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Does Science Make God Irrelevant?

StephenHawking

Does God still matter? This is the question that seems to be at the heart of the modern debate about God’s existence. Many unbelievers who label themselves agnostic-atheists do not claim definitively that God does not exist. They take the softer position that God probably does not exist, and even if he does exist, he is irrelevant in explaining the universe. As Dr. Richard Dawkins stated in a 2013 Cambridge debate with the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, “Religion is redundant and irrelevant.”

But why is God seen as irrelevant? Why don’t modern agnostic-atheists think God matters? One reason, so it is claimed, is that science is sufficient to explain the physical universe.

For example, the world-renowned physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking, in a 2010 interview on the Larry King Live show, stated, “God may exist, but science can explain the universe without the need for a creator.” But is this true? Can science give an exhaustive explanation of the universe that would negate the need for God? I’ll give two reasons why I think the answer is no.

Science and the Inductive Method

First, science’s explanatory power is not sufficient, because it relies on the inductive method in order to validate its hypotheses.

Contrary to the deductive method, the inductive method moves from knowledge of particulars to general conclusions. Without getting into the details that differentiate the inductive and deductive methods, suffice to say that absolute certainty about one’s conclusion is impossible when employing the inductive method. Since science relies on the inductive method, it follows that scientists can never be absolutely certain that their theories explaining the universe are complete. They can never be absolutely certain that they have discovered and observed every piece of data necessary to give a complete explanation of the universe—much less a complete enough explanation that would negate the need for God.

My mentor and friend Fr. Robert J. Spitzer likes to say, “Science cannot know what it has not yet discovered, because it has not yet discovered it.” In other words, scientists can be certain only about what they have already discovered through empirical observation. Certainty can never be had for whether there is some piece of data enshrouded in the past or a piece of data yet to be encountered that shifts the paradigm. Therefore, there necessarily exists in science a perpetual openness to discovering something new that could alter its current theory about the universe.

But if this is true, then one can never rationally claim that science can give a complete and exhaustive explanation of the universe—much less a complete enough explanation that God is no longer needed as its creator. So, the claim that God doesn’t matter because science can sufficiently explain the universe is unfounded.

Science and the Universe's Existence

Another way to respond to this objection is by pointing out that science in principle cannot explain why the universe exists in the first place rather than not exist.

Suppose for argument sake that science could give an exhaustive physical description of the universe. Would that necessarily negate the need for God in explaining the universe? Absolutely not! Why? Science has explanatory power given the fact that the universe exists. It presupposes an already existing universe to observe and explain. Consequently, it cannot explain why the universe exists in the first place. It can’t even explain why the universe exists in this way instead of some other way. So, to the question “What determines that there is to be a universe with time, space, and matter instead no universe at all?”, science is silent.

To the question, “What determines the universe to be this way—e.g., governed by quantum mechanics—and not some other way—e.g., not governed by quantum mechanics?”, science is silent. These are philosophical questions that can be answered only by philosophy. Therefore, science cannot take the place of God in sufficiently explaining the universe.

In conclusion, because science must always be open to modification due to its reliance on the inductive method and its inability to explain why the universe even exists rather than not exist, it will never be able to give an exhaustive description of the universe. Therefore, any claim that science has done away with the need for a transcendent creator in explaining the universe is simply unreasonable.
 
 
(Image credit: CNN)

Karlo Broussard

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After a three-year apprenticeship with Fr. Robert Spitzer S.J. PhD., nationally known author, speaker, philosopher, and theologian, Karlo works as a full time apologist and speaker for Catholic Answers giving lectures throughout the country on topics in Catholic apologetics, theology and philosophy. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in theology from Catholic Distance University and the Augustine Institute, and is currently working on his masters in philosophy with Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He is one of the most dynamic and enthusiastic Catholic speakers on the circuit today. He resides in Murrieta, CA with his wife and four children. You can view Karlo's online videos at KarloBroussard.com. You can also book Karlo for a speaking event by contacting Catholic Answers at 619-387-7200.

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  • I don't think "absolute certainty" is the standard by which we claim knowledge. In any case, this article seems to suppose there is a "why" to universe, or that it could have been another way, and I'm not convinced of that, I'd need more evidence than 'I can imagine it so...'

    • Can 'evidence' ever give you a non-teleonomy-type answer to "Why?" questions? Note that if an answer is better described as the response to a "How?" question than a "Why?" question, then the "Why?" is left unanswered.

  • David Nickol

    This argument, it seems to me, is a form of the "God of the gaps" argument, relying on the (probably true) assumption that there will always be something that science cannot explain. And the fallback position is that it is never going to be possible to prove that God does not exist, even if science explains virtually everything.

    However, it seems to me science continues to explain more and more. The clear trend is for science to keep filling in the gaps. If I am given a hundred reasons to believe something, might I begin to suspect after fifty or sixty are refuted that the next forty or fifty will be refuted, too?

    And since when has absolute certainty been the standard for anything? I can't even prove that I am not the only person, or the only conscious person, in the universe. (I always remember the story of the woman who told Bertrand Russell that solipsism was was such a reasonable philosophy she didn't understand why more people didn't adopt it.)

    • Lazarus

      If we accept that science can not, will not, need not, should not answer all important questions then does it not follow that not all gaps are scientific ones? Does it not then necessarily follow that such gaps should be "filled" by other processes, such as metaphysical ones? And if they are so filled, are they still "gaps" or are they "answers"?

    • ben

      Who cares what science explains? How can quantum mech. help the farmer waiting for rain for his crops or raising his chickens and cattle?

      • Michael Murray

        Lasers depend on quantum mechanics. Laser levelling of fields is really useful for optimisation of drainage. So it can help the farmer make the best use of the water she has while she waits for the rain.

      • Lazarus

        I know quite a lot of farmers, and most of them admit freely to being utterly dependent on science, from prediction to enhancement to productivity to treatment and prevention, and I can assure you, that goes for the weather and raising chickens and cattle also.

    • This argument, it seems to me, is a form of the "God of the gaps" argument, relying on the (probably true) assumption that there will always be something that science cannot explain.

      I'm not sure that's fair. Throughout the Bible, God wants to be understood. As I understand it, this is in deep contrast to many of the deities in the ANE. Compare the following:

      The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king's demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.” (Dan 2:10–11)

      The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. (Dan 2:26–28a)

      This is reinforced by the following from biblical scholar John H. Walton:

      Joyful Pursuit of Deity    What characterized the religiosity of ancient peoples? Did they delight in their gods? Did they find their religious experience to be psychologically rewarding? Bother describes Mesopotamian sentiment as reflecting fear rather than exaltation. "The divine, in its multiple, personalized presentations, was above all considered to be something grandiose, inaccessible, dominating, and to be feared."[75] He observes that the gods were not the object of enthusiastic pursuit. The people sought the gods for protection and assistance, not for relationship. "One submitted to them, one feared them, one bowed down and trembled before them: one did not 'love' or 'like' them."[76] Yet this must be qualified somewhat by the recognition of a certain level of relational rhetoric in the ways that people interacted with the gods. This element is perhaps more evident in Egypt than in Mesopotamia, and perhaps more in the Amarna period in Egypt than in other periods. (Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, 161)

      There is another section in his book describing people who were at a loss to figure out what their gods wanted from them; this can be contrasted to Psalm 119, where the author delights in the laws of God.

      The trick, as far as I can tell, is how knowledge is generated. The idea that we merely adapt our beliefs to 'the evidence' seems to be deeply problematic, for reasons explained in Grossberg 1999 The Link between Brain Learning, Attention, and Consciousness (partial tutorial), as well as matters dealing with the metaphysics of causation; recall my recent comment to you on the matter, with more in my response to GCBill.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      it seems to me science continues to explain more and more...

      ...about the metrical properties of physical bodies. But that is the remit of the Physics; that's what it's supposed to do. It's when scientists go off the reservation and say things like "Darwin is True; therefore, Eugenics" they switch from their expertise in measuring physical bodies to making policy recommendations.

      Besides, as we've already seen, these explanations are not and cannot be exhaustive, nor ever known with certainty. This is hard to square with "continues to explain." What exactly is gravity?

      A nice essay on the nature of scientific explanations is Stanley Jaki's "The Limits of a Limitless Science." He was both a physicist and a Benedictine priest.
      http://place.asburyseminary.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1306&context=asburyjournal

      • David Nickol

        ...about the metrical properties of physical bodies. But that is the remit of the Physics; that's what it's supposed to do.

        So all of the Bible stories that I was taught were literally true have not been called into question by modern science?

        • ClayJames

          What Bible stories are you refering to?

          • David Nickol

            Although I wasn't exactly raised as a fundamentalist, I certainly was taught to believe the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was true. I remember believing the story of Noah and the flood was true. I believed the story of Moses and the exodus from Egypt was true.

          • When learning science, were you ever taught approximations which, while strictly speaking wrong, nevertheless were guides to increasingly correct models of reality?

          • David Nickol

            As best I remember my science education, whenever I was taught an approximation (like the planetary model of the atom), it was made clear that it was a helpful way of trying to understand a deeper reality. I was very interested in science from a very young age, my father was a chemist, and my mother chose excellent books for me to read before I began choosing them myself at the library. I honestly don't remember being disillusioned about anything I had previously learned as I continued my education in science.

          • As best I remember my science education, whenever I was taught an approximation (like the planetary model of the atom), it was made clear that it was a helpful way of trying to understand a deeper reality.

            I only remember this happening some of the time. For example, it did not happen with evolution, which is why I list this as one of the philosophical barnacles of evolution:

            LB: 1. randomness + natural selection are known to be sufficient to account for what we see, today

            If you navigate to that comment, you will see support for this claim by theoretical biologist Robert Rosen. We could also consult physicist David Bohm, who probably should have gotten a Nobel Prize for the Aharonov–Bohm effect:

                Indeed, when this interpretation is extended to field theories,[7] not only the inter-relationships of the parts, but also their very existence is seen to flow out of the law of the whole. There is therefore nothing left of the classical scheme, in which the whole is derived from pre-existent parts related in pre-determined ways. Rather, what we have is reminiscent of the relationship of whole and parts in an organism, in which each organ grows and sustains itself in a way that depends crucially on the whole. (Causality and Chance in Modern Physics, xi)

                The assumption that any particular kind of fluctuations are arbitrary and lawless relative to all possible contexts, like the similar assumption that there exists an absolute and final determinate law, is therefore evidently not capable of being based on any experimental or theoretical developments arising out of specific scientific problems, but it is instead a purely philosophical assumption. (Causality and Chance in Modern Physics, 44)

            In other words: our very models of causation are open to revision. What kind of revision? Well, it strikes me that A–T philosophy has something to say. Evidence for that can be found in Rom Harré's and E.H. Madden's Causal Powers: Theory of Natural Necessity, as well as Roy Bhaskar's The Possibility of Naturalism: A philosophical critique of the contemporary human sciences. We could also look at quantum physicist Bernard d'Espagnat's On Physics and Philosophy (see, for example, pp410–411).

            What I never, ever saw, was possible admission that Gregory Dawes' "intentional explanations" (excerpt) could be ontological. And yet, I suspect that is crucial to the advance of science, especially the advance to new paradigms, Kuhn-style.

            For even more, see Roy A. Clouser's The Myth of Religious Neutrality, where he talks about how 'religious beliefs' act as the generators of tentative hypotheses; for a shorter version, see his article A New Philosophical Guide for the Sciences: Ontology without Reduction. He defines 'religious belief' in the beginning.

          • neil_pogi

            has anyone seen the atom? or it's just a concept?

          • ClayJames

            Do you think that, in general, Christians took those stories literally before science told them not to?

          • David Nickol

            I think those stories have been proven false by science, but a very large percentage of Christians take them literally today.

          • ClayJames

            Those stories were not proved false by science because their truth, for the majority of Christians, had nothing to do with its literal interpration.

            Its like saying that Harry Potter was proved false by science.

          • Fish Age

            The Bible has an external, literal sense, but more importantly, an inner, spiritual, and allegorical sense woven together by a system of spiritual correspondences, see Swedenborg, Correspondences.

        • So all of the Bible stories that I was taught were literally true have not been called into question by modern science?

          Do quarks 'literally' exist? (You may want to consult Structural Realism, as well as Massimo Pigliucci's entries on Ladyman, Ross, et al's Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized.)

          • David Nickol

            As someone (who was probably banned) used to say, c'mon!

            Do we have to answer the question "What is truth?" before we say something is true? I can't believe you don't know perfectly well what I mean when I say I was taught to believe that certain Bible stories were "literally" true. It has nothing to do with quarks!

          • I am problematizing the word you have used: "literally". You are attempting to assert something which is true, via that word. I am questioning the very coherence and meaningfulness of that assertion. I do this by trying to use the same word, in the same sense, somewhere else. If my use of it in an analogical situation fails, then the failure may analogically translate to the original use—your use.

          • David Nickol

            I am problematizing the word you have used: "literally".

            While I have great admiration for the depth and breadth of your learning and the way you support your opinions, I am not going to engage in what I believe would be a pointless and irrelevant discussion of the meaning of the word literally. If you have a problem understanding what I mean when I say I was taught that the story of Noah and the Ark was literally true, you might simply ask me what I mean rather than divert the discussion to the question of whether quarks "literally" exist.

          • I think many Christians would be happy to say that the story of Adam and Eve communicates critical truth, of a kind which generally cannot be communicated with 'mere' poetry or 'mere' mythology. For example, the notion that Adam and Eve are imago Dei is a very important metaphysical point; indeed, something like this seems utterly crucial to egalitarianism, as Louis Pojman argues:

                The possibilities [for grounding equal worth] are frighteningly innumerable. My point is that you need some metaphysical explanation to ground the doctrine of equal worth, if it is to serve as the basis for equal human rights. It is not enough simply to assert, as philosophers like Dworkin do, that their egalitarian doctrines are "metaphysically unambiguous." But, of course, there are severe epistemological difficulties with the kinds of metaphysical systems I have been discussing. My point has not been to defend religion. For purposes of this paper I am neutral on the question of whether any religion is true. Rather my purpose is to show that we cannot burn our bridges and still drive Mack trucks over them. But, if we cannot return to religion, then it would seem perhaps we should abandon egalitarianism and devise political philosophies that reflect naturalistic assumptions, theories which are forthright in viewing humans as differentially talented animals who must get on together. (Equality: Selected Readings, 296)

            It strikes me that the reason there is so much wrangling over 'literally' is because we are philosophically confused—both the stereotypical Protestant fundamentalist, and the stereotypical science apologist. Both sides refuse to acknowledge that a picture of the thing is not the thing, that Ceci n'est pas une pipe.

            We can then ask whether the error of thinking that the story of Adam and Eve is 'literally true' is on the same order as the error that, e.g. there is no ontological teleology in the world—or whether the error is 'less severe' or 'more severe'. An argument for the absolute severity of the "no teleology" error can be found in two disparate places: Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue and Robert Rosen's Life Itself.

            See, it's very fashionable to blame religious folks for being evolution-deniers. And I acknowledge that their denial of the science of evolution (not its philosophical barnacles (#1)) is a big deal. But how big a deal is it in comparison to other things happening in modernity, such as the continual devaluation of life (abortion, euthanasia, the horror that is Rwandan Genocide § United States, etc.)? I think that is a very important question which must be asked. Perhaps it is the case that modernity has an absolutely terrible "ontology of human being", aka philosophical anthropology.

            Let's put 'literally' to the test: are people 'literally' rational actors? Is that even a halfway decent model of human behavior? After all, it's used all over the place, and deeply impacts people's lives. Profound arguments for its terribleness can be found across disparate thinkers:

            • Michael Taylor's Rationality and the Ideology of Disconnection
            • Hilary Putnam's The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy
            • Martin Hollis' Rational Economic Man
            • Mary Douglas' and Steven Ney's Missing Persons: A Critique of the Personhood in the Social Sciences
            • Christian Smith's What is a Person?
            • Charles Taylor's Sources of the Self
            • Edmond La B. Cherbonnier's Hardness of Heart
            • Alistair McFadyen's The Call to Personhood: A Christian Theory of the Individual in Social Relationships

            My point is this: even if certain Christians are committing an error by saying that the story of Adam and Eve is 'literally' true, precisely that same error is being committed all over the place, in much more damaging areas. Let's not scapegoat [certain] Christians, shall we? Let's admit that the problem is actually believing that reality can be navigated via "clear and distinct ideas", as was advanced by John Locke. It is even possible that Christians were dragged kicking and screaming into this stupidity of 'literally' true—I need to research this particular thing more.

            If there is an error in thinking, how about we find the most severe instance of it, instead of picking on people easy to pick upon?

          • David Nickol

            Be assured that I will reply just as soon as I have read the eleven books and five Wikipedia articles you cite in the above.

          • How does next Tuesday sound?

            On a more serious note, I will continue to insist that the word 'literally', as you used it, poisons the discourse. It prevents us from dealing carefully with the OT, as Joshua A. Berman does in Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought and Yoram Hazony does in The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture. It sets up a false dichotomy:

                 (1) literal, concrete, Lockean 'clear and distinct idea'-type truth
                 (2) fuzzy wuzzy poetry/​mythology which isn't possibly helpful for science

            This dichotomy needs to die in a fire!

          • neil_pogi

            so can you tell me how the Quarks work? are the quarks can be seen or observe? or they are just concepts?

            so can you tell me what is the truth?

          • Lazarus

            You really really don't like science, do you, Neil.

          • neil_pogi

            i love science. my questions are like from a child's basic questions. can somebody tell me how this quarks work?

          • Lazarus

            Ok, good to hear :)

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          "True" is not the same as "factual."

          • David Nickol

            As Pilate said, "Truth? What is that?"

            Once again, c'mon!

            I was not taught that the story of Adam and Eve was true but not factual. I was taught that it was literally true. And I was taught by people who undoubtedly believed that it was literally true.

            And what's more something like 40% of Americans believe the human race was created 10,000 years ago. This is a religious belief, and it is clear that they don't accept it as "true" but not "factual."

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Well, one teaches children differently from adults. The problems come when one does not move on from a child's understanding.

            True comes from the Saxon for "trust" or "trustworthy" and as such is equivalent to the Latinate "faith." That is, when a man and woman pledge to be true to each other (be-troth) they promise in effect to be faithful. True is thus a verbal sort of word: one must be true to something. A scientific theory is supposed to be true to the facts. A novel is supposed to be true to life.

            10,000 years is about when neolithic farming villages began to proliferate in the Middle East, in Anatolia, Syria, Mesopotamia, so it is clear that something happened to biological humans about that time. But I would say metaphysical humans go back at least as far as the cave paintings and the sudden and startling appearance of Cro-Magnon. Biology, because of the methodological materialism of the sciences, is only capable of discerning the biological [material] form, which we might call the "clay" if we were so inclined. Thoughts do not leave fossils.

          • David Nickol

            Well, one teaches children differently from adults. The problems come when one does not move on from a child's understanding.

            I am quite sure that the nuns who taught me in elementary school didn't say to themselves, "We'll teach them that the story of Adam and Eve in the Bible is factual, because they are too young to understand it as the figurative story it is." They believed it. They taught it to us as fact. And it seems that tens of millions of Americans (some of them Catholic) still take it as factual or close to factual.

            When you and others here claim there is no conflict between science and religion, you simply dismiss religion as understood and practiced by literally billions of people.

            The etymology of the word true does not justify saying a novel is "true." You are playing word games.

          • ClayJames

            I am quite sure that the nuns who taught me in elementary school didn't say to themselves, "We'll teach them that the story of Adam and Eve in the Bible is factual, because they are too young to understand it as the figurative story it is."

            I dont know how old you were, but this is exactly how we tell stories to small children. We can tell a story of what happened once upon a time in a land far away in order to teach a message without getting into the literary analysis of the story. Also, what kind of nuns were they?

            When you and others here claim there is no conflict between science and religion, you simply dismiss religion as understood and practiced by literally billions of people.

            This doesn't follow. Pointing to an example where there can be conflict between X and Y, doesn't mean that there is a necessary conflict between X and Y. I don't think anyone is saying that there cannot be conflict between a religious belief and science, just that there doesn't have to be conflict between them. If a single example can determine an intrinsic incompatibility, then everything is incompatible with science. There are atheists that believe that we can't ground any belief in truth because of naturalistic determinism (a very sound belief if you ask me), therefore we can claim that there is a conflict between science and atheism.

          • David Nickol

            I don't think anyone is saying that there cannot be conflict between a religious belief and science, just that there doesn't have to be conflict between them.

            As I have said before, I have no problem with saying there can be no conflict between truths of science, properly and correctly understood, and truths of religion, properly and correctly understood, since truth is truth. But who practices either science or (especially) religion as properly and correctly understood?

            Would you feel justified in telling a young-earth creationist that he is not entitled to his religious belief, and that it doesn't qualify as religion?

            By the way, you can still buy the Baltimore Catechism, which contains the following:

            Q. 233. Who were the first man and woman?

            A. The first man and woman were Adam and Eve.

            Q. 234. Are there any persons in the world who are not the descendants of Adam and Eve?

            A. There are no persons in the world now, and there never have been any, who are not the descendants of Adam and Eve, because the whole human race had but one origin.

            Q. 235. Do not the differences in color, figure, etc., which we find in distinct races indicate a difference in first parents?

            A. The differences in color, figure, etc., which we find in distinct races do not indicate a difference in first parents, for these differences have been brought about in the lapse of time by other causes, such as climate, habits, etc.

            Q. 236. Were Adam and Eve innocent and holy when they came from the hand of God?

            A. Adam and Eve were innocent and holy when they came from the hand of God.

            Q. 237. What do we mean by saying Adam and Eve "were innocent" when they came from the hand of God?

            A. When we say Adam and Eve "were innocent" when they came from the hand of God we mean they were in the state of original justice; that is, they were gifted with every virtue and free from every sin.

            Q. 238. How was Adam's body formed?

            A. God formed Adam's body out of the clay of the earth and then breathed into it a living soul.

            Q. 239. How was Eve's body formed?

            A. Eve's body was formed from a rib taken from Adam's side during a deep sleep which God caused to come upon him.

            Q. 240. Why did God make Eve from one of Adam's ribs?

            A. God made Eve from one of Adam's ribs to show the close relationship existing between husband and wife in their marriage union which God then instituted.

            Q. 241. Could man's body be developed from the body of an inferior animal?

            A. Man's body could be developed from the body of an inferior animal if God so willed; but science does not prove that man's body was thus formed, while revelation teaches that it was formed directly by God from the clay of the earth.

            Q. 242. Could man's soul and intelligence be formed by the development of animal life and instinct?

            A. Man's soul could not be formed by the development of animal instinct; for, being entirely spiritual, it must be created by God, and it is united to the body as soon as the body is prepared to receive it.

            Q. 243. Did God give any command to Adam and Eve?

            A. To try their obedience, God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of a certain fruit which grew in the garden of Paradise.

            Q. 244. What was the Garden of Paradise?

            A. The Garden of Paradise was a large and beautiful place prepared for man's habitation upon earth. It was supplied with every species of plant and animal and with everything that could contribute to man's happiness.

            Q. 245. Where was the Garden of Paradise situated?

            A. The exact place in which the Garden of Paradise -- called also the Garden of Eden -- was situated is not known, for the deluge may have so changed the surface of the earth that old landmarks were wiped out. It was probably some place in Asia, not far from the river Euphrates.

            If the intent was not to teach the above as literal truth, why in the world was Question 245 included?

          • ClayJames

            As I have said before, I have no problem with saying there can be no conflict between truths of science, properly and correctly understood, and truths of religion, properly and correctly understood, since truth is truth. But who practices either science or (especially) religion as
            properly and correctly understood?

            Would you feel justified in telling a young-earth creationist that he is not entitled to his religious belief, and that it doesn't qualify as religion.

            I don´t see what your response has to do with what you quoted. I don´t have to tell a young-earth creationist that he is not entitled to his religious belief in order to claim that it is wrong to say that religion is incompatible with science. You admit that religion can be compatible and therefore, if X can be compatible with Y, then X is not incompatible with Y. Examples of how religion can be incompatible with science do not allow us to say that religion is incompatible with science.

          • Lazarus

            Should we not be more nuanced in the interests of accuracy here?
            Surely it is trivially true that there is conflict to the death between some members of some religions and science, some couldn't be bothered, some are clueless and some simply live in absolute harmony with both disciplines? The religion of the so-called man in the street may very well theoretically be in conflict with science, but does that group really experience such conflict as a practical reality worthy of consideration? I would say that mostly in those instances the word "conflict" is far too strong. Joe Blogs may very well dismiss say evolution, or certain aspects of it, and while he is wrong does that really place him in "conflict" with science? I am not talking of the Ken Ham's of the landscape, who would probably have scientists locked up in the bell tower, just the average Joe. Being dead wrong to the point of embarrassment still does not in all, or most, instances, entail conflict, with all that that loaded word implies.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The etymology of the word true does not justify saying a novel is "true."

            It is true to life, at least if it is well done in the Modern tradition of representational art. But even the old fables can be true. The truth of Beauty and the Beast is that sometimes a person must be loved before he becomes lovable. This is true over and above the factual content of the magic island and the rest.

            "Nescire autem quid antequam natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum."
            -- M.Tullius Cicero, Orator Ad M. Brutum

          • Lazarus

            As we find in a correct understanding of the word "myth/mythology".

          • David Nickol

            Nescire autem quid antequam natus sis acciderit, id est semper esse puerum. [To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.]

            Pardon me if I take this a little personally, but because I complain of being taught in Catholic elementary school that the story of Adam and Eve was literally true, do you really think I am so ignorant as not to know how myths can convey truth? Over the years I have spent countless hours (probably totaling days) writing about the first three chapters in Genesis. I could make a bibliography of works (from Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and nonreligious authors) I have consulted over the years from my own personal library that I think would impress even Luke Breuer! I am well aware that Catholics are not fundamentalists, and many Catholics interpret a great deal of the Bible as myth containing divinely inspired truth.

            Nevertheless, as I have pointed out in another message about the Baltimore Catechism—still considered the gold standard for catechisms by many conservative Catholics and still sold by a reputable Catholic publisher—that things like the following are still taught:

            The exact place in which the Garden of Paradise -- called also the Garden of Eden -- was situated is not known, for the deluge may have so changed the surface of the earth that old landmarks were wiped out. It was probably some place in Asia, not far from the river Euphrates.

            Perhaps you will claim that that is the equivalent of teaching children that Santa Claus lives at the north pole, and the story of Santa Claus is "true" as a myth or metaphor, but I don't think I am going out on a limb to say that when the Baltimore Catechism was written (late 1800s) huge numbers of Catholics (including the authors of the Baltimore Catechism) believed it was literally true that Adam was made out of clay, Eve was made from one of his ribs, and a snake tricked them eating a piece of forbidden fruit. And I am quite sure the nuns who taught me that in the 1950s believed it themselves. And there are plenty of Catholics who still believe it today. (And of course there are plenty of Catholics who believe almost nothing.)

            Why am I ranting about this? Because the topic is "Does Science Make God Irrelevant?" I have not said it does. I have merely pointed out that there are things I was taught, and things that hundreds of millions of Catholics were taught—and believed—that are now considered not to be "factual" because of findings of modern science. And it is not crazy to assume that as science progresses, there will be further changes in religious beliefs because science renders them less credible.

            I simply don't buy the argument that nothing has really changed for two thousand years because what was formerly believed as "factually" true is now still true, but just in a different way. This is not to deny that the story of Adam and Eve is not great art, or even great divinely inspired truth in figurative language. The point is that it does make a difference whether something is "true" or "true to life."

          • Lazarus

            Hi David

            Was your response meant for YOS or for me?

            If it was addressed to me, as Disquss is indicating, then we have a serious misunderstanding here. My comment was addressed to YOS, simply in support of his reference to non-literalism, and I was simply pointing out that this is in the same category as "myth".

            I certainly do not regard you as "ignorant", quite the contrary.
            I would go so far as to say that I fully agree with the rest of your post, including the part where you state that we should not accept or argue that nothing has changed in the last 2000 years.

            In other words, the only part where we disagree is that you should rant at me ;)

          • ClayJames

            I have merely pointed out that there are things I was taught, and
            things that hundreds of millions of Catholics were taught—and
            believed—that are now considered not to be "factual" because of findings
            of modern science. And it is not crazy to assume that as science
            progresses, there will be further changes in religious beliefs because
            science renders them less credible.

            This is not true. Over the 2,000 year history of Christianity, there is no negative correlation between Christians taking the Bible literaly and advancements in science. Actually, the correlation is a positive one where Biblical literalism has increased as scientific understanding has increased.

            You are taking some observations that are very limited in time and space and extrapolating them in order to turn them into macrotrends that are just not true. You are then taking these macrotrends in order to make predictions about the future that do not follow.

          • David Nickol

            Actually, the correlation is a positive one where Biblical literalism has increased as scientific understanding has increased.

            I think a distinction needs to be made between biblical literalism, which is somewhat of a recent (largely Protestant) phenomenon, and believing in the "historicity" of Adam and Eve, Moses and the exodus from Egypt, Noah and the ark, and so on. I am not claiming that I was educated as a biblical literalist, or that biblical literalism was at any time in history the official stance of the Catholic Church. I remember quite well being taught in elementary school that although the Bible says God created the world in six days, a "day" for God could be an eon for mankind.

            If you are trying to imply that an increase in biblical literalism somehow gave a boost to modern science, I think you are mistaken. If anything, biblical literalism is probably a reaction to (against?) the rise of modern science. Before the theory of evolution, there was no compelling reason to argue whether the story of Adam and Eve was literally true or not. But once there was a solid scientific theory regarding the origin of man, some people felt a need to deny science and claim the Bible was literally true. Fortunately, the Catholic Church didn't take that path, although the Catechism of the Catholic Church still insists that the story of Adam and Eve is essentially historical, and Catholic publications like the Baltimore Catechism still teach that Adam was made from clay, Eve was made from Adam's rib, and that although theoretically it could have been otherwise, the Bible says what the Bible says, and does not affirm evolution.

          • ClayJames

            If you are trying to imply that an increase in biblical literalism
            somehow gave a boost to modern science, I think you are mistaken.

            I am not, at all.

            although theoretically it could have been otherwise, the Bible says what the Bible says, and does not affirm evolution.

            I have always found this line of thinking bizarre. Why should we expect the Bible to affirm evolution?

          • Pardon me if I take this a little personally, but because I complain of being taught in Catholic elementary school that the story of Adam and Eve was literally true, do you really think I am so ignorant as not to know how myths can convey truth? Over the years I have spent countless hours (probably totaling days) writing about the first three chapters in Genesis. I could make a bibliography of works (from Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and nonreligious authors) I have consulted over the years from my own personal library that I think would impress even Luke Breuer! I am well aware that Catholics are not fundamentalists, and many Catholics interpret a great deal of the Bible as myth containing divinely inspired truth.

            Hey, that's pretty neat. I used to be a creationist, but was convinced towards ID, then towards evolution, via online discussion, mostly with atheists who interacted with me somewhat like I've seen you interact with folks: sharply, but not via being a dick. I do have the slightest pull toward ID now, based on stuff like the following, from Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine:

                Is this difficulty merely a practical one? Yes, if we consider that trajectories have now become uncomputable. But there is more: Probability distribution permits us to incorporate within the framework of the dynamical description the complex microstructure of the phase space. It therefore contains additional information that is lacking at the level of individual trajectories. As we shall see in Chapter 4, this has fundamental consequences. At the level of distribution functions ρ, we obtain a new dynamical description that permits us to predict the future evolution of the ensemble, including characteristic time scales. (The End of Certainty, 37)

            Key to that is that there is "additional information that is lacking at the level [of the particular]". This is nothing other than nonlocal state, which necessarily means nonlocal causation:

            LB: That, my friend, is formal causation, nonlocal causation:

                 (LBL) nonlocal state ⇔ nonlocal causation

            For more, see Robert Rosen's Life Itself; somewhat relevant excerpt here.

            There could easily be this 'nonlocal causation' in the process of evolution (it's virtually there in the term 'natural selection'), which could perhaps be suspiciously like a superintended evolution. To this, I would mix in an idea from C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy: that Lucifer was supposed to superintend development of life on earth, but failed his duty. How would we test this idea empirically? Well, we need to operationalize 'superintend', and then look for whether we can differentiate between epochs where (i) there was definitely superintending; (ii) there was little to no superintending. I don't know how close we are to doing this; we may have to wait considerably longer, to when we can simulate entire worlds with sophisticated beings inside.

            Perhaps in saying what I have said, I have at least somewhat closed the gap between the mythology of Genesis 1–11 and stuff we can empirically investigate? In the line of 'superintend', I could throw in this as well, from Louis Pojman:

                The possibilities [for grounding equal worth] are frighteningly innumerable. My point is that you need some metaphysical explanation to ground the doctrine of equal worth, if it is to serve as the basis for equal human rights. It is not enough simply to assert, as philosophers like Dworkin do, that their egalitarian doctrines are "metaphysically unambiguous." But, of course, there are severe epistemological difficulties with the kinds of metaphysical systems I have been discussing. My point has not been to defend religion. For purposes of this paper I am neutral on the question of whether any religion is true. Rather my purpose is to show that we cannot burn our bridges and still drive Mack trucks over them. But, if we cannot return to religion, then it would seem perhaps we should abandon egalitarianism and devise political philosophies that reflect naturalistic assumptions, theories which are forthright in viewing humans as differentially talented animals who must get on together. (Equality: Selected Readings, 296)

            I'm curious; have you ever done a detailed compare & contrast between (a) Genesis 1–11; (b) contemporary ANE mythology? When I do this, I find that Genesis is exerting a sort of 'metaphysical force', or perhaps just 'ideological force', on the Israelites. Toward what? Toward egalitarianism, per Joshua A. Berman's Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought. It is as if God is trying to restore that 'superintended development'. :-D

          • David Nickol

            It is true to life . . . .

            I have no quarrel with that. What I object to is claiming that the statements "the story is true" and "the story is true to life" are equivalent in meaning.

            I studied Latin for four years, but I would still prefer that you make your insults in English.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Wasn't me; was Cicero. Don't be too hasty to dismiss etymology, or any other historical approach. Think in terms of evolution.

            Most people never do progress beyond a childhood understanding of most subjects. And in most endeavors of life it makes very little difference.

            My surprise reached a climax, however, when
            I found incidentally that he [Holmes] was ignorant of the Copernican Theory and of the composition of the Solar System. That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to be to me such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it.

            "You appear to be astonished," he said, smiling at my expression of surprise. "Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it."

            "To forget it!"

            "You see," he explained, "I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones."

            "But the Solar System!" I protested.

            "What the deuce is it to me?" he interrupted impatiently; "you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work."
            -- A Study in Scarlet

            The tenets of the Catholic and the Orthodox Church have very little to do with street beliefs. They are not the sum or the total or the median of all the believers. They are instead what the Magisterium or the Holy Traditions teach. Not whether nuns have a sophisticated understanding. If the myth teaches children that all human beings share a common ancestry -- and that therefore all of us are brothers and sisters --
            that may be sufficient.

    • neil_pogi

      quote: 'assumption that there will always be something that science cannot explain. ' - then how come atheists still don't have any answers for that? i always hear them: 'give us more time, at least a billion years, and we have nice answers for you'...

      atheists say that the universe' origin is unknown, then what the hell is the big bang theory? you mean that it is no longer viable explanation? or 'give us more time, at least a billion years, and we have nice answers for you'...

      atheists say that vestigial organs numbered hundreds in the human body, but most of the claims are already crap.. i wonder why atheists don't study these vestigial organs? are they afraid that there are no vestigial organs? if so, then evolution is dead in the water.

      theists never say :'give us more time, at least a billion years, and we have nice answers for you'...! we simply do science to prove that vestigial organs never exist

  • IGWT

    Science by its probing is always generating more questions then answers. That's a good thing, but also shows its limitations. Kind of like when you severe the head of the mythological hydra to try to kill it, more heads appear. So I think it is logical to conclude that science will never give us the final explanation of the universe or why there is existence vs. nonexistence in the first place. Therefore, not so unreasonable to invoke metaphysical arguments that point to transcendence for explanatory power.

  • In a paradigm-shattering book, Alasdair MacIntyre makes the following distinction:

        What is the key to the social content of emotivism? It is the fact that emotivism entails the obliteration of any genuine distinction between manipulative and non-manipulative social relations. (After Virtue, 23)

    Can naturalists and/or physicalists and/or monists present a metaphysical foundation which can distinguish "between manipulative and non-manipulative social relations"? Note that subconscious manipulation is still manipulation; a person doesn't need to be aware of being manipulated, to have been manipulated.

  • Andrew Y.

    But if this is true, then one can never rationally claim that science can give a complete and exhaustive explanation of the universe—much less a complete enough explanation that God is no longer needed as its creator.

    This argument looks a lot like the Watchmaker analogy and can probably be rejected on the same grounds.

    These are philosophical questions that can be answered only by philosophy.

    This article might have been a better refutation of whether science makes God irrelevant had it focused on advancing this claim instead of simply stating it at the end.

    • ClayJames

      This article might have been a better refutation of whether science
      makes God irrelevant had it focused on advancing this claim instead of
      simply stating it at the end.

      Why does that claim need to be advanced? How else should philosophical questions be answered if not by philosophy?

      • Andrew Y.

        Of course philosophical questions can only be answered by philosophy. I think the main disagreement here is whether the origin of the universe is a philosophical question at all.

        Part of the problem (in this particular case) is that the phrase “whether the universe can be explained” is ambiguous with respect to whether we are trying to explain how the universe works, or explain why it is as it is and not some other way or why it exists in the first place. Dawkins’ claim that “religion is redundant and irrelevant” is somewhat palatable with respect to studying how the universe works. But the argument that God does not exist because religion is irrelevant in explaining the universe is incoherent, and I think attacking this fallacy specifically would have made for a more compelling article (for myself at least).

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      This argument looks a lot like the Watchmaker analogy

      No, it's entirely different and addresses a different subject. The problem of induction, the underdetermination of scientific theories, Goedel's indeterminacy and other purely mundane issues guarantee that science will always result in "gaps." It is entirely irrelevant whether one wants to fill those gaps with a god or with mayonnaise. It is relevant that one cannot fill them with science.

  • I think that one of the biggest problems the naturalist faces is this:

         (1) Physical laws are the only causal powers.
         (2) All beliefs are caused by physical laws.
         (3) Some beliefs are true, others false.
         (4) Physical laws cannot distinguish true from false beliefs.
         (5) Therefore, truth and falsity of belief is unknowable.

    This is a deflationary theory of truth; it obliterates the distinction between truth and falsehood. (Whether a given person believes more truth or more falsehood has nothing to do with agent causation, nothing to do with intentionality, and everything to do with Fortuna/​Tyche.) The only solution I know of this is to add a different kind of causation to (1). Gregory Dawes does this:

    3.4.1 Intentional and Causal ExplanationsA first objection rests on the very character of intentional explanations. It suggests that a theistic explanation could not be both intentional and causal, since these represent distinct and mutually exclusive forms of explanation. No intentional explanation is a causal explanation. But I believe this claim to be wrong, for reasons I shall outline later (Appendix 1.1). I have no argument with the idea, defended by Donald Davidson, that intentions are causes and that intentional explanations are also causal explanations.[76] There is one issue that needs to be clarified here. I have suggested that intentional explanations are not nomological (3.2.1). They do, if you like, depend on something resembling a law, namely the rationality principle. But they do not depend on law-like generalisations linking particular intentions and particular actions. Does this mean that they cannot be regarded as causal explanations? Only if you believe that the citing of causal laws is a necessary condition of a causal explanation. But I shall argue later that it is not (Appendix 3.3.1), that causal explanations do not necessarily involve causal laws.[77] If this is true, then there is no difficulty with the idea that an intentional explanation is also a causal explanation. (Theism and Explanation, 51)

    Key here is the conjunction of the following three things:

         (a) intentional explanation
         (b) causal explanation: ¬(1)
         (c) not nomological: ¬(2)

    The result of this is that something/​someone can discern truth from falsehood other than the equivalent of a monergistic God: (i) omnipresent; (ii) timeless; (iii) sole [moral responsibility-bearing] causal power. Such a God obliterates any sense of truth and falsehood, right and wrong; such a God always gets what it wants, what it wills. Such a God is more of a force or power than a person.

    • ClayJames

      I absolutely agree with the biggest problem you attribute to naturalism. I could never be a naturalist because of that exact reason.

      What would you consider to be the best rebutal of that problem?

      • I'm not sure. I didn't even mention Fitch's Paradox of Knowability, and I think that ups the ante. Perhaps the best response is that all of reality simply isn't nomological in the way that is claimed. This would obliterate arguments based on [extant] logic, including both Fitch's Paradox and Gödel's incompleteness theorems. I think deflationary views of truth are no-gos, as are the varieties of nihilism and emotivism.

        A friend who recently got his PhD in philosophy from USC told me that there is a cycle, whereby an argument comes up that seems to defeat atheism, only to have a rebuttal discovered/​invented some time later. This makes a lot of sense to me: we can always take whatever gifts God gives us (see Josef Pieper's Leisure: The Basis of Culture and "Divine Madness": Plato's Case Against Secular Humanism), and declare that they did not come from God. That's a major human pattern revealed in the Bible. When we're open to God, he will continue giving gifts; if we close ourselves to him, he'll send prophets to warn us, and finally close himself off from us, leading to that 'strong delusion' in 2 Thess 2:1–12. French sociologist Jacques Ellul argues in Hope in Time of Abandonment that we are [largely] in such a time of abandonment and delusion; for example:

            Man wants no word of salvation, nor any true consolation (he accepts all the fictitious consolations, the escapes, the appeasements and amusements), perhaps because the true consolation would make him face up to the fundamental questions of his presence in the world and of his real responsibility, questions which he continually seeks to avoid. He drowns himself in a dreary and disguised despair. He dwells within his anguish, and his most cherished secret is that of his own disavowal. (63)

        And so, I think we'll need to experience enough pain for some of us to respond by repenting of our evil and culpably false beliefs. Maybe climate change will need to claim a billion lives before we pull our heads out of our butts. Of course, climate change is merely the easy thing to talk about; unjust incarceration and utter failure to rehabilitate prisoners, as described by Karl Menninger in Whatever Became of Sin?, is another matter. There are many abominations being committed, and it's not clear how much Ezekiel 9-style sighing and groaning are happening over them.

        There is always a way to explain away God, to repress the truth. It doesn't have to be overtly evil. All it really needs to be is a failure to properly cultivate one's seed of religion (no, I'm not generally a fan of Calvin). In my judgment, many people, today, are failing to cultivate their seeds. This seems to make them de facto atheists, for a relationship transforms (see 2 Cor 3:17–18 and Rom 8:16–25). Randal Rauser is right when he says that Ps 14:1's "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" does not target those who self-identify as 'atheists' (as if there were such a category when the Psalm was written!).

  • Peter

    As conscious beings, we have a natural desire to seek our Maker. We also have a natural ability to identify our Maker in the things that have been made. We possess the unique capacity to recognise and appreciate beauty, harmony and elegance, and differentiate these from the mundane and the material.

    In this respect, the more we learn through science of how the world works, the closer it will bring us to our Maker. Examples include the unique way that carbon, the basic building block of life, is forged in stars, and the harmonious interactions that turn a protoplanetary disc into a star system. Far from driving us away from God, more science brings us nearer to God.

    The big one, I think, will be when we discover how organic compounds transform into the first stages of life. We will be struck by the sheer elegance of a process which creates life from non-life, complexity from simplicity. It is no surprise that many still believe that such a transformation could only be undertaken directly by God. How much more awe-inspiring, then, will it be when we discover how it occurs naturally?

  • Paul Brandon Rimmer

    Science seems to require methodological naturalism as a starting assumption. The conclusion that God is irrelevant to science therefore seems trivial. Any broader scientific conclusion about God seems unwarranted given science's starting assumption.

    • Science seems to require methodological naturalism as a starting assumption.

      What is the argument for this?

      • Paul Brandon Rimmer

        I prefer the operational argument. It is the way I and my friends do science. I am not aware of a reputable scientist who does not make this assumption. I tend to take Feyerabend's view on philosophy of science, so the operational definition is all I need.

        If you find this unsatisfying, I recommend reading Plantinga's paper on methodological naturalism in science. He gives an alternative non-operational argument. He also reviews other popular arguments for methodological naturalism.

        • Hmm. It seems to me that if Dawes' intentional explanations are (i) causal and (ii) not nomological, then the instruments we use to explore reality—humans—are not 'naturalistic', if 'naturalistic' entails 'nomological'. If 'naturalistic' does not entail 'nomological', then I have no idea what the term does entail! Furthermore, if we are not allowed to examine the instruments we use to explore reality, we are not being proper scientists.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            What's 'nomological'?

          • See my excerpt of Gregory W. Dawes' Theism and Explanation.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I don't think methodological naturalism faces the big problem you lay out. It would simply entail that some things about humans will defy scientific explanation.

            This has to do with my metaphysics: I think Spinoza's naturalism also avoids this particular problem, since for Spinoza physical laws, laws about extended things, are ideas, and the order and connection of ideas is identical to the order and connection of things, so all ideas, insofar as they are adequate (insofar as they explain the things they are about), they are true.

          • I don't think methodological naturalism faces the big problem you lay out. It would simply entail that some things about humans will defy scientific explanation.

            If those "things about humans" are relevant to the doing of science, then they matter to science. True, or false?

            You may be interested to know about Yoram Hazony's Newtonian Explanatory Reduction and Hume’s System of the Sciences. Hazony is also the author of The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, where he argues that the Hebrews did serious philosophy, pace all those folks who start philosophy with the Greeks et al.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            If those "things about humans" are relevant to the doing of science, then they matter to science. True, or false?

            What part do they play in science itself? The fact that I come up with an experiment, say, using one technique instead of another, and maybe this involves free will, and maybe free will can't be explained by science. The free will may influence experimental methods, but I don't see where it would appear in scientific theories. Where would it?

          • What part do they play in science itself?

            Coming up with tentative hypotheses (pace Karl Popper†) is very important, as is how we "know that we know", unless we want to give up on that, and thereby give up on science's claim to establish its own domain of validity (see my other comments on Fitch's Paradox of Knowability on this page). But that would be a serious concession!

            The fact that I come up with an experiment, say, using one technique instead of another, and maybe this involves free will, and maybe free will can't be explained by science. The free will may influence experimental methods, but I don't see where it would appear in scientific theories. Where would it?

            This isn't a matter of free will, it is a matter of the knowability of truthas I have argued on this page.

            † From Popper's The Logic of Scientific Discovery:

            I said above that the work of the scientist consist is in putting forward and testing theories.    The initial stage, the act of conceiving or inventing a theory, seems to me neither to call for logical analysis nor to be susceptible of it. The question how it happens that a new idea occurs to a man—whether it is a musical theme, a dramatic conflict, or a scientific theory—may be of great interest to empirical psychology; but it is irrelevant to the logical analysis of scientific knowledge. The latter is concerned not with questions of fact (Kant's quid facti?), but only with questions of justification or validity (Kant's quid juris?). (7)

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I don't see where any of this comes into the scientific theories themselves. Take the theory of electromagnetism as an example. What part of that theory stands outside naturalism?

          • I don't see where any of this comes into the scientific theories themselves.

            But that doesn't seem to be the discussion of the blog post. Instead, the discussion seems to be:

                 (Q) "Which claims can scientists properly make, qua scientists?"

            If scientists properly stay within their formal systems, then they can be provably correct. Once they stray outside their formal systems, then they have some 'splainin' to do.

            Take the theory of electromagnetism as an example. What part of that theory stands outside naturalism?

            I'm afraid you'll have to tell me what your preferred definition of 'naturalism' is. I'm fairly swayed by Randal Rauser's Not even wrong: The many problems with Naturalism. I haven't come across a compelling definition of 'naturalism' since then. Disqus user The Thinker tried with his Naturalism: Not Even Wrong?, but I just didn't find it compelling. For example, I think he ruled out Gregory Dawes' "not nomological" (excerpt), and I think that is severely limiting to (Q). Perhaps too limiting.

            There is also the question of formal and final causation, as elucidated by theoretical biologist Robert Rosen in Life Itself (excerpt), via the mathematics of category theory. Add all these things up, and I think the content of 'naturalism' grows very thin—if there is anything left at all! Actually, I do think there is something left: a kind of causal connectivity. But a God who wishes to be known (Is 55:6–9, Jn 17:3, more) would want precisely that "causal connectivity" to exist!

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            If scientists properly stay within their formal systems, then they can be provably correct. Once they stray outside their formal systems, then they have some 'splainin' to do.

            How does this disagree with my original comment?

            I'm afraid you'll have to tell me what your preferred definition of 'naturalism' is.

            "Nothing comes to pass in nature, which can be set down to a flaw therein ; for nature is always the same, and everywhere one and the same in her efficacy and power of action ; that is, nature's laws and ordinances, whereby all things come to pass and change from one form to another, are everywhere and always the same ; so that there should be one and the same method of understanding the nature of all things whatsoever, namely, through nature's universal laws and rules." (Spinoza, Ethics, Part 3)

            Another more direct definition:

            "methodological naturalism [is the same as] provisional atheism. This is the idea that science, properly so-called, cannot involve religious belief or commitment." (Plantinga, Methodological Naturalism, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 49 (September 1997): 143-154.)

            I'm wondering what about electromagnetism as a theory requires either suspension or changing of the fundamental natural law, certain inexplicable entities, or alternatively some sort of religious content. If it doesn't, then it meets my requirement for methodological naturalism.

          • How does this disagree with my original comment?

            Methodological naturalism precludes intentional explanations which are both causal and not nomological. That means it precludes deep investigation into how human creativity works (e.g. David Braine's Language and Human Understanding: The Roots of Creativity in Speech and Thought).

            for nature is always the same

            Is this scientifically determinable?

            that is, nature's laws and ordinances, whereby all things come to pass and change from one form to another, are everywhere and always the same

            I'm pretty sure Sean Carroll is exploring how the laws of nature might be different in different parts of the universe. There are also folks looking at how different universes, spawned by the multiverse, may have utterly different laws of nature. So has this claim of Spinoza's been falsified? Or can he perhaps always appeal to a 'deeper law'? But such an appeal would seem to be awfully like saying that God is ultimately in control of all things, with this 'God' possibly being the God of the Bible and not the God of Spinoza. ("Which one" would be undeterdetermined, leading to my answer to the Phil.SE question Could there ever be evidence for an infinite being?)

            so that there should be one and the same method of understanding the nature of all things whatsoever, namely, through nature's universal laws and rules

            This seems to fall prey to my criticism about the knowability of 'truth'.

            This is the idea that science, properly so-called, cannot involve religious belief or commitment.

            But what is 'religious belief'? I doubt the version Plantinga advances is a natural kind; for a proper natural kind, see:

            LB: For even more, see Roy A. Clouser's The Myth of Religious Neutrality, where he talks about how 'religious beliefs' act as the generators of tentative hypotheses; for a shorter version, see his article A New Philosophical Guide for the Sciences: Ontology without Reduction. He defines 'religious belief' in the beginning.

            I'm wondering what about electromagnetism as a theory requires either suspension or changing of the fundamental natural law, certain inexplicable entities, or alternatively some sort of religious content. If it doesn't, then it meets my requirement for methodological naturalism.

            Under these conditions, it would seem to say nothing about ultimate reality, and thus say nothing about Truth. Instead, it would be an example of anti-realism. Are you ok with that? See also Van bas Fraassen's Constructive Empiricism.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            Methodological naturalism precludes intentional explanations which are both causal and not nomological.

            It seems as though you have a very specific idea about what methodological naturalism is, so why ask me? Are you genuinely interested in having a conversation?

            Also, are you going to answer my question? What about electromagnetism steps outside the bounds of naturalism?

            I'm pretty sure Sean Carroll is exploring how the laws of nature might be different in different parts of the universe.

            Their differences would be explained by a yet more fundamental principle. Carroll's is entirely in line with Spinoza's description of naturalism. In fact, I'm not aware of a reputable scientist who works outside these assumptions. In other words:

            Or can he perhaps always appeal to a 'deeper law'?

            Carroll thinks so. Every scientist I know works under this assumption, even if not all of them believe it will work out at the end of the day.

            But such an appeal would seem to be awfully like saying that God is ultimately in control of all things

            I think that methodological naturalism would be entirely consistent with such a world-view. There are a lot of excellent scientists out there who are also committed Christians.

          • It seems as though you have a very specific idea about what methodological naturalism is, so why ask me? Are you genuinely interested in having a conversation?

            You can always tell me I'm wrong. But I tried to construct my "Methodological naturalism precludes intentional explanations which are both causal and not nomological." from your definitions.

            Also, are you going to answer my question? What about electromagnetism steps outside the bounds of naturalism?

            Nothing, if it makes no attempt to assert true statements about ultimate reality. But the whole point of the blog post is science attempting to assert true statements about ultimate reality! Quibbling about the language of 'certainty' can be dealt with, if necessary.

            Their differences would be explained by a yet more fundamental principle.

            Ahh, ok. This disagrees with William Davis:

            WD: I think it is a mistake to consider all of science as one big system because the approaches are so varied.

            That's fine, but I just want to point that out. I actually think you are both wrong, because what is actually needed is a proper balance between unity and diversity, between the particular and the universal.

            In fact, I'm not aware of a reputable scientist who works outside these assumptions.

            Nancy Cartwright identifies such scientists; see Nancy Cartwright's Philosophy of Science, and note that she is from the Stanford School of philosophy of science; that means she does her philosophy of science by observing how scientists actually operate, versus coming up with idealized models of 'scientific rationality' which result in nonsense such as can be seen at Against Method § Scholarly reception.

            PBR: In other words:

            LB: Or can he perhaps always appeal to a 'deeper law'?

            Carroll thinks so.

            Carroll seems awfully confused on this matter; see his conflation of "unbreakable patterns" and "laws of nature" (excerpt here).

            I think that methodological naturalism would be entirely consistent with such a world-view. There are a lot of excellent scientists out there who are also committed Christians.

            Wait a second. Is the claim that there is "a yet more fundamental principle" a scientific claim? Or is that the methodological naturalism claim? If the latter, then how can the following possibly obtain:

            An inane subjectivism may say that whether p is a reason for q depends on whether people have got around to reasoning that way or not. I have the subtler worry that whether or not a proposition is as it were up for grabs, as a candidate for being true-or-false, depends on whether we have ways to reason about it. The style of thinking that befits the sentence helps fix its sense and determines the way in which it has a positive direction pointing to truth or to falsehood. If we continue in this vein, we may come to fear that the rationality of a style of reasoning is all too built-in. The propositions on which the reasoning bears mean what they do just because that way of reasoning can assign them a truth value. Is reason, in short, all too self-authenticating? (Language, Truth, and Reason)

            ? See also Nancy Cartwright's The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science. It doesn't actually seem required that scientists believe in this "yet more fundamental law", to do science!

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            Also, are you going to answer my question? What about electromagnetism steps outside the bounds of naturalism?

            Nothing

            Great. That's all I wanted to say about this topic.

          • I do not appreciate the quote-chopping. This is the actual conversation, with emphasis:

            PBL: Also, are you going to answer my question? What about electromagnetism steps outside the bounds of naturalism?

            LB: Nothing, if it makes no attempt to assert true statements about ultimate reality. But the whole point of the blog post is science attempting to assert true statements about ultimate reality!

            My assumption was that you were going to make some statement possibly relevant to the blog post, instead of advance a position which can be seen as 100% instrumentalist, and therefore 100% divorced from Truth. I think this was a fair assumption.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I don't think science by itself has much to say about 'ultimate reality' at present. That's probably why instrumentalists, positivists, realists, Christians, Muslims, Jews and materialists can all be good scientists without being bad instrumentalists, positivists, realists, Christians, Muslims, Jews or materialists.

          • You don't think science is "reaching towards" ultimate reality?

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I'm a realist about science, but my realism is a metaphysical position, not a scientific position. If I tried to publish about my realism in the Astrophysical Journal, I'd get a desk rejection.

            Many excellent scientists are not realists, and the question of realism is not itself a scientific question, and does not belong in any scientific theory.

          • I think one's position on realism vs. anti-realism is extremely important for the pursuit of science. For example, from Nancy Cartwright's Philosophy of Science, Cartwright replies to Brigitte Falkenburg:

                Trivially, if we can identify a physical characteristic that is captured by an aspect of our mathematical representation, then we have ipso facto a reason to take that aspect to represent something physically significant. But it is a mistake to go the other way around. Our mathematical representations have a huge amount of excess structure and we must be careful to avoid attributing physical significance to “mere” mathematics—and especially careful to ensure that any “predictions” we derive from a theory depend only on well-warranted physically significant features and not on excess mathematical structure. This is a view I have never relinquished and it is reflected in my current pleas for physics to produce more—vastly more—representation theorems.[2] (365)

            A huge question is how much we ought to extrapolate from 'the evidence', and the answer(s) given to question determine(s) scientific funding! A great example would be to look at Luboš Motl on what would falsify string theory and responses, and compare & contrast that with Lee Smolin's The Trouble with Physics. I just found Tim Maudlin's The Metaphysics Within Physics, which also seems relevant for the doing of science.

            Now, you may well get a desk rejection for attempting to publish philosophy within a science journal, but whose problem that is, is wide open for discussion. For example, Christian Smith laments the lack of philosophy and deep, comprehensive, theoretical thinking in sociology (The Sacred Project of American Sociology). I think that failing to think thoroughly about this stuff leads to contradiction, gaps in reasoning, and other assorted badness. To dismiss this stuff as not critically relevant to science is to make the mistake which Lord Kelvin made in his "Two Clouds" speech.

            I'm not sure I can even agree with this:

            Many excellent scientists are not realists, and the question of realism is not itself a scientific question, and does not belong in any scientific theory.

            For this to be held, scientific theories cannot track their creation. That would make them rootless, and rootless things cannot keep growing. Rootless things wither and die, even if they look pretty for a while and smell nice for a while.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I think one's position on realism vs. anti-realism is extremely important for the pursuit of science.

            I'd like to think this is true as well. I'm not sure it is. Is there any correlation between the progress someone makes as a scientist and their position on realism or anti-realism?

            A huge question is how much we ought to extrapolate from 'the evidence', and the answer(s) given to question determine(s) scientific funding! A great example would be to look at Luboš Motl on what would falsify string theory and responses, and compare & contrast that with Lee Smolin's The Trouble with Physics.

            These debates seem to be more about what science should be. I think science is whatever scientists do. All the scientists I know operate under the assumption of methodological naturalism. I'm not aware of any published theory that includes religious content, and from previous comments, it seems you agree.

            Now, you may well get a desk rejection for attempting to publish philosophy within a science journal, but whose problem that is, is wide open for discussion.

            Discussion among philosophers maybe. It's not much of an issue among scientists, as far as I can tell. There's not a big push among scientists to include philosophy in science articles. I wouldn't be against the idea in principle, but I'm not sure what it would accomplish. It may distract from more relevant issues.

            For this to be held, scientific theories cannot track their creation. That would make them rootless, and rootless things cannot keep growing.

            Stars can grow without roots.

          • I'd like to think this is true as well. I'm not sure it is. Is there any correlation between the progress someone makes as a scientist and their position on realism or anti-realism?

            An excellent question; I don't [yet] have the empirical evidence to say either way on this matter. I do think Grossberg 1999 The Link between Brain Learning, Attention, and Consciousness (partial tutorial) is relevant, though.

            These debates seem to be more about what science should be. I think science is whatever scientists do.

            I claim this is short-sighted. In the long view, the view of ought in this domain is extraordinarily important. See, for example, Philip Mirowski's The Effortless Economy of Science?:

            A leading scholar of the history and philosophy of economic thought, Philip Mirowski argues that there has been a top-to-bottom transformation in how scientific research is organized and funded in Western countries over the past two decades and that these changes necessitate a reexamination of the ways that science and economics interact. Mirowski insists on the need to bring together the insights of economics, science studies, and the philosophy of science in order to understand how and why particular research programs get stabilized through interdisciplinary appropriation, controlled attributions of error, and funding restrictions.

            Mirowski contends that neoclassical economists have persistently presumed and advanced an “effortless economy of science,” a misleading model of a self-sufficient and conceptually self-referential social structure that transcends market operations in pursuit of absolute truth. In the stunning essays collected here, he presents a radical critique of the ways that neoclassical economics is used to support, explain, and legitimate the current social practices underlying the funding and selection of “successful” science projects. He questions a host of theories, including the portraits of science put forth by Karl Popper, Michael Polanyi, and Thomas Kuhn. Among the many topics he examines are the social stabilization of quantitative measurement, the repressed history of econometrics, and the social construction of the laws of supply and demand and their putative opposite, the gift economy. In The Effortless Economy of Science? Mirowski moves beyond grand abstractions about science, truth, and democracy in order to begin to talk about the way science is lived and practiced today.

            All the scientists I know operate under the assumption of methodological naturalism.

            Eric Schwitzgebel's 2008 The Unreliability of Naive Introspection applies to them. Perhaps they are positivists, refusing to admit that failure to examine themselves as the instruments with which they do science, can permit all sorts of terrible misconceptions to be called 'reality'. This is gloriously revealed by Kenneth Gergen's Toward Transformation in Social Knowledge.

            I'm not aware of any published theory that includes religious content, and from previous comments, it seems you agree.

            I would question whether the way you are using the term "religious content" is natural kind. A contrasting definition of 'religious belief' is provided Roy A. Clouser in A New Philosophical Guide for the Sciences: Ontology without Reduction, and in his book, The Myth of Religious Neutrality. Clouser argues that there is plenty of 'religious content' in published theories. I think his definition of 'religious belief' is better than any other I've encountered. Indeed, William T. Cavanaugh argues in The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict that no scholar has actually defined 'religion' in a properly scientific way, and then done successful empirical work with it. I don't think Cavanaugh is aware of Clouser, though.

            It's not much of an issue among scientists, as far as I can tell.

            No, but that's probably to their detriment. One of our greatest scientists, Albert Einstein, was clearly a philosopher. So was David Bohm, so was Louis de Broglie, so was Isaac Newton, etc. Fail to pay philosophy its due, fail to connect it properly to science, and you'll get asymptotic fall-off in scientific output.

            Stars can grow without roots.

            Stars do not 'grow'.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I claim this is short-sighted. In the long view, the view of ought in this domain is extraordinarily important.

            Other people can ask that question. I'm not very interested in finding out what science ought to be. I'm more interested in asking interesting questions that I think I can make progress on answering, without worrying much about whether what I'm doing or what other people are doing should be called science.

            I would question whether the way you are using the term "religious content" is natural kind.

            Here I'm just going for the effective atheism idea. Where does God appear in Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism? Or Einstein's theory of gravity? I don't see her there.

            No, but that's probably to their detriment. One of our greatest scientists, Albert Einstein, was clearly a philosopher. So was David Bohm, so was Louis de Broglie, so was Isaac Newton, etc. Fail to pay philosophy its due, fail to connect it properly to science, and you'll get asymptotic fall-off in scientific output.

            But why in a science journal?

            I think it's great for scientists to have philosophical interests. I'm a scientist who is interested in philosophy. I'd like to think my philosophical work helps my scientific work, in the same vein as I'd like to think Einstein's Spinozism and naturalism helped his work, and that Boltzmann's atomism helped his work. I'm not sure that's true. There are counter-examples, like Landau and Dirac and Feynman, who seemed to have little time for philosophy and yet were able to accomplish a great deal developing quantum field theory.

            Not entirely related, but have you looked at Canales's book on "The Physicist and the Philosopher"? Einstein's perspective on the value of metaphysics and physics, as regards time, is interesting and complex.

            Stars do not 'grow'.

            They absolutely do, especially when they're young. They accrete the material around them.

          • Other people can ask that question. I'm not very interested in finding out what science ought to be.

            Ok. I'm just a bit confused about why you're posting on this particular blog post, then.

            Here I'm just going for the effective atheism idea. Where does God appear in Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism? Or Einstein's theory of gravity? I don't see her there.

            Per Ex 20:4–6, as well as note 2 of NET Bible: Ex 20:4, no 'clear and distinct idea' can capture God. All things can do is point towards God, either analogically (Aquinas) or metaphorically (Brümmer). People, on the other hand, can be transformed arbitrarily much toward God. Hence God's ultimate revelation being a living being and more precisely the Logos, instead of something static like a model or a picture.

            The error is when one makes unjustified leaps from stuff like (i) Maxwell's equations; (ii) solutions to Einstein's field equations, to the idea that "God does not exist" or "God is not in intimate causal contact with reality".

            But why in a science journal?

            Probably because philosophy is seen as the child's table by many (e.g. Stephen Hawking). If it weren't, I would be arguing differently.

            I think it's great for scientists to have philosophical interests.

            Even given what you say after this, the overall thrust is that philosophy is basically a hobby, instead of crucial to the long-term advancement of science.

            I'm not sure that's true. There are counter-examples, like Landau and Dirac and Feynman, who seemed to have little time for philosophy and yet were able to accomplish a great deal developing quantum field theory.

            Dirac had his sea, so I'm not sure he counts. I know little about Landau. Feynman I know more about, but I don't know whether he separated philosophy into 'useful' and 'useless' buckets, so that I can examine his 'line of demarcation'. I recall him saying that philosophy is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds. I think that is terrifically false, and perhaps a result of postivistic beliefs. Positivism is a scourge on science if treated ontologically instead of as a governor on speculation.

            Not entirely related, but have you looked at Canales's book on "The Physicist and the Philosopher"? Einstein's perspective on the value of metaphysics and physics, as regards time, is interesting and complex.

            No, but I have now requested it from my library; thanks!

            They absolutely do, especially when they're young. They accrete the material around them.

            I'm sorry; I'm trying to use the word 'grow' as it relates to life. This means formal and final causation, of the category theory kind outlined by Rosen in Life Itself. You were employing the word metaphorically, and I think the metaphor breaks between the growth of knowledge and the growth of stars.

          • Michael Murray

            I know little about Landau.

            Let me fix that for you:

            Lev Davidovich Landau (Russian: Ле́в Дави́дович Ланда́у; IPA: [lʲɛv dɐˈvidəvʲitɕ lɐnˈdaʊ] ( listen); January 22 [O.S. January 9] 1908 – April 1, 1968) was a prominent Soviet physicist who made fundamental contributions to many areas of theoretical physics. His accomplishments include the independent co-discovery of the density matrix method[1] in quantum mechanics(alongside John von Neumann), the quantum mechanical theory of diamagnetism, the theory of superfluidity, the theory ofsecond-order phase transitions, the Ginzburg–Landau theory of superconductivity, the theory of Fermi liquid, the explanation ofLandau damping in plasma physics, the Landau pole in quantum electrodynamics, the two-component theory of neutrinos, and Landau's equations for S matrix singularities.[2] He received the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physics for his development of a mathematical theory of superfluidity that accounts for the properties of liquid helium II at a temperature below 2.17 K(−270.98 °C).[3]

          • Wait, he's one of the bastards who came up with the density matrix idea and didn't put a nice article on the internet explaining it? I took a sophomore "introduction to quantum" class from John Preskill and he busted out decoherence theory. The TAs couldn't help me with density operators and matrices! On the other hand, Preskill introduced us to the Elitzur–Vaidman bomb tester and it is quite awesome. Makes me think the idea is to image biological systems with high-energy EM, but in a "non-interacting" way. These days I'm wondering whether VCSELs can be used for better FRET microscopy (my wife is a scientist).

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            First, since you are confused, I will reiterate my original comment. The way science actually works, at least the way astronomy and physics and chemistry works, is under the starting assumption of methodological naturalism. The net cast is too small to catch whales. Science therefore, by itself, will unsurprisingly never conclude that God is relevant. The net will never catch whales. Scientists and fishermen are free to believe what they like about God and whales regardless of what their nets tell them. Maybe in the future the net will grow to catch whales, or maybe whales aren't as big as we thought. Maybe someday God will be a subject for science. But not yet, maybe not ever. I suspect you and I don't entirely agree here.

            Second, philosophy for me is slightly more than a hobby. But for many of my friends in science, it is a hobby, and for many it is less than that. And why should it be more? I suspect it would be helpful for most scientists to know some philosophy, just like it would be good for physicists to know some chemistry, or astronomers some statistics. Little more should be required, or expected, since it is not what most of us went into science to worry about. At the same time, philosophers need not enter into physics research or attend chemistry conferences. Instead, we should all talk more to philosophers, and philosophers should talk more to us. I would think we would agree on this point.

          • The way science actually works, at least the way astronomy and physics and chemistry works, is under the starting assumption of methodological naturalism.

            I'm skeptical of you speaking for all of those sciences, but I have no doubt that many operate in this way. What I would then say is that these sciences, done this way, must accept the unhappy conclusion I reasoned to: "(5) Therefore, truth and falsity of belief is unknowable." The best you can talk about is "adaptation to the environment", where "adaptation" means reproductive success (publish more papers, get more money, publish more papers). Generally, 'truth' is held to be a stronger category than this.

            Science therefore, by itself, will unsurprisingly never conclude that God is relevant.

            But that is because science, as you have construed it, has nothing to say about truth! The problem is then that 'science' equivocates, pretending it can speak about truth. Owen Barfield captures this equivocation:

            In physics in particular there is a marked tendency to treat almost as an enfant terrible anyone who takes the models literally enough to refer to them in any context outside that of physical inquiry itself.[1] It would seem to follow from this that, as Plato and the astronomers believed, scientific hypotheses have no direct relation to the real nature of things.    On the other hand I find something equivocal in the public utterances of the spokesmen of science. For the same ones who have just been stressing this unpretentious view of scientific theory will frequently let drop some such phrase as 'some day we may know'—or even 'we now know'—when speaking, not of some particular hypothesis, but of quite general conclusions about the nature of universe, earth or man. Moreover, if the occasion is a formal one, we often get some reference to the history of science, in terms of 'advancing the frontiers of knowledge', and so forth. All this indicates a very different conception of science and strongly suggests to the audience that modern science, so far from begin disentitled to claim the status of knowledge, is the only reliable knowledge available to us. At the least, it suggests that the findings of any particular science are not merely tools for the application and further pursuit of that science, but have some sort of universal validity. (Saving the Appearances, 54)

            A severe critique along these lines can be found in Kenneth Gergen's Toward Transformation in Social Knowledge—applied to the idea that the human sciences are building up a corpus of knowledge.

            Maybe someday God will be a subject for science. But not yet, maybe not ever. I suspect you and I don't entirely agree here.

            God will become [more] relevant when we admit formal and final causation into the mix, when science is no longer a Baconian tool for getting what we want, when it also guides us toward what is good and away from what is evil. And it is doing that, in bits and pieces: for example, finding out that higher mammals are more 'human' than we previously thought helps us be less terrible to them. Robert Rosen's Life Itself may end up reintroducing formal and final causation into science, via category theory. Ilya Prigogine's work and Robert Laughlin's work will probably help, here. To mention another topic, talk of the "unity of science" pushes toward a God who made everything consistent, coherent, and [ever-increasingly] intelligible to imago Dei beings. This doesn't land you at the Christian God, but it heads in that direction away from other things.

            Second, philosophy for me is slightly more than a hobby. But for many of my friends in science, it is a hobby, and for many it is less than that. And why should it be more?

            Shall we talk about which science to fund, given (i) the dogma that scientists produce 'reproducible science'; (ii) Nature's Drug development: Raise standards for preclinical cancer research, which includes the following paragraph:

            Over the past decade, before pursuing a particular line of research, scientists (including C.G.B.) in the haematology and oncology department at the biotechnology firm Amgen in Thousand Oaks, California, tried to confirm published findings related to that work. Fifty-three papers were deemed 'landmark' studies (see 'Reproducibility of research findings'). It was acknowledged from the outset that some of the data might not hold up, because papers were deliberately selected that described something completely new, such as fresh approaches to targeting cancers or alternative clinical uses for existing therapeutics. Nevertheless, scientific findings were confirmed in only 6 (11%) cases. Even knowing the limitations of preclinical research, this was a shocking result.

            6 out of 53 published papers reproduced. 11%! See also the Nature article Believe it or not: how much can we rely on published data on potential drug targets?. We could talk about the fact that biophysics research is headed into the realm where information must be extracted from a crapton of noise, which means that it's not clear whether you're seeing something real, or Einstein's face because you put it there. We could talk about whether we should be funding string theory research at its current levels, or building the next LHC.

            Now, if you don't want to have these discussion, then fine. But I am interested in seeing how you ought to properly scope what you talk about, as if you had any authority, if you do treat philosophy as 'merely' a hobby. Make sense? What really frustrates me is when scientists derogate philosophy and then attempt to seize its territory. They make much worse rulers of its territory than the philosophers.

            At the same time, philosophers need not enter into physics research or attend chemistry conferences. Instead, we should all talk more to philosophers, and philosophers should talk more to us. I would think we would agree on this point.

            Some cross-disciplinary work is required. A great example would be quantum physicist + philospoher Bernard d'Espagnat's 2006 On Physics and Philosophy. There, his explicit mission was to update philosophy with knowledge gained from quantum physics: particularly Bell's theorem & the related Aspect experiments, and the measurement problem. Owen Barfield would be proud of his results, especially pp410–411.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            But that is because science, as you have construed it, has nothing to say about truth!

            That's not right at all. Talking about reality ("truth" simpliciter is such a grandiose term), science, as I understand it, has quite a bit to say about reality, but to get from the results of experiments to reality requires some metaphysics.

            The problem is then that 'science' equivocates, pretending it can speak about truth.

            Or maybe it's scientists doing philosophy.

            God will become [more] relevant when we admit formal and final causation into the mix

            How would final causation improve electromagnetism? Or classical mechanics? I ask sincerely. I think there may be places for it, but I'm curious about where you think they are.

            Even if these things are introduced, where is God in them?

            6 out of 53 published papers reproduced. 11%!

            This seems to be an excellent argument for less philosophy, less of scientists getting these pictures of the way the world should work in their heads, deciding what the answers are before looking at the question, and letting their philosophies run wild on imagined trends in the noise.

            We could talk about whether we should be funding string theory research at its current levels, or building the next LHC.

            The big funding agencies care even less about philosophy than your average working scientist.

            The next LHC would be built based on concrete predictions from already well evidenced theories, or from investigation into the holes in these theories. There's a lot of interesting work going on with neutrinos, but nothing to indicate that a larger collider will resolve anything, so I think it will be a tough sell. I would like to see such a thing built, in principle, if it has a good chance of finding something interesting.

            None of that has much to do with philosophy.

            But I am interested in seeing how you ought to properly scope what you talk about, as if you had any authority, if you do treat philosophy as 'merely' a hobby. Make sense?

            Not particularly, but I think I can avoid answering altogether, since I don't see philosophy as at most a hobby. I think that philosophy is important, at least as important as chemistry (if not personally as interesting).

            What really frustrates me is when scientists derogate philosophy and then attempt to seize its territory. They make much worse rulers of its territory than the philosophers.

            Can you give some examples from the published literature, ideally in chemistry, physics or astronomy (since those are the three fields I've done some work in, so there's some hope I'd understand the literature you reference)?

            Some cross-disciplinary work is required.

            It pleases me greatly that we agree on one thing at least!

          • That's not right at all. Talking about reality ("truth" simpliciter is such a grandiose term), science, as I understand it, has quite a bit to say about reality, but to get from the results of experiments to reality requires some metaphysics.

            Truth gets at beyond the appearances of 'empirical reality'. Heraclitus observed that all sensation is in flux; to get to 'truth' is to get to the invariants behind that flux. Anti-realism in science, such as Bas van Fraassen's Constructive Empiricism, explicitly rejects that one is 'digging down' to an invariant that connects to "reality as it is", or more colloquially, to truth. Key here is a distinction between 'appearances' and 'actuality'. It is this distinction which quantum physicist and philosopher Bernard d'Espagnat says does not exist in one of our best scientific theories, QFT:

            Hence, concerning particles, there is according to quantum field theory no conceptual separation to be drawn between the two notions of property and existence. (On Physics and Philosophy, 44)

            Once you do this, I think you have switched from accessing "reality as it is", to accessing "merely the appearances". That is when the disconnection from truth happens, and steering away from the word 'truth' is just a euphemistic evasion of what has actually happened.

            Or maybe it's scientists doing philosophy.

            Ontologically, yes. But according to (i) what those scientists think they're doing; (ii) what the public thinks they're doing, it may appear to be "scientists doing science". This, I claim, is quite problematic.

            How would final causation improve electromagnetism? Or classical mechanics? I ask sincerely.

            Well, the principle of least action seems a bit teleological. Formal causation seems relevant right here:

                Is this difficulty merely a practical one? Yes, if we consider that trajectories have now become uncomputable. But there is more: Probability distribution permits us to incorporate within the framework of the dynamical description the complex microstructure of the phase space. It therefore contains additional information that is lacking at the level of individual trajectories. As we shall see in Chapter 4, this has fundamental consequences. At the level of distribution functions ρ, we obtain a new dynamical description that permits us to predict the future evolution of the ensemble, including characteristic time scales. (The End of Certainty, 37)

            As to final causation, perhaps that is most valuable when defining 'life' (hence the title of Robert Rosen's book, Life Itself). I'm not sure how it would be relevant for EM or classical mechanics. Perhaps the evolution of a formal cause over time would constitute a final cause? I would have to investigate Prigogine's work some more.

            Even if these things are introduced, where is God in them?

            God would not be 'in' them; instead, they would point to God. Succession in approximations scientific theory would point ever-more-accurately toward God, as would succession in approximations in theology. (I can excerpt from Timothy Ware's The Orthodox Church to support this second kind of approximation, if you'd like.)

            This seems to be an excellent argument for less philosophy, less of scientists getting these pictures of the way the world should work in their heads, deciding what the answers are before looking at the question, and letting their philosophies run wild on imagined trends in the noise.

            Everyone employs a philosophy, at the behavioral level as well as the intuitive level. (See, for example, the concept of the unarticulated background.) Philosophy can be used to make what is implicit, explicit; it doesn't have to erect a complex edifice that goes well beyond the evidence. As evidence for the goodness of doing this, see Eric Schwitzgebel's 2008 The Unreliability of Naive Introspection, with emphasis on the 'naive', which philosophy can help dispel (as well as psychology).

            The big funding agencies care even less about philosophy than your average working scientist.

            This doesn't mean they don't employ a philosophy. Similarly, politicians will employ a political theory, even if they're not self-aware of it.

            None of that has much to do with philosophy.

            Extrapolating from the known to the unknown is precisely the domain of philosophy. See: Underdetermination of Scientific Theory.

            Not particularly, but I think I can avoid answering altogether, since I don't see philosophy as at most a hobby. I think that philosophy is important, at least as important as chemistry (if not personally as interesting).

            This is surprising, given what else you say in this comment.

            Can you give some examples from the published literature, ideally in chemistry, physics or astronomy (since those are the three fields I've done some work in, so there's some hope I'd understand the literature you reference)?

            I don't have refereed examples ready of this, but I can point to three very influential scientists who have screwed up when it comes to philosophy: Lawrence Krauss, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Stephen Hawking.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            Truth gets at beyond the appearances of 'empirical reality'.

            I'm glad we agree here!

            Ontologically, yes.

            And here! That's three things we agree on.

            1 It's good for scientists to talk to philosophers.

            2 Science by itself doesn't talk about reality. Metaphysics is also necessary.

            3 Scientists talk about reality, because scientists have beliefs, just like everyone else.

            God would not be 'in' them; instead, they would point to God.

            And here we disagree. At least, I don't see that particular trajectory, unless by "God" all that is meant is something like Spinoza's God. In which case, I think the development in science points toward God, but I'm in the minority.

            Extrapolating from the known to the unknown is precisely the domain of philosophy.

            I think that's making predictions. I think you can only call this philosophy if the idea of philosophy is so broad as to include pretty-much everything as philosophy. When I wake up in the morning and think "will it rain?" is this doing philosophy? If you want to define it that way, fine. Then everything's philosophy, and that makes the term worthless.

            Well, the principle of least action seems a bit teleological.

            I agree. That's a good place to include final causes, if you're going to. All the more important because it appears presently that certain problems can only be solved by minimizing actions (and this requires some end-point definitions). The struggle here will be to square this with four dimensionalism. After all, if I think of the universe as a single 4d block of space-time, it doesn't seem as though teleology is much required for mechanics. The end-points are a matter not of any sort of goal or directedness, but a simple matter of geometry.

            I think it may also come into play talking about life, but if it does, then I think it comes into play just as much talking about inertia. Inertia is hard for me to understand anyway, but it's even harder without thinking about some sort of teleology. What is it about things that makes it so that they resist change? Spinoza says that things want to persist in their existence and their motion. If so, that persistence seems very much like a goal. It's unresolved in my mind at least.

            This is surprising, given what else you say in this comment.

            That physicists don't need to study chemistry and don't need to study philosophy in order to be good physicists? That they just need to have some idea of the subject, and be willing to talk to philosophers and to chemists when relevant? No, I think my statement should be all that surprising.

            I don't have refereed examples ready of this, but I can point to three very influential scientists who have screwed up when it comes to philosophy:Lawrence Krauss, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Stephen Hawking.

            At least then (in the absence of examples) it's just science popularization that has this trouble, and not actual scientific research. Like you, it bothers me when scientists pronounce outside their area of expertise, because it usually ends in nonsense. I mean, it's probably fine in the pub or on a website message board, but in a book on what science is, that's not so good.

            That said, most of what Tyson, Hawking and Krauss have written is excellent popular science, and helps engage and expand young minds. The good that they do, in my opinion, vastly outweighs the bad.

          • LB: Truth gets at beyond the appearances of 'empirical reality'.

            PBR: I'm glad we agree here!

            Wait a second; you said "("truth" simpliciter is such a grandiose term)". If I combine that with said agreement, it is almost as if you think "beyond the appearances" is a grandiose thing. Is that true, or false?

            2 Science by itself doesn't talk about reality. Metaphysics is also necessary.

            3 Scientists talk about reality, because scientists have beliefs, just like everyone else.

            That's an interesting stance. So, in your view, a scientist, qua scientist, can never talk about 'reality'?

            And here we disagree. At least, I don't see that particular trajectory, unless by "God" all that is meant is something like Spinoza's God. In which case, I think the development in science points toward God, but I'm in the minority.

            As you get to know a person, you uncover ever-new aspects, as well as firming up what you suspected where habits or even 'character traits'. At any point in time, what you know already points toward further articulation, further elaboration, and better approximation. True, or false?

            I think that's making predictions. I think you can only call this philosophy if the idea of philosophy is so broad as to include pretty-much everything as philosophy. When I wake up in the morning and think "will it rain?" is this doing philosophy? If you want to define it that way, fine. Then everything's philosophy, and that makes the term worthless.

            Fine, something stronger than merely "extrapolating from the known to the unknown" is required. Perhaps we need to add something along the lines of: "futzing with one's a priori beliefs"?

            The struggle here will be to square this with four dimensionalism.

            True, but given a block universe, you might not even get causation (see especially the Time, Tense, and Causation excerpt), or at least what most people recognize as 'causation'. Furthermore, it's not clear that one can talk about 'rationality' being a cause for belief under four dimensionalism.

            I think it may also come into play talking about life, but if it does, then I think it comes into play just as much talking about inertia. Inertia is hard for me to understand anyway, but it's even harder without thinking about some sort of teleology. What is it about things that makes it so that they resist change? Spinoza says that things want to persist in their existence and their motion. If so, that persistence seems very much like a goal. It's unresolved in my mind at least.

            It's fascinating that you pick out inertia; that makes me think of David Braine's The Reality of Time and the Existence of God: The Project of Proving God's Existence, which I excerpt here (same place as my Time, Tense, and Causation excerpt). I've only just started making it through Braine's book, so I don't have much more to say at this point than is in that comment with the two excerpts.

            That physicists don't need to study chemistry and don't need to study philosophy in order to be good physicists?

            No. A great deal of division of labor is fine. Instead, you haven't quite said—or I haven't seen you say/imply—that sans good [explicitly studied] philosophy, science will [eventually] start suffering problems.

            At least then (in the absence of examples) it's just science popularization that has this trouble, and not actual scientific research.

            Given that the popular conception of science is profoundly important for what research is funded (in anything resembling a democracy or representative republic), I think this problem is much more severe than you intimate. What stuff like Neil deGrasee Tyson says (including evil bullshit like this) ends up getting believed by a ton of people, and that belief has consequences which impacts science, as well as theists in science (e.g., my wife).

            That said, most of what Tyson, Hawking and Krauss have written is excellent popular science, and helps engage and expand young minds. The good that they do, in my opinion, vastly outweighs the bad.

            Many people are of precisely the opposite opinion when it comes to the RCC and all the good it has done; they de facto apply the following:

            If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:8–13)

            And you know what? To some extent, those small mistakes can grow and multiply if not given proper attention! For example, see the nominalism of Duns Scotus and William of Ockham. It took centuries for the errors therein to really cause damage. (I think the answer is in the direction of Colin E. Gunton's 'open transcendentals'; I left a comment on that over here, but Roger Olson hasn't approved any comments, yet.)

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            Wait a second; you said "("truth" simpliciter is such a grandiose term)". If I combine that with said agreement, it is almost as if you think "beyond the appearances" is a grandiose thing. Is that true, or false?

            I prefer to talk about reality, or even fundamental reality, instead of "truth", by itself. I'll let you parse out what this means about "beyond the appearances".

            That's an interesting stance. So, in your view, a scientist, qua scientist, can never talk about 'reality'?

            Not except in some colloquial sense ('the data is really good', 'the value is really 3.5').

            I might colloquially talk about how electrons really have mass, and this may be derivitavely true, but maybe individuals, fundamentally speaking, don't exist. I suspect they don't, but that's not a scientific conclusion. So if a scientist, as a scientist, can't really say whether electrons, or fields, or Hilbert spaces, are really real, what can they say about reality?

            No. A great deal of division of labor is fine. Instead, you haven't quite said—or I haven't seen you say/imply—that sans good [explicitly studied] philosophy, science will [eventually] start suffering problems.

            I didn't say, but meant to say, that I suspect this is true. I hope it's true. I don't know if it's true, because I've not seen any correlation between quality of science and how much attention scientists pay to philosophy.

            I have a colleague here who has been deeply involved in philosophy and science and faith discussions, he's much more involved with philosophy than I am, and when talking with me he's said that his philosophy and his religion (he's Christian) don't affect the way he does the science itself, although he thinks they affect the way he treats other scientists. The anecdote is only given to say that it's hard even for those of us interested in philosophy to see the connection. This guy does top notch work, but other people do equally good or better work and they claim not to care one wit about philosophy.

          • I prefer to talk about reality, or even fundamental reality, instead of "truth", by itself. I'll let you parse out what this means about "beyond the appearances".

            Very interesting; Penelope Maddy, author of Second Philosophy: A Naturalistic Method, eschews the idea of "fundamental reality":

                But the capital letters aren't just for emphasis: THE WORLD is different from the world. To see this, consider Putnam's formulation of a venerable criticism of correspondence theories of truth:

            One cannot think of truth as correspondence to facts (or 'reality') because … thinking of truth in this way would require one to be able to compare concepts directly with unconceptualized reality—and philosophers [are] fond … of pointing out the absurdity of such a comparison. (Putnam [1976b], p. 110)

            Putnam is surely right about the popularity of this charge! But this 'Comparison Problem'[11]—how can we compare language with raw reality?—doesn't apply to the Second Philosopher's project: she understands the challenge as explaining the relation between human language use—as described in linguistics, psychology, sociology, etc.—and the world—as described in physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, botany, etc.; she will never be involved in the search for 'a "correspondence" to nominal things' (Putnam [1981a], p. 73) because she is deaf and blind to the lure of the Kantian transcendental project in the first place (see 1.4). Putnam's use of 'THE WORLD' signals the contrast: his metaphysical realist requires a correspondence between language and 'something totally uncontaminated by conceptualization' (Putnam [1981a], p. 54).[12] (101)

            Of course, the claim that human cognizers perform some processing on raw sensory stimulations is a commonplace of contemporary psychology; there is a concerted scientific effort to determine how this is done, to describe the mechanisms involved. But Putnam has more than this in mind: it is

            Silly [to think] that we can have knowledge of objects that goes beyond experience. (Putnam [1981b], p. 210)

            One idea … definitely sunk by Kant … is that we can think and talk about things as they are, independently of our minds. (Putnam [1981b], p. 205)

            The 'Kantian corollary' seems to be that we cannot hope to know what the world is like independent of our perceptual and conceptual processors or independent of our scientific theorizing.    To the Second Philosopher, this sounds either false or unproblematic. When empirical psychology tells us that we are prone to certain sorts of perceptual or cognitive mistakes, it is telling us that the world is not as our basic processors tend to see it. Likewise, scientific progress sometimes takes the form of discovering that the way the world appears to us is not the way it actually is: as Einstein showed that our perception of the world as Euclidean is actually a parochial, small-scale take on a large-scale non-Euclidean universe, or as quantum mechanics suggests that our everyday ideas about causation aren't applicable in the micro-world. In all such cases, careful application of the scientific method allows us to 'see around' any particular scientific theory; this is how science progresses, by replacing one theory with another. So the only complaint that remains is that we can't find out about the world without using our scientific methods—something the Second Philosopher would hardly contest! (104–105)

            Feel free to make use of that or not; I think it's just helpful to point to thinkers who have worked really hard to make some idea as consistent as possible, under profound scrutiny.

            LB: That's an interesting stance. So, in your view, a scientist, qua scientist, can never talk about 'reality'?

            PBR: Not except in some colloquial sense ('the data is really good', 'the value is really 3.5').

            Fascinating! So in your view, a scientist, qua scientist, ought to be an instrumentalist (anti-realist)? Do you have any idea how many other scientists agree with you on this point? It seems to me that many atheists who argue on the internet believe that 'science' really can talk about '[fundamental] reality'. Indeed, I'm not sure I've ever [knowingly] encountered another internet atheist as rigorous about anti-realism as you, when it comes to 'science'.

            I might colloquially talk about how electrons really have mass, and this may be derivitavely true, but maybe individuals, fundamentally speaking, don't exist. I suspect they don't, but that's not a scientific conclusion. So if a scientist, as a scientist, can't really say whether electrons, or fields, or Hilbert spaces, are really real, what can they say about reality?

            Very interesting paper; I'm glad the author rejects bundle theory. It seems like this is a classic example of encountering the problem of the one and the many, and sliding toward one of the extremes instead of maintaining a proper tension. I predict that any failure to maintain that tension will end in ultimate failure. I claim that 'individual' presupposes 'relationship', and vice versa. (Thanks, McFadyen!)

            LB: No. A great deal of division of labor is fine. Instead, you haven't quite said—or I haven't seen you say/​imply—that sans good [explicitly studied] philosophy, science will [eventually] start suffering problems.

            PBR: I didn't say, but meant to say, that I suspect this is true. I hope it's true. I don't know if it's true, because I've not seen any correlation between quality of science and how much attention scientists pay to philosophy.

            Ahh, thanks for the clarification. I think that the following four books are very helpful on this matter. Bohm probably should have gotten a Nobel Prize for the Aharonov–Bohm effect; Prigogine and Laughlin both got Nobel Prizes.

            • David Bohm's Causality and Chance in Modern Physics
            • Ilya Prigogine's The End of Certainty: Time, Chaos, and the New Laws of Nature
            • Robert B. Laughlin's A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down
            • Robert Rosen's Life Itself
            • Roy A. Clouser's The Myth of Religious Neutrality (yep, one of these doesn't seem like the others!)

            While these don't raise my confidence to "know [with certainty]", they do push it awfully high.

            I have a colleague here who has been deeply involved in philosophy and science and faith discussions, he's much more involved with philosophy than I am, and when talking with me he's said that his philosophy and his religion (he's Christian) don't affect the way he does the science itself, although he thinks they affect the way he treats other scientists.

            I would have said that empirically, I could not disagree, although I hoped that was wrong. More recently, I actually think my philosophy, philosophy of religion, and religion, all are becoming relevant to how I think of science. As it turns out, nonlocality/​nonseparability as well as metaphysics of causation are the unifying factors. Examining errors in philosophical atomism and social atomism promise to point me to errors in scientific atomism (which is strongly linked to reductionism and the mechanical philosophy). Only time will tell whether I'm onto something, or thinking nonsense. I'm hoping further research into category theory (which can be viewed as focusing on formal and final causation, over and above material and efficient causation—thanks, Robert Rosen!) will be important. And so, I need to read up on MIT researcher David Spivak's work.

            The anecdote is only given to say that it's hard even for those of us interested in philosophy to see the connection. This guy does top notch work, but other people do equally good or better work and they claim not to care one wit about philosophy.

            You are welcome to put me in connection with this person, if you and he think it is appropriate. :-) labreuer@gmail.com

          • Michael Murray

            Instead, we should all talk more to philosophers, and philosophers should talk more to us.

            Does the Moving Naturalism Forward conference count ? There are a stack of videos from it

            http://preposterousuniverse.com/naturalism2012/

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I'd think so. There are some top-notch philosophers at that conference. I wish I could have attended.

          • Michael Murray

            Fail to pay philosophy its due, fail to connect it properly to science, and you'll get asymptotic fall-off in scientific output.

            Ah perhaps that explains my lack of publication in recent years. I thought it was too much administration and teaching.

          • What, you don't have peons doing research for which you will get a Nobel Prize?

          • Michael Murray

            Nope. Mathematicians don't generally work that way. We can't get the Nobel Prize either :( In theory we can get the Fields Medal which is the equivalent but I am not even remotely in that class (and far too old). Shared an office with someone who was when I was a graduate student. There is a definite difference between genuises and mere mortals.

          • Or the geniuses largely pilfer what others have done, perhaps doing some synthesis (which is valuable, but not the only [highly] valuable thing).

            On the off chance that you're aware of this, do you know anything about category theory? I've gotten interested in it due to (i) Robert Rosen's Life Itself; (ii) MIT's David I. Spivak, using category theory to work with databases. I dropped out of Caltech three times, never graduating, because I found it too theoretical—too disconnected from practical reality which I could reason from. Now, I'm interested in what people tell me is the most abstract mathematics, because I want to do more and more powerful things with databases (e.g. associative memory†, painless database migrations, and 'organically growing' data structures).

            † Three cheers for Vannevar Bush's 1945 As We May Think, and three boos to the fact that you still cannot do proper associative memory on the internet (e.g. show, for a page on the web, what points to it and which bits are pointed to—I call it symbolic quoting, while Ted Nelson might call it transclusion).

          • Michael Murray

            Or the geniuses largely pilfer what others have done, perhaps doing some synthesis (which is valuable, but not the only [highly] valuable thing).

            I hope the pilfering comment is some kind of attempt at humour because it's definitely not true of the genuises I've known well in mathematics. They see connections other people can't see. They can prove things other people can't prove. They create whole new fields of human thought. The rest of us have the odd useful insight but we are pretty much replaceable by other decent mathematicians and the shape of mathematics would not be that different in a hundred years time without us. That is not the case for most mathematical geniuses I've met.

            Yes I know a bit about category theory but only the basic definitions.

          • It was tongue-in-cheek, but somewhat serious, too. I'm not sure how many of the geniuses could do as much if they couldn't make use of the work of folks like you['ve presented yourself]. Synthesis is really important—I do lots of it myself—but it's not the only important thing. I just hate it when some particular part of a field, some particular job or skill, is elevated above all the others. Then something else is made menial, like software development in biophysics. As it turns out, if your software sucks, you'll probably do second- or third-tier science, and if you don't know how to write software well, you'll waste a lot of time doing it and not be able to do as many sick experiments.

          • Michael Murray

            Sure a genius needs a lot of stuff done by ordinary people. I guess the difference is that those ordinary people, presented with all the work done by the other ordinary people, won't make the leap the genius does. There are some things in mathematics where you might think: "gosh if I was 10 times smarter and worked 10 times harder I could have done that" and there are other things where you think "I would never have thought of that in a million years". There is a famous quote by Mark Kac:

            There are two kinds of geniuses: the ‘ordinary’ and the ‘magicians.’ an ordinary genius is a fellow whom you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what they’ve done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it. It is different with the magicians... Feynman is a magician of the highest caliber.

            The examples I'm thinking of are magicians I guess.

          • Yeah I just don't buy that. I think it's a relic of this kind of thinking:

            I said above that the work of the scientist consist is in putting forward and testing theories.    The initial stage, the act of conceiving or inventing a theory, seems to me neither to call for logical analysis nor to be susceptible of it. The question how it happens that a new idea occurs to a man—whether it is a musical theme, a dramatic conflict, or a scientific theory—may be of great interest to empirical psychology; but it is irrelevant to the logical analysis of scientific knowledge. The latter is concerned not with questions of fact (Kant's quid facti?), but only with questions of justification or validity (Kant's quid juris?). (The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 7)

            The 10x factor is interesting; it also shows up in computer programming. Some programmers, legend has it, are 10x as fast as the 'common' programmer. I'm pretty close to the 10x category, but I see it as the natural result of a certain way of thinking and a long, self-taught training program. Study of works such as David Braine's Language and Human Understanding: The Roots of Creativity in Speech and Thought will probably tease out some of the details of how that worked. I'm thinking that some proper category theory would help, as well.

            We'll probably be discovering this stuff, by the way, if we ever want to get machine learning to do proper hypothesis formation. The way you do that is to sufficiently limit the search space (that is, don't think in terms of Solomonoff induction). It's only rocket science because people have not sufficiently disciplined their minds. We need to stop telling ourselves lies about how the human mind works. The computer model of the mind needs to be thrown out (see Robert Rosen's Life Itself and David Braine's The Human Person: Animal and Spirit). We need to accept facts about nonlocality and synchrony (the latter shows up in Antonio Damasio's Descartes' Error). Etc.

            What the case seems to be is that some people do magically connect all the dots and figure out how to do the hard thing, without an explicit, self-reflective process of learning and training. That's good, because we are shown how awesome the human mind can be. But now we need to actually figure out how it works, instead of standing, drooling, like the stereotype is of Scholastics & God. If there were ever a superstition, it's the 10x myth.

          • Michael Murray

            You're entitled to your opinion. I'm just telling you my experience. By the way the 10x was chosen at random. It's only significance is the difference, as Kac points out between brain processes we can imagine emulating and those we can't imagine emulating. Kac said "many times". Call it "many times" if you like.

          • I intend to show that it is much more than an opinion, by researching what the limit is to the human's rate of learning. :-D

            I hear you on the 10x; it was just fun that programmers use precisely that number in their mythology.

          • Michael Murray

            I think the 10 is related to the number of fingers on a primate on Sol 3.

    • ClayJames

      You are absolutely right about the assumption of methodological naturalism, a fact that many atheists love to disregard.

      I think it all comes down to what we mean by ¨universe¨. If we just mean the natural causes and effects, then yes, science can explain the universe. However, there is no need to assume methodological naturalism when talking about the universe itself and in that sense, science cannot explain a universe that also includes the supernatural.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Right. As Heisenberg noted, what we observe is not Nature but only those aspects of nature accessible to our methods of investigation. The medieval idea of methodological naturalism means that our results will only ever consist of natural causes. We cannot conclude from that that there are no other facets of reality, because we have decided ahead of time that we will not "detect" them.

      • Paul Brandon Rimmer

        I think that is right. The most science can say in the face of a mystery is that there's no explanation yet. Metaphysics of some sort is required to go any farther.

        The Judeo Christian idea of a contingent world governed by laws would seem to generate this sort of approach. That's interesting.

  • If a god exists, obviously it matters.

    Yes, science relies on induction, but so do religious apologists. Both scientists and and religious apologists may frame their syllogisms in deductive terms, but no premises can be demonstrated with certainty, accordingly, such proofs must have the caveat "if: in front of them.

    For example, a scientist could say:

    "All massive objects attract each other, the Earth is a massive object, therefore the Earth will attract an asteroid A."

    Of course we do not know with certainty that all massive objects attract each other, that is just what most observations suggest. Indeed, it is what all observations lead us to believe when we account for other repulsive forces that may overpower this attraction, such as magnetism. So really, if we are being very strict, we should say that "it appears" or "if" all massive objects attract each other, and "if" asteroid A is a massive object. Our conclusion is only as strong as the evidence of these premises being true.

    But the same can be said for religious apologetics. An apologist may say:

    "Everything material has a cause for its motion, nothing can ultimately cause its own motion, therefore there must be a non-material cause for motion..." or something.

    But of course, we do not know with certainty that everything material has a cause for its motion or that nothing can ultimately cause its own motion. Equally, there need to be "if" and caveats on these as well.

  • "...one can never rationally claim that science can give a complete and exhaustive explanation of the universe—much less a complete enough explanation that God is no longer needed as its creator."

    Is anyone saying science can give a complete and exhaustive explanation of the universe? I don't think so, but what it can give is a rational explanation of many aspects of the universe.

    But similarly, religious apologetics and philosophy cannot give a complete and exhaustive explanation of the universe either. To do so we would need to fully know the mind or nature of God, which is a contradiction to most definitions of this deity. To completely and exhaustively explain a universe created by the Chirstian God, we would need to be God, to fully understand his purposes, methods, mechanisms and so on.

    The question is not can we ultimately or completely explain the cosmos or the universe, but can we rationally explain it given our epistemological restrictions.

    • BGA: Is anyone saying science can give a complete and exhaustive explanation of the universe? I don't think so, but what it can give is a rational explanation of many aspects of the universe.

      Let's compare & contrast this to a recent statement of yours:

      BGA: I am not really aware of anyone who considers no other avenue to be of value [than science].

      I objected, to which you responded, Yes this is all true. You've now made a slightly different claim, which I will schematize:

           (1) Who says there is no avenue other than science?
           (2) Who says science can explain everything?

      Now, you've admitted that there are people of type (1). However, it is the case that (1) ⇎ (2). So, I will attempt to refute (2), as I [apparently successfully] refuted (1). I will riff on Noam Chomsky's [published:] 2012 lecture, "The machine, the ghost, and the limits of understanding"[1]. What Chomsky notes is that there are many things that scientists and philosophers hoped would be accomplished via the mechanical philosophy (think: all causation is contact causation, billiard ball-style). As it became clear that these things were insoluble via the mechanical philosophy, people stopped thinking of them as problems. The domain of "what can possibly be explained" shrunk. It kept shrinking, and many people didn't even realize it! The philosophical result of this is The Deflationary Theory of Truth, of which I gave an example.

      Now, as it turns out, it's not really relevant whether science can explain everything; instead, it's relevant whether there are any other valid ways of explaining, other than science. Gregory W. Dawes tackles this problem in Theism and Explanation. He argues that while theism could give non-naturalistic explanations which are indeed legit (see the "not nomological" bit in my excerpt), he doesn't see any extant theism as being sufficient, as an explanation. And so, [I think, but would want to verify:] according to him, all we have right now are scientific explanations. That would lead to a "many" answer to a very slightly modified version of your question:

           (2') Who says science can does explain everything which can be explained?

      Of course, this collapses (2) back to (1), but I think the more interesting question was always (1), anyhow. Your (2) is interesting, but I think it is dwarfed by (1).

      [1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5in5EdjhD0

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Is anyone saying science can give a complete and exhaustive explanation of the universe?

      All the ones looking for the Theory of Everything (ToE)

      But similarly, religious apologetics and philosophy cannot give a complete and exhaustive explanation of the universe either.

      Good thing they're not trying to do that. It's a mistake to think that everyone is always trying to do physics.

  • "Another way to respond to this objection is by pointing out that science
    in principle cannot explain why the universe exists in the first place
    rather than not exist."

    I do not see theists or philosophers being able to provide any answers for this either. They suggest there is an answer that a God who knows this answer, but they don't know it, and given human epistemological restrictions, we will not be able to know it. If gods of certain definitions exist they could know it.

    • ClayJames

      There is a difference between not coming to a definite answer and not being able to even answer the question. Science cannot answer this question. An omniscience being, if he does exist, can.

      • I agree, this piece is discussing definite answers as it notes science cannot come to a "complete and exhaustive explanation of the universe".

        An omniscient being might, I suppose, but this piece is discussing human methods for addressing these questions. It notes science is incapable of fully addressing these questions. I agree, so is any human method. One would need to be the omniscient being to be completely certain of any premises in a deductive method.

        • ClayJames

          I don´t think I was clear. Science, because it assumes methodological naturalism, cannot answer the ¨why¨ question. It is not a matter of not knowing the answer, it is a matter of not being able to answer it.

          An omnisciente being, can have an answer to that question and we can definetly try to understand the omniscient being´s answer to that ¨why¨ question.

          My problem with your initial comment was that you put science and religion/philosophy on level ground regarding the ¨why¨ question, when this question is unanswerable with science but answerable with religion/philosophy.

    • I do not see theists or philosophers being able to provide any answers for this either.

      Can you conceive of a way to answer a "Why?" question which does not ultimately collapse to a "How?" answer? See: teleonomy, dysteleology, and the instrumentalist (anti-realist) intentional stance. It seems to me that your metaphysics precludes true teleology, that you have presumed it out of existence. You do know that Francis Bacon did this, right? (He did get help from the nominalists.)

      • "Can you conceive of a way to answer a "Why?" question which does not ultimately collapse to a "How?""

        Ultimately? no. Can you?

        You may be right, I don't know what "true teleology" is, so I cannot say whether it is precluded by my metaphysics. I don't know what you are talking about with respect to Francis Bacon or what nominalists are.

        • Ultimately? no. Can you?

          Yes. Start with my excerpt of Gregory W. Dawes' Theism and Explanation. Then we can shift to the following from Charles Taylor's 1971 Interpretation and the Sciences of Man (2000 'citations'):

              In other words, in a hermeneutical science, a certain measure of insight is indispensable, and this insight cannot be communicated by the gathering of brute data, or initiation in modes of formal reasoning or some combination of these. It is unformalizable. But this is a scandalous result according to the authoritative conception of science in our tradition, which is shared even by many of those who are highly critical of the approach of mainstream psychology, or sociology, or political science. For it means that this is not a study in which anyone can engage, regardless of their level of insight; that some claims of the form: "if you don't understand, then your intuitions are at fault, are blind or inadequate," some claims of this form will be justified; that some differences will be nonarbitrable by further evidence, but that each side can only make appeal to deeper insight on the part of the other. The superiority of one position over another will thus consist in this, that from the more adequate position one can understand one's own stand and that of one's opponent, but not the other way around. It goes without saying that this argument can only have weight for those in the superior position. (46–47)

          We can also bring in Grossberg 1999 The Link between Brain Learning, Attention, and Consciousness (partial tutorial) and then get intense with theoretical biologist Robert Rosen's Life Itself (excerpt), and how category theory can establish modes of entailment which are shockingly close to formal and final causation.

          I don't know what you are talking about with respect to Francis Bacon or what nominalists are.

          Francis Bacon eschewed formal and final causation. The nominalists denied that reality can [strictly speaking: stably] have what I call 'mind-dependent' properties. But if reality cannot have those at the ontological level, then formal and final causation cannot be ontological. What is probably key to formal and final causation is nonlocality of (i) state; and (ii) causation. Nonlocality of state shows up in Bell's theorem and was demonstrated empirically. The idea of nonlocal causation is less popular, but clearly must exist, for nonlocal states can act on objects in reality (e.g. bombard an object with two entangled photons, simultaneously).

          • I am afraid I still do not understand.

          • In that case, I think this is the case:

                In other words, in a hermeneutical science, a certain measure of insight is indispensable, and this insight cannot be communicated by the gathering of brute data, or initiation in modes of formal reasoning or some combination of these. It is unformalizable. But this is a scandalous result according to the authoritative conception of science in our tradition, which is shared even by many of those who are highly critical of the approach of mainstream psychology, or sociology, or political science. For it means that this is not a study in which anyone can engage, regardless of their level of insight; that some claims of the form: "if you don't understand, then your intuitions are at fault, are blind or inadequate," some claims of this form will be justified; that some differences will be nonarbitrable by further evidence, but that each side can only make appeal to deeper insight on the part of the other. The superiority of one position over another will thus consist in this, that from the more adequate position one can understand one's own stand and that of one's opponent, but not the other way around. It goes without saying that this argument can only have weight for those in the superior position. (Interpretation and the Sciences of Man, 46–47)

            The asymmetry spoken of—"but not the other way around"—is a central focus in Alasdair MacIntyre's 1977 Epistemological Crises, Dramatic Narrative and the Philosophy Of Science; Lesslie Newbigin also explores it in Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture.

            At this point, I don't think you can be told; I think the only option is to show. The problem is, I'm like a time-traveling scientist who has instructions on how to build negative index metamaterials, but who needs to first build up the tooling to make them. I can try to give you the theory, but ultimately that may be insufficient. I have to build it, and then show. That, I will endeavor to do, although it could take a few years.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            @briangreenadams:disqus, I think Luke just called you a caveman. He's trying to show you how to make fire by rubbing five syllable words together, and it's a pity you simply can't understand.

          • No, that would be an absolutely dick thing to say. I'm actually saying that @briangreenadams:disqus is completely within his rights to take the stance he has. There is no compulsion to hope, to try to break out of extant paradigms. The only way out (and the only way to God) is through desire, through risky desire. One has to venture into the unknown, where one might make mistakes. Had I not been forced to do this my whole life (I was a loner for most of it), I'd probably not be interested in venturing too far out into the unknown, myself! When just about everyone says you're wrong, and only the weird people think you might be on the right path, forward motion is not especially alluring. And hey, what you and BGA are implying is that I'm still wrong, to do what I'm doing! The only way of adjudicating I know is to learn to do things that you cannot do, because they rely on deeper and/or more correct insight. The proof is in the pudding, no?

          • Doug Shaver

            The only way out (and the only way to God) is through desire, through risky desire.

            Risky, indeed. Very risky. Anyone willing to conform his beliefs to his desires is begging for calamitous consequences.

          • Did I say that one is conforming beliefs to desires?

          • Doug Shaver

            Did I say that one is conforming beliefs to desires?

            You seemed to be justifying at least one instance of doing just that.

          • I'm not quite sure how you derived that. Strong desire and temporary but strong beliefs are required in tentative hypotheses for science to advance. Can you show how what I am suggesting seems to violate that paradigm? You seemed to be saying that I was advocating a dangerous-and-unnecessary strategy; correct me if I'm wrong.

          • Doug Shaver

            I'm not quite sure how you derived that.

            After taking a closer look at what you said, I see that I might have been thrown off the logical track by your parenthetical "and the only way to God." Many, many apologists have told me that a desire to believe in God is necessary to acquire a belief in God. I thought, perhaps mistakenly, that you were saying something like that.

          • Many, many apologists have told me that a desire to believe in God is necessary to acquire a belief in God. I thought, perhaps mistakenly, that you were saying something like that.

            I think what I would say is that you have to believe that there is more. Think of a relationship with another person: the relationship starts dying if you don't expect anything new whatsoever from the other person. Science would start dying if people expected nothing new out of reality. What would happen is that everything would fall apart, because people cannot survive in stasis.

            I don't know how the above maps onto "a desire to believe in God is necessary to acquire a belief in God". I think I'd want to try to map that to scientific realism vs. instrumentalism, as I kind of did in my first paragraph. I can grab a hold of that divide and analogically reason about the God thing; I don't quite know how to deal with "believe in God" all by itself. There are just so many things that phrase has been used to mean! The one thing I could do with it is to start talking about mind-dependent properties of reality. Whether one believes that something was a gratuitous evil, for example, seems to—at least in some cases—determine whether that evil was gratuitous or not.

          • Doug Shaver

            I think what I would say is that you have to believe that there is more. . . . Science would start dying if people expected nothing new out of reality.

            I am quite convinced that there is unimaginably more to reality than science has discovered so far. I also cannot imagine myself wishing that this weren't so, but I'm not sure it would make much difference if I did so wish. I have managed, during my life, to come to believe a great many things that I wished were otherwise.

          • I am quite convinced that there is unimaginably more to reality than science has discovered so far.

            It would be fun to ask whether you are justified in thinking this way, given the problems with induction which Hume and Karl Popper (among others) have explored. I am only beginning to understand the symbolism that was more common in earlier incarnations of Christianity, but it seems that it was used to interpret nature as "pointing beyond itself"—viz., to a Creator, perhaps like an artwork can tell you things about the artiest.

            Your use of "unimaginably more" is especially curious to me, because that seems especially consonant with the "no idols" commandment of Ex 20:4–6 (see also NET: Ex 20:4, note 2). The instant one restricts all possibilities of reality to what one can currently imagine, I think one has become an idol-worshiper. Owen Barfield develops this line of thinking in Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry.

            I also cannot imagine myself wishing that this weren't so, but I'm not sure it would make much difference if I did so wish. I have managed, during my life, to come to believe a great many things that I wished were otherwise.

            Have you ever encountered a situation where if you believe A, everything is consistent with it, and if you believe B, everything is consistent with that, too? Going further, have you ever encountered a situation where if you believe A and act on that belief, the resultant situation is consistent with A and inconsistent with B, and vice versa for believing B and acting on that belief? This does require counterfactual reasoning, but I think there are some pretty good heuristics for getting through the basics.

          • Doug Shaver

            It would be fun to ask whether you are justified in thinking this way,

            Have your fun. I believe I am justified.

            given the problems with induction which Hume and Karl Popper (among others) have explored.

            Hume and Popper weren't infallible. They thought there was a problem. That doesn't mean there is one.

            Have you ever encountered a situation where if you believe A, everything is consistent with it, and if you believe B, everything is consistent with that, too?

            Of course I have. We all encounter that situation, all the time.

          • Have your fun. I believe I am justified.

            No can do, unless you explain said justification.

            Hume and Popper weren't infallible. They thought there was a problem. That doesn't mean there is one.

            True. Do you have good responses to their criticisms when it comes to induction? The received view these days seems to be that their criticisms are valid in many domains, which would put you in the minority among the experts. That doesn't mean you're wrong, but it generally does mean that the onus is on you to argue why the majority of the experts are wrong. :-)

            LB: Have you ever encountered a situation where if you believe A, everything is consistent with it, and if you believe B, everything is consistent with that, too? Going further, have you ever encountered a situation where if you believe A and act on that belief, the resultant situation is consistent with A and inconsistent with B, and vice versa for believing B and acting on that belief?

            DS: Of course I have. We all encounter that situation, all the time.

            How about my "Going further", which I have underlined?

          • Doug Shaver

            How about my "Going further", which I have underlined?

            I'm not sure. No good example comes readily to mind. Have you got one?

          • I think there are many self-fulfilling prophecies. After all, if actions are caused by beliefs†, and the future could evolve towards A or B, then which beliefs one has can easily alter the course of the future. A technical way to discuss this is via 'dual rationality':

                Finally, consider the libertarian notion of dual rationality, a requirement whose importance to the libertarian I did not appreciate until I read Robert Kane's Free Will and Values. As with dual control, the libertarian needs to claim that when agents make free choices, it would have been rational (reasonable, sensible) for them to have made a contradictory choice (e.g. chosen not A rather than A) under precisely the conditions that actually obtain. Otherwise, categorical freedom simply gives us the freedom to choose irrationally had we chosen otherwise, a less-than-entirely desirable state. Kane (1985) spends a great deal of effort in trying to show how libertarian choices can be dually rational, and I examine his efforts in Chapter 8. (The Non-Reality of Free Will, 16)

            There do exist situations where an infinitesimal force can pick between trajectories; see Lagrangian point, and how that is required for the Interplanetary Transport Network (ITN) to operate. Briefly, if satellites pass through unstable Lagrangian points, infinitesimal pushes can cause them to assume one trajectory or another. Of course, to pick a direction they have to exert some force, but in theory, a single atom pushed at positive velocity via an ion thruster is all that would be required.

            Arguably, the brain itself can pass through the equivalent of 'Lagranian points'. Now, it's not like one can imagine up a Lagrangian point wherever one wishes. To navigate the ITN, one has to know the requisite mathematics, have a spacecraft which is already on the ITN, properly measure one's position, aim the thruster properly, etc. But given all this, it really does seem possible to have beliefs influence the future, such that the future becomes consistent with the belief and not alternative, 'dual rationality' beliefs.

            † I think this is a crucial tenet of science, but correct me if I'm wrong.

          • Doug Shaver

            I think there are many self-fulfilling prophecies.

            So do I, but is that what you meant by "a situation where if you believe A and act on that belief, the resultant situation is consistent with A and inconsistent with B, and vice versa for believing B and acting on that belief"

          • First, I meant to argue that the following can happen:

            LB: Going further, have you ever encountered a situation where if you believe A and act on that belief, the resultant situation is consistent with A and inconsistent with B, and vice versa for believing B and acting on that belief?

            As an example, consider the choice of belief on some issue, where 'dual rationality' holds, to be no more than an ion thruster ejecting a single atom at 10^–10 m/s, exactly as a CubeSat goes through an unstable Lagrangian point. That's enough to drastically alter the ultimate CubeSat trajectory. Which 'belief' was 'acted on' will be consistent with the ultimate trajectory.

            Applied to day-to-day life, consider that if you interact with a harried barista at your local Starbucks, grumbling body language on your part might well provoke a frown on the barista's face, while a smile on your part might well provoke a smile on the barista's face. Notice that you could believe one of two, mutually exclusive things:

                 (A) the barista is in a pissy mood and I won't make it better; furthermore, it'll probably take forever to get my coffee.
                 (B) the barista has had a rough day and if I'm nice, regardless of whether I get my coffee faster, it will be worth it

            If you act on (A), (A) will appear to be true. If you act on (B), (B) will appear to be true. See how there's a self-fulfilling prophecy, at play? Alternatively we could just say that there really are times where you can choose between beliefs, and the choice will have consequences as to which future is made more likely.

          • Doug Shaver

            See how there's a self-fulfilling prophecy, at play?

            Yes, but what's your point? I already told that I accept the existence of self-fulfilling prophecies.

          • Yes, but what's your point? I already told that I accept the existence of self-fulfilling prophecies.

            I'm not sure you did:

            LB: Have you ever encountered a situation where if you believe A, everything is consistent with it, and if you believe B, everything is consistent with that, too? Going further, have you ever encountered a situation where if you believe A and act on that belief, the resultant situation is consistent with A and inconsistent with B, and vice versa for believing B and acting on that belief?

            DS: Of course I have. We all encounter that situation, all the time.

            LB: How about my "Going further", which I have underlined?

            DS: I'm not sure. No good example comes readily to mind. Have you got one?

            The underlined bit is a necessary condition for "self-fulfilling prophecy". Without the underlined bit, you simply have two interpretations which are both consistent with the status quo. The key aspect of "self-fulfilling prophecy" is that the chosen interpretation becomes the only consistent interpretation. That's the "fulfilling" part.

            Now, you did say this:

            LB: I think there are many self-fulfilling prophecies.

            DS: So do I, but is that what you meant by "a situation where if you believe A and act on that belief, the resultant situation is consistent with A and inconsistent with B, and vice versa for believing B and acting on that belief"

            This was not a clear confirmation of the underlined bit (above). Without that, I don't have confirmation that you have encountered what I am calling a "self-fulfilling prophecy". I think that underlined bit is really, really important. I think it presents an exception to the rule you seemed to be advancing, earlier in this conversation:

            DS: I also cannot imagine myself wishing that this weren't so, but I'm not sure it would make much difference if I did so wish. I have managed, during my life, to come to believe a great many things that I wished were otherwise.

            What I'm saying is that in some cases—around those Lagrangian points—it really can "make much difference if [you] did so wish". Make sense? Clearly, such differences only exist sufficiently close to [unstable] Lagrangian points. This would mean that perhaps we should do more exploration to find such points. That, it would seem to me, would enhance human freedom.

          • Doug Shaver

            Yes, but what's your point? I already told that I accept the existence of self-fulfilling prophecies.

            I'm not sure you did:

            That I will do it now.

            Some prophecies are self-fulfilling. That is a fact, and it is a fact which I accept.

          • I'm sorry, but I would like explicit conversation confirmation of the underlined bit:

            LB: Have you ever encountered a situation where if you believe A, everything is consistent with it, and if you believe B, everything is consistent with that, too? Going further, have you ever encountered a situation where if you believe A and act on that belief, the resultant situation is consistent with A and inconsistent with B, and vice versa for believing B and acting on that belief?

            Have you encountered situations matching the underlined bit? What's critical here is that we're not just talking about interpretation and perception; the underlined bit adds action.

          • Doug Shaver

            Have you encountered situations matching the underlined bit?

            I asked you for an example of such a situation. Did you give me one and I missed it? I can't answer your question until I have a clearer idea of what you're asking about.

          • Doug Shaver

            I responded to part of that comment. Are you referring to this part?

            As an example, consider the choice of belief on some issue, where 'dual rationality' holds, to be no more than an ion thruster ejecting a single atom at 10^–10 m/s, exactly as aCubeSat goes through an unstable Lagrangian point. That's enough to drastically alter the ultimate CubeSat trajectory. Which 'belief' was 'acted on' will be consistent with the ultimate trajectory.

          • That + the bit about the barista.

          • Doug Shaver

            That + the bit about the barista.

            You said it was an instance of self-fulfilled prophecy, and I agreed with you.

          • That's fine, but I still want to find out whether you can now say that you have encountered similar situations to the underlined bit. What I did was give a more formal definition of 'self-fulfilling prophecy' than just giving an example or two. If you merely generalize off of an example or two, you won't necessarily be agreeing that the more formal definition is one we can use as common ground.

          • Doug Shaver

            That's fine, but I still want to find out whether you can now say that you have encountered similar situations to the underlined bit.

            And I still have no idea what you mean, other than "self-fulfilling prophecy," by the underlined bit.

          • You don't see how this comment exemplifies my "Going further" via (i) an example with orbital mechanics; (ii) an example of how one chooses to interact with a frazzled barista? In both cases, one can choose between A and B, and once one has chosen and acted on that choice, the future becomes consistent with the chosen belief and inconsistent with the not-chosen belief.

          • Doug Shaver

            You don't see how this comment exemplifies my "Going further" via (i) an example with orbital mechanics; (ii) an example of how one chooses to interact with a frazzled barista?

            No, I don't. Perhaps it would help you if I explain my understanding of the relationship between present beliefs and future events, and the relationship between future events and subsequent beliefs.

            Belief is a state of mind in which the object of belief, typically a proposition (which is typically represented by a declarative statement in some natural language), is regarded as true, i.e. corresponding to reality. Depending on context, the word "belief" may also designate the proposition that is believed. I believe that Obama is president of the United States. Thus, "Obama is president of the United States" is a statement that I believe. We may also say that this statement, or the proposition to which it corresponds, is a belief that I hold.

            Beliefs affect our behavior by influencing our decisions whether or not to do certain things, or which thing to do among several apparent options. Anything I do is done to achieve certain ends, and what I decide to do will depend among other things on what I believe about the best method for achieving those ends and what I believe about my own limitations. If my car's transmission needs to be repaired, I will take it to a mechanic rather than try to repair it myself if I believe that I lack the skills or knowledge needed for repairing a transmission. Or, even if I believed I could do it myself, I might take it to a mechanic anyway if I believe it would take me an entire week to do the job whereas he could do it in just one day. Thus my beliefs have consequences on my actions. What I do is going to depend on what I believe.

            And what I do will affect the future -- my own future if nobody else's. I have been married three times. My life would obviously have been very different if I had not married any of them, or if I had stayed married to either of the first two rather than getting divorced. And since our actions have such consequences, the beliefs on which we rely when taking those actions have consequences. So we have a chain of causation: belief => decision => action => consequences. And of course, as I observe the consequences, I may revise my beliefs depending on what I see. I might decide that the belief on which I based my decision was mistaken or, if the consequences were as I expected them to be, my belief might be reinforced.

          • Doug Shaver

            if actions are caused by beliefs

            With some rewording and qualifications, most scientists would probably agree, but that doesn't make it what I would call a "crucial tenet of science." I can think of many statements that most Christians would agree with but that they would not regard as crucial tenets of Christianity.

          • With some rewording and qualifications, most scientists would probably agree, but that doesn't make it what I would call a "crucial tenet of science."

            Can science work if actions are not seen to be caused by beliefs? Perhaps I should have said 'necessary' instead of 'crucial', although I don't think it was a big error. I'm not even sure it is an error; to believe that experimental science is a way to advance our knowledge was a huge step, and it seems predicated upon the idea that beliefs are causally related to actions.

          • Doug Shaver

            Can science work if actions are not seen to be caused by beliefs?

            That depends. Are you asking about science in general, or those sciences that are concerned with human behavior?

          • Science in general. Any version of the scientific method I have seen seems to require that beliefs can cause actions—I'm referring to a scientist's beliefs and a scientist's actions. If the beliefs did not cause the actions, then surely the scientific theorizing which emerges from the beliefs is not trustworthy?

          • Doug Shaver

            I'm referring to a scientist's beliefs and a scientist's actions.

            OK. Scientists act the way they act because they believe what they believe. But isn't that equally true of people who are not scientists?

          • That is true, but it is irrelevant to unnecessary for establishing my premise:

            LB: After all, if actions are caused by beliefs†, and the future could evolve towards A or B, then which beliefs one has can easily alter the course of the future.

            At this point, it would seem that you are compelled [by logic] to agree that in some cases (e.g. close enough to Lagrangian points), "which beliefs one has can easily alter the course of the future". True, or false?

          • Doug Shaver

            At this point, it would seem that you are compelled [by logic] to agree that in some cases (e.g. close enough to Lagrangian points), "which beliefs one has can easily alter the course of the future". True, or false?

            True. Trivially true. Nothing significant follows from it.

          • Wait a second. A space vehicle can make use of [unstable] Lagrangian points to get pretty much anywhere in the solar system, via the Interplanetary Transport Network. That seems 'significant'. The analogy to belief and choice is that when choices are strategically made and the results integrated over long periods of time, the result is a very big deal indeed.

            The above would seem to problematize the following, which you clearly meant to eschew:

            DS: Many, many apologists have told me that a desire to believe in God is necessary to acquire a belief in God.

            We can also look at the following, which is relativized by my argument to-date:

            DS: Risky, indeed. Very risky. Anyone willing to conform his beliefs to his desires is begging for calamitous consequences.

            Navigating the ITN is indeed risky, but that doesn't mean it is necessarily a bad idea. On the contrary, it's a great idea if you have limited thruster fuel. You can frequently still go where you desire to go (you might have to rule out certain desires), but you have to be intelligent about how to get there and patient in getting there.

          • Doug Shaver

            Hmmm. You're trying to explain to me how becoming a Christian is like navigating through space?

          • Sure! :-) It's really just talking about how big decisions are the sum of many small decisions, just as big beliefs are the sum of many small beliefs. The idea that BOOM, you can all of a sudden believe in God when at t – ε you did not believe in God at all seems ridiculous to me.

          • Doug Shaver

            It's really just talking about how big decisions are the sum of many small decisions, just as big beliefs are the sum of many small beliefs.

            Whether I'm navigating through the solar system or my local neighborhood, it's usually because I want to get to a particular destination. I am in a particular place and I have decided to get to another particular place, and I take certain actions that I believe will get me to the place where I want to be. And each of those actions requires a decision to take it, and that decision will depend on certain beliefs I have about the situation in which I take that action. Are we on the same page so far?

          • Doug Shaver

            Do you have good responses to their criticisms when it comes to induction?

            I think they're good. You might disagree. But yes, I have responses: http://dougshaver.net/science/induction1.html.

          • Doug Shaver

            Additional reflections on the problem of induction: http://dougshaver.net/science/induction2.pdf.

          • I think the most pertinent question is whether there are presuppositions nearby induction, which are sufficient. For example: the future will mostly look like the past, instead of always. After all, there can always be a deeper invariant than we know of, which is slowly transforming the very ground we are standing on. (For example: the 'constants' of nature as we know them, might be non-constant.) This weaker presupposition is a bit like that of local linearity, which is used all over in control theory.

            For more, I suggest a look atmy answer to the Phil.SE question Could there ever be evidence for an infinite being?; I differentiate between a situation where (I) "the next observation" is predictable from what has gone before (no increase in Kolmogorov complexity), and (II) a situation where "the next observation" is truly new (yes increase in Kolmogorov complexity).

          • Doug Shaver

            I think the most pertinent question is whether there are presuppositions nearby induction, which are sufficient.

            The premises of any argument, inductive or deductive, are either stated or unstated. To call something a presupposition is usually to say that it is an unstated premise. I have never heard any premise referred to as "nearby." I have seen discussions of whether the premises of a particular argument are sufficient or insufficient. If they are insufficient, then the argument is, more or less by definition, invalid. This is not a problem if there are statements that, when added to the premises, would make them sufficient.

          • To call something a presupposition is usually to say that it is an unstated premise.

            Sure. I'm not saying that induction was the presupposition, I'm saying that something nearby, something unarticulated, may suffice to make your whole argument work, an argument you seem to think requires induction itself. As an analogy, we can ask whether we must have the Schrödinger equation to do QM, or whether a stochastic version (see: Quantum State Diffusion) will suffice. I think the stochastic version suffices, and it is, importantly, 'weaker' than the Schrödinger equation. That is, it rules less of reality out.

            I have never heard any premise referred to as "nearby."

            Ok. Well, a stochastic version of the Schrödinger equation is 'nearby' the deterministic version of the Schrödinger equation. The idea is that a subtly different premise/​presupposition can generate the same observed phenomena. Do we really need to say that "the future will be just like the present", or can we actually say that "the future will be mostly like the present"? The former is induction, while the latter is a stochastic version of induction.

          • Doug Shaver

            If whatever point you're trying to make depends on some particulars of quantum mechanics, then I'm yielding right now. You may declare victory and go home.

          • I merely brought in QM to say that for a given deterministic law, there is an accompanying stochastic law which can produce the same observable behavior, given other extant constraints (uncertainty about initial and final conditions). Applied to induction, we have:

                 (A) deterministic induction
                 (B) stochastic induction

            What you are defending seems to be (A); you wrote as if science presupposes the truth of (A), that it couldn't possibly function without (A). My response is that actually, I think science could presuppose (B) and work just fine. I think (B) is a weaker claim about reality than (A). Indeed, I think we are more justified in assuming/​presupposing (B), than (A)!

            Declaring victory was never my goal. If I cannot convince you that my point is possibly valid, I have gained approximately zero additional confidence that I'm even onto something, that I'm doing anything other than blowing hot air.

          • Doug Shaver

            What you are defending seems to be (A)

            It has never occurred to me to wonder whether determinism has anything to do with my defense of inductive reasoning. Since you raise the issue, my initial reaction is to think my defense works independently of the truth or falsity of determinism.

          • I'm not talking about determinism simpliciter, I'm talking about a deterministic view of induction, whereby the future is exactly like the past, instead of sufficiently like the past. The stochastic version of induction says that induction can easily fail if you extrapolate too far from evidence; it is a way to modify induction with Ceteris Paribus Laws.

          • Doug Shaver

            I'm not talking about determinism simpliciter

            Do you ever talk about anything simpliciter?

            I'm talking about a deterministic view of induction, whereby the future is exactly like the past

            Why talk about that? I've never heard of such a view of induction.

            The stochastic version of induction says that induction can easily fail if you extrapolate too far from evidence

            I am aware of no version of induction that says otherwise.

          • Do you ever talk about anything simpliciter?

            Yep. However, such discussion is always precarious, for it abstracts away from particulars, from the concrete, and much error can happen in that domain.

            LB: I'm talking about a deterministic view of induction, whereby the future is exactly like the past, [...]

            DS: Why talk about that? I've never heard of such a view of induction.

            From WP: Problem of induction:

            [...] since it focuses on the alleged lack of justification for either:[...]2. Presupposing that a sequence of events in the future will occur as it always has in the past (for example, that the laws of physics will hold as they have always been observed to hold). Hume called this the principle of uniformity of nature.[2]

            I am aware of no version of induction that says otherwise.

            Wait a second. What I've opened up is a whole class of ideas about induction, with different scales and curves for "deviation from the pattern observed so far". I've never seen induction talked about with such flexibility. Usually, about all I see is talk about "uniformity of nature". If one takes my argument to its logical conclusion, one is not left with induction, but with differentiability, which links with conservation laws via Noether's theorem. One would be tempted to say merely that "reality is differentiable", such that local approximations work. Induction would then be limited to those local approximations; it could fail miserably outside of them.

          • Doug Shaver

            However, such discussion is always precarious, for it abstracts away from particulars, from the concrete, and much error can happen in that domain.

            Sometimes it is wise to anticipate problems and take preventive measures against them. At other times the wisest course of action is to wait for a problem to occur and then deal with it as the situation demands.

            I've never heard of such a view of induction.

            From WP: Problem of induction:

            I don't need to read Wikipedia to learn about the problem of induction. I've read what Hume, Kuhn, Popper, and lots of other philosophers have had to say about it. I'm not new to this subject.

            Presupposing that a sequence of events in the future will occur as it always has in the past (for example, that the laws of physics will hold as they have always been observed to hold). Hume called this the principle of uniformity of nature.

            When I read Hume, it was perfectly clear to me that he wasn't saying anything like "the future is exactly like the past." He was claiming that induction assumes the existence of certain uniformities in nature, as a consequence of which some sequences of certain kinds of events will occur the same way they had occurred in the past.

            I've never seen induction talked about with such flexibility.

            You call it flexibility? To me it looks more like a gross overcomplication.

          • LB: I'm talking about a deterministic view of induction, whereby the future is exactly like the past, [...]

            DS: Why talk about that? I've never heard of such a view of induction.

            LB: From WP: Problem of induction:

            [...] since it focuses on the alleged lack of justification for either:[...]2. Presupposing that a sequence of events in the future will occur as it always has in the past (for example, that the laws of physics will hold as they have always been observed to hold). Hume called this the principle of uniformity of nature.[2]

            DS: I don't need to read Wikipedia to learn about the problem of induction.

            You said that you had "never heard of such a view of induction"; does not the bit from Wikipedia I quoted constitute "such a view of induction"?

            When I read Hume, it was perfectly clear to me that he wasn't saying anything like "the future is exactly like the past." He was claiming that induction assumes the existence of certain uniformities in nature, as a consequence of which some sequences of certain kinds of events will occur the same way they had occurred in the past.

            Well, okay. The way you're interpreting "the future is exactly like the past" would be either eternal recurrence or perfect stasis. Both of those seem ridiculous for the present conversation; a better interpretation would be that in certain key respects, the future will be exactly like the past. Even this, I question, via arguing that stochastic laws can account for the same phenomena as deterministic laws, but are 'weaker', in the sense that if given evidence supports a weaker claim just as well as a stronger claim, we should go with the weaker claim.

            You call it flexibility? To me it looks more like a gross overcomplication.

            But the whole discussion right now is about whether belief in induction is warranted. You argue that it is. I argue that what is warranted is a belief in a stochastic version of induction, not a [stronger,] deterministic form. Mapped to "certain uniformities in nature", I say that they only really have to be uniform over small spacetime intervals, or as I said earlier, 'locally linear'.

          • Doug Shaver

            does not the bit from Wikipedia I quoted constitute "such a view of induction"?

            It could be so construed by someone who had never read anything else about induction. When I want to know something about anything, I may use Wikipedia at some point in my research, but I never treat it as a primary source, especially when I'm already familiar with the primary literature.

          • Doug Shaver

            a better interpretation would be that in certain key respects, the future will be exactly like the past.

            Induction as I understand it might presuppose something like that. If so, then a justification of induction would have to identify exactly what those "key respects" are.

          • Doug Shaver

            But the whole discussion right now is about whether belief in induction is warranted. You argue that it is.

            Yes, and I have shown you my argument by linking to two essays in which I present it. Have you read them yet?

          • neil_pogi

            because you (atheists) insist that ALL things have 'natural' causes, then how come you haven't solve this issue (yet)??? but you (atheists) believe that a 'self replicating molecule' did exist for life's origin, and yet you failed to explain how it came to be!! or you just answer it so that you are not guilty of 'ignorance'??

            just like the emergence of life on this planet, we can't prove that this life just came due to 'natural' cause? you can't prove also the complexity of life's to be a natural cause too! it's not due to 'ignorance'

            you believe there is a 'thing' called 'self-replicating molecule' as eternal.. and yet you don't believe god or God doesn't exists (theists claim He is eternal)

    • neil_pogi

      atheists have at least 4 theories on the universe's origin:
      1. big bang
      2. 'nothing' created it
      3. 'pop'
      4. we dunno

      so what would be the 5th?

      5. a 'self-replicating molecule'?

      • None of these are theories of the ultimate origin of the universe, the only one that is a theory is the Big Bang, which is a theory to account for the expansion of the very early universe, not its ultimate origin, though this will be stated as the beginning of the universe in popular discussions. There is a theory advanced by Lawrence Krauss and Hawking, I think, that can explain how the universe could have originated in its present form from a quantum vacuum, which is not an ultimate "nothing".

        You are right, neither theists or atheists have an explanation for the ultimate origins of all that exists in every sense of the word. I say "I dunno" with respect to the ultimate origins of matterial, theists say this originated with an immaterial entity labeled "god" but must say "I dunno" with respect of its origin, or "it doesn't need an origin".

        • neil_pogi

          because the universe's origin is not known by natural means, then, it is a supernatural cause

          • Michael Murray

            No. Assuming the universe had an origin there are three possibilities based on the logic of your sentence

            (a) known natural causes

            (b) unknown natural causes

            (c) supernatural causes

            Because it is not (a) only implies it must be one of (b) or (c)

          • neil_pogi

            therefore if a (b) is the answer, then it also follows that the origin of life on earth is 'unknown natural causes'.. so atheists now adjust their belief systems into 2,, 1. known natural causes 2. unknown natural causes.

            so the eternality of 'self-replicating molecule' is 'unknown natural cause'!!

            so the human body's complex system (respiratory, cardiovascular, musculo-skeletal) is not really designed but they are 'unknown natural cause'!! the building of pyramids and eiffel tower were not designed by intelligent agencies, but they were 'unknown natural causes!! you just made me laugh!

            supposed that the universe's origin is 'unknown natural causes'.. then intelligence, consciousness, awareness, intentions, are all 'unknown natural causes'!!

            can you just define what is 'natural'? does it has the properties of consciousness? intentions? awareness?

            why dawkins and hawking didn't make that idea?

          • Peter

            To claim that the universe began with a complete absence of natural processes is a bold claim to make. For all we know, the big bang could represent a change instead of an absolute beginning. In that case it would need a natural process we don't yet know about to effect that change. It would not be God because God does not cause changes.

            God is the reason things exist instead of not existing. Even if the changes went on backwards forever, requiring an infinite regress of natural processes, God would still be necessary to explain why these neverending processes exist instead of not existing. God is the reason for existence, not for change. If the big bang is a change, God is not the reason.

          • neil_pogi

            so tell me how the universe was born? 'natural' causes have no consciousness and awareness of their own. only a supernatural cause (God) has consciousness and awareness, and intentions to create all things.

          • Peter

            It depends what you mean by born. We were all born because God intended us to be born, yet we are aware of the natural processes leading to our birth. Even if the universe was born through natural processes, it still means that God intended it to be born.

            The same applies to the first self-replicating molecule. It may have been born through natural processes that we haven't yet discovered. It still means, nevertheless, that God intended it to be born.

          • Lazarus

            Are you aware of the Catholic distinction between primary and secondary causes?

            For example -
            Primary cause : God wants me to experience His love ;
            Secondary cause : God inspires Neil to look after me in my time of illness.

            In this way there is absolutely nothing odd in God wanting to create the Universe (primary cause), and He does so by using the XYZ natural process to do so (secondary cause).

          • neil_pogi

            i have no idea why a Creator needs to create a universe.

            if i'm bored, i make miniature models.. maybe the Creator is bored that's why He created it

          • Goodness no! Simply because we don't know something by natural means does not imply a supernatural cause! It just means we don't know. We can't use our ignorance to infer anything.

          • neil_pogi

            because you (atheists) insist that ALL things have 'natural' causes, then how come you haven't solve this issue (yet)??? but you (atheists) believe that a 'self replicating molecule' did exist for life's origin, and yet you failed to explain how it came to be!! or you just answer it so that you are not guilty of 'ignorance'??

            just like the emergence of life on this planet, we can't prove that this life just came due to 'natural' cause? you can't prove also the complexity of life's to be a natural cause too! it's not due to 'ignorance'

            you believe there is a 'thing' called 'self-replicating molecule' as eternal.. and yet you don't believe god or God doesn't exists (theists claim He is eternal)

          • "because you (atheists) insist that ALL things have 'natural' causes,
            then how come you haven't solve this issue (yet)??? but you (atheists)
            believe that a 'self replicating molecule' did exist for life's origin,
            and yet you failed to explain how it came to be!! or you just answer it
            so that you are not guilty of 'ignorance'??"

            I don't necessarily believe that all things have natural causes. I may accept some events or entities as uncaused. But I am not claiming to know these things. Theists are, it is then up to them to justify this explanation as rational. I do not think they have done this.

            If indeed I were going around saying I know how DNA evolved from non-replicating amino acids and so on, I would indeed be arguing from ignorance. But this is not the case, I say, I don't know how DNA came about.

            If one did know how DNA was caused, one would need more than a couple of words like "god" or "supernatural cause" to make this into an explanation. Was there a mechanism at play? How did it actually happen. I think you would agree that it just "poofing because God" doesn't explain it any more than me saying "it evolved by way of chemical processes" we need more before we can say we have explained something.

            I think evolutionary biologists can indeed explain much of why the diversity of life on this planet came about due to natural processes. It is called the study of biological evolution and it is exceptionally well-established science.

            I do not think a self-replicating molecule is eternal or uncaused.

            I believe DNA exists because we can observe it, how it replicates, we know what it is made of, we can even manipulate it to an extent. I do not believe in gods for many reasons, but mainly because they are unobserved by credible sources in any significant way.

          • neil_pogi

            so atheists insist that the God argument should not be used as rational explanations for the cause of the universe. but there are only 2 competing theories on how things (ex: universe) started! we theists can't accept 'naturalistic' cause of the universe because it can't be proven, so we arrive to the idea that the universe has a 'supernatural' cause. only a conscious agent can only do that versus a non-conscious agent.

            quote: 'I believe DNA exists because we can observe it,....' - but it is made of matter, and matter can't exists without a conscious agent. you can not prove that matter 'is just there'.. it needs a cause. if you believe that DNA is eternal (as what you are trying to imply) then, the universe must be eternal too! (which is scientifically dead)

          • I can speak only for myself, but I am fine with theists advancing god as an explanation for the universe. I accept that such explanations can be rational. The question is are there good reasons to accept such explanations.

            I don't understand what the imperative is to assign a cause to the universe or not or to label such cause as natural or supernatural. My position is we don't have enough to reach a rational conclusion. We can't prove one way or the other to any reasonable standard of proof.

            Why can't matter exist without a conscious agent? Why does it need a cause?

            I am not trying to imply DNA is eternal I am virtually certain it is not. I accept Big Bang cosmology, there is no way DNA could have existed in the early universe, I doubt very much it existed before 3 billion years or so.

            By contrast, science tells us there was literally no time at which the material universe did not exist. Call that eternal if you like.

          • neil_pogi

            quote: 'The question is are there good reasons to accept such explanations.' - i just reverse that question to you! do you believe that the cause of the universe is a natural one? if Big Bang is true, then, how small is the 'infinitely small' dot that triggers the universe' cause? where did it originate? where did it harness its energy? were they natural? then explain!

            quote: 'Why can't matter exist without a conscious agent?' - have you observe a matter just 'pop'? houses, bridges, buildings are created because of the activities of 'conscious' agents (architects, builders, engineers, carpenters).

            quote: ' science tells us there was literally no time at which the material universe did not exist. Call that eternal if you like.' - then why can't you call it eternal?
            the Bible's explanation is quite simple: 'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth' therefore Time itself began with universe' birth!

          • I do not hold any beliefs about the cause of the universe, or whether the universe was caused. How the infinitely small dot turned into the universe we observe today IS the Big Bang theory. You will need at least an undergrad in physics to understand it I expect. The dot didn't trigger the universe, the dot WAS the universe. How the dot originated is unknown, though science has ideas about it. But scientists can indeed explain how and why the universe expanded from a singularity pursuant to natural laws. That is what the theory does, it takes the universe from now and asks, if we roll back time what must have been the case in the past if natural laws are not abridged. They find an infinitely small, hot universe. Science cannot go back further because time ceases to make sense along with dimension in this case.

            No I have not observed matter just "pop", all of those things, houses etc, were rearranged, not created out of nothing. Science tells us that matter and energy are never created or destroyed, and that is consistent with observation. It is theists who claim matter "popped" out of nothing, because of a god. We never observe anything remotely like that.

            You can call it eternal, but that is a bit misleading. In the context of these discussions, it would usually mean time goes back infinitely in the past, which is not what I am saying. The quote you have from Genesis explains nothing. It does not tell us what is meant by "the beginning". It presupposes that the water existed, and there was a before and after the creation of the dry land and humans. All this would suggest time and space already exist at the beginning. Which means the origin of the universe must have been before the narrative starts, which means it tells us nothing of ultimate origins of material reality.

          • neil_pogi

            so you simply believe that the 'dot' is the universe? was it a natural cause? i haven't seen a 'dot' simply turned into a vast, very vast universe! (that only happens in the imaginations of physicists and other wide-pocket, so-called scientists, but in reality it never happened).

            science tells us that energy is neither created/destroyed.. but what kind of energy is that? what characteristic energy does it have? an intelligent one or not? an atomic bomb that once bombed one japanese city was a very huge energy, the end product was really a disastrous event. that's 'unintelligent' energy.. i have energy, an intelligent energy to create miniature models.

          • Yes I believe the universe was once a singularity which you appear to be calling a "dot", presumably to mock this scientific conclusion, like atheists who call "God" a "sky pixie".

            The Big Bang Theory is not an imagined hypothesis, it is a scientific conclusion that is widely accepted by virtually all scientists and most theists, including the Catholic Church. It is heavily relied on as evidence for Cosmological Arguments for the existence of god.

            "energy" is a concept in physics that means the capacity to do "work". "Work", roughly, being the product of force and displacement. This is high school physics and math. No, energy is not intelligent.

            When you arrange matter into different forms, like miniatures, you are neither creating or destroying energy or matter. You are doing "work", you are using energy through the chemistry of your body to move bits of matter around. This is using the elector-magnetic force. When atomic bombs go off they release enormous amounts of the potential energy stored by a nuclear force that binds atoms together. This is very interesting as it literally means some of the matter of the bomb, is turned into kinetic energy.

            Yes, kinetic energy can be very destructive, it is also is necessary for any human activity.

          • neil_pogi

            quote: 'it is a scientific conclusion that is widely accepted by virtually all scientists and most theists, including the Catholic Church' -- it is just a widespread opinions of scientists and even most christians, nevertheless, it is just a theory. it is not repeatable and never observed.

            you missed my point about energy. when an atomi bomb bombed 2 japanese cities, the caused by this energy was very enormous, very destructive, because the energy was not 'guided', it was 'blind'... when i make miniature models, my energy is an intelligent one, it is not destructive but more useful. i use this energy as 'guided' and 'intelligent'..

          • On your first paragraph, granted. It is the widespread professional opinion confirmed by observation and reason. On the other hand, your apparent dismissal of it is the opinion of a single person with no expertise in the subject. You don't have a theory or even a hypothesis.

            I don't disagree with your second paragraph. What is your point?

          • neil_pogi

            i did present my point already, that energy that is guided produce important and meaningful outcome, while energy that is unguided produce disastrous effects. i think i should be the one who will question you!

          • neil_pogi

            atheists jumped into conclusions that 'vestigial organs' serve no purposes to organisms. they don't use 'we still don't know' or 'we are still trying to study that issue' and yet for the cause of the universe, they both use that argumens..

            theists and even 'open-minded' secular scientists have proven that vestigial organs are just myths. for example, the appendix has some important role for immunity. why didn't atheists know that? or they just refuse to study vestigial organs further? why? if vestifial organs have important roles in our body, then, they are proofs that evolution didn't happen.

            even the 'junk DNA', they didn't study that further because they are afraid that 'junk DNAs' serve important role for building an organism.

        • neil_pogi

          then how come that the tiny 'dot' or the 'infinitely small' dot (anyway, how it is measured?) bursts (explode) and eventually became the universe? where did it get its energy?

      • Doug Shaver

        atheists have at least 4 theories on the universe's origin:

        What is the source of your knowledge about atheist thinking?

        • neil_pogi

          are you telling me that my claims are wrong?

          • Doug Shaver

            are you telling me that my claims are wrong?

            No. I'm asking why anybody should think they are right.

  • Peter

    We are products of the universe and therefore there should be nothing about the universe which can be hidden from us. Since we emerge from the universe, we have the potential to comprehend everything about it. To argue that our perception is limited to our five senses, and that there are things about the universe, about reality, that we can never perceive, which are forever hidden from us, is not supported by evidence.

    As conscious beings emergent from the universe, we not only perceive the universe through our physical senses, but also through our imagination. The sense of wonder and awe we possess, the appreciation of beauty and exquisiteness, the recognition of harmony and elegance, is no less a feature of our consciousness than our ability to observe and comprehend things in a systematic way.

    This is woefully overlooked when attributing the understanding of reality exclusively to science. Science is just one part of us. We as conscious beings also naturally posses a sense of imagination. This sense is no less real than our other senses because it too forms part of our consciousness, a consciousness derived from the universe. Any understanding of the universe though our sense of imagination is therefore no less valid that any understanding we acquire through science.

    • Michael Murray

      Amoeba are products of the universe and therefore there should be nothing about the universe which can be hidden from them. Since they emerge from the universe, they have the potential to comprehend everything about it.

      • Peter

        The term "we" applies to human beings not single-celled creatures. Nothing about the universe can be hidden from us as conscious beings because we, or rather our consciousness, emerge from it.

        • Doug Shaver

          Nothing about the universe can be hidden from us as conscious beings because we, or rather our consciousness, emerge from it.

          That is a non sequitur, unless there is a contradiction in the following:

          (A) We are conscious beings, and our consciousness emerged from the universe. (B) Some things about the universe are hidden from us.

          Can you show me the contradiction between (A) and (B)?

          • Peter

            I'm not sure about your second premise. What are hidden from us would be current gaps in our knowledge and understanding. The discovery of such gaps will fire our imagination to even greater heights. Nothing about the universe is potentially hidden from us.

          • Doug Shaver

            I'm not sure about your second premise

            I'm not commenting on the credibility of either premise. I'm commenting on their consistency. They can't be both true at the same time, if we should believe what you said earlier: If either one is true, then the other has to be false. It doesn't matter of one of them just happens not to be true. If your statement is true, then it's not even possible that these premises could both be true.

            And in case you've forgotten, your statement was: "Nothing about the universe can be hidden from us as conscious beings because we, or rather our consciousness, emerge from it."

          • Peter

            As I've said, the second premise is false. Potentially nothing about the universe can be hidden from us.

            Even those parts of the universe that are hidden from our observation due to its expansion are not hidden from our comprehension or our imagination.

            They are not hidden from our consciousness because our consciousness emerges from the same universe that they are part of.

          • Doug Shaver

            As I've said, the second premise is false.

            But would it contradict the first if it were true? If not, then the statement "Nothing about the universe can be hidden from us as conscious beings because we, or rather our consciousness, emerge from it" is false.

      • neil_pogi

        amoebas and other life forms emerged from the universe, no doubt about that. but science doesn't attempt to answer how or why that 'amoeba' (or whatever it was) evolved? evolve needs energy, and that energy should be an 'intelligent' one, and not 'blind forces'

  • neil_pogi

    atheists say: 'the pain and suffering is cause by your God'

    theists say: 'you're being unscientific, pain and suffering is caused by pain receptors'

  • Markku Hänninen

    There are gaps in our knowledge -> we need god. meh.