Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Transcendental Singified and the Laws of Physics: continuing series on the Atheist Montra


I've been developing ideas about the atheist mantra "there's no proof for your God." I'm working on the dig demonstration that mantra is concieved along lines that are petty and not capture the fullness of the reality of God. In other words, God is not just one more fact in the universe. It's not like saying "there's no proof for Bigfoot," or "there's no proof for the Thunderbird." It's more akin to saying "there's no proof for the laws of physics." Or "there's no proof that there are things beyond our understanding." Belief in God is a world view. World views are extensive webs of whole outlooks, made up of, understanding, belief, opinion, and all pinned upon the interpretative of fact. Not all facts pertaining to God belief are directly about God, but it's a world view, it's an extensive web that makes up the way a person sees reality as a whole. I echoed the words of Tillich, "if you know being has depth you can't be an atheist." That means there's more to reality than just the surface level of things existing; there are connections to vistas beyond our understanding. "Depth" is a metaphor for "there's more to it than just the surface of existence." Another way of saying God is not just adding a fact to the universe.

One of the areas that serves best to illustrate the depth of being and the broad vast nature of the transcendent aspects of reality is the transcendental signifier. The Transcendental singifer designates words that standard for this great unknown beyond our understanding: God, the oversoul, zeiteguist, heaven, grand ultimate, elan vital, univeral mind, Tao, there are many such signifier that indicate a mark that gives meaning to all other marks. The Transcendental signified is that to which the signifier refers. "God" the transcendental signifier and, dependence upon your concept, a big man in the sky or the ground of being or dipolar nature of process unfolding, the thing the term is used to point to, that which is beyond our understanding is the thing signified. Like "tree" is a signifier and it points to a big biological mass of growing fiber made of wood; the thing in itself the word points to is the signified.

I have a transcendental signifier argument for God. It's couched in a bunch of Derridian double talk, that I think is necessary to undeerstanding. Yet because most people have not studied Derrida the Derridian phrasology just gets in the way. The unvarnished un-Derridian version says this: all aspects of human thought that are coherent and meaningful are logical in a hierarachical sense and organized according to the dictates of a particular organizing principal. This is to say that the way humans process sense data is to take it and screen it and organize it according to some selected notion that determines how it is organized. For example, organizing information alphabetically is a logically hierarchical organizing principle. That's a very simple version of it. Organizing information according to it's chemical content and placing it on a table of elements is an hierarchical ordering that follows an organizing principle. Using mathematics to describe relationships the way many branches of science do is also an example. Language itself is an example. I have argued that because this aspect of reality is so all pervasive--Heidegger even says we can't get around it, and Derrida says we couldn't speak without it--that would one to suppose that there must be a real transcendental signified somewhere that actually organizes reality and makes it happen.

Oddly enough science has always had a concept of an organizing principle or a set of them that organizes phsyical reality and makes it happen. This is called 'the laws of physics." Even more basic is what some call "laws of nature." These are not necessarily the same thing, sometimes speak of laws of physics in referring to Newtonian laws, and laws of nature in speaking of the unified field. I have unsed them interchangeably allowing some to argue that I don't know the difference. I have some veg idea of the difference. I used them interchangeably becuase they are both really examples of the TS and there's no point in distinguishing just to prove that I know the difference. I speak of both weathering in dealing with whatever it is that makes the universe come to be and unfold the way it has.

I also have a God argument based upon laws of physics. The essential nub of that argument is this: there's no real way to explain how a set of principles can make things happen, without proposing that the are "housed" somewhere. This is because they are obviously more than just a description of what happens since the universe is so regular and trustworthy it's clear there is some organizing principle making things happen in a certain way. Athiests now calim that scinece denies this but I'll get to that in a minute. Since there can't be a descrption of something before it happens, there must be more to the principles or laws of what have you that bring the universe to be than just "description."

Remembering that in my scheme of things God argument only have to show rational warrant, that belief is based upon a rational concept that can be defended by logic and/or observation, and that the purpose is not to prove the existence of God (which is too broad and deep a concept for empirical proof but to show the depth of being. Once we know that being has depth we know there has to be a God. So here is the newly revised version of the argument from laws of physics (former called "fire in the equations").

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

Dictionary of Philosophy Anthony Flew, article on "Materialism"

"...the belief that everything that exists is ether matter or entirely dependent upon matter for its existence."

Center For Theology and the Natural Sciences Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate: God, Humanity and the Cosmos (T&T Clark, 1999) Is the Big Bang a Moment of Creation?(this source is already linked above)

"...One of the fundamental assumptions of modern science is that every physical event can be sufficiently explained solely in terms of preceding physical causes.."

Science and The Modern World, Alfred North Whitehead. NY: free Press, 1925, (1953) p.76

"We are content with superficial orderings form diverse arbitrary starting points. ... science which is employed in their development [modern thought] is based upon a philosophy which asserts that physical causation is supreme, and which disjoins the physical cause from the final end. It is not popular to dwell upon the absolute contradiction here involved."[Whitehead was an atheist]

Cambridge Relativity and Quantum Gravity. 1996, University of Cambridge

"The physical laws that govern the universe prescribe how an initial state evolves with time. In classical physics, if the initial state of a system is specified exactly then the subsequent motion will be completely predictable."
We might also add that modern atheism came into being through the assertion that naturalistic cause and effect took the necessity of appeal to God out of the equation. That was what Laplace meant when he said "I have no need of that Hypothesis."

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

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

Q:Which came first, matter or physical laws?

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

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

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

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

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

MetaList on Science and religion

Stephen Hawking's God

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

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

5) Mind is best explanation for organizing principal.

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

a. non physical location--no topos

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

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

Here I don't mean by "law giver" necessarily a big man with white bread writing writing commandments of tablets of stone. I just mean an organizing principle like alphabetizing or the unified field a first principle that sets the tone for what develops. This principle can't exist in a physical location and it has to be such that it can be set and altered to have fine tuning for life bearing and circumvention of negating laws such as the pointed to in the problem of temporal beginning. In other words, the best and most acute understanding for housing of such universal founding principles would be a mind, or soemthing analogous to a mind.

Corollary:Science cannot Explain Laws of Physics

A. Cause of Physical Laws Unknown

1)Physical Law Merely Assumed to Exist.

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

Robert C. Koons

Associate Professor of Philosophy
University of Texas
Austin, TX 78712

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

2) Skeptics object, but Some scientist now Ask.

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

"All the richness and diversity of matter and energy we observe today has emerged since the beginning in a long and complicated sequence of self- organizing physical processes. The laws of physics not only permit a universe to originate spontaneously, but they encourage it to organize and complexify itself to the point where conscious beings emerge who can look back on the great cosmic drama and reflect on what it all means."
"Now you may think I have written God entirely out of the picture. Who needs a God when the laws of physics can do such a splendid job? But we are bound to return to that burning question:
Where do the laws of physics come from?
And why those laws rather than some other set? Most especially: Why a set of laws that drives the searing, featureless gases coughed out of the big bang toward life and consciousness and intelligence and cultural activities such as religion, art, mathematics, and science?"

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

Next time I will deal with atheist criticisms that I received of this argument, of course atheists welcome in the mean time to make criticisms about the argument on this blog.

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