Friday, May 29, 2009

The Fine Tuning Argument as Sing of Divine Purpose


I was arguing with Hermit and Loren, our two intrepid regular atheists on my blogs. They both feel, apparently, that there is no way to justify a sense of divine purpose. I appeal to the fine tuning argument for such as sense, this elicited a challenge from Loren to debate her on fine turning.

The problem is even though I use the fine tuning argument on my God argument list (that's just to help me get 42 God arguments so I can have the answer to God, the Universe, and everything, which as we all know is the number 42--well I have to do something with my nights), I still have a problem with using it. The problem is that I argue as a standard approach that God is beyond empirical proof. Yet this is an argument ostensibly proving God and yet it's empirical. I over come this difficulty by using it, not as proof for the existence of God, but as an indication of divine purpose being detectable in creation.

This is not the only indication of divine purpose. One could certainly argue that the basic nature of all religions indicates a purpose, that special revelation such as the Bible explicitly states a purpose (although God's ultimate plans and reasons remain a mystery) and one could point to the nature of religious experince for evidence of a purpose. Let's not forget that ever loving Transcendental signifier argument. That TS argument is chock full of purpose. I don't want to get into an argument about the Bible, for the simple reason that this will derail the whole discussion. I am expecting those two loyal opponents to discuss this at length. But I think we can bracket the Bible as just understood as a source for believers to point to for things like this and argue about it latter. I will sketch out the other three sources and then indicate why the fine tuning argument is an indication of purpose.

Now in these first three I'm assuming other arguments for God. Fine tuning is used a God argument, don't let that confuse you. I'm not saying these are arguments for the existence of God. I'm saying having assumed there is some kind of God, this is how we know that God has an overall purpose concerning humanity.

(1)The nature of religion itself

The purpose of religion is to identify the nature of the human problematic, and to resolve the problematic by means of mediation of ultimate transformative experinces. This being the case, the basic reason for religion as a whole is to transform the live of the individual in such a way as to enable self actualization and to surmount the existential angst inherent in the human problematic. Since this seems to be the goal of all world religion, regardless of how differently it is construed, we can postulate that if there is some form of reality behind world religions then this must be a motive or a purpose.

(2) special relation

I have already stipulated that I want to bracket this discussion. But the Bible tells us (Ecclesiastees) that the whole duty of man is to fear God and keep his commandments. Thus we can logically infer that since we have a duty the duty giver must have purpose in giving it. In fact the whole sense of duty and devotion that all religious believers feel might also weigh in the discussion.

(3) Nature of RE (overlapps with no 1)

One of the major affects of RE is that it gives us a sense that we understand there is an ultimate purpose. This is one of the major peace making aspects of such experinces. It's universal, people all over the world have these experinces and they almost always get this sense that they now see there is an ultimate purpose and its' good. Part of that experince is a deep abiding sense of a presence of love. That is enough to tell us that love is the basic motivation of purpose.

This is an indication, not an overall argument for the existence of God. The purpose indicated would be the propagation of life.The major evidence that I use for fine tuning comes from an atheist, the atheist physicist who invented one of the primary models for inflationary universe: Andre Linde.

(4) Fine tuning.

fine tuning, in so much as the universe is totally unlikely, demonstrates that a purpose had to be behind the fine turning since it would require purposive action to fine tune. Since the universe is unlikely the odds are overwhelmingly against it we should assume the game is fixed. If it's fixed it's fixed for a reason. That doesn't mean God has to sit down and design it like a giant building contractor in the sky. But he would have to put in motion some kind of principle that would allow for the unlike protection of life where it could develop. Fine tuning indicates that there is some sort of systematic bias introduced into the process that causes it turn out to protect life.

Adrei Linde,Scientific American. Oct 97 (this url may not be good any more it was a long time ago).

[explaining problems with the BB for which the new inflationary model is propossed. The first problem listed above--that the universe pops into exitence out of nothing]

a) something from nothing

b) Flatness of Universe

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

c) Size of Universe--Plank Density

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

d) Timing of expansion

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

e)Distribution of matter in the universe

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

f) The "Uniqueness Problem"

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

Now Linde is confident that the new inflationary theories will explain all of this, and indeed states that their purpose is to revolve the ambiguity with which cosmologists are forced to cope. The Scalar field is suppossed to explain all of this; but these inflationary models are still on the drawing board. Moreover, he never says where scalar fields come from, what makes them, and indeed never illustrates how they solve the initial problem of where it all came form in the first place. Finally, it seems that scalar fields would be a design feature that should trouble Linde as much as the initial problems, since he compares them the circuit breaker of a house which keeps the universe from heating up too fast before it can expand. Moreover, they might be arbitrary necessities (see argument I).

Loren has already issued her own argument against fine tuning:

Blogger Loren said...

Here is my broader point about alleged fine tuning. It's that the Earth's appearance of being fine tuned does NOT translate in the Universe as a whole being fine tuned. The Universe makes lots of different kinds of environments, and with that productivity, it's only a matter of time before the Universe produces at least one that can allow us to exist.

I think we can see that she doesn't grasp the dimensions of the argument. You can see from the evdience of Linde above the entire structure of the universe overall in its' earliest formation out of the BB is fine tuned. I don't eve mention earth.

It's like how if you play poker long enough, you'll eventually get dealt a high hand. It's very improbable, but if you play long enough, you get dealt LOTS of hands, and it's only a matter of time before you get a high one.

The fine tuning argument is not analogous to getting a "high hand." there are so many 0's in the odds given that it's like getting a thousand royal flushes in a row. In a real poker game those kind of odds would result in a lynching for marking the deck long before we got to even one hundred royal flushes in a row.

My answer:

"No offense but I don't think you understand the argument. It says its' extremely improbable that we would hit the target levels. There are so many of them and if we missed one by just a small bit there would be no life possible in the galaxy or universe. So that means the game is rigged, and that implies purpose."The argument erroneously assumes that "life as we know it" is the only possible outcome. If the universe were different than it's still possible that some other form of life would arise.

Hermit says:

Even life on Earth is pretty diverse; it arises everywhere from superheated volcanic ocean vents to the subfreezing desert of Antarctica.

The idea that the entire universe is somehow "fine-tuned"just for us puny humans is just absurd. This is another consequence of this anthropomorphizing habit; it ignores the vast and almost limitless variety of possibilities in the natural universe to make it all about us. It isn't.

That is merely argument from incredulity. 'O I can't believe it." that's not an argument. It doesn't do anything to the logic or the empriical data.

Blogger Loren said...

Very well. Thanx for inviting me. :)

I'm not especially interested in the question of cosmic purpose, since that seems to me to be a poorly-defined hypothesis. How would one tell one purpose from another, or from no purpose at all? For all we know, our Universe's purpose is to make lots of black holes.

See you got some things to say. We can understand protecting life. We can get that much. I'm not trying to say that I understand God's ultimate purposes. God is beyond understanding. But it seems pretty clear that we are given a series of breaks in this life in all kinds of things, one crucial one is the formation of life in the universe.

It may be plentiful or we may be all there is but it seems clear that a cold and hostile universe has been tweak, the purpose suggested is so that we will be here. That means we have a purpose. That is one of the major motivations for a religious life is understanding this,and seeking what that purpose is.

I'm more interested in the question of how fine-tuned the Universe is for allowing us to emerge and survive. I think that a few things may qualify as fine tuning, but for the most part, I think that the Universe is less fine-tuned than some fine-tuning advocates seem to think.

There are thousands of target levels. They are all over the place from early staler formation, even before from the basic crystallization of elements and formation of gravitation to stars to planets to life. Every step of the way we have a thousands totally unlikely events.

I will finally suggest that God's ultimate purpose is love. This is consistent with all four of the indications I give. God's basic motivation is love and all we have to do to understand everything important that we need to know is to love.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

God is not A being

arabic god symbol

This is in response to the previous post, where I discuss mystical experience and its effects upon those who experince it.Hermit makes the comment:

A Hermit said...

Thing is these effects aren't just confined to "thinking about God" but are present in all kinds of transcendent experience. I have real problem with the generalization of all such experiences as traces of something called "God". It seems to me that these kinds of experience (and I believe I've had them myself) are the result of our being able, however briefly, to drop the filters that usually keep us focused on our everyday existence perceive our actual position in the universe; to sense the infinite, or near infinite, nature of the universe in which we live. But that is not same as "God".
8:46 AM

It's a bit veg as to which experinces he's talking about. Does he mean the initial experince that makes one consider "I have had a mystical experince?" Or does he mean the long term effects of having had a mystical experince? I am doubting the latter the trace of God and not the former. It's problematic as to whether or not to include the former as part of the "trace." Certainly when I first used the term "trace" I was thinking of Derrida and Derridian usage, and in that regard surely the immediate sensations would be part of the trace at least. The content is God oriented and that ties the experince to a sense that is an experience of God. But the real aspect that stands out as not naturalistic is the long term effects. There are ways to answer the physiology and chemical arguments concerning the immediate sensations, but in the long run they are not where the real proof lies. The real proof is in the long term effects, because none of them proposed alternatives (serotonin, other brain chemicals, mushrooms and the lot) can be demonstrated to produce the long term effects, that is apart from the context of RE. Now the Good Friday follow up makes it clear that there is a relationship between mushrooms and long term effects, but not apart from the context of RE. Those who did the mushrooms and had the long term effects were already mystics. That means it supports the theory of opening the receptors to God.

But that's not what I want to talk about. I have to use that to into the context of the comments I am concerned with. That's the context of the discussion and in that context there arose a mini discussion about the distinction between a view of God that is not based upon anthropomorphism vs. just observation of the natural world.If you don't have a view of God as "personal" but as a principle or impersonal force, how do you know the difference between the world as it is naturally without God and God?

Hermit said:

they are actually talking about two different sets of experiences. The mystical doesn't come from just thinking about God at all. I have real problem with the generalization of all such experiences as traces of something called "God". It seems to me that these kinds of experience (and I believe I've had them myself) are the result of our being able, however briefly, to drop the filters that usually keep us focused on our everyday existence perceive our actual position in the universe; to sense the infinite, or near infinite, nature of the universe in which we live. But that is not same as "God".

In response I said:

Yes, it is exactly the same as God. you know my view includes much more than the idea of the big man in the sky or the big kign on the throne right?

those qualities are inherently what I mean when I say the word "God." that's what I'm talking about: eternal, necessary, ground of being.

read my TS argument again. you actually believe in God by my terms.

By "those qualities" I am referring to the sense of pervasive presence in RE, the sesne of eternal being, the basic realization of necessary eternal being.AS Hemrit put it:

to sense the infinite, or near infinite, nature of the universe in which we live.

He follows up by saying "that's not god." It's my contention that it is. Especially true of sensation of the infinite. That is the basis of understanding God as being itself. you sense some spacial quality in being that transcends the mundane, that's the sense of the numinous, that's the basic religious experince. What is going on there is my contention about the eternal and the infinite evoking the basis of religious experince, that means there is somewhere in that experince the trace of a valid object of religious concern. Tillich calls God "the object of ultimate concern." That's what is revealed in the sense of the numinous, and that's exactly what Hermit is describing. He is actually as much as stating that he believes in God, if by God one understands Tillich's concept that I defend. Of course Hermit can't have that and repudiates it. Now to be clear, I am saying that since the religious instinct is evoked (sense of the numinous) in the infinite then this gives us a valid object of religious devotion; ie God. This leads to further discussion that Hermit doesn't want to call it God. That strikes me as merely semantic becasue it fits my concept of God. That is to say, this talk of transcending the fetters of the mundane and sensing the infinite, as well the association of mystical experince with qualities that make up the sense of the numinous evokes my concept of God. Thus how can I refrain from thinking of it as God? Well Hermit doesn't accept the same concept. We are talking things we both apparently sense, he just wants to label it differently than I and to approach it and respond to it differently. So even though that may be a huge chasm, that "difference" in our approaches, but it's still a unified sense that we are not that far apart. Thus, I told Hermit "you actually believe in God by my terms." I think that may have been an exaggeration, but he is nearing the prospect. In response he said:

"No, I believe in a natural, impersonal universe. I believe that's completely awe inspiring, and calling it "God" it's the first step in an anthropomorphizing process which, for me, actually diminishes it."

right there is where I said:

that's just semantics. How can the term "God" be anthropomorphic when it can applied to the Hegelian dialectic or the Platonic forms or a billion "incidents" of process?

That last bit is a reference to the deep dark secret of process theology,that God is really defined as "a society of occasions."

you have merely limited your view of God as a matter of semantics.
9:16 PM

J.L. Hinman said...

I think that such experiences of oneness are pure hallucination.

and your bigoted opinion is empirically disproved. do you hear me? science has disproved that. 350 studies show it is not hallucination. you see? it's disproved. science disproves it.However, I think that such hallucinations can permanently rewire some parts of our brains, thus producing "transformative effects".

that's a contradiction in terms if that's ture that proves God is doing it because is no otehr example in anyting anywhere where that happens. transformative effects do not resul form metnal deterioration. Hallucinaiton is usualy caused by pathology.

pathology can't produce good psotive long term effects. It does not. it never does. no other case. There are lots of aspects of our psyches that are falling to the onslaughts of brain research, and it will be interesting to see how that turns out.

the brain research guys don't study religious experince. that was the whole point of my post.

why don't atheists ever read? What A Hermit was experiencing seems rather close to Plotinus's One, which is beyond all description -- and which lacks personality and is eternally fixed. That entity "creates" timelessly; the Universe is emanations from it.

"personality" is a blind alley. no verse in the Bilbe says God has "personality." that is beside the point.

God = Planto's one! All aseity is assiety. It also seems like Richard Carrier's "Vulcan mind meld with God", a doozy of a mystical experience, in

Carrier is a pretencious idiot. that doesn't make the studies go away. you are just flying in the face of scientific evidence.

Athiests love science until it disproves their hate, then they ignore it.

Metacrock, you ought to try to look past your pet theological beliefs and stop reading them into others' beliefs. I try to do that myself; I recognize that Democritus's atoms are far from quantum-field-theory particles.

That is certainly an unfair and not well thought out statement. I am clearly moving beyond the limitations of a purely Christian view point and including all religions and all traditions, but that is not enough! It wont be enough until I totally throw all belief. Clearly that is just ideology talking. One who is more conversant with the conversation of Western thought, especially theology, would see this.

A Hermit said...

"that' jut semantics. How can the term "God" be anthropomorphic when it can applie to the Hegelian dialectic or the Plantoinc forms or a billion "incidents" of process?

you have merely limited your view of God as a matter of semantics."Aren't you the one who says you have a "personal relationship" with a God who takes an active and interventionist interest in your affairs? Do you not identify this God with the person of Jesus Christ?

Hermit and/or Loren:

Explain to me how you aren't anthropomorphizing when you do that.

It should be obvious that it's not anthropomorphic, unless you don't know what the words means.I am constantly saying "not a guy in the sky." I say "not A being." God is not a being. I say God is not possessed of personality. How is any of that anthropomorphic? you think the slightest trace of consciousness and will is anthropomorphic but I have constantly said that we can't recogizne God's conscoiusness as such becuase it would be such a higher form.

I think it's absurdly absurd for you to charge that linking Plato's one with the Christian God and Brahman and all the other God concepts in the world is anthropomorphizing or imposing the Christian God on everyone. That's just stupid. Sorry to be blunt bu that's one of the dumber moves I've seen. I think that shows how neither of you ever really think about what I say. I find that typical of atheism.

Anyone who has followed my blog as long as Hermit has should know that my view is that of Paul Tillich God is not a being but being itself. Not a bit anthropomorphic. God is the basis of reality and the aspect of being that grounds reality. "He" is an aspect of being, the ground of being, the basis of it. We only say "He" as an convention in the first place. That's the very opposite of your criticisms. Jesus is a different deal. Jesus is the incorporation of God into the form of a man, not the coming to earth of a man-like God or his he God in a man suit. He's the unique transmogrification of God into the nature of human being.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Brain Chemistry is no Aswer to Religious Experience


The media is replete with articles such as the one by NPR which tries to say that RE is the result of Brian chemistry.

the point of the article is to destroy faith in religion by reducing religious experinces to brain chemistry. They link up the sensations and the activities of the brain when one is thinking about God. That is exactly the evdience I sue when I talk about the structure in the brain that gives us the idea of God. That general argument holds no terror for one who believes in religious experince. It doesn't disprove RE and it doesn't provide an alternative that reduces to naturalistic origins either. Here's why:

(1) they can't prove they are studying real mystical experience.

Most of the researchers who do the God part of the brain studies, who try to match up parts of the brain with religious experience, this goes for the guy with the helmet, Ramerchandrin, Newberg and all of them, none or them are able to show that their subjective are having real mystical experiences.

The one way to do that scientifically, those guys don't even know about. The way is the "M scale." You have me speak fo this before. It was invented Ralph Hood, it measures the extent to which one has had 'peak' experience or mystical experience. The researcher in that article do not use the M scale at all. That means they are just assuming that any thought about God is as good as any other thought, that' is not the case.

Since they aren't measuring religious experiences they can't claim that religious experience reduces to brain chemistry. These reductionists are pulling a bait and switch. They switching real religious experince for any thoughts about God, or strange experinces in which something about God is mentioned. This came out in John Hick's book about New Frontier of Religion and Science.

(2) Lining up chemical with God imagery proves nothing.

All these researchers are doing is trying to line up the presence of some tranquilizing chemical such as serotonin and some form of thought which includes religious imagery. That doesn't prove anything becasue they can never show that the serotonin is the actual cause of the transformation effets that occur long term over the life span of the subject many years subsequent.

(a) is the chemical present becasue the tranquil effect of God's presence causes the release?

(b) did God release the chemical to calm them down?

(c) Does the presence of the chemical even have anything to do with the transformation effects?

None of those have been answered.

(3) Opening receptors to the divine.

We are sentient flesh and blood beings. If God created us, he created us that way. If we are the product of evolution only, evolution has made that way. That's the way we are. We think by having our thoughts transmitted by neural receptors in teh brain, those are chemicals. Just like having ears. We hear by picking up vibrations on the ear drum.

God could not speak audibly to us without using your ears. By the same token, if God wants to give us thoughts and sensations, he has to paly with the chemicals. The fact that a trigger mechanism can open the receptors so that we are more included to these experiences than otherwise is no more a disprove of God being involved in the process than Moses having ears to hear God speak disproves God's voice.

Reductionists will make much of the fact that several studies in which psilocybin mushrooms were used produced a valid mystical experience. That is ture in several studies, the major two being Good Friday by Pahnke, (early 60s) the follow up in the 80s (forget who did that) and a recent one by Grifiths (Johns Hopkins).

I actually discussed the latter study with Hood, the inventor of the M scale. he's impressed with the study but doesn't find it challenging his work or his conclusions at all. Far from seeing it as any kind of disproof of God he takes the study as a whole as proof of all of his ideas about God about religious experince. Most researchers in that field do. None of them actually try to use that kind of study as disproof most of them use it as proof of the validity of religious experince, mushrooms and all. But this is a very different set of researchers and a different kind of research from the Ramerchandrin God finder helmet and God part of the brain.

The Good Friday study and its follow up is even less of an argument for reductionism and more proof for the open receptor theory that the pro mystical core faction argue (the idea that God is doing it). The reason is becasue the follow up shows that the mystical experinces induced by the mushrooms produced profound changes in teh subjects that radically transformed their lives and stuck with them through out life. Many of them said that was the most crucial moment in their lives.

Now it is true that the meditation group, the control group that did not take mushrooms only did mediation did not have those profound changes. But the thing is almost all the mushroom takers were mystical anyway before they tried the mushrooms. They were chosen from among a group of seminarians. Most of them had had religious experinces in their childhoods and were headed for the ministry. They were mystics long before they were mushroom takers. Most of them had already had these experiences. So the what this is proves is not tha the very same experiences with the very same outcome can be induced by naturalistic means, but that the triggers (including drugs) open the receptors which are partly opened anyway and experiences already being had become greater.

This is obvious because otherwise they would have to have the same experince as the control group since the argument is that those experinces can be induced naturally. But the fact they were already having them disrupts that argument because this was not something induced upon people who had no relationship with the divine.

(4) Doesn't explain outcomes

The outcome for most is that they find their lives transformed by mystical experiences. This has been demonstrated over and over with 350 studies over a four decade period. Those transformation effects have not duplicated by any other means. The immediate sensation of the religious experince may be had by inducing some drug, but the long term positive effects have not been so duplicated. The point is not the immediate sensation but the effects long term.

There is no other example of such effects being induced by anything. The only example that comes close is the Good Friday follow up, but since that experimental group were mystics anyway, there is no control that would separate the two effects; making the open receptor idea much more plausible.

Most atheist seem to think the point is that God is doing this by magic. Andrew Newberg in Why God Wont Go Away rights about the realization of a neural dimension to the spiritual, without fear of reduction to the naturalistic. Its' not magic and it doesn't have to be. God can work through naturalistic means. The one difference that we can look at and say "this is God" rather just "this is serotonin" is the long term effects and their relation to promotion of a way of life that works.

Atheists also seem to think that reductionism is beating up on the Spirit if it doesn't find some mysterious element or source of energy or some kind of energy that can't be explained. None of that, not a strange energy, or magic, or an element we don't know is necessary. We do not have to find something in the process of the experience that can't be accounted for in the natural, because it is a natural process. The thing that stands out and makes it different and tags it as the trace of God is the divine in the content of the experince, and the long term effects which can't be produced by anything else.

Monday, May 18, 2009

How do You kow Which Parts of the Bible Are Inspried?

On the other thread by me Magus asks me:

Which parts of the bible are the "true" word of god, if any? Do you believe that the bible is only a reflection of the way that the people who wrote it or do you believe god wanted it to turn out the way it did? If you believe some parts come from god and other do not, how do you determine which is which?
He didn't like my answers so I'll try again.

Which parts of the bible are the "true" word of god, if any?

Not a matter of Parts. You can't dissect a narrative line by line and ask "what parts of this narrative are the result of the writer's genius and what parts are just banal filler?" You can criticize different aspects of course, but you can't say 'this sentence is genius and this sentence is not a product of genius." The whole narrative works together to create a solid word. Narratives communicate in many subtle says. you can't limit the number of insights one can deduce from a work of art.

Fundametnalists look at the Bible in a certain way and atheists look at it in reaction the fundamentalist way. The basic assumption is made by both that the text of the Bible is, from the "In the Beginning" of Genesis to the "even so come quickly Lord Jesus" of Revelation as words transmitted from God to the mind of the authors. As though Moses sits down, takes pen in hand and a lights shines on him and a voice in his head says (in a booming echo like way) "write write write, this is is...."In in in The the ther beginning ing beginning beginning...." I don't think it works that way. I am willing to understand that when the prophets say "this is what the Lord says" they may be repeating word for word the exact verbiage God gave them to say, although not necessarily. But for most of the Bible I doubt that it works that way. I think people were just using the ideas that came to them as a result of their religious experinces, and as a result they used those concepts and feelings in the different ways that it occurred to them to use such material. They put their ideas of God into the stories and those who had real experinces really captured the nature of God's grace, and those who did not genuinely experince God failed to capture such things.

The real problem is the model. The model of the fundies says that God is writing a memo. The Bible is the word form "the Big man upstairs" and just like an executive writing a memo. Moses is taking dictation. But that model assumes directly handed down verbiage, it's even called "verbal plenary" meaning "all the verbiage is inspired." That's the model I use. I go by a model that views the Bible as a collection of writings which are based upon human encounters with the divine. People experience God in different ways, usually beyond words; to speak about that they must call up from the deep recesses of their spirits (minds) that intangible part that produces art and literature, and they formulate into words their experinces. That means they have to load the experince into cultural constructs.

A cultural construct is an idea that is suggested by culture, by association with other people in society and the symbols and analogies and metaphors that tacitly speak to us at a level we understand but can't necessarily articulate. In the ancient world life was cheap, people were used to thinking in terms of either wiping out the other guy or being wiped out. The ancient Hebrews magnified their culture, but a romanticized view of themselves and their struggles into narrative form and used that framework to express the wordless sense of the numinous that they experienced through contact with God. The tendency to want to wipe out other people, to destroy totally every trace of their existence and lives, is part of the cultural constructs which act as a lens to give words to the writer's deep and hidden senses of God communicated through wordless sensations on the mystical level. So they build into the narrative a bunch of stuff about wiping these guys and those guys but what we need to understand is the major point being made.

For example, in the bit about the Amalekites, I'm pretty sure the bit about the infants is added in latter. I think we see real evdience in the text that it's been tweaked. But the real point is not wipe out the Amalekites nor is it that it's ok for us to wipe our enemies, the real point is obey God. Saul didn't obey God and the incident was a down fall for him. Now it doesn't matter that the incident is this failure to wipe out the infants it could have been anything. They wrote it like that. The real point is do whatever God tells you to do. But that God is not going to tell us to wipe out our enemies and destroy their kids is pretty obvious to most of us. We can defend that description well enough to say "God did not command this." We can even put it up to religious experince. My experinces of God tell me God doesn't want this. But why did the author of that part of the Bible (presumably Samuel) think that God did tell him that? Because he's filtering the experince through his cultural constructs.

Now you might ask "but then how can we learn moral truths? Our moral understanding is not static. Our understanding evolves over time. The ancient Hebrews could not understand this was wrong because it was common place in their day. We understand the wrong of it because culture evolves. Jesus understood it was wrong. Jesus did not say "wipe out the Amalekties" he said "turn the other cheek." He even corrected the understanding of the OT generations when he said "you have heard it said an eye a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you turn the other cheek." With the Bible we do not proof text. We don't determine what to do by one verse. We use the preponderance of the evidence, meaning everything we can understand about the Bible. We don't stop there, we study and understand what others have said about it. We use the words of the saints and the great theolgoians as precedents and bench marks to help us interpret. Samuel was not speaking with authority for all time in telling that story. He was merely telling a story he heard soem someone and putting down on paper some tradition (probably the real author was writing from Babylon in the exile--that's the most heavily redacted part of the Bible). He was putting into the work his understanding of God from his experinces as well what he had been taught. But the end result is a narrative and like all narratives it only works to accomplish its task when we try to understand it as a narrative and not force it into molds where it doesn't fit such as memo from the boss, military communique, or auto owner's manual.

It doesn't make sense to say "this is inspired and this isn't." That would be like saying "which feet of Elliot's The Wasteland are inspired and which aren't. You can't segment things in that way. We need to understand the bible as literature. It's major function is to bestow grace upon the reader. you read it to be healed to find spiritual edification and to understand God's laws. There are those who think it should be read like an instruction Manuel for a car. They seem to think it's going to tell us ever move to make in the same way that the owner's Manuel tells us how to change the oil. Since the Bible is a collection of different works written over a long period of time it doesn't make sense to try and fit the whole collection into one model and understand it all in the same way.

We don't have to understand exactly the role of inspiration nor do we need to look for the inspired parts as opposed to the banal parts. What we need to do is understand the over all preponderance of teaching and weigh that in light of what God shows us in our own lives. When we do this grace is bestowed, we are healed, we are drawn closer to God but we do not have to relate to it as if we are reading the instructions to change the oil in the car.

Magnus, if you think this is still inadequate, tell me why. I want you to have questions. I am sure you will and I'm ready to answer them.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Religous A Priori


they had a little feeding frenzy mocking and ridiculing ideas that are way beyond their understanding. They had the fun of saying really stupid thins and showing how ignorant they are.I begin a rational exposition of why they are stupid. They insult my spelling (14 little trollish comments on it) then they run away like the little cowards they are.

Even Runamck is too stupid and too afraid to say and actaully debate. What a putz. What dildo.

What is the meaning of this? A whole generation of wastrel robots who can't think but are violently over excited and ready conduct a lynching at the slightest idea that contradicts their precious little ideological slogans.

Its' so fair to attack a dyslexic for spelling. that's like standing over the wheel chair of a person without legs and going "Run Damn! you lazy creator why can't you run??"

why would anyone want to be associated with a movement of angry violent and stupid people who can't think and have n scruples? And who are also cowards on top of it all.

What follows is an article that was written by me some time ago. It has recently become the target of a band of know nothing scum bags who have nothing better to do than to attack things they don't understand. I suspect that they do understand what I'm saying, they know they cant' answer it. I've ripped a hole you could drive a truck through their little lame brain stupidity, which they depend upon to keep out the fear of hell, so they really hate me and they really have to shut it up.

this is much like people from a truck stop discovering that the guy down the street is a world famous virtuoso on the violin so they have to smash his violin because he must be silence lest one of them discovers real music and learns something.

one of the shit holes posted a hate mail saying "anyone who claims to understand this stuff is insane. Why is that such a terrible threat to them that someone understandings things they are too stupid to understand?

this is not such an amazing idea. It's just saying that something fall thorough the cracks in scientific induction, some issues are not scientific issues. why is that so alarming to them?

Here is the post where The coward who lunched the attack tries justifying his ignorance. Here he faces me and get's his head handed to him.

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

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

(3) Religious truth is apprehended phenomenologically, 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 a 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


In my dealings with atheist 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 appear for a large swath of 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. We have forgotten that essentially science is metaphysics, as such it is just one of many approach that can be derived from analytical reasoning, empiricism, rationalism, phenomenology and other approaches.

Problem with Empiricism

Is empirical evidence the best or only true form of knowledge? This is an apologetics question because it bears upon the arguments for the existence of God.

Is lack of empirical evidence, if there is a lack, a draw back for God arguments?
I deny that there is a lack, but it has to be put in the proper context. That will come in future threads, for this one I will bracket that answer and just assume there no really good empirical evidence (even though I think there is).

I will ague that empiricism is not true source of knowledge by itself and logic is more important.

True empirical evidence in a philosophical sense means exact first hand observation. In science it doesn't really mean that, it implies a more truncated process. Consider this, we drop two balls of different size from a tower. Do they fall the same rate or the bigger one falls faster? They are supposed to fall at the same rate, right? To say we have empirical proof, in the literal sense of the term we would have to observe every single time two balls are dropped for as long as the tower exists. We would have to sit for thousands of years and observe millions of drops and then we couldn't say it was truly empirical because we might have missed one.

That's impractical for science so we cheat with inductive reasoning. We make assumptions of probability. We say we observed this 40,000 times, that's a tight correlation, so we will assume there is a regularity in the universe that causes it to work this way every time. We make a statistical correlation. Like the surgeon general saying that smoking causes cancer. The tobacco companies were really right, they read their Hume, there was no observation of cause and effect, because we never observe cause and effect. But the correlation was so tight we assume cause and effect.

The ultimate example is Hume's billiard balls. Hume says we do not see the cause of the ball being made to move, we only really see one ball stop and the other start. But this happens every time we watch, so we assume that the tight correlation gives us causality.

The naturalistic metaphysician assumes that all of nature works this way. A tight correlation is as good as a cause. So when we observe only naturalistic causes we can assume there is nothing beyond naturalism. The problem is many phenomena can fall between the cracks. One might go one's whole life never seeing a miraculous event, but that doesn't mean someone else doesn't observe such things. All the atheist can say is "I have never seen this" but I can say "I have." Yet the atheist lives in a construct that is made up of his assumptions about naturalistic c/e and excluding anything that challenges it. That is just like Kuhns paradigm shift. The challenges are absorbed into the paradigm until there are so many the paradigm has to shit. This may never happen in naturalism.

So this constructed view of the world that is made out of assumption and probabilities misses a lot of experience that people do have that contradicts the paradigm of naturalism. The thing is, to make that construct they must use logic. After all what they are doing in making the correlation is merely inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning has to play off of deductive reasoning to even make sense.

Ultimately then, "empiricism" as construed by naturalist (inductive probabilistic assumptions building constructs to form a world view) is inadequate because it is merely a construct and rules out a priori much that contradicts.

The A priori

God is not given directly in sense data, God transcends the threshold of human understanding, and thus is not given amenable to empirical proof. As I have commented in previous essays (blog spots) religion is not a scientific question. There are other methodologies that must be used to understand religion, since the topic is essentially inter-subjective (and science thrives upon objective data). We can study religious behavior through empirical means and we can compare all sorts of statistical realizations through comparisons of differing religious experiences, behaviors, and options. But we cannot produce a trace of God in the universe through "objective" scientific means. Here I use the term "trace" in the Derision sense, the "track," "footprint" the thing to follow to put us on the scent. As I have stated in previous essays, what we must do is find the "co-determinate," the thing that is left by God like footprints in the snow. The trace of God can be found in God's affects upon the human heart, and that shows up objectively, or inter-subjectively in changed behavior, changed attitudes, life transformations. This is the basis of the mystical argument that I use, and in a sense it also have a bearing upon my religious instruct argument. But here I wish to present anther view of the trace of God. This could be seen as a co-determinate perhaps, more importantly, it frees religion from the structures of having to measure up to a scientific standard of proof: the religious a prori.

Definition of the a priori.

"This notion [Religious a priori] is used by philosophers of religion to express the view that the sense of the Divine is due to a special form of awareness which exists along side the cognitive, moral, and aesthetic forms of awareness and is not explicable by reference to them. The concept of religion as concerned with the awareness of and response to the divine is accordingly a simple notion which cannot be defined by reference other than itself." --David Pailin "Religious a pariori" Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology (498)

The religious a priroi deals with the spacial nature of religion as non-derivative of any other discipline, and especially it's special religious faculty of understanding which transcends ordinary means of understanding. Since the enlightenment atheist have sought to explain away religion by placing it in relative and discardable terms. The major tactic for accomplishing this strategy was use of the sociological theory of structural functionalism. By this assumption religion was chalked up to some relative and passing social function, such as promoting loyalty to the tribe, or teaching morality for the sake of social cohesion. This way religion was explained naturalisticaly and it was also set in relative terms because these functions in society, while still viable (since religion is still around) could always pass away. But this viewpoint assumes that religion is derivative of some other discipline; it's primitive failed science, concocted to explain what thunder is for example. Religion is an emotional solace to get people through hard times and make sense of death and destruction (it's a ll sin, fallen world et). But the a priori does away with all that. The a priori says religion is its own thing, it is not failed primitive sincere, nor is it merely a crutch for surviving or making sense of the world (although it can be that) it is also its own discipline; the major impetus for religion is the sense of the numinous, not the need for explanations of the natural world. Anthropologists are coming more and more to discord that nineteenth century approach anyway.

Thomas A Indianopolus
prof of Religion at of Miami U. of Ohio

Cross currents

"It is the experience of the transcendent, including the human response to that experience, that creates faith, or more precisely the life of faith. [Huston] Smith seems to regard human beings as having a propensity for faith, so that one speaks of their faith as "innate." In his analysis, faith and transcendence are more accurate descriptions of the lives of religious human beings than conventional uses of the word, religion. The reason for this has to do with the distinction between participant and observer. This is a fundamental distinction for Smith, separating religious people (the participants) from the detached, so-called objective students of religious people (the observers). Smith's argument is that religious persons do not ordinarily have "a religion." The word, religion, comes into usage not as the participant's word but as the observer's word, one that focuses on observable doctrines, institutions, ceremonies, and other practices. By contrast, faith is about the non observable, life-shaping vision of transcendence held by a participant..."

The Skeptic might argue "if religion as this unique form of consciousness that sets it apart form other forms of understanding, why does it have to be taught?" Obviously religious belief is taught through culture, and there is a good reason for that, because religion is a cultural construct. But that does not diminish the reality of God. Culture teaches religion but God is known to people in the heart. This comes through a variety of ways; through direct experience, through miraculous signs, through intuitive sense, or through a sense of the numinous. The Westminster's Dictionary of Christian Theology ..defines Numinous as "the sense of awe in attracting and repelling people to the Holy." Of course the background assumption I make is, as I have said many times, that God is apprehended by us mystically--beyond word, thought, or image--we must encode that understanding by filtering it through our cultural constructs, which creates religious differences, and religious problems.

The Culturally constructed nature of religion does not negate the a priori. "Even though the forms by Which religion is expressed are culturally conditioned, religion itself is sui generis .. essentially irreducible to and undeceivable from the non-religious." (Paladin). Nor can the a priori be reduced to some other form of endeavor. It cannot be summed up by the use of ethics or any other field, it cannot be reduced to explanation of the world or to other fields, or physiological counter causality. To propose such scientific analysis, except in terms of measuring or documenting effects upon behavior, would yield fruitless results. Such results might be taken as proof of no validity, but this would be a mistake. No scientific control can ever be established, because any study would only be studying the culturally constructed bits (by definition since language and social sciences are cultural constructs as well) so all the social sciences will wind up doing is merely reifying the phenomena and reducing the experience. In other words, This idea can never be studied in a social sciences sense, all that the social sciences can do is redefine the phenomena until they are no longer discussing the actual experiences of the religious believer, but merely the ideology of the social scientist (see my essay on Thomas S. Kuhn.

The attempt of skeptics to apply counter causality, that is, to show that the a priori phenomena is the result of naturalistic forces and not miraculous or divine, not only misses the boat in its assumptions about the nature of the argument, but it also loses the phenomena by reduction to some other phenomena. It misses the boat because it assumes that the reason for the phenomena is the claim of miraculous origin, “I feel the presence of God because God is miraculously giving me this sense of his presence.” While some may say that, it need not be the believers argument. The real argument is simply that the co-determinate are signs of the trace of God in the universe, not because we cant understand them being produced naturalistically, but because they evoke the sense of numinous and draw us to God. The numinous implies something beyond the natural, but it need not be “a miracle.” The sense of the numinous is actually a natural thing, it is part of our apprehension of the world, but it points to the sublime, which in turn points to transcendence. In other words, the attribution of counter causality does not, in and of itself, destroy the argument, while it is the life transformation through the experience that is truly the argument, not the phenomena itself. Its the affects upon the believer of the sense of Gods presence and not the sense of Gods presence that truly indicates the trance of God.

Moreover, the attempts to reduce the causality to something less than the miraculous also lose the phenomena in reification.William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (The Gilford Lectures):

"Medical materialism seems indeed a good appellation for the too simple-minded system of thought which we are considering. Medical materialism finishes up Saint Paul by calling his vision on the road to Damascus a discharging lesion of the occipital cortex, he being an epileptic. It snuffs out Saint Teresa as an hysteric, Saint Francis of Assisi as an hereditary degenerate. George Fox's discontent with the shams of his age, and his pining for spiritual veracity, it treats as a symptom of a disordered colon. Carlyle's organ-tones of misery it accounts for by a gastro-duodenal catarrh. All such mental over-tensions, it says, are, when you come to the bottom of the matter, mere affairs of diathesis (auto-intoxications most probably), due to the perverted action of various glands which physiology will yet discover. And medical materialism then thinks that the spiritual authority of all such personages is successfully undermined."

This does not mean that the mere claim of religious experience of God consciousness is proof in and of itself, but it means that it must be taken on its own terms. It clearly answers the question about why God doesn't reveal himself to everyone; He has, or rather, He has made it clear to everyone that he exists, and He has provided everyone with a means of knowing Him. He doesn't get any more explicit because faith is a major requirement for belief. Faith is not an arbitrary requirement, but the rational and logical result of a world made up of moral choices. God reveals himself, but on his own terms. We must seek God on those terms, in the human heart and the basic sense of the numinous and in the nature of religious encounter. There are many aspects and versions of this sense, it is not standardized and can be describes in many ways:

Forms of the A priori.

Schleiermacher's "Feeling of Utter Dependence.

Frederick Schleiermacher, (1768-1834) in On Religion: Speeches to it's Cultured Disposers, and The Christian Faith, sets forth the view that religion is not reducible to knowledge or ethical systems. It is primarily a phenomenological apprehension of God consciousness through means of religious affections. Affections is a term not used much anymore, and it is easily confused with mere emotion. Sometimes Schleiermacher is understood as saying that "I become emotional when I pay and thus there must be an object of my emotional feelings." Though he does vintner close to this position in one form of the argument, this is not exactly what he's saying.

Schleiermacher is saying that there is a special intuitive sense that everyone can grasp of this whole, this unity, being bound up with a higher reality, being dependent upon a higher unity. In other words, the "feeling" can be understood as an intuitive sense of "radical contingency" (int he sense of the above ontological arugments).He goes on to say that the feeling is based upon the ontological principle as its theoretical background, but doesn't' depend on the argument because it proceeds the argument as the pre-given pre-theoretical pre-cognitive realization of what Anslem sat down and thought about and turned into a rational argument: why has the fools said in his heart 'there is no God?' Why a fool? Because in the heart we know God. To deny this is to deny the most basic realization about reality.

Rudolph Otto's Sense of the Holy (1868-1937)

The sense of power in the numinous which people find when confronted by the sacred. The special sense of presence or of Holiness which is intuitive and observed in all religious experience around the world.

Paul Tillich's Object of Ultimate Concern.

We are going to die. We cannot avoid this. This is our ultimate concern and sooner or latter we have to confront it. When we do we realize a sense of transformation that gives us a special realization existentially that life is more than material.

see also My article on Toilet's notion of God as the Ground of Being.

Tillich's concept made into God argument.

As Robert R. Williams puts it:

There is a "co-determinate to the Feeling of Utter dependence.

"It is the original pre-theoretical consciousness...Schleiermacher believes that theoretical cognition is founded upon pre-theoretical intersubjective cognition and its life world. The latter cannot be dismissed as non-cognitive for if the life world praxis is non-cognitive and invalid so is theoretical cognition..S...contends that belief in God is pre-theoretical, it is not the result of proofs and demonstration, but is conditioned soley by the modification of feeling of utter dependence. Belief in God is not acquired through intellectual acts of which the traditional proofs are examples, but rather from the thing itself, the object of religious experience..If as S...says God is given to feeling in an original way this means that the feeling of utter dependence is in some sense an apparition of divine being and reality. This is not meant as an appeal to revelation but rather as a naturalistic eidetic"] or a priori. The feeling of utter dependence is structured by a correlation with its whence." , Schleiermacher the Theologian, p 4.

The believer is justified in assuming that his/her experiences are experiences of a reality, that is to say, that God is real.

Freedom from the Need to prove.

Schleiermacher came up with his notion of the feeling when wrestling with Kantian Dualism. Kant had said that the world is divided into two aspects of relaity the numenous and the pheneomenal. The numenous is not experienced through sense data, and sense God is not experineced through sense data, God belongs only to the numenous. The problem is that this robbs us of an object of theological discourse. We can't talk about God because we can't experience God in sense data. Schleiermacher found a way to run an 'end round' and get around the sense data. Experience of God is given directly in the "feeling" apart form sense data.

This frees us form the need to prove the existence of God to others, because we know that God exists in a deep way that cannot be entreated by mere cultural constructs or reductionist data or deified phenomena. This restores the object of theological discourse. Once having regained its object, theological discourse can proceed to make the logical deduction that there must be a CO-determinate to the feeling, and that CO-determinate is God. In that sense Schleiermacher is saying "if I have affections about God must exist as an object of my affections"--not merely because anything there must be an object of all affections, but because of the logic of the co-determinate--there is a sense of radical contingency, there must be an object upon which we are radically contingent.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Discussing Soteriological Darama With My Friend Hermit


My soteriological dara theory is about why God allows pain and suffering and evil. Please read the whole theory here, as this will enable understanding of this discussion. My friend and constant sparing partner Hermit brings up some issues that I think should be explained or dealt with in some way. It's an interesting discussion. Just to get started, let me post the basic assumptions I make in presenting the theory:

(1) The assumption that God wants a "moral universe" and that this value outweighs all others.

The idea that God wants a moral universe I take from my basic view of God and morality. Following in the footsteps of Joseph Fletcher (Situation Ethics) I assume that love is the background of the moral universe (this is also an Augustinian view). I also assume that there is a deeply ontological connection between love and Being. Axiomatically, in my view point, love is the basic impitus of Being itself. Thus, it seems reasonable to me that, if morality is an upshot of love, or if love motivates moral behavior, then the creation of a moral universe is essential.

(2) that internal "seeking" leads to greater internalization of values than forced compliance or complaisance that would be the result of intimidation.

That's a pretty fair assumption. We all know that people will a lot more to achieve a goal they truly beileve in than one they merely feel forced or obligated to follow but couldn't care less about.

(3)the the drama or the big mystery is the only way to accomplish that end.

The pursuit of the value system becomes a search of the heart for ultimate meaning,that ensures that people continue to seek it until it has been fully internalized

the argument looks like this:

(1)God's purpose in creation: to create a Moral Universe, that is one in which free moral agents willingly choose the Good.

(2) Moral choice requires absolutely that choice be free (thus free will is necessitated).

(3) Allowance of free choices requires the risk that the chooser will make evil choices

(4)The possibility of evil choices is a risk God must run, thus the value of free outweighs all other considerations, since without there would be no moral universe and the purpose of creation would be thwarted.

This leaves the atheist in the position of demanding to know why God doesn't just tell everyone that he's there, and that he requires moral behavior, and what that entails. Thus there would be no mystery and people would be much less inclined to sin.

This is the point where Soteriological Drama figures into it. Argument on Soteriological Drama:

(5) Life is a "Drama" not for the sake of entertainment, but in the sense that a dramatic tension exists between our ordinary observations of life on a daily basis, and the ultiamte goals, ends and purposes for which we are on this earth.

(6) Clearly God wants us to seek on a level other than the obvious, daily, demonstrative level or he would have made the situation more plain to us

(7) We can assume that the reason for the "big mystery" is the internalization of choices. If God appeared to the world in open objective fashion and laid down the rules, we would probably all try to follow them, but we would not want to follow them. Thus our obedience would be lip service and not from the heart.

(8) therefore, God wants a heart felt response which is internationalized value system that comes through the search for existential answers; that search is phenomenological; introspective, internal, not amenable to ordinary demonstrative evidence.

In other words, we are part of a great drama and our actions and our dilemmas and our choices are all part of the way we respond to the situation as characters in a drama.

This theory also explains why God doesn't often regenerate limbs in healing the sick. That would be a dead giveaway. God creates criteria under which healing takes place, that criteria can't negate the overall plan of a search.

The most important point that drives the whole theory is the idea of internalizing the values of the good. It this that makes it necessary to live life as a long search and that is why God allows free choices even though they often mean evil choices. Internalizing requires a search.

This brings us to Hermit's first point:

He's quoting me first

"(1) Meta:
It doesn't do us any good to be spoon fed ideas. We have to learn for ourselves the meaning of the good or it wont mean anything to us, our hearts wont be in it.


"There's a big difference between "spoon feeding" and teaching...(trust me, I'm married to a teacher...I hear about it all the time...). But teaching doesn't involve hiding evidence, concealing knowledge or making it more difficult than not to find the honest search for the truth should reveal that truth if it's really there, and any teacher will help that search, but not by hiding in the shadows and allowing injuries to occur.

I didn't say anything about hiding evdience. I said the evidence s clear and easy to find, but you to search. It's not that its hidden, God's presence is hidden to some exent, but it can be found. The evidence is there but you have to want to see it. That makes all the difference: skepticism thrives on wanting to doubt.

Moerover, one does not have to teach what is obvious. If an answer is obvious it need not be taught. to teach is to assume something needs to be expalined and that means its something we can't understand without help.

"(2) Meta:
suffering is not an teaching agency, just suffering in and of itself doesn't teach much. it's the necessity of the kind of world in which one must search out the answers because they are not obvious that makes suffering necessary as a consequence."

I completely disagree; the only necessary consequence of not searching for answers is continued ignorance. Pain, suffering, fear and anguish are not necessary.
That's really twisting the premise of what I said. First of all to assume that something needs to be taught means its not obvious and you can't see it without explaination. So all the knowledge you accept as such is "hidden" in the sense in which you use that word here. Secondly, I said suffering in and of itself does not teach much. Do you disagree? You beileve that suffering does teach much? then you shouldn't mind it. Case closed. No problem of pain.

read this here:

Now you want to assert that suffering isn't necessary, what do you have to replace it? It is necessary to the extent that God must allow free will if wants moral universe, because moral choices require freedom or the yare not moral. Thus the moral unvierse must be a free will universe. That means have to be free to actualy make the wrong choice, when that happens suffering happens. Thus suffering is necessary to a moral univerese.


What you are proposing is akin to leaving a small child alone in a room full of sharp knives and pots of boiling liquids so they will learn, from the "necessary consequences" of their cuts and burns that sharp knives and boiling water are dangerous. The child will certainly internalize that lesson, but there are better ways to teach it.
Are you a child Hermit? You are not a man? you can't make decisions? This is why God gives us a moral sesne, and a moral law on the heart. This is why we have society and society has rules. But your strange desire to put life out on the streets on the same par has a child's nursery and to assme if like is not totally peachy then there can't be a loving God and to totally resist any and all possible answers is nothing short of impossing a double standard. You want to be free to question, you want to be to disbelieve, but then you don't want that free when using it wrongly means consqeunces.

You are just cheating the issues by insertion of a false premise. The premise that there can no pain of any kind whatsoever or else God is either no good or not there, why should we accept that premise? It is a logical option that God has his reasons, why is it not logical to assume that?

What calculus do you use to decide what is fair and what is not? How can you, a mere mortal pretend to tally the balance sheet and decide that creation isn't worth it, when you can't even understand the issues at steak (nor can any of us)?You do not have an infinite knowledge of all things. So how can you possilbly tally everything up? I mean you do not even know if other worlds exist. How you determine that it's not worth it to create and allow the pain and suffering on the assumption that it will all be redeemed?

"(3) Meta:
if everytime anyone did anything hurtful god worked a miracle to stop it no one would ever have to search for the truth and would never internalize the good.

"I think it's insulting and demeaning to humanity to presume that we are incapable of learning to be good without the possibility of apparently gratuitous pain and suffering.
That is a contrdiction to point one. In point one I said suffereing in and of itself does not teach much. But you disagreed with that. Now you take my theory to mean that we need suffering to learn to the good. But you are not taking into account why that is. You speak as though you think, that I think that is' the suffering itself that teaches. I denied that explicitly. What is necessary to do the teaching is the search, not the suffering. The suffering is a side effect that just comes with the territory. Moreover, you define it as "gratuitous" and I never defined it as such. It's a side effect of free choices, but it is not gtratuitous (for its own sake) it's the necessary result of being free in a real world.

Does that meant that I trivialize pain. No. Of coure not. We are still obligated as a part of our duty to humanity to aid in the cesation of suffering as much as we can.

What moral improvement do we get from the rape and murder of a child, for example?
Again, that question assumes that the suffering itself is the teacher. I already said it's not. Its' a consquence of having freedom to make wrong choices. Wrong choices need not hurt people, assuming we can make the right wrong choices. But the freedom to make them is essential.


Most of us instinctively recoil with horror at such cruelty, we don't need to have it actually happen to understand that it's a bad thing..
That's why society has laws. But you keep assuming that I've the suffereing itself is the teacher. How many times must I remind you? The suffernig is the necessary consquence of freedom. If all people would chose not to hurt others we could have a perfect world. But they are not going to choose that, and if they don't have the freedom to choose then they are not capable of learning to make moral choices.


in fact I would intervene to prevent such a thing from happening if I could, even at the risk of my own life. Why would a genuinely loving God do less?

Because the freedom to choose is intrinsic to love. Don't you know you can't force someone to love? It's not love if it's just some automatic instinct, or if its forced. God wants us to love in the heart. He wants us to seek him and discover the values of the good and make choices out of love, and all of that requires that we have the freedom to choose. Thus, having the freedom to choose, we must be allowed to choose wrongly or we don't really have it.

If your world view is right why is humanity not a paradise? why have not all people chose rightly? You say we can love without God, we don't morality in terms of rules, (IF I understood you correctly) we don't belief in God. All we have to do is love. We can all just act in love and everything is fine. They don't we?

I says it's because we have sin nature. We have to do this search thing to find the answer to that, or in my off seminarian MacFarland* speak: we have to discover a way to mediate ultimate transformative experince in answer to the human problematic. We have free will, but we don't understand how to apply to until we come to acquire the values of the good. Then we can choose the good, and that means choosing others over self. We can do that when we are bogged down in sin nature. We must be freed from sin nature by God's power of transformation (supernature). All of this requires free will because if we are not free we can't love or make moral choices.

We both believe we are free to choose. But I believe there's more to it, it's not just so intuative that need only do some natural spontaneous act of kindness, we have to go through the mill to gain the perspective necessary to discord selfishness.

*Neil MacFarland, Perkins professor who taught my religion in Global perspective class, that's where I got that phraseology.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Cuasality in Miracle Hunting

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In the discussions of miracles several atheists have made some big misconceptions.

(1) mistaken assumptions about my knowledge of correlation and cause.

some assume that since they are clever enough to know the very basic information, the difference in correlation and causality, that I must not know that because I'm a Christian and Christians are stupid, and they are so very clever to know some basic fact that all high school kids should get, correlation is not causality.

But what they don't get is that just i argue inductively that correlation is indicative of a cause if certain conditions obtain, that doesn't mean I don't know the difference.

(2) What these very clever atheist don't get is that correlation is indicative of cause.
part of the problem is that certain people don't seem know what indicative means. Be that as it may, there is an epistemological gap in our knowledge it a problem at the most fundamental philosophical level. We can only establish causality in one way, buy making very correlations and eliminating alternate causes. This is the only way there is, and that's what Hume really proved with the billiard balls.

science can't prove causes. We can only prove correlations. When I assume causes on miracles, it's the only way we ever establish cause. Hans says "only if we eliminate the alternate causes." Yes, that's true, but it also leads to recursion of the original problem. Because if we can't observe causality and it must be inferred from correlation, then you can't say "I have eliminated an alternate cause by showing causality and eliminating it." That's just a repeat of the same problem. The alternate causes are only possibilities, they are not proven either. What is boils down to is in the final analysis a really tight correlation is the only way to determine cause. Although it is important to eliminate the alternative possible causes, essential in fact. What this means is I am right to assume causes from correlations, given that I can eliminate alternatives, and I usually can.

All of this means that medical evidence showing the disease went away, when examined by scientific medicos is good evidence for miracles. It's not absolute, there is no absolute. There will always be a gap in our epistemology. We will always have to make epistemic judgment.

(2) Don't need to show hit rate

The argument is made we must show the percentage of those healed vs not healed.

That's ridiculous. The reason is because we do not know the reason when someone is not healed. We cannot assume "O not bein healed means there's no ;god, because some are healed." Knowing the hit rate is important in many cases. such as prophesy, "so and so is a true prophet he predicted x," but how many predictions did the make that did not come true?

Knowing the hist rate is not true in terms of empirical evidence of healing because:

......(a) We don't know if the not healing is the result of no god, or God just didn't want to heal. Because a will is on the other end of the prayer we cannot treat it like a natural process and expect it to behave like a drug in a field trial.

......(b) Miracles are supposed to be impossible. they violate natural law. that's the whole theory of naturalism in a nut shell; nothing happens apart form natural law.

Thus if one miracle happens that proves miracles and all it takes is one. proving that x% are not healed doesn't prove anything. miracles are supposed to be impossible and can't happen, if one of them happens, or we can assume it happened, then that proves they do happen. We don't know the rate because God is not a drug. Divine healing is a matter of God's will.

(3) God's action in healing is not indicative of God's feelings about those healed or not healed.

This is the whole fallacy of the God hates amputees thing. You might as well say God hates breakfast because not once in my Christian walk has God ever made me scrambled eggs in the morning.

St. Augustine proved that there is no correlation between worldly prosperity or success and God's love. Rome was sacked by the vandals and everyone was saying "this disproves Christianity." but Augie said "no it doesn't, divine favor is not based worldly success. Stuff happens to Christians too, God causes it rain on the just and unjust."

(4) No double blind

Lourdes evidence does not need to be double blind First of all these are not "studies." They are not set up as a longitudinal study to see if healing works. These are real people and their journey to Lourdes is part of their journey in life in a search to be healed, they are not white lab mice plotting world conquest.

Secondly, double blind is used as a means of control so we know data is not contaminated by the subjects knowledge of the test. People suffering from an incurable disease cannot cure themselves. So it doesn't matter if they know. If the data shows the condition went away immediately and it can be documented that all traces are gone, the of course can assume healing, provided there is no counter cause such as he took a wonder drug before he left for Lourdes; they do certainly screen for that.

Of course there are still epistemological problems. There will always be such problems. That's why you can't prove you exist. But just as the answer to that problem is "Make epistemic judgment based upon regularity and inconsistency of data," so it goes with miracles, proving smoking causes cancer or anything else.

Thomas Reid got it right, we are justified in assuming empirical evidence provided it's strong evidence.

One more problem. When I say "correlation" this invites the question "how can you find a correlation if you don't know the hit rate? A correlation implies X and Y are seen together a lot, not just in one instance. But we can't go around giving people cancer and praying for them over and over to see if they ar always healed. We have to let multiple cases stand for correlation. But since we can't say why healing didn't take place we have to use empirical means to assert on a case by case basis.