagine their world governed by the supernatural. I say 'governed' because GOB, a fully-subscribed derivative of the unsubstantiated concept of the supernatural, is the inexplicable something that apparently can intervene, manipulate or suspend the natural order of things at will [or so it is declared by theists on this site and elsewhere]. One simply cannot talk science to a theist because theists do not understand the principal tenet of science, naturalism. As was so clearly illustrated at the Dover School vs Kitzmiller trial by Behe, a science that admits supernaturalism into its regime is tantamount to accepting astrology as a bona fide scientific proposition.

Ultimately, the religiose must bite the bullet and acknowledge that science and religion are antithetical explanatory systems. Religionists must own up that their persistent adherence to supernatural superstition is driven not by any epistemically separate and distinct body of knowledge outside of the sciences. The reasons for believing in supernaturalism have already been found within the sciences; a unifying and consistent explanation and narrative that has emerged from the fields psychology, anthropology, psychiatry, sociology, the neuro-sciences. Even the reasons for believers refusing to acknowledge and accept the research findings of these disciplines have been adequately canvassed and explained. So religious believers who refuse to reconcile with this research do so for explicitly emotive, psychological and/or cultural reasons.

Second, and yes, it is co-incidentally good from the standpoint of gnus because gnus have moved with the times and have followed the evidence. And third, contrary to the claim that it contributes nothing from the standpoint of someone who is neutral, the evidence from research, surveys, media sources, news broadcasts and general conversation within the broader community tells a very different story that indicates that the discussion is indeed having a significant impact in the population at large.

THIS VIDEO CLIP [from Fox News you'll be pleased to note], simply highlights the level of obdurate denial by religionists of the causes for the decline, and in this video by an evangelical preacher no less, of the impact that this conversation is having on the decline of religiosity in the US. including those who may have been neutral that now vote with their feet, particularly among the young.

planks length said...

Nothing to do with the topic at hand, but THIS is just too funny to pass up (and ought to be required reading for anyone who posts to this site).

Ilíon said...

I stopped reading Shea some years ago (no particular reason). But reacently, I've read other people -- other Catholics -- complaining that *he* is big into several fallacies in defence of his Rah-Rah and pro-Bureaucracy (which can do no wrong) Catholicism.

Ilíon said...

... at the same time, *some* of those persons drank deeply of the fallacy well when I pointed out:
1) the unfair and/or untrue nature of some of their charges against Protestantism;
2) the socialistic (and ultimately, leftist and necessarily coercive) nature of *their* preferred social/economic summum bonum.

DJC said...

The most solid justification of induction I've seen is in the formulation of Solomonoff induction, which Torley doesn't address. This seems to meet all his objections. He writes:


To expect the universe to be simple because we’d like it that way is to project our wishes onto the cosmos. But the cosmos doesn’t care about us. It just is. Hence I am at a loss to understand why Dr. Sean Carroll and John Loftus believe that simpler theories have a higher prior probability of being correct, or are more likely to be true.


But simplicity can be precisely defined with Kolmogorov complexity: the length of the shortest program needed to specify the theory. Simpler theories fit more possible universes. Since we don't know what kind of universe we're in, it makes good sense to pick the theory that is true for the larger set of possible universes. There is a better chance of the theory being true. If the theory turns out to be wrong, we rule out a larger space of possibility. Thus, induction using Occam's Razor is justified.

http://lesswrong.com/lw/dhg/an_intuitive_explanation_of_solomonoff_induction/

B. Prokop said...

Ilion,

Have you checked out The Protestant's Dilemma by Devin Rose? I think he does a good job of showing how many fundamental tenets of Protestantism lead inevitably to contradictions, absurdities, or very dangerous places.

Ilíon said...

If you can't make such an argument yourself, why should I give a damn that you assert that someone else has?

Hell, you wouldn't even:
1) address my thrown-together-during lunch defense of sola scriptura;
2) present a rational argument in defense of your false constant leftist demonization (pun intended) of me;
3) acknowledge that it is Obama -- both of them -- not I, who is the "birther";
4) acknowledge that I do, indeed, "see what is happening here";
5) etc.

Ilíon said...

... meanwhile, apparently, "many fundamental tenets of [Catholicism] lead inevitably to contradictions, absurdities, or very dangerous places" --

such as this (see the response)

or this

or this or this

Ilíon said...

... I meant to include this, which is the demand that America cease to exist, that it commit cultural-and-political suicide, in the name of Catholicism-as-leftism.

B. Prokop said...

Ilion,

As to sola scriptura, one need go no further than the fact that said doctrine cannot itself be found in scripture, thus leading to the contradictory notion that one must simultaneously assert that all essential doctrine can be found in scripture other than the very doctrine that claims this to be the case.

But even more devastatingly, you cannot even defend the legitimacy of the Canon using sola scriptura. There is no "Table of Contents" in the Bible. Why do you not accept The Shepherd of Hermas, the letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch or St. Polycarp as parts of the New Testament? They were by many (perhaps even most) Christians in the first centuries. SPOILER ALERT: Here's why. Because scripture was written, assembled, and validated by the Church. And the authority of the Church did not somehow mysteriously vanish sometime after the 4th Century - it's still here today.

As to your other points, kindly recall that I swore off political commentary on the web sometime ago. Not always faithful to this self-imposed rule, but I'll have to let your broadsides go unanswered.

Ilíon said...

"As to sola scriptura, one need go no further than the fact that said doctrine cannot itself be found in scripture, thus leading to the contradictory notion that one must simultaneously assert that all essential doctrine can be found in scripture other than the very doctrine that claims this to be the case."

In other words, you are content to demonstrate yourself a fool (*). Is there a single adherent of the One True Bureaucracy, anywhere, who is not content to trot out that pointless strawman objection and then prance around as though he had made a point?

Meanwhile, I showed – without a great deal of effort – that sola scriptura is indispensable Christian doctrine … AND that the One True Bureaucracy implicitly endorses sola scriptura even as it publicly denies and derides it.

(*) but we knew that.

"But even more devastatingly, you cannot even defend the legitimacy of the Canon using sola scriptura. … SPOILER ALERT: Here's why. Because scripture was written, assembled, and validated by the Church. And the authority of the Church did not somehow mysteriously vanish sometime after the 4th Century - it's still here today."

Where does the One True Bureaucracy get this supposed authority? Is it from God, or is it self-bestowed? If it’s the former, then *where* is the objective record of this authority … so that men may know that it is not the latter? But, if it is the latter, then who -- especially God -- gives a damn about the One True Bureaucracy, other than to free oneself of its corrupt, and corrupting, influence?

Did the One True Bureaucracy bestow validity upon the collection of writings we call ‘The Book’, or did the people of God recognize and honor the authority that God had invested in these writings? If it’s the former, then why should anyone give anymore concern to these writings than anyone at all does (despite constant pretenses) to another set of “sacred writings" called ' On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life'? But, if it is the latter – if 'The Book' is indeed the Word of God – then *it* is of higher authority than any man, or of any collection of men, or of any assertions of same.

Ilíon said...

With respect to the authority of Scripture (to whatever extent it has authority, and however far that authority runs), is the Body of Christ like a legislature, or is it like a scientist? -- "… Consider: Would it have been possible for the Church to have declared the so-called Gospel of Thomas to be part of Scripture? If the Church is the highest authority, the answer would have to be "yes, if the early Church leaders wanted to." But if the answer is "No, the church could not have declared Thomas to be Scripture, and it could only have declared the actual books of the Bible to be Scripture," then Scripture is higher than the Church. Which it would have to be, if it really is from God."

Can the One True Bureaucracy declare 'Das Kapital' (or Mao’s 'Little Red Book', or Hitler’s tome) to be scripture? Now, I do realize that many Catholics believe that 'Das Kapital' is among the highest of scripture … until it might apply to *their* lives … but that is a different matter from whether the One True Bureaucracy has the authority to declare this to be the case.

Or, since you are a bloody and bloody-minded leftist (and, like all of them, utterly hypocritical with respect to your own wealth) does the One True Bureaucracy have the authority to declare 'The Wealth of Nations' to be Scripture?

Coming from the other direction, does the One True Bureaucracy have the authority to declare that, say, the designation of 'kata Ioannen' as being Scripture was a mistake?

I know this is a tough row to hoe for you (*), but let’s try be logically consistent here: you are asserting the 'kata Ioannen' (and *all* Scripture) is Scripture by the authority of the One True Bureaucracy. That being the case, then this designation as being Scripture may be withdrawn, at any time, from any of the writings in the collection. And the deny this conclusion is to deny the initial premise you assert.


(*) What was that someone said about "many fundamental tenets of Protestantism lead[ing] inevitably to contradictions, absurdities, or very dangerous places"?

"As to your other points, kindly recall that I swore off political commentary on the web sometime ago. Not always faithful to this self-imposed rule, but I'll have to let your broadsides go unanswered."

You’re such a damned liar (*)

(*) but we knew that.

B. Prokop said...

Whoa! Whole lotta anger goin' on here! (*)

(*) But we all knew that.

Ilíon said...

^ spoken like a woman (*)


(*) by which, of course, I do not mean a woman, but rather the immature (and refusing of maturity) junior-high girls, irrespective of the calendar, who these days masquerade as women

Ilíon said...

... and demand the status and respect due *actual* women.

jdhuey said...

Lots of anger, indeed. Reminds me of the Thirty Years War - somewhat different politics but the same theologies.

Note how easily all of his dilemmas are resolved given the assumption of atheism: Scripture has no legitimate authority except that which an individual wishes to accept to themselves; the Church has no legitimate authority except that which the individual members wish to accept to themselves. Any attempt to exercise any other authority (on an individual or on society) is illegitimate.

This, of course, applies to all religions not just Christianity.

Ilíon said...

^ Damned fool atheists (*) don't even have the right to speak up (**); for they refuse to reason correctly about the First Question, and refuse to acknowledge, no matter how many times, in how many ways it is demonstrated, that reason itself shows God-denial to be false: since the refuse to reason and refuse to deliverances of reason, they have nothing at all to say to the rational man.


(*) even more intellectually dishonest than B.Prolop

(**) about anything, really.

B. Prokop said...

"Note how easily all of his dilemmas are resolved given the assumption of atheism"

Well... all except the dilemma of why there is something rather than nothing, or why beauty exists, or love, or good and evil, or consciousness, or meaning and purpose in life, or order and predictability, or fine tuning, or the reliability of reason, or the existence of the inconceivably complex human brain (About a month ago, I heard a neuroscientist lecturing at Johns Hopkins, who pointed out that not only was the human brain the most complex known object in the universe, it is more complex than the entire rest of the universe combined! There are not only more connections within the brain than there are stars in the universe - there are orders of magnitude more.), or just what did happen on Easter Morning, AD 33? Or, or... Hmmm, so maybe not all his dilemmas.

And by the way, thank you for using the phase "the assumption of atheism", 'cause that's exactly what it is - an assumption. Can't be proven, can't even be argued coherently - it just has to be assumed.

jdhuey said...

^ Damned fool atheists (*) don't even have the right to speak up (**)...

Pure piffle. I have the privilege to speak up because our host allows it.

Ilíon said...

"And by the way, thank you for using the phase "the assumption of atheism", 'cause that's exactly what it is - an assumption. Can't be proven, can't even be argued coherently - it just has to be assumed."

Yeah, I thought about pointing that out, too.

====
So, assuming that you've reclaimed you balls and have for the moment set aside your motive mongering (aka 'Bulverism'), I've blown your anti-sola scripture (ahem) reasoning out of the water. Are you willing to admit it, or are you going to turn back into a junior-high girl?

B. Prokop said...

"I've blown your anti-sola scripture (ahem) reasoning out of the water."

Where did you do that? You're kidding, right? All you did was string together a bunch of strawmen and non sequiturs.

Victor very recently posted on another thread how futile it is to psychoanalyze another poster over the internet, but I have to assume you have either had some incredibly bigoted upbringing vis a vis Catholicism (so the well has been poisoned for you), or you've got some vested interest in rejecting it. Because there is no way on God's Green Earth that an honest Christian can reject Catholicism as you do without (potential copyright violation follows) intellectual dishonesty.

jdhuey said...

"...for they refuse to reason correctly about the First Question, ..."

Nope. We just refuse to accept conclusions based on unproven premises and a faulty worldview. Reason is a tool that can be applied to reality to help us understand reality better but reason applied to misconceptions and ignorance generates garbage. That is why, no matter how well constructed a theory is it is not accepted until it has been tested against the real world.

jdhuey said...

"Well... all except the dilemma of why there is..."

When I used the phrase 'all of his dilemmas', I was, of course, referring to all that he had referred to in this thread, not to all he has ever written about. (But you knew that.)

jdhuey said...

"And by the way, thank you for using the phase "the assumption of atheism", 'cause that's exactly what it is - an assumption. Can't be proven, can't even be argued coherently - it just has to be assumed."

Well, this will just have to be a topic for another day. But, right now, I'm off to a cook out in the park.

Later.

B. Prokop said...

"But you knew that."

That's right. But the implications of your statement demanded an answer. Whatever differences there may be between Catholicism and Protestantism shrink to insignificance before the differences of either with atheism.

Side note: Out of sheer laziness I just put Catholicism and Protestantism in the same sentence, giving them a false appearance of equivalency. Saying "Catholicism" and "Protestantism" in the same breath is rather like listing the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Glen Elg High School football team, or the United States and Liechtenstein, together.

im-skeptical said...

"Well... all except the dilemma of why there is something rather than nothing"

I love the way theists presume to have all the answers. And it always cones down to the same tired old canard: goddidit. You pretend to know this, but you don't. You pat yourself on the back for being so smart and so wise, but you aren't any smarter or wiser than the rest of us. Just more presumptuous.

jdhuey said...

"Saying "Catholicism" and "Protestantism" in the same breath is rather like..."

Goliath and David. (Just to keep things Biblical.)

jdhuey said...

Well... all except the dilemma of why there is something rather than nothing...

Because the pan-dimensional being, Xenu, needed a whole mess of Black Holes. So, he put a speck of THE UNIVERSAL WILL TO BECOME into an unused portion of pan-dimensional space and fine tuned the resulting Universe to produce Billions and Billions of Black Holes. And we had better hope that Xenu never notices that his Black Hole generator has developed a life infestation.