Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Perspective we Take to the Question of God, (part 2)

Image result for stars in space

Of course in the nature of scientific realism we see ideology at work on both sides. They are not arguing about the empirical data suggesting how the workings of the physical world proceed. They are not arguing about a big pile of facts that are totally factual and do not require any sort philosophical component. These things are part of the discussion but the frame work of the discussion for both sides is clearly philosophical and thus ideological as well. Scientific realism in many of its versions distinguishes between ontological and epistemological views. In the world of Roy Bhaskar’s realism there commonalities with the Frankfurt school, that is with neo-Marxist social and political criticism.[1] It’s no less so for anti-realists who are working from a postmodern reading of constructivism. Whichever school prevails, science has to make the assumption that our observations really tell us what’s there, if they want rule out God and religion and other “primitive” things as “unscientific.” It wouldn’t really work to assume that the objects of scientific understanding are just “constructs” and then try to use them to rule out the reality of other ideas such as God. They have to make an assumption of a realist nature at some point. They can argue that assumption as a theoretical one, thus allowing a constructivist to remain a constructivist and still assume the reality of objects of scientific scrutiny. Otherwise we can’t assume string theory or mutliverse, or that there’s solidity at the basis of matter. To dismiss belief on the basis that we are just imposing patterns is also to dismiss the ability of science to predict the workings of natural world.
            We can go all the way on assuming Humean view (description only) if we are prepared to be solipsists in the end. We can go to the other extreme and assume law like regularity if we are prepared to impose our own ideas. The only logical way out is to be consistent and follow what works, but that might just mean having to refrain form ruling out some version of SN. What works is the assumption that our perceptions are real. We don’t play on the freeway on the assumption that our perception of patterns is just imposed and all that oncoming traffic is not real. Solders on the battle don’t stand in the line of fire on the premise that bullets are just theoretical constructs. We go with what works and what works is to assume that when our perceptions of regular, consistent, and shared (Inter-subjective) they are worth heading. One of the areas in which we should make such assumptions is in the assumption that order and regularity is inductive of prescriptive laws of nature, and in turn prescriptive laws are indicative of the will and ordering of mind.
            Order bespeaks mind in that mind is the only example we know of purposive ordering. As Vera Kistiakowsky stated, “The exquisite order displayed by our scientific understanding of the physical world calls for the divine….I am satisfied with the existence of an unknowable source of divine order and purpose.” [2] This quotation shows us that it was not that long ago that it was understood in science to view order as indicative of prescriptive laws at least in the sense of being a creation of mind. I use the word “purposive” and that’s a key because it is the hint of purpose that makes us think of mind. Why assume there’s a purpose? The whole atheist concept of answering final cause and design arguments is to divorce the universe form purpose. “Things are just here” they tell us, “there’s no ultimate reason, there’s only the descriptions of physics.” The problem is the description describes perfect order and absolute regularity. These aspects fit the need to produce a life bearing universe. That hints at purpose. Purpose hints at mind. The fact that it’s bankable, it’s always there, it’s relentless order makes it seem prescriptive. The concept of Cause and effect seems a prescriptive concept.
            Systems analysis approach to the question of laws raises  the possibility of mind:

Other aspects of the systems approach have made philosophers wary. (See, especially, Armstrong 1983, 66–73; van Fraassen 1989, 40–64; Carroll 1990, 197–206.) Some argue that this approach will have the untoward consequence that laws are inappropriately mind-dependent in virtue of the account's appeal to the concepts of simplicity, strength and best balance, concepts whose instantiation seems to depend on cognitive abilities, interests, and purposes. The appeal to simplicity raises further questions stemming from the apparent need for a regimented language to permit reasonable comparisons of the systems. (See Lewis 1983, 367.)[3]

            Cause and effect might be taken as an example of prescriptive laws. In spite of the descriptive nature of physical law in modern scientific outlook, cause and effect is not made removed but still bears a crucial place in human thought. Some argue that cause and effect is outmoded due to quantum theory. Quantum theory (QM) posits acausal happenings such as the appearance of quantum particles. That has been discussed in chapter (?, In connection with Krauss’s book). QM doesn’t replace cause and effect in all of science. It’s only under very specialized conditions that it can be assumed to be acausal and it’s only in connection with a certain theoretical outlook. Of course the question of laws is very complex now. We are not sure we know what laws are. The idea that the universe contains a law of of some sort in an some heavenly realm and natural process obey that law is ninetieth century, no one really thinks that way now.[4] We can speak of general principles or “universals” of some sort. There certainly do seem to be principles that are generally active and keep the universe running along certain lines. We can these are “organizing principles.” Calling them laws is sort of one sided because it conjures up images of a celestial legislator. The term too directly links to the watch maker, law implies Law giver. Organizing principle could imply any sort of origin source, personal or impersonal, purposive or not. One such principle is cause and effect.
            Descriptive physical laws do not undermine the notion of causality. As James Franklin puts it:

The notion of Cause remains crucial to science, even though the most general physical laws do not mention causes. No physical laws or interpretations of those laws call into question such facts as that some diseases are caused by viruses...every technological application of science requires the notion of an intervention that will effect change...That physical laws are descriptive does not undermine the notion of causality. The motion of billiard balls in interaction is described and predicted by purely descriptive of conservation of momentum and energy, for example. That does not in any way supersede our understanding that one ball hit another and caused it to go flying off." The laws just describe the course of the causal interaction." It's a description complete in one way but partial in another, in the same way as a complete description of a person's actions without reference to their motivations...[5]

Nor is causality equal to determinism. Determinism is often confused with cause and effect but conceptually they are not the same and one does not necessitate the other. The fact that they can get mixed up with each other raises an important issue: the nature of cosmological issues as inherently philosophical. None of the issue addressed so far can be resolved by just observing facts; they all require philological investigation, and that means that ideology can’t be far behind. Not that philosophical thinking is inherently ideological, but it’s constantly opening the door. Ideology is like a leach that seeks to attach itself to philosophical thinking every chance it gets. The relative nature of prior probability of God based upon one’s personal search, the nature of laws, the nature of purpose and order, the problem of descriptions and how they very according to empirical observation, the acceptance of strange phenomena (miracles), all the things we have touched  upon so far require philosophical thinking, thus run the risk of ideological connotation.
            This raises major conceptual problems for atheism. First because atheists tend to be determinists to a large extent, but also because the naturalistic reading of the universe (that’s just the way it happened) usually entails the implication that this is the only way it could happen. “This is just the way things happen,” it’s not amazing nor does it suggest purposes because they had to happen this way due to cause and effect. The implication is they really couldn’t happen in other ways, but such is not the case. Nature is all about contingency and naturalistic being is contingent being. Even Karl Popper tells us so; "Empirical facts are facts which might not have been. Everything that belongs to space time is a contingent truth because it could have been otherwise, it is dependent upon the existence of something else for its' existence going all the way back to the Big Bang, which is itself contingent upon something."[6] Paul Davies tells us:

Some scientists have tried to argue that if only we knew enough about the laws of physics, if we were to discover a final theory that united all the fundamental forces and particles of nature into a single mathematical scheme, then we would find that this superlaw, or theory of everything, would describe the only logically consistent world. In other words, the nature of the physical world would be entirely a consequence of logical and mathematical necessity. There would be no choice about it. I think this is demonstrably wrong. There is not a shred of evidence that the universe is logically necessary. Indeed, as a theoretical physicist I find it rather easy to imagine alternative universes that are logically consistent, and therefore equal contenders for reality.[7]

If true this would mean the universe is contingent. That is to say it is dependent upon some ontologically prior condition that makes it as it is. That condition would have to entail some form of organizing principle that makes for order and precision. The best thing we know for organizing is mind. Davies begins to wax eloquent about efficiency and sufficiency of the laws of physics, affirming their reality and then links to God:

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, towards life and consciousness and intelligence and cultural activities such as religion, art, mathematics and science?...You might be tempted to suppose that any old rag-bag of laws would produce a complex universe of some sort, with attendant inhabitants convinced of their own specialness. Not so. It turns out that randomly selected laws lead almost inevitably either to unrelieved chaos or boring and uneventful simplicity. Our own universe is poised exquisitely between these unpalatable alternatives, offering a potent mix of freedom and discipline, a sort of restrained creativity. The laws do not tie down physical systems so rigidly that they can accomplish little, but neither are they a recipe for cosmic anarchy. Instead, they encourage matter and energy to develop along pathways of evolution that lead to novel variety-what Freeman Dyson has called the principle of maximum diversity: that in some sense we live in the most interesting possible universe [8]

This does leave the atheist in a pickle. I hesitate to evoke this argument because it’s a double bind and I don’t like double binds, I think they are often phony. Yet this one is problematic either way. If the universe just has to be this way then it’s bound to be prescriptive with respect to physical law. Thus it’s a contradiction to say laws are only descriptions. Thus a descriptive universe must also be a contingent universe. That much is true, but we can’t push it and say “either way it has to be God” that would mean either prescriptive or descriptive is an implication of God, that’s a double bind. It seems more honest to just say that what is described is order, and that even though “laws” or organizing principles may be compelling they don’t make a necessary universe, but they are aspects of a contingent universe that is none the less ordered and prescribed by some higher principle. Then of course the argument centers around weather or not that principle is mind. In any case the contingent nature of the universe lends itself to several God arguments hat involve the ordered nature of the universe.
            The first such example of a God argument is that of “fine tuning.” Fine tuning is a subset of the anthropic principle, the idea that the universe is somehow biased in favor of life bearing. Fine tuning says that there are target levels that have to be hit exactly right in order for life to develop in a universe and hitting each one of them is so vastly improbable that the odds indicate some selection, some principle that is capable of selecting for life and controlling events in such a way as to make things happen rightly for the furtherance of life. This is evidence of mind behind the scenes. This is a design argument but it avoids the usual pitfalls of design. That is most design arguments are problematic because they don’t have a known designed universe to compare this one too. Conversely they don’t have a universe that we know is not designed to compare to. That makes it tough to say what actually design is. Yet we know what must be design if we can attach probability to the development of life. All that is not the target level is random and what hits the target must be assumed as design because it’s so unlikely. As I have said I won’t go into great depth on this argument, but just to give cursory explanation. The argument has many critics and a lot of arguments against it, but it is also very defensible if one does one’s homework. The major proponents of the argument are probably Paul Davies and Robin Collins (Messiah College in Grantham Pennsylvania). [9] Davies argues that there is a consensus among physicists and cosmologists that the universe is for the building blocks of life. That is to say the environments required for life are fine tuned.[10]
            For examples of fine turning we can turn to Andrei Linde who gives several. He refers to these as “puzzles” that forced physicists to look more closely at the standard theory.[11]

A second trouble spot is the flatness of space. General relativity suggests that space may be very curved, with a typical radius on the order of the Planck length, or 10^-33 centimeter. We see however, that our universe is just about flat on a scale of 10^28 centimeters, the radius of the observable part of the universe. This result of our observation differs from theoretical expectations by more than 60 orders of magnitude….

A similar discrepancy between theory and observations concerns the size of the universe. Cosmological examinations show that our part of the universe contains at least IO^88 elementary particles. But why is the universe so big? If one takes a universe of a typical initial size given by the Planck length and a typical initial density equal to the Planck density, then, using the standard big bang theory, one can calculate how many elementary particles such a universe might encompass. The answer is rather unexpected: the entire universe should only be large enough to accommodate just one elementary particle or at most 10 of them. it would be unable to house even a single reader of Scientiftc American, who consists of about 10^29 elementary particles. Obviously something is wrong with this theory.

The fourth problem deals with the timing of the expansion. In its standard form, the big bang theory assumes that all parts of the universe began expanding simultaneously. But how could all the different parts of the universe synchromize the beginning of their expansion? Who gave the command

Fifth, there is the question about the distribution of matter in the universe. on the very large scale, matter has spread out with remarkable uniformity. Across more than 10 billion light-years, its distribution departs from perfect homogeneity by less than one part in 10,000..... One of the cornerstones of the standard cosmology was the 'cosmological principle," which asserts that the universe must be homogeneous. This assumption. however, does not help much, because the universe incorporates important deviations from homogeneity, namely. stars, galaxies and other agglomerations of matter. Tence, we must explain why the universe is so uniform on large scales and at the same time suggest some mechanism that produces galaxies.

Finally, there is what I call the uniqueness problem. AIbert Einstein captured its essence when he said: "What really interests ine is whether God had any choice in the creation of the world." Indeed, slight changes in the physical constants of nature could have made the universe unfold in a completeIy, different manner. ..... In some theories, compactilication can occur in billions of different ways. A few years ago it would have seemed rather meaningless to ask why space-time has four dimensions, why the gravitational constant is so small or why the proton is almost 2,000 times heavier than the electron. New developments in elementary particle physics make answering these questions crucial to understanding the construction of our world.[12]

The reason the list begins with the second example is because the first example is the big bang itself, that’s not really fine tuning per se. It is interesting that mentions it because he states that the question of laws is still the major problem for physicists. This was back in 97 but that’s still true. The final paragraph is crucial he says these puzzles could have turned out differently and had that been the case the universe would have been totally different. He even points out that aspects of it could have worked out in billions of different ways. He doesn’t say it but that would suggest that meeting the target levels in just the right way for life to flourish (at least on one planet) is remarkable. There several standard examples used by those who make the fine tuning argument.
            Taking post shots at fine turning is immensely popular. Almost everyone admits the universe seems to be fine turned and that if these specifications were not met life would not abound. Yet there are a number of scholarly articles that purport to take the teeth out of the argument. Bradly Monton in an argument for British Journal for the Philosophy of Science states:

The fundamental constants that are involved in the laws of physics which describe our universe are finely tuned for life, in the sense that if some of the constants had slightly different values life could not exist. Some people hold that this provides evidence for the existence of God. I will present a probabilistic version of this fine-tuning argument which is stronger than all other versions in the literature. Nevertheless, I will show that one can have reasonable opinions such that the fine-tuning argument doesn't lead to an increase in one's probability for the existence of God.[13]

Matthew Kotzen makes a minimalist defense of the argument based upon the “likelihood principle” which seems somewhat in the vain of Bayes’ Theorem.

The idea behind LP, then, is that if one hypothesis makes E objectively more likely than another hypothesis, then the fact that E actually does occur is some evidence for the first hypothesis over the second. While there are certainly some philosophers who have raised doubts about the core idea behind LP,2 that core idea has been extremely influential and is accepted in some form by nearly all so-called ‘Likelihoodists’ and ‘Bayesians’.[14]

He overcomes the anthropic bias argument that says when all the evidence is taken into account we realize that fine tuning is just focusing on something which should be expected as a unremarkable part of the cosmic layout. He points out that critics mean different things by “take all evidence into account” and the likelihood principle establishes the validity of the argument. Of course the problem is this evokes the kind of selective bias discussed above in connection with Bayes. Yet it may be the bias can be over come but there wont new information on the divine reality as it is beyond our understanding. The argument can’t make God more probable. It can, however, point up the value in the warrant for belief bestowed by the evidence of fine tuning. It can’t be proof of God’s existence, or lack thereof. Again, we are confronted by the reality that one’s perspective plays a huge role in how one sees God arguments.
            The major argument against fine tuning is the multi-verse, or “many worlds theory,” (MWT). The idea is that if you only one space/time universe then the entire fine tuning coincidences are so amazingly against the odds, but if you have a billon such worlds, or even an unlimited supply, the odds against hitting the target just go way down. It’s not remarkable to think that out of a billion planets we just happen to be in one that hit it big for life. After all had we not been in that kind of planet we wouldn’t know about it. That idea comes from Kant’s attack on the cosmological argument. Of course there is no empirical proof to support the idea of a multi-verse. There are mathematical models that seem to support the idea. There is no real empirical proof of one, and probably never will be. It’s really an act of faith to throw away the possibly of God merely because there might be this other possibility that one clings to merely because it answers a possibility we don’t wish to accept. Moreover, even with a multi-verse the furthering of intelligent life and consciousness requires such precision that the multi-verse mechanism would have to also be fine tuned to produce a world with conscious agents in it. [15] Just knowing that other words are possible or even that they exist is not enough. We would have to know the hit rate, that is, what percentage of them bear life? That’s important because just producing one intelligent life bearing planet (not enough just to get any kind of life, but “higher order” life) would still be amazingly amazing. So we need to know what percentage because only if it’s a major percentage (maybe 15%) could we say it’s not amazing that there is a such a world.
            The multiverse is also the reverse gambler’s fallacy.

Some people think that if you roll the dice repeatedly and don't get double sixes, then you are more likely to get double sixes on the next roll. They are victims of the notorious gambler's fallacy. In a 1987 article in Mind, the philosopher Ian Hacking sees a kindred bit of illogic behind the Many Universes Hypothesis. Suppose you enter a room and see a guy roll a pair of dice. They come up double sixes. You think, "Aha, that is very unlikely on a single roll, so he must have rolled the dice many times before I walked into the room." You have committed what Hacking labels the inverse gambler's fallacy.[16]

            Another objection to the theory of fine tuning would be to propose a higher principle of organization that is responsible for the fine tuning, thus passing the problem along to a higher level. An example of this is the inflationary model of expansion. The article cited above by Linde contains his own attempt to do this by trying to answer the issues or “puzzles” he raises by use of scalar fields as part of the inflationary model.[17] That’s really just putting the problem off a level, and the mechanism itself would have to be fine tuned. "The inflationary model can succeed only by fine-tuning its parameters, and even then, relative to some natural measures on initial conditions, it may also have to fine-tune its initial conditions for inflation to work."[18] The notion that there might be higher mechanisms and deeper structures making for life bearing and life flourishing universes could in itself be understood as part of the order, and that might be seen as product of mind; it is still a matter of perspective.
            Yet my purpose in discussing it is not to add an independent argument but to use it as a further support for my point that there is real distinction behind the differences in perceive and descriptive laws of physics, the reality being described is prescriptive in the sense that it is made up of a deeply structured order that appears to be wrought for the purpose of producing intelligent life and thus, we can understand that order as an organizing principle that is the product of mind. This is apt to be understood as argument from design and I really don’t want that. If it is a grand design then so be it, perhaps I’ve found a way to make a design argument work, but I think it’s more than that. I think the real argument has more to do with the need to understand mind as the necessary basis or organizing principle. It has never made much sense to me to think of some disembodied set of order just standing around making things happen, yet there’s no reason for it. While design argument might cast God in the anthropomorphic role of great building contractor in the sky, the realization of a mind-based organizing principle upon which the order and complexity of the universe depends might transcend that anthropomorphic image. Certainly the need for such a principle to “fix the game” of the universe and set the target levels is one more aspect that points to mind.
            Another aspect of the problem, the question of God and how it arises in relation to our observations of the universe is already seen in our look at Krauss’s book (A Universe from Nothing) in chapter (?). In that review we presented the problem with the book’s claim that scientific research proved the universe came from nothing: the term “nothing” proved to be problematic, and rather than true nothing it turns out there are prior conditions that seems to produce the most fundamental aspects that we can trace back by way of universal origins. In fact it seems absurd to claim the universe could have come from true absolute nothing. There are two reasons why true absolute nothing is an absurd candidate for universal origin—in point of fact I don’t know of scientist who actually proposes this—as we have seen, Krauss doesn’t really propose that.
            First, true nothing offers no potential from which something might emerge. One might also argue the force of presumption in empirical observation. No example we have of anything gives us an idea that something can come from nothing. Everything we observe has a cause. As we saw with Krauss, the assertion that the actual nature of quantum particles is not an assertion of something form true nothing because there are prior conditions form which the particles are emerging.[19] Second, a state of true absolute nothing would be a state of timeless void, there would be no becoming in a timeless void. The consensus of science is that there is no change in a timeless void. As Hawking put it, “the concept of time has no meaning before the beginning of the universe.”[20] One theory from back in the 1980s that might help us understand the problem is that of SUSY GUTS (grand unified theory). Dr. Sten Odenwald wrote an article that describes this theory:

Theories like those of SUSY GUTS (Supersymetry Grand Unified Theory) and Superstrings seem to suggest that just a few moments after Creation, the laws of physics and the content of the world were in a highly symmetric state; one superforce and perhaps one kind of superparticle. The only thing breaking the perfect symmetry of this era was the definite direction and character of the dimension called Time. Before Creation, the primordial symmetry may have been so perfect that, as Vilenkin proposed, the dimensionality of space was itself undefined. To describe this state is a daunting challenge in semantics and mathematics because the mathematical act of specifying its dimensionality would have implied the selection of one possibility from all others and thereby breaking the perfect symmetry of this state. There were, presumably, no particles of matter or even photons of light then, because these particles were born from the vacuum fluctuations in the fabric of spacetime that attended the creation of the universe. In such a world, nothing happens because all 'happenings' take place within the reference frame of time and space. The presence of a single particle in this nothingness would have instantaneously broken the perfect symmetry of this era because there would then have been a favored point in space different from all others; the point occupied by the particle. This nothingness didn't evolve either, because evolution is a time-ordered process. The introduction of time as a favored coordinate would have broken the symmetry too. It would seem that the 'Trans-Creation' state is beyond conventional description because any words we may choose to describe it are inherently laced with the conceptual baggage of time and space. Heinz Pagels reflects on this 'earliest' stage by saying, "The nothingness 'before' the creation of the universe is the most complete void we can imagine. No space, time or matter existed. It is a world without place, without duration or eternity..."[21]

When physicists speak of disturbing the summitry they are not saying nothing can violate it, they are not saying these are laws of nature that prevent anything form happening. They are saying if anything did violate it, that event would mean the transitions form nothing to something. The problem is, what would be there to violate it? What would cause it to happen? Of course we don’t know but given what we do observe it seems there no good candidates. First of all there would be no vacuum flux because that’s a product of “creation” anyway. That would be logically and ontologically antecedent to whatever would cause the emergence of something.
            It would seem that mind is still the best candidate for agent of change or organizing principle. We are talking about moving from a position of order and profound regularity to a emerging of some new aspect of reality that breaks the regularity, a regularity we observe and assume to be unbreakable. Then regularity has to go back because we don’t find that kind of emergence (nothing to something) all the time. What could do that? It’s true something we don’t understand might do it automatically with no thought involved, but it seems a mind that writes the rules, and can re-write them at will, would explain it more efficiently and with greater certainty. Of course it could be the case that any number of things we don’t know about might produce the emergence of energy and matter. Mind is the best candidate because the rules would have to apply again as though they weren’t broken.  That would imply turning them on and off. Davies documents the priority of physical law in our thinking about the origins of the universe:

It seems that almost all physicists who work on fundamental problems accept that the laws of physics have some kind of independent reality. With that view, it is possible to argue that the laws of physics are logically prior to the universe they describe. That is, the laws of physics stand at the base of a rational explanatory chain, in the same way that the axioms of Euclid stand at the base of the logical scheme we call geometry. Of course one cannot prove that the laws of physics have to be the starting point of an explanatory scheme, but any attempt to explain the world rationally has to have some starting point, and for most scientists the laws of physics seem a very satisfactory one. In the same way, one need not accept Euclid's axioms as the starting point of geometry; a set of theorems like Pythagoras's would do equally well. But the purpose of science (and mathematics) is to explain the world in as simple and economical a fashion as possible, and Euclid's axioms and the laws of physics are attempts to do just that.[22]

We have no concept of a law that would allow something to emerge from true nothing. The agency that would allow that has to be eternal (that is timeless existence). The reason is because a contingent answer would have to be account for by yet more logically or ontologically prior conditions. So this is kicking the answer down the road, it’s not really an answer unless we posit a timeless agent. The timeless agent has to be able to control the rules.
            This leads to the recognition of an even larger principle, that of necessity and contingency. There are different kinds of necessity but in essence necessity is the quality of not being dependent upon something else for existence. In some arguments it is also reflected as the quality of not ceasing for failing to exist. These two aspects of being meet and are actually the same, as the sense of “not failing to exist” assumes independence from circumstances that would limits existence. The definition of the second type of necessity is built into the first. The corollary to necessary is ‘contingent.’ These are logical categories, they can be observed logically not empirically. Just as we don’t see causality we don’t see necessity or contingency. That doesn’t mean they are not valid categories to think with. Since the definition of contingent involves necessity, contingent things are dependent upon those things which are relatively necessity to them; contingencies require necessities because that’s the idea. Contingent things are those that require dependence upon logically or ontologically prior conditions. Thus there cannot be a contingency without a necessity. Since naturalistic things are contingency their very nature, as effects of causes, (at least in as far as we have observed—we have no counter examples) then necessity is necessary to the existence of contingency. Thus if we find that the world of our physical being is contingent then we must assume there is a necessary agent that is responsible I some way for its existence. “Natural law” in itself is not a satisfactory explanation because the idea of “law” can’t really be explained through the notion of uncaused disembodied set of laws floating about. Of course the skeptic would say “these are not real laws, they are passed by legislators they are just descriptions.” As discussed already, what they described is an order and regularity as binding that is more binding than legislature. Calling it a description doesn’t really explain it. That the regularity would have to be suspended and re-imposed to allow for the emergency of something form nothing; unless we assume an eternal agency, then we are making an assumption that contradicts our observations.
            If the assumption is that of an eternal necessary aspect of being then we are basically positing God. That is the basis of the definition of Christian God according to the philosophers, as seen in the cosmological arguement.

The cosmological argument is less a particular argument than an argument type. It uses a general pattern of argumentation (logos) that makes an inference from certain alleged facts about the world (cosmos) to the existence of a unique being, generally identified with or referred to as God. Among these initial facts are that certain beings or events in the world are causally dependent or contingent, that the universe (as the totality of contingent things) is contingent in that it could have been other than it is, that the Big Conjunctive Contingent Fact possibly has an explanation, or that the universe came into being. From these facts philosophers infer deductively, inductively, or abductively by inference to the best explanation that a first or sustaining cause, a necessary being, an unmoved mover, or a personal being (God) exists that caused and/or sustains the universe. The cosmological argument is part of classical natural theology, whose goal has been to provide evidence for the claim that God exists.[23]
The skeptic might argue that the agency can’t really be called God if it is minus personal sense of consciousness and mind. We’ve already discussed by the assumption of mind is best. Not only to turn on and off the rules but for the fine tuning, to say nothing of a means of explaining the structure that can produce consciousness in us, after there is no real reason why we should even be conscious.[24]  These are good reasons to assume that God is real. They are not absolute proof, but they will always present a valid reason for belief and it’s not likely they will be disproved or overturned. The necessity/contingency dichotomy is absolute. It may not be to the liking of empiricists but it is logical and it won’t be disproved as any physical evidence of how the universe came to be atomically counts as description of potentially contingent circumstances that require the assumption of an eternal necessity. Let’s assume they did find something popping up out of nothing that might still be taken as the product of a necessity that we don’t see. The “nothing” isn’t photographed and identified as nothing; it can always be understood as the place holder for a necessity that is beyond our understanding. That means the issue can’t really be decided by either science or philosophical argument. We are actually not doing science at this point, we are fully ensconced in philosophy and theology, but these do not offer certainty. The only kind of certainty we can get in terms of belief in God is the personal kind that comes from entering the inner logic of belief and finding that it works to further our lives and our sense of satisfaction with life. It’s that kind of inner assurance that the skeptic refuses to seek. The skeptic wants to be conquered by the facts, but confronted with facts that indicate her world view is wrong, she raises the bar again and again so that the facts no longer warrant belief. Then she refuses belief on the basis that it’s not certainty. That’s why skeptics seek science and believers seek experience.
            Even though it’s not “proof” and even though it’s not certainty in a factual sense, we can still make arguments based upon assumptions and argue for warranted belief. That is to say we can argue that belief in God is not proved but is warranted rationally by the evidence. How much value there is in this approach may be a matter of debate, but it’s probably necessary given the skeptic’s penchant for reductionism. People can be cheated out of faith. People deceive themselves and can be deceived into believing that the epistemic gaps warrant disbelief while the warrant for belief is not enough to combat doubt because it’s not certainty. Certainty in this sense is an irrational demand. Yet people can be led down the path and indoctrinated to demand it. For this reason it’s important to understand the validity of rational warrant. I base my view of “rational warrant” on Stephen Toulmin’s idea of “warrant” in his argumentation model. For Toulmin persuasion is primarily accomplished by grounding claims in data and logic and then establishing warrant that is linking the data and logic of the ground to the conclusion. So the warrant is the link that explains why the data and logic necessitate the desired conclusion.[25] It answers the question “why does the data show your argument to be true?” Of course skeptics will invariably argue “that’s not good enough because it’s not certain.” It can’t be certain. We can’t have certainty in an area where the object of our knowledge is beyond or our understanding. At least we can’t have the kind of certainty they demand. That’s not a good reason for ignoring the warrant. If private personal certainty is all we can have then we should seek it, especially when it brings much better results than scientific factual certainty.

[1] Bhaskar, R.A., Philosophy and the Idea of Freedom, London: Blackwell. 1990
[2] Margenau, H and R.A. Varghese, ed. 1992. Cosmos, Bios, and Theos:Scientists Reflect upon Science, God and the Origins of the Universe…  La Salle, IL, Open Court, p. 52. qjoting Vera Kistiakawsky: bor in 1928, Professor of physics at MIT, she served as president of the Association for Women in Science in 1980-1981.”She had been a staff member of major research installations and had combined teaching with basic research in nuclear physics both at Columbia and Brandeis Universities before joining the faculty at MIT in 1963, and rising in 1972 to the rank of Professor of Physics.  She is now professor emerita there.” From her webapte at Mt Holyoak college (she went to school there—class of 48): URL: https://www.mtholyoke.edu/175/gallery/vera-kistiakowsky  visited 2/8/13
[3], John W Carroll, "Laws of Nature", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = . Carrroll cites D. Lewis, , “New Work for a Theory of Universals”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, (1983) 61:367
[4]Santo D'Agostino, op cit.
[5] James Franklin, What Science Knows and How it Knows it. Jackson Tennessee:Encounter books 2009, 64-65. Franklin teaches at University of New South Wales, he’s a mathematician who publishes on History of Ideas.
[6] Karl Popper quoted in Antony Flew, Philosophical Dictionary, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1979, 242.
[7] Paul Davies, “Physics and the Mind of God, The Templeton Prize Address,” First Things. (1995). Davies was born in 1946, he is recipient of the Templeton prize, the largest monitory aware for scientific achievement, In the past he has taught at University of Cambridge and is currently director of “BEYOND” center for fundamental concepts in Science.

[8] Ibid.
[9] Collins attended Washington State University. He has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Notre Dame where he studied under Alvin Plantinga, and did two years in a Ph.D. program in Physics at U.T. Austin. Robin Collins' Curriculum Vita. Accessed Feb 22, 2013. URL: http://home.messiah.edu/~rcollins/VITA.htm 
[10] Paul Davies (2003). "How bio-friendly is the universe". Op cit
[11] Andrei Linde, “Self Reproducing Inflationary Universe.” originally published Scientific American oct 1997.  now archived as pdf: URL:
Linde is Russian, went to Mascow University, he was one of the originators of inflationary theory. He has been professor of physics at Standford.
[12] ibid
[13] Bradely Monton, “God, Fine Tuning and the Problem of Old Evidence.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. Oxford Journals. ·  Volume 57, Issue 2 (2006)
[14] Matthew Kotzen, “Selection biases in Likelihood arguments.” British Journal for The Philosophy of Science. ·  Volume 63, Issue 4 , (2012) 825-839
[15] Martin Rees, Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe, NewYork: Basic Books, 2000.
[16] Jim Holt, "War of the Worlds: Do you believe in God? Or in multiple universes?" Lingua Franca, December 2000/January 2001
[17] Andre Linde, op cit.
[18] Earman, John. Bangs, Crunches, Wimpers, and Shrieks: Singularities and Acausalities in Relativistic Spacetimes. OxfordOxford University Press, 1995., p. 156
[19] See Albert’s review of Krauss’s book, find in “disprove” chapter,
[20] Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, New York: Bantam, 1988, p. 8
[21] Sten Odenwald, “Stellar Fronteirs, to the Big Bang and Beyond,” Astronomy Magazine, Kalmback Publishing, (May 1987) 90.
[22] Paul Davies, “When Time Began,” New Scientist, (October 9, 2004) 4.
[23] Bruce Reichenbach,  "Cosmological Argument", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), forthcoming URL = .
[24] David Chalmers, The Conscious Mind, op cit, 84-90.
[25] Stephen Toulmin, “Part III The Layout of Arguments: The Pattern of an argument: Data and Warrant,” and “Backing Our Warrants,” The Uses of Argument. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003, (originally 1958)  89-100.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Perspective We Take to the Question of God, (part 1)

  photo Antenna.jpg

            I never argue to prove to the existence of God anyway, but to demonstrate the rational nature of belief. Arguing to prove that God exists [1]gives one an unnecessary burden because since God is beyond our understanding there’s really no way to prove there is a God. Nor should we want such a thing because that would mean that God is subject to our calculations. If we can make God an object of our observations we have demoted God to the level of being a thing in creation. The potential for such arguments depends entirely upon the assumptions we are willing to make and the perspective from which we view the marital supporting the arguments. The point here is that our presuppositions govern the way we see to answer the question of God and the proper presumptions are philosophical and not scientific; we must do philosophy to answer the question of God.
            The modern view of physical law understands “law” as more or less a metaphor. Even though text books still speak in the language of law the popular understanding among “scientific thinkers” is that laws of physics are merely descriptions of the universe and how it seems to be behave. The language of law is a hold over from the early days of the Greeks and the Christians, from philosophy and religion. Things have changed radically in the years since 1997 when Smolin’s words were first published but they still summarize the issue:

Even now that science has been severed from its religious roots, the idea that the laws of nature have an ideal and unchanging character have continued to be a central part of its basic world picture. For this reason it may seem strange to us if someone suggests that the laws of nature might be as much the result of contingent and historical circumstances as they are reflections of some transcendent eternal logic. But this is exactly the idea that I’m going to propose here. If we are willing to give up the idea that the laws of physics, or at least the parameters that measure the masses of the particles and the strengths of the forces, are fixed and immutable, we will see that new possibilities open up for understanding…[2]

While Stephen Mumford wants to exclude both simple regularity as law or Ayer’s concept of statements as laws. Statements summing up the nature of law must be made. If patters are found in nature then we know regularities exist. These things have their place in discussion of law that doesn’t’ mean that’s what law reduces to. In characterizing the “lawless” view point he tells us: “The world contains just a series of events on this account. Sometimes we find a pattern in the series but according to well known Humean arguments, there is nothing that has made the pattern. The pattern has just occurred there is no necessity in nature.”[3] Howard Sankey edits an anthology, Causation and Laws of Nature, which is billed as “Australasion” studies, Australian and Asian studies in history and philosophy of science, in which he demonstrates a controversial distinction between Hume’s empiricism as the limitation of the mind’s perception vs. the assumption of mind independent reality.[4] The Humean view is that laws of nature/physics reduce to “phenomenal regularities,” in other words, the billiard balls; all we see is one stop and the other start, we don’t see causes, our understanding is limited to what we observe and that’s all. We observe a regularity we can describe but we can’t observe the reason for it. The counter to this view, in Australasian studies is the “realist” view that holds to the assumption of mind independent reality. Alan Chamlers’s article “Making Sense of the Laws of Physics”[5] while Brian Ellis leads the scientist essentialist contingent.[6]
            What we find is that there is still a lot of discussion about what the laws of physics and nature are, what makes them, and it doesn’t all reduce to description with no attribution to a framework or a “higher” set of “rules.” It depends upon what part of the world you are in as to how this all plays out. While in America laws of physics and nature are seen as purely descriptive.[7] There is a distinction between laws of physics which are rules of understanding physics, such as Newtonian laws, and laws of nature which are more a creation of philosophers and more general. Santo D'Agostino, who is an accomplished physicist and mathematician complains about text books that give the impression that mathematical equations really tell nature what to do.

If you really believe that a scientific law tells a physical system how to behave, what happens when there is a historic change of perspective (a “scientific revolution”)? One can end up tied up in mental knots. Imagine saying in the 19th century that a physical system “obeys” Newton’s laws of motions, only to have to revise your opinion in the 20th century in light of Einstein’s theory of relativity. Do you now say that the same system “obeys” the equations of relativistic mechanics, and only approximately “obeys” Newton’s laws? Or do you say that you were wrong in your earlier statement, but now you’ve got it right; this is problematic, because how do you know you’re right? What if there is yet another revolutionary change in perspective? I find this awkward.[8]

This laves us with two views battling it out for supremacy in the area of modern thought about the nature of natural and physical laws. It’s the “scientific essentialists” or those who posit something like prescriptive laws that tell the universe how to act, vs. the Hume crowd, those who just see physical law as a description of the way the universe seems to work and don’t both bother to explain how or why. Both sides represent modern science; both are stocked with atheists, theists, deists, and so on. In thinking about the nature of natural and/or physical law as a potential indication of God’s reality, both sides have their problems.
            The scientific essentialists (the prescriptive law side) have the problem of explaining how disembodied laws can just “exist” somewhere (where that is we don’t know) outside of a mind. To explain that one must drift over to the other side in saying “it’s not really law.” “Law” is just an unfortunate choice of terms. It’s a bit more than that. Award Wining Physicist Paul Davies points out the traditional view of transcendent laws is just a hold over from the seventieth century monotheism with God removed. As Davies said, “Then God got killed off and the laws just free-floated in a conceptual vacuum but retained their theological properties,”[9] It seems that “law” is not just an unfortunate choice but a hold over from the older concept that the order and regularity we see is the result of a mind that created it to be orderly, the use of the term law is atp because it refers to the command of that mind that created it. This of course raises the question “why does it have to be God?” Even to ask this question is to invite theological issues and open to the door to theological questions. To open the door to theology is to invite physicists to show their ignorance of theology.

Steven Weinberg plays theologian:
QUESTION: Over the past decade, many physicists have been making an association between their science and "the mind of God". What do you think of this association being made?
MR. WEINBERG: It makes me nervous when physicists use the word "God" loosely, as talking about the laws of nature as the mind of God, or even Einstein's famous remarks about God playing dice with the cosmos. I think mostly they're just using the word "God" in the metaphorical sense.
By "God" most of them simply mean the laws of nature, the principles that govern everything. And, well, there's nothing wrong with the metaphor, I suppose, but the word "God" is charged with so much meaning, it carries so much historical freight, and I think one ought to be careful about how one uses it.[10]
Since we don’t know Weinberg’s theological education level it is entirely possible that his understanding of theology is not up to par with his understanding of physics. It’s possible that he thinks God has to be a big man on a throne with a white beard (and he has to be literally a male). This is just another example of physicist playing theologian because he assumes that knowing physics means he knows it all. God need not be male, need not have a white bread, need not be anthropomorphic and need not even be “personal” or ‘sentient.’ Any transcendental signified is by definition (top of the metaphysical hierarchy) God. Thus the idea of disembodied laws making things happen and having no explicable origin of their own is not an alternative to belief in God, it may well be a belief in God. It is an alternative to belief in a theistic God. Moreover, that side also has a problem proving how laws could exist outside a mind.
            The descriptive (Humean) side has a similar problem. Similar because as the recourse to the prescriptive side is to lighten up on the concept of a law, so the fact of description results in the obvious point that what is being described is very law-like order. Davies statement above was in response to a reaction against his statement that science required faith. He was deluged with “letters to The Times, pointing out that the order we perceive in nature has been explored and tested for more than 2,000 years by observation and experimentation. That order is precisely the hypothesis that the scientific enterprise is engaged in testing.”[11] The order is always there, it dependable enough that glider pilots and roller coaster makers can risk the lives of their passengers on it. There surely must be some point to the never ending scientific testing, that point must be something along the lines of placing confidence in the findings at some point. Nor is it the case that the predominant school has always been the Humean or descriptive. If look at the history of science references to the transcendent law idea are much more prevalent than are the descriptive side. For example Whitehead writes about it as though no one would dare question the omnipotence of physical law:

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 disjoints the physical cause from the final end. It is not popular to dwell upon the absolute contradiction here involved. [12]

It hasn’t been that long that the descriptive side was strong. It seems also that it’s just an ideological take on things because what is being described is order. To make a philological position on the nature of the order, even if that position leaves it up for grabs, is a metaphysical move and thus in the sense that imports metaphysics into science its basically an ideological move.
            One more problem with the descriptive side, unless our descriptions are 100% accurate then inclusion of other descriptions broadens the base for behaviors in which we might find the universe engaging. That is to say one might be justified in saying “people don’t grow back new lungs overnight.” That’s just not part of the description. Yet the Catholic saint making miracles recorded that it is in at least one case. So as a rarity sometimes the universe does grow back lungs.  Or one would be perfectly justified in saying “people just don’t come back form the dead.”  Yet that’s not a 100% accurate statement because it’s part of the description of several hundred people in the Vatican achieves that some did come back form the dead.[13] Yet the skeptic will always come back and argue, if nothing else, as did Hume that these events are not to be believed:

a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined….The plain consequence is (and it is a general maxim worthy of our attention), “That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish: And even in that case, there is a mutual destruction of arguments, and the superior only gives us an assurance suitable to that degree of force, which remains, after deducting the inferior.[14]

His argument is predicated upon the idea that the laws of nature are stable law-like facts. We have seen that a whole school of thought sees them as nothing more than the compilation of a description of what happens in the world—that description can’t be 100% accurate and it is challenged by those who observe other things. In essence what he’s saying is that we can’t accord these kinds of events as much acceptance as we do ordinary events because we never have before. It doesn’t conform to our observations of the way the universe behaves and thus has presumption against it. That’s just a matter of where you come from. For some, those who have seen such things, they do conform to the way the universe works at times. Of course the real assumption is the natural vs. supernatural origins of the phenomena. All Hume is really saying at that point is that we choose not to value such claims because we have never have before. The principle he says out is self defeating because anything more miraculous would have to be doubted more, nothing could ever established a miracle no matter how good the evidence was. We see this in the words of Hume himself:

When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should have really happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of the testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.[15]

The principle is argued against both testimonial evidence of miracle and those directly experienced.[16]  By the power of this premise nothing could ever establish a miracle, they must always be doubted. But upon what basis is it doubted? That is Hume privileges his position as 100% even though we know it’s not?  If one is coming from a tradition where such things are accepted as being within the realm of possibility then they are part of the description. After all to say “a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature” either assumes laws of nature (with all their problematic of disembodied law makers) or they are the result of a description of the way the world operates, one that is not 100% and is challenged. While this doesn’t mean that there’s proof for the existence of God or some higher reality, it certainly gives a reason to think there might be. The miracle denying skepticism is basically circular reasoning or question begging. Moreover, we might consider the fact that Hume never had the M scale of Hood to tell him that religious experience is universal when it should not be, or that it has a vast dramatic transformative effect which can’t be reduced or explained away (see previous chapter). How would those facts change the assumptions Hume would make?
            It is understandable that naturalistic thinkers are uneasy with the concept of miracles. So should we all be watchful not to believe too quickly because its easy to get caught up in private reasons and ignore reason itself. Thus has more than one intelligent person been taken by both scams and honest mistakes. By the the same token it is equally a  danger that one will remain too long in the skeptical place and become overly committed to doubting everything. From that position the circular reasoning of the naturalist seems so reasonable. There’s never been any proof of miracles before so we can’t accept that there is any now. But that’s only because we keep making the same assumption and thus have always dismissed the evidence that was valid.

[1] I use the term “exist” advisedly as it is a contradiction to my Tillichian view (Paul Tillich) that “existence” refers to contingent things while God Is the ground of being.
[2] Lee Smolin, Life of the Cosmos Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. 76.
Preview on Google books.
Smolin Is professor of physics Pennsylvania State Universe, center for Gravitational Physics and Geomeery. He’s contributed several key Ideas to the search for a grand unfied theory of quantum theory, cosmology and relativity.
[3] Stphen Mumford,  Laws in Nature. London, New York: Routledge. This edidtion published in the Taylor &Francis e -library 2004, 8.
Mumford is professor of philosophy at University of Nottingham.
[4]Howard Sankey. Causation and Laws of Nature. Accord Station, Hingham Ma: Kluwer Academic Publishers, Howard Sankey, editor, xi 1999.
[5] Alan Chalmers in Sandey, op cit “Making sense of the laws of Physics,” 3-18
[6] Brian Ellis, in Sankey, op cit, “Caual Powers and Laws of Nature” 19-34
[7] My rendition of things may be a bit slanted. First of all, there are realists in Ameirca and realizing is not necessarily about laws of physics being prescriptive, but I think that may be an implication of it. Realism is very general term that’s used in many different ways by those who claim it’s banner. Essentially it means that the aspects of physics such as slingalruty and the phenomena described in physics are real and actually there, while the anti-realists and other groups have a  large variation on the theme that sees these objects as theoretical the result of verisimilitude; the theoretical placeholders for our calculations, in other words, “constructs.” Just to make things more confusing I know atheists with phsyics degrees who style themselves in the anti-realist camp but hwo mock and riedicule constructivists such as Thomas Kuhn. For documentation on this point and an excellent article on the subject of scientific realism see:
Chakravartty, Anjan, "Scientific Realism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = .
[8] Santo D'Agostino, “Does Nature Obey the Laws of Phsyics?” QED Insight Posted on March 9, 2011 blog URL: http://qedinsight.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/does-nature-obey-the-laws-of-physics/  visited 12/18/12
[9] Dennis Overbye, “Laws of Nature, Source Unknown.”New York Times, “science,”  (December 18, 2007)
[10] Steven Weinberg, Interview on PBS, full transcript on “Interview” website PBS. Org. http://www.pbs.org/faithandreason/transcript/wein-body.html  visited 12/18/12
[11] ibid.
[12] Alfred North Whitehead, Science and The Modern World,. New York: free Press, 1925, (1953) p.76
[13] Douffin, Jacqueline, op cit (see previous chapter).
[14] David Hume,  1748 et seq.An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Ed. Tom L. Beauchamp. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.86-87
[15] ibid
[16] Michael Root, “Miracles and the Uniformity of Nature,” American Philosophical Quarterly.26 (October 1989) 338-339.