The Ph.D. Who Studied Nothing At All

Ethan Siegal says you can get something from nothing, and thus the universe required no creator:

In many ways, yes, you can. In fact, in many ways, getting something when you have nothing is unavoidable!

What do we know about this “nothing?” It includes space:

For example, take a box and empty it, so that all you’ve got is some totally empty space, like above. An ideal, perfect, empty vacuum. Now, what’s in that box?

Good question. What do we know about this vacuum?

Well, it turns out that empty space isn’t so empty. One of the consequences of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle — that you can’t know a quantum state’s energy exactly for a finite duration of time — means that when you’re talking about very short time intervals, there are large uncertainties in the energy of a system. Over short enough timescales, the energies are large enough that particle-antiparticle pairs wink in-and-out of existence all the time!

So in addition to space, we have energy. We also have something called a quantum state, and we have durations of time. Now, what does this have to do with the universe being created from nothing?

When the Universe inflates, or expands exponentially (before the Big Bang), these quantum fluctuations also expand, and get stretched across the Universe faster than they can annihilate one another. These fluctuations show up as regions with slightly more (for positive fluctuations) or less (for negative ones) energy, which then grow into structure (like clusters, galaxies, and stars) and voids as the Universe ages…. And if you start with enough energy, you can take all of the real matter and antimatter pairs that exist, and create more matter than antimatter, giving us a Universe where we have something, today, rather than nothing.

The result?

Now, that’s what we know we can get, even from nothing.

Siegal supposes we can get a universe from nothing, and he makes a case for it, provided that space, time, quantum states, particle-antiparticle potentialities, and energy are all precisely nothing.

I can see it now. When he got his Ph.D. in theoretical astrophysics and applied for his first job, the interviewer asked him what he studied in grad school. His answer would certainly have been, “I learned about quantum physics, space, time, energy; in other words, absolutely nothing. I spent all those years and dollars learning a lot about nothing at all. I’d like you to hire me to study nothing.”

P.S. Stephen Hawking would also like us to believe the laws of physics are nothing. He’s made himself quite a reputation out of knowing a lot about exactly nothing.

Hat Tip: Edward Feser. And another tip o’ the hat to our friend P.Z. Myers, through whom I first heard about Siegal’s paper. P.Z. doesn’t study nothing for a living, but he sure has a lot of respect for it.

Comments 64
  1. Jordan

    Perhaps a more charitable interpretation Siegal’s article would be that “space, time, quantum states, particle-antiparticle potentialities, and energy” can be taken as brute facts in an atheistic theory of origins, in the same way that “God” is taken as a brute fact in theistic theories of origins.

  2. Jordan

    Tom,

    So, you honestly believe that Siegal is saying “space, time, quantum states, particle-antiparticle potentialities, and energy” are literally nothing?

    And, on a related note, do you honestly believe that the theists (to whom Siegal is presumably responding) who say things like, “You can’t get something from nothing,” are using the word “something” to refer to “space, time, quantum states, particle-antiparticle potentialities, and energy”?

  3. Tom Gilson

    Jordan,

    I think that is what he wrote, yes. I don’t think it makes sense, but that is what he wrote. Whether he intended something other than what he wrote, I cannot say.

    Hawking did the same in The Grand Design, so Siegal stands in line with him on that. Hawking very definitely intended to say that the laws of physics allow the universe to be created from nothing; in other words that the creation of the universe from nothing was the creation of the universe by way of the laws of physics, so the laws of physics are nothing.

    In response to your second question, yes, I do believe that: theists are referring to that and of course much more besides. I don’t see the problem with thinking that.

  4. Tom Gilson

    Further, if he was intending to answer the theological position regarding creation ex nihilo as P.Z. Myers interpreted him to mean, and as Hawking most certainly meant in his work, then he has to address that theological position for what it is. To smuggle space, time, energy, etc. into some pre-existent state from which the universe came into being is not the same as saying that the universe came into being from nothing.

    He did say this, remember: “And if you start with enough energy, you can take all of the real matter and antimatter pairs that exist, and create more matter than antimatter, giving us a Universe where we have something, today, rather than nothing.” It certainly sounds like he’s trying to counter the theistic position on creation, but he’s doing it badly.

    I suggest you read the Feser article linked at the end of this post.

  5. Holopupenko

    Tom:

    This kind of non-scientific, nonsensical foolishness is rampant in physics. Even Stephen Barr is guilty of reductionist pronouncements animated by his broader misunderstanding of what physics is in the order of knowledge (Barr believes one fundamentally should start from what is most epistemically distant from us–say elementary particles–and “build” back up to the macro world… which is completely backwards).

    (And, you may recall Olegt’s silly assertion that at the quantum level events ARE random (as opposed to chance), i.e., the Principle of Sufficient Cause falls, i.e., he believes (based upon his acceding to the Copenhagen interpretation and its mathematical formalisms) that quantum events are without cause–which is about as unscientific as one can get. Now, mix that with Barr’s vision and I think you can see how ultimately dangerous such “reasoning” is to science… and hence to understanding physical reality… and hence to hamstringing reasoning to higher verities. And don’t even get me started with DL…)

    I can give you literally dozens of similar examples.

    “Nothing” is a VERY difficult term to grasp, because it means an UTTER privation of being. (It is a term of metaphysics.) Leaving aside Siegel’s Platonic understanding of the “laws” of science (there are no “laws”: they are are metaphors to assist our understanding), when Siegel spouts his nonsense, he presupposes “empty” or “vacuous” space in which the quantum fluctuations occur. But he can’t do that: nothing means nothing–including NO space. A shadow is a privation of the kind of being called light, so the shadow is a being (technically called a “being of reason”) only analogously. “Nothing” is far, far more “thin”: it means no kind of being whatsoever. Period.

    It’s amazing how ignorance (of that outside one’s field)–a privation of knowledge (philosophical in Siegel’s case)–can lead to such silly pronouncements. Thinking not thought through–the job description of atheism.

  6. Viking

    The mathematics tells us that Siegal is right. It also tells us that it’s impossible for a bumble bee to fly, according to the theory of flight (at least at one time it did). The ‘sound barrier’, the impossible brick wall in the sky, was also proven by the math.

    But math does not create the universe, it describes our understanding of it. If it was the other way around, bees should be walking.

  7. Holopupenko

    Correct. Said another way: the math doesn’t actualize the reality it’s supposed to describe. Yet, it is an extremely powerful tool, because quantity is the first accident of real being, i.e., it is con-natural to us. All other accidents can be measured (i.e., through quantity) in some way, shape or form. But quantity is not substance, unless one mistakenly raises it to that level.

    The secular physicist’s mantra: mathematics says it, I believe it, that settles it.

  8. Crude

    That thread is strange. Philosophers are accused of playing word games, and then we get told that “something can come from nothing” (so long as “nothing” means a vacuum with a ground state, time, space, etc.) Even Stephen Barr explained how these “something from nothing” examples absolutely aren’t ‘nothing’ in the relevant sense, and miss the point. In fact, I recall that even Vilenkin (not exact a Christian apologist) made similar points about imagining ‘laws making something coming from nothing’.

    I really get the impression that some scientists think they hate philosophy, but are unable to notice when they themselves are engaging in it, or even when they’ve gone beyond science itself.

  9. Tom Gilson

    I assume you’re referring to the thread on Feser’s blog, Crude. That is a strange thread indeed. From the moment Human Ape spoke up, the anti-philosophers have kept confirming Ed’s point over and over again, yet without realizing it.

  10. BillT

    What I see over and over is arguments like the one from Ethan Siegal where he assumes we are as stupid as he thinks we are. Yes, he says, something can come from nothing as long as nothing is really something. You couldn’t get that logic past your average 5th grader. Even Jordan is embarrassed by this and tries to reform it by reinventing it as a completely different argument as Tom points out.

    However, what is stunning is that then Jordan does the same thing. Here, on what is at least a reasonably sophisticated Christian blog, he says that “… “God” is taken as a brute fact in theistic theories of origins.” Now, there is nowhere in Christian theology or in Christian apologetics that God is posited as a brute fact. Yet, Jordan states this without explanation as an unequivocal fact. The only explanation I can think of is that he thinks we are as stupid as he thinks we are.

    You really wouldn’t believe it if it wasn’t here in black and white.

  11. Katherine

    Why must science exist without God…are you so insecure in your faith that science must acknowledge God? The formation of the Earth is a scientific wonder…science has nothing to do with faith and vice versa. If anything, science continues to reveal the wonder of God.
    If not for scientists such as, Galileo, we would still be under the entirely false teaching of religion…simply because you do not like a fact does not make it false.

  12. Tom Gilson

    Katherine,

    Thank you for the question. I do not believe science must exist without God, and I did not say nor imply that it does or could or should. If you thought I was saying that, you were reading it into what I wrote.

    I was not defending something in which I felt insecure, I was pointing out a significant error on the part of someone who was ham-handedly making illogical statements concerning that faith.

    I agree: simply because I do not like a fact does not make it false. Simply because you think that was what I was saying does not make it so, either.

  13. Tom Gilson

    Katherine, I’m going to own up to some confusion.

    You wrote, “science has nothing to do with faith and vice versa. If anything, science continues to reveal the wonder of God.”

    The two halves of that seem mutually contradictory to me. Would you be able to clarify that, possibly?

  14. Katherine

    …again…what does faith have to do with scientific fact…accepting something on FAITH does not make the belief a FACT. The belief may be a fact to you, b/c of your belief…this would be a psychological fact. However, a faith or personal belief is not subject to objective hypothesis.

    And as for your final statement, ?

    Why are ‘creationists’ so interested in ignoring evolution or how the earth was created or do you not believe i.e. have faith? The earth is some 4.7 billion years old…why is your faith threatened when science attempts to explain the physical world?

    It appears to me that religious people, such as yourself, are far more interested in keeping humanity ignorant. What is wrong with questioning God? Or is the God of your faith to weak to be questioned?

    Science cannot disprove God, so why are you threatened by the explanation of the physical world?

  15. Tom Gilson

    Katherine,

    Why do you believe my faith is threatened by explanations of the physical world? Why do you think I believe my God is too weak to be questioned? What makes you think that accepting something on faith makes it a fact? None of these are true of me or my beliefs. Have you encountered this attitude in some other person, perhaps? There must be some reason you want to read it into what I have said.

  16. Katherine

    Science does not disprove God, just as theology cannot and does not explain scientific fact.

    I’ll admit I am angry…I am sick and tired of blatant ignorance ruling Christianity. Christians who refuse to believe in evolution because evolution does not fit into their belief or faith in who or what god is.

    You (or someone wrote)It matters because if Christianity is true, then the way of Christ is the only way anyone can be rescued from the dangerous human condition in which we all live, and it’s the only way to experience a maximum life.

    Why does your brand of Christianity have to be the ‘only’ way…even the Bible of which you proclaim to believe in contradicts this.

    Why is there an unseemly focus on the resurrection of Christ over the example of how to live life? For that is my task, to live. What does it matter if there is or is not a heaven at the end? A belief that cannot be proven by anyone. Heaven is a nice concept, but, how shall I live my life today? Judaism answers this question while your brand of Christianity, consistently fails in this aspect.

  17. Tom Gilson

    (Not quite sure on which thread to place this, so I’ll post it twice.)

    Once again, I urge you to read what I’ve written on “What is Christianity?” Maybe then you might be able to engage with what I think rather than accusing me falsely of believing what I do not.

  18. Tom Gilson

    By the way, my view on evolution has little or nothing to do with my belief in who or what God is. If evolution happened as mainstream biology says it did, then it happened under God’s direction, and I’m fine with that. The only quibble I would have (and it is a serious one) would be with those who say it was an entirely undirected, unguided process, subject only to unintelligent natural law and chance.

    If you have run into other believers who think otherwise, I would disagree with them.

  19. Katherine

    Yeah I read it…And you cannot even get out of the first paragraph without saying: “It matters because if Christianity is true, then the way of Christ is the only way anyone can be rescued from the dangerous human condition in which we all live, and it’s the only way to experience a maximum life.”

    Become a Christian to convert others as the ‘one and only way’. Boring, circular, illogical.

  20. Bryan

    Not to derail the topic any further, but I think becoming a Christian is more of a means of escaping eternal condemnation and entering into an everlasting fellowship with God.

  21. Holopupenko

    Katherine:

    What exactly is “scientific” about your anti-faith, partly-scientistic, psuedo-philosophical ramblings? What can the modern empirical sciences say about your ideologically-burdened gender baiting, NOMA-based rage, fear of death, judgmental gnosticism, and sophomoric ignorance? Who would want to be around someone like you who drives her personal opinions down the throats of others? Talk about woman drivers intentionally running down straw men… sheesh!

  22. Tom Gilson

    Actually, Katherine, if you’re interested in genuine, open discussion, I am too, in spite of the previous comment. That’s if you are genuinely interested, of course. I have asked you to consider some of your own self-contradictions and possible stereotyping, and in different wording I have asked you to thoughtfully (not reflexively or stereotypically) consider my answers to the questions you have raised. Your doing so would be a good indication of your authentic desire for dialogue.

  23. BillT

    Katherine,

    “(I’m sick of) Christians who refuse to believe in evolution because evolution does not fit into their belief or faith in who or what god is.” Though this may be true of some Christians what I find the problem that most Christians have with “evolution” isn’t the science, it’s the philosophy. “Evolution” has become a code word for a scientism that claims it disproves the existance of God and is incompatible with theistic belief. Now, it’s wrong to conflate the two terms but it’s not the Christians that began that. It’s the New Athiests that make that claim quite regularly.

    A far as your question as to “Why does your brand of Christianity have to be the ‘only’ way…” there is a post just a few below this one called “Did God Make This Huge Mistake” that addresses this exact topic. Now, it didn’t attract a large number of responses but I posted one that at least attempts to answer it. I’d be glad to discuss it with you.

  24. Jordan

    “However, what is stunning is that then Jordan does the same thing. Here, on what is at least a reasonably sophisticated Christian blog, he says that “… “God” is taken as a brute fact in theistic theories of origins.” Now, there is nowhere in Christian theology or in Christian apologetics that God is posited as a brute fact. Yet, Jordan states this without explanation as an unequivocal fact. The only explanation I can think of is that he thinks we are as stupid as he thinks we are.”

    Sorry, my use of the term “brute fact” is probably not technically correct. What I meant was that most theists seem to believe that God himself doesn’t need to be explained (he “just is,” or “he’s always been,” or “he must be”… these are not explanations), but, rather, they believe that he serves as the foundation of all other explanations (e.g., in their minds, he explains the universe, humanity, etc.). I was implying that perhaps Siegal was using his “nothing” in a similar fashion. Because let’s face it: At the bottom of EVERY worldview there is something — a foundation, a starting point — that doesn’t get explained.

    And, no, I don’t think you guys are stupid. You’re just wrong. 😉

  25. Tom Gilson

    At the source and basis of all reality is something uncaused that is the sufficient cause of all else. Nothing is not a candidate for that position. God is.

    If Siegal thinks that the laws of physics operating in a reality that includes space, time, energy, and etc., comprise proper candidates, he chose an uncommonly strange word to describe it, for this is not nothing. If he thought he was offering an answer to the theistic (and common-sense) doctrine that ex nihilo, nihilo fit (from nothing, nothing comes), well, he wasn’t. I think that’s what he thought he was doing, and if I’m right, then he made a very elementary blunder.

  26. Viking

    Katherine wrote…”Science does not disprove God, just as theology cannot and does not explain scientific fact.”

    In the context of this article, and as I read it, this article does indeed attempt to disprove God’s existence, or at least His relevance.

    The article is saying that something is created spontaneously from nothing. The principle (not fact) that this is based on is Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

    This then shows that God is not really needed to explain how we all got here. Might as well believe there is no God after all, right? (it’s funny how given the choice of existence or not, NOT is always chosen)

    So, yes, science is used to attack one’s faith, all the time. As I read this article, I can only assume it’s the author’s intent cause he doesn’t explain his idea correctly, he doesn’t answer the question of who created the ’empty’ space with nothing in it, and he’s just flat wrong in his conclusions.

  27. Holopupenko

    Jordan:

    Really, truly what you’re saying is ignorant. But I’ll comment by criticizing slightly (but importantly) Tom’s response to your sloppiness.

    Tom is not quite correct because he comes too close to an almost linear conception of Existence itself when he states “At the source and basis of all reality is something uncaused that is the sufficient cause of all else… God is [the candidate].” (You’re understanding is explicitly reductionist, Tom’s isn’t.)

    Tom is a bit off. The First Uncaused Cause is NOT first in a temporal, ordered, “starting point” or even “foundational” sense that you would like in order to conveniently dispel it as God. (If that’s what “god” is, I’ll race you to the line to beat that “god” into oblivion.) The First Uncaused Cause can’t be so “thin” because it’s not just another cause among causes or being among beings. It’s Beingness itself.

    Neither is Tom quite correct when he states “If evolution happened as mainstream biology says it did, then it happened under God’s direction…” because this is the occasionalist/deist vision of God as an external law-giver, “direction-giver” or tinkerer (exactly one of the main problems with ID, by the way). God does NOT direct things by sticking his fingers into the pre-biotic soup or by sticking his fingers into animals to instigate new species. Why?

    I’m glad you asked. The First Uncaused Cause cannot, technically, even be called God. All that human reason can do is establish with 100% certitude that there IS an Uncaused Cause that not only created all of contingent reality but maintains contingent reality in existence every single instant.

    The “who-ness” of Beingness itself (God) can only be obtained through revealed, i.e., Scriptural knowledge… which includes the mysteries of the Incarnation, Trinity, etc. (Aristotle–a man much smarter than today’s scientistic crackpots–knew with 100% certitude, but he didn’t know IT/HE as God revealed through His Word.)

    Because of the reasons provided in the previous two paragraphs, God is infinitely “closer” to the contingent reality He created than any reductionistic deist conceptions put forth.

    So, please, stop with the silly straw man depiction of God (from your second paragraph) that you love to hate and target while declaring others “wrong”… when you yourself are woefully lacking in understanding these issues. You mimic Dawkins’ sophomoric criticisms of Aquinas’ First Way as if you were lapping at his feet. If you want to beat up on convenient straw men like Katherine, then by all means please continue to entertain us. However, my sense is you really are interested in truth and critical thinking. Get rid of your presuppositions against the existence of Existence itself and don’t limit yourself to a science-only epistemology or materialist-only ontology.

    Reality… what a concept.

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  29. Tom Gilson

    Holopupenko,

    We disagree, of course, on what you call the error of ID. There is a cadre of Catholic thinkers who incorrectly think that ID takes (as you put it) an occasionalist/deist/tinkerer view of God. That’s not the case. Logan Paul Gage has covered that territory nicely. But that’s another topic for another day.

    I did not mean, either, that the God we know could be inferred from reason concerning the Uncaused Cause. We can infer there must be an uncaused cause sufficient to be the cause of all that exists; and I think we can rule out certain candidates for that position, especially (in this context) nothing. That was my point.

    To the rest of what you said, I agree. To say that God “serves as the foundation of all other explanations” is both true and false: true in that all other explanations ultimately flow back to God, false in that if that is one’s entire view of God or even anything like an entire view of God, it is terribly inadequate.

  30. Holopupenko

    Tom:

    That’s why I said “slightly criticize” as a platform to criticizing Jordan’s position.

    😉

    Regarding Gage, do you realize how many people are either laughing at his article or sighing and waving their heads back and forth in sadness? He misses St. Thomas and Aristotle by a long shot (his error regarding Aristotle and Thomas’ position on species is egregiously incorrect) and he doesn’t get ID’s pedigree: ID is occassionalist, mechanistic, and reductionist by its very nature, and Meyer with Dembski are out to lunch on trying to mathematicize formal and final causality through information theory–pretty much completely rejected by specialists in the field. Hiding behind “infer” doesn’t save it.

  31. Jordan

    “So, please, stop with the silly straw man depiction of God (from your second paragraph) that you love to hate and target while declaring others “wrong”… when you yourself are woefully lacking in understanding these issues. “

    First of all, it’s not my depiction of God. Secondly, as silly as it is, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
    I see that, after all these years, you still haven’t managed to move beyond your usual hand-waving, incoherent, pseudo-philosophical, histrionic rambling. You’ve got sooo many profound things to say, yet, for some strange reason, nobody will listen. Right?

  32. Holopupenko

    Jordan:
    Given your general ignorance and not grasping what was stated (and hence your inability to respond), your point was…? What science did you employ to animate your latest rebuff of actually addressing the point?

    Tom: I responded to you about an hour ago, and apparently the comment was accepted, but it is not appearing.

  33. Holopupenko

    Tom:

    By the way, in a recent article (don’t have it in front of me) Barr regurgitates the same error regarding Aristotle’s view of species. Once an error is absorbed, it’s hard to remove it.

    Also, I’m sitting in on an upper-level evolution course taught by a Berkeley-trained biologist who is sympathetic to but ultimately rejects ID. There are “speciation events” occurring in certain plants that appear after ONE generation, i.e., no sexual reproduction can occur between members of the NEXT generation of these plants. Also, Meyer in particular is about 10-15 years behind in his understanding of DNA as a source of information: he focus on the DNA rather than amino acid production… basically undermining an entire section of his book. I’m not going to get into the details here, but the science is, metaphorically speaking, killing ID as it progresses. I’m now solidly in the anti-ID camp.

  34. BillT

    “…most theists seem to believe that God himself doesn’t need to be explained.” This really couldn’t be more wrong. The entire point of Christian apologetics and theology is the explanation of our beliefs. In fact, Tom and Holopupenko have just demonstrated this fact with their responses. Moreover, would this blog even exist for you to post on if that were not the truth.

    And BTW, if you really think Holopupenko’s response is “…hand-waving, incoherent, pseudo-philosophical, histrionic rambling.” why don’t you explain why point by point. I certainly look forward to that.

  35. Bryan

    “There are “speciation events” occurring in certain plants that appear after ONE generation, i.e., no sexual reproduction can occur between members of the NEXT generation of these plants.”

    As I understand it, there isn’t anything about speciation that conflicts with a creationist (even young-Earth) worldview. In fact, YEC theory depends one post-Flood rapid speciation.

    “Also, Meyer in particular is about 10-15 years behind in his understanding of DNA as a source of information: he focus on the DNA rather than amino acid production… basically undermining an entire section of his book.”

    I read a lot on science and your comment here is the first I’ve heard on anything like this. Would you mind going into more depth? I’d be interested to see is supposed recent findings have done harm to Meyer’s central thesis.

  36. Holopupenko

    Bryan:

    That YEC depends on rapid speciation is clear. But that’s not the issue. The issue is HOW rapid speciation occurred that makes YEC’s way more occasionalist than even than ID. YEC has God directly physically sticking His fingers into individual biological organisms to impart changes onto future generations. God is truly reduced to a cosmic tinkerer playing with his utterly passive creatures rather than being Existence itself (YHWH) maintaining all things in existence to actualize the natures of the creatures He created. For the latter case, “inside” His own creatures is way too weak of a word to indicate just how close He is to His creation; for the former case He’s reduced to an external thunderbolt-throwing law-imposer. Sad, really. I wouldn’t usually do this, but I’ll state it to draw out the point: YEC is an intellectually-repugnant, anti-Scriptural, plain-meaning literalist hermeneutic imposed upon the Book of Faith.

    Literalists are selectively inattentive when it comes to Scriptural “evidence” allegedly against evolution. Consider Genesis 1:11-12, 20, 24 which states “Let the EARTH bring forth green herbs… Let the WATERS bring forth the creeping creature having life, and the fowl that may fly over the earth under the firmament of heaven….Let the EARTH bring forth the living creature in its kind, cattle and creeping things, and beasts of the earth, according to their kinds….”

    Who… err, rather, what is “bringing forth”?

    God created (i.e., the continuous, ever-present, immanent act that sustains all contingent beings in existence — inaccessible to the MESs), the Earth brought forth (created natures actualizing and perfectizing throughout time — MES accessible). Even Scriptural evidence (for created natures actualizing themselves as they adapt to external environmental changes and chance mutations) doesn’t matter when YEC’s and IDer’s ironically mimic secular reductionists: choosing “evidence” that only supports their a priori notions… or failing that, trying to manipulate the MESs to support their presuppositions. The other ironic thing is these folks rail (correctly) against secularist non-scientific interpretations being imposed upon biological evidence and findings in the classroom, yet they have no problem promoting YEC or ID in biology and theology classrooms.

    I find that amazing. I find it stunning that Darwinian evolutionary theory (adjusted, of course, for progress in this area) is somehow threatening to faith if it doesn’t incorporate an occasionalist, external tinkerer “god” who messes with robotically-passive creatures.

    Now, regarding Meyer, give me some time to go back both to his book and to my course notes. I knew a rebuttal to criticisms was out there, and I know some of the criticisms leveled against Meyer’s book (Ayala’s forays into the debate rightfully demands scorn), but I have not read that rebuttal. Thanks for the link, and I’ll definitely take some time to read and study it. Nonetheless, even my quick skimming tells me two things:

    (1) the author’s do not address (which you point out) the point I’m making regarding DNA information / amino acid production (it’s got to do with his surprise-surprise “discovery” that base pairs have the same bonds to the sugar phosphate backbone and hence are not physically contingent). Well, if you’re correct, that tells me they’re missing it because they’ve fallen for Demsbki’s illicit quantificational jump from information to meaning… which is the next point;

    (2) both Meyer and Demsbki fail time and time again to justify jumping from the quantification of “information” to the quantification of “meaning” (the mathematicians criticizing them “love” that error). No matter how attached these guys are to their presupposition that formal and final causality (design) is quantifiable, that prior commitment doesn’t make it so.

    So, for now I need time to read the book/rebuttal to see if there’s anything of merit there.

  37. Jordan

    ‘…most theists seem to believe that God himself doesn’t need to be explained.’ This really couldn’t be more wrong. The entire point of Christian apologetics and theology is the explanation of our beliefs.

    I’m not talking about your beliefs. I’m talking about God. An explanation of God would consist of answers to questions like, “Where did he come from?” and “Why is he the way that he is?” etc.
    All I’m saying is that every worldview has a starting point — i.e., something that gets the ball rolling. For most theists, that starting point is God. For guys like Siegal, it’s something else. I didn’t think this statement would be controversial.

    And BTW, if you really think Holopupenko’s response is “…hand-waving, incoherent, pseudo-philosophical, histrionic rambling.” why don’t you explain why point by point.

    Why on earth would I do that?

  38. Holopupenko

    Jordan: “Why on earth would I do that?”

    Translation: [Cue Monty Python and the Holy Grail]: “Run away!!”

    Intellectual integrity… not a common characteristic of atheism, to wit: “An explanation of God would consist of answers to questions like, “Where did [H]e come from,”… Now, if that isn’t aping Dawkins ignorance so as to avoid thinking critically for oneself, I don’t know what is.

  39. Jordan

    Translation: [Cue Monty Python and the Holy Grail]: “Run away!!”

    I’m totally comfortable with you thinking that.

  40. BillT

    “Why on earth would I do that?”

    So you’re comfortable calling people names but can’t understand why you might want to back that up with an explanation or logic or facts? Makes it seem you are comfortable calling people names because you can’t back that up with an explanation or logic or facts? Would that be correct?

  41. BillT

    Thanks Holo. I guess I always exepct more from folks. I mean why bother at all if you’re just going to bail. If what Jordan said about your post was really true it should be no problem giving you a very public intellectual thrashing. And I’m sure Jordan wouldn’t be interested in doing something like that!.

  42. Jordan

    “So you’re comfortable calling people names but can’t understand why you might want to back that up with an explanation or logic or facts? Makes it seem you are comfortable calling people names because you can’t back that up with an explanation or logic or facts? Would that be correct?”

    I didn’t call anyone names. I merely pointed out that, to me, Holo’s posts come across as pretentious, pseudo-philosophical, etc. and that he has a tendency to ramble. If you want evidence, read his posts. And if his posts seem clear and concise to you, then maybe I’m just stupid. Or maybe Holo doesn’t communicate very well over the internet. Or maybe ideas that seem clear and obvious to Christians don’t seem that way to atheists (and vice versa). Who knows.

    “Thanks Holo. I guess I always exepct more from folks. I mean why bother at all if you’re just going to bail. If what Jordan said about your post was really true it should be no problem giving you a very public intellectual thrashing. And I’m sure Jordan wouldn’t be interested in doing something like that!.”

    I have no desire (and probably no ability) to give anyone a “public intellectual thrashing.”

  43. BillT

    Oh, ok then. Calling someone’s posts“…hand-waving, incoherent, pseudo-philosophical, histrionic rambling.” isn’t calling them names and you don’t want “…to give anyone a “public intellectual thrashing.” However, you do want to make sure you drop some heavy handed adjectives that call into question someone’s intellectual abilities, emotional stability and general character. And you don’t see why backing that up with explanation or logic or facts would matter. Back to where we began. Everyone’s is really as stupid as you think they are, aren’t they?

  44. Holopupenko

    BillT:

    Really, please, drop it. Jordan is indeed ignorant of a great many things. We all are, in fact, about all sorts of things. But, Jordan’s problem is that he draws massively unsupportable conclusions based not on knowledge, but upon his ignorance. (It’s like trying to read by relying on shadows rather than on light.) And then, when challenged, Jordan hides behind name-calling and asserting the other side is “unclear” (code word for stupid). That’s what atheism does to people… and I’m deadly serious about that. It is productive to engage in conversations when people actually want to reduce their ignorance; it is a waste of time to engage in discussions when a person loves to wallow in his ignorance. That’s why it’s difficult to get through to Jordan: he does not want to be convinced that God IS… because the implications are what he fears. That’s why Sir Anthony Hopkins recently said, “Being an atheist must be like living in a closed cell with no windows”. (http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2011/02/11/sir-anthony-hopkins-i-couldnt-be-an-atheist/) I would add, because they want it that way.

  45. Jordan

    BillT wrote: “Everyone’s is really as stupid as you think they are, aren’t they?”

    I’ve already said I don’t think you guys are stupid.

    Holo wrote: “But, Jordan’s problem is that he draws massively unsupportable conclusions based not on knowledge, but upon his ignorance.”

    What conclusions exactly did I draw in this thread?

  46. BillT

    I’ve already said I don’t think you guys are stupid.

    No, I’m sure you don’t. Instead you want to call into question someone’s intellectual abilities, emotional stability and general character without explanation, logic or facts. Then you claim that isn’t calling that person names and think somehow that we should believe you. You don’t think we’re stupid you think we will believe stupid things. In polite company that’s called a distinction without a difference.

    Sorry, Holo. I need grace as much as anyone. Maybe more.

  47. Bryan

    Holo,

    I wish I had more time to spend replying to this post. I’m going to try to be as concise as possible.

    “That YEC depends on rapid speciation is clear. But that’s not the issue. The issue is HOW rapid speciation occurred that makes YEC’s way more occasionalist than even than ID. YEC has God directly physically sticking His fingers into individual biological organisms to impart changes onto future generations.”

    Actually, I think (and this is coming from someone who reads YEC websites daily) the mainstream YEC view is that since the original genomes within each respective kind were declared “very good” (Genesis 1:13) or perfect by God, they were infused with a great amount of potential for genetic diversity, given God’s foreknowledge of the Fall, and thus no ‘finger-sticking’ is necessary.

    Moreover, would you really prefer a God who allowed millions of years of death and suffering to occur (which, by the way, he declared to be “very good”) to one who may have intervened biologically at some point? To put it mildly, the god of theistic evolutionism is a monster.

    “I’ll state it to draw out the point: YEC is an intellectually-repugnant, anti-Scriptural, plain-meaning literalist hermeneutic imposed upon the Book of Faith.”

    Well, considering that the YEC interpretation was the near universal pre-Enlightenment view of Scripture (noting how virtually all exegetes prior to that time affirmed a young Earth and global Flood), it is hard to see how it may be deemed as anti-Scriptural. The zeal you have for your position is admirable, but I think you may be overstating things.

    Furthermore, what is wrong “plain meaning” scriptural hermeneutic? Is it not God’s will to speak to us through his Word? Why would he obfuscate things? I recommend this article on hermeneutics: http://creation.com/the-bible-and-hermeneutics

    “Literalists are selectively inattentive when it comes to Scriptural “evidence” allegedly against evolution.”

    I hope to show in a respectful way that you may be guilty of what you accuse YECs of doing. Regarding Genesis 1:24, ‘let the EARTH bring forth the living creature in its kind, cattle and creeping things, and beasts of the earth, according to their kinds…’you omit part of that last sentence and the two sentences which immediately follow it, indicating, if taken in the sense ANE readers would have understood it, that it was GOD who created the living things after their own kind instantenously and supernaturally: ‘And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.’ We find this similarly true in your other two scriptural citations, with each appended with ‘and there was evening and there was morning, the nth day’, indicating in the clearest of terms that this took place in a singular day.

    “The other ironic thing is these folks rail (correctly) against secularist non-scientific interpretations being imposed upon biological evidence and findings in the classroom, yet they have no problem promoting YEC or ID in biology and theology classrooms.”

    Most YEC and IDers actually would prefer that they ‘teach the controvery’ rather than having those positions promoted directly since teachers may misrepresent their views.

    “(2) both Meyer and Demsbki fail time and time again to justify jumping from the quantification of “information” to the quantification of “meaning” (the mathematicians criticizing them “love” that error).”

    I don’t have the expertise here to comment, only that I know mathematician and Princeton philosopher David Berlinski sees no error in it.

  48. Holopupenko

    Hi Bryan:

    I stand by my explanation and assessment. By the way, Berlinski has been increasingly distancing himself from ID…

  49. Bryan

    I think I raised some pretty strong points in my response and that comes across strongly like a copout. But whatever.

    Howso is Berlinski distancing himself from ID? He has contributing articles in Signature of Controversy (2010).

  50. Bryan

    ^ I couldn’t find any articles through a Google search to support your claim, and moreover he’s still a senior fellow with the Discovery Institute.

  51. Holopupenko

    Bryan:

    There are a number of good reasons why I don’t engage in discussions on YEC, and I don’t need to explain myself any more than I did. I could spend time rebuffing every one of your points, but I choose not to. You may have the last word.

  52. Tom Gilson

    Berlinski has never bought into ID. He is a strong Darwin skeptic and willing to support the DI’s work with respect to that side of the issue, but he has never made a positive statement in favor of ID to my knowledge.

  53. Bryan

    Yeah, I recently became aware of that, which I found surprising. I see no issue with that, given his agnostic worldview. However claiming that he’s “distancing” himself from ID is another thing entirely and requires documentation.

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