Monday, May 27, 2019

The Limits of Science in the Search for God part 2: Questions Science Can't answer (and Religion can)


The dispute between theists and atheists is, in large part, a squabble over epistemology. Atheists tend to be empiricists, as famous atheist blogger Austin Cline puts it:

Atheists tend to be either exclusively or primarily empiricists: they insist that truth-claims be accompanied by clear and convincing evidence which can be studied and tested. Theists tend to be much more wiling to accept rationalism, believing that "truth" can be attained through revelations, mysticism, faith, etc. This is consistent with how atheists tend to place primacy on the existence of matter and argue that the universe is material in nature whereas theists tend to place primacy on the existence of mind (specifically: the mind of God) and argue that existence is more basically spiritual and supernatural in nature.[i]

The allure of empirical evidence is apparent. The atheist lives in a socially constructed totality of mutually reinforcing doubt. Anything that is not surface and thing oriented, a material object that can be touched, must be doubted. The truncated world of mere surface nature, a world constructed entirely out of material objects, ‘things,’ and nothing more, is consistently being touted as the only valid form of existence because it’s so solid, so in front of one’s face, so “there.” All one need do is examine Cline’s speech to see the totalizing understanding at work. He says: “Theists tend to be much more wiling to accept rationalism, believing that "truth" can be attained through revelations, mysticism, faith, etc.(above).” One wonders what is in that “ect,” but he classes among the tools of RATIONALISM revelation, mysticism and faith! Sense when? Rationalism has never meant supernatural and spiritual aids, it means reason and logic. The philosophes in the enlightenment were rationalists.  Atheists themselves pride themselves in their rational natures, yet Cline would have us believe that to be a rationalist is to be a mystic.
            The reason for this is no great mystery. Atheism thrives on the notion that it is the rational choice. It clings to science and the value of scientific thinking because science has come to be understood as the umpire of reality. Religion really does involve a global use of knowledge, thus the atheist emphasizes the less scientific more “irrational” methods of religion and conveniently forgets that theology also uses logic, reason, scientific approaches, textual criticisms, archaeology and so forth. When atheists are confronted with God arguments based upon logic suddenly the use of logic becomes foolish, unimportant, inadequate unable to give us answers. Then the rationalist becomes not a logician but a mystic. Theistic rationalism is boiled down to the “spiritual” aspects and cut off from reason to make theism appear foolish. The truth of it is the atheist is truncating the world, cutting of everything below the surface. The atheist world is like a frozen sea where ice bergs end at the waterline. It’s true that religious thinking does employ these means that atheists seek to make appear foolish, revelation, mystical experience and so on.  That’s part of being global. Global approach to knowledge means using everything we know. Those more pneumatic methods are related to and grounded in the use of reason and the validated of scientific testing. This is true even on the level of daily living where untrained laymen do not make clinical field trials but live their lives, they gravitate to that which works for them and that which doesn’t work they leave alone. The more academic theological thinker employs all the techniques known to modern humanity, including science. Yet the true ground of understanding for God is in the heart. The atheist seeks to cut off the heart by disparaging it as “subjective,” “superstitious,” “unscientific” but that’s because they have to do that to make their case. Their case is based upon truncating reality.
            Is empirical evidence the best or only true form of knowledge? This is an apologetics question because it bears upon the arguments for the existence of God. Is lack of empirical evidence, if there is a lack, a draw back for God arguments?
I deny that there is a lack, but it has to be put in the proper context. That will come in future chapters, for this one I will bracket that answer and just assume there is no really good empirical evidence (even though I think there is). Empiricism is not the true source of knowledge by itself, logic is more important.  What I’m really aiming at is not logic alone but a global approach to knowledge, using everything we have. It all has to work together. Part of that global approach must include the use of epistemology as a starting point; otherwise we are making unfounded assumptions about method without really considering our basic premises before we start. It seems that a fundamental aspect of getting started has to be to acquire an understanding of our tools and an understanding of what they are designed to do. Empiricism, though it is often approached as value and commitment by the atheist, is really just one of several tools. The tool of empiricism is designed to give us a basic understanding of the immediate nature not an exhaustive and final rendition of all reality. This is illustrated best by the nature of questions that empiricism can’t answer and can’t even begin to deal. These are epistemological questions. Epistemology is branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge.[ii]Epistemology is on a more basic level of human inquirers than science; science grew out of an attempt to answer epistemological problems. Science basically deals with systemic observation of sense data, its aim is to understand the workings of the physical world. The empiricist transforms the design of a tool into a philosophy in itself trying to cause us to stay stuck at the level where all we ever consider is the physical world. The inability of science to answer basic epistemological questions demonstrates that it is unsuited to answer questions about the ultimate nature of reality.
            Descartes the rationalist reached one of the seminal moments in western thought; his cogito is important to any modern scientific thinker because it helped to stem the damage of the intellectual crisis of Europe and provided a basis for relative certainty that allowed confidence in human ability to gather knowledge and to move forward with modern science.. Descartes wanted to find the basic level of certainty that he could not doubt. He asked questions such as “how do I know I exist?”  “How do I know that I’m not being deceived by an evil genius?” The most basic thing he could not doubt was that he was thinking about how he knew he wasn’t being deceived. His answer is formulated thus, “I think, therefore, I am,” (Latin: cigito, ergo sum referred to as “the cogito”). Now the un-initiated non philosophy people who first encounter this in introductory classes mock and ridicule it saying “what a stupid thing to worry about, we know we exist because we are alive and looking at the world.” In so doing they are basically the same steps.  Of course no one worries about this, Descartes didn’t worry about it. What they miss is the fact that Descartes wasn’t actually worried that he might not exist; he was trying to work up a method that would find the most indubitable thing and work out form there. This is all pabulum for a philosophy student, Philosophy 101, fall semester. The problem is there’s a basic fallacy that Descartes is often accused of committing, it used to be “the epistemologist fallacy” sometimes called “the empiricist dilemma.” The empiricists came along and said “but you can’t get outside of your experiences to check and see if they are true.” In other words, the cogito may be the one thing of which you can be certain but you can’t move on from it by pure reason to establish the world, you have to accept your sense data as the primary source of knowledge. Thus the basic school of the empiricists was born.
            The nature of epistemological questions holds a greater problem for the adherent of scientism or the adherent of reductionism, the new atheist, the scientific empiricist than just a mere technicality in the history of philosophy. The fact that science can’t provide the answer, not that there aren’t good answers, but that science can’t provide them presents a very significant problem for those who believe that science is the only source of knowledge. For those who believe this, science is usually understood as holding an answer to everything, or everything worth knowing. Just collecting more data wont resolve questions of perception being illusory, any data collected would be suspect as part of the illusion.[iii] That science can’t provide the answers for questions of epistemology is crucial because epistemology of course is about how we know what we know, for one who believes that this one kind of knowledge is the only knowledge, to see that this source of all knowledge has no answer for this one kind of question, a question of knowledge itself, if it’s really taken to heart, has to be crushing. Of course they don’t take it to heart; they usually just rationalize it away. Be that as it may the reductionism, the champion of scientism usually comes back and says something like “I don’t have to worry about whether or not I exist because here I am, assuming I do seems to work rather well because it enables me to get through the day so I’m justified in assuming that I do exist.” Look at the nature of the answer; that is not science, its philosophy! They are essentially demonstrating my point in trying to answer because they have to resort to philosophy, having no scientific data to dispel the possibility of illusion cast over our perceptions. The nature of the answer is rather amusing because it allows one to then posit that religious experience is just as trust worthy as a huge body of scientific data demonstrates that religious experience enables one to navigate through life in certain respects.[iv] So when there actually is some data pertaining to the matter, it supports religious belief and not atheism. But the point is one must pull together a meaningful answer to this kind of question by use of means other than scientific. Thus there have to be other forms of knowledge and in dealing with the ultimate concerns of human being those other methods are crucial.
            There are many such questions. One can easily come up with them, from the banal, “How do we know the sun will come up tomorrow?”  To the profound “why is there something rather than nothing.”

How do we know the sun will come up tomorrow?
How do we know the future will be like the past?
How do we know we exist?
How do we know other minds exist external to our own?
How do we know our lives are not illusory
How do we know we are not butterflies dreaming we are humans?
How do we know we are not brains in vats, ect ect.

The trick always works the same way. They try to answer the question by departing form scientific data and making use of philosophy, however slight or undeveloped their understanding of philosophy. The question about the sun coming up is a good trick because many atheist confuse probability with science, they think they are giving a scientific answer when they say “because it always has before” as though just any reference to numbers is scientific. Yet, probably, while a major tool used in science, becomes something more like philosophy in this context, because it requires a philosophical understanding to argue that we should allow ourselves to trust the probability. This is still the childish level of fun with arguments and a more sophisticated scientific type who knows something about the philosophy of the Cartesian era would bash it out in a few minutes. We have a more complex problem when we being to ask questions about navigation in life and about meaning in life. It’s not that big a trick to figure out why we should trust the sun to come up, or why we should trust out senses when they are so regular and consistent.
            The upshot is that not only do we have to bring in philosophy to offer these answers, but we have to make them or else just ignore the question. In other words, no scientific data will ever answer these questions; they have to be the result of a judgment. We have to make an epistemic judgment to answer to such questions. The skeptic thinks she’s triumphantly answering this argument when she resorts to this fact, but in reality she is giving the answer the apologist wants to hear. Of course we have to make a judgment, that the judgment is based upon empirical data from the senses doesn’t prove that science answers the question, no far from it, it proves that science can’t answer it and the inquirer has to be based upon a judgment call and the next best thing to actually answering it is going by empirical observation. Even at that level it’s not “science” per se that’s enabling us to make the judgment, but a philosophical turn of mind that is willing to extrapolate from the data (closer to philosophy because the skeptic always rails against extrapolation when it’s about faith). The decision to make a judgment requires a philosophical deliberation, and the subject matter is not scientific. The fact of this the necessity to make the judgment is the basis for my God argument I call “argument from epistemic judgment.”[v] If the perceptions we have are regular, consistent, inter-subjective and enable navigation (and the studies studies show the affirmative on all counts) then we have the same reason to trust them that we have to trust regular experiences of the world, even though these are religious experiences. Science can’t go near the question or any of these the above questions because it’s job is to tell us about the physical world not how we know what we know, not the ultimate nature of reality. One must make a leap of faith or beg the question to assume that there is nothing more to reality than just the physical fact of things existing. This is faith, not science. Science does not work by faith.
            Not only do these epistemological questions of the empiricist dilemma highlight the need for philosophical thinking, the limited nature of science to answer such questions, but science itself shows us empirically (pardon the irony) that science is unable to provide the answer to epistemology. Andrew Newberg tells us:

The medieval German mystic Meister Echkart lived hundreds of years before the science of neurology was born. Yet it seems he had intuitively grasped one of the fundamental principles of the discipline: What we think of, as reality is only a rendition of reality that is created by the brain. Our modern understanding of the brain’s perceptual powers bears him out. Nothing enters consciousness whole. There is no direct, objective experience of reality. All the things the mind perceives—all thoughts, feelings, hunches, memories, insights, desires, and revelations—have been assembled piece by piece by the processing powers of the brain from the swirl of neural blimps. The idea that our experiences of reality—all our experiences, for that matter—are only “secondhand” depictions of what may or may not be objectively real, raises some profound questions about the most basic truths of human existence and the neurological nature of spiritual experience. For example our experiment with Tibetan mediators and Franciscan nuns showed that the events they considered spiritual were, in fact, associated with observable neurological activity. In a reductionist sense this could support the argument that religious experience is only imagined neurologically, that God is physically ‘all in your mind.’ But a full understanding of the way in which the brain and the mind assemble and experience reality suggests a very different view.[vi]

The brain re-writes reality for us as part of the cognitive features that make up our physical perceptions. That means not that our physical perceptions are giving us an accurate representation of the world but that they are re writing the world for us. Our perceptions are not what is actually there but what our brains have re-written to present to us as a simulacra of what is there. It’s not that we can establish reasonable probability that enables us to get by in life, of course we can. The fact that we do this all the time indicates that this is not a debilitating condition; the fact of it is, however, that our ability to do that depends upon philosophical thinking and making of metaphors, not upon empiricism or scientific data.
            We have to put together all the sense data and the re-written version of reality our brains give us, but we have to apply philosophical thinking to come up with the answer “I can trust the sun will come up because it has always done so before.” We can’t really do this without thinking philosophically. The answer to questions about how we know what we take to be “reality” is “real,” involves a philosophical leap of faith. We can’t bridge the gap in knowledge by literally establishing the accuracy of the way the brain re-writes the world, we can only make an epistemic judgment; that’s what the answers people give, “the sun will come up again because it always does.” That answer is a judgment, it’s really guess based upon probability.  That’s philosophical. In fact Newberg shows that the brain actually has a philosophical judgment function already “built-in” to our perceptions. He calls them “cognitive operators.” One such operator enables us to see the whole broken down into component parts and another allows us to group component parts and see the whole. It’s as though what we need to gather data and build a picture of the world is designed into our cognitive array. My purpose here, however, is not to make a design argument. Rather I am arguing that the only things that really make all of this work are counter intuitively not aspects that allow one to one accurate viewing of the world but instead enable the kinds of thinking that empiricists and atheist don’t like, thinking that’s more a part of the arts and humanities, and philosophy; the making of metaphor, without which language would be impossible, and extrapolation, requiring imagination.[vii] Without these kinds of thinking and the ability to employ them philosophically to questions of perception and to general questions about the meaning of life, we would not be able to operate in the world. This is not supplied by scientific data, nor could it be. This is not an issue that can be bridged by better gathering of data because any data we gather would be useless without the ability to extrapolate form it and think philosophically.
            What we see at work in the reliance upon philosophy to bolster science in the epistemological realm, and then to criticize philosophy for not being science, is the tendency of scientism to bring philosophy in through the backdoor; that is a necessary move to bolster the atheist ideology because without that they could never even suggest anything about the nature of reality. Of course real scientific thought is much more sophisticated than anything I portray here, as is real philosophical thinking. Hopefully real major physicists don’t think that science is the only source of knowledge. I am inclined to pick on those who do think this and I refer to them as “sciensistic.” Atheists and skeptics tend to be scientistic. The scientism crowd must bring philosophy in the back door because without doing that they could not tout their ideology. Ideology touting is a philosophical move. Pronouncements such as “metaphysics is useless made up garbage” is a metaphysical statement. Thus one must do metaphysics in order to say “metaphysics sux.” Sometimes major physicists do talk rot and move too far into the realm of expropriating philosophy, especially when they want to sell books. Such an instance is seen now in the new publicity stunt Stephen Hawking, who, awaiting release of his new book declares that God did not create the universe. The book is not yet out, thus we have only pre-release reviews to go by. We do know one thing already; science has no business making pronouncements about God because God is not a scientific question. God is in the realm of questions that science can’t answer. The proof is to sit back (with popcorn) and watch the circus as scientist like Hawking sneak in philosophy disguised as science.
            The shocking proclamation of the book is to be that God did not create the universe, science can accent for it all. Most reviewers have lost no time in pointing out the obvious; Hawking’s mechanism (gravity) is left unexplained.
God did not create the universe, world-famous physicist Stephen Hawking argues in a new book that aims to banish a divine creator from physics. Hawking says in his book The Grand Design  that, given the existence of gravity, "the universe can and will create itself from nothing," according to an excerpt published Thursday in The Times of London. "Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist," he writes in the excerpt."It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper [fuse] and set the universe going," he writes.[viii]

Probably that is the hook when the book is released, the pretense that does explain. Prediction: the book will be sold on the premise that it disproves the need for God because it accounts scientifically for gravity, but the real trick is to what for what is surreptitiously lurking behind the veil. Not the idea that they can’t demonstrate the basis for gravity
            The questions that science poses and the questions that religious belief pose are totally different sorts of questions. There are points of overlap. Most of these stem form the ages before science really had an systematic to it, the ancient world, pre historic world.  These are the days when the most sophisticated scientific knowledge was smelting and sword making, and even that was not understood in a way that we would call "scientific."  In that setting it was natural (meaning logical and practical) to use religion as the explanation for the natural world. From this era when people looked to religion to make it answer questions it can't answer, we have hold over ideas (such as Genesis creation myth--which we need to learn how to read as a myth--and that means we need to learn the value in myth) that we have these conflicts. Science doesn’t work by faith, but science’s task is to understanding the workings of the physical world. On the other hand, this is not the only thing that humans wonder about. The nature of human wonderment is bigger than just the physical world. We wonder about our very place in being. How are we going to understand the nature of being empirically when we can't get outside of being to study it? We can understand it from the standpoint of beings in being, but that's subjective. We can't get outside of being to understand what being is. This is why science is inadequate to deal with questions like the existence of God, thus the lack of empirical evidence for God cannot be understood as a reason to disbelieve the existence of God. Atheists reject “subjective” view points and evidence, but that’s the only of knowledge we have. Objectivity is a pretense. Humans are not objective and science is not an objective means of obtaining all possible truth. The reductionists will counter with the assertion that the only possible alternative is superstition or magic or some kind of primitive animism, but they ignore logic, philosophy and phenomenology.

Heidegger’s ultimate question, why is there something rather than nothing at all. This probably the most important question of ontology, and it's one science can't begin to answer. The basis of religious thinking, although Heidegger was an atheist, it need to entail a religious answer. To even begin to think about the issue one must depart the field of science, leave aside the workings of the physical world and embark upon contemplation of a concept foreign to scinece; the question of "why?" Science thrives on "how?" It doesn't contain "why?"

           In addition to epistemological questions and ontological there are also moral questions. Much has been done to try and construct moral philosophy based upon scientific underpinnings, mainly though trying to establish a genetic basis for morality. This is not valid because it can’t tell us the “should.” Moral philosophy, ethics, morality all of these kinds of thinking require the word “should” be part of their formulations; one should or should not do X.  Merely establishing a fact of nature lending itself to a predisposition toward a certain kind of behavior does not tell us that we should or should not do that behavior. To try and base morality upon genetics is a violation of Hume’s fork. One cannot establish and ought from an “is.” Suppose we dissected living humans to observe the workings of the human body. We could learn a great deal, science would be greatly served, but science can’t tell us we should or should not do that, and doing it because it serves science is no guarantee that it would be ethical. Now one might argue “that’s common sense, this is repugnant because it’s a violation of our human feeling, we feel in the gut that’s it is wrong and that’s all we need to ay it is wrong. The feeling is not science. Utilitarianism is not science. Enlightenment self interest is not science. None of the basic reasons atheists and physicalists will give for not doing so are science. The moral answers atheists take to the questions have to come from thinking other than scientific thought, and certainly scientific data can’t tell us where the “should” is. If we even care about the dimension of the moral in the first place, we have to move into the realm of philosophy and ask other kinds of questions than that science can answer. Questions of moral philosophy overlap with questions of God, much more so then they do with questions of science. Scientific empiricism is not prepared to answer such questions, nor to deal with epistemology, but also has inherent problems even for it’s own tasks.

[i] Austine Cline,, Atheism/Agnosticism (blog) URL: Visited 8/27/2010
[ii] Antony Flew, A Dictionary of Philosophy, revised second edition. New York: St. Martin’s press, 1979,109.
[iii] When I employ this game playing strategy in argument with atheist on the internet they usually become outraged at the point where they realize that more data won’t help. The start cursing and saying that I’m “attacking science, and saying things like “that’s crazy, no one would worry about existing or not.” But the reasons they give are always indicative of philosophical thinking, even the ones who say philosophy is just made up rubbish.
[iv] See my previous work The Trace of God, Grand Viaduct publishing. Chapter 3
[v] see J.L. Hinman. The Trace of God, Dallas and Colorodo Springs: Grand Viaduct Publishing, 2010 ,chapter 3, “Arguments”
[vi] Andrew NewbergWhy God Won’t God AwayBrain Science and the Biology of Belief. (New York, Ballentine Books), 2001,35-36.
[vii] Ibid 52.
[viii] Richard Allen Green. “Stephen Hawking:God Didn’t Create the Universe” CNN World. (September 02, 2010).

Monday, May 20, 2019

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

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

Image result for Stars in space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

this half starts at at  [21:56]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Index of my articles on Bayes