Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I am more like Calvin than Tillch or Schleiermacher! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAa

someone has one of those tests on the net. This one has several questions based upon the popsitons of great theologians and it shows you which one's you are most like. The realization for me is staggering!

it shows That I am most Anselm! Wow. But the real schocker is I'm like my nemesis Calvin than I am like my heroes Tillich and Schleiermacher. This has got to be a crock.

You Scored as Anselm

Anselm is the outstanding theologian of the medieval period.He sees man's primary problem as having failed to render unto God what we owe him, so God becomes man in Christ and gives God what he is due. You should read 'Cur Deus Homo?'


John Calvin

Paul Tillich

Friedrich Schleiermacher

Martin Luther

Jürgen Moltmann

Karl Barth

Charles Finney


Jonathan Edwards


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I could not live with so much Calvin likeness. I took it over. This time I answer basically the same way but paid a bit more attention to a couple of things. It should not have I was like Calvin becasue I did say salvation is open to all. That should have booted Calvin out there.

Guess who I'm like this time around?

Created by : svensvensven

You Scored as Paul Tillich

Paul Tillich sought to express Christian truth in an existentialist way. Our primary problem is alienation from the ground of our being, so that our life is meaningless. Great for psychotherapy, but no longer very influential.

Paul Tillich
Friedrich Schleiermacher
Charles Finney
John Calvin
Martin Luther
Jürgen Moltmann
Jonathan Edwards
Karl Barth
You Scored as a : Paul Tillich Paul Tillich 80% Anselm 73% Friedrich Schleiermacher 67% Charles Finney 60% John Calvin 47% Martin Luther 40% Augustine 40% Jürgen Moltmann 33% Jonathan Edwards 27% Karl Barth 27%
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Paul Tillich sought to express Christian truth in an existentialist way. Our primary problem is alienation from the ground of our being, so that our life is meaningless. Great for psychotherapy, but no longer very influential.

for some reason it wont put the image through.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Is Necessity Contingent upon Being Necessary?


The God arguments I have previously discussed in the last couple of posts are guaranteed to bring head aches. This is part of the great unfairness of atheists. I'm not sure we can really blame atheists totally, but they don't do anything to help create understanding. The problem is when people can't answer an argument legitimately they will start clutching at straws. Some of those straws are quite illegitimate.

One of the arguments atheist often latch on to (on CARM HRG argued this way, recently my foray on Theology web several of them did it) is try and make the power of God a separate entity from God and thus contingent upon God. Since some aspect of God is contingent, then all of God must be contingent. I regard this is as nothing more than pure sophistry> it's just playing with words to score a cheap victory they can't win using real logic.

Here's my own parody of it. In order to be necessary God as to exist. So that means that God's necessary nature is contingent upon God's existence. Thus God is really contingent because his necessity is contingent upon his existence. Or you could say "God is contingent upon being God." This is just idiotic. It stems from the your sentences are organized. Only they did it with God's power to create the universe. That is contingent upon God being God, thus God's creative power is contingent, but without that creative power God can't be God so therefore God is contingent. The arguments all depend upon God being necessary. So in their little juvenile sophist minds the arguments are beaten.

We could say based upon this same kind of thinking that the concept of necessity is itself contingent upon being necessary. Thus there is no such thing as necessity. On the other hand contingency is the lynch pen upon which contingent things exist, thus contingency is necessary to contingent things, so contingency is really necessity. But wait, that saves the concept of God! Hey if contingency is really necessity, and God is really contingent, that means God is really necessary!

therefore, God becomes necessary again and therefore must exist!;-)

The real answer, of course, is that one is merely constructing one's sentences in such a way as to imply qualities that don't really obtain to the necessary existent. First of all it's a fallacy to think that necessary God can't have contingent attributes. There's no law of logic that says this is not possible. God's title as creator is contingent upon God having created. But there is noting in the nature of creating that would make God either cease, or fail, or be dependent upon prior conditions.

That's really the issue in contingency is prior conditions. The reason why anything would "fail" to exist, which is only hypothetical for an existing thing, is simply becasue the conditions that produced it might have been different. Once something eixts it wont fail to exist because it already does. But it could cease to exist. While the sub atomic particles that make it up wont cease to exist, the basic mange that makes it was it is, its "essence" if you wil, will cease to exist. My molecules might become part of the soil by one means or another, after I die (as worm food or compost or whatever). But I myself will be gone and wont come back. But is that dependent upon prior conditions? Sure, because if you something with no prior conditions its eternal and can't cease to exist. But something that can cease to exist will just about always prove to have had prior conditions. So as a matter of a posotoriori truth we can say that contingency always seems to involve prior conditions.

Now how does that play in making a definition of contingency? It can't really be part of the definition. It's really an a postorioi observation about entities and objects said to be contingent. The deffinition I offer is (1) something that can cease, or fail, (2) or that depends for its existence upon prior conditions. That second part of the definition, while true is derived a prostoriori. We can then observe that these two aspects of definition overlap. Things pertaining to one seem to always be observed in the category of things pertaining to (2).

This is the kind of muddle that atheists work overtime to create. Having undermined confidence in the definitions then doubt is cast upon the whole argument. But this comes entirely from creating a sense of confusing by not understanding the definitions well enough. Of course these are complex terms because they are fist divided into logical and ontological. So you have logical necessity and ontological necessity, then you have two types of contingency.

In the final analysis all of these things are bound up together. Both types of contingency obtain the same examples because there are no naturalistic things that are not the products of cause and effect. Thus ceasing or failing to exist is an outcome of contingency type 2, and type 2 is related to type one for obvious reasons. Atheists try to make it seem as though having these subdivisions disproves the arguemnt in some way and they play off the differences to make ti seem as there is no actual definition there.

Is God contingent upon being god? thus God is contingent?

God's existence is contingent upon God existing.

God's power is contingent upon God being God,.

God is contingent upon his power.

I've seen atheists argue all of these and nothing could be more inane. That's like saying the cause of an effect is the effect of the previous cause, therefore, there's no such thing as cause. This all a matter of language. God can have contingent aspects such as being creator, and still be necessary in his essential being. Secondly, we can speak in a different way.

God's attributes are not ad on qualities that God has in addition to being himself, They are part of who he is. Just like being real is not an added on quality to me, it's part of who I am. I am a real person, I am not fictional. We are not adding a spare quality to me to say that I'm real. This is merely addition information. God's title of creator is conditional upon God having created. But that is part of God's essential nature, that's just adding information about God.

Of course you can't say God is contingent upon being God, unless by that one were to say God's title as "Lord" is contingent upon God's deity as creator/savior/sustianer.Again that is not God's essential essence it is merely a reference to one relationship that he has to us, as Lord.

God's power and qualities are not contingent, and possessing them does not make God contingent upon possessing such qualities. This just redundant version of the same problem which has already been solved. The attributes of God are part of God, they are not additional ad on qualities that can be taken away. They are directly part of his essential nature. They are not the result of prior conditions, they was not a time when he didn't have them. That would be like saying my consciousness is contingent upon being me. I am defined as me by my consciousness. Being me and having my consciousness are one and the same. You can't treat those realities like separated aspects that can be separated from the person.

What God does with his power is a different matter. God's actions are contingent just as his titles are contingent. But that has nothing to do with his essence. God is still the ground being whether he produces more being or not. God's own being in and of itself is being and thus fulfills the requirement as ground of being.

All of these muddling devices are quite silly and depend entirely upon the way language is used. God creates and sustains all contingent things. That sentence makes no reference to God's power as though it were separate from himself, the acts to which it refers are not part of his essence, but the working of his energies, thus the sentence is constructed in such a way that one could not make this sort of sophistic undermining argument these atheists are trying to make.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Argument from Cosmological Necessity part 2: Reity


The previous argument (see previous post) "Argument from Cosmological Necessity," has a couple of problems. The major problem that I see is that it is grounded in big bang cosmology. I've always been able to argue my way through that because it is the state of the art and the current consensus. Even when I encountered a student of astronomy and/or physics, I think a graduate student who really knew his stuff I still come of that with an answer. He didn't' really beat the argument he sure made it appear that he did because he had so much against the BB cosmology and he was able to make it look like it was really beaten up. The argument doesn't depend upon any particular cosmology but it appears to be becasue of the way it's structured, it's grounded in Big bang cosmology. My answer was that just because he has anomalies that haven't been solved doesn't mean that the consensus had turned against the big bang. He could not really prove that it has. It does create problems because it leaves the impression that the argument beaten, though logically it's not. It also means reminded me that at some point there will be too many anomalies and the paradigm will shit and BB cosmology will not be the paradigm anymore.

This has gotten me thinking about how we really need arguments that are not grounded in cosmology or in any particular scientific paradigm. One alternative is another argument I have on my list, which I think I like better.

Argument from Reity

Definitions: Reity = the ultimate necessary state of affairs, ultimate reality.

Arbitrary Necessity = (1) The inclusion of a set of contingent circumstances or conditions in place of a true state of Reity; (2) the attribution of necessity to a purely arbitrary state of affairs.

God = eternal necessary being.

Contingency = that which could cease to exist, or by virtue of its dependence upon prior conditions could have failed to exist.


(1) Nothingness as a putative state of affairs is marked by it's own contradiction.

............(a) true absolute nothing cannot be a state of reity since it can't be 'something.'

.............(b) Nothingness would be a timeless void, since time is "something." There is no change in a timeless void, no sequences, thus no cause and effect, so no becoming. There should be no change from a timeless state.

(2) Contingency as putative state of affairs is marked by its own contradiction; since contingency means dependence for existence upon prior conditions such a contingency could hardly be a "putative state of affairs."

(3) Therefore, eternal necessary being must exit; since this is my definition of God my view of God must be the case, QED

therefore God,QED


(1) Atheists often try to posit energy as eternal.

But energy is contingent upon Gravitational field. Gravitation field might be posited as necessary and eternal, except for the fact that it's really just warped space which is the resutl of space/time, that is the combination of all contingent factors. For example, there is no space that is independent of space/time, there is no time that is independent of it, and energy is created by gravitational field in the expansion of warped space, in other words, in the "big bang."

so it appears that even warped space is just a combination of contingent factors.

Therefor, it seems like the most logical solution would be to poist some non naturalistic extra temporal existent as the answer to origins. they are only doing it to avoid the argument.

(2) Atheists will claim that I'm confusing two types of contingency.

The atheist confusion on this point stems from the fact that there are two types of necessity: .............(a) that which can fail or cease to exist;

.............(b) that which depends for its existence upon some higher set of conditions.

What they usually fail to see is that Hartshorne showed that these two types of necessity stem from the same reality; that existents can fail or cease to exist because the conditions upon which they are predicated could have been different or can be altered. Thus the two are related. Failing to exist is a hypothetical. Its not something an existing thing does in its own time, it is only something that could of have been but was not. In other words, if my parents had not met I would have failed to exist, I would nto be me. I do exist now so I am not going to fail to exist in the future, although I will cease to exist in the future. But the fact that I could have failed comes entirely form the fact that I am dependent upon prior contions that created me. Since eternal things have no prior condition they cant' fail. they could not have failed.

Recently a new twist on this argument where the atheist tried to argue that these two things, ceasing and failing, are not the same so that a given existent is not doing both at the same time. Thus there could be a contingent thing that can't cease to exist, or an eternal contingency that could case but can't fail to exist. This is just a mere convolustion of what's being said in the argumetn. Ceasing and failing or the same, and a contingency could fail but not case, but it cant' be eternal, it has to have a begining. Most contingencies could have failed to exist and will cease to exist. There could be a contingency that is seimeoulatniously eternal with an eteranl necessity, such the music played by an eternal flute palyer. If the flkuoutist stops playing the music will cease but if he plays eternally the music is contingenly eternal.

None of the does anything to eliminate the fact that the eternal existant has to be indpendent of anyting else or it is not etenral. Since we can't have an eteranl contignency that is not related to an eteranl necessity, there must be an eternal necessity and that is God.

why is an eteranl necessity "God?" Well the reason is, and this only works if we define "God" in a certain way, becasue the idea of God is not a big man in the sky, but the ground of being (you didn't see that comnig did you)? Consciousness, which I believe God possesses (and in fact that is the source of conscousness) is not a primary quality. There could be an impresonal God. If that is the case then the major qualities of God are these:

(1) eternality

(2) necessity

(3) ground of all being.

So in fact there must be some prior defition of God that contains these, since 2 and 3 flow out of one. If a thing is eteranl it is also necessity (since it can't be contingent--because contingency can't be eteranl in the independent since). It is also logical to think that if there is one necessity and all else is contingent then that necessity preidcates the contingencies. Thus ground of being flows out of eternality as well. So it appears that eternatlity is the basic quality of God. But there must be more to God than this?

At this point what we have is a fine reason to believein God, but unfortuantely the God we can believe in may be baredly distinguishable from the universe itself. That's the problem with this argument. The cosmolgocial necessity arguemnt also shares in this dilemma. In fact so does the ground fo being arugment. I was going to suggest jut scarping this line of reasoning completey and going with ground of being. But the ground of also has to be distinguished from the universe itself.

That's where Tillich's notion of "depth" comes in Tillich says if you see that being has depth then you can't be an atheist.

The name of infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of our being is God. That depth is what the word God means. And if that word has not much meaning for you, translate it, and speak of the depths of your life, of the source of your being, of your ultimate concern, of what you take seriously without any reservation. Perhaps, in order to do so, you must forget everything traditional that you have learned about God, perhaps even that word itself. For if you know that God means depth, you know much about Him. You cannot then call yourself an atheist or unbeliever. For you cannot think or say: Life has no depth! Life itself is shallow. Being itself is surface only. If you could say this in complete seriousness, you would be an atheist; but otherwise you are not."(from The Shaking of The Foundations)

There is an essential difference between the ground of being and a naturalistic universe. Tillich ascribes this difference to "depth." He's not too clear on what that means. Being is not just the surface level of appearances. Tillich reads his view into the works of every major theologian. We can tell from what he says about this what he means by this statement. Tillich is not the only modern theologian to think of God in this way.John McQuarry says that God is Being itself, while Tillich says God is "The ground of being." The conservative Catholic Has Urs Van Balthasar also understands the connection beteween God and being (more on this in the section on Being and the personal). These are actually just about the same concept, I wont go into the distinction here. The important thing to remember is that God is not along side other beings in creation, is not a being at all, but is on the order of being itself. God is the overarching principle that defines and predicates the universe and in fact of being as a whole. If you consider what it was like before God created anything. There would be nothing else but God. God, therefore, would be the same as being because all being would be defined as God. The only being that ever came to be flowed out of the will and the energies of God, therefore, God is beyond the chain of cause and effect, God is on a par with being itself.

In his discourse on Luther Tillich loads in all his spcial terms:

"Luther's concept of God is one of the most powerful in the whole history of human and Christian thought. This is not a God who is a being beside others, it is a God who we can have only through contrast" [Tillich speaking of Cuza, coincidence of oppossites--dialectical, appauphatic, Eastern orhtodox mystical influences--what is hidden before God is visible befoer the world and what is hidden before the world is visisble before God...Luther denies everything which can make God finite or a being before other beings [very very Tillichian/MacQurreyesque way of speaking] He makes the great statement that God is nearer to all creatures than they are to themselves [Augustine!]'God is at the same time every grain of sand totally and nevertheless in all above all and out of all creatures.' In these formula the old conflict between the Patheist and theistic tendencies in the doctrine of God is resolved." (Tilich, History of Christian Thought. 24)

Being is more than the surface level of the fact that we exist, its an ontological reality which is a mystical reality beyond our understanding. At this point one might think that this whole argument could just be side stepped and we can just talk about the ground of being rather than all this necessity and contingency stuff. I've been coming to this conclusion, because I can see at this point that belief stems from a deep realization about the meaning of our being. Belief is more than just adding a fact to the universe, it's a discovery about what it means to be. This argument "from reity" may have some value because it puts the force of deductive reasoning behind what atheists just write off as a subjective whim. Of cousre they just write off deductive reasoning by muddling the issues.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Argument from Cosmological Necessity


(1) The Universe is contingent upon "prior" conditions (conditions that existed "prior" to our understanding of space/time:

(a) Prior condition being space/time, or gravitational field.

Matter, energy, all physical phenomena stem from 'gravitational field' the prior condition of which is he big bang, the prior condition of which is the singularity, the prior condition of which is...we do not know.

(b)All naturalistic phenomena are empirically derived, thus they are contingent by their very nature.

As Karl Popper said, empirical facts are facts which might not have been. Everything that belongs to space time is a contingent truth because it could have been otherwise, it is dependent upon the existence of something else for its' existence going all the way back to the Big Bang, which is itself contingent upon something.(Antony Flew, Philosophical Dictionary New York: St. Martin's Press, 1979, 242.)

(2) By definition the "ultimate" origin cannot be contingent, since it would reuqire the explaination of still prior conditions (a string of infinite contingencies with no necessity is logical nonsense;the existence of contingent conditions requires the existence of necessary conditions).

(3) Therefore, the universe must have emerged from some prior condition which always existed, is self sufficient, and not dependent upon anything "higher."

(4) Naturalistic assumptions of determinism, and the arbitrary nature of naturalistic cosmology creates an arbitrary necessity; if the UEO has to produce existents automatically and/or deterministically due to naturalistic forces, the congtingencies function as necessities

(5) Therefore, since arbitrary necessities are impossible by nature of their absurdity, thus we should attribute creation to an act of the will; the eternal existent must be possessed of some ability to create at will; and thus must possess will.


(6) An eternal existent which creates all things and chooses to do so is compatible with the definition of "God" found in any major world religion, and therefore, can be regarded as God. Thus God must exist QED!


The state of understanding most Christian apologists use for the cosmological argument is very bad. Most of us are still back in the enlightenment, or even earlier. In fact if one reads the Boyle Lectures (that's 1690's) one sees all the issues of a modern apologetics message board, with very little real advance by the Christian apologists.

The problem revolves around the notion of causality. Causality requires linear direction and time. A causes B, it follows that a precedes B in a sequential effect. No Time means no sequential order, thus no cause. Time begins sequentially simultaneously with the Big Bang. So there is no way to speak of "before" the big bang because there can't be a "before time." Since time is the beginning of sequences there can be no scenic before the beginning of sequences; without sequences there is no begging and no "before." So the problem is that it is meaningless to say things like "everything that begins requires a cause." This is meaningless because we can't really speak of "the beginning" of the universe since the begging of the universe is also the beginning of time, and causality requires time. Thus there is no cause before the beginning of causes. Thus the whole idea of a final cause beginning the sequence that eventually leads to sequences is a lame idea. Yet most Christian Apologists use the Kalam argument (made so poplar by William Lane Craig) which begins "everything that begins requires a cause." The statement itself is self contradictory.

Of course the atheists muck things up even worse with their notions of Quantum theory (AKA "QM"). It seems that everything that begins doesn't require a cause. QM particles pop into exist seemingly out of nothing with no prior casual agent that can be decreed and thus, it seems something could come from nothing. Now it gets tricky at this point, because this not really what's happening, but the best that can come out of this observation is a big muddle.

It seems that we really don't find QM particles "popping" out of "nothing." They emerge from something called "vacuum flux." This is just a fancy name for more QM particles, that doesn't' matter, because it really is not actual nothingness. The problem is that physicists speak of VC as "nothing." So while one finds physicist speaking of QM being something from nothing, they know quite well its not. Now the tricky part is, the Christian apologist suspects, but we cannot prove, that there is a cause in there somewhere. But the skeptic can always elude the obvious implication of a cause since we don't have a direct observational proof of the need for a final cause. Our assumptions about final causes are pinned upon logic and not upon empirical observation (and this is of necessity, since we can't observe final cause since we can't observe "before" the begging of sequential ordering in time).

It seems that the skeptic has a built-in fail-safe to create a stalemate without he CA (cosmological argument) because our thinking as Christian apologists is often rooted in the thinking of the Robert Boil and the 1690's. We still think in terms of cause and effect, things begging, things needing causes and beginnings and logic proving this rather than empirical observation; although a large part of this argument is merely psychological, since in all fairness the skeptic can't prove anything either and we know darn well there has to be a cause back there somewhere.

I have developed an approach which I feel resolves this dilemma and lends a positive presumptive appeal to the CA. I feel that my approach changes the burden of proof in the debate because lends the apologist presumption, by meeting the prima facie burden of proof. This approach works in two phases:

(1) Sets up a "comfort zone" for the argument, or in other words, establishes criteria through which the bar is lowered for the standard of proof and the lower standard can be met; lower standard meaning "rational warrant for belief" rather than "proof."

We are not out to prove the existence of God. We are out to prove only that it is rational to construe the universe as the creation of God.

The outcome of a prima facie argument is that the burden of proof is reversed. Now it becomes the other side's burden to show that the PF case has not been made. What is it in my version of the CA that swings this point over from burden of proof to PF case? It's the way I deal with the notion need for causality.

The standard Christian apologetics approach is usually to say "everything we observe needs a cause, so the universe must need a cause." This leaves the skeptics cold and they just keep harping on their QM stuff. My approach is to move away from the need causes. I no longer call my argument "first cause." I use the term "cosmological" but not "first cause" or "final cause." I don't speak of causes and I never claim "everything that begins to exist recks a cause." Most skeptics will be expecting this, usually they are thrown into a state of total confusion when they learn that I don't bother with this.

My approach is to use the scholastic model of necessity and contingency rather than cause and effect. Now one might think this is so old fashioned and pre modern that it would be untenable. But no, it's the basis of model logic. One can easily argue, what with the return to the impotence of the model aspects from Hartshorne and Platinga, and with Godell's OA being based firmly upon necessity/contingency, that category is alive and well. Now skeptics will remain incredulous of course, but the category can be defended easily with Spinoza's chart of modalities. The categories are there in logic and cannot be denied.

Moreover, move on from that point to speak of "prior conditions," rather than causes. The idea of prior conditions is tricky, since we all there is a cause lurking somewhere behind it. But the skeptic is lambasting us for speaking of causes, and with this approach we need not speak of them. That way the obvious need for one is enthemimatic; that is the skeptic will pick it out himself, but he can't really say anything about it we aren't claiming it as part of the argument. If the skeptic brings it up, well it's a straw man argument, even though it's really there in the background.

Prior conditions is a tricky category and I have the following analogy. In QM theory we face the concept of the VC and the particle emerge from it. We know from observation that this slows way down the closer one gets to the singularity, and we know that we have no observations whatsoever from timeless state (how could we)? Three conditions obtain in which Amp's emerge: (1) the emerge amid physical law. Even though they seem to contradict our previous understanding of law, they are not opposed to it and QM theory is the business of showing how we can assume their harmonious existence with physical law; (2) They emerge in time; since we have no counter observation we must assume so; (3) They emerge from VF. Skeptics have howled and said "that must means more particles." But so what? that's still something. It means they aren't coming form real nothingness. As long as something exits prior to the "first" existent, that existent is not first and what prior to it must be accounted for. IF we don't wish to end up in an infinite causal regress, then we have to assume that there is some prior conditions which is the basic condition of all existence.


It's like fish. Fish are not caused by water. You can't say "water = fish." But, fish are always found in or near bodies of water. You dot' find fish living in the sand in the desert. There are fish which are native to the North American desert, but they live in water deep in caverns and have actually lost eyes because they live in total darkness. But again, the one prior condition we have for fish is water. Now someone will say "but there is causal relationship there." Yes, but my argument doesn't require that there be no causal relation, but I don't have to push the causal relation to win the argument; all I have to do is demonstrate that there must be some eternal prior condition that is necessary for all contingent conditions to be; and of course we construe this "eternally prior condition" as God.

Another important aspect of this argument is to get away form time. We must get over the simplistic idea that BB is the moment of creation and "before" that (which there is no "before") is God in eternity. That treats time like a place that one could go, where God is. Time may be running eternally, it has a "reassert" with the Big Bang but it doesn't' have to be a "place" one could go to visit. Thus it may not be that we can think of the timeless void as a realm beyond the natural realm.

In this argument I set up the contingency of the universe as the predication of an ultimate prior condition. Anything naturalistic is automatically contingent (this can be backed up by Carol Popper and many others). Thus the ontological necessity which predicates these contingencies is a priori some from of prior condition which must be understood as eternal and boundless, otherwise the idea of a contingent universe filled with individual contingencies makes no sense.

From there the argument that this eternal prior condition is equivalent to or can be construed as an object of religious devotion is easy. Of course atheists will fight tooth and nail to keep from accepting the notion that the universe is contingent. They will charge that this is the fallacy of composition. Don't let them! The fallacy of composition only works when the parts are different. In other words, if a brick wall is made up of all bricks then it is not a fallacy of composition to say "this is a wall of bricks." Thus, one case say "this is a universe of contingencies, thus, it is a contingent universe." Moreover, Dr. Kooks (Univ. Texas--our fine main branch in our Glorious UT system) uses memeology (a funky kind of math stuff) to argue that wholly contingent parts make for a wholly contingent situation. In other words, a universe made up of all contingent parts is a contingent universe. Establishing this point will be the hardest part of the debate, but the skeptic will be scratching his head and asking "what's mermology?"

From there one directs them to Dr. Koons' Website.

I think this approach offers some unique features that get us way from the 1690s and put Christian apologetics in the 21st century.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Outrage and Incredulity:The Athiest Assertion of No Evidence.


What is all this stuff really about? It never ceases to amaze me how passionate atheists can be about nothing. I mean by that, atheism is suppossed to be nothing more than an absence of belief, right? Yet so many times I see them full of fire and arrogance, blowing their little minds just because someone holds a view they don't like. Why? Consider this tirade by Arizona Atheist on Atheist Watch:

Arizona Atheist

Faith is bullshit. Your claiming it's "complex" does nothing to solve your problem. Theists have no evidence for their beliefs and that's that. All "arguments" are simply "god of the gaps" arguments and nothing more. Due to the tremendous lack of proof/evidence for all theistic claims it's all based on "blind faith." So, yes Loftus is correct. Faith is nonsense.
Clearly outraged by belief, but why? The major thinkers in Western culture have been religious, only a tiny handful of great thinkers throughout history have been true atheists, yet to look at such comments (which are a dime a dozen) one would think that belief was the most idiotic thing anyone ever thought of. One of the things that really strikes me as absurd is their insistence that "there's no evidence at all..." This is bound to strike me the wrong way when I have 42 arguments for the existence of God (of course we all know the importance of the number 42). No evidence, except these 42 arguments! Why the histrionics? here I will argue two things: (1) The reason it seems that there is no evidence is because atheists value only the methods that give them the answers they want, they do not accept evdience for God because it has to come from the wrong methods, and they reject the methods becasue they are mining their data. (2) They are angered by the concept that other methods may be valid because would imply that they are only looking at the surface of the issues. Why that should I alarm them so I'm not sure. I think it's a cultural thing, the hate group derives some sense of superiority from deriding the target (according to the standard FBI model).

As I have pointed out numerous times, belief in God is not merely adding a fact to the universe. The question of God is not a question about just the existence of one more thing. It's a question of orientation to being as a whole, especially to one's own individual being. If God exists then all of reality is something other than we think it is. If God is real then I am more than myself I am a creature of God. Atheists and theists live in two different worlds. Thus no amount of empirical data is valid as an answer. So the kinds of answers that would count cannot be sought though scientific evidence alone. The atheist approach is to see this as a limitation or an indication that there is no God. That approach obviously fist what they want to see in the first place. Now many of them wills ay "I was a Christian for 20 years." None of them ever follow that up by saying "I scored real high on the M scale, i had mystical consciousness and union with Christ and Baptism of the Holy Spirit and then I realize it was all false and delusion and made up.The only people who come to this conclusion are those are didn't have it in the first place.

I'm not arguing that they weren't "saved" or they weren't "real Christians." Being a "real Christian" and having Baptism of the Holy Spirit, or "mystical experience" are three different things, they are not three different names for the same thing. Nor am I saying that strongs Christians can't give up their faith. Bu strong Christians tend to give up their faith because they fall into sin, they outgrow their milieu and don't go on to higher understanding, or they suffer grave disappointment (such as death of a spouse) and never work through it. No one that I know of ever gave up belief in God just because soem intellectual argument was hard to answer, or some body of work intimated that it wasn't true, and here I am speaking of those who had the advanced personal experinces. Those sorts of experinces indicate that it is real. These are such deep confirmations in the heart of hearts that they cannot be easily denied or given up. Of course atheists don't even value this form of knowledge. Deeply fearing the subjective, they just ascribe it to "psychology" and for them that term is as good as saying "lie."

The difference in these two ways of thinking is striking. But the atheists can offer no evidence or arguments to invalidate the phenomenological approach. Faith is an existential response to an phenomenological apprehension. This means that faith is personal individual response, not one formed by education or trained through oporent conditioning; it is a response of the individual although course cultural and learning and even genetics come into it. It is a response to the apprehension of sense data apart from the organizing principles impossed upon sense data by genetics, culture, trainnig, psychological pre disposition. It's a response to the suggestions made by the phenomena themselves as we apprehend them. By "existential" it is fundametnal to our existence and within the moment of perception. What exactly is being perceived? That we can't know, but it veries from person to person. Or I should say the vehicl of it veries from person to person. One person may find that a full blown mystical experience is what brings them around, anohter may be expossed to just one prhase or one image and find that merely a pang of the heart is all that is needed.

Atheists draw such a hard and fast connection between science and the world. One could easily get the impression that the world comes with little labels on rocks and trees that say "naturalistic." If religion was true the lables would say "trees by God." But when I aruge my Transcendental Signifier argument they will say that we are just impossing meaning. That's one thier standard respones. Human brain sees pattern and imposes meaning upon pattern it's just ink blots. The world is a big ink blot. But they don't apply that to science. They seem to think scinece is just straight foward and litterally true and unlmited in its ability to know all of reality that ever be. We derive the kind of certainty from scinece that we do because it's dealing mainly with things that can be observed. These are realtiviely easy questions. No one thinks a question like "where did the universe come form" is easy. Atheists seem to infer that it is easy and if challenges that sense of certainty they become irate. I often wonder why certainty is so important to them. But have totally obsrued the truth of scinece, that it is cutlurally constructed and not absolute. Ther ire is such that when I argued this on CARM once one of them said "you are scum!" Of course they pronounce the basis of knowledge (epistemology) to be 'bull shit" because it's philosphy, but they never try to undersatnd the philsophical basis to their empricism. They take that as absolute proof beyond question.

Science is a relative cultural construct. It is not absolute knowledge, it is not progress based upon cumulative effects. It works by paradigm shifts, with each shift the whole ground changes. Every time it changes we start over. It is not linear or progressive.

Example: Top down causality in brain mind.

top down means something above the brain is directing causal states in brain function: the mind is not reduced to the brain because its directing the brain. Top down causlity is a scientific fact, it was proven log ago, but because it disproves the reductionist ideology it is ignored as though its not true:

Rosenberg (from journal of conscientiousness studies)

"Take the matter of 'downward causation' to which Harman gives some attention. Why should this be an issue in brain dynamics? As Erich Harth points out in Chapter 44, connections between higher and lower centers of the brain are reciprocal. They go both ways, up and down. The evidence (the scientific evidence) for downward causation was established decades ago by the celebrated Spanish histologist Ramon y Cajal, yet the discussion goes on. Why? The answer seems clear: If brains work like machines, they are easier to understand. The facts be damned!"[Miller quoting Rosenberg, Journal of Consciousness Studies, op. cit.]

e.Consciousness as a basic property of nature.

JCS, 3 (1), 1996, pp.33-35

Naturalism loses its ground.

This is a probabilistic justification argument; It does not seek to directly prove that God exists, but that it is rational to believe in God and that there are good reasons to. In a nut shell the argument says that the concept of materialism has been changing over the years. It has now incorporated so many idea that were once lumped in with magic, supernatural, or generally "unscientific" categories that the old concept of materialism as an objection to God belief and a refutation of religion is now obsolete. Essentially there are 10 areas:

(1) Quantum Theory (no need for cause/effect)

(2) Big bang Cosmology (realm beyond the natrual)

(3) Medicine (healing)

(4) Consciousness (invites concept of dualism)

(6) Maslow's Archetypes (universal ideas)

(7) Miracles (empirical evidence)

(8) Near Death Experiences (sceintific evidence)

(9) Esp Research (the fact that they do it)

(10) Validity of religous experince (Shrinks no longer assume pathology)

The argument turns on the basic historical fact that atheists have lost the ground upon which they dismissed God from science in the first place. In their book Lindberg and Numbers demonstrate that the moment at which this happened was when La Place said "I have no need of that hypothesis," meaning the idea that God created the universe. What he meant was that God was not needed as an explanation because we now have naturalistic cause and effect, which explains everything. But the atheist has cashed in cause and effect to over come the Big Bang.

Naturalists are now willing to consider ideas like the self caused universe, Hawkings unbounded condition which removes cause completely as a consideration; or based upon quantum theory they are willing to accept the notion that causality is an illusion, that the universe could just pop up out of nothing. With that commitment they lose the ground upon which they first removed God from consideration. Now, perhaps they still do not need God as a causal explanation, but in the Religious a pirori argument, and in the innate religious instinct argument I say that belief was never predicated upon a need for explaination in the first place.

Nevertheless, the fact still remains, the reason for dismissing God was the sufficiency of natural causation as explaination, with that gone there is no longer any grounds for dismissing consideration of God from the universe.I will argue that more than that is going. There is a paradigm shift underway which demonstrates a total change in scientific thinking in many areas and over many disciplines. That change demonstrates that the materialist concept is wrong; there is more to reality than just the material world. There are other aspects to the material world wich are non-deterministic, non-mechanistic, and which call into question the whole presupposition of excluding the supernatural from consideration.

The groundwork for understanding this shift was laid by Thomas S. Kuhn in his theory of paradigm shifts. Kuhn's famous theory was that scientific thought works through paradigm acquisition, and that paradigms change when they can no longer absorb anomalies into the model and must account for them in some other way. This theory entails the idea that science is culturally constructed; our ideas about science are culturally rooted and our understanding of the world in a scientific fashion is rooted in culture. For this reason he thought that science is not linear cumulative progress. "scientific revolutions are here taken to be those non-cumulative developmental episodes replaced in whole or in part by a new one..." (Thomas kuhn The Structure of Scientific Revolutions," (92)

"In section X we shall discover how closely the view of science as cumulative is entangled with a dominate epistemology that takes knowledge to be a construction placed directly upon raw sense data by the mind. And in section XI we shall examine the strong support provided to the same historiographical scheme by the techniques of effective science pedagogy. Nevertheless, despite the immense plausibility of that ideal image, there is increasing reason to wonder whether it can possibly be an image of science. After the pre-paradigm period the assimilation of all new theories and of almost all new sorts of phenomena has demanded the destruction of a prior paradigm and a consequent conflict between competing schools of scientific thought. Cumulative anticipation of unanticipated novelties proves to be an almost nonexistent exception to the rule of scientific development.The man who takes historic fact seriously must suspect that science does not tend toward the ideal that our image of its cumulativeness has suggested. Perhaps it is another sort of enterprise."(Ibid,94)

What all of this means is that science is not written in stone. We do not pile one fact upon another until we get to the truth. We formulate a concept of the world and we hold to it and defend it agianst changed until there are too many problems with it then we move to another totally different world view. This is what has been going on in science since the French enlightenment. Materialism replaced supernaturalism and Materialists have been defending it against change all this time. Now there are too many problems, they have brought in so many ideas contrary to materialism it is not meaningful anymore; paradigm shift is immanent and has begun in many areas. This is not to say that Kuhn had anything to say about the supernatural, he was a materialist. But his theory shows us that change in the concept of materlaism is on the way.

Kuhn is not alone in these observations, major scientific thinkers have questioned scientific 'pretense of objectivity' throughout the century:

This 'bigger' aspect can also be seen in Rosenberg's 'liberal naturalism' [CS:JCS:3.1.77]:

"The question of scientific objectivity becomes more compelling when one considers that doubts about the reductive paradigm are by no means new. William James (1890), Charles Sherrington (1951), Erwin Schrodinger (1944, 1958), Karl Popper and John Eccles (1977)--among others--have insisted that the reductive view is inadequate to describe reality. This is not a fringe group. They are among the most thoughtful and highly honored philosophers and scientists of the past century. How is it that their deeply held and vividly expressed views have been so widely ignored? Is it not that we need to see the world as better organized than the evidence suggests?

"Appropriately, the most ambitious chapter of this section is the final one by Willis Harman. Is the conceptual framework of science sufficiently broad to encompass the phenomenon of consciousness, he asks, or must it be somehow enlarged to fit the facts of mental reality? Attempting an answer, he considers the degree to which science can claim to be objective and to what extent it is influenced by the culture in which it is immersed. Those who disagree might pause to consider the religious perspective from which modern science has emerged.

"There is reason to suppose that the roots of our bias toward determinism lie deeper in our cultural history than many are accustomed to suppose. Indeed, it is possible that this bias may even predate modern scientific methods. In his analysis of thirteenth-century European philosophy, Henry Adams (1904) archly observed: "Saint Thomas did not allow the Deity the right to contradict himself, which is one of Man's chief pleasures." One wonders to what extent reductive science has merely replaced Thomas's God with the theory of everything."

Science lacks the abslute guarantee that many atheists think it has. The more complex and removed from immediate observation the question is the less certainty it has. This means that it is not a fit vehicle to tell us about god.God is not a scientific question. Science is not prior to philosophy but the other way around. Science evolved out of philosophy, it used to be called 'natural philosophy.' While science does offer a sense of "working" its what it works for that matters. It does not work to give us any understanding of ultimate reality. Thus is it not a fair question to ask why there is no proof of God scientifically? Of cousre not, because God is not a scientific question. The reason God is not science is because God is not empirical. God is not given in sense data. Now atheist may ask why that is, they sometimes ask "why doesn't God make himself better know," that's because God is not a big guy in the sky. The same reason why he's not empirical. Because he's not a "he" the "he is just a metaphor. God si beyond our understanding, the basis of reality. God is prior to even epistemology. That would be like expecting evidence of the eloctro-magnetic spectrum to tell us about the basis of existence itself. Atheist continually treat God as though he is a big man in the sky, although for some this may be because they want to take on the fundies most of all. Such an atheist is John Loftus.

John Loftus

We’ve argued against the concept of faith many times before, but let me try again. I have argued that the Christian faith originated as and is purely human religion completely accountable by humans acting in history without needing anWy divine agency at all. But setting that important discussion aside, faith is a cop out, especially when it comes to the number of things Christians must take on faith in order to believe. Let’s recount some of them.

Here is a typical example of an atheist ragging on faith. That is to say, he is not analyzing the basis of faith at a deep level, but merely dismissing it as some sort of non answer. It will become clear in a moment that the specific reasons he gives are those that view God as an empirical object of knowledge and thus a big man in the sky. I know that Loftus will say this is because he's concerned with the fundies more than with liberals. But true though that may be it still gives a misimpression to only deal with faith at such a superficial level and never acknowledge that it is a much more complex process than this. Consider his argument about questioning why God created:

No reasonable answer can be given for why a triune God, who was perfect in love neither needing nor wanting anything, created in the first place. Grace and Love are non-answers, especially when we see the actual world that resulted. For Christians to say God wanted human creatures who freely love him is nonsense, for why did he want this at all? If love must be expressed then God needed to express his love and that implies a lack.
He speaks of "he" and "want" and so forth as though God is just a big man. This is part of his incredulity over the Trinity because how could a big man in the sky be three big men in the sky and yet just one big man in the sky? He's basically arguing here that god can't be a big man and thus can't want anything. But assumes that he must know what form God could take if he isn't a big man. That means he has to regard God as an object of empirical knowledge, of course it would never apply to anything beyond our understanding. If we regard God as the ground of being these questions are all moot, thus we have to frame them differently. We could begin by not asking "why would a God who has no needs craete in the first place?" That question is unanswerable for the ground of being, since we don't even know if we can speak of "creation" in the same sense. By what can't be answered can't be answered negatively either. We can't rule out the love answer on the premise that God can't love becasue he's the ground of being. Indeed most of the major theologians who speak of God this way (Tillich, McQuarry and Von Balthsar) find a link between being and love in the first place. Of course we can't speak of God "needing" but we could speak of God producing. Or we can speak of being producing the beings. McQuarry speaks of "being lets be." We have to ask a different set of questions to begin with if we conceive of God as the basis of reality rather than an object of knowledge.

Loftus goes on to paly the same game in relation to the three in one aspect:

It’s hard enough to conceive of one person who is an eternally uncased God, much less a Godhead composed of three eternally uncased persons. There are some Christians who maintain the Father eternally created the Logos and the Spirit, while others claim that three persons in one Godhead is simply an eternally brute inexplicable fact. Why is that brute fact more reasonable to accept than accepting the brute fact of the laws of the universe, which is all that’s needed to produce the universe? There are social Trinitarians and anti-social Trinitarians. Both sides accuse the other side of abandoning the Chalcedonian creed, either in the direction of tri-theism, or in the direction of Unitarianism.
First of all his knowledge of Orthodoxy is slipping here. Either that or he doesn't care to define Christianity by the ruels of the Christian community. No Christian believes that the Logos and the Spirit are created, as that is a violation of the creeds. His appeal to the laws of the universe is not applicable here because it is not a competitor for God's position as transcendental signifer. In fact laws of nature are totally inexplicable and we do not know what they. They no longer carry the same wight they did in the enlightenment. Thus they are a dandy reason to believe in God, because the supposition of a mind an notion of a set of disembodied laws is pretty had to grasp (see the previous article). But the argument he makes is absurd in light of the Ground of Being. we don't have to ask how can a big man in the sky be three big men in the sky and yet one big man in the sky. As ground of being God can easily contain within his divine economy three persona which share the same essence as all three are merely reflections of the one ground of being. McQuarry makes this point himself where defines the Trinity as having to do with the one and many and the notion of being as the ground of diversification of existence (see Principles of Christian Theology).

Atheists storm about the suppossed lack of evidence, yet they put all their marbles on issues such as string theory and mutliverses, matters for which there is no empirical data of any kind. Then they rail against God because there's no empirical data! Belief in God is a realization that comes from understanding about the nature of being, especially one's own being. It is not the result of empirical data, nor can it be. The concept is misguided and that expectation is a waste of time. There two trajectories that inform us of the nature of being such that we might associate it with the sense of the numinous. These are deductive understanding fo transcendental signifiers on the one hand, (matters such as the ontological argument), and then personal experince on the other. Mystical experience, the sense of numinous these are matters of realizing God. They offer a deep seated conviction that can't be refuted by mere circular reasoning or question begging of atheist assertion. On the other hand, deductive arguments demonstrate the logical necessity of thinking about being in religous terms.

Friday, March 13, 2009

God Argumnt: Fire in the Equasions


what makes the laws of phsyics, and what makes them work?

Recently I posted a dialogue between myself and an atheist on this topic. This is the original argument as I make it on my God argument list.

1) Naturalists assume necessity of naturalistic cause and effect (from empirical observation).

Dictionary of Philosophy Anthony Flew, article on "Materialism" "...the belief that everything that exists is ethier matter or entirely dependent upon matter for its existence." Center For Theology and the Natural Sciences Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate: God, Humanity and the Cosmos (T&T Clark, 1999) http://www.ctns.org/Information/information.htmlIs the Big Bang a Moment of Creation?(this source is already linked above) "...One of the fundamental assumptions of modern science is that every physical event can be sufficiently explained solely in terms of preceding physical causes.." Science and The Modern World, Alfred North Whitehead. NY: free Press, 1925, (1953) p.76

"We are content with superficial orderings form diverse arbitrary starting points. ... science which is employed in their development [modern thought] is based upon a philosophy which asserts that physical causation is supreme, and which disjoins the physical cause from the final end. It is not popular to dwell upon the absolute contradiction here involved."[Whitehead was an atheist]
http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/user/gr/public/qg_qc.html Cambridge Relativity and Quantum Gravity. 1996, University of Cambridge The physical laws that govern the universe prescribe how an initial state evolves with time. In classical physics, if the initial state of a system is specified exactly then the subsequent motion will be completely predictable.

2) Therefore, if we agree with them, it is logical to assume naturalistic cause and effect as background condition to the emergence and/or production of the universe.

Dr. Sten Odenwald (Raytheon STX) for the NASA IMAGE/POETRY Education and Public Outreach program

Q:Which came first, matter or physical laws?

"We do not know, but matter is derivative from energy, and energy is derivative from 'field' so in some sense, the physical laws that determine the quantum dynamics of fields must have been primary, with matter as we know it coming much later."

3) Since physical laws would have to proceed matter/energy, they would have to reside in some organizing principle (such as a mind?) since they could not reside in the workings of universe that did not yet exist.

This leads to a Dilemma:

a) Either the laws of physics are general law like statements demanding a law giver (law implies a law giver)

b) Or they are mere tendencies which mark conventional frames of reference for our observations of the universe.

*If the former, than since all products of the natural world require a cause, what causes the laws of physics? It seems there must either be an infinite regress of causes for physical laws, or a single organizing principle capable of directing physical law; such as a mind?

*If the latter, than the skeptic loses the lock on scientific rationality and with it, the basis upon which to critique religious belief as �unscientific.� After all, just because we don�t notice regular tendencies toward supernatural effects does not mean that they are impossible, if physical laws are nothing but mere tendencies.

4)Major Physicists propose Unitive principle they call "God."

MetaList on Science and religion

Stephen Hawking's God

In his best-selling book "A Brief History of Time", physicist Stephen Hawking claimed that when physicists find the theory he and his colleagues are looking for - a so-called "theory of everything" - then they will have seen into "the mind of God". Hawking is by no means the only scientist who has associated God with the laws of physics. Nobel laureate Leon Lederman, for example, has made a link between God and a subatomic particle known as the Higgs boson. Lederman has suggested that when physicists find this particle in their accelerators it will be like looking into the face of God. But what kind of God are these physicists talking about? Theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg suggests that in fact this is not much of a God at all. Weinberg notes that traditionally the word "God" has meant "an interested personality". But that is not what Hawking and Lederman mean. Their "god", he says, is really just "an abstract principle of order and harmony", a set of mathematical equations. Weinberg questions then why they use the word "god" at all. He makes the rather profound point that "if language is to be of any use to us, then we ought to try and preserve the meaning of words, and 'god' historically has not meant the laws of nature." The question of just what is "God" has taxed theologians for thousands of years; what Weinberg reminds us is to be wary of glib definitions.

Ok These guys are not talking about the God of the Bible, but the fact that they do resort to organizing principle proves my basic point. They can't just leave the laws of physics unexplained, they have to resort to organizing principle that ties it all up in one neat package. But why assume that principle can't be the personal God of the Bible? The rest of this Website argues that it is. But the main point here is that it is very logical to assume an organizing principle such a mind which organizes and contains physical laws.But "which god" is dealt with else where. at the very least this argument gives us a Spinoza-like God.

5) Mind is best explanation for organizing principal.

This principal would not dwell in any location, since it must proceed the existence of all physical matter and objects. It cannot resides in any location, or in the actions of a energy and matter, since it must proceed them for them to come to be, or to exist. Mind is the only thing that explains:

a. non physical location--no topos

b. Organizing function; organizing information and structures. The major element of mind is organization and containment of information. Like a genetic structure has to reside in genes, where does an organizing principal for the universe reside? In a mind that creates the universe?

6) A mind that contains physical law can be said to be creator and thus God. Therefore,if we assume physical law there must be a "lawgiver," therefore, God exists QED

Corollary:Science cannot Explain Laws of Physics

A. Cause of Physical Laws Unknown

1)Physical Law Merely Assumed to Exist.

OFFICE OF DR. ROBERT C. KOONS Post-Agnostic Science:How Physics Is RevivingThe Argument From Design

Robert C. Koons

Associate Professor of Philosophy
University of Texas
Austin, TX 78712

"Some have objected that the anthropic coincidences cannot be explained, since they involve the fundamental laws of nature. The laws of nature are used in explaining other things -- they themselves cannot be explained. They are rock-bottom, matters of physical necessity, immutable and uncaused. This objection is sometimes based on actual scientific practice -- scientists seek to discover the laws of nature and to use these laws in constructing explanations of phenomena. They do not try to explain the laws of nature themselves. There are several points to make in response to this."

2) Skeptics object, but Some scientits now Ask.

Paul Davies, Author of God and The New Physics, and The Mind of God, skeptic turned believer due to the new evidence on design. From First Things, Tempelton Award address:

"All the richness and diversity of matter and energy we observe today has emerged since the beginning in a long and complicated sequence of self- organizing physical processes. The laws of physics not only permit a universe to originate spontaneously, but they encourage it to organize and complexify itself to the point where conscious beings emerge who can look back on the great cosmic drama and reflect on what it all means."

"Now you may think I have written God entirely out of the picture. Who needs a God when the laws of physics can do such a splendid job? But we are bound to return to that burning question:
Where do the laws of physics come from?
And why those laws rather than some other set? Most especially: Why a set of laws that drives the searing, featureless gases coughed out of the big bang toward life and consciousness and intelligence and cultural activities such as religion, art, mathematics, and science?"

Koons, (Ibid.) "...It is no longer true that scientists never seek to explain the laws of nature. Much of recent cosmology and unified force theory has attempted to do that. ...even if scientists never did attempt to explain the fundamental laws, it would still be an open question whether they should do so. Finally, whether something can or should be explained is itself an empirical matter, to be decided on a case by case basis, and not on the basis of dogmatic, a priori pronouncements. The anthropic coincidences are themselves excellent evidence that the laws of nature can and should be explained. If the laws really were absolute rock bottom, inexplicable brute facts, then we would be faced with a set of inexplicable coincidences. If the only price we have to pay in order to explain these coincidences is to revise our beliefs about the rock-bottom status of physical laws, this is a small price to pay."

B. How do Physical Laws make a universe?

Stephen Barr

"The laws of physics are proposed by some, as brought out by Furgesson, as constituting a "final cause" in place of God. This view is actually suggestive of an inversion and can be turned around into an argument for the exist of God. Barr states "The more serious problem with this idea of laws of physics as necessary first casue is that it is based on an elementary confussion. At most the laws of physics could be said to be the 'formal cause' of the physical universe, whereas by first casue is meant efficient cause, the cause of its very existancde. Hawking himself asked percisely the right queitson when he wrote 'even if there is only one possible unified theory is it just a set of rules and equasions? What is it that breaths fire into the equassions and makes a universe for them to descirbe? The usual approach of science constutcing a methematical model cannot answer the question of why there should be a universe for the model to describe.' That is decisive--crushing...." (in First Things)

Monday, March 09, 2009

Atheist Myths: That Soemthing Works Doesn't Prove Its True


One of the major atheist myths that I hear a lot is used in answer to my religious experince arguments. They always say "just because it works doesn't mean it's true." In other words, just because a vast array of studies demonstrate that religious experince is good for you doesn't mean God exits. The thing is, it does. This is something they always overlook, it does mean that exactly unless they can make good on counter causality. now of course in general terms it is true that just because religious experince has long term positive effects doesn't prove there's a God. In fact this is merely dogging the argument, because I never argue that it does! Most arguments I have on this topic these says go like this:

Atheist: there's no reason to believe in God.

Me: sure there is, it's rationally warranted.

Atheist: no it's not.

Me: sure, because the long term positive effects is a good reason to beleive in God.

Atheist: Just because soemthing works doesn't mean it's true, so this doesn't prove that God exists.

So what is wrong with this picture? I didn't say it does prove it, I said it's rationally warranted. This is even more flagrant at times when the atheist says "all I ask for is a warrant" so when I give them one, they go "that doesn't prove it."

While it is true that long term positive effects don't prove that God exists, they do furnish a rational justification for construing God as existent, and moreover, given the special nature of the argument, they do in fact demonstrate a very logical reason to believe in God. Before I get started, the problem is the one proviso, this only works if the counter causality is less likely. In other words, if and only if, the alternative explanations don't work account for the transformative effects and only then is it true that working is a rational warrant for belief. The reason is because the nature of the argument turns upon the co-determinate. The co-determinate of a real effect is a real cause. If the experience is real, the effects are real that is, then then cause has to be real. If there are no internal causes or pathologies that are valid as explanations then it is certainly valid to conclude (although it is not necessarily proof) that the one reaming explaination is a rational one.

Now the bromide that working doesn't prove truth is counter intuitive and seems almost certainly false. That something works is a darn good reason to believe that it's true. This is so in this case becasue working is a pretty good reason to think the experinces have an actual referent beyond the human mind. This is so because nothing in the mind can be demonstrated with empriical studies to actually cause this kind of amazing life transformation. Of course atheists "always try to reduce it to a few benefits." But that is exactly what they are doing, reducing it. If we take the studies at their words teh benefits are quite dramatic.

From time immemorial it is believed that spiritual experiences and practices have a therapeutic value in so far as they are capable of establishing an integrated personality. A report (Culligan, 1996) of a 1995 conference held at Harvard University reflects the new collaborative attempts of religion and medicine wherein there is a recognition of the power of religion and spiritual practices in medical treatment. The conference explored the relationship between spirituality and healing in medicine, with reference to the major world religions, and it provided a platform to discuss the physiological, neurological and psychological effects of healing resulting from spirituality.

Several recent studies (Allman et al., 1992; Elkins, 1995; Shafranske & Malony, 1990) have shown that the majority of practicing psychologists though not involved in organized religion, consider spirituality important not only to their personal lives but also to their clinical work. In a study Sullivan (1993) reports findings from a larger qualitative study that is seeking to discover factors associated with the successful adjustment of former and current consumers of mental health services. The study concludes that spiritual beliefs and practices were identified as essential to the success of 48% of the informants interviewed.

Vaughan (1991) explored the relevance of spiritual issues for individual psychotherapy among those motivated by spiritual aspiration and concluded that spirituality underlies both, personal impulses to growth and healing, and many creative cultural and social enterprises. Spitznagel (1992) and Sweeney and Witmer (1992) discussed the spiritual element in the well-ness model approach to work-adjustment and rehabilitation counselling and said that this holistic concept of working with clients is generally centred on faith, belief and values. Westgate (1996) in her review proposed four dimensions of spiritual wellness: (1) meaning in life (2) intrinsic value (3) transcendence and (4) spiritual communality. The paper also discussed the implications of these dimensions for research, counselling and counsellor education.

In a two year exploratory group study of participants in spiritual healing practices, Glik (1986) found that the healing which occurred is related to various measures of psychological wellness defined as the construct of subjective health. Fehring et al., (1987) correlating studies that investigate the relationship between spirituality and psychological mood states in response to life change, found that spiritual well-being, existential well-being and a spiritual outlook showed a strong inverse relationship with negative moods, suggesting that spiritual variables may influence well-being.

Over the years numerous claims have been made about the nature of spiritual/mystical and Maslow’s “peak experiences”, and about their consequences. Wuthnow (1978) set out to explore findings regarding peak experiences from a systematic random sample of 1000 persons and found that peak experiences are common to a wide cross-section of people, and that one in two has experienced contact with the holy or sacred, more than eight in ten have been moved deeply by the beauty of nature and four in ten have experienced being in harmony with the universe. Of these, more than half in each have had peak experiences which have had deep and lasting effects on their lives. Peakers are more likely also, to say they value working for social change, helping to solve social problems, and helping people in need. Wuthnow stressed the therapeutic value of these experiences and also the need to study the social significance of these experiences in bringing about a world in which problems such as social disintegration, prejudice and poverty can be eradicated. Savage et al., (1995) provided clinical evidence to suggest that peakers produce greater feelings of self-confidence and a deeper sense of meaning and purpose. Mogar’s (1965) research also tended to confirm these findings.

Some researchers in the recent past have found that life satisfaction correlated positively with mystical / spiritual experiences, and these experiences were further found to relate positively to one’s life purpose (Kass, et al., 1991). In fact researchers are of the view that a positive relation between positive affect and mystical experiences may not be surprising given that intense positive affect is often considered to be one of the defining characteristics of these experiences (Noble, 1985; Spilka, Hood & Gorsuch, 1985). The few studies that investigated well-being measures, spirituality and spiritual experience have found that people who have had spiritual experiences are in the normal range of well-being and have a tendency to report more extreme positive feelings than others (Kennedy, Kanthamani & Palmer, 1994; Kennedy & Kanthamani, 1995).

Spiritual experiences are also considered to be exceptional human experiences at the upper end of the normal range such as creative inspiration and exceptional human performance, and can be life changing. Fahlberg, Wolfer and Fahlberg (1992) interpreted personal crises from a developmental perspective that includes the possibility of self-transcendence through spiritual experience / or emergency. The authors suggest that health professionals need to recognize, facilitate and support positive growth experiences.

A study by De Roganio (1997) content-analyzed and organized into a paradigm case examples found in themes of 35 lived-experience informants and 14 autobiographers who represented a wide range of people with physical disability and chronic illness. It was found that the combined elements of spiritual transformation, hope, personal control, positive social support and a meaningful energetic life enabled individuals to improve themselves and come to terms with their respective conditions. These experiences led many people to realize their own interest, sense of wholeness and unity, and to experience and integrate a deeper meaning, sense of self and spirituality within their lives.

Some studies have offered a spiritual approach to addiction problems. Caroll (1993) found that 100 members of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) benefited from spirituality which was found to correlate positively with having a purpose in life and the length of sobriety. Frame and Williams (1996), in their study of religions and spiritual dimensions of the African-American culture, address the role of spirituality in shaping identity, and conclude that reconnecting AA clients to their powerful spiritual tradition may be a crucial catalyst for personal empowerment and spiritual liberation. The finding was confirmed in a later study by Wif and Carmen (1996). Another study reported by Green et al., (1998) described the process of spiritual awakening experienced by some persons in recovery during the quest for sobriety. The data suggested that persons in recovery often undergo life altering transformations as a result of embracing a power higher than one’s self i.e., a “higher power”. The result is often the beginning of an intense spiritual journey that leads to sustained abstinence.

In the last few years investigators in the rapidly growing field of mind-body medicine are coming across findings that suggest that an attitude of openness to unusual experiences such as spiritual, transcendental, peak, mystical may be conducive to health and well-being. For example, Dean Ornish, a heart disease researcher, believes that “opening your heart” to “experience a higher force” is in an important component of his programme for reversing heart disease (Ornish, 1990, chapter 9). There are also studies that relate illness with spirituality: Reese (1997) found in her study of terminally ill adults aged 20-85 years that, (1) they had a greater spiritual perspective than non-terminally ill hospitalized adults and adults, (2) their spiritual perspective was positively related to well-being and (3) a significant larger number of terminally ill adults indicated a change toward increased spirituality than did non-terminally ill or healthy adults.

Further, McDowell et al., (1996) investigated the importance of spirituality among 101 severely mentally ill and chronically dependent in-patients, and 31 members of the nursing staff who treated them. It was found that both the patients and the staff who treated them were equally spiritually oriented, and that the patients viewed spirituality as essential to their recovery and they valued the spiritual programme in their treatment more than some of the more concrete items.

Numerous studies have found positive relationships between religious beliefs and practices and physical or mental health measures. Although it appears that religious belief and participation may possibly influence one’s subjective well-being, many questions need to be answered such as when and why religion is related to psychological well-being. A review by Worthington et al., (1996) offers some tentative answers as to why religion may sometimes have positive effects on individuals. Religion may (a) produce a sense of meaning, something worth living and dying for (Spilka, Shaves & Kirkpath, 1985); (b) stimulate hope (Scheier & Carver, 1987) and optimism (Seligman, 1991); (c) give religious people a sense of control by a beneficient God, which compensates for reduced personal control (Pargament et al., 1987); (d) prescribe a healthier lifestyle that yields positive health and mental health outcomes; (e) set positive social norms that elicit approval, nurturance, and acceptance from others; (f) provide a social support network; or (g) give the person a sense of the supernatural that is certainly a psychological boost-but may also be a spiritual boost that cannot be measured phenomenologically (Bergin & Payne, 1993). It is also reported by Myers and Diener (1995) that people who experience a sustained level of happiness are more likely to say that they have a meaningful religious faith than people who are not happy over a long period of time.

A study by Handway (1978) on religiosity concluded that religion is one potential resource in people’s lives. More recently Myers and Diener (1995) in their survey of related studies observe that links between religion and mental health are impressive and that culture and religiosity may provide better clues to understanding the nature of well-being. Religious belief and practice play an important role in the lives of millions of people worldwide. A review by Selway and Ashman (1998) highlighted the potential of religion to effect the lives of people with disabilities, their families and care givers.

Research relating stress to religion indicated that religious and non-religious people tend to experience equal amounts of stress but religion may help people deal better with negative life events and their attendant stress (Schafer & King, 1990). A study by Maton (1989) supports the view that high level of stress individuals are likely to benefit from perceived spiritual support and is consistent with the stress and coping model based on religion proposed by Pargament. Anson et al., (1990) found that belonging to a religious community reduced stress whereas personal religious beliefs did not among 230 members of a kibbutzim. Similar findings were obtained by Williams et al., (1991) where for 720 adults religious attendance buffered the deleterious effects of stress on mental health. Courtenary et al., (1992) found a significant relationship between religiosity and physical health and that religion and coping were strongly related especially among the oldest-old.

With regard to coping Pargament (1996) cites five studies that show that religious forms of coping are especially helpful to people in uncontrollable, unmanageable or otherwise difficult situations. In the same lines Moran also believes that survivors of crisis or disaster may benefit by experiencing God as a refuge and as a reason to have hope (Moran, 1990). Patricia (1998) in her review shows how religion and spirituality help adult survivors of childhood violence.

Individuals with strong religious faith have been found to report higher levels of life satisfaction, greater personal happiness, and fewer negative psychological consequences of traumatic life events (Ellison, 1991). Anson et al., (1990) examined among 639 Jewish retirees over 60 years the relationship between self-rated religiosity, physical and psychological well-being and life satisfaction using data from a longitudinal study. Findings revealed religiosity was only weakly and inversely related to health and psychological distress, poor well-being at time 1 and a decline in well-being during the follow-up year led to an increase in religiosity. Ellis and Smith (1991) administered to 100 undergraduate students the Reasons for Living Inventory (RFL) and a spiritual well-being scale, and found a positive correlation between religious well-being and the total RFL score. Ellison’s (1993) data from a national survey of Black Americans supported the hypothesis that participation in Church communities fosters positive self-perception.

There have been studies on the effects of religiosity. A study by Mookherjee (1994) found that the perception of well-being was positively and significantly influenced by, among other things, church membership and frequency of church attendance. Blaine and Crocker (1995) found that religious belief salience and psychological well-being were moderately positively correlated among Black students. Two-thirds of the panel reported a consistently positive attitude –toward being religious when subjects attached importance to being religious even after 14 years later (Atchley, 1997).

Many psychologists who study religion distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic religious orientation (Paloutzian, 1996). An intrinsic orientation involves internal religious motives within a person. On the contrary extrinsic orientation involves external motives outside of the religion, using the religion for unreligious ends. There appears to be a positive correlation between intrinsically religious people (religion as an end in itself) deriving substantial positive mental health benefit from their religion (Donahue, 1985). Intrinsic religiosity has been related to the following qualities characterising positive mental health: internal locus of control, intrinsic motivational traits, sociability, sense of well-being, responsibility, self-control, tolerance, and so on (Bergin, 1991).

A long standing misconception is that religion is a crutch for the weak. However, researchers in the psychology of religion have found that many religious individuals were competent. Payne et al., (1991) in their review on religion and mental health found that there was a positive influence of intrinsic religiosity on mental health in regard to well-being. In one study (Ventis, 1995) found that individuals with intrinsic religious motivation reported a greater sense of competence and control, as well as less worry and guilt than did individuals with extrinsic religious motivation. In another study by (Genia, 1998) it was found that intrinsically religious and pro-religious students reported greater existential well-being than extrinsic or nonreligious subjects.

As Indian culture has a long tradition of spiritual practitioners as well as authentic records of spiritual experiences it will not be out of place here to consider them briefly. In addition their contribution to well-being is not inconsiderable

Thus the real nature of the effects of the experince are the essence of the argument, if they can't accounted for by psychology or chemicals that's a good reason to think it might actually be the effect of encounter with the divine. Since it's not a proof but a warrant for believing all it need do is be consistent, logical, and have some kind of weight in terms of making sense. Because it is a real experince it makes sense to think it has a real cause.

Suppose the atomic bomb didn't work? Suppose they never did get it work. Would they not consider that maybe their understanding of the theory was wrong? who would ever think that scientists would not question the theory if they couldn't get the thing to work? Would that not be a case in which working proved something was true? In this case it proved our understanding of physics was true. Or suppose someone kept saying he knew exactly how to fix your car, but he never could get it started. wouldn't that indicate that his idea of what was wrong and how to fix it was wrong? Of course working is always a sing that we know something. Why do they do trouble shooting? These simple little things one finds in instruction manuals for computers and things. It says "make sure the machine is plugged in." why does it say that? Does being plugged in prove the machine works? Its' part of it. So working is a good indication that we know something. This is not fool proof, but it's a good general indication. In science we assume that we can predict findings, and predictive power is taken as a sign that the theory is generally correct. If a theory can predict things scientists assume the theory is generally true. This is an example of something working that proves a truth.

God is not merely another fact in the universe. God is the basis of all that is, all reality. So for God to be true we would have to be able to understand the crux of what it means to be. We would have to understand the purpose of life and basic meaning of our existence. This is exactly the sense that people come away with in religious experince. This is just what religious experince tells us. But then atheists are afraid of subjective experiences. They refuse to believe that sensing God's presence could be anything but a silly mental problem or chemical imbalance, or just a trick of the mind. This is because they fear the subjective.This is really an illogical assumption because none of those kinds of things can producing any sort of positive experinces. Mental illness is degenerative, it can only get worse. Sensing God's presences helps one to get one's life in order. This is the sort of thing we should expect from the divine and this is the sort of thing that demonstrates a good reason to believe because it works and that is a sing that its real. It couldn't work if it wasn't real. Mental illness and pathological states never enable one to get one's life together. chemical imbalances are rarely healing. These experinces are healing. Because they work, because they are healing they give us an idea that something is going on, something above and beyond the reductionist explanations. Atheists never produce any sort of studies that back up their assertions that mystical experinces can be explained by reducing the phenomena to naturalistic counter causes.

There are three major categories in which atheists attempt to explain away the phenomena.

(1) Placebo

(2) Brain chemistry

(3) Tricks of the mind

The problem with Placebo is that it's just a throw away answer. They have no data whatsoever to prove that placebo can have any application to non medial uses. While these experiences do have medical outcomes, they would require something beyond the scope of the usual placebo which is after all a medical matter. Now the atheists, in using the term, are just using it as a metaphor for some other process like that which is no understood and which can't be documented and for which they have absolutely no proof at all. Arguing placebo makes no sense becasue the whole concept turns upon expectations. Mystical experiences are rarely expected, and they don't follow the pattern of expectation. Much of the time they happen to children who have no preconceived notions about them, and much of the time they contradict cherished doctirne. It is quite common that the first mystical experince is a conversion experience and was completely unexpected. This is not at all analogous to the case of giving a sugar pill to a hypochondriac who expects the pill to stop the pain: the hypochondriac knows what's he's getting (at least he knows he's getting a pill) and has many expectations about what it will do. This is not the case wiht mystical experince.

Grain chemistry can't explain the nature of the case. The M scale is a means of measuring mystical experince. It works by predicting mystical experiences according to the model set forth by W.T. Stace in the early 60s. Stace gained his data from reading the great mystics. The M scale has validated the finds on a cross cultural basis. It shows that when one ignores the minute details of religious traditions and observes how idea function in the tradition mystical experiences ar universal: mystical experience the same kinds of things all over the world. They call them by different names but htey are acting the same way. What an atheist calls "void" (or a Vadantist for that matter) a christian calls "God" both function exactly the same way in mystical experince. This is been cross culturally validated several times, with Iranian Muslims, Indian Hindus, American Christians, secular Swedes, and others. This cannot be explained by mere chemical imbalances something more has to be going on because it would require so much more for the same kinds of concepts to produce the same kinds of effect, to function the same in the each theology, and produce the same trans formative power. That's a heck of a lot to have going on just to dismiss it with the idea of an imbalance, which can't even be accounted for.

The idea of a trick of the mind comes in many forms, but it's really just a blow off. Placebo is actually a trick of the mind. They have no studies to back them up and no proof. They act like if they can assert a mere possibility however slight it has to be the case because there can't be a God!

When we face the facts surely what these studies prove is that religion works. It does what it's suppose to do. who would ever say "this theory works, it doesn't prove anything?" when theories are proven to work to explain things and predict they are assumed to be true. Working is a pretty good reason to assume something is true. If religion works, why oppose it?