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The Teleological Argument for God's Existence

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Brad
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0 posted 04-15-2011 11:08 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad


It goes something like this:

1. All design needs a designer.

2. The universe looks designed.
(“The tides go in the tides go out with no miscommunication.”)

3. Therefore, the universe must have had a designer. (Think Paley and the watch)

4. We call that designer God.

Pretty much every point here is contestable.  The scariest one is actually point four.  But I don’t want to talk about that right now.

I want to contest point two.  

The universe does not look designed.

Most of what we can see is composed of photons, not atoms, and most of that is in the cosmic background radiation and that is random.  Most of the universe is made up of stuff we can’t see:  dark matter and dark energy and that is randomly distributed.  Most of space is well space.  

Some might argue that the universe is fine tuned for life but that is even less convincing.  Space, solar systems, matter or whatever is, to put it mildly, inhospitable to life, life as we know it at any rate.  

Then why are we here?

If the universe is truly random, one expects to see pockets of order.  Otherwise it wouldn’t be random.  Given how small we are, given the short time we’ve been here, it is not likely that the universe is designed with us in mind.  Or to put it another way if God made the universe for us, why did He go out of the way to make it look like He didn’t make it for us?

Here’s a thought experiment:  imagine a benevolent, all powerful God, all knowing God and try to imagine what kind of universe He would devise for us.  I daresay nobody could imagine the universe we actually live in.

And nobody did.  

The answer to why we are here is simple: just because.  Now how we came to be is a far more interesting question.  The answer to that?

We don’t know but we’re working on it.

Disclaimer:  This does not disprove God.
Stephanos
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1 posted 04-16-2011 07:41 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad:
quote:
The universe does not look designed.

Most of what we can see is composed of photons, not atoms, and most of that is in the cosmic background radiation and that is random.  Most of the universe is made up of stuff we can’t see:  dark matter and dark energy and that is randomly distributed.  Most of space is well space.


There's a lot to be questioned in this statement too.

Firstly, who can think for a moment about the physics of light and not be astounded?

Secondly, Who ever criticized art for having a uninteresting or non-focal background?  But, I won't even concede that it is uninteresting, given the recent flurry of attention given to dark-matter, dark-energy, quarks, and similarly obscure areas of inquiry.  

quote:
Some might argue that the universe is fine tuned for life but that is even less convincing.  Space, solar systems, matter or whatever is, to put it mildly, inhospitable to life, life as we know it at any rate.  


Well, some of the most inhospitable aspects of the universe, we deem to be the most beautiful right?  Have you never been smitten by a desert or glacier?  Not to mention the sublimities of outer space, ringed planets, novas, quasars, nebulae, etc ...


quote:
Given how small we are, given the short time we’ve been here, it is not likely that the universe is designed with us in mind.  Or to put it another way if God made the universe for us, why did He go out of the way to make it look like He didn’t make it for us?


Do you have any basis for equating value or significance with size?  If not, many of these objections fail.  They probably make more sense if, from a Theological standpoint, this universe was really anthropocentric.  But I don't get that feeling, either looking at the universe (of what I can see) or reading the Bible.  A Theocentric view of the Universe is more in line with Christian Theology, and at least answers some of your objections.  It is conceivable that God (a super-intelligence) might create a universe largely incomprehensible to us, or even inhospitable to us.  The fact that there is a special place (fine tuned, to use your words) for life within it, fits the doctrine of the imago-dei.  However, only being a small image, we have no basis to think or expect it is entirely about us.

The doctrine that "home is where the heart is" is not rendered faulty by distance.  Likewise no inhospitable description of the distance or coldness of space changes the remarkable diamond of life on earth set against that backdrop.  This, in particular, demands telos.  But, I would still argue that the eccentricities and strange beauties of even the most unfavorable conditions in the universe, have marks of design, even if we can't comprehend why.


Lastly, while you interpret a pocket of order as a sign of randomness, it is possible to interpret it as sign of extreme gratuity and serendipity.  In all of that vast inhospitality, it is altogether doubtful that we would have happened without Divine intention.  


But here is where we enter the subjetive too.  We are presented not with a universe that objectively coerces us to believe, but one in which we may interpret according to the inclination of our heart and will.  If we selfishly imagine its all about us, or conversely if we think (with a kind of faux humility) the universe has no design at all, we run into problems.  But if we accept that we've been graciously given a prominent place in a larger scheme, many objections are resolved.  


quote:
The scariest one is actually point four.  But I don’t want to talk about that right now.


Ah now, you can't provoke with words like 'scariest' and then be so demure.  We don't have to talk about it now, but I'm interested in your thoughts on this.  

PS)  I hope the moral thread isn't wrapped up ... I responded to you again there too.  

Stephen
Stephanos
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2 posted 04-16-2011 07:54 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Can anyone say 'Tower of Babel'?

Ron, can you fix Brad's title? On my browser there is a lot of garbel.


Stephen
Brad
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3 posted 04-16-2011 09:19 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Hmmm,  

I'm getting the same problem.  Have I just been struck by lightning?
Nan
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4 posted 04-16-2011 10:39 PM       View Profile for Nan   Email Nan   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Nan's Home Page   View IP for Nan

You're all set, Brad..
Brad
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5 posted 04-17-2011 05:56 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Thanks, Nan.

Stephen,

Am I reading you wrong?  I keep looking at your post and keep thinking, we're saying the same thing but from different starting points.

First, I concur with your aesthetic points.  The universe is a pretty amazing place.  Remember,  I grew up in Southern California and am particularly fond of the aesthetics of the desert.

I do think the painter, painting analogy is weak however if only because size does matter.  The foreground/background comparison doesn't really work when comparing us to the rest of the universe.  Our pocket of order/complexity is, for simplicity's sake, a few light hours across.  Current estimates of the universe show a universe that is 40 billion light years across (not 13.72 billion light years, that is the age of the universe).  Furthermore, 96% of the universe is composed of stuff we can't see (dark matter and dark energy, we can't see them but we can detect them).  The stars, galaxies and all the rest of the stuff we can see make up only four percent of the universe.  

See the universe as a painting and you don't have any foreground at all -- not one that can be seen anyway.

But this is more important: you don't accept the anthropocentric universe.

I don't either.

You seem to argue that God's purpose for the universe is inexplicable.

My point is that there is no purpose (telos).

What's the difference?

Assume we somehow find a purpose for the universe:

Your hunch becomes explicable.

I change my mind.

What's the difference?

The point, again if I'm reading you right, is that our cosmic significance is irrelevant to the way we live our lives today.

In the moral thread, you'll see William Lane Craig's concern with our cosmic significance.  It seems neither of us accept that concern as valid in our lives.

Admittedly, I can't imagine what a theocentric universe would look like (I wouldn't know where to start) but if it looks like what we see and detect, I don't see how that changes our basic agreement here.

Would it be going too far to say that there is a significant difference between your view and a more mainstream evangelical point of view?
Stephanos
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6 posted 04-17-2011 11:42 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad:
quote:
I do think the painter, painting analogy is weak however if only because size does matter.  The foreground/background comparison doesn't really work when comparing us to the rest of the universe.  Our pocket of order/complexity is, for simplicity's sake, a few light hours across.


Well, it was an analogy, not relevant at every point but a start.  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.


quote:
But this is more important: you don't accept the anthropocentric universe.

I don't either.

You seem to argue that God's purpose for the universe is inexplicable.

My point is that there is no purpose (telos).

What's the difference?


But I don't argue that it's entirely inexplicable.  If we didn't believe the universe to be "rational" in some signifant way, I don't think we would ever be as fascinated as we are and have been about it.  This conviction can probably be said to have given rise to our whole scientific narrative.  Visit your local bookstore's astronomy section and watch the books multiply like rabbits about this "purposeless" universe.  


The difference between our views, as far as I can see, is that mine accounts for a partially comprehensible or rational cosmos.  Purpose has been given to us in this Terra Firma, and lots of beckoning leads exist even in the most puzzling areas of human curiosity.  It seems that your view renders illusory even what rationality order and purpose we have.  

quote:
The point, again if I'm reading you right, is that our cosmic significance is irrelevant to the way we live our lives today.

In the moral thread, you'll see William Lane Craig's concern with our cosmic significance.  It seems neither of us accept that concern as valid in our lives.


I don't think you've gotten the whole of what I was trying to say ... though the responsibility to communicate it clearly lies with me.

I would never say that our "cosmic significance" is irrelevant to the way we live our lives.  Without the knowledge that we are made by and loved by God, and have been promised immortality, I don't see any place for significance at all, unless it is the kind that comes by grace.  And even the most eloquent mechanics without significance would finally be hopeless.


Also "Natural Theology" for me is only highly suggestive, and an incentive to seek further.  Through further revelation I am informed that though this oasis is small, that God deemed it very large, as the apple of his eye.  Proverbs chapter 8 personifies divine Wisdom in the Creation of the World and has her saying "Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.".  In this way I am graciously informed beneath the staggering sky that small doesn't mean unimportant. Likewise I am told in some detail of the incarnation where God himself, in the person of Christ, not only came here, but became human ... to die not for an incomprehensible cosmos, but for sin that makes us do such incomprehensible things.


So I feel that I am fully orthodox in an evangelical sense.  I'm not sure that I'm saying anything altogether different than Craig.  I'm sure he is sensitive to the parts of scripture where limits are set on our understanding ... where someone like Job is confronted with the perplexities of Creation to remind him that though God has graciously given knowledge, he is by no means indebted to us, nor has he told us all. Mysteries abound. I am sure too that he hasn't missed the subtlety in the story of Copernicus changing the Ptolomaic Geocentrism that the Church endorsed so fully.  Though the Earth was endowed like Eden, it still rotates around the Sun.  Though Earth is his footstool, Heaven is his throne.  I'm speaking poetically here.  But I'm trying to explain how I see a universe which was made with us in mind, and yet still isn't all and only about us.

Does that make any sense to you?  Or have a thoroughly confused things now?


Stephen

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (04-18-2011 12:02 AM).]

Brad
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7 posted 04-18-2011 07:12 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Or it shows that I may have been guilty of wishful thinking.  None of us are immune to that, you know.

quote:
I daresay none doubts the significance of the Earth from our vantage, and comparative size doesn't rebut that.


Of course not.  That was in many ways my whole point.  I just wanted to take it a bit further and apply it to metaphysics as a whole.  To say it again in a more concise form:

1. The universe does not show purpose.

2.  So what?

Disclaimer:  I’m not particularly strict with my terms and that might be a source of confusion.  At this stage of the game, I’m using design and purpose interchangeably.  Some would argue that there is a distinction, that one can have design without purpose.  

That makes sense to me:  Snowflakes have a design but those designs don’t seem to have a purpose.  For this thread, though, I’m willing to take the risk and assume that if the universe did look like it had a design, we might infer a creator.

quote:
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.


Hmmm, are you invoking Clarke’s law here:  Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic?  

I may be guilty of wishful thinking here yet again:  

“As astounding as humans are” is not what I hear evangelicals saying these days.  Maybe I’m listening to the wrong people?

Of course, I could invoke Poe’s law:  

"Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won't mistake for the real thing."

You’re not a fundy but I wonder if we should extend that law.

Implies?  Really?

Going to have to stop here for the moment.  Your next comment captures something about religion that I think is best captured by the one of the great tragedies of Islamic civilization – and by extension something that was a great tragedy for all of us.  I have to dig up the quote though.

Note to self: must learn to take better notes.
Brad
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8 posted 04-20-2011 07:47 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Sorry, I have to put a hold on the Islamic tragedy.  Maybe, one post deferred.  The quote I was looking for, Neal deGrasse Tyson, is not a quote.  I think he’s still right but too simplistic.

quote:
But I don't argue that it's entirely inexplicable.  If we didn't believe the universe to be "rational" in some significant way, I don't think we would ever be as fascinated as we are and have been about it.  This conviction can probably be said to have given rise to our whole scientific narrative.


Well, um, no.  We don’t have to believe that the universe is rational in any way.  We have to be rational, we have to look at something that confuses us, we have to wonder, “Why does that do that or how does that do that?” and we have to look and check and double check.  And we have to think.  

The scientific narrative begins with that.  We don’t have to go any further than that.  True, that is an amazing thing (as far as we know we’re the only ones).  Admittedly, there is a possibility that we are completely wrong, that we don’t understand anything, that the universe is not explicable in rational terms.

But that idea puts you in the same boat.

Now, I don’t believe that and I daresay you don’t believe that either (In another thread I might try to show why that argument doesn’t really make sense).  Isn’t it better to think that we are partially rational rather than think the universe is partially rational? Or partially explicable?  

The universe is what it is.  We don’t understand it all yet.  We may never.  But what we are, we are.
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9 posted 04-20-2011 02:23 PM       View Profile for Capricious   Email Capricious   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Capricious

The Heavens were created first.

Doesn't that suggest that we were created for the Heavens, rather than the other way round?

After all, we were given dominion over the Earth ... not the stars.  If we want that we'll have to figure it out for ourselves ...

=p
Brad
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10 posted 04-20-2011 08:54 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" Genesis 1:1.

Doesn't that mean simultaneously?

Regardless, this thread is more about stimulating thought than anything else. I don't for a moment think that anybody is going to change their mind because of this thread.  It would be scary if they did.
Brad
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11 posted 04-20-2011 09:13 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Irrelevant tangent:

I was watching some silly youtube video on Noah's ark.  They were trying to figure out what actually happened.

It occurred to me that if they just used two copies of DNA, they might have been able to fit all the species into a big boat.  When it came time to reactivate T. Rex, Noah screwed up on purpose and turned it into a chicken.
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12 posted 04-21-2011 12:50 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad:
quote:
1. The universe does not show purpose.

2.  So what?


To me this sounds like the reply of someone who hasn't taken the implications of their philosophy seriously.  Are you saying that as long as it subjectively seems there is order and purpose here, it doesn't matter whether there really is?

I don't know if we'll be able to appreciate each others' perspective past bemusement, but it is still notable that a God who is transcendent and yet personal, does explain a cosmos that is only partly comprehensible to us.  As for your view, I can’t see how any any order at all is explained.  You say that in a random universe pockets of order are to be expected.  But how is the magnitude of order you experience here and now to be expected?  Remember you’ve just described to me rational insight about deep space, virtually the whole cosmos, and that ability of yours is so easily accounted for as a matter of accident?    


quote:
That makes sense to me:  Snowflakes have a design but those designs don’t seem to have a purpose.  For this thread, though, I’m willing to take the risk and assume that if the universe did look like it had a design, we might infer a creator.


While previously I focused on the more prominent features of the habitable world, things that most people (even people like Dawkins) would say “appear” to be made, the stranger things you mentioned also have marks of design.  The space-time continuum itself, the atomic and subatomic world, dark matter, dark energy, are complex and law-like enough to evidence a Creator.  And as far as I understand dark matter and dark energy, they are not simple and are involved with things like the expansion of the universe.  While you say these things rule against design, I feel like you’re really only saying that they seem hostile or uncongenial, since complexity and function are certainly there, even if we only know an inkling.  If it’s a mere ratio of habitable universe to uninhabitable, I’m not sure that there’s anything to guide your math of meaning.  The existence of abstract mathematics which largely match the observable universe evidences design.  But a ratio is perhaps a poor way of measuring significance.


quote:
Me: That pocket of order contains a being (like yourself) that can almost magically comprehend the whole universe.

Brad: Hmmm, are you invoking Clarke’s law here:  Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic?


Not exactly, especially if it would amount to discrediting the supernatural.  I have no problem with thinking of God’s ways as a kind of ‘technology’ of his own, or even of miracles as a kind of higher law that only seems to violate the ones with which we are familiar.  I simply believe that he has the right for some of them to be exclusive ... creating a human soul being one, despite the unflagging faith of the transhumanists.

quote:
“As astounding as humans are” is not what I hear evangelicals saying these days.  Maybe I’m listening to the wrong people?


You should listen to Ravi Zacharias, for one.  His writing is average (in my opinion) his oratory is great.  If evangelicals only refer to sin and depravity, then they are only telling half the story.  If we are made in the image of God, then we are remarkable.  A felled and injured dragon would still be quite a sight wouldn’t it?  

Here’s a link to Ravi’s radio archives if you’re interested:

http://www.rzim.org/resources/listen/letmypeoplethink.aspx?archive=1

quote:
"Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that SOMEONE won't mistake for the real thing."

You’re not a fundy but I wonder if we should extend that law.


Yeah but that law could apply to any labeled group of people, since the extremes are real and are always someone else’s idea of the real thing ... and are always the source and usually the exact copy of the parody.  That goes for those immoral secular humanist baby killers as well.      

quote:
Me: and certainly not the only part that implies a designer.

Brad: implies? really?


This is literally the first definition of ‘imply’ I found when I looked it up at Dictionary.com to make sure I had not made a semantic faux pas.  (The example given is noteworthy)    


–verb (used with object), -plied, -ply·ing.

1.  to indicate or suggest without being explicitly stated: His words implied a lack of faith.




Anyway it's exactly the meaning I intended.


Stephen
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Brad:
quote:
Well, um, no.  We don’t have to believe that the universe is rational in any way.

Sorry I forgot to respond to this.  I think its important.

By "rational" I don't mean the universe can 'think'.  What I mean is that the universe operates in ways that correspond with human rationality.  For example, mathematics (an abstract human concept) is in a real way a part of the world we observe, not merely a part of our minds.  The correspondence is striking, even if it at first it seems too basic to notice.  And yes, the scientific tradition was begun, in the main, by those who felt sure that God had created an ordered and therefore "rational" universe.

Stephen
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14 posted 04-21-2011 05:21 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Stephen,

Thanks for going back.  It creates a nice segue way to this post.

Tyson on science history

Neil Tyson is just fun to watch, no?  

The point is that presupposing a rational God does not necessarily lead to a continuing scientific revolution.  In fact, the "I have no need for that [God] hypothesis" approach can be seen as heretical.

Sound familiar?  We see the same thing happening today.  

This video gives a little more historical context:  

End of an Age

Now, if you want to argue that Christianity specifically influenced the course of European science, I won't argue with that.  How could I?

But the God concept can work both ways, both for science and against it.  Tyson goes on to point out a curious fact:

Scientists in the European revolution tended to use God any time they ran up against a wall that they couldn't explain.      

Did they stop because they believed in God?  

I don't know.  There are limits to what any one man or woman (unfortunately, not so many women) can do in a lifetime.  

So, did they use God as a way of excusing the fact that they couldn't go further?  

I don't know.  But my point is that God, as a reason for anything, can be and was used for scientific progress, stasis, and regress.

How important then is that presupposition?

It seems more reasonable to me to assume that many "scientists" (the word didn't exist yet) had a hunch, checked it, and then tacked on God to justify they're findings.

It's how they sold it.

Now by that I don't mean that they were closet atheists.  I think by and large they did believe in God, but that belief is malleable.

Galileo: “Eppure si muove”

I'll try to get to your philosophy comment later but if we can't get any further than "bemusement" that's okay.

The dialectic is still there and the discussion hones both arguments.

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15 posted 04-23-2011 01:40 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad:
quote:
The point is that presupposing a rational God does not necessarily lead to a continuing scientific revolution ...

Now, if you want to argue that Christianity specifically influenced the course of European science, I won't argue with that.  How could I?  But the God concept can work both ways, both for science and against it.


Perhaps I’ve overstated the case.  For when you say that a belief in a 'rational' God doesn't necessarily lead to a continuing scientific revolution, I somewhat agree.  But, as you know, I think bad theology is hardly better than a-theology (or no theology).  Therefore it is notable that alternative ideas of God (as some Muslim leaders viewed natural law as something that violated Allah's "freedom to act" and arbitrary sovereignty) have contributed to stagnation or regress in science.  And I'm aware that such heterodox beliefs have not always existed outside of Christianity.  But still, the doctrine that man was created in the image of God, (which implies that our rationality in some small way reflects God's own), and the docrine of intentional Creation has tended to generate scientific energy and curiosity.  At any rate, it seems to have been the prevailing supposition during the time when science first burgeoned.


Consider these quotes:

"As I try to discern the origin of that conviction, I seem to find it in a basic notion discovered 2000 or 3000 years ago, and enunciated first in the Western world by the ancient Hebrews: namely that the universe is governed by a single God, and is not the product of the whims of many gods, each governing his own province according to his own laws.  This monotheistic view seems to be the historical foundation for modern science." (Melvin Calvin, nobel prize winner in biochemistry, from 'The Experiment of Life')  


"Men such as Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Boyle, Newton, Faraday, Babbage, Mendel, Pasteur, Kelvin and Clerk Maxwell were theists; most of them, in fact, were Christians. Their belief in God, far from being a hindrance to their science, was often the main inspiration for it and they were not shy of saying so. The driving force behind Galileo's questing mind, for example, was his deep inner conviction that the Creator who had 'endowed us with senses, reason and intellect' intended us not to 'forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them.'  Johannes Kepler described his motivation thus: 'The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order which has been imposed on it by God, and which he revealed to us in the language of mathematics.' Such discovery, for Kepler, amounted, in his famous phrase, to 'thinking God's thoughts after him.'"  (John C. Lennox, from 'God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?')


quote:
I don't know.  But my point is that God, as a reason for anything, can be and was used for scientific progress, stasis, and regress.

How important then is that presupposition?


It is important for those very reasons.  It is also true that science can (and has) been used a means of control and oppression.  How could that fact alone cause its validity or importance to be questioned?  As you insist on the distinction of ‘bad science‘ and ‘good science‘ (in general terms), the distinction cannot be denied from religion, in a blanket attempt at invalidation.  Besides, whether certain scientists are religious or not, the presupposition of order and rationality in the cosmos (a supposition that fits best within Theistic Creation, not atheism), is taken for granted.    


quote:
It seems more reasonable to me to assume that many "scientists" (the word didn't exist yet) had a hunch, checked it, and then tacked on God to justify they're findings.

It's how they sold it.


What you say is limiting.  Judging from their own statements, it is partly what motivated them.  Therefore there may be more involved than using God as a means of promotion.  

quote:
 I think by and large they did believe in God, but that belief is malleable.

Galileo: “Eppure si muove”


“Malleable” is simply a way of saying that new insight or accuracy or ‘rightness’ in belief may be attained ... or that it is possible to be wrong ... which is a truism of any kind of real knowledge.  It certainly doesn’t mean that there aren’t better reasons to believe one way over and against another, or that things are in absolute flux.  Galileo’s statement was about the Earth itself, not about epistemology.  So as Galileo probably didn’t believe that the truth of his own scientific discoveries “moved” any more than the axioms of his mathematics, I see no reason why religious knowledge should be fundamentally different in this regard.  Though in Latin rather than Italian, he might as well have said "adversus solem ne loquitor".  

quote:
The dialectic is still there and the discussion hones both arguments.


You’re definitely honing my typing skills.  And really, another thread?    


Stephen

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (04-23-2011 03:26 PM).]

Brad
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16 posted 04-25-2011 09:55 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

quote:
To me this sounds like the reply of someone who hasn't taken the implications of their philosophy seriously.  Are you saying that as long as it subjectively seems there is order and purpose here, it doesn't matter whether there really is?


John Haught, a theologian, gives a description of what he calls scientific naturalism:

1.  Apart from nature, which includes human beings and our cultural creations, there is nothing.  There is no God, no soul, and no life beyond death.

2. Nature is self-originating, not the creation of God.

--If that means that we don't need a conscious agent to create the universe, okay.

3. The universe has no overall point or purpose, although individual human lives can be lived purposely.

--That is, we create our own purpose.  That's my point with "so what".  Current cosmological theories are interesting, awesomely interesting, but they don't really change the way I live or the way I care about things in my life.

--Is that subjective?

4. Since God does not exist, all explanations, all causes are purely neutral and can be understood only by science.

--This gets into the idea of mathematics as a kind "magic language".  Later, I want to talk about why that idea is false even though many scientists seem to think so.  

5. All the various features of living beings, including human intelligence and behavior, can be explained ultimately in purely natural terms, and today this usually means in evolutionary, specifically Darwinian, terms.

(I took this from Victor Stenger's The New Atheism.  He takes it from John Haught, God and the New Atheism pp. xiii-xiv.)

Of course, there's another way to look at this:

quote:
9: Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is they portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.
10: Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.


--Ecclesiastes 10:9-10 KJV

It made sense to believe in a God then.  As long as love means love in the modern sense, I would add children and friends to the list.

Does that sound pessimistic?  Talking to a few people over the last few days, many people do feel uncomfortable with this position.  I don't.  The reason I don't is simply that I experience that, I'm comfortable with that. It seems like a pretty good life to me.  Sure, at times I consider other possibilities (and how abstract is that?), but in any long term calculation, I'm stuck thinking that I just don't want to screw up what I've got now.  

Brad
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17 posted 04-26-2011 06:36 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

One point that hasn't been brought up yet.

It's a dilemma that comes into play in certain apologetics:

If the universe is designed for life, we do not need a miracle for life to begin.

If life began with a miracle, then the universe is not designed for life.  

Well, how does this play out?

The universe and its laws are fine tuned for life's existence (therefore God).  Yet, the chances of life actually being created and surviving in this universe are so small that it takes a miracle for it to happen (therefore the universe is not fine tuned for life).

The Naturalist position is simply that the universe is not designed for life but that its physical nature allows for its possibility, not its inevitability.

To put it another way: the universe is not designed for life but it is not designed to prevent life either.

It is not designed at all.

Stephanos
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18 posted 04-30-2011 05:36 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad,

sorry this took so long ...

quote:
It made sense to believe in a God then.


Yes it did (does).  I really get what you're trying to say Brad.  I'm human, and I feel the same things.  And yet, if we take the book of Ecclesiastes as a whole, we see convictions that moderate the earlier (or concurrent) thoughts of Solomon that you quoted.  For example, there is also this:

"The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. " (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

Even though the doctrine of resurrection was not fully developed in Jewish Theology, there was a shadowy inkling of something to come, where justice would be granted, and human beings would be judged.  In view of this, I think Solomon represents a bridge between natural observation and revelation.  Solomon's thoughts about people being essentially no different than animals, justice being blind, and the best course of action being terrestrial enjoyment, are offered not as final conclusions, but as ad interim viewpoints.  To those who might feel bad about having such thoughts, I would say that the were meant to encourage us, since even the wisest shared them.  To those who feel that they are okay as ultimate conclusions, there are those other statements I've mentioned which assert the design of God, and even of Judgment beyond death.  I guess what I'm saying, is that taken as a whole, Ecclesiastes is best viewed as a sympathetic chronicle of progression.  


I know this is a bit of a long passage by Lewis, but I think you’ll find it interesting, in that it addresses exactly what we’re talking about:


It seems quite clear that in most parts of the Old Testament there is little or no belief in a future life; certainly no belief that is of any religious importance. The word translated "soul" in our version of the Psalms means simply "life"; the word translated "hell" means simply "the land of the dead ", the state of all the dead, good and bad alike, Sheol. It is difficult to know how an ancient Jew thought of Sheol. He did not like thinking about it. His religion did not encourage him to think about it. No good could come of thinking about it. Evil might ...

Behind all this one can discern a conception not specifically Jewish but common to many ancient religions. The Greek Hades is the most familiar example to modern people. Hades is neither Heaven nor Hell; it is almost nothing. I am speaking of the popular beliefs; of course philosophers like Plato have a vivid and positive doctrine of immortality. And of course poets may write fantasies about the world of the dead. These have often no more to do with the real Pagan religion than the fantasies we may write about other planets have to do with real astronomy. In real Pagan belief, Hades was hardly worth talking about; a world of shadows, of decay. Homer (probably far closer to actual beliefs than the later and more sophisticated poets) represents the ghosts as witless. They gibber meaninglessly until some living man gives them sacrificial blood to drink. How the Greeks felt about it in his time is startlingly shown at the beginning of the Iliad where he says of men killed in battle that "their souls" went to Hades but "the men themselves" were devoured by dogs and carrion birds. It is the body, even the dead body which is the man himself; the ghost is only a sort of reflection or echo. (The grim impulse sometimes has crossed my mind to wonder whether all this was, is, in fact true; that the merely natural fate of humanity, the fate of unredeemed humanity, is just this-to disintegrate in soul as in body, to be a witless psychic sediment. If so, Homer's idea that only a drink of sacrificial blood can restore a ghost to rationality would be one of the most striking among many Pagan anticipations of the truth.)

Such a conception, vague and marginal even in Paganism, becomes more so in Judaism. Sheol is even dimmer, further in the background, than Hades. It is a thousand miles away from the centre of Jewish religion; especially in the Psalms. They speak of Sheol (or "hell" or "the pit") very much as a man speaks of "death" or "the grave" who has no belief in any sort of future state whatever-a man to whom the dead are simply dead, nothing, and there's no more to be said. In many passages this is quite clear, even in our translation, to every attentive reader. The clearest of all is the cry in 89, 46: "O remember how short my time is: why hast thou made all men for nought?"

As we all know from our New Testaments Judaism had greatly changed in this respect by Our Lord's time. The Sadducees held to the old view. The Pharisees, and apparently many more, believed in the life of the world to come. When, and by what stages, and (under God) from what sources, this new belief crept in, is not part of our present subject. I am more concerned to try to understand the absence of such a belief, in the midst of intense religious feeling, over the earlier period. To some it may seem astonishing that God, having revealed so much of Himself to that people, should not have taught them this.

It does not now astonish me. For one thing there were nations close to the Jews whose religion was overwhelmingly concerned with the after life. In reading about ancient Egypt one gets the impression of a culture in which the main business of life was the attempt to secure the well-being of the dead. It looks as if God did not want the chosen people to follow that example. We may ask why. Is it possible for men to be too much concerned with their eternal destiny? In one sense, paradoxical though it sounds, I should reply, Yes.

For the truth seems to me to be that happiness or misery beyond death, simply in themselves, are not even religious subjects at all. A man who believes in them will of course be prudent to seek the one and avoid the other. But that seems to have no more to do with religion than looking after one's health or saving money for one's old age. The only difference here is that the stakes are so very much higher. And this means that, granted a real and steady conviction, the hopes and anxieties aroused are overwhelming. But they are not on that account the more religious. They are hopes for oneself, anxieties for oneself. God is not in the centre. He is still important only for the sake of something else. Indeed such a belief can exist without a belief in God at all. Buddhists are much concerned with what will happen to them after death, but are not, in any true sense, Theists.

It is surely, therefore, very possible that when God began to reveal Himself to men, to show them that He and nothing else is their true goal and the satisfaction of their needs, and that He has a claim upon them simply by being what He is, quite apart from anything He can bestow or deny, it may have been absolutely necessary that this revelation should not begin with any hint of future Beatitude or Perdition. These are not the right point to begin at. An effective belief in them, coming too soon, may even render almost impossible the development of (so to call it) the appetite for God; personal hopes and fears, too obviously exciting, have got in first. Later, when, after centuries of spiritual training, men have learned to desire and adore God, to pant after Him "as pants the hart", it is another matter. For then those who love God will desire not only to enjoy Him but "to enjoy Him forever", and will fear to lose Him. And it is by that door that a truly religious hope of Heaven and fear of Hell can enter; as corollaries to a faith already centred upon God, not as things of any independent or intrinsic weight. It is even arguable that the moment "Heaven" ceases to mean union with God and "Hell" to mean separation from Him, the belief in either is a mischievous superstition; for then we have, on the one hand, a merely "compensatory" belief (a "sequel" to life's sad story, in which everything will "come all right") and, on the other, a nightmare which drives men into asylums or makes them persecutors.

Fortunately, by God's good providence, a strong and steady belief of that self-seeking and subreligious kind is extremely difficult to maintain, and is perhaps possible only to those who are slightly neurotic. Most of us find that our belief in the future life is strong only when God is in the centre of our thoughts; that if we try to use the hope of "Heaven" as a compensation (even for the most innocent and natural misery, that of bereavement) it crumbles away. It can, on those terms, be maintained only by arduous efforts of controlled imagination; and we know in our hearts that the imagination is our own. As for Hell, I have often been struck, in reading the "hell-fire sermons" of our older divines, at the desperate efforts they make to render these horrors vivid to their hearers, at their astonishment that men, with such horrors hanging over them, can live as carelessly as they do. But perhaps it is not really astonishing. Perhaps the divines are appealing, on the level of self-centred prudence and self-centred terror, to a belief which, on that level, cannot really exist as a permanent influence on conduct-though of course it may be worked up for a few excited minutes or even hours. All this is only one man's opinion. And it may be unduly influenced by my own experience. For I ... was allowed for a whole year to believe in God and try-in some stumbling fashion to obey Him before any belief in the future life was given me. And that year always seems to me to have been of very great value. It is therefore perhaps natural that I should suspect a similar value in the centuries during which the Jews were in the same position. Other views no doubt can be taken.
(From Reflections On The Psalms)”


quote:
If the universe is designed for life, we do not need a miracle for life to begin.

If life began with a miracle, then the universe is not designed for life ...

The universe and its laws are fine tuned for life's existence (therefore God).  Yet, the chances of life actually being created and surviving in this universe are so small that it takes a miracle for it to happen (therefore the universe is not fine tuned for life).


I think this is a false dilemma simply because the fact that the fine tuning of the Universe would not dictate that it would inevitably produce life.  A house in the wilderness was built with someone in mind, and yet the occupancy must come from outside.  In other words, these two remarkable things ... 1) that the universe is unlikely to have produced life of itself, and 2) that the universe is unlikely to have produced a habitable planet where life might flourish, do not cancel each other out.


Stephen  

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (04-30-2011 06:47 AM).]

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19 posted 05-01-2011 10:09 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Why time?

That is to say -- why design time?

What is its' value?

Why wait?

If there is a purpose.  Why not simply begin at the end?

And why does time appear to be mono-directional?  

Speaking purely from all the other physical aspects of the universe all of the laws would work with a rewind button.  

Does the existence of time weaken or strengthen the argument for design?
Stephanos
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20 posted 05-03-2011 11:38 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

quote:
If there is a purpose.  Why not simply begin at the end?


Reb, talking about time is quite a mind bender isn't it?  

I'd start by noting that your question assumes that the purpose is only "in the end", rather than in the process, or the whole of time.

Also, time supports the idea of design because it allows us to experience mechanistically and developmentally, the products of the designer.  I suppose it could have been done another way, as Quantum physics suggests, but it wasn't.  

Stephen        
Brad
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21 posted 05-03-2011 07:24 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Time is an abstracted dimension of our universe.  It is what you read on a clock.

It is not a property that exists, it is a property of the relationship between things that exist.

Time is a proof that we exist.  So is space.

It's an easy idea but an easy idea to misconstrue.
Local Rebel
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22 posted 05-04-2011 03:33 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

From Aristotle to Newton to Kant to Einstein to Hubble it's clear that our comprehension of time is emerging -- much the same as our understanding of the very nature of the universe -- in that it definitely appears to have had a beginning and through constant expansion will suffer a demise -- so rather than get bogged down in the more esoteric ie-time only exists as a human perception -- or it's units of measure (since it is relative in an expanding universe as gravitons bend it) if we merely stipulate that time is 'change' -- then we have to ask the question -- why change?

If the process is the objective -- it merely begs the next questions -- why? Why design life that dies?  Why design a universe that's tearing itself apart?

quote:

it allows us to experience mechanistically and developmentally, the products of the designer



A process is just the way that 'work' is done.  Work is the moving of matter from one place to another.  I find the argument circular then in that aspect Stephen.  Ultimately -- your suggestion is that 'time' is the purpose of time.  Not unlike 'living' is the purpose of life.

Does the designer have anthropomorphic characteristics that suggest a neurotic need for an audience/admiration/approval?  
Brad
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23 posted 05-04-2011 09:16 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Sorry, random thoughts here:

Yeah, the second law of thermodynamics is the arrow of time.  But, there are open systems where it is resisted for a time.  The overall rate is still in the same direction though. :0

_____________________

The net energy of our universe is now calculated to be zero: matter, energy, dark matter, and dark energy.

Funny how that is.  It doesn't mean a creator, it means that our universe came from nothing (or the quantum vacuum state).

It might have come out differently.

_____________________________

But you're right, not everybody agrees with this (Plato's perfect forms still perpetuating themselves perhaps), but the idea is congruent with Einstein  (I like Brian Green's explanation of relativity.  Did anybody else read that?

___________________________

But let's look at three scenarios that might point to a traditional God:

1. If the Biblical cosmology were correct, not just the creation myth but the description: a flat earth, a domed Heaven (the firmament), and four pillars.

2. If it was discovered that life in this universe was impossible, that might point toward God.

3. If the universe had life everywhere we looked, that might point to a God.  Intelligent life on Pluto and much of the great pulp fiction of the 30s and 40s might give us reason to think that the universe is fine tuned.

But that's not what we see, what we see is that life is allowable but not a significant aspect of the whole.  Again, this points to natural mechanisms as far as I can tell.

_____________________________

Ironically, if the fact that science works is a pointer to God's existence, it also follows that if science didn't work, it would be a pointer to God's existence.  

[This message has been edited by Brad (05-04-2011 09:47 PM).]

Stephanos
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24 posted 05-10-2011 10:34 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Reb
quote:
Does the designer have anthropomorphic characteristics that suggest a neurotic need for an audience/admiration/approval?


First of all, all arguments about time being either for or against design, make use of time itself.  Therefore the charge of circularity seems endemic to this kind of discussion.  But whether God is desiring of attention or not, this would have no bearing upon the question of design.  (It is interesting to note that design itself is an anthropic word, and something we understand only from the workings of our own intelligence through time)


Secondly, "neurotic" is your own description.  For unless you think all human desire for attention or admiration or love is also improper, the criticism loses its sharp edge.  For while complete anthropomorphism fails, there is certainly something to be said for it.  God, in creating humanity, identified with them enough to give them freedom and individuality.  His transcendence is self-limited for the sake of creation.  Then there is incarnational theology to consider.  I simply cannot relate to a God that is not in some sense anthropic.  

But ever will this be proof to the skeptic that God is born of man, and proof to the believer that man was made in the image of God (and further that God was born of woman).


Brad
quote:
1. If the Biblical cosmology were correct, not just the creation myth but the description: a flat earth, a domed Heaven (the firmament), and four pillars.


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.     


quote:
If it was discovered that life in this universe was impossible, that might point toward God.


Since the current approach is "It can't be impossible, it happened didn't it?", I guess this one is out of the question.  The edge of the fiercest improbability is ever dulled by actuality right?  

quote:
If the universe had life everywhere we looked, that might point to a God.  Intelligent life on Pluto and much of the great pulp fiction of the 30s and 40s might give us reason to think that the universe is fine tuned.


Interesting.  Many secular thinkers use aliens as a means of putting the question of creation off.  If we came from them, as Richard Dawkins muses, we can defer the question.  

It still baffles me that an intelligent person produced by an impersonal universe, who has knowledge spanning the totality of that universe, can't divine a fine-tuning process at work.

quote:
But that's not what we see, what we see is that life is allowable but not a significant aspect of the whole.


You've never defined significant, other than size comparison (In your own family and friendships, this method is doubtless layed aside).  And, you haven't commented on the anthropic "intelligibility" of the universe ... how the abstract mathematical principles in your brain curiously describe (at least in part) the workings of the whole universe.  Seems significant to me, and enchantingly serendipitous if there were no Divine Creator.          


Stephen    
 
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