Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Scientism: science is the only valid form of knowledge

Ian Hacking

Scientism is the understanding that science is the only valid form of knowledge . It's an ideology and permeates  real scientific circles. When thinkers whose understanding is colored by this ideology their defense of science against valid ordinary critique is ideological and programmed, We can always spot this kind of thinking immediately because they invulnerably see any valid criticism as an attack upon the very notion of science, This tendency to think of science as some fragile sacred truth that dare not be questioned is emblematic of ideological reverence, This attitude An example is fond in the essay by Marcel Kuntz is at the Laboratoire de Physiologie Cellulaire Végétale, CNRS/Université Joseph Fourier/CEA/INRA in Grenoble, The essay entitled "The Postmodern assault on  Science"[1]

Kuntz tells us "Postmodernist thought is being used to attack the scientific worldview and undermine scientific truths; a disturbing trend that has gone unnoticed by a majority of scientists.[2] 
Postmodernism undermines all truth. Kuntz wants to privilege his view as THE TRUTH! You Know I believe in truth but I don't believe science is the one and only truth,

The scientific method has been the guiding principle for investigating natural phenomena, but postmodernist thought is starting to threaten the foundations of the scientific approach. The rational, scientific view of the world has been painstakingly built over millennia to guarantee that research can have access to objective reality: the world, for science, contains real objects and is governed by physical laws that existed before our knowledge of these objects and laws. Science attempts to describe the world independently of belief by seeking universal truths, on the basis of observation, measurement and experimentation. [3]
I agree with several aspects of this view point, I think science is the chief means of understanding the naturalistic workings of the wold and that it does supply a less subjective means of understanding the regularities of the law-like framework of the universe's behavior. Yet when we frame it as "objective," even though it can be called that in a relative way, we set up the validity of the Postmodern critique, it is this very swaggering claim to the one and only truth that postmodernists are reacting against. The claim that science gives us access to "objective reality" is a metaphysical claim, that is guaranteed to open up not objectivity but philosophical critique, The statement about universal truth is a dead give away. Go's love is a universal truth, There might be a realm of the forms where Universal truths are housed, for all we know.This clam impinges upon all metaphysical claims and thus is itself a metaphysical assumption,That makes it fair game for philosophy,
The postmodernist school of thought arose to question these assumptions, postulating that claims about the existence of a real world—the knowledge of which is attainable as an objective truth—have only been relevant in Western civilization since the Enlightenment. In recent decades, the movement has begun to question the validity of claims of scientific truth, whether on the basis of their belonging to larger cultural frames or through heavy criticism of the scientific method. [4]
Postmodernism did not arise solely to question the assumptions of science and objective evidence, That's an unfair generalization. That's the hallmark of his  whole attack because it fails to distinguish between levels of postmodern thought, it lumps all philosophical critique of science into the same pile as the most extreme Postmdoerns,

When he gets specific the first one he goes after is Thomas Kuhn. Kuhn is probably the most famous and the most legitimately accepted and admired thinker to be labeled "Postmodern." If we must label him ofrm y money i wouldlabel him Postmodern light,

Thomas Samuel Kuhn (1922–1996) is one of the most influential philosophers of science of the twentieth century, perhaps the most influential. His 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is one of the most cited academic books of all time. Kuhn's contribution to the philosophy of science marked not only a break with several key positivist doctrines, but also inaugurated a new style of philosophy of science that brought it closer to the history of science. His account of the development of science held that science enjoys periods of stable growth punctuated by revisionary revolutions. To this thesis, Kuhn added the controversial ‘incommensurability thesis’, that theories from differing periods suffer from certain deep kinds of failure of comparability.[5]
"The concept of paradigm shift proposed by Thomas Kuhn in his famous book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962;),[6] has also given weight to the critics of science and of its pretension to understand reality. If science is not a gradual process of accumulation of knowledge, but rather subject to sudden “revolutions” that overwhelm outdated theories, they argue, how can one trust scientific knowledge?" (from Kuntz, Op cit)

Who are they? Who are these faceless critics of  science who are out to steal reality? He imagines this rival group of  knowledge preachers with their own meta narrative to sell,.That Is ideology pure and simple, It;s saying My meta narrative is true  not yours,

I don't believe he has read Kuhn, Here are a couple of red flags,First, Kuhn does not say there's a sudden change, Revolutions don't have to be sudden. The metaphor there is political not temporal. In fact Kuhn;s theory states that the shift happens when the paradigm can n longer absorb anomalies that can can a long time for the anomalies to pileup. He says that for an individual researcher it can come as a sudden realization but i;ts not coming overnight in terms of what;s gonging in the field as a whole. When Kuhn says it's not a gradual accumulation of knowledge he doesn't mean these questions haven't been floating around for a long time but that scientific knowledge is not cumulative. it's not a long slow piling up of facts util we find truth. Scientific knowledge can come in an instant he's talking about regular scientific knowledge. Another red flag his rhetorical question  how can one trust scientific knowledge? That is his take on Kuhn,Kuhn himself does not say that, Kunb never goes after science, He is not a science baser. He's ;not trying to foster doubt about science. 
 "If, as according to Kuhn, scientific revolutions are also political upheavals in scientific policy, it is easy to understand why Kuhn's theory has attracted so much attention in a period that calls into question the established political order in the Western world.[7] So here wants to make postmodernism some kind of communist-like threat to peace and civilized order, That strikes me as red Baiting, Is that a bad thing? Questioning the political order?

I find that extremely simplistic, lacking in any specificity that makes it applicable to Kuhn, Kuhn is very specific abouit how defense of a paradigm is like a topological battle. That is why he calls it the scientific revolutions because defense of the old paradigm is like a political regime defemdimg against a revolution,

Then he starts talking about the strong programme as tough Kuhn is in that movement, He was not, The strong programme is the extreme end of postmodernism that does seek to overturn all truth and all science and fits the stereotype, It was largely based in  Edinburgh- with thinkers like David Bloor [8]
Then he slides into talkinga about the ‘strong programme'  in such as way as toconvey the impression that it; related to Kuhn, He also milables and thus castigates other thinkers such as Ian Hacking,

Several deconstructionist thinkers, such as Bruno Latour and Ian Hacking, have rejected the idea that the concepts of science can be derived from a direct interaction with natural phenomena independently of the social environment in which we think about them. The central goal of science, defining what is true and what is false, becomes meaningless they argue, as its objectivity is reduced to ‘claims' that are simply the expression of one culture—one community—among many. Thus, all systems of thought are different “constructs” of reality and all additionally have political connotations and agendas.[9]
He starts out here Identified Hacking as a deconstructionist. Hacking is certainly not a decon. Hacking says He;s a Cambridge analytic philosopher [10]He has been lauded for his scholarship. I am a big fan of His, He is clearly a major historian of sicced,[11] If he can be labeled in the postmodren vain it would be as a Faulcaultian  not a Derridan, That's very different, [12] Faucult had no ax to grind against science.

The generalizations in implacable and them  vs us mentality against what should be considered a valid academic quest for knowledge is indicative of the ideological basis of geneticist thinking, That gives credence to the postmodern critic of the meta narrative,


all sources acceded 5/2/17  

Kuntz is at the Laboratoire de Physiologie Cellulaire Végétale, CNRS/Université Joseph Fourier/CEA/INRA in Grenoble, 

[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.

[5]  Alexander Bird,, "Thomas Kuhn", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), First published Fri Aug 13, 2004; substantive revision Thu Aug 11, 2011

[6] Thomas Kuhn, 

[7] Kuntz op coit

[8] David Bloor, "The strengths of the strong programme." Scientific rationality: The sociological turn (Springer Netherlands, 1984) pp. 75-94.

[9]Kuntz,  Op cit

[10] Ian Hacking quoted in "Who Are you? The Biosocial Being Ian Hacking  Ioan Davies memorioal lecture, (4/14/17) held at university of Troomnto, URL:

[11]Karen Grandy, "Ian Hacking"The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2016-06-10.
[12]Thomas P. Kasulis, Robert C. Neville, John Edwin Smith The Recovery of Philosophy in America: Essays in Honor of John Edwin Smith
on line copy google books:

he is Foucultioan

Monday, March 18, 2019

The God Who Lurks Behind Modern Science

Image result for HeraclitusImage result for Isaac Newton


Last week an interesting question emerged from the comments revolving around  discussion of Lawrence Krauss's A Universe from Nothing[1] Our Friendly atheist critic "Anonymous" ["Pixie"] said..."But we can easily imagine universes without God. Not so easy to imagine a universe without any laws of physics." My response: "Modern science formulated the notion of laws of physics from taking out the personality of God and leaving the calculation of mind with power,you talk like science arrived at it;s viewpoint in one afternoon with no knowledge of religion. In reality it slowly evolved out of religious faith with help of thinkers who regarded both as truth." In paraphrasing the general discussion my basic position might be typified by one phrase I uttered: "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".

At this point Skeptical chimes in with his usual  vibrato:

- Joe, that is religionist propaganda. It was a metaphor - not to be take literally. I will grant you that numerous religionists have misinterpreted what Hawking said. But Hawking WAS an atheist. Let me tell you what Hawking later said about his statement on knowing the mind of God (NOT seeing into the mind of God): Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation,” he said. “What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.”[2] 
I know he's an atheist. I never said he believed in God. I said his idea borrowed from the general concept of of God. Throughout that discussion  Pixie kept saying that the concept of God is not used in science now. I am not sure what he thinks he's getting out of that realization, but it's essentially true  but also misleading. While God is not an operative concept in science today the God concept lurks behind the history of science and modern sciences are shaped by various attempts to take God out of the picture while capitalizing upon the effects of God.  In other words the laws of physics are shaped by taking the personality of God away and leaving the power and law  giving in place.The concept of God is covertly operative in modern science in that way and also in that modern science clearly seeks a  transcendental signified to ground it;s law making upon.

Physicist Paul Davies tells us modern science has tended to avoid questions about the origins of physical law. They've left the question unanswered,  "Traditionally, scientists have treated the laws of physics as simply "given", elegant mathematical relationships that were somehow imprinted on the universe at its birth, and fixed thereafter. Inquiry into the origin and nature of the laws was not regarded as a proper part of science." [3]
This shared failing is no surprise, because the very notion of physical law has its origins in theology. The idea of absolute, universal, perfect, immutable laws comes straight out of monotheism, which was the dominant influence in Europe at the time science as we know it was being formulated by Isaac Newton and his contemporaries. Just as classical Christianity presents God as upholding the natural order from beyond the universe, so physicists envisage their laws as inhabiting an abstract transcendent realm of perfect mathematical relationships. Furthermore, Christians believe the world depends utterly on God for its existence, while the converse is not the case. Correspondingly, physicists declare that the universe is governed by eternal laws, but the laws remain impervious to events in the universe.[4]
He reminds us: "Dumping the problem in the lap of a pre-existing designer is no explanation at all, as it merely begs the question of who designed the designer. But appealing to a host of unseen universes and a set of unexplained meta-laws is scarcely any better."[5] I don't think he takes seriously the anti-theological Jibber jabber about designing the designer,I think that;s just his way of saying how can we know with final certainty which it is?

That craving for certainty is the impetus behind grand unified theory of everything. Why add “of everything?” That clearly points to the transcendental signified.
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.[6]

Weinberg tells us the theory of everything will unite all aspects of physical reality in a single elegant explanation.[7] Exactly as does the TS! 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?[8]

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 she is describing is Transcendental Signified, which is the basic job description of God.

Clearly God lurks behind science. First in its development going back to the practices  then if nothing else the preoccupation of modern physicists to escape God leads to modeling the universe after God;s work. They may not name God in the laws of physics but they are definitely conscious of working arouind him. The furthermost back I can go in finding thinkers who tried to formulate laws about the workings of the physical world is Heraclitus 335 BC. Even he had a theological view that was interspersed with his physical understanding. [9] "...He is deeply concerned with the moral implications of physical theory.....Heraclitus recognizes a divine unity behind the cosmos, one that is difficult to identify and perhaps impossible to separate from the processes of the cosmos,"[10]

In modern times the link between the making of laws of physics under Newton and God as law giver via Newton's Christianity is well documented. First his central role as the modern notion of physical law is well developed. [11]Some may be tempted to write off Newton's Christianity with "everyone  was a Christian back then," no one who has studied Newton would say that. His Christianity was not only sincere but advanced:

His polished writings on theology were not the musings of a dilettante but were the products of a committed, brilliant and courageous analyst. If he had published his ideas in the late seventeenth century, he would have had to leave the university, and would almost certainly have retired to what he would have seen as the freedom of his manor in Lincolnshire. He would never have enjoyed the senior political and administrative positions he was awarded in the early eighteenth century and indeed, would never have written the Principia or Opticks. With his appointment at the Mint, and the fame he garnered as a result of his work in the exact sciences, he shed the identity of a retired Cambridge don, and became an eminent metropolitan public figure. He was promoted to Master of the Mint on Boxing Day 1699, and in 1703 he was made President of the Royal Society, being knighted for his services to the state two years later.[12]

We see science began as far back as we can go  and in its early modern phases as an expression of God's creative working. In the old days scientists tried to understand God by understanding nature, now they try to play God by understanding nature.


[1] J.L.Hinman, "Review and Debunking of Lawrence Krauss's A Universe From Nothing." comments, Metacrock;s Bloog, (MARCH 06, 2019)
[accessed 3/15/19]

[2] Skeptoical quoted Ibid,

[3] Paul Davies, "Yes the Universe looks like a fix: But That Doesn't Mean a God Fixed it." The Guardian, (June 25, 2007) 19.7 EDT
[accessed 3/15/19]

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6]Counter balance foundation, “Stephen Hawking's God,” quoted on PBS website Faith and Reason. No date listed. Online resource, URL the URL for the website itself: accessed 8/26/2015.

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.

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

[8] Counter balance op cit

[9]Daniel W. Graham, Heraclitus (fl. c. 500 BCE) Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, no date.  [accessed 3/15/19]

Graham is at Brigham Young University


[11] Joshua Filmer, "Sir Isaac Newton: Father of Modern Science," F Futurism The Byte (December 25th 2013)
[accessed 3/15/19]

[12]Robert Iliffe, "Newton's Religious life and Work," The Newton Project (2013)
[accessed 3/15/19]

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

My own Euthephro Dialogue

Image result for jason thibodeau secular outpost
Jason Thibodeau

Jason Thibodeau writes  an essay on Secular Outpost in which he makes some interesting comments about the Eutheprho dilemma.I consider Jason to be a friend and I admire his philosophizing,and he really has interesting things to say about the ED that I not following here,  but I followup with an argument that the ED does not apply to the Christian God.[1]My original comment:

I have always contended that the ED doesn't apply to the Christian concept of God. There may be other concepts of God to which it does not apply as well such as Vedanta. Essentially the nature of God in post medieval Christian parlance is so radically from any Greek conception of a God that it makes the whole issue non applicable. In Modern Christian theology God is good unambiguously beaus God is love and love is identified with the good.(Augustine, Fletcher) The standard that God uses to determine good is himself not some external standard which would put God in a subordinate position.

Two points: First, the claim that God is love is obscure.
JLH:  Yes that 3% of the American public who are atheists might find it so but not the 86% who are Christians. in Christian or even other faith communities God as love is standard parlance. [2]

"Love is a feeling that exists as an aspect of a relationship between two beings. If God is love, then God is a feeling that is an aspect of a relationship between two beings. It is unclear how such a feeling can create the universe, be omniscient, or be a person."

JLH: I think that's a dogmatic imposition of a party line,. It is easily countered with non dogmatic figures from outside my faith tradition such as Gandhi and Joan Baez who have a much more expansive role for love. in human society, (outside my faith tradition but not outside my musical tastes) For Gandhi's satyagraha h was his philosophy of political action with non violence (the term means "love force." Cearly for him love was much more than just a relationship between two people.

Second, the point of the arguments that are based on the Euthyphro dilemma is that moral properties are independent of God. What matters, then, is not whether love is independent of God, but whether the goodness of love is independent of God.
JLH: I think you are totally wrong about this point, you can;t separate the effects of love from the source of love. If the ED has a sting against belief in the modern context then it has be that it makes God subject to something beyond himself. But if what he is subject to is his own character then it doesn't fit; he's not subject to anything beyond himself, God is not subject to the goodness of love he's subject the demands of love. If love is the product of his own character and he's the font of all love he's not subject to anything beyond himself

 Your comments about love did not answer my questions. Specifically, you did not explain how love can be a person and how love can create a universe.

JLH: The statement "God is love" is obviously a metaphor. If you saw a film trailer that said "Bruce Lee is Kung Fu action" would you then question how can a man be Kng fu action? I think you would understand what it's getting at. God is more directly love than Bruce Lee is Kung fu action, since God is the original inventor and source of all love,
You say, "I think you are totally wrong about this point, you can;t separate the effects of love from the source of love."

I don't know why you think that I said anything to this effect. I only pointed out that the goodness of love is independent of God. The goodness of love is not an effect of love.

JLH: certainly it is, The good that results from loving and being loved is part of the value of love. You reduced love to a transaction between two people and there is a lot more to it than that,

My point involves a distinction between things that are good and the property of goodness. So, for example, pleasure is good, but pleasure is not the property of goodness. Pleasure has goodness as a property, but pleasure does not cause goodness. When someone brings about pleasure, that person is bringing about something that is good, but she is not thereby bringing it about that it is good. That is, she is not bringing it about that pleasure is good.
So, the good things that result from loving and being loved are part of what make love valuable. These good things are part of what make love instrumentally good. But these good things that result from love are not the same as the property of being good. Love can have effects and some of these effects are good, but their being good is not an effect of love.
JLH: My perspective in answering the ED is a bit different. I understand love as the nature of God's character his framing motivation, Thus love is not merely a side effect of goodness;it is the motive for of God's goodness and as such is at the center of the meaning of what it is to be good,

I resolve the dilemma by saying it is neither that  God commands X because X is good,(if by that we mean a good separate and apart from God to which God is compelled to give assent) or that X is good because God commands X and that makes it good. I say X (love) is the standard God works by because it is the essence of his character; God is the origin   and fount of all good. The basic notion of good is based upon Gods charter especially moral good. Conversely the moral good reduces to love. For this see Jospeh Fletcher. [3]

[1]Jason Thibodeau,"The Euthyphro Dilemma, Part 1: The Question and the Options." The Secular outpost blog, commemts (MARCH 6, 2019 BY ) (access 3/12/19)

[2] (1 John 4:8) 

[3] Jospeh Fletcher, Situation Ethics: The new Morality:Louisville, Kentucky Westminster; John Knox Pessr (June 1966),5

Monday, March 11, 2019

What Makes One a Liberal Theologically?

 photo picasso20inv.jpg

In public conversations such as The Huffington Post, it's common to see people deriding "liberal" biblical scholars, as if the world is just full of people whose dearest wish is to undermine the Bible and turn Jesus into nothing but a symbol for a bizarre mushroom cult.
(And by the way, that Jesus-mushroom thing? It was actually proposed.)
Biblical scholarship is an academic discipline, taught and studied at universities, colleges and divinity schools all around the world. So it should be no surprise that biblical scholars run in all shapes, sizes, colors and denominations. What would surprise many people, though, is that a very large number of us love Jesus and the church, and we spend hours upon hours communicating the love and wonder we experience with the Bible. Indeed, some of our secular colleagues justifiably complain there are too many of us in the field. More surprising might be this one fact: many of us have our roots in fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity. The best way for conservative churches to produce "liberal" biblical scholars is to keep encouraging young people to read the Bible.
Jan 3, 2013

 ......."Liberal" is a label. I don't like Lables. That's a hold over form the sixties. I grew up in the sixties and even though sixties generation was very labeled we professed not to like labeling. I also developed a penchant for existentialism early on (high school) and thus absorbed the dislike of labels famous among the existentialists. When I began to study postmodernism in early 90s  it didn't take much to convince me of their dictum that diversity is a good thing and is not a weakness. Yet academics and religion are very label oriented things. People love to pigeon hole everyone and everything. I began calling myself a liberal about 1986-87 when I first went to Perkins school of theology. It was not just because I was a liberal politically but also because I had had it with the conservative form of Christianity that I had been associated with since my born again experience in 1979. Yet I'm not a liberal because I belong to a sect called liberal. I belong to a sect called liberal because through study and prayer I've come to a conclusion that things are a certain way and that way seems to be more often marked as a tendency by that term.

.......There are three major issues that make me a liberal theologically. The major issue is one's view of the Bible. When Evangelicalism defined itself in opposition to modern liberalism it did so with the fundamentalist understanding about five doctrines:  (1) the inerrancy of Scripture, (2) the Virgin Birth of Christ, (3) his substitutionary atonement, (4) his bodily resurrection, and (5) the authenticity of the miracles.

.......So if that's fundamentalism then opposite would be "liberal." Except liberalism was already hundreds of years old when fundamentalism began to be defined around the turn of the nineteenth century into the twentieth. Liberal theology began in the Northern Renaissance and was an outgrowth of Renaissance humanism (which was also Christian and pedagogical movement  (see Avergy Dulles Book Models of Revelation).[1] So liberal theology began with Erasmus in the Northern Renaissance and it began as a take on Biblical scholarship. For this reason I use the term liberal of myself even thou my major liberal making issue is Bibilcal and the way I deal with scripture not a rejection of a God who is conscoius and knows I exist or a rejection of Christ as deity or incarnate logos. My view of Scripture is largely in agreement with that of Karl Barth or Paul Tillich, who saw it as containing the word of God rather than being wholly the word of God. I also speak of it as a human record of divine human encounter. The bible is a collection of independent works and they don't all come form the same perspective but they all have authors who sensed the presence of God and who had some dealing with the divine in some way, then  dealt with their experiences through their own human perspective.Some of it is direct revelation "thus says the Lord" and some is indirect, symbolic. For more details on my view of scripture and revelation see my pages on the topic on my new site The Religious a priori, The Nature of Biblical Revelation. In my view this issue qualifies me as a liberal if one needs "qualifications."

......Secondly would be my view of God. The atheists on CARM were so insistent that I must support their view and adopt a dead matter force view of God like magnetism. I don't see Tillich doing that either. I've essays on this blog about that. "Paul Tillich's Ontology: Deep Structures" a good overview of what Tillich means by "being itself" and how he links that to God. The article doesn't say much about his view of God as personal. Paul Tillich and the Personal God: Was Tillich's 'Ground of Being' an impersonal force?"  Deals directly with the issue. Hint, quote from Tillich in the paper: He says “God is not a person but he is not less than personal" )Systematic Theology vol I ,245.)[2] If you read through those two article you will know as much most people care to know about Tillich's view of God. This view, which I do hold is easily confused with Pantheism. It is not pantheism and there are major differences. That aspect of it does mark a difference in it and the conventional view of God most Christians in America hold that in itself would tend to make one a liberal, if in fact labels matter. The real pantheism likeness and its difference are brought out in two articles. One I've just linked the reader to the other is also on this blog, "The Super=essential Godhead." This is about the view of Psuedo Dionysus the  Areopagite, who Tillich admired. In fact this was really Tillich's self imposed mission to bring into modern parlance the views of Dionysus.

......In a nut shell the conventional view sees God as a big man on a throne in some part of outer space, or the more sophisticated view sees God as a big mind somewhere beyond time. In both caes he's an entity, and he's spoken of as "a God." "A being." God can't be a being because that denotes one of many. He's not part of a race. The only real way to understand how there can be this ting that is not one of many not part of a larger body of others like himself is to understand that mind as a whole as the basis of reality. Similar to the Hindu concept of Brahmin. In this view God would be more analogs to  a category rather than a person. That doesn't mean that God is not conscious, in fact he's the source of all consciousness, thus Tillich calls him the personal itself. Basis of what the personal is. We can still thin of God as a great heavenly father and love God and feel loved by God but we just need to remember that there no accurate analogy to describe the nature of God and the analogy to father is must an analogy. It's a metaphor. That doesn't mean God's love is not real, it means it's mystical--we can't understand it. We don't need to understand it to feel and live by it and know it's real.

......The Third issue is Universalism or Salvation and Other Faiths. I am not a universalist because I believe Jesus is salvation. There is no salvation apart form Jesus. So if that makes me a fundie then I"m a freaking fundie. At the same time I believe that all those who follow Jesus don't know that they do. Some of those who follow Buddha and some who follow Krishna and so, God is the one reality behind all faiths. That makes me a liberal. I don't bow down and worship at other shrines. I don't see an idol of Baal and call it Jesus. I don't worship other gods. I don't hate them and revile them and call them demons either. I understand what Paul say sin Romans 2:6 that anyone seeking the good will find eternal life, as being  true statement and not a trick. I see the encounter with Greeks of Mars hill as inclusion of ll faiths in the reality of God (Acts 17). I think we can learn from other faiths. We can see them as colleagues. I think that makes me a liberal if it's important to be called one. I wrote an essey on this. called, oddly enough, "Salvation and other faiths." Its' on the old site Doxa.

I am a Trinitarian and I affirm the Nicene Creed but I don't guarantee that I don't understand parts of it in unconventional ways. I don't imagine my views are so important that anyone wants to read this much of my stuff, but in case one is interested here they are.

[1] Avergy Dulles Book Models of Revelation)

[2]Systematic Theology vol I ,245.)

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Review and Debnucking of Lawrence Krauss's A Unvierse From Nothing.


The closest thing to a “smoking gun” for anti-God evidence is presented by Lawrence Krauss in his book A Universe from Nothing.[1] Krauss merely argues something that every Christian apologist on message boards has been dealing with since the late 90s, that is the notion that the idea that Quantum theory means that the universe popped into existence from nothing based upon the assumption that Quantum particles do the same. This is really nothing new. When I first became aware of message boards and of the strife between atheists and theists on message boards, they were arguing about this. Yet the book has be lauded by atheists like it’s their version of the advent of Christ. Almost as quickly as it manifest it was shot down again by a philosopher. I’ll come t that in a moment. Why Krauss’s book got the glamour and not some of the physicists a decade ago who were saying the same thing I don’t know. Perhaps it’s because they didn’t write whole books about it. In any case, Krauss argues that the eternal laws of Quantum mechanics produce particles out of nothing when the instability of vacuum states causes quantum fields to shift and produce different kinds of particles.[2] This seems like it’s blessed with the aura science and thus cannot be questioned, yet a philosopher dared to question. David Albert exposed the meaning of terms in this senero and exploded the whole project.
Albert first points out that tracing the universe back to some physical property or cause is not an explanation as to why there is something rather than nothing.

What if he were in a position to announce, for instance, that the truth of the quantum-mechanical laws can be traced back to the fact that the world has some other, deeper property X? Wouldn’t we still be in a position to ask why X rather than Y? And is there a last such question? Is there some point at which the possibility of asking any further such questions somehow definitively comes to an end? How would that work? What would that be like?[3]

Secondly, moving on form that difficulty, he points out that since the enlightenment science has always assumed that at the “bottom of everything” there is “some basic, elementary, eternally persisting, concrete, physical stuff.[4] Newton had it that this “stuff” consisted of particles. At the end of the nineteenth century it was particles and electro-magnetic fields. “And what the fundamental laws of nature are about, and all the fundamental laws of nature are about, and all there is for the fundamental laws of nature to be about, insofar as physics has ever been able to imagine, is how that elementary stuff is arranged.[5] The laws don’t tell us where the elementary “stuff” came from. The laws concerning quantum mechanics are not exception. The laws do not tell us where the fields came from. Moreover, every previous theory counted particles among concrete stuff and quantum theory does not. In quantum theory particles are understood as arrangements of fields. Some arrangement correspond to certain numbers and kinds of particles, come correspond to no particles.[6] This latter arrangement, Albert tells us, is what they call “vacuum states.” According to Albert, Krauss is arguing that the laws of relativistic quantum field theories “entail that vacuum states are unstable. And that, in a nutshell, is the account he proposes of why there should be something rather than nothing.[7]
In other words because the state of no particles is “unstable” (it’s hard to keep nothing from becoming something) “nothing” blows up into something so to speak. There are problems with this account. First, we have just seen, it assume a whole set up of laws and fields with no real reason for them to be there (the fact that none of the theory explains a real “why” I’ll put off until latter). Secondly, the issue of what is meant by “nothing” is the crux of the matter. When physicists say “nothing,” they don’t mean real actual nothing as in a lack of anything at all. What they really mean is vacuum flux, that this pre existing framework of law and field and the arrangement there of the and the sporadic popping in and out of prior existing particles. As Albert says, “Relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical vacuum states — no less than giraffes or refrigerators or solar systems — are particular arrangements of elementary physical stuff..”[8]This is most crucial because Albert is arguing that “nothing” in terms of no particles does not mean “nothing” in terms of now fields, or no laws. Thus “nothing” doesn’t mean “nothing,” it means something for which we still must account. That really blows the whole argument because it’s not a universe from nothing, it’s a universe form something else for which we must account, and can’t. So that means it’s just a rehash of status quo. The book originally was introduced with a media splash and created a sensation. Albert taking out the argument created anther sensation. Op ed writers and bloggers began crediting Albert with victory and a sense of hoopla began.
What would a universe from true actual nothing really prove? If it could be shown that the universe just started up, something form nothing (real actual nothing) there would be no way to really demonstrate that it’s not the Christian concept of creation ex nihilo. In fact that would actually fit the qualifications for the basic Christian doctrine of creation. There would be no way to prove it one way or the other because we could never go back to the other side of nothing and demonstrate that something isn’t causing this “something from nothing.” The impression is given the hype about Krauss’s book that there is some control that screens out metaphysical causes such as God. There in fact no such control. Now of course if this were the case we could not use that as an argument to demonstrate the existence of God. If we wanted to use that as a God argument we would have to push the logic of it on the grounds that something form total actual nothing is illogical and flies in the face of every single observation we can ever make about the real world. That would not demonstrate the reality of God. It might be a good conjecture but it would still only be a conjecture. At that rate it could go ether way. Yet it’s not disproof of God either. In fact, examining the arguments made by the three atheists expositors above, none of them actually says “here is proof there is no God.” Dawkins say “almost certainly” and Stenger says God is a failed hypothesis. Krauss imitates we don’t’ need him as an explanation. Something else is going on other than disproof.
What they are really getting at is not about proof or disproof but control of knowledge. They actually want to replace epistemology with ideology. They want to shut down forms of knowledge such as philosophy and phenomenology and replace them with the atheist fortress of facts idea. This is all really saying, all three books make the argument “we have the fortress of facts and theism has no facts.” Of course “facts” in this sense mean nothing more than the information that can be controlled by atheist expositors and that supports the atheist straw God concepts. It’s a switch from a global knowledge which includes philological thinking about science as a respectable partner in learning and centers everything on their realm of discourse. Thus Dawkins reduces God to the level of a biological organism, Stenger reduces belief to the level of a scientific hypothesis (even though belief is about something totally removed form the workings of the physical world), and Krauss asserts that knowledge of the physical world is the only knowledge worth knowing. All three are reducing theological ideas to a point where they take on physical attributes and become part of the scientific domain, thus they can be controlled by scientists.
What is even more blunt and telling is Krauss who gives away the whole store in an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times:
The illusion of purpose and design is perhaps the most pervasive illusion about nature that science has to confront on a daily basis. Everywhere we look, it appears that the world was designed so that we could flourish.
The position of the Earth around the sun, the presence of organic materials and water and a warm climate — all make life on our planet possible. Yet, with perhaps 100 billion solar systems in our galaxy alone, with ubiquitous water, carbon and hydrogen, it isn't surprising that these conditions would arise somewhere. And as to the diversity of life on Earth — as Darwin described more than 150 years ago and experiments ever since have validated — natural selection in evolving life forms can establish both diversity and order without any governing plan.
As a cosmologist, a scientist who studies the origin and evolution of the universe, I am painfully aware that our illusions nonetheless reflect a deep human need to assume that the existence of the Earth, of life and of the universe and the laws that govern it require something more profound. For many, to live in a universe that may have no purpose, and no creator, is unthinkable.
But science has taught us to think the unthinkable. Because when nature is the guide — rather than a priori prejudices, hopes, fears or desires — we are forced out of our comfort zone. One by one, pillars of classical logic have fallen by the wayside as science progressed in the 20th century, from Einstein's realization that measurements of space and time were not absolute but observer-dependent, to quantum mechanics, which not only put fundamental limits on what we can empirically know but also demonstrated that elementary particles and the atoms they form are doing a million seemingly impossible things at once.[9]
Wait a minute, something’s wrong here. He’s taking a kind of thinking that is used as a tool to inform us about the workings of the physical world, and saying “because to use this tool we must assume the subject matter of the tool is all there is, that proves that’s all there is.” That proves nothing. Perhaps the subject matter of the tool is irrelevant to the consideration of concepts like “purpose” and “meaning” because these are not part of the domain in which that tool is meaningful. When the concept of the tool becomes the only form of knowledge then of course all other considerations must be put aside, by why should we allow that to happen? Actually science has not taught us “to think the unthinkable—that the universe has. No can it ever do so. To even ask the question is beyond the scope of science. To do science one must not assume purpose or meaning in the workings of the physical world, yet one need not always be doing science. This is truly what we call “ideology.” One idea fits all and all sense data must be herded into that rubric in order to be considered “valid.” It’s really ideological struggle between reductionism which seek to cut off all aspects of reality save those that can be controlled by reductionism, vs. the assumption that human aspirations are worth considering in some way other than reductionsitically. The driving force behind the fortress of facts is the assumption that only one kind of thinking can be pursued. This one idea of reductionism must control and filter all knowledge. This is nothing more than a totalitarian ideology.
Krauss really gets blunt about the ideological ramifications in interview. Ross Andersen publishes in the Atlantic an interview he had done with Krauss for another project. He entitles the article “Has Physics Made Philosophy and Religion Obsolete?”[10] Krauss had just come from Christopher Hitchen’s memoral service, and even he descriges as: “It was a remarkable event for a remarkable man, and I felt very fortunate to be there. I was invited to give the opening presentation in front of all of these literary figures and dignitaries of various sorts, and so I began the only way I think you can begin, and that's with music from Monty Python..”[11] Asked why the sudden public antagonism between physics and philosophy he answers:

Krauss: That's a good question. I expect it's because physics has encroached on philosophy. Philosophy used to be a field that had content, but then "natural philosophy" became physics, and physics has only continued to make inroads. Every time there's a leap in physics, it encroaches on these areas that philosophers have carefully sequestered away to themselves, and so then you have this natural resentment on the part of philosophers. This sense that somehow physicists, because they can't spell the word "philosophy," aren't justified in talking about these things, or haven't thought deeply about them---[12]

Philosophy can only have “content” in so far as it reflects the workings of the physical world? As though that’s all the content there is to have. That’s all there is to think about. Only science is about anything. But wait how is it that physics has encroached upon anything philosophy is about if philosophy a bunch of made up flights of fancy. Science was never about the meaning of life and philosophy was never about the workings of the physical world. It’s true that science used ot be called “natural philosophy” but hat was far from being the major section of philosophical thought. He seems embarrassed about not being in philosophy. He resents the idea that he can’t talk about the meaning of life. He can talk about the meaning of life he just can’t claim scientific authority to make pronouncements informing us all of the meaning of life, or lack thereof.
Here is his statement on the importance of philosophy:
Krauss: Well, yeah, I mean, look I was being provocative, as I tend to do every now and then in order to get people's attention. There are areas of philosophy that are important, but I think of them as being subsumed by other fields. In the case of descriptive philosophy you have literature or logic, which in my view is really mathematics. Formal logic is mathematics, and there are philosophers like Wittgenstein that are very mathematical, but what they're really doing is mathematics---it's not talking about things that have affected computer science, it's mathematical logic. And again, I think of the interesting work in philosophy as being subsumed by other disciplines like history, literature, and to some extent political science insofar as ethics can be said to fall under that heading. To me what philosophy does best is reflect on knowledge that's generated in other areas. [13]
He arbitrarily reduces logic to mathematics just because math is in the domain of science. We could just as easily relegate math to a subordination under philosophy on the grounds that math is based upon logic. Russell and Whitehead proved that logic is the basis of math, and since logic started as philosophy it would be more logical to put math under philosophy.[14] Besides formal logic is not mathematics. Moreover, major logicians such as Hartshorne and Plantinga who achieved authoritative status in the use of S5modal logic could, by Krausses logic, be seen as mathematicians and by extension of that association as physicists. Thus their takes on the modal argument for God must be scientific. Remarkably he actually attributes something to fields such as history and literature. He does that to parcel out philosophy. Of course this drive to end the very existence of philosophy is just a bid to take over knowledge so that one ideology prevails as the only way to think, it just happens to be the one in which Krauss is credentialed. He wants to pretend that philosophy is really just leeching off other disciplines when in reality he’s moving beyond the accepted domain of science to poach on the territory of theology, philosophy, ethics history and probably other disciplines (mathematics and logic). It’s also worth nothing that he missed the point on nothing in terms of the history of ideas. He claims it was the philosophers who re-write nothing and have constantly changed its definition when in reality it’s the philosophers who have continually defined nothing as nothing but science Newton scientists have been re-writing the meaning of the term to define it as “something.”[15]
A humorous exchange occurs when Andersen points out that philosophy offers a basis for computer science. Krauss says: “Well, you name me the philosophers that did key work for computer science; I think of John Von Neumann and other mathematicians, and---.” Andersen says: “But Bertrand Russell paved the way for Von Neumann..”
Karauss says: “But Bertrand Russell was a mathematician. I mean, he was a philosopher too and he was interested in the philosophical foundations of mathematics, but by the way, when he wrote about the philosophical foundations of mathematics, what did he do? He got it wrong.” So not only can we take him over as one of the science boys since he did math but (which would just as easily mean math is part of philosophy again) but he also got it wrong about math (yet that reflects on his philosophical side not on his math side, not real sure how that works since it would be the math side that got it wrong). Andersen remarks “Einstein got it wrong.” To which Krauss replies:
Krauss: Sure, but the difference is that scientists are really happy when they get it wrong, because it means that there's more to learn. And look, one can play semantic games, but I think that if you look at the people whose work really pushed the computer revolution from Turing to Von Neumann and, you're right, Bertrand Russell in some general way, I think you'll find it's the mathematicians who had the big impact. And logic can certainly be claimed to be a part of philosophy, but to me the content of logic is mathematical.[16]
Science guys are happen when they are proved wrong? I guess he must be ecstatic since Albert’s article? We’ll have to ask him how happy he’s been since his book was panned. It means there’s more to learn, such as the meaning of life and the value of philosophy. He admits logic is part of philosophy and Russell was into both it just eludes him that this also means philosophy is the foundation of computer science and math together that makes it the foundation of physics. Now that’s the “unthinkable” we should be taught to think. Maybe the fortress of facts is a house of cards and maybe there’s more than one form of knowledge in the universe? His answer is supercilious because a scientist being happy when he get’s it wrong doesn’t change the fact under discussion it doesn’t change the fact that scientist get it wrong just as philosophers sometimes do.
Kruass referred to Albert as “a moronic philosopher.” That doesn’t sound happy to me. Nor does it sound very acute. Albert is so moronic in fact he is not only a well thought of philosopher at Columbia he also holds a Ph.D. in theoretical physics.[17] He might to reconsider his castigation of Albert when we take a deeper look at Karuss’s argumentation skills. He essentially gives away the store, and thinks he’s bested his opponents.

But I am certainly claiming a lot more than just that [something from nothing]. That it's possible to create particles from no particles is remarkable---that you can do that with impunity, without violating the conservation of energy and all that, is a remarkable thing. The fact that "nothing," namely empty space, is unstable is amazing. But I'll be the first to say that empty space as I'm describing it isn't necessarily nothing, although I will add that it was plenty good enough for Augustine and the people who wrote the Bible. For them an eternal empty void was the definition of nothing, and certainly I show that that kind of nothing ain't nothing anymore.[18]

That’s really the point Albert made and he says this as though he just doesn’t understand the opponent’s argument. He does bring up the issue of St. Augustine and creation ex-nihilo. He doesn’t seem to get that the issue cuts both ways. Yet the Christian is not something from nothing, it doesn’t post that the universe just popped into being from true absolute nothing without a cause and for no reason. He admits that his “nothing” is actually something, and something must be explained, something must have caused it. What could that something be but God? That would be the argument. He’s not answering it by throughing back the issues ex-nihilo misunderstood (minus God) then admitting that his own views leaves an origin form an unexplained “Something.” Andersen raises the prospect that he’s arguing physics with Saint Augustine (who presumably worked form Aristotelian physics thus making his view 2000 years out of date). Krauss states:

It might be more interesting than debating some of the moronic philosophersthat have written about my book. Given what we know about quantum gravity, or what we presume about quantum gravity, we know you can create space from where there was no space. And so you've got a situation where there were no particles in space, but also there was no space. That's a lot closer to "nothing."
But of course then people say that's not "nothing," because you can create something from it. They ask, justifiably, where the laws come from. And the last part of the book argues that we've been driven to this notion---a notion that I don't like---that the laws of physics themselves could be an environmental accident. On that theory, physics itself becomes an environmental science, and the laws of physics come into being when the universe comes into being. And to me that's the last nail in the coffin for "nothingness."[19]

He seems not to understand what these “moronic philosophers” are driving at. He keeps talking like he’s proved something if he shows that there is no “nothing” but in fact that’s the only way his argument would work. If no actual nothing then he has no argument at all. Then he’s just saying “the universe came from something that we can’t account for.” Implication: it might have needed God to create it. It only appears to be that God is unnecessary if things can spontaneously pop up out of true absolute nothing. Even that would not be proof since we can’t prove there really is no cause. Yet if we could prove that that would be the only real way to prove that God is not needed or not present. The real answer he has that might work is based upon pure speculation. He appeals to natural law and a supposition not in evidence that they are some kind of accident. This just puts the atheist back at square one saying “maybe there could be an alterative to God, maybe.”

[1] Lawrence M. Krauss, A Universe from Nothing: Why There is something Rather Than Nothing. New York, NY: Free press, a division of Simon and Schuster, 2012.
[2] Ibid 189.
[3] David Albert, “On the Origin of Everything ‘a Universe form Nothing’ by Lawrence Krauss,” New York Times Sunday Book Review (March 23, 2012). On line version URL: visited June 20, 2012. David Albert also has a Ph.D. in theoretical phsyics.
[4] ibid.
[5] ibid
[6] ibid
[7] ibid
[8] ibid
[9] Lawrence M. Krause, “A Universe Without Purpose.” Los Angeles Times, Opinion. (April 1, 2012). On line copy URL:,0,4136597.story visited 7/2/12.
[10] Ross Andersen, “Has Physics Made Philosophy and Religion Obsolete?” The Atlantic (April 23, 2012). Pm et 396. Online URL: visited 7/2/12.
[11] Ibid.
[12] ibid.
[13] ibid.
[14] Principia (find)
[15] find
[16] Krauss in Andersen, ibid.
[17] Massimo Pigliucci, “Lawrence Krauss Another Physicist with an Anti-Philosophy Complex,” Rationally Speaking, blog. URL: visited 7/4/12
Massimo Pigluicci is a philosopher at City University of New York..
[18] Krauss In Andersen, ibid.
[19] ibid