Monday, July 30, 2012

Love: the Basis of Everything.


Originally Posted by Whateverman View Post
More seriously, there are many different kinds of love, and it's difficult finding one common trait running through them all. However, I think I've found it:

You want/wish/hope for the well-being happiness and prosperity of the one you're in love with.

My experiences are just as varied as anyone else's. Friendship, loyalty, trust, physical comfort, care/compassion, the willingness to put yourself through a lot of trouble to help, etc. In every relationship I've been in, several of these traits are present to varying degrees. In the most profound of those relationships, all traits were present.

Originally Posted by Dr Pepper View Post
If not a feeling what do you think love is and why do animals love each other or not. Why do people love each other one day end up hating each other another day? Do all people love the same? What does being an atheist have to do with love? Atheists feel the same emotions as you do. I suppose you think nobody can feel love if they don't think Gods exist.
The other day on a message board we were discussing the meaning of the term love. Every single atheist reduced the concept to a side effect of brain chemistry involving emotional states most of those surrounding libido. They ddidn't seem to even have a concept of love between parents, friends, family for ideals ect. I'm not saying that they don't. Yet that's not what they thought about when the word came up.

Of cousre the Christians tended to gravitate toward the concept of agope. That's what really matters for Chrsitians becuase that's the word used in the NT when speaking of God's love. The atheists tended to speak as though becuase this emotional thing is brain chemistry the other doesn't even exist. Consider Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 13.

13 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

There's no way that could be describing the silly butterflies in the stomach romantic garble we feel in going the first high school prom and so on. That's clearly oriented around a higher ideal. Paul Tillich defines Agape as meaning the willingness to accord to the other the basic dignity due one as a human being. Reinhold Niebuhr, in contrast to Nietzsche's will to power speaks of "the will to the good of the other." That's how I define love: the will to the good of the other. That is a high ideal, it is not the result of brain chemistry alone. All thoughts are probalby transmitted through brain chemistry becuase that's how sentient beings communicate. That doesn't mean that's what the term reduces to.

I don't feel very loving right now, but I don't have to feel any way to talk about love, because love is not merely a feeling. A lot of people think that love is just the special way of feeling about a person, or the warm fuzzy that comes from being with a certain person. Love is much more than just a special way of feeling. It is also a value, a commitment, a sense of orientation toward others, a philosophy, a way of being in the world (an existential engagement).

There are degrees of love and kinds of love. The Greeks called sexual and romantic love Eros From which we get our word "erotic." The kind of love friends feel they called Phileo or "brotherly love" (as in "Philadelphia"). The highest form of love they called Agape. That is usually the kind of love the Bible speaks of when it speaks of God's love for us. 1 John tells us "He who loves knows God for God is love."

Agape Means: the will to value the other, or the will to the good of the other; the desire for the other to have the best. It entails the idea of according the other all rights and human dignity. It is not personal, it's a commitment to all people. Agape is sometimes translated Charity (as in kJ trains 1 Corinthians 13 "if I speak with the tongue of men and of angles and have not charity") but this is more condescending and patronizing than the actual meaning of the term. Charity can be paternalistic in the negative sense, controlling, colonizing, derogatory. Agape is a totally positive thing; one must actually seek the good of the other whatever that may be, even against one's own interest.

Now I will start saying "crazy stuff," these are things that I have theorized about and I guess they make up the radical edge of my own philosophy because they have been scoffed at plenty of times on these boards. But I don't care I'm saying it anyway.

Basis of everything: connection with Being

When I say love is the basis of everything, I mean it really is. I believe that when the Bible says "God is love" it means it literally. In other words, we should put an "itself" there. God is "love itself,": the thing that love is actually the essence of what God is. Now you may ask how can God be both being itself and love itself? Because these two are inextricably bound up together.

Love is giving, the idea of seeking the good of the other, according the other full human dignity equal to one's own, these are ideas that entail give over, supplying the other with something. It's a positivity in the sense that it supplies an actual thing to someone. Being also shares these qualifies. Being is giving in the sense that it bettors itself upon the beings and they have their existence. It is positive in the sense that it is something and not taking something away, it's not a void as nothingness is, but moves in the direction of filling a void; nothingness becomes being, the existence of things.

So love and being are really the same impulse and they both unite in the spirit of God. God is the basis of all being, of all reality. God's character is love; that is God seeks the good of the other and bestows upon us the ultimate human dignity of being a child of God.

Motivating force behind creation

Love is the basic motivating force behind creation. God's motive urge to create was not out of a need due to looniness, but out of a desire to create as an artist, and desire is fueled by love. Art is love, artists love art, as revolutionaries love. Revolutionaries are in love and their revolutions are often expressions of love, what He Guava called "a strange kind of love, not to see more shiny factories but for people." So God creates as a need to bestow love, which entails the bestowing of being.

Now let's not have a bunch of lectures about "perfection" based upon not knowing what perfection is. Let's not have a buck of Aristotle thrown in as though it were the Bible. There is no base line for comparison from which one can really make the judgment that need is imperfection; especially the sort of need one feels to be creative or to bestow love; that is a different sort of need than the need for food or shelter.

Basis of morality

Love is the basis of morality. Love is the background of the moral universe, as Joseph Fletcher said. Austin said it too. That means all moral decisions are made with ultimate reference to God's love which is the driving force behind morality. Many people think Christian morality is about stopping impurity. These people regard sex as the greatest offense and think that basically sin = sex. But nothing is further from the truth. Sin is not sex, sin is an unloosing nature, or a selfish desire to act in an unloosing manner.

Love requires selfless giving over OT the other for the good of the other. That means all moral actions must ultimately evaluated with reference to their motivational properties. That's why Jesus spoke as he did in the sermon on the mount: if you hate you are a murderer. Because the motivation itself is the true essence of the sin, the rejecting of love and acceptance of self as the orbit creates the motive that eventually leads to the act. He is not saying that the act sin OT sinful of course, but that the sin begins with the motive not just with the act. In that sense morality is somewhat teleological, although I normally eschew teleological ethics. I am not saying that the morality of a given act is based upon outcome, but that the end toward which moral motions are given is the goal of doing love.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Review: Lawrence Kruass's Universe From Nothing


illustration of Higgs boson

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

Albert first points out that tracing the universe back to some physical property or cause is not an explanation as to why there is something rather than nothing.

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

Secondly, moving on form that difficulty, he points out that since the enlightenment science has always assumed that at the “bottom of everything” there is “some basic, elementary, eternally persisting, concrete, physical stuff.”[4] Newton had it that this “stuff” consisted of particles. At the end of the nineteenth century it was particles and electro-magnetic fields. “And what the fundamental laws of nature are about, and all the fundamental laws of nature are about, and all there is for the fundamental laws of nature to be about, insofar as physics has ever been able to imagine, is how that elementary stuff is arranged.”[5] The laws don’t tell us where the elementary “stuff” came from. The laws concerning quantum mechanics are not exception. The laws do not tell us where the fields came from. Moreover, every previous theory counted particles among concrete stuff and quantum theory does not. In quantum theory particles are understood as arrangements of fields. Some arrangement correspond to certain numbers and kinds of particles, come correspond to no particles.[6] This latter arrangement, Albert tells us, is what they call “vacuum states.” According to Albert, Krauss is arguing that the laws of relativistic quantum field theories “entail that vacuum states are unstable. And that, in a nutshell, is the account he proposes of why there should be something rather than nothing.”[7]

In other words because the state of no particles is “unstable” (it’s hard to keep nothing from becoming something) “nothing” blows up into something so to speak. There are problems with this account. First, we have just seen, it assume a whole set up of laws and fields with no real reason for them to be there (the fact that none of the theory explains a real “why” I’ll put off until latter). Secondly, the issue of what is meant by “nothing” is the crux of the matter. When physicists say “nothing,” they don’t mean real actual nothing as in a lack of anything at all. What they really mean is vacuum flux, that this pre existing framework of law and field and the arrangement there of the and the sporadic popping in and out of prior existing particles. As Albert says, “Relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical vacuum states — no less than giraffes or refrigerators or solar systems — are particular arrangements of elementary physical stuff..”[8] This is most crucial because Albert is arguing that “nothing” in terms of no particles does not mean “nothing” in terms of now fields, or no laws. Thus “nothing” doesn’t mean “nothing,” it means something for which we still must account. That really blows the whole argument because it’s not a universe from nothing, it’s a universe form something else for which we must account, and can’t. So that means it’s just a rehash of status quo. The book originally was introduced with a media splash and created a sensation. Albert taking out the argument created anther sensation. Op ed writers and bloggers began crediting Albert with victory and a sense of hoopla began.

What would a universe from true actual nothing really prove? If it could be shown that the universe just started up, something form nothing (real actual nothing) there would be no way to really demonstrate that it’s not the Christian concept of creation ex nihilo. In fact that would actually fit the qualifications for the basic Christian doctrine of creation. There would be no way to prove it one way or the other because we could never go back to the other side of nothing and demonstrate that something isn’t causing this “something from nothing.” The impression is given the hype about Krauss’s book that there is some control that screens out metaphysical causes such as God. There in fact no such control. Now of course if this were the case we could not use that as an argument to demonstrate the existence of God. If we wanted to use that as a God argument we would have to push the logic of it on the grounds that something form total actual nothing is illogical and flies in the face of every single observation we can ever make about the real world. That would not demonstrate the reality of God. It might be a good conjecture but it would still only be a conjecture. At that rate it could go ether way. Yet it’s not disproof of God either. In fact, examining the arguments made by the three atheists expositors above, none of them actually says “here is proof there is no God.” Dawkins say “almost certainly” and Stenger says God is a failed hypothesis. Krauss imitates we don’t’ need him as an explanation. Something else is going on other than disproof.

What they are really getting at is not about proof or disproof but control of knowledge. They actually want to replace epistemology with ideology. They want to shut down forms of knowledge such as philosophy and phenomenology and replace them with the atheist fortress of facts idea. This is all really saying, all three books make the argument “we have the fortress of facts and theism has no facts.” Of course “facts” in this sense mean nothing more than the information that can be controlled by atheist expositors and that supports the atheist straw God concepts. It’s a switch from a global knowledge which includes philological thinking about science as a respectable partner in learning and centers everything on their realm of discourse. Thus Dawkins reduces God to the level of a biological organism, Stenger reduces belief to the level of a scientific hypothesis (even though belief is about something totally removed form the workings of the physical world), and Krauss asserts that knowledge of the physical world is the only knowledge worth knowing. All three are reducing theological ideas to a point where they take on physical attributes and become part of the scientific domain, thus they can be controlled by scientists.

What is even more blunt and telling is Krauss who gives away the whole store in an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times:

The illusion of purpose and design is perhaps the most pervasive illusion about nature that science has to confront on a daily basis. Everywhere we look, it appears that the world was designed so that we could flourish.

The position of the Earth around the sun, the presence of organic materials and water and a warm climate — all make life on our planet possible. Yet, with perhaps 100 billion solar systems in our galaxy alone, with ubiquitous water, carbon and hydrogen, it isn't surprising that these conditions would arise somewhere. And as to the diversity of life on Earth — as Darwin described more than 150 years ago and experiments ever since have validated — natural selection in evolving life forms can establish both diversity and order without any governing plan.

As a cosmologist, a scientist who studies the origin and evolution of the universe, I am painfully aware that our illusions nonetheless reflect a deep human need to assume that the existence of the Earth, of life and of the universe and the laws that govern it require something more profound. For many, to live in a universe that may have no purpose, and no creator, is unthinkable.

But science has taught us to think the unthinkable. Because when nature is the guide — rather than a priori prejudices, hopes, fears or desires — we are forced out of our comfort zone. One by one, pillars of classical logic have fallen by the wayside as science progressed in the 20th century, from Einstein's realization that measurements of space and time were not absolute but observer-dependent, to quantum mechanics, which not only put fundamental limits on what we can empirically know but also demonstrated that elementary particles and the atoms they form are doing a million seemingly impossible things at once.[9]

Wait a minute, something’s wrong here. He’s taking a kind of thinking that is used as a tool to inform us about the workings of the physical world, and saying “because to use this tool we must assume the subject matter of the tool is all there is, that proves that’s all there is.” That proves nothing. Perhaps the subject matter of the tool is irrelevant to the consideration of concepts like “purpose” and “meaning” because these are not part of the domain in which that tool is meaningful. When the concept of the tool becomes the only form of knowledge then of course all other considerations must be put aside, by why should we allow that to happen? Actually science has not taught us “to think the unthinkable—that the universe has. No can it ever do so. To even ask the question is beyond the scope of science. To do science one must not assume purpose or meaning in the workings of the physical world, yet one need not always be doing science. This is truly what we call “ideology.” One idea fits all and all sense data must be herded into that rubric in order to be considered “valid.” It’s really ideological struggle between reductionism which seek to cut off all aspects of reality save those that can be controlled by reductionism, vs. the assumption that human aspirations are worth considering in some way other than reductionsitically. The driving force behind the fortress of facts is the assumption that only one kind of thinking can be pursued. This one idea of reductionism must control and filter all knowledge. This is nothing more than a totalitarian ideology.

Krauss really gets blunt about the ideological ramifications in interview. Ross Andersen publishes in the Atlantic an interview he had done with Krauss for another project. He entitles the article “Has Physics Made Philosophy and Religion Obsolete?”[10] Krauss had just come from Christopher Hitchen’s memoral service, and even he descriges as: “It was a remarkable event for a remarkable man, and I felt very fortunate to be there. I was invited to give the opening presentation in front of all of these literary figures and dignitaries of various sorts, and so I began the only way I think you can begin, and that's with music from Monty Python..”[11] Asked why the sudden public antagonism between physics and philosophy he answers:

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

Philosophy can only have “content” in so far as it reflects the workings of the physical world? As though that’s all the content there is to have. That’s all there is to think about. Only science is about anything. But wait how is it that physics has encroached upon anything philosophy is about if philosophy a bunch of made up flights of fancy. Science was never about the meaning of life and philosophy was never about the workings of the physical world. It’s true that science used ot be called “natural philosophy” but hat was far from being the major section of philosophical thought. He seems embarrassed about not being in philosophy. He resents the idea that he can’t talk about the meaning of life. He can talk about the meaning of life he just can’t claim scientific authority to make pronouncements informing us all of the meaning of life, or lack thereof.

Here is his statement on the importance of philosophy:

Krauss: Well, yeah, I mean, look I was being provocative, as I tend to do every now and then in order to get people's attention. There are areas of philosophy that are important, but I think of them as being subsumed by other fields. In the case of descriptive philosophy you have literature or logic, which in my view is really mathematics. Formal logic is mathematics, and there are philosophers like Wittgenstein that are very mathematical, but what they're really doing is mathematics---it's not talking about things that have affected computer science, it's mathematical logic. And again, I think of the interesting work in philosophy as being subsumed by other disciplines like history, literature, and to some extent political science insofar as ethics can be said to fall under that heading. To me what philosophy does best is reflect on knowledge that's generated in other areas. [13]

He arbitrarily reduces logic to mathematics just because math is in the domain of science. We could just as easily relegate math to a subordination under philosophy on the grounds that math is based upon logic. Russell and Whitehead proved that logic is the basis of math, and since logic started as philosophy it would be more logical to put math under philosophy.[14] Besides formal logic is not mathematics. Moreover, major logicians such as Hartshorne and Plantinga who achieved authoritative status in the use of S5modal logic could, by Krausses logic, be seen as mathematicians and by extension of that association as physicists. Thus their takes on the modal argument for God must be scientific. Remarkably he actually attributes something to fields such as history and literature. He does that to parcel out philosophy. Of course this drive to end the very existence of philosophy is just a bid to take over knowledge so that one ideology prevails as the only way to think, it just happens to be the one in which Krauss is credentialed. He wants to pretend that philosophy is really just leeching off other disciplines when in reality he’s moving beyond the accepted domain of science to poach on the territory of theology, philosophy, ethics history and probably other disciplines (mathematics and logic). It’s also worth nothing that he missed the point on nothing in terms of the history of ideas. He claims it was the philosophers who re-write nothing and have constantly changed its definition when in reality it’s the philosophers who have continually defined nothing as nothing but science Newton scientists have been re-writing the meaning of the term to define it as “something.”15

A humorous exchange occurs when Andersen points out that philosophy offers a basis for computer science. Krauss says: “Well, you name me the philosophers that did key work for computer science; I think of John Von Neumann and other mathematicians, and---.” Andersen says: “But Bertrand Russell paved the way for Von Neumann..”

Karauss says: “But Bertrand Russell was a mathematician. I mean, he was a philosopher too and he was interested in the philosophical foundations of mathematics, but by the way, when he wrote about the philosophical foundations of mathematics, what did he do? He got it wrong.” So not only can we take him over as one of the science boys since he did math but (which would just as easily mean math is part of philosophy again) but he also got it wrong about math (yet that reflects on his philosophical side not on his math side, not real sure how that works since it would be the math side that got it wrong). Andersen remarks “Einstein got it wrong.” To which Krauss replies:

Krauss: Sure, but the difference is that scientists are really happy when they get it wrong, because it means that there's more to learn. And look, one can play semantic games, but I think that if you look at the people whose work really pushed the computer revolution from Turing to Von Neumann and, you're right, Bertrand Russell in some general way, I think you'll find it's the mathematicians who had the big impact. And logic can certainly be claimed to be a part of philosophy, but to me the content of logic is mathematical.[16]

Science guys are happen when they are proved wrong? I guess he must be ecstatic since Albert’s article? We’ll have to ask him how happy he’s been since his book was panned. It means there’s more to learn, such as the meaning of life and the value of philosophy. He admits logic is part of philosophy and Russell was into both it just eludes him that this also means philosophy is the foundation of computer science and math together that makes it the foundation of physics. Now that’s the “unthinkable” we should be taught to think. Maybe the fortress of facts is a house of cards and maybe there’s more than one form of knowledge in the universe? His answer is supercilious because a scientist being happy when he get’s it wrong doesn’t change the fact under discussion it doesn’t change the fact that scientist get it wrong just as philosophers sometimes do.

Kruass referred to Albert as “a moronic philosopher.” That doesn’t sound happy to me. Nor does it sound very acute. Albert is so moronic in fact he is not only a well thought of philosopher at Columbia he also holds a Ph.D. in theoretical physics.[17] He might to reconsider his castigation of Albert when we take a deeper look at Karuss’s argumentation skills. He essentially gives away the store, and thinks he’s bested his opponents.

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

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

It might be more interesting than debating some of the moronic philosophers that have written about my book. Given what we know about quantum gravity, or what we presume about quantum gravity, we know you can create space from where there was no space. And so you've got a situation where there were no particles in space, but also there was no space. That's a lot closer to "nothing."

But of course then people say that's not "nothing," because you can create something from it. They ask, justifiably, where the laws come from. And the last part of the book argues that we've been driven to this notion---a notion that I don't like---that the laws of physics themselves could be an environmental accident. On that theory, physics itself becomes an environmental science, and the laws of physics come into being when the universe comes into being. And to me that's the last nail in the coffin for "nothingness."[19]

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

[1] Lawrence M. Krauss, A Universe from Nothing: Why There is something Rather Than Nothing. New York, NY: Free press, a division of Simon and Schuster, 2012.

[2] Ibid 189.

[3] David Albert, “On the Origin of Everything ‘a Universe form Nothing’ by Lawrence Krauss,” New York Times Sunday Book Review (March 23, 2012). On line version URL: visited June 20, 2012. David Albert also has a Ph.D. in theoretical phsyics.

[14] ibid.

[5] ibid

[6] ibid

[7] ibid

[8] ibid

[9] Lawrence M. Krause, “A Universe Without Purpose.” Los Angeles Times, Opinion. (April 1, 2012). On line copy URL:,0,4136597.story visited 7/2/12.

[10] Ross Andersen, “Has Physics Made Philosophy and Religion Obsolete?” The Atlantic (April 23, 2012). Pm et 396. Online URL: visited 7/2/12.

[11] Ibid.

[12] ibid.

[13] ibid.

[14] Principia (find)

[15] find

[16] Krauss in Andersen, ibid.

[17] Massimo Pigliucci, “Lawrence Krauss Another Physicist with an Anti-Philosophy Complex,” Rationally Speaking, blog. URL: visited 7/4/12

Massimo Pigluicci is a philosopher at City University of New York..

[18] Krauss In Andersen, ibid.

[18] ibid

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Review: Victor Stenger's God The failed Hypotesis


In God The Failed Hypothesis, [1] Victor Stenger uses basically the same over all approach and the same objections disprove his argument, yet he makes more use of the fortress of facts concept. For him it’s not so much reduction of God to a big man in the sky as just the lack of hard tangible evidence of God’s DNA, smoking creation gun or other dead give-aways. His arguments are geared to a fundamentalist big man in the sky concept of God and he takes silence as proof, thus no evidence for God, in his mind, equals positive evidence of no God. He begins with a comparison of scientific method to what he takes to be “theological method.”[2] Of course his straw-man version of theological method has nothing to do with the way any modern theologian works. It’s clear from the outset that he is subjecting belief in God to scientific criteria but he’s expecting belief itself to transmute into a scientific hypothesis. After all if there’s only one form of knowledge, as the atheist ideology has it, then that’s what has to be done to have knowledge of something. What this tells us upfront is that we are dealing with the fortress of facts. We can’t allow religious people to have the belief they have. It has to be made over into the doppelganger of my scientific ideas, or it’s not worth considering. Of course that makes it into a straw-man argument because he’s doing nothing more than taking something beyond the domain of science and saying “hey look it’s not science.” He basically admits this when he says: “Objective evidence for an entity of Godlike attributes should be readily available. After all, God is supposed to play a deceive role in every happening in the world. Surely we should see some sign in objective observations made by our eyes…”[3] Should we? This is a theological question, not a question for science. Why should physicists decide what the parameters are for belief? Why should we expect God to be given in “objective” evidence when he’s not given in sense data? How can we expect that which is beyond our understanding, the basis of all that is, to be subject to empirical observations of beings in creation? What If God’s work consists primarily of holding the strong force together? How could we ever know that? We can’t know it by ordinary means, we might know it by intuitive or deductive or revelatory means. Why isn’t that extraordinary? When we do have objective evidence which we can see with our eyes and prove with medical science, such as the miracles at Lourdes, the atheists will merely evoke incredulity as though it’s a proof and refuse to believe the proof.[4]He clearly and unabashedly places God under the domain of science and makes a subject of scientific scrutiny. He proposes an approach that would cast belief in God as a scientific hypothesis. He proposes a “scientific God model.”[5]

Not content with just using scientific criteria he also evokes what is called ECREP (extraordinary claims requires extraordinary proof). Then he sets about listing conditions for extraordinary claims. One could easily argue that this is a false standard. In fact in my first book The Trace of God I do make this argument.[6] For the sake of argument I’ll accept it for now. These criteria include:

(1) Protocols of the study must be clear so that all possibilities of error can be evaluated…

(2) The hypothesis being tested must be established clearly and explicitly…

(3) People doing the study must have no pre judgment…

(4) The hypothesis being tested must contain seeds of its own destruction…

(5) Results must be independently replicated…[7]

No. 4 is vaguely reminiscent of Hegel or Marcuse, the thesis contains the seeds of its own negation.[8] What he’s really saying is it must be falsifiable. So he already has God starched out in the petri dish and is ready to dissect. He’s reduced God to the level of a scientific question. In evoking falsification, he’s saying under what conditions could this hypothesis be disproved? The unwary might think “it can’t be so it must be true.” No if it can’t be disproved under any conditions it can’t be proved either. The problem this only applies to empirical questions. The issue of falsification only applies to questions that are about things given in sense data.

God is not under the domain of science. The question of God is not a scientific one it’s an existential, ontological, or metaphysical question. The question of God is over and above anything about science, because science is about the empirical and God is not given in sense data. Indeed how could the basis of reality be subject to things in creation? Yet the reductionist tries to subject God to the mundane the material and it’s no wonder they don’t’ find anything. This is the ultimate bait and switch. This tendency to reduce God to the level of science is the result of the ideology that reduces all knowledge to scientific knowledge. Stenger knows that he’s coming up against the problem of overlapping magisteria (domains). He doesn’t like that God is off limits to science. He wants to subject the supernatural to the natural and assert its disproof, because he assumes that there’s one valid sort of knowledge; science. He argues with the national academy of sciences statement in chapter one about supernatural is beyond the study of science.

These scientists and science organizations that would limit science to the investigation of natural causes provide unwitting support for the assertion that science is dogmatically naturalistic…in many of the public discussions we hear today science is accused of dogmatically refusing to consider the possible role that other than natural processes may play in the universe…however, any type of dogmatism is the very antithesis of science.[9]

The problem is by limiting science they admit there maybe more and that they don’t posses the way to know things. In wanting to open everything up to science Stenger Is actually reducing everything to the natural level and implying that there be only one form of knowledge, which by default would have to be science. He’s really making a chatch 22 for religious thinkers, yet he also sows seeds of the negations of his own view. In trying to reduce everything to level of falsifiability he’s admitting that anything not reducible to that level is not under the domain of science. Of course he would probably assert that if it’s not testable by science it just can’t be. So the bait and switch in Stenger’s argument is clear. Reduce everything to the level of science, science doesn’t come up with evidence for God, then argue there must not be a God.

Stenger goes on to indulge in question begging by way of trying to justify stretching science over to fit the supernatural. He says that science can study the supernatural. Yet all he’s really saying is that there is no supernatural which will be proven if science attempts to stud it. All they could logically prove would be that they cant’ study the supernatural. Stenger of course will take the silence as proof because he predisposed to be incredulous about the supernatural. He never takes the dirth of data as an indication that it can’t be studied. It would have to be taken as proof that it’s not there and that’s what he wants.

The assertions that science does not study and that supernatural hypotheses are untestable are factually incorrect. Right under the noses of leaders of national science organizations who make these public statements, capable credentialed scientists are investigating the possibility of supernatural causes…reputable institutions such as the Mayo Clinic, Harvard University and Duke University are studying phenomena that, if verified, would provide would provide strong empirical support for the existence of some nonmaterial element in the universe. These experiments are designed to test the healing power of distant, blinded, intercessory prayer.[10]

It’s clear that Stenger’s purpose in bringing this up is to open up the supernatural to scientific critique so that absence of evidence can be constructed as the failure of empirical testing. The fact of question begging here should be obvious, he’s assuming that because some people study what he deems to be ‘supernatural’ therefore the whole of the supernatural (whatever that is) is opened up as a scientific question. Secondly, the studies he points to are about healing. Healing is only a small aspect of the spiritual and it’s debatable as to whether or not it’s supernatural at all. I would argue that modern concept of “supernatural” is misconstrued based upon concepts of the enlightenment. The term has come to mean anything not under the realm of science, anything form magic to a realm completely removed form the physical. I will deal with this at greater length latter.

Another problem with Stenger’s approach is that it’s a Grand Canyon leap in logic from healing (which is one manifestation if anything of the supernatural) to the conclusion that God’s very existence is a question for science. The question about the reality of God is much more basic and much harder to confront than the question of healing. Healing is an overlap, a point at which something spiritual touches the physical. Yet the reality of God is at the basis of all reality itself. Stenger is assuming that since the work is being done it must be possible to do it. That still doesn’t tell us anything. Suppose the study shows no significant findings proving any extra-naturalistic process. Does that really prove that there is no such process, or does it only mean that it’s out our epistemic reach? Stenger wants to beg the question and assert that because they did the work it be accurate and tell us all. Then he wants to extrapolate from that begged question to another: to extrapolate from the possibility of no demonstration of healing the assumption that there must not be a God.. Rather he wants to use this to establish the assumption that his cosmological opinions really prove something about God’s existence.

I will not belabor the points he makes about reasoning and logic in God arguments. He does deal with some of that on a certain level, in fact he spends a lot pages doing just that. I’m going pass over most of that because the real issue according his own exposition is what science itself has to offer in terms of the big disproof of God. Yet it is instructive to look one most unserious attempt:

(1) God is by definition a being that which no greater being can be thought

(2) Greatness includes the greatness of virtue

(3) God is a being then of which no being can be more virtuous.

(4) But virtue involves overcoming pain and danger.

(5) Indeed a being can only said to be properly virtuous if it can suffer pain or be destroyed

(6) A God that can suffer pain or is destructible is not one that which nothing greater than an be conceived.

(7) For you can think of a greater being one that is non suffering and indestructible

(8) Therefore, God does not exist.[11]

Notice that doesn’t provide any logical problem for the concept of God itself. It’s just one persons idea of God, not one any real theist believes in. Who says God is under the same constraints of virtue that humans are? The idea of virtue and suffering is not applicable to God. Can God even said to be virtuous? If virtue is something creatures of God develop thorugh obeidiecne to God then obviously God is beyond the aspect of virtue, that wouldn’t prevent God form being perfect morally; it would merely mean that virtue for humans an aspect of character we develop. God is source of moral perfection. Even if we assume the argument is right all it’s disproved in one argument, from perfection. It has not shown a logical contradiction in the idea of God per se.

Definition of VIRTUE


a : conformity to a standard of right : morality b : a particular moral excellence


plural : an order of angels — see celestial hierarchy


: a beneficial quality or power of a thing


: manly strength or courage : valor


: a commendable quality or trait : merit


: a capacity to act : potency


: chastity especially in a woman

vir·tue·less adjective

by virtue of or in virtue of [12]

None of these qualies would fit God except 1 or 3. Those don’t entail suffering. 4 entails courage that’s the virtue of valor but God is not said to have valor, he doesn’t need it. Of God is not going to have “a commendable trait” because that would degrade God, which all Stenger does. This just another example of demoting God ot the level of main and treating God like a human. Notice the one thing he does not do (he offers many many such misguided joke arguments, although he presents them seriously) he never deals with the tradition of theology or philosophy. He makes no effort to reflect what’s been said by the tradition. As though he thinks science is the only from of knowledge, therefore, scientists are the priesthood of knowledge. Therefore, philosopher’s ideas are not worth considering. This is the kind of vapid nonsense he churns out because he knows too much to consult the experts in a field of which he knows nothing.

He never does actually get around to a scientific smoking gun. He has no great insight or scientific facts that would actually disprove the experience of God. All he ever does is argue from silence by knocking down straw-man versions of arguments such as the fine tuning argument then assuming if these arguments are down there is no argument that proves God, thus absence of evidence is the same as disproof. All of these arguments turn on reducing God the proportions of humanity and then judging the Big man in the sky. He basically admits this modus operandi:

The scientific argument against the existence of God will be modified from the lack of evidence argument:

(1) Hypothesize a God who plays an important role in the universe.

(2) Assume that God has specific attributes that should provide objective evidence for his existence.

(3) Look for such evidence with an open mind

(4) If such evidence is found conclude that God may exist

(5) If such objective evidence is not found conclude that beyond a reasonable doubt that God with these properties does not exist.[13]

Most of the positive evidence he presents is just proof of evolution, which is only a problem for creationists, meaning only a problem for adherents to particular idea of God. Thus we see the atheist straw-God at work. The statement above not only conclusively proves that Stenger is reducing God to science, but that his arguments fail a prori. Premise one is granted, even if that role is merely creating the universe, or just savhing people. Number 2 is a straw-God claim. Why should there be objective evidence for God’s role? That would depend upon the nature of the role. What if the major evidence for God is subjective? That’s only a dirty word to atheists. There’s nothing particularly dirty about subjective proof and there’s nothing illogical about it. There’s no reason why the major evidence for God can’t be subjective. After all we are subjective creatures and every single thing we perceive comes to us form subjective experiences. There’s no logical reason why God is logically bound to produce objective evidence. Number 3 is a lost cause. Stenger has proved he do that because he wont even examine Lourdes miracles. Number 4 takes out Stenger’s thesis because we will present such evidence, the Lourdes miracle which he will not examine are such evidence. Number five takes out his thesis because strong enough evidence can be found to at least provide a reasonable doubt in favor of belief. In other words the strength of Stenger’s case doesn’t meet the stipulate of “beyond a reasonable doubt” even if you grant him his moves of the “scientific God hypothesis.” This will be seen in subsequent chapters.

He does actually try to show that cosmologically the universe looks like the kind of universe we would have without a God assuming naturalistic developments.[14] That’s misleading because he doesn’t deal the cosmological argument, or necessity and contingency. Of course he’s not dealing with the major modern issues in theology such as process theology. None of his arguments apply to modern liberal concepts of God. In fact they apply to orthodox concepts either. The whole new atheist movement is aimed at Christian fundamentalism. The notion of God that "disproves," If any, is that of the big man in the sky. He's applying the standards of biology to the basis of all reality as though we have a lock on understanding all there, when in reality, we don't know beans about the whys and wherefores, or what's out there.

This is why religious experience and religious life have to be approached as an existential journy not as a scientific hypothesis.

[1] Victor J. Stenger, God: The Failed Hypothesis:How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2007.

[2] Ibid. 22-23

[3] ibid 22

[4] Lourdes find

[5] Stenger, ibid, 41

[6] Trace of God chapter 2 find.

[7] Stenger, ibid, 24-25

[8] Herbert Macruse, Negations

[9] Stenger, ibid, 28

[10] ibid, 29

[11] ibid, 31

[12] Merrain-Webser’s on line dictionary. URL: visited 6/26/12

[13] Stenger, ibid, 43

[14] ibid, 113