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Fraught With Purpose

Quarks

When something stops working, our first reaction is often to find someone who knows how to fix it. Whether it’s a car, a computer, or a toaster, most of us aren’t inclined to try and tinker around with some machine that we are just as likely to make worse as better. We are all pretty good at telling when something isn’t working right, but it’s far more difficult to discern why. Clearly this piece of technology is designed to do some useful task, and when it stops doing that task, we need someone to reorder its parts to get it working again.

In certain ways this is exactly how many people look at the natural world as well. Many natural things obey observable patterns or standards. Squirrels tend to gather nuts for the winter; apple seeds tend to grow into apple trees; and water tends to flow downhill. If one of these normal trends fails, we notice, even if we don’t call a mechanic to look under the hood of the withered apple tree. While we may have some inkling as to what might have gone wrong to interrupt the process, true knowledge of the process is left to the experts. And for a long time, those experts have been telling us that nature, just like the machine, is simply a matter of understanding the parts.

We are basically told by these experts that our intuition that natural things move towards some end or purpose is just a convenient way of looking at things—a pretty picture to dress up our ignorance. The alternate model proposed is that one simply break the natural process down into its parts to see how each works, both individually and with the other parts, to produce the apparent purpose. By this process we can banish any talk of natural ends from our discussion of science.

There are a whole host of philosophical and scientific problems that this trend in modern thought raises and ample grounds to question the reasonableness of the project of denying natural ends. For instance, if you are going to explain away something that looks like a natural end by claiming that it is simply the purposeless motion of its parts, then you had better hope that the parts themselves don’t demonstrate motion to an end. Inevitably, parts are broken down into other smaller parts and the question only temporarily forestalled. The apparent purpose of the apple seed growing into an apple tree is slowly stripped away as we descend down to more and more fundamental layers of explanation. The descent passes through organs, cells, molecules, and atoms until we get to the fundamental particles of nature at which point the claim is that any semblance of a natural end has been seemingly ground into nothingness.

The problem is that the ends never actually go away. Electrons and quarks and any other particles we care to consider may not act like any normal macroscopic objects, but that does not mean they do not have natural ends. Quantum Field Theory is far from intuitive, but the motions and interactions it describes follow a coherent order and structure, despite the fact that it comes with a good dose of quantum “weirdness.”

One great example of the weird teleology of particle physics is the quark. As best we can tell, the protons and neutrons that make up the nuclei of all atoms are themselves made up of smaller particles that we call quarks. One particularly odd thing about the quarks is that, while we are confident they exist in abundance, we have never directly observed them in the way we have observed the particles they make up. The problem is that the “strong” force that binds several quarks into a “bound state” like a proton or neutron gets stronger as you try to separate one quark from the rest, unlike the electromagnetic or gravitational forces, which weaken with distance. At some point, as more and more energy is expended trying to keep hold of that one quark in the proton, there is enough energy in the system for new quarks to be created. Some of these new quarks will form a new bound state with the escaping quark and one will replace it in the original proton. We simply never find a lone quark, only bundles of quarks

Whether quarks are truly fundamental particles or are themselves made up of something smaller, one thing should be clear: they have a natural tendency towards something beyond themselves—a bound state with other quarks. That is to say, they have a natural end. So, for all the efforts of some people to explain away natural ends, modern science simply won’t oblige.
 
 
This article first appeared on DominicanaBlog.com, an online publication of the Dominican Students of the Province of St. Joseph who live and study at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC. It was written by Br. Thomas Davenport, a Dominican student brother of the Province of St. Joseph. He graduated from Stanford University with a PhD in Physics. Used with permission.
 
(Image credit: Vwamlausanne.com)

Dominicans of the Province of St. Joseph

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The Order of Preachers, known also as the Dominican Order, was founded by St. Dominic in 1216 with the mission of preaching for the salvation of souls. With contemplative study serving as a pillar of Dominican religious life, the Order continues to contribute to the Catholic synthesis of faith and reason, following the example of such Dominican luminaries as St. Albert the Great and St. Thomas Aquinas. The Friars of the Province of St. Joseph administer Providence College in Providence, RI and serve as teachers and campus ministers in several colleges, universities, and seminaries in addition to serving as pastors, chaplains, and itinerant preachers. Follow the Dominican students at their blog, DominicanaBlog.com.

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  • Rationalist1

    I had initially assumed the author was going to express a teleological argument in the context of Aristotelian metaphysics (seeds growing into apple trees water flowing downhill) and was preparing an argument that the only teleology that's apparent in nature is the 2nd law of thermodynamics which says that entropy in a closed system always increases.

    But then the argument diverted into reductionism of splitting the constituents of matter into smaller and smaller parts and these constituents seem to possess no teleology and that "any semblance of a natural end has been seemingly ground into nothingness."

    Then the pivot point was seemingly that quarks (which may or may not be elementary) are subject to the strong force and therefore have a "goal" or teleos. (Note electrons, photons and possibly dark matter are not affected by the strong force) of being attracted to other hadrons (The term for particles that are affected by the strong force).

    I'm afraid that's such a watered down version of goal, one might as well have stayed with the macroscopic world and said we are all affected by gravity (which at least affects electron, photons and dark matter) and therefore we have a goal of "a natural tendency towards something beyond themselves", i.e. other things will mass.

    That was strange. Instead I'll offer up the only "goal" this universe seemingly has, entropy increasing and this universe is moving towards a state of maximum entropy.

    • Rationalist, thanks for the comment! Let's assume for a second that you're correct in saying "the only "goal" this universe seemingly has [is that] entropy [is] increasing and this universe is moving towards a state of maximum entropy."

      On an atheistic, naturalist view, why would this natural end exist? Why would anything move toward any natural end? Wouldn't you expect there to be no directed movement toward some maximum state?

      (Also, on a side note, I'm curious how you would respond to the supposition that many macroscopic elements in nature---like seeds and flowing water--do seem to always move toward a natural end.)

      • Rationalist1

        Why is the 2nd law of thermodynamics such as it is? No one knows. Unlike why is energy always conserved (first law) one can say that's because of laws of nature have time symmetry. Maybe there will be an answer one day but ultimately one has to acknowledge that some questions may not have a why answer.

        For water flowing, sun rising, earth quaking, these are material substances being affected by natural laws that we can discern to varying degrees. That there is a goal to them is our human predisposition to attribute causation or purpose where none is warranted.

        • Rationlist, thanks again for the great dialogue. Your second "paragraph only pushes the buck back one level. We agree it seems like flowing water and growing seedlings have a purpose--the question is "why"? But you respond it's because they are "being affected by natural laws" and that the "goal" of flowing downhill or growing into a tree is merely illusory.

          That only creates a new question: Why do the natural laws always aim at some end? Why do seedlings, properly situated, always grow into plants and trees? Why does water always flow down into the nearest body?

          Second, and more important, you say "ultimately one has to acknowledge that some questions may not have a why answer."

          This is not a scientific position but a philosophical one, and I'm curious as to what evidence you base this theory on.

          We should differentiate between having a "why" answer and knowing the "why" answer. Atheists can look at the second law of thermodynamics, for instance, and conclude we don't know why that particular law exists--it just does (Catholics, of course, attribute its existence to a divine Creator.) Yet just because we don't know the cause of the law doesn't mean there isn't a cause behind it. We must not confuse epistemology with ontology. It's important we distinguish between the two.

          • Longshanks

            I don't want to step on toes by interjecting in a two-person discussion, but....well.

            "We agree itseems like flowing water and growing seedlings have a purpose--the question is "why"?"

            I think the reasonable answer would be that we've evolved brains which do very well at asking "why" questions. Asking "why" sorts of questions confers a specific survival benefit (in moderation), in that we operate on a scale (both spacial and temporal) and in environments where we have to deal with other beings whose motives we need to guess.

            Primarily other primates, but also major predatory/game animals etc. Tool use probably *sharpened* that skill over time as well.

            That we have since started applying the machinery of asking "why" to things outside the scale and environment for which that machinery conferred a survival edge has had some interesting consequences, none of which point to anything put ourselves as asking questions of things (clouds, molecules, universes) which owe us and can give us no answers.

          • Longshanks, I suggest you read up on Aristotle's four types of causes. You claim that:

            "Darwin helped us to grasp, however dimly, that there was no need for the 'god hypothesis' to explain the incredible beauty and strangeness of life on this planet."

            This simply isn't true. Darwin proposed a theory that helped explain (some of) the material causes of the world's "beauty and strangeness , but it said nothing (and can say nothing) about any efficient or final cause.

            For example, say I'm building a chair. The material cause is simple: I took some wood and nails and used my hands to create a chair. The chair can be "explained" by referencing these materials alone.

            Yet there is more needed to explain "why" the chair came into existence. I, as the efficient cause, had to think about the chair I wanted to make, which is the final cause. Without me or my idea of creating a chair, the wood and nails would never have combined to produce that particular chair.

            In the same way, Darwin's theory may offer a physical explanation for evolution but it can't touch upon the metaphysical questions about why evolution exists or where it is moving toward.

            Wikipedia has a solid overview of Aristotle's Four Causes:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_causes

          • Longshanks

            Hey, thanks for the astonishingly snarky response to my post.

            I've read them before, but the a link to information is never unwelcome.

          • Longshankds, first you descibre my comment as "astonishingly snarky." I'm truly surprised at this and have no idea why you would make that judgement. Perhaps it's because I suggested reading Aristotle? Yet I'm not sure how that is snarky.

            You then accuse me of misquoting you. Here is what you originally said:

            "Darwin helped us to grasp, however dimly, that there was no need for the 'god hypothesis' to explain the incredible beauty and strangeness of life on this planet."

            Now perhaps I misunderstood what you meant by "the 'god hypothesis'", but if by that you simply meant "God" that I interpreted you correctly: you're claiming that Darwin showed us that God is not needed to explain the beauty and strangeness of life on this planet. But what I stated was that Darwin's theory doesn't do this since he offers no explanation of why evolution, or beauty, or the world's strangeness exists or to what end it's oriented.

            You then ask:

            "IF the complexity of living things, which used to be the sole domain the of grand designer, can now be understood to be the result of mechanistic processes, how far back does that push the god hypothesis?"

            This is only problematic if you believe in a "God of the gaps"--which Catholics don't. Our God isn't dependent on what science has not yet empirically verified. We don't "[use] god to explain things we don't understand."

          • Longshanks

            I suppose it was odd that in a thread where one of your coreligionists attacked an atheist for admitting a lack of knowledge that I would take the sentence "Longshanks, I suggest you read up on Aristotle's four types of causes." As condescending and snarky.

            I could read it in a different light, it's just difficult given the environment.

            Okay, let's shoot for benefit of the doubt. Let's not assume that you assumed that I would be ignorant in an effort to be dismissive.

            My contention was precisely that prior to Darwin, the commonly held view was that God made each thing for it's place. Why does that finch have a heavy beak? God made it that way so it could crack through the thick nuts. A prevalent (I have no idea if it was widely popular in Catholic understandings of the mid-1800s) understanding of the universe in general, up until then, and specifically of moving/growing things on this planet was that their complexity forced the admission of a god.

            Others and I call this the god hypothesis: we see incredibly complexity in a giraffe, we certainly didn't make it, the only other comparable complexity we observe is that which we ourselves bring into being from design.

            If you're not grasping that what I just wrote was a major pillar of religio/metaphysical thought I don't know how else to word it, and I'm not going to try.

            Darwin allowed us to see that the order of complexity ratcheted up on a self-propelling crane under the pressures of biological warfare. Where once we had to admit that the apparent complexity meant that organisms were directly created by an intelligent mind, we could bask in the wonder and the simplicity of how nature really works.

            Does the explanation of timeline bound increases in organism complexity tells us some mystical "why" or "who started this?" No, of course not and I never said or implied that it did.

            But if the self-bootstrapping works for one phenomenon we thought previously the sole domain of deities, what else might we look to underlying patterns for?

          • Ben

            Longshanks, you have to realise that Catholics shit-talking atheism will always be OK on this site, because their arguments are very serious and well-reasoned, in Brandon's judgement. But if atheists fail to accord Catholicism the respect it deserves as the One True Religion, they will be banned from the site.

            I mean, this may be the premiere meeting place for Catholics and atheists to reason together, but it's rude and intemperate for you to question Brandon's passive-aggressive digs at your world view. Why don't you restrict your comments to marvelling at the amazing quality of the 40-odd pro-Catholic articles on this site, and stop being so rude and disrespectful?

          • What's struck me most since I became a moderator late last week was that while on the site, the atheists get warned more often than the Catholics. But when you look into the history of deleted posts, the first four pages of deleted posts are all Catholic posters, save for 2 posts. 38 Catholic posts deleted to 2 atheist posts.

            It's a visibility bias that you have. Atheist posts rarely get deleted.

          • David Egan

            Well said and completely true. I sense some frustration from the owner of this site as I suspect it's not going as he planned. One thing is for sure, all of arguments in favor of Catholicism and god have been thoroughly steamrolled. And, I was extremely pleased to see that the first "conversion" went to the atheist side.

          • Ben

            I would totally be up for serious and respectful dialogue which allowed for the possibility that either side could be right, because I always want to be open to the possibility that I could change my mind.

            But launching a site which is supposed to be for Catholic-atheist discussion and then filling it with overwhelmingly Catholic articles makes it seem like Brandon isn't open to conversion to atheism, which is surely a prequisite for "serious and respectful dialogue". If he doesn't want to give equal time to atheists, then that's up to him - it's his site - but he should admit this is just a Catholic propaganda site, not a serious attempt at establishing the truth wherever it leads him.

          • AshleyWB

            First, there's no reason to believe that evolution is moving toward anything. From a biological and mathematical perspective, it has no goals or direction.

            Second, biological evolution exists in our universe because, given our universe's properties, it is mathematically certain to exist. At its most basic level, evolution is an algorithm, and given the right conditions (a population of imperfect replicators and a mechanism of selection) that algorithm is guaranteed to run.

            So that of course raises the question, why does our universe have the properties it does? That takes us back to square one which, again, we can only presently answer honestly by saying nobody knows.

          • Again though, I feel like the phrase "nobody knows" here is meaningless since Catholics and atheists have very different ideas when it comes to epistemology. I don't know how fruitful any conversation about "what we know" is until we actually define how we know...

          • Rationalist1

            To me the best way of knowing something is if it can be disproven. If someone proposes a theory that can not, al ;least in principle be disproven, I have no use for it. While you might claim I'm a logical positivist and that school no longer holds sway so be it but then you have to accept every theory that comes along that can't be disproven.

          • I don't have to accept every theory if I have an epistemology that also places weight on intuition, experience, logic, aggregation, approximation, and aesthetics (all to varying degrees).

            The term for such an epistemology was, I believe, coined by John Henry Cardinal Newman, the Illative Sense.

          • Rationalist1

            But even Newman admitted that this "utilitarian" type calculation could be swayed by superstition and extremism. Astrology could easily be confirmed by such an epistemology.

            And again how could you prove a theory that conformed to this epistemology wrong?

          • The theory allows for any proof negative, anything that is demonstrably false cannot be true.

            It is where something cannot be proven positively or negatively that you begin to look at all facets of the question, not just the scientific facets.

          • Man, if we only had a good article on Catholic epistemology ready to post this Wednesday....

          • I know. I feel like it's certainly needed....

          • Man, if we only had a good article on Catholic epistemology ready to post this Wednesday....

            Bring it.

          • josh

            If only Catholic epistemology was any good...

          • Tim Dacey

            Ashley,

            How exactly does the view you provide, i.e., given everything about evolution"being mathematically certain", the existence of precise properties of the universe, etc. lead you to the conclusion that "nobody knows."

            Isn't this a violation of Ockam's Razor? Certainly you wouldn't think this way about other kinds of highly improbable events that you might experience, right? Why shouldn't we allow the hypothesis of a creator God? Consider the hypothesis that to suppose that the physical universe exists at all is best explained by a creator God.

          • Susan

            >Certainly you wouldn't think this way about other kinds of highly improbable events that you might experience, right?

            To begin with, how do you calculate the probablilities?

            Also, why does something being improbable suggest a mind behind it?

            What are the probabilities that a "creator God" exists?

            >Consider the hypothesis that to suppose that the physical universe exists at all is best explained by a creator God

            How do we test that hypothesis?

          • Tim Dacey

            Philosophical explanations cannot all be reduced to scientific ones, however scientific explanations are at least one kind of philosophical explanation.

            "To begin with, how do you calculate the probabilities?"

            It's quite simple to make probable inferences using a simple formula like p(h/e*k) vs. p(-h/e*k) where h is the hypothesis, e the evidence and k any background knowledge we might have.

            "Also, why does something being improbable suggest a mind behind it?"

            Consider: you exist your classroom, and upon returning all chairs are resting upside down on top of the desks. You have to hypotheses: H, a person came into the classroom and did this or -H, it is not the case that a person did this; rather, it was something else. Now the probability that it was a person moving the chairs given the evidence and our background knowledge is exceedingly greater than it being something else right? It is the simplest explanation. If you disagree you might be wandering into speculative error. Likewise, given our best scientific evidence we can (pace Richard Swinburne) consider God as the simplest explanation for the existence of the physical universe).

          • Susan

            Hi Tim,
            >It's quite simple to make probable inferences using a simple formula like p(h/e*k) vs. p(-h/e*k) where h is the hypothesis, e the evidence and k any background knowledge we might have.

            Yes. I understand that but I'm asking you how you've done that. It's a sincere question. What are your calculations based on?

            >Consider: you exist your classroom, and upon returning all chairs are resting upside down on top of the desks. You have to hypotheses: H, a person came into the classroom and did this or -H, it is not the case that a person did this; rather, it was something else.

            What does this have to do with life evolving on a speck of a planet in an incomprehensibly vast, incomprehensibly old universe?

            >Likewise, given our best scientific evidence we can (pace Richard Swinburne) consider God as the simplest explanation for the existence of the physical universe).

            So you say but you haven't shown me why.
            Thanks for your reply.

          • Max Driffill

            I think the universe as an explanation of itself is also a simpler answer, given the incredible simplicity of the early universe (immediately post big bang). God is not a simple explanation for the existence of the universe, in fact god hypotheses form the most complex explanations for what, at root, appears to be a simple event. Gods must be enormously complex. Positing a God still leaves you with all of your explanatory work yet to do. Because there must be an explanation for said god.

          • Michael Murray

            Can't trick me mate. It's turtles all the way down.

          • Longshanks

            This is b.s.

            There must be an original turtle, an Un-Supported Supporter.

          • Michael Murray

            lol

          • Darren

            Longshanks wrote,

            This is b.s.

            There must be an original turtle, an Un-Supported Supporter.

            The greatest conceivable Turtle? The Turtle who necessarily embodies all Turtley perfections?

          • Susan

            >God is not a simple explanation for the existence of the universe, in fact god hypotheses form the most complex explanations for what, at root, appears to be a simple event.
            Yes. It's suggesting that a "mind" exists without matter, without time. What are the probabilities of THAT given what we know about how "minds" work? Not a speck of evidence, just an inference based on unsupported "probabilities" and not ONE speck of evidence that without matter, "minds" would even be here talking about probabilities.
            I keep looking for the argument that will explain it all to me. I've read a LOT of arguments, but they seem to be the same ones over and over.
            I'm open to a good explanation supported by solid evidence. Maybe I just haven't heard a good argument yet. Or maybe I'm daft. I'm not suggesting that I'm not.
            Chairs on desks don't work at all.

          • Michael Murray

            Likewise, given our best scientific evidence we can (pace Richard Swinburne) consider God as the simplest explanation for the existence of the physical universe).

            So why are the majority of scientists not convinced by your simple argument ?

            Michael

          • AshleyWB

            You're misreading what I wrote. Evolution and its mathematical nature don't "lead" to that conclusion. I was simply anticipating the next question. I wrote that biological evolution is ultimately certain _given_ the properties of our universe, so to me the obvious next question is "Why does our universe have those properties?" That's a separate question to which we do not have an answer at this time. That's not a conclusion, just a fact. We do not know why the universe has the exact properties (constants, forces, etc). it has instead of some other properties.

            No one, or at least not me, is saying that the hypothesis of a creator god is disallowed. Go ahead, hypothesize it. Now, what evidence do you have for that hypothesis?

          • Andrew G.

            Yes, we know what Aristotle said, but as usual we have no reason to agree with him, and particularly no reason to believe that "final causes" exist outside of any mind.

          • Andrew, take the example of a wooden chair. It seems to have (at least) four distinct "causes":

            - Material Cause - It was caused by the woods and nails which make it up

            - Efficient Cause - It was caused by the woodworker who built the chair

            - Formal Cause - It was caused by the idea of a chair. The woodworker had the idea of the chair in his mind, which caused the actual chair to be built.

            - Final Cause - The chair was caused by someone wanting something to sit in. People needed to sit, thus the chair.

            Which of those causes do you take issue with? And which of those causes can be explained by the material chair alone? From my view, only the first.

          • Longshanks

            Well, if we must play your game, the material cause is DNA and energy from the sun, or perhaps atoms/quarks if we want to go down that far, but Natural Selection is a pressure that only seems to operate on living things with DNA, at least as far as I understand.

            Next the efficient cause, the mechanism is the living or dying of individuals of a population, that's what we mean by "selection."

            Finally I don't admit the necessity for explanatory theories to tackle "Formal" or "Final" causes. It seems to me that these are psychological frameworks we bring to the table based on the evolved nature of our brains, not things inherent to the universe.

          • stevegbrown

            Hello there Longshanks, Is that a pun? "psychological frameworks" for the idea of a chair? (har har). I really don't think it is playing a game if one is trying to delve into the deeper nature of things. These principle ideas have a real distinction. It would be like making a real or a logical distinction between velocity and what you choose to measure velocity with: feet per second, or meters per second. How you measure the velocity is a logical distinction the speed itself would be a real distinction. Your notion of psychological frameworks reminds me of Kant. Also, I think there is a real distinction between your brain and your mind. Thanks for reading.

          • Andrew G.

            Like I said, we know what Aristotle said.

            The example of a chair implicitly assumes a created artifact from a known culture. If I were to show you something for which you had no cultural referents, how would you expect to know whether it is an artifact or the result of a natural process, if it was an artifact then what purpose was it created for, and so on?

            The mistake is in assuming that things which are meaningful when applied to chairs remain meaningful when applied to other objects.

          • Rationalist1

            It's telling that only is only in theology that Aristotle's Four causes have anything but a historical interest. We've abandoned the four humours in medicine, the four elements in chemistry, even the four muses in art, but why do we attribute such importance to Aristotle's four causes.

          • I think there are 7 muses? FWIW

          • Rationalist1

            Classical muses were Thelxinoë, Aoedē, Arche, and Meletē, daughters of Zeus

          • You're right, and I was even wrong about the number they finally stopped counting at. Originally there were three Muses, then four, and at most there were nine.

          • Rationalist1

            I have an advantage, I have a son who reads the Rick Riordan books

          • I read the D'Aulaire mythology to my infant son for bedtime, and I studied Ancient Greek language for four years. I truly have no excuse.

          • Rationalist1

            My 14 year old spent an hour in the museum yesterday translating ancient Latin manuscripts from the 14th century thrilled with his new knowledge of Latin this year. Next year he can't wait to start ancient Greek.

          • Latin and Greek were my best 7 and 4 classes in middle/high school. I really think everyone should take them, and its awesome that your son's school offers them. I am refusing to move outside of the DC area because of the quality and quantity of classical education here. I'm scared to move anywhere else. What if my son never gets the chance to learn Greek? Inexcusable.

          • Rationalist1

            My wife is from the DC area, went to Walt Whitman HS. My son's school offers four years of Latin and two of Greek (I believe). We chose it because he likes math and the school has excellent math but I'm afraid we have a budding classicist on our hands. :->

          • Well, congratulations. Classicists are much more interesting than mathematicians!

          • Rationalist1

            Any neither will be able to support my wife and me in our retirement. :->

          • True story. Good luck on that. Maybe he'll go to business school for college.

          • David Egan

            I was a classics major in college (in DC, actually) and ended up getting an MBA and have a very nice business career. So, there is plenty of hope for the kid. Keep him in the classics for as long as possible. It's a great foundation for all types of learning.

          • Yeah, I graduated with a classical degree (Great Books) and I loved it. Going for my MBA soon. I wish I had done Classics, I just wasn't good enough at it.

          • Rationalist1

            Agree. My second year physics teacher maintained that the best prep for graduate work in physics was a classics degree. Mind you he had a science degree, but still classics and a knowledge of history is very important.

          • This was a good talk, though I feel we've strayed off topic.

          • Longshanks

            You guys gotta stop this back-and forth. How are we supposed to maintain the flame of righteousness and bring the light of knowledge to those-who-are-wrong-on-the-internet with this sort of fraternization?

            Latin was cool.
            Greek was terrifying.

          • Hey, man, this is real dialogue here!

            I loved Latin, and I really liked Greek, but the esotericism of Greek was a huge plus too.

          • Because Aristotle's Four Causes make rational sense. See my chair example above where I show how one entity can have four distinct causes.

            Also, just because we've abandoned other Aristotelian philosophical theories doesn't mean we should abandon this one. That's a form of the "genetic falacy." Aristotle's idea of the Four Causes must be gauged on it's own merits, exclusive of who said it or what other ideas we accept from Aristotle.

          • Rationalist1

            Bit my point was only theology (and especially Catholic theology) , no other form of human inquiry makes use of such a construction. The Catholic Church defined its beliefs in terms of Aristotelian metaphysics, but everyone else has moved on from that position, but the Church can't as its doctrine is associated with the philosophy of the time.

          • AshleyWB

            Exactly, which is why no one outside of theology uses the Four Causes. They have been judged on their merits and found to be of no use at all. They have no useful application in science, mathematics, or non-ancient philosophy. They don't help us understand the cosmology of the universe , or human behavior, or the chemistry of baking.

            It would be helpful for you to learn that "making rational sense" isn't much of a guide to the truth or reality. Any correctly constructed logical argument makes rational sense, but if the premises are not grounded in observation, the argument will probably have nothing to do with reality. A bigger problem is that in the absence of observation, our cognitive biases often take over, leading us to think that something "makes rational sense" when it really just flatters our preconceptions.

          • Max Driffill

            Actually

            Darwin really did do away with the need for any conscious designer at all. The whole process is taken care of by an algorithmic process that needs no input from a conscious agent the creation of biological systems.

            In fact the whole of the Neo-Darwinian synthesis probably calls into question Aristotle's four causes completely.

            Starting from the back end first. The history of life on earth indicates, if it can be said to indicate anything at all, that life isn't heading any specific direction. There may be what Dan Dennett has termed good moves in the design space that evolution will hit upon again and again (being bi-laterally symmetrical say, or eyes, or social systems, or flight) but that is only because these things are useful relative to organisms who possess these traits (or their rudiments) and those that don't. Long dynasties of life come to a crashing halt from some random cosmic or geological turn of events. There is just no reason to think that evolution (which rebuilds bio-diversity after these crashes) is moving toward anything.

            Turning now toward the Aristotelian causes. When looking at the evolution of organisms we can toss out the Formal and Final cause portions from the get go.

            Darwin, and later researchers have demonstrated that there are no ideas, and there is wanting some future X. There is simply nothing else to explain but how selective pressure shape traits and change gene frequencies.

            Lets look at both final and formal causes and drop the chair and use a biological example. Say the evolution of woodpecker's ability to hammer into a tree.

            "- Formal Cause - It was caused by the idea of a chair. The woodworker had the idea of the chair in his mind, which caused the actual chair to be built."
            Unlike a chair builder, a woodpecker has no end goal in mind. No individual ancestral woodpeckers were trying, over the course of a few generations, to create skulls that could withstand the stress hammering on a tree created.
            What follows is hypothetical, but it will serve our purpose and the logic of my hypothetical is derived from numerous other real examples.
            The picture for ancestral woodpeckers was probably of a group of bark foraging birds that spent a great deal of time gleaning insects from the bark. There was no doubt a great deal of variation in this trait of gleaning. There might have been several who even hammered a little into the tree. If one of them was able to do this better than others, to withstand the stress just a bit more, to go just a bit deeper, and this provided any caloric advantage over its peers, it would probably leave more descendants than its contemporaries. If this trait of being able to hammer just a bit more, longer and deeper and thus get more grubs had a genetic component, many of its offspring would have this trait and they would be more successful than their contemporaries. This would go on until the trait was very well represented in the population. And, depending on the selection pressures, it is possible for more refinement of the trait to occur. In this way, slowly, over the course of generations, new traits spread and develop, and biodiversity grows.

            But there was never an idea for a sturdier skull, or longer bill. Those traits spread and developed because some individuals had the rudiments of them and the rudiments conferred a (probably slight at first) reproductive advantage.

            "- Final Cause - The chair was caused by someone wanting something to sit in. People needed to sit, thus the chair."

            There is no final cause in nature. For one thing the biota is still evolving. This is probably the most profoundly wrong part of the four causes. You can see this quite profoundly in the case of Darwin's Finches, whose morphology changes quite frequently owing to some very severe selection pressures on that island that change every few years.

            However neither Darwin's Finches, nor my hypothetical Woodpeckers want these unique bills. It is just natural selection operating on variation with the population.

          • Rationalist1

            I would never say that a law of physics doesn't have a cause, only we don't (currently) know the cause. Conservation of energy (also momentum, angular momentum) arise from symmetry from a beautiful thereom from a much overlooked woman physicist (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noether's_theorem).

            We could have stopped at the level of "Energy is conserved because God exists " but science didn't and Emmy Noether discovered something profound about the universe. We could do that with entropy and attribute it various Gods people believe in but then we may miss out on something equally or more profound.

          • AshleyWB

            "Atheists can look at the second law of thermodynamics, for instance, and conclude we don't know why that particular law exists--it just does (Catholics, of course, attribute its existence to a divine Creator.) Yet even if we didn't know the cause of a natural law it doesn't mean there isn't a cause behind it."

            You're misrepresenting what most atheists would say in these cases. It's not "we don't know why that particular law exists--it just does", it's "we don't know why that particular law exists". Please try to understand the difference, because it will help clear up the confusion you have towards naturalistic and atheistic positions on these matters.

            The first, your version, makes adds a claim at the end that the law exists for no reason. The second, the accurate version, makes no claim at all. It is simply a recognition that we currently lack an explanation, and it's the only honest answer about many questions. It's also drives discovery, as in the the description of Noether in Rationalist1's post.

          • AshleyWB, but this is a far cry from the earlier comments in this thread from Rationalist which say "ultimately one has to acknowledge that some questions may not have a why answer."

            Perhaps I've misinterpreted this claim, and if so I hope Rationalist corrects me, but it seems to say we *must* admit that some things have no "why" answer. In other words, some things have no cause.

            I don't see any scientific evidence to support such a definitive proposition (which is not surprising since, as I argue above, there cannot be any since the empirical sciences cannot answer the question of ultimate causation.)

          • Rationalist1

            I used the modal verb "may". In the spirit of Godel's proof that mathematics cannot be proven to be consistent, science has to admit that it may not know the answers to all questions.

          • Longshanks

            It seems to me that it would be difficult for science to answer the question "why is it good to test our ideas against reality."

            In Godel, Escher, and Bach, Hofsteadter talks about this recursion at, perhaps extreme, though fascinating, length.

            At some point in my epistemology, the value of truth just has to bootstrap itself.

          • Rationalist1, at last, I think we agree! I'm totally with you when you say "science has to admit that it may not know the answers to all questions."

          • Rationalist1

            So let's see if theology can come up to the plate now.

          • Bravo.

            It is long past time for the theologians to recover their self-respect and get their game back on.

            Science is floundering in a rapidly-escalating morass of invented ad hoc patches to a theory which now requires the invention of 99% of the mass/energy of the cosmos in order to make its equations work.

            This is because science has decided it has the "theory of everything"- always!- just beyond its fingertips.

            The truth is that science has reached the limits of its operational prowess, and, frustrated, has decided to go ahead and subsume metaphysics and theology, neither of which are amenable to its operational method.

            But your point is spot on.

            The theologians have cowered before Goliath for far, far too long.

            Its time they earned their sinecures.

          • Longshanks

            Oh my god. I hear the music from Braveheart's fight scenes every time you talk Rick.

          • Can I help it that you are fascinated, Longshanks?

            ;-)

          • Can I help it that you are fascinated, Longshanks?

            ;-)

          • Michael Murray

            Bring it on. Can't wait to see all those new theologically powered spaceships and the Aquinal quantum field theories.

          • Side note: My new goal in life is to become a theoretical physicist so I can come up with a theory of quantum fields to call Aquinal quantum field theory.

          • Failing that, I'll start a band called Aquinal Quantum Field Theory.

          • Actually, Michael, the service which theology presently has to do for science consists in things much more important than spaceships or quantum field theories.

            The service theology has to do for science now is to assist it in purging itself of the catastrophic metaphysical falsehood that something....not very often, you know, but every once in a great while...just sort of "pops"....out of nothing.

          • Michael Murray

            We already know that nothing comes from nothing. Julie's Andrews told us.

          • VelikaBuna

            Such as assumptions of lack of purpose inspite almost everything screaming purpose. At the same time swallow hook, line and the fisherman concerning conjectural evidence of "morality" in primates as evidence of evolved morality. Talk about double standard in acceptance of evidence.

          • Bye all, the Memoryhole is far too deep and wide around here.

          • Andre Boillot
          • Oh.

            Pardon me.

            The Memoryhole is not deep, nor is it wide.

            For the atheists.

            Ciao, Brandon.

            I think it is time for a Digital Lepanto ;-)

          • Longshanks
          • Longshanks
          • AshleyWB

            I absolutely cannot understand how you get this:

            "but it seems to say we *must* admit that some things have no "why" answer"

            from this:

            "ultimately one has to acknowledge that some questions may not have a why answer."

            Rationalist1 says some questions MAY not have a "why" answer. You're somehow interpreting that as meaning that some things definitely don't have a "why" answer. Can't you see the difference? The word "may" expresses possibility.

      • Andrew G.

        The universe moves towards increasing entropy because that's the direction we define as "forward" in time; this choice is not arbitrary because the information processing required for consciousness also involves increasing entropy.

        • Rationalist1

          Probably. Time and entropy are such murky topics in physics there's no doubt they are related. Of particular interest is that entropy doesn't manifest itself on the microscopic level, only on the macroscopic level. (My knowledge on this may be dated). That would be the one mystery I would like to see solved within my lifetime.

      • AshleyWB

        No one knows precisely why the universe has the exact properties that it does. We don't have any evidence that we could use to answer such questions. It's not an answer that the authors of many of the articles on this site seem capable of or willing to hear, but it's the truth. So the answer to your question, "why would anything move toward any natural end" is simply "Nobody knows". Any answer you jam in there is mere gap reasoning, no matter how many times and on how many threads you deny it.

        • Ashley, you say:

          "No one knows precisely why the universe has the exact properties that it does. We don't have any evidence that we could use to answer such questions."

          If by "evidence" you mean "empirical evidence" then I would wholeheartedly agree. We don't have any "evidence" to determine whether cosmological properties have a cause. But the reason we don't is because if the properties did have a cause outside of themselves, they would by definition need to be super-natural. In other words, the evidence would not be empirical.

          Therefore claiming we don't have any empirical evidence to answer questions about the cosmological causes is like saying, "We don't have any mathematical evidence to prove whether that painting had a cause."

          Also, claiming that "no one" can know whether specific cosmological properties were caused is a philosophical position, not a scientific position. I disagree with that claim and am curious how you can know it with such certainty.

          • primenumbers

            Super-natural thing will only lack empirical evidence if they have no measurable effect. If they don't have a measurable effect, why are we concerning ourselves with them?

          • primenumbers, the problem is that effects alone can't always determine non-material causation. For example, if I see a chair I *know* that the chair was caused by woods and nails. But there are other causes like who was behind it (i.e. who did the work), who came up with the chair's design, and *why* they wanted to make the chair.

            The fact that the chair exists (i.e. the "effect") cannot determine the answers to those other questions, or if they even *have* answers.

          • primenumbers

            Oh Brandon, I'd agree that effects alone cannot show non-material causation, but that is actually not what I'm saying. I'm looking from the other direction and saying that although we may not be able to determine a cause from an effect, if there is a cause there will be an effect and if there's no measurable effect, why worry about the cause.

            You final point is an important one though. "or if they even *have* answers." - indeed. It's possible to formulate a vast, if not infinite array of questions that don't have answers, and although there's the obvious set of nonsense questions like "why is a mouse when it spins?", there's enough that appear reasonable at first glance, but upon deeper reflection just don't seem to make enough sense to suppose a reasonable answer exists.

          • AshleyWB

            primenumbers answered the first part of your post succinctly. I would only add that your claim that there can be no empirical evidence for cosmological properties is clearly unjustified.

            As to your last paragraph, I did not make the claim that no one CAN have such knowledge, only that no one DOES know. There's a very significant difference, Brandon.

          • Ashley, you say "I would only add that your claim that there can be no empirical evidence for cosmological properties is clearly unjustified."

            I never made that claim, and thus you've fallen into the straw man fallacy. I said there can be no empirical evidence for the ultimate cause behind cosmological laws, not that the laws themselves lack empirical evidence.

          • AshleyWB

            Let me rephrase then:

            I would only add that your claim that there can be no empirical evidence for the ultimate cause behind cosmological properties is unjustified.

        • badcatholic

          Filling the gap with "nobody knows" is just as much of a cop-out with filling it "because God." It's an appeal to an entity beyond the capacities of reasoning, namely anti-reasoning, or ignorance. And of course it works to imply the lack of an answer is an answer. It works insofar as it demolishes the basis for scientific reasoning. Who could even begin to argue with that?

          However, the ignorance-of-the-gaps argument does convince me of one thing: Empiricism has nothing to say about ends, only "we don't know," but humans naturally see and understand natural ends, speak and act according to natural ends, indicating to me, at least, that we are fundamentally not empirical, and that this question can't have an empirical answer. Asking "Why is their apparent purpose in nature" can't be answered within nature itself. It's a human question, and it needs a human answer.

          • Rationalist1

            Saying "no ones knows" show honesty and humility. But saying "no one knows yet" shows that science is working on it but will not propose an answer without evidence.

          • Longshanks

            If not having answers scares you, you should probably stop asking questions.

          • Longshanks, I'm not sure what this comment adds to the discussion. Nobody here admitted to being afraid of not having answers. We've only argued that claiming "there are no causes" is baseless.

          • Rationalist1

            Brandon, but for a religious person the cause of everything is God. Can there be anything that has an ultimate cause other than God? Perhaps it isn't fear that requires people to have causes for all things, but it is humility that says I don't know.

          • "Can there be anything that has an ultimate cause other than God?"

            No, there is not and cannot be. Everything in the cosmos is contingent on his creation.

          • Octavo

            How is it that you know for certain that there aren't several gods and goddesses, each of whom were the unmoved mover for their own respective chain of causes and effects?

            ~Jesse Webster

          • Well that flies in the face of Occam's Razor, doesn't it?

          • Rationalist1

            No, not really. Positing an infinitely powerful, all knowing, omnipresent, infinite God loses all claim to Ockham's razor.

          • But if you must have an Unmoved Mover, then having 1 is far simpler than having many with distinct spheres.

          • Longshanks

            Then why not just have the Universe instead of a god who moved it?

          • Isn't a Being who moves the Universe far simpler than a Universe that must move itself? Isn't the Theistic position ridiculed as simplistic (Magic Man in the Sky, etc.)?

          • Rationalist1

            Who said anything about theism. A Deistic God is equally capable of creating this universe and also has the merit of not interacting with creation which to all available evidence seems to be the case.

          • Ok, but the thing that Theism and Deism have in common is an unmoved mover, which is the simplest explanation of the Universe, I believe. But only one, not many.

          • Longshanks

            Wait, honestly?

            Postulating another being exterior to the Universe is simpler? Wut?

            How? In what sense?

            Theistic claims are ridiculed for many things in many ways, and one of them may be that they are held by people who are portrayed as "simple," that is of little intellect.

            I don't think inherent in that claim about the IQ of believers is the contention that the belief is too elegant or simple.

          • Well it's certainly simpler in terms of explanation. Else we'd know if the Universe moves itself.

          • Longshanks

            Wait, you've lost me again.

            How would we know if the Universe moves itself?

          • Even if we don't know if it does, how could you explain a way in which it might move itself. What are the physics, quantum or otherwise, involved? What's the math?

          • Longshanks

            I have no reason or ability to prove that which I cannot. I do not know. Nor am I or you owed an explanation.

            But I do know that I agree with your assertion that one unmoved mover is simpler than two.

            It seems to me that we already have one entity that has been extant as long as our Universe has, namely the selfsame Universe, I see no reason to posit addition entities in existence outside of it.

            I don't need physics to justify that any more than you need it to justify 1 god is simpler than >1.

          • I posit one unmoved mover because I have seen no evidence that anything in nature moves without being acted upon.

            Though, I'm not a quantum physicist.

          • Andre Boillot

            But...you're using your experience of no unmoved things to posit an unmoved thing...

          • But I can explain why I have had no evidence of an unmoved thing in God.

            But I have had experience of God, even if it's not experience of God qua Unmoved Mover.

          • Andre Boillot

            "But I can explain why I have had no evidence of an unmoved thing in God."

            Is this going to involve some tautology?

          • No, just transcendence. If I have spiritually/emotionally experienced a transcendent being, then I understand why I haven't physically experienced It

          • Andre Boillot

            Daniel,

            Just to be clear, I think you're a pretty righteous dude, so please know this isn't a troll.

            What you've been saying seems like contradiction (or trying to have it both ways).

            "I posit one unmoved mover because I have seen no evidence that anything in nature moves without being acted upon."
            &
            "If I have spiritually/emotionally experienced a transcendent being, then I understand why I haven't physically experienced It"

            First you know X with property Y, because you've seen no evidence of Y. Then you know why you've seen no evidence of Y, because of X.

          • Ok, let me phrase it this way (I know you'd never troll me, Andre):

            I posit a supernatural, transcendent being as an Unmoved Mover because everything natural requires outside influence to move. Something which is supernatural would require no outside influence, in part by definition.

            Then, if you ask me where I get evidence of anything supernatural to even posit (so I've already asserted it as a sort of argument from silence (which is fallacious, if used in a formal argument)). I tell you, I have evidence of It (the supernatural Mover) through internal intuitions and locutions.

            Does that make more sense?

          • Rationalist1

            But I've just given an example of radioactive decay that causes movement without any cause. Also the creation of virtual particles. Also zero point energy, a particle at absolute zero still has movement.

          • I know, but to me the cosmological argument isn't the strongest for a number of reasons, I was mostly illustrating to prove a point.

            You can't kick my stool over that easily, Mark.

          • Andre Boillot

            "(I know you'd never troll me, Andre)"

            I wouldn't say that, though I will say I try to limit my trolling to instances where it's funnier to do so then answer honestly.

            "Does that make more sense?"

            On it's own, no. However, I appreciate you're explaining it to me.

          • Rationalist1

            There actually is quite a bit in quantum physics where an unmoved mover exists. Take for example radioactive decay. Nothing causes it to happen at a particular instance, all we can tell is the probability of it occurring with in a specific time interval. Einstein tried for 30 years to formulate what physicists call a "hidden variable theory" but without success. The good news is Einstein wanted there to be a cause, the bad new is even he could not justify his theory.

          • We just haven't discovered the cause yet.

            Now you're quantum physicking of the gaps.

            (I kid)

          • Longshanks

            You don't need to be even conversant with QM to reject what you just said.

            I have seen no evidence that any of the parts of my car can drive me to McDonalds, therefore my car cannot drive me to McDonalds.

            https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/composition-division

            If we're going to start using English to talk about The Fabric of Reality, we can't then jump down to "cheetahs die, gazelles die, therefore god."

            If you can feel comfortable with the idea of an entity not bound by time which upholds reality and call it God; fine. I am too, I call it the Universe. I call it reality.

          • Or... you call it Being? The Ous? Existence itself?

            Isn't positing the Universe as the Unmoved Mover no different from Deism except in nomenclature? (I'm not saying you're right or wrong to do so, I just wonder if there's a distinction I'm missing. I'm curious)

          • Rationalist1

            The universe is a heck of a lot simpler.

          • Longshanks

            In that their natures are both fundamentally ungraspable? No, I can't see much of a difference.

            Either way is of no import to me, however, and Occam would lead me to cut the Deistic god out and just stick with what has observable being.

          • Theistic claims are ridiculed for many things in many ways, and one of them may be that they are held by people who are portrayed as "simple," that is of little intellect.

            No, I would not agree with that stereotype. Not so bright people can and do believe some things that are true, and very bright people can and do believe some things that are not true. I personally know very bright people who have been believers and have worked their own way out through reason. So you never know if someone has not gone that way for not having the mental capability, or just that he or she has not gotten that far, yet. Also, there is the property of the human mind, independent of intelligence level, to be able to hold contradictory positions and shift back and forth to fit surroundings. A few years ago I had a long on-line discussion with a geologist who worked for a Texas oil company, using all modern science of how strata are formed over millions of years to go look for buried oil and natural gas, five days a week, but went home to be a Six-Day Creationist every Saturday and Sunday.

          • Longshanks

            First of all, let me say that if you read me to be saying that anyone with Theistic claims is not intelligent, then I have been foisted on my own canard, since I was once a passionate Theist myself.

            There's one comment thread on one of these articles where I decided that a co-non-deists' outlandish and, in my opinion, inappropriate claims were doing atheism a disservice, and showing a startling lack of understanding. I do not, and could not without self-immolation, hold the position that being an atheist makes you "brighter," or that being religious does the converse.

            I think, if you go back and read the sequential comments, however, it would be difficult to arrive at the conclusion that I was making that assertion.

            Daniel posted:

            Isn't a Being who moves the Universe far simpler than a Universe that must move itself? Isn't the Theistic position ridiculed as simplistic (Magic Man in the Sky, etc.)?

            To which I replied, in part:

            Theistic claims are ridiculed for many things in many ways, and one of them may be that they are held by people who are portrayed as "simple," that is of little intellect.

            I don't think inherent in that claim about the IQ of believers is the contention that the belief is too elegant or simple.

            In a discussion about the necessity of an extra-natural 'unmoved mover,' Daniel wanted to argue the ultimate simplicity of his point of view. I advanced that an uncaused Universe would be simpler yet.

            Daniel then made an interesting and unexpected tack to pleading victimhood. In his setup, Theism is 'ridiculed as simplistic,' and loosely connecting that to the idea of an unomved mover being 'simple.'

            The description you took, and rightly, exception to was my attempt to understand his setup. I was trying to frame the ridicule he claimed to be a victim of in my own words, and the possible motivations of those who would use the terms 'simple' or 'simplistic' as anti-theistic attacks. I imagine that if a person were going to try to cross that rubicon in a rhetorical attack, they wouldn't be attacking the 'simplicity' of Theism in the sense of 'freedom from complexity' or 'elegant functionality,' they would be using the word in one of the other senses it has, the pejorative sense of 'lacking intelligence'.

          • Hey Longshanks.

            For what it's worth, I didn't get the impression you were calling all Theists simplistic, so we were on the same page.

            I wasn't claiming to be the victim of anyone here. Merely referencing the exchanges seen by the simplest people on both sides of the theist/atheist aisle. It was in no way meant to stand in as an actual premise of the argument. More of a humorous aside.

          • Isn't a Being who moves the Universe far simpler than a Universe that must move itself? Isn't the Theistic position ridiculed as simplistic (Magic Man in the Sky, etc.)?

            The idea is simplistic. Having something as complex as a being that can create ex nihilo, makes no sense to posit instead of a simple physical process.

          • But what would that physical process be? How is it explained? Where's the math/physics possible to even begin to explain how the Universe might move itself?

            Also, the whole point of this aside is not that an Unmoved Mover is the simplest explanation (even I forgot why I originally started this train of thought).

            It's that *IF* there must be an unmoved mover, one of them is simpler than many of them. I was responding to Octavo saying "why not many movers"

          • But what would that physical process be? How is it explained? Where's the math/physics possible to even begin to explain how the Universe might move itself?

            Daniel, possible theories are being worked out for that. I will direct you to Lawrence Krauss for a start: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaB-zq864-c

          • I can always count on you for a video. Thanks, Quine!

          • I can always count on you for a video. Thanks, Quine!

            You are most welcome. I am partial to that particular video as I happened to have been in the audience at the time. Last year after the Reason Rally in D.C. I got a chance to talk to Lawrence about the difference between the metaphysical nothing of philosophy and the physical nothing from experimental observation, that he is presenting.

          • Andre Boillot

            Q,

            Maybe it's just mah brain not being so good...but I've found this lecture unsatisfying as to how the universe came from nothing. If memory serves, he does a good job once the big-bang starts, but not so good for events prior.

          • Maybe it's just mah brain not being so good..

            No, it's just hard. Quite a bit of work has been going on re that question in the years since 2009 when he gave that lecture. He mentions that we are currently stopped from getting closer because of a lack of a theory of quantum gravity. Here is an article from last year that may give you an update.

          • Andre Boillot

            Q,

            Yeah, I guess I was just disappointed because the title was selling something that he couldn't really deliver on. I'll check the article out though, thanks.

          • I think the title connection to the bulk of the lecture is all about why the negative energy of expanding space-time could balance out the mass and energy we see and think of as "what is." That balance would make everything add up to nothing, which is what we see happening all the time on the quantum scale where virtual particles come into existence and then cancel out.

          • Longshanks

            I think the issue is that Krauss' "nothing" is not a nothing in the sense of "lacking existence," or something.

            There seems to be a philosophical concept, although I have nothing substantive to say about it's validity or real meaning, of total-void which quantum-foam is not.

            If you were to suppose that the concept 'absent-of-the-ability-to-exist' were the idea behind the word 'nothing,' then this talk wouldn't salve your conscience vis-a-vis a nothing-to-something transformation.

            If, as I lean more and more, and Krauss seems to, you take 'absent-of-the-ability-to-exist' to be a non-valid string of characters, un-evidenced and indescribable in every sense of the word, then this talk has no need to shoulder the burden of existential transformations and only the task of explicating seeming energy imbalances, which it does admirably.

          • Michael Murray

            There is a concept in set theory of the empty set. It's just got stuff all to do with the real world. I assume the philosophical concept of nothingness is the same but less well defined. At least I can right down the axioms for a set theory.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zermelo–Fraenkel_set_theory

          • Rationalist1

            "Having something as complex as a being that can create ex nihilo, makes no sense to posit instead of a simple physical process." Especially one where science is getting closer and closer to explaining how the universe can evolve once created. The Theistic God is gone, the Deistic God may not be far behind.

          • Rationalist1

            Then why do science. Would Franklin had been told to put the kite away as God causes lightning? Would Darwin have been told that God created all the species? Would Galileo have been told to put down the telescope, we know how the heavens work?

            Fortunately for all of us, they didn't.

          • David Egan

            " Would Galileo have been told to put down the telescope, we know how the heavens work?"

            That's what the church tried. Thankfully he ignored them.

          • David, the Church never "tried" to tell Galileo to put down his telescope. That's a myth that has been long debunked. Please read this article for more:

            https://strangenotions.com/galileo-controversy/

          • Rationalist1
          • Rationalist1, please tell me where in that verdict it tells Galileo to "put down his telescope."

          • Rationalist1

            Okay, not literally out it down, but he was imprisoned and his books banned.

          • Octavo

            And it's not reassuring when the Strange Notions article on the subject tries to let us know how kindly the church treated him during his life sentence of imprisonment in his home.

            What is reassuring is that the Church no longer gets to ban books and imprison authors it disagrees with.

            ~Jesse Webster

          • Rationalist1, just because everything has a cause doesn't mean science is pointless. You'd have a hard time making that case to these guys:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Catholic_scientists

          • AshleyWB

            This is the second time today I've seen a Catholic post a link to that exact article. My conclusion is that I read too many Catholic blogs, and that Catholics are adorable with their love of pointing out members of their tribe as often as possible.

          • Would Franklin had been told to put the kite away as God causes lightning?

            It turns out he was told to put his lightning rod invention away because it interfered with the "Will of God."

          • Everything in the cosmos is contingent on his creation.

            Isn't this supposed to be the conclusion arrived at following a long chain of reasoning of which "Fraught With Purpose" attempts to supply one of the most preliminary steps? Theists may be right that the cosmos was created by God and depends on him for its existence, but simply asserting that in a discussion that is allegedly starting from basic premises tends to indicate that the conclusion is known, and the arguments here are all of minimal importance. The theists know all the answers already, and the purpose of the arguments isn't to demonstrate truth. It's to keep throwing things at the wall in the hopes that something will stick.

          • David, thanks for the comment. You ask:

            "Isn't this supposed to be the conclusion arrived at following a long chain of reasoning of which "Fraught With Purpose" attempts to supply one of the most preliminary steps?"

            The answer is yes. But if you read the conversation in context you would see I wasn't making an argument here, I was merely answering Rationalist1's question.

          • Longshanks

            My comment doesn't add anything, but "ignorance is a cop-out" does?

            Maybe your a priori agreement with one line of thought biases you?

            If I were to ask you "what kind of leather were Jesus' sandals, were they cow, donkey, pig, mule, sheep, goat?"

            What is your answer.

            Remember, you're not allowed to answer "I don't know," not only is that just a plea to the entity of non-entityness, but it is also contrary to my nature as a human.

            As a human, I need human answers.

            Does any of what I wrote make sense to you? Because it doesn't to me.

            "I don't know" is one of the most necessary and beautiful things a human can learn how to say, however terrifying it might be.

            That's a lesson I learned from socrates. If you have a problem, take it up with him.

          • Longshanks, despite your long follow-up comment you haven't provided an explanation for your prior, snappier comment and how it helps the conversation at all. Again, nobody has claimed to be afraid by not having answers, so why the accusation?

          • Longshanks

            It seemed a reasonable response to the plainly off-the-wall comment: "And of course it works to imply the lack of an answer is an answer. "

            Nothing about the post I replied to struck me as balanced or calm.

            If it offends you, take it down.

          • I'm not offended by it, nor am I suggesting you meant to offend. I'm just saying it adds nothing to the discussion and I'm not sure why you would charge someone with being "afraid" without explanation. That's a bully tactic.

          • Longshanks

            Why wouldn't you be similarly confused about the original comment which accuses someone admitting, humbly and openly, a lack of knowledge and a potential inability to attain that knowledge of being a "cop out" and of intentionally obscuring the truth?

            Those seem like bully tactics to me.

            Additionally, if you want more explanation, it seems to me that I might make statements like the original commenter did out a deep fear of the unknown.
            It's a part of the human condition, and I'm certainly not immune to it.

            I used to believe as ardently as any of the posters you have on this site the very things I oppose now. I thoroughly understand how disquieting it can be to have certainty be undermined.

            Nowadays, I get a little thrill from looking into that void of ignorance and wondering, instead of being afraid. Or I try to :)

            This guy has helped me heaps, skip to 2:28 if it's TL, DR. (forgive me the length and the sappy music, but this stuff touches me)
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRmbwczTC6E

            Incidentally, if you're taking suggestions still, you couldn't go far wrong in my estimation by posting the whole of this "Feynman Series", indeed all Feynman youtube content as links for the atheist side, along with all the awesome Harris, Hitchens, N. D. Tyson, and Dawkins content.

            These folks are passionate about curiosity. And sometimes, when you ask questions you have to answer "I don't know." Whether for now or maybe for good. It does not matter that that admission is sometimes scary or unsatisfying. If that's the best answer then it is the best answer.

            This is sacred.

            Socrates died for it.

            I don't much like people getting belittled for saying those words.

            PS. In no way do I mean to imply that Ashley couldn't stand up for herself or that anyone needs my defending. This is my reaction only.

          • You guys call any attempt to bring God into a cosmological explanation a cop-out. Is that a bully tactic?

          • Andre Boillot

            Forgive me, but did Longshanks do this here?

          • No, I was speaking generally, as that tactic has been used on this site numerous times to date. But you're right, I was generalizing, I apologize.

          • Longshanks

            I think I've gone to great lengths to explain that I don't believe that you can prove god(s) non-existence. I reject your premise.

          • Again, see below, I withdraw my generalization. It's a common tactic, but you haven't used it

          • AshleyWB

            I'm sorry, but I find your post completely bizarre. Saying that nobody knows the answer to a question that nobody in fact has an answer to is not a cop-out, it's the simple truth. It does not imply that we will never have an answer, nor can it "demolish the basis for scientific reasoning". It is simply the humble acknowledgement that we do not have the answer to every question and should resist creating unjustified answers just because we don't like the fact of our ignorance.

            Nor should we recoil from the possibility that there are questions that we may never be able to answer, or let that possibility stop us from trying.

          • Sample1

            One line of inquiry I never see in faith environments is the acknowledgement that we might be very wrong to even think there is any meaning in asking particular questions. Answers to all questions are available to the dead. Consider these lyrics from Handel's Messiah:

            "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill
            made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain."

            The scientific engine may end up only being about explorations rather than destinations. If that's how is, then that's how it is! Until that is considered a possibility, I find much of this article attempting to conform natural evidence to a pre-manufactured supernatural conclusion.

            Mike

          • Ben

            There's apparent purpose in nature because natural selection shapes organisms to maximise their reproductive success.

            Humans are part of nature and the human mind is the product of natural selection, so of course we "see and understand natural ends".

          • How does A imply B there? Why does being "the product of natural selection" mean that we "see natural ends". One is physical, one is metaphysical.

          • Is this meant to imply that natural selection is a random process, without goal or purpose, and was not somehow guided to yield, as the pinnacle of its working, human beings?

          • No, I'm not making that claim (or not-making that claim). I'm just saying his reasoning makes a huge metaphysical leap. I could just as easily say, "we see and understand natural ends because there are natural ends" and it's more true, because there's no leap. There's no nuance either, but that would be the obvious answer. We see it because it's there.

      • On an atheistic, naturalist view, why would this natural end exist?

        Because there are vastly more ways to go from order to disorder than there are ways to go from disorder to order. There is no "natural end," it is just the simple result of being outnumbered.

      • Max Driffill

        What natural end is that? And why does something having a terminus matter?
        Also define natural end? How is it different from a stable state? What is the natural end of a fish? Is that a useful question? Take the example of the quarks from the article. How is it reasonable to say they "a natural tendency to move beyond themselves?"
        They don't move beyond themselves. A quark is a quark is a quark. But lone quarks don't appear to be stable and they fall into an arrangement that is stable. Is that a natural end? Possibly for quarks. I don't know, I'm no physicist. But for other entities in nature, ourselves included, these stable ends are often temporary and statistical. In biological systems the atoms of an organism only reside there for a short time, they will for a while achieve equilibrium with their environment with the death of the organism in question but they will cycle through numerous organisms. Do they have a natural end?
        What is a seed's natural end?

    • stevegbrown

      What about one very important goal that all living things share? I'm talking about the goal to live, flourish and perpetuate? Also, according to Sir Roger Penrose: (I'm paraphrasing here) matter in nature seems to generally grope and fumble towards life. Thanks for your careful and weighted consideration.

      • Michael Murray

        There are roughly 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the observable universe. So far we have confirmed life on a single planet going around one of them. I wouldn't get too excited about life and it's purposes. I'm certainly not convinced there is any tendency for matter to lead to life and I won't be until I see some evidence of at least one other source of life in the universe distinct from our own.

        I also don't think that life has a goal. Things that have the characteristics of trying to stay alive and reproduce are more likely to stay alive and reproduce than ones that don't share these characteristics. So over a period of time there are more of them. That's all there is to it. No goals.

        Michael

        • stevegbrown

          I think you're missing Penrose's point. Living things have a goal to stay alive. Why is that?

          • Max Driffill

            Probably because organisms that don't try to stay alive tend to leave fewer descendants than those who do.

            However this drive you seem thinks to characterize living things isn't wholly present. At least one species of spiders have males, who after they mate, allow the female to eat them. Males who are removed before the female can consume them leave fewer descendants because a female that hasn't fed tends to go prowling for food and ends up mating again.

            Evolutionary processes seem good at creating living things that are good at breeding. and getting to an age where they can do this.

          • stevegbrown

            Max, Thanks for the reply. Look, I don't think I'm being obsurantist by such an observation. Life doesn't tend, it struggles. Even the spider you mention (I'm recalling a film I saw of the Black Widow) struggles to get away. And believe me, that littel male spider was definitely trying to get away! And if they "sacrifice" they are driven to it by instinct. By matter groping, I think Penrose was referring to the molecular level. I am curious about your thoughts on adaptive mutations.

          • Max Driffill

            Adaptive mutations are one among many possible mutations.

          • stevegbrown

            I admit that I am a layman on these matters. I refer to John Cairn's work at Harvard as well as Barry Hall of Rochester. True, adaptive mutations are one among many possible mutations, but they seem to be unique in that they don't appear to be random but "aware" of the environment. Johnjoe McFadden (himself a microbiologist) points this discovery reveals itself quite forcefully with the superstrains of TB that have become reistant to 4 different kinds of antibiotic treatment. It certainly seems to point to some sort of purposeful mutating going on. Not the NeoDarwinian type.

          • Max Driffill

            Steve,
            I doubt Johnjo McFadden's conclusions (if they really are his conclusions). I will have to try to dig up some of his papers.
            Even if there were strains of bacteria that could increase their mutation rate in the presence strong selective pressures, this would in no way imply that the ability to do so was not a product of NeoDarwinian processes. Or that the bacteria were "aware" in any real sense, or that this adaptation, if indeed it is a real thing, has any implications for larger organisms.

            I did notice that McFadden has a book out called Quantum Evolution. This immediately raises red flags for me, as the word quantum, when not used by a physicist generally implies a lot of wooly headed thinking is on the way.

          • Max Driffill

            They don't though. Its a by-product of selection for other things.

  • Rationalist1

    Back to the article. The author, a PhD in physics, argues down to the fact that quarks experience the strong force so "they have a natural end".

    Wouldn't it be simpler and more inclusive (not just hadrons) to just say since almost all objects experience gravity then "they have a natural end". Why the need to unpeel the onion down to quarks except that it sounds more exotic?

  • Octavo

    How does "gluons attract" lead to conclusion that the gluons' attractive force was the result of intention? It seems like there were some logical steps that were left out. No one disputes that particles/waves/fields have properties.

    ~Jesse Webster

  • It's my understanding that particle interactions, as illustrated visually in Feynman diagrams, can all be read from left to right ("forwards") or from right to left ("backwards"). How do you discern what a "natural end" is for an interaction of particles that happens both "forwards" and "backwards"?

    • Rationalist1

      It's not known how the "arrow of time" manifests itself on the macroscopic level and not the microscopic level. As far as I know all dynamical equations are equivalent substitution t for -t. (I haven't followed this for a few years however so there may have been progress.)

    • Andrew G.

      In fact, reversing the direction of time is equivalent to exchanging each particle with its antiparticle and taking the mirror image (i.e. exchanging chiralities). If you do all three of the above, then the laws are unchanged.

      (It was once thought that the three symmetries (C, P and T) held independently, but it turns out that the weak force, and only the weak force, does not respect the P and CP symmetries; credit here to another oft-overlooked female scientist, Chien-Shiung Wu.)

      It is nevertheless normal on Feynman diagrams to represent an antiparticle as the normal particle going backwards in time.

      • Rationalist1

        I will read up on Chien-Shiung Wu. Thanks.

      • Longshanks

        Bless you, friend, for rendering temporarily understandable that which is not long destined to reside in my brain.

  • Here, listen to Sean Carroll (last summer at TAM) sort out purpose on the level of our lives from what happens in quantum field theory, and why thermodynamics goes the way it does: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5Fel1VKEN8

    • Dcn Harbey Santiago

      Q.

      Do you really believe that QFT provides a strong enough reason to legalize Same Sex Marriage, or was this meant as a joke?

      "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
      Deacon Harbey Santiago

      • Do you really believe that QFT provides a strong enough reason to legalize Same Sex Marriage, or was this meant as a joke?

        There may have been some amount of humor in there, but the direct point is that from carefully looking at the real world, and getting evidence from experiments that test our theories, we have come to see that there is no teleology that would preclude communities from legalizing Same Sex Marriage, if that is what the people want.

        • Ah.

          So, then, there would also be no teleology precluding communities from outlawing same sex marriage, if that is what the people want.

          In, fact, there would be no teleology precluding commiunities from burning heretics, Jews, or intransigent astronomers, if that is what the people want.

          May I suggest this is.......

          Oh yes.

          Brandon does not like comments which correctly characterize such arguments.......

          • Susan

            >In, fact, there would be no teleology precluding commiunities from burning heretics, Jews, or intransigent astronomers, if that is what the people want.

            I don't see why teleology would be required to argue that burning our fellow humans is a bad idea. The harm is obvious.

            Same-sex marriage is not the same as burning humans.

            What does teleology have to do with it?

          • "The harm is obvious."

            Why?

            If there is no meaning or purpose to our existence, then, as the post I answered above clearly recognizes, the only arbiter is "what the people want".

            You claim it is "obvious" that such-and-so is a bad idea.

            Why?

            If someone else says it is a good idea, then on what possible basis- other than teleology- could you claim an objective basis to distinguish between the two?

            Atheism is such an appallingly inadequate world view.........

            Not even the atheists can live it.

            They have to borrow their morality from the very teleological world views they spend the rest of their time trashing, and what is even more absurd- they apparently are incapable of realizing it.

          • CrismusCactus

            In order to discern whether setting someone on fire is a good or bad idea, the average non-believer tries to imagine being set on fire themselves. If this doesn't seem desirable, we know not to do it to other people.

            This is why comparing same sex marriage to murder does not work.

          • But if the people decide that doing unto others what they would wish to have done unto them (a moral principle bequeathed to the world not by instinct, but by Jesus Christ, btw) is something they do not like....

            Then of course the atheist has no basis whatever upon which to gainsay them.

            After all, for the atheist, there is no meaning, no purpose, no objective basis for distinguishing between desiring to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, and desiring to do unto others before they do unto us.

            Atheism is a profoundly illogical- and hence unliveable- world view.

            Not even atheists can live what they profess.

          • CrismusCactus

            "But if the people decide that doing unto others what they would wish to have done unto them (a moral principle bequeathed to the world not by instinct, but by Jesus Christ, btw) is something they do not like...."

            The same moral principle was bequeathed to the world by Gotama some 500 years before Jesus.

            Also, unless you like to sleep with a weapon, there is a logical advantage to living in a society where "doing unto others what they would wish to have done unto them" is something people like and practice. Most are aware of this advantage, even without having it explained to them by gods or their divine offspring.

          • "The same moral principle was bequeathed to the world by Gotama some 500 years before Jesus."

            >> Bully for Gautama! He and Jesus both possess what the atheist does not; that is, a consistent world view upon which to objectively distinguish between good and evil.

            Also, unless you like to sleep with a weapon, there is a logical advantage to living in a society where "doing unto others what they would wish to have done unto them" is something people like and practice. Most are aware of this advantage, even without having it explained to them by gods or their divine offspring.

            >> To the contrary. Even in a civilization where people *do* sleep with a weapon, it is objectively the case that genocide is evil.

            That is to say, it is not objectively evil to sleep with a weapon.

            It is objectively evil to commit genocide.

            The atheist has no basis whatever upon which to establish why this should be.

          • CrismusCactus

            ">> Bully for Guatama! He and Jesus both possess what the atheist does not; that is, a consistent world view upon which to objectively distinguish between good and evil."

            The claim that Jesus invented the Golden Rule is fraudulent.

            ">> To the contrary. Even in a civilization where people *do* sleep with a weapon, it is objectively the case that genocide is evil.

            That is to say, it is not objectively evil to sleep with a weapon.

            It is objectively evil to commit genocide.

            The atheist has no basis whatever upon which to establish why this should be."

            Most people don't want to have to sleep with weapons. A society of compassion eliminates this need. This is practical, not god-given, and atheists understand it just fine.

            You pretend to be dumber than you are. It's tedious.

          • Longshanks

            You pretend to be dumber than you are.

            As an atheist materialist who fancies himself a dabbler in science, I should like to see your evidence for this claim.

            The bit about tedium I accept on faith.

          • Susan

            >But if the people decide that doing unto others what they would wish to have done unto them (a moral principle bequeathed to the world not by instinct, but by Jesus Christ, btw) is something they do not like....

            You're not suggesting that the Golden Rule started with the Jesus deity, are you?

          • Longshanks

            Suggest?

            Assert uncategorically (and then retcon later)?

            Potayto Potahto

          • Longshanks

            Honestly, you're right Rick.

            If everyone decided to stop living the golden rule because they didn't like it, there would be nothing "wrong" with that in a cosmic sense.

            But everyone will not stop liking the golden rule. It is a function of our primate brains.

            We are not able to not empathize without extensive indoctrination.

            We have evolved to do unto others because it benefits us. We have evolved to anticipate the needs of others, because it benefits us. We have evolved the mental capacity to imagine what it might be like to be another, because it benefits us.

            Our selfish genes force us to be unselfish.

            For those poor unfortunates who are born with brain defects which render them incapable of these computations of the social contract, life is difficult indeed.

            Those who act on socio/psychopathic desires are dealt with in such a manner as to remove the danger they pose to society.

            As a shorthand, and through the cultural legacy religion/philosophy has endowed us in vocabulary, we call these tendencies morality, and some of us fancy them objective.

            But, so far as we can tell, they are not. They are products of our conscious CNS responding to the stimuli of other conscious CNSs.

            We've evolved a mutually beneficial game-theory of social interaction, and called it god(s)' objective morality.

          • "Honestly, you're right Rick."

            >> I appreciate the forthrightness, Longshanks.

            "If everyone decided to stop living the golden rule because they didn't like it, there would be nothing "wrong" with that in a cosmic sense."

            >> We disagree emphatically. It would be, exactly, wrong in the cosmic sense; that is, it would wrong in the knowable sense of natural law, which distinguishes between what is good and what is evil on objective, not subjective, grounds.

            "But everyone will not stop liking the golden rule. It is a function of our primate brains."

            >> This assertion requires a great deal of support, since history demonstrates that it is *not* a function of our primate brains; that is, there is nothing wired into our primate brains that empirically enforces upon us an observance of the Golden Rule.

            Quite to the contrary.

            Our primate brains generate thoughts and actions which involve both acceptance, and rejection, of the Golden Rule.

            This would seem to adequately refute your assertion that the Golden Rule is simply a law of neuron synapses.

            "We are not able to not empathize without extensive indoctrination."

            >> I honestly do not understand the above sentence.

            "We have evolved to do unto others because it benefits us."

            >> Many have evolved to do unto others before others do unto them, because it benefits them.

            Again, there is mno evidence at all that neuron synapses impose an observance of the Golden Rule upon primates with brains.

            "We have evolved to anticipate the needs of others, because it benefits us. We have evolved the mental capacity to imagine what it might be like to be another, because it benefits us."

            >> Let us assume this were the case. The quetion immediately becomes why is it that we so often fail to anticipate the needs of others?

            "Our selfish genes force us to be unselfish."

            >> Let us assume this were the case.

            Why do the genes allow us to be both selfish, and unselfish, quite often both at the same time with respect to different objects?

            Also- I thought it was our brains, not our genes, doing the hedonistic calculus?

          • Susan

            >"The harm is obvious."

            >Why?

            Crismus Cactus beat me to it. My goodness. There must be something you and I can agree on about your terms. What is "harm" then? Why even refer to it if you aren't using it to imply something we should both agree on? Burning people is bad. Words like harm refer to concepts like "getting burned" or living in a world where people set each other on fire. I thought we would agree on that much.

            >If there is no meaning or purpose to our existence,

            Depends what you mean. Those are emotionally loaded, ambiguous words. They don't mean anything if you're not very specific about what you mean by them.

            You haven't explained how Yahweh provides "meaning" or "purpose". You just imply (in an assertive manner) that if we take away Yahweh, we are left with a great, big sucking, black hole of meaningless and purposelessness. But you haven't shown your work.

            >If someone else says it is a good idea, then on what possible basis- other than teleology- could you claim an objective basis to distinguish between the two?

            You haven't shown how Yahweh provides an objective basis for anything. You're choosing an arbitrary (and unevidenced) referee, but who is refereeing your referee?

            You can't define objective value into a subjective position.

            >Atheism is such an appallingly inadequate world view.........

            That's just the Kool-Aid talking. :-)

            >They have to borrow their morality from the very teleological world views they spend the rest of their time trashing, and what is even more absurd- they apparently are incapable of realizing it.

            How so?

          • ... but who is refereeing your referee?

            Nice. You must have been reading Euthyphro.

          • Susan

            You don't even have to read Euthyphro.
            You just have to be a kid being instructed in catechism.
            It's nice to read Euthyphro later, though. "Oh," you think to yourself. "It IS a perfectly reasonable question, and I'm STILL waiting for an answer."

          • "Burning people is bad. "

            >> Why?

            What makes burning people bad?

          • "You haven't explained how Yahweh provides "meaning" or "purpose".

            >> God certainly provides meaning and purpose.

            You haven't shown how meaning and purpose can be provided apart from Him.

            But step on up and give it a try, why don;t you?

            Why is it wrong to burn people?

          • Susan

            >"You haven't explained how Yahweh provides "meaning" or "purpose".

            >> God certainly provides meaning and purpose

            Nicely explained.

            >You haven't shown how meaning and purpose can be provided apart from Him

            You haven't explained what you mean by "meaning" and "purpose", let alone explained what they have to do with Yahweh. How can I respond if I don't understand your claim?

          • If you cannot understand the difference between meaning and meaningless, between purposeful and purposeless, you must be an atheist :-)

          • Susan

            >If you cannot understand the difference between meaning and meaningless, between purposeful and purposeless, you must be an atheist :-
            I'm an aYahwehist in this discussion. You and I share tens of thousands of other gods that we reject outright, don't give the time of day to or have never heard of. Your issue is that I don't believe in Yahweh, not that I don't believe in gods.
            You are implying without explaining why that everything bound up in our innate responses to concepts like "meaning" and "purpose" relies on Yahweh.
            I have asked you how that works a couple of times now. You can't just say it. You've got to make your case.

          • Again, this is an ad homines generalization. Please keep on point, and provide substantive comments.

          • Rick, Daniel is right. I'm just reading your several comments here for the first time, and many of them violate our Comment Policy. They're needlessly accusatory, dismissive, and in many cases you've badly misrepresented the views of others. Consider this a warning; next time we'll remove the comments.

          • Sample1

            This is a case of not seeing the forest for the trees.

            Followers of Jesus are doing exactly what people of no faith do when it comes to adopting social mores within society: they put out their shingle in the marketplaces of ideas.

            History illustrates that no moral or ethical idea is guaranteed primacy of honor in perpetuity. In other words, without evidence for the supernatural, it's a straw man to say some ideal outside of humanity exists. The history of human morality can be understood without out.

            Traditions do one thing very well: they change. The morality of 500 years hence will likely be shaped by descendents wrestling with advances AI and unknown unknowns. But barring enslavement by some unknown advanced non-human species, our descendents will shape the social mores of that time too.

            Mike

          • severalspeciesof

            >"The harm is obvious."

            Why? <

            *head hits desk*

            Rick, let everyone here know if you were ever to become an atheist. I would like to stay as far away from you as possible should that occur...

          • Max Driffill

            Nonsense.
            Let me begin by rejecting your terminology. Objective is a tricky word and when used it seems that the user assumes they have the objective answers.
            They don't. So let's toss that non-starter into the dust bin.

            Religious people seem to get hung up on the fact that atheists tend to believe that ultimately there is no purpose or ultimate meaning at the level of the Cosmos, and cosmic time scales. In one billion years (to be very generous) my contributions to our species however great, or small will probably not be noticed by any beings then present and the Cosmos certainly won't care because it cannot. That fact, while certainly interesting, and humbling, is largely non-important to the daily living of the good life. It can affect people profoundly its true, either as a motivator, or disaffector (I know not a word) but to most of us it is a fact that hums in the background. Because who cares? The ultimate pointless ness of the universe and of ourselves won't matter to us then either. We will be dead.

            The notion that it should somehow be okay by atheists to burn someone, or some group because of the ultimate pointlessness of the universe is, on the part of the poser of this faux conundrum, a deep confusion of scale. While the burning of persons and communities may not have an effect on the universe (everyone ends up dead) such campaigns will very much affect those prosecuting the campaign and those prosecuted. It has very deep and significant meaning to principals involved, and it is at that scale where things matter for us.

            I don't need to possess any teleological rationale to tell me that burning someone on whim is a bad. I can, if I doubt my own revulsion at the idea, reflect on my own experience of life and note that I would be exceedingly put out if someone tried to exterminate my fellows, my family and myself arbitrarily. Given that I would not want my own autonomy infringed on this way (that is to say I would not like, prefer, or desire to be terrorized, or watch my family be terrorized, brutalized and killed arbitrarily) I should probably not make it a policy to to do such things to others, because it is always possible that fortunes can be reversed. Thus to ensure I get to pursue the good life, I should see that I don't unnecessarily infringe on the good lives of others.

            Before you say it, I cannot appeal to an objective moral standard. I can only argue my reasons, and hope they appeal to a great many people, I can tell you that I don't like to suffer unnecessarily, and I that I bet most other people feel the same. The fact that the universe has no point and that we have no ultimate point is immaterial to the people involved, Actions in the here and now have very real meaning to those living.

          • "Because who cares? The ultimate pointless ness of the universe and of ourselves won't matter to us then either. We will be dead."

            >> This is precisely the point.

            Your view of reality is so drastically inadequate, that you are unable to provide to humanity a reason for its own existence.

            Has it occurred to you yet that humanity will not- could not- endure, were it to live your proposed key to reality above?

            There are very few things more immediately and conclusively obvious, than is the fact that atheism provides no reasonable basis upon which humanity can build a durable civilization.

          • Michael Murray

            Your view of reality is so drastically inadequate, that you are unable to provide to humanity a reason for its own existence.

            You realise, I hope, that an argument for theism being more useful that atheism, which I dispute, is not an argument for it being true.

          • I do realize this.

            My argument is not that theism is true (that is a separate, and very persuasive, argument).

            My argument is that atheism is inadequate, quite apart from its also being demonstrably false ("something from nothing").

          • Michael Murray

            Inadequate and false. Do tell.

          • Longshanks

            Michael, stop.

            Unless you can tell me what it's all for I don't want to hear another word.

          • Max Driffill

            "Because who cares? The ultimate pointless ness of the universe and of ourselves won't matter to us then either. We will be dead." [What I said has been taken out of context and my larger point ignored. Why theists choose to do this is beyond me.]

            ">> This is precisely the point."
            It was not my point. My point was that the experience of conscious beings in the present matters much more than the fact that at the heat death of the Universe nothing will have, ultimately, mattered. Joy, suffering, love, all these things have real meaning to lives lived here and now. Our insignificance on the cosmic scale doesn't affect us. It doesn't change that I enjoy reading a book to my kids, or enjoy watching them learn and grow. The cosmic scale is simply insignificant in my life. It doesn't change the purpose, or feeling, temporary though it may be, of our lives here and now. I'm not sure why this point is so hard to grasp. I simply have more important things on my mind.

            "Your view of reality is so drastically inadequate, that you are unable to provide to humanity a reason for its own existence."

            Actually this is entirely wrong. I can provide humanity with a reason for its own existence. That reason lies in evolutionary history and processes. It is all the reason that nature provides us for our existence. But if we want purpose, and meaning, I think we have to look to ourselves for that, and accept that our actions can affect people, ourselves included, in positive and negative ways, and that those effects are very real and very meaningful to the lives in question.

            Because here is the thing. The Cosmic scale at which you seem so troubled, that is the scale that doesn't really matter. The Cosmos has no opinion of us. It cannot.

            "Has it occurred to you yet that humanity will not- could not- endure, were it to live your proposed key to reality above?"

            Not really, no. But then I am not presumptuous enough to speak for humanity. You probably shouldn't be either.

            "There are very few things more immediately and conclusively obvious, than is the fact that atheism provides no reasonable basis upon which humanity can build a durable civilization."

            Whoever said it did? Atheism is not an system of thought complete with an ethics. It is a tentative conclusion about the universe. It is true that the idea that this is the one and only life we live can lead one to some profoundly moral ideas about how to conduct ourselves for the short while we have on this planet (atheism can lead to a profound despair in some people too). But atheism is not necessarily the beginning point for any contemplation of the good life. Or at the very least it is not an end point in any discussion about the good life.

          • Susan

            Rick,

            What do you mean by "meaning"? So far your use of the term is meaningless to me.

            Why does meaning require permanence? You keep insisting that it does but you haven't explained why. This is important.
            The fact that for life to be meaningful for you, you must live forever confuses me.

            Believing in Yahweh might be your only method of feeling there is meaning. But that doesn't mean he exists.

          • severalspeciesof

            "Why does meaning require permanence?"

            Excellent question Susan. IMO, 'meaning' is a concept that loses its effect when infinity is brought in. Kind of like the objection to the idea of an infinite regression of creators. A question to the theist would be "What gives meaning to god itself?"

          • Susan

            >"What gives meaning to god itself?"

            Yes. And we'd all have to agree on what we mean by meaning to even begin to have that exchange.

            As far as I can tell, "meaning" for Rick means "that which cannot possibly exist without Yahweh" without bothering to define his terms or connect his thoughts.

            So far, it's just meaningless assertion. :-)

          • Max Driffill

            Is anyone seeing my response to Rick's (the one above where he calls my views 'inadequate?") here for some reason, I can only see it in my disqus dashboard but not here. Weird.

          • severalspeciesof

            You mean this comment?

            "

            "Because who cares? The ultimate pointless ness of the
            universe and of ourselves won't matter to us then either. We will be
            dead." [What I said has been taken out of context and my larger point
            ignored. Why theists choose to do this is beyond me.]

            ">> This is precisely the point."
            It was not my point. My
            point was that the experience of conscious beings in the present matters
            much more than the fact that at the heat death of the Universe nothing
            will have, ultimately, mattered. Joy, suffering, love, all these things
            have real meaning to lives lived here and now. Our insignificance on
            the cosmic scale doesn't affect us. It doesn't change that I enjoy
            reading a book to my kids, or enjoy watching them learn and grow. The
            cosmic scale is simply insignificant in my life. It doesn't change the
            purpose, or feeling, temporary though it may be, of our lives here and
            now. I'm not sure why this point is so hard to grasp. I simply have more
            important things on my mind.

            "Your view of reality is so drastically inadequate, that you are unable to provide to humanity a reason for its own existence."

            Actually this is entirely wrong. I can provide humanity with a reason
            for its own existence. That reason lies in evolutionary history and
            processes. It is all the reason that nature provides us for our
            existence. But if we want purpose, and meaning, I think we have to look
            to ourselves for that, and accept that our actions can affect people,
            ourselves included, in positive and negative ways, and that those
            effects are very real and very meaningful to the lives in question.

            Because here is the thing. The Cosmic scale at which you seem so
            troubled, that is the scale that doesn't really matter. The Cosmos has
            no opinion of us. It cannot.

            "Has it occurred to you yet that humanity will not- could not- endure, were it to live your proposed key to reality above?"

            Not really, no. But then I am not presumptuous enough to speak for humanity. You probably shouldn't be either.

            "There are very few things more immediately and conclusively obvious,
            than is the fact that atheism provides no reasonable basis upon which
            humanity can build a durable civilization."

            Whoever said it did? Atheism is not an system of thought complete
            with an ethics. It is a tentative conclusion about the universe. It is
            true that the idea that this is the one and only life we live can lead
            one to some profoundly moral ideas about how to conduct ourselves for
            the short while we have on this planet (atheism can lead to a profound
            despair in some people too). But atheism is not necessarily the
            beginning point for any contemplation of the good life. Or at the very
            least it is not an end point in any discussion about the good life."

            No, I don't see it ;-) (I copied and pasted from your Disqus dashboard)

          • Max Driffill

            yeah dude that is the one!

          • Yes, Rick, we may not like it, but that is true. I see below that you have complained about the consequences of being left on our own to make a better world. Well, there is nothing to indicate that anything supernatural is going to save us from ourselves. If we want a better world, we have to step up and make it so.

          • "Yes, Rick, we may not like it, but that is true."

            >> Thank you, Quine. We now see that you are entirely supportive of the burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno, the incineration of the Jews, and any possible atrocity which might be perpetrated, just so long as this is done in accordance with the will of the people.

            May I say that this is........

            Oh. That's right. Brandon does not like comments which correctly characterize such assertions.

            Perhaps I can say this without unduly offending:

            Quine, your views are monstrously evil.

            They are knowable evil.

            They have been employed, many times in history, to wreak monstrous evil upon the world.

            You have failed to learn from this evil.

            Your world view is completely inadequate.

          • Andre Boillot

            Rick,

            Nice to see that you found the time - between producing hit movies and touring on the basement lecture series - to leave us a few more gems to ponder.

          • Why, thank you kindly Andre, I am flattered to see you have been googling up on me lately :-)

            What was that Eminem song again..........?

            :-)

          • I will try again. There is nothing about the way the world is that tells us how the world should be. At the same time, we are thinking beings. We can understand empathy. We can understand the basic reciprocity that brings all civilizations to see that you have no justification to inflict suffering on others that you would protest if on the receiving end. It is not a property of Nature, that is red in tooth and claw, it is what we can rise above by our reason and force of will to ethics.

          • "I will try again."

            >> I should hope so.

            "There is nothing about the way the world is that tells us how the world should be."

            >> False. The way the world is tells us that civilizations erected upon the foundational assumption that genocide is perfectly acceptable just so long as it is what the people want, are monstrously evil civilizations.

            Only the morally depraved argue that genocide is acceptable just so long as it is what the people want.

            "At the same time, we are thinking beings. We can understand empathy. We can understand the basic reciprocity that brings all civilizations to see that you have no justification to inflict suffering on others that you would protest if on the receiving end."

            >> No. You cannot understand the basic reciprocity that brings all civilizations to see this. You assert such a basic reciprocity at the same time you deny it.

            If a given civilization determines, based on the will of its people, that genocide is an excellent thing, then you have no basis whatsoever upon which to condemn them.

            You in fact assure that civilization, and us, that "this is true"; "this", being the proposition that genocide is perfectly acceptable so long as it is what the people want.

            This is as false as it is knowably evil.

            The atheist cannot live his worldview.

            This is a very fortunate thing for the rest of us.

            "It is not a property of Nature, that is red in tooth and claw, it is what we can rise above by our reason and force of will to ethics."

            >> Reason and ethics presuppose that there exists an objective standard whereby reason and ethics can be distinguished from madness and evil.

            This is true.

            They can be distinguished.

            For example, the atheist's assertion the genocide is acceptable so long as it is what the people want is madness and evil.

          • Rick, you are twisting my words and implying that I have said things I have not. Show me where I said "genocide is acceptable." Thankfully, what you are doing is obvious to all who can read.

          • Yes, Quine, what I am doing is obvious to all who can read.

            What I am doing is pointing out the fact that your affirmation "this is true", above, renders you unable to assert any objective basis whatever between a civilization where the people want to commit genocide, and a civilization where the people do not.

            This foundational illogic of the atheist world view is truly comprehensive.

          • This seems a very odd statement to me:

            What I am doing is pointing out the fact that your affirmation "this is true", above, renders you unable to assert any objective basis whatever upon which to distinguish between a civilization where the people want to commit genocide, and a civilization where the people do not.

            Wouldn't one, objectively, observe that in a civilization where people wanted to commit genocide, there would be genocide, and in a civilization where people did not, there would not be?

          • Not necessarily, Quine.

            A civilization might desire to commit genocide, and choose not to do so for practical reasons.

            Or, a civilization might choose to commit genocide, and take a long time to prepare the unleashing of the act.

            But any civilization which desires to commit genocide, is a profoundly evil civilization, which will express the immorality in its foundational assumption about reality:

            human life has no purpose or meaning, which purpose or meaning might render the mass extermination of other human beings objectively immoral.

            The atheist cannot live his own world view.

            This is good news for the rest of us.

          • A civilization might desire to commit genocide, and choose not to do so for practical reasons.

            Yes, such as when communities of Catholics wanted to kill the Protestants in Northern Ireland, but just didn't have the guns to do it.

            Or, a civilization might choose to commit genocide, and take a long time to prepare the unleashing of the act.

            Yes, such as when the Catholics in Northern Ireland spent so long trying to get Catholics in America to give them the money to buy the guns.

            But any civilization which desires to commit genocide, is a profoundly evil civilization, which will express the immorality in its foundational assumption about reality:

            I think I mostly agree with that, especially when that assumption is based on superstition. Which is why I encourage people to see other people as having meaning and purpose for them, and for a better world we can make, together.

          • Andre Boillot

            Rick,

            "the atheist's assertion the genocide is acceptable so long as it is what the people want is madness and evil."

            Much better to use the theist assertion that genocide is acceptable so long as it is what God wants, eh?

          • Rick, this comment adds nothing to the conversation. Calling people evil, even rhetorically, is not in line with the dialogue we're looking for here.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Oh. That's right. Brandon does not like comments which correctly characterize such assertions."

            I know I have a tiny violin around here somewhere...

          • Longshanks

            I love that we got from

            Well, there is nothing to indicate that anything supernatural is going to save us from ourselves. If we want a better world, we have to step up and make it so.

            to

            your views are monstrously evil.

            in one jump.

            Truly, an athletic feat of the mind.

            Incidentally, this claim that secular, rational, pluralist government has been tried "many times" before is incredibly popular in some circles, and simply a lie.

            I'll hand it over to the Hitch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRhczvtmbWE

          • Max Driffill

            Rick,

            "Quine, your views are monstrously evil.
            They are knowable evil.
            They have been employed, many times in history, to wreak monstrous evil upon the world.
            You have failed to learn from this evil.
            Your world view is completely inadequate."

            While speaking in this way, is easily an excellent way to kill dialogue, you should perhaps unpack this accusation.

  • Meta-N

    Sounds like a bunch of New Age woo-woo to me. Quarks, quantum mechanics, there for god! This is a non sequitur. Exactly the kind of argument you'd expect from the king of woo, Deepak Chropra.

    • Rationalist1

      Watch the ultimate owning of Deepal Chopra. All over in 37 seconds. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qySx8tSs8BQ

      • I love that clip!

        • Rationalist1

          I love how the bishop caught on right away and Chopra either didn't for wouldn't.

          • AshleyWB

            His book sales might drop if he showed doubt. :)

          • I'm glad there's one thing Atheists and Catholics can agree on.

            Deepak Chopra is full of it.

    • Meta-N, calling a serious and well-reasoned article "a bunch of New Age woo-woo" or unfairly reducing the piece to "Quarks, quantum mechanics, there for [sic] god!" is inaccurate and unhelpful. If you're more interested in insulting and misrepresenting than reasoned dialogue, please comment somewhere else.

      • Ben

        It may be intended seriously but it's hard to see any reasoning at all.

    • Dcn Harbey Santiago

      Hmmm Funny I read the article and did not mention God once. Perhaps you read something else?

      "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
      Deacon Harbey Santiago

      • Rationalist1

        Then we can agree that God isn't neccessary to explain any of the points mentioned in the article. Everyone to the bar, unless you're there already. :->

        • It'll be a Strange Notions Symposium (in the Classical sense).

          • Rationalist1

            I'll suggest the bar (http://www.blogto.com/bars/hitch-bar-toronto ) but I may have the home field advantage.

          • "Hitch's drinking habits are reflected in the exceedingly strong cocktails. "

            And they said atheists and Catholics could never find common ground........

          • Andre Boillot

            Actually, Hitch's favorite drink was Jhonny Walker cut with Perrier, hardly an "exceedingly strong cocktail".

          • Ah.

            Back to the trenches then.

          • Max Driffill

            He was also fond of a good wine, I think.

        • Dcn Harbey Santiago

          You DO realize that Catholics perfected the art of beer making, right? (and beer drinking too!)

          "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
          Deacon Harbey Santiago

  • 42Oolon

    As an atheist I do not claim that the physical objects and systems lack "natural ends". But I have no idea what these ends or purposes may be. I infer from this piece that the author has some intuition about what these ends are and that they are somehow supernatural. I see no reason to conclude or grant this. We can identify the proximate causes of a squirrel's behavior and go a long way to theorizing about why it behaves this way.

    I see no supernatural cause, purpose or "end" in the natural world.

  • Ben

    This is amazing stuff.

    Nature seems purposeful, but natural selection destroyed the need for teleology.

    BUT single quarks aren't found outside of hadrons due to colour confinement. So we can see that squirrels are compelled to bury nuts because of the gluon field between quarks. The ends never actually go away, so nature is purposeful after all!

    No, wait, I mean, quarks are never found naked outside of a hadron, which proves that the knowledge of good and evil (which made Adam & Eve realise they were naked in Genesis 3) was unleashed at a subatomic level! Particle physics proves that the Bible is true.

    I'm so glad we can enjoy such serious and well-reasoned articles on StrangeNotions.com. People who understand quantum chromodynamics all agree that it's inherently teleological and become Catholics. I mean, can you think of a single Nobel Laureate in physics who's not a devout Catholic? So the reasoning of the Dominicans of the Province of St Joseph *must* be true.

    I'm so glad this site has lifted the scales of small-minded scientism from my eyes - as Father Barron said, "To appeal to matter or science is to appeal to something that is, by its very nature, contingent" - and shown me that quark physics proves the Catholic God exists.

    • This is not in keeping with the Comment Policy. Nobody is keeping you here, Ben.

    • Ben, your sarcasm is wholly unnecessary and contrary to our Comment Policy. Please simply make your point. Snide remarks merely take attention away from your arguments and discourage others from taking them seriously.

      • Ben

        It feels like there's a strong force compelling me to reply to this post sarcastically. So it must be one of the natural ends of the universe.

  • The nesting level of comments on this thread has now driven the conversation
    off the edge of my screen. I have tried looking at it in a couple of different
    browsers, but still have the problem. Is this happening for others, and does
    anyone know a DISQUS setting or other fix for this problem?

    • Sample1

      Yes, I just noticed that on my iPhone. It works fine in Firefox on my PC.
      Mike

    • CrismusCactus

      Yes it is happening, and is not limited to this thread. I cannot find a solution either.

    • AshleyWB

      Same problem, just started a couple of hours ago with both Chrome and Firefox (on Linux). I tried a couple of other sites that use Disqus and I don't see the problem on those.

    • I tried hooking up a screen that is twice as wide but it didn't do any good (just gave me more blank space on each side). I suppose I could write a Chrome user-side Javascript to fix it, but have not done that in a couple of years so I would have to go lookup and study the how-to.

      • Sample1

        The margins are maintained in Safari, but some features are missing (oldest/best/newest).

        Mike

    • Michael Murray

      Same for me.

  • Michael Murray

    We simply never find a lone quark, only bundles of quarks

    While this is true it's only true of the universe after the "first" millionth of a second or so. Before that there was enough concentrated energy that quarks where not bound. So it's a property that arises as a result of the universe expanding and available energy decreasing.

    I put "first" in quotes because it's not clear there was a beginning. It's really a short hand for "if you go back far enough there will be a time when quarks will no longer be bound".

    Michael

    • I put "first" in quotes because it's not clear there was a beginning.

      That is why I always restrict myself to saying "Extrapolated Time Zero" (ETZ) to keep that uncertainty straight.

      • Michael Murray

        Thanks. ETZ is excellent.

      • I appreciate the precision, especially since I am often told that time comes into existence with the Big Bang, and that Big Bangs happen eternally, sometimes even in the same sentence.

        • Precision in language is often needed to make our ideas clear, and sometimes (thankfully) can be used to get people to stop talking past each other.

    • We simply never find a lone quark, only bundles of quarks

      >> We simply never find quarks.

      While this is true it's only true of the universe after the "first" millionth of a second or so.

      >> We simply have no way to observe the universe's "first" millionth of a second or so.

  • Longshanks

    Hey, cool, Rick's back - this place needed livening up!

    Maybe we can entice physicist dave back, hole them up in a thread of their own, make popcorn and watch?

    I suppose relishing that exchange might be contrary to charity.

    • ... make popcorn and watch?

      Life is too short.

      • Longshanks

        "Mitch do you want this apple?"

        "No, eventually, it'll be a core."

    • I appreciated physicistdave very much.

      It is very important to examine the foundational assumptions which lie at the heart of the atheist world view, and "something from nothing" is the key to the whole edifice.

      • Thomas Jefferson

        The Big Bang is not something from nothing. It is something from something, which is the singularity that exploded.

  • josh

    I'm going to try and clarify for the Catholic readers what is wrong with the 'quarks form bound states, therefore teleology' argument, because it is really a retread of what is wrong with all teleology arguments. In a modern understanding, the physics of quarks is largely determined by what is called the SU(3) symmetry. Basically, we have a sort of master equation, called the Lagrangian (or its relatives the Action or Hamiltonian for you physics sticklers). The Lagrangian describes relations between one point in space-time and another, so if you say that a quark is detected at one point, you can predict where it will be at another, although this depends on the other particles around and lots of complications I won't get in to.

    Anyhow, the SU(3) symmetry is a way of saying that the Lagrangian equation has a certain structure when it comes to the 'quark' terms. E.g., if you write down one quark you have to write down 2 equivalent others to make 3, also it implies that you need another set of particles called gluons, etc. etc. Again, it's actually technical but that's the gist of it.

    So: knowing the SU(3) structure is a fact about the Lagrangian, you can extrapolate the behavior of quarks and gluons. One such behavior is the fact that these particles will form bound states. Another is that those states, on collision, will break apart into their constituents, then reform in different combinations. Are these behaviors the end or goal of quarks? The question doesn't make much sense. They are a consequence of the rules. I could equally say that having an SU(3) symmetry, or having 3 quark colors instead of 1, is the goal and confinement (the bound state forming behavior) is just a side effect. But then I'll realize that nothing needs to be an end. The rules or behavior are a complete description. And in this case, the statement 'SU(3) is a good symmetry' gives me much more information than 'quarks have the purpose of forming bound states'.

    Now I could imagine that some intelligence is running a simulation, and they want their 'quarks' to have a certain behavior and an SU(3) invariant Lagrangian is the way they go about coding that. But then I'm obliged to ask, what are the rules or relations that determine what said intelligence desires AND how it can and does go about achieving those desires. To have any explanation I need a new set of rules and relations, but those meta-rules don't require a teleology themselves, unless I posit a meta-designer and push the whole thing back another step. So the ends can't ever be fundamental, they exist within some framework which does not itself evince any teleology.

    When we have an intelligent phenomena, i.e. something that anticipates the future and analyzes a set of options according to some rules, then we can speak of 'ends' within a limited framework. Human actions can be loosely described in terms of goals, although it is only a heuristic and incomplete description. But 'some intelligence wanted it' has yet to add anything to our understanding of fundamental physics or cosmology or the history of life. SU(3) does a much better job so far.

    • Michael Murray

      Nice explanation josh.

  • joseph_breslin

    I agree with the author that subatomic energy/matter displays a kind of innate directedness or physical intentionality, which is a modern way of saying 'teleology'. However, I think this article stops right before making its case; I had to tease that meaning out of the text. The author needs to do more to distinguish purposive action from repetitive, but non-purposive action. I suggest reading David S. Oderberg's "Real Essentialism" or the article available on his website on teleology in non-living systems. Those concepts might be applied to the quantum level. I think the author is generally on the right track though; the article seems as if it were cut off too early or ended prematurely.

  • Roger Hane

    The author seems to be saying that because quantum constituent parts of things obey laws of nature, that this means they have natural ends. I can't make that connection.