Thursday, December 15, 2005

My second rebuttle

JD:First of all thank you for posting my first response and thank you for
posting such an intricate and intelligent response yourself! Here is my
resonse to yours:


I am pleased to see that you felt my post warranted a long response. Again
I disagree with the larger bulk of it. Clearly you are intelligent and you
make strong cases for the supernatural, however, the case for the
supernatural always comes with inherent implausibility and an impetuous
assertion. This assertion being that nature and the material universe is
reliant upon or caused by supernatural forces unseen and/or unknown. There
is much to discuss with regards to your long response and I would like to
begin with the more mundane.

Meta:I thank you for the kind words. Its' is nice to have a dialogue partner of good will with I can discuss and who is obvioulsy a man of intelligence and reason. Now to get down to it:

First, it seems a lot more likely that this would be the case since we know so little about relaity. You are weighing our little experince of this one dust mote floting in an endless sea of space, to the vastness that far out spans our ablity to even conceive of it; and you expect to know what's out there and to be able to exclude options you don't like. To me that seems rather arrogant, and rather short sighested, No offense.

Secondly, we know our uinverse exists in space/time which is a four coordiante system and that beyond the event horizon of our big bang is something beyond our cotninuum of space/time. So that would seem in and of itself to reaise qeustions of worlds beyond this one, and the possilbity of a supernatural.

thirdly, as I have marked out in my own essays on the Supernatural, I think there is a great deal of confussion about what exactly is meant by the term. Essentually it is God's power to transform the natural. So that is a far cry from another ralm you can go to or a realm of dark forces and so forth. At that rate SN would just be a consequence of belief in God per se.

JD: In the beginning of your response you spend a good deal of time discussing
the hatred and hostility visited upon you by atheists. You talk about how
atheism has an inherent subculture of hatred. While these observations are
both true and false in differing degrees I would like to discuss this matter
further. First of all I do not doubt the accuracy of experiences recounted
in your post. There are many people (especially within the blogosphere)
that feel empowered by the anonymity and negate any responsibility that they
would otherwise assume ownership of.

Meta: Excellent point! I wasn't trying to say that just the act of not beleiving in god makes you like that.Not only do I know many atheists who aren't like that, but I was an atheist and I don't think I was like that. so I'm sorry if I was misunderstood.

JD:To single out the atheists as a group
of people and claim that they are guiltier of this than any other group is
irresponsible and biased. Atheists are people first, before they made the
decision to believe what seemed more plausible to them (that there is no
god) they were people just as everyone else; and as such they are subject to
the inequity, animosity, and failings of the human being in general. To say
that atheists represent more of these failings than any other group would be
biased and hateful in and of itself. Surely there are atheist blogs and
boards in which the atheists are all of the above negative attributes but
surely there are blogs and boards in which they are not; furthermore it is
also equally true that theists and deeply religious individuals exhibit
these shortcomings themselves. As is my personality I don’t care to
illustrate the malign and depraved rather I like to illustrate the kindness
and compassion, and if necessary the wrongness of an individual. It hardly
seems beneficial to speak of a group so derogatorily; especially a minority
group that still faces inequality. You provide examples of atheists being
hateful and negative, while this is true there are many examples of atheists
being positive and compassionate, hopefully I am an example of this also
check out the blog for further proof. For proof
that theists are malign and hateful just as much as atheists visit the
website and witness depravity in it’s truest
form. I will not provide specific quotes for as I said I would rather focus
on semblance and positivity rather than the contrary. I am glad that your
one act of solidarity is that you attribute this behavior with the net more
so than the individual. I would agree, for the sense of anonymity seems to
harbor feelings of ‘anything goes’ and that what one does one is not
entirely responsible for. The internet (especially the blogosphere) is
notorious for fostering such ignorant and blatant hostility; and atheists
are no guiltier than theists themselves.

Meta:Sorry I was misunderstsood in that way.

JD:My main issue with this portion of
your response is, why even include it? Obviously there are going to be
hateful and irresponsible atheists just as there are theists. Why include
this fact as if it was more congruous with atheism?

Meta: Well, first because it just happened and I was angry, I flet that I should make outgrages known. Secondly, I guess I feel that if I tell enough people they will stay away from those boards or demand that they change or soemthing.

JD:It just seemed like a
very negative and biased issue to include. When I illustrate disagreement
with the assertion that many atheists believe that infants are born atheist
you suggest that I visit more message boards. This is almost condescending,
for you do not know my track record with respects to visiting blogs, if you
did you wouldn’t have made this comment. I frequent numerous blogs and
continually search out new ones, as I did with you own blog. I do not know
how many atheist blogs you have visited but I would seriously doubt the
number surpasses mine.

Meta: Not at all. I've seen that on boards many many times.

JD: With respects to the brain being wired for god and/or the inert ideas of god
residing in the brain, these are true and false in larger or lesser degrees.
Where as it is true that many of us are predisposed to religiosity and to
god through the neuro-pathways of the brain this says nothing of the truth
behind religiosity and/or god. Look up Paul Kurtz, especially his book
entitle “The Transcendental Temptation”, or Richard Dawkins (any of his
books or essays will suffice). The fact that evolutionary upsurge may have
culminated in the side effect of religiosity surely does nothing in proving
the truth behind such superstition.

Meta: I woulnd't expect Dawkins to agree with me. I would expect him to try and expalin it through evoution. What else could he do? But I think a good argument is there to be made that evolution shouldn't be able to produce that affect. It should require innate ideas. Why should the feelings incurred just produced religion and not merely produce unity or social cohesion or any of the other opporative explains used. The theory is religion is a vehicle to some other thing, such as social cohesion. But that doesn't expalin why the warm fuzzies buzz for God talk and no other talk. Why not for talk of social cohesion? It would really require an innate knowledge of God to do that.

JD:On a note of armistice I do like the
reference you made with Andrew Newberg for he is definitely a decent source
of information upon this subject; his studies are usually within
neurotheology or also known as biotheology. He has conducted a good amount
of tests and has done extensive research (none of which claims there is an
inert idea of god in anyone). He is a distinguished scientist and his
research is valuable he is certainly not the top researcher in the field. I
would also like to note that his research has never illustrated an innate
belief in god and he surely doesn’t promote his research or findings as

Meta: having a warm fuzzy when you heard Godtalk is an illustration of an innate beilef in God. Newberg is good because he doesnt' try to claim more than he can pull off. He did become a beilever due to his research, he does think it proves God, but in a subtle way. He knows its not enough to prove it to others. There are other things that go with a leap of faith than just proving some facts. But the mateiral is there if one seeks a rational warrant for belief.

JD:The rest of your response deals with cosmology and astrophysics, I would
like to make a few points. The first being that I am in no way a
credentialed astrophysicist my field of scientific knowledge is generally
held within the confines of theoretical psychology. The second being that
you misconstrue a good portion of what my ultimate thesis was, and this is
not to say that you are to blame I was guilty of being too vague.
First you ask why it would be fair to assume that natural existence is
eternal, I would answer because if something is the effect then it must have
a cause and as far as I see it there are only natural causes and effects, so
the cause of the material universe must be natural and obviously the effect
of such as cause is natural;

Meta: But there you are just begging the question. You assume all C&E is naturalistic, why? Because you don't have direct proof of first casue, but here is direct proof of the need for a first cause; the cosmological arguments that I made before, the impossiblity of an eternally exsiting universe. So your assumptions about C/E is just quetion begging.

JD: it is fair to assume that natural existence is
eternal, assuming that any form of existence is eternal, for if anything
would be eternal it would be that of what we know to be true and actually
existent, that of natural existence.

Meta: Sorry if I misunderstand you, but this sounds like more question begging.You seem to saying "since all we know for sure is natural existence, that's all we can assume existence is." But that's of course begging the question because the question is "is it it true that all we know is the natural world?" A lot of us think not. So that's up for grabs, you can't use it as proo of itself when it is the question being debated.

At this point we could go off into some very interesting discussions about the nature of Being if we were willing to leave behind the constrictive debate forematt. So I hesitate to metion it because I don't want it to be construed as an attempt at pulling some ace out of my sleve. But I do want to mention the idea of Paul Tillich's God as being itself. I'll discuss that more latter, because I don't want it to be part of the debate for rasons already stated. Just suffice to say we have a very heavy question about the nature of being and reality, and we can't resolve that just with ideologies. It's going to be a matter of one's metaphystics, thus no somehting one can resolve in a debate.

JD: You say that scientists tell us the
universe is finite, I do not claim the contrary for all one must do is look
up the Hartle-Hawking boundary condition and come to their own conclusions;
however this is no proof that existence itself is finite or that existence
itself is subject to a beginning or end. I know this all sounds amorphous
but bear with me. When you give proof that our universe will come to an end
as we know it I would not disagree, for again I am aware of the science
behind this. What I was meaning to illustrate was that existence in its
fullest sustenance will not cease to exist that there is no beginning nor
ending in time in this regard; to say that time either began or ended is
proof of the lack of knowledge with regards to relativity as espoused by

Meta: That's just a trick of language. There is no begining or end in time, because time itself is not eternal. time has a beging, that's established by the Big bang. That's what t=0 means. All Hawking does is change direction from going back chronologically to going down along that last moement; he constructs an infintessible in which one can pin down the exactly second at which there is a begining. This is no way means that the univese is sitting around forever and doesn't require creation.

If that's what you argue, you have to show how it overcomes arguments like the fininite stock of order of energy/matter being created in the Big Bang.

JD:One way in which you completely misconstrued what I was intending would be
when you go off on long tangents attempting to discredit chaotic inflation
(which is widely held) and the oscillatory universe, both of which I don’t
believe. What intrigues my rationale is the theory of brane cosmology which
stems from the string theory of the universe; I won’t describe in searing
detail as you have in your post. If you would like to review it do so, if
you would like guidance on where to review it say so and I will help, or
maybe you already know of it and just decided not to mention it in your

Meta: I didn't discredit it. I said it doesnt' change my argument. Both of those still preserve the big bang as part of their major senerio. Of cousre there is no data to support the chaotic inflation part, there is only the t=0 and that's all. we have no data from "before" that. Becuase that's when time begins. Our space/time envoleope began at that point, so there can be no data form "before" or "beyond" that point. Thus all of those theoreies are unproven and can be just as easily plugged into my senerio of creation.

JD:Brane cosmology asserts that existence is in fact eternal and that a
collision of branes is what created the universe as we know it today;
whether or not this universe is itself infinite doesn’t negate that fact
that existence outside of it is. That was my main point and it was my fault
for not vocalizing as well as I should have. The only cosmological theory
for which I feel any commitment to would be the brane theory, not the
oscillatory universe I was merely allowing multiple theories be shown. I’m
sorry that you spent so much time disproving or illustrating evidence
against theories that I do not even subscribe to, although you did do a
magnificent job!

Meta: You are always going to be dealing with contigneicies. naturalistic pheomena are always contingent. But to deal with a world of contingencies with no necessity is nonsense. So to posit an eternal universe doesn't change anything God wise, there still is a need to posit and siealteniously eternal creator who is the ground of being and who makes possible the etneral contingnecies. An analogy would be an eternal flute player. As long as the floutist plays the music exists. So if the floutist palys eternally, the music is eternal. But if the player stops, the music stops. So the mustic, though eternal, is contingent upon the player. The reason for posulating that vis "the universre" would be the fact of necessity and contingency, naturalisitic phenomena are contingent. But That's assuming we just ingore the questions about finite stock of order and heat death.

If the universe will eventually die a heat death, it can't be eternal. Eternality cannot cease to be, it cannot ever change. And given eternal changces if it will do it it would have already done it.

This last point, think of this. If I had a billion billion chances I could flit enough coins enough times that the letters on them (use coins from all nations) would sepll out the play Othelo. But it would take of cousre anstronominal amouhnts of time. yet if the unverse is eternal we have already had astronmical amounts of time so it should have already done it.

JD:When I made the statement – “The theory certainly can be interpreted as the
beginning of the magnificent explosion and expansion of the material
universe, that before this extreme change there was the dense-hot state of a
gravitational singularity, and that prior to this singularity and explosion
there was an eternal state of natural existence.” I did not mean that prior
to this singularity there was only natural existence residing within this
singularity, I apologize for the vagueness of such a statement; all I mean
is that prior to the expansion or ‘creation’ or our universe there was an
eternally existing natural realm present, outside of our universe.

Meta: I see, but that's still asserting something of which we have no knowledge.

universe may be but one brane in a realm consisting of numberous branes, our
universe is the way it is and has been developed by the collision of two
such branes within this vast and natural realm.
You question the authority of Corliss Lamont the only explanation for this
is that you don’t know who he is and have done no investigation into it, he
was a highly esteemed humanist philosopher he taught at Columbia, Cornell,
and Harvard. He was the director of the ACLU from 1932-1954 and was then
the chairman until his death in 1995. He successfully challenged Senator
Joseph McCarthy's senate subcommittee and other government agencies. In 1965
he secured a Supreme Court ruling against censorship of incoming mail by the
U.S. Postmaster General. In 1973 he discovered through Freedom of
Information Act requests that the FBI had been tapping his phone, and
scrutinizing his tax returns and cancelled checks for 30 years. His
subsequent lawsuit showed the surveillance had no justification in law, and
set precedent for other citizen's privacy rights. He also filed and won a
suit against the Central Inteligence Agency for opening his mail.

Meta: sounds like a great guy, but it's still unncessary appeal to authority; what credentials has he as a cosmologist?

JD:You claim that god is necessary refering to “him” (sexist and egoistic) and
that matter-energy is a contingency

Meta: I actually got out of the habit of refurring to God as "HE" in semianry! It was the feminsts in my secular history of ideas program when I went for my doctorate that got me back in the habit. I kid not!

JD: I disagree and I will provide a
paradigm put forh by one Benedictus De Spinoza helping me illustrate this
fact: Spinoza contended that God and Nature were two names for the same
reality, namely the single substance (meaning "to stand beneath" rather than
"matter") that underlies the universe and of which all lesser "entities" are
actually modes or modifications.

Meta: You make it hard to argue with you, as I am a big Spinoza fan mytself. However, as a Christain I can't quite go along with him, but I admire his intelligence and his lens grinding too.

JD:The argument for this single substance runs
something as follows:
1. Substance exists and cannot be dependent on anything else for its
2. No two substances can share an attribute.
Proof: If they share an attribute, they would be identical. Therefore they
can only be individuated by their modes. But then they would depend on their
modes for their identity. This would have the substance being dependent on
its mode, in violation of premise 1. Therefore, two substances cannot share
the same attribute.
3. A substance can only be caused by something similar to itself (something
that shares its attribute).
4. Substance cannot be caused.
Proof: Something can only be caused by something which is similar to itself,
in other words something that shares its attribute. But according to premise
2, no two substances can share an attribute. Therefore substance cannot be
5. Substance is infinite.
Proof: If substance were not infinite, it would be finite and limited by
something. But to be limited by something is to be dependent on it. However,
substance cannot be dependent on anything else (premise 1), therefore
substance is infinite.
Conclusion: There can only be one substance.
Proof: If there were two infinite substances, they would limit each other.
But this would act as a restraint, and they would be dependent on each
other. But they cannot be dependent on each other (premise 1), therefore
there cannot be two substances.

Meta: But Spinoza beileved in God.Now, it's true people think "not much of a God." but it was god enough for Spinoza. He was not an atheist and did not see himself as such. I like his take on the ontological arugment and it forms the baisis of my understanding of it. Spinoza did not say the universr and existence is only natural and there is no supernatural. He's more like combining sort of immanent transcendence or a naturalsitic supernatural. This is way after the concept has been degraded anyway. Ture he didn't believe in the conventional concept, but neither did he just consian existence to naturlism and become an atheist.

It's always amazing to me when I find people who have gotten other things out of a thinker and reached diametrically oppossite consclusions. I am not saying you are wrong even to look at his work the way you do. But I see there is a differnce in the way we each read Spinoza.

JD:My ultimate thesis and strong beliefs is that existence in its entirety is
natural, that there is no reason to conclude that supernatural phenomena are
the causes of natural effects, and that when scientific understanding and
ability has reached its furthest limits we must concede that we are not able
to understand such phenomena and resist subverting science and embracing the
irrationality of superstition and occult phenomena;

Meta: That satement is loaded with all sorts of presuppostions that are not in evidence and unproven, and in fact I don't think you can prove any of them. That they mark your feeling about the world I am prepared to be friends and agree to disagree. Those presupes include:

(1) that SN subverts science so the two are competing rather than represeting different magesteria.

(2) that SN is superstition: superstition opporates by a senes of dread at tresspass upon the realm of unseen forces; supernatural is a ratiaonl ontology that sketches out how divine power can affect and transform human nature. It has nothing to do with fear of illelutable forces.

(3) that SN is irrational: SN is more rational that you can imagine, it's the ultimate form of rationality because it says that relaity istself has a supersturcture and that superstructure is reason! there is an ordering pricniple, a logos that orders and manages the natural as its ground and end; the natural moves toward it teliologically; that is ratianolism that is not irrational forces.

btw if we can't understand it how do we know there is no supernatural? you say "and that when scientific understanding and
ability has reached its furthest limits we must concede that we are not able
to understand such phenomena": so we can't understand it but somehow we know the SN is not true?

JD:that in any case what we
cannot yet understand today may surely be understood in the future and to
await this day accordingly.

Meta: seems to me that you are just opporating on faith. Isn't faith a bit on the irrational side?

JD: Religion has in the past opposed the fact that
the sun was the center of our galaxy, they opposed the fact that our planet
is a sphere,

Meta: that's actaully guilt by assocaition (some religious people did x, therefore, religious people do x). It's also ahistorical. No The Chruch never oppossed teh idea tha thte sun was the center of the galaxy. What they oppossed was rejecting the authority of Arosttle. Others had aruged that the mathematics of the Copernican system made more sense of the calender and epicyles and all the fiddely bits of ptoemaic system, and and Copernicus never got in any trouble as long as he propossed it as a mathematical theory. The trouble only came when the authority of the chruch was questioned via the authoritiy of Arostotle (who had been installed by the chruch as a kindof previent saint). The chruch had no real interest in the center of the galaxy or where the sun was in relation to the earth.

I don't think you can show that they oppossed the idea of the earth being a sphere. But even so, Milton whent o see Galileo when he was young and told him "the Christians of Engalnd are with you." They never had any such persecution in Engalnd where science and chrsitaintiy were identified as one. So that's just a matter of chruch politics and not religious ideas per se.

JD:they oppose consciousness being an extension of the physical
body via the brain, and they oppose the idea that god did in fact not create
existence. These oppositions are fine and to believe in god and what “he”
has done is okay but to talk about physics and the ‘evidence’ that this
science gives in favor of god is incongrous with the scientific method and

It's a fond steriotype to think of the Monty Python scene where the woman weighs the same as a duck. "what do we burn apart form withces?" "More withces!" The truth is the middle ages were not filled with budding Enstines who were being burned at the steak fro their attempts to do science. There are really only a couple of examples. In fact the chruch did a lot to keep learning alive nd modern scinece was born in monesteries and it was the chruch that created it.See my essay I wrote in grad school:

JD (quoting Meta)-“But eternally existing anything would have to be ontologically necessiary,but naturlism requires ontolgocal congingency for all natursiltic
phenomena.” – Why is this? In what way does the supernatural or god resolve
this conflict? What is the evidence of such gratuitous interactions from
the supernatural?

Meta: break it down:

eternally eixsting anyting would have to be ontologically necessary

Because necessary means "cannot cease or fail to exist, and not dependent upon anything else for its existence. If it could cease, or if it could have been otherwise that would mean it is dependent upon something else, and that is contingency. It can't be necesary if it is contignent. It's contingency because if it could cease it isn't etenral and if it could be otherwise that would have to be becuase the circumstances that bring it about could have been otherwise. that means anything that is eternal would have to be either eternally contingent upon an ontotoglally "prior" cause or condition, or it would be a necessity (not contignent).

THE BEGINNING OF TIME!"” – The beginning of the universe that we know not of
existence as a whole. Didn’t you speak of time in relativity just prior to
this, time is relative and really doesn’t have a beginning or an end.
Wouldn’t you say?

Meta: I quoted sources saying time begins with the big bang. I could theorize that tmie is running eternally. But the evidence I've seen susggests it begins with the Big bang.

JD:I read your argument for god as a cause under why God doesnt' need a cause
and the universe does, your god here doesn’t seem to be an actual defining
being or substance, I could easity isert the word nature for god within this
argument and change absolutely nothing; this is a vague, weak, and
ineffectual argument for god.

Meta: You said in the first deal it was the best you'd seen. I think you are just used to dealing fundies and you can only think in terms of one concept of God; the big guy in the sky. Spinoza is not known as an atheist, he had his own version reilgious life, and he believed in God, he just had his own ideas about God. Would you call that "weak and ineffectual." IF it's so weak why can't you beat it? You haven't come close. you haven't got your foot in the door. IN fact your only arugment is just that it seems strange to you because I'm no saying things you expect to hear, and that's what you call "weak."

JD:By the way what is god? What do you believe
god is? A being? A pool of conscioussness? Energy? A being that resemble
humans? Your definition of god is so vague in this argument that it could
be refering to nature itself, do you not see the transience within this

Meta: Can't refur to nature because nature is contingent. God can't be contignency. God has to be necessity. But here I think the truth comes out that actually your definition of nature is weak. You seem to have a circular defition where by nature is what is and is is natural by virture of the fact that it is. That doesnt' tell us anything and it could potentually include God.

For the big lo down on my views about God read my essay on God as the Grond of Being. Essentually my concept of God is in line with that of Paul Tillich, the German theological emegree to America in the 50's.

JD: You must firmly define what god is, how it acts, etc. Otherwise
your giving an argument for nothing, this sort of god seems to encapulate
many individuals psyche now days, the god of everything and yet nothing.

Meta: I don't mean to offend you, because I feel that we have the basis for a good friendship. Nevertheless I think that argument is poppy cock. I do not have to define God in any way that pre-determines or pre-conceieves our understanding; and that would be contrary to my views anyway because my whole "thing" is that God presciley is not predicatble and is not something we can pin down to neat little categories. God is a mystical reality that blows away all our preconcieved notions and pre-set categories. All we can really do is experince God, or opporate within a tradition that calims to already understand something of God's will.

Now that's exactly my ratiaonle for being a christian, and it means that rather than trying to define God in some pesudo-sceintific way, all we really need to do is sketch out God as a proper object of religious devotion. God is the transcendental signifier, and as such we need only understand how that plays out in any given tradition as the object of devotion.

This is nature of one's belief, you can't dictate to people about their most sacred bleiefs, those have to be formed of thier own properly basic experinces of the world.

JD:Over all I was impressed with the cosmological argument you put forth, I
congradulate you! However, you were opposing theories that I do not
subscribe to.

Meta: but thank you for your kind words.

JD:Cosmologically I would subscribe to brane cosmology (not the
oscilliotory universe), and even if this theory proves to be false this
hardly means that god has won out by default; ultimately there is no proof
of the existence of a god or of supernatural phenomena, the best the
religious can do is discredit and find faults within scientific theory and
insert the supernatural and god into convienient holes that are the as yet
unknowns of science (they are doing this with evolution right now with ID).

Meta: Why do you put it in terms of conflict? This is one of the things that I think puts atheists in the box. Rather than thinking outside the box, you are still in the box, and that box is full of 19th century peraphenalia. The idea that science and religion are in competition and are somehow conflifting is sympematic of that sort of thinking. I think that weakens atheism beasue it puts it behind the times. While I agree that there is no absolute or direct proof of God, there is certianly more than amle rational warrent for belief. That can be adhuced from reading the back pages of this blog. But religion can do a lot more than just discredit scientific theories. There is more than ample reason to believe. Also see my list of God arguments: I'm up to 39 but I'm shooting for 42.

JD:Ultimately I was just wanting to say that existence is natural, always has
been and always will be, and that the supernatural should be heavily
scrutinized and doubted. I am impressed by the extent of your knowledge
pertaining to astrophysics. I would be intrigued to hear your views on
brane cosmology.

Meta: It's good to have our presups shaken up once and awhile and I respect your views and appreciate your attidue to ratioanl and plesant discussion.

I'll do some reading on brane cosmology and let you know.

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