“Apprehending Beauty”

“Apprehending Beauty”

For those of us who have debated whether morality is objective, this blog post takes it to another level: beauty is objective, too. One reader, responding to Gene Veith’s post on Aesthetics & American Idol, writes,

“Learning to subjectively like what is objectively good at first bounced off of my 3am quick-read blog-scan. But then I realized that this exact thing happened to me and I shall anecdote-ize it thus:

“When first I approached Milton’s Paradise Lost I knew that I ‘should’ treasure it as a sublime and beautiful epic of written art. But i could only (at first) force myself to appreciate it from the outside, like looking at an utterly alien thing that all others considered beautiful. You look at it sideways, squint a bit, trying to see what they see… but it is unutterably alien. Perhaps you see an angle here or there that has a symmetrical form that is pleasing, a curve here, a line there… but the whole is so beyond your current vantage point that the beauty is lost by your own unelevated perspective.

“Then, after forcing yourself to merely ‘mentally ascribe’ the designation of beauty to the form, you slowly achieve the ability to connect the slivers of recognizable traits of beauty that you CAN see from your current state.

“This is achieved in literature by reading more…. “

More at Apprehending Beauty — Cranach: The Blog of Veith

97 thoughts on ““Apprehending Beauty”

  1. qqqCharlie (and DL)

    I\’ll use Charlie\’s comment as an opportunity to repeat what I said earlier. DL never commmented on my logic and so it will give him another crack. Will DL say the laws of logic are dependent of something physical?

    Nope, they are logical necessities. Being a brain in a vat is not possible. Objective morality is logically demonstrated. Denial of free will is denial of knowledge and discovery. The fact that these truths of the mind are truths of the universe demonstrates that the universe is the product of a mind.

    Now my comment from before:

    DL: What is logic necessary for? Rationality?

    Me: Not only necessary for rationality, but 100% sufficient to explain it.

    DL: What does that have to do with transcending materialistic causal chains?

    Me: It means the laws of logic don’t depend on physical stuff bumping into other physical stuff. If that weren’t the case then the laws of logic would cease to be law in the midst of a vacuum of nothingness. In that vacuum the law of non-contradition would not hold true. In that vacuum you would have both nothing and everything at the same time, and in the same way.

  2. My thoughts are that beauty is objective in the same way that meaning is objective. You can’t test for meaning via empirical science or verify it via predictive models without resorting to a tautological circle.

    Is all meaning subjective or objective? According to some on this blog, it’s all subjective because science can’t detect it and predict it – but what does that do to knowledge? It makes all knowledge subjective, including scientific knowledge and so the whole argument collapses under its own weight.

  3. Let’s see if changing this comment a bit let’s WP post it…

    This is yet another “gut instinct” definition of what is objective.

    It says a facet of culture is objective if immersion in that culture causes me to acquire a taste for that facet of culture.

    Since I can only have one set of tastes at a time, I will always conclude that this definition is consistent (i.e., I don’t simultaneously like and dislike X). But if I step outside of my own personal feelings for a moment, I’ll see that “objective” in this sense has nothing to do with objectivity, say, in the scientific sense. The latter is concerned with what is the case independent of my opinion. Under the former, two contradictory facets can simultaneously be objective depending on who is doing the perceiving (or in which order the taste was acquired by a single individual).

    IOW, I think this sort of gut definition is just a reflection of the fact that taste can be acquired. Immerse yourself in classics that you find tolerable, and you’ll probably end up with a deeper appreciation for the classics. Immerse yourself in Chinese cuisine that you think you “ought” to like, and I quite expect you’ll come away with a better appreciation of Chinese cuisine. Therefore, Chinese cuisine is objectively good?

    This is quite relevant to morality. Immerse yourself in a moral culture you tolerate, and I expect you’ll eventually come to appreciate that culture even more.

    Let’s not confuse potential for acquired taste with objectivity.

  4. DL:

    This is yet another “gut instinct” definition of what is objective.

    Without resorting to assuming that which you intend to conclude, please tell us how you know your ‘gut instinct’ definition is the correct one.

    It says a facet of culture is objective if immersion in that culture causes me to acquire a taste for that facet of culture.

    One could also immerse themselves in the study of logical positivism or empiricism so to acquire a taste for it’s apparant objectivity.

  5. Objective aesthetics are if anything more controversial than objective morality, so I wasn’t expecting anything like full agreement with this. I hope it is at least an encouragement for some readers to pursue better literature, art, music, and so on.

    Unlike the case of morality, I don’t know of a strong independent argument for objective aesthetics, a kind of theistic proof based on demonstrable aesthetic realism. I believe there are higher and lower degrees of beauty, best exemplified at the extremes (Macbeth vs. Desperate Housewives, say, or Yosemite vs. a poorly kept landfill). I think it’s likely that every culture has a sense of higher and lower beauty, and based on my limited knowledge there are worldwide commonalities there in spite of worldwide diversity.

    This worldwide variety makes it hard to imagine a really satisfying universal aesthetic theory. I’m sure someone has tried to develop one, and maybe they’ve succeeded; it’s way out of my field and I don’t know. From my position of relative ignorance I can see problems in trying to do it: if for example you want to say that “good” music worldwide shares common features, they would have to be rather abstract, like unity-within-diversity or interplays of consonance and dissonance. But when I enjoy music, I enjoy the music, not the unity-within-diversity.

    I still believe some things are really more beautiful than others, in a very culturally conditioned way of apprehending that beauty. To support this belief I turn to my knowledge of a creative, God, who surely did not mean just moral goodness when he called all things good in Genesis. I know I can’t stand on that ground to prove a point to someone who doesn’t believe in God–there’s no common ground on which I could hope to come to agreement–so I’m not going to try.

    I think this parallel is too weak to go anywhere with it, though:

    This is quite relevant to morality. Immerse yourself in a moral culture you tolerate, and I expect you’ll eventually come to appreciate that culture even more.

    The point is true for most people–we assimilate moral moods from around us. I don’t think that says much in regard to all of our previous discussion on moral reality (for those who have not been here for it, we’ve had discussions on that topic here over the course of many months that would take hundreds of pages to print out). It’s part of the background knowledge we’ve worked with throughout all that discussion.

  6. Hi Tom,
    I agree most heartedly with your last comment here. I think there are indicators of the objectivity of beauty, but proving it, or even getting to the table would be difficult. Everything I could point to, even the fact that uncultured babies from around the world will show a preference for beautiful faces, regardless of their race or culture, could be waved away (illegitimately, in my view) as a biological adaptation. As an aside, though, and as a slight argument against myself, have you seen that the infamous peacock tail has recently been studied and Darwin’s cause for cold sweats is still a mystery? Sexual selection does not explain it, so there seems to be no explanation for a biological advantage of any kind (just-so stories are never long out of reach, however).
    Anyway , as with abstract objects, I think that which I find intuitively suggestive about aesthetics at this point will one day make itself rigorously known to me. That’s my version of the argument from the past successes of science.

  7. Steve,

    I don’t think you’re going to get anywhere by pretending that everything is a gut instinct. You’ve never had the experience of having a guess be wrong, or of seeing an optical illusion? That’s a non-starter.

    It looks to me like you recognize that you’re using gut instinct to determine what is objective, so now you want to make everything look like gut instinct in order to level the playing field.

  8. Tom,

    The ways you would try to substantiate objectivity of aesthetics are really about commonalities among humans. You’re talking about what is intersubjective, not what is objective.

    I agree that there are many things that are intersubjective, including much of morality. I just don’t think intersubjectivity is relevant to the question.

  9. Charlie,

    As an aside, though, and as a slight argument against myself, have you seen that the infamous peacock tail has recently been studied and Darwin’s cause for cold sweats is still a mystery? Sexual selection does not explain it, so there seems to be no explanation for a biological advantage of any kind (just-so stories are never long out of reach, however).

    I haven’t heard anything about this. Nonetheless, this comment is rather useless. You’re pointing to a gap as if to discredit the lack of gap around the gap. Of course, there will always be at least some gaps in our predictive understanding of the world, so you can keep playing this game forever. But what’s the purpose? You can’t explain things by saying they’re still unexplained by science, and you can’t explain the gap by referring to a theory you don’t have (i.e., the mind of God). If you’re going to explain using references to theories we don’t have, then I’ll just explain the gap (and, indeed, everything) using the Theory of Everything.

  10. You’re talking about what is intersubjective, not what is objective.

    Actually I am talking about what is objective. But you’re right, too: to demonstrate objective aesthetics, apart from prior agreed knowledge of God, I don’t know of any way one could proceed except by the intersubjective route. Getting from there to objective would be difficult indeed.

    So does that same difficulty apply to morality? Recall that in all I’ve written about objective morality, the conclusion has never been that objectivity is proved. Rather my conclusion has always been that objectivity is necessary in order for us to hold on to any ordinary sense of the words “right” and “wrong.” Without objectivity, “That’s good and right” inevitably analyzes to “I really agree with that” or “I really like that;” and “That’s wrong!” analyzes to “I don’t like that!” Further, when one gets to levels larger than the individual, the ruling definition of what counts as right and wrong is determined by power. All of that, to me, runs so counter to what we know to be true of life and humanity, it cannot be true.

    Subjective morality is not proved wrong, but it’s shown to be something completely other than what we have all understood it to be; and the power equation in there makes it actually opposite of what most of us have understood it to be.

    The same does not apply to aesthetics. If one person says Christine Aguilera is good, someone else says the Chicago Symphony playing Beethoven is good, and someone else says Eminem is good (speaking of their aesthetic aspects in every case), that may bend, but it does not break our common understanding of what “good” means (aesthetically).

    You can accept subjective morality and in the process overturn the entire meaning of right and wrong, good and bad. You take your choice, you pay your price. The cost of accepting subjective aesthetics is not much by comparison. So as an argument for transcendent reality or theism, there really isn’t a lot of parallel between the two.

    (I am of course open to being corrected by someone who can state a coherent picture of objective aesthetics, but in the meantime, I’m content to let us all just take our position on it and let it be.)

  11. Charlie, what’s the rest of the story on the peacock and the sweats?

    As another aside here (getting way off topic) peacock and sweats remind me of a blue and white beverage can I have sitting here on my desk. I picked up in Korea about 15 years ago. It’s called Pocari Sweat. I’ve never had the courage to open it!

  12. Hi DL,
    Thanks for your considered input. The remark about “uselessness” was particularly edifying.

    I haven’t heard anything about this.

    Coming up.

    Of course, there will always be at least some gaps in our predictive understanding of the world, so you can keep playing this game forever.

    I’m not playing a game, but thanks for the characterization.

    You can’t explain things by saying they’re still unexplained by science, and you can’t explain the gap by referring to a theory you don’t have (i.e., the mind of God).

    You might notice where I said that I don’t have an explanation for beauty? Or that I said I don’t formulate an argument for its objectivity? No?

    If you’re going to explain using references to theories we don’t have, then I’ll just explain the gap (and, indeed, everything) using the Theory of Everything.

    That’s not far off from what you and many others around here do (like, for instance, when you justify naturalism on the basis that nobody has yet proven, to your satisfaction, that undirected abiogenesis can’t occur). Then again, if it’s just your personal opinion, who cares what your personal epistemology entails? Somehow, though, it greatly troubles you what mine does.

  13. DL
    I am not trying to make everything gut instinct. Tom said it best in his last comment.

    Make something like morality subjective and that forces you to alter your meaning of good and evil – which if you’re like most people you will refuse to do. So you are left to decide which one makes the most sense and I’m afraid science can’t help us here.

  14. Link removed:

    March 26, 2008 — The feather train on male peacocks is among the most striking and beautiful physical attributes in nature, but it fails to excite, much less interest, females, according to new research.
    The determination throws a wrench in the long-held belief that male peacock feathers evolved in response to female mate choice. It could also indicate that certain other elaborate features in galliformes, a group that includes turkeys, chickens, grouse, quails and pheasants, as well as peacocks, are not necessarily linked to fitness and mating success.

    Across the board, the researchers were unable to link the elaborateness of a peacock’s train with his mating success. In fact, Takahashi and her team found little train variance among males in the population they studied. They also couldn’t detect any link between a particular male’s fitness and his train.

    Barrett, however, mentioned that this theory, along with the rest of the new findings, is bound to be controversial, since other researchers have presented data suggesting that a peacock’s train does influence whether or not a female will choose to mate with him.
    “Tests between the two alternate hypotheses now on offer leave students of sexual selection with plenty of work to do,” Barrett concluded.

    “It is curious that I remember well time when the thought of the eye made me cold all over, but I have got over this stage of the complaint, & now small trifling particulars of structure often make me very uncomfortable. The sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!’”
    Darwin, F., (Ed), Letter to Asa Gray, dated 3 April 1860, The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, John Murray, London, Vol. 2, p. 296, 1887; 1911 Edition, D. Appleton and Company, New York and London, Vol. 2, pp. 90–91.
    http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/darwinletters/calendar/entry-2743.html

    His answer, of course, was sexual selection.

  15. Tom! I have an empty can of Pocari Sweat right behind me. I’ve saved it for literally 25 years, ever since I lived in Japan.

    We can’t really be that similar, can we?! ; )

    I believe it’s Japanese, as they have a wonderful ability to mistranslate English into absurdist poetry. I have a T-shirt that say “Wed. It’s Fine Day Scooter Time,” and my favorite, because I used it for the title of the last track on my CD, “Mind of Easy Tripper.”

  16. Charlie,

    That’s not far off from what you and many others around here do (like, for instance, when you justify naturalism on the basis that nobody has yet proven, to your satisfaction, that undirected abiogenesis can’t occur).

    Ha! Funny. Actually, I think abiogenesis is presently unexplained. My position is that predictive naturalistic theories are the only ones with any explanatory power. (Remember, God could be quite natural by my definition, if only he were predictable like people are.)

    Now let’s contrast this with the creationist position which is that God did it, God is not predictable, and therefore abiogenesis is inexplicable.

  17. Tom,

    I think your argument for objective morality is question-begging. (Yes, we’ve been over this before.) You’re defining morality as objective morality from the start.

    Further, when one gets to levels larger than the individual, the ruling definition of what counts as right and wrong is determined by power. All of that, to me, runs so counter to what we know to be true of life and humanity, it cannot be true.

    What is the “ruling definition” you’re talking about here? Do you mean the law?

    Moral relativism doesn’t say that might makes right. Moral relativism is describing morality as it appears to us.

    All laws are imposed by power. However, we are aware that some laws feel wrong or unjust. Therefore, we can distinguish power from morality. And moral relativism does not contradict this.

    If I feel that all other persons ought to do X, that is not an indication that, objectively, all other persons ought to do X. And I don’t require objectivity to impose my desires. I require power, even if it is only power over the empathic feelings of other people.

    You keep saying there’s a contradiction between moral relativism and our experience, but I can’t find one anywhere.

  18. Steve,

    Make something like morality subjective and that forces you to alter your meaning of good and evil – which if you’re like most people you will refuse to do. So you are left to decide which one makes the most sense and I’m afraid science can’t help us here.

    No, it doesn’t force me to do anything of the kind. If you see one kid pushing another one around, do you intervene because the bully’s actions were objectively wrong? No. You don’t even think about the issues of objectivity. It just feels wrong, and you react to it.

    Take abortion. When you consider public policy, you are driven by feelings about the desires of God, feelings about souls in embryos, feelings about your ideal society, feelings about purity and sanctity. You don’t even think about objectivity. Abortion just feels wrong, so you oppose the policy.

    The whole issue of objectivity is a theological one, not a moral one. I don’t think anyone’s gut instincts about right and wrong are being powered by theology.

    Indeed, objectivity makes zero difference to moral decision-making. I don’t care whether actions have no objective moral status. That has nothing to do with what I’m willing to put up with. I’m not going to tolerate torture just because it’s objectively right. And if it has no objective moral status, I’m still not going to put up with torture.

    The thing that’s really at stake here is the aesthetics of your theology. If you cannot show morality (and God’s morality in particular) to be objective, then God looks like a tyrant, and your theology loses its aesthetic appeal.

  19. Hi DL,

    Ha! Funny.

    Not funny, but accurate. This is just one of many examples.

    Actually, I think abiogenesis is presently unexplained.

    Notice your faith-based inclusion of the word “presently”. This nonpredictive, non-theory of unintelligent abiogenesis still exists in your mind as a possibility – nay, probability. And as such, is a necessary grounding for the rest of your naturalistic theory – if there was no unintelligent abiogenesis, and you can’t predict what the first life was, or was like, you really can’t claim support for the unintelligent unfolding of subsequent life. If you’d like, you can really spare me the “evolution is supported by many different lines of experiment, etc” stuff, as without a prediction about first life these lines are meaningless for your project.
    Likewise for the theory we don’t have to explain the fine-tuning of the universe.

    My position is that predictive naturalistic theories are the only ones with any explanatory power.

    We’re well aware of your position. Your positions on explanation, knowledge, predictiveness, etc. do not encompass all of knowledge or explanations and do not stand up to scrutiny when examined even for their own consistency.

    Now let’s contrast this with the creationist position which is that God did it, God is not predictable, and therefore abiogenesis is inexplicable.

    Abiogenesis is explicable. God created man to be in loving communion with Him, and to enter into a shared creativity with Him and He created the rest of the biosphere in aid of this.
    Sometimes explanations come in terms of testimony rather than future predictiveness (by which at one point you meant “preferentially predicted outcomes, but then watered down to mean “are consistent with” and then watered down to mean “are predicted to be true”) – as we’ve seen demonstrated.

    Is this wild-goose chase over yet?

    You said to Tom,

    You’re defining morality as objective morality from the start.

    This is false. He is using the word in the way people who use it mean it. You have admitted this yourself, as have all of your supporters here.

    You keep saying there’s a contradiction between moral relativism and our experience, but I can’t find one anywhere.

    You are ignoring it. Our experience is that morality is objective, as you’ve admitted, and your claim is that we only experience it as such because we are ignorant, or haven’t thought about the issue properly.

    You said to Steve:

    No, it doesn’t force me to do anything of the kind. If you see one kid pushing another one around, do you intervene because the bully’s actions were objectively wrong? No. You don’t even think about the issues of objectivity. It just feels wrong, and you react to it.

    Yes, it does make you change the meanings of words. Or, in this case, avoid them altogether as you redefine the problem to be one of pragmatic action rather than of rational judgment.

    You don’t even think about objectivity. Abortion just feels wrong, so you oppose the policy.

    False again. For many years I was pro-choice on abortion and euthanasia.. I am not now, because I know these to be objectively wrong and not just a matter of opinion and feeling.

    The whole issue of objectivity is a theological one, not a moral one. I don’t think anyone’s gut instincts about right and wrong are being powered by theology.

    This is your feeling. Or your intuition. This is not based upon a predictive, statistical investigation. In fact, you are ignoring the fact that you have been corrected on this matter many times over.
    I predict you will ignore it again.

    ndeed, objectivity makes zero difference to moral decision-making. I don’t care whether actions have no objective moral status.

    Who says that your cares are the measure of how other people make their decisions?

    The thing that’s really at stake here is the aesthetics of your theology. If you cannot show morality (and God’s morality in particular) to be objective, then God looks like a tyrant, and your theology loses its aesthetic appeal.

    That’s funny – you always said that we observed/needed an objective morality and so we invented God and our theology to ground it. Which do you really feel/intuit to be the case?

  20. DL, help me out here. In fact, everyone help me out with this.

    DL says moral judgments are subjective. He asks me to use reason, logic and objective predictive/repeatable methods to test my ‘gut instinct’. But wait! If knowledge of moral judgment is entirely subjective then there exists NO externally objective means by which I (or anyone) can know this to be true.

    This means DL’s knowledge of morality can only be knowledge gained by subjective means – otherwise known as ‘gut instinct’.

    So why does he continue to try and use objective means to convince us? If DL is right then it’s impossible to do this.

    Comments?

  21. Hi Steve,
    It took me a minute but, by Jove, I think you’re right.
    DL’s arguments imply that every statement about action preferences, even about a preference for a particular flavour of ice-cream, a particular radio station, a particular vacation spot, and a particular recreational activity, is a moral statement. Therefore, to say that morality is only subjective is to make a moral judgment, ie: that action is wrong to me but not necessarily wrong. Yes, I agree that this is a moral judgment in and of itself.
    And yes, I see that – by DL’s standards- that means it is an entirely subjective judgment, ie: gut instinct.

    Have I matched your reasoning on this?
    Or is there more?

    On this same subject, DL recently told us that it is a scientific fact that beliefs about actions (moral feeling) cause physical, chemical and neurological changes in the subject. As before, this sounds like prima facie evidence of objectivity. As I asked DL then:

    So what is a belief and where does it come from – what is its source? If my belief that a person is immoral causes my belief, which causes my distress, what was the actual source? When I say, as per your requirement, that there is a predictable, observable result (physical, chemical, neurological change) when good/evil is presented to the sensory mechanism then why is this not evidence of the ontological existence of the moral quality?

    Tiring of not receiving an answer to this question, I answered it myself:

    Now, of course, you will suddenly be compelled to answer the question, try to call the beliefs themselves “physical”, and try to account for this, but the ship has sailed. Nothing “moral” has been received into the brain (as per your denial of realism), and yet the brain goes through all of the belief stages necessary to “feel” the moral implication. The subject even “feels distress”, with accompanying physical brain changes caused by belief alone, when nothing has happened other than its imagining an activity halfway around the world.
    Your theory of morality has defeated your materialism – the very thing it is invented to shore up.

    We wrangled this point a little, but nothing was said to defeat the contradiction implied: if the mind is material then morality is objective. But we actually know that the argument defeats both propositions: neither is the mind material nor is morality subjective.

  22. Charlie,

    This nonpredictive, non-theory of unintelligent abiogenesis still exists in your mind as a possibility – nay, probability. And as such, is a necessary grounding for the rest of your naturalistic theory – if there was no unintelligent abiogenesis, and you can’t predict what the first life was, or was like, you really can’t claim support for the unintelligent unfolding of subsequent life.

    You’re saying that theistic evolution is impossible. I must have missed your proof of that. You’ll have to give it to us again.

    And if you’ll recall, my definition of “natural” does not exclude the non-material. If God created the first life, that could be predictive. It just isn’t.

    If you’d like, you can really spare me the “evolution is supported by many different lines of experiment, etc” stuff, as without a prediction about first life these lines are meaningless for your project.

    Again, where’s your argument to back up this statement?

    Likewise for the theory we don’t have to explain the fine-tuning of the universe.

    We don’t “have to” explain anything, but it would be nice to explain fine-tuning. God cannot do it. God is more fine-tuned than the universe, so how are you going to explain the unknown in terms of the more unknown?

    It’s like you’re trying to fit the data points we see to an infinite order polynomial (which you call “God”). Every time we find a new data point you claim that your God solution is consistent with it, but you’re still unable to predict anything because you’ll need an infinite number of data points before you find the mind of God.

    That’s not explaining, Charlie. That’s making reference to an explanation you don’t have. You’re fine tuning God at every turn, but you never make a prediction.

    Now compare this with Standard Model physics. In the Standard Model there are 19 parameters that are fine-tuned (i.e., have wildly different magnitudes). However, having fit the theory to the data, we now make superb predictions. So why is it that a God theory that’s been fine-tuned far more than the Standard Model (but which can’t make any predictions at all), can explain the Standard Model?

    God created man to be in loving communion with Him, and to enter into a shared creativity with Him and He created the rest of the biosphere in aid of this.

    This is not a theory that you have. That’s a theory you would like to have. It’s a vague mess.

    It’s like me explaining fine-tuning using the Theory of Everything (which I don’t have). The ToE utilizes only a small number (3?) similar constants and accounts for all the observed physical constants through symmetry breaking. There. Problem solved for naturalism, right? If God is allowed to be explanatory, then so is a ToE. But I suspect we both reject the latter as explanatory. So why are things different for the mind of God?

    Is this wild-goose chase over yet?

    Apparently not.

    He is using the word [morality] in the way people who use it mean it. You have admitted this yourself, as have all of your supporters here.

    We did?

    Yes, it does make you change the meanings of words. Or, in this case, avoid them altogether as you redefine the problem to be one of pragmatic action rather than of rational judgment.

    So what one feels in those pragmatic situations is not morality then? Morality is only rational analysis based on the assumption that morality is objective? That’s question-begging, and quite absurd. Most moral reasoning tends to assume that one ought to be consistent about one’s moral actions, but that doesn’t mean that there are objective rules.

    For many years I was pro-choice on abortion and euthanasia.. I am not now, because I know these to be objectively wrong and not just a matter of opinion and feeling.

    So… you had no morality before reaching this conclusion, didn’t even know what morality was, could not define the word, didn’t know what right and wrong meant, etc?

  23. Steve,

    If knowledge of moral judgment is entirely subjective then there exists NO externally objective means by which I (or anyone) can know this to be true.

    This is incorrect.

    You guys refuse to define the terms subjective and objective, that way you can use them differently from one senstence to the next.

    I guess I’m the only one here who cares enough about the answers to pick a definition of objectivity and stick to it.

    So I’ll define it again because no doubt you’ve forgotten the definition I’m using.

    I am an entity that has a notion of ‘self’. So I can, at least to some degree, identify entities that are not my self. Now, suppose I observe some object external to my self, and observe a property of that object. That property is OBJECTIVE if it belongs to the object itself, and is not just an artifact of the way I interact with the object’s other OBJECTIVE properties. If I observe an OBJECTIVE property of an external object, there’s no reason why my faculties cannot superimpose SUBJECTIVE information to my observation.

    Example: I can observe a painting, and while the colors and the brushwork may be OBJECTIVE, the aesthetic beauty of the painting is SUBJECTIVE. I may find the painting pleasing because it is relevant to my past experiences, and my past experiences are not in the painting. Indeed, those experiences may be OBJECTIVELY mine, and therefore my aesthetic reaction to the painting will be OBJECTIVELY SUBJECTIVE.

    Now everything (objective and subjective properties) appears to us through the window of our own subjective experience, and that’s what makes it non-trivial to decide what it subjective and what isn’t. However, there are several things we can do.

    First, we can look to see whether a property is respected by entities that lack subjectivities. When non-sentient objects interact, they respect each others’ mass, color, length, density etc. So that provides solid positive evidence that such properties are objective.

    Second, we can show positively that a property is subjective. My peanut allergy would be subjective by my definition. I can show objectively in a lab that I am allergic to peanuts. Yet, the allergy is in me, not in the peanuts themselves. Peanuts do not contain “allergicness” that only some people can sense. A detailed understanding of me and peanuts will show that peanuts contain a protein (that’s OBJECTIVE), my adverse reaction to peanuts is SUBJECTIVE (relative to me), and that, OBJECTIVELY, I have such a SUBJECTIVE allergy because of my blood chemistry. This is a systems approach to to objectivity and subjectivity.

    In the case of morality, we find that morality only affects entities that have subjectivities, and those entities often can’t agree on what actions are right and wrong. So there’s no positive evidence that morality is objective. Furthermore, evolutionary biology shows us that other primates and other animals evolved moralities of their own, so there’s mounting positive evidence that morality is subjective.

    Please bookmark this. This must be the 4th or 5th time I’ve gone over this. This is what I mean by the objective-subjective distinction.

    In fact, maybe we should table this whole discussion until you guys define what objective and subjective mean to you, and how you test for each.

  24. Charlie,

    When I say, as per your requirement, that there is a predictable, observable result (physical, chemical, neurological change) when good/evil is presented to the sensory mechanism then why is this not evidence of the ontological existence of the moral quality?

    When we present the sensory mechanism with McDonalds food or country music, there are physical changes, so that means that gastronomic taste and taste in music ontologically exist? Yep. They do. No argument here. However, we’re not talking about whether good and evil exist, or taste in food and music exist, but whether they are objective, and whether they are more than subjective reactions to objective stimuli. Is the taste of fish eggs good whether or not anyone exists to eat them?

    It is obvious that all these human tastes have existence, and now quite obvious that they objectively cause physical changes within our brains and bodies. However, just because burritos change our body chemistry doesn’t mean that burritos objectively taste good or bad. Burritos objectively have a taste to humans (which varies per person), but that’s a completely different question from whether they have a taste independent of subjective entities. Burritos do not taste good or bad in and of themselves. They can only taste good or bad to a person.

    Now look back on your own response to your own question and substitute “pleasing gastronomic taste” for moral taste. Try to imagine eating maggot-ridden garbage, and you’ll “feel distress” without being anywhere near such “food”. Therefore taste in food is non-physical? That’s clearly absurd. Do you not think it is possible for the neural networks in your head to activate when not eating food and thereby imagine eating food? Of course it can! And fMRI proves it.

    So much for your proof of non-materialism.

  25. Hi DL,

    You’re saying that theistic evolution is impossible. I must have missed your proof of that. You’ll have to give it to us again.

    Non sequitur. I said that without a theory of unintelligent abiogenesis, and a predictable explanation of what first life was, you have no support for your inference to naturalism from evolution. Since you have no theory of that first life you have no objection to the fact that it was front-loaded ready to unfold via the guidance of the initial conditions. The snapshots that are the fossil record say nothing to refute this.

    God is more fine-tuned than the universe, so how are you going to explain the unknown in terms of the more unknown?

    .This is a nonsense statement. If you attempt to back it up as meaning anything it will be easily refuted. For instance, I am more “fine-tuned” than the Haiku poetry I wrote, but I am still the explanation for it.

    Every time we find a new data point you claim that your God solution is consistent with it, but you’re still unable to predict anything because you’ll need an infinite number of data points before you find the mind of God.

    Too wrong. 1) Your theory of explanation/prediction is a failure. 2) I am not without predictions. For instance, because the universe is the product of a rational mind it will continue to be consistence and logical. Because God created the universe and declared everything good then everything in the biosphere will be useful and necessary in its intended state. If something is a logical necessity of the real world it will also prove to be a reality of the real world.

    That’s not explaining, Charlie. That’s making reference to an explanation you don’t have. You’re fine tuning God at every turn, but you never make a prediction.

    God is not “finetuned” post hoc. God is described in His revelation. And your prediction theory is a failure.

    This is not a theory that you have. That’s a theory you would like to have. It’s a vague mess.

    It’s not a theory but an explanation. What’s so vague and messy about it?

    It’s like me explaining fine-tuning using the Theory of Everything (which I don’t have). The ToE utilizes only a small number (3?) similar constants and accounts for all the observed physical constants through symmetry breaking. There. Problem solved for naturalism, right?

    Got any confirmation for this? I have for mine.

    You have admitted this [use of the word morality] yourself, as have all of your supporters here.

    DL: We did?

    Yep. Time again you all have admitted that when people describe morality they are talking about a normative principle discernible by rational beings. When they say “this is wrong” they mean it actually is wrong. You have claimed that they are wrong to think this, are ignorant of the truth, and are being influenced by semantic limitations. What you haven’t done is argued that when people say “this is wrong, or this is evil” that they actually mean to say “it is my subjective feeling that this brings me less pleasure than other options, weighed against my broader considerations, and that I choose to impose my feelings on you against your feelings because I have the power to convince or subdue you”.

    So what one feels in those pragmatic situations is not morality then?

    Non sequitur. Read the context and the assertion I addressed. Your definition of morality forces you to change the meaning of the words. In this case to try to make a demonstration you had to avoid the words altogether and create a select case into which you could shoe-horn a very limited idea of morality.

    So… you had no morality before reaching this conclusion, didn’t even know what morality was, could not define the word, didn’t know what right and wrong meant, etc?

    For a guy with doctor and logic in your handle you sure succumb to a surprising number of logical fallacies. How does this follow from my refutation of your assertion I by intuition and feeling)?
    Yes, I had a sense of morality and right and wrong. I had, as you assert, a gut instinct about abortion. That gut instinct told me something that was contrary to what I reasoned later to be true.
    Your claim on this count and on the repeated allegation that we choose a theology based upon our how it matches up to our already-held feelings is falsified.

    Were you going to bother to address which chicken came before which egg according to your gut feelings? Did we invent God to ground our sense of objective morality, or do we invent objective morality to give God aesthetic appeal?

  26. When we present the sensory mechanism with McDonalds food or country music, there are physical changes, so that means that gastronomic taste and taste in music ontologically exist? Yep. They do. No argument here.

    The question isn’t whether the taste exists, but whether it reflects an objective reality. And it does. No argument here.

    Is the taste of fish eggs good whether or not anyone exists to eat them?

    Taste is defined only by its apprehension. That does not weigh upon the objectivity of the matter of fish and chemicals and receptors.

    However, just because burritos change our body chemistry doesn’t mean that burritos objectively taste good or bad. Burritos objectively have a taste to humans (which varies per person), but that’s a completely different question from whether they have a taste independent of subjective entities. Burritos do not taste good or bad in and of themselves. They can only taste good or bad to a person.

    That’s right. So what? Things only look good or bad to lookers and sound good or bad to hearers – we’ve said this countless times. Ignoring “good and bad” (subjective opinions about objective facts) you would still, in any normal and honest moment, trace the physical, chemical and neurological changes to the reception of a physical, material, objective stimulus.

    Now look back on your own response to your own question and substitute “pleasing gastronomic taste” for moral taste. Try to imagine eating maggot-ridden garbage, and you’ll “feel distress” without being anywhere near such “food”. Therefore taste in food is non-physical? That’s clearly absurd. Do you not think it is possible for the neural networks in your head to activate when not eating food and thereby imagine eating food? Of course it can! And fMRI proves it.

    So much for your proof of non-materialism.

    Yay! Yes, so much for my argument. You just proved it and made the exact case I made to you over a year ago.
    Nothing was received into the brain to cause this change. There was no material exchange of goods. There was only “imagination”. Yes, you’ll now beg the question and call “imagination” material, but you lose all grounding in reality as soon as you try to create a causal chain. What particle collision, whether deterministic or random, caused the imagination? Once you boil it down to a particle collision, of course, you destroy any foundation for reason and science as you bury yourself in the completely causally detached cocoon of your own brain. But go ahead, defend materialism all the way into the vat. We know that that conclusion is false. too.

  27. DL,
    I’ve defined “subjective” many times over, several times in response to your offering of your definition at the tail end of long discussions of the subject. I appreciate your desire to settle the definition before the conversation this time. As with morality, I’ll go with the way I think the word is used in normal language and the way I resume others are using it when they discuss it.
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/subjective

    sub·jec·tive [suhb-jek-tiv] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation
    –adjective
    1. existing in the mind; belonging to the thinking subject rather than to the object of thought (opposed to objective).
    2. pertaining to or characteristic of an individual; personal; individual: a subjective evaluation.
    3. placing excessive emphasis on one’s own moods, attitudes, opinions, etc.; unduly egocentric.
    4. Philosophy. relating to or of the nature of an object as it is known in the mind as distinct from a thing in itself.
    5. relating to properties or specific conditions of the mind as distinguished from general or universal experience.

    Proceeding from or taking place in a person’s mind rather than the external world: a subjective decision.
    Particular to a given person; personal: subjective experience.

    Existing only in the mind; illusory.
    Psychology Existing only within the experiencer’s mind.

    As opposed to “objective”:

    5. not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased: an objective opinion.
    6. intent upon or dealing with things external to the mind rather than with thoughts or feelings, as a person or a book.
    7. being the object of perception or thought; belonging to the object of thought rather than to the thinking subject (opposed to subjective).
    8. of or pertaining to something that can be known, or to something that is an object or a part of an object; existing independent of thought or an observer as part of reality.

    Having actual existence or reality.
    Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices: an objective critic. See Synonyms at fair1.
    Based on observable phenomena; presented factually: an objective appraisal.

    n.
    Something that actually exists.

    By my definitions your peanut allergy example is objective, not subjective.

  28. DL:

    Every time we find a new data point you claim that your God solution is consistent with it, but you’re still unable to predict anything because you’ll need an infinite number of data points before you find the mind of God.

    We have one huge data point that predicts everything rational…the knowledge that logic is necessary, not contingent. By definition that means logic transcends the materialistic causal chain and points to an immaterial mind. Guess who’s mind that is?

  29. Charlie

    Yes, I had a sense of morality and right and wrong. I had, as you assert, a gut instinct about abortion. That gut instinct told me something that was contrary to what I reasoned later to be true.

    This is my point. You agree with me that morality is well-defined even before we do a philosophical analysis. Therefore, no matter how the analysis turns out, that existence doesn\’t go away when we find that morality is just preference and taste. You say it is more than just taste, but that\’s just a bare assertion. Tom\’s argument for the objectivity of morality was that it would destroy the meaning of morality. As we\’ve just shown, that argument holds no water.

    As for the definition of objective versus subjective, you\’re still not making any sense.

    For a start, what is the operational definition? Are you using all the dictionary definitions at once?

    The question isn’t whether the taste exists, but whether it reflects an objective reality. And it does.

    Completely wrong. If you like the taste of broccoli, is that dislike in the broccoli? That\’s the point!

    The point is NOT whether there\’s a third-party view in which the interaction between you and the broccoli is objective. The question is whether the badness of broccoli is in the broccoli. And it isn\’t!

    Nothing was received into the brain to cause this change. There was no material exchange of goods. There was only “imagination”. Yes, you’ll now beg the question and call “imagination” material, but you lose all grounding in reality as soon as you try to create a causal chain.

    No causal chain? How about all the experiences that created the mind in the first place?

  30. We have one huge data point that predicts everything rational…the knowledge that logic is necessary, not contingent. By definition that means logic transcends the materialistic causal chain and points to an immaterial mind. Guess who’s mind that is?

    Sorry, Steve, but this is just psychobabble. What is logic necessary for? Rationality? What does that have to do with transcending materialistic causal chains?

    And as I said to Charlie, the question here isn\’t whether a third party could objectively explain why something feels morally right or wrong to me, or why something tastes good or bad to me. The point is whether the thing I feel good or bad about has that goodness or badness in itself. It\’s not a question of whether someone could objectively show that I would feel bad watching an execution. That doesn\’t make the badness of execution in the execution itself. (Even if it is objective that I have that feeling.)

    Again, we\’re not talking about whether subjective feelings have an objective basis (under physicalism, they would), but whether an individual\’s subjective feelings about an object are a signal of something basic within the object, or whether those feelings are a reaction to other basic objective properties of the object.

    Let’s look at your claim that “burritos objectively have taste” (not taste good or bad) using the above statment.

    a) How did you observe the property of taste?
    b) How did you determine that this property belongs to the burrito itself, and was not just an artifact of the way you interacted with the burrito’s other objective properties?

    I know that I experience taste in a subjective way. All my experiences will be from my perspective. That doesn\’t mean that the subjective feeling isn\’t representative of something in the burrito itself.

    I know that some aspects of the taste of burritos are objective because I can detect the taste of a burrito when I cut myself off from the other aspects of a burrito (e.g., in a blind taste test).

    In fact, I can break this down into many other sub-tastes like saltiness, sweetness, tartness, hotness, consistency, etc. Each of these attributes can be tasted independently.

    However, I cannot taste goodness or badness without also tasting the other things. For this reason, there\’s no positive evidence that the goodness or badness of burritos is anything but my own personal subjective reaction to the other objective properties of the food.

    Pretty simple.

    Now do the same with morality. I don\’t feel as though an action is good or evil in the absence of other objective information about the action. So there\’s no positive evidence that it is more than just my personal subjective reaction to the objective facts of the case (what, what, where, etc.).

  31. DL:
    First you say

    However, we’re not talking about whether good and evil exist, or taste in food and music exist, but whether they are objective, and whether they are more than subjective reactions to objective stimuli.

    You’re asking if there are objective reactions to the objective stimuli. Charlie has given you the answer many times. Yes. I hope we can all agree on that.

    Then you say this

    Is the taste of fish eggs good whether or not anyone exists to eat them?

    Now you are asking a different question, which is fine. No longer satisfied with finding an objective, predictable reaction, you are now looking for ‘objective taste’ independent of the food. Why the change? Why is this now the criteria?

    Burritos objectively have a taste to humans (which varies per person), but that’s a completely different question from whether they have a taste independent of subjective entities. Burritos do not taste good or bad in and of themselves. They can only taste good or bad to a person.

    OK, fine. If this is the complaint then I ask you to consider your statement except insert ‘propositions’ for ‘burritos’, ‘truth value’ for ‘taste’ and ‘true or false’ for ‘good or bad’.

    Is truth subjective? According to your method of argument – yes. You have changed the definition of ‘objective’ somewhere in midstream. First it was a reaction to objective stimuli, now it is something completely different.

    Let’s try this:
    You say burritos objectively have taste (not taste good or bad). Describe for us the method you used to know this. What data do you collect and what does your prediction model look like? We’ll apply this same method to the question of ‘good or bad taste’.

  32. I think DL has already answered, in part, my last request for an explanation.

    I am an entity that has a notion of ’self’. So I can, at least to some degree, identify entities that are not my self. Now, suppose I observe some object external to my self, and observe a property of that object. That property is OBJECTIVE if it belongs to the object itself, and is not just an artifact of the way I interact with the object’s other OBJECTIVE properties. If I observe an OBJECTIVE property of an external object, there’s no reason why my faculties cannot superimpose SUBJECTIVE information to my observation.

    Let’s look at your claim that “burritos objectively have taste” (not taste good or bad) using the above statment.

    a) How did you observe the property of taste?
    b) How did you determine that this property belongs to the burrito itself, and was not just an artifact of the way you interacted with the burrito’s other objective properties?

  33. Charlie,

    And as such, is a necessary grounding for the rest of your naturalistic theory – if there was no unintelligent abiogenesis, and you can’t predict what the first life was, or was like, you really can’t claim support for the unintelligent unfolding of subsequent life.

    Your quote speaks for itself, IMO. The goose chase is quite unnecessary. Just write what you really mean and we\’ll be fine.

    So neither God’s fine-tunedness nor His relation to the universe is the issue – all you are saying, yet again, is that He is not a scientific theory, as per your (no good) criteria.

    I am saying that God does not exist and he\’s not a person. You haven\’t seen God. You haven\’t heard from him. You haven\’t interacted with him. You have simply interacted with the world and interpret natural events as messages from an imaginary friend.

    It\’s not even as formal as making a scientific theory. Do you have any friends whom you know but can\’t predict anything about them? Will they zip off at the speed of light or travel through time? Will they change their mass? Are they invisible? Do they eat bugs? I suspect not.

    No, when we know a person, we can predict what they will do, where they will go, how fast they will go, what they sound like, how they will react to certain events, etc. But you know nothing of God whatsoever. You can\’t see him or touch him, and you cannot identify his actions. You think you know God\’s invisible feelings. And, of course, you are quite willing to believe in the interpretations of others. Those interpretations you can read about in your holy books, or listen to in church. But there\’s no difference between God and an imaginary friend.

    What did God do today? What did he not do today?

    Everything we look at and might say “that’s a blight” such as bacteria and viruses are integral not only to their own existence, but have a necessary and good role in the creation as a whole. In situations where we don’t understand this role it has yet to be discovered, but it still exists. I predict in every such case further study and understanding will demonstrate that.
    This is a risky prediction (in your world view) which derives directly from my understanding of God, and which is not predicted by your world view.

    Gee, have you ever heard of an ecosystem?

    In fact, as I think about your view, where blind survival and reproduction are the only criteria for success there should be no symbiosis, but merely Dawkinsian arms races. And, in fact, the arms race should be over and there should be no life left. A la the Matrix, a single best organism should have spread like a cancer and destroyed the biosphere by now. One more for my side.

    This is the clincher. You really don\’t understand evolution at all. Suppose sharks eat all the other life in the ocean. What are they going to eat? As they deplete their food supply, their population will fall, and their prey will return. And symbiosis is predicted by evolution. The fact that you don\’t know these things just shows that you don\’t understand the theory.

    Moreover, they are not predicted by your theory. You still have not said why God can\’t create anything useless. Like an appendix! Or cancer!

  34. Charlie,

    If the question is as to cause then the cause is the explanation. I don’t need a predictive, scientific theory of God for God to be the explanation.
    So what’s so vague and messy about this explanation for abiogenesis?

    God created man to be in loving communion with Him, and to enter into a shared creativity with Him and He created the rest of the biosphere in aid of this.

    Ah! So this is okay then?

    The universe just is. It follows the Theory of Everything, to which all known physics is a local approximation. The ToE is such that abiogenesis and evolution on Earth were inevitable.

    Hoorah! I\’ve explained everything! Nothing will be a mystery again!

    Saying that X is the cause of Y is not explanatory if there are no predictions. If I say a car crash was caused by a post-it note in the trunk of the car, I have not explained the crash. If there is a unique one-time law of physics that says that this particular crash would be caused by this particular post-it note, that doesn\’t explain the crash. Even if it were the cause. Sorry.

    For your God theory to be explanatory, God would have to be in communion with us, but he isn\’t. And the environment isn\’t helping us communicate. Which is why (conveniently) your theory doesn\’t own up to any predictions at all (otherwise it might be \”scientific\”).

    So what confirms the existence of the ToE? What line of reasoning establishes its existence and where can I read about it? What effect does it have on life?

    (tongue in cheek) The existence of local physics confirms the ToE. The ToE affects life completely because there would be no life, no universe without it.(/tongue in cheek).

    Are you really sure your hypothetical explanation is analogous to my true explanation?

    Yep.

    Naturalism is not the result of an evidential demonstration, and yet you believe it. Abiogenesis is not either, and yet, even without an explanation or a theory, you believe in its unintelligent genesis.

    My naturalism is not the same as physicalism (for the zillionth time) is based on what constitutes an explanation. A God theory could explain things if the theory were predictive, e.g., if God has a personality like a humans do. So the first life could be explained to my satisfaction by a god. You just lack a predictive theory of said god. Your god is the hidden post-it note that causes the car crash. It\’s not explanatory because if you make it explanatory, it can be falsified, and you can\’t tolerate that.

  35. Your quote speaks for itself, IMO. The goose chase is quite unnecessary. Just write what you really mean and we’ll be fine.

    I wrote it. Each time.
    So although we must be fine I\’ll say it again. You claim to base your naturalism (which is not physicalism, let\’s not forget for a moment) on evidence and scientific findings. You have a faith-based belief that undiscovered explanations will also meet your naturalistic demands and further support your worldview. This faith is grounded upon the fact that science has so far supported your naturalism. But it hasn\’t. What science has not shown, in any way, is that naturalism is true. In fact, it can\’t address the question at all, and can\’t even support naturalism in its own claims (re: mindless, unguided atelic evolution) without knowing just what preceded the first living forms capable of Darwinian evolution (for instance). So there is no naturalistic basis in science from which to infer naturalism, from which to presume it holds at more fundamental levels, which would be necessary to support the contention that what science does know supports naturalism, from which your faith-based predictions draw their support, etc. A nasty circle which eats its own tail. Short form – you can\’t express faith in naturalistic unintelligent abiogenesis (or fine-tuning, or the origin of the universe, or the explanation of gravity, etc.) based upon the previous naturalistic explanations because those are not supported without the ones you are presuming. You are adhering to a philosophical position and calling it science, but it is not. When you withdraw to a true scientific position you are not addressing any of the issues you wish to in your philosophy.

    I am saying that God does not exist and he’s not a person. You haven’t seen God. You haven’t heard from him. You haven’t interacted with him. You have simply interacted with the world and interpret natural events as messages from an imaginary friend.

    And what you\’re saying is nothing but your unsubstantiated gut feeling.

    Do you have any friends whom you know but can’t predict anything about them?

    No. And God is not in that category, either.

    But you know nothing of God whatsoever.

    Your omniscience is striking at an all-time high today. I know a lot about God, but certainly not everything.

    What did God do today? What did he not do today?

    He sustained the universe and He did not act contrary to His nature. He did not do anything unloving or illogical.

    Gee, have you ever heard of an ecosystem?

    Your attempts at sarcasm would be more impressive if you dealt with the issues. You might have noticed that in addition to speaking precisely about ecosystems I used the exact word. You should go back to your pretense that God is an imaginary friend – at least there you don\’t expose your inability to read as well.

    This is the clincher. You really don’t understand evolution at all. Suppose sharks eat all the other life in the ocean. What are they going to eat? As they deplete their food supply, their population will fall, and their prey will return

    Nice try. When in doubt, accuse your opponent of ignorance (thanks, I\’ll take it from here now). Unfortunately, you don\’t understand logic at all, your pseudonym notwithstanding. The shark just ate all the other life in the ocean in your scenario. So where did the prey return from? Oh yes, abiogenesis, of course.
    This is exactly the type of scenario I had in mind, but on a much less fundamental, and life-dominating level – so other than your fallacious conclusion you supported my argument beautifully.

    And symbiosis is predicted by evolution. The fact that you don’t know these things just shows that you don’t understand the theory.

    False. Symbiosis is retrodicted into the theory. As I said, and you demonstrated, your theory would end in no life. The arms race would result in one master species which would eradicate all of life, itself included. But that doesn\’t happen. Why? Because of feedback loops, limits on development, checks and balances. You know, design. That\’s what I predicted when I said that God made man to enter into a loving and creative relationship with him and designed the rest of the biosphere in aid of this. It wouldn\’t do for bacteria to dominate the planet to the exclusion of so-called higher life (as is far more likely under your theory). But it sure makes sense that they are intrinsically necessary at virtually every level of life to accommodate such a scenario.

    Moreover, they are not predicted by your theory. You still have not said why God can’t create anything useless. Like an appendix! Or cancer!

    The appendix isn\’t useless. The fact that you think so shows you are mired in 19th century proofs and are ignorant of modern medicine. Cell growth and development is a good thing, and when it goes out of control it is a bad thing. It isn\’t useless, but becomes deadly when unchecked, which is cancer. Cancer and death are not good, and they are unnatural, but they are a necessary condition since the Fall.
    Actually, I\’ll make another prediction. Cancer will be found to be an aberration of a very good process, probably even more surprising and unique than mere growth and development. That\’s what science actually keeps finding – that things we thought were bad are actually good in their natural state and proper function.

    Hoorah! I’ve explained everything! Nothing will be a mystery again!

    Yeah, that\’s fine with me. Just don\’t claim it\’s proven and go around teaching it as a theory, or anything like that. If you\’re happy with it why should I care?
    And where was your demonstration that my point was vague and messy. I must have missed it in your sarcasm. Is this all you\’ve returned for?

    Saying that X is the cause of Y is not explanatory if there are no predictions.

    It is explanatory if X tells me that X is the cause of Y. And I gave you predictions. I\’ll give you another DL-approved prediction – I predict that X caused Y is true.

    f I say a car crash was caused by a post-it note in the trunk of the car, I have not explained the crash. If there is a unique one-time law of physics that says that this particular crash would be caused by this particular post-it note, that doesn’t explain the crash. Even if it were the cause. Sorry.

    You keep apologizing. Is that because you never demonstrate what you set out to? If Driver says \”I reached for my cell phone and went off the road\” then the crash is explained. I\’ll throw in some DL-approved predictions, too. I predict when drivers are distracted they can crash their cars. I predict that Driver is telling the truth because why would he lie?

    For your God theory to be explanatory, God would have to be in communion with us, but he isn’t.

    Yes He is.

    And the environment isn’t helping us communicate. Which is why (conveniently) your theory doesn’t own up to any predictions at all (otherwise it might be “scientific”).

    It\’s not a theory and my predictions are sound.

    (tongue in cheek) The existence of local physics confirms the ToE. The ToE affects life completely because there would be no life, no universe without it.(/tongue in cheek).

    And I can answer the same question about God without my tongue embedded in my cheek.

    My naturalism is not the same as physicalism (for the zillionth time) is based on what constitutes an explanation

    Zillions? So what? I never said it was. What is it about my discussion of your naturalism that makes you think I\’m equating it to physicalism? And, since you\’re so inclined to educate, would you care to remind me just what it is that makes your view not physicalist? I believe it was because you believe in abstract, non-physical objects like numbers, right? I think it is. So that leads me to another question – are numbers objective? Can we know objective facts about mathematics, geometry and logic? (Heads up, Paul.)

    It’s not explanatory because if you make it explanatory, it can be falsified, and you can’t tolerate that.

    It is explanatory, but not all explanations are based upon the MES, and you can\’t tolerate that.

    So, I\’ve waded through lots of assertions and smoke-blowing, but little substance.
    Let\’s see where we left off…
    Oh yes, we proved together that your theory of mind destroys your materialism. Did you have any further thoughts on that?
    We also determined that you were wrong when you made your claim that gut instincts about morality lead to theological moralizing.
    And I\’m still wondering which gut instinct you\’ve chosen to settle on – do we invent God to explain our perception of objective morality, or invent objective morality to explain God? Or do we actually invent God to explain the fin-tuning, as you once said? And where then, does that leave your latest claim about God\’s aesthetics?
    And you didn\’t explain what objectivism was and how I supposedly contradicted myself on it with regards to morality.

    But your sarcasm was better than ever, so good job on that.

  36. Charlie,

    As for morality, it seems your point is that the unexplained element of human morality is the philosophical conclusion that morality is objective. Sorry, but a philosophical conclusion about the nature of morality is not morality. And so Tom\’s argument still falls.

    But you’re still making the wrong point. I’m sure I was explicit. “Badness” is a subjective opinion about the objective reality. Our apprehension of morality s a subjective opinion about the objective reality of good and evil.

    So if I feel that an act is good or bad, that\’s got nothing to do with morality? Now there\’s a theory that doesn\’t match human experience.

    Are you saying that our nausea at imagining eating spoiled food was determined at conception?

    No, although some of that information is genetic. No, what I am saying is that the sight and sensation of food, and of spoiled food or unpleasant odors is in the past experience of the person doing the imagining. What a person imagines is some combination of their past experiences or of their abstractions from past experiences.

  37. Hi DL,
    Can you make this point make sense? Perhaps explain your conclusion, or put it in context so that I know what you are meaning to say and so that I can respond?

    As for morality, it seems your point is that the unexplained element of human morality is the philosophical conclusion that morality is objective. Sorry, but a philosophical conclusion about the nature of morality is not morality.

    ===

    So if I feel that an act is good or bad, that’s got nothing to do with morality?

    What\’s this supposed to mean? Could you try to draw your inferences from what I write so I could somehow follow your train of logic?

    Me:Are you saying that our nausea at imagining eating spoiled food was determined at conception?
    You:No, although some of that information is genetic.

    Then when was it physically determined?

    No, what I am saying is that the sight and sensation of food, and of spoiled food or unpleasant odors is in the past experience of the person doing the imagining. What a person imagines is some combination of their past experiences or of their abstractions from past experiences.

    Thank you for this coherent, and yet incomplete and incorrect answer. You\’re still dodging. What caused the imagination? Rather, what is the \”imagination\”?A particle bumping into another particle? What causes the abstraction? Follow the logic boldly and you will find there is no correspondence to reality in your theory and such an imagination is not linked to any externally existing food-stuff in any way but is merely the result of one electron moving and striking another. The content of the perceived thought is not the cause, and, therefore, is unrelated to the resulting nausea.
    This, of course, is not possible. Which means that the imagination is not a physical reaction to anything.

  38. DL:

    So if I feel that an act is good or bad, that’s got nothing to do with morality? Now there’s a theory that doesn’t match human experience.

    How did you arrive at the opposite conclusion given the following statement by Charlie?

    But you’re still making the wrong point. I’m sure I was explicit. “Badness” is a subjective opinion about the objective reality. Our apprehension of morality s a subjective opinion about the objective reality of good and evil.

    Note the bold portion where Charlie says the subjective opinion has everything to do with morality. The mystery we are trying to get resolved is you don\’t think morality is objective, yet you think taste is objective. Why?

  39. Charlie,

    Your statements show that not only are you not listening, but again that you don\’t understand evolutionary biology.

    Short form – you can’t express faith in naturalistic unintelligent abiogenesis (or fine-tuning, or the origin of the universe, or the explanation of gravity, etc.) based upon the previous naturalistic explanations because those are not supported without the ones you are presuming.

    What faith in unintelligent abiogenesis? Is this the faith you attributed to me when I said that abiogenesis was unexplained?

    If you believe that restating facts explains those facts, then you can be a supernaturalist. You do, so you are.

    My naturalism isn\’t something I prove based on the success of science and the utter failure of superstition. It\’s simply a rational belief in what constitutes an explanation. Naturalism isn\’t explanatory to a naturalist because naturalism is an abstraction. Meanwhile, anything and everything is explanatory to a supernaturalist. It\’s amazing how much is explained when you have no standards for explanations.

    What did God do today? What did he not do today?

    He sustained the universe and He did not act contrary to His nature. He did not do anything unloving or illogical.

    Don\’t go too far out on a limb now.

    The shark just ate all the other life in the ocean in your scenario. So where did the prey return from? Oh yes, abiogenesis, of course.

    The shark evolved to fit into a niche. That\’s where the species came from in the first place. It didn\’t evolve out of nowhere. Prior species were in approximate equilibrium, so the sharks evolved advantages are incremental. As they breed and consume prey, they consume energy which must be replenished by feeding. But with so many sharks, and the prey depleted, the sharks become their own competition. There is insufficient prey for the sharks to live and breed so sharks begin to die as they hunt for the remaining (fittest) prey. The predators of the young sharks also begin to die out as the prey population falls. Meanwhile, with a reduced prey population, the prey\’s food supply is at an all time high, and the prey\’s offspring survive at a higher rate because they\’re too small for the sharks to eat. Moreover, if a species is too deadly, it will kill off its food supply before it has a chance to mate or find more food. Evolution creates its own feedback mechanisms.

    The arms race would result in one master species which would eradicate all of life, itself included. But that doesn’t happen. Why? Because of feedback loops, limits on development, checks and balances. You know, design.

    Not design. Evolution. You see only what you want to see. Where are all the ID scientists, huh? If they made real predictions and had real explanations, they would be rewarded. They don\’t do that because they got nothin\’. Except you.

    Actually, I’ll make another prediction. Cancer will be found to be an aberration of a very good process, probably even more surprising and unique than mere growth and development. That’s what science actually keeps finding – that things we thought were bad are actually good in their natural state and proper function.

    Cancer is an aberration of a good process?!! Notify Nature immediately!

    But cancer isn\’t a good process. Are you saying God couldn\’t stop cancer? This is another non-prediction. By this definition, there\’s nothing you cannot interpret as being an aberration of a good process. It\’s unfalsifiable. The trademark of superstition. You\’re saying the world is as good as the world is. You\’re deluding yourself – you will look around you and always see confirmation because you\’ve ruled out falsification from the start.

    And where was your demonstration that my point was vague and messy.

    Your predictions can\’t get any more vague and messy than being unfalsifiable.

    If Driver says “I reached for my cell phone and went off the road” then the crash is explained. I’ll throw in some DL-approved predictions, too. I predict when drivers are distracted they can crash their cars. I predict that Driver is telling the truth because why would he lie?

    Yes! At last! You get it. But what if you simultaneously disclaimed any correlation between driver statements and truth, and disclaimed the idea that driver distraction would be correlated with car crashes? Then the whole explanation would collapse and be non-explanatory. That\’s the point of the post-it note example. Unless I were to predict that post-it notes in the trunk cause cars to crash, my theory would be non-explanatory.

    And, since you’re so inclined to educate, would you care to remind me just what it is that makes your view not physicalist?

    If God were predictable (like a person), then God would be explanatory, and natural by my definition, despite his not being physical. Predictability is what counts, not physicality. Good of you to finally ask.

  40. Actually, this one\’s easier than I anticipated:

    What faith in unintelligent abiogenesis? Is this the faith you attributed to me when I said that abiogenesis was unexplained?

    ===
    Yep. You said unexplained …currently. You expressed the faith before and continue to harbour it.

    My naturalism isn’t something I prove based on the success of science and the utter failure of superstition.It’s simply a rational belief in what constitutes an explanation.

    Okay, my mistake. Science does not support your world view, you do not base your world view upon science, and you have no faith in science\’s ability to find naturalistic answers to all natural questions. Maybe we have more in common than I thought.

    Don’t go too far out on a limb now.

    Oh, I\’m sorry, did you want more? What did evolution do today? What\’s it going to do tomorrow?

    precetera…
    Moreover, if a species is too deadly, it will kill off its food supply before it has a chance to mate or find more food. Evolution creates its own feedback mechanisms.

    ===Evolution does not such thing. Your story-telling reached its appropriate conclusion at the end, but you ignored it. Life would never have advanced to sharks if your theory were true. The struggle for existence would have left one winner and one loser (you remember Darwin\’s theory required replacement and extinction?) right off the bat. And the one winner would be the next loser as it would cost itself its ecosystem. There are no niches to fill if your theory were followed logically.

    Cancer is an aberration of a good process?!! Notify Nature immediately!

    ===Sorry, it\’s just at the prediction stage right now. Somebody else will have to verify it.
    !!!
    !

    But cancer isn’t a good process. Are you saying God couldn’t stop cancer? This is another non-prediction.

    ===
    You have to learn about the explanation. God is not in the business of stopping cancer or stopping death. Death, which is not good and is not natural, is now necessary.

    By this definition, there’s nothing you cannot interpret as being an aberration of a good process. It’s unfalsifiable. The trademark of superstition.

    ===
    Not so. It just happens to fit the facts.

    =You’re saying the world is as good as the world is. You’re deluding yourself – you will look around you and always see confirmation because you’ve ruled out falsification from the start.

    ====
    Potential falsification is not the trademark of explanations. It isn\’t even necessary for scientific explanations, the recent interweb fascination with Popper notwithstanding. And scientific explanations do not encompass all explanations (or even a small portion) as your own admissions reveal.

    Me:And where was your demonstration that my point was vague and messy.

    You:Your predictions can’t get any more vague and messy than being unfalsifiable.

    ===
    No answer then.

    Yes! At last! You get it. But what if you simultaneously disclaimed any correlation between driver statements and truth, and disclaimed the idea that driver distraction would be correlated with car crashes? Then the whole explanation would collapse and be non-explanatory. That’s the point of the post-it note example. Unless I were to predict that post-it notes in the trunk cause cars to crash, my theory would be non-explanatory.

    ===
    Oh, so we both get it. After all these attempts you realize that revelation and testimony is explanatory. Good stuff.

    Me: And, since you’re so inclined to educate, would you care to remind me just what it is that makes your view not physicalist?

    You: If God were predictable (like a person), then God would be explanatory, and natural by my definition, despite his not being physical. Predictability is what counts, not physicality. Good of you to finally ask.

    ===
    So only that which explains, by your definition (today) of explanation, exists? You\’d believe in the non-physical if it were explanatory, by your definition? Is anything non-physical so-explanatory?
    Where does you latest definition leave abstract entities?

    Okay, now I really must go. Any subsequent comments will have to wait.

  41. I\’m back and about to turn in but, just for fun, decided to highlight this one transaction:
    DL challenged for a prediction:

    Every time we find a new data point you claim that your God solution is consistent with it, but you’re still unable to predict anything because you’ll need an infinite number of data points before you find the mind of God.

    He received these examples of predictions:

    For instance, because the universe is the product of a rational mind it will continue to be consistent and logical. Because God created the universe and declared everything good then everything in the biosphere will be useful and necessary in its intended state. If something is a logical necessity of the real world it will also prove to be a reality of the real world.

    His reply was to continue challenging, as though these predictions could be made into non-predictions by refusal to face them:

    Useful and necessary for what? Do you mean causally necessary in the sense of natural causation? Is rattlesnake venom useful?

    At March 28th, 2008 at 5:03 pm
    Charlie said of this prediction

    Useful and necessary for the biosphere as a whole. Rattlesnake venom? Of course it’s useful. It is useful to the rattlesnake and the rattlesnake is good and useful in the ecosystem. Every eco-system has some built in redundancy and ability to adapt, but is a also a sum of its parts which are necessarily interdependent and reliant upon one another. Everything we look at and might say “that’s a blight” such as bacteria and viruses are integral not only to their own existence, but have a necessary and good role in the creation as a whole. In situations where we don’t understand this role it has yet to be discovered, but it still exists. I predict in every such case further study and understanding will demonstrate that.
    This is a risky prediction (in your world view) which derives directly from my understanding of God, and which is not predicted by your world view.

    At March 28th, 2008 at 7:07 pm
    DL\’s very next response quoted this same paragraph and said:

    Gee, have you ever heard of an ecosystem?

    This was his sole response to the point and its explication.
    This display of interest in reading and comprehending arguments explains a lot about these \”dialogues\”.

    Remember, this is the guy who said that to be an explanation A had to preferentially predict B. As this failed he said A had to be somewhat greater than noise at predicting B. In order to allow in intuitively acceptable explanations he then had to allow that an explanation was \”predictive\” if someplace, anyplace, in the background knowledge there was room for prediction. Finally the test lay in shambles as DL said an explanation was predictive if it was predicted to be true.

    But look how stringent the \”formal\” test becomes when \”dispassionately\” applied to explanations DL does not want to admit. Not that the test was ever legitimate in the first place, but DL\’s adherence to it is selective to the extreme.

  42. Charlie,

    Evolution does not such thing. Your story-telling reached its appropriate conclusion at the end, but you ignored it. Life would never have advanced to sharks if your theory were true. The struggle for existence would have left one winner and one loser (you remember Darwin’s theory required replacement and extinction?) right off the bat. And the one winner would be the next loser as it would cost itself its ecosystem. There are no niches to fill if your theory were followed logically.

    You\’re speaking from ignorance of biology. Imagine the first life on the planet. There are countless niches, even for single-celled life. So some of the single-celled life evolves to function better in its local physical environment. Then there are niches for single-celled life that eats other single-celled life. But a predator cannot be well adapted to all the niches. So that means there will have to be many predators. And once there are predators, there will be predators of the predators, and their specializations will make them poorly suited to feed on the original prey. At each stage, the system regains approximate equilibrium. Even at this simple stage, if a single-celled animal is too effective, it will kill off all the surrounding prey, and be unable to travel to other ecosystems (or even to other areas of its original physical environment).

    By the time an ecosystem is as evolved as those in our oceans, there are countless niches. There are niches of physical conditions, e.g., deep oceans, or volcanic vents, warm water at the surface, etc. There are niches between species, e.g., animals that feed on plankton, animals that feed on small fish, animals that feed on schools of fish, animals that feed on mammals, and many more levels. Now suppose that one super-species evolved to rapidly eat all the fish in the middle oceans (including itself). That species would run out of food, be unable to breed, and could not wait for the young of smaller species to grow into fish worth eating. The super-species cannot chase all the young fish in the sea, so after the super-species has killed itself off, the young fish will grow into adults. And rapidly because all its predators were gone.

    This is beside the point because such a species would have to be adapted to too many conditions simultaneously (cold water, warm water, deep water, shallow water, fresh water, etc.).

    The ideas you\’re selling are from a retired ID guy who publishes on faith web sites. If this old crank could prove design, he\’d have a Nobel prize. Something should be tipping you off at this point. If it\’s too good to be true, it probably isn\’t true. You\’ve been suckered.

  43. Charlie,

    As for your so-called predictions, let\’s look at them again.

    You say that everything is necessary and useful for the purpose of man being in communion with God.

    You say that rattlesnake venom is good because it helps rattlesnakes maintain the balance in its ecosystem.

    But is this really a prediction? What if we killed-off all the rattlesnakes? Would not another species of snake supplant it?

    Why did God make rattlesnake poison deadly to humans? That seems counterproductive to the living in communion with God thing. Now here you have a couple of choices. You could say that humans don\’t have to live long to be in communion with God. In which case, who cares about the balance of the environment? Or else you could say that the world is less good than it ought to be by design (because of the fall). So you end up with the prediction that the world is as good for communion as it actually is. If we find the world is better than we thought then it is better. If it is worse, then it is worse.

    You also said that even cancer will be seen as an aberration of something good. I think that\’s doublespeak. An aberration of something good is something BAD!

    Meanwhile, evolutionary biology predicts common descent, whereas divine design does no such thing. It also predicts other definite outcomes for experiments (http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA210.html). Also, genetic algorithms prove that evolution works in principle.

    So only that which explains, by your definition (today) of explanation, exists?

    No. There could be a god out there who is responsible for inexplicable events, and who acts in such an unpredictable way that the inexplicable events fall into no pattern. But any entity that does this defeats our ability to see it or reason to its existence. My naturalism isn\’t about denying supernatural phenomena. In fact, one might say that my naturalism says that a few things must be supernatural. My naturalism is really saying that supernatural events always look like inexplicable events, and so we can never reason to their cause. It also says that as soon as a non-material entity becomes predictable, it becomes natural (by my definition).


  44. There are countless niches, even for single-celled life.

    Wrong tack, amigo. You don\’t have a theory about first life and you don\’t know the environment. You don\’t know what first life was or what niches were involved. If life was generated once then it is far more likely to die and join the vast majority of entities in the universe and become non-life again.

    So some of the single-celled life evolves to function better in its local physical environment. Then there are niches for single-celled life that eats other single-celled life. But a predator cannot be well adapted to all the niches.

    You are presuming that this fragile first life somehow established itself well enough and lasted long enough to spread out into different niches …doing what? Let\’s presume converting chemicals into fuel. And then one lucky one became a predator. This predator is far more likely to have been swamped by the existing organisms than to have established itself. If it were to become the dominant form then it would do so by destroying the others. Your explanation predicts such destruction and replacement – mine doesn\’t. Your explanation is more likely to result in destruction and nonlife, mine isn\’t.

    And once there are predators, there will be predators of the predators, and their specializations will make them poorly suited to feed on the original prey.

    For a guy with no theory and no faith you sure have a lot of explanations. Not necessarily. A theory that says that every variation, however deleterious will be weeded out and any variation, however beneficial, will apply at the beginning. It is far more likely that, of two choices of life, one will be weeded out at the beginning. If natural selection is going to select a predator and propagate predation it would predict that their changes would make them better predators of more prey – not less. They would destroy their food resources.

    At each stage, the system regains approximate equilibrium. Even at this simple stage, if a single-celled animal is too effective, it will kill off all the surrounding prey, and be unable to travel to other ecosystems (or even to other areas of its original physical environment).

    Other ecosystems? You are not talking about first life in a primordial soup, or in a subterranean rock now – you are talking about all-at-once creation. There are no ecosystems in your theory. You have rigged the game and are ignoring obvious implications and are claiming this is \”knowledge\” of biology. It isn\’t. It is speculating and story-telling. This is fine, if that\’s the kind of theory you have faith in, but it does not make your scenario the more likely. The most likely is that if life emerges it disappears just as quickly. If life must adapt to be better suited to survival and must replace pre-existing life to\”evolve\” then the odds are far greater that it do just that. You are appealing to blind luck but you are doing it contingent upon foresight – you know what outcome is needed and you are planning for it in your story. Primordial seas do not have foresight.

    Now suppose that one super-species evolved to rapidly eat all the fish in the middle oceans (including itself). That species would run out of food, be unable to breed, and could not wait for the young of smaller species to grow into fish worth eating.

    This is probable if you allow for ecosystems and pretend there was some period of evolution and diversification prior to said super-speciation. As I said, this idea applies at a more fundamental level of life. Without foresight this is where your idea is more likely to have been swamped. Indeed, there is no reason that life hasn\’t evolved into one super, oxygen-eating bacteria that spread across the whole planet, dominating all the living space and keeping all of other life at bay. One kind of life, super-attuned to its environment, makes more sense of your theory we don\’t have than does a tightly interlocked, interdependent biosphere.

    This is beside the point because such a species would have to be adapted to too many conditions simultaneously (cold water, warm water, deep water, shallow water, fresh water, etc.).

    And so it should have been. Presuming that there were somehow other creatures adapted to these other so-called environments. You are looking at this as though we are introducing a foreign toad into Australia or something. You ought to look at it more like we introduce a piranha into a goldfish bowl. Unless you actually do have some kind of theory of abiogenesis and first life and its abilities. But I think you don\’t.
    You are not countering ignorance but weaving stories. They might be plausible to you, but that depends upon your being here and looking back and saying \”what is needed to get here from there?\”. That, again, is permissible, but it is not knowledge, it is not a theory and it is not (by your current standards) an explanation. It is wishful thinking based upon faith.
    The current situation is far more likely under my explanation.

    The ideas you’re selling are from a retired ID guy who publishes on faith web sites.

    Genetic fallacy and ad hominem. Not that this will impress you any more, but I had this idea rather independently (as have many scientists) and without looking back up don\’t even know the name of the fellow I cited two years ago.

    If this old crank could prove design, he’d have a Nobel prize.

    Ad hominem, pure incivility, and ignorance of science and explanation.

    Something should be tipping you off at this point. If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. You’ve been suckered.

    Too good to be true. This phrase means so much to me at this moment. Too good to be true – yes, your entire theory smacks of this, and yet, you\’ve never been tipped off. Too good to be true – the world I find myself in, given your theory. Yes, I have certainly been tipped off. You ought to be as well.

  45. And now first things last:

    IOW, you are distinguishing the good and bad feeling about actions from good and evil.

    Yes I am.

    But that’s not how people feel. When I see something unjust, I get upset because of how it makes me feel.

    You get upset because of how it makes you feel? Getitng upset is how it makes you feel. And you are beggign the question, because, as I\’ve said, feeling is not morality. I get upset when I have to speak in public, but speaking in public is not evil. I get upset when there is a long line of traffic in front of me, but that is not evil either.

    It consists of morally neutral physical facts, like “Bob hit Fred over the head with a mallet for his own enjoyment.” It is the goodness or badness I feel when I see this which is the subjective reaction to the objective facts. It is my feelings that bring morality to the objective facts.

    You are still begging this question instead of arguing it. Feelings are indicators, for sure, but they require training and practice, as in my abortion case. What reveals the morality of a situation is not feeling but proper reasoning with proper background information.

    Normally, when food tastes good or bad to us, we would say that the goodness or badness is a subjective reaction to the objective facts of the chemicals and consistency of the food (the latter being the objective facts).

    Correct.

    But you want to make an exception for morality. Why? Because you mistakenly believe that the only time you can act against another person is when they are objectively wrong about something.

    You skipped a step. You say deliciousness (the subjective apprehension) is not an objective trait of the food. You are right. Then you say I want to do this with morality, but you do not demonstrate that I do, you merely leap to it. The problem is with the equivocation inherent in our shorthand. The good/evil of an action is objective and inheres in the action itself (with its context, motivation, results, etc.).
    For us then to say this is good or bad is to express our subjectivity about it – in your parlance, it is to say \”this brings me pleasure\” or \”this causes distress\”. These feeling are akin to your gastronomic example, and true, they are not objective properties of the action. We understand this the same way. We are on the same page. Our feelings are not \”out there\” in the events. But good/evil is, as a logical, rational truth about the functioning of the creation.

    If your neighbor keeps stealing your food, then you would act against your neighbor to prevent him from doing so. If the neighbor is objectively wrong, then you feel better about acting against him. But if he’s not objectively wrong, then you’ll act against him anyway, right?

    Of course I will. You are again reducing this to pragmatic action. If I\’m in a boxing match my opponent is not wrong to punch me in the nose and to dodge my punches. But I will act against him.
    But this doesn\’t explain our experience and reasoning on morality. All this does is reduce it to action/reaction, and, as we\’ve said repeatedly, you are using the wrong words to describe such power plays. But you angrily demanded the right to continue to do so.

  46. Oh, one more. Okay, last things last.

    But is this really a prediction? What if we killed-off all the rattlesnakes? Would not another species of snake supplant it?

    Very likely. There is redundancy in the ecosystem and foresight, so balance will be maintained, within limits. But you are grabbing my prediction and dragging it around the block. As I said, I predict that everything we study and consider a blight will turn out to have a good and useful purpose at its core. That is what the rattlesnake has. Just because we can get rid of that purpose and replace it with something else fulfilling the same purpose does not mean that its purpose was negated.
    You can test the prediction by killing off all of the rattlesnakes and seeing if there are other, negative consequences. Over and over we find that that is the case. There is an entire field of people (not cranky cranks) studying biodiversity now who will tell you the same thing.

    Why did God make rattlesnake poison deadly to humans?

    There is a good deal of discussion required to dispel your ignorance demonstrated by this question alone – I might return to do just that later on, but for now, will continue to the ramifications you think this entails…

    That seems counterproductive to the living in communion with God thing. Now here you have a couple of choices. You could say that humans don’t have to live long to be in communion with God. In which case, who cares about the balance of the environment? Or else you could say that the world is less good than it ought to be by design (because of the fall). So you end up with the prediction that the world is as good for communion as it actually is. If we find the world is better than we thought then it is better. If it is worse, then it is worse.

    The prediction has nothing to do with our subjective sense of how good the world is as a whole. The prediction demonstrates that everything fulfills a function in it – everything we might see as a blight will be seen to fit the larger purpose. This demonstrates that everything is designed toward the same end. The explanation of that end is that we are created to be in loving communion with God. We do not derive this knowledge, this part of the explanation, by measuring the goodness of the world but by the revelation of God. The predictions support this and demonstrate it, but they don\’t establish it in the first place.

    You also said that even cancer will be seen as an aberration of something good. I think that’s doublespeak. An aberration of something good is something BAD!

    I already said THAT!
    Death is bad. It is unnatural. It is not how things are to be. Your discussion here demonstrates your ignorance of the explanation offered. It is quite complex and requires more than knee-jerk tilting at blogs.
    But, like I said, the prediction is risky. A good one ought to be, right?

    Meanwhile, evolutionary biology predicts common descent, whereas divine design does no such thing. It also predicts other definite outcomes for experiments (http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA210.html). Also, genetic algorithms prove that evolution works in principle.

    Divine design predicts a whole lot more than common descent. It predicts a rational universe, objective morality, objective truth, apprehension of truth, purpose, salavation, a life-giving ecosystem, a life-sustaining planet, joy, love, free will, non-vatty brains, etc.

    And no, genetic algorithms do not demonstrate that evolution works. Neither do flip-it cartoons.

    My naturalism isn’t about denying supernatural phenomena. In fact, one might say that my naturalism says that a few things must be supernatural. My naturalism is really saying that supernatural events always look like inexplicable events, and so we can never reason to their cause. It also says that as soon as a non-material entity becomes predictable, it becomes natural (by my definition).

    So you have another private definition – as you did when you had to redefine logical positivism. Your naturalism, then, demonstrates nothing and you needn\’t bother with the label. You have no idea what is naturalistic and what isn\’t. All you are really doing is restating your claim \”I accept this kind of explanation and only this kind of explanation\”. But that says nothing about what kind of explanation exists, or is valid, or what kind of an entity can be used to explain things. You are just cordoning off vast parts of the world as unknowable and beyond your reach. This is nothing more or less than scientism restated – you can only know what science can tell you. So be it. But quit pretending that this position is support for itself. It\’s not, and scientism has been shown again and again to be self-refuting.

  47. A theory that says that every variation, however deleterious will be weeded out and any variation, however beneficial, will apply at the beginning.

    Should say
    A theory that says that every variation, however deleterious will be weeded out and any variation, however beneficial, will be retained and propagated,will apply at the beginning.

  48. Hi DL,
    Just checking in …
    I\’m leaving town tomorrow so will probably only be able to trade one more round of quips with you. But please don\’t go away, as I want to take this up in a few days when I get back and to challenge some of your recent assertions esp. re: your talk origins link. This will take us further off-topic and will involve more conversation than I can afford today.
    Thanks for your patience.

  49. This prediction stuff is helpful to explain things, but it\’s weakness is in the lack of a solid definition. The person doing the predicting can maneuver between confirmed specifics and unconfirmed, yet plausable, generalities so as to guarantee success – at least in their own mind.

    Example 1
    Me: I predict that when I hit this baseball it will fly in the air and land in the outfield.

    *I hit the baseball, ball circles overhead 5 complete times, pauses in mid-air, and then proceeds to the outfield just as I predicted.*

    DL: That\’s a failed prediction and therefore an unexplained event because the laws of physics don\’t predict what just happened. The prediction was too vague.

    ME: We don\’t need to explain the path of the ball. We know supernatural events happens all the time and so it falls within the statistical data of past events. If not the supernatural, then surely the statistical nature of the laws of physics predict such a thing even though it has never been confirmed.

    DL: Yeah, right.

    Example 2
    DL: I predict that my wife will cook dinner tonight.

    *wife plans dinner, shops for food and cooks dinner just as DL predicted.*

    Me: That was a failed prediction because the laws of physics don\’t predict free will, intent and desire. The prediction was too vague.

    DL: We don\’t need to account for the free will, intent and desire of my wife. You and I know humans exhibit free will, intent and desire all the time and so it falls within the statistical data of past events. If not human free will, then surely the statistical nature of the laws of physics predict such a thing even though it has never been confirmed.

    Me: Yeah, right.

  50. DL
    When you get a chance I\’d like for you to address my concerns in this comment – the objectivity of taste perception versus the objectivity of moral perception.

  51. `
    Charlie,

    I\’ll just say a little more about the biology.

    You tell me I cannot talk about single-celled life because I\’m not allowed to make reference to the first life forms. I don\’t know where that rule came from, but it\’s ridiculous. The point of my discussion is this. Even if you start from a single dominant life form, you\’ll get a divergence of species and the kinds of stability you attribute to design. No foresight is required. Even the most basic environment has niches.

    There are single-celled organisms that consume non-living materials. In that case, their food supply is going to be all over the place. Suppose that for whatever reason, one such species is the only species on Earth. Carried by the oceans, it slowly covers the entire planet. The boundaries of where it can feed are determined by temperature, availability of food, and ability to reach the food when other individuals are covering that food. That means that even this most basic of environments has niches! If the single-celled life forks into a new species adapted to colder water, the new species may feed slower, but it will have less competition from the initial species. The same goes for a speciation fork that feeds in hotter waters. Or a fork that is better adapted to changes in temperature. When there is enough such life, there is yet another niche: feeding on the cells that feed on the non-living materials. But since there are already many species, there will have to be different variations of such life. One will feed on the original species, one on the cold water ones, one for the warm water ones. And so on and so on.

    Now your theory is that the species that feeds on the initial species will kill every instance of the initial species, and all life will be gone. Well, your theory just doesn\’t hold water. First of all, there are multiple niches, and the killer can\’t live in them all. Second, even if there was only one, the killer will come into equilibrium with its prey. That\’s just how the statistics work. It\’s virtually impossible for the single-celled killers to migrate to every feeding spot in the ocean, and eat every bottom-feeder. The fewer the prey, the higher the energy consumed searching for food. And if the killer is too good, it will wipe out one food source, rendering it sterile, before migrating to other food sources. By the time the species washes up against the next food source, floating prey will have recolonized the original site.

    Now, if the prey were very few in number (e.g., like T-Rex), then extinction is a greater possibility. But by the time T-Rex arrives, the world is a very large collection of very complex ecosystems.

    You\’re just plain wrong on this subject, so I\’m not going to waste my time on it any more.

  52. ~Charlie,

    What reveals the morality of a situation is not feeling but proper reasoning with proper background information.

    I don\’t see it. If I see a man push over an old woman and take her money how do I know that is wrong without using my feelings? Do I read it in the law? How do I know the law is just? If I know it from reading a message from God, how do I know God is good? Because he says so?

    It\’s hopeless. Moral conclusions rely on moral assumptions. How do you choose your assumptions?

    You can only conclude that morality is objective by assuming it in the first place. Yet, if you do that, you can play the same game with food, music and art.

    The good/evil of an action is objective and inheres in the action itself (with its context, motivation, results, etc.).

    As I recall, in a prior discussion, we had differing definitions of theft. I defined theft as \”taking without consent or outside social contract.\” For you, theft was \”unjustified taking without consent.\” So, for you, there was no such thing as justified theft.

    This brings us right back to moral justification. If a man thinks it is necessary to take without consent in order to feed his family, is that justification? Why?

    Presumably, you would say the justification is objective. But where do the rules come from in this case? It might objectively be the opinion of the populace that the taking was just, and hence the social contract would reflect that opinion, but that would just be an objective collection of subjective opinions. I don\’t think that\’s what you mean by objective morality. I don\’t think you don\’t mean that it is objectively the peoples (or a monarch\’s) opinion.

    So how do you conclude that there\’s an objective justification without first assuming there\’s an objective justification?


  53. Charlie,

    Re: Biology.

    You\’re contradicting the overwhelming scientific consensus on evolutionary biology. It\’s not even a live issue. I have as much interest in debating your theories about ecosystems as I have in debating perpetual motion machines. Sorry.

  54. DL:
    Contrast your example of stealing with this.

    If I see Atom A strike Atom B and take Atom B\’s electron, how do I know that is wrong without using my feelings?

    I hope you can see where I\’m going with this. Immediately you know the following is true by way of reason – not emotion.

    1) the physical action of Atom B holding an electron is NOT about ownership
    2) the physical action of the electron transferring itself to Atom A is NOT about stealing and NOT about intent of Atom A or B.
    3) the physical action of 1-2 is NOT about justice
    4) the physical action of 1-3 is NOT about morality
    5) therefore the physical action has nothing to do with good and evil.

  55. aaaDL:

    Ownership is a social construct

    So is the scientific method.
    So is the understanding of what is \’objective\’.
    So is the understanding that logic positivism \’works\’.
    So is the understanding that logical positivism doesn\’t \’work\’.
    So is the definition of every word in the dictionary.
    So is scientific concensus.
    So is the understanding that God is real.
    So is the understanding that God is not real.
    So are the rules of math and geometry.
    So is the understanding that cancer should be eradicated.
    So is the understanding that humans have value.

    So is ALL meaning of ALL things physical. Physical fact don\’t interpret themselves. Anyway, I will assume you reasoned your way to knowing this.

    Stealing, by my definition, is about taking without consent of the owner and in violation of the social contract. The social contract and ownership are pretty objective.

    Again you reasoned your way to knowing this. No emotions.

    However, while the category of justice may be objective by definition.

    Yes, justice is objective. Know by reason of course.

    In other words the good or evil of the act is subjective.

    Subjectively known by way of reason, not emotion.

    In your atom example, there’s no ownership involved because atoms do not have social contract. There’s no stealing because stealing refers to agents and social contract and atoms are not agents. No justice or morality because atoms are not agents.

    Your reason tells you that agents can steal, that agents are subject to justice and that agents commit moral acts. No hint of emotion here.

    Now back to your earlier example…

    If I see a man push over an old woman and take her money how do I know that is wrong without using my feelings? Do I read it in the law? How do I know the law is just? If I know it from reading a message from God, how do I know God is good? Because he says so?

    You reasoned your way though all of this without relying on emotion. I also noticed you never questioned if \’social contract\’ justice is just. How do you know it is? Same with \’social contract\’ morality. How do you know \’social good\’ is really good? Because society says so? Which society? Who says? Why? Always? How come?

    How do you know you\’re not a brain in a vat? Who says? Why?

    Somebody get me an equal-opportunity skeptic!

  56. DL :

    There’s some external object with objective properties.

    You\’re keen on pointing to \’social constructs\’ as the basis for our objective knowledge of external reality so I must ask…are these objective properties known by you, or do you only know them because society (however you define it) knows them?

    Define property. If saltiness is a physical property than I\’ll eat my hat (without salt). I see sodium and chloride on the periodic table, but nowhere do I see saltiness the physical property.

    Who determined that sodium chloride tasts salty? Society or you? How do you (or society) know saltiness is really salty? Because you (or society) say so? Why? Always? How come?

    Now parallel this with your questions about God and morality and you\’ll see how lopsided your skepticism is. You KNOW sodium chloride tastes salty, the same way you KNOW you have a mind, the same way you KNOW atoms are NOT moral agents, the same way you KNOW moral agents are subject to justice, the same way you KNOW injustice is wrong, etc, etc.

    If you doubt any of this then you\’re back to being a brain in a vat, unable to get out, unable to know anything.

  57. abc

    I’m using the same criteria to judge the subjectivity of aesthetics and taste in food as I am using with morality.

    You\’re not.

    Q: How do you know what has saltiness and what does not?
    A: I build a machine to tell me.
    Q: And when the machine gives you the answer \”This object has saltiness\” how do you know the machine is correct?
    A: I know because I can taste the saltiness myself.
    Q: So what was the machine for, again?
    A: It detects sodium chloride and reports back that it has saltiness.
    Q: Who told the machine that sodium chloride has saltiness?
    A: I did.
    Q: So what was the machine for, again?
    A: *crickets*

    Thanks for playing.

  58. aa
    There\’s some cleanup still left to do…

    And now you’re saying that we just “KNOW” everything without being able to say how we know it?

    Actually, no, I\’m not saying this. I\’m saying there are reasons/justifications tied to everything I have said. In the end, what I say may be true or it may be false, but the logic is sound given that my premises are valid. The same goes for you reasoning, though I disagree with it. I don\’t for a minute think you are relying on emotion. I know I\’m not.

    I no longer believe you know what reason means.

    Maybe. All I know is I reasoned my way toward it\’s common meaning and also checked with Merriam Webster.

    Reason: the power of comprehending, inferring, or thinking especially in orderly rational ways : intelligence (2): proper exercise of the mind

  59. Hi DL, You’re right. I know of no Christian, including St. Francis who believes in the violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. That’s a bit of a strange question to ask me. It requires your changing of our terms, as usual.
    I said that everything in Creation is useful and necessary for my stated purpose (limited) of that Creation. This is a prediction based upon God’s declaration that everything He had made was good. I referred to portions of this interdependent biodiversity as “ecosystems”. Now you are coming at “ecosystems” with some kind of a limited definition of it in order, once again, to deny the fact that it is a prediction, and that your challenge of this prediction (“name a theologian…”) has been met – yet again. My use does not stipulate that ecosystems be closed systems which violate 2LOT. I’m sure you don’t really mean to be embracing the concept that any ecosystem, or the ecosystem as a whole, or the Earth, even, are closed, self-sustaining systems. This so-called self-sustenance is not a feature of an ecosystem nor is it a requirement of my supported prediction.
    You can’t deny that your charges, as per your own criteria, have been answered once again. So, once again, you are trying to define the problem away.

    Naturalism does not contradict rationality.

    Yes it does, in this sense: It can not account for rationality, it can not ground our faith in rationality, and it can’t make sense of it. As you said above, you are left just to presume it, a la Paul. But we here are interested in science, knowledge and understanding and your constant appeals to inexplicable brute facts are not helpful to this cause. If you have no basis for anything at the ground of your beliefs it is fallacious to select a level above and claim that they are somehow more justified than those beliefs so grounded.

    At #89 you quoted me and claimed a contradiction in my statement, but your conclusion depends upon a poor reading. I said “No, it is not the mere use of logic that makes morality objective.” You’ll note that this statement is about epistemology vs ontology and is a reply to your previous claim. I’ll repeat and hopefully you’ll understand this time. The fact that one uses logic, or refers to logic in assessing a question of morality does not take this thing, which was (allegedly) subjective and turn it into something objective. However, the fact that logic addresses the issue demonstrates that the question is one of objective truth. Logical truths are not subjective, are they?

    The rules in use here are several. I need to know the external material facts – the cat, its illness, and the anticipated outcome of my possible actions.

    This is good. Yes, reasoning about objective facts.

    I need to know how I feel about the cat.

    This is not necessary. I can have affection for the cat, be indifferent toward the cat or dislike the cat and still determine the correct action. You can advise a person on the proper course of action with no knowledge, acquaintance or predisposition toward their cat. As always, this is dependent upon reflecting on what is right and wrong and, weighing the facts against these standards. It is quite possible that your emotions will align with this determination, but this is from having trained them, as per Aristotle, in the proper appreciation of the good. Your preference is dependent, or at least ought to be dependent, upon Reason, and not the other way around.

    The rule that is used for the decision is one of preference. I like one scenario more than the other.

    Only insofar as you like doing what is right more than doing what is wrong. The action does not emit morality waves (as you said) and the action must be considered intellectually before it can generate an emotion. You do not merely “like” one scenario better but, instead, determine one to be better.

    So, I decide to write him a check because I prefer to be in the latter situation than the former based on my anticipated feelings.

    You can’t anticipate feelings with feelings. You anticipate them through reason and contemplation. You can only determine what they will be based upon the facts, and based upon the right/wrong of the decision. You do not feel “pleasure” about an anticipated “feeling”. The very absurdity of trying to “feel” the future situation, sans reason, ought to be a huge tip-off – emotion is, of course, limited strictly to the present.

    This is how moral decisions get made in real life.

    No, it isn’t. As shown.

    Just to prove that feelings are the key, imagine that there’s an absolute rule that says you should rape a child if it shows disobedience. By your reasoning, since we are fallen and stupid, our feelings on the issue would be irrelevant.

    Just another absurd reduction. Try one that makes actual sense. Everybody I know and ask would feel awful reporting a relative for illegal behaviour and say it could be a necessary action based upon objective morality. Real examples abound without creating such goofy examples. But, since you are going to pretend I was a afraid to answer your weird question: if it is absolutely right that one rape a child for such an action then it is objectively good, then reason will allow us to realize the justifiability of the rape. You need not be any less repulsed by doing this necessarily good act than you would be tending to a burn victim.

    Therefore, we are evil because we don;t want to abuse our children…

    It’s not abuse if it is an absolute good.

    right would be wrong and wrong would be right

    We’ve already seen this play out – in your morality. Therefore, as we’ve said, under your system there is “no point in believing in morality at all”.

    If we’re not eventually going to feel better about making one decision over another, then why be absolutely good?

    Distaste is an indicator of morality, but it is not the absolute test nor the source of morality. In fact, as you’ve demonstrated, you have no business talking about “absolute good” or “evil” in these cases. You’ve made evil nothing more than preference, so nobody can ever be evil as you’ve also previously told us that there is a law that we always choose that which we prefer. If morality is always what we prefer, and we always do what we prefer , then we are always moral and never evil – in your world, not mine.

    See this thread for your law that we “preferentially choose”.
    http://thinkingchristian.net/C2031585454/E20061031162820/index.html

  60. Hi Tom,
    The new format’s great!
    Sorry you had so much work to do on the comments. Hopefully the others can still follow along. My response above is to DL’s comments while I was away. I printed them off a few days ago in order to respond but I no longer see them – nor is my numbering likely accurate any longer.
    Oh well.

  61. For more on my thoughts about the logical ramifications on biodiversity under DL’s paradigm and my ignorance of biology, here is textbook author, ID-opponent, and Cornell evolutionary biologist on the subject:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com/culture/agnostics-vs-atheists-devils-delusion-now-available-at-amazon/#comment-211647

    (Scroll up for scordova’s quotes of Lynch and Berlinski on the same subject…)

    Of course Allen MacNeill thinks he has a naturalistic solution to the fact that NS (a reduction of diversity) cannot account for diversity. His solution is to suggest that variation does not occur at the genomic level but at the phenomic level (the whole organism) and is, as he says repeatedly, decidedly not random. This more holistic approach, in which DNA is more the record of what life is doing than it is the master, is, as above, more in keeping with my position than DL’s. MacNeill will see this one day as well.

  62. Too late to edit.
    Let me just remind you to stay in context before responding with another charge. The fact that all members of the biosphere (and its supports) have a necessary and useful function is predicted by my view. It is written into our history and even articulated by theologians. It is not predicted by yours, DL, but is a problem yet to be solved. That you think your view can accommodate the findings of observation is one thing; that it predicts said observation better than mine, or worse, that it negates my prediction, is yet another.

  63. Charlie,
    Sal put up a post today discussing what I think you are discussing above. Specifically, that for diversity to occur Natural Selection has to be absent, that Natural Selection works against Darwinism as we understand it today. What he says makes sense, but coming from a nodody such as myself, that means very little. If true, that means Darwinism as we understand it needs to be tweaked to account for the diversity we see. Natural Selection appears to be the lack of a selective force, rather than a force.

    Am I understanding this correctly?

  64. Hi Steve,
    Yes, the tweaking is exactly my point.
    That discussion will be long and involved and will have many disputants, but what Sal says in the early comments rings true:

    The point however, is that I was trying to demonstrate the fundamental incoherency of trying to explain diversity through mechanisms of natural selection. The two are fundamentally contradiction.

    When Blythe first wrote about Natural Selection he discussed it as a culling (which nobody disputes) but also as a conservative force. Many professional biologists and geneticists agree, and emphasize the importance of variation, and not Natural Selection.
    It is the hard selectionists like Dawkins who, having realized that the “randomness” of his metaphysical view cannot account for the increasing complexity and diversity insists that process is “anything but random” because Natural Selection is guided (by itself, of course, but that bit of circularity can wait for another time).
    So Dawkins needs NS to do the work because he realizes, by mathematical demonstration, that RANDOMNESS can’t.
    But mathematics and statistics also show that NS can’t account for the diversity, so we have other biologists returning to variation as the key, but emphasizing that variation itself is now “anything but random”.
    Aside: I am well aware of the semantic gamesmanship being prepared as some read this comment on the word random. I know that you will claim that to say something is random, scientifically, is to say it is “unpredictable”, and that this is merely a mathematical statement of our ignorance.
    This fails for many reasons:
    1) “Random” is not/was not intended for this reason. “Random” is used as a metaphysical marker which states “without foresight or design”. This is not a scientific position and fails the mathematical test.
    2) If it is a statement of scientific ignorance it does not belong in a scientific statement or theory – to say “we don’t know and can’t predict” is not to make a scientific statement. Therefore, we know the motivation is as stated in #1 above, but either way, it fails.
    3) Empirical observation demonstrates that the term, as a scientific claim, fails because variation is demonstrated to be “not random”.
    It’s not randomness is good evidence of its design.

    Back on point: so we know that neither metaphysical randomness is supported, nor is mathematical randomness. Therefore the “spontaneous variation” of Darwin’s original claim and the “random variation” of the synthesis both fail.
    There is no support for the use for the word “random” (as Dawkins himself shies away from) and therefore variation gives no support to naturalism.
    There is also the fact that (contra Dawkins’ attempted save) NS does not account well for the complexity and biodiversity observed. Therefore the the so-called “natural” in NS gives no support for naturalism.

    The theory is left not with a prediction but yet more ad hoc tweaking to account for the observation. That one thinks this can be done while still being compatible with naturalism is not the same as saying naturalism predicts it. DL made this distinction himself when trying to dismiss predictions that he didn’t prefer.
    The observation, of course, is predicted by theism

  65. Charlie,

    It’s not randomness is good evidence of its design.

    Can something be non-random and unintentional? I’m guessing no but maybe not.

    Can something be random and predictable? Again I say no unless you accept the most vague and general of predictions. Hardly worthy of being called a real scientific explanation. If the output from a RNG could be predicted statistically more accurately than ‘normal’ according to a mathematical model then it seems to me it isn’t random by definition of the word.

    Edit: When I hear the phrase ‘random outcome’ I hear “unpredictable within the limits of all possible outcomes under that specific theory”. It’s the phrase ‘all possible outcomes’ that nobody ever wants to predict. We’re not talking the theory of everything here. If Darwinists can’t define that phrase then what good is their claim that it’s actually random?

  66. Thanks for this link, Steve.
    This is why I never dismiss the challenges to the objective standards of beauty, although I would likely never engage in trying to defend them myself. There is just too much information on the Golden Mean, the Fibonacci series, innate appreciation http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/002338.html and universal attraction http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en-us&q=universally+attractive+faces+pictures&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8
    for one to be entirely blase about it. The reason I don’t bother with this argument, aside from the general futility of all such discussions, is because it would be too easy for the materialist to wave his “evolution-did-it” card in rebuttal.

    Quoted from your link:
    “I know that Plato connected the good to the beautiful,” says Kagian. “Personally, I believe that some kind of universal correctness to beauty exists in nature, an aesthetic interpretation of the universal truth. But because each of us is trapped with our own human biases and personalized viewpoints, this may detract us from finding the ultimate formula to a complete understanding of beauty.”

  67. Charlie,

    This is why I never dismiss the challenges to the objective standards of beauty.

    The issue at hand for me is knowledge about reality rather than objectivity or subjectivity. The word ‘objective’ can be rather slippery and difficult to define…uh,well…objectively.

    I wanted to bring attention to something I thought was obvious, but apparently it’s not. If an unconscious human can’t rationalize/think and acquire knowledge then what makes you (not you, Charlie) think an unconscious machine can? It’s an absurd and foolish idea to think a machine can know something about reality – like mass A is heavier than mass B or star A is more distant than star B. A machine can help a conscious mind do some of the work, but knowledge requires a conscious mind.

    Getting knowledge from a machine is like getting knowledge from a Chinese room. 😉

  68. Hi Steve,
    Yes, of course your point is obvious to me as well. But then we get into a question of the dependence of knowledge upon consciousness. For instance, a yardstick doesn’t know that a table is higher than a chair. A map doesn’t know that Ulster is further than Dublin. As you say, the knowledge is not in the tool, but in the beholder. Likewise, the machine – no matter its sophistication- is simply another tool. The same holds with regard to statistics, which are not knowledge, and do not create knowledge, but merely represent a compilation of knowledge – or less, of data.
    But soon we get to the level of asking “well, what then is it to know?”. If we go to some of the common definitions in use around here it is something akin to “justified true belief”. And, of course, one then must be able to believe to have knowledge. We also have knowledge of awareness and experience. The reductionist will try to reduce these knowledges to sensory inputs and then can claim that a machine does have experiences of a kind. But when we get to the actual words “belief” and “thought” and “awareness” we find that the reduction falls apart. All one can then say about the machine is what it has been programmed to do – and that is to reflect the conscious desires of the programmer or measurer or tool-user. The machine is nothing more than a proxy for the user’s input-gathering. So then, if it is a matter of consciousness, and every attribution of consciousness to the machine can be traced first and only to the consciousness of the user, then we find that the reductionist becomes committed to consciousness arising only from and reflecting another consciousness. It seems that this would be a better and surer route to God than most any other. We can only be conscious because God (or for our LOA friends, the Universe) is conscious first – and so wills us.

    How’s that for a meandering trip around the flag pole?

  69. Charlie,

    If we go to some of the common definitions in use around here it is something akin to “justified true belief”.

    We’ve been debating the term ‘justified’ for millennia now and I don’t expect it to be resolved any time soon. However…..

    The reductionist will try to reduce these knowledges to sensory inputs and then can claim that a machine does have experiences of a kind. But when we get to the actual words “belief” and “thought” and “awareness” we find that the reduction falls apart.

    …this we can all agree on. Some will attempt to distract you from this problem by waving their hands in the air while saying these words are ‘social constructs’ devised by man in his attempt to stick Post-it note labels on everything he sees. It’s a nice distraction, but the problem of the failed explanation never goes away.

    So then, if it is a matter of consciousness, and every attribution of consciousness to the machine can be traced first and only to the consciousness of the user, then we find that the reductionist becomes committed to consciousness arising only from and reflecting another consciousness.

    This makes too much sense so clearly it has to be false. 😉

    Naturalism denies this consciousness as well. In its attempt to explain human origins, naturalism falls apart just like reductionism does. When the naturalist gets to the end of their explanation, you are left with the sense that it explained everything at the cost of leaving everything out!

    Naturalists certainly know a lot about human origins and yet they seem to know nothing of humans.

    It seems that this would be a better and surer route to God than most any other.

    You’d think.

    We can only be conscious because God (or for our LOA friends, the Universe) is conscious first – and so wills us.

    Ahhh…but who designed the designer made God conscious?

  70. Hi Steve,
    Yes, free will is an illusion, consciousness is an illusion, we could be brains in vats, perhaps A is not A … we just “choose” (but what is “choice”) to act as though we do have free will, consciousness, experiences, and logic. For what else can we do?

    When the naturalist gets to the end of their explanation, you are left with the sense that it explained everything at the cost of leaving everything out!

    Nicely put.

    C.S. Lewis said a similar thing:

    You can’t go on “seeing through” things forever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to “see through” first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To “see through” all things is the same as not to see.

  71. Karl Popper said a dissimilar things about swamps:

    Popper realized that if the centuries of corroboration received by Newtonian science had not proved it to be true, nothing was ever going to prove the truth of a scientific theory. So-called scientific laws were not incorrigible truths about the world after all; they were theories, and as such they were the products of the human mind. If they worked well in their practical application then that meant they must approximate to the truth, yet it was always possible, after hundreds of years of pragmatic success, for someone to come along with a better theory that was closer still to whatever the truth was.

    Popper developed this insight into a full-scale theory of knowledge. According to him, physical reality exists independently of the human mind and is of a radically different order from human experience — and for that very reason can never be directly apprehended. We produce plausible theories to explain it, and if these theories yield successful results we go on making use of them for as long as they work. Nearly always, though, they run us into difficulties sooner or later by proving inadequate in some respect, and then we cast around for a better theory, a more ample one that explains everything the first one could explain without being subject to its limitations.

    We do this not only in science but in all other fields of activity, including everyday life. It means that our approach to things is essentially a problem-solving one and that we make progress not by adding new certainties to a body of existing ones but by perpetually replacing existing theories with better theories. The search for certainty, which had obsessed some of the greatest Western philosophers from Descartes to Russell, has to be given up because certainty is not available.

    It is impossible to prove, finally and for ever, the truth of any scientific theory or to put the whole of science or the whole of mathematics on ultimately secure foundations. “Justificationism,” as Popper came to call it, is completely wrong-headed. If you build a house on piles in the swamp, you need to drive the piles down deep enough to sustain the structure, and anytime you enlarge the house you will need to drive the piles down deeper, but there are no necessary limits to that process: there is no “ultimate” level of foundations that will hold up anything regardless, no “natural” or given basis for this or any structure.

    However, although no general theory can be proved, it can be disproved, and this means it can be tested. As we saw earlier (in regards Hume) although no number of observations of white swans, however large, will ever prove the truth of the statement “All swans are white,” a single observation of a black swan is enough to disprove it. So we can test general statements by searching for contrary instances.

    This being so, criticism becomes the chief means by which we do in fact make progress. A statement that no observation would falsify cannot be tested, and therefore it cannot count as scientific because if everything that could possibly happen is compatible with its truth then nothing can be regarded as evidence for it. A good example would be the statement “God exists.” It has meaning, and might be true, but no intellectually serious person would regard it as a scientific statement.

    http://www.fobes.net/rumors2004/excerpts/popper.htm

  72. Hi Paul,
    Can you clarify your point here?
    Since you highlighted the last sentence about God were you attempting to take down a strawman?

    And while you’re at it, and have mentioned Descartes, can you affirm that you know that you exist? Can you do so without circular reasoning and without relying upon an unproven axiom?

  73. My point was that a whole theory of knowledge has been developed based on swamps, so the idea that a swamp is ludicrous on the face of it doesn’t hold.

    My point about highlighting the last sentence was to call attention to a part of the quote that should be of interest on this blog, as an application of Popper’s ideas about swamps to God.

    It sure seems impossible that I don’t exist, and I’m pretty sure I do, how could I not, but, like Popper says, you can’t prove anything because you never know when that next white crow comes along, things can only be disproved, ultimately (of course I live my life diffierntly), so how can I know that there might not be some discovery or way of looking at logic that comes along in the future that calls my existence into question? One area of disagreement that might pop up would be exactly how seriously and at what level do you mean your question. Popper’s ideas are directed at the final level of analysis, so to speak.

    Now, I have a question for you, Charlie. How do you take Popper’s ideas about swamps compared to C.S. Lewis’ point about never being able to see through things? Lewis is saying that we can know things, but Popper says we can’t, ultimately.

  74. Hi Paul,
    So to what are you responding when you say “the idea that a swamp is ludicrous…”?
    Are you misunderstanding what Steve and I have been discussing between the two of us? Nobody was discussing swamps.
    Do you really think that Popper claimed to know nothing?What was the very first step he took in formulating an hypothesis?

    My point about highlighting the last sentence was to call attention to a part of the quote that should be of interest on this blog, as an application of Popper’s ideas about swamps to God.

    Who would find interesting the contention that God is not a scientific hypothesis? Anybody here? Since that is nobody’s view then I affirm that you were attacking a strawman.

    It sure seems impossible that I don’t exist, and I’m pretty sure I do, how could I not, but, like Popper says, you can’t prove anything because you never know when that next white crow comes along, things can only be disproved, ultimately (of course I live my life diffierntly), so how can I know that there might not be some discovery or way of looking at logic that comes along in the future that calls my existence into question?

    Can’t you answer the question? Do you know you exist? Can you know even when you can’t prove? Can you, Paul, ever separate the two?
    If not, and since nothing can be ultimately proven, why discuss anything with anyone? Why have you reduced your position to that of the departed Mr. Stump’s where your only contribution is going to be “we can’t know anything”?

    Now, I have a question for you, Charlie. How do you take Popper’s ideas about swamps compared to C.S. Lewis’ point about never being able to see through things? Lewis is saying that we can know things, but Popper says we can’t, ultimately.

    They are saying two different things and from two different angles. Both affirm that that there is a real universe, an objective reality outside of ourselves and that we apprehend closer and closer, more accurately all the time, views of it. I don’t think you understand Popper very well when you attempt to use him in support of either verificationism, relativism, skepticism or empiricism – his position was contrary to these.
    What Lewis (as were Steve and I) is saying is that explaining by explaining away is to leave everything out. To take something such as consciousness and describe it in terms which are entirely unconscious is to lose sight of (see through) the very thing you were trying to explain. As Steve says, it is to leave it out. You want to look through the window to actually see what consciousness is, not to see that it isn’t. If your explanation says that it isn’t then your explanation is not of consciousness. When you see through everything, as you (not Popper) want to do you become a non-existing, brain in the vat, perhaps not jazz musician, I-sure-think-I-might-exist non-entity. Your whole world becomes transparent and there is nothing to discuss – although you insist on trying for some unfathomable reason.
    The quote about pilings and swamps seems to me to have nothing to do with this discussion, although you seem to have hung your entire epistemology upon it, given the number of varying instances in which you cite it.

  75. Paul,
    Every theory of knowledge is a metaphysical theory. As I said above, your go-to guy, Karl Popper, had no use for your relativism, empiricism, or verificationism. Verification is a failed and logically impossible epistemological tool. Induction cannot be justified. Positivism is self-contradictory.
    You have chosen a metaphysic in which you cannot know anything, a metaphysic in which you first criticize po-mos like Jacob for their views and then slide into them yourself (perhaps to find Popper – I’m not an expert on him either)- where you can’t know you aren’t a brain in a vat and you can’t even confirm your own profession, or, worse, the knowledge of your own existence. Your metaphysics have let you down terribly – all because you will attempt anything to defend your atheism.
    You keep citing Popper as though his theory of scientific knowledge is somehow supportive of your view, but all it does is give you an excuse to pretend that nobody can know anything (something you seem to think you know). You have tried to make science the only way of knowing, but, noting its tentative nature and inability to rule on Truth you’ve decided, that Truth can’t be known. But all that’s happened is science’s limitations have been elucidated – this does not rule on all of knowledge.
    In fact, when you failed to subsume logical axioms under observational science you decided to rule that they cannot be known and cannot be the basis of any truth. But Popper makes the LNC step one of any pursuit of knowledge. So much for his defence of your position.
    Every formulation of your observational verificationism falls into a pit of infinite regress. And only by the fact that truth is accessible can such regressions end. Your problem remains that outlined by Lewis in Miracles: once you’ve put yourself outside of reason there is no way back in.

    Just as a reference, here’s WIKI ON “truth”.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth

    Pilate asked Jesus Christ “what is truth”, failing to understand that he was staring Truth in the face.

  76. Paul:
    It sounds like Popper is talking specifically about knowledge gained through the scientific method, not all knowledge. I could be wrong on that but I don’t think so. Clearly he has knowledge so there is an ‘ultimate foundation’ for his unscientific knowledge even if that foundation is Popper himself.

    It sure seems impossible that I don’t exist, and I’m pretty sure I do, how could I not, but, like Popper says, you can’t prove anything because you never know when that next white crow comes along, things can only be disproved, ultimately (of course I live my life diffierntly), so how can I know that there might not be some discovery or way of looking at logic that comes along in the future that calls my existence into question?

    This makes no sense, Paul. Assuming you don’t exist, who then is doing the thinking and the typing?

    Also, don’t water down the known with the ‘logically possible, but unknown’. Contrary to popular belief, knowledge can’t be diluted/weaked by what-if scenarios. It’s impossible. Knowledge can be questioned and challenged, but only using other knowledge. So, yeah, it’s logically possible for there to be a black swan around the next corner, but at this moment you know there are only white swans (metaphorically speaking, of course).

  77. Paul,
    I cut this out somehow on the question of knowing you exist and proof…
    Didn’t Descartes prove that you can know you exist?

  78. Hi Steve,
    Good points.
    I like your last remark that logical possibilities are not arguments against knowledge. As Moreland said in the article Tom referenced a few weeks ago, knowing something does not mean that it is logically impossible that it might be proven wrong one day.

    Please note three important things. First, knowledge has nothing to do with certainty or an anxious quest for it. One can know something without being certain about it and in the presence of doubt or the admission that one might be wrong. Recently, I know that God spoke to me about a specific matter but I admit it is possible I am wrong about this (though, so far, I have no good reason to think I am wrong). When Paul says, “This you know with certainty” (Ephesians 5:5), he clearly implies that one can know without certainty; otherwise, the statement would be redundant. Why? If I say, “Give me a burger with pickles on it,” I imply that it is possible to have a burger without pickles. If, contrary to fact, pickles were simply essential ingredients of burgers, it would be redundant to ask for burgers with pickles. The parallel to “knowledge with certainty” should be easy to see. When Christians claim to have knowledge of this or that, for example, that God is real, that Jesus rose from the dead, that the Bible is the word of God, they are not saying that there is no possibility that they could be wrong, that they have no doubts, or that they have answers to every question raised against them. They are simply saying that these and other claims satisfy the definition given above.

  79. Charlie,
    Like Moreland, I know God comforted me one day as I was walking through the airport in Chicago. It was an experience I never had before and one I’ve never had since. Also like Moreland, I admit that it’s possible I am wrong about this. Maybe it was a bad pizza, or wishful thinking on my part. I know it wasn’t these things so I’m sticking with the original story because it’s what I know.

  80. Re: Knowledge and logical possibilities

    In these 2 scenarios, who knows what – if anything?

    Susan says:
    – Free will might not exist, but I know I have free will.
    – I might not exist, but I know I do.
    – Logic might not be necessary, but I know I require it to even think that.
    – Naturalism might be the best explanation, but I know it doesn’t explain humanness.
    – God might not exist, but I know he does.

    Tony says:
    – I think I have free will, but it’s possible that I don’t.
    – I think I exist, but it’s possible I don’t.
    – I think logic might be necessary, but it’s possible that it’s not.
    – I think naturalism is the best explanation, but it’s possible that it’s not.
    – I think God doesn’t exist, but it’s possible he does.

  81. re: Naturalism

    I ran across this blog post on the subject of science rallying to explain religious belief. The post links to writings by Al Mohler and Michael Murray.

    Personally I think science is wasting it’s time because ‘justification’ isn’t something you can test or model empirically. Why pick something difficult and controversial like religion first? Why not pick something easy and non-controversial? I suggest starting with something we all know is true, and see if science can discover ‘justification’ by staring at brain scans and biochemistry.

    Murray states the problem in his opening statement. BTW, I didn’t bother to read his 4 theories so if there is something interesting there let me know.

    “Do these contemporary cognitive models of religion show us that religious beliefs are nothing but “a trick fobbed off on us by our genes?” Our first reaction to such a question should be: well if they do, it is not clear how. These models, if correct, show not one thing more than that we have certain mental tools (perhaps selected for, perhaps spandrels) which under certain conditions give rise to beliefs in the existence of entities which tend to rally religious commitments. But pointing that out does nothing to tell us about whether those beliefs are justified or not. After all, we have mental tools which, under certain conditions, give rise to belief in the existence of palm trees and electrons. We don’t regard those belief forming mechanisms as unreliable, nor (typically) the beliefs formed as unjustified.”

  82. Uh, looks like I kicked the hornet’s nest over.

    So much to respond to, and so little time. I scanned the first several responses, and I actually have responses to the questions by Charlie that I scanned, believe it or not, and to a few of SteveK, too, but I have no time now, I get to it when I can.

    One quick one: all I’m trying to do is to interpret Popper’s ideas as a reply to C.S. Lewis’. I don’t mean to take Popper any further, just to apply what he said to Lewis’ ideas. Maybe I went too far, we’ll see when I have more time.

  83. So to what are you responding when you say “the idea that a swamp is ludicrous…”?

    I’m responding to Lewis’ metaphor of skepticism = transparency (can’t see/know anything).

    Are you misunderstanding what Steve and I have been discussing between the two of us? Nobody was discussing swamps.

    I understand that full well, I thought Popper’s swamp was an alternate to Lewis’ transparency.

    Do you really think that Popper claimed to know nothing?What was the very first step he took in formulating an hypothesis?

    Yes. Perhaps I’m not reading him correctly. In particular, I take the following quotes from Popper to lead to a skeptical position with *everything*:

    Popper developed this insight into a full-scale theory of knowledge. . . . We do this not only in science but in all other fields of activity, including everyday life. . . . certainty is not available . . . . there is no “ultimate” level of foundations that will hold up anything regardless, no “natural” or given basis for this or any structure.

    Who would find interesting the contention that God is not a scientific hypothesis? Anybody here? Since that is nobody’s view then I affirm that you were attacking a strawman.

    Popper said that, not me, I thought it was pertinent *only* because we talk about God a lot on this blog. If you agree that belief in God is not a scientific hypothesis, what’s the beef? Even when we agree, you find a way to argue? Sheesh.

    If not, and since nothing can be ultimately proven, why discuss anything with anyone?

    Because it’s interesting to me; I want to get as close as I can to what is true, too, even if there will always be an element of doubt, because I’ve found that is a useful thing to do, it serves me well.

    Regarding the Wiki article on truth, I found the section in Erich Fromm to be supportive of my interpretation of Popper. Also,

    The existence of absolute truths is somewhat controversial,

    Thanks for the reinforcement. ; )

  84. Hi Paul,
    Thanks for your answers.
    I hope you don’t mind a little follow-up.
    In your example Popper discusses enlarging the pilings when the theory must accommodate or explain new facts. What are facts?
    When he says we are approaching a better understanding of reality what is he talking about?(don’t worry, I will answer these myself by the end – using Popper’s own words).

    Because it’s interesting to me; I want to get as close as I can to what is true, too, even if there will always be an element of doubt, because I’ve found that is a useful thing to do, it serves me well.

    So you admit (with Steve, myself, Popper and Lewis) that there is something that is true? How can this be if you don’t know that the LNC holds?

    Regarding the Wiki article on truth, I found the section in Erich Fromm to be supportive of my interpretation of Popper.

    I don’t see where Fromm mentioned Popper. I do see that his perspective is yet another reminder that scientific knowledge is tentative, however.

    the dichotomy between ‘absolute = perfect’ and ‘relative = imperfect’ has been superseded in all fields of scientific thought, where “it is generally recognized that there is no absolute truth but nevertheless that there are objectively valid laws and principles”.

    The history of science is “a history of inadequate and incomplete statements, and every new insight makes possible the recognition of the inadequacies of previous propositions and offers a springboard for creating a more adequate formulation.”

    As a result “the history of thought is the history of an ever-increasing approximation to the truth. Scientific knowledge is not absolute but optimal; it contains the optimum of truth attainable in a given historical period.” Fromm furthermore notes that “different cultures have emphasized various aspects of the truth” and that increasing interaction between cultures allows for these aspects to reconcile and integrate, increasing further the approximation to the truth.

    As with you and Popper, Fromm is talking about an approximation to truth and an evaluation of such approximations. When one says there is no “absolute knowledge” he is only saying there is no “perfect” knowledge. He is not saying that we can know nothing, or that there is no knowledge. How does one make such approximations if there is no truth, or evaluate those approximations without any knowledge?

    As for Popper, his trademark was his theory of falsification in the realm of science. How can one falsify a theory without gaining knowledge about truth? You at least would learn that the falsified theory is not true, correct? This is, in fact, objective, or ultimate knowledge, which requires that the world is one way and not another.
    If you find one black swan do you know, or not, that not all swans are white?
    Popper definitely held that we could not ascertain the full truth, but he did not deny that there was a truth, nor that we were actually gaining knowledge and approaching that truth.

    his philosophy, called falsificationism or critical rationalism, with the motto “I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth.”

    ===

    Paul: One quick one: all I’m trying to do is to interpret Popper’s ideas as a reply to C.S. Lewis’.

    I’m responding to Lewis’ metaphor of skepticism = transparency (can’t see/know anything).

    I understand that full well, I thought Popper’s swamp was an alternate to Lewis’ transparency.

    The Lewis statement is not primarily about skepticism but about inappropriate reductivism and Popper, an anti-skeptic, is not one to defend skepticism. This kind of thinking, this “seeing through” and “explaining away” did not sit well with Popper, either, and his ideas about pilings in swamps are on another matter (faith in theories which do not yield ultimate truths).

    I call bad reduction or ad hoc reduction the method of reduction by merely linguistic devices; for example, the method of physicalism which suggests that we postulate ad hoc the existence of physiological states to explain behaviour which we previously explained by postulating (though not by postulating ad hoc) mental states. Or in other words, by the linguistic device of saying that I report on a physiological state of mine when I report that I now feel that I understand the Schrödinger equation.

    This second kind of reduction or the use of Ockham’s razor is bad, because it prevents us from seeing the problem. In ,the picturesque as well as hard-hitting terminology of Imre Lakatos, it is a disastrous case of a ‘degenerating problem shift’; and it may prevent either a good reduction, or the study of emergence, or both.

    In order to avoid this disastrous method we must in each case try to learn as much as possible about the field which we hope to reduce. It may be that the field resists reduction; and we may even possess arguments to show why the field cannot be reduced. In this case we may have an example of genuine emergence.

    http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/at/popper.htm
    He is agreeing with Lewis, not refuting him.

    Me: Do you really think that Popper claimed to know nothing?What was the very first step he took in formulating an hypothesis?
    Paul: Yes. Perhaps I’m not reading him correctly. In particular, I take the following quotes from Popper to lead to a skeptical position with *everything*:

    Popper does not claim to know nothing. As per the specific question, he affirms logical facts as being objectively true:

    The fact that certain theories are incompatible is a logical fact, and holds quite independently of whether or not anybody has noticed or understood this incompatibility. These purely objective logical relationships are characteristic of the entities which I have called theories, or knowledge, in the objective sense.

    Further on logic:

    One might think that it is a matter of choice or convention which logic one adopts. I disagree with this view.

    My theory is briefly this. I look upon logic as the theory of deduction or of derivability, or whatever one chooses to call it. Derivability or deduction involves, essentially, the transmission of truth and the retransmission of falsity: in a valid inference truth is transmitted from the premises to the conclusion. This can be used especially in so-called ‘proofs’. But falsity is also retransmitted from the conclusion to (at least) one of the premises, and this is used in disproofs or reputations, and especially in critical discussions.

    There you have logic and truth. Truth cannot be transferred unless it both exists and is known.

    Moreover, a statement which does not correspond to the facts may be quite unambiguous. A murderer may say unambiguously, ‘I have not killed him.’ There is no ambiguity in this assertion; but it does not correspond to the facts.

    “Does not correspond to the facts” is the same as saying “is not true”:

    Once this is done, we can, of course, replace the words corresponds to the facts’ by the words ‘is true’.

    Once again, Popper can know things about the world and know that they are true.

    When Popper says that the theories of science must be altered (deeper pilings) when faced with new facts here is what he means by “facts”:

    I should point out, though, that the correspondence theory of truth is a realistic theory; that is to say, it makes the distinction, which is a realistic distinction, between a theory and the facts which the theory describes; and it makes it possible to say that a theory is true, or false, or that it corresponds to the facts, thus relating the theory to the facts. It allows us to speak of a reality different from the theory. This is the main thing; it is the main point for the realist. The realist wants to have both a theory and the reality or the facts (don’t call it ‘reality’ if you don’t like it, just call it ‘the facts’) which are different from his theory about these facts, and which lie can somehow or other compare with the facts, in order to find out whether or not it corresponds to them. Of course, the comparison is always extremely difficult.

    Popper confirms that he is a realist in this essay as well as indicating that scientific theories correspond to reality (approach truth) and that we have knowledge of logical conclusions (his reliance upon deduction in refuting theories is further indication of the truth of logical conclusions).

    Popper’s denial of “absolute knowledge” was not a denial of knowledge itself, nor an embrace of skepticism, but an admission that our knowledge is incomplete.
    http://portolanibooks.vol1.googlepages.com/davidstoveagainstdarwinandpopper

    . In fact on many matters Stove and Popper were on the same side. Against irrationalism and relativism, against Freud, against philosophical idealism, against scepticism, critical of some aspects of Darwinism, and, much else.

    This is something we hear every day when we are told about ‘the present state of knowledge’. So the proposition that absolute truth is unattainable does not entail relativism and, indeed, seems undeniable to most people.

    That Popper believed fiercely in objective truth (in its non-absolute sense) is evidenced from his constant stress that the job of the scientist is the quest for truth. He also thought that this was an unending quest, for our ignorance is infinite before the infinity of what is to be known and the finite nature of our knowledge. This is not the place to examine Popper’s somewhat bizarre theory of ‘epistemology without a knowing subject’, what he called World Three, that mysterious sphere in which are stored books and all man’s artefacts, but any serious study of this shows just how much Popper believed in the objectivity of knowledge.

    ===
    Repeat:
    Can’t you answer the question? Do you know you exist? Can you know even when you can’t prove? Can you, Paul, ever separate the two?

    Did Descartes prove that you can know you exist or not?

  85. If you agree that belief in God is not a scientific hypothesis, what’s the beef? Even when we agree, you find a way to argue? Sheesh.

    The beef is that you presented Popper and claimed he was saying something dissimilar to Lewis, and, by association, me. But other than the fact that Popper was not on the same subject, and is actually affirming our position on science and skepticism, the statement in question (which you highlighted) was not in contradiction to anything Lewis or I would say. It was a strawman.
    Sheesh.

  86. Charlie, a fact for Popper would then be something that works just about nearly all the time, if not all the time, but which we still couldn’t assign the status of absolute truth to.

    So you admit (with Steve, myself, Popper and Lewis) that there is something that is true? How can this be if you don’t know that the LNC holds?

    There is a type of truth that is not absolute, in an ultimate sense.

    Allow me to cut to the chase, I hope. I think I have a statement of strong skepticism.

    We don’t know what we don’t know, so we can never be sure that anything is absolutely, perfectly, ultimately, and completely true. Sure, how could it be otherwise that I exist, as Descartes said? But we don’t know if there might, in the future, be some discovery, or logical argument, or something that we can’t even imagine that could somehow, against anything we currently understand, that would somehow deny that. We can’t search the entire universe for every single crow to see if it is white, so we can never be absolutely, finally, ultimately, sure that we know what we know because we don’t know what we don’t know, so there might be something that we currently don’t know that would deny what seems obvious.

    This means that any truth is provisional, even though we can’t imagine how it could be anything but absolute.

    Sorry, no more time, I’ll be back later.

  87. Hi Paul,

    Charlie, a fact for Popper would then be something that works just about nearly all the time, if not all the time, but which we still couldn’t assign the status of absolute truth to.

    Popper wasn’t a mere practicalist and was defending a correspondence theory of truth. He wasn’t talking about “most of the time” in the example of the murderer, but about an absolute and unambiguous statement about fact/truth. A fact was a truth about nature, even if he could not ascertain perfect and certain knowledge. And he was not talking about theories which could be, most of the time, logically noncontradictory, but about theories which had to be coherent or they were untrue.

    There is a type of truth that is not absolute, in an ultimate sense.

    Can you have knowledge about this type of truth?

    This means that any truth is provisional, even though we can’t imagine how it could be anything but absolute.

    Not really. This means 1) that knowledge, not truth, is provisional. For instance, Popper is not claiming that nature is provisional, or that facts are, but that our knowledge and theories are: nature actually exists independent of our observations or thoughts; 2) your example only holds for crows, i.e., observation and induction. It does not hold for logical truths or necessary truths or immediate truths. Popper, for instance, was not a skeptic about First Principles or the LNC; 3) a statement of knowledge, especially outside the realm of empiricism, need not entail that there is no logical possibility of error in some distant time or realm; 4) none of this has anything to do with Lewis’ transparent world or Steve’s explanations that leave everything out.

    I agree with the beginning of your strong statement of skepticism, but must limit it, as you opened with, to things we don’t know. I know I exist, for instance. I agree completely with Lewis and mostly with Popper as well. But all three of you are saying something completely different.
    Lewis was talking about the nature of scientific explanations and their reductionism, and Popper was not defending, nor would he defend, skepticism. They were addressing different things and you’re addressing a third.

    Sure, how could it be otherwise that I exist, as Descartes said?

    This is not what Descartes said. He demonstrated not just that we can’t imagine not existing, but that by imagining such a thing we prove we exist. You can only imagine if you exist. No matter how much he might try to doubt everything this is the one thing he couldn’t doubt; because by doubting it he proved his doubt wrong.
    You, on the other hand, and as I was saying when you entered the conversation, cannot even know this much. By trying to doubt God you have caused yourself to doubt your own existence with the mere consolation that you’ll act as though you exist. Dawkins has caused himself to live a lie, acting as though he has free will when he knows he doesn’t, as has Dennett with consciousness. Back to Lewis, when you see through everything, as they have done with their explaining away, they have left nothing to see. You certainly have nothing to see, as you may not even have eyes to see, ears to hear, or even a self to ponder.
    This has nothing to do, by the way and once again, with Popper’s piles.

  88. No time, but, Charlie, I agree that the truth isn’t provisional, our knowledge of it is, I wasn’t careful with my wording.

    More as time allows.

  89. Paul,

    I agree that the truth isn’t provisional, our knowledge of it is

    Agreement, yeah!

    So we have provisional knowledge. How closely does our provisional knowledge come to the non-provisional truth of reality (aka fact)? I submit to your rational mind that it’s impossible to know one way or the other unless you have some way to rationally compare the one against the other. Make sense? But that means you must know something about both before you get started!!

    If you claim to know one way or the other (as everyone does) you are claiming to know something about the objective, untained, non-provisional truth. That statement applies to all knowledge, even scientific knowledge. How can this be?

    Rewind the tape of life to the first thinking being and look at the timeline going forward. At what point did any of these beings know something – even just a little – about the objective, untained, non-provisional truth? It seems to me this truth can’t be discovered through the process of rational thought because that process requires the knowledge you are trying to discover! A defeater to Naturalism if I ever heard one! If I’m not mistaken, this is similar to Lewis’ Argument from Reason.

    The only other option is to say we have no knowledge of the objective truth (just as Popper said). But that means it’s impossible to know anything about the truth value of our human knowledge, hence humans can’t know anything true or false about reality. True? (OK, trick question)

  90. Above I said “A defeater to Naturalism if I ever heard one!”, but now I’m wondering if this might not follow so help me out.

    At the very least I’m thinking it says knowledge of the objective, untainted, non-provisional truth can’t possibly come from thinking rationally. Whenceforth doeth it cometh, then? Simple, unthinking awareness, maybe – and is that even possible? Gives credence to intuition and the idea that we just know some things without being able to say why or how.

    Enough blathering from me….

  91. Strong skepticism doesn’t defeat itself because it is an uncertain position. If one asks “How do you know strong skepticism is true, if you’re skeptical about everything?” the reply is “Exactly, strong skepticism would say that strong skepticism *might* be wrong.” That “might” prevents any self-reflective paradox that blogggers around here are so found of trotting out. Agnosticism is slippery like that. I can evnsion some refutations of this idea, but the reply could always be “Maybe.”

    This elevates lack of absolute knowledge to a fairly (note the non-absolute qualifier) secure position.

    No time, sorry.

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