Wednesday, August 6, 2014

On Anti-Intellectualism


Victor Reppert has lashed out against the 'gnus' with his emotional response(*) to an article by James Lindsay that advocates eliminating theistic philosophy as a serious academic pursuit.  In the process, he has revealed himself as an anti-intellectual.


This is based on his claim that 'gnus' are certain in their beliefs (the word cocksure has been used by theists in his blog), unlike Christians, who are "living with doubts and uncertainties".  Really, Victor?  Let's take a look at these claims.

First, what does it mean to have religious faith?  I examined this question in an earlier post.  One thing to note is that religious faith demands adherence to belief above any evidence or reason, as is explicitly stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Doubt is not allowed.  I'm not making this up.  Read the Catechism.  Now you might say, "but I'm not a Catholic."  The nature of religious faith is fairly consistent across all religions.  The first requirement is that you have to believe.  No ifs, ands or buts.  Faith always comes before evidence and reason.

Victor says Christians do have doubts, and I certainly believe that they (at least some of them) do, at times.  But I also know that having doubts is against their religion, and they are encouraged to push those doubts aside.  The fact remains that a faithful Christian is about as certain as a human can be about his god and his religion.  He will not be convinced by any evidence or reason unless and until he loses his faith.

I have asked Christians what evidence would convince them that their religion is not true.  This is the question they love to pose to atheists, and no matter what the atheist's reply is, their response is always something like, "no, that wouldn't convince you."  Yet the Christian never has an answer for this question.  That is exactly what we would expect if faith comes before evidence and reason.  And this is exactly what we see.

On the other hand, we can examine what it means to be scientifically-minded.  It means that everything is open to challenge, everything is subject to falsification.  Evidence(**) is given a higher place than faith.  Are there atheists who are pretty sure about they believe?  Yes, absolutely.  Their level of certainty comes from an abundance of evidence, not from some imagined faith in scientism that theists often claim.  Some scientists have said that they can't think of any evidence that would convince them that there is a god.  This is because they already have all the evidence that nature has to offer with our current capabilities to observe it.  They have seen again and again that a naturalistic explanation works better than any supernatural explanation.  It's not as if they reject the evidence like theists do.  It's precisely because they do see the evidence that exists, and they don't reject it.  If the evidence told a different story, science demands that we must come to a different conclusion.  The problem for theists is that it doesn't.  If theists want to pretend that science is just as much a 'faith' as religion (or as in Victor's case, more so), let them present solid evidence, not just toss around their arrogant claims.

That's the difference between religious faith and science.  One demands belief, the other demands evidence.  If believing what is justified by evidence and reason is anti-intellectual, then Victor is quite correct.  He says, "Gnus can't imagine in their wildest dreams that they're anti-intellectual. But that is exactly what they are."  This is just projection.  In my experience, faithful theists can't imagine what it means to set aside faith, and let their intellect be guided by real evidence and honest reason.


(*) Victor's response didn't even address the topic of Lindsay's article.  Instead, he accuses Lindsay of trying to "shut down the discussion" and of being "anti-intellectual".
(**) In this context, I am referring to empirical evidence.

35 comments:

  1. Due to efforts by some at Victor's blog to shut the discussion down, I no longer participate in discussions there. I will respond to your comments here, if you want to discuss it.

    To William,

    You refer to "highly fanciful and implausible scenarios that would change the average Christian's doctrinal position". That's the problem. You are not asking to see evidence that could ever occur in a world without supernatural intervention. Since this is not a supernatural world, there can never be any such evidence. But you would accept supernatural evidence to be convinced that there is no supernatural God? I think I am fully justified in my statement.

    To Bob,

    You know as well as I do that there is absolutely nothing that you would accept as "the verifiable body of an unresurrected Jesus". Of course, I wouldn't blame you for not accepting this, because in the past two millennia, nobody has ever produced convincing evidence that Jesus even existed. So you are playing the same game. If you deny this, give me a realistic scenario in which you would accept the evidence.

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  2. An additional note for William: If you think that the evidence you require is equivalent to what some atheists have said would convince them, you are wrong. Those atheists are asking for evidence that would be consistent with a world that the theists believe in. You say there are supernatural events? Show me one. Show me anything that is clearly and unmistakably supernatural. I don't care what it is. Your flippant answer is not at all consistent with the world that naturalists believe in, and couldn't possibly convince you of that. It is not to be taken seriously.

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  3. First half of the article is fairly true. I have a catholic catechism from the beginning of previous century and in the chapter about the first commandment there is stated that the one who concedes that Catholic Church could possibly be mistaken concerning its teaching is commiting a sin against first commandment. If I understood everything well, it would be also Bob´s case concerning his criterion of "verifiable body of an unresurrected Jesus" as a reason for possible leaving christianity because by this he is in some sence conceding possible evidence for refuting the ressurection and so falsifying of (at least part of the) Church´s teaching.
    Months ago I wrote blog about it, but it is in czech language, lest you would want to use the imperfect google translator: http://desirabilia.blogspot.com/2014/01/krestanstvi-pochybnost.html

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    1. I think Bob, like most believers, is trying to assert that he is willing to listen to evidence, but he would be unwilling to accept any evidence as being valid if it refuted his faith. I understand that this is very similar to the position of many atheists, since they would be equally skeptical when presented with evidence, and rightfully so.

      But there is a crucial difference between the two. His religion requires that he reject the evidence. A scientist has to take all available evidence into account and come up with a theory that best explains what has been observed.

      If I saw a man who could levitate objects, raise the dead, and do other feats of magic, I would certainly be skeptical. But having examined all possibilities and finally concluded that there is no natural explanation for what I saw, I would have to attribute supernatural powers to that man.

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    2. A couple of things. The Catholic Church has repeatedly condemned fideism as heresy. Lewis says that he isn't asking anyone to believe if the weight of the evidence is against it, and says that is not the point where faith comes in. Is Lewis a heretic?

      A lot of confusion arises when these questions are asked because it looks like a request for a one-sentence answer. But if you read stories of people who move from theism to atheism, or vice versa, it's a lot of things put together.

      When I was younger I had a lot of doubts and questions, and drove everyone nuts by asking questions. I did hear the "We're not to question" response from some people, but most of the time people tried to provide something intellectually responsive. The Christian community, as I experienced it, did not, as a whole, try to get me to simply quash doubt. If it had, I might very well not be a Christian today.

      And then you have P. Z. Myers, who says that belief in God is something so defined that there couldn't be any evidence for it.

      http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/11/08/in-which-i-join-michael-shermer-in-disagreeing-with-jerry-coyne-and-coyne-in-disagreeing-with-shermer/

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    3. "Faith is the antidote for doubt." Not reason.

      Here, one pastor bucks the trend and helps people work through their doubt. Still, the goal is to eliminate doubts.

      More from the catechism: "2088 The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith:

      Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.

      2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. "Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.""

      Regarding Myers, I think he goes too far when he says "there can be no evidence ..." Still he is convinced by the evidence that is available. This is not religious faith, or anything like it.

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  4. im-skeptical:

    " But you would accept supernatural evidence to be convinced that there is no supernatural God?"

    (end quote)

    I am an empiricist and a pragmatist about evidence, skep. I believe in God due in part to mystical empirical reasons that I hold more strongly than I do to some of the associated beliefs about the religion part. So you are right that I would still be a theist if I changed a doctrinal belief.

    To change to an atheistic belief I would have to have other, external or internal _empirical_ evidence that would cause me to doubt internal empirical evidence. Just the rationalizations of a naturalistic philosophy would not do it. But some empirical things might.

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    1. William,

      You place subjective inner feelings above objective evidence, despite the fact that subjective feelings can be notoriously unreliable or disconnected from reality. This is the kind of evidence that many theists cite. As far as I'm concerned, feelings have little epistemic value.

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  5. The point was that our beliefs about both the objective and the subjective can be contraticted by future data.

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    1. Of course beliefs can be contradicted by future data. My point was that beliefs based on subjective information are much less reliable than those based on verifiable objective information.

      Would it be reasonable to say that you can know that God exists because you ingested some psychoactive chemical and it gave you a hallucination that made you think you "feel" the presence of God? Religious experiences are common. Many people have them, and often, they are absolutely convinced of some religious truth as a result. But they are nothing more than physical reactions to physical conditions in the brain.

      Beliefs based on the subjective are often contradicted by present data, but the believer may be predisposed toward those beliefs anyway.

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  6. im-skeptical wrote: "Evidence(**) is given a higher place than faith. Are there atheists who are pretty sure about they believe? Yes, absolutely. Their level of certainty comes from an abundance of evidence, not from some imagined faith in scientism that theists often claim."

    What empirical evidence do you have that the universe has eternally existed as a brute fact? You have none--the idea that the universe has eternally existed as a brute fact is nothing more than an unfounded presupposition of naturalism and materialism. You might say that the evidence for the universe, as eternally exiting brute fact, is that we're living in it. To that I'd say that there is evidence for the existence of cars, but it doesn't follow that cars have always existed. In fact, humans caused the existence of the first internal combustion automobile in 1807. The elements that compose the parts of cars around us did not even exit until the deaths of the first stars billions of years ago. The observable universe that contains the cars we observe came into existence 13.8 billion years ago.

    Is it possible that a material object beyond the observable universe has eternally existed as a brute fact? Yes, it is conceivable, but since it is beyond what we can observe this means that we have no empirical evidence that this thing exists. Naturalists and materialists just presuppose that this thing exists so that their theories can get off the ground.

    So, atheists do NOT have an abundance of evidence to support their worldview. The atheist's rejection of the notion that God caused the universe to exist stems from the mere possibility that some physical object beyond the observable universe has eternally existed as a brute fact. There is no evidence that such a thing actually exists--this is just a presupposition.

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    1. Keith,

      You are arguing against a strawman. I don't claim to know that the universe has always existed like you claim to know that God has always existed. What materialists believe in general is not that the universe has always existed, but that whatever does exist is physical rather than immaterial. For this, there is an abundance of evidence. Everything whose existence we can verify is in fact a material thing, or at least can be explained as a material thing(*).

      > "What empirical evidence do you have that the universe has eternally existed as a brute fact? "
      - I don't have evidence for this, any more than you have evidence that your god has always existed, let alone the fact that you don't even have empirical evidence that your god has ever existed.

      > "the idea that the universe has eternally existed as a brute fact is nothing more than an unfounded presupposition of naturalism and materialism"
      - No, it isn't. It is postulated as an explanation for the existence of the universe we inhabit. (I might add that nobody believes our present universe has always existed unchanged, but rather that it may have come from some external physical reality.)

      > "Is it possible that a material object beyond the observable universe has eternally existed as a brute fact? Yes, it is conceivable, but since it is beyond what we can observe this means that we have no empirical evidence that this thing exists. Naturalists and materialists just presuppose that this thing exists so that their theories can get off the ground."
      - My previous statement still applies. We are not adhering to some kind of dogma, as you would very much like to show. If it should eventually turn out that our postulation is incorrect, we will be happy to accept a new understanding of the way things are. This is the opposite of religious belief, wherein you claim to know the answers already, and you resist any logic or evidence that leads to a different conclusion.

      > "The atheist's rejection of the notion that God caused the universe to exist stems from the mere possibility that some physical object beyond the observable universe has eternally existed as a brute fact."
      - No, it stems from the fact that we have no evidence if this God, and there are other possible explanations that are much more intellectually sound (at least in our estimation) than your magic man.

      Keith, I urge you to take an honest look at the arguments of materialists, and argue against what we actually believe - not just some strawman caricature of the position we hold. You don't have to accept those arguments, but you should at least accept that our belief is not like yours - that it is in fact based on evidence rather than some imaginary faith that you insist we have.


      (*) Here, I have in mind things whose material nature may be in dispute, such as the mind or intellect.

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    2. im-skeptical wrote: "What materialists believe in general is not that the universe has always existed, but that whatever does exist is physical rather than immaterial. For this, there is an abundance of evidence. Everything whose existence we can verify is in fact a material thing, or at least can be explained as a material thing(*)."

      Just because our bodies are physical and we're surrounded by physical objects it doesn't follow that all that exists in the world are physical objects. To say that our present inability to directly detect non-physical objects is proof that non-physical objects don't exist commits the argument from ignorance fallacy.

      im-skeptical wrote: "I don't have evidence for this [the eternal existence of a physical brute fact such as the universe], any more than you have evidence that your god has always existed, let alone the fact that you don't even have empirical evidence that your god has ever existed."

      Your whole materialist philosophy depends upon the truth of the unfounded presupposition that some material object has eternally existed as a brute fact. Where does this high confidence in the truth of materialism and atheism come from?

      If God is a necessary being who, is the cause of the universe and everything in it, then he has existed eternally and cannot not exist.

      im-skeptical wrote: "This is the opposite of religious belief, wherein you claim to know the answers already, and you resist any logic or evidence that leads to a different conclusion."

      Please don't pretend to know me or what I believe. If I thought that naturalism, materialism and/or atheism were most likely true then I would return to my original atheistic position, but I don't find any of them to be even plausible. To me, the best explanation for the universe and everything we observe in it is that is was caused to exist by God.

      im-skeptical wrote: "No, it stems from the fact that we have no evidence if this God, and there are other possible explanations that are much more intellectually sound (at least in our estimation) than your magic man."

      There are plenty of good reasons to think that God exists as he is the best explanation for the origin of our finely tuned universe, for the existence of objective morality and for the existence of consciousness.

      By the way, those other explanations depend on the truth of the unfounded presupposition that some physical object has eternally existed as a brute fact and that this thing caused everything else to exist.

      im-skeptical wrote: "Keith, I urge you to take an honest look at the arguments of materialists, and argue against what we actually believe - not just some strawman caricature of the position we hold."

      Keep in mind that when I say the universe I'm including things contained in it like matter/energy, physical laws, quantum vacuums et cetera, so I don't think that I was really straw manning your position.

      The bottom line is that we have no empirical evidence that there is a physical thing that is an eternally existing brute fact. If you want to talk about an abundance of evidence, how about the googol to the one thousandth power physical changes, that were caused by some other thing, since the big bang. Everything around us, and including us, were caused to come into existence. Even the numerous physical change states within our bodies were caused by something else. Even the atoms that compose us and everything around us were caused to come into existence. There is no good reason to think that there is a physical object that is an eternally existing brute fact--that is unless you're trying to avoid the conclusion that everything in the universe was caused by God.

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    3. im-skeptical wrote: "We are not adhering to some kind of dogma, as you would very much like to show. If it should eventually turn out that our postulation is incorrect, we will be happy to accept a new understanding of the way things are."

      Really? I guess you're not familiar with what physicist Lawrence Krauss about miracles. He said, "If I walked outside at night and all of the stars were organized to read, 'I am God communicating with you, believe in me!' and every human being worldwide witnessed this in their native language, this would be suggestive (but far from conclusive as it’s a perception and could be a delusion)." Does that really sound like someone who has an open mind? He is saying that there is no possible evidence that could convince him that God exists. He'll favor any naturalistic explanation, no matter how ludicrous it is, over a theistic explanation. His mind is as closed as a hermetically sealed bank vault.

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    4. Keith,

      > "To say that our present inability to directly detect non-physical objects is proof that non-physical objects don't exist commits the argument from ignorance fallacy. "
      - I didn't make that claim. You are putting words in my mouth.

      > "Your whole materialist philosophy depends upon the truth of the unfounded presupposition that some material object has eternally existed as a brute fact. Where does this high confidence in the truth of materialism and atheism come from? "
      - I already told you I do not make this presumption. It is a postulation, and nothing more. It is a hallmark of religious belief that you presume to know the answers. I don't.

      > "If God is a necessary being who, is the cause of the universe and everything in it, then he has existed eternally and cannot not exist. "
      - I have no argument with that statement, but it's a big if

      > "Please don't pretend to know me or what I believe."
      - Says the person who insists on defining my beliefs for me. But the fact is, you do believe in God (by your own admission), and you do resist evidence to the contrary (as can be seen clearly right here).

      > "... best explanation for the origin of our finely tuned universe, for the existence of objective morality and for the existence of consciousness."
      - Or it could be that living things are finely "tuned" (by evolution) to the universe in which they occur. The existence of objective morality is highly questionable. We know that morality changes along with society and other external factors such as economic conditions. If the bible condones slavery (it does), is that an objective moral value? And what exactly is consciousness? Which creatures have it? And how in the world does God explain it? These things are presumptions on the part of theists - not based in either fact or evidence. (I will make a post about this later.)

      > "Keep in mind that when I say the universe I'm including things contained in it like matter/energy, physical laws, quantum vacuums et cetera, so I don't think that I was really straw manning your position. "
      - I wasn't arguing about what constitutes the physical world. But when you say that I make claims that I haven't made, or presume things that I don't presume, you are creating a strawman.

      > "The bottom line is that we have no empirical evidence that there is a physical thing that is an eternally existing brute fact."
      - How many times to I need to repeat that I haven't made this claim? However you yourself make an argument that supports it.

      > "There is no good reason to think that there is a physical object that is an eternally existing brute fact--that is unless you're trying to avoid the conclusion that everything in the universe was caused by God. "
      - There is reason to believe (by your own argument) that something may exist eternally. I have no reason (and certainly no evidence) to presume this thing must be magic man. Incidentally, the notion of time is a human construct. It is intimately tied to the physical world, and meaningless outside that frame of reference.

      > "I guess you're not familiar with what physicist Lawrence Krauss about miracles."
      - Evidently, you completely misunderstand what Krauss said: "this would be suggestive" (meaning that he does consider it to be evidence) "but far from conclusive" (meaning that he needs additional information before he decides what to believe.

      > "Does that really sound like someone who has an open mind? He is saying that there is no possible evidence that could convince him that God exists."
      - Yes, it does sound like someone with an open mind. And where does he ever say that there is no possible evidence? He says no such thing. Again, you are creating a strawman.

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    5. im-skeptical wrote: "I already told you I do not make this presumption [the existence of the physical brute fact]. It is a postulation, and nothing more."

      Ah, but whether you realize or not you actually have made this presumption when you adopted naturalism and materialism. Think about it. The third option is the one that no one, that I know of, defends: that the universe popped into existence un-caused out of literally nothing.

      im-skeptical wrote: "But the fact is, you do believe in God (by your own admission), and you do resist evidence to the contrary (as can be seen clearly right here)."

      I've been studying the arguments for and against God for many year now, and I haven't encountered any evidence that shows that God does not exist. I can't ignore what I haven't encountered.

      im-skeptical wrote: "Or it could be that living things are finely "tuned" (by evolution) to the universe in which they occur. The existence of objective morality is highly questionable. We know that morality changes along with society and other external factors such as economic conditions. If the bible condones slavery (it does), is that an objective moral value? And what exactly is consciousness? Which creatures have it? And how in the world does God explain it? These things are presumptions on the part of theists - not based in either fact or evidence. (I will make a post about this later.)"

      If the gravitational force was about one part in 10^60 of its present value, at the big bang, the universe would have either expanded too fast for stars and planets to form or it would have collapsed on itself too fast for life to evolve.

      Just because different societies have some differing opinions on morality it doesn't mean that objective morality doesn't exist. The Holocaust was wrong regardless of the fact that the Nazis thought that killing Jewish people was virtuous.

      As to consciousness, it is much more plausible to think that consciousness would come from a conscious being than from blind unconscious forces. How does consciousness come from unconscious matter?

      im-skeptical wrote: "How many times to I need to repeat that I haven't made this claim?"

      As a materialist you have made this presupposition. If you reject God you're either saying that an eternally existing brute fact exists or you're saying that the universe popped into existence un-caused out of literally nothing. I'm going to keep pounding away at this point until you open your eyes and stare this inconvenient truth.

      im-skeptical wrote: "There is reason to believe (by your own argument) that something may exist eternally. I have no reason (and certainly no evidence) to presume this thing must be magic man.

      Since we're living in a universe I think that something physical or non-physical MUST have existed eternally. I don't think that even an infinite number of contingent beings can exist alone because that first contingent being won't have a cause of its existence and hence all the other being in the chain won't exist as well.

      The big question is why would anyone think that the eternal entity would be a physical brute fact? When I look around at all the physical object around me I see contingent objects that came into existence at a certain time.

      im-skeptical wrote: "And where does he [Krauss] ever say that there is no possible evidence? He says no such thing."

      If you read between the lines he does say this. If Krauss presumes that naturalism is true then how could he ever possibly admit any evidence for God?

      If you feel up for a challenge watch this video (starting at 13:30) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNcC866sm7s#t=835 featuring Richard Dawkins and Peter Boghossian and try to explain how Dawkins has an open mind about the existence of God. This challenge makes climbing Mt. Everest while carrying a battle tank on your shoulders look easy.

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    6. Keith,

      Thank you for replying once again.


      > "Think about it. The third option is the one that no one, that I know of, defends: that the universe popped into existence un-caused out of literally nothing."
      - So we have three stated options: 1. something physical that didn't begin to exist, 2. something immaterial that didn't begin to exist, 3. something physical that did begin to exist (as the first thing that comes into existence). Any others? Perhaps there are. The point I was making is that I don't presume to know. If you ask me which of these postulations is the most likely, I would think it is #1.

      > "I've been studying the arguments for and against God for many year now, and I haven't encountered any evidence that shows that God does not exist. I can't ignore what I haven't encountered."
      - But you certainly do ignore the evidence of what you have encountered. Everything in our experience is physical. Everything. To conclude that there must be a god, you must make an assumption - one that begs the question.

      > "If the gravitational force was about one part in 10^60 of its present value ..."
      - (Actually, I think this is not what you really mean to hypothesize.) Imagine for a moment that such a universe exists. There would be no life. There would be no philosophers present to ponder where they came from. Imagine some other universe that has different physical characteristics than out own, but is compatible with the existence of some kind of life form (and nobody has ever shown that such a thing couldn't exist). It might have philosophers (quite different from us) pondering why the universe is so perfect for them to exist. There could possibly be many universes, some compatible with life, and others not. Our own universe could be one in 10^60.

      > "The Holocaust was wrong regardless of the fact that the Nazis thought that killing Jewish people was virtuous."
      - A Nazi might disagree that this is an objective moral value. King Solomon might disagree that people shouldn't own slaves. The point here is that you think there are objective moral values based on your own moral beliefs. Had you lived in Solomon's house, you probably would not have the same moral beliefs, but you would still insist that there are objective moral values - just not the same ones you have now.

      > "How does consciousness come from unconscious matter? "
      - Physics. You make an argument from ignorance. Take a look at this presentation (http://web.stanford.edu/group/complexity/Stanford%20Complexity%20Group%20Website%20Assets/Deacon%20Stanford%20Dynamical%20Depth%205-3-12%5B1%5D.pdf) by Terrence Deacon. The book goes well beyond this. It gives a scientific perspective on the emergence of intentionality and mind in a physical world.

      > "As a materialist you have made this presupposition. If you reject God you're either saying that an eternally existing brute fact exists or you're saying that the universe popped into existence un-caused out of literally nothing. I'm going to keep pounding away at this point until you open your eyes and stare this inconvenient truth."
      - And I'll keep pounding at my point: As a theist, you are the one who presumes to know the answers. As a skeptic, I don't.

      (continued ...)

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    7. > "The big question is why would anyone think that the eternal entity would be a physical brute fact? When I look around at all the physical object around me I see contingent objects that came into existence at a certain time. "
      - I don't like to use the term 'eternal' because time is a physical concept. Your use of the word 'contingent' begs the question. It assumes that there must be something else as the cause. I don't know that. Can you prove that the universe itself has a cause outside itself?

      > "If you read between the lines he does say this. If Krauss presumes that naturalism is true then how could he ever possibly admit any evidence for God? "
      - Sorry, you are misreading between the lines. Try reading what he actually says. Krauss is not as close-minded as you make him out to be.

      > "This challenge makes climbing Mt. Everest while carrying a battle tank on your shoulders look easy."
      - I have seen the video several times. I think you haven't actually listened to what Dawkins is saying. Theists rarely do. Dawkins sometimes says things that are not well considered, as in "I used to pay lip service ..." but everything he says is consistent with the idea that he looks at the evidence and takes it into consideration. Had you shown me PZ Myers' statement, "There can be no evidence ...", I would have to agree that this is an example of close-mindedness. But Myers is not at all representative of most materialists. A faithful theist is more like Myers (even if he doesn't admit it) in that his faith necessarily implies that he won't be convinced by any evidence to the contrary.

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    8. im-skeptical,

      Thanks for putting up with me and for the dialogue.

      im-skeptical wrote: "So we have three stated options: 1. something physical that didn't begin to exist, 2. something immaterial that didn't begin to exist, 3. something physical that did begin to exist (as the first thing that comes into existence). Any others? Perhaps there are. The point I was making is that I don't presume to know. If you ask me which of these postulations is the most likely, I would think it is #1."

      It occurred to me that there could be a few more options. Option four is a little less absurd than option three. Option four is the infinite chain of contingent beings. Option four faces some serious challenges, though, the first being whether it is possible to instantiate an infinite number of events in the past. The second challenge is that the fist contingent object, upon which all the objects depend on for their existence, would not have a cause of its existence and so wouldn't exist. I don't consider option four to be a metaphysically tenable position. Option five is the immaterial mirror of option three. Option five would have no defenders, that I could think of, because it's absurd and would be rejected outright by materialists.

      Since you have rejected options two and five, you are only left with options one and four. Option four faces extreme challenges and should be rejected by sensible people. By a process of elimination, this only leaves you option one even though you don't have any empirical evidence to support it. Also, you reject the cosmological arguments for God's existence based on the mere possibility that a physical object has eternally existed as a brute fact even though there is no evidence for this thing.

      im-skeptical wrote: "But you certainly do ignore the evidence of what you have encountered. Everything in our experience is physical. Everything. To conclude that there must be a god, you must make an assumption - one that begs the question."

      Ah, but their are serious problems with your evidence. The first one is that one can't legitimately claim that because we currently lack the ability to directly detect immaterial objects that they don't exist. In fact arguments from the philosophy of mind give us reason to think that the human mind might be immaterial. Also, there is good reason to think that God is immaterial because he would not be dependent on the existence of matter in order to exist, and he would not need a cause of the particular arrangement of matter that we see in physical objects. Finally, immaterial objects don't have the problem of their physical parts falling apart.

      The second major problem with your evidence is that it faces an undercutting defeater. That defeater is the superabundance of evidence that all the physical objects around us, including us, are finite and had a cause of their existence. Even the atoms that compose the physical objects we see didn't exist at the start of the big bang. The reason why this evidence severely weakens the connection between your evidence and the conclusion that everything that exists in the world is physical is that if all the physical objects that we see are contingent then there must be some material or immaterial object that is not contingent. Our experience shows that physical objects are finite and have a cause of their existence so their is no good reason to think that the non-contingent object is physical.

      Notice that I could accuse you of ignoring evidence and begging the question.

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    9. im-skeptical wrote: "Imagine some other universe that has different physical characteristics than out own, but is compatible with the existence of some kind of life form (and nobody has ever shown that such a thing couldn't exist). It might have philosophers (quite different from us) pondering why the universe is so perfect for them to exist. There could possibly be many universes, some compatible with life, and others not. Our own universe could be one in 10^60."

      You're alluding to the muliverse here. What direct empirical evidence do you have that the multiverse exists?

      im-skeptical wrote: "The point here is that you think there are objective moral values based on your own moral beliefs. Had you lived in Solomon's house, you probably would not have the same moral beliefs, but you would still insist that there are objective moral values - just not the same ones you have now."

      You seem to think that slavery is wrong. How would you respond to a slave owner who said, "There's no such thing a right and wrong--it's just your personal opinion that slavery is wrong. Who are you to tell me I can't own slaves? I can beat, rape and kill my slaves whenever I want because they're my property. Mind your own damn business,"?

      im-skeptical wrote: "You make an argument from ignorance."

      No, I'm simply saying that it's more plausible that consciousness came from consciousness than from unconsciousness.

      im-skeptical wrote: "And I'll keep pounding at my point: As a theist, you are the one who presumes to know the answers. As a skeptic, I don't."

      Yet you have a high degree of confidence, based upon a scant amount of evidence, that the universe was not caused by God, and so are saying, with no evidence, that the cause of everything was a material brute fact. You can't reject one of the two viable explanations for the origin of the universe and then play the agnostic card. By rejecting one explanation you're endorsing another.

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    10. im-skeptical wrote: "I don't like to use the term 'eternal' because time is a physical concept. Your use of the word 'contingent' begs the question. It assumes that there must be something else as the cause. I don't know that. Can you prove that the universe itself has a cause outside itself?"

      The word eternal has nothing to do with time. The definition of eternal is, "Metaphysics. existing outside all relations of time; not subject to change... without beginning or end; lasting forever; always existing (Dictionary.com)."

      My use of the word contingent is the sentence you quoted is completely valid because all the physical objects around me are contingent upon something else. You and I are dependent on oxygen, food, water, earth and our parents for our existence. Cars are dependent on many things for their existence, one of those things being humans. I could go on and on like this.

      As to the universe, it would be absurd to think that it caused itself to exist as it would need to exist in order to cause itself to exist, so this means that either the universe eternally exists as a brute fact, a physical component of it, that exists as a brute fact caused the it or a non-physical object caused it to exist. Science gives us good reason to think that the universe is 13.8 billion years old, so this, most likely, rules out the first option. The two other options are viable. I would argue that there is no good reason to think that the cause of the universe because experience shows that physical objects are finite and have a cause of their existence. Immaterial objects, however, would not be dependent on the existence of matter in order to exist.

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    11. im-skeptical wrote: "Sorry, you are misreading between the lines. Try reading what he actually says. Krauss is not as close-minded as you make him out to be."

      I notice that you didn't answer my question about how evidence for God's existence could be admitted by someone who presumes that naturalism is true. Dawkins, Boghossian and I are at a loss for how naturalism and evidence for God could coexist, but perhaps you have a way to explain how the two can work together. However, it seems to me that the naturalist is begging the question.


      im-skeptical wrote: "I think you haven't actually listened to what Dawkins is saying."

      I heard what Dawkins said perfectly. He said, "I'm starting to think that nothing would [count as evidence for God existence]." How much more clear does he need to be that he would except no evidence that God exists since he presumes that naturalism is true? How can one be open to evidence if you a priori discount some evidence? The answer is you can't.

      im-skeptical wrote: "Had you shown me PZ Myers' statement, "There can be no evidence ...", I would have to agree that this is an example of close-mindedness. But Myers is not at all representative of most materialists. A faithful theist is more like Myers (even if he doesn't admit it) in that his faith necessarily implies that he won't be convinced by any evidence to the contrary."

      Granting that Myers is an exception to the general open mindedness of atheists, I think that I could say the fideists are the exception to the general open mindedness of theists. After all, Karl Barth has said, “But in the face of his doubt, even if it be the most radical, the theologian should not despair. Doubt indeed has its time and place. In the present period no one, not even the theologian, can escape it.” And C.S. Lewis has said, "“Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable; but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.” I think very few believers are absolutely certain about what they believe. I don't even think that I can be certain of anything other then that there is some thinking thing that I call I. However, I believe in God because I think that he is the best explanation for a whole host of things. In other words, he most likely exists.

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    12. Keith,

      Very glad to see that you're still with me.


      Regarding option 4: Perhaps it's not so absurd after all. If you think about it, it's completely compatible with option 1. Let's say that there is some kind of physical reality that simply exists as a brute fact. In that physical reality, contingent objects can come into existence, and this has been the case for all time. So it is entirely possible in this scenario that contingent objects have always existed, which is option 4.

      You seem to have a problem with the notion that this entails the instantiation of an infinite set of objects, as WLC has argued is a logical impossibility. The problem with Craig's argument is that it has been shown (http://spot.colorado.edu/~morristo/craig-on-the-actual-infinite.pdf) (numerous times) to be mathematically unsound. From what I've seen of his arguments, he simply does not understand the mathematics of the infinite.

      > "Also, you reject the cosmological arguments for God's existence based on the mere possibility that a physical object has eternally existed as a brute fact even though there is no evidence for this thing."
      - As for evidence of something's eternal existence, you seem to think that it makes sense for something immaterial to have existed eternally, but not something physical. By what logic can you conclude that it must have been immaterial? Look at what evidence we do have: Physical things (and only physical things) that are contingent. What about the physical reality in which contingent things exist? Is it contingent? How would you know? What about immaterial things? No evidence at all (aside from logical argumentation based on certain assumptions).

      > "one can't legitimately claim that because we currently lack the ability to directly detect immaterial objects that they don't exist."
      - I'll grant you that. But neither can you claim that they do.

      > "In fact arguments from the philosophy of mind give us reason to think that the human mind might be immaterial."
      - And other arguments from the philosophy of mind and science give is very good reason to think that it isn't. Did you look at the material I cited? Or better yet, read the book (it's free).

      > "there is good reason to think that God is immaterial because he would not be dependent on the existence of matter in order to exist, and he would not need a cause of the particular arrangement of matter that we see in physical objects."
      - The underlying substrate of physical reality would not need a cause (any more than God) and not be dependent on matter.

      > "Finally, immaterial objects don't have the problem of their physical parts falling apart."
      - Nor would the substrate of physical reality.

      > "That defeater is the superabundance of evidence that all the physical objects around us, including us, are finite and had a cause of their existence"
      - Please explain why that is a defeater for physical reality but not for immaterial existence. The fact is, physical objects that we can observe are all the evidence we have. So if you insist that the contingent nature of these objects defeats infinite existence (and I would disagree), then by the same logic, it defeats infinite existence for any kind of thing, including immaterial things. At least we have evidence that physical things exist.

      > "if all the physical objects that we see are contingent then there must be some material or immaterial object that is not contingent."
      - The evidence is that physical things exist. If you assume that immaterial things exist, aren't you begging the question?

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    13. Now it's getting hard to keep up. But I'll try.

      > "You're alluding to the muliverse here. What direct empirical evidence do you have that the multiverse exists?"
      - A multiverse is one of a number of possibilities. What direct empirical evidence is there? Funny you should ask. http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=5907

      > "You seem to think that slavery is wrong. How would you respond to a slave owner ..."
      - Yes, because I am part of our contemporary society, I think slavery is wrong. But Solomon didn't. And you wouldn't either if you lived in his house.

      > "I'm simply saying that it's more plausible that consciousness came from consciousness than from unconsciousness."
      - Only on the assumption that there is an immaterial consciousness. Where's the evidence?

      > "Yet you have a high degree of confidence, based upon a scant amount of evidence ..."
      - What I keep saying is that I don't know. Go back and read my words. Where is this "high degree of confidence"?

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    14. > "I notice that you didn't answer my question about how evidence for God's existence could be admitted by someone who presumes that naturalism is true. "
      - I'll try this one more time. I am a skeptic. I don't presume that naturalism is true. I do try to base what I believe on evidence. I don't know how I can make this any more clear. Presumption of some truth is for the faithful. You have faith in the truth of whatever it is that you presume. You project that faith on me, and presume that I must be the same.

      > "I heard what Dawkins said perfectly."
      - And yet you read a Myers-like hard-nosed attitude into what he said. I have tried to explain that he is almost completely convinced by the (more than abundant) evidence that actually exists, and on that basis, he can't imagine what he might see that would negate the overwhelming evidence already in hand. If the existing evidence told a different story, he would believe something different. What he believes is based on evidence, and not on some religious-like faith. You just can't accept this.

      > "I think very few believers are absolutely certain about what they believe."
      - And yet you don't grant that Dawkins can be less than absolutely certain.

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    15. > "The word eternal has nothing to do with time. The definition of eternal is, "Metaphysics. existing outside all relations of time; not subject to change... without beginning or end; lasting forever; always existing (Dictionary.com)." "
      - Ok, fine. You notice that I have been using the word in the same sense. I guess what I meant was that I don't like any kind of temporal connotation attached to it. And this is sometimes what we see.

      > "My use of the word contingent i[n] the sentence you quoted is completely valid because all the physical objects around me are contingent upon something else."
      - Yes, I accept that. I don't argue with the meaning of contingent. It's just that wherever I see it used, it is always in the context of a metaphysical position in which God is the ultimate cause. I have never seen any scientific discussion of contingent objects.

      > "Science gives us good reason to think that the universe is 13.8 billion years old, so this, most likely, rules out the first option."
      - The universe that you refer to here is not necessarily all of physical reality. Based on our current understanding of physical laws and mathematics, there is no reason to presume that this is it, and in fact, they may actually entail the existence of more.

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    16. im-skeptical wrote: "Regarding option 4: Perhaps it's not so absurd after all. If you think about it, it's completely compatible with option 1. Let's say that there is some kind of physical reality that simply exists as a brute fact. In that physical reality, contingent objects can come into existence, and this has been the case for all time. So it is entirely possible in this scenario that contingent objects have always existed, which is option 4."

      If I'm understanding what you're saying, you're trying to combine number four with either a brute fact or necessary being. This misses the point of option number four, as option four deals with the possibility of contingent objects alone. If you say that option one or two caused the first contingent object and then that object caused contingent object two then I would say that this scenario is quite plausible, and is most likely what we observe. However, if you say that all that exists are contingent objects then I'd say that you have the burden of proof of explaining how such a thing could be plausible.

      im-skeptical wrote: "You seem to have a problem with the notion that this entails the instantiation of an infinite set of objects, as WLC has argued is a logical impossibility. The problem with Craig's argument is that it has been shown (numerous times) to be mathematically unsound. From what I've seen of his arguments, he simply does not understand the mathematics of the infinite."

      I guess you're not familiar with the work of mathematician and uber atheist, Dr. James Lindsay, who agrees with Craig that infinity is only a mental concept and then tries to use that as attack on the concept of an infinite God (it's an attack on a strawman version of God, but I digress). All this disagreement on the concept of infinity points to how difficult the concept is to understand and the fact that we really have no evidence that an infinity in the past has been instantiated. I'm not sure that Craig has shown that an instantiated infinity is impossible, but he does give us good reason to doubt it.

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    17. im-skeptical wrote: "By what logic can you conclude that it must have been immaterial? Look at what evidence we do have: Physical things (and only physical things) that are contingent. What about the physical reality in which contingent things exist? Is it contingent? How would you know? What about immaterial things? No evidence at all (aside from logical argumentation based on certain assumptions)."

      I want to clarify that I do think that the concept of the eternal physical brute fact is possible, but that I think that it is much less likely than the concept of a necessary being. As I have said before, there is a superabundance of evidence that the physical objects around us are finite and have a cause of their being and state. Even though it is logically possible, I don't see any reason to think that there is an exception to what we observe.

      An immaterial necessary being is dependent on nothing for its existence while a physical object is dependent on the existence of matter/energy and space for its existence. An immaterial being does not face the problem of how its particular arrangement of matter came to be and what caused it to be that way while a physical object does. An immaterial being does not face that difficulty of how its parts have stayed together for all of eternity while we observe that physical things decompose eventually. Finally, an immaterial necessary being has intentionality and so can intend to do things like create the universe while non-sentient physical object do not.

      im-skeptical wrote: "And other arguments from the philosophy of mind and science give is very good reason to think that it isn't. Did you look at the material I cited? Or better yet, read the book (it's free)."

      I have successfully studied human anatomy & physiology at the college level, so I'm familiar with what science has to say about how the brain functions. I also recently did a fairly comprehensive self-study of the science and philosophy of mind using a whole host of resources. I have read John Searle's "Mind A Brief Introduction," which gives a naturalistic account of mind, and did not find his arguments to be very convincing as the arguments of Edward Fesser, a Christian philosopher, or Thomas Nagel, an atheist philosopher who questions the current naturalistic enterprise.

      I briefly perused the lecture PowerPoint slides and found them to be disjointed. I did watch Deacon's interview about his book that's on youtube, and was not even remotely impressed by what he had to say. I do like that he's trying to bring teleology back into science, but he didn't even scratch the surface of consciousness. He seems to talk in circles around the subject while tossing out science terms like entropy. I'm more than a little skeptical that Deacon has solved the great mystery that is consciousness, but I'm suspending my fnal judgement on his ideas until I can learn more about them.

      Not surprisingly, I haven't found time to read his dense 600 page book in the hours since we last talked. My reading list is incredibly long, but perhaps I'll get his book in there eventually. By the way, where can you find it for free?

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    18. im-skeptical wrote: "The underlying substrate of physical reality would not need a cause (any more than God) and not be dependent on matter."

      I'm not sure what you mean by "underlying substrate of physical reality."

      im-skeptical wrote: "Please explain why that is a defeater for physical reality but not for immaterial existence. The fact is, physical objects that we can observe are all the evidence we have. So if you insist that the contingent nature of these objects defeats infinite existence (and I would disagree), then by the same logic, it defeats infinite existence for any kind of thing, including immaterial things."

      Well, in our experience we see that we are surrounded by physical objects and we also see that those objects are finite and have a cause of their existence. The reason why the later undercuts the logical connection between the former and the conclusion that therefore all that exists is physical is that if all the evidence that we have points to the fact that physical things are finite and contingent on something else for their existence then there must be a non-physical necessary object that caused all of the contingent objects to exist. If all that exists is physical, and all physical objects are finite, then nothing would exist as there would be no cause of the first physical object that all other objects depend on, so there would be nothing. However, we live in a universe filled with physical objects, so there must be a necessary non-physical object that caused everything else.

      im-skeptical wrote: "The evidence is that physical things exist. If you assume that immaterial things exist, aren't you begging the question?"

      Notice that the lack of absolute knowledge about the nature of existence puts both of us in a bit of quandary, as I could fire back: the evidence is that physical things are finite and contingent. If you assume that an eternal physical brute fact exists, aren't you begging the question? Compounding our problems is the fact that an absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence in the case of immaterial entities or eternal physical brute facts, as we can't make a comprehensive search for either entity. Where does this leave us? Less than certain.

      One of the reasons I have participated in this discussion is to challenge your brash assertion that there is an abundance of evidence for your position. In truth, you have a scant amount of evidence. In regards to the physical brute fact, you have none.


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    19. im-skeptical wrote: "What direct empirical evidence is there? Funny you should ask. http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=5907"

      Not so fast, my man, back in April on NPR's 13.7 blog Dr. Marcelo Gleiser, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Dartmouth College, commented on the implications of the research you cite and said that there is no direct proof that the multiverse exists. He wrote, "But is it [the multiverse] science? To be scientific, a hypothesis needs to be testable. Well, can you test the multiverse? The answer, in a strict sense, is "no."

      Each of these inflating (or contracting regions, there are also failed universes) is , the region that delimits how far light has traveled since the beginning of time. As such, we can't see these cosmoids or receive any signals from them. The best that we can hope for is to find some signal that one of our neighboring universes bruised our own space in the past, a sort of cosmic collision. If this happened, we would see some specific patterns in the sky, more precisely, in the radiation left over after hydrogen atoms formed some 400,000 years after the Bang. So far, none of these signals have been found, and the chances are, quite frankly, remote.

      We are thus stuck with a plausible scientific idea that seems untestable."

      im-skeptical wrote: "Yes, because I am part of our contemporary society, I think slavery is wrong. But Solomon didn't. And you wouldn't either if you lived in his house."

      So, it's just someone's opinion that the Holocaust, slavery, pollution and torturing little children for fun is wrong--none of these things are really wrong. It amazes me that skeptics will bite the moral relativity bullet to avoid the conclusion that God grounds objective morality.

      Of course, none of this proves that objective morality doesn't exist.

      im-skeptical wrote: "What I keep saying is that I don't know. Go back and read my words. Where is this 'high degree of confidence'?"

      You did say that atheists are pretty sure that God doesn't exist due to an abundance of evidence. Granted, pretty sure is an imprecise phrase, but it implies a fairly high degree of confidence.

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    20. im-skeptical wrote: "I'll try this one more time. I am a skeptic. I don't presume that naturalism is true. I do try to base what I believe on evidence. I don't know how I can make this any more clear."

      I seem to remember that you mentioned that you are a naturalist in another post, but in any case you're missing my point. I'm asking a conceptual question about how any naturalist, such as Dawkins, Myers or Krauss, could accept evidence for God when they presume that naturalism is true. I don't think that a naturalist would accept any evidence for God because they're beginning with the assumption that nothing exists outside of the natural world.

      im-skeptical wrote: "And yet you read a Myers-like hard-nosed attitude into what he said. I have tried to explain that he is almost completely convinced by the (more than abundant) evidence that actually exists, and on that basis, he can't imagine what he might see that would negate the overwhelming evidence already in hand. If the existing evidence told a different story, he would believe something different."

      I think that the distinction between epistemic certainty and evidence is getting lost in our discussion. Just because Dawkins is coming to realize that his naturalistic worldview is incompatible with any possible evidence for God, I don't think that it necessarily follows that he is absolutely certain that God doesn't exist. Dawkins has said he is not certain, and I'm willing to accept his testimony; that he is nearly certain. However, given Dawkins' naturalism, I don't see how he could change his mind since any possible evidence for God will be rejected and interpreted as a natural phenomena. Strangely, I agree with Myers when he says that there can be no evidence for God, given that naturalism is presumed.

      I think it is disingenuous for atheists to claim that they are open to evidence for God if they presume that naturalism is true, as they will automatically dismiss any possible evidence for him given their a priori position. It's like saying, "I'm open to evidence that 2 + 2 = 4, but the only mathematical function is subtraction."

      im-skeptical wrote: "The universe that you refer to here is not necessarily all of physical reality."

      I agree that there could be more beyond what we can see.

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    21. Well, im-skeptical, this is likely going be my last response, as I can't afford to sacrifice more time to this discussion. I enjoy participating in these discussions, but the insane amount of time it takes to participate in them is a little frustrating. If only there were more hours in the day.

      I enjoyed discussing these matters with you, and learning more about your viewpoint. Thanks for the interesting, civil discussion.

      Pax vobiscum!

      Keith

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    22. Once again, thank you for responding.

      > "If I'm understanding what you're saying, you're trying to combine number four with either a brute fact or necessary being. This misses the point of option number four, as option four deals with the possibility of contingent objects alone."
      - All I was saying is that under the #4 option, there would be an infinite set of objects, which is entirely consistent with #1, since it too could product some physical entity outside the timeframe of our universe, which in turn, constitutes the source of an eternal causal chain of contingent objects.

      > "I guess you're not familiar with the work of mathematician and uber atheist, Dr. James Lindsay, who agrees with Craig that infinity is only a mental concept and then tries to use that as attack on the concept of an infinite God (it's an attack on a strawman version of God, but I digress). All this disagreement on the concept of infinity points to how difficult the concept is to understand and the fact that we really have no evidence that an infinity in the past has been instantiated. I'm not sure that Craig has shown that an instantiated infinity is impossible, but he does give us good reason to doubt it."
      - Lindsay also agrees with Craig that 1 + 1 = 2, but that doesn't mean that Craig is a mathematician. He still doesn't understand the math. His discussions of the infinite violate mathematical logic. They shouldn't give you reason to believe or doubt anything. (And yes, I have studied advanced mathematics.)

      > "As I have said before, there is a superabundance of evidence that the physical objects around us are finite and have a cause of their being and state. Even though it is logically possible, I don't see any reason to think that there is an exception to what we observe."
      - But there is an abundance of evidence that physical things exist (not necessarily with a cause) and zero evidence of any immaterial thing. In quantum mechanics, things just happen with some probability - not as a result of some specific causal condition or event. Things come into existence without any cause that we can observe. Your statement would have been true in the time of Aquinas, but it is not true now. There's an interesting paper called Causation As Folk Science by John D. Norton, which you might want to read.

      > "An immaterial necessary being is ..."
      - ... something that you couldn't possibly know the properties of if it did exist. I have never understood how theists can claim to know so much about this thing - what it knows, what it can do, how it behaves, etc. Where does all this information come from? Certainly not by observation.

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    23. > "I do like that he's trying to bring teleology back into science, but he didn't even scratch the surface of consciousness. He seems to talk in circles around the subject while tossing out science terms like entropy. I'm more than a little skeptical that Deacon has solved the great mystery that is consciousness ..."
      - He does much more than "tossing out science terms". His book is a lengthy and in-depth discussion of thermodymanics, and how processes and properties emerge from and are supervenient on thermodynamic processes. He discusses emergent "morphodynamic" processes (a sort of second-order of thermodynamics) that result in the formation structures (without any agency being involved). These emergent processes may seem to be at odds with fundamental physical laws, but occur in open systems with external energy sources and constraints on the dissipation of energy. And in a similar manner, from morphodynamics come emergent "teleodynamic" processes (a third-order of thermodynamics). This is not your theistic teleology. It is completely natural, and completely consistent with physical laws. This is the physical basis of intentionality in biological entities. He does not present any theory of mind. He lays a groundwork in physical science for the existence of processes that theists claim could only come from God. I can't recall exactly where I got the book - it might have been Library Genesis (an excellent source of books).

      > "I'm not sure what you mean by "underlying substrate of physical reality.""
      - I mean the larger physical reality of which our universe is a part, whatever that might be. The universe might expand and collapse in cycles, or it may be part if a multiverse, or some other physical reality that we can't detect empirically, but which exists nevertheless.

      > "if all the evidence that we have points to the fact that physical things are finite and contingent on something else for their existence then there must be a non-physical necessary object that caused all of the contingent objects to exist"
      - Non sequitur. This is not logic. It is nothing more than an assumption that you make. Why must this "necessary object" be non-physical? Because that's what theists must depend on as a basis for their belief in God. If you're not a theist, there's no need for this assumption.

      > "If you assume that an eternal physical brute fact exists, aren't you begging the question? ... Where does this leave us? Less than certain."
      - I will agree with you on that. We are less than certain. But while you see the physical world as "abundant evidence" of the immaterial, based on nothing more than a theistic assumption, I don't.

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    24. > "One of the reasons I have participated in this discussion is to challenge your brash assertion that there is an abundance of evidence for your position. In truth, you have a scant amount of evidence. In regards to the physical brute fact, you have none."
      - I keep trying to tell you (and you refuse to hear) that I don't make the kind of assumptions you do. I don't know what reality consists of, and I freely admit that. I have said repeatedly that ideas such as the multiverse hypothesis are postulations. I don't insist that they are true. I don't know. How can I make it more clear. What is clear to me is that there is no reason to make the theistic assumption. If you're looking for the "better explanation", that isn't it. A multiverse theory is at least consistent with modern physics and mathematical models.

      > "Not so fast, my man"
      - The evidence is not conclusive, but it is still evidence that is consistent with the theoretical model. And however slight it may be, it's more than what theists have.

      > "So, it's just someone's opinion that the Holocaust, slavery, pollution and torturing little children for fun is wrong"
      - You don't seem to grasp my point. What makes a moral "truth" objective?

      > "You did say that atheists are pretty sure that God doesn't exist due to an abundance of evidence. Granted, pretty sure is an imprecise phrase, but it implies a fairly high degree of confidence."
      - Some are more certain than others. My own degree of confidence pales in comparison to the vast majority of theists.

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