Tom Gilson

“Fine Tuned Cosmos” by David Heddle (Faith and Science Part 2)

Thinking Christian
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"Fine Tuned Cosmos" by David Heddle (Faith and Science Part 2)
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David Heddle, Ph.D., physicist at Jefferson Laboratory and Christopher Newport University and a fellow blogger, was Seaford Baptist Church’s guest speaker for Part Two of the series, “Does Faith Make Sense In An Age of Science?” (Part One was posted here; Part Three had to be canceled because the presenter had scheduling conflicts.) David’s topic was “A Fine Tuned Cosmos: Illusion, God, or Multiple Universes?”

He has made the PowerPoint available for you to view as you listen.

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38 thoughts on ““Fine Tuned Cosmos” by David Heddle (Faith and Science Part 2)

  1. I’m at about the 21 minute mark, just want to make one point before I get back to listening. I mostly agree (with a few quibbles I won’t go into now) with what he’s said so far. Except for one thing. He says there are only two possible explanations for fine tuning: the god hypothesis and the multiple universe hypothesis.

    But I’ve heard quite a few more than those two (though, indeed, those two are the most popular and talked about by far). In fact, several months ago I saved an article to my computer which listed all the proposed solutions that the author could find—and there were quite a few more than those that are mentioned in this lecture. I haven’t been able to find it yet but when I do I’ll provide a link (some of them are pretty wild and all are highly speculative—but no more speculative than the two so far mentioned).

  2. David Heddle wrote:

    “Maybe—what if our location is not just fine-tuned for life, but also for scientific observation?
    Ironically, the IDers who propose this view (Gonzalez and Richards in the Privileged Planet) also neuter it (they argue that habitable planets are necessarily good observation platforms—observability is not an “extra” miracle.”

    Did Gonzales and Richards really neuter it?

    I have read their book, and my interpretation has been that their central argument in fact was that our location is not just fine-tuned for life, but also for scientific observation.

  3. hmm,

    What I mean is this: before the Privileged Planet, the fact that we are fine-tuned for observation was deemed, by those inclined to do so, as a second, independent miracle (the first being the fine-tuning for habitability). Gonzalez and Richards demonstrate, reasonably well I think, that it is a dependent result–that a locale fine-tuned for life will necessarily be fine tuned for observation.They have reduced two miracles to one, so to speak. That is what I mean by “neutered”. (And I think they are correct.)

    In private communication Gonzalez told me I am wrong–but I didn’t understand his explanation, which was somehow related to Dembski’s CSI argument.

  4. There are four broad categories, yes, but there are far more items within those categories that just “God”, “we were lucky”, “its an illusion (in the sense of the claim mentioned that there aren’t really any anthropic coincidences), and “multiverses”. Many of the items in that article weren’t even remotely implied as possible explanations in the lecture—that’s not surprising, of course, since there are few people arguing for any position other than either God or the multiverse.

    I simply thought it worth pointing out that the range of possible answers is a bit broader that.

    In the final analysis though, the lecturer admits, that we simply don’t know as a matter of science (at least at this point in time). Which is why, on the whole, I’m in agreement with him. We don’t have the answer to this question yet. We are limited to speculation. Maybe future scientific knowledge will change that. Maybe it never will. We can only wait and see and, in the meantime, enjoy pondering the question.

  5. And he completely ignores the fact that God isn’t the only possible intelligent designer alternative. A pretty major oversight.

    As to the slides, I didn’t look at them; I just listened to the audio. Was there any major information in them not covered in what he said?

  6. Hello David

    Thanks for the link to the article. Kuhn has done an excellent job of enumerating the many speculations about the “fine tuning” of the universe. The endnotes are as interesting as the main body.

    I do agree with Luke about the categories.

    Category 1 is what I call the “brute fact” argument. The universe is here, it is a fact, and so we don’t have to explain it. Not really a tenable explanation which is why it has fallen by the wayside.

    Category 2 is the multiverse which includes both physical co-existing discrete universes or temporally serial (cyclical) universes. Both posit a multiplicity of universes and explain away “fine tuning” as an inevitable outcome of multiple instances.

    Category 3 is the “god hypothesis”, although it includes non-theistic hypotheses which have their own explanatory weaknesses.

    Category 4 is solipsism. Everything is an illusion dreamed up by me or some by hypthetical entity within whose immagination I exist as a subroutine.

    I would dispute the validity of the inclusion of some of these specualtions as plausible answers to the quesion “Why not nothing?”, but I think Kuhn is interested more in an exhaustive inventory of propositions than he is in evaluating their merits. As I said, Kuhn has done a great job collecting and itemizing these hypotheses.

    Heddle is not attempting to itemize and evaluate every hypothesis that has been advance to explain the fine tuning question. He is giving a lecture to (presumably) lay-people and analyzing the two most plausible answers to the question “Why the fine tuning?” – a different question from Kuhn’s.

    Even so, there is considerable overlap in the answers, perhaps because they approach the same problem, albeit from slightly different directions. What I found particularly interesting was the assertion by Kuhn that; “A theistic explanation of ultimate reality is logically compatible with both One Universe and Multiverse Models.” I hadn’t considered that before reading Kuhn’s list, but I noticed that Heddle makes the same comment around the 15 min. mark in his lecture.


  7. He is giving a lecture to (presumably) lay-people and analyzing the two most plausible answers to the question “Why the fine tuning?” – a different question from Kuhn’s.

    I would basically agree—except that I’d say the two most commonly argued for answers rather than the two most plausible ones. Its pretty difficult to assess plausibility on this issue. And I would have liked it if he’d made clear that there are other possibilities than those he discussed.

    Also, you’re oversimplifying in your description of the categories. Category 4, for example, is not solipsism. Solipsism is one of the options in category 4. And it doesn’t make sense to call category 3 the God hypothesis when most of the items in it aren’t theistic. It should be called something more general like the intelligent design category.

    But those are mostly just quibbles—not something I really feel the need to debate extensively.


  8. Category 3 is the “god hypothesis”, although it includes non-theistic hypotheses which have their own explanatory weaknesses.

    What weaknesses? Do you consider them weaker than the God hypothesis? If so, why?

    And are there reasons, in your opinion, to prefer one hypothesis to all the rest given the present state of knowledge? If so, which one (though I suspect I can guess) and why?

  9. david ellis,

    Actually I did, at least in the slides. I made it clear in a couple places that there are four generic possibilities.

    1) Goddidit
    2) Multiple universes
    3) Luck
    4) The fine tuning is an illusion (that is, habitability is not really sensitive to the constants.).

    Of those I concentrated on 1 and 2. I dismissed 3 out of hand. 4 is interesting–but not much work has been done there. Stenger has an unpublished paper where he makes some claims–but it is a very weak paper (which might explain it not being published.) There are one or two papers that speculate that one aspect of fine tuning (star formation) may not be so fine–but they are speculative at best.

    Now, option 4 is in fact a reasonable approach– and maybe some day it will destroy fine-tuning. But for now it is an argument that has not even reached the nascent stage. So there was/is nothing to talk about beyond mentioning it as a possibility.

  10. Am I the only one who gets to the Paul Davies quote (slide 36) and the audio ends ~103mins? I’ve tried the flash version and downloading the mp3, from both IE and FF.

  11. Hi Luke,
    No, mine cuts off right when Dave’s about to say something cool about Davies’ current worldview.

  12. OK, I listened to the audio while doing some house cleaning and didn’t watch the slides. Did you look at the article I linked to? It listed several (highly speculative) options I’d never considered before.

  13. david ellis, #14

    Yes I did and thank you for the link. I think, more or less, all the options listed there fall under the categories I delimited in #11. But I hadn’t read that paper before and I enjoyed it. So again, thank you.

  14. Hello David Ellis

    What weaknesses? Do you consider them weaker than the God hypothesis? If so, why?

    Theistic Person The one I ‘like’ – you can guess why – but you might be wrong. 8^>

    Ultimate Mind Reads more like and attempt to secularize the Biblical revelation of God. Somewhat like the Islamic concept of God (Islam is a Judeao-Christian heresy).

    Deistic First Cause Another attempt to secularize the Biblical God, what Kurt Vonnegut called “The Universal Will to Become”

    Pantheistic Substance Is generally invoked in concert with an eternal universe, so its credibility took quite a hit with the discoveries of Einstein and Hubble.

    The Eastern versions of pantheism tend toward universal mind with the material world as an ‘illusion’ of the mind. I find Buddhism interesting because it is essentially the mirror image of philosophical materialism. Philosophical materialism is atheistic atomism (check out your Greek philosophers) whereas Buddhism is atheistic idealism (check out your Greek philosophers).

    et cetera, et cetera, et cetera

  15. Hello again Prof. Heddle

    Now that I have managed to listen to the complete lecture I heard my question repeated near the end of your presentation by someone in the audience. Your response was, if I recall correctly “I don’t like it because he is against the Big Bang.” Apparently Humphries work has some flaws in the math and Harknett has attempted to correct those flaws by incorporating some new developments in ‘orthodox’ (if I may use that term) physics. Unfortunately, the critiques I have found as well as the rebuttals seem more than a little arcane. Of course, as a layman, I find physics more than a little arcane on several levels.


  16. Philosophical materialism is atheistic atomism (check out your Greek philosophers) whereas Buddhism is atheistic idealism (check out your Greek philosophers).

    Regarding Buddhism, that’s incorrect. The Buddha (like Jesus) didn’t teach any particular theory concerning the basic substance of the world. And like in Christianity, philosophers of the Buddhist tradition have come up with a lot of different metaphysical theories.

  17. Actually, Dave is (broadly speaking) correct: Buddhism generally rejects the material (hence its Idealistic character) and a transcendent deity (hence its atheistic character). Variations on the theme (“a lot of different metaphysical theories”–this assessment itself quite sloppy in the question-begging sense of what metaphysics actually is) don’t change the tiger’s stripes.

  18. Hi David

    The standard Buddhist cosmology asserts the physical world of matter is an illusion, and the my inividual ‘personality’ or ‘personhood’ is illusory. The ultimate reality is a state of consciousness detached from these personal and material illusions. That ultimate reality, while never fully developed by the Buddha, appears to exist as an unconscious, impersonal force from which all individual living creatures have been inadvertently detached. There is no deity as such and the attainment of nirvanna is the repudiation of all personal and material attachments through mental discipline. Atheistic Idealism

    The standard western cosmology, in its most coherent version, asserts that the mental world is an illusion. Ultimate reality is the material ‘stuff’ which composes the known universe. At least, this was its postion until relativity and quantum mechanics, which demonstrate that ultimate reality may be some combination of energy and/or information, now most incorporate some sort of ‘uncertainty’ and expand the material to include energy, but it makes little difference in their overall cosmology. Either way, hard materialists assert that mental states can be fully explained by material processes. The conscious/mental individual is an artifact of electro-chemical activity in the physical brain. Atheistic Materialism

    So, Atheistic Idealism and Atheistic Materialism – two sides of the same coin.

  19. Hi Dave:

    You note:

    … relativity and quantum mechanics, which demonstrate that ultimate reality may be some combination of energy and/or information, now most incorporate some sort of ‘uncertainty’ and expand the material to include energy…

    This would indeed be “more than a little arcane” (as you noted earlier) if it were true. Relativity and QM “demonstrate” nothing of the kind–in particular some “incorporation of uncertainty.” The “uncertainty” (which is a privation of certitude of position, speed, energy, momentum, or any non-commuting pair of operators) is a reflection of our epistemological limitations… which in NO WAY dictate or actualize the underlying ontological realities. What this signifies is that just because the means by which we observe QM-level entities are physically “comparable” to those entities, doesn’t imply there may not be other means currently unknown to us. But even if we never find a “sharper knife” by which to slice QM objects, this still in no way implies that “uncertainty” is somehow woven into the beingness of those objects. In fact, to assert things are inherently or essentially stochastic/probabalistic by their very natures is to assert there is no cause for their existences… which is silly unscientific nonsense and terrible anti-reality philosophizing. There is no such thing as “real” randomness just like there is no such thing as a “real” infinity in the contingent world we inhabit… no matter what philosophically-challenged Bohr and Heisenberg tried to foist upon the world in the 1930’s, and what Quentin Smith or Alan Guth (or Max Tegmark or Victor Stenger or Mano Singham or David Mermin, etc.) try to foist upon the world these days.

    Further, “information” is not incorporated into anything unless there is rational intentionality: the information “contained” in DNA, for example, is not the same as dirt being “contained” in a rug. The DNA must be “formed” [formal cause!], i.e., it must mean something and be intelligible to rational beings. (This, by the way, is the MUCH more threatening spectre to atheists than ID writ large: one MUST explain the “existence” of information in DNA, i.e., information can NEVER arise without rational intentionality.) Three sticks lying on the beach “mean” nothing if the surf washed them up into the FORM of an arrow that happens to point the way to a beach party. If, however, they were intentionally placed there as a human artifact to “meaningfully” point the way to the beach party, then those sticks “contain” meaningful information. Of course, there is also the case of the surf having washed them up on shore and they “by chance” point in the right direction AND someone actually “thinks” they are meaningful human artifacts. In such a case, the humans looking for the location of the beach party “impart” meaning upon the chance occurence of those sticks as a sign indicating the correct direction… AND, this is done instantaneously (talk about allegedly “violating” the speed of transfer of information or “ghostly” action at a distance!)

    This clarification in no way challenges your overall point: you were SPOT-ON regarding the illicit claim by materialists that the mind and brain can be equivocated from top to bottom. Matter by itself can NEVER by itself come together to actualize rationality or “contain” information–either through purely random processes or Darwinian mechanisms or whatever. It’s analogous to a clock: no matter how complex it is–no matter how many gears, jewels, electronic chips, etc. it contains–the measurement of time (the metric of change) does not come about from matter alone. It’s also analogous to a room full of atheists: no matter how many of them you have in a room, they’ll never “add up” to one Einstein.

  20. Of course, the information of DNA isn’t being communicated to anyone in particular. It’s self-contained in that it can be “spoken” and “read” altogether, contingent on neither thought nor intelligence. In other words, no one has to “think” for it to be relevant. In your example an intelligent reader would assume an intelligent communicator, but all of that is irrelevant here. This is an important point, as it can’t make the distinction between sense and senselessness. An entirely separate mechanism is needed.

    It’s intelligible only in the sense that it’s organized to be “meaningful”, but this is not a purely chance process. If there was a method by which more “meaningful” sticks gained a much greater likelihood for whatever reason, then the formation of patterns would increase dramatically. The argument that DNA is a product of pure probability is one that has not been proposed except by those who want to cast doubt on the entire theory. Nothing just “happens”. They’re the occurrence of specific processes that then lead to the probability of something emerging from it.

    As such there is a perfectly good “reason” for it. Your example implies that the sticks could simply be washed away because they don’t mean anything except for an entirely independent pattern-seeking process. But certain nucleotides must stick around because the process itself makes them useful. That’s the entire point of selection, after all. Therefore, intentionality here can’t work as an argument. Once meaningful patterns and organization become dependent upon a natural process, it is no better or worse of an explanation on its face than an intentional process. One could say that it simply happened because it could. Now, of course, the whole point of this topic is to address the question of why it could, which is much more pertinent. In other words, the argument about DNA is as pertinent as studying the very atoms and processes that made it possible, so it all must be addressed in a macro view: why the cosmos seem to be so fine-tuned to make possible every step along the way from the beginning of the universe to the consciousness of life. Of course, the same people who use the DNA argument also generally say that the existence of anything requires intelligence.

    You’d have to clarify the last paragraph: more specifically, why each can’t be emergent properties from matter.

    Lastly, I find it funny that you evoke Einstein, whose conception of God is much more likely to mirror mine than any Christian’s. I actually find his description of God quite elegant. I don’t take an official position on the generality of God, of course (only the personal Gods of religion, which makes specific, knowable claims about reality and truth). God would remain, in his various incarnations, only one of many possibilities, and there is no good reason, given our current knowledge, that such a being couldn’t answer the “why” question – a being whose contingency does not require something like morality because goodness is a concept that only makes sense in this space time. But perhaps some explanations haven’t even been conceived yet.

  21. Dave, you’re greatly oversimplifying. I was strongly interested in Buddhism for several years and read everything I could find on it. The Buddha himself is noted for what his followers call the Great Silence on speculative metaphysical issues (like this one). Later devotees have been less reticent and have invented a wide variety of metaphysical systems. Its quite true that idealism is a major strand in Buddhist thought. But its an error to call it the standard Buddhist metaphysical theory regarding the basic substance of the world. The “standard” position, if there is to be one (which is questionable), would be that of the Buddha himself as depicted in their scriptures—the Great Silence. In western terms, agnosticism.

    But its a peripheral issue and I see little reason to debate it back and forth. Beyond what I’ve already said I’ll just agree to disagree.

  22. Jacob:

    You certainly do not know what you’re talking about–primarily because you so blatantly avoid the most important question: what IS inFORMation. You also didn’t read my comments carefully, and hence impose some interesting strawmen. Try again…

    Regarding the last paragraph, you commit a gross category error by applying the cute viral meme of “emergent property.” Naturalists, materialists, and their fellow travelers (atheists!) draw the incorrect analogy (for example) that the brain is to the mind as a wheel is to its spinning—as if the material wheel itself can give rise to its own motion. Another approach attempted by these folks: infinite regression to a prior cause for a given “emergent property” from the material does not work—precisely because it fails metaphysically to account for motion as arising from the material.

    Their underlying error—repeated over and over again in true barking moonbat fashion—is the equivocation of all existents as to the mode of their being (ontological flatlandness), i.e., motion is at some level, for them, is equivalent ontologically to the material from which it arises (which is not surprising given their monistic worldview)—rather than the correct metaphysical understanding that motion (change) is the reduction of the potential to the actual. The motion of a spinning wheel is not of the same order or mode of being as the wheel itself: the motion of the wheel is accidental to the wheel’s nature—the accident or category known as quality. Similarly, the human mind is not of the same order of being as the material human brain. And, of course, inFORMation is not the same order of being as the material substrate that may “contain” it (hence my example of meaning “in” words is not the same as dirt “in” rugs). For them to attempt (repeatedly and uncritically) to impose such equivocations is to repeatedly beg the question.

    But then, when faced with this obvious problem in their position, you know what they do? They play the old Humean or positivist game: “metaphysics is nonsensical or irrelevant,” which, of course, is a metaphysical assertion—certainly not a “scientific” one. Thinking not thought through, yet again. Self refutation is raised to an art form with these folks (the discussion on free will is an earlier example of their nonsense).

  23. Hi Holopupenko

    This would indeed be “more than a little arcane” (as you noted earlier) if it were true.

    (I suspect) The major portion of cosmological physics is extremely specualtive and could, perhaps, be better described as an extension of Pythagorean metaphysics than a truly experimental ‘science’.

    Relativity and QM “demonstrate” nothing of the kind–in particular some “incorporation of uncertainty.” The “uncertainty” (which is a privation of certitude of position, speed, energy, momentum, or any non-commuting pair of operators) is a reflection of our epistemological limitations…

    You’re quite correct in this observation, which is why physics is trying to develop a TOE (Theory Of Everything) to reconcile the inconsistencies between relativity and quantum theory, both of which (in the words of Stephen Hawking) cannot be true. I included the caveate in my description of philosophical materialism because many armchair materialists abuse quantum physics to explain ‘free’ will, much the same as Epicurus introduced the ‘swerve’ in some atoms to serve the same purpose.

    When I started reading the Greek philosophers I was flabergasted by how much “modern” philosophy is simply a reiteration of ideas which the Greeks examined and discarded over two millenia ago. I often wonder if modern philosophers have read the Greeks.

    […] In fact, to assert things are inherently or essentially stochastic/probabalistic by their very natures is to assert there is no cause for their existences… which is silly unscientific nonsense and terrible anti-reality philosophizing.

    That’s why, despite the (illigitimate?) insertion of ‘uncertainty’ it makes no real difference to the overall materialistic philosophy. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, “Mindless is as mindless does.” The “energy and/or information” was inserted to (metaphorically) tweak Jacobs nose. Information, as you so astutely noted, is always the product of mind.

    There is no such thing as “real” randomness just like there is no such thing as a “real” infinity in the contingent world we inhabit…

    Here I would nit-pick with you a little. There is no such thing as “real” randomness in the [physical] world, but human beings, and to a limited extend animals or perhaps all living things, have a capacity to transcend the lmitations of materialism and are therfore (potentially) capable of “real” random behaviour (that is, behaviour that is not determined by the laws of physics &c.).

    The questions of ‘infinity’ and ‘contingency’ are interesting as well… and they certainly appear to be a problem for the materialists. Oh well… so it goes.

  24. Hi David

    Dave, you’re greatly oversimplifying.

    Yes, I am.

    I was strongly interested in Buddhism for several years and read everything I could find on it.

    Then you certainly know more than I about Buddhist philosophy

    The Buddha himself is noted for what his followers call the Great Silence on speculative metaphysical issues (like this one).

    A point I addressed in my comments;

    That ultimate reality, while never fully developed by the Buddha, appears to exist as an unconscious, impersonal force from which all individual living creatures have been inadvertently detached.

    […] Its quite true that idealism is a major strand in Buddhist thought. But its an error to call it the standard Buddhist metaphysical theory regarding the basic substance of the world. The “standard” position, if there is to be one (which is questionable), would be that of the Buddha himself as depicted in their scriptures—the Great Silence. In western terms, agnosticism.

    Agnostic (know nothing) Idealism? My apologies for misrepresenting the philosophy of the Buddha.
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/agnostic

    Speaking of agnosticism… How do you know that something cannot be known? It appears to me that before you can declare something “unknowable” you must aquire knowledge about the true state of that something (the thing as it is). Therefore, the agnostic who declares that we “cannot know ultimate reality” must know enough about ultimate reality (the thing as it is) to make that declaration, and if you know enough about ultimate reality to make such a declaration, then ultimate reality is to a measurable extent “knowable”. Since ultimate reality is, at least, partially knowable there exists, at minimum, the potential for more comprehensive knowledge. Agnosticism is self referentially incoherent.


  25. Speaking of agnosticism… How do you know that something cannot be known?

    There are different varieties and definitions of agnosticism. Many agnostics, for example, aren’t claiming that X is unknowable in principle. Only that we don’t currently know one way or the other.

    For example, given the present state of the evidence (and lack thereof) I’m agnostic on the question of whether intelligent life exists elsewhere in our galaxy (or universe, for that matter).

    But, of course, its possible that we’ll receive a radio signal, or even visitors, this afternoon that will change that state of affairs. I’m not holding my breath though.

  26. However, I think there probably are certain questions which it is, in principle, impossible to know the answer to.

    For example, the claim that there exists a God which is utterly aloof and completely uninterested in communicating or revealing his existence to us in any way. So long as he left no clear evidence of his existence its probably an unknowable.

    Same goes for the existence of other universes which in no way can or do interact with ours or leave any traces of their existence that can be detected by us.

    Which, of course, are only examples of the quite sensible idea that if we can have no evidence of something we can have no way of knowing it exists.

  27. Hi Dave:

    Great points!

    One thing you say is, Here I would nit-pick with you a little. There is no such thing as “real” randomness in the [physical] world, but human beings, and to a limited extend animals or perhaps all living things, have a capacity to transcend the lmitations of materialism and are therfore (potentially) capable of “real” random behaviour (that is, behaviour that is not determined by the laws of physics &c.).

    “Randomness” is a fancy word for “uncaused”–no matter whether we consider the physical or immaterial realms. We as humans also cannot act randomly: our free will permits us to make non-material-based choices, but choices they are–they are, in fact, determined through rational intentionality. We transcend the material, but we cannot do so without cause (“cause” here used analogically): we transcend the laws of physics because we are rational animals, but we cannot transcend our own natures… or abandon the Principle of Sufficient Reason.

  28. Hi again, Dave:

    By the way, every time a human being throws a baseball or takes a transatlantic jet trip, he transcends the laws of physics. Note the laws of physics are not “violated” but “transcended”: we “use” the laws to our advantage to overcome what would “naturally” happen if the world was left to itself.

    So, planes don’t just assemble themselves (even in principle over any length of time you’d like) and fly: the plane is a human artifact with a per accidens nature which doesn’t “possess” an innate ability to fly. A plane flies because we intentionally design it, construct it, fuel it, and pilot it.

    This is why we as humans don’t “do” miracles: when we intentionally (i.e., rationally) transcend the laws of nature, we don’t (we cannot, in fact) violate them. Miracles are more than merely transcending the laws of nature, but no one in their right mind (except for Hume in his disordered mind) would argue against the possibility of miracles merely because they “violate” our expectations of the natures of contingent beings.

    And, in case anyone of the loyal opposition tries to pull a fast one, the brute animals do not “transcend” the laws of nature (say a kangaroo leaping or an oriole building a nest or a honey bee flying) the way we do: their actions are instinctual–not rational, i.e., a very part of the physically-contingent nature of the world. Technically speaking they do “have” souls, but their souls (to employ a philosophical term of art) are “material” souls… with “material” here NOT used in the reductionist physicalist sense but in the philosophical “formal cause” sense.

  29. Hi David

    However, I think there probably are certain questions which it is, in principle, impossible to know the answer to.

    Oops – 8^)

  30. Holo –

    Your analogy didn’t properly represent the situation. The idea that order arises without being “washed away” is important because intentionality may seem no different than an unguided process. Individual parts are placed into a composite precisely because they are meaningful, depending on the metric. So it is not necessarily the bee’s thoughts that allow it to fly, however “instinctual” they may be. It is because the DNA assembles a flying creature that is then put into motion; the creature itself does not give rise to its own motion (and neither would the wheel). It’s only actualizing its potential. Therefore, rationality is not required. If the potential for flight can be assembled arationally in a similar way that it can be assembled rationally, then what distinction are you trying to make? Rationality itself is a complex physical process subject to physical manipulation that also implies a gradient (as we see in human development). Even many animals have basic decision-making and rational skills, which makes them more than instinctual (we differentiate between more instinctual animals and the more complex ones). Sure you can’t “reason” with other animals in the way you’d reason with a scientist; no more than you can reason with a baby (which, I think, also seems to say something about the importance of social skills). But that would also seem to indicate that it’s contingent on different organizations and complexities of its constituent parts that can take many different forms, from higher to lower. That, to me, is not ontological equivocation. There are levels of being and states of doing that, yes, can be actualized in a physical continuum. The differences in concepts keep them distinct. Of course, again, this argument isn’t necessarily materialistic or atheistic in nature, but I suppose that it does treat this physical realm in a similar fashion.

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