Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Charging Metaphor for Metaphysics

To Lubab No More on fundamentalism and the skepticism of simple absolute truths:

The way God is often described is designedly so simple that a child can understand it. And, like most fields of knowledge, simplification is good for handing over important ideas but not for an in depth study. Oversimplification leads to blurring of the complexities which lead to apparent contradiction.

As a case in point - does water conduct electricity? You probably learned in kindergarten that yes, it does very much! and you need to be very careful when around water and a live current.

But actually that's misleading. I mean it's practically true, but if you then study some chemistry you'd question how H2O passes current - it shouldn't by itself since it's an uncharged molecule. Contradiction! What is actually passing current are the _impurities_ in the water. The salts, the minerals, etc. The charge bounces off of them.

So then you may be happy with that level of understanding, but then you learn that even pure water conducts electricity a little bit. How can that be? That contradicts the last explanation! What is actually happening in water is that the molecules don't just sit around quietly but they are somewhat unstable. Some portion of them are constantly breaking apart into H+ and OH- and then reassembling themselves. So it is those transient ions on which charge flows.

See the kindergarten-level understanding of water and electricity isn't wrong per se, it's just oversimplified. The lesson is very important to pass along without all of that other complication even though you miss a great deal of further understanding in the process.

Now that was just about water. Maybe (kal v'chomer) the same kind of process applies to the God you were taught about in kindergarten too, hmm?

74 comments:

badrabbi said...

Your description of water and electricity is nice and instructive. This is interesting to note the mechanism by which water conducts electricity. I am wondering, though, what this has to do with God!

I think that what makes your description of water molecules interesting is that you first mention that water violates the general rule that conductors of electricity should be ions of some kind, and water is decidedly not an ion. Thus, water seems to violate the general rile of conductivity. Then, you provide an explanation, stating that it is really the trace metals in the water that do the conducting. The rule of electric conduction is preserved after all! But then you point out that even pure water conducts a bit. Again, the rule seems to be on the verge of violation. But you point out that water molecule is unstable and is capable of forming ions, hence the rule is once again preserved.

Now, coming back to god, again, what are you trying to say? We have an postulated entity for which no evidence has ever turned up. Why say he is simple? Why say he is complicated? Why say anything at all?

It seems that with God, there are no rules at all!

Orthoprax said...

BR,

As I can tell, there are two essential ideas that your modern monotheistic theology proposes. One, that God is responsible for reality as we know it and two, that God is essentially beneficent. These are the rules (minimally).

To begin, I do believe there is significant evidence suggesting that the universe was not an accident. No proof granted, but sufficient enough to suggest that the universe is something special. Our evidence for God is only indirect.

With respect to the second proposal, the problem of evil is apparently a significant contradiction. It certainly doesn't seem to us - to any fair minded observer anyway - that the world operates with justice and goodness as foundations, so what can we say? Isn't that an insoluble contradiction?

Perhaps it is - or perhaps, like the kindergardener who learned a little chemistry, we just don't fully understand what's going on.

Lubab No More said...

Thanks for the comment (and the plug)!

I don't think its fair to say that the statement "water conducts electricity" is an oversimplification. Perhaps it is a simplification but on a practical level it holds true. H20 may not conduct electricity, but the pieces of water (H+ and OH-) do. But at what level are you no longer simplifying? I might say it is a simplification to say that H+ and OH- conduct electricity. It isn't H+ and OH- that conduct electricity, it is the electron clouds of those molecules that conduct the current. But that's just my issue with your analogy.

I think what you're getting at is we don't (can't?) understand god. I never found that argument compelling. I remember my grade school rebbe telling me that "God could create a rock he couldn't pick up AND he could pick up that rock! We can't fathom the logic of God!!!" This statement and other "we can't understand god so don't bother" comments feel like cop-outs to me.

In response to my question "are you saying that the description of god taught in kindergarten, that he is an omnipotent all-powerfull being, is an oversimplification?"
you said
"Sure. I'm confident that most things anyone says about God is an oversimplification."

I have never heard this position before. I'm very curious. What is your perception of god?

Orthoprax said...

LBN,

"I don't think its fair to say that the statement "water conducts electricity" is an oversimplification."

I meant it in the same sense that the information is given as warning. If it was pure water surrounding a live wire (if possible), the water wouldn't be a danger at all of carrying any significant current. Therefore while the warning is actually inaccurate, you can readily understand why you don't want to confuse people about this important safety fact.

Likewise, we may promote certain conceptions about God that are valid in the sense of the lessons they teach without actually being technically true. Where fundamentalists fail is by essentially fetishizing the lessons by branding them as literal truth. The truth of the matter is that we know very little about the nature of the ultimate reality and so even while you might consider such an admission an evasion, it remains a key fact to understand.

On a personal note, another key realization is to understand that a skeptic's approach to religion need not always be a matter of confrontation.

What I conceive about God is hard to put in words. I have conflicting notions and ideas that are not yet fully developed - assuming they may one day be. But, fundamentally, I consider God to be the ground of being of existence - the source for existence itself. God is the source of order which makes rational existence as we know it possible.

But does God 'think'? Does God have 'knowledge'? Is God 'good'? These things sound like anthropomorphizations to me. Nevertheless, they may be useful approaches to the transcendent, even though they are flawed. We are limited beings, but just because we haven't figured out what's going on 'up there' doesn't mean that we can ignore it.

badrabbi said...

Orthoprax;

You refer to this universe as "special". Considering that this is the only universe we know, call it "special" is perculiar. Can you think of a universe that is not special?

In any case, you say that you are DEFINING god as the 1)creator of the universe and that 2)he is good.

With regard to the first property, can you explain how you arrived at the following:
1. That he is one. How do you know there not 2 or more of God going about doing things?
2. That he is not one in a lineage of God's to come and go, perhaps with a limited life span?
3. How do you know that He or They did not create the universe only to suddenly or eventually die themselves?
4. How do you know that He or They consciously did the creating? Perhaps the universe as we know it was a byproducts or trash of a God cooking dinner for his wife?

Is it productive to specualte on whether God is simple or complex when even the basics are known about Him or They?

2)Why do you even postulate that God is good?

Orthoprax said...

BR,

"You refer to this universe as "special". Considering that this is the only universe we know, call it "special" is perculiar. Can you think of a universe that is not special?"

Ah, good. See, if you don't recognize that then you might be tempted to promote the multiverse hypothesis which suggests that there are many universes and all of them are randomly created. I think a single special universe is more compelling.

With respect to the rest of your issues I respond with either a pointed reference to parsimony - why should I suggest there are two when one is sufficient? - and that you are making additional assumptions about God being literally "alive" or "conscious" that I personally wouldn't necessarily agree with.

Additionally since I conceive of God as existing outside of time and existing independently, temporalizing Him or having Him change state wouldn't even make any sense.

"Is it productive to specualte on whether God is simple or complex when even the basics are known about Him or They?"

Yes, I believe so. You could ask the same about virtually any philosophy or theoretical science.


"2)Why do you even postulate that God is good?"

It's not really my postulation - it's an understanding of God that I have received from people before me. Less of a rational approach is it than an insistence that God should live up to His name, as it were.

"Far be it from you to do such a thing — to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen. 18:25)

badrabbi said...

Ortho;

Let me try again; I would suggest that whether there is one universe or many, they are all ‘special’. I would speculate that in any given universe, whether ours or others, there would be many wondrous things, full of awe, all special. “Special” has nothing to do with it; any seemingly non-random entity cries for explanation of its existence.

Regarding parsimony dictating that there be one god, I do not quite follow. Let’s say that you see a Toyota on your doorstep one morning. You ask where the car came from. By your logic, parsimony would dictate that you should ascribe the creation of the car to a single person.

In fact, you do not know who made the car. It may be one person, or more than one. There is nothing parsimonious about your postulate that the creator of the car is one person. You simply have not enough information. If you guessed that there was one person making the Toyota at your doorstep, your guess would be as valid as if I were to guess 2 or more people.

So again I ask: What tells you that the god that has created this universe is one? How do you know it is not 2? How do you know that there are not a group of Gods, perhaps in a universe making factory, who are busy at work making universes of all varieties? Or perhaps we have a god that makes planets and stars, one who creates animals and plants, and one who formulates ethics and doles out justice. Perhaps we should be davening to 3 gods!

Regarding God being good, I think we have beaten that horse to death. There is no evidence that even if God were to exist, that he is either good or bad. One would have to wonder though: if God exists, and if he is all good, yet he allows evil to pervade this universe, would such a god be worth worshipping?

Orthoprax said...

BR,

"Let me try again; I would suggest that whether there is one universe or many, they are all ‘special’....“Special” has nothing to do with it; any seemingly non-random entity cries for explanation of its existence."

Ok, but the point is the source for the entities with the multiverse hypothesis concluding that there is, in fact, nothing truly significant about any of the universes except luck of the draw.

"Regarding parsimony dictating that there be one god, I do not quite follow. Let’s say that you see a Toyota on your doorstep one morning. You ask where the car came from. By your logic, parsimony would dictate that you should ascribe the creation of the car to a single person."

Yes and no. Parsimony deals with keeping explanatory concepts to a minimum. So in that sense you could argue that in ignorance we might initially satisfy ourselves with leaving responsibility for the car with one individual. However, given what we know about how cars are built, supposing a single person as creator for the vehicle is not the most parsimonious conclusion.

Conversely, given what we know about how the universe came to be - with its single point of origin, a singular rational order, and unified set of physical laws and their expressions - there is no reason to set more than a single entity as responsible for existence.

Obviously this approach does not rule out more deities, but it does make them superfluous. In any case, one must ultimately come to the 'unmoved mover' as it were - and that cannot come in duplicate.

"There is no evidence that even if God were to exist, that he is either good or bad."

Well, no. There is plenty of evidence - just nothing conclusive.

"One would have to wonder though: if God exists, and if he is all good, yet he allows evil to pervade this universe, would such a god be worth worshipping?"

That's a pretty irrelevant question coming from someone who doesn't believe God exists in the first place.

If you find that you do believe God exists then you can't very well ignore Him! If you further conclude that God is good then surely you could figure that God has good reason for the state of the world as it is. Your question supposes a thesis that halts half way without reason.

badrabbi said...

“Ok, but the point is the source for the entities with the multiverse hypothesis concluding that there is, in fact, nothing truly significant about any of the universes except luck of the draw.”

I do not much know about the multiverse hypothesis. I must say that such a hypothesis is interesting as a speculation, but nothing more than that.

”Parsimony deals with keeping explanatory concepts to a minimum. So in that sense you could argue that in ignorance we might initially satisfy ourselves with leaving responsibility for the car with one individual. However, given what we know about how cars are built, supposing a single person as creator for the vehicle is not the most parsimonious conclusion.”

Actually, it is in fact possible for one person to make a car. It is also possible for two or more people to be making the car. It is not until you see the familiar Toyota symbol, or perhaps recognize the familiar shape of the car that you would suppose that the car was made in a factory. Said another way, you are used to the concept that cars are made in a factory, by groups of people. No such knowledge is known of the universe.

”Conversely, given what we know about how the universe came to be - with its single point of origin, a singular rational order, and unified set of physical laws and their expressions - there is no reason to set more than a single entity as responsible for existence. Obviously this approach does not rule out more deities, but it does make them superfluous.”

A single point of origin is one thing. That the universe came to develop into an awesome entity that it is now, is another. Suppose there is one God who makes the primordial ingredients for the universe. Another makes the requisite explosion. Another sets the laws of gravity and motion. Another organizes planets, etc. Perhaps another is a biologist of sorts, responsible for life within the planets. Surely you agree that the universe is more complicated than a car. Why is it un-parsimonous to postulate that there are teams of gods, each with their own area of specialty?

Is the existence of one God who knows and does it all more parsimonious than the existence of many specialized gods? Why?

About evidence for morality of God you write: “There is plenty of evidence - just nothing conclusive.” Would you please share the evidence of the morality of god with me?

About necessity for God Worship, you write: “That's a pretty irrelevant question coming from someone who doesn't believe God exists in the first place.”

I suppose whether to pray or not to pray to a God that I do not believe exists is irrelevant. But I am not asking the question for me. I am asking it of you. If you believe in a god but are not sure whether he is of upstanding moral character, then why would you pray to such a thing?

”If you find that you do believe God exists then you can't very well ignore Him!"

This is loaded statement. If I believed that I have a father who abandoned my mother and me shortly after I was born, can I not ignore him? If I find that my long lost father is shacking up with a blond in the Island of Malta, I can’t very well ignore him? Why not?

And when out of curiosity I send investigators to find him, I never seem to be able find him, should I not ignore him? How long should I keep looking? Before I die, should I instruct my children and my children’s children to look for him? Forever?

Why must I worship a father or a god who has not shown up to my birthdays or wedding, who has not bothered to write to even to send a card? If my father was amoral, then I could and would ignore him. Forget worshipping him; I might even dislike him!

BTW, Why ‘Him’? If god exists, he is not likely to be male. Why can’t we call it “IT”?

“If you further conclude that God is good then surely you could figure that God has good reason for the state of the world as it is. Your question supposes a thesis that halts half way without reason.”

What? Can you please speak more plainly?

Orthoprax said...

BR,

"Said another way, you are used to the concept that cars are made in a factory, by groups of people. No such knowledge is known of the universe."

I'm not sure where you think we're disagreeing. But it's not a matter of "used to" - it's a matter of understanding how cars are made - indeed, how most complex human artifacts are made. Rarely by a single individual.

"Suppose there is one God who makes the primordial ingredients for the universe. Another makes the requisite explosion. Another sets the laws of gravity and motion. Another organizes planets, etc. Perhaps another is a biologist of sorts, responsible for life within the planets. Surely you agree that the universe is more complicated than a car. Why is it un-parsimonous to postulate that there are teams of gods, each with their own area of specialty?"

Ok, see this is a different level of entity multiplication. You are supposing an army of creation where each deity then requires an independent explanation for itself. Parsimony is interested in introducing _fewer_ things that require explanation - hence the one God.

Secondly, while the universe is more complex than a car, the reason why a car is usually created by a team is because of human limitations - not because of the complexity in itself. It would be a great fallacy to assume that God is like man and similarly limited.

"About evidence for morality of God you write: “There is plenty of evidence - just nothing conclusive.” Would you please share the evidence of the morality of god with me?"

You didn't say 'morality' - the issue was evidence regarding God being 'good' or 'bad.' With respect to the indirect evidence in front of us, assuming God created our reality, then it's good that we are alive, are conscious, aware of the world and can appreciate it, feel pleasures and so on. On the bad side are things like nature's apparent non-regard for human suffering, rampant injustice, the inevitability of death and so on. Human existence is awash with good and bad things - but does anything conclusively stick to the transcendent? Not so much.

"I am asking it of you. If you believe in a god but are not sure whether he is of upstanding moral character, then why would you pray to such a thing?"

Frankly, as I see it, it's a matter of one's approach to existence. I see human existence as more good than bad and so I don't have issue with expressing my gratitude. Beyond that, I don't know if God has what we'd call a moral character and therefore such a concept is only a human construct to describe something much more subtle. I am willing to subscribe to that construct since I don't have a better one, but philosophically I don't fully accept it.

"Why must I worship a father or a god who has not shown up to my birthdays or wedding, who has not bothered to write to even to send a card? If my father was amoral, then I could and would ignore him. Forget worshipping him; I might even dislike him!"

Ok...if your concept of God is like a person then that's hardly a concept of God worth being very concerned about in the first place. If you have not yet noticed, my ideas about God tend to be much more nuanced and abstract.

"BTW, Why ‘Him’? If god exists, he is not likely to be male. Why can’t we call it “IT”?"

It's convention. Call God whatever you want but you might confuse people otherwise.

"What? Can you please speak more plainly?"

If you believe God is good then you can easily also believe that God has good reason for permitting evil to operate on earth. So your question was kinda silly.

badrabbi said...

Orthoprax, with each comment, the issues are multiplying. I will deal with an issue or two per comment so that we can accomplish more.

By your first comment, I trust that we are in agreement that complex things are made only “rarely by a single individual”. I agree.

Take this concept, then, and apply it to the universe. A universe as complicated as ours, may in fact have been created by one entity. Equally, or perhaps more likely, it could have been created by more than one entity. We simply do not have enough information to form an opinion. It is possible, I suppose, to have an omnipotent deity doing all the work. It is also possible to have to have 2 or more God like creatures, not omnipotent but nearly so, to perform the creation in question.

Parsimony states that when there are alternative explanations to a given problem, usually the simplest is likely to be the best. Occam’s razor states the same concept: It is good to keep postulates as simple as possible but as complex as necessary.

The postulates regarding the origin of the universe take 3 possibilities:

1. The universe came to be through natural mechanisms; no violations of the laws of nature took place in its creation.
2. The universe came about by ONE omnipotent creator, who necessarily must have violated the rules of nature as we know them, and created EVERYTHING
3. The universe was created by two or more creators, each specialized in their area of expertise, who created the universe in one or more phases.

It seems to me that postulate #1 is the most parsimonious of the 3, but I am not insisting that this is so. #2 and #3 have the same complexity. In the former case, you are introducing the complexity of “all powerful” to the explanation. In the latter case, you are postulating multiple entities.

It seems to me that at the very least, all three of the above are equally parsimonious. But even if you were right, and the concept of one god is simpler than, say, 2 gods, parsimony alone would not be a sufficient enough explanation to state that the ONE GOD hypothesis is the correct one. For example, if I asked you who came over my house for dinner last night, it would be an error for you to say “well, you had one person over since by Occam’s razor, this is the simplest explanation”! The fact is that for you to answer the question, you need facts that are not in your possession. The number of Gods in existence is similarly not within the realm of your knowledge.

So, aside from parsimony, do you have any explanations or theories that GOD is ONE?

Orthoprax said...

BR,

"Take this concept, then, and apply it to the universe. A universe as complicated as ours, may in fact have been created by one entity. Equally, or perhaps more likely, it could have been created by more than one entity."

No, as I explained above - this is a fallacy. It is only complex human artifacts that we know typically involve multiple people to create. It is a misplaced analogy to assume the work of God is like the work of man and that God is like man.

"It seems to me that postulate #1 is the most parsimonious of the 3, but I am not insisting that this is so."

You exhibit another fallacy in your reasoning. The most parsimonious explanation cannot be an impossible one! How can the laws of nature have brought about their own existence? No matter whether the debate is religious in character or not virtually everyone agrees that there was some form of supernature, whether the word is used or not, to describe how our universe came to be.

Secondly, I have not introduced any 'all-powerful' corrolary as that's actually an unrequired proposition. Whether God is all-powerful or not is subject to a different discussion and not here where God merely needs to be powerful enough.

Lastly, I never declared myself to have knowledge which I did not. I justified a view based on normative reasoning without declaring that such a view is held with knowledge. I do declare it is _most likely_ without declaring gnosticism.

badrabbi said...

Orthoprax;

A nice healthy debate is one thing. Rehashing the same concepts dressed in different words is another. Just so I am satisfied that clarity of thought is not at issue in our impasse, I am going to ask te questions once more.
1. Why do you beleive that God is One? (I do not agree with your parsimony argument, and rehashing it would amount to obfuscation).
2. If you are ascribing any characteristic to God, can you tell me what it is?

A Fellow Skeptic said...

Hi.

I've been following the debate.

Regarding the single deity/multiple deities issue, let me offer the following.

There are, basically, three types of existences:

Finite, Potentially Infinite, and Actually Infinite.

Finite things are most things in the physical world (humans, rocks, trees, etc.). They have a beginning, an end, and many limitations.

Potentially Infinite things are things that have some infinite aspect, but are still limited in some way. For example, a straight line. A straight line parallel with the x-axis is infinite along the x-axis, but it is still limited to existing on only one point along the y-axis. It has infinite length, but limited width, and it only exists in the two quadrants it passes through, and it cannot pass through more than two quadrants.

An Absolute Infinity is infinite in all aspects and has no limitations.


The problem with the multiple deities scenario is that multiple deities can only be Potentially Infinite (limited) and not Absolutely Infinite (unlimited).

You cannot have more than one Absolute Infinity, since having more than one would necessitate a limitation on the part of one, which would mean that one would only be Potentially Infinite.

One could propose a team of Potentially Infinite deities manufacturing universes - but since these deities are not Absoultely Infinite, they are limited existences (like everything in the observable universe), and would therefore require an explanation for THEIR existences, just like we are searching for an explanation for the observed universe itself.

So, the team of deities explanation really just complicates things even more, since we then have to explain where these deities came from.

A team of deities would also mean that the different deities would have differing abilities and strengths, and that even if one is more powerful than the others, that deity (since by necessity it would have to be only Potentially Infinite) would still be limited and would therefore require an explanation for its existence.

Also, one cannot propose that an Absoultely Infinite deity created the others and then died. Since dying would be a limitation, such a deity could not be Absoultely Infinite, and would therefore require an explanation for its existence.

One could propose that an Absolutely Infinite deity created a team of limited deities and tasked them with manufacturing universes. However, this would run counter to the quest for a more simpler explanation (since you need to add in the step for creating the limited deities and giving them their tasks), and in the end, itleads back to there only being possible only one Absolutely Infinite deity.

Orthoprax said...

BR,

"A nice healthy debate is one thing. Rehashing the same concepts dressed in different words is another."

Hum? What are you saying? I'm being forthright and I take offense at your suggestion otherwise.

"1. Why do you beleive that God is One? (I do not agree with your parsimony argument, and rehashing it would amount to obfuscation)."

I'm sorry that you don't agree with the argument, but it remains valid. In addition to it, I also find that cosmological-type arguments, as I mentioned indriectly elsewhere here, also firmly suggest a single "prime mover" whereas multiple deities merely beg the question.

"2. If you are ascribing any characteristic to God, can you tell me what it is?"

Beyond God existing and being identified as the ultimate non-dependent reality I wouldn't hardly ascribe anything to God on a philosophical level. Practically however, I'm more flexible and take some conventional understandings as tools for approach without necessarily recognizing them as ultimate truth.

badrabbi said...

LOL, Ortho, don;t take offense. No one is accusing you of not being forthright. It is the lack of clarity I am onjecting to.

Skeptic, an excellent post.

I am busy working now, and can not respond. Will respond to both shortly.

Xvi said...

While I am aware of the "absolute infinite" concept and acknowledge its simplicity in answering the 1 vs 100 question, I have personally relied on an idea that is more perceptual and less conceptual. The fact of the matter is that almost every natural phenomenon that exists can and has been attributed to a scientific reason. The formation of the cosmos and the formation of the atom both have understandable causes. The seemingly few mysteries that still exist can be assumed to have similar rationalities that mankind may one day understand. The last frontier however is the singularity. Because all observable (and non observable) laws of nature directly stem from the "explosion" of the singularity, there is no way to determine what occured prior to the singularity.

Furthermore, because time is a product of space, and space is a product of the singularities expansion, then the singularity is infinite prior to the expansion and continues to be infinite outside the parameters of space-time. While that is more complicated than it be, the crux is this: you have your choice between atheism and faith at this point. Was there a previous (or infinite number of previous) universe(s) that collapsed into themselves, reforming that singularity that eventualy created our own universe; or was that singularity truly infinite, implying that this universe is the one and only.

If you believe the latter, then that singularity IS god, by any name you call him and whatever attributes you perceive him having.

With that one single act of creation, all the laws of physics (and thus all the laws of science) were laid down. Science hasnt proven god, but it DOES tell us that if he exists, he did it by himself.

That was meant to be simple but it got out of hand. sorry

Orthoprax said...

Xvi,

"If you believe the latter, then that singularity IS god, by any name you call him and whatever attributes you perceive him having."

The singularity which no longer exists as such is God?

In any case, Big Bang theology suggests to me, as you said, a choice between many inconsequential universes or one all-important universe. Then since we only know of this one universe, I don't think it's a matter of faith to recognize our existence as being very special.

What naturally follows then is a realization of the absurdity of the belief that our existence is a super-duper amazing thing but that the origin of our existence is of no meaningful account whatsoever. This is the position that a one-universe atheist must take.

Xvi said...

OP,

"The singularity which no longer exists as such is God?"

well... not as such, no. A certain level of panentheism would be coupled with this theory. But any concept of an all-infinite god would require a pan- or panen-theistic clause. Technically, the singularity STILL exists. Only, now we call it the universe.

"...since we only know of this one universe, I don't think it's a matter of faith to recognize our existence as being very special."

I think you may have over-stepped a rational boundary. While the "one-and-only universe" theory does sattisfy occum's razor, it does not account for the singularity. The unknown pre-universe is a scientific stop-sign. The multi-verse theory, while not technically answering the question, sides-steps the issue by saying that the expansion/collapse has, and will, occur infinitely.

But yeah, a one-universe atheist has to be doing some extraordinary head-turning to miss the amazingness of the elegant universe we inhabit.

Orthoprax said...

AFS,

"An Absolute Infinity is infinite in all aspects and has no limitations."

What is there that requires the existence of any absolute infinite entity in the first place? The point is that anything less begs the question.

I would use your same argument but with terms more akin to contingent existence and non-contingent existence.

I think a satisfying metaphysical view posits an ultimate non-contingent existence which is the substrate upon which all other existence relies - the ground of being, as it were. Interestingly, this same idea is found consistently in many religious and philosophical schools.

Be it Hinduism's Brahman, Neoplatonism's Source, Kabbalah's Ein Sof, Spinoza's Substance, or Tillich's Ground of Being - they're all talking about the same thing.

Orthoprax said...

Xvi,

"Technically, the singularity STILL exists."

Of course, but that's why I chose my words carefully - 'as such.'

"While the "one-and-only universe" theory does sattisfy occum's razor, it does not account for the singularity."

Of course not - it's talking about different things. The one-universe conclusion is statement on the nature of things, an account for the singularity is a statement on the origin of things.

"The unknown pre-universe is a scientific stop-sign. The multi-verse theory, while not technically answering the question, sides-steps the issue by saying that the expansion/collapse has, and will, occur infinitely."

I'm not sure how familiar you are with the various multiverse hypotheses, but the one I was referring to was not one represented by the perennial Big Crunching series of universes, but the concept that there exists some arbitrarily-sized superuniverse in one form or another from which universes of all possible permutations of physical laws perpetually arise from.

This hypothesis turns the apparent fine-tuning of our universe into something less meaningful than someone winning the lottery. If there are an infinite number of tickets, it's guaranteed that _somebody_ is going to win no matter how low the odds. We just got lucky.

This is typically the hypothesis favored by atheists - though I would argue it's actually a matter of faith to accept that as anything more than science fiction.

Xvi said...

OP,

Mea culpa on the misreading. I interpreted your multi-verse to mean an expansion/contraction model.

All the same though, there is plenty of wiggle room within a single-universe theory for doubt. The difference between our universe and any of the other infinite hypothetical universes would lie in the laws of nature and how they manifest over billions of years. The idea is that life is so spectacularly unlikely, but when confronted by an infinite choices of physical nature it is inevitable. You may not need infinite universes... or even two, for that matter. Life, intelligence, etc. may not be that spectacular after all. Dr. Frank Drake's equation on the likelyness of life is a very compelling argument.

(basically you divide all the stars of the universe by those that have planetary systems. then divide that by systems that could potentially support life, then divide that by the number that coukld potentially arise to higher intelligence, etc... The point is that in the Milky Way alone there MAY be millions of life-supporting planets.)

And if the point is not about life, but that only one universe exists, making it special, perhaps thats not true either. It may be the one-and-only but its still a pretty damn big place. If you wanted, you could make the multi-verse spiritual.

After all, there is ONLY ONE multi-verse. You've got to feel special about that.

At the end of the day, you can only go in two directions. Either everything boils down to just one of something (universe, multiverse, existence, what have you)

or

everything exists as part of an infinite continuum.

Either way, I suppose, you can find supreme spiritual ideas, or clear and evident proof to a lack of order and higher meaning.

Orthoprax said...

Xvi,

"Life, intelligence, etc. may not be that spectacular after all. Dr. Frank Drake's equation on the likelyness of life is a very compelling argument."

I'm familiar with the equation, but the point is that all of those physical permutations still rely on the single set of orderly laws that are constant. And given the type of macro-deterministic world we live in, every physical star system was "set" pretty soon after the Bang.

"After all, there is ONLY ONE multi-verse. You've got to feel special about that."

Potentially but the point is that it makes our existence arbitrary.

"Either way, I suppose, you can find supreme spiritual ideas, or clear and evident proof to a lack of order and higher meaning."

Fair enough.

Yehudi Hilchati said...

This is similar in some ways to ideas of the Rambam (Maimonides).

In Rambam's commentary on the mishna, at the beginning of the Introduction to Perek Chelek, (better known for where he introduces his 13 principles), he presents the idea of a child who is being coaxed to study Torah by the adults. At a very young age, they offer him candy. At a slightly more advanced age, they offer him money. As he gets older they tell him studying Torah will bring him the honor of his peers. And finally, as an adult he realizes that the reward of Torah is itself.

As insightful as this is, Rambam simply used this as a mashal (parable) to our eschatological views. He presents (in a rather good natured sarcastic tone) the range of fantastic ideas we imagine olam haba and yemot hamashiach will bring. He seems to be chiding the readers that they should be looking past stories that are formulated for children and see deeper into why we do mitzvot and into the nature of the universe.

Anonymous said...

"I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption ... For myself, as no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneous liberation from a certain political and economic system, and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom."

(REPORT, June 1966. "Confession of Professed Atheist," A. Huxley)

Anonymous said...

Most scientists believe that the universe started with the big bang. They all acknowledge that what existed before this big bang was outside time, space and matter. Some call this a "potential field" and others call this "God". No one will be able to get into a time machine and go look what was there before the big bang.

You will never be able to obtain objective evidence for either side because we are talking about something that by definition we are not able to perceive with our direct senses.

However Judaism claims that this infinite being did make himself known and built into us a way to never forget i.e. Tefillin, Passover, Mezuzah etc.

Hence our belief rests on the premise that our Grandfathers did not lie to us. At the end of the day since we have no time machine this is what we are banking on. Jews side with the Jewish sages verse the Atheists.

Anonymous said...

Antony Flew recently changed his position from devout Atheist
http://www.sciencefindsgod.com/blog/2006/02/has-science-discovered-god.html

This is the argument that was presented:

http://tinyurl.com/2jz93e

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

"You will never be able to obtain objective evidence for either side because we are talking about something that by definition we are not able to perceive with our direct senses."

Well, yes and no. Did you read this month's Scientific American? Based on the size of ripples in space time - which we can theoretically measure - competing theories contend that they will be larger or smaller if they were caused by inflation (the generally accepted theory) or a bouncing mechanism from a previous universe. Although the truth is that all of such theories are founded only on weak conjecture. In any case we perceive very little with our _direct_ senses but we've gotten pretty good with our gadgets and the power of inference.

"Hence our belief rests on the premise that our Grandfathers did not lie to us. At the end of the day since we have no time machine this is what we are banking on. Jews side with the Jewish sages verse the Atheists."

I take a more middle road. Atheists may have a bias, but so surely do our Jewish Sages. And frankly, I know very well that the methods of the rabbis are rather flawed. I guess I have to figure it out on my own, eh?

Orthoprax said...

Furthermore, I never cared much about Anthony Flew one way or the other and I think people make a bigger deal about the guy than he deserves, but I'm definitely not convinced by the work of Gerald Schroeder.

badrabbi said...

Oy vey, look how complicated this got! Let's see if we can return it to the basics:

In the preceding discussions, most of us have focused on whether there is a god. Some of us have asked for clarification as to what god is. Orthoprax offered the following: 1) God is defined as that which created the universe, and 2) God is defined as good.

We can debate the above all century (people have). But notice that inherent in the definition of God is that GOD is ONE. I have challenged this supposition on the grounds that there is no evidence for such a supposition. Orthoprax states that by Occum’s razor, it is simpler to assume that there is one God. Again, I am not convinced that Occum’s razor applies. You see, there are necessarily 3 possibilities:

1. The number of Gods is Zero
2. The number of Gods is one
3. The number of Gods is more than one

It seems to me that parsimony alone can not differentiate between the above three. Again, I remind you of the analogy I used earlier: If I were to ask you how many people were over at my house last night, it would be an error to invoke parsimony and declare that there must have been one guest! The fact is you would not know as you do not have enough information.

I am not certain why it has been so difficult to realize that parsimony is a misuse of the concept in applying it to God’s characteristics. Let’s for once deal with it and move on.

Orthoprax said...

BR,

Your analogy remains flawed and my use of parsimony remains valid.

Think of God more in terms of physics than in terms of people. The existence of the universe points to something that brought it into existence. And why should I presume there are multiple such things when a single one suffices to explain?

Anonymous said...

"In any case we perceive very little with our _direct_ senses but we've gotten pretty good with our gadgets and the power of inference."

Have you studied String Theory or Quantum Physics?

The energy scales at which it would be possible to see the stringy nature of particles is much greater than that experimentally accessible. This means that it is entirely "inference".

Here is another quote:

"The universe is mostly empty. We like to think of space as empty and matter as solid but in fact there is essentially nothing to matter whatsoever it’s completely insubstantial. Take a look at an atom, we think of it as a kind of hard ball but then we say oh no not really it’s this little tiny point of really dense matter right at the center surrounded by a kind of fluffy probability cloud of electrons popping in and out of existence but then it turns out that that’s not even right that even the nucleus that we think of as so dense pops in and out of existence just as readily as the electrons do. The most solid thing you can say about all this insubstantial matter is that it is more like a thought it’s like a concentrated bit of information."

- Jeffrey Satinover, M.D.
(Psychiatry), M.S. (Physics)
Past President of the C.G. Jung Foundation of New York, and William James Lecturer in the Psychology and Religion at Harvard University

When we get deeper into matter we are digging with "inference".

"I take a more middle road. Atheists may have a bias, but so surely do our Jewish Sages. And frankly, I know very well that the methods of the rabbis are rather flawed. I guess I have to figure it out on my own, eh?"

"If we find the Torah irrelevant when trying to determine our humanity and how to attain it, we must ask where the fault lies. Is it possible that this document, which has nurtured the soul of man throughout recorded time, has nothing of interest to say on a subject that so troubles our spirit? It founded the lives of the most skeptical and scholarly people in history for thousands of years, and profoundly affected the worldview of every nation which came in contact with it. What will explain this relentless, penetrating influence?"

- Jeremy Kagan, The Jewish Self, Pg. 16

Anonymous said...

"never cared much about Anthony Flew one way or the other and I think people make a bigger deal about the guy than he deserves"

A half-century ago, in 1955, Professor Antony Flew set the agenda for modern atheism with his “Theology and Falsification”, a paper presented in a debate with C.S. Lewis. This work became the most widely reprinted philosophical publication of the last 50 years. Over the decades, he published more than 30 books attacking belief in God and debated a wide range of religious believers.

He was the Gadol Ha'dor of the Athiests.

Then, in a 2004 Summit at New York University, Professor Flew announced that the discoveries of modern science have led him to the conclusion that the universe is indeed the creation of infinite Intelligence.

Hence the "big deal".

http://tinyurl.com/2jz93e
"I'm definitely not convinced by the work of Gerald Schroeder."

why?
what exactly didn't you find convincing?

Antony Flew basically changed his mind based on schroeder's argument due to the advent of new scientific evidence (presented in that vid).

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

"Have you studied String Theory or Quantum Physics?
The energy scales at which it would be possible to see the stringy nature of particles is much greater than that experimentally accessible. This means that it is entirely "inference"."

Experimentation _is_ inference. String Theory has virtually no experimental data and it is therefore speculation. All science is based on inference and very few sciences depend only on unaided human perception.

Inference is what a detective uses when he's trying to figure out a cime scene and what a doctor does when he's trying to figure out what ails ya. You make it sound like it's some kind of illegitimate way of thinking.

"Re: Jeremy Kagan"

Who said anything about irrelevant? I value the Torah and Jewish tradition and I think there is much of worth there, but I also take it with a grain of salt.

"Re: Antony Flew"

No, I understand why people make a big deal about him but I don't think he deserves it. Atheists aren't fazed by personalities so Flew's old-age conversion to deism isn't very meaningful.

"Re: Schroeder"

I read his stuff about science and Genesis and found it very lame. The stuff on the vid w/r/t the anthropic principle is something I'm sympathetic to but it's not his creation.

Anonymous said...

Again, the deeper we zoom in the less physical the world becomes. Quantum physics is attempting to address fundamental problems in physics etc.

Again I quote

"The universe is mostly empty. We like to think of space as empty and matter as solid but in fact there is essentially nothing to matter whatsoever it’s completely insubstantial. Take a look at an atom, we think of it as a kind of hard ball but then we say oh no not really it’s this little tiny point of really dense matter right at the center surrounded by a kind of fluffy probability cloud of electrons popping in and out of existence but then it turns out that that’s not even right that even the nucleus that we think of as so dense pops in and out of existence just as readily as the electrons do. The most solid thing you can say about all this insubstantial matter is that it is more like a thought it’s like a concentrated bit of information."

- Jeffrey Satinover, M.D.
(Psychiatry), M.S. (Physics)
Past President of the C.G. Jung Foundation of New York, and William James Lecturer in the Psychology and Religion at Harvard University

You missed the point about Kagan. You have issues with the Torah and I quoted Kagan for this point

"Is it possible that this document, which has nurtured the soul of man throughout recorded time, has nothing of interest to say on a subject that so troubles our spirit? It founded the lives of the most skeptical and scholarly people in history for thousands of years, and profoundly affected the worldview of every nation which came in contact with it."

So I'm saying "orthoprax" has issues with the Torah. How much Talmud have you studied? How much time have you spent with the Jewish sages of our generation trying to work out your questions?

The Chazon Ish said there are no more apikorsim today because you need to be a Talmud Chachum to be an apikorus... and that we don't have today.

"Atheists aren't fazed by personalities so Flew's old-age conversion to deism isn't very meaningful."

ummm this is incorrect. again he was the Gadol Hador of the Athiests... they were not happy about this... see the buzz 1,740,000 pages
http://www.google.com/search?q=antony%20flew

Just for fun see your buzz in comparison
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=orthoprax.blogspot.com&btnG=Search

Let me quote Austin Cline who runs the "Agnosticism / Atheism" of about.com

"Have you read the news about Antony Flew abandoning atheism? This could be big news because Flew is one of the most prominent atheist philosophers of the 20th century."

and he goes on attempting to mitigate the news.

You can also go to "infidels" website where they have an entire section dedicated to Antony Flew.

Let me quote one of the authors

"Antony Flew is considering the possibility that there might be a God. Sort of. Flew is one of the most renowned atheists of the 20th century, even making the shortlist of "Contemporary Atheists" at About.com. So if he has changed his mind to any degree, whatever you may think of his reasons, the event itself is certainly newsworthy. After hearing of this, I contacted Antony directly to discuss it, and I thought it fitting to cut short any excessive speculation or exaggeration by writing a brief report on, well, what's going on."

So Atheists are fazed by this personality.

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

"Again, the deeper we zoom in the less physical the world becomes."

And therefore what? I'm not arguing with what you said but I just don't see the relevance.

"You missed the point about Kagan. You have issues with the Torah and I quoted Kagan for this point"

Again, and therefore? I agree with Kagan in this regard. The Torah is not an irrelevant piece of ancient lore.

"So I'm saying "orthoprax" has issues with the Torah. How much Talmud have you studied? How much time have you spent with the Jewish sages of our generation trying to work out your questions?"

Quite a bit, but I don't feel any compulsion to justify myself with this. You may feel better about your own beliefs if you paint me in ignorance, but it just isn't so.

"The Chazon Ish said there are no more apikorsim today because you need to be a Talmud Chachum to be an apikorus... and that we don't have today."

Sweet.

"ummm this is incorrect. again he was the Gadol Hador of the Athiests... they were not happy about this..."

This is tedious... My point was that philosophically his conversion is not meaningful. He's just a guy and most atheists are not bothered by it.

He is interesting, sure, and that's why people talk about it - even atheists - but it's not of any lasting significance.

Frankly, your whole debating style of quoting people instead of making actual arguments is tedious in itself.

badrabbi said...

Orthoprax said:
"why should I presume there are multiple such things when a single one suffices to explain?"

LOL, there are so many wonderous things in this world. There are more than one seeming abrogation of the laws of the universe. There is the singularity of the big bang, the fine-tuning of the laws of universe, the existence of life in our planet, etc. What gives you the right to assume that all of these phenomena emenated from one single source (God)? I mean it is possible, but why assume that one being is capable of all these things?

Orthoprax said...

BR,

After all of this I can only figure that you don't understand what parsimony - an economy of explanation - means.

You might as well be asking why physicists should believe they can combine the fundamental forces of the universe into a TOE. Gravity and electromagnetism seem _so_ different, why not just assume they were made separately?

Plants, animals and fungi are _so_ different! Why should biologists assume they came from a common source? I mean, sure, it's possible, but why assume that one process is capable of all these things?

avrum68 said...

"Atheists aren't fazed by personalities so Flew's old-age conversion to deism isn't very meaningful."

Curious, why would atheists be any more, or less, fazed by personalities than religious folks?

If I can have a quarter for every time I read: "Einstein didn't believe in God..." or "Most scientists are atheists...".

Orthoprax said...

Avrum,

"Curious, why would atheists be any more, or less, fazed by personalities than religious folks?"

Many religious people follow people, ministers, priests, etc. and are not independent belief-wise.

If the Pope, the Catholic's Gadol Hador (to borrow a phrase) were to lose faith - THAT would be a big deal.

Likewise, what do you think would happen if any of the actual Jewish 'Gedolei Hador' were to reject Orthodoxy? Imagine if the Lubavitcher Rebbe, when he was still alive, became secular. That would be a big deal for people.

Scientists, being outsiders, conversely don't mean much for the staunchly religious.

badrabbi said...

"After all of this I can only figure that you don't understand what parsimony - an economy of explanation - means."

Hmmm, you were right, orthoprax, I did not know! Amazing!

Let's just admit God did it all. We can all go home now!

Orthoprax said...

BR,

You are free to be as snide as you wish, but when you keep making the same argument based on an apparently poor understanding then I don't know why else you would do so unless I start attacking your character.

The question for parsimony is - what does adding more gods get you for your explanation buck? What is made more clear through so doing? The answer is nothing. So you might as well stick with one.

Orthoprax said...

"The answer is nothing."

It's actually worse than nothing since you are then positing _more_ things which themselves require explanation. It is parsimonious debt!

badrabbi said...

You wake up one day in a hospital, with several body parts bandaged. You open your eyes and a nurse comes to the room, explaining that you were involved in a car accident and that the medical team worked all night to save you.

Now you want to write a "thank you card" for the doctor(s) who saved you. You have no further information other than there are several parts of you that are bandaged. Are you going to evoke 'parsimony' and say "well there does not seems any utility to say that I had more than one doctor involved in my car, so I am going to assume I only had one"? or say "what does it get me to think that I had more than one doctor"?

You can "attack my character" all you want but at the end of the day, it seems that all you have is this parsimony argument. You do not wish to let go of it. Even if I told you that you were right, and you are not, you know that parsimony alone is not enough to decide a question. You need more than that.

Again, I ask, parsimony aside, is there any evidence that there is only one God? If not, can you justify the claimed superiority of the monotheistic vs. polytheistic religions?

Orthoprax said...

BR,

"Are you going to evoke 'parsimony' and say "well there does not seems any utility to say that I had more than one doctor involved in my car, so I am going to assume I only had one"? or say "what does it get me to think that I had more than one doctor"?"

This is exactly the same type of analogy you gave last time and it fails for the same reasons. I thought you didn't like rehashing debates.

The reason why such parsimonious reasoning most likely fails with respect to the medical care is because we both know that's not how modern hospitals operate. In each of your analogies there is implicit knowledge of how things really work.

The reason why parsimony exists as a valid form of reasoning is because it is generally valid more times than not. Just because you can cherry pick examples where it fails doesn't mean it is a bad rule of thumb.

"Again, I ask, parsimony aside, is there any evidence that there is only one God?"

As I had told you before and as I discussed briefly among the other commentators, I do find the cosmological-type arguments compelling. All of which point to a single non-contingent existence.

I also had told you that "given what we know about how the universe came to be - with its single point of origin, a singular rational order, and unified set of physical laws and their expressions - there is no reason to set more than a single entity as responsible for existence."

Do you think I'll give a different answer each time you ask the same question?

"You can "attack my character" all you want but at the end of the day, it seems that all you have is this parsimony argument."

Perhaps an issue with your character deals with memory loss.

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

Oh, Ok, now it is memory loss and not being snide that is amiss in my character. Just to be clear, I like your character just fine!

Regarding my second example being the same as my first, I do admit that they are analogous. The fact of the matter is that the bandages on the sick could in fact have been placed by the same resident ER doctor. On the other hand, they could have been placed there by a team of surgeons. I do not know how to get it across you that there is no information to make a supposition. There is no parsimony involved in the lack of knowledge.

Regarding the “cosmologic argument”, I am glad at least that you are trying to give an argument besides parsimony. The cosmological argument refers to the so-called “first” cause. That is, there must have been an event which gave rise to subsequent events. Such an event, by definition, must be singular.

I hope, given my flawed character, that I have parsimoniously summarized the argument.

Now, far be it for me to join the ranks of the giants who have convincingly attacked the cosmological argument with success; I will not go there.

What I am asking, though, Orthoprax, is a different question: Suppose I concede to you (and I am not conceding this by the way) that there was a singular first mover that caused the FIRST event. Given this concession, does it follow that this first mover caused ALL events?

Is it not alternatively possible that the first event brought about a set of events, perhaps unconsciously, perhaps randomly, such that one, two, or more movers came to be, each with their associated “specialties”? If an event such as the big bang can result in the creation of galaxies as well as salamanders, why can’t a first event result in the creation of two or more gods (remember we are defining gods as entities that create things, preferably consciously)?
the "cosmological argument"

Orthoprax said...

BR,

"I do not know how to get it across you that there is no information to make a supposition. There is no parsimony involved in the lack of knowledge."

A parsimonious supposition is based on a lack of knowledge. It is an assumption based on economy and it would be valid to presume, all other things being equal, that you were patched up by one person unless you have reason to suppose otherwise.

It just so happens that our modern hospitals rarely involve only one doctor when an unconscious patient comes wheeling in so we implicitly have more data than your example is letting on. That additional information suffices to make the economical supposition less useful.

As I said above, generally speaking, however, parsimony is an appropriate way to make a decision between competing theories. This includes mono- vs polytheism.

"Is it not alternatively possible that the first event brought about a set of events, perhaps unconsciously, perhaps randomly, such that one, two, or more movers came to be, each with their associated “specialties”?"

Anything is possible. But why should I seriously consider this as an option? Do you have any reason to believe that these multiple entities exist?

Orthoprax said...

In any case, these other entities would only be lesser creations of God, not gods in themselves.

badrabbi said...

Read the following on Parsimony(http://stardestroyer.net/Empire/Essays/Occam.html). The analogy to your argument is Equation #3.

badrabbi said...

"In any case, these other entities would only be lesser creations of God, not gods in themselves."

Why so?

Orthoprax said...

BR,

"The analogy to your argument is Equation #3."

No it's not. My theory is workable and accurate as far as observable phenomena are concerned.

I defined what I meant by God in a philosophical sense pretty clearly - a non-contingent existence responsible for the universe as we know it.

Competing theories are a) none of these things, b) one of these things or c) multiple of these things.

A is unworkable and therefore invalid since the universe didn't exist forever. C, besides not making sense, adds useless entities to the equation. B is the one left standing.

"Why so?"

Because they are contingent creations.

Anonymous said...

"This is tedious... My point was that philosophically his conversion is not meaningful. He's just a guy and most atheists are not bothered by it.

He is interesting, sure, and that's why people talk about it - even atheists - but it's not of any lasting significance.

Frankly, your whole debating style of quoting people instead of making actual arguments is tedious in itself."

It is of lasting significance since this happened in 2004 and people have been talking about it everyday since!
http://technorati.com/posts/tag/antony+flew

I'm sorry that this is "tedious"... but things tend to get a bit tedious when someone makes remarks that are not sound, they are proven wrong and then attempt to redeem themselves.

Your debating style is quite similar.

resh lakish said...

Hi, hope you had a good yontif;

OP,

You seem to be stuck in a rather annoying thread from two directions.

I think BR is being intentionally obtuse. The first cause argument has to collapse to a single uncaused cause, even if that single cause causes multiple other causes which are themselves the causes of subsequent creation (a la gnosticism).

On the other hand, Anonymous doesn't seem to understand that in secular/empirical debate, argument from authority has no particular value. The religious conversion of a former atheist is only big news according to religious/scholastic rules of argument. Hell, Crick had a weird belief in panspermia, and despite his brilliance in discovering the structure of DNA, it didn't manage to convert masses of scientists to belief in extra-terrestrial origins.

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

"I'm sorry that this is "tedious"... but things tend to get a bit tedious when someone makes remarks that are not sound, they are proven wrong and then attempt to redeem themselves."

Jeez, how old are you?


RL,

Thank you for being a reflective light in this annoying molasses of obstinacy.

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

Thank you for being a reflective light in this annoying molasses of obstinacy."

I tried my best to present and argue my point. If this is somehow annoying to you, dear blogger, I am sorry. Enjoy your blog. I am out.

Anonymous said...

resh lakish,

"The religious conversion of a former atheist is only big news according to religious/scholastic rules of argument."

Correct, which is why we were speaking about the argument that he was swayed by. My comments about it being big news were only in response to OP attempting to belittle the news. The news is big because of his being persuaded by new scientific findings that did not exist when he first presented his arguments. Watch this video for the argument:
http://tinyurl.com/2jz93e

"Hell, Crick had a weird belief in panspermia, and despite his brilliance in discovering the structure of DNA, it didn't manage to convert masses of scientists to belief in extra-terrestrial origins."

Crick confided to Professor Robert Shapiro that he personally wasn't really sold on the theory, and his real purpose in espousing this new theory was to get people to drop all previous theories that they held as true (such as the chemical soup theory, and the mutation theory, etc., all of them built on the idea that live matter can evolve from dead matter, which he held can't be true) and give them an idea which they can relate to, such as unmanned rockets with live bacteria in them, to hold on to. Not that he really believed this story, but it was to help people understand that this world could only have developed form live matter. So even though in public Crick says that he still believes his theory to be "reasonable," in private he told Shapiro otherwise.

"Nothing illustrates more clearly just how intractable a problem the origin of life has become than the fact that world authorities can seriously toy with the idea of panspermia."

from:
R. Shapiro, Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on earth, New York: Bantam Books, 1986, pp. 227-228. and Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, pp. 271.

op,

"Jeez, how old are you?"
"Thank you for being a reflective light in this annoying molasses of obstinacy."

You are a pretty emotional guy. Lots of emotion... no content.

Lets do some review

"This is tedious... My point was that philosophically his conversion is not meaningful. He's just a guy and most atheists are not bothered by it.

He is interesting, sure, and that's why people talk about it - even atheists - but it's not of any lasting significance.

Frankly, your whole debating style of quoting people instead of making actual arguments is tedious in itself."

It is of lasting significance since this happened in 2004 and people have been talking about it everyday since!
http://technorati.com/posts/tag/antony+flew

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

Discourse on my blog has never gotten as low and annoying as it has with you (and I'm including debate I've had with Jewish Philosopher!). So, yeah, you're a troll. My main emotion with you: annoyance.

As my readers know, I have hundreds of posts of purely emotional content. Well done, young Skywalker.


BR,

For the record, I only thought you were being annoying because you were being redundant. At least you're not a jerk.

Anonymous said...

Skeptics often use the appeal to authority as a club to beat believers with. "How can you reject evolution when so many scientists believe it?" So the defection of a scientist from atheism to belief is significant.

Orthoprax said...

Anon,

Flew is not a scientist. And atheism is not a matter of science.

It is valid to refer to experts in the field, say biologists, when referring to issues of biology - like evolution.

Anonymous said...

"Discourse on my blog has never gotten as low and annoying as it has with you (and I'm including debate I've had with Jewish Philosopher!). So, yeah, you're a troll. My main emotion with you: annoyance.

As my readers know, I have hundreds of posts of purely emotional content. Well done, young Skywalker."

Troll? That is academic lol
Again emotion and no content.

well readers... what do you say?

Baal Habos said...

>So I'm saying "orthoprax" has issues with the Torah. How much Talmud have you studied? How much time have you spent with the Jewish sages of our generation trying to work out your questions?

UGH. There's no amount of Torah learning that one could do that would satisfy objections like that.

It's like saying I can't think Alchemy is middleaged superstition because I haven't devoted my life to studying it.

>Again emotion and no content.
well readers... what do you say?

It is ironic that you charge Orthoprax as being emotion laden. This is one of the "straightest" skeptic blogs around.

Anonymous said...

If you want to accept or reject something as True you need to learn about it!

Baal Habos said...

>If you want to accept or reject something as True you need to learn about it!


Firstly, I've learnt plenty.
Secondly, I still do.

And more importantly:

Do you accept the science of Alchemy as opposed to Chemistry? Why not how much of either have you studied? How much Astrology have you studied?

And how much Christianity have you studied. Christianity makes a specific claim, not that Judaism has no basis, but that there is a Bris Chaddasha; how much do you no about that so that you reject it out of hand?

Anonymous said...

Hi there Ortho,
I have a question. How do you explain all the 'coincidences' of the 9th of Av and still question the existence of the Hebrew God? Its just a bit more than I can deny. It cannot be mere coincidence.
Look forward to hearing your reply.

Thanks,
Rachel

Orthoprax said...

Rachel,

What coincidences?

http://orthoprax.blogspot.com/2006/08/ninth-of-av.html

AgnosticWriter said...

Orthoprax,

Though I have taken a different path from yours, I respect your intelligence and knowledge base.

I have a basic question relating to the First Mover or First Cause referred to earlier in the thread--especially as it relates to parsimony.

Presumably we've all heard the following basic challenge to the First Cause: "If everything must have a cause, and we are thus puzzled about the earliest cause of the universe, postulating a God without a cause doesn't answer the question, but only moves it back one step, introducing a Creator without a cause."

Especially bearing in mind the concept of parsimony, why postulate a God at all? Why not postulate that the universe is in some way uncaused, and holds within it the potential for all that is? This would save us the additional ingredient of a God. And if one protests that we cannot understand how a universe could originate without a God, have we done much better by postulating a God, whose uncaused existence we cannot either understand?

Orthoprax said...

AW,

"Why not postulate that the universe is in some way uncaused, and holds within it the potential for all that is?"

That's a fair point, but it doesn't do it for me. For one, we know that the universe did not exist eternally so you get into a logical cul de sac. It caused itself before it existed? Or if not that then you must have some conception of a superior reality from which the universe springs from and which has - at the very least - the power to spontaneously create a universe. And that gets you back to square one.

Secondly, an uncaused, accidental thing in my mind suggests a disordered, non-constructive mess - i.e. not the orderly, constructive world with which we are familiar. Unless you are also willing to postulate the existence of innumerous other universes, the very orderliness of our existence suggests that the odds of it being some cosmic accident are very long.

As I see it, the accident theory of creation is a non-theory and doesn't even rate in parsimonious evaluations. It's like coming across some amazing, incredible sight and saying that it "just happened." That's not an explanation!

God, being an uncaused existence, is different from the universe as an uncaused existence in terms of the permanence of existence. The universe not existing forever begs the question of where it came from. God, as a theorized eternal existence, does not provoke that same issue. Hence parsimonious profit.

AgnosticWriter said...

Orthoprax,

Thanks for addressing my comment.

You write:
"God, being an uncaused existence, is different from the universe as an uncaused existence in terms of the permanence of existence. The universe not existing forever begs the question of where it came from. God, as a theorized eternal existence, does not provoke that same issue. Hence parsimonious profit."

To me it seems that it's far premature to say that we know the universe had a beginning--except in the sense that the universe as we now know it had a beginning. True, as best current science can tell (at least to my amateur knowledge of it) the laws of time and space with which we're now familiar had their beginning at a certain point. This is not the same, it seems to me, as saying that there was not some form of pre-matter or pre-universe out of which all this derived, and in an enternal cycle or set of evolutions.

I don't mean to suggest that this is a simple concept, or that I can explain how this would work; but, of course, postulating God doesn't pretend to be able to figure out how He could be eternal and uncaused, either. And simply to include that in His definition is dangerously close to "solution by semantics." And if we're willing to ascribe eternal qualities, and qualities of unimagined intelligence and omnipotence, etc., to something we don't even know exists--God--why not ascribe eternal qualities, as well as qualities of inherent organization and complexity, to the universe (I mean overall reality/matter/energy, etc.; again, I don't mean that term in the limited sense of the current form of our universe) thus omitting the need for an additional being called God, and allowing us to collect, as you say, "parsimonious profit"?

Orthoprax said...

AW,

"This is not the same, it seems to me, as saying that there was not some form of pre-matter or pre-universe out of which all this derived, and in an enternal cycle or set of evolutions."

True, that remains to be perfectly resolved. But as far as we know, it is correct and I'm willing to make that leap.

"why not ascribe eternal qualities, as well as qualities of inherent organization and complexity, to the universe (I mean overall reality/matter/energy, etc.; again, I don't mean that term in the limited sense of the current form of our universe) thus omitting the need for an additional being called God, and allowing us to collect, as you say, "parsimonious profit"?"

Ok, then in that case, I don't think we'd be describing different things at all. If you are describing some superior level of reality that eternally exists and has the capacity for the ordered creation of our universe as we know it - then that is God. We can quibble over the characteristics of that superior reality, but fundamentally we'd be talking about the same thing.

AgnosticWriter said...

Orthoprax writes: "True, that remains to be perfectly resolved. But as far as we know, it is correct and I'm willing to make that leap."

It's your position that humans know (even if the issue isn't "perfectly resolved") what if any energy source or material (for lack of a better term) may have existed before the Big Bang? If so, please elaborate. And isn't a "leap" by definition rather unparsimonious?

Later, you write:
"Ok, then in that case, I don't think we'd be describing different things at all. If you are describing some superior level of reality that eternally exists and has the capacity for the ordered creation of our universe as we know it - then that is God. We can quibble over the characteristics of that superior reality, but fundamentally we'd be talking about the same thing."

Perhaps we are talking about the same thing; I don't know. The parsimonious position--if our best attempts at reason led us to conclude there must be a "God"--it seems to me, is to stick with the God of Spinoza (and Einstein?) which, if I understand his concept correctly, does not involve a being separate from the universe/reality but rather some organizing/animating force or characteristic within it. Is your conception of God the God of Spinoza?

And beyond the matter of First Mover and notions of parsimony, I wonder this--and I ask this in a spirit of friendly inquiry--how would even hypothetical solid knowledge of a Creator's existence lead us to belief in any particular religion, including Judaism?

(And forgive me if you've already clarified in earlier posts that you don't believe in Judaism, or explicated your arguments in support of Judaism. I have only recently encountered your blog.)

Orthoprax said...

AW,

"It's your position that humans know (even if the issue isn't "perfectly resolved") what if any energy source or material (for lack of a better term) may have existed before the Big Bang?"

Hum? No, but we can surmise that it must - at the very least - hold the power to create a universe.

"And isn't a "leap" by definition rather unparsimonious?"

Not if it is in accordance with the facts as we know them. Any other conclusion would be a bigger leap.

"Perhaps we are talking about the same thing; I don't know. The parsimonious position--if our best attempts at reason led us to conclude there must be a "God"--it seems to me, is to stick with the God of Spinoza (and Einstein?) which, if I understand his concept correctly, does not involve a being separate from the universe/reality but rather some organizing/animating force or characteristic within it. Is your conception of God the God of Spinoza?"

Yes and no. I conceive of God as the ultimate reality and therefore would not be a "part" of a larger existence. It's a matter of contingency. Beyond that, panentheismn vs pantheism, is of no significant difference.

"And beyond the matter of First Mover and notions of parsimony, I wonder this--and I ask this in a spirit of friendly inquiry--how would even hypothetical solid knowledge of a Creator's existence lead us to belief in any particular religion, including Judaism?"

It wouldn't - as a matter of theology. For that I look at Judaism as a cultural and religious heritage, a well of ideas and a way of thinking, that while a flawed human construct it still maintains value and meaning. I remain loyal to Judaism because I am a Jew, not because I am convinced of its theological assertions.

B. Spinoza said...

>God of Spinoza (and Einstein?) which, if I understand his concept correctly, does not involve a being separate from the universe/reality but rather some organizing/animating force or characteristic within it.

>Yes and no. I conceive of God as the ultimate reality and therefore would not be a "part" of a larger existence. It's a matter of contingency.

As I understand Spinoza, his understanding of God was not " some organizing/animating force or characteristic within" existence. Rather it was Existence itself. And according to Spinoza existence/God/Narure is not contingent. God/Nature is eternal and absolute.