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Passions in Poetry

The Teleological Argument for God's Existence

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Brad
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25 posted 05-13-2011 07:05 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad


quote:
Since the Bible is primarily a religious work and not an analytical scientific work of western tradition, I don't see why this should be expected at all, anymore than I should doubt an astronomer who ptolomaicly praises a beautiful sunrise in the presence of his 7 year old daughter.  Accomodating language (particularly in view that most descriptions of the 'firmament' and 'four corners of the earth' are in the poetry of the Old Testament) is no reason to make the ultra-fundamentalist mistake of hyper-literalism.


But the ultra-fundamentalist mistake is to think that such a description is correct.  My assumption is to think that that is what the authors of the Bible and many theologians after really believed.

If that's so and if it were true, then the teleological argument would make sense.

If these were metaphors, if the intent was to see them as metaphors, the question still remains:  How did they picture the universe?

Brad
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26 posted 05-14-2011 05:33 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

On the other two points:

A. Life is impossible in this universe.

It's not as simple as simply saying we're here.  I was thinking of something like nineteenth century protoplasm.  The idea that physical law does not allow for life and so some kind of special pleading is necessary.  True, that wouldn't prove God but it would point more in the direction of some kind of tinkering.

That doesn't seem to be the case.

B. Life is everywhere we look.

I still have a hunch that this might be the case (microbial, not intelligent) but right now we have to say no.  What this shows, if true, is that the universe is congenial to life and, in a certain sense, designed.

I was thinking of the "Starchild trilogy" by Fred Pohl and Jack Williamson.  I'm sure there are others.

On significance,  I'm not sure what to tell you except to say again that size does matter.  The analogy would be a grain of sand to all the world's beaches or a drop of water to the ocean (a special grain, a unique drop).

One counter example:

Hugh Ross uses the example of a wedding.  We spend a lot of money and a lot of time on something that lasts about twenty minutes or so.  I don't know how much you spent on your wedding, but I hated the whole thing and thought it irrational.  The things we do for love.

I'd be interested in hearing other analogies.  

At the same time, I do not see how our current understanding leads to a belief in a creator.  Sure, once you believe you can come up with reasons for the way it is, but that's not what I'm shooting for.      
Local Rebel
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27 posted 05-15-2011 07:37 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

quote:

But the ultra-fundamentalist mistake is to think that such a description is correct.  My assumption is to think that that is what the authors of the Bible and many theologians after really believed.



In my study of the subject Brad I would tend to say its far more complex.  Yes and No.  For the most part the traditional creation stories were interpreted, for example, as metaphorical.  Through time though, different regimes would 'find' forgotten manuscripts in archives that would tend to prop up the current political thought in order to further subjugate the masses to a particular idea, different texts were merged together -- lot's of editing done, but that's not to say there aren't sprinklings from 'true' believers either.
Local Rebel
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28 posted 05-15-2011 08:54 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

quote:

At the same time, I do not see how our current understanding leads to a belief in a creator.



Matter and Anti-Matter particles randomly 'appearing' out of 'nothing' and annihilating each other, random universes 'bubbling' up out of nothing, the fame of the Kardashians for doing nothing (I'm hinting at Faustian themes here)?  I have to say these things give pause Brad.
Brad
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29 posted 05-16-2011 05:36 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Certainly a description of the universe can both be seen as true and be used as a metaphor.

The teleological argument depends on an accurate description, not its metaphorical application, for it to be sound.  Okay, it's not an argument but an analogy.  The universe must look like it is designed for it to get anywhere nevertheless.

I contend that it does not look designed.

I also contend that the theologians and Biblical authors did not have a correct description of the universe to work with.

The thought question is this:  What kind of universe entails design as a correct inference?

Virtual particles and bubbling universes are points that add strength to my contentions.  We can't make this stuff up.

The Kardashians?

You got me there.  Remember "Dusk to Dawn"?  Clooney's point that since there are vampires and vampires are the spawn of satan, there must be a God.

Buffy never got that far.

Brad
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30 posted 05-18-2011 05:31 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Here is a breakdown of the cosmic past and the cosmic future.  Star formation becomes a very, very small part of the overall picture.  That's the bad news. The good news is that star formation is still probably going to go on for another 100 trillion years or so.  From our point of view, that means we have a lot of time.


timeline for everything
Bob K
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31 posted 05-19-2011 10:08 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



     Any description of the universe we have is filtered through the cognitive and physiological map of human neurology.  I haven't seen anything in the discussion so far that would suggest to me that we are yet discussing anything other than artifacts of of human neurology and phsysiology.  Our means of knowing are all constructed on that basis, including our logic and our scientific instrumentation and our faith.

quote:

I daresay none doubts the significance of the Earth from our vantage, and comparative size doesn't rebut that.  That pocket of order contains a being (like yourself) that can almost magically comprehend the whole universe.  But as astounding as humans are, I'm not ready to concede that we're the only interesting part, and certainly not the only part that implies a designer.



     I would even suggest that the notion that we can comprehend the whole universe at this point even magically is patently absurd.  And probably we will never be able to do so.  The sheer amount of data involved makes the very thought absurd.  I have serious doubts about a single person's ability to get a grip on the beginnings of the table of contents or the index, let alone the text.  And the text is not the thing itself; nor is it even close.

     A few basic principles governing our corner of reality would be nice.  Eventually.

     As for now, it would be nice to get some basic agreement of what we think might be a decent model of reality for right here and right now.  The very fact that we can have this discussion suggests that we are a very long way from any sort of common understanding of that.  To think that we have an understanding of the universe scientifically or religiously or for that matter the two in combination is basic wish fulfillment.

     It does not keep the dark away.
Brad
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32 posted 05-20-2011 10:17 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Um, Bob, how do you know that?
Stephanos
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33 posted 05-20-2011 11:07 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

For some certainty is no virtue, I'm certain of that.  
Bob K
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34 posted 05-21-2011 07:11 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



     What, Brad?

     That we are limited by our ability to construe information by our neurology?  As a starter, what information are we processing that we get that comes to us currently in non-digital or non-analog forms?  Everything I can think of has to be translated, straining out whatever other data is there.  As far as we know, those are the forms of data that our neurology is set to process with a somewhat leaky means of translation along the corpus callosum.  Digital data frequently goes uncomprehended by analog processors on one side of the brain, analog data frequently goes unprocessed by digital processors on the other.

     To some extent, the atheist/religious debate we're having here is a reflection of a debate on processing formats that people have been having for quite a long time.  Putting it that way is, however, terribly reductionistic, and the truth of that proposition is at best only partial.

     That the notion that we comprehend the whole universe is absurd at this point is not to my mind anything but obvious.  The assertion of another proposition is what seems odd to me.

     How much of this particular whole universe do we in fact know about?  How much of this solar system do we in fact know about?  How much of this planet do we know about?  How much of your own brain do you know about?  How much of your mind do you know about?  How much of your spouse do you know?

     If you believe in God, you may believe that God knows everything; but to suggest that you do is hubris.

     One of the reasons, I suggest, that people tend to see a design and a designer in the world and in the universe is that one of the ways our neurology works is to find and create patterns within the world.  This is one of the things that we are programmed to do from the time we emerge from the womb, and our early efforts at doing this are called "Playing."

     It is a trait that helps us survive.

     Sometimes the patterns are there, sometimes they aren't.  Sometimes the patterns are useful, sometimes they aren't.  Sometimes the patterns are useful at the bottom of a gravity well and sometimes they aren't.  Who knows how they'll hold up to dark matter or membranes or superstrings?  Who knows how good these particular patterns may be in predicting reality?

     A  man named once made a point about the pattern making and data processing ability of the brain.  He said that one of the primary functions of the nervous system was to act as a filter and to keep information out of awareness.  There are a lot more rods and cones in your eyes than there are neurons for transmitting that visual data to the brain, and fewer neurons there for constructing images from even the reduced number of neurons on the optic nerve.  Filter, filter.

     We're fighting neurology every step of the way.

     Which alternative channels are you aware of opening up.  Digital, analog and then, pretty much, try to throw out everything that doesn't fit with the patterns that you've already established.
Brad
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35 posted 05-22-2011 12:20 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Yes, it is a survival trait.  Is it not a trait of survivability to create accurate models?

I'm not disagreeing with your basic scientific premise, except perhaps that knowledge of neurology goes through the same process as knowledge in astrophysics broadly speaking.  

Your neurology is no more certain than my astrophysics if we accept 'the filters' as real inhibitors to scientific knowledge.

But let me be absolutely clear:  the model I'm promoting here and clearly not explaining very well is based on the idea that we don't know what's out there.  

We know there's dark matter because galaxies would spin out of control if it wasn't there.

We don't know what it is.

We know there's dark energy because the universe would not be expanding at an accelerating rate if it wasn't there.

We don't know what it is.

From these effects, we conclude that these two aspects make up most of the universe.

We don't know what most of the universe is.

The timeline I presented is an extrapolation of their effects, not the knowledge of what they are.

Yes, it could be wrong.

From that point, I contend that there is no overall design in the universe that points to a designer and thus the teleological argument fails.  

I could be wrong.

I'm sorry but I fail to see anything hubristic in myself and in scientists who promote this model.  Excitement, yes.  Awe, yes.  In fact, physicists want to be wrong.  They want the Large Hadron Collider to show them stuff that they didn't predict but that's another story.

Maybe I'm just reading you wrong (Wouldn't be the first time, would it? ), but simply shrugging your shoulders and saying "I don't know" seems like a stronger inhibitor than actively trying to make models of the universe.

Even with those filters in place.  


Bob K
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36 posted 05-22-2011 02:48 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



     By all means, keep making models.  I'm all for them.  Sometimes today's models are an improvement over yesterday's models.  The think that seems unchanging, pretty much, is the certainty with with new models are proclaimed and the certainty with which older models are discarded.

     I have a certain amount of difficulty with science and the scientific method, personally, because I think it screens out certain sorts of data from investigation while it highlights other sorts of data for investigation.

     This has the potential for skewing the whole investigative process and giving us a highly biased notion of what the universe is like.

     That's just me, of course.
Brad
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37 posted 05-22-2011 05:06 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I suspect Stephen might agree with you.  But what specifically do you think is screened out?

Hmm, that may seem a silly question but I'd still like to discuss it (and either learn something new or attempt to rebut it).
Bob K
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38 posted 05-23-2011 03:57 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K


[I attempted to post this a few minutes ago and believe it was lost in the aether.  This is a repost.  If it is a duplicate, I'm sorry.]


     That would be very hard to say, wouldn't it?  By definition.

     My temptation would be to start listing things that get a lot of skeptics upset.  Ball lightning, for example, which  according to the last physicist I spoke to at the Boston Museum of Science did not exist would be at the top of my list.  I had a run in with some ball lightning in which I was at times as close as three feet away from it one memorable evening while I was working as as aide in a psyche hospital.  Being told that it didn't exist didn't go down really well with me; and being told that it didn't exist in a condescending fashion gave me an instant lesson about exactly how skeptical skeptics were willing to be about their own belief systems.  That would be a good place to start.

     Having had acupuncture work for me at time (and not at other times) has suggested to me that the research on acupuncture simply doesn't fit the model very well, since the treatment is so individualized.  They don't treat broad spectrum disease categories as we do over here, as you must know Brad from your time in Korea.  The research simply tests one broad spectrum set of acupuncture points for a western disease entity against the western treatment for the same entity.  It's not even close to a test of the model.

     Not to mention the various attempt to find, generate and measure Qi and the body's bioelectrical energy fields.

     Those are the things that are of interest to me and off the top of my head, but as you can well see, my approach to them seems too obviously trapped itself in the whole analog digital trap.  The intellectual equivalent in some ways, I guess, of attempting to visualize a tesseract.
Brad
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39 posted 05-23-2011 04:51 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Oops!  I'm not sure Stephen would accept those points (but you never know).

On ball lightning: there is a phenomenon, it's just not lightning.  We aren't fully sure what it is or if it is more than one phenomenon but something like it has been produced in the laboratory.

On acupuncture:  Again, something happens. What exactly happens or, more importantly, why it does what it does is unknown.  The Chinese studies here are unreliable (They have a hundred percent success rate!), but I think in its own small way might actually be beneficial.  I do not think that the traditional causal description of acupuncture is accurate.  I have a bias here though as I've known two very nice people who were doctors in this field (and would make sure that the people you go to are in fact professionals -- it takes just as long to become a professional in this field as it does to become a Western doctor).

Much more promising is herbal medicine and I worked on a project many years ago (I'm not a doctor, I worked on the translation) to bring a closer understanding between Western medicine and Asian herbal remedies.  The problem is that the causal descriptions are still in traditional Chinese cosmological models and you're right we have no analog for this.  That doesn't mean these description are different but useful, it means these descriptions are useless.

There have been some successes on herbal efficacy here but it looks like we're still going to have to do it the hard way.  One step at a time, controlled experiments, repeatability, and the rest.

On Qi?  Um, no.  The term is too vague, charlatanism is rampant (TV shows where someone shakes his hands and people fall down sort of charlatanism), and means different things to different people.  I've argued that Qi doesn't mean some sort of hidden energy, it just means energy (its complement is ri or principle or Natural Law).

quote:
They don't treat broad spectrum disease categories as we do over here


True, they treat the symptom, not the disease.    

quote:
The research simply tests one broad spectrum set of acupuncture points for a western disease entity against the western treatment for the same entity


This, I agree, is far more difficult than it sounds.  But the descriptions are still causal.  It can still be tested.

By the way, I assumed you meant our descriptions of disease by "western disease entity".  Unfortunately, not everybody believes that.  Yes, there are a few over here who believe that there are Western diseases and Eastern diseases.

How can I bring this together with the other parts of the thread?

Well, few people deny that something like religious experience does happen. During a meditation session in Japan, something happened to me.  I also had what felt like an out of body experience when I was an undergraduate.

What we disagree on is the description, the cause, of these events.
Bob K
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40 posted 05-24-2011 08:33 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



quote:

What we disagree on is the description, the cause, of these events.



     Description and cause may be different things. The words  "The rash" are not even the rash, the thing in itself, only sounds that are supposed to stand in for the meaning of some particular rash residing on somebody's body.  They don't presume causality unless you specify further.

     Western allopathic Medicine suggests disease entities.

     Some Eastern Medicine does not.

     I am not suggesting one is right and the other is wrong, I am suggesting that one approaches things more digitally and the other more analogically, and as a result each will have strengths the other will be blind to and have weaknesses that they will tend to be blind to themselves.  In biblical terms, it's the mote and the log.

     I tried to get herbal and acupuncture treatment for my chronic low energy problem a number of years back and had no success.  My western doctors told me at first there was no problem, then mentioned that my Epstein Barr titer was very high using the phrase, "for what that's worth" at the end of the sentence.  Apparently, not very much.  The Eastern guy I went to didn't help much either.

     However, I did sprain my ankle badly during the same period of time.  It swelled very badly and turned black and stayed that way for three weeks.  My regular doc couldn't help.  He figured it would take another six months or so because it was a bad sprain.  This made no sense at all to me.  I went to my acupuncturist.  I hobbled in with the ankle the size of a large black grapefruit and 45 minutes later I walked out with a normal sized ankle, no pain and no discoloration after having had a couple of needles, some cupping with burning moxa, and some scraping on my upper back and about three drops of blood drawn from a pin prick on a spot on one of my toes.  The problem was entirely gone by the next day.

     The primary diagnostic tools that I've seen acupuncturists and trained oriental herbalists use are two.  There may be others.  One is an incredibly sensitive ability to take pulse, which is done on three levels and uses three fingers and the other is an examination of tongues.  The mastery of these two diagnostic tools alone is supposed to be the study of a lifetime.

     I don't think oriental medicine can do everything or even everything that western medicine can do; but then I don't think the reverse is true either.

     I don't think that the pulse or the tongue are treatment of symptoms any more than I think the EKG or the X-Ray or the CAT-Scan are treatment of symptoms.  The practitioner's interaction with the patient is more complex than that in both situations, I think.  The practitioner of oriental medicine would say that s/he is trying to rebalance the patient's system, and open up the flow of Qi.  If you haven't experienced Qi personally, this will make only the most distance kind of sense to you.

     For the most part, I tend to agree with you about the displays of circus like effects you will occasionally see on you-tube.Real use of Qi is much more subtle than that and it needs to be learned.

     Sparring with somebody who has at least a good grasp of the basics of Qi in tai Ch'i felt to me that I couldn't keep my balance and that I was being led around like an infant by an adult, constantly ready to topple over.  They had control over my semi-circular canals, not me.  The earliest skill they try to teach you in tai chi push hands is sensitivity to the other person's Qi.

     That's the very ground floor, and the complexity mounts from there.
     I'm off for several days starting tomorrown morning, guys, so I won't be available for conversation.  I will hiss this one a great deall, and you.  Affectionately, Bob Kaven
 
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