Monday, May 20, 2019

The limits of Science in the Search for God, part 1


I. A Global approach to knowledge enables us to understand the inadequacy of the scientifically based view that writes God out of the picture.
II. Understanding the need for the global approach to knowledge gives us the understanding of the link between ground of being and the divine.
III. Understanding these two points gives us the basic realization of the reality of God that frees us from the need to prove.

Since Laplace uttered those fateful words, “I have no need of that [God] hypothesis” God has been disassociated from science. Just why he uttered them is another matter but the upshot seems to be that those who find their hobby if not their profession in doubting the reality of the divine do so on the grounds that its not “officially backed” by science. The constant refrain of atheists heard around the net every single day “there’s no proof for YOUR God” echoes the call for scientific evidence as the only form of knowledge. The success of the “Back to God movement” in philosophy, stunning though it has been, nevertheless is tainted with the dismissal on the part of atheists, skeptics, and some agnostics that God arguments are not “scientific.” The God argument as a species is broadly criticized for not being science and for being philosophy. The point of this work is to demonstrate the notion that belief in God is rationally warranted, but that it need not be demonstrated with scientific rational. The purpose here is to forge a new apologetics.
This new apologetics focuses upon knowing in a deep personal way that can’t be denied by the one who comes to know, rather than wasting one’s time trying to prove things to those who do not wish to know. What we need to do is to make the proper tools availed to the seeker, to do that we have to disabuse seekers of the benighted notion that the only way to know something is through scientific data. The aim here is to demonstrate the basis for a phenomenological and existential realization of the reality of God and how to put oneself in a position where that realization becomes real to the experincer and can be validated by logic, reason, and other sources in a global understanding of all our knowledge.

As the alternative to the atheistic view of scientism I will propose a theological approach centering upon phenomenology, and culminating in theological method. The point is to produce an apologetical approach that makes the process of God realization transparent to the seeker. The way to do this is to understand the connection between an understanding of human being and it’s relation to being itself. I will defend a notion similar to that of Paul Tillich’s idea that God is being itself, or the ground of being; that I equate with the super essential godhead of Dionysus the areopagite. Tillich said that if you know being has depth you can’t be an atheist. He equates the depth of being with the realization that God is the ground of being.[i] Thus, if he’s right, all one need to do is to understand what that means, then observe the depth of being. Understanding the relationship between the ground of being and the question of the divine, from the outset, is crucial because how we understand the concept of “God” will make all the difference in what we seek and what we find, and what we reject. If we are looking to prove the existence of a big man in the sky and we don’t understand the concept of God as the ground of being, or being itself, we are going to miss the whole point of belief and write God off because there’s no big man in the sky. Being is all around us and we are in it, so we tend to take it for granted and we are going to miss what being is and how that relates to God if we don’t understand Tillich’s concept. A silly little analogy that I use to illustrate this notion is about a fish scientist who was hired by the high council of Tuna to find the strange substance humans believe in called “water.” The fish had never seen any water so they wanted to know what it is. The fish scientist examined every puddle and depression he could find but found no water. He eventually concluded that humans are deluded about water because he could find no examples of it. Of course that’s because it never dawned on him that this state of normality in which he is submerged and is surrounded by all the time could be illusive substances humans’ thrive on, water. As a fish empiricist our scale clad investigator was certain that what he was looking for had to be an object that he could see, he forgot to look at the substance he was always looking through. So it is with being, we write it off as “just what is” and go on looking for this “God” who can’t be found because we don’t understand he’s nearer than our inmost being. Such is the pitfall of scientific empiricism.

In my dealings with atheists in debate and dialogue I find that they are often very committed to an empiricist view point. Over and over again I hear the refrain "you can't show one single unequivocal demonstration of scientific data that proves a God exists." This is not a criticism. It's perfectly understandable; science has become the umpire of reality. It is to scientific demonstration that we appeal for most of our questions concerning the nature of reality. The problem is that the reliance upon empiricism has led to forgetfulness about the basis of other types of questions, other view points, and other forms of knowledge. We have forgotten that essentially science is metaphysics; as such it is just one of many approaches that can be derived from analytical reasoning, empiricism, rationalism, phenomenology and other view points. The attitudes of various atheists from all walks demonstrate the power of the view that science is the only valid way of thinking. Consider the popular level:

The question of God’s existence is incredibly loaded because, if God doesn’t exist, the majority of people in the world derive meaning in their lives from a lie. For this reason, the capacity for natural science to explain why things happen without appeal to the supernatural is threatening to religion and to religious believers. After all, if we can explain everything without appeal to God’s intervention, why introduce Him into the equation at all?[ii]

Again from the popular level, a website called God is Imaginary:

There is no scientific evidence indicating that God exists. We all know that. For example:
  • God has never left any physical evidence of his existence on earth.
  • None of Jesus' "miracles" left any physical evidence either. (see this page)
  • God has never spoken to modern man, for example by taking over all the television stations and broadcasting a rational message to everyone.
  • The resurrected Jesus has never appeared to anyone. (see this page)
  • The Bible we have is provably incorrect and is obviously the work of primitive men rather than God. (see this page)
  • When we analyze prayer with statistics, we find no evidence that God is "answering prayers." (see this page)
  • Huge, amazing atrocities like the Holocaust and AIDS occur without any response from God.
  • And so on…
Let's agree that there is no empirical evidence showing that God exists.
If you think about it as a rational person, this lack of evidence is startling. There is not one bit of empirical evidence indicating that today's "God", nor any other contemporary god, nor any god of the past, exists. In addition we know that:
  1. If we had scientific proof of God's existence, we would talk about the "science of God" rather than "faith in God".
  2. If we had scientific proof of God's existence, the study of God would be a scientific endeavor rather than a theological one.
  3. If we had scientific proof of God's existence, all religious people would be aligning on the God that had been scientifically proven to exist. Instead there are thousands of gods and religions.
The reason for this lack of evidence is easy for any unbiased observer to see. The reason why there is no empirical evidence for God is because God is imaginary.[iii]

Of course these attitudes are backed by the more academically inclined leaders of the New Atheist movement such as Dennett and Dawkins and Hitchens. These sorts of attitudes have always been around since the enlightenment, but since the dawning of this century they have been strident and associated with a complete sceintism.

The New Atheists subscribe to some version or other of scientism as their criterion for rational belief. According to scientism, empirical science is the onlysource of our knowledge of the world (strong scientism) or, more moderately, the best source of rational belief about the way things are (weakreligious epistemology), it is not surprising that some criticism of their views has included questions about whether there is adequate scientific support for scientism and whether there is adequate evidence for evidentialism.[iv] scientism). Harris and Dawkins are quite explicit about this. Harris equates a genuinely rational approach to spiritual and ethical questions with a scientific approach to these sorts of questions. Dawkins insists that the presence or absence of a creative super-intelligence is a scientific question. The New Atheists also affirm evidentialism, the claim that a belief can be epistemically justified only if it is based on adequate evidence. The conjunction of scientism and evidentialism entails that a belief can be justified only if it is based on adequate scientific evidence. The New Atheists’ conclusion that belief in God is unjustified follows, then, from their addition of the claim that there is inadequate scientific evidence for God’s existence (and even adequate scientific evidence for God’s non-existence). Dawkins argues that the “God Hypothesis” the claim that there exists a superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe, is “founded on local traditions of private revelation rather than evidence” (2006, pp. 31-32). Given these New Atheist epistemological assumptions (and their consequences for

Take the view point of Richard Dawkins in his most celebrated work The God Delusion[v]

The argument from improbability is the big one. In the traditional guise of the argument from design, it is easily today’s most popular argument offered in favor of the existence of God, and it is seen, by an amazingly large number of theists, as completely and utterly convincing. It is indeed a very strong, and, I suspect, unanswerable argument—but in precisely the opposite direction form the theist’s intension. The argument from improbability, properly deployed, comes close to proving that God does not exist…[vi]

This quotation tells us several very important things about the major leader of the new atheist movement thinks. The first thing this quotation tells us is that Dawkins views evolution as an atheist territory, he doesn’t think of evolution as a theistic possibility, he can only conceive of belief in God being the domain of people who can’t understand evolution. He thinks of God belief as strictly creationist territory. He basically says as much in following up this quotation above he talks about the analogy of a 747 being assembled by random chance from a junk yard. “This in a nutshell is the creationist favorite argument.”[vii] He doesn’t say there are other theological views and he doesn’t deal with them, as though they don’t exist. One might forgive this tendency if he thinks liberal theology is just out of the main stream and thus beyond the focus of the popular audience. Nevertheless he goes even further, “It turns out to be the God hypothesis that tries to get the free lunch…however statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by evoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable. God is the ultimate 747.”[viii]

He is doing more than just reversing the design argument he’s trying to apply the logic of the design argument to a critique of belief in God. This led to the often repeated refrain on message boards and blogs, “who designed the designer?” That’s not exactly what he’s saying either. He’s establishing the idea that God has to meet the same requirements of probability that nature has to meet as an alternative to God. The point here, however, is the thing that enables him to make this argument is the badly misconstrued nature of theology in the evangelical camp that allows for an application of the same principle to God that we take to examining nature. He is treating God like a big man in the sky. God is subject to the laws of probability? Since when is God a “thing” in creation to be discussed in the same manner one discusses planetary formation? Since fundamentalists and evangelicals began thinking of God as a big man in the sky rather than the foundation of all that is. When we think of God as “creator” and “designer” rather than “ground of being” we put God in the category to be analyzed by the laws of probability. There is no logical reason why the ground of being could be analyzed as though it is just another thing in creation alongside flush toilets and swizzle sticks. God is not probable at all, but not because “the divine” is too complex, but because there’s no way to compare complexity when the word itself is made meaningless by trying to compare the basis of all reality to things in reality. This is like trying to apply up and down, north, south, east, and west in outer space. Which way is up when there’s no down? Which way is west when there’s no horizon? The creationists really put all of this in motion by thinking of God a “designer” rather than preserving the truth of God that the church fathers taught us, that God is beyond our understanding. In their haste to produce an argument that modern science could relate to and prove these apologists, such as William Paley (really Newton and Boyle before), tried to ground proof in empirical data and succeeded only in creating the impression, perhaps even against their own beliefs, that God can be thought of analogously to a big man in the sky. Dawkins is not going to work very hard at correcting the impression. When we do correct we can see that there is a way offered by the basic concepts of God as the ground of being to realize the reality of God in such a way that we don’t have to rely upon data or empirical scientific observations to know that God is real.

The common denominator lurking behind all of these viewpoints is the assertion that science is the only form of knowledge, one may only believe that which is “officially” proved by science. Lurking behind that is an ideology that picks and chooses what is and what is not “officially scientific,” according to what enables the atheist’s case and what enables the theistic case. The problem with all of this is the scientism lurking behind the ideology that lurks behind the “commitment” to scientific thought. Here I don’t mean all commitment to scientific thought of course, but that that has been pressed into service of the strident atheism. That ideology says that science is the only form of knowledge. The only way to know the nature of the world and the reality of any hypothetical creator is through scientific means. The reason this ideology has been fostered is because it is set up to yield poor results for God proof. Thus it’s a means of dismissing religious thinking without really considering what it has to say. We should not expect to find God directly through scientific means. God is beyond sense data. Most of the major world religions posit that “God,” or “the divine,” or transcendental signified or however they construe the top of the metaphysical hierarchy, is beyond human understanding. God is usually understood as transcendent. Being transcendent, beyond human knowledge, not given in sense data, we should not expect to find any direct proof of God in a scientific vein. That means any scientific evidence that points to God can only do so in an indirect way. To that extent then it’s totally fallacious to point to the dearth of scientific proofs as a weakness in religious belief. Logically this has to be that the place to look is on other grounds. From a stand point of pure knowledge scientific tools are inadequate to find God. If there is a God if there is not a God, science is totally inadequate to answer the question about the divine. Philosophy, logic, reason, personal experience are all discounted by the atheist on the grounds that they are “subjective” and not “scientific.” What they are really saying is “that’s not the method that backs my ideology so I can’t accept it as a source of knowledge.” If science is not the valid way to understand God then obviously we have to use other means. If we do use those proper tools, and God appears to be a more valid option then it did, atheists will refuse the proper tools because they don’t privilege their position. While not all atheists think this way, one runs into this attitude all the time. The best thing to do is use the proper tools.
my proposals

(1) Scientific reductionism loses phenomena by re-defining the nature of sense data and quailia.

(2)There are other ways of Knowing than scientific induction

(3) Religious truth is apprehended phenomenoloigcally, thus religion is not a scientific issue and cannot be subjected to a materialist critique

(4) Religion is not derived from other disciplines or endeavors but is an approach to understanding in its own right

Therefore, religious belief is justified on its own terms and not according to the dictates or other disciplines

[i] Paul Tilllich, The Shaking of the Foundations. New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1948, 152-55.
[ii] “Liza” public opinion expressed by commenter on blog “Apple Eaters,” no date given. UTL: 8/26/2010
[iii] Website God is Imaginary . URL visited 8/26/2010
[iv] James E Tylor, Internet encyclopedia of Philosophy: A peer Reviewed Academic Resource. Last updated January 26,2010, URL: visited 8/26/2010. James E. Taylor is associated with Westmont College.
[v] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion. New York: First Marionor books, Houton Mifflin Company, 2008 first published in Great Britain by Bantam, 2006. On line version Google Books URL:
[vi] Ibid. online page number 138 all quotations from this source are from the Google books online version.
[vii] Ibid.
[viii] Ibid.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Answering: Sean Carroll, "God is not a Good Theory." (part 2)

Image result for Stars in space

Responding to physicist Sean Carroll's lecture (continued from Monday) [1]

He goes on talking about how science gives scientific answers and religion doesn't. why shout it? it;s not science,  but this is all under the mistaken assumption that God is necessary beings necessary to expatiate the world rather than necessary to himself.

He turns to the origin of the universe, God is said to have created the whole universe at once, while science shows BB  is not the beginning. He continues to assert that science gives plausible theories and belief in God does not. He asserts the universe could be eternal but I've ample reasons in scientific literature not to accept that.[2] We don't have to think  of the BB as the moment of creation nor do we have to think of creation as coming in one moment. The notion of eternal universe comes with multiverse but that is never going to be proven.

He thinks that streaking explanations back infinitely in time really explains the whole

"We don't need God to Explain the Oregon of the universe."

He asserts that "we should judge God by the same standards that we judge other theories."

why should we do that? God is not just another  theory he;s not a scientific theory, The point of belief in God is not merely to explain the universe.

He says the best argument on the empirical basis is fine tuning so of course he asserts that it;s not  sensible to ask the question--we just happen to be it why wonder about it? He does admit sounds like a cop out. if course he offers an-alternative to asking the question in that other kinds of life could exist and so the parameters wouldn't be that tailored just for us. then he argues the multiverse

He explores possibility that life is a lot more generic than we think it is:  meaning the parameters would not need to be that fine turned to get life, He asserts that no one on either side knows the full extent of variables to decide the issue

then he explores  multiverse using Bayes [the illusion of technique he gives the impression that math is disproving God in  reality its just showing off nothing,]

He doesn't point out that belief in MV is belief in something not empirically demonstrated.

Gives the impression that proving multiverse  disproves God, he does not say that, it doesn't it only disproves some God argument, if it does that.

MV is not a theory but is the consequence of other theories that;s supposed to make it more real

He us answering quote from Swinburne who says MV asserts Trillions of worlds just to assert a couple of factors in our world. Carroll says you don't fault theories because thy entail lots of things in them.

 He asserts we judge plausibility of MV by plausibility of inflation. which totally accepted idea. even though he;s admitted  that;s not proven.

No matter how plausible no matter how low the probability of MV it;s still belief in non empirical theory which flys in the face of all atheists argue for. It's a Trumpanity,  betrayal of their most sacred principle to support their overall  cause.. See my defense of  Fine tuning argument. (see also my answers on Multiverse).

Futhermore, the best mechanism for multiverses that last, actually requires fine-tuning itself. The chaotic inflationary model - which seeks to avoid fine-tuning by positing that the initial conditions vary at random over the superspace of the Higgs fields - also fine-tunes its parameters, as Earman has pointed out: "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."[3]
co-author in inflationary theoryPhysicist Paul Steinhardt agrees:
“The whole point of inflation was to get rid of fine-tuning – to explain features of the original big bang model that must be fine-tuned to match observations. The fact that we had to introduce one fine-tuning to remove another was worrisome. This problem has never been resolved."[4]

Now Carroll wants to  do Bayes on God. (Bayes completeness theorem, pronounced Baze).

"Is God Best Explanation for Data we see?"  As with Bayes he is going to use this to set the prior for God. The way Bayes  works is first one advances a prior probability that can be a guess or based upon anything we know. Then one takes further soundings as new info come in, Like a gunner finding his range by continually firing over and under the target,

He admits if God exists we should see life. if God exists then life should   exist

Carroll: "Data other than life get God into trouble as a hypothesis  entrap of early universe did not need to be so low for life to exist, so universe not what we would imagine if God is there." He's playing off Gods 'interest" against random occurrences in fomentation of entropy

That's a foolish prediction low entropy is not essential to life that doesn't mean there;s no fine tuning  it just means all factors  are not part of FT. See my article answering Bayes. [5]

At end he plays off sin and degradation against expectations of the divine no reference to the fall

 He appeals to Multiverse to answer the one argument or God he admits is good  and can't be disproved that is Fine Tuning. He also admits the Multiverse cant be proved. So the only answer he has to the one God argent  that can't be disproved can;t be proven. One would think that he would at least admit to a draw on God's existence. But no  he is  willing too accept a lesser standard than empirical, which is an absolute contradiction to what most atheists say.

That is no different than  me putting faith in God to fill the gaps the evidence and logic don''t cover as long I have some basis in the evidence and logic to extend faith from.


[1]Sean Carroll, "God is not a Good Theory." Video You Tube (Published on Jun 5, 2013)  (accessed 5/10/19)

from 2nd mini-series (Is "God" Explanatory) from the "Philosophy of Cosmology" project. A University of Oxford and Cambridge Collaboration.

this half starts at at  [21:56]

[2] The Bible makes it sound like creation was instant but that need not be the case, ?The Beginning" could be a process that took time or "the heavens and the  earth" might  refer only to our space/time which is emergent in an instant from big bag. God ca do a lot of things in eternity.

Adrian Cho,  "Stphen Hawkimg's (almost) last Paper; Pitting an edge to the beginning of the universe." Science (May. 2, 2018  (accessed 5/12/19 )

Cho says, "Borrowing a concept from string theory, Hawking and Hertog argue that there is no eternal inflation and only one universe. But what they’re driving at is something even more basic: They’re claiming that our universe never had a singular moment of creation."

an older article:
Staff . "Mathematics of Eternity prove The universe must have had a beginning"    MIT Technology Review, (Apr 24, 2012)

Mithani and Vilenkin point to a proof dating from 2003 that these kind of past trajectories cannot be infinite if they are part of a universe that expands in a specific way. They go on to show that cyclical universes and universes of eternal inflation both expand in this way. So they cannot be eternal in the past and must therefore have had a beginning. “Although inflation may be eternal in the future, it cannot be extended indefinitely to the past,” they say.They treat the emergent model of the universe differently, showing that although it may seem stable from a classical point of view, it is unstable from a quantum mechanical point of view. “A simple emergent universe model…cannot escape quantum collapse,” they say.The conclusion is inescapable. “None of these scenarios can actually be past-eternal,” say Mithani and Vilenkin. 
[3]John Earman. Bangs, Crunches, Wimpers, and Shrieks: Singularities and Acausalities in Relativistic Spacetimes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995., p. 156) So rather than avoid fine-tuning, the multiverse pushes it up a level.

[4] John Horgan, “Physicist slams Cosmic Theory he Helped Conceive,” Scientific American Blogs, December 1, 2014. on line, URL accessed 10/5/15. Horgan interviews Steinhardt.

[5] JLH "Bayes Thorium and probability of God, no Dice." The Religious A Proiori (no date)
(acess 5/12/19)

Index of my articles on Bayes

Monday, May 13, 2019

Answering: Sean Carroll, "God is not a Good Theory." (part 1)

Image result for Sean Carroll

Physicist Sean Carroll lectures a class on why God is not a good  thesis ,meaning scientific hypothesis.[1] Science is theoretical perspective he admits. So he knows there is a difference in the kind of thinking one does for religion and the kind one does for science. He argues that some aspects of God are used in place of scientific theories by some people. He says God is a theory because all believers use aspects for it to explain various aspects of the universe. In other words if God and science compete on any aspect than God counts as science thus he can can be dismissed as bad since. I think the problem here is self evident. Just because some people  use God in  place of science that doesn't make belief in God a scientific theory. Some people use science as a religion is science religious?

Carroll defines theory as "just an idea that may be true or false." That's a reasonable definition of theory but it doesn't make any theory a scientific one. Just being a theory doesn't mean it's a scientific theory, God being used as a scientific exploitation on some points does not make the concept of God itself a scientific theory, it does not mean that belief in God is liable to scientific parameters. He's just trying to establish a ground upon which belief becomes part of science so it can dismissed as not passing muster on scientific grounds. Then he moves on to two major criticisms of belief.

Carroll's definition of theory is wholly inadequate. The more scientific and.or academic one wishes to be the more elaborate one's notion of theory  has to be, Moreover Carroll's notion is self serving and ghettoized, Self serving because it allows him to understand religious notions as part of science which they are not, but as such they are liable to scientific criticism. Ghettoized because physics only accepts one model,while social sciences allow multiple models. So Carroll's perspective is relative to the criticism one wishes to level. Multiple models need not always be  viewed as a bad thing. At this point he begins making criticism.

Criticism 1 of belief in God it;s not a specific theory 

*God sometimes used in explanatory Role but it does not do good job

*diversity of views about God means God is not a good theory (that's the hard science bias against multiple models)

He groups ideas of God under three categories:passive, active, and emergent.

passive: roles help explain the universe;  first cause, unmoved mover, necessary being, grounds existence  most perfect being, ultimate explanation, he means not actively engaged in the world.
Active, more personal idea, a person,creator ruler. caring, performs miracles. grounds morality, organizes after life

emergent: not a fundamental category but away talking about aspects of the universe God as love, as universe, laws of nature, feelings of awe, transcendence

He tells us he's going to ignore category three because it's just a way of speaking about the universe it's not really understanding God as a separate entity. Translation not enough to argue with,  that's the way atheists dismiss ideas like Tillich's. That's what he would say about God as being itself. They can't think about ideas that require more subtly than physics, So they just don't think about them.

I have to say his categories seem arbitrary, some of the  attributes are not really attributes. Take  
passive: roles help explain the universe;  first cause, and  unmoved mover, are not the same kind of attributes. First cause is active God acts to cause things,  The others are passive but none of those aspects  necessitate that God is not active in the world. The real criteria he doesn't talk about would be weather not God must act to be that thing, None of them require that God not act. As with his category of "active" ruling,caring performing miracles are active grounding morality is  not; he doesn't have to do anything but command or be known to have a certain charter to ground morality.  

It is a huge mistake to ignore the things in that emergent category. Those ideas are more than just a way of speaking, that really shows the physicist can't think in nonscientific ways. He can't do philosophy. It is in that category that one will find the most sophisticated and modern conceptions of God,thus the conceptions of God that are most compatible with science, 

Criticism 2 According to Carroll it's metaphysics which is armchair, one doesn't go out and look. He says  "this kind of reasoning has never thought anything true or useful." Then he turns around and  says it is useful  when it under girds science (as with math) but we have to go look,so must have science. He says  "a priori kind of reasoning is never going to get you there" All dependents on where "there" is, where you want to go. It's not going to get us a scientific understanding of physical phenomena which is probably all he is able to think about.  Obviously that's not all there is since we have ancient traditions of philosophy,  theology, art,and  literature.

He asks how could we prove God is necessary  to do this he admits he is conflating all the different approaches,"these are all substantially different in ways I am going to completely ignore sorry about that"

*all we have to do is invent a universe in which God plays no role and that would show God is not necessary" he thinks it is possible to invent self contained universes in which God plays no rule. This is an idea I've ran into a hundred times on the message boards I  just know where it came from it was used extensively and I argued with it extensively on CARM by the poster Hans Groom "HRG" (the Austrian Mathematician). 

He posits the notion of a  one particle universe that moves according to Newton's laws. This  is supposed to prove God is not necessary, you could have a universe that obviously does not need God to work,So God is not necessary, There are two things wrong here. First, It's not clear how such a one particle would come into being. Just asserting that it did hypothetically does not prove that such things are possible without a creator:God. But there's an even bigger problem.He is asserting that when we say God is necessary being that we saying there could not be a universe without God, That leads atheist to think they are observing a universe without God when they look at this one. That makes them think it's proven to be possible. In that sense they are just begging the question.

He misunderstands what necessary means.  It does not mean God is necessary in order to have a world (even though he is) but that he is not contingent,.Necessary basically  means not contingent God doesn't depend upon any thing else for his own existence, Since all of Carroll's arguments depend upon the premise of God being necessary to have a world rather than understanding what necessary being really means all of his arguments are wrong, 

He continues to assert possible universes without God because he does not understand what necessary being means

***At this point he makes the first Jump to red herring. He advances what is supposed to be the believer's answer saying you can posit the notion but you can;t explain why the universe would be , the universe is the issue. His answer is "why am I supposed to say that?" He changes to a different tack   from the thought about necessity  although the wrong idea  to a red herring about why do I have to answer that? But he;s glossing over the point that he can't answer it.

He draws out the argument you can't say why the universe must be, it may not have a reason just brute fact (he does not say BF==but that;s the idea) just because there is a universe there is no reason why there's a cause or a reason. In other words not knowing why we are here does not prove God put us here.He is critical of taking metaphysical arguments and making it empirical by demanding a reason or cause, But his method for proving that some things don;t need reasons or causes is to show that somethings  have multiple causers,he never shows anything with no cause at all. 

His whole method for disproving that God is necessary is to posit the  one particle universe 

He asserts superiority of science in empirical testing, So he puts the believer in a position where empirical demonstration is necessary for rational belief and science provides that for atheists but not for God.  Yet what if we used his same logic to argue ok then we don't  need to know the reason for weather or friction or anything science  tells us because everything doesn't need a reason so let's just not study science? Would he be content to live with that? We are supposed to be content to stop asking for ultimate truth and final causes and ultimate reasons on the grounds that some things just don't need to be explained, would he accept that science doesn't need explaining?

He asserts he can answer Kalam  by just saying Maybe not, there may not need to be a reason, but he doesn't say why we should do empirical science when there doesn't have to be a reason for things.

He reaches the staggering conclusion that God should be an empirical testable hypothesis that can be dismissed by  lack of experimental results, his reason  is because he can doubt the philosophical. Whereas I argue that by definition God cannot be empirically testable.Yet the thing that turned me from atheist to Christian was my own empirical apprehension  of the power of God.

He also asserts that necessary begin reduces to empirical claims but that s because he does;t understand the concept necessary in the first place.

He reduces general thought about reality to scientific aspects that could be empirically investigated. such as motion, life, consciousness. science explains more about those than God does. Or does it really? God unites all understanding in science,  art, morality, psychology. Science with atheist assumptions leaves all pragmatic understanding of how with no hint as to why, Thus without God all you have is thousands of loose ends, [2]

i have advanced an argument to  break the tie between a science which cant establish a reason for existence, and faith which asserts God the reason in itself. This is called Tie-breaker because it moves us past the log jam that results in saying God is uncased and timeless always has been always will be with cause, vs. the atheist argument that this is no better than  just saying the universe happens to be here for no reason. 

Next time part 2

Please see relevant essays I've already posted

The limits of Science in the Search for God, part 1

part 2

part 3


[1] Sean Carroll, "God is not a Good Theory." Video You Tube (Published on Jun 5, 2013)  (accessed 5/10/19)

from 2nd mini-series (Is "God" Explanatory) from the "Philosophy of Cosmology" project. A University of Oxford and Cambridge Collaboration.

[2] Stopping at  [21:56]

Monday, April 29, 2019

The Trace of God by Joseph Hinman

My Book,  on Amazon

  photo frontcover-v3a_zps9ebf811c.jpg

Arguments for God from religious experience have always been considered a secondary level of argument. It's always been assumed that their subjective nature makes them weak arguments. The atheist scared to death of subjectivity. This work, compiling empirical scientific studies that show that religious experience is not the result of emotional instability but are actually good for psychologically, constitutes a ground breaking work that places religious experiences on a higher level.

The Trace of God is an exposition (445 pages) employing both philosophical investigation and social science research. The book analyzes and discusses a huge body of empirical research that has up to this point been primarily known only in circles of psychology of religion, and has been over looked by theology, apologetics, Philosophy of religion and more general discipline of psychology. This body of work needs to be known in each of these interested groups because it demonstrates through hundreds of studies over a 50 year period, the positive and vital nature of the kind of religious experience known as “mystical.” Even though most of the studies deal with “mystical” experience, linking studies also apply it to the “born again experience” as well as “the material end of Christian experience.”

            The book opens with a discussion as to why arguments for the existence of God need not “prove” God exists, but merely offer a “warrant for belief.” It discusses why there can’t be direct empirical evidence for God and why that is not necessary. It also lays out criteria for rational warrant. In Chapter two it presents two arguments that are based upon religious experience and then shows how the various studies back them up. This is not an attempt to present directly empirical evidence for God but to show that religious experiences of a certain kind can be taken as “the co-determinate” or God correlate. It’s not a direct empirical view of God that is presented but the “God correlate” that indicates God,  just as a fingerprint or tacks in the snow indicate the presence of some person or animal. Religious experiences of this kind are the “trace of God.”

            These studies demonstrate that the result of such experiences is life transforming. This term is understood and used to indicate long term positive and dramatic changes in the life of the one who experiences them. People are released form bondage to alcohol and drugs, they tend to have less propensity toward depression or mental illness, they are self actualized, self assured, have greater sense of meaning and purpose, generally tend to be better educated and more successful than those who don’t have such experiences. These studies prove that religious experience is not the result of mental illness or emotional instability. The methodology of the studies (which includes every major kind of study methodology in the social sciences) is discussed at length.

            One of the major aspects of the book is the discussion of the “Mysticism scale” (aka “M scale”) developed by Dr. Ralph Hood Jr. at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The importance of this “M scale” (that is a test made up of 32 questions) is that it serves as a control on the valid religious experience. One can know through the score on the test if one’s experience is truly “Mystical” or just “wool gathering.” Without a control we can’t know if one has had a true experience and thus we can’t measure their effects. Being able to establish that one has had true “mystical experience” one can determine that the effects of that experience are positive and long term. Thus that sets up the rationally warranted arguments for God.

            It is also vital to know if the experience is valid because those who seek to discredit religious belief and claim to have produced such experiences by stimulating the brain don’t use controls to determine if the experience is valid or not. They must make assumptions that anything to do with God talk is a religious experience then claim to have produced it by stimulating the brain. The M scale works by comparing theories of British philosopher W.T. Stace with current modern mystics (research began in the 1970s on American campuses and went international in the 80s). It is statistically extremely remote that they would be able to accidentally hit upon the right combination of questions to reflect validation of Stace’s theory. They have to agree with Stace’s theory on all 32 points. It’s even harder to imagine they might lie. In the international studies Iranian, Indian, and Japanese peasants were questioned. Most of them did not read English it’s absurd to think they could tell what Stace’s theory was much less what they had to lie about. Most of them would know nothing about W.T. Stace or his theories. The Studies showed that modern mystics in Iran, India, Japan, Sweden, the UK all experience exactly what Stace said they would experience. Thus that creates the ground for comparison. It gives us a control for the experience.

            The book also discusses the theories of Wayne Proudfoot a philosopher who tried to disprove mystical experience by reductionism, re-labeling and losing the phenomena. Studies of brain chemistry are analyzed as well as the Placebo effect. The question all comes down to a tie between naturalistic brain chemicals vs. the idea that the naturalistic neurological route is just the way God created for us to communicate with him, and that stimulation of those chemicals is just opening the receptors that also receive God’s presence. The problem is resolved by eight tie breakers that are presented at the end of the next to the last chapter. The last chapter deals with philosophical and theological problems surrounding language and faith.

            The book provides a ground breaking chunk of fiber fortifying the arguments for God from religious experience that has been lacking since the days of FatherFrederick C. Coplestonand his debate with Bertrand Russell. Copleston didn’t have these studies to back his argument. This body of work has been growing for 50 years and it’s time it was known to the theological world. These studies, especially the M scale, establish that religious experiences are the same the world over. There may be other kinds but of those kind know as “mystical” when we control for the names being different, and doctrines of various faiths use dot explain the situation, we look at the experience itself they are all the same. That implies that all of these people around the world in different faiths are experiencing a reality external to their own minds. It also implies that God is working in all faiths. The Author, Joseph Hinman, is a Christian and he does believe in the exclusivity of Jesus Christ but he also recognizes God’s prevenient grace to all people.

 "A great contribution to discussions of the rationality of belief in God"

William S. Babcock, Professor Emeritus of Church History, Southern Methodist University

Ralph Hood says:

"A fine exploration of the meaningfulness of arguments from human experience to the reality of God."
(Ralph Hood Jr. inventor of the M scale and professor of psychology of religion University of Tennessee Chattanooga.)

Wordgazer, a prominent blogger on Women's issues says:

"Why should  I mistrust my own experiences of God's presence?" Joe Hinman taught me to ask. After all, we don't mistrust other things we experience.  We don't doubt that the chair we're sitting in will hold us, unless we have some good reasonto think something has gone wrong with our senses.  We don't have to accept the self-proclaimed expert in science as an expert in metaphysics.  Nor need we accept the standard of "absolute proof" in terms of scientific categories that may be inadequate for the phenomenon in the first place.  We can have good, reasonable reasons -- what Hinman calls a "rational warrant" to believe.  His newer website, The Religious A Priori, explores belief and rational warrant from a number of different angles.

And now Joe Hinman has encapsulated some of his best thinking into a new book: The Trace of God: A Rational Warrant for Belief.

The Trace of God is a scholarly work, but written in a style that a layperson can follow.  Its main point is that experiences like the one I describe above (called "religious experiences" or "peak experiences"*) do constitute good evidence, even from a scientific point of view, of the existence of God.

This is a ground breaking work. These studies have never been put together in this context and analyzed and argued for in this way before. The God arguments form religious experience have always been considered weak but no more. This body of work puts them up on a higher level, it's put fiber into their diet.
See Word Gazer's Review of my book on her blog

see message board interview, the whole thread is he interview of me about my book on Evangelical Universalism board. 

Order the book from Aamzon