“On naturalism, or: Good and bad extrapolations in science | Uncommon Descent”

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Just a small problem here:

In his opening article, Eric McDonald highlights a critical flaw in Coyne’s scientific case against free will: scientists haven’t put forward any arguments in defence of determinism

[From A very revealing post on naturalism, or: Good and bad extrapolations in science | Uncommon Descent]

Oops.

416 Responses

  1. Seems to me this is only half of the “oops”. Naturalists can’t get by with mere arguments. According to their own rules, they need a falsifiable theory and actual empirical or experiential evidence before they can conclude something’s true.

  2. G. Rodrigues says:

    I am sure I am being pretty obtuse, but can someone please, please explain me how can human beings be rational in the first place if they do not have free will? What sort of bizarre universe is that, where all our thoughts and actions are predetermined by necessary laws and yet we are entitled to call ourselves rational?

  3. Tom Gilson says:

    Oh, G. Rodrigues, you just had to ask that, didn’t you? After all, you were predetermined to ask it!

    😉

    No, there’s nothing obtuse in your question, as I’m confident you realized when you asked it. Human determinism is perhaps the single most patently nonsensical doctrine ever concocted by the brain mind of man. It is self-defeating in two senses of the word self: as a teaching it logically contradicts itself, and the person, the self, who promulgates it also denies his or her own human self-understanding. The only reason determinism was ever proposed is because materialists think it is a necessary concomitant of science’s supposedly inviolable laws of nature, which doctrine in turn has no argument in support of it, as has been pointed out in this article.

    On the other hand, the wording of your last sentence intrigues me. What sort of universe would have every event be predetermined by necessary laws and yet allow human rationality? I don’t think this is the universe we live in; but if it were, it could only be a universe that was incredibly rational at every level of its being and its history. It would make for an interesting thought experiment, or perhaps a sci-fi novel. It would be a lot more like a universe ruled by God than a naturalist/materialist universe, don’t you think?

  4. Nick (Matzke) says:

    On the other hand, the wording of your last sentence intrigues me. What sort of universe would have every event be predetermined by necessary laws and yet allow human rationality?

    I think that there are all kinds of philosophical difficulties involved in making strong conclusions about free will and determinism, but I don’t think the above is one of them. It actually seems pretty easy to conceive of an absolutely deterministic universe wherein some of the sentient creatures think rationally — in that their brains correctly calculate math, correctly reason from premises to conclusions through the use of logic, etc.; whereas other creatures are less able to do this because of lack of education, lack of knowledge, brain defects, or whatever. Someone with infinite knowledge would be able to predict ahead of time the conclusions that the rational people would reach on a particular question given their good reasoning abilities, and what conclusions an irrational person would reach, given knowledge of the flaws in their knowledge and reasoning. Heck, we already have a lot of this ability today, even with the extremely limited knowledge we have.

    I don’t think this is the universe we live in; but if it were, it could only be a universe that was incredibly rational at every level of its being and its history. It would make for an interesting thought experiment, or perhaps a sci-fi novel. It would be a lot more like a universe ruled by God than a naturalist/materialist universe, don’t you think?

    Maybe, heck, who knows? I’m pretty sure I’ve seen both determinist and nondeterminist/random views of the Universe used to support both theist and atheist conclusions about God. I haven’t studied it in depth, but my instinct is that the determinist/nondeterminist question and the God/no God question are pretty much logically orthogonal and the vociferous arguments happen mostly because someone thinks they can prove something about the determinist/nondeterminist question and therefore score points about the theists/atheists who allegedly hold the opposite question, even though it looks like theists and atheists have switched sides on determinism vs. nondeterminism several times over the centuries.

  5. Tom Gilson says:

    “Through the use of logic”? Really?! I thought it was by deterministic processes. Do you think there’s any sense in which the two are or could be the same processes? And you honestly think that’s a philosophically easy, unproblematical case to make?!

    Wow.

  6. Tom Gilson says:

    And you think the determinism question is logically orthogonal to the question of theism?? I’d love to see you show how that works.

  7. Crude says:

    It actually seems pretty easy to conceive of an absolutely deterministic universe wherein some of the sentient creatures think rationally — in that their brains correctly calculate math, correctly reason from premises to conclusions through the use of logic, etc.;

    I think it’s very easy to state, extraordinarily difficult to conceive or flesh out. Though I think Tom is already hitting on that problem. Roughly similar to saying ‘pff, quantum physics is no big problem. There’s hidden variables. Just go find them and bam, done.’

  8. Holopupenko says:

    As with all atheists on this site, I strongly suggest it is their atheism that prohibits THEM from thinking things through. If everything is deterministic and there’s no free will, what possible reason could Nick have to change our minds on the issue? Dumb… really, really dumb.

    And here’s a beauty: “whereas other creatures are less able to do this because of lack of education, lack of knowledge, brain defects, or whatever” Okay, let’s play by Nick’s rules of the game: he simply doesn’t get faith because of his DEMONSTRATED ignorance of many issues… and, rather than a “brain defect” it’s more likely a “mind defect” perpetrated by his atheism, which he “supports” via… wait for it… “science”.

    heh

  9. olegt says:

    As with all atheists on this site, I strongly suggest it is their atheism that prohibits THEM from thinking things through.

    That’s a cute theory, Holo. How do you square it with the stats showing that top scientists increasingly tend to be atheists or agnostics?

  10. Melissa says:

    That’s a cute theory, Holo. How do you square it with the stats showing that top scientists increasingly tend to be atheists or agnostics?

    Why think that top scientists are more likely to be able to “think things through” than people with other qualifications. Top scientists have greater skills and knowledge in one small area that does not translate to them necessarily having the skills, knowledge or will to form accurate beliefs in other areas. All your comment does is demonstrate your bias towards scientists and scientific knowledge.

  11. Victoria says:

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…
    It is not a matter of intellect alone, but of the heart, of misplaced pride and rebellion against God’s rightful sovereignty. It’s not a question of “I can’t believe it”, but “I WON’T believe”. Atheists and agnostics simply do not want Theism, and Christian Theism in particular, to be true, because if it is (and it is) true, it requires them to acknowledge God as the sovereign Lord.

    What does being a professional scientist have to do with anything? Melissa is right in what she said. I happen to know of many scientists who are Christians through and through (I am one myself, and 30 years ago, my PhD graduate advisor’s “motto” was (and still is) “As for me and my lab, we shall serve the LORD”, and we did some pretty cool atomic and molecular physics in that lab). I have mentioned before the American Scientific Affiliation (www.asa3.org), an organization of professional scientists who are Christians.

  12. Bill R. says:

    “Top scientists” are defined in that survey as those in the NAS… talk about a bad proxy. The NAS is basically a good-ol-boys network (that has been pressured, in the last decade or so, to increase its diversity). The correlation between intelligence or scientific ability and membership in the NAS is weak, at best. If anything, membership in the NAS is probably an indicator of careerism, which would lend itself to atheism/agnosticism quite apart from rational considerations. Driven, successful people are more likely to see themselves as self-sufficient, and God as unnecessary or repugnant.

    Not that I’m arguing in favor of Holo’s statement (“As with all atheists on this site, I strongly suggest it is their atheism that prohibits THEM from thinking things through.”). It seems to me like most scientifically literate atheists know enough about QM not to be strict determinists. I think even the atheists I’ve met who claim to adhere to some form of determinism end up acting, to their credit, and despite their worldview, as if free will exists and argumentation is not just an exercise in futility and fatalism.

  13. Melissa says:

    I happen to know of many scientists who are Christians through and through (I am one myself, and 30 years ago, my PhD graduate advisor’s “motto” was (and still is) “As for me and my lab, we shall serve the LORD”, and we did some pretty cool atomic and molecular physics in that lab).

    My supervisor for my PhD in chemistry used to do some lay preaching on the weekends. Also it was quite surreal to turn up to morning church for the first time and see the professor who took me for first year physics singing in the choir.

  14. olegt says:

    Calm down, you guys and gals. I have no intention to denigrate Christians and to suggest, as Melissa seems to think, that they cannot be great scientists. Nowhere did I said that. Read my comment again.

    My aim is to blow apart Holo’s preposterous claim that “atheism… prohibits [one] from thinking things through.” The stats I cited provide plenty of evidence that you can disbelieve in God and be able to think things through. You don’t get to be a top scientist without that ability, period.

    Bill R., I see no evidence that NAS is a bad proxy for being a top scientist. You insinuate that it is “basically a good-ol-boys network” but you make no effort to back up your claim. Here is a list of new NAS members from the University of California. I happen to know a few of them and those are people at the top of their fields. Two biophysicists (Levine and Shraiman) were invited last to our department to survey the state of the field. Not because of their networking skills but as highly regarded people in the field of biophysics. Ned Wright is a pretty good astrophysicist. Look him up here. I cannot comment on people in other fields as I am not familiar with them. The burden is on you.

    We can use another proxy, Nobel laureates of the 20th century. The sample is smaller than the membership of NAS, but it will be enough to show plenty of atheists at the top of the science game. Plenty.

  15. olegt says:

    Never mind.

  16. Tom Gilson says:

    olegt, it is certainly the case that one can be a disbeliever and think things through. You have a demonstrated ability to handle complex mathematical reasoning and to apply it to your own area of natural science. The NAS as a whole illustrates the same thing is true in high degree.

    Victoria’s comment gets to the heart of the matter. It’s not just about an ability to think things through. It’s about one’s attitude toward self and God. The one who rejects God’s reality and rule is not thinking clearly about God. To be muddled about the very source and cause of all physical and spiritual reality is to be muddled indeed. Your ability to think well in your specialty is highly commendable. If you would open your eyes and heart to God, you might then be able to understand so much more, not just about physics but about humanity, relationships, spirituality, love, freedom, grace, and yes, even the natural world.

  17. Tom Gilson says:

    Note: I had another comment up here for a moment but deleted it very soon. I don’t think it communicated my own position or heart very well.

  18. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Olegt:

    Not a direct response to your claim, but since when is popularity an argument? Those top scientists are certainly brilliant in their own specific fields but what special qualifications have they to pontificate on matters philosophical or religious? And since some of them (e.g. that paragon of irrationality, Mr. Coyne) deny free will, the whole point is moot. We are pretedermined to have this discussion, but it is not like it really matters, does it? It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. “Out, out, brief candle!” indeed. And surveying the whole human population, existing or that ever existed, the majority is (or was, in the case of the magnificent dead) religious. Does this fact have any significance? Let me hazard a guess: no, because the vast majority of religious people are stupid and deluded. Or some variation thereof like only now, in the present time, humanity has finally ditched the shackles of prejudice and superstition by sheer dint of, to quote J. Swift, “a thorough examination of causes and effects, and by the mere force of natural abilities”. He then adds sarcastically “without the least tincture of learning”. Chuckle.

    More and more I find myself in agreement with (a weak version of) Holopupenko’s thesis: the universe inside these so-called new atheist’s minds is wonderfully simple. And boring. And ultimately irrational.

  19. olegt says:

    G. Rodrigues,

    Since you indicate explicitly that you are not directly engaging my comment, I have no plan to rebut yours. But just in case it is not already clear as day, I want to state that I do not subscribe to the notion that “the vast majority of religious people are stupid and deluded.” I merely object to Holo’s repeated suggestions that atheists are stupid and deluded. One does not imply the other, if you think things through.

  20. Tom Gilson says:

    The vast majority of atheists are certainly not stupid. They certainly are deluded, however, in that they believe incorrectly concerning the most important truth in the universe. That delusion would not be possible without either some blindness to the evidence or some irrationality in handling it; for the evidence is not hidden, yet the conclusion they draw is incorrect.

  21. olegt says:

    Tom wrote:

    The vast majority of atheists are certainly not stupid. They certainly are deluded, however, in that they believe incorrectly concerning the most important truth in the universe.

    That is an article of faith, Tom, and we will have to agree to disagree on it. Preferably without calling each other fools.

  22. Tom Gilson says:

    We can agree to disagree on it. One of us is certainly being foolish.

  23. justaguy says:

    Interesting study: “Religion Among Academic Scientists: Distinctions, Disciplines, and Demographics” in the academic journal Social Problems (Vol 54. No.2, 2007).

    “Field-specific and interdisciplinary differences are not as significant in predicting religiosity…[as] demographic factors such as age, marital status, and presence of children in the household…religiosity in the home as a child is the most important predictor of present religiosity.”

  24. Holopupenko says:

    I stand by my words.

    There is, of course, that to which Melissa, Victoria, and then Tom allude: the lack of heart in the utter anti-human repugnance of atheism. How stupid—in the sense of intentionally leaving one’s brains at the door AND intentionally trying to dehumanize one’s own humanity by jettisoning free will AND rationality (what possibly could rationality mean without free will?)—can atheists be?

    They are that BECAUSE they are atheists: intentional and vociferous sinners against the First Commandment. (Sorry, Tom, but you’re wrong to not consider atheism acted out as sin.)

    I just watched one of the most brilliant displays of genius in a scene from the movie Amadeus, in which Mozart dictates to Sallieri Confutatis maledictis (consigned to flames of woe). The sheer beauty of the music obliterates any possible posturing to the stupidity of decrying free will or reducing it to deterministic mechanisms.

    Double heh.

    But to say atheists rationalize well even in their particular scientific fields is preposterous on its face. What, have you folks missed Nick’s nonsense? What about “physicist” DL, who manipulates mathematically like a robot, and is deeply flawed in believing predictability defines complete knowledge of external reality? And olegt? The latter two gentlemen are utterly disingenuous in claiming the quantum realm as interpreted back to reality is settled. With all due respect, you others seem to miss the importance and implications of why these guys use science to argue against the Principle of Sufficient Reason. Both of them explicitly claim that at the quantum level there is no cause for quantum events (because the mathematical formalisms allegedly say so… triple heh). Don’t you get it? If they believe some—any—events can be interpreted as being without cause, then the universe itself can be argued to be without cause: the universe becomes (philosophically speaking) necessary rather than contingent. What room, then, for God?

    That’s why whatever alleged scientific strengths these guys have suffer at the hands of their a priori atheism that drives them to conclusions without thinking things through. olegt’s whining is a red herring: the stupidity is self-imposed as an effect of sin, and that sin continues to chip away at the sinner’s humanity. The irony is bitter: these guys undermine science in their attempts to support atheism. The circle of Hell to which militant atheists are happy to consign themselves echoes Rodriguez correctly: small, boring, full of self-immolating used-to-be rational agents. The worst abusers and misappropriators of science because they idolize science in the sad, vain attempt to a priori avoid God.

  25. olegt says:

    Holo,

    You’re bonkers. I am not, and never have been, a militant atheist. I have no intent to disprove God by appeals to science. It’s a fool’s errand.

    As to quantum physics, I won’t even bother to respond. After a couple of long-winded comments you wil bail out like you did last time. Why even bother?

  26. Tom Gilson says:

    Holopupenko,

    I never denied that atheism acted out is sin. What I said was,

    Atheism is not sin. What I mean is, atheism is not reflexively synonymous with sin. There are plenty of belief systems with deities in them that are as bad as materialistic atheism.

    In other words, of course atheism acted out is sin, but there is also sin acted out that is not atheism.

    I want to continue here with a caution concerning this:

    But to say atheists rationalize well even in their particular scientific fields is preposterous on its face. What, have you folks missed Nick’s nonsense? What about “physicist” DL, who manipulates mathematically like a robot, and is deeply flawed in believing predictability defines complete knowledge of external reality? And olegt? The latter two gentlemen are utterly disingenuous in claiming the quantum realm as interpreted back to reality is settled.

    First, I didn’t say they rationalize well. I said to olegt,

    You have a demonstrated ability to handle complex mathematical reasoning and to apply it to your own area of natural science. The NAS as a whole illustrates the same thing is true in high degree.

    There’s nothing in there about “rationalizing.” There is something in there about being competent in their fields, which these scientists are, whatever they believe about God.

    As for the second thing, well, I wrote a lot more about this in a first draft of this comment, but I’m not sure it applies. It depends on what you really meant by “rationalizing.” Could you clarify that, please?

  27. Melissa,
    You didn’t happen to go to Berkeley did you? My quantum physics professor sang in our church choir too! How many of these guys are there?

    As to the NAS members, I agree with Melissa. We forget how narrow things are these days. One of my colleagues at Yale was amazed at the depth of knowledge that I possessed regarding the historicity of the New Testament which I mainly gained through that Lee Strobel’s lofty, erudite, and wholly inaccessible academic work “The Case for Christ.” My point is that even brilliant people are incredibly naive when it comes to even the most basic topics outside their field. Indeed, we are in an even more dangerous position than the average person because we assume that our expertise in one field translates to knowledge in all fields.

    -Neil

  28. olegt says:

    Neil,

    Your nuanced position does not make Holo’s claim any less preposterous.

  29. Tom Gilson says:

    olegt,

    Maybe Neil’s nuanced position is Holo’s position, too, expressed in a different manner. Or maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe this isn’t about Holopupenko. It could be about what’s true. That’s certainly how I view it–how about you?

    I suggest you not evaluate Neil’s position according to how preposterous it might or might not make someone else’s, but according to whether it makes sense. (I suggest we all do that with anybody’s contribution here.)

  30. Melissa says:

    Neil,

    You didn’t happen to go to Berkeley did you? My quantum physics professor sang in our church choir too! How many of these guys are there?

    No, Monash University, Australia, which is what makes it all the more unusual considering, I think, only about 14% of the Australian population goes to church regularly. Interestingly, in relation to the claims of ignorance and stupidity levelled by atheists towards Christians, the level of education is higher in church congregations than the general population.

  31. olegt says:

    Tom,

    I hope, for Neil’s sake, that his position is not Holo’s expressed in a different manner. Of course, Neil can tell us straight whether he meant that or not. However, from reading his comment, it appears to me that his point (brilliant people can be naive outside their field) was entirely orthogonal to Holo’s (atheism makes people stupid).

    I have nothing to disagree with in Neil’s comment, if I understand it correctly. But since he, along with Melissa, was answering my point, I have every right to say that he was not addressing the issue at hand.

  32. olegt,
    As you noted, my point was treating a different topic than Holo’s. I’m saying that -even if we completely lay aside all issues of worldview- we should not be surprised if brilliant scientists might have no more understanding of history or geography than the average layperson.

    As to Holo’s comment, I don’t think he is right but mainly because I think a biblical understanding of sin is ever more radical than he suggests. He focused his criticism entirely on atheists, but I think what he misses is that all human beings (Christians and atheists alike) have a natural hatred for God. That doesn’t mean that we are all totally irrational. But it does mean that we will reject any conclusion that we feel threatens our lordship over our own lives. Every chain of reasoning can be traced back to certain premises which we accept as axiomatic. But that means that we can reject any conclusion we want by simply denying the premises. I think that (consciously or unconconsciously) this is the position that all of us are in with regards to God. Apart from God’s intervention, we will reject any evidence that he gives us, no matter how explicit. The problem is not the evidence; the problem is our hearts. Before God changes them, no amount or degree of evidence will suffice.

    -Neil

  33. Tom Gilson says:

    Neil, good points.

    olegt, which issue was Neil not addressing, and did he cover it in his later comment?

  34. Holopupenko says:

    Tom:

    Thanks for the clarification on “atheism acted out”—my bad for misunderstanding you. Re: “rationalizing”—again, my bad: I should have been more careful. The intended meaning behind it was “capacity for reason.”

    Olegt:

    Nice attempt at turning the tables and deflection: I did respond in detail to your Bell’s Theorem red herring at some length (which Charlie, at least, seemed to appreciate), and I ended with the specific point that it’s impossible to speak to someone about Bell’s Theorem (an empiriometric, i.e., highly-abstract mathematical vision) when that person doesn’t know—and certainly can’t express—what causality is in the first place. (By the way, this is NOT about hidden variables.) If you want to keep reducing causality to only that which can be described by mathematical formalisms, have a ball. If you want to continue to make pseudo-philosophical—certainly NOT MES—claims that certain physical phenomena require NO CAUSE, please be my guest.

    The preposterous sword upon which you (and Neil, by the way) keep falling upon—the one that warps your understanding of physical reality and reduces it to mathematics—is the non sequitur that an interaction which cannot be measured exactly therefore cannot take place exactly: you illicitly jump from an epistemic operationally-descriptive vision to the imposition of ontological status. I get the fact you’re not well versed in such nuances—that’s not the issue. The issue is your arrogance as animated by your ignorance of more fundamental issues that’s the problem. THAT’S what I’m referring to that your atheism has damaged. You are likely (which pretty much any monkey can be taught) a good mathematical manipulator—a robot… but to again echo Rodriguez, you’re not much more than that by your own doing.

    Neil:

    … all human beings (Christians and atheists alike) have a natural hatred for God. Your personal opinion and non-authoritative interpretation of Scripture is duly noted and rejected: a very poor choice of words animated by a flawed theological vision. Apart from that, I can’t believe you baselessly leapfrog from my comments on atheism to impute that I somehow “missed” (by implication) Romans 3:23… but, then again, I’m not burdened by the heresy of sola Scriptura.

  35. Tom Gilson says:

    Though you are my friend, Holopupenko, I must object strenuously on several counts.

    First (actually this was to be my second point last night), you’re seriously over-generalizing when you deny atheists’ “capacity for reason” in their fields. It’s not entirely wrong: I agree that Nick spouts nonsense, and I have noted how often D”L” has trouble avoiding logical fallacies and other failures in discourse.

    Nevertheless, though I don’t know what Nick has contributed to the progress of science, I have to believe that his getting a Ph.D. at Berkeley means he knows how to do science. D”L” has a Ph.D. in physics, which doesn’t come by being globally stupid. Physicists who accept the Copenhagen interpretation can be brilliant and productive scientists; for after all, how did it get its Copenhagen name? You seem to be denying this, which (if I may quote you) is preposterous on its face.

    It’s inaccurate, disrespectful, and dehumanizing on your own part to deny the image of God in these men of scientific brilliance or in some cases (for example, the originators of “Copenhagen”) great genius.Of course their genius does not extend to all aspects of knowledge; of course they are desperately, foolishly, and fatally wrong in certain absolutely crucial respects. You correctly identify their error as idolatry. That’s all desperately bad enough. That’s where the focus of our discussion belongs. It doesn’t belong in areas where they are not similarly blind or ignorant.

    Not only is it inaccurate and falsely demeaning to globalize as you have done, it’s also really poor persuasive strategy. My purpose here is not to berate atheism but to win over atheists to truth. I trust that is your purpose as well. Stick with your arguments against a person’s atheism and he’ll have to deal with your arguments against his atheism. By all means bring the PSR into the discussion when it is relevant.

    But if you tell a Ph.D. that he is globally inept because he is an atheist, you can expect him to dismiss you completely, on the plain evidence that he is not globally inept. Your arguments against his atheism will fall on deaf ears, for he will have sufficient reason to be confident that your own position is inept.

    Second, your characterization of historic Protestant theology as Neil’s “personal opinion” is incorrect and disrespectful.

    Third, your statement that this theology is “duly noted and rejected” is your own opinion. Reject it if you will, but please speak for yourself.

    Fourth, I have a dual objection to what you have said concerning sola scriptura:
    a. I disagree with you, for starters; I believe the rejection of sola scriptura is the error; but
    b. This is not the place to bring it up for argument. It’s a separate discussion of its own. In a blog post on naturalism and science it’s way off topic.

  36. G. Rodrigues says:

    Note: I hope Tom Gilson won’t object to me straying off-topic and ask a couple of questions directly to Mr. Holopupenko. I promise I won’t turn this into a discussion inside a discussion. If this is inappropriate, then feel free to delete this post, possibly adding a note warning me that it was deleted (or send an email).

    @Holopupenko:

    Since Olegt has brought in QM and the usual rot about uncaused events, I wonder if you have read “The Quantum Enigma” by Wolfgang Smith, an A-T interpretation of QM? This stuff is way over my head, but do you think it has a leg to stand on? There is a review here: http://brightmorningstar.blog.com/2008/02/10/a-review-of-wolfgangs-smiths-the-quantum-enigma

    My second question is more of a request. My training and competence is in mathematics, and I always found its philosophy fascinating. But if I find Platonism unsatisfying for various reasons that I won’t go over and Formalism is even more problematic; it smacks too much of Nominalism and it really repels me.

    Note: although Intuitionism also hinges on these ontological questions, I tend to view it, or more precisely, constructivism, as dealing with issues orthogonal to the Platonist-Formalist axis, like the nature of proof, the interpretation of the logical connectives, etc. And as a *practicing* mathematician, it is often useful to restrict oneself to constructivist principles (e.g. when doing Topos theory) even if, like myself, one has no problem with non-constructive proofs and principles.

    One reason for being repelled by Formalism is because it runs contrary to the subjective — meaning, first person — *experience* of doing mathematics. Every mathematician knows the feeling of doing “symbol-pushing”; you are just mechanically applying syntactic rules to prove a theorem but you do not have any real *understanding*. I will call this stage the computer-stage, because similarly, we can program a computer to blindly apply transformation rules and churn out theorems, but this procedure, besides being ineffective in the extreme, does not advance one iota our understanding. But then there is this higher stage of comprehension, where things just fall into place, an harmonious and pure unity. This can be an experience akin to an aesthetic experience, although not exactly the same. But this experience is universally widespread among mathematicians, which to me it means that there is some objective quality in mathematics that gives rise to this experience. But how can this be, if mathematics is just a game?

    I am sure that it is possible to puncture holes in my naive argument (e.g. pointing out the example of chess), but at this point I really do not care. Anyway, to make a long story short, I have been collecting some books on philosophy and Thomism as my understanding is woefully inadequate (M. Loux and M. Jubien on Metaphysics, E. Feser on Aquinas, maybe followed by Coppleston, E. Gilson, etc.) and I plan on reading these in the near future. So my question is this: do you know any book that specifically treats mathematics from an A-T perspective contrasting it with the other schools? Even better, an online resource (but this is probably asking too much)?

  37. Holopupenko says:

    Tom:

    Point by point:

    You’ll have to show me where I (me, Holopupenko) “den[ied] the image of God in these men” or where I denied their “capacity for reason.” I repeat my point: it’s the sin of acted out atheist that is dehumanizing them—as all sin dehumanize any sinner. Atheism is a direct, intentional, and vociferous violation of the First Commandment. That makes it a mortal sin, whether you agree with distinguishing between the severity of sin or not. Sin dehumanizes, and as much as we are rational creatures, the first thing to go is our reason. My pointing out that fact in these guys doesn’t make me the actualizer of that that dehumanization.

    Regarding the “geniuses” who promulgated the range of ideas which eventually crystallized into the “Copenhagen Interpretation,” I’m not going to spend time here explaining what currents of thought were exacerbating the already hyper-empiriological commitment of Heisenberg, Born… and actually pretty much all the “fathers” of quantum physics. For heaven’s sake, why do you think (using your words) they’re “desperately, foolishly, and fatally wrong in certain absolutely crucial respects”? What do you think led to that rather categorical (but correct) appraisal of yours? Were they all atheists? No. Did they swallow, to a greater or lesser extent, ideas of atheists? Absolutely.

    I know the history of the experiments that initiated the revolution in thinking. I also know what ideas (positivism, neo-Kantianism, logicism, etc.) and how they influenced these guys’ thinking. It’s not a pretty picture. It’s actually pretty repugnantly anti-scientific, so to repeat what I said before (with all due respect, it’s not sinking in): “the non sequitur that an interaction which cannot be measured exactly therefore cannot take place exactly: you [olegt, DL, etc.] illicitly jump from an epistemic operationally-descriptive vision to the imposition of ontological status.”

    That’s what animates my arguments against atheism: it is not only a dehumanizing evil, it’s squarely against reality: it calls back to the pre-creation chaos of “the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss.”

    So, “globally inept because he is an atheist”? Well, on a certain level that’s exactly correct. Are you seriously—really seriously—telling me DL, olegt, etc. are not globally inept? Really? If you only include the ability to skillfully deal with mathematical physics as your criterion, then you’ve already abstracted from them as human beings. I’m talking about the whole person and the effect atheism has—yes—even on their ability to do science. THAT is plainly evident.

    Now, indeed you are correct: it goal is to win over atheists to truth. BUT, it their very atheism precludes that ability (with very few examples of monumental efforts to overcome that debility—Anthony Flew comes to mind), then one would tread very close to the sin of omission to not point out the blatant effect atheism has on these guys.

    Atheism is diabolical.

    Regarding Neil, frankly I’m tired of Christians injecting Biblical references or notions into scientific discussions (which is why, for among other reasons, I have deep problems with ID, Craig’s and Moreland’s univocity of being, and Plantinga’s rants over methodological naturalism). How many times does it have to be said: Christianity—actually, per your book review from a few weeks ago—CATHOLIC Christianity is what made the “scientific revolution” possible… NOT the Enlightenment, not Protestantism. That’s where the credit should be given. But to then—directly or by implication—use Scripture to validate (or worse, dictate) understandings of the physical world, is to open oneself to the dumbest of errors… and the scorn of atheists. Talk about “poor persuasive strategy.”

    Moreover, indeed it was Neil’s personal opinion—no matter the source, it was still his opinion. You are correct that the sola Scriptura heresy doesn’t belong in this discussion. I intentionally and provocatively threw it in there to emphasize my previous point. Apart from that, there is no way you can find any Scriptural support for sola Scriptura, and, no, the Bible is not the one foundation and pillar of truth. It is a heresy—plain and simple—just like sola fides is heresy.

    Rodrigues:

    First: spot-on correct: olegt and DI uncaused events is rot.

    I was riffling through the pages of Smith’s book just before typing this… because it put a smile on my face to read your message. I’m puzzled, though, Smith’s book shouldn’t be “way over your head,” especially given your mathematics training and your impressive command of the knowledge. Are you leading me on?

    Thank goodness Platonism is found unsatisfying. Drop it like a hot potato. Interestingly, I had a lunch discussion with the newly appointed chair of our Mathematics Department. He’s a deeply-committed Catholic, a smart fellow, very charitable, and very interested in this stuff as well. But, he’s a self-admitted Platonist: it’s a reoccurring problem among mathematicians and physicists. Oh well…

    The book review is by Fr. William Wallace, with whom I had the good fortunate to take a course on the philosophy of nature (AT based). So, my first recommendation would be his book The Modeling of Nature. I also strongly recommend Fr. Benedict Ashely’s The Way Toward Wisdom. From somewhere on the web you can download Fr. Stanley Jaki’s unpublished article “A Late Awakening to Godel in Physics” regarding Hawking from a few years ago. Unfortunately, Hawking’s gone south in his thinking since then. There’s Also Kurt Riezler’s Physics and Reality I highly recommend anything you can get your hands on by Michael Augros (currently teaching at Thomas Aquinas College) and Ric Machuga (currently teaching at Butte College, for which in my opinion, he’s way over-qualified). There is also Anthony Rizzi’s Science Before Science, which is a fair read, but I have some issues with it. Maritain is good, but he’s of the Duhem camp that believes there’s an impassable chasm between philosophy of nature and strict physics—I don’t agree with him. Feser is great. Mortimer Adler’s online “Radical Academy” will provide lots of food for thought and is an excellent resource. AT mathematics in particular? Hmmm… need to think about that. I’ve got it easy, and easiness makes me lazy: I can go any time to our university library which has a great collection of Thomism resources covering all sorts of perspectives and issues. My recommendation: this material requires lots of time, patience, and repetition. The concepts of being alone (with the associated concepts of substance, nature, and essence) one can spend a very rewarding lifetime on. Be patient with yourself. Also, precede your work and every time you think about this stuff with Aquinas’ ante stadium prayer.

    Regarding your Formalism and related questions regarding mathematics: that opens up a huge question regarding the levels of abstraction in the speculative sciences, which then permits us to understand the subject matter (proper object) of the sciences. I think once you tackle mathematics as a level of abstraction different from physics and metaphysics (for which separation rather than abstraction is the issue), and become acquainted with pretereal and mathematical beings of reason, at least some of your questions will be addressed—especially as it pertains to reduction back to real (extra-mental) beings.

    Hope that helps. God’s speed. We need more of you guys. Bless your battles and work in Europe.

  38. Tom Gilson says:

    Holopupenko,

    If at the end of this process it turns out I have misunderstood you in my criticisms that would be fine with me. I agree with much of what you say here. I certainly concur that sin acted out in atheism dehumanizes, for example. But I still can’t agree with it all.

    Here’s where I got the first criticism you respond to. First you had said,

    But to say atheists rationalize well even in their particular scientific fields is preposterous on its face.

    I asked you to clarify what you meant by “rationalize” and you answered, “the intended meaning behind it was ‘ability to reason.'” So I took it that you meant:

    But to say atheists have ability to reason well even in their particular scientific fields is preposterous on its face.

    This I disagree with for reasons already stated: it is too globalized. We have gazillion examples of atheists reasoning well in their scientific fields. I do not mean that every conclusion they reason to is sound, but that they demonstrate the ability to reason in certain domains at least, and that for some of them that ability is at the genius level. This is true even though when they reason on matters concerning God and Bible they produce distorted and deadly conclusions.

    The Copenhagen interpretation is wrong. Nevertheless the reasoning and experimental process by which its originators reached the point even of having the phenomena to interpret shows true genius. It was genius mixed with serious error, yes, but genius was in the mix regardless. These scientists had (all persons have, unless severely disabled) the ability to reason.

    Now, that ability to reason, which I affirm in atheists and all humans, is a reflection of the image of God in them. To deny that they have that ability is to deny the image of God in them, which dishonors God and disrespects the person. DL and olegt are not globally inept. You don’t get a Ph.D. by being globally inept. Sin darkens the whole person and to various degrees destroys certain capacities in the person. But it does not destroy every capacity completely. I have high respect for olegt’s mathematical and scientific skill. I have pretty much no respect for his logical (in)competence. I have great respect for DL’s academic and certain other accomplishments of which I am aware. I have very low respect for his logic and integrity. If I were to say they were globally inept I would be saying they can’t reason well in any circumstance on any topic, which would deny God’s work in them; but I can separate from that the errors and distortions that are evident at the same time.

    If I got that wrong, and you are not denying that they have that ability, then I misread you in spite of trying to get clarification.

    I affirm both Neil and Victoria for injecting scriptural knowledge concerning the heart of man into a discussion on naturalism. If you think he “directly or by implication—use[d] Scripture to validate (or worse, dictate) understandings of the physical world,” then you read something completely other than what he wrote. That’s not what he did.

    Your continuing insistence that what he wrote was “his personal opinion, no matter the source,” is disingenuous. On that basis everything everybody writes here, including you, is their personal opinion. Usually that description refers to that which is only personal opinion, not shared by others and not grounded in any source of authority. In view of that norm, the way you used it was misleading, dismissive, disrespectful.

    I will not chase you down your trail of heresy accusations, for I consider them needlessly provocative and unhelpful by reason of being off topic and coming off as harsh and angry toward fellow believers. What good does it do olegt to see this internecine squabbling going on? (And yes, I still disagree with you on both accusations, but I’m not going into that here.)

    So I call you once again to attack atheism but not to attack the good which God does even in atheists. I call on you to stay on topic. And I especially call on you to treat your fellow believers here with grace.

  39. Holopupenko says:

    Tom:

    “Reasoning well” is questionable and it is certainly not “reasoning per their human natures.” You can’t consider being, e.g., a good mathematical manipulator extracted and independent from the context of the human nature. That would be akin to saying “you’re too globalized in your criticisms when you say the car doesn’t work.” It may be true the alternator works to perfection… but at the end of the day the car doesn’t work because the car doesn’t work–the engine’s shot to h*ll. That’s a very weak analogy because the impact upon a human being of atheism acted out is much, much more serious: it’s a “system wide” impact. The result is to degrade–NOT completely as you impute to me–that person’s humanity.

    The definition of a human being is a rational animal, i.e., it’s in the very nature of a human being to think and behave rationally. Atheism’s first target is human reason–and it’s a very serious blow because it is a direct and intentional violation of the very first commandment. If a person continues, over many years, to intentionally actualize the mortal sin of atheism, they permit their humanity to be more and more chipped away. To quote from memory C.S. Lewis, that person if you met them in the afterlife would be a horrifying shell of their former selves, and you would run away in fear.

    My target IS atheism, but I point out the results of that sin’s insidious destructive power in how the reasoning capabilities of atheists here is in-your-face evident. Now, add to that the choices they make in supporting morally repugnant things like abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, moral relativism, etc., etc. Those latter problems result from a person’s inability to reason well, which of course results from atheism. Is everyone who supports abortion an atheist? No. But atheism without question leads to further terrible sins that now extend out from them to other people.

    Apart from all this, I take your points seriously, I take them very well, I honestly appreciate them, and I stand corrected on issues of MO. I withdraw my points on “heresy”–that was contextually wrong of me. I also take full responsibility for not being clear. And, I apologize for all these. I cannot, however, withdraw from my criticisms and condemnations of atheism nor from pointing out the inhuman impact it has upon its adherents. To miss what atheism has done to DI, olegt, Nick, etc., etc., is to be blind.

    In ten minutes I’m going on a road trip to see the Blue Angels, so I’ll be out of commission for the entire weekend.

  40. Tom Gilson says:

    Thanks, Holo. Enjoy the trip!

  41. olegt says:

    Bottom line: atheists are still stupid.

    If Holo did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.

  42. Tom Gilson says:

    Atheists are irrational in some extremely crucial aspects of life and knowledge.

  43. olegt says:

    That depends on your viewpoint, Tom. If you are a believer, you might think atheists are foolish. However, stupid they are not.

    Needless to say, as an atheist, I might think it is foolish to believe in God. However, I would not say that believers are stupid.

    But since Holo has left the building, perhaps we should draw our conclusions from this experience and abandon the subject. He is not here to defend further incriminate himself.

  44. Tom Gilson says:

    No. One’s opinion on that may depend on one’s viewpoint, but the truth of it does not.

    I didn’t use the word “stupid,” by the way. It’s too imprecise and prone to error and misinterpretation. “Foolish” is much better. “Irrational” fits to a fair degree. Though I don’t doubt atheists can be rational in some domains, your overall life approach is contrary to rationality.

  45. olegt says:

    I didn’t say you did. Hint.

    And when you say contrary to rationality, speak for yourself and don’t forget to qualify it: contrary to what I think is rational.

  46. Tom Gilson says:

    No, thanks. I’m more convinced than that.

  47. olegt says:

    No kidding, Tom? A Christian apologist is convinced! Film at 11.

  48. Tom Gilson says:

    You asked. (Close enough, at any rate.)

  49. AR says:

    “The Copenhagen interpretation is wrong. ”

    Really? Why do you think so?

  50. G. Rodrigues says:

    @AR:

    I suppose the question is directed to Holopupenko, but I will chime in and ask you a couple of questions to clear the ground.

    (A) Why do you favour the Copenhagen interpretation to the other existing ones (many-worlds, relational, D. Bohm, etc.)? Of course, this is a *huge* topic and no combox comment can do it justice, but can you sketch a reason?

    (B) What does it mean for you that a QM interpretation is wrong? What would count for you as evidence that a particular QM interpretation is wrong?

    And by the way, I believe Holopupenko alludes to his reasons somewhere in this thread (but I may be mistaken). If I have not misunderstood him, the main reason is because Copenhagen jettisons the principle of sufficient reason and this kills science, because there can be no science without this principle. The talk about “uncaused events” and such is sloppy talk, usually made by people who do not understand what an uncaused event is or even grasp that if an uncaused event actually happened we would simply be *unable* to rationally explain it. It would literally be magic and outside the reach of rationality.

    Note: I take that back, it is worse than magic. Read the “Golden Bough” by James Frazer; the first few chapters of the abridged version should be enough. It is a golden oldie, largely supplanted by more recent work on anthropology, but enough for the purposes at hand.

  51. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Holopupenko:

    Thanks a lot for the references and the kind words of encouragement.

  52. olegt says:

    G. Rodriguez,

    Here is a brief explanation why Bohm’s version of quantum mechanics is a failure. Scroll down for further discussion.

  53. Nick (Matzke) says:

    Whoa! What the hey? I offered a quite neutral comment, and everyone bites my head off for it. I was actually kinda-sorta endorsing Tom’s suggestion that a completely deterministic universe is imaginable as the kind of universe God would create:

    I don’t think this is the universe we live in; but if it were, it could only be a universe that was incredibly rational at every level of its being and its history. It would make for an interesting thought experiment, or perhaps a sci-fi novel. It would be a lot more like a universe ruled by God than a naturalist/materialist universe, don’t you think?

    So all I was doing was drawing out a little further the point that, yes, it seems possible to conceive of a deterministic universe where the creatures act rationally. But then Tom responds with this:

    “Through the use of logic”? Really?! I thought it was by deterministic processes. Do you think there’s any sense in which the two are or could be the same processes? And you honestly think that’s a philosophically easy, unproblematical case to make?!

    Let me try to explain again what I was trying to say. Presumably you accept that computers can do math. Thus, the computer is doing logical operations. Furthermore, it is doing them completely deterministically — the same inputs produce the same outputs, every time. The fact that the conclusions the computer reaches are reached deterministically does not undermine the contention that they are logically correct, and were reached through the use of logic.

    One can also imagine a deterministic input-output computer that does math incorrectly, due to logical errors embedded in the hardware or software.

    And, obviously, one can imagine a completely deterministic universe where both sorts of computers exist, with no incoherence. Someone with sufficient knowledge could predict the conclusions that both sorts of computers would reach.

    So what’s the huge freakin’ deal here? Nick Has Been Annoying On Past Threads So We Will Fire The Cannons At Him No Matter What He Says?

    Also, I specifically said I wasn’t taking a position on the actual facts of determinism vs. nondeterminism or their implications for theism vs. atheism. It’s not something I have thought about very much, except to notice that e.g. the deists & atheists in the 1700s-1800s seemed to be determinists under the influence of the success of Newtonian dynamics — “matter in motion” and all that, whereas the ones today tend to emphasize quantum randomness at the bottom of everything. Some theisms seem to be determinist — e.g. hardcore Calvinist predestination doctrine, others emphasize the freedom of the universe, e.g. some versions of modern theistic evolutionism.

    But, I freely admit, I haven’t studied this much, so maybe I’m missing something — Tom, please educate me, what does Christian theism say is The Right Answer on determinism vs. nondeterminism?

  54. G. Rodrigues says:

    @olegt:

    I was already aware (of some) of the problems of D. Bohm’s interpretation, mainly the existence of non-local variables that opens up a nasty can of worms, but thanks for the reference anyway. I cannot resist making two comments:

    1. It’s been a long while since I last looked at it, but it always seemed to me that the proof that the collapse of the wave function cannot be exploited to transmit signals faster than the speed of light, while formally correct, looked “fishy”, like those trials where the accused gets away free of the charges on a mere technicality.

    2. As someone who started out in physics and ended up in mathematics, the words “Feynman Path integral” remind me of why I made the jump.

  55. Victoria says:

    Hi Nick!
    Well, just to start the ball rolling on your question….

    Christianity would say that God created us as rational, moral beings, (in His image) capable of having a relationship with Him. It would say that humans corrupted that image through a free moral choice to disobey God (sin, aka The Fall in Genesis 3). That relationship is based on faith, trust and love, and made possible through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection (for our moral failure and separation from God).
    It would say that God holds us accountable for our choices, actions and even our thoughts.

    Even if a completely deterministic universe was something that God could have created, it seems that He didn’t, for He truly desires to have that loving relationship with us – can it be truly called love if it is forced from us, or if we had no choice? Heaven will be populated by those who love God and want to be with Him forever, Hell will be for those who hate Him and want nothing to do with Him.

    I suppose this is a reason why the Bible’s teaching on predestination is seemingly so paradoxical.

  56. Victoria says:

    @G. Rodrigues

    As someone who started out in physics and ended up in mathematics, the words “Feynman Path integral” remind me of why I made the jump.

    Were you in a superposition state of
    | physicist > and | mathematican > ? 🙂

  57. Tom Gilson says:

    Further on why I disagreed with Nick: apparently I made a mistake. When he said “think rationally,” I thought he meant “think rationally.” Computers aren’t the first thing that pops to my mind in that context, nor are they the second; and when they do come to mind it is only to reflect on the fact that their ability to “perform logical operations” is nothing like the ability to think rationally. They’re not thinking, and they are not rational in any sense similar to that in which humans can be (and often are).

    I don’t think computers can do math. I think they can process inputs and produce outputs that we interpret as math. Or, what they can do is run current through switches. It’s not the same as doing math.

    I’m really surprised, Nick, that you were surprised at my response. I’ve had this same conversation often here. Have you never been a part of it?

    Thank you for pointing toward much of the rest of the answer, Victoria.

  58. Victoria says:

    @Tom
    Thank you for pointing toward much of the rest of the answer, Victoria

    I could not seem to stop myself 🙂

  59. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Nick:

    Presumably you accept that computers can do math.

    In a simplified way what a computer *machine* does is read one by one a sequence of instructions (that we call a program, written by an agent, the programmer), the execution of which consists in the change of the internal state of the computer (memory, hard disk, whatever peripherals you have connected). Does this look like doing mathematics to you?

    And, obviously, one can imagine a completely deterministic universe where both sorts of computers exist, with no incoherence. Someone with sufficient knowledge could predict the conclusions that both sorts of computers would reach.

    You lost me here. How is this type of universe suppose to contain rational creatures? Or if that is not the point you were trying to support, what is exactly you are trying to say?

  60. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Victoria:

    Were you in a superposition state of | physicist > and | mathematican > ?

    You are onto something. Some benevolent soul must have observed me, collapsing my state to | mathematican >. I owe him some heartfelt thanks. Hmm, I wonder who he is…

  61. Nick (Matzke) says:

    Computers aren’t the first thing that pops to my mind in that context, nor are they the second; and when they do come to mind it is only to reflect on the fact that their ability to “perform logical operations” is nothing like the ability to think rationally. They’re not thinking, and they are not rational in any sense similar to that in which humans can be (and often are).

    I don’t think computers can do math. I think they can process inputs and produce outputs that we interpret as math. Or, what they can do is run current through switches. It’s not the same as doing math.

    OK OK, so there is huge debate to be had about whether “thinking” is basically mysterious-soul-spookiness going on, or very complex calculation in a meat computer, or something else. I’m not hugely interested in having that debate at the moment.

    I will say, though, that if anything in human thought and brain physiology might eventually be demonstrably due to some logical circuitry in the brain, things like simple mathematical operations might be it. Whether or not you believe in a soul or materialism or whatever, isn’t it pretty reasonable to think that when a human does math, the brain is storing some representation of numbers, and is doing some manipulation of those numbers to produce a result? Surely even devout hardcore dualists think the brain is doing *something* here, correct?

  62. AR says:

    G. Rodrigues,

    “I suppose the question is directed to Holopupenko”

    Actually at Tom Gilson, who made the statement in question.

    “(A) Why do you favour the Copenhagen interpretation to the other existing ones (many-worlds, relational, D. Bohm, etc.)? ”

    (B) What does it mean for you that a QM interpretation is wrong? What would count for you as evidence that a particular QM interpretation is wrong?”

    I don’t have any problem with any interpretation that reproduces experimental results (as olegt says, Bohm’s interpretation does not seem to be in this category).

    “the main reason is because Copenhagen jettisons the principle of sufficient reason and this kills science”

    But this is obviously nonsense. Quantum mechanics and science have been working just fine for the last century.

  63. G. Rodrigues and Tom,
    At the risk of opening up a can of worms here, I would like to know exactly why everyone seems to hate Copenhagen so much. Can you guys explain what you think Copenhagen (in its strong form; the weak form is pretty nebulous) says and why it is so obviously false? Actually, some of the physicists (like Wigner) who adhered to Copenhagen do not seem to have been motivated by naturalism and indeed seemed to think it was clear evidence for dualism.

    -Neil

  64. Tom Gilson says:

    I’m not really all that committed either way, Neil. I spoke hastily earlier. I have my doubts about Copenhagen as I understand it, because it seems to indicate that quantum events happen apart from causation, but I’m not settled in an opinion.

  65. Tom Gilson says:

    Nick, if you’re not interested in the debate over whether what computers do is really thinking, then why are you pressing it?

    If I were you I’d be embarrassed over this logical-circuitry-in-the-brain-of-the-gaps reasoning. I mean, “might eventually“? What’s that supposed to demonstrate? (New commenters here please note that Nick has a history here.)

    And yes, “the brain is doing ‘something,'” but what conclusions should one draw from that? Do you suppose that’s new information for every one of us who has thought about this? You’ll have to offer more to start with than that, or else I’m just not interested in replaying the obvious.

    You might start by clarifying just how a brain manipulates numbers. I’ll even give you another hint: what are numbers? We have reason to believe the brain manipulates electrochemical events inside the skull. What relation does the manipulation of numbers have to the manipulation of chemicals, voltages, and currents?

  66. olegt says:

    G. Rodriguez wrote:

    1. It’s been a long while since I last looked at it, but it always seemed to me that the proof that the collapse of the wave function cannot be exploited to transmit signals faster than the speed of light, while formally correct, looked “fishy”, like those trials where the accused gets away free of the charges on a mere technicality.

    I am not sure how you managed to form that impression. Either quantum theory permits instantaneous transmission of information through wavefunction collapse or it doesn’t. How is that a technicality? It would be nothing short of a revolution if you could transmit signals instantaneously. The very foundations of physics would be shattered. Instantaneous communication, paired with relativity, would mean violation of causality: in a moving frame, a signal traveling instantaneously would be seen moving back in time.

    Perhaps you meant to say the proof was too technical?

    2. As someone who started out in physics and ended up in mathematics, the words “Feynman Path integral” remind me of why I made the jump.

    Mathematicians have always been suspicious of new mathematics that came from physicists. If I remember correctly, mathematicians frowned upon Dirac’s delta function, which turned out to be a highly useful device.

    As a biased physicist, I very much like Vladimir Arnol’d’s attitude:

    A teacher of mathematics, who has not come to grips with at least some of the volumes of the course by Landau and Lifshitz, will then become a relict like the one nowadays who does not know the difference between an open and a closed set.

    * Flame war *

  67. Tom Gilson says:

    Even though I’m not thoroughly committed to rejecting Copenhagen, I want to say to AR that (a) I agree science has not been killed since Copenhagen, but (b) for an interpretation to reproduce experimental results is insufficient. It also needs to be consistent with other knowledge. “Every event has a sufficient cause” is the knowledge most in question under Copenhagen.

  68. Tom, understood. I’m just trying to understand why people keep remarking that Copenhagen is a “science-stopper.” Even if someone said something like “The Copenhagen interpretation says that quantum events happen without causation” (which I don’t think accurately characterizes Copenhagen) I don’t see how that stops science.

    Any physicists will tell you that for all practical purposes, macroscopic events can be traced to definite physical causes. Adopting this kind of extreme a-causal Copenhagen would still be like someone saying “99.999999999999999% of human beings have two biological parents” to which our hypothetical phisolopher responds “well, so much for geneaologies. Admitting to a virgin birth is a geneology stopper. Let’s all just throw up our hands and go home.” In the same way, I don’t see how admitting that some small fraction of events is uncaused (which -I repeat- I am not convinced that Copenhagen itself implies) necessitates the destruction of science. Wouldn’t we still be justified in continuing to look for causes for the remaining 99.9999999999% of events?

    Incidentally, how does the principle of sufficient reason apply to the actions of human agents? Obviously, God’s actions are explained by recourse to his nature. But are our actions similarly explained? If are fully explained by our nature so that they “could not have been otherwise” then in what sense could we be said to have free will? But if our actions “could have been otherwise”, then isn’t this a breakdown of the principle of sufficient reason?

    -Neil

  69. olegt says:

    Neil:

    I don’t see how admitting that some small fraction of events is uncaused (which -I repeat- I am not convinced that Copenhagen itself implies)

    But it’s a matter of principle, isn’t it?

    I think the starkest case in point is the Stern-Gerlach experiment. A spin of length 1/2 polarized along +z returns a definite value of its projection (+1/2) when measured along the z axis. When measured along x, the results are +1/2 and −1/2 with equal probabilities and, as far as we understand, entirely random.

    At least, according to the accepted theory.

  70. Olegt, it’s fine if people want to argue over whether “ontological Copenhagen” undermines philosophical principles. But people seemed to be arguing that ontological Copenhagen would entirely undermine all science to the extent that it is a “science stopper.” I am just asking whether this is true. It seems to me that even on the most extreme ontological Copenhagen interpretation, we could still continue to look for causes in the vast, vast, vast majority of experiments. Another example would be to claim that tiny ping-pong balls pop into existence uncaused on Alpha-Centauri. If I really believed this claim, would it necessitate all science grinding to a halt? Wouldn’t it merely stop me (rightly or wrongly) from searching for causes for the ex nihilo creation of ping-pong balls on Alpha Centauri? In fact, I think this is precisely what most Copenhagen-favoring physicists do. They would not bother to seek for causes in the Stern-Gerlach experiement, but that would not stop them from seeking causes for the collapse of a bridge.

    -Neil

  71. olegt says:

    Of course, the randomness I am talking about is limited to the quantum world and does not manifest itself on the macroscopic side. The law of large numbers makes things quite predictable.

    But I don’t think these people are worried about the practical side. They are afraid that there are events, however microscopic, that are controlled by no one. It’s a slippery slope.

  72. Oleg,
    Well, I’ll be curious to see how the philosophers in the audience respond. Again, I’m not attacking anyone. I just would like someone to explain what they think Copenhagen says that is so objectionable, why it is so objectionable, and why it is a “science stopper.”

    -Neil

  73. AR says:

    It seems that some people feel that the Copenhagen interpretation is contrary to the Principle of Sufficient Reason ( “Every event has a sufficient cause” ). But is there any interpretation of quantum mechanics that avoids this? For example, take the experiment given by olegt in comment 69. How could this be made consistent with the PSR?

  74. Crude says:

    Neil,

    I think part of the problem is that if you accept that things can pop into existence utterly without cause in one case – if this has become the stuff of accepted explanation – then in principle you can accept it in any case. Olegt says that this is, of course, limited to the quantum world. But the natural reply is, who is imposing this limit? Maybe it takes place in the macroscopic world too. A large part of the reason ‘well, it just happened, no explanation’ doesn’t fly in science isn’t because of great theories to the contrary, but because ‘it just happened, no explanation’ wasn’t seen as a position available to a scientist as a scientist.

    I think the other part of the problem, the part I would emphasize, is that there is no observing this nothingness or this thing-without-cause. As in, no one ever sees something pop into existence from nothingness without cause, etc. They see something, and make inferences about its cause – or in this case, its lack of cause. And I think there’s a strong case to be made that in this case, those inferences aren’t science – they’re philosophy. It’s every bit as scientific as saying that whatever is ‘setting the values’ that we see cannot be physical, ergo it must be non-physical, and ergo God is a possible explanation for what we see in quantum physics. Why, God is even implied by the data! (Or so the argument can go.)

    I’m showing up in this conversation late, but that’s pretty much what it comes down to for me. Someone can believe in things popping into existence or happening utterly without cause if they want – believe whatever. Just don’t call it science.

  75. G. Rodrigues says:

    @All:

    About the Copenhagen interpretation:

    First, I should apologize for my superficial construal of Holopupenko’s position; it runs much deeper than just the issues around the principle of sufficient reason and would probably start much earlier, with a proper conception of the philosophy of nature (not to be confused with physics or any empirical science for that matter). Maybe the man himself will chime in later.

    I will try later to give my reasons for disliking the Copenhagen interpretation, but make no promises. Although I tend to check the blog regularly for new comments, the time and the disposition to actually write one is not exactly abundant. And this is a *big* issue. And while the general structure of quantum mechanics is firmly implanted on my mind, courtesy of several months of almost military drilling, God is in the details and I probably would have to hit the books so as not make some egregious mistake. And… well, you can see where this is going.

    Personally, I do not have any definite position but was always kind of partial towards D. Bohm’s interpretation and secretly rooted for its success. But what drawed me to it, is also its biggest problem: non-local variables. Maybe if and when I have some more philosophical teeth and properly understand Metaphysics, Thomism and a few more stuff, my head will be clearer and I will be able to make a more informed judgement.

  76. Crude and G.R.,
    I understand the distinction you’re making between science and philosophy, but I think it cuts both ways. I agree that both “Some things happen without a cause” and “Nothing happens without a cause” are both philosophical statements. But consequently, I would like to know why “Some things happen without a cause” is obvious philosophical rubbish. For instance, do our human choices fall under the principle of sufficient reason or not? At the very least, I think it’s worth actually explicitly stating your reasoning here rather than just tersely dismissing Copenhagen as “bad philosophy”.

    Also, it’s worth pointing out that many physicists were drawn kicking and screaming to a non-realist version of QM. They hated the idea of “causeless” events which ontological Copenhagen asserts. However, they felt (rightly or wrongly) that this position was imposed on them by the experiments. Here, I wish someone would explain the Bell experiment. This is the real heart of the matter. The Bell experiment proves that no local hidden variable model can explain the observed results and some physicists feel that this implies ontological Copenhagen. To keep repeating that empirical evidence can never make us doubt the Principle of Sufficient Reason without giving any explanation of the Bell experiment is insufficient. Apparently, some physcists do think that the Bell experiment gives us empirical evidence to doubt the Principle of Sufficient Reason. So I think it’s important for philosophers to at least make an attempt to show why they’re wrong and how this experiment can be explained.
    -Neil

  77. Crude says:

    Neil,

    But consequently, I would like to know why “Some things happen without a cause” is obvious philosophical rubbish.

    While I believe it’s philosophical rubbish – more on that in a moment – I actually didn’t intend to show that here. All I wanted to do was argue that it’s a philosophical statement, not a scientific one. At the same time, I wanted to point out how this conclusion is being reached – it’s not that we put absolute nothingness on the examination table, and perform some experiments to see if things happen or pop into existence utterly without cause. The best that happens is we observe things or things happening and have no physical explanation for them.

    Like I said, I’m content with people believing that some things pop into existence uncaused or whatever else they wish. What bothers me is the move of ‘science shows that things pop into existence totally without cause!’ Which inevitably melts into ‘Well, some scientists think this! That makes it science!’

    To keep repeating that empirical evidence can never make us doubt the Principle of Sufficient Reason without giving any explanation of the Bell experiment is insufficient. Apparently, some physcists do think that the Bell experiment gives us empirical evidence to doubt the Principle of Sufficient Reason.

    First, we’d have to examine the physicists reasons for doing so. “Because we can’t think of what could possibly be serving as a cause” wouldn’t cut it – that would just be a state of ignorance, perhaps permanent. “Because we’ve observed absolute nothingness and this is consistent with its capabilities” is unavailable. “Because the only possible causes we accept would be physical, and physical causes as we define them could not be responsible for this” would be a case of metaphysics driving interpretation.

    Second, it seems to me that the same reasons someone could have for concluding anything is or happens uncaused could be used for other explanations that embrace causes. Say, 1) The cause is immaterial, or 2) God is the source of these causes, or 3) We live in a simulated universe, or… etc. Of course, the reply could be, ‘Immaterial? God? VR? That’s outrageous!’ OTOH, the counter-reply would be, ‘Says the guy embracing things happening without cause.’

    I want to note here that I’m talking about the idea of something coming from absolute nothingness, completely uncaused (or to a lesser degree, things happening utterly without cause). But like you, I’m skeptical that this is what ‘the Copenhagen interpretation’ means.

    Finally, I want to point out one way the PSR is relevant here. One complaint I’ve repeatedly come across re: theistic explanations is that God is a science stopper. You’ve mentioned this previously, but you took ‘science stopper’ to mean, I think, ‘science, as a field or even as an industry, entirely or largely grinds to a halt’. But I think the more relevant version of ‘science stopper’ is “It halts all inquiry on the subject in question”. In other words, “God did it” = “No need to investigate this anymore, because we’re not going to find an explanation”. Now, I think that’s an incorrect view for a number of reasons – but I will say that accepting uncaused causes, or things popping into existence uncaused from absolute nothingness, *is* a science stopper in that sense. It also seems to be a reason stopper, since in this case the ‘stopping’ is total – it’s not just science, but every kind of reasoning, which halts.

  78. olegt says:

    Crude wrote:

    First, we’d have to examine the physicists reasons for doing so. “Because we can’t think of what could possibly be serving as a cause” wouldn’t cut it – that would just be a state of ignorance, perhaps permanent. “Because we’ve observed absolute nothingness and this is consistent with its capabilities” is unavailable. “Because the only possible causes we accept would be physical, and physical causes as we define them could not be responsible for this” would be a case of metaphysics driving interpretation.

    We can have a discussion like that, but it will have to be on a somewhat more technical level than usually happens here. We would have to first understand cases where apparent randomness is related to our ignorance (chaotic dynamics of classical systems). Then we would have to examine the randomness occurring in quantum measurements and see how that randomness is radically different. There is some prerequisite knowledge for this discussion, preferable at a level of a course in modern physics that includes some discussion of quantum mechanics.

  79. Crude says:

    olegt,

    We would have to first understand cases where apparent randomness is related to our ignorance (chaotic dynamics of classical systems). Then we would have to examine the randomness occurring in quantum measurements and see how that randomness is radically different. There is some prerequisite knowledge for this discussion, preferable at a level of a course in modern physics that includes some discussion of quantum mechanics.

    I’m happily granting that the (apparent) randomness at the quantum level could not be due to mundane physical causes. (Let’s leave something like Bohm out of this for now, and yeah, I know that Bohm’s view would hardly be called mundane even if someone agreed it worked.) So there’s no need to convince me that what we’re seeing at the quantum level is ‘radically different’ in that sense.

    It’s the “and therefore these things are uncaused” part where the meat occurs.

  80. olegt says:

    Crude,

    If you already know everything then why even ask? Go find the information yourself. It is at your fingertips.

  81. Crude says:

    olegt,

    If you already know everything then why even ask? Go find the information yourself. It is at your fingertips.

    For one, my question was partly rhetorical – giving an example of what the reasons could be in the abstract, not saying ‘gosh I have no idea what’s going on at all, someone tell me’. For another, I don’t mind – hell, I welcome – additional input. I think it will fit the outline I gave.

  82. olegt says:

    Well, maybe you should decide whether your question is rhetorical or not.

  83. Crude says:

    olegt,

    C’mon, relax. If you want to lay out the information, go right ahead – this conversation involves more than me after all. I may not be a physicist, but I’ve actually made a valiant effort in the past to read up about this. I stand by my outline.

  84. Nick (Matzke) says:

    You might start by clarifying just how a brain manipulates numbers. I’ll even give you another hint: what are numbers? We have reason to believe the brain manipulates electrochemical events inside the skull. What relation does the manipulation of numbers have to the manipulation of chemicals, voltages, and currents?

    The question “what are numbers?” leads straight to deep philosophy. Clearly they are abstract entities of some kind — heck, they might be ideas in the mind of God for all I know.

    But we don’t have to resolve that debate to say with some confidence that numbers are physically represented in the brain by neuron firing patterns. When you think of the number “2”, you get one pattern, and the number “3”, another pattern. Concepts like “addition” and other logical operations are presumably also so represented — even if it’s as simple as the child’s memorized operation “to figure out what 3+2 is, start from 3 and count up two steps”.

    So why isn’t it reasonable to say that the brain is conducting logical operations in such cases, and that this could well be basically similar in the end to the way a computer does such calculations, however much messier it is in the brain compared to a computer?

  85. Crude,
    I look forward to hearing a philosophical explanation for why the PSR is necessary, what justifies it, and especially how this principle relates to human choice. Incidentally, I’m glad that you appreciate “the (apparent) randomness at the quantum level could not be due to mundane physical causes” and that “what we’re seeing at the quantum level is ‘radically different’ in that sense.” I think a lot of physicists’ frustration comes from people saying things like “No, I don’t have time to understand the Bell experiment. I just know that Copenhagen is utter rubbish.” I think it’s always important to really try to understand the other person’s position and why they came to it, even if you reject it.
    -Neil

  86. Victoria says:

    @Nick

    Let’s look closely at the computer analogy.
    1. A computer system (it’s hardware, O/S control software, and application software) is, in fact, a hierarchical structure, with the lowest layer representing the underlying physics: solid state / semiconductor physics, electronic circuit theory, even thermodynamics, etc). The next layer is the semiconductor logic gate level, whereby the abstraction of boolean algebra is implemented by semiconductor devices purposefully designed to do that. The next level is the CPU, where logic gates are combined into components that represent yet a higher level of abstraction (arithmetic functions, for example). On top of that, these components are further combined into a complex system that implements the CPU’s instruction set, yet another layer of abstraction implemented by the lower layers. And so on, up through the O/S software, application building software (assemblers, compilers, linkers, libraries, IDE’s…), to an application itself. At this level, a sofware developer is imposing abstract concepts on top of an implementation framework.

    So we have this hierarchical structure, where any given layer is implemented by means of the layer below it(in the sense of ‘this is how it works’), but is not explained by it.

    I could describe (or discover) the workings of a Web-based application, for example, by its implementation (client side HTML and Javascript, server side ASP.NET/C# code) – that would explain its functioning, but not its function. These function(s) come from yet higher levels of abstraction that are imposed upon the implementation framework, from the outside. Who would ever explain how Word 2007 works in terms of solid state physics and electronic circuit theory, even though at the lowest levels, that is what the computer is doing? Similarly, it would not make sense to explain the abstract concepts of document processing software in terms of C# code, now would it? If you wanted to know how Word 2007 implements those concepts, then we can talk C# and .NET.

    To get back to your question:

    So why isn’t it reasonable to say that the brain is conducting logical operations in such cases, and that this could well be basically similar in the end to the way a computer does such calculations, however much messier it is in the brain compared to a computer?

    It is reasonable to say that this is what is going on at the lowest levels of the hierarchy. What is not reasonable is to say that the brain nothing but that.
    You have to explain both the functional hierarchy, and who, or what, programmed it?

  87. Victoria says:

    Arghh!
    I keep trying to edit my last post to correct the typographical errors, but now it seems that I can’t.

  88. Victoria says:

    Let me throw this into the discussion for consideration:

    What if, without Christian Theism and its concept of reality, we would be like 2D+T Flatlanders, unaware that they are really living in a 3D+T universe?

    In Christianity, ‘God created the universe out of nothing, to operate as a uniformity(regular, ordered) of cause and effect in an open system’. (see Isaiah 45:18-19, for example). Basically, then, the reality in which we live is more than what we can observe; there is both Someone who transcends it (an eternal, self-existent Creator) and a larger reality that encompasses it (a super-nature, “Eternity”, that we are but a subset of). Christian physicists are certainly not subscribers to metaphysical naturalism, and do not have to be constrained by a strict methodological naturalism either – we can be open to the possibility that events can be introduced into our stream from the super-nature that encompasses ours. Christianity also says that God is rational, unchanging and not capricious (unlike the false gods of the pagans), so there is no warrant to the idea that this means the end of science.

    To my point then, how does this affect how we look at these subtle and profound questions of QM?

  89. Crude says:

    Neil,

    I look forward to hearing a philosophical explanation for why the PSR is necessary, what justifies it, and especially how this principle relates to human choice.

    From me? Why? I thought the focus was on why there are objections to the idea that things occur utterly without cause, or that things come into existence uncaused from nothingness, and why saying ‘science shows..’ that these things happen is deeply problematic. That’s more than enough for me, and I think the key issue – the ‘science says’ part – can have strong objections lodged against it before even bringing the PSR into play. That’s the part that mostly concerns me.

    I think it’s always important to really try to understand the other person’s position and why they came to it, even if you reject it.

    Well, I agree to a degree. And in this case, I’ve actually tried to read up on the fundamentals of quantum physics – what’s accessible to a layman anyway – from a variety of sources. I’ve read The Quantum Enigma, I’ve asked more knowledgeable friends of mine quite a lot, I’ve looked at the twin-slit experiment, the delayed choice experiment, and I’ve read more esoteric stuff from Henry Stapp, Richard Conn Henry, and others.

    I list the above not to show I’m an expert – I’m not – but just to submit that I’ve really made an effort to read up on this subject, just in case your comment about dismissing things without even hearing the other side was backhanded (pardon if it wasn’t – I’m not the best with sarcasm today.)

  90. Sorry, Crude. I wasn’t singling you out. I’ve definitely benefited from the rigorous philosophical analysis provided by Tom, G.R., Holo and others on this blog, especially about the distinction between empirical observation and reality or epistemology and ontology. But that’s why I found it odd that G.R. and Holo have talked about Copenhagen in strongly negative terms without providing any kind of explanation. I want to understand what makes them think it is so easily dismissed.

    -Neil

  91. olegt says:

    Crude:

    Well, I agree to a degree. And in this case, I’ve actually tried to read up on the fundamentals of quantum physics – what’s accessible to a layman anyway – from a variety of sources. I’ve read The Quantum Enigma, I’ve asked more knowledgeable friends of mine quite a lot, I’ve looked at the twin-slit experiment, the delayed choice experiment, and I’ve read more esoteric stuff from Henry Stapp, Richard Conn Henry, and others.

    These sources do not inspire much confidence. Read a standard undergraduate textbook, Crude. David Griffiths’ Introduction to Quantum Mechanics is very readable and contains some discussion of the more philosophical aspects. Read David Mermin’s articles. And stay away from Stapp.

  92. Crude says:

    olegt,

    These sources do not inspire much confidence.

    Should I stay away from Richard Conn Henry? If you think he’s an ignoramus and/or deluded on the subject of quantum physics, I’d like to know.

    Your judgment on him, then?

    Either way, that list was not complete – just what I’d name off the top of my head. It’s been enough to appreciate that yes, quantum physics is strange to put it mildly. It’s also been enough to notice that people – including physicists – can take the empirical data and go off in a bunch of different directions with it. Which they’re welcome to do. It’s just philosophy, not science.

  93. olegt says:

    You’re asking too many questions, Crude. I’m afraid I have neither time nor desire to answer them. Try Holo when he returns. He claims to be a physicist, I hear.

  94. Victoria,
    Exactly! I think QM severely undermines naturalism and materialism not Christianity. It directly challenges the 19th-century assumption of a mechanistic, clockwork universe and asserts that there are realities beyond human comprehension or measurement. No problem for Christianity. Big problem for positivism.

    -Neil

  95. Reidish says:

    Hi Neil,

    I look forward to hearing a philosophical explanation for why the PSR is necessary, what justifies it, and especially how this principle relates to human choice.

    I don’t have a strong opinion one way or another on whether some strong form of the PSR is true, so won’t defend a view here. I’ve thought about it quite a bit, but have nothing fruitful to show for it.

    But if you’re interested to read further, I highly recommend Alexander Pruss’ work:

    http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com/search/label/Principle%20of%20Sufficient%20Reason

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/052185959X

  96. G. Rodrigues says:

    Ok, as promised (I bet you were all anxiously waiting for my post, right?) I will try to explain why I dislike the Copenhagen Interpretation of QM.

    – Warning: very long post ahead (divided in three).

    – I have the very bad habit of strewing my prose with a thick mine field of parenthetical remarks (it is a mannerism, no complete cure is available). Parenthesis are a great literary device if you are a Proust, but in a comment post they tend to be disruptive of the normal prose flow. So some of them will be transported to endnotes.

    – If you have the “Shut up and calculate” attitude[1] then you can stop *right here* as nothing will be of interest to you. This is simply a couple of very humdrum philosophical points.

    – If I were to explicate my philosophical position, I would probably have to say something about the philosophy of nature, the things that science *must* presuppose to get off the ground, etc. But I will not. Dr. Johnson, my lifelong hero, in replying to a lady about some incorrect definition in his dictionary said: “Ignorance, madame, pure ignorance”. While I will be making some philosophical points, the plain matter of fact is that I am not competent to make them. This of course, does not prevent me from opening my mouth and expressing my opinion vociferously, but on the other hand making a fool of myself is a sad spectacle I want to avoid, so I will tread carefully between the Scylla of having an opinion and the Charybdis of not *really* expressing it.

    – Let me state upfront that I am biased. I favor a realist philosophy of nature. I have a secret agenda. Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

    – It took me much longer to write this than I planned or wanted to. So while I will read anyone who wants to debunk me, correct me, straighten me out, or simply call me an idiot, do not expect me to engage in debates. Commenting on blogs can be very addictive but there are more important things to do than posting long, pedantic posts about QM. I neither have the time nor the patience for protracted debates and I find that continual engagement in them sours my temper.

    With these preliminary warnings over and done with, here goes.

    An interpretation is a sort of supplemental story, a narrative, that is added on top of the mathematical descriptions, to make sense of them. In the specific case of QM, it should respond to several questions like what is the ontological status of the objects on the side of the theory, how they get mapped to reality, what happens in a measurement, etc. It is along this axis that I will proceed.

    I should also note that even within the Copenhagen Interpretation (CI for short) there are variations. N. Bohr was certainly influenced by the logical positivists, but his thought is not by all means completely straightforward. Here, I will concentrate on the “extreme” viewpoints and for the sake of simplification, ignore the entire spectrum of colors and settle with the Black and White.

    (1) The first problem in the CI is the ontology of the state vectors. The state of a quantum system is described by a vector in a Hilbert space[2], but the CI explicitly denies any objective reality to it. You cannot measure it directly and it is nothing more than theoretical artifact.

    This situation is rather bizarre (for lack of a better word) and peculiar to QM. Classical physics, including general relativity, has a very straightforward ontology, where the objects postulated on the side of the theory have very direct and straightforward counterparts on the side of reality. Even an inherently probabilistic theory like Statistical Mechanics can point out to classical mechanics and say: with a large number of particles, in the order of Avogadro’s number, it is impossible to solve the evolution equations, so we will just partition the humongous phase space in “macroscopic” cells and then look at observables by averaging out. So much so, that if someone asks what is the temperature of a single particle system he will be met with the derisive response “Go read a book”.

    Now, there are reasons for why this must be so. For example, if state vectors are expressed as functions of position and momentum[3], a straightforward consequence of Heisenberg’s principle is that the states are non-local, they “spread-out” across all space. *If* they were measurable or observable, we would get a non-local observable… Keep this non-locality in mind, as I will get back to it below. Independently of the possible justifications, it breaks a sort of rule of parsimony — like epicycles, merely theoretical constructs are a sign that something is broken.

    And then there is the assertion that we cannot measure state vectors. But this is handled in the next bullet.

  97. G. Rodrigues says:

    (2) Wave function collapse.

    By CI, a quantum system in a given state does not have definite properties prior to any measurement. The measurement process randomly picks out exactly one of the many possibilities allowed for by the state vector — this is the famous wave function collapse. Before the measurement the value of the observable is undefined; after the measure, the system “settles” or collapses to a state where the value of the observable is what you measured.

    It is hard to poke holes in this description because “measurement process” in CI does not have a strict definition. Anyway, if it does not give you a shiver in your philosophical spine, then maybe you should call the undertaker as you are philosophically dead and nobody warned you. First the role of the observer. It stinks of subjectivism and badly. It poses huge problems for Quantum Gravity[5] since there is no observer outside the universe (and please, let us leave God out of this). The “randomness” is a hard pill to swallow but the “indefiniteness” of quantum systems is the final nail in the coffin. I think it was Heisenberg that affirmed that reality “is in the observations not in the electron”. I am loathe to disagree with Heisenberg, but really, what are we supposed to make of this?

    The picture of the collapse of the state vector also brings us to the dreaded “uncaused events”. First, this is something of a myth that needs to be exploded. Radioactive decay is not an “uncaused event”; you have to have radioactive material. Virtual particle pair creation is not an uncaused event; you have to have a quantum vacuum, which emphatically, and contra some physicists, is *not* nothing. Hawking radiation is not an uncaused event; you have to have a quantum vacuum and a black hole. Etc., etc. and etc. All the talk about “uncaused events” is just sloppy talk, usually made by people who do not understand what an uncaused event is or even grasp that if an uncaused event actually happened we would simply be *unable* to explain it rationally. The Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) says that everything has a cause, in the sense of having a sufficient reason or explanation for it. Denying it, is throwing oneself in the arms of irrationality. I am stretching my mind, trying to picture how an uncaused event in the universe would appear to us; the best I can do is “radioactive decay” without the presence of radioactive material. It would literally be magic and outside the reach of rationality. I take that back, it is *worse* than magic.

    The CI picture of the wave function collapse, while not a flat-out denial of the PSR, is a weakening of it. The *complete* chain of causation may be unknown when irreversible quantum operations like measurement take place, but it is a *very big* step to go from epistemic uncertainty to a flat-out assertion of ontological uncertainty. Let me try to illustrate this by a quantum version of the Euthyphro dilemma: is the theory probabilistic because reality is ontologically probabilistic or is reality ontologically probabilistic because the theory is so? The second horn is patently absurd, but a justification of the first horn on *purely* scientific grounds, without the aid of philosophical reasoning, *is* just a version of the second horn in disguise. Invoking Bell’s theorem or other no-go theorems like Kocken-Specker is a non-starter.

    This is *not* a slippery-slope argument. The heart of my injunction is not that if you accept CI, physics will go on a downward spiral of irrationality; it is the fact that you are embracing an anti-realist *philosophy*, denying PSR, which in my view, is ultimately irrational. And it is no good saying that the quantum weirdness only happens at the (sub)atomic level because that would be like saying that the universe is perfectly rational except in this tiny corner, which just happens to be the most fundamental level of reality by the way, where everything is spooky and for all we know, little magical elves are calling all the shots.

    Now that we got that cleared up, is there any doubt that the slippery slope is all around us? When we hear such rot has the “universe could have come into being without a cause” or “nothing was the cause of the universe” what should we do? Point out the philosophical illiteracy? Throw our hands in despair? Where do you think the new atheists got these ideas? And the absurdity of it all is even more patent if you realize that in trying to deflect *philosophical* arguments using physics (note the emphasis on philosophical), they have not a single iota of experimental evidence to show. Multiverse? Let us observe a moment of silence. For hard-core empiricists, this contradiction should be evident, but I suppose it is better to complain loudly about the mote in your brother’s eye, than actually remove the beam of your own.

  98. G. Rodrigues says:

    (3) Bell’s theorem.

    As I have said above, invoking no-go theorems like the Bell inequalities is a non-starter. The most that the Bell inequalities can give you is that *physical theories*, whose job is to explain and predict the outcomes of *experiments*, cannot have local hidden variables[5]. Given what I said above about the fact that the quantum states are inherently non-local, this is hardly surprising — of course, after the genius of J. Bell points it out so forcefully, it is “obvious” that non-locality would rear its ugly head. You do not have non-local observables in your theory? Fine, you end up with spooky action at a distance. You cannot have it both ways — or so it seems. One should not rush in making definite pronouncements. But the main point is that to go from this to some supposed ontological randomness right at the heart of reality is an unwarranted leap. Philosophers will have to disentangle (no pun intended) this mess. Informed by the findings of physics? Absolutely. But the last word still pertains to philosophers — because matters of ontology and epistemology *are* matters philosophical.

    [1] This attitude is the daughter of certain positivist prejudices. It can be justified in practice by the specialization and the vastness of physics itself, but ultimately and in my opinion, it is a rather dismal self-imposed philosophical ignorance. But this is a debate for another season.

    [2] Strictly speaking, a state is not described by a vector but by a line, so that the state space is not the Hilbert space but its projective space. But this detail is irrelevant for everything that follows.

    [3] This is just (geometric) quantization: you first construct a Hilbert space as the section space of a line bundle over the phase space and then do a few more gimmicks like picking a polarization to get at the “real” state space. This description can also be generalized to accommodate “internal” degrees of freedom like spin.

    [4] Conjuring a theory of Quantum Gravity, probably the holy grail of modern physics, is a task facing enormous difficulties on all fronts: technical, empirical and philosophical.

    [5] There are some extra assumptions in Bell’s theorem that could be exploited to get back local realism. One is counterfactual definiteness, but down that road madness lies. Another is to jettison Boolean logic. Hilary Putnam advanced such an idea but as far as I know it has not been picked up by the physics community. Until recently, that is. The programme of C. Isham and collaborators of investigating quantum mechanics (the Big Aim is really quantum gravity) using Topos theory may, just may, allow us to get back a local, realist interpretation of QM.

  99. olegt says:

    G. Rodrigues,

    Nice summary. I might pick some nits later. (State vectors as functions of position and momentum?) But mostly I agree.

    And forget Bell. Let’s stick with “simple” things. The Stern-Gerlach experiment. (Spin components are more symmetric than momenta and coordinates.) Prepare a spin of length 1/2 in a pure state with S_z = +1/2. Measure S_x. You get +1/2 and −1/2 with equal probabilities. There was no uncertainty about the state. Its entropy was zero. Yet we have completely indeterminate outcomes.

  100. Victoria says:

    There are also single particle quantum interference experiements to consider…

  101. Holopupenko says:

    Rodrigues:

    My only immediate criticism of what you wrote is you pander to olegt’s narrow understanding, but hardly get into the underlying issues… which require a realist philosophy of nature, which olegt has rejected out of hand on several occasions (“waste of time”) over the past half year or so.

    The latest example of this is his response to Crude: “You’re asking too many questions, Crude. I’m afraid I have neither time nor desire to answer them.” Actually, it’s not just that olegt doesn’t want to pursue intellectual rigor (especially if it’s beyond his immediate field)—he can’t. olegt is not equipped to. Again, that’s not the immediate problem—the problem is he will not. Why won’t he? He’s not a very smart guy in this respect (its his atheism): he simply can’t handle it… and he doesn’t think he needs to.

    In addition, he (as Neil) have refused time and time again to address the prior issue—the one that would force them to reconsider their approach of letting the math drive the reality instead of describing reality. Neil, in particular, is arrogant: he asks repeatedly why there is strong opposition to the Copenhagen Interpretation, we give it to him, and he comes back again with the same question.

    For the sake of both olegt and Neil (who are wrapped around their empiriological axles), I repeat from earlier: “the non sequitur that an interaction which cannot be measured exactly therefore cannot take place exactly: olegt, DL, Neil, etc., illicitly jump from an epistemic operationally-descriptive vision to the imposition of ontological status.” Let’s see if they try beating down the door to address that point.

    My guess: they’ll try (again) to run to Bell—which itself is based on highly abstract mathematical formalisms, i.e., leaving much of reality behind—and assert something like the 2nd paragraph of Neil’s #76 comment (a gem of misunderstanding of what we’re saying). It doesn’t matter that in comment #34 I explicitly state this isn’t about hidden variables, Neil and olegt ignore that. It doesn’t matter that a number of times I’ve asked them to explicitly state for us what causality is rigorously and writ large before proceeding to Bell, they ignore that or try (implicitly) to state that causality is limited to physical causality. They’ve absorbed so much of Hume and Kant (not knowing any better—I’ll give them that) that they can’t think straight about causality.

    (LONG DIGRESSION:

    That’s why, for example, Neil’s comment #68 betrays his ignorance of the PSR: to ask the question of whether human actions are understood through the PSR as reflective of their human nature, and to then implicitly conclude/fear that humans are determined “because of their nature” is also NOT to understand human nature. The two unbridgeable capacities that distinguish us from brute animals are free will and reasoning… but Neil can’t accept that. I’m not saying it’s easy to understand, but there’s an underlying arrogance based on ignorance that gets in his way. The second paragraph of Neil’s comment #68 is startling not just that it’s unscientific in its implication: it’s ANTI scientific: “Wouldn’t we still be justified in continuing to look for causes for the remaining 99.9999999999% of events?” That’s scientifically—and in general, intellectually—repugnant, for what is implies is that we use one type of physics to understand quantum events and another type to understand macro events. Note carefully, I’m NOT suggesting there’s no Correspondence Principle: what I’m saying is these guys feel perfectly at ease in throwing up their hands that there’s NO cause possible for QM events because their mathimatico-physical formalisms dictate it to be so. In other words for them, part of reality has no causality by its very nature, i.e., by its ontology, while part of reality has causality… But, even this is at issue because macro events must be consistently and seamlessly describable by quantum formalisms, even if (per olegt) “the law of large numbers” wash away to macro averages. (I almost had another Chardonnay Incident when I read of this new “law of large numbers” olegt seems to have invented.) Somehow, they have no problem with relativistic formalisms describing correctly (while lost in the noise) non-relativistic phenomena, yet for them it’s acceptable that QM descriptions are fundamentally different from macro descriptions, meaning there are at least two physics going on.

    In fact, there is no physics going on when one believes the voodoo doll that contingent events are without cause. So long and so hard the medieval scholastics fought to establish the crucial pre-scientific fundamentals upon which today’s MESs can function (e.g., nothing comes from nothing, etc.), and yet Neil and olegt attempt to undermine them. Neil, for example, doesn’t understand the full import of what science is: science IS knowledge through causes (another definition is “mediate intellectual knowledge obtained through demonstration”). No cause, no explanation. No explanation, no science. It’s that simple.

    Then there’s the silliness of olegt’s comment #71: Of course, the randomness I am talking about is limited to the quantum world and does not manifest itself on the macroscopic side. The law of large numbers makes things quite predictable. Oh dear, where to begin. So for olegt, some Platonic “law” is dictating how objects “behave” instead of the innate capacities of the natures of those objects. Hmmm… “where” is that law and how does it “make” or “govern” or “interact” with those objects? Second, olegt does NOT understand the word “randomness” (as opposed to chance event, i.e., the intersection of two or more independent lines of causality) or is very sloppy in applying it because “random” means literally “without cause”. Finally, let’s play his game: “randomness is limited to the quantum world and does not manifest itself on the macroscopic side.” Really? That’s a strong, very categorical claim, which he’ll have to back up: WHEN or WHERE exactly does the behavior STOP being quantum and START being macro? At a certain “large number”? (Cue: laughter) So, when does a small pile of sand become a heap of sand? When does a stick become a rod or pole? Olegt implies that nature somehow “know” to stop being QM-ish and become macro-ish once a certain number in the population is reached—precisely the mistake Neil makes in implying there are two fundamentally different types of physics going on. Sigh…

    END LONG DIGRESSION)

    Finally, let’s use olegt’s Stern-Gerlach example, and quote olegt: A spin of length 1/2 polarized along +z returns a definite value of its projection (+1/2) when measured along the z axis. When measured along x, the results are +1/2 and −1/2 with equal probabilities and, as far as we understand, entirely random.

    Think about that: we have two contingent events: +1/2 and −1/2 spins as measured along the x-axis, and because we our very ability to measure these events affects these events, it’s not the logical path that’s taken (perhaps we need more precision, perhaps something else). Rather, olegt ANTI-scientifically throws up his hands and states they’re “entirely random”. (Thank goodness he qualifies it with “as far as we understand”… he has some hope.) Stop the physics, stop acquiring more knowledge: those events ARE ontologically “entirely random,” i.e., without cause. Period. The mathematical descriptors—which are based on physical measurements correlated into formalisms—dictate or actualize it to be so.

    Yet critical, sober thinkers know that’s rot: if one observes contingent events—like the spins above—they MUST be explained. To not seek explanation—to throw at us cute little “just so” stories (interpretations) is to stop doing science and is intellectually repugnant. THAT is why olegt is such a bad physicist: he’s happy as a pig in mud to accept an illicit pseudo-philosophical interpretation of events for which we are not only limited in our ability to measure, but whose limitations are reflected in the very mathematical formalisms used. Even if we are forever (in this life) limited in our ability to measure those events because our “knives aren’t fine enough,” there is no logical way anyone can go from measurement limitations to ontological limitations—they very thing from which they flee over and over and over again.

    P.S. Two more comments. One on Neil’s point in comment #76 that “many physicists were drawn kicking and screaming to a non-realist version of QM. True enough. But we’re talking, again, ignorance on Neil’s part regarding what was animating (poisoning, in fact) the intellectual climate from around the 1880’s through the 1930’s: Kantianism, i.e., the intellectually sick and science-destroying notion that we can never know the thing itself—we can only know the phenomena. Add to this Positivism, and you have a volatile mix that breeds nonsense such as anti-realism interpretations of the real world, i.e., like the Copenhagen Interpretation. Those guys were “dragged kicking and screaming” because scientists are, thank goodness, at the bottom of their hearts realists. Yet, nonetheless, they let their pseudo-philosophical baggage claim the day.

    Second comment: in #94 Neil says “I think QM severely undermines naturalism and materialism not Christianity. It directly challenges the 19th-century assumption of a mechanistic, clockwork universe and asserts that there are realities beyond human comprehension or measurement.” Unbelievable. For a person who demands to understand why the Copenhagen Interpretation is so opposed—implying (incorrectly) we’re just broad-brushing it away, it’s okay to make such a broad-brushed and unsupported assertion to have science “support” Christianity. Holy cow: Neil’s got it completely upside down: it’s Christianity that supports science, not the other way around. Is that what faith is reduced to—support from science? Really? Well, let’s all jump on the disordered Intelligent Design bandwagon, shall we? Point one. Point two: pray tell, Neil (and in this I stand with the demands of atheists), just how does the QM interpretation you buy into (non-explanation, non-causality) support Christianity? Again, Christianity fought tooth and nail to establish causality writ large to, among many things, make the sciences possible in the first place. You’re in bad retro mode, dude.

  102. Victoria says:

    it’s Christianity that supports science, not the other way around
    I was going to suggest something along those lines myself…after spending some more time looking at the PSR, I had this thought that Christian Theism at least offers a basis for it, and perhaps even implies it…but I haven’t had a chance yet to work out this line of reasoning.

  103. olegt says:

    Tom,

    I’m worried that sooner or later Holo will have a heart attack when he sees my name. It’s time to put him out of his misery.

  104. Victoria says:

    Hi Oleg
    Have you ever come across a book called ‘Consistent Quantum Theory”, by Robert B. Griffiths? (see http://quantum.phys.cmu.edu/CQT/). Looks interesting, and he has a few chapters discussing quantum paradoxes.

  105. olegt says:

    Hi Victoria,

    I know Robert Griffiths’ name thanks to his work in statistical physics. I am not familiar with this book.

  106. Steve Drake says:

    Hi Victoria,
    I had this thought that Christian Theism at least offers a basis for it, and perhaps even implies it…but I haven’t had a chance yet to work out this line of reasoning.

    You’ve been beaten to the punch by many who came before you. See for example Peter Harrison’s fine work, ‘The Fall of Man and the Foundations of Science’, Cambridge University Press, 2007. Harrison is the Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford. He is also the author of ‘The Bible, Protestantism and the Rise of Natural Science’, (1998, 2001).

  107. Charlie says:

    I’m worried that sooner or later Holo will have a heart attack when he sees my name. It’s time to put him out of his misery.

    Changing your name?

  108. Victoria says:

    @Steve
    [laughs coyly, bats eyelashes]…well I hardly thought that I would reinvent the wheel here. Thank you for the references, though. I was planning on doing a search through the literature

  109. Steve Drake says:

    @Victoria,
    Keep up the good work. We may yet find that Olegt submits his autonomy, falls on his pride in himself and his so-called vaunted knowledge, and submits to the claims of Christ on him. I know you are praying for him.

  110. olegt says:

    Oh, you guys are trying to convert me? [gasp, lol]

  111. Steve Drake says:

    Dear Olegt,
    If you understood the nature of your sin, you would not be laughing. The God who is there and who is not silent, who you know Olegt, is using the dialog and interaction of those who engage you on this blog to prick your conscience. My prayer, as well I’m sure as others who have engaged you, is that this most gracious God you want to deny, will reveal Himself so powerfully that you will humbly bow your will to His and worship at His throne.

  112. Victoria says:

    @Steve
    Amen 🙂

  113. Holopupenko says:

    Steve Drake:

    Peter Harrison has been taken to task by, among others, Peter Altena (shorter version here: http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=14-06-051-b) — especially regards his already heretical plain-meaning Scriptural hermenuetic (Protestant Reformers) as illicitly transferred from the Book of Faith to the Book of Nature. Harrison’s mischaracterization of the medieval Scholastics (so as to avoid the difficulty of having to admit to the philosophical notion of substances and natures) and terrible bias (borne upon historical errors) regarding Protestantism’s alleged contribution to the rise of science is appalling. (Run the numbers on the dates: compare the periods of the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the Scientific Revolution — concurrence is not an acceptable historical explanation.) That he avoids any substantive mention of Augustine’s admonition in “On the Literal Interpretation of Scripture,” of Duhem, Jaki, Whitehead, Hannam, Lindberg, Grant, and Klein is quite revealing. One of the ironies is that the externally-imposed mechanistic view of “laws” imposed upon Creation was borrowed by the Intelligent Design folks. Oh well for them… Harrison seems to have satisfied your preconceived notions quite well…

  114. Holopupenko says:

    Re: #110. “Convert”? No. Not in my job description. First, your ability to reason has to be intact. If one has a warped vision and understanding of reality, one will never be able to see with the eyes of faith to the Author of Reality. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” actually means something.

  115. olegt says:

    Huh, looks like it’s a good cop/bad cop routine.

  116. Holopupenko says:

    Call it what you will, olegt. That’s your affair. Your consistent “run away from difficult questions” MO would be, if atheism wasn’t poisoning your ability to reason, stunning. Your rejection–to whatever extent–of philosophical reasoning, your almost exclusive dependence upon references to abstract mathematical formalisms or empiriological theories, and your anti-scientific stance with respect to the PSR clearly betray your огрониченость.

  117. Victoria says:

    Huh, looks like it’s a good cop/bad cop routine.

    I’m not going to play that game here. I agree with what Steve said, Oleg – I do truly hope and pray that you will find your way…but I’m not going to bash you over the head.

  118. olegt says:

    Holo,

    when you make two spelling errors in one word, it’s time to stop abusing a language.

    Just a friendly advice.

  119. Tom Gilson says:

    olegt, what’s your purpose with all this?

  120. Tom Gilson says:

    olegt, you tell us,

    I’m worried that sooner or later Holo will have a heart attack when he sees my name. It’s time to put him out of his misery.

    To put someone out of his misery usually means something rather more violent than what you have in mind, I sincerely hope. Realistically, I could either block him from ever viewing my blog so that he couldn’t possibly see your name here (that technology does exist) or I could block you from ever writing here. Or else you could voluntarily cease from writing here. I’m not recommending any of those. But I have to wonder, which of them did you have in mind, or were you thinking something else?

  121. Tom Gilson says:

    Meanwhile I agree with Steve and Victoria. Please take this to heart.

  122. Holopupenko says:

    olegt: I stand spelling-corrected. Thank you. I wasn’t being careful, but that’s no excuse.

  123. Holopupenko says:

    Tom:

    Re: your comment #120… I don’t believe olegt meant anything beyond removing my comment.

  124. olegt says:

    Just kidding, Tom.

    I find it hard taking anything Holo writes these days seriously, so don’t take my comments about him seriously, either.

  125. Melissa says:

    olegt,

    What is your explanation for the order we observe in nature?

  126. olegt says:

    Which order, Melissa?

  127. Holopupenko says:

    Melissa:

    That question is WAY beyond him. I’m NOT trying to be funny.

  128. Tom Gilson says:

    olegt,

    Do you want to be taken seriously? (I’m asking that not in regard to your comment #124, but #126.)

  129. olegt says:

    Tom,

    This concept of harmony and order in the world changed considerably as our knowledge expanded. Kepler heard musical harmonies in planetary motions. Turned out they’re a bit off key. The human body was considered to be a marvel of creation. That also turned out to be a bit of an exaggeration.

    So I was just wondering what Melissa’s vision of order was.

  130. Tom Gilson says:

    You covered, or rather nodded toward, an awful lot of ground in that short paragraph, olegt. First, you have elided harmony with order, which I think is a much bigger topic than can be covered in that short space. There is certainly a connection, but the two are not synonymous. Second, you have jumped from Kepler’s failure in the “music of the spheres” to some kind of seeming skepticism about the existence of order in our world, which is philosophically akin to jumping from Europe to Atlantis: a leap that cannot successfully be made in any manner except through an overactive imagination.

    And where is the exaggeration in “the human body was considered to be a marvel of creation”? I’m sure you would say it is in the words, “of creation.” But the question was with respect to order in the world, not creation per se. Is the human body not a marvel?

    Your two words “turns out” are at least premature, for as it turns out, it’s too early to say that anything has turned out yet on the question of creation. The question is still a live one. Or, as some of us think, it is quite obviously settled, and not in the manner you think it is.

    And finally, or maybe this is the main point and I should have started with it, if you need to know Melissa’s vision of order to answer the question she asked, that is nothing short of tragic. You’ve been around these discussions for a long, long time, on this blog and at least one other. You really ought to have learned by now what that question means in this context. Have you, or have you not?

    Or are you just playing games with these questions, as I suspect you are? It’s not terribly impressive if you are.

  131. Melissa says:

    olegt,

    Either order exists in the world or science is an exercise in cataloguing a collective illusion.

  132. Victoria says:

    Perhaps Melissa’s question is better phrased as “What is behind the laws of nature? Why does nature work the way it does?” Science can answer ‘How’ – it describes the order, it discovers it, but it does not explain why it is there. (I guess we are heading into Anthropic Principle territory 🙂 )

  133. Holopupenko says:

    Tom:

    Melissa’s question, while an excellent one, should be rephrased.

    The only way we can understand the physical world is if its behavior is consistent. If it’s not deterministically consistent (say, if precocious fairies run around deflecting objects from their motion), then one can’t do science: there is nothing to predict because nothing is predictable in terms of the MESs. There is CAUSALITY behind the movement of those objects even if impacted by fairies, but we won’t be able to come up with a consistent MES picture.

    In other words, for the MESs to ever have a chance of growing and being internalized as methods for obtaining knowledge of the real extra-mental world, the behavior of the physical world must be believed to be consistent, i.e., there must be an underlying ORDER to the world that cannot be explained by the MESs (that would be circular at the very least). A realist philosophy of nature would provide far more insight into the ORDER of the world than any of the particular MESs could, and that philosophy MUST depend upon the input of the MESs.

    Melissa’s question was to try to bring olegt to the realization that the underlying orderliness of the world is not an object of study of the MESs–it can’t be. “Orderliness” must be presumed or olegt and all scientists are out of jobs. But if they think they can explain orderliness per se by the MESs, they are (and in the case of atheists, quite literally) out of their minds.

    olegt’s #129 comment demonstrates just how far out of touch with that reality he is. For example, there’s nothing inconsistent whatsoever to understand the human body as a “marvel of creation” because the Creator creates such that creatures/objects act out their natures consistently and intelligibly… and hence why we can understand them.

    There are levels of explanation, and therefore levels of understanding. At the level of the MESs, local macro motion is partly understood through Newtonian physics. But what motion (change) is NOT captured fully by physics. At the level of the MESs, blips on a monitor reflect action at the physical level of operations of the brain; but at far beyond the MESs, the mind is reflected upon and knowledge is gained of the mind… the MIND, not the BRAIN. And so on…

    The foolishness of any secular scientists is to assume (with no rigorous support) that the MESs exhaust all possible knowledge. So, when confronted with real, existential facts like free will, they try to box them into their limited MES methodologies and tools, e.g., they’re intentionally and unscientifically assume the mind IS reducible to the brain physical brain, and then spin their wheels trying to meet their biased preconceived notions… which they’ll never do because the MESs can’t handle it, so they declare “victory” and claim there is no mind, there is no free will, etc., etc. They are like hamsters stuck-in-stupid gear on their carousels.

    Anyway, God is not an occasionlist puppet-master making (through direct efficient causality) each and every object/creature dance to His music. There are no “laws” out there in Platonic la-la land that “govern” the behavior of real objects. Rather (to repeat), God created and maintains in existence at every instant of time all contingent beings, and these beings–because of God–act out their natures. God is THE Cause–the Ultimate Cause–of all contingent existents, but He is NOT reducible to direct efficient causality to explain everything that, for example, move physically. (Miracles are another issue that are in no way inconsistent to what I’ve just described.)

    Part of human nature, for example, is free will. The sine qua non of free will is the capacity for reason. Neil is miserably incorrect, in this sense, to suggest the PSR doesn’t apply to human actions because–at base–Neil implicitly reduces things to be understood through his lens of physics, or, failing that, he’s happy with things having no cause because he believes somehow that points to (in his words) “something beyond.” Hogwash. If a contingent being is not caused, it is–quite literally–not understandable. Human’s make free will decisions, and that data is as blatantly in your face as can be. So, the existence of human choices MUST be explained: there MUST be a CAUSE for human behavior. But there’s nothing that says human free-will behavior will be explained by physics.

    Anyway, the question to olegt is better rephrased as: why is there orderliness in the world? He, of course, will not be able to answer it if he continues with his silly reductionist vision of reality. I submit, it’s his atheism–to whatever extent–that’s not permitting him to entertain higher orders of explanation.

  134. olegt says:

    Victoria,

    It depends on what you mean by “the laws of nature.” If by those you mean our scientific theories, occasionally we find what’s “behind them.” For example, the kinetic theory of gases is “behind” the ideal gas laws. Newtonian dynamics and theory of gravity are “behind” Kepler’s laws of planetary motion. Electrostatics and non-relativistic quantum mechanics are “behind” chemistry.

    Or did you have something else in mind?

  135. olegt says:

    Holo,

    You keep the fairies at bay, we do the science. Deal?

  136. Holopupenko says:

    Fairies aren’t your problem, olegt: you’re not doing “science” in the first place when you deny the causality behind contingent beings (because of your buying in to unsupportable interpretations).

    Apart from that, your narrow-mindedness continues to amaze me regarding the implied reductionism you champion when you don’t seem to give a hoot about more fundamental questions. You still think I’m here to convert you? PUHLEEZ stop that nonsense. Even if I were (again: I’m NOT), conversion is impossible if one’s world view is warped and narrow in the the first place.

  137. Melissa says:

    olegt,

    If you’re not prepared to think about the implications of your experience in the world but are content to confine yourself to running the experiments and crunching the numbers that is your prerogative but unless someone makes either an error in calculations or understanding of the experimental technique I’m not sure what you think you have to offer the conversation.

  138. Victoria says:

    @Oleg
    Yes, I had something more profound and fundamental in mind than any particular description at some spatial/temporal/energy scale. I’m a critical realist (as I suspect most professional scientists are) – so there is something there to describe that is understandable and consistent – why is mathematics so unreasonably effective at this description (was it Eugene Wigner who asked this?) To a Christian theist, the answer is forthcoming – because Mind (specifically, the God of the Bible) is behind nature. He imposed the order and regularity – the laws of nature as God understands them, on His creation, so that it could be a home for life; and a home for beings made in His image, for a personal relationship with Him – relationship implies communication – if nature were so chaotic and disordered that there was no discernible regularity, how would that communication be recognizable above the noise?

  139. Victoria says:

    @Holo
    ‘MES’ – I should know what this acronym stands for, so could someone expand it for me? 🙂

  140. Victoria says:

    I know I’m using ‘laws of nature’ somewhat loosely, as a common idiom, and I’m not implying anything that smells of Deism by it. I suppose we could also rephrase the question as ‘Why are there laws of nature at all?”

  141. Holopupenko says:

    Hi Victoria:

    My bad–apologies. MES = modern empirical science.

    Regarding your #138 comment, while I greatly sympathize with and accept the point you make, I’m not sure that at this point it will make any impact on olegt. He’s not open to correcting a warped vision of reality, so there’s little chance he’ll move even beyond that.

    The most fundamental knowledge we have of the world is MES knowledge–that’s why knowing the sciences, i.e., understanding how the real world works is so crucially important. But that doesn’t mean the MESs are the only or the most important form of knowledge. Psalm 19:1 is not speaking about the glory of God being manifested in the world scientifically. We use our knowledge to reason to higher immaterial verities.

    A straight-forward example are the various scientific methods: they are human artifacts of reason (the technical term is “being of reason”) by which we come to understand material objects and physical phenomena. But no scientist can point to, measure, contain, etc. scientific methods. In an utterly materialistic world there could be no scientific methods because there would be no truly rational agents in the first place: no matter how complex the time-dependent electrochemical signals crossing brain synapses were, they wouldn’t amount to a sign (reflection) of truth in the extra-mental world… in an analogous way to no matter how many gears a clock would have, it could never be in motion without a cause for that motion (material causality is NOT efficient causality). C.S. Lewis had something good to say to that effect.

  142. olegt says:

    Victoria,

    There is no way to find out what “the laws of nature as God understands them” are, short of asking Him directly. (Not sure whether that is even an option.)

    I am happy for you that you have a satisfactory answer to Wigner’s big question. However, you might want to be careful with that. The answer comes with a baggage. Some things in nature may turn out to be actually chaotic and unpredictable. I suspect that we will never know what causes an electron spin in the Stern-Gerlach experiment to adopt one or the other orientation and that we will simply have to learn to live with that. If that is so, some answers might have to be adjusted. There will be resistance to that as there was resistance to heliocentrism, but experience shows that religion can adjust.

  143. Holopupenko says:

    I suspect that we will never know what causes an electron spin in the Stern-Gerlach experiment to adopt one or the other orientation and that we will simply have to learn to live with that.

    That’s fine: I can most certainly live with us not ever being able to find out what causes the orientation of electron spin in the S-G experiment.

    But that isn’t the issue. The issue is the one you desperately cling to with no justification provided whatsoever: not being able to ever find out what causes the spin orientation in no way leads to the conclusion that there is no causality at that level. (Epistemic limitations don’t drive/actualize ontological status.) And, no, Bell doesn’t–nor can it–address that issue: if the phenomenon is observed, it MUST have a causal explanation–even if we are never able to find out what that cause is. Don’t you get that denying causality at any level is not an MES issue? Don’t you get that science is knowledge through causes? Don’t you get that prior and more-fundamental-than-scientific thinking (i.e., philosophy) had to establish what change, causality, potency, act, etc., etc. were so that the MESs could then take off to do their good work?

    A simple, “gosh, I never thought of that,” would suffice as an indication of intellectual rigor and honesty…

  144. Victoria says:

    @Oleg
    Well, I’ll be sure to ask Him when I see Him face-to-face 🙂

    As for the chaotic dynamics and unpredictability, agreed – we may never be able to find a satisfactory formulation where these things fall out naturally from the math, as it were. (But not for lack of legitimate trying). Even string theory builds in QM and relativity from the beginning. That’s OK for Christianity, I think – we are not committed to and limited by Naturalism (strong or weak) a priori as our only means of understanding.

  145. olegt says:

    Oh, it has nothing to do with “falling out from the math,” Victoria. The quantum uncertainty is a very different beast from the uncertainty associated with classical chaotic dynamics. In the latter case, it is our ignorance about the precise initial conditions that quickly grows to scramble the information and leaves us with a only a probabilistic description.

    In quantum mechanics, it’s different. The pure state of a state is fully determined. There is nothing else to be learned, we have complete knowledge about it. And yet, no one can predict, even ni principle, the outcome of a measurement of the spin along an orthogonal axis.

    It blows the mind.

  146. Victoria says:

    As Holo said just before I did….just because we can’t find the explanation doesn’t mean there isn’t one at some higher level beyond what we have direct access to….certainly God knows exactly why QM works the way it does.

    The other thing we need to remember is that in QM we can only calculate probabilities of the possible outcomes of a process; however, if one does the experiment with an ensemble, all the energetically possible outcomes are realized – if I do the experiment, and my colleagues at another lab do the same experiment, we see the same results – otherwise there is no hope for physics, right?

  147. Holo,

    I read through your comment, but I still couldn’t find an explanation of why the Copenhagen interpretation is rot. Let me explain. You say several times that people who insist on the CI are mistaking an epistemological constraint on measurement for an ontological statement about reality. I fully grant this point. I am willing to accept that epistemological constraints do not determine ontological status and I am grateful to you and others for drawing attention to this distinction. However, that is not the question I was asking. Let’s say I do not claim that Stern-Gerlach experiments _demand_ the Copenhagen interpretation and ontological uncertainty. Let’s instead say that I simply assert the CI as _consistent_ with the Stern-Gerlach experiments. In this case, I am not confusing epistemological uncertainty with ontological status, so you cannot make this objection. Instead, I am asserting an ontological status and claiming that it gives rise to the epistemological uncertainty.

    I think you would say that this position is “rot” because it violates the PSR. So my question was “On what basis are we sure that the PSR is true? What justifies this confidence?” But here, I honestly can’t find an answer. You say several times that having no explanation or no cause for an event is “repugnant” or that it would mean “no science” or that having two types of physics rather than one is “ANTI-scientific.” But is that justification? Is there anything besides repugnance at issue here? That’s not a sarcastic question. I’d really like to know what your justification is for the PSR.

    And as I said, theologically I think this has interesting implications for human freedom. If the PSR is vital for all of philosophy such that any challenge to it is “rubbish” then does human freedom also follow the PSR or not?

    Second, I need to point out that you continue to insist that “this is not about hidden variables,” but olegt and I (and I suspect Crude and G.R.; guys am I wrong here?) would disagree. This _is_ about hidden variables. The Bell experiment is unlike the Stern-Gerlach experiment precisely because it _does_ seem to show that it is _not possible_ to assign a local label to a particle’s state. It is the Bell experiment (not Stren-Gerlach) which really confounded physicists and led to the rejection of Einstein’s local realism and the development of Bohm’s non-local neorealism. I’m saying all of this because I don’t think we can really discuss the CI fairly without some discussion of the Bell experiment and hidden variables.

    So my questions are:

    1. What is your justification for the PSR? Is it merely that the PSR has great explanatory power and has led to the advancement of science? Or is there some underlying philosophical necessity that all events, everywhere have causes? This seems like a _reasonable_ position to me, but I want to know whether it has more than “reasonableness” to commend it.

    2. Does the PSR apply to human freedom?

    3. Would you agree that the Bell experiment _does_ challenge the ontological status of local variables. If not, why not?

    -Neil

  148. Victoria says:

    @Oleg
    When I said ‘falls out of the math’, I meant from the point of view of an even more fundamental theory that predicts QM, say.
    I guess I wasn’t clear in what I meant – I should have included QM in the list…sorry.

    Yeah, it really does blow the mind, as you say…even more so those quantum interference experiments with single particles…

  149. Holo,
    Incidentally, in your next comment to me, could you please be more polite. I am truly interested in your answers to my questions, but it’s not very pleasant to have to wade through several paragraphs of insults in order to understand your position.
    -Neil

  150. Crude says:

    Neil,

    Second, I need to point out that you continue to insist that “this is not about hidden variables,” but olegt and I (and I suspect Crude and G.R.; guys am I wrong here?) would disagree.

    It depends on what you mean. Holo originally said, when disputing that this was ‘about hidden variables’, “If you want to keep reducing causality to only that which can be described by mathematical formalisms, have a ball.” I take him to mean that these results are still caused, but that pretending that “hidden variables” are the only things that could cause them, is the mistaken idea. I’m also thinking that Holo’s beef here is that people think they can make metaphysical conclusions about causality from science/the MES, when he thinks it’s the other way around.

    Do I have you right, Holo? Or did I butcher your position?

    And for the record, I enjoy reading both your comments – both very thought-provoking. I don’t really mind Holo’s tone in general, but I don’t think you (Neil) have done anything that deserves any fierce lambasting here. But I know MES-abuse, as he sees it, is a big issue with Holo.

  151. Crude,
    Sure, perhaps this does have something to do with causality. At the risk of exposing my philosophical naivete, I would say that causality is a relationship between one entity and another such that entity A necessitates the existence or behavior of entity B. Working with that definition, I think the Bell experiment _does_ call into question local realism, which is the idea that the ontological status of some _local_ property of particle A necessitates some particular result for the measurement of particle A. According to the Bell Theorem, there can be no assignment of values to some local property of particle A that explains the results of the experimental measurements of particle A. Hence, physicists have either posited non-local theories (like Bohm’s) or a many-worlds interpretations or the Copenhagen interpretation. Those are the three broad explanations out there for the data. As far as I know, no one has disputed the fact that the Bell experiment does call into question the ontological status of the local properties of particle.

    When Holo insists that ‘this is not about hidden variables’, then I would like to hear how he explains the results of the Bell experiment, since this _is_ the experiment that forced physicists to rethink local realism.

    -Neil

  152. Holo,
    Sorry, I didn’t even notice this in Comment 133. You wrote:
    “Neil is miserably incorrect, in this sense, to suggest the PSR doesn’t apply to human actions because–at base–Neil implicitly reduces things to be understood through his lens of physics, or, failing that, he’s happy with things having no cause because he believes somehow that points to (in his words) “something beyond.” Hogwash…If a contingent being is not caused, it is–quite literally–not understandable. Human’s make free will decisions, and that data is as blatantly in your face as can be. So, the existence of human choices MUST be explained: there MUST be a CAUSE for human behavior. But there’s nothing that says human free-will behavior will be explained by physics.”

    Just a point of clarification: I never said that human choice can be explained by physics, quantum or otherwise. In fact, I don’t think that’s true at all. Rather, I am asking about the PSR in relation to the non-physical cause of human choices. You seem to agree that the PSR does apply to human actions such that “no state of affairs can obtain, and no statement can be true unless there is sufficient reason why it should not be otherwise.” So what is the (non-physical) explanation for my actions that renders them “impossible to be otherwise”? Is the explanation my own nature? Or something else?

    -Neil

  153. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Holopupenko:

    My only immediate criticism of what you wrote is you pander to olegt’s narrow understanding, but hardly get into the underlying issues… which require a realist philosophy of nature, which olegt has rejected out of hand on several occasions (“waste of time”) over the past half year or so.

    Guilty as charged. I did not want to go into an explanation of a realist philosophy of nature because I am not competent to do it, so I decided to stick more closely to the science and just try to point out some philosophical objections to the Copenhagen Interpretation.

    @Neil:

    1. What is your justification for the PSR? Is it merely that the PSR has great explanatory power and has led to the advancement of science? Or is there some underlying philosophical necessity that all events, everywhere have causes? This seems like a _reasonable_ position to me, but I want to know whether it has more than “reasonableness” to commend it.

    2. Does the PSR apply to human freedom?

    3. Would you agree that the Bell experiment _does_ challenge the ontological status of local variables. If not, why not?

    May I be so bold and suggest that you read my post, especially the bullets on the wave function collapse and Bell’s theorem? They will not give you a full answer, because I explicitly decided not go into the deeper philosophical issues, but at least it should give you head start. As for question 2. yes, but the notion of causality you probably entertain is too narrow. I will leave it to Holopupenko, as he will most surely whack on the moderns for, among other errors, having ditched formal and final causes.

    Second, I need to point out that you continue to insist that “this is not about hidden variables,” but olegt and I (and I suspect Crude and G.R.; guys am I wrong here?) would disagree. This _is_ about hidden variables.

    Yes, I disagree. Violently. Check my post for some of the reasons, especially the bullets on the wave function collapse where the essential objection is produced, and on Bell’s theorem.

  154. G.R.
    I have to go to work now, so I can’t answer at length. Looking over your post again in detail, it seems like you are still invoking “distaste” and “iirationality” as a reason for the PSR. Can you explain why this is so? Again, I agree that the PSR is “reasonable” in that it makes intuitive sense. But is there a reason that if we fail to embrace the PSR for every effect, this is necessarily irrational?

    Again, I’m interested to know how this applies to human choices. Does the PSR apply to human choices? I’m not asking about the physical consequences of our choices or the biochemicals in our brain. I’m asking about the choices themselves? Are our choices explained by reasons that show they “could not have been otherwise”?

    -Neil

  155. Steve Drake says:

    @Holo#113,
    From the article you cite from James Altena concerning Harrison’s book, The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science I notice this interesting note:

    James Altena has almost completed a Ph.D. dissertation in the history and philosophy of science at the University of Chicago. He lives in Philadelphia, where he is a communicant and sometime vestryman at the Church of St. James the Less, a traditional Anglican Missal parish.

    An ‘almost’ Ph.D James Altena is critiquing a long-standing Ph.D Peter Harrison. It could be that the child is scolding the father, but interestingly enough he has to sit in the father’s lap to do so. One critique does not make invalid the research and conclusions of another. Oh well, Altena’s conclusions fit nicely with your preconceived notions quite well.

  156. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Neil:

    I have to go to work now, so I can’t answer at length. Looking over your post again in detail, it seems like you are still invoking “distaste” and “iirationality” as a reason for the PSR. Can you explain why this is so?

    The PSR says that “everything has a cause” in the sense that for everything there is a sufficient reason or explanation for it. So rejecting, is saying that there is no explanation. If this is not embracing irrationality what is? Now, you may think that I have changed the goalposts, but I have not. For, on what consists “sufficient reason or explanation”? This is where causality enters. Do you know of any rational explanation that does not invoke chains of causation? I sure as heck do not, and in fact, there cannot even be such explanations but extricating this would have me go into the precise details about the notion of causality, so it is simpler to just ask you if you know of any rational explanation that does not involve causes in some way.

    Again, I’m interested to know how this applies to human choices. Does the PSR apply to human choices? I’m not asking about the physical consequences of our choices or the biochemicals in our brain. I’m asking about the choices themselves? Are our choices explained by reasons that show they “could not have been otherwise”?

    The problem I think, is that you are relying on a very restricted notion of causality. In particular, your last question is rather telling. Why on earth giving an explanation for Free Will, somehow entails that our choices “could not have been otherwise”? Thinking so assumes that the only possible causal explanations rely on the strict physicalist notion of material cause. Either this, or I am misunderstanding what exactly you are asking in that last question.

  157. Holopupenko says:

    Steve Drake:

    Interesting that neither do you address ANY of the points Altena makes (nor mine regarding his selective inattention to certain inconvenient references), but you employ the genetic fallacy as well: is what is relevant the truth content of Altena’s comments (which you ignore completely as being just “one critique”–incorrect, by the way) or his academic credentials at the time of writing the article? Your rather nasty (against Altena) focus is on the latter–hence your fallacious approach–because you ignore the inconvenient points Altena makes. Moreover, Altena strikes at your a priori and exclusivist commitment to Scriptural literalism. When you can actually deal with Altena’s points, I’ll start to take you seriously.

  158. Tom Gilson says:

    Holopupenko,

    You sound angry, frustrated, or something.

    From where I sit, if I compare Steve Drake’s response to Altena with your response to Steve Drake, the description “rather nasty” applies equally well or probably even better to what you wrote.

    What’s up?

  159. Victoria says:

    There is an article published by the ASA on the relationship between ‘chance’ and God’s purposes (http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2009/PSCF3-09Complete.pdf). While it is surely not the last word on the subject, it does show that there are those of us who are engaged in the attempt to see how things fit together.

  160. olegt says:

    Tom, you seem genuinely surprised. You shouldn’t be. Holo always acts that way when he disagrees with someone. You only seem to notice that when the disagreements are along the Catholic-Protestant lines.

  161. Tom Gilson says:

    Not so. But you didn’t seem to notice when I wrote that.

    I don’t see much evidence, either, that you noticed this, this, or any of the serious discussion on order. You deflected it into questions about laws of nature.

    Do you or do you not agree there is order in the universe? If you do, could you please answer Melissa’s question?

  162. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Neil:

    Let me clarify something in my post #156. When I speak of the PSR, I am employing Leibnitz’s terminology. This is not bad because I am trying to explain why denying it is irrational, but on the other hand it is bad, because ultimately it locates causality in the mind and not in reality, where the scholastic philosophers would. That is, the PSR was the transformation by Leibnitz of the scholastics principle of causality which *is* a metaphysical claim about *reality*.

    Sorry about the confusion, just view it as an index of how much I still need to learn to actually get these things right. It also explains why, at this point of my education, I try to avoid wading in these deep philosophical waters.

  163. Steve Drake says:

    It seems interesting to me and raises the question of when ‘Scriptural literalism’ became such a discredited idea. I think however Holo is being somewhat selective in his definition. Olegt has probably hit it on the head, in that if Holo is Catholic, and myself Protestant, then these distinctions clearly come out in what either of us say. That debate will not end anytime soon however.

  164. Holopupenko says:

    Steve Drake:

    Try to forget the Catholic-Protestant thing–in my last comment I made no reference whatsoever to that issue. Even in my earlier comment I identified the source of the literalism problem–but that by itself can’t be a Catholic-Protestant problem… unless you really feel called to make it one.

    My point was Altena is correct to criticize the exclusive Biblical literalism (plain meaning hermeneutic) of the Protestant Reformers, to criticize Harrison’s ignoring (for all intents and purposes) the Scholastics and their contributions per the referenced authors (including a book Tom reviewed a few weeks ago) [by the way, read some of Harrison’s own criticisms and ask yourself whether he backs up his emotional concerns], and then to criticize its illicit application to Nature.

    If you bring in the Catholic-Protestant difference, then you’re deflecting (again) from Altena’s points… and you’ve likely take lessons from olegt’s “run away from the questions” MO (see Tom’s #161 comment). Deal with Altena’s criticisms and stop deflecting: you’ve done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to address his points.

    Tom:

    Pretty much I’ve explained myself above. The “nastiness” is, indeed, frustration with someone (Steve Drake) who avoids the points raised–so far, completely ignores. Worse, Steve Drake fell back on the genetic fallacy, and just now used that as a deflection to the Catholic-Protestant thing. No justification for the tone–I agree, but the frustration is justified.

  165. Steve Drake says:

    Holo,
    And my point was that Altena, if you want to use him as a source to discredit Harrison, then fine, but I’m sure you understand that you cannot lend credibility to a discredit of Harrison simply by bringing up Altena’s critique and claiming that Harrison is completely off the mark. It’s one voice among others I agree, but Harrison’s scholarship stands on its own. You want to believe Altena, I believe Harrison. Let’s bring in all the experts we can marshal, and whoever has the most experts for his side, wins? I’m sure you can see how silly that is.

    In terms of the so-called Biblical literalism you want to invoke as in error, one cannot discuss these issues without addressing one’s Biblical hermeneutic, yours included. This is a separate discussion all in itself, and I would be interested in knowing which Biblical hermeneutic you adhere to. Maybe it’s different for different parts of Scripture for you, but based on your past comments to me I conclude that you are somewhat selective in taking some parts of Scripture literally, and others allegorical or otherwise. This is really at the heart of our disagreement, is it not?

  166. Holopupenko says:

    Steve Drake:

    By the way, if Altena is himself a Protestant who correctly criticizes the plain-meaning hermeneutic and its illicit application to the Book of Nature, just how is this a Catholic-Protestant you accuse me of making it?

    I agree heresies make people uncomfortable. But one then deals with the heresy–one does not lash out at a person who points that out (maybe you’re doing that simply because I’m Catholic?)… and then incorrectly impute an issue that is not immediately relevant to the one at hand.

    Shame on you Steve Drake for avoiding Altena’s points, for your genetic fallacy, and for your divisive deflections.

    Either address Altena’s points at least somewhat rigorously, or admit you haven’t thought about it or don’t know. Don’t fall into olegt’s avoidance MO.

  167. Holopupenko says:

    Steve Drake:

    My, but you are deflective, aren’t you? Still have nothing on Altena’s points, do you? Your fawning praise (“fine work” comment #106) of Harrison demands you at least try.

  168. Steve Drake says:

    Holo,
    My, my, my. Have you at least read Harrison’s books? What books has Altena written and published? And don’t please just quote me articles he’s written in Touchstone.

    One critique of Harrison’s published book which is thoroughly researched and referenced does not lend itself substantively to discrediting a body of scholarly work done by someone who takes great pains to support his thesis.

    We are off on some kind of weird tangent, Holo. I intuit that this is personal with you.

  169. Holopupenko says:

    Have you at least read Harrison’s books?

    Yes. You, however, appear not to even have known of the existence of Altena (and likely the other authors I referenced) until I brought it up.

    What books has Altena written and published?

    Again, the genetic fallacy: your point is completely irrelevant to the truth content of Altena’s thesis.

    I intuit that this is personal with you.

    Your intuition is off by a long shot… but I note for the record you’ve again avoided Altena’s points (and the other authors’ general positions) as they undermine your fawning praise of Harrison.

  170. Steve Drake says:

    Holo,
    What books has Altena written? You fail to answer this question and accuse me of the genetic fallacy because the answer is NONE, ZERO. I leave it to other readers to discern the implications of this.

  171. Steve Drake says:

    Holo,
    I’m done Holo, with this discussion. Let’s get back to the topic of ‘naturalism’ and ‘good and bad extrapolations in science/uncommon descent, shall we?

  172. Holopupenko says:

    Steve Drake:

    At this point I have to state you are a fool: even if Altena hasn’t written ANY books, is that relevant? Let me, for the moment without checking, grant you the point: so what? I point out the clear, unequivocal genetic fallacy you employ… and you do it again! (Are you sure you’re not being coached by DL or olegt?) What possible implication does him not having written any books for the truth content of the points he raises?!?

    If one reads Altena’s longer development AND what the other authors I’ve provided raise, any critical thinker would see Harrison is biased, historically inaccurate, and just plain wrong. But, you don’t want to go there because you’re so committed to your “fine work” fawning praise that Harrison in your vision is, well, infallible. You still have not presented a single solitary response to any of Altena’s points. None. Nadda. Void. Empty set. Black hole. Zero.

    Again, either provide support for Harrison against the points Altena (and indirectly others) raise, or drop the barking-moonbat a priori fawning commitment to Harrison… and certainly stop the repeated fallaciousness.

  173. Steve Drake says:

    Wow,
    And I was severely criticized for quoting Prov. 26: 4-5 in reference to another commentator on this blog. Seems like a double standard here, Tom, no?

  174. Steve Drake says:

    If Holo as a professed Christian can call another Christian who he disagrees with on this blog a ‘fool’, and ‘no one’ raises an objection, then this is certainly indicative of the kind of Christian behavior against another believer in our shared Christ that I want no part of. Here again are Holo’s words:

    At this point I have to state you are a fool:

    If this is how one tolerates dissent, then God help us.

  175. Victoria says:

    @Oleg
    So, how about those Orioles? 🙂
    I’m from Toronto, so I’m a BlueJays fan myself.

  176. Melissa says:

    Steve,

    I think what is offensive to Holo is not your dissent but your fallacious reasoning. You did commit the genetic fallacy multiple times. Why not just honestly admit that before dropping the conversation?

  177. Melissa says:

    That being said, name calling is not that productive either.

  178. Holopupenko says:

    Neil:

    This will be relatively short (heh): I have no interest in pursuing this any more. I don’t say that in a nasty way, but I do base it on the clear evidence (and your admission of) “philosophical naivete.” Rodrigues is correct, but I don’t expect you to understand him: you’re a reductionist much more than you either care to admit or of which you are cognizant.

    For example, you either reject or are ignorant of what the full import of the highly-nuanced technical term of art “nature” means, and so your very questions on human nature reduce human nature to a mechanistic vision that fits (it doesn’t, by the way) your physics—as again, Rodrigues identifies. I disagree a little with Rodrigues on final and formal causality as it pertains to this discussion: he’s correct on the substance in the broader sense, but the MESs really don’t deal with these causes… although they certainly presuppose them. (Plantinga’s rants against methodological naturalism is “solution” looking for a problem where none exists… and hence his point to “expand” the MESs will destroy them and philosophy at the end of the day… and, no, I don’t have time to pursue this.)

    Per the human nature issue, you appear to have no understanding of the distinction between teleonomy and teleology, nor of the importance of analogical language for a broader understanding of the causes of a thing’s/event’s existence, nor do you likely understand the following: the MESs attempt as much as possible to depend on univocal definitions.

    I note you’ve also changed your position somewhat from accepting uncaused events to qualifications per Bell’s Theorem (hidden variables appear to be incompatible with the assumption of locality). Fair enough, but I suggest you also think long and hard on the nature of highly abstract empiriometric formalisms… to which I’ve alluded and Rodrigues as well. You also missed my point on the hidden variables point: I wasn’t referring directly to Bell but to the use of “hidden variables” as a parry away from ontological considerations.

    Bell’s Theorem via entanglement experiments, measurements on a system (fascinating reference from Victoria, by the way, on the consistency of quantum theory), AND the fact that no one has discovered any underlying mechanism producing these phenomena IS very interesting stuff. But NOTHING in them supports the illogical jump from epistemic limitations to ontological status.

    Regarding the PSR, somewhere above you wanted proof for the PSR. Well, guess what? First Principle neither require proof nor can they be “proven.” Example: if you try to deny to the Principle of Non-Contradiction, you appeal to it; if you try to deny the PSR, you not only appeal to it (putting to rest your “human nature” issue) but you destroy science (knowledge through causes). I recommend you spend a lot of time coming up to speed on these. They are NOT, as DL loves to reduce them to, “axioms.” They are principles of being.

    Two more points:

    (1) You will not understand this, but I throw it out nonetheless. When an electron is unbounded it is in a pathological state. (That’s a term of art—NOT a medical condition.) It “seeks” positive charges—NOT with purpose or intent (that presupposes a rational agent) which is teleology, BUT as a simple termination to a lower energy state (teleonomy). An electron is NOT a substance (used philosophically—NOT chemically!) when its beingness is subsumed under the “greater” or “higher” beingness of the atom… or the molecule… or the cell/crystal… or the mineral/living thing. A being in a pathological state—especially one that is a quantum-level particle—will NOT be easy to understand. Again, this is NOT a hidden variable thing: it’s an epistemic-limitation thing. If you think for one minute the mathematical formalisms (say, per Dirac) can describe the full ontology of an electron, you’ve been watching too much of the Matrix AND you don’t understand the importance of quantity (discrete or continuous) as the FIRST accident of real being and its great draw for us through its conaturality to our being res extensa ourselves. I’m not trying to drown you with technical language, but these terms are extremely important… and it’s pretty clear you don’t understand them.

    (2) In your comments here as well as in your own site’s writings, you continually refer to the “laws” of physics as external-to-the-object existents of some kind. That’s a huge problem in and of itself, for it rejects the immanent capacities of things to actualize their natures, and in your world there’s always some external “tinkerer”—either God or the “laws” that “govern” behaviors of objects. Yet, neither I nor Rodrigues can begin to point out just how wrong that it if you’re not in command of the terms: you literally don’t speak the language. I know this is going to sound nasty but it has to be said: you’re online paper “Quantum Mechanics and Materialism,” and in particular the section “Quantum Mechanics and Physical Laws” is embarrassing precisely because, for all intents and purposes, you attempt to employ the ALLEGED ontological randomness of quantum events/particles as a place for God to hide and do His thing. No, you don’t quite come out and say that, but the implication is VERY strong. I suspect that’s why you’re fighting the PSR: you need ontological indeterminism for your God-of-the-Gaps vision of reality. You, quite literally, reduce God to another cause among causes that “hides” in the gaps of the alleged non-causality of quantum events. To add to the what came earlier, you have a very, very limited understanding of causality (“Causality is the idea that all events have specific, identifiable causes”)—as also identified by Rodrigues—because it’s physical causality only: you ARE Humean in your thinking. (By the way and again: how the beejeebers am I supposed to deal with Bell with someone who doesn’t understand the full import of causality?)

    Digression: here’s the full definition of motion: “reduction from potency to act”; here’s the much more limited definition from physics as a species of the full definition of motion: “a change in position with respect to time”. Here’s the full definition of cause: “a principle from which something originates with dependence upon being”; here the much more limited definition from physics as a species of the broader definition: a relationship between cause and effect that describes a change in motion (translation or rotational) of a material body.” Physicists have it easy: they deal with the physical phenomena of material bodies in motion. Philosophers have to study motion, change, causality in its broadest sense—which, while receiving input from physical reality, cannot be limited to that. (Do you think “my heart was moved by her” is just a metaphor for physical motion? Do you understand premises are the material cause of a syllogism?)

    I could go on an on, but that would be bashing at someone without the philosophical tools to defend oneself. I likely will say nothing more.

  179. Steve Drake says:

    Fallacious reasoning? My, my. I have penciled out my commitment to a six-day creation and young earth with universal, global Flood, and I am vilified, ridiculed and marginalized by all you supposed ‘professional scientists’, called a ‘fool’ by Holopupenko, accused of simply offering a logical analysis of why Protestantism gave rise to modern science from a respected and tenured professor at the University of Oxford and all you can say is that I have committed the genetic fallacy? You have successfully driven a fellow brother of yours from this site forever. You should be proud of yourselves.

  180. Holopupenko says:

    Ohhhh “brother”… (That’s NOT meant to be funny.)

  181. Melissa says:

    Steve,

    There is no need to get upset. You do realise that the generic fallacy is to attack the source of the argument rather than the content? Are you really claiming you did not do this. In the comment above you offer an argument from authority. Obviously expertise and qualifications are important in assessing whether someone is qualified but it can’t be the sole criteria to assess an arguments truth.

    I may have a PhD in chemistry but I would hardly class myself as a professional scientist, that’s not a claim I make, since I’ve been at home looking after kids for the last 12 years. No one is suggesting you don’t have anything to offer the conversation. My remarks were not intended as an attack on you but as an Honest appraisal. It would be to your own benefit to reconsider whether our claims of fallacy are accurate.

  182. Tom Gilson says:

    It seems as if there is another call for me to come in as arbiter here.* I’ve been just barely in touch over the past several days, and that mostly by means of my mobile phone. I’ve dropped a short comment here and there but I haven’t been able to keep up with it all along the way. We got home late yesterday from some arduous work cleaning up things at my late mother-in-law’s home. I’ll try to catch up here now.

    There is dispute here among believers in Christ. I have no problem with that, for as the Proverbs tell us, “faithful are the wounds of a friend,” and “iron sharpens iron.” On the other hand we are called to use our words to, encourage, edify and give grace (Eph. 4:29). The point of a dispute is not to prove oneself right or to win an argument, it is to grow together in love and in truth (Eph. 4:15).

    So in other words, to the believer here I encourage the utmost in honesty, which includes speaking out firmly when we see someone in error, but to do it in as gracious a manner as possible in the circumstances. Before assuming the other is wrong, we ought to make sure we understand the other; and before imputing character flaws at the base of an error, let’s explore less sinister possibilities. This applies also (and especially) to disputes with non-believers. I do not mean we do not press on toward excellence in thinking and accuracy in argument, but that we do it with both truth and grace in mind, following Christ’s model (John 1:14,17).

    I’m just going to let that much of a comment go on the blog for now while I read and catch up.

    *EDIT: Or maybe not, since the person requesting it has announced he is leaving the site. I’m posting this much regardless, and then I’ll catch up and join the conversation with whatever.

  183. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Steve Drake:

    Fallacious reasoning? My, my. I have penciled out my commitment to a six-day creation and young earth with universal, global Flood, and I am vilified, ridiculed and marginalized by all you supposed ‘professional scientists’, called a ‘fool’ by Holopupenko, accused of simply offering a logical analysis of why Protestantism gave rise to modern science from a respected and tenured professor at the University of Oxford and all you can say is that I have committed the genetic fallacy? You have successfully driven a fellow brother of yours from this site forever. You should be proud of yourselves.

    I sincerely hope you will reconsider your decision.

    As Melissa pointed out, name calling is not the most productive strategy. But I think you will agree that debates, even among people that share a common ground, or even among the dearest of friends for that matter, can and do get testy. Personally, I do not object with trading barbs with the opposition, as it has the salutary effect of sharpening the discussion. This is aptly summarized by David Berlinski in

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxSZ8DyuC7o

    Needless to say, I understand, and partly agree with, if someone finds this practice not charitable and thus, un-Christian.

    About the word “fool”, I cannot resist and make a little comment. Somewhere on his autobiography, G. K. Chesterton quotes a poem by Yeats, (a poet of genius, but also an elitist mystagogue given to the occult) with the line “There is no fool can call me friend”. Then he makes this comment:

    I dare say that there are a good many fools who can call me friend and also (a more chastening thought) a good many friends who can call me a fool.

  184. Holopupenko says:

    In the pursuit of truth, I am too much of a testosterone-laden alpha male. So, Steve Drake, I apologize for the immoderate tone. Nonetheless, Melissa is correct: you’re not serving the truth by employing fallacious reasoning… and it’s hurting you because (to distantly support Tom) you’re hanging your faith hat on a few errors–YEC in particular. No one is saying you’re condemned for acceding to YEC or Harrison’s errors, but error (the privation of truth) sooner or later WILL impact your faith.

    You’ve shown a certain lack of prudence–sound judgement in moral affairs–by clinging tenaciously to fallaciousness, which by another name is known as a lack of wisdom… which the Scriptures call “foolishness”… hence my use of the term. I suggest for your own sake you rethink for the third time a lot of the criticisms across the board raised against the various issues you defend.

    You may not come out and say it, but by your words and actions you imply adherence to YEC is an acid test for “good faith.” I reject ID, but I do so primarily on its pedigree of philosophical and theological errors absorbed from the past 300 or so years and it’s non-scientific approach. I wouldn’t dream of questioning Dembski’s (Protestant) or Behe’s (Catholic) faith because of their position on the topic… but I do worry about to what extent it can adversely affect their faith.

    Melissa:

    The argument from authority is the weakest argument in the realm of reason, but it is the strongest argument in the realm of revealed knowledge. Harrison isn’t arguing theology (he is no authority in that respect): he’s wrong on a number of counts in the realm of reason. And, by the way, don’t let anyone give you any guff for “wasting your time” in raising kids rather than “doing chemistry”: what your kids will gain is infinitely more important than what you might gain as a chemist, or what chemistry might gain, or whatever. You’re pretty smart–and wise–by me.

  185. Holopupenko says:

    Rodrigues:

    I almost peed my pants (in delight) while viewing the Berlinski clip. Thanks!

    Tom: don’t worry… I didn’t say that to justify past, present, or future actions… and I continue to struggle. But, there is some wisdom in what Berlinski says… I think it’s called “tough love.” Sometimes, in the face of obstinate error, tough love does build up.

  186. Tom Gilson says:

    Some further thoughts on process, Holopupenko. I’ve already interjected something directed toward you, but I’ve just noticed this as well from yesterday morning. You yourself just noted how tough love builds up, so I’m going to try my humble best to practice it.

    I appreciate your apology just now, and I don’t want you to think I missed it. But I don’t think this is quite water over the bridge yet, since Neil’s questions are still out there in the midst of the process.

    You wrote:

    Neil is miserably incorrect, in this sense, to suggest the PSR doesn’t apply to human actions because–at base–Neil implicitly reduces things to be understood through his lens of physics, or, failing that, he’s happy with things having no cause because he believes somehow that points to (in his words) “something beyond.” Hogwash.

    That seems awfully strong criticism for a set of questions! Neil had written,

    Incidentally, how does the principle of sufficient reason apply to the actions of human agents? Obviously, God’s actions are explained by recourse to his nature. But are our actions similarly explained? If are fully explained by our nature so that they “could not have been otherwise” then in what sense could we be said to have free will? But if our actions “could have been otherwise”, then isn’t this a breakdown of the principle of sufficient reason?

    Surely you know of the debates among Christians concerning how free will works: compatilism vs. libertarian free will, for example. One thing I’ve observed as I’ve read on these issues is this: the way one learns about them is by reading on them. Or by asking questions. Neil asked a set of questions about a reasonably complex philosophical issue. Some churches scold people for asking questions (so do some secularist classroom instructors!). I couldn’t disagree more with that; it’s terribly damaging in multiple ways. I would have thought you would feel the same way about it.

    Again, where you wrote,

    That’s why, for example, Neil’s comment #68 betrays his ignorance of the PSR: to ask the question of whether human actions are understood through the PSR as reflective of their human nature, and to then implicitly conclude/fear that humans are determined “because of their nature” is also NOT to understand human nature.

    It sounds as if you think not understanding the PSR or the Thomistic view of “nature” is tantamount to sin. It might be that he’s really looking for an explanation of the PSR, don’t you think? That’s how I read him. Where he disagrees with you, it seems to me he’s moving the debate forward, not committing a moral indiscretion.

    So I continue to second Neil’s request in #149.

  187. Tom Gilson says:

    Melissa, this is the most perceptive answer I’ve ever seen anyone make to olegt (and we have a lot of history together):

    If you’re not prepared to think about the implications of your experience in the world but are content to confine yourself to running the experiments and crunching the numbers that is your prerogative but unless someone makes either an error in calculations or understanding of the experimental technique I’m not sure what you think you have to offer the conversation.

  188. Steve Drake says:

    Thank you to all who have commented, but I am not welcome here, as Holo’s comments clearly point out and his insistence that it is my view as committed to a historic Christian orthodox belief in a six-day creation, universal global flood, and young earth that is wrong and fallacious. There are no supporters of this view here, no one who has consistently defended it in writing on this blog, and my comments and efforts fall on deaf ears to those who ‘know’ that these views held by Christians for millenia are wrong. I leave you to your belief systems, and pray that our gracious God will bring those whose names will go unmentioned to the saving faith that we share.

  189. Holopupenko says:

    Tom:

    Mostly agreed, and your tough love is fine – that’s partly why I submitted comment #178. If you notice, in that comment I had your earlier (correct) criticism in mind that I ASSUME (incorrectly) my interlocutors are in command of nuanced philosophical terms in general and Thomism in particular. In other words, I let myself get frustrated when I shouldn’t, and it doesn’t always come out the best way.

    Apart from that, I’m going to make a scientific prediction:…

    😉

    …comment #161 will remain not honored–based on track record, petty deflection, and ignorance of the subject matter.

  190. Holopupenko says:

    Come on Steve Drake: stop with the pouting–really. Despair as a grave sin applies to you as well… and you resemble Dawkins’ MO more than you might want to believe. Point one. Point two: your adherence to YEC is not fallacious (which refers to logic of an argument), it’s simply wrong. Your focus on the source of an argument rather that on the merits or truth content of the argument is what was fallacious… and your repeated insistence in using it is uncharitable toward all your interlocutors. You really can’t stand having your personal opinions challenged, can you?

    A later addition: another fallacy: the fact that people hold beliefs “for millenia” is not a basis in the realm of reason for adhering to it. There have been atheists “for millenia”… do we on that basis accept atheism? Also, I’m not convinced your last statement was very charitable–even if you meant it exclusively for atheists… but I’m not going to pursue it.

  191. Tom Gilson says:

    Steve,

    I refer you to my note here and Holo’s apology here. Disagreements are welcome here, whereas a disagreeable spirit is not. I think we’re trying to maintain consistency on both. I don’t think we always succeed, but no one is claiming to be an expert on that, and we’re trying.

    Your views on the six-day creation weren’t criticized on this thread. They weren’t even brought up prior to your own complaint in #179; and even then, no one even answered you on it!

    You were criticized for your reliance on the genetic fallacy. I don’t see where you’ve responded substantively to that. I get accused of mistakes frequently, and I make it my practice to respond to them specifically. Where there’s substance to the criticism I try to make it my practice also to correct my error. What you have done instead (twice!) has been to complain about being criticized, without any explanation or substance behind your complaint. It’s as if it was wrong for someone to suggest you could be wrong!

    So I find your reason for leaving to be rather hard to understand. You’re welcome to stay, but it is obviously your choice. Before you leave, I urge you to read this and take it to heart.

  192. olegt says:

    Tom, Re: #161.

    Victoria and I have been having a conversation about the very subject of the order in the universe. You do not seem to notice that. She had to revise her definition of order a couple of times, so it does not seem to be such a straightforward thing to define.

    How do you define the order in the universe? This is a genuine question, not an attempt to deflect.

    And if Melissa doesn’t think that I have anything to add to the conversation, she is free to ignore my comments.

    Now, back to number crunching.

  193. Tom Gilson says:

    Wow. I was about to second Holo’s prediction that #161 would go unanswered!

    In answer to your question on order, I go back to my question last night: do you or do you not agree there is order in the universe? If you cannot answer this without my definition of order, then please feel free to use your own. I expect any order at all will do for these purposes.

  194. Victoria says:

    @Tom, Oleg (#161,192)
    I’m willing to go along with Oleg on this discussion track. It does seem sensible to have a reasonably good working definition of what we mean by ‘order in the universe’ – I think it is one of those things where we can say we recognize it when we see it; even our ancestors recognized it (Psalm 19 for example), although they didn’t have our tools for describing it, and we can see more by virtue of instrumentation that extends our senses (telescopes and microscopes and spectrometers and Large Hadron Colliders and so on). So, if order means ‘the laws of nature’, for example, it surely must mean something more fundamental than the scientific state of the art, I think

  195. Tom Gilson says:

    Sounds good to me, Victoria. Thank you.

  196. olegt says:

    Well, Tom, it seems like Victoria is at least willing to acknowledge that it is not that easy to define the order. If you are unwilling to provide your definition, that’s fine with me. But I am not going to provide one for you. As I said above, it seems to be an elusive, artistic concept that evolved over time.

  197. Victoria says:

    Perhaps a good thing to keep in mind, following my last post, is that the authors and individuals living during Bible times recognized order well enough to recognize departures from it (aka miracle) – if they didn’t, Jesus’ resurrection would have made no impression whatsoever (I think CSLewis argues this rather well in his book ‘Miracles’)

  198. Tom Gilson says:

    I think Victoria just provided a start at a definition, olegt. Even your own statements imply that you have something at least in mind: you think “order” is some elusive, artistic concept that evolved over time. Now, if you think you can present some historical support for that belief, I would be most intrigued (astonished, actually) to hear what that might be.

    It won’t do for you to answer by reference to scientific progress over time (which one might call “evolution”) in how we understand the details of nature’s order, for that’s hardly an “artistic” concept. I’m talking about the fact of order itself. I think that’s what Melissa, Holopupenko, and Victoria are probably talking about as well.

    I’m inclined to think you do see order in nature, just as Victoria said we all do, and that you are playing games with us here. I asked you a yes/no question, and you could answer that if you cared to do so, but you won’t.

    But Victoria is willing to follow this line, so I’ll let the two of you have that conversation.

  199. Holopupenko says:

    But I am not going to provide one for you. As I said above, it seems to be an elusive, artistic concept that evolved over time.

    = “Run away!!!”

    You folks may notice that olegt’s approach resembles–surprise, surprise–that of Steven Pinker when he terms dignity a “stupid idea” because it’s not susceptible to the univocal definitions of–wait for it–the MESs.

    I say again: once an atheist, rationality suffers.

    I was right, Tom: #161 goes unhonored… as usual.

  200. Victoria says:

    you think “order” is some elusive, artistic concept that evolved over time. Now, if you think you can present some historical support for that belief, I would be most intrigued (astonished, actually) to hear what that might be.

    Me too!

  201. olegt says:

    Victoria,

    How about Amos 8:9? Was that a departure from the order or an event within the order?

  202. olegt says:

    Tom wrote:

    Now, if you think you can present some historical support for that belief, I would be most intrigued (astonished, actually) to hear what that might be.

    I have already started to provide examples here. You scoffed at them without making much of an argument.

  203. Tom Gilson says:

    Does that have anything to do with the discussion? The question was how one understands the order that exists. Victoria pointed to the fact that the ancients recognized that order. Whether Amos 8:9 fits into that or is a departure, the salient facts remain the same: there is order in nature, the ancients recognized it, everyone sees it, it can’t be denied by anyone but the most far-out believer in Maya (which I am sure you are not); yet for some perverse reason you are unwilling to admit to it.

    You’re patently guilty of arguing in bad faith here. Own up to it, okay? And try to stay on topic if you can, please. The question is how we can explain the existence of order in nature.

  204. olegt says:

    Tom, if it’s such an obvious thing, why don’t you define it?

  205. Victoria says:

    We definitely want to distinguish the order that is actually inherent in nature (that which has ‘always’ been there, since the creation of space-time and matter-energy) and our progressive understanding and description of it.
    Now, being the Christian theist that I am, the former is what God put there (as per my post#138); the latter we have by virtue of being made in His image, and able to reason, albeit finitely and imperfectly, and sometimes even erroneously.

  206. Tom Gilson says:

    Okay, olegt, here is what you called “scoffing:”

    First, you have elided harmony with order, which I think is a much bigger topic than can be covered in that short space. There is certainly a connection, but the two are not synonymous. Second, you have jumped from Kepler’s failure in the “music of the spheres” to some kind of seeming skepticism about the existence of order in our world, which is philosophically akin to jumping from Europe to Atlantis: a leap that cannot successfully be made in any manner except through an overactive imagination.

    Do you think Kepler’s failure in describing the music of the spheres can rightly be extrapolated to support skepticism about the existence of nature?

    Do you think harmony is synonymous with order?

    If so, then Houston, we’ve got a problem.

    And do you think that this short exchange constitutes support for your thesis that order is an elusive, “artistic” concept?

    Do you think that it is so entirely elusive and “artistic” that the question, “is there order in nature?” cannot be answered?

    If so, then Houston, we’ve got another, different problem. The first would have to do with your misunderstanding of logic and reason. The second would be your continuing refusal to argue in good faith. One is a problem of rationality, the other is a moral problem. Holopupenko would say they are two sides of the same problem, and I would not disagree with him on that.

  207. Tom Gilson says:

    Order is regularity in nature. I don’t mean that the two terms are reflexively synonymous with each other, or that that much more could not be said about it, but that short answer should be more than sufficient for the purpose at hand, for you to answer the question this all started with.

    And you knew that already. It’s blazingly, embarrassingly, stupidly obvious. That’s why I didn’t answer it sooner.

    Just how entertaining is this to you, that you would string such an obvious thing along for so long? Do you think you are gaining something by it? Do you realize how you’re fooling yourself by playing games rather than approaching this discussion in good faith? Do you recognize how dishonest your tactics appear? Do you like that about yourself?

  208. Melissa says:

    olegt,

    You cannot do science without recognising the presence of some order or regularity in the world. One requirement in science is that experimental results are repeatable.

  209. Tom Gilson says:

    Victoria, if you think there is progress to be made in this conversation, good luck and godspeed to you. I’ve lost hope in it.

    (If see me handling it poorly, by all means please let me know, I’m open to learning.)

  210. olegt says:

    Tom,

    Why don’t you just ban me, the scoundrel that I am, and we’ll be done with it?

    Or maybe you should just let Victoria and me have a conversation. I’ve heard your arguments already and I do not find them convincing. If the order is screaming at you, go ahead and define what you mean by order. Otherwise, have the courage to acknowledge that it is not an obvious concept.

  211. Tom Gilson says:

    olegt,

    I’ve answered your question (comment #207). Maybe you didn’t see it before you wrote your comment #210. I also turned over the conversation on order to Victoria, if she wants to continue it.

    But now a second topic has surfaced, not for the first time. It’s your “scoundrel”-y approach here. No good baiting me to ban you. This is not about me, it’s about your bad-faith approach to discussion. Do you like that about yourself?

  212. olegt says:

    I am not arguing in bad faith, Tom. It’s one of those cases when you and I have to agree to disagree politely.

    I am afraid that I have nothing else to tell you at the moment.

  213. Victoria says:

    @Oleg
    Regarding Amos 8:9 – hmmm, that is embedded in a prophetic passage regarding God’s judgement on Israel, so interpreting that in such a literal fashion may not be justified. I really don’t know the answer at this point – I’ll have to do a bit of research on the passage and get back to you.

    On that point however, Christian theism recognizes and affirms God’s governance and sovereignty over His Creation, on three levels:
    1. General Providence (the ‘ordinary’ way that He maintains His creation – the ‘laws of nature’ for lack of a better term).
    2. Special Providence: the supernatural cause of an event that is itself indistingushable from general providence, but for its appropriateness in timing or results. (these seem to be those things that God does for the good of His children, as an expression of His grace to us)
    3. Miracle: a supernatural cause of an event that would never occur in the course of general providence, either in character or speed (eg, Resurrection of the dead as an example of the former, the instantaneous conversion of water into wine as a example of the latter). These are always done for God’s plan of redemption, of which judgement is sometimes a part. If you have never read it, CSLewis’ Miracles is worth it.
    This partitioning of God’s activity wrt His creation is itself an interesting thread, and when I get a chance, I’ll follow up with more (@All: jump in anytime here!)

  214. Tom Gilson says:

    Not arguing in bad faith? Then why did you not answer my three questions in #206, all of which were directly germane to the discussion? Why did you bait me to ban you instead? And (to repeat myself) why did you string along the question on order so long, when there was an obvious answer that was sufficient for the purpose from the beginning?

    If you approve of what you see in yourself, then I have nothing else to tell you, either, except that I find that tragic and grievous for your sake.

  215. Holo and G.R.
    First, I want to clarify something. I am not a physicalist and absolutely do not only accept physical explanations. So when G.R. defines the PSR as saying that “everything has a cause in the sense that for everything there is a sufficient reason or explanation for it,” I am perfectly willing to accept non-physical explanations. G.R. goes on to say that an explanation is something which involves a “chain of causality.” Ok, again, I am fine working with that definition and again repeat that I do not need the chain of causality to only involve physical entities.

    Having established that point, I want to ask my three questions again since I don’t think they’ve actually been answered. My first question was whether the PSR can be justified and what provides justification for it. G.R. answered that that all explanations simply involve a chain of causality and to not explain something is by definition ‘irrational’. But I think this is begging the question. If we define ‘rationality’ as ‘seeking to explain events’ then it is ‘irrational’ if we claim an event cannot be explained. But we still have not proved or justified the assumption that all events can actually be explained! We have just defined this position as ‘irrational’! I think Holo’s response actually supports this idea because he states that “First Principle neither require proof nor can they be “proven.” ” Again, I think this fits my point. He’s not exactly begging the question. He’s just saying that the PSR is a ‘First Principle’ which cannot be proven (or justified?).

    But here I think I see a major mistake. Holo says: “Example: if you try to deny to the Principle of Non-Contradiction, you appeal to it; if you try to deny the PSR, you not only appeal to it (putting to rest your “human nature” issue) but you destroy science (knowledge through causes).” But if you look closely, these two examples are not the same. To deny the principle of non-contradiction or logic is _self-refuting_. But to deny the PSR “destroys science”; that’s not the same thing as being self-refuting! Moreover, the PSR as Holo has been using it needs to apply to _everything_, microscopic events as well as macroscopic events as well as non-physical entities, to justify his claim that the CI is ‘rubbish’. I am asking in particular whether we must hold to the _univesality_ of the PSR. In other words, a physicst who holds to CI might still hold to the PSR, just not universally. He would say “Some things have explanations; just not all things.” For instance, I could claim that red ping pong balls pop into existence uncaused on Mars, but all other events have explanations. That’s obviously crazy, but I don’t see how it is self-refuting. Can someone explain how?

    One other question is whether causality must specify a determinate effect or whether the effect can be indeterminate. This relates to my definition of the PSR as saying that every event has an explanation such that the explanation renders the effect “impossible to be otherwise” (which GR seemed to deny as the correct definition of the PSR). My understanding of causality would say A explains B only if A makes it impossible that anything other than B should occur. On the other hand, we could define a weaker form of the PSR such that A explains B even if something other than B could have occurred. So which definition of causality are we using here?

    So let me reiterate my questions:

    1a. Do we agree that the PSR is a ‘First Princple’ that cannot be proven? Can it be justified?

    1b. Can someone explain how denying the universality of the PSR is “self-refuting”?

    1c. Does A explain B if and only if A provides a reason that it is impossible for anything but B to occur? Or can A still explain B even if something other than B might have occurred.

    Once we settle these issues, I’ll turn to second question about human choices.

    -Neil

  216. Holopupenko says:

    Neil:

    Sorry, I’m not continuing. Your questions are good ones, but ones not prone to sound bites or even (sound bites)^n. I honestly apologize for any frustration this elicits. Please see my upcoming comments on the “order” thing, and step back to pay attention NOT to the immediate details I raise regarding “order,” but to the difference in language I’m using. That’s the best I can do for now: to open your eyes to the fact that there is very, very good language (actually, the science known as philosophy) for dealing with these matters… and I enjoin you to pursue studying them.

    Oh, by the way, perhaps too little too late: I apologize for my earlier tone and immoderate words.

  217. Holo, apology accepted. G.R. or Tom or anyone else, I would still be very grateful if you could answer the questions I raise, simply because I’m very interested in the answers.

  218. Holopupenko says:

    Tom:

    Do you really think the questions in your last (3rd) paragraph of comment #207 really mean anything to an atheist? I’m not trying to be funny. Sadly, the subsequent comments only bear out your suspicions regarding olegt’s game. Sigh…

    olegt’s reaction (which you’ve correctly criticized) stems from his realization that he’s cornered himself and can’t respond… and because he can’t respond, he descends to all manner of subterfuge and deflection—not good characteristics for a scientist. olegt presupposes order to do his work, yet doesn’t have a clue how to explain an ordered, consistent, predictable universe. olegt knows he can’t MES-respond (even if we accept a far distant future rain check from him to the effect that “physics will figure it out”) because such a response would be circular: the MESs “work” because there’s order; there is order because the MESs work. In other words, he’s operating like a hamster in a carousel. Sigh…

    Look, order and consistency in the universe means Nature operates NOT because an external tinkerer (the ID vision) controls or “governs” natural phenomena, but because all contingent beings “have it in themselves” per their natures to actualize those natures. It cannot be emphasized enough: God’s Providence does NOT “operate” at the level of pushing molecules around, His Providence is in maintaining all contingent things in existence—beings that then, to repeat, actualize their natures.

    That’s where teleonomy comes in: Nature is orderly (i.e., its contingent existents “operate” consistently and predictably) because they are goal oriented, i.e., teleonomy is a true cause—the so called “Final Cause.” There are three species of Final Causality: simple termination (rocks fall), perfection (acorns grow into oak trees), and intention or purpose (the acts of rational agents, i.e., our actions… which is teleology proper—as opposed to teleonomy). A falling rock has no “goal” in the sense of “desiring” or “deliberating” to some end—which, by the way, is the incorrect attribution to Aristotle of the false notion that he believed rocks “seek” the earth: he was using “seek” in the analogous—not univocal—sense, and he stated so explicitly.

    If rocks didn’t consistently “seek” the earth (or whatever gravitational configuration you like), there could be no physics. If acorns didn’t “seek” the perfection of becoming oak trees, there could be no biology. If humans didn’t seek (i.e., really seek with intention) Aristotelian perfection (contemplation of the First Unmoved Mover as the ultimate level of happiness) or Christian perfection (rest in the summum bonum), not only would they not be human, but there would be no psychology (meant in the classical—not modern—sense). With rocks, physics almost covers everything we need to know about them; with acorns, physics isn’t enough to deal with life and organic unity so we have to study life (the subject matter of proper object) of biology; with humans, biology isn’t enough because that particular MES cannot fully deal with free will and the capacity for reason—things unique to human beings (rational animals).

    So, only the most cynical and ignorant and fearful—like olegt—will play deflection word games to avoid being pinned down on order. (Your words are beautiful: “…blazingly, embarrassingly, stupidly obvious…”) But “order” is not something immediately available to the senses. Yet, because we are rational creatures, we reason to the existence of order from sensory input, i.e., we rely on the MESs to reason to immaterial verities. (By the way, one of the hallmarks of that stupid project called Positivism is it a priori denies the power of human rationality to reason to the unseen.)

    Order exists–that can’t be denied, and so it must be explained… but not in the way a rock’s motion is explained or an acorn’s growth is explained or human free will is explained. Order is what is addressed by Aquinas’ Fifth way: order is least accessible to the senses but the most manifest display of the Divine Nature. Motion, perhaps the most undeniable attribute of the real, extra-mental world, is addressed by Aquinas’ First Way: motion is most accessible and manifest to our senses (hence accessible to physics), but least manifest of the Divine Nature. The 2nd through 4th ways progress from the 1st to the 5th: progressing from what is most accessible to the senses to the least, and progressing from what is lowest manifestation of the Divine Nature to the highest. That’s why none of Aquinas’ Ways are per se accessible to criticism from the MESs… although they deeply depend on any input data the MESs can provide.

    The final cause, in the sense of relying on the Fifth Way to understand order, assures us that there are “laws” of nature in the first place. That is, there exists a “common course of nature” to which things will tend—given that they run true to their form, i.e., act out their natures. There are no external, Platonic “rules” or “laws” that “govern” the behavior of objects. Rather (to repeat), objects act out (actualize) their natures. What we call “laws” are metaphors by which we wrap our minds around order in the universe. These “laws” are human constructs or artifacts (“beings of reason” technically speaking) not in the very-lacking Kantian sense, i.e., we don’t “make” reality by observing it and we don’t understand reality by imposing our Kantian categories/ideas/weirdness upon the world–rather, we employ our senses to reason to an understanding of the real world.

    The so-called “laws” of physics are metaphors as well, and they can be nicely captured in mathematical formalisms to make cool predictions (DL’s hobby horse). As a consequence, the MESs rely on teleonomy and make use of it even while denying its existence. Well duh, there is no MES whose subject matter is order… but that doesn’t mean order doesn’t exist: one needs the philosophy of nature to understand nature’s orderliness (with some initial heavy lifting from metaphysics). If there is no formal order and no final orderliness in the world, what makes science anything more than an anthropomorphic jumble of myths?

    olegt will not get this—not just because he’s ignorant of much of this, but worse because he wants to wallow in his narrow-minded ignorance. He is—at least currently—nothing more than a number cruncher. Beyond this, I think we’re wasting our time with him… with which you seem to agree per comment #209.

  219. Melissa says:

    Neil,

    I will have a go at addressing your last question. Bear in mind, like GR I’m not a philosopher and am still feeling my way round some of these topics, which is why discussions like this are useful.

    1c. Does A explain B if and only if A provides a reason that it is impossible for anything but B to occur? Or can A still explain B even if something other than B might have occurred.

    Short answer yes, but that does not negate free will because the action of agents with free will be included in the reason that B occurred.

  220. Reidish says:

    Hi Neil,

    To your questions:

    1a. Do we agree that the PSR is a ‘First Princple’ that cannot be proven? Can it be justified?

    There’s different versions of the PSR. It seems the one most alluded to in this thread is Leibniz’s PSR (LPSR): “no fact can be real or existent, no statement true, unless there be a sufficient reason why it is so and not otherwise” (The Monadology). More formally: For every true proposition p, (a) there is a reason why p is true rather than being false, and (b) this reason is sufficient in the sense that it could be used to derive p.

    I don’t think LPSR can be proven deductively with uncontroversial true premises, no. I do think there are good reasons to think it is true (one of them being very strong intuition), but not universally so. But please note philosophers have defended several variations on Leibniz’s theme. See my comment #95.

    1b. Can someone explain how denying the universality of the PSR is “self-refuting”?

    I’d be interested to see this as well. I don’t think such denial of LPSR is self-refuting at all. As Pruss has shown, the conjunction of all contingent facts itself does not have an explanation.

    1c. Does A explain B if and only if A provides a reason that it is impossible for anything but B to occur? Or can A still explain B even if something other than B might have occurred.

    Not impossible, no.

    Compare this: If A occurs, B will necessarily occur.
    …with this: Necessarily, if A occurs, B will occur.

    Do you see the difference?

  221. Reidish,
    Regarding 1a and 1b, great. This was my intuition too. Regarding 1c, I don’t follow you. I thought my version of the PSR was equivalent to the LPSR; they both say “no statement can be true unless there is sufficient reason why it should not be otherwise.” My use of ‘impossible’ was a poor choice of words. So would you agree that the LPSR says:
    (1) “no statement can be true unless there is sufficient reason why it should not be otherwise.”?
    The version that GR seemed to use says something like:
    (2)“everything has a cause in the sense that for everything there is a sufficient reason or explanation for it that involves a chain of causality.”

    The difference between these two is that an “explanation” of type 1 must be determinate while an explanation of type 2 could be indeterminate. In other words, an explanation of type-2 for event B would not rule out all other possibilities B’ whereas an explanation of type-1 for event B _would_ rule out all other possibilities B’.
    Does that make sense? If so, then do you agree that that the LPSR is true and that all events have type-1 explanations?

    -Neil

  222. Melissa,
    Sorry, I didn’t even see your response! I’ll comment on it once I hear back from Reidish or GR. It will flow nicely into my second question.

    -Neil

  223. Reidish says:

    So would you agree that the LPSR says:
    (1) “no statement can be true unless there is sufficient reason why it should not be otherwise.”?

    Yes, the LPSR says that, in addition to saying that the sufficient reason explains why something is so.

    The version that GR seemed to use says something like:
    (2)“everything has a cause in the sense that for everything there is a sufficient reason or explanation for it that involves a chain of causality.”

    The difference between these two is that an “explanation” of type 1 must be determinate while an explanation of type 2 could be indeterminate.

    At risk of putting words in his mouth, I would take GR to be describing necessary conditions, rather than a sufficient reason. Consider:

    If A, then B.

    That the truth of A is sufficient for the truth of B is understood as the sufficiency relation. That the truth of B is necessary for the truth of A is understood as the necessity relation. But even if B is true, we are not guaranteed the truth of A. This is what I think you are getting at by using the “indeterminate” / “determinate” terminology.

    Does that make sense?

    With the terminology cleared up, yes, I think I understand what you’re saying.

    If so, then do you agree that that the LPSR is true and that all events have type-1 explanations?

    As I said in #220, I don’t think the LPSR is true: I think there is at least one fact (ie, proposition) that does not have a sufficient reason, so understood. However, I’m agnostic as to whether events have what you’ll describe as type-1 explanations. I lean towards “yes”. Since propositions and events are not the same type of thing, I’m able to draw this distinction, even though personally I’m not very comfortable with it.

  224. Victoria says:

    @Holo – re #218
    Ah, I think you have expanded on my comment regarding General Providence rather nicely, leaving me little to do but add one thing:

    Biblically speaking, I think the idea of general providence is found (among other places) in Jeremiah 33:20 – the idea that the LORD has made a covenant with His creation to establish its orderly and regular functioning.
    He called Nature into existence and she came, He commanded her to function, and she obeys (allow me the anthropomorphism a la CSLewis). How that works out in terms of God’s upholding of the covenant we don’t know, other than to say that He could stop doing that, and Nature would simply cease to exist.
    The covenant between God and Nature is the order and regularity of Nature’s functioning – it is built into Nature’s very fabric and is something fundamental, and that is what our formulation of the ‘laws of nature’ points to.
    It is a natural implication of Christian theism, I think, and just a brute, unexplainable fact for metaphysical naturalism.

  225. Reidish,
    Actually, my determinate/indeterminate language was getting at something different which is whether we can have “indeterminate causality.” In other words, can we say that A “explains” B if B and B’ are both possible effects of A? To my mind, this would be a very odd definition of an explanation or of causality. But GR seemed to leave this definition open, so I wanted to ask him explicitly. Anyway, since you’re agnostic on the LPSR, this doesn’t matter to you too much. Let me move on to my second question and you’ll see where I’m going, I hope.

    My second question was whether human choices fall under the PSR and therefore require “explanations” Here’s the dilemma. If we hold to the universal PSR, then _eveything_ must have an explanation. But does that include human choices? As far as I can tell, there are only there possible answers. We ask: do human choices require an explanation?

    Our choices are:

    A. Yes, they require type-1 (determinate) explanations. But if so, it seems like we have causally determined every human choice such that we cannot have chosen otherwise. But then are we denying human freedom? If every one of our actions has an explanation that determines our choice and rules out all alternative choices, then what does human freedom mean?

    B. Yes, but they only require type-2 (indeterminate) explanations. But if so, then why can’t quantum measurements also have type-2 explanations? Why can’t the explanation of measuring a “spin-up” electron be that “it was in a 50% spin-up state prior to measurement”

    C. No. But if human choices don’t require an explanation, then why do quantum measurements require an explanation?

    Do you think these are the only three valid options? If so, which one do you favor? If not, what are the other options?

    -Neil

  226. Melissa says:

    Neil,

    If every one of our actions has an explanation that determines our choice and rules out all alternative choices, then what does human freedom mean?

    It is our choice that determines our actions not the action that determines our choice. Our choices in turn are influenced by other factors but not in a determinate way if you believe we have free will. ie Our choices are explained by reasons because we are rational animals.

    Unless you want to argue that electrons have free will I’m not sure how option B can be valid.

  227. Reidish says:

    Actually, my determinate/indeterminate language was getting at something different which is whether we can have “indeterminate causality.” In other words, can we say that A “explains” B if B and B’ are both possible effects of A?

    Well, it seems that does get at what I was describing. I would say that if A is in the “explanatory lineage” of B, then it at least partly explains B. That is to say, A is a necessary condition for B, but it is not sufficient for B (because B’ could also be true if A is true). Again, this assumes Leibniz’s formulation.

    Moving on:

    We ask: do human choices require an explanation?

    A. Yes, they require type-1 (determinate) explanations. But if so, it seems like we have causally determined every human choice such that we cannot have chosen otherwise. But then are we denying human freedom? If every one of our actions has an explanation that determines our choice and rules out all alternative choices, then what does human freedom mean?

    I lean towards A, but prefer “sufficient reason” to “determinate explanations”, just to keep concepts clear. I would also disagree that this implies that there is no human freedom. To do this we recognize the explanatory power of an agent’s freedom: it is the sum total of the prior states of the universe and the agent’s free will that form the sufficient reason for the agent’s choice. Like thinking, willing freely is what human beings do directly; we do neither of those things in virtue of anything else.

    B. Yes, but they only require type-2 (indeterminate) explanations. But if so, then why can’t quantum measurements also have type-2 explanations? Why can’t the explanation of measuring a “spin-up” electron be that “it was in a 50% spin-up state prior to measurement”

    C. No. But if human choices don’t require an explanation, then why do quantum measurements require an explanation?

    Just a quick word on these two options. The force of these questions only follows if you assume such equivalence between capacities of an agent and capacities of concreta such as electrons. I see no reason to require such equivalence. We could still demand an explanation for the behavior of concreta, while not demanding one of agent choice, or even abstracta like mathematical formulas – they are different types of entities, after all. Of course, I haven’t taken that position here, I’m only saying one could.

  228. Reidish and Melissa,
    You write

    Unless you want to argue that electrons have free will I’m not sure how option B can be valid.

    and

    The force of these questions only follows if you assume such equivalence between capacities of an agent and capacities of concreta such as electrons

    Yes, I completely agree. However, this is exactly what a physicalist would argue. Just as Holo objected to having “two physics” -one of which is deterministic (macro) and one of which is probablistic (quantum)- a physicalist could raise the same objection. He would say that requiring all physical entities to have determinate causes yet exempting “free agents” from this requirement amounts to special pleading. In addition, I think some physicists/mathematicians do actually argue that if humans have free will then elementary particles must also have free will (see John Conway I think). I’m not saying they’re right. I’m just raising the objection that they would make.

    Reidish, as I said, if you only require “partial explanations” (which I don’t think fits the LPSR; it explicitly states that a sufficient reason show that an effect “could not have been otherwise”) then what is wrong with “explaining” the results of a probabilistic measurement via a probabilistic wavefunction, as might be done in the CI? Again, you’d have to appeal to the concreta/agent distinction. I’m not saying that’s wrong, but a physicalist would object that you’re not truly being consistent with the LPSR.

    -Neil

  229. Reidish says:

    Yes, I completely agree.

    Alright, good.

    However, this is exactly what a physicalist would argue. Just as Holo objected to having “two physics” -one of which is deterministic (macro) and one of which is probablistic (quantum)- a physicalist could raise the same objection. He would say that requiring all physical entities to have determinate causes yet exempting “free agents” from this requirement amounts to special pleading.

    Then we could employ the various arguments demonstrating why agents are a different class of substance than concreta. There is no special pleading going on. Similarly, no one would say we are special pleading for numbers when we say that they are causally inefficacious, as opposed to agents. For that just is part of what differentiates numbers from agents.

    In addition, I think some physicists/mathematicians do actually argue that if humans have free will then elementary particles must also have free will (see John Conway I think). I’m not saying they’re right. I’m just raising the objection that they would make.

    Right, I’ve seen this idea floated as well. I’m not persuaded by it, but it is possible.

    Reidish, as I said, if you only require “partial explanations” (which I don’t think fits the LPSR; it explicitly states that a sufficient reason show that an effect “could not have been otherwise”) then what is wrong with “explaining” the results of a probabilistic measurement via a probabilistic wavefunction, as might be done in the CI?

    You’ve gone too far. Remember the necessary / sufficient distinction. A necessary condition N is a partial explanation for truth T, but it is not sufficient for bringing about the truth of T. But still, N must be true for T to be true, so it is part of the explanation for T.

  230. You’ve gone too far. Remember the necessary / sufficient distinction. A necessary condition N is a partial explanation for truth T, but it is not sufficient for bringing about the truth of T. But still, N must be true for T to be true, so it is part of the explanation for T.

    I recognize this distinction, but this depends on what we _kind_ of explanation we require everything to have. I don’t think that anyone objects to everything having a _partial_ explanation or a _necessary_ explanation. For instance, a particle must exist to have any particular property; so its existence is a partial explanation and a necessary explanation for the result of a measurement. But it seems to me that the LPSR does require everything to have a _sufficient_ explanation. So what kind of explanation are you claiming that everything has? And do you agree that the LPSR requires everything has a sufficient explanation (i.e. one that excludes all other possibilities)? Or does your conception of a ‘sufficient explanation’ not exclude all other possibilities?

    Anyway, the whole reason I started this comment thread was that I thought people were too dismissive of the CI. It may be wrong, but it certainly seems to require more than a terse dismissal.

    -Neil

  231. olegt says:

    Neil, are you referring to this?

    Somehow, they have no problem with relativistic formalisms describing correctly (while lost in the noise) non-relativistic phenomena, yet for them it’s acceptable that QM descriptions are fundamentally different from macro descriptions, meaning there are at least two physics going on.

    Holo’s complaint is not particularly interesting. Physics is really a patchwork of theories, not one grand theory. Sometimes theories overlap and they must agree in the region of overlap. It’s easy to check that Newtonian mechanics and theory of relativity agree in the limit of small velocities and weak gravitational fields. There are also consistency checks between non-relativistic quantum mechanics and Newtonian mechanics: Bohr’s correspondence principle shows that the quantum equations of motion are in agreement with Newton’s second law in the limit of large quantum numbers.

    Sometimes the overlap region is hard to access from either theory. A well-known example is the pair general relativity + quantum mechanics. Quantization of gravity turned out to be hard and people are still working on that (see string theory).

    The problem of quantum measurement is a bit like that. You have to use a macroscopic device, which is described by classical physics, to consistently describe a quantum measurement. Ideally, we’d like to have the understanding of the wavefunction collapse without referring back to classical physics. In fact, physicists have made considerable progress in that direction. See Wojciech Zurek’s recent review in Nature Physics [1]. It ought to dispel the quantum-mechanics-is-mental voodoo.

    [1] W. H. Zurek, “Quantum Darwinism,” Nature Physics 5, 181 (2009). arXiv:0903.5082.

  232. Holopupenko says:

    olegt:

    You really DON’T understand quantum mechanics at a deeper level, do you?

    ISSUE #1:
    Here’s the deflection that betrays the lack of deeper thinking:

    Sometimes theories overlap and they must agree in the region of overlap. It’s easy to check that Newtonian mechanics and theory of relativity agree in the limit of small velocities and weak gravitational fields. There are also consistency checks between non-relativistic quantum mechanics and Newtonian mechanics: Bohr’s correspondence principle shows that the quantum equations of motion are in agreement with Newton’s second law in the limit of large quantum numbers.

    It’s the last sentence you hide behind, and I raised it earlier in comment #101. (Yes, of course, you can keep pouting and mumbling “I don’t wanna play…”). For the record, here’s the contradiction between that assertion and an earlier quote from you (in quotes):

    [olegt]: “randomness is limited to the quantum world and does not manifest itself on the macroscopic side.” Really? That’s a strong, very categorical claim, which [you’ll] have to back up: WHEN or WHERE exactly does the behavior STOP being quantum and START being macro? At a certain “large number”? (Cue: laughter)

    THAT is the problem: pretty much everyone here is in agreement regarding the physics on the two extremes–macro or quantum (except, of course, for the silly non-causality issue) and on the Correspondence Principle. However, where you dare not tread is to address the posed earlier. To set the stage:
    (1) you claim–categorically, in fact–that quantum events have no cause. Period.
    (2) You claim macro events have causes.
    (3) Then, you wash your hands of the interesting interface by masking your ignorance with “large numbers”.
    (4) You claim literally there are two different types of physics–quantum (non-causal) and macro (causal)–by stating emphatically: “randomness [non-causality] is limited to the quantum world and does not manifest itself on the macroscopic side”.
    (5) You then refuse to answer the logical follow-up question–a fundamental question–of specifically when or where do objects transition from causality to non-causality, i.e., between two different KINDS of being (the latter being impossible). When is “a large number” big enough for you? In other words, you strongly, strongly imply the number of objects dictates whether the system is causal or non-causal. AND, you simply refuse to believe (with no support, of course) that causality can be anything more than physical efficient causality… which, of course, further blinds you to the understanding that causal vs. non-causal is NOT a physics question but an ontological question.

    ISSUE #2:
    You continue to be an intellectual coward, because not once have you addressed this repeated point (partly because you pout over “too many questions” or the philosophy pushes beyond your competence)… and as far as I can tell, not even partially. Repeated from before stated two ways:

    The issue is the one you desperately cling to with no justification provided whatsoever: not being able to ever find out what causes the spin orientation in no way leads to the conclusion that there is no causality at that level. (Epistemic limitations don’t drive/actualize ontological status.)

    The sword upon which you keep falling upon—the one that warps your understanding of physical reality and reduces it to mathematics—is the non sequitur that an interaction which cannot be measured exactly therefore cannot take place exactly: you illicitly jump from an epistemic operationally-descriptive vision to the imposition of ontological status.

    For the record and for easy reference, that’s why you’re way out of your depth. In and of itself, no one’s holding you accountable for that. The problem is your arrogant refusal to deal with the issue–an issue that has nothing directly to do with religious faith, by the way.

  233. olegt says:

    Holo,

    I am still trying to see if I should start taking you seriously. Your comments, unfortunately, are not helping.

    You have the gall to tell me that I don’t understand quantum mechanics and then in the same breath make it clear that you have no idea what “a large quantum number” means. Here is a clue: it does not involve averaging over a large number of particles. Here is another clue: it is about the same type of overlap as that between geometrical and wave optics.

  234. Holopupenko says:

    Common, olegt… more deflection? I’m most emphatically NOT talking about “averaging over a large number of particles”. Moreover, I simply can’t believe your last sentence: here you contrast two ways, approaches (or models, if you insist) on how light propagation is studied. I’m NOT talking about ways of studying physical phenomena but about the WHATNESS of the quantum events/objects (i.e., their ontological status) being studied. Models are insights into the natures of things, and in that sense they are extremely helpful. BUT, again, it’s the THING I’m interested in: my immediate focus isn’t upon the model (or, more pertinent, to the interpretation) as it seems to be a hangup for you. Using a metaphor: I’m not so much interested in the map (the mathematical model) but in the actual territory itself. Is that really so, so, so difficult for you to understand? Nice attempt at turning the tables: if you insist on deflecting, then it indeed is you who cannot be taken seriously.

    Now, answer the questions posed.

  235. olegt says:

    I know, I know, Holo. You’re interested in learning what elementary particles really are and you want to bypass particle theory (as it is not philosophically equipped) and jump straight to the heart of the matter.

    Well, let me tell you the ultimate answer (* spoiler alert! *): elementary particles really are made of green cheese.

  236. Tom Gilson says:

    Forget this foolish mousetrap-baiting with green cheese. It’s silly, but that matters little. What matters, olegt, is that you’re trying to come off as smarter than the question that was asked of you. But you proved you weren’t when you switched from, “what are elementary particles?” to, “What are they made of?” Those are different questions—unless you’re a scientismist. You missed the real question completely.

    Your silly grandstanding has backfired on you.

    Holopupenko is not bypassing particle theory. He’s incorporating it in his philosophy (which in this context is another term for good, coherent, logical thinking). You, on the other hand, are bypassing philosophy (good, coherent, logical thinking) on your way to particle theory.

  237. Reidish says:

    I recognize this distinction, but this depends on what we _kind_ of explanation we require everything to have. I don’t think that anyone objects to everything having a _partial_ explanation or a _necessary_ explanation. For instance, a particle must exist to have any particular property; so its existence is a partial explanation and a necessary explanation for the result of a measurement.

    So far, so good.

    So what kind of explanation are you claiming that everything has?

    Personally, I’m not sure. I’ve already said I think the LPSR is false. Some other weaker version may be true – maybe one that excludes propositions, but includes events, or at least non-agent events.

    And do you agree that the LPSR requires everything has a sufficient explanation (i.e. one that excludes all other possibilities)?

    Yes.

    Anyway, the whole reason I started this comment thread was that I thought people were too dismissive of the CI. It may be wrong, but it certainly seems to require more than a terse dismissal.

    Right. I’m skeptical of the CI myself, but don’t see a defense of it as somehow self-refuting. Hopefully our exchange was fruitful.

  238. Reidish,
    Ok, your response clarifies everything. Our exchange was very fruitful for me!

    -Neil

  239. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Neil

    I will take a stab at responding to your post #215 (I have not read the subsequent discussion), but please be aware that as far as philosophy goes, I am a counterfeit product, not the real deal. However, before I respond, I would like to pose two questions to you.

    (1) Why do you favor CI? There are other QM interpretations, even fully deterministic ones, that explain the predictions just as well, so what is your reason for embracing it? When I was doing my undergraduate studies I accepted CI for two very simple reasons: I never even dreamt there were other interpretations and was completely oblivious to the philosophical difficulties of CI. In other words, I did not know any better (not implying that this is your case).

    (2) Why do you feel the need to defend CI? I ask this, because I have the feeling that the tenacity to which you hold onto CI makes of CI a central piece of your though. Holopupenko alludes in his post to some of your writings; I have not read them, so could you enlighten me?

    On to your post.

    My first question was whether the PSR can be justified and what provides justification for it. G.R. answered that that all explanations simply involve a chain of causality and to not explain something is by definition ‘irrational’. But I think this is begging the question. If we define ‘rationality’ as ‘seeking to explain events’ then it is ‘irrational’ if we claim an event cannot be explained. But we still have not proved or justified the assumption that all events can actually be explained! We have just defined this position as ‘irrational’!

    Actually, my answer does not differ from Holopupenko’s because denying first principles is falling back to irrationality. Deny the law of contradiction or the law of identity as much as you want, but if you do, you simply loose the capacity to reason.

    I submit that the reason you think that it is possible to maintain that there are events that cannot be explained and at the same time be rational, is because you are committed to a very narrow notion of causation. If causation, as understood for example in physics, is the only sense of causation then I would agree with you because there *are* events or things that cannot be explained by the strict physicalist understanding of causation. The examples should obvious, but look at my last paragraph if none occurs to you.

    The specific case of PSR is treated next.

    But if you look closely, these two examples are not the same. To deny the principle of non-contradiction or logic is _self-refuting_. But to deny the PSR “destroys science”; that’s not the same thing as being self-refuting! Moreover, the PSR as Holo has been using it needs to apply to _everything_, microscopic events as well as macroscopic events as well as non-physical entities, to justify his claim that the CI is ‘rubbish’. I am asking in particular whether we must hold to the _univesality_ of the PSR. In other words, a physicst who holds to CI might still hold to the PSR, just not universally. He would say “Some things have explanations; just not all things.”

    I am going out on a limb here and offer this proof: assume you deny PSR. Then you must have a reason for denying it; call this reason A. Then A is the cause for your denial, and thus you are implicitly using PSR to deny PSR. I do not claim this is an iron-clad, water-tight proof because you could retort that I am playing games with the word “cause”, a charge that I am unable to completely refute. I will however add this: cause for Aristotle is a because, that is, a mode of explanation, and he famously asserted (Posterior Analytics if my memory is not making a complete mess of it all) that “we think we know, only when we have ascertained the cause”. The cause of an event say, is the answer to the question Why? So in every sort of reasoning, the premises or reasons we adduce to justify the conclusion, are its causes in this Aristotelian sense.

    But even if you do not buy into this “proof”, consider this. Suppose that a physicist does take the route you propose. Then he is claiming that quantum events are brute facts, they are that way because they are that way and that is the end of it. Allow me to quote from my previous post to show that the position is untenable:

    And it is no good saying that the quantum weirdness only happens at the (sub)atomic level because that would be like saying that the universe is perfectly rational except in this tiny corner, which just happens to be the most fundamental level of reality by the way, where everything is spooky and for all we know, little magical elves are calling all the shots.

    But we can throw more arguments against the poor physicist:

    (1) Why are quantum events brute facts? What makes them so special? Appealing to physics will do you no good because you are making a claim that goes way beyond what physics can establish.

    (2) Related, why positing brute facts is not an appeal to ignorance? Is there any reason to dismiss any future scientific improvements that will / could lead to an improved understanding?

    (3) Even more fundamentally, can we even in principle recognize a brute fact?

    Even this brute fact commitment, for the case of QM, faces several hurdles on *purely scientific* grounds.

    (1) QM is a *universal* theory of nature; it applies everywhere. Quantum mechanics does not stop working at some random threshold, after which classical mechanics calls the shots. What you can say is that at the macroscopic level (a fuzzy notion itself) classical physics is a very good approximation to QM, in fact so good that they are virtually indistinguishable. And since classical physics is technically easier than QM, when dealing with macroscopic phenomena we use the former rather than the latter. But in any event, your separation is artificial.

    (2) There are inherently quantum phenomena at the macroscopic level: Bose-Einstein condensates and superconductivity are just two examples. So your macroscopic separation does not even work in practice.

    (3) In addition to (2) there is Quantum Gravity, which presumably, will extend the quantum weirdness to the whole universe.

    1a. Do we agree that the PSR is a ‘First Princple’ that cannot be proven? Can it be justified?

    See above. Furthermore, a justification of it could proceed by showing that denying it leads to disastrous consequences, or in other words, PSR is much more reasonable than its denial. It is also justified by all our experience that there is order in the universe and things just do not happen randomly without any cause at all. But since I have already alluded to these types of reasons, I will forego repetition.

    1b. Can someone explain how denying the universality of the PSR is “self-refuting”?

    See above.

    1c. Does A explain B if and only if A provides a reason that it is impossible for anything but B to occur? Or can A still explain B even if something other than B might have occurred.

    Examples are sometimes much better than explanations. Why does the universe exist? There may have been all sorts of intermediary secondary causes, but ultimately, the reason can be traced back to God. This is a perfectly adequate, rational explanation and we can even partly understand, using analogical language, God’s motives for creating the universe. Does it entail that God *necessarily* had to create the universe? I will let you answer that.

  240. olegt says:

    Tom,

    Have philosophers made great strides lately in their quest to learn what elementary particles really are? Clue me in.

  241. Holopupenko says:

    Have physicists? No, not really: technological applications and precise predictions are NOT achievements as explanations.

    In fact, a good number of physicists have screwed things up royally by NOT doing their job: they’ve engaged in silly pseudo-philosophizing (hence the multiple interpretations) and sheer anti-scientific madness of their own (e.g., rejecting the PSR)… hence muddying the waters. Most arrogantly think physics is the ultimate form of knowledge, yet can’t tell us what “knowledge” is in the first place. They get away with saying STUPID things like “ALL things are mathematical,” and yet ignorantly lambaste people of faith with abandon. They hang their hats on alleged paradoxes (because it sounds “cool” and sounds “profound” and impresses the New York Times) rather than pushing forward to understand what’s really going on.

    Apart from that, you are again deflecting, olegt, because you are deathly afraid of challenging your mental baggage and of going beyond number-crunching. You are no more a physicist than a computer is a physicist. You can contribute nothing because you don’t want to contribute anything except deflections upon your own ignorance. You behave like a pouting little child–freely engaging in fallacies, not wanting to play when the game gets difficult, making judgments based upon your ignorance of the subject matter. Yet again, you refuse to address the questions posed in comment #232. You ARE an intellectual coward. In terms of “large numbers” of times you’ve run away, you are NOT to be taken seriously. Your wave function has collapsed to sophistry. In short, you are one of atheism’s damaged goods.

  242. olegt says:

    Holo,

    Name one thing philosophers contributed to our understanding of elementary particles.

  243. Holopupenko says:

    Partly, philosophers having been waiting patiently for physicists to get their heads screwed on straight and produce explanatory results without obfuscation.

    Apart from that, one of the most important contributions made (among others) is the one I keep repeating for you (but from which you keep running away), i.e., they correct physicists in their pseudo-philosophical con game… they tell physicists little or no progress will be made (in fact, retrograde motion is quite possible) if physicists don’t jettison their non sequitur presupposition that an interaction which cannot be measured exactly therefore cannot take place exactly because this is an illicit jump from an epistemic operationally-descriptive vision to the imposition of ontological status. In other words, they provide an overall sanity check.

    Other contributions include admonishing physicists for permitting their mathematical models to dictate reality. There’s plenty of material out there, olegt… if you were genuinely interested in expanding your knowledge.

    Now, for perhaps the seventh time, answer the questions and stop deflecting.

  244. Holopupenko says:

    Tom:

    May I suggest that if the deflection continues you splash the bogey from the site… This is text book disingenuous nonsense on the part of olegt.

  245. Tom Gilson says:

    Olegt,

    Yes, natural philosophers have made great strides. Scientists operating apart from coherent, clear, and logical thinking have also provided important data for these natural philosophers to work with.

  246. GR,
    Some of your questions might be addressed in later comments, but I don’t mind answering them here:

    (1) Why do you favor CI?

    I tend to favor CI for two reasons: first, because I think I lean towards dualism (and definitely reject physicalism) and dualism and CI are quite compatible. Second, because I think the other options are just terrible. However, I think I’ve mentioned before that -based largely upon reflection induced by this site- I would not classify myself as a proponent of ontological-CI (which says things like “the result of this measurement was uncaused”). Rather, I would hold to epistemological-CI which would say something like “asking ‘what is the local state of a particle in an entangled pair?’ is like asking ‘what is the color of the number 3?'”; the question itself is meaningless. You are not making a pejorative assertion about color or the number 3 to reject such a question.

    (2) Why do you feel the need to defend CI?

    Actually, I’m motivated mainly by what I thought were people’s very dismissive attitudes towards the CI. I don’t think it deserves to be called ‘rubbish’ off-handedly and my questions were designed to show that a rejection of CI requires an actual, fairly lengthy, sophisticated argument, not dismissive gestures. I don’t have a huge attachment to the CI and if neorealism turns out to be true, that’s fine.

    Anyway, I’ll answer the rest of your post later. I need to get back to work.

  247. Tom Gilson says:

    olegt,

    May I suggest you acknowledge that when it comes to the philosophy of science, you’re out of your field? That would be much more seemly than the way you are currently acting, as if there was no such field. The fact that you are unfamiliar with it does not mean there is nothing to be known; not unless you know everything.

  248. Melissa says:

    Tom and Holo don’t you realise that in the atheist universe large numbers do have causal power. Add enough random events together and you get a determinate event, add enough irrational events together and you get rationality. Whatever you want to explain – large numbers did it.

  249. Tom Gilson says:

    LOL!

    And even though numbers have no causal powers, if you add enough of them together they can cause anything!

  250. olegt says:

    Holo, you forgot to mention keeping an eye on the fairies. Otherwise, a great summary. What would physicists do without philosophers constantly nagging at them? Can’t imagine!

  251. olegt says:

    Melissa wrote:

    Add enough random events together and you get a determinate event

    Yes, Melissa, that is how pressure of a fluid forms. From random knocks of its molecules on the walls of the container. The pressure is very much deterministic. That’s large numbers in action. There is an entire branch of physics—statistical mechanics—that is based on things of that sort.

  252. olegt says:

    Yes, Tom, I am an amateur when it comes to philosophy of science. But I asked the self-described expert to explain what exactly philosophers contribute to the knowledge of one particular subject. His answer speaks for itself.

  253. Melissa says:

    Olegt,

    Are the knocks truly random?

  254. olegt says:

    It doesn’t matter, Melissa. Statistical physics assumes that they are random and derives thermodynamical phenomena from that. The theory works pretty well.

    They could be completely random or be simulated, the effect wouldn’t be any different.

  255. Melissa says:

    Olegt,

    You are confusing a useful description with an accurate description.

  256. olegt says:

    Where is the inaccuracy? Point it out.

  257. Holopupenko says:

    Assuming they (the motions of molecules) are random [without cause] doesn’t make them random. Your assumptions don’t actualize reality no matter how much you want them to.

    You’ve now openly and unabashedly betrayed your enslavement to your assumptions and models (beings of reason, i.e., human artifacts) rather than knowing the thing itself: you are so Kantian in your disordered view of reality that you simply can’t understand the hamster-on-the-wheel trap in which your head spins.

    You no longer care about reality–and hence you no longer effectively care about science. Your concerns are assumptions about things, about number crunching… rather than the objects of study themselves. Because, in your words, “it doesn’t matter.”

    Interestingly, this parallels your incorrect assumptions about faith, God, etc. Your assumption, presuppositions, a priori commitments or what have you won’t make Him go away… it only means you’re burying your head deeper in the atheist sand of your making.

    You won’t challenge your assumptions because they have replaced reality for you. You won’t challenge your ignorance, you won’t expand your knowledge beyond your uni-dimensional thinking about reality because you’re happy to wallow in intellectual flatland.

    This is the result of your atheism: reality reduced to your little world of assumptions. Indeed, there is no way–in your current self-imposed state–to take you seriously. You resemble quite closely the transparent ghosts of pre-Heaven (C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce) who can’t stand the hard fullness of reality. You have, quite literally, dehumanized yourself. I never thought I’d witness this played out in front of me.

    At the end of the day, it’s an issue of a disordered and enslaved will that is not subject to fides et ratio but to one’s own egotism. Indeed, olegt, your will is no longer free because you failed to heed the wise admonition be careful what you wish for… you may just get it. Your “free” will is deeply damaged because you’ve failed to appreciate your reason–a reason that might normally call you to higher things.

    But, “it doesn’t matter,” to you… does it?

    (And, for the eighth or so time, I remind the studio audience about olegt’s deflections and refusing to address the questions. Ponder well the dehumanizing fruits of atheism…)

  258. Tom Gilson says:

    Just once, olegt, I’d love to see you actually make the attempt to understand what someone is saying rather than telling them to explain it more and more and more. Either that, or else I’d like for you to acknowledge that you’re out of your field. Your last reply to me nodded in that direction again, but then contradicted yourself in the second half by once again mocking that which you do not understand.

    Either you can add your own effort to this project of understanding or you can say “no thanks, it’s not for me.” What I’d love to see you stop doing is this foolish mockery, shifting the burden, and not demonstrating the slightest interest in contributing anything positive.

  259. Melissa says:

    Olegt,

    As entertaining as this is we all know that a description does not need to be accurate in all details to offer up a useful result. When scientists forget that they make idiots of themselves.

  260. olegt says:

    Melissa,

    I am not sure where you are going with this. I offered you an example of a physical process that is extremely noisy and irregular on the microscopic scale. Yet when the effects of a great number of collisions are added you get a very regular effect: steady pressure. It matters not one whit whether the molecular collisions are truly random or just merely chaotic in the technical sense of the word (they are chaotic for sure). Even if the knocks were truly random, by adding a great many of them we would obtain a very predictable, and measurable, pressure.

    The take-home message for you is that yes, one can add a great number of random events and end up with a highly predictable result, something that you were mocking.

  261. Melissa says:

    Olegt,

    Maybe I was unclear in what I wrote which has allowed you to equivocate on the terms. How does the addition of large numbers of uncaused contingent events result in a caused event?

  262. Tom Gilson says:

    There is no take-home message there, olegt. You just missed her point. You’re out of your field and you won’t acknowledge it properly. And moving back toward where we started from: does random (in any quantity) equal uncaused? How do you know?

  263. Holopupenko says:

    To assert the following again betrays olegt’s ignorance:

    Even if the knocks were truly random, by adding a great many of them we would obtain a very predictable, and measurable, pressure.

    Not true at all: random = uncaused, if uncaused then it can’t be there in the first place–we would no nothing about it. The chain of events olegt suggests is ludicrous: uncaused molecules are “causing” pressure… which is akin to saying shadows (the privation of light) “causes” a certain intensity of light. Absurd.

    Do you guys see just how dumb it is to assert “add a great number of random events and end up with a highly predictable result”? Add uncaused to make caused? That’s like saying if you have enough gears in a watch you’ll eventually get motion, or, if you put enough fifth graders in a room you’ll eventually add to the intelligence of an Einstein, or, if you add enough oranges together you’ll eventually have an apple. Even if we were to grant poor olegt true randomness, the objects of that randomness would be fundamentally ontologically different from any caused beings. But, again, to olegt “it matters not one whit.”

    Molecules hitting the sides of a container are chance events (intersection of two or more independent lines of causality)–not “random” events (uncaused). This was figured out long, long ago. Must not teach such fundamentals at МФТИ… probably not much physics either.

    Still not addressing the questions, by the way…

  264. Tom Gilson says:

    Why does ignorance matter? It’s not because God requires us to understand the difference between random, chance, and uncaused in order to live in Christ. It’s important in its way, but it’s hardly a core concept for spirituality.

    No, it’s not about ignorance. It’s about pride that prevents one from submitting to Christ. I worry about pride in myself and fellow Christians, too, for the same reason, and also because it’s distasteful in the eyes of unbelievers—understandably so.

    olegt, this is my concern for you. I don’t really care how much philosophy you know. I care about how open to change based on truth your heart and mind may be.

  265. Holopupenko says:

    Tom:

    My comments are limited to a great extent to the physics and the philosophy… with oblique references to faith. Of course to a large extent you’re correct. But one can’t be completely ignorant: a mind IS required–commanded, in fact: “Love the Lord your God with all your soul, and all your strength AND ALL YOUR MIND…” You’re correct about pride–a grave, deeply debilitating sin. My usual mantra: sin dehumanizes, which denigrates our human nature–including a degradation of our capacity to reason, which leads to (among other things) ignorance (in the sense of not caring to know what is important). Once you start with (or, heaven forbid, celebrate) sin, it’s all down hill from there.

    I also don’t really care too much if olegt is philosophy deficient. My approach is from another direction, Tom: I’m focused on the impact of sin upon human nature… in your words, the damage to “coherent, clear, and logical thinking.” My approach is: “do you [olegt] GET what you’re doing to yourself?” You, Tom, “care about how open to change based on truth [olegt’s] heart and mind may be.” I worry to what extent it’s possible for a damaged-from-sin human to be “open to change based on truth”.

  266. Tom Gilson says:

    I see that, Holo. I wrote that because I hope olegt might see it too.

  267. Victoria says:

    Hi Holo 🙂
    You said

    Assuming they (the motions of molecules) are random [without cause] doesn’t make them random. Your assumptions don’t actualize reality no matter how much you want them to.

    I must have missed something in the discussion thread where you explained how ‘random’ was equivalent to ‘without cause’ (or am I misinterpreting here?). I thought that random meant something along the lines of ‘unpredictable’ or ‘probabilistic’. If I take N 6-sided dice and toss them (even if this is done mechanically by a controlled system) it would not be possible to calculate the outcome with certainty because of sensitive dependence on initial conditions and the experimental uncertainties in those initial conditions. Assuming that the dice are fair and ordinary (no little magnets in them), the motions of the dice as they are tossed and rolled are uncorrelated (any collisions only redistribute the energy and just add to the complexity of the process). So, the best I can do is to make an assumption that the process is random (that each face of a die has an equal probability of coming out on top), and then I can calculate the probability distribution of all possible outcomes of a toss. We know from experiment that the measured distribution of outcomes approaches the theoretical distribution for an ensemble average over a large (enough) number of trials. However, although the outcome of a particular toss is ‘random’, it was certainly not uncaused, since I actually threw the dice, right?
    So, I’m confused and a bit perplexed by your statement. This is a bit off topic, so perhaps it would be sufficient for you to point me to a reference source or link 🙂

    Thanks…TTYL

  268. olegt says:

    Hi Melissa,

    Your revised version is an entirely different question. I have no idea how to answer it. Not my cup of tea.

  269. olegt says:

    Do you guys see just how dumb it is to assert “add a great number of random events and end up with a highly predictable result”? Add uncaused to make caused?

    These two statements came from Melissa, and if I understand correctly, she sees some difference between them. Why Holo would lump them together is anyone’s guess.

  270. GR,
    You might want to go back and read my dialogue with Reidish, especially comment 225. But I’ll try to summarize the discussion again here. You write

    Actually, my answer does not differ from Holopupenko’s because denying first principles is falling back to irrationality. Deny the law of contradiction or the law of identity as much as you want, but if you do, you simply loose the capacity to reason.

    As I already said, denying the LPRS is not like denying the law of non-contradiction because it a denial of the LPSR is not self-refuting, unlike a denial of the law of non-contradiction. See below.

    I submit that the reason you think that it is possible to maintain that there are events that cannot be explained and at the same time be rational, is because you are committed to a very narrow notion of causation.

    I don’t understand why this assertion keeps being made! I promise, I am not a physicalist. I fully accept non-physical causes and explanations. So as far as I know I am not committed to a ‘narrow’ definition of causation.

    I am going out on a limb here and offer this proof: assume you deny PSR. Then you must have a reason for denying it; call this reason A. Then A is the cause for your denial, and thus you are implicitly using PSR to deny PSR.

    Claiming that CI violates the PSR requires us to hold to the universal LPSR which states that _everything_ has a _sufficient_ cause (i.e. one that shows how the outcome could not have been otherwise). Now someone who holds to the CI could simply adopt a _limited_ LPSR which says “some things have sufficient causes and other things don’t.” This claim is not self-refuting because his denial of the universal PSR could be one of those things which _do_ have an explanation. Does that make sense? For this reason, I think Reidish and I are pretty satisfied that a denial of the universal LPSR is not self-refuting. Consequently, to deny the LPSR is not to abandon reason unless you _define_ reason as “accepting the universal LPSR”, which is definitely begging the question.

    And it is no good saying that the quantum weirdness only happens at the (sub)atomic level because that would be like saying that the universe is perfectly rational except in this tiny corner,

    This is begging the question. If a denial of the universal LPSR is not self-refuting, then it is possible to reject it without abandoning reason. But now you argue that we can’t have a limited PSR that applies only to the microworld or to some little corner of the universe. Why? Because then “little magical elves [could be] calling all the shots.” Yes, but this is just an argument from intuition. You might argue that it seems plausible that everything, everywhere has an explanation. But that is very far short of a proof or even a justification of the LPSR. Simply saying “I’m sure the micro world is just like the macroworld” is really begging the question through implicitly adopting the universal LPSR.

    Anyway, your other responses actually point back to your proof that denial of the universal LPSR is self-refuting, which I don’t think is correct (see above). So if the LPSR is not self-refuting, then your other objections also fall. But I think a far bigger problem was raised in my comment #225 about how an adoption of the universal LPSR would affect our ideas of human freedom. In this case, I think we have an example where our intuition clearly tells us that there are areas in which the LPSR does _not_ apply, namely to human freedom. But in that case, the LPSR does _not_ apply in a universal sense; so why does it need to apply to quantum physics? Again, see comment 225 and what follows, because Reidish and I discussed this and concluded that: denial of the LPSR is not self-refuting and the universal LPSR is probably false.

    I hope this helps.

    -Neil

  271. olegt says:

    Molecules hitting the sides of a container are chance events (intersection of two or more independent lines of causality)–not “random” events (uncaused). This was figured out long, long ago. Must not teach such fundamentals at МФТИ… probably not much physics either.

    Holo,

    Do us all a favor and look up the word random in a dictionary. Here is Merriam-Webster. See esp. Point 2.

    And of course, they don’t teach much physics in MFTI. Not at all. None. How I managed to enter grad school at Columbia is a total mystery. God, what a fool.

  272. Victoria says:

    @Oleg (#271)
    Do us all a favor and look up the word random in a dictionary. Here is Merriam-Webster. See esp. Point 2.

    Yeah, that’s what I always thought, too.
    That, and the a priori assumption that all microstates in a macro state are equally likely as a fundamental postulate of statistical mechanics, validated a posteriori by comparison with experimental results.

  273. Holopupenko says:

    Hi Victoria:

    The point of the quote from me you provided was to indicate that wanting or thinking or “assuming” something into existence isn’t going to make it that way. Just wanted to make sure that was clear.

    The full and formal definition of a chance event is “the intersection of two or more independent lines of causality.” An example will help.

    CAUSE #1: ten centuries ago a robber buries a chest of gold in the ground, hoping to later retrieve it… but unfortunately he is killed by another robber. The four fundamental causes are satisfied to explain the existence of the buried gold. Material cause: the wood and gold metal; Formal cause: a chest and coins; Efficient cause: the robber burying the chest at that particular location; Final cause: the intention of the robber to hide the gold in order to later retrieve it.

    CAUSE #2: I’m using a rototiller to prepare a garden for my wife. All four causes, similar to that developed for CAUSE #1 explain my actions.

    NOTE: both these phenomena (1-the buried gold; 2-my preparation of the ground for gardening) are not related to each other–they are, in fact, independent lines of causality.

    CHANCE is the intersection of those lines: I’m happy to be rich NOT because I planned it that way or worked at it that way, but because my action resulted in my finding a chest. Note that there are not four causes that explain my finding the chest, there are only two intersecting lines of causality that each separately (per the above) are explained by their four causes.

    But, I earlier claimed one needs all four causes to explain the existence of any contingent being/event. Am I now going against what I said? No. The four causes are needed to explain the per se existence of objects/events, they are not required to explain the existence of per accidens objects/events. Per accidens objects/events contain the four causes as ordered to the individual independent lines of causality that interest, i.e., the four causes are contained implicitly but not essentially or directly.

    So, a chance event is not something that just pops out of thin air with no cause–as those burdened by Copenhagen would want us to believe.

    Here I need to distinguish some more. What I’ve been talking about above is technically termed “relative chance.” This is distinct from “absolute chance” or what is commonly (but sloppily) referred to as “random” or “randomness,” i.e., utterly without causes, i.e., no per se four causes, no per accidens intersection of independent causal lines, no causes whatsoever. Absolute chance (or ontological randomness) is impossible because that would mean the object/event literally pops out of the thin air with no cause. It’s not even a creation ex nihilo thing because for creation God is the Ultimate Cause of existence “from” nothing. That doesn’t mean “nothing” is some “thing” that is the “raw material” from which God created things and maintains them in existence things. Nothing is literally NO-thing: the utter privation of beingness.

    Yet anti-PSR and Copenhagen-burdened physicists want you to believe it’s okay for things to pop into existence “from” nothing (i.e., uncaused) as long as God isn’t involved. In other words, it’s FAR, FAR worse than usurping God’s power to create: they take Him out of the picture and replace Him with nothing as the efficient cause. But, as the old Scholastic Principle tells us, nothing comes from nothing. Period. Nothing–the utter privation of being–can’t “do” or “acutalize” anything because there’s nothing there (no being) to do the actualizing.

    If you think this is a tempest in a teapot, or that no physicist worth his weight in quarks actually believes such nonsense. Think again:

    “The entire universe burst into something from absolutely nothing–zero, nada. And as it got bigger, it became filled with even more stuff that came from absolutely nowhere…” [Alan Guth, MIT Professor of Physics, Discovery April 2002]

    One cannot get more irrational–or perhaps more STUPID–than this. Why? Because the statement doesn’t imply something (maybe God?) created the universe ex nihilo, but rather that the universe is explained by saying it ITSELF came from nothing, i.e., that nothing (no being) actualized something! (Maybe Guth thinks the universe existed before it existed in order to “create” itself from nothing?!? Yeah, makes perfect sense… NOT!)

    Anyway, to continue with your question, the “probabilistic” thing refers more to the mathematical formalisms used to describe events that the events themselves. We could, in principle, if we knew (per what you correctly said) all the initial and boundary conditions, make a solid and precise deterministic prediction of the outcome of a tossed coin. But we don’t, do we? In fact, we intentionally ignore all those interesting but tedious details: exact mass of the coin, the initial kinematic conditions, influence of wind currents and humidity, tackiness and surface roughness of the coin, mass distribution of the coin to include manufacturing defects, the impact of the oil and dirt from the fingers of the coin flipper, the influence of all massive bodies in the universe on the coin, etc., etc., ad nauseum. We ignore measuring pretty much all of the properties of the coin and we flip an “average” coin about 100 times, and with the support of the binomial theorem come up with a mathematical formalism to describe the chances of a coin coming up heads, coming up tails, or landing on its side.

    The mathematical formalisms do NOT impose upon or actualize the ontological status of the coin, they merely describe outcomes. There is NO WAY–I don’t care how much effort goes into provide the most precise mathematical formalism to describe any such phenomena–that event per se, i.e., by its very nature is “random”. Coin tosses aren’t really “random” (i.e., without cause, i.e., absolute chance events) because that would be tantamount to claiming the coin landed heads from nothing. Moreover, we wouldn’t know anything about it: if there’s no cause, there’s no scientific knowledge of the cause… because science is knowledge through causes.

    Probabilistic mathematical formalisms tell us more about what we don’t know that what we do know about tossed coins–intentionally so. Similarly, quantum mathematical formalisms are probabilistic. Why? Well, one example is scattering: the measurement affects the objects–we get a range of values; we correlate that data into (yep, you guessed it) mathematical formalisms that can’t be deterministic because the spread of values forces us to that situation. Okay, but so what? But just because our mathematical formalisms are probabilistic doesn’t in any way imply the objects themselves are “probabilistic” by their natures, i.e., random, i.e., absolute chance events. It just means we have much more work to do… and it may be–given our limitations–that we’ll never have a knife thin enough to slice reality. But, again, so what: epistemic limitations do NOT define ontological status… just like correlation doesn’t imply causation. And, the Bell Theorem does NOT help in this respect: it itself is a highly abstract empiriological theorem… which leaves much of reality behind. Don’t confuse what I said with the “hidden variable” parry: I’m talking ontological status, not epistemic limitations.

    Sorry, I got of on some tangents–but important ones. It’s a teacher thing… Hope that helps.

  274. Holopupenko says:

    olegt:

    Ummm… yeah, but I didn’t get my education from a dictionary as you likely did at МФТИ (and perhaps at Columbia as well… maybe even in the same way most degrees are purchased in the FSU): MIT did fine by me. [Hat-tip to David Berlinski…]

    Anyway, I’m not disputing those definitions as far as they go: definitions help us understand what words mean. I can also find “unicorn” in the dictionary, so I kinda know what a unicorn is… but unicorns don’t exist, do they?

    Merriam-Webster. Great. You seem to have moved up from Wikipedia. Keep going: try maybe a reputable philosophy dictionary… but I’m not going to do the work for you.

  275. Holopupenko says:

    P.S. olegt: still comfortable being a coward for not addressing the earlier questions?

  276. Victoria says:

    @Holo
    Thanks for the detailed reply 🙂
    It’s late, so I’ll pick it up in the morning to digest it some more.

  277. Holo,
    You’ve said several times that “But, again, so what: epistemic limitations do NOT define ontological status… just like correlation doesn’t imply causation” and I definitely agree. Indeed, this was a very helpful distinction for me. However, I think you would also agree that epistemic limitations _could_ reflect ontological status just like correlation _could_ reflect causation.

    So let’s say that I held the ontological-CI position and said not only that it is epistemologically impossible to know the cause of some measurement outcome (say, why some electron is in a spin-up state), but that there is _no_ cause for this measurement outcome. You would say “that’s nonsense” but your justification would be the LPSR (every event has an explanation which shows how it could not have been otherwise), right?

    But do you agree with Reidish and I that a denial of the _universal_ LPSR (_everything_ follows the LPSR) is not self-refuting? If so, what would prevent me from claiming that _some_ events have explanations but that _others_ do not? Would this limited LPSR be obviously false? If so, why?

    -Neil

  278. Melissa says:

    Olegt,

    My revised question was just to prevent your equivocation over the word random. Earlier in this thread you equated quantum randomness with uncaused so to argue that my revised version is a different question is disingenuous. You also argued that was confined to quantum events. I’m Still wondering why you are offering up your opinion on a topic you are not interested in?

  279. Tom Gilson says:

    olegt, in #269 you wrote, “These two statements came from Melissa.” You’re right, but apparently you didn’t notice the tongue-in-cheek way in which she wrote them.

  280. Victoria says:

    Hmmm….it seems to me that ‘chance’ and ‘randomness’ have been imbued with a metaphysical meaning that goes beyond the original intended empirical meaning, and that is the source of the confusion here (it certainly has caused my confusion, no pun intended)

  281. Holopupenko says:

    olegt:

    Wow! You continue to bring me to new heights of amazement: that you so badly missed the point of my comment #263, Melissa’s excellent, brief, and to the point comment #261, Tom’s having then to point out your blinders… and your usual cowardly run-away MO “I have no idea how to answer it. Not my cup of tea.” (when, in fact, you had just asserted [comment #260] what Melissa asked you!!) is incredible! You are indeed an embarrassment to all of academia; you are a excellent example of what МФТИ produces… and a true victim of your own atheism. I no longer have an image of a robotic number-cruncher in my mind, but of a monkey, ahem, “randomly” pounding a keyboard (or sand?) not even trying to make sense–echoing Tom’s comment #258.

  282. olegt says:

    Victoria,

    It’s amazing, isn’t it?

    1. Borrow everything wholesale from science and mathematics.
    2. Contribute nothing new.
    3. Change the terminology.
    4. Complain that people do not understand you.

    That’s a great recipe for success.

  283. olegt says:

    You are indeed an embarrassment to all of academia; you are a excellent example of what МФТИ produces… and a true victim of your own atheism. I no longer have an image of a robotic number-cruncher in my mind, but of a monkey, ahem, “randomly” pounding a keyboard (or sand?) not even trying to make sense–echoing Tom’s comment #258.

    Thank you for opening my eyes, Holo! I have seen the error of my ways. I shall resign my clearly undeserved tenured position at a Tier-One university, stop doing research, return my federal grants, cease reviewing manuscripts for Nature, Science, Physical Review, and so on, cancel my invited talks in England, Brazil, and Japan, and go to teach at some quiet community college.

  284. Holopupenko says:

    Well, yes olegt… But we already know that about you. We’re just wondering whether you can get over it. Give it the ole college try!

  285. Holopupenko says:

    Mark 8:36

  286. olegt says:

    And as penance, and a chance at proper education, I shall enroll at Voxiversity.

  287. Holopupenko says:

    Victoria:

    No. You’ve got it exactly backwards. General principles and definitions were developed first, then narrower applications followed. I suggest, among a number of other sources, you refer back to the book Tom reviewed a few weeks ago by James Hannam. [Tom: reference to your review, please.]

    Here’s an admittedly easier example than randomness: “motion”… which actually refers to all change. The full definition is “reduction from potency to act.” Today’s physics depends on that definition (read the history of the development of Newton’s Laws), but carves out only a narrow portion of it so that it can do it’s fine investigations of kinematics, and reduces that definition to “change in position given an initial and final time,” and then further reduces that definition to mathematical formalisms (say, dx/dt) so that predictions can be made as applied to all bodies in motion. Clearly, in the process of reduction and abstraction, predictive efficacy is gained at the expense of leaving most of reality behind through abstraction.

    Well, a similar kind of development led to today’s mathematical formalisms that must ASSUME “randomness” (i.e., leaving all particulars behind and hence intentionally importing ignorance of all sorts of details without accounting for them) in order to focus on narrow aspects of phenomena so that descriptive efficacy is gained… except those descriptions are now probabilistic instead of deterministic.

    I think you should be able to see why neither the macro deterministic nor the quantum probabilistic formalisms capture the full ontological import of the object/phenomenon being studied. In fact, they don’t even come close… although the work of the MESs provides very valuable insights into the natures of extra-mental contingent beings

  288. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Neil:

    I have just time enough to write this short (??) response; I will try to read your conversation with Reidish and see if it makes a difference to what I said — a difference in the sense of me having to sharpen the arguments (or the positions themselves).

    Claiming that CI violates the PSR requires us to hold to the universal LPSR which states that _everything_ has a _sufficient_ cause (i.e. one that shows how the outcome could not have been otherwise). Now someone who holds to the CI could simply adopt a _limited_ LPSR which says “some things have sufficient causes and other things don’t.” This claim is not self-refuting because his denial of the universal PSR could be one of those things which _do_ have an explanation. Does that make sense?

    Not really. First, what is with the parenthetical remark? If we are to take it literally, then rational agents endowed with Free Will (God as well as human beings) cannot be causes in explanation schemes which is patently false — and this is why I think, despite your protestations otherwise, that you are working under a narrow idea of causation.

    Second, maybe someone is misunderstanding the other (or both) but in the penultimate sentence you have just… agreed with me. Denote the denial of PSR by -PSR. If there is a cause for -PSR, then your accepting -PSR is an implicit appeal to PSR to accept -PSR. That was the idea of my argument. Or do you think there is no contradiction involved when using some principle to actively deny it?

    This is begging the question. If a denial of the universal LPSR is not self-refuting, then it is possible to reject it without abandoning reason. But now you argue that we can’t have a limited PSR that applies only to the microworld or to some little corner of the universe. Why? Because then “little magical elves [could be] calling all the shots.” Yes, but this is just an argument from intuition. You might argue that it seems plausible that everything, everywhere has an explanation. But that is very far short of a proof or even a justification of the LPSR.

    I confess that you completely lost me here. Even if you do not buy my proof, even though as I stated above I think you misunderstood it, I gave you a justification of PSR, where by justification I mean reasons that make the PSR more reasonable than its denial, and I also raised several objections to commiting oneself to the idea that the microworld is different from the macroworld. You have responded to none.

  289. Tom Gilson says:

    olegt, of course you can do physics. I’ve never questioned that.

    Holopupenko, I have said before that globalizing your criticism of someone’s competence will lead them to globalized incredulity at what you say about them. If you imply that olegt can’t do physics, you’re obviously wrong. If you imply that he is stunted in his ability to do physics, you’re almost as obviously wrong, or you might as well be: for the manner in which you’re telling him he is stunted is one that doesn’t matter to him or to most of his peers. They just don’t care; they don’t think it affects them; and they reinforce one another in that so thoroughly that you’ll never break through with a direct frontal approach. Though I agree with you on the point in question, nevertheless I know that you stand exactly zero chance that olegt will find it believable. And when you say one thing that is so literally impossible to believe, then your entire credibility fails with it.

    That is what has happened to you: you have no credibility in olegt’s eyes. This is why he finds it so easy to ignore you and scoff at you. It’s not just because of his mocking, uncaring attitude toward God; it’s also because you have pressed repeatedly on a point that he really cannot believe, for the reasons I just named in the prior paragraph.

    Combine the in-credibility that you have developed in olegt’s eyes with the view toward God that he carries with him into the conversation, and what you get as output is “I shall enroll at Voxiversity.”

    I don’t know what might be any more effective at getting through to him than this, but I know your criticism of his skills in physics won’t work. If your desire is to persuade, it’s not going to happen this way. If your desire is simply to criticize, then you’ve already accomplished that as much as you’re ever likely to do. And that isn’t getting through either.

    My appeal to you, olegt, is not about your physics. It’s about your integrity. Holopupenko questions whether an atheist can care about integrity, but on this he and I disagree. You and I and Holo are all carriers of the image of God. Though you do not believe in God, still you have a conscience, you have God’s laws written on your heart, and thus you really know that integrity counts.

    You are perpetually unwilling to acknowledge your incompetence in matters philosophical. When it comes up you say instead that it’s irrelevant, which is an odd position for you to adopt: if you’re completely incompetent in a subject, that incompetence necessarily extends to inability to judge whether that subject matters. So when you say, “I shall enroll at Voxiversity,” you are miring yourself deeper and deeper in public display of ignorance, and meanwhile you are mocking the very competence whose lack you claim on the surface to be owning up to. That’s self-contradictory and patently dishonest.

    Do you like that about yourself? Do you think that’s consistent with the kind of person you want to be?

    I keep asking that question. Do you have an answer?

  290. Tom Gilson says:

    As my own penance to Holopupenko, I must also acknowledge that olegt has equal ability to respond as foolishly to other writers here. I missed that comment earlier.

    olegt, do you like that about yourself?

  291. Holopupenko says:

    Tom:

    To a certain extent you’re correct… But did you miss the “bye” I gave myself with the David Berlinski reference? Reason hasn’t worked with olegt, focusing on the self-inflicted damage to his (in your words) “coherent, clear, and logical thinking”–which, by the way has direct relevance to his intellectual integrity–hasn’t worked… so a little Berlinski teasing is in order.

    By the way, having lived in the FSU for just over 14 years and having briefly taught there as a volunteer, I know a little about what the “costs” are for getting into “top” VUZi–an endemic problem that touches upon virtually every student, teacher, and administrator. And, so, I’m naturally lead to wonder what “assistance” may be “granted” from Brighton Beach heavies to “svoi studenti” who may need a lift in the “coherent, clear, and logical thinking” area. Just a thought…

    Just what Potemkin village has olegt set up for himself? Just what is he doing to himself? So far, to respond to your question, Tom, he does seem to like that about himself.

    By the way, a little insight into the Slavic mindset: while this seems to apply more so to Ukrainians, it is certainly true about Russians. When one enters into deep discussions with Slavs and there are disagreements, it is characteristic of them to argue not just in support of their own position, but vigorously and exhaustingly to probe whether their interlocutors are committed to their own positions and really believe their own positions. I suspect that perhaps at a subconscious level that is what olegt is doing… as I am doing, but consciously. I’m not convinced olegt really deeply in his heart buys into some of what he spouts here (witness the evasiveness and deflection).

    By the way, Tom, no need for the penance: I don’t wear a collar… 😉 …and I find this kinda fun.

  292. olegt says:

    Tom wrote:

    You are perpetually unwilling to acknowledge your incompetence in matters philosophical.

    I suppose I need to point out just one counter example to prove you wrong. But just in case, I will point out two.

    As to Holo, not only does he question my professional competence and my integrity (hey, I probably purchased my degree!), he suggests that my alma mater, the premier institution of higher education for physicists in the USSR and Russia, does not teach much physics! (Did you know that the two recent Nobel laureates in physics graduated from it? No? Well, now you do.) If you think this sort of behavior can be tolerated on this blog, I have a low opinion of you.

  293. Tom Gilson says:

    Your first such “acknowledgment,” olegt (#252) was self-contradictory, as I already told you. Your second one was pretty weak tea, too specific to one question and too offhand to be recognizable as an admission of your incompetence in philosophy of science. More often you scoff, anyway, demonstrating that you think you understand it well enough to know what you are mocking.

    In other words, I don’t believe you, because you contradict yourself. You display continual dishonesty on this.

    Do you like that about yourself?

  294. Tom Gilson says:

    Concerning Holopupenko, you know the comments I’ve been directing toward him, not just with respect to persuasive strategy but also his general approach. I can tolerate his behavior at least as well as I can tolerate your dishonesty.

    When I address him on such things he responds, by the way. Speaking of which, do you like your dishonesty? Do you like that you keep ducking the question? Are you willing to face yourself?

  295. olegt says:

    Tom,

    I have never pretended to be a competent philosopher.

  296. Tom Gilson says:

    Yes you have. You have pretended to know enough about it to respond to philosophical statements and pronounce them wrong or irrelevant. When writers on blogs like this say that some philosophical position P challenges your own position, you say P is incorrect or does not affect your position, and that the writer is therefore wrong. That’s pretending competence.

    Your involvement in such discussions demonstrates that you think the philosophical questions directed toward you have some importance, but you refuse scoffingly to learn something about them. That’s intellectual pretense. It’s dishonesty.

    Now, do you like that about yourself? Or will you protect yourself from it by continuing to evade it? No one is getting fooled but you.

  297. olegt says:

    Tom,

    I know that you have criticized Holo on occasion. However, his latest insinuations that I purchased my higher education in the USSR and perhaps even at Columbia cross the proverbial line. They are pure slander. You must not tolerate such things.

  298. Tom Gilson says:

    I didn’t read it that way. Perhaps one of you could clarify.

  299. olegt says:

    Clarify what? Do you need evidence that I have not bribed my way to MFTI and Columbia?

  300. Victoria says:

    @All
    I’m just surprised by the notion that the postulates of statistical mechanics (things like equipartition of energy, that all microstates are equally probable, etc) are now being equated with negating ’cause and effect’.
    I think Maxwell and Boltzmann would be equally surprised by the idea. I’ll say more later about what I’m thinking when I have the time.

  301. Tom Gilson says:

    No, olegt, I didn’t say that. Not by any stretch. I said I didn’t read it that way, with “it” referring to what Holopupenko wrote (his “insinuations”), and “that way” referring to the way you interpreted it.

    So what I need is evidence that that was what Holopupenko intended his comment to communicate. Where does Columbia come in? Where did he say bribery? It’s a bit opaque to me. Please feel free to enlighten me, for (ahem) when I don’t understand something, I don’t mind asking about it.

  302. olegt says:

    Your involvement in such discussions demonstrates that you think the philosophical questions directed toward you have some importance, but you refuse scoffingly to learn something about them. That’s intellectual pretense. It’s dishonesty.

    I find most philosophical discussions not particularly interesting and I have said so many times. However, when philosophy intrudes on science’s turf, I think I have something to say on the subject. And when philosophers reveal their shallow understanding of the subject at hand, yes, I do scoff.

    If you wish to call that dishonesty, it’s your choice. But that isn’t what is normally understood under this term.

  303. Tom Gilson says:

    To pretend competence one does not own is intellectual dishonesty. That is a normal understanding of the term.

  304. olegt says:

    Tom, you are willfully blind.

    Read this:

    Ummm… yeah, but I didn’t get my education from a dictionary as you likely did at МФТИ (and perhaps at Columbia as well… maybe even in the same way most degrees are purchased in the FSU):

    And this:

    By the way, having lived in the FSU for just over 14 years and having briefly taught there as a volunteer, I know a little about what the “costs” are for getting into “top” VUZi–an endemic problem that touches upon virtually every student, teacher, and administrator. And, so, I’m naturally lead to wonder what “assistance” may be “granted” from Brighton Beach heavies to “svoi studenti” who may need a lift in the “coherent, clear, and logical thinking” area. Just a thought…

    And tell me how else you can understand that.

    In case you need some translation, VUZ is the Russian acronym for an institution of higher learning. And Brighton Beach is a place in Brooklyn, NY, populated by Russian emigres.

  305. olegt says:

    Ah, we have switched to the term intellectual dishonesty. So I am not accused of being plain dishonest. I suppose this is progress.

  306. Victoria says:

    This site has an entry that seems like a reasonable discussion

    http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Randomness

    I can’t vouch for the credentials, though

  307. Tom Gilson says:

    I did not go back to that first comment this time. That’s how I missed it. The second comment remains as opaque after your carefully wrought explanation (“tell me how else you can understand that”) as before. I don’t have any way else to understand it because as I have already said, I don’t understand it. That’s why I asked.

    There was no implication in that first quoted comment that you purchased your Columbia degree. It was a Berlinski-style insult, saying that you got your Columbia degree from a dictionary—to ridiculous for me to take as anything but a comic jab. And his “Hat tip to David Berlinski” softened the other part of it, in my mind: he was jabbing you in good humor. If you don’t like that, then please take it up with him; I myself do not find it offensive enough to scold or ban him.

  308. Tom Gilson says:

    I switched from “That’s intellectual pretense. It’s dishonesty,” to the shorter, “intellectual dishonesty.”

    I stand by my position.

  309. olegt says:

    Think that through, Tom. Think that through. (This refers to your assessment of Holo.)

    I think I’ve had enough of it.

  310. Tom Gilson says:

    I think so too. I have thought through my assessment of Holo. I have directed considerable criticism his way and as I already said, I appreciate his responding to it. In your case it took multiple tries before you even acknowledged something had been said, and when you did, you supplied this mocking and foolish piece about changing the subject to “intellectual dishonesty.”

    I stand by my assessment of your intellectual honesty. I regret the way this has mucked up the good conversation Victoria, Melissa, Neil, Holopupenko, Reidish, and G. Rodrigues have been trying to conduct. Your part of the conversation is not getting anywhere and is not likely to, as your responses not only to Holopupenko but also to Victoria and myself demonstrate. I see no point in letting it continue.

  311. olegt says:

    Have a nice day, Tom.

  312. Tom Gilson says:

    olegt will not be participating any longer. I trust the other discussion going on here—one of the more interesting I’ve seen here—can move forward productively now with that distraction ended. I regret the way it has turned out. I do not regard olegt the person as a distraction; he is a fellow human being and worthy of God’s love and ours. But the discussion with him was not helping anyone.

  313. Victoria says:

    unfortunate….and I was working on such a good exposition of Amos 8:9, too

  314. G.R.,
    I defined the _universal_ LPSR as stating that _every_ event has an sufficient explanation which shows how the event could not have been otherwise. You responded:

    If we are to take it literally, then rational agents endowed with Free Will (God as well as human beings) cannot be causes in explanation schemes which is patently false

    Yes, I agree that the choice of a free agent can itself be the sufficient explanation of an event. But the question is whether the choice of a free agent _itself_ requires a sufficient explanation as stated by the LPSR. If the answer is “yes”, then this _sufficient_ explanation must show why the “free” agent could not have chosen otherwise. That is what a _sufficient_ explanation means according to the LPSR. If the answer is “no”, then there are things in the universe which do not require a sufficient explanation, namely the choices of free agents. So it seems we face a dilemma.

    For instance, let’s say buy vanilla ice cream rather than chocolate ice cream. Does my behavior require a sufficient explanation? Sure. The explanation of my behavior is that I made a free choice to buy vanilla ice cream, leading to my behavior. But now does my choice of vanilla over chocolate require a sufficient explanation? In other words, is there some explanation which will show why I could not have chosen other than I did? What do you think? If we answer “yes”, then in what sense are we free? If all of our choices have sufficient explanations such that they could not have been otherwise, then in what sense are we free? If we answer “no”, then isn’t this a denial of the universal LPSR? Aren’t we exempting free agents from needing sufficient explanations for their choices?

    Then you write:

    by justification I mean reasons that make the PSR more reasonable than its denial

    Ah, now this is true, proof and justification are different and I didn’t address justification. I was addressing the claim that denial of the universal LPSR is “self-refuting” and “irrational”. I think we should settle this issue issue first. After that, we can look into the issue of justification.

    -Neil

  315. Holopupenko says:

    Hi Victoria:

    Thanks for the link. Hey, one thing I forgot to mention yesterday. Chance events are IRrational events–NOT understood in the “crazy” sense but has having no ratio (Latin for reasoning synonymous with an intellect) behind it. The example of me finding buried treasure is a good example: neither was the robber led by his final cause (intention, purpose) to protect his loot nor was I led by my final cause (intention, purpose) to prepare the ground for a garden to end up with a fortune. There simply was no final cause as either final termination (except in a per accidens sense), perfection, or intention in my getting rich.

    Neil:

    Sorry, I missed your question #277 while having fun in this morning’s, ehem, teasing match. Let me think about whether I want to pursue this: your question is a good one, but more involved than you may understand.

  316. Victoria says:

    Hi Holo
    This discussion is getting to be very interesting – looking forward to exchanging ideas and learning something new (for me).

  317. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Neil:

    Yes, I agree that the choice of a free agent can itself be the sufficient explanation of an event. But the question is whether the choice of a free agent _itself_ requires a sufficient explanation as stated by the LPSR. If the answer is “yes”, then this _sufficient_ explanation must show why the “free” agent could not have chosen otherwise. That is what a _sufficient_ explanation means according to the LPSR. If the answer is “no”, then there are things in the universe which do not require a sufficient explanation, namely the choices of free agents. So it seems we face a dilemma.

    The PSR says that everything has a cause, where cause is used in the because sense (I alluded above to this in my reference to Aristotle), that is, a sufficient explanation. What it does not say:

    (1) Explanations do *not* themselves require explanations. This is obvious, unless infinite regress is your thing. Explanations and the events they purportedly explain live at different levels.

    (2) A sufficient explanation for the choices of agents endowed with Free Will does *not* mean that the choices could not have been otherwise. This idea is so novel to me that I am prompted to ask where do you got it? There are two different questions here and I am not exactly sure which one do you mean: the fact that human beings have Free Will, and as a fact, by the PSR this requires explanation, or the fact that person A freely makes choice B, which by PSR would also require an explanation. But the explanations for the two facts are completely different. In the first case, there may be all sorts of secondary causes, but ultimately we can point out to God and the fact that we were made in His image and thus endowed with Free Will. For the second case, Free Will will inevitably enter in the explanation for the choice itself.

    I was addressing the claim that denial of the universal LPSR is “self-refuting” and “irrational”. I think we should settle this issue issue first. After that, we can look into the issue of justification.

    Can you detect any major blunder in #288, second paragraph counting from the first quote?

    Note: sorry, still have not had the chance to get up to speed on your discussion with Reidish.

    Added Note: ok, on a first perusal of your discussion with Reidish, I *do* have to sharpen my arguments. I still leave the post intact as it may contain some helpful ideas for later rehash.

  318. Victoria says:

    @Melissa and Holo
    I think we should add Brownian motion into the discussion mix on random processes as well

  319. Holopupenko says:

    Victoria:

    You’re correct on #300: Maxwell and Boltzmann would have thought it a gross non sequitur to understand equipartition (the equal distribution (sharing) of energies equally among its various form (translational, rotation, vibration)) as uncaused. It exists, it’s contingent, therefore it must be explained, i.e., it must have a cause.

    Apart from that, I don’t know if you guys may have caught me re: the last paragraph of my comment #287 (neither the macro deterministic nor the quantum probabilistic formalisms capture the full ontological import of the object/phenomenon being studied. In fact, they don’t even come close) and something olegt brought up in #145 (The pure state of a state is fully determined. There is nothing else to be learned, we have complete knowledge about it.)

    olegt make a very categorical statement, and he is incorrect. BUT what he apparently doesn’t realize is just how close we may be–meaning in our study of quantum level objects/events–to a “full knowledge” of such objects. Which, by the way, I’m sensing Bell may have been partially correct.

    I’m doing some “pre-thinking” with a philosopher that we hope may permit us to get past the apparent quantum paradoxes (yes, I know that’s ambitious). It ties in what I just mentioned with something I mentioned in #178 to Neil, namely the somewhat non-natural (pathological) status/situation/state of a free electron. Finally, it ties in the understanding (for which I’ve been beating the drum here) that mathematics is an abstraction from full reality (i.e., it doesn’t bring in the full ontological import) of an object.

    BUT, if an electron is in a pathological state, it may not be “fully” a substance (it most certainly is not a substance–understood philosophically–if subsumed under a higher ontological entity like an atom). If it is not “fully” a substance, then maybe the accidents of quantity, quality, time, etc. (which ARE captured by mathematics) can be expressed (per olegt’s leaning on the orthodox interpretation) fully mathematically… and the resulting mathematical formalism might represent an entity that is “quasi-fully-accidental”. I know that sounds like a lot of mumbo-jumbo, but the terms I’m using are nuanced… and the philosopher with whom I’m working seems to think that at first blush this development may be worth pursuing. (We need to give some more thought to, among other things, the relationship of per accidens and per se causes to such “quasi-fully-accidental” entities.)

    In any event, if all that’s the case, then the paradoxes may be “cracked” because we’re looking at them incorrectly: we may be trying to understand the behavior of, say, single-particle Young’s interference as the electron being a substance in its own right… when, it may not be fully so. The mathematical formalisms themselves are limited, but the very being (or “pseudo” being which may be “quasi-fully-accidental”) are now also limited: wave-particle duality is always thought to apply to the electron as a substance in its own right… But, again, what if it isn’t? It might be akin to pen an paper trying to capture a 3-D building on a 2-D surface, and so like Escher’s drawings we “see” an apparent paradox when there is no paradox at all… just limitations. So, the interference pattern may reflect electrons as their wave functions collapse when they interact as non-full-substances in passing through the slits AND when they are subsumed into the matter of the screen. Bell limits us, but it itself is limited… so… our wheels are spinning.

  320. GR.
    Look over my comments with Reidish. Briefly,

    Explanations do *not* themselves require explanations. This is obvious, unless infinite regress is your thing. Explanations and the events they purportedly explain live at different levels.

    This is just not true! Obviously _some_ explanations do themselves require explanations. We only are left with an infinite regress if we require _all_ explanations to have external explanations such that no termination is possible. For instance, “Why is the circle red?” has the explanation “Because I drew it with a red pencil.” If I then ask “Why did you use a red pencil?” You can’t say “Oh no! You only get one explanation!” It’s perfectly reasonable to say “Because I wanted it to be the same color as the square.” So obviously, requiring some explanations to have explanations does not immediately lead to an infinite regress.

    (2) A sufficient explanation for the choices of agents endowed with Free Will does *not* mean that the choices could not have been otherwise.

    According to Liebnitz, this _is_ what the PSR requires. That’s why Reidish and I talked about the LPSR (Leibniz PSR). And the reason it’s important is that the alternative doesn’t seem to have any impact on the CI. If an “explanation” does _not_ exclude all other possibilities (contra Liebnitz), a physicist who holds to the CI could say “the measurement result B is explained by the fact that the particle was in a 50% B state prior to measurement and I don’t need to explain why I obtained B _rather than_ B’. “? If this is a “sufficient explanation”, then the CI fulfills the PSR.

    Can you detect any major blunder in #288, second paragraph counting from the first quote?

    Not a blunder, but a misunderstanding. No one is asking whether the LPSR holds in _any_ case. We’re asking whether the LPSR holds in _all_ cases. This is the _universal_ LPSR. As I said, the LPSR could still be justified. But I am arguing (correctly I think) that a denial of the universal LPSR is not self-refuting or irrational. And human choice is actually a powerful objection to the universality of the LPSR, as I’ve discussed above.

    -Neil

  321. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Neil:

    Not a blunder, but a misunderstanding.

    Maybe you are being too generous here as I may have committed the shift-quantifier fallacy. More than once. I will see if the argument can be salvaged, but for that I need to settle on a very definite version of the PSR. For the moment, let me just say that the Leibnitz version of PSR as presented by Reidish sounds very problematic (some of the reasons he himself alludes to), so I have no problems in ditching it. As I have stated before, I should really be working with the scholastics version of the PSR, which is a metaphysical claim. But this is a whole different kettle of fish.

    Still in the process of digestion, but I would like to throw out this question for you. Do you know about the Afshar experiments? He claims that they invalidate the principle of complementarity and thus, the Copenhagen Interpretation. I am not competent to judge, but last time I looked, my impression was that the consensus within the physics community was that his conclusions are wrong, but at the same time nobody agrees on the exact reasons why they are wrong.

  322. SteveK says:

    olegt,
    #254

    It doesn’t matter, Melissa…..The theory works pretty well.

    The theory that God is behind it all works pretty well – better I would say, because it explains the origin of the nature of particles (why they are what they are), whereas your theory does not. For some reason you don’t want anything to do with that better theory. Why not?

    What rational person would reject a better theory that can explain more?

    And about your “It doesn’t matter” comment. Really?? If it truly doesn’t matter then will any “just-so” theory suffice? Perhaps one involving green cheese or orbiting tea cups? I suspect the answer is no. So it really does matter.

  323. Bill R. says:

    I’ve been following the discussion here, and I must say, it is fascinating and illuminating. I have realized that, before now, I had taken too lightly the task of philosophically interpreting quantum mechanics. Even though I had an introduction to concepts like natures, substances, accidents, and the four causes (from reading Aquinas’s Summa Theologica with commentary by Peter Kreeft), I had never extended my thinking about these ideas to the quantum world. This whole discussion has been very fruitful for me, as an observer (ha!), on that front.

    Likewise, I am quite interested to see whether Holo’s idea of “quasi-fully-accidental” substances affords progress.

    In the discussion about the PSR, I would just ask a couple things: did I miss where someone offered a definition of Free Will, or is this term being used undefined?

    Finally, I wonder if anyone has seen a recent paper (Steinberg et al. Science, 2011, 332, 1170. doi: 10.1126/science.1202218 for those with access) in which physicists, using a technique called “weak measurement”, seem to have measured both the position and momentum of an ensemble of photons in a Young double-slit experiment, in a way that (they claim) supports the Bohm-deBroglie interpretation of QM. I am still trying to understand the physics in the article, and I would appreciate any thoughts you all might have, either on the physics or the philosophy. For those without journal access, here is an excerpt from the Intro (it’s long, my apologies):

    In classical physics, the dynamics of a par- ticle’s evolution are governed by its position and velocity; to simultaneously know the particle’s position and velocity is to know its past, present, and future. However, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics forbids simultaneous knowledge of the precise position and velocity of a particle. This makes it impossible to determine the trajectory of a single quantum particle in the same way as one would that of a classical particle: Any information gained about the quantum particle’s position irrevocably alters its momentum (and vice versa) in a way that is fundamentally uncertain. One consequence is that in Young’s double-slit experiment one cannot determine through which slit a particle passes ( position) and still observe interference effects on a distant detection screen (equivalent to measuring the momentum). Particle-like trajectories and wavelike interference are “complementary” aspects of the behavior of a quantum system, and an experiment designed to observe one necessarily gives up the option of observing the other (1–6). However, it is possible to “weakly” measure a system, gaining some information about one property without appreciably disturbing the future evolution (7); although the information obtained from any individual measurement is limited, averaging over many trials determines an accurate mean value for the observable of interest, even for subensembles defined by some subsequent selection (perhaps even on a complementary observable). It was recently pointed out (8) that this provides a natural way to operationally define a set of particle trajectories: One can ascertain the mean momentum of the subensemble of particles that arrive at any given position, and, by thus determining the momentum at many positions in a series of planes, one can experimentally reconstruct a set of average trajectories. We use a modified version of this protocol to reconstruct the “weak-valued trajectories” followed by single photons as they undergo two-slit interference. In the case of single-particle quantum mechanics, the trajectories measured in this fashion reproduce those predicted in the Bohm–de Broglie interpretation of quantum mechanics (9, 10).

    Weak measurements, first proposed 2 decades ago (7, 11), have recently attracted widespread attention as a powerful tool for investigating fun- damental questions in quantum mechanics (12–15) and have generated excitement for their potential applications to enhancing precision measurement (16, 17). In a typical von Neumann measure- ment, an observable of a system is coupled to a measurement apparatus or “pointer” via its mo- mentum. This coupling leads to an average shift in the pointer position that is proportional to the expectation value of the system observable. In a “strong” measurement, this shift is large relative to the initial uncertainty in pointer position, so that significant information is acquired in a single shot. However, this implies that the pointer mo- mentum must be very uncertain, and it is this uncertainty that creates the uncontrollable, irrevers- ible disturbance associated with measurement. In a “weak” measurement, the pointer shift is small and little information can be gained on a single shot; but, on the other hand, there may be arbitrarily little disturbance imparted to the sys- tem. It is possible to subsequently postselect the system on a desired final state. Postselecting on a final state allows a particular subensemble to be studied, and the mean value obtained from repeating the weak measurement many times is known as the weak value. Unlike the results of strong measurements, weak values are not con- strained to lie within the eigenvalue spectrum of the observable being measured (7). This has led to controversy over the meaning and role of weak values, but continuing research has made strides in clarifying their interpretation and demonstrat- ing a variety of situations in which they are clearly useful (16–21).

    In our experiment, we sent an ensemble of single photons through a two-slit interferometer and performed a weak measurement on each pho- ton to gain a small amount of information about its momentum, followed by a strong measure- ment that postselects the subensemble of pho- tons arriving at a particular position [see (22) for more details]. We used the polarization degree of freedom of the photons as a pointer that weakly couples to and measures the momentum of the photons. This weak momentum measure- ment does not appreciably disturb the system, and interference is still observed. The two mea- surements must be repeated on a large ensemble of particles in order to extract a useful amount of information about the system. From this set of measurements, we can determine the average momentum of the photons reaching any partic- ular position in the image plane, and, by repeat- ing this procedure in a series of planes, we can reconstruct trajectories over that range. In this sense, weak measurement finally allows us to speak about what happens to an ensemble of particles inside an interferometer.

  324. Holopupenko says:

    Hi Neil:

    PART I

    Okay, first, denying the PSR would be self-refuting in the following sense.

    The PSR tells us that nothing contingent exists without a sufficient reason: every contingent being (no matter its mode of existence) must have a sufficient reason for its being and existence—either in itself or another. In simpler terms, for anything to “be,” there must be a reason for its “being” or an answer to the question “why is it rather than not being at all?”) If there were such a thing without sufficient reason, it would both “be” and “not be” at the same time. It would “be,” because that is the supposition; and it would also “not be,” because it didn’t have the sufficient reason to account for its reality. Yet, “to be” and “not to be” at the same time violates the Principle of Contradiction. Therefore, if a thing has reality, it must have it either of itself or from another, that is, it must have a sufficient reason for its existence.

    This principle is an analytical judgment so obviously evident that one cannot rationally deny or even doubt it without thereby implicitly affirming it: it is self-evident for its opposite is unthinkable. To “rationally” deny or doubt the Principle of Sufficient Reason, one would have to see some reason for so doing—and thus one would admit the validity of the principle: denying it because we see a reason for so doing. Employing one’s capacity to reason against reason should not be tolerated. Furthermore, trying to “prove” this principle is to assume the position of angels or God, i.e., to place oneself out of reality to judge it.

    PART II

    Second, in fact I DO disagree with your statement: “I think you would also agree that epistemic limitations _could_ reflect ontological status just like correlation _could_ reflect causation.”

    Why? For a similar reason why I would disagree with the following statement: “I think you would also agree that if I can imagine I’m a brain-in-a-vat then its _possible_ I’m a brain-in-a-vat.” The alleged power of your statement—one with which you apparently agree—is based on the INCORRECT assumption that our imagination is the measure (not in the metrical sense) or cause of real possibility. There is simply no relation between imagination and real possibility: some imagined things are possible, others impossible, others necessary. The same is true for those things that cannot be imagined. As soon as we allow that our imagination indicates real possibility, we allow a parallel universe of possible beings/events/principles that are evident to imagination alone, and whose existence does not follow from actual external sensation.

    Your statement, hinging on the world “could” (or synonymously “it is possible”) is not, pardon my bluntness, clear thinking. It is, in fact, that which philosophy (“coherent, clear, and logical thinking” per Tom) seeks to avoid… like it avoids supposedly profound statements like a quantum entity (presupposed to be ontologically like macro entities) IS both a wave and a particle. Philosophy avoids the “imagination = possibility” trap like it avoids spell-casting, voodoo, and shamanism. The metaphor is pretty good, actually, because those who practice voodoo rely on a “power” of entrapment and fear… just like your statement seeks to draw people in: we think some thing is a real possibility to be feared, fought against, or even accepted simply because we can imagine it being so. “How can we rule it out?” you ask. Maybe we aren’t’ wholly convinced in accepting the “possibility” the PSR doesn’t work (even in a limited sense), “but isn’t better to assume it is so just to be on the safe side?” you ask. “Don’t most people think its okay to permit the imagined to be possible as a sign of open-mindedness?” you ask. (Sorry, I’m not putting words in your mouth—just drawing out the implied rationale.)

    So, how do I know its not possible for the PSR to be violated just because I imagine it so? It’s not because “this is my right hand and this is my left hand” or because it offends my intuitions or because realism is a more effective practical postulate. No, none of these. I know your suggestion is a false one because I do not permit my imagination to rule the day: I don’t set up my imagination to indicate real possibility.

    Finally, reread my PART I again. Why? Because PART II spells out why I should permit my thinking to try to actualize reality, whereas PART I spells out why denying the PSR is impossible… even as it is not provable.

    I have one more broad point to make on the First Principles, but this will be under a separate comment.

  325. Victoria says:

    @BillR (#323)
    This looks very interesting indeed…I’m going to have to read up on this 🙂

  326. Holopupenko says:

    Hi again, Neil:

    Okay, as promised I’m going to provide some thoughts on the First Principles. I went way back in my notes when I had a blog of my own several years ago, so what’s provided below is extracted from my earlier writing. The language is philosophically technical, and you may not get some of the terms and the way they’re used the first time around. Also, you might see after you think about this why I’m not interested in pursuing too much Pruss’s stuff (reflected in your comments)—not that he’s bad or anything, but more of a “been there, done that” and that I distinguish between ontological and epistemic castings of the First Principles. Finally, to be pertinent to the immediate discussion, I’ll tie in some quantum stuff as well

    INTRO MATERIAL I: being is not a genus, i.e., things that exist don’t all exist in the same way. My height doesn’t exist the way I exist: I have a much greater kind of claim on existence than my height. My height “needs” me (the subject) in which to inhere; I, on the other hand, can stand alone or “under” the accident known as height because I am not an accident but a substance—that which “stands under” the sensory accessible accidents. You don’t “see” me with your eyes, but you “know” I (Holopupenko) am standing in front of you from the sensory import: the substance Holopupenko is inaccessible to your senses, the accidents (height, age, position, color, intelligence, etc.) Another way of saying this is that I as a substance can predicate things about myself (Holopupenko is short), but I cannot predicate things about any accident that inheres in me (Short is…….?) except when reflecting back upon those accidents to make logical distinctions. I can put a red ball in my pocket; I can even put a ball in my pocket; but, I cannot put a “red” in my pocket. What this means is that various things exist with different “claims” to existence (they exist as different “kinds” of being): substances exist extra-mentally and are real; accidents exist only inhering in substances; beings of reason or logical being only exist in the mind; concepts such as “privation” (a level of lacking beingness like a shadow doesn’t “exist” because it is a privation of being—light) and “nothing” have the least claim to existence.

    Why is this important?

    INTRO MATERIAL II: Given this division or modality of being, there are nevertheless certain properties of all beings—irrespective of their mode of existence—that pertain to “beingness” as such and cannot be divided into categories. These properties are coextensive with being, and being is never found without such properties. Furthermore, according to the measure and manner in which a thing “possesses” being (i.e., depending on its claim to beingness), it partakes of unity, truth, goodness, and beauty (which are termed “transcendentals”); and conversely, according to the measure and manner in which a thing shares in these properties, it possesses being. Ontological order flows from being to truth to goodness to beauty, for truth is judged by being (if it is, it is true; and for us to know that truth our knowledge must correspond to its beingness—to its reality), goodness is judged by truth, and beauty is judged by goodness.

    Why is this important?

    Paralleling the transcendental properties of being (thing, unity, truth, goodness, beauty) and expressive of them in the form of judgments of being as possessing these properties, are the first principles being. The truths as first principles are:

    1. The first principle of being as being—as existing:
         Things (beings) exist and we know of the existence of things—including ourselves.
    Other principles flow from the first principle of being as the transcendentals unity, truth, goodness, and beauty flow from being:

    2. The first principles of being as unity:
         a. Principle of Non-Contradiction (a thing cannot at the same time and the same respect be and not be),
         b. Principle of Identity (every being is determined in itself, is one with itself, and is consistent in itself—or, stated simply, a thing is what it is),
         c. Principle of Excluded Middle (there cannot be an intermediate between contradictories, or one subject any one predicate must either be affirmed or denied);

    3. The first principles of being as true:
         a. Principle of Intelligibility (everything that is, insofar as it is, is intelligible)
         b. The Principle of Sufficient Reason (everything that exists has a sufficient reason for its existence),
         c. The Principle of Causality (whatever comes to be has a cause). This non-MES principle is a logical extension of the Principle of Sufficient Reason and—quite importantly—it makes science possible for it is the one upon which the inductive method is grounded;

    4. The first principles of being as good:
         Principle of Finality (every agent acts for an end, or all beings when acting tend to some definite effect).

    5. The first principles of being as beautiful:
         Principle of Beauty (everything that is, insofar as it is, is beautiful: because of a thing’s actual perfection, harmony and radiance we perceive it as beautiful)

    Consider a drawing of strange stairs which appear to start from a higher level and descend to a lower level… but then the floor to which we just descended appears to start from the higher level as the top of the stairs. Does this prove something can be simultaneously higher and lower than something else?

    The answer is, of course not. Such drawings are graphical paradoxes—also called optical illusions. They are false or incomplete representations of impossible three-dimensional figures in two dimensions. Reducing and representing a three dimensional figure to two dimensions always loses part of what is portrayed, and it is certainly not the initial “natural” state of the figure trying to be represented.

    A drawing of Einstein is not Einstein himself. The Newtonian equation of motion for a freely-falling body does not mean the body is equally smeared over time and space as a parabola—as if it existed at all times and places represented by the given parabola’s parameters. A quantum-mechanical mathematical formalism, correlated from the observed data of, say, electrons, is not the electrons themselves; and for this reason one cannot draw the unwarranted ontological conclusion that an electron is simultaneously in a number of states (and even less so that it is “random” by its very nature) from an epistemically-limited mathematical expression. Stated another way, quantum mechanics does not eliminate or even diminish causality because epistemic limitations are not ontological limitations.

    Does the Shrodinger wave equation describe a particle in the second energy level of an infinite square well as simultaneously existing in several locations excluding the middle and edges of the well? Of course. But, one cannot draw an ontological conclusion from a formalism limited in its epistemological reach: the particle is neither “random” in its nature nor does it exist at two or more places at the same time and in the same respect. The former would violate the Principle of Causality, the latter would violate the Principle of Non-Contradiction—implying ontological considerations must direct interpretations of epistemological formalisms…

    … which means the First Principles can also be expressed in ontological and epistemological forms:

    1. Principle of Non-Contradiction
         ontological aspect: (a) it is not the case that something can be both what it is and the opposite of it in the same time and same sense; (b) it is necessary that being not be non-being.
         epistemological aspect: (a) it is impossible that contradictory statements can simultaneously be true; (b) it is not the case, given a proposition, that a statement can be true and not true in the same time and same sense.

    2. Principle of Identity
         ontological aspect: (a) being is being; (b) every being is necessarily what it is; (c) everything is identical with itself.
         epistemological aspect: (a) being is intelligible; (b) A is A.

    3. Principle of Excluded Middle
         ontological aspect: something must either be or not be.
         epistemological aspect: a proposition must either be true or false.

    4. Principle of Sufficient Reason
         ontological aspect: nothing contingent exists without a sufficient reason: every contingent being (no matter its mode of existence) must have a sufficient reason for its being and existence [for every entity x or event e, if x exists or e exists, then there is a sufficient explanation why x exists or e exists]
         epistemological aspect: a statement must have sufficient reason for its truth; “sufficient reason” being defined as either the observation of a fact, or an immediate logical insight, or reasoning to the existence of a contingent being, or divine revelation, or a deduction from these [for every proposition p, if p is true, then there is a sufficient explanation why p is true]

  327. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Neil:

    Ok, I think I got the gist of what you are claiming, and I pretty much stand by everything I said.

    When you ask if denying PSR is self-refuting, you seem to be asking for a formal proof of a contradiction. The whole discussion with Reidish seems to point so, as he speaks about sufficient and necessary conditions, of deducing PSR from non-circular hypothesis and similar things. If I ever made you think that self-refuting meant contradictory in the strict, logical sense, my apologies as that was definitely not my idea. Let me state for the record: there is no such proof because PSR is a claim about the nature of reality.

    Technical intermezzo:

    In order to deduce a formal contradiction from ~PSR (the negation of PSR) we would have to, well, formalize it. Reidish’s reading of Leibniz gives us:

    (A) A q E p: p != q AND p => q

    I am using A for universal quantifier, E for the existential and => for implication. The quantification is over propositions, which are denoted by letters q, p, etc. This should raise an eyebrow, because we should introduce a stratification on the objects of discourse (a la Type theory) and strictly separate facts from propositions, on pain of stumbling on impredicativity paradoxes. We blithely press onward and hope for the best. The inequality condition in the conjunction is to rule out the tautological case p => p. But this is really too weak because we could have a set of propositions where every pair of them is equivalent. In this case, PSR in the form (A) is trivially true. So, without any loss of generality, we constrain it even more:

    (B) A q E p: p ~= q AND p => q

    where ~= should be read as “not equivalent”. But this means that as far as PSR concerns, we can identify equivalent propositions. Passing to the quotient, we obtain a Boolean algebra and the PSR says that it has no coatoms, and by duality this is equivalent to say that it has no atoms. There are both atomic Boolean algebras and non-atomic Boolean algebras. Every finite Boolean algebra is necessarily atomic. Examples of non-atomic Boolean algebras can only be constructed with some technical sophistication (for example, Measure theory). And of course, non-atomic Boolean algebras have some “bizarre” properties: it is very easy to construct infinitely long chains of causation (although, you have to use the axiom of choice even if in the weak, countable form). Anyway, without further input, there is no contradiction to be had from denying (B).

    End of Intermezzo.

    It is not logically inconsistent that our universe violates PSR. It is just preposterous; it goes against all our experience and sound philosophy. There are some possible routes to justify it.

    (1) We adduce reasons for the plausibility of PSR.

    (2) We show that ~PSR leads to absurdities (not in the formal sense).

    (3) We respond to the objections of the PSR-deniers.

    (4) We resort to abuse and invective.

    Now, I submit that in this thread all of (1) to (3) have been effectively done, and that upon request, (4) can also be accomplished. There is a problem with this line of investigation though. If you deny PSR, then you are committed to the existence of brute facts and I suppose, ~PSR could be such a brute fact and thus you would be exempt from presenting reasons for justifying it. And this discussion is over. At any rate, it would be hard for you to convince us to accept your reasons for ~PSR because by doing so, we would be committing ourselves to the same PSR that you are trying to deny in the first place. After all, I can also easily say PSR is a brute fact and end this discussion. This by the way, is the same argument I have given above in #288, but without the formal contradiction thingy which momentarily got me confused.

    As part of (3), let me address one other concern of yours: is not Free Will a powerful argument against the PSR? No. I have stated this already in #317 but repeat it for your convenience. There are two possible questions involved here: the fact that human beings have Free Will or the numerous cases of exercise of Free Will, where person A freely chooses B. In the first case, there may be all sorts of secondary causes, but ultimately we can point out to God and the fact that we were made in His image and thus endowed with Free Will. For the second case, Free Will will inevitably enter in the explanation for the choice itself. Or to use the notation that Reidish employed, Free Will itself is part of the reason p that stands as antecedent in the conditional p => q.

    If you ask “isn’t God an exception to the PSR, after all he is uncaused”, then you would be equivocating on the word cause. Be*cause* there is an explanation of God, that is, God is *not* a brute fact (another common new atheist misconception). The, rather obvious methinks, fact that something rather than nothing exists is the explanation. Since God is the necessary ground of all being, given that *anything at all* exists, He must exist. That “God exists” is not equivalent to “Something rather than nothing exists” is because while the existence of God is necessary for the latter it is not sufficient. In other words, His Free Will (in an analogical sense) enters in the antecedent for the consequent “Something rather than nothing exists”.

    Note: if you still harbour suspicions that some logical circularity is at play here, replace “Something rather than nothing exists” by any contingent being whatsoever: a rock, a tree, yourself, the universe.

  328. Victoria says:

    @Tom
    I think you are going to have to install an equation editor on the site LOL

  329. Tom Gilson says:

    Do you know LaTeX? It’s ready there for you if you do. Use the following:

    Activate QuickLaTeX on a page, post, or comment by typing the short code "["latexpage"]" without the quotation marks. Then you may insert LaTeX expressions directly in the text by surrounding them with $..$ or place them displayed with \[..\] as you usually do typing offline LaTeX documents.

    (We aim to please.)

  330. Reidish says:

    Bill R.,

    You asked:

    In the discussion about the PSR, I would just ask a couple things: did I miss where someone offered a definition of Free Will, or is this term being used undefined?

    Speaking for myself, I had been using the libertarian concept of free will.

    GR,

    I’m quite sympathetic to your position. We agree there is no logical contradiction in denying the universality of the LPSR – well and good.

    Nevertheless, we are drawn to affirming some type of PSR. This is due at least in part to pain of accepting absurdities otherwise (as has been discussed at great length in this thread), and speaking for myself, a strong intuition. That being the case, a more attractive version could be from Pruss and Gale: the Weak Principle of Sufficient Reason.

    (WPSR) For all contingent truths p, it is possible that p has an explanation.

    Consider how difficult it is to accept ~WPSR: one must affirm that there is some contingent truth p for which it is impossible to have an explanation. That is an incredibly heavy burden to bear. Such facts are brute not just in this world, but in every possible world where they exist!

  331. Victoria says:

    @Tom
    LaTeX, really? cool…yes I know it – I wrote my teaching notes on Classical Electrodynamics with it (years ago, now).

  332. GR,

    If I ever made you think that self-refuting meant contradictory in the strict, logical sense, my apologies as that was definitely not my idea.

    Good! You, Reidish, and I are on the same page on this. This is where we can begin to look at justification. We should just keep in mind that justification is different than proof.

    Before we go on, though, we need to be perfectly clear: can you define exactly which PSR you are referring to?

    Are you arguing for the universal LPSR “_every_ entity A has a _sufficient_ explanation which shows how the entity could not have been otherwise”? Or are you arguing for the universal PSR you defined formerly “_every_ entity A has an explanation”? If the latter, then what do you mean by an “explanation”?

    -Neil

  333. Holo,
    Thanks for your lengthy response. Let me ask a few questions. You write:

    The PSR tells us that nothing contingent exists without a sufficient reason: sufficient reason for its being and existence—either in itself or another.

    Question 1: are you using “sufficient reason” here in Leibniz’s sense to mean “an explanation which show how the being could not have been otherwise”?

    Next, you write:

    In simpler terms, for anything to “be,” there must be a reason for its “being” or an answer to the question “why is it rather than not being at all?”) If there were such a thing without sufficient reason, it would both “be” and “not be” at the same time. It would “be,” because that is the supposition; and it would also “not be,” because it didn’t have the sufficient reason to account for its reality.

    Aren’t you begging the question here? Let’s say that I deny the universal PSR and claim that some entity A does not have a sufficient reason for its existence. You say that this entails a violation of the law of non-contradiction (LNC). But how? You write:

    for anything to “be,” there must be a reason for its “being””

    But that is the LPR itself! Then you write:

    If there were such a thing without sufficient reason, it would both “be” and “not be” at the same time

    Your reasoning here is that the PSR-denier faces the following problem:
    1. A exists
    2. A does not have a sufficient reason for existing
    3. Therefore A does not exist

    So you claim that by this argument, the PSR-denier violates the LNC. But that logic is only valid if we add the premise:

    2′. A does not exist unless it has a sufficient reason for existing

    But 2′ is the PSR again! You confirm this supplemental premise in the next sentence when you write:

    It would “be,” because that is the supposition; and it would also “not be,” because it didn’t have the sufficient reason to account for its reality.

    The statement “it would also ‘not be’ because it didn’t have sufficient reason” is the universal-PSR! So you have to assume the universal-PSR to show that the universal-PSR denier violates the LNC.

    Question 2: do you agree that you have invoked the universal-PSR to show that the universal-PSR denier violates the LNC?

    You then write:

    To “rationally” deny or doubt the Principle of Sufficient Reason, one would have to see some reason for so doing—and thus one would admit the validity of the principle: denying it because we see a reason for so doing. Employing one’s capacity to reason against reason should not be tolerated.

    I think this statement involves the same misunderstanding that GR had. The PSR-denier is denying the _universality_ of the PSR. He is claiming that _some_ entities do not have sufficient explanations. He is not claiming that _no_ entites have a sufficient explanation. In the case you mention, he would say that the truth of the limited-PSR is one of the things for which a sufficient explanation does exist. It does not follow from the fact that there is an explanation for the limited-PSR that _all_ entities have explanations.

    Question 3: Do you agree that the fact that a universal PSR-denier has an explanation for the limited-PSR does not mean that the universal PSR is true?

    I have some other questions about human choice, but we can talk about them later.
    -Neil

  334. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Tom:

    Whoa, I can use LaTeX in my posts? Great! I use it on a daily basis and writing anything mathematical without it feels like pulling teeth. Is there a possibility to write Feynman diagrams? commutative diagrams with xypic? Insert pictures? Use hyperref? (just joking).

    @Reidish:

    Nevertheless, we are drawn to affirming some type of PSR. This is due at least in part to pain of accepting absurdities otherwise (as has been discussed at great length in this thread), and speaking for myself, a strong intuition.

    Agreed absolutely. *Some* version of the PSR must be affirmed, otherwise, the possibility of rational knowledge itself is threatened. One of the reasons why denying PSR is very hard to swallow is because I do not even know how could we, even in principle, *recognize* a brute fact — if we remove from the equation logical laws and similar things, that is; but denying these kills thinking so I am not very worried about it.

    About the Pruss and Gale version of the PSR, my knowledge of possible worlds, modal logic, etc. resumes to a few scattered notions, so I cannot really comment, but on a first evaluation it seems rather reasonable (although possibly a tad weak for my taste).

    @Neil:

    Before we go on, though, we need to be perfectly clear: can you define exactly which PSR you are referring to?

    As I said above, the PSR version that I favor is the scholastic version, which at bottom is a metaphysical claim about reality. Holopupenko described it much better than I ever could. Having said this, however, bear with me if sometimes I fall back to an informal understanding of it. We are not writing a peer-reviewed philosophy paper, so while precision is necessary to tease out any possible misunderstandings, too much of it will bog us down, unnecessarily might I add.

  335. Tom Gilson says:

    I just added LaTeX capability last night, G. Rodrigues. Hope it’s helpful. Hope it works, too; it hasn’t been properly tested yet.

  336. Victoria says:

    @Holo and Melissa
    Ah, I think I understand now your random/uncaused connection.
    When you say ‘random motion of particles’ (in the statistical mechanics example, say) you are thinking that a particle’s trajectory in phase space is random, as in the trajectory is not described by a (classically speaking) deterministic equation of motion, that its state at time ‘t + dt’ is completely uncorrelated to its state at time ‘t’; You mean at the most fundamental level (ontologically, I imagine) that there is no set of 2nd order differential equations (for position and velocity as functions of time) that express the particles’ motions in terms of the forces acting on them.

    Would that be a fair assessment?

  337. @GR,
    I understand that precision is not always necessary in informal discussions, but here I think it is vital. The reason is that the “weak” PSR seems to me to be completely compatible with the CI while the universal LPSR is not. If the terminology (some of which I’ve probably just made up) is confusing, you just need to answer the questions I posed:

    Question 1: Are you arguing that “_every_ entity A has a _sufficient_ explanation which shows how the entity could not have been otherwise”?

    Question 2: If you answer no on Q1, then are you simply arguing that “_every_ entity A has an explanation”?

    Question 3:If you answer yes on Q2, then what do you mean by an “explanation”?

    I’m not trying to be picky! I just think it’s impossible to debate the validity of the PSR if these basic questions are not clearly answered.
    -Neil

  338. Victoria says:

    Just to follow up on my last post(#336), then:
    In statistical mechanics, we when say that the ensemble is made up of particles whose motion is random, we mean that the particle states exhibit a distribution that fills phase space, and not that there is no set of differential equations that ‘determine the phase space trajectories’ (Liouville’s Theorem and equations).

    It is the degree of interparticle correlation that is the measure of the randomness of the phase space distribution; a completely uniform distribution would result from completely uncorrelated particle states – knowing the time-dependent state of one particle tells us nothing about the other particles in the ensemble. The inter-particle correlation function determines the long range order in the ensemble – a dilute gas at high temperature exhibits almost no long range order, whereas at very low temperatures (where the substance is solid, say), the degree of correlation corresponds to a lot of long range order, as in a crystalline form. This is why phase transitions are so interesting to study, as they represent sharp changes in the character of the long range order.

    We could, in principle, write down the equations of motion for each particle in the ensemble, along with the initial and boundary conditions, and comutationally iterate the time evolution of the system (and thanks to computational resources undreamed of by 19th century physics, we can), but we still want to go from that microscopic picture to the macroscopic one, and that’s why we use statistical (ensemble) averaging.

    That’s the definition of randomness in statistical mechanics that I’m familiar with – there is no implication of ‘uncaused motion’, I think.
    More later…have to go

  339. Victoria says:

    comutationally
    that should be ‘computationally’

  340. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Neil:

    Question 1: Are you arguing that “_every_ entity A has a _sufficient_ explanation which shows how the entity could not have been otherwise”?

    Actually I think I have already answered this. Let me answer with an example / question(s): why do contingent beings exist at all? The answer is that, even though there may be all sorts of intermediate secondary causes, the *ultimate* cause is God, the self-existent necessary ground of all being. Is it necessary that *contingent beings* exist? Of course not. Do you think this is an adequate explanation for the existence of contingent beings? Adding the Free Will of God (in an analogical sense) to the antecedent in the explanation for the existence of contingent beings we get a conjunction of causes that is sufficient to derive the existence of contingent beings. If you retort that I am cheating I ask why? Honestly, I do not think Free Will poses any sort of problem to the PSR given a correct understand of causality (outlined by Holopupenko? Have to read his posts again to be sure).

    I notice that you have not responded to any objection posted in this thread (although I understand why; you first want to settle the terminology on what constitutes an explanation and if it entails determinism). Let me note post #327, the paragraph after the 4 strategies. It shows very clearly methinks, why adopting ~PSR is fraught with severe difficulties. Let me also note post #239 and the two sets of objections after the third quote. The first shows some of the hurdles you have to surpass in maintaining ~PSR, while the second is directed at the macro / micro separation that is essential for your maintaining that QM somehow sustains ~PSR (which together with Free Will are the only reasons you have presented so far — and they have all been responded to). I am reminding you of this, so that you have a clear notion of the very difficult position you are carving for yourself.

    Note 1: Tangencial to the main thrust of the thread, but let me also remind you of post #321 and the question about the Afshar experiments.

    Note 2: Although I have adumbrated above on how you can use Free Will to get a sufficient reason (in the technical sense), I have to confess the problem does not strike me as really relevant, although I am willing to be shown the contrary.

  341. Holopupenko says:

    Neil:

    You’re operating partly in the world of analytic philosophers (who spend too much time worrying about signifiers than that which is signified… I know that’s not completely fair, but let me run with it) and partly from the perspective of a physicist (who looks for univocal definitions of entities).

    We really can’t continue without you understanding those terms (univocal, equivocal, and analogical) very well.

    The second thing (which you asked) is you must understand that the full explanation for the existence of any contingent being must include all four causes (formal, material, efficient, final — which I’ve covered and which you must also understand).

    The third thing you need to understand is what change and its three principles are (potency, act, privation).

    The fourth thing you need to understand is what a substance and accidents are (the ten categories), and associated with substance you must understand essence, existence, nature. You also need to understand what transcendentals are. Finally, extremely crucial is to understand that being is not a genus, i.e., it is not predicated equally of all existents: the notion of the univocity of being (that all existents have the same claim to existence) is a grave error.

    There’s no way I can abuse Tom’s blog and everyone’s patience by holding an on-line class on metaphysical terms… and my responses are too long anyway. In any event, if you reject employing these terms correctly, then that is your choice. But, you can’t reject them on the basis of any particular MES: the MESs depend on these “pre-scientific” terms to operate in the first place… and this is even apart from any such attempt would be tantamount to the MESs justifying themselves (circular). You actually have to do some philosophical heavy lifting to understand what I and GR are talking about.

    Now, briefly (heh), permit me to add one clarifying point I neglected to yesterday that may help. When we speak about any of the First Principles, they are First Principles of Real Being (as opposed to logical beings or beings of reason–which are human artifacts) and prepositional beings. Real beings are extra-mental existents: they are substances “with” essences, i.e., that which is known about such beings.

    I can easily “violate” for you the Principle of Non-Contradiction when it doesn’t concern real beings: Gabriel’s Horn (or Torricelli’s trumpet) is a being of reason–a human construct–that is the mathematical manifold formed by revolving the function f(x) = 1/x about the x-axis over the range [1, ∞). It’s volume is π, it’s surface area is ∞. Contradiction? Not at all, because in order to be a contradiction it must refer to a real container with infinite surface area and finite volume. There is no such container, and I assert that categorically with 100% certitude. A true violation of the Principle of Non-Contradiction? No, because it’s not a real being.

    Take something much simpler: the position vs. time function–graphed is even better for the visual effect–of a body in free fall. It’s straight-line motion, isn’t it? What’s the graphical representation of f(t) = 1/2 at^2?. A parabola. Hmmm… not very straight, is it? So, do we conclude from the mathematical formalism that the trajectory is parabolic? No… unless another dimensional component is included… but then we’ve changed the story, haven’t we? Can we conclude it’s a steel object as opposed to green cheese? No, because mathematics doesn’t care about that. Does employing probabilistic formalisims rather than deterministic ones necessarily impose a stochastic/random ontology on the being? No. It’s not even possible to go there based on my earlier comment to you: you have no evidence because you CAN’T have any evidence to that effect: “real” randomness would be a true violation of the Principle of Non-Contradiction AND Sufficient Reason… and I’m not going to repeat what I mentioned earlier.

    You’re like MC Escher–trying to represent real extra-mental beings on 2D paper: you’re applying univocal language (and associated logical constructs) to obtain a “full” answer for real beings. It ain’t gonna happen. The representation of a building on paper is a pathological building. By the way, we can’t see the backside of the statue of David when we’re standing in front of it. But does that mean there is no backside… or does that mean we can’t trust our senses? Not at all, for in a sense “we need to see with knew eyes.” Angels know pretty much EVERYTHING about real extra-mental objects instantly: there is no backside or frontside, today or tomorrow, etc. knowledge distinguished for them, because it’s all one thing. From that perspective, our world is kinda (not really–I’m just drawing out a point) pathological to them: we’re, well, “flatlanders” to them… except, we’re not talking spatial or temporal dimensional differences but a whole different KIND of being. Angels can’t be objects of study of any of the particular sciences, but we can–even without Scripture–reason to their existence… just like we can know of the existence of God necessarily based solely on our ability to reason (from contingent beings) to His existence. Whether you want to accept it or not, the Catholic Church teaches as dogma that humans can come to the the knowledge of the existence of God based on their reason alone… but existence (that is) is very different from essence (who is), which is in the realm of revealed knowledge. (No, I’m not going to get into that.)

    Anyway, what’s the punch line? Well, if you’re with me so far, here it is in accusatory–but with no intention of nastiness–response: I’m with you when you think PSR can be violated per the probabilistic mathematical formalisms that describe quantum objects/events. BUT, if you’re fully hanging your hat on those formalisms as allegedly capturing the full ontological import of the objects studied and described (especially after what I just said), then this conversation ends. Why? Because you’re trying to find “possibility” with an imagination animated by univocal thinking in your own mind’s flatlanded understanding of reality. You see not just paradox but “ontological” paradox through the limited empiriometric formalisms of which you, as a physicist, have a great command. There are no real paradoxes: they ARE interesting… but paradoxes aren’t end points (like they were for that fool–and I say that quite consciously–Bertrand Russell) but points of departure to understanding.

    I’ve been commenting on this blog for about five years. Ask anyone here to what extent I (an MIT Ph.D. nuclear engineer with an undergraduate degree in nuclear engineering and physics) have employed mathematics or symbolic logic in my comments. (Oh, and by the way, symbolic logic is logic only in an analogous sense.) I’ll be willing to bet that today, in this comment, I’ve employed more than in any previous comment over the past five years. I simply refuse to do so NOT because I don’t like math (I think it’s VERY cool stuff!), but because ultimately all mathematics — I don’t care if you’re talking advanced topology, lie groups, even Cantor mathematics — MUST be reducible to the real world. It must be because the first and most important accident of real being (quantity — either discrete or continuous) exists as inhering in REAL BEINGS. Period.

    I conclude with something I was thinking about while mowing the lawn earlier today that may make it easier to understand the difference between univocal and analogical terms. I don’t need to explain to you what orthogonal (or orthonormal if we’re interested in units) vectors are — geometrically or functionally from the perspective of linear algebra. Functions can be orthogonal, right (e.g., Chebyshev polynomials)? Take the inner (dot) product, get a zero, and you’re good to go. BUT, they aren’t really “orthogonal,” are they? The primary analogate of “orthogonal” is something we understand (or at least picture in our minds) as being, permit me to be crude, two straight sticks at right angles to each other. The secondary, tertiary, etc., analogates move further and further away from reality… BUT ultimately depend upon and must be reducible to reality. The inner product operation works on all vectors… but (apologies to George Orwell) some vectors are more equal than other vectors. Now, transport yourself into the quantum world where we use Hilbert spaces of infinite dimensional vectors: how “far” removed from reality are those concepts? (How else could we deal with vibrating string harmonics, quantum energy levels, face-recognition technologies, etc.?) Pretty far: not only is mathematics itself an abstraction from reality, but for the cases just described we’re forced to employ analogous terms… which in and of itself is quite amazing because mathematics (in particular plain geometry) is the science which most intensely employs univocal definitions!

    If I were to summarize everything I’ve just said into one, admittedly unfair, sentence: we’re not talking the same language. I (and GD) have been trying to make that clear… but you’re either not buying it or very hesitant to jump. Well, come on in–the water’s fine… and the ocean is HUGE. Famous last words: likely I won’t pursue this further.

    High time for dinner… and a REAL beer.

    😉

  342. G.R.,
    You rightly note why I haven’t addressed any of your objections to the PSR: namely, I am trying to understand what you mean by the PSR! I’m not sure how I can address your objections to ~PSR when I don’t know how you are defining the PSR! Holo has simply stated that you are both “talking a different language than me” so that it is not possible for you to answer the questions I posed. I am willing to take that at face value and simply end the conversation here. However, I would add -once again- that I think a terse dismissal of the CI (and of olegt) was inappropriate. After 200+ comments, it is clear that this is a complex issue and one that does not merit off-handed dismissal.

    -Neil

  343. Holopupenko says:

    Holo has simply stated that you are both “talking a different language than me” so that it is not possible for you to answer the questions I posed.

    That’s disappointing, disingenuous, and untrue, Neil.

    “Simply”?

    “… not possible for you to answer the questions I posed”?

    Really?

    First, it IS true you’re not equipped to deal with these issues on a broader basis apart from physics and a bit of symbolic logic: it’s you questions that are not properly posed. With all due respect, you’re beginning to resemble olegt a bit as characterized by Tom: I and GR address it, you try to discount it with your limited tools, and then demand more.

    Second, we have answered your questions… with a lot of background material to boot. If it comes to not rigorously addressing or “not answering” questions, might I bring your attention to the following regarding you:

    “the non sequitur that an interaction which cannot be measured exactly therefore cannot take place exactly: you illicitly jump from an epistemic operationally-descriptive vision to the imposition of ontological status… even when you attempt to qualify it erroneous (as I explained) that CI is “possible.”

    RE your comment #246: I think I lean towards dualism (and definitely reject physicalism) and dualism and CI are quite compatible. With all due respect, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Along similar lines, you don’t know what free will is: you strongly imply a separation of free will from the human capacity for reason and you try to understand it like the typical reductionist scientist does–in isolation from a human being. Free will can ONLY be understood in the particular context of a rational agent. We don’t have unlimited free will: I can’t, no matter how much I freely will it, to fly or to jump 2000 m in the air without killing myself, nor can I imagine a chiligon, but I can certainly conceive of one, etc., etc. Your question is poorly posed: it’s not the existence of free will per se (note that important qualifier) than needs explanation, what demands explanation is the whole human being whose unique capacities for free will and abstract reasoning set him apart from all real existents in the physical world (unless, of course, we come upon rational agents elsewhere in the universe).

    Re-read as wholes (i.e., don’t cherry pick something that interests you when in fact it depends on other things mentions) my comments #324 and #326.

    Why haven’t you considered my clear distinction between real beings and other beings in comment #341 as regards epistemic and ontological castings of the First Principles? You continue to hang on the epistemic side when the ontological side is in the driver’s seat.

    I could have included more points, but that would have started to have been too picky. Also, I’m not even listing some of GR’s quite adequate responses to your questions.

    Finally, you apparently can’t let go of the fact that CI is not merely a philosophical but (speaking very rigorously) a metaphysical assertion because it concerns the very status as beings of certain aspects of reality… and, by extension, of reality as a whole. Therefore, you can NOT treat CI with physics and mathematics and think you’re going to obtain a full–let alone correct–understanding of why its wrong. The same applies to the PSR, which I painstakingly did the “compare and contrast” thing among the various First Principles for you.

  344. Holopupenko says:

    P.S. I’m not suggesting, Neil, that you are obligated to accept what we’ve attempted to express–that’s your affair. But, in order to reject our points, you are obligated to understand them… and physics alone is not going to get you there. Nor is your Christian faith. We are rational beings–that stands for something important because it is “part” of the imago Dei… and God demands ALL of us–our minds (ratio–reason) included–not just our trust (fides–faith).

    Faith does NOT make science or philosophy or our reason superfluous. As Peter Kreeft correctly notes, “Your philosophy can quite likely and quite literally make the difference between Heaven and Hell.” One needs philosophy to understand faith, and one needs philosophy (per Tom’s characterization “good, coherent, logical thinking”) to know whether your faith is the true faith. There are many fakes… and how do you know that unless you reason rightly (i.e., philosophize correctly) about it.

    Can philosophy be a danger to faith? Yes, most emphatically so! Bad philosophizing or pseudo-philosophizing (including scientism, atheism, philosophical naturalism, materialism, fideism, etc.) has severely damaged many a mind. But, many more have gained from it too. Of course philosophy can be dangerous–just like love and trust and technology and money can be dangerous if not properly ordered to our summum bonum: bad things are always misuses of good things. Make philosophy–a proximate good–the ultimate good (just like with any created thing), then sooner or later you’re caput. Wherever great harm is done, great good could have been done. Witness DL, Craig, Nick Matzke, olegt, etc., etc.

  345. Holo,
    Could you edit your last post before I respond? You “quoted” four paragraphs as providing evidence that I have not been “rigorously addressing or `not answering’ questions”. Yet, as far as I can tell, only the first sentence of this blockquote has ever been written on this blog. I you either 1) meant to close the blockquote earlier or 2) thought you had posted responses which were never actually posted. Either way, you can understand how unfair it would be to accuse me of “not responding” to statements “regarding [me]” which were never actually posted!

    -Neil

  346. Holopupenko says:

    Neil:

    Everything that’s in the blockquote section should be there. The confusion you have, and I take full responsibility for it, is that I also added a little more to each of the four block quote paragraphs. The second blockquote in particular starts with a quote from you and then comments on it. In other words I use the blockquote section to help focus on the important points, not just strictly and only to highlight quotes. My apologies for the confusion that caused.

    Apart from that, please wait until you read a post script follow-up comment of mine to #346 (currently under moderation) before responding. It provides more context on where I’m coming from.

  347. Holo,
    Thanks for explaining your use of the blockquote. Now let me address your concerns. First, of all I really am trying to understand what you are saying and am not deliberately avoiding answering direct questions. Indeed, if you look at that four paragraph blockquote, you’ll notice that you don’t cite a single example of me being asked a direct question and not responding. You simply observe that you have made arguments to which you feel I have not responded adequately, in which feeling you may be quite correct. But not responding to every point in a long (long, long) argument and not responding to a direct question are two very different things.

    Now I fully admit that there are direct questions to which I have not responded for the reason I explained to GR in #342, namely that I can’t respond to a direct question like “Don’t you see that ~PSR is fraught with errors?” when I don’t know what GR means by the PSR. All of my questions were not aimed at tricking you, but were aimed at understanding your position and trying to understand how you resolve objections that I see to it.

    For that reason, let me repeat my questions. I can’t emphasize enough that I am asking them in good faith, truly trying to understand your position and probing areas where I see apparent problems. I would also ask you to do your best to respond as succinctly as possible. Indeed, most of my questions required only a yes/no answer! If the question is ill-posed, simply explain why it is ill-posed. And if explaining why it is ill-posed would require me to ‘dive into’ the depths of analytic philosophy and Thomist language, you can simply say ‘Sorry, you don’t have the tools to understand why your question is ill-posed’ and I will take this statement at face value and accept that I am not a Thomist philosopher and there are many things that I cannot understand.

    With all that as a preface, my questions were:

    To GR:
    Question 1: Are you arguing that “_every_ entity A has a _sufficient_ explanation which shows how the entity could not have been otherwise”?

    Question 2: If you answer no on Q1, then are you simply arguing that “_every_ entity A has an explanation”?

    Question 3:If you answer yes on Q2, then what do you mean by an “explanation”?

    To Holo:
    Question 1: are you using “sufficient reason” here in Leibniz’s sense to mean “an explanation which shows how the being could not have been otherwise”? (similar to GR’s question 1)

    Question 2: do you agree that you have invoked the universal-PSR to show that the universal-PSR denier violates the LNC? (see Comment 333)

    Question 3: Do you agree that the fact that a universal PSR-denier has an explanation for some being (say, his belief in the limited-PSR) does not mean that the universal PSR is true? Similarly, the existence of _any contingent entities at all_ might indeed require an explanation by a necessary entity. But the limited-PSR denier could simply say that this fact is one of those things that does have an explanation while other things do not.

    -Neil

  348. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Neil:

    You rightly note why I haven’t addressed any of your objections to the PSR: namely, I am trying to understand what you mean by the PSR! I’m not sure how I can address your objections to ~PSR when I don’t know how you are defining the PSR! Holo has simply stated that you are both “talking a different language than me” so that it is not possible for you to answer the questions I posed. I am willing to take that at face value and simply end the conversation here. However, I would add -once again- that I think a terse dismissal of the CI (and of olegt) was inappropriate. After 200+ comments, it is clear that this is a complex issue and one that does not merit off-handed dismissal.

    I think you are being very unfair, Neil. Holopupenko can defend himself just fine, but I note that I wrote a long post (divided in 3) stating some of my reasons why I reject CI. Pray, tell me how is that an “off-handed dismissal”?

    I stated at least twice the PSR version I favored and Holopupenko even made us all the favor of stating it in his posts. But even working with a more or less informal notion of the PSR is enough to show that adhering to ~PSR is fraught with difficulties. Why? In the first place, because you have to devise some non-artificial criteria for singling out the brute facts. Good luck with that. And this is just the beginning. I would also like to point out that you are shifting the burden; it is you who deny the PSR and do it, supposedly, on the grounds of QM. If you think QM justifies denying the PSR, then you must have some notion, however informal, of causality and of PSR itself. I for one, am perfectly willing to work with whatever notion of causality you can come up with, so why don’t you go back to the drawing board instead of complaining? I repeat for the sake of emphasis: if you are not willing to learn the relevant metaphysics and the correct language, fine (actually, it is not fine, but for my purposes here it suffices), but then the burden is on *you* to come up with some notion of causality and the concomitant PSR and then argue why QM violates them. I am confident that even if we play by your definitions, we will be able to show that your position is flawed or in the very least, has severe difficulties.

    Note: When I say that you are being unfair, I do not mean to imply that I am offended in any way.

  349. Holopupenko says:

    Neil:

    Q1: No. Your focus is on what might be. My focus is on what IS. See comment #326 “3. The first principles of being as true” Re-read also the first full multi-sentence paragraph under comment #324 PART I.

    Q2: Largely irrelevant: First Principles are not proveable… you’re trying to make sense out of them as somehow stand-alone principles or standing apart from reality. They’re not like that: deny them, and you’re in big trouble; accede to them and reality makes sense and you can do science. (The axioms of geometry are not “provable,” and yet geometry works well with them: principles of reality–First Principles–are MUCH, MUCH more fundamental.) At this point, I don’t know what to do apart from referring you to Aristotle’s metaphor of a retreating and then regrouping army.

    Q3: Disagree, and your first sentence, in fact, is incoherent: you’re merely suggesting possibility (and I addressed this before) in the face of a universal denier that bases itself fully on experience in reality EVERYONE shares. (And that’s not even to broach directly the very important begged question to your position: how are you going to distinguish between caused and uncaused objects/events? Perhaps with physics? It’s a metaphysical issue in the first place! Physics won’t help you.) I can’t stress this enough: you’re suggesting “possibility” is an empty wish. I’m beginning to wonder why you cling so tenaciously to something like the mere suggestion of possibility. That I suggest the flying spaghetti monster is possible doesn’t make it so; your implication that simply stating possibility somehow actualizes it is FAR worse given the deep, deep implications for reality.

    Now, your turn is long overdue, Neil: I’ve addressed your questions (just now) directly, I’ve preceded this by lots of context and explanation. Please at least address my blockquote points in comment #343. I don’t think you can… but only because you’re not equipped to do so at this point. I don’t hold that against you. Nonetheless, you should struggle with them.

  350. Holopupenko says:

    Neil:

    To somewhat echo GR and to provide an additional point: the mathematical formalisms of QM do absolutely NOTHING to support ~PSR. It’s not in the power of mathematics to do that. If I provide you the equation describing free fall, it doesn’t indicate possible but potential positions as a function of time… and same with with whatever solution of Schrodinger’s equation you want to use.

    Potentiality, actuality, and privation are the three principles of CHANGE. If something is not changing, there’s no way you could even know about it: even a rock sitting there on the ground (neglect its travel through the solar system, galaxy, etc. and any external chemical influences) is changing: it’s growing older (accident known as time) The causes of change must reduce something to act, and those causes “act upon” that something in a potential state (an arrow is here but potentially there, then it is there and potentially somewhere else). If there is no cause, there is no actuality–the thing can’t exist. If it can’t exist, you can’t do science. If you can’t do science, there’s nothing you can know about the thing.

  351. G.R. and Holo,
    Don’t worry about offending me! I’m pretty hard to offend.

    I’m happy to let this thread die more or less gracefully at this point. I just want to make it clear that I definitely don’t consider the last 200+ comments to be “off-handed dismissals”! That was precisely my point. I thought that the first 100 or so comments were awfully harsh and dismissive, given that we’ve managed to have a lengthy discussion about this topic. That was my main motivation.

    -Neil

  352. Holopupenko says:

    Neil:

    Thanks. Nonetheless, you’ve left the comment #343 blockquote issues unaddressed. It’s perfectly acceptable to me if you respond, “I don’t know,” or “I need to think about it,” or something along those lines. But in the interests of fairness to GR and myself who have responded to your questions plus given a lot of background, I think we deserve some closure. Thanks.

  353. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Neil:

    I would like to add my voice to Holopupenko’s. In the interests of Truth (just like that, with a capital T), it would be in your *own* best interests to address the issues posed to you. What I am interested in here is to get at the Truth, not in winning some imaginary gladiatorial pit fight. It was Dr. Johnson that remarked that Pride contents itself with very mean advantages, and I do not need to remind anyone of how Pride is among the gravest of spiritual sins. In pressing you into addressing these issues, I am really goading you into philosophizing a little. This is primarily a question of *method* and hopefully, it will lead you to understand the limitations of the empirical sciences and the need for a realist philosophy of nature.

  354. Holo and GR,
    I appreciate your concern for me. I was trying to draw this the conversation to a close in an attempt to avoid conflict. If you would like to continue it, I would be happy to continue. Let me suggest that we confine our comments to short (as short as possible) questions and answers with concrete examples rather than long abstract discussions to avoid confusion. This is the format in which I -at least- learn best. Similarly, you have both asked me to answer the questions posed to me. I will do so to the best of my ability in the next comment. However, you’ll see that your questions to me tend to be very open-ended and non-specific. I would suggest that we all try to ask each other questions that admit of yes/no/ill-posed answers with a few sentences of explanation.

    GR, if you would like to continue, could you please answer the three questions I have asked you with the understanding that they are truly, sincere questions?

    Holo, if you’d like to continue, I need a clarification about what you do consider “possible”. Your answer to Q1 was both related to your rejection of my definition of “possible.” So let me ask my questions again without using this word.

    Q1. Does PSR which you take to be a first Principle say that the explanation A of some entity B will explain why we observe B _and not_ B’? In other words, if there is an an explanation for my observation of an electron in the spin-up state (B) does the explanation A of event B also show why I did not observe the electron in the spin-down state (B’)?

    Q1′. Is there an explanation to the question: “Why did I observe the result B rather than the result B’?”

    Your answer to my Q2 was: “irrelevant.” I’m not sure how I can respond to that, except to say that I thought the question was relevant given that you claimed that ~PSR was “self-refuting” in the sense that you outlined (comment #324). I tried to show that your logic was invalid and asked if you agreed. Now I agree that you can claim that the PSR is a “First Principle”, but in comment 324 you claimed that it was self-refuting which I and Reidish have denied. I wanted to know how you justified this assertion.

    In Q3, you also object to my use of “possibility”, although I never used the word. Indeed, I don’t think I understood your answer completely, possibly because of some typos. You wrote:

    Do you agree that the fact that a universal PSR-denier has an explanation for some being (say, his belief in the limited-PSR) does not mean that the universal PSR is true? Similarly, the existence of _any contingent entities at all_ might indeed require an explanation by a necessary entity. But the limited-PSR denier could simply say that this fact is one of those things that does have an explanation while other things do not.

    Disagree, and your first sentence, in fact, is incoherent: you’re merely suggesting possibility (and I addressed this before) in the face of a universal denier that bases itself fully on experience in reality EVERYONE shares. (And that’s not even to broach directly the very important begged question to your position: how are you going to distinguish between caused and uncaused objects/events? Perhaps with physics? It’s a metaphysical issue in the first place! Physics won’t help you.) I can’t stress this enough: you’re suggesting “possibility” is an empty wish.

    I’m unclear what “itself” (did you mean “denial” not “denier”?) refers to. Are you objecting that “no one thinks this way?” But essentially this objection seems to go back to your criticisms of my use of “possibility”. So I think my two questions Q1 and Q1′ will help us get to the root of this issue.

    -Neil

  355. Holo and GR,
    In this comment, I’ll try to answer the outstanding questions you posed to me. If I missed some, please let me know. To be honest, I couldn’t find many direct questions that you’ve posed in the last several comments and I didn’t want to comb through the entire thread to find them. As I told GR, some of those that involve answering why ~PSR is untenable will have to wait until GR clarifies what he means by “explanation” because I obviously can’t be expected to show why the statement “some events have no explanation” is untenable if we don’t agree on a definition of “explanation”!

    From GR:

    Q1: Do you know about the Afshar experiments?

    No, I don’t. I can look into them if you want and I could probably give a reasonably competent summary of them if you’d like me to (since this is exactly the kind of thing I worked on during my PhD!).

    Q2: I for one, am perfectly willing to work with whatever notion of causality you can come up with, so why don’t you go back to the drawing board instead of complaining?

    I offered a tentative definition of causality in Comment 151. There I said “causality is a relationship between one entity and another such that entity A necessitates the existence or behavior of entity B.” This is the one I’ve been working with. If you think is incorrect, I’m happy to change it.

    From Holo: Here are all the direct questions you asked in the infamous #343:

    Why haven’t you considered my clear distinction between real beings and other beings in comment #341 as regards epistemic and ontological castings of the First Principles?

    I’m not trying to be cheeky here; I’m just pointing out that many of your comments contain mostly indicative statements and very few direct, concrete questions. This particular question -I must admit- I simply don’t understand. If you could rephrase it to ask me some clear, specific question I would be happy to try to answer.

    I make this offer sincerely. I have asked many questions and so it is certainly my turn to answer some of yours. However, please, please try to ask them succinctly and concretely such that (ideally) they can be answered as yes/no/ill-posed with a short explanation. For instance, the question: “Do you think that the Bell experiments necessitate a rejection of the PSR?” is a perfect, succinct question. The question “Why haven’t you grasped the implications of Thomistic philosophy for epistemology and ontology?” is not so good.

    -Neil

  356. Holopupenko says:

    Neil:

    No longer will I pursue this.

    The way you characterize our attempts (“long abstract discussions” or “questions to me tend to be very open-ended and non-specific,” “with concrete examples” [which I DID provide], etc.) clearly indicates you are not only unfamiliar with many crucial philosophical terms, but you think within MES-strictures. You yourself admit you don’t understand the questions. It’s like trying to introduce a Hamiltonian to a high-school student taking physics: the student will undoubtedly confess, “you’re speaking too abstractly.” It’s worse, in fact, because disciplinary lines are being crossed. I don’t imply or intend any condescension in what I just said… it’s just that you don’t get it.

    (To reiterate an earlier point: you don’t have to accept what I say… but you are obligated to understand it.)

    I can’t speak for GR. Nonetheless, speaking as a trained, professionally experienced, and now teacher of physics (i.e., I know your “language” VERY well), one of the biggest immediate hurdles you face is your almost exclusive reliance on univocal terms… and you don’t even understand the difference between univocal, equivocal, and analogous terms!

    (One important benefit I received from this discussion is that I must put more thinking into communicating and connecting clearly philosophical terms to physicists… assuming they’re ready to listen. Unfortunately, most are not. olegt, for example, unequivocally came out and said philosophy is a waste of time. So be it.)

    I know its difficult to see–I was there once. It was very difficult for me to step out of that Cartesian and Kantian world (I’m speaking philosophically Cartesian–not mathematically)–it took years, in fact. Assuming you even pursue it, it will take you years as well.

    So… I tried, I failed, I’m outta this discussion.

  357. Holo,
    That’s fine.
    -Neil

  358. Melissa says:

    Well, you’ve all been very busy while I’ve been away on a long weekend skiing. Fascinating discussion.

    Neil,

    May I suggest you have a look at Edward Feser’s Beginner’s Guide to Aquinas. It’s less than 200 pages, paperback and will give you an easy entry into A-T philosophy. I don’t think you will regret this small time commitment and even if you don’t decide to pursue it with further reading at least you will be aware of the types of questions and the solutions to those questions that the classical philosophers were concerned with and some of the problems inherent in the mechanistic view.

  359. Melissa,
    I doubt I’ll have time to get to this. I have a long reading list and two children under 3! If you’d like to respond to the questions I posed, you are more than welcome. Also, what do you mean by a “mechanistic view”? As I’ve stated repeatedly, as an evangelical Christian I am not a physicalist or a naturalist; I am fully willing to accept non-physical explanations. I am really at a loss to understand why people keep insisting that I must not be.

    -Neil

  360. Melissa says:

    Hi Neil,

    I understand about being busy. Aristotle proposed that ordinary objects are a composite of form and matter. That view was overthrown by the mechanistic view of particles in motion. The only reason why that was seen as plausible alternate explanation was because everything that couldn’t be explained was pushed into either the mind or God. Even then there are still major problems with this view and it renders the mind and God as “spooky” add-ons, allowing the artificial divide between supernatural and natural and mind-body.

  361. Melissa,
    But nowhere in my recent questions to GR or Holo do I bring up the issue of mind-body dualism. I’ve been simply trying to understand what people here mean when they talk about the PSR requiring “explanations” of all entities. As I said, I am fine if people want to explain an entity with something other than matter (whether the explanation involves God or minds or forms or something else). Take a look at my questions 1-3 to GR in comment 347 or my comment 314 to see why I think any answer to these questions poses a problem for the PSR. As I said, you are welcome to answer them.
    -Neil

  362. Holopupenko says:

    Neil:

    Sorry, one more word. By “mechanistic” Melissa does NOT mean the way a physicist typically things about things, i.e., physically determined per initial physical conditions. Paley’s watchmaker is an excellent example of (flawed) mechanistic thinking: God doesn’t just “wind up the watch”.

    Philosophically, “mechanistic” presupposes a vision of reality in which all objects are WITHOUT ANY IMMANENT CAPACITIES, i.e., all objects, one way or another, are put “in motion” by something external to them. They are, to use a metaphor, puppets. Your response to Melissa is flawed NOT in the sense that you throw away immaterial things, but at the base of your thinking is that even immaterial things are affected MECHANISTICALLY, i.e., they also have no immanent powers and hence must be “moved” (immaterially speaking) by an external source/force.

    Extending to the implications, this is one of the central problems with the Intelligent Design movement: they view biological objects not mechanistically as physical robots (ironically, many of them make that mistake as well: biological entities/systems are described as MACHINES–and not just as a metaphor), but mechanistically in the sense that they are only able to actualize their perfections per an external designer puppeteering away. They view biological entities as having no immanent powers. Why? Because they reject natures and “substance” (in the philosophical sense) because they are “seen” (accessible) to the MESs. God doesn’t push billiard balls around to make them move–that’s silly occassionalism. God creates NATURES that actualize their perfections.

    I know that’s a philosophical mouth full, but please understand they very question you pose to Melissa betrays a level of ignorance. I say that in a good sense that you now have an opportunity to eliminate that identified ignorance. Feser’s books are excellent. So are Ric Machuga’s Life, the Universe, and Everything and In Defense of the Soul. I encourage you to heed Melissa’s advice.

  363. Holo,
    Thank you for your clarification of what “mechanistic” means. As I said, I believe I would be greatly, greatly helped if someone answered the questions I posed.
    -Neil

  364. Holopupenko says:

    Neil:

    If you were to ask a question that you thought was about geology (and you knew geology very well), but it turns out the question is much broader than geology–that the question presupposes what “science” means in the term “geology is a science”–i.e., you don’t yet speak the language of science writ large, how exactly is that person supposed to respond to “I believe I would be greatly, greatly helped if someone answered the questions I posed”?

    WE HAVE ANSWERED YOUR QUESTIONS, but you keep on coming back with “I don’t understand” or “long and abstract discussions.” I told you: I’m sorry–I refuse to do violence to the questions by limiting myself to mathematics and physics–the languages you currently understand. I’m using analogous terms that cannot be reduced to the univocal terms you understand: the understanding is in the upward direction, not downward.

    It’s like a person who has NEVER in their lives seen a cat except as drawn on paper or in a photograph: they keep on asking “show” me a cat; they’re shown a real cat but they respond with “that’s to abstract,… show me a cat,” which means they’re saying “show me a cat on paper.” Frankly, it’s like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

    I’m beginning to have that same sneaky suspicion I had when we first interacted: I’m not convinced you even want to know any non-univocal language… because physics specifically and the MESs generally suit you just fine.

    Sorry, Neil… I’m trying to be as charitable as possible… but I’m also calling em as I see em.

  365. Holo,
    As I’ve said many times, you are under no obligation to continue to provide answers to questions you feel you have answered sufficiently or which I cannot understand. I don’t think that my comments have at any point displayed stubbornness, animosity or antagonism. Rather, I truly believe that there are severe problems for the PSR (insofar as it is being used to attack the CI) and that my questions illuminate these problems. Consequently, I would still welcome contributions and continued discussion from anyone who is willing to answer my questions or who wants to ask questions of me.

    -Neil

  366. Steve Drake says:

    In trying to find a way back into the dialog of this debate, I find myself wondering if it is a worthwhile effort, since I have deligitimatized myself in the eyes of some of you here. I find that I cannot stay away however, as the intellectual endeavors seen here are somewhat unique. You are far removed in postings from my last posting at #188, but let me try to say a few things in response.

    In re: a genetic fallacy concerning Altena and his critique of Harrison: you may have a point and I will be more careful in how I phrase my posts. I cannot think however, that Harrison’s work itself as researched and referenced answers many of the points that Altena brings up. I have researched the web for a rebuttal to Altena’s critique, and have found none, and can only conclude that none is necessary, as anyone reading Harrison’s works can go the sources he cites for his conclusions. It is certainly a matter of opinion then in my view, as to which author one lends credence to. As to the charge, that I must provide answers to Altena’s critique, I must disagree. It is not incumbent upon me to show a rebuttal of Altena for my comments to which in a webblog I merely alluded to as a view for consideration.

    As to Holo’s comments that I’m hanging ‘my faith hat on a few errors-YEC in particular’, or that ‘YEC is simply wrong’, would it not be incumbent then upon Holo to back up these charges in the same way that he asks me to back up my charges against Altena’s critique? His insistence that I back up my charges could then easily and earnestly be insisted with equal fervor by me for his claims that YEC is wrong and in error. I could insist relentlessly that he support his claim. This would be an interesting dialog, especially in light of the general understanding that science in general, and cosmology in particular, is plagued by the lack of definite, objective criteria that might allow us to easily separate true theories from false ones.

    As to the claim that my last comments in #188 were not charitable, I simply will state for the record that they are. My true prayer is that those who visit this website as atheists, will be challenged and confronted with the gospel and that God will use all of you to that end. Peace.

  367. Tom Gilson says:

    Wow.

    Campus Crusade’s name change last week, coupled with an ongoing staff conference, forced me to fall almost hopelessly behind in this discussion. That kind of thing has happened to me far too often this summer, but so be it. It will happen at least once more when I take a vacation with my family.

    I finally read through it all this afternoon. Here’s what I’m seeing in the process, more or less on a meta level. There is some frustration being expressed here. Thankfully no one has expressed it strongly in the form of frustration at anyone else. There’s been a little of that, but not as much as there might have been.

    It seems to me that the real barrier is not in anyone’s ability or willingness to understand or communicate. It’s inherent in the format. A blog like this can do a lot, but really, think of it: I can’t wait until lunch tomorrow when I tell my pastor friend that the discussion on my blog lately has had to do with the ontological status of subatomic particles in light of various interpretations of quantum mechanics, analytical philosophy, and Aristotelian/Thomistic understandings of metaphysics and logic; with some Holopupenkoan speculations thrown in that the unbound electron might not quite be an Aristotelian substance; and with a physicist requesting I install the ability to write equations in comments. And that’s only part of it! (I know that equation-editor request was made tongue in cheek; I was surprised to find out it was easy to do regardless.)

    I probably won’t really tell my pastor friend about it, because then he might ask me if I understood it all. That might not look too good.

    Anyway, when you consider the high level of topics under discussion in a constrained format like this one, any progress at all toward understanding is commendable. Any failure to achieve complete understanding and agreement is quite understandable. This has been a learning experience for all of us, it appears to me. I’m pleased to have been a small part of it.

    I don’t mean that necessarily as a closing statement. If you want to continue, by all means do so.

  368. Tom Gilson says:

    Steve, I’ll be surprised if anyone wants to turn this discussion back in that direction now. And with all respect, I have trouble seeing how it would be fruitful at this point.

  369. G. Rodrigues says:

    GR, if you would like to continue, could you please answer the three questions I have asked you with the understanding that they are truly, sincere questions?

    Huh, I have answered your questions, Neil. Since you missed the answers, maybe we should switch gears and go over your specific proposals. For example:

    I offered a tentative definition of causality in Comment 151. There I said “causality is a relationship between one entity and another such that entity A necessitates the existence or behavior of entity B.” This is the one I’ve been working with. If you think is incorrect, I’m happy to change it.

    You are working with a very narrow, mechanistic conception of causation — but I will play along and see where this leads us. Does QM somehow violates the corresponding PSR? A priori, there is no reason to suppose it does. You yourself admitted this much when you said that u«you favored an epistemological-CI (for example, posts #147 and #246). There are other QM interpretations other than CI and they are fully causal and deterministic and since there are no experiments to decide between them, what grounds do you have to favor CI other than personal taste? So QM will not do the heavy lifting of undermining PSR for you. Free Will? That has been responded here also. So you have practically nothing to show for in your defense of ~PSR. To quote from your post #147:

    Let’s instead say that I simply assert the CI as _consistent_ with the Stern-Gerlach experiments. In this case, I am not confusing epistemological uncertainty with ontological status, so you cannot make this objection. Instead, I am asserting an ontological status and claiming that it gives rise to the epistemological uncertainty.

    How is this an argument for anything? A string of ifs and mights does not add up to positive evidence. Tiny immaterial spirits living inside elementary particles and pushing them this and that way are also compatible with QM, so what? And then there are the severe difficulties involved in denying PSR, even with your own restricted notion of causality. To put it in other words, you got things backwards. It is not PSR that faces severe difficulties, it is your understanding of QM grounded on CI and the philosophical assumptions that go along with it, that you probably are *not even aware of*.

    I am not asking you to answer my questions; but I am asking you to think a little on the countless objections raised against CI and ~PSR (denial of PSR). What I am trying to say is that you have carved for yourself a difficult position, with hardly a shred of evidence, fraught with lots of difficulties, and probably unaware of its philosophical problems. Maybe, just maybe, you need to stop and think on what exactly is missing from your picture. What you are missing is a coherent philosophy that can answer your questions and plug in the gaps that the empirical sciences, by their own nature, cannot. Melissa and Holopupenko gave some excellent recommendations.

    As a parting comment, I would like to quote one paragraph from my objections against the CI.

    Now that we got that cleared up, is there any doubt that the slippery slope is all around us? When we hear such rot has the “universe could have come into being without a cause” or “nothing was the cause of the universe” what should we do? Point out the philosophical illiteracy? Throw our hands in despair? Where do you think the new atheists got these ideas?

    Of course one should not choose PSR over ~PSR (just an example), because new atheists use it as a dialectical weapon against the philosophical arguments for the existence of God. It is the Truth that should guide us. But the fact that it *is* being used as weapon, based on an abusive CI interpretation of QM, should give us all pause to think. Neil, you use ~PSR grounded on CI, as an attack on materialism and naturalism. Materialists use ~PSR grounded on CI to deflect philosophical arguments like the Cosmological or the Kalam. Both moves are illegitimate on several counts (starting with an inability to understand that the empirical sciences are, of necessity, silent on these philosophical matters). But Neil, the same argument is being used to reach diametrically opposed conclusions. Think about what this means.

  370. Melissa says:

    Neil,

    Your question of what is an explanation has been answered. GR and Holo both wrote that it would require the four causes. It is things that are causes.

    Mainly I think you’re getting caught up by the idea of a sufficient explanation. You are reading sufficient to mean determinative. If we knew the starting conditions we could predict the outcome. My understanding of sufficient is just that the proposed cause is the type of thing that could bring about the change in question.

    So in the case of QM you would need to decide if there is change happening. If there is you need to explain it by the action of something. That thing would need to exist and have the power to bring about the change you are trying to explain. I’m really struggling to see why you would accept that anything happens for no reason.

    I think this is the general idea but I may have totally mucked it up, I’m still feeling my way. Holo might correct the inaccuracies if he doesn’t mind stepping in here again.

  371. GR,
    You wrote:

    Huh, I have answered your questions, Neil. Since you missed the answers, maybe we should switch gears and go over your specific proposals.

    You are absolutely right that I did miss the answers. Rather than switching gears, let’s review the answers again since they are all potentially one-word answers. It will only take you two minutes, far less time than you probably have spent composing these responses! In all honesty, I can say that I would really like to know the answers to these questions (which I have been asking in more or less the same form since #68). Why not just humor me?

    Here were my questions:

    Question 1: Are you arguing that “_every_ entity A has a _sufficient_ explanation which shows how the entity could not have been otherwise”?

    Question 2: If you answer no on Q1, then are you simply arguing that “_every_ entity A has an explanation”?

    Question 3:If you answer yes on Q2, then what do you mean by an “explanation”?

    to which I added:

    Q4. Does PSR which you take to be a first Principle say that the explanation A of some entity B will explain why we observe B _and not_ B’? In other words, if there is an an explanation for my observation of an electron in the spin-up state (B) does the explanation A of event B also show why I did not observe the electron in the spin-down state (B’)?

    Q5. Is there an explanation to the question: “Why did I observe the result B rather than the result B’?”

    For Q1,Q2,Q4,Q5 all I really want is a yes/no/ill-posed answer. Really. It would only take you 2 minutes! And if you gave me 5 “ill-posed” as an answer, I would be fine with that (provided that you think these questions are actually ill-posed)!

    As for the rest of your remark, you note:

    How is this an argument for anything?

    Right! If you look over my comments above, I have never claimed that ~PSR was true or that PSR was false (in part because I am still not sure what you mean by the PSR), nor have I attempted to construct a positive case for ~PSR. As I have said repeatedly, I felt that the ontological-CI (and olegt) were very harshly and off-handedly dismissed without sufficient reason given. I wanted to make the case that a denial of ~PSR requires far more than calling it “irrational” “rot” “rubbish” or a lot of other names, but actually requires some lengthy arguments of the kind we are still engaged in. You are absolutely right that I probably do hold to a kind of epistemological-PSR which _affirms_ a form of the non-determinative PSR. So accusing me to not making a positive case for ~PSR is quite accurate, but also not relevant.

    My goal has always been to understand what _you_ mean when you talk about the PSR and what you mean when you talk about “explanations”. As I said, I think this goal would be greatly furthered by answering these five fairly straightforward questions with one-word answers and short explanations (only if you feel like it!).

    -Neil

  372. Steve Drake says:

    Tom,
    I’m not suggesting that we turn the discussion back, but felt that others were owed some answers that weren’t provided earlier.

  373. Melissa,
    Thank you! Your response gives me confidence that my writing is at least communicating my meaning effectively. You write:

    Mainly I think you’re getting caught up by the idea of a sufficient explanation. You are reading sufficient to mean determinative. If we knew the starting conditions we could predict the outcome

    Yes, I am getting “caught up” in the idea of a “determinative” explanation, although I am not saying anything about “starting conditions.” I am asking whether the “explanation” for every entity is determinative. In other words, does the PSR (as Leibnitz claims) hold that the explanation A of event B will show why B occurred and will also show why B’ did not occur (note: there’s nothing in this about “prediction” or “starting conditions”)? This is why I keep asking if this is what GR and Holo mean by an “explanation.”

    Now here’s the issue. If the PSR requires _everything_ to have a _determinative_ explanation, then even my choices have determinative explanations; but then in what sense do I have Free Will? But if the PSR does not require _everything_ to have a _determinative_ explanation (for instance, my choices might have non-determinative explanations), then what is wrong with the CI? For instance, I could say that the measurement of particular electron spin has a non-determinate explanation. As Reidish and I discussed, we would then have to show why human agents have non-determinate explanations while everything else has determinate explanations (which I think it is possible to argue). However, what I don’t understand is why people don’t simply answer the question “Does the PSR require all explanations to be determinate?” That only requires a yes/no answer. What do you think?

    1) Does the PSR require all explanations to be determinate?
    and
    2) If yes on 1, in what sense do we have free will?
    3) If no on 1, then how can we tell which entities require determinate explanations?

    Thanks again for your response! It was very encouraging.
    -Neil

  374. Melissa says:

    Neil,

    I think your questions are ill-posed. For instance, the definition of determinate is able to be predicted and yet in an earlier paragraph you pointed out that there’s nothing about “predicted” involved in the PSR you’re using.

    I don’t know enough about CI to offer an opinion on it, I do know that proposing that change happens uncaused should be rejected. Maybe you should consider your answers to these questions.

    Am I explaining a change?
    If yes, what are the things that are the causes of the change?
    Do these things have the power to affect the change I’m trying to explain?

    If you take your earlier explanation

    Why can’t the explanation of measuring a “spin-up” electron be that “it was in a 50% spin-up state prior to measurement”

    you will see that it is no explanation at all.

  375. Melissa,
    Whose definition of ‘determinate’ are you using? As I said, I didn’t make any reference to predictability in my definition of ‘determinate’ and we can -in fact- completely dispense with the word if it’s is confusing. We can instead ask:
    Q1′) Does the PSR require all explanations to show why a given event B happened rather than an alternative event B’?

    Even if we assume that ‘determinate’ means ‘able to be predicted’, I’m not sure how this renders my question “ill-posed.” An ill-posed question is one that (for instance) makes a category error such that it cannot be answered. For example, the question: “Is the number five red?” is an ill-posed question because numbers don’t have colors. However, asking “does an explanation show both why B is true and why B’ is false?” does not seem at all ill-posed to me.

    For instance, if I say “Why do I have thirty cents in my hand?” we would clearly accept the statement “Because the clerk gave me change for my purchase” as an explanation. However, we could also ask “Why do I have thirty cents in my hand rather than forty cents?” In this case, the answer “Because the clerk gave me one quarter and one nickel” is also an explanation. Both statements are explanations, but the former is indeterminate because it allows for many possible amounts of change in my hand while the latter is determinate because it excludes other alternatives. Indeed, there is a nice correspondence between this example and the CI because the CI would hold that we can “explain” the results of measurement in the first sense, but not in the second. That’s why it’s so vital to figure out what type of explanation the PSR demands.

    I do know that proposing that change happens uncaused should be rejected.

    But this is a restatement of the PSR. If change is a type of event and all explanations require causal chains (as GR stated) then the statement “no change happens uncaused” is entailed by the PSR. We can hardly appeal to the PSR to show why the PSR ought to be accepted!

    Anyway, take a look at the rephrased Q1′ and see if you still think it is ill-posed. If not, can you explain why?

    -Neil

  376. Incidentally, the idea that the PSR requires that “no statement can be true unless there is sufficient reason why it should not be otherwise” is not my definition but goes back at least to Leibniz if not to the Greek philosophers. So it is hardly my idea! If people are using a different definition of the PSR (or of the word “explanation”) then I think it needs to be clearly stated. Also, the SEP states that “the mainstream opinion of philosophers during the Middle Ages appears to reject the PSR”, so I’m not sure how its rejection can be attributed solely to the influences of the MES or to positivism.

  377. Melissa says:

    Neil,

    Why would I have 40 cents in my hand if the change from my purchase was 30 cents?

    My statement about rejecting uncaused change was not meant to be an argument in favour of the PSR but a statement of my opinion before I led into the questions you should ask yourself to determine whether an explanation is sufficient.

    A cause or explanation does not need to be deterministic. What an explanation entails has been discussed multiple times by both Holo and GR, to claim it hasn’t is wrong.

    I’m not sure why you are so tenaciously clinging to the notion of uncaused events. Do you really, seriously believe that things happen for no reason?

  378. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Neil:

    Question 1: Are you arguing that “_every_ entity A has a _sufficient_ explanation which shows how the entity could not have been otherwise”?

    Question 2: If you answer no on Q1, then are you simply arguing that “_every_ entity A has an explanation”?

    Question 3:If you answer yes on Q2, then what do you mean by an “explanation”?

    Q4. Does PSR which you take to be a first Principle say that the explanation A of some entity B will explain why we observe B _and not_ B’? In other words, if there is an an explanation for my observation of an electron in the spin-up state (B) does the explanation A of event B also show why I did not observe the electron in the spin-down state (B’)?

    Q5. Is there an explanation to the question: “Why did I observe the result B rather than the result B’?”

    For Heaven’s sake, AGAIN with the same questions? Do you actually read people’s posts? If you do not, that is fine, but then do not ask the same questions over and over again as if they were never answered.

    For Q1, see post #340, first paragraph. Since you do not seem to be very adept of reading, the answer is yes and no. Yes, because the content of the PSR is that every contingent being has a cause, where cause refers not only to the nature of reality, but also to the fact that the cause is rationally discernible (at least partly) and thus it is also a because, a mode of explanation. No, because explanations must account for what *is*, not what could be. You are importing notions patterned after the strict empirical sciences like physics. Holopupenko alludes to your persistent confusion about natures and artifacts (the Cartesian mechanistic mistake). The empirical sciences and their specific methods do not exhaust all knowledge. To give an example, an Historian does not concern himself with what would happen if George Washington had died at birth. As I note in the paragraph for the specific case of Free Will, the explanations can be made sufficient (in the logical sense). Channeling Holopupenko, see posts #349 and #343. Background in posts #324, #326 and #341. Given this answer, I hope it is clear why I do not answer questions Q2 and Q3.

    As for Q4 and Q5, they were already answered, multiple times actually. *Currently*, the *scientific* explanation we have for the Stern-Gerlach experiment only gives us a probability distribution over a set of possible outcomes and nothing more and, for all we know, it may be all that we can aspire as far as a *scientific* explanation goes, whose efficacy depends on a restricted notion of causation, on a precise mathematical formalism, on a univocal language. In these restrictions lies the strength of the strict empirical disciplines; it is also their fundamental limitation. But also as already explained countless times, if you think this justifies an attack on PSR, think again. As I said in post #369 you got things backwards: philosophy does not build up on physics, rather physics builds on, even absolutely needs, a correct philosophy of nature.

  379. Melissa,
    You write:

    A cause or explanation does not need to be deterministic.

    Ok, good. This is a clear statement. However, if this is true, then I’m not sure why the CI is so objectionable. A proponent of the CI would say “Yes, every observation has an explanation. But -like Melissa says- an explanation does not need to be deterministic. For instance, the explanation of my observation of the particle in the spin-up state was that it was in the 50% spin-up state prior to measurement.” However, when I previously suggested that this kind of non-determinstic explanation is indeed provided by CI you wrote:

    If you take your earlier explanation

    Why can’t the explanation of measuring a “spin-up” electron be that “it was in a 50% spin-up state prior to measurement”

    you will see that it is no explanation at all.

    So aren’t your two statements contradictory? Do all explanations need to be determinate or can some be indeterminate?

    The crucial issue is not whether every event has an explanation but whether the explanation is determinate or non-determinate. It is this question which no one -as far as I can tell- has answered unequivocally. Indeed, I’ve been criticized repeatedly for asking for “univocal” answers! I have to admit: that criticism is completely fair. I would like a univocal answer and if none is possible, then someone should simply say “I’m sorry. We can only describe what we mean by ‘explanations’ in analogical language.” As I said, I’m perfectly willing to accept this answer and will have to content myself with being a humble cave-dweller.

    I’m not sure why you are so tenaciously clinging to the notion of uncaused events. Do you really, seriously believe that things happen for no reason?

    This seems to actually be the real motivating factor driving all of your concern: namely, that if we postulate uncaused events (or even indeterminate causes for events), then we lose the Cosmological Argument from Contingency and thereby give ammunition to the atheists. Here, I would say three things: first, I have _never_ actually denied the PSR. I have simply pointed out flaws in maintaining that all events have _determinate_ explanations. I myself probably do hold to a form of the PSR given _indeterminate_ explanations for some events. Second, an argument needs to stand or fall on its own merits, not based on how useful it is. If an argument is invalid, then I refuse to use it, no matter how true the conclusions are. Finally, I think we should remember that God is in no need of our philosophical argument and that our faith should be based on His existence, not on our ability to prove it. I fear that we may be resting our faith far too much on some overarching philosophical narrative. I would maintain that our faith should rest on Jesus Christ alone and his Word. Our philosophy may very well be wrong and if it is, then resting our faith on it is like building a house on the sand. Far better to build on the rock.

    -Neil

  380. GR,
    You keep insisting that “all my questions have already been answered repeatedly” and write several paragraphs telling me how they have already been answered and redirecting me to previous posts which also do not contain yes/no/ill-posed answers. Instead of doing this, why not humor me and simply write “yes” “no” or “ill-posed” (or “yes in one way” and “no in another way” as you did for Q1)? Or, as I suggested to Melissa, why not simply say that I am demanding “univocal” answers but that the answers can only be given in analogical language? In which case, I will happily desist with no hard feelings whatsoever. As I said, I am not a philosopher and if your answers will be incomprehensible to someone who insists on speaking univocally, then I will accept this assessment.

    -Neil

  381. Holopupenko says:

    Neil:

    I’m at a conference, so this will be uncharacteristically brief:

    Despite all your qualifications to the contrary, you are being dishonest. I’m not going to assess the degree or level in intentionality–nonetheless you are dishonest.

    First, please stop with the sound-bite demands for “answers.” That is not a sign of intellectual depth or rigor.

    Second, you keep on strongly implying we haven’t “answered” your questions, when they have been addressed multiple times… with references and with multiple responses to the contrary. That you don’t get it is not a basis for your implied accusation of “insufficiency”. Translated: the largeness (not meant in a quantitative way) of our responses to you will never be able to be reduced to your flatland vision of reality–a narrow, univocal, physics-and-math driven form of reductionism. The result of that is an emotional rather than intellectual — and I stress a priori — commitment to merely the “possibility” of epistemically non-causality rather than to a true ontological understanding of reality.

    Third, your last response (#376) was a perfect example of the selective inattention game you play. Yet again, you focused exclusively on the epistemic expression of the PSR. Yet, not only did I distinguish the ontological and epistemic for you, I also explained why errors are made–YOUR errors–when fixated exclusively on the epistemic, AND I explained why being is prior to knowing: if it’s not there, you can’t know it.

    You can play your word-parsing games all you want if you neglect the actual thing whose existence MUST be explained. You can look for paradoxes all you want while locked in your mind rather than understanding all your mental gymnastics must ultimately be reduced to the real. You can cling to ~PSR all you want merely based upon your personal attraction to the alleged profundity of what you dream of being “possible”…

    … but you won’t be taken quite as intellectually seriously as you may thing you deserve.

    Finally, in support of my assessment of dishonesty, there’s this: I will happily desist with no hard feelings whatsoever. As I said, I am not a philosopher and if your answers will be incomprehensible to someone who insists on speaking univocally, then I will accept this assessment. Oh please, spare us the false humility. Let’s see you really “desist”. But more importantly, demonstrate to us that you’ll make an honest effort to get beyond your reductionist view of reality to actually understand–at a bare minimum–what the words univocal, equivocal, and analogical actually mean. We provided explanations and further references. Your response? “I have too many books on my nightstand.” Exactly.

  382. SteveK says:

    That was brief? 🙂

  383. Holopupenko says:

    For me, being that brief HURT!

    😉

    Recall my mantra: I can say in a single paragraph what takes most people an entire sentence!

  384. G. Rodrigues says:

    @Neil:

    You keep insisting that “all my questions have already been answered repeatedly” and write several paragraphs telling me how they have already been answered and redirecting me to previous posts which also do not contain yes/no/ill-posed answers. Instead of doing this, why not humor me and simply write “yes” “no” or “ill-posed” (or “yes in one way” and “no in another way” as you did for Q1)? Or, as I suggested to Melissa, why not simply say that I am demanding “univocal” answers but that the answers can only be given in analogical language? In which case, I will happily desist with no hard feelings whatsoever. As I said, I am not a philosopher and if your answers will be incomprehensible to someone who insists on speaking univocally, then I will accept this assessment.

    Are you a fool or just playing one to make a point? One of the three possibilities yes / no / ill-posed-question suffices. But I am no expert on foolishness, so if you must use terminology incomprehensible to someone who insists on rationality I will accept your assessment.

  385. Melissa,
    I would honestly love to continue our conversation, so feel free to answer my questions or to ask me question which I’ll try to answer.

    GR,

    Are you a fool?

    No, I don’t think so. But I could be wrong.

    or just playing one to make a point?

    No, I’m definitely not acting like a fool intentionally. As I’ve said many times, I’m showing that ~PSR should not be curtly or off-handedly dismissed by showing what I think are some of the problems inherent in affirming the PSR. I truly believe that my questions have not been answered and I truly would like to see if they can be answered. I would still welcome your input or Holo’s. But I don’t think that continuing to insult me is either appropriate or edifying to anyone.

    -Neil

  386. Melissa says:

    Neil,

    This seems to actually be the real motivating factor driving all of your concern: namely, that if we postulate uncaused events (or even indeterminate causes for events), then we lose the Cosmological Argument from Contingency and thereby give ammunition to the atheists.

    You really have got this backward. The arguments for God start from our most basic everyday experience and argue for God. My position is that to deny our most basic everyday experience leads to absurdity. For example we have deniers of free will who continue to act as if they make a choice, deniers of objectivity morality who continue to condemn or praise people on the basis of their behaviour and people who deny that things happen for a reason continue to offer explanations and ask why.

    The crucial issue is not whether every event has an explanation but whether the explanation is determinate or non-determinate.

    No it is not. An explanation is a description of the causes. No causes, no explanation. Go back to the explanation you offered, what are the causes?

  387. Actually, Melissa, before I respond are you sure this conversation is edifying for you? As I’ve said, I enjoy discussing these issues, but I definitely don’t want to turn this into a contest. If this is not interesting or edifying for you, I don’t mind stopping here.
    -Neil

  388. Crude says:

    Neil,

    Pardon my mostly-late entry here. I’d like to ask a simple question or two.

    * Would you agree that denying the PSR (in the sense of ‘there’s no reason, physical or otherwise, why event X turned out the way it did’) represents the end of inquiry for that event? Meaning, if we accept that there is no reason to find, that there is therefore no point in looking for this reason?

    * Would you agree (I think you did before, but I ask again) that our inability to empirically find a physical explanation for event X does not constitute a scientific demonstration that event X has no explanation?

    * You seem to have suggested that if we are unable to find a physical explanation for event X, that this constitutes reason to at least entertain the possibility that event X has no explanation. If this is correct, would you likewise state that an inability to find a physical explanation for event X would constitute a reason to entertain the possibility that event X has a non-physical/immaterial explanation?

  389. Crude,
    Absolutely. Hopefully, I won’t say anything stupid.

    * Would you agree that denying the PSR (in the sense of ‘there’s no reason, physical or otherwise, why event X turned out the way it did’) represents the end of inquiry for that event? Meaning, if we accept that there is no reason to find, that there is therefore no point in looking for this reason?

    Yes, I think so. Of course, we might be wrong that there is no reason for an event, which I think any open-minded person would be willing to entertain, even a PSR-denier. Recall that the PSR-denier denies the uiversal-PSR, meaning that _all_ events have sufficient explanations. So he would readily concede that any given event might have an explanation.

    Would you agree (I think you did before, but I ask again) that our inability to empirically find a physical explanation for event X does not constitute a scientific demonstration that event X has no explanation?

    Abdsolutely! Just because we cannot find a physical explanation doesn’t mean there _is_ no explanation.

    You seem to have suggested that if we are unable to find a physical explanation for event X, that this constitutes reason to at least entertain the possibility that event X has no explanation. If this is correct, would you likewise state that an inability to find a physical explanation for event X would constitute a reason to entertain the possibility that event X has a non-physical/immaterial explanation?

    Sure. It’s like someone looking for his car keys at night. If we don’t find them under the streetlight, then maybe we haven’t looked long enough under the streetlight (we haven’t yet found the physical explanation). Or maybe they’re not under the street light (maybe there’s a non-physical explanation). Or maybe I don’t even own a car and my car keys don’t exist (maybe there is no explanation). Those are all possibilities consistent with my experience, but none of them is proven by my experience.

    Good questions! I hope I don’t get hammered now.
    -Neil

  390. Crude says:

    Neil,

    So he would readily concede that any given event might have an explanation.

    Well, ‘any given event’, sure. But for the particular event where he says there is no explanation, obviously not.

    My main point on this front is that it’s often claimed that ‘God is a science stopper’. So, if you say “God was the direct cause of this event”, that’s it – the explanation is God, we can’t study God empirically, we’re done.

    However, I think it’s obvious that “this event had no cause / has no explanation” is a science stopper either in the same way, or an even stronger way. At that point, you’re done: If it’s claimed that there is no explanation, then that’s that.

    So I think there’s a tension – not necessarily one that would befall you – for any person who wants to claim brute facts, deny the PSR, etc, and who also wants to jettison God as an explanation because ‘God as explanation’ represents an end of inquiry.

    Abdsolutely! Just because we cannot find a physical explanation doesn’t mean there _is_ no explanation.

    I’d agree.

    Those are all possibilities consistent with my experience, but none of them is proven by my experience.

    Then given your perspective – and not to say you’ve denied this at any point – it seems anyone adhering to the CI is faced with a dilemma. Events like those we see in the Stern-Gerlach experiment seem to end up translated as “evidence” (I suppose evidence would better be parsed as ‘consistent with’) multiple and distinct possibilities: An utter lack of cause, or an immaterial/non-physical cause, etc.

  391. Crude,

    My main point on this front is that it’s often claimed that ‘God is a science stopper’. So, if you say “God was the direct cause of this event”, that’s it – the explanation is God, we can’t study God empirically, we’re done.

    However, I think it’s obvious that “this event had no cause / has no explanation” is a science stopper either in the same way, or an even stronger way. At that point, you’re done: If it’s claimed that there is no explanation, then that’s that.

    In one sense, I agree. To say ‘God did this’ or ‘this event has no explanation’ are both science-stoppers, the latter even more so than the former. Of course, I don’t think that’s any more of an argument against CI than miracles are an argument against theism. Contrary to scientistic beliefs, some things _are_ inaccessible to science and thus are “science-stoppers.” It’s also important to recognize that CI usually tells you exactly which events have no explanation. A proponent of the CI wouldn’t just wander around aimlessly with a “no explanation” label maker.

    The only caveat here is that we need to distinguish between necessary and sufficient explanations. No proponent of CI (or ~PSR) would deny that there are _necessary_ explanations for some events. They are only denying that there are _sufficient_ explanations for _all_ events. For instance, if asked “Why do we observe the particle in state B and not state B’?”, a proponent of CI would say “There is no _sufficient_ explanation for that fact. We just measure it in state B; that’s all.” But he would certainly recognize that there are _necessary_ explanations for the measurement. For instance, if we measure the particle in state B, then it is _neceesary_ that a particle exists, that we exist, that our measurement device exists, etc… This is why I don’t think ~PSR actually damages the Cosmological Argument from Contingency at all. The question of whether the existence of any contingent entities requires an explanation is still totally reasonable, even for the PSR denier. Even if we affirm ~PSR, it does not follow that we have to deny the principle of “ex nihilo, nihilo fit” which is a statement about the _necessity_ of an explanation for the existence of contingent entities. In other words, a PSR denier should (in my opinion) recognize that the existence of any contingent entities is one of those things that does require an explanation.

    -Neil

  392. Crude says:

    In one sense, I agree. To say ‘God did this’ or ‘this event has no explanation’ are both science-stoppers, the latter even more so than the former. Of course, I don’t think that’s any more of an argument against CI than miracles are an argument against theism.

    Maybe not. But it does wreak havoc for any person A) Criticizing religion, or theism, or even Intelligent Design on the grounds that they involve conclusions which are ‘science stoppers, and who B) at the same time assets that some events have no explanation, and that this is a scientific conclusion.

    I know you aren’t taking this position. But the position is out there, and it’s inconsistent.

    It’s also important to recognize that CI usually tells you exactly which events have no explanation. A proponent of the CI wouldn’t just wander around aimlessly with a “no explanation” label maker.

    I’m not so sure about that, at least in principle. But I’ll pass it by for now.

  393. I know you aren’t taking this position. But the position is out there, and it’s inconsistent.

    I agree on both counts.

    It’s also important to recognize that CI usually tells you exactly which events have no explanation. A proponent of the CI wouldn’t just wander around aimlessly with a “no explanation” label maker.

    I’m not so sure about that, at least in principle. But I’ll pass it by for now.

    You are correct. Technically, CI would allow for almost anything to have _no explanation_. For instance, if a giant rubber ball materialized on my porch, I could technically say ‘No explanation.’ But to really be consistent with CI, I would have to say “There is a 1 in 10^10^10000000 chance that there is no explanation for this event and it is just a quantum fluctuation. But there is a 99.999999999999999% chance that there is an explanation.” Whether naturalists are ‘playing fair’ in their appeals to the CI is another story entirely.

    And as I mentioned above, in my opinion, even the CI has no relevance for the Cosmological argument from contingency, since it is arguing about _necessary_ explanations, not sufficient explanations. Even the CI recognizes that there are such things as _necessary_ explanations and I think the existence of the universe pretty clearly has a necessary explanation.

  394. Crude says:

    Neil,

    Technically, CI would allow for almost anything to have _no explanation_. For instance, if a giant rubber ball materialized on my porch, I could technically say ‘No explanation.’ But to really be consistent with CI, I would have to say “There is a 1 in 10^10^10000000 chance that there is no explanation for this event and it is just a quantum fluctuation. But there is a 99.999999999999999% chance that there is an explanation.” Whether naturalists are ‘playing fair’ in their appeals to the CI is another story entirely.

    Well, I think it gets worse than that. Here’s how I’d try to put it.

    Let’s say I notice there’s a basketball on my porch. I take it you’d admit I could say, ‘It’s possible this ball has no explanation for its presence on my porch. However, the odds are 99.99999999999~% that it does.’ I’m going to ask how you’re getting the 99.999999~% confidence, and as near as I can figure the reply is going to be based on a model filled with practical assumptions, appeals to other models, etc.

    But then I’m going to ask if those other models were relying on, explicitly or implicitly, the PSR to get estimates of THEIR probabilities. And if they did, I’m going to ask why we can ditch the PSR in one case, but not in these other cases.

  395. Crude,
    Interesting objection. But I don’t think the CI is to blame if you’re willing to get that picky. Let’s say we lived in a completely classical universe and you saw a basketball on your porch. If I asked you to estimate the probability that there was a basketball on your porch, you might approximate it as 99.9999999999% But I could say “How do you know it’s not an illusion produced by Penn and Teller? How do you know you’re not dreaming? How do you know it’s not a hologram of a basketball. Your probability is based on all kinds of models and approximations.” So we get the same objections in a fully classical universe.

    Additionally, I don’t think that our models would require events to have sufficient explanations themselves in order to predict the probability that some particular event A had an explanation. For instance, we would have to know that my porch existed, that my eyes existed, etc… to calculate the probability that the basketball’s presence was a quantum fluctuation. But whether or not my porch and my eyes were themselves generated by a quantum fluctuations seems totally irrelevant to calculating the probability of the basketball being generated by a quantum fluctuation. At least, I think that’s right. Essentially, I’m just arguing that the past history of my eyes, the porch, etc… doesn’t really affect how likely the materialization of a basketball is.

    -Neil

  396. Crude says:

    Neil,

    Interesting objection. But I don’t think the CI is to blame if you’re willing to get that picky.

    Well, what’s the picky part? You give an example, but the hypothetical replies all seem compatible with the PSR. I’d suggest there may be a big difference between rival explanations and no explanation, period.

    Another thing: In your basketball example you’re talking about illusions, dreams, holograms, etc. But this part is left out: The part where I, with regards to another world event, appeal to illusions, dreams and holograms.

    Edit: To clarify what I mean, think of it this way. Part of what’s driving my objection is the suspicion that the PSR is being discarded in one instance, while in other instances it’s taken as essential. I think if, in that hypothetical classical world, I explained other mundane and common phenomena in terms of holograms, I’m in a tricky position if someone asks me “well why don’t you explain this other mundane and common phenomena in the same terms?”

  397. Crude,
    I definitely see your point. But remember, the PSR denier is only denying the universal-PSR. He still believes that _some_ events have sufficient causes. He also makes no claim to be able to perfectly distinguish the two categories. I agree that it is a tough and non-intuitive position to be in, but it’s a bit analogous to the position of the Christian to the miraculous.

    Can we say absolutely for sure that any event has a non-natural cause? No, not for sure (unless it’s declared to be a miracle in the Bible). We just tend to assume that most events have natural causes and if we search and search and can’t find one, we say “Maybe this was a miracle.”

    In the same way, a PSR denier might make the working assumption that all events have sufficient causes. But if he looks and looks and can’t find a sufficient cause, at some point he says “Well, look. Why do I need to assume there is a sufficient cause?” This is exactly what has happened with the CI. Not only did people look and look for sufficient causes for decades and find none, but the Bell experiment strongly suggested that our whole idea of _local_ causality needed to be changed. It was at that point that people started saying: “Wait a minute, why am I assuming that there is always a sufficient cause?”

    As I said above, I also find it interesting that the majority of _Medieval_ theologians tended to deny the PSR long before Bell or Bohr or positivism. So it’s not as if CI or even MES is to blame for this position.
    -Neil

  398. Crude says:

    Neil,

    This is the last from me tonight, and I’ll probably have more to say later. But I wanted to comment on a few things.

    He also makes no claim to be able to perfectly distinguish the two categories. I agree that it is a tough and non-intuitive position to be in, but it’s a bit analogous to the position of the Christian to the miraculous.

    I think the attractiveness of denying the PSR for the average denier would drop like a rock if they found themselves having to talk in terms even approaching this.

    We just tend to assume that most events have natural causes and if we search and search and can’t find one, we say “Maybe this was a miracle.”

    I’m not sure I’d cop to this either. I believe there’s a respectable tradition re: miracles that can see something having ‘natural causes’ but nevertheless being a miracle all the same. Not every miracle has to be like this, but not every miracle under that view has to be utterly ‘non-natural’. (Whatever that means anymore.)

    But if he looks and looks and can’t find a sufficient cause, at some point he says “Well, look. Why do I need to assume there is a sufficient cause?” This is exactly what has happened with the CI.

    That’s right on back to the ‘science stopping’ for me. I have a different aim here than, I think, Holo and GR – I’m less concerned about people denying the PSR than I am about people presenting their PSR denial as ‘what science shows us’ and so on. Not that you need convincing of that.

    That said, the reasoning just seems so convenient to me. Who decided how long you can research a question before throwing up your hands and saying, “Alright, maybe there’s no explanation at all”? Much less privileging that position.

  399. Crude

    I think the attractiveness of denying the PSR for the average denier would drop like a rock if they found themselves having to talk in terms even approaching this.

    Who decided how long you can research a question before throwing up your hands and saying, “Alright, maybe there’s no explanation at all”? Much less privileging that position.

    I should qualify, since the two positions are only analogous. First, I think the PSR can be denied on purely philosophical grounds based on our everyday experience about free will. We feel as though are choices are free and not determined by any cause; a PSR denier would say that this is a clear case in which the PSR does not hold. Second, the Bell experiment does provide pretty iron-clad evidence that our intuitive notions about local realism are just wrong when it comes to QM. In this case, it’s not a matter of “throwing up our hands” because we’re tired of looking for causes. Indeed, the Bell experiment is really what put the nail in the coffin of local realism. As GR pointed out, we can still have non-local realism. But it is undeniable that our notions of causality have been tinkered with: either there are causes whose effects propagate faster than light (nonlocal: which itself has problems for causality) or there are no causes at all. Either way, our notions about causality have to change.

    -Neil

  400. Holopupenko says:

    Crude:

    Here’s my soundbite assessment of Neil’s response to you: he’s wrong… iron-clad wrong.

    There… I’m comment #400.

  401. Bill R. says:

    But it is undeniable that our notions of causality have been tinkered with: either there are causes whose effects propagate faster than light (nonlocal: which itself has problems for causality) or there are no causes at all. Either way, our notions about causality have to change.

    Not quite. Remember what Bell’s theorem disproves: local hidden variables. There are three options for rationalizing the results of the Bell experiment:

    i) deny that the results have any cause in nature (the CI). There could be a non-natural cause, like God, or chance (anthropomorphized and quasi-deified, having a Will and the power to exercise it at every point in the Universe). Or there could be literally no cause (in which case uncaused, anti-rational events form the bedrock of a reality that somehow conforms to mathematical description).

    ii) posit a natural cause that is not local – either it can act instantaneously on far-away objects, or it is simultaneously present in more than one location. As you said, it’s tough to wrap one’s head around the implications, none of which bode well for the intelligibility and predictability of the Universe…

    iii) posit a cause that is not a variable – i.e. that cannot be described as a random sample drawn from a probability space with a well-defined probability metric and expectation value. Thus, the cause in question could still be local, natural, and real (efficient), but just not a variable – not describable by math or the MESs. This may be another way of saying that the cause is a “nature that actualizes its perfection”.

    I think (correct me if I’m wrong) that you (and most physicists) have only been considering the first two options, and that is why you conclude that local realism is dead. However, as option iii) illustrates, local realism is still viable, even though “local scientism” (sorry) is not.

  402. Bill R.,

    iiii)posit a cause that is not a variable

    Yes, you are right. However, this is where things get tricky. I’m not sure it’s as simple as saying “ah, we just have cause that can’t be described by a variable” because a “variable” to the average person already sounds a bit unusual and spooky (I mean the average person, not the average scientist). But what if I said we merely need to “posit a cause that is not describable by propositional statements” or “posit a cause that is not describable by words”? I think most of us would start scratching our heads and wondering what we can mean by a ’cause’ in this case.

    Can you say a little more about what you mean by a ’cause’ as ‘a nature that actualizes it perfection’? For instance, if my measurement of the redness of a ball cannot be explained by a ‘local variable’ statement like ‘The ball is red’ then what do we mean when we talk about an explanation for the result of the measurement?

    -Neil

  403. Holopupenko says:

    BillT:

    That was brilliant, but I doubt you will be heard by a person who projects himself as a tone deaf physicist. Knowledge of the historical development of mathematical concepts, for example variables as you quite rightly raise, is crucial to understanding not only the power and limitations of, e.g., algebra, but also the risk of replacing reality with (admittedly descriptively efficacious) abstract mathematical formalisms–precisely one of the fundamental errors enslaving Neil’s mind. He’s so wrapped around his epistemic and empiriological axle that he misses (based on his performance here, ignores) ontological reality. The mathematical formalisms that should only be describing QM-level objects/events in a limited, abstract way, Neil literally believes actualize reality. Metaphorically, Neil believes the map makes the territory non-caused. So, what would a critical thinker want: Neil’s incomplete map and his incorrect interpretation of the map, or the reality itself?

    Consider the following: do you think a person is being coherent when, on the one hand, he draws illicit and categorical ontological conclusions from epistemic limitations (in this case, from Bell to CI), while on the other hand asks questions like “… what you mean by a ’cause’ as ‘a nature that actualizes it’s perfection.’?”? In other words, he admits ignorance of what cause is, yet on the other hand he categorically denies causality… by means of illicit interpretations of abstract mathematical formalisms! I have to ask GR’s question: is he a fool or playing one to make a point?

  404. Charlie says:

    I have not followed all of this conversation, as I have been out of town and it is quite challenging. But the last few comments have really nailed it for me. Thank you Bill, Holo, and Neil (for focusing the light here).

    If you could have left off the very unnecessary part about being a fool, Holo, it would have been even better.

  405. Holo,
    If you look at my dialogue with Crude, you’ll note that I have explicitly denied that the Bell experiments prove the CI or ~PSR (#389). Indeed, I have explicitly stated (#147) that someone could deny the PSR on philosophical grounds wholly apart from the Bell experiments (as the majority of Medieval philosophers appear to have done). Furthermore, I believe the questions I have repeatedly asked raise serious problems for the PSR independent of the results of modern physics.

    I also used your map analogy weeks ago when you insisted that ‘this isn’t about hidden variables.’ Physicists are indeed trying to read a map and can often unfortunately mistake the map for the actual territory. But philosophers need to recognize that the map tells us _something_ about the territory. When we perform the Bell experiment, it seems to indicate that the results of measurements cannot be explained by an appeal to the _local_ properties of particles. This is the map the experiments are giving to us. So I ask you again, can you explain what the map is telling us? Can you explain the Bell experiment in terms of local properties of particles? Or, as I asked Bill R, if my measurement of the redness of a ball cannot be explained by a ‘local variable’ statement like ‘The ball is red’ then what do we mean when we talk about an explanation for the result of the measurement?

    I do also agree that Bill R’s comment was very insightful and thought-provoking for me. I have said repeatedly that I am not a philosopher, that I might be wrong in my beliefs and that I am sincere in seeking answers for my questions. Yet Bill managed to provide his comments with civility and without repeated insults and mockery. I again would ask you to do the same.

    -Neil

  406. Tom Gilson says:

    G. Rodrigues,

    In #378 you wrote,

    For Heaven’s sake, AGAIN with the same questions? Do you actually read people’s posts? If you do not, that is fine, but then do not ask the same questions over and over again as if they were never answered.

    For Q1, see post #340, first paragraph. Since you do not seem to be very adept of reading, the answer is yes and no.

    For the record let it be known that I must not be very adept at reading either. I didn’t see an answer to Neil’s question there. You go on later to say,

    You are importing notions patterned after the strict empirical sciences like physics.

    I don’t see the moral fault there that you seem to be implying. For those of us who have been thoroughly trained in the physical sciences but not in Aristotelian/Thomism, it’s entirely appropriate for us to ask questions from within the framework of our knowledge. If there’s something wrong with the premises of the question, then there is, and it’s fine to note it in the response, but there’s been a lot of subtle scolding over this going on (sometimes not so subtle).

    Consider Holopupenko’s later characterization of a “tone-deaf physicist.” Suppose it’s an accurate characterization. Is that a moral fault? My wife and I are musicians. Our son is quite literally tone-deaf. We have never spanked him or grounded him for that. Turns out, interestingly enough, that though he has no ear for pitch, he has a good ear for blend, and he’s an amazingly good concert sound technician.

    By this I do not mean to accede to Neil’s being tone-deaf. I think he’s trying to learn, and doing it from the starting point of his own base of knowledge.

    Later from GR in #378,

    But also as already explained countless times, if you think this justifies an attack on PSR, think again.

    Neil, do you conceive of yourself as mounting an attack on the PSR? I see you trying to understand it and to see how to place that understanding into the mix of other knowledge you carry. It seems to me that for all the charges that have been made that you are failing to understand things here, the people making those charges are failing to understand what you’re doing here.

    I recognize that you are pushing hard to challenge the PSR in light of the CI. I see that as a healthy pursuit, unless you are committed to the CI come hell or high water, which I don’t think is true of you. The more we examine a basic concept (like the PSR) in the light of its most significant challenges (like the CI), the better we’re going to understand it.

    Now, maybe I’ve understood you all wrong myself. If so please let me know.

    EDIT after reading #399: You do think the PSR can be denied based on free will. I emailed you a book recommendation on that. I haven’t seen anyone here give you an adequate response otherwise, so I can see how you might think it’s a live objection. The discussion on libertarian free will is fairly long and involved, so I’m not going to go into it, but the short answer is that it need not be in contradiction to the PSR if one takes the Reason (of the PSR) to be the Reason of the agent or the reasons of the agent.

    Again from GR,

    As I said in post #369 you got things backwards: philosophy does not build up on physics, rather physics builds on, even absolutely needs, a correct philosophy of nature.

    That’s a false dichotomy. Of course science builds upon philosophy. Philosophy can also use scientific data as information to reflect upon. I think you know and believe that, right?

    Holopupenko, you tell Neil,

    Despite all your qualifications to the contrary, you are being dishonest. I’m not going to assess the degree or level in intentionality–nonetheless you are dishonest.

    First, please stop with the sound-bite demands for “answers.” That is not a sign of intellectual depth or rigor.

    I disagree. Neil explained in #380 that although he was requesting short answers he would accept it if someone would say, “that’s impossible.” That’s not dishonest. Later you say,

    … but you won’t be taken quite as intellectually seriously as you may thing you deserve.

    What in the world does that have to do with anything?? Can’t a person ask a question, and ask it again if he didn’t get an answer that made sense to him the first time? Have you not noticed that he has invited you to say, “sorry, but it can’t be done,” and then he would step back from it all?

    I don’t care myself to be taken as intellectually serious if it means I can’t pursue a question. It just doesn’t matter to me. It matters to me, yes, when I’m making assertions that I hope will be accepted, but not when I’m in questioning/learning mode.

    Oh please, spare us the false humility. Let’s see you really “desist”.

    This really disappoints me. Spare us the accusations, okay? He said he would desist under a certain quite reasonable set of circumstances which have not yet been fulfilled. Why call him a liar over that?

    He’s so wrapped around his epistemic and empiriological axle that he misses (based on his performance here, ignores) ontological reality. The mathematical formalisms that should only be describing QM-level objects/events in a limited, abstract way, Neil literally believes actualize reality. Metaphorically, Neil believes the map makes the territory non-caused.

    A source for that, please? And for goodness sake, don’t point to one of Neil’s questions as identifying one of his opinions. Don’t even point to one of his devil’s-advocate statements as being a statement of something he is personally committed to. Please try to recognize the difference.

    That’s how I see the debate. Maybe I’m wrapped around an empiriological axle too. If so, I’ll learn more through your answering questions and providing explanations than if you were to decide to call me a fool.

  407. Tom Gilson says:

    Neil, I applaud your patience and courtesy here. Maybe we’re both hopelessly mixed up and incapable of learning. Maybe your continuing in the conversation is a sign of stubbornness coupled with a learning disability. If so, then I share that same disability. But I appreciate that you have continued to maintain your civil composure.

  408. Bill R. says:

    Hi everyone,

    I’m glad my comments have been of value. Neil, I would like to address your questions, but it may have to wait a day or so — I have a big meeting with my advisor coming up this evening, for which I need to prepare (and pray). Even then, I may not be up to the task. After all, it was only a couple months ago (back when Tom linked to your essay) that I first really began to consider these issues. So I’m still a beginner/student, and I make no promises 🙂

  409. Tom Gilson says:

    Further on free will:

    It is a universally experienced phenomenon, which is the primary reason I take it to be true. Its denial cannot be coherently asserted, a point which I will not take time to argue here. So I am firmly convinced it is real.

    I also support the PSR. I mentioned above that (briefly) the sufficient reason for free will decisions is to be found in the agent’s reason or reasons. I can’t do the topic justice for a lot of reasons, including the fact it’s beyond my competence, but here’s my short version explanation regardless. Agent S chooses action A. When S is asked why A rather than B, S’s answer is not, and cannot be, based in any physical determinative processes. S will say “I chose A for reasons a, b, c, …” Those rationally processed reasons constitute the sufficient reason for S’s choosing A. Could S have chosen B? Sure, but only if B had been more consistent with S’s reasoning than A.

    That’s very incomplete but I’ve found it to be a helpful way of summarizing what I know.

  410. Tom,

    Neil, do you conceive of yourself as mounting an attack on the PSR?

    First, of all, I am still trying to _understand_ how people are defining the PSR. I am glad that you too have not seen answers (or at least, been able to understand the answers) to the questions I asked! As I said, answers to these questions would help me greatly in understanding what GR and Holo mean by “an explanation” and I fail to see why asking for a yes/no/ill-posed answer is disingeneuous or dishonest. I am also a bit disturbed that people seem to regard an attack on the PSR (however they are defining it) as a morally culpable position, as if I were attacking the deity of Christ. Again, as a Protestant, I submit that this is an incredibly unhealthy attitude. Our faith needs to be grounded in Jesus Christ and his Word. It seems like people’s extreme sensitivity to this issue implies that the PSR has taken on theological significance, which greatly troubles me.

    The discussion on libertarian free will is fairly long and involved, so I’m not going to go into it, but the short answer is that it need not be in contradiction to the PSR if one takes the Reason (of the PSR) to be the Reason of the agent or the reasons of the agent.

    I agree! We could certainly say that the will of a free agent provides a sufficient explanation (as Reidish and I discussed) for an event. The objection is that if ‘Neil chose B’ is a legitimate PSR-fulfilling explanation for B then ‘I measured the particle in state B’ should be a legitimate PSR-fulfilling explanation for B as well. To avoid this objection, we’d have to argue that free agents are different than inanimate matter (as Reidish and I agreed was possible). I would just like to see this case made explicitly.

    I recognize that you are pushing hard to challenge the PSR in light of the CI.

    Actually, my main personal questions about the PSR center around free will, not around the CI. But I talked about the CI initially because it (and olegt) was the center of such dismissive and bitter attacks during the first 100 comments. As I have said repeatedly, I don’t think that the CI is so obviously false (nor the PSR so obviously true) that it deserves to be mocked. And again, the fact that we have had a 300+ comment discussion on the PSR since that times bears out my point!

    And Tom, it also encourages me that I am not alone in thinking that this issue deserves more than vituperation. If I’m a dishonest, tone-deaf, learning-disabled fool, then it’s nice to have some company.

    -Neil

  411. Tom Gilson says:

    Also: S’s reasons need not be good ones. They just need to be S’s reasons, based on S’s experiences, personality, education, options, preferences, skills, and so on .,..

  412. The objection is that if ‘Neil chose B’ is a legitimate PSR-fulfilling explanation for B then ‘I measured the particle in state B’ should be a legitimate PSR-fulfilling explanation for B as well. To avoid this objection, we’d have to argue that free agents are different than inanimate matter (as Reidish and I agreed was possible). I would just like to see this case made explicitly.

    To make this a bit more explicit, at least one interpretation of the CI says that it is only conscious agents who can collapse a wavefunction. So in this version of the CI, it doesn’t help to say “the choice of a human agent provides a sufficient reason for the choice made” because a proponent of CI would say “Exactly. And measurement performed by human agents provides sufficient reason for the state of the particle observed. The ‘reason’ we observed state B is that a human agent collapsed the wavefunction and observed state B.” This makes it that much harder to show why human choice is allowed as a sufficient reason for an event but human measurement is not.

    -Neil

  413. Crude says:

    Neil,

    I’m going to step aside the free will talk for now.

    Some emphasis added here.

    Second, the Bell experiment does provide pretty iron-clad evidence that our intuitive notions about local realism are just wrong when it comes to QM. In this case, it’s not a matter of “throwing up our hands” because we’re tired of looking for causes. Indeed, the Bell experiment is really what put the nail in the coffin of local realism. As GR pointed out, we can still have non-local realism. But it is undeniable that our notions of causality have been tinkered with: either there are causes whose effects propagate faster than light (nonlocal: which itself has problems for causality) or there are no causes at all. Either way, our notions about causality have to change.

    First, ‘our notions about causality have to change’ is something I’m sure Holo would agree with, at least insofar as modern notions of causality have left behind formal/final causes anyway.

    Second, changing our notions of causality wouldn’t be sufficient to harm the PSR as I understand it. Changing how this or that is explained still leaves one with explanations in principle. It’s that switch to denying altogether that there is an explanation where problems come in.

    Third, I question whether those two options are exhaustive. For instance, if the ’cause’ is outside time/space altogether ultimately, I’m not sure that it would be properly called ‘faster than light’ in a relevant way. To use a model example – let’s say I create a computer simulation of a solar system, and I choose to correlate two variables that are lightyears apart, instantaneously. Did that involve ‘faster than light’ causes? What if, whenever variable A changes, I correlate variable B with it?

    Either way, I think what you’re saying here is that quantum physics puts us in the position where we (apparently) aren’t getting back to classical mechanics, and if we do have causality it’s going to be – in a few words – pretty damn odd. But if that’s the move – “the causality would be weird, so better to have none than weird” – I’ll just bite the bullet and accept weirdness, and question anyone who doesn’t.

    I’ll even accept that science may never be able to provide an empirical explanation, because I have no problem with the idea that science has limitations, fundamental and/or practical, even on subjects like this.

  414. Crude,
    Very helpful post. I do think that the Free Will issue is actually more philosophically relevant to the PSR than the Bell experiments, but I’m happy to set that side for the moment. I also agree that “causality would be weird” is a very good conclusion to reach when looking at the Bell experiments.

    One thought occurred to me after re-reading Bill R’s post. I wonder if at the root of this is our definition of the word “natural”. Bill wrote that Thomist philosophy allows us to have “a cause [which is] local, natural, and real (efficient), but just not a variable – not describable by math or the MESs.” It’s that word “natural” that I think is interesting.

    I am inclined to define “natural” as “that which can be described by math or the MESs.” Note that I am note defining “Nature” in this way, nor am I defining “Reality” this way. This is indeed the mistake of “scientism” which would deny reality to anything that cannot be described by the MESs. Rather, I am simply saying that when I talk about a “natural cause”, I -by definition- mean “a cause that can be described by math or the MESs.” I am by no means denying that there could be other kinds of causes.

    But this is why Bill’s statement is so interesting. To me, the idea that we could have “natural causes” not describable by math or the MESs is non-sensical by definition. But this becomes a very interesting question. What do we mean by a “natural cause” (as opposed to a supernatural cause?) if we allow for “natural causes” that cannot even in principle be described by math? I’d be interested to hear how you or Bill answer this question. It’s clear that you must be defining a “natural cause” in some very different way. But then, what definition are you using?

    -Neil

  415. Holopupenko says:

    Tom:

    ONE

    I think the PSR can be denied on purely philosophical grounds based on our everyday experience about free will.

         Leaving aside Neil’s inability to articulate this claim (yes, I’ve looked), doesn’t Neil repeatedly claim he’s not a philosopher nor does he understand terms we’ve tried to explain, e.g., “I am not a philosopher and if your answers will be incomprehensible to someone who insists on speaking univocally, then I will accept this assessment.” Where exactly is that “acceptance”?
         Moreover, didn’t you, Tom, rightly and strongly chastise olegt earlier for claiming not to do being “doing” philosophy while at the same time discounting philosophical criticisms of his interpretations of physics “when it encroaches upon the territory of physics”? Neil isn’t overtly discounting philosophy (he even offers his own gloss as I just quoted him), but he’s making no effort to learn the terms. That MO is too close for comfort to olegt and DL.

    TWO

    the Bell experiment is really what put the nail in the coffin of local realism

         More of the same: he’s trying to use mathematical physics to make a universal metaphysical (in its proper sense) about the existence of contingent objects/events. Point One.
         Point two is, he’s flat-out wrong: the Bell experiment isn’t what “put the nail in the coffin of local realism.” I’m sorry, that’s just a dumb claim. It’s the interpretations of the Bell experiment–but especially the interpretations of the mathematical formalisms of the Bell experiment–that he alleges “put the nail in the coffin.” There’s a HUGE and important difference there.

    THREE
         To repeat from my earlier comment (based on Neil’s own words): In other words, he admits ignorance of what cause is, yet on the other hand he categorically denies causality… by means of illicit interpretations of abstract mathematical formalisms! His position is incoherent.

    FOUR
         To repeat another point I raised which Neil refuses to address: (#376) was a perfect example of the selective inattention game you play. Yet again, you focused exclusively on the epistemic expression of the PSR. Yet, not only did I [earlier] distinguish the ontological and epistemic for you, I also explained why errors are made–YOUR errors–when fixated exclusively on the epistemic, AND I explained why being is prior to knowing: if it’s not there, you can’t know it.

    FIVE
         GR says: You are importing notions patterned after the strict empirical sciences like physics. That’s spot on correct: the only tool Neil has is a hammer, and so every problem for him looks like a nail.
         Then you, Tom, say, “I don’t see the moral fault there that you seem to be implying.” Huh? Intellectual fault indeed because Neil insists on only applying his pattern of thinking. GR is correct. Yet you, Tom, claim GR was making a “moral” criticism?

    SIX
    You say, Tom:

    For those of us who have been thoroughly trained in the physical sciences but not in Aristotelian/Thomism, it’s entirely appropriate for us to ask questions from within the framework of our knowledge.

         First, I explicitly said there is nothing being held against anyone who doesn’t get or do A-T, but then I one must nonetheless try to understand it… qualifying it that I would not lead a course on your blog. Melissa and I and GR provided references. Neil’s response? “There are too many books on my nightstand.”
         Second (related), three times I pointed out and requested coming up to speed on just one issue (341, 356, and this from 381):

    demonstrate to us that you’ll make an honest effort to get beyond your reductionist view of reality to actually understand–at a bare minimum–what the words univocal, equivocal, and analogical actually mean. We provided explanations and further references.

         Well, not only do we get a request for dispensation because of the strained nightstand, but then in 399 we get this as a comment on two statements in blockquotes:

    I should qualify, since the two positions are only analogous

         In the rigorous sense, those are NOT “analogous positions.” I rest my case on the accusation that Neil is making little or no effort to understand the terms.

    SEVEN

    To me, the idea that we could have “natural causes” not describable by math or the MESs is non-sensical by definition.

         Non-sensical to someone who straighjackets his thinking, perhaps.
         First and strictly speaking, God is the only “thing” that is supernatural, i.e., above nature. Even angels are natural… but not in the creeping naturalistic sense Neil attempts to impose. They are natural in the wider sense of being contigent beings of specific natures, i.e., with immanent powers to actualize their perfections.
         Second, it is super clear Neil clings exclusively to “cause” in the “physical efficient causality” sense. We’ve provided the four causes that must be present in a full explanation. No apparent effort on his part to understand that. Because he refuses to, there’s no way he can understand that the third species of the final cause (I’ve explained this before to him)–purpose or intention–is not material. Yet, it is a cause. Not only “a” cause, but traditionally understood to be the “cause of causes.” I provided him the broader definition of “cause.” Ignored… and he continues on with physical efficient causality.

    EIGHT
    Finally, Tom, you say

    Can’t a person ask a question, and ask it again if he didn’t get an answer that made sense to him the first time? Have you not noticed that he has invited you to say, “sorry, but it can’t be done,” and then he would step back from it all?

         We DID say it couldn’t be done–multiple times–if Neil continues to insist limiting himself to his empiriological straightjacket. We invited him, with explanations and references to learn a new language… and we got the “nightstand” treatment. He’s not interested… and he offered for us to “step back” so that he can continue with his errors? Tom: Neil’s inaction speak much more loudly than his platitudes and claims of “honesty, sincerely.” It’s not that Neil is dishonest in terms of overt lies. The dishonesty lies in the approach he takes. In that sense, your criticism of my earlier three points, Tom, was misdirected.

  416. Tom Gilson says:

    Holopupenko,

    1. Neil’s questions and difficulties are just not on the same level as olegt’s.

    2. You say, “Neil isn’t overtly discounting philosophy (he even offers his own gloss as I just quoted him), but he’s making no effort to learn the terms.” I think he’s trying very hard to get them precisely defined. Maybe he’s trying the wrong way from your perspective, but that’s not the same as “making no effort.”

    3. You say his position re: Bell is incoherent. Your substantive response to that earlier was: “He’s wrong.” Okay, thank you for that…

    4. I said there was moral criticism because I have seen it made. GR did not make a moral criticism in the snippet I quoted, which you re-quoted in your number FIVE, but he did make them in the context surrounding it.

    5. RE: “too many books on my nightstand,” I can’t find the original of that by searching the page for “books,” or by searching for “nightstand,” or by searching for “too many.” Where did he say this? The only person I can find who used the word “nightstand” was you. You excoriate him with it 3 times in this comment. What did he do to deserve that kind of treatment???

    You say, “I rest my case on the accusation that Neil is making little or no effort to understand the terms.” I say that if you view your role here as that of a teacher, you are having a hard time understanding Neil’s questions. A teacher moves from the student’s current knowns (or even the student’s current misconceptions) and moves toward truth. If a teacher begins from the teacher’s knowns, of which the student has no adequate current conception, the student will have an unreasonably hard time keeping up. This is the way this interchange appears to me.

    Neil is perhaps stuck on a certain conception of causation, say. But you’re not answering his questions about it, at least not in terms that he (or I) can appreciate. You find that he can only understand things in terms of the MESs. It seems to me you can only understand things in terms of your philosophical understanding. You are ships passing in the night. The difference, my friend, is that he is not calling you a fool for your inability to grasp what he is really asking. I think that if you did, and if you really answered what he was really asking, chances are you could move on to the next subject and make progress.

    6. When Neil first spoke of “natural causes not describable by math,” he was asking a question. Later he was exploring the idea. What in blazes is so strait-jacketed about that?

    I’ve come to an end of my patience with this criticism of a brother in Christ. I’m going to close comments on this thread for a few hours. Maybe I’ll change my mind about it. Maybe it’s a really bad idea that I’ll come to regret. It’s possible for me to make stupid mistakes, I know; it certainly wouldn’t be the first time (not even the first time today). But maybe on the other hand if we take a break we can all cool down and decide to pursue the question rather than pursue judging others in the body of Christ. Maybe there’s a better idea. Most of you have my email address, and if not you have my contact link at the top of the screen, if you want to contact me.

    Pray for one another, okay? Thanks.