Rejecting Knowledge for the Sake of Science?

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Jerry Coyne and others may think it makes sense to reject knowledge for the sake of science. They’re wrong. Here’s a great case in point, though, from a transcription Coyne provided of a talk given by Michael Gazzaniga.

“If you think about it this way, if you are a Martian coming by earth and looking at all these humans and then looking at how they work you wouldn’t—it would never dawn on you to say, ‘Well, now, this thing needs free will!’ What are you talking about?

[From Gazzaniga on free will « Why Evolution Is True]

Now there’s a fine question, but I have another one. Who needs Martians? I can look at you myself and say, “Well, now, this thing called ‘you’ needs no free will! It can function just fine as a machine!”

I don’t do that, though, because I don’t see you as a thing, as a machine. Jerry Coyne does, or says he does, though he prefers the term “meat computer.” I can’t regard you that way, though. It’s impossible, for I see something in you that reminds me far too much of me. I know that I am not a machine, a thing, and I know that you are like me, so I conclude that you are neither a machine nor a “thing” yourself.

Some will object that such a view is hopelessly unscientific: there’s no way to get confirm it objectively; there’s no third-person perspective from which to describe and analyze first-person knowledge of experiences like consciousness and choice. I agree. It’s not scientific. It’s also unscientific to complain that it has to be scientific. More specifically, it’s unscientific to say that where there is no third-person confirmation, there is no knowledge. That’s just wrong, and I think obviously so.

I know that I am not a thing or a machine.  You know the same about yourself. I suppose if you tried really hard, and if you were convinced on metaphysical principles that everything is a thing or a machine, you might almost be able persuade yourself that’s what you are. That’s Coyne’s perspective. In order to reach that conclusion, though, he has to view himself as a Martian would: from the outside. He cannot allow himself to view himself as a human would. He cannot accept the information his own self provides his own self. He spurns his own self-knowledge. For the sake of science he discards all persons’ directly experienced knowledge of that sort.

But no. Emphatically no, and many times over again NO, this is not necessary for science. Science does not require that we reject knowledge. How could it? The very concept is contradictory (scientia means knowledge). We can be human, we can be persons, we can be free agents, and science can move forward. In fact for a lot of reasons I won’t take time to go into here, science absolutely requires that we have that freedom. I suppose I could at least give you the abbreviated explanation, though. It goes like this: Machines don’t do science. Not even computer-machines. People do science.

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138 Responses to “ Rejecting Knowledge for the Sake of Science? ”

  1. He cannot accept the information his own self provides his own self. He spurns his own self-knowledge for the sake of science.

    I’m more convinced than ever now, that unless some Libertarians come up with some principled way to distinguish a truly free choice and a caused “choice” where the cause is not obvious to the self or appears to come from a reasoning process – then any belief in LFW based on an appeal to experience is unwarranted.

    Everyday, studies are showing us more of the latter – actions that are predictably guided by unconscious bias, or other manipulations, while the chooser feels as if they made their choice free from influence, and by rational deliberation – and it seems like there’s more than enough examples of it now to seriously undermine the LFW appeal to experience.

  2. I know that I am not a thing or a machine. So do you.

    The question is not whether we are “things” or “machines”, but whether we are more than just “things” or “machines”.

    Biologically speaking, we are machines. We are composed of cells with specific purposes, and our life and consciousness is predicated by the health and function and electro-chemical interactions between at them.

    Does that make me any less human, to be a bag of bones and blood and cells and DNA? I don’t see why it has to. It actually gives me a feeling of profound connection to the world around me to view myself this way!

    On the other hand, does our humanity require more than simply a biological foundation? I think that’s the question you’re really asking.

    He cannot accept the information his own self provides his own self.

    Of course he can, it’s called feedback. Biological systems depend upon feedback, without it they could not survive, adapt, or evolve. Our neural nets are one powerful example of this – they adapt and react to the stimuli that they receive. Self-awareness and consciousness are very powerful forms of feedback.

    Are we more than that? Do we need to be more than that? Should we be more than that? Do we have an ineffable quality to us, do we have a soul that exists independently of this material body?

    These are philosophical and theological questions, ones that biology cannot answer, for they are not “scientific” in that sense. (I think I remember Holo saying something specifically about how futile it is for materialistic sciences to search for a soul, ie by weighing a body before and after death)

    Basically, I don’t understand why we have to be more than “meat computers” who have the ability to reason and ponder and search for knowledge.

  3. REJECTING KNOWLEDGE FOR THE SAKE OF SCIENCE.

    Also known as cutting off your nose for spite. Sin makes you stupid.

  4. @d:

    Does that make me any less human, to be a bag of bones and blood and cells and DNA? I don’t see why it has to. It actually gives me a feeling of profound connection to the world around me to view myself this way!

    Basically, I don’t understand why we have to be more than “meat computers” who have the ability to reason and ponder and search for knowledge.

    I have juxtaposed these two quotes because they aptly summarize you: you do not understand and you have a “feeling”, and nothing more than a “feeling”.

  5. I have juxtaposed these two quotes because they aptly summarize you: you do not understand and you have a “feeling”, and nothing more than a “feeling”.

    I presume that you can’t adequately describe your love of God with mere words. Is that a fair statement? In a somewhat similar vein, I cannot adequately describe the feeling of connection that I have to the world around me.

    As far as not understanding why we have to be more than “meat computers”, sure, that’s why I asked the question. Do you have an answer?

  6. d,

    Everyday, studies are showing us more of the latter – actions that are predictably guided by unconscious bias, or other manipulations, while the chooser feels as if they made their choice free from influence, and by rational deliberation – and it seems like there’s more than enough examples of it now to seriously undermine the LFW appeal to experience.

    By your own admission you don’t believe the words you write are the result of rational deliberation. Do you really expect anyone to take them seriously.

  7. Rational deliberation and conclusion, which are only brain activities, are the result of prior event causation. There is no choice. There are no false physical brain activities, therefore there are no false conclusions.

    And they take this stuff seriously. Tragic.

  8. The problem with Jerry Coyne is this: he cares too much about what is actually true, and if that takes him to uncomfortable places and ideas, he doesn’t change his mind, like he should. I just wish him and all of his “reality lover” friends would learn to stop looking at things from different angles in order to “figure them out.”

    If we are just meat machines, then why does it feel like we are more than that? There is no possible explanation for why we feel like we are more than meat machines other than we actually ARE more. God made us that way!

  9. Melissa:

    That’s neither here nor there – I don’t believe the words I write are a result of rational deliberation as defined and understood by libertarians.

    But compatibalists have their own ideas about what it means to be rational, or to deliberate – that might be best understood as something like computing (but views vary widely here).

  10. But compatibalists have their own ideas about what it means to be rational, or to deliberate – that might be best understood as something like computing (but views vary widely here).

    Fuzzy logic and evolutionary algorithms FTW!

    Rational deliberation and conclusion, which are only brain activities, are the result of prior event causation.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but Calvinism is an example of a theology that holds that free will is an illusion, so it’s not like there isn’t a precedent for the same concept within theism… right?

  11. SteveK:

    There are no false physical brain activities, therefore there are no false beliefs.

    Huh?!? That doesn’t make a bit of sense. Beliefs are about stuff – if the mental model doesn’t correspond to the stuff its trying to model, it would be inaccurate or false.

    That’s like saying a truth table with incorrect values filled in is true, just by virtue of the fact that it exists.

  12. Has anybody thought of interacting with the question of how Coyne and his type reject knowledge, supposedly for the sake of science? Just a thought. Gotta go on an errand, though, so I can’t stay for the discussion quite now.

  13. @d:

    But compatibalists have their own ideas about what it means to be rational, or to deliberate – that might be best understood as something like computing (but views vary widely here).

    Can you explain them?

    Because if you say that rational deliberation is something like computing, all I can say is that you do not know what is rational deliberation nor do you know what computing is.

    There are no false physical brain activities, therefore there are no false beliefs.

    Huh?!? That doesn’t make a bit of sense. Beliefs are about stuff – if the mental model doesn’t correspond to the stuff its trying to model, it would be inaccurate or false.

    It makes all sense actually; that you cannot understand the point that StevenK is making, much less answer it, is a problem exclusively your own. You use expressions like “mental model” and “correspond to the stuff its trying to model” freely, without the least tint of awareness of what the problem is and where it lies and expect us to swallow your ignorance — not gonna happen. If you want to make an argument, then do it; bare assertions will not suffice. And before you complain that StevenK has not backed up his claims, I (not StevenK) answer that I have already explained to you several times why this is so and you have not deigned to respond or even showed the least awareness of what the objections are and continued merrily on making more and more naked, bare assertions. Arguments? None, not a single one.

  14. If we are just meat machines, then why does it feel like we are more than that? There is no possible explanation for why we feel like we are more than meat machines other than we actually ARE more.

    An appeal to emotion, and a false dilemma as well. We could have evolved the sense of self-importance to facilitate our survival – with the development of our mental abilities could have come a danger of despair and hopelessness… so the only ones who survived were the ones who were more likely to feel like “more than just meat computers”. So what if it feels to you like we’re more than a “meat computer”? As has been pointed out to me many times, just because you “feel” a certain way doesn’t mean it’s true.

    As I’ve asked earlier, what’s so bad about being a “meat computer”?

  15. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but Calvinism is an example of a theology that holds that free will is an illusion, so it’s not like there isn’t a precedent for the same concept within theism… right?”

    Be glad to. You’re wrong. Calvinism does not hold that free will is an illusion.

  16. Sault and d are so ignorant it begs incredulity. If they could, just for a moment, entertain the distinction between an accidental unity (e.g., artifacts like machines to which nominal definitions correctly apply) and natural substances (like living things which have immanent capacities for actualizing their natures), they might not make such dumb “touchy-feely” assertions.

    But, then again, that’s expecting an atheist to step outside the self-imposed comfort zone of their mental straight-jackets… i.e., it ain’t gonna happen. Why? Because they’re a priori committed to sexy sounding sound-bites (there’s no free will because I want it that way and because I’m a meat computer) that are, as Rodrigues correctly points out, feelings (or emotional hang ups against religious faith). Where, for heaven’s sake, is the science or the philosophy behind this chestnut: “I cannot adequately describe the feeling of connection that I have to the world around me.” Talk about mental crutches and depending on invisible friends!

  17. @18:

    “What’s so bad about being a meat computer?” (That’s like asking “What’s so bad about being an atheist?”)

    Boy, that’s a tough question… but let me give it a shot: because then that’s ALL they are–“meat computers”: no rational capacity, no free will. Deterministically-driven piles of atoms walking around lonely while parasitically and hypocritically grasping onto the very things they decry: trying to “convince” (!?!) other piles of meat to employ non-existing free wills to “choose” to believe such pin-headed nonsense is correct… and closing their eyes to the in-your-face manifestations of free will.

    The embrace of and commitment to such dehumanizing viral memes is breathtaking.

  18. Sault,

    As I’ve asked earlier, what’s so bad about being a “meat computer”?

    You have knowledge of “bad” otherwise you wouldn’t be using the term. I gather that you don’t reject that knowledge for the sake of science. Why don’t you do the same when it comes to who you are?

  19. One thing that seems to be missing from the discussion is that no one seems to have asked the question (or brought up the issue), “Is there evidence that there is more to reality than just ‘nature’? Is there something that (or Someone who) transcends or is outside of nature?”

    Now the atheists will probably automatically respond with a resounding NO, having ruled any such evidence as inadmissible / incredulous / nonexistent.

    The Christian answer, is of course, YES – the person of Jesus Christ, His life, death, and subsequent appearances to real people who were not expecting Him to be alive after such a thorough Roman execution. We understand this to be telltale evidence that Someone from beyond nature is here (not just a Someone, but Nature’s eternal, self-existent, sovereign creator and king). The historical evidence is quite substantial and well-documented, and not as easy to dismiss as the skeptics would claim. This kills Metaphysical Naturalism. The Christian claim that Jesus, the Son of God, was supernaturally resurrected, trumps everything else – as I’ve said before, it changes everything.

    A wise person would ask, “Could it be true? What if it is true? What are the implications of that?”, and would follow the evidence whereever it leads. Simply dismissing it as ‘It cannot be true’ is not wise.

  20. In my bible reading this morning I came across this: “The one who first states a case seems right, until the other comes and cross-examines” Prov 18:17.

    The atheist sound bites might seem reasonable when first encountered. Many atheists are ignorant of the serious objections and they never cross-examine their own beliefs or if they do they’re not honest about the results. The explanations seem plausible because they redefine the terms but ignore that the redefined terms can’t do the work required to make the explanation successful. (rational deliberation is something like computing anyone?)

    I’m going to agree with SteveK that sin makes you stupid. We all know that from personal experience, but Coyne et al embrace their sin and consequently their stupidity.

  21. an accidental unity (e.g., artifacts like machines to which nominal definitions correctly apply) and natural substances (like living things which have immanent capacities for actualizing their natures),

    Hey Holo! While I think I understand what you’re saying, on the very real chance that I might be wrong, could you please restate this without using the words “nominal” or “immanent”? I would very much appreciate it.

    Where, for heaven’s sake, is the science or the philosophy behind this chestnut

    There are some things that cannot be adequately described with words. My perception has been that the deep spiritual connection between a believer and their God is one that is hard to express in words. It was the first example that came to mind – others might be the way you love your child, or the way you love your spouse. There is something difficult to describe about these connections. I have a similar difficulty describing the way that I feel connected to the world around me.

    I beg your pardon if I have misrepresented you or any others on this thread by saying that.

    ”meat computers”: no rational capacity, no free will.

    What exactly do you mean by “rational capacity”?

    Can something be both a machine and have free will? If you are using the terms to mean something mutually exclusive, then our differences seem to be more an issue of definitions rather than concepts.

    You have knowledge of “bad” otherwise you wouldn’t be using the term. I gather that you don’t reject that knowledge for the sake of science.

    First, I’m asking why you think that being considered a computer is “bad”.

    Second… well, it seems that morality and science are two different topics. The first is ethics/morality, the second is the discovery and retention of knowledge.

    I say this because you can apply many different standards of ethics and morality to scientific endeavors, but the science is still science. I apologize for the Godwinism, but even though the Nazi human experimentation was atrocious we could still apply that information later for medical advancement and treatments.

    Why don’t you do the same when it comes to who you are?

    Isn’t the determination and discovery of who I “am” a philosophical, ethical, and/or theological process?

    I can see how philosophy is used to develop and inform the scientific method… but how can the reverse be true? I mean, just because I can’t see God with a telescope doesn’t disprove God, right? So I guess what I’m asking is how a material study of the world can develop anything but a “materialistic” philosophy.

    A wise person would ask, “Could it be true? What if it is true? What are the implications of that?”, and would follow the evidence whereever it leads.

    So… formulate a hypothesis, test it against available data, then compare it with other hypotheses and see which explains available data best? Then which predicts new data points more accurately?

    I’m all for it. So how do we go about doing this in the supernatural realm?

    (rational deliberation is something like computing anyone?)

    Can you explain to me how it’s not? Within the context of computing we outline a problem, start with a set of premises, and use logically consistent procedures until a solution is arrived at… nothing random unless specified either in the premises or in the algorithms. That sounds very much like rational deliberation to me.

  22. @Sault:

    an accidental unity (e.g., artifacts like machines to which nominal definitions correctly apply) and natural substances (like living things which have immanent capacities for actualizing their natures),

    Hey Holo! While I think I understand what you’re saying, on the very real chance that I might be wrong, could you please restate this without using the words “nominal” or “immanent”? I would very much appreciate it.

    The question was directed at Holopupenko, but let me try and take a stab at it.

    Suppose I define the word “chair” as something on which you can sit on. This is a nominal definition; I am defining a word, “chair”, by using other words. In contrast to nominal definitions, Aristotle (and subsequently developed by the Scholastics) took a definition to be a statement of the essence, or the essential what-ness of a thing. So for example we define man as rational animal — and I have not used “” because I am not defining the word “man” but the thing it refers to.

    A chair, as made say by Ikea (do they make chairs?), is not a natural substance but an artifact. The specific arrangement of matter that we commonly call “chair” is not a chair in virtue of anything intrinsic to the arrangement of matter itself. Not so with men. Men are rational animals not by virtue of a conventional word definition but because “rational animal” indeed states the *essential nature* of men. The power or capacity of reason is intrinsic to men as men.

    There are some things that cannot be adequately described with words. My perception has been that the deep spiritual connection between a believer and their God is one that is hard to express in words.

    First, the examples you present next to the quoted part are of relations with *people* and you speak of a connection with something vague and ineffable like Mother Nature; you are comparing oranges and apples. Second, this connection that you say you feel goes by many names and has many different guises; Virgil did not need to know about DNA to write pastoral poetry. Third, what the heck does this have to do with the question “Does that make me any less human, to be a bag of bones and blood and cells and DNA?” Do you even understand what the *real* question is?

    Can something be both a machine and have free will?

    No. That was easy, next question.

    So… formulate a hypothesis, test it against available data, then compare it with other hypotheses and see which explains available data best? Then which predicts new data points more accurately?

    I’m all for it. So how do we go about doing this in the supernatural realm?

    Sigh… I will answer you if you answer me this: how we do that for Mathematics.

    rational deliberation is something like computing anyone?

    Can you explain to me how it’s not? Within the context of computing we outline a problem, start with a set of premises, and use logically consistent procedures until a solution is arrived at… nothing random unless specified either in the premises or in the algorithms. That sounds very much like rational deliberation to me.

    You are equivocating on the word “computing”. What you describe, albeit an imperfect description rife for equivocations, is indeed rational deliberation. The problem is that what you describe is *NOT* what computers do.

  23. @Sault

    So… formulate a hypothesis, test it against available data, then compare it with other hypotheses and see which explains available data best? Then which predicts new data points more accurately?

    I’m all for it. So how do we go about doing this in the supernatural realm

    I think you misunderstood where I was going with that, Sault. Perhaps I should have been more explicit in where I was going with that thought. I was not suggesting that we try to do this in the supernatural realm, but in those areas in the natural realm where the supernatural has broken through.

    Christianity is rooted in real history, that happened to real people who were eyewitnesses to the events that are described in the Bible (2 Peter 1:16-21 for example). It is all about God acting in human history, and ultimately stepping into space and time Himself, in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:1ff).
    I was specifically referring to the historical data provided by the documents of the New Testament for the life of Jesus Christ, and the subsequent growth of the Christian community in the 1st century. On a larger scale, I was also thinking in terms of Edgar Andrews book Who Made God?. It’s well worth your time to read it.

    See, Christian faith is not belief without evidence or contrary to reason. It is more that just an intellectual assent to a set of doctrines – it is as much a matter of the heart and the will as it is of the mind. It is following the evidence that we have been given, to the Person that evidence points to. The empty tomb of Jesus, and the eyewitness testimony of those who saw Him alive during those days following that Passover, points to Him being the very One He time and again claimed to be during His 3 year ministry. The teachings of the apostles goes into a lot of detail explaining the real significance of that event; faith is acting on that teaching, trusting God and taking Him at His word to believe and obey the spiritual and eternal implications of it ( Hebrews 11:1ff does a pretty good job of describing faith)

    The evidence points to a Person who calls us to love and obey Him – faith is doing just that. Because God calls us into a relationship with Him, to love Him, it must be given freely, without compulsion, or it wouldn’t be real love. So God gives us enough clues to get us to the point where it goes beyond mere facts and logic, where we have to make a decision of the heart and will. This separates the sheep from the goats -those whose hearts are tender toward God from those whose hearts are hard, those who are willing to trust Him from those who would reject Him.

    Think of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, when, after following of the clues, reasoning them out, Indy finally faces that last test – the test of faith to ‘leap from the lion’s head’. It’s now a matter of life and death for him and his father – he can’t see the way across the chasm, and yet he knows that all the evidence has lead him to this point, but he has to take the step. He takes that deep breath, puts his hand over his heart, closes his eyes, and steps out, and, well, you know the rest of the story.

    When someone takes that last step of faith in the risen Jesus, he or she is rewarded with the gift of the Holy Spirit, who gives new life and is the seal of our faith and adoption into God’s eternal family. Non-believers will never understand, until they take that step for themselves.

    Sorry for the long post…got into the zone

  24. Immanuel Kant wrote:

    “It still remains a scandal to philosophy and to human reason in general that the existence of things outside us … must be accepted merely on faith, and that if anyone thinks good to doubt their existence, we are unable to counter his doubts by any satisfactory proof.” Critique of Pure Reason

    It seems to me that presents a dilemma for the materialist. The materialist has to claim that he is more certain of things that are outside of himself than he is of himself. However,if what he claims to be objectively certain is indeed certain, then he should be able to prove it to a skeptic like me, shouldn’t he? Are there any materialists or naturalists out there willing to tackle that one?

  25. Suppose I define the word “chair” as something on which you can sit on. This is a nominal definition;

    Thank you for the response. The references that I have looked up compare “nominal” vs “real”. It appears that nominal definitions are ones that are close, approximate, but not precise in the way that real definitions are.

    I can look at a Porsche and say “oh, look, there’s a car”. That’s a nominal definition. The precise (real) definition would be to say “oh, look, there’s a Porsche”. In other words, describing exactly what something is rather than just being “close enough for government work”.

    Before I go any further in this vein… am I correct? I hate to have you hold my hand through this, but I’ve spent a lot of time speaking from a place of misunderstanding, and it’s basically gotten me (us) nowhere.

    Third, what the heck does this have to do with the question

    You said that I had no understanding, just a “feeling”. I was attempting to clarify that one was a lack of knowledge about your position while the other was an example of how even though I may be nothing more than a “meat computer”, I still find meaning in and a connection to the world around me.

    Can something be both a machine and have free will?

    No.

    That is why I asked the question. I need to understand how you define “machine”. I look at a cell and I see a machine. I look at the collection of cells we call a vertebrate and I see an animal. I look at a human and I see something that is an animal, a machine, a computer, and maybe something more.


    Merriam-Webster, “machine” – 2a : a living organism or one of its functional systems

    I initially thought that we were basically in agreement about that, but it looks like I was wrong. Can you please help me understand your position on how a machine cannot have free will?

    The problem is that what you describe is *NOT* what computers do.

    So far I don’t understand “nominal”, “immanent”, “machine”, nor apparently “rational deliberation”.

    Okay, so while I accept that my description was not as precise as it could have been, I stuck to generalities because I have no idea what level of tech knowledge my audience is. I cut my teeth programming on those old Atari 2600’s, I can be as specific as you need me to be.

    So… what does “rational deliberation” mean, and why can a computer not do it?

    I was not suggesting that we try to do this in the supernatural realm, but in those areas in the natural realm where the supernatural has broken through.

    Thank you for the clarification. How do we formulate a hypothesis for something like that? Do we start from a naturalistic perspective, look at an event and conclude that it couldn’t have happened without supernatural intervention? Or do we start from a supernatural perspective, and…? I wouldn’t even know where to start from there, scientifically-speaking. How do you create a repeatable, falsifiable, peer-reviewable hypothesis of such a thing? How do you test it?

  26. @Sault
    Edgar Andrews has done just that, in Who Made God?, and so has Dallas Willard, in Knowing Christ Today.

    Ultimately, though, a person, when faced with the evidence and its implications, will have to make the decision to take that last step, to trust and obey. We are not talking about some abstract supernaturalism here, but specifically Christian Theism, which calls for that. Christians have always maintained that the truth of Christianity rests on both objective evidentiary support and personal, yet shared experience (the indwelling of the Holy Spirit). You won’t get the latter unless you are willing to trust the former and step into the light. The historical evidence is already open to scholarly, peer-reviewed examination and study. The experience is confirmed by both the person taking the faith step and by the Christian community as a whole, comprised of other people who have made the same committments, taken the same step.

  27. Sault,

    So… what does “rational deliberation” mean, and why can a computer not do it?

    You need to pay better attention to what is written. As G. Rodrigues wrote you have given an approximate definition of rational deliberation the problem is that isn’t what computers do.

    Can you explain to me how it’s not? Within the context of computing we outline a problem, start with a set of premises, and use logically consistent procedures until a solution is arrived at… nothing random unless specified either in the premises or in the algorithms. That sounds very much like rational deliberation to me.

    That is what the programmer does not the computer.

  28. Sault,

    Thank you for the response. The references that I have looked up compare “nominal” vs “real”. It appears that nominal definitions are ones that are close, approximate, but not precise in the way that real definitions are.

    I don’t think this is right. My thinking was more along the lines that nominal definitions are those that reflect our interest, Maybe someone can weigh in here to clarify.

  29. Be glad to. You’re wrong. Calvinism does not hold that free will is an illusion.

    Calvinists are generally compatibalists. They generally reject libertarian/contra-causal free will. In fact, Calvinist theology is a great place to look, for strong objections to LFW.

  30. @Sault:

    The references that I have looked up compare “nominal” vs “real”. It appears that nominal definitions are ones that are close, approximate, but not precise in the way that real definitions are.

    This is not correct. The way definitions are commonly understood, they are a conventional, arbitrary, attachment of meaning to some word by way of other words. In a nutshell, this is what is called a nominal definition. A real definition is not so much concerned with words or defining the meaning of words, but to *capture* the essence, the essential what-ness of things. So when I give a real definition of man as rational animal, I am giving its genus, animal, plus a specific difference, rational, and this is the essence of what man *is*. I am not so much defining the word “man”, but grasping the Form or essential what-ness of man. Of course for this to make sense, man like other natural substances, must really have an essence that can be grasped by the intellect and this is one of the main contentions of the real, essentialist Aristotelian-Thomistic (AT for short) viewpoint — it can be argued for, but probably not in a combox discussion.

    You said that I had no understanding, just a “feeling”. I was attempting to clarify that one was a lack of knowledge about your position while the other was an example of how even though I may be nothing more than a “meat computer”, I still find meaning in and a connection to the world around me.

    The fact that you find meaning in the world around you, a fact which I do not dispute, is not relevant to the question at hand. And whatever thin relevance it has, it actually goes against you, because computers do not find neither construct meaning (whatever that is supposed to mean in the first place). The contention is that *if* you are but a meat computer, then despite your loud protestations that you find meaning in this or that, there is no meaning, there is no purpose, there is no rationality, there is but a handful of nothing. We are just an organized lump of atoms following the natural laws of physics, *not* rational animals. You can view it as a reductio against men as meat computers. Saying that you feel this or that is not a response; an argument is needed.

    I initially thought that we were basically in agreement about that, but it looks like I was wrong. Can you please help me understand your position on how a machine cannot have free will?

    Think about what you are saying. At the moment I am typing this, I can decide on a whim to flaunt the grammatical rules and writing start I will Yoda-like fashion in. It is meaningless to say that a machine decides upon several competing possibilities anything whatsoever.

    For various reasons, some more obvious than others, what Free Will is exactly is not easy to describe; suffice to say that machines do not have it in any relevant sense.

    Okay, so while I accept that my description was not as precise as it could have been, I stuck to generalities because I have no idea what level of tech knowledge my audience is. I cut my teeth programming on those old Atari 2600′s, I can be as specific as you need me to be.

    And I can try to explain to you the mathematical fundamentals of computer science, from Turing machines to monads. I have several programming languages under my belt (Python, C and C++, Scheme, Haskell, etc.) and I have constructed a few programs, both as a hobby and in a semi-professional capacity, including a (very simple) virtual machine in C++ which, conceptually speaking, amounts to assembling a full computer. And I stick to what I said; no matter how technical you want to get, you will not establish that computers have rational deliberation in the sense human beings have.

    note: do not presume that people are ignorant of the things you know; it is bad form and *will* end up biting you.

    I was not suggesting that we try to do this in the supernatural realm, but in those areas in the natural realm where the supernatural has broken through.

    Thank you for the clarification. How do we formulate a hypothesis for something like that? Do we start from a naturalistic perspective, look at an event and conclude that it couldn’t have happened without supernatural intervention? Or do we start from a supernatural perspective, and…? I wouldn’t even know where to start from there, scientifically-speaking. How do you create a repeatable, falsifiable, peer-reviewable hypothesis of such a thing? How do you test it?

    We do not.

    Look, can you for once stop parroting your scientistic, ignorant fetichisms? You do not know where to start because you are like the man trying to look at stars through a microscope — is it so surprising that he cannot spot them? What you describe is the method of the hard empirical sciences; it is, for example, too strong, and therefore useless, for History while Mathematicians laugh at it.

    There are other points that separate natural or revealed theology as a science (in the Aristotelian sense) from the hard empirical sciences, but they are harder to explain. In any case, the above should make clear your egregious mistake.

  31. To get back to the OP somewhat…

    I don’t necessarily think Coyne et al. are rejecting knowledge, as you say. If there are facts which undermine some bit of knowledge gained through personal experience, it may no longer actually count as knowledge.

    At its most basic, what it is we’re trying to account for is the sensation of there being no obvious causes behind certain thoughts or actions.

    Two possible interpretations of this experience are:

    (a) By your personal agency, you initiated the thought/action (in the LFW sense)
    (b) Your thought/action was caused, but the cause is unknown to you.

    We know that (b) happens often. When (b) occurs, people often think their action was the result of a rational, deliberative thought process, followed by choice.

    So the problem is, how do you actually tell (a) from (b)? If there’s nothing different in principle about the first-person experience of (a) and (b), then it would seriously undermine the claim that one has direct, first-hand knowledge of free action.

    If its impossible, then one can’t really have reliable first-hand knowledge of (a) at all.

    There’s lots of research that shows that (b) is a frequent occurrence (this may be because it is the only type of choice). See http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/cognitive-biases-and-handedness/ for an incredibly interesting case..

  32. Holo wrote:

    Boy, that’s a tough question… but let me give it a shot: because then that’s ALL they are–”meat computers”: no rational capacity, no free will. Deterministically-driven piles of atoms walking around lonely while parasitically and hypocritically grasping onto the very things they decry: trying to “convince” (!?!) other piles of meat to employ non-existing free wills to “choose” to believe such pin-headed nonsense is correct… and closing their eyes to the in-your-face manifestations of free will.

    The embrace of and commitment to such dehumanizing viral memes is breathtaking.

    Oh brother, you are a piece of work. And you accuse me and Sault of emotionalizing.

    This is little more than an expression of your own personal depression at the thought of naturalism. But I (nor Sault) apparently, find it so depressing. Can you give a reason why it is objectively wrong, not to feel this sort of nihilistic self-loathing, given naturalism?

  33. @d:

    Oh brother, you are a piece of work. And you accuse me and Sault of emotionalizing.

    It is not an accusation but an accurate description.

    This is little more than an expression of your own personal depression at the thought of naturalism. But I (nor Sault) apparently, find it so depressing. Can you give a reason why that is objectively wrong, not to feel this sort of nihilistic self-loathing, given naturalism?

    Amazing how you completely misunderstand what Holopupenko said. Do you actually pay attention to what people write? It is not question of whether or not naturalism entails a depressing, nihilistic self-loathing — although it probably does that to. *If* naturalism were true, tough luck, deal with it. It is a question of the absurd consequences it *entails* that you are blissfully unaware of as shown by your misreading.

  34. d,

    So the problem is, how do you actually tell (a) from (b)?

    I don’t understand why this is so difficult to figure out. Like Sault, you are straining your eyes in the microscope looking for stars.

    You expect to see LFW in a physical causal relationship on an fMRI – really? What exactly does that look like physically, and how do you KNOW it’s LFW or not? You and your scientific brethren can’t even define LFW in scientific terms yet you are SURE it could be there in the fMRI image. Just strain your eyes a little more and tilt your head slightly. It’s there, do you see it?

    And you have the nerve to lambaste the ID crowd. Be sure to save some for these scientists that expect to “see” LFW in an image.

    But let’s suppose that you manage to answer my question above. With that knowledge you’re back to your a/b problem. Science can’t even solve the problem.

    The better question to ask, IMO, is how do you KNOW anything, including knowing that you know?

  35. G. Rodrigues,

    Can you explain them?

    Because if you say that rational deliberation is something like computing, all I can say is that you do not know what is rational deliberation nor do you know what computing is.

    Rational deliberation is (vaguely) the act of value comparison, followed by a result – the more “rational” it is, the more it conforms to enumerated rules of logic and reason, and the greater its correspondence to reality or what is plausibly true. (Doing a full-blown conceptual analysis here would take volumes, but that’s the general idea).

    The issues raised with my use of the terms “correspond” and “model”, etc are irrelevant. What really needs to be focused on is the following question:

    Can a human being’s cognitive processes be described algorithmically?

    If the answer is “yes” – then my definition of rational deliberation is a start to capturing something real about our cognition. If the answer is “no”, then it is definitely wrong.

    Given how much about human cognition does indeed accede to algorithmic description, its strained to suggest that, in principle, whole swaths of human cognition are indescribable in terms of algorithms.

  36. Amazing how you completely misunderstand what Holopupenko said. Do you actually pay attention to what people write? It is not question of whether or not naturalism entails a depressing, nihilistic self-loathing — although it probably does that to. *If* naturalism were true, tough luck, deal with it. It is a question of the absurd consequences it *entails* that you are blissfully unaware of as shown by your misreading.

    Sorry – Holo demonstrated nothing except that he thinks being made of only atoms is demeaning, and that Christian metaphysical beliefs do not hold under naturalism – duh. But so what?

    You guys just don’t seem to be able to jump the metaphysical divide, and address naturalism, on naturalism’s terms. Its not a problem for naturalism that it doesnt account for your metaphysics.

  37. d,

    Its not a problem for naturalism that it doesnt account for your metaphysics.

    Naturalism ought to account for everything that exists. That you don’t know how or why it exists is not a problem. That naturalism does not account for it is a defeater for that view of reality. So it is a problem.

  38. SteveK:

    I’m not even talking about only totally scientific or empirical way..

    The problem is, it seems that in a great many circumstances, the experience of (b) is easily mistaken for (a). This is a case where we know personal experience can be misleading.

    Yet one of the major justifications that (a) exists, is simply an appeal to our personal experience of (a).

    Even the truth of beliefs which are considered properly basic according to some epistemologies, become questionable and defeasible when the experience itself is so undermined.

    So the LFW-ist really needs a way – either through empiricism or through a refinement in one’s awareness about the experiences in question, or through reason or whatever other possible means – to tell the difference, or his argument is in serious trouble.

    Not to mention, if LFW is true and there is no way to tell the difference, either through the experiential or the empirical, we’re in one heck of a monumental quagmire. There’s no hope, even in principle, of assigning moral responsibility to anyone, even ourselves. This question should be so important to the LFW-ist, its hard to see why it shouldnt be dominating their discourse.

  39. Calvinists are generally compatibalists. They generally reject libertarian/contra-causal free will. In fact, Calvinist theology is a great place to look, for strong objections to LFW.

    This is a crock.

  40. @Melissa

    You need to pay better attention to what is written

    Alright, so this is what SteveK offered –

    Rational deliberation and conclusion, which are only brain activities, are the result of prior event causation. There is no choice. [SteveK]

    I don’t think he was being facetious or sarcastic, so I’m including it. This is what G. Rodriguez said about it –

    Within the context of computing we outline a problem, start with a set of premises, and use logically consistent procedures until a solution is arrived at… nothing random unless specified either in the premises or in the algorithms. That sounds very much like rational deliberation to me.

    What you describe, albeit an imperfect description rife for equivocations, is indeed rational deliberation. The problem is that what you describe is *NOT* what computers do. [G Rodriguez]

    Okay, so I see “prior event causation” and “you’re half right”. Can you see, Melissa, how this isn’t a whole lot to go on?

    @ G. Rodriguez

    I have several programming languages under my belt (Python, C and C++, Scheme, Haskell, etc.) and I have constructed a few programs, both as a hobby and in a semi-professional capacity

    Nerd cred! Excellent, I’m glad to know that I’m speaking with someone who has that same background of knowledge. Basic, C, Assembly, some C++… turns out that I *hate* writing GUI’s from scratch, so HTML/CSS/Javascript and PHP have become very welcome alternatives when I indulge in the hobby.

    no matter how technical you want to get, you will not establish that computers have rational deliberation in the sense human beings have.

    Knowing your background I am willing to accept this statement, even though I still don’t fully understand what “rational deliberation” means exactly.

    Is this because computers by definition cannot rationally deliberate, or is it a consequence of them being what they are? This may come across as splitting hairs (and if so, I apologize), but I’m trying very hard to grasp what Holo said earlier about the difference between “artifacts like machines to which nominal definitions correctly apply” and “natural substances (like living things which have immanent capacities for actualizing their natures)”, and it seems that this strikes at the heart of that distinction.

    Perhaps this is a non-sequitor – perhaps the question I should be asking is whether “meat computer” is a nominal or real definition.

    Merriam-Webster, computer : one that computes; specifically : a programmable usually electronic device that can store, retrieve, and process data

    Why is “meat computer” not a statement of my essence in the way “rational human” is?

    I am meat. I am a computer. In fact, I am a computer loaded with electrical “fuzzy logic” networks that are prone to error while still fulfilling the function of being “one who computes”.

    I would go as far as saying that humans are not rational creatures – that rationality is not inherent; that it is a skill that must be learned, cultivated, and practiced just as much as riding a bike or drawing a picture.

    I was just thinking about this the other day – why would boy x date girl y when she treats him so horribly? Why would I, a recovering alcoholic, even think about dating a bartender? Why would someone kill for the sake of a religion that repudiates violence (more or less)? Why are people so fascinated by celebrities?

    What I’m trying to say is that as a human race we are characterized more by the stupid irrational things that we do than by the rational, thoughtful things! That is partly why intelligent, rational people are held in such respect – they are the exception rather than the rule.

    Even by Christian theology – it is in our nature to sin and to act irrationally (is not sin irrational?), and it is only through an act that we cannot fully grasp intellectually (Jesus’ sacrifice) that we can be redeemed from this fallen state into something purer, into a state where we have the ability to act against this irrational part of ourselves.

    I apologize if I have mis-characterized redemption theology and the nature of sin by saying this, or if it is unjust to draw a comparison between sin and irrationality.

    This is already becoming an extremely long post, so I will close with comments about this remark –

    What you describe is the method of the hard empirical sciences; it is, for example, too strong, and therefore useless, for History while Mathematicians laugh at it. [G Rodriguez]

    But we are not talking about history, we are not talking about mathematics – Coyne is speaking about biology, and that is a hard empirical science, correct? If in some way the supernatural crosses into the natural, should it not be evidenced in the nature of who we are and visible in some way in the natural?

    Why should I not be able to discern, naturally, where the supernatural crosses over into the natural?

  41. @Tom

    I got distracted with the talks about computers and machines and learning and knowledge and free will… I’ve realized that I’m less sure now that I know what you mean then when I first replied!

    I *think* you mean that Coyne is unable or unwilling to objectively view himself, and because of this is rejecting the knowledge that such an analysis would give him.

    On the very likely chance that I’m misunderstanding you, could you please help me understand better what you meant?

  42. d,

    Perhaps I’m missing the nuance between LFW and jusy plain old free will. As your posted lecture shows Calvinism doesn’t object to the idea of free will. I’ll have to look into the LFW distiction more closely. Thanks.

  43. @Sault

    Why should I not be able to discern, naturally, where the supernatural crosses over into the natural?

    I already told you where to start looking, Sault – the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth. That is real history.

  44. BillT:

    What the Calvanist is endorsing there is called Compatibalism. Compatibalism is the conjunction of determinism, AND free will. Compatibalism is the view endorsed by most philosophers today, and the view I endorse, and is among the views that Tom, et al. consider dehumanizing, incoherent, and dangerous (which is why its also so very interesting to see a Christian argue for it so passionately). Its a common view among naturalists.

    Really what is going on though, is that libertarians and compatibalists have different definitions for the term “free will”. Same term, different meanings, different ontologies.

    And of course, a difference has implications for ontology of a bunch of other things (as we have seen) like personal responsibility, rational deliberation, and choice.

    Wikipedia has a good entry on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compatibilism

  45. @d
    There is an issue, relevant to the discussion, that has not really been addressed from the Christian perspective.
    A great many core truths of Christianity are presented to us God’s word in complementary pairs (such as Paul and James on the respective roles of faith and works in a believer’s salvation experience). Profound truths are presented as paradoxes, and the very deepest truths are mysteries (like the Trinity, or Jesus’ divine + human natures).

    The paradoxes can be confusing, even to believers, and there has been a tendency to emphasize one pole of the paradox over the other in many cases. One such paradox is God’s sovereignty / man’s free will, and on a related note, predestination of the elect (those whom God has chosen to redeem)/ everyone is offered the opportunity to accept or reject God. Since both sides are clearly taught in Scripture, as Christians who are committed to its divine inspiration and (ultimate) authorship, we believe that the Holy Spirit never contradicts Himself, and so we accept the paradoxes. I’m at the office, so I don’t have the time or access to my library, but I’ll dig up some reference material for you later. This probably doesn’t answer your questions completely, but I hope that it might give you some insight on how the Christian community approaches interpretation of God’s written word.

  46. d,

    I think you’re taking that too far. Folks here reject determinism but I would think that like Dr. Ware in your video, most here would think that predestination and free will are compatible. Seems you might be conflating determinism and predestination. Would I be wrong?

  47. @d (#42):

    Rational deliberation is (vaguely) the act of value comparison, followed by a result – the more “rational” it is, the more it conforms to enumerated rules of logic and reason, and the greater its correspondence to reality or what is plausibly true. (Doing a full-blown conceptual analysis here would take volumes, but that’s the general idea).

    It is clear that you have no idea of how to coherently define rationality and hide behind a parenthetical remark — not that I doubt of its truthfulness, mind you. It simply is the case that you have not advanced a *single* iota from your previous blunders. You are completely unaware of why “value comparison”, “conforms to enumerated rules of logic and reason” (notice the circularity? Of course you do not, how could you?) or “correspondence to reality” faces enormous justificacional problems under naturalism. I repeat myself: you have to give us more than a show-off of your ignorance.

    The issues raised with my use of the terms “correspond” and “model”, etc are irrelevant. What really needs to be focused on is the following question:

    Can a human being’s cognitive processes be described algorithmically?

    If the answer is “yes” – then my definition of rational deliberation is a start to capturing something real about our cognition. If the answer is “no”, then it is definitely wrong.

    Right, you cannot even coherently define rationality but that does not matter as it can all be explained. Another pathetic attempt.

    And just for the record, there are powerful critiques of the algorithmic view of the mind by many people, including people with no theological axe to grind (Searle, Fodor, Popper, etc.). I am not going to hash their arguments out here (or maybe I will, I just do not have the time right now) but once again, you have not given any argument, just a lot of wishful thinking and empty verbiage.

    @d (#43):

    Sorry – Holo demonstrated nothing except that he thinks being made of only atoms is demeaning, and that Christian metaphysical beliefs do not hold under naturalism – duh. But so what?

    This is futile; you lack even the most basic reading comprehension skills.

    You guys just don’t seem to be able to jump the metaphysical divide, and address naturalism, on naturalism’s terms. Its not a problem for naturalism that it doesnt account for your metaphysics.

    We are not asking for you to explain “our” metaphysics; we are asking you to give an account of the data, that which needs explanation. Instead of showing off your breathtaking ignorance of the issues at stake, why don’t you get to work and offer us arguments instead of assertions?

    @d (#53):

    Really what is going on though, is that libertarians and compatibalists have different definitions for the term “free will”. Same term, different meanings, different ontologies.

    Right. Redefine free will, and in an incoherent way, and claim victory. Yawn.

    So what is your definition of free will? Free actions are those whose immediate causes are in psychological internal states (beliefs, motives, etc.)? Or you are defining free actions as those whose immediate caused is the chooser’s own deliberation? Something else entirely?

    note: BillT you are better served by going to the Stanford Encyclopedia entry on compatibilism as the wikipedia article is shoddy and poor.

  48. @Sault:

    Is this because computers by definition cannot rationally deliberate, or is it a consequence of them being what they are? This may come across as splitting hairs (and if so, I apologize), but I’m trying very hard to grasp what Holo said earlier about the difference between “artifacts like machines to which nominal definitions correctly apply” and “natural substances (like living things which have immanent capacities for actualizing their natures)”, and it seems that this strikes at the heart of that distinction.

    It does, but probably not in the way you think. Clearly, you do not know the language Holopupenko is using and a combox discussion is not the place to clarify it; really, this needs a book-length exposition.

    As for the computerese talk and the algorithmic view of the mind, there are so many problems with it that is even hard to know where to begin. Let me try and put it this way. When the CPU of a computer reads an instruction like r_3 = r_1 + r_2 (in standard mathematical notation; r_i are integer registers) from the code stream, some bits in memory are changed. That this counts as addition is not intrinsic to the workings of the machine; it only counts as addition relative to our own interests. That this is so is seen by the following simple fact: you can set the instruction pointer to the middle of a JPEG image file in memory and the CPU will blindingly read on from there, “interpreting” what it reads from memory as code instructions even though it is reading from a JPEG file — *we* know it is a JPEG file, the computer “knows” nothing at all. There is nothing *intrinsic* to a code stream or to the causally related operations that happen inside the computer, that makes it count as addition. To put it still in another way, the reason why you end up in register r_3 with the sum r_1 + r_2 is due to a complicated codification process that turns an algorithm, itself a mathematical *abstraction* (in this case, the summing of two numbers in binary base) into a series of mechanical processes. Still in another way, r_3 ends up holding the sum r_1 + r_2 *NOT* because of logic or mathematics but because of the ineluctable chain of cause and effect that has been used by human beings to codify addition in binary (and this why machines cannot be rational in the relevant sense).

    I would go as far as saying that humans are not rational creatures – that rationality is not inherent; that it is a skill that must be learned, cultivated, and practiced just as much as riding a bike or drawing a picture.

    Even if you maintain rationality is a learned skill, which is partly correct, from the fact that human beings and *only* human beings on the planet Earth can learn it, it follows that there is something *intrinsic* to human beings that allows them to learn this skill in distinction of members of other species; or in the AT jargon, rationality is an intrinsic *potency* of human beings qua human beings. The first cell of the human being known as “Sault” had the rational capacity in potentia. Even if the full grown human being known as “Sault” is asleep, under anesthesia or even if he had suffered an accident that prevented the actualization of this capacity, the capacity would still be there in potency; you do not stop being a rational animal because you are asleep, under anesthesia or have suffered massive brain damage and unable to actually exercise the reasoning capability (btw, this is one reason why abortion or the judicial execution of Terri Schiavo are / were murders and grave sins).

    Once again, in order to fully substantiate this, some heavy metaphysical propping is needed, starting with the primary division in being, the difference between act and potency. Let me just say that while you can reject this essentialist AT picture, at least you should know what exactly you are rejecting and the conundrums you face if you do so.

    Why should I not be able to discern, naturally, where the supernatural crosses over into the natural?

    Now that is indeed a smart question. I am only going to give an oblique answer. One of the problems is your faulty conception of God. Under classical theism, God is not *a* being among beings, but subsistence Existence itself. The way He operates on nature is *not* the way we humans do: we create artifacts, that is, we take preexistent bits and pieces of matter and organize them into unities to serve this or that purpose, a purpose that exists solely in our minds. God creates natural substances with intrinsic or immanent capabilities that act out to fulfill their intrinsic ends or telos. So the telltale signs of God’s operation are perceived in a different order: we *reason* (leaving revelation aside for now) from facts of our natural world to higher verities, verities of a metaphysical nature and therefrom unto God and then back to all sorts of subjects, like rationality, free will, morality, etc.

    Christianity also makes a strong *historical* claim in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But that is a whole different story.

  49. 1. Is it appropriate to apply historical standards of truth to a discussion about biology and its empirical standards of truth? (if not, Yeshua’s historicity is non sequitor)

    2. Is there, and can there be, evidence in our natural bodies that points to our supernatural identity? (if not, how can we “follow the evidence”?)

    I just read the response. I think this question might be answered for now, but I’ll have to mull over it for a little while.

    3. In the context of Holo’s remark (#23), what does “rational capacity” mean?

    4. When Tom says this –

    I know that I am not a thing or a machine. You know the same about yourself.

    How is that not simply an appeal to emotion?

    5.

    Deterministically-driven piles of atoms walking around [… snip colorful and entertaining polemics …] closing their eyes to the in-your-face manifestations of free will.

    I’m going to take a shot at it… To be “meat computers” we have to be naturalists, and naturalism only allows for strict determinism, which denies us any chance of free will, which we adhere to even though we see it all around us.

    Have I got Holo’s line of reasoning correct? While the polemics are colorful and entertaining, they can sometimes obscure his meaning.

    Finally,

    6. What type of knowledge is Tom talking about? I thought I knew what he meant, but now I don’t. Please help.

  50. Sault,

    G. Rodrigues: The first cell of the human being known as “Sault” had the rational capacity in potentia.

    I love how all of these discussions come full circle – back to a discussion about origins. I mentioned on another post (I think) that this same real potential *must* have coincided with the existence of reality. Had that potential ever not existed, Sault the rational being would never had come to exist. Naturalism, because of what that reality entails, fails to account for this real potential.

    Addition: this same real potential exists also in Sault the recently deceased and buried. Think about that. Does naturalism allow for resurrections?

  51. Sault,

    I know that I am not a thing or a machine. You know the same about yourself.

    How is that not simply an appeal to emotion?

    If I may. I think Tom is appealing to your reasoning not your emotions. How could you be what you are, do the things you can do, think the way you can think, feel the way you can feel and be nothing but a machine. What, in any way, is machine-like about you. You have conciousness and self-awareness, you can think, intuit, create, appreciate humor, experiance sadness, joy, empathy, discern valor, honor, tell fact from fiction. The list is almost endless.

    Is it that hard to look at these facts and reason that you’re not a machine?

  52. Is it that hard to look at these facts and reason that you’re not a machine?

    I feel threatened in no way to consider myself a machine. Merriam-Webster’s definition of “machine” includes “living organism”… so I’ve never had a problem saying that biological material is a machine. At one point in this discussion I even started to ask the question whether our differences were one of definition or not.

    Even if we have souls and are in some way supernatural beings, I would still look at our bodies like machines. Why not? I see mechanisms, chemical interactions, structures, cells that have specific functions – we are beautiful, complex bits of machinery walking around this planet of ours!

    Hell, if we were designed, then we are *absolutely* machines. From that perspective, I’m not sure why you would have a problem with the term either!

    Sure, we’ve got the biological equivalent of a computer lodged in our noggin. These biological structures (the neurons, synapses, etc) afford us the ability to in some way have consciousness – we are computers (in that sloppy “fuzzy logic” neural net way), but we are more than just very fancy calculators!

    I completely understand how Coyne can consider us “meat computers”… it makes total sense to me. I may like to believe that I am more than just a very smart slab of meat, but I think that from an objective standpoint that’s a great way to describe our species (albeit one that’s somewhat tongue in cheek!).

    But I don’t even see how this endangers or imperils the possibility that we are in some way supernatural beings. So what if we evolved? So what if we share the same biological material as our animal brethren? So what if I am indeed an animal myself? So what if my brain is, in every way that we can discern, completely describable in a naturalistic sense? None of this *disproves* a supernatural component of ourselves. It may mean that it’s not *required*, but it is a philosophical position whether to rule out this supernatural component or not…. right?

    Perhaps the only reason that we have free will is because we have a soul. On the other hand, maybe our neural nets are so complex that we are supplied such a detailed illusion of free will that we can’t tell the difference.

    So yeah, I completely understand where Coyne is coming from. If right now I don’t have free will, I certainly can’t tell the difference, so it kinda sorta doesn’t matter, does it?

  53. Sault,

    Aren’t you intentionally ignoring the real distinctives that separate human beings from machines or even the other animals on this planet. What about being a machine has anything to do with the emotions we feel like love or joy or sorrow. What about being a machine has anything to do with understanding charity or honor or courage or conscience. What about being a machine has anything to do with creating or appreciating the beauty found in art or music. What about being a machine has anything to do with our own self-awareness.

    I always find it interesting when people make themselves intentionally dumber than they really are just to try and make a point. Seems somewhat counter intuitive but maybe that’s just me.

  54. @BillT

    James Brown was a “sex machine”. He also made music. How could he both a machine and make music? But he was, and he did.

    Either its an unsolvable paradox or in some way we can be both machines and create beautiful music.

  55. d,

    What the Calvanist is endorsing there is called Compatibalism. Compatibalism is the conjunction of determinism, AND free will. Compatibalism is the view endorsed by most philosophers today, and the view I endorse, and is among the views that Tom, et al. consider dehumanizing, incoherent, and dangerous (which is why its also so very interesting to see a Christian argue for it so passionately). Its a common view among naturalists.

    Really what is going on though, is that libertarians and compatibalists have different definitions for the term “free will”. Same term, different meanings, different ontologies.

    Libertarians use free will in the commonly understood way. Compatabilists redefine it so that in spite of their belief that free will does not exist they can claim that humans are still responsible for their actions. As I said in a previous context, redefine the terms and ignore that they can’t do the work required.

    Determinism rests on the false assumption that the only type of cause that exists are determinant causes. As a consequence, in their own mind, events are either determined or random but why should we believe that is true?

    Secondly Victoria is right about the scriptures. They contain various perspectives on different issues. The ancient Hebrews were obviously much more able to allow multiple perspectives to sit in tension together than we are. I would suggest that it was probably because they were, wisely aware that we can’t always exhaustively capture reality in sound bites.

  56. Sault,

    So the only answer you have is an irrational one? That is dissapointing. Perhaps you should think about this. If your worldview can reduce you to irrationality, you might consider adopting a worldview that that can actually make sense of the question.

  57. Hmm. Tough crowd tonight. Is this thing on?

    Seriously though, before I walk away for the night the only thing that I can think of is to go to Merriam-Webster’s definition of machine and hope that some sort of understanding can be found there.

    When I say that I am a machine, I am specifically using the following definitions –

    1b b : conveyance, vehicle; especially : automobile

    My body is the vehicle for my consciousness. I am a vehicle, but I am more than a vehicle.

    e (1) : an assemblage of parts that transmit forces, motion, and energy one to another in a predetermined manner

    I have cells, proteins, organs, bones… an assemblage of parts etc. I am these things, but I am more than these things.

    f : a mechanically, electrically, or electronically operated device for performing a task

    I am literally an electrically operated device…. but I am also more than just an electrically operated device.

    2a : a living organism or one of its functional systems

    I am a living organism with functional systems, but I am more than this, too.

    I mean, if I have to go through the definitions of each word in that list (animal, computer, etc) then I will… but there is nothing fundamentally wrong with calling myself a machine, as long as I acknowledge that I am that and more.

    Okay, so now I’ve defined “machine” in the way that I’ve been understanding and using it during this conversation. Please share your definition of the word so that I can understand why you are so opposed to the idea that you are a machine.

    I actually anticipated this back on comment #31

    I need to understand how you define “machine”. I look at a cell and I see a machine. I look at the collection of cells we call a vertebrate and I see an animal. I look at a human and I see something that is an animal, a machine, a computer, and maybe something more.

    Have a wonderful night, and I’ll be back on when I can sufficiently quash my sense of humor.

  58. Melissa:

    Libertarians use free will in the commonly understood way.

    I’m seriously doubt this is true. Its questionable whether folk-notions of free will are even consistent or precise enough to call either compatibalist or libertarian, across the board.

    Depending on the way you query people, you can make them sound more like libertarians, or compatibalists, or something else. In any case, folk-notions about such things are often revised, or even thrown out, on account of philosophical investigation – so even if most people use the term in the libertarian sense, it doesn’t really mean much anyways.

    And among philosophers, forms of compatibalism has been talked about since the ancients – so you can’t even say free-will is most commonly understood on libertarian terms, within philosophy – at best you can say that is true of certain enclaves of thought or that for certain periods, it enjoyed a greater consensus (but that * definitely* isn’t true anymore – support for libetarianism among philosophers today is small)

    Compatabilists redefine it so that in spite of their belief that free will does not exist they can claim that humans are still responsible for their actions. As I said in a previous context, redefine the terms and ignore that they can’t do the work required.

    They define their terms they way they do for a number of reasons, but a few are:

    1) Because defining terms is necessary.
    2) Because liberianism has severe philosophical issues.
    3) Because they feel their definitions better express the nature of our personal experiences than libertarianism (or other theories).

    Maybe it seems to you like the definitions you endorse have some sort of official status as the definitions… but they don’t. The lack of consensus as to the definitions of the terms has been true… again, since the time of the ancients.

    Determinism rests on the false assumption that the only type of cause that exists are determinant causes. As a consequence, in their own mind, events are either determined or random but why should we believe that is true?

    Well, we know determinant causes exist, so there’s that.

    What reasons do we have to believe that some other types of causes exist, or are the phenomena behind some of our choices? If you want to appeal to personal experience, I’ve provided some good reasons to doubt libertarian interpretations of personal experience.

  59. d,

    This really is absurd. According to you we “choose” the action that we are constrained to do by physical necessity. I notice that with all your talk of definitions you have still avoided providing us with definitions that you are using. Why don’t you provide us with some definitions of will, choice and what it means to be free and we can see whether they really do describe our experience and whether they can actually support the claims you are making.

  60. d,

    Well, we know determinant causes exist, so there’s that.

    What reasons do we have to believe that some other types of causes exist, or are the phenomena behind some of our choices? If you want to appeal to personal experience, I’ve provided some good reasons to doubt libertarian interpretations of personal experience.

    How does the fact that we know determinant causes exist have anything to do with whether or not other causes exist.

    Your “good reasons” rest on unexamined assumptions of the type above.

  61. Sault,,

    I think Holo’s comments were mainly meant for those who do not think we are anything but machines but thinking of humans as machines plus something else still has problems because it leads to Cartesian dualism.

  62. Sault,

    No one here didn’t get your idea that people are “machines”. It’s also completely besides the point. It isn’t the machine like aspects of humans that are in question, it’s the non-machine like aspects that are. When Tom said “I know that I am not a thing or a machine. You know the same about yourself” it couldn’t have been more obvious he meant “I know that I am not just a thing or a machine”. And that’s besides the obvious gist of my comments. Your tortured, overly literal spin is just another example of you being unwilling to face the real implications your own perspective.

  63. @Sault:

    I forgot to comment this bit of your post #49:

    no matter how technical you want to get, you will not establish that computers have rational deliberation in the sense human beings have.

    Knowing your background I am willing to accept this statement, even though I still don’t fully understand what “rational deliberation” means exactly.

    No, no, no, no. You should accept my statement *if* the arguments are convincing, not because of my background — that would be a fallacious appeal to authority.

    As far as what is rational deliberation — you yourself presented a definition, which while imperfect and prone to equivocations was a good enough approximate description. Want a more rigorous definition? According to AT an intellect, that is, that which has a rational capacity, is the sort of thing that can have more than one form without itself being the kind of thing the form is a form of. This definition is probably not very helpful, although it does make strikingly clear why machines cannot be intellects, so let me simplify this (probably egregiously so, but hopefully it will not be too bad) and say:

    (1) An intellect can grasp and formulate abstract concepts.

    (2) An intellect can combine and order those abstract concepts according to the rules of logic.

    About (2) keep this in mind: go back to my example of a computer in post #57 processing an addition instruction and ask yourself why human beings, which indeed do have rational capacity, and computers “arrive” at the right sum of two numbers.

    (a) Human beings know that 2 + 2 is 4 because of the rules of logic and mathematics.

    (b) Computers “arrive at the conclusion” (very sloppy talk, but it will have to do for now) that 2 + 2 is 4 because of the ineluctable chain of cause and effect — see post #57, second paragraph. Can you spot the crucial difference between (a) and (b)?

    On to your post #58 (just the questions that were no addressed already):

    Is it appropriate to apply historical standards of truth to a discussion about biology and its empirical standards of truth? (if not, Yeshua’s historicity is non sequitor)

    There must be some misunderstanding here, yours or mine, because where did I mixed up biology with Jesus’ historicity?

    In the context of Holo’s remark (#23), what does “rational capacity” mean?

    See above.

    I’m going to take a shot at it… To be “meat computers” we have to be naturalists, and naturalism only allows for strict determinism, which denies us any chance of free will, which we adhere to even though we see it all around us.

    Have I got Holo’s line of reasoning correct? While the polemics are colorful and entertaining, they can sometimes obscure his meaning.

    No. First there are naturalists that are not determinists (but whether they can be so consistently is more problematic) and also vice versa. What Holopupenko is saying is that *if* we are nothing but walking piles of atoms, then this entails that we have neither rational capacity nor free will (the two are intimately related and can hardly be separated), thus it is incoherent going around trying to convince others to choose to believe that there is no rationality nor free will, because to do that *presupposes* rationality and free will; and doing this all the while denying the in-your-face first-person experience of rationality and free will, which *is* data in need of an explanation. That this is so can be seen by the lengths to which you have to go to explain free will away as an illusion foisted by the brain.

    What type of knowledge is Tom talking about? I thought I knew what he meant, but now I don’t. Please help.

    I am somewhat lost here; can you give me Tom Gilson’s post reference?

  64. @Sault (#61):

    I feel threatened in no way to consider myself a machine.

    This is not a question about being “threatened”, but what being a machine entails — it entails that you have neither rationality nor free will, so it is a denial of human nature as rational animals, and thus it is de-humanizing, that is, it *denies* our very nature. And since ideas *have* consequences, you can see where this leads to.

    Even if we have souls and are in some way supernatural beings, I would still look at our bodies like machines. Why not?

    You are, even if imperfectly, stating Cartesian or substance dualism, which as Melissa said, has its own load of problems. Me, Holopupenko, Melissa, etc. are dualists but not Cartesian dualists; we all favor the AT hylemorphic dualism view. Under this conception it is *WRONG* to say that human beings are bodies plus an immaterial soul, a sort of ghost in the machine, rather the soul is the substantial form of the body and its formal cause — yeah, I know. a lot of jargon, no way to avoid it.

    Hell, if we were designed, then we are *absolutely* machines. From that perspective, I’m not sure why you would have a problem with the term either!

    Once again you have the wrong conception, both of human nature (as I said above, we are *NOT* machines) but also of God’s “design”. You are comparing God with human designers and from that analogy you draw the conclusion that we are machines, but God can only be said to be a designer in an analogical way. God does *NOT* create machines but creates natural substances with intrinsic or immanent capabilities that act out to fulfill their intrinsic ends or telos — a completely different thing.

    So what if we evolved? So what if we share the same biological material as our animal brethren? So what if I am indeed an animal myself? So what if my brain is, in every way that we can discern, completely describable in a naturalistic sense? None of this *disproves* a supernatural component of ourselves. It may mean that it’s not *required*, but it is a philosophical position whether to rule out this supernatural component or not…. right?

    If I am reading you right, yes, Evolution poses no substantial problems for Theism — or better said, this specific issue is not a problem. And yes, the problem of whether dualism (in any form) is true or not is a philosophical problem, essentially out of reach of the hard empirical sciences like physics and biology — although the answers can be informed by knowledge provided by said disciplines.

  65. @Melissa:

    [in response to d]:

    This really is absurd. According to you we “choose” the action that we are constrained to do by physical necessity. I notice that with all your talk of definitions you have still avoided providing us with definitions that you are using. Why don’t you provide us with some definitions of will, choice and what it means to be free and we can see whether they really do describe our experience and whether they can actually support the claims you are making.

    I have also pointed out and asked the same thing in post #56 and even have given two common compatibilist definitions. An answer is still forthcoming. But given d’s track record in this and other threads of either giving no arguments at all (literally, as in none, nada, zero, zilch) or what attempts at an argument are offered are pathetic enough as to be dismissed right away — just look at his definition of rationality quoted in my post #56 — I would not hold my breath.

  66. Melissa:

    How does the fact that we know determinant causes exist have anything to do with whether or not other causes exist.

    Your “good reasons” rest on unexamined assumptions of the type above.

    The fact that we know determinant causes actually do exist, and that they seem sufficiently able to explain human will, make them a reasonable contender as an actual feature of human will. The existence of other types of causes can’t so reliably be said to exist. So they are less reasonable contenders for actual features of human will.

    Simple indeterministic causes are the most reasonable, additional type of cause that might be said exist, IMHO. But if they exist, this does little to establish libertarianism (or even refute compatibalism, since compatibalist will does not necessarily require determinism).

    The libertarians have more work to do – they have to establish some sort of indeterminism, and then sufficiently work out how it is that some sort of non-arbitrary order is imposed upon the truly indeterminate (two concepts greatly at odds with one another). This is not a small problem, and is one reason why many of the worlds compatibalists think libertarianism is – full-stop – logically incoherent.

    Now of course, most here are preoccupied with sniping compatibalists, but take no note of the philosophical issues with libertarianism – here are several:

    1) Present-luck. On libertarianism, choices become a matter of luck, since nothing about the state of the universe (including the disposition, knowledge, beliefs of the agent) can account for the agent doing otherwise, for any “genuinely free action”

    2) Libertarianism requires ordered indeterminacy – its not clear that this even makes any logical sense.

    3) Libertarianism sets up an inverse relationship between the strength of evidence, and the rationality of believing it. The stronger the evidence compels you, the less reasonable and rational your belief becomes.

    And my “good reasons” for doubting libertarian interpretations of our personal experience with respect to choice, I believe, are well-founded (see #1, #37, and #46 among others). Nobody has really addressed them.

  67. This really is absurd. According to you we “choose” the action that we are constrained to do by physical necessity. I notice that with all your talk of definitions you have still avoided providing us with definitions that you are using. Why don’t you provide us with some definitions of will, choice and what it means to be free and we can see whether they really do describe our experience and whether they can actually support the claims you are making.

    I identify most with Harry Frankfurt’s description of the will (which coincides nicely with goal theory of morality, which I also like and have discussed here before):


    first-order desire: a desire to perform some action. A desire to eat a bag of potato chips is a first-order desire; a desire for world peace is not.

    will: a first-order desire which is effective, i.e. that causes one to do what one desires to do. A desire to eat a bag of potato chips is one’s will. in Frankfurt’s sense, if that desire brings one to actually eat the bag of potato chips.

    second-order desire: a desire to have a certain desire. A desire that I should desire celery rather than potato chips is an example of a second-order desire.

    second-order volition: a desire that a certain desire be one’s will, i.e., a desire that a certain desire bring one to action. The above example can be turned into an example of a second-order volition if I desire, not just to have the desire for celery, but that the desire for celery rather than potato chips be effective in bringing me to eat celery rather than potato chips.

    Note – there can be an arbitrary number of orders in the stack (3rd, 4th, … , n order desires/volition). A “free choice” under this view, is essentially when there is a harmony between all levels of the hierarchy (even if the highest order volitions are themselves fully caused).

    Frankfurt is also (considered by many) to have refuted the principle of alternative possibilities – that moral responsibility requires the ability to do otherwise.

  68. @d:

    Taking into account that I have already informed you that I favor hylemorphic dualism (as Melissa and Holopupenko if I am not mistaken) and being one of the most consistent “snipers” of compatibilism (btw, I object not so much to compatibilism but to the deadly combination of naturalism and determinism and the compatibilist’s accounts of free will), here is a run-down of your opinions:

    The libertarians have more work to do – they have to establish some sort of indeterminism, and then sufficiently work out how it is that some sort of non-arbitrary order is imposed upon the truly indeterminate (two concepts greatly at odds with one another).

    Wrong.

    1) On libertarianism, choices become a matter of luck, since nothing about the state of the universe (including the disposition, knowledge, beliefs of the agent) can account for the agent doing otherwise, for any “genuinely free action”

    Wrong.

    2) Libertarianism requires ordered indeterminacy – its not clear that this even makes any logical sense.

    Wrong.

    3) Libertarianism sets up an inverse relationship between the strength of evidence, and the rationality of believing it. The stronger the evidence compels you, the less reasonable and rational your belief becomes.

    Wrong.

    And my “good reasons” for doubting libertarian interpretations of our personal experience with respect to choice, I believe, are well-founded (see #1, #37, and #46 among others). Nobody has really addressed them.

    From post #1, you have this bizarre request:

    I’m more convinced than ever now, that unless some Libertarians come up with some principled way to distinguish a truly free choice and a caused “choice” where the cause is not obvious to the self or appears to come from a reasoning process – then any belief in LFW based on an appeal to experience is unwarranted.

    Free choices are not *efficiently caused*, but that does *NOT* mean they are un-caused choices — this is a persistent misunderstanding of yours — so nothing to address here. The relation between the soul and the body, the soul being the substantial form of the body, is not one of *efficient causation* but *formal causation* in a similar way as the relation of the intellect that judges actions as good, with the will, an appetitive power, is one of final causation — learn the differences and then lodge your complaints. Melissa pointed this out obliquely and you dismissed it without really understanding what she is saying. Posts #37 and #46 deal with the same persistent misunderstandings.

    Two possible interpretations of this experience are:

    (a) By your personal agency, you initiated the thought/action (in the LFW sense)

    (b) Your thought/action was caused, but the cause is unknown to you.

    We know that (b) happens often. When (b) occurs, people often think their action was the result of a rational, deliberative thought process, followed by choice.

    So the problem is, how do you actually tell (a) from (b)? If there’s nothing different in principle about the first-person experience of (a) and (b), then it would seriously undermine the claim that one has direct, first-hand knowledge of free action.

    Are you trying to tell me that you do not have first-person experience of (a)? Or that you do not know by first-person experience the difference between (a) and (b)? Because either of them means that you literally do not know why you have done anything and everything that you have done for all of your life. You do not know anything about yourself and your actions, including why you are here trying to convince us that you do not know anything about yourself and your actions.

    I will respond to #76 later when I have the time. For starters, let me just say two things:

    – Aquinas dealt with the problem of higher order volitions and argued that the hierarchy collapses at some point and the object of the will is just whatever action was at issue at the beginning of the series of volitions.

    – Strictly speaking, Aquinas would reject the PAP. An obvious example is when the intellect presents to the will one object as good and only a single way to achieve it. There is only one possible action but the action is still free. And no, Aquinas is not a compatibilist. Aquinas (and many libertarians by the way) formulates free will in the following sense: an act is free iff the ultimate cause for the act is in the agent’s will and intellect.

    note: and please drop the fallacious appeals to a supposed consensus.

  69. d,

    In your definitions above what is the difference between will and volition?

    Note – there can be an arbitrary number of orders in the stack (3rd, 4th, … , n order desires/volition). A “free choice” under this view, is essentially when there is a harmony between all levels of the hierarchy (even if the highest order volitions are themselves fully caused).

    Can you explain what you mean by harmony?

  70. @d:

    As I have already said in my post above, H. Frankfurt’s analysis of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP for short) is hardly relevant for the AT hylemorphic conception of free will. Still, d has not deigned to mention the several philosophers have responded and objected to H. Frankfurt’s analysis (he only mentions the consensus part; presumably because he has taken a poll and has the statistical data to back him up).

    For starters, for those who do not know, H. Frankfurt devised a series of thought experiments that, so H. Frankfurt claims, show that moral responsibility does not require the possibility to do otherwise. One example suffices: H. Frankfurt imagines a mind-controlling demon (or a mad scientist with a mind controlling device — for the sake of colorfulness, I will stick with the demon) and a prospective victim — call him A. Now the scenario unravels as follows:

    1. A can choose between actions P1 and P2.

    2. If A chooses P2, the demon forces A to choose P1.

    3. A chooses P1, the demon does nothing.

    H. Frankfurt concludes that in this case it is clear that A had no alternative possibilities due to the demon’s actions and yet A is clearly responsible for action A. But is this right? Some objections:

    O1: Does A really have no alternative possibilities? In fact, the whole scenario only makes sense as undermining PAP *if* A does have alternative possibilities open *in principle* to him. Maybe d, who surely knows more about this than I do, has some argument; I for one am not convinced.

    O2: The demon needs some indication *prior* to A’s choosing P1 to not mind-control A into choosing P1. But for that to happen reliably, he need to have complete foreknowledge, but this begs the question in favor of determinism.

    O3: Related but slightly different, since A could conceivably delay his choice of P1 until the last moment, the demon must act before A’s choosing thereby coercing A and denying the compatibilist’s version of free action. Or to put it in other words, the information needed for the demon’s decision is only available at the moment of A’s decision so the scenario cannot refute the PAP.

    But of course, Frankfurt’s examples can be turned against d’s incoherent cocktail of naturalism and determinism. Consider again a mad scientist with a mind-controlling device. Since the mind is, under naturalism, ultimately nothing but a complex network of neurons firing this is in principle possible. The mad scientist, who is a cunning libertarian in disguise, does:

    1. He activates the device and forces A to choose to do P1.

    Is this action free? d will probably respond no since while the first-order volition is from A the second-order is forced: A does not choose to choose P1. The mad libertarian in disguise then does:

    2. Activates the device and forces A to choose to choose P1.

    Once again this is in principle possible under naturalism and now not only the first-order volition but also the second-order volition are A’s volitions. Is this action free? d will probably respond no. The mad libertarian, with some exasperation, then does:

    3. Activates the device and forces A to choose to choose to choose P1.

    Once again this is in principle possible under naturalism and now not only the first-order volition, but also the second-order and third-order volitions are A’s volitions.

    You can see where this is going. Here we have an obvious case of manipulation yet consistent with H. Frankfurt’s account of freedom: the subject wills P1, wills that he wills P1, wills that he wills that he wills P1 until whatever higher-order desire you desire (heh). Is there anyway to block this objection? Not really, since d concedes in #76 that “even if the highest order volitions are themselves fully caused”. I hope that d will not appeal to an infinite hierarchy of higher-order desires, because that does not make any sense, but just in case he does, even *that* will not work. Why? As there are only a finite number of neural firing patterns possible, our mad scientist is capable of tampering even with an infinite hierarchy under naturalism, just in the case that makes sense.

    Now the clincher: under determinism this is *exactly* what happens. There is no mad scientist of Oz operating under a veiled curtain, but the volitions, whether first-order or higher-order do not issue from A, but are pre-determined by causes outside of A, ultimately to the first state of the universe. So what is the difference between the mad scientist and the ineluctable chain of efficient causation in constraining the volitions that allows one to declare that one action is free — on d’s *own* account of free actions, not mine — but the other is not? Maybe d can explain it to us via an argument instead of more naked assertions.

  71. d,

    I think your problem with libertarianism is due to your idea that desires cause us to act. Your claim was that compatabilist definitions reflect our experience more accurately but that is plainly wrong. Our experience tells us that our desires don’t cause us to do anything, it is the will that is the cause of our actions. Of course this cannot fit in your worldview with it’s truncated view of causality but that’s hardly our fault.

    Edited to add: No need to provide answers to my questions at #78, the example provided by G. Rodigues demonstrated what was meant.

  72. No, no, no, no. You should accept my statement *if* the arguments are convincing, not because of my background — that would be a fallacious appeal to authority.

    I know – I just didn’t think that I was going to get a better definition. I had an approximate idea but after spending so many comments trying to figure it out I was ready to pick a different hill to die on (so to speak).

    Thank you for the clarification, though, I appreciate it.

    Later on that night I started thinking about whether simply evaluating truth tables would imply rational deliberation. If so, all logic circuits could rationally deliberate… but I don’t intuitively think of my calculator as rationally deliberating, so I figured that my definition was probably off.

    What Holopupenko is saying is that *if* we are nothing but walking piles of atoms, then this entails that we have neither rational capacity nor free will (the two are intimately related and can hardly be separated)

    Once we start talking about free will I have to abstain – I don’t have the knowledge or “chops” to engage meaningfully in the concept. Not without a lot of research first, at least, and I’m still busy trying to understand hylomorphism and body/mind duality.

    There must be some misunderstanding here, yours or mine, because where did I mixed up biology with Jesus’ historicity?

    You didn’t, Victoria did. Sorry if there was any confusion about that. If the supernatural intersects in some way with the natural in the form of our body, then I would expect to see some evidence of it. I’m sure you’ve already guessed this, but I’m wildly and incredibly skeptical of the possibility… but for now I’m willing to ask questions and gather information.

    I am somewhat lost here; can you give me Tom Gilson’s post reference?

    His OP. Coyne is rejecting knowledge… exactly what knowledge is he rejecting? All this talk about machines and free will has me really confused by now.

  73. @Sault

    You didn’t, Victoria did. Sorry if there was any confusion about that. If the supernatural intersects in some way with the natural in the form of our body, then I would expect to see some evidence of it. I’m sure you’ve already guessed this, but I’m wildly and incredibly skeptical of the possibility… but for now I’m willing to ask questions and gather information

    LOL. The flow of the thread is getting convoluted when we can’t all keep track of who said what.

    Yeah, my contribution there was indirectly related to the OP, by way of pointing out that there is yet a more fundamental question: namely is Naturalism objectively true? My answer, is of course, no and I submit the historical evidence for Jesus’ life, death and resurrection provides a strong indication that it is not. In fact, this is the basis for Christian Theism.

    To answer your question – does the supernatural intersect the natural…? I submit that it does, in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the very person of a Christian believer. You are skeptical because you maintain that the only real knowledge we can have comes from the MES’s, and so you rule out a priori any other sources, especially ones that may be supernatural. Your requirements are impossible – you are looking for evidence of something that you don’t believe in, and you continually do that over and over again (are you expecting to get a different result?).

    The internal witness of the Holy Spirit in the lives of genuine, redeemed-and -adopted into God’s eternal kingdom-Christians is our evidence of faith, and this is confirmed between members of the faith community. You are an outsider, and you won’t be given that proof unless you repent of your rebellion against God, and in faith, bow down before Jesus as Lord and Saviour, and accept His rightful rule as your sovereign King. You won’t get to that point unless the Spirit of God softens your heart and opens your eyes to the truth of the Gospel, and He won’t do that unless He sees that you are ready to listen and allow your heart to be softened and your eyes opened. That’s how it works – that you don’t like it is your problem, not ours.

  74. The atheists (especially) and skeptics who post here are forgetting one thing: this is a Christian site, run by a man who is absolutely convinced of the truth of Christian Theism, both by the available empirical evidence undergirding it and his own experience from years of walking with God and living the Christian life. Other Christian contributors stand with Tom in that belief and experience.

    1. We affirm that Christian Theism is objectively, experientially true, and therefore Naturalism is objectively false.
    2. Because we hold that Naturalism is false, we submit that it cannot be a complete and comprehensive basis for any explanations of reality, in particular, us.
    We submit thatbecause it is false, it is irrational and inadequate even on its own terms, and a lot of the discussions here revolve around that. So you folks come in and debate that issue, fight those battles, not realizing that you’ve already lost the war.

    You would have to at least first convince us [Christians] that Christian Theism is false. Convince us that Jesus of Nazareth never did the things that the NT says He did, that He was not supernaturally resurrected from the dead, and you will prove Christianity false (1 Corinthians 15 forcefully presents that). Demonstrate that our confidence in the trustworthiness of the Bible as a revelation of God Almighty in and through human history is untenable. Convince us that our experience of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a delusion. Not that doing so would prove that Naturalism is the right worldview (there could be other variations of supernaturalism).

    Good luck with that…the foundations of Christian Theism are a solid rock, and the gates of hell will never prevail against it.

  75. Victoria:

    Even if Christian theism is true, many of the topics under discussion are debated even among Christians (though obviously, I argue from the perspective of naturalism). Libertarian vs Compatibalism is such an issue. The nature of morality is another (including its dependence/independence on God).

    To convince you that determinism is true, is not to convince you that Christianity is false. To convince you that libertarianism is false, is not to convince you that Christianity is false either.

  76. d writing to Victoria said, that his purpose was “To convince you that determinism is true, is not to convince you that Christianity is false. To convince you that libertarianism is false, is not to convince you that Christianity is false either.”

    On the basis of naturalism what is the survival value of truth? Darwin himself wondered about this when he asked, “Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”

  77. @d
    Yes, these issues are discussed and debated within the Christian community, but within the framework of Christian Theism – we have a set of shared core beliefs and interpretive principles, which guide and control the discussion (such as the Holy Spirit never contradicts Himself, and ‘in essentials, unity, in non-essentials, liberty and in all things, charity’). It’s a family discussion.
    When we debate with you Naturalists, it is between two mutually exclusive worldviews – it’s all-out spiritual warfare, since we know we are not battling mere flesh and blood, but the forces of darkness (Ephesians 6:10-16) and the very same lies that the serpent tricked Eve with back in Genesis 3. It is also a mission to rescue those who want to escape from this evil and relentless enemy.

  78. Victoria,

    I think your talk about shared core beliefs is optimistic. The variation in Christian belief is immense, even extending to core issues (like salvation theory, for instance). Yea, you can point to generalities that few would disagree with, like, “You are saved through Jesus”.. but when it comes time to actually figure out what that means, you’ll see the alleged consilience between Christians is often illusory. History isn’t littered with Christians splitting off into new sects over superficial disagreements, now is it?

    And do you realize just how twisted it is what you are saying?

    You are openly stating that a Christian is not to converse, exchange ideas, or debate with non-Christians with an open-mind about their own potential mistakes, but with the presumption that their overarching worldview cannot be wrong, that their interlocutor’s beliefs are irrational (even before the conversation has begun), and are basically mouthpieces for the Devil.

    Do I even have to imagine just what kind of reaction that sort of “my beliefs are immutable truth” attitude engenders around a place like this when its coming from a New Atheist? No, I don’t think I do.

    Do you think that kind of attitude inspires *any* confidence from non-Christians, that you have seriously critically examined your own beliefs? No, it doesn’t. Just the opposite, in fact.

  79. “The variation in Christian belief is immense,even extending to core issues…”

    A commonly held belief by those either just uninformed or looking to make points against Christianity. This “immense” variation, however, simply does not exist.

  80. @d
    Tom has an excellent summary of core Christianity on this site…I suggest you take the time to read and learn.

    Oh, if I implied that you (collectively) are a mouthpiece for the devil, then I should clarify, for that is not what I really said.
    2 Corinthians 4:3-4 should clarify that – you (collectively) have been blinded by the ‘god of this age'(a reference to the devil) and by your own willful rebellion (Romans 1:18-3:1) and without the indwellling of the Spirit of God you cannot understand (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

    We have, in fact, examined our beliefs and our understanding of what Scripture says. I know and understand more now than I did when I first became a Christian, and my faith is all the stronger for having taken the time to study both what I believe and why I believe it. I have been convinced by many years of being a Christian that Christianity is really, objectively and completely true.

    You take the same position with your faith in Naturalism.

    The fact that you don’t understand what core Christianity is, that is your problem, not ours. We have tried time and again to explain it to you, but you don’t seem to get it, and until you give up your rebellion and pride against God, you never will.

  81. And, for the record, d:
    Since coming to this web site and participating in these discussions, I have learned about many things that I had not previously given much thought to – mostly of a philosophical nature – this discussion of compatibilist vs libertarian free will, for example – now I’m taking the time to study that issue in more detail, to understand the Biblical principles involved. But, none of this makes me doubt core Christianity. On the contrary, it will give me more insight and understanding of it. I mentioned a while back that many of Christianity’s deep truths are presented to us a paradoxes – this is one of them, it seems.

    I’m also here on this site to learn more about how my fellow Christians do apologetics – by listening to and reflecting on what they say, I learn more about the deep truths of Christianity; sometimes that even corrects my understanding.

    And frankly, why should I give up a belief that has sustained me for the better part of my adult life (I became a Christian 30+ years ago, while in university, due in part to a few very Godly physicists in whose research lab I was working as a grad student), a faith that has substantial evidentiary and experiential credentials? You dismiss the former, and have not the latter, but that is your problem.

  82. G. Rodrigues,

    Free choices are not *efficiently caused*, but that does *NOT* mean they are un-caused choices — this is a persistent misunderstanding of yours — so nothing to address here. The relation between the soul and the body, the soul being the substantial form of the body, is not one of *efficient causation* but *formal causation* in a similar way as the relation of the intellect that judges actions as good, with the will, an appetitive power, is one of final causation — learn the differences and then lodge your complaints. Melissa pointed this out obliquely and you dismissed it without really understanding what she is saying. Posts #37 and #46 deal with the same persistent misunderstandings.

    My use of “caused choice” in #1 can simply be read as determined choice (hence the scare quotes around “choice”).

    But the question can still be raised, whether one thinks of free choices as causeless causes or as possessing some other form of cause, distinct from deterministic or efficient causes.

    Libertarians believe they are free agents (unbound by determinism). One of the most frequent justifications for this belief, is the appeal to personal experience (ie. the sensation of having made a free choice). The libertarian presumes his personal experience is reliable enough to justify his belief.

    But the reliability of these experiences is questionable. We know (or at least have strong supporting evidence that) there are false positives. We know people often feel as if they are making free, self-originating decisions, even when they are not.

    Let’s use an analogy to make this clearer. You are standing on a street, looking at three houses. You can see them, and your visual experience of these houses makes you feel as if they are real objects, that exist. You feel this belief is justified based on your experience. But then you learn that at least one of those houses is not really there at all (and its even possible that none of them exist). The false house(s) only appear to exist, either through a mistake in your perception or some kind of trickery. You don’t know which houses might be real and which might be fake. And what’s worse, is you have no method or criteria for determining which of the houses may actually exist, based on your ordinary experience.

    At this point, your claim to knowledge, that at least one house exists, is severely undermined. You cannot justifiably say, that your personal experience verifies the existence of at least one house.

    And this is the case with libertarian free will, and is why I think it vital for the libertarian to propose some kind of criteria or method to figure it out. Until they do, they cannot justifiably say, based on personal experience, that they are free agents.

  83. A further point on the analogy…

    Let’s say that a method is developed that identifies some false houses (and doesn’t rely on one’s personal experience of the house). Let’s stipulate that this detection mechanism can *ONLY* result in one of two conclusions:

    a) The house most likely doesn’t exist
    b) Cannot be determined if the house likely exists or not

    With each (a) result, it is a further demonstration of the unreliability of our inter-personal experience, that some houses exist.

    This is analogous to the real world situation and LFW, because we can devise tests of this sort. We can identify situations where choices were most likely the result of efficient/deterministic causes – yet was experienced as a “free choice” by the person.

    And every time we do, we undermine the reliability of the personal experience upon which many libertarians so heavily rely.

  84. Oh, if I implied that you (collectively) are a mouthpiece for the devil, then I should clarify, for that is not what I really said.

    I think we’ve heard you loud and clear, Victoria. (but nice try)

    You’re biased against naturalism. Okay. You think that the discussion of philosophies that presume naturalism vs philosophies that presume supernaturalism are a form of spiritual warfare. Ummm, okay.

    You believe that I have “faith” in naturalism. Okay. You believe that I don’t know anything about the core concepts of Christianity. Okay.

    You believe that Christian Theism is true, therefore naturalism is false, and “because it is false, it is irrational and inadequate”. Ummm, okay.

    You believe that I can’t know that Christianity is true until God tells me that it’s true, and that He won’t tell me it’s true until I’m ready to let Him tell me that it’s true. Well, whatever. So much for “following the evidence”… Okay.

    You believe that the non-Christians here are threatening your faith, or attempting to get you to give it up. Umm, whatever, but okay.

    we know we are not battling mere flesh and blood, but the forces of darkness (Ephesians 6:10-16) and the very same lies that the serpent tricked Eve with back in Genesis 3

    You also believe that we can’t be speaking on equal grounds, that on some fundamental level I am your enemy and that you must never “give in” to me or my evil dark philosophies. Ummm…. well, okay.

    Not sure if I should just ignore you or what… I mean, I already deal with a lot of close-minded preachy people who think that I’m “serving the dark lord”, so why should I add another to that list?

    Why should I engage in you in conversation if you are incapable of respecting who I am or what I can bring to the discussion?

    I’ve ignored the Yeshua historicity thing, because its so completely OT, but why shouldn’t I just ignore you completely?

  85. Are you trying to tell me that you do not have first-person experience of (a)? Or that you do not know by first-person experience the difference between (a) and (b)? Because either of them means that you literally do not know why you have done anything and everything that you have done for all of your life. You do not know anything about yourself and your actions, including why you are here trying to convince us that you do not know anything about yourself and your actions.

    As a determinist and compatibalist, I *can* know something about the causes of my choices, though I don’t in all instances.

    (a) and (b) only come into play in the case where actions feel like they originate from the person in the form of a choice, or have no obvious deterministic cause.

  86. d,

    Tom pointed out in a previous thread why your conclusion that the results obtained from neuroscience undermine free will. As I remember correctly you never responded to him. Until you do your analogy doesn’t work. ie. Your skepticism about personal experience cannot be selectively applied to our experience of free will until you have good reasons. By good reasons I mean those without known defeaters.

  87. d,

    We can identify situations where choices were most likely the result of efficient/deterministic causes – yet was experienced as a “free choice” by the person.

    This sentence highlights an issue other than that raised by Tom. Given A-T metaphysics, efficient causes do not operate in isolation, the other three causes are required to give a full explanation. As a rebuttal of our position your sentence above is nonsense.

  88. Melissa,

    In this particular thread, I’ve been addressing the claim that we have knowledge of free agency through personal experience. I’ve been careful to make that as clear as possible.

    If you feel belief in free agency is established by some other means, this argument does not address those reasons…

    … though it does show us that, as of yet, libertarians have devised no way to obtain justified true knowledge that any particular choice can be said to be genuinely free, if libertarianism is true. And that should concern you (and all libertarians), because assigning moral responsibility becomes a mere a guessing game.

  89. d,

    You presented “evidence” that you claim calls into question our personal experience of free choice. I explained why it only works if we accept your version of causality. That is all. Feel free to address what I actually write in your next comment.

  90. d,

    And that should concern you (and all libertarians), because assigning moral responsibility becomes a mere a guessing game.

    Don’t make me laugh. Given your naturalism what you refer to as assigning moral responsibility is really just a technique for reprogramming meat computers.

  91. @Sault…sorry
    I didn’t get to finish my response…

    Where did you get the idea that I think you are my enemy? I said it was a battle between two mutually exclusive worldviews, a spiritual one. What I had referred to in Ephesians 6:10-17 should have made that plain enough (did you actually read it all?)
    No, I certainly have no personal animosity towards you, or d. I should have been more careful to qualify my words to defuse that impression. What I think I said was that this is also a rescue mission – whether you know it or not, you have been deceived by a ruthless being who hates God, hates you (and all mankind for that matter) and will do whatever he can to keep you from seeing, to say nothing, of believing the truth (see Ephesians 2:1-10 for that, as well as the way out). This is why it takes the power of the Spirit of God, to tell you the truth about your desperate situation and to show you the way of escape.

    And, after all, this is a Christian web site – I am certainly entitled to defend and argue from a Christian worldview, so there 🙂

  92. While I am not a presuppositionalist, everyone who has a world view begins with a set of unprovable assumptions or presuppostions. I am a Christian-theist (C-T) because I think that the presuppostions of C-T explain the universe, moral values and the human experience much better than naturalism does. If naturalists like d want to convince me that his world view is true then he has to start by justifying his presuppositions. If he doesn’t do that then we just talking past each other.

  93. You presented “evidence” that you claim calls into question our personal experience of free choice. I explained why it only works if we accept your version of causality. That is all. Feel free to address what I actually write in your next comment.

    These conditions were always assumed, for the purposes of my argument (and that should be clear if you go all the way back to post 1)

    1) The libertarian holds that his belief in LFW is justified and true (ie counts as knowledge).
    2) This belief counts as knowledge on account (or mostly on account) of their personal experience of free agency.

    If you have some elaborate metaphysical theories or empirical data that leads you to conclude that LFW exists, for reasons apart from personal experience, then the argument does not apply to you. Though as I said, it still can undermine any presumed ability to actually identify free actions (just as one’s ability to detect a false house, in my analogy). And that’s pretty serious.

    But in that case, I would ask just what it is exactly, that justifies your belief in other forms of causation and LFW?

    Don’t make me laugh. Given your naturalism what you refer to as assigning moral responsibility is really just a technique for reprogramming meat computers.

    Or more charitably, assigning moral responsibility is a technique for adjusting human behavior towards the desirable. Though why you think that is a point against naturalism, I’m scratching my head.

    Any moral outlook adopting that as a principle is off to a really great start, and is already vastly superior than any system which adheres to retributive punishment. So incidentally, even if theism were true, I think that view of moral responsibility would still be correct.

  94. JAD –

    We probably share a similar set of presuppositions. Actually, my set of presuppositions, I’d wager, is a subset of your own (and a subset of most theists).

    That is, I have only presuppositions that you do, but have at least one less than you (belief in God, or something along those lines).

    If that’s true, its the theists who have the burden, on this front.

  95. @Victoria

    It is difficult for me to write this because of the strong sentiments that you have provoked.

    You have said that I am ignorant (not knowing/understanding “core Christianity”), that I can’t learn, that I am rebellious against God, that I am blinded by my servitude to Satan. You quote scripture that speaks of “the schemes of the devil” – and you’re talking about the things that I believe! You say that I have faith in the philosophical position that I hold (impossible by definition), that it is objectively wrong – that it is impossible for it to be wrong, and that part of your mission is to “rescue” me from it!

    Can you really not see how offensive this is to me? How can I respect your opinions, or even be interested in listening to you, with you saying such mean-spirited and hateful things?

    I’m taking the time to write this because I think that you’re one of those nice, sweet people who genuinely don’t understand how arrogant and condescending and disrespectful they sound when they say such things.

    I’m reminded of once upon a time… I was undergoing something serious, serious enough that I thought I wouldn’t survive through the winter. Out of a sense of sheer desperation, I asked a pastor’s wife to pray over me. 10 minutes in she started talking about how I’d be healed if I simply stopped serving “the dark lord”. It took me a long time to forgive her for that… she knew who I was and what I believed… but I was able to because she honestly didn’t realize how hurtful and fundamentally disrespectful such words are.

    I am attempting to extend that same courtesy to you.

    I’m angry right now. I’m annoyed and I’m frustrated and I’m angry. I’ve spent far too long trying to figure out how to say this all respectfully, without expletives or retaliatory wording… it’s difficult.

    We get tired of it, you know – the disrespect, the arrogance, the assumption that if we “just believed” that it would be okay.

    *deep breath*

    This is your (heavily snipped) argument :

    Christian Theism is true, therefore Naturalism is false.

    Because it is false, it is irrational and inadequate.

    Do you see the appalling logical fallacy here???

    Finally,

    I am certainly entitled to defend and argue from a Christian worldview, so there

    I’m not asking anyone to give up their faith. I expect you to argue from a Christian perspective, of course. What is not acceptable is for you to justify your outrageously disrespectful statements by saying “oh, well, I’m a Christian so it’s okay”.

  96. @d (#91, #92):

    My use of “caused choice” in #1 can simply be read as determined choice (hence the scare quotes around “choice”).

    But the question can still be raised, whether one thinks of free choices as causeless causes or as possessing some other form of cause, distinct from deterministic or efficient causes.

    You can use the word “cause” in any way you want, but if you presume to criticize what I defend then you should at least have the intellectual decency to actually understand how I am using the words. Is that too much to ask? Given the quoted second paragraph and the rest of your post, apparently the answer is yes.

    Libertarians believe they are free agents (unbound by determinism). One of the most frequent justifications for this belief, is the appeal to personal experience (ie. the sensation of having made a free choice). The libertarian presumes his personal experience is reliable enough to justify his belief.

    But the reliability of these experiences is questionable. We know (or at least have strong supporting evidence that) there are false positives. We know people often feel as if they are making free, self-originating decisions, even when they are not.

    In the part of my post you quoted, do I make *that* argument? In any of my posts do I make *that* argument? Here is what I say and what I have said about the first person experience of Free Will (or my memory of it; if it is faulty, this is the revised and corrected version):

    1. I do not know what gives you the idea that the first person experience of Free Will is the touchstone argument as if the whole case rested on it. In any case, this is false.

    2. First person experience of Free Will is *data* in need of explanation. Absent any compelling reason to the contrary, it is prima-facie evidence of the existence of Free Will.

    3. You have your quantifiers mixed up: the fact that there are false positives does not mean that there are *only* false positives. No one here ever denied that there are false positives; the only thing it matters is if there are true positives.

    4. Is there any reason why the false positives line only applies to the first person experience of Free Will? No argument from you. And should I remind you that *every* experience *is* first person experience? And before you open your mouth, no, there is no detection method that bypasses first person experience, another one of your scientistic delusions. In fact, you explicitly use the analogy with seeing three houses. So what are you going to say? That there is a sort of “consensus” in that everyone admits to seeing three houses? Sorry, does not work, because there is also a “consensus” on having the first person experience of Free Will. Besides, have you never heard of *collective* illusions? Also fairly well documented. So according to *your* line of reasoning, what can we conclude? Since human beings can suffer from optical illusions — and these are fairly common and well documented — it follows that what we think we see is an illusion, from which it follows that we cannot rely in our sense of vision, from which it follows that we cannot rely on the readings, say from measuring instruments, from which it follows we cannot rely on what science tells us, from which it follows we cannot rely on the alleged findings that tell us that there are false positives in the first person experience of Free Will.

    5. First person experience of Free Will is a defeater for *certain* metaphysical arguments against Free Will. I have already gave you references for this; maybe you have consulted them maybe you have not, either way I am not going to repeat them.

    Here is what I learn from your response about your modus operandi:

    A. You take an argument that I have never made, reconstruct it using your own *unargued* presuppositions, then throw a crappy version full of holes at my feet and task me to defend a version of Free Will I do not endorse.

    All the while, to add insult to injury, you:

    B. Completely ignore all, literally all, explanations of my position I have gave, never showing the *least* gesture towards actually understanding them or to provide a response to them.

    C. Not only you ignore the explanations, you ignore all my objections to your own arguments. Complete and utter silence.

    You recur in this behavior, over and over again. I am at a loss why you consistently fail to address every single argument I make, and at this point, whatever explanations I could offer would quickly devolve into gratuitous insults. Maybe you have some cogent reason for not engaging the arguments, but what you *cannot* do is to pretend as you did in your reply to Victoria, that you are here arguing, when all you have in response is an odd mixture of silence, bluster and emotional hot air, or pose as the misunderstood compatibilist, the poor victim of the contemptuous “sniping” of “libertarians”.

  97. d,

    These conditions were always assumed, for the purposes of my argument (and that should be clear if you go all the way back to post 1)

    My mistake, I thought you were offering arguments against our belief in free will.

  98. d,

    Or more charitably, assigning moral responsibility is a technique for adjusting human behavior towards the desirable. Though why you think that is a point against naturalism, I’m scratching my head.

    Because you talk of assigning moral responsibility when referring to something else entirely. It’s just one more case of naturalist doublespeak.

  99. d,

    Or more charitably, assigning moral responsibility is a technique for adjusting human behavior towards the desirable. Though why you think that is a point against naturalism, I’m scratching my head.

    Because you write assign moral responsibility and you mean something else. It’s just one more case of naturalist doublespeak.

  100. @Sault

    Can you really not see how offensive this is to me? How can I respect your opinions, or even be interested in listening to you, with you saying such mean-spirited and hateful things?

    Well, since I have based what I said on what is written in the New Testament, then you had better take that up the original Author. In John 8:37-51, Jesus says some of the most mean-spirited and hateful things ever, especially in John 8:44, according to your complaint.

    Do you see your own fallacy by selecting isolated sentences from my posts, without regard to the complete context of everything I had written, and getting angry at what you are trying to imply that I said?

    I said, we (Christians) have come to believe that Christianity is the truth; that belief rests on substantial and hard to ignore objective evidence, and is confirmed by the witness of the Holy Spirit in each one us, personally and corporately. The rest of what I said I(and you misrepresented) follows from that.

    Look, I’m not out to offend you, and it really breaks my heart to see that I have, but I’m not going to sugarcoat the truth either. I’m not being hateful or mean-spirited (well, no more than Jesus and Paul were).

    You have said that I am ignorant (not knowing/understanding “core Christianity”), that I can’t learn, that I am rebellious against God, that I am blinded by my servitude to Satan

    Would it take some of the sting out if it I if confess that I was once the same way? That every person who has ever lived, save Jesus Christ, is in the same desperate situation? That every person who has become a Christian was once like that? That we have all struggled with that battle? The only reason that we have come to believe in God’s offer of redemption in Jesus Christ and have taken hold of it with is because of the grace of God. It can be the same for you. I’m not telling you to ‘just believe’, rather I am telling you to seek after the truth with all that you are, but to find it you will have to do what we here have all done – give up our rebellious pride against God and be prepared to listen, learn and obey what we we discover. If you do that, you will find that God is ready to meet you more than halfway. It breaks my heart to see you (collectively) treat this as merely philosophical debate, when the stakes are life and death, a wonderous, joyful eternity with God or a miserable and horrible one without Him.

    For that is exactly what the Gospels and the epistles of the NT tell us. Go back and read those passages that I quoted, in full context.

  101. that first paragraph should have been in quotes….we need a better text editor in here. I think I will start using notepad and then pasting 🙂

  102. d @ #104 writes:

    We probably share a similar set of presuppositions. Actually, my set of presuppositions, I’d wager, is a subset of your own (and a subset of most theists).

    That is, I have only presuppositions that you do, but have at least one less than you (belief in God, or something along those lines).

    I presuppose realism, by which I mean that there is a real world that exists out there apart from my personal consciousness. In other words I am not living in some kind of virtual reality.

    I also presuppose, at least potentially, that everyone has the ability to accurately interprets the “real reality” with their minds. In my opinion this makes sense from a theistic perspective because God is concerned about us finding the Truth (with a capital T). However, evolution, on the other hand, is not concerned primarily with Truth but with survival. Earlier (#85) I wrote:

    On the basis of naturalism what is the survival value of truth? Darwin himself wondered about this when he asked, “Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”

    d:

    If that’s true, its the theists who have the burden, on this front.

    Theists claim that agency exists apart from mechanism. Naturalists claim that agency can be reduced to mechanism. I cannot empirically prove the theist’s claim. However, I think I can argue doing an apples-oranges comparison that theism explains the way the world is better than naturalism.

  103. Victoria –

    Lots of things that I want to reply to, but I don’t think any of it would matter – you’ve made up your mind and that’s that. Instead, I’ll focus on one point, let you speak your peace, and I’ll just do my best to listen.

    I said, we (Christians) have come to believe that Christianity is the truth; that belief rests on substantial and hard to ignore objective evidence, and is confirmed by the witness of the Holy Spirit in each one us, personally and corporately.

    Substantial and hard to ignore objective evidence, you say? Okay, I’ll bite. What substantial and hard to ignore objective evidence do you have?

    Remember that I am a naturalist – you might want to start by proving the existence of the supernatural. Just a suggestion.

  104. @Sault
    You’ve been on this blog long enough to have read what we have posted, but I’ll say it again…look at the historical evidence for the life of Jesus of Nazareth, and how Christians infer that a supernatural explantion best fits the facts of His life, death and subsequent appearances to a number of people, who went on to turn the world upside down.

    I’m not going to do the heavy lifting for you, nor am I going to play the game according to your demands. If you want to know, you’ll have to do the work of finding out for yourself.

    Read N.T Wright, for example ( or listen here – http://apologeticsuk.blogspot.com/2012/02/nt-wright-on-resurrection-of-jesus.html)

    The historical record has been enough for almost 20 centuries to convince countless numbers of people that the Christian claims are true. Jesus Himself intimated that it should be good enough to support a decision of faith:( John 20:24-31).
    While you are at it, read Blomberg’s Historical Reliability of the Gospels for an excellent presentation of our evidence and answers to the skeptical objections.

    Now Thomas (called Didymus), 40 one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 20:25 The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, 41 “Unless I see the wounds 42 from the nails in his hands, and put my finger into the wounds from the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe it!” 43

    20:26 Eight days later the disciples were again together in the house, 44 and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, 45 Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20:27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put 46 your finger here, and examine 47 my hands. Extend 48 your hand and put it 49 into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe.” 50 20:28 Thomas replied to him, 51 “My Lord and my God!” 52 20:29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are the people 53 who have not seen and yet have believed.” 54

    20:30 Now Jesus performed 55 many other miraculous signs in the presence of the 56 disciples, which are not recorded 57 in this book. 58 20:31 But these 59 are recorded 60 so that you may believe 61 that Jesus is the Christ, 62 the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. 63

    If this is not good enough for you, well, what can I say that I haven’t already said?

  105. Sault, you say,

    Remember that I am a naturalist – you might want to start by proving the existence of the supernatural. Just a suggestion.

    Something tells me you’re going to want that proof on naturalist terms. I’ve seen it often enough: things like “show me the mechanism by which the supernatural operates,” or, “show me how the hypothesis of the supernatural produces statistically testable predictions and observations.”

    So you might want to start by proving that you would accept the kind of proof that is appropriate to the thing of which you demand proof. Just a suggestion.

    I’ll rephrase it: demonstrate for us, please, that your mind isn’t hopelessly closed.

  106. sorry for the peculiar looking quote 🙂

    I had copied that over from the text over on Bible.org, so it included the verse numbers and superscripts.

  107. Just a tip… if you hope to rationally persuade people of Christianity, the historical case for the resurrection cannot do it.

    You’re much better off appealing to reason, or your metaphysics – with the bare historical case, given the state of the evidence today, it is not possible to rationally conclude that Jesus rose from the dead. Not even close. Its pretty much the poorest weapon in the Christian arsenal.

  108. @d
    Well, then, there is nothing we can do for you, considering that the apostles themselves were convinced by both the risen Jesus, and not by metaphysical arguments. Was it metaphysics that convinced Saul of Tarsus? No, it was an encounter with the risen Jesus. It is the Spirit of God working in the lives of people that transcends merely rational argument. The historical evidence merely provides the stepping off point – it is the Spirit of God who gives us the wings to fly.

    Why don’t you take a couple of hours and listen to that NTWright lecture, at least (the second link, not the first)?

    Christianity is more than just rational argument – it is about the heart and the will, too. As Pascal said, “The heart has its reasons for belief that reason knows nothing about”.

    But, d, go ahead, keep telling yourself the same tired rhetoric and damned (and I use that advisedly) lies that you have been telling us. Keep your intellectual arrogance and prideful rebellion, your willful blindness (Acts 28:23-27, Paul referring back to Isaiah) and refuse to be healed. I can only pity you, since I know all too well what it was like to be that way.

  109. This is an excellent perspective on what I just said. (from http://bible.org/article/trinity-triunity-god)

    Because God’s Word tells us that we should expect His revelation, the revelation of an infinite, omniscient, all-wise Creator, to contain an infinite depth that corresponds to His infinite mind. In Isaiah, God tells us about this and says:

    “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

    Kenneth Boa has an excellent word here concerning the concept of God’s thoughts being higher than ours:

    It follows from all this that we cannot and should not expect to understand the Bible exhaustively. If we could, the Bible would not be divine but limited to human intelligence. A very important idea comes out of this, something over which many non-Christians and even Christians stumble: Since the Bible is an infinite revelation, it often brings the reader beyond the limit of his intelligence.

    As simple as the Bible is in its message of sin and of free salvation in Christ, an incredible subtlety and profundity underlies all its doctrines. Even a child can receive Christ as his Savior, thereby appropriating the free gift of eternal life. Yet no philosopher has more than scratched the surface regarding the things that happened at the Cross. The Bible forces any reader to crash into the ceiling of his own comprehension, beyond which he cannot go until he sees the Lord face-to-face.

    Until a person recognizes that his own wisdom and intelligence are not enough, he is not ready to listen to God’s greater wisdom. Jesus alluded to this when He said to God, “you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (Luke 10:21)

  110. if you hope to rationally persuade people of Christianity, the historical case for the resurrection cannot do it.

    Do explain what you mean, d.

  111. You know, one of the things I am really looking forward to in the resurrection?
    There won’t be any atheists in God’s eternal kingdom.

  112. SteveK, he means that he understands everything about history and rationality, and that he has made his pronouncement, and that’s that, and shut up and listen.

    Either that or else he means

    it is not possible, as far as d knows, for d to rationally conclude that Jesus rose from the dead. Not even close. Its pretty much what d considers the poorest weapon in the Christian arsenal.

    Victoria, the way I’d phrase that is I’m looking for the day when there won’t be any more atheism, in God’s eternal kingdom. I think you meant exactly the same thing, but I think this is less ambiguously phrased.

  113. Besides that, who ever said that the historical evidence for the resurrection had to be taken as a “bare historical case”? For Pete’s sake, d, don’t you know it’s part of a whole set of beliefs, such as (for example) there is a God? Or, for the sake of discussion with non-believers, there is possibly a God?

    We don’t do the resurrection argument in absolute total bare-nekkid isolation. If you’re hearing it as if we were, you’re not paying near enough attention.

  114. I have to somewhat agree with d and Sault on the matter of convincing people of the truth of Christianity by considering the historical evidence of the resurrection (although I wouldn’t go anywhere near as far as to saying its categorically impossible, or not useful).

    The sheer amount of evidence and ideas to consider about the historicity of the resurrection is vast. I won’t go beyond my remit to suggest where the majority opinion lies out of those who have thoroughly studied it, but there are certainly a significant number of Biblical scholars on both sides of the debate such that some profess to rationally conclude that Jesus was resurrected, and some profess to rationally conclude that Jesus was not resurrected.

    Now either the available evidence is not sufficient (or there is too much for one person to fully consider) to form convincing conclusions one way or the other, OR would you have to suggest that the non-Christian Biblical scholars are being irrational/significantly more ignorant of the evidence.

    However it seems difficult to suggest that non-Christian Biblical scholars are irrational/ignorant without pleading to some kind of psychological bias (poor example – they’re deluding themselves in order to keep their sense of power). But if one accepts psychological bias arguments against non-Christians, then one must equally consider psychological bias arguments against Christians (poor example – they’re deluding themselves to keep their sense of comfort), and again the picture seems none the clearer.

    I’m sure you could rephrase in terms of two individuals who form different conclusions about what the evidence suggests about Jesus’ resurrection.

    More often than not, different opinions on the matter arise from the sum of disagreements on a number of minor points, which collectively point away or towards the resurrection of Jesus; rather than simply being ignorant of the facts.

    There is far far too much content to meaningfully discuss all such minor disagreements in a combox, although I suppose in principle individual minor issues could be discussed in such a way.

    As above, it seems to me that either it is impossible to form a genuinely convincing conclusion on the matter of Jesus’ resurrection (on a historical basis alone), OR it is impossible to objectively state that rational analysis of the historical evidence will undoubtedly lead to the conclusion that Jesus was resurrected.

    It is for this reason that I think it is unwarranted to definitively assert that rational analysis of the historical evidence will undoubtedly lead to the conclusion that Jesus was resurrected; especially unwarranted to outright assume someone is ignorant/irrational to form the opposite conclusion.

  115. I refer our atheist friends back to my comment #59.

    this same real potential [potential for rational beings] exists also in Sault the recently deceased and buried. Think about that. Does naturalism allow for resurrections?

    I admit that I used the word resurrection in an attempt to provoke a discussion about life coming from dead, lifeless matter. But now that d and others have questioned the rationality of anyone who believes the resurrection event actually occurred, I have to ask why?

    It seems to me that naturalism requires that a person rationally think that dead things can come to life. How do naturalists think we got to where we are today?

    I would think that naturalists like d would yawn at claims that dead matter came to life. Events like that are, you know, like, so 3.8 billion years ago.

    If d’s objection is regarding the how of it all, keep in mind that nobody knows how. Well, nobody except d.

  116. Tom –

    Yay, you’re back! Hope your recovery is progressing well.

    So you might want to start by proving that you would accept the kind of proof that is appropriate to the thing of which you demand proof. Just a suggestion.

    If the supernatural realm is 100% exclusive from the natural realm, then I it is impossible to prove the supernatural by natural means, by definition. I accept that.

    “in those areas in the natural realm where the supernatural has broken through.” (Victoria, #29)

    However, the claim is not that the two are 100% exclusive, the claim is that the supernatural “spills over” into the natural. If that is the case, then I would like to know where.

    I did ask in that general direction back in #31…

    “How do we formulate a hypothesis for something like that? Do we start from a naturalistic perspective, look at an event and conclude that it couldn’t have happened without supernatural intervention? Or do we start from a supernatural perspective, and…? I wouldn’t even know where to start from there, scientifically-speaking.”

    Is it not reasonable to consider that if the supernatural is somehow intersecting with the natural, that we should be able to examine it in the natural?

    Much has been said about Yeshua’s resurrection. What if I haven’t studied it enough to make a decision? I suppose such a thing is possible, I haven’t looked at the evidence in maybe a decade. In the meantime (since there is apparently a lot that I don’t know about it still), isn’t there something else that I can study that will show me some evidence of God in the world today?

    There won’t be any atheists in God’s eternal kingdom.

    Gotcha. Nice Passive-aggressive Christian. Oh well. At least I gave you the benefit of the doubt, first.

  117. Sault,

    Is it not reasonable to consider that if the supernatural is somehow intersecting with the natural, that we should be able to examine it in the natural?

    G. Rodigues has already answered your question in his comment addressed to you at #57.

  118. Thanks, Sault!

    I’m back, sort of. I’m still on my back, actually, until tomorrow when the doc says I no longer have to keep my foot elevated to at least waist-high.

    That hasn’t been the only thing that’s kept me off this discussion. We’ve been preparing to roll out a new initiative. Phase one is being unveiled today. The best is yet to come.

  119. I was hoping for a little bit better than that.

    we *reason* (leaving revelation aside for now) from facts of our natural world to higher verities

    What facts?

    Also, at some point (probably by comment 30 or so) that I didn’t actually know what type of knowledge Coyne et al is rejecting. Could you please elaborate, or spell it out a little clearer for me? I would appreciate it.

  120. @Sault

    Much has been said about Yeshua’s resurrection. What if I haven’t studied it enough to make a decision? I suppose such a thing is possible, I haven’t looked at the evidence in maybe a decade. In the meantime (since there is apparently a lot that I don’t know about it still), isn’t there something else that I can study that will show me some evidence of God in the world today?

    Well, why ‘in the meantime’? Why not start by studying the New Testament documents? Since these were written in the 1st century, within the lifetimes of people who were either direct eyewitnesses of the events described, or had done their own historical research and interviews, the appropriate methods will be that of historical inquiry. We’ve given you plenty of references that you can follow up on.

    You have to start somewhere…why not start with the Christian claim that God has revealed Himself through His actions in history, and specifically in the person of Jesus of Nazareth?

    Or do you intend to go on playing ‘King of Siam’ with us?

  121. @Sault:

    I was hoping for a little bit better than that.

    Methinks that what you “hope” is something next to a personal intervention of God in your life: while that is certainly possible, why would you think God would humor you? Do you recall Jesus’ illustration of Lazarus and the beggar? Besides, even if God did personally intervene in your life in the terms you expect (e. g. in some over-dramatic way), what makes you think that you would be swayed? If there is a lesson that the Bible teaches us is that men are proud, hard of heart, and not even a miracle will convince them.

    we *reason* (leaving revelation aside for now) from facts of our natural world to higher verities

    What facts?

    Let us turn to Aquinas five ways:

    1. Fact: motion (or change) of the natural order.

    2. Fact: orderliness of the natural order via efficient causation.

    3. Fact: contingency of the natural order.

    4. Fact: degrees of perfection in the natural order.

    5. Fact: passive orderliness of the natural order towards their ends (or final causation).

    An online exposition can be found in Reality — A Synthesis Of Thomistic Thought and then jump to The Proofs of God’s Existence by Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange. Another work of the same author: The One God — A Commentary on the First Part of St Thomas’ Theological Summa; jump to Chapter 2: The Existence of God.

    warning: not easy readings.

    note: by the way, just to confirm what Victoria has been saying, metaphysical, rational arguments can only take you so far. The rational underpinnings of Christianity, as distinct say from other brands of Theism, rely crucially on the historical case for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, although it is not to be viewed in isolation from said rational argumentation (e.g. in order to make resurrection plausible, that is to strengthen the priors, one needs to establish that God exists).

  122. @G. Rodrigues
    I was thinking of the same story – but you mean the rich man and Lazarus(who was the beggar). It’s in Luke 16:19-31.with verses 30 and 31 driving the point home.


    Then the rich man said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ He (Abraham) replied to him, ‘If they do not respond to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

    Well, today we have, in addition to Moses and the prophets, Jesus, the Son of God Himself…

  123. @Victoria:

    I was thinking of the same story – but you mean the rich man and Lazarus(who was the beggar).

    (Slaps forehead)

    Thanks for the correction. This is the usual outcome when I write out of my memory and without consulting the sources.

  124. I find it humorous that you would speak of revelation being “over-dramatic”. Haven’t you ever seen Christians accepting Jesus? That highly intense and dramatic experience is an emotional catharsis that few people allow themselves to undergo.

    The difference is that I don’t need to, and I wouldn’t readily accept it even if I did… I’ve had exactly those same experiences without the need for a religious experience. I’m bipolar – I’ve experienced things due to my brain chemistry that are comparable only to these episodes of religious ecstasy that believers experience.

    This is why I place so much emphasis on what is rational, what is objective, and what is tangible – I know that under times of extreme duress that you often cannot trust your senses, that the things that you see are not always representative of reality.

    I look at the accounts of the resurrection and aside from the inconsistencies I see common threads and themes that we find in other cultures, other religions, other mythologies – the savior God is hardly a unique figure to us!

    I think about the origin of the LDS faith (Mormons)… while really it requires a lot more coverage than I can provide here, suffice to say that it came from a context of religious revival and informed by the still newly-budding field of Egyptian archaeology. I look at Christianity, the highly charged emotional and religious context, and how it was informed by the culture (Persian, Greek, and Roman beliefs, the Essene beliefs about the Son of Man and Children of Light etc) and I can draw a direct parallel.

    Studying the beginning of the Christian religion has always been something of a hobby for me – I am not unfamiliar with the debates, the differing theologies, the social context, etc. It’s fascinating stuff, actually, it really is.

    I’ve got Victoria asserting that the supernatural is “spilling” over into the natural.

    I’ve got G Rodriguez saying that “we *reason* (leaving revelation aside for now) from facts of our natural world to higher verities”.

    If the claim is that God works in the natural realm, then how? Where? In what ways? Through what mechanisms?

    These are not unreasonable questions – they are questions that we would ask in a court of law or in a science lab. Why should investigation into the Creator of Everything be any different?

    If the claim is that God does not work in the natural, then sure, we should talk philosophy. But if Creationism/Scientific Creationism/ID are correct, then we should have natural evidence for it.

    In fact, God is said as having acted in the “natural” numerous times throughout the Bible, not the least of which is Yeshua’s resurrection. So there is a precedent. Is there anything to go off of besides the historical account?

  125. @Sault:

    I find it humorous that you would speak of revelation being “over-dramatic”. Haven’t you ever seen Christians accepting Jesus? That highly intense and dramatic experience is an emotional catharsis that few people allow themselves to undergo.

    Actually, I have not. The phenomenon you speak of is typical of a very specific type of culture and a very specific type of Christian community — hardly representative of Christianity as a whole and viewed as a continuum with a two-thousand year old history.

    The difference is that I don’t need to, and I wouldn’t readily accept it even if I did… I’ve had exactly those same experiences without the need for a religious experience. I’m bipolar – I’ve experienced things due to my brain chemistry that are comparable only to these episodes of religious ecstasy that believers experience.

    Do you realize that you are just proving my point? God can only make himself known to you according to *your* terms. Lots and lots of people have come to the Faith without any sort of emotionally dramatic, much less miraculous or near miraculous, experience in their lives. For a concrete example: me, who like you, instinctively distrusts cathartic experiences (in fact, is unable to deal with them) and prefers the calm orderly pleasures of reason.

    I look at the accounts of the resurrection and aside from the inconsistencies I see common threads and themes that we find in other cultures, other religions, other mythologies – the savior God is hardly a unique figure to us!

    Please, tell me you are not going to peddle the Zeitgeist movie (or its equivalents) on us.

    If the claim is that God works in the natural realm, then how? Where? In what ways? Through what mechanisms?

    These are not unreasonable questions – they are questions that we would ask in a court of law or in a science lab. Why should investigation into the Creator of Everything be any different?

    They are not unreasonable questions, but I have already answered them — you either did not pay attention or you did not understood what I was saying. The question “Through what mechanisms?” shows clearly how your unargued scientistic presuppositions vitiate this whole discussion and are like a beam in front of your eye.

    If the claim is that God does not work in the natural, then sure, we should talk philosophy.

    False dichotomy alert.

    But if Creationism/Scientific Creationism/ID are correct, then we should have natural evidence for it.

    The answer depends a lot on how one approaches apologetics (that is why I added the “oblique” qualifier in my answer above). To explain my position, let me take an argument that in my judgment is a good one, the Kalam argument. It can be argued on purely philosophical basis (the preferred one), but scientific considerations can be brought to bear to bolster its premises. Nevertheless, even though I judge it a good argument, it rates below metaphysical arguments like Aquinas’ Five Ways because, among other weaknesses, it does not get us to the God of classical theism. You can see this very clearly, when for example, W. L. Craig defends it and then, in the conceptual analysis phase, he says that the Creator of the universe must be “unimaginably powerful” — but herein lies the rub. God is not *just* unimaginably powerful, for not only an anthropomorphic view of God is wholly inadequate but even a creature-morphic view is, as God is not *a* being among beings, but ipsum esse subsistens.

    In fact, God is said as having acted in the “natural” numerous times throughout the Bible, not the least of which is Yeshua’s resurrection. So there is a precedent. Is there anything to go off of besides the historical account?

    God’s works related in the Bible are commonly called miracles, which by definition are particular, located on the past and non-repeatable and thus not amenable to the hard empirical sciences. So, just taking the resurrection case, yes the historical account is the only one possible.

    I do not know why you are surprised. Large swaths of Evolution theory are nothing *but* history, with the fossil record in the place of documents, poorly done and peddled as something passing the same rigorous tests as the hard empirical sciences — another load of tosh.

    Don’t you think it is about time that instead of presenting the same old tiresome objections, largely based off on egregious misunderstandings, you actually learn something of what Christianity does say?

  126. “Do you realize that you are just proving my point? God can only make himself known to you according to *your* terms. ”

    “Besides, even if God did personally intervene in your life in the terms you expect (e. g. in some over-dramatic way)”

    I only protest on your assumption that I require an overly dramatic way.

    The phenomenon you speak of is typical of a very specific type of culture and a very specific type of Christian community

    But it is not limited – even in the Bible there are scenes of religious ecstasy (one aspect of the conversion experience). I understand that the “deep sleep” that Adam and Abraham underwent were forms of religious ecstasy, for instance – they saw visions, etc. In the NT, you’ve got things like Acts 10:10, where Peter went into a trance.

    Religious ecstasy can be found not only in the current Evangelical movement (ie the Toronto Blessing, etc), but other denominations of Christianity… Quakers, Shakers, Southern Baptists, old-school “tent revivals” of decades past, Christian asceticism… even the Catholics have their own traditions.

    In fact, Christian mysticism is a very traditional and even mainstream aspect of the belief. The very concept of confirmation by the spirit is itself a form of it (what the LDS call “the burning in the bosom”) [– I would have preferred to link to the Mormon Wiktionary, but it appeared to be down when I tried].

    False dichotomy alert.

    If I do commit false dichotomy, please tell me – I’m not doing it on purpose.

    The question “Through what mechanisms?” shows clearly how your unargued scientistic presuppositions vitiate this whole discussion and are like a beam in front of your eye.

    Does ipsum esse subsistens preclude what appears to be the common Christian belief that there is a “natural” world and a “supernatural” realm of some kind, one of which we live in, the other in which God lives?

    It seems that every mention that I’ve ever heard of heaven (God’s presence) and hell (either Satan’s presence or the absence of God) implies that they exist, and that they exist independently of this natural realm.

    I look at the words that Jesus is attributed to use that were translated as hell – Gehenna, Tartarus, etc. These were Greek hells (in a certain sense of the word), and were thought of as literal places.

    If these realms exist independently of this one, then when they “spill over” it has to happen somehow. Unless I drastically misunderstand, that is the view that Christianity has traditionally espoused.

    My presupposition has been that if it happens in the natural realm then it is fair game to be analyzed, measured, quantified, studied, etc.

    At what point, in your opinion, do I make my error? I hate to have you repeat yourself again, but I really don’t get it.

    an anthropomorphic view of God is wholly inadequate

    Sorry for the drastic snip, but I was hoping that you might be able to help me on this one. I do agree with you – to see God as human demeans God (at least, I think that’s the right way to say that).

    At one point I remember reading about the theological position that God is love, but God is more than love… that God is justice, but God is more than justice. I can’t seem to find a reference for it, I could have sworn that it was Aquinas or someone in that vein, but I am at a loss. Does that ring any bells?

    presenting the same old tiresome objections, largely based off on egregious misunderstandings, you actually learn something of what Christianity does say?

    I wasn’t the one who started leading off with the same old tiresome attempts to proselytize. When I am not overcome with passion and emotion (as I can sometimes be), I do my best to ask questions… as I have been doing.

    In the spirit of which… in the OP Tom writes :

    He cannot allow himself to view himself as a human would. He cannot accept the information his own self provides his own self. He spurns his own self-knowledge. For the sake of science he discards all persons’ directly experienced knowledge of that sort.

    But no. Emphatically no, and many times over again NO, this is not necessary for science. Science does not require that we reject knowledge.

    Although I fear that he may have already checked out of the conversation, I was really hoping that Tom could explain what he meant by this.

    It seems like Tom is saying that it is impossible to view one’s self as an objective third party, that we actually must view ourselves as human in order to conduct proper science.

    Which puzzles me, because I thought that’s one of the accomplishments of philosophical thought – to be able to view one’s self through the eyes of an objective third party.

    So, I find myself confused. I thought that I understood, but about forty or fifty comments or so ago I realized that I didn’t.