Thursday, April 29, 2010

Omniscience and Omnipresence: is God's Nature Contradictory?


Atheists think it is. I've seen many a knock down drag-out fight, multiple threads, lasing for days, accomplishing nothing. I wrote that dilemma off years ago before I was an internet apologist, so long ago I don't remember when. I wrote it off because at an early date I read Boethius who, in his great work The Consolation of Philosophy (circa 524), puts to rest the issue by proving that foreknowledge is not determinism. In this essay I will demonstrate not only that this is true but the atheist error about omniscience and omnipotence contradicting are actually hold overs from the pagan framework which Boethius disproved.

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius
 Aurthor The Consolation
 of Philosophy

For years my debates on the matter were marked by silly repetition. I would constantly argue that just knowing that someone does something is not controlling it. But atheists were always cock sure that it was. I used the follow analogy: I know how the Alamo turned out. Travis and the men stepped over the line and chose to stay and die. I know they did that, does my knowledge of it mean that I made them do it? Of course the atheist say "O of course not, but you are not in the past, you are knowing this by a look back in history to see what they already did." Of course, but God doesn't know about events before they have happened in time, he knows about them because he's beyond time and he sees everything in time as a accomplished fact. From our perspective in time God's knowledge is "foreknowledge" becasue it is for us. But it's not foreknowledge for God, he doesn't know before it happens, he knows about events because form an eternal perspective its a done deal. Just as my knowing what the men at the Alamo already did does not give me control over their choices, so God's knowledge of facts we have already accomplish does not give God control over our choices.

Of course, predictably, the atheists dismiss this idea as "nonsense" and go right on asserting that to know of an action is to control, but they can't tell me why. They can tell me a  theoretical reason but they can't tell me why if my knowing about the Alamo ex post facto does not control those actions why would God's knowledge of a past even already done control the past event? Why are these not analogous if God is outside time and sees all things in time as accomplished facts? They can't tell me but they are certain the idea is nonsense. The reason they give initially is this. Say that God knows today that I will go to the store tomorrow. That means that i can't tomorrow morning decide "I don't want to go tot he store, I hate the walk." I can't decide that and follow it because God already knows I went so I have to go. But the problem is they are not following a modern concept of God knowing becuase he's outside of time. They are still stuck in the pre Christian framework which has clung to modern Western Philosophy lo these many centuries. That frame work can be clearly seen in Boethius because that's what he was arguing against. The fame work is the Greek Gods were controlled by the fates, but they also had foreknowledge, so they were trumping the fates, to whom they were really subject. That creates an issue. Moreover, foreknowledge was about things that had not yet taken place, thus that is a contradiction; it hasn't taken place, how can it be known what one will do, to know it is to set in stone and thus not free will. But that only holds in the case of god in time not outside of time. It doesn't apply to the idea of God transcendent of time and thus that's why they can't answer me, but because they know the philosophers they read still assert the old Greek idea they must cling to it.

We can see the exact kind of thinking the atheists use in the Consolation and it is the framework against which Boethius toils. This quotation is form a summary in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The summary is by John Marenbon.

The first point which needs to be settled is what, precisely, is the problem which Boethius the character proposes? The reasoning behind (7) seems to be of the following form:
  1. God knows every event, including all future ones.
  2. When someone knows that an event will happen, then the event will happen.
  3. (10) is true as a matter of necessity, because it is impossible to know that which is not the case.
  4. If someone knows an event will happen, it will happen necessarily.(10, 11)
  5. Every event, including future ones, happens necessarily. (9, 12)
The pattern behind (8) will be similar, but in reverse: from a negation of (13), the negation of (9) will be seen to follow. But, as it is easy to observe, (9–13) is a fallacious argument: (10) and (11) imply, not (12), but
  1. Necessarily, if someone knows an event will happen, it will happen.
 (emphasis mine)
 The summary of the problem he's working against indicates exactly the problem I frame it, that the atheist (following the Greeks) is not assuming transcendence of time but is working on the assumption that God's knowledge is prior to the completed nature of the action. This was framework in which Boethius found the problem in his own contemporary scene which came from the pre-christian Hellenistic world. Even when the philosopher writing the article sums it up he still speaks form the same perspective:

The fallacy, therefore, concerns the scope of the necessity operator. Boethius has mistakenly inferred the (narrow-scope) necessity of the consequent (‘the event will happen’), when he is entitled only to infer the (wide-scope) necessity of the whole conditional (‘if someone knows an event will happen, it will happen’). Boethius the character is clearly taken in by this fallacious argument, and there is no good reason to think that Boethius the author ever became aware of the fallacy (despite a passage later on which some modern commentators have interpreted in this sense). None the less, the discussion which follows does not, as the danger seems to be, address itself to a non-problem. Intuitively, Boethius sees that the threat which divine prescience poses to the contingency of future events arises not just from the claim that God's beliefs about the future constitute knowledge, but also from the fact that they are beliefs about the future. There is a real problem here, because if God knows now what I shall do tomorrow, then it seems that either what I shall do is already determined, or else that I shall have the power tomorrow to convert God's knowledge today into a false belief. Although his logical formulation does not capture this problem, the solution Boethius gives to Philosophy is clearly designed to tackle it.
He's speaking form the perspective of future events which have not yet happened, being known before they happen. But that leaves out the assumption that's God's is not actuality foreknowledge so much as translucence eternal knowledge that sees the events as an accomplished fact because it sees the the end result from a perspective after the event is accomplished. That's the wider perspective. Transcendent eternal knowledge is the knowledge of all time as the "eternal now" not "foreknowledge" in the sense of known only prior to the doing of the event. Then there is also an issue about the nature of the knower. This is a point Boethius may be making but it's hard to say. God knows form the standpoint of eternity but he speaks within times arrow to us so it appears to be foreknowledge, knowledge of that which has not yet transpired. Thus the illusion of determinism is created. But the fact of it is the knowledge comes from viewing all events as accomplished facts. It's in the perspective of timeless transience which only God can have.

This latter issue of the nature of the knowledge is marked by the summary and by the text itself as "modes of cognition." The Constolation of Philosphy is the old fashioned Philosophical dialogue which no one writes anymore, the kind Berkelely write (out of date in his day--early 1700's).

Erronious: "hi fallacious how's it going?"
Fallacious: "great, I'm now considering a new idea"
Erronious: "prey tell good sir what idea might that be?"

And they go on to discuss and provide endless house of fun writing Monty Python style paradiges of themselves. Then burst into a course of "Rene Descartes was a Druken fart, 'I drink therefore I am.'

But before they do that they discuss issues and the philosopher places his arguemnts in the mouth of the character. In the Consolution the Charactor Boethius is agonizing over philosphy when Philosophy personfie as a beautiful woman comes to him and gives him the answers. That's the context in which this reviewer states the following:

Her view, as she develops it (in V.5 and V.6), is based on what might be called the Principle of Modes of Cognition: the idea that knowledge is always relativized to different levels of knowers, who have different sorts of objects of knowledge. Although she initially develops this scheme in a complex way, in relation to the different levels of the soul (intelligence, reason, imagination and the senses) and their different objects (pure Form, abstract universals, images, particular bodily things), for most of her discussion Philosophy concentrates on a rather simpler aspect of it. God's way of being and knowing, she argues, is eternal, and divine eternity, she says, is not the same as just lacking a beginning and end, but it is rather (V.6) ‘the whole, simultaneous and perfect possession of unbounded life.’

Boethius did not have the knowledge of modern cosmology, the big bang, quantum theory or any of the other scientific data that we have so he did not possess the concepts of being outside of time. He did however have an understanding of eternity that came form his own spirituality, and it seems to coincide remarkably with the modern notion. What's he's saying is that God an eternal perspective. He can see the events of what to us are the future but to him is an eternal now. So he's not knowing something that hasn't happened yet, he knows something that to him has happened, but to us has not yet happened. Without the big bang Boeithius still has the concept of God being outside of time and he saw that as the basis of non-deterministic events in time which known to God as completed events due to God's unqiue persective.

A being who is eternal in this way, Philosophy argues, knows all things—past, present and future—in the same way as we, who live in time and not eternity, know what is present. She then goes on to show why, so long as God knows future events by their being present to him, this knowledge is compatible with the events’ not being determined.

Through the mouth of philosophy Boethius speculates that there two kinds of necessity. The first is:

Simple necessities are what would now be called physical or nomic necessities: that the sun rises, or that a man will sometime die. By contrast, it is conditionally necessary that, for instance, I am walking, when I am walking (or when someone sees that I am walking); but from this conditional necessity it does not follow that it is simply necessary that I am walking.

Although some philosophers disagree,  she is not noting the scope fallacy above but is actually using Aristotelian modality to argue about the eternal perspective. All things are known to God as though they were in the present. Future events for God are necessary in just the way that present events are necessary for us. What I'm doing writ now I am necessarily doing because I'm really doing it. But because it's my choice to do it and I'm doing it now (as opposed something I already did five years ago) my will to do it is not negated. I can stop doing it and so something else. But I can't go back five seconds ago and stop doing it in the past. All moments are known to God from this perspective.

Now so far so good. But there are two problems:

(1) Most philosophers today do not accept this reading of the issues.

It is important to add, however, that most contemporary interpreters do not read the argument of V.3–6 in quite this way. They hold that Philosophy is arguing that God is a-temporal, so eliminating the problems about determinism, which arise when God's knowing future contingents is seen an event in the past, and therefore, fixed.
That's going to be a problem for me becasue it means that timeless state of "beyond time" would mean God is "frozen" unable to act and thus can only act in time and thus the temporal problem. Rather, God sees as past and while may not control past is also not free to act in the past becuase it is a done deal.

(2) Philosophy seems to swing to a predestination view at the end.

She make God the determiner of events. There are also interpreters who see the Consolation as a satire that should be called "the insufficiency of philosophy." The only problem for me is that atheists will read this part of hte article and say "O see Metacorck is stupid because he didn't read the whole article." Marenbon argues that Boethius purpose is complex it can't be summarized as either "philosophy is insufficient" or "the whole issue is decided." what he's really saying is that philosophy is an ongoing concern. The true consolation of philosophy is not that such issue can be put to rest and summed up easily in nice little easy to understand phrases that only take a few syllables but we can have partial solutions and we can continue to work on problems and continue to seek answers and the act of so doing is a consolation even if we never find clear and easy answers. The interpretation of the Consolation is a literary problem, not a theological one. I will, therefore, bracket that until such as a time as I work on literary criticism.

The first problem is of much greater concern but I have an answer. I think I've analyzed Boethius' claims in the section where philosophy answers the issues of foreknowledge,I think I have that right and it works. It doesn't seem to work when we extract it form the framework of his day and place it in the world of modern cosmology, but it works again when we extract it from the framework of modern cosmology and place it in the framework of my theology (the Berkeley-Gaswami argument). My theological frame work differs from the modern cosmological in this way: I do not see God as a big man in the sky existing beyond the big bang which is a timeless void. I see God as the mind that thinks the universe, and the universe is therefore, analogous to a thought in a mind. I say "analogous" becuase it's a metaphor. If it was literal it might be more deterministic than any other view because it would mean that all events are thoughts in the mind of God in a litteral sense. I do not think that. The Gaswami part comes in where I take a page form the book of physicist Amit Gaswami (a Hindu vedantist who teaches physics at University of Oregon. Like Gaswami I see mind as the fundametnal stuff of the universe rather than energy or mater. I don't mean that in the sense of the universe being a mind, but that is related to mind in the way that a thought is related to a mind. I take that as a metaphor because like
Bishop George Berkeley I accept the premise "to be is to be perceived." God is the observer that collapses the wave function and causes the universe to be by beholding it. God is observing a thought that he has set up to run on it own. He's not making it happen or thinking every event at a microscopic level.

Two analogies that will clarify the difference. In the standard view God's relation to the world is like that of a man standing in a big room holding a world globe. The room is the timeless void beyond our space/time. The man is God, of course, and the globe is our space time. That puts God as a thing in "creation" or at least a timeless void, it makes God subject to the laws of physics and the problem of time. It makes God out to be a big man in the sky, although really far up in the sky. My view we have the room and the globe, no man. The room is the mind of God. the globe and the empty void of "timeless" are both thoughts in the mind of God. What this means is God is not subject to either time or the problem of non time. Both are pseudo problems for God because they are just ideas he thought up to create a framework for our world, which is a further thought of that preliminary thought in his mind. God is no more subject to the problems of time or even non time than we are to our day dreams and momentary fleeting fantasies that cross our minds.

This has many implications that have to be weighed. For one thing we just forget about the issues surrounding the omnis,, let them go completely. Not that God is not all knowing or all powerful, but the concepts "all knowing" and "all powerful" are hazy shadowy concepts that do more to confuse us than to help us. These are Aristotelian ideas and they hold overs from Greek philosophy. These things enter Western philosophy from Greek thought and they preserved by the prejudices of Western European philosophers. Modern philosophers still think the Greeks were the summit of human civilization, even the Church adopted ht language of Greek philosophy to discuss doctrine so we should look to the Greeks. The Hebrews were corn pones and the early Christians were Greeks themselves so Greek ideas hang on in philosophy. Thus the older meaning of "foreknowledge" and it's problems adhere to all modern discussions. The chruch began to use the language of Aristotle after the Apostolic age so we continue to speak of "omnipresent." "Omnipotent" even though the Bible doesn't so speak. We should scrap the language of "all knowing" " all powerful" because it communicates badly. Rather than these we should say, not that God is the "most powerful" that's a mistake too (from a Tillichian perspective) but that God can do whatever is logically doable. God knows whatever is logically knowable.

The problem is ni speaking of God as "doing" and "knowing' we give the importation of God as a big man and God's knowledge as the kind of knowledge city zoning board use to plan things. All of this anthropomorphic language is bring God down to the level of a thing in creation. It's not preserving the transcendent nature of God's knowledge which so different form ours we can't even know what it's like. What we can be sure of is that God has left us free will and he's not violating it. God knows whatever is logically knowable. It may not be logically knowable for God to know how it feels to be not God. But at the same time, he does know empathy, he knows the heart he knows the mind, he can take a much better intuitive feel of what that might be like than even we can ourselves. He doesn't know first hand what it's like to be human.

God does not have to make rocks he can't lift. That is a childish trap set for eighty grade apologetic hobbyists in Sunday school classes. I know because I'm still smarting from falling for it in eighth grade.God can't smell next Tuesday because days don't have smells. The eager beaver atheist can say "there's something God can't do." I say "so?" God cannot do nonsense, ok so what? We need to redefine the omnis and come up with a new term  ( I don't like "maximal greatness" too easy to confuse with "most power being"). The import this has for this issue is that there is no contradiction between omniscience and omnipotence because those are not helpful words and they don't really mean that much so they don't really describe God's attributes well. Since God is beyond the problems of either time or non-time he is not in the big room of timeless void so he's not frozen. Thus God's knowledge can come form all perspectives, from the eternal now and from time's arrow.

Might there actually be aspects of time God chooses not to see? The problem with that question is it assumes God is a rubber-necking tourist roving the expanse of all  existing matter and observing it as one would observe the country side of France from a  train window. Because God is not a big man in the sky, not anthropomorphic we can come up with other metaphors to compare God to, and that indicate that God's relationship to time is one we can't understand. Compare God to the strong force, to the unified field, to the laws of physics, the Hegelian dialectic. The Zeitgeist. I don't believe that God is impersonal but I do think it's a good exercise to think of him that way at times just to break the habit of thinking of God as a big man in the sky.

Such a God cannot waste his time worrying about conflicts between one badly worded phrase that doesn't really describe him and another badly worded phrase that doesn't describe him. Thus the problem is now reduced to a pseudo problem. It' an antiquated problem because it's rooted in the pre-Christian Greek understanding of God and time and the world, and it's also rooted in thinking of God as a big man in the sky rather than the transcendent and immanent ground of all being that God is.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

God, Simple or Complex?

 I have re-written this since yesterday and with apologies to my readers becasue it was originally a disjointed piece of crap. I did not take the time to write a quality piece. For this reason I'm starting over and using an essay I posted on Atheist because I like the way I gave the answers in that one. But I have a quote that is not in that section. I can't find the original, it's attributed to Richard Dawkins and appears quoted by a poster on CARM named "Swordsman."

 CARM: Swordsman (4/22/10)

Richard Dawkins wrote, “A designer God cannot be used to explain organized complexity because any God capable of designing anything would have to be complex enough to demand the same kind of explanation in his own right. God presents an infinite regress from which he cannot help us to escape.” (4) Another skeptic said that the problem comes in the end, in the assumption that there must be a first cause (God). Dawkins said, “They (believers – DL) make the entirely unwarranted assumption that God himself is immune to the regress.” (5) Thus, atheists say that making God an exception is special pleading,

The problem stems from the basic tendency of Dawkins to try and turn God into a biological organism and make him subject to physical law. I think he does this because the kind of naturalistic that Dawkins is can't think creatively. Be that as it may, I have a word about design before I get into the issue of complexity and God. The using of organized complexity as an argument for the existence of God must be done very sparingly and very carefully. This is because the design argument is not a good argument. I have found some specialized uses for aspect of the design argument, and I say must be done carefully,but by and large I don't use the design argument because it's based upon a fallacy. It first of all treats God like a big man, a big city planner in the sky. The problem with "planning' is it's a human thing. It's also a problem because you can't base belief upon the appearance of the word, since we do  not have a designed world (or one that we know is either way) to compare it to. So we don't know what a  designed world would look like or an undersigned one. We have no control planet to compare.

This is also a big problem for atheists they just need to be made aware of it. Atheists are always trying to extrapolate form the look of the world to the nature of God--there's evil in the world, there can't be a loving God. The world is a big mess, there can't be  a God who cares ect ect. They are doing the same thing the design argument does, reasoning from the nature of the world to the existence or non existence of a creator.

This part 2 of the previous post. I was considering an argument that Dawkins makes to the effect that evolution doesn't leave God anything to do. The idea that evolution is a counter to God belief is so sophomoric it's hardly worth arguing against, but the fact that Dawkins is willing to argue it seroiusly is very telling. The "new atheists" or "Dawkies" as I call them (Dawkamentalits) take the same tact mocking and ridiculing real, serious, advanced and sophisticated liberal theology. But he augments the simplistic contradiction between God and evolution by trying to turn it into a basis for probabilistic analysis ruling out the probability of God.

Wouldn't we be tempted to fall on our knees and worship them, as a medieval peasant might if suddenly confronted with such miracles as a Boeing 747, a mobile telephone or Google Earth? But, however god-like the aliens might seem, they would not be gods, and for one very important reason. They did not create the universe; it created them, just as it created us. Making the universe is the one thing no intelligence, however superhuman, could do, because an intelligence is complex—statistically improbable —and therefore had to emerge, by gradual degrees, from simpler beginnings: from a lifeless universe—the miracle-free zone that is physics.
So he uses this notion to create an opposition then leverages out the God concept on the basis that it's primitive and superstitious. The lever is the probability analysis. Evolution is the competing er zots creator. He then asserts the astounding concept that a mind can't create evolution. This is supposedly the case because as  a statistically complex thing a mind would be improbable since it has to be the product of evolution and develop. That would god is the product of evolution. That would make evolution and the who understands it best (Dawkins?) would be God's "Keeper." Aside from that aspect, Dawkins thinking here is extremely silly. But let's take it in stages.  First I'll deal with the original allegation that God has nothing to do in an evolving universe, secondly I'll deal with the inane probability argument.

The basic assumption he makes is that God is a big man in the sky. The reason I think he assumes this is because he treats God as though God were a big man; men need "tings to do." Of cousre if God created evolution one would have to think that he understood this would leave him with time on his hands. Rather than postulate the existence of a huge heavenly golf course with angelic caddies, perhaps we might just suspect that God doesn't need to "do things" in the same way that we do. Tilehard de Chardin theorized that God is the strong force. The strong force holds together atomic structures. In that case God would have a lot to do, assuming he "needed something to do." But not being a big man beyond our understanding we might just assert that God doesn't get board, doesn't have to challenge himself with meaningless activities and if he is trying to draw people to Christ he has his hands full anyway trying to convict people like Dawkins of their arrogance, and also teaching logic to atheists. That ought to keep him busy for an eternity or two.

Notice that Dawkin's arguments don't stem from the idea that God would not be capable of making a universe, but that he needs an activity, what he really mean is that in our understanding of argument for the existence of god there's nothing for him to do (that assumes the best implication because he does not say this). He may really mean there's nothing we can see that would give us an idea of the difference between God and no God. Stephan Hawking's argument is not based upon the probability scam but upon a question prompted by his own theory which removes the singularity in favor of a no boundary condition of the universe; in other words the universe did not begin in time.
So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose that it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator? (quoted byCTNS)
This is different from Dawkin's argument, but the answers overlapp. Keith Ward Takes issue in God, Chance and Necessity (quoted on CTNS site, Ibid.)

"On the quantum fluctuation hypothesis, the universe will only come into being if there exists an exactly balanced array of fundamental forces, an exactly specified probability of particular fluctuations occurring in this array, and existent space-time in which fluctuations can occur. This is a very complex and finely tuned ‘nothing’... So this universe looks highly contingent after all, and a creator God might well choose to create a partly probabilistic universe by choosing just such an origin for it."

Drees points out that in fact the Hawking-Hartle proposal accords well with a theology which emphasises that every space is equally created by God, ‘“sustaining” the world in all its “times.”’ R.J.Russell has shown, moreover, that at the core of the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo is the principle of ontological dependence - that all matter, all energy, and the laws that govern the universe all depend for their existence on a God whose existence is not dependent on anything. The discovery of an actual temporal beginning to this material universe would not prove this doctrine (since the doctrine rests on metaphysical convictions about God and existence) but only provide an additional gloss to it

Russell, Ph.D. Physics Santa Cruz,
prof Theology and Scinece
Founder and director CTNS
This means there are still things for God to do, just in case he needs them. Form the standpoint of apologetic there are still "earmarks" of God's work. But with Dawkins argument the rationale is quite different. His probability mess does not lend itself well to the God argument proof issue. He's not just looking for a hint of God's handiwork to compare to regular nature, but is actually trying to subject God to the needs and habits of a big man. He's creating his own Staw God concept and trying to wedge that in to the Christian argument. Dawkn's strwa God is a big biological organism subject to the same needs for challenge and stimulation that humans possess. He has a human mind that can be compared to our own reasoning processes so that a probability can be fixed to it's existence. Of course it would have to be the product of evolution because in Dawkin's world straw God is the product of higher forces, not the ground of being or the primordial aspect of reality upon which all other things depend, but the Dawkamentalist er zots God of science, evolution, has to create the straw God. In so doing Dawkins has tipped his hand, it is apparent he doesn't understand the Christian concept of God nor is he working within it's philosophical boundaries. He's not only created a straw God but he's placed it under jurisdiction of his own er zots god.

Of course weather one is a Tillichian, a Lutheran or a Thomism, even a protestant evangelical God is not a product of anything. No Christian group anywhere would accept this. That aspect alone marks Dawkin's straw God as a straw man argument. Of course as the last post parted out (part 1) it makes so much more sense to understand God as the progenitor of physical law, and perhaps directing to toward evolution, rather than the product of it, because otherwise you have these disembodied laws that most modern scientists don't even see as perspective anymore, no way to explain what they do or where they are located prior to the universe. That also means that the universe itself lacks explanation. Thanks to this maneuver Dawkin's idea actually highlights the real need to understand God as the basis of reality rather than to posit a big man with nothing to do. For this reason his argument is circular as the premise (God is a big man with nothing to do) rests upon the conclusion (viewing  God in which way disproves the existence of God).

That God is subject to evolution Dawkins predicates upon the human understanding of the universe about the nature of complexity. Complexity serves a key function in the argument because with it probability might favor God. But in using it he opens the door to another means of destroying his argument. He wants to say that God would have to be complex because as far as we know only complexity can produce more complexity. Thus a complex universe would have to be the process of a more complex God:

To midwife such emergence is the singular achievement of Darwinian evolution. It starts with primeval simplicity and fosters, by slow, explicable degrees, the emergence of complexity: seemingly limitless complexity—certainly up to our human level of complexity and very probably way beyond. There may be worlds on which superhuman life thrives, superhuman to a level that our imaginations cannot grasp. But superhuman does not mean supernatural. Darwinian evolution is the only process we know that is ultimately capable of generating anything as complicated as creative intelligences. Once it has done so, of course, those intelligences can create other complex things: works of art and music, advanced technology, computers, the Internet and who knows what in the future? Darwinian evolution may not be the only such generative process in the universe. There may be other "cranes" (Daniel Dennett's term, which he opposes to "skyhooks") that we have not yet discovered or imagined. But, however wonderful and however different from Darwinian evolution those putative cranes may be, they cannot be magic. They will share with Darwinian evolution the facility to raise up complexity, as an emergent property, out of simplicity, while never violating natural law.
He just asserts that natural law is all there is and thus God must be a product of natural law. This astounding conclusion is arrived at how? By using human understanding based upon, his own words, "Darwinian evolution is the only process we know that is ultimately capable of generating anything as complicated as creative intelligences." And how much of the universe have seen? Up close we know some stuff form one planet, how much? We don't know, we are still amazed by our own planet. Off planet we've made remarkable progress through telescopes and other long range means, but what do we really know?

John Polikinghorne Q and A (question about cosmological argument)
John Polikinghorne's Websiet
the answer of his assistant
However since it is known that only 4% of the matter and energy in the Universe is made of what we understand as matter, and most of the universe seems, on current understandings, to be “dark matter” and “dark energy” about which we know nearly nothing, and no-one knows how to reconcile Quantum Mechanics with General Relativity (the much-hyped String Theory looks increasingly like a dead-end) it is unwise to assume that current understandings of cosmology represent the last word.
  I’ll see what John has to add. John said he had nothing to add to this reply

We can take this to mean we know only about 4% of the universe. Actually it might be a lot less but this s a good illustration of one aspect of which we know almost nothing, and that aspect is major. So Dawkins standard for fixing human knowledge is pretty feeble. But the fact he's willing to do it is interesting because when we use the same kind of standard in God arguemnts, it means nothing to an atheist. We say "not one single example anywhere in all of reality shows a non contingent aspect of the natural world" but they dont' care. As far as they are concerned that tells us nothing about the universe being contingent. they are willy to shout "fallacy of composition" on that one but totally ignore what the limited data base does to their assumption about complexity and human knowledge.

(1) tries to force God under the jurisdiction of the physical by just asserting the universal necessity of physical law, he abhorrence of Magic, of course making out that supernatural is "only magic" which can't exist because it's opposed to the ideology of physcialism and lack of a God forbid that anything should contradict that! We know that's the only real truth how do we know it? by the same circular reasoning that allows us to hide proof of miracles under the same dictum and to assume through circular reasoning that there is no God.

(2) Of course attaching a probability to something like God woud be totally impossible since there's nothing to compare to. the very concept of the probability of the foundation of reality is impossible understand.

In addition to this there are also a couple of problems with the "complexity" and applying it to God.

(1) No basis for comparison.

How could one say if the basis of reality is complex or simple? This would especially be perplexing if creation has a moment in time. If God existed "before" creation (if creation is done in time then there can be a "before") as opposed to placing it in a spacial coordinate such as "beyond event horizon." In either case to what do we compare God? Let's say we have car in an eternal void of nothing. This is true absolute nothing, no vacuum flux, no germs no nothing. Just pure darkness and this care. Now how fast is it moving? Is it moving at all? Say it's 0 mph. But wait, no landmarks to measure miles, no time to measure hours, hwo can we even say it's moving at all, must less how fast? This is the same problem we have in consider God's complexity. What is complex compared to God? Does the term have a meaning. What is simple compared to the only thing that is? On the other hand suppose there's nothing but a singularity, a mathematical dot. The dot would be complex compered to nothing, but compared to us it would be simple.

(2) God is simple

Thomas Aquinas  believed that God was simple, the "primary act of existence," extremely simple.

(3) Their premise contradicts evolution which has complexity coming from simplicity

Dawkins says as quoted above that evolution would mean God has to be complex and to have developed by physical laws. On the other hand evolute posits origin from extreme simplicity and the simplicity evolves into complexity. We begin the universe with a singularity and life with a single cell organism. It looks like the principle of complex from the simple is not a contradiction to evolution. Since God is not a biological organism and can't the product of a process that would suggest that God is simple and the complexity of the universe evolved. Moreover, God does not have a physical brain and thus what is it exactly that would need to be complex?

Come to that Dawkins is willing to use human data base, limited though it is, to argue absolute analogy for things beyond our observation, so why isn't he wiling to accept the notion of a contingent universe?

(4) If God was complex it would have no consequances because God is not vulnerable to the probelms of complexity

a. wont wear out no entropy

b. doesn't have to be the result of a process

Where does that leave God? The kindest thing to say is that it leaves him with nothing to do, and no achievements that might attract our praise, our worship or our fear. Evolution is God's redundancy notice, his pink slip. But we have to go further. A complex creative intelligence with nothing to do is not just redundant. A divine designer is all but ruled out by the consideration that he must at least as complex as the entities he was wheeled out to explain. God is not dead. He was never alive in the first place.
Of course I've already demonstrated quotations above that show God would still have a lot to do as the strong force, setting target levels for fine tuning. But of course there's no reason to believe God needs to do anything. This requires the notion  of a God of liberal theology. When confronted with this reality Dawkins shows his true dishonestly. Dawkins seeks to head off a liberal God concept but he just can't quite bring himself to face a real one:

Now, there is a certain class of sophisticated modern theologian who will say something like this: "Good heavens, of course we are not so naive or simplistic as to care whether God exists. Existence is such a 19th-century preoccupation! It doesn't matter whether God exists in a scientific sense. What matters is whether he exists for you or for me. If God is real for you, who cares whether science has made him redundant? Such arrogance! Such elitism."
That's a straw theologian argument because no one says that. There are some who hinted at it in the 60s God is dead movement, but there are plenty of modern theologians still working and none of them really say this. Tillich certainly didn't say it. Tillich says God is a concrete reality not just a wishful thought in our minds. No theologian I know of says that. But plenty of them say that is not a big man in the sky. But Dawkins is not brave enough to take on those guys.

Well, if that's what floats your canoe, you'll be paddling it up a very lonely creek. The mainstream belief of the world's peoples is very clear. They believe in God, and that means they believe he exists in objective reality, just as surely as the Rock of Gibraltar exists. 
 Yea but that does not mean that it's subject to the laws of physics, which He created, nor does it mean he's a big man in the sky either.

If sophisticated theologians or postmodern relativists think they are rescuing God from the redundancy scrap-heap by downplaying the importance of existence, they should think again. Tell the congregation of a church or mosque that existence is too vulgar an attribute to fasten onto their God, and they will brand you an atheist. They'll be right.

 Most of those churches don't believe God is subject physical law or the product of evolution either. Dawkin's arguemnts are convoluted, circular and dishonest he really should be selling securities and making loans for mortgage company.

Monday, April 26, 2010


 Rashomon 1950

Akira Kurasawa (March 23-1910-Sept 8, 1998)

Toshirô Mifune... Tajômaru
Machiko Kyô... Masako Kanazawa
Masayuki Mori... Takehiro Kanazawa
Takashi Shimura... Woodcutter
Minoru Chiaki... Priest
Kichijirô Ueda... Commoner
Noriko Honma... Medium (as Fumiko Honma)
Daisuke Katô... Policeman

Kurasawa is one of my two favorite directors, alongside Ingmar Bergman. Like Bergman, Kurasawa is renown the world over as one of the finest directors of all time. In honor of his centennial year, I will review what I think is his greatest film, Rashomon. Although his most famous film is The Seven Samurai which served as the inspiration for American western series the Magnificent Seven (and all its many spin-offs), a good argument can be made that it is his finest film.

Kurasawa received a top grade education in Japan at a leading private school. He was not only taught Japanese scholarship and even trained as a Samurai himself, he was also well schooled in the world of Western arts and letters. Roshomon is patterned after a classical Greek tragedy, with the three narrators serving as a kind make shift chorus. The narrators are a small cast of three characters who take shelter from a driving rain storm on the front steps of a dilapidated temple. Even though it's a wooden structure this is no log cabin. The structure is massive, the pillars are made from whole trees shaped smooth and the classic Chinese architecture with red tile roof up turned on the corners looms imposing over the land scape. The scene with two men huddled under the over-hang looking worn out and confused. One of them keeps muttering "I don't understand." We soon learn the more distraught of the two is a wood cutter (we never know his name) the other a priest (probably Shinto). A third one approaches, a man I will call "the skeptic" (we never know his name or his occupation). He builds a fire from wood the tares off the massive door to the temple, and asks to be let in on the problem the problem, "what don't you understand?". The problem is a murder has been committed, the court has just been held and the bandit who did the murder taken away, but the men are stunned in disbelief.

The disbelief comes in where the witnesses  try to understand the contradictory story each participant told and the twisted motives surrounding the event. The Priest and the Woodcutter relate the story of the witnesses testimony to the skeptic. He is called the skeptic because he is not in the least baffled by the attitudes of heartless cruelty or the conflicting stories. Throughout the film he tells us everything's a lie, all people are bad, he trusts  no one, he doesn't care if the story is a lie as long as it's interesting. But will not allow the priest to say anything serious becasue he can't strand to hear sermons and he calls anything that not cynical a sermon. First the Woodcutters tells us about finding the body of a samurai in the woods. Then the priest an woodcutter relate the stories:

The first story

bandit's tale.

This related by the two narrators but they learned it from the bandit's own words at the trail. It's actually his testimony. Kurasawa uses an interesting technique for the testimony. We never see the judges. We see the witnesses testifying looking at the camera and speaking as though they hear but we do not hear the words of the judge. In this way the audience is place in the position of the judge. Thus Kurasawa is telling us he expects us to judge. We are to make sense of he conflicts and moral dilemmas.

The Bandit is supposed to be famous and feared, his name is Tajômaru. Played superbly by Toshirô Mifune (yojimbo) major star of the samurai flick of the era and a stable actor of Kurasawa. A samurai is leading his wife through the woods. He is walking she ride on a horse. A man approaches and shows them a fine sword and tells them he found a whole cash of them. They leave the woman by a stream and go to look at the swords. In the woods the bandit attacks the samurai and captures him, trying him up. He then goes back for he woman and takes her in the woods telling her her husband fell ill. When they get there he rapers her. After, the woman is shaped before her husband. It doesn't make sense to use today but in that era if a woman was rapped and lived it was her fault. So the husband is angry at her and she feels guilty. She tells he bandit she can't live knowing that two men know her shame. she wants the two to fight and she will go with the winner.

The bandit is almost as put out as the husband. No one likes a turn coat. Her husband doesn't mean anything more to her than that, why should he want her either. But the two fight anyway. They fight valiantly. Their struggle is realistic, no flying 60 feet in the air, but neither of them is amazing. They both adequate swordsmen. The Bandit declares to the court that this was the greatest fighter he had ever faced.They crossed swords 23 times and no one had ever done that more 20 with him before. He was very impressed with the guy, even though he killed him. The woman ran off he couldn't find her. He sort of makes a point of what a true man he is because he was able to rape the woman and kill the husband.

Woman's tale

 She portrays herself as weak and helpless. no fight,no rape, but husband is captured. He looks at her with hate in his eyes and shame and she can't stand it. He thinks she has been rapped but she hasn't. She nobly implores her husband to kill her, he wont do it. she faints when she comes too the husband is dead and she runs away.

dead man's tale

The skeptic asks how can a dead man testify. They got a spirit medium to get his testimony.

In the husband's story the woman asked the bandit to killer her husband. She can't stand him, he did lose the fight and was captured after all, so he's not a real man.  He's so upset about it he wants to die. ranting about how he suffers in great darkness, "cursed are those who sent me thos is dark hell" (Mary  Poppins it ant). The bandit cuts him loose, runs after the woman who runs away and husband the husband sits dazed not knowing what to think. He's totally devastated by his wife's treachery. Voice over shows him thinking "someone is cry, who?" It's him, and he doesn't know it. Samurai don't cry but he was crying. He kills himself with a knife. In this tale the husband is properly outraged by the mercenary wife, he has nothing to be ashamed of because the  wife is the evil one.

wood cutter's version

wood cutter is upset becuase he says "there was no knife" the skeptic figures out that he saw it all. He lied because he didn't want to get involved. He claimed to only find the body but he really saw everything. He tells his story. The woman is mocking both the bandit and the husband saying they both weak. She is laughing at them. the bandit was begging her to go away with him and be his wife. But she mocks the bandit for not killing the husband, and mocks the husband for not being man enough to kill the bandit and then punish her. They two men fight, their fight is pathetic.


Thus the stage is set for a nice little debate about good and evil. This debate reminds me somewhat of the book of job although there is no actual Job figure. But the wood cutter will do. The skeptic is convinced people are evil and there's no truth and so on. the Priest is trying to maintain his faith in man. The Woodcutter, who represents the average working man, is just trying to make sense of it all and aswage his guilt because he took the dagger after the death becasue it would valuable. The skeptic, who has a great knack for prying the truth out of the wood cutter, tells them: Rashomon was a demon of the temple where they were, who ran away becuase he was afraid of the depth of evil in men.

 At that point they hear a baby crying Then find a baby behind the Temple door left there with a charm to protect it. The skeptic tries to take the baby's clothing leaving it to die. The woodcutter is appalled and wont let him go near it. The Priest holds the infant and protects it. The skeptic argues that the parents are the evil ones for abandoning it "they had their fun why shouldn't I get something?" The woodcutter is not willing to assume such horrible motives. He insights the charm placed with the child proves they didn't want to give him up and it was hard. The two men drive the skeptic away. They almost have their own fight as the Priest is suspicious of the Woodcutter until he learns the man has six children already and wants to adopt the infant. There is a powerful moment the audience can feel, without words, when the priest realizes the woodcutter loves the child. Trust is created between the two. They decide that the child gives them hope and they leave together to take the baby to Mrs. woodcutter and its new home. The priest utters the last line of the film, "you have resorted my faith in men."

This is a power theodicy story. It feels like reading the book of Job or Homer's Iliad. Theodicy of course is the official theological term for the problem of evil or the problem of pain: if there is a God, or a goodness in the universe, who is there is also pain, suffering and, evil? The chorus has discussed how hard life is, the famines, the wars, the pleasures that have been non stop al their lives, these guys have had hard lives. The skeptic constantly beating his drum about the failure of humanity. One realizes the skeptic is projecting his own failure and selfishness onto humanity, excusing his short comings because "everyone is like me." Of course the child represents the future, the potential, the hope that the next generation will be better. The outlook for humanity is bleak until that first ray of hope that comes at the very end of the film. The moment of trust between  the two child saving men is the first true expression of human goodness in the film One realizes hope is the fuel of faith. Without hope, not an idle Mary Poppins hope in nothing but real hope based upon the exercise of love, there's nothing faith in. Faith is not a blind irrational leap into nothing. Faith is trust, as the priest placed trust in the woodcutter and it born fruit int he development of faith. Like Saint Paul Kurisawa strings together the those three most important aspects of spiritual life, faith, hope, and love. No one ever mentions love, but it's clearly communicated the old fashioned way, good acting.

Great art doesn't preach, great films don't have a clearly summed up moral, but it's hard not to give the impression of one in dealing with theodicy. The real challenge the director faced in making this film was to communicates insights through the material (through the talk of suffering an evil, the debate in the chorus) without giving the impression of preaching. The skeptic serves to put a damper on preachment when every time the priest says anything of serious nature he says "I don't want a sermon." Kurasawa meets this challenge like the great Master filmmaker  he was. There is still enough mystery and enough questions to be asked at the end of film that one wants to see it again and one knows the pondering is endless. Despite all this there is one important insight that comes t the viewer clearly and unmistakably, not to call it "the moral" but an important insight that is not to be missed. Cynicism and skepticism, not the valid suspicion in the face of hokum, but constant unrelenting suspicion of  everything good in humanity, can only lead to excusing one's own evil and even foster evil itself. Hope must replace cynicism or it is impossible to do good.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

See Bill Moyer's Blog: Bush defacto deregulated secuarities and lending

I just got through watching the tv broadcast on PBS and so looked for the blog. It's fascinating and scary. This is just a note to the interested reading about a source that would be good to check out. It's of my usual topic of theology.

William K Balck is he guest. He was an investigator for the Security and Savings and Loan fraud investigation in the 80s. Black tells Bill Moyers on THE JOURNAL that, despite evidence of fraud at the top banks, prosecutions seem far away. "If you go back to the savings and loan debacle, we got more than a thousand felony convictions of the elite. These are not, you know, tellers or something. We today have zero convictions, zero indictments, zero arrests of any of the elite, non-prime lenders that, through their fraud, drove this crisis."

The key sound byte I like best:

"Today's Economics schools are schools for Fraud," from the 
tv broadcast

quoting form the Moyers blog:
On Friday April 16, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission seemed to agree, charging Goldman Sachs with fraud in its representation of collatoralized debt obligations (CDOs) to its investors. At the heart of the case is whether Goldman Sachs was completely honest with potential investors about how the portfolio of CDOs was chosen. The SEC alleges that Goldman Sachs didn't acknowledge that the portfolio was assembled with the help of hedge fund manager John Paulson, who was planning on betting against the portfolio. Black explained why it could be a criminal matter:
It has nothing to do with the buyer being dumb. Any buyer would have wanted to know that this portfolio was set up to fail. That would have been material information within the language of the securities laws. And they were not only not told that, they were told the opposite, that it was picked so that it would succeed. That, if it's true, is a misrepresentation, or in English, a lie. And that would establish securities fraud. And that, by the way, is a felony, not just a civil wrong.

William K. Black, author of THE BEST WAY TO ROB A BANK IS TO OWN ONE, teaches economics and law at the University of Missouri — Kansas City (UMKC). He was the executive director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention from 2005-2007. He has taught previously at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and at Santa Clara University, where he was also the distinguished scholar in residence for insurance law and a visiting scholar at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

A lot more on the Moyer's blog. I urge the reader to check it out.

Back to more theology soon....

Friday, April 23, 2010

Extraordinary Claims/Extraordinary Proof

Carl Sagan

I  have a page dealing with this concept on Doxa, but it's not very good. This is a better version. I will combine the two eventually.

Carl Sagan made this statement popular in its current form, it was originally used by Hume, Laplace and other early theorists, but atheists have sense taken it as a major slogan for their decision-making paradigm.

Marcelo Truzzi tells us:

In his famous 1748 essay Of Miracles, the great skeptic David Hume asserted that "A wise man...proportions his belief to the evidence,"and he said of testimony for extraordinary claims that "the evidence, resulting from the testimony, admits of a diminution, greater or less, in proportion as the fact is more unusual." A similar statement was made by Laplace, and many other later writers. I turned it into the now popular phrase "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" (which Carl Sagan popularized into what is almost the war cry of some scoffers).

This slogan allows them to raise the bar for any Christian claim, while lowering it for their own purposes.  Ed J. Gracely explains the basic logic of the bromide.

First, it is important to understand that the strength of a conclusion is a function both of the quality of the evidence provided in its support and the a priori probability of the claim being supported. Thus there can never be a single standard of "acceptable evidence" that will suffice to render every claim equally plausible. Suppose, for example, that a reasonably reliable source tells me (a) that President Clinton has vetoed legislation that places restrictions on trade with China and (b) that Newt Gingrich has switched to the Democratic party. Most people would be much more confident of the truth of the first report than of the second, even though the source is identical. The difference lies in the a priori plausibility of the claims.

A more precise formulation requires us to cast the a priori probability of a claim into the form of "odds" in its favor. A proposition with 90% probability of being true has 90 chances of being true for every 10 of being false. Thus the odds are 90 to 10, which reduces to 9 to 1. A proposition with 20% probability of being true has 20 chances of being true for 80 of being false. The odds (in its favor) are 20 to 80 or 0.25 to 1. It is more natural to translate the latter case into odds of 4 to 1 against the proposition, but the calculations require us to work with odds "in favor of" a proposition, even if they are fractional. Pieces of evidence alter the odds in favor of a proposition by a multiplicative factor in proportion to the quality of the evidence.

While it is clear that not all evidence weighs the same, some evidence is better than other evidence, nothing in this explanation indicates why evidence must be stronger for “extraordinary claims” than for “normal claims.” Assuming we can even indicate what “extraordinary evidence” is, what makes it more proven than “ordinary” evidence? The statement above merely indicates that probability is higher for a proposition backed by more direct evidence, nothing more. The rationale says that the least likely proposition is less probable, then the assertion that the evidence must be more “extraordinary” (whatever that means) rather than just accurate or valid or to the point is not demonstrated. Most assumptions about what makes evidence “extraordinary” or “ordinary,” or a proposition likely or unlikely is going to be largely a matter of prejudice. Consider the following statement, also by Gracely:
The principle is clear; the difficulty lies in the application. How likely, for example, is it that homeopathy or therapeutic touch really work? Proponents argue that we need to open our minds to new possibilities and grant these systems a fairly high a priori probability (say, 50-50 odds). Then, even modest-quality evidence would make the claims quite probably true. Skeptics argue that these systems violate known laws of physics and their validity should therefore be considered remotely improbable.

Who decides how likely it is that homeopathy is valid or invalid medicine? One would need a statically average for cure rates to compare with controlled group using orthodox practices to see this. He admits that “modest quality” evidence would be proof if it is granted a high probability. Without the proper studies why not so grant? What if one has found such treatments effective already in one’s own life? This is nothing more than prejudice to judge something improbable on the basis of guesswork and matters of taste. Why shouldn’t a standard of evidence adequate for proof of the issue under consideration, be the issue? I have so far been unable to find an atheist who can tell me what extraordinary God evidence is. I’ve seen attempts on message boards, where they argue absurdities like “why can’t God make all the stars spell out the phrase “burn pain is the worst pain, Jesus is Lord, convert now.” Or God could appear at the UN and hold a press conference. I have yet to see an atheist give me a valid option for “extraordinary evidence.” More importantly, we are talking about God, not about finding Bigfoot. God is off scale for empirical investigation. How can the basis of reality be studied as though just another “thing” in creation? What could be used as a basis of comparison? How could one ever establish a base line comparison to determine probability of God? Dawkns tries it but he merely assumes God would be on a par with any other physical object.  What basis is used to establish the probability of something that is said to be beyond our understanding?

Gracely argues:

An alternative I have heard suggested is to drop the extraordinary proof argument and instead to hold paranormal and alternative medicine claims strictly to the ordinary requirements of replicability and good research. This approach sounds sensible but it has a serious flaw. Skeptics are not willing to accept the plausibility of most paranormal claims unless the evidence is extremely strong. We risk being perceived (correctly) as disingenuous if we call for solid quality research, then revert to the extraordinary claims argument should it in fact appear.(Ibid)

This standard is the one I have been proposing for years. The term he doesn’t use, the proper term for “ordinary” level of proof would be a “prima facie case.” He may have a point if we are talking about acupuncture or UFOs but the flaw he sees in it is attitudinal, not logical or methodological. The attitude of skeptics is out of line anyway. Atheists are not willing to accept any level of evidence. The experience studies are fine studies, they are scientific and a huge body of work backs them up. For all practical purposes, they are “extraordinary evidence.” Let us not forget there is no set standard any skeptic can offer to define that term. Skeptics are quick to brush aside the experience studies as “subjective” without reading the studies or thinking about the arguments. They never define what “extraordinary” evidence would be. Gracely observes that skeptical attitudes are similar even in other areas:

In some areas of paranormal investigation, such as extrasensory perception (ESP), the research is already often better done than much orthodox scientific research, with controls and double-checks most scientists would regard as overkill. Skeptics mostly still feel that the intrinsic implausibility is so great that nothing short of airtight and well-repeated research would be sufficient to support ESP. Little or none of the existing research rises to that level, so we remain skeptical. (Some recent work has been of high quality, see Ray Hyman's article, "The Evidence for Psychic Functioning: Claims vs. Reality", in the March/April 1996 Skeptical Inquirer, pp 24-26.) Had skeptics said some 40 years ago that all we wanted was reasonable quality replicated research, we might now be having to eat our words.

Skeptics are never satisfied. I have seen this problem over and over again. When their demands for evidence are met, they just raise the bar again and again. The tyranny of  “extraordinary evidence” so long as one never defines it, allows for this sort of abuse all t he time. More importantly, why should God be subjected to the same standards of proof as empirical objects? Here the skeptic is just in the position of arguing “God is improbable because I don’t believe in him.”  Truzzi documents the “catch 22” designed into the extraordinary proof standard:

But it is important to remember that the proponent of the paranormal has an uphill battle from the start. The chips are stacked against him, so his assault is not so threatening to the fabric of science as scoffers often characterize it. In a sense, conservative science has "the law" on its side.
In law, we find three varieties in the weight of burden of proof:
1. proof by preponderance of evidence,
2. clear and convincing proof, and, in criminal law,
3. proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
In conventional science, we usually use (1), but when dealing with extraordinary claims, critics often seem to demand (3) since they demand all alternative explanations must be eliminated before the maverick claim is acceptable. This demand sometimes becomes unreasonable and may even make the scoffer's position unfalsifiable. Since the anomaly proponent is already saddled with a presumption of "guilt," it would seem to me that (2), clear and convincing proof, might be the best standard, though proponents may reasonably wonder why standard (1) should always be denied them.(Ibid)

But we must also keep in mind that God is not “paranormal.” Truzzi and Gracely are speaking in general of any sort of “paranormal” claim, including the claims of alternative medicine. God is not paranormal, but is status quo, normative for human belief. Nor is God a scientific question. It is absurd to expect us to limit evidence to only the scientific when the question about belief is epistemological. More on this aspect of belief and it is import for evidential standards below. But this does raise a further question about the extraordinary evidential standard:
In addition to defining the term “extraordinary evidence” there is also a need to define the term “extraordinary claim.” Why is God an extraordinary claim?  Here the atheist is truly in the position of arguing “God is improbable because I don’t believe in him.” Atheists make up 3% of the world’s population at best.  The overwhelming majorities of people alive today, or who have ever lived, believe in some form of God. Our brains are hard wired to have thoughts of God. Our physical and mental health work better when we believe in God (as will be seen in latter chapters). Obviously we are fit for belief, why would belief be extraordinary? Why should we allow the minor little 3% minority to define what is normative for humanity? Belief in God is is far more than just the average belief; it is normative as a standard of human understanding. It forms the basis of our psyches, it forms the basis of our legal system; it is the chief metaphor regulating meaning and morality. Belief in God illustrates all the aspects of a prima facie case. This is at least so for RE. Marcelo Truzzi makes the same point:

The central problem however lies in the fact that "extraordinary" must be relative to some things "ordinary." and as our theories change, what was once extraordinary may become ordinary (best seen in now accepted quantum effects that earlier were viewed as "impossible"). Many now extraordinary claims may become more acceptable not when they are replicated but when theoretical contexts change to make them more welcome.(Ibid)

Skeptics have argued that religious experience is not regular or consistent because such experiences are all different. Not only do you have so many different religions, but also even from mystic to mystic things differ. Over the years as one develops a disciplined life of prayer, one does encounter growing diversity and newness, but a certain sense of the familiar as well. Experiences become regular and consistent in that the presence of God is usually found in prayer, the sense of the presence is always the of the same quality (although varying intensity) and the sense of God can become familiar enough that it is always recognized as the same, This sense of the familiar is communicable and can be recognized form one believer to another. The mystical and devotional literature presents a kind of ordered sameness. One can read accounts as different form one experiencer to another as those between St. Augustine and A.W. Tozer and still find passages that seem to be talking about the same things. This is amplified times millions of believers in the history of the church who have experienced the same things. Even though there is diversification and difference there is still sameness. This is not even confined to mystics. The same can be said of conversion accounts that the same aspects keep popping up. Once can recognize the work of God from one person to another, form one time to the next, from one culture to all cultures. But, the skeptic will ask, what about the vast array of different religions? These differences are due to cultural constructs. One experiences God beyond words, and when one tries to speak of such experiences one must encode them in a symbolic universe, that is to say, in culture. These differences in symbolic universes over time have spelled out the differences in the many religions. But there is a cretin unity even between all the differences in religion. The data presented long term effects of religious experience (see articles on RE in this blog) represents typologies, which can be used to compare "peak experience" with that of other phenomena. The Peak experiencers can be grouped together into a collection of those who have experiences X. They are not isolated assortments of differing phenomena. These studies do represent differing cultures and times. Thus, religious experience has a consistency to it even between cultures.

Archetypal symbology universal.

Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences. Abraham H. Maslow
Appendix I. An Example of B-Analysis

"...Jungian archetypes which can be recovered in several ways. I have managed to get it in good introspects simply by asking them directly to free associate to a particular symbol. The psychoanalytic literature, of course, has many such reports. Practically every deep case history will report such symbolic, archaic ways of viewing the woman, both in her good aspects and her bad aspects. (Both the Jungians and the Kleinians recognize the great and good mother and the witch mother as basic archetypes.) Another way of getting at this is in terms of the artificial dream that is suggested under hypnosis. It can also probably be investigated by spontaneous drawings, as the art therapists have pointed out. Still another possibility is the George Klein technique of two cards very rapidly succeeding each other so that symbolism can be studied. Any person who has been psychoanalyzed can fairly easily fall into such symbolic or metaphorical thinking in his dreams or free associations or fantasies or reveries.

Archetypal Symbology linked to Peak experience.

The link from Archetypes to religious experience is supplied by Maslow as well, in a quotation already sited in Religious Experience Arguments. He argues that the ability to relate "B knowlege" to "C knowlege" where the female (Or the male) is blanced in the perception of the other between goddess and whore, and the proper ego relation is sorted out, is the managing of the sacred and profane. He points out that anyone can learn to see in this manner and that it is indicative of permeative people in their religious experiences as they explained the world through the sense of the numenous.
d) Anyone can have peack expirence --universal to humanity

Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences
Abraham H. Maslow
Appendix D. What is the Validity of Knowledge Gained in Peak-Experiences?
"To summarize, the major changes in the status of the problem of the validity of B-knowledge, or illumination-knowledge, are: (A) shifting it away from the question of the reality of angels, etc., i.e., naturalizing the question; (B) affirming experientially valid knowledge, the intrinsic validity of the enlarging of consciousness, i.e., of a wider range of experiencing; (C) realizing that the knowledge revealed was there all the time, ready to be perceived, if only the perceiver were "up to it," ready for it. This is a change in perspicuity, in the efficiency of the perceiver, in his spectacles, so to speak, not a change in the nature of reality or the invention of a new piece of reality which wasn't there before. The word "psychedelic" (consciousness-expanding) may be used here. Finally, (D) this kind of knowledge can be achieved in other ways; we need not rely solely on peak-experiences or peak-producing drugs for its attainment. There are more sober and laborious—and perhaps, therefore, better in some ways in the long run—avenues to achieving transcendent knowledge (B-knowledge). That is, I think we shall handle the problem better if we stress ontology and epistemology rather than the triggers and the stimuli."

2) Why Does God seem Hidden to SO many people?
a) God is not strictly speaking "invisable."

According to Hartshorne, "[o]nly God can be so universally important that no subject can ever wholly fail or ever have failed to be aware of him (in however dim or unreflective fashion)." Now the issue of why God doesn't hold a "press conference" has do do with the fact that God does not communicate by violating normal causal principles. In process terms, the "communication" of God must be understood as the prehension of God by human beings. A "prehension" is the response of an occasion to the entire past world (both the contiguous past and the remote past.) As God is in every occasion's past actual world, every occasion must "prehend" or take account of God.

It should be noted that "prehension" is a generic mode of perception that does not necessarily entail consciousness or sensory experience. In previous postings I explained that there a two modes of pure perception --"perception in the mode of causal efficacy" and "perception in the mode of presentational immediacy." If God is present to us, then it is in the presensory perceptual mode of causal efficacy as opposed to the sensory and conscious perceptual mode of presentational immediacy. That is why God is "invisible", i.e. invisible to sense perception. The foundation for experience of God lies in the nonsesnory nonconscious mode of prehension. So now, there is the further question: Why is there variability in our experience of God?. Or, why are some of us atheists, pantheists, theists, etc.? Every prehension has an initial datum derived from God, yet there are a multiplicity of ways in which this datum is prehended from diverse perspectives.

I agreed with Hume that sense perception tells us nothing about efficient causation (or final causation for that matter). Hume was actually presupposing causal efficacy in his attempt to deny it (i.e., in his relating of sense impressions to awareness). Causation could be described as an element of experience, but as Whitehead explains, this experience is not sensory experience. From Hume's own analysis Whitehead derives at least two forms of nonsensory perception: the perception of our own body and the nonsensory perception of one's past.
b). Atheists basically deny the validity of religious experience because they assume that all perception is sense perception.

Or, they deny sense perception to theists when they actually presuppose it themselves (Hume is a case in point).
c) All people experience the reality of God or the "Holy" all the time.

But this is at an unconscious level. However, in some people, this direct prehension of the "Holy" rises to the level of conscious experience. We generally call theses people "mystics". Now, the reason why a few people are conscious of God is not the result of God violating causal principle; some people are just able to conform to God's initial datum in greater degree than other people can. I don't think that God chooses to make himself consciously known to some and not to others. That would make God an elitist. Now, the question as to why I am a theist as opposed to an atheist does not have to do with me experiencing some exceptional religious or mystical experience. Rather, I believe that these extraordinary experiences of the great religious leaders are genuine and that they do conform to the ultimate nature of things. It's not necessarily a "blind leap" of faith, as my religious beliefs are accepted, in part, on the basis of whether or not they illuminate my experience of reality.

The upshot of all of this is religious belief is normative for human behavior. It is not merely "normal" but "normative" meaning it sets the standard. Belief is basic to human psyche, to our understanding of the good, of meaning in life, the ultiamte limits of reality, the grounding of nature and being itself, there is no way belie in God can be thought of as  an extraordinary claim! We might think of it as extraordinary in the the sense of being unique, like no other claim, but in that case it makes no sense to subject it to the regular canons of science as though God's presence is given in daily empirical data. Obviously the more intelligent evidential standard is that the evidence has to be fit for the claim. Fit, not dazzling, not impossible, not amazing, no beyond our ability to produce, but it has to fit the case. It has to be rational, and able to stand a prima facie burden, and it has to fit the proof attempted.


Marcelo Truzzi “on some unfair practices toward claims of the Paranormal.” This article was published in slightly edited form in:Edward Binkowski, editor, Oxymoron: Annual Thematic Anthology of the Arts and Sciences, Vol.2: The Fringe, New York: Oxymoron Media, Inc., 1998. It is also found on the website Skeptical Investigations: visited 7/7/08

Ed J. Gracely ”Why Extraordinary Claims Demand Extraordinary Proof. This article first appeared in the December 1998 issue of Phactum, the newsletter of the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking (PhACT). Dr. Gracely is Associate Professor of Community and Preventive Medicine at the MCP*Hahnemann School of Medicine in Philadelphia. This article was posted on July 24, 2003. It is now found on:Quackwatch

Abraham MaslowReligious Values and peak Experience,
text online:

url for my RE argument:

Monday, April 19, 2010

Realizing God


Even though I have 42 arguments for the existence of God (42 = answer to God the universe and everything) I feel that making God arguments is beneficial but not necessary. Atheists often react with chagrin when told this. But the fact is I don't ever claim to "prove the existence of God." I really do believe that God is beyond our understanding and thus, would be unnameable to objective proof. This flys in the face of the way most atheists see things. Most atheist tend to orbit around the concept of objective proof, empirical science, absolute demonstration and on. In fct most atheists use a warfare model of discussion.They don't discuss beliefs, they "attack arguments." It's all about proving and that means conquering the enemy.

I want to side step that entire attitude. God is beyond our understanding, but not beyond are experience. We can't prove objectively that God exists, this is far form meaning that it's not worth it to believe or that belief is irrational or makes you stupid if you believe. There are many beliefs atheists take for granted that can't be proved, but that doesn't even give the pause since these are essential to getting by in the world: like the concept of other minds, or the idea that the sun will come up tomorrow. That we are not brains in vats. Atheists scoff at this stuff all the time, but they rarely stop to consider what it means. It means your mockery of it due to the fact that you take it for granted. You don't have any scientific evidence that proves you exist, or that other minds exist, or that the future will be like the past and so on. all of that is obtained through the very means that people of faith use to belief. You mock their beliefs and take your own for granted. That's because that warfare model of argumentation doesn't allow for a searing self examination.

The basic model would be not to argue for the existence of God, but to realize that God is reality. It's a matter of opening your eyes to see something that is already there, that you know it there you just never bothered to understand it before.It's just that, open your eyes and realize God is there. How is this done? By expanding the categories of knowledge so that they now include the relevant information necessary to see things in a new way. Here are the categories required:

cultural constructivism
modal logic
the transcendental signifier
(and with it deconstruction and postmodernism)

these things are not augments. They the basis out of which arguments might be made, but more importantly, they are fields of thought which include both logic and data the apprehension of which will help one understand why people believe in God. Once understanding that one will see the reality of God is plain. God's reality has been masked by Western thought since philosophy and modern science has segmented our understanding, breaking up epistemology from metaphysics and ontology, make seperate categories so we can't connect globally to different categories of knowledge that make it possible to see connections.

I am not saying that if you read all this stuff you will agree with me. But to understand why belief with being able to prove it "objectively" is not irrational you have to expand your understanding of what knowledge is and what it means to have beliefs.

Belief in God is not merely adding a fact to the universe. Yesterday I did not know there is a God now I know there is one. So the universe yesterday had swizzle sticks and pop corn and tooth brushes and combs, and today it has those things and God. This is not what belief in God is. It is not just adding a fact to the universe. It's understanding the nature of being in such a way that we see the holy aspect of being.

Paul Tillich said "if you know that being has depth you cannot be an atheist." What does this mean? That's what reading this stuff is about.If you expand your knowledge categories and broader your understanding then you see that being is more than just a fact of existence, you come to realize God is reality; The ground of Being.

Please read that link there, several pages to get the idea of what I mean by saying that God is the ground of being. When you realize the nature of being you can't help but understand that God has to be. Now to explain about these knowledge categories.


this is an approach to ontology (the study of being) through which one allows the sense data to suggest it's own categories.It was pioneered by Brintano in the late nineteenth century but is best known for its two major thinkers: Hulleral and Heidegger. Science, and all forms of metaphysics (in Heidegger's sense of the term) sense data is pre screened into pre selected categories. This is what the atheist is doing when he says "I want objective evidence." Hes saying I have already decide what evidence I will accept and what I want accept. Any evidence that doesn't tally with his pre set ideology is automatically discounted. What one needs to do is allow the experiences of the divine, or so we don't beg question, experiences which some might take to be the divine--the sense of the numinous to suggest their own categories.


Philosophy made famous by Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. But it has a strong Christian wing the van Guard of which was led by Kierkegaard, and brought up in its main body by Gabriel Marcel. Existentialism starts from the premiise of the individual's own understanding of the authenticity of his existence and it's meaning in the universe.

cultural constructivism

The idea that any idea that can or must be put into language is a cultural construct, that is an idea constructed by previously constructed meaning in society. These ideas are found in all language because all language is an artifact of culture. So everything we can rationally talk about is a cultural construct.

this means that science is not absolute knowledge, It' not objective, objectivity is impossible. Science is just another culturally bound language game.

modal logic

this comes much closer to real truth anything in science. but of course it depends upon pre selected premises. Yet is essential for understanding concepts about God.

the transcendental signifier
(and with it deconstruction and postmodernism)

The "TS" as I will call it is essentially God. That is to say God functions in the economy of a religious tradition as a Transcendental signifier. This is a very complex idea and requires a lot of real close reading. I have two blog spots in which I explained it pretty good.

Here's the "argument" (except now it's not an argument but it's why the TS is a connection Between the TS and God.

these are background to understand the idea of the Transcendental Signifier.

Derridian Background of the TS

TS part 2

Finally, you need to know about the vast body of scientist work surrounding mystical experiences. When all of this comes together you realize there's really point to deny the reality of God. the nature of the universe takes shape around God and you realize that concept is the center.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

And when the hourglass has run out, the hourglass of temporality, when the noise of secular life has grown silent and its restless or ineffectual activism has come to an end, when everything around you is still, as it is in eternity, then eternity asks you and every individual in these millions and millions about only one thing: whether you have lived in despair or not.

Soren Kierkegaard, “The Sickness Unto Death”

The atheists have been totally incensed on this. Christians have expressed that it is a very good post that really says a lot of things they have felt they wanted to say but could not put it into words, atheist have gone ape shit over it. It's made them seethingly angry. Now in the hell can anyone be angry and misunderstand the simple idea that "I find something about the nature of existence that makes it more than just mundane, but meaningful and special." Why is that such a threat? They also have formulated many misconceptions about what I was saying:


(1) That belief makes you feel good so it's justified in and of itself.

(2) God is proven becasue I believe in him

(3) That I'm saying that we can believe things for no reason.

There are many more but this is all the gist of it, its quite stupid. I wanted a way to shut them up form their little juvenile game of saying "there's no proof for your God" so they can goad Christians into making God arguments. Then of course they will laugh and deride all those arguments. They wont listen to the evidence, they wont understand what's being said.

Mostly I was just attacked by illiterate vermin who can't think and whose only response to thought is lynch mob mentality.

Even though some Christians seem to think this post said something, I have expressed similar things before, maybe this was one of them:

Once again I am driven to examine my hobby of making God arguments. No atheist will ever admit that they prove anything. Actually that's not quite true. There have been a couple of people on message boards, although they may not have called themselves "atheists" who came to admit that my argument proved to them that there must be a God. While these two are rare, if they were willing to do that, there must be more who are toying with the idea. The problem is, God arguments really don't prove God's existence in the way that full blooded empiricists would like to have proven. We will prove the existence of bigfoot before we prove God that way. That's because God is not a "thing" in creation. God is not another item alongside light posts and swizzel sticks; God is the framework of reality, god is off scale for any sort of measurement. This would be like trying to prove the universal constant with a speedometer from a car.

God arguments are a take on reality

God arguments do something else entirely, something other than "proving" the existence of God in an absolute and undeniable way. In fact it really contradicts my theology to try and prove God in that sense. I proposed the soteriolgocial drama theory, which says that God wants us to have to make a leap of faith. Thus it would be self defeating if the kind of proof existed whereby God could be proven in such a way that it would be undeniable. God arguments offer rational warrant to believe. That means only that it is not irrational to believe in God. While this can be parled into a strong sense indicating a good probability, it is not the kind of undeniable proof the atheists are seeking. Atheists really want to be forced. They want to be dragged kicking and screaming into the kingdom of God in such a way that they are overwhelmed and forced to give up and admit God is real. Of course this will never happen because it's not what God wants.

God doesn't refuse this level of proof to be mean, or to test people, or to play games. it's a simple necessity. If that level of credulity was met and atheists were forced to admit there msut be a God, even though I don't like it, they would not like it. They would resent it. God wants free moral agetns who willingly choose the good. That means they cant' dragged into it agaisnt the their will. The only way to get that is to search. Only those who have searched out the truth in their hearts, wrestled with dobut and come to make the leap of faith, can internaltize the values and seek the good because they want the good.

Belief in God is much more than just a factual question about the existence of a particular item in the universe. Belief in God is more than just a proposition to be weighed according to evidence. Belief in God is a value, an orientation toward Being. Religion is the identification of the human problematic, and the resolution of that problematic through the mediation of an ultimate transformative experience. God is that aspect of Being which forces us to face the problematic of being human and to seek ultimate transformative experience. God is that ultimate transformative power. God is the object of our ultimate concerns which we sense in our apprehension of the numinous. Thus God arguments can't possibly provide the kind of empirical evidence most skeptics seek but neither is it fair of them to expect it. That's why God arguments are ways of forcing us to evaluate and come to understand the nature of Being and our relation to the ultimate.

The only real proofs of God are those we each find in our hearts when we seek out the nature of our lives in relation to their goals and ends, and their ultimate ends. Those are not the kinds of ideas that can be subjected to objective sorts of proof. They are phenomenological apprehensions. They are existential. God arguments are existential clearifiers. They enable us to understand our own relation to the ultimate. When we make a God argument we are saying something about the rational nature of being, the meaning of what it is to be. We are making judgments about reality as a whole when we talk about reasons to believe in God. Thus, it's not a matter of proving some argument per se, it' snot a matter of demonstrating some fact, the impossibility of naturalistic cosmology, or the need for targets in anthropic fine tuning, but an understanding of reality that superceeds any particular fact or demonstrable bit of information.

I've written many times in this blog about the nature of God arguments and the need for a phenomenologicla approach. This view point must be maintanied by a stark realism about the lmiiations of empiricial science and the socially constructed nature of a materialist outlook.If beilef in God is the expression of a value about the meaningful nature of rationality in being, then the expression of lack of God belief, and it's justification thorugh empirical science must be a cyncial statement about the limiations of our ability to come to terms rationally with our own being.

God is not subject to Empirical Proof

Atheists demand proof of God as though God were some fact in nature. God is not a thing along side other things in creation. It is not strange that we can't prove God with some empirical fact because God is not given to empirical study. As I said in another post:

"There are somethings we can say about God that make sense relative to our understanding of things. God is the foundation of all that is, so we know that God can't be compared to anything else. God is off scale for all attributes because God is the scale. Trying to measure and compare God to anything would be like trying to compare our single sun to the big bang. Even that is not apt because the BB was finite."

Traces of God

People don't come to belief in God because of arguments, and we shouldn't expect them to.
Humanity finds God in a million different places. It finds God in flowers and trees, in brooks (and in books), in grass, in each other. It finds God in storms and scary things, and in the night. It finds God in the sky and the stars in the darkness of a vast and endless expanse. It reaches out for what is there because it has been put into it to do so; not because God sat and said "I will make men and men will seek me" but because God provided for the reality of the Imago Dei to evolve and develop in whatever species reached the point where humanity has come to. God did this automatically as an aspect of self expression, as an outgrowth of consciousness. This kind of God would make a universe of the type we see around us. This type of God would also place in that universe hints so that whatever species reaches that level that God's manifestation would be waiting to show them God's solidarity with them. God would plant a thousand clues, not as a matter of deliberation like one plants Easter eggs, but as the result of being what God is--self communicating and creative. Thus we have design arguments and fine tuning arguments, and contingencies and necessities and the lot. We can find the God Pod in our heads that lights up when it hears God ideas. We can do studies and determine that our religious experiences are better for us than unbelief, because the clues are endless because the universe bears the marks of its creator.

Yet these marks are sublet for a reason. This is where the Evangelical view of God can also be a sophisticated view. The Evangelical God can also be the God of Tallish and the God of process, after all, these are all derived from the same tradition and the Evangelicals have as much right to escape anthropomorphism as anyone. The Evangelical God seeks a moral universe. This God wants believers who have internalized the values of the good. We do not internalize that which we are forced to acknowledge. Thus God knows that a search in the heart is better to internalizing values than is a rational formally logical argument, or a scientific proof. Thus we have a soteriological drama in which we can't tell if there is or is not a God just by looking at the nature of nature. That must remain neutral and must avoid us because it is not given to us to have direct and absolute knowledge of God. Knowledge of God is a privilege. We must seek it through the heart, that's where it isthmian to be found. It's a privilege but faith is a gift.

Thus we should be speaking of the technology by which we can find God. Here I use the term "technology" in the Foucaultian sense, not as a machine or hardware, but as the manipulation of a technique. My God argument work as a God finding technology, but one must know how to apply them. You can't expect an empirical demonstration. We must find the co-determinate and demonstrate the correlation between co-determinate and divine. How do we know when we find it? The Co-determinate will that thing which leads us to God.

God is accessible to all. We can each find God at an any time. What guarantee do we have that we have found God? Our lives will change. Atheist will baulck because it's not empirical proof. and it is not. But it is close enough that it leaves us into a transformation. The proof is in the pudding. We know we have found it when we find it, becasue we turn on to it, our lives change, God becomes a reality to us. The that makes God a reality to us is the co-determinate. All questions about "how do you know that's really what it is" don't amount to anything, they are not negations of the experience of transformation.

God finder Technology: Co Determinate

Co-determinate: The co-determinate is like the Derridian trace, or like a fingerprint. It's the accompanying sign that is always found with the thing itself. In other words, like trailing the invisible man in the snow. You can't see the invisible man, but you can see his footprints, and wherever he is in the snow his prints will always follow.

We cannot produce direct observation of God, but we can find the "trace" or the co-determinate, the effects of God in the world.

The only question at that point is "How do we know this is the effect, or the accompanying sign of the divine? But that should be answer in the argument below. Here let us set out some general parameters:

(1) The trace produced content with specifically religious affects

(2)The affects led one to a renewed sense of divine reality, are transformative of life goals and self actualization

(3) Cannot be accounted for by alternate causality or other means

(1)There are real affects from Mytical experince.

(2)These affects cannot be reduced to naturalistic cause and affect, bogus mental states or epiphenomena.

(3)Since the affects of Mystical consciousness are independent of other explanations we should assume that they are genuine.

(4)Since mystical experience is usually experience of something, the Holy, the sacred some sort of greater transcendent reality we should assume that the object is real since the affects or real, or that the affects are the result of some real higher reality.

(5)The true measure of the reality of the co-determinate is the transfomrative power of the affects.

so rather than arguing about "Proofs" we should be discussing how to seek God in your heart.