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Is Free Will Real or Are We All Determined?

A photo by Matthew Wiebe. unsplash.com/photos/tBtuxtLvAZs

Throughout Sean Carroll's best-selling book, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself (Dutton, 2016), Carroll seems comfortable holding two apparently contradictory views. This has been show throughout our review series. For example, he's fine both believing that causality is illusory (at the fundamental level of reality) and true (at the macroscopic level.)

We see this again in the chapter he dedicates to free will, which begins with this assessment (emphasis mine):

"There's a sense in which you do have free will. There's also a sense in which you don't. Which sense is the 'right' one is an issue you're welcome to decide for yourself (if you think you have the ability to make decisions.)" (378)

Carroll lets us know which view he holds: he thinks free will is fundamentally an illusion, and the only reason we use "free will" language is because it's useful. And why do we find it useful? Later he writes, "The unavoidable reality of our incomplete knowledge is responsible for why we find it useful to talk about the future using a language of choice and causation" (380). In other words, free will is false at the fundamental level of reality and we only use "free will" language at higher levels because we lack a complete knowledge of the current state of the universe. If, like Laplace's Demon, we knew the positions and velocities of all the particles in the universe, understood all the forces they are subject to, and had sufficient computational power to apply the laws of motion, then we would not use "free will" language—we would agree that everything is determined.

(NOTE: In a previous post, I showed why the Laplace's Demon idea comes up short.)

We find the same tension elsewhere in the chapter:

"A poetic naturalist says that we can have two very different-sounding ways of describing the world, a physics-level story and a human-level story, which invoke separate sets of concepts and yet end up being compatible in their predictions concerning what happens in the world." (381)

Setting aside the strange description of "physics-level" stories contra "human-level" stories—doesn't physics include human-level phenomena? Carroll probably means "quantum-level" stories—there's still a big problem. Notice that Carroll only defends these two descriptions as being predictively compatible. In other words, both descriptions are acceptable since both make accurate and/or useful predictions about the world.

What he didn't say is whether it's fine to hold these two views even if they contradict. It's not difficult to find contradictory views of the world that nevertheless make similarly accurate predictions. For example, both Newtonian and quantum theories can accurately predict the motions of human-sized objects. So on Carroll's view, they would both be acceptable. However, at the quantum level, Newtonian physics breaks down. It's simply no longer accurate. At best, it offers a good approximation of macroscopic phenomena, but it's fundamentally inaccurate when you consider reality as a whole.

But that doesn't bother Carroll so much. His poetic naturalism permits him to embrace inaccurate accounts of reality so long as they prove useful in daily life. Carroll writes (emphasis mine):

"There is no such notion as free will when we are choosing to describe human behavior as collections of atoms or as a quantum wave function. But that says nothing about whether the concept nevertheless plays a useful role when we choose to describe human beings as people. Indeed, it pretty clearly does play a useful role." (379)

In essence, Carroll's position is that at the quantum level, everything is determined. But at the level of everyday life, the concept of free will is useful. So poetic naturalists hold both views—both "stories"—in tension.

In fairness to Carroll, he doesn't say that the concept of free will is true on a macroscopic level, only that it's useful. But the implication is that he's fine holding erroneous views so long as they're useful—another example of his instrumentalism, which was examined in a previous post.

There are several problems with Carroll's rejection of free will. First is that it's clearly self-contradictory. Look at the above quote. Carroll twice talks about choosing a description of reality. But if we legitimately choose something, free will must exist. If we aren't able to choose something, then its outcome is determined. Thus we can't choose to deny the reality of free will without falling into contradiction.

A second problem, one Carroll admits, is the haunting fact that it seems as if we have free choice. Day to day, it seems as if we freely choose when to get out of bed, what to have for breakfast, how to start our day, what tasks to engage in, who to talk to, when to do home, etc. The common sense view is that each of us make millions of free decisions every day, some conscious and many unconscious.

Carroll actually agrees (emphasis mine): "The concept of choice does exist, and it would be difficult indeed to describe human beings without it" (379). In fact, in the very next chapter, which concerns meaning, Carroll notes several times how we choose what kind of life to live and how we choose to "expand our horizons, to find meaning in something larger than ourselves" (393). Without free will, it's hard to see how anyone could choose their own meaning or purpose.

A third problem is that if determinism is true, and none of our thoughts, conclusions, or actions are freely derived, then there's no reason to believe our views actually correspond to reality. On determinism, a set of elementary particles in my brain interacted to produce a thought such as, "Free will is false." But if the origin of that thought was determined and involved no free thinking on my end, then I can't trust that thought is true! I was determined to arrive at that conclusion, regardless of whether it accurately describes reality. I may believe that "free will is false," but I have very little confidence that's true.

A fourth problem is that if determinism was true, Carroll would not be writing books attempting to persuade people of that fact. If reality is fundamentally determined, why would he spend time trying to convince readers to freely change their minds, to freely adjust their understanding of the world to align with poetic naturalism? Even if I, a theist, read Carroll's book and become convinced that poetic naturalism was true, I couldn't freely reject my theism, no matter what I chose or how hard I tried—I'm simply determined to believe what I believe.

A fifth and very significant problem is human responsibility. If free will is fundamentally an illusion, then what do we do with praise and blame? Do criminals really shoulder moral blame for their actions? Do heroes really deserve praise? In both cases, the actors were just doing what their elementary particles determined them to do. We should neither praise or blame them any more than we would a tree for growing or the rain for falling.

To his credit, Carroll recognizes this final problem as a serious challenge for determinists. He writes:

"At extreme levels of free-will denial, the idea of 'responsibility' is as problematic as that of human choice. How can we assign credit or blame if people don't choose their own actions? And if we can't do that, what is the role of punishment or reward?" (383)

How does Carroll answer this challenge? He writes:

"Poetic naturalists...don't need to face up to these questions, since they accept the reality of human volition, and therefore have no difficulty in attributing responsibility or blame." (383)

Remember the passage quoted earlier where Carroll affirmed that, "There is no such notion as free will when we are choosing to describe human behavior as collections of atoms or as a quantum wave function". In other words, at the fundamental level of reality, free will is an illusion—everything is determined. But in the passage above, Carroll also affirms "the reality of human volition". Once again, the reason Carroll dismisses the challenge of human responsibility is because he has no problem holding two contradictory views.

Carroll closes his chapter on free will with a chilling look at what the future holds if determinism does prove true:

"To the extent that neuroscience becomes better and better at predicting what we will do without reference to our personal volition, it will be less and less appropriate to treat people as freely acting agents. Predestination will become part of our real world."

Most people will find this vision frightening. It seems Carroll is advocating something like The Minority Report, where citizens are punished for what they appear determined to do in the future.

Thankfully, Carroll doesn't think this will ever actually happen, not because it's a bad idea but because the "complexity of cognitive functioning [makes] predicting future actions infeasible in practice" (384). But such a society nevertheless follows in principle from Carroll's other commitments. There's nothing in principle stopping Carroll and others from punishing thought crimes, or even physical crimes years before they occur. It's not a huge leap to envision killing young children who seem determined to make bad choices in the future. For what on Carroll's view would prevent this?

We have just two more posts left in this series. Next time we'll look at Carroll's chapter on morality, then finally his “Ten Considerations” for naturalists. Stay tuned!

Brandon Vogt

Written by

Brandon Vogt is a bestselling author, blogger, and speaker. He's also the founder of StrangeNotions.com. Brandon has been featured by several media outlets including NPR, CBS, FoxNews, SiriusXM, and EWTN. He converted to Catholicism in 2008, and since then has released several books, including The Church and New Media (Our Sunday Visitor, 2011), Saints and Social Justice (Our Sunday Visitor, 2014), and RETURN (Numinous Books, 2015). He works as the Content Director for Bishop Robert Barron's Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. Brandon lives with his wife, Kathleen, and their five children in Central Florida. Follow him at BrandonVogt.com or connect through Twitter at @BrandonVogt.

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  • "But if we legitimately choose something, free will must exist."

    I do not think this follows. The issue is not whether we choose, but whether we can make a "free" choice. Depends what one means by "legitimate" obviously. If you mean "free" then, this is just a tautology.

    • "The issue is not whether we choose, but whether we can make a "free" choice."

      If a decision was not free, then it was not chosen--it was determined.

      Everyone agrees that we can all make decisions. The issue is whether those decisions are free choices or determined outcomes.

      "Depends what one means by "legitimate" obviously. If you mean "free" then, this is just a tautology."

      I agree it would be tautology if by "legitimate" I meant "free." But that is not what I mean. I could have been clearer, but by "legitimate" I meant actual, as opposed to apparent.

      • I am saying there can be choices, even if they are not free choices. I don't think there s any way to read your piece or comments other than to infer that the only events capable of being considered "choices" are free choices.

        I don't want t get caught up on labels. I am saying there is no such thing as a non-determined choice. For example we now have self driving cars. The computers on these must change their behaviour depending on what they observe and according to their programming. E.g. If they see a green light they accelerate, but if a bike pulls out in front they brake. I would call these choices that are determined. I think humans are dong the same thing, we just have much much more complex computers and programming that evolved and developed rather than designed by humans.

        Your next move is likely that the car computer is not actually making the decision,the human programmer delegated it by software directives. I think this is partly correct.

        My rejoinder would be that in humans our "programming" is the evolved behaviour in brain some of which we are born with, but most of which develops through interacting with the world. This again is all deterministic.

        But I think it is fair to say there can be non-free choices. If not, give me a word for what the self-driving car is doing and I'll say that is what humans and animals do too and there nothing is making choices as you define.

        • "I am saying there can be choices, even if they are not free choices."

          This raises so many questions:

          - How can this be so?
          - What do you mean by "free"?
          - What do you mean by "choice"?
          - What's the opposite of "free"?

          "I don't think there s any way to read your piece or comments other than to infer that the only events capable of being considered "choices" are free choices."

          Yes, this is correct. The way I see it, and I'd be happy to be proven wrong, but choice implies free will. An "unfree choice" is an oxymoron.

          "If not, give me a word for what the self-driving car is doing and I'll say that is what humans and animals do too and there nothing is making choices as you define."

          Self-driving cars are programmed to drive the way they do. Animals do not have free will because they do not have a rational conscious. They are not self-aware, and thus can't make choices. They merely act in accordance to empirical stimuli and natural bodily functions.

          Human beings are, on the other hand, free. They have rationality, self-consciousness, and free will, none of which are revealed in self-driving cars or animals.

          • Valence

            Self-driving cars are programmed to drive the way they do. Animals do not have free will because they do not have a rational conscious. They are not self-aware, and thus can't make choices. They merely act in accordance to empirical stimuli and natural bodily functions.

            What's a rational conscious? Can you provide an argument that no animals are self-aware? Do you think understanding that you are looking at yourself in the mirror provides some indication of self awareness? If not, how could we test that hypothesis (that you present as a fact).

          • David Nickol

            They are not self-aware, and thus can't make choices. They merely act in accordance to empirical stimuli and natural bodily functions.

            Have you ever had a pet dog or cat?

            It sounds like, in your view, nonhuman animals are mere biological machines. If a cat purrs when you feed it or pet it, that is like an extremely sophisticated version of the television getting louder when you press the buttons on the remote. Would you caution people who have emotional feelings towards their pets that the pets are nothing but elaborate biological mechanisms who don't deserve to be loved?

          • Michael Murray

            So next time the cat climbs into the bed at 5 am and pokes me gently with its paw I will just press the remote to make it sleep. Excellent idea.

          • George

            That reminds me of a reductio ad absurdum against Catholic natural law arguements I've been working on.I think Catholic natural law, followed through, means we should not have pets or at least not enjoy their companionship as we currently do. Human parental instincts were designed by God (or just nature, natural law is supposed to work godlessly) to be directed at human babies. These furry critters are just exploiting us for grooming and nourishment! If you aren't gonna breast feed that cat you shouldnt pet it, be consistent and do things the way were meant to do them!

          • Rob Abney

            George, you can get a better understanding of our responsibility to animals from Pope Francis' encyclical. You can read it online here
            http://www.usccb.org/about/leadership/holy-see/francis/pope-francis-encyclical-laudato-si-on-environment.cfm

          • David Nickol

            Another question: Is cruelty to animals on the same level as cruelty to a character in a video game? If animals cannot truly suffer, then how is it possible to treat them with cruelty in any meaningful sense?

          • Arthur Jeffries

            Animals do not have free will because they do not have a rational conscious. They are not self-aware, and thus can't make choices.

            I'd agree that most animals are not self aware ie. they do not have cognitive knowledge of themselves or conceptual knowledge. There exists plenty of research on the cognitive behaviors and brain anatomy of, for example, dogs and cats. They do not have the brain structures necessary for higher cognition, and those of us who love them often delude ourselves by mistaking the effective and intentional states which they do posses for self-cognition. However, the research on the brain anatomy and behavior of elephants, cetaceans, African greys, and some other animals does show us that self-aware animals exist.

          • What I mean by choices is out of a series of evitable actions and entity does one over the other after a period of contemplation.

            A non-free choice would be one in which the entity opts for one option by deterministic processes that involve some kind of reflection. For example the path of a ball running down a hill is deterministic non-reflective, but a self-driving car taking in information, reflecting in this with other information and opting for a course of action would be a non-free choice.

            I do not know what a "free" choice would be according to libertarians, but my understanding is that the option "chosen" is due to something other than deterministic processes. I see no evidence of this other than our intuition that this is the case.

            That is fine if all you are comfortable in using "choice" for "free-choice". Under that language I would say humans make no "choices" rather our bodies behave pursuant to deterministic processes.

            "Self-driving cars are programmed to drive the way they do" Yes, but they're routes are not programmed. They are given algorithms to "decide" (I just cannot think of another label) between options (to stop, what speed to go, to slam on the brakes etc.) . What word should we use for that? I am not saying they have free will, but that they do make decisions or choices.

            I am not saying that animals or robots have free will but I am saying all
            they do is respond to stimuli. I think many animals do have some
            consciousness and are rational. I would say that robots and computers do
            not likely have a conscious experience, but clearly they are rational
            and make decisions.

          • Valence

            FWIW self-driving cars must be programmed on how to solve the trolley problem, even though humans struggle with it. They must make what amount to ethical decisions, though we certainly want to limit the freedom of those decisions based on law and insurance regulations.

            https://www.technologyreview.com/s/542626/why-self-driving-cars-must-be-programmed-to-kill/

          • Sure, but presented with the trolley situation, does the car make what we would call a "choice"?

          • Valence

            choice: "an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities."

            With the standard definition of choice, definitely. Is the process similar to what goes on in a human brain? Absolutely not, at least if we are sticking with expert systems and staying away from neuromorphic AI.

    • Kiki Dirgantoro

      I swear freewill just an illusion, please check & share if you agree that everyone should be grateful person

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Guv9HOCRL1A&list=PLsBkdCYIlhPo3Xg7bwF-SJ9BCP-Btvf9Z&index=1

  • Brandon's second point has merit, but is of questionable weight.
    I would agree if something seems to be the case, it likely is. Would he also agree that it seems that there is gratuitous suffering in the world therefore therefore there likely is? Or that it seems like the earth is not moving, and so on?

    Clearly seeming to be the case is some evidence, but it is only as strong as our intuition, which is so often completely at odds with objective sources of information.

    • "Would he also agree that it seems that there is gratuitous suffering in the world therefore therefore there likely is?"

      Depends what you mean by "gratuitous". If by that you mean "without cause," then I don't think this is analogous to our experience of free will. It's one thing to say you positively experience something (e.g., free will), and another to say you lack an experience of something (e.g., a cause/reason for a particular act of suffering.) The two are not equivalent.

      That said, I would agree that we should always trust our intuitive beliefs unless and until we're given evidence to the contrary. I agree with Carroll that intuitively, we experience free will. Until we're given reason to believe otherwise, and I don't think Carroll provided such reasons, we're justified in believing what our intuition affirms.

      "Or that it seems like the earth is not moving, and so on?"

      Again, per above, it's fine think the earth is not moving unless and until we're given evidence to the contrary. And we do have good evidence that the earth is moving.

      "Clearly seeming to be the case is some evidence, but it is only as strong as our intuition, which is so often completely at odds with objective sources of information."

      I wouldn't say our intuition is "so often at odds" with objective sources of information. I would say just the opposite. Our intuition is more often in line with reality than not.

      • Doug Shaver

        it's fine think the earth is not moving unless and until we're given evidence to the contrary. And we do have good evidence that the earth is moving.

        But we, including the scientists among us, continue to say -- as we did before we found that evidence -- that sun rises and sets. Do we then contradict ourselves?

        • "But we, including the scientists among us, continue to say -- as we did before we found that evidence -- that sun rises and sets. Do we then contradict ourselves?"

          Technically, yes. The sun doesn't really rise and set. We all know that. When we use that language, we know we're speaking colloquially and we know, at best, that such a description is a useful fiction. But it is inaccurate and untrue.

          However, when Carroll refers to colloquial usages, like those implying causality or free will, he wants them to be used as if they were true. For example, he acknowledges that science depends on causality and moral blame and praise depend on free will. But if causal and free will language are just useful fictions, then neither can provide real ground for either science or moral responsibility. You can't have it both ways, despite what Carroll wants.

          • Doug Shaver

            When we use that language, we know we're speaking colloquially and we know, at best, that such a description is a useful fiction. But it is inaccurate and untrue.

            As I interpret Carroll, that is exactly what he is saying about causation and morality.

            when Carroll refers to colloquial usages, like those implying causality or free will, he wants them to be used as if they were true.

            It seems to me that we talk about the sun rising and setting as if it actually did rise and set.

            But if causal and free will language are just useful fictions, then neither can provide real ground for either science or moral responsibility.

            I'm still on a first quick read-through, but Carroll does seem to deny causation. If he actually does, then on that point I disagree with him, although I also disagree with the Aristotelian view of it. As for morality, I haven't quite gotten to that part of the book yet, but I firmly reject the claim that either naturalism in general or determinism in particular are any threat to morality.

          • Mike

            we've gone over this but i think you should do a post on how naturalism/determinism are not a threat to morality as that seems to be a fatal and obvious flaw in both seems to me.

          • Doug Shaver

            i think you should do a post on how naturalism/determinism are not a threat to morality

            When I see an argument that they are a threat, I'll probably have something to say at that time.

          • Valence

            It's a complex topic, but if you really want to understand some of the approaches (there are many), you can check out this article

            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/compatibilism/

          • Doug Shaver

            When I see an argument (other than "It's obvious") for why it is a threat, I'll try to respond.

          • Mike

            i understand.

          • Jeffrey G. Johnson

            It's hard to see how being a threat to morality could be a fatal flaw in naturalism. I don't believe it is a threat, but if it were a threat that would have no bearing on whether naturalism is a correct description of reality. One may have subjective reasons for preserving our current conception of morality and its origins, however if that is threatened by naturalism, that would not constitute evidence that naturalism is incorrect. Our wishes do not determine what is correct or not correct.

            Naturalism could be a threat to the idea that morality is absolute and granted by God. However, if God does not exist, that would obviously be a flawed conception of what morality is.

            There is plenty of evidence that human morality is simply evolved biological behavior based on innate emotional reactions that humans have developed as a survival mechanism because it facilitates social cohesion.

            What is in fact threatened is the conception of moral responsibility being predicated upon free will. I don't believe human morality depends on that conception; it is only our thinking about morality that has developed that conception of free will and morality, and that conception is wrong.

            It is important to understand what "free will" means in this context. Saying we do not have free will, for a naturalist, does not mean we are helpless like a leaf blown about by the wind. A chess playing computer is a better model, but our brain has better skills than a chess playing computer when it comes to making human decisions. Our decisions are made with great intelligence, and with goals and interests taken into account, and yet they happen according to deterministic processes. That only seems paradoxical if you have not developed a sufficient understanding of the complexity deterministic processes are capable of.

            In this context the "free will" that naturalists are rejecting is the notion, based on substance dualism, that a conscious agent inside of us that is independent of all physical causation makes choices by some non-physical supernatural power. That agent is what is often conceived of as the soul or the spirit, and people who believe in libertarian free will believe there is such a thing making the decisions.

            Naturalists believe a very complex brain based on chemical reactions carries out the human decision making activities we all observe: we have wants, needs, interests, and we consider all options and their consequences, each according to our own ability, before making our choices. Naturalists believe this all happens based on physical deterministic processes that are very complex and very intelligent. And since our decisions are based on such skills, there is still a sense of control and responsibility, there is still a possibility for punishments and inducements to affect future decisions. This means that absence of traditional libertarian free will based on a belief in substance dualism still allows for accountability and responsibility.

          • Mike

            ok well it's just my 'complex brain' chemistry that is telling me you're full of crap ;) thx for the reply anyway.

          • David Nickol

            Putting a smiley face after an insult doesn't make it any less of an insult. Jeffrey G. Johnson's response to you above makes reasonable points. If you don't want to answer someone, then just don't answer.

          • Mike

            yes it does and i did answer. btw it was again just my 'complex brain' chemistry which made me think his answer was crap for what it's worth.

          • Valence

            I guess your brain isn't complex enough to mount a coherent counter argument :). The smiley face adds a certain smugness to the insult, I think.

          • Mike

            i wasn't insulting him; it was a joke. if he's right then i am not 'choosing' to say he's full of crap, my 'complex brain chemistry' is making me do it.

            maybe you don't get the joke bc your brain is wired in a different way.

          • Valence

            My reply was a joke too ;) I was explaining your lack of response in terms of brain complexity. Did you know jokes can be insulting?

          • Mike

            maybe you think it wasn't funny bc you don't understand his point about 'complex brain chemistry' and free will well enough to appreciate it?

          • Valence

            The insult was in "full of crap", in case you aren't aware.

          • Mike

            i know that's how it came off but it was meant in jest. i was just trying to get my point across in an impactful way.

          • adam

            " But if causal and free will language are just useful fictions, "

            The problem with fictions is that they can become detrimental barriers as well reinforcing false beliefs.

            "To the question "Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth," 26 percent of those surveyed answered incorrectly."

            http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2014/02/14/277058739/1-in-4-americans-think-the-sun-goes-around-the-earth-survey-says

      • No, I do not mean without a cause. Gratuitous suffering means suffering that is unnecessary to achieve some greater good.

        So, for example, I would say, on theism, most of the suffering humans experience is gratuitous, I cannot conceive of any reason God would let babies die painful deaths from disease. To me this and millions of other examples suggest intuitively that either there is no omnipotent God to prevent this suffering. I can think of no reason this is not gratuitous, thus it would seem you agree I should accept no such God exists.

        I agree with you that if there is other information that justifies believing in such a god, this would be an answer. But you must then admit tha, on its own the evidential argument for suffering works.

        • "Gratuitous suffering means suffering that is unnecessary to achieve some greater good."

          So then we're back to your original claim: "It seems that there is gratuitous suffering in the world". How could something seem as if it is unnecessary? How could that be apparent or unapparent?

          "So, for example, I would say, on theism, most of the suffering humans experience is gratuitous, I cannot conceive of any reason God would let babies die painful deaths from disease."

          Theists have posed many, so you can certainly conceive of them. You may not agree with them, but I think it's disingenuous to claim you could not even conceive of any possible reasons.

          "I can think of no reason this is not gratuitous, thus it would seem you agree I should accept no such God exists."

          Even if you couldn't detect (or conceive) of any good reasons why evil exists, that wouldn't (1) mean that there aren't any such reasons or (2) that God doesn't exist. Neither of those conclusions follow from your claim.

          Also, as you well know, I think there are many positive reasons to believe God exist which far outweigh any doubt that the problem of evil may impress upon you.

          "But you must then admit that, on its own the evidential argument for suffering works."

          No, I don't admit that. Posters have shown why several times at Strange Notions. For example:

          https://strangenotions.com/why-horrible-suffering-does-not-disprove-gods-existence/

          • Raymond

            "Theists have posed many, so you can certainly conceive of them. You may not agree with them, but I think it's disingenuous to claim you could not even conceive of any possible reasons."

            Yes, there are arguments for why human suffering is not gratuitous, but many of them are horrific. To say that a baby suffers or dies to bring the parents or others closer to God is a terrible terrible concept. As is the "God wanted her with him" argument. To say that the suffering of a child is a tool for God to reach other people or bring others "home" belies the entire concept of a loving God.

            Fortunately, these are human arguments, and we all know about the lack of love and empathy on the part of humans, even (especially) Christians.

          • " How could something seem as if it is unnecessary? How could that be apparent or unapparent?"

            I am speaking of gratuitous or not from a moral perspective.

            For example if I see a man cut a child's leg off, and her father standing by doing nothing, I can at least contemplate a reason the father does not intervene: the leg might be gangrenous and he may be saving her life. And indeed, I can also think of ways to get information as to whether this is indeed what is happening.

            We are justified in saying some suffering seems gratuitous if we cannot even imagine why it is not being stopped or what positive moral justification there could be for it. E.g. all suffering from natural causes, disease, death, disaster. I cannot think of any moral reason this suffering should happen, so it seems gratuitous to me, on theism.

            In a nutshell, on theism, any suffering should be agreed to seem gratuitous if there is no reasonable theodicy to explain it.

            It is not disingenuous to say I cannot conceive of why God would not intervene to prevent at least a great part of the suffering we encounter. A great example would be the man killed when the statue of the pope accidentally fell on him. I cannot conceive of any reason on theism why God did not prevent this. Can you?

            I have encountered these theodicies and I these still do not answer the vast majority of suffering.

            There could be reasons, but if we cannot conceive of them we should admit it is intuitive to conclude that there are none. Absent reasons to believe there are some this is positive evidence against the existence of God. Similarly, it is intuitive that we have free will this is evidence we have it, absent evidence to the contrary.

        • ClayJames

          So, for example, I would say, on theism, most of the suffering humans experience is gratuitous, I cannot conceive of any reason God would let babies die painful deaths from disease.

          No, at the most it seems to you that you would have no reason to allow certain evil and doing so would be gratuitous.

          In order to make the jump to God having no reason, you must show that your limited mind can determine the probable intentions of an omniscient mind.

          Until you do that, your conclusion that an omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent God does not exist, does not logically follow.

          • I disagree. Like Brandon initially said, if something seems to be the case, all things being equal, we should accept it is the case.

            To me, on theism, this seems gratuitous. Unless there is reason to believe there is some justification, I am going to go with my intuition.

            Not only do theists not have evidence of any theistic justification for non-intervention to relieve or avoid this massive continuing suffering, they cannot even speculate of what reasons could justify it.

            I would say that if we are allowed to say that it seems like we have free will this is evidence that we do, then I should be able to say that since it seems as if this suffering is gratuitous, it is evidence it is.

            The question then becomes is there other evidence to dispel this intuition. I would say on free will there is such evidence, but for the existence of a god, there is not.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            (Edited at 15 minutes) Evil is such a profound and painful reality that one wonders how the Non-Theist retains his unwarranted ontological beliefs about evil in the face of such raw, undeniable evidence to the contrary. The appeal to evil by the Non-Theist fails given that what (Non-Theism, etc.) must mean by ontological evil (not ultimately or cosmically illusory evil) is the following, and only the following:

            "Fundamental interactions, also known as fundamental forces, are the interactions in physical systems that do not appear to be reducible to more basic interactions. There are four conventionally accepted fundamental interactions — gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear. Each one is understood as the dynamics of a field. The gravitational force is modelled as a continuous classical field. The other three are each modelled as discrete quantum fields, and exhibit a measurable unit or elementary particle. The two nuclear interactions produce strong forces at minuscule, subatomic distances. The strong nuclear interaction is responsible for the binding of atomic nuclei. The weak nuclear interaction also acts on the nucleus, mediating radioactive decay. Electromagnetism and gravity produce significant forces at macroscopic scales where the effects can be seen directly in everyday life. Electrical and magnetic fields tend to cancel each other out when large collections of objects are considered, so over the largest distances (on the scale of planets and galaxies), gravity tends to be the dominant force.”

            Full stop.

            In short, when it comes to references to evil the Non-Theist references some unintelligible and illusory ontology (relative to evil) and thinks that by doing so he can speak meaningfully about evil. But he can't. Such non-ontological work just won't do. His terms cannot do the necessary work, and that is necessarily the case (given his paradigm).

            Further, the fact that *God* can and does use, even overcome, [All Things] in a freedom-bearing consequential world such as ours (and therefore by extension all outcomes of volitional motions on our part) both satisfies and sustains all necessary conditions to dissolve the complaint. The immutable love of the Necessary Being subsumes and overcomes all things relative to privation (evil or "the Good minus something"), which of course just is the Christian metanarrative. For completeness, said immutable love of said Necessary Being by definition houses Man's chief ends, his final felicity, and so on, and therein we find (then) that in fact all that is lovelessness houses the aforementioned privation.

          • Thank you for engaging, but you will note that I did not reference evil at all. This "evil" is not a concept I subscribe to. I would use it only rhetorically and would not in this context. Rather I reference suffering, which indeed is not difficult to "reduce" if you like, to the fundamental forces. All four are involved and necessary to some extent in all suffering. (I also heard today that scientists may have discovered a 5th fundamental force...)

            The evidential argument from suffering simply points out that the massive suffering humans endure constantly seems in conflict with an all-loving all-powerful god that does not want humans to suffer.
            There is no conceivably reasonable reason on offer for such a god to fail to act to prevent such suffering.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            God ought love. Lovelessness being evil, your complaint is exactly as I described. And irreducibly so.

          • ClayJames

            I disagree. Like Brandon initially said, if something seems to be the case, all things being equal, we should accept it is the case.

            To me, on theism, this seems gratuitous. Unless there is reason to believe there is some justification, I am going to go with my intuition.</blockquote

            There is a very important distinction here that you overlooking in your comparison.

            Brandon said that if it seems like free will exists, we are warranted in believing it unless we have reason to doubt it.

            The valid comparison here would be to say that if it seems to you that a limited mind allows gratuitous evil, then you are warranted in believing it unless we have reason to doubt it.

            This is completely different from a limited mind claiming that it seems that an omniscient mind allows gratuitous evil.

            This makes as much sense as saying that it seems to you that the hubble telescope has not found a specific planet because you have not seen that planet. In order to make probabilistic claims about the hubble telescope, you must know or at least estimate what the hubble telescope actually sees. If you don´t do this, then your observations only apply to you (like free will) not to God and the evidential problem of evil requires that your observations apply to God.

          • ClayJames

            This is a repost: Diquis is not showing my full comment for some reason and I have no idea how to fix it.

            I disagree. Like Brandon initially said, if something seems to be the case, all things being equal, we should accept it is the case.

            To me, on theism, this seems gratuitous. Unless there is reason to believe there is some justification, I am going to go with my intuition.

            There is a very important distinction here that you overlooking in your comparison.

            Brandon said that if it seems like free will exists, we are warranted in believing it unless we have reason to doubt it.

            The valid comparison here would be to say that if it seems to you that a limited mind allows gratuitous evil, then you are warranted in believing it unless we have reason to doubt it.

            This is completely different from a limited mind claiming that it seems that an omniscient mind allows gratuitous evil.

            This makes as much sense as saying that it seems to you that the hubble telescope has not found a specific planet because you have not seen that planet. In order to make probabilistic claims about the hubble telescope, you must know or at least estimate what the hubble telescope actually sees. If you don´t do this, then your observations only apply to you (like free will) not to God and the evidential problem of evil requires that your observations apply to God.

          • "if it seems to you that a limited mind allows gratuitous evil"

            this is not what I am saying, i do not understand this.

            "This makes as much sense as saying that it seems to you that the hubble telescope has not found a specific planet because you have not seen that planet."

            No it doesn't we can easily conceive of the reasons the Hubble cannot detect a certain planet. In fact we can easily identify them as you note.

            In both circumstances, limited minds are drawing inferences based on intuition.

            The point here is that skeptical theism is advanced as a defeater to the evidential problem of suffering argument. I.e. just because we can't think of any reasons why God would allow such suffering doesn't mean he doesn't have any, therefore the atheist cannot conclude that just because it seems there is no justification there isn't one.

            I would point out that a mere non-impossibility of a justification is insufficient to overcome the intuition.

            By contrast, if I say just because it seems like we have free will doesn't mean we do, so the libertarian cannot say just because it seems like we do, that we do.

            The theist would rightly argue that the possibility alone of determinism is not sufficient to overcome an intuition of free will.

          • ClayJames

            this is not what I am saying, i do not understand this.

            This is what you should say because your observation of gratuitous evil can only apply to a limited mind similar to our own and cannot be applied to an omniscient being. There is no reason to think that your observation applies to an omniscient mind and you have given no reason to believe this is the case and yet, this is an argument from internal inconsistency between God´s attributes and therefore, you must show that evil is probably gratuitous to God (not to you).

            No it doesn't we can easily conceive of the reasons the Hubble cannot detect a certain planet. In fact we can easily identify them as you note.

            Let me clarify my example because I do not think it is clear. I mean that this is similar to saying that the hubble telescope probably has not seen planet X because you literally look up to the night´s sky do not see planet X. You agree that the only way to conclude whether this is probably the case is to get inside the mind of the hubble telescope and yet you make zero attempt to get inside the mind of God. You simply say that there is no ultimate good to evil event X because you look around and see no good for X.

            In both circumstances, limited minds are drawing inferences based on intuition.

            No, in your case a limited mind is determining the probable intentions of an omniscient mind. The premise ¨I see no good reason for a certain evil act¨ does not allow you to conclude an internal inconsistency between God´s attributes.

            The point here is that skeptical theism is advanced as a defeater to the evidential problem of suffering argument....

            This is step 2. A theist should not have to defeat an invalid argument and the evidential problem of evil is an invalid argument.

            EDIT: Corrected my response to the last quote.

          • Valence

            “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
            Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
            Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
            Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

            - Epicurus

            If God has a good reason not to prevent the horrible death of small children, then he is not "good" in any sense of the word that humans use it. Of course, God could do what he wants, but when Christians try to claim that this is the same being as Jesus Christ who spent much of his time (according to the gospels, at least) healing children, we have a real conflict in personality/story. The problem of evidential evil is only an argument that should make us suspicious of a claim that God is looking out for us or concerned with what happens to humans.

          • ClayJames

            If God has a good reason not to prevent the horrible death of small children, then he is not "good" in any sense of the word that humans use it.

            How what sense do humans define the word ¨good¨.

          • Valence

            Most human's sense of moral good is doing what is helpful and beneficial to oneself and others. Why not defer to Jesus in the parable of the sheep and the goats, from Matthew 25:

            34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

            37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

            40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

            41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

            44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

            Clearly Jesus is calling those who helped the sick and the poor good, and those who do not, evil. Where does that put God if he does not help the sick if he is able? Jesus is an excellent human to use in our case, is he not?

          • ClayJames

            Two points about this:

            Most human's sense of moral good is doing what is helpful and beneficial to oneself and others.

            There is nothing inherently contradictory about this definition of good and allowing children to suffer. If there is, please show it.

            Clearly Jesus is calling those who helped the sick and the poor good, and those who do not, evil. Where does that put God if he does not help the sick if he is able? Jesus is an excellent human to use in our case, is he not?

            When you say Jesus, are you talking about God´s son who was ridiculed, tourtured and crucified?

          • Valence

            There is nothing inherently contradictory about this definition of good and allowing children to suffer. If there is, please show it.

            I have a cure for malaria that's absolutely free. My neighbor's kid has malaria, but I do nothing. Doing nothing is choosing not to help those in need, contrary to what Jesus said. It's definitely contrary to doing what is beneficial to others, and their is no harm to oneself, not even a cost. To take no action (i.e. sit at the house and just watch tv) is to do the opposite of what would be beneficial to a child in need. Are you a Christian, if so, do you think Jesus got this wrong in Matthew? If not, I'm baffled at the controversy.

            When you say Jesus, are you talking about God´s son who was ridiculed, tortured and crucified?

            I'm talking about the person described in the book of Matthew. The fact that this should be obvious makes me think you are now playing games with me. I suppose that's not a problem, but I'm a bit curious as to what the game is.

          • Valence

            When you say Jesus, are you talking about God´s son who was ridiculed, tourtured and crucified?

            I think I know where you are going with this after thinking about it for a moment. According to Christianity, Jesus died as a sacrifice for the atonement of sin, a very specific purpose. Of course, one could question why sin requires atonement which seems very similar to human's need for retribution when wronged (which should make one suspicious that the idea has an all too human origin, and, in fact, sacrifice to appease the gods started in pagan religions long before Judaism began), but that purpose only applies to a single death. It in no way applies to small children dying of disease, unless you want to argue that their death is also some for of atonement...which certainly wouldn't be consistent with any form of Christianity I'm aware of.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            (Edit at 20 min) While it is nice that the Non-Theist affirms Christianity’s truth claims with respect to suffering, evil, lack, and, lest the Non-Theist means only to play games, the ontology of irreducible lack vis-a-vis suffering, in what factually is nothing less than irreducible evil, and so on, the demand to expunge evil (privation) from reality (in affirming Christianity’s propositional truth claims) cannot do the sort of work the Non-Theist needs, for obvious reasons. The fact that *God* can and does use all things, even overcome all things, in a freedom-bearing consequential world such as ours (and therefore by extension all outcomes of volitional motions on our part) both satisfies and sustains all necessary conditions to dissolve the complaint here regarding expunging privation from Man's reality. If one thinks for even a second on the breadth of what privation means, on what the complaint’s demand actually requests, one is forced into the topography not of nations or states or centuries but of worlds/universes such that but for *God* the very concept of such a need dies the death first of absurdity and finally of illusion. Being Itself, that is to say, *God*, and nothing less, quite obviously, is in fact the very breath which gives life to such reasoning with respect to suffering. It is God and can be nothing less wherein and whereby the necessary and sufficient is found pouring Himself first into and finally through to the bitter ends of time and physicality. The complaint cannot evade such incarnation, such pouring-out, such in-filling, such Necessary and Sufficient means (given such demands for such ends).

            And the Non-Theist finds his demand filled. The immutable love of the Necessary Being subsumes and overcomes all things relative to privation (evil or "the Good minus something"), which of course just is the Christian metanarrative.

            As stated earlier, the immutable love of the Necessary Being by definition houses Man's chief ends, his final felicity, and so on, and therein we find (then) that in fact all that is lovelessness just does house the aforementioned privation, the aforementioned suffering, lack, want – The Good minus something.

            The Non-Theist's complaint cannot move beyond the previously mentioned “full stop” without the appeal to lovelessness, which is not only inherent in the complaint but is also the express definition of evil on Christianity. The only justified remark that even *can* be made given that there is no room for anything but reality’s four fundamental forces is the aforementioned “full stop” and that would be, simply, this: “fundamental force 1 interacts with fundamental force 2”. That’s it. Anything more reaches beyond the full stop. Assigned meaning is fine, only, such an epistemic move mandates a congruent ontological accompaniment. Even worse, the Non-Theist asks about consistency despite the fact that the Christian too defines suffering as The Good minus-some-thing, which just is privation, which streams from the epicenter of Christianity’s ontological landscape. It's nice that Non-Theists here agree with both the Christian and the Christian's God on that point and on all the affairs of overcoming evil, of expunging evil. Only, the Non-Theist has no coherent means by which to go on affirming the fact that he agrees with Christianity. He simply can’t go on agreeing given his obviously unwarranted and self-negating beliefs about suffering’s ontology per his own paradigm’s epicenter, his own hard stop. It's nice that he affirms us and our views, but, really, his epistemic moves necessarily come up vacuous given that he must, on his own terms, in fact disagree with us. Granted, such contradiction on his end is to be expected given the obviousness of Good/Lack inherent within suffering, only he is, with each clenching of the teeth, which each shaking of the fist, only losing intellectual, moral, and ontological credibility given his unwillingness to be more honest, more monotone, more Rosenberg-esc in all such affairs.

          • Valence

            It's nice that Non-Theists here agree with both the Christian and the Christian's God on that point and on all the affairs of overcoming evil, of expunging evil. Only, the Non-Theist has no coherent means by which to go on affirming the fact that he agrees with Christianity.

            Umm, the concepts of Good and Evil existed long before even Judaism, and Christianity's ideas are synthesis of Judaism and Greek philosophy, with a little that's original.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_and_evil

            The general idea of good and evil is a human universal, easily explained by evolutionary psychology.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_morality

            Great apes have a primitive form of morality, and even talking about ape morality requires good and bad in the vocabulary.

            The Non-Theist's complaint cannot move beyond the previously mentioned “full stop” without the appeal to lovelessness, which is not only inherent in the complaint but is also the express definition of evil on Christianity. The only justified remark that even *can* be made given that there is no room for anything but reality’s four fundamental forces is the aforementioned “full stop” and that would be, simply, this: “fundamental force 1 interacts with fundamental force 2”. That’s it.

            Your claim that an atheist can't talk about biology, psychology, social sciences, and philosophy is just absurd. Only a subset of atheists are hard physicalists, and even physicalists can talk about macroscopic levels of reality via concepts like supervenience. You are really exposing a profound ignorance in these comments, just fyi.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            That you affirm the Christian's view of evil on all fronts is intellectually satisfying on our end, only, for obvious reasons, it cannot gain you any ontc-traction on your end. Not actually. And nobody's interested in make-believe. Not on this end anyway. Regarding fictions: If you don't mean to reference irreducible evil then perhaps you don't agree with the Christian after all. If you think psychology is something other than reality's impersonal fundamental forces reverberating off of one another, and so on, then on your own terms you'll have to demonstrate that. If you can't, or if you thought you wouldn't have to regarding irreducible, ultimate, cosmic meaning, then (to borrow your words about me) you are really exposing your profound ignorance in these comments. The Christian holds that all of what you speak (evil) is profoundly and irreducibly evil and has no interest in fiction. He's in the business of mapping reality and talking about real things.

          • Valence

            When one talks to someone about physics, it is appropriate, even mandatory to use the terminology of physics. When one talks to someone about Christianity, is it not then appropriate to use the terminology of Christianity? To use this terminology does not affirm the view is accurate.

            Disease is about parasitism, and parasitism works reasonably well in evolution. Much of evolution has been host evolving to defending itself against parasite, and parasite evolving to get around the defenses of the host. This is consistent with the Red Queen hypothesis in that much of evolution involves change but neither parasite nor host get very far head of each other. Thus, natural evil is just a by-product of pointless evolutionary "games", so to speak. That's the explanation of evil on a biological level.
            I can easily switch and think about things via different paradigms/explanatory models. Physics just provides one explanatory model, but a very strongly verified one. The relationship between physics and biology is a complicated one, but one should be suspicious of any biological concept that contradicts physics (physics has a higher epistemological standing). There is nothing in evolution that contradicts physics. The concepts of good and evil are philosophical/social and thus don't apply to biology, but one can certainly relate a biological concept to a philosophical one (parasitism is certainly related to moral evil, as theft is a form of parasitism).

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Valence, you're missing the point. It's a simple matter of interest on my end. If you ever getting around to talking about actual, irreducible evil....... I'm not sure you can. And I'm not interested in talking about ultimately / cosmically illusory X's.

          • Valence

            "It's a simple matter of interest on my end." Ok. So I can only respond to your comments in a way that you want, or you aren't interested? How rude!
            Well, I am no longer interested in writing another comment to you, as I see now that it would be quite pointless. I'll ignore you from here on out. I'm quite surprised at this lack of good faith and charity. Oh well, your comments are so poorly put together that they are difficult to understand anyway.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Valence, if you think you can talk about actual, irreducible evil, and do so on *your* terms given *your* paradigm, then please do. The reason I'm interested in *that* and not ultimately or cosmically illusory X's is because as a Christian I hold that the horrific reality of suffering, of privation, of lack, of evil just is that sort of reality, just is actual, irreducible evil. Another issue is the simple fact that the Non-Theist cannot pull off *that* conversation on and in his *own* paradigmatic termini and there is the issue of making that point. QED and all that. And if one means to try, on one's *own* terms, well, again, that will have to be earned my friend.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            It occurred to me that perhaps yesterday I did not make it obvious that I was couching this entire affair in the setting of Sean Carroll, Poetic Naturalism, the ultimately illusory, and evil. I thought that would have been obvious given the litany of comments on Carroll's items over the last several weeks and given the current driving theme throughout this whole affair, including this thread. But I could have, should have, made that more clear yesterday. Part of the running theme here is the question of whether or not the Non-Theist can talk about something irreducible, real, actual. Ontic. Not ultimately or cosmically illusory. Namely, *evil*. I don't think Sean Carroll can. In this thread, on this blog, given the topic of Poetic Naturalism, and the illusory, and evil, this is all on point. If the Non-Theist can ever get around to talking about actual, irreducible evil.... I'm not sure he can. In fact, I've never seen a Non-Theist affirm anything with respect to *evil* that has not been ultimately or cosmically illusory. And I'm not interested in talking about ultimately / cosmically illusory X's. Why? Because the horrific reality we term evil is actual/irreducible. Non-Theism's only option of "anything less" sums to nothing more than some sort of wish fulfillment, or autohypnosis, or cognitive dissonance, or some other such thing on the part of the person referencing such meaning-makers. But for those who have watched children die, or who have lost loved ones, or who have....., we all know that Non-Theism's "anything less" is intellectually, morally, and ontologically misguided.

          • Valence

            Just a reminder that I will no longer read or respond to your comments. I'm not angry, but I have no desire to waste my time, and I suggest you not waste yours, but, of course, that's up to you :) We have nothing to talk about.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            We actually do. Because you know evil is brutally, factually, and irreducibly actual. Your commitment to your own metaphysical baggage isn't going to change that. Denial and cognitive dissonance can and often do permit us to escape some layers of reality, but when it comes to evil, it is so completely undeniable that one never successfully pulls it off. On the undeniable pains of lack, of privation: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7SKlRTfkUiebE9RM1pOTkZ6dFU/edit?pref=2&pli=1 Oderberg on the metaphysics of privation.

            Finally, expunging evil from reality: There are only two possible solutions to evil.

            [1] Suffering must go the way of eliminative naturalism, or eliminative materialism, or eliminative Non-Theism. In short, it ultimately and cosmically reduces to Non-Suffering, to Non-Evil. Spinoza-esc pantheisms (etc.) emerge and with them all the pains of metaphysical armistice, of the endless war of converging and colliding ontological equals – ad infinitum. “Distinction is achieved only by violence among converging equals. Being is in some real sense a plain upon which forces of meaning and meaninglessness converge in endless war; according to either, being is known in its oppositions, and oppositions must be overcome or affirmed, but in either case as violence…” In a word: denial

            [2] Suffering factually is lack such that being as we know it factually is, ultimately is, cosmically is, "The Good Minus Some-Thing", as it were. In a word: privation

            Everything in these exchanges is all only a segue into something far more pervasive, something which is, in fact, all subsuming. It is factually the case that suffering, evil, lack, what factually is nothing less than actual/irreducible evil, carries us into the semantics of privation. And those semantics (privation) cannot evade the semantics of God dissolving said hollow, said privation, by filling it with Himself, that is to say, such cannot avoid the semantics of saturation, of His pouring-out, of His in-filling, to the bitter ends of time and physicality. In a word – incarnation. The (only possible) necessary and all sufficient means. The facts are compelled by reason: ultimate or cosmic topographies of Hollow, Lack, Evil, Suffering, cannot be filled by anything less than ultimate or cosmic Goodness. There is no other possible resolution, and that is affirmed by logic, by reason, and by love.

            On said out-pouring, on said in-filling, we find in the triune God that this “…….is true in two related and consequent senses: on the one hand, love is not originally a reaction but is the ontological possibility of every ontic action, the one transcendent act, the primordial generosity that is convertible with being itself, the blissful and desiring apatheia that requires no pathos to evoke it, no evil to make it good; and this is so because, on the other hand, God's infinitely accomplished life of love is that trinitarian movement of his being that is infinitely determinate – as determinacy toward the other – and so an indestructible actus purus endlessly more dynamic than any mere motion of change could ever be. In him there is neither variableness nor shadow of turning because he is wholly free, wholly God as Father, Son, and Spirit, wholly alive, and wholly love. Even the cross of Christ does not determine the nature of divine love, but rather manifests it, because there is a more original outpouring of God….. that is in its proper nature indefectible happiness.” (D.B. Hart)

          • Valence

            Accusing me of denial eh? Not surprising as your comments are void of substance and simply "my intuition about things can't possibly be wrong". I won't stoop to a reverse accusation, though it could easily be done. I thought such was against the commenting rules, but w/e.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Yes, denial. That you hope to salvage the emergent "i-am" and with it some hope of non-illusory meaning in perhaps some sort of language game despite the fact that emergent language is itself a bridge for ignorance isn't enough. Speaking of denial, "The argument from personal identity is, perhaps, one of the reasons that atheists like Sam Harris embrace a kind of Buddhism which specifically denies that there is any “self”. As with the argument from consciousness, the general counter-argument (if one can call it that) can be summarized in one word: denial. Any semblance of contrary evidence is summarily dismissed as “illusion”. Sam Harris also uses meditation to back up his claim, as there are meditative states in which the “self” seems to disappear. Other than the fact that they support his preferred belief, it’s not clear why Harris thinks that these special states are more veridical than everything else we experience. He calls his meditative activity “scrutiny”; I’m inclined to think of it as an abnormal brain state of questionable reliability.” The circularity of foisting the illusory as evidence of the reality even as you foist the reality as evidence of the illusory just won't do. The evidence is the evidence for the evidence? Sorry. The incoherent ends of all of that combined with the hard fact of Evil, and the hard fact of -- not *what* I am -- but *that* I am, affirm your move of what can only be termed denial. There are *reasons* for using that term descriptively.

          • Kiki Dirgantoro

            I swear freewill just an illusion, please check & share if you agree that everyone should be grateful :)

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Guv9HOCRL1A&list=PLsBkdCYIlhPo3Xg7bwF-SJ9BCP-Btvf9Z&index=1

          • LHRMSCBrown

            [1] of [2] It’s not obvious that you have thought this through to the end. See my reply to you down-thread (or maybe it's up-thread...) which begins with, "(Edit at 20 min) While it is nice that the Non-Theist affirms Christianity’s truth claims with respect to suffering, evil, lack, and, lest the Non-Theist means only to play games, the ontology of irreducible lack vis-a-vis suffering, in what factually is nothing less than irreducible evil, and so on, the demand to expunge evil (privation) from reality (in affirming Christianity’s propositional truth claims) cannot do the sort of work the Non-Theist needs, for obvious reasons. The fact that *God* can and does use all things, even overcome all things, in a freedom-bearing consequential world such as ours (and therefore by extension all outcomes of volitional motions on our part) both satisfies and sustains all necessary conditions to dissolve the complaint here regarding expunging privation from Man's reality......"

            [2] of [2] It’s not obvious that you have thought through (to the end) just what it means to expunge evil from reality, from worlds, from universes. As the other reply alludes to, we cannot evade the semantics of incarnation, of saturation through and through to the bitter ends of time and physicality. Unless, of course, our Non-Theist friends are merely playing games with something as profound as human suffering. A few more problems arrive in the following quote. Interestingly, the following quote is not the end of the matter, but is merely a segue into the aforementioned saturation, which the reality of privation cannot avoid. With that qualification:

            In order to show yet another insufficiency in the Non-Theist's content, we can offer an outright granting of gratuitous evil: Two PDF’s which are available are “THE NECESSITY OF GRATUITOUS EVIL” by William Hasker and also “The Existence and Irrelevance of Gratuitous Evil”, by Kirk R. MacGregor [ http://www.kirkmacgregor.org/uploads/pc_14-1_macgregor.pdf ]. A brief excerpt: “The absurdity of the Greater-Good Defense is multiplied by its transformation of the universe into a philosophically overdetermined system….. Gratuitous evils are simply a logically unavoidable necessity of contingent living in a freedom-permitting world…… While God can [and does] surely use [even all] of those individual acts of evil for our good, it does not follow that every act of evil that God allows, He allows for the purpose of accomplishing some greater good….. He allows acts of evil, even gratuitous acts of evil, because He values and honors the freedom of our will.”

            Also, given that reciprocity's volitional motions amid Self/Other sum to love as the highest ethic: “The second theodicy is the free-will theodicy. According to the free-will theodicy, God is justified in permitting evil and its consequences because “he has to do so if he is to bestow on some of his creatures the incommensurable privilege of being responsible agents who have, in many areas, the capacity to choose as they will, without God, or anyone else (other than themselves), determining which alternative they choose.” When Adam partakes of the fruit in Genesis 3, the most severe charge brought against God is not that he caused Adam to sin, but that in making Adam significantly free God brought about the possibility that Adam might misappropriate his freedom and choose a course of action that is morally wrong. God is not responsible for Adam’s choices given that Adam was endowed in creation with self-determining free will. The ground for denying God’s causing evil is that human freedom is conceptually incompatible with divine determinism (not divine sovereignty).” (Evans, Jeremy A. (2013-03-01). The Problem of Evil: The Challenge to Essential Christian Beliefs (B&h Studies in Christian Apologetics).

            Quote:

            The second theodicy is the free-will theodicy. According to the free-will theodicy, God is justified in permitting evil and its consequences because “he has to do so if he is to bestow on some of his creatures the incommensurable privilege of being responsible agents who have, in many areas, the capacity to choose as they will, without God, or anyone else (other than themselves), determining which alternative they choose.”

            When Adam partakes of the fruit in Genesis 3, the most severe charge brought against God is not that he caused Adam to sin, but that in making Adam significantly free God brought about the possibility that Adam might misappropriate his freedom and choose a course of action that is morally wrong. God is not responsible for Adam’s choices given that Adam was endowed in creation with self-determining free will.

            The ground for denying God’s causing evil is that human freedom is conceptually incompatible with divine determinism (not divine sovereignty).

            Otherwise stated, determined choices are not free. Solidifying a free-will theodicy usually requires assent to the idea that being significantly free is intrinsically valuable rather than fleshing out the value of freedom from how people exercise it, that is, from freedom’s instrumental value. If it is intrinsically better to be significantly free than not, then questions concerning divine decisions in creation are asked and answered; objections from the abuse of freedom are derived from a category confusion regarding freedom’s intrinsic value with the ends that come as a result of misappropriating it. Even so, we value human freedom instrumentally in that it enables us to choose a path for our lives, allows for unique contributions to the human story, and is the source and origin of relationship development. The dissonance about freedom is that we love its benefits and hate its deficits, at least as far as instrumental value is concerned.

            If we center the discussion on the consequences of freedom rather than what freedom is, it is far from clear that God has not faltered in his providence. After all, God could allow immoral actions and then remove the harmful consequences of those actions. Freedom is preserved, and intense suffering is avoided. While such a view agrees that freedom is valuable, it denies that allowing actions to have harmful consequences justifies permitting the free act. For example, if I freely burn down my neighbors’ house while they are on vacation, God can miraculously rebuild the house so that my neighbors never knew or dealt with the ramifications of their house being burned down. Freedom is preserved, and consequences are avoided. Consider the rape and murder of a five-year-old girl. There is nothing logically problematic with asserting that God permits the rapist to commit the rape and to succeed in her subsequent murder, during which God disables the girl from ever being conscious of her rape and strangulation— and revives her upon her death without her ever knowing anything happened to her. Freedom is preserved, and consequences are avoided. Since the visceral reaction against the free-will theodicy centers on the negative consequences of freedom’s application, let us call this new construal of God’s activity a “nonconsequence world.

            Several problems attend a nonconsequence world. First, the objection does not address the free-will theodicy at all but questions the lack of divine intervention. Notice that each suggestion indicates something God can do to mitigate the effects of free decisions, which says nothing at all about the nature of human freedom or the agent performing the act in question. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that we allow the question about divine intervention to remain, and we suggest that God override the consequences of our actions while still permitting our freedom to exist full force. The scenario envisioned here makes our world much like the famous pleasure machine scenario — where all of our experiences are either directly pleasurable or transformed into a pleasurable experience. In such a world we would not have any recourse from committing horrendous evils because we would not know the seriousness of the ensuing harm from acting in such a way.

            Admittedly the moral status of actions is not governed solely by the ends of our actions; however, we certainly deliberate about the consequences of our actions upon the well-being of others and ourselves. In other words, the suggestion that God stamp out bad consequences, albeit a freedom preserving proposal, undermines our ability to make significant moral choices. Proponents of a nonconsequence world should expect God to make acts such as rape a pleasure for the victim either directly through the sex act or indirectly through psychological manipulation. In doing so, another critique is leveraged; the proposal effectually strips the moral accountability between the perpetrator and his victim [*relational* contours are expunged of *love*] as well as what the definition of rape entails. To use a less chafing example, suppose I steal my neighbor’s birdfeeder after a squirrel breaks my own. Before choosing to steal the birdfeeder I recognize that my action is morally wrong — I am not confused about the moral status of the action. Sometime after I steal the birdfeeder, my conscience gets the better of me; I return the birdfeeder to my neighbor (with a bag of birdseed as a gesture). The only discernible response I should receive from my neighbor upon my returning the birdfeeder is one of utter perplexity; for if God replaces the stolen birdfeeder to prevent the material and emotional harm caused by the action, then my ability to set things right will be completely undermined. My neighbor will have no concept of ever having been wronged or perceive any need for apology or remuneration.

            What is more, it is hard to see how I could ever actually discern that my action was worthy of reproach to begin with, for if God “undoes” the negative consequences of evil choices, then presumably the wrongdoer will benefit from this undoing as well. The line of thought is as follows: one of the harmful consequences of my choices is the effects these choices have on me. Not only is it true that malformed decisions adversely affect my character; the ability to concede one evil action makes it more probable that I will make another concession in my future deliberations and choices. In an effort to stall this decline of character, God must undo the harmful effects of my own choices on me. Such an action would be a literal divine recreation of my character such that any of my future wrong decisions would have nothing to do with my previous deliberations and choices. For this suggestion to pass muster, God would have to be the ultimate revisionist historian. These reasons, and more, provide compelling grounds to question the claim that God can undo the harmful nature of free decisions while guarding the integrity of freedom itself.

            End quote. Evans, Jeremy A. (2013-03-01). The Problem of Evil: The Challenge to Essential Christian Beliefs (B&h Studies in Christian Apologetics).

            All of that said, as mentioned already such is but a segue into something far more pervasive, something which is, in fact, all subsuming. Indeed it is the case that suffering, evil, lack, and, lest the Non-Theist means only to play games, the ontology of irreducible lack vis-a-vis suffering, in what factually is nothing less than irreducible evil, carries us into the semantics of privation and such cannot evade the semantics of saturation, of incarnation, such pouring-out, such in-filling, such necessary and all sufficient means.

          • Valence

            [1] of [2] It’s not obvious that you have thought this through to the end.

            You ramble on about human freedom, but I'm talking about a child dying of disease. Are you saying malaria is necessary for human freedom? How about black plague? You really have to explain how that is so.

            Historically, Christians (and pagans for that matter) have though that natural evil (not to be confused with moral evil which is the result of human action) was God's judgement. The flood was an example from Genesis, and the 10 plagues of Egypt from Exodus. Many people living at the time thought the black death was a judgment from God for harboring witches

            http://www.medievalists.net/2014/01/27/plague-and-persecution-the-black-death-and-early-modern-witch-hunts/

            Again, explain how human freedom requires the existence of disease and natural disasters, if not, you might want to direct the criticism of "not thinking this through" toward yourself ;)

          • LHRMSCBrown

            As I said, the profound nature of evil, all of it, impersonal and personal, natural and otherwise, all which sums to suffering is such a profound and painful reality that one wonders how the Non-Theist retains his unwarranted ontological beliefs about evil in the face of such raw, undeniable evidence to the contrary. Indeed it is the case that suffering, evil, lack, and, lest the Non-Theist means only to play games here, the ontology of irreducible lack vis-a-vis suffering, in what factually is nothing less than irreducible evil, carries us into the semantics of privation, of [The Good minus something].

            That you agree with the Christian that all evil ought be expunged from reality, and that you agree with the God Who on and in love's reciprocity pours Himself into said privation, said hollow, and Who thereby dissolves said hollow and is "...glorified not by sacrificing creation for Himself, but by sacrificing Himself for creation..." (Fischer) simply isn't of any ontic-help to you given that the Non-Theist has no coherent means by which to go on affirming the fact that he agrees with Christianity. He simply can’t go on agreeing given his obviously unwarranted and self-negating beliefs about suffering’s ontology per his own paradigm’s epicenter, his own hard stop. It's nice that he affirms us and our views, but, really, his epistemic moves necessarily come up vacuous given that he must, on his own terms, in fact disagree with us. Granted, such contradiction on his end is to be expected given the obviousness of Good/Lack inherent within suffering, only he is, with each clenching of the teeth, which each shaking of the fist, only losing intellectual, moral, and ontological credibility given his unwillingness to be more honest, more monotone, more Rosenberg-esc in all such affairs.

            He would be far more respectable if he just made is own case, as in, a case he can justifiably mount, as in the following:

            “Fundamental interactions, also known as fundamental forces, are the interactions in physical systems that do not appear to be reducible to more basic interactions. There are four conventionally accepted fundamental interactions — gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear. Each one is understood as the dynamics of a field. The gravitational force is modelled as a continuous classical field. The other three are each modelled as discrete quantum fields, and exhibit a measurable unit or elementary particle. The two nuclear interactions produce strong forces at minuscule, subatomic distances. The strong nuclear interaction is responsible for the binding of atomic nuclei. The weak nuclear interaction also acts on the nucleus, mediating radioactive decay. Electromagnetism and gravity produce significant forces at macroscopic scales where the effects can be seen directly in everyday life. Electrical and magnetic fields tend to cancel each other out when large collections of objects are considered, so over the largest distances (on the scale of planets and galaxies), gravity tends to be the dominant force.”

            Period.

          • Valence

            You are not giving me any indication that you are understanding my comments, only repeating things you've already said. You aren't a chatbot, are you?

          • LHRMSCBrown

            I'm not interested in ultimate / cosmic fictions Valence. Psychology is a non-starter unless you have something to add to it.

            Perhaps you missed this from earlier: If you don't mean to reference irreducible evil then perhaps you don't agree with the Christian after all. If you think psychology is something other than reality's impersonal fundamental forces reverberating off of one another, and so on, then on your own terms you'll have to demonstrate that. If you can't, or if you thought you wouldn't have to regarding irreducible, ultimate, cosmic meaning, then (to borrow your words about me) you are really exposing your profound ignorance in these comments. The Christian holds that all of what you speak (evil) is profoundly and irreducibly evil and has no interest in fiction. He's in the business of mapping reality and talking about real things.

          • Valence

            If I can't talk about Christianity using Christianity's terminology, then I can't talk about Christianity. Try talking about physics without using it's terminology, or any other field. The fact that you are trying to rig the conversation with some absurd rules is duly noted, and it makes me question your motives and desire to have a genuine conversation.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            On physics and morality, I don't believe in many realities. I believe in one reality. One, seamless metaphysical landscape. So, again, if you ever get around to talking about actual, irreducible evil, that is what I am interested in.... because it's real. I'm not sure you can talk about *that*. And I'm not interested in talking about ultimately / cosmically illusory X's. You seem to think *you* can talk about what I am interested in on *your* terms, given *your* paradigm. You'll have to earn that my friend.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Let me be crystal clear on my motives:

            If you want a conversation with me, and you think you can talk about actual, irreducible evil, and do so on *your* terms given *your* paradigm, then please do. The reason I'm interested in *that* and not ultimately or cosmically illusory X's is because as a Christian I hold that the horrific reality of suffering, of privation, of lack, of evil just is that sort of reality, just is actual, irreducible evil. Another issue is the QED of the simple fact that the Non-Theist cannot pull off *that* conversation on and in his *own* paradigmatic termini. And if one means to try, well, again, that will have to be earned my friend.

          • Will

            Personally, I've always found your writing so incoherent that I have no desire to converse with you. Here, though, it appears that your moral freedom defense is so irrelevant to disease and natural disaster that you just disingenuously make some ridiculous rules to distract from the conversation. It's no surprise that Valence won't interact with you, and I've probably made a mistake even posting this.
            This irony is that you'll have convinced yourself that you've "won" this debate, though Valence could easily set some absurd standard for other conversations you've had, but hasn't done so because it's quite rude. I look at your comment here like a child on a playground saying "if you want to play with me, you have to follow my absurd rules that rig the game so only I can win." The child later is somehow surprised when he's all alone on the playground, lol!

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Will, as stated already, part of the goal here is the question of whether or not the Non-Theist can talk about something irreducible, real, actual. Ontic. Not ultimately or cosmically illusory. Namely, *evil*. Another issue is the simple fact that the Non-Theist cannot pull off *that* conversation on and in his *own* paradigmatic termini and there is the issue of making that point. QED etc. It's a point Non-Theists resist for inexplicable reasons.

            What is evil? A feeling? A brain state? What does it reduce to? I've not seen the Non-Theist affirm, when it comes to evil, anything that is not ultimately or cosmically illusory. That is part of the driving theme here (Sean Carroll, the illusory, etc.).

          • Valence

            Did you know that around 30% of all infants died before reaching that age of 1 in 1900? Again, how does that help human freedom. We've changed the numbers dramatically with medicine, and yet we are still as free as we have always been.

            https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4838a2.htm

            Let's talk about the same thing here. God doesn't save children from horrible deaths not caused by any human, yet Jesus demands that we help people in need.
            Technology is slowly, but surely, doing what one would expect a good God to do. Also, Christian's expect that God will do this, it's called the parousia

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parousia

            Protestants talk about a 1000 year kingdom where lion will lay with the lamb (no natural evil), but evil Catholics think God will findally defeat evil

            677 The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection.579 The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God's victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven.580 God's triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.581

            What's he waiting for?

          • LHRMSCBrown

            As I just said, the profound nature of evil, all of it, impersonal and personal, natural and otherwise, all which sums to suffering is such a profound and painful reality that one wonders how the Non-Theist retains his unwarranted.......

          • Valence

            Look, I generally consider it rude not to try to respond to the content of someone's post if I respond at all. If you aren't interested in what I have to say, that's perfectly fine, but please don't respond to my comments, then ignore what I say. I appreciate your cooperation in advance :)

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Edit: As I stated to Will, this is all about Sean Carroll, Poetic Naturalism, the illusory, and evil. Hence: part of the goal here is the question of whether or not the Non-Theist can talk about something irreducible, real, actual. Ontic. Not ultimately or cosmically illusory. Namely, *evil*. I don't think Sean Carroll can. In this thread, on this blog, given the topic of Poetic Naturalism, and the illusory, and evil, this is all on point. If you ever getting around to talking about actual, irreducible evil....... I'm not sure you can. And I'm not interested in talking about ultimately / cosmically illusory X's. Why? Because evil is actual/irreducible. Anything less sums to nothing more than some sort of wish fulfillment, or autohypnosis, or cognitive dissonance, or some other such thing on the part of "Non-Theism".

          • LHRMSCBrown

            "If we center the discussion on the consequences of freedom rather than what freedom is, it is far from clear that God has not faltered in his providence." Granting gratuitous evil, in a manner of speaking: It’s either “The Greater Good” route into this world or it’s the freedom-bearing consequential world route into this world. Two PDF’s which are available are “THE NECESSITY OF GRATUITOUS EVIL” by William Hasker and also “The Existence and Irrelevance of Gratuitous Evil”, by Kirk R. MacGregor [ http://www.kirkmacgregor.org/uploads/pc_14-1_macgregor.pdf ]. A brief excerpt: “The absurdity of the Greater-Good Defense is multiplied by its transformation of the universe into a philosophically overdetermined system….. Gratuitous evils are simply a logically unavoidable necessity of contingent living in a freedom-permitting world…… While God can [and does] surely use [even all] of those individual acts of evil for our good, it does not follow that every act of evil that God allows, He allows for the purpose of accomplishing some greater good….. He allows acts of evil, even gratuitous acts of evil, because He values and honors the freedom of our will.”

            Scripture (therein) affirms possible but not necessary evil given God's decree of the Imago Dei with respect to “Man’s” volitional authority to choose not only possible *worlds* with respect to Eden (apparently) but also (obviously) actions. Regarding those actions: clearly Man is contingent and therefore his choices are not infinite, but constrained (limited), however real freedom amid a few million real possibilities will do just fine. Minus God we find that the proverbial box called [All Things], whether good or evil or any amalgamation thereof, which stream out of those acts/choices (on Eden’s implications we can even say worlds apparently) *are* fundamentally and ontologically gratuitous "at bottom" in the relevant sense (ultimately or cosmically illusory meaning-makers). Indeed, but for God and His Hand, “purpose” finds no grounding, and hence “Minus God” leaves all lines gratuitous. But God. Full stop. Therefore, whether one takes the route of “The Greater Good” or whether one takes the route of free will and consequential freedom-bearing worlds, we find [All Things] taken and used by *God*, by "The Good", and, therefore, wherever we may find not only evil, not only good, but anything, we cannot find the ultimately gratuitous.

            It is not the route which makes that an irreducible "ontic-fact", but God. In other words, it is not the Greater Good route nor the free will and freedom-bearing consequential world route which makes the difference. The difference-maker with respect to gratuitous/purposed is the irreducibility of Being with respect to The Good, namely, *God*.

            Then there is this: "If we center the discussion on the consequences of freedom rather than what freedom is, it is far from clear that God has not faltered in his providence." That's from the following:

            Quote:

            The second theodicy is the free-will theodicy. According to the free-will theodicy, God is justified in permitting evil and its consequences because he has to do so if he is to bestow on some of his creatures the incommensurable privilege of being responsible agents who have, in many areas, the capacity to choose as they will, without God, or anyone else (other than themselves), determining which alternative they choose.

            When Adam partakes of the fruit in Genesis 3, the most severe charge brought against God is not that he caused Adam to sin, but that in making Adam significantly free God brought about the possibility that Adam might misappropriate his freedom and choose a course of action that is morally wrong. God is not responsible for Adam’s choices given that Adam was endowed in creation with self-determining free will.

            The ground for denying God’s causing evil is that human freedom is conceptually incompatible with divine determinism (not divine sovereignty).

            Otherwise stated, determined choices are not free. Solidifying a free-will theodicy usually requires assent to the idea that being significantly free is intrinsically valuable rather than fleshing out the value of freedom from how people exercise it, that is, from freedom’s instrumental value. If it is intrinsically better to be significantly free than not, then questions concerning divine decisions in creation are asked and answered; objections from the abuse of freedom are derived from a category confusion regarding freedom’s intrinsic value with the ends that come as a result of misappropriating it. Even so, we value human freedom instrumentally in that it enables us to choose a path for our lives, allows for unique contributions to the human story, and is the source and origin of relationship development. The dissonance about freedom is that we love its benefits and hate its deficits, at least as far as instrumental value is concerned.

            If we center the discussion on the consequences of freedom rather than what freedom is, it is far from clear that God has not faltered in his providence. After all, God could allow immoral actions and then remove the harmful consequences of those actions. Freedom is preserved, and intense suffering is avoided. While such a view agrees that freedom is valuable, it denies that allowing actions to have harmful consequences justifies permitting the free act. For example, if I freely burn down my neighbors’ house while they are on vacation, God can miraculously rebuild the house so that my neighbors never knew or dealt with the ramifications of their house being burned down. Freedom is preserved, and consequences are avoided. Consider the rape and murder of a five-year-old girl. There is nothing logically problematic with asserting that God permits the rapist to commit the rape and to succeed in her subsequent murder, during which God disables the girl from ever being conscious of her rape and strangulation— and revives her upon her death without her ever knowing anything happened to her. Freedom is preserved, and consequences are avoided. Since the visceral reaction against the free-will theodicy centers on the negative consequences of freedom’s application, let us call this new construal of God’s activity a “nonconsequence world.

            Several problems attend a nonconsequence world. First, the objection does not address the free-will theodicy at all but questions the lack of divine intervention. Notice that each suggestion indicates something God can do to mitigate the effects of free decisions, which says nothing at all about the nature of human freedom or the agent performing the act in question. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that we allow the question about divine intervention to remain, and we suggest that God override the consequences of our actions while still permitting our freedom to exist full force. The scenario envisioned here makes our world much like the famous pleasure machine scenario — where all of our experiences are either directly pleasurable or transformed into a pleasurable experience. In such a world we would not have any recourse from committing horrendous evils because we would not know the seriousness of the ensuing harm from acting in such a way.

            Admittedly the moral status of actions is not governed solely by the ends of our actions; however, we certainly deliberate about the consequences of our actions upon the well-being of others and ourselves. In other words, the suggestion that God stamp out bad consequences, albeit a freedom preserving proposal, undermines our ability to make significant moral choices. Proponents of a nonconsequence world should expect God to make acts such as rape a pleasure for the victim either directly through the sex act or indirectly through psychological manipulation. In doing so, another critique is leveraged; the proposal effectually strips the moral accountability between the perpetrator and his victim [*relational* contours are expunged of *love*] as well as what the definition of rape entails. To use a less chafing example, suppose I steal my neighbor’s birdfeeder after a squirrel breaks my own. Before choosing to steal the birdfeeder I recognize that my action is morally wrong — I am not confused about the moral status of the action. Sometime after I steal the birdfeeder, my conscience gets the better of me; I return the birdfeeder to my neighbor (with a bag of birdseed as a gesture). The only discernible response I should receive from my neighbor upon my returning the birdfeeder is one of utter perplexity; for if God replaces the stolen birdfeeder to prevent the material and emotional harm caused by the action, then my ability to set things right will be completely undermined. My neighbor will have no concept of ever having been wronged or perceive any need for apology or remuneration.

            What is more, it is hard to see how I could ever actually discern that my action was worthy of reproach to begin with, for if God “undoes” the negative consequences of evil choices, then presumably the wrongdoer will benefit from this undoing as well. The line of thought is as follows: one of the harmful consequences of my choices is the effects these choices have on me. Not only is it true that malformed decisions adversely affect my character; the ability to concede one evil action makes it more probable that I will make another concession in my future deliberations and choices. In an effort to stall this decline of character, God must undo the harmful effects of my own choices on me. Such an action would be a literal divine recreation of my character such that any of my future wrong decisions would have nothing to do with my previous deliberations and choices. For this suggestion to pass muster, God would have to be the ultimate revisionist historian. These reasons, and more, provide compelling grounds to question the claim that God can undo the harmful nature of free decisions while guarding the integrity of freedom itself.

            End quote. Evans, Jeremy A. (2013-03-01). The Problem of Evil: The Challenge to Essential Christian Beliefs (B&h Studies in Christian Apologetics).

            Finally,

            Expunging evil from reality: Everything in the aforementioned quotes (etc.) is all only a segue into something far more pervasive, something which is, in fact, all subsuming. It is factually the case that suffering, evil, lack, and, lest the Non-Theist means only to play games here, the ontology of irreducible lack vis-à-vis suffering, in what factually is nothing less than actual/irreducible evil, carries us into the semantics of privation. And those semantics (privation) cannot evade the semantics of God dissolving said hollow, said privation, by filling it with Himself, that is to say, such cannot avoid the semantics of saturation, of His pouring-out, of His in-filling, to the bitter ends of time and physicality. In a word – incarnation. The (only possible) necessary and all sufficient means.

  • "A third problem is that if determinism is true, and none of our
    thoughts, conclusions, or actions are freely derived, then there's no
    reason to believe our views actually correspond to reality."

    This is the case irrespective of whether we have free will or not.

    • "This is the case irrespective of whether we have free will or not."

      I disagree. I think it is significantly more likely our beliefs correspond to reality if those beliefs are freely chosen through rational reflection.

      • George

        what do you mean freely choose?

        • "What do you mean freely choose?"

          To make a decision that is not rigidly determined.

          • George

            what difference does "rigidly" make?

            if by "outside factors" you imply there are "inside factors" for our decisions, did we choose to make those inside factors what they are, or are those inside factors determined by outside factors?

          • "what difference does "rigidly" make?"

            I used that word because a decision can be somewhat determined by other influences, while still allowing an element of free will. Rigidly means that a decision is entirely determined.

            "if by "outside factors" you imply there are "inside factors" for our decisions, did we choose to make those inside factors what they are, or are those inside factors determined by outside factors?"

            Sorry, I edited my comment immediately after I posted it because I realized "outside factors" could be interpreted to imply their are inside factors that don't matter in regards to determinism.

            A better version of my view is the version above: a choice is freely made if that decision was not rigidly determined.

      • Doug Shaver

        I think it is significantly more likely our beliefs correspond to reality if those beliefs are freely chosen through rational reflection.

        Do you think rational reflection is irrelevant if it is not freely chosen?

      • Why? I would repeat Doug's question. it would seem that the justification you advance is based on rational reflection, what does adding the word "free" do?

  • LHRMSCBrown

    Irreducible volition or the first-person’s proverbial free will, as we look at our Non-Theist friend’s (all too common) equivocations where the box ["I reason! I think! I will!"] is concerned, and as we look at our perceived interactions or interfaces, appears to go nowhere in particular for – on Non-Theism – apparently one factually can factually have one’s factual cake and factually eat it too, factually simultaneously. Regarding said factual cake, said factual eating, said factual simultaneousness, and the denial fueling such attempts the move by our Non-Theist friend of merely redefining terms in order to salvage hope for his paradigm and so “get by” within his own paradigm’s means and ends is fine, and – yes – that move *does* allow him to retain a kind of pseudo-veridical posture in that retreat into those same means and ends. But then autohypnosis or wish-fulfillment or whatever one calls such denial often does successfully pull off that sort of non-ontological work. But non-ontological work just isn't, in the end, productive.

    “Free will doesn't exist; it's an illusion…..The naturalist would also claim that free will doesn't exist because, at the lowest level of reality, the fermions that make up our bodies are subject to only the four fundamental forces of nature. There is no room for *you* to control their behavior.” (by A. Ginn) Indeed, first person causality unpacks to that which is ultimately or cosmically illusory where the box ["I reason! I think! I will!"] is concerned.

    “Fundamental interactions, also known as fundamental forces, are the interactions in physical systems that do not appear to be reducible to more basic interactions. There are four conventionally accepted fundamental interactions—gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear. Each one is understood as the dynamics of a field. The gravitational force is modelled as a continuous classical field. The other three are each modelled as discrete quantum fields, and exhibit a measurable unit or elementary particle. The two nuclear interactions produce strong forces at minuscule, subatomic distances. The strong nuclear interaction is responsible for the binding of atomic nuclei. The weak nuclear interaction also acts on the nucleus, mediating radioactive decay. Electromagnetism and gravity produce significant forces at macroscopic scales where the effects can be seen directly in everyday life. Electrical and magnetic fields tend to cancel each other out when large collections of objects are considered, so over the largest distances (on the scale of planets and galaxies), gravity tends to be the dominant force.”

    Also, “TFBW” offered this general capture of the argument from personal identity: “The argument from personal identity is, perhaps, one of the reasons that atheists like Sam Harris embrace a kind of Buddhism which specifically denies that there is any “self”. As with the argument from consciousness, the general counter-argument (if one can call it that) can be summarized in one word: denial. Any semblance of contrary evidence is summarily dismissed as “illusion”. Sam Harris also uses meditation to back up his claim, as there are meditative states in which the “self” seems to disappear. Other than the fact that they support his preferred belief, it’s not clear why Harris thinks that these special states are more veridical than everything else we experience. He calls his meditative activity “scrutiny”; I’m inclined to think of it as an abnormal brain state of questionable reliability.”

    “Why Searle Is a Property Dualist" by Feser observes the following: “Neural processes also have by Searle’s reckoning a third-person ontology. But consciousness and other mental phenomena do not; they have instead what he calls a “first-person ontology,” being essentially subjective or “private,” directly accessible only to the subject undergoing conscious experiences. There is thus an essential difference between conscious phenomena and all uncontroversially physical phenomena – the former, being essentially subjective, cannot be identified with or reduced to any subset of the latter, which are essentially objective. Searle, again, acknowledges this: “The property dualist and I are in agreement that consciousness is ontologically irreducible” (2002, p. 60). Consciousness is, unlike solidity, not identical to the microphysical structures which cause it. But then property dualism seems unavoidable. If the physical processes which cause consciousness are objective third-person phenomena, and consciousness and other mental phenomena are subjective or first-person in nature, it is reasonable to describe the latter as being of a fundamentally different kind than the former. That is, it is reasonable to say that there exists in the universe a dualism of properties. If what all uncontroversially physical properties have in common is precisely their objective or third-person character, it is reasonable too to regard that character as what is essential to being physical – in which case mental properties, being essentially subjective, would necessarily count as non-physical…...” (from http://www.edwardfeser.com/unpublishedpapers/searle.html “Why Searle Is a Property Dualist” by E. Feser [Paper presented at the American Philosophical Association Pacific Division meeting in Pasadena, CA, March 24-28, 2004]

    On the usual appeals to cocaine, trauma, and so forth, (trying to equate first person to third person etc.) we find that, so far, [A] [equals] [B] is false – as in mind/particle – and no physicalist has given reasons for us to have thoughts about those reasons which obligate us to believe him. It’s even worse than that given that [A] “is related to” [B] ipso facto annihilates any identity claim of A = B, and, of course, the Christian predicts just such relation and therefore his model gains plausibility given that science affirms [A] “is related to” [B] where the physical impacts brain states (cocaine, trauma, etc.).

    “....The more fundamental point, though, to be made about these experiments [interactions etc.] is that it struck me very forcefully as I contemplated these experiments [interactions, etc.] that this is exactly what the dualist-interactionist would expect to happen.....”

    As for the question of "what is causing what" and as for the question of "what is controlling what" as we unpack all interactions and all interfaces, well there is on Non-Theism no room left for anything but reality’s four fundamental interactions/forces. Just as “irreducible evil” is ultimately or cosmically illusory in that paradigm, so too is it the case that first person causality unpacks to that which is ultimately or cosmically illusory where the box ["I reason! I think! I will!"] is concerned.

    The move by our Non-Theist friend of merely redefining terms in order to salvage hope for his paradigm and so “get by” within his own paradigm’s means and ends is fine, and – yes – that move *does* allow him to retain a kind of pseudo-veridical posture in that retreat into those same means and ends. But then autohypnosis or wish-fulfillment or whatever one calls such denial often does successfully pull off that sort of non-ontological work. But non-ontological work just isn't, in the end, productive.

  • George

    So what if we aren't morally "praiseworthy", and where is the argument that we abolish prisons or do something similarly drastic just because we "can't blame the criminals"? There's a thing called rehabilitation, and nothing about dropping concepts like retribution and revenge from the prison system precludes it.

    Do you want to love your enemies or not? Are you called to love your enemies or not? What makes loving your enemies easier?

    "Most people will find this vision frightening." Does that determine how we should rationally act? How should we continue the discussion in light of Brandon Vogt's "chilling" view of the future?

    "There's nothing in principle stopping Carroll and others from punishing thought crimes".

    Giordano Bruno.

    • "So what if we aren't morally "praiseworthy"?"

      Do you think there is anything objectively good about a man who risks his life to save a child trapped in a burning house? How about a soldier who goes off to war to defend our country? What about the young woman who donates her kidney to a total stranger?

      Are all of those acts morally neutral, or do they have some moral value worth praising? If you think those people are worthy of praise, as I do, why?

      "There's a thing called rehabilitation, and nothing about dropping concepts like retribution and revenge from the prison system precludes it."

      Suppose a man commits a vicious rape and murder, but then afterwards is sorry, he repents, and we have strong reason to think he will never commit that crime again. If he's already rehabilitated, and if there is no ground for moral blame, does that mean he should avoid any punishment? If not, why?

      ""Most people will find this vision frightening." Does that determine how we should rationally act? How should we continue the discussion in light of Brandon Vogt's "chilling" view of the future?"

      I'm simply posing the question to each reader, including you: would you embrace a system of government where babies were murdered for future crimes they hadn't yet committed, but were seemingly determined to commit? Because on principle, that's what Carroll's vision implies.

      • Doug Shaver

        would you embrace a system of government where babies were murdered for future crimes they hadn't yet committed, but were seemingly determined to commit?

        Is determinism really the issue in this thought experiment? Suppose you were present at the birth of Adolf Hitler, and someone you knew to be a divinely inspired prophet said to you: "If this child is allowed to live, he will, on his own free will, cause a war in which several tens of millions will die, about half of whom will be civilians."

        • "Suppose you were present at the birth of Adolf Hitler, and someone you knew to be a divinely inspired prophet said to you: "If this child is allowed to live, he will, on his own free will, cause a war in which several tens of millions will die, about half of whom will be civilians."

          Yes, determinism is the issue.

          I'm not sure the situation you proposed is logically possible, but even if it was, I would not murder the child. It is always wrong to perform evil, even to bring about an apparently greater good. I would not want to live in a society where (1) you were punished for crimes even before you would ever commit them and (2) you punish innocent people to prevent worse future evils.

          • Doug Shaver

            Yes, determinism is the issue.

            I fail to see its moral relevance here.

            It is always wrong to perform evil, even to bring about an apparently greater good.

            I was talking about preventing an obviously greater evil, but if you think the prevention of evil is always a good thing, I won't argue that point. What I still don't get is why it matters whether the evil was determined or the result of someone's exercise of free will, assuming that it's possible to know in either case that the evil will occur absent some particular act of intervention.

  • David Nickol

    As I read Brandon Vogt, he has a fundamental disagreement with Sean Carroll over what is real and what is illusion. He interprets Carroll to believe (in spite of what Carroll actually says) that what exists on the most "fundamental level" is what is "real," and whatever is "emergent" is illusion. Thus, for Brandon, since according to Carroll, free will does not exist at the quantum level or the atomic level, then it follows that, also according to Carroll, free will isn't "real."

    For those who do not have access to Sean Carroll's book, there is an essay on his blog titled Free Will Is as Real as Baseball. I think this excerpt is very helpful in elucidating Carroll's view on what he believes is real and not real:

    But I also don’t think that “playing a necessary role in every effective description of the world” is a very good way of defining “existence” or “reality.” If there is anything that modern physics has taught us, it’s that it’s very often possible to discuss a single situation in two or more completely different (but equivalent) ways. Duality in particle physics is probably the most carefully-defined example, but the same idea holds in more familiar contexts. When we talk about air in a room, we can describe it by listing the properties of each and every molecule, or we speak in coarse-grained terms about things like temperature and pressure. One description is more “fundamental,” in that its regime of validity is wider; but both have a regime of validity, and as long as we are in that regime, the relevant concepts have a perfectly good claim to “existing.” It would be silly to say that temperature isn’t “real,” just because the concept doesn’t appear in some fine-grained vocabulary.

    We talk about the world using different levels of description, appropriate to the question of interest. Some levels might be thought of as “fundamental” and others as “emergent,” but they are all there. Does baseball exist? It’s nowhere to be found in the Standard Model of particle physics. But any definition of “exist” that can’t find room for baseball seems overly narrow to me. It’s true that we could take any particular example of a baseball game and choose to describe it by listing the exact quantum state of each elementary particle contained in the players and the bat and ball and the field etc. But why in the world would anyone think that is a good idea? The concept of baseball is emergent rather than fundamental, but it’s no less real for all of that. [Boldface added.]

    As I understand Brandon (and I know he will correct me if I am wrong . . . or, for that matter, even if I am right :P) he does believe "playing a necessary role in every effective description of the world" is the way of defining “existence” or “reality.”

    • "He interprets Carroll to believe (in spite of what Carroll actually says..."

      To be clear, I quoted what he actually says. I just disagree with it. Suppose a man says "I was born in July" at one moment, and "I was born in November" at another moment, and then says, "There is no contradiction between these claims." Even though the man says there is no contradiction, does that mean he's right? I acknowledge that Carroll thinks a fact can be real at the fundamental level of reality and another contradictory fact can be real at emergent levels. I just disagree, and I've offered many reasons why.

      "Thus, for Brandon, since according to Carroll, free will does not exist at the quantum level or the atomic level, then it follows that, also according to Carroll, free will isn't "real.""

      Yes, I think this is a fair summary. If free will does not exist at the fundamental level, I struggle to see how any of our daily reference to "free will" language is anything but useful fiction. It may be conceptually real--and real only in that sense--but inaccurate at best, and illusory at worse.

      "Some levels might be thought of as “fundamental” and others as “emergent,” but they are all there. Does baseball exist? It’s nowhere to be found in the Standard Model of particle physics. But any definition of “exist” that can’t find room for baseball seems overly narrow to me."

      Ironically, I think this comparison undermines Carroll's own case. As quoted in this article, he admits in his book that everything could be reducible to fundamental reality, in principle, IF we had the knowledge of Laplace's Demon. In other words, fundamental reality does determine everything, but we're forced to use emergent language and concepts only because we don't have access to this fundamental information. Thus for Laplace's Demon, there would not be such a thing as baseball.

      But there is baseball. We all agree on that.

      So Carroll is therefore forced to hold two contradictory things in tension, his naturalism and the existence of concepts like baseball. The result is poetic naturalism, a position which doesn't resolve the tension--it just dismisses it.

      • Doug Shaver

        Even though the man says there is no contradiction, does that mean he's right?

        Of course his say-so doesn't make it so, but sometimes reasonable people disagree about whether two statements are actually contradictory.

        Many skeptics attempt to argue against the divine inspiration of scripture by pointing out certain of the Bible's contradictions. Christian apologists routinely respond by calling them "apparent contradictions," in effect stipulating that they seem inconsistent while arguing that, when they are properly understood, they are not actually contradictory. Do you agree with those apologists that the Bible contains no actual contradictions? And if so, do you think skeptics are being unreasonable in thinking that there are some contradictions in the Bible?

  • David Nickol

    Even if I, a theist, read Carroll's book and become convinced
    that poetic naturalism was true, I couldn't freely reject my theism, no
    matter what I chose or how hard I tried—I'm simply determined to believe
    what I believe.

    What is wrong with this picture?

    • "What is wrong with this picture?"

      Nothing, if determinism is true. Do you disagree? It would be helpful if you stated your own beliefs instead of posing rhetorical questions.

      • George

        Why do you think people's mind cannot change under determinism?

        • It can, but not freely. I can't freely deliberate between two alternatives and make a rational decision. Determined beings don't reason.

          • Valence

            Can you freely chose to stop being a theist? Try it. I bet you can't. Does that mean you don't have free will with regard to theism?

          • "Can you freely chose to stop being a theist? Try it. I bet you can't. Does that mean you don't have free will with regard to theism?"

            Yes. I can freely choose to stop being a theist if, after rationally examining the evidence for and against God, I decide that the evidence is in favor of atheism.

            However, arbitrarily choosing something you know to be false is not real freedom; it's slavery.

          • Valence

            Yes. I can freely choose to stop being a theist if, after rationally examining the evidence for and against God, I decide that the evidence is in favor of atheism.

            What exactly factors into your decision that the evidence is in favor of atheism or theism? Would it be a correct interpretation of your statement to say that your choice to be a theist or atheist is determined by your decision about the evidence, which is, in turn, determined (at least in part) by the evidence itself? If the evidence determines your belief, isn't that determinism, at least in a sense?
            Imagine some major piece of evidence that could convince you that God doesn't exist. Wouldn't encountering that evidence determine your choice? I'm not seeing a whole lot of freedom there, but maybe that's just me.

            However, arbitrarily choosing something you know to be false is not real freedom; it's slavery.

            Slavery to what? To be in slavery, one must be a slave to something. Rational people are enslaved to the evidence combined with their models of how to interpret the evidence. If just choose regardless of evidence or model, what are you enslaved to?

          • George

            So what were the first parents enslaved to when they supposedly rejected god?

          • Doug Shaver

            I can freely choose to stop being a theist if, after rationally examining the evidence for and against God, I decide that the evidence is in favor of atheism.

            Do you mean that you could freely choose either to believe whatever the evidence supports or to ignore the evidence and believe something else?

          • Valence

            P.S. Reason only works with determinism. Originally, the concept of determinism was a derivative of the principle of sufficient reason. Without determinism, I don't think reason would work, as things would be random...

          • Doug Shaver

            Determined beings don't reason.

            Our definitions of "reason" must differ.

      • David Nickol

        Nothing, if determinism is true. Do you disagree? It would be helpful if you stated your own beliefs instead of posing rhetorical questions.

        As has been pointed out before, you seem sometimes to confuse determinism with fate or destiny, or in this case with being some kind of prisoner inside a mind/body that prevents you from doing what you really want to do. I don't think anyone who advocates determinism would describe people as consciously struggling against it but knowing they are doomed to failure. (That can be done, though, with fate or destiny. Oedipus, for example.) You sound a bit here like the high school friend I described earlier who didn't even try to get up early on Sundays to go to Mass, because he knew he had no free will and would not succeed in getting up no matter how hard he tried.

        Determinists don't believe we struggle against determinism and fail. And they certainly don't believe we are aware of struggling against determinism and failing. Those who are aware of struggling with themselves are those who do believe in free will, such as St. Paul when he says, "What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate."

        • I am a determinist and I agree with this. I struggle for example to not eat so much. But both the instinct to eat and the thoughts I have struggling with it are determined. If I were to stop eating too much and eat healthy etc. I would not consider this a victory of free will over instinct, but a victory of rationality over instinct.

          • Mike

            doesn't rationality presuppose some measure of free will? afterall how can you reason if you aren't free to weigh various logical possibilities?

          • Valence

            It depends on how you define free will, but weighing possibilities to determine the best one is basically a mathematical optimization problem that computers excel at.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optimization_problem

            Quantum computers are expected to be exceptionally good at optimization problems.

            http://www.dwavesys.com/quantum-computing/applications

            We can be confident in saying that free will isn't required for optimization, by anyone's definition.

            Free will is quite compatible with determinism if it is defined in a reasonable way. Certain definitions (like if we rewound time, we could have done differently) are incompatible. Most philosophers today are compatibilists.

            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/compatibilism/

          • Mike

            free will is not req for optimization once the parameters of optimization have been set but why those parameters and not others? can a program do the 'wrong' thing come to the wrong conclusion? no not based on the strict code but a person can. a person can WILL the wrong thing and do it in the face of the overwhelming evidence for ex i can choose to leave my office right now and get loaded on gin and tonic and come back to work a total mess.

            the sense of free will you're working with i suspect only applies to God as God 'knows' all and so in a sense everything had to work out this way but not to us i don't believe.

          • Valence

            a person can WILL the wrong thing and do it in the face of the overwhelming evidence for ex i can choose to leave my office right now and get loaded on gin and tonic and come back to work a total mess.

            So far we generally agree, free will isn't required for rationally weighing options and picking the best, as long as the goals are already set. I think what we call "will" is related to goals and certainly we have a huge range of choice when it comes to those goals, at least in certain areas. We don't seem all that free to escape certain instincts (like survival) but we will set that aside.
            I agree that you think you can "will" yourself to just walk away from work right now, but can you really? The only way to be sure that you really can is to do it, but can you just "do it" without weighing the consequences rationally and deciding against it because of the risk of getting fired? I know I can't, the rational forces in my brain prevent me from doing it as that decision would certainly not optimize my future happiness, and proving that I could means little to me. Thus, here I am not free, but that doesn't mean there isn't freedom in other, less obvious situations. I suspect you aren't very free to walk out either, but you have to answer that one yourself. Some people are absurdly impulsive and irrational...perhaps these people are more "free" than the rest of us, but that isn't necessarily a good thing, and even then, just because rationality isn't driving the ship, it doesn't mean that base level instincts aren't.

            This, and other subjects in philosophy of mind get quite complex, and often don't lead to yes or no answers to questions like "Does free will exist". Whether free will exists or not, the world still is the way it is.

          • Mike

            "here I am not free," i don't know i still think i am free to get blitzed at lunch today. i could lie to my self and say that i really need to unwind and let lose just this one time and live dangerously. i like drinking so this would be very easy for me from one perspective.

            isn't there a story of kant walking all the bridges somewhere to prove to himself he had free will. btw just bc i don't in the end decide to get loaded doesn't to me mean i didn't have that choice before me. YOS a commentator on here points out that you're will is undetermined to the extent you don't have all information. if you had all information you would have no free will which i think i agree with. that's why we have moral responsibility but it can be very much mitigated if we are ignorant of something.

            yeah to me it is absurdly obvious a tautology self evident that free will does exist. even if in some weird way it doesn't we are 100% justified in pretending it does.

            but all this focus on denying free will is just too much scientism anyway and gets things all backwards. there is more to life/reality than bosons and fermions.

          • Valence

            btw just bc i don't in the end decide to get loaded doesn't to me mean i didn't have that choice before me.

            Free will isn't about having choices, it's about what factors into how you decide. Computers make choices all the time (think a self driving car deciding on the optimal route to take), but that doesn't mean they are free to choose whatever. Part of what constitute free will, in my mind, is the fact that we have conflicting goals (in addition insufficient information in many cases, as you mention). What causes us to prioritize one goal over another at any given moment? Answering that question gets complicated, and it often can't be fully answered even by the person making the decision.

            but all this focus on denying free will is just too much scientism anyway and gets things all backwards. there is more to life/reality than bosons and fermions.

            Sure, and there is more to a house than bricks, cement, wood and sheetrock, even though a house is made out of those things. It has a specific form/structure in addition to the building blocks. Most of the arguments in philosophy today are related to how to think about form/structure. Even if determinism is true, one cannot discount the complex form/structure of the human brain and it's causal connection to decision making (Aristotle would call it a formal cause). Fermions give rise to atoms, and their structure and interactions give rise to molecules, then we get to cells (and there are many different types of neurons), then we get to tissues that are structured in complex ways even within the brain, and so on. The causal chain is enormously complex, even if only it's only made out of fields. The fallacy of composition is thinking the whole can't have properties the parts don't.

            I would add that it's also a mistake, I think, to think mind = brain. The dominant paradigm in philosophy of mind is functionalism, which states the mind is what the brain does...it's a process in time. Confusing mind for brain would be like confusing the stomach for digestion. Digestion is what the stomach does. Time is required for thinking (just like digestion) as a frozen brain couldn't think, even though all of the structure is there. Functionalism is agnostic to substance, though most functionalist think there is only one substance due to no account of how two different substances could interact. In a way, what you call "you" can be considered to be the flow of energy that is directed by the brain. If something else could direct energy in the same ways, it would also be your mind, allowing for multiple realizability in minds. Multiple realizability doesn't work on eliminative materialism which we often see criticized by Christians for good reason. We are still considered physicalists, but it's annoying to constantly have to fend off accusations of eliminative materialism when that certainly isn't my position :)

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_realizability

            Believe it or not, functionalism finds it's roots in Aristotle:

            This doctrine is rooted in Aristotle's conception of the soul, and has antecedents in Hobbes's conception of the mind as a “calculating machine”, but it has become fully articulated (and popularly endorsed) only in the last third of the 20th century.

            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/functionalism/

            Functionalism is an infinitely harder target than problematic philosophies like eliminative materialism (proponents of this are Daniel Dennett and the Churchlands.

          • Mike

            i hear you.

            don't you think that the potential say for hydrogen must at least be in fermions etc in some potential sense? i mean if fermions and bosons can result in my brain etc and 'me' then surely my brain and 'me' are somehow potentially in them no?

            otherwise why this structure and not another, why similar things like species and human brains which can communicate and not just random weird heads walking around or whatever. surely there is some principle that is working on constraining those emergent properties and as a result we get all this amazing order in the universe.

            i personally don't think it makes logical sense to say that if you pile up enough grapefruits you'll get a strawberry one day or that if you wire up enough computers the 'internet' will become conscious UNLESS there is already some potential in grapefruits or computers to become those things at a certain critical point. but now i don't think one can avoid talk of platonic forms as how else are things the unique specific things that they are. the world is a giant excel vlookup table: if this arrangement do this if that arrangement do that. how do electrons 'know' that in one pattern they are to have these properties say of water but in another pattern they are to be salt or whatever? they don't except by reference to that excel vlookup table ie platonic form.

          • Jeffrey G. Johnson

            I think rather than platonic forms you need to think about how natural selection works.

          • Mike

            but what is this Nature of which you speak? does it have a goal? it seems to 'favor' fitness and lots of kids and diversity, how is that possible? has something encoded it with those parameters?

          • Valence

            The vast majority of the material of the universe are stars and black holes, so it seems to favor star creation above all else. One interesting theory of life (that can be backed up pretty well with physics and mathematics) is that it is a product of the progress of energy, as life is exceptionally good at freeing up trapped energy and increasing entropy. One could regard life as a by-product, on this view, but it's way early to be confident.

          • Mike

            "progress of energy" ok sounds like you agree that energy has telos a direction a goal it is progressing to something. how is that possible in your opinion and doesn't that suggest at least that there seems to be some purpose underlying physical reality?

            stars form according to incredibly complex and ordered patterns and relationships described by the equations of physics. they are apparently if you understand them very well quite beautiful. this book gets into that: https://www.amazon.ca/Beautiful-Question-Finding-Natures-Design/dp/1594205264

          • Jeffrey G. Johnson

            what is this Nature of which you speak? does it have a goal?

            You made a large leap beyond anything I meant by linking the word "natural" to a personal noun "Nature". By capitalizing you make a subtle anthropomorphic gesture, and by thinking in terms of goals, it seems to me you think of "Nature" as being in some way equivalent to "God".

            In my post I only used the adjective "natural", which means that selection occurs without artifice, without the intentions of a creator. It occurs in the same way a falling object falls toward the earth rather than away from it, without the need of any intervention by a thinking being.

            So I'm not speaking of any "Nature" you may envision, and the answer is no, it has no goals. It functions according to the laws of physics.

            it seems to 'favor' fitness and lots of kids and diversity, how is that possible?

            It is possible in the same way it is possible that 2 + 2 = 4. It is a simple fact of our Universe. You are correct that it only "seems" to favor things. That is because you are applying human psychological concepts and values and projecting them onto natural selection.

            It simply is a fact that given a physical environment having certain characteristics, such as geological structure, soil composition, temperature and weather based on location, etc. that some organisms have the physical characteristics to thrive while others die out.

            Many more die than survive. It is a harsh calculus of life and death that determines what organisms successfully reproduce. Here it is important to note the incremental aspect of the process. Each surviving organism stands on tall shoulders so to speak. They did not come out of nowhere. They were born already containing DNA that encoded their characteristics, a base of information that was refined by billions of iterations over 3.5 billion years. Each iteration simply followed physical laws as surely as falling rain or exploding stars follow physical laws.

            There is no evidence that there is any goal or intention in any of it. And likewise, even if we consider that the universe and the laws of physics and all the matter and energy in the universe were somehow "created" in some initial moment by some primal cause, there is no reason to assume that it was done with any intention or plan or any other human mental analog. There is no reason to assume that intelligence must precede the existence of material. It appears to be the other way around, that the evolution of intelligence was a by-product of the structure of matter and energy and their rules for interacting in our universe.

          • Mike

            yes i agree that selection is natural ie not artificial and not guided at least not directly; it just happens. but what accounts for the genetic mutations which are required for this to take place. are they totally random? i've read that they are not. that for ex certain animals are placed in new envs and in very few generations grow adaptations. this seems to show that mutations whatever their mechanism are not totally 'random'. either way nature or whatever you want to call it seems to reward more and more complex life as we are at the top of the food chain and life is getting MORE complex as time passes not less.

            not intelligence but something purely actual must proceed potential which is matter.

            if we are the result of a totally unguided process how can we be justified in trusting our mental faculties which are also the total result of an unguided random purposeless process? maybe my brain "just is" wired to believe and value traditional morality and while yours "just is" not? maybe some ppl "just are" wired to hate trump or clinton or whatever?

            i am just wondering how conceptually get out of the conundrum if we concede that what brought us into being has zero purpose intention goals etc.

          • Valence

            First, it's important not to confuse Aristotle's concept of forms with the Platonic version. The article I linked on functionalism accurately says:

            The earliest view that can be considered an ancestor of functionalism is Aristotle's theory of the soul (350 BCE). In contrast to Plato's claim that the soul can exist apart from the body, Aristotle argued (De Anima Bk. II, Ch. 1) that the (human) soul is the form of a natural, organized human body — the set of powers or capacities that enable it to express its “essential whatness”, which for Aristotle is a matter of fulfilling the function or purpose that defines it as the kind of thing it is. Just as the form of an axe is whatever enables it to cut, and the form of an eye is whatever enables it to see, the (human) soul is to be identified with whichever powers and capacities enable a natural, organized human body to fulfill its defining function, which, according to Aristotle, is to survive and flourish as a living, acting, perceiving, and reasoning being. So, Aristotle argues, the soul is inseparable from the body, and comprises whichever capacities are required for a body to live, perceive, reason, and act.

            Aristotle's form is in the thing, not in some "world of forms". Aristotle's position is basically that of modern physicalism. Thomism also makes a break here with Aristotle when it comes to the survival of the rational soul after the demise of the body due to the belief that the intellect isn't tied to any bodily organ, which one can certainly argue was a mistake.

            otherwise why this structure and not another, why similar things like species and human brains which can communicate and not just random weird heads walking around or whatever. surely there is some principle that is working on constraining those emergent properties and as a result we get all this amazing order in the universe.

            We think everything on earth is "normal" because normal is defined by our experience, and our experience comes from earth. There could be drastically different version of life on other planets out there that evolved in a very different environment that what is here on earth....on that planet, such would be "normal". In general, this relates to the anthropic principle, which is a huge topic in itself.

            i personally don't think it makes logical sense to say that if you pile up enough grapefruits you'll get a strawberry one day or that if you wire up enough computers the 'internet' will become conscious UNLESS there is already some potential in grapefruits or computers to become those things at a certain critical point.

            I agree. I'm not sure what you are getting at with the grapefruits, but just connecting things together isn't going to yield consciousness because the required structures aren't in place, and that isn't even the goal of the internet. We also wouldn't want the internet to suddenly come alive....what would it do then?

            how do electrons 'know' that in one pattern they are to have these properties say of water but in another pattern they are to be salt or whatever?

            The electrons are bound to atoms due to the charge of the nucleus. Hydrogen, oxygen, sodium, and chlorine all have a different number of protons in the nucleus (i.e. they have different forms) thus are bound to a different number of electrons which behave in fairly complex ways depending on the number. The primary key to chemical interactions are the electrons in the outer shell called valence electrons . Yes, that's exactly where my screen name comes from :)

            Of course, now that your first questions are answered, you can certainly ask more about these explanations, and eventually every physical theory bottoms out in what appear to be brute fact...facts with no explanation themselves. Of course, this doesn't mean that they are brute facts, as eventually an explanation may be discovered. Theists propose that all explanations eventually bottom out in God, but could God be identical to the universe itself (perhaps plus more). Could the mind of God be the laws of physics themselves? That's how Albert Einstein saw it...who knows. I am agnostic (greek meaning "without knowledge") because final explanations seem currently out of reach of our knowledge, we can only speculate.

          • Jeffrey G. Johnson

            There are two ways this debate resembles the one about geo-centrism vs. helio-centrism.

            1. The truth is quite different from what our intuitive perceptions tell us. Even though it seems like the sun goes around the earth, we know that new information has reversed that belief. It seems like we freely will, as if disconnected from physical determinism, yet all the evidence of neuro-science and medicine suggest that all human cognitive functions depend only on the physical brain.

            2. Even though we may believe a lot is at stake based on the outcome (for example the basis for morality), the reality is unchanged by human perceptions. It remains what it is independent of our beliefs. In other words, even though many people once believed that much would be lost if it turned out the earth was not the center of the Universe, the everyday reality of the earth orbiting the sun continued on unperturbed by human beliefs. Humans behave as they do, and will continue to do so, including exhibiting moral behavior, even if determinism is entirely true.

            It's very important to define what is meant by "free will". I agree that we appear to have free will, based on our subjective experience and our intuitions about that experience. I agree that compatibilist free will, what Dennet calls the "kind of free will worth having" exists, in that our deterministic processes allow us to exert control and autonomy calculated to be in our own best interests (unlike stones), but it is not free of determinism. It's just that the deterministic biochemical neural processes are complex enough that they can take into account all our experience, memory, identity, hopes, interests, goals, etc. None of that says the results weren't determined by the state of our brain at the time we make a decision, but we feel the decision has the freedom we need to do what we want (even though we may not be able to will what we want).

            What people usually are talking about when they say we do not have free will, is that we do not have a ghost in the machine, a spirit or soul, an intelligence based on substance dualism that is absolutely free of causation and physical determination when it decides things. It may feel that way, but this is the thing that opponents of free will dispute.

            There are a couple of thought experiments I've found useful in overcoming the gut level reactions to determinism.

            Imagine a lottery in which the winning number has already been selected by some random process, and locked in an impenetrable vault. No human knows the number, and no human can open the vault to discover it. Now sell the lottery tickets just as they are normally sold in real lotteries, where the number has yet to be drawn. Is anything changed by the fact that the winning number has already been determined? Wouldn't an "opening of the vault" ceremony to reveal the predetermined number have the same kind of suspense and excitement as the ritual of watching the bouncing balls? So not knowing the determined future seems to be as good as having an indeterminate future.

            With respect to whether our deterministic decisions matter in the outcome of events, imagine inhabiting a physical deterministic world in which you are reacting to a complex environment and making complex self-interested decisions based on complex biochemical neural processes, and performing actions that effect others in this environment. However everything is determined, so a Laplace's Daemon could actually predict future events, even though no human can. Suddenly you are instantaneously erased from this world. The future course of events in this deterministic world are suddenly changed by your absence.

            This means that even though we are inclined to react in horror at determinism because we think it means our decisions and actions are meaningless, and that we are helpless, this example shows that is wrong. We matter, and we change things by our presence and the exercise of our unique deterministic will.

          • No, I do not think so. A pocket calculator is rational, but you wouldn't say it has free will.

            Moreover a chess playing computer weighs various alternatives and chooses one. That isn't free will is it?

          • Mike

            ok so then i don't really 'choose' to believe that atheist philosophies are incoherent/muddled whatever - it's just the way i am wired to think? maybe ppl are bigots or racists bc that's simply the way they are 'meant' to be the way they are wired and that's that?

            if reason is just the slave of the passions then might just is right no? i can't understand how that isn't what is entailed by the view that you are suggesting is correct.

          • David Nickol

            ok so then i don't really 'choose' to believe that atheist philosophies are incoherent/muddled whatever - it's just the way i am wired to think?

            If you freely choose what to believe, could you do a demonstration for us and voluntarily change one of your current beliefs?

            Addendum: I am not necessarily denying free will. I am just questioning what it could possibly mean to choose one's beliefs.

          • Mike

            yes i currently believe that hillary will win in nov by a slim margin but otoh i actually think that dem voters will stay home as obama is not on the ballot and trump will end up winning it by a slim margin.

            is this the kind of thing you mean? ps i used to think that felons deserved the right to vote but changed my mind about that.

          • David Nickol

            is this the kind of thing you mean?

            No, I did not mean opinions. I meant beliefs.

            yes i currently believe that hillary will win in nov by a slim margin but otoh i actually think that dem voters will stay home as obama is not on the ballot and trump will end up winning it by a slim margin.

            Are you telling me that in that paragraph, you changed your belief (opinion) from believing that Hillary will be the winner to believing that Trump will be the winner? And what is your belief two hours later? This does not even sound much like expressing an opinion as stating two plausible scenarios and wavering between them.

            ps i used to think that felons deserved the right to vote but changed my mind about that.

            This is most certainly an opinion, not a belief. But as a demonstration of your control over your opinions and beliefs, could you please again?

            Are you saying that theists choose to believe in God and atheists choose not to? Can you as a theist choose not to believe in God?

          • Mike

            ok i am not sure what you mean. i used to believe that traditional ppl were bigots. in 2008 i was a typical hard lefty who mocked traditional ppl incessantly. then my beliefs changed for a variety of reasons some having to do with willful reassessment of my assumptions.

            yes i can choose not to believe in God but to me the evidence points decisively in the direction of God existing.

            are you saying that all of my beliefs are not really mine but have been kind of programmed into me? that's a very radical stance to take no? i mean if that's true then we are all just cogs in a machine with out any choice in who we end up marrying how we end up living, voting etc.

        • "As has been pointed out before, you seem sometimes to confuse determinism with fate or destiny, or in this case with being some kind of prisoner inside a mind/body that prevents you from doing what you really want to do."

          Good points. I actually hadn't considered that distinction. Carroll mentions it in his book in one or two places, but he never clearly explained how determinism is distinct from destiny/fate, other than that the latter typically involve knowing future actions. As I've tried to show, though, knowing future actions is independent of whether they're actually determined.

          "Determinists don't believe we struggle against determinism and fail. And they certainly don't believe we are aware of struggling against determinism and failing. Those who are aware of struggling with themselves are those who do believe in free will, such as St. Paul when he says, "What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.""

          Interesting. But here's where I have a problem: "struggling" suggests that the outcome could go one of many ways. For example, suppose I'm determined to eat this sandwich on my plate, but I decide to struggle against that. If I don't have free will, how can I choose to "struggle" against that determined outcome?

          Would the outcome be adjusted if I was destined or fated to eat the sandwich? If so, wouldn't that imply free will?

  • The fourth point appears to be that it is evidence for free will that Carrol is writing the book with the intention of changing minds. This is not the case. There is nothing inconsistent with determinism that someone can intend to change someone else's mind, or that someone's mind may be changed by reading that book. Reading the book creates a certain brain states which will either change or not all determined by previous brain states and input.

    The question really is, if the exact, and I mean down to the quantum level, exact same circumstances arose, could the reader decide differently? The determinist says no because the decision is entirely based on the brain state. The libertarian would say yes, meaning that there is something else influencing the decision.

  • Ye Olde Statistician

    "There is no such notion as free will when we are choosing to describe human behavior as collections of atoms or as a quantum wave function."

    Of course not. And there's no such notion as meal preferences when we are choosing to describe airline passengers as weights, either. As Heisenberg said, we don't observe nature itself but only nature as it appears to our methods of questioning. If the only took you allow yourself to use is a hammer, then nature will testify to her sterling nail-like qualities.

    There's a thing called rehabilitation

    How is that possible, given the hypothesis of determinism?
    ++++

    I'm not sure why there is this anti-humanist attitude against the human will. Is it because the Moderns have made the whole thing a more complex Rube Goldberg device than it was for the folks who started the discussion?

    Carroll actually touches on the matter, but seems to pull his hand away quickly. The will is the intellective appetite. It bears the same relation to the intellect that the sensory appetites do to perceptions; viz., a desire to acquire or avoid them. But it is impossible to desire what you do not know. If you do not know completely and thoroughly, the will cannot be completely determined to this or that particular course of action. The will is always oriented toward the Good in general. But that doesn't mean the intellect knows the good in particular. So the freedom of the will is implicit in the incompleteness of the intellect. It's nothing more complicated than that. A free motion of the will is not a random choice, nor an unmotivated choice, nor an unreasonable choice, nor even an unpredictable one. It is only that the will is not bound to a particular course of action.

    Besides, I thought that that ol' Laplacian demon thingie had a stake driven through its heart by by Bohr, Heisenberg, and the rest.
    “In the strict formulation of the law of causality—if we know the present, we can calculate the future—it is not the conclusion that is wrong but the premise.”
    -- Werner Heisenberg, "On an implication of the uncertainty principle"

    • David Nickol

      Question: Does the concept of free will apply to any kind of human choice, or only to moral choices? Does it even make a difference if what I choose to wear today, or what I decide to have for lunch, or what route I choose to walk to Barnes & Noble is determined? When I used to walk home from work every day, there was many a time I could not for the life of me remember what route I had taken. Are decisions made on "automatic pilot" decisions of free will?

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        Free choice is part of free will; so is free determination. It's in the nature of the will as the appetite of the intellect that it is not always determined to a specific course of action.

        Habituation of choices is an exercise of the will in the sense that, for example, a musician decides to master Mozart's Clarinet Concerto and repeats it so often that muscle memory takes over and she does not have to think about where to position her fingers for the next note or how long to hold it. The same goes for a jet fighter pilot, who practices a maneuver so many times that he performs the motions automatically when called upon. The same applies to your walk home. You chose the route you would take, and took it so often that your body could do it by muscle memory alone. I once walked from the dry cleaners to my house with a load over my shoulder and along the way began thinking about a problem in statistics. The next thing I knew my key had missed the keyhole in the door and I snapped to.

        In other cases, the will may be impaired by addiction or other injuries, by custom, etc. But you still decided to snort the line or light up the smoke, and you still decided not to defy the tribal custom. It's not a simplistic, mechanical sort of thing, and it involves the whole person, body as well as intellect.

    • Valence

      "“[T]he atoms or elementary particles themselves are not real; they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of things or facts.”
      -Werner Heisenberg.
      It seems Heisenberg pretty strongly rejected scientific realism, but it certainly isn't clear that he is correct. Scientific realism has some pretty good arguments for it, but they don't convince everyone. Current philosophers lean toward realism pretty strongly, but I suppose that could change

      Science: scientific realism or scientific anti-realism?

      Accept or lean toward: scientific realism 699 / 931 (75.1%)
      Other 124 / 931 (13.3%)
      Accept or lean toward: scientific anti-realism 108 / 931 (11.6%)

      http://philpapers.org/surveys/results.pl

      Einstein seemed to much more amenable to realism, though he definitely had his own philosophy

      http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/einstein-philscience/#ConAlbEinPhiPhy

  • Brandon raises a great point in point five. Yes I would agree that issues of blame and praise and particularly punishment need to be re-assessed on determinism.

    There is no contradiction in holding to the truth that there is human volition and being a determinist. The volition is determined. That's the whole point.

    I do not find a future with determinism being accepted as frightening. What is frightening is if determinism is true but we treat people as if they had free will, and needless to say vice-versa.

    Too much t go into here but when you think it through it wouldn't change too much, but as Carol notes (at least in interviews) it leads more towards harm reduction, prevention, rather than things like punishment and retribution.

  • Brandon, by the way. This series is great. It must be a lot of work to produce this series. I don't agree with much of what you say but I find the pieces well-written and engaging.

    • David Nickol

      I agree. I think we have to congratulate Brandon for undertaking the monumental project of reading the book twice and writing such an extended review.

      • Doug Shaver

        I'll add my voice to this chorus. I too disagree with much of what he says, but he obviously put a great deal of work into this series, including some serious intellectual work.

      • Thanks, David!

    • OverlappingMagisteria

      Ditto. Thanks Brandon!

    • Rob Abney

      Brandon's review is very detailed and comprehensive, and he defends his position admirably. I have been very impressed with his ability to point out small errors that undermine Carroll's otherwise finely tuned and specialized knowledge. This approach is similar to Mortimer Adler's book "Ten Philosophical Mistakes". Way to go Brandon!

      • David Nickol

        I wholeheartedly endorse the comparison of Brandon Vogt to Mortimer Adler. :P

      • Thanks, Rob! Adler's a hero of mine; you're too kind.

    • "Brandon, by the way. This series is great. It must be a lot of work to produce this series. I don't agree with much of what you say but I find the pieces well-written and engaging."

      Thanks, Brian! Really appreciate that, man. I enjoyed writing the posts but I've enjoyed even more dialoguing with you, David, OM, and others about these important questions.

    • neil_pogi

      quote: 'I don't agree with much of what you say..' - will you elaborate more?

  • Valence

    The behavior of fundamental physics is deterministic. Fundamental physics gives rise to chemistry and the determinism is still there, but harder to visualize as things get more complicated. Chemistry steps up to complex organic chemistry, then it steps up to biological cells. Cells are complex enough where it becomes difficult to predict their behavior, even though there is no reason to think determinism doesn't hold, cells display unpredictable characteristics consistent with chaos theory.
    The human brain is composed of 86 billion neurons. They are not all the same, and they are connected together with a complex structure, some of which is determined by genes, some of which is determined by environmental factors. When we are small, we have little control, but as we get older, our decisions begin to affect the environment, creating an obvious feedback loop. There seems to be a deeper feedback loop that we call self-reflection, and as we age that begins to play a larger role in determining who we become. Thus, we are at least partly responsible for who we become (though not ultimately responsible) assuming no neurological problems. Brain damage can destroy one's ability to self reflect and make coherent decisions.
    If anything like free will exists, it lies in the feedback loops inside our brains. Of course, it is very much influenced by genes and environment, so that freedom is fairly small, and probably varies depending on mental faculties. The freedom lies in ones ability to shape the person one becomes with limited (but never complete) independence of other factors. Compatibilist free will isn't as free as libertarian, but I think there are obvious arguments against libertarian free will. Let's use religion as an example, I will do so in a separate post.

    • Sounds like you've read Douglas Hoffstader?

      • Valence

        I haven't directly, but I'm familiar with him from a class on philosophy of mind, he taught David Chalmers. Not a fan of panpsychism, though...(only relevant to Chalmers)

  • Valence

    Islam is the religion of 99.4% of Iranians. 90-95% of Iranians are Shi'a and 5-10% are Sunni. Most Sunnis in Iran are Kurds, Larestani people (from Larestan), Turkomen, and Baluchs, living in the northwest, northeast, south, and southeast.[1] Almost all of Iranian Shi'as are Twelvers.

    From this article on Islam in Iran. If 99.4% of Iranians follow Islam, you could argue that being born in Iran almost deterministically causes one to follow the religion. If one could just freely choose religion, why such a high percentage? I realize coercion is involved, but doesn't that deterministically prevent a decision to follow a different religion? If the decision were completely free, why such a strong relationship? Only about 10% of smokers get cancer, yet we still say smoking "causes" lung cancer. Let's look at some Catholic Countries:

    Catholic Church by country
    Country Total Population % CatholicCatholic
    Vatican City (details) 842 100%
    East Timor (details) 1,054,000 96.9%[25]
    Malta (details) 400,214 93.9%[15] 375,761
    San Marino (details) 32,500 90.5%[3]

    We can skip the Vatican, as it's a special case, but we have other countries with very high rates of a single religion. Being born in these countries seems to, at least probabilistically, cause one to "choose" that religion. I'm not seeing much freedom here at all.
    Decisions accepted by a culture tend to be more free, like what to eat for dinner that night. I tend to freely choose healthy food, though I don't on occasion, often with good reason (like visiting someone and just eating what they have).

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    It's not a huge leap to envision killing young children who seem
    determined to make bad choices in the future. For what on Carroll's view
    would prevent this?

    I think it is a huge leap!
    Let's say that there is a large but very beautiful boulder on a hill overlooking my house. I've determined that the boulder will roll down and destroy my house sometime soon. True... I could blow up the boulder with dynamite to solve the problem. Or I can secure the rock, or move it to a different location. What's to stop me from taking the most extreme measure? The fact that there are plenty of other measures that don't involve something detestable.
    I'm not sure why you would jump to such an extreme example of killing children. Was it for shock value? "Determinism leads to killing children! Oh no!" Sorry.. I'm not buying it.

    • Valence

      In the modern era, we recognize children who keep making bad choices and take corrective action. Therapy, psychological help, support from family are all part of what determines how the child will turn out. Determinism != fate...that's a common mistake.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    First is that it's clearly self-contradictory. Look at the above quote. Carroll twice talks about choosing a description of reality.

    A fourth problem is that if determinism was true, Carroll would not be writing books attempting to persuade people of that fact.

    These are really, at best, just ad-hominems. Its just saying that Carroll is not acting as if determinism is true. Ok.. so Carroll is being inconsistent or perhaps a hypocrite*. That doesn't pose a problem for determinism.

    *I'm not sure that he actually is hypocritical.. but I'll apply charity to Brandon's words and interpretations and give him the best case

    • "These are really, at best, just ad-hominems."

      These are not at all ad hominem arguments, and it's not clear you understand what that fallacy entails. Thankfully, we'll be posting an article in a couple weeks titled "What an Ad Hominem Argument Is Not".

      "Its just saying that Carroll is not acting as if determinism is true. Ok.. so Carroll is being inconsistent or perhaps a hypocrite*. That doesn't pose a problem for determinism."

      I agree that it doesn't prove determinism untrue. However, it provides strong evidence against it. If Carroll can't help but speak and live as if determinism was false, that's a huge mark against it.

      • Valence

        Just fyi, it's a complete non-sequitur that , if determinism is true, people can't persuade each other or make decisions. It simply does not follow.

        • "Just fyi, it's a complete non-sequitur that , if determinism is true, people can't persuade each other or make decisions. It simply does not follow."

          I agree that is a non-sequitur, but it's also not what I argued. You misrepresented what I said.

          In my fourth criticism of determinism, I repeatedly used the word "freely" to emphasize that if determinism was true, people couldn't freely (and thus rationally) decide to change their mind.

          • Valence

            If you respond to my other comment, we can continue to discuss why a rational decision is determined by the evidence and model, it isn't free (by most definitions of free).

      • David Nickol

        If Carroll can't help but speak and live as if determinism was false, that's a huge mark against it.

        It's important to point out here that Carroll does not deny free will. What you are arguing against when you criticize Carroll as inconsistent is compatibilism, which appears to be the majority view among philosophers today.

        • "It's important to point out here that Carroll does not deny free will. What you are arguing against when you criticize Carroll as inconsistent is compatibilism, which appears to be the majority view among philosophers today."

          Good clarification, David. I agree that Carroll doesn't deny free will, even though it appears to contradict detrminism. And I'm aware that one attempt around that is by embracing compatibilism--Carroll mentions that in the book, although it's unclear, at least in the book and at least to me, whether he would embrace the label.

          But for the reasons I've already given, I believe compatibilism is false.

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        Then I'll await that article. Whether or not it qualifies as an Ad hominem or not, I'm not seeing how Carroll acting inconsistent with his views means his views are wrong. Would a Christian (or the church) acting non-Christian be evidence against Christianity?

  • neil_pogi

    free will is real. if i would like to embrace atheism, i will. but if i don't, i will still choose not to embrace it

    • Valence

      Embrace atheism for a month then. Demonstrate it by coming here and taking the atheist side for a while. Otherwise, I don't believe you can choose to embrace it ;)

      • Craig Roberts

        It's impossible to 'embrace' a belief in something you know is false. Try standing at the edge of a cliff and 'decide' that you can fly. It won't work.

        • Valence

          Exactly, that's why I called for Neil to demonstrate his claim that if he would like to embrace atheism, he would. I simply don't believe he can...he's not free to make that choice if he doesn't believe it.
          This very idea does make the Christian idea of judging people for non-belief deeply problematic, doesn't it? I mean, if one who believes in God finds it impossible to not believe, why wouldn't someone who doesn't believe find it impossible to choose to believe? Certainly there are degrees, but the general point stands.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            If only we were enslaved to reason. But the evidence shows there is that which stands apart from her, namely, I will.
            Category errors are not helpful.

          • Valence

            But the evidence shows there is that which stands apart from her, namely, I will.

            What evidence?

          • LHRMSCBrown

            To believe, to know, that one cannot fly is not the end of what one wills. People jump. Reason is more than to-know, and, reason is more than to-will. Reason is (on the Christian premise of "The Good"), wholeness through and through. You have to make it all one Oceanic-It, but the Christian is not intellectually obligated to dance to your definitions.

          • Valence

            I don't think that's evidence. I personally can't make myself believe something that I'm confident is false, but maybe some people can? Perhaps R. Kelly is someone that can ;)

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIQn8pab8Vc

          • LHRMSCBrown

            No one ever said one can make oneself believe. I find no good reason to believe in your singular lump. That's all. See my comment down-thread which begins with:

            "Make yourself believe X or else free will is an illusion..."

            We come then to the topic of reason. A brief excerpt from a much longer essay:

          • Craig Roberts

            That's the contradiction at the heart of Christianity. Faith is presented as a gift and a choice. How can we be held responsible for taking care of a gift we never received? How can we choose to get a gift? It's not really a gift if we willed it to happen. And any gift that contains the possibility of hell is more like a curse.

          • Doug Shaver

            And just to complicate it further, some Christians have told me that if my only reason for believing is to avoid going to hell, I'll be going there anyway.

          • Craig Roberts

            Hah! Where's your freewill now? Those types of Christians drive me nuts. It's like if they saw you in heaven they'd be disappointed. But wait...I thought there was no disappointment or negative emotions of any sort in heaven. Guess we're in the other place brother.

          • Craig Roberts

            I actually heard a priest say, "And when you're going to meet Jesus in all his glory for an eternity of bliss, and you look down and see all the friends you used to gamble and get drunk with, and they look at you on there way to hell and say, "Why didn't you warn us instead of encouraging us to drink and gamble?" Won't you feel bad then?"

            Duh...er...I guess? Sounds like the guilt trip never ends. That 'heaven' would suck.

          • neil_pogi

            good news for you doug, if you already knew that you're bound to hell, then, the duration of your stay there will only last a few seconds or minutes.. and you're annihilated forever :-)

          • Rob Abney

            Have you ever received a gift without accepting it?

          • Craig Roberts

            Do you mean turned down a gift offered or received without consent? If I go to a party and somebody offers me drugs I'll politely decline. But if I wake up Christmas morning and there is a package under the tree with my name on it, I've received it before I've accepted it.

          • Rob Abney

            When you open that Christmas gift you are making a choice to accept it. Faith is a gift but you have to choose to accept it or reject it. Maybe it can seem like that Christmas gift of a new pair of socks that you don't think you need so you just throw them in the sock drawer until you run out of clean socks.

          • Craig Roberts

            You can't really decide to accept or reject something before you know what it is. And most things are foisted upon us with no choice on our part. Our faith is a lot like our parents, or our talents, or our circumstances. We didn't choose them but we're pretty much stuck with them.

            Freewill is a gift that we can't reject. If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.

            But the faith of our parents we can reject, only to find out that the traditions and formulas and rituals we reject are only outward manifestations. Even if we believe that there is no God we are really only rejecting the cartoon caricature we received in our religious training.

          • Rob Abney

            Craig, I'm not sure if you are a believer or a nonbeliever or somewhere in between, would you mind clarifying?

          • Craig Roberts

            Wow. That's a deep question. I would have to think about it. I go to mass. I profess Jesus as my Lord and Savior. But if you asked me if I'm 'saved' I would balk. I want to be saved. What are you?

          • Rob Abney

            Ok, thanks. I'm Catholic, working on being saved everyday.

          • Craig Roberts

            God bless. It's nice to get a plain clear answer to a difficult question.

          • neil_pogi

            what if craig is a christian or not? this is a tricky question.

            what if craig is a christian, will you not accept his arguments? or what if he is not, will you accept his arguments?

          • Rob Abney

            neil, I'll accept arguments from Christians or non-Christians as long as the reasoning is sound.

          • neil_pogi

            quote: 'It's impossible to 'embrace' a belief in something you know is false.'

            that's why i can;t and don't believe in atheism because all their theories about the origins are way out of scientific proof and evidences

          • Doug Shaver

            that's why i can;t

            Not even if you wanted to?

          • neil_pogi

            why not quote this 'that's why i can;t and don't believe in atheism because all their theories about the origins are way out of scientific proof and evidences'?

            quoting part of my phrase or my paragraph can change its meaning.. that's your trick

          • Doug Shaver

            quoting part of my phrase or my paragraph can change its meaning

            It can, yes. But did it, in this instance?

          • neil_pogi

            why quote my phrase partly when you can quote it completely? what's your point in doing that?

          • Doug Shaver

            why quote my phrase partly when you can quote it completely?

            It made my point more effectively without misrepresenting you.

            [Edited to correct formatting error.]

          • neil_pogi

            nope..

          • Doug Shaver

            What did you mean to say that I made you seem to say differently?

          • neil_pogi

            it's your style to quote my statements or phrase incompletely just in order to change its meaning. for example, if somebody quote other's author: 'God kills all the children' with intentions not to include the whole sentence: "God kills all the children of the amalekites'... then the meaning of the quote is badly changed..

          • Doug Shaver

            You didn't answer my question. All you did was repeat the accusation.

          • neil_pogi

            you didn't explain why you are quoting my statements partially and not completely.. or 'misrepresents' you?

          • Doug Shaver

            you didn't explain why you are quoting my statements partially

            Yes, I did. You didn't like my explanation, but I gave one.

      • neil_pogi

        quite some time, i embrace atheism when i'm in my 'darkest' side of my life. depression and anxiety disorders... i question why God permits these.. i struggle a lot, i almost quit my job... but the church, prayers, friends, and reading Bible, cleared all these. now, i'm free.. i become the defenders for God thru joining christian blogs, like this SN. i can't abandon 'who' or 'what' caused me, cause the universe and life. i have read several arguments of atheism about the origins of every thing, but their arguments are like fancies, devoid of any scientific evidences (ex: life comes from non-life is just a crap). .

        • Valence

          Sorry atheism was so terrible for you, and I certainly encourage you to remain Christian if it's that critical to your mental health :)

          • neil_pogi

            i did not say that atheism is terrible on me, i just could not reconcile the arguments of atheism for the origins of life and the universe. if atheism can only explain how the Eiffel tower was erected thru natural means, i would gladly embrace atheism, and will even defend it

          • Doug Shaver

            i just could not reconcile the arguments of atheism for the origins of life and the universe.

            What made you think you had to?

          • neil_pogi

            so that i can embrace atheism..

            because atheism asserts that it knows all.. so my tendency is, then show them up!

          • Doug Shaver

            because atheism asserts that it knows all.

            You say so. Prove it. Quote an atheist -- just one -- who says he knows it all.

          • neil_pogi

            you just say that!

    • Doug Shaver

      if i would like to embrace atheism, i will. but if i don't, i will still choose not to embrace it

      Are you saying that what you believe is whatever you want to believe?

      • neil_pogi

        i'm only using my choices. if i choose to believe in atheism, that's my free will and if not, that's also free will in motion. nobody, not even God, has the power to intervene with my own choice.

        when adam and eve sinned, the God of creation has already told them the consequences of choosing 'sin'.. and since they have been gifted with the power of choice, the power of reasoning, they chose what they wanted to choose.

        • Doug Shaver

          i'm only using my choices. if i choose to believe in atheism, that's my free will and if not, that's also free will in motion. nobody, not even God, has the power to intervene with my own choice.

          That doesn't answer my question.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Doxastic agency and the ethics of belief (see book reference below). “I cannot force myself to believe that I am an illusion….” I exist. Actually, I don't. Or, “I cannot force myself to believe the sky is not blue….” Obviously the Non-Theist’s attempts to ontologically differentiate [speaking of fundamental nature(s)] from one another all the affairs of [1] reality's fundamental and impersonal forces, the ontologically seamless continuum which *is* the whole show, from [2] "to-know" and "to-weigh" and “to will” are intellectually hopeless and, just as obvious, the fact that he persists despite such unwarranted belief is evidence of the doxastic affairs we speak of as we find that the looming Oceanic-It (as per other comments) removes all of his rational basis on which to attempt such moves. It is simply the fact that, on Non-Theism, on Sean Carroll’s irreducible means and ends, “……at the lowest level of reality, the fermions that make up our bodies are subject to only the four fundamental forces of nature. There is no room for *you* to control their behavior.” (by A. Ginn) Yet our Non-Theist friend will speak as if there really is room for *you*. As B. Vogt pointed out, on Carroll's view, "....fundamental reality does determine everything, but we're forced to use emergent language and concepts only because we don't have access to this fundamental information. Thus for Laplace's Demon, there would not be such a thing as baseball....."

            The Non-Theist mistakes the doxastic experience, and internal rationality, and external rationality, and I-know, and I-weigh, and I-will, and I-reason, and…. and… and….. for something which offers us a [box] which is somehow and somewhere distinct from reality's singular oceanic swell, the singularity which just is this entire affair we speak of. One must allow the full import of the term illusion to do its proper, and complete, ontic work. There is nature. Period. The Oceanic-It. Period. There is not, and cannot even in principle be, nature free of nature. The concept of "degree" is wholly irrelevant given the Non-Theist’s own obviously ill-fated and therefore unwarranted ontological a priori doxastic commitments. Given that within said Oceanic-It we find no room for such hopes, we rationally conclude that the attempts do in fact unpack to that which is ultimately or cosmically illusory where the box ["I reason! I think! I will!"] is concerned.

            Our Non-Theist friends speak of our inability to force ourselves to believe that the sky is not blue as if that is the beginning and end of reality’s tool box but then (obviously) he is forced (or rather, he forces himself) to willingly restrain his beliefs to such one dimensional terms given his own unwarranted ontological a priori commitment to the ultimately or cosmically illusory vis-à-vis the ontologically seamless continuum that *is* reality, that *is* the Oceanic-It. Such belief-states which exist against the evidence, while unwarranted on his part, are understandable given the full import of the Non-Theist's only rational alternative. Doxastic norms, responsibility, and the possibility of doxastic agency are all explored in, “Believing Against the Evidence: Agency and the Ethics of Belief”, McCormick, Miriam Schleifer. Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy. Also, internal rationality, external rationality, and the doxastic experience are looked at in Plantinga’s “Warranted Christian Belief”.

          • Doug Shaver

            Doxastic agency and the ethics of belief (see book reference below).

            I don't see an answer to my question there, either.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Given your choice of belief state contra-warrant and your a priori commitment to the ultimately illusory I'm not surprised. The two books are helpful. I'd paste all 800 or so pages here, but, it won't change your freely chosen contra-evidence belief state, as you've demonstrated.

          • Doug Shaver

            So, a simple yes or no wouldn't answer the question?

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Yes, people can choose to believe they are at bottom illusory. As in, illusions.

          • Doug Shaver

            That isn't what I asked.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            (Edit at 20 hrs) Actually it is. I said, "Yes, people (freely) can (and do) choose to believe that they are....." If you can't see the relevance then I can't help you. I'm satisfied with that (perhaps your's too) QED of that slice of agency contra-evidence, contra-all-possible-warrant within the doxastic experience. Even to the point of the illusory. As in, illusion.

            As in, I am....not.

          • Doug Shaver

            If you can't see the relevance then I can't help you.

            What is relevant to a question doesn't always answer the question. But, to answer it or not is your choice.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            See edit.

          • Doug Shaver

            Perhaps I didn't make myself as clear as I thought I did. I was not intending to ask about any particular belief. I was asking whether everything you believe is something you want to believe.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            (Edited at 35 min) I believe a lot of things I don't *like*. As far as *want*, well, we do see large swaths of Non-Theists engaging in what cannot be anything other than wish fulfillment and denial. More generally, however, well it is quite amazing to see the sorts of things folks choose to talk themselves into. Give them a few decades and before you know it they can't imagine otherwise. It's impressive. Demonstrable. Sometimes we believe what we want, not what we ought. All sorts of vectors contribute to that slow, steady, process. Now, sure, in the end the illusion never stands a chance, but that doesn't seem to stop folks from such collisions amid the trio of the evidence, the will, and the mind. Believing against the evidence? Sure. It's called Non-Theism. The demonstrability of the aforementioned trio.

            What one *wants* to believe and what one *ought* to believe can and do (in the real world) conflict and come into said trio. Oh dear. Ought. Not that again. It's a peculiar affair given the trio. The fact that "ought" layers in atop *want* just makes it a richer cake. The simplistic yes/no approach (of some here) just isn't interfacing with the reality of what is actually going on. Granted, the Non-Theist *wants* it to unpack to a one sided coin. But they don't exist. They're illusions.

            “Believing Against the Evidence: Agency and the Ethics of Belief”, McCormick, Miriam Schleifer. Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy. Also, internal rationality, external rationality, and the doxastic experience are looked at in Plantinga’s “Warranted Christian Belief”.

          • Doug Shaver

            we do see large swaths of Non-Theists engaging in what cannot be anything other than wish fulfillment and denial.

            Yes, we do. But I have an observation and a question about that. The observation is: We see exactly the same thing in large swaths of theists, so it seems to be more attributable to human nature than to nonbelief. The question: Most of us non-theists are convinced that once we die, we will stay dead, and so where is the wish-fulfillment in that?

            And before you say it's to avoid having to follow God's orders, we can always choose to believe in universalism, if it's a fact that we can believe whatever we want to believe.

            Also, internal rationality, external rationality, and the doxastic experience are looked at in Plantinga’s “Warranted Christian Belief”.

            I've read it. It was several years ago, so there is much I don't remember, but I've read it. The whole trilogy, for that matter.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            (Edited at 10 min) It is human nature, the totality of the being termed man, as it were, and, for clarity, I don't agree with your move to separate belief (non-belief, etc.) into its own box (as if separate from human nature). If something is attributable to the totality of the man, then so too does it fall upon some level the man's belief sets, and, if something impacts the man's belief states, then so too on some level does it impact the totality of the man. We observe the colliding contours of the evidence, of the will, of the mind, and, of course, that felt tension between what we want to believe and what we ought to believe. There is no difference between religious and non-religious here, hence your comment about God misses the point. Yes, there is an ought in the mix, but don't let that pesky word force you to miss the obvious. We all do this, taste this. It's the fabric of reality. So often we motion towards what we want to believe, and not what we ought to believe. It shows up in all sorts of levels, both intrapersonal and interpersonal. Some very unfortunate, some less so, there within our various doxastic experiences. It's the stuff of life. It's the stuff of belief, of the irreducible self immersed in a world of want and ought, of appetite and hope, of illusion and lucidity.

          • Doug Shaver

            I don't agree with your move to separate belief (non-belief, etc.) into its own box (as if separate from human nature).

            And I don't agree that I have made any such move.

            There is no difference between religious and non-religious here

            I am not asserting a difference in principle. But I have noticed that some theists seem to assert that religious beliefs should be exempted from certain criteria by which we judge all other beliefs.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            On the doxastic experience, what part of what I've just described do you wish to claim either exemption from or immunity to?

            Ought?

          • Doug Shaver

            what part of what I've just described do you wish to claim either excemption from or immunity to?

            I was claiming no exemption for myself. I was just making the observation that some theists seem to be claiming an exemption.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Ought and all. Will and all. Wants and all. Nothing I've described claimed any exemptions.

          • Doug Shaver

            Nothing I've described claimed any exemptions.

            I didn't say it had. You are consistently responding to statements I'm not making.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            No I'm not. I'm talking about exemptions. You've simply talked yourself into believing you can afford to pay for the doxastic experience. Ought and all. Will and all. Wants and all. Evidence (or illusions) and all.

            But then, exemptions, your need of them, and agency within doxastic experiences, well if that's a separate topic you have my apologies.

          • neil_pogi

            so what kind of answer/s do you want?

          • Doug Shaver

            so what kind of answer/s do you want?

            My question was: "Are you saying that what you believe is whatever you want to believe?" A simple yes or no ought to suffice.

          • neil_pogi

            yes - of course, because it is your will to believe it.. to justify what you believe in... just like you, you only want to believe what you want to believe.. you believe in atheism, that's fine, and nobody don't interfere with what you believe in... that's why atheists propagate their agenda, their propagandas, by all means, in social media, in christian blogs, etc.. they want their gospel infuse in any of these sites..

            actually, in atheism, there is no free will, because they don't want to allow any one who crosses their belief systems.

          • Doug Shaver

            it is your will to believe it..

            You're still not answering my question. I didn't ask about my beliefs or my will. I asked about yours. Is everything you believe something you want to believe?

          • neil_pogi

            so what made you believe in atheism?

        • Valence

          nobody, not even God, has the power to intervene with my own choice.

          Exodus 9:12And the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not listen to them, just as the LORD had spoken to Moses.

          So you deny the Bible's claims about hardening Pharoah's heart? Obviously that's interfering with free will. Of course, interfering with Pharoah's will so Yahweh could mass murder children is the stuff of true monsters.

          • neil_pogi

            i thought atheists never believe in the stories of the Bible? and yet you are quoting one story that mocked christians, and yet you deny the Bible when it is telling the good news of the gospel. how cherry-pickers you are!

            did that mean that God never allows man to exercise his free will? He even allowed His Son to die on the cross!. He even let Adam and Eve to live the life they choose!

            let me make it clear to you! since atheists like you can't prove life's naturalistic origin, it is proper for me to say that God created life. God owns me, and even you. God has the prerogative to extend my life, or take it away. Actually, ALL His creations (living things) are already subjected/condemned to death sentence. i'm 46 years old now, and i don't know if i would be alive tomorrow or if i would live for another 1 day or 50 years..

          • Valence

            let me make it clear to you! since atheists like you can't prove life's naturalistic origin, it is proper for me to say that God created life.

            FWIW, this is nothing short of an argument from ignorance.

          • neil_pogi

            then tell me how every thing's created?

          • Valence

            That story cover huge fields such as cosmology in physics, geology, biochemistry (abiogenesis), biology, anthropology, and with the advent of technology and advanced social structure, it would include engineering, political science, economics...See a library :)

          • neil_pogi

            if only you can prove to me that 'non-living things are able to become living things, then i will embrace atheism.. right away!

            origins issues are not observed. even if thousands of evolutionists are saying that macro-evolution is so true, i won't believe it because nobody has observe it.

            even if 99% of scientists declare that the universe is billions of years old, i won't believe it because nobody is there to observe it.

            now do you believe what evolutionists would say to you?

          • Valence

            Did you observe God creating anything? Did anyone?

          • neil_pogi

            nobody has observed it, but logic will tell you that every living things you see is somehow created by what we call, a creator.

            you can't invoke they just 'pop' because you will violate the law of cause and effect.

          • Valence

            Pop? Lol, thanks for the laugh :)

          • neil_pogi

            is that all your answer?

            prove that life just 'pop' or it just came naturally... no more to say? then i thought you atheists are 'brights'?? so resorting again to 'arguments from ignorance'? then go on!

          • Valence

            Are you ok? You seem on edge.

          • neil_pogi

            im ok.. how about you?

  • David Nickol

    Throughout Sean Carroll's best-selling book, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself (Dutton, 2016), Carroll seems comfortable holding two apparently contradictory views. This has been show throughout our review series. For example, he's fine both believing that causality is illusory (at the fundamental level of reality) and true (at the macroscopic level.)

    I (and I am sure Sean Carroll) would disagree that Carroll is comfortable holding two apparently contradictory views, or that these reviews have demonstrated that any of the views he holds are contradictory. Brandon, for whatever reason, does not accept the idea of "levels of reality," although Carroll gives many clear examples of two or more complementary views of basically the same phenomena throughout his writing (for example, wave-particle duality, looking at a gas as individual molecules vs according to gas laws, the concept of temperature). Some of Carroll's examples of different "realities" at different "levels" seem incontrovertible to me, so it might be helpful if Brandon directly attacked Carroll's ideas about what we mean by "real" directly. (And I do not think it is accurate to say that Carroll equates "useful" and "real.")

    A possible example that pops into my head is wind. Does wind exist at the fundamental levels of reality? Is wind real? Did wind come into existence at the moment of the big bang? It seems to me that wind is unquestionably real, but not fundamental. Indeed, in some cases, we might talk of wind when there was not even a "real" wind, such as having your hair blowing wildly in the wind when riding in a fast convertible. A weatherman who said there was no wind at all on a particular day would not be contradicting someone who claimed their windblown hair was the result of riding in a convertible that day.

    In a kind-of-sort-of way Carroll is talking about frames of reference. If you are not in the fast-moving convertible, from your frame of reference, there is no wind. But if you are in the convertible, there is. Except Carroll's levels of reality are mental frames of reference. At the most fundamental level of reality, here is no baseball. But we refer to baseball today not because it is merely useful to do so, but because baseball exists and is real.

    • LHRMSCBrown

      David, (Edited at 3 hr.) It’s not apparent that you’re allowing the full import of the term illusion to do its proper and complete ontic work. “Free will doesn't exist; it's an illusion….. because, at the lowest level of reality, the fermions that make up our bodies are subject to only the four fundamental forces of nature. There is no room for *you* to control their behavior.” (by A. Ginn) First person causality unpacks to that which is ultimately or cosmically illusory where the box ["I reason! I think! I will!"] is concerned. Yet you speak as if you are distinct from reality's fundamental and impersonal forces, the ontologically seamless continuum which *is* the whole show. As if there really is room for *you*.

      Determinism is not destiny simply because those two words become irrelevant in what just is a singularity: that of nature's oceanic sway. Appetites and going with/against are all irrelevant given that there is no going with just as there is no going against for there is no *you* distinct from the *wave* by which to even go "against" and by which to even go "with". As Brandon pointed out, on Carroll's view, "....fundamental reality does determine everything, but we're forced to use emergent language and concepts only because we don't have access to this fundamental information. Thus for Laplace's Demon, there would not be such a thing as baseball....."

      You mistake the appetite, the urge, the ought, the love, the hate, the hunger, the want, the giving-in-to, the refusing-of, the.... the.... for something which offers us a [box] which is somehow and somewhere distinct from reality's singular oceanic swell, the singularity which just is this entire affair we speak of. One must allow the full import of the term illusion to do its proper, and complete, ontic work. There is nature. Period. The Oceanic-It. Period. There is not, and cannot even in principle be, nature free of nature. The concept of "degree" is wholly irrelevant. If volition contra-nature, then natures, plural.

      Edit: Hence, Paul and that which I will, that which I will not, that which..... that which.... Natures, plural. All of which ushers us into the moral ontology of, and the metaphysical landscape of, Christianity. (Such would carry us into the distinction between impersonal and personal determinism....)

      • Valence

        Who says the "free" in free will means free of nature? I'm a compatibilist, but I certainly think nothing I do is free of nature. The vast majority of philosophers are compatibilists:

        Free will: compatibilism, libertarianism, or no free will?

        Accept or lean toward: compatibilism 550 / 931 (59.1%)
        Other 139 / 931 (14.9%)
        Accept or lean toward: libertarianism 128 / 931 (13.7%)
        Accept or lean toward: no free will 114 / 931 (12.2%)

        There is excellent reason for that. Free here generally means free of coercion and/or manipulation. It's also dependent upon normal mental functioning. The way I see it, libertarians and no free will philosophers define free will so it's magic. I don't believe in magic, but that doesn't mean I accept the definition of free will.

        • LHRMSCBrown

          There is no such thing, cannot even in principle be, any such [set] as any proverbial [box] somewhere, anywhere, that is to some degree free of nature. It's not apparent that you are disagreeing with that.

          We cannot define the word "coercion" vis-à-vis reality's four fundamental interactions/forces. The word becomes, as all semantics do, unintelligible. It's useful. Not real. I would argue that even the word "useful" is an equivocation, even begs the question, but that's going beyond the topic.

          • Valence

            I would argue that even the word "useful" is an equivocation, even begs the question, but that's going beyond the topic.

            Begs what question?

          • LHRMSCBrown

            (Edited at 15 minutes) First, there's an unavoidable segue into moral ontology in all of this and, secondly: I’m not opposed to compatibilism per se but rather to (if they should arise) hedges. So then: Begs what question? In a word, purpose. Or, if it helps, “My purpose in using X.” And so we can, even must, play it all over again: Perhaps you really do mean to speak as if there really is room for *you* and by extension then room for “my purpose” somehow controlling reality’s four fundamental interactions, as if you really are distinct from reality's fundamental and impersonal forces, as if you really are distinct from the ontologically seamless continuum which *is* the whole show.

            But, if such is asserted, then we are back to “layers” which are somehow (we are never told how) distinct from reality's fundamental and impersonal forces, the ontologically seamless continuum which *is* the whole show. But, yet again, if such is asserted, then we are back to the irrelevant concept of “degree”. As if there is a degree of flux somewhere within the Oceanic-It that is somehow (we are never told how) distinct from reality's fundamental and impersonal forces, the ontologically seamless continuum which *is* the whole show.

            There is nature. Period. The oceanic “it”. Period. There is not, and cannot even in principle be, nature free of nature. The concept of "degree" is wholly irrelevant. If volition contra-nature, then natures, plural.

            If plural, then: Paul and that which I will, that which I will not, that which..... that which.... Natures, plural. All of which ushers us into the moral ontology of, and the metaphysical landscape of, Christianity. (Such would carry us into the distinction between impersonal and personal determinism....)

  • Jersey McJones

    Mr. Vogt, I don't think you understand the argument. Are you suggesting Quantum Determinism? That makes no sense.

    JMJ

    • LHRMSCBrown

      As others more astute than myself have pointed out several times, the distinction is one of impersonal verses personal determinism. Quantum indeterminism, on Non-Theism, does nothing to differentiate those two. It leaves the Non-Theist right where it finds him with respect to the fundamental nature of the box termed [I reason! I think! I will!].

    • "Mr. Vogt, I don't think you understand the argument. Are you suggesting Quantum Determinism? That makes no sense."

      I believe I do understand Carroll's argument. If you don't think I do, then please show me how I've misunderstood it.

      I don't think quantum determinism is true--Carroll does.

      • Jersey McJones

        No. There is no determinism there. I understood. I was asking if you were proposing that it was an argument in the first place.

        JMJ

  • LHRMSCBrown

    FWIW: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/08/adventures-in-old-atheism-part-ii-sartre.html Edward Feser takes a look at Jean-Paul Sartre’s world of free will with respect to being-in-itself and being-for-itself, along with Sartre’s “coiled worm” from whence, according to Sartre, our freedom streams as we are “…..always trying vainly to plug a black hole which simply sucks up anything we throw into it and perpetually remains as open as it ever was. This is precisely what our freedom consists in: the absence of anything in the realm of facticity, of being-in-itself, of the objective world beyond consciousness, which can possibly fix, determine, or settle how one shall act.”

  • Peter

    The universe is "hard-wired" from its inception to produce life, leading to intelligent beings. We as a race of intelligent beings are hard-wired to want to search for the truth, which means seeking out our Maker, the Author of our existence. In the past we were limited to doing this philosophically and theologically; now we have science on our side. Science is revealing a universe which is precisely the kind of universe that a supremely intelligent, powerful and generous Creator would create in order to produce intelligent life. And intelligent life, as exemplified by ourselves, displays an in-built, hard-wired desire to seek out its origins. The universe exists to create beings who seek out their Maker.

    How do we reconcile having free-will and being hard-wired? The answer is that we are hard-wired not to look for, but to want to look for, the truth. It is the desire to look for the truth that is hard-wired within us. We can exercise our free will and consciously overturn that urge, but it remains very deep within us. The desire to look for the truth, to seek out our Maker, is so profound that we choose to follow it instead of ignoring it. What is the value of free will, then? The value of free will is to choose to do what is right, to do the thing we instinctively and profoundly know to be right.

  • Craig Roberts

    While we may be free to select certain courses of action, we are unable to choose to believe something we know is false. We cannot choose to believe in unicorns any more than we can choose to believe that we can fly.

    This is why faith is described as a gift. Apologists that say we are free to choose to believe in God are ignorant of the nature of faith.

    • LHRMSCBrown

      Some brands of Christianity believe in man as automata along with the Non-Theist. Obviously the larger canopy of Christendom rejects such a narrative simply because it does not find such a narrative in Scripture. In fact, this entire thread and blog both count as *evidence* of that very fact.

      • Craig Roberts

        The scriptures cheat. Different verses provide evidence for every point of view and everything in between. Consider John 15:16; "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit..." No freewill there. Numerous examples and parables contradict the idea that we are free to choose what is always best. And although St. Paul uses freewill to argue that pagans are going to be held responsible for not believing, he himself never chose to get knocked down on the way to Damascus. "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded..." (Luke 12:48)

        And yet there are just as many scriptural examples of our freewill and the responsibility we have for abusing it. Adam and Eve comes to mind. Deuteronomy 30:19 makes it pretty clear, "This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live!"

        And if all these verses that seem to support both view points weren't weird enough, we have the story of doubting Thomas. He deliberately chose to NOT believe the first hand testimony of the rest of the apostles and was not punished but rewarded with a visit from Jesus.

        I think it was C. S. Lewis that said, "There is nobody in Hell that did not choose to go there." But this is clearly silly. Do prisoners choose to go to jail?

        • LHRMSCBrown

          I see you are now interested in volition as it relates to the Christian paradigm specifically. Perhaps conversations within Christendom relative to such things will be undertaken on this blog, or, perhaps you can find a Christian who holds to man as automata with whom to discuss such things. As for me, on man as automata, well I've no idea what you're talking about (given such in the context of Theism and Non-Theism). If you don't believe what Lewis says about our decisions, well, perhaps you can google prison factoids and so on, and, though reciprocity's timeless "one-another" (D.B. Hart) finds Man and God amid self/other at some ontological seam somewhere, that is, as alluded to already, a different topic. If you have something to say regarding Non-Theism and man as automata, well, then don't expect me to lump "to-know" and "to-weigh" and "to will" into Non-Theism's forced Oceanic-It (as per my previous comments). I've not been given any rational basis on which to embrace such a position.

        • Doug Shaver

          we have the story of doubting Thomas. He deliberately chose to NOT believe the first hand testimony of the rest of the apostles and was not punished but rewarded with a visit from Jesus.

          He also had the good fortune not to die between hearing the testimony and being visited by Jesus. Otherwise it would have been too late for him to choose to believe.

          • Craig Roberts

            Did he ever really choose to believe? When Jesus appeared before him and said (paraphrasing) "examine my wounds" It was pretty much game over. Once you actually see something like that you can't choose NOT to believe anymore.

            It's like if you were abducted by aliens. You might not even want to believe in aliens but unless you come up with an alternative explanation for your experience you are forced to deal with the reality that you know aliens exist.

          • Doug Shaver

            I was assuming a hypothetical for the sake of discussion. I don't think any belief is the result of a mere act of will. I used to believe in God, and I didn't stop because I wanted to stop.

          • Craig Roberts

            I know many people that have been confronted by circumstances that forced them to reject God against their will. When we are taught that God wants the best for us it often clashes with our bitter (or even just boring) reality.

          • Doug Shaver

            I know many people that have been confronted by circumstances that forced them to reject God against their will.

            You can call it "rejecting God" if you must. I rejected nobody. I rejected the assurances of believers that God was real because they couldn't show me anything that supported their assurances.

          • Craig Roberts

            If they had 'assurances' that could be shown it wouldn't be called faith.

          • Doug Shaver

            I have seen Christians define faith in many ways. What is your definition? How, in your understanding, does faith differ from other kinds of belief?

          • Craig Roberts

            Faith (like many words) means different things in different contexts. Ultimately it's just a word like 'orange'. I can define the color as a mix of yellow and red, or I can describe the fruit. But unless you have tasted an orange there is no way I can communicate the experience of what an orange tastes like.

          • Sample1

            ...no way I can communicate the experience

            Doesn't that seem silly? One needn't have uterine cancer to understand the definition of cancer. Some oranges are juicy.

            A sacrament, it has been said, is a visible representation of the invisible. Does faith have no visible representations that can be talked about?

            Mike, faith-free

          • Rob Abney

            Cancer is objective, juicy oranges are objective compared to a standard. Sacraments are objective because they always require matter. Why can't you talk about it?

          • Craig Roberts

            You can understand a definition and still not know the reality that the words points to. Just because you know the definition of sex, does not mean that you 'know' what having sex actually is.

          • Doug Shaver

            Faith (like many words) means different things in different contexts.

            Then I guess I must clarify my question. In the context of our present discussion, how do you define the word faith in the statement "If they had 'assurances' that could be shown it wouldn't be called faith"?

            But unless you have tasted an orange there is no way I can communicate the experience of what an orange tastes like.

            I'm not asking what the experience is like. If you say you ate an orange this morning, I know what you mean. I'm asking you to tell me what you mean when you talk about faith.

          • Craig Roberts

            The only reason that you know what I mean is because you 'know' what an orange is. Regarding faith, if you don't know, I can't tell you. You can only reply, "Yes, I've been there." or "What are you talking about?"

          • Doug Shaver

            The only reason that you know what I mean is because you 'know' what an orange is.

            I know what you mean because I know the meaning of the word "orange," and I know what the word means because when I was learning to talk, my father showed me an orange and told me, "This is an orange."

          • Craig Roberts

            And then you tried it and said, "Ok."

          • Doug Shaver

            And then you tried it and said, "Ok."

            I have no memory of whether I did or not, but it wasn't necessary. I don't have to eat something to know the meaning of a word that refers to it.

          • Craig Roberts

            Yes you do. If you have never eaten an orange and somebody asks you if you like oranges the only honest response is, "I don't know."

            If a person is content to say, "I don't know" regarding religion that makes them agnostic. But if they claim to be an atheist based on their lack of religious experience, they are really just trying to talk about something that they are implicitly admitting that they don't know about.

            Penn Gillette famously quipped that reading the Bible would turn people into atheists. And he is right if those same people think that reading about something is the same thing as experiencing it.

          • Doug Shaver

            the only honest response is, "I don't know."

            Yes, if their question is "Do you like oranges?" But what does that have to do with what we were discussing? We were talking about how we know what a word means.

          • Craig Roberts

            The point is that if you admit that you are an atheist, you are admitting that you do not experience religious faith. And so any definition of faith will be lost on you. Some things (most things) require that you experience them before you can talk about them.

            Charlie Parker used to get miffed at the hippies that would try to flatter him by telling him that he just played what he felt and it was so great how he was free to flow without musical constraints. He knew that music was a demanding discipline. He may have made it sound effortless, but the fans who thought that it actually was effortless were only revealing their ignorance.

          • Doug Shaver

            The point is that if you admit that you are an atheist, you are admitting that you do not experience religious faith.

            Maybe I do and maybe I don't. I have no way of knowing what "You don't experience X" means if you can't tell me what X is.

            And by the way, many other Christians have told me what they think faith is. Are they all wrong when they claim to know what it is and to be able to tell me what it is?

            And so any definition of faith will be lost on you.

            If you can't tell me what it is, then neither of us has anything to lose.

          • Craig Roberts

            Would you agree that there are some things that can't be conveyed with words? At some point you end up ruining what you are trying to convey because the 'thing' is not the words that define it.

          • Doug Shaver

            Would you agree that there are some things that can't be conveyed with words?

            Yes, but I also think everyone gets the meaning of the words referring to those things, because those words refer to universal human experiences and everyone pretty much agrees what those experiences are. Concerning faith, the only thing Christians seem to agree on is that it's something you've got to have in order to please God.

          • Craig Roberts

            There are many human experiences that are not universal. In fact, I would maintain that there is no such thing as a universal human experience. Even the experience of being born is denied many humans. And I'm not even talking about abortion.

          • Doug Shaver

            I would maintain that there is no such thing as a universal human experience.

            The word "experience" can be so construed.

          • Craig Roberts

            "Concerning faith, the only thing Christians seem to agree on is that it's something you've got to have in order to please God."

            Well put. But Christians also agree that faith is something that comes from God. So how is it that He is going to be displeased with those who do not have it?

          • Doug Shaver

            That particular inconsistency in Christian teaching had escaped my notice until this moment.

          • David Nickol

            The point is that if you admit that you are an atheist, you are admitting that you do not experience religious faith.

            Why do you use the word admit? Do you "admit" to being a Catholic? Admit is a loaded word.

            Now, I "admit" that I do not believe in Voodoo. Does that mean I can never understand it? Would you argue that rejecting Voodoo means you really have no way of judging it? No right to judge it? Must you believe in Voodoo to actually know it? Would you say that people who do not believe in Voodoo are at a disadvantage? If only they came to believe in Voodoo, they might see the truth of it.

            Some things (most things) require that you experience them before you can talk about them.

            It should be noted that a number of atheists and agnostics, including some of the people who post here, had religious upbringings and at one time in their lives were (or believed themselves to be) committed believers. Such people can claim to know both faith and unbelief. So couldn't it be claimed that they are in a better position to understand than those who have only known faith?

            You seem to be implying that only those who have faith can know the truth of faith. But that is an argument that can be made of anything. If Catholics really and truly understood Islam, they would become Muslims. But, being Catholics, they cannot really understand Islam, so they will forever continue in error.

            You are making a typical "in group" argument. "If you really understood what it is like being in the 'in group', you would want to be one of us. But you just can't understand. You will be forever ignorant until you become one of us."

            I don't think it is at all persuasive.

          • Craig Roberts

            Hah...you're putting words in my mouth. You becoming 'one of us' is not going to help you out one bit. You're better off being honest and ignorant than pretending to be something you're not.

          • Sample1

            Some things (most things) require that you experience them before you can talk about them

            How do you justify your comment with fellow Catholic Brandon Vogt's below:

            Yes! We agree and that's the point: all people have faith. Vogt

            Mike, faith-free

          • Craig Roberts

            I can't justify it because I don't agree with Brandon. If all people have faith why is Jesus always ripping on people for NOT having faith?

          • Sample1

            Just a point of clarification: anonymous authors of debatable legitimacy wrote about what Jesus supposedly said. No evidence that Jesus wrote anything.

            You don't agree with Vogt. Fair enough.

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            I would use that as an example for Brandon who has respect for the authenticity of the gospels.

            But you can leave Jesus out of it and still say, "If everybody has faith why do some people go to Church and others don't? How can you identify as agnostic, or atheist, or 'none' if everybody has faith?" His definition of 'faith' is trust in things unseen. That doesn't have much to do with religious faith.

          • Sample1

            What is the unseen if not a religiously based concept?

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            I haven't seen China. The fact that I trust (have faith) that it exists doesn't have anything to do with religion

          • Sample1

            I was responding to your "his definition of faith" is trust in things unseen. If you know that Vogt does not include specifically religious concepts for that then you might have a point. I'm skeptical.

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            I'm sure Mr. Vogt does include religious concepts in his definition. That's where I disagree. You can't lump China into "things unseen" with God or angels or whatever. Just because somebody believes that China exists even though they have not seen it does not mean that they have religious faith.

          • Sample1

            You don't need faith to know China exists. I happen to agree. So instead of going through all the concepts and things that don't require faith to know they exist, tell me for what use do you employ faith?

            Mike
            grammar edit

          • Craig Roberts

            Religion. Religion requires faith. But just like many things in the realm of human activity, some people 'get it' and some people don't. Some people are good at certain stuff. Some are obviously talented and/or gifted with all sorts of things that other people can't even understand.

            Just because I think my seven year old can paint better than Picasso doesn't mean I'm going to write a nasty letter to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and tell them they are bunch of know nothings. They obviously see something in modern abstract art that I am unable to appreciate. But how arrogant would it be for me to claim that they don't know what they are talking about?

            Brandon comes from a long line of Catholic thinkers that maintain that everybody has some sort of faith. I think that's as much nonsense as 'everybody has talent'. Unless cussing and drinking beer is a talent, it just doesn't make sense. It ends up just confusing the whole argument.

          • Sample1

            So I take it you're not one of those Catholics who thinks an atheist is still a type of religionist.

            Mike

          • Craig Roberts

            No. Not at all. I think an atheist is simply somebody that has not been given the gift of faith and is brave enough to withstand the cultural peer pressure and say so.

          • Sample1

            ...not been given the gift of faith

            Curiously, I have to ask what you make of those who were believers but have since shed faith from their lives?

            Mike, hopeful without faith and moral without god.

          • Craig Roberts

            I feel for them. Christianity (or any religion for that matter) is often a full time pain in the keester. There are so many conflicting camps constantly claiming victory in the never ending war that I see why people give up on it.

            Once somebody takes a side (either side) they feel relieved and try to 'fight the good fight' but after actually struggling for a while they tend to get so personally invested in that point-of-view that they can no longer see both sides objectively.

            So somebody comes along and asks them why they think like that and they either dig in their heels and try to hone their debating skills, or they say, "Dunno...you got something better?"

            But just because I took piano lessons as a kid and gave it up because it was too hard, I wouldn't call myself a former piano player.

          • Sample1

            ...pain in the keester

            Fascinating.

            Couldn't it also be said that mainstream religions broadly occupy a carefree societal niche that is replete with privilege and reward? Religion is easy or hard (insert endless adjectives here) depending on how one slices it.

            That being said, while I did play with a few nuances in your post as I waited for my Subway sandwich to be made, I don't think you addressed what I was addressing from your comment. Surely it's incomplete at best to claim, as you did, that an atheist is someone who "hasn't been given the gift of faith."

            And if it's incomplete, I'd ask for something more thorough if you're up to it.

            Mike
            Edit done

          • Craig Roberts

            Oh there's plenty of 'privilege and reward' but it is NEVER carefree. If you don't care you become an atheist.

            Yeah it is incomplete. But I've kind of lapsed into speculation. It would be presumptuous of me to say I could tell you everything that goes into making an atheist.

            I think a lot of it has to do with guilt. Christianity and Catholicism especially are very driven by guilt. Most apologists would either deny it, or at least try to focus on more positive aspects, but every school boy that's been busted before knows that it has a major heaping helping of guilt in every bite.

            Most people that don't have faith are content to go their merry way and try to get their jollies from the usual assortment of things this life has to offer. Religion, especially Christianity, often makes this quest more difficult. And so it is passively rejected by refusing to pay any attention to it.

            Explicitly calling yourself an atheist is a step beyond 'not having faith'. Atheists are not just trying to jettison the guilt they might encounter if they tried to be Christian. They are actively trying to show that Christianity is false so they can go about whatever they want to do without having to feel bad about it, and with the added benefit of being able to look down on the superstitious numb-skulls that don't partake in immoral behavior for fear that their 'god' will punish them.

            But like I said, I'm just speculating.

          • Sample1

            It would be presumptuous of me to say I could tell you everything that goes into making an atheist.

            Well, one way to think about this challenge you perceive is to consider whether it's a making or an unmaking that is going on. You're correct, every atheist who was once a believer has their own specific de-conversion story. Suffice to say that a common theme for those in my circles is that it isn't unlike a spontaneous remission of illness. One day it's just gone and, like cancer, we don't generally go back to try and find it. Now I apologize for equating your faith with cancer, but the analogy is meant only superficially. I don't deny the utility and comfort of religion for many. I'm just not interested.

            Thank you for your opinions from your perspective. It has been helpful to remind me that many misconceptions about atheism remain, even on this blog. We both have our work cut out for us to dispel even just the most general misunderstandings of our respective positions!

            Mike, dog dad.

          • David Hardy

            Explicitly calling yourself an atheist is a step beyond 'not having
            faith'. Atheists are not just trying to jettison the guilt they might
            encounter if they tried to be Christian. They are actively trying to
            show that Christianity is false so they can go about whatever they want
            to do without having to feel bad about it, and with the added benefit of
            being able to look down on the superstitious numb-skulls that don't
            partake in immoral behavior for fear that their 'god' will punish them.

            Hello Craig,

            I have been following along the conversation, but have not previously commented. I just thought it might help to reflect on this idea. It is impossible to truly come to understand and respect an opposing position if one begins with assumptions that that position rests upon something it does not, and that what it is assumed to rest upon is undeserving of respect. Assuming that atheism depends on jettisoning guilt to allow for immoral behavior, or to allow those holding it to look down on others, does exactly this. I know of few atheists to which these goals actually apply.

            I will use myself as an example -- I am a Buddhist, and I follow an atheistic branch of Buddhism -- I do not believe in God or gods. However, within Buddhism is an internally consistent system of ethics that make strong demands on its followers to show kindness, charity and compassion to others, including strangers and those who wish you harm. There is no effort to jettison guilt, permit immorality or look down on others. There are paradigms of secular humanism, which many atheists follow, that likewise have internally consistent strong moral codes. Hopefully this helps in your speculation on atheism.

          • Craig Roberts

            Thanks for the insightful response. I wasn't trying to imply that atheists were trying to get rid of their own personal feelings of guilt by becoming atheists. I was simply pointing out that when many people are confronted with Christianity and it's complex and heavy emphasis on guilt, they simply say, "No thank you."

            Whether they choose to just ignore the Church or become active atheists often has to do with their circumstances. If grandma is hounding them to go to Church they may be forced to explain that they don't believe in God, taking a position on the matter. If nobody else they know thinks or cares about Church they most likely will simply ignore it.

            I also don't think that most atheists are more or less 'immoral' judging by contemporary standards. But again, Christian morality is a completely different set of standards. For example, although most Catholics regularly blow off Mass if they are on vacation, the Church's teaching is that if you deliberately skip Mass for no better reason than you are on vacation, it is a mortal sin, and you must go to confession before you can go to Mass and receive the Eucharist.

            Most people (even Catholics) find these standards ridiculously scrupulous and impossible to adhere to. The hypocrisy of calling yourself 'Catholic' and simply blowing off many of the demands and moral teachings of the Church is lost on these people because they see everybody else doing it. They figure, I may not be perfect, but at least I go to Church (sometimes).

            You also see this level of scrupulosity in some sects of Buddhism that maintain that animals can never be eaten and all life must be so respected that mosquitos can't be poisoned and deliberately stepping on an ant would be cruel abuse of life.

            This is where the 'looking down' on believers often comes in. The atheist thinks, "At least I'm not a hypocrite that claims to be Christian and then acts just like everybody else. So on that level I'm more 'moral' than they are."

            While I understand that many Buddhists consider themselves a sort of 'atheist' because there is no creator God in their tradition, I think many atheists would scoff at the idea. "Buddhism is a religion, and if you believe in religion, you are not a real atheist." would go the likely retort.

          • David Hardy

            I was simply pointing out that when many people are confronted with Christianity and it's complex and heavy emphasis on guilt, they simply say, "No thank you."

            Fair enough, but there is still the question of those who reject Christianity on other grounds. As a Christian, I never felt that a reason to move from the faith was its emphasis on guilt, because there is a strong connection between guilt and saving grace and love in Christianity. I ceased to be Christian for other reasons.

            I also don't think that most atheists are more or less 'immoral' judging by contemporary standards. But again, Christian morality is a completely different set of standards.

            By some contemporary standards, many Christians are less moral in some areas (such as in standards that support euthanasia as merciful in some cases and allowing the person to suffer to be cruel). However, it is not fair to judge Christians by moral standards that they do not adhere to because they do not believe those standards are right. Rather, it would fall on those who hold this standard to try to convince the Christian moral standard it is the best moral standard. In the same way, to judge an atheist by Christian morals as though they were rejecting them out of some personal interest, rather than assume that it falls on the Christian to first convince the atheist to accept the moral standard, likewise mistakes the desire to violate those standards for the rejection of the validity of the standard, which is generally actually the case.

            This is where the 'looking down' on believers often comes in. The atheist thinks, "At least I'm not a hypocrite that claims to be Christian and then acts just like everybody else. So on that level I'm more 'moral' than they are."

            I have rarely encountered atheists of this sort, except a small number that seem to use the internet to release hostility towards Christianity. Most atheists I know simply do not believe that Christianity is true. Some even have a sort of envy for the certainty they no longer have that is possessed by believers, and others have admiration for at least part of the Christian tradition. For example, I admire many of the ethical teachings of Jesus, and those who try to adhere to them. I do not believe in the divinity of Jesus, however. That does not mean I look down on those who do. Few people reach the ideals they hold, but to hold high ideals and try can still be admirable.

            While I understand that many Buddhists consider themselves a sort of 'atheist' because there is no creator God in their tradition, I think many atheists would scoff at the idea. "Buddhism is a religion, and if you believe in religion, you are not a real atheist." would go the likely retort.

            I can only rely on my own experiences. I have actually never had this happen. Most other atheists I have encountered do not even comment when I mention I am Buddhist, and I find many points of agreement with both atheists and theists. Online, I have never been dismissed or disrespected for my belief in Buddhism. Offline, I have occasionally had people challenge my Buddhism, but mostly discussing some particular aspect that they disagree with, which I do not think is unreasonable. The most hostile encounter I ever had regarding religion was actually with a Christian missionary trying to convert me. However, I attribute that more to the fact that he was young, and his passion for his beliefs turned to aggressive efforts at spreading them to others. I have known many other Christian who were far more courteous and kind. One in particular stands out, a Christian missionary who had converted from Buddhism. We both could understand and respect the view of the other as one who once held it. Even with views I never held, I try to understand them first from the perspective of those who hold and cherish them, so I avoid a superficial understanding that is actually based on my own view and its assumptions.

          • Craig Roberts

            Thank you for your deep and well considered reflections.

          • David Hardy

            Thank you for speaking with me on these things, I hope my reflections were of interest. Your posts suggest to me that you also reflect deeply on your life, and I will continue to follow them as you choose to post.

          • Craig Roberts

            Well I must admit that you are the first 'Buddhist' that I have met (I use the quotes because most of the ostensibly Buddhist people I have met tend to be pretentious posers that use their 'Buddhism' to lord their superior spiritual status over everyone they meet) that seems to have been transformed into a more gentle and insightful person by the experience. God bless.

          • Sample1

            But just because I took piano lessons as a kid and gave it up because it
            was too hard, I wouldn't call myself a former piano player.

            The implication here being? That atheists who were once trained in a religion should not call themselves formerly religious?

            Mike, formerly religious. Currently a poetic naturalist spreading morality and justice throughout the land.

          • Craig Roberts

            I don't know. I've known some people that were very, very religious and that had a bad experience and went full anti-religion. Personally, I would find it more believable to say, "I thought I believed in God." Rather than, "I used to believe in God." But that's kind of nit-picking. I prefer to try to take people at their word and not ascribe ulterior motives to them.

          • David Nickol

            Personally, I would find it more believable to say, "I thought I believed in God." Rather than, "I used to believe in God."

            That would clearly imply it is possible to think you believe in God without it actually being the case, raising the question of how many people here who argue as theists only think they are theists. They may be people who simply think they believe in God, but haven't had the misfortune to have the kind of "bad experience" that would cure them of their mistaken belief that they really believe in God.

            I prefer to try to take people at their word and not ascribe ulterior motives to them.

            The wiser course, it seems to me. I would hate to have to come up with a test to tell the difference between what people really believe and what they only think they believe.

          • Craig Roberts

            You're right. I'm splitting hairs. Think and believe are a little hard to parse sometimes.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Playing piano and religious faith are not at all analogous. Many former religious people most certainly believed in God and had faith. The only way you could get away from that fact is to play some serious word games with "believe."

            As a former believer, I didn't just have one bad experience with faith. The bad experiences were legion. There were good experiences with faith too, but it trivializes a faith journey to chalk it up as one bad experience.

            And while in the immediate aftermath of losing ones religion there may be a lot of anger and anti-religious sentiments they usually pass with time. If I was to describe my feelings toward religion, anger would be far down on the list behind amusement and pity. The arguments and apologetics, ditto. There are exceptions, but sadly they are exceptions and not the rule.

          • Craig Roberts

            So how do you lose your faith? That seems like losing your opinion. Your opinions can change but you can't really 'lose' them.

          • David Hardy

            Hello Craig,

            Regarding faith, and whether a person has it, I would propose that the difference between those who describe themselves as having faith versus those who do not often differ more in interpretation than experience. Prior to becoming Buddhist, I was a devoted follow of Christianity. I went to church, participated in mission trips, and found many things that seemed to confirm my faith. My conversion away from Christianity came when I found want appeared to be irreconcilable contradictions in my faith, not from any bad experience.

            Having ceased to be Christian I have not, however, lost those experiences that I once understood as faith in and connection to God. As some examples, experiences of great beauty, of purpose and meaning, and of being connected to something greater than myself still occur in my life. However, I no longer interpret them using the concept of God. I still retain that concept, and understand what it is, I just do not believe it is valid to apply in making sense of things I experience. Instead, I draw on Buddhist concepts like interdependence and nirvana, in addition to what research shows regarding how the brain and mind work, to make sense of these experiences.

            So, I would say that, to the extent that a person grounds the idea of faith in experiences that do not depend on a conceptual framework, atheists can experience these things as much as theists do. However, to the extent that a person defines faith as making sense of those experiences using a theistic framework, atheists do not have faith. However, at that point having faith and accepting a theistic framework become synonymous, so to say that a theist has faith is a tautology. It really depends on what a person understands faith to be.

          • Craig Roberts

            Do you mind if I ask you what those "irreconcilable contradictions" are?

            Personally I have tons of them. Reconciling Heaven and Hell for starters. I think that Christians that say that "God cannot contradict Himself and the faith has no real contradictions, just paradoxes we don't understand." are out of their minds. You can't read the Bible seriously and objectively and not pick up on all the contradictions.

            It's been my experience though that people that leave the faith usually have a fundamental problem with the Church's teaching on morality.

          • David Hardy

            Hello Craig,

            First, I would start by saying that I mean contradictions for which I find no satisfying reconciliation. I am sure none of the contradictions I offer will be new, and there are certainly many people who are aware of them and find ways to reconcile them to their faith.

            One of the first contradictions I encountered was a serious consideration of the problem of evil. At the time, I concluded that even the logical problem of evil could not be reconciled, but I have since revised that view. I believe that it is logically possible for evil to exist with a being possessing omniscience, omnipotence and moral perfection. However, I continue to believe that the evil visible in the world often occurs with no justifiable reason I can see, and many where any effort to apply a moral code, Christian or otherwise, to what a person with knowledge of these events and power to do something about it ought to do. That does not mean their is not some grand purpose behind it, but the only evidence available to me indicates there is not. Whenever I find that I am turning to arguing that an option is possible despite all appearances it is not, I wonder how much my own biases or desires drive that argument.

            Another issue I hold is the claim that God is personal and desires a personal relationship, yet despite these claims seems unable or unwilling to make His existence, let along His nature and desires, apparent to his creations, and only states these through secondary sources that have nothing that clearly commends them more than any other human religious institution with competing claims. Even within Christianity, there are many voices on what God is and desires.

            Reconciling Hell with the view that God loves us (indeed, is Love itself), is all-powerful, yet for some reason can allow some of his creations to either suffer eternally or be annihilated (depending on the view, and assuming the Christian is not a universalist), also seems to be a contradiction to me. Is God unable to continue to try to save those after death, or unwilling? Why is salvation possible only in life, and cannot be offered later, even by an all-loving God?

            Free will also poses a problem. People often refer to free will as a source of evil. Yet, in the afterlife for those who were saved supposedly is without evil. So, do people lose their free will in heaven? This seems to challenge the idea that free will is a good that justifies evil. Do people retain it, but no longer do evil? This seems to challenge that evil is a necessary aspect to allowing for free will.

            As I said, all of these could be reconciled in one way or another by a believer. However, I have found alternative explanations that seem to require far fewer assumptions and contain fewer apparent contradictions that need to be reconciled by often uncertain propositions of how they might not be contradictions, and as a result have moved from a Christian worldview.

          • Craig Roberts

            Those are many deep and thorny issues...NOT! Just kidding. As a Catholic I hear lots of debates about 'the problem of evil', 'why does a good God allow suffering?', 'Hell. Who's there and why.' etc. etc. And frankly I just get bored of them. Christians that try to explain these phenomenon invariably end up sounding like parrots that have spent too long listening to the books on tape version of the catechism. They can't seem to realize that if you take the mystery out of the adventure you ruin it. I would rather become a Buddhist and give life a go from another point of view than 'reconcile' the things that can only be reconciled by spoiling the ending.

          • David Hardy

            Ideally I would think one would only become a Buddhist because one believed it best captured the narrative- beginning, middle and end, not to avoid losing mystery or spoiling the 'real' ending. However, I respect your desire to not venture into well-covered ground, as it often leads to well mapped destinations.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            "So, do people lose their free will in heaven?" No. "This seems to challenge the idea that free will is a good that justifies evil." Not at all. You may have some assumptions that are not relevant to Christianity with respect to Man in Eden, Man in privation, and Man in God. "Do people retain it, but no longer do evil?" We're not told, though it is implied. The typical route is this: ““The atheist would object and say why can't an all-powerful god create a world in which evil did not exist. Supposedly, there will be no suffering in heaven, so why didn't he just skip the beta testing (earth) and move on to the production release (heaven)?” (Genn) Once again, this is assuming several non-Christian claims about Man in Eden, Man in privation, and Man in God. Perhaps you even equate the three, or conflate one for another.

            It also seems that you’ve mistaken Men for Angels, or Angels for Men, and conflated such as it relates to God and God’s presence. Heaven has never, not once, declared a wedding until now and as for the ontological status of what happens in weddings and after weddings (God in Man / Man in God) you’ve provided no basis, nor *can* you (because we have none) by which to guess for neither Angles nor any other of Heaven’s lines have ever known or even spoke of such a thing. Not ever has there been a Wedding. Not until Christ. That is why Lucifer’s Heaven, whatever it was, will not be Man’s Heaven. Sometimes we really do think too small of God and His reach. We rightly say that God only knows the abyss of countless realities in play. Nevertheless, you’ve not accounted for any of the aforementioned factors.

            Heaven? On weddings/amalgamations, well what? Well.... should it be the case that the semantics of Man in God and the semantics of God in Man, that is to say, should it be that the semantics of incarnation actualize then we have far outdistanced Lucifer’s Heaven, and Man in Eden, and Man in privation such that wherever Man shall turn his gaze, whether over his head, or beneath his feet, or even into his own chest he shall spy the immutable contours of love’s timeless reciprocity vis-à-vis the very processions which constitute the triune God such that wherever he shall (freely) motion he will find his chief end, his final good, or life, or love, or goodness, or whatever term one wishes to assign to *God*.

            Weddings are peculiar affairs, as are love's volitional motions. We're told enough to safely go that far. As for Buddhism's “Where the self is, truth is not. Where truth is, the self is not” well one there along with the Non-Theist willingly expunges both self and love, both other and reciprocity such that what D.B. Hart terms God's timeless "one another" never actually sums to a voice.

          • David Hardy

            Hello LHRMSCBrown,

            Thank you for providing your thoughts on this. I have a few thoughts in return.

            You may have some assumptions that are not relevant to Christianity with
            respect to Man in Eden, Man in privation, and Man in God.

            Respectfully, I was raised Christian, and brought these issues to a range of people, including leaders within the churches I attended. I also read on the subject. Perhaps it would be fair to say that I may have some assumptions that are not relevant to your understanding of Christianity, or to a particular Christian denomination. However, my assumptions on this are by no way unique to myself.

            As to the rest of your post, I can tell that a great deal of thought underlies your position, as you reference a number of different concepts. However, as you have not explained them to me, I cannot effectively respond to them. If you wish to continue, you may wish to clarify what you understand "Man in Eden", "Man in Privation" and "Man in God" to be. Given that you appear to also distinguish "Man in God" and "God in Man", and relate this to a wedding metaphor, it would also help to clarify these to states in relation to each other and how the wedding metaphor applies. You also may want to clarify how you distinguish "men" and "angels" in relation to God.

            I would end by suggesting that many of these topics are sources of disagreement even within Christianity, to one extent or another, sometimes even sources of disagreement or at least mystery within a particular denomination. To treat them as a matter of established fact instead seems to be a leap to one's particular position, treating it as the universal Christian viewpoint. However, I certainly could be misunderstanding your view on that point.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            (Edited at 32 min) I don't know of any obvious Christian claims which treat Man's capacities within the three conditions of Eden, privation, and eternal life as identical. As for incarnation, as for Man being found in God (Bob-X is in God, etc.), as for God being found in Man (God is Bob-X), and then in distinct fashions in "heaven", well again I don't know any overt Christian rejection of those. I'm also not familiar with a rejection of scripture's "Bride/Groom" topography by the same. I'm not sure either of said Bride with respect to Lucifer's genus. In fact we're told they marvel at such a work. Given such, Lucifer's Heaven cannot be our Heaven. Those peculiar weddings....

          • David Hardy

            I never claimed the conditions were identical, but it is up to you to demonstrate how the differences support your point, if you believe they do and wish to discuss it with me. Likewise, how you understand "God in Man" and similar ideas, and how this relates to the situation is also up to you to explain. It is not a question right now, as far as I can tell, whether the concepts are accepted or rejected in Christianity. It is a question of what you understand them to be and how they relate to the topic at hand. I do not fully understand you on this point, and have only pointed out that your use of concepts and the conclusions you draw do not seem to be the same as that of many Christians I have discussed this with. If we continue however, that may change as I better understand your position.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            (Edit at 55 min) David, actually you're the one asserting that there is something on the other side of the specific wedding in question which violates love's volitional motions. And, as far as I can tell, you're basing that assertion on what we find within the capacities of Man in Eden and in Man in privation, respectively. So it seems it is you who is equating them. But clearly we find the semantics of the mutable putting on the immutable. And not only that, but we find such semantics right in the midst of the Trinitarian landscape, the very wellspring out of whom springs the very possibility of, essence of, such ontic "unicity" amid "one-another".

            Unlike Pantheism (and perhaps Buddhism?) the Christian narrative finds that Man will never be God, though Man is to be found in God and, God is to be found in Man. Such finds the particular wedding in question and we find in Man (in Heaven) no signs at all of an annihilation of either the Bride's volition nor her capacities, and in fact all signs would point to each of those only increasing, widening. It's unclear even what the concept of "sin" could even mean if in fact privation is annihilated, expunged by the very wedding we speak of (evil as privation is the Christian view of evil). None of "that" equates to Man in Eden, nor Man in privation. Nor even (for clarity) Lucifer's Heaven for the reasons stated earlier.

            But you assert that there is an annihilation of volition. Where?

            I wonder, do you view love's unicity in an ontological, or eternal, or irreducible sense, do you view love's processions amid that timeless "one another" in that same sense? I ask because I'm curious what it is you think you may be either rejecting or embracing. If you do view reality in such a way and find as almost all men do that love is the first and last ethic, then you are right to reject A or B or C or D and embrace Buddhism having found such resolution in Buddhism. But it's not apparent that any of that is (was?) the case with your decision.

          • David Hardy

            Hello LHRMSCBrown,

            I feel the need to apologize again -- I have read this post several times, and I do not understand it. Regarding the free will issue we were discussing, I offered my position in another recent post to you. As to the rest, I have struggled to understand, and I do not wish to misrepresent what your position is through misunderstanding it. Your way of thinking follows paths and relies on ideas that seem very different from mine, and that makes it hard for me to bridge your thoughts and mine effectively. If you would like to continue on the ideas in this post, it may help me if you offer only a single question or idea. I can then either respond or request clarification, so that I can better avoid misunderstanding. Please let me know if this option would appeal to you.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            As in my other post a few minutes ago, I'll reply more later. For now, briefly: you're not distinguishing the difference between Man's status and volitional options in Eden vs. privation vs. eternal life (heaven). You haven't shown that Eden is unnecessary. You just assume, from what I can tell, that man's volitional motions into (or out of) what scripture defines as a wedding of sorts (recall "self/other") is unnecessary should love be the first and last ethic. But that's incoherent..... unless you posit man as automata and thereby annihilate love. And you still haven't shown where heaven annihilates volition.

          • David Hardy

            Hello LHRMSCBrown,

            I can only respond to what you have said here, but I think it is safe to say that we are in very different places in this conversation. I highlighted, as an example, a potential contradiction in Christianity, and have already pointed to coherent Christian views that could reconcile the contradiction if one held them. The apparent contradiction itself was offered as one of a number that led me to first question Christianity, and ultimately to accept a different paradigm as better reflecting reality as I experience it. As near as I can tell, you are approach this by taking the view into your own framework and discussing how it does not apply. I have no objection or challenge to the idea that you have an internally consistent Christian framework that resolves the apparent contradiction. Due to this, I am not sure I have a position that I would take within this conversation.

          • David Hardy

            I think what I was basing my position on has more to do with the theodicy of free will, which not every Christian accepts.

            The general position in this view is that at least some evil arises as a necessary condition of allowing free will. God allows for it to preserve the greater good that is the freedom to make choices. If free will is preserved in a state where evil does not occur, that suggests the premise that some evil is necessary is wrong.

            However, this position can be resolved in a number of coherent ways. One could reject free will, as Calvinists do, or argue that evil is a temporary issue that arises in free will that God will overcome and is not necessary to free will, as Universalists might. These are two examples of ways to address the contradiction. I simply do not find reason to accept either as true at this time.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Earlier you stated, “I highlighted, as an example, a potential contradiction in Christianity”. You also stated, "I was raised Christian, and brought these issues to a range of people, including leaders within the churches I attended.." It seems so far that perhaps you were either misled or else you perhaps didn't understand what was discussed. Or neither. But what is obvious is that you've not allowed a full convergence of what seem to be various isolated premises which never seem to talk to one another nor with scripture nor with metaphysical necessities. That leaves the impression of coherence in your mind, but unless you force those isolated premises to talk to one another and converge with scripture and logic, you're only really ever discussing some Non-Christian structure.

            You stated that it is a contradiction to say that [1] evil is a necessary possibility if God is to fashion Man with a free will and to also say that [2] In heaven Man will have free will and there will be no evil.

            I specifically addressed the false premises you’re embracing which are leading you to this error. Those false premises are that both the status and the options availed to Man are (according to you) all equal in [1] Eden (which is not privation/evil nor is it eternal life) and in [2] privation (our current status) and in [3] Heaven.

            Regarding Heaven and volition, the fact that you reject Christianity is simply an extension of the fact that you reject the Christian terms regarding the nature of love (recall self/other) and what necessarily transpires *before* weddings and *in* weddings and *after* weddings. (Sorry, but Calvinism and Universalism merely sum to man as automata and hence annihilate love). Also, on heaven, weddings, and volition, I went further and offered you the following:

            One: You’ve mistaken Men for Angels, or Angels for Men, and conflated such as it relates to God and God’s presence. Heaven has never, not once, declared a wedding until now. Angles nor any other of Heaven’s lines have ever known or even spoke of such a thing. Not ever has there been a Wedding. Not until Christ. That is why Lucifer’s Heaven, whatever it was, will not be Man’s Heaven. So we cannot use that condition as a means to measure the metrics of Man’s Heaven. As in: Imago Dei.

            Two: On what happens to Man as he volitionally embraces “God” or “The Good” or “Immutable Love” or “Christ” brings us into “Heaven” and it is there where you merely assert that Man’s volition is annihilated given that privation (evil) cannot occur. But clearly we find the semantics of the mutable putting on the immutable. And not only that, but we find such semantics right in the midst of the Trinitarian landscape, the very wellspring out of whom springs the very possibility of, essence of, such ontic "unicity" amid "one-another". A cause proportionate to the effect is needed here, and that is discussed briefly below after this list of 5 items.

            Three: The result of Man’s volitional, free, embrace of “The Good” or “God”, the result of that Bride/Groom “wedding” (to borrow Scripture’s terms) carries Man to an ontic-location which has far outdistanced Lucifer’s Heaven and has far outdistanced Man in Eden and has far outdistanced Man in privation. Hence the fallacious assumptions in trying to equate Man’s volitional motions in all three arenas.

            Four: You assume without justification that Man in said heaven will have his capacities, options, and volition annihilated because evil cannot occur. Whereas, given the ontology of what is happening in the New Birth, in the New Man, reason and logic anticipate an actual *increase* in and on all such fronts. Scripture seems to affirm that conclusion.

            Five: The birth which results from that wedding finds the New Man in a state of affairs such that wherever Man shall turn his gaze, whether over his head, or beneath his feet, or even into his own chest he shall spy the immutable contours of love’s timeless reciprocity vis-à-vis the very processions which constitute the triune God such that wherever he (man) shall (freely) motion he will find his chief end, his final good, his true felicity.

            Lastly, before moving to the next point, some fatal errors:

            You seem to presuppose that volition mandates evil in all possible worlds, or, that volition mandates the possibility of evil in all possible worlds, and, you seem to reject (or not understand) the Christian terms regarding the nature of love (recall self/other) and what necessarily transpires *before* weddings and *in* weddings and *after* weddings. Those presuppositions can only be built on (as far as I can tell) your own view of what “Man” actually is and on what “Ultimate Realty” actually is. But you can’t foist Buddhism’s or Non-Theism’s definitions into a Christian paradigm and then claim the Christian paradigm isn’t coherent. That’s a key error I see you committing.

            Also, evil as necessary vs. evil as necessarily possible. If you assert that volition must be evil itself for it *necessitates* not the *possibility* of evil but in fact evil *itself*, then freedom is evil in a philosophically necessary sense because it *necessitates* not the possibility of evil but evil. Or, the other option, we can pull up short of that and state that on your view it is impossible to have volition without the possibility of evil and that is the case in all possible worlds. But that only means the Christian God is impossible on your view, for the Christian God just is love’s volitional motions void of evil. Privation in God just is, still, in all directions, God. Lastly for this paragraph, none of this has been combined (by your assertions) with the Christian terms regarding the nature of love (recall self/other) and what necessarily transpires *before* weddings and *in* weddings and *after* weddings.

            The reason none of that gets you anywhere is because of classical theism’s uncanny regress to Being Itself as the proportionate cause to whatever effect we happen to be speaking of. Only that which just *is* Being Itself can be a cause proportionate to the effect which is to be at all [as in http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/07/first-without-second.html ] In Christianity volitional processions amid reciprocity’s self/other *is* the very wellspring of all possible essence, all possible being, for such is the triune God in whom we find love’s timeless “one-another”. So (then) “that” is the Christian God and “that” is our “proportionate cause”. And the “effect”? Just as for Man to “be at all” requires a cause proportionate to the effect (only “being itself” can cause a man to “be at all”) reveals God’s wherewithal with respect to the First Adam (Man in Eden, who can volitionally move into / out-of either wholeness or else privation), so also (then) we find that for Man to volitionally embrace God (which carries him into the wedding in question) now requires a cause proportionate to that (new) effect describe earlier (in “Five: The birth which results…”).

            If you attempt to separate that principle of proportionate causality from the Christian terms regarding the nature of love (recall self/other) and what necessarily transpires *before* weddings and *in* weddings and *after* weddings, then you’re going to end up arguing against Non-Christian truth-claims. Given that we cannot separate those vectors (else you get some Non-Christian straw man) it is rational to say this: only the God of Christianity survives all possible demands of the principle of proportionate causality in all of these arenas.

            It seems that for a wedding to survive love as the first ethic and love as the last ethic, there must be an actual “Man”, or “being”, and said being must have actual volition (given the nature of weddings). The reason for this topography is apparent: God decrees, not “man as automata” but rather Man as the Imago Dei. What happens *before* weddings and what happens *in* weddings and what happens *after* weddings just is the entire Christian metanarrative.

            Moving on:

            You stated, “The apparent contradiction itself was offered as one of a number that led me to first question Christianity, and ultimately to accept a different paradigm..”

            Given that your concept of a supposed contradiction is based entirely upon Non-Christian metaphysical claims, you’ve traded away a paradigm which offers you the very thing you seem to think cannot be, but which you seem to think should be, and which your decision making is based on, and you have embraced a paradigm which annihilates the very thing you seem to be claiming ought to be.

            Moving on:

            You stated, “…have already pointed to coherent Christian views that could reconcile the contradiction if one held them….”

            All you’ve done is assert “man as automata or else evil must be possible in all worlds” and then foist Calvinism and Universalism (which both make of man “automata”) and claimed a lack of resolution.

            Your bold claim of no resolution is not surprising given that you seek a resolution for volition/goodness over inside of misguided claims about God [1] programming (a forced wedding and hence forced consummation) all to “love” Him (universalism) and [2] over inside of God programming (forcing) some to “love” Him (forced wedding and hence forced consummation) while programing others to hate Him (Calvinism). All of your discoveries inside of “Man as automata” are as expected. We don’t blame you for avoiding Christianity's far more robust and well mapped arenas given that their destinations are not what you want to find (apparently).

            It seems you don’t think the Christian definition of heaven (Man’s heaven, not Lucifer’s heaven) is possible. But that is only because of three problems in your analysis. [1] In your thinking there is no such thing possible as the proportionate cause for such an effect. You rule out the Christian God and then ask where is the cause/effect vis-à-vis the Christian God. [2] Also, it is because you have some sort of bizarre idea about what a reality which has love as both the first and last ethic has to look like given the context of the decreed Imago Dei. [3] You reject the Christian terms regarding the nature of love and what necessarily transpires *before* weddings and *in* weddings and *after* weddings. As for weddings and consummations, well, given your confusion and Non-Christian presuppositions within the context of love, perhaps the following:

            “I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise…. The world rings with praise—lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game…. I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: 'Isn't she lovely? Wasn't it glorious? Don't you think that magnificent?' The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can't help doing, about everything else we value. I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.” (by C.S. Lewis)

          • David Hardy

            Hello LHRMSCBrown,

            Thank you for the extensive thoughts. I know my response may seem brief in reply, but there is something you said that I think raises a question of great importance, before I continue in this conversation:

            Sorry, but Calvinism and Universalism merely sum to man as automata and hence annihilate love

            Based on your other statements, it seems as though you would say that Calvinism is not a Christian framework. Is this correct, or have I misunderstood?

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Universalism, Calvinism, Arminianism, Middle Knowledge, and others are conversations within Christianity, but that doesn’t change the content of your errors and hence you’re still found discussing some Non-Christian structure. If we grant Calvinism or Universalism to your complaint (and that seems to be all you are aware of despite your assertion that you took your questions to “a range of people”) then free will becomes a moot point (at least within privation), as does love’s volitional processions (within privation at least), yet you still retain your incoherence in foisting ultimately or cosmically gratuitous vectors. Interestingly, if you want to embrace “man as automata” in Buddhism then you’ve still no justified complaint given that large (majority even) swaths of Christendom reject “man as automata”. Also, if you want to embrace ultimately illusory (non-irreducible) “purpose” in Buddhism, then you’ve still no justified complaint given that all of Christendom rejects any ethic which does not start in love and end in love (hence the requests for Buddhism’s ontology of love).

            As far as “man as automata” goes, if you wish to expunge free will then that is fine, and given that you embrace Buddhism that seems to be your belief, though why you believe that I just cannot imagine given the metaphysical baggage it burdens all of your truth claims with (…with no “God” to land in, only dissolution). But it’s up to you if you believe in that. Given that you’ve not offered anything other than Calvinism and Universalism in your complaints and have not mentioned or unpacked other, huge swaths of Christendom, and given that you said, "I was raised Christian, and brought these issues to a range of people, including leaders within the churches I attended.." it has become all too obvious that you've not allowed a full convergence of what seem to be various isolated premises which never seem to talk to one another nor with scripture nor with metaphysical necessities. That leaves the impression of coherence in your mind, but unless you force those isolated premises to talk to one another and converge with scripture and logic, you're only really ever discussing some Non-Christian structure.

            You also stated that it is a contradiction to say that [1] evil is a necessary possibility if God is to fashion Man with a free will and to also say that [2] In heaven Man will have free will and there will be no evil.

            So you’re in error on two points (gratuitous events and free will in Heaven). So let’s look at those two errors while granting Calvinism and while rejecting Calvinism for freedom-bearing worlds:

            On the ultimately purposeless (gratuitous), whether one takes the route of “The Greater Good” (Calvinism and others) or whether one takes the route of free will and consequential freedom-bearing worlds (perhaps Arminianism, perhaps Universalism, perhaps Middle Knowledge, and others), we find [All Things] taken and used by *God*, by "The Good", and, therefore, wherever we may find not only evil, not only good, but anything, we cannot find the ultimately gratuitous. It is not the route which makes that an irreducible "ontic-fact", but God. In other words, it is not the Greater Good route nor the free will and freedom-bearing consequential world route which makes the difference. The difference-maker with respect to gratuitous/purposed is the irreducibility of love vis-à-vis Being with respect to The Good, namely, *God*.

            Now, the irreducibility (non-illusory, ever present, that which precedes all) of love vis-à-vis Being with respect to The Good, namely, *God* is exactly what you have rejected in your change to Buddhism. Hence, you’ve embraced, for some unstated reason, that all things are ultimately gratuitous. (Well, you have hinted at or offered a kind of Platonism for love existing “out there” like the number “1” as an abstract object of sorts, void of reciprocity, void of Self/Other, void of self-sacrifice, void of acquiescence, void of love’s egalitarian self-giving, but still “there” in some inexplicable way, only, you’ve not come close to justifying such an assertion).

            From what you’ve given us so far, whether we offer Non-Theism or Buddhism: We find that [All Things] end in the gratuitous for all "purpose" is non-ontic and illusory.

            Whereas, if the Christian God: We find [All Things] taken and used by *God*, by "The Good", and, therefore, wherever we may find not only evil, not only good, but anything, we cannot find the ultimately gratuitous.

            The difference-maker with respect to gratuitous/purposed isn't Man's path into this world, rather, it is the irreducibility of love vis-à-vis Being with respect to The Good, namely, *God*.

            The entire affair of ultimately purposed (on the one hand) as opposed to the ultimately gratuitous (on the other hand) is that which the Non-Theist and the Buddhist (based on what you’ve described so far) is forced to surrender, to concede and hand over to the Christian (Theist etc.) for only he (Christian/Theist) has the metaphysical wherewithal to rationally traverse such territory.

            In short: It is not a discussion between Christians and Non-Theists, because it can't be. Rather, it is entirely a discussion within and among the Christian family, the Body of Christ.

            But that’s only half the problem: you still haven’t shown how Man’s volition is annihilated in Heaven given the large swath of Christendom which you’ve not addressed in that complaint. If you want to embrace “man as automata” in Buddhism then you’ve no justified complaint.

            And, on top of all of that yet again, you’ve still only allowed yourself to be informed by your former elders and hence a minority view of Christendom. All the while you are obviously rejecting large swaths of Christianity which provide you the means for a full convergence of what seem to be various isolated premises in your mind which never seem to talk to one another nor with scripture nor with metaphysical necessities. Granted, that leaves the impression of coherence in your mind, but unless you force those isolated premises to talk to one another and converge with scripture and logic, and we can add metaphysical necessities, you're still only discussing some Non-Christian structure.

            So, [1] how is free will annihilated in Heaven, and [2] why do you (seem to) embrace "man as automata"?

            Regarding free will / automata, there is also this: You said elsewhere in your reply to Jim:

            [1] "Relative truth has more to do with things that are not necessarily true, but still useful or important. For example, it would be hard to function in life at all with no concept or self or other, but these concepts would be placed under relative truth."

            [2] "However, in the dissolving of concepts of self and other, I find that a deeper sense of unity and connection is possible."

            Which "I" in [2] in "I find" are you referring to given that [1] defines "I" as not really real, but only useful?

            Also: Does the "I" in [1] and the "I" in [2] actually will to do? Is the "I" in [1] and the "I" in [2] actually intentional?

            Is intention illusory/useful or is it necessary/real? So far it seems that on Non-Theism and Buddhism it is the former, whereas, on Christianity it is the latter.

            So far, David, you've rejected the triune and therein Self/Other within love's timeless reciprocity. There is no love, no self-sacrifice, nor reciprocity, nor love's acquiescence, nor love’s egalitarian outpouring within self-giving, nor, it seems, will/intention.

          • David Hardy

            As for Buddhism's “Where the self is, truth is not. Where truth is, the self is not” well one there along with the Non-Theist willingly expunges both self and love

            On this point, I would suggest that the Buddhist concept of no-self is related to the concept of interdependent arising, which in turn supports the immeasurable virtues of Buddhism, which includes loving kindness and compassion. While distinct, it may help to relate this to the Christian commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself", as there is some similarity in the conceptualization and application of the concepts. Of course, in this case I am specifically referring to my own Buddhist tradition, so other forms may vary in some details or emphasis.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            (Edit 5 hr) Can you clarify how love's ontology within interdependent arising is distinct from Non-Theism or from its less honest cousins of Spinoza-esc pantheism(s). Is there a self... I'm not sure of that.

            Is the "Self" ontologically irreducible? I ask that in the context of Jim's point, which we seem to find in Pantheism as well. The Self, you, me, I, is, finally, non-entity. The Middle Way in Buddhism, from what I understand, affirms this. The reason I ask this about the ontological status of the Self is because it has an inescapable impact upon the ontological status of love.

            As for evil, the word is meaningless but for, in very basic terms, this: lovelessness. In a word -- privation.

            It's not obvious (so far) in your paradigm (I may well be wrong) that love sums to the immutable in the necessary sense, but rather such lines seem to sum to the illusory.

            Whereas we find in Trinity love's timeless "one another" amid reciprocity's unending processions. All definition flows from there, from the immutable love of the Necessary Being.

            In Buddhism such vectors are not apparent. Can you perhaps unpack that a bit....

          • David Hardy

            Can you clarify how love's ontology within interdependent arising is distinct from Non-Theism

            Many forms of Buddhism do not include a God or gods within the belief structure, and so could be described as non-theistic. However, Non-theism is just a classification, which includes many belief systems that are not Buddhist. Just as Christianity is a form of monotheism, the distinction is that it is a different level of classification.

            The Self, you, me, I, is, finally, non-entity. The Middle Way in Buddhism, from what I understand, affirms this.

            Within Buddhism generally, the "self" as a concept is illusory, a way of making sense of things. The things themselves are real. So, depending on how you mean it, the self is both real and unreal. I will clarify that in response to Jim, as he also asked for a clearer definition of what is meant by this.

            As for evil, the word is meaningless but for, in very basic terms, this: lovelessness. In a word -- privation.

            That strongly depends on the assumptions of the person using the word. A person might say that a tragic accident that kills an innocent child is evil, or that a person who loves a child in a way that is domineering is a kind of evil. Certainly, though, the idea of all evil as privation has many who follow it.

            I am doing my best to respond to your points, but I must admit that I continue to struggle with some of them. Please let me know if there is a point that I did not address that you would like me to -- I may need clarification from you before doing so. I apologize for any confusion on my part.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            David, I'll respond more fully later. For now, on your reply addressing love's ontology, you didn't address Buddhism's approach. I know God/god may not be present. But the question is on the ontological status of love. If the self is illusory, then ipso fact so too love, as far as I can tell, and therein ipso facto so too evil. But I don't want to assume. Hence the question specific to love.

            As a qualifier I'm certain that self/other applied to, say, (rock)(air molecule) does not sum to love. Spinoza-esc definitions sometimes stray in that direction. That forces a pure metaphysical armistice.... "Distinction is achieved only by violence among converging equals. Being is in some real sense a plain upon which forces of meaning and meaninglessness converge in endless war; according to either, being is known in its oppositions, and oppositions must be overcome or affirmed, but in either case as violence…” (Hart)

            Hence the question on the ontological status of love.

            More later on your reply and on the man as automata in some misguided theologies....

          • David Hardy

            David, I'll respond more fully later. For now, on your reply addressing
            love's ontology, you didn't address Buddhism's approach. I know God/god
            may not be present. But the question is on the ontological status of
            love. If the self is illusory, then ipso fact so too love, as far as I
            can tell, and therein ipso facto so too evil.

            I am sorry my presentation did not answer your question -- I will try again. In Buddhism, love is a quality arising within the mind out of experiencing, relating to and engaging the things arising within awareness in a certain way. This way, and so love, can be cultivated and increased. The constructed idea of the self can inhibit the ability to experience, relate to and engage the world in the way that generates love. This would tie well with the underlying state described in the concept of "selfless love". I would again highlight that, while the idea of the self is seen as illusory, the things that are identified as the self within this idea are not.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            "The constructed idea of the self can inhibit"

            Given that the idea is both constructed and is causal (can inhibit),

            [1] "what" constructs the idea

            [2] or perhaps "who" constructs the idea

            [3] who or what is being inhibited

            I ask because it seems as if a non-existent self creates itself. But non-existent things can't *do*. The following quote is what I have in mind:

            "Metaphysically, moreover, the very concept of self-organization is suspect. More precisely, the idea that an entity can organize itself into *existence*, which is what is at issue, is deeply suspicious. For if an entity – any entity – is to organize itself into existence, it has to exist before it can do *any* organizing, let alone organizing its own existence; so it has to exist before it exists, which is absurd. This means that self-organizing systems are really systems that are organized into existence from *without*, as a convection cell is organized into existence by its environment, albeit with apparent spontaneity and unpredictability. Once in existence, there is no conceptual problem with the entity's continually organizing itself through self-regulating, homeostatic, or other mechanisms that involve, say, taking in energy from the environment, utilizing it and expelling waste products. But that it could organize its entry into the world in the *first* place looks like as good a case of metaphysical impossibility as one is likely to get." (David Oderberg)

            "while the idea of the self is illusory, the things that are identified as the self within this idea are not."

            That seems to present Sean Carroll's regress to elementary particles, with fermions and/or reality's four fundamental forces as the "real" "parts". If so, we seem to be back to the impossibility of self-organization again. Or are you saying that love is actually existent, concrete, non-illusory even though the self is illusory?

            It's unclear if love is a part of the self, as a kidney is a part of a body, and so the "whole" is the "self". But then the kidney also has parts and so it also is illusory until we account for the parts which make *it* up. And so on all the way down to elementary particles and/or nature's four fundamental forces. I don't see anything here other than Sean Carroll's self-negations coupled with an attempt to claim self-organization, a metaphysical impossibility.

            The only other option I see is a Spinoza-like pantheism wherein all-is-the-real or else all-is-illusory.

            But then that forces all the pains of metaphysical armistice, of an endless war of converging and colliding ontological equals – ad infinitum, as in: “Distinction is achieved only by violence among converging equals. Being is in some real sense a plain upon which forces of meaning and meaninglessness converge in endless war; according to either, being is known in its oppositions, and oppositions must be overcome or affirmed, but in either case as violence…” (D.B. Hart) In short, good and evil are non-distinct ontological equals.

            So, what is the ontology of love?

          • David Hardy

            Hello LHRMSCBrown,

            As I have done my best to explain the ontology of love from a Buddhist perspective, and this has not satisfied you, I will simply concede that I may not be able to articulate it in a way that answers your question in a way that you would find satisfying. I will offer one final thought:

            The universe arises. Within the universe, minds arise. Within minds, through the experience of the universe, mental qualities such as thoughts and feelings arise. Arising from the experience of the universe, these thoughts and feelings are fundamentally connected with the universe and the experience of it. However, arising after and as a result of the universe and the experience of it, they cannot be identical to what they arise out of. Our idea of self and who we are is not identical to the mind itself nor to the universe and the experiences of it within the mind we call "self", including the sensations of "our" body. It is an effort to make sense of things, and may emphasize one aspect as the expense of another, or overlook certain aspects entirely. That is how it constrains. It is illusory in that it is treated as identical when it is not. Love is an arising mental quality that does not depend on the idea of the self, and many people hold an idea of the self that can inhibit the expression of love.

            I hope that helps, but I am uncertain what else I can say on this subject to explain it the Buddhist perspective as I understand it to you.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Thank you for your input so far David. It is appreciated and I hope you can appreciate my intention to define. One more item here is of interest:

            "Love is an arising mental quality that does not depend on the idea of the self, and many people hold an idea of the self that can inhibit the expression of love."

            Who (or what) is love inhibiting from loving? You seem to be saying that love is most expressed when there are no persons. No I. No You. No Us. No Self/Other. This seems more like Platonism, "....the theory that numbers or other abstract objects (like love) are objective, timeless entities, independent of the physical world and of the symbols used to represent them."

            I suppose one can posit that love exists void of I/You, void of Us, void of Self/Other. But this is then dissolution rather than acquiescence, it is annihilation rather than self-sacrifice.

            Love's reciprocity (and the word reciprocity entails I/You -- Self/Other) reveals love's eternally sacrificed self (Christianity) vis-à-vis Trinity, vis-à-vis Christ.

            Such is juxtaposed to your terms wherein we cannot find love's self-sacrifice, nor reciprocity, nor love's acquiescence, but only the total and complete annihilation of all such processions punctuated with (and this is inexplicable given the aforementioned annihilations) a kind of Platonism wherein the abstraction that is love is yet an entity, yet exists.

            I do appreciate your effort, though, I must say, as one who affirms the hard fact of Good, and of Evil as privation, and of love as reality's first and last ethic, and, given reality’s requisites of what we term man, of what we term the self, of what we term other, of what we term knowledge, of what we term being, of what we term existence, and of what we term love, I can only rationally affirm Christianity’s unique genre.

            All of this ties in seamlessly with this review by Vogt of Carroll in that whether we speak of the physical sciences or of man or of mind or of being or of existence or of love’s ontology the Christian’s metaphysical topography is a map which requires none of the strained and self-negating solipsisms of the Non-Theistic map just as it requires far, far fewer assumptions and contains far, far fewer contradictions that need to be reconciled by often uncertain propositions of how they might not be contradictions.

          • David Hardy

            Hello LHRMSCBrown,

            I do appreciate your efforts to define -- you clearly put a great deal into each post. I think the trouble comes more from the difference in how we conceptualize things and use terms.

            I suppose one can posit that love exists void of I/You, void of Us, void of Self/Other. But this is then dissolution rather than acquiescence, it is annihilation rather than self-sacrifice.

            Suppose a dissolution occurs, and yet annihilation does not. That would suggest that what was dissolved is not necessary, and the Buddhist position is that the idea is not necessary and can be dissolved, and this frees what it tries to conceptualize. Suppose further the dissolution gives rise to a deep sense of interconnection and love. It is difficult to describe how this occurs unless one takes up concentration and insight meditation. However, this position is not just based in reason, but also in the direct experience of it within practice.

            On the other hand, there is still value in the concept of self, which ties to the two truth idea within Buddhism. I am responding to that side further with Jim, as it is relevant to a point he made, but I have not yet posted that response.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Once again on love’s ontology:

            You’ve seemed to reject free will, and all will, as the self is illusory, or useful but not real, “Suppose a dissolution occurs, and yet annihilation does not. That would suggest that what was dissolved is not necessary, and the Buddhist position is that the idea is not necessary and can be dissolved, and this frees what it tries to conceptualize. Suppose further the dissolution gives rise to a deep sense of interconnection and love. It is difficult to describe how this occurs unless one takes up concentration and insight meditation. However, this position is not just based in reason, but also in the direct experience of it within practice.”

            You said also in your reply to Jim:

            [1] "Relative truth has more to do with things that are not necessarily true, but still useful or important. For example, it would be hard to function in life at all with no concept or self or other, but these concepts would be placed under relative truth."

            [2] "However, in the dissolving of concepts of self and other, I find that a deeper sense of unity and connection is possible."

            Which "I" in [2] in "I find" are you referring to given that [1] defines "I" as not really real, but only useful?

            Also: Does the "I" in [1] and the "I" in [2] actually will to do? Is the "I" in [1] and the "I" in [2] actually intentional?

            Is intention illusory/useful or is it necessary/real? So far it seems that on Non-Theism and Buddhism it is the former, whereas, on Christianity it is the latter.

            You claim dissolution without annihilation, but all I see here in that assertion so far is an equivocation.

            Non-Theism and Buddhism do seem to sum to unity after all. I have far more respect for Alex Rosenberg (so far) David. He gets to the point without forcing others to drag it out of him.

            You’ve offered that love’s I/You is dissolved, it is useful but not (irreducibly) real. I suppose one can posit that love exists void of I/You, void of Us, void of Self/Other. But this is then dissolution rather than acquiescence, it is annihilation (useful, not real) rather than self-sacrifice. Love's reciprocity (and the word reciprocity entails I/You -- Self/Other) reveals love's eternally sacrificed self vis-à-vis Trinity, vis-à-vis Christ. Such is juxtaposed (so far) to your terms wherein we cannot find love's self-sacrifice, nor reciprocity, nor love's acquiescence, nor love’s egalitarian outpouring within self-giving, but only the total and complete annihilation (I reject your equivocation given how you've unpacked this) of all such processions punctuated with (and this is inexplicable given the aforementioned useful-but-not-real’s) a kind of Platonism wherein the abstraction that is love is yet an entity, yet exists.

            I do appreciate your effort, though, I must say, as one who affirms the hard fact of Good, and of Evil as privation, and of love as reality's first and last ethic, and, given reality’s requisites of what we term man, of what we term the self, of what we term other, of what we term knowledge, of what we term being, of what we term existence, and of what we term love, I can only rationally affirm Christianity’s unique genre.

            So far, David, you've rejected the triune and therein Self/Other within love's timeless reciprocity. There is no love, no self-sacrifice, nor reciprocity, nor love's acquiescence, nor love’s egalitarian outpouring within self-giving, nor, it seems, will/intention.

            All of this ties in seamlessly with this review by Vogt of Carroll in that whether we speak of the physical sciences or of man or of mind or of being or of existence or of love’s ontology the Christian’s metaphysical topography is a map which requires none of the strained and self-negating solipsisms of the Non-Theistic map just as it requires far, far fewer assumptions and contains far, far fewer contradictions that need to be reconciled by often uncertain propositions of how they might not be contradictions.

          • David Hardy

            Hello LHRMSCBrown,

            At this point, I am going to respectfully step out of this conversation with you. I will explain why below. I am going to refer to all three of your most recent posts in this single reply, as a concluding point.

            Which "I" in [2] in "I find" are you referring to given that [1] defines "I" as not really real, but only useful?

            First, I will acknowledge that I spoke in a way that gives rise to confusion. Perhaps a better way would have been to say that their arises in awareness a deep sense of love when the experience of a distinct self dissolves. This highlights how relative truth is useful in trying to have a conversation about the subject, but it still could have been better spoken on my part. For this, I apologize.

            I have far more respect for Alex Rosenberg (so far) David. He gets to the point without forcing others to drag it out of him.

            I have done my best to offer my points. That you have interpreted this as dragging them out of me and led to a loss of respect suggests to me I should no longer seek to offer my points with you.

            The entire affair of ultimately purposed (on the one hand) as opposed to
            the ultimately gratuitous (on the other hand) is that which the
            Non-Theist and the Buddhist (based on what you’ve described so far) is
            forced to surrender, to concede and hand over to the Christian (Theist
            etc.) for only he (Christian/Theist) has the metaphysical wherewithal to
            rationally traverse such territory. It is not a discussion between Christians and Non-Theists, because it can't be. Rather, it is entirely a discussion within and among the Christian family, the Body of Christ.

            As your belief system seems to hold that we cannot have a discussion on this topic, I can have nothing of value to convey to you.

            Throughout this conversation, I have noticed that you tell me that I claim things that I have not, and then how it does not apply to a Christian framework. You have drawn strong assumptions about what I have experienced and how it applies to this conversation. Given these issues, I do not believe that there is cause to continue this conversation. I appreciate the effort you have put into discussing these things with me, and I hope you find others whose views inspire more respect within you, and with whom a discussion on these points is possible.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            David you’re going to have to decide in your own journey what is real and what isn’t. In his book, “The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha” Ravi Zacharias makes the following observation: “Having enjoyed such rapport with those who embrace the Buddhist worldview, I found it difficult to highlight the deep differences between Buddhism and Christianity and not bring offense. Those differences may be discomforting, but they are real….”

            The word “real” there carries import relevant to the law of non-contradiction. A thing cannot be both real (non-illusory) and non-real (illusory) at the same time. That you cannot speak of yourself, you, as consistently real or as consistently illusory isn’t problematic as it is what Sean Carroll, Non-Theism, and by extension Buddhism are all forced to do. The problem comes in when, unlike what Carroll seems to concede, and unlike what Rosenberg blatantly confesses, you deny the obvious violation of the law of non-contradiction in such a move. A “thing” cannot be both real (non-illusory) and illusory (non-real) at the same time. For example, in your most recent comment to me:

            “Perhaps a better way would have been to say that there arises in awareness a deep sense of love when the experience of a distinct self dissolves. This highlights how relative truth is useful in trying to have a conversation about the subject….”

            And from before:

            "Relative truth has more to do with things that are not necessarily true, but still useful or important. For example, it would be hard to function in life at all with no concept or self or other, but these concepts would be placed under relative truth."

            Here again we have what appears (to me) to be a contradiction. Would you mind, David, if I called you on it? That is what this thread is for, after all, isn’t it? I perceive there what appears to be a contradiction, and, so, I’ll reply with this: Is the self “real but it helps if you dissolve it, meaning place it out of one’s focus”, or, instead, did you mean something more akin to, “…the deep sense of love which we experience is real, even though the self which experiences that particular “deep sense of love” isn’t real?

            It's worth repeating: In his book, “The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha” Ravi Zacharias makes the following observation: “Having enjoyed such rapport with those who embrace the Buddhist worldview, I found it difficult to highlight the deep differences between Buddhism and Christianity and not bring offense. Those differences may be discomforting, but they are real….” The word “real” there carries import relevant to the law of non-contradiction. A thing cannot be both real (non-illusory) and non-real (illusory) at the same time.

            You stated, “That you have interpreted this as dragging them out of me and led to a loss of respect suggests to me I should no longer seek to offer my points with you.”

            Your points are not only well taken but desired, hence the request for more information. Unfortunately my requests for clarification on whether or not you are real have gone, now, in circles about three times. I am giving you an honest assessment of what you are in fact doing in my opinion (offering premises which appear to be contradicting each other and thereby avoiding clarification) and then requesting further clarification.

            You stated, “As your belief system seems to hold that we cannot have a discussion on this topic, I can have nothing of value to convey to you….”

            Please show me where I pointed to my beliefs wherein they state that we cannot discuss things. Please show me where I told you that your information (which I am seeking) is not of value. Why would I seek something from you unless I valued it? Do I value non-value? I don’t. Hence my chasing after input from you. If you think pointing out what appear to me to be contradictions is immoral, then I cannot help but disagree. If you think I’ve mischaracterized your points then you merely need to clarify how I did so.

            You stated, “Throughout this conversation, I have noticed that you tell me that I claim things that I have not…”

            Actually, I’ve told you what I’ve heard you saying with each response and then discussed an apparent contradiction (what I heard you say) and then asked in each response how what I heard you say can make sense (given the apparent contradictions pointed out) in requests for clarification. There’s a difference. If that is immoral in your view, then I can’t help but disagree.

            You stated, “You have drawn strong assumptions about what I have experienced and how it applies to this conversation…”

            Please show me where I’ve discussed you or your experience in isolation from quoting your own words and discussing those words and what I thought those words implied. Again, I’ve told you what I’ve heard you saying with each response and then discussed an apparent contradiction (what I heard you say) and then asked in each response how what I heard you say can make sense (given the apparent contradictions pointed out) in requests for clarification. There’s a difference. If that is immoral in your view, then I can’t help but disagree.

            I’d encourage you to explore much farther than you have within love’s ontology, and not to fear reality as such. It’s okay to count one’s self and one’s brutally repeatable moral experience as both real and revealing and also as informative even though fragmentary. The (real) perception of (real) love’s (real) fragmentation is (really) unavoidable – assuming scripture’s peculiar metanarrative.

          • David Hardy

            Hello LHRMSCBrown,

            Please understand, I do not think that anything you have done is immoral, and I am not offended. I simply see in your responses to me that you have inferred assumptions that I do not hold, and my efforts to correct those inferences have not been successful. As I have done my best to correct your misconceptions about my worldview and what it entails, but continue to see the same inferences made, I do not see any way to move the conversation forward. Therefore, I will accept that it is not moving forward, and end it. I believe that you are engaging me in good faith, and have done nothing inappropriate. I simply have done my best to build understanding, and now will accept the outcome of those efforts.

            As you do continue to express an interest in Buddhism, however, I will share a story, from the book Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. It is called "A Cup of Tea."

            Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring.

            The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"

            "Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

            This story is a koan. Like all koans, it is not intended to teach a lesson or convey a message, even though this story seems to have one. It is intended to foster a certain mindset through reflection upon it. Within the context of this story, I will offer a quote from Shunryu Suzuki:

            In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind, there are few.

            Within these is a mindset that, when truly understood itself, greatly helps to understand Zen Buddhism and those who follow it. I offer these in hopes that they help you in your goal to better understanding what Buddhism is.

          • Rob Abney

            I hope you continue the conversation David, its very enlightening.

          • David Hardy

            Hello Rob,

            I am glad to hear that you have found value within it. If you have further questions based on the conversation, you are certainly free to ask, and I will answer as best as I am able. As I said to LHRMSCBrown, I am not ending the conversation out of offense or frustration. I simply agree with him that the conversation is circling, although we seem to disagree as to why, and I do not see a clear way to resolve the circle within the conversation at this point.

          • Will

            Anyone seriously versed in philosophy is aware of all of the problems with personal identity (which is the "self)

            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-personal/#ProPerIde

            From neuroscience we learn that the brain is basically a noisy committee, and if you split it, you basically get two different selves. I'm not necessarily arguing that the self doesn't exist, but it isn't a single unified thing, but certainly composed of parts. I could see why someone would call that an illusion.

            http://www.nature.com/news/the-split-brain-a-tale-of-two-halves-1.10213

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Presupposing naturalism (any Non-Theism it seems), then yes, the eliminative march is unstoppable. Reality's (nature's) four fundamental forces precede, constitute, and thereby eliminate, "me". I've quoted A. Ginn before with this, “……at the lowest level of reality, the fermions that make up our bodies are subject to only the four fundamental forces of nature. There is no room for *you* to control their behavior.” Of course, to borrow from Lennox, such is not the only pair of glasses on the market. As I'm sure you know.

          • Will

            None of that really relevant to my post. If a "you" exists, it is composed of the 4 fundamental forces...like a house is made out of bricks. Does that fact that houses are made of bricks mean houses are illusions? Really?

            Again, illusion or "not real" is extreme, but it's certainly not nearly as simple as the average person thinks. As far as controlling forces, the brain clearly sends electrical and chemical signals to the body, and muscles use ATP to convert the electrical signals into physical movement.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            (Edited at 5 min) Brick houses don't "really" love, nor intend, nor will, nor cause, nor do. No one is saying that nature's four fundamental forces are not real. The distinction is between impersonal and personal causation, and therein impersonal and personal determinism. As Jim alluded to, "personal" is permitted by Carroll with the understanding that it is (really) shorthand for "complex impersonal causes". The ontological distinction between the brick house, the self, and the four fundamental forces is an illusion. There is no ontological distinction, and the fact that they are all quite real, yes very real, yes actually actual, doesn't change that one bit. That is why the syntax of emergentism is a gap filler based on current ignorance until we (naturalism) get a better grasp of reality's fundamental rock-bottom.

          • Will

            No one is saying that nature's four fundamental forces are not real.

            I never said anyone is saying they aren't real.

            Perhaps I can help you understand with the Aristotle's concept of the soul, which is simply the form of the body. Person's are thus combination of substance and form (hylomorphism). Is that acceptable? If so, think about the huge difference in form between a house and a human being. The difference between two human brains is also their form.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            (Edit at 9 min) Even in hylomorphic dualism there is that which outlives the collocation of covalent bonds we call the body. http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/03/so-what-are-you-doing-after-your-funeral.html But that dual nature is afforded by Christianity's principle of proportionate causality and so on. Whereas, on naturalism there is no ontological distinction between the brick house, the self, and nature's four fundamental causes. What is personal causation? It is, on naturalism, quite real, and, also, it is nothing but a complex array of impersonal causes (those four fundamental forces stacked up high within a megastructure). I fail to see the ontological distinction between a house and a human being in any relevant sense here, as each sums to collocations of impersonal forces reverberating within this or that megastructure. Even if one wishes to assert a purely material based Christian construct where nothing outlives covalent bonds, well one must call upon final causes (and etc.) to pull it off, and that is perhaps "do-able". But, on naturalism, that pesky "nothing but" excludes irreducible contours such as, say, final causes.

          • Will

            I'm with Aristotle on the fact that form can not exist without some kind of substance, thus immortality would require a physical redirection. Aquinas's error lies in the fact that he thinks the intellect isn't bound to a particular organ. Now we have a massive amount of evidence that it is bound to the brain, a damage to the organ can impede or even eliminate intelligence.
            If one accepts that the past exists, then the form of a person always exists. God or even a super intelligence could potentially access the form and use it for a resurrection. Thus Carroll could be right about the universe, just wrong about God, and Christianity still be right about immortality.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Dualism expects interactions and predicts effects with physical injury, but that's irrelevant to "Self" on Non-Theism. Carroll isn't wrong about personal causes given Non-Theism. It's nothing more than complex impersonal causes. The primary point being that there is no ontological distinction between a house and a human being in any relevant sense here, as each sums to collocations of impersonal forces reverberating within this or that megastructure.

          • Will

            As I've said, the difference between the house and person, on theism (at least, many versions of theism) is the structure/form/soul. The fact that, at bottom, the same fundamental forces are a work is beside the point in this framework. The form is still radically different. I think fixating on causation is a mistake because causation in very complex systems is impossible to identify as everything involved is a cause. Neither upward or downward causation really work.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            "The fact that, at bottom, the same fundamental forces are a work is beside the point in this framework (theism)". And yet, on Non-Theism, it is exactly the point. The soul is not reducible to covalent bonds as per the earlier link, ".....Now, when someone who accepts all of these premises puts them together, then, I maintain, to be consistent he must be a survivalist. There is no avoiding it. The human soul exists after death.....But form..... but substance......" http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/03/so-what-are-you-doing-after-your-funeral.html "Personal causation" on Non-Theism is no different than "what is happening" or "what is going on" inside the walls of a brick house. It's all shorthand for "complex impersonal causes" given Non-Theism. (borrowing from Jim's insights again etc.)

          • Will

            One major problem with Feser's approach is that death is a change in the form of the body. A heart attack represents a change in the form of blood vessels that lead to death of heart muscle cells from nutrient deprivation. If cells cannot maintain the process of metabolism, they destroy their own internal form via a process called necrosis. Once the heart stops pumping all of the other cells in the body also go through necrosis, leaving the form of the body radically changed after the process is complete. Death is literally a change in form. The forms (I use plural because the form of 20 year old person is noticeably different from the form of the same 60 year old person) of the living person exist, but only in the past. Notice that I'm using Aristotle's approach to the soul, which has nothing to do with atheism or theism.
            Again, the fixation on causes is a fundamental mistake. What exactly does a personal force or cause look like? Why is it not detectable scientifically? What's wrong with our fundamental models of physics so they can be fixed to include this new personal force you want to inject? If you are correct, you should at least be able to provide some type of theoretical approach here that can interact or be compatible with our scientific models. Again, how does theism or nontheism make any difference at all here (other than facilitating future resurrection)?

          • LHRMSCBrown

            "Personal causation" on Non-Theism is no different than "what is happening" or "what is going on" inside the walls of a brick house. It's all shorthand for "complex impersonal causes" given Non-Theism.

            It's not apparent that you disagree with that.

          • Will

            What's personal causation on theism, to contrast? I'm failing to see a difference unless we change the definition of soul.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            It's surprising to see you assert that things which outlive covalent bonds somehow reduce to covalent bonds. Are final causes made of covalent bonds too, or just the souls which outlive covalent bonds?

          • Will

            It's amazing that you don't comprehend that, under this account of the soul, the only thing that can make the form exist in the future is God. The soul exists just the same, under this definition, regardless of whether God exists. It's quite simple, actually. Do you deny that the soul is simply the form of the body?

          • LHRMSCBrown

            The "human" survives death. Hence the link to Feser on Survivalism/Corruptionism http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/03/so-what-are-you-doing-after-your-funeral.html etc.

            It is my view that there are components of man, right now, and of man, right now, which both *are* and which also *do*, right now, and which also outlive the body (survive death). And I don't see you disagreeing. So there's that. If you have a quibble with Feser, perhaps you can visit one of his com-boxes and take it up with him.

            Regarding your charge of me missing your points, it's more a matter of disinterest as my interest is, in these threads, in following Poetic Naturalism to its logical conclusion(s), and, surely you must know I'm not a physicalist/materialist. Hence my quote of Feser and the "human" surviving death inside of the arena of Survivalism/Corruptionism just was enough given the focus of my comments in this thread. I appreciate your desire to take it out wider out of Poetic Naturalism here. If you and Feser want to agree or disagree about the soul being only material, or not, and that, per Feser, the human being outlives the body, or not, that is fine with me. I told you my view on what is in-play in the human being, such not being entirely materially constituted.

          • Will

            If you have a quibble with Feser, perhaps you can visit one of his com-boxes and take it up with him.

            I got you. I'm not debating you, I'm debating Feser through you. Now you don't know what to say, so you just want me to take it up with Feser. Ever heard of a Parrot? Parrot's just repeat, they don't understand what they are saying...that's you ;)

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Regarding your charge of me missing your points, it's more a matter of disinterest as my interest is, in these threads, in following Poetic Naturalism to its logical conclusion(s), and, surely you must know I'm not a physicalist/materialist. Hence my quote of Feser and the "human" surviving death inside of the arena of Survivalism/Corruptionism just was enough given the focus of my comments in this thread. I appreciate your desire to take it out wider out of Poetic Naturalism here. If you and Feser want to agree or disagree about the soul being only material, or not, and that, per Feser, the human being outlives the body, or not, that is fine with me. I told you my view on what is in-play in the human being, such not being entirely materially constituted.

          • Will

            Why on earth would you just copy and paste something you've already posted to me? Do you even realize you already posted this exact paragraph? This isn't the first time you've done that.

          • David Hardy

            I'm not necessarily arguing that the self doesn't exist, but it isn't a
            single unified thing, but certainly composed of parts. I could see why
            someone would call that an illusion.

            I would say that part of the difficulty here is that the word "illusion" in English, while perhaps the best translation, carries many connotations that can create confusion what is meant in this case. The entire idea really centers on an awareness of the difference between our idea of things and the things themselves, and how our ideas usefully describe things but are limiting when we lose sight of the fact that the idea and what it describes are not identical. In fact, it is quite easy to dissolve limits by altering the scale of awareness-- go from an object of awareness to the entirety of awareness, go from an organ to the individual to the community, etc. Once this is seen, the arbitrary aspect of the limits and boundaries created by ideas of things is easier to see.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            An observation: The Buddhist’s sense of an ontologically strong arbitrariness fits in well with Non-Theistic tools. The Non-Theist has but one, singular, tool with which to build – and we find that he in fact has no (actual) "Man" at all – anywhere – but, rather, all there actually can be is his paradigm’s own singular ontology of his "singular and seamless continuum of particle (or whatever) in motion" (Debilis). Such leaves him with only arbitrary cutting points. As each cutting point is factually arbitrary – the stuff of semantic/epistemic – then it is factually the case that there are no (actual) stages of "man" and thus no (ontological) possibility of emerging properties and thus no (actual) self-awareness as “neuron” is the stuff of semantics, whereas “what is” is the stuff of that “singular and seamless continuum of particle (or whatever) in motion” in the strong ontological sense. There is no ontological distinction between a brick house nor a man in any relevant sense with respect to "personal causation" as each is nothing but a collocation of nature's four fundamental forces reverberating within this or that arbitrarily defined megastructure which is itself seamlessly one with the "singular and seamless continuum of particle (or whatever) in motion".

            All of this (obviously) becomes important when we begin the attempt of finding objective moral facts.

            Reinforcing the problem, we have this: “Metaphysically, moreover, the very concept of self-organization is suspect. More precisely, the idea that an entity can organize itself into *existence*, which is what is at issue, is deeply suspicious. For if an entity – any entity – is to organize itself into existence, it has to exist before it can do *any* organizing, let alone organizing its own existence; so it has to exist before it exists, which is absurd. This means that self-organizing systems are really systems that are organized into existence from *without*, as a convection cell is organized into existence by its environment, albeit with apparent spontaneity and unpredictability. Once in existence, there is no conceptual problem with the entity's continually organizing itself through self-regulating, homeostatic, or other mechanisms that involve, say, taking in energy from the environment, utilizing it and expelling waste products. But that it could organize its entry into the world in the *first* place looks like as good a case of metaphysical impossibility as one is likely to get.” (David Oderberg)

          • Will

            It sounds much like the idea that the mind models reality but, of course, the map/model isn't the territory itself. So is the illusion thinking ones self model (which must be compressed since it's impossible for something to contain a complete model of itself and also contain anything else as it would just keep getting bigger) is the actual self?

          • David Hardy

            In general, I would say that is the case. I would then add that the mind not only includes what is generally considered the "self" (thoughts, feelings, body sensations, etc), but also a mental formation of our entire experienced universe. Thus, if this is "my" mind, then it is something far more vast than I generally experience "myself" to be. So, one could first discuss the limitations of the self model in emphasizing some parts of what it pertains to (thoughts, feelings, choices, the experienced body) and overlooking or de-emphasizing others, but then expand to the fact that the entire experienced universe arises within the mind, and being part of the same mind is fundamentally interwoven with everything currently being separated as "self".

            From a neurological view, it is all activity in a single person's sensory and nervous system, most notably the brain. That does not make this inner universe of sensations the same as the outer universe that gave rise to it, although certainly dependent on it, but it does point to another aspect of the mind that is overlooked when a person is caught up in ideas of a "self". You could then expand on this to how the things defined in the self concept are fundamentally connected to those outside of it (thoughts, emotions and choices triggered and shaped by the experienced situation), and the boundaries set by the concept of self become even more open to question.

            That isn't to say the concept of self isn't useful -- it certainly helps communication and conceptualization to talk about "my" feelings, thoughts and choices, and to recognize how a situation affects "me". The idea here is to also recognize that, while this can be a useful concept, it is still a concept. It can be used where it is useful, and set aside where it is not. Meditation in Buddhism to create a state of "no self" is learning to set it aside. Having learned to set it aside, one gains the freedom to use it when it helps, and let it go where it limits.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            You stated, "A person might say that a tragic accident that kills an innocent child is evil, or that a person who loves a child in a way that is domineering is a kind of evil. Certainly, though, the idea of all evil as privation has many who follow it."

            This reveals a misunderstanding between us. A car accident is evil given evil as privation, just as domination is also evil given evil as privation. When we say the privation of love, we mean two things: the privation of "The Good", meaning that there is present in said car crash and so on, not only Good (the child, or etc.) but also The Good "minus something" (minus joy, health, etc.).

            Whereas, given your terms so far, I'm still not clear what evil is given that the child, and hence her joy, and hence her health, and even the car accident itself and the pain itself are, as far as I can tell, all on ontological par one with another. The Spinoza-esc pantheistic problem of the eternal collisions of colliding ontological equals, and with it all the pains of metaphysical armistice, of the endless war of converging and colliding ontological equals – ad infinitum. “Distinction is achieved only by violence among converging equals. Being is in some real sense a plain upon which forces of meaning and meaninglessness converge in endless war; according to either, being is known in its oppositions, and oppositions must be overcome or affirmed, but in either case as violence…” (D.B. Hart)

            On the privation of good:

            “……a good many philosophers would agree with Augustine. That would be to say that evil is not a thing. God is the creator of everything that exists but evil is not itself a thing. It doesn’t have any positive ontological status. Rather, evil is a privation; it’s a deficit in being. A good example of this would be cold in physics. In physics, cold is the privation of heat. It has no positive reality. It is simply the absence of heat. Or think of darkness. Darkness has no positive ontological status; it’s the privation of light. And similarly, I think we would say that evil doesn’t have any positive ontological status, it’s just the privation of right order in the creaturely will. Rather than being oriented toward God as the greatest good, the summum bonum, the creaturely will is oriented often toward lesser good, finite goods, and therefore falls short of the correct order it should have. There’s a deficit or privation of correct order in the creaturely will, and that is the origin of evil – it originates in the free will of creatures. So, in short, evil is not some sort of a thing that God had to create, God created creatures with free will and that is good. My philosophy professor Norman Geisler used to put it in this very provocative way: “everything about Satan is good”. That is to say, Satan has properties like existence, power, intelligence; these are all good things. But the evil that he is characterized by is a privation of right order in his will, and is not a positive thing.” (W.L. Craig)

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I'm very encouraged to hear this perspective! (And like LHRMSCBrown, I would like to hear more about it.) I have always suspected that the "no-self" doctrine in Buddhism has not been translated in the West with sufficient nuance. Even in Christianity, the important distinction between "self finding ultimate communion / belonging" and "obliteration of self" is easily missed on a simplistic reading of some texts, e.g. in reading, "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me", one could be forgiven for mistakenly thinking this refers to a dissolution of the self.

            It's a real delight to have you commenting here David. You are among the most gracious and dialogical contributors I've seen so far (on either the Catholic or non-Catholic side). It makes one want to learn more about Buddhism!

          • David Hardy

            Hello Jim,

            Thank you for your kind words. Given your interest, I will offer a few thoughts on the emphasis of the moment and on the idea of no-self -- hopefully they will provide a clear view of what I understand is meant by both in Buddhism as I practice it. These can be difficult concepts to fully articulate, but I will do my best.

            On no-self, take a moment to consider your kidneys. It makes sense to talk about them distinct from the body, but to do so ignores how they depends on the body. A person might donate a kidney to another, and then it may or may not make sense to them to continue to think about the kidney as "theirs".

            In one sense, this would be a way to look at interdependent arising -- we can talk about ourselves, but this is taking a certain view, one that can be valuable but overlooks our dependence on and interaction with our environment, and even our interchange with the environment. Breathing is a good example of the almost constant flow between what we consider "self" and "not-self". One could also talk about being part of a community or nation or world, taking a view that includes what would normally be the "self" and "not self".

            However, this is only one aspect. In addition to this, both we and the things we interact with arise from prior conditions, and the current state is interconnected with the states that gave rise to it. In that sense, much of what I am depend on my past experience. Likewise the people I encountered were who they were from their own encounters, and this quickly points to the ever expanding view one takes on what has led to the arising of things as they are.

            In an inner sense, we experience the world through the generation of mental formations. Those formations include sensory objects that are then made sensible through perceptual inferences. For example, I may see my friend. This image is a visual construct of my mind, as are the things I understand my friend to be (kind, considerate, etc.), and the experience of my friend give rise to thoughts and emotions that arise through the encounter with something I would normally call external to myself (my friend), even as I identify them as "my" thoughts and feelings. Those thoughts and feelings may also arise through prior experiences that again depend on things I identify as "not-self". In this way, the inner universe is also an interdependent web of mental generations where "self" and "not-self" are a constructed category.

            By this view, to hate something is to fail to see its interconnection with everything else, including those things we identify as "self" and things important to that self. It also generates an internal division within the mind, as the part of the mind that generates and makes sense of that thing is treated as "other". However, by seeing its fundamental unity with and place in the larger whole, a unity that exists beyond concepts of "self" and "other", one can cultivate a deep appreciation of the value of those things experienced. Setting aside "self" and "other", well-being, peace and thriving is cultivated regardless of whether it may have previously been identified as "my" well-being, peace and thriving. Here is the connection to the Christian view, where one sets aside the distinction of being "not-self" when offering love to a neighbor.

            Bringing that to the emphasis on the present, Buddhist tradition does focus on the moment. However, it is because we are always within the present moment, and this moment is where our choices exist. While one can look to the past to see the interconnecting conditions that help give rise to things, and to how this may shape the future, these should not eclipse the present. A way to understand this would be to say one should not devalue the present because one is wishing for or regretting some remembered past, nor because one is waiting or fearing for some imagined future. Instead, one should look to the present and cultivate understanding, kindness and patience by appreciating and caring for it as it is, not as it was or could be.

            I hope this helps expand on the idea of no self, interdependence and the emphasis on the moment. It is not a denial of the things that make up what people call the "self", nor a denial that things can be understood independently of each other, nor a dismissal of past and future. Rather, it is a recognition of the constructed nature of our idea of self and objects as independent of each other, and of the importance of never losing sight of or devaluing where we are and the choices we are making.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Where you refer to narrative here, are you talking about a narrative that works at the level of cosmic and/or human history? If so, I'm very interested to hear more. It has always been my (relatively un-nuanced) impression that the Eastern religious traditions (if I can speak in absurd generalities) focus more on the NOW, and don't assign all that much meaning to history, treating it more as contingent trivia rather than as a theater in which some essential revelatory story is unfolding. I'd be very interested to hear if that impression is fundamentally mistaken, especially with respect to the sort of Buddhism that you espouse.

          • David Hardy

            Hello Jim,

            If so, I'm very interested to hear more. It has always been my
            (relatively un-nuanced) impression that the Eastern religious traditions
            (if I can speak in absurd generalities) focus more on the NOW, and
            don't assign all that much meaning to history, treating it more as
            contingent trivia rather than as a theater in which some essential
            revelatory story is unfolding.

            I think the best way to answer this is to draw a distinction between an additive and reductive spirituality. In general, Christianity is an additive tradition -- there is a saving grace given to the individuals by God, sacred truths to be taught, and so forth. Buddhism is, in most of its forms, a reductive spirituality. In Buddhism things have formed that act as barriers to spirituality -- constructed views of reality that are treated as whole and complete truths, unwholesome habits that further divide the mind within itself, and thoughts and feelings that are obsessed over to the detriment of the whole. A Buddhist becomes more spiritual through the dissolving of these things, and in so doing experiences reality in a way that was impossible while they were present. Experiencing reality in this way in turn naturally gives rise to spiritual qualities that follow from the awareness it involves.

            Within Buddhism, the revelatory story, if one could call it that, is that all things in past, present and future are fundamentally interconnected, and continual transformation is woven into everything. As we try to grasp things as independent and stable, we move more and more into a world of our own ideas of what the world is, rather than embracing the world as it actually is. Our world becomes more rigid and contained through the limits of the ideas we cling to, and dissolving them leads to a more liberated and expansive existence. Even the concepts of Buddhism, such as interdependence, are understood as useful ideas in leading a person to this state of being. However, they too are constructed ideas that prevent a person from reaching that state if he or she clings to them. I know this is quite different from the Christian idea of revelation, so I hope this was helpful in explaining it.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Christianity is an additive tradition

            That seems like a good way of saying it. There is this seemingly distinctive emphasis on "the new" in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Something is happening in history, something new is being always being unveiled, including some things that have been hidden (though present) for all time up until now. This eternally-present-but-only-revealed-in-history thing is especially notable in the way that we talk about Christ: present from the beginning ("through whom all things were made"), but only revealed in full glory at the end of history (though we claim to have received a complete "look behind the curtain" with the Gospel event).

            With some degree of contrast, if I understand correctly, you are saying that in the Buddhist tradition one can speak of a sort of unveiling of things as they truly are, but the nature of this potential unveiling is not fundamentally changing over the course of human history (or at least, to the extent that anything is truly changing as history progresses, this change is not emphasized). It is always there, for any being who knows how to look for it. Is that a fair characterization? If so, I actually don't see that in such stark contrast with "private" Judeo-Christian mysticism, but I do think it fails to provide any parallel with Judeo-Christian "public revelation"

            On a somewhat related note, I'm intrigued by your phrase, "things have formed that act as barriers to spirituality". The implication of your word choice would seem to be that these barriers were not always there. It would seem then that at the mythic level, if not necessarily at the historic level, there is a pristine Eden-esque state that one has fallen away from, and which can be recovered with diligence. Dukkha arises when we cling to what is good as if it were our own, plucking the fruit off the proverbial tree as if were our own, perhaps not entirely unlike Eve? I hope you will call me on it if you think I am overemphasizing parallels and consonances at the expense of recognizing legitimate differences.

          • David Hardy

            Hello Jim,

            With some degree of contrast, if I understand correctly, you are saying that in the Buddhist tradition one can speak of a sort of unveiling of things as they truly are, but the nature of this potential unveiling is not fundamentally changing over the course of human history (or at
            least, to the extent that anything is truly changing as history progresses, this change is not emphasized).

            I would say yes and no. One of the basic views in Buddhism is that everything is always changing. So, in the sense that change itself is not fundamentally changing, it may be fair to say that it is unchanging. On the other hand, the things in the universe itself are always in change, and so one cherishes them in the present, knowing they will soon change, even if we do not notice the change.

            If so, I actually don't see that in such stark contrast with "private" Judeo-Christian mysticism, but I do think it fails to provide any parallel with Judeo-Christian "public revelation"

            I would tend to agree that Buddhism does not have a true equivalent to the idea of Christian revelation. In Buddhism the truth trying to be apprehended is right in front of us -- it is everywhere, and being everywhere is actually very difficult to see, since our minds generally notice and define things by contrasting them with something that is different. There is not a proposed hidden reality or aspect where the spirituality of Buddhism originates (some forms of Buddhism do have a range of spiritual realms, but even then reaching these are not the goal, except in Pure Land Buddhism, and even then it is a useful destination on the road to a separate goal).

            On a somewhat related note, I'm intrigued by your phrase, "things have formed
            that act as barriers to spirituality". The implication of your verb tense would seem to be that these barriers were not always there. It would seem then that at the mythic level, if not necessarily at the historic level, there is a pristine Eden-esque state that one has fallen away from, and which can be recovered with diligence.

            I would agree that this could hold some similarities. The idea in Buddhism is that we initially begin to seek what we want and avoid what we do not want. This in and of itself is not bad (a few branches of Buddhism would disagree with this statement, but I do not follow any of those). However, we then naturally generate ideas about our desires and fears that do give rise to suffering. Envy, for example, arises from the desire for social connection, but then is shaped by the division of self and other, and then the idea that the success of the other is hurtful to oneself. Buddhism seeks to teach people how to recognize and undo this process that adds beliefs that shape arising desires into forms that generate suffering. Perhaps the greatest distinction is that Buddhism holds that this formation of barriers occurs within people naturally, and is not really a deviation from some original plan. The Buddha himself is generally understood as a man who gained deep insight into the nature of suffering and how to dissolve it and cultivate a state of well being, rather than as a divine savior correcting a flaw in humanity, although some branches of Buddhism deify him in one way or another.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            There is not a proposed hidden reality or aspect

            But you just said that the truth is very difficult to see. To my mind that is no different than saying that the truth is (partially) hidden. In my understanding of theology, "the truth" and "God" are completely convertible (and both are also completely convertible with "love" (if "love" is rightly understood)), so it's not like I imagine the truth originating from God as if there is a separate layer; it is rather that the partially-hidden-but-being-revealed truth is God. So, I'm not yet convinced that there is much of a gulf between the Buddhist view and the Christian view on this particular point.

            Envy, for example, arises from the desire for social connection, but then is shaped by the division of self and other

            Here I think we might part ways. I hold that envy does not arise because we distinguish self from other, but rather because we seek to control the relationship between self and other. It is in that desire to control, to pick the fruit off the tree, to hoard the berries in the byre, where things go wrong, but that errant relationality is not inherent to an ontology where self and other are distinct. Self and other can exist in communion without dissolving into one another. I think this is partly consistent with many of the comments you have made about interdependence, but there seems to be a point of divergence in there somewhere.

            Perhaps the greatest distinction is that Buddhism holds that this formation of barriers occurs within people naturally, and is not really a deviation from some original plan.

            I think even in Christianity, the Fall should not be seen exactly as the deviation from an original plan. As LHRMSCBrown has been suggesting, "the plan" is not just "Man in Eden". "The plan" is rather: "Man in Eden --> Man in privation --> Man in God". "The plan", to put it in T.S. Eliot's terms, is not simply simply to arrive where we started, full stop, but rather "to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time". In the meantime, the idea that "natural forces" hold us in privation is, I think, also quite consistent with Christian theology.

            Thanks for the continued discussion. Really enjoying it.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Warning: The knotty and esoteric are ahead ;-)

            The plan most certainly is not "Man in Eden". Well stated. From there, well, on privation and eternal life, all worlds are possible it seems, at least given the decree of the Imago Dei, as lack, or hollow, or insufficiency (Man) cannot avoid, there in Eden, that necessary outpouring of, in-filling by, All Sufficiency Himself. Eden, though not privation, just is not what we find on the other side of that wedding. Love will motion, for that is what love does. So too (then) with Man there in Eden. He (Man) never could "stay" there.

            We already know that Lucifer's Heaven can never sum to what Man's Heaven will be (discussed in earlier comments). Whatever the "nature" of Eden was, and thus whatever the nature of Man in Eden was, it was neither the nature of eternal life (Man had to volitionally move first) nor was it the nature of our current world (Man had to volitionally move first). We could posit that pills or things that grow on bushes can go into a digestive tract and give a particular animal eternal life, but to thereby expunge the requisite outpouring of all sufficiency (God) and the requisite infilling of insufficiency (Man) (by said outpouring) from our theology would be, first, to tragically error and, secondly, a move that is incoherent given that logic demands that it is only the Necessary (as in *God*) by which the contingent and mutable even could achieve the sort of ends we speak of.

            Also, when Scripture and metaphysics and science affirm other more coherent definitions (and avoid that business of expunging God’s outpouring, in-filling, from our theology), then there's just no need to settle for less than what has been revealed.

            That we find ourselves within the current set of counterfactuals, sins, pressures, evils, and so on, is, simply, a world. It's obviously not the only world. It wasn’t Eden either, at least not in any complete sense. Nor is it eternal life, obviously. It's not our permanent condition either. Nor, apparently, did it have to actualize necessarily. If we take Genesis seriously, and we should, then the creation of Eden is *necessarily* the creation of a nature between two natures and that creative act is, then, necessarily of a singular creation within which lay many possibilities (not many creations side by side), with the Adamic free to move within its boundaries.

            Only Genesis provides a dualism from the get-go, as it were, and subsumes not only any route from “dirt to man” which the evidence warrants, but, also, it is the only genre whereby the created Self finds both privation and glorification streaming from the singular epicenter of love’s volitional motions.

            Whether one takes the route of “The Greater Good” or whether one takes the route of free will and consequential freedom-bearing worlds, we find [All Things] taken and used by *God*, by "The Good", and, therefore, wherever we may find not only evil, not only good, but anything, we cannot find the ultimately gratuitous. It is not the route which makes that an irreducible "ontic-fact", but God. In other words, it is not the Greater Good route nor the free will and freedom-bearing consequential world route which makes the difference. The difference-maker with respect to gratuitous/purposed is the irreducibility of Being with respect to The Good, namely, *God*.

            If no god: We find that [All Things] end in the gratuitous for all "purpose" is non-ontic and illusory.

            If God: We find [All Things] taken and used by *God*, by "The Good", and, therefore, wherever we may find not only evil, not only good, but anything, we cannot find the ultimately gratuitous.

            The difference-maker with respect to gratuitous/purposed isn't Man's path into this world, rather, it is the irreducibility of Being with respect to The Good, namely, *God*.

            The entire affair of purposed and gratuitous vectors and so on is that which the Non-Theist is forced to surrender, to concede and hand over to the Christian (Theist etc.) for only he (Christian/Theist) has the metaphysical wherewithal to rationally traverse such territory.

            In short: It is not a discussion between Christians and Non-Theists, because it can't be. Rather, it is entirely a discussion within and among the Christian family, the Body of Christ.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            You are, in general, knotty and esoteric :-) But you also have a good number of very helpful insights, so I keep reading what you write ...

            I like this especially:

            Eden, though not privation, just is not what we find on the other side of that wedding ...

            Man had to volitionally move first

            This completely resonates for me (to say nothing of its scriptural rectitude).

            I was lucky enough to grow up about as close to Eden as one can get, surrounded by my mom's abundant garden, a sun-lit field where I caught Orthoptera Caelifera and let them explode into flight, and sheets on the clothesline that I ran under as the Holy Spirit breezed though them. (In all honesty, there was even a fruit tree, though to spoil the story somewhat I must say that those New England pears were a bit tough and chalky). If there was any privation, I can't remember it.

            But ...

            There is no possible way I could have loved that place in the way that I do now. Now the garden is mostly overgrown, the pear tree is dead, and my mom has lost a lot of her mobility and a touch of her coherence. But now I walk back there, and I see a single flower, and I'm moved to tears. I love and praise that mutilated world in a way that I never could have as a child. Somewhere on my long journey away from home, privation taught me to fall in love with home. I consider this to be a taste of what we will find "on the other side of the wedding".

          • David Hardy

            Hello Jim,

            To my mind that is no different than saying that the truth is (partially) hidden.

            I think hidden in plain sight would be an accurate description. Generally, in Christianity, God creates but is distinct from His creation (distinguishing it from a pantheistic tradition). So, God as Truth creates the universe but can be seen as distinct from it. In Buddhism the truths being discussed are inherent in the universe and can be seen directly, and most Buddhists are not pantheists, and do not regard the apprehended truth as a divine essence. That might be a good way to distinguish the two positions.

            Here I think we might part ways. I hold that envy does not arise because
            we distinguish self from other, but rather because we seek to control
            the relationship between self and other.

            I am not sure we part ways. As I mentioned, envy also arises not just through a concept of self and other, but then that the concept we have gives rise to it. This could include a view of self as entitled to control or be more successful than the person we view the other to be.

            This actually moves to the Buddhist idea of two truths. Interdependent arising is generally a part of absolute truth in Buddhism -- truths that are seen as underlying everything. Relative truth has more to do with things that are not necessarily true, but still useful or important. For example, it would be hard to function in life at all with no concept or self or other, but these concepts would be placed under relative truth.

            So, to stay with envy, one could examine the beliefs about self and other that are generating this response and, recognizing through the absolute truth of interdependent arising and no self that these concepts are constructed, alter one's concept of self and other to emphasize and engage other qualities. One might identify qualities in the other or personal values that gives rise to a desire to see them achieve success. All of this can alter the problem of envy without relying on Buddhist concepts of interdependent arising or no self, and would still be a viable approach in many Buddhist frameworks (similar to the idea that doing good deeds, even if one is doing nothing to deepen insight, is still viewed as a positive spiritual step in many forms of Buddhism).

            However, in the dissolving of concepts of self and other, I find that a deeper sense of unity and connection is possible. I am not sure, however, that this depends on Buddhism -- I think it is just as possible to form this connection through other paradigms. For example, drawing on the teaching of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25: 31=46, I could easily see a Christian developing a similar deep unity with others they encounter through seeing that relationship as part of their relationship to Christ and God, the ground of being. In such a case it seems to me self and other are transcended through a sense of mutual connection to something greater.

            In the meantime, the idea that "natural forces" hold us in privation is, I think, also quite consistent with Christian theology.

            By that description, I would agree that they are similar, but would also hope to avoid confusion by adding that Buddhism and Christianity generally differ on what these forces are and what will resolve them.

            I am also enjoying the conversation, and I appreciate your thoughts on how Christianity and Buddhism are connected. For the form of Buddhism I follow, the conclusions of Christianity and Buddhism in terms of how to treat others and what to cultivate within oneself has much common ground.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            David, you state,

            [1] "Relative truth has more to do with things that are not necessarily true, but still useful or important. For example, it would be hard to function in life at all with no concept or self or other, but these concepts would be placed under relative truth."

            [2] "However, in the dissolving of concepts of self and other, I find that a deeper sense of unity and connection is possible."

            Which "I" in [2] in "I find" are you referring to given that [1] defines "I" as not really real, but only useful?

            Also: Does the "I" in [1] and the "I" in [2] actually will to do? Is the "I" in [1] and the "I" in [2] actually intentional?

            Is intention illusory/useful or is it necessary/real? So far it seems that on Non-Theism and Buddhism it is the former, whereas, on Christianity it is the latter.

            You claim dissolution without annihilation, but all I see here in that assertion so far is an equivocation.

            Non-Theism and Buddhism do seem to sum to unity after all. I have far more respect for Alex Rosenberg (so far) David. He gets to the point without forcing others to drag it out of him.

            So far, David, you've rejected the triune and therein Self/Other within love's timeless reciprocity. There is no love, no self-sacrifice, nor reciprocity, nor love's acquiescence, nor love’s egalitarian outpouring within self-giving, nor, it seems, will/intention.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I agree that God's transcendence is key in Christianity. Of course, his transcendence is such that he even transcends transcendence, being both immanent and transcendent.

            ===

            I think I can probably sign up for a sort of "dissolution" of the self, as long as that is sufficiently contrasted with the annihilation of the self, as I think you did in at least one of your comments here. The central engine of Catholic sacramentality is the ongoing Paschal Mystery, which involves the iterative cycle of baptismal death to self creating grounds for God to grant a new resurrection life of the self. Death to self, or letting go of self, creates the condition in which the flourishing of the self is possible. In Catholic thought (in contrast to some "born again" traditions) this is not a one-and-done deal, but is an iterative waxing and waning (albeit not just cyclically - the flickering flame is meant to grow and grow over one's life, and over the course of history). It is a sort of ongoing dissolution and re-constitution of the self, if you like.

            ===

            I have a tangentially related question about Buddhism that I've wondered about for some time. In Buddhism one speaks of (in most English translations that I have seen), the "elimination" of suffering. But I have also seen some translations that render this as the "conquering" of suffering. The choice of translation there would be very important from a Christian perspective. In the Gospel event, Christ is not thought to have eliminated suffering and death, but he is said to have conquered suffering and death, in the sense that those aspects of reality have now been put in the service of love. Suffering and death, which are privations of the good, have been revealed through the Gospel event to be chasms across which we can leap. It is in those leaps (which would not be possible if the chasms were not "there"), that we learn to fall more deeply in love. To borrow a phrase from LHRMSCBrown, the chasms are revealed to be -- not love, but -- the contours of love, the chasms in the interior of love that make love possible.

            And so, given all that, I am very suspicious of Buddhism to the extent that it claims to "eliminate" suffering, but I am considerably less suspicious if it is actually claiming to "conquer" suffering. Which translation do you think is more accurate?

            EDITs to remove some awkward phrasing after original post. No substantive changes, I think.

          • Lazarus

            Just like Christianity Buddhism of course also has many different schools and approaches, but as a very basic summary, I would say the short answer is that Buddhism claims to (and often achieves) the elimination of suffering in the practitioner, not really in society, in history.

            The Mahayana and Vajrayana schools / developments will however argue that in this manner, and with sentient beings all eventually leaving the cycle of rebirth, that suffering will eventually be eliminated.

            Short term though, the elimination lies in the dissolution of the self, the experiencer, in the understanding that there is no independent self that can suffer.

            But a fascinating, complex situation, one that David will be better able to expand on. My Buddhist days are over.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Hi Lazarus,

            I think I share some of your misgivings, but:

            1. Even among those like yourself who have made a real effort to learn the nuances of Buddhist thought, I think we should be very hesitant to assume that Buddhist concepts have weathered the cross-continental journey with sufficient fidelity. The Western effort to unpack and map Buddhist concepts into our languages and cultural frames of reference is still *very* young, relatively speaking.

            2. Think of the amazing fruits that grew out of Christian engagement of Greek pagan philosophers. I see no reason to think that Christian engagement of Buddhism will not eventually bear similar theological (and soteriological!) fruit. I think "my Buddhist days are over" forecloses too soon on these possibilities.

            --Jim

          • Lazarus

            Hi Jim

            My apologies, that wasn't what I was trying to convey. I was a Buddhist for nine years, and "my Buddhist days are over" simply tried to show that I was not making much headway in explaining my comment, and that David would do better.

            I have great respect and fondness for Buddhism and (most) Buddhists, and I continue to learn a lot from them.

          • David Hardy

            Death to self, or letting go of self, is the very grounds of allowing the self to flourish. In Catholic thought (in contrast to some "born again" traditions) this is not a one-and-done deal, but is an iterative waxing and waning (albeit not just cyclically - the flickering flame is meant to grow and grow over one's life, and over the course of history). It is a sort of ongoing dissolution and re-constitution of the self, if you like.

            I would say this has many similarities with the Buddhist position.

            And so, given all that, I am very suspicious of Buddhism to the extent that it claims to "eliminate" suffering, but I am considerably less suspicious if it is actually claiming to "conquer" suffering. Which translation do you think is more accurate?

            Based on how you describe the terms, I would suspect that "conquer" would be the better term.

            However, I will expand on that. In Buddhism, the First Noble Truth speak to the pervasive influence of suffering, while the second speaks to its cause. In generally, "suffering" in Buddhism is understood to arise from three general things -- rigidly clinging to things, rigidly trying to get rid of things, and rigidly ignoring and de-valuing things. "Things" in this context can include anything arising in awareness. So, a rich person might cling to money and the experiences it buys, and invest their sense of well being in this, or another person might struggle to get rid of all pain and hardship in life. The rich person suffers at any experience of threat to their wealth or status, and in the act of trying to gain an absolute security that does not exist. The second person suffers whenever pain and hardship arise in their life. A third person may simply be so lost in their own thoughts that they do not even notice the experiences in their life, and suffer out of a sense of "missing something".

            A Buddhist seeks to resolve suffering by identifying and dissolving these reactions. For example, when I encounter pain, I might suffer obsessing over some injustice that caused it. Or I can be grateful for the chance to show compassion through the pain and help to care for it. When I have good fortune, I can worry over how to make it last forever, or I can act as a steward and use it well for however long it lasts, with gratitude for the experience. And, always, I can work to notice and appreciate the beauty and good things around me every moment, rather than unhappily wish things were otherwise. In all these cases, I can still work towards a certain positive direction, but also experience the world in a way that does not invest my well-being in conditions that are not permanent or outcomes that are not certain.

            Many Christians actually take a similar approach, seeing the pain and hardship in their lives as ways to come closer to Christ, and the money and fortunes of the world as things to be stewards of, knowing that too much attachment to things like money and fame might take them further from a spiritual path. Similar conclusions can arise from different starting points. In this way, one might find similarities between Buddhism and Christianity in how suffering is understood.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Unless cussing and drinking beer is a talent, it just doesn't make sense.

            David Mamet would have a word with you vis a vis cussing.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Just a point of clarification: anonymous authors of debatable legitimacy wrote about what Jesus supposedly said.

            This cannot be said enough.

          • Craig Roberts

            Brandon is a follower of Jesus, and yet the saviors own (alleged) words don't seem to support his belief that everybody has faith. How weird is that?

          • Sample1

            I find that people of faith often have contradictory stances within their own fellowships but you'd have to ask him.

            In my circles the word faith never comes up except in a religious context. Since I'm not religious, I have no use for the word in my life.

            Mike, faith-free and hopeful about a great many things.

          • Craig Roberts

            It's true. Catholics make fun of Protestants for having thousands of denominations but Catholics can't agree on anything either.

          • Doug Shaver

            Regarding faith, if you don't know, I can't tell you.

            If I don't know and you can't tell me, then your statement "If they had 'assurances' that could be shown it wouldn't be called faith" is meaningless to me. You are being completely uninformative when you say that.

          • Craig Roberts

            Sorry. I'm rubbing up against the limits of informability.

          • Sample1

            Steve Zara posted a comment about faith about three years ago, here on Strange Notions.

            Link is here: https://disqus.com/home/discussion/strangenotions/do_atheists_have_faith/#comment-980790447

            First paragraph: (I miss Steve's insights)

            Faith: I know what it is like. I can say what faith meant for me when I
            was a believer. Faith was a struggle. It was squeezing my eyes shut
            and trying to listen to the darkness to hear a voice – anything – even a
            whisper, some sign of a response from someone; from something. Faith
            was constantly trying to tell myself what I should believe. Internal
            apologetics, excuses for ignoring inconsistencies in scripture, defences
            against logical impossibilities, apologetics that always ended with me
            saying sorry to myself for coming up empty. -Zara

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Mike, Steve's description sounds more like hope than faith. Faith and Hope are both considered theological virtues. You describe yourself as faith-free, would you also describe yourself as hope-free?

          • Sample1

            I've never described myself as hope-free, nor would I. There are many things I hope will happen before the end of today. I hope I don't run into a bear on my hike later this afternoon, for one. I also hope Donald Trump fails in his bid for the presidency. I hope for excellent orgasms in all of my partners.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            That's good news. You should realize though that you can aim much higher, you can never hope for too much.

          • Sample1

            That's insulting though perhaps you don't mean it to be?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            No it's not meant to be insulting. I like responding to your comments.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Well, Mike, if you set your sights a little higher you can hope for a God with a tyrannical God who will award you with eternal life if you follow the rules set up by his priests, but will send you straight to hell (do not pass go) for those orgasms

          • Doug Shaver

            Steve Zara posted a comment about faith about three years ago, here on Strange Notions.

            Some good commentary there.

            From the way apologists generally use the word, it seems to me that the author of Hebrews pinned it down pretty well when he wrote (in a typical translation): "Now faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not." In other words, it is the reason you give for believing something that you want to be true but have no other reason for believing.

    • Rob Abney

      I think you should further define the terms "believe", "faith", and "know"; you seem to use them interchangeably, which is fine in everyday language but causes confusion when arguing a point.
      I won't try to define the terms for you, that might make it even more confusing.

      • Craig Roberts

        True. The problem is that if you confess to being an atheist, you are admitting that you have no idea what a Christian means by the word 'faith'. You 'believe' that the Christian is deluded based on your knowledge, but your 'belief' is based on experiences that don't include the 'knowledge' of being Christian and having faith.

        It's kind of like admitting that you are a virgin. You have to admit that as much as you 'know' about sex, you still don't really know what it's like. 'Know' in that context means 'experience'.

        • Rob Abney

          What then is your definition for the term "faith"?

          • Craig Roberts

            Faith is belief and confidence in someone. It is trust that a person is reliable and that what they say is true. Most people can relate to this when talking about people that they know.

            But that is not a religious 'faith'. Faith in the God of Israel, or Jesus, or Buddha, means placing your trust in a person you have (most likely) never met. What's more is that this 'person' knows, and can show us, our ultimate destiny, purpose, and reason for living.

            By denying that such a person exists, atheists are implicitly admitting that they have no religious faith. The problem is that they go on to assert that people who experience religious faith are mistaken in their beliefs. Much like someone who has never fallen in love telling people that love does not exist and that people that claim to be in love are deluded.

          • Doug Shaver

            It is trust that a person is reliable and that what they say is true.

            And if I trust them, I should have a good reason to trust them, shouldn't I?

            Faith in the God of Israel, or Jesus, or Buddha, means placing your trust in a person you have (most likely) never met.

            And what would be my reason for doing so?

          • Craig Roberts

            Absolutely. Your reason would have to be based on experience. The Israelites trust was earned with many miracles. (Freed from slavery in Egypt, parting of the Red Sea, manna from Heaven, water from a rock, miraculous victories in combat, etc. etc.) Jesus' disciples witnessed many miracles and capped off their experience of him with the resurrection and assumption.

            Buddhist (presumably) experience 'enlightenment' after following his instructions. But here is where we get back to definitions. I've never experienced what the Buddhist call 'enlightenment' so I can't relate. Even if they give a very detailed definition of what they mean by the word, my lack of experience limits my understanding.

            And this is where the atheist conceit comes in. Most atheists would say that Buddhism is a religion and therefor based on superstition and ignorance. They would say that 'enlightenment' is some sort of delusion created by sensory deprivation or whatever. They would level these accusations based on their lack of experience.

            I say, I'm not sure what Buddhism is all about. I've never been enlightened or experienced nirvana, so I can't really speak to what they are talking about. What I do know is that there are millions of Buddhists that testify that they have experienced these things. For me to call them deluded just because I have not personally verified their claims would be arrogance on my part.

          • Doug Shaver

            The Israelites trust was earned with many miracles.

            That's what the story says. Why should I trust whoever wrote that story?

            Jesus' disciples witnessed many miracles and capped off their experience of him with the resurrection and assumption.

            Same observation, same question.

            Most atheists would say that Buddhism is a religion and therefor based on superstition and ignorance.

            I couldn't care less what most atheists would say about that.

            For me to call them deluded just because I have not personally verified their claims would be arrogance on my part.

            Yes, it would, but I don't need to think they're deluded in order to justify not believing what they tell me. If they can't give me a good reason to believe what they say, that's justification enough for me not to believe it.

          • Craig Roberts

            A 'good reason' cannot be constructed out of words alone. Words should follow from experience. Atheists want the experience of faith to follow from reasoned discourse. And although there are many Christians that would be happy to oblige them with a rhetorical avalanche of well meaning gibberish and philosophical flights of fancy, it won't work. The limits of communication are too much.

            If Aristotle couldn't arrive at Christian revelation for all his intellectual, verbal, and philosophical acumen, I think it's pretty obvious that more is required. Many Christians will claim that philosophy provides a start and the Gospels can take over from there. They will say, "I was an atheist and after studying Thomas Aquinas I became convinced that God is real." Good for them. I personally don't find this any more convincing than, "I was in a car accident and an angel saved my life."

          • Doug Shaver

            A 'good reason' cannot be constructed out of words alone. Words should follow from experience.

            Hearing words is an experience. It's not the only kind of experience, but it is one. However, I will grant that a good reason to believe something can certainly be the having of some experience other than hearing some words.

          • Craig Roberts

            You're right. Most Christians faith is based on their experience of hearing the gospel message and identifying with it on some level. But unfortunately I think that's why so many fall away from the faith. They want more than words and never get more.

          • Doug Shaver

            Most Christians faith is based on their experience of hearing the gospel message and identifying with it on some level

            As I understand Romans 10:17, that's the way it supposed to work.

          • Craig Roberts

            Funny how St. Paul expects others to accept by 'hearing the word' what he himself could only accept after being struck blind.

          • Doug Shaver

            Funny indeed. Another reason to think the Damascus Road story in Acts is a piece of fiction.

          • Lazarus

            A "fiction" that turned this traditional, zealous Jew into a follower of Jesus. A "fiction" that radically changed Paul's life, that caused him to turn into a missionary, that caused him to end his life in a most unpleasant way. "Fiction" won't cut it, try something else.

          • David Nickol

            Unfortunately, St. Paul himself gives no details whatsoever of his conversion experience, which seems to have occurred roughly around the year 35. It is only in Acts, written a good thirty years later, that the story of Paul on the road to Damascus is mentioned, and it is not clear that the writer of Acts (presumably Luke) is consistent with details. It is difficult to know what to think without seeing video from the surveillance cameras.

          • Lazarus

            As some would seem to insist on having.

          • Sample1

            Lazarus,

            These last two replies of yours (to Doug Shaver and David Nickol) carry zero persuasive weight with me. I was surprised.

            Fiction won't cut it

            Fictions are a dime a dozen, and people throughout recorded human history have found whatever they think they're looking for in them. Fiction definitely cuts it.

            insist on having

            Well yes, sometimes it's eminently sensible to insist upon excellent evidence.

            Mike

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Agree. Evidence free, persuasion free reductio ad absurdum-s really are a dime a dozen.

          • Lazarus

            Hi Mike

            I'm probably a terrible evangeliser, but I do not really hold out much hope to be able to convert someone to Catholicism on the internet, especially here on SN where all positions seem very well retrenched three or four years on. As such I have long since given up any pretensions to having any "persuasive weight" behind most of my arguments here.

            I simply pointed out to Doug what I believe to be a gaping hole in his comment about the "fiction". For what it's worth, his comment also had zero "persuasive weight" with me. The argument is what it is, one accepts it or not.

            I agree with you as to the need for "excellent evidence". Given the period in history when this is alleged to have happened, the context of the events around the birth of Christianity and so on, what better evidence would you need? This is "excellent evidence" given those limitations. You are, in my view, not really looking for evidence, of that there is enough. You are looking for proof, and that, as we have discussed many a time here on SN, may not be a reasonable requirement.

            I must also say that, other than pointing out where my comment falls short, neither you nor Doug have proffered any feasible theory as to what then happened to Paul. Paul is regarded as a historical figure, and even from his writing that are accepted as genuine it is clear what happened to him. Whether on the road to Damascus or a hotel room in Bethlehem, something happened to change him. Radically.

            If not the explanation we find in the Bible, what? And the first one to try any of that old epilepsy nonsense gets to sit on the naughty chair for a day.

          • Valence

            And the first one to try any of that old epilepsy nonsense gets to sit on the naughty chair for a day.

            Epilepsy nonsense? It's fascinating that such an explanation would upset you so much. Of course, it's entirely possible that God could use epilepsy as a vehicle, but did you ever wonder why God would pick Paul, of all people? Temporal lobe epilepsy has given rise to tons of mystical experiences, this article describes some, and even brings up Fyodor Dostoyevsky. A quick excerpt from the article:

            The most striking aspect of these people is that not only during the seizures, but “interictally”— between the seizures—they have tremendous religious experiences and mystical experiences,’ says VS Ramachandran, a renowned Indian neuroscientist who became obsessed with temporal lobe epilepsy in the 1990s.

            ‘They say things like, “during the seizure, I experience God—I see the meaning of the universe, the true meaning of the universe, for the first time in my life. I understand my place in the cosmic scheme of things.” That’s what they say. Sometimes they’ll actually say, “I’m talking to God”, or “God is talking to me”.’

            These experiences change people's lives, again it's odd that you don't even want it brought up. There is also reason to believe that people can gain real insult and powerful motivation from them. What do you have to say about Joseph Smith's visions?
            From this article on Smith's first vision

            He said his prayer was interrupted by a "being from the unseen world".[12] Smith said the being caused his tongue to swell in his mouth so that he could not speak.[13] One account said he heard a noise behind him like someone walking towards him[14] and then, when he tried to pray again, the noise grew louder, causing him to spring to his feet and look around, but he saw no one.[14] In some of the accounts, he described being covered with a thick darkness and thinking that he would be destroyed.[15] At his darkest moment, he knelt a third time to pray[14] and, as he summoned all his power to pray, he felt ready to sink into oblivion.[15] At that moment, he said his tongue was loosed and he saw a vision.[16]

            The inability to speak and darkness are consistent with epilepsy, and certainly Smith believed his visions were real. I'm curious why you would believe Paul's visions and not Joseph Smith's? There are many, many similarities between the rapid spread Christianity and that of Mormonism. If angels really did appear to Smith, why would they contradict Catholicism if it's true? Of course, Smith claimed to have additional revelation...why doubt him and not Paul?

          • Lazarus

            I'm not "upset" at all, and I was hoping that the reference to the naughty chair would make it clear that I had my tongue in my cheek. My apologies then for not being clear enough.

            Personally I reject the epilepsy theory because of the radical change brought about by the Damascus event. From persecutor to active follower. Joseph Smith for example, merely changed direction slightly, from Christianity to Mormonism.

            Speculation like epilepsy just seems to be a bit of a reach. I would easily concede though that a plausible case has been made for epilepsy as a contender.

          • Valence

            Fair enough :)

          • Doug Shaver

            If not the explanation we find in the Bible, what?

            Explanation for what? What does Paul himself tell us about his conversation that requires any explanation other than what we can learn by observing conversions that are happening today all around us?

          • Lazarus

            To me his conversion is notable for the profound change brought about by the Damascus event (whatever it may have been). This is not your everyday vanilla atheist to Christian or other way around conversion.

          • Doug Shaver

            his conversion is notable for the profound change brought about by the Damascus event (whatever it may have been).

            Paul says nothing about any event in Damascus or on the road thereto. In Galatians he does mention having been there, but nothing more.

          • Doug Shaver

            And the first one to try any of that old epilepsy nonsense gets to sit on the naughty chair for a day.

            You won't hear it from me. The only skeptics to try that one are those who think Acts is a work of history.

          • Lazarus

            Yes, Acts certainly has problems when it comes to reading it as history in all respects.

          • Doug Shaver

            As some would seem to insist on having.

            So, if you're ever accused of a crime, you would agree that you should be convicted even if the prosecution has nothing to offer but the uncorroborated testimony of a person whom your lawyer is prevented from cross-examining?

          • Craig Roberts

            What's important is not the details but the results.

          • Doug Shaver

            A "fiction" that turned this traditional, zealous Jew into a follower of Jesus.

            He must have had a conversion experience of some kind. My point is just that we don't have his own testimony for how it happened or what kind of person he was before it happened.

          • Craig Roberts

            That's ridiculous. We have the Bible.

          • Doug Shaver

            We have the Bible.

            You assume that everything in it is true. I don't.

  • LHRMSCBrown

    "Make yourself believe X or else free will is an illusion..."

    (Edit: see also the comment down-thread which begins with: Doxastic Experiences / Belief: Agency and the ethics of belief.... (see book reference). "I cannot make myself believe I'm an illusion.... Or that the sky isn't blue...") We come then to the topic of reason. A brief quote from a much longer essay:

    When you are asked for trust you may give it or withhold it; it is senseless to say that you will trust if you are given demonstrative certainty. There would be no room for trust if demonstration were given. When demonstration is given what will be left will be simply the sort of relation which results from having trusted, or not having trusted, before it was given.

    The saying “Blessed are those that have not seen and have believed” has nothing to do with our original assent to the Christian propositions. It was not addressed to a philosopher enquiring whether God exists. It was addressed to a man who already believed that, who already had long acquaintance with a particular Person, and evidence that that Person could do very odd things, and who then refused to believe one odd thing more, often predicted by that Person and vouched for by all his closest friends. It is a rebuke not to scepticism in the philosophic sense but to the psychological quality of being “suspicious.” It says in effect, “You should have known me better.” There are cases between man and man where we should all, in our different way, bless those who have not seen and have believed. Our relation to those who trusted us only after we were proved innocent in court cannot be the same as our relation to those who trusted us all through. End quote.

    From the essay ON OBSTINACY IN BELIEF, by C.S. Lewis, from The World's Last Night: And Other Essays. The entire essay is worth a read.

    As for rational belief and rational disbelief, well there are those. Just as there is, also, the will of the man. Lumping all things into non-distinction is a move which our Non-Theist friends *must* do (eventually). But then, he's not given us any good reason to believe that such a move is rational.

    To believe, to know, that one cannot fly is not the end of what one wills. People jump. Reason is more than to-know, and, reason is more than to-will. Reason is (on the Christian premise of "The Good"), wholeness through and through. Again, the Non-Theist *must* make it all one Oceanic-It (eventually), but the Christian is not intellectually obligated to dance to those definitions. Especially since the Christian has not been given any good reasons for rational belief in such definitions.

  • Does free will begin at conception?

    • Yes, the capacity for free will is present at conception, along with the capacity for reason, relationship, human development, etc. even if those capacities haven't yet been realized. This is counter to animals and plants and minerals and computers, none of which ever have the capacity for free will.

      • Doug Shaver

        Yes, the capacity for free will is present at conception

        If it were not, how could we know? What would constitute evidence contrary to your assertion?

        • LHRMSCBrown

          Plant a seed. If it grows into a tree, it probably lacked the capacity of being an automobile. On evidence, that is.

          • Doug Shaver

            What do seeds, trees, and automobiles have to do with free will?

          • LHRMSCBrown

            You seemed confused about the fetus. Whether naturalism or theism, it becomes the adult. Potential / Actualizing and all that. Human fetuses don't become trees. Hence Vogt's reply.

          • Doug Shaver

            You seemed confused about the fetus.

            Possibly, but you're not going to un-confuse me by talking about seeds, trees, and automobiles.

      • Rob Abney

        This question from jimmysm is extremely important. But I don't particularly like the term "capacity", I think a better descriptor would be "not fully developed". There is more present than a potential, the human has been actualized at conception. I would say that free will is present if only in the most basic form of "to be or not to be". The will to live is present but requires protection to avoid a violent opposition.
        It could be interesting to draw out the distinctions at this stage from other living creatures.

      • Valence

        Just a wording nitpik:

        Capacity: the ability or power to do, experience, or understand something.

        If something has the capacity for reason, it can reason. It would be reasonable to say that an embryo has the potential for the capacity to reason, but that potential isn't actualized (to use Aristotle's terminology) until early childhood, often called the "age of accountability" in Christian circles. Of course, not all human embryos have the potential for reason if there is genetic damage or abnormalities. It's the DNA that makes it a human embryo to begin with, of course.

      • My response would be a combination of a couple others here- All of these 'capacities' you list are often limited by various genetic or other developmental differences, from Autism to Down's syndrome, to the majority of fertilized eggs that fail to implant, and the various other ways life is terminated prenatally.

        I can't argue that animals or computers have free will in the sense you mean, since I hold that humans are animals and simply hold some cognitive abilities in a higher degree than other animals.

        I'd still like to know when the potential for free will is actualized, how that process works, and how you know it

  • LHRMSCBrown

    Doxastic Experiences / Belief:

    Agency and the ethics of belief.... (see book reference). "I cannot make myself believe I'm an illusion.... Or that the sky isn't blue..." Obviously the Non-Theist’s attempts to ontologically differentiate [..Edit....speaking of fundamental nature(s)...] from one another all the affairs of [1] reality's fundamental and impersonal forces, the ontologically seamless continuum which *is* the whole show, from [2] "to-know" and "to-weigh" and “to will” are intellectually hopeless and, just as obvious, the fact that he persists despite such unwarranted belief is evidence of the doxastic affairs we speak of as we find that the looming Oceanic-It (as per my previous comments) removes all of his rational basis on which to attempt such moves. It is simply the fact that, on Non-Theism, on Sean Carroll’s irreducible means and ends, “……at the lowest level of reality, the fermions that make up our bodies are subject to only the four fundamental forces of nature. There is no room for *you* to control their behavior.” (by A. Ginn) Yet our Non-Theist friend will speak as if there really is room for *you*. As B. Vogt pointed out, on Carroll's view, "....fundamental reality does determine everything, but we're forced to use emergent language and concepts only because we don't have access to this fundamental information. Thus for Laplace's Demon, there would not be such a thing as baseball....."

    The Non-Theist mistakes the doxastic experience, and internal rationality, and external rationality, and I-know, and I-weigh, and I-will, and I-reason, and…. and… and….. for something which offers us a [box] which is somehow and somewhere distinct from reality's singular oceanic swell, the singularity which just is this entire affair we speak of. One must allow the full import of the term illusion to do its proper, and complete, ontic work. There is nature. Period. The Oceanic-It. Period. There is not, and cannot even in principle be, nature free of nature. The concept of "degree" is wholly irrelevant given the Non-Theist’s own obviously ill-fated and therefore unwarranted ontological a priori doxastic commitments. Given that within said Oceanic-It we find no room for such hopes, we rationally conclude that the attempts do in fact unpack to that which is ultimately or cosmically illusory where the box ["I reason! I think! I will!"] is concerned.

    Our Non-Theist friends speak of our inability to force ourselves to believe that the sky is not blue as if that is the beginning and end of reality’s tool box but then (obviously) he is forced (or rather, he forces himself) to willingly restrain his beliefs to such one dimensional terms given his own unwarranted ontological a priori commitment to the ultimately or cosmically illusory vis-à-vis the ontologically seamless continuum that *is* reality, that *is* the Oceanic-It. Such belief-states which exist against the evidence, while unwarranted on his part, are understandable given the full import of the Non-Theist's only rational alternative. Doxastic norms, responsibility, and the possibility of doxastic agency are all explored in, “Believing Against the Evidence: Agency and the Ethics of Belief”, McCormick, Miriam Schleifer. Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy. Also, internal rationality, external rationality, and the doxastic experience are looked at in Plantinga’s “Warranted Christian Belief”.

    Edit: The following comment is 2 days out and is down-thread from here, but, for the sake of completeness, a copy/paste here:

    I believe a lot of things I don't *like*. As far as *want*, well, we do see large swaths of Non-Theists engaging in what cannot be anything other than wish fulfillment and denial. More generally, however, well it is quite amazing to see the sorts of things folks choose to talk themselves into. Give them a few decades and before you know it they can't imagine otherwise. It's impressive. Demonstrable. Sometimes we believe what we want, not what we ought. All sorts of vectors contribute to that slow, steady, process. Now, sure, in the end the illusion never stands a chance, but that doesn't seem to stop folks from such collisions amid the trio of the evidence, the will, and the mind. Believing against the evidence? Sure. It's called Non-Theism. The demonstrability of the aforementioned trio.

    What one *wants* to believe and what one *ought* to believe can and do (in the real world) conflict and come into said trio. Oh dear. Ought. Not that again. It's a peculiar affair given the trio. The fact that "ought" layers in atop *want* just makes it a richer cake. The simplistic yes/no approach (of some here) just isn't interfacing with the reality of what is actually going on. Granted, the Non-Theist *wants* it to unpack to a one sided coin. But they don't exist. They're illusions.

    “Believing Against the Evidence: Agency and the Ethics of Belief”, McCormick, Miriam Schleifer. Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy. Also, internal rationality, external rationality, and the doxastic experience are looked at in Plantinga’s “Warranted Christian Belief”.

  • I think there has been a great deal of mischaracterization of the issue, for example that this is about whether we can change our minds or overcome predispostions. Here is how I understand the issue of free will.

    Everything follows a natural order and will only behave one way given a
    specific set of variables. e.g. any experiment performed exactly the
    same will give us exactly the same result (needless to say creating the exact same conditions is not actually possible, the idea is that in that exact set of circumstances, only the exact result obtained was possible, any different result in later tests is due to differences in the initial circumstances.)

    Our minds are no
    different, whether they are nothing more than the material brains or
    there is some immaterial element as well, for any absolute specific state of a mind at time A, it will entail only one precise result at time A+1. So at the point of any decision, the result is already determined by the state of the mind and the natural order.

    We feel like this is not the case, we feel like at time A, "we" can still make one of a set of options. But this is contrary to evidence, for example this famous "finger" experiment, where it was discovered that the brain had already made the decision to twitch a finger before the subject was conscious of this decision. This experiment has been criticized but we also have an enormous volume of neurological evidence that more and more aspects of the human mind are explained by biological and environmental factors.

    This taken together, it is the determinism view that our minds are nothing more than our nervous system. This is what "we" are in mental terms. Everything this system does is determined by its previous state, like an incredibly complex computer.

    So the idea is that for any absolutely specific mental state there is only one possible next state, while we may feel that our conscious experience can decide differently, that feeling is an illusion. My guess is that what the experience of consciousness is, is what brains in action "feel" like. It feels like we can decide differently, because before we make the decision we can, the brain is reflecting, it is thinking or computing it has not decided and we feel that, we feel it making the decision. But this conscious experience is the effect of the brain deciding, not the cause.

    A libertarian may attempt recourse to some other element not bound by the biological configuration, that is a factor in decision-making. Usually consciousness, or a soul.

    But if this were the case, we should be able to identify some way this works. We should be able to say here is what the exercise of the freedom of will is. A good exercise would be to try and identify how your freedom of will works. How do you make decisions? If you are making them logically and rationally, this is the logic and the facts of the situation determining the situation, "you" just computed them. If it is based on emotion or gut feeling, again how is this "you" exercising a freedom of will, if you did not decide how to feel. If it was neither and you just thought the thought, or just chose at random, again this seems arbitrary or random, not an exercise of a freedom.

    So it seems even on libertarianism, we do not really have any evidence of a freedom of will, but rather just a will.

    • LHRMSCBrown

      You've completely left out the reality that we can do otherwise. We can do otherwise. We know that. We experience that. You're free do deny it. You merely assert psychosis, but offer no evidence.

      • "we can do otherwise"

        How could you ever know? you can never re-create the universe to find out.

        • LHRMSCBrown

          Can you do otherwise when you choose between, say, coffee and OJ?

          We already know it unpacks to illusion. I. Self. Other. Me. You. Will. Think. Etc. I just want to see how consistent and how far you are willing to go with said mantra and what evidence you're prepared to offer. Besides denial. Besides the claim of psychosis. One's veridical posture slumps....

          “TFBW” offered this general capture of the argument from personal identity: “The argument from personal identity is, perhaps, one of the reasons that atheists like Sam Harris embrace a kind of Buddhism which specifically denies that there is any “self”. As with the argument from consciousness, the general counter-argument (if one can call it that) can be summarized in one word: denial. Any semblance of contrary evidence is summarily dismissed as “illusion”. Sam Harris also uses meditation to back up his claim, as there are meditative states in which the “self” seems to disappear. Other than the fact that they support his preferred belief, it’s not clear why Harris thinks that these special states are more veridical than everything else we experience. He calls his meditative activity “scrutiny”; I’m inclined to think of it as an abnormal brain state of questionable reliability.”

          • I can choose one or the other, but if you could reset the universe to the exact moment my brain made that choice, the same result would obtain every time. It would be a bit disconcerting to me if that wasn't the case, presumably I had reasons and experience that went into that choice(OJ has too much sugar, so I would take the coffee, in this example)

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Like Harris: I can choose, but I cannot choose what I choose.

            The obvious contradiction and equivocation aside, what evidence do you have that you are correct? You've not presented any so far.

          • Harris is spot on, his "think of a city(1:25)" example demonstrates exactly that

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXTEmu-jUqA

            If there's something in addition to the fundamental particles, forces, and laws of nature it's up to you to show what it is and how it works. I don't think there is, nor is there any room for it in our best models of reality, so you appear to be asking me for evidence of the absence of something I think is nonsense..

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Yes, we already know that the Self is an illusion at bottom, as per Carroll's terms. There is no room for the illusive *you* to control reality's fundamental forces/interactions.

            That's already been established. But what hasn't been established is why Harris' brain states are more veridical than everything else we experience?

            Also, you've not explained how quantum indeterminism lends support to this supposed veridical brain state relative to the illusion that is the Self.

            You just keep going in circles from what I can see. From illusion to reality to illusion to reality, foisting reality as evidence for the illusion, foisting illusion as evidence for the reality.

            It's far worse than solipsism as far as I can tell. Do you have anything else to offer?

      • George

        How do you know you can do otherwise?

        • LHRMSCBrown

          I've been given no good reasons to rationally affirm that I cannot do so. If there is no room for *me* in reality, as per Carroll's terms, then I cannot do otherwise.

          But there is this: I am

          • I have laid out the reasons above, and you have simply stated the contrary. I do not at all assert psychosis. I have asserted that all a human mind is, is neurology, that neurology follows an order. Our observations of neurology are that they follow the laws of science, so that for any given circumstance only one effect will occur.

            This leads to the rational conclusion that like any other phenomena, the activity of human minds is deterministic, though not predictable.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            (Edited at 6 minutes) As far as I can tell you've been consistently honest with your models. And, also, as far as I can tell you've essentially repeated Carroll's terms. That's fine, and obviously the point of the thread. But I can say that all you've done is stated the contrary of a metaphysic with more explanatory power than your own. As Debilis stated, "One is free to disagree, but it makes no sense to argue against the truth of those claims by pointing out that science doesn’t find them. Of course it doesn’t – that’s the theists point. The debate is over whether or not science gives us an exhaustive picture of all reality..." Neurons don't control or determine anything. The fermions that make up neurons *are* the neurons, and are subject only to the four fundamental forces of reality. "There is no room for *you* to control their behavior." On point of fact, it is not what I am which is at all relevant in this discussion, but rather it is the hard fact that I am. As B. Vogt pointed out, on Carroll's view, "....fundamental reality does determine everything, but we're forced to use emergent language and concepts only because we don't have access to this fundamental information. Thus for Laplace's Demon, there would not be such a thing as baseball....." The illusion of choice is irrelevant, a distraction from what the Non-Theist's paradigm must actually get around to expunging if it means to be taken seriously. As stated in my reply to Peter: I can't recall if it was Luke or Jim or both but from somewhere in that corner, the following:

            "Perhaps it would be better to talk in terms of the dichotomy 'impersonal determinism' vs. 'personal determinism'. Each of these would be a subset of the category 'determinism'. Actually, I think by refusing to carefully distinguish between two entirely different notions of determinism, much confusion has been engendered. I don't really care what terms are developed to do the distinguishing...."

            "....I am speaking for myself, at least -- I think that everything is determined, but that some things are freely determined (whether by humans, or by angels, or whatever other free agents there are, or by God himself). But "determinism" is generally understood to mean "everything is determined by impersonal forces on autopilot…. [Carroll’s] thesis, as I understand it, is that the future is 100% determined by the present + impersonal forces. [Carroll] is willing to use the term "personal causes", but only with the understanding that this is short-hand way of saying "complex impersonal causes"."

            The illusion of choice is irrelevant, a distraction from what the Non-Theist's paradigm must actually get around to expunging if it means to be taken seriously.

            How does one expunge oneself from reality? What words, what syntax, does one use to pull it off?

            How can *word* become *flesh*?

          • I do not see how this is methaphysics or that libertarian free will has more explanatory "power". It would seem to me that all three possibilities explain the same thing, but there is more evidence for determinism.

            ""it makes no sense to argue against the truth of those claims by pointing out that science doesn’t find them.""

            Fair enough, but in this case there is sufficient evidence to support determinism and not enough to support libertarianism.

            I am afraid I lose the thread after this, I really cannot follow what you are on about with neurons and fermions. I am not a neurologists and cannot discuss that level of detail. But I do not think it is required, the idea is that the human mind is part of the human body and operates like the rest of the human body pursuant to natural laws and forces, rather than a dual system that has a non-biological arbiter such as a soul or something. I see no evidence of such an element to human decision-making, nor do I think it is required. I would say the evidence is consistent with there being no such extra element. i.e. if there was we might expect it to be unaffected by damage to the brain as it would be by damage to other parts of the body. Or, we would expect to see some evidence of human decision making absent the brain or brain activity.

            I do not think one can expunge oneself from reality or that *word* may become flesh. These seem to be just random non-sequiturs.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            [1] Fermions aren't required (to discuss "I"?)

            (are the four fundamental forces of reality? If so how relevant are they? Is there room for anything else? If so, please explain where)

            [2] "...if there was we might expect it to be unaffected by damage to the brain..."

            [3] ".....we would expect to see some evidence of human decision making absent the brain or brain activity...."

            Sorry. I didn't know you didn't know. I mean about 2 and 3.

            Thanks anyway.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Have you really talked yourself into believing in emergentism?

            Neurons don't *do* or determine anything. The fermions that make up the neurons *are* the neurons and *they* are subject only to the four fundamental forces of reality. Do you deny this?

            Sean Carroll references the syntax of emergentism to ignorance of reality's fundamental layer, while David Bentely Hart references such to talk of magic.

            There's are reasons the proverbial "neuron" is termed illusory. It's not because it comes and then fades, it's because [IT] never was in the first place.

          • "Have you really talked yourself into believing in emergentism"

            I don't think so.

            "The fermions that make up the neurons *are* the neurons and *they* are subject only to the four fundamental forces of reality. Do you deny this?"

            No I do not deny it, but I cannot confirm you are correct.

            Are you now saying neurons are illusions?

            Honestly, your posts are difficult for me to follow. I do not know whether you are a libertarian or determinist or compatabalist, or what you are trying to argue.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            I'm not defending anything. I'm only examining a form of Non-Theism. What are neurons? What do they do? Do they exhibit emergent properties?

          • Ok, what form of non-theism are you examining and why? I understand neurons to be nerve cells. I further understand they transmit signals through elecro-chemical processes. I do not know what you mean by emergent properties.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            I'm just curious about the sort of Non-Theism(s) which assert that physical instruments can measure the *God* which Christianity affirms and, also, the sort which foists and employs the reality as evidence for the illusory while foisting and employing the illusory as evidence for the reality. "I strongly feel that the methods of science and empirical investigation can be brought to bear on all interesting questions about the fundamental nature of the universe, including whether or not God exists, and the evidence is pretty incontrovertible that he doesn’t." (S. Carroll)

          • Ok, I do not really know if that is a "sort". Whether or not a proposed god can be measured with physical instruments depends of course on the god that is being advanced. It is a question more applicable to theists than non-theists.

            For example, I am an atheist towards deism, idolatry and Catholicism. With respect to deism, this deity could not ever be measured with physical instruments as it does not interact with its creation. Some forms of idolatry consider an idol or statue to be the god itself, these obviously can be measured with instruments. For Catholicism, it is rather unclear as God is sometimes described as being the ground of being, which would seem to be non-measurable, but at the same time a fully human entity that can die, which should be measurable.

            I think this issue is better characterized as whether the god you believe in can be detected by humans, if yes the what is the evidence? If not, why should anybody accept such a claim?

            Interestingly enough this was a topic widely discussed on last Sunday's Atheist Experience.

            Those who foist reality as the illusory and the illusory as reality... I think there is no conflict or issue here and all people do this. There is only reality, and some things within it are actual, some are illusory. The issue with Carrol and naturalism is more about what is fundamental vs emergent, but all is real.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            What is a neuron again? What does it do? What is conduction?

          • Exactly.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Well, you are unable, or unwilling, to model reality on all available evidence I see. As expected given Non-Theism's philosophical commitments. Sean Carroll and David Hart, in their convergence / agreement with one another see a similar pattern once that point is reached. Well, actually, Carroll is willing to go further than you. Rosenberg further than he. It's a tough move, defending absurdity, so it takes time. Baby steps. Generation... a bit more... But the newer, younger atheists are brave, hungry, and eager in their eliminative march. They've not the former generation's hang-ups. Don't worry. Having one's ideas and hang-ups (the non-eliminative) become irrelevant is a sign of progress.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            "Those who foist reality as the illusory and the illusory as reality... I think there is no conflict or issue here and all people do this." Yes, as predicted by Christianity's premises, Sean Carroll and David Hart converge, as discussed already in this thread. Hence the insolvency of naturalism's metaphysical baggage.

          • David Nickol

            which assert that physical instruments can measure the *God* which Christianity affirms . . . .

            First, science is not simply measurement. You can measure things all you want, and still not be "doing" science. Second, one of the most touted books here on Strange Notions has been Robert J. Spitzer's New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy, so it is clear to me that many theists believe science can have something to say on the existence or non-existence of God.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            I never said otherwise. Physics and philosophy. It takes both. That would be.... the point. One without the other just won't do. Science alone? Despite Carroll's soundbite insinuations, no way. I don't find much use for [1/2 spin] X [1/2 spin] [equals] [no god]. You know, Carroll's empirical / empiricism blurbs in more public, less academic, forums. He could say in such forums that science alone cannot settle the question. He has a choice.

          • David Nickol

            He could say in such forums that science alone cannot settle the question. He has a choice.

            If you can find a quote from Sean Carroll in which he says science alone can answer the question of whether God exists, I would be interested to see it. I will grant that it may sometimes seem to be what he is saying. But I don't think he has actually said it. The very fact that he pushes "poetic naturalism" seems to me good evidence that he doesn't claim science alone can answer all questions.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Based on empirical data (his singular reference) it's pretty incontrovertible that there's no god.

            Close enough for me. If you want to support him there then so be it.

          • David Nickol

            Close enough for me. If you want to support him there then so be it.

            I don't see much point in attributing to Carroll specific viewpoints he doesn't clearly identify as his own and then trying to prove him wrong. If it is his view that science and science alone can answer every question, including whether or not God exists, then I disagree with him. It doesn't seem clear to me he really does believe that, but so what if he does? No one has claimed Sean Carroll is infallible. I think some of us (myself included) have gone a bit overboard in either attacking or defending Sean Carroll as if it were important that he be wrong (or right) on every issue. But what we are presumably supposed to be doing is discussing his book, not putting him on trial. If he is vague, we don't need to fill in the blanks to determine what he "really" thinks, and if he is self-contradictory we don't have to resolve the contradictions and pin a label on his "real" view.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Based on empirical data (his singular reference) it's pretty incontrovertible that there's no god.

            Close enough for me and the reason is that the general tone so often, too often, is that in fact science *has* buried god or even *can* do so. It does sell books, of course. And I don't mean just for Carroll.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            "Cannot confirm you are correct..."

            Holding out for reality's fundamental personal force? Or for imaginary neurons that are not *entirely* constituted of something *else*? Either way I'm not hopeful for you.

          • "Holding out for reality's fundamental personal force?"

            I really do not understand this question.

            Are you saying that neurons, nerve cells do not exist? I believe they exist and they are made up of themselves.

            I neither request nor care if you hope for me.

            Do you actually have a point or a real question?

            I am actually beginning to suspect you are a bot.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            You stated you cannot confirm if in fact the fermions which make up the neurons *are* the neurons and *they* are subject only to the four fundamental forces of reality. I'm simply granting you that there is some *other* force at work, and asking how that helps your short sighted position that neurons *do* anything? The semantics of emergence seem dear to you, as if you mean to assert emergent realities out there *doing* things, *causing* events. I'm not sure reality is ultimately definable by the syntax of emergentism, as both Carroll and Hart and others allude to. I tend to agree with them given any variety of naturalism I've seen so far.

          • I do not think I need help in my position that neurons do things. There is extensive empirical evidence of neurons and their activity.

            "I'm not sure reality is ultimately definable by the syntax of emergentism." me neither.

            I accept naturalism, you seem to too. Do we have anything else to discuss?

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Evidence? You seem to be foisting the illusory as evidence of the reality, and foisting the reality as evidence of the illusory. The evidence is the evidence for the evidence? I'm not sure that works. In fact, I know it doesn't. Given that you seem to believe in emergent forces, emergent causes, then no, things are cleared up, and I think we're done. Thanks.

          • The fermions that make up the silicon that make up transistors are subject only to the four fundamental forces of reality. Fermions are not semiconductors, but silicon, in the right arrangement, is. Why would a neuron be any different?

          • LHRMSCBrown

            I never said otherwise. I'm not disagreeing. I only mean to clarify. What are neurons? What do they do? Do they exhibit emergent properties? What is conduction? What does it do? Is it nothing but reality's irreducible nature or is it an emergent property? A new nature? A different nature? The same?

    • Very well said.

      " we should be able to identify some way this works"

      That seems like the central premise of Carroll's critique, I'd love a clear answer from a LFW proponent

    • Valence

      I think part of the illusion that we might make a different decision in the past comes from putting our current self in place of our past self at the time. Of course our current self could make a different decision because it is in a different state. This ends up being one of those cases where intuitive thinking can lead one astray.

  • LHRMSCBrown

    I've been given no good reason to rationally affirm that I cannot choose, that I cannot do otherwise than I do. If there is no room for *me* in reality, which Carroll's terms affirm, then I cannot do otherwise.

    But there is this: I am

    The Non-Theist completely misses the point and appeals to the illusion of choice and a hundred other irrelevant dodges.

    Such are all irrelevant for it is not a matter of what I am which ruins him, but rather it is the fact that I am.

    The Non-Theist's unwarranted belief states which exist against the evidence are forever running in circles, forever foisting the reality as evidence of the illusion, forever foisting the illusion as evidence of the reality (...wait for it....). He willingly, freely, restrains his own beliefs to the absurd contra-warrant and contra-evidence and this he does given his own a priori commitment to the illusory.

    On morality it all plays out all over again as he has no means by which to speak of irreducible facts, but only of his assortment of dodges and illusions. Again, on the fact of I am, it is not what I am, but that I am. Edit: Such carries us into morality because it carries us into the distinction between the impersonally determined and the personally determined.

    Meanwhile: Reciprocity's volitional motions amid self/other, amid I/You, sum to love as the highest ethic, and such processions of course timelessly constitute love's ontology vis-a-vis "Trinity".

    • Peter

      I agree with you that atheists miss the point when they deal with free will. The miracle of the cosmos is not free will but the presence of conscious beings who make actual choices. Seeking to analyse how those choices are made does not diminish the fact that conscious beings exist to make them. Irrespective of the processes involved, choices are made by conscious beings and that is a fact.

      Atheists cannot deny God by appealing to the mechanistic way in which choices are made while, at the same time, there exist conscious beings capable of making those choices. How can they deny God by rejecting free will as a miracle when they are faced with the greater miracle of conscious beings?

      If atheists want to do better, if they want to remove miracles entirely from the cosmos, they must aim to disprove the presence of conscious beings. This, sadly for them, is an increasingly difficult task. The cosmos is teeming with worlds and brimming with the ingredients for life. The chances are that we are but one out of countless billions of conscious races.

      • LHRMSCBrown

        "If atheists want to do better, if they want to remove miracles entirely from the cosmos, they must aim to disprove the presence of conscious beings...."

        Very helpful.

        A few thoughts on where that takes us.....just for fun: Given reality's fundamental nature (on Non-Theism), there simply isn't room for *I*. To expunge the semantics of "I am" is the Non-Theist's only hope. In short, he must, first, expunge himself (...and therefore forfeit what little he has in the painful circularity of foisting the reality as evidence for the illusion and foisting the illusion as evidence for the reality...) and, secondly, run about scavenging up what scraps are left, namely, this or that reductio ad absurdum.

        Regarding choices, obviously man is contingent and so his options are constrained (limited), but a (real) conscious agent ("I am") immersed within a few million (real) possibilities and (real) actualities will do just fine for the Christian's metaphysical landscape. Hence your point that all the Non-Theist's fuss of "how" is still (at bottom) missing the point. Carroll there, too, misses the point.

        It is not what "I am" that ruins him, but, rather it is the fact that I am. He must, if he hopes to survive, expunge even that, even himself. The painful results of that move of course are, well, all too obvious.

        I can't recall if it was Luke or Jim or both but from somewhere in that corner, the following:

        "Perhaps it would be better to talk in terms of the dichotomy 'impersonal determinism' vs. 'personal determinism'. Each of these would be a subset of the category 'determinism'. Actually, I think by refusing to carefully distinguish between two entirely different notions of determinism, much confusion has been engendered. I don't really care what terms are developed to do the distinguishing...."

        "....I am speaking for myself, at least -- I think that everything is determined, but that some things are freely determined (whether by humans, or by angels, or whatever other free agents there are, or by God himself). But "determinism" is generally understood to mean "everything is determined by impersonal forces on autopilot…. [Carroll’s] thesis, as I understand it, is that the future is 100% determined by the present + impersonal forces. [Carroll] is willing to use the term "personal causes", but only with the understanding that this is short-hand way of saying "complex impersonal causes"."

        It seems the path to expunging themselves from reality is unavoidable. “……at the lowest level of reality, the fermions that make up our bodies are subject to only the four fundamental forces of nature. There is no room for *you* to control their behavior.” (by A. Ginn) And, just the same, as B. Vogt pointed out, on Carroll's view, "....fundamental reality does determine everything, but we're forced to use emergent language and concepts only because we don't have access to this fundamental information. Thus for Laplace's Demon, there would not be such a thing as baseball....."

        Hoping to keep the focus on the irrelevance of "we don't really choose", the Non-Theist persists in avoiding expunging his own "I am" from reality. The sad part is that he makes that attempt by the aforementioned circularity of reality/illusion/reality/illusion foists, or what he likes to call “layers" which are somehow (we are never told how) distinct from reality's fundamental and impersonal forces (the ontologically seamless continuum which *is* the whole show).

        So we are always, then, circling back to the irrelevant concept of “degree”. As if there is a degree of flux somewhere within the Oceanic-It that is somehow (we are never told how) distinct from reality's fundamental and impersonal forces, the ontologically seamless continuum which *is* the whole show.

        How does one expunge oneself from reality? What words does one use to pull it off? All that he has left are the semantics of absurdity as he himself is expunged from all equations and all evidence and therefore from reality itself, and hence from science itself.

        Enter *god*, all that (really) ever was, is, or will be, the seamless Oceanic-It, Non-Theism's only option, its timeless wellspring from which all definitions eternally stream, its one true god:

        “Fundamental interactions, also known as fundamental forces, are the interactions in physical systems that do not appear to be reducible to more basic interactions. There are four conventionally accepted fundamental interactions — gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear. Each one is understood as the dynamics of a field. The gravitational force is modelled as a continuous classical field. The other three are each modelled as discrete quantum fields, and exhibit a measurable unit or elementary particle. The two nuclear interactions produce strong forces at minuscule, subatomic distances. The strong nuclear interaction is responsible for the binding of atomic nuclei. The weak nuclear interaction also acts on the nucleus, mediating radioactive decay. Electromagnetism and gravity produce significant forces at macroscopic scales where the effects can be seen directly in everyday life. Electrical and magnetic fields tend to cancel each other out when large collections of objects are considered, so over the largest distances (on the scale of planets and galaxies), gravity tends to be the dominant force.”

        • Peter

          When I say that atheists must disprove the presence of conscious beings, I do not mean deny that conscious beings exist. Conscious beings capable of making choices plainly do exist, since they themselves as atheists do make choices to foster their own lack of belief.

          What atheists must do to deny God is disprove that the universe is created to produce conscious beings who seek out their maker. They must prove that human beings are an utter freak of nature, a radical aberration from the natural course of events in a cosmos totally hostile to life.

          It is only by declaring the presence of humanity to be a wildly random and highly unlikely event that they can claim the cosmos to be a meaningless, purposeless, and therefore uncreated, phenomenon. If on the other hand, it is discovered that conscious races exist elsewhere, consciousness ceases to be a freak one-off occurrence but the fruitful product of a fertile universe. Instead of lacking purpose, the cosmos will have gained it, and with that purpose, destiny.

  • neil_pogi

    if atheists don't believe in free will, then they will also reject that good and evil didn't exist

    • neil_pogi

      i need you Doug, lazarus and brian to comment on this.

      • Doug Shaver

        if atheists don't believe in free will, then they will also reject that good and evil didn't exist

        i need you Doug, lazarus and brian to comment on this.

        It's nonsense, in my judgment.

        • neil_pogi

          pls elaborate more!

          • Doug Shaver

            1. It is logically a non sequitur. 2. The antecedent is not universally true. 3. In those cases where the antecedent happens to be true, the consequent is contrary to easily observed fact.

          • neil_pogi

            it's just your personal opinion..

          • Doug Shaver

            The rules of logic are not just anybody's personal opinion.

          • neil_pogi

            then how logical are atheists when they say that:

            1. non-living things becomes living things. then why living things are dying or become dead?
            2. a 'nothing' has creative power, and created the universe - you need more blind faith to explain it scientifically and 'logically'
            3. an 'infinitely small dot' suddenly exploded somewhere in the realm of nothingness, then evolved into a universe - can you identify how small is 'infinitely small'? did somebody was there to observe it?

            just only 3. now can you 'logically' explain that?

          • Doug Shaver

            then how logical are atheists when they say . . .

            You're talking with only one atheist. It is entirely irrelevant to our conversation how logical any other atheists might be.

          • neil_pogi

            i am talking to atheists in this SN. i didn't say im oly talking with one. the 'you' refers to atheists.

          • Doug Shaver

            i didn't say im oly talking with one.

            That doesn't mean it isn't so. You might intend whatever you say to be read by everyone, but if you have a question, the only answers I can give are my own. We atheists have no authority with whom we must all agree, no book that we must all believe every word of.

          • neil_pogi

            when i say 'you' it includes atheists in general (that's includes you doug).

          • Doug Shaver

            when i say 'you' it includes atheists in general

            OK. But when you tell us what we believe, you're going to be wrong nearly every time. That is generally what happens when you treat members of any group as if they were all alike.

          • neil_pogi

            or you just deny them?

            is this another trick of yours?

          • Doug Shaver

            Truth requires no trickery.

          • neil_pogi

            i wonder why you spend on this instead of arguing my arguments against atheism? which is more important to you?

            1. non-living things becomes living things. then why living things are dying or become dead?

            2. a 'nothing' has creative power, and created the universe - you need more blind faith to explain it scientifically and 'logically'

            3. an 'infinitely small dot' suddenly exploded somewhere in the realm of nothingness, then evolved into a universe - can you identify how small is 'infinitely small'? did somebody was there to observe it?

          • Doug Shaver

            i wonder why you spend on this instead of arguing my arguments against atheism?

            You're not making any arguments against atheism. If you think you are, then you don't know what an argument is.

          • neil_pogi

            argument or what.. just make even one commnet about your belief systems as i enumerated earlier.

          • Doug Shaver

            just make even one commnet about your belief systems as i enumerated earlier.

            Nothing you enumerated is a part of my belief system.

          • neil_pogi

            only 1 doug denied it and yet 99.9% of your atheist friends just believe in them :-)

          • Doug Shaver

            99.9% of your atheist friends just believe in them :-)

            Prove it.

            You say stuff like this all the time, and when asked for evidence you refuse to provide it. But as long as you can do that, I can with equal justification deny everything you say without providing a shred of evidence.

          • neil_pogi

            you have been doing that when atheism's theories all failed

      • Lazarus

        Good or evil can be created. If so, free will in that creature need never have required free will at all. Why does it have to be all or nothing? What about some volition, just falling short of free will, where such partial volition is still enough to bring about an act of good or evil.

        • neil_pogi

          good and evil co-exist eternally. both require free will, because if free will doesn't exists, you only have one choice to make: either be it good or bad

    • Are you saying that because we do not beleive in free will, we cannot believe in good and evil? I disagree with that.

      In terms of accepting "good", "evil" "exist". You will need to have these terms defined first. I accept that humans may suffer and sometimes I will use the term evil to describe extreme suffering, but I do not think "evil" or "good" exist in the same way say that water exists.

      • neil_pogi

        quote: 'Are you saying that because we do not beleive in free will, we cannot believe in good and evil? I disagree with that'.- yes.. so again atheists are in danger of 'do we really believe in free will'...

        what's the point of arguing with theists if atheist like you believe in a free will?

        • "so again atheists are in danger of 'do we really believe in free will'.." - this sentence does not make sense to me.

          Some, I would say most atheists believe in free will. I do not. I cannot speak for others, I engage in discussions with theists on this site, because I enjoy it and believe their beliefs in gods is mistaken and potentially dangerous. I would like to help them understand the flaws in apologist arguments. I also want to make sure I understand where theists are coming from and to hope they will point out any flaws in my reasoning. This has happened a number of times on this site for which I am grateful. But mainly I do it because I enjoy it.

          • neil_pogi

            in the first place, we don't believe in gods, but rather in a 'Creator' (God).. anyway, you have also your own gods, which are the 'self-replicating molecules' - you believe them as 'eternal' (but you would not accept the term 'eternal' but another 'term' i don't know).

            how can you say that believing in something 'supernatural' is 'potentially dangerous'?

            so atheists are divided whether free will is just an illusion or not. just one piece of advise for you: you can't choose any 2 beliefs as your own beliefs. you have to freely choose only one. if you choose atheism as very rational one, then you are just exercising your rights or your free will to choose it. it's like taking an examination. you are to choose between a 'true' or 'false' answer. but you only choose one answer

            prey animals have no free will. they can.t choose but to 'accept' that they are created as 'food' for predator animals. humans are endowed with free will. we can choose to do good or evil.

          • I would not call a self-replicating molecule a "god", and obviously neither would you, since clearly you believe these molecules exist, but you say you do not believe in more than one god.

            I do not believe self-replicating molecules are eternal, I am convinced on very strong evidence that they have not existed prior to the last 3 billion years or so, and that they will not survive the heat death of the universe. Your straw-manning is, as usual, quite impressive.

            I say believing in something supernatural is dangerous for reasons that should be obvious. Many people have died based on supernatural beliefs, for example, parents who do not provide timely medical help to sick children who die. Most suicide bombers, I can go on, but you know what I mean.

            I do not and have not chosen two [contradictory] beliefs. Nor has any atheist I have encountered.

            I do not choose my beliefs, I am persuaded. I could not choose to believe in Zeus if I wanted to, I cannot choose to believe in monotheist gods either. I need evidence to convince me. But this is beside the point if we are discussing free will. I believe my choices are not "free" in the sense that libertarians advance. (If you do not like the term "choice" please provide me with a term that covers decisions that are not free but deterministic e.g. like a robot would make.)

            I agree that prey animals have no free will, nor do predator animals. I accept that humans can "choose" to do good or evil but that this choice is deterministic, in the sense that were the exact circumstances replicated, no human would be able to choose differently. The choice is completely determined by the circumstances at the time and these circumstances follow a natural order and which will only unfold in a particular way, there is no other element that has causal influence than the specific circumstances.

            For example, a self-driving car at speed, faced with a child running out in front of it must either continue and hit the child (which you may call "evil" I would call "bad") or to slam on the brakes and stop or swerve (which we both would call "good" i expect). I think it makes sense to call what the car does a "choice" or "decision". If you disagree, please let me know what term works better. I think this is like what a human would do in "choosing" but I think we can both agree the car's "choice" is not "free" but deterministic, though evitable. I do not think humans are doing anything different in our decisions.

          • neil_pogi

            atheists rely on 'after the facts' in order to arrive a certain theory. the 'self replicating molecule' resides in the cell, and now i'd like to ask you if the cell is 'eternal', and because you don't believe anymore in eternal entities, you don't know what is the cause of this SRM. after many theories of the origins of the universe, and because you can't prove them, atheists resort to one theory left, 'we don't know' or 'give us time, perhaps millions of years, to solve it'.. when the fact that the universe is created by God- whether you like it or not. that's the more plausible explanation.
            even if the SRM existed for a long time, what was the first organism it created? nobody observed it. what sustained its growth and how it survived the every day conditions of early earth? i remember you answer that it needs not to eat. then how did you know? i think you are using the 'argument from make-believe story'.

            i already explained that believing in a God or gods can make sometimes produce negative behavior, make them proud and

            selfish, like what you said above. But they are only fanatics. there are good and bad christians, muslims and the like. christians are not exempt from committing adultery, killing, and other forms of 'sin'... so are you trying to say that atheists are not committing any of these? wow, you're the most arrogant people in the universe! there are fanatics in sports too. i saw football game turning into chaos because one group of spectators, ex, from argentina is throwing chairs and coke bottles to other side. are you now telling me that sports can produce violence?

            choosing freely any beliefs you want is a form of free will, but you can change your beliefs later. that's free will. i believe there is a 'higher power' because i can see the wonders of creation, life and the universe. i didn't force my self to believe it. it just came in naturally.
            a car can't run without a pilot. it's better if someone make it run but no driver is maneuvering it. of course the car, because it is not conscious, will drive itself, let's say, there are many people in a market, and hit them. because it has no driver, it can hit everything on its path.

            if i am a driver of that car, i won't hit the crowd nor houses, trees, etc because i choose not, and that's free will in motion, or i can choose to hit them, that's my free will in motion.

          • Atheists rely on historical and current empirical evidence to inform their views, the same as everyone else.

            There are self-replicating molecules in and outside cells.

            I do not think any cells are eternal, I've never heard of anyone who does.

            You are correct I do not know how DNA or RNA arose.

            I think when you do not know the answer to a question it is better to admit it and keep investigating, if you are interested to see if you can find out. Scientists have made significant progress in developing a theory of DNA origin by way of chemistry.

            I am quite indifferent as to the origin of the universe. I would like it very much if the God Catholics believe in existed. (Whether you believe me or not.)

            I do not have any good reason to think theism is more likely the case than naturalism. You say it is more plausible than not it would seem based solely of your inability to understand the plausibility of natural origins of genetic chemistry. This is a logical fallacy called the argument from ignorance and if that is all you have, you have no reasonable basis to accept theism.

            The rhetorical questions you have about abiogenesis are characterized as "gotcha" problems for naturalism. Your ignorance of this area is evident as the questions you pose are not troubling to scientists investigating this issue. There are in fact much more difficult chemicals necessary for cell reproduction that scientists are trying to figure out the origins, but to understand what these are and why they are difficult, you would need to learn some basic chemistry. It is pretty clear from what you say that you have made no effort in to regard. But you should realize your questions are like someone saying "if the moon orbits the earth, how come it doesn't fall into the earth?"

            Sure there are good and bad Christians, there are fanatics. But the harm the cause is completely unnecessary and people like me are trying to avoid it. There are also much more pervasive, but less harmful effects of religion, such as loss of tax money from prime real estate and the divisions in friends and families.

            Sure atheists do bad things. But they do not do them based on their atheism. The problems that concern me in this regard are those that are caused by these unnecessary and demonstrably wrong beliefs.

            I don't think that even if we have free will we can chose our beliefs. Could you decide to believe that there are no gods and honestly believe it? No, you would need to be convinced.

            Right you didn't choos to believe in a higher power, you were convinced by what you observed. I have not been. I'd be interested to know what you mean by higher power, what these wonders are and how you can to believe that the wonders were caused by the higher power.

            Cars can run without drivers, several manufacturers have built them and they are already on the roads. Planes can and do run without pilots. Most of the time when you are in a plane it is being flown by a computer. It is not expected that they will hit people, in testing they have been safer than humans in driving, because they can respond more quickly.

            The question is no whether you choose but whether you can choose differently in the exact same circumstance.

          • neil_pogi

            you are trying using another term for 'eternal'.. SRM is a matter and needs a 'cause' for how it exist. you claimed it always exists, now how do you call it? 'eternal''always existing' name new term for the sake of atheism.

            if you think the DNA's cause is 'unknown' then it will be always unknown until you accept that it is created by another super and powerful intelligent designer. it's like saying that 'i do not know how the eiffel tower was created by natural means/cause unless i would think that it is created by a super and powerful intelligent designer (man). mere matter just doesn't move. have you seen one matter move by itself let alone self-arrange itself to form something else.

            how can you arrive at the idea that life emerges from non-life matter when the earth, once upon a time, is made from soil, rock and water? we have these materials today and yet these never eolve into living matter?

            i believe in God but you are saying that believing in God may contribute to developing hatred, evil doing, etc.. but i don't do that, instead i offer some charities and love for the needy. i wonder why no charitable institutions and hospitals that are run by atheists. even if there is, how it would accept christians!

            quote: Sure atheists do bad things. But they do not do them based on their atheism. The problems that concern me in this regard are those that are caused by these unnecessary and demonstrably wrong beliefs. - not based on atheism? communist rulers are some examples why millions of believers killed in the name of atheism. again, how do you know that believing in God is wrong?

            so you do not believe in a higher power. that's how you are exercising your free will. you are allowed that and yet you are not allowing others who do believe in higher power, you even call then 'ignorant people devoid of knowledge' 'superstitious'

            cars are made by intelligent people, intelligent designers. you believe that cars run by themselves without the aid of a pilot/driver? how is that so? do you accept to believe that cars are not created naturally by blind forces of nature? if you believe then i would say that you are entitle to a crown 'fanatical atheist'

          • " you claimed it always exists"

            I never did, in fact I have repeatedly clarified the opposite.

            "if you think the DNA's cause is 'unknown' then it will be always unknown
            until you accept that it is created by another super and powerful
            intelligent designer."

            That does not follow. If the cause is unknown then it is unknown until the cause is known. When it is known then that cause will be the cause. It may be a super and powerful
            intelligent designer or it may be a natural result of natural forces. I do not know the cause of DNA.

            "mere matter just doesn't move"

            Yes it does.

            "ave you seen one matter move by itself let alone self-arrange itself to form something else."

            Yes, constantly. The sun is doing it now.

            "how can you arrive at the idea that life emerges from non-life matter
            when the earth, once upon a time, is made from soil, rock and water"

            Chemistry and Physics.

            "we have these materials today and yet these never eolve into living matter?"

            Correct, this happened on earth 3.5 billion years ago.

            "i wonder why no charitable institutions and hospitals that are run by
            atheists. even if there is, how it would accept christians!"

            I do not think there are any really run by atheists. Most atheist groups do charitable work. For example The Atheist Community of Austin has a number of programs helping the homeless. Myself I do not feel any need to engage in charity as an atheist. I give to secular charities on a monthly basis.

            "how do you know that believing in God is wrong?"

            What "God" is is poorly defined and I cannot believe in what I do not understand. To the extent that it is defined, I am unaware of sufficient evidence to justify any such entity exists. I have examined many arguments for the existence of various gods and found them fallacious.

            "communist rulers are some examples why millions of believers killed in the name of atheism"

            This is demonstrably false. Various communist countries have done abominable acts including genocide, torture and crimes against humanity, generally in the name of communism and equality, but I think really to obtain and retain power. Religious leaders have also undertaken similar atrocities, but in the name of their Deity, but I would agree there were likely Geo-political issues at play as well.

            "so you do not believe in a higher power"

            Depends what you mean by "higher power". I do not believe in anything I would call a "god" or anything I would call "supernatural".

            "you even call then 'ignorant people devoid of knowledge' 'superstitious'"

            I never have, I do not disallow anyone to believe anything, nor could I if I wanted to. You may be mistaking me with someone else.

            "you believe that cars run by themselves without the aid of a pilot/driver"

            I believe self-driving cars do. Please see this video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsaES--OTzM

            "do you accept to believe that cars are not created naturally by blind forces of nature?"

            Ultimately no. Self-driving cars are designed and programmed by humans, but humans are ultimately a result of evolution and abiogenesis which are governed only by natural forces.

            You can call me whatever you like. But what you have described as "fanatical athiest" is simply someone who accepts deterministic naturalism. I would say that Naturalism is extremely common, and accepted by all atheists. Determinism is a more radical view, most atheists accept free will (libertarians) or are Compatabalists (believe our minds are deterministic, but that is compatable with free will). I do not really see any difference between Compatabalism and Determinsm.

            I think "fanatacism" deals more with what actions, tactics and strategies people employ in furtherance of social or political views. I believe that all humans should be allowed to think, believe and do what they like as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. Politically I do not want others' views on religious issues supported by public money, whether theist or atheist. The tactics I employ is simply by voting and commenting on websites. I do not think "fanatic" describes me.

          • neil_pogi

            1.quote: 'I never did, in fact I have repeatedly clarified the opposite'.- then tell me now how it originated?

            2.as i said before, if atheists will use the naturalistic cause for the eiffel tower, it will never be known, because intelligent engineers and architects, builders did it, so did the universe and life. you can not invoke the 'i don't know' theory here, or else atheism is just a crap. atheists then have no rights to say that atheism is true.

            3. quote: 'Yes it does'. - put a solid rock on the table and see if it moves.

            4. qute: 'Yes, constantly. The sun is doing it now'. - but it doesn't create something like 'specified complexity'.. the sun was created just for theplanets. it gives energy and light to earth to sustain life. the sun has purpose.

            5. quote: ' ..but humans are ultimately a result of evolution and abiogenesis which are governed only by natural forces'.-- so you see, in the end, you admitted believing that 'life comes from non-life'... you can't even prove it naturalistically.

            i wonder if nature can manufacture a car out of random elements of the earth. you can't even create one for yourself.. let alone natural processes

          • 1. I do not know the origin of DNA, I believe it originated like all other chemical compounds that were not developed by humans, by natural chemical and physical forces.

            2. I do not invoke "I don't know" as a theory to explain the origin of DNA, I use it as an admission of my ignorance. Atheism is a denial of the existence of any gods, it is not the position that DNA originated by natural processes. Atheism is based on a lack of evidence supporting theism.

            3. Done, and yes, the rock is moving. All matter is moving constantly. The rock is on a planet that is moving along with the earth at 1,040 miles per hour, the solar system, galaxy and galaxy cluster are all moving. Additionally the atoms and sub-atomic particles in the rock are moving as well.

            4. You are correct, the sun does not create specified complexity, but that is not what you asked about. You asked if I had seen "matter move by itself let alone self-arrange itself to form something else. The sun does this by itself, by turning Hydrogen into Helium and other heavier elements. This is the origin of virtually all elements on our planet from helium to gold.

            5. Yes, I believe life comes from non-life. I do not entirely know how and I do not believe it with certainty. I can prove evolution to scientific standards, I can prove some elements of abiogenesis the same way, but no, I cannot prove all of abiogenesis.

            6. In one sense nature has produced cars by way of producing humans. The process is not random, though randomness plays a role.

          • neil_pogi

            1. then if you don't know. then you have no rights to declare that atheism is true!

            2. so tell your atheist friends not to label or name-calling theists as 'argument fro ignorance' people. so atheism is just a 'lack of belief' in supernaturalism, so be it, but do not force or inject your beliefs that a supernatural didn't exists, because 'you don't know'.. the mysteries we encounter each day on this planet is not a natural phenomenon or event, so in other words, supernaturals exist/s. The SRN is not a natural entity because it is filled with information, only information originated from intelligent minds.

            3. because the Creator created the planetary system so that it moves. again, you based that 'after the facts'.. again, perform an experiment yourself and see if the rock on the table will move by itself

            4. again, the sun is a created source of light. it is not evolved.
            can the sun creates a 'specified complexity'? if you expose yourself to the sun, you get sunburn, or maybe skin cancer.

            5. that is based on blind faith. when we say 'non-living things' there are no exceptions. so can you tell me a specific non-living thing capable of evolving into a living thing? when the fact that the early earth was made up of soil, rocks and water? soil, rocks and water never evolve into living thing.

            6. there are millions of people playing lottery games, they can't win. only one or two will win.

          • "1. then if you don't know. then you have no rights to declare that atheism is true!"

            No, this does not follow. My ignorance of the origins of DNA is irrelevant to my lack of belief in any gods.

            2. It is not name-calling to identify the well-known logical fallacy of arguing from ignorance.

            "so atheism is just a 'lack of belief' in supernaturalism" no. it is a lack of belief in any gods.

            "but do not force or inject your beliefs that a supernatural didn't exists," I do not. But we can talk about it right?

            "the mysteries we encounter each day on this planet is not a natural
            phenomenon or event, so in other words, supernaturals exist/s. The SRN
            is not a natural entity because it is filled with information, only
            information originated from intelligent minds."

            This is simply not the case. Can you provide me with the definition of "information" you are employing?

            3. Well, I think I have clarified that all matter is constantly moving by way of natural forces. Are you saying that none of the movement of astronomical objects is natural? In this case it would seem there is nothing natural in your worldview.

            4. I never said the sun evolved. I said the sun changes into different things on its own. I did not say it creates "specified complexity" neither does evolution. By way of mutation, genetics creates variation in offspring, only the variations that are able to reproduce survive. What we have is naturally selected organisms, not "specified complexity", whatever that is supposed to mean.

            5. Sure. Scientists have identified several of the processes by which inorganic chemicals can and have been shown to form organic compounds. Decades ago amino acids (which is what DNA is composed of) developed in laboratory conditions replicating the earth 4 billion years ago. These same compounds have been found in outer space. I understand we now know how RNA and we have working hypotheses for the rest.

            "6. there are millions of people playing lottery games, they can't win. only one or two will win."

            Actually this is false, it is extremely unlikely, but all could win. But consider how the odds are in the favour of DNA arising chemically. There are billions of billions of stars and billions and billions of planets orbiting them. Goodness, we just discovered that our closest neighbour has a planet that may support life. The universe has existed for over 13 billion years. If the chances of DNA arising is say one in a billion in a billion years, it was certain to happen somewhere. And, whereever it were to happen, those who evolved from it would think themselves incredibly lucky, but like the lottery winner, someone was bound to win.

          • neil_pogi

            1. it should follow because you claim that theism is not true.

            2. atheists just hate the word 'gods' or 'God' they want 'self-replicating molecule' as their creator. information can be found in the chemical compositions in DNA. the A,T,C,G. just like computer, the 0,1, have information contents.

            3. then who or what started the 'big bang'? if there is a big bang, there must be a big banger.

            stars and planets moves but they don't create a 'specified complex' organism like a human being. for 'billions' of years, all these stars and planets just move.

            4. if the sun didn't evolve as what you stated, then the universe is just created by the creator.

            how would the single organism develop an ear. how did it know the sound is existing? how would the single organism develop an eye. how did it know the environment has rocks, sea, etc? how would the single cell organism survive the first day or 30 days in the early earth without food for its energy? why the need to 'evolve' when in fact the single cell organism is a complete one? e. coli, and other micro-organism never evolve into something else because they are already complete. we can even found them imprinted or fossilised 'millions' of years ago!

            5. even scientists develop those compounds of organic materials (the fact that developing it result from years of intelligent activities, not a natural one), they can not or will not produce a life on them because they need a DNA, SRM and the 'life force'.. we can even found raw elements just littered around our surroundings, and yet thru natural process, these elements can not evolve into a computer, but thru enormous human intelligent activity, these raw elements can be converted into something useful - the computers.

            RNA needs DNA and DNA needs RNA, therefore they are created, not evolved. what came first? the blood, the blood vessels or the heart?

            the worst enemy of evolution is entrophy. you leave your car into garage for years, or millions of years, you expect it to get erosion, rust, etc.

            6. therefore it has a goal to achieve.

  • LHRMSCBrown

    Doxastic experience and the triviality of the will/belief in the blue, blue sky:

    I believe a lot of things I don't *like*. As far as *want*, well, we do see large swaths of Non-Theists engaging in what cannot be anything other than wish fulfillment and denial. More generally, however, well it is quite amazing to see the sorts of things folks choose to talk themselves into. Give them a few decades and before you know it they can't imagine otherwise. It's impressive. Demonstrable. It’s all to apparent (unfortunately) that sometimes we believe what we want, not what we ought. All sorts of vectors contribute to that slow, steady, process. Now, sure, in the end the illusion never stands a chance, but that doesn't seem to stop folks from such collisions amid the trio of the evidence, the will, and the mind. Believing against the evidence? Sure. It's called Non-Theism. The demonstrability of the aforementioned trio.

    What one *wants* to believe and what one *ought* to believe can and do (in the real world) conflict and come into said trio. Oh dear. Ought. Not that again. It's a peculiar affair given the trio. The fact that "ought" layers in atop *want* just makes it a richer cake. The simplistic yes/no approach (of some here) just isn't interfacing with the reality of what is actually going on. Granted, the Non-Theist *wants* it to unpack to a one sided coin. But they don't exist. They're illusions.

    A brief reminder of the following perhaps: “Believing Against the Evidence: Agency and the Ethics of Belief”, McCormick, Miriam Schleifer. Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy. Also, internal rationality, external rationality, and the doxastic experience are looked at in Plantinga’s “Warranted Christian Belief”.

    Our Non-Theist friends often state that it is all more attributable to human nature – and not to nonbelief – since both religious and nonreligious doxastic experience is so constituted. Well, first, it is human nature, the totality of the being termed man, as it were, and, for clarity, I don't agree with any move to separate belief (non-belief, etc.) into its own box (as if separate from human nature). If something is attributable to the totality of the man, then so too does it fall upon some level the man's belief sets, and, if something impacts the man's belief states, then so too on some level does it impact the totality of the man. We observe the colliding contours of the evidence, of the will, of the mind, and, of course, that felt tension between what we want to believe and what we ought to believe. There is no difference between religious and non-religious here, hence any comment trying to assert that the “Ought” here must mean “Obey God Or Else” completely misses the point. Yes, there is an ought in the mix, but the Non-Theist should not let that pesky (and expensive) word force him to miss the obvious. We all do this, taste this. It's the fabric of reality. So often we motion towards what we want to believe, and not what we ought to believe. It shows up in all sorts of levels, both intrapersonal and interpersonal. Some very unfortunate, some less so, there within our various doxastic experiences. It's the stuff of life. It's the stuff of belief, of the irreducible self immersed in a world of want and ought, of appetite and hope, of illusion and lucidity.

    Our Non-Theist friends who appeal to belief that the sky is blue as the beginning and end of, the breadth and width of, the doxastic experience are well on their way to invoking indefensible binary oppositions, and are (thereby) submitting themselves to the category of indoctrination. They belabor – there in the blue, blue sky – what is trivial at best and think they gain ontic-traction within the doxastic domains of ought, of will, of wants, of evidence (or illusions in their case), and so on.

    Granted, on Non-Theism, when it comes to “all such things” (there within the doxastic experience) it is the case that the fundamental particle(s) which make up our bodies are only subject to reality’s four fundamental forces. There is no room for “all-such-things” to control their four-fold behavior. And, just the same, as B. Vogt pointed out, on Carroll's view, "....fundamental reality does determine everything, but we're forced to use emergent language and concepts only because we don't have access to this fundamental information. Thus for Laplace's Demon, there would not be such a thing as baseball....." Hence, it’s understandable to see the Non-Theist’s perseveration upon the trivial.

    ““I use the term to mean that either a specific belief one holds, or that one’s entire belief system, is resistant to revision.” As usual, Boghossian presents a terrible definition. By this definition the person who is resistant to revising their belief that “1+1=2” is guilty of doxastic closure: it is, after all, “a specific belief one holds” for which one is “resistant to revision”…….. The reality is that there are intelligent, thoughtful and humble atheists and there are intelligent, thoughtful and humble theists. There are also unintelligent, unreflective and obnoxious atheists and there are unintelligent, unreflective and obnoxious theists. And the sooner one recognizes this fact, the more likely they are to engage in reflective and mutually illuminating dialogue with the other. The more one tries to obscure that fact by invoking indefensible binary oppositions, the more one submits to categories of indoctrination and thereby speeds doxastic closure……” (R. Rauser)

    The doxastic experience is universal and that experience in whole far, far outreaches the trivial affair of, sliver of, the blue, blue sky. Just as the fallacy of faith's exemption from the doxastic experience in whole far, far outreaches the trivial affair of, sliver of, the blue, blue sky. Ought and all. Will and all. Wants and all. Evidence (or illusions) and all. Non-Theism will, in fact must, in the end ultimately expunge all such semantics such that the entire doxastic experience is, first, absurd, and, finally, unintelligible. Meanwhile, Theism/Christianity allows reason to do her proper and full work, refusing all absurdity, chasing all lucidity. “So you can drop your Christianity if the evidence were there?” After yawning, taking a sip of coffee, and a bit of a stretch, almost a shrug, something along the lines of, “Of course. Whatever ultimately love-free and reason-free terminus of unintelligible reductio ad absurdum one wishes to present as “evidence” is more than welcome to be placed atop the table and examined.” It’s not as if luminous volumes of metaphysical baggage, inroads, bypasses, detours, and overpasses have not been, are not being, constantly pursued. Since I’ve been a Christian all sorts of nuances and contours have been adjusted as new information comes in. Most Christians that I know share that experience. “……there are intelligent, thoughtful and humble atheists and there are intelligent……”

    Speaking of expunging all possible warrant in the pains of circular closure, we come to Non-Theism’s ultimately or cosmically illusory triune god of [1] fundamentalist absurdism and [2] insufficient funding fueling the need for exemptions and [3] indefensible binary oppositions amid the stuff of ought, of will, of wants, of evidence (or illusions), there within the breadth and width of the doxastic experience:

    “We have reached a curious juncture in the history of [Non-Theism] which seems to point toward a terminus that is either tragic or comical (depending on where one’s sympathies lie). For a number of “naturalist” theorists it has become entirely credible, and even logically inevitable, that the defense of “rationalistic” values should require the denial of the existence of reason. Or, rather, intellectual consistency obliges them to believe that reason is parasitic upon purely irrational physical events, and that it may well be the case that our nonexistent consciousness is only deluded in intentionally believing that there is such a thing as intentional belief. Or they think that what we have mistaken for our rational convictions and ideas are actually only a colony of diverse “memes” that have established themselves in the ecologies of our cerebral cortices. Or whatever. At such a bizarre cultural or intellectual juncture, the word “fanaticism” is not opprobrious, but merely descriptive. We have reached a point of almost mystically fundamentalist absurdism. Even so, what is really astonishing here is not that some extreme proponents of naturalist thought accept such ideas but that any person of a naturalist bent could imagine that his or her beliefs permit any other conclusions.” (D. B. Hart)

  • Sample1

    Sean Carroll ‏‪@seanmca‬rroll
    People disagree
    with my book
    The Big Picture for a variety of reasons (and
    levels of respectability). Fun! Here are three. (1/4)

    Jerry Coyne ‪@Evolutionistrue‬ disagrees with TBP because he thinks free will is best thought of as an illusion. (2/4)
    https:// whyevolutionistrue. wordpress. com/2016/08/21/ sean-carroll-on-free-will-3/

    Brandon Vogt ‪@StrangeNotions‬
    disagrees with TBT [sic]because he thinks causality
    goes beyond what physics says. (3/4) http:// www. strangenotions. com/ is-sean-carroll-correct-that-the-universe-moves-by-itself/"

    Deepak Chopra ‪@DeepakChopra
    disagrees with TBP because he makes quantum mechanics more mysterious
    than it is. (4/4) http:// www.
    sfgate. com/ opinion/ chopra
    / article/ Will-We-Ever-Really-Know-Ourselves-9176679.php

    -----

    Mike
    (posted on behalf of Geena Safire)

    • LHRMSCBrown

      Many people disagree with SC. Including SC himself. Just because someone foists that contradictions are not contradictory doesn't make it so. It's easy to be immune (or claim immunity) when you're all over the illusory map.

  • LHRMSCBrown

    Sean Carroll and David Bentley Hart agree with each other:

    Despite Sean Carroll’s and David Bentley Hart’s robustly informed admonitions against doing so, we must ask: Given the Non-Theist’s paradigmatic reach, has the Non-Theist really talked himself into believing in emergentism, that there is a (real, actual, irreducible) distinction or difference between (on the one hand) rocks, neurons, arms, trees, cells, paperclips, and (on the other hand) reality's four fundamental forces/interactions? Has he talked himself into believing that there is a flux somewhere that is not nothing but said reverberations of said fundamental forces?

    Has the Non-Theist really talked himself into believing in emergent forces/interactions, that what neurons *do* is in fact different?

    Carroll/Hart: Neurons don't *do*, on point of fact, anything. The fermions that make up the neurons *are* the neurons, and *they* are subject only to the four fundamental forces of reality. On Carroll's terms it is only ignorance that forces us to settle for emergent language. From earlier, "Fundamental reality does determine everything, but we're forced to use emergent language and concepts only because we don't have access to this fundamental information." Emergentism, the syntax of ignorance. Carroll and David Bentley Hart agree, and justifiably so, as Hart observes the obvious, “Talk of emergence in purely physical terms, then, really does not seem conspicuously better than talk of magic.”

    That is why (again, given the Non-Theist’s paradigmatic reach) the illusory presses in and leaves us with no idea what in his approach he thinks he is appealing to as "evidence" and when he does think that he is appealing to "evidence" we have no idea what in his approach he thinks it is supposed to be evidence of. Given his approach, all we ever see him doing is chasing his own tail in a circle, foisting the illusory as evidence of the reality and foisting reality as evidence of the illusory (….wait for it….).

    Let’s move slowly: All of this is why, given the Non-Theist’s paradigmatic reach, it is unavoidable that when we try, really try, to attribute any of our evidence to his approach of foisting the illusory as evidence of the reality and foisting reality as evidence of the illusory, then we begin to awaken within an uncanny and numinous dread as we realize we have chased nothing more than the syntax of ignorance (Carroll) and the semantics of magic (D. Hart) and we have made of evidence itself the very content of that unfortunate syntax.

    Such not only lacks the necessary lucidity to give us an exhaustive picture of reality, but it even lacks the necessary lucidity to give us a picture of anything “better than” Carroll’s stated syntax of ignorance and Hart’s stated syntax of magic, namely: emergentism. The very syntax the Non-Theist has patiently, steadily, talked himself into believing. For these reason the Christian justifiably claims that the entire anthology, not of the stuff of evidence, but of what the Non-Theist has convinced himself to believe about the stuff of evidence within his own doxastic experience of belief vis-à-vis denial and wish fulfillment, just is his (the Christian’s) QED regarding agency and the ethics of belief.

  • LHRMSCBrown

    Sean Carroll and David Bentley Hart are looking at the same “evidence”.

    And they agree. And there’s the rub.

    Evidence: an illusory yet critical slice of the problem. We are all looking at the same data and, interestingly, when our Non-Theist friends appeal to and/or reference “evidence”, it becomes immediately apparent that we have no good idea what they really mean by the word “evidence”. We know what the evidence *is*, but that’s not the problem. The problem is what they must mean when they employ the term “evidence”, as in, “evidence of….” and so on.

    Evidence: Our Non-Theist friends keep appealing to evidence. This seems to be the appeal from an unexamined state of affairs. From earlier, echoing Carroll’s sentiments, "Fundamental reality does determine everything, but we're forced to use emergent language and concepts only because we don't have access to this fundamental information." Emergent language of this or that “property suspended in midair”, as it were, is useful because of ignorance. Carroll and David Bentley Hart agree, and justifiably so, as Hart observes the obvious, “Talk of emergence in purely physical terms, then, really does not seem conspicuously better than talk of magic.”

    Sean Carroll employs the poetically illusory for good reason. “For one thing, we do not actually have an immediate knowledge of the material order in itself but know only its phenomenal aspects, by which our minds organize our sensory experiences. Even “matter” is only a general concept and must be imposed upon the data of the senses in order for us to interpret them as experiences of any particular kind of reality (that is, material rather than, say, mental). More to the point, any logical connection we might imagine to exist between empirical experiences of the material order and the ideology of scientific naturalism is entirely illusory. Between our sensory impressions and the abstract concept of a causally closed and autonomous order called “nature” there is no necessary correlation whatsoever. Such a concept may determine how we think about our sensory impressions, but those impressions cannot in turn provide any evidence in favor of that concept. Neither can anything else. We have no immediate experience of pure nature as such, nor any coherent notion of what such a thing might be. The object has never appeared. No such phenomenon has ever been observed or experienced or cogently imagined. Once again: we cannot encounter the world without encountering at the same time the being of the world, which is a mystery that can never be dispelled by any physical explanation of reality, inasmuch as it is a mystery logically prior to and in excess of the physical order.” (D. B. Hart)

    And so we must ask of our Non-Theist friends:

    Evidence: Regarding evidence, do you deny the following? Neurons don't *do*, on point of fact, anything. The fermions that make up the neurons *are* the neurons, and *they* are subject only to the four fundamental forces of reality.

    Evidence: You’ll have to explain just what you mean by evidence. Just what in your approach do you think you are appealing to as "evidence" and when you do think that you are appealing to "evidence" what in your approach do you think it is supposed to be evidence *of*? Given your approach, all we ever see you doing is circular reasoning and question begging as all you are actually “doing” is – at the end of the day – foisting the illusory as evidence of the reality and foisting the reality as evidence of the illusory (….wait for it….).

    Evidence: As far as I can tell, when you try, really try, to attribute the stuff of evidence to your approach of foisting the illusory as evidence of the reality and foisting the reality as evidence of the illusory, then such circular reasoning ends up, in the end, chasing nothing more than the syntax of ignorance (Carroll) and the semantics of magic (D. Hart) in various “layers” and “degrees” of emergent properties. You therefore make of evidence itself that which you must rightly reject (given your paradigmatic reach).

    Evidence: The entire anthology of – *not* of the stuff of evidence – but of what you have convinced yourself to believe about the stuff of evidence (there within your own doxastic experience of belief) ends up as a kind of defense of Christianity’s claims regarding your entire structure of circular reasoning and denial, as a kind of QED regarding agency and the ethics of belief.

    Carroll and Hart converge as science catches up with centuries of theological reasoning, which is of course as expected given said reasoning's predictive power, and we find then that reason and logic (and, given the brutally undeniable fact of evil, let us add love) all place their demands here and we therefore find all three demanding first that they avoid absurdity and secondly that they retain lucidity. And, of course, after all of our Non-Theist friend's emoting, it will be either a full and final reductio ad absurdum should he embrace his *god* or else it will be the clear light of lucidity through and through within the metaphysical landscape of *God*.

    • LHRMSCBrown

      Edit: Carroll and Hart converge as science catches up with centuries of theological reasoning, which is of course as expected given said reasoning's predictive power, and we find then that reason and logic (and, given the brutally undeniable fact of evil, let us add love) all place their demands here and we therefore find all three demanding first that they avoid absurdity and secondly that they retain lucidity. And, of course, after all of our Non-Theist friend's emoting, it will be either a full and final reductio ad absurdum should he embrace his *god* or else it will be the clear light of lucidity through and through within the metaphysical landscape of *God*.

    • Jersey McJones

      Evil is just whatever you assign to it. It is no more a fact than "Pink Floyd is better than U2." It's just a matter of preferences.

      Evil is also a convenient, dumb person's way of ignoring actual causes and finding "closure." Like Heaven, it is a myth to make us feel better about ourselves, our mortality, and our arbitrarily assigned morality.

      JMJ

      • Lazarus

        And in what way could atheism not also be a myth that makes us feel better about ourselves, our mortality, and our arbitrarily assigned morality?

        • David Nickol

          I presume you are using the word myth very loosely. It seems to me that most of what we identify as atheism in a forum like this is really a lack (or loss) of belief in the Judeo-Christian God. If such a God does indeed exist, lack of belief in him would be in error, but in what sense it could be called a "myth" I cannot see.

          It might be interesting to see what changes when a Jew or Christian "converts" to atheism. My guess is that the vast majority continue to live by pretty much the same values as when they were believers. I doubt that many people who lose their belief in God say to themselves, "At last, I am free to lie, steal, cheat, and kill, because now that I know there is no God, I know morality and immorality are meaningless concepts."

          • Rob Abney

            Jewish and Christian converts to atheism would have to overcome the indoctrination that has taught that it is immoral to lie, cheat, steal, and kill. The indoctrination that most of western society has benefitted from.
            The interesting part would be how long would it be before they start down the path to rationalizing that all those acts are really only relative.

          • Doug Shaver

            Jewish and Christian converts to atheism would have to overcome the indoctrination that has taught that it is immoral to lie, cheat, steal, and kill.

            Why?

          • Rob Abney

            To control the variables. You'll have to read upthread to understand.

          • Valence

            Is culture important for morality? Absolutely. Is Jewish or Christian religion itself important? Absolutely not.

            Japan is one of the safest countries in Asia, and its murder rate of less than one per 100,000 is the lowest among industrial nations. Japan has a population of 127 million, yet street crime is practically non-existent there, and drug use is low. This is largely attributed to the culture of Japan, as being known to use illegal drugs or being sentence to prison would be considered of bad character.

            https://www.clements.com/resources/articles/Countries-with-the-Highest-and-Lowest-Crime-Rates

            There are another four countries where the unaffiliated make up a majority of the population: North Korea (71%), Japan (57%), Hong Kong (56%), and China (52%).[34]

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_atheism

            The crime rate is also very low in Hong Kong (which has a similar culture to Japan, though physically closer to china). North Korean and Chinese culture have had real problems since totalitarian communists took over. I think only 3% of Japan is Christian.

            Is Catholicism a magic cure for crime? Let's look at Brazil

            Roman Catholicism is the largest denomination in the country, where 130 million people, or 64.6% of the Brazilian population, are self-declared Catholics.[1] These figures makes Brazil the single country with the largest Roman Catholic community in the world.[2][3][4]

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Catholicism_in_Brazil

            Look at how many Brazilian and other Catholic countries rank among the world's most dangerous cities

            http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/most-dangerous-cities-in-the-world.html

            El Salvador, Brazil, and Venezuela are all near the top of the highest homicide rates, and they are all Catholic majority countries

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

            This theory that Catholicism helps morality seems to be quite false in the modern era. It's irrational to persist in it, as see contrary evidence from all over the world. Economics seems to matter more than anything. Poverty breeds crime, especially if people are unemployed and have nothing better to do...

          • Rob Abney

            I don't think you can simplfy the issue that much, especially if you intend to use North Korea as one of your examples.
            My point was not that Catholicism leads to perfect morality but that it was instrumental in promoting morality, and you'll not be able to exclude that influence with any experiment such as the one proposed where everyone converts to atheism.

          • Valence

            I'll certainly agree that most religions have promoted morality. These days, good cartoons do too, so do classes in ethics.

          • Rob Abney

            Please post some North Korean cartoons.

          • Lazarus

            I simply used the words used, nearly verbatim. My point is simply that while theism can be accused of being wishful thinking, so could atheism. I say this in relation more to the afterlife, or lack thereof, and not so much the changes (if any) in the life of such a convert. I agree with your speculations in the last paragraph.

        • Jersey McJones

          You're asking me whether atheism is a myth?

          JMJ

          • Lazarus

            My question is the mirror image of your statement, using your words just applied to atheism. The crux of the question is whether atheism cannot similarly be regarded as wishful thinking. We can talk about atheist myths later on, if you wish.

    • Doug Shaver

      interestingly, when our Non-Theist friends appeal to and/or reference “evidence”, it becomes immediately apparent that we have no good idea what they really mean by the word “evidence”.

      Not speaking for any other non-theist, but I can tell you exactly what I mean. Evidence for a proposition P is a fact of set of facts F such that that existence of F entails a greater likelihood that P is true than would be the case if F did not obtain.

      • LHRMSCBrown

        [A] What are facts? What is perception? Do you agree with Harris and others in denying the self, in affirming the fallacy of some sort of little emergent I-am? [B] I think you are stuck in a hopeful state that the emergent "layer" will suffice. It seems S. Carroll and David Hart disagree with that hope at the end of the day, and in fact deny that there is any real hope for defining reality (facts) based on such semantics. The connection between [A] and [B] is not immediately apparent to some it seems. Our language games begin to break down.... and "propositions" with it, and so on. It's over in that corner where things really get interesting. If you're content in hoping that the little emergent I-am's are actually "seeing" and "doing", well that is fine too. Carroll and Hart (to their credit) are, as am I, interested in reality's fundamental nature, which means *my* fundamental nature. It appears, given Non-Theistic means, that there may not be a "my", much less a "my nature".

        FWIW: Half on topic, half off, “It is a well-known consequence of Wittgenstein's epistemology that it gives rise to what seems, at least prima facie, a denial of the Closure principle for knowledge and other epistemic operators such as evidential warrant or justification. For, given the locality of reasons, we can know (or justifiably believe), according to Wittgenstein, ordinary empirical propositions about mid-size objects in our surroundings, but we cannot know the "heavy-weight" implications of those propositions, such as "I am not a BIV" or "There is an external world", on which the very possibility of knowing ordinary empirical propositions depends. Several hinge epistemologists are prepared to face the situation, offering considerations to minimize the allegedly devastating effects of such an admission…..” (From: https://ndpr.nd.edu/news/68056-epistemic-angst-radical-skepticism-and-the-groundlessness-of-our-believing/ )

        • Doug Shaver

          [A] What are facts?

          States of affairs that actually exist.

          What is perception?

          The discerning of an apparent state of affairs.

          Do you agree with Harris and others in denying the self

          I affirm the self, so I would disagree with anyone who denies it.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Apparently so.

  • Compatibilism is a thing. Why do theists often pretend it isn't? A majority of philosophers endorse compatibilism, so it's not even an obscure thing.

    Disagreeing with it is certainly allowed, but it's really bizarre that Vogt pretends compatibilism isn't even an option.

    • LHRMSCBrown

      Everything's on the table. I mean, wherever physics maps to is fine for the Christian's metaphysical landscape. It's not apparent that Christians just "take X off the table" when it comes to *any* of the Non-Theist's little collocations of reverberating forces and particles and whatnots. It's all good, really. Rather, we simply affirm or deny based on coherence. So there's that. Then, I think the demand from Christians (and even Non-Theists) on *any* candidate for a compatibilistic model is simply one of clarifying one’s calculus. As I've already borrowed/quoted elsewhere, what is needed is more than what Carroll offers, "[Carroll] is willing to use the term "personal causes", but only with the understanding that this is short-hand way of saying "complex impersonal causes"."

      I affirm that quote given that in isolating any collocation of flux/ripple ebbing somewhere, anywhere within the Oceanic-It we discover that the flux/ripple itself is necessarily ontologically and causally seamless with the Oceanic-It itself. The mathematics seeking personal determinism through the calculus of Impersonal multiplied by Impersonal multiplied by Infinity equals equivocation.

      I've copied/quoted these before in this thread, but for context:

      "....I am speaking for myself, at least -- I think that everything is determined, but that some things are freely determined (whether by humans, or by angels, or whatever other free agents there are, or by God himself). But "determinism" is generally understood to mean "everything is determined by impersonal forces on autopilot…. [Carroll’s] thesis, as I understand it, is that the future is 100% determined by the present + impersonal forces. [Carroll] is willing to use the term "personal causes", but only with the understanding that this is short-hand way of saying "complex impersonal causes"."

      and.....

      "Perhaps it would be better to talk in terms of the dichotomy 'impersonal determinism' vs. 'personal determinism'. Each of these would be a subset of the category 'determinism'. Actually, I think by refusing to carefully distinguish between two entirely different notions of determinism, much confusion has been engendered. I don't really care what terms are developed to do the distinguishing...."

      This business of "There's just soooo-many "degrees" and it's just sooo "layered" and complex that the subtlety is just sooo imperceptible but really there is yes really there is, no really there is a nanosecond there the phosphorescence of which truly is personal in the relevant sense" just won't do. The reason is that when push comes to shove, "relevant sense" is nothing but Carroll's "complex impersonal causes". The ebbing flux/ripple within the seamless Oceanic-It.

      Of course, if one wants to posit (real) parts and (real) ontic-seams such that (real) ontological seamlessness no longer applies, well then that may help.

      The best option for the Non-Theist and his little collocations of reverberating forces and particles and whatnots is Poetic Naturalism: it's ontologically seamless and part-less and yet it has seams and parts. It's determined and impersonal through and through but if we will only start multiplying then really it is the case yes really it is that when we multiply Self X Self X Many-Layers we get Personal. It's causally closed but open. It's real but illusory. [A] is compatible with [B].

      That sort of thing. Once we get a compatabilistic model which isn't that, then it seems the proverbial table is preset for, even rigged for, company.

      • ...are you high?

        • LHRMSCBrown

          (Edit at 3 hr) A little evidence for "personal" causation which is something better than what we've seen from Carroll so far would be helpful. Where did my example of Non-Theism's math go wrong? Please explain.

          Also, evidence of a universe free from contingency may help. Carroll hints but does not offer and given his goals that just won’t do. Where is the evidence that either the universe or the *god* which begets her overcomes both contingency in the weaker sense and contingency in the stronger sense? Also, where is the QED? What we get, have gotten, so far at least, is not an answer but merely just-so-hints that there is, if we only allow the possibility, lurking somewhere in the recesses of the Non-Theist’s mind, a secret body of evidence. But what we never see is the actual evidence itself, the actual QED/demonstration itself.

          Since we have not seen those three – and reason rightly demands all three – then reason and science and the evidence assure us that it is the Christian, and not our Non-Theist friends, for whom this entire affair is “…not an expression of blind faith but precisely a condemnation of blind faith…”

          • I feel like you're inserting sections of a longer monologue or manifesto, but that they're not particularly related to the topic at hand.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            (Edit at 21 min.) Ryan: You posited compatibilism as feasible. I offered a criticism. A little evidence for "personal" causation which is something better than what we've seen from Carroll so far would be helpful. Where did my example of Non-Theism's math go wrong? Please explain. On contingency, it all loops back around to the core issue: the fundamental nature of reality. Meaning *my* fundamental nature. Whatever the Non-Theist posits as his little emergent I-am will have to fit inside such contours.

          • Where did my example of Non-Theism's math go wrong?

            Its main problem was being incoherent word-salad. Maybe take a look at the thought patterns and writing styles of Brandon Vogt in the article above and Ye Olde Statistician below. I often disagree with them, but they're effective communicators and worth emulating for you.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Ryan, I'll make it simple then. Show us something other than impersonal forces. I assume by compatibilism you mean there is a "layer" or perhaps some sort of chemical phosphorescence "somewhere" that counts as "personal causation". Is that what you mean? If so, please explain. If not, please explain. The distinction is between impersonal and personal determinism (as per the quoted content). I just don't see how multiplying Impersonal X Impersonal gets the Non-Theist's supposedly emergent I-am into existence. Many Non-Theists agree and reject the reality of the self. As in: I am.....not. And yet that math, that calculus is all we ever see Non-Theist's "offering". As stated already, I agree with the quoted content's "[Carroll] is willing to use the term "personal causes", but only with the understanding that this is short-hand way of saying "complex impersonal causes"." The applicability to any candidate for a compatible-"istic" model is immediate.

          • I assume by compatibilism you mean there is a "layer" or perhaps some sort of chemical phosphorescence "somewhere" that counts as "personal causation".

            What? No, that's an utterly bizarre thing to say. I mean compatibilism in the traditional definition and as discussed extensively in the link I provided.

            You may have some good ideas, but you're just not communicating, so it's impossible to tell.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            Impersonal it is then. Or, rather, "complex impersonal causes".

  • Mike

    we already punish thought crimes via 'free' speech enforcement at most places of higher learning and potential violence by making sure that poor people who are more likely to lash out at injustice don't have as many children as richer people.

    • David Nickol

      I am not sure what this has to do with the topic, but you are factually incorrect:

      Income and fertility is the association between monetary gain on one hand, and the tendency to produce offspring on the other. There is generally an inverse correlation between income and fertility within and between nations. The higher the degree of education and GDP per capita of a human population, subpopulation or social stratum, the fewer children are born in any industrialized country.

      If there is some kind of conspiracy to keep poorer people in the United States from having as many children as richer people, it is definitely not working.

      Also, although there is a certain amount of nonsense going on in some places of higher education regarding free speech, speech and thought are two different things. I can't think of any instances of people being punished for "thought crimes" (outside of 1984).

      • Mike

        just made me think of the future Minority Report type world which i believe naturalism and determinism entail. if children from poor more disadvantaged families and areas are more likely to be 'criminally involved' why not on that view of the world reduce their numbers? maybe there is no conspiracy but the goal seems to me clear; that's why condoms are pushed so hard not only to prevent spread of disease but children. anyway this is a bit off topic.

        i don't see the point in free though if you can't give those thoughts freedom to be heard seen expressed etc. do you think that as long as people are allowed to think 'bad' thoughts and not say them that that's an acceptable society?

    • How is enforcing free speech punishing a thought crime? Do you feel punished that no one has prevented you from posting on this site?

      • Mike

        no my point was that free speech is being curtailed in the name of 'emotional tranquility'; people aren't allowed to say certain controversial things bc they may cause someone some cognitive dissonance.
        but i don't believe that 'allowing' people to think something is equivalent to allowing them 'freedom of speech' - w/o the freedom to express your thoughts you essentially have no freedom of thought ergo thought police.

        • "no my point was that free speech is being curtailed in the name of 'emotional tranquility'"

          I have seen no evidence of that. I have seen atheist and secular bloggers being arrested around the world, imprisoned, beaten and murdered for the kind of speech I engage in on this website.

          No human can allow or disallow anyone to think anything, unless you are aware of some kind of mind control. Though Jesus told people they have sinned if they think certain things. Many Christians believe that they may face eternal conscious torture for such sinful thoughts.

          Certainly there are passages in the Old Testament where it appears that Yaweh has changed how people think. E.g. I will harden Pharaoh's heart so that he does not let the people go...

          Sure there has always been a balancing between public safety and freedom of speech and some times people get it wrong. For example my own country's law criminal law banning blasphemous libel would be an example of an unreasonable curtailment of freedom of speech.

          I do not think any of this has anything to do with free will.

          • Mike

            i think you mean atheists in muslim countries are routinely killed, correct me if i am wrong btw i am more referring to the snowflake effect in the rich west whereby saying contro things causes ppl "harm".

            Jesus said no such thing that i am aware of but i know you come from a very different perspective on the gospels etc. Sinful thoughts are to be avoided but i think you confuse acts with thoughts. thoughts can be sinful and are the precursors of actions but in themselves they are not on par with actions. i don't know anyone who thinks they will be punished like that for sinful thoughts.

            in the west blasphemy seems to me to be about protecting muslims/sikhs as they are the flavor du jour for rich liberals but that's another topic.

            but i agree that we need much more robust free speech laws: if a guy can sink the crucifix in urine and call it art surely someone can draw cartoons of mohammed or whatever. otoh deliberately making fun of someone's deepest beliefs is stupid and irresponsible as well but a crime? no.

          • Matt 5:28, or: In for a penny, in for a pound

          • Mike

            not quite but i know what you mean.

          • I do not think atheists are routinely killed in Muslim countries and I did not say that. I am referring to the atheist bloggers and authors being attacked and hacked to death. To the fact that many countries Muslim or not make blasphemy illegal. Saudi Arabia considers atheism to be terorism. My country is a western liberal democracy and still has blasphemy as a crime.

            I assume you believe Jesus is the same God as Yaweh and that the Old Testament is true? In that story he said he wanted Moses to go ask Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go, but that he would harden his heart and not let the people go, then he would and did kill every first born child whose household failed to smear blood on its doorframe. No human could force someone to change their thoughts, but this story at least appears to have God doing that. You, like me may believe this story is fiction.

            Jesus said he who has lust in his heart has already committed adultery, going further than the previous law given to the Hebrews that adultery was prohibited, Jesus expanded that to having lustful thoughts. Matthew 5:28. I have heard at least one account of a Christian saying he was afraid of walking around campus at school because he would feel lust and commit adultery.

            The blasphemy law in my country arose before there were really any Muslims or Sihks. Around turn of the 20th century. It hasn't been applied in decades. The last time it was advanced was to try and ban Monty Python's Life of Brian.

            In my country and in the us no one is prohibited from drawing pictures of Mohammed and people do all the time. There is a cartoon that has Mohammed in it weekly called Jesus and Mo. Mohammed is depicted in the US Supreme Court along with Moses. South Park has him as a character in their show and this was aired without controversy.

            Making fun of any religious beliefs is not illegal in Canada or the US.

          • Mike

            where do atheist bloggers get killed then if not in muslim countries? blasphemy laws are good if they protect people from overt hate but not from ridicule/satire i think.

            i don't know enough of the context of that story to be able to say but i would take it as trying to impress a moral about God/sin/obedience etc. but i know how you view these things so let's not go around in circles again.

            alot of christianity is about intentions but intentions are still not actions. fantasizing about murder is not murder and the church has always been clear about that but neither is fantasizing about killing your ex wife a neutral thing. i don't see how this is hard to understand unless your a hyper literalist.

            i hope we agree on freedom of speech but it has to apply equally ie making fun of mormons on broadway if ok should mean making fun of LQBTQ and muslim people is also ok. so putting a muslim crescent and a rainbow flag in pee should also be seen as "art".

          • I would think you would know the context of the sermon on the mount. I do not see any other interpretation of this than some thoughts violate the commandment against adultery.

            "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

            Free speech is not about what is OK, it is about when does the state use its power to stop people from expressing themselves. In the United States the line is not OK, but eminent threat of violence, everything else is allowed. Goodness your courts have allowed Nazi parades in Jewish neighborhoods and have prohibited any ridicule that I am aware of.

            People are no just allowed to ridicule LGTQ communities, they have been doing so repeatedly in mainstream media for decades, but Americans are not prevented from actually praise the massacre of gay and advocate genocide.

            "These people all should have been killed, anyway, but they should have
            been killed through the proper channels, as in they should have been
            executed by a righteous government.”

            http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/28/us/pastors-praise-anti-gay-massacre-in-orlando-prompting-outrage.html

          • Mike

            i am glad we agree about freedom of speech.

          • David Nickol

            Jesus said he who has lust in his heart has already committed adultery, going further than the previous law given to the Hebrews that adultery was prohibited, Jesus expanded that to having lustful thoughts. Matthew 5:28. I have heard at least one account of a Christian saying he was afraid of walking around campus at school because he would feel lust and commit adultery.

            Just because one Christian put his own quirky interpretation on a teaching of Jesus does not mean there was a problem with the teaching. I think that, reduced to simplest terms, it means potentially adulterous or murderous behavior should be nipped in the bud.

          • That would be a reasonable interpretation, so would that: it is not the act but the thought that is the real sin. This actually makes more sense, to think that the God would not really be concerned with what happens to mortal flesh but the intentions and kind of person you are.

  • albert321

    Since Mr. Carroll appears to be an elitist academic by CHOICE,he should be thankful that Aquinas and Chesterton are not around to debate him.Thank God for free will !

    • Well, William Lane Craig is around and has debated him. And Carrol did very well.

      He is a research professor at CalTech, call it elitist if you like, perhaps you would find his credentials more impressive if he were an anonymous blogger?

      • albert321

        Despite your snarky condescension,I reaffirm my comments.Thank God for free will.

        • Despite your ad hominem to myself and Dr Carroll, I affirm there are no gods or free will.

          • albert321

            Regardless, I'll pray for you .

          • Valence

            Your comment history isn't very Christian.

          • albert321

            EX NIHILO NIHIL FIT!

  • Kiki Dirgantoro

    I swear freewill just an illusion, please check & share if you agree that everyone should be grateful person :)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Guv9HOCRL1A&list=PLsBkdCYIlhPo3Xg7bwF-SJ9BCP-Btvf9Z&index=1

  • I'm not sure what Carroll means here (assuming the presentation given of his views is correct) since it was my understanding that the universe isn't entirely deterministic. That there are things with no known cause. Some think this supports free will.

    Is choice necessarily free? Choices are made under coercion and limited options too, even on a libertarian view. It seems to me that choice is deciding between alternatives, whether or not that decision is determined.

    Our opinions can correspond to reality regardless of whether we have free will.

    To say that if determinism is true Carroll wouldn't be writing books to persuade people of that doesn't follow. He might be determined to do that, obviously, or something else. Why would he spend time doing that? The same time he'd spend time doing anything else under determinism-he would have to. Whether or not you rejected view would itself be determined. Is that really so hard to understand?

    Perhaps in regards to responsibility Carroll is taking a compatibilist view? Of course that's open to criticism as well. In any case, as Ambrose Bierce noted, if determinism is true it won't necessarily change anything, as the people who want to blame or praise would be themselves to do that (as with everything else).

    As to the The Minority Report scenario, if future action can't really be predicted, then that's itself a reason why this isn't probable.

  • Daniel

    If determinism is true, then our beliefs including our belief in determinism is determined as well. We would not be justified in believing in determinism if it's true.

  • MNb

    Dualist free will is an illusion, because any immaterial/ supernatural/ transcendental is an illusion.
    Whether free will makes sense on naturalism will be decided by science (specifically neurobiology) within a couple of decades, just like science has settled the question how old The Earth and our Universe are.

    • Lazarus

      You've just defined yourself to victory.
      Show us how the transcendental is an illusion.

      • MNb

        Nope, I didn't do that.
        Every argument has to begin somewhere.
        I began (how smart of you) indeed with "the ist is an illusion" without (again, how smart of you) backing it up. The reason is that (and for the third time how smart of you that you demonstrate it so nicely) that would result in an off topic discussion. BV didn't try to show us how dualism makes sense either, so I am not obliged by any means to fulfill your request.
        So my answer is: another time, another place. Feel free to reject it. Here and now it's good enough that you realize lots of people reject dualism and hence the largest part of BV's blogpost. Lesson learned: it's impossible to decide issues like this by means of philosophy.

        The point of my comment was in the second part: rejection of dualism does not automatically lead to rejection of free will. BV carefully neglects that and that's totally relevant. I thank you for totally neglecting it as well. May I conclude that you apologists make the same error as Jerry Coyne before he banned me? The same error as most determinists? That you assume that denying the ist necessarily means rejecting free will? Fun. It would confirm my suspicion that you guys don't care at all what scientific research has to say about the subject and hence prefer to have an outdated discussion.
        Science is about to make everything BV writes here largely irrelevant. The good news is for you that the same applies to most of the determinist arguments. My suggestion for you is to reflect on the fact that science has demonstrated that human choices at least partly are pre-determined. Scientists are capable of correctly predicting human decisions with a score of about 70% (google Benjamin Libet). On free will as propagated here we would have expected 50%. How typical that you guys totally neglect that.
        No, 70% is imo not good enough to falsify free will. Again my point is that you guys just prefer to hobble on far behind the latest developments iso anticipating on what inevitably is going to happen.

        • Lazarus

          Wow. Jerry Coyne banned you.
          That's..... special. Undeservedly though, I'm sure.

          • MNb

            Nope. Deserved. I asked for it.
            Thanks for neglecting the rest. I appreciate it; it conforms my anti-apologetic bias.

          • Lazarus

            I wouldn't want to get between you and your bias.

            You have also still not answered my question about how the transcendental is an illusion. You have also not dealt with Valence's comments on those observations.

            As far as free will is concerned you seem to take a rather fringe position and then challenge others to prove you wrong.

          • MNb

            "I wouldn't want to ...."
            Then you should not have reacted in the first place.

            "You have also still not answered ...."
            Superfluous repetition. I already admitted that plus told you why. Are you another authoritarian apologist who itches to set his agenda upon others?

            "you seem to take a rather fringe position"
            Perhaps. I wouldn't call the work of neurobiologists on a scientific model of the human brain fringe. Would you? Or have you simply never realized that that work will have huge consequences for the philosophy of the human mind? Something else perhaps?

          • Lazarus

            I lost interest in Benjamin Libet when I saw that even Dan Dennett and Patricia Churchland were underwhelmed by the essence of his work. If he is your flag bearer here I will repeat that your position is a fringe position.

          • MNb

            Thanks for admitting that you're not interested in science because of what philosophers write - and thus hold science in lower regard than philosophy.

            "If he is your flag bearer ....."
            If. If you're silly enough to think that just one neurobiologist dismissed by just two philosophers justifies you to ignore the impact all neurobiological research will have on free will then you will be in for a surprise. I'm rather prepared.
            Btw my bet is that after neurobiology has presented consensus on a model of the human brain (and that will happen) there still will be room for free will. It's just that I recognize the very possibility that I'll lose that bet.
            Apparently you don't think it even relevant. Ah, apologists and science ..... maybe they are incompatable after all. In any case quite some apologists have a difficult relation with science. You are no exception.

          • Lazarus

            Of course.
            Dumb Christians mumble mumble don't like science mumble.

          • MNb

            Exactly.
            Smart christians however don't mumble, don't care whether they like science or not but recognize its relevance and importance. They for instance think about the problems with the god of the gaps (Dietrich Bonhöffer, 1944) and recognize that the Big Bang doesn't refute atheism (Georges Lemaitre, somewhere in the 1950's I think).
            What do you prefer to be? Given your refusal to reflect on neurobiology it seems to be a dumb one - thus repeating the error dumb christians made in the early 17th century when they refused to consider heliocentrism and in the 19th century when they refused to consider evolution.
            Of course it's still not to late to remedy the error of your ways. Hey - isn't that what christianity is about?

          • Lazarus

            You are again putting words in my mouth. Now I "refuse to reflect on neurobiology". This may be fun for you but it's very tedious from where I'm sitting.

            Reflections on neurobiology shows us two things. One : that merely describing how our neurobiological systems work, or even to speculate on why they developed the way they did, in no manner begins to answer any bigger questions about their possible purpose. If we have evolved to have religious impulses, why is this so, in what manner does that negate the theistic narrative?

            Secondly, your beloved "reflections on neurobiology" should cause you much reason for a more nuanced and careful approach to theism as the best explanation for what we find in the world. The mere existence and content of human consciousness is in itself a wonderful argument I favor of theism. To say that we don't have those answers yet in no manner detracts from the plausibility of theism as a very cogent current best inference of what we find in reality.

            So you see, I have reflected on neurobiology in particular and science in general, and I continue to do so, with great interest and fondness. I, like so many modern day Catholics with me, simply arrive at other conclusions than you do. Some of us, in fact, find great assurance and support for our worldviews in those scientific reflections.

          • MNb

            "This may be fun for you."
            It's also fun for me to be shown wrong in this respect, because finally you write some stuff that interests me here.

            "bigger questions about their possible purpose"
            Now that's an open door if there ever has been one. Neurobiology is science and as such does not speculate about purposes. Sideline: I wouldn't know why those questions would be "bigger". I'd rather say "irrelevant" or "wrong". In the first place they assume what the person who asks them want to show (an entity that gave the thing a purpose) and in the second place they never have contributed to our understanding - they only have provided post facto explanations.
            And how nice! You immediately confirm it.

            "in what manner doesthatnegate the theistic narrative?"
            Where exactly did I claim it did? I only assume that you value consistency as high as I do and that makes that we are obliged to find out how that fits in our philosophical/ theological views. Was that assumption wrong? If not obviously finding out how that fits your (there is no the) theistic narrative is your problem, not mine. I'm too lazy to do your work for you, sorry, but am interested in how apologists will pull it off. And no, I don't exclude at beforehand that such attempts will fail.

            "The mere existence and content of human consciousness is in itself a wonderful argument I favor of theism."
            My bet is that that either is a god of the gaps (science can't explain) or begging the question again (I assume dualism hence naturalism is wrong hence atheism is wrong hence god). Not interested here and now. Another time and another place.
            In the meantime you may have reflected on neurobiology, you still haven't produced any such reflection in our nice discussion. The argument from consciousness is older than neurobiological research. And you remain silent about free will. You specifically wrote that you lost interest, which implies you refuse to reflect on the consequences that research will have on free will indeed. So much for your silly accusation that I have put words in your mouth; your neglect confirms them.
            And that's the actual fun for me: how you revolve around the hot porridge, as we Dutch say. As long as you do you confirm you're determined to make the same mistake as those apologists of the 17th and 19th Century.

          • LHRMSCBrown

            The metaphysical baggage rendering philosophical naturalism the philosophy of boys isn't gaps within this or that strata of physicalism, but its ever widening arrays of the forced reductio ad absurdum at all foci. Your complete unawareness of the problem on the table combined with what sums to some odd flavor of a fallacious scientism amalgamated with the irrational chasing of ever more deflationary truth values is all, factually speaking, irrelevant to Christendom. As they say, "Reason's impossibly extravagant appetite...."

            ".....if reason’s primordial orientation is indeed toward total intelligibility and perfect truth, then it is essentially a kind of ecstasy of the mind toward an end beyond the limits of nature. It is an impossibly extravagant appetite, a longing that can be sated only by a fullness that can never be reached in the world, but that ceaselessly opens up the world to consciousness. To speak of God, however, as infinite consciousness, which is identical to infinite being, is to say that in Him the ecstasy of mind is also the perfect satiety of achieved knowledge, of perfect wisdom. God is both the knower and the known, infinite intelligence and infinite intelligibility. This is to say that, in Him, rational appetite is perfectly fulfilled, and consciousness perfectly possesses the end it desires. And this, of course, is perfect bliss.” (David Bentley Hart – The Experience of God)

        • Valence

          I began (how smart of you) indeed with "the ist is an illusion" without (again, how smart of you) backing it up. The reason is that (and for the third time how smart of you that you demonstrate it so nicely) that would result in an off topic discussion. BV didn't try to show us how dualism makes sense either, so I am not obliged by any means to fulfill your request.

          Is there a good reason for you to be so patronizing?

          Whether free will makes sense on naturalism will be decided by science (specifically neurobiology) within a couple of decades, just like science has settled the question how old The Earth and our Universe are.

          Free will has, and always will be, a philosophical topic and concept. It will never be settled by science, though any philosopher worth his salt will certainly use science as much as possible.

          “Free Will” is a philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives.

          http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/freewill/

          For future reference, most philosophers reject substance dualism because of the seeming impossibility for two completely unrelated substances to interact. Property dualism is still quite alive in philosophical circles as it survives this objection (in a way) and provides a coherent account of mental properties (qualia) vs. physical properties. Also, dualistic free will isn't really a thing, libertarian free will is. There are several non-dualistic accounts of libertarian free will, but they aren't very popular.
          It's helpful if we get our basic facts straight before we are patronizing ;)

  • neil_pogi

    what it is meant by 'determined'?

    does that mean determinism and free will co-exist with each others?

  • Jeffrey G. Johnson

    It seems Carroll is advocating something like The Minority Report, where citizens are punished for what they appear determined to do in the future.

    Actually he is not advocating anything of the sort. He's not talking about predicting what will happen in the future. He's talking about the ability to understand a person's neurological profile well enough to be able to predict what they would do in reaction to certain events or situations should they occur. This is not the same as predicting what will happen in the future, as in "Minority Report". It's the use of a predictive model to determine the probability of a range of possible behaviors under a variety of circumstances.

    The point is that in a world where we can not understand or explain people's behavior, we must rely on a concept of individual free will as enabling personal responsibility to exhibit good behavior rather than bad behavior. But even so, sometimes we decide a person with mental impairment can not be held responsible. In Carrol's words, we do not treat them as a "freely acting agent", but as someone who could not control or know the consequences of their actions. Carrol is saying there will be more cases in which we judge people this way. It would mean that punishment will take place in more of a practical deterrence frame of mind rather than a morally indignant vindictive mode, and a better understanding of the brain would allow more effective inducements to good behavior to be designed. There would less excessive punishment, and less destructive punishment that actually makes a person more likely to commit future crimes.

  • Jeffrey G. Johnson

    Carroll twice talks about choosing a description of reality. But if we legitimately choose something, free will must exist.

    Not true. This is based on confusing different meanings of the word choose.

    If we talk about a chess playing computer, it's natural to say it chooses its moves. Here the word "choose" does not mean the computer has free will. It means that the computer analyzes the various possible moves according to current layout and the rules of chess, and it selects the best move from among those alternatives.

    The libertarian free will version of the word choose imagines that when presented with a range of options, a supernatural will free of any causation intervenes and "makes the choice" based on freedom rather than based on any causes. How a supernatural force can be without a cause, or how it can make a human brain change its state is beyond me, and contradicts everything we know about the natural world, the brain, and the body. But that's what free will advocates believe, essentially.

    So in one sense the word simply means make a selection from among alternatives, which is perfectly consistent with not having free will, and in the other case the word means magic happens somehow, and we call that magic "free will".

  • Mikahel

    this question require "human been" knowledge, do we have?
    a Man is a complicate been, is not only what you see on the mirror, that's a fake image only, but to know the Man you have to understand the complexity of the soul, then you may understand that the soul is divided on levels, where most of those are out of time and space, so they do not live the life, but observing it like a reader is observing the story of a book... the book is already wrote and unchangeable (for most of the readers).
    But then what are the multidimensions explained by the meccanich quantistic?
    Those are the several page 2, 3, 4,..of the book where the observer can decide to goes trought, we are free to observe one of the page 2and one of the page 3, 4 etc...but we can't create pages that are not written yet.
    So the portion of the soul who live on earth is unconscious to be just a "reader" more than the performer/protagonist, but the most important free will is into the decision to accept or not what has been decided to happen to you (in a single word, submission).