Why Don’t Scientists Call People Out for Unscientific Scientism?

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It came up again yesterday in a Facebook discussion: “The historic progress of science assures us that eventually it’s going to be able to answer all the hard questions it hasn’t answered yet.” Those questions take myriad forms. Yesterday it was about how the human brain could explain our mental lives. “Science is progressing, science will solve it.”

This is a version of a view called scientism: that every important question is the kind of question that can be explained by science, and eventually will be.

Scientists have a name for that kind of reasoning: extrapolation.

Better yet: unwarranted extrapolation.

Scientists also know that even a long trend is no guarantee that it will continue forever, and they rightly warn against the unscientific error of assuming that it will.

Science will undoubtedly progress rapidly as the years go on. It’s safe to believe that trend will continue. To believe the trend counts as evidence that science will solve all the hard problems, though, is to make an unscientific, unwarranted extrapolation.

Why don’t scientists say, “Hey, stop that! Let’s stick to real science, okay, and cool it with these unwarranted conclusions!”

Or in other words, why don’t more scientists, who really understand and respect science, call out the unscientific abuse of science known as scientism?

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165 Responses to “ Why Don’t Scientists Call People Out for Unscientific Scientism? ”

  1. Since the topic is Scientism, it is of some import that the OT describes both scientism and all legal codes, including the Law of Moses, with the same language.

    As in:

    To paraphrase something G. Rodrigues said: “This is just *wrong* as wrong can be. It is the legal counterpart of what is known as Scientism; just as Scientism-ists take Science ™ as the only, or at least the best, method of attaining knowledge, and anything that is not within its scope is therefore not real and to be disregarded, so legalism-ists take the legal reality of, say, laws pertaining to “X” as the sole factor entering the analysis of the various positions in play in debating said laws pertaining to said X. In the eyes of the law, X is indeed a contract, and that is the only *aspect* of X that matters to the law and its enforcer, the State, because that is the only aspect that could fall under the law (at least in western democratic societies). But it therefore does not follow that X is to be reduced to a contract, or that in discussions of X, of what X is, and how the law should or ought to reflect its reality, X is to be reduced to a mere contract. That is just the crudest of fallacies.”

    Such brought to the surface the unavoidable contour of the limitations of reach – actual reach that is – both of scientism and of any legal code – including the Law of Moses – to make any mechanistic claim on a full reach to the end of this or that particular something. As is easily seen in the following linked quote, it becomes painfully obvious that there just is that stuff which lies out of reach, which transcends both the physical sciences and any particular legal code – including the Law of Moses – and for identical reasons.

    Scripture affirms all of this as in the OT Man is told a few things directly relevant to all of this. First, he is commanded to go out and subdue physicality – to employ and subdue methodological naturalism to its bitter ends (funny that something outside needed subduing). Second, he is told that that business itself will fail to grant him the ends he seeks, as the essence of his peculiar insufficiency is of quite a different sort. Third, such methods of physicality and of subduing will ultimately give way to the stuff of timelessness and the stuff of the immaterial. Fourth, when the legal code of Moses comes, the OT is loaded with language declaring that Covenant to be the less-than, to be the non-excellent, and that the instantiation of Moral Excellence would come to Man by quite another sort of mechanism up ahead. The NT of course agrees.

    Scripture’s unique congruence there amid the essence of man, of methodological naturalism, of quantum echoes, of any and all legal codes, and of where man’s felicity of moral excellence ultimately tracks to is uncanny.

    So then:

    “……… Scientism, the view that the only real knowledge is scientific knowledge. Scientism is an illusion, a bizarre fantasy that makes of science something it can never be. Seemingly the paradigm of rationality, it is in fact incoherent, incapable in principle of being defended in a way consistent with its own epistemological scruples. It should go without saying that this in no way entails any criticism of science itself. For a man to acknowledge that there are many beautiful women in the world does not entail that he doesn’t think his own wife or girlfriend is beautiful. Similarly, to say that there are entirely rational and objective sources of knowledge other than science does not commit one to denying that science is a source of knowledge. Those who cannot see this are doubly deluded – like a vain and paranoid wife or girlfriend who thinks all women are far less attractive than she is and regards any suggestion to the contrary as a denial of her own beauty. Worse, like an already beautiful woman whose vanity leads her to destroy her beauty in the attempt to enhance it through plastic surgery, scientism threatens to distort and corrupt science precisely by exaggerating its significance……..”

  2. The topic here is extrapolation, and the opportunity is ripe for me to say thank you for all who are reading here. Traffic on this blog is running a bit more than 50 percent higher now than it was at the end of December. It’s the fastest two-month growth rate I’ve seen here that wasn’t tied to some hot current event. Thank you for reading.

    A growth rate like that is really potentially significant, if it continues. In fact, I’ve just computed (with help from data here) that if growth keeps up at that same rate every two months, it will take only a little more than five years before this blog will have more readers than there are humans living on earth. (Don’t even ask how many there would be a year later!)

    There is indeed a limit to extrapolation!

  3. From among the many and varied individual links within the linked page in the previous comment, there is a sort of basic overview with Blinded By Scientism which is part one and then part two which is Recovering Sight after Scientism.

    There are just too many comically incoherent strands laced within scientism’s hilariously bungling attempt to do justice with any series of quotes. So perhaps just one to pose as the proverbial dip of the toe in the pool of laughable unintelligibility:

    “……. The irony is that the very practice of science itself, which involves the formulation of hypotheses, the weighing of evidence, the invention of technical concepts and vocabularies, the construction of chains of reasoning, and so forth — all mental activities saturated with meaning and purpose — falls on the “subjective,” “manifest image” side of scientism’s divide rather than the “objective,” “scientific image” side. Human thought and action, including the thoughts and actions of scientists, is of its nature irreducible to the meaningless, purposeless motions of particles and the like. Some thinkers committed to scientism realize this, but conclude that the lesson to draw is not that scientism is mistaken, but that human thought and action are themselves fictions. According to this radical position — known as “eliminative materialism” since it entails eliminating the very concept of the mind altogether instead of trying to reduce mind to matter — what is true of human beings is only what can be put in the technical jargon of physics, chemistry, neuroscience and the like. There is no such thing as “thinking,” “believing,” “desiring,” “meaning,” etc.; there is only the firing of neurons, the secretion of hormones, the twitching of muscles, and other such physiological events. While this is definitely a minority position even among materialists, there are those who acknowledge it to be the inevitable consequence of a consistent scientism, and endorse it on that basis. But as Hayek would have predicted, the very attempt to state the position necessarily, but incoherently, makes use of concepts — “science,” “rationality,” “evidence,” “truth,” and so forth — that presuppose exactly what the position denies, viz. the reality of meaning and mind……”

  4. Q: Can science eventually answer all the hard questions it hasn’t answered yet?

    It’s hard to see how science can answer even this question!

  5. One day science and religion will connect at a single point of truth. Until then, their practitioners will both require a great deal of faith. =

  6. Actually, one day knowledge will converge on a single point of truth, and only then will faith no longer be required. Phil. 2:5-11, esp. 11; and 1 Cor. 13:9-12.

  7. But that “single point” will not mean simple, undifferentiated, or unitary truth. It won’t mean the end of explorations, as far as I can tell. It will mean agreement on the one basic truth: that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. To him all knees will bow.

    Dawkins and Krauss said once in a recorded conversation that even the return of Christ wouldn’t convince them there was a God. “It could be an illusion or a delusion.” Their knees will bow.

  8. But that “single point” will not mean simple, undifferentiated, or unitary truth. It won’t mean the end of explorations, as far as I can tell.

    Or as a friend once put it, “We will have an eternity to explore an infinite God

  9. Metaphysics: Beyond the uncertainties of science and the blind faiths of religion is a single absolute truth. I can’t promise to take you there because we already are there; to see it One must simply be it, be true. =

  10. Oh, cut the New Age nonsense, Michael. Christianity isn’t a blind faith. Reality isn’t monistic. If you think we’re already there, that’s a blindness of an entirely different sort. If you did promise to take us “there” I’d be glad to let you go on your way without me.

  11. Same back to you. See my 11:13 am comment. Every knee will bow to the One who is King over all.

    Meanwhile, Christianity is not a blind faith, and reality isn’t monistic, it’s diverse and personal and very, very good in its foundation and at its end, though there is pain and evil here and now.

    Monism is perhaps the most tragic of all worldviews. (Scientistic materialism is a monism.) If all is one, and one is all, and in the end there is no distinction, then in the end there is no good, no evil, no differentiation of any kind. This is both hopeless and fatally wrong.

  12. There are a lot of frameworks which boil down to such monistic ends. The lack of *actual* differentiation in such frames carries us to a lack of *actual* change – which carries us to this or that X which is, finally, akin to eliminative materialism’s Indifference. All is – truly – “One-Substance”, as it were.

    Pantheism at first glance seems to overcome the obvious problems there, but inside of Pantheism too a final lack of *actual* distinction emerges. Personhood – and Good – and….. and so on – at some point somewhere merges with the Non-Personal – and with Evil – and with…. and so on, as One Substance just is all there ever really “was” / “is”. As for Pantheism “overall”, besides those problems, there are a few causation problems as well.

    Obviously such a view (monistic frameworks of various sorts) is very problematic, in principle, on reason, and in what can count as evidence. Panpsychism, Absolute Idealism, and other forms seem to come up too.

    Monism has something that is very much akin to Scientism:

    It’s sort of soothing – on some level massaging a very present cognitive dissonance – and that descriptive seems warranted for it simultaneously finds itself holding all the means and all the ends it presently denies. It cannot travel the full “ontic-distance” from its A to its Z – but rather it must jump ship midstream on blind axiom and presuppose means and ends which it cannot *actually* find within its own specific alphabet.

  13. God is Three in One; and even from a Jewish or Muslim perspective, the Oneness of God does not entail that God is the only existent.

    Think, man, think!

    (and by the way, is there some reason you choose to end everything with an equals sign?)

  14. Tom –

    Their knees will bow.

    Gotta admit, that comes across to me as a sort of ‘anticipatory schadenfreude’. Not unlike Luke 19:27.

    In any case there are that decry decry ‘scientism’ as such.

  15. It’s simpler than that.

    It’s “from logic to logic” vs. absurdity and useful fictions.

    Then this: No one is immune.

    In other words, we can’t escape truth.

    But there is no such thing – unless God.

    And it is at just that juncture where scientism falls down and Theism keeps moving.

    Immunity is – in any ultimate or *actual* sense – nonexistent.

    Therefore it is logic herself which finds that, at her door, every *anything* that is an anything there bends.

  16. Ray, Meyers over at Pharyngula may talk about rejecting scientism but he doesn’t really commit to it.

    I’ve got enough breadth in my education and current experience to recognize that there are other ways of progressing. Notice that I don’t use the phrase “ways of knowing” here — I have a rigorous enough expectation of what knowledge represents to reject other claims of knowledge outside of the empirical collection of information.

    He’s horrified at Steven Pinker preaching scientism. He believes you can “progress” in other ways but you can’t know in other ways. Pretty tepid rejection if one at all.

  17. Meyers (seems to) makes the mistake of thinking that the Theist charging him with scientism is a charge by Theists against him (Meyers) for rejecting God.

    It isn’t.

    Eliminative materialism’s ends certainly permit one to casually toss out logic and reason as illusion, useful fictions, or some other flavor of absurdity. Logical compulsion against the non-theist’s volition is not found merely in his discovering those ends in all of his own presuppositions and truth predicates. He is yet free to put “knowledge” and “fiction” in the same sentence. Often that is as far as the Theist means to go.

    But its funny that non-theists will (often) on first glance assume the Theist is charging him with rejecting God when really the Theist isn’t going that far – the Theist is merely charging the non-theist with his (the non-theist’s) own means and ends.

    Then, from that, for some odd reason, the non-theist (often) gets all defensive and starts opining about God and no God and Reason and Utility and so on.

    That’s a bit of an odd reaction by the non-theist for such a matter-of-fact observation by the Theist.

  18. [W]hy don’t more scientists, who really understand and respect science, call out the unscientific abuse of science known as scientism?

    Maybe they want to avoid controversy. Maybe they want to avoid the flack that they know they’ll receive if they were to speak out.

    On another controversial subject, macro-evolution, Rice University chemist James Tour, (who is a Christian) suggests that this attitude, extrapolating from his experience, is the likely explanation. Here is a quote from one of his lectures:

    … I will tell you as a scientist and a synthetic chemist: if anybody should be able to understand evolution, it is me, because I make molecules for a living, and I don’t just buy a kit, and mix this and mix this, and get that. I mean, ab initio, I make molecules. I understand how hard it is to make molecules. ..

    I don’t understand evolution, and I will confess that to you…

    Let me tell you what goes on in the back rooms of science – with National Academy members, with Nobel Prize winners. I have sat with them, and when I get them alone, not in public – because it’s a scary thing, if you say what I just said – I say, “Do you understand all of this, where all of this came from, and how this happens?” Every time that I have sat with people who are synthetic chemists, who understand this, they go “Uh-uh. Nope.” These people are just so far off, on how to believe this stuff came together. I’ve sat with National Academy members, with Nobel Prize winners. Sometimes I will say, “Do you understand this?” And if they’re afraid to say “Yes,” they say nothing. They just stare at me, because they can’t sincerely do it.

    I was once brought in by the Dean of the Department, many years ago, and he was a chemist. He was kind of concerned about some things. I said, “Let me ask you something. You’re a chemist. Do you understand this? How do you get DNA without a cell membrane? And how do you get a cell membrane without a DNA? And how does all this come together from this piece of jelly?” We have no idea, we have no idea. I said, “Isn’t it interesting that you, the Dean of science, and I, the chemistry professor, can talk about this quietly in your office, but we can’t go out there and talk about this?”

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/a-world-famous-chemist-tells-the-truth-theres-no-scientist-alive-today-who-understands-macroevolution/

    Here is a link to Tour’s talk on Youtube:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZrxTH-UUdI&feature=youtu.be

    The transcribed part, quoted above, occurs starting about the 52 min. mark during the Q & A.

  19. Its only hard to understand, its only hard to know how it happens if you’re wed to the idea that you can only explain it in naturalistic terms. But that’s not a reasonable perspective when the most basic building blocks of macro evolution aren’t explainable in solely naturalistic terms. There is no naturalistic explanation for the existance of life. In fact, naturalism can’t even give us a working definition of it. And naturalism can’t explain the existance of evolution itself, either. So why should it be able to explain the details of macro evolution. Now, if there was just some other factor we could introduce that would make all this more reasonable.

  20. Bill T’s point is a good one as the thoroughly-going naturalist/evolutionist (N/E) of yesterday “knew” (had knowledge) that the neo-Darwinian paradigm (a gene mutates, a gene advances) housed the full explanatory power of the whole show.

    Of course now everybody “knows” (has knowledge) that such is not the case. Naturally if you ask the thoroughly-going (N/E) of this today, they will do some fancy posturing and say something like, “Well, we *actually* always *knew* (had knowledge) that the paradigm just couldn’t do the *work* demanded of it.” Thus the rising tide of the Neo-Neo-Neo attempts – themselves ever more out of reach of actual bench-top observation.

    Tour is an interesting example of the antithesis of cognitive dissonance.

    Juxtaposed to Tour is his opposite: not Science, but Scientism and its fated eliminative materialism where Logic, Presuppositions, and Truth Predicates are, in all final mathematical sums, annihilated.

    And so now we have the following summation:

    Real evidence that the N/E’s assertion is in real terms improbable and as far as we can see, on the bench top or otherwise, was not the path which was taken. No mechanistic paradigm (M.P) (probable or improbable) in the hands of the N/E to get anything off the ground. No M.P. in the hands of the N/E to advance and promote the show on its world-wide, well, Tour. No M.P. in the hands of the N/E to justify their own Logic’s regress. No M.P. in the hands of the N/E to justify their own Presuppositions. No M.P. in the hands of the N/E to justify their own Truth Predicates. No M.P. in the hands of the N/E to justify the very thing we call Knowledge. That is – assuming of course – that we do not employ the following fuzzy mathematical ends: [ Knowledge = Useful Fiction ]

    Science is forever beautiful. We even find methodological naturalism commanded by God as He tells Man to go out, to subdue, to master the physical world to its bitter ends. We need to take God seriously and therein never fear such ends as all metaphysical coherence ends solidly in the Theist’s corner.

    Scientism, however, is the very antithesis of Science. And that is meant in the most radical, most realistic sense.

  21. BillT – I’m experiencing a weird effect on this site; I post a comment, and it doesn’t immediately appear, so I can’t edit it. That comment was supposed to contain more links than to Myers. There’s also and , for example.

    There is no naturalistic explanation for the existance of life.

    James Tour is right. We don’t know how life got started on Earth… yet. (Note that everything quoted has to do with abiogenesis, not “evolution” as he states.) As I’ve gone over before, we do have several interesting hypotheses that are being researched, but no theory yet.

    In fact, naturalism can’t even give us a working definition of [life].

    Um… of course it can. (Me, I think that replication is the really key hallmark of life, and would classify viruses as (very minimal) living things, but it’s not like biology has any trouble identifying subjects of its study.)

    And naturalism can’t explain the existance of evolution itself, either.

    Do you also say that naturalism can’t explain the existence of gravity or the existence of exothermic reactions? That is to say, is evolution special in some sense or is all of science in the same boat?

  22. Science vs. scientism vs. Naturalism – semantics can get sloppy.

    Without logic, with only useful fictions, scientism goes unjustified by scientific means. While Science remains beautiful, scientism remains hopeless. But that is okay. Because there are other, more robust paradigms of knowledge which couple seamlessly with Science – thus freeing us of any need to embrace scientism’s anti-intellectual absurdity.

    Care must be taken not to conflate the two…. or to equivocate….. there amid Science and scientism. “Naturalism” too conflates and equivocates. Like a moving target. As in recent posts here.

  23. As I’ve gone over before, we do have several interesting hypotheses that are being researched, but no theory yet.

    Ray,

    You’re overstating your case. There isn’t even a working hypotheses much less anything that even remotely approaches a theory. Speculation is a more accurate description. And your “… yet” makes anything relating to religious faith look like cold, hard facts.

    Um… of course it can.

    From the Wiki article:

    Since there is no unequivocal definition of life, the current understanding is descriptive. Life is considered a characteristic of something that exhibits all or most of the following traits:…

    Um…no there isn’t.

    Do you also say that naturalism can’t explain the existence of gravity or the existence of exothermic reactions? That is to say, is evolution special in some sense or is all of science in the same boat?

    Well, maybe I’m being a bit harsh. Gravity is a natural phenomenon. Given the physics if our universe it’s inevitable. Correct? Is that true of evolution? (Serious question. I’m not sure.)

  24. The key question is whether naturalism can explain the existence of anything. It can’t. Neither can empirical science nor the “scientific method,” from which those who believe in naturalism derive their epistemology, answer that question.

  25. BillT –

    You’re overstating your case. There isn’t even a working hypotheses much less anything that even remotely approaches a theory.

    Since I specifically stated there isn’t a theory [and note, I’m using ‘theory’ in the scientific sense], I don’t see what your point is there. But you are significantly understating the case with the claim that there are no working hypotheses. Can you briefly explain, for example, the RNA world and at least one piece of evidence for it? Just today more work on the problem was reported.

    Um…no there isn’t.

    The goalposts – eppur si muovono! You’ve just shifted from “working definition” to “unequivocal definition”. Real life has fuzzy boundaries – the difference between “solid-state physics” and “electronics” and “chemistry”, or even just “inorganic” and “organic” chemistry, can be hard to pin down at times.

    Gravity is a natural phenomenon. Given the physics if our universe it’s inevitable. Correct? Is that true of evolution? (Serious question. I’m not sure.)

    Once you have replication with occasional errors, you’re going to get evolution, yes. No way to stop it, as our experience with antibiotics has shown even in the course of a few short decades. If you can find a way to prevent it, a Nobel Prize and the thanks of a lot of sick children will be yours.

  26. Ray,

    If you think the RNA world stuff is really getting somewhere, good for you. I remain skeptical that the continuing quest to find the origins of the molecules that make up RNA/DNA is getting them really any closer to a real answer. They’ve been doing that stuff since Miller/Uray and it’s getting more than a bit old.

    If you think that “Life is considered a characteristic of something that exhibits all or most of the following traits:…” qualifies as a definition, working or otherwise, then you do. I’m not impressed.

    However, your “Once you have replication with occasional errors, you’re going to get evolution, yes.” is just completely circular. Essentially, what you’ve said is “One you have evolution, you have evolution.” Come on Ray. Where does the “replication with occasional errors” come from. That’s just another description of evolution (or it’s most basic component). You don’t just “have” replication with occasional errors, it has to come from somewhere and you don’t have a clue where that is. (But I do.)

  27. Nobel Laureate Sir Peter Medawar (knighted 1965) was one scientist who spoke out against scientism. He wrote in his book, Advice to a Young Scientist:

    “There is no quicker way for a scientist to bring discredit upon himself and upon his profession than roundly to declare – particularly when no declaration of any kind is called for – that science knows, or soon will know, the answers to all questions worth asking, and that questions which do not admit a scientific answer are in some way non-questions or ‘pseudo-questions’ that only simpletons ask and only the gullible profess to be able to answer. … The existence of a limit to science is, however, made clear by its inability to answer childlike elementary questions having to do with first and last things – questions such as ‘How did everything begin?’; ‘What are we all here for?’;’What is the point of living?’” Advice to a Young Scientist, London, Harper and Row, 1979 p.31

    Erwin Schrödinger, succinctly said something similar: “Science puts everything in a consistent order but is ghastly silent about everything that really matters to us: beauty, color, taste, pain or delight, origins, God and eternity.”

  28. Science just is beautiful.

    Scientism just is self-annihilating.

    Naturalism and Scientism not only lack an ability to explain existence – but also – all their means fail to reach far enough to grasp the peculiar abstraction we call Design and therefore these cannot contradict the reach of God.

    That this nebulae, and that galaxy, and Man’s psychology are ascribed what form and essence they have by God’s Psychology is the claim of the Christian’s metaphysical paradigm. With what means will the materialist refute such? The materialist comes to the table with the irrationally conditioned bundle of reflexes inside our skulls (on the one hand) and a fated eliminative materialism on all utterances thereof (on the other hand) and claims to employ that Ontological End as his means to ascribe the express terms and conditions of the Ontological End that is Design.

    Such is comically unintelligible.

  29. BillT –

    Where does the “replication with occasional errors” come from.

    That is not a solved problem, as I’ve granted. But note – it’s not a problem that science in principle could not solve. Any of several hypotheses about abiogenesis – including ones we haven’t thought of yet – could be borne out scientifically. I’ve pointed out how lightning used to be considered to be obviously supernatural in origin – and isn’t anymore.

    That took, oh, about a hundred thousand years for humans to figure out. We’d worked with electricity for a few decades before we managed to solidly connect it with lightning. So, I’m not too worried that abiogenesis isn’t solved yet… when we’ve only had a decent handle on biochemistry for a handful of decades.

  30. I’ve pointed out how lightning used to be considered to be obviously supernatural in origin – and isn’t anymore….That took, oh, about a hundred thousand years for humans to figure out.

    Oh, well then. That’s certainly a reasonable comparison. The hundred thousand year history (before there was any scientific methodology or thusly derived knowledge) of the supernatural origin of lightning compared to the failure of abiogenesis. Yikes!

    So, I’m not too worried that abiogenesis isn’t solved yet… when we’ve only had a decent handle on biochemistry for a handful of decades.

    You’re lack of worry about the eventuality of a scientific explanation of the origin of life makes a faith statement that, compared to what science has actually discovered about it, would make a Wiccan spritualist look like a Nobel Laureate.

  31. [A]ccording to physicist and theologian Ian Barbour, “A good case can be made that the doctrine of creation helped set the stage for scientific activity.” Numerous presuppositions of science derive warrant from the theistic doctrine of creation:

    • That the natural world is real (not an illusion) and basically good (and hence worth studying)

    • That the natural world isn’t divine (i.e. pantheism is false) and so it isn’t impious to experiment upon it

    • That the natural world isn’t governed by multiple competing and/or capricious forces (i.e. polytheism is false)

    • That the natural world is governed by a rational order

    • That the human mind is, to some degree, able to understand the rational order displayed by the natural world

    • That human cognitive and sensory faculties are generally reliable

    • That the rational order displayed by the natural world cannot be deduced from first principles, thus observation and experiment are required

    Notice that these presuppositions themselves cannot be proven by empirical science. Therefore, scientism is not true.

    There is thus a wide-ranging consonance between Christianity and the presuppositions of science:

    “Both Greek and biblical thought asserted that the world is orderly and intelligible. But the Greeks held that this order is necessary and that one can therefore deduce its structure from first principles. Only biblical thought held that God created both form and matter, meaning that the world did not have to be as it is and that the details of its order can be discovered only by observation. Moreover, while nature is real and good in the biblical view, it is not itself divine, as many ancient cultures held, and it is therefore permissible to experiment on it… it does appear that the idea of creation gave a religious legitimacy to scientific inquiry.”

    http://www.bethinking.org/does-science-disprove-god/is-christianity-unscientific

  32. BillT –

    The hundred thousand year history (before there was any scientific methodology or thusly derived knowledge) of the supernatural origin of lightning compared to the failure of abiogenesis.

    Okay. Let me ask you a series of Socratic questions.

    1. When – what year, or at least decade, did ‘scientific methodology’ really get going?

    2. How many decades after that was the study of electricity put on a sound scientific footing?

    3. How many decades from that was the electrical nature of lightning demonstrated?

    4. Can you give a rough estimate how much more complicated biology is than electricity? For example, roughly how much more complicated is a bacterium than a Leyden jar?

    5. How many decades, roughly, was it from the advent of ‘scientific methodology’ to the development of molecular biology?

    6. How many decades, roughly, was it from the development of molecular biology to the discovery of the structure of DNA?

    Once you have answered all these questions, then we can address how quickly one might expect a theory of abiogenesis to be developed.

    You’re lack of worry about the eventuality of a scientific explanation of the origin of life makes a faith statement

    Well, we’ve gone over the long history of people confidently saying, ‘science will never explain that!” before. I don’t expect to convince you.

    But I do wonder – let’s say that, tomorrow, someone came up with a real theory of abiogenesis. And, indeed, we were able to substantiate it – not only were we able to develop primitive life spontaneously from certain conditions, we had good evidence that those conditions obtained on the early Earth. Would that be evidence against your God?

    If not, why are you so worried about it?

  33. JAD –

    Numerous presuppositions of science derive warrant from the theistic doctrine of creation

    No, they don’t. They derive warrant from the fact that assuming the opposite of things like “That the natural world is real” and “That human cognitive and sensory faculties are generally reliable” leads to pointless solipsism.

    Of course, you’re right that these aren’t scientific reasons, but rather philosophical. But non-theistic philosophies are certainly possible. This only works against a very narrow form of ‘scientism’.

  34. Ray,

    You made the bad analogy. No making up for it now. 🙂

    As far as you’re question about abiogenesis. As a theistic evolutionist I think that the methods God used to create the cosmos and everything in it are discoverable, have been discovered and will continue to be discovered. I’m, in general, skeptical about abiogenesis. I see it more as a philosophical necessity from the materialist crowd. They need to, at least publicly, declare they can solve this problem even if they don’t even know what it is they’re looking for. I would think this money is better spent elsewhere. I don’t know if it would be evidence for or against God if either. There is not enough there to even speculate.

  35. BillT –

    You made the bad analogy.

    Nope. If something as simple as lightning puzzled people for so long – indeed, pretty much every pantheon had a god in charge of lightning – yet was ultimately a natural phenomenon… why can’t life be the same, only more complicated? We even have recent history – nobody believes in elan vital anymore, now that we have molecular biology.

    I’m, in general, skeptical about abiogenesis.

    Yeah, I got that. But I wonder how informed a skepticism it is. You never did answer my question about evidence for the RNA world…

  36. Nope.

    Right. Using the absence of scientific knowledge as an example prior to the existence of scientific knowledge was just brilliant.

    As far as evidence for “RNA world” I would expect scientists to find evidence of the natural formation of the building blocks to life. I believe God used natural processes to create the components of life. Whether that points to RNA world or the eventual discovery of of and the ability of man to replicate that process I think is simply speculation.

  37. Michael at #42: You are very, very, very badly misled.

    God is One, but God is not equal to all, nor is anything he created equal to him. Nor am I equal to you (in worth, yes, in identity, no). Nor are either of us equal to the dirt we kick up: we’re worth infinitely more. The cosmos itself is not equal to one person created in God’s image. A Bach concerto grosso is greater than the music of pi.

    To erase distinctions is absurd. It’s also deathly. Is life equal to death? Is my position in this very controversy equal to yours? No: one of us is far closer to the truth than the other. It isn’t you.

  38. Ray,

    If something as simple as lightning puzzled people for so long – indeed, pretty much every pantheon had a god in charge of lightning – yet was ultimately a natural phenomenon… why can’t life be the same, only more complicated?

    Ummm… if something as simple as a Rubik’s cube puzzled the 7-year-old for half an hour, why can’t a grilled cheese sandwich have a hole in one side of it?

    Logically it’s invalid, but at least as far as the premise is concerned, the conclusion might be right, it might be wrong, and who knows?

    Maybe you were attempting an a fortiori argument. You need more connection between your premise and your conclusion to succeed in that. You need to show first (or at least be able to count on your disputant agreeing) that they are two instances of the same kind of thing, differing in degree.

    When the dispute is actually over whether they are instances of the same thing, however, this form of argument begs the question.

  39. I was a little disappointed with James Tour. He seemed not to be able to offer much in the way of positive arguments for Christianity beyond his personal experience. I’m not denigrating personal experience but their worth is arguably of limited value beyond the individual. I was expecting more from him, even if it was along the lines of the standard philosophical, historical etc arguments that Christian apologists use.

  40. Tom –

    You need to show first (or at least be able to count on your disputant agreeing) that they are two instances of the same kind of thing, differing in degree.

    No, you’ve inverted things a bit. BillT is essentially arguing that, because science hasn’t solved abiogenesis, that’s good evidence that it won’t. I’m pointing out that that’s not necessarily the case.

    As I pointed out in #41, there’s good reason to suspect that, if abiogenesis can be accounted for scientifically, it’ll be a hard problem. And additionally, that the fact that something hasn’t been solved by science is no evidence that it can’t be – we’ve gone over the history of that mistake. Even with respect to aspects of life and biology specifically.

    So, maybe abiogenesis can’t be solved by science. But the arguments for that, at least in this discussion here, don’t hold up. If there’s a better argument than, ‘it hasn’t been solved yet’, it’ll need to be presented.

  41. BillT is essentially arguing that, because science hasn’t solved abiogenesis, that’s good evidence that it won’t. I’m pointing out that that’s not necessarily the case.

    Ray,

    I’ve never said this. However, to be fair and to explain my overall skepticism, I think the study of abiogenesis lacks validity as a legitimate field of study. There just isn’t anything there, outside of it’s fancy sounding “scientific” name, to legitimize it as a field of study. Take for example the link you provided. Here are guys still doing Miller/Uray type experiments 60 years after the originals (which were a failure).

    Now, like I said, I think the pursuit of these building blocks is legitimate science. But to call them progress in the study of abiogenesis is just completely speculative. The entire field is nothing but speculation. Nothing in it even approaches a theory. Shouldn’t there be something, after 60+ years of study, that approaches even a working theory before you start giving the field a name and claiming you are making “progress” in it. Hand waving and creating fancy sounding names isn’t science. (And I certainly could be wrong.)

  42. BillT –

    I think the study of abiogenesis lacks validity as a legitimate field of study.

    But the grounds upon which you base that opinion seem… tenuous.

    Here are guys still doing Miller/Uray type experiments 60 years after the originals (which were a failure).

    The Miller-Urey experiment was hardly a failure. It produced amino acids, as predicted. It may have been based on outdated beliefs about the composition of the early atmosphere, but it served as a basis for further experiments – like the one I highlighted – with updated conditions based on what we’ve learned since.

    Indeed, I’m not sure in what sense you characterize it as a “failure”. Care to elaborate?

    The entire field is nothing but speculation.

    Hardly. There’s a lot of practical experimentation, as you should know since I’ve pointed it out before.

    We have well-tested mechanisms for the basic building blocks of life to arise naturally, without intelligent intervention. Other experiments – like that link just above – point out ways for them to be naturally, without intelligent intervention, be concentrated and linked together into macromolecules. We also know that self-catalyzing chemical systems are possible – with RNA, even.

    Of course this isn’t finished! But there’s a lot of work that’s been done, and is being done, and we keep finding interesting things about the basics of life. Which of the above practical, real-life experiments is not progress?

  43. Hmmm… We tend to view similar things in different ways. No surprise there. It does seems to me you have a lot more invested in and put a lot more hope in its success than I do in it’s failure. That could be perspective as well I suppose. I do have confidence though, no matter what the outcome is, that I know who created the universe and the life in it and I’ll know how it all happened as well.

  44. Ray, look again at what I wrote. An a fortiori argument works when there are two items that all can agree are alike in kind but different in degree. When you’re trying to prove they’re alike in kind that way, you’re arguing in a circle.

    Now you’ve gone and added this whopper:

    And additionally, that the fact that something hasn’t been solved by science is no evidence that it can’t be

    Sure. The fact that science hasn’t explained why you have all the beliefs you have is no evidence that it won’t, maybe someday a hundred years after you’re dead.

    We do have evidence that science won’t do that, but it’s not evidence of the form, “the fact that it hasn’t done it so far isn’t evidence that it won’t.”

    In other words, if I can use that particular argument in support of science being able to explain why you have all (I mean all, by the way) the beliefs you have, a hundred years after you’re dead, then you can use it with equal validity to argue that science will solve the OOL problem.

    It’s a non-starter, an invalid appeal to irrelevant “evidence,” added to your non sequitur.

  45. Tom –

    We do have evidence that science won’t do that, but it’s not evidence of the form, “the fact that it hasn’t done it so far isn’t evidence that it won’t.”

    That’s the only argument against abiogenesis advanced in this thread, though. (If you’ve spotted another one, point out the comment number to me.) So that’s the one I’m addressing.

  46. BillT – I’ve pointed this out before. I don’t know if you’ve read it. I think it’s interesting to reflect on. At the very least, it might help you understand my perspective a bit.

    Imagine if you were one of the creatures in that book, looking over your own natural history. You would find some things that clearly looked ‘intelligently designed’, and others that looked ‘evolved’. You would have strong evidence that your kind of life had been introduced at a discrete instant in a particular form. How would that compare to what we see of life on Earth, and why?

    Don’t forget – I’ve played with evolution before, and seen it come up with stuff I didn’t ‘design in’, even unconsciously – as it took me time to figure out how the new tricks even worked. So that’s bound to color my perspective, too.

  47. Tierra (and thus Minev) creates an environment where virtual organisms can reproduce, mutate, and die.

    Indeed. Did Tierra and Minev develop through acybergenesis? Or do they have some other relevance to abiogenesis I might have missed? Some other process not involving intelligence, that is?

  48. We also know that self-catalyzing chemical systems are possible – with RNA, even.

    It seems to me that this statement from the article

    “This is proof that an RNA self-replicating system is possible”

    is of unknown significance until you can amend it in this way

    “This is proof that an RNA self-replicating system is possible in the kind of natural environment that existed at the time.”

    Self-driving cars are possible. Lots of things are possible.

    And then we have this:

    Ellington says that the observation that different winning enzymes emerge in different conditions is crucial because it further undermines the intelligent-design idea that life is too complex to have arisen without the intervention of a supernatural being.

    “This paper shows that Darwinian evolution wins out,” he said. “Joyce is emphatically knocking down a straw horse of the intelligent-design community.”

    I guess this means that ID theory *can* be tested by the methods of science. Alert the media and the court system, or get the university to publicly reprimand Ellington. 🙂

  49. Ray Ingles in #45:

    If something as simple as lightning puzzled people for so long – indeed, pretty much every pantheon had a god in charge of lightning – yet was ultimately a natural phenomenon… why can’t life be the same, only more complicated?

    So presumably life and its origin are “natural” phenomena as Lightning, which I take it to mean phenomena to be in the same relevant category, only “more complicated”. Trick question: does Ray Ingles have a measure of this “complexity”.

    It is rather curious, and rather ironical, how often the “scientific” critics of ID’ers end up agreeing with them.

    edit: ah, it seems I was not the only one noticing the endless ironies.

  50. Tierra (and thus Minev) creates an environment where virtual organisms can reproduce, mutate, and die. Given just these three
    conditions, evolution takes off from there.

    And who “created the environment” here where non-virtual organisms can reproduce, mutate, and die. (Or did you miss the word “created”.)

    And being “(g)iven just these three conditions, evolution takes off from there.” “Just”, huh? There is no “just” about it. “Just” is like, no “just” is the reality of being given the key to life itself. Do you have that key, Ray? Do you have any evidence (not speculation) you ever will? And if you have some faith that science will provide that does that faith more closely resemble the “faith” of Boghossian’s definition or ours?

  51. Create an environment where driver-less cars can maneuver around, park, and backup. Given just these three conditions, overnight delivery systems (UPS, FedEx) take off from there.

  52. One of the problems with scientism, which is the epistemology of naturalism/materialism, is that it appears to be undermined by the very evolutionary process which gave rise to human self-consciousness and intelligence. Naturalistic evolution is primarily concerned with the survival of the species and not epistemic reliability or the truth. In a recent article, about this very same topic, Nancy Pearcy quotes literary critic Leon Wieseltier who writes, “If reason is a product of natural selection, then how much confidence can we have in a rational argument for natural selection? … Evolutionary biology cannot invoke the power of reason even as it destroys it.”

    She then goes on to quote Thomas Nagel.

    On a similar note, philosopher Thomas Nagel asks, “Is the [evolutionary] hypothesis really compatible with the continued confidence in reason as a source of knowledge?” His answer is no: “I have to be able to believe … that I follow the rules of logic because they are correct — not merely because I am biologically programmed to do so.” Hence, “insofar as the evolutionary hypothesis itself depends on reason, it would be self-undermining.”

    Then she makes this observation about Darwin:

    People are sometimes under the impression that Darwin himself recognized the problem. They typically cite Darwin’s famous “horrid doubt” passage where he questions whether the human mind can be trustworthy if it is a product of evolution: “With me, the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy.”

    But, of course, Darwin’s theory itself was a “conviction of man’s mind.” So why should it be “at all trustworthy”?

    Surprisingly, however, Darwin never confronted this internal contradiction in this theory. Why not? Because he expressed his “horrid doubt” selectively — only when considering the case for a Creator.

    From time to time, Darwin admitted that he still found the idea of God persuasive. He once confessed his “inward conviction … that the Universe is not the result of chance.” It was in the next sentence that he expressed his “horrid doubt.” So the “conviction” he mistrusted was his lingering conviction that the universe is not the result of chance.

    In another passage Darwin admitted, “I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man.” Again, however, he immediately veered off into skepticism: “But then arises the doubt — can the mind of man, which has, as I fully believe, been developed from a mind as low as that possessed by the lowest animal, be trusted when it draws such grand conclusions?”

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/03/why_evolutionar094171.html

    Maybe the reason more scientists are not more open about criticizing scientism is that it requires a high degree honesty and self-criticism. Sometimes honesty and self-criticism puts one in a very uncomfortable position—especially when it’s done publicly. Maybe they are guilty of thinking “scientistically” themselves.

  53. Additionally, JAD, if the evolved mind ought not be rational, why is a rational mind a valued standard for humans rather than it being equally valued among other evolved standards? Why care so much about reason? I hear that irrational and/or emotional minds result in enjoyable and fruitful lives.

  54. Lydia McGrew addressed an argument that keeps being brought up here.

    A correspondent was recently asking me about a particular argument naturalists sometimes use. Now, to me, this argument sounds so incredibly lame that I can never understand why smart people are the least bit impressed by it. It’s just like saying, “Oh, never mind the evidence. I’m sure we’ll figure that out eventually. Move along. Nothing to see here.” Why would anybody listen to this?

    …The naturalist’s argument basically goes, “Science has made great strides and achievements and has explained lots and lots of stuff that we didn’t used to understand. So eventually, whatever it is that you are bringing up as evidence for the existence of God or for any entity that isn’t strictly non-naturalistic will also be explained as a purely naturalistic phenomenon.”

    This is just such a bad argument. The sense in which science has made great strides and achievements–you know, finding the causes of diseases, discovering very small particles and figuring out how they interact, seeing the inner workings of the cell, figuring out the basic laws of planetary motion–in no sense tends to confirm that there is nothing but matter in the world and that everything has a physical cause. How could it?

    To my mind, this is just one step up, if that, from the Bultmannian claim that we can’t possibly believe in miracles in the age of the electric lightbulb.

    http://lydiaswebpage.blogspot.com/2009/03/optimistic-naturalists.html

    Also see the following post, also by Lydia:

    http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2009/03/naturalism_science_and_inducti.html

    What type of person keeps making inane arguments like this over-and-over again?

  55. Tom –

    Did Tierra and Minev develop through acybergenesis? Or do they have some other relevance to abiogenesis I might have missed?

    I answered this already, on this very site. (And I seriously doubt you ever read the ‘psoup’ link there.)

    SteveK –

    I guess this means that ID theory *can* be tested by the methods of science.

    Another one I’ve already answered. (Last paragraph.)

    G. Rodrigues –

    Trick question: does Ray Ingles have a measure of this “complexity”.

    Well, both Shannon and Kolmogorov complexity are well-defined, and peg life at a higher complexity than a thundercloud.

    Oh, and JAD – I’ve gone over that one before, too.

    It’s like y’all can’t see me or my words, just the caricature you want me to be, in your minds.

  56. Notice, Ray, that my comment on ID was in response to what Ellington said, not you. I don’t know why you feel the need to remind me what you’ve said on that subject as if what you said somehow challenges the accuracy of my comment regarding Ellington. He thinks ID theory has been tested via the methods of science and been found to be lacking.

  57. @Ray Ingles:

    Well, both Shannon and Kolmogorov complexity are well-defined, and peg life at a higher complexity than a thundercloud.

    Talk about caricatures… Just a friendly suggestion: stick to what you know.

  58. JAD –

    “Science has made great strides and achievements and has explained lots and lots of stuff that we didn’t used to understand. So eventually, whatever it is that you are bringing up as evidence for the existence of God or for any entity that isn’t strictly non-naturalistic will also be explained as a purely naturalistic phenomenon.”

    If that were in fact the argument I’ve been making, yes, it wouldn’t be persuasive. But that’s not the argument I’ve been making.

    It’s pretty much the inverse, actually. “Since science has demonstrably managed to account for many things that were confidently declared to be outside its purview, the fact that science doesn’t at present account for something cannot be counted as evidence that science can’t account for it.”

    If you want to declare something to be forever beyond any possible scientific account, you need something more than “science hasn’t accounted for it yet”. That’s the point – and I haven’t seen “something more” yet when it comes to abiogenesis.

  59. Ray, I’m on the road and busy and I might have missed something, but l think I showed in #50 that your argument here is invalid and really quite uninteresting. You answered that I had missed the point or purpose of your argument, but in the form you just stated it, your comment is completely susceptible to the criticism I made there.

  60. Ray, can you point to where someone here as actually used this argument in precisely this form? Like I said, I’m on the road and I haven’t kept up with everything.

    If you want to declare something to be forever beyond any possible scientific account, you need something more than “science hasn’t accounted for it yet”.

  61. BillT, is this when I should tell him about the wager I sent you by email?

    Sure. I’ve not been in my above e-mail for a while.

  62. @Ray Ingles:

    Oh, I am.

    No you do not. As with every inane analogy you throw out, it is just an index of your shallow understanding.

    Kolmogorov complexity is an asymptotic measure of the “informational complexity” of pieces of text. It has no direct link whatsoever with natural systems — you even acknowledge it, though only en passant. And if you do make the indirect link that I suspect you want to make, then it simply is not at all clear that say, a cell, is more complex than a thunderstorm (it would in fact be a highly non-trivial result). Do you want me to go into more detail? Fear not, I will spare you and the rest of the audience the boring details.

    And you also missed the larger point.

  63. G. Rodrigues –

    And if you do make the indirect link that I suspect you want to make, then it simply is not at all clear that say, a cell, is more complex than a thunderstorm (it would in fact be a highly non-trivial result).

    In terms of the text needed to describe them functionally – yes, certainly, a cell is demonstrably more complex. A handful of parameters need to be described for a thundercloud, say – humidity & temperature & pressure distribution, particulate distribution, inputs and outputs of the same kind of information. We can simulate entire weather fronts quite tractably, faster than real-time. With the computers of yesterday, let alone today.

    When it comes to cells, orders of magnitudes more factors have to be accounted for. Technically, at the lowest level, we can’t even simulate protein folding efficiently yet – that’s literally billions of times slower than real-time. Let alone the interaction of many proteins folding in the same environment!

    And you also missed the larger point.

    Your points are seldom as pointed as you imagine them to be.

  64. “[T]he most basic building blocks of macro evolution aren’t explainable in solely naturalistic terms. There is no naturalistic explanation for the existence of life.”

    Like I said before, I never claimed that something was forever beyond any possible scientific account, because “science hasn’t accounted for it yet”.

    My basic belief is that the origin of life is beyond the purview of scientific inquiry and abiogenesis a bit of a fraud and Ray believes abiogenesis a promising field of scientific exploration. It’s about a difference of opinion in the matter of abiogenesis as a legitimate field of inquiry not a claim that something was forever beyond any possible scientific account, because “science hasn’t accounted for it yet.”

    And though Ray may claim that my beliefs surrounding abiogenesis are the same as claiming that something was forever beyond any possible scientific account, because “science hasn’t accounted for it yet.” I think that’s open for debate. In fact, it’s a debate we had above that I think ended in a draw at best.

  65. Ray is a Wikipedia scholar. Not to be confused with knowing what he’s talking about.

    I’m not averse to using Wikipedia to illustrate a point, but Ray, this has the appearance of not the reality of being where you discovered your points.

  66. Ray@ 79, what you quoted was a statement, a premise. Where’s the argument?

    And even if there were one there, how would it relieve you of the fault of a non sequitur?

    I mean, look at what you wrote this time. Bill pointed out that scientists have no good theories on the origin of life. Therefore what you wrote there was not fallacious.

    Ray, that doesn’t follow. It’s a non sequitur in defense of a non sequitur!

  67. Just ran across this on OOL research and Miller/Uray:

    In May 2003 origin-of-life researchers Jeffrey Bada and Antonio Lazcano, long-time associates of Miller, wrote an essay for Science (May 2, 2003, pp. 745-746)commemorating the 50-year anniversary of the publication of Miller’s initial results.They pointed out that the Miller-Urey experiment has historical significance, but not scientific importance in contemporary origin-of-life thought. Bada and Lazcano wrote:

    Is the “prebiotic soup” theory a reasonable explanation for the emergence of life? Contemporary geoscientists tend to doubt that the primitive atmosphere had the highly reducing composition used by Miller in 1953.

    In his book Biogenesis, origin-of-life researcher Noam Lahav passes similar judgment:

    The prebiotic conditions assumed by Miller and Urey were essentially those of a reducing atmosphere. Under slightly reducing conditions, the Miller-Urey reaction does not produce amino acids, nor does it produce the chemicals that may serve as the predecessors of other important biopolymer building blocks. Thus, by challenging the assumption of a reducing atmosphere, we challenge the very existence of the “prebiotic soup”, with its richness of biologically important organic compounds.

    So Miller/Uray not only was a failure when it was done but the intervening years have stripped from it all legitimacy.

  68. I’m off the road now, and reviewing this on a computer instead of a phone.

    Ray, I asked you to show me where someone had written an argument in precisely this form:

    If you want to declare something to be forever beyond any possible scientific account, you need something more than “science hasn’t accounted for it yet”.

    You linked to BillT’s comment,

    Its only hard to understand, its only hard to know how it happens if you’re wed to the idea that you can only explain it in naturalistic terms. But that’s not a reasonable perspective when the most basic building blocks of macro evolution aren’t explainable in solely naturalistic terms. There is no naturalistic explanation for the existance of life. In fact, naturalism can’t even give us a working definition of it. And naturalism can’t explain the existance of evolution itself, either. So why should it be able to explain the details of macro evolution. Now, if there was just some other factor we could introduce that would make all this more reasonable.

    BillT’s argument contained several layers, but the most relevant portion of it included these premises, summarized:

    Naturalism can’t give us a working definition of life
    Naturalism can’t explain the existence of life.

    The conclusion he presented was,
    Therefore it seems hard to understand how naturalism should be able to explain the details of evolution.

    Somehow in your mind that morphed into being precisely the same as an argument that

    Premise:
    Science hasn’t accounted for it yet,

    Therefore, (conclusion):
    Bill thinks it can be declared forever beyond any scientific account.

    But BillT’s comment there didn’t mention science, it was about naturalism. It didn’t “declare,” it suggested.

    And then you said that because BillT had said what you said he said, then obviously you hadn’t committed a non sequitur! In my previous comment I pointed out that this defense of your non sequitur was itself another non sequitur. That was before I re-read and found how badly you had butchered what he wrote!

    I’m going to ask you in no uncertain terms to retract your error here. I’m going to be waiting with bated breath to find out if you’re able to acknowledge a mistake, or whether you’re going to keep trying to pile mistake (this one) upon mistake (your previously identified non sequitur) upon mistake (the one I first labeled as a faulty a forteriori).

    I’m not sure you’ve got it in you. I’d like to think that you do. This isn’t just about your logic. It’s about your character. If that’s not pointed enough for you, I’ll restate it so that it is.

  69. I have a couple of questions.

    (1.) Has Ray made an honest effort in this thread to address any of the questions raised in the OP?

    (2.) Does he have special permission from Tom to take any thread he wants off on a tangent?

    He seems to do the latter with impunity.

  70. Billy Squibs @ 52:

    I was a little disappointed with James Tour. He seemed not to be able to offer much in the way of positive arguments for Christianity beyond his personal experience. I’m not denigrating personal experience but their worth is arguably of limited value beyond the individual. I was expecting more from him, even if it was along the lines of the standard philosophical, historical etc arguments that Christian apologists use.

    The reason I referred to Dr. Tour, in my earlier post, was because he has had private, behind closed doors, discussions with top scientists (including Nobel prize laureates) about controversial subjects— specifically, in his case, questions about macroevolution. It demonstrates there is some reticence for scientists to offer opinions in public if it does not directly relate to their research or field of interest. I think there would be same type of reticence in speaking out about scientism.

    Tour has been very honest in admitting that he is not a philosopher or a theologian. However, he has been very willing to talk publicly about his personal faith.

  71. @Ray Ingles:

    In terms of the text needed to describe them functionally – yes, certainly, a cell is demonstrably more complex. A handful of parameters need to be described for a thundercloud, say – humidity & temperature & pressure distribution, particulate distribution, inputs and outputs of the same kind of information.

    Sigh.

    So I really do need to spell out all the details.

    Even if everything you said were correct, it still does not follow that the “cell is more complex”. certainly not “demonstrably so”. First, the obvious: natural systems are not texts, so no, they have no Kolmogorov complexity. Second, do you know what is an “asymptotic” measure? There is an implicit quantifier over an (infinite) set and an infimum in there.

    But what you said is not even wrong. You would have something of a point (more on this below) if you were talking about *complete descriptions*. You could then invoke the invariance theorem and make your case. But you talk about *simulations*, which depend upon the purposes of the simulators, what they want to get out of the simulation, and these may bear only a tenuous relation with the natural systems being simulated. So your non-argument boils down to saying “We have made simulations of thunderstorms, we have no simulations of protein folding, therefore the latter is more Kolmogorov complex than the former”, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the strawman argument you are criticizing, with the added insult that you are comparing apples and oranges, for the only way to make the comparison meaningful is if you have on both sides of the comparison, comparable descriptions derived from a base theory, which you demonstrably (contrary to you, I do know what this word means) do not have.

    Here is one way to lend a modicum of sense to your non-argument. A starting point for having comparable descriptions is to start with a base theory, which purports to be a *complete* theory; so let us take quantum mechanics (*) and assume it gives a complete description of nature. A cell and a thunderstorm are both quantum systems; their states are described by vectors (**) in a (usually infinite-dimensional) Hilbert space and there is a perfectly legitimate sense in which such vectors are computable or not-computable. While the vast overwhelming majority (in more than one sense) of state vectors are not computable, on the assumption of separability of Hilbert space (***), the set of these is dense which is good enough for our purposes. What we really want is a description of the evolution of the state vectors, but sticking to state vectors themselves, gives us a lower bound. But after all this is said and done, it is still not all clear why the Kolmogorov complexity of a cell is higher than that of a thunderstorm and proving so would be a non-trivial result.

    (*) I hasten to add that classical descriptions do not necessarily improve the situation.

    (**) And once again, this may not be strictly true, as one usually needs more sophisticated devices to describe states like rigged Hilbert spaces and what not. Assuming simple ordinary quantum mechanics.

    (***) This is a natural assumption, justifiable on physical grounds, but it can fail

    Dropping this as I have little patience for your nonsense parading as knowledge, although probably you will not, always so willing to shower us with wikipedia links and pointed comments about your private obsessions. One of the spiritual works of mercy is to teach and correct the ignorant, but I suspect the real problem here is not ignorance.

  72. JAD, I think he thinks he’s addressing the issue of scientism.

    I think he’s avoiding questions he doesn’t want to deal with. I think it’s an issue of character. G. Rodrigues doubts the real issue is ignorance. We’ll see how he responds to #90 and following.

    Do others here think I’m letting Ray wander too much?

  73. I guess it is reasonable to assume that almost any comment section that’s about 100 responses deep will have strayed from the main topic. That said, I did have to go to the top of the page to remind myself what the post was all about.

  74. Jury duty today, tomorrow, and possibly Monday, so I can’t spend a lot of time here.

    You say that BillT is saying, “Naturalism can’t give us a working definition of life” and “Naturalism can’t explain the existence of life.” I’ve disputed the first (#26 and #33).

    As to the second – can you point to what BillT (or, really, anyone else) has put forth to establish that? The only thing I’ve seen is that naturalistic science hasn’t yet put forth a full account. Comment numbers would be nice, but quotes would be most helpful.

    Absent something else, I can’t see how I “butchered” BillT’s words by quoting them verbatim.

    Might get a chance later to post, but probably not until Tuesday.

  75. You can’t see how you butchered his words by quoting them verbatim?

    You didn’t. You butchered them by telling us that those word were your answer to my question,

    Ray, can you point to where someone here as actually used this argument in precisely this form? Like I said, I’m on the road and I haven’t kept up with everything.

    If you want to declare something to be forever beyond any possible scientific account, you need something more than “science hasn’t accounted for it yet”.

    In more detail,

    Ray, I asked you to show me where someone had written an argument in precisely this form:

    If you want to declare something to be forever beyond any possible scientific account, you need something more than “science hasn’t accounted for it yet”.

    You linked to BillT’s comment,

    Its only hard to understand, its only hard to know how it happens if you’re wed to the idea that you can only explain it in naturalistic terms. But that’s not a reasonable perspective when the most basic building blocks of macro evolution aren’t explainable in solely naturalistic terms. There is no naturalistic explanation for the existance of life. In fact, naturalism can’t even give us a working definition of it. And naturalism can’t explain the existance of evolution itself, either. So why should it be able to explain the details of macro evolution. Now, if there was just some other factor we could introduce that would make all this more reasonable.

    BillT’s argument contained several layers, but the most relevant portion of it included these premises, summarized:

    Naturalism can’t give us a working definition of life
    Naturalism can’t explain the existence of life.

    The conclusion he presented was,
    Therefore it seems hard to understand how naturalism should be able to explain the details of evolution.

    Somehow in your mind that morphed into being precisely the same as an argument that

    Premise:
    Science hasn’t accounted for it yet,

    Therefore, (conclusion):
    Bill thinks it can be declared forever beyond any scientific account.

    But BillT’s comment there didn’t mention science, it was about naturalism. It didn’t “declare,” it suggested.

    Does that look familiar? It should. I don’t know why I should have to come up with a new explanation for what I said, when by all appearances it looks as if you didn’t process it the first time. I wasn’t that unclear. This now is your chance to try again.

    Now you complain that

    You say that BillT is saying, “Naturalism can’t give us a working definition of life” and “Naturalism can’t explain the existence of life.” I’ve disputed the first (#26 and #33).

    Did you notice why I said that? I said it not because I was trying to prove that he was right, or because I was trying to support his argument. I quoted him on those points because you had somehow morphed that into something completely different!!!!

    Ray, what’s wrong with you? Is it that you’re too busy with jury duty?

    If I say that you were wrong to morph his word “naturalism” into “science,” do you really think that you can defend that error on your part by saying that he hasn’t produced any solid support for his beliefs about naturalism? Do you even realize what error you made?

    Let me be very, very frank.

    He used the word, “naturalism.” In its place you’re using the word “science.” The words do not mean the same thing. You knew that, right?

    So no, you didn’t butcher his words. You only did that to their meaning.

  76. Tom to Ray:

    He used the word, “naturalism.” In its place you’re using the word “science.” The words do not mean the same thing. You knew that, right?

    That sounds like scientism to me. (Science more or less proves naturalism.) The question now is will Ray admit that his thinking is “scientistic”? My bet is that he won’t. Scientism is something virtually nobody admits being committed to.

  77. It’s ok. It’s not that new for Ray to take what I said and turn it into something else. We’ve been through this before. And as for:

    I’ve disputed the first (#26 and #33).

    And I disputed your #26 and #33 in #28 and #34.

    It boils down to this Ray.

    I NEVER SAID (for I think the third time and with explanations both from me and Tom):

    “If you want to declare something to be forever beyond any possible scientific account, you need something more than “science hasn’t accounted for it yet”.

    Nor did I intimate it or is this a reasonable understanding of my beliefs based on what I did say, except it seems for you. But if believing this makes your day, enjoy.

  78. @JAD:

    That sounds like scientism to me.

    Actually it may be worse than that. In #97, Mr. Ingles says (emphasis mine):

    The only thing I’ve seen is that *naturalistic science* hasn’t yet put forth a full account. Comment numbers would be nice, but quotes would be most helpful.

    “Naturalistic science”? It this a mere slip of the tongue or Mr. Ingles thinks there is such an exotic critter going by the name of “naturalistic science”? That he and his benighted naturalistic pals are the owners of Science ™, constitute its piestcraft and privileged, official interpreters?

  79. @ G. Rodrigues #94,

    Interesting post – I’ve seen Kolmogorov complexity used as you seem to. I say *seem* because I’m not familiar enough with it to trust my read. Is it “total bits” being unchanged in a universe and “re-arranged” such that “new” would be inaccurate? Sorry if that’s sloppy.

    Count me both unfamiliar and curious…..

  80. @scbrownlhrm:

    I say *seem* because I’m not familiar enough with it to trust my read. Is it “total bits” being unchanged in a universe and “re-arranged” such that “new” would be inaccurate? Sorry if that’s sloppy.

    I do not understand the question, and I suspect the one you have in mind is ill-formulated.

    I will try to explain a couple of things, which may be enough for you to understand what is at stake. Or maybe not. Anyway, I should warn that my background is in Mathematics, and furthermore, I favor an Aristotelian-Thomist approach to philosophical issues. With these caveats, and with the warning that I will be sweeping a lot of technicalities under the rug, here goes.

    1. Kolmogorov complexity is one asymptotic measure (a mouthfull — I will get to this below) among others of the “informational complexity” of texts, or to be completely precise, of *mathematical* objects which formalize the notion of text. Really, the notion applies to any *computable* mathematical object. Unqualified talk of the “complexity” of this or that natural object like the Universe, a cell, a photograph or what have you, is nothing but pure and unmitigated rubbish. Period, end of story.

    In order to speak meaningfully of the complexity of this or that natural object, we must have a way to associate to said object a text, and this association must satisfy certain properties — this step is usually papered over by persons who neither know the underlying Mathematics nor the Philosophical issues.

    2. So in #94, I gave the example of state (vectors) of (quantum) systems. The state of a system is a mathematical object describing the system in question, presumably a *complete* description, that is, everything that we could measure about the system is encoded in the state. For quantum systems, these objects are vectors in a Hilbert space, and under some technical assumptions, we can meaningfully ask whether they are computable or not. That a state vector is computable just means that there is a program in the programming language of an (ideal) computer that computes the state and spits it out in a finite amount of time — an obviously important condition for physical theories. After all, what good would be a physical theory if we could not, not even in principle, compute its answers to physical questions?

    But once we have a program, we have a text, and once we have a text we can ask what is its Kolmogorov complexity, so (minus the technical assumptions) there is a sense in which quantum systems, and thus every natural object, have Kolmogorov complexity.

    3. If we have a text, one obvious measure of its complexity is its size. The size is usually measured in bits, but the unit is not really important, it could be characters say. But this is not a good measure. One reason is that it is sensitive to the underlying language in which the text is written; changing the language (that is, translating) can change the size by an arbitrary amount.

    4. A better measure is Kolmogorov complexity. Here is the full definition: (1) fix a universal language, English say; every text T is assumed to be written in this language. (2) Fix a programming language that is Turing complete — something like C, Java, Python or whatever. (3) For a given text T consider the (infinite) set S(T) of all programs P upon whose execution spit out T. (4) Programs P themselves are texts, so they have a size. Denote it by size(P). (4) Finally, the Kolmogorov complexity of a text T is defined as the infimum of size(P) for all programs P in S. In symbols:

    K(T) = inf{size(P): for all P in S(T)}

    And the story is not over. In step (1) we have fixed an underlying language and in (2) we have fixed a programming language. It is *not* the case that the number K(T) remains the same if we change the underlying language or programming language. But the difference can be controlled (this is known as the invariance theorem) and some further mathematical oomph yields an “invariant” measure.

    As you can see from the full definition of Kolmogorov complexity, any glib claims that this is more or less Kolmogorov complex than that should be met with a whole pile of salt.

  81. This concern over so-called scientism itself seems unwarranted. Tom asks the question:

    Or in other words, why don’t more scientists, who really understand and respect science, call out the unscientific abuse of science known as scientism?

    Well they do. The scientific method is a great BS detector. If a theory is sound and stacks up, including against critical peer review, then well and good. It passes muster. If not, move on to the next one.

    Some theories might spend a bit of time in that process, and I see no need for a theist, for example, to say “spend no more time on that theory” because they think it threatens or trespasses on “their territory”. Look what nearly happened to heliocentrism and infinitesimals by the Church in the counter-reformation. Lets not see a repeat of that in cosmology and study of the brain.

    So agree we lookout for unwarranted extrapolation in any claim.

  82. Off topic and ironic. Atheists think atheists are immoral compared to theists.

    I conservatively isolated only those participants (N = 163) who both self-identified as atheists and who rated their belief in God at 0. I conducted a logistic regression model predicting conjunction error rates from potential group membership (atheist target vs. all other targets). This analysis revealed that even atheist participants viewed immorality as significantly more representative of atheists than of other people, OR = 4.47, 95% CI: 1.62 to 12.66, p = .004. Even atheists seem to share the intuition that immoral acts are perpetrated by individuals who don’t believe in God. This suggests an intuitive association between morality and belief in God is not an exclusively religious intuition

  83. GrahamH, I’ m sorry, but scientists do not consistently call out the unwarranted extrapolation that is scientism. If they did, then scientism would have died long ago.

  84. Tom

    Can you provide one example where scientists have, through the scientific method and peer review, developed a successful theory that is generally accepted by the scientific community – but this theory represents “unscientific and unwarranted extrapolation”?

  85. Seriously?

    Why don’t scientists say, “Hey, stop that! Let’s stick to real science, okay, and cool it with these unwarranted conclusions!”

    Like I said – they do. You said the don’t. But the way they do it is this – only the theories that survive the rigours of the scientific method, including peer review, become generally accepted. I can’t think of one theory that is accepted that could be termed an unwarranted conclusion. If you can’t either, I see no evidence of rampant scientism.

    Hopefully you were not inferring that it is the position of the scientific community, in some sort of unison, saying they can answer all the hard questions? I don’t know any respectable scientific journal or institution that has made such a blanket statement. Do you?

    Regardless, if anyone thinks science can “answer all the hard questions” – who cares? Science can try, and will successfully answer the ones it can, and be unsuccessful at the ones it can’t.

    Scientism – the problem that’s not a problem.

  86. @GrahamH:

    Look what nearly happened to heliocentrism and infinitesimals by the Church in the counter-reformation.

    I do not wish to countervene Tom’s wishes of sticking to on-topic matters, but I am supremely curious and cannot resist asking: *please* do enlighten us on what “nearly happened” to “infinitesimals by the Church”.

  87. @G. Rodrigues,

    Thank you for the reply – I’ve a little homework to do. Again. And on a weekend no less 😉

  88. GrahamH, of course they do that. They just don’t consistently call down people who make unwarranted conclusions, such as “The historic progress of science assures us that eventually it’s going to be able to answer all the hard questions it hasn’t answered yet.”

    That’s an unwarranted conclusion that I see being drawn in many places. Peter Atkins is famous for it. It shows up here on this blog frequently.

    Hopefully you were not inferring that it is the position of the scientific community, in some sort of unison, saying they can answer all the hard questions? I don’t know any respectable scientific journal or institution that has made such a blanket statement. Do you?

    You need not hope, you need only read what I wrote.

    I think you’re trying to find a problem where there isn’t one.

    The problem with scientism, and the belief that science can someday answer all the hard questions, is its assumption that all the hard questions are susceptible to natural answers. That’s not a conclusion science can reach, to start with. That should be obvious to all. Many of us believe it’s demonstrably false as well. Scientism therefore is a problem, because of that unwarranted and (in the opinion of many) false assumption.

  89. G.Rodrigues

    In the 1500’s, the likes of Stevin, Harriot, Galileo and Cavalieri discovered Archimedes experiments with the infinitesimals and advanced them. Galileo was an influential proponent as demonstrated by his work in his “Discourses”. But the Jesuits opposed the study of them. They believed the Euclidean geometry showed certainty and unified order from above.

    The Jesuit Revisors General ruled on the issue a number of times particularly in the 1600’s culminating in a blanket ban in 1632 saying it is “contrary to the doctrine of Aristotle”, and is “condemned and prohibited” and “cannot in the future be see by our professors as permitted”.

    There are some good books on the subject if you are interested.

  90. Random sample amid an array of widely held assertions:

    Hawking’s imaginary sphere.
    Sam Harris’ Moral Landscape.
    A-biogenesis.
    Multi-cellularity following a-biogenesis.
    Multi-potency following multi-cellularity.
    Consciousness evolved.
    Intention = Actual.
    Intention = Actual Illusion.

    Standard stuff all over the academic map.

    There are many more gap-fillers of course, held out as settled affairs – as true – the thinner the slices get.

    If we are to define the line as “…..the double-blinded, controlled…. falsifiable…. observational…. repeatable…. verifiable…..” (Etc.) as the “only” statement “ever” made by “real science” – well then – so much for pan-evolution. Some seem to imply that “that” really is the “only” level of “ontic-slice” / statement “ever” made in peer reviewed……

  91. Ok Tom

    I have to admit I never heard anyone say anything like “The historic progress of science assures us that eventually it’s going to be able to answer all the hard questions it hasn’t answered yet”. Maybe it is just people trying to wind theists up. If Peter Atkins does it, that’s not cool; but I don’t think exception proves the rule.

    I am not trying to nit pick. I really am not aware of this being a big issue. I could be ignorant. If there was a “scientism watch” site or something you could refer me to, I would be interested to learn more.

  92. This wasn’t meant to be a rule, GrahamH, as in “all scientists make the scientism error.” What I was asking about was, when scientism does appear in people’s writings (which) is more often than you seem to be aware of), why don’t more scientists call it out as unscientific?

  93. scbrownlhrm

    There is a big difference between a “widely held assertion” / “Standard stuff all over the academic map”, and theory that has been tested and accepted as theory, such as evolution by natural selection.

    In any case, if science wants to tackle something you believe is off limits (putting aside what basis you can justify such a thing) – let it. It will either succeed if its in science’s remit, or fail if its not.

  94. Pan-evolution.

    Full stop.

    Pre-Big-Bang
    Big Bang
    A-biogenesis
    Multi-cellularity
    Multi-potency
    Consciousness
    Intention

    ….double blind… controlled… falsifiable. … verifiable. … repeatable….Etc…..Etc….

    All…. over…. the… place…

  95. Science – or rather Scientism – must tackle its Humean appeal to the regularity of *appearances* as sufficiently sturdy enough to permit us to interpret sensory experiences atop such a stopping point.

    Conclusions which follow necessarily from there may or may not count as True.

    To employ methodological naturalism in doing science does not – and literally cannot – equate to employing philosophical naturalism in thinking science.

    Tackling physicality has a stopping point.

    To foist that a-biogenesis is held onto *because of* the bench top rather than *despite* the bench top is to lose credibility on such a topic of stopping points.

  96. I’m going to have to agree with Tom on this one.

    Appeals to the peer reviewed standard only makes his point more obvious. Clearly, a method has been – without justification – replaced by a philosophy.

    The conversation between Bill T and Ray shows us 50+ years of futility on a-biogenesis.

    That means nothing about whether or not it happened.

    It very well may have happened, or not.

    It only makes a point about belief, about philosophy, and *not* about “mere method”.

    Despite the enormous problems facing the troubled Trio of [a-biogenesis / multi-cellularity / multi-potency], despite the fact that the neo-Darwinian mechanism *alone* (Gene X mutates, Gene X is selected) to do the work there isn’t plausible anymore, despite the lack of a feigned standard of a sort of hinted at community-wide double blinded, controlled, verifiable, falsifiable, peer reviewed “thing”, it remains the case that such are …. all…. over…. the…. place…. in peer reviewed essays as settled fact merely awaiting a mechanism. And that is *only* that lone, thin slice of reality dealing with that one little trio – never mind the mammoth ontological pie out there which remains in so many of those A-T Metaphysical sort of troubles awaiting the Naturalists. Oh my!

    That is fine. On the troubled trio, that is.

    Methodological naturalism is the proper tool. The proper way to proceed.

    The key though is that while Tom and others assert that such is via philosophy (naturalism which just does regress to scientism), folks like G.H. and others are asserting that such is *not* do to philosophy but is do *simply* to methodology.

    Well, that is the “implied nuance” that comes across in some of the disagreements. If clarification to the contrary is forthcoming, well that will be fine.

    Lastly, as noted, Scientism’s Humean appeal to the regularity of sensory perceptions is a very, very troubled appeal – which is a different topic – but which does “tie into” the noted transition from methodology to philosophy. It need not be discussed here, but it cannot be divorced from its ocean of unintelligible waves.

  97. A Symposium of Truth:
    Truth is the comprehensive philosophy of everything. It can be found in everything and everywhere including Oneself. And when the truth of One is found the truth of All is found, One is All there is. As for ethics and morality, there is no greater good than the good of One or All. One equals or is All. The Goddess Justice then is equality, the infinite immeasurable balance of Nature; it is time to remove her blindfold and throw away her scale. And science has gone the other Way, measuring and dividing everything, only to find their measures probable or uncertain at best. Nature is truly immeasurable and yet man is the measure of All things; we went the wrong Way. Democracy is the ideal of freedom, freedom is equality. Equality is the truth we fight and die for. Religiously God is simply another name for the equitable or united One, a rose by any other name. Mathematically the equation for truth is much more simple than thought. Equal or = is All there is. Equal is the long sought after equation for grand unification, the truth (not a theory) of everything.
    Truth is =, = is One.
    Any more questions Socrates?

  98. No more questions, just this, Michael.

    Study the life of Jesus Christ. He did not teach anything even slightly similar to what you’re proposing here. Some have said he did, but they’re very obviously reading that into the accounts, not reading what’s really there. He made a very clear division between truth and error, God and creation, Himself and all other pretenders. He made it clear that there is no salvation in ourselves, but only in him.

    Study him well, study him objectively, study him to ask yourself, “Why is it that this man above all others has earned the praise and admiration of all peoples and all religions? Why have billions considered him worthy of worship—especially considering that he came from a religious tradition emphasizing the worship of God alone, and never any created thing?

    Study him well, study him closely, and when you have done that, feel free to come back here and tell us what you have found. Study him in the original four gospels, by the way; all others were written long after he lived and died, and bear obvious marks of fabrication.

    Until you have done that, I have no more questions for you, and I would not want you to think that this dialogue might continue on any basis other than the person of Jesus Christ, as his life and teachings have actually been recorded in the New Testament.

  99. @GrahamH:

    In the 1500’s, the likes of Stevin, Harriot, Galileo and Cavalieri discovered Archimedes experiments with the infinitesimals and advanced them. Galileo was an influential proponent as demonstrated by his work in his “Discourses”. But the Jesuits opposed the study of them. They believed the Euclidean geometry showed certainty and unified order from above.

    The Jesuit Revisors General ruled on the issue a number of times particularly in the 1600’s culminating in a blanket ban in 1632 saying it is “contrary to the doctrine of Aristotle”, and is “condemned and prohibited” and “cannot in the future be see by our professors as permitted”.

    This is a piece of misleading history.

    First, Archimedes did not experiment with “infinitesimals”, because “infinitesimals” can be said to have made their appearance in the 17th Century, especially in the work of Newton and Leibnitz — thus the name “infinitesimal calculus”, which did not existed before. What Archimedes did was to calculate volumes and areas using the method of exhaustion, which can be seen as a precursor to infinitesimal calculus. The History of infinitesimals themselves is convoluted and hard to trace; one can probably find them in the works of Democritus; Eudoxus banished them (this was the official “Euclidean” mathematics). They reappear in the 17th Century in Kepler, Cavalieri (much more than in his master Galileo) and then “fully formed”, in Newton and Leibnitz. Their uses however could not stand logical scrutiny, so in the 19th century they would be “banished” again when Analysis was put on a firm footing by Cauchy, Weierstrass and others; a *rigorous* mathematical formulation of them only appeared in 1960’s in the work of Robinson.

    Second, and more importantly, the issue was not mainly about Mathematics, because then there was no sharp distinction between mathematical questions and questions in metaphysics and philosophy of nature anyway. The main objection of the Jesuits was against Atomism, not “infinitesimals” per se. It is in this sense for example, that Aristotle’s authority was invoked. And it was not the case that Aristotle was refuted; as it happens with so many other questions in philosophy, the questions changed, the old questions were forgotten, and such forgetfulness came to be seen as a refutation. One of the central thesis of Atomism was that the Continuum was not infinitely divisible, which depending on how you interpret can be either right or wrong, that is, to translate this debate in modern lingo and then award the palm of History’s Victors to this or that is just idiotic.

    Third, and as the above makes clear, it was only incidentally that it were the Jesuits that objected. That is, the relation with Church dogma is secondary (although not non-existent — it was linked with issues having to do Transubstantiation say), and their arguments, right or wrong, must be properly evaluated. When later Hobbes inveighed against Wallis’s use of infinitesimals, one can hardly suspect Hobbes of Catholic sympathies.

    Fourth, I do not know what you take the ban to mean or imply, but the intellectual environment of the epoch was very different from ours. The index of censored opinions kept by the Jesuits had a much more limited scope than say, the index of prohibited books, etc. and etc.

  100. G.Rodrigues

    The key thing here is I can answer your fourth point – I don’t see the need, due to presupposed ideas, to impose a ban or restriction of scientific enquiry into areas where others believe it is not its remit. That is pretty much my main point.

  101. @GrahamH:

    The key thing here is I can answer your fourth point – I don’t see the need, due to presupposed ideas, to impose a ban or restriction of scientific enquiry into areas where others believe it is not its remit. That is pretty much my main point.

    It is highly ironical that you talk of “presupposed ideas”, since apparently you have not read a single iota of what I have written.

    Anyway, the Jesuit’s ban was more like this: “Atomism is false (there follows a long list of arguments), therefore if you think it true you have a False belief and we will not allow you to teach Falsehoods in Jesuit schools.”

  102. Tom –

    If I say that you were wrong to morph his word “naturalism” into “science,”

    Um… I have to admit, I’m unfamiliar with any form of supernaturalistic science. Even if you limit things to “methodological naturalism”, the point still holds. So if you draw a Venn diagram, science will be entirely within the ‘naturalism’ circle. So, if science, then naturalistic.

    So, he’s claiming that naturalism can’t explain “the existence of life”. But, as I said in #37, “it’s not a problem that science in principle could not solve. Any of several hypotheses about abiogenesis – including ones we haven’t thought of yet – could be borne out scientifically.”

    And, if science, then naturalistic. Does that help?

    G. Rodrigues –

    It this a mere slip of the tongue or Mr. Ingles thinks there is such an exotic critter going by the name of “naturalistic science”?

    No, as explained above, I was being purposefully redundant, for emphasis.

    With regard to Kolmogorov complexity – as you noted, “But you talk about *simulations*, which depend upon the purposes of the simulators, what they want to get out of the simulation, and these may bear only a tenuous relation with the natural systems being simulated.”

    And that’s key. To simulate a cloud formation or a weather front, you don’t have to trace the evolution of the state vector of every atom. Huge fractions of that detail ‘average out’ – that’s why the ideal gas law (PV=nRT) or the convection-diffusion equations can work. To simulate on a computer, you have to translate such phenomena into a text – the code and data that the simulation runs on/with.

    Atomic-level detail doesn’t ‘average out’ in a cell. How that cell behaves depends critically on the exact sequence of atoms in the genes, among many other things. There is nothing as tractable and computable as the ideal gas law for protein folding. not even close.

    In short, everything we’ve seen supports the claim that biology is a vastly more complicated field than fluid dynamics. If you can find a better way, please do – imagine the huge advances we would enjoy in things like the development of new medicines and vaccines if we could efficiently simulate the effect of different substances on even just the intra-cellular environment!

  103. Um… I have to admit, I’m unfamiliar with any form of supernaturalistic science. Even if you limit things to “methodological naturalism”, the point still holds. So if you draw a Venn diagram, science will be entirely within the ‘naturalism’ circle. So, if science, then naturalistic.

    Ray, even if that were true, it was an error on your part to replace one word with another. They’re not synonyms. If they were, they would be interchangeable. They aren’t.

    Will you ever admit you’re wrong about anything?

    What about that non sequitur I was asking about, by the way?

  104. BillT – This can be fairly simply resolved. What is your support for the claim that “the most basic building blocks of macro evolution aren’t explainable in solely naturalistic terms”?

  105. Ray,

    We’ve been over this before on this very thread. The bottom line is that my claim that it isn’t expanable solely on those terms us every bit as good and well supported as your claim that it is.

  106. So if you draw a Venn diagram, science will be entirely within the ‘naturalism’ circle.

    Not true at all. The methods of science are fully capable of being conducted from within the circle that entails the entire Christian worldview. It fits into both worldviews. Why is this not obvious to you, Ray?

  107. Tom –

    Ray, even if that were true, it was an error on your part to replace one word with another. They’re not synonyms.

    No, they are not. “Science” is a restricted subset of “naturalism”.

    But that means that if something can be accounted for scientifically – and that’s what I’ve been laboring to establish with the discussion of abiogenesis – then, ipso facto it is also accounted for ‘naturalistically’.

    Will you ever admit you’re wrong about anything?

    Sure, when I’m wrong. (Quick search, know there’s others.)

    BillT –

    So Miller/Uray not only was a failure when it was done but the intervening years have stripped from it all legitimacy.

    No, it was a step along the way. A step on a longer road than you think. Way back when, it was shown that organic chemicals – specifically urea – could be produced from inorganic precursors. This shook a lot of people up. Miller-Urey (note spelling) showed that it was possible to produce amino acids with non-biological processes. At the time it was thought to show that it was possible in the conditions of the early atmosphere, and that part’s since been discounted. But the key point – that chemicals critical for life can be produced non-biologically – still stands.

    And then, back in comment #33, “more work on the problem was reported”. That’s production of critical biological compounds – in conditions known to exist in our solar system.

  108. BillT –

    The bottom line is that my claim that it isn’t expanable solely on those terms us every bit as good and well supported as your claim that it is.

    Okay… what is your support for that, in which comments?

  109. But that means that if something can be accounted for scientifically – and that’s what I’ve been laboring to establish with the discussion of abiogenesis – then, ipso facto it is also accounted for ‘naturalistically’.

    Add this to your list of wrong conclusions that need to be corrected. You forgot to include ‘theistically’.

  110. SteveK –

    The methods of science are fully capable of being conducted from within the circle that entails the entire Christian worldview. It fits into both worldviews.

    The “Christian worldview” includes supernatural elements as well as natural ones, it’s true. But I know of no one who claims that such supernatural elements can be studied by science. If something can be studied by science, it is by that very fact (that’s what ‘ipso facto’ means) natural.

    If you disagree… what miracle can be studied by science? (Not that I haven’t asked about that before.

  111. Ray, science is not a restricted subset of naturalism. I can’t imagine anyone who knows the meanings of the words thinking that it is. Science is an activity and/or the massively increasing body of knowledge produced by that activity. Naturalism is a metaphysical view concerning the fundamental nature reality.

    No activity and no massively increasing body of knowledge produced thereby is a subset (restricted or otherwise) of any metaphysical view concerning the fundamental nature of reality.

    Now, what about that non sequitur?

    And BillT, should I send you another wager now? This one would be, “I’ll bet you that even though it’s manifestly clear and obvious that science is by no means a subset of naturalism, and no thinking person could possibly think it is, still Ray will continue to maintain that it is.”

  112. It seems on first glance that the way Ray is using the terms of science and naturalistic would endanger “naturalism” *if* it were the case that “scientism” was incoherent.

    But that *is* the case with scientism.

    Therefore the door “just is” wide open to SteveK’s line of approach along the Theistic.

    In fact – to refute that (SteveK’s) approach to the *naturalistic” along the Theistic would ipso facto be an embrace of said incoherence.

  113. Because science is only a subset of naturalism, science can only exist if naturalism is true. This is what Ray wants you to think – until you actually do think, then you realize it’s utter nonsense.

  114. G Rodrigues

    Anyway, the Jesuit’s ban was more like this: “Atomism is false (there follows a long list of arguments), therefore if you think it true you have a False belief and we will not allow you to teach Falsehoods in Jesuit schools.”

    Nice spin doctoring, I give you that. Here is their declaration which is still accessible in the Jesuit archives:

    “We judge this proposition to be not only contrary to the common doctrine of Aristotle, but that it is also improbable, and in our Society it has always been condemned and prohibited. It cannot in the future be seen by our professors as permitted.”

    They banned the infinitely small for all of eternity! I would call that a little more than over confident, and not at all a paragon of intellectual honesty. They were wrong on so many levels. I wonder if there are scientific models or theories today, that like the Jesuits, people think are “contrary to the common doctrine of Aristotle”.

  115. @GrahamH:

    Here is their declaration which is still accessible in the Jesuit archives:

    “We judge this proposition to be not only contrary to the common doctrine of Aristotle, but that it is also improbable, and in our Society it has always been condemned and prohibited. It cannot in the future be seen by our professors as permitted.”

    This is exactly what I said it was. First, the discussion was *not* (mainly) about Church dogma, but it was just one among many other intellectual discussions that were floating at the time, a specific epoch with specific standards and conventions different from our own. Second, the ban forbade this specific teaching in Jesuit schools; it was, basically, the reach and extent of their power. There is no “spin doctoring” by me, there was just the pointing out of the historical facts. Maybe you think that the Jesuits should have allowed the teaching of what they thought were falsehoods in their schools — in the name of what I do not know.

    They were wrong on so many levels. I wonder if there are scientific models or theories today, that like the Jesuits, people think are “contrary to the common doctrine of Aristotle”.

    They were not “wrong on so many levels”. The infinitesimals were given the first *logically coherent* formulation (*) in the 1960’s in the works of Robinson, using mathematical tools that were only available by the mid 20th Century, so they could *not* be wrong in that sense. And their main gripe was with Atomism, not infinitesimals. And Atomism *then* was not what it means *now* — it had a large metaphysical layer, it was not a pure scientific theory — so they could not be wrong in that sense either, or more precisely, not unqualifiedly so. Because if we are going to distribute the laurels of Error and Mistake, it is very easy, as I have *already* said over and over, to point out the ways in which the Jesuit’s opponents were “wrong on so many levels”.

    But I have said this all before, and much more, and you have not payed attention to any of it. I am not going to waste my time humoring neither your intellectual irresponsibility nor your puerile, ignorant opinions, without the least understanding of the History or of what the issues really were, and whose only objective is to fuel a spurious polemic. This is not new, your ignorance and intellectual irresponsibility were already shown to everybody’s satisfaction in here (if you are not the same GrahamH I will retract this claim with an apology); this is just another episode. At any rate, believe in whatever you want — rest assured I neither have the power nor the wish to forbid you from holding such opinions.

    (*) Recent historical work by Katz et al. seems to show that Leibnitz work was in better shape than thought, but I am not competent to evaluate it.

  116. Tom,

    Yes, I think you’re on target there but we’re taking about Ray who just challenged me to show him where I made the points he questions when I made them in the dialogue I was having with him. And look, even if I were to admit I may have used the terms in question loosely (which I don’t think I did), I also stated I thought the experiments he pointed to were legitimate scientific inquiry. I’m skeptical that those inquiries add up to a legitimate scientific enterprise but that doesn’t mean, as I stated, they should stop doing the science.

    And Ray, as you asked me, what’s the difference? Do the science and when they have something legitimate to report we’ll all be happy to hear it. Calling it some fancy souding “scientific” name however doesn’t legitimize it or make the findings significant as a step towards a final understanding when the final understanding, or even its general direction, is a complete mystery. You want to claim these findings are part of abiogenesis. They are, given thier paucity, just as likely be part if something complete different or something that hasn’t even been considered yet.

  117. Tom, BillT, SteveK – Here’s what I’m saying:

    Let’s ignore worldviews where everything is, in some sense, supernatural, like some forms of pantheism. Pretty much every Western worldview categorizes stuff as ‘natural’ or ‘supernatural’. In other words, in the ‘set of all stuff’, there are subsets of ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’.

    Some worldviews figure the ‘set of supernatural stuff’ is empty, some don’t. The Christian worldview contains both supernatural and natural elements. I think it uncontroversial to say that, for example, an iPod is natural, and a miraculous healing is, at least in part, supernatural.

    I know of no one – most especially no one at this site – who claims that science can study the supernatural. (If you do, please say so explicitly – with words like, “science can study the supernatural”.) JAD got no kickback when he said “science is the study of natural phenomena and the causes and effects associated with such phenomena,”. Holopupenko didn’t get corrected for asking, rhetorically, “why should the natural sciences be able to study the supernatural?” Indeed, Tom himself disputed the idea that, “if the supernatural existed, then surely it can be studied by science.”

    In short, I don’t believe I am saying anything controversial when I say that science can only study the natural. And thus, when science explains things, it explains things in natural terms. When I break out Ohm’s laws and such to explain why, when I flick the switch on the wall, the light comes on… that’s in natural terms. If electrons have a supernatural component, it’s not material to how they flow and excite a tungsten filament (or an LED, or whatever).

    (Can anyone give me a supernatural explanation for something that is simultaneously a scientific explanation?)

    Hence, my claim that a scientific explanation is, pretty much by definition, a natural one – naturalistic, even… in the methodological sense.

    It doesn’t have to be the metaphysical type of naturalism, though. Ohm’s law fits into a both a metaphysically naturalistic worldview, and in a Christian worldview where other things are supernatural, too.

    So that’s what I mean when I say that “if something can be accounted for scientifically… then, ipso facto it is also accounted for ‘naturalistically’.” I’ll break things down a little bit:

    1. If something can be accounted for scientifically by that very fact it is also accounted for in natural, not supernatural, terms.

    2. If something is accounted for in natural terms, then it is compatible with metaphysical naturalism – the natural account doubles, in the naturalistic worldview, as a naturalistic account.

    Now, I grant that just because something is compatible with naturalism, it doesn’t mandate naturalism. In, say, the Christian worldview, it may just be one of those phenomena that don’t need a supernatural account, though other things might need a supernatural account. I wasn’t claiming that if something is accounted for scientifically, it is not accounted for theistically. Go ahead, go back and check.

    Now do you see why I said that? BillT claims that “the most basic building blocks of macro evolution aren’t explainable in solely naturalistic terms. There is no naturalistic explanation for the existance of life”. If a scientific account for that can be developed, though – and I’ve pointed out why there’s no principled reason science can’t, and some reason to believe it can – then that scientific explanation doubles as a naturalistic one, too.

  118. So science can only study the natural. Fine.

    Now let’s put this back in context. I asked you where someone had said something that would lead you to this response:

    If you want to declare something to be forever beyond any possible scientific account, you need something more than “science hasn’t accounted for it yet”.

    You linked to BillT’s comment,

    Its only hard to understand, its only hard to know how it happens if you’re wed to the idea that you can only explain it in naturalistic terms. But that’s not a reasonable perspective when the most basic building blocks of macro evolution aren’t explainable in solely naturalistic terms. There is no naturalistic explanation for the existance of life. In fact, naturalism can’t even give us a working definition of it. And naturalism can’t explain the existance of evolution itself, either. So why should it be able to explain the details of macro evolution. Now, if there was just some other factor we could introduce that would make all this more reasonable.

    Now, let’s take your conclusion here, for which you’ve been arguing so manfully, that science can only investigate the natural.

    Does that understanding of science or naturalism make his statement quoted here into the equivalent of saying that “Science hasn’t accounted for it, yet, therefore I’m declaring it forever beyond any possible scientific account”?

    NO.

    Now, I don’t know why you’ve been carrying on your side of this debate so long. I know why I’m so interested. It’s because:

    a. You misrepresented BillT there, and
    b. You’re being unbelievably obstinate in not admitting it, and as I said at the end of #90,
    c. I can’t help wondering what it is about you that keeps you from admitting it.

    And speaking of not being able to admit an error when you think you’re wrong, that’s fine, but why can’t you see it this time? There’s nothing hard about it. And what about that non sequitur?

  119. Again, touching more specifically on your last paragraph,

    Now do you see why I said that? BillT claims that “the most basic building blocks of macro evolution aren’t explainable in solely naturalistic terms. There is no naturalistic explanation for the existance of life”. If a scientific account for that can be developed, though – and I’ve pointed out why there’s no principled reason science can’t, and some reason to believe it can – then that scientific explanation doubles as a naturalistic one, too.

    Okay, but what you had said BillT was saying was more along this line:

    If you want to declare something to be forever beyond any possible scientific account, you need something more than “science hasn’t accounted for it yet”.

  120. Ray uses natural, naturalistic and naturalism interchangeably it seems. Very confusing. It also seems that the *ultimate* point he’s been trying to argue with BillT about goes something like this.

    1) If science can figure it out, it must be natural
    2) All that is natural is naturalistic (whatever this term means, I’m not sure)
    3) All that is naturalistic is a subset of naturalism
    4) Therefore, if science can figure it out (abiogenesis) then it is a subset of naturalism.

  121. Tom’s explanation above is far better than any I could give.

    As for my part what I was trying to say (and maybe not clearly enough) is that I feel “abiogenesis” is an attempt to smuggle into science the idea that the OOL is certainly solvable by science and thus we already know we need no supernatural explanation. I don’t think that’s a stretch given the long history of scientism’s attempt to discount supernaturalism everywhere. It’s a bit of a reflex to push back against the creep of secular explanations for everything especially where I don’t see the enough facts to justify it.

  122. Bill T,

    You don’t see enough compelling bench top demonstration to justify a-biogenesis?

    So what?

    Don’t you know:

    Evidence-free presuppositionalism doesn’t need enough facts to “justify” anything.

    Don’t you know:

    Logic grants unavoidable evidence that Scientism is itself incoherent, and therefore Naturalism ipso facto with it.

    But it does not matter, because of, oh, a bunch of things, but here’s three to start with:

    1) Evidence-free presuppositionalism does not need evidence to reach a conclusion.

    2) The Humean appeal to the regularity of nature, while an insolvent chain of IOU’s – from top to bottom – still satisfies #1.

    3) While #2 eagerly and readily sacrifices Logic’s full and final coherence in order to gain absurdity, it is okay, because Logical coherence – should it necessitate the non-naturalistic – is therein ipso facto unnecessary.

    You have to learn the rules, Bill T, if you really want to converse effectively with the Naturalist.

  123. G.Rodrigues

    I will clarify one point I think you misunderstood. I do not subscribe to a spurious polemic view that the “laurels of victory” should be handed to the Galileans (or whomever else) regarding indivisibles, or Heliocentrism for that matter. Although the Jesuits (and the Church) were wrong at the time about them, that is somewhat understandable. There was not enough evidence to settle the question of Heliocentrism, and the indivisibles were paradoxical given the other implications they were dealing with. Fine. They were wrong on that level, and that I understand. Plenty of things need to be debated and explored further to settle them, and everyone should change their position if new evidence emerges.

    Where the Church was wrong on a completely different level, is they declared these matters settled and no further discussion will be had. No further investigation and no further debate is permitted – the matter is settled absolutely. They have declared what reality is based on their philosophy. A case of unwarranted extrapolation I would say. And those that did dare discuss these subversive matters faced sanction or consequences.

    I see a similar kind of thinking currently in some theistic quarters today. Some say, for example, that based on philosophy or theology, the existence of the universe as a “brute fact” is impossible, such there cannot be an infinite regress of causes (putting aside if that is even the right way to describe things), so there had to be a first cause of the universe being created ex nihilo. Further, this view is unassailable by science, and those scientists that do challenge this philosophy are guilty of scientism by trespassing into non-scientific territory regarding the “creation” of the universe.

    However science holds infinity cannot be taken off the table, and there are good reasons for that. We don’t know enough to select infinity versus creation ex nihilo (I don’t know if there are other options). So a theist picking one over the other based on their theology could be making the same mistake as the old Jesuits whilst also falsely declaring scientist who comment on this guilty of “scientism”.

  124. @GrahamH:

    Where the Church was wrong on a completely different level, is they declared these matters settled and no further discussion will be had. No further investigation and no further debate is permitted – the matter is settled absolutely. They have declared what reality is based on their philosophy.

    First, “the Church” did nothing of the sort; we are speaking of the Jesuits, not the Catholic Church as a whole.

    Second, the only sense in which the Church could declare “these matters settled and no further discussion will be had” was if the issue was an issue of Church dogma, in which case the teaching of the Church is considered infalible, irreformable and absolutely binding on Catholics. But of course, the issue of infinitesimals, or more precisely Atomism, is *not* an issue of Church dogma and could *never* be an issue of Church dogma. It is a question that the Church has no interest, or any special *competence* or *authority*, to say anything about. So in that sense, it is strictly true that Catholics are *free* to hold different opinions and to discuss them freely in the intellectual arena.

    Third, the Jesuit ban could *not* and did *not* alter this state of affairs. Following the logic of your reasoning, and since you are so abhorrent to declare “matters settled and no further discussion will be had”, you are obviously disgusted by any “ban” on discussing ID in the class room. Well, the Jesuits had a different intellectual outlook. Just because there was a theoretical chance they could be wrong, it was not reason enough to act as if they did not believed they were right, so they acted on their beliefs. Teaching falsehoods is deleterious, so they forbade the teaching of identified falsehoods in their schools. Is allowing the teaching of what one considers to be false in one’s home, in the name of some putative chance that the falsehood is actually true, a Good Thing ™? No, not necessarily.

    Fourth, your interpretation of “It cannot in the future be seen by our professors as permitted” as “for the rest of Eternity and until the end of Time, not even if God himself by special revelation tells us otherwise” is just ludicrous.

    Fifth, the question as it was then, was *not* a purely scientific question. There is a legitimate sense in which scientific answers to scientific questions are always revisable; further data may force a reevaluation. But the same does not hold true for mathematical questions: once Euclid proved what he proved (*), discussion’s over. Metaphysical questions sit somewhere in between. On the one hand the method of proof is that of deduction, on the other hand, the issues can be extremely subtle and we lack the absolute clarity of intellectual vision to confidently carve a path through the maze. And while it is always possible to regiment formalized languages in which to formalize proofs, as in mathematics, in practice this is a futile endeavor. And the question as it was then *was* also a metaphysical question, for which the methods of evaluating the evidence and argument are different than those the of the empirical sciences.

    (*) leaving aside possible errors in the proofs or even the fact that he had no conception of other geometric theories and other models other than the Euclidean, as they are both irrelevant to my point.

    I see a similar kind of thinking currently in some theistic quarters today. Some say, for example, that based on philosophy or theology, the existence of the universe as a “brute fact” is impossible, such there cannot be an infinite regress of causes (putting aside if that is even the right way to describe things), so there had to be a first cause of the universe being created ex nihilo. Further, this view is unassailable by science, and those scientists that do challenge this philosophy are guilty of scientism by trespassing into non-scientific territory regarding the “creation” of the universe.

    And what I see is that you have no idea what you are talking about.

  125. Graham H,

    the existence of the universe as a “brute fact” is impossible

    Do you understand what is meant by the term brute fact?

    Do you understand the theists objection to brute facts? Hint: it is not that a brute fact “is impossible.”

    Are you really suggesting that positing a “no explanation at all” falls within the purview of science?

    And just to clear one thing up, there is no objection to scientists weighing in on philosophical matters, rather the objection is to them is confusing their philosophising with science.

  126. If the “existance[sic] of life” is not “explainable in solely naturalistic terms”, then (by what I’ve already said), it isn’t explainable in scientific terms. In other words, if explaining the “existance[sic] of life” requires the supernatural, then it can’t be explained scientifically. ‘Cause science can only study the natural, as we’ve agreed.

    Hence, if the supernatural is required to explain it, then it’s “forever beyond any possible scientific account”. Seems QED to me.

    So, BillT, are you saying that science might one day have an explanation for the origin of life “in solely naturalistic terms”, that that’s logically possible? That you meant to say it isn’t yet “explainable in solely naturalistic terms”?

    The way you phrased things doesn’t imply that, but you’ve said you maybe didn’t express your thoughts clearly so I’d be willing to grant you originally meant to allow that possibility.

  127. G Rodrigues

    And the question as it was then *was* also a metaphysical question, for which the methods of evaluating the evidence and argument are different than those the of the empirical sciences.

    And led them to the wrong conclusion.

    And what I see is that you have no idea what you are talking about.

    Indeed I have no idea if the universe is infinite or finite. I think they are both on the table. And yes, I don’t claim to have a monopoly on the truth nor claim to know things that are most likely unknowable.

  128. Melissa

    The only times I have really heard the term “brute fact” the most is by theists representing certain naturalist arguments. It could well be a manufactured problem based on certain metaphysical presuppositions. You otherwise allude to a set of Thomist arguments I am not going to speculate on.

    And who talked about “no explanation”? I am all for discarding bad explanations, regardless if they promise explanatory closure on a matter.

    Do you accept that the universe could be either infinite or finite (in time or space or both), and it is perfectly within the remit of science to help determine the answers to those questions? If you rule one or the other out, upon what basis do you do so?

  129. ““Why assume that the universe had a beginning?” is not a serious objection to the argument. The reason this is not a serious objection is that no version of the cosmological argument assumes this at all. Of course, the kalām cosmological argument does claim that the universe had a beginning, but it doesn’t merely assume it. Rather, the whole point of that version of the cosmological argument is to establish through detailed argument that the universe must have had a beginning. You can try to rebut those arguments, but to pretend that one can dismiss the argument merely by raising the possibility of an infinite series of universes (say) is to miss the whole point. The main reason this is a bad objection, though, is that most versions of the cosmological argument do not even claim that the universe had a beginning. Aristotelian, Neo-Platonic, Thomistic, and Leibnizian cosmological arguments are all concerned to show that there must be an uncaused cause even if the universe has always existed….”

    “Furthermore, what “allows us to speak the language of causes and effects” has nothing essentially to do with tracing series of events backwards in time. Here again [the Naturalist] is just begging the question. On the Aristotelian-Scholastic analysis, questions about causation are raised wherever we have potentialities that need actualization, or a thing’s being metaphysically composite and thus in need of a principle that accounts for the composition of its parts, or there being a distinction in a thing between its essence or nature on the one and its existence on the other, or a thing’s being contingent. The universe, however physics and scientific cosmology end up describing it — even if it turned out to be a universe without a temporal beginning, even if it is a four-dimensional block universe, even if Hawking’s closed universe model turned out to be correct, even if we should really think in terms of a multiverse rather than a single universe — will, the Aristotelian argues, necessarily exhibit just these features (potentialities needing actualization, composition, contingency, etc.). And thus it will, as a matter of metaphysical necessity, require a cause outside it. And only that which is pure actuality devoid of potentiality, only what is utterly simple or non-composite, only something whose essence or nature just is existence itself, only what is therefore in no way contingent but utterly necessary — only that, the classical theist maintains, could in principle be the ultimate terminus of explanation, whatever the specific scientific details turn out to be….”

  130. Even more results, conditions that existed on Earth early on that turn simple chemicals into amino acids, nucleic acids, and lipids.

    (BTW, the site where I read it from takes issue with the title of the article, noting that “the origin of life puzzle is still very far from “cracked.” Showing that biomolecules, even complex biomolecules, can be synthesized under plausible primordial conditions is very different from showing how those molecules could have assembled to produce the first cell. Only then can one claim to have cracked the puzzle.” Scientists tend to be a lot more circumspect than the popular press, or even University PR departments.)

  131. I wasn’t directing that toward you, Ray. I found it interesting and wanted to share with everyone.