Monday, August 21, 2017

Laws of physics: beyond the prescriptive/descriptive Dichotomy






Science no longer defines physical law in the sense of an active set rules that tell nature what to do. The sentiment is gospel in science. A Canadian Physicist, Byron Jennings, expresses it like this: “It is worth commenting that laws of nature and laws of man are completely different beasts and it is unfortunate that they are given the same name. The so called laws of nature are descriptive. They describe regularities that have been observed in nature. They have no prescriptive value. In contrast, the laws of man are prescriptive, not descriptive.”[1] Santo D’Agostino tells us, “...[T]he laws of science are not like the laws in our legal systems. They are descriptive, not prescriptive.”[2]

Contradiction in the descriptive paradigm

A closer look reveals that there is a contradiction here. The standard line about descriptions is double talk. First of all no one thinks physical laws are on a par with laws passed by congress. Just for the record I am not arguing that laws require a law giver, that is equivocation (although science still uses the misleading term “law”). Physical laws proceed from the mind of God, that is totally different from laws in human society. Secondly, Physical laws are just descriptions but what they describe is a law-like regularity. The question is, why is there an unswerving faithful regularity? That cannot be answered just by calling the regularity a “description.” It is so regular that we can risk people's lives in roller coasters based upon trusting those “descriptions.” D'Agostino again says, “For me, the key word is describe. A scientific law is a convenient description of observations. The law of science does not tell the world how to be, the world just is; science is a human attempt to engage with the mysteries of the world, and to attempt to understand them,”[3](emphasis his). It just is, there is no why? Do Scientists really live with that? No they do not. “Most physicists working on fundamental topics inhabit the prescriptive camp, even if they don't own up to it explicitly.”[4] But then the Stephen Hawking Center for Theoretical Cosmology puts it point blank: “The physical laws that govern the Universe prescribe how an initial state evolves with time.”(my emphasis)[5] Clearly they want it both ways, they want physical laws not to be the will of God but they want them to be binding. The nature of the problem is deeper than just the language of an antiquated term. It really seems that physicists want it both ways.

In many perhaps most scientific disciplines the finality of a theory continues to be measured by its resemblance to the classical laws of physics, which are both causal and deterministic….The extreme case of the desire to turn observed regularity into law is of course the search for one unified law of nature. That embodies all other laws and that hense will be immune to revision.[6]
They still use the model of physical law, but they deny it's law-like aspects, yet they want it to be unalterable and to sum everything up in one principle. Don't look now but what this  describes is a transcendental signifier! That's the impetus behind grand unified theory of everything. Why add “of everything?” That clearly points to the transcendental signifier.

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.[7] Weinberg tells us the theory of everything will unite all aspects of physical reality in a single elegant explanation.[8] Exactly as does the transcendental signified! It's really describing a prescriptive set of laws, so it seems. If their theory can only give descriptions of how the universe behaves how is it going to explain everything? It seems explanatory power only comes with certainty about how things work. That is weaker with probable tendencies than with actual laws. Why are they looking for a single theory to sum it all up if they don't accept some degree of hierarchical causality?

Modern “descriptive laws:” Taking God out of the picture.

Is their rejection of law just a desire to get God out of the picture? That is abundantly clear, at least for some scientists. Paul Davies, a major physicist, thinks so:

Many scientists who are struggling to construct a fully comprehensive theory of the physical universe openly admit that part of the motivation is to finally get rid of God, whom they view as a dangerous and infantile delusion, And not only God but any vestige of God-talk, such as 'meaning,' 'purpose,' or 'design' in nature. These scientists see religion as so fraudulent and sinister that nothing less than total theological cleansing will do [9]
The concept of law was formed in a time when scientists inextricably linked God with science. Robert Boyle purposely appealed to command in creation, as did Newton.[10] These were devout believers, and it was also expedient in the confessional English state. The English dealt with heretics by not inviting them to weekend at Westmoreland or by passing them over for honors. After the time of Newton the field of scientific acuity shifted to France. The French put heretics in jail. The Catholic church was much more in charge in France, enjoying the support of the monarchy, than in Protestant England.[11] Thus the French Philosophs rebelled with great ferocity against the Church and religious belief. The French rebellion carried over into all areas of modern letters, not the least in science.

Modern scientists since the enlightenment have sought to take God out of the picture. Philosophers are honest enough to admit there is a problem calling the law-like regularity “description.” Alan Chalmers (the other Chalmers) explains that Boyle's “stark ontology” made nature passive and left God to do all the work, he writes:
I assume that, from the modern point of view, placing such a heavy, or indeed any, burden on the constant and willful intervention of God is not acceptable. But eliminating God from the account leaves us with the problem. How can activity and law like behavior be introduced into a world characterized in terms of passive or categorical properties only?[12]
At least the scientific realists, such as Chalmers know there is a problem in the tension between unalterable regularity, and description. Many scientists either don't see the problem, or refuse to acknowledge it. Some assert a confidence in science's ability to one day answer all questions.

In recent years, under the influence of the new atheism, some physicists have began to compete with God. They claim not only to offer the better explanation, but to learn enough so as to one day erase the God concept from any serious consideration. Steven Pinker, (in answer to a question for discussion posed by the Tempelton foundation, “does science make belief in God obsolete?”): “Yes 'science' we mean the entire enterprise of secular reason and knowledge (including history and philosophy), not just people with test tubes and white lab coats. Traditionally, a belief in God was attractive because it promised to explain the deepest puzzles about origins. Where did the world come from? What is the basis of life? How can the mind arise from the body? Why should anyone be moral?”[13] Of course he offers no evidence that science can answer such things (notice he expanded the definition of science to include disciplines many scientists seek to get rid of (philosophy) [14]

That is the area that could answer the questions that science can't. He also offers no evidence that religion still can't answer them, but he goes on to say, “Yet over the millennia, there has been an inexorable trend: the deeper we probe these questions, and the more we learn about the world in which we live, the less reason there is to believe in God.” So he's made two fallacious moves here, the classic bait and switch and straw man argument. He say science makes God obsolete but then only if we expand science to include non-science. We could just include modern theology instead of nineteenth century theology and bring religion into science. Sorry, but belief in God does not rest with young earth creationism.Pinker is not just using young Earth creationism to debunck all religion, even though that is a straw man argument. He's really making the same kind of answer that physicist Dean Carroll is making. He's saying “since we now have the capacity to learn everything (someday) we don't need to appeal to God to answer what we don't know" thus he asserts that the only reason to believe is the God of the gaps argument). Carroll puts it a bit differently:
Modern cosmology attempts to come up with the most powerful and economically possible understanding of the universe that is consistent with observational data. It's certainly conceivable that the methods of science could lead us to a self-contained picture of the universe that doesn't involve God in any way. If so, would we be correct to conclude that cosmology has undermined the reasons for believing in God, or at least a certain kind of reason?[15]
Of course this is the standard wrong assumption often made by those whose skepticism is scientifically based. Explaining nature is not the only reason to believe in God.

Moreover, they are nowhere near explaining nature in it's entirety, the TS argument is the best answer to the questions posed by the transcendental signifiers. It's pretty clear that for Carroll, and those who share his outlook the signifier “science” replaces the signifier “God” in their metaphysical hierarchy. They still have a TS and that speaks to the all pervasive nature of the TS. I've discussed in the previous chapter how the best answer to questions of origin have to be philosophical. That is confirmed by Pinker when he argues philosophy as part of science. The TS argument is philosophical. Science is not the only form of knowledge. Carroll admits there is not as of yet a theory that explains it all. He admits, “We are trying to predict the future: will there ever be a time when a conventional scientific model provides a complete understanding of the origin of the universe?”[16] He asserts that most modern cosmologists already feel we know enough to write off God and that there are good enough reasons. In 2005 article he says, as the title proclaims, “almost all cosmologists are atheists.” [17] That may be true of cosmologists but I doubt it, and I have good reason to. First, I don't see any poll of physicists in the article. He only argues anecdotally by quoting a few people. If there was a poll it would be at least as old as 2005.

A More extensive study from 2007 (two years after publication of Carroll's article) doesn't back up those findings. This study was done by Harvard professors who find the majority of science professors believe in God.[18] They present a bar graph that shows about 35% professor's are elite research universities believe in God with no doubt. About 27% believe but sometimes have doubts. About 38% are atheists. That actually means that 60% are not atheists. True that's not cosmologists but there is good reason to think the majority of cosmologists are not atheists. The most atheistic groups in the study were psychologists (61%), biologists (about 61%), and mechanical engineers (50%), not physicists (among whose ranks cosmologists number). [19] “Contrary to popular Opinion, atheists and agnostics do not comprise a majority of professors even at elite schools, but they are present in larger numbers than in other types of institutions.”[20] No group has “almost all” as atheist. Even if cosmologists are mostly atheists (not studied because they are a handful and highly specialized) it's still appeal to authority and could be based upon hubris. They do not have any empirical data at all to prove the universe could spring from nothing. See last my blog piece: "Quantum Particles do Not Prove universe from Nothing." (July 30, 2017).



Sources

[1] Byron Jennings, “The Role of Authority in Science and Law,” Quantum Diaries: Thoughts on Work and Life From Particle Physicists From Around The World. (Feb.3,2012) Online resource URL:http://www.quantumdiaries.org/tag/descriptive-law/ Accessed 8/31/15 Byron Jennings is Project Coordinator for TRIUMF, Canada's national laboratory, he's an adjunct Professor at Simon Freaser University. He is also the editor of In Defense of Scientism.

[2] Santo 'D Agostino, “Does Nature Obey The Laws of Physics?,” QED Insight, (March 9,2011). Online resource, URL: https://qedinsight.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/does-nature-obey-the-laws-of-physics/ accessed 8/26/15. D'Agostino is a mathematician who writes science text books. Ph.D. from The University of Toronto, he is also assistant professor in Physics at Brock University.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Paul Davies, Cosmic Jackpot: why is the universe Just Right For Life? New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition, 2007, 12.
Davies is an English physicist, professor at Arizona State University. He was formerly an atheist and his major atheist book was God and The New Physics, written in the 70s. Since the late 90's he as become a believer, not a Christian but believer in a generic deistic sort of God. He was convinced by the fine tuning argument and his major book since that time is The Mind Of God. He has taught at Cambridge and Aberdeen.


[5] CTC, “Origins of the Universe: Quantum Origins,” The Stephan Hawking Center for Theoretical Cosmology, University of Cambridge, online resource, URL: http://www.ctc.cam.ac.uk/outreach/origins/quantum_cosmology_one.php accessed 10/5/15.

[6] E. F. Keller, quoted in Lynn Nelson, Who Knows: From Quine to Feminist Empiricism. Temple University Press, 1990, 220. Evelyn Fox Keller is a physicist and a Feminist critic of science. Professor Emerita at MIT. Her early work centered on the intersection of physics and biology. Nelson is associate professor of philosophy at Glassboro State College.

[7] Counter balance foundation, “Stephen Hawking's God,” quoted on PBS website Faith and Reason. No date listed. Online resource, URL http://www.pbs.org/faithandreason/intro/cosmohaw-frame.html the URL for the website itself: http://www.pbs.org/faithandreason/stdweb/info.html accessed 8/26/2015. This resource provided by: Counterbalance Foundation

counterbalance foundation offers this self identification: “Counterbalance is a non-profit educational organization working to promote the public understanding of science, and how the sciences relate to wider society. It is our hope that individuals, the academic community, and society as a whole will benefit from a struggle toward integrated and counterbalanced responses to complex questions.” see URL above. The faith anjd reason foundation helped fund the PBS show. I first founjd thye piece “Stephen Hawking's God early the century, maybe 2004, certainly before 2006. It was on a sight called Metalist on science and religion. That site is gone.

[8] Steven Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory: The Scientist's Search for the Ultimate Laws of Nature. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. 1994, 3, also 211.

[9] Paul Davies, Jackpot...op. Cit.,15.

[10] Alan Chalmers, “Making sense of laws of physics,” Causation and Laws Of Nature, Dordrecht, Netherlands : Kluwer Academic Publishers, (Howard Sankey, ed.), 1999, 3-4.

[11] Joseph Hinman, God, Science, and Ideology. Chapter 2.

[12]  Chalmers, op., cit.

[13] Stephen Pinker, quoted on website, John Tempelton Foundation, “A Tempelton conversation, “Does SciencMake Belief in God Obsolete?” The third in a series of conversations among leading scientists...Onlne resource, website. URL: http://www.templeton.org/belief/ accessed 9/4/15. Tempelton bio for Pinker: Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor in the department of psychology at Harvard University. He is the author of seven books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, and most recently, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature.

[14] Anthany Mills, "Why Does Neil deGrasse Tyson Hate Philosophy," Real Clear Science. (May 22, 2014)http://www.realclearscience.com/articles/2014/05/22/why_does_neil_degrasse_tyson_hate_philosophy.html "In a controversial interview, Neil deGrasse Tyson dismissed philosophy as “distracting.” The host of the television series Cosmos even suggested that philosophy could inhibit scientific progress by encouraging “a little too much question asking.” He thus follows a growing secular trend that cordons Science off from all other forms of inquiry, denigrating whatever falls outside science’s purported boundaries – especially the more “speculative” pursuits such as philosophy."

[15] Sean Corroll, ”Does The Universe Need God?” on Sean Carroll's website, Perposterous Universe.com, online resource, URL: http://preposterousuniverse.com/writings/dtung/ accessed 9/4/2015

[16] Ibid.

[17] Sean Carroll,"Why (Almost All) Cosmologists Are Atheists," Faith and Philosophy, 22, (2005) p. 622.

[18] Neil Gross and Solon Simmons, “How Religious Are America's College and University Pressors.” SSRC, (published feb. 2007), PDF URL, accessed 9/4/15 The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of thehttp://religion.ssrc.org/reforum/Gross_Simmons.pdf Association for the Sociology of Religion. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oxfordjournals.org. Neil Gross is assistant professor of sociology at Harvard University. He works on classical and contemporary sociological theory, the sociology of culture, and the sociology of intellectuals. His first book, tentatively titled Richard Rorty's Pragmatism: The Social Origins of a Philosophy, 1931-1982, is forthcoming. Solon Simmons is assistant professor of conflict analysis and sociology at George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. His recent work has focused on values talk in congressional speeches, third party political candidates, industrial reorganization and the ongoing conservative critique of American higher education

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

36 comments:

Eric Sotnak said...

"First of all no one thinks physical laws are on a par with laws passed by congress."

Wanna bet?

http://www.icr.org/article/laws-nature-natures-lawgiver/

Joe Hinman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Hinman said...

Eric's Link

Joe Hinman said...

As I said No one thinks that*


*"No One," colloquialism meanking "no one who deserves our refutation,"

im-skeptical said...

I think the point is that those who do see the "laws of nature" as being prescriptive are religious. Your article starts out with the statement: "Science no longer defines physical law in the sense of an active set rules that tell nature what to do." The truth is that it was always religious belief that held such a view, and science has weaned us from that. And the thrust of your article seems to be (if I understand it correctly) that the descriptive view held by modern science if flawed. So you are decrying the fact that science has no use for God to explain reality.

Joe Hinman said...

I quoted Hawking's institute saying they are prescriptive. they are not religious,Hawking himself says this in Grand Design.

im-skeptical said...

I quoted Hawking's institute saying they are prescriptive. they are not religious,Hawking himself says this in Grand Design

Yes, I know. I think if you asked Hawking, he would agree that the laws of nature are descriptive. You cherry-picked one unfortunate case of a poorly worded statement that is not consistent with the scientific belief. How much searching did it take to find that?

Eric Sotnak said...

Nancy Cartwright has argued that laws of nature only make sense on the hypothesis that there is a God. What is interesting about this is that she doesn't seem to be a theist, but rather thinks that we can do all we need to in science without the notion of laws of nature at all.

http://www.isnature.org/Files/Cartwright_No_God_No_Laws_draft.pdf

For my part, I think "laws of nature" works along the same lines as "laws of geometry".

Mike Gerow said...

Joe might get something out of this blog discussion of Hawking's book, if he hasn't seen it before.....

http://www.beamsandstruts.com/articles/item/135-stephen-hawking-and-the-design-of-a-flawed-argument

Joe Hinman said...



Mike's Hawking Link

Joe Hinman said...

thanks for the link Mike, Yes I've read large portions of his book Grand Design, He puts grvity in Gods place makes no attempt to say where gravity comes from.

Joe Hinman said...

m-skeptical said...
Me: "I quoted Hawking's institute saying they are prescriptive. they are not religious,Hawking himself says this in Grand Design"

Yes, I know. I think if you asked Hawking, he would agree that the laws of nature are descriptive. You cherry-picked one unfortunate case of a poorly worded statement that is not consistent with the scientific belief. How much searching did it take to find that?

I not only quoted his book I also quoted his institute someone else writing that a staff writer for his institute, when are you going to read the articles?

Look how Skep argues. he says quote one scientist who thinks the law are prescriptive so I do I quote two he says I'm cherry picking, so why did say quote one when you really mean quote several?

I have a quote by Whitehead from his atheist years when he says no scientist would deny prescriptive laws of physics, that quote was a long time ago (20) but you said they never thought that.

the real point I'm making is that they use double standards and are inconsistent about weahter they are prescriptive ofr descriptive.

Joe Hinman said...

Eric Sotnak said...
Nancy Cartwright has argued that laws of nature only make sense on the hypothesis that there is a God. What is interesting about this is that she doesn't seem to be a theist, but rather thinks that we can do all we need to in science without the notion of laws of nature at all.

http://www.isnature.org/Files/Cartwright_No_God_No_Laws_draft.pdf

For my part, I think "laws of nature" works along the same lines as "laws of geometry".

es in my forth coming part 2 or 3 there is a group of feminist thinkers trying to find alternatives to :law" as a concept for physics. But so far they keep running into the probloem of sacraficing the regularity,

im-skeptical said...

I not only quoted his book I also quoted his institute someone else writing that a staff writer for his institute, when are you going to read the articles?
- Please show me the quote where Hawking says the laws of nature are prescriptive. Oh, that's right. You can't because he doesn't say that. In case you weren't aware, I have the book. And where is this quote from Whitehead that you claim to have?

the real point I'm making is that they use double standards and are inconsistent about weahter they are prescriptive or descriptive.
- No. The real point is that you fail to understand anything that contains a hint of nuance. Religionists thing that God decrees the laws of nature, and that nature must obey. Therefore, those laws are prescriptive. Atheists sometimes speak of laws that "govern" nature, but not in the sense that they are issued by some authority. They simply describe how things behave, and we observe that there are no exceptions. Our language is full of artifacts and traditions from religious thinking that dominated the past. What you are doing is trying to find cases where language like that is used, and implying some hidden theistic beliefs, or a double standard. That is dishonest.

im-skeptical said...

Nancy Cartwright has argued that laws of nature only make sense on the hypothesis that there is a God. What is interesting about this is that she doesn't seem to be a theist, but rather thinks that we can do all we need to in science without the notion of laws of nature at all.

- Cartwright's stance (as far as I can tell) is that the word "law" implies a prescriptive order, and it also implies a law-giver. Therefore, the atheist shouldn't be using that word at all. That's fine, but the reality is that we DO use that word. It just has a different meaning. But it points out what is at the heard of the discussion. It's really a semantic issue - not some "double standard".

Ryan M said...

I don't think an inconsistency charge is a good one. It's no better than saying atheists are inconsistent since some atheists are moral realists while some atheists are moral anti-realists. The fact that some atheists call the laws of nature descriptive, and some atheists call the laws of nature prescriptive, does not imply one and the same atheists are making contradictory assertions. In addition, what exactly people mean by "prescriptive" is not always the same. It could be normative, but it might not be as well.

As to where gravity came from, I don't understand why many theists insist that scientists must explain why anything natural exists. Why must gravity have a cause? What would it even mean for gravity to have a cause?

David Brightly said...

Hello Joe,
I think you have shown that historically different scientists have held different views on this question. I'm less sure that you have shown that contemporary scientists are closet prescriptivists. Can you meet Chalmers' last paragraph challenge? Yet I don't think you have brought out quite what you see the problem as. You say, The question is, why is there an unswerving faithful regularity? I'm not sure that prescriptivism is any kind of answer at all because it seems to me to be limited to relations between persons. I do what my doctor prescribes because I trust his knowledge and appreciate the possible bad consequences of rejecting his advice. One way we might begin to answer your question is to say that regularity at a certain level of unity is explained by describing the behaviour of its parts. The regularity of human heredity, say, is explained primarily by the biochemistry of DNA. The WHY of one level is explained by a HOW at a lower level. We always reach a foundation of course where description reigns and where we can still ask why this equation and not another, but a huge amount of explanatory work has now been done. Physicists are saying that if the tiniest parts of the world behave in a certain way, then everything else follows. Weinberg and others would want to go further until things are so simple that they appear to have the kind of necessity that's attributed to God, but it looks as if to get there we need to go beyond falsifiability as a criterion of science. So it seems that if your epistemic hunger lasts the course you can still ask an unanswerable WHY question.

Joe Hinman said...

Hi David, you said

You say, The question is, why is there an unswerving faithful regularity? I'm not sure that prescriptivism is any kind of answer at all because it seems to me to be limited to relations between persons.

first I have to save something for next time,part 2. Secondly, I didn't sayI support prescriptive, the title says we are going beyond the dichotomy

The regularity of human heredity, say, is explained primarily by the biochemistry of DNA. The WHY of one level is explained by a HOW at a lower level. We always reach a foundation of course where description reigns and where we can still ask why this equation and not another, but a huge amount of explanatory work has now been done.

that's really hinting at top down causation,but I tend to think im terms of cosmology. everything is traced back to gravity but Hawking can't go firther back so he appeals to an impersonal god called "phyics",

Weinberg and others would want to go further until things are so simple that they appear to have the kind of necessity that's attributed to God, but it looks as if to get there we need to go beyond falsifiability as a criterion of science. So it seems that if your epistemic hunger lasts the course you can still ask an unanswerable WHY question.

interesting point

Joe Hinman said...

I don't think an inconsistency charge is a good one. It's no better than saying atheists are inconsistent since some atheists are moral realists while some atheists are moral anti-realists. The fact that some atheists call the laws of nature descriptive, and some atheists call the laws of nature prescriptive, does not imply one and the same atheists are making contradictory assertions. In addition, what exactly people mean by "prescriptive" is not always the same. It could be normative, but it might not be as well.

True but two problems (1) I see atheists like HRG on CARM (also cums on SOP sometimes) and skep saying no scientist ever says they are prescriptive,and Carroll saying one thing at one time then implying another when needed,wait for part two or 3 it;s coming,

As to where gravity came from, I don't understand why many theists insist that scientists must explain why anything natural exists. Why must gravity have a cause? What would it even mean for gravity to have a cause?

think of the consequences episodically and metaphysically if you remove causation as a necessary condition to explaining nature,all of science was founded on the premise of cause and effect, it was based upon that idea that LaPlace said I have no need of that hypothesis(God),

Joe Hinman said...



Cartwright's stance (as far as I can tell) is that the word "law" implies a prescriptive order, and it also implies a law-giver. Therefore, the atheist shouldn't be using that word at all. That's fine, but the reality is that we DO use that word. It just has a different meaning. But it points out what is at the heard of the discussion. It's really a semantic issue - not some "double standard".

I agree the semantics are part of the problem but not the entire problem.For one thing they can't find a solicitation that is satisfying. Also what they are trying to do is resolve a contradiction. They have to embrace the unalterable nature of nature without saying it's prescribed in any way, that's a contradiction really,

im-skeptical said...

what they are trying to do is resolve a contradiction. They have to embrace the unalterable nature of nature without saying it's prescribed in any way, that's a contradiction really

- I don't see any contradiction. Evidently, you think that without God laying down the rules, all would be chaos. But there's no logical reason to suppose that. The naturalist view is that this is simply the way things are. And that's not so different from your own view that God's nature is what it is - God himself does not choose it.

7th Stooge said...

This has probably been touched on already, but it seems that 'interested personality decreeing laws and brute facts don;t exhaust the possibilities? What if there's some implicit teleology in the universe so that the 'laws' wouldn't be mere descriptions even if the potential for teleology isn't explainable by anything else?

Joe Hinman said...

- I don't see any contradiction. Evidently, you think that without God laying down the rules, all would be chaos. But there's no logical reason to suppose that. The naturalist view is that this is simply the way things are. And that's not so different from your own view that God's nature is what it is - God himself does not choose it.

if there is no contradiction between merely describing behavior and actually making the behavior happen then why object to calling it prescriptive?

Joe Hinman said...

7th Stooge said...
This has probably been touched on already, but it seems that 'interested personality decreeing laws and brute facts don;t exhaust the possibilities? What if there's some implicit teleology in the universe so that the 'laws' wouldn't be mere descriptions even if the potential for teleology isn't explainable by anything else?


Hey 7 that's a good point, Does teleological have to mean a conscious decision?

Joe Hinman said...

they fear the thin end of the wedge on God concepts,

im-skeptical said...

why object to calling it prescriptive
- People who believe in a law-giver call it prescriptive. Hawking doesn't believe any such thing. You are all hung up on an artifact of ancient thinking that continues to lurk in our language. The word "law" itself is such an artifact. That is Cartwright's point.



Joe Hinman said...

People who believe in a law-giver call it prescriptive. Hawking doesn't believe any such thing.

obviously wrong since Hawking uses that term and I don't


You are all hung up on an artifact of ancient thinking that continues to lurk in our language. The word "law" itself is such an artifact. That is Cartwright's point.


You clearly know nothing about modern theology, you are just running on stereotypes, no way Whitehead or Hartshorne's process theology fits that description.
Or Tillich's being itself,

Obviously you didn't read the essay the first thing I say is I don't make a law giver argument,

im-skeptical said...

obviously wrong since Hawking uses that term and I don't
- You said you quoted from his book. But I don't think he said that. Show me where he says that.

Obviously you didn't read the essay the first thing I say is I don't make a law giver argument
- Your reading comprehension stinks. I didn't say you make that argument. What you DO say is that there is contradiction in atheists using this terminology. I'm telling you that there is no contradiction, and I explained why.

Joe Hinman said...

Skep
- You said you quoted from his book. But I don't think he said that. Show me where he says that.


Me in original artocle: "But then the Stephen Hawking Center for Theoretical Cosmology puts it point blank: “The physical laws that govern the Universe prescribe how an initial state evolves with time.”(my emphasis)"[5]

[5] CTC, “Origins of the Universe: Quantum Origins,” The Stephan Hawking Center for Theoretical Cosmology, University of Cambridge, online resource, URL: http://www.ctc.cam.ac.uk/outreach/origins/quantum_cosmology_one.php accessed 10/5/15.

not in this paper but still true:

“The realization that time behaves like space presents a new alternative. It removes the age-old objection to the universe having a beginning, but also means that the beginning of the universe was governed by the laws of science and doesn't need to be set in motion by some god."i

[note he described prescriptive laws]
Grande Design 135

p34 they say law are prescriptive i have several commentator and revisers noting that,

im-skeptical said...

No, Joe. He does not say "prescriptive" laws. You did not quote any such thing.

And we already went through this. The word "prescriptive" was an unfortunate accident that should not have been used on that site. It does not reflect what any non-theistic scientist believes, but it is an ARTIFACT of ANCIENT THINKING that remains in our language. The unfortunate part of it is that DISHONEST THEISTS will distort the intended meaning, trying to make is seem as if there is some kind of double standard, when in fact there isn't.

Mike Gerow said...

If the whole problem could be waved away in a few words--like " in fact, it isn't"-- then describing the scope of natural regularity in non prescriptive terms that can't be taken in any sense at all to imply a lawgiver should be very easy, but non theistic scientists and philosophers of science seem to struggle with it anyway, which is Joe's whole point and the challenge he's making.....

im-skeptical said...

but non theistic scientists and philosophers of science seem to struggle with it anyway

- No, it's not a struggle. If you don't believe there's a law-giver, then nobody is prescribing the laws of nature. The only struggle I see here is theists desperately trying to make naturalism sound incoherent. If you have to do it by resorting to semantic games, trying to distort the meaning of what naturalists believe, then you're not succeeding.

Mike Gerow said...

It's not such an easy problem as that. A lot of the best atheist thinkers like Nietchze could see how deeply those "artifacts of ancient thinking" were entrenched in thought and language. Can they ever really be removed? Well, maybe some centuries after "God" is finally and utterly dead and buried, according to FN, so you can check that out, if you want....

& here's Jacques Lacan's spin on basically the same issue:

"The Copernican revolution is not really a revolution. If the center of a sphere is supposed to constitute the master point in a discourse that works only by analogy, the fact of changing the master point, to make the earth occupy it, or the sun, has nothing ing in it which would subvert that which the signifier center conserves of itself"

Mike Gerow said...

Joe, how much do you think the current scientific interest (amidst some circles) in chaos and the unpredictability of nature (or its only-limited or theoretical predictability) would impact concepts like "prescribed" or "lawgiver" .... if it's ever more widely accepted?

Is it a challenge to an unspoken, underlying assumption of a "lawgiver" if natural systems (like the weather) are only THEORECTICALLY and not fully demonstrably deterministic and predictable?

Hmmmmm...

im-skeptical said...

A lot of the best atheist thinkers like Nietchze could see how deeply those "artifacts of ancient thinking" were entrenched in thought and language.

- Yes, I can see that, too (and I don't know how many people consider Nietzsche one if the best atheist thinkers). But nevertheless, it is a problem of the language we use that tends to obscure real issue, and the way we think of it. This is a problem that Wittgenstein addressed.


nothing ing in it which would subvert that which the signifier center conserves of itself

- Depending on what you think the "signifier center" is, this statement is quite in agreement with what I'm saying. The reality of nature simply is what it is, regardless of our conception of it.

Mike Gerow said...

Sure, I tend to agree... Quote from the link I posted above outlines the issue pretty good.....

This point is an important one since human beings existed first and created laws to govern their social, political, and economic lives (via free will and consciousness) and only later did those laws become the metaphoric basis for interpreting the workings of nature by incorporating the legal lifeworld into scientific discourse.

In that sense—philosophically and mentally not physically—human politics preceded gravity.