Saturday, April 30, 2016

Plug for Atheistwatch

I am debating three atheists at once, I made an open challenge to atheists to debate my Cosmological argument. They are outnumbered but I'm taking it easy on them.;-)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Prologomina to Argumentfrom Laws of Nature


On Secular Outpost Bradly Bowen critiques a website of God arguments that is designed by Campus Crusade for Christ. One argument in  particular that is dismissed because it's deemed illogical by academic philosophers. I think there's a better version of the argument that has not been considered. I am hoping people will consider it now. The main thing to understand is the argument is  based upon the idea that laws of nature are not explained, they baffle scientists The site summarizes the argument: "Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner for quantum electrodynamics, said, "why  nature is mathematical  is a mystery...the fact that there are rules at all is  kind of miracle." So there must be a creator who ordered it (of course god of the gaps).  There's also a larger problem with the argument, science doesn't see natural law as law-like but as more description. Thus it is just the way things turned out that sort of takes the mystery out of it. Of course it also opens the door to counter descriptions if science can't demonstrate 100% accuracy. My answer is to choose a model that is not focused on law. But it must also retain the ordering principle of nature that can't be denied. See my essay "Beyond The Descriptive/ Prescriptive/ Dichotomy."

This is a look at the complexities with which one must deal to even begin to make an argument from laws of nature/physics. It is possible to make a good argument but it's more complex than just doing this god of the gaps thing.

 Science no longer defines physical law in the sense of an active set rules that tell nature what to do (as seen in chapter one). The sentiment is gospel in science. A Canadian Physicist, Byron Jennings, expresses it like this: “It is worth commenting that that laws of nature and laws of man are completely different beasts and it is unfortunate that they are given the same name. The so called laws of nature are descriptive. They describe regularities that have been observed in nature. They have no prescriptive value. In contrast, the laws of man are prescriptive, not descriptive.”1 Santo D’Agostino tells us, “...[T]he laws of science are not like the laws in our legal systems. They are descriptive, not prescriptive.”2

Contradiction in the descriptive paradigm

A closer look reveals that there is a contradiction here. The standard line about descriptions is double talk. First of all no one thinks physical laws are on a par with laws passed by congress. Just for the record I am not arguing that laws require a law giver, that is equivocation (although science still uses the misleading term “law”). Physical laws proceed from the mind of God, that is totally different from laws in human society. Secondly, Physical laws are just descriptions but what they describe is a law-like regularity. The question is, why is there an unswerving faithful regularity? That cannot be answered just by calling the regularity a “description.” It is so regular that we can risk people's lives in roller coasters based upon trusting those “descriptions.” D'Agostino again says, “For me, the key word is describe. A scientific law is a convenient description of observations. The law of science does not tell the world how to be, the world just is; science is a human attempt to engage with the mysteries of the world, and to attempt to understand them,”3(emphasis his). It just is, there is no why? Do Scientist really live with that? No they do not. “Most physicists working on fundamental topics inhabit the prescriptive camp, even if they don't own up to it explicitly.”4But then the Stephen Hawking Center for Theoretical Cosmology puts it point blank: “The physical laws that govern the Universe prescribe how an initial state evolves with time.”5 Clearly they want it both ways, they want physical laws not to be the will of God but they want them to be binding. The nature of the problem is deeper than just the language of an antiquated term. It really seems that physicists want it both ways.

In many perhaps most scientific disciplines the finality of a theory continues to be measured by its resemblance to the classical laws of physics, which are both causal and deterministic….The extreme case of the desire to turn observed regularity into law is of course the search for one unified law of nature. That embodies all other laws and that hense will be immune to revision.6
They still use the model of physical law, but they deny it's law-like aspects, yet they want it to be unalterable and to sum everything up in one principle. Don't look now but what she is describing is a transcendental signifier! That's the impetus behind grand unified theory f everything. Why add “of everything?” That clearly points to the transcendental signifier.

In his best-selling book "A Brief History of Time", physicist Stephen Hawking claimed that when physicists find the theory he and his colleagues are looking for - a so-called "theory of everything" - then they will have seen into "the mind of God". Hawking is by no means the only scientist who has associated God with the laws of physics. Nobel laureate Leon Lederman, for example, has made a link between God and a subatomic particle known as the Higgs boson. Lederman has suggested that when physicists find this particle in their accelerators it will be like looking into the face of God. But what kind of God are these physicists talking about? Theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg suggests that in fact this is not much of a God at all. Weinberg notes that traditionally the word "God" has meant "an interested personality". But that is not what Hawking and Lederman mean. Their "god", he says, is really just "an abstract principle of order and harmony", a set of mathematical equations. Weinberg questions then why they use the word "god" at all. He makes the rather profound point that "if language is to be of any use to us, then we ought to try and preserve the meaning of words, and 'god' historically has not meant the laws of nature." The question of just what is "God" has taxed theologians for thousands of years; what Weinberg reminds us is to be wary of glib definitions.7 Weinberg tells us the theory of everything will unite all aspects of physical reality in a single elegant explanation.8Exactly as does the TSED! It's really describing a prescriptive set of laws, so it seems. If their theory can only give descriptions of how the universe behaves how is it going to explain everything? It seems explanatory power only comes with certainty about how things work. That is weaker with probable tendencies than with actual laws. Why are they looking for a single theory to sum it all up if they don't accept some degree of hierarchical causality?

Modern “descriptive laws:” Taking God out of the picture.

Is their rejection of law just a desire to get God out of the picture? That is abundantly clear, at least for some scientists. Paul Davies, a major physicist, thinks so:

Many scientists who are struggling to construct a fully comprehensive theory of the physical universe openly admit that part of the motivation is to finally get rid of God, whom they view as a dangerous and infantile delusion, And not only God but any vestige of God-talk, such as 'meaning,' 'purpose,' or 'design' in nature. These scientists see religion as so fraudulent and sinister that nothing less than total theological cleansing will do.9
The concept of law was formed in a time when scientists inextricably linked God with science. Robert Boyle purposely appealed to dive command in creation, as did Newton.10 These were devout believers, and it was also expedient in the confessional English state. The English dealt with heretics by not inviting them to weekend at Westmoreland or by passing them over for honors. After the time of Newton the field of scientific acuity shifted to France. The French put heretics in jail. The Catholic church was much more in charge in France, enjoying the support of the monarchy, than in Protestant England.11 Thus the French Philosophs rebelled with great ferocity against the Church and religious belief. The French rebellion carried over into all areas of modern letters, not the least in science.

Modern scientists since the enlightenment have sought to take God out of the picture. Philosophers are honest enough to admit there is a problem callingthe law-like regularity “description.” After Chalmers explains that Boyle's “stark ontology” made nature passive and left God to do all the work, he writes:
I assume that, from the modern point of view, placing such a heavy, or indeed any, burden on the constant and willful intervention of God is not acceptable. But eliminating God from the account leaves us with the problem. How can activity and law like behavior be introduced into a world characterized in terms of passive or categorical properties only?12
At least the scientific realists, such as Chalmers know there is a problem in the tension between unalterable regularity, and description. Many scientists either don't see the problem, or refuse to acknowledge it. Some assert a confidence in science's ability to one day answer all questions.

In recent years, under the influence of the new atheism, some physicists have began to compete with God. They claim not only to offer the better explanation, but to learn enough so as to one day erase the God concept from any serious consideration. Steven Pinker, (in answer to a question for discussion posed by the Tempelton foundation, “does science make belief in God obsolete?”): “Yes 'science' we mean the entire enterprise of secular reason and knowledge (including history and philosophy), not just people with test tubes and white lab coats. Traditionally, a belief in God was attractive because it promised to explain the deepest puzzles about origins. Where did the world come from? What is the basis of life? How can the mind arise from the body? Why should anyone be moral?”13 Of course he offers no evidence that science can answer such things (notice he expanded the definition of science to include disciplines many scientists seek to get rid of (philosophy) 14

that is the area that could answer the questions that science can't. He also offers no evidence that religion still can't answer them, but he goes on to say, “Yet over the millennia, there has been an inexorable trend: the deeper we probe these questions, and the more we learn about the world in which we live, the less reason there is to believe in God.” So he's made two fallacious moves here, the classic bait and switch and straw man argument. He say science makes God obsolete but then only if er expand science to include non-science. We could just include modern theology instead of nineteenth century theology and bring religion into science. Sorry, but belief in God does not rest with young earth creationism.Pinker is not just using young Earth creationism to debunck all religion, even though that is a straw man argument. He's really making the same kind of answer that physicist Dean Carroll is making. He's saying “since we now have the capacity to learn everything (someday) we don't need to appeal to God to answer what we don't know" thus he asserts that the only reason to believe is the God of the gaps argument). Carroll puts it a bit differently:
Modern cosmology attempts to come up with the most powerful and economically possible understanding of the universe that is consistent with observational data. It's certainly conceivable that the methods of science could lead us to a self-contained picture of the universe that doesn't involve God in any way. If so, would we be correct to conclude that cosmology has undermined the reasons for believing in God, or at least a certain kind of reason?15
Of course this is the standard wrong assumption often made by those whose skepticism is scientifically based. Explaining nature is not the only reason to believe in God.

Moreover, they are nowhere near explaining nature in it's entirety, the TS argument is the best answer to the questions posed by the transcendental signifiers. It's pretty clear that for Carroll, and those who share his outlook the signifier “science” replaces the signifier “God” in their metaphysical hierarchy. They still have a TS and that speaks to the all pervasive nature of the TS. I've discussed in the previous chapter how the best answer to questions of origin have to be philosophical. That is confirmed by Pinker when he argues philosophy as part of science. The TS argument is philosophical. Science is not the only form of knowledge. Carroll admits there is not as of yet a theory that explains it all. He admits, “We are trying to predict the future: will there ever be a time when a conventional scientific model provides a complete understanding of the origin of the universe?”16He asserts that most modern cosmologists already feel we know enough to write off God and that there are good enough reasons. In 2005 article he says, as the title proclaims, “almost all cosmologists are atheists.” 17 That may be true of cosmologists but I doubt it, and I have good reason to. First, I don't see any poll of physicists in the article. He only argues anecdotally by quoting a few people. If there was a poll it would be at least as old as 2005.

A More extensive study from 2007 (two years after publication of Carroll's article don't back up those findings. This study was done by Harvard professors who find the majority of science professors believe in God.18 They present a bar graph that shows about 35% professor's are elite research universities believe in God with no doubt. About 27% believe but sometimes have doubts. About 38% are atheists. That actually means that 60% are not atheists. True that's not cosmologists but there is good reason to think the majority of cosmologists are not atheists. The most atheistic groups in the study were psychologists (61%), biologists (about 61%), and mechanical engineers (50%), not physicists (among whose ranks cosmologists number). 19 “Contrary to popular Opinion, atheists and agnostics do not comprise a majority of professors even at elite schools, but they are present in larger numbers than in other types of institutions.”20 No group has “almost all” as atheist. Even if cosmologists are mostly atheists (not studied because they are a handful and highly specialized) it's still appeal to authority and could be based upon hubris. They do not have any empirical data at all to prove the universe could spring from nothing. I will will demonstrate the problems with this view much more clearly in the next chapter. Let's just remember the atheist position on this point is an appeal to faith.

part 2


1 Byron Jennings, “The Role of Authority in Science and Law,” Quantum Diaries: Thoughts on Work and Life From Particle Physicists From Around The World. (Feb.3,2012) Online resource URL: Accessed 8/31/15 Byron Jennings is Project Coordinator for TRIUMF, Canada's national laboratory, he's an adjunct Professor at Simon Freaser University. He is also the editor of In Defense of Scientism.

2 Santo 'D Agostino, “Does Nature Obey The Laws of Physics?,” QED Insight, (March 9,2011). Online resource, URL: accessed 8/26/15. D'Agostino is a mathematician who writes science text books. Ph.D. from The University of Toronto, he is also assistant professor in Physics at Brock University.

3 Ibid. 4 Paul Davies, Cosmic Jackpot: why is the universe Just Right For Life? New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition, 2007, 12. Davies is an English physicist, professor at Arizona State University. He was formerly an atheist and his major atheist book was God and The New Physics, written in the 70s. Since the late 90's he as become a believer, not a Christian but believer in a generic deistic sort of God. He was convinced by the fine tuning argument and his major book since that time is The Mind Of God. He has taught at Cambridge and Aberdeen.

5 CTC, “Origins of the Universe: Quantum Origins,” The Stephan Hawking Center for Theoretical Cosmology, University of Cambridge, online resource, URL: accessed 10/5/15.
6 E. F. Keller, quoted in Lynn Nelson, Who Knows: From Quine to Feminist Empiricism. Temple University Press, 1990, 220. Evelyn Fox Keller is a physicist and a Feminist critic of science. Professor Emerita at MIT. Her early work centered on the intersection of physics and biology. Nelson is associate professor of philosophy at Glassboro State College.
7 Counter balance foundation, “Stephen Hawking's God,” quoted on PBS website Faith and Reason. No date listed. Online resource, URL the URL for the website itself: accessed 8/26/2015. This resource provided by: Counterbalance Foundation

counterbalance foundation offers this self identification: “Counterbalance is a non-profit educational organization working to promote the public understanding of science, and how the sciences relate to wider society. It is our hope that individuals, the academic community, and society as a whole will benefit from a struggle toward integrated and counterbalanced responses to complex questions.” see URL above. The faith anjd reason foundation helped fund the PBS show. I first founjd thye piece “Stephen Hawking's God early the century, maybe 2004, certainly before 2006. It was on a sight called Metalist on science and religion. That site is gone.
8 Steven Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory: The Scientist's Search for the Ultimate Laws of Nature. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. 1994, 3, also 211.
9 Paul Davies, Jackpot...op. Cit.,15.
10 Alan Chalmers, “Making sense of laws of physics,” Causation and Laws Of Nature, Dordrecht, Netherlands : Kluwer Academic Publishers, (Howard Sankey, ed.), 1999, 3-4.
11 Joseph Hinman, God, Science, and Ideology. Chapter 2.
12 Chalmers, op., cit.
13 Stephen Pinker, quoted on website, John Tempelton Foundation, “A Tempelton conversation, “Does SciencMake Belief in God Obsolete?” The third in a series of conversations among leading scientists...Onlne resource, website. URL: accessed 9/4/15. Tempelton bio for Pinker: Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor in the department of psychology at Harvard University. He is the author of seven books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, and most recently, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature.
14 Anthany Mills, "Why Does Neil deGrasse Tyson Hate Philosophy," Real Clear Science. (May 22, 2014) "In a controversial interview, Neil deGrasse Tyson dismissed philosophy as “distracting.” The host of the television series Cosmos even suggested that philosophy could inhibit scientific progress by encouraging “a little too much question asking.” He thus follows a growing secular trend that cordons Science off from all other forms of inquiry, denigrating whatever falls outside science’s purported boundaries – especially the more “speculative” pursuits such as philosophy."
15 Sean Corroll, ”Does The Universe Need God?” on Sean Carroll's website, Perposterous, online resource, URL: accessed 9/4/2015
16 Ibid.
17 Sean Carroll,"Why (Almost All) Cosmologists Are Atheists," Faith and Philosophy, 22, (2005) p. 622.
18 Neil Gross and Solon Simmons, “How Religious Are America's College and University Pressors.” SSRC, (published feb. 2007), PDF URL, accessed 9/4/15 The Author 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Association for the Sociology of Religion. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: Neil Gross is assistant professor of sociology at Harvard University. He works on classical and contemporary sociological theory, the sociology of culture, and the sociology of intellectuals. His first book, tentatively titled Richard Rorty's Pragmatism: The Social Origins of a Philosophy, 1931-1982, is forthcoming. Solon Simmons is assistant professor of conflict analysis and sociology at George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. His recent work has focused on values talk in congressional speeches, third party political candidates, industrial reorganization and the ongoing conservative critique of American higher education
19 Ibid.
20 Ibid.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Brain Structure Objection To Uiversal Mystical Experience Argument

 photo MindPower_zpszxlgeszh.jpg

The major objection to the universality argument stems from a vast movement that has arisen just since the turn of the century, the rapidly expanding field of Neuro-theology (or Cognative Science of Religion):
In recent years a number of books have been published in the United States which argue that religious experiences and activities can be measured as neural activity in the brain...these theories purport to explain why there are common patterns of religious behavior and experience across culture which are observable in the field of comparative religion..Most such theories assert that as our understanding the brains activities develop through exploration of its underlying structures and mechanisms so the origin of religious experiences and ritual behavior will be revealed...These theorioes purport to explain why there are common paterns of religious behaviors and experience across cultures.[1]
R. Joseph states, “that The brain underlies all experience of living human beings is an absolute statement It subsumes all religious phenomena and all mystical experiences including hyper lucid visionary experiences, trance states, contemplating God and the experience of unitary absorption.”[2] Since religious experience is linked to brain chemistry it must be the result of brain chemistry, thus there’s no reason to assume it’s indicative of any sort of supernatural causation. This view has become standard in the scientific community. Tiger and McGuire state:
Religion as a process generates remarkable action, countless events, numberless provocative artifacts. Yet what factual phenomenon except perhaps slips of ancient holy paper underlies and animates one of the most influential and durable of human endeavors? We've an answer. Shivers in the moist tissue of the brain confect cathedrals our proposal is that all religions differ but all share two destinies: they are the product of the human brain. They endure because of the strong influence of the product of the human brain. The brain is a sturdy organ ith common characteristics everywhere. A neurosurgeon can work confidently on a vatican patient and another in mecca. Same tissue, same mechinisms. One such mechinnism is a readiness to generate religions.[3]
Skeptics argue that the experiences have a commonality because they are all produced by human brain structure. In other words the names from the various religions are the constructs but the experiences that unite the subjects and that transcend the individual cultural filters are the same because they are products of a shared structure that of the human brain. Ilkka Pyysiäinen and Marc Hauser state the argument:
Considerable debate has surrounded the question of the origins and evolution of religion. One proposal views religion as an adaptation for cooperation, whereas an alternative proposal views religion as a by-product of evolved, non-religious, cognitive functions. We critically evaluate each approach, explore the link between religion and morality in particular, and argue that recent empirical work in moral psychology provides stronger support for the by-product approach. Specifically, despite differences in religious background, individuals show no difference in the pattern of their moral judgments for unfamiliar moral scenarios. These findings suggest that religion evolved from pre-existing cognitive functions, but that it may then have been subject to selection, creating an adaptively designed system for solving the problem of cooperation.[4]
In other words, the discussion about origins of religion there are two genetic choices, a specific gene, or spandrels. The weight of the evidence, according to Pyysiäinen and Marc Hauser, leans toward the latter (spandrels: pre-existing cognitive functions based upon combined genetic functions from other areas). The deeper level of complexity comes with the finding that religion evolved from spandrels and yet it is still subject to adaptation manifesting in a system for cooperation (religion). What their findings really suggest is that moral motions are more basic than religious doctrine and that moral decision making transcends social structure or organization. Religion is perpetuated because its conducive to cooperation but there is an underlying sense or moral motion that's tied to the specific religious affiliation. Moral reasoning is not the same as mystical experience. Religious experience is a passive apprehension and moral decision making is an active use of deductive reasoning. Moreover, in finding religion is not original adaptation they are really negating the brain structure argument for uniformity of religious experiences. Their findings show that moral decisions transcended the religious background, thus the religious symbols, ideas, and presumably experiences are not reducible to moral motions since the latter transcends the former.[5] If religious experiences are of the same nature because of the state of human brain structure we should expect to find a conformation between moral motions religious experience. Frederick Schleiermacher argued that religious religion is more than just enhanced ethical thinking.[6] This has led to the widely accepted theory of the religious a priori. Religion is understood as it's on discipline separate from ethics. The a priori is seen as a “special for of awareness which exists alongside the cognitive, moral and aesthetic forms of awareness and is not explicable by reference to them.” [7]
As an argument about the origin of religion, the genetic aspects would only be the proximate cause. It doesn't rule out a distal cause in the divine. As an argument about the origin of religion, the genetic aspects would only be the proximate cause. It doesn't rule out a distal cause in the divine. Andrew Newberg, one of the pioneers in researching neural activity of religious experience and God talk tells us that none of the research disproves God, nor could it:
 …Tracing spiritual experience to neurological behavior does not disprove its realness. If God does exist, for example, and if He appeared to you in some incarnation, you would have no way of experiencing His presence, except as part of a neurologically generated rendition of reality. You would need auditory processing to hear his voice, visual processing to see His face, and cognitive processing to make sense of his message. Even if he spoke to you mystically, without words, you would need cognitive functions to comprehend his meaning, and input form the brain’s emotional centers to fill you with rapture and awe. Neurology makes it clear: there is no other way for God to get into your head except through the brain’s neural pathways. Correspondingly, God cannot exist as a concept or as reality anyplace else but in your mind. In this sense, both spiritual experiences and experiences of a more ordinary material nature are made real to the mind in the very same way—through the processing powers of the brain and the cognitive functions of the mind. Whatever the ultimate nature of spiritual experience might be—weather it is in fact an actual perception of spiritual reality—or merely an interpretation of sheer neurological function—all that is meaningful in human spirituality happens in the mind. In other words, the mind is mystical by default.[8]
Just being connected to brain chemistry is not enough to disprove the universal experience argument.
The problem with the brain structure argument is that even though we all have human brain structure we don’t all have the same kinds of experiences. We can’t assume that universal experiences come from brain structure alone. First, not everyone has mystical experience. Even though the incidence rates are high they are not 100%. We all have human brain structure but not all have these experiences. Secondly, even among those who do there are varying degrees of the experience. William James saw it as a continuum and Robert Wuthnow, one of the early researchers who did a modern scientific study on the phenomenon also theorized that there is a continuum upon which degree of experience varies.[9] If the brain structure argument was true then we should expect to always have the same experience; we should have the same culture. We have differing experiences and even our perceptions of the same phenomena vary. Yet the experience of mystical phenomena is not identical since it is filtered through cultural constructs and translated into the doctrinal understanding of traditions that the experiencers identify as their own.
The brain Structure argument is based upon the same premises reductionists take to the topic of consciousness and brain/mind. They assume that any subjective experience is ultimately the result of brain chemistry. There really is no reason to assume this other than the fact that brain chemistry plays a role in our perceptions. There’s no basis for the assumption that any mental phenomena must originate in brain chemistry alone. In those arguments a sense usually emerges that any involvement with the natural cancels the supernatural. I suggest that this is the ersatz version of supernature. The alien realm, juxtaposed to the natural realm and brought in as a counter to naturalism, this is the false concept of Supernatural that Eugene R, Fairweather spoke about.[10] The original concept of supernature is that of the ground and end of the natural. Thus it would be involved with nature. The ground/end of nature is the ontology of supernature and pragmatic working out of the phenomenon would be the power of God to lift human nature to a higher level, as discussed by Fairweather and aslo Mathias Joseph Scheeben.[11] How can human nature be elevated without supernature being involved with the realm of nature? Thus, if it is true that bonafide experiences of God are mediated by brain chemistry, then the fact that supernature works through evolutionary processes and physiological realities such as brain chemistry is hardly surprising.
Some studies have explored questions about brain function and the texture or mechanics of mystical experience. Van Elk et al explore the hypothesis that the sensation of supernatural presence is an adaptation from the need to over-detect presences of predictors in the jungle. There findings did not coroborate that hypothesis. He does makes the statement that it otherwise lacks empirical proof.[12] In other words if one sets out on a jungle trail, and there is darkness, sensing a predictor and turning back from the trek would be helpful. If the sensation was wrong and there was no predictor the mistake of being wrong would be less graven that of being right but ignoring the sense. Thus, the sensation of presence is selected for. This might be used by a skeptic to answer the argument from mystical experience. Elk has five experiments that that seek to explore weather processing concepts about supernatural agents enhances detection in the environment.
Participants were presented with point light stimuli representing kinds of biological motion, or with pictures of faces embedded in a noise mask. Participants were asked to indicate if the stimuli represented a human agent or not. In each case they used three “primes,” one for supernatural, one ofr human, one for animal. They found that supernatural primes facilitated better agent detection.[13] So the argument is that the perceived presence of agents in threatening situations and tendencies to anthropomorphizing leads stronger belief in ghosts, demons, angels, gods and other “supernatural” agency.[14] They point to a body of work consisting of several studies showing that particular paranormal beliefs are a reliable predictor of illusory perceptions of faces and agency detection. These studies include Willard and Norenzayan (2013), Reikki et. al. (2013), and Petrican and Burris (2012).[15] “although these studies provide tentative support for the relation between agency detection and supernatural beliefs, the notion that reigious beliefs are a byproduct of perceptual biases to detect patterns and agency has been challenge by several authors...” (Bulbulia, 2004, Lisdorf 2007, and McKay and Efferson, 2010).[16]
While it may be true that some aspects of mystical experience are genetically related, and may be related to agent detection, that is no proof that mystical experience originates wholly within a naturalistic and genetic framework. First, because these studies only demonstrate a correlation between supernatural beliefs and agency detection. There is no attempt to establish the direction of a causal relationship. If there is a connection between supernatural and agent detection it could as easily be that awareness of supernatural concepts makes one more sensitive to agent detection. Secondly, of course just being genetically related doesn't reduce the phenomenon wholly to genetic endowments. Thirdly, there is a lot more to mystical experience than agent detection. Both involve sensing a presence beyond that point the differences are immense. I am not even sure that facial recognition and sensing a predator are similar enough to count for anything. In sensing being observed one is not usually aware of visual ques as one would be in facial recognition. There's no guarantee that the quality of the sensing is the same. Feeling the divine presence is much more august and involves levels and textures. Such an experience is, overall, positive, life changing, transformational (even noetic) but merely feeling one is being observed could be creepy, negative, or even trivial. The vast differences can be spelled out in the tiebreakers I discuss in The Trace of God.
If supernature manifests itself in the natural realm through brain chemistry then the conclusion that this is somehow indicative of the divine could go either way. We can’t rule out the divine or supernatural just because it involves the natural realm. What then is the real distinguishing feature that tells us this is inductive of something other than nature? That’s where I introduce the “tie breakers.” There are aspects of the situation that indicate the effects of having the experience could not be produced by nature unaided:
(1) The transformative effects
The experience is good for us. It changes the experiencer across the board. These effects are well documented by that huge body of empirical research. They include self actualization, therapeutic effects that actually enhance healing form mental problems, less depression better mental outlook and so on. Summarizing the results of two of the major studies:
This is not merely a list of warm fuzzies. The results represent actual life transformation and change of world view. The results are dramatic and positive; well grounded psychological health, a deep sense of meaning and purpose in life, overcoming fear of death and overcoming physical addictions. Examples, Patricia Ryan's study finds that abuse victims often come to view God in more cosmic and impersonal terms. Or they become embittered and turn away from God, victims of childhood trauma and abuse often report that they felt the abuser was trying to destroy their soul and that this was the one inviolable core that could not be destroyed. This sense was related to mystical experience.[17] Loretta Do Rozario studied patients who were either dying or in chronic pain. She found that mystical experience elevated the sense of illness and pain to a level of the “universal search for meaning and self transcendence.” The subjects reported that the experience ot only enabled them to cope with pain and fear of death but also enabled them to experience joy within the hardship.[18]
Skeptics often advance the placebo argument, but it is neutralized because Placebos require expectation and a large portion of mystical experience is not expected. It’s not something people usually set out to have. Without being able to argue for placebo effect there is really no way to account for the transformational effects.[19] Moreover, while placebo get's used against any claim about the mind there's actually a much more narrow range to which it rightly applies.
...People frequently expand the concept of the placebo effect very broady to include just about every conceivable sort of beneficial, biological, social or human interaction that doesn't involve some drug well known to the pharmacopeia. The concept of placebo has been expanded much more broadly than this. Some attribute the effects of various alternative medical systems such as homeopathy or chiropractic to placebo effect. Others have described studies that show the positive effects of enhanced communication, such as Egbert's as the ploaebo response without the placebo.[20]
Thus the burden of proof is upon the skeptic to prove that placebo even applies to religious experience.
(2) Noetic aspects to the experiences
These are not informational but there is a sense in which the mystic feels that he has learned soemthing about the universe as a result of the experience. This usually is on the order of “God loves me” or “all is one.”
(3) The experience contains
the sense of the numinous or sense of the holy.
This is closely related to the Noetic sense and they clearly overlap but there is a distinction. The snse of the Holy could be more general and gives the sense that some unique and special aspect of reality exists. Some noetic qualities might be considered doctrinal in nature. “all is one” is a doctrinal statement. While I don't advocate using mystical experience to shape doctrine, because the shaping of doctrine in the Christian tradition revolves around pre given principles in revelatory texts, the nature of these qualities indicates more is going on than just misfire of some neuron.
(4) why positive?
These experiences are never negative. The only negativity associated with mystical experience is the sense of the mysterium tremendum, the highly serious nature of the Holy. That is not a lasting negative effect. If this is nothing more than brain chemistry and it’s just some sort of misfire where the brain just forgets to connect the sense of self to the part that says “I am not the world,” why is it so positive, transformative, vital? It’s not often that such a positive experience results form a biological accident.
(5) bad evolutionary theory
Mystical experience has not been tied to gene frequency. So the argument about adaptation has to rest upon the intermediaries that it provides, such as surviving long winters so one can have gene frequency. Yet all of those kinds of experiences flaunt the explanatory gap of consciousness. Why should we develop a mystically based sense of the world to get through hard long winter when we could more easily develop a brain circuiting that ignores boredom? Then this adaptation that is only there because it enabled us to get through being snowed in has such an amazing array of other effects such as life transformation and better mental health, and leads to the development of such complex fantasisms of errors as religious belief and organized religion. It’s so inefficient. Surely survival of the fittest should take the course of least resistance?
(6) Navigation in life
Mystical experiences enable navigation in life, these experiences and their effects enable us to get through and to set our sights on higher idealistic concepts and ways of life. They provide a sense of self actualization, authentication, and enable the subjects to bear up in the face of adversity. Rozario writes about those in her study who suffered chronic pain or were dying: “The inner awareness of wholeness despite the odds points to an explicit experience of life which can transcend form and matter. This experience of wholeness or consciousness extends and challenges the view of disability and illness as only a myth making and revaluing opportunity in the lives of people.”[21] Gackenback, writes:
These states of being also result in behavioral and health changes. Ludwig (1985) found that 14% of people claiming spontaneous remission from alcoholism was due to mystical experiences while Richards (1978) found with cancer patients treated in a hallucinogenic drug-assisted therapy who reported mystical experiences improved significantly more on a measure of self-actualization than those who also had the drug but did not have a mystical experience. In terms of the Vedic Psychology group they report a wide range of positive behavioral results from the practice of meditation and as outlined above go to great pains to show that it is the transcendence aspect of that practice that is primarily responsible for the changes. Thus improved performance in many areas of society have been reported including education and business as well as personal health states (reviewed and summarized in Alexander et al., 1990). Specifically, the Vedic Psychology group have found that mystical experiences were associated with "refined sensory threshold and enhanced mind-body coordination (p. 115; Alexander et al., 1987).[22]


[1] George D. Chryssides and Ron Geives, The Study of Religion an Introduction to key ideas and methods. London, New Deli, New york: Bloomsbury, 2nd ed. 2007, 59-60.
Chryssides is a research fellow with the University of Birmingham. He has an MA in Philosophy and D Phil in systematic theology from University of Glasgow. Among the books he mentions as examples of the trend are Why God Wont Go Away, by E. Aquili andAndrew Newberg (1999) , and Nuero-Theology by R. Joseph (2003)

[2]  R. Joseph, Nuero-Theology:Brain, Science, Spirituality, Religious Experience. University Pr; 2nd edition (May 15, 2003) 22.

[3]Lionel Tiger and Michael McGuire, God's Brain, Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2010. 11.
[4] Ilkka Pyysiäinen and Marc Hauser, "The Origins of Religion: Evolved Adaption or by Product." Science Direct: Trends in Cognitive Science, Volume 14, Issue 3, (March 2010), 104-109.

[5]Ibid,. 105=106.

[6]Adrian Hastings, Alistair Mason, Hugh S. Pyper. The Oxford Companion to Christian Thought:Intellectual, Spiritual and Moral Horizons of Christianity, New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2000, 483
In the Trace of God I do two chapters defending Schleiermacher's notion and the religious a priori against reductionist based attacks by philosopher yne Proudfoot. (Hinman, Trace...op. Cit., 179-241).

[7]David Pailin, “The Religious a priori,” Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology, Louisville Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, Alan Richardson and John Bowden, ed.,1983, 498.

[8]Andrew Newberg, Why God Won’t God Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief. (New York, Ballentine Books), 2001, 37.
[9]Robert Wuthnow, “Peak Experieces, Some Empirical Tests,” Journal of Humanistic Psychology 183 (1978) 61-62.

[10]Eugene R. Fairweather, “Christianity and the Supernatural,” in New Theology no.1. New York: Macmillian, Martin E. Marty and Dean G. Peerman ed. 1964. 235-256

[11]Mathias Joseph Scheeben in Fairweather, Ibid.

[12]Michiel Elk, Bastiaan T. Rutjens, Joop van der Pligt,& Frenk van Harrveled (2016) Priming of Supernatural agent concepts and agency detection, Religion, Brain and Behavior, 6:1, 4-33, DOL: 10.1080/2153599X.2014.93344

[13]Ibid., 4

[14]Ibid., 5.

[15]Ibid., 5. A.K. Willard and A. Norenzayan, “Cognative Biases Explain Religious Belief and belief in life's purpose,” Cognition 129 (2013), 379-391. T. Reikki, M.Litterman, et. al. “Paranormal and religious believers are more prone to illusary face perception than skeptics and none believers.” applied cognitive psychology 27 (2013) 150-155, and R. Petrican and C.T. Burris, “Am I a Stone? Over attribution of agency and Religious Orientation,” Religion and Spirituality 4 (2012), 312-323.

[16]Ibid., 6. J. Bulbulia, “The Cognitive and Evolutionary Psychology of Religion,” Biology and Philosophy 19, (2004) 655-686, A. Lisdorf, “What's HIDD'n in the HADD,” Journal of Cognition and Culture 7, (2007), 341-353, and R. McKay and C. Efferson, “Subtitles of Error Management,” Evolution and Human Behavior, 31 (5)(2010) 309-319.

[17]Patricia L. Ryan, “Spirituality Among Adult Survivors of Childhood Violence: a Literary Review.” The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Vol. 30, no. 1, (1998) 43.

[18]Loretta Do Rozario, “Spirituality in the Lives of People With Disability and Chronic Illness: A Creative Paradigm of Wholness and Reconstitution.” Disability and Rehabilitation: An International and Multidisciplinary Journal, Vol. 19, no. 10, (1997) 427.

[19]Hinman, Trace...Op cit., 291.

[20]Daiel E. Morman, ayne B. Jonas, “Deconstructing the Placebo Effect and Finding the Meaning Response.” Annuals of Internal Medicine, Vol. 136, issue 6, (19 March 2002), 471-476. Dr. Moreman is an anthropologist at University of Michigan.

[21]Rozario, op.cit. 102.

[22]Jayne Gackenback,Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integration. Unpublished paper (1992) Online resouirce
accessed 1/19/16.
 this issue relates directly to my book

Buy MY BOOK! photo frontcover-v3a_zps9ebf811c.jpg Order from Amazon
Ground breaking research that boosts religious arguemnts for God to a much stronger level. It makes experience arguments some of the most formidable.Empirical scientific studies demonstrate belief in God is rational, good for you, not the result of emotional instability. Ready answer for anyone who claims that belief in God is psychologically bad for you.
Order from Amazon

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Neither ICR or First Cause? Tie Breaker


The background to this entire discussion is the Transcendental Signifier argument: that God is the best explanation for hierarchical ordering in reality: The transcendental signified explains hierarchical ordering since it provides for a top of the metaphysical hierarchy that would order all the way down. Last post was Prolegomena to Criteria for Best Explanation. Here I propose the Criteria and show them in action.

Criteria for choosing the best explanation:

I. Simple (elegant and ontologically simple).

Focus is on God's relationship to all aspects of the universe and reality. It's not about issues like what is God made of or does he have parts. The relation itself of the God concept to the universe is what is at issue. One concept that props up every thing is simpler than trying to account for everything through loose ends. That's why they want a grand unified theory. More concise and bang for the buck.

II. Competitive:

Does the explanation compete with other explanations? In a sense no, the other explanations are not scientific. Science and religion have different domains they are meant to do different things. God and science don't compete. Yet the question is not one of science vs. God but of world views. While science makes up a large part of the world view of scientists and skeptics (and believers too at times) if we think of atheism as a world view there's more to it than just science. Atheism consists of actively cutting out the kinds of existential and phenomenological explanations that are part of the believer's world view. So belief in God answers the questions abou8t life at a more philosophical level, to my way of thinking a more profound level. Science tells us how the physical world works. God tells us why there is a physical world. Of course there are limits to how much we are told. That's the job of Theological to figure out what God tells us and what God does not tell us. Belief in God competes with other philosophical level questions.

Religions are often thought of as competing with each other for believers, even though they all point to the TSED as a generic object of faith. This is not to say they are all the same or that it doesn't matter,

but for the sake of the TS argument I'm going to bracket that for now. Atheism and belief in God Compete directly because the farmer seeks to explain the world by removing the explanation of the latter. While most atheists turn to science for explanatory power they often embrace an ideological version of science that is tuned to screen out religious explanations.i God transcends our understanding and our observations. Thus God belief can't compete with science's answers of how the universe works; nor does it need to. It does answer the why, the best atheism can do is to assert that there is no why. To the extent that both world views seek to account foe ultimate origins.

So the issue is not one of science vs. belief in God, but belief vs. atheism. In other words given equal embrace of science which world view best explains the world? Some will claim that science rules out God because there's no necessary place for God in a world of modern science. That just depends upon what kind of explanation we seek. The believer must not allow the skeptic to pull a bait-and-switch whereby the workings of the physical world are put over as the best explanation just because they are the most certain.

III. Logically consistent with self and world:

No internal contradictions in theory, and if it does contradict what we think we know it has to re-explain it in a way so as to account for the apparent contradiction.

IV. Complete:

Explains more of the data than other hypotheses, and coordinates the answer to all other areas or more other areas than do other hypotheses. Example. God not only explains something from nothing but also accounts for ethics and meaning. The totality of data is all aspects of existence. It can't be limited to just empirical data but all aspects of human being and the nature of existing.

In order to cover all data the answer must include the philosophical in that it considers the phenomena on a higher level than just the physical workings of the universe. We have to be careful, however, not to set up the criteria in such a way that God is the only valid answer because nothing else applies. God must be the best explanation because other alternatives are eliminated. To demonstrate that I have not just set things up to favor my argument, I will, when the time comes to eliminate other alternatives, show alternatives that also fit the criteria.

Why a philosophical answer? Why not just content ourselves with the physical universe and how it works? That approach would rule God out before one got started thinking about that question. By Metaphysical I mean in the sense Wiltshire uses it, talk about talk about the world (glossery). Or to put it another way, thinking about how to think about the world. That answer must proceed from a transcendental perspective, analyzing the system of thought itself. The answer must be on a transcendental or metaphysical level but need not involve God. Must we manufacture a reason for things? No but there is a fine line. The answer can't content itself with pure physics and no more, but it can't demand a purposive reason as the only option. The explanation (sans God) on the metaphysical level might involve just dealing with the consequences of a purposeless world. We have to face the possibility that there is no purpose, but by the same token the skeptic must respect a subjective sense as the justification for seeking purpose. It's true that this criterion asks one to acept positions that perhaps can't be proven, but we don't have to prove the actual reality of God to produce a rational warrant for belief. Even a subjective sense can be analyzed and subjected to forms of verification see my first book, The Trace of God: A Rational Warrant for Belief, available on Amazon).

These five qualities taken together are what I call “the best explanation.” The conclusion of the argument posits a TSED which can logically be understood as a generic God Concept. That conclusion has to meet the criteria. I will defend the premises as true statement based upon best educated judgement then show how the proposed conclusion meets the criteria as best explanation for the phenomena sited.

The tie: the believer discounts naturalistic phenomena on the basis that it needs a cause. The possibility of infinite causal regression (ICR) is discounted. The physicalist responds “why doesn't God need a cause?” The answer invariably comes back “there has to be a final cause at some point since otherwise we are stuck with an ICR again and we never have our cause.” The The phyiscalist, however, can come back and insist that these two explanations are on an equal par, if gravity or physical law needs a cause than why doesn't God need a cause? We can always insist any answer needs a cause, but causes can't be infinite. Neither ICR nor final cause work. The former can't be accepted, the latter can't be privileged. Apparently nothing exists. Since that can't be the case there must be a problem in our understanding. Perhaps we can give different weights to the aseity potential of each of the two, God vs. naturalistic or physical cause.


We can expect God to have aseity because that's part of the concept of God, and because we know there must be a first or final cause. Otherwise, nothing would be. Of course the other option is that ICR is possible. I dealt with that above. It's understandable that the physicalist would be dissatisfied with this answer. It might seem as though God is just being defined into existence. But there are two arguments we can make here. First, the two competing explanations are of different natures and that should give a different weight to each one. After all, if ICR is impossible there would have to be a final cause. Why should we think that cause is some material or naturalistic phenomenon? We have reasons to believe that God would not need a cause, the concept of God as possessing aseity is based upon the fact of needing final cause and of God as creator of all that is. But we have no example of anything physical or material (including energy—special answer on conservation) that does not have a cause; appeal to physical laws as eternal causes don't work for reasons given in chapter 4. We have no reason to think that there could be an eternal uncaused Higgs boson or that any of these physical alternatives could be uncaused. If we assert the apparent acausal nature of quantum particles there are certainly prior conditions to such particles that can't be accounted for by naturalistic phenomena. Secondly, we can bring in the deductive version of the TS at this point.

The deductive version proves that there must be a single first principal at the top of the metaphysical hierarchy. That first principle must be sufficient to create and sustain the universe (or multiverse) including all OP's. For example it was argued that the first principle (the TSED) must be first cause of all that is. So there must be an ἀρχή and it must have aseity. It must be uncaused or we are back into ICR. Or it makes no sense to speak of final cause being caused. There is logical reason to attribute aseity to God. It would seem a universal consciousness might be thought of as spirit and be eternal. It seems there's much less reason to attribute that to an inanimate phenomenon as they seem to always be the product of prior conditions and/or causes. Another way to look at the question: the ἀρχή is God a priori, whatever else it might be. That would be the definition of God. Since there must be an ἀρχή there must be God. These are not two separate arguments, the deductive version and the abductive, just different methods of inference from the same premise.
These arguments as answers on the abductive version do not require proof, it's enough to show we have good reason to think it's the best solution. None of these theories listed above offer explanations for the hierarchical nature of order nor do they offer a single first principle that fits the requirements for transcendental signified.

The moral is if we follow the criteria laid out last time then the ties are broken in both cases by applying the criteria and completeness and competitiveness. Neither physicalist paradigms answers all the data (doesn't explain why there is hierarchy) neither does ICR or any other physicality alternative.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Prologomina to Criteria for the Best Exploaination

 photo theoryandmodel_zpsdabbd46c.jpg

The context to this discussion is in setting up an abductive argument for God such as the abductiver version of the Transcendental signifier argument. But it can work for any abductive approach to God argument.

According to Lipton not all induction is probability. He draws the line between deductive and inductive at the point where it is no longer impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusions false; when that's the case its deductive. Inductive is weighing probability not proof.[1] Inductive considerations arise out of indeterminism. It is because outcomes are not necessitated t1hat we can have probability. In assessing the nature of the best explanation, Lipton finds that justification supports explanatory power because with indeterminism we can only go by likelihood. If likelihood were the only guide abduction reduces to induction, or a form of it. Rather he finds that we can't construe best as likeliest alone, but we should view abduction as a guide to inference, not as proof. He urges us to see explanatory factors as guides to illuminating likelihood rather than the other way around. [2] To use my own examples: suppose someone argues that its not likely that the former friends are jogging together because they made up; the former friends could be jogging together so that they can insult each other. That doesn't seem believable because one hates conflict, the other is too mature. Thus that is a less likely explanation than the theory that they made up. How would likelihood work with the question of God? How to establish probability of an issue such as the reality of God, where there is an inability to produce empirical proof? Such a discussion could not help but be dominated by prior convictions. Yet if we value explanation and we have reasonable parameters for what needs explaining the explanatory power might give a clue to likelihood. This means we are still left with how to establish “best.”

Gabby and Woods offer a rule to determine explanatory power. The rule sets up a criterion of comparison between hypothesis. At least one element must be more plausible in given hypothesis than its counter parts in competing hypotheses. [3] They develop much more complex statistical theorems. The problem is, even though setting up criteria of comparison is a god idea, we still can't just assert the likelihood of God, or even the unlikelihhod. The individual must decide the values by which to set parameters for comparison. For example if we value explanations that assume a “why” to the universe then God as explanation seems more likely. If we assume flat out there can be no why then we have already eliminated God from consideration. The problem in making a God argument is that God is not given in sense data. Thus God can't be the subject of empirical investigation. What we can do is to specify parameters and criteria that prepare us to make educated decisions about belief. In other words, we can't draw a picture of the hole in a doughnut, but we can draw the doughnut around the hole. In the case of God that means rational warrant justifies belief. Rational warrant means that a given belief is possible and plausible, thus not irrational.

We might be able to say that the best explanation would account for all the data or account for the most crucial data than other explanations. We could also stipulate that the explanation be the most simple as long as we don't confuse conceptual simplicity with absence of data, or simplicity of structure. For example when Dawkins argues that God would have to be more complex than the universe he creates, he's assuming the laws of physics apply to God.[4] He's ignoring conceptual simplicity. Most of the great apologists such as Aquinas saw God as conceptually simple.[5] In other words God is not made up of physical parts. This raises the issue of Occam's razor and parsimony. Parsimony is a principle akin to abductive reasoning used in science where direct empirical data is lacking. It was based upon Occam's razor but the two are not identical. Atheists have, on occasion, taken Occam's razor as a means of ruling God out of the equation. They either assert that God is not necessary, thus Occam's dictum about not multiplying beyond necessity applies to God, or they think Occam said take the simplest of two hypotheses.[6]

They are also confusing Occam's razor with Parsimony. Occam was a priest and he believed in God he didn't think the razor got rid of God. Moreover, what the razor really says is that we should not multiply entities beyond necessity. [7] Atheists assume that since they don't believe in God then God is not necessary. This is begging the question. They are asserting the lack of a God and using that position to deny the God argument.

To understand what Occam was really talking about we must understand his nominalism.
three senses of nominalism:

(1) Denial of metaphysical universals: applies to Occam.

(2) reduce one's ontology to bare minimum, streamline categories: applies to Occam.

(3) Nix abstract entities, depending upon what one means; here Occam may or may not have been a nominalist in this sense. he did not believe in mathematical entities but he did believe in abstraction such as whiteness, or humanity.

Ockham removes all need for entities in seven of the ten traditional Aristotelian categories; all that remain are entities in the categories of substance and quality, and a few entities in the category of relation, which Ockham thinks are required for theological reasons pertaining to the Trinity, the Incarnation and the Eucharist, even though our natural cognitive powers would see no reason for them at all. As is to be expected, the ultimate success of Ockham's program is a matter of considerable dispute. [8]He was not getting rid of God. Occam's razor never allows us to deny what Spade calls "putative entities" which would definitely include God. [9] It merely bids us refrain from positing them without good reason. Of course our atheist friends would tell us there is no good reason to assert God, but answering that is the point of making God arguments. In fact for Occam humans can't really know what is necessary. "For Ockham, the only truly necessary entity is God; everything else, the whole of creation, is radically contingent through and through. In short, Ockham does not accept the Principle of Sufficient Reason.[10]This is not a contradiction because all the razor says is refrain form multiplying entities without good reason, not “rub out of existence all concepts that can't be empirically verified.” Note that he includes God as the only truly necessary entity. Thus atheist are violating Occam's razor in trying to use it on God. Of course there is equivocation in the of the term “necessary.” Atheists making the argument applying the razor to God speak of causal necessity while believers rest their ontological arguments upon ontological necessity.
An example of how “best explanation” should be considered:

This example is based upon the multiverse argument. The idea of the multiverse is taken seriously in science, even though it is the stuff of comic books and science fiction. The notion is what it sounds like: reality is divided into an infinite array of parallel universes. The argument is used to answer the fine tuning argument for God. The fine tuning argument says that the attributes of the universe that make life possible are so unlikely the game must be fixed. That's a good reason to believe in a planing intelligence as a creator. Our atheist friends say “not so fast.” There are infinite universes, thus infinite chances for life bearing. With infinite chances the odds of hitting life bearing are not so remote so there is not such a good reason to assert the need of a God. There are good answers to this, the argument is defensible. I wont defend it here because its not relevant. I am not asserting fine tuning to save the TS. My purpose in raising it is to make a point about how to consider best explanation.
The multiverse argument illustrates how the assumptions we make change the kind of explanation we seek. Is the multiverse necessary? It's a matter of empirical investigation and there may be empirical evidence to support it. Claims have been made of hard data proving Multivese, but when investigated they evaporate. Here's a physicist who opposed string theory and multiverse. He argues that his evaluation of the papers finds irresolvable problems.

In recent years there have been many claims made for “evidence” of a multiverse, supposedly found in the CMB data... Such claims often came with the remark that the Planck CMB data would convincingly decide the matter. When the Planck data was released two months ago, I looked through the press coverage and through the Planck papers for any sign of news about what the new data said about these multiverse evidence claims. There was very little there; possibly the Planck scientists found these claims to be so outlandish that it wasn’t worth the time to look into what the new data had to say about them. One exception was this paper, where Planck looked for evidence of “dark flow.” [11]

If hard evidence turns up for it then we have to deal with that on it's own terms. Until that time Multiverse should be shaved with Occam's razor. We don't need it to explain reality, it's only advanced to keep from having to turn to God. It's naturalistic so it's an arbitrary necessity at best. Arbitrary necessitates are logical impossibilities, contingent things jumped up to the level of necessity to answer a God argument. It's not that we are going to disprove the unnecessary entity (multiverse) but we are going to refrain from advancing it's existence as an assumption until such a time that real evidence makes it empirically undeniable. We can make that kind of ruling about the multiverse because its an empirical matter, even though it may be undetectable; God is not an empirical matter because God is both transcendent and transcendental. Therefore, Multiverse should be taken out of the issues of God arguments, yet we can't make that ruling about God. That's an example of what I meant when I said we can fill in the doughnut around the hole. If we find empirical evidence of multiverse we may have to re-think a couple of God arguments, In the mean time God might be the best explanation for the uniqueness of our world.
In any case parsimony is perhaps the best point of inference for abduction.
Most philosophers believe that, other things being equal, simpler theories are better. But what exactly does theoretical simplicity amount to? Syntactic simplicity, or elegance, measures the number and conciseness of the theory's basic principles. Ontological simplicity, or parsimony, measures the number of kinds of entities postulated by the theory. One issue concerns how these two forms of simplicity relate to one another. There is also an issue concerning the justification of principles, such as Occam's Razor, which favor simple theories. The history of philosophy has seen many approaches to defending Occam's Razor, from the theological justifications of the Early Modern period, to contemporary justifications employing results from probability theory and statistic[12]

Again we have to distinguish between conceptual simplicity as opposed to mere ignorance of the case, or simple structure. In other words Dawkins treats God as a big man who must have more parts than the universe he creates (see above). That is simplicity in terms of structure, the physical structure of God. That is a case we just don't know about. We can't judge that. We can think of God as the simpler concept in terms of the economy of relations. First we can think of God as mind, not brain. We do not know that minds are complex. Brains are complex but we know nothing about mind. On the other hand we might posit that mind is simpler than brain because it's not a set of biological parts, but at least theoretically might be akin to the spirit. In any case God's relation to the whole is simple: one mind which thinks the universe. One mind that in the act of perceiving sets all meaning, creates all that is, and judges all moral value. That is more simple in terms of economical relations between all parts than a multiverse. A multiverse would multiply the problems of fine tuning and something from nothing by every universe.

To spell out the criteria by which we might judge a “best” explanation, not just simplicity alone but conceptual simplicity, we must be able to make comparisons between hypotheses. We can't compare hypotheses if they don't compete for the same results. Belief in God is not a scientific hypothesis, thus it does not compete with science. Thus belief cannot be reduced to the simplicity of “the best science.” For this reason we can call the kind of parsimony of the abductive version as parsimony of elegance. In other words not just take the simplest idea, but take the truly elegant hypothesis. By “elegant” is included conceptually simple in terms of relation to the whole theory, as well as consistant, competitive, and complete (accounts for most data, and most crucial data). To make a list of qualities of an elegant hypothesis. Above I quote Baker as saying elegance is number and conciseness of the theories basic principles. Ontological simplicity is the number of kinds of entities. By that measure God would be both eligant and ontologically simple: one kind and its concise. To that I add the notion of bang for the buck; not just fewer kinds and more concise but accomplishes more for less.


iPeter Lipton, Inference to The Best Explanation. New York: Routledge, International Library of Philosophy, 2nd ed.,2004, 6.

iiIbid., 207-208.

iiiDov M. Gabby and John Woods. A Practical Logic of Cognitive Systems: Vol 2, The Reach of Abduction...Amsterdam, The Neatherlands.:Elsevier B.V., 2005, 160.

ivRicard Dawkins. The God Delusion, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1st edition, 2006.

vThomas Aquinas, The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas Second and Revised Edition, 1920Literally translated by Fathers of the English Dominican ProvinceOnline Edition Copyright © 2008 by Kevin Knight Nihil Obstat. F. Innocentius Apap, O.P., S.T.M., Censor. Theol.Imprimatur. Edus. Canonicus Surmont, Vicarius Generalis. Westmonasterii.New Advent Catholic Encyclopidia, URL: accessed 8/28/15.

vi“How to Reason: Section 8, Ocam's Razor,” God Would be An Atheist. URL: 8, Occam's Razor,” , accessed 8/6/15
This is a website for atheism, it is not a scholarly site. In fact there is no listing of an author.. I quote it as an example of popular misconception.The site says: “Occam's Razor: in any situation offering two or more explanations, the simpler or simplestexplanationis always best.” Documentation of atheists using Occam to disprove God: Robert T. Carroll, “Occum's Razor,”The Skeptic's Dictionary. Url: Accessed 8/6/15

What is known as Occam's razor was a common principle in medieval philosophy and was not originated by William, but because of his frequent usage of the principle, his name has become indelibly attached to it. It is unlikely that William would appreciate what some of us have done in his name. For example, atheists often apply Occam's razor in arguing against the existence of a god on the grounds that any god is an unnecessary hypothesis. We can explain everything without assuming the extra metaphysical baggage of a divine being.

vii C.K. Brampton, "Nominalism and the Law of Parsimony." The Modern School Men, Volume 41, Issue 3, (March 1964), 273-281.

viii Paul Vincent Spade and Claude Panaccio, "William of Ockham", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Fall 2011 (substantive content change) [new author(s): Spade, Paul Vincent; Panaccio, Claude] on lin resourse

ix Spade, et al, Ibid.


xi Peter Woit, “Hard Evidence for Multiverse Found, But String Theory limits Space Brain Threat,” Not Even Wrong,(May 22, 2013 ) online resourse:
accessed 8/26/15.

xii Alan Baker, "Simplicity", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = . Accessed 8/6/15