Tom Gilson

Christianity, Science, and Materialism

Series: Faith & Science Podcasts 2012

Thinking Christian
Thinking Christian
Christianity, Science, and Materialism
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“Religious people believe the most ridiculous things.”

So says P.Z. Myers, the preposterous atheist of Pharyngula. He’s at least partly right: there are ridiculous religions everywhere you look. But when science gets married to atheism, such as P.Z. Myers, Jerry Coyne, and others do, the offspring of that marriage includes a lot of ridiculous beliefs as well.

Science is not the problem, and never has been. There is a myth afloat that science provides evidence for atheism, but it’s just not true. Christianity has supported science, and science has supported Christianity, from the early Middle Ages onward. We Christians need to ask ourselves, though, how much have we bought into the false idea that science pushes God out of the picture?

This is the first in a series of three podcasts this week on Christianity and science. Wednesday’s podcast will focus on claims that science is the only rational route to knowledge of the world (and that faith is irrational), and Friday’s will be on the historic friendship between Christianity and science.

See here for documentation and related resources.

This message was recorded on January 8, 2012, at Seaford Baptist Church, Seaford, Virginia. I deleted one audience comment from the recording because I could not make it audible. It was on the Gap theory and the day-age theory as possible interpretations of Genesis 1.

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58 thoughts on “Christianity, Science, and Materialism

  1. another good resource for this is J. C. Lennox’s book “God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?”

  2. For what my opinion is worth to you, the more you drill down to the nature of reality itself, the more random and uncertain things become. I think that alone, that randomness at the heart of reality, is enough to allow the possibility that we aren’t constrained by the “illusion of free will/illusion of consciousness” argument.

    Since you speak of regularity and fine-tuning in your podcast, I am curious what your reaction is to the following… to sum briefly, it appears that the fundamental laws of nature change over (vast) distances, and possibly time as well. In other words, what is “fine-tuned” for life for us, here in our portion of the universe, does not hold true for other portions.

    http://www.physorg.com/news202921592.html

    While of course I disagree with your theology, and I disapprove of you discounting non-Christian scientific advancements, you are well-spoken and come across as rational, and I give you credit for that.

    You seem to support the natural sciences (leaving the science to the experts, if I may paraphrase you), and only contend that science doesn’t and shouldn’t exclude God. Is that a fair statement?

  3. Thanks for the encouraging words, Sault.

    I’m not understanding your first paragraph. First, there is no real support for this randomness and uncertainty of which you speak. Sure, there’s quantum uncertainty (according to at least one prominent interpretation) at very small scales, but why consider that to be “the nature of reality itself”? Why disregard what we know about regularities that happen everywhere else in nature? And how would randomness at the heart of reality (if it were true) affect arguments concerning free will and consciousness?

    If only our portion of the universe is fine-tuned for life, that changes nothing about the fine-tuning that holds where we are. That discussion is unaffected by possible differences in laws of nature elsewhere; unless the universe really turns out to be infinitely large, in which case the discussion does shift.

    Did I discount non-Christian scientific advancements? I certainly didn’t intend to!

    Your closing summary is a fair one, except that “leaving the science to the experts” applies specifically to contentious and unresolved issues, my point being that we who are not specialists ought not to take dogmatic positions on such matters.

  4. @Sault:

    Since you speak of regularity and fine-tuning in your podcast, I am curious what your reaction is to the following… to sum briefly, it appears that the fundamental laws of nature change over (vast) distances, and possibly time as well. In other words, what is “fine-tuned” for life for us, here in our portion of the universe, does not hold true for other portions.

    http://www.physorg.com/news202921592.html

    The question was directed at Tom but I am going to take the liberty to jump in and add a couple of things.

    I have some sympathy for the cosmological fine-tuning arguments (for reasons that I won’t explain here — but I may have already mentioned them in other thread discussions), but I also think they are far from fundamental in the Christian apologetics (same as above — for philosophical and theological reasons that I won’t explain here). Nevertheless, by your comments I think you misunderstand the nature of the argument so I will say three things:

    1. First, the variation of the fundamental constants across space-time is still speculation. It behooves us to wait for a more definitive pronouncement and consensus within the physics community.

    2. The cosmological fine-tuning argument’s main contention is that the universe *as a whole* is fit for life. Sure, some regions are not (say, near a black hole), but that is not the point. The point, the miraculous point, is that there *are* *some* regions that are fit for life, since even the smallest perturbation in the fundamental constants or the initial state of the universe would entail that life could not arise *anywhere* at all in the universe.

    3. The link you provide does nothing to counter this, it only kicks the problem to another level: now it is not the specific value of the fine structure constant that you have to explain, but the specific mechanism that allows the fine-structure constant to have a range of values that permits life in some regions of the universe — which involves not only a law of its own but some additional parameters, and these parameters must lie in some definite range such that… well, you can see where this is going.

  5. Rodrigues @5 point 3: Regarding the “mechanism” problem Sault now has to deal with, that’s spot-on correct. Moreover, an important “interface” problem arises, and I employ the word “tuning” as neutrally as possible with no “creator” baggage attached: at least for now, I can’t see any way one can transition from one “part” of the universe to another through a “smooth” interface. Why? Because just tweaking the fundamental constants screws up the whole works royally.

    It raises sticky questions like, “well, what happens between regions?” “How come I can see different regions of the universe if they have different ‘laws’… wouldn’t light be a very different physical phenomenon? It also begs the question of changing natures depending on in what region objects find themselves (and what happens when an object operating “under” certain “laws” encounters another operating “under” others… but I’m not going to pursue that here.

    The multiverse canard won’t get you out of it and doesn’t work anyway: if “another” universe is observationally accessible to us, then it’s not another universe–it’s part of ours. If it’s not observationally accessible, then one is not doing science… and one will succumb to the nonsensical and anti-scientific crap pinhead Martin Rees tries to foist upon us:

    “Dr. Martin Rees, a University of Cambridge cosmologist and the Astronomer Royal of Great Britain noted that it is not necessary to observe other universes to gain some confidence that they may exist. He was referring to certain solutions of string theory equations that allegedly indicate a range of other universes actually exist.” (NYT 29 Oct 2002)

    Yeah, right. Martin Rees has cute invisible universe friends. One spiritual realm to these pinheads is preposterous, yet gagillions of inaccessible and unverifiable universes is no problem.

  6. “How come I can see different regions of the universe if they have different ‘laws”

    Because the fundamental laws of nature local to you made it possible. 🙂

    How do you know those other regions are actually real? You can’t know. The idea that fundamental nature changes over distance / time stops science in its tracks.

  7. Since you speak of regularity and fine-tuning in your podcast, I am curious what your reaction is to the following… to sum briefly, it appears that the fundamental laws of nature change over (vast) distances, and possibly time as well. In other words, what is “fine-tuned” for life for us, here in our portion of the universe, does not hold true for other portions.

    http://www.physorg.com/news202921592.html

    Sault, you are overstating your case. The article you reference does not state that fundamental laws of nature change over distance, but that one constant (the fine-structure constant) might vary over large distances. It is a significant result, but don’t try to sell it as if this paper overturns all the evidence that people talk about with respect to fine tuning. There are a few dozen other parameters whose values appear to be tightly constrained as a precondition for a habitable universe.

    Also, to echo and build on others’ points, proponents of the fine-tuning argument tend to distinguish between fundamental fine-tuning and environmental fine-tuning. The former deals with physical constants that do not vary within the (known) universe and must have had the appropriate values “from the beginning” (e.g. the cosmological constant, the relative strengths of the four fundamental forces, the speed of light, etc.). Environmental fine-tuning has to do with conditions that may vary throughout the universe, but are necessary for life as we know it. Usually, environmental fine-tuning is invoked in reference to our sun/earth/solar system — e.g. the earth is a non-tidally-locked planet the correct distance from the sun with a core massive enough to hold an atmosphere and spinning fast enough to generate a protective magnetic field, etc. Obviously, there are other planets in the galaxy, but it is unclear whether there are enough of them for natural variation to afford any reasonable chance of meeting all these requirements of environmental fine-tuning.

    Anyway, the point is that if the article you cited stands up to scrutiny, then all it has done is moved one parameter from the fundamental category to the environmental category. It has not excised the fine-structure constant from the fine-tuning argument altogether (to say nothing of the dozens of other parameters that must be dealt with).

  8. It is a significant result, but don’t try to sell it as if this paper overturns all the evidence that people talk about with respect to fine tuning.

    Fine structure constant changes over time and space – thus God is disproven, ha ha ha!

    Just kidding. 🙂

    It has not excised the fine-structure constant from the fine-tuning argument altogether

    Thank you for your response.

    My impression was that it had more consequences for the “regular universe” statement than anything else.

    now it is not the specific value of the fine structure constant that you have to explain, but the specific mechanism that allows the fine-structure constant to have a range of values that permits life in some regions of the universe

    I wish that I had the expertise to provide some assistance in answering this question. The important thing is that we should eventually figure out an answer, even if that answer only raises more questions.

  9. First, there is no real support for this randomness and uncertainty of which you speak.

    Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. We simply can’t know where everything is without changing it.

    The further down you drill, the smaller the particles become, the less certain (ie the more random) their movements and position become. Electrons, for instance, don’t adhere to the Bohr model they taught me in school – the reality is much weirder.

    What I take away from that is that on some level we have a degree of randomness built into us. Yes, the greater the scale the less randomness (if we drop a ball it will always bounce, etc)… the more deterministic, the more orderly the universe becomes as well. But at the heart of reality, at the smallest levels that we know about it, it is chaos.

    What I bring from that is that while we may be able to predict a great deal about reality from a deterministic standpoint, we can’t predict reality 100%. To me, this means that the door is open for us to have some degree of free will.

    I don’t know what your basis for believing in free will is, but that is mine.

  10. Sault,

    I don’t know what your basis for believing in free will is, but that is mine.

    I challenge you to look at this again. Your belief in free will is actually based on the fact that you actually perceive yourself to be free.

    And as argued elsewhere on this blog, if you weren’t free to discover this fact on your own, then you were “told” what to think/believe about it according to the laws of determinism – which means you have no basis for believing in anything, because you have no actual beliefs and no actual knowledge. You are a teleprompter.

  11. If Sault only understood what the word “random” means, and if he only understood that a limitation on observational precision does not impart ontological status on the thing observed.

  12. @Sault:

    What I take away from that is that on some level we have a degree of randomness built into us. Yes, the greater the scale the less randomness (if we drop a ball it will always bounce, etc)… the more deterministic, the more orderly the universe becomes as well. But at the heart of reality, at the smallest levels that we know about it, it is chaos.

    The last time I had a discussion about QM in this blog I ended up to my eternal shame calling a Brother in Christ a fool (by the way, my sincere apologies Neil Shenvi), so this is not a road I want to travel down. Suffice to say that from your comments, the only thing you know about QM are what the dreadful popularizations, that is, very little. I suggest caution; in particular saying that “at the smallest levels that we know about it, it is chaos” is stupid. And this just on the physics side of things; then you have to explain to us which interpretation of QM you accept and why, because they differ radically — e.g. some are no less deterministic than classical mechanics, and your whole argument goes down the drain. And I am not even going into the much more important points made by Holopupenko (which I suspect will pass you by completely unnoticed), including the fact that you can not derive a metaphysical conclusion from an abstract mathematical description of a slice of physical reality — further argumentation, of a *metaphysical* nature, is *always* needed.

    What I bring from that is that while we may be able to predict a great deal about reality from a deterministic standpoint, we can’t predict reality 100%. To me, this means that the door is open for us to have some degree of free will.

    I don’t know what your basis for believing in free will is, but that is mine.

    If that is your basis for believing in free will, you have no basis at all. First the human ability to *predict* things does not change one iota, whether they are predetermined or not. Second, even if we grant that there is an essential, ontological randomness at the heart of reality, there is no way you can derive Free Will from said randomness. At best, what you get is that your choices are as random as quantum random-ness, which is something entirely different from Free Will, the ability to choose within reason between different outcomes.

  13. Sault,

    What I take away from that is that on some level we have a degree of randomness built into us. Yes, the greater the scale the less randomness (if we drop a ball it will always bounce, etc)… the more deterministic, the more orderly the universe becomes as well. But at the heart of reality, at the smallest levels that we know about it, it is chaos.

    Let’s suppose the picture of reality which you have painted is accurate. Things become more indeterminate the closer we get to what you call “the nature of reality itself.” I don’t for a moment grant the assumptions that are entailed in that, especially that the smallest bits are what define the nature of reality, but I’m willing for the sake of argument to discuss what it might mean if your assumptions were accurate.

    On a macro scale we see deterministic processes at play. At a micro scale, following your preferred interpretation of QM, we have randomness of a sort that is uncaused, for all we know.

    I think what you are saying is that since there are non-determined process happening at the deepest level of reality, then that opens the door for humans to have some free will.

    I don’t see how you can believe that. Here’s why. Everything we have said here and here about free will’s impossibility in a determined universe also applies in a universe where quantum indeterminacy exists of the sort you suppose it to be.

    What’s lacking in both cases is the ability of the person as person, the agent as agent, to choose some course of events. So what if not everything is determined according to causal natural law? So what if some things are (for all we know) uncaused? If they’re uncaused, then they’re uncaused. In particular, they are not caused by the will of the person/agent.

    I’m sure you’ve noticed you have kicked over a beehive of disagreement over interpretations of QM. I say it doesn’t matter, at least not for the current question. If your interpretation is right, then on the issue in question you are still demonstrably wrong. Quantum indeterminacy gives you absolutely no open door to free will.

  14. If Sault only understood what the word “random” means, and if he only understood that a limitation on observational precision does not impart ontological status on the thing observed.

    Ahh, Holo, I’ve missed your condescension. Well, not really. But sláinte nonetheless.

    Randomness is a major goal in cryptography. We evaluate the strengths of our encryption partly upon how random our PRNGs (pseudo random number generators) appear to be. The less random, the weaker the algorithm. Various tools are used to analyze this attempt at sufficient randomness.

    Based on that understanding, I can see randomness in natural phenomenon – raindrops, radio/tv static, geiger counters, etc. In audio electronics you have a noise floor – the encroachment of shot noise, Johnson noise, etc. This noise is random. I suppose that other examples could be coin-flipping and dice-rolling, or perhaps what shape an ice crystal eventually forms.

    By direct observation, randomness is an integral part of the universe. I understand that this randomness is more evident the further we drill down to the subatomic level, and less evident as we rise to the macroscopic.

    However, I believe that this randomness negates the proposal that we are entirely predictable and entirely without free will.

    Your belief in free will is actually based on the fact that you actually perceive yourself to be free.

    It is not possible to predict what is random. If electrons are sufficiently random, and our thoughts are based upon the electrical activity in our brain, to some degree the variations caused by the electron’s random nature must affect our pattern of thought. This invalidates a strictly and solely deterministic model.

    if you weren’t free to discover this fact on your own, then you were “told” what to think/believe about it according to the laws of determinism – which means you have no basis for believing in anything, because you have no actual beliefs and no actual knowledge.

    False. The manner in which I learn a fact does not affect how truthful it is, and certainly does not disqualify my ability to hold convictions.

    Such an odd thing to say. If you had only enough cognitive ability to understand that 1 + 1 = 2, then the fact that you had to be told what it means does not invalidate its truthfulness and does not disqualify you from understanding and affirming its truthfulness.

    Are you saying that things can only be true if you discover them for yourself? If that’s the case, then learning by rote is a pointless exercise. Me even being here is then a pointless exercise, since none of your ideas are my own and therefore can’t be true.

    This integral randomness of the universe decreases in effect according to scale. I can drop a ball, and as long as I know things like speed, mass, elasticity, etc then I can predict with extreme accuracy how high it will bounce. On a bigger scale, we can predict the movements of planets very well. However, our mental activity is electrical (the very small scale in which natural randomness is more apparent), and electrons have this degree of randomness in them… enough that I believe the assertion that we absolutely cannot have free will is invalidated.

    The idea that fundamental nature changes over distance / time stops science in its tracks.

    Unless, of course, like any other natural phenomenon we can put formulate a model explaining it. I’ve heard some speculation that string theory would be able to account for it, but I don’t have the knowledge to evaluate the claim.

    And of course, if we can do that, then theism can simply say “well, God did it” and we’re back to where we started, I suppose.

    If “God did it”, then I want to know how. I don’t believe in God, but I’m still passionately curious about the world around me and how it works.

  15. By direct observation, randomness is an integral part of the universe.

    Part? Huh?

    By direct observation? You just finished telling us it takes sophisticated computers to identify true randomness. No, there is observation coupled with analysis and conclusion-drawing. Otherwise we don’t know what’s random or what isn’t.

    And who is doing that observing, analyzing, and concluding? The determinist “part” of me or the random “part” of me? What gives either of those parts the ability to observe, analyze, and draw conclusions?

  16. By direct observation? You just finished telling us it takes sophisticated computers to identify true randomness.

    I apologize for the misunderstanding. The term I should have used is probably ‘statistical analysis’. We can analyze, mathematically, how random or not something is. The bigger the number, though, the more complex the calculations, and that’s where the computers come in handy.

    In other words, I can observe phenomenon that are demonstrably random.

    Hmmm. You know, I have to restate that. I can observe phenomenon that are sufficiently random that I can’t tell the difference. That’s probably more accurate.

    And who is doing that observing, analyzing, and concluding? The determinist “part” of me or the random “part” of me?

    Okay, I’m going to try to restate myself, because I think I’m botching it.

    When I think “deterministic”, my understanding is that if we know the complete and exact nature of something, we can predict its actions. I believe that because of the inherent uncertainty at the atomic, subatomic, and quantum levels, we can’t fully and completely describe the nature of a complex electrical field like the brain.

    But just because we don’t have the ability to describe it doesn’t necessarily mean that its impossible, right? Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle might be disproven some day, after all.

    I take it once step further. I believe that the fundamental nature of this universe is not only uncertain, but at its lowest levels is chaotic and random and can only be described in terms of probability rather than certainty.

    I believe that while this randomness is subatomic, it is expressed in various ways up into the macroscopic as well – including variations in the electrical activity of the brain. I believe that this randomness allows us either free will, or the closest thing to it that we can have in a non-supernatural sense (where free will is allowed because the soul is not limited by the body).

    Honestly, I might be unnecessarily or incorrectly differentiating between uncertainty and pure randomness. Well, in my mind its something to emphasize, at least.

    It doesn’t matter if a small part of us is uncertain and random… we are still capable of logic, rational thinking, and being under the influence of any number of environmental, emotional, intellectual factors, etc.

    However, I believe that because we have some degree of randomness and uncertainty within ourselves, we either have free will or something that is close enough to it that we can’t tell the difference.

    I hope that this has been a little clearer.

  17. @Sault:

    If I did not miscounted, you used the expression “I believe” five times. Arguments: none. I will abstain to quantify the nonsense in it, but just to satisfy my curiosity, why do you “believe” that

    while this randomness is subatomic, it is expressed in various ways up into the macroscopic as well – including variations in the electrical activity of the brain.

    Man, you are waaaay deep into sci-fi territory. There are known quantum macroscopic phenomena but none that is associated to the brain, but hey, maybe you are onto something the rest of us are ignorant of.

    Did you even read Tom’s post #15? Because it seems to have passed by you completely unnoticed.

    In other words, I can observe phenomenon that are demonstrably random.

    You may protest against being the target of condescension but when you say things like these… ouch.

  18. And what’s the topic, anyway? Determinism or freedom of will? I differentiated those in #15. I don’t see that you have made that distinction. It’s an important one.

  19. Oh, and when are you going to get around to telling us why you keep asserting that the smallest particles in the universe define its fundamental nature? You did it again here, by implication at least.

    I take it once step further. I believe that the fundamental nature of this universe is not only uncertain, but at its lowest levels is chaotic and random and can only be described in terms of probability rather than certainty.

    Why should we assume that, for instance, humanness is less fundamental than quantum indeterminacy?

  20. I believe that while this randomness is subatomic, it is expressed in various ways up into the macroscopic as well – including variations in the electrical activity of the brain. I believe that this randomness allows us either free will, or the closest thing to it that we can have in a non-supernatural sense (where free will is allowed because the soul is not limited by the body).

    Well, this is the heart of the matter, isn’t it? You are basically operating on the assumption that materialism is true (and by implication, that Christian Theism is false).

    If, as many of us in this blog are firmly convinced by the evidence for it, Christianity is in fact the correct worldview, then we are not completely determined by our physical nature. The Biblical teaching on human nature tells us that, being made in the image of our Creator God, we are capable of acting as free agents (subject to some constraints, and to the fact that this image has been corrupted by sin – our rebellion against God’s rightful sovereignty) – once again, the Christian worldview is the inference to the best explanation of our free will, the ability to reason logically, etc. Materialism, on the other hand, seems to have to bend over backwards and jump through flaming hoops to explain away our own commonsense ideas about such things.

  21. In my last post I mentioned ‘subject to constraints’ – by that I was thinking in terms of consequences as a result of our choices…

    On an additional note, I’ve just finished this book and
    I would highly recommend it…

    Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow:

    Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists

  22. Been following this thread, and doing a little reading around I’m not convinced by the statement “Quantum indeterminacy gives you absolutely no open door to free will.”

    Perhaps this is given some other beliefs of Sault’s not stated in this thread, but from what I understand, in and of itself, quantum indeterminacy subject to observed conversation of energy does not preclude sui generis mental causes of physical effects. As such quantum indeterminacy doesn’t “close the door” to free will.

    From how I amateurly see it, the only necessary requirement to preserve the observed conservation of energy is that (1)the expected sum of the energy changes caused by sui generis mental causes is approximately zero, not that the chances of particular physical effects are identical to those under quantum causal closure. If sui generis mental causes are equally likely to increase the energy state of the system as decrease it (have an approximately symmetrical distribution with mean ~0), which doesn’t seem unreasonable (or at least not impossible), then (1) follows.

    I acknowledge this is an argument for possibility of existence rather than a strong argument for the actual existence. However, by the above to me at least it seems at least plausible for there to be sui generis mental causes, and thus free will. But then considering the very strong experiencial evidence that free will seems to exist, it strongly tips the scales in favour of there being actually free will.

    Oh and I also acknowledge the (quite likely?) possibility that some of what I’ve said is rather wrong, I’m still reading up and developing my understanding etc. For instance does anyone happen to know how extensively the conservation of energy has been tested on living things/brains (rather than isolated nerve cells) such that you can convincingly conclude it true in all circumstances? Some sources I’ve seen seem to imply the evidence is not that thorough in that respect.

  23. I’m not entirely sure what you’re saying Alex, but there’s a sense in which you might be right if I understand you correctly.

    Quantum indeterminacy doesn’t do what Sault wants it to do. Quantum effects could, however, solve a problem Daniel Dennett raises in Consciousness Explained Away. He says that the law of conservation of energy rules out the possibility of some non-physical mind influencing the physical brain (and by extension, the body and everything else). But there is evidence that major brain functions are mediated or processed at the quantum level. If that is so, then the mind could conceivably direct quantum-level events, selecting them, perhaps. It could be that the brain is in fact something like a quantum-effect amplifier, turning those nano-effects into physically observable results.

    Notice that I have said this with extreme caution and strictly as speculation. I won’t pretend to be up to date on the science of quantum effects in the brain. I very much doubt that any form of science could ever confirm it, for if it is true, the mind part of the interaction would be out of the reach of science’s methodologies.

    So this is all maybe and could-be. As far as I know it’s not known to be impossible, which is the best I can say for it. It’s intriguing to consider, though.

  24. It certainly is a fascinating topic. From what I understand under classical “fully-deterministic” physics (ie without chance involved), the conservation of energy would only allow conservative forces to act. This does not rule out “non-physical” forces, but I think would entail them being fully deterministic themselves, so would not allow free will from your view. However, lacking evidence for non-physical forces, most people assumed physical causal closure. As evidence for the conservation of energy came about at the same time as classical physics was the scientific paradigm, naturalism prevailed as the dominant opinion. The more recent discovery of seeming quantum indeterminacy opens the possibility that physical causal closure is false, but does not provide any evidence for people to change their mind, which leads me to believe that naturalism is such a majority view primarily due to tradition (and maybe scientism?).

    What has always struck me as puzzling is the conflict between physical and non-physical. Current physics does not nearly explain everything; so either unknown properties of known entities, or unknown entities must function in the world. In what sense does it matter whether these unknowns are physical are not? I do not see how the spatiotemporal existence of an entity necessitates or excludes any other properties (but perhaps this is my philosophical ignorance). Regardless of whether they are under the remit of scientific study or not, whether physical or not; I see no obvious reasons these unknowns could not constitute anything we wish to think of, or anything beyond our understanding, such as a rational agent.

    I can’t speak for Sault, but unless he advocates that (2) only known physical matter and its known properties exist under causal closure, I don’t see any inherent difference in what underpins his argument for the plausibility of free will and mine. Given that the standard model of physics is admittedly incomplete, (2) seems a completely nonsensical position to hold.

  25. Tom:

    Sorry, but that doesn’t work. I get frustrated when people keep struggling with the forced, artificial marriage of two disparate realms—in this case trying to “locate” the mind “in” indeterminacy… with the added muddle baggage attached that assumes that because something is not measureable it either doesn’t exist or is by its nature uncaused.

    No matter what our current limitations may be, the one thing you can say for sure is that the things studied by quantum mechanics are real, extra-mental material objects. Measurement limitations notwithstanding, their properties CAN be measured—irrespective of whether or not those measurements and the mathematical formalisms used to describe them are statistically-based or not.

    What is there to measure about the mind? Nothing. It’s not an object susceptible to measurement any more than an idea is measureable. It’s like the pinheads who measured the mass of a person very precisely before and after death, couldn’t detect a difference, and arrogantly declared, “See, there is no soul leaving the body because we would have measured a difference!”

    Duh.

    The soul is, technically speaking, the form of the body. And, based on the nature of the body, it “possesses” certain capacities.
         The form of a rock is “rockiness” and the only capacities the rock “has” (i.e., the extent to which its rocky nature actualizes itself) is to react to the four fundamental forces of nature.
         The form of a particular kind of plant is, e.g., “rosiness.” Plants “have” the additional capacities of homeostasis, nutrition, reproduction, and growth.
         The form of a particular kind of brute animal is, e.g., “tigerness.” Brute animals “have” even more capacities (ontological degree notwithstanding): locomotion, direct environmental manipulation, memory, and the senses.
         The form of a particular kind of rational being—humans, i.e., rational animals—is “humanness.” Human beings “have” two more capacities: free will and reason. In the case of humans, the form of the human is given a special name: soul. Animals, plants, non-living things (including human artifacts) also have “souls,” but only in a distant analogous sense.

    In none of these entities can one separate out physically any of their capacities: a rock will cease to be a rock if, say for example, one is even able to “remove” the effect of the weak nuclear force. A plant will cease to be a plant if one “removes” homeostasis. A brute animal will cease to be a brute animal if you “remove” (not just reduce) its capacities. And, a human being will no longer be a human being if you “remove” either the free will or reason… have fun trying to “remove” immaterial capacities, by the way.

    This measurement hang-up is like a viral meme. Consider a house. The form of the house is “houseiness.” A house is MORE than the sum of its bricks and mortar and boards and nails, etc. Yet, is there a mass difference between the house after its built and the components lying in the warehouse before it’s built? Of course not! The form of the house—even as it indisputably imparts MORE on the mere collection of components—is “massless” because mass doesn’t apply to the form. Similar thing with writing the word RED vs. red: the meaning, which is utterly immeasurable, is the same for both words. The word “more” applied to physical objects is a far different kind of “more” when applied to immaterial objects… which is why analogical language is necessary in order to make sense.

    How much more so for a human being? Why are we acting like cute little physicists—trying to “rip” free will out of its ontological context (again: good luck with that!) and hence trying to study it apart from the nature of the human, i.e., to study it in a pathological state? (Conservation of Energy applied to a soul or free will or reason?!? Really?!? Give me a break!) There is no MES way to study the soul (or free will or reason), but there IS a way to study it philosophically and theologically. What? Do some (like Sault, I suspect) think just because something is utterly inaccessible to the measurements and methodologies of the MESs seriously think we have “less certain” knowledge of it or that it’s irrelevant or that science rules the day on all matters?

    Can we please get off the measurement hang-up by trying vainly to apply MES-based tools and methodologies to thing utterly inaccessible to them? Besides, I assert being a philosopher is much sexier than being a physicist. 😉

    Sheesh!

  26. And what’s the topic, anyway? Determinism or freedom of will? I differentiated those in #15.

    I did not see your response, I apologize. I think that what I’ve meant to say is that indeterminacy means that a view on strict determinism (determinism on all levels, in all places, in all ways) can’t be taken. Unless, of course, I misunderstand determinism (ha ha).

    you keep asserting that the smallest particles in the universe define its fundamental nature

    Maybe we’re using the term “nature” differently? Okay, let’s take a cheeseburger. Pretty complicated structure – its made up of cheese, beef, etc. Each of those ingredients is built from smaller and smaller structures (beef made up of proteins and fats which are made up of molecular structures which are made up of atoms which are made up of subatomic particles which are made up of quarks and stuff). The smaller the “structure” the more indeterminacy we have. We are, at our lowest level, fundamentally indeterminate. I call that our fundamental “nature”. Sorry if I used the wrong word the wrong way.

    Electrons have a degree of indeterminacy. Our nervous system uses electrons. Therefore, to some extent, our nervous system has a degree of indeterminacy. I believe that this quality, along with the highly dynamic nature of our neural networks, imparts free will…. or something close enough to it that we can’t tell the difference.

    I believe that this indeterminacy ultimately shows itself in other ways, like the clicks on a geiger counter or some forms of static/noise in an electrical system.

    Materialism, on the other hand, seems to have to bend over backwards and jump through flaming hoops to explain away our own commonsense ideas about such things.

    Okay, so there is someone that we can’t understand and can’t see who lives somewhere that we can’t point to that gives us something when we are born that we can’t measure or directly perceive in a way that we can’t explain that allows us through some unknown mechanism to either believe in him or not.

    Sure, because that totally makes more sense.

    I can’t speak for Sault, but unless he advocates that (2) only known physical matter and its known properties exist under causal closure,

    That is what I believe, yes, although I think it does depend on how you define “physical matter”. I think that “thought” is an entirely physical process, that there is no supernatural or non-physical component (however you want to say it) present that is necessary to provide us with free thought, or what is so close to it that we can’t tell the difference.

    It’s difficult not to get a little “woo woo” when you start looking at quantum theory. I’m trying very hard within my limited knowledge to not make mistakes and to state what I believe in the clearest manner that I can.

    If I did not miscounted, you used the expression “I believe” five times.

    Probably more. If I can’t prove it, or provide an extremely good argument for it, I have to resort to language like “I believe”. Just trying to be honest.

    I suggest caution; in particular saying that “at the smallest levels that we know about it, it is chaos” is stupid.

    It might entirely be. I can only speak from what I know and what I believe. If my understanding is incorrect, then I am glad that you can point it out to me. I don’t mind being wrong too much, as long as I can learn from my mistakes.

  27. @Sault #28
    You completely missed my point about the evidence for the truth of Christianity, the most important of which is the life, death, and yes, resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. That’s where you have to start.

    Okay, so there is someone that we can’t understand and can’t see who lives somewhere that we can’t point to that gives us something when we are born that we can’t measure or directly perceive in a way that we can’t explain that allows us through some unknown mechanism to either believe in him or not.

    This is nothing but an ignorant caricature of Christian belief, so typical of atheists and skeptics. Christianity is a faith founded on historical events and in a real Person – perhaps you should take the time to learn that first.
    If Jesus of Nazareth was really raised from the dead, a miraculous event, then this changes everything; if He wasn’t, then Christianity is patently false – you can read Paul’s argument for this in 1 Corinthians 15.

    You have tunnel vision, Sault – you only see the pieces of the puzzle that you consider important, and ignore the rest of them. Little wonder that you can’t see the real picture.

  28. @Sault:

    I suggest caution; in particular saying that “at the smallest levels that we know about it, it is chaos” is stupid.

    It might entirely be. I can only speak from what I know and what I believe. If my understanding is incorrect, then I am glad that you can point it out to me. I don’t mind being wrong too much, as long as I can learn from my mistakes.

    The “stupid” there is a bit too much, so my apologies; “plain nonsense” is closer to the truth.

    You are not using the word “chaos” in its technical, univocal meaning; you are using the word loosely. So what do you mean by it? I suspect you yourself hardly know it. Are you equating “chaos” with unintelligibility? But this is patently false as we know a *lot* about the quantum level of reality. Do you want me to start unraveling the looong list of things we know about it? Or are you using the word because QM is inherently a probabilistic theory? But that is plain nonsense, as there are perfectly fine *classical* probabilistic theories like classical statistical mechanics (and thus the foundation of thermodynamics). Here the necessity of a probabilistic description arises because the phase space is humongous (in terms of degrees of freedom) and it is impossible to solve the Hamiltonian equations exactly or even to extract much meaningful information out of them. And do you even know what is the source of quantum indeterminacy? The evolution of a quantum state is dictated by Schroedinger’s equation and is *completely deterministic* — this is a simple consequence of a fundamental mathematical result about differential equations. The indeterminacy arises because contrary to classical systems, observables do not have a definite value on states and there are even several theorems (so called no-go theorems) that impose very strong constraints on physical theories to have such “sharp” observables.

    Have you understood anything of the previous paragraph? Probably not, but no worries. It is just (a small part of) the physics side of things; the philosophical side is way way more important. What I would like to say, Holopupenko already said it much better than I ever could, so read his wise words in post #27 again — and do yourself a favor; actually try to understand them.

    Squeezing humane-ness in the gap of quantum indeterminacy… sigh.

  29. This is nothing but an ignorant caricature of Christian belief, so typical of atheists and skeptics.

    And what part of it wasn’t true?

    We can’t understand God. We can’t see Him. We don’t know where He lives or why He lives, or even how He lives, since He doesn’t live in this physical realm. We don’t know how we get souls, we don’t really know anything about what they exactly are, and we don’t have any idea how they actually provide us with free will…. just that they (apparently) do.

    You might not like the way I said it, but it’s true. It’s really odd, and only can seem “common sense” when you accept much of it on faith (perhaps the proper term is “axiomatically”).

    Christianity is a faith founded on historical events and in a real Person – [etc etc blah blah]

    Early Christianity is one of my favorite things to research – its fascinating watching the beginning of a religion. It’s just like Mormonism – fascinating stuff seeing the original vision broadcast out into a community, then seeing that community develop a range of beliefs, then watching that community slowly coalesce to the point where they can finally agree on what they believe.

    There have only been a dozen or so offshoots of the Mormon faith (fundamentalists, heretics, etc), but there has always been such a diversity in belief among Christians, right back to the beginning.

    It helped me a lot to learn that there’s never been anyone “guiding the wheel” when it comes to what Christians believe. Either that, or maybe God isn’t nearly as picky as the Bible makes Him out to be…

    If Jesus of Nazareth was really raised from the dead, a miraculous event, then this changes everything; if He wasn’t, then Christianity is patently false

    Christianity can be patently false for any number of reasons, and the resurrection of a single man is not sufficient to prove its validity. This is of course before we enter into the debate about exactly what the relationship was between Jesus and God, something that has never truly been agreed upon within the various flavors of Christianity.

  30. Which part of it wasn’t true? The part that overlooked what Victoria wrote when she told you it was an ignorant caricature:

    Christianity is a faith founded on historical events and in a real Person – perhaps you should take the time to learn that first.
    If Jesus of Nazareth was really raised from the dead, a miraculous event, then this changes everything; if He wasn’t, then Christianity is patently false – you can read Paul’s argument for this in 1 Corinthians 15.

    You have tunnel vision, Sault – you only see the pieces of the puzzle that you consider important, and ignore the rest of them. Little wonder that you can’t see the real picture.

    Your representation picks out everything on which biblical theology provides incomplete knowledge and treats it as if there is no knowledge whatsoever.

  31. You say,

    Christianity can be patently false for any number of reasons, and the resurrection of a single man is not sufficient to prove its validity.

    Okay, then just forget it the whole debate. Forget your facade of interest. Forget your pretense of wanting to understand. Your wall of skepticism is so high that even Jesus’ resurrection, if it were true, could mean whatever you want it to mean, especially that everything he taught was false. As if a genuine resurrection such as the one recorded of Jesus could be so plastic and malleable in its implications. It happens all the time, right? So you can make of it what you will? Balderdash.

    Do you tell yourself you have a genuine interest in learning through debates like this? Give it up. You’re lying to yourself. And you need not continue trying to put it over on us; we can see it clearly enough for what it is.

  32. Your representation picks out everything on which biblical theology provides incomplete knowledge and treats it as if there is no knowledge whatsoever.

    Exactly. I am trading caricature for caricature.

    This was Victoria’s statement in #22 – “Materialism, on the other hand, seems to have to bend over backwards and jump through flaming hoops to explain away our own commonsense ideas about such things.”

    I’m pointing out that “commonsense ideas” are only such because they are ideas that are accepted (and are required to be accepted) axiomatically. If you’re going to criticize “materialism” for its efforts to explain something, then be willing to submit your own beliefs to exactly the same type of analysis.

    Or, as in this case, be prepared to receive caricature for caricature.

    (I actually had this explained in my original response, I must’ve edited it out.)

    Okay, then just forget it the whole debate.

    Victoria said, in #29, “If Jesus of Nazareth was really raised from the dead, a miraculous event, then this changes everything; if He wasn’t, then Christianity is patently false”.

    Isn’t there a false dilemma to that statement?

    1) Jesus’ resurrection is necessary to establish the Christian faith. Is it sufficient? Is it the only requirement to establish the faith’s validity… errm, truthfulness?

    It seems to me that more is required to establish the truthfulness of all of the specific Christian beliefs, and that is what I was speaking to.

    2) The Christian religion has changed over time. Is it possible that a change in doctrine or practice could invalidate the Christian religion in its present form? Some call the concept of Trinity a heresy, for instance. Wouldn’t embracing a false belief about God invalidate the Christian religion in its current form?

    I’m not saying that its happened, I’m trying to illustrate that there are more than one way to invalidate a faith. I also had something of this in my original response, but edited it out, not realizing the effect that it would have.

    I understand that this comment came across as far more snarky than I had intended. I apologize for that. The caricature part *was* snarky… the rest of it was not.

  33. Have you understood anything of the previous paragraph?

    @Holo…. I understood very little of it. Before I stirred up the hornet’s nest I was busy googling to try and decode it. Until I understand more I reserve the right to believe what I do… that the combination of the complexity of our neural networks and the fundamental uncertainty of the electron’s behavior allows for free will, or something that is close enough that we can’t tell the difference.

  34. I’m not sure how much Holopupenko was addressing my issues about physical and non-physical causes and effects, but either way, from my way of seeing things what I’ve raised seems to contain questions that in principle seem answerable, even if they are in fact tangential to the issue. I don’t have the philosophical grounding to personally adhere to the reality of forms, I have at least heard of the concept; it is one of the many things I look to get my head around (I have plenty of books on my shelf and on my Amazon wishlist to get through!)

    I think raising the point of evaluating the resurrection of Jesus is a pertinent one – regardless of other ideas one has about God and philosophy and such, resolving one’s position on this issue is pretty likely to set one on one side of the divide or the other regarding Christianity’s validity. Given my present understanding of the Bible and its historicity etc, I’m afraid to say that personally I don’t find the resurrection convincing. However, I am always looking to improve my understanding, ask questions and keep searching, in a broad sense. Do you know of anywhere, here or otherwise, where the question of the resurrection/general Biblical historicity is currently being discussed?

    Sault: “the resurrection of a single man is not sufficient to prove its validity”
    I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make here Sault; if you mean in a technical sense that resurrection wouldn’t logically entail validity, then sure, but this is an obvious trivial remark. Even I being fairly sceptical recognise that if the resurrection were true then Christianity’s validity (at least in some sense) would be by some margin the best explanation of events.

    Sault: “That is what I believe, yes, although I think it does depend on how you define “physical matter”.” [that “only known physical matter and its known properties exist under causal closure”]
    Perhaps I should have changed my highlighting, but my emphasis was on the known part. Even hardenered atheist materialist scientists will tell you that our current understanding of physics is far from complete. In simple terms, the way I then see it is that given there is at least some degree of unknown, without significant additional supporting argument, the claim “there is only the physical” is wildly speculative.

  35. Alex – in Tom’s defense, I’ve been enough of an a-hole that he is well within reason to doubt me. At this point I can’t begrudge him that. It is my fault that I have not been able to maintain objectivity in this discussion.

    I am trying to respond to calls of “shenanigans”, though, ie if I am being snarky, I am trying to be open about it.

    Do you know of anywhere, here or otherwise, where the question of the resurrection/general Biblical historicity is currently being discussed?

    I do not. It is a debate that I haven’t engaged in, only something that I have researched. I wouldn’t mind some critical thought on it myself.

    In simple terms, the way I then see it is that given there is at least some degree of unknown, without significant additional supporting argument, the claim “there is only the physical” is wildly speculative

    I consider skepticism to be the correct default position. At this point in time I believe that only the physical exists because I have not seen otherwise. I can’t deny that I am biased, but I don’t think that I am biased against reasonable evidence, though.

    I dunno…. I have to admit that every time I see an evolutionist being quote-mined or a website falsifying/misrepresenting valid science or even that #&*(^)! Christian side hug video it gets a little harder. Okay, the video makes it particularly difficult for me.

  36. I consider skepticism to be the correct default position.

    There are so many brands of skepticism, Sault, which one is the default?

    At this point in time I believe that only the physical exists because I have not seen otherwise.

    Seen otherwise? Either a poor choice of words or you just don’t get it.

  37. Sault, you answer me,

    Exactly. I am trading caricature for caricature.

    This was Victoria’s statement in #22 – “Materialism, on the other hand, seems to have to bend over backwards and jump through flaming hoops to explain away our own commonsense ideas about such things.”

    I’m pointing out that “commonsense ideas” are only such because they are ideas that are accepted (and are required to be accepted) axiomatically. If you’re going to criticize “materialism” for its efforts to explain something, then be willing to submit your own beliefs to exactly the same type of analysis.

    Materialism explains away free will, according to Krauss. It explains away consciousness, according to Dennett. It explains away the value of a young child, according to Pinker. It explains away the uniqueness of humans, according to Pinker and many others.

    Materialism’s “efforts to explain” are indeed efforts to explain away our commonsense ideas about things. That’s no caricature, and it’s no license for you to caricature us.

    Isn’t there a false dilemma to that statement?

    1) Jesus’ resurrection is necessary to establish the Christian faith. Is it sufficient? Is it the only requirement to establish the faith’s validity… errm, truthfulness?

    Okay, then, how about Jesus’ resurrection in context of his life leading up to it? I mean, come on. You’re picking at gnats here.

    2) The Christian religion has changed over time. Is it possible that a change in doctrine or practice could invalidate the Christian religion in its present form? Some call the concept of Trinity a heresy, for instance. Wouldn’t embracing a false belief about God invalidate the Christian religion in its current form?

    Victoria said that if Jesus’ resurrection happened, that changes everything. True or false, Sault?

  38. @Sault:

    Have you understood anything of the previous paragraph?

    I understood very little of it. Before I stirred up the hornet’s nest I was busy googling to try and decode it. Until I understand more I reserve the right to believe what I do… that the combination of the complexity of our neural networks and the fundamental uncertainty of the electron’s behavior allows for free will, or something that is close enough that we can’t tell the difference.

    So what you are saying is that you know nothing about the relevant matters, you have no evidence to show for and yet you reserve yourself the right to assert a strong, categorical opinion on the subject. Right… How is it that the Cult of Gnu, the Freethinking atheists worldwide call that attitude? “Blind faith”?

    And you have not heeded my suggestion: to read Holopupenko’s post #27 again and actually try to understand it. Tunnel vision, indeed.

  39. @Alex

    Given my present understanding of the Bible and its historicity etc, I’m afraid to say that personally I don’t find the resurrection convincing. However, I am always looking to improve my understanding, ask questions and keep searching, in a broad sense. Do you know of anywhere, here or otherwise, where the question of the resurrection/general Biblical historicity is currently being discussed?

    you can link over to the Apologetics 315 site, here ( http://www.apologetics315.com/ ) for starters.
    I’d also recommend Craig Blomberg’s The Historical Reliability of the Gospels and Michael Licona’s The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach and N.T.Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God; these are tomes, though, and very thorough.

  40. Materialism explains away free will, according to Krauss [etc.]

    Well, looking at Pinker’s own article, your claim certainly seems to be invalid. “Killing a baby is an immoral act,” etc. Dennett is a compatibilist, and he certainly seems to indicate that he believes in free will, so I don’t see your claim as necessarily valid there, either. I’m not sure who Krauss is, so I can’t answer to that.

    I don’t think all of these people consider themselves to be materialists in the sense that you use the term, either – you seem to be representing it as a monolithic, unified group of philosophers, and I’m not seeing that from the group that you’ve referenced.

    Victoria said that if Jesus’ resurrection happened, that changes everything. True or false, Sault?

    True, I suppose. A genuine suspension of natural law would seriously challenge my worldview (my metaphysical position?).

    Wouldn’t necessarily prove Christianity, because even with a genuine suspension of natural law any further claims about the nature of the resurrected would need to be investigated, too.

    you reserve yourself the right to assert a strong, categorical opinion on the subject.

    I do. There are many things that we don’t know but people hold strong categorical opinions about them anyways.

    How is it that the Cult of Gnu

    First time I’ve heard the term, had to look it up. “Gnu” Atheism, mm? Funny. I think GNU is pretty awesome. It’s a rather silly attempt at insulting us, I think. More of a compliment than anything. Atheism as a free operating system, Lolz!

    And you have not heeded my suggestion: to read Holopupenko’s post #27 again and actually try to understand it. Tunnel vision, indeed.

    Working on it. I’m trying to respond to five different people here, and it’s a post that I need to think a little more about before I comment on it.

  41. In the Pinker article that you quote he says,

    So how do you provide grounds for outlawing neonaticide? The facts don’t make it easy.

    The facts, as he sees them, do not support his conclusion that killing babies is immoral. Further:

    John Ellis charged Pinker with claiming that “baby-killing was not indefensible.” In his rebuttal3 Pinker reminds Boston Globe readers of his disclaimer: he did write, “Killing a baby is an immoral act.” Pinker then asks rhetorically, “Can one be any clearer than that?” — to which the obvious answer is yes — much clearer. Merely noting for the record that something is an immoral act tells us nothing about its moral severity. Since Pinker suggests that killing a newborn should not be considered as serious as murder, we may guess that he considers it serious, but perhaps not heinous. If he were as clear as possible, however, we wouldn’t have to guess. The real problem, though, is that although Pinker here says neonaticide is immoral, he later clearly implies that an understanding of human life that morally permits it is the only viable one. In addition, he states that legal proscriptions against infanticide are scarcely defensible. Add to this Pinker’s unclear claim that those who kill their babies turn out to be “nice and normal,” and we have a mixed and dangerous message. One would certainly hope that Pinker would not discuss rape or domestic violence, for example, in similar terms. Would doing so be clear, let alone morally responsible? So why is Pinker so coy about infanticide?

    Dennett’s version of free will denies agency. But if you don’t like my taking Dennett for an example, then look at Coyne instead.

    I don’t think all of these people consider themselves to be materialists in the sense that you use the term, either – you seem to be representing it as a monolithic, unified group of philosophers, and I’m not seeing that from the group that you’ve referenced.

    Sure they do. Or at least they all represent it adequately enough to demonstrate the conclusions to which materialism leads.

  42. Wouldn’t necessarily prove Christianity, because even with a genuine suspension of natural law any further claims about the nature of the resurrected would need to be investigated, too

    But Jesus’ resurrection, as a supernatural event, is precisely what the apostles and Paul used as evidence for Jesus’ claims about Himself, and the whole point of what God wanted to accomplish by stepping into human history as one of us.
    The apostles saw Jesus’ resurrection body and knew that this was utterly unlike a resuscitation (such as they had witnessed when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead – see John 11:1-45, John 20:1-31 for example).

    You can see this in Peter’s public message in the Acts of the Apostles (see Acts 2:1-47, Acts 3:1-26, Acts 4:1-20) and Paul’s letters (Romans 1:1-5, Romans 5:1-11, Romans 6:1-14, 1 Corinthians 15:1-57), just for starters.

    To not understand this core component of Christianity is to not understand it at all.
    Jesus’ supernatural resurrection kills materialistic naturalism as a viable worldview.

  43. @Victoria:

    Even more, as Jesus Christ both affirmed his death and his ressurection. If the ressurection of Jesus Christ is not proof of the divinity of Christ and the truth of his words, of The Word, and therefore of Christianity, then what is? As St. Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 15, Christianity stands or falls by this very sign, the ressurection of Jesus Christ.

  44. I can almost hear the rebuttal now. The resurrection *could* be proof that the natural world, devoid of God, is an amazing sight to behold.

  45. The facts, as he sees them, do not support his conclusion that killing babies is immoral.

    “Can one be any clearer than that?” Well, he certainly can!

    Pinker doesn’t take a clear moral stance on the issue, I think we can agree on that. What it seems like he’s doing is making a statement that the action is immoral, then showing that it isn’t a black and white issue. In some ways, he’s half-defending it, half-explaining it.

    But if you don’t like my taking Dennett for an example

    It’s not that I don’t mind – I appreciate your opinion, it gives me a starting point to learn from. It’s a little frustrating to have to cram a lot of research into such limited time to try to gain a better understanding, but I’m making the best effort that I can.

    Regarding the first Dennett link… yeah, I’m not impressed by his chain of logic on that particular instance either. I do think that the ‘Game of Life’ is a pretty fascinating example of emergence and how simple factors can create very complex outcomes, though.

    Gnu is not a silly insult directed toward New Atheists.

    The first time I’ve heard the term was when Holo used it, and I assumed that he meant it as an insult (“Cult of Gnu” etc). If that’s what he meant, he failed.

    Jesus’ supernatural resurrection kills materialistic naturalism as a viable worldview.

    If it happened, I suppose it would.

  46. Comment #40 – « How is it that the Cult of Gnu, the Freethinking atheists worldwide call that attitude? “Blind faith”? »

    Cult of Gnu == Freethinking atheists worldwide ?

    I googled “Cult of Gnu” and only came up with GNU references, but after some searching found the “Gnu Atheism” == “New Atheism”. I put that together with Holo’s comment and figured it was a Creationist mockery of some sort.

    Either way its brilliant. Might take the moniker myself. Definitely have to find the Facebook page.

  47. So, Sault is factually incorrect to attribute to me (@ 49) some perceived insult. He’s been incorrect, in fact, on may things here. He’s ignorant of, likely, more things (including Christianity and science) than he’s incorrect about. He proudly employs absolutist, intelligence-challenged responses like “I consider skepticism to be the correct default position”. He responds with personal opinions and beliefs (“Until I understand more I reserve the right to believe what I do…”) rather than reasoning through or actually understanding what his interlocutors are clearly saying. (Go ahead and count the number of times he uses “believe” or “belief” incorrectly or loosely.) And he loads us with heaping portions of his false humility (@ 28 “I don’t mind being wrong too much, as long as I can learn from my mistakes.”) Yeah, right.

    And we’re supposed to buy the bunk that atheists are “free thinkers” or “brights” or intellectually-competent interlocutors? Rodrigues said it so well @ 40 that I’ll blockquote it here, and maybe Sault will understand why “Cult of Gnu” (in the sense of Gnostically atheist groupies) wasn’t an insult but a proper attribution. Yet, Sault then has the gall to plead he’s not up to “shenanigans” (@ 37)? Really?

    So what you are saying is that you know nothing about the relevant matters, you have no evidence to show for and yet you reserve yourself the right to assert a strong, categorical opinion on the subject.

  48. So in between a snow storm and a fair bit of thinking causing me a bit of delay in this response, I can at least give this much back.

    with the added muddle baggage attached that assumes that because something is not measureable it either doesn’t exist or is by its nature uncaused.

    Oh. Like God.

    There is no MES way to study the soul (or free will or reason), but there IS a way to study it philosophically and theologically.

    MES = modern evolutionary synthesis, right?

    I wasn’t aware that MES attempts to describe or analyze the soul, free will, or reason. On the other hand, I would say that biology, psychology, sociology, etc would be avenues of scientific understanding into the nature of the human brain and how we operate.

    From that perspective, the statement What is there to measure about the mind? Nothing. It’s not an object susceptible to measurement any more than an idea is measureable is false. We can study the mind – we’ve done so, and we continue to do so.

    Its a fallacy to say “oh, well evolution can’t describe it” if evolutionary theory doesn’t attempt to or purport to explain something like “free will” or the supernatural concept of a soul.

    And he loads us with heaping portions of his false humility

    Well, before I started interacting in this forum I didn’t understand and entirely discounted the role that philosophy plays out in our “real life” understanding of the world around us. I was certainly wrong to discount that, and I’ve learned from it (a little, at least). I understand that naturalism/materialism/whatever is a philosophical position, at least, which is something that I didn’t fully appreciate before.

    So what you are saying is that you know nothing about the relevant matters,

    If you’ll go back to my response, I said that until I fully understood the issue I reserved the right to base my opinion on the knowledge that I currently possessed.

    Yet, Sault then has the gall to plead he’s not up to “shenanigans”

    If I was up to shenanigans you would know it. Believe it or not, this is me not being a troll… it could be a lot worse.

  49. Thanks for that, Sault, even though I can’t endorse all that you say.

    MES is Holopupenko’s shorthand for “Modern Empirical Science.” Sometimes he forgets it’s not everyone’s shorthand.

    No one has ever measured the mind in an objective 3rd-person “scientific” manner. We can measure brain activity, and we can measure behavior. We infer things about the mind from those measurements, and I think quite reliably in many cases; but we’re not measuring the mind directly. Was that what you were saying?

    What that’s measuring, though, is not the same thing that we can study through philosophical reflection or through the knowledge of revelation: just what is the mind?

  50. G. Rodrigues,
    I just noticed this:
    “The last time I had a discussion about QM in this blog I ended up to my eternal shame calling a Brother in Christ a fool (by the way, my sincere apologies Neil Shenvi)

    I had long since forgotten about that conversation, but was very moved to see your apology. It is gladly accepted. Don’t worry about it.
    -Neil

  51. Great seloctien of posts this week!Thanks for including me! I linked up to this that way both of my readers (haha) can check it out!I especially enjoyed MandM’s post and Kerin Gedge’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ contribution!.-= Steven D´s last blog .. =-.

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