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Seek God Sensibly: On His Own Terms

Posted on Jun 17, 2014 by Tom Gilson

Is there a God? How would we know?

Among atheists today there is a sizable subset who think that if God is real, he ought to be detectable through science. I can see the appeal in thinking that, since science tells us so much about the world. Even better, it has ways to adjudicate factual disputes, especially when it’s possible to employ very careful measurement and control of variables.

Ironically, those are exactly the factors that make science a poor way to detect the reality of God. If you wonder about God, it only makes sense to seek him on his terms. Or you might put it this way: if you want to know whether there is a God, you ought to ask the question in a way that you could tell the answer if the answer were yes. There are so many things science is good for, but for this task it’s not up to the job. Its competence is broad, but it’s in the kind of things that won’t discover God, if there is a God.

Measuring

Scientists often make an informal distinction between “hard” and “soft” sciences, with specialists in the “hard” sciences often expressing doubt that the “soft” sciences are science at all. The two groups are distinguished by how finely they can measure the behavior of their subject matter, which happens to run almost exactly parallel with how much personal freedom their subject matter can express. People are harder to measure than rats, which are harder to measure than chemicals in test tubes.

If God is truly personal—and especially if his personal freedom exceeds that of humans—his activity is likely to be very difficult to measure with any precision.

Controlling

True experimental science involves controls. In the classic format, an experiment involves two or more samples, specimen sets, etc. matched in every way possible, with one of them being subjected to some experimental manipulation or intervention, and the other not receiving that treatment. If the two groups’ outcomes after treatment/non-treatment are significantly different, researchers generally find it safe to conclude that the treatment was the cause of the difference. (There are complexities galore on top of that, but that’s the basic picture.) The great virtue of experimental research is its ability to isolate and control variables.

If God is truly sovereign over the world, it’s unlikely that he would subject himself to being controlled like a lab rat or a chemical in a test tube—or even a particle in a high-energy collider, named after him. It’s unlikely that his effects as creator could be cleanly isolated from his work in creation.

Simplifying

There are other approaches to research, of course. In the social sciences, correlational research is more common than experimental research. In one simple form of correlational research, persons are measured on a pair of variables, for example “happiness” and salary. If the measurements reveal that salaries tend to be higher among happy people, and lower among less happy people, then researchers conclude that (a) greater happiness tends to cause higher salaries, or (b) higher salaries tends to cause greater happiness, or (c) neither of the above, or (d) both of the above, or (e) nothing definite at all. Option (e) is by far the most commonly selected option, because except in very special circumstances, correlation does not show causation.

(By the way, my example here is fictional. I’m not aware of any reliable research showing that happiness varies uniformly [monotonically] with salary.]

Correlational research can’t generally lead to conclusions about causation because it’s not well controlled, as experimental research is. Its single greatest weakness is that on its own, it’s insensitive to the presence of other related variables. My first research methods prof told our class about the finding that ice cream sales was highly correlated with crime rates in St. Louis. Does ice cream cause crime, or does crime make people hungry for ice cream? In this case the likely answer is neither, but outdoor temperatures could influence both.

Where correlational research is most able to show causation is where relationships are very obvious, clear, and simple, with a minimum of potential hidden variables. When things get complex, though, science is very limited—unless it happens to be in some field where experimental methods can be used. Look where you find more controversy, and where you find less: Complicated (mostly experimental) physics can reach considerably more definite, reliable, non-controversial conclusions than complicated (mostly correlational) psychology can.

If God is truly sovereign over the entire created order, it’s exceedingly likely that he could manipulate variables beyond number, acting in such complicated ways that no non-controversial conclusions could ever be derived about him through correlational methods.

The God Science Could Detect

Notice that so far I have said nothing about God that depends on the truth of any religious belief. I’ve only made “if” statements that ought to seem reasonable to reasonable readers. And I suppose theoretically those “if” statements about God might be premature. It might be that there is a God science could detect. If so, that God would have to be fairly impersonal, regular, predictable, with various aspects of his action able to be isolated, like forces of nature are, for example.

Is it any wonder, then, that people who look to science for their every answer tend not to find God, but find something god-like about the forces of nature?

A God Science Could Never Detect

Suppose, though, the question is whether there is a God whose freedom is limited only by consistency with his own nature, and who is the sovereign creator of the natural world. If that’s the question, then science is probably, by its very nature, the wrong way to ask. It’s highly unlikely the maker of mankind would subject himself to experimental manipulation. It’s highly unlikely the omniscient, omnipotent God would simplify his actions in the world to a few, simple, measurable variables.

To Seek God On His Own Terms

If, then, there is a sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient creator God ruling over all the universe, it’s unlikely on the face of it that such a God would submit himself to the level of control, manipulation, and isolation of variables that science employs—especially science in its most powerful, experimental mode. It’s unlikely that he would play our game our way. It’s far more likely he would set his own agenda, and (if he wanted to be known) reveal himself in his own way.

So it seems to me that without any other religious guidance or information, a rational person who was wondering about the reality of a powerful, sovereign, wise, personal God would avoid asking whether science could reveal such a God. That person would instead ask, “Is there any hint of any knowledge or tradition in the world where God seems possibly to have revealed himself on his own terms?”

It seems to me that would be the only sensible starting point for one who would seek God, who even wonders about God.

There are of course several such traditions. They disagree on many things. Maybe our sensible searcher would then ask, “Is there anything they all agree on?” At this point I would, finally, point the quest in a particular direction. I would suggest this searcher look at one of the few things all the traditions seem to agree on: in one way or another, they all regard Jesus Christ very highly; they want to claim Christ for themselves.

So I would suggest to this searcher, if Jesus Christ is such an important common figure in all the major traditions, maybe the actual tradition he founded would be the most likely place to begin your search. If you do, you’ll find that he meets the description of what you’re looking for: a God who wants to be discovered — on his terms, though, not ours.

Related: What Would God Look Like If He Came To Earth?

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114 Responses to “ Seek God Sensibly: On His Own Terms ”

  1. John Moore says:

    Science depends on regularity in the way nature works. Miracles break the regularity of nature. If God performed miracles fairly often but not regularly, science would detect it.

    Another way of putting this: If science works reliably, then God probably does not exist.

  2. Melissa says:

    John,

    If God performed miracles fairly often but not regularly, science would detect it.

    Tom has given reasons in the OP to think this is not true, you could at least have let us know why you disagree with those reasons.

  3. Kevin says:

    John, I fail to see how your logic stands. The existence of God does not depend upon miracles happening on a regular basis, nor does the functionality of science have anything to do with the likelihood of God’s existence.

    Although ultimately I would say that the functionality of science completely depends on God’s existence, since atheism is philosophically and logically untenable.

  4. scblhrm says:

    By John Moore’s own reasoning, every time a physician manipulates, pushes, redirects, shuffles, biochemistry and physics (Etc.) there is a “miracle”. I was sick, now I’m not. My body was pulseless and acid-laden, now it’s not. Etc.

    In that case, Agency/Agent = Miracle.

    At least according to John Moore’s reasoning.

    Just the same reasoning then forces him to conclude that the lack of such pushing would “mean” that there is/are no physics to be pushed, no Agency to do the pushing. Of course, it is painfully obvious that he’d be wrong – entirely mistaken – to make such conclusions.

  5. scblhrm says:

    Metaphysics and Christ:

    If All-Sufficiency Himself were to pour out all that is His Own Self for His beloved – and into His beloved – for and into all that is In-Sufficiency – and this to the bitter end of time and physicality, to the bitter ends of the contingent – where do the vectors of such Motion – ultimately – converge? We find in Christ the necessary modes both of the non-contingent and of self-sacrifice, that is to say, of the Necessary Being Who is Love.

  6. Tom Gilson says:

    John, I hate to pour it on top of what others have said, but your conclusion would have been better served by asking some questions first. There are multiple reasons to think it’s a false representation of what theism entails.

    Do you wonder whether God exists? What you wrote here would be a very prematurely chosen reason to cut off that curiosity.

  7. John Moore says:

    Tom gave some interesting reasons in the OP why science can’t detect God, and I took good notes while reading. On the other hand, I didn’t think Tom addressed the idea that science depends on the world working in regularity or the question of miracles. So I wanted to bring up that point and see what you guys would say.

    Actually, Tom said science might be able to detect a God who was “fairly impersonal, regular, predictable,” and that’s the opposite of what I’m saying. If God were regular and predictable, he’d be indistinguishable from nature, so the scientists wouldn’t call him God.

    Please ignore my conclusion from comment #1 and just consider this proposition: If God performed miracles fairly often but not regularly, science would detect it.

  8. scblhrm says:

    John,

    Pneumonia and now no pneumonia.

    You are claiming science can – will – tell us if it was God or Nature.

    How?

  9. Tom Gilson says:

    I think that’s close to a fair statement. If God’s miracles were frequent enough to be “signal” but not so frequent as to produce unintelligible “noise” in the regularity of nature, humans including scientists could observe and record them. I don’t know whether that would qualify as an activity of science, but it could be an activity of scientists. (Demarcating science from non-science is famously difficult.)

    There is good reason to believe, at any rate, that humans including scientists have observed and recorded miracles.

  10. Doug says:

    @John,

    Not sure how much experience you have with “doing science”, but if a scientist were faced with a data set that followed a common (i.e., simple) distribution, but included a few “outliers” (i.e., samples that almost certainly did not come from the same distribution as the rest of the samples), can you suggest to me how she would proceed?

    This question is very much akin to scblhrm’s, because the right answer is: the (honest) scientist would make a note in her journal concerning these outliers. She would investigate them some, and if they didn’t seem reproducible, she would likely go “huh!” Then she would discuss them with her co-authors to decide whether they were worth a footnote in their paper.

    It is one thing to detect “that’s odd, I don’t understand that” — which happens all the time for people doing actual science — and another thing entirely to identify the cause of said anomaly. You seem to be missing that distinction.

  11. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Doug:

    This question is very much akin to scblhrm’s, because the right answer is: the (honest) scientist would make a note in her journal concerning these outliers. She would investigate them some, and if they didn’t seem reproducible, she would likely go “huh!” Then she would discuss them with her co-authors to decide whether they were worth a footnote in their paper.

    This is a very good point. I remember vividly my shock at hearing the advice of my undergraduate classical mechanics teacher of how to deal with such statistical outliers. In the short, blunt version: throw them away. My initial reaction was “Hey, isn’t this cheating?”

  12. Victoria says:

    I remember commenting to my graduate supervisor(*) and mentor when I was a graduate student working on my PhD in experimental atomic and molecular physics: on a particular day, we were analyzing some of our experimental data in terms of a theoretical model worked out by another researcher interested in the same system: I remarked that it was satisfying to see how well the two fit together rather nicely. I’ll never forget his response: “Yes, but it’s when the data doesn’t fit the models that we get to the really interesting physics. Those are the sorts of things a good scientist looks for and chases down”.
    After that, it was time for lunch and our daily group Bible study :) (**)

    (*) Note: I learned Physics and a robust, Biblical Christianity from this man and his research staff – we could have put a sign over the door (to paraphrase Joshua) – “As for me and my lab, we shall serve the LORD”. BTW, I studied at a secular university.

    (**) and after that, we started the experiment anew, to probe the energy regimes where the theoretical model’s approximations and assumptions were supposed to be questionable, to see how the real system behaved in those regions, so as to test the limitations of the model.

  13. Doug says:

    @Victoria,

    hence the “didn’t seem reproducible” :-)

  14. Doug says:

    @John,

    Re:

    science depends on the world working in regularity

    Much of science depends on statistical models of “regularity”. Victoria’s experience is instructive: while actual scientists recognize that models are approximations to reality, too many others seem to confuse those models with reality.

  15. Victoria says:

    @Doug
    Well, modern physics, for example, depends on the fact that the properties and dynamics of a system can be described by a set of mathematical relationships between the system’s dynamical variables, and that we can construct these mathematical models from a small set of key priniciples ( viz Hamilton’s principle of least action and the system’s Lagrangian or Hamiltonian, for example – Landau and Lifshitz’s classic series A Course of Theoretical Physics http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Course_of_Theoretical_Physics is an excellent and elegant treatment of this (see Vol 1: Mechanics).
    Furthermore, we expect that our mathematical models are scale-dependent, which is why classical mechanics is a perfectly good working model for describing the macroscopic world of our typical experience.

    That’s the kind of regularity a physicist expects of the properties and dynamics of the natural world, and as a Christian physicist, I ascribe that to the God of Biblical Christian Theism – He designed those properties and dynamics into the natures of space-time and particles and fields (making both GR and QFT possible).

    I don’t see that as excluding God’s supernatural activities in the natural world – ‘nature’ behaves according to its inherent, well, nature, until He asks it to do otherwise., in limited and specific ways, for His own purposes.

  16. Ray Ingles says:

    it’s exceedingly likely that he[sic] could manipulate variables beyond number, acting in such complicated ways that no non-controversial conclusions could ever be derived about him[sic] through correlational methods.

    Could, perhaps. Is there a case that, or reason to suspect that, such a God would, though?

    If so, that God would have to be fairly impersonal, regular, predictable, with various aspects of his action able to be isolated, like forces of nature are, for example.

    That wouldn’t have to be all aspects, though. Just some aspects, or maybe even one aspect. That’s not inherently blasphemous or hubristic – Christianity, for example, claims that there are things about God, regularities, we can trust and rely on.

  17. Tom Gilson says:

    Ray, there are proper nouns in standard English but no proper pronouns. You can feel free to relax on that.

    Is there a case that, or reason to suspect that, such a God would, though?

    That’s looking at the question from the wrong angle. Suppose God decided to reveal himself through some very simple and clear set of manipulations of variables. Say, for example, he came to earth in the form of a human, lived, taught, did miracles, died, and rose again. I’m certainly not saying that God would never do that. What I’m saying is that it’s wrong to assume that he would fit himself into some human-initiated scientific paradigm; and therefore, if he went undetected by some human-initiated scientific protocol, it doesn’t mean a thing. Or, if were detectable by some human-initiated scientific protocol, it would mean he’s not the God of Christian theism. He makes himself known on his own terms, or he is not the God Christians believe in.

    Related to that, let me clarify the “if so” clause you referred to in your last paragraph. In the OP it was, “It might be that there is a God science could detect. If so…”

    What I meant was, “It might be that there is a God science could detect reliably and clearly through human-initiated protocols.” I maintain that if that were so, this would not be the God of Christian theism.

  18. Tom Gilson says:

    Further:

    That’s not inherently blasphemous or hubristic – Christianity, for example, claims that there are things about God, regularities, we can trust and rely on.

    One of them is that he reveals himself on his own terms.

  19. djc says:

    Tom,

    My answer about detecting a Christian-Friendly Force is two-fold. One, if you look for it in God’s terms it’s already obvious, both in correlational research and in life-reports of those who are in a relationship with God.

    These don’t distinguish between Mormon-Friendly, Islam-Friendly and Judaism-Friendly. In fact, some polls report that Mormons and Jews are happier than Christians.

    It is not in question that religion works. Even under naturalistic assumptions, religion must be crucial to human societies to have evolved in the first place. What is in question is whether religious claims about gods are true. For example, if the world’s religions were in agreement that they were all worshiping the same God, we wouldn’t be having this discussion; the idea that belief in God is healthy because God reciprocates would be a pretty reasonable theory. It is only because the world’s religions are largely so harshly dismissive of each other that this theory holds so little persuasive power.

    Two, those who persist in ignoring God’s ways, and insist on him conforming to our ways so we can flush him out of the high grass, he won’t play our game. He doesn’t have to. He is God.

    Do you think about God as he truly is? Have you ever considered who God would be truly, if he truly was what Christianity claims he is? Please re-read the OP.

    Many false religions define God as a being beyond comprehension, beyond science, as a strategy to avoid answering tough questions about its existence.

    Many false religions invite one to seek God on his own terms, but those terms are really just the terms of their religious tradition. Yes, those terms lead to hope, optimism, a feeling of belongingness, self-esteem, a strong social safety net, etc. All good things, but things ultimately provided by the social benefits of religion, not by the true existence of God.

    How does Christianity distinguish itself from false religions in its methods for seeking God? It could distinguish itself strongly from false religions by using the scientific method.

  20. Tom Gilson says:

    It could distinguish itself strongly from itself by using the scientific method. See above.

  21. BillT says:

    How does Christianity distinguish itself from false religions in its methods for seeking God?

    Or as Tom mentioned, through Christ. In Him we have something we can verify through history, archeology and literature. We have the witness of thousands of believers and non-believers to the reality of his life and ministry. And all this a mere 2000 years ago in a time and place that has reliable historical facts that are accepted about many aspects of that world. God isn’t that hard to find when He is walking around on earth.

  22. Hi Tom,

    “If God is truly personal—and especially if his personal freedom exceeds that of humans—his activity is likely to be very difficult to measure with any precision.”

    “If God is truly sovereign over the world, it’s unlikely that he would subject himself to being controlled like a lab rat or a chemical in a test tube—or even a particle in a high-energy collider, named after him. It’s unlikely that his effects as creator could be cleanly isolated from his work in creation.”

    “If God is truly sovereign over the entire created order, it’s exceedingly likely that he could manipulate variables beyond number, acting in such complicated ways that no non-controversial conclusions could ever be derived about him through correlational methods.”

    If it’s impossible for scientists (people) to detect God working in the natural world then isn’t it impossible for Christians (people) to detect God working in the natural world?

    Respectfully
    Shane

  23. Tom Gilson says:

    I didn’t say it was impossible for scientists (people) to detect God working in the natural world.

    See comment 9 for clarification.

  24. Hi Tom,

    Aren’t you saying they couldn’t confirm it was the action of God? If you prefer, replace “detect” with “confirm”.

    Cheers
    Shane

  25. Jenna Black says:

    Tom,

    This is an excellent article. It is well-reasoned and informative. I want to chime in with a couple of observations. First, it is important to remember that in conducting a scientific experiment or research to test a phenomenon, a result of no finding cannot be interpreted as non-existence since one interpretation is that the instrumentation and methodology used was simply not able to detect or measure the phenomenon, like using a thermometer to measure air pressure or a barometer to measure temperature. Such is the case, for example, with the infamous prayer studies, that atheists love to claim show that “prayer doesn’t work” when in fact all that we can conclude is that the methodology used and the experimental procedures employed in the research were not able to detect or measure whether or not prayer worked/works. God cannot be a variable in any scientific experiment since, as you point out, God cannot be isolated and manipulated as a variable. The Cause of everything can’t be demonstrated to be a “cause” in the micro-sense of any particular interaction or event.

    I note that our atheist friends here resort to the argument that the diversity of religion(s) in the world is somehow evidence that there is no God. This seems like a very unscientific argument with which to attempt to refute the reality that science is not an epistemology for seeking God on His own terms. Science is simply the systematic method of inquiry into how God’s creation works. Certainly, studying God’s creation gives us much valuable knowledge about God but it is only one tool for seeking and knowing God, who is only truly known to us in and through our relationship with God.

    Thanks for the valuable critical thinking about God.

    JB

  26. Melissa says:

    Shane,

    It’s quite obvious what is meant. Scientists couldn’t confirm by the methods of science that it was an act of God. Can we move on now?

  27. scblhrm says:

    Shane,

    Forgive the intrusion – A clarifying approach may be to look at the error of Moore’s emphasis – that some act of God inside of nature necessarily violates nature’s substance/texture. If there is pneumonia and then it is gone, how does science tell us if it was God or Nature which eradicated the pneumonia?

    There is no level of Nature which is a closed door for Him to enter – all the way “down” to quarks/quanta and so on – and thus any action on His end need not violate any observable flux within Time/Physicality as we know them. Hume tells us we can’t recognize a Miracle, whereas others tell us Miracles don’t happen. (I believe it was Hume). Hume seems to have made the error that grandness is the issue – which is akin to the thermometer / air-pressure error Jenna touched on.

    God – the Anselmian Necessary Being – precedes the quark/quanta and – so – can move in manners we cannot measure – and – He can move in manners we can see. All of this layered atop being unable to control the God variable is very, very troubling for any kind of liner model. The model of God as God expects non-linear, both/and blips on the screen.

    And that is exactly what we observe.

    Science is purely physical, which is fine, but the Naturalist/Atheist is – by that Ceiling – stuck with their own False I.D. Model (Indifference / Determinism) at the end of all regressions – and thus that model is the wrong instrument to employ should one wish to detect all of what is Real I.D. (Intention / Design), particularly if the intent (purpose) behind the design both involves and outreaches Time/Physicality. Predicting Action presupposes intention. The Both/And there will be confusing to the False form of I.D. as at times it will seem that Time/Physicality matter to Him (for they often do on some given level) and at other times it will seem that they do not matter to Him (He has other passions, ends, for us).

    All of which – again – describes the observational reality which the God as God Model predicts – which is what our eyes actually observe. Are there correlations in prayer/results in the data? Well of course. Are they linear? Well of course not. Are the prayers of Non-Israelites, Non-Christians (Etc.) followed up with His Hand in Scripture (and thus in reality)? Well of course. Are they linear? Well of course not. Does such agree with the observed world? Well of course. All of these observations – and others – help us decide which Model is more plausible: The False I.D. Model is far, far less plausible – as it does not cohere with observational reality. The True I.D. Model is far, far more plausible – being more consistent with knotty, potholed, uneven, non-linear reality as we actually find it.

    “Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have. So let us leave behind all these boys’ philosophies–these over simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to be simple either.” (C.S. Lewis)

  28. Tom Gilson says:

    No, Shane, I’m not saying it’s impossible for scientists (people) to detect, confirm, recognize, notice, observe, or even participate in the works of God in the world.

    See comment 9 for clarification, and here for more.

    Scientists (people) and science are two entirely different classes of detectors/confirmers/recognizers/noticers/observers/participants in reality.

  29. Tom Gilson says:

    scblrm, that was very helpful. Thanks.

  30. Ray Ingles says:

    Tom –

    What I’m saying is that it’s wrong to assume that he would fit himself into some human-initiated scientific paradigm

    I don’t think anyone here has said that a failure to detect God in scientific data is proof that God doesn’t exist. But if miracles are as frequent as, say, Keener claims, then it would seem that such a signal would be detectable, at least statistically.

    If there’s any pattern to those miracles at all, that is. Does Christianity propose any pattern at all for miracles? I mean, there’s more prayer around various holy days – are there more miracles then, too, or anything?

    Not saying that a God couldn’t evade such a net – but the more frequent miracles are supposed to be, the more it looks like active evasion.

    Jenna –

    I note that our atheist friends here resort to the argument that the diversity of religion(s) in the world is somehow evidence that there is no God.

    No, just that there doesn’t seem to be any detectable pattern of correlation between miracles and the various religions. Doesn’t prove there’s no God, but does put some puzzling upper limits on observed divine intervention.

  31. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    Your model expects linear fuctions.

    Of course models designed to detect I.D. (Indifference / Deterministic) cannot, and will not, detect I.D. (Intentionality / Design).

  32. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    It’s simple, as already described. Science is purely physical, which is fine, but the Naturalist/Atheist is – by that Ceiling – stuck with their own False I.D. Model (Indifference / Determinism) at the end of all regressions – and thus that model is the wrong instrument to employ should one wish to detect all of what is Real I.D. (Intentionality / Design), particularly if the intent (purpose) behind the design both involves and outreaches Time/Physicality. Predicting Action presupposes Intention. The Both/And there will be very, very confusing – even defeating of – the False form of I.D. as at times it will seem that Time/Physicality matter to Him (for of course they often do on some given level) and at other times it will seem that they do not matter to Him (He has other passions, ends, for us).

    All of which – again – describes the observational reality which the God as God Model predicts – which is what our eyes actually observe. Are there correlations in prayer/results in the data? Well of course. Are they linear? Well of course not. Are the prayers of Non-Israelites, Non-Christians (Etc.) followed up with His Hand in Scripture (and thus in reality)? Well of course. Are they linear? Well of course not. Does such agree with the observed world? Well of course. All of these observations – and other observations in other disciplines – help us decide which Model is more plausible: The False I.D. Model is far, far less plausible – as it does not cohere with observational reality. The True I.D. Model is far, far more plausible – being more consistent with knotty, potholed, uneven, non-linear reality as we actually find it.

  33. Ray Ingles says:

    scblhrm – Sorry, your vocabulary doesn’t seem to match mine. For example, I know of no meaning of ‘linear functions’ that aligns with how you use the term here. (And, again, my Masters degree is in control theory with an emphasis on nonlinear functions, so I’m fairly familiar with the difference between linear and nonlinear functions.)

    Or, for example, “Predicting Action presupposes Intention.” Nobody proposes that the sun, or neutrinos, are sentient, but a certain number of solar neutrinos were predicted anyway and we noticed when fewer than that were detected. When dealing with agents that have intentions, sure, we try to predict actions by intentions – c.f. Dennett and the ‘intentional stance’. But note how statistics can sometimes uncover intentions, as with ‘angels of death’ – nurses and doctors who kill patients.

    In short – if you have a point, I can’t decipher it. Try simpler language.

  34. Tom Gilson says:

    Curvilinear functions would work as well. Anything even approximating a function (f(x)) might work. Your model assumes functions.

    Is that better? Is that close to what you had in mind, scblhrm?

  35. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    You avoided the question of peneumonia.

    If your claim is that your statisitics can control for God’s intentions, then you are not dealing with God as God.

  36. scblhrm says:

    Tom,

    Of course Ray expects functions. The Indifferent. The Determined. I.D. Even somthing which can wrap its hands around God’s Means and Ends.

    Flawed methodology – dealing with God as No-God. Or with Man as god. It’s best that way though – else he may get results he dislikes.

  37. djc says:

    BillT,

    Or as Tom mentioned, through Christ. In Him we have something we can verify through history, archeology and literature. We have the witness of thousands of believers and non-believers to the reality of his life and ministry. And all this a mere 2000 years ago in a time and place that has reliable historical facts that are accepted about many aspects of that world. God isn’t that hard to find when He is walking around on earth.

    One can not reliably distinguish fact from fable in religious histories without independent data. All religions encourage people to blur the line between faith and fact; claims of faith are generally not exposed to the same rigor that non-faith claims are.

    You can see this happening even today. Here is an account of a miracle that never happened: 400 Christians in Indonesia saved from the 2004 tsunami by their desire to celebrate Christmas on a high hill. There are plenty of facts in this account: there is a town of Meulaboh in Aceh, Indonesia; a large portion of the town was destroyed by a tsunami on the morning of December 26, 2004; there is a Paster Bill Hekman of Calvary Life Fellowship in Indonesia. But with all these facts, the account is still wrong. Hekman relied on faith that the miracle occurred rather than investigating the facts carefully.

    Now I’m not saying that religious histories are always wrong necessarily. Just that I can find no compelling reason to trust them unreservedly. And certainly not with something as important as a life decision.

  38. Hey schblrm,

    “Forgive the intrusion – A clarifying approach may be to look at the error of Moore’s emphasis – that some act of God inside of nature necessarily violates nature’s substance/texture. If there is pneumonia and then it is gone, how does science tell us if it was God or Nature which eradicated the pneumonia?

    How does anyone tell if it was God or Nature? This is my question. I’m more than happy to concede that God can work in the world without leaving a telltale trace. But if that is the case then how can a Christian distinguish between an answered prayer and nature at work? How can the millions of Christians that Tom says have had prayers answered and witnessed miracles know that was the case as opposed to just the workings of the world?

    Sincerely
    Shane

  39. scblhrm says:

    Shane – No trace? I can’t detect that thought you say you had…. and so on. As Tom noted – different detectors. Comment #28.

  40. scblhrm says:

    Of course there are those detected – observed – non-linear, both/and correlations in observational reality – as predicted by the God as God Model. Science can see those – though atheists scoff at the blips on the screen…..not deterministic enough for them.

  41. BillT says:

    One can not reliably distinguish fact from fable in religious histories without independent data.

    djc,

    The incident you cite has nothing to do with the facts surrounding Christ. It’s nothing but a red herring. You can ignore the facts surrounding Christ if you like. That’s your choice. (And BTW, there is lots of “independent data”.) And just as an aside, you’re making a life decision on far fewer facts than are available regarding Christ. But that’s your choice, too.

  42. scblhrm says:

    Shane,

    I forgot the simple comment that the fact that God precedes quarks (Etc) and can thus enter the pool without creating ANY flux is a simple example of how atheists don’t deal with God as He is. “If” miracle “then” a violation of nature.

    Nonsense.

    As for the nonlinear, both/and blips which match the God as God Model – the fact that observational reality matches that model and not atheism’s model of I.D. (described earlier) isn’t the theist’s problem. It’s the atheist’s problem.

  43. djc says:

    Tom,

    There are of course several such traditions. They disagree on many things. Maybe our sensible searcher would then ask, “Is there anything they all agree on?” At this point I would, finally, point the quest in a particular direction. I would suggest this searcher look at one of the few things all the traditions seem to agree on: in one way or another, they all regard Jesus Christ very highly; they want to claim Christ for themselves.

    There’s an amazingly detailed World’s Religions Tree that traces the origins, offshots, splits and branches of all the world’s religions over time.

    Right around 30 AD, one can see Christianity breaking off from “Ancient Israelite Religion”. Likewise around that time a dotted green line is shown representing the origin of Islam. All religions that form at this point will have a tradition of Jesus Christ– and a tradition of Abraham, of Noah, of Adam and so on. It’s not clear why regarding Jesus Christ highly says anything other than that these religions share a common ancestor.

    Further, if we zoom out on the World’s Religions Tree, we see that the religions that incorporate Jesus Christ into their tradition are barely more than 1/2 of all the religions today. Hinduism, Taoism, Janism, Buddhism, and all forms of Judaism do not.

    In this massive tree of innumerable beliefs and traditions, where is the truth? Can you really blame searchers for looking to science for truth rather than this web of conflicting religious belief?

  44. scblhrm says:

    Massive…. innumerable…. ?

    Metaphysical regressions will narrow that.

    Massively.

  45. SteveK says:

    djc,

    Can you really blame searchers for looking to science for truth rather than this web of conflicting religious belief?

    Science certainly plays a role in narrowing down the list, but so does historical studies, archaeology, textual/literary studies, philosophy, social studies, metaphysics, etc.

    For example, philosophy/metaphysics can quickly pare down the list by removing religions with created beings as gods.

    This whole process has been underway for centuries. The picture isn’t as massive and complex as it appears in that image.

  46. Sizzle says:

    djc,

    I find a bit strange that your “link” to the world religions goes to website written in one of the weirdest languages i’ve ever seen. The letters aren’t even on my phone. Russian?

    And the name of the site itself is strange, “funki.com”?

  47. Doug says:

    Interesting infographic — thanks for that, dlc!

    But here’s a data-point for you: my family spans almost the entire right half of that chart (exceptions: no blue, orange or purple) but we all consider ourselves to share a common faith. What do you make of that?

    Your final question strikes me as almost analogous to walking into a grocery store and saying “Can you really blame searchers for looking to science for nutrition rather than this chaos of conflicting choices?” — category error, much?

  48. Shizzle says:

    A russian website named “funki” with an infographic on world religions, hmm, i don’t know but that’s a “funki” article.

  49. scblhrm says:

    The skeptic misses the point of the titanic size of what he is trying to describe as some tiny – hardly noticeable – branch on some massive tree.

    Nonsense.

    Anyone who fails to see, and thus label, the Metaphysics of Christ as something less than a 5000+ year seamlessness and coherence across multiple intellectual, academic, existential, prophetical, and metaphysical arenas just is not dealing with the Christian God as the Christian God. There is no genre on Earth which parallels the ontological reach therein as such is unparalleled as we confront what just is an evidence based Whole which comprises the sheer scope of what is – again for emphasis – a 5000+ year seamlessness and coherence across multiple intellectual, academic, existential, prophetical, and metaphysical arenas. The Metaphysics of Being summed within Trinity echoes within Let Us make Man in Our Image and unrelentingly takes the entity we call ontological reach to distances no other [A – Z] can.

  50. Doug says:

    dlc might also be entertained (at least) or informed (at best) by the fact that Theology was considered the Queen of the Sciences for centuries. Sure: the “sciences” so referenced were primitive by today’s standards, perhaps — but there is simply no intellectually honest handling of history that is able to either:
    1. deny that these primitive sciences were a necessary precursor to modern science -or-
    2. detach theology from those primitive sciences and their development

  51. scblhrm says:

    Science is not some kind of an “option” which the Christian is to choose or reject. God commands Man to master and subdue the physical world. Reason itself, Logic itself, Passion itself are found in us for – in part – such motions and ends. There are – of course – many other parts, many other ends. Logic and Love – while mere mereological nihilistic incoherence in Atheism’s paradigm – are by Him commanded (recorded) to us over 5000+ years ago and bring us – inch by inch – to better and better sightlines of He Who is True, He Who is the End of all metaphysical regressions.

  52. BillT says:

    And what is ironic in djc’s adherence to science as the ultimate arbiter is that, of course, science as he knows it was the result of Christian theology, philosophy and influence.

  53. Shizzle says:

    1 Thessalonians 5:12

  54. Shizzle says:

    Oopsies,

    1 Thessalonians 5:21 (not 5:12).

  55. Victoria says:

    I’m currently reading the book reviewed here: http://biologos.org/blog/christ-trinity-and-creation-part-1

    It’s a fresh look at the relationship between Science and (Biblical)Creation, by a PhD physicist and now Christian theologian , and seems appropriate for this thread. It is definitely worth the read.

  56. scblhrm says:

    bigbird / Tom,

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to quote bigbird here as this is (IMO) helpful as it sheds a bit of light on the question at hand. Employing a methodology which teases out the Mechanical, the Indifferent, the Deterministic in order to embrace, dive into, taste, drink, perceive, experience, and so on, the Living Actuality Who is that Anselmian Necessary Being Whom the Christian’s metaphysical regressions find at the end of ad infinitum is neither sensible nor on His (God’s) Own Terms. I imply in part Atheism’s flat, monotone false-ceiling of its own brand of I.D. (Indifference / Deterministic) in juxtaposition to the Theist’s far more robust and melodic brand of I.D. (Intentionality / Design) which first contains and then subsumes the atheist’s flat, monotone ceiling only to then rapidly proliferate onward and outward, ever outward.

    The initial statement made to bigbird: “If multiple different people look at the same data and reliably reach widely different conclusions, then you’ve got a problem. That’s certainly the case with economics, much less so with physics, and hardly the case at all with mathematics.”

    bigbird’s response: “You seem to be evaluating every field from a scientific bias, and (as I’ve said before), begging the question. You have a certain regard for the sciences as knowledge, and think that because scientists mostly end up with the same opinion about their theories, then having the same opinion about theories in any field is a sign of knowledge. That’s circular – you need an independent justification of why your idea of convergence is a sign of knowledge.

    I should add that mathematics doesn’t have “data”. It isn’t science – it’s deduction. It’s either valid or not. You can’t reach different conclusions!

    Economic data is not the same as observational data obtained from physics experiments. You can’t do controlled, repeatable experiments in economics. It isn’t science. This is why people reach widely different conclusions – because there are many possible explanations for the data in large, chaotic systems. Often, we don’t even know whether the data is reliable.

    Once you step outside the domain of science, the scientific method just isn’t always that useful. Unless you adhere to a form of scientism, you will have to concede that there are other ways of obtaining knowledge, and consequently, what is applicable in science (convergence, perhaps?) may not be as applicable in other domains of knowledge.

    Your idea of convergence – agreement on a theoretical framework – may be of value in the sciences if developed. On its own it is of little value in my opinion – it needs some epistemology behind it to provide justification why majority agreement in science means anything at all. That inevitably leads to claims of truth.”

  57. SteveK says:

    This is sure to cue another round of mindless brain activity and mindless argument by those that cannot help themselves.

    “The concept of free will could be little more than the result of background noise in the brain, according to a recent study.”

  58. Tom Gilson says:

    Thanks for that link, Steve. If it’s what it appears to be, you could get real dizzy following the logic.

  59. djc says:

    Doug,

    But here’s a data-point for you: my family spans almost the entire right half of that chart (exceptions: no blue, orange or purple) but we all consider ourselves to share a common faith. What do you make of that?

    I don’t find that surprising or unexpected. Baha’is go even further than you do and claim to share a common faith with Jews, Muslims and Christians.

    Your final question strikes me as almost analogous to walking into a grocery store and saying “Can you really blame searchers for looking to science for nutrition rather than this chaos of conflicting choices?” — category error, much?

    Science does not provide nutrition, so you are implying science does not provide truth. Likewise, since all food provides nutrition, you imply that all religions provide truth. I disagree in part with both of those so am not making a category error.

    I find it next to impossible to find truth in all religions’ supernatural claims since those are where the majority of contradictions are. For example, the concept of original sin paid for by sinless sacrifice of God himself is unique to Christianity and you won’t find that anywhere else. Reincarnation is unique to another branch of religion. And so on. It seems likely that religions demarcate themselves by supernatural claims (i.e. one crucial difference between Catholics and Protestants is the divinity of Mary). But if you are looking to find a supernatural claim that is true, accepting all claims as if all have some measure of truth is just not going to work.

    However, religion does indeed reveal much about human nature. If we study, correlate and quantify religious truths about human nature with evolutionary psychology and cognitive neuroscience, we do learn many useful things about ourselves. Jonathan Haidt’s synthesis of science and religious wisdom in The Happiness Hypothesis, Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom is a good example.

    But the latter sorts of religious truths are not supernatural claims but claims about moral behavior, love, suffering, virtue and finding happiness. The world’s religions are indeed a grocery store of value for this sort of thing, I agree. And that value is increased and enhanced by science (I would argue). However, the OP was about a specific supernatural truth, the God of Christianity and the inadequacy of science to verify that.

  60. scblhrm says:

    Very true djc. Scientism fails us – and itself – on many fronts.

  61. scblhrm says:

    As djc notes, science is deficient to ever touch – see – Hawking’s Imaginary Sphere – the Hebrew’s Timeless & Immaterial forcing his hand. Everybody has Metaphysics, it’s just that the plausibility of Theism’s is so much more robust on so many more fronts that many thusly follow the blips on the screen in that direction. Odd of djc to miss his own religion in his analysis.

  62. Doug says:

    @dlc,

    Perhaps you didn’t notice, but I did write “almost analogous” ;-)

    Perhaps I’m implying that “truth” is a many-splendored thing, and that the “truth” that science supplies is by no means in the same space as the “truth” that Christianity (specifically) supplies. And whether you agree or not really has no bearing at all on whether you are making a category error! :-)

    And while I do not believe all religions provide “truth” (of any fashion), the “truth” purportedly provided by all religions is indeed in that “science-can’t-touch-this” space, well away from the “truth” that science provides.

  63. scblhrm says:

    The Hebrew’s Timeless and Immaterial is – obviously – the fact of the matter. Science of course cannot ever touch – manipulate – measure – Hawking’s Imaginary Sphere, or the Multi-Verse, or “It”.

    Therefore we know, have knowledge, that Materialism is not merely false, but hopelessly false – because science cannot touch, reach, break open such “things”. The measurable, observable fact that the Physics of today has been forced – by evidence – to change definitions in order that those definitions may (it just so happens) coincide with those of the Theistic paradigm is itself an actual bit of scientific (observable, verifiable) evidence.

  64. djc says:

    Doug,

    And while I do not believe all religions provide “truth” (of any fashion), the “truth” purportedly provided by all religions is indeed in that “science-can’t-touch-this” space, well away from the “truth” that science provides.

    But what kind of truth? Truth about supernatural claims or truth about human nature? If the former, I pointed to that huge web of conflicting supernatural claims as a pretty good reason to not even go there until I’ve exhausted science as a means of answering the big questions. If the latter, why should claims about morality, values and finding happiness necessarily be out of the domain of science?

    (My assumption is that you’re making a counter-argument to my point and not just expressing a viewpoint, apologies if not.)

  65. Ray Ingles says:

    scblhrm –

    You avoided the question of peneumonia.

    Actually, I already addressed it, for cancer. See point 3 here.

    If your claim is that your statisitics can control for God’s intentions, then you are not dealing with God as God.

    Not all intentions! The specific intention to miraculously heal people, though… perhaps. This shouldn’t be a problem in principle since people claim God in fact has that intention from time to time, even nowadays.

    Tom – You don’t think human actions or intentions are functions, and yet we can find statistical patterns in them, sometimes. The model doesn’t require ‘functions’, linear or otherwise – just some kind of correlation between intention and action.

  66. scblhrm says:

    Big & small touches….. From time to time ………

    Some correlation…..from time to time….

    Many faiths and backgrounds…. from time to time…

    Blips on the screen…..

    No linear f(x).

    No other f(x).

    Human actions? So Man is God. Got it.

    The pneumonia line is just another example of defining God by non-god vectors – you expect a ripple in the pond.

  67. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    You seem to dislike the breadth and width of God’s Both/And (described earlier). Or perhaps you simply insist it be narrowed to Man’s scale. I can’t tell which is the case.

    Again – that such geography is predicted by Scripture – and by the God as God Model – and actually matches observational reality isn’t the theist’s problem.

  68. Doug says:

    @dlc,

    Have you found the philosopher’s stone that turns an is (the natural domain of science) into an ought? Or do you just have that much faith in Sam Harris in spite of his lack of evidence or rationality? ;-)

  69. scblhrm says:

    Doug

    It will be a Y offered as an X which is then offered as the explanation of the X. They’ll even call the Y the X. The funny part is they do it with a straight face! :)

  70. Ray Ingles says:

    scblhrm –

    Human actions? So Man is God. Got it.

    This is getting tedious, I’m afraid. You appear to have your expectations, and whatever I or others actually say, you will force them into that box, no matter how much you have to distort things to do it.

    Tom just posted an article defending the idea of human free will – the idea that human actions are not a ‘function’ of ‘inputs’ transformed into ‘outputs’. That there’s a truly free and responsible core that chooses things; based partly on circumstances but not determined by them. It’s an aspect of the whole “Image of God” thing.

    Now, I would find it surprising if Tom claimed that we couldn’t find patterns in human behavior nonetheless. In short, “behavior that’s not a function” is, apparently, still compatible with “some observable statistical patterns”. The two are not automatically, in-principle contradictory.

    I suppose you can argue against that conclusion. But please, as a favor to me, could you argue against what I wrote instead of what you wish I’d written?

  71. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    The Both/And of God is – though you may not like it – going to be far, far wider than Man’s arena of Motions, Means, and Ends. Thus correlation is as you imply – (seemingly) not consistent, or from time to time – (seemingly) sparodic. Highly dense then seemingly fading out of sight. Ants are easier to chase here…. Man rather hard to chase but often catchable……but God? Seriously?

    Re-read the Both/And comments in earlier posts, maybe 27 & 32. How is it that in my pain and in my Joy I know Him to be faithful? The God as God Model matches observational reality – but that isn’t the Christian’s problem.

  72. scblhrm says:

    Ray,

    Another way you may want to section this is along this line: that the more narrow the arena of motions, options, means, and ends, the easier it is for the human retina (mind, logic, eye, etc.) to see, and, with each widening sphere the frequency of such vectors – while wholly consistent – being reducible by the human retina becomes now no longer a f(x) of the consistently motioning vectors – but at some point it just becomes a f(x) of the retina’s pixels. And with God – well – re-read the Both/And comments. And of course this is observable with ants, then, say, birds, then, say, lions, and then, say, a young Man, and then, say, and older Man, and then, say……. God.

    And this goes horizontally in addition to vertically:

    I can sort of guess what my child will do. But my wife? And yet my child is the least faithful, and wife the most faithful, to me as a person in every vector.

    So much for a one sized fits all f(x) of the monotone, flat, deterministic sort…..and we haven’t even left the front yard yet…..I need to be looking along the right inclines, tilting my head along the right beam of light, else my faithful wife appears quite unfaithful.

    Observational reality matches the God as God Model in every vector. Physicality is something invented by God – of course it matters to Him – though with Man and volitional fragmentation (and so on) there are entirely different and other arenas of priority in play, and it would be a move of hubris to reject the phrase, “God knows”. We know – and see – much, though, He knows – and sees – all. Just as we expect.

  73. djc says:

    Doug,

    Have you found the philosopher’s stone that turns an is (the natural domain of science) into an ought?

    You missed a very interesting blog-post on this very topic back in April. See here.

  74. scblhrm says:

    Doug,

    That is a great thread. You can search it high and low and you’ll never find that ought over there in evolutionary morality, Indifference and Determinism simply unable to do the work requested of them.

  75. scblhrm says:

    His Terms:

    In Christ we find the unique and express image of Immutable Love manifest within Time to the bitter ends of Physicality. The Triune God finds all vectors converging in both source and effect in all that is regression’s moral first cause and such discovers total metaphysical convergence within love’s inherent inter-personal dynamics. A paraphrased comment from Chesterton, “That very balance of beautiful relationality and intimacy in the very Trinity of the Divine Nature draws our eyes to where – if the phrase be not misunderstood – God is Divine Embrace.” On Naturalism’s necessary regressions the source is the effect as all “ought” is ever a mutable vapor in total metaphysical convergence within the immutably indifferent and the immutably determined. The truly impersonal begins, subsumes, and ends all natures.

    Void of God we find all ought to be mere quivering reverberations within naturalism’s throbbing Impersonal all of which are ever mutable and never transcendent. They are real, they are really contingent, and they are really ever-changing. In that sense the word “real” is what it is and no more. We find here a kind of work to be simply too burdensome for Naturalism’s quest for Ought-Love as such reveals the fatality in all morality contingent on something lesser than Immutable Love.

    Once we grant an ontological regress which ends in something necessarily void of the necessarily interpersonal an uninterpretable epistemology is necessarily born out of such a Throbbing Impersonal. We find this in the moral landscape of atheism in which of course the “nature” of “man” just dances to the music played by that same throbbing indifference. A Moral First Cause that is impersonal, deterministic, mutable, and non-transcendent can be said to be “real” but if that is what morality “really is” then we have that and that alone. We do not magically have more than that. Atheism attempts to posit that the [flourishing of happy sentient beings] [equals] [ontologically real morality] and forever ends with an unavoidably false identity claim at the end of its moral landscape. Epistemology so divorced from ontology is a “real epistemology” which grants an unforgivingly arbitrary morality wherein the Throbbing Impersonal begins, subsumes, and ends all natures.

    Uniqueness: Interpersonal necessity just is housed within the Trinity Who is unique here and provides ontological necessity where no other can. An end of regress which lands amid the Triune God’s “interior milieu” of that fully singular, that fully triune interior composition of Being’sSelf-Other-Us” beautifully actualizes and justifies the Moral Landscape of Immutable Love as such an end point perfectly satisfies the necessary interpersonal moral first cause of Personhood’s ontological bedrock within morality’s motions, within love’s felicity. Moral Love just ends up being Triune at bottom even as Moral Love just ends up being Singular at bottom. In all possible worlds we perceive that the Triune God Who is One begins, subsumes, and ends all metaphysical regressions. He Himself is the Hard Stop Who is Himself the End of ad infinitum.

  76. GrahamH says:

    Tom

    If science is a poor way to discover God or the supernatural, how does religion or other non-empirical worldviews have superior epistemic competence? Particularly if the atheist were to ask “which God”? Even within Christianity there are mutually exclusive factions with different doctrines of God, salvation, explanation of the universe, etc.

    In some cases, science (and I would add empiricism) is a good way to deny a supernatural claim. For example, young earth creationists make claims about the world, based on scripture, at odds with validated scientific theory. It is perfectly ok for science to examine a supernatural claim with testable content, such as “the earth was created by God 10,000 years ago”. Well, the overwhelming evidence is otherwise and the theist looses epistemic credibility.

    So what about supposedly untestable content regarding the supernatural. Surely it is ok to be guarded or sceptical against the possibility that your view of the world is biased by your own upbringing, perceptual foibles, motivations, subjective intuition, cultural tradition, etc.and therefore no more a reliable source of reality than anyone else.

    What is the more reliable and objective epistemic framework to verify your claims of the supernatural?

  77. BillT says:

    Graham,

    If I may. You’ve got a number of different issues in play here. One at a time. If you’re wondering which God we’d be glad to have our claims tested by the appropriate academic disciplines. The NT is a historical text and if you care examine it using historical, archeological and textual means we’d be glad to compare notes with you. (BTW, the “mutually exclusive factions” objection is a bit overrated.)

    In so much as religious believers make claims that are testable by scientific analysis as you mentioned with YEC claims, we’d support your doing so.

    As far as it being “…ok to be guarded or sceptical against the possibility that your view of the world is biased by your own upbringing, perceptual foibles, motivations, subjective intuition, cultural tradition, etc.and therefore no more a reliable source of reality than anyone else.”. That’s fine too as long as it’s ok to be guarded or sceptical against the possibility that your view of the world is biased by your own upbringing, perceptual foibles, motivations, subjective intuition, cultural tradition, etc.and therefore no more a reliable source of reality than anyone else.

    To your question “What is the more reliable and objective epistemic framework to verify your claims of the supernatural?”. As far as a supernatural claim like the existence of God, that is essentially a philosophic question and we would and do believe the “more reliable and objective epistemic framework” to verify it is through philosophy. Different questions, different frameworks.

  78. GrahamH says:

    Thanks BillT

    I agree some reliable intersubjective method is required to overcome our personal foibles. Philosophy is though a very broad description.

    I wonder why philosophy is deemed adequate? The OP argues that due to the unique power of God, he is undetectable by science. I can’t help thinking a same argument could be made against philosophy. Consider the following restated from the OP:

    “If God is truly sovereign over the entire created order, it’s exceedingly likely that he could manipulate reality, acting in such complicated ways that no non-controversial conclusions could ever be derived about him through rational philosophical methods.”

    Philosophy could be just as impractical as science. Both are simply human knowledge endeavours. I wonder why God is deemed unprovable by science, yet accessible by philosophy. Why would he care or is it humans picking and choosing the epistemological rules?

    In any case, the OP seems to instead posit the knowledge of tradition. The only problem is, traditional explanation comes sidechained with claims about reality of our world since swatted by science or naturalism. Therefore it’s credibility is questionable leading to the conclusion the probability of it being true is dubious, or at least worthy of scepticism.

  79. G. Rodrigues says:

    @GrahamH:

    I wonder why God is deemed unprovable by science, yet accessible by philosophy.

    Because the existence of God is not a scientific question but a philosophical one, just as say, whether the Riemann Hypothesis is true or not is a mathematical question and not a scientific one.

    There is nothing mysterious here.

  80. Tom Gilson says:

    “Why would he care or is it humans picking and choosing the epistemological rules?”

    Actually, it’s humans picking the boundaries of disciplines. Science was once a branch of philosophy. It became limited in its scope to that which could be studied in strictly natural terms. God cannot be studied in strictly natural terms, of course, so as G. Rodrigues said, there’s no mystery there.

  81. scblhrm says:

    GrahamH,

    Of course God is observable by scientific methods: but not as scientism would dictate. Your approach perhaps suffers from that fallacy known as scientism, and, also, your approach is to some sort of Non-God god. You are not dealing with God as God, that is to say, scientism’s flat, monotone, determinism-based f(x) just cannot subsume God and is instead outpaced by His Contours, the very lines you seek to measure. Due caution is a wise move on your end and there is no fault there given the ease of error, as you rightly note; however, using the proper tools for the proper widths and breadths and depths would be an equally wise move on the part of the investigator – what I mean by the proper tools is the fatal problem scientism suffers as it seeks to approach a Non-God god as described by the necessary use of Both/And touched on in comments # 27, 31, 32, 36, 71, & 72. As for the sightlines of the measurable, the verifiable, the falsifiable, we find in Hawking’s hand a move forced by empiricism: he leaves Time and Material behind and follows the evidence into what just must be a Singular, Timeless, Immaterial (not comprised of mass/energy or space/time as we know them), Eternal, Imaginary Sphere. Mind finds no need to stop describing reality merely because the fallacy that is scientism finds its own Brick Wall. As Bill noted, there are entire arenas into which Philosophy carries us where the fallacy of scientism just cannot journey with us. Our contingent universe is one small slice among many which happens to be one of those arenas. As for God, the Both/And f(x) fits both the God as God model and observational reality. Plausibility there slopes up quite steeply, particularly when joined to Metaphysics, Physics, Science, Historicity, Philosophy, and so on as such a combination rapidly and radically narrows the field of viable descriptors. Any insinuation of “Yeah but what about Thor and Tradition” and so on betrays a lack of intellectual effort (or honesty) to amalgamate all of these disciplines along the lines of logic and reason.

  82. GrahamH says:

    Hi scblhrm

    Thank you although I don’t believe I posit an approach you describe as scientism. I stated scientifically testable claims made with the supernatural can be done. I then asked What is the more reliable and objective epistemic framework to verify your claims of the supernatural?

    The answer I got was “philosophy”, although that is very broad.

    I feel beliefs can be reliably arrived at via a combination of publicly available evidence, science (broadly defined – including probability), critical reason, logic, and open debate.

    Intuition, revelation and ideological authority seem very dubious and unreliable methods to me.

    It isn’t unreasonable to ask those who hold faith-based or otherwise non-empirical beliefs to show why such beliefs are warranted

  83. scblhrm says:

    GrahamH,

    Agreed – justified knowledge is a reasonable endeavour. Models which cohere with reality as we actually find it are among the reasons I find Christ metaphysically loaded with both Grace and Truth.

  84. Melissa says:

    I feel beliefs can be reliably arrived at via a combination of publicly available evidence, science (broadly defined – including probability), critical reason, logic, and open debate.

    Intuition, revelation and ideological authority seem very dubious and unreliable methods to me.

    It isn’t unreasonable to ask those who hold faith-based or otherwise non-empirical beliefs to show why such beliefs are warranted

    Rather ironic. Feel free to apply your own standards to your own beliefs at any time.

  85. GrahamH says:

    Hi Melissa

    Sure. Can you tell me which of my beliefs you feel could do with the application of that agreed criteria?

  86. BillT says:

    It isn’t unreasonable to ask those who hold faith-based or otherwise non-empirical beliefs to show why such beliefs are warranted.

    No, it isn’t. But we did give you an answer. Perhaps we could deal with a specific example. Are you familiar with Aquinas’ five ways? The argument from morality? Perhaps you could tell us why you find this kind of argumentation to be inadequate for the task at hand.

  87. Melissa says:

    GrahamH,

    Sure. Can you tell me which of my beliefs you feel could do with the application of that agreed criteria?

    Sure.

    The only problem is, traditional explanation comes sidechained with claims about reality of our world since swatted by science or naturalism.

    The OP argues that due to the unique power of God, he is undetectable by science. I can’t help thinking a same argument could be made against philosophy.

    People come to believe in the truth of Christianity through many different ways. For some God reveals himself directly through subjective experience, for some God is revealed as necessary through philosophical reflection on what the world is like and being convinced of the absurdity of naturalism look for an alternative, still others will be convicted by the biblical texts and for many it is a combination of factors. They have warrant for their belief. In general a belief in revelation or tradition is not some kind of free-standing belief as you make it out to be in your comment. People believe these things are true for reasons.

    What do mean by faith-based or non-empirical beliefs? No one thinks it’s unreasonable to ask for warrant for any beliefs, whether empirical or otherwise, you know that Tom regularly offers argument and evidence for his beliefs, so what exactly is it that you’re wanting? Or is it your contention that if there is no science, there is no warrant. If that’s the case I will restate my advice to take a careful look at your own beliefs.

  88. GrahamH says:

    Melissa

    The elements that seem to give credence to our ordinary beliefs and choices appear to me to come from a combination of things such as common experience, applied and practical manipulation of nature, and scientific endeavours. They all in some way rely on evidence and testing that evidence.

    Although I don’t think “science is everything” I don’t quite buy the “science is excluded” from the discussion based on what I think is a bald assertion that God can not be tested or “naturalism is absurd” (which seems to me a tarted up argument from personal credulity). Naturalism has gaps in knowledge due to the inherent humility of its intellectual honesty, but that in itself does not imply the supernatural(God of the gaps).

    It appears obvious science and religion are competitors for many truths such as the origin of the universe or the nature of the mind. For example, many theists will argue prayers and miracles can affect our lives. This means the laws of nature are manipulated or suspended for those beneficiaries. This is conceivably testable content of a claim.

    I am very dubious of any claim that is both untestable and in stark contrast to what common sense and science tells us about reality.

  89. G. Rodrigues says:

    @GrahamH:

    Naturalism has gaps in knowledge due to the inherent humility of its intellectual honesty

    Yup, that is the greatest problem with naturalism: *its* “inherent humility of its intellectual honesty”. Roll eyes.

  90. BillT says:

    I am very dubious of any claim that is both untestable and in stark contrast to what common sense and science tells us about reality.

    You seem to be on the habit of talking in generalities. Since you didn’t want to identify why or which, in your opinion, philosophical arguments were inadequate, perhaps your could be more specific about which claims are “…both untestable and in stark contrast to what common sense and science tells us about reality.”

  91. Melissa says:

    GrahamH,

    I don’t quite buy the “science is excluded” from the discussion based on what I think is a bald assertion that God can not be tested

    A bald assertion is one in which no supporting reasons are given. Since Tom spent the OP giving reasons why science is excluded and you have not engaged with the specifics of those reasons apart from the statement that you “don’t buy it” and other words that amount to the same thing (no real reasons given that relevantly touch the OP) I am at a loss to why you would make that claim.

    (which seems to me a tarted up argument from personal credulity). Naturalism has gaps in knowledge due to the inherent humility of its intellectual honesty, but that in itself does not imply the supernatural(God of the gaps).

    It “seems” to me that a lot of things “seem” a certain way to you that bear pretty much no relation to the facts. A case in point, arguments in the form of a reductio absurdum are not arguments from personal incredulity or God of the gaps arguments.

    It appears obvious science and religion are competitors for many truths such as the origin of the universe or the nature of the mind.

    Wrong. That is a false dichotomy foisted on us by those who seek to push every piece of data into a flat, one-dimensional picture (that goes for our materialist atheist friends as well as biblical hyper-literalists.) More correctly science and religion (and other disciplines) flesh out more fully what our experiences mean.

    For example, many theists will argue prayers and miracles can affect our lives. This means the laws of nature are manipulated or suspended for those beneficiaries. This is conceivably testable content of a claim.

    What are the laws of nature? What does it mean for them to be suspended or manipulated. Have you done much practical lab work such that you understand science? How would you test the claim with proper controls? (i.e. how would you overcome the limitations of the scientific method that Tom detailed in the OP?)

  92. GrahamH says:

    Melissa

    I have already stated that when supernatural claims are made with testable content, for example “God created the world 10,000 years ago” or “your ailment can be cured by prayer”, then science can be employed to test that claim because it affects natural elements. Why is not science simply one of the methods that can be used to test such claims?

    If I had cold hands and said I should rub them to create friction and keep them warm, it is rational to accept that belief for further action or thought because it has passed the test of reason or observation or both. If someone said “no you should pray for your hands to get warm”, then it does not pass and should not be considered for rational belief. It conflicts with common sense and science.

    Anyway, why does God care the method by whish he is detected whether it is science or philosophy? The only reason the OP gives is the assertion of likelihood, not the basis of why that likelihood exists. If we changed the second sentence in the OP to:

    “Among atheists today there is a sizable subset who think that if God is real, he ought to be detectable.”

    This would be better with the acknowledgement that science is one of (but not the only) bona fide methods to detect him.

  93. Melissa says:

    GrahamH,

    I have already stated that when supernatural claims are made with testable content, for example “God created the world 10,000 years ago” or “your ailment can be cured by prayer”, then science can be employed to test that claim because it affects natural elements.

    Just because a claim effects natural elements does not mean that science can be used to test it. If people were never cured after prayer then clearly the claim that “your ailment can be cured by prayer” would be hard to accept but that’s not using science to refute it. Anyway the question isn’t whether particular claims are testable, it’s whether God (and his actions) can be detected. There’s a difference.

    If I had cold hands and said I should rub them to create friction and keep them warm, it is rational to accept that belief for further action or thought because it has passed the test of reason or observation or both. If someone said “no you should pray for your hands to get warm”, then it does not pass and should not be considered for rational belief. It conflicts with common sense and science.

    If someone said that no rubbing your hands together won’t warm them but praying for them to become warm will make then warm they would be conflicting with science, common sense and Christianity. Or if they said the surest way to warm your hands is to pray. You’ll have to explain why just saying you should pray for your hands to be warm conflicts with science and common sense.

    Anyway, why does God care the method by whish he is detected whether it is science or philosophy?

    I don’t know why you think anyone is suggesting that science is an inappropriate method with which to seek for God because God cares about the method we use. The argument is solely about what science is and involves and who God is, that is all.

    Among atheists today there is a sizable subset who think that if God is real, he ought to be detectable.”

    This would be better with the acknowledgement that science is one of (but not the only) bona fide methods to detect him.

    He is detectable just not by science. The only possible thing science can give you is a gap. I’m not much into God of the gap arguments, I gather you’re not either.

  94. GrahamH says:

    I think we can press this one a little more:

    “He is detectable just not by science.” and “Just because a claim effects natural elements does not mean that science can be used to test it.”

    Why not? If claims are made about God that affect the natural world (miracles, prayers, age of earth, worldwide flood, etc.); these should be testable or within the purview of science to test regardless of whatever practical difficulties there are to some of those tests.

    These are descriptions of God that assign him common attributes. Those attributes are: God created the universe; God designed the laws and structure of the universe; God makes changes in the universe whenever necessary; God created and designed life; God has a special plan or purpose for humanity; God gave humans immaterial, immortal souls; God created morality; God revealed truths such as these to humanity; God does not hide from humanity.

    Each attribute corresponds to some feature of the natural world which should be both true and discoverable, if some being with that attribute exists. Using such a model of God, then, scientists should be able to look at the universe to determine whether it is consistent with any of those attributes. If so, then we have evidence that some being with the attribute likely exists; if not, then we have evidence that no being with that attribute exists — and if no being with one of those attributes exists, it will be difficult for traditional religions to explain how any being with the rest can still be believed in.

  95. scblhrm says:

    GrahamH,

    You are not dealing with God as God, that is to say, your scientism’s flat, monotone, determinism-based f(x) just cannot subsume God and is instead outpaced by His Contours, the very lines you seek to measure. You’re missing the Both/And blips which science easily detects on the screen. But there is no reason for you to miss such easily detectable blips on the screen. They are right there in front of your eyes, manifesting in the Both/And “f(x)” which fits both the God as God model and observational reality.

    It’s been pointed out to you before that the fatal problem your scientism is suffering from here is that it seeks to approach a Non-God god as described by the necessary use of Both/And touched on in comments # 27, 31, 32, 36, 71, & 72.

    It’s been pointed out to you before that as for the sightlines of the measurable, the verifiable, the falsifiable, we find in Hawking’s hand a move forced by empiricism: he leaves Time and Material behind and follows the evidence into what logic and reason permit him to describe as a Singular, Timeless, Immaterial (not comprised of mass/energy or space/time as we know them), Eternal, Imaginary Sphere.

    Definitions of One, Timeless, Immaterial, and so on fit the God as God model (though they fail materialism) – just like the Both/And “f(x)”. The problem of Stasis which Hawking runs into just is not coherent with reality, thought that is not the Theist’s problem.

    Mind finds no need to stop describing reality merely because the fallacy that is scientism finds its own Brick Wall.

    Scientism – of course – suffers from an unfortunate death of circularity.

    And – of course – if you ignore the Both/And blips on the screen, well you can ignore physical evidence if you wish, but that choice on your end just does not change the fact that the model of God as God is quite coherent with said measurable blips, as is observational reality.

  96. GrahamH says:

    Hi scblhrm

    Well I’ll keep an eye out for the evidence of that, and an explanation for it as well.

    I also use the word “science” very broadly. We all make models. Science is a process among individuals who attempt to reach an agreement on what they all have seen and how best to represent their collective observations. What are called scientific theories are really just models. I am not talking about some severe lab-coat types looking in microscopes.

    Religions create Models of Gods that are based on human conceptions. It should be permissible to try and show beyond reasonable doubt that a God with explicit hypothesized attributes described by the model does not exist. That’s similar to what you would do to other religions/gods?

    So if a specific god model may be inconsistent with the evidence, this should be enough to disregard that model in the practices of everyday life.

    To give an example of my broad definition of science: Someone may argue for a God who has powers of revelation in scripture. Could we test this? We could examine scripture to find failure of revelation, such as:

    Ezekiel 29,30. The land of Egypt will be laid waste by Nebuchadnezzar, and all its people killed and rivers dried up. It will remain uninhabited for forty years.

    Never happened.

  97. scblhrm says:

    GrahamH,

    “Well I’ll keep an eye out for the evidence of that, and an explanation for it as well.”

    See my comments to you of late, and, comments # 27, 31, 32, 36, 71, & 72. You can ignore the Both/And blips on the screen if you wish. They don’t fit neatly into scientism’s flat, monotone, deterministic “f(x)”, but they do cohere with the God as God model and with observational reality.

    Never happened?

    “For a little while Egypt struggled against its oppressors, but its power was already broken. From the time of its conquest by Cambyses, it has never been for any length of time independent. There are few stronger contrasts in any inhabited country than between the ancient glory, dignity, power, and wealth of Egypt and its later [lack of] significance (Charles J. Ellicott, A Bible Commentary).”

    Or: I am just not sure what Nebuchadnezzar is to be there (represents and so on……the [A to Z] mentioned earlier….), nor am I sure that the land that is Egypt will never suffer such a condition as you seem to infer the passage implies.

    But I guess you are sure of the future.

    A bit prophetic on your part, it seems.

  98. GrahamH says:

    I will indeed happily concede the point about the prophecy of Ezekiel 29,30. If it shown that land of Egypt was actually laid waste by the historical Nebuchadnezzar (either I or II I guess), and all its people killed and rivers dried up, and remained uninhabited for forty years.

  99. Melissa says:

    GrahamH,

    Why not? If claims are made about God that affect the natural world (miracles, prayers, age of earth, worldwide flood, etc.); these should be testable or within the purview of science to test regardless of whatever practical difficulties there are to some of those tests.

    Some questions may be open to scientific study (age of the earth) but that is not the same as being able to detect God which is what the OP is about and also the statement of mine that you are apparently responding to. In the case of prayer, as I have already pointed out you are just left with a gap. What about science makes you think it is able to detect and study a non-physical cause? The fact that you describe the inbuilt limitations (and these limitations are the flip side of what makes science so powerful in answering the questions that it can be applied to) as “practical difficulties” just shows that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Each attribute corresponds to some feature of the natural world which should be both true and discoverable, if some being with that attribute exists. Using such a model of God, then, scientists should be able to look at the universe to determine whether it is consistent with any of those attributes.

    Being true and discoverable does not mean that they can be discovered by science. There are many things that are true and discoverable that are not within the purview of science. Whether something is designed or not – not a scientific question. How to interpret the concept of natural law – not a scientific question. The creation of the universe – not a scientific question. Revelation -not a scientific question.

    Not to mention many of the attributes of God are discoverable apart from any specific revelation by deductive reasoning from our sense data. That’s the point of natural theology. I echo BillT’s request to let us know what exactly you think is missing from those approaches.

  100. Melissa says:

    GrahamH,

    I also use the word “science” very broadly. We all make models. Science is a process among individuals who attempt to reach an agreement on what they all have seen and how best to represent their collective observations. What are called scientific theories are really just models. I am not talking about some severe lab-coat types looking in microscopes.

    It would be much more useful in dialogue if you would actually mean science when you use the word science, especially since you are replying to an OP in which science actually means science. Your use of science makes the word useless, precision is important. Anyway by your criteria much of Christian belief would count as science, although being a former scientist premotherhood (with lab coat but no microscope) I refuse to go down that track. To me it seems like trying to foist onto your beliefs an illegitimate authority.

    And finally we have the end game – naturalism is true because my “god model”, my “revelation model” and my “scripture model” do not fit the evidence. Maybe your models are just wrong. If atheists were as willing to tweak their religious models as they are their evolutionary models there would be a lot more Christians.

    Anyway, it would be good to hear where you think the conclusions of natural theology for God fail with respect to the evidence.

  101. GrahamH says:

    Hi Melissa

    What about science makes you think it is able to detect and study a non-physical cause?

    Well not necessarily science alone, but certainly science not excluded. If we deal in terms of a model of God that is based on human conceptions, it can’t be objected that the true God may lay beyond our cognitive limits. If we demonstrate that this God is rejected by the evidence, we are not proving that all gods, conceivable or inconceivable, do not exist. We are simply showing beyond a reasonable doubt that a god with attributes described does not exist. If a specific god model is inconsistent with the evidence this is cause enough to disregard that model for further thought or action in our everyday life.

    There are many things that are true and discoverable that are not within the purview of science.

    I have no problem with the notion that science can be augmented with other methods, but I do not agree that science is not a permissible method to be employed particularly with claims made with testable content.

    Whether something is designed or not – not a scientific question.

    Well I think it is testable and science can be employed to help. Note that to make an argument from design assumes a priori that design exists. We can see if the evidence points firmly to the absence of design. And, if one of the attributes of God is that he designed the universe with at least one of his purposes being the existence of the complex structures we identify as life, with a special role for human life, then the failure to observe such design provides us with empirical grounds for concluding that a God with this attribute does not exist.

    Now of course a theist can argue, similar to the OP, that a particular God deliberately hides his tracks or conceals what would ordinarily be testable by the claims. If this is so, then this raises the bar further for the theist to provide very good evidence given the claim is required to overcome the ordinary deliverances of common sense and science. I guess that leads to…

    Anyway, it would be good to hear where you think the conclusions of natural theology for God fail with respect to the evidence.

    Well I am deprived of you articulating any one in particular, but the reasons why I am unconvinced by those types of arguments is generally due to the poverty of evidence in them and their tendency to blunt Occam s razor.

    Also, even if they were successful they wouldn’t get nearly as far as theists hope. Case in point – the teleological argument to deduce the existence of a deity by the appearance of design in nature. The argument is only entitled to try proving the existence of a designer. Where is the evidence that the designer was creator as well? Humans design, engineer and modify our natural surrounding, but we don’t create anything ex nihilo. We have no evidence or right to just make the leap from designer to creator. So that’s just before such an argument tries to get up off the ground.

  102. Deanjay1961 says:

    To me, the most salient question is not whether science is equipped to detect God, but whether religion is.

  103. Tom Gilson says:

    “Religion” is an extremely broad category.

  104. Melissa says:

    GrahamH,

    Well I think it is testable and science can be employed to help.

    Science cannot detect design period. Of course we can say this is what we know from science about how things work therefore …
    Anything that comes after the therefore is outside the realm of science and note that the OP is particularly concerned with detecting God by scientific means not what our scientific findings mean. Are you raising an objection to the OP or some other argument that has not been made?

    Note that to make an argument from design assumes a priori that design exists. We can see if the evidence points firmly to the absence of design. And, if one of the attributes of God is that he designed the universe with at least one of his purposes being the existence of the complex structures we identify as life, with a special role for human life, then the failure to observe such design provides us with empirical grounds for concluding that a God with this attribute does not exist.

    No, the argument from design is based on our observation of the teleological nature of the universe, not an assumption. The evidence does not point firmly to the absence of design. The regularities that science catalogues in the form of physical law are strong evidence of teleology. This kind of teleology is all that is needed as starting premises for Aquinas 5th Way. Not to mention that in the biological realm the claim that teeth are not for chewing and hearts are not for pumping blood is frankly, just ignoring what is plainly obvious. So I do not need to argue that “God deliberately hides his tracks or conceals what would ordinarily be testable by the claims”.

    Well I am deprived of you articulating any one in particular, but the reasons why I am unconvinced by those types of arguments is generally due to the poverty of evidence in them and their tendency to blunt Occam s razor.

    Also, even if they were successful they wouldn’t get nearly as far as theists hope. Case in point – the teleological argument to deduce the existence of a deity by the appearance of design in nature. The argument is only entitled to try proving the existence of a designer.

    You don’t know the arguments of Aquinas do you? Tip: They are not Paley style design arguments. They start from very basic premises to deductively prove the existence of God with particular attributes.

  105. GrahamH says:

    We’ll I think you at least need to go to the effort of articulating an argument and explain why you believe it. You haven’t told which natural theology arguments you are impressed with and why.

  106. Melissa says:

    GrahamH.,

    An exposition of Aquinas cannot be made in a commbox, you might try Feser’s “Aquinas”, it’s a beginner’s guide.

  107. Melissa says:

    GrahamH.,

    I will just add that part of the reason why I find the arguments persuasive is because I am convinced that any robust articulation of what we mean by physical law must be of a teleological nature and I have yet to come across one that avoids God while preserving scientific realism. Being a scientist myself, I reject that the patterns and regularities studied are the product of human minds. I lean towards final causes intrinsic to natural things rather extrinsic divinely imposed causes, but these still lead, through further argument, to God.

  108. GrahamH says:

    Hi Melissa

    Yes I am familiar with Aquinas and have read work from Francis Spellman, and some of Feser’s blog among others.

    It is here I would trot out all the usual criticisms but I am sure you are familiar with them, and they have all have seemingly endless Thomist counter-arguments I find unconvincing. Probably the most troubling to me (apart from the arguments not getting very far anyway) is the metaphysical presuppositions.

    Anyway, I am danger of seriously getting off topic, and when there is a post on Teleological arguments we may see what may come of the discussion.

  109. scblhrm says:

    “…troubling…”

    A certain flavor of presupposition therein – several in fact – are unearthed.

    Circular.

  110. Melissa says:

    GrahamH,

    Yes, it is off topic but could not let this go through:

    the metaphysical presuppositions.

    A presupposition is generally something that is supposed before knowledge is obtained for the purpose of an argument. The metaphysics have there own arguments based on our experience of the world. I think it likely you haven’t quite understood the arguments if you are labeling the metaphysics presuppositions.

  111. GrahamH says:

    Melissa

    It is a topic in its own right, and likely come out in further posts specifically addressing natural theology, however here some quotes from Feser:

    He says, “all bodies of knowledge, including apologetics, rest on metaphysical foundations, and cannot be adequately defended without defending those foundations.” A bit later, he says, “If the Faith is going to be defended effectively… its metaphysical presuppositions must be carefully set out and rigorously defended.”

    These two statements are troubling. First, there is a relationship between metaphysics and physics, empirically derived as you alluded to. Plus, Feser’s attitude is all wrong: one should not aim to “defend” presuppositions but should instead seek to examine and update them in light of new evidence. A lot has happened since Aquinas.

  112. Melissa says:

    GrahamH,

    Feser’s attitude is all wrong: one should not aim to “defend” presuppositions but should instead seek to examine and update them in light of new evidence. A lot has happened since Aquinas.

    No his attitude is not all wrong. He has examined them, and once that is done it is quite right to defend them. Lots of things may have happened since Aquinas, the question is, do any of those things undermine the arguments, and the answer to that would be no. The ironic thing in all this is that atheists show a stubborn and willful refusal to examine their own metaphysics and as such don’t even realise that every one of their self-confident utterances rests on nothing at all.

  113. scblhrm says:

    Salvador Dali’s paintings.

    His paintings remind me of Atheism’s paradigm. Both in the terms atop which they approach reality and in the terms atop which they approach God.

    I’m not sure we bend, melt, the laws of logic to fit (defend) our perception; rather, we defend the law (A is not both A and B, and Etc. with really fancy signs and symbols as we like to do…..). “The Earth is both the Earth and the Sun” – that could be managed I suppose as we change definitions in summing all things to unity, but then we’ve changed both definition and substrate, not our presuppositions about Logic.

    A is not both A and B. (enter fancy symbols here…..Etc.) A certain law of logic here is itself a presupposition.

    Is there a sight, a perception which will lead us to trade away this presupposition? Or will we find ourselves defending it to the ends of the universe? There is a Frame, there is a Picture. While the paintings of Salvador Dali melt all things into absurdity, the Mind of God – the end of ad infinitum – does not. I say the Mind “of” God in generic usage. For those worried about a potential violation of divine simplicity, a book titled, “God Without Parts: Divine Simplicity and the Metaphysics of God’s Absoluteness” will ease any intellectual discomfort with the employed “of”.

    As far as I can tell, Atheism’s paradigm and Dali go quite well together. I say Atheism rather than Naturalism simply because the order of Time/Physicality fits quite comfortably within Theism’s metaphysics.

    I’m more convinced by Theism’s account of all of it. Deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning, logic, uniformity of nature, and so on.

  114. scblhrm says:

    BTW,

    The refusal to “melt away” a law of logic just to defend perception is itself a claim on the end of ad infinitum. Mind here outreaches – or claims to outreach – time and physicality. To precede them. Trump them. The end of ad infinitum is found leaving Dali’s (and Atheism’s) mereological nihilism behind……..

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