Friday, October 20, 2017

Gardens, Fairies, gardeners and owners

Also from John Lennox's God's Undertaker, p. 40.

Richard Dawkins makes this point in dedicating his book The God
Delusion to the memory of Douglas Adams with a quote: ‘Isn’t it enough
to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are
fairies at the bottom of it?’

The fact that you can think about fairies and be enchanted or terrified
by them does not mean that they exist. The scientists of whom we are
speaking, therefore, are (often, but not always, as we have seen) happy to
let people go on thinking about God and religion if they want to, as long
as they do not claim that God has any objective existence, or that religious
belief constitutes knowledge. In other words, science and religion can
peacefully co-exist as long as religion does not invade the realm of science.
For only science can tell us what is objectively true; only science can
deliver knowledge. The bottom line is: science deals with reality, religion
does not.

Certain elements of these assumptions and claims are so outlandish that
they call for immediate comment. Take the Douglas Adams quote cited by
Dawkins above. It gives the game away. For it shows that Dawkins is guilty
of committing the error of proposing false alternatives by suggesting that
it is either fairies or nothing. Fairies at the bottom of the garden may well
be a delusion, but what about a gardener, to say nothing about an owner?
The possibility of their existence cannot be so summarily dismissed – in
fact, most gardens have both.

36 comments:

Callum said...

I see you are reading through Lennox's book at the moment. After going through Feser's new book and articles on Ross' immateriality argument I'll probably follow your lead. You have persuaded me!

Hal said...

Victor,
...science and religion can peacefully co-exist as long as religion does not invade the realm of science.

I understand the critique of the false alternative, but why would you desire that religion be a part of science?
Are religious claims lacking because they aren't scientific theories? Isn't this another form of scientism?

steve said...

http://www.proginosko.com/2017/07/on-fairies-and-gardeners/

Hugo Pelland said...

"Fairies have no explanatory role to play in one’s appreciation of a beautiful garden. But..."
There is no 'but'. God explains nothing either... and that's the real issue here. It is again a reversal of the situation, and why the analogy of the fairies in the garden is actually a great one.

Here we are, in this 'garden' that we call the natural world. We try to understand it, appreciate it, perhaps even cherish it if you are so inclined. Then comes along some people who say 'ah, but you cannot explain the garden's beauty and design without a gardener'.

We ask them 'what do you mean?' and, after years of trying to explain, they finally declare: ok fine, call the gardener whatever you want, but there must be a gardener, ok? Because gardens have gardeners, and you could not even do gardening without the gardener anyway. And stop insisting that the garden is just a garden, you cannot prove that! The garden must be something more than just a garden, you silly agardenerist.

Legion of Logic said...

Hugo: "God explains nothing either"

We don't need fairies to explain the garden's beauty, nor do we need them to explain the garden's existence.

We may not need God to explain the beauty of nature, but as an explanation of nature's existence he has yet to be replaced with something convincing. That would be my rebuttal to the fairy analogy.

Hugo Pelland said...

Legion, I have to appreciate the fact that you agree that we may not need a god as an explanation, just like I have to agree that it's possible. But honestly, it's really simple to me: I don't see the point, or the good reasons, to require such supernatural explanations.

However, it's very interesting to discuss the complex questions that surround the topic of gods, which is why I read this blog and ask people like you what they believe and why. But after that, it's really just that I don't believe you. Your god, or any gods in general, is never relevant. For any topic.

bmiller said...

@Hugo,

"Fairies have no explanatory role to play in one’s appreciation of a beautiful garden. But..."
There is no 'but'. God explains nothing either... and that's the real issue here. It is again a reversal of the situation, and why the analogy of the fairies in the garden is actually a great one.

Here we are, in this 'garden' that we call the natural world. We try to understand it, appreciate it, perhaps even cherish it if you are so inclined. Then comes along some people who say 'ah, but you cannot explain the garden's beauty and design without a gardener'.

We ask them 'what do you mean?'


I think the point of the article is 'what explains order?' Why not chaos?
But also, why is chaos not as beautiful as an orderly garden? How many tourists would visit a recently bombed building vs the Louvre?

bmiller said...

@Hugo,

But honestly, it's really simple to me: I don't see the point, or the good reasons, to require such supernatural explanations.

Why do you think God is a "supernatural explanation"?

Hugo Pelland said...

God is natural? I'm listening...

Regarding chaos, or beauty, I don't know what you mean by 'why'?

Legion of Logic said...

Hugo: "But after that, it's really just that I don't believe you. Your god, or any gods in general, is never relevant. For any topic."

For descriptive functionality, no deity is required. "How" questions, in other words, generally do no require anything more than the mechanical properties of the thing in question. "Why" questions are where science is irrelevant, and the options are to either dismiss "why" questions as unamswerable, or to posit things that go beyond mere descriptive functionality.

"How" something exists and "why" it exists are actually two different questions. I happen to find naturalistic explanations as to "why" seem to amount to "just because, we don't know, but surely no God." I don't buy it.

Hugo Pelland said...

Ya, I know, why and how are different, science isn't good at eveything, but you give no specifics. Because God is irrelevant nonetheless. Every time.

Joe Hinman said...

Hugo Pelland said...
Ya, I know, why and how are different, science isn't good at eveything, but you give no specifics. Because God is irrelevant nonetheless. Every time.

Um...isn't God relevant to your explanation abouit why God is irrelevant?

would God be relevant to a discussion about why so many people believe in
god? you said every time.

Joe Hinman said...

Hal said...
Victor,
...science and religion can peacefully co-exist as long as religion does not invade the realm of science.

I understand the critique of the false alternative, but why would you desire that religion be a part of science?
Are religious claims lacking because they aren't scientific theories? Isn't this another form of scientism?

He says religion shouldn't invade science's turf so why are you asking religion be invading part of science? I would think that not invading covers the issue, co exist doen;tmeanoneispartof theother,

Joe Hinman said...

bmiller said...
@Hugo,

But honestly, it's really simple to me: I don't see the point, or the good reasons, to require such supernatural explanations.

Why do you think God is a "supernatural explanation"?

bmiller I am interested in hearing what you to say on that,I have been arguing for years that supernatural is really a modern concept that was bounced off of ideas fro the Church that never existed in the ancient world among historical Christianity, that is to say in late antiquity not unitl the middle ages.

Here is an article I wrote about it onthe cadre blog

Legion of Logic said...

Hugo: "Because God is irrelevant nonetheless. Every time."

I'm assuming you know nothing about Christian doctrine?

Hal said...

Joe,
I have been arguing for years that supernatural is really a modern concept that was bounced off of ideas fro the Church that never existed in the ancient world among historical Christianity, that is to say in late antiquity not unitl the middle ages.

Are you saying that the concept of the supernatural developed as a result of Christianity?


In any case, it is apparent that Victor does not care to have his position characterized as the supernatural. But what should it be called? After all he believes that naturalism is deeply flawed. Isn't supernaturalism usually assumed to be the default anti-naturalist position?

Joe Hinman said...

Are you saying that the concept of the supernatural developed as a result of Christianity?

that is problematic. Before the fifth century there was no such division, The metaphysical division for Christian was not between natural and something above nature but God and creation, things made by God that are not God. Pagans had the same distinction. No term supernatural.Cyril of Alexandria 444AD uses the Greek term huper phusin (could be rendered "super nature") in describing God's work in raising human nature to a level of Grace.Around 500 Psuedo Dionysius the Areiopagite uses huper hamousios (super or superior substance).When various works of Dionysius were translated into Latin by John Scotus Erigena, he rendered it supernaturalis, from which we derive our term “supernatural.” In the enlightenment the term is stretched to denote the division between the God free zone where everything has to work by the laws of physics with no exceptions and there is no spirituous vs everything else, the things that science doesn't accept,

It should be obvious that this division is only possible to make after the existence of modern science so it can't be the original view,



In any case, it is apparent that Victor does not care to have his position characterized as the supernatural. But what should it be called? After all he believes that naturalism is deeply flawed. Isn't supernaturalism usually assumed to be the default anti-naturalist position?

God is perfectly free to work in the natural realm and to manipulate natural forces in such a way as to work without our undersigning so why not just call God's actions God's action and call nature nature

Joe Hinman said...

Hugo: "Because God is irrelevant nonetheless. Every time."

even when you even to talk about him,

I never generalize, never.

bmiller said...

@Joe,

I think you're right that the idea of a separation between the *natural* and *supernatural* came about near the time of the Enlightenment. I would put it at the early modern era, perhaps with Descartes. It was at this time that what was considered natural philosophy was divided up between what could be measured physically and what could not. Science focused only on what could be physically measured and considered anything that couldn't be physically measured as beyond it's scope.

The goal of science was to become "the masters and possessors of nature" per Francis Bacon and so the focus was on the *how* of things working rather than the *why*. Slowly, it seems, that people forgot that there was more to nature than just what could be physically measured and so considered things that can not be directly physically measured as non existent.

Truth, beauty and the good used to be the motivation of the study of natural science since they are the main categories of interest to humans. You won't find them studied in today's physics unless someone is naming a quark.

So, I think the focus on only material and efficient causes combined with the changed the goals of the study of nature started the division. Over time, people forgot there was more to nature than just the things that can be directly measured.

As Shakespeare said through Hamlet:
"There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

So Hugo, I consider God as natural as nature itself.

Hal said...

Joe,
From the OED:

supernatural, a. (n.)

(s(j)uːpəˈnætjʊərəl, -tʃərəl)

[ad. med.L. supernātūrālis (Thomas Aquinas), f. super- super- 4 a + nātūra nature: see -al1. Cf. OF. supernaturel (16th c.; mod.F. surnaturel), It. soprannaturale, Sp., Pg. sobrenatural.]

A.A adj.

1.A.1 That is above nature; belonging to a higher realm or system than that of nature; transcending the powers or the ordinary course of nature.

   1526 Pilgr. Perf. (W. de W. 1531) 190 Fayth is a super⁓naturall lyght, & therfore it is indiuysyble, as all graces supernaturall be.    1555 Bradford in Foxe A. & M. (1570) III. 1822/1 If a woman that is natural, can not finally forget the child of her wombe,‥God which is a father super⁓naturall,‥wyll not forget you.   

b.A.1.b transf. Relating to, dealing with, or characterized by what is above nature.

   1569 Sanford tr. Agrippa's Van. Arts i. 4 b, The Supernaturall Philosophers vse the Coniectures of Naturall Philosophers.    1616 R. C. Times' Whistle etc. (1871) 148 As well in naturall philosophy As supernaturall theologie.    



You wrote:
God is perfectly free to work in the natural realm and to manipulate natural forces in such a way as to work without our undersigning so why not just call God's actions God's action and call nature nature

That doesn't address my question. Victor is attacking the metaphysical claims of Naturalism. Since his position is antagonistic toward Naturalism, why is it wrong for a Naturalist to call his metaphysical claims Supernaturalism?
The traditional conception of the Christian God is of a being that has always existed apart from the natural world.

Hugo Pelland said...

Hi Legion,
Let's say, yes, I know nothing about Christian doctrine (obviously not true but for the sake of argument). When, why would your god theory be relevant to explain something, anything?
Same question in response to Joe and bmiller's comments... why should I care about your idea of God?

Let me put it this way... when I put down my phone in 30 seconds, and stop participating in this discussion, when/why would your god be relevant to explain anything?

And that's not rethorical, I am honestly wondering why you guys think your god beliefs are useful at explaining or understanding anything at all?

i.e. I get what it provides on a personal level, I get why it's meaningful to individuals, I understand the origins, etc... but again, when inspected, god beliefs are completely useless, irrelevant, when it comes to explaining anything.

bmiller said...

@Hugo,

And that's not rethorical, I am honestly wondering why you guys think your god beliefs are useful at explaining or understanding anything at all?

It depends on what you want an explanation for.

If you want to explain these questions:
Why do things exist at all? Why do existing thing change? Why do things behave in predictable ways?
then you have to go beyond the scope of physics into metaphysics.

If your explanation is a brute fact, then that is not an explanation at all, but the denial of one.

Hugo Pelland said...

Saying 'I don't know' is not denial, it's the rational thing to do when, well, we don't know!

And that's the answer to the 3 questions you posted.

Victor Reppert said...

I am only attacking naturalism if you put certain things in it.

bmiller said...

@Hugo,

Saying 'I don't know' is not denial, it's the rational thing to do when, well, we don't know!

Sure, but 'I don't know' is not an explanation for the 3 questions either.

Here was your assertion:
but again, when inspected, god beliefs are completely useless, irrelevant, when it comes to explaining anything.

I took this as more than 'I don't know'. It looked to me that you had reached a conclusion that no matter what the question was, God could not be the explanation. But if God is the ultimate explanation for the 3 questions, then those beliefs would be relevant.

Hugo Pelland said...

I don't know is not an explanation indeed, but it's true.

God explains nothing for the 3 questions, because you also don't know. And I don't believe you if ypu say you do.

Hugo Pelland said...

Victor,
"I am only attacking naturalism if you put certain things in it."
Naturalism is a rebuttal position. Without people like you making claims about supernatural gods, Naturalism is pointless.

bmiller said...

@Hugo,

God explains nothing for the 3 questions, because you also don't know. And I don't believe you if ypu say you do.

I see. It seems your concept of an explanation is that it has to be 100% epistemically certain....to you. Is that right?
That seems like a pretty tough bar to clear for any proposition.

Hugo Pelland said...

No, no idea where you got that from.

Joe Hinman said...

Hugo Pelland said...
I don't know is not an explanation indeed, but it's true.

God explains nothing for the 3 questions, because you also don't know. And I don't believe you if ypu say you do.

yes he doe, it depends upon the kind of explainable want, you want. If you want one that frees you from a will greater than your own then no God is not one,

Joe Hinman said...

bmiller said...
@Joe,

I think you're right that the idea of a separation between the *natural* and *supernatural* came about near the time of the Enlightenment. I would put it at the early modern era, perhaps with Descartes. It was at this time that what was considered natural philosophy was divided up between what could be measured physically and what could not. Science focused only on what could be physically measured and considered anything that couldn't be physically measured as beyond it's scope.


the French philosophies thinkers such as Fontenelli,Condorcet, DeLambert, D'Holbach and so on.

The goal of science was to become "the masters and possessors of nature" per Francis Bacon and so the focus was on the *how* of things working rather than the *why*. Slowly, it seems, that people forgot that there was more to nature than just what could be physically measured and so considered things that can not be directly physically measured as non existent.

they rebelled agaisnt the Scholastic with great ferocity,that's where the battle of the books comes from, and Fontenelli's on plurality of worlds, see see Willey, Basil. The Eighteenth Century Background: Studies On the Idea of Nature In the Thought of the Period. New York: Columbia University Press, 1941.

Joe Hinman said...

bmiller said...
@Hugo,

And that's not rethorical, I am honestly wondering why you guys think your god beliefs are useful at explaining or understanding anything at all?

O brother! how arrogant and dismissive, you can't possibly rented to care about any kind of truth with that attitude. you don't want to knkow you just want not to be bothered..

Obviously God provides an explanation for the kind of questions I have or I couldn't believe him,why do you think I went from a state of ridiculing believers to being a believer?

the usefulness of an explanation depends entirely up the question,if your questions are biased to screen out God then obviously you wont find God an apt answer,

Hugo Pelland said...

"O brother! how arrogant and dismissive, you can't possibly rented to care about any kind of truth with that attitude. you don't want to knkow you just want not to be bothered.."
Joe, these kind of comments are the reason why I limit my interactions with you FYI.

bmiller said...

@Hugo,

No, no idea where you got that from.

Just trying to put the pieces together. Sorry if I reached the wrong conclusion.

Here is the context:
God explains nothing for the 3 questions, because you also don't know. And I don't believe you if ypu say you do.

I asked if I was correct in my assumption and you said no. OK, thanks for the correction.

But I'm still curious how a proposed plausible explanation is not considered an explanation. Perhaps there are a range of plausible explanations. Speaking for myself I would not say that any range of plausible explanations "explain nothing", but rather there are competing plausible explanations that all eligible for consideration. It seems that you rule out the God explanation.

Perhaps you have reached the conclusion that God is not in the set of plausible explanations. This is fine. But you are asking others here why they think it is plausible and when they respond, you reply merely that you don't believe them.

But then why even ask? Just curious.

Hugo Pelland said...

bmiller, thanks for that. My response was really just in the context of these 3 specific questions. And the 'I don’t know' is not equal to I know nothing about it and don't even want to talk about it.

So, why is there Chaos, Order, for instance. Well, I don't know, because there is not necessarily a 'why' to answer. I'll think more about that, bedtime.... Cheers.

Joe Hinman said...

@Hugo,

And that's not rethorical, I am honestly wondering why you guys think your god beliefs are useful at explaining or understanding anything at all?

OK Hugo perhaps I was arrogant and dismissive myself, I apologize for presuming to huge your motives, but after all religious people say, and remember you wanted to talk but then when it turned out we weren't in agreement you didn't want to hear any more that seems very arrogant and dismissive to me,

I spent seven years writing a book based upon 200 studies but hey don't read it it can;t possibly tell you anything.